Where Everyone Knows Your Name

We are in Harrisville, New Hampshire for a few weeks. My wife is attending a weaving workshop, and I have the entire day to focus on finishing up my next book. (More on that later!)

Harrisville (pop. 961), right outside metropolitan Dublin, New Hampshire and a mere 5 miles from Peterborough, New Hampshire is a step back in time to a different America. An America of long ago not yet overrun by urban development.

Each morning we leave the Harrisville Inn, the B&B where we are staying, and walk about a mile to “downtown” Harrisville. Harrisville is best known for its loom making and weaving design center. The building was once a sawmill and grist mill built back in the late 1700’s.

An old channel flows beneath the building and was once harnessed to power the machinery. Converted to a weaving education center, it teaches and preserves the art of weaving.

A short distance away is the Harrisville General Store/Restaurant/Community and Cultural Center. If you want to find anybody who lives in Harrisville, come here. If they aren’t here for coffee in the morning, they’ll be here for lunch.

It is a place with everything you might need and nothing you might want.  Somehow, they know the difference.

A place where people leave their keys in the car.

A place where they trust their kids to know how to cross the street and expect them to say please and thank you.

A place where they say hi to everyone, using first names when they know them, introducing themselves and asking if they don’t.

A place where the flag goes up each morning at 6 a.m. and down at 6 p.m. If it rains, they do not put it up. A tip of the hat to the old rules of respect. I dare say, people would dive into the road to save the flag from touching the ground.

A place where a chalkboard in the town square reports the latest deaths and births.

A place where an ice cream social is a major event.

A place where people will leave their dog with you, telling you the dog’s name as if introducing a family member, while they run in for a paper.

Neither the dog or their owner thinks this unusual.

0719180842a_HDRMeet Hero, my new friend. We meet for coffee each morning on the front porch of the country store. Not much of a conversationalist, but a great listener.

The local conversations range from how much firewood they have split and stacked for winter to how the corn is coming up to how much of the just ripened berries the bears got last night.

It’s a place where they will tell you great places to fish, but not the best places to fish.

It is not the America of Mayberry, but it is as close as we can get in 2018. I am sure they have all the same concerns of politics and world events.

I am sure they have deep feelings about the way the country is going. They keep that mostly to themselves, preferring to speak at the voting booth.

I am also sure that they are the best example of how real Americans can weather any storm, bear any burden, survive any partisan political upheaval, and still remember what matters.

As I sit there, the Simon & Garfunkel song, “America,” plays in my head.

“…they’ve all come to look for America…”

I think I found it, Paul.

 

Returning the Favor of the Nightmare that is Trump

The depth to which supporters of this President will sink is stunning. From parsing words, would means wouldn’t or shouldn’t or couldn’t, to resurrecting long discredited stories of Uranium deals and Obama “emptying” the Treasury to give cash to Iranians and citizenship to their government officials, their pursuit of reviving the comatose brain-dead Commander-in-Chief is pathetic.

A sad, pathetic smoke screen to the reality few of us ever thought we’d see in America.

I may disagree with the policies of a President, but I never want him to fail. Particularly with international matters affecting our sovereignty. No matter how inept the man in the Oval Office may be, our system of government offers a shield to incompetence through intelligence agencies, military branches, Justice department professionals, and an experienced State department to give sound advice and guidance in a complicated and treacherous world.

Such resources are only useful when listened to by the President.

It is abundantly clear this President not only believes himself to be the smartest man in the room, but he believes he is the smartest man ever. Combine that with an attitude of infallibility, and you have a recipe for disaster.

Helsinki wasn’t an aberration; it was a culmination of the disaster that is this administration.

One commentator offered the most disingenuous defense yet by comparing Trump’s interaction with Putin to Kennedy’s dealing with Khrushchev during the Cuban Missile Crisis. He argued that Trump took a playbook out of Sun Tzu’s The Art of War by not humiliating Putin on the national stage. The writer endowed Trump with the wisdom to defeat, but not crush, the enemy in public. Something he claims Kennedy did with Khrushchev by not gloating over the Russians withdrawing their nuclear missiles from Cuba.

The truth is Kennedy agreed to withdraw OUR missiles from Turkey in exchange for the Russians pulling theirs out of Cuba. Kennedy did not try to demean Khrushchev because he recognized that two could play that game. If the original goal of the Russians placing missiles in Cuba was to negotiate the withdrawal from Turkey, one might argue the Russians won that challenge.

Kennedy and Khrushchev played a harsh, but intelligence based, gambit to reach a joint agreement.

Trump is no Kennedy. Putin, on the other hand, is more potent than Khrushchev ever was.

Republican Senator Bob Corker said “The president’s comments made us look as a nation more like a pushover and I was disappointed in that, “ https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-russia-summit-corker/republican-senator-corker-trump-comments-on-putin-make-us-look-like-pushover-idUSKBN1K62D2

Corker also tweeted, “ The president in 15 minutes at a press conference can do more damage on the foreign policy than months of us passing resolutions and making calls to our counterparts.”

If the Russians compromised Trump, then when the full story comes out we are facing the greatest disaster to American standing in the world ever. If the Russians did not compromise him, then we are at the lowest point of the Presidency in history because of sheer incompetence.

Nixon was a corrupt and evil man, but at least there was intelligence behind his machinations, no matter how evil, and he never risked our national security while he ignored the law.

Trump is either the biggest traitor since Benedict Arnold or the most profoundly inept man to hold the office of the President. Despite all this, some will continue to support him. Such blind allegiance withstands all logic and reason.

But it cannot withstand most Americans who, regardless of the political leanings, will not stand by and let treachery or incompetence destroy this country.

How do we return the favor of the Trump nightmare?

I thought of something supportable by rational argument if a bit vengeful.

Return the leadership of the country to the respect and admiration of the world with an eminently competent rational American.

MO2020 President Michelle Obama.

Now that would be sweet justice.

(The reaction to this should be delicious)

 

 

 

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How Fake News Kills Cops

The prevailing trend to choose what one believes in the media is not just problematic, it is dangerous.

According to some media outlets, there are two virulent plaques in America. The first is that the police are killing people in the course of their duties more than ever before. And that there is a racial bias to the shootings.

This is not just false, it is demonstrably false based on many data sources from official government agencies to multiple media outlets that show a consistent reduction in these incidents.

statistic_id585152_people-shot-to-death-by-us-police-2017-2018-by-race

https://www.statista.com/statistics/585152/people-shot-to-death-by-us-police-by-race/

The second dangerous misconception is that the number of officers killed in the line of duty is higher than it’s ever been and rising. Again, the premise is not supported by the numbers.

US officers killed as the result of crime, 1970-2015

(Green) Officers killed as result of crime      (Red) Preceding 10-year average

Cops killed

http://www.nleomf.org/facts/officer-fatalities-data/

Preliminary 2018 Law Enforcement Officer Fatalities 

January 1 through July 15, 2018 vs. January 1 through July 15, 2017

2018 2017 % Change
Total Fatalities 76 73 +4%
Firearms-related 32 27 +19%
Traffic-related 27 28 -4%
Other causes 17 18 -6%

Please note: These numbers reflect total officer fatalities comparing
January 1 through July 15, 2018 vs. 
January 1 through July 15, 2017, https://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-36826297

Now, this is where these two fallacies form a deadly combination. The perception of those inclined to unlawfully possess firearms or otherwise commit a crime, when confronted by police officers, tend toward a more violent level of resistance.

From the officer’s perspective, they anticipate each confrontation likely will pose a deadly threat to themselves or their fellow officers. Officers aren’t trained to apply different risk assessments of suspects based on skin tone. We teach them that every encounter is a potentially deadly one. It is a necessary survival mindset, but one that must be tempered by experience and sound judgment.

When officers operate in an environment rife with false or inflated perceptions of risk, the appropriate level of caution and tactics may be unreasonably amplified.

The false perception of a problem, promulgated and promoted by the media frenzy,  masks the reality and the results are deadly.

There is also the political factor officers face; both internal and external. Politicians and some members of the command staff, far removed from the realities of the street, are quick to criticize officers for political expediency or job preservation. Decisions made in difficult circumstances under enormous pressure with mere seconds to choose are autopsied for days by people who may have never found themselves in such situations.

Thus officers confront the perfect storm; all-to-common violent behavior by individuals with no respect for law, an atmosphere charged with perceived high levels of risk, and the possibility of being thrown to the wolves by politics.

Is it any wonder officers are shying away, either intentionally or by direction, from effective street policing. As a friend of mine, a former supervisor with a federal agency, liked to say, “Big cases, big problems. Little cases, little problems. No cases, no problems.”

Officers have the right to live and to protect themselves. We owe them the opportunity to do their job based on sound judgment and accurate information.

The loss of any officer is a tragedy. Even with the number of officers being killed showing a decline, one is too many.

Police officers must face the reality of the number of weapons, both legal and illegal, in this country. This almost guarantees a tragedy. Whether it is a felon with an extensive and repetitive criminal record on the street because of the incestuous nature of the lawyers (prosecutors and defense counsel) and judges minimizing cases for expediency or an angry and distraught individual, absent any prior criminal record, the guns pose a danger.

Add into the mix a “corrections” system that in many instances in nothing more than an advanced degree program for crime and you have all the ingredients for a fatal encounter.

Combine the misconceptions of these false and fable-like stories with the prevalence of weapons in America and tragic incidents like the most recent shooting of an officer and an innocent bystander in Weymouth, MA will become more and more common. The trend toward fewer police-suspect confrontations will end and likely grow.

Cops will die all because of a lie.

 

Life’s Lessons From a Four-Legged Refugee

SEamus 1This is Seamus. Technically speaking, Seamus is a refugee, rescued by the compassion of several unknown Americans and welcomed into my daughter’s home. These Americans, of unknown political bent, ethnic heritage, or religious faith or lack thereof, saved Seamus and one other dog from a litter of seven. Five died. Seamus and his sibling (in parts unknown) survived through the kindness and care of ordinary Americans. It is an example of the best of America and reflects our natural inclination to human kindness.

The regal bearing of Seamus is unmistakable. While applying zoological classifications would say differently, there can be no mistaking the similarity between Seamus basking in the sun as he surveyed his kingdom and these other two creatures surveying theirs.

lions1This lion picture went with a story of lions attacking and eating three poachers in a nature preserve so I can’t be sure if it is just the warmth of the sun they are enjoying or the post-dinner satisfaction of poacher du jour. In any case, the sun is either the primary comforting factor or a contributory one to their post-meal digestion.

Seamus also has an attitude of accepting everyone as they are (after a thorough sniff.) While wary of new people, once he takes their measure they are as welcome as those he’s known for years.

Except for birds, squirrels, and other similar creatures. They are demons that must be pursued relentlessly.

We can all learn something from Seamus.

Never rush through life without taking a moment to bask in the sun.

Never miss a chance to meet someone new and share a moment of time.

Never pass up an opportunity to chase a ball, explore the woods, enjoy a meal, or lean against someone you love and just be.

A dog is not just man’s best friend, he can be our best reminder to live our lives with compassion, concern for our fellow creatures, and to focus on the good in the world, not wall yourself in out of fear.

By accident of birth, Seamus could have been left to the fate an uncertain life but for the kindness and compassion of Americans who gave him refuge.

Seamus returns that kindness every day in the pleasure he brings by just being a part of our lives. Sometimes taking a chance and letting someone into your life, as opposed to what is safe and practical, is the right thing to do.

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The Janus Decision: Corporate Money Loves Labor’s Loss

In the US Supreme Court Janus case, the court has taken the first step to dismantle organized labor in favor of the influence and power of corporations and Republican-leaning candidates. (https://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/17pdf/16-1466_2b3j.pdf)

SCOTUSThe history of organized labor and the path to leveling the playing field between management and workers is one of violent resistance and bloody confrontation orchestrated by those who value profits over people.

Instead of taking a cooperative approach to bargaining with those whose labor powers the engines of business, corporations look to put a stranglehold on those who seek such accommodation.

In Janus, the plaintiff sought relief from ‘agency fees’ that covered the cost of collective bargaining. He argued these fees infringed on his first amendment rights because he objected to the negotiation positions and proposals decided on by the union.

While the majority of the court supported the First Amendment argument of the plaintiff, Justice Kagan, joined by Justices Ginsburg, Sotomayor, and Bryer dissented based on the sound precedent of Abood v. Detroit Board of Education (432 U.S 209, (1977.)

In the dissent, Kagan wrote,

“Rarely if ever has the Court overruled a decision—let alone one of this import—with so little regard for the general principles of stare decisis. There are no special justifications for reversing Abood. It has proved workable. No recent developments have eroded its underpinnings. And it is deeply entrenched, in both the law and the real world. More than 20 States have statutory schemes built on the decision. Those laws underpin thousands of ongo­ing contracts involving millions of employees. Reliance interests do not come any stronger than those surrounding Abood. And likewise, judicial disruption does not get any greater than what the Court does today. I respectfully dissent.”

The majority ignored the precedent of ‘stare decisis’ arguing Abood was faulty in its logic. With this decision, as Kagan points out in her dissent, “the Court succeeds in its 6-year campaign to reverse Abood.”

What we have here is the best example of the danger in pendulum swings to extremes. An agenda driven Supreme Court is a danger to America.

In Citizens United (Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, 558 U.S. 310) the court put the election process up for sale. And despite Janus’s claims to the insidious and greedy nature of the union’s demands, organized labor is a pauper compared to the deep pockets of the conservative, Republican-leaning, billionaires club.

If this were a soccer match, the court just blinded the labor team.

Janus claims the union denied his first amendment rights because he disagreed with the union proposals. Nonsense. It is just as likely he preferred the old patronage system once so ingrained in state and municipal government, and the union was a roadblock to such practices.

Now, this is not to say unions are entirely blameless here. It may seem that unions ignore the greater public good when negotiating. This is disingenuous.

Public unions consist of taxpayers. Unions are not isolated from the public. They have as vested an interest in the public good as any other citizen.

The pendulum of law swings to and fro, with trends toward labor or management almost interchangeable. Except in this case. The court used this as a convenient smokescreen to weaken unions and the political philosophies they endorse.

The spread of so-called “right-to-work’ statutes are an unfortunate misnomer for taking the leverage away from those who perform the work and shifting it to those who control the jobs. Public unions were the target, but private unions are next.

The real enemy here is not the unions or even management but the political system that runs on power and money. In an unpublished manuscript by Professor Nicholas Easton, community activist and former President of the Providence City Council, entitled, The Political Machine Reexamined, Easton writes,

“To begin let me lay out a few propositions. First is the idea that, generally speaking, for at least a century or so the Democratic Party has represented the economic interests of the poor and the Republican Party has represented the economic interests of the wealthy.

Second is the idea that, generally speaking, there are only two sources of power in our democracy; money and people.

Finally is the idea that, given the two previous assertions, Republicans will win most political battles based on money and Democrats will win those based on superior organization and mobilization of people.” (excerpt from https://joebroadmeadowblog.com/2018/07/04/guest-post-the-political-machine-reexamined-by-professor-nicholas-easton/)

Organizations such as labor unions serve an essential function in balancing the power in politics.

Being a member of a union does not limit one’s ability to vote for any candidate, support any cause, or oppose any policy. Freedom of expression, the venerable right of the First Amendment, is not silenced by “agency fees.”

This decision is a microcosm of all that is wrong in our political process. We have lost the once stable balance between those with the personal or corporate wealth to support candidates they endorse, and the collective assets of organized labor.

The ever-growing income gap, coupled with the disintegration of the middle class, now creates two classes in society; those who wield power through economic control and those subject to it.

Until we negate the power of money in politics, this balance between unions and management is necessary.

If you need more proof of the politics of this decision look at the plethora of organizations offering ways to “opt out” of union participation.

For example, https://www.mypaymysay.com/ part of the Mackinac Center for Public Policy https://www.mackinac.org/ which claims to be a non-partisan organization but is backed by a host of conservative Republicans.

Research shows these organizations are all backed by conservative Republican anti-labor groups. Make no mistake about it. Janus is not a First Amendment case. It is another volley in the war of powerful corporate money against the once competing power of unions.

And the court picked sides.

This is not the end, but it may be the beginning of the end of the balance of power.

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Trumpisms: You Can’t Make this Stuff Up

Here’s a collection of highlights of the Presidential Tweets. Just the mere thought of combining “Presidential” with “Tweets” is troubling. One would expect a more finessed and refined level of communication from a person elected to the office of the Presidency; but alas it is not to be.

The vacuity and boorishness of the man know no bounds. Although I will say this, reading his Twittering Twitticisms is almost as entertaining as the sorely missed Sunday Comic section of the newspaper.

English
ISBN-10: 0470930705 By Geraldine Woods

In the interest of protecting those of you who paid attention in English grammar classes, here’s a fair warning. I’ve left the words as is even though Microsoft Word spell and grammar check application was near tears begging to make corrections. It was so distraught I had to disable it.

I am considering sending a copy of English Grammar for Dummies to the White House. Perhaps it will be the sole exhibit at the future Trump Presidential Library/Golf Course/Casino complex outside Moscow.

Let the twitter storm begin… (my snide comments are cleverly disguised in italics to avoid scrutiny by the President.)

“It’s very sad that Nancy Pelosi and her sidekick, Cryin’ Chuck Schumer, want to protect illegal immigrants far more than the citizens of our country. The United States cannot stand for this. We wants safety and security at our borders!” (https://twitter.com/realDonaldTrump/status/1010569562138406912)

(I wants what I wants)

I have tried to stay uninvolved with the Department of Justice and FBI (although I do not legally have to), because of the now totally discredited and very expensive Witch Hunt currently going on. But you do have to ask why the DOJ & FBI aren’t giving over requested documents? (https://twitter.com/realDonaldTrump/status/1011218033216512005)

(Legally or ethically?)

The Red Hen Restaurant should focus more on cleaning its filthy canopies, doors and windows (badly needs a paint job) rather than refusing to serve a fine person like Sarah Huckabee Sanders. I always had a rule, if a restaurant is dirty on the outside, it is dirty on the inside! (https://twitter.com/realDonaldTrump/status/1011212766487728133)

(Trump’s post-Presidential (which can’t happen soon enough) career? Food critic for Gourmand Magazine: Fast Food Glutton Commonsewer)

We cannot allow all of these people to invade our Country. When somebody comes in, we must immediately, with no Judges or Court Cases, bring them back from where they came. Our system is a mockery to good immigration policy and Law and Order. Most children come without parents… (https://twitter.com/realDonaldTrump/status/1010900865602019329)

(Due process?  What’s Dew Process? Is that where they make Mountain Dew?)

Hiring manythousands of judges, and going through a long and complicated legal process, is not the way to go – will always be disfunctional. People must simply be stopped at the Border and told they cannot come into the U.S. illegally. Children brought back to their country…… (https://twitter.com/realDonaldTrump/status/1011228265003077632)

(An English teachers grammatical nightmare)

The hearing of Peter Strzok and the other hating frauds at the FBI & DOJ should be shown to the public on live television, not a closed door hearing that nobody will see. We should expose these people for what they are – there should be total transparency! (https://twitter.com/realDonaldTrump/status/1011391230188457984)

(We can only hope for such clamoring for transparency with the Mueller report)

Russia continues to say they had nothing to do with Meddling in our Election! Where is the DNC Server, and why didn’t Shady James Comey and the now disgraced FBI agents take and closely examine it? Why isn’t Hillary/Russia being looked at? So many questions, so much corruption! ) https://twitter.com/realDonaldTrump/status/1012295859072126977)

(If Russia said it, it must be true. I am a great judge of character and my two BFFs, Putin and that roly-poly Pillsbury Doughboy from East Korea, are as trustworthy as all my business associates and former lawyers who aren’t (yet) in jail)

After having written many best selling books, and somewhat priding myself on my ability to write, it should be noted that the Fake News constantly likes to pour over my tweets looking for a mistake. I capitalize certain words only for emphasis, not b/c they should be capitalized! https://twitter.com/realDonaldTrump/status/1014286054805987330

(Written? I think not. But J.K. Rowling had the best reaction to this first version (which Trump’s Grammar monitor must have edited) with the incorrect use of ‘pour” she wrote hahahahahaha pour? Hahahahahaha… filling two full Tweets.)

Just out that the Obama Administration granted citizenship, during the terrible Iran Deal negotiation, to 2,500 Iranians – including to government officials. How big (and bad) is that?https://twitter.com/realDonaldTrump/status/1014117468858650624

(This is the best yet. An outright lie. Trump’s source? An Iranian hardline cleric critical of Iran’s government dealing with the “Great Satan.”

Mojtaba Zonnour claimed “the Obama administration granted citizenship to 2,500 Iranians, including family members of government officials, while negotiating the Iran nuclear deal” and “claimed it was done as a favor to senior Iranian officials linked to President Hassan Rouhani,” according to a Fox News report published July 2, the day before Trump’s tweet.  (http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2018/07/02/obama-administration-granted-citizenship-to-2500-iranians-during-nuclear-deal-iran-official.html)

Now there’s a reliable source.

A vote for Democrats in November is a vote to let MS-13 run wild in our communities, to let drugs pour into our cities, and to take jobs and benefits away from hardworking Americans. Democrats want anarchy, amnesty and chaos – Republicans want LAW, ORDER and JUSTICE! https://twitter.com/realDonaldTrump/status/1015033658548207616

(This idiocy stands on its own)

While not a tweet, I am including an excerpt from one of his rallies of the righteous he seems to revel in all the time. Just to underscore a point.

“I’ve broken more Elton John records, and I don’t have a musical instrument. I don’t have a guitar, or an organ. … This is my only musical instrument – the mouth – and hopefully the brain is attached to the mouth. The brain is so much more important.”

There is a connection between his brain and his mouth. There can be no doubt about that. It’s the essence of what is in the brain, or absent from it, that is the problem. He is the adult equivalent of five-year-old, hearing a word that a five-year-old shouldn’t have heard, taking delight in people’s reaction whenever he repeats it.

Trump has established one absolute truth. No amount of money, funding the best education, can fix things when the raw material is flawed and the character weak.

If Shakespeare is correct, “there is no darkness but ignorance,” we are in a dark time. And the bard also must have seen the future of the aftermath of a Trump-like figure leading a once great country with this one, “The evil that men do lives after them; the good is oft interred with their bones.”

What little good there is of this administration wouldn’t equal the remains of a cremated ant. The evil will rival the worst of history.

It will take years for the world to rid this taste of ignorance-driven idiocy from our collective mouths.

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Restacking the Supremes

With the imminent retirement of Justice Kennedy, the specter of another Trump Supreme Court nominee looms. Those “never-Trumpers” are convulsed in anger and disappointment almost to apoplectic levels. Those who blindly support this President see this as the golden opportunity to “right” (pun intended) every Supreme Court decision with which they disagree.

archieAs I read about the announcement of Justice Kennedy’s retirement, the theme song from the iconic 70’s TV show, All in the Family, played in my head,

 

 

Boy the way Glen Miller played, 
Songs that made the hit parade,
Guys like us we had it made,
Those were the days,
And you know where you were then,
Girls were girls and men were men,
Mister we could use a man like Herbert Hoover again,
Didn’t need no welfare states
Everybody pulled his weight,
Gee our old Lasalle ran great,
Those were the days

(Those were the Days by Lee Adams and Charles Strouse)

That is the America of the past so idolized and whitewashed of reality. Some see this as Mr. Trump’s moment to return America to baseball, apple pie, and Chevrolet. They want to recover those “good ole’ days.” To make this a place where “guys like us” exist once again.

They forget that not everyone was “guys like us.” That was an America of black & white TV stained by full-color divisiveness.  And that is what many decisions rendered by the Supreme Court over the last few years sought to address; even the playing field so “guys like us” became us all.

On the day Kennedy announced his retirement, my wife and I met friends in Washington DC. One place we spent a full day was the National Portrait Gallery. Our purpose initially was to go to see the new portrait of President Barrack Obama and former First Lady Michelle Obama.

The National Portrait Gallery is just part of the enormous collection of artwork here. One area struck me as representative of the ever-present hope of America. On one wall was a portrait of Supreme Court Chief Justice Earl Warren. Facing him was a portrait of Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall.

Warren, an Eisenhower appointee, was perceived as a conservative addition to the court. Marshall argued the landmark case Brown v Board of Education before the court. The case was contentious and complicated. Marshall argued the case twice before the court beginning in 1952 and again in 1953. In 1954, the court issued a unanimous and unanticipated decision written by Earl Warren. The court overturned Plessy v Ferguson which established separate but equal education systems for black and white students, firmly setting segregation in place.

Warren turned out to be more open and progressive in his views than the hyperbole of his conservatism claimed. The Warren-led court turned out to be more liberal than anyone could ever have imagined. Let’s hope that Kennedy’s replacement offers similar surprises once they assume the bench.

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Making a Point with Hypocrisy

The latest example of political hypocrisy couched in moral outrage is the insistence, polite as it may have been, for Sarah Huckabee Sanders to leave a local Virginia restaurant.

The restaurant staff recognized Huckabee as a member of a party of 8 and called the owner. She came to the restaurant, discussed the situation with her team (some of whom are gay), and took a vote to ask Huckabee to leave.

The hypocrisy is outrageous.

Their argument was, surrounded by conservatives who supported Mr. Trump, they felt duty bound to wave their liberal progressive (and in this case patently biased) flag in seeking to have Huckabee leave.

There is no doubt in my mind this same staff held a Kumbaya hand-holding, weeping gathering of outrage when the Supreme Court upheld a bakery’s refusal to make a cake for a gay wedding.

There is no doubt in my mind this same group wails and moans at the mistreatment of the GLBT members of our society by some conservatives.

Yet they see no hypocrisy in asking a person to leave based on who they work for? It is the most childish, immature, and idiotic thing they could ever have done.

What’s next, do restaurants post a list of acceptable political positions for admission to their establishments next to the daily specials?

Does Trip Advisor add a new column called Political Position to their restaurant reviews?

Do you ask each guest their voting record, political affiliation, or position on issues of the day?

Instead of using an opportunity to demonstrate to Huckabee their professed rainbow-colored inclusiveness, they did what they despise in others. They denied a person a seat at the table because of a difference of opinion.

sit-in3There is no difference in this country between denying someone a seat based on politics, religion, or color of their skin.

None. The confrontation might have lacked the violence of the Civil Rights struggle, but the principle is the same.

What would the outcry be if Huckabee came in and asked to be waited on by heterosexual conservatives only?

To be clear, Huckabee is the face of the worst administration in the history of the Presidency. Her promulgating the myth of fake news and her revolving door rationale for the President’s irrational and erratic policies is obscene. But to lower oneself to their level of behavior reinforces the prejudicial attitude of those support such policies.

When you are in a public service industry, and you so despise cases such as the baker/wedding cake decision, you must exemplify tolerance not promulgate more intolerance. Instead, they missed an opportunity to demonstrate there is value to progressive liberal inclusion.

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Hiking as a Metaphor for Life: Learn, Earn, Return

Hiking is the perfect teacher for understanding a life well lived. Each hike begins with enthusiasm and naivete` about what lies ahead. For those first few steps, one is filled with energy and the hope of discovery.

Prospect_rock.jpg

Trail descriptions never match reality, much like one’s plans for the future. Soon the trail turns rocky and muddy, slick and slippery with gnarly roots grabbing at your feet. As the mountain looms off in the distance, peeking over the tops of impossibly high-trees, the trail now steepens. Legs strain, lungs work to keep up with the higher oxygen demand, and the heart pounds in your chest. One’s thoughts turn to self-recriminations, questioning your decision to follow this desolate, lonely, and painful trail.

After willing oneself onward, a slow, almost imperceptible change takes place. The heart adjusts, the legs find a rhythm, and the trail effort takes a less severe toll. This is the learning time. You come to understand a slow, steady pace, ever forward, with the occasional rest, is the way ahead.

You put trail miles onto your boots and hike on.

On the peaks of New Hampshire’s mountains, the dreaded Whites so infamous to those who hike the Appalachian Trail, it is the last mile that tests a hiker’s mettle. For some peaks, there is a 100, 500, or 1000-yard scramble over boulders as you pull and push yourself, ignoring your screaming leg muscles and pounding chest.

For those who harbor a fear of heights (why are you hiking?) there is the added terror of looking back down over boulders that would hardly notice your tumbling body, should you lose your balance and bounce down the mountain.

But you carry on. Any goal worth pursuing comes with doubt, difficulties, and despair. To succeed on a hike, as in life, you must accept that nothing is easy. Also, understand there are no insurmountable obstacles unless you convince yourself to give up.

Just when it seems you cannot take another step, the trail levels out, the view opens up, and the pain and sweat of the effort fade from your thoughts.

To stand where only your feet can take you. To look down on the immense beauty of the forest, rivers, valleys, and mountains of New Hampshire, Tennessee, Virginia, or any place in the world is to achieve a measure of success.

This is the earning level. Your efforts to climb the mountain, like your efforts to achieve something in life, offer a reward. During the hike, you learn. Summiting the peak, you earn. But, the lesson of the mountain is not over yet.

After enjoying the moment on the peak, you must complete the journey. Hiking down a mountain has its own challenges. You’re tired, aching, and looking forward to a rest. Yet, on the way down an opportunity opens to encourage those you meet on their own way up.

Here is the part where you return to others what you’ve learned and earned.

A simple, “you’re almost there,” “the view is worth it,” “keep going, you’ll make it,” can offer so much to those still making their way on the trail, and through life.

When you reach the end of the trail, you’ll understand, in a microcosm, what a successful life is. Hiking a mountain, as in life, you learn, you earn, and you return. That is as it should be.

At the end of your last trail, if you can say you followed those simple rules, you’ll have lived a full life.

Tweeting Away while America’s Reputation Burns

If we are paying Mr. Trump’s presidential salary based on the number of tweets he sends, we are getting our money’s worth. If it is on the quality of the tweets, not so much.

nero-fiddling

“Children are being used by some of the worst criminals on earth as a means to enter our country. Has anyone been looking at the Crime taking place south of the border. It is historic, with some countries the most dangerous places in the world. Not going to happen in the U.S.” (https://twitter.com/realDonaldTrump/status/1008708576628625408)

Which, duh, is WHY parents are deciding to risk their children’s lives in fleeing the crime and corruption for the sanctuary of America. An American detention center, no matter how horrible it may be to us, is better than the conditions from which they flee.

And like it or not, much of the disarray in many of these South and Central American countries resulted from American policies. During the post-World War II era, when anti-communism was the prevailing mood, America supported right-wing, non-representative governments who used the training, weapons, and resources we provided to suppress dissent.

Which was fine with us as long as it was anti-communist.

We do not bear sole responsibility for these conditions. People must seek democracy through their own efforts, not just with American assistance. But, these people risking everything to make it to America should be treated according to the law.

The policy of separating children from parents who illegally enter the country is not new. It has been in place since long before the Trump administration. But the current zero-tolerance policy takes it to an entirely unintended level.

I won’t presume to know the motivation, but I suspect it is less than honorable.

Zadvydas v. Davis (https://supreme.justia.com/cases/federal/us/533/678/case.html) is a 2001 United States Supreme Court case which clarifies and limits the time an individual may be held pending a deportation hearing absent any other circumstances or when no country will accept their return.

If those coming here, illegally or not, cannot return to their country of origin or face the possibility of execution or torture if they are sent back, the case sets the limits on their detention. One analysis puts it this way

Does the post-removal-period statute authorize the Attorney General to detain a removable alien indefinitely beyond the 90-day removal period?

No. In a 5-4 opinion delivered by Justice Stephen G. Breyer, the Court held that “the statute, read in light of the Constitution’s demands, limits an alien’s post-removal-period detention to a period reasonably necessary to bring about that alien’s removal from the United States” and “does not permit indefinite detention.” “Based on our conclusion that indefinite detention of aliens in the former category would raise serious constitutional concerns, we construe the statute to contain an implicit ‘reasonable time’ limitation, the application of which is subject to federal court review,” wrote Justice Breyer. (“Zadvydas v. Davis.” Oyez, 18 Jun. 2018, www.oyez.org/cases/2000/99-7791)

Previous administrations separated children from newly apprehended illegal aliens. They then complied with the court decision. Absent mitigating circumstances, and subject to federal court review, the individuals were processed and reunited with their children. If returning them was not practical or if it was likely to result in civil rights violations they should be released, but they still face the legal obligation of applying for asylum or other lawful means to remain here.

Here’s a perfect opportunity for the President to force the Democrats hand by seeking their cooperation in finding a solution to those who cannot be returned but are guilty of only one thing, seeking safety for their children.

It is also a perfect opportunity for those who espouse the Evangelical Christian philosophy that purports to care about their fellow humans. Let’s see how many of those organizations step up to sponsor those families in need. If protecting the unborn is the work of the Lord can embracing those already on this earth be any less so?

Perhaps Joel Osteen and the other money-grubbers wrapped in Biblical clothing can re-task their mega-church money machine and put the resources to better use than buying jets and building huge temples.  Turn the sincere but sad gullibility of their contributors to something of actual value.

The right-wing Christians who support the President can welcome those in need into their homes as the Bible so instructs. In Leviticus 19:33-34,

“When a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.”

You gotta love the Bible, there is a saying for every occasion. It’s like the original Hallmark card. I’m sure if I look hard enough I can find some chapter and verse that instructs us to offer illegal aliens up as burnt offerings that are so favored of the Lord.

Clearly, the government of the United States must control and prevent illegal immigration. Drug cartel members, other criminals, and those who seek to harm the United States and the American people should be apprehended and returned, when possible, or detained if necessary.

But that is not the case with the overwhelming majority of individuals fleeing with children.

To read Mr. Trump’s tweet, he makes it seem as if every person crossing the border with children is a diabolical criminal. He ignores the reality that most are desperately seeking safety for their children from conditions which most of us could never imagine. If recent history tells us anything, it’s those cages hold a host of future valedictorians and potential academic excellence. They appreciate the opportunity of America in most cases. They add to the quality of America.

He gets part of it right when he says, “Has anyone been looking at the Crime taking place south of the border. It is historic, with some countries the most dangerous places in the world.” That, Mr. President, is precisely why they come here, to escape such conditions.

ct-children-border-patrol-facility-photos
Image from Chicago Tribune

Follow the law, and the court decisions, as they are intended. Screen the individuals within the 90-day period then reunite them with their children. The specter of uniformed border control officers guarding children in cages is not the image we want the world to see of America.

If you want to flex your Presidential muscle, point it towards the countries where these conditions exist and threaten to cut foreign aid unless reforms take place. Use the bully pulpit for something other than castigating the FBI, the Justice Department, your predecessors, or the failed campaign of a former candidate whose time has passed.

We do not blame victims of crimes, we seek to help them and target those who perpetrate the crimes. Most people coming across our borders with children are victims, not criminals, and we should remember that when we enforce policies. If we can’t separate the chaff from the wheat in 90 days something else is gravely wrong with our country.

It would appear someone in the administration came to their senses and convinced the President to issue an executive order. After spending weeks trying to find an excuse that worked and blaming the Democrats and Obama for the problem, the President did what he said he could not do.

Which sparked this gem of a tweet,

My Administration is acting swiftly to address the illegal immigration crisis on the Southern Border. Loopholes in our immigration laws all supported by extremist open border Democrats…and that’s what they are – they’re extremist open border Democrats…Democrats want open Borders, where anyone can come into our Country, and stay. This is Nancy Pelosi’s dream. It won’t happen!” (https://twitter.com/realDonaldTrump/status/1009844059211366401)

Among other things, Mr. Trump and I have a vastly different definition of swiftly.

No one wants people to enter this country illegally or with intent to do harm.  Nor do we want people to come here for the sole purpose of taking advantage of our generosity. But, this country has usually found a way to absorb those with little hope in their own countries. We’ve not always done it, the refusal to accept Jewish children before our entry into World War II is one glaring example, but to say categorically we should have a zero-tolerance policy is inhumane and contrary to the spirit of America.

How this all plays out, and whether Sessions and the Justice Department can renegotiate a settlement in the Flores Decision (Reno v. Flores507 U.S. 292 (1993), remains to be seen. But if empathy and a humanist approach to dealing with these matters are scarce with this administration, follow-through is exceptionally rare.

Sessions proclivity to use Biblical references as legal arguments will fail in a court founded squarely on the principle of separation of church and state. If ever there was proof needed for the wisdom of the forefathers in this matter, nothing better has ever come from the words or actions of a government official.

P.S. If we are going to use the Bible as an authoritative source for justifying these “zero-tolerance” policies, I offer this., another Biblical gem from Leviticus 20-10,

“If a man commits adultery with another man’s wife–with the wife of his neighbor–both the adulterer and the adulteress are to be put to death.”

I have a suggestion for where to begin. We can sell tickets to “cast the first stone.”

(Please click the links below to share this. Whether you agree or disagree, the more we discuss this, the faster we can seek common ground for a solution.)