Monday, November 28, 2016

Post Truth and the Death of Real Journalism

On Thanksgiving,  there was a story that made the rounds in social media and picked up by news sources that somehow a cable company had broadcast porn on the CNN channel on Thursday evening.  Twitter led to various other sources repeating it including CNN that blamed a local cable provider.  Days later it turns out that this was not true.  In fact it might have been one person's cable box.  But now we will hear stories of CNN broadcasting porn as fact moving forward.  Because today news is not about facts.  Journalists are more interested in repeating hot stories than they are about digging deeper and being accurate.  That is sad.

It isn't like this hasn't been an issue in the past.  We all remember the McDonald's coffee story where an elderly woman was severely burned and initially was given $2.7 million in damages.  What you don't hear is that the amount was reduced to under $700.000 and settled for a different amount. Other stories like Al Gore saying he invented the internet (he never said it) or colonies of alligators in the New York subways to go back even further.  But something is different now.  It seems like every day there is a lie that floats out, often from sources that are suspect at best or down right nonsensical and they are uncritically reported and promoted by others and picked up by news sources.  Today is not any different.  But in the past

Donald Trump has tweeted that there are millions of illegal votes for Sec. Clinton in the election and that is why she won the popular vote by 2 million votes.  The winner of the election for the Presidency of the United States, the most important and powerful job in the world, is saying the election was fraudulent even though he won. His source?  A website that questions things like whether we went to the moon in the 60s and 70s and calls all major attacks in recent year false flags. That is right, Trump is quoting a website that suggests that 9-11 was an inside job done by the government, that the Sandy Hook massacre was fiction.  Think about that, the President of the United States is finding his information from a site that makes up crazy conspiracy theories, while, oh by the way, he is not getting his daily intelligence briefing.

This is a serious issue but what we don't get a real investigative approach from the so-called journalists.  In fact what we get is discussions of Trump's tweets including a story and who actually types them and of course more recently the internal transition problems. Instead of questioning some of Trump's connections to the conspiracy nuts and the white nationalist movement, people are obsessing of Kelly Anne Conway's tweets about Mitt Romney being considered for Secretary of State.  We will now spend the day talking about Trump being angry at her for going rogue and just ignore the serious issues of a President-elect questioning reality and simply not learning the job he will take over in a month and a half.  In fact we are hearing that he doesn't understand how national security works, at all.  He honestly believes that what he hears on these websites are how things work.  Oh and by the way, he is turning his back on all his campaign rhetoric and basically turning the White House into a a money making effort for him and his family.  But Kelly Anne is speaking out of school so we have to talk about her.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Why Anti-Trump Protests Have to Stop

Last night in Indianapolis, dozens of people became violent in response to the election of Donald Trump to the Presidency of the United States.  This started with a rally against the bigotry and hate that were hallmarks of his campaign and whose fruit we are starting to see around the country a jubilant Trump supporters have been emboldened to harass individuals, tag buildings and cars, and in some reports attack individuals.  The the rally in Indianapolis, like many other places, quickly turned violent as some, who may always been looking for a place to vent, went on a rampage.  This is not how democracy works, this is not voicing your opinion.  If you threw a rock at police you are no better than a person who spray paints Fag on a car with a IYG license plate or pulls the hijab off a Muslim woman.  You aren't making a political statement, you are committing a crime.

Civil disobedience in important.   I have been there.  In the anti-apartheid era I sat in a meeting were we were supposed to discuss educating the college administration about the horrors of South Africa's policies when someone suggested we start a fire in the administration building.  Even as a young angry liberal I thought that was insane.  And I believe that today.  Destroying property, hurting people with violence, threats or insults, or simply disrupting society in a way that puts lives in danger is not protesting.  And it will only weaken our arguments, and this is what is happening.  Vox Populi, Vox Dei the voice of the people is the voice of God, is very true and so is Est Impetus Diaboli Opus, rage is the devil's work.

As the GOP now controls both the House and Senate and the White House, the voice of the people must be heard loud and clear to hold our representatives to task.  They can't be heard over the shots of gun fire and breaking glass.  Real people are in danger today because of the vitriol unleashed in the wake of a campaign that got into a gutter, rooted around, and found a doorway to go deeper.  But there is no reason for anyone from the center left to the far far left to follow into that realm.  Oh we should defend ourselves but we should also stand up for what is right.

On Tuesday night the Democrats lost the White House and we can speak about why.  But the left in this country were actually winners.  Restrictions on medical and recreational marijuana have been lifted, increases in minimum wage pasted, there is the most diverse class of Democratic women entering the Senate and places in local elections tax increases were passed. The Democrats gain seats in both the House and the Senate and while some people are saying blue states are turning red, there is no real evidence of that.  In fact red states are showing signs of purpling (yes I made up a word) if you look at exit polling.   Oh and  it appears nearly 2 million more people voted for Hillary Clinton than Donald Trump.  While for us that seems like the Rice-A-Roni consolation prize, it also was noticed by the GOP who sees that their hold on power in not a mandate and really only my a thread. If we act violently we will throw them a rope, a ladder and maybe even fix dinner for them.

We must stand strong and protest hate, bigotry and violence, if it comes from elected officials, government agencies or individual citizens.  But we must not become the violent bigots we profess to not want to have in our country.

Donald Trump is the President-elect.  He is our President.  We want him to be successful for the country.  But we also want him to stand up with the values that make this country great.  We cannot do that if we don't live by them either.  We should stop hosting rallies against the results of the election (even if we cloak them in rallies to stand against bigotry) and start being active.  They only create the incubator for the hate and violence we are beginning to see now. We must not be dismissed as our positions are shared by a majority of Americans.  The election is a snapshot, as is every election.   Many people chose not to vote in this election, many people chose to protest vote in this election.  You know who didn't, people who heard reasoned arguments in true support of a candidate.  Make 2018 our target to support, promote and elect people in House districts that share our values.  Make public statements against policies and actions we find violate the values of our country and human decency.  Argue with Trump supporters not from a position that they are dumb, racist or just hate filled but listen to what they feel and why a man like that could inspire them.  Even when the story you are told seems outside reality.  Reality is often a product of point of view.

If the voice of my side becomes the shouting, screaming, rock throwing, ignorant hate filled nastiness that I am seeing on TV then you have left me.  But I stand with my view of America where we all have the right to live our lives, be who we are and think as we do.  As long as we don't hurt someone else.  My responsibility to that is the hold election officials accountable for those values.  I know throwing a rock is easier, but if you are too lazy to fight for what is right, your arm will get tired soon enough.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

President-elect Trump

Okay Donald Trump was elected and people are angry, sad, scared. And that is normal. He ran a campaign of hate. Not that all who supported him did so from hate. Some in his party came to him for fear of a Clinton administration, but he did either by accident or intent, open a box that let out people who wish to do harm to others because they think, look, believe or love differently. Many supporters were with him because they too have been angry. Angry of a world changing that they can't find a place in. There was as much of diversity of Trump supporters as Clinton supporters.

But there is hope. More people nationwide chose Hillary to be President. Kamala Harris, Catherine Cortez Masto and Rep. Tammy Duckworth will all be in the Senate bringing a diversity of voice to that body. Some people woke up yesterday to be more than keyboard warriors and actually come to action, the election was a shofar blast like no other. I have heard young people realizing that they need to be more involved, informed and engaged.

But here is the thing. With a GOP controlled House, Senate, and the White House there is one voice that can't be silenced is ours. We can make a difference. We must respect the office of the Presidency, Donald Trump is our President. But he still works for us. We can still hold him accountable.

The other thing we must do is stand ready to support those that might be under attack. Running away to Canada is a choice for a privileged few. So while here stand ready for opposing any laws that limit the rights of our fellow citizens. Talk to your representatives and your neighbors and those you don't know. Combat lies and hate where ever you see it. I believe in my heart that many in the GOP who I might disagree on policy believe as I do when it comes to fellow citizens. Speak to their greater angels.

Please let me make another of the Harry Potter references. When Voldemort took over Hogwarts, it was Neville, squeaky, geeky, botany-lover Neville, who stood up and took over the resistance. Be a Neville. Hear the shofar, stand for our neighbors and pray that he may have campaigned in poetry (bad and hate speech filled poetry) he will govern in prose.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Why Term Limits Are Not Universally Good.

So Donald Trump the other day gave a speech at Gettysburg, PA.  This historical site was used by Trump to give an overview of his first 100 days.  He buried his own lead by first suggesting that he would sue those accusing him of sexual assault since a tape of him bragging about doing it came out. (Spoiler Alert he won't sue, he threatens a lot but rarely follows through).  But one thing he suggested was to push for a Constitutional Amendment to create term limits on Congress.  This was a nod to the right-wing of the GOP who on occasion call for it until they get in office.  But I think we should talk about them.

Term Limits have been used at the state and local levels for some offices, often the executive.  After FDR won the Presidency 4 times, there was a successful scramble to change the Constitution to make the US Presidency limited to two terms, which was a standard set by George Washington and followed until the 1940s.  There have been times since then that term limited Presidents would have been likely re-elected.  But the executive is different from the members of Congress.  Limiting the President is a way of not allowing a single individual to have so much power.

However that is not the case for members of Congress.  The House members get re-elected every 2 years and the Senate every six.  We control their number of terms.  But if there is a person elected by a district or even a state who is doing a good job for that district or state and represents them well, why should they not be able to keep that person in the office?  If they don't represent their district or state they should be ousted.  The system works on paper.  But we have professional politicians and a system that makes them often set in stone to win unless they do something completely outrageous.

The American electorate clearly does not think about their member as the problem.  Often their tenure gives them power to bring home what we once called pork barrel projects.  Gerrymandered districts means that a candidate may not share all one's values but they are often closer than the opposition.  Also the amount of money being able to be poured into races from outside sources, specifically from special interests, allow people who will not be represented by a candidate to effect the race.

So better than term limits what if we:
1.  Used population algorithms to create Congressional districts instead of a meeting in a state house. '
2.  Limit money from outside sources, one can't donate to a candidate that won't represent them.
3.  Limit incumbent's ability to use tax payer funded office mailings in an election year to promote self.
4.  Grow local and state parties in areas dominated by one party over the other.

We have seen that when people work hard they can break a candidate's streak of victories but that is hard.  That is the term limit we already have.  Frankly I think the Constitutional amendment takes away freedom and is lazy.  Aren't those things unAmeican?

Sunday, October 16, 2016

A Challenge to All Of Us

Tonight Jews around the world will begin an 8 day holiday that has multiple connections to our past.  Sukkot is a celebration of joy, and that main function is to rejoice in nature in structures (Sukkot) that we build to include natural materials. We eat and some people sleep in these structures meant to be temporary.  It is an agricultural celebration of the harvest and the antecedent to our modern American Thanksgiving, a reminder of our time wandering in the wilderness living in tents in non-permanent housing, and it also is about remembering that with joy comes the reminder that life is fragile, like the structures we build.  

Part of the tradition is to invite people into our sukkah (the structure) and share our bounty, our abundance.  I know that most of my friends do not celebrate this holiday but I would like to make a connection to another commemoration today.  Today is World Food Day and to that end the organization I work with in Kenya is launching our biggest fund raiser in cyberspace. 

When Global Interfaith Partnership started its Umoja Project in Chulaimbo, Kenya, teachers and guardians there identified hunger as the primary problem affecting students’ attendance and academic performance. Since 2008 we’ve had a school lunch program feeding 3,200 students in 18 schools, ensuring that each child receives one nutritious meal a day.

Our goal this fall is to raise $25,000 for the 2017 school lunch program.

I have seen the results of the this program, in the eyes of children eating the maize and beans they receive for lunch,  in the teacher's pride while showing the rising test scores since our program came to their school, and in the relief of guardians when they can be assured their charges will be able to continue their education with full stomachs.  

You don't have to be Jewish to feel motivated to share your abundance and you don't need a holiday to help feed hungry children.  So here is a simple opportunity to do that, from the comfort of you mobile devise, and  your own home.  Twenty-five dollars will feed one child, for a year.  And by doing so you give that child an education, increased safety and a sense of hope for the future.  But if all my friends give $5.00 each I will reach my goal and then some. Help me make one small impact on a world that needs good news.  Help me celebrate in November that we can continue the work we have been doing for 10 years.    

The #FoodForThought Challenge runs October 16 – November 29, 2016, during which I have a personal goak to raise $500 to contribute to our organizational goal of  $25,000.  Click HERE and make a small (or a large)  donation and help change the lives of the children living Western Kenya.  

Saturday, October 8, 2016

What Is Going on in the Locker Room

I will admit from the start that I have never been the stereotype of a classic man's man.  I have never been to a strip club, I find the concept of Hooter's to be childish, and I think the use of sex to sell hamburgers is cheap.  But I also believe in a pro-sexuality life, I enjoy burlesque, I have friends who write erotica that makes 50 Shades seem more like 50 yawns, and I have been reluctant to judge people harshly for things they do that are consensual and not violating a promise to someone else.  It is in this vein that I say what I am about to say.

I have never been in a locker room where someone was judged well when they suggested they sexually assaulted someone.  Let me repeat, sexual assault have never been seen as manly among any group of men or boys I have hung around.  Have they used crude language to describe what they would like to do with a woman or even to a woman?  Of course.  But every conversation I have ever had did not include lines that what my friends wanted to do was not consensual. I am quite certain that any of my friends today who talked about grabbing a woman's crotch without consent would be immediately and without reservation ridiculed.  Perhaps when we were in 8th grade we would have thought that funny, but I can't think of a time since.  You see when you engage in sexual behavior without consent, that is sexual assault not sex.  Donald Trump was not talking about sex.  Donald Trump, in his recently released hot microphone conversation, was bragging about assaulting someone.  You may think this is just guy talk, but he has also been accused of doing exactly what he said on the tape he wanted to do.  He is a sexual predator and looking to be excused for it.

Now his minion who not inexplicably works for CNN suggested to let it pass, suggesting we are not hiring a Sunday School teacher.  (just to be clear I wouldn't let Trump near any of the kids in my school)  And that is fair, except Trump has been not only running as a Christian Conservative but has suggested his Christian values are the reason that he has been audited by the IRS.  Seriously, I wish I was making this up, I could get a book deal at least.  He flaunts the fact that he has evangelicals on his side and proclaims that he would role back LGBT rights because of his faith.  So he finds two people who love each other who are engaged in a monogamous relationship, vile, but as a newly wed he bragged he tried to get another married woman into his bed.  Not to give her pleasure but to conquer her, another conquest or acquisition.

So his defense is the President Bill Clinton was worse.  The childish defense of a failed soul.  But let's think about it.  Let's say everything that Bill Clinton was accused of is true.  I am not certain all of it is.  The things we know are true are terrible.  I believe he should have resigned after the facts of Monica Lewinsky came to light, and wrote a letter to the White House saying as much.  But in the end Clinton was embarrassed by his failures, blamed no one and moved on.   He didn't brag about it and while he is a flawed human, he truly focused his energies for the greater good since leaving office.  But he is also not running for anything anymore.  So his background is not valid.

Evidence is coming to light that Trump has acted in the manner he described since he has been on the campaign trail.  Think about that for a second.  That while running for President of the United States he has harassed and in one cases allegedly assaulted a woman.  And conservatives are still standing by him.  That is failure of the party system far more than anything I can think of right now.

There are many people in the GOP who I feel are bad for women.  They are not likely to fund programs for women's health, would make abortions relegated to back alleys and force woman to continue to earn less than men for the same work.  But at least I know many of them are outraged by what Trump has been saying.  My hope is that their outrage will make them see this is not conservatism, this is not what the republican party stands for and this is not a good candidate for President of the greatest (and we are still great) country in the world.

If you continue to support Trump after this revelation and his non-apology apology that was excuse filled and probably written by a spokesperson, then you are certainly free to do that.  Overlooking flaws in politicians is a common practice and we all do it.  But don't ever again call yourself a social-conservative, suggest that your positions are about protecting women or attack anyone over who they sleep with, either the sex, gender or number.  You would be giving up that right to have any authority to speak of that.

I am not sure how this will move the needle for Trump.  The anti-Hillary crowd will struggle to find a way to rationalize anything.  You might simply say that this rawness is refreshing because he is like "one of us".  Except it isn't, I can't think of a conservative friend I have who would talk or act like this.  That is simply not who they are.  I hope this finally breaks through to them to see they may need to give up 4 years and come back with a candidate that is at least a Republican.  They can still believe the myths they have told themselves about Hillary.  But at least the country will be certainly be more stable.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Colin Kapernick and Justice for All

We are a funny nation.  We seem to be comfortable holding two diametrically opposed views in our heads at the same time.  Freedom of speech, but the expectation not to use it.  Hear me out.  Colin Kapernick decided to remain seated or kneeing during the National Anthem at games his San Francisco 49ers are playing in to protest what he sees as unfair treatment of minorities by police. It is a quiet, non-violent and singular protest.  However many people, including some police, have attacked him saying it disrespects the flag, our military and the country itself.  In fact some have even called for him to be deported.  To where?  No one cares.  You see this emotional reaction is one fueled by ignorance and entitlement of those who do not feel the fear that comes from watching young black men and women killed in police custody or by police for apparently no reason.  Yes, I know, some of the most celebrated of the recent cases of police shooters are not as cut and dried as the Black Lives Matter movement said.  However, there is a serious pattern, or at least the perception of one, that seems to devalue the lives of black people, especially black men.  And Kapernick is drawing attention to that.

I don't want to debate that.  It is highly complicated and in fact there are some existential rabbit holes we could go down.  Black on black crime, gang fighting, absentee fathers have all be used to attack the movement.  That is for another time.  But I want to talk about the protest itself.

The National Anthem is an interesting thing we in America have.  That and the Pledge of Allegiance both have an ironic feel to them in a country built on the notion that we are a free people that the government is there to pledge allegiance to us, not the other way around.  One of the funny memes about this incident is the one that shows a so-called patriot saying "Stop disrespecting the government I am arming myself against".   But this is what we have allowed to be considered patriotism. Again the opposing views held by the same individual.  In some cases in the same sentence.  The idea the one can attack the President, members of the government, government institutions, (FBI, ATF, IRS) on the same website where they call for action taken against someone like Kapernick who just doesn't want to honor a song that he feels is hypocritical.  I would be more comfortable if he was avoiding the pledge than the anthem.  But still his protest, and the growing number who join him, are making a statement that is not disrespecting any individual, just calling for us to do a self-audit of what we are willing to live with in this country where famous and wealthy black men will tell you they have a visceral reaction to police and a fear if they are pulled over.

There was a time where I didn't say the pledge for example.  I still find it odd but I rarely am asked to do it.  I remember a nun, a member of the Catholic Worker Movement, who said once that she will say the Pledge of Allegiance when it wasn't a lie.  She felt there wasn't liberty and justice for all. That was a protest I could understand.  One of silence and conviction and that is in fact what Kapernick and the others are doing.  By the way, it is his right to do it and the flag we are pledging at that moment of his silence is a symbol of that right.  It is why we fought wars, it is why we can feel comfortable supporting a candidate that we want.  It is why the talk radio screamers who are making fun of those protesting can do just that.  And if Kapernick and others lose sponsorship contracts and even their jobs, well the same freedoms apply to that.  You see that is how the country is great.

Here is what I believe.  If Kapernick is so wrong to do it, don't call him names and ask him to leave the country.  Teach him why he is wrong or make what he is doing wrong. If you are right and his protest is in vain then he looks like a fool.  If you are outraged that this man is standing up for what he believes in then how can you defend someone standing up for what you believe in when you are considered wrong by the crowd?  Seriously. we are all Kapernick in some way.  We all have an unpopular but strongly held belief somewhere.  Thank the universe that we live some place where we can express it without fear of government interaction on us.  We should applaud him for doing so and if we think he is wrong, make him see the error of his ways.  But our culture moves too rapidly for that and so we sit, and jeer and burn his jersey, and call him names and in some cases prove his point. That there are two Americas.  And sometimes they exist in the same head.