Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Bernie Sanders is a good thing for Hillary.

Bernie Sanders has just announced he is going to seek the Presidency of the United States in the Democratic party. Many people are afraid he will waste Hillary's resources. Nonsense. She has money we haven;t even seen yet.

So what does Bernie's running for President in the Democratic Party truly mean?

He will not get elected. He will not win the primaries or the parties nomination. But he will change the voice of the party.

With Clinton the party's voice was being controlled by a small group of inner circle people who want her to have a very "republicanesque" stand on issues.  A stance that is very international in scope, very "involved" in other country's business, very pro Israel and very pro business...(read BIG BUSINESS). They want this because their theory is that Hillary will carry the left anyway. Period. And she can reach more middle roaders with the GOPish approach.

Well, there are many of us that do not think she can. Remember the mid terms?  Democrats and left-leaning independents, as well as a host of middle roaders stayed away from the voting booth all together. We can’t have that happen again.

What will light a fire under the electorate?  One, she is a woman. She will activate a lot of female voters who want to see a woman in the white House. this is a good thing.  But, two, Bernie will force her hand to be more open and with a wider world view and not so cozy with Wall Street and the Big Corporations.

Hillary is a divisive candidate. Always has been. If you're tired of the term Benghazi, just wait until the election ads are running. You'll think Obama is a white, country club, pastor compared to what the Kock's think of the Clintons. So why play into their hands, by being cozy with them?
Bernie will force her away from the safe and simple be like the other guys and win on form.

No, let's win on principle. Let's win on message. Let's take America back with truth and with justice FOR ALL AMERICANS.  Not just for the banks that are too big to fail.

And let's have a reasonable foreign policy that doesn't waste money in every port on every sea of the globe.  Let's take care of Americans at home.  Let's rebuild our infrastructure here first, and worry less about the world order. Let's cut military spending. Let’s spend that money on roads, hospitals, schools and jobs. Let’s spend our tax money on America and Americans.

And let's have true tax reform.  TOP DOWN. No trickle down. No playing favorites. Let’s tax everybody equally. Same rate. Let's cut out the loopholes.  Let's stop paying companies tax incentives when sending American jobs overseas. Sorry if that sounds radical. But that's what we need.

And Bernie Sanders is the guy to preach that gospel and get people excited about a populous message. Not a safe, staid same old thing message that Hillary and company will try and roll out.

No, Bernie Sanders is a good thing for Hillary. He will wake her up and sharpen the fangs and get her ready for a real fight for the White House. And she needs that, because the other guys are going to come after her with all guns blazing.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Mike Miles Must Go!

I have thought this for many years now.  the man leading the DISD is not fit to be there. He has brought discord and disharmony from administrators and classroom teachers. Now it is reaching epic proportions with parents, as well.

Imagine having a school so devoted to students and doing so well, that it actually increases property values in South Dallas.  Imagine it performing year after year as a great school in a mixed environment of languages.  And imagine parents taking a position to be the backbone of the school financially, raising hundreds of thousands of dollars over the last decade or so to meet the needs of the school when DISD money wouldn't cover things. Now imagine those same parents standing up to the Dallas School board and saying enough is enough. LEAVE OUR PRINCIPAL ALONE.

The big question is why would a superintendent mess with such a positive and affirmative school?  Mike Miles does it out of vindictive retribution.

Teachers and parents have spoken out against the district's policies and against Miles himself. So The man who has driven the Dallas Schools into the ground with over testing and huge bureaucratic regulations, as well as the alienation of classroom teachers, that same man, Mike Miles, has decided to get rid of Rosemont Elementary's principal, Anna Brining. And he has done it because teachers and parents spoke out and put egg on his face.

It is time for Miles to leave Dallas. Now.

Just about the only public figure who still supports the renegade superintendent is Dallas Mayor, Mike Rawllings. Maybe it is because they both run their boards the same way. Or that they are both named Mike.

Miles has a secrecy about his policies and a defensive posture about every criticism that is leveled against his school system ‚ even positive ones. He is out of control, and therefore, his school district has become out of control. Instead of getting better, Dallas Schools are slipping backward. Rosemont was one of the few Dallas schools that actually atttract4d white parents into a neighborhood; instead of fleeing to the private school systems or the suburbs.

And Miles wants to ruin Rosemont. All because he wants to vilify the principal of a school supported by people who know better than to sit down and shut up when they see and hear bullshit coming out of the DISD.  Last night's board meeting let the rest of Dallas know that the stench has gotten so bad, that even these parents can't keep quiet anymore.

Miles has to go.

DISD trustees hear from parents upset by dismissal of Rosemont Elementary principal

Vernon Bryant/Staff Photographer
Dozens of Rosemont Elementary supporters stood as parent Blake Martensen spoke to the DISD board Thursday in support of principal Anna Brining.
Dallas ISD trustees got an earful at Thursday’s board meeting from parents upset that the principal of Rosemont Elementary School will not be returning next school year.

Anna Brining has been principal for 15 years at the campus, and parents credit her with much of its success. Brining has said that she was told her contract would not be picked up next year.

“I was distressed to learn that Ms. Brining’s contract would not be renewed next year,” parent Ron Horick told trustees. “It is my hope that the trustees will consider the appropriate action to prevent this injustice.”
At least 10 people addressed the board — and dozens more stood in support and applauded the speakers while wearing blue shirts with the words “Rosemont Rocks.”

District officials haven’t said why Brining is being dismissed. But Superintendent Mike Miles said this week that Rosemont Elementary is academically underperforming compared with similar schools.

Some trustees told audience members that the pleas to keep Brining were registering with them.
“I appreciate what you’re doing tonight,” trustee Lew Blackburn said. “I appreciate you sticking up for your principal, and for your school, and for your children.”

Trustee Eric Cowan, who has a daughter at Rosemont and represents the area that includes the school, left his board seat to sit in the audience with the Rosemont supporters. Once back in his seat, Cowan told audience members that he has seen the data and that Rosemont can do better just like every school.

“No matter what happens over the next four months, let’s pledge to ourselves and our students that we’re going to come together and do better for our neighborhood,” Cowan told the audience to applause. “I look forward to having conversations in the future, and thank you for being here. I’m pretty sure they heard you.”

Rosemont includes an elementary school and a middle school. Both have a dual-language program in which English- and Spanish-speaking students are taught in the same classroom in both languages.

Rosemont Elementary received “met standard” from the state with no distinctions. The middle school component was rated as “met standard” and received four out of five distinctions. Schools can receive a “met standard” or “improvement required” rating and various distinctions.

Brining has said that she was not told of any concerns with academics. She said that she began to be subjected to disciplinary action, including the first official “letter of reprimand” in her 22-year education career, after a couple of events.

Those events, she said, involved outspokenness by parents at the school about Miles and what they consider excessive student testing, as well as a survey in which only 17 percent of teachers said they felt the district was headed in the right direction. Seventy-two percent said they felt Rosemont was headed in the right direction.

Brining said her boss cited performance issues, including allegations that she has missed deadlines on filing reports.
Brining was evaluated by her boss, executive director Suzanne Villalpandom who oversees Sunset High School and all the schools that send students to it, which includes Rosemont. A principal’s annual evaluation is 60 percent based on performance and 40 percent on academic achievement.

District records obtained by The Dallas Morning News show that Brining received a rating of “Proficient I” – the fourth-highest of eight possible ratings – on her principal evaluation after the 2013-14 school year. She has led Rosemont since 2000.

“We were never notified the school was viewed as under-performing,” said Ramon Mejia, who spoke in support of Brining. “This is retribution because we are actively involved in the lives of our children. We demand the reinstatement of Ms. Brining.”

Follow Tawnell D. Hobbs at @tawnell.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

It is time to end the tea party

As a public service for those friends and readers of mine who do not live in Dallas or do not have access to the Dallas Morning News, I am going to reprint (without permission...sorry) Richard Parker's excellent article on the environment which the Texas Tea Party is creating in Austin. Why?  Because it is the same caustic environment they are building in Washington, a town that already has two parties that can't seem to pass a piece of legislation.

Richard Parker is the author of “Lone Star Nation: How Texas Will Transform America.”

Welcome to Texas, Toyota, and all the accountants, lawyers, contractors and other companies — big and small — that are making the long trek to relocate here.

You will find Texas to be immensely friendly. We’re especially friendly to business, which is why you’re coming, of course. Hence, the outlook for Texas is bullish: It’s on track to supplant Germany as the world’s fourth-largest economy by 2050. Texas is so friendly to business that even Democrats stress the word pro-business before mumbling the word Democrat.

But there’s something the eager chambers of commerce and glad-handing mayors probably didn’t tell you before you made up your mind to come to Texas. There’s a political party emerging in Austin the likes of which we’ve never seen.

Until recently known as the tea party, it’s the Anti-Business Party of Texas, and it’s about to open the door to a future of uncertainty that will affect your workers, worry your shareholders and befuddle your customers.

If you saw the uproar from businesses — from Apple to American Airlines — in Indiana over a so-called religious freedom act, then brace yourself, because Texas could be next.

Two measures in the Legislature would unravel a law that seems to have worked well since 1999. State Sen. Donna Campbell and Rep. Matt Krause, both of the Anti-Business Party, propose to bar state or local governments from enforcing anti-discrimination laws in the event of a religious claim. They even want to enshrine the ban in the Texas Constitution. This would effectively gut anti-discrimination protections, particularly for gay people, in most cities.

Campbell also is effectively trying to deny an affordable college education to the children of unauthorized immigrants.

Since 2001, those who meet the same residency requirements as anyone else have paid in-state tuition at Texas universities. Now, Campbell would double the cost of a state university education from about $10,000 to $20,000 per year. Right now, that would be out of reach for most of the 20,000 students affected — as it would be for almost anyone. Her rationale? Cheaper tuition causes undocumented immigration. Her proof? None. (NOTE:  My emphasis by J.C.)

Significantly, the biggest business lobby in Texas, the Texas Association of Business, opposes both initiatives. That’s tantamount to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce tangling with the tea party in Congress. It’s easy to see why. Imagine telling your gay employees to expect legally sanctioned discrimination. Imagine telling shareholders that the pool of college graduates where you just moved dropped by tens of thousands. Think of the lurking liability problems and costs. Now imagine the impacts in a globally competitive environment.

But we’re not done. You’ll need to prepare for guns on college campuses, and you’ll need a sign that meets new state requirements to keep guns out of your business, too. Get ready to explain to your Muslim and Jewish employees that they can’t rely upon their religious traditions to settle nonjudicial disputes — something the secular among us call binding arbitration.

Best to warn your Hispanic shareholders that when they come in for the annual meeting, they might be asked by the cops to prove their citizenship. Also make a note to call the mayor and the city council. They probably promised you all kinds of things, but what they didn’t know is that the Anti-Business Party would soon expand the power of the state to overrule cities on all manner of critical issues related to quality of life. You might not be able to count on that local law or long-promised incentive.

Better than anyone, conservatives should know that government does not create economic activity but rather the conditions of confidence, or uncertainty, in which business invests. It’s called risk. Your risk just went up because the Anti-Business Party is in charge. Predictability? Well, that’s just not their thing.

Don’t lose hope: You have nearly every reason to be bullish about coming here. Just be forewarned: There is one reason to be very bearish. Hey, welcome to Texas.

A final thought after you've read his informative article. It is time that this backward-looking, scared of their shadow, white segregationist party be eliminated from politics in America. They do not care about the United States of America. they only care about thier limited, short-vision agenda, which is to turn everyone into their image. No room for mulit-culture, multi-intelletual thinking, multi anything. They want America one way. Their way.

Their day is done. When their heroes call on killing all gays, and shooting the President or Harry Reid (and they do this publicly) it is time to see them for what they truly are —small minded religious terrorists. Think about that next time you stand in a voting booth and are tempted to put one of these Neanderthals into office. 

They are ruining America.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

A prescription for what ails America.

The following story really doesn't need any words by me to explain how terribly wrong it is. there is noting the pharmacist or Wal-Mart can say or do that will change the fact that they put religion ahead of this woman's safety and health. This week in Dallas we have had a religious sect kill a young boy then try and "resurrect" him to cleanse him of his demons.The leaders of the church have been arrested, just as I think this phramacist should be.  If Georgia has a law supporting her, it should be found unconstitutional and thrown out.

Enough America.

Religion has gone too far.

Your religion has no business in my doctor's office. Or my wife's or my daughters' and son's. Period. Get your church and your governmental dictates out of medicine.

On another subject having to do with medicine, the Texas Medical Practice Board has just announced an end to TELEDOCS, the practice of being able to talk with a doctor via phone or Internet to receive medical advice and even prescriptions. THIS RULING IS WRONG.

There are times when some people's only access to a doctor is via phone or computer.  there ar4e other times a doctor has a relationship with a patient who is away — via vacation or work. Or a doctor and patient have established an on-going relationship but the patient has moved away.

Our insuracne offfers us a TELEDOC practice for the everyday aches and pains and sniffles that come with life. We can pick up the phone and talk with a doctor who is familiar with our region and tell him or her what is going on and how we feel and what our temperature is. He or she can then ask questions (just like a doctor sitting across from you would do) and then offer a suggestive treatment for the ailement.

THAT IS A GOOD PRACTICE.  It saves us hundreds if not thousands of dollars a year in office visits.  And that is the real rub. Doctors and their lobby are trying to squeeze every nickle and dime out of the local practice they can.  And someone has to speak up and give another side to the story.  I am doing it.  TELEDOCS are not the end-all medical solution. but they do play a vital role in helping trim time and costs from the price of medicine.

I talked with my doctor the other day( in person) and he said he had several patient who lived far outside the metroplex (that's what we call the Dallas-Ft.Worth area for those of you not living here in God's Fairytale land) and he treats them via phone all the time.  If they have something is he not sure about he directs them to a specialist or clinic near their current home.

The QUACKS in Austin got this one wrong.

Monday, April 13, 2015

The Green Jacket on deserving shoulders

I watched as the Masters' Green Jacket was placed onto Jordan Spieth's shoulders by last year's winner, Bubba Watson, two of my favorite golfers and athletes.

The 21-year old Texan set an amazing number of records on his way to his -18 victory in Georgia Sunday. At one time, he was 19 under par. Nobody has ever had a score that low at Augusta.

But the thing I like bet about both Bubba and Justin, is that they seem like really nice, likable guys.  The kind of young men you'd like to go hit a round of golf balls with and have a brooskie or two.

I think more people in sports should be like them. Or like retiring fellow Longhorn, Ben Crenshaw, who played in his last Masters this past weekend. They represent good, honest folk who work hard at thier craft and when they win, they are humbled by the moment.

That is a far cry from most sports celebraties we see these days, especailly the ones on team sports.  (I can think of some rather obnoxious loud-mouths from the Seahawks that could learn a lesson or two from these golfers.)

A golfer's victory is usually self made.  There are no blocking lineman. There isn't a receiver who saves a QB's butt with a game winning catch over his shoulder. There is no shortstop jumping high into the night's sky to save a no-hitter for his pitcher. No. Golfers, especially a kid who leads wire-to-wire with the heavy hitters, like another favorite of mine Phil Nickelson, breathing down his back, does it all on his own. He has to address and execute each shot, all by himself. No one sets a pick for him. No one holds on the offensive line.  Speith had to do it all by himself.  And when he did, he was humbled by his accomplishment.

Even in tennis, which is considered the other individual game, there is someone on the other side of the net who has a huge say in the way in which the outcome of a match goes. But in golf, the man, his bag of clubs and a ball are it.

And right now Jordan Spieth is it, too.  The man.  The top dog.

My favorite line from the TV broadcasters' verbal carnation of Spieth as the next God-send to the links, was from a CBS TV voice who said, "Had 21-year old Spieth not droped out of The University of Texas in his junior year, he would be graduating next month. As it is, he has earned his masters..."

Way to go Jordan.  Way to go Bubba.  And we'll miss you Gentle Ben.

Golf is back and has a good guy leading the way.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Dear NBA…we need a change.

Seven young men left the University of Kentucky on Thursday, headed for the NBA. Their careers set for them by some magic number in the upcoming draft.

I applaud them for the great years they had as a team. I personally think five of the seven are not ready for the NBA, but that is for others to write about and discuss.

What I want to talk about is a suggestion that their coach, John Calipari, made about the situation of early exit to the pros — referred to as one and done, although there were several sophomores in the group from the Big Blue heading to dollarsville. His idea was that the NBA push back its rules of allowing early college exit for players to enter the NBA draft. Players entering the draft should have at least three years of college under their belt before being eligible and should they decide to stay in school, for their third and fourth year, the NBA would pay for insurance on those players.

Let me explain what Coach Cal was saying with this. Say you are a twenty-year old and are very good at basketball. Good enough that the pros are drooling over you and want to draft you.  It will mean millions of dollars in your lifetime. Better than a PhD from A&M in farm science. But let’s suppose you like the alma mater and want to stay there for your last two years. Great. The school loves you for it. The alumni love you for it. Your girlfriend who is a sophomore studying nursing loves you for it. But what if you get hurt? (One of the Big Blue broke his leg this year. Ouch. That could have cost him millions.) But there is insurance to cover such calamities.  And the way the NCAA is letting bodies slam under the rim these days, you are going to have calamities.

This insurance is not cheap. It is based on projected worth and draft status. And right now, the player or his family must pay for that coverage. Like I said, it ain’t cheap. But suppose the NBA had to fork over the dough to cover these kids? Changes the balance of power just a tad.

Now a kid who wants to stay in school can do so and be protected by the organization that is wooing him for future employment.

It is a great idea. You don’t have to jump ship just because you fear an injury would set your future earnings back.

There are other proposals out there. Some are blanket three or four years in school until you are legible for the draft period. I even heard one writer suggest that a mock draft would be held each year for freshmen before they enter their sophomore seasons. Their position in the draft would then be solidified, but not exercised until their senior season. They would have a bonus paid to them if and when they graduate or at least matriculate through four years of college.

All interesting. All thought provoking. But one thing is for sure. The NCAA and the NBA are going to have to get together on this in some way. One and done is no fun for the school and the fans. It puts way too much pressure on the athletes and the coaches. Parents, too.

The schools invest a lot in the kids. And vice versa. It is a two-way street.  I want to see their future earning protected, but I also want to see them stay with the U of your choice long enough to enjoy all that college life has to offer.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Our American Values are under Attack. By the Chrisitain Right Wing

Yesterday’s blog generated a ton of mail. Most of it, I am surprised to say, was very, very positive. Many folks thanked me for speaking out on this subject. Others encouraged me to keep the fight up. Some just wanted to let me know they agreed with my point of view: that America is at a dangerous crossroads as religion tries to drive our government. 

But one letter caught my attention and I decided to share it today as a sample of what I am talking about when it comes to religion trumping the rule of law.

“Crawley, I have read your garbage for months now and you say the same thing. The freedoms and liberties of the extreme left are in danger.  Boo Hoo.  America is in danger.  Obama and you people put us there.  Making everyone have the same rights is silly. I work for a living. I pay taxes and I expect to have more rights than the freeloaders you represent. I earned it. Don’t try and take it away from me and don’t step on my religious freedom. I have the God-given right to worship my Lord and Savior as I see fit, even if it messes up your entire life.”

The letter goes on to call me several names and reminds me that I am bound for hell. (To the last point, if the letter writer is going to heaven, I’d rather be in hell, thank you very much.) It also blames all of our troubles on the “gay and queers” (sic) because …“they are trying to infect us all with their way of life. It is ruining the family.”

It is that very last line that really got me.  Call me any name you wish. Tell me my writing sucks (Miss Hart at Kilgore High would have agreed with you…) but do NOT blame the problems of America on an oppressed minority trying to ruin your family.

Excuse my French here…but that is blatant bullshit. (I am told the Apostle Paul’s reference to sin as a pile of dung is the same language translated into a proper form by the English scribes under King James.)

My family is not in danger due to gays.  Lesbians do not pose a risk to the Crawley household. Or yours. The bigger risk to my family and to all families and to American Values is the simple minded, narrow vision of a few deranged folks who think the water Jesus turned into wine was non-alcoholic, because their preacher told them so.  They are that stupid as to follow these pulpit pundits in almost anything they say. I am now hearing pastors preaching against global climate change, like they even know what they are talking about. It is amazing to me, you can study Greek and Hebrew and suddenly you are a science scholar and you know for sure the world is only 6,000 years old.

And when it comes to global warming, this guy quotes his pastor as saying, “It’s God’s will.” Funny how when things don’t go their way in an argument or when facts refute their position, they always say, “It is God’s will.”  So I remind my friend, the election (two times) of Barrack Obama must have been God’s will. (Oh that’s not bound to sit well with the pious and the preachy.)

That is exactly why I wrote yesterday’s blog. This guy has just made my case.

America’s ultra orthodox conservative religions are dumbing us down and trying to take over the rule of law in our land by subjugating faith over fact.

For the other dozen or so of you who wrote in to encourage me to keep the home fires lit…I will and I thank you for your support. To the letter writer whose words I quoted here let me simply say, “You need to live outside of your little town and your little church and your little circle of small-minded friends. Take a trip somewhere that they don’t play Fox News 24-hours a day. Talk to real people. Listen to them LISTEN TO THEM. Don’t be like your mentor, Rush, LISTEN TO OTHERS NOT LIKE YOURSELF…and learn from them. It is called growing up.”

As for my premise yesterday, one letter writer wrote, “…there is a play on words in your headline. And it is so true…both ways. (Yesterday’s headline read: Freedom is in the Balance.) Freedom itself is on a very narrow edge and walking the fine line where we all have our rights, privileges and respect in a balancing act that a just society strives for. Keep up the good words. We need them. We need the balance.”

All I can add to that is a huge — Amen.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Freedom is in the balance.

I want to start this column out by saying that I believe a person has the right to have faith in any religion he or she chooses.  I respect that; but I also add this caveat: so long as that religion does not violate the civil liberties of others. It can be a thin line, but rational folks know how to walk it. It the others, the irrational — the extremists — that I am writing about today.

I watched a documentary the other night about the days before and after the fall of the Shah of Iran. Now let’s set the record straight…the CIA and the Brits screwed this one up almost as badly as they did in Cuba and in Palestine.  They pushed the pendulum so far in one direction that when it swung back, it went way, way to the extreme, and a flourishing modern society came to a crushing halt and became a mob-ruled festering sore in the Middle East.

When the hardliners took over Iran in 1979 and drove democracy out of the country, they replaced it with a theocracy — a government based on religion. Everything in society changed over night.

The way women were treated in society changed most abruptly.  Education for women was curtailed. Freedom of expression for women was all but shut down. Look at old footage of the revolutionary days and you will see men’s faces in the streets, but no women.  Before the rise of the theocracy, women were everywhere in Iranian society.

Free speech and freethinking was also curtailed. Freedom of expression from all opposition parties was stamped out, as were hundreds of social mores that no longer sat well with the ruling Islamic Revolutionary council. A once proud and free society became a dark and brooding culture of hate and mistrust and poverty. (To be sure, American, European and British sanctions aided this process, but it was because of the hardline attitudes and actions taken by the fundamentalist in Iran.)

Now we do not have an Ayatollah leading an armed revolution, but we do have the makings of a fundamentalist theocracy in the United States, as hardliners on the far right of the Christian faith would have us revert to an Old Testament penal system for sins and sinners with whom they do not agree.

America’s pulpits are getting the fires stirred.

And they are marching us down that path, one little law at a time.  A discriminatory practice here, an anti-abortion ruling there. A mandatory church attendance run up the flagpole in Arizona’s legislature.  The weakening of voter rights all across the nation. Step by step, the far right is trying desperately to move America away from individual freedom and toward a shared faith philosophy in the way in which we govern.

Civil rights are almost sinful to them.

Women’s rights are definitely sinful. A man should be in control of a woman. It is preached from their venomous pulpits, with no less zeal than the Imams who preach hatred from their Mosques in Iran and Iraq and other extreme Islamic countries.

Sharia Law is not that different from the practices that the evangelical extremists would have us move. Not different at all. Everything is based on the “word of God.”  Everything. The reason and rule of law is subjugated beneath the bible to them.

And if you do anything to stand up to these merchants of discrimination and hate, they cry persecution and defilement. They wrap themselves in the flag and wave their scriptures around and protest with loud voices that they are not being allowed to practice their faith…even if their faith tramples the rights of others.

Our country is headed into an election year. Ted Cruz has raised millions from the far right PACs and is ready to start spewing his right-wing, ultra-narrow,  Christian propaganda over the land.  Convert, contain and conquer — the three C’s of the movement. And he is at the head of it. Just listen to his stump speeches and you can all but see and hear an old time evangelist railing against the pitfalls of an evil society gone wrong and gone against God’s will.

These are dangerous people. Well intentioned, I am sure. But dangerous. If America decides to follow them down their path, it will be a dark time for these United States. A dark time in deed. For women. For minority communities and for free thinkers everywhere. Artists, writers, even other ministers will find it a time of great concern should these extremists be successful in their quest. There will be no room to step out of line.

It will be their way or the highway.

I know good Christians who fear this sect of their faith. They fear it an awful lot. And that should tell you something. Don’t fall for the lies. Don’t fall for the half-truths and the innuendo. “Family protection”, “religious freedom”, “return to values”…these are their catch phrases designed to deliver a warm glow to people who feel marginalized on the fringe of society. Perhaps they are marginalized because they have placed themselves out on the edge of a modern, progressive and inclusive society —the place America has moved. A place where all people can be free. 

Our country was founded on the principles of liberty and justice for ALL.  Not for just the born again. Not just for the churchgoers. Not just for those who carry an ideology around that would put anyone not like them down. No. America was founded on the premise that all men (and women) are created equal. Everyone in America has their civil rights granted to them by law.  Those rights come to us through the Constitution. Not from the bible. Not from the pulpit. But from the pen of men who wrote down the framework for our great country.

‘We the people’…it means all of us.  Not just the saved.

Wake up America. The hardliners are at the gates and they are well armed, well financed and bitter as hell. Just listen to the gospel they sell. There’s not an ounce of love in it.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

A quick peek into Selfies

I saw my first “selfie stick” at Epcot Center this past year.  Perhaps I had seen them before, but just not put two and two together to realize what they were used for. I can’t tell you how hard it was for Michele and me to get a selfie with us and the sign at Big Bend National Park behind us. The stick would have made it so easy.

But I think the stick also says something about us as a society, as well. We had to make an invention that would allow us to take pictures of ourselves in front of monuments and attractions. For what purpose?  To prove we were there?  To honor ourselves as being important people? 

 It all seems a bit narcissistic, to me. Call me old fashion, but you used to ask someone, “Hey buddy, can you snap a shot of my wife and I as we stand here and look like total geeks in front of Mickey’s ears?” And normally the other person would oblige with no questions asked.  He might even ask for you to return the favor with him and his twelve kids all from Akron, waiting to board the Disney Express.  And you would. You didn’t need a stick.

But today we’ve got sticks. Long Sticks. And if you’ve been to anywhere half-way historic they are all around.  Sometimes they are so prevalent in a location it is like trying to fend off branches in a rain forest.

I have never understood why it is so important to have pictures of ourselves at allocation. The location itself should be photographed with great care, preserving memories of it for our future. But instead, now we have a group of grinning tourists (ourselves included) in front of Rushmore or the Grand Canyon or Lincoln’s Monument.

My parents used to travel quite extensively and my father was somewhat of a photo hound on trips. And in almost every picture was my mother.  Here’s is Edith at the Pyramids. Edith at the Taj Mahal. Edit at Old Faithful. Here she is again in Tehran before the fall of the Shaw. Brandenburg Gate…there’s my mom. Every picture. 

So one day I asked him, “Why do you always pose mom in the pictures?”  He said, “To show we’ve been there.” But every picture? He continued that I just didn’t understand photography.  “People make shots interesting.”  I agree.  But not my mother seven hundred times.  It’s other faces with craggily lines and squinting eyes.  It’s women balancing loads on their heads as they walk along dusty African paths. It is the soldier— the guard at London’s Buckingham Palace or Rome’s Swiss Guard at the Vatican.  People are incredibly interesting. But not my mom over and over and over. (She was interesting…but I’m talking photography here.)   

And then there’s today’s selfies. Our faces in every shot of every imaginable angle of every thing to see in Washington, or New York, or Chicago. Museums, wharfs, battle fields, historical sites, the selfie is now front and center.

I don’t get it. We are not that important. And besides, all you have to do, is tell someone, I was there.  I don’t need to see you and my mother seven hundred times.

It is said, “Pride cometh before the fall.” I think vanity fits in there somewhere, too.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

An Easter Tale:

My favorite Easter story*:

Three Italian men die on the same day, at the same time, in a fiery car crash just south of Palermo… and all wind up at the pearly gates the same instant.

St. Peter looks at his watch then at the books and shakes his head. “Too late in the afternoon to let anybody else in. We’re booked up. You three have to go back.”

They protest of course, because you never know what you’ll be if they send you back. For God’s sake you could be a Zebra, or worse a rattlesnake, or worse yet, a Southern Baptist Preacher. They had even heard one man returned as a Republican. Fear gripped their souls.

“Signore please. You help us, No?” said one man.

Peter looked around and shrugged. “Okay. I will ask each of you a question. The first one who answers it correctly gets into the Kingdom. But…but the other two must return to Earth. Understood?”

The three little men looked at each other and then nodded.  They were in agreement with the conditions.

“Oaky, number one, step forward.  What is Easter?” asked Saint Peter looking over his glasses.

The man squirmed a bit then spoke in a nasally vice. “Signore, that is the time when the little boys and girls rush from a de house to de house and ask for tricks or for a treats.”

No. No. No.” Said St. Pete.  “That’s Halloween.  “Next.”

A sheepish small man with suspenders stepped forward. “Si.”

“Can you tell me what Easter is?”

“Signore that is easy. It is the time when the Indians dey feeda da pilgrims with pumpkin and cranberries and de wild turkeys…”

“Noooo!  That’s Thanksgiving. Go to the back of the line. You. Number three. Step up here. Can you tell me what Easter is?”

The skinny man who barely kept his pants up, slumped his boney frame over and thought. Then he nodded. “Signore. Si. Dat is the time dey takea my lord and savior Jesus Christ and dey hang a him on a rugged old cross.  A nail in each of his scarred hands.  He a dies up there on de cross and dey take a him down, wrap him in cloth and place him in a dark cave.  Then after a three days, the big a stone, it’s a rolled away and Jesus, he a steps out into the light…and if he see his a shadow, we have a six amore weeks of de winter…”

Regardless your theology…have a good Easter.  See y’all next week…No blog on Sunday.

*Dedicated to the good men and women of Westboro Baptist Church.

Friday, April 3, 2015

A week when the people spoke.

This was quite a week. 

We saw a public outcry grow to the point that the states of Indiana and Arkansas pulled back legislation and changed wording to make their Religious Freedom Acts more tolerant of all people, and less discriminatory to certain minorities, including the GLBT community.

And that was a good thing.

Oh to be sure, the far right is now circling their wagons and their preachers are spouting off things like they are being persecuted and our faith defiled.  But you would expect such from the morons who inhabit their dark corners of the world.

But something else happened. People from all walks of life, straight, gay, blacks, white, Asian and even Hispanic, as well as business leaders, labor leaders and even the Chamber of Commerce, all got behind the movement to make America more inclusive. That was encouraging. One of the main players in this was Wal-Mart. A corporate giant I seldom side with, but was glad to call my ally in this fight for freedom and stability in our land. It just goes to show you, with compromise, we can all work together for the greater good. I liked this.

What I did not like were the bitter personal attacks that many on the left heaved on individuals who took the opposition’s side; especially the small pizza shop in Indiana who had gone out of business. (I have since learned they have taken half-a million dollars worth of donations and skipped town…so I am not worried about them personally.)  What I do not like are the vile attacks aimed at everyday people.  The governor and his cronies, okay…he’s a nut job and a fool — an elected one at that.  But the baker and pizza maker and the others who took abuse in this are just citizens. True, they were being segregationists, but they did not deserve the hate aimed at them.

It is hate and small-mindedness we are trying to overcome here.  No need pouring fuel on that fire. It just makes it burn hotter.

I thought the quote of the week came from Rick Warren, pastor of the mega church in Orange County, California, who seems to be a calming voice in many a chaotic situation. His quote:

 "Our culture has accepted two huge lies. The first is that if you disagree with someone's lifestyle, you must fear or hate them. The second is that to love someone means you agree with everything they believe or do. Both are nonsense.

You don't have to compromise convictions to be compassionate."

Good words. Reasonable men and women can live by these words. Nobody is trying to get Christians to become gay. That fear is awash in the land of Southern Baptists and bible churches. Far from it. Most gays will tell you, they don’t want those people in their number.  They just want to be able to enjoy life and its liberties here in the United States like any other citizen. Freedom guaranteed under our constitution.

But there were other things that caught my eye this week. I was ashamed to see a group of black churches and black church pastors pulling out of a mainstream protestant denominations, because of the stance the denominations made in supporting the voices against the Religious Freedom movements. Do these black leaders’ bouts of homophobia blot their memory? Do they not remember Selma?  Do they not remember the closed lunch counters?  Do they not remember riding on the back of the busses or entering hotels through the rear door, if at all?  Do they not remember separate but equal?

It is sad that a coalition of black pastors can be so insensitive toward another minority, while forgetting their own race’s struggles.

It is time for America to put this behind us. All of it. Quit passing laws that exclude others. Quite writing legislation that gives one group and takes away from another. We The People have spoken…We the People are all people…regardless of race, creed, color of sexual orientation. We are all Americans.

Dear Christian brothers and sisters, remember this Easter:  Christ is risen…he has risen for all people. Not just Baptists. Not just conservatives. And he despises bigots and hypocrites.