Turning Our Attention to the Real Threat – Mike Pence

I’ve used most of my recent essays to consider various actions and statements by Donald Trump, and the horrendous HB1523 that’s now law in my home state of Mississippi. With his preposterous public relations stunt of Sunday, I’ll now use a few words for Mike Pence.

I’ll start with a general look at Pence, and end with Sunday’s planned “protest.”

Mike Pence has always been the more dangerous of the Trump/Pence ticket.

Trump is a largely failed businessman, a public buffoon (a persona he embraced on The Apprentice), the subject of hundreds of lawsuits (both business and professional), known for sexual assault, bankruptcy, and civil rights violations (see aforementioned lawsuits)…and the biggest waffle not in Congress. Is the wind blowing? Trump is moving that direction. Anything for a buck and piece of the proverbial pie. He’s been laughed at in his hometown of New York City for decades. No one took him seriously – at least not until the presidential election of 2016.

The Republican field was rife with mediocre politicians, none fit to front a presidential campaign. In steps Trump – the hair, the spray tan, bravado and all. It mattered not that he wasn’t really a Republican. It mattered not that he had no ideas for positive growth in any sphere of American life. He had the few things that mattered, that eventually won him the electoral college (not the biggest victory there, and a solid loss in popular vote) – a political outsider who hated Obama, was supported by the alt-right, had money, and seemed somehow ‘genuine’ because bad ideas fell easily from his mouth, unscripted and salacious.

He won – the perfect foil to Obama, from his ineptitude to his grammar to his love of Twitter.

And as foreseen, he’s been awful – bumbling through foreign affairs, failing to appoint competent people to crucial positions, trading nuclear war barbs with North Korea on Twitter, assaulting everyone from the LGBTQ community to the 1st Amendment to all women everywhere.

For all the failures, contempt, and maliciousness of Trump, Pence is far worse.

Pence is an experienced politician – he knows how to get things done politically. Why has Trump failed to pass any kind of significant legislation? One big reason is his political neophytism.

To ‘experienced politician who can get things done,’ with Pence we add also ‘man hell-bent on forcing his morals and ideals on a nation.’ Trump has no real ideas or beliefs – Pence does, and they are largely horrendous.

A few select examples:

  • wants to outlaw all abortions and overturn Roe v. Wade (once signed a law saying doctors could be prosecuted for abortions and requiring the burial or cremation of aborted fetal tissue, wants to “send Roe v. Wade to the ash heap of history where it belongs”);
  • his anti-women stance is shown even more in his refusal to meet with any woman aside from his wife alone, greatly reducing the chance that any woman would be hired for a job that required working very closely with him;
  • wants to defund Planned Parenthood;
  • is strongly against guaranteeing and protecting the civil rights of the LGBT community in America, since it’s against his Christian values, and worked as governor and in congress to limit the rights of the community;
  • has supported “conversion therapy,” saying on his website (in 2000) that “Resources should be directed toward those institutions which provide assistance to those seeking to change their sexual behavior,” right after stating “Congress should oppose any effort to put gay and lesbian relationships on an equal legal status with heterosexual marriage;”
  • would like even harsher immigration “reform” than we’ve seen out of Trump;
  • would be a nightmare for public education. As governor of Indiana he pushed for vouchers and tried to repeal Common Core, in addition to voting against “No Child Left Behind” as a congressman;
  • doesn’t believe in climate change;
  • opposes all efforts to reform gun laws;
  • opposes the free press at least as vigorously as Trump, having even tried to create a state news outlet while governor of Indiana (Just IN).

There are many other problematic stances and beliefs this man holds, but the small sampling above should suffice to demonstrate my main point – Trump is incompetent and therefore somewhat dangerous; Pence is experienced and therefore far more of a threat to America, and possibly the world, than Trump could ever be.

Anyone willing to use public office to force their own personal beliefs on others treads awfully close to authoritarianism, a trait we’ve seen with Trump and would see magnified many times under Pence.

And then we have Sunday. Mike Pence attended the Colts/49ers game in Indianapolis with his wife…until he walked out to protest football players exercising their 1st Amendment right to free speech. We soon found out, via Twitter, that Trump and Pence had discussed and planned this action beforehand, presumably to bring additional attention to a topic they’ve focused on more than hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico.

If he didn’t want to “dignify” the event, then he should have never attended the game. He knew with 100% certainty that players would take the knee, since the 49ers are the only team to have at least one player kneel at every single game since Kaepernick started the movement in 2016.

Sunday’s walk-out was a political stunt [press were even instructed to wait outside as Pence would be leaving shortly in protest], posturing to bring attention to a lie – a lie perpetuated continually by the administration – that the protests in the NFL (and expanding to other sports as well) are all about disrespecting some nebulous “America” ideal. In fact, both Trump and Pence and all of their advisors know that the kneeling players are bringing attention to the actions of police nationwide, particularly in minority communities. [More on this administration lie here.]

In addition to continuing to support a racist mischaracterization of professional athletes, Mike Pence wasted a significant amount of taxpayer money on this asinine trip, to the tune of approximately $250,000 (flights from Las Vegas to Indianapolis, then on to Los Angeles, plus the security and other apparatus traveling with a VP).

Even after the recent attention on wasteful travel practices in this administration, Pence felt it was somehow justified to blow through our hard-earned money to garner a few political points for his boss by assaulting the 1st Amendment and furthering an agenda that looks ever more authoritarian.

Mike Pence knows what he’s doing. Between his lack of charisma and his 18th century ideals, he knows he never could have been elected president in the 2016 election. But he’s placed himself in a position now of great power, and with the most inept person to ever sit in the oval office as his boss, the chances of his ascension to the presidency are greater than he could have ever hoped or imagined.

Just keep in mind, America, that Pence as president will be just as difficult, if not worse, than the mess we find ourselves in today with Donald Trump.

Leaping Backwards Yet Again: HB1523 Takes Effect Today in Mississippi

So this happens today – the most sweeping pro-discrimination, anti-LGBT law in the nation takes effect in my home state of Mississippi. I’ve never been more ashamed to live, work, and raise my family in Mississippi.

You can now legally discriminate against anyone whose private life doesn’t align with whatever you proclaim your “sincerely held religious beliefs or moral convictions” to be, specifically related to the three areas enumerated in Section 2 of the law.

“(a)  Marriage is or should be recognized as the union of one man and one woman;

 (b)  Sexual relations are properly reserved to such a marriage; and

 (c)  Male (man) or female (woman) refer to an individual’s immutable biological sex as objectively determined by anatomy and genetics at time of birth.”

Read the grossly misleadingly titled law – its impact will be wide spread in Mississippi. For the sake of convenience I have pasted the entire text of the law below, with my own select commentary added in red.


Link to the law text online.



     SECTION 1.  This act shall be known and may be cited as the “Protecting Freedom of Conscience from Government Discrimination Act.”
No, this law does not protect “freedom of conscience,” rather it allows people to discriminate and refuse services to others based how they judge the lifestyle of the other.
     SECTION 2.  The sincerely held religious beliefs or moral convictions protected by this act are the belief or conviction that:

          (a)  Marriage is or should be recognized as the union of one man and one woman;
Almost too obvious here, but you can discriminate against basically anyone in the LGBT community with this one. Less obvious, you could also discriminate against anyone who has been divorced, depending on how you interpret your religious text and the word “one.”
          (b)  Sexual relations are properly reserved to such a marriage; and
Anyone having any kind of sexual relationship outside of a heterosexual first marriage gets hit with this one. So you can be refused all sorts of services because you are having sex. This is not protecting moral convictions, it’s another intrusion into the bedroom by the government.
          (c)  Male (man) or female (woman) refer to an individual’s immutable biological sex as objectively determined by anatomy and genetics at time of birth.
Blatant attack on the transgender community that could also have additional repercussions down the road.
     SECTION 3.  (1)  The state government shall not take any discriminatory I have to interject here – note how the state is trying to co-opt the word discriminate? As if being prosecuted for discriminatory actions would be discrimination against those who discriminate? action against a religious organization wholly or partially on the basis that such organization:

          (a)  Solemnizes or declines to solemnize any marriage, or provides or declines to provide services, accommodations, facilities, goods or privileges for a purpose related to the solemnization, formation, celebration or recognition of any marriage, based upon or in a manner consistent with a sincerely held religious belief or moral conviction described in Section 2 of this act;

          (b)  Makes any employment-related decision including, but not limited to, the decision whether or not to hire, terminate or discipline an individual whose conduct or religious beliefs are inconsistent with those of the religious organization, based upon or in a manner consistent with a sincerely held religious belief or moral conviction described in Section 2 of this act; or

          (c)  Makes any decision concerning the sale, rental, occupancy of, or terms and conditions of occupying a dwelling or other housing under its control, based upon or in a manner consistent with a sincerely held religious belief or moral conviction described in Section 2 of this act.
Religious organizations are already protected by law – a church does not have to perform any specific marriage, can hire and fire as they please, etc.
     (2)  The state government shall not take any discriminatory action against a religious organization that advertises, provides or facilitates adoption or foster care, wholly or partially on the basis that such organization has provided or declined to provide any adoption or foster care service, or related service, based upon or in a manner consistent with a sincerely held religious belief or moral conviction described in Section 2 of this act.
So if your lifestyle happens to run afoul of how Section 2 is interpreted, you might not be able to adopt children…I suppose we’ve decided they are better off in the foster system than living with a loving couple we happen to not like. Watch out parents, perhaps your lifestyle means the laws will be coming for your biological children next.
     (3)  The state government shall not take any discriminatory action against a person who the state grants custody of a foster or adoptive child, or who seeks from the state custody of a foster or adoptive child, wholly or partially on the basis that the person guides, instructs or raises a child, or intends to guide, instruct, or raise a child based upon or in a manner consistent with a sincerely held religious belief or moral conviction described in Section 2 of this act.
It doesn’t matter how crazy your ideas are, the state can’t use your craziness against you if you can somehow manage to claim your ideas are protected by Section 2 above – you could still get custody of a child and guide them by your baseless craziness. Nice to know…
     (4)  The state government shall not take any discriminatory action against a person wholly or partially on the basis that the person declines to participate in the provision of treatments, counseling, or surgeries related to sex reassignment or gender identity transitioning or declines to participate in the provision of psychological, counseling, or fertility services based upon a sincerely held religious belief or moral conviction described in Section 2 of this act.  This subsection (4) shall not be construed to allow any person to deny visitation, recognition of a designated representative for health care decision-making, or emergency medical treatment necessary to cure an illness or injury as required by law.
So anyone suffering with gender dysphoria can be denied treatment and counseling, and then generally you can be denied psychological/counseling/fertility services if the physician doesn’t like your choices. At least it is clarified that visitation and decision-making and emergency services cannot be denied…
     (5)  The state government shall not take any discriminatory action against a person wholly or partially on the basis that the person has provided or declined to provide the following services, accommodations, facilities, goods, or privileges for a purpose related to the solemnization, formation, celebration, or recognition of any marriage, based upon or in a manner consistent with a sincerely held religious belief or moral conviction described in Section 2 of this act:
Simple again – if you don’t like the marriage because of your “moral convictions,” you don’t have to provide any services to the couple joining their lives together in love. [Services specified below.] Wonder how the Supreme Court’s future ruling on the notorious cake case might influence this section.
          (a)  Photography, poetry, videography, disc-jockey services, wedding planning, printing, publishing or similar marriage-related goods or services; or

          (b)  Floral arrangements, dress making, cake or pastry artistry, assembly-hall or other wedding-venue rentals, limousine or other car-service rentals, jewelry sales and services, or similar marriage-related services, accommodations, facilities or goods.

     (6)  The state government shall not take any discriminatory action against a person wholly or partially on the basis that the person establishes sex-specific standards or policies concerning employee or student dress or grooming, or concerning access to restrooms, spas, baths, showers, dressing rooms, locker rooms, or other intimate facilities or settings, based upon or in a manner consistent with a sincerely held religious belief or moral conviction described in Section 2 of this act.
Here’s a great one for you…so now, women, you CAN be forced to wear dresses in any work place, if that’s what your boss decides he wants the “sex-specific standard” to be! And to anyone in the trans or non-binary community, there’s no question in this state – you will be discriminated against in most places of business.
     (7)  The state government shall not take any discriminatory action against a state employee wholly or partially on the basis that such employee lawfully speaks or engages in expressive conduct based upon or in a manner consistent with a sincerely held religious belief or moral conviction described in Section 2 of this act, so long as:
YES, you read that right…state employees are about to be able to behave in this way, even on the job! As long as their actions/speech are generally allowed, they can discriminate at will and somehow be protected. [Specifics listed below.]
          (a)  If the employee’s speech or expressive conduct occurs in the workplace, that speech or expressive conduct is consistent with the time, place, manner and frequency of any other expression of a religious, political, or moral belief or conviction allowed; or

          (b)  If the employee’s speech or expressive conduct occurs outside the workplace, that speech or expressive conduct is in the employee’s personal capacity and outside the course of performing work duties.

     (8)  (a)  Any person employed or acting on behalf of the state government who has authority to authorize or license marriages, including, but not limited to, clerks, registers of deeds or their deputies, may seek recusal from authorizing or licensing lawful marriages based upon or in a manner consistent with a sincerely held religious belief or moral conviction described in Section 2 of this act.  Any person making such recusal shall provide prior written notice to the State Registrar of Vital Records who shall keep a record of such recusal, and the state government shall not take any discriminatory action against that person wholly or partially on the basis of such recusal.  The person who is recusing himself or herself shall take all necessary steps to ensure that the authorization and licensing of any legally valid marriage is not impeded or delayed as a result of any recusal.
So now you can work a state job, be paid by the taxpayers, and you can refuse to do your job! You can refuse to provide the taxpayers who pay your salary with the services they pay you to do.
          (b)  Any person employed or acting on behalf of the state government who has authority to perform or solemnize marriages, including, but not limited to, judges, magistrates, justices of the peace or their deputies, may seek recusal from performing or solemnizing lawful marriages based upon or in a manner consistent with a sincerely held religious belief or moral conviction described in Section 2 of this act.  Any person making such recusal shall provide prior written notice to the Administrative Office of Courts, and the state government shall not take any discriminatory action against that person wholly or partially on the basis of such recusal.  The Administrative Office of Courts shall take all necessary steps to ensure that the performance or solemnization of any legally valid marriage is not impeded or delayed as a result of any recusal.
See above comment…now, in Mississippi, I can take a job where I’m paid by the state, by the people, and refuse to do my job for a significant part of the populace. I have an idea – get a different job!
     SECTION 4.  (1)  As used in this act, discriminatory action includes any action taken by the state government to:
This section is just going to list the ways that the state government cannot punish people who choose to exercise their “moral objections” to the lives of others – this is how you cannot be punished by the state if you discriminate against all of the people you can now object to.
          (a)  Alter in any way the tax treatment of, or cause any tax, penalty, or payment to be assessed against, or deny, delay, revoke, or otherwise make unavailable an exemption from taxation of any person referred to in Section 3 of this act;

          (b)  Disallow, deny or otherwise make unavailable a deduction for state tax purposes of any charitable contribution made to or by such person;

          (c)  Withhold, reduce, exclude, terminate, materially alter the terms or conditions of, or otherwise make unavailable or deny any state grant, contract, subcontract, cooperative agreement, guarantee, loan, scholarship, or other similar benefit from or to such person;

          (d)  Withhold, reduce, exclude, terminate, materially alter the terms or conditions of, or otherwise make unavailable or deny any entitlement or benefit under a state benefit program from or to such person;

          (e)  Impose, levy or assess a monetary fine, fee, penalty or injunction;

          (f)  Withhold, reduce, exclude, terminate, materially alter the terms or conditions of, or otherwise make unavailable or deny any license, certification, accreditation, custody award or agreement, diploma, grade, recognition, or other similar benefit, position, or status from or to any person; or

          (g)  Refuse to hire or promote, force to resign, fire, demote, sanction, discipline, materially alter the terms or conditions of employment, or retaliate or take other adverse employment action against a person employed or commissioned by the state government.

     (2)  The state government shall consider accredited, licensed or certified any person that would otherwise be accredited, licensed or certified, respectively, for any purposes under state law but for a determination against such person wholly or partially on the basis that the person believes, speaks or acts in accordance with a sincerely held religious belief or moral conviction described in Section 2 of this act.
Sections 5-7 of the law can be seen below, but I’ll make no comment. My specific interests lie in making sure we all see and know and understand just how evil this new law is, and what it allows, as seen above and in Section 8. The following 3 Sections of the law detail specifics about pursuing “relief” through the court and legal system of the state.
     SECTION 5.  (1)  A person may assert a violation of this act as a claim against the state government in any judicial or administrative proceeding or as defense in any judicial or administrative proceeding without regard to whether the proceeding is brought by or in the name of the state government, any private person or any other party.

     (2)  An action under this act may be commenced, and relief may be granted, in a court of the state without regard to whether the person commencing the action has sought or exhausted available administrative remedies.

     (3)  Violations of this act which are properly governed by Chapter 46, Title 11, Mississippi Code of 1972, shall be brought in accordance with that chapter.

     SECTION 6.  An aggrieved person must first seek injunctive relief to prevent or remedy a violation of this act or the effects of a violation of this act.  If injunctive relief is granted by the court and the injunction is thereafter violated, then and only then may the aggrieved party, subject to the limitations of liability set forth in Section 11-46-15, seek the following:

          (a)  Compensatory damages for pecuniary and nonpecuniary losses;

          (b)  Reasonable attorneys’ fees and costs; and

          (c)  Any other appropriate relief, except that only declaratory relief and injunctive relief shall be available against a private person not acting under color of state law upon a successful assertion of a claim or defense under this act.

     SECTION 7.  A person must bring an action to assert a claim under this act not later than two (2) years after the date that the person knew or should have known that a discriminatory action was taken against that person.

     SECTION 8.  (1)  This act shall be construed in favor of a broad protection of free exercise of religious beliefs and moral convictions, to the maximum extent permitted by the state and federal constitutions.
The law will be interpreted broadly, so feel free to discriminate at will.
     (2)  The protection of free exercise of religious beliefs and moral convictions afforded by this act are in addition to the protections provided under federal law, state law, and the state and federal constitutions.  Nothing in this act shall be construed to preempt or repeal any state or local law that is equally or more protective of free exercise of religious beliefs or moral convictions.  Nothing in this act shall be construed to narrow the meaning or application of any state or local law protecting free exercise of religious beliefs or moral convictions.  Nothing in this act shall be construed to prevent the state government from providing, either directly or through an individual or entity not seeking protection under this act, any benefit or service authorized under state law.
If existing laws are broader, great! Because in no way will this particular monstrosity be interpreted narrowly – see next paragraph.
     (3)  This act applies to, and in cases of conflict supersedes, each statute of the state that impinges upon the free exercise of religious beliefs and moral convictions protected by this act, unless a conflicting statute is expressly made exempt from the application of this act.  This act also applies to, and in cases of conflict supersedes, any ordinance, rule, regulation, order, opinion, decision, practice or other exercise of the state government’s authority that impinges upon the free exercise of religious beliefs or moral convictions protected by this act.
If another law is narrower or conflicts with this one, it is out! Discriminators, start your engines – you are protected by this law!
     SECTION 9.  As used in Sections 1 through 9 of this act, the following words and phrases shall have the meanings ascribed in this section unless the context clearly indicates otherwise:
Section 9 is definitions…but read them. “Persons” are protected throughout this law, meaning individuals or religious organizations or businesses! Business policy can now be expressly discriminatory in hiring, firing, serving, etc., because a business is a person who can have a strong “moral conviction” according to this law. Think on that for a few minutes.
     (1)  “State benefit program” means any program administered or funded by the state, or by any agent on behalf of the state, providing cash, payments, grants, contracts, loans or in-kind assistance.

     (2)  “State government” means:

          (a)  The State of Mississippi or a political subdivision of the state;

          (b)  Any agency of the state or of a political subdivision of the state, including a department, bureau, board, commission, council, court or public institution of higher education;

          (c)  Any person acting under color of state law; and

          (d)  Any private party or third party suing under or enforcing a law, ordinance, rule or regulation of the state or political subdivision of the state.

     (3)  “Person” means:

          (a)  A natural person, in his or her individual capacity, regardless of religious affiliation or lack thereof, or in his or her capacity as a member, officer, owner, volunteer, employee, manager, religious leader, clergy or minister of any entity described in this section;

          (b)  A religious organization;

          (c)  A sole proprietorship, or closely held company, partnership, association, organization, firm, corporation, cooperative, trust, society or other closely held entity operating with a sincerely held religious belief or moral conviction described in this act; or

          (d)  Cooperatives, ventures or enterprises comprised of two (2) or more individuals or entities described in this subsection.

     (4)  “Religious organization” means:

          (a)  A house of worship, including, but not limited to, churches, synagogues, shrines, mosques and temples;

          (b)  A religious group, corporation, association, school or educational institution, ministry, order, society or similar entity, regardless of whether it is integrated or affiliated with a church or other house of worship; and

          (c)  An officer, owner, employee, manager, religious leader, clergy or minister of an entity or organization described in this subsection (4).

     (5)  “Adoption or foster care” or “adoption or foster care service” means social services provided to or on behalf of children, including:

          (a)  Assisting abused or neglected children;

          (b)  Teaching children and parents occupational, homemaking and other domestic skills;

          (c)  Promoting foster parenting;

          (d)  Providing foster homes, residential care, group homes or temporary group shelters for children;

          (e)  Recruiting foster parents;

          (f)  Placing children in foster homes;

          (g)  Licensing foster homes;

          (h)  Promoting adoption or recruiting adoptive parents;

          (i)  Assisting adoptions or supporting adoptive families;

          (j)  Performing or assisting home studies;

          (k)  Assisting kinship guardianships or kinship caregivers;

          (l)  Providing family preservation services;

          (m)  Providing family support services; and

          (n)  Providing temporary family reunification services.

     SECTION 10.  The provisions of Sections 1 through 9 of this act shall be excluded from the application of Section 11-61-1.

     SECTION 11.  This act shall take effect and be in force from and after July 1, 2016.
This abomination becomes law in Mississippi today.

The “Pro-America” False Dichotomy: Do Not Fall Prey to Fallacy!

“Somewhere I read that the greatness of America is the right to protest for
right.” Martin Luther King, Jr., I’ve Been to the Mountaintop

Donald Trump has created, and is now perpetuating, a narrative around kneeling football players that is a false dichotomy. This logical fallacy is nothing new, and certainly makes frequent appearance in politics.

False dichotomy: When only two choices are presented yet more exist, or a spectrum of possible choices exists between two extremes. False dichotomies are usually characterized by “either this or that” language, but can also be characterized by omissions of choices*.

It’s not difficult to pull out the false dichotomy being perpetuated by the administration – first by Trump (in his speech in AL and especially on Twitter), and then continued Monday in the press briefing. The narrative being sold to the gullible is roughly this:

  • support America (flag, anthem, military, laws, etc.),
  • be unpatriotic and un-American.
    Two extremes have been presented to the American public, and unfortunately many people are falling for the logical fallacy. Many feel like they have to support anything “American” [as defined by the administration], or risk being called (or in fact, being) un-American traitors.

    Obviously, there are a myriad of positions one could take that fall between “agree everything I call American” and “hate America.” But none of those positions are currently being left open for our citizens under the pressure of POTUS. By shaming anyone who would dare side against him, a movement against free thought is mobilizing.

    So instead of dealing with crucial issues like Puerto Rican hurricane disaster recovery, North Korea, private emails again used for conducting government business, or running our crumbling country – over the weekend the White House set their sights on forcing American adults to pledge allegiance to a scrap of fabric and sing an anthem which in its later verses has an entirely revolting perspective on slavery. [It’s another great question…when can we look at getting an anthem that represents the people of the United States? But I digress…]

    The fallacy presented falls apart easily – a person can, in fact, disagree with a certain American governmental position or action and not place themselves as enemies of America. There is a long history in our country of disagreeing but not hating or disrespecting, and I won’t take to listing examples of various in-between positions since we all know of them and many of us have probably been in exactly that position! Love for America does not require acceptance of her failures.

    Beyond the logical fallacy of the false dichotomy we’ve been presented with, there are other concerns regarding Trump’s attack on football players and their peaceful protest. [I can’t believe I’m having to write this…a president bickering with sportsmen is beyond absurd…] A few of those concerns are:

  • Straw man logical fallacy [refuting an argument by attacking an unrelated argument]: the players have taken a knee during the national anthem in order to bring attention to unchecked police brutality, specifically against minorities and in minority neighborhoods. The strawman set up by the administration is that the players are disrespecting the flag/anthem/military/country. It’s simple then to attack and belittle that disrespect, except it has nothing to do with the situation at all. This straw man approach by Trump is unethical and wrong.
  • The First Amendment protects the rights of free speech, peaceable assembly, and petitioning for government redress of grievances. Peaceful protest by the people has been inferred from the First Amendment, and supported by the courts and our laws. The men attacked as “sons of bitches” by Trump are peacefully protesting, asking for the government to correct an egregious wrong, and exercising their right to freedom of speech. The unconstitutional approach by Trump is unethical and wrong.
  • The right to not stand for the anthem or salute the flag is well established by court precedent (West Virginia State Board of Education vs Barnette), which states, among other things, “no official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion or force citizens to confess by word or act their faith therein.” You cannot force people to participate in the pledge, anthem, saluting the flag, or anything else of that nature. The forceful approach by Trump is unethical and wrong.
  • The President of the United States has much more important work to do than sticking his nose into a conversation where he doesn’t belong or have any standing to comment on. The President of the United States has no business calling his constituents “sons of bitches,” nor calling for them to be fired from their jobs for actions that are entirely legal. The overall approach taken in this conversation by the President of the United States is unethical and wrong.
    At the end of the day, any flag is just color and design on fabric. No one fights to defend a scrap of fabric, they fight to defend the ideals represented therein. In America, when the ideals of our country are being trampled by the government, people protest. We call attention to the fact that what the flag stands for is being destroyed, whether by politicians, police, or even the president. This is what #TakeAKnee is all about, and the people perpetuating the dangerous false dichotomy of “you’re either for us or against us” know that full well. This is a distraction technique, or even worse.

    My greatest fear in this discussion is the false dichotomy America narrative looks toward the endgame of using bad logic to turn us against each other – to quelch freedom of speech, expression, and press; to create a mob mentality of unquestioning “American support” among the populace; to then use their creation to further autocracy in the United States of America. If it is unsafe to speak up, then our right to fight for right is greatly diminished. By further dividing the public and creating division among voters, the people are more concerned with the actions of their neighbor than potential treachery committed by their elected officials.

    Instead of allowing ourselves to be pitted against one another, our focus needs to be on making sure that our government officials are doing their jobs with the best interests of all American citizens as their primary objective.

    Do not fall prey to the pro-America false dichotomy fallacy – our democratic republic may well depend on it.

    Examples of perpetuating the false narrative:
    Trump’s speech at Luther Strange rally in AL:
    “Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, ‘Get that son of a bitch off the field right now, out, he’s fired. He’s fired! You know, some owner is gonna do that. He’s gonna say, ‘That guy that disrespects our flag, he’s fired.’…They’ll be the most popular person in this country…But you know what’s hurting the game…When people like yourselves turn on television and you see those people taking the knee when they’re playing our great national anthem…”

  • Trump begins by misrepresenting what the players are doing, then sets the false dichotomy as “do American my way or you are un-American,” and then goes on to call for private business owners to fire their employees based on how he envisions being patriotic. He gets angry enough to curse about those who disagree with him. Dangerous and pathetic.
    Trump’s Tweets, a selection (@realDonaldTrump):
    ”If a player wants the privilege of making millions of dollars in the NFL,or other leagues, he or she should not be allowed to disrespect our Great American Flag (or Country) and should stand for the National Anthem. If not, YOU’RE FIRED. Find something else to do!…Roger Goodell of NFL just put out a statement trying to justify the total disrespect certain players show to our country.Tell them to stand!…If NFL fans refuse to go to games until players stop disrespecting our Flag & Country, you will see change take place fast. Fire or suspend!…Great solidarity for our National Anthem and for our Country. Standing with locked arms is good, kneeling is not acceptable. Bad ratings!…Courageous Patriots have fought and died for our great American Flag — we MUST honor and respect it! MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN!…” [and there are more, just visit his profile to see]

  • more of the same us vs them language, misrepresenting the issues and situation, calling for the 1st Amendment to be violated, and calling on retaliation for not “doing American” the way he wants people to.
    From Monday’s press conference (Sarah Huckabee Sanders):
    “promoting patriotism should bring us all together…always appropriate to promote flag, national anthem…this is not about the president being against something but about him being for them…everyone should be able to celebrate national pride, supporting those who fought and died for our country…”

  • this pushes the false dichotomy of “for us or against us…support what we say support or you’re un-American.” Now it’s not just POTUS, but his minions in the White House as well.

    a few points gleaned from a lunchtime ‘washington [#fakenews] update’ address with Congressman Gregg Harper

    fake news gregg harper

    click picture to contact the congressman

    I attended a rather large and significant event (considering Mississippi economics) at the end of last week. I won’t mention specifics, but it was a convention for an association representing an industry that employs a huge percentage of Mississippi workers.

    Congress(person)man Gregg Harper, 3rd District, was the keynote speaker. It’s no secret that I’m neither a fan of the current administration nor the mindless masses [traitors] who support them, so I decided…’during this talk, I’ll take notes.’

    {coming clean from the beginning — he didn’t know there was anyone present who would identify themselves as ‘a member of the media’…he asked, I held my tongue. I think it only fair that the public (electorate) hear what our elected officials say when they believe no one is around to report it.}

    These are my notes, clarified some after the fact, annotated with my own commentary, from that address. I did not take notes about everything, nor do I claim to represent everything he addressed — but everything following was in truth said by the Congressperson. We all take note particularly of statements we strongly agree with or strongly disagree with, and my notes reflect that reality. There’s my full disclosure.

    Things the elected official from Mississippi said and discussed — my annotated comments in brackets:

    • The news is frequently wrong, and many stories going around now in the media, even media that should be friendly to the administration, are false.
      [The continual attack on reporting and news undercuts freedom of the press — authoritarian governments do this. Always. #fakenews #administrationlies]
    • He rambled about North Korea for a while, bragging about two warships now being posted in the region, just in case. He made it clear that we are ramping up for war, and the administration doesn’t expect anyone to be able to stop it. Reason #1: the nature of North Korea’s administration. Reason #2: none of North Korea’s allies will be able to curb them except perhaps China, but they can’t be trusted to follow through with what they say.
      [Elected government officials making glib comments about events that could be leading us to war is disturbing. Laughter. “Well, we can at least get some war games out of all of this.” It is as though they forget that the lives of the men and women of the armed forces rest in the balance — US service people and innocent Korean civilians will die if war happens. This is no laughing matter.]
    • “The Chinese can change their mind by breakfast…no government steals more intellectual property…” This is the statement immediately following comments on North Korea, related to our inability to trust China to keep North Korea in check. We don’t trust the Chinese — a point he made several times.
      [Governments don’t trust each other. They spy. They maneuver. They manipulate. But government officials tend to keep overt criticisms, especially unprovoked ones, to a minimum. And accusations of theft should be backed up with some sort of evidence, even if generally believed to be true — throwing around accusations is dangerous. Another hint of both the isolationism and amateurism that we’re seeing from the US government lately.]
    • The conversation then moved on to disparaging the ongoing investigation into the Trump campaign and possible collusion with Russia. It was presented as a massive distraction posed by the left. Government leaks were the next topic, with a basic formulaic-type response I’d heard before — leaks are dangerous, never a good thing, government knows best, leakers should be caught and punished. Another hint that much of what was presented by media as leaks was just fake news. But then a surprise comment, one that I appreciated: he praised the appointment of former FBI director Robert Mueller as Special Counsel to lead the Russia investigation.
      [I laughed at a few jokes over the course of the talk, but this comment on Mueller was the only time I genuinely felt something like happiness. At least there was a willingness to not start trying to undercut the investigation from the beginning — Mueller is respected by everyone, and Harper’s comments showed that fact. But the constant attacks on the other side in a general way, and dismissing the conclusions of multiple intelligence agencies off-the-cuff simply doesn’t make any sense, and reminds me of a great quote from Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale: “We lived, as usual, by ignoring. Ignoring isn’t the same as ignorance, you have to work at it.”]
    • Paraphrase: The media has latched on to Jared Kushner’s alleged attempt to create a back channel of communication with Russia. This kind of back channel is usual for campaigns in transition, and there’s nothing unusual or illegal about it. It’s been going on at least since the time of President Reagan.
      [Again, my comment would be that brushing potentially compromising situations under the rug neither inclines others to trust, nor speaks directly of honesty. The congressman was also bending the truth — secret channels of communication with foreign governments are not unusual for presidents, but are in fact highly unusual for teams in transition. There is a huge difference between ‘President of the United States’ and ‘President-elect.’ One is the leader of the free world; the other has neither power nor authority to act on behalf of the American people. Looking into and clarifying the communications associated with this back channel makes perfect sense, both as a responsibility of ethical elected leaders and a responsibility to the American public.]
    • In the midst of attacking the left (Democrats) for investigating Trump and his team, Harper then chuckled, stepped away from the mike a bit, and says he has a comment off the record, a comment that hasn’t become a major story (it was implied that the story wasn’t yet known by the media, but that is not the case) but shows the opposition isn’t as clean as they purport to be. He said that about 20 staffers shared between 5 Democratic House members, including Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, were at issue…they were Pakistani, and the implication was that they were illegals.
      [The hollowness of this brief commentary was pathetic. The wrongdoings of Trump are in no way impacted or mitigated or balanced by wrongdoings of other members of government. Anyone in government doing wrong should be held accountable, regardless of their position or party. The actual story about these staff members concerns their being under criminal investigation for equipment theft and misuse of the House IT network, some sources even allege spying is among the concerns, and some of them possibly leaving the county for Pakistan after the investigation began.]
    • We then returned to the meandering course of the address, moving to healthcare. A healthcare bill has passed the House and is now being considered by the Senate. The bill will be greatly changed after the Senate’s work, but he hopes to have the two bills in conference by late July. He went on to say that he will always refer to the Affordable Care Act as “Obamacare;” it isn’t affordable, so he refuses to call it that. He then claimed that none of the promises of the law have happened, and that now the entire healthcare system in our country is ruined and messed up. Parts of the new bill that he particularly praised included purchasing insurance across state lines and removing regulations on the insurance industry in order to stabilize the markets.
      [The Senate has already confirmed they aren’t “looking at” the House bill. They are writing their own, and will refer to the House bill, but aren’t even using it as a basis or starting point. The Senate will pass their own bill, and having two radically different bills into conference by July is less a hope than a delusion. Refusing to call a law passed by both houses of Congress and signed by the president by it’s name…refusing to use the name of a law of the United States…this, I’m afraid, betrays an attitude toward the law not befitting an elected member of government. The notion that nothing of the ACA has worked at all, for anyone, in any way, is a sweeping false generalization (as one example, how many more people now have health insurance that didn’t before the ACA), and laying blame for the ruination of American healthcare (another false hyperbole) at its feet is equally ridiculous. Plenty of experts have already explained why purchasing across state lines is absurd (networks, etc.), and insurance industry regulations are in place because the industry was gutting the American people and making healthcare inaccessible to increasingly more people. Bad ideas a plenty…]
    • I’m not sure if this next comment was planned, related somehow to healthcare, or an unexpected aside. He said that the average American citizen has no idea about politics. Politicians keep up with what’s going on, conversations the average citizen doesn’t know are happening and can’t even understand, and therefore politicians are best equipped to make political decisions. Leave it to the professionals.
      [A calloused comment that was really the only time I considered walking out of the address. His disdain for his electorate was off-putting in the worst way. He basically said — the public doesn’t know what’s best, or good for them, or even what they want…they don’t understand the conversation…they should shut up and let the pros, like me, take care of everything for them. Sounds very authoritarian to me.]
    • I hoped the next conversation would happen, and lucky for me, it did. The Paris Agreement. Harper preached that the Agreement was a bad deal for American, a unilateral executive decision made by President Obama, which has the traits of a treaty and should have come before Congress for approval. Trump was praised for pulling out of the Agreement so America won’t be at a massive economic disadvantage to the rest of the world by the end of the century. AND, he added, it is only estimated to reduce world temperatures by 0.2 degree by the year 2100.
      [Where to even begin on this topic…it’s hard to decide, since the administration denies the reality of climate change and loves to misconstrue data. In brief — the Paris Agreement is voluntary, and any country can change their commitments. It’s also nonbinding — I think that needs to further explication. These two points, facts, voluntary and nonbinding, also demonstrate why it’s not a treaty. I am surprised the congressman didn’t deduce that on his own. Trump also said he wanted to renegotiate – 195 countries signed, and have already said they will not renegotiate. Also, renegotiation is entirely unnecessary, since the Agreement is voluntary and the commitments can be changed. Further, the comment on temperature reduction (and the study that’s from) betrays a lack of understanding of science, and a bending of reports and data to the administration’s viewpoint. There’s a nice article, if you can bear to read it, in the German publication Spiegel, detailing some of the lies, misinformation, and misunderstandings touted by the Trump administration as “reasons” for the US withdrawal from the Agreement. Even more, it makes clear the betrayal felt by the remainder of the world, and the way our government is now viewed. For your edification — Donald Trump’s Triumph of Stupidity.]
    • Harper then proceeded to say that he’s never seen someone attacked like Trump, and he doesn’t think any president has ever been treated as poorly, and he thinks the approach will backfire on liberals.
      [What short memories our politicians have…a quick primer (there are many, many who have been treated more unfairly than Trump, to use the president’s own words). The United States of America have had 4 presidents assassinated – which seems worse treatment than Trump has received: Abraham Lincoln, James A. Garfield, William McKinley, and John F. Kennedy. There have been at least 20 attempts to assassinate sitting presidents, so we aren’t even in the conversation of worst treated American politician, much less worst treated politician ever.]
    • Before question time (of which only a few were allowed, two of which I’ll comment on below), Harper wanted to make 2 comments about Trump.
      1 – he feels Neil Gorshuch was a great choice for the Supreme Court.
      2 – he said the US hasn’t been respected for many years, had lost world respect primarily because of weak leadership. He thinks the missile strike on the Syrian airbase and the MOAB dropped on ISIS targets in Afghanistan will make the world begin to respect the US again because now they know Trump is a man of action and will do what he says.
      [1 – The Gorsuch seat was stolen from Obama. The Republicans refused to hold hearings on his nominee for a court appointment that was, constitutionally, his to make. The callousness and hypocrisy drips from the capital steps. Gorsuch, this “great choice,” has a record of being anti-equality, especially for the LGBTQ community and women’s rights. He has also, several times, already demonstrated his arrogance and the fact that he’s not up to snuff when compared to the other justices on the Supreme Court.]
      [2 – The leaders of the free world have, for many decades and more, referred to the US as THE leader of the world…any other notion is simply a falsehood. Until 2 weeks ago, that is. The Syrian and Afghanistan attacks have been roundly criticized as illegal by world leaders — not exactly the makings of “restoring respect.” This section could be so long…the ignored security briefings, the murdered civilians. Trump has lost the world’s respect. He has placed the US on the back burner. Trying to claim otherwise is, verifiably, fake news.]
    • Question #1 was about the inefficiency of the VA. Harper supports shutting down the VA and privatizing all aspects of VA care. He said he hates to say it, but what we have now is about as good as big government can do. He also stated that the central problem is federal employee unions, driving up prices and complicating the entire system.
      [The irony, an elected government official blaming all of the problems on the government. Hypocrisy at its finest. Backing the government out of caring for the very people they employed in the armed forces to defend the people and land they claim to care so much about (they are public servants, after all) — is your face making the same strange expression as mine? And then attacking the federal employees as the problem, instead of government’s unwillingness to cut pork and favors in order to care for their citizens…classic pointing the finger and refusing to take any responsibility. But, on the up note, now the people of Mississippi know how this elected official feels about caring for the nation’s and state’s veterans.]
    • The 2nd question I noted was about our role in and relationship with the United Nations. Harper was no fan, and made that clear. His main consternation was what he called the anti-Israel bias at the UN. He then said that his personal belief is that a major part of America’s being blessed by God, and therefore so successful as a nation, is because of our support for Israel. He again said he’s no fan of the UN, but wants to see what the US can do, and if it can’t work in our favor then we should leave.
      [I assume he equates recognizing Palestine as a state as being anti-Israel, a typical American evangelical misnomer. The UN has been a major player in everything from world peace to fighting famine, all over the world. Having everyone work together is not a bad thing, even if it means your particular country can’t always be the top dog. Bringing in his religion might cause an issue, especially if he wants to destroy decades of cooperation because of something he simply believes to be true. That’s not how our republic works.]

    I am not surprised by anything the Congressman said that afternoon, but I continue to be saddened by the fact that so many of our elected officials are perfectly willing to ignore criminal behavior, deny science, turn a blind eye to hate, abandon promises and allies…all for the hope that their party can stay in power. Where are the days of a government “of the people, by the people, for the people?”

    No government is perfect, but the public must take back this American government from the hands of autocrats and fools who are quickly leading us to a point of no return — destruction of our political structures, economy, environment, and international relationships looms on the horizon.

    not a review, but thoughts after reading Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale: “Faith is only a word, embroidered.”

    “It appears that certain periods of history quickly become, both for other societies and for those that follow them, the stuff of not especially edifying legend and the occasion for a good deal of hypocritical self-congratulation.”

    I finally understand. I see why The Handmaid’s Tale has claimed a spot again on the best seller list. I sit on my couch and feel like a damn idiot. How have I not read this by now? A degree in English, plenty of graduate work (150+ hours and degrees to show), thousands of books read, 39 years of life gone – but never this one. The older I get and the more I experience and read, the more I realize that I know nothing, I’ve read nothing, and my life has practically been wasted.

    I can imagine a Trump-esque regime leading America to the dystopian reality Atwood’s novel portrays. Fortunately, it seems that public sentiment is slowly turning away from the insanity we see daily from the government (bought by foreign powers, abandoned by those who could help) leading our country today.

    Who publicly calls one of their leading allies evil?
    Who uses world tragedies to attack their detractors?
    Who rapes women?
    Who physically attacks reporters?
    Who shoves world leaders to keep themselves front and center in all things?
    Who brags about supporting Everyman, yet refuses to pay their employees and contractors?
    Who brashly shares state secrets with people who are virtually enemies?
    Who plots to cut funding for the arts, education, and healthcare?
    Who destroys you with a smile, claiming everything will soon be better?

    The US today is mimicking the Republic of Gilead, where half of the population repeats phrases they know to be false, praising a regime that continually demonstrates disregard for all but the top 2% of the top 1% (economically).

    Artists and writers and the press are persecuted in order to stop them from speaking the truth to the masses. Sound familiar?

    The rights of women and minorities are oppressed in order to keep homogeneity in power. Sound familiar?

    In The Handmaid’s Tale, our protagonist (and her frequently quoted aunt) remember what life was like before tyranny. But then we hear this: “We were a society dying…of too much choice.” Defeat. Aunt Lydia, and many like her, had not only accepted cruelty and deceit and a warped vision of life, but had come to embrace it. Yes, most likely as a coping mechanism for a reality that felt inescapable, but accept and support and preach they did.

    This is our America, 2017, filled with adults and leaders who are bowing to what they swore they’d never accept. Evil, oppression, bigotry, isolationism, authoritarianism – these are the reality of what the regime wrenching power from the people represent.

    Attack the press – attack the judiciary – attack the legislative branch – attack foreign governments – attack founding documents – attack the rule of law and justice – attack protestors – attack entertainers – attack artists.

    All of this has happened, and will continue. This is a bald-faced attempt to change the landscape of American life, values, culture, history. This is a full-on attack on freedom.

    You don’t have to be a particular fan of America to see the problem — I’m not. I often wish I weren’t born here and didn’t live here. But this county has always valued freedom and equality — these are being threatened today, under the very noses of those who swear protection, by the ones elected to protect them. That’s not alarmist — read the news, watch the people running things today and listen to them…listen to the words they proudly speak — there’s no question about their aims.

    The Handmaid’s Tale offers us a warning. It shows us a vision of what life could look like if we allow our country to get out of control…if we allow regression to continue. A few glimpses of life in Gildead follow; heed this warning from literature.

    Quotes for consideration:

    Buy Now!

    “Ordinary, said Aunt Lydia, is what you are used to. This may not seem ordinary to you now, but after a time it will. It will become ordinary.”

    “We lived, as usual, by ignoring. Ignoring isn’t the same as ignorance, you have to work at it.”

    “We were the people who were not in the papers. We lived in the blank white spaces at the edges of print. It gave us more freedom. We lived in the gaps between the stories.”

    “Sanity is a valuable possession; I hoard it the way people once hoarded money. I save it, so I will have enough, when the time comes.”

    “Maybe none of this is about control. Maybe it isn’t really about who can own whom, who can do what to whom and get away with it, even as far as death. Maybe it isn’t about who can sit and who has to kneel or stand or lie down, legs spread open. Maybe it’s about who can do what to whom and be forgiven for it. Never tell me it amounts to the same thing.”

    “How easy it is to invent a humanity, for anyone at all. What an available temptation.”

    “Pen Is Envy, Aunt Lydia would say, quoting another Center motto, warning us away from such objects. And they were right, it is envy. Just holding it is envy. I envy the Commander his pen. It’s one more thing I would like to steal.”

    “Better never means better for everyone, he says. It always means worse, for some.” [it seems so…does this always have to be true?]

    “But people will do anything rather than admit that their lives have no meaning. No use, that is. No plot.”

    “There is something powerful in the whispering of obscenities, about those in power. There’s something delightful about it, something naughty, secretive, forbidden, thrilling. It’s like a spell, of sorts. It deflates them, reduces them to the common denominator where they can be dealt with.”

    “Change, we were sure, was for the better always. We were revisionists; what we revised was ourselves.”

    “Humanity is so adaptable, my mother would say. Truly amazing, what people can get used to, as long as there are a few compensations.”

    “I don’t want to be a doll hung up on the Wall, I don’t want to be a wingless angel. I want to keep on living, in any form. I resign my body freely, to the uses of others. They can do what they like with me. I am abject. I feel, for the first time, their true power.”