Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Thank You Alabama, But This is Round One

Let us celebrate.  It is an odd thing to say about a special election in Alabama in December of an off year, but last night the side of light and justice won the race.  A special thank you to the African-American electorate who truly came through for Doug Jones last night.  Thank you to Corey Booker and (this one hurts) Charles Barkley for helping to excite and get the vote out.  Roy Moore is not going to the Senate and the only way to see this is a good thing. 

But let's keep in mind that over 650 thousand people voted for the guy who think that homosexual behavior should be against the law, Muslims should not be able to serve in Congress, and that the Constitution shouldn't apply if it doesn't support his version of Christianity, and of course wants to abolish all the amendments since the Bill of Rights.  Oh and there are several credible accusations that he dated and molested teens when he was in his 30s.  This fight is not over.  We must be diligent.  Over half a million people voted for a terrible candidate who did not belong on a ticket for anything, let alone the Senate.  His ignorance and hate resonated with so many people.  To get a look at just how terrible this candidate was, his spokespeople who were the only contact that mainstream media had with the campaign when interviewed sounded like they were crazy.  Just yesterday, Jake Tapper, interviewing his spokesman asked a simple question about whether he knew that  you can be sworn in without a Bible and the spokesperson seemed to have a seizure.  Every time I saw someone supporting his campaign I wanted to send a care package to them.  Yet still the RNC, the President, members of Congress and many in Alabama still threw their support behind Moore. 

Last night the President and his Bannon influenced hate-filled nationalism took a blow.  But in 2018 we can truly have a chance to cure this horrific disease in American politics.  Mobilize, continue to fight for good candidates, stand up against hate of all kinds, even if it doesn't effect you personally, and be informed.  Listen to those in your party who have been marginalized, remember last night it was African-Americans, especially women, who won this for Jones who didn't really build in-roads to the community.  He has two years to do that.  Stop being a one-issue voter, I understand that lines need to be drawn on some issues, but do what many in Alabama did last night and voted for someone who may vote differently than they did.  Demand access, information and facts from all candidates, don't let political speak be the background noise of any campaign.  Oh and talk to those who you disagree with, there is a battle for political soul of this country, some of our allies don't vote the way we do, but in the end share some of our values.  Celebrate Alabama, celebrate Doug Jones, but then let's see what we can do to keep the tide rolling. 

Saturday, December 9, 2017

so tired

Yesterday, Dianne said something like the one good thing about a Trump Presidency is that it makes each day seem like a month, each week more like a year, he is prolonging our lives.  It is true but I am very tired. 

I am tired of having to explain facts are not up for debate.  There are things that just are.  There aren't two sides to facts. (Despite what lawyers might say)  Be it a crowd size at an inauguration or referencing events that didn't happen, some things are not debatable.  I am tired of people trying to explain away reality in favor of a President who has a passing relationship with it.  When a spokesperson for the President of the United States says that there are alternative facts (which we know means lies) she is creating a Lingua Tertii Imperii.  A Trumpian world view full of propaganda and nonsense.  Intoxicating to his core supporters.

I am tired of having to argue against people that Roy Moore is a bad guy.  Seriously how low is the Republican party willing to go to support this guy.  Twice removed from the bench for violating the Constitution, he continues to promote ideas so far outside the main stream they might be illegal in other countries.  He has said that the country was better when slavery was legal.  He, in violation of the Constitution, wants to ban Muslims from serving in public office.  He believes homosexuality should be outlawed.  Oh and he is credibly accused of child molestation and wanting to date high school girls when he was in his thirties.  The later he didn't really deny.  There is evidence that he was watched for his bad behavior around teen girls and maybe even banned from a mall.  He may become a Senator in the US Congress.  How is it possible that he is being supported by so many and why would a sitting President strongly endorse him? 

I am tired of explaining why America wasn't great when black people where considered second-class citizens.  Seriously, there is a rising voice, like Moore's, who long for the good old days when blacks were either slaves, under Jim Crow or getting beaten for demanding their rights as Americans.  The President's support for White supremacists and his bringing into the inner circle of power people who have these beliefs is disgusting and it is exhausting to have to stand against it.

I am tired of watching smart people try to explain away nonsense from elected officials. This can be infuriating.  People I respected have done the kind of mental stretching that would make Plastic man proud.  I truly wonder at times how they sleep at night.

I am tired of having to fight the battles that I thought were settled before. While hate-groups and their allies have been around forever, they were kept in check in the last 2 decades.   President Trump's rise has given a sense of power to anti-woman, anti-Islam, anti-Jewish, anti-Gay, and so many other hate-based organizations as sense of support.  We watched in horror as Nazis marched in American cities and killing a counter-protester in Charlottesville and the President thought there were good people on the side of the Nazis. 

I am tired of having to call my representatives so often because they are trying to do something horrible.  It seems weekly there is another attack on the very foundation that makes our country great, the idea that together we create a social network with the help of government so we can all live and many more thrive.  I am all for free market economies but the rules have allowed some to take extreme advantage of the weakest in our society.  Over the Obama administration laws enacted were to help stand in the way of that and now they are being dismantled.  In fact recently a fine to Wells Fargo for, and let me be clear, creating false accounts in their client's names, to pad numbers and collect bonuses, only to charge the new costs back to the clients who, the stole their identity is being rolled back by this administration.  To me, this is the highest level of evil. 

I am tired that every morning I feel like I have to check the following:
  • Is reality up for debate?
  • Did another racist, homophobe, misogynist, etc get access to the President or appointed to a position of power? 
  • Are there Americans being disenfranchised by actions of party who doesn't seem to care?
  • Are we at war with someone new?
  • Did the President say something on his Twitter feed that will make the world unsafe for some or all of us. 
So many other things could be added to this list. Exhaustion washes over us and there is a worry that we will run out of steam.  November of 2018 is coming.  We have to save our strength and we can change the political landscape.  Let's lean on each other when we need the support.  

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Are We Entering a New Era?

The recent rash of high profile men who are accused or have admitted to sexual harassment and assault are being shamed, fired and in jeopardy of losing their political offices.  This  has caused a bit of anxiety among some men who fear that all men are being painted with the same large brush as  sexual predators. The "NOT ALL MEN" voices are loud and getting angry.   The thing is that I have had dozens of conversations with dozens of women I personally know and all have a story of a time a man has violated their personal space, made them uncomfortable in a sexualized context or assaulted them.  Women in the 20s through their 70s.  Women of wealth and education and women or neither.  Conservative, liberal and apolitical women.  Something is seriously wrong with the way men and women interact in many areas of life and it is mostly being seen in the work place where men with power and control of women's careers or economics take advantage of that.  But it appears that there are plenty of less cut and dried situations where women have felt they were made vulnerable.

The following is a thread from my Twitter feed in response to a man who said only a tiny minority of men act inappropriately toward women and not all men should be blamed:

Jim, as a man who thinks he has never been someone like that (referring to sexually inappropriate behavior in an earlier tweet)  I can't honestly say that I know for sure because we socialize women to not tell us and we socialize men to act this way.  I know I have never attacked a woman.  I know that I have never held a woman in a space against her will, I know I have never shown my genitals to a woman that was not my lover, but I can't say that some woman in my past did not feel threatened by my actions.  My intent is not fully relevant if the person in question is both feeling threatened and at the same time socialized not to respond.  This new era of woman standing up may change the way that women and men deal with it.  Bottom line is that we are looking at power not flirtation.  We are looking at control not seduction.  That is the problem of how we socialize women and men sexually.  And women are over it (thank God).  

Sex is a weapon in many of the incidence that are being discussed on daily news programs.  It is not about desire or even lust, it is often about control and power.  Many of the men listed in various accusation could have found women who would willingly be with them.  For some, money, power, access and fame are aphrodisiacs.  But they didn't want partners or equals, they wanted to dominate, shame or somehow own a piece of these women. 

But the less than clear situations do need to be addressed, but the rising voices that men can't flirt or a ridiculous article in the Los Angles Times today that asks if men could still hug women.  (the answer is no if she doesn't want you to).  I believe there are many layers to the issues of sexuality and the use of sex ans sexual language as a way to inflict power.  But it starts with how we raise our children to understand how to interact with others. 

Currently men seemed to be socialized from an early age that when it comes to sex to act as if they are on a campaign to conquer defended land.  "Did you get very far" is one of the many quotes we use to discuss men's sexual activity with women.  For women they are socialized to defend the line that men want to cross.  In fact if women don't put up a fight and express their own sexual desire they are often shamed.  Also much of our culture eschews teaching about sexuality and pretends that if we tell teens not to have sex then they won't.  It is a troubling cycle but I think the recent news and the openness for women to talk about their experiences we may make a breakthrough. 

We must teach young people that they are in control of their own bodies.  They should never be forced to kiss and hug anyone at and earlier age.  As young people grow they should be given not only information on how their bodies work but how their minds work in relationship to the desires of their bodies and that they have the right to control their own body.  This could include many things including not shaming for how they look, talk, act or express themselves. 

We may be in a new era.  Every day more and more stories come out.  In less public situations more and more women are confronting men around them who make them feel uncomfortable and more and more men are rethinking how they see the world.  But the process will be slow and it is up to us to help teach the next generation.  Maybe we needed this recent explosion and we may find that it tarnishes people we love.  I think it is worth it. 

Monday, November 20, 2017

Few Will Mourn Charles Manson, But We Should Be Happy He Had a Long Life

Since I was really young Charles Manson has been America's greatest embodiment of evil.  I remember reading Helter Skelter, about Manson's orchestrated Tate and LaBianca murders.  I was probably too young, but the idea of Manson's cult was fascinating and also scary.  Now Manson has died and we are getting a rehash of the horrors of his murdering followers and his long term ability to stay in the public eye.  

Manson has been the country's boogie man for 5 decades and many were truly upset when the government reversed his death sentence because of court changes. After which there were even more angry that he was getting taken care of in prison, in conditions that led to a long life span.  While I understand that desire for revenge, I have felt that on a very personal level, the fact that he was kept alive and fairly healthy late into life is good for all of us. 

We are a country of laws and built on the concept of justice.  We have courts, lawyers and prisons that deal with those that violate the laws of the country.  But prisons were originally less about simple punishment and more about attempts are rehabilitate.  The idea was that we can set people on the right path after being in the penal system.  While that ideal might still exist in theory, we know that prison is the cost of violating the law. In some jurisdictions one can lose their life.  But while in custody of the government,  that is what prison is, we must make sure that the government treats those in prison as humans and within the values and laws of the United States.  Manson, while despicable, is a perfect canary in a coal mine for our legal system.  How we treat the worst of those in our prison systems is a good barometer for how all prisoners will be treated.  Making sure that Manson's rights are not violated makes it more likely that others, both criminals or those simply suspected of criminal behavior are treated better.  Manson's long life is a good indicator that while prison might be a hell hole in some ways, the system is not taking into its own hands that which the law wouldn't allow.  While I know that sounds naive, I am sure that there some times that guards are involved in the prison yard justice, we know that for the most part there is some protections.  

Revenge is sweet at first but grows bitter with time.  I am happy that there are signs that at least someone like Charles Manson is not simply at the mercy of a emotions of those who have power over him, but that our values stand in the breach.  It may not feel good for us, but thinking beyond this single example we should be happy.  The world will not really miss Charles Manson, we will always have his infamy as our history.  Today, let's not get angry that he lives so long, be happy that if we ever are accused of a crime, that our judicial system is still based on the ideals that our founders created.  

Friday, November 10, 2017

It Was Never About Sex

I have sat down to write this blog post so many times, and so many times what has happened is that someone else comes forward with accusations of sexual harassment or assault aimed at a famous person.  One of the things that comes out is that we now have come to the point where the accused's politics play a role.  A Washington Post story that broke yesterday found four women who said that as teens Roy Moore engaged in an inappropriate relationship with them and at one point a women who was 14 years old was molested by Moore.  For those who don't know, Moore is the former Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice who twice was removed from the court for violating Supreme Court decisions and he is the current Republican Senate candidate in the special election in Alabama.  This is a difficult and disgusting story and we need to make sure that this isn't just some made up nonsense, however the story is well sourced and the push back is interesting.  Alabama state Auditor Jim Ziegler in trying to defend  Moore's apparent sexual activity with teens as young as 14 :
"Take Joseph and Mary. Mary was a teenager and Joseph was an adult carpenter. They became parents of Jesus.”  Seriously, this is where we are.  (Let's remember Moore attacks Islam by calling Mohammad a pedophile).  Some Republican leaders have taken to say "if the accusations are true..." While innocent until proven guilty is a value we hold true in this country, the story seems to have a great deal of support suggesting that Moore has a history that has been kept quiet in Alabama for years.  The women in the story were reluctant to go on the record and like so many others the floodgates have opened and more women are coming forward.  This is true of the various others as well, Harvey Weinstein, the movie mogul and large Democratic supporter was also accused of horrible acts of assault and intimidation and it seems every day more women come forward.  I would hate to try to list the names of people accused in just the last week, I am sure I would miss someone. 

But in all these stories, the one thing that is missing is that none of these stories is about sex.  It is about people, mostly men, using sex as a weapon to assault others, mostly women.  It is a power and control.  Rape has always been a way to claim superiority over someone.  It is used in war and in fact the have been cultures were the winning armies would rape the survivors of the battle as a way to humiliate them, and then rape the women of the conquered village.  While the perpetrator may get a sexual release from that activity described in these accusations and allegations sex requires consent.  Even when consent appears to exist, when someone is at the age of majority for example.  The power dynamic of the relationship is a factor.  That is why trying to explain away the attacks on children using an ancient relationship is just ridiculous.  It is why the Monica Lewinsky relationship with President Clinton was completely wrong.  We have to stop thinking about these things in the context of sex and start thinking about them in the context of violence.  Too often because of the fact that there is a sexual component to these stories people attempt to write it off.  The #metoo has shown that these kinds of attacks are no rare and too often people try to justify it.  Imagine if these women who have been touched, harassed, and raped were saying they were stabbed or even robbed.  Would we be so nonchalant?  Should a movie director, a politician, a priest, a rabbi, a teacher or anyone be allowed to violate the body of another person under their charge or in their constituency?  Right now there are some trying to make excuses for people who have.  That too is not a new thing.  It happens all the time and we are at a place in society where we must draw a line in the sand and stop it.  We elected a President who bragged about sexual assault, saying that he could do it because he was famous.  Alabama may elect a man who may well have assaulted a 14 year old and used the Bible to explain it away.  We are seeing the first bricks in the wall that have blocked women especially from coming forward coming down.  The entertainment industry has exploded with accusations that were open secrets and people are paying the price.  Louis CK, Kevin Spacey and of course Weinstein have lost jobs, income and may lose their place in the industry.  But we need to do more, we need to hold people accountable when rumors are bouncing around and shine a light on them.  We must not laugh it off and take it seriously.  We must give up our politics and grab onto our humanity when it comes to this kind of behavior.  This is not a women's issue, it doesn't matter if you have a wife or daughter, it is about making sure that all of us are safe in body, and that powerful people can be held accountable for their actions. 

To Alabama I say, Roy Moore has twice been taken off the court for violating the Constitution, he has used language to dehumanize LGBT community members and Muslims, he has called for the death of Americans for who they love.  If you don't want to believe he is a child molester, that is fine, but with his track record do you want to take a chance he might be? 

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Where Do We Go From Here

I have taken to checking my social media not long after I wake each morning. On Monday I saw a friend from Las Vegas check in that she was okay. I was confused, was there a weather incident, an earthquake, or something worse. It was something worse. A man decided that he wanted to kill as many people as possible for some unknown reason and bullets struck almost 600 people with 58 of them fatally. And so we continue to live in a world where killing people is easy and part of our normal life. There have been more mass shootings (4 or more deaths) than days of the year in 2017. This is where we are. I listened yesterday to my neighbor who is a prosecutor talk about visiting the scene of one of the record setting murders in Indianapolis, and having to tell a child her uncle, a young man, was dead. It was heart wrenching. Yet this happens every day across our great nation.

We are a country that was born by gun fire, settled by gun fire, committed atrocities in the name of growth by gun fire, defended freedom by gun fire, supported the innocent by gun fire and frankly saved the world by gun fire. We wrote into our founding documents the right to own guns because the founders thought it was an important tool, not for hunting but to fight off tyranny. While the words say "well-regulated militia" the idea was that all able bodied men would rise up to be that militia and in the recent Heller decision at the Supreme Court, this right in the 2nd amendment was considered an individual right. No militia necessary. For some that is meant to say it is a free for all, but if you read Heller there is a strong caveat in it that was written by the late Justice Antonin Scalia. “like most rights, the right secured by the Second Amendment is not unlimited.” It is “not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose.” Scalia, know as the uber-orginalist often voted on cases as if the ink on the Constitution was not yet dry. He focused on, much to my dismay at times, on an 18th century world view and not where we are. He didn't want to interpret the Constitution as much as he wanted to use it as a caliper against the cases in front of him. Yet he saw in the 2nd room for limitations and that is where we need to be having a conversation. Where to we set limits to fire power while maintaining our 2nd amendment rights?

This discussion is not about memes and talk radio. This isn't going to be settled on late night TV or in ads from the NRA (I have a lot to say about those guys at another time). We have to settle it politically and to think that in the wake of the deadliest civilian shooting ever is not the right time you are saying you don't want to talk about, but are happy with the nonsense vomited out by both pundits and so-called experts and ignore the reality of the situation. That is criminal level malpractice. I know several members of Congress owe their seats to particularly the NRA, which advocates not for gun owners but gun makers, but even those that aren't seem to want to avoid the issue for fear of being attacked by the mouthpieces of those who make and sell weapons. There are also those who are opposed to unrestricted access to weapons and accessories who seem to not want to have a serious conversation but use ignorant language and positions. This is not how we get things done.

So let me suggest some things:

1. The number of guns owned is not relevant. I know it sounds horrible that there were almost 50 guns that this man owned but there are plenty of people who own tons of weapons. Saying no one needs these weapons is a terrible argument because that is not anyone's call. If you have a number of weapons you think someone should be allowed to own, let us know. Then argue why that is a legal position. This is a distraction from the real issues.

2. As Scalia said we can place limits on the 2nd and one that comes up immediately after this attack is the so-called bump-stock. Making a semi-automatic weapon fire much like an automatic. Outlaw those. Simple. Some may argue the enjoy using them for target practice. I can argue many things here, including the unreliability of automatic fire when it comes to hitting a particular target, but what you want is not a legal argument. If it were no one should be arrested for anything.

3. Stop saying that gun control is a slippery slope to weapons confiscation. You sound stupid doing it. I don't care who you are. It is virtually impossible to take personal weapons from the population and I don't see anyone arguing this who has any legitimacy in public life. (and if your reaction is the old Sen Feinstein quote from 60 Minutes you look even dumber).

4. Stop saying that it isn't the kind of gun you would hunt with. I agree if you go hunting deer with a semi-automatic weapon you are either a really bad hunter or you are a psychopath who just wants to kill animals and not really wanting to hunt for game or sport. But that is not why we have a 2nd amendment. Owning a weapon is not about hunting, and protection for some is a real issue. Again I feel that if you build an arsenal for fear of the government you may be over the moon a little today, but in the end the founders basically said that it is the reason to have the weapons freely in the hands of individuals. And that leads me to the idea of muskets versus AKs. The 2nd amendment was written, in part, to protect against well-armed tyranny. Evolution of weapons is not relevant to the conversation. Yes the founders would be appalled by what happened in Vegas and couldn't full fathom it, but they also didn't want an unarmed citizenry in case a despot took power. Having commonly used weapons is implied in the right.

Congress can do more and should but just saying that is not enough. Here is what I think they could wrestle with, do hearings on, take votes and force a national conversation based on the facts and situations of today within the context of the 2nd amendment.

1. Outlaw the ability to turn a semi-auto into virtual full auto. With a broad law that covers everywhere.
2. Return to banning weapons sales to mentally ill.
3. Have a full and public hearing on suppressors (known as silencers) and what their impact might be.
4. Continue buy back programs.
5. Engage a special commission on basic rights education. Bring in people with a variety of opinions and then put together curriculum to use in school systems. If we have public schools they should be for the public good. Teach people accurate information about the rights as they stand.
6. Prosecute fully anyone who uses a gun in the commission of a crime.
7. Media should stop making these shooters into folk legends. The Vegas shooter didn't snap, he isn't a retired real-estate investor and professional gambler. He is and was a homicidal maniac. If his name was LeRoy Washington or Abdul Mohammed the stories would be different.

There are many more things we can discuss. Gun culture is a problem, in urban neighbors where guns are badges of honor, in my town where I eat breakfast at a place where 10% of the people open carry and some with questionable holsters, and online where wanna-be heroes tout their arsenal and pretend to be soldiers. (One comically ran from the Vegas shooting when the firing started).

We have a problem, but the noise around it is drowning out what we can do. Or as Mich McConnell suggests we should just sit back and relax, take a breath and hope that next week another person doesn't decide that killing 70 people might be a good idea. He know knows how to do it.

Monday, September 4, 2017

It Really Isn't That Hard

Indianapolis has  a treasure for those who want to walk, job, bike or just enjoy some green space in the city.  The Monon trail, built on the land that used to house the Monon Railroad runs for 18 miles from just north of downtown to Westfield.  It crosses high traffic flow roads and winds through the backyards of neighborhoods.  Used by countless people daily, the Monon is a jewel of our community.  However in my area of town there is a problem.  As the population of Westfield, IN, where I live, grows there are more and more cars who drive on roads that cross the Monon.  Now the rules about driving is simply to slow down and yield is someone is in the crosswalk as you approach.  If no one is the crosswalk you drive normally (but be alert as you would where anyone crosses).  But that simple set of rules has become a problem for two reasons.  The first that while there are stop signs on the trails and people walk, jogging, or biking on the trail must stop at street crossings, some people don't.  Second, there are people who who are driving who see people waiting for traffic to clear on trail, stop and wave them on.  This is dangerous for drivers who are not expecting to stop, it screws up traffic patterns that could cause an accident due to back ups and of course, cars coming in the other direction may not stop or be prepared to stop putting people who are crossing in jeopardy.

Now a solution at one point at 146th Street is a nice skywalk that allows trail users to cross above the road.  This might be a costly yet functional solution however yesterday as I was turning onto 146th Street at the corner, in the shadow of the trail, were two bicyclists who were trying cross the street.  I simply shook my head, a perfectly good path with safety above their head and they are stuttering to cross 146th as cars travel by and turn onto the street with regularity.   Now I am all for using the trail and I hope that fixes are made at the crossing that are the most dangerous.  But until then here is a very simple tutorial:

1.  If you are on the Monon, when you approach a street you must cross, follow the big stop sign and the barriers you must go around and stop, look and cross when clear.  It is simple.  If you have kids, keep them back from the edge of the road, and if you are on a bike, don't play chicken with on-coming traffic.  That is simply stupid.

2.  If you are driving, as you approach the Monon crossing, slow down, if you see someone in the crosswalk, stop and yield.  If you don't keep going but be aware of surroundings.  DO NOT STOP AND WAVE PEOPLE INTO THE CROSSING.  That is dangerous.  For you and for them.  It is better you keep going and let the traffic clear.

3.  Understand that regardless if you do everything correctly someone might not.  Be aware that people are often going to make mistakes or simply not care about other people, react appropriately and take the high road.

4.  Petition local government for solutions and for law enforcement to police this and fine violators.

We have a wonderful treasure in our city and for much of the length of this it isn't much of a problem.  If we work together, we can almost certainly solve the problems and make the Monon safe and fun.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Clowns to the Left of Me, Jokers to the Right

It continues to be a trial to be a mindful liberal these days.  Recently in McCordsville, a suburb of Indianapolis had a teacher send home a note asking parents to have their children stop saying the words God, Jesus and Devil. Quoting the letter it says:  

"With McCordsville Elementary being a public school, we have many different religions and beliefs, and I do not want to upset a child/parent because of these words being used,” the letter said. “If you got to church or discuss these things at home, please have a talk with your child about there being an appropriate time and place of talking about it.”

So of course the keyboard first amendment experts were there to express their outrage. But first let me say the letter from the teacher was both inappropriate and violates the students rights to free speech.  This is not a gray area, the Supreme Court and many other courts have made decisions about the right of religious expression from students in school.  If children express their faith in a manner that is not disruptive to the educational process nor is an attack on another child it is within their rights to use these words.  May it be offensive? Yes.  Is that a place for a conversation?  Maybe.  Can they be banned? No. 

But of course the simple answer has no place in our culture where anyone can pick up the megaphone of the internet so let me use mine.

1.  For the people who say we are a Christian nation:  No we are not, we are a secular nation that has a plurality of people who identify as Christian.  But written into our laws is a distinct separation of religion and government.  The founders feared the role of religion in government as that is what they were feeling.  They wanted a government of the people not ordained by God.  

2.  For those who say religion has no place in school:  Religion can exist and does exist everywhere.  The issue is who is bringing the religion.  School officials cannot engage in bringing students together in prayer, cannot say one religion is better than another, cannot preach to children nor engage in religious recruitment in public school.  However, students can in fact do all those things at appropriate times.  Students can speak of their faith at free times, can pray before tests, lunch and anytime.  Can wear religious items and ask for times to say daily prayers.  

3.  One nation under God is a phrase that was added to the pledge of allegiance in the 1950s because of fear of atheistic communism.  It is ironically a bit unAmerican to require the pledge and worse to make a statement of faith in it.  The beauty of America is that you can be any religion or none at all.  We don't want a singular religion to be forced on us.  

I can't understand why we so many people simply do not understand the idea and role of faith in our culture.  We live in a country where we explicitly don't want all crimes to also be sins against God.  We don't want religion at the center of our laws.  (yes I know they influence our laws and some crimes are also sins)  But we also don't want religion to be washed out of our public life.  In fact we must fight for all to have their rights expressed as long as they don't interfere with the rights of others.  (We don't have right to not be offended or upset).  That way we can be free, free of the oppression of a government who defines how we interact with our gods, and free to do so. 


Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Perhaps the Most Impressive Thing Any President Has Done

CNN has a fetish for interviewing ignorant Trump supporters who never seem to have a critical thing to say about him.  I am not saying all Trump supporters are ignorant, though I think they are misguided.  I mean people really ignorant of the reality of Donald Trump as President of the United States.  They bring them together to ask them how they think he is doing, especially after some big news story, so like clockwork CNN will for the next few days have Alison Camerota talk to people about how great President Trump is while not knowing anything he has done or failed to do.  This morning we saw it with his speech on Afghanistan.

For years Donald Trump has said the United States should pull out of Afghanistan and let the people in the area deal with the fallout.  It became part of his campaign, a campaign that included him saying that he knew more than the generals on military matters.  But when asked what this group thinks of Trump's Afghan speech they said he was fulfilling a campaign promise.  When Camerota pointed out that in fact he promised the opposite in the campaign and came close to admitting he was wrong last night in the speech, they quickly changed the subject.  This is but one of a number of crazy ignorant statements made by the voters who support the President without knowledge what is actually going on.  Tomorrow CNN plans to ask about Charlottesville, that is going to be a cluster for sure.  But it is not uncommon for American voters to be uninformed.  What is less comfortable when it is a member of the media who simply vomits praise for no reason.

Tucker Carlson, Fox News, is a prime example.  Last week, after the events around the Nazi marchers,  there was segment on his show that tried to justify slavery.  Seriously, because Trump thought there were good people marching with White Supremacists Carlson tried to make it safe to say that by downplaying slavery as an American tragedy and evil.  But it gets worse.  During yesterday's eclipse the President of the United States look directly at the sun.  Something that we have been told for months not to do and he was shouted not to as he was doing it.  Carlson, talking about it,   said "He looked at the sun without any glasses. Perhaps the most impressive thing any president has done."

Seriously, for almost a decade I kept hearing people tell me that liberals saw President Obama as a mythical savior.  We never did.  But now, seriously, he could slap a baby (I mean he did kick one out of his rally) and there will be people who bring up that the baby spit up on someone at the grocery or church.  It is sickening thing and their voices should be ridiculed.  The other day on one of the NBC channels a Trump apologist was lying about the economy and the reporters whose beat was the economy basically explained to the sycophant that the first six months of this year, every measure of economic growth was slower than the previous 18 at least.  But of course the typical Trump supporter wouldn't believe it.

The facts are simple, if you like the President of not, he has been basically a terrible leader and has stumbled over every thing he has tried to accomplish that requires more work than signing his name.  Perhaps his turn around on Afghanistan and adopting previous Presidents' ideas and the military leadership in his cabinet.  I hope this is the start of something but I don't think I will be fooled.  He is having a campaign rally tonight, more than 3 years before the election.  He is doing this because he wants praise, so who knows what he will say, perhaps he will tell the good people in Arizona that he was just reading and it isn't what he thinks.  And that is where we are.  Tucker Carlson will report how cagey the President is and on CNN a group of Trump supporters will thank him for winning the war in Afghanistan.  

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

He Makes it So Hard.

When I started this blog so many years ago I thought the title would be a signal that not all you read can be believed and even what you see is hard to believe.  But today I stand shocked and struck down.  I have been cultivating in my head a post that I hoped I had time to write tomorrow morning, trying to be level headed and challenge those that think the answer to the ignorant violence of the Nazi marchers is to vandalize and destroy the monuments you hate.  Spray painting statues and pulling them down is no way to protest.  We can talk about how a community wants to remember its history.  I actually have a lot to say about remembering the ugly past we as a nation must not forget and talking about how some people see that as a heritage.  I don't believe we should build monuments to traitors, but I also understand that the Civil War was a war fought by a country that was a new experiment that struggled with where do the rights of the people lie.  Slavery, was a disgusting component of the war leading our modern sensibilities to reduce the discussion to that but it was much more than slavery that led farm boys to take up arms against the federal government.  So when a southern looks at Stone Mountain or a Robert E. Lee statue, I have no idea what they are thinking but I can't assume they long for a time of slavery again.  Some people do.  Some of them marched in Charlottesville. Many others think of a nostalgia that they understand is complicated.  A time and place that we can't understand fully.  To them the heroes of the confederacy might be like the uncle who drops his pants in the living room at Thanksgiving and never fully zips up after the meal.  He is embarrassing, he is wrong, but he is still your uncle.

I also wanted to say that it is okay to criticize the President of the United States for not denouncing the Nazis right away.  I was part of the angry calls for him to stand at a microphone and attack those that spew such hatred and some doing it in his name.  Name them for what they are, not the wishy-washy both sides.  So he did, and I saw many say "that's not enough".  Let's face reality I thought.  This guy is not intelligent and highly emotional.  He reacts like a toddler or a drunk guy in a bar. So even when he reads a statement I don't believe he believes it, but I wanted to say the act of calling them out was a step in the right direction.  But I can't defend that move any more.  Because this afternoon he took it all back.

While telling us how smart and excellent his statement on Saturday was, where he said that the hatred was on many sides, he decided that the left was just as much to blame as the right.  That he couldn't condemn the Nazis because he didn't know the facts.  Well Mr. President the facts are simple.  A group of people marched in an American city calling for the death of blacks and Jews.  They carried weapons and torches, the beat on and chased away people at prayer and yes, there was an anti-fascist demonstration that attacked the Nazis.  That is true, but you see when someone threatens to eliminate you I think it makes sense to respond with anger.  But here is the thing.  Today the President said

“You had some very bad people in that group. You also had some very fine people on both sides,” 

No, no you don't.  There are no fine people on the side of the Nazis, none.  If you call yourself a White Nationalist, if you chant "Jews will not replace us" and "Blood and Soil".  You are not a fine person.  If you call a woman murdered by one of your minions "a fat slut" as the internet voice of the groups that gathered did of the young woman, Heather Heyer, the you are not a fine person.  If you think that you are superior to other humans because the circumstances of your birth, you are not a fine person, and if you believe that only you and those who think like you have a place in this country you are not a fine person.  Mr. President can you fine me one fine person.  If only he were more like Abraham arguing for Sodom and Gemmorah in the Torah, looking for 10 righteous people.  But for the President it isn't about finding 10 righteous people.  It appears some part of him believes that many minorities are inferior, criminal, dangerous and he attacks them and has for as long as I have known of his existence.  Today, the President of the United States called some Nazis fine people.  Let that sink in.  A woman is dead, the worst of the worst are emboldened, and our President is attacking the media instead of the terrorists who descended on a small town with the intention of causing mayhem.  This is wrong.  This is simply wrong.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

A little piece of you The little peace in me Will die For this is not America

Today, in Charlottesville a person died of the disease of hate.  A group of neo-Nazis, who have been emboldened by certain members of the Republican party and the Trump White House organized a protest.  Last night they marched with tiki torches shouting racist and anti-Semitic slogans.  Today they wanted to rally against the removal of a statue of Robert E. Lee.  This devolved into violence. Violence promoted as the right wing protesters brought guns, ball bats, and other weapons.

Now I know some will say it has nothing to do with the President or the GOP, but you would be wrong.  They themselves see themselves as being given more support by this President and the fake the self-professed Nazis serve in his White House.  Members of the GOP also have met with and defended many of the leaders of this protest.  Even after the death of someone, the President couldn't bring himself to condemn the neo-Nazis and used the mushy statement of "violence on many sides". My dad fought for his life against people who supported the ideology those who were protesting today claim as their own.  It is unAmerican, it is hateful and it is wrong.  The President should fire anyone in his administration who wallows in the swamp that these people use people swim in.  But people are running with the 'both sides' argument.  The counter-protesters came to stop the anticipated violence and while some engaged it should be noted that some clergy at a prayer vigil were beaten by others carrying flags of groups the American people fought and died stopping.

This is not America or at least not my America.  The dog whistles and bull horns of the Trump campaign and administration have called to those members of society that are driven by hate and ignorance.  Today, I fear, is the first of many of these kinds of clashes.  It is time for action.  The President must purge himself of those close to him that in their history have given a forum to these hateful people (Bannon) or is a member and proudly wears the symbol of a neo-Nazi organization (Gorka).  In fact Gorka said the other day that we are too hard on white supremacists.

Today we mourn the dead person who got up this morning and decided to stand on the side of the angels and of America.  I don't know that person, but they are a hero whose name should be remembered.  The terrorist who killed that person should be charged as a terrorist and made an example of for his actions.

This is a shofar blast, an alarm clock, a fog horn...we are called to action.  If our leaders won't we must.  Stand up to hate.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Sec. DeVos, Wake up.

There was a wealthy man named Steve. Steve was quite generous.  He would give a $5 bill to pan handlers, even when he knew they were probably not really homeless.  His list of charitable contributions was long and he would post them in his social media platforms.  His picture was in the paper the other holding a large check symbolizing his contribution to a new arts center.  So it was no surprise the Steve was popular.  When the invitation came to a party at an acquaintance's house he went.  At the party drinks flowed freely and it didn't take long until Steve was intoxicated.  He felt free and open and it was a good time.  The group at the party wanted pizza and so they ordered delivery, when it came Steve insisted that he pay for it, opening his wallet he had about $500 in small bills and paid for the pizza with a generous tip.  An hour later Steve felt too tipsy and decided to lie down in a bedroom and passed out.  In the morning when he awoke he discovered his wallet was empty and he didn't remember where his money went.  John, the host of the party thanked him for the money as Steve walked through the living room to leave and hoped they could get together again.

Steve called the police and explained what happened.  The police asked him:
1.  Did you willing go to his house?
2.  You know that you are well known for giving money, do you think you were sending mixed signals when you displayed what you had?
3.  You were drinking, how can you be sure you didn't agree to giving him the money?
4.  This will be a He said, He said thing, he may look into times that you gave money and to whom.  we know there are times you funded programs with problems, do you want to have all that dragged out in court.
5.  Maybe you should use this as an experience to learn not to carry so much cash and not drink so much.  Do you want to ruin his future with this incident that really didn't cause too much damage?
6.  Are you sure you just don't regret giving him the money?

Steve's story sounds far fetched, and the question nonsensical.  But it happens all the time.  Women, especially young women, who are raped while drinking at a party are seen as not true victims and often are blamed for the situation they were in.  While the story of someone stealing $500 from a drunk man at a party is not seen the same way.  Could you imagine a cop asking those questions?  I cannot. Yet this is not uncommon in the world of rape and is starting to reach the highest levels of our government that are looking to excuse the behavior of men who rape women when they cannot consent.

Recently Betsy DeVos, the Secretary of Education, met with some so-called Men's Rights Advocates who often are rape apologists, especially on college campuses.  At one point Candice Jackson, who heads the office of civil rights at DeVos' department of education said,.  “Rather, the accusations — 90 percent of them — fall into the category of ‘we were both drunk,"  Think about that.  Current statistics suggest that 1 in 5 women will be sexually harassed or assaulted in their 4 years of college and government official are suggesting the 90% of acquaintance rape accusation are the result of two drunk people.  That should be considered being an accessory after the fact.  I think the Department of Education should spend less time trying to tell women how to protect themselves and more time trying to teach men about consent.  But that is hard for some people to do in a world where a judge basically apologized to a rapist who came across an unconscious woman and raped her in public only to be stopped by two heroes.

Woman own their sexuality just as men do.  They can chose how to express it and choosing to do one thing does not mean she should be forced, coerced or expected to do it again.  If there is no explicit consent then it is rape.  If the consent is withdrawn, then it is rape.  Drinking is not an excuse for rape, as it wouldn't be for other crimes, even if it mitigates the severity of the charges.  Rape is rape.

Secretary DeVos, listening to those who find was to justify assault on women to get away with it is not only a failure of your oath to our countries laws it is a moral failing that should follow you the rest of your life.  You see women's dignity is worth more than $500.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Shut Up and Sing (unless you agree with me)

Social meeting has created a special connection between celebrities and their fans and people who like their public persona.  Some celebrities have created a social media experience for fans were they answer questions, get into dialogue and share both professional and personal thoughts, sometimes too personal.  Some celebrities like  JK Rowling, Marina Sirtis, Andrew Zimmern, Cher, Christine Teigen and Mario Batali are among some of the most outspoken celebrities on Twitter.  Often after they post something that challenges a politician there are an army of people who attack them for having an opinion.  It isn't that they argue against the opinion they posted, they tell them that they shouldn't be posting anything outside their narrow occupation.  It is as if there are those who believe celebrities are one-dimensional for their entertainment and if they act like a normal human they have personally injured them.  In a forum that is completely voluntary, people posting their thoughts means you are seeking them out.  If you don't like their thoughts, you can simply stop reading them.  It is easy.  Easier then typing "stay in your lane" or "I don't follow you for your politics".  Guess what I do.  I like reading what a man like Zimmern thinks about policy as he has lived at virtually every socio-economic status in this country.  I like how a major voice and philanthropist like J.K. Rowling formulates her thoughts on issues like refugees and hate.  These celebrities are human beings, they live under the same laws and policies that we do.  What is amazing is that many of the most outspoken have means to avoid the repercussions of policies that they criticize.  They are not speaking from self-interest.  What they are is liberal and for many conservatives, it is unsettling to them for people they appreciate to have a different world view.  I know this because they also support the voice of celebrities who agree with them.  If you look at their own twitter feeds they retweet conservative celebrities like James Wood and Pat Sajak.  So their concern is not so much that a chef is being a citizen, but that they are liberal.

Social media has allowed for a closer connection to celebrities, sometimes it makes for a cool moment when a hero answers your question or retweets your joke.  But we will also see things that we don't like.  We can chalk it up to the diversity of thought that exists or tell our heroes to shut up.  They won't and shouldn't and maybe if  you listen you will see they have something to say that might help you understand the world in more color.  But that is hard for some.  

Thursday, June 8, 2017

The Tweets are NOT the Issue

Republican politicians and pundits are saying that the President should stop using Twitter..  Twitter is not the issue.  Twitter is just another way of communicating.  The thing is that late at night and early in the morning when the President doesn't have lawyers and political operatives looking over his shoulder he shows us exactly who he is in real time. In fact it has become an important vision on the the abject ignorance or purposeful deception on the part of the President of the United States.

Let's look at one situation.  When the terror attack occurred on London Bridge,  Mayor Sadiq Khan of London went on television and told the people of his city that there will be a heightened level of armed police officers on the street.  He reassured them that there is no reason to be alarmed by this.  He wanted to let people know a change in the number of police on the street was not because they were in immediate danger.  You know like a a good public leader.  so the President of United States tweeted:    "At least 7 dead and 48 wounded in terror attack and Mayor of London says there is "no reason to be alarmed!"  So the question is was the President just not smart enough to understand what was being said?  Did he tweet without knowing the full context of the mayor's word?  Was he just trying to attack an ally while they were in the aftermath of a terror attack?  All of these show a lack of ability to act in a way that is part of being a world leader.  So the media, doing there job of informing the American people, pointed out Trump's misunderstanding of the mayor and gave full context, publishing the quote:

“My message to Londoners and visitors to our great city is to be calm and vigilant today," Mr Khan said. "You will see an increased police presence today, including armed officers and uniformed officers.

"There is no reason to be alarmed by this. We are the safest global city in the world. You saw last night as a consequence of our planning, our preparation, the rehearsals that take place, the swift response from the emergency services tackling the terrorists and also helping the injured.”

Now a real leader would acknowledge the misunderstanding but of course the President didn't, in fact he attacked the mayor via Twitter .

"Pathetic excuse by London Mayor Sadiq Khan who had to think fast on his "no reason to be alarmed" statement. MSM is working hard to sell it!"

This is amazing to anyone who has a brain. Even after there was a deluge of the fact of what Mayor Kahn said the President continues to write his own version of reality.  That is a level of disturbing that I don't think any real serious person should accept.

The issue isn't that Trump tweets telling us what he thinks, it is that he thinks these things.  His weird covfefe tweet that was met with silence for several hours, his attack on Qu'tar, a place with a large forward command base in the fight on terror because of a Middle East political situation he didn't understand, and more and more.  His travel ban tweets which undermined his own staffs pressure on the media to not call it a ban for legal reasons. And on and on and on.   The President's twitter feed is a clear window on his ignorance, his incompetence and perhaps his criminal behavior in light of some of things being investigated.  I say, let him tweet away and let him weave the proverbial rope that will hang his presidency.  

Friday, June 2, 2017

Climate Accords and the Zamboni

When I was in High School, my history teacher, I think it was Mr. Hanson, was illustrating the Industrial Revolution.  He used an analogy to Hockey, his favorite and a highly popular sport way up on the Canadian border.  He told us that years ago, to resurface the ice in-between periods of a hockey game about 10 men would come out with buckets and mop the ice with fresh water to smooth the surface.  After a game the ice was scraped with a tractor and more water added and mopped smooth.  At least 10 men were hired to do this job and with the invention of the Zamboni, a ice resurfacing machine, 9 of those men were looking for work.  A new technology put people out of work.  But the fact was that the new technology needed people to help build the Zamboni, fabricate its parts and maintain the mechanical aspects of it.  A single Zamboni could create as many hours of labor in a given year as the mopping of the ice.  But even if it didn't, the Zamboni still made sense, it as safer, more efficient and made the smoothness of rinks more uniform.  We can be sad for the men with mops, but we can also think about helping them find other work and let progress take its course.  I truly wish Donald Trump had been in that class. He would have known that regardless of what he does with the Paris Climate Agreement, coal jobs are not coming back.  Pulling out of the agreement was a policy move that he promised his base and thus had to follow through on.  It was easy, he didn't really have to do much.  He knows the right wing noise machine and his 35% of hardcore followers would back him.  He also knew he had allies in Congress, who among other things, say that God will save us from Climate Change, that it is a hoax to make money for someone (not sure) or that the earth is actually cooling.  (Just to be clear that 12 of the hottest 13 years since 1880 have been in THIS CENTURY).  He just did it in the smug and ignorant fashion he does most things.  Heads of industry including fossil fuel industries urged him not to do it.  He adds the US to only 2 other countries who didn't sign on to the agreement.  Syria, because Syria and Nicaragua because they were protesting it didn't go far enough.  This is where we are now.

Of course the social media experts on both sides filled our feeds with all kinds of things.  Media scrambled to find two sides to facts.  Funniest moment was when former Senator Rick Santorum suggested that he didn't know how batteries work.  I think he had a phone in his hand at the time.  But in the end this agreement was at the pleasure of the President and the President pleasures himself with impulsive actions.  Thus today the world will stop looking at the US as a leader in this area and fears the US will not be a leader in others.  And what is remarkable is that the President could have had his cake and eaten it too.

You see there is an argument against the Paris Climate Agreement that makes sense.  Let me be clear I don't agree with it, I think it is dangerous and short sighted and will absolutely not work, but it is there.  And some in the right wing media that can go beyond hyperbole and nonsense (only in the 8 o'clock hour) and even Rex Tillerson, our titular Secretary of State (you know the former Exxon CEO who argued to stay in the agreement) have made the argument.  That the United State, a country leading in green energy and a country that has plenty of leaders committed to reducing greenhouse emissions doesn't need to be in the deal.  They can lead from the outside.  Secretary Tillerson said talking about the US efforts over the last decade or so that, “That was done in the absence of the Paris agreement,” Tillerson said. “I don’t think we’re going to change our effort to reduce our emission in the future, either.”  That could be the message.  But of course that won't be.  Even if it is not true.  I do not trust industry to police itself totally and I fear a government not willing to support the efforts of new technology to reduce emissions.  We will have to see.  I am glad that local and state governments will work hard to make their corners of our great country more earth friendly, but I also worry that with free rein efforts to skirt some of the targets we had agreed to will continue.  But elections have consequences and we have elections coming up every two years.  

What this won't do is bring back coal to what it used to be.  You see the coal industry suffers from being an inefficient source of energy in the new energy economy.  Natural gas (which I know has its own issues) is easier to get at, we have a lot of it and it is cheaper to transport and use whether as a source of heat for homes or to create electricity.  With the expansion of wind and solar energy, breakthroughs being made in tidal energy and of course sources still being developed in the minds of scientists (like algae as a biofuel) coal may just sit in the ground and hope to become diamonds.  Berkeley Energy Group, a Kentucky coal mining company, has partnered with a green energy group to build a solar farm on a strip mined area of the state.  This is telling.  But for President Trump, he doesn't understand the new energy economy, and can't get out of his own way.  He believes that if he does the right thing that the thousands of coal miners will be coming back to work digging coal in Kentucky.  He might as well tell the sons of the former mop and bucket brigade that they two will clean the ice for an NHL finals, I can't imagine what the President's argument might be, but maybe he will think Zamboni is a foreign company stealing American jobs.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Snipe Hunt That You Can Pay For

So the President of the United States lied to the American people.  I know what you are asking, "which time?"  Well the one to sooth his own ego because he lost the popular vote and it hurts him badly.  So he said there was wide spread voter fraud and that it was particular in numbers that would mean he won the popular vote too.  He has appointed Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach to help lead this snipe hunt.  Yeah that Kris Kobach who claimed wide spread voter fraud in his state and 4 times tried to pass laws that the courts found to be more voter suppression than voter fraud.  The issue is simple.  There is virtually no in-person voter fraud in this country.  There are in fact incidences of it happening.  Including a woman who voted twice for President Trump in the last election.  Another a Tea Party leader and head of Colorado's GOP who forged his wife's signature and voted for her.  But back to the commission.  It is looking at something that is not a problem.

Close elections have happened.  However for voter fraud to work at a state wide level it would require a great deal of work on the part of someone organizing 100s or 1000s of people to vote more than once and under an assumed name.  In Florida, in 2000, the initial numbers suggested that George W Bush won the state by around 1000 votes.  When the Supreme Court halted the hand recount he was up by about 600 votes.  If voter fraud were to sway that election, somewhere between 500-1000 votes in the state of Florida would have had to been cast illegally without getting caught.  Think about that, a system would have to be in place that either had people register in two places, vote in both places and not get caught voting in both places when the election results are reviewed.  Or there would have to be a team of people identifying non-voters (lazy or dead) who are on the registry, send someone to the polls as them, assume no one will question the signature line and any of them.  All to see if you can overcome enough votes to sway the election.  Oh I did I say if caught it is a federal crime that carries prison time.  How is this possible?

Laws have been developed to try to add more layers of necessary identification to vote to combat the non-existent issue of in-person voter fraud.  Members of the newly appointed commission are among the worst at putting barriers to certain constituencies when it comes to voting.  There have always been identification requirements for voting.  These laws found ways to make it harder for people to vote and that is not right.  Unless there is real evidence of in-person voter fraud what is the point of these laws beyond, what some have said, to make it easier for Republicans to get elected.

Now I know that registration fraud is an issue.  Both with people registering that shouldn't, or fake registrations being sent in or dead people remaining on the roles, or people moving and not re-registering.  People registering who shouldn't is not a common thing.  The big argument is that people in the country illegally vote.  They don't.  In fact they avoid official situations where they have to give information to government officials.  You see, they are always in fear of being deported.  As for non-citizen residence, well it happens, usually because the people doing the registering are not skilled at helping people know if they can vote or not.  In most cases they tend to be found out in the process.  As for fake registrations, well that is a problem of how community groups pay people to sign people up.  There is an incentive to file as many registrations as possible as many have been paid by form filled in.  The law requires anyone doing voter registration drives to send all applications in even if known to be fraudulent.  ACORN did that in 2008 and got attacked for it.  In fact it was officials in some ACORN offices that tipped off the government officials to bad registrations that they were required to turn in.  But the facts are overwhelmed by the story and thus the GOP used it as a lever by the GOP to destroy ACORN.  In Indiana there was a raid on a community group registering African Americans and other underrepresented minorities in several counties.  Big news about raid, by January there was still no public report and in fact it was another example of people creating fake voter registrations not to sway an election but to get paid.  But registration fraud has not been proven to relate to any fake cast votes on any major scale.

What is amazing is that the President is using information he doesn't understand from a study that showed voter rolls are not updated enough.  It found people registered in two places, or registered in the wrong place as well as out of date registrations.  Funny when mentioned it was found that many of the inner circle of Trump's advisers had bad registrations.  This is not nefarious this is the failure of bureaucracy.

In-person voter fraud is not an issue in our country.  The President's claim of 3-5 million illegal votes cast in the last election has been refuted by members of both major parities including by those officials in charge of elections for their state.  But even if there was an effort to do it, the mass scale it would take is staggering in its scope and the potential benefits versus the risks makes it not worth it.  In fact 10 years ago when the justice department looked into this they found virtually nothing.  This is a waste of time, money and energy when it comes to voter fraud.  However, if the goal is to stop minorities and the elderly from voting it could have a pay off for the GOP.  Is this what you want?

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

A Tribute to a Friend

Last night, as she slept, a friend of mine passed into eternity.  Ellen Daniels Howell, until recently the executive director of the Global Interfaith Partnership (GIP), lost her fight with cancer. She passed away surrounded by family. Today, we gathered as a board of directors and shared thoughts, prayers and memories of Ellen.  We each told of what she meant to us, and to all the people she touched through the work and the other aspects of her life.  I have known her for almost 10 years, working together on the Umoja project that continues to feed and educate the most vulnerable children in the HIV/AIDS ravaged area in Western Kenya. "Mama" Ellen, as she is called in Kenya, was the founding director of the program with a small board and little support, but today the community around Chulaimbo, Kenya and here in Indianapolis are different and better places because of it. Ellen helped craft the vision that led to approaching the task not simply to solve but to build relationships , those relationships drove the program as labor of love.  As a GIP community, we listened to each other, we celebrated with each other and made the tragic events easier to handle.  We were about people not problems.
This evening, when we gathered, it was clear how much Ellen affected people she met.  People spoke how Ellen lived her beliefs out loud. She saw value in everyone she met, she saw the spark of Godness in all of humanity. It was that that she helped us find in ourselves.   She had a talent for reaching people's hearts and minds to help them find their better self.  She had a knack for asking people to make their lives more complicated by helping others.  And many, including me, did it with joy.  She found a way to make us find our own better selves.

I will miss my friend, my teacher, my mentor.  I was privileged by having had the ability to learn from her over the last decade.  I will miss her spirit and passion.  I will miss her book suggestions (she really increased my reading list) and I will miss her voice that challenged us and cheered us.  May Mama Ellen be welcomed into the arms of the Eternal and may she rest in peace.   

Friday, May 5, 2017

Freedom to Speak is Not Fully Free

Carmel High School here in Indiana is once again in the midst of a free speech debate.  A student group Voices United are suing for the right a banner that includes a pro-choice message on abortion. The  ACLU of Indiana will represent the students. The  students have  said the administration won’t allow them to hang their banner even though the school allowed an exception to a no advocacy rule for banners for a pro-life group earlier this year.  This seems pretty clear to me.  The exception for the anti-abortion banner puts the school in a position where to block opposing banners is a clear violation of the rights of students.  While the school can clearly decide the message it allows on its walls the students do have a right to fairness if some messages on issues are allowed.  My guess is that the latest banner will be allowed and the high school will start a new year with a better defined policy.  I am hoping that this is a teaching moment and doesn't become a shouting match between adults with agendas.

What also can be a teachable moment is what has been happening at Berkeley.  Earlier this year, a member of what is called the Alt-Right, Milo Yiannopoulos was to speak at the university. Protesters came to the site and violently attacked police and vandalized the area shutting down the speech.  Also a Berkeley, Ann Coulter was scheduled to speak and the school canceled it for fear of violence.  Now I think Milo and Ann have not only ideas I find abhorrent, but I think they are dangerous.  But I think that free speech is not about speech I agree with.  It is specifically about the speech that makes me uncomfortable.  If you want to stop these two, then challenge those that give them the forum and the money.  In Milo's case, that is exactly what happened.  His vitriol and hate encouraged people to seek out what he said and when he seemed to come out in support of sexual relationships between men and young boys he lost the support of many who used his voice for things they couldn't say themselves in public.

Free speech is a tricky thing that many people don't understand.  There is the concept of free speech, and the right of free speech.  We can look at the right of free speech first.  In the Constitution free speech is protected with other rights in the first amendment.  But the right protects you only from the government doing something to punish you for your words or as it is broadly interpreted, actions that speak for you (such as wearing an armband).  While not unlimited, the right protects your ability to speak your mind and was designed in part to keep us free to be critical of those in power.  The right allows you to be free of fear of jail for holding an opinion.  It doesn't however protect you when it comes to inciting actions that would hurt others, distribution of obscene material in certain circumstances, and allows public schools to bar certain kinds of speech on campus including controlling content in student newspapers.  The Supreme Court has also ruled that certain forms of anti-war speech (burning draft cards and encouraging people not to sign up for selective service) are not protected.  But for the most part the government doesn't arrest you for what you say.

Now the concept of free speech is broader.  It is not about a right.  This is often cited in situations like Berkeley.  If Berkeley truly supported free speech, the argument goes, they would do everything in their power to let Ms. Coulter speak.  Even if a majority of the campus didn't approve.  In fact maybe because of it.  You see free speech is an easy thing when  you agree with what is being said.  It is actually designed for speech you don't agree with.

Most people think they believe in free speech right up to the point they are confronted with something they don't like.  There have been so many incidence of free speech issues in the last few weeks that it is hard to shake them all out.  Stephen Colbert's not very child-friendly attack on the President the other day is a great example.  You see he was angry that the President was making fun of a CBS reporter to his face and of course proper decorum meant the reporter, who respects the Office of the President couldn't crack back.  However Colbert felt he could.  Like an enforcer in hockey he took the fight to the bully.  It was crude, it was rude and it was protected by our Constitution and by the idea of free speech.  Many on the right went to twitter screaming that he should be fired.  Some wanted him arrested.  But one intrepid right wing radio host, Tony Katz,  summed it up best.  You don't fire Colbert, you compete against him.  Make him not valued.  Turn him off.  This strategy works.  You see everyone on TV, in media, who is famous are so because of you, me and the buying public.  That is why boycotts work.  In another recent series of events, there has been a coordinated effort by a person on twitter to shame advertisers from letting ads run on the Alt-Right website Breitbart.  Sleeping Giants has been successful at getting major online advertisers to stop allowing their ads to run on the site, thus slowing down their revenue stream.  Some see this as running afoul of the concept of free speech.  But the concept isn't meant to force those who find something objectionable to remain silent.

And that call for silence is what leads to the idiotic notion of political correctness.  Today, if you challenge the language someone uses when talking of others you are charged with the crime of being politically correct.  The idea started with authoritarian regime in the old Soviet Union, that called for people to have a correct way to speak of things.  They must be politically correct.  Later liberals in places like Berkeley and Ann Arbor were using to make fun of those who tried to out liberal each other.  EX:  Her Birkenstock are made with fair trade faux leather, no animals were killed and the workers all have fair wages and insurance.  She is way more politically correct.  Then George H. W. Bush used it in a speech at the University of Michigan's 1991 Commencement.  I was 10 blocks away when he said this:

Ironically, on the 200th anniversary of our Bill of Rights, we find free speech under assault throughout the United States, including on some college campuses. The notion of political correctness has ignited controversy across the land. And although the movement arises from the laudable desire to sweep away the debris of racism and sexism and hatred, it replaces old prejudice with new ones. It declares certain topics off-limits, certain expression off-limits, even certain gestures off-limits.

He was lamenting a rising awareness of those who had been forced to margins of society now stepping up and demanding respect and dignity, even in how they were spoken of in public.  This one paragraph has for over 25 years continue to be the foundation of a movement that suggests that free speech is limited if we collective so much disapprove of a form of speech that we don't let it said in our halls, on our dime or in our name.  What is acceptable in public is not always about squashing a political or ideological position.  But we as a society can and should decide what we consider appropriate behavior in public.  (In private say whatever you want and no one should be able to control that).  There were times were men were ostracized if they brought up certain topics in mixed company (meaning men and women).  That women were shunned if they had strongly held opinions. You could lose your job for criticizing members of the church.  No one talked about political correctness then.  In fact no one talks about people who attacked Colbert this week as being politically correct.  For the record I thought he took it a tad too far.  But when those in power feared those outside of power might be able to stand up for themselves these charges started.  I have gotten to the point when I hear someone say something about political correctness, I assume they are angry that they can't call a black man the n-word or a Jew a kike.  Because I am not sure what else they might mean.  What I do know is that I wouldn't want to be associated with them, but if the government came knocking because they simply used those words, I would fight for them.

Friday, April 7, 2017

President Trump Reacts In a New Way

Last night, President Trump called on our military to fire about 60 Tomahawk missiles on an airbase in Syria.  This is a response to the chemical attacks on his own people by Assad and his government. This was a message to the Syrian and Russian government that these kinds of attacks must stop. There is a lot to say about this action and the fact that the Trump administration did it.  It actually is a surprise that he did this as he has been so vocal about not attacking Syria, including earlier this week. In fact the voices of the voice of the Secretary of State and the President earlier this week may have figured into the equation of the Syrian military to go ahead with this attack.

So what do I say?  Well, the first thing is the old saw that you campaign in poetry and govern in prose.  This is the first time in the Trump administration that I see a President acting like a grown-up and leader of the free world.  The irony of it is that President Trump did exactly what Sec. Hillary Clinton suggested that he should do and the opposite of candidate Trump said over and over again.  I think what the President did shows that we must all, supporters and critics, that governance is not easy.  I am glad that the President decided that he had a role in the world when a leader decides to begin killing his or her own people with weapons of mass destruction.

But the politics come into this. In 2013 when then President Obama wanted to respond to the Syrian dictator using gas on his own people, he went to Congress for approval and was denied.  That hung around his neck and will be part of his legacy.  But today we hear many in Congress and the internet foreign policy self-appointed experts hear people saying the President acted illegally and should  have gotten Congress's approval.  While likely technically true, the Congress has long since given up holding Presidents accountable when they simply state there actions are in the interest of US security. I am happy to see some Democrats saying that the was a necessary response but an escalation would require the Congress to be involved.  I assume the GOP will agree.

There is a lot I could say about the politics of this, I can make jokes about the tsunami of old tweets by the President and many on the right that sound so hypocritical today.  I could discuss the fact that the same President that wasn't moved by dead babies drowning to flee the actions like the gas attack now is moved by the gas attack.  I could talk about the supporters of this President who were isolationists and now cheering this on.  But I won't, yet.  What I will say that this use of force was something that while terrible, was probably necessary in light of the war crimes he committed.  Now we can see what happens next and if the President wants to do more.  This is complicated, one air strike is not the answer, but it sets up a table that will get more complicated and I hope that our government and especially our President will use brain and not play to the crowd.  That we focus on the issue and develop something of a plan moving forward.  My fear is as it has been all along with President Trump, he is way out of his depth.  Glad that this time he listened to smart people who work for him.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

What I Learned on My Vacation and Why Alcohol is Dominating the State House

So I took an entire week off from work last week.  Dianne and I went to Nashville, TN for a few days and then did the end as a bit of a staycation.  It was fun.  There were some things I learned this week.

I didn't shave and no matter how long I go, my facial haie simply looks like subsidized farming. Daytime TV is fun, lots of Dr. Who and of course politics.  Must see was the daily press briefings by Sean Spicer.  They are like high-production value  hostage videos and by  Friday I started watching his blinks to see if they were in Morse code.  I also learned that the state of Indiana has a legislature that is vindictive.

You see Indiana has some weird alcohol laws, no sale on Sundays, and no cold beer sales unless you are a restaurant or liquor store.  A convenient store chain, Rickers, has slowly been moving into providing hot food at it many gas stations around the state and realized that they have evolved into a defacto restaurant.  As a growing business they realized they met the legal requirement for a license to sell cold beer both in service and packaged for take-away.  They followed the law, trained their employees and petitioned for the license which they received.  At two of their stores they started serving and selling cold beer.  The state legislature lost their freaking minds, likely because of the liquor store lobby and partly because there are many who still cling to the notion that government will help define morality.  So the GOP led state house, with many other issues to address, attacked this so-called problem to make stop a gas station store from selling cold beer.  The irony of this is that I read about the action on my phone not long after shopping in a store with a large cooler of beer and realizing that I miss seeing that back home.  Many people comment on this, including local radio/print personalities Tony Katz and Abdul Hakim-Shabazz, conservative voices locally.  But the State House knows best apparently and created a compromises which will in fact once again make places like Rickers out of compliance and also make some other long established businesses fail to reach a sales threshold to keep their liquor licenses.  This is nuts and does absolutely nothing to safety.  You see the argument is that we don't want groceries or convenient stores selling cold beer because it could encourage drinking and driving.  Seriously.  That is the argument that is the cover for the liquor store lobby which is looking for a government supported monopoly.  But here is the thing. There is a liquor store that shares a parking lot with the each of the two closest gas station stores, including a Rickers, near my home.  There are also restaurants with liquor licenses in the same plaza of at least one.  Indeed, there are many places to get served a beer near gas stations every where I regularly go.  If someone pulls into a gas station and goes inside to pay, sees they serve beer, will they really sit down and drink before continuing on the road or worse buy cold beer and drink in the car?  And if so, do you really think this law would stop them from going a few 100 feet doing the same thing?  It is silly and there are places in the country with drive-thru liquor stores, can someone show me data that this increases drunk or impaired driving.  This is not a good argument.

Now what is more amazing to me is the lack of Sunday sales. Part of this story has brought up the no sale on Sunday conversation.  Again, this is an old law, but people are revisiting it.  Again this one is interesting because it is liked by liquor stores because they can close for one day a week and not have to worry about that effecting its customer base.  But the real reason appears to be that about Christianity.  You see if it was just about having one day without the sale of alcohol.  Why not Wednesday?  I would think that it is more likely someone might pop into your home on a Sunday and you might need a quick trip to get some brews than say a Wednesday.  But this is not the issue.  The GA is trying to punish Rickers and uphold a strange attempt to make it their job to tell us what we should buy, when and where.

If alcohol is a legally purchasable product, we should regulate it for sure but let's pretend that the government has our best interest in mind when it comes to regulations.  I think perhaps we should blow up the laws and start using common sense.  I would be happy to help.

I Don't Wear My Kippah at WalMart

Several years ago I was sitting in a cafe with someone who suggested I take off my kippah.  The neighborhood we were in was a predominantly...