Monthly Archives: October 2015

We the People

“I never believed there was one code of morality for a public and another for a private man.” – Thomas Jefferson


Last week I officially announced my endorsement of Senator Bernie Sanders for President of the United States. Conventional wisdom in politics is that it is not politicallyFB_IMG_1445776429406 expedient for a congressional candidate to make a primary (or caucus) endorsement because of the risk of alienating other voters.

My decision to move forward with my endorsement was based on several things, but primarily it was this: Political expediency is the antithesis of representative democracy.

I entered this congressional race specifically to mount a campaign that was not contingent upon polls, but relied on following the compass of my conscience as I listened to people’s concerns. That has meant calling attention to LGBTQ rights when those civil rights were not front and center. That has meant calling attention to climate change when pundits said that wasn’t an election issue. It means taking on the gun lobby and corporate special-interests even when surrounded by the immense influence of both.

20151023_193241-1This is a time in American history when the Progressive Movement must be bold and genuine. That does not mean that we are creating “extremism” it means we must adhere to uncompromised “rationalism.” It means that our actions must be based on reason; from research, from the facts that history provides, and making decisions that benefit a Republic of, by and for, the people.

I am not against the candidacy of Hillary Clinton nor do I oppose Martin O’Malley, but my political ideology, which holds the Preamble to the Constitution to its highest standard, and my purpose to work toward changing a course 10436that has moved us toward oligarchy, aligns best with Senator Sanders. And I see no reason to hide or dodge that association. In fact, to do so would betray my own premise for running.

No endorsement should be a blank check to a specific platform, but rather a testament to the character of the candidate and the conviction of their purpose. There are issues where I differ somewhat with Senator Sanders, but that is healthy. Where I find our most common ground is from the fact that he has never been swayed by the winds of political expediency and he has always followed his conscience.

As Senator Sanders says at every event, this movement is not about him, it is about all of us. My goal is to get to Washington as the representative from Iowa’s First District, but my race is thNKXU32AKnot about me, either. It is about upholding a Constitution that begins with:

“We the People…”

Christians, Deists, and Unitarians, Oh My!

200 years is a long time to keep anything going. Consider the world 200 years ago and you won’t find much that resembles the world today; not in the United States, anyway.

200 years ago the War of 1812 rocked our newly won sovereignty to its core as residual resentments between our Union and Britain remained, and a bloody, 32 month conflict was ended only after Washington was burned to the ground.

State of the art transportation was a horse drawn buggy, candles and oil lamps lit rooms and hallways, armies fought with muskets, slaves comprised the manual labor of agrarian states, and agreements were honored with just a handshake to bind them.

A Declaration of Independence and our Constitution, drafted from a Revolution, were still relatively new, and America, although growing more powerful from that promise of freedom, was still considered an experiment in Democracy; no one was absolutely certain that it would work.

Central to the theme of this great republican trial was religious freedom, arguably the cornerstone of all the freedoms our founding fathers envisioned and designed in their documents to uphold a constitutional government.

It was nearly 200 years before the revolution when immigrants from England made the treacherous journey across the Atlantic to escape the Church of England seeking freedom from persecution. Over time they, themselves, exercised their own forms of persecution between settlers of other denominations, but central to the cause of the immigration to America was a concept of freedom.

It was amorphous and roughly drawn from their sense of dignity coupled with desperation, but it was nevertheless the motivation for their adventure to an unknown land and was the premise by which they would form new laws, and begin to resist a King.

By the mid-18th century colonial farmers and tradesmen still carried the torch of the original pilgrims adventure, but now these Americans were turning their collective spirit toward the tyranny of a British Monarchy that demanded from them what their innate sense of justice told them was unfair.

10 years after the implementation of The Stamp Act in 1765, the colonists declared war against Britain on the grounds of unfair taxation, and from the historic winds of change rose a rag tag collection of Christians, Deists, and Unitarians who transcribed the calling of human beings toward freedom and justice into words of action.

Thomas Paine’s “Common Sense,” published in January of 1776, is regarded as the original primer that put this aggregate spirit of freedom into the context of a new government and to fan the populist flame of revolution.

Only 6 months later Americans read the Declaration of Independence for the first time and now a document existed to eloquently express a noble purpose.

(Note: While I forgive our revolutionary forebears for the context and complexities of their time, I cannot overlook that human bondage was a legal practice that took another hundred years to abolish).

The Declaration makes it clear that governments created by humanity derive their powers from the consent of the governed, and it served as the adumbration for the Constitution which followed. It is not a legal document, but a statement of purpose to define and to defend the Inalienable Rights of Men (human beings) in the pursuit of Life, Liberty and Happiness.

When the Revolution was won and a Constitution was drafted, the framers very carefully constructed its First Amendment: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

There is no mistaking what these words mean. They are the very definition of our hard won Republic and they frame the security upon which it rests.

“No law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof” specifically and clearly outlines that we cannot fall under the auspices of a national religion, and that any religion can be freely followed or expressed.  If there is any leeway for interpretation it would only regard the freedom from religious practice, as well, but no free nation, founded on inalienable rights, can exclude non practicing agnostics and atheists.

Freedom of speech is a broad concept in terms of what it entails, but it is specific at the same time as it means that government cannot legislate to curtail the free expression of ideas.

This would again, logically, include the expression of religious beliefs, but as we have the right to express them, they cannot become the law of the land.

This Grand Experiment in Democracy is now a third of a century past 200 years, and while we can rest assured that we are stronger today from the fruits harvested from freedom, the conviction of some of our constitutional principles are fading or forgotten.

The modern interpretation of the original rebellion that calls itself “The Tea Party” has carried into its vague (yet dogmatic) agenda, theocratic ideas that are contrary to our founding purpose.

tea-party-300x182They, and many others with an extreme conservative philosophy, believe that we should be a Christian nation; that the Founding Fathers constructed and fought for a nation with exclusively Christian principles; that the “natural God” and the “Creator” referred to in the Declaration of Independence was specifically the Christian God.

It is almost on a daily basis that I will read or hear someone state the belief that our Founder’s design for America was born exclusively from Christianity.  But, when we look critically at the story of our nation it is clear that such an exclusionary religious concept is contrary to all of our freedoms and would be, in fact, un-constitutional.

It is irrefutable that Christianity was a primary influence on the creation of our nation and that Christianity embraces many of the moral directives that define our ideal Republic, but it is also irrefutable that one religion cannot be the sole proprietor of such virtues.

And to secure our freedom for the next 200 years we must be vigilant toward understanding that distinction.

Crazy on you!

I was reading an MSN article on why people voted the way they did last year.  Most of the people who voted Republican were pretty consistent as to what two issues defined the races for them.  The issues that concerned them the most were expanding government, and economic progress (or the perceived lack of).

Woman-at-Dulles-Airport-Wearing-Hazmat-Suit-for-Ebola-e1413537522167Other relevant, but less pressing issues were immigration reform, gun control and even Ebola containment.  The article, comprised of polls, drilled down into the commonly shared beliefs among conservatives that climate change is fake, regulations on business are too restrictive, and that taxes are too high.

Believe it or not, Obamacare, while still something they opposed across the board, was not the most serious to conservative voters.

I stepped into the fray to comment on social media and my posts were CrazyTrainmet with criticism from my right wing friends, three of whom called me a “crazy liberal” and one called me a “commie.”   But, that got me to thinking….not in a defensive way, but because I have yet to understand what they mean.

What is so far-out, crazy, left-wing about…..

Gun Control?  Guns are lethal force and 2nd Amendment interpretations aside, I certainly don’t think it’s insane to believe that not everyone who wants one should be carrying one.   We may disagree on what restrictions are necessary, but is it really far-granny20with20gunout to think that the proliferation of guns might not be the best way to contain gun violence?

When there are studies that conclude that gun violence increases by a factor of 3 in homes that have firearms, is it a liberal interpretation only that is sobered by that information?

Equal Rights?  This may be the historical domain of liberal ideology, but is it CRAZY to think it’s unfair that women earn over 20% less than a man for the same work?

Is it a dramatic swing to the left to interpret the civil rights defended in our Constitution to include…everybody?

How is it exclusively a liberal cause to be sure that our immigration laws serve impartial justice?

Environmental Protection?  Don’t we all live on the same planet, breathe the same air, and drink from the same rivers?  Again, we may disagree on what the parameters are, but is restricting the CO2 pumped into our atmosphere, or pollutants into our lakes and streams or limiting pipelines that deface our Amber Waves of Grain, a liberal concept alone?

Is it so FAR to the left to consider warnings from a majority of environmentalists and climatologists?

Keynsian Economics?  This is the subject that divides us the most critically, and one which will likely never reach a consensus, but is it a screaming liberal position to look at the historical record of economics?

Liberals didn’t create Keynsian Economic theory, they just used it, and from its most profound application during the Great Depression, there is evidence that there just might be some validity to it.

Disagree it you’d like.  Offer counter evidence!  But what it isn’t, is crazy

Health Care?  This one is a real head scratcher for me.  Eisenhower proposed government subsidies to businesses that offered coverage.  Nixon proposed employer mandates.  The conservative Heritage Foundation proposed the individual mandates to create a health market.  Mitt Romney ran with it!

Call the Affordable Health Act what you want, but what it isn’t, is Universal Health Care.  Call it an expansion of government, but to call it left wing is….wrong.

Many on the left, myself included, call our ideology “Progressivism.”AR-701089997

Progressivism, the first born child of liberalism from the Age of Enlightenment, didn’t find its voice in America until President Theodore Roosevelt, himself a Republican, coined the term to carve out his agenda.  That agenda was social justice; safety and health standards, labor laws, a living wage and protection against the hazards of sickness and irregular employment.

It was to regulate corporate America insofar as to protect the prosperity of the working class and to navigate us away from the inevitable trend toward corporate oligarchy.

And it fought for the protection and enhancement of America’s natural resources.

Roosevelt’s progressive agenda was not embraced by the party he called his own, but the truth of the matter is that Roosevelt and the Progressives were seeking a greater realization of “freedom.”

-Freedom to prosper without being exploited by industrial barons.

-Freedom to live in a clean environment and to share access to America’s resources.

-Freedom to live and work safely with protection from unforeseeable health hazards.

Today, “progressives” have added to that journey toward freedom tenets of racial, sexual and cultural equality.  They have added the advocation of common sense policy to contain misuse of lethal force (300,000,000 guns exist in American homes).

The movement that calls itself the Tea Party has centered its platform on Libertarian ideals of personal freedom, but ironically they have only championed a distilled concept of such, and one that is far shy of what Roosevelt’s progressives had imagined.

The Tea Party has focused freedom into a defense of the 2nd Amendment guaranteeing the right to bear arms; to shrink government, specifically to lower taxes; and to pander to corporate interests, obstensibly to encourage wealth to have the freedom to accumulate without restrictions.

My perspective differs from the new right.  I don’t feel encumbered by the FDA, the FBI, CDC, EPA, FAA or the Department of Education for that matter.  In fact, I probably feel a little better knowing that there are environmental, law enforcement, and health programs out there working for my welfare.

I don’t feel less free for paying about 25 cents out of every dollar toward running and defending this country

romney-taxes(breaks and shelters allow a guy like Mitt Romney to pay closer to 14%).

I have two brothers and both have worked in government and I can say first hand that there are redundancies and programs that are wasteful.  I don’t think even a “crazy liberal” believes otherwise or that government can’t get too big.  But no coherent, analyzed, comprehensive, logical, plan has ever been presented by the Tea Party, or Republicans for that matter, to honestly change that paradigm.  Except to implement draconian austerity measures and to toss around platitudes to ignite their base:  Government fails!  Cut taxes!  Cut welfare!  We don’t need the EPA or a Department of Education!

There is a paradoxical swing in society that is both inevitable and confusing.  While human beingsthCAUSBW39 naturally evolve toward progress (polls show that even though people voted Republican, many support liberal ideas), there is also a natural counter-balance toward conservative values to protect ourselves from too much at once.

Our evolution, while trending toward social justice, also moves a faction farther to the right, pulling the center along.  Today, Republicans once considered moderate are being called “RINO’s” (Republicans In Name Only) by the new right.  Imagine how they categorize any liberal.

So allow me to conclude by going back to where this began.  We can disagree.  We will surely use different sources for information.  We may always be diametrically opposed on several things.  But if you think we’re crazy, commies over here…then you are so crazy to the right, that we’re not going to get anywhere….

The Shooting Paradigm

“Guns don’t kill, people do.”

That is often repeated by the NRA, the pro-gun lobby and 2nd Amendment “purists” to defend the possession of firearms and to get guns off the hook after violent crimes.  It’s such a seemingly logical turn of a phrase that it’s embraced in that community as Soundbite Gospel.

But, it belies the real situation and betrays solutions to gun violence.

Technically, what actually kills is neither a gun nor a person, but a small projectile usually made of lead that entered a victim anywhere from 700 to over 1900 miles per hour and tore apart a vital life support function.

Simply put, when a trigger is pulled, a hammer strikes a firing pin and ignites the primer which, in turn, ignites gunpowder within a shell.   As the powder burns, it creates expanding gas which propels the bullet down the barrel of the gun.

The projectile is what does the actual killing, but obviously, as an inanimate object it has no authentic responsibility for the action; it is merely the function of the firing mechanism that propelled it toward the target.

pengunHaving the same inert property as the bullet, the gun, by itself, has no criminal responsibility, either; a human being is required to set the mechanism into motion by pulling the trigger, and, therefore, bears the only true responsibility for the event.  But this is where the gun supporters are led astray.

We tend to think of firing a gun as a one-step process, it is fired, but that over-simplifies the reality of what has happened and obfuscates solving issues of misuse.

In reality, the firing of a gun has 4 very distinct components and the event cannot take place without all four coming into play in a sequence.

1)      There is a CATALYST (the shooter)

2)      There is the FIRING MECHANISM (the gun)

3)      The PROJECTILE (usually a bullet)

4)      And there is the TARGET (whether intended, or otherwise)

How-Guns-Actually-Work-CutawayEach component is equally significant to the function of a firearm.  The bullet is to the target what the shooter is to the firing mechanism; a direct relationship where each is reliant on the application that puts it into motion, and it cannot escape the sequence.

Success means that the target was hit.

(Please note:  I am not making assumptions of criminal violence or making moral or ethical arguments here.  This is simply an analysis of the principles of firing a gun)

You cannot remove the “target” from the sequence because that is the purpose of the process; to be hit.  The “firing mechanism” is the vehicle to facilitate that result, and so it is cannot be removed, as well.  The only part of the shooting-model that can be influenced to change is the “shooter.”

The shooter motivates the shooting event, and therefore, is the only realistically responsible element, but this is where we have an accountability problem.  Since it is impossible to know the true intentions of a shooter until after they have initiated the process, the only safeguard a society has is to regulate the shooter’s primary relationship in this process; their relationship with the gun itself.

So, how does that relationship share responsibility when the act is criminal?

When I was a kid, a friend’s dad had a paperweight that was a mounted grenade.  I was always told by my friend that it was a “live grenade” and, of course, I believed it.  I was told that if I pulled the pin it would still trigger the grenade.thCAMJP2Z0

Of course it wasn’t “live” but I had no way of knowing, so the philosophical question is:  What was it’s primary purpose now?  Was it still a grenade or was it only a paperweight?

If one day the grenade/paperweight had exploded would that have been called an accident because it was a paperweight, or the fulfillment of its intention because it was a grenade?

A gun is, as the gun lobbyists say, innocent, because it requires intentions from a human being to carry out it’s function…but is it as benign, otherwise, as a paperweight?


Neither the grenade or the gun can be removed from the kill-model they were created to be part of.  This is what gun control is all about; recognizing that the gun and the shooter are inextricable from the process. 

Doing our best to restrict the availability of firearms from those who shouldn’t possess them and creating logical accountability from those who do possess them, is the rational option for a functional society with the collective responsibility of protecting its citizenry.

There are no regulations that will eliminate criminal activity, but gun control advocates are not that delusional.  Clearly, someone who does not follow “Thou Shalt Not Kill” is not likely to heed “Thou Shalt Not Have Guns” but what controls can do, are increase gun proficiency by mandating safety education, and decrease ease of accessibility so that responsible gun owners can be isolated from those who are not.  And regulations create hurdles for the criminally inclined that can impede or redirect their relationship with a firearm.

It’s true, “guns don’t kill,” but, like the bullets they fire, and the shooter that pulled the trigger, they are part of one paradigm that does.thCA2F30JX