Sunday, November 5, 2017

Remember, Remember, The Fifth Of November...

Remember, remember, the fifth of November, The gunpowder treason and plot…

In the spirit of commemoration, I thought we could mark this November the 5th by taking some time from the political and societal scandals – fodder that once was the exclusive domain of the checkout line tabloids but now consume every facet of our daily lives – to share a few thoughts.

No, I am not proposing anarchy – far from it.  We need a certain amount of order and norms for our society to function.  Yet there can be no question that since the last Fifth of November, a great many things have happened in OUR government – I’m talking about reality, not some dystopian Hollywood concoction that incites fear and discord among us.

How did this happen? Who's to blame?

Certainly there are some that are more to blame than others, but the truth is – and this is a hard truth for many – you need only look into a mirror.

Conservatives. Liberals. Republicans and Democrats. We did this to ourselves. We allowed it to happen.

We allowed a reality TV host with really bad hair to assume the highest, most powerful office in the world. But what choice did we have, as the other candidate seemingly maneuvered her party’s nomination years in advance, eliminating any opportunities for opposing voices to keep her from achieving her goal.

We have found that the political process is EXACTLY what we feared it was: an illusion, created by those chosen few in control of the process, to “elect” candidates of their choosing. Party primaries, nominations, the conventions – all political theatre to mollify you into thinking that your voice was heard. That your voice somehow mattered.

And yet – I honestly cannot say that I disagree with everything that our current government has done, just as we – you and I, no matter how diverse and divergent our views may be – have some things in common.

Maybe it is idealism. Maybe it is brainwashing. Maybe it is naivety. But I believe – I HAVE to believe – that there are better times ahead.

We have lost our national identity. I know not when it was lost, and I don’t think it really matters.  However, I do know that finding it may be the only way that we can salvage and protect the things that we commonly believe in.  We have banded together countless times in our history – during times of war, times of national tragedy. So I know it is possible.

But we have to persevere.

We have to ignore the nonsense.

We have to disregard insane Twitter and social media posts – not only from those in power, but from those we know to be spreading the very discord that is poisoning our values and way of life (yes, the irony is not lost on me that I am sharing this on social media myself).

Speak out against the things we know to be wrong, and brave enough to stand for what is right.  Again, there are some of you that will not agree with me, just as I will not agree with you. But only though constructive dialogue will we ever achieve common ground.

So, on this Fifth of November, I ask not for revolution, but to join me and attempt to bring civility back. I have already started – I have been consciously and actively scaling back radical views and politics from my life and writings. And I will continue to do so.

But I will not sit idly by and allow our great country to continue to divide over feckless minutia and vapid Hollywoodesque headlines.  

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Thoughts on the Vegas Massacre...

I shared this on Facebook, and thought I would also post it here.

I have been dwelling in this on and off all week. But this one deserves an explanation.

- It has not been said enough, no matter how many times it has been said: the massacre at the Las Vegas concert is beyond horrible and disgusting. Randomly killing and injuring so many is deplorable. My thoughts have been on all of those impacted by this tragedy.

- None of these events are acceptable. I personally know someone that was at the concert (she is fine), but also have come to find out that this madman was also targeting concerts in other places - other places that I have people that I love and care about.

- Personally, getting rid of bump stocks makes little difference to me. I see very little practical sporting purpose for this kind of firearm accessory, except to make the rifle shoot fast and inaccurately. Does not interest me in the slightest.

- I included a graphic published from the widest circulation newspaper in the world, showing the accessories that I can add to my AR. Surprisingly, my local sporting goods store was out of grenade launchers. Folks - this is scare journalism at best, and fear mongering at its worst. The shooter did not have a grenade launcher. You can't buy grenade launchers. But those afraid of firearms and everything that they represent probably believe that all sporting rifles come standard with grenade launchers. For clarity - this is not the case. Also, a 'bump stock" is not a standard accessory either.

- Many close and personal friends have asked me why there is not greater controls on firearms. The answer: people like Nancy Pelosi is why not. I believe that there are reasonable actions we can take to control some aspects of firearms without trampling the spirit of the Second Amendment. I would argue that I could have a conversation with any one of you and we could come to a sane middle ground. I think there are many members of the NRA like myself that believe the same thing. But the NRA has a Nancy Pelosi problem, and it is a difficult one to solve.

- If we crafted sensible firearm regulations, and somehow removed the legitimate fear of cascading and ever increasing regulations, I think we could make some progress. Contrary to the media, the NRA is NOT a terrorist organization (and let me clue you: that rhetoric is extremely NOT helpful when you are trying to establish trust with an extremely paranoid organization) any more than the ACLU is a terrorist organization. There are reasonable members of the NRA, and they are willing to discuss this and other regulations on firearms. But the NRA leadership has a completely warranted right to fear Pelosi and others of her ilk.

- If this is the "olive basket" (quoting Ocean's 13) that the NRA is going to lead with, it is pretty terrible. I would hate this to be the beginning and end of the NRA's compromise on gun regulations.

- I honestly don't know where I come down on some of these issues any longer. I am a proud NRA member, and will continue to elect those who work to protect my 2A rights. I would like to think that we may some day return to a level of societal discourse that promotes the discussion of the mental health issues that are at the root of so many of these shootings, as well as an open conversation about how best to deal with the firearms that are a very real part of our society.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

The Politicization of EVERYTHING...

Now that my initial sadness has subsided, I wanted to share a few thoughts on the current political climate, specifically around the NFL protests:

First – and most important in my book – regardless of the issue, bringing politics into the sporting professions (it is spreading across various sports, probably because of Trump) is not something I can support.  No, not because I am against their right to protest. But mainly because I believe that it has no place on the field.  Sure, those protesting want to garner the maximum amount of attention to their issue / causes as possible. And there is no larger audience than the nationally televised broadcast of their sporting event. But their protest detracts from the game – it has NOTHING to do with the game, and they should not be using the game as their pulpit to advertise their message.  If they were protesting some aspect of the game, of even something related to the game, I think I could better understand that.  But arguably, that is not what they are protesting.  They should use their First Amendment right somewhere other than the playing field. Use their vast celebrity to hold their own press conference. Follow JJ Watt’s example: he recently used his celebrity to raise over $30 million of Texas relief, so I know it is possible.

Second – yes, it is absolutely possible and – I would argue – the responsibility of NFL owners to stop these protests. People have been talking about First Amendment rights, and there is certainly a free speech right that our soldiers and veterans have fought to defend. But over and over again, the Supreme Court and the various appeals courts have ruled that the right to free speech does not extend to the workplace. Case in point – agree or disagree – is the guy who was fired from Google for his views on women in the workplace.  According to the Google CEO, Damore so called manifesto “violate[d] our Code of Conduct and cross the line by advancing harmful gender stereotypes in our workplace.” Basically, his memo was disruptive to the workplace, and caused discomfort among the employees.  Certainly true, and so he was fired for his beliefs – however misguided they may or may not have been.  And arguably, the same thing could be said about what is happening with the NFL protesters.  Viewership is significantly down, and player / protesters / teams are losing financially lucrative endorsement deals. Can anyone argue that the actions of the protesters have not been disruptive? All this to say is that the right to free speech does not extend to the football (or any other) field – the professional sporting organizations are ALLOWING this to happen. They are supporting – implicitly or explicitly – these protests and protesters.  Conversations about freedom of speech are not relevant to the issue at hand, because the NFL and the ownership is condoning this, allowing this, supporting this, and permitting this to happen.

Lastly, is it so much to ask to have something – nearly anything – at this point that can be apolitical? I pretty much avoid all cable and national news because of the political biases – on both sides, by the way. Print media and the media in general has always had a degree of political bias. I have stopped watching the CBS Sunday Morning show: it was literally one of the very few things that I nearly always watched. But since Charles Osgood left the show (retired) and Jane Pauley took over, the segments have a much more politicized bent. The Emmys? The Oscars? Pretty much any “award” show out there? All have become political bashing. Look, I get it – politics affects everyone. I am one of the biggest political junkies I know. But when is enough enough? I find myself watching MASH reruns and BBC news mainly because I can’t stand anything else on the TV.  Now, sports is tainted as well.

I am not looking to boycott the NFL. I am still an “owner” of the Green Bay Packers, and I will likely always support my team. I am just deeply disappointed in President Trump (PLEASE, JUST PLEASE get off of Twitter – even for just a little bit), the NFL, the owners, the players and the protesters for stripping away some of the magic that is professional football.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

A Sad Day for the Boy Scouts...

This morning, the LDS Church announced that they will no longer utilize the Boy Scouts as their youth program:

And before the flames begin - know that I have been a Boy Scout for over 3/4 of my life. I am an Eagle Scout, and the son of an Eagle Scout and the brother of another Eagle Scout. Many of those that I consider my closest friends are Eagle Scouts as well - we literally grew up together and still are friends to this day, some 20+ years after most of us earned the award.

Among us, there are VERY differing perspectives on the "3G's" in the Scouting program - God, Girls and Gays.

“God” is fairly straightforward - the Scouting program embraces *ALL* religions, but not the absence of a belief in a high power (Atheism). The BSA has been sued MANY times throughout the years for the requirement of those in the organization holding a belief in a higher power.

“Girls” is the constant barrage of those that want females as part of the BOY Scouts.  Again, countless lawsuits, and accommodations have been made to include female leaders and youth participants within the organization (the Girl Scouts, BTW, do not allow boys, unless they identify as a female. SHM).

“Gays” refers to the efforts of the LBGT community to participate as leaders, and then as youth members in the BSA.  In June 2000, the Boy Scouts won a landmark Supreme Court case (Boy Scouts of America v. Dale) which affirmed the organization’s right of freedom of association.  In recent years, the Boy Scouts have caved to those demands and pressures, first by allowing homosexual leaders, and most recently allowing homosexual and transgendered youth participants.

For the record, let me share the following on the 3G’s:

I believe that the organization has a responsibility to promote a belief in a higher power.  Part of the Scout Oath is a duty “to God and my country.” If you do not believe in God (in His many various forms), then the Boy Scouts is not likely the organization for you.

I believe that it is OK – and actually a good thing – for young men to gain values and experiences without the distraction of girls.  I am not saying that girls are “bad”, but I also know that the social dynamics of a situation change when you comingle genders. Boys will have more than enough chances to interact with females outside of the Scouting program. And females can also gain from participating in girls only organizations without the unnecessary social conventions associated with working with boys. If you want to camp and hike with girls, then the Boy Scouts is not likely the organization for you.

I believe that there are organizations that can be exclusive.  Not every single organization should be open to every single person.  There are many that believe in complete and total openness, and any level of exclusivity is discriminatory.  I am not saying gay people are “bad”, but there are many that believe that those values represented by some in the LGBT community are not aligned with those traditional parts of the Scouting program.  As represented above, most of the chartered partners (those that sponsor Scouting units) are religious organizations. And some of those organizations (including the LDS church) do not embrace the LBGT causes, especially when they are influencing their youth participants. I am sure the Mormons will be demonized for their antiquated and backwards views on gays.  Same for the Roman Catholics and any number of other religious institutions. But they believe what I believe – that while not necessarily evil, their views and beliefs do not mesh with the (former) traditional values of the Scouting program. If you want to promote and embrace values that run contrary to the core values of the Scouting program and their chartered partners, then the Boy Scouts is not likely the organization for you.

Unfortunately, the Boy Scouts disagrees with me, and that is why the Board of Directors at the National level have made drastic accommodations over the past 20 years to become more inclusive. Many of the afore mentioned Eagle Scouts that I consider my friends agree with this stance.  But I also know many that do not.  My friend Jason Carter (and Eagle Scout) left the Boy Scouts to become a leader in the Trail’s Life organization after the Boy Scouts abandoned his values.  I know of several others that were supporters of the Boy Scouts that can no longer support them (in spirit or through financial means) because of the value changes.

So yes – I am disappointed.  This is another sad day for an organization that I love.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

The FBI Director is "Terminated"!

“I do not have confidence in him (Comey) any longer." 
- Chuck Schumer

"Maybe he (Comey) is not right for the job" 
- Nancy Pelosi

And - certainly not to be left out:

"That was so bad what happened originally, and it took guts for Director Comey to make the move that he made in light of the kind of opposition he had where they’re trying to protect her from criminal prosecution. It took a lot of guts." 
- Donald Trump

Point being - regardless where you come down on this decision, politicians on both sides of the spectrum are playing politics. Those that expect them to be doing something different are fooling themselves. And it doesn't mean you have to like it - I, for one, do not. But was I shocked or surprised?


Pretty hard for me to agree with President Trump on this one. Sure - it is his prerogative to fire the FBI Director (though it is almost never done), but the timing sucks. You can either believe that he is trying to derail the Russian collusion investigation or that he has spectacularly poor timing. Either way, it again speaks to the political naivety or inexperience of the President.

The one comment that I had heard, and it almost made marginal sense: After James Clapper's testimony the other day saying that Trump was not a subject of the investigation, maybe the President thought that those comments would provide justification and coverage enough to dismiss Comey.

For the record: President Trump would have done well to terminate pretty much any / every political appointee Obama made as soon as feasible after inauguration. The fact that we are 100+ days past that point, and he is still dealing with Obama legacy appointments also speaks to the lack of good advice and inexperience of the Trump administration.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

The Senate Filibuster of SCOTUS Nominees...

Over the coming days, you will certainly here about the "historic" "unjust" "revolutionary" "destructive" actions of Senate Republicans to follow the precedent of Harry Reid and Senate Democrats and eliminate the filibuster, this time extending it to President Trump's SCOTUS nominee.

A few points I wanted to share:

- I will be the first to say I am not wild about the evisceration of the Senate rules for partisanship. That is foolish and short sighted - it was when Reid did it, and it is the same when McConnell is going to do it.

- That said, I do not believe that President Trump could have nominated ANY conservative jurist that would have received the 60 votes necessary for cloture.  I think the Democrats are still fuming (and somewhat rightly so) that they did not get to put President Obama's nomination on the Court, so any nominee for that open seat was likely going to be met with objection (apart from one personally chosen my Sen. Schumer, which he graciously volunteered to do).

- I think that the Senate should have confirmed Merrick Garland – I said it then and I will say it now. He certainly deserved a hearing and a vote.  Unfortunately, Sen. McConnell plays a wicked hand of poker, as his political gamble could have very easily backfired for conservatives, dramatically shifting the balance of the Court for the foreseeable future (presumably, a Clinton administration would have withdrawn the Garland nomination and installed someone much more ideologically left-of-center than Garland). But, as many have said since, elections have consequences. The Republicans won, and the outrageous gamble paid off.

- I am not so naive to think that SCOTUS seats are not political or partisan - they have been since the very first nominees to the Court. But I also believe that a qualified jurist nominee should be confirmed, unless there is something so egregious that prevents the nomination. Judge Gorsuch is certainly qualified, and at least as qualified as Justices Sotomayor and Kagan. And as partisan as those nominations were (both are as left leaning as Gorsuch is to the right), neither were filibustered and both were confirmed.

- And as much as I generally disagree with the stances and politics of Sen. Michael Bennett from the great State of Colorado, I am pleased that he has decided not to join his fellow Democrats in the filibuster against a nominee from his home state. I didn’t think he had it in him, but I am proud (and pleasantly surprised) that he did.  Ironically, there are commercials running on TV that claim the exact opposite, so they need to get their facts straight.

- Lastly, I would call on those Senators planning on using the filibuster for this nominee to reconsider. It is YOU that are setting a precedent that will be impossible to walk back and change. I know that these words will not reach anyone, but I would be remiss if I did not say it.

Also, to demonstrate that I actually get news from somewhere besides Breitbart and Fox News, I wanted to share this article from The Atlantic that discusses the actual impact changing the Senate rules will have.

Buckle up – it should be an interesting few days…

Monday, January 30, 2017

The Political Spectrum of the SCOTUS

First, you should all be proud of me. Instead of inflaming the situation with President Trump and all of the protests and marches and protests and anger and protests and memes and protests, I have pretty much kept out of the conversation and let my more left leaning friends emote. I know they are not done, and I am not trying to say that their voices do not matter. But responding to emotional concerns and fears with pragmatism rarely seems to work.

So they are not done, and neither is President Trump. So I guess the mudslinging will continue on both sides for a bit (like at least 3 more years).

Apart from his executive orders and proclamations, the President is sure to enrage those on the left tomorrow with his selection for the open Supreme Court justice.

Again - not saying that the Democrats do not have a justified beef with the Republican Senate leadership. The fact that they did not approve Garland for the Scalia seat was unprecedented.  But that is old news, and we will hear President Trump's choice for the vacancy tomorrow.

So I thought I would share a cool infographic found on the 538 blog about the political leanings of the current court, and the leanings of the front runners for the open seat.  You can find the original Nate Silver article here.

Not in complete agreement about Silver's political ranking here, but it is in the ballpark. Plus, it offers an interesting view of how President Trump's pick will change (or keep) the balance of the Court.