Monthly Archives: June 2013

Trash Talk

This is a post where I am starting with no idea where I’m going.  I’m not sure how I feel and I am hoping to discover an opinion in an exploration of an issue.

The issue is:  Trash Talking.

Actually, the issue is deeper and much bigger than just that; it is the concept of engineering, rather than teaching, behavior.

When I read articles, such as one that I read today, about legislation being passed to stop certain behaviors in order to reduce:  a) Hurt feelings, b) Offensive actions or remarks, c) Stereotyping, d) Anger and/or violence that results, or e) All of the above;  untitledmy first reaction is an understanding of why such laws are passed and I sympathize with the premise.

However, I also think that it’s possible that the more a society protects itself in this way, the more vulnerable we can become.

Case in point:  The state of New Jersey has outlawed “trash talking” at high school sporting events:  http://news.yahoo.com/jersey-nothing-better-outlaw-trash-talking-high-school-150615870.html;_ylt=AwrNUPj4bMRRajQAHQD_wgt.

Trash talking is offensive and often riles the trash “talkees” into an irrational state of mind.  It is vulgar by design, it is intentionally insulting and disrespectful, and can incite many negative reactions.  It is contrary to “good sportsmanship” which should be the primary intention in all, but specifically education-based athletics.

I AGREE with the premise of the new law, but it does challenge the First Amendment.  While it is not lawful to slander, libel or to incite a riot or sedition, it is lawful to be an ass.  It isn’t ethical or moral to be offensive, but it might be legal.

Behavior needs to be taught, not enforced by legislation.  We can have zero tolerance policies when it comes to vulgar words and actions in schools, or for “bullying” but these policies do not necessarily stop the offensive or violent behavior, they simply move it elsewhere.

If a player on a football field rises to a higher level of competition because the competitive anger the game requires is transposed into language, we cannot benfl-trash-talk surprised at that manifestation; but what we can do, if we are concerned as parents, educators or spectators, is take on the responsibility to teach the “offenders” alternative or more ethical standards and show examples of the behavior we expect.

I am as repulsed as anyone when I hear a racial epithet, but, where I make a distinction is in the fact that I want to end the intention behind a racial slur by promoting equality, but I do not believe that forbidding the slur takes even one step in that direction.

If I hear someone make a sexist comment (I’ve even reprimanded myself), I am compelled to correct them.

When people swear in a context where society has generally agreed that it is inappropriate, I will express my displeasure or ask that respect be shown to others.

I walk away from ethnic or sexist jokes.

My children don’t swear.  Once, recently, my 14 year old was so angry at me that he hollered, “What the HELL are you doing?”

I told him that I found his words and tone disrespectful, and it hasn’t happened since.  It could, I’m sure, but I’m also sure that it will never be a habit.

We are a society of laws, that’s a fact, and laws keep the parameters of civilization manageable and lead us closer to real justice, but we cannot have a law for everything we don’t like; we cannot legislate every questionable behavior.  Not when that legislation is replacing what it is that we should be doing:  TEACHING.

20100609-parents-talk-teen-son-300x205Teaching ethics, morality, kindness, compassion, generosity….teaching how not to be an ass.

So, that’s where I was going with this…

Giving Idiots a Bad Name

It is fairly common that a mass email will reach me like the one below.  This one was a list of things (perceived contradictions in policy) that concluded, if they were true, that “you might live in a country founded by geniuses but run by idiots.”3346788533_Idiocracy_movie_poster_xlarge

I’m sure that there are some idiots in government, but the laundry list of reasons documented in the email fail to make any real points.  These kinds of things circulate en masse and I imagine that it’s because they strike a chord with many citizens who feel that it represents what is wrong with America, but, false rhetoric is not a true platform.

Before I bloviate too much here myself, I’d like to address each of the statements in this email.  I give part of the statements and then offer my response to each.

1)      “…you can get arrested for hunting or fishing without a license, but not for being in the country illegally…”

There is this thing about being a free nation that operates contrary to fascism and implies that we don’t have to carry citizenship papers wherever we go within our borders.  Or are we going to designate only certain ethnicities?  Can I assume that Scandinavian looking people will be exempt?

Illegal immigrants, when caught, are arrested, charged and deported.  If they continue to immigrate illegally they can face up to 7 years in prison.  But, because this is a country where some founding fathers thoughtterr that impartial justice would be a good idea, illegal immigrants still retain Fourth Amendment protections against unreasonable search and seizure and Fifth Amendment protections against self-incrimination.

2)      “…you have to get your parent’s permission to go on a field trip or take an aspirin in school, but not to get an abortion…”

Most states require one of two types of parental involvement– consent or notification, or both.  35 states require parental involvement in a minor’s decision to have an abortion, with 22 demanding consent.  Based on a national study, 61% of young women voluntarily notified at least one parent when seeking an abortion; those who do not are often the victims of sexual abuse, incest or domestic violence.  Among those that chose not to inform their parents or guardians, all chose to consult an adult.

Studies from “Pediatricians for Reproductive Choice and Health” also indicate that parental consent laws do not reduce the rate of unwanted teen pregnancies, nor do they deter determined young women from seeking abortion, and they can increase the number of second trimester and illegal abortions by deterring pregnant teens from seeking safe, timely abortion. (For example, after a parental notification law was passed in Minnesota, second trimester abortions increased by 27%).

This is an emotional subject and I am not making a political statement here; I am seeking to clarify a reality that contradicts the email.

3)      “…you have to show identification to board an airplane, cash a check…buy liquor…but NOT when you go to vote…”

These are completely different issues.  We show an ID on a plane to verify that we are the holder of the ticket for security reasons.  Not that long ago, it wasn’t required.  ID to buy liquor is to confirm that you are old enough.

Boarding airplanes and buying liquor, however, are not rights guaranteed by our citizenship, as is the right to vote.  Without the requirement of proof of age, would anyone like to guess how many minors would purchase alcohol illegally?  Too many.

Who would like to get on a plane these days not knowing if the person next to you is the person who bought the ticket?  I wouldn’t.  Would anyone like to guess the percentage of documented voter fraud?  It’s .0002%.  Not really worth the trouble and cost to create and enforce voter identification.

So…what is voter ID really about?  Well, I’ll leave that for another post.

4)       “…the government wants to ban stable, law-abiding citizens from owning gun magazines…but gives 20 F-16 fighter jets to the new crazy leaders in Egypt…”

This one would make me laugh if I didn’t know that to many people it’s a “right on!” statement.  The answer is pretty simple:  Gun regulations are designed to discourage citizens who are NOT stable and law abiding.  And if gun magazines over 10 rounds are not sufficient force for you, then perhaps, you aren’t the “stable, law abiding citizen” you think you are.

This is not a foreign policy post, but, like it or not, Egypt is a strategic ally, and after the transition to democracy during the Arab Spring, the strategic importance of Egypt is even more relevant.  For the record, the Bush Administration gave $2 billion annually to Egypt, more than half of which went to their military.  There is a long history of US aid to Egypt, especially since Egyptian President, Anwar Sadat (1970-81).  In fact, they are second, only to Israel, in the receipt of American aid.

5)       “…an 80 year old woman can be stripped searched by the TSA, but a woman in a hijab is only subject to having her neck and head searched…”

This one is too ludicrous to spend a whole lot of time on.  First of all the woman in the hijab went through an X-Ray just like everyone else.  The case where an “80 year old liberty-tsa-pat-downwoman” was searched at JFK was because she was observed to have an unusual bump under her dress.

Unfortunate and embarrassing to be sure, but not a double standard.  Muslim women in hijabs are patted down or searched, if necessary, just like everyone else.

I offer this article to clarify the myth:  http://www.examiner.com/article/are-muslim-women-exempt-from-screening-other-tsa-myths

6)      “…a 7 year old boy can be thrown out of school for saying his teacher is ‘cute’ but hosting a sexual exploration or diversity class in grade school is perfectly acceptable…”

I must have missed Sexual Exploration and Diversity class in Grade School.  TherethCA6475RI were Sex Education classes at my High School that were designed to teach puberty-busting teenagers responsibility, and understanding of the most basic and fundamental part of being human.

As for a boy being thrown out of school for calling his teacher “cute”….I don’t know if that’s a true story, but I will assume that it is.  I think that’s ludicrous, if it happened, but if it did, it was the result of our societal awareness of appropriate behavior, and perhaps, in this case, a school thought a lesson was to be learned.  What it isn’t is a rational comparison to reveal loose standards regarding sex education.

The final entry in this already too long email diatribe was:

7)      “If the government’s plan for getting people back to work is to incentivize them NOT to work with 99 weeks of unemployment checks….you might be in a country run by idiots!”

In 2008, the United States was mired in what was a bottomless recession.  Unemployment from that recession grew 2.3% from the end of 2007 to 2008 and steadily rose until it hit its ceiling in October of 2009 at 10%.  The extension (up to 99 weeks) occurred in November of 2009 at the peak of unemployment and can be directly associated with creating sustenance and extending opportunities for out of work families to find jobs.  The unemployment rate has been dropping since.

In summary…the email that circulated was, as are many documents, websites, blogs,082409arugbook and news channels, an erroneous collection of shortsighted, incomplete, and dangerous pseudo-facts, that do nothing to improve our arguments or our legislation.  They serve only to fan the flames of political bias, obstinacy, and ignorance, and are contrary to progress.

Gary out.

“You like me! You really like me!”

I realized something.fanfare10

(Pause.  Wait for fanfare to subside)

Many of the arguments we are having over politics are not always about policy as much as they are about perceptions.  My evidence is anecdotal, but my observations are pretty consistent.  Both sides will admit that their side has done many of the things that they are up in arms about concerning the other side, but both sides, believe that their leaders are doing so with a more noble character, while the other side is Hell-bent on world domination through evil tyranny.obama-devil-worship-212

President Obama certainly didn’t invent the authorization of warrantless wiretapping, in fact, the use of it under his watch, is in line with where it was going under the vague parameters outlined by the Patriot Act.

The Patriot Act was a hasty revision, after 9/11, of the nation’s surveillance laws that vastly expanded the government’s authority to spy on its own citizens, while reducing the checks and balances to contain those powers.  Judicial oversight, public accountability, and the ability to challenge government searches in court were thrown aside in 2001 (not 2013).

Today this power may appear to be more invasive than at any previous time, however, this identical controversy raged under President Bush, and nothing in today’s realization of National Security is a divergence from what that expansion of surveillance granted.  The technology has grown, along with the diversity of threats, and, therefore, so has its use.

What the rightwing is up in arms about is the fact that it is Obama and not Bush (or Romney) exercising this abuse of our civil liberties.  One conservative on Facebook offered:  “We cannot let this man (Obama) continue to run his personal agenda of tyrannical rule.”

image_thumbA bit dramatic, but that was followed by post after post reiterating that this is a result of Barack Obama basically trying to become nothing short of Stalin.

They didn’t feel that way about George Bush, though, because they liked him.  They trusted his intentions because he was of their party.  Apparently, we all know how kind, generous and lovable we are, personally, and so we are more comfortable with government overreach when it’s by people of our own kind.

People (like me) who LIKE Barack Obama, feel that he is trying to do the right thing, that he is in a uniquely difficult situation (damned if you do, damned if you don’t) and we continue to support him- even though many of us feel that his continuation of Patriot Act policy is wrong.  We want to work from within, where we support the administration to offer criticism that will correct, and not destroy.

What I felt during George W Bush’s presidency is that we had a man without clear vision at the helm.  I didn’t think he was stupid, but I believed that he was a puppet to people that I REALLY didn’t like; neo-cons like Cheney, Wolfowitz, Rove, and Perle who reeked of cronyism and a self-serving agenda.  So…whatever President Bush did, had to pass through that filter for me, and rarely did it come out smelling clean.

This is what Republicans are doing with President Obama and his cabinet.  There was a news item (from that left wing media) that questioned Vice President Biden’s taste as he made funny comments about the late Senator Frank Lautenberg at his funeral.  I watched the video and the Vice President was funny and warm telling stories about a man that he had known and worked closely with for decades.  It was exactly the kind of eulogy I would hope someone would make at my funeral (a long time from now).

Then I decided to venture over into Right Wing Cyberspace to see what people were saying….

“Biden the clown embarrasses himself again.”

“How inappropriate to make JOKES at a funeral!”

“I hate Biden!  He has no taste whatsoever.  We have to get rid of these fools!”

Every comment was pre-disposed toward disliking anything that the Vice President might do and so the “controversial” display of a funny eulogy for a colleague and friend was more than enough to bolster their negative impression of the man.

I happen to know Joe Biden (I’m not name dropping, but I met him in 2007 when he Vice President Joe Biden stopped for ice cream at Widner Drug and Gift in Manchester, Iowa on Tuesday, June 26, 2012. Biden said Tuesday, Mitt Romney was good at creating jobs throughout his career in the private sector just in countries other than the United States. (AP Photo/The Des Moines Register, Bryon Houlgrave)campaigned in Iowa for President and I supported him at events and even introduced him).  He is one of the brightest, most informed, funny and warm individuals I’ve ever met.  He is the kind of representative everyone should want in Washington and he is instrumental in inspiring me to consider public service.

I like Joe Biden and so I am pre-disposed to giving his actions, ideas and policies the benefit of my admiration.  Just like people who like George Bush or Dick Cheney (of course, that would be limited to Mrs. Cheney).

This is not to say that there are not significant differences between Democrats and Republicans and between liberals and conservatives; many of those differences are diametrically opposed and unavoidably lead us to angry rhetoric.  My point here is rather pedestrian, but nevertheless, important:  We are not arguing over what is best for America, we are colliding over who is best, based on whether or not we trust them.  The problem is that trust is being predicated on what party they belong to and not from a fair judgment of character.

I don’t think Reagan, Bush, Clinton, Bush, Obama, or NIXON, for that matter, had any intention other than to serve the American people to the best of their ability and from their personal understanding of what that means, and I believe that they sought the Presidency because they were inspired by patriotism and a genuine love for America’s ideals.

ALL of these men (and someday I hope to chastise women the same way) were flawed WashingtonPost-NixonDeniesRoleInCoverUpand surrounded by others who are flawed, who are themselves, surrounded by a flawed population.  If only we could learn to trust the collective genius of our Founding Fathers who created a representative Republic framed by checks and balances to overcome those flaws and to “smite unto death the tyranny of kings, hierarchs, and oligarchs, and carry the glad tidings of peace and good will…”

We would pave the way for corrections to make us stronger and diminish the destructive dialogues that are weakening our resolve.

Confessions of a “Hollywood Liberal”

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This morning in the Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier this rebuttal appeared to a column that I had written the week before:  http://wcfcourier.com/news/opinion/guest_column/questions-for-liberals/article_f518ea5c-ced4-11e2-9026-001a4bcf887a.html.

I will also offer my column if anyone wishes to use it as a reference:  http://wcfcourier.com/news/opinion/guest_column/have-you-taken-stock-of-your-jeopardized-liberties-lately/article_b252beb0-c947-11e2-b3ad-0019bb2963f4.html.

For the record, I consider Van Miller to be a friend, and I have tremendous respect for him and the business he has created.  He is a smart and generous man.  However, with regard to his article, he has made my reply too easy.

Let’s start with my friend “Steve” (in reality I changed his name).  I don’t believe anyone attends Northwestern University dreaming of becoming a fast food manager and Steve was no exception.  Having lofty ambitions to become a writer, director and actor, he worked at Burger King in the evenings to make his attendance possible.  As Mr. Miller points out there is nothing wrong with being a manager at Burger King and today the benefits are very good (for managers), but they weren’t back then and that would be more relevant to this point, but still irrelevant to Steve’s story.

I don’t want to belittle the company or anyone in food service and Mr. Miller is correct when he points out that the fast food industry generates billions in sales and creates jobs, but he should realize that most of the jobs that it creates are not full time positions with benefits; those belong to managers.  What do you suppose that ratio (managers to employees) would equal?  Not as impressive as Mr. Miller has suggested.

No, what is relevant is that Steve was among the best in his chosen profession and he did quite well for a long time.  But, ageism took him out of the mainstream of employment opportunities and for the past 10 years he didn’t make enough to qualify for guild benefits.  Mr. Miller is very successful and I compliment his business acumen, but, perhaps he has forgotten what making less than 50,000 dollars a year is like and having to pay for family health coverage out of pocket without an employer or guild match.  After taxes, and costs of living, many Americans have to roll the dice with regard to health care.

donny and marieMr. Miller dismisses me as another “Hollywood Liberal.”  Not that I would be ashamed of that because Hollywood liberals are among the brightest people I know, however, I didn’t become a liberal in Hollywood.  I grew up in a house where I observed and was taught egalitarianism, critical thinking, compassion and about civil rights.  I am still the same Iowa bred, moderate-liberal.

Finally, with regard to questioning a statistic I tossed out concerning “scandals” from the Bush and Obama administrations, I seem to have placed a burr in the saddle of Republicans who read my column (read the comments that follow and on my Facebook page).  They simply have to believe that Obama defines corruption and any attempt to illuminate history that contradicts that premise is “left wing bias.”

How soon they forget…the George W Bush presidency…

1) The Valerie Plame spy outing,  2) Mismanaged intelligence gathering in Iraq (or you can call it “WMD lies” to justify invasion), 3) Remember Jack Abramoff? (Look him up if you don’t), 4) Enron (close administration ties),  5)  Ashcroft’s violations of campaign finance laws  6)  Abu Ghraib (torture made fun?),  7) Cheney’s secretive Energy Commission and giving Halliburton drilling rights denied to others (polluting drinking water),  8) The Medicare scam where the administration lied to Congress about actual costs of legislation (I’m sure Mr. Miller remembers that one), and 9) the “Terrorist Surveillance Program” (warrantless wiretapping).

I’m up to 9 and I haven’t even gone online to do research yet.  Mr. Miller mentioned 4 Obama scandals, but consider that one is a continuation of existing NSA policy since President Bush and two others have shown NO direct connection with the President.  The gunwalking scandal points to the Attorney General.  I won’t deny that was a bad plan, but an aggressive program to smoke out gun trafficking to Mexican Cartels is not something I can’t understand and I’m not really incensed over it.

And you know what?  I’ll bet a dollar to a donut that Mr. Miller isn’t really either….so, in my view…3:1 was being generously kind.

christmas cardGenerous…just like you’d expect from a Hollywood Liberal.

 

 

P.S.  Mr. Miller’s comment from his rebuttal about a “Stand down” order from President Obama to military in Benghazi is erroneous.  The only testimony that has been given contradicts that Fox News assertion.  And as for the President “taking credit” for the killing of Bin Laden, he never took any credit save for the fact that it required a presidential order to go through with the mission.  Perhaps, Mr. Miller believes that George “Mission Accomplished” Bush would have been more modest.

 

Peek-a-boo! I see YOU!

A friend posted an indictment of President Obama’s surveillance policy (as a realization of the Patriot Act) with regard to wiretaps by the NSA.  You can find it here at:  30 Oct 2009, Washington, DC, USA --- "Washington, DC - October 30, 2009 -- United States President Barack Obama plays peek-a-boo with Maeve Beliveau, the daughter of Director of Advance Emmett Beliveau, in the Outer Oval Office, October 30, 2009. Mandatory Credit: Pete Souza - White House via CNP" --- Image by © Pete Souza/White House/Handout/CNP/Corbishttp://www.businessinsider.com/new-york-times-obama-nsa-phone-scandal-editorial-nyt-2013-6.

It was of particular interest because it was from the editorial board of the New York Times, a paper considered by many to have a liberal bias.  The reason I am offering this article is because I agree with it.  I believe that the President is allowing government overreach in the name of security, and I believe that we are compromising fundamental aspects of freedom by taking liberties with the 4th, 5th, and 1st amendments; all designed to protect our personal freedom.

Overreach is an abuse of power.

But I offer a caveat.  A huge caveat:  When we make this an Obama-specific issue we are causing a stalemate for the solution.  The post drew applause from right wingers who chastise every move this President makes, yet I never heard a peep from them when the Patriot Act was created.  I never heard “boo” from them when President Bush created the “Terrorist Surveillance Program” that first allowed the NSA to conduct habeas_corpus_guantanamowarrantless wiretapping.

I never heard a whimper of criticism from these same people who are accusing President Obama of a tyrannical abuse of power when a previous President defended his suspension of habeas corpus for suspected terrorists, domestic or foreign.

This isn’t backpeddling on my position of adherence to the Bill of Rights, but a question arises that exploits a contradiction within the electorate.

Let’s say, public outcry for this government invasion of privacy brings about legislation that makes it impossible to do this kind of warrantless surveillance.  And then….let’s imagine that an act of domestic terrorism takes place where innocent Americans are killed.

thCAY5LSKANow…what if an investigation reveals that a more aggressive and clandestine surveillance policy would have stopped the event from taking place?  Let’s drill down even further and let’s say someone you knew was killed and it is revealed that warrantless surveillance could have thwarted the terrorist cell from the committing the crime….

Now, where do you stand?

This is the paradox and why, especially post-9/11, government intelligence has expanded the gray areas of what is allowable and what is not in accordance to our rights to privacy.

However, I stand by my personal position that we cannot allow for unrestricted surveillance because security that compromises our individual liberties is a contradiction.  We also have to recognize that this dilemma was created by all of us, right, left, and in-between, and is not solely the overreaching of this administration; it is the extension of what we have allowed and even demanded as an electorate.

But, finger pointing, contradictions and double standards seem to rule the public debate.  I woke up the other day to a post that said I had declared my candidacy for the Iowa House (I haven’t).  It was posted by a former candidate who ran as a Republican for the House several years ago and for the Iowa Senate two years ago.  He lost both times and although I consider him a friend, I opposed him largely because of his antiquated, fundamentalist views against civil rights for gay Americans.

I think he bears ill-will toward me because he wrote:  “I think you’ll find running…and losing…a rewarding experience.”

The post was quickly populated by his conservative friends, all of whom, chastised me because I’m a Democrat.  One said, “Kroeger would be a vote against America and Freedom!”

Another: “I read his column the other day and it was all bullshit.”  (http://wcfcourier.com/news/opinion/guest_column/have-you-taken-stock-of-your-jeopardized-liberties-lately/article_b252beb0-c947-11e2-b3ad-0019bb2963f4.html)

It went from there.  I did fire back at that one, but once I expose myself in attendance I am begging for the litany of insults that will follow and so quickly I bowed out.  It doesn’t really upset me to be called an “idiot,” or “another brainwashed liberal,” because the people throwing such darts rarely elevate their own thoughts above name-calling, but it is pointless to defend.  “Bullshit” was probably one of the more sophisticated adjectives used to describe my views.

Most of the hostile reaction was directed at a statement where I offered: “America can improve and so can this administration, but unless we can acknowledge good things that have happened in the past 4 years, the discourse is nothing but partisan and hostile.”

I had pointed out in my article (the one full of “bullshit”) that the stock market was robust (it is), that my mortgage rate was still good (it is), that friends of mine who have lived in fear without health insurance are now relieved (they are), and that combat operations have ended in Iraq, Bin Laden is dead, and we are reducing troops in Afghanistan (they have, he is and we are).  Not sure where the bullshit lies.

My point was to illustrate that we can improve but when we are constantly ducking for cover because “The sky is falling!” then the conversations that could better our situation become more difficult, if not impossible.

It occurs to me that being in government is a lot like being in advertising, which is my profession.  When a client is getting traffic and selling products, it is because they have good products, good service and a good reputation.  When they aren’t, it’s because the advertising sucks.

We have major policy issues in America, unemployment is still too high, and we have a debt/interest rate crisis, but…businesses are growing again, unemployment is coming down, deficit spending is half of what it was at the end of Bush’s second term, the stock market hit new highs, the housing market has rebounded, American cars are selling again, yet according to many Republicans, “Obama is the worst President in history!”

You can’t win for losing.

I AM declaring my candidacy!  But, not for next year, for some time thereafter…maybe 2016.  Meanwhile, I’m going to continue writing about and debating the issues I believe America needs to address.

And government- Stay away from my phone, my email and my texts!

Feel free to read my blog.