Preserving a Right

A request to sign a petition from Brigade + Causes hit my mailbox yesterday that raised my eyebrows. “Sign the petition to #fireColbert” read the subject line. The opening of the petition says: “Stephen Colbert finally took it too far with a disgustingly lewd anti-Trump rant on The Late Show on CBS.”

The author of the petition was sufficiently offended by Colbert’s monologue from last week that the author initiated the movement. In fact, he closed his appeal by saying, “This is certainly within Colbert’s right to free speech, but the networks should strive for a higher level of decency. This isn’t comedy. It’s just disgusting and offensive.” Apparently the FCC was also alarmed at the language used in the monologue.

However, we need to ask ourselves in what way did the Colbert monologue in question substantially differ from the many antics of #45 during his campaign. We also need to recognize that Colbert is in the entertainment business and relies on [Nielsen] ratings in order to keep his show on the air. Similarly, during the campaign, #45 was in several industries (including entertainment) and heavily relies (even now) on outlandish behavior for the sake of garnering ratings and attention. So where’s the difference? We also need to take into consideration that #45 was never called to task for any of his campaign behavior and was never penalized in any way. In fact, he was applauded. It’s difficult to understand why, in a post-Carlin’s “7 dirty words” environment that Colbert (or CBS for that matter) should suffer even a penalty.

Now, to be sure, it’s no secret that Colbert is not a fan of the 45th President. It’s safe to say there’s little evidence that he has ever had favorable feelings about #45.

It says a lot about what still remains of American freedoms that Colbert can express his political opinions during his monologue without being censored or have his way of life threatened. It’s called freedom of speech. True, there were objectionable words used in the body of the monologue but the blue language was bleeped from the speech. Even Colbert’s mouth was blurred when he pronounced certain words so that they could not be discerned and cause offense. Those were the instances when it went into territory not covered by Carlin’s “7 dirty words” but at least the freedom to express those feelings was in place.

Other TV hosts have also lampooned the First Family in this last week. It doesn’t appear any of those hosts are being called to task for doing their jobs while simultaneously pushing their audiences to engage in critical thinking or else express what their audiences fear to say aloud.

Likewise, the petition’s author has the freedom to express his distaste for the language – the language, mind you, not the thoughts and feelings owned by the speaker.

So, rather than endorse a return to Woodrow Wilson standards and suppression of one of our precious foundation rights, free speech, I will not sign that petition. Let us, without resorting to expletives and bullying, discuss and debate the policies of #45 and come up with solutions.

It appears both Colbert and the petition author have come up with a very meaningful topic for discussion as well as some meaningful tangents.

Initial Talk with Congress

Many are talking about the new President’s address to Congress on February 28. No, it didn’t mark the completion of 100 days. No, it wasn’t a State of the Nation (per se). It was just the newly-elected President talking to Congress.

Perhaps the event was in remembrance of Washington when he went over to Congress to ask his friends about how to do something and they ran him out because, with a great deal of effort and redrafting of the organizing documents, there are three separate and distinct parts of our government. Each acts separately in order to keep checks and balances and so that the government doesn’t become a dictatorship – each part echoing what the other says and sometimes in unison.

Which identity

Which identity

Nevertheless, the President went to Congress to talk with them. It wasn’t in order to get their advice about anything. It was a new, toned down campaign speech that reiterated what’s been said over the last two years. But this speech added a little more to the campaign rhetoric.

Although the tone was drastically different from what we’ve been hearing during the combative and corrosive campaign there was something different. Yes, there was the signature blaming and faulting to indicate and rally more supporters because things are such a mess. But the rambling, train of thought diatribe that is typical of this President wasn’t presented.

Actually, the speech was a bit unsettling. It wasn’t because of the rhetoric. It was because it seemed to be a repeat of another address to Congress from the past. It was as though it was written from a template. The language (except for the blaming) was not the typical content from this President. The tone, ah yes, the tone and the organization (yes, there was organization) of the thoughts and message were a different voice. Someone wrote this speech for the President. That isn’t surprising given the fact that his attention needs to be on many issues and he desperately needs to focus, keenly focus, on the matters of State. So having a speech writer create this message would not be a surprise.

Still, the message followed a distinct pattern. It was as though the template had little boxes that prompted the writer to “insert issue here” and then flow on to flush out some details. Then another box prompted “insert issue here” in a new section.

It was very formulaic, all the way down to pointing out selected examples of day-to-day citizens who were sprinkled into the audience in order to create a positive charisma and build the supporter base. Wasn’t that the tactic Obama used in many (if not all) of his speeches?

On a positive note, the President appears to finally be listening to someone on his staff about the image he’s presenting to the public. He’s getting coaching from someone about staying on point. He’s being urged to use a script more often so that the logic of what he’s saying is more obvious. The meandering trains of thought that go off point just aren’t winning any credibility for him. Unfortunately, he still doesn’t seem to be listening to his advisers too often. He still does things without a script and he’s very fast with that Executive Order ink pen.

The content of the speech is what most are hashing out in these days that followed the template presentation. Many of the matters that are the subject of the Executive Orders were included in the speech. There were (to be expected) claims of vast improvements over the last administration (which buried the country into the worst situation in history, we were told). Government contracts will be closely scrutinized and only approved when the fees are as bare-bone low as things can possibly be cut. (I’m not certain what that means in terms of quality of end product.) Government contracts for defense spending will be increased while government jobs hiring will be frozen. In fact, he seemed to indicate that there are superfluous government jobs and those will be cut. (You know, perhaps that‘s the reason why the Department of Labor Jobs Update alerts (OPA) stopped arriving after January 25.)

Back to the content of the speech and what people are saying about it. Traditional news coverage noted that the President sounded much more “presedential” in this speech. Another media source made mention that he is learning fast [about not rambling].

The staffers were quite pleased with the performance. That’s the other hallmark of this President. Everything seems to be targeted at getting TV ratings and reality show headlines. Although the speech was nearly a 180 change in tone and style, those who have been alienated by the man’s demeanor, attitude, and rantings are not so easily swayed and brought into the fold. Congressional GOP members are still uneasy. DNC members are still unimpressed. And late night talk show comedians are still having a field day. Why not? They’re essentially being spoon fed new nettles and needles every hour of the day. Maybe that’s why Jimmy Kimmel said enough of Donald Trump for tonight and hosted a Trump-free show. To that, I can only say, Amen.

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Teachable Moments: Mother’s Letter to Ivanka

What are the ethical considerations here

What are the ethical considerations here

Ahem. We learned that Ivanka Trump (daughter of billionaire President-elect) flew on a JetBlue plane in Coach class with her husband and children on December 22, 2016. Apparently her mother never had a talk with her about protocol or etiquette. This is definitely a (overdue) teachable moment and a time for some words from Mother. This is a time when an overwrought mother with too much on her plate will be challenged to be tactful and soft spoken so that the bottom line message can be heard. Here we go.

~~~~~

Ivanka, we need to have a conversation. No, you don’t need to do an inventory of the jewelry to be sold on your website. You definitely don’t need anyone else in the room with us. This is a private conversation. You need to listen carefully. You should ask questions. Don’t be like your father and ask questions that will twist things into making it allowable for you to do something similar at a later date. We need to help you grasp some concepts.

First, although your father gained an amazing number of states in order to win the Electoral College vote, he did not win the popular vote. Do you understand what that means, my love? No, it does not mean his message was what the people of the United States believe and want. It means (just as he kept shouting during his campaign) that there was something fishy with the election.

Bless his heart, he hates to be undone. He has to be top dog. He will never admit that there was tomfoolery when it came to affirming him as the choice of the people. My dear, the popular vote shows he was not.

But he has chosen to put himself in the spotlight through his years. He has chosen to be (in fact, he has insisted on being) center stage and refuses to allow anyone else to occupy that space. He has chosen to be a public figure; he insists on it – until it goes against him. Now that he’s been elected, now that he’s been confirmed by the Electoral College, he is more than a public figure. You, and your siblings, need to conduct yourselves as progeny of the incoming President of the United States.

Not only that, my dear, your father is a billionaire. All of us know that. Your salary is far above that of the average person. You are different.

What the hell were you thinking when you and Jared booked that flight from D.C. to New York on a commercial airline IN COACH with the children?

[deep breath]

You have never been one who is part of the general population. You are different, my love. You can afford much more than the mere average American (even though you occasionally try to appeal to them by walking through the crowds with your security team). This should not be a news flash, Ivanka. Your father is not adored by the population. You do not have an esteemed position in the country. You are, at best, tolerated by necessity, nothing more.

Just as that poor man was yelling, you should have taken a private plane. The you and Jared can afford that. It wasn’t a trans-Atlantic flight so there was no major expense. Even that is affordable with your income and allowance. What the hell were you two thinking?

It’s good that you bring up that meeting with the diplomats from Japan. That was quite a stir the two of you raised. No, your father hadn’t been elected. He was still on the campaign trail. Still, it may have been better if Melania (even with her broken English) had been there instead of you. Your being there made it appear that you were assuming the role of First Lady. It made it appear that you were part of diplomatic, confidential negotiations. You don’t even have security clearance!

And then to show off your line of jewelry! I thought you were intelligent! Do you realize the types of ethical concerns that were raised during that flight of fancy? Let me put this in commoner’s vernacular. There were subtle messages of bribery and coercion laced throughout that meeting. There are already rumors (not to mention outright statements) that diplomats and political emissaries feel they must stay at a Trump property when they visit. (Thus, they feel they must line the pockets of the new President. Argh!) The jewelry thing gave the impression that they must purchase your goods. You should have saved the marketing ploy for another place and another venue – or just left it to your marketing team. (Not to mention they’d have been much better at it.)

You haven’t learned about your father’s shouting tirades – yet. Kellyanne has been shielding you from them. She’ll be integral in doing that after the inauguration but one day. One day you’ll do the unacceptable and even those lurid comments about his beautiful, hot daughter will not protect you from the real man that we three wives know.

Use common sense, Ivanka. Being a woman of the people doesn’t mean flying on commercial airlines in coach. Being a woman of the people means doing things that bring you popularity among them because of your benevolence, because of your charisma. And those attributes will flow to you because you are promoting things that are reachable and desired by the average person aiming to reach a better status, not being able to purchase a several thousand-dollar bit of jewelry that only millionaires and billionaires can afford.

Use common sense, Ivanka. And if there is a God in Heaven, encourage your father to do likewise. It’s becoming an embarrassment to acknowledge that I was married to him.

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Truth and the Freedom Series

Both “Meet the Press” and “Face the Nation” considered the proposition that Russia was involved in hacking in the American election and also involved in rigging the election in order to make Trump the winner of the election.

During the last third of his campaign, Trump repeatedly and publicly alleged that the election was rigged. If he lost the election, Trump trumpeted, it would be proof that the election was rigged.

We reacted when the election results came in. A recount of the votes in three states was endeavored. Trump objected to the recount efforts. It’s been said in other places that his objections to the recounts make no sense. Having the votes recounted would confirm his victory in those states. So why is he objecting to the recounts?

The issue of a rigged election, interference by Russians in the American election process, was also part of the discussion. Trump’s persistent bellowing of interference and rigging continued all the way up to election day. But now his campaign team objects to being called on those allegations. They scream foul and claim the allegations are sour grapes.

candleflame - In search of the truth

In search of the truth

Actually, we’re now looking more closely at the claims and accusations that were pronounced by the candidate for President, Donald Trump. How can it be unfair to ask (again) for proof of the claims of election tampering?

On “Face the Nation,” Kellyanne Conway was asked a question about these campaign allegations. Instead of answering the question, she deflected it by turning to another aspect of the campaign and how unfair some of the DNC tactics were.

Some questions that need to be answered are whether there was in fact election tampering, whether there was hacking of the political parties (DNC as well as RNC), the veracity of the election results, and whether our President-elect can be trusted to help those who are in this country realize the Roosevelt promises of freedom of speech and worship as well as freedom from hunger and fear.

Observation: Time after time and with each passing day, we seem to be gifted with real, public scrutiny examples of the tools of an abuser.

Restriction from

Restriction from

In various times of allowing a dictatorship to overtake a country, things took hold because there were those who chose to do nothing for various reasons. Some chose inaction because they felt they did not have the power nor the tools nor the importance to resist or be an effective member of a resistance. Some remained inert because of fear based on many things that were relevant to their healthy existence. (It’s ironic that a dictatorship and tyranny lead to a very unhealthy existence.)

There were those who chose to act. Their numbers were small in regard to public presence. But there were also those who chose to act while staying in the background.

At some point in the near future, the many proofs of the campaign accusations and inflammatory rhetoric will emerge. Then we will be an informed public.

Meanwhile, we continue to create a new national culture that is no longer based on trust but fear. One of the healthy outcomes of this 2016 election is the motivation to become more educated about many aspects of our nation and the systems that caused it to be part of the Rockwell vision of “Freedom From.”

Sign and share the petition Evaluate Trump for Fitness to Serve

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Questioning the Problem of Gun Violence via Late Night Commentary

Stephen Colbert’s monologue for last night’s The Late Show was a statement about the Orlando mass shooting on June 12, 2016. That was followed (without any break) by an interview of Bill O’Reilly on the subject of mass killings, gun control, and what politicians are saying about the issue.

gunman in search of a target

Young thug with gun isolated on white

As someone from a Facebook conversation yesterday said and as O’Reilly pointed out, what we’re dealing with is a new form of warfare. O’Reilly considers this as a means of legitimizing national gun control laws at the federal level so that states rights does not come into play and so that one law prevails over interpretation of the rule.

Colbert’s monologue was moving. A link to the article about it takes us to the Conan O’Brien monologue that was equally touching.

A few months ago there was a proposal to make it legal for concealed carry in churches. Trump last month, as part of his campaign rhetoric, said teachers should be allowed to carry guns in the classroom. In light of some school officials having been videoed when they have slammed students to the ground, I don’t know that this would be a wise step. And in light of the fact that I know a person who is a teacher who is bi-polar, who refers to their students as savages, and who does things that are dangerous and disrespectful, I have to do the math and realize there are probably many others who have similar sentiments. Those people should not be allowed to even *own* guns, much less carry them.

I agree, the way to solve the problem is to define what the problem is. I agree, this is a travesty and it’s being imposed on us as citizens of a nation that is supposed to be great. I agree, this sickness must stop. What are some first steps toward defining the problem? If it is two-fold, or even multifoliate, what are the issues and how do we prioritize them?

After resolving the identification of the problem(s), what are the solutions.

The Colbert Show monologue and O’Reilly interview are here.

This is a concern. It is troubling that it gets repeated on an increasingly frequent basis but still there is no action to remedy the illness. It’s merely allowed to fester. Perhaps it will result in a national amputation of civility. I hope not. Unfortunately, that appears to be the trend.

Some argue that we need stricter gun control laws. We need to do better background checks. What good are background checks when those who fit the Betty White profile are dismissed as not a threat and don’t need to be investigated? And there’s no record of the fact (fact) that the person uses a BB gun to shoot small animals in their yard.

Reports of violent behavior can result in a person’s becoming unemployable. This is the case in matters of domestic violence. That is why the victim will refrain from filing charges. The abuser is the source of income for the household. Without those purse strings, the entire household will be on the streets in the blink of an eye.

Yet as of this date, a person on the “no fly list” does not prevent that person from being issued a gun license and thereafter being able to purchase guns and weapons. A person on the FBI list of person who should be monitored also has the freedom to become a licensed weapons owner. We need to question the reasonableness of these laws and protocols.

Even though this post was started the day after the Orlando incidents, the issues remain unresolved. Congress, taking a partisan stance to block progress of the other party and thereby prevent that party from receiving credit for being proactive in regard to public safety and welfare, disparaged the Democratic sit-in by calling it grandstanding. Perhaps that attitude is yet another form of grandstanding.

It’s time. It’s time to stop merely shaking our heads as we go numb for a few minutes or days and then pick up our heads and lives and resume Life as usual. It’s time. It’s time to start being about solutions and positive alternatives. It’s time. It’s time to start learning what the issues are. And it’s time to work toward a meeting of the minds in order to resolve this age of strife, unheeded screams for help and attention, and unmet needs of the people. It’s time for this was of humanity to stop.

We don’t need more late night commentaries about gun control. We need daily reasons to live whole and productive, fulfilling and meaningful lives.

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Cost of War cf Education

Americans are tired of being thrust into having their troops sent off to foreign wars. There are many reasons for the fatigue. Some of it is the toll it’s taking on lives lost and lives (as well as future opportunities) forever changed once the troops return home. And part of the frustration is that going to war could ease economic pressures and buoy the cost of living. No more.

The Cost of Education

Americans are also frustrated with the downward spiral of quality education, much less affordability of advanced education. The cost of education seems like a space shuttle on its way to a new solar system. If there has been no saving years before entering university, it’s necessary to seek student loans to finance one’s education. And those student loans leave an individual in deep debt for longer than it takes to pay off a mortgage.

The Protests

U.S. warfare cost in scholarship dollars

Cost of military hardware in scholarships. from Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal, Zach Weiner.

Many cartoons and other symbolic protests against the war and decrying the quality of education, as well as comparing the cost of each in dollars, have been cropping up through social media sites. But the one posted by my author colleague struck a chord.

Patriotism and War

Who remembers what it meant for Americans to go off to war during The Great War or World War II? What amount of patriotism existed during the Korean War? Ah, those were times when economies were still strong and it was entirely possible to live on minimum wage with the realistic expectation that there would be a timely increase in salary (within 3 months) that stayed ahead of the cost of living increase.

Eventually, we Americans started joining other countries that took up the noble causes of foreign wars where it was difficult to identify the allies from the foes. We became embroiled in civil wars. We had to pick and choose which side represented what was right and good.

And now we find ourselves thrust time and time again into religious and cultural wars. We now have civilian aid emissaries and The Press putting their lives in jeopardy in order to report on what is happening or to provide assistance to those who are the resident bystanders caught in the midst of the chaos. That’s just one of the costs of being involved in the war arena.

The Quality of Education

The cartoon compared the military costs in terms of scholarship dollars that could be used to educate our emerging workforce. That, in turn, evoked certain thoughts about the quality of education that is provided to our youth, nationwide. These days we have people “learning” but hard pressed to show evidence that they actually captured and are capable of applying the principles their degree announces they have earned.

At one time, earning a certain grade was indicative of the level of competence one had achieved in a particular subject. It was a time when grading consisted of learning more than 90% of the lesson in order to earn a grade of A. Performance on a test equivalent of *comprehension* of 80-90% of the content constituted earning a grade of B. Lower than 80% meant performing at merely an average level, but passable.

Evidence of Education

And those grades meant when put to the test in real world situations, being able to apply the principles could be called up by the “student” immediately and competently. The worker had incorporated the concepts and principles into their lives. They became articulate about what they were doing and why. They understood how to convey that information without becoming overbearing or having the need to defend their ego at the risk of being shown to be inadequate. They were hired based on the fact that they competently demonstrated a sample of their knowledge and abilities during brief one-hour meetings and conversations with a range of people at many levels of the organization. Once hired, the previews of their abilities proved to be accurate and they continued in their career progress. They got promoted.

More importantly, they maintained their positions and drove their own career progression by remaining up to date about innovations and new principles. They stayed aware of trends that affected the market.

The Cost of War

The cost of military tools has changed the way we do things and how being involved in warfare affects the economy. It’s changed the rate of unemployment – in the negative. It no longer means taking the pressure off of a jobless economy. Instead and for the last eight years, the cost of war has turned into a situation of throwing one set of poorly conceived economic principles in the air with one hand and then another set with the other hand. And this is done in such rapid succession that the rhetoric even becomes blurry.

The cost of war becomes a nation disjointed and dysfunctional. And all of that is compounded by a fractious Congress bent on partisan politics rather than serving the welfare its constituency.

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Zimmerman Standard

It is projected that the Treyvon Martin murder jury will reach a decision today. Many are bracing for civil disruption because the crowds feel the decision is wrong.

One thing we need to keep in mind is that (given there were no undue outside influences) the jury did the best it could with the information put before it and based on their processing of the facts and circumstances. If there was a mistake made in any regard, the parties have options. One of those options is appealing the judgment. There are many foundations for an appeal.

Yes, appealing a case is very time consuming. There are steps to be taken in a certain order within a certain amount of time. Appeals are also very costly. Sometimes appeals from trial court decisions do not happen because of the monetary factor.

If there was a procedural mistake, that can be appealed. And if the procedure is appealed, the foundation that gave rise to the mistake will also be scrutinized. The important matter is the fact that this incident went to a trial. The next important thing is that the jury’s decision will set a standard by which other jurisdictions can look for guidance in these types of circumstances.

The question of community standard as it impacts interpretation of the law in that jurisdiction will need to be evaluated by other jurisdictions. But the trial phase of the Treyvon Martin / George Zimmerman case will have come to a close and the standard for it will be set.

How will that decision impact others in similar situations? We don’t know if the jury will be taking that aspect into consideration. It isn’t usually part of the decision making process. But at least there will be a guide. It can be argued, modified, even overturned. But we had to start with looking at the question, the issues, and the evidence. Based on that criteria as well as how convincing counsels’ arguments and presentation of the case were, we will have a decision.

NB: The correct spelling of the shooting victim’s name is “Trayvon Martin”. A discussion of what the jury was tasked with determining can be found in a July 14, 2013 CNN news story, George Zimmerman found not guilty of murder in Trayvon Martin’s death.