Monday, February 19, 2018

This Isn't The Blog I Wanted To Write

I wanted to write about the Olympics this week. I can't. I wanted to do an uplifting piece about the world coming together in the spirit of good sportsmanship. I can't.

Title: Arms | Date: 12/31/2007 | Photographer: Hrs | This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.
At least 17 people were killed, and 14 others were injured, when 19 year old Nikolas Cruz opened fire at a high school in Parkland, Florida, last Wednesday afternoon, Morning Joe reported.

I could give you details about the life of Cruz and where went after the shooting, but this is not a news blog. If you want those details you can go to MSNBC for those facts. The best I can do is try to put things into some kind of perspective.

Since the murders, our lawmakers have been debating gun control. This may look like a step in the right direction, until you take into account that they have had the exact same debates after every mass killing. They will rattle sabres for about three weeks.  Then, once the news trucks are gone, it will be business as usual in Washington.

On October 1st of last year a gunman shot up a country music concert in Las Vegas killing 58 people and wounding 851 more. In order to rack up these numbers the gunman used a bump stock to modify his semi-automatic rifles so they would fire at the rate automatic rifles do.

For a few weeks after the slaughter, Democrats proposed legislation to ban the bump stock. Our lawmakers were so bum-fuzzled scared of second amendment advocates that they couldn't even agree to outlaw the bump stock. We weren't even talking about outlawing a gun. We were talking about outlawing an adaptation, which allows legal guns to work as illegal guns.

The second amendment guarantees our right to bear arms. It says nothing about our right to own bump stocks. For that matter, most scholars believe it allows citizens to own hand guns for self defense and rifles for hunting, but the right does not extend to owning assault weapons.  George Washington and the gang had no concept of weapons expelling ammo at 90 rounds per minute. Even if you don't agree, and you believe semi-automatic assault weapons are protected by law, can't we at least agree to ban the bump stock?

I know what you're thinking. You're thinking, "If our leaders are not willing to do something, what can I do?" My answer to that is, we can all be vigilant. According to CNN, a grandmother in Everett, Washington called the police when she perused her grandson's journal and learned he was going to shoot up his school.  She saved lives.

Now don't start quoting George Orwell to me. Yes, I read 1984 too. I'm not advocating for turning in our neighbors for thinking wrong thoughts about the state. However, when somebody posts on Facebook, "I want to be a professional school shooter," it's probably a good idea to ask some questions and alert authorities.

The following video from the Miami Herald lists those who had there lives cut short because our society can't differentiate between the right to carry a handgun for protection or a rifle for hunting, and the desire to own military grade weapons which can kill 60 people a minute.

Friday, February 9, 2018

Rand Paul Had A Good Point - I Know, Right...

As the world was watching the first competitions of the Olympic Games, American lawmakers were feverishly trying to prevent another government shutdown.

Subject: Rand Paul | Date: 01/31/2015 | Photographer: Gage Skidmore |This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.

As I went to bed last night, NBC News reported that Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) initiated an eleventh hour procedural move to block passage of the budget before the midnight deadline.  I fully expected to wake up today to find the country amidst a shutdown.

According to Reuters a pre-dawn vote on Friday saw the approval of a massive spending increase, ending the 5.5 hour government shutdown.   The country literally closed and reopened while most of us slept.  Thanks to a rare compromise, in which Democrats sacrificed help for "Dreamers" and the White House sacrificed funding for a border wall, the bill increased funding for veterans, the military, disaster aid, and fighting opioid addiction.

I could write about major line items or the fact that Trump has vowed not to make a deal on DACA unless the agreement includes $25 billion in funding for a border wall with Mexico.  How it went from $1.6 billion to $25 billion I have no idea, but let's not focus on that.

I'd rather address the motives behind Senator Paul's maneuver.  Paul used the opportunity to point out the fiscal hypocrisy of his fellow Republicans. "The hypocrisy is astounding. Every one of these Republicans complained about President Obama's deficits," Paul said, angered by his party's willingness to accept a $300 billion budget, on top recent tax cuts, increasing our country's deficit to $1.5 trillion.

I typically see Senator Paul as an enemy who wants to cut services for vulnerable parts of society.   I can't do that this time.  This time he's right.  "The Donald," and other Republicans don't seem to be able to grasp the fact that the nation can't take less money in and increase spending at the same time.

The President takes pride in his reputation as THE BUSINESSMAN.  Yet, in addition to a $25 billion border wall, he wants to allocate millions of dollars for a Russian-esc military parade to run down Pennsylvania Avenue.  I don't care what genius is in charge, no business could possibly survive by spending more money than it makes.  That's called, "Running in the red."  It's what necessitates chapter 11 bankruptcy.

Senator Paul and I could stand nose to nose and never see eye to eye on a great many issues.  Yet on this we agree, if fiscal responsibility isn't made a priority our country's in trouble.

Monday, February 5, 2018

A House Divided

"A house divided against itself cannot stand." I believe this government cannot endure..." - Abraham Lincoln June 16, 1858

Subject: White House (altered by James Kiester) | Date: 02/29/2008 | Photographer: Okatah |This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.
I’m back! Long term health issues have kept me from writing anything more than a few lines on Facebook for quite some time. A kind volunteer (shout out to Whitney Regan) let me dictate a few pieces to her last summer, before she left Oregon to grace the shores of Hawaii. Needless to say, I’ve been effectively mute for the remainder of 2017 and the first few weeks of 2018.

For my first blog back, I could've written about almost anything; the repeal of DACA, the tax bill, the wall, the looming government shutdown, or our lack of aid to Puerto Rico. Yet, to write about just one bass ackwards presidential policy would be like writing about one quill on a porcupine. What would be the point? Underneath the surface of all the issues, lies an air of divisiveness, such as this country has a rarely seen.

OK, we were pretty divided back in the 1860s, but since then we have worked together  as one nation.  Granted, Democrats have always disagreed with Republicans and hippies have always railed against "the man." However, lawmakers have, historically, been able to debate, negotiate, then act in the best interest of the country.

About four years ago, I read Chris Mathews' Tip and the Gipper: When Politics Worked.  The book chronicles the relationship between the Democratic Speaker of the House, Tip O'Neill, and the Republican President, Ronald Reagan.  The two men disagreed on almost every conceivable issue.  These men were LEADERS though.  They put loyalty to country before loyalty to party.  Thus, they were each able to compromise enough to keep America's business moving forward.

Over the last year, I have felt like the gap between "them" and "us" has widened in size from a narrow line to the Grand Canyon.  Democrats work behind closed doors with other Democrats, Republicans work behind closed doors with other Republicans, but they don't listen to each other. There's no atmosphere of cooperation.

Meanwhile over in the White House, the President won't sign a budget without a $1.6 billion line item for a border wall.  On top of that, those who work for the FBI, Department of Justice, EPA, and other agencies, not to mention his own cabinet, are walking on eggshells with the knowledge that if they do something Trump doesn't like, they can be fired for disloyalty.

This feeling of animosity has spilled over from the political realm into everyday life. Think about it, people shook their fists and grew beet red with anger over what football players did during the National Anthem. We argued for three months over what happened for two minutes before a ball game. I don't think that is what we were actually arguing about. It's as if we used the issue to vent off steam which has been building up for the past year.

Let's get it together people! Just because our leaders behave like children doesn't mean that we have to. We may differ on the details regarding immigration, abortion, and gay rights, but when all is said and done we're all Americans. Let's start acting like it!

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Confessions of a Prejudiced Man

This may, or may not, be my last blog for a while.  With that in mind I'm going to write some things which may or may not offend some people.  It is not my goal to offend anyone but I'm not going to hold back either.

Subject: American Flag | This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.

For years I have spoken out against prejudice.  In college I was one of the only students leaders to give public speeches against ballot measure 9 (an anti-gay bill, which would have made it legal to fire people on the basis of sexual orientation).  I always prided myself in not being racist, sexist or homophobic.  However, this week my own prejudice hit me upside the head.

Last Wednesday I gave a talk to a group of college students.  During the talk, I briefly mentioned that I belonged to a Bible study. After the talk a female student came up to me and asked if I could do bible lessons with her husband at my house.  When I asked about their beliefs, she said they are conservative Christians who take the Bible literally.  My insides reeled upon hearing this.  I instantly labelled her and her husband as naive and ignorant.

I thought about this all the way home and I realized while I am not racist, sexist or homophobic, I am conservative-ist.  I have been labeling all conservatives as the enemy.  That's wrong.  Just because one has a difference of opinion does not necessarily make them the bad guy.  One can believe in zero tolerance for drug use, a strong military, and vouchers for private school without being a bad person.

It's been said that we have more values which unite us than divide us. Most of us want to do an honest days' work for an honest days' pay.  We want our kids to be happy, healthy, productive people.  We don't want to live our lives hurting others.  It's only the details which separate us.

Go to a baseball game and look at the crowd just for a second.  You can't tell who is liberal and who is conservative; who believes in the Bible and who believes the Quran.  We're just all there to enjoy baseball and eat popcorn.  We have that in common.

I will always believe that the government should take care of the least among us.  I will always believe that the Bible is a book of metaphors designed to teach us about the values of God, rather than being a historical document.  However, I need to learn to respect those who don't agree with me. I don't believe I am alone though.  Pundits on both sides can stand to tone down the partisan rhetoric so people can come together to solve our country's problems.