Marking another milestone #Life #Mentalhealth

So here we are, another year gone. There are plenty of reasons to tell 2016 to get the hell out of here and don’t let the door hit you on the ass on the way out. Far too many disappointments and sadness for most years. On the other hand, I had some real positive things happen over the past year that I prefer to think of. And on the gripping hand, a year is just a year, a metaphorical placeholder to mark the passage of time in our lives.

I lost some people in my life. A friend of mine whose life was lost far too early in a tragic death. A loved family member. In both cases, I think of those left behind. In one case, family members who will have to live life without that person around. In the other case, it is the young children who will have to face life and continue growing up with only one parent.

I lost a job I had held for quite a while. Forcing me out into the cold of job hunting and starting over. In the big picture, though, that was as much of a blessing as it was difficult. I was able to have some time off to do a lot of things. Enjoy time with friends. Be there for those who needed my assistance. And make some necessary personality adjustments. At this point, I prefer to think of that unplanned change as more of a positive than a negative.

I reunited with many old friends. Strengthening bonds that already existed in some cases. Made some new friends (or turned acquaintances into friendships.) In the end, I think that the year was definitely a net gain in this department.

Politics was dreadful. So very many disappointments. One of the true positives of my new job is the lack of daily internet access, which is slowing down the firehouse of doom and gloom. None of it has changed the facts of what happened or what might happen. But at least I am not as deeply immersed in it all.

Sports was different. I accomplished my goal of not letting my obsessions with sports control my emotional and mental well being. I was happy when my teams did something positive, winning games. But I took it in stride when they did not. That was a continued journey.

Now I can face the next milestone with good cheer. I am doing all that I can to make my life better. I am also happy to be doing things to make others lives better. From welcoming new kids to my games to organizing grateful farewells. I even get the feeling that my job has the chance to help other people in a way that my old one did not. I am embracing the hope that the future will be better, rather than focusing on all the tragedy and frustration of the previous year. And I am doing all I can to ensure that brighter tomorrow happens, instead of letting myself just drift with the prevailing winds.


Understanding the goal versus the practice #Politics #Electoralcollege

This week the United States chose a President who did not receive the majority of the votes cast in the election. This is the second time this has happened in the past five Presidential elections. This result came about because the United States does not provide for the direct election of the President. Instead, the President is elected by the Electoral College.

The Electoral College designates that each state will have a number of Electors equal to the total number of Senators and Representatives to the House of Representatives. For example, my home state of Colorado has 7 Representatives and 2 Senators, which means it has 9 Electoral votes.

With the second of these occurrences in such a short time, the subject of the Electoral College has come up in recent days. The big argument that I am seeing used by those who are defending the system is that it keeps small states involved in the electoral process. Guaranteeing them a spot at the table. The problem is that this was not the intention of the system.

The purpose of the Electoral College is actually far more elitist than just ensuring that small states have their say. The purpose of the system was to make sure that the majority of people did not elect someone that was not worthy of being President. Fortunately, we do not have to guess to come to this conclusion. We have the words of one of the Framers available to us. In Federalist Paper 68 the writer (likely Alexander Hamilton) says:

It was equally desirable, that the immediate election should be made by men most capable of analyzing the qualities adapted to the station, and acting under circumstances favorable to deliberation, and to a judicious combination of all the reasons and inducements which were proper to govern their choice. A small number of persons, selected by their fellow-citizens from the general mass, will be most likely to possess the information and discernment requisite to such complicated investigations.

That pretty much lays out the idea that the Electors would act as a filter for the actual voters. And that the body of the Electoral College would as a total filter in case a block of states wanted to act against the interests of the nation.

What the Electoral College was not intended to be was a check against the larger states controlling the government. That check already exists elsewhere, within the Senate and the House. The way those bodies are apportioned ensures that the small states will have their say in the government.

It is important to note that the President (and Vice President) are the only nationally elected offices in the government. The import being that while a member of Congress might represent their House district or State, the President represents the entire nation.

That is why the Electoral College is an archaic system that feels like it is subverting our democracy. When the majority of the voters choose one candidate, but due to geographical circumstances, a group of 200,000 voters can effectively block the votes of millions.

While a Constitutional Amendment eliminating the Electoral College would be the desired goal that has become an impractical solution given the size of our country. But there is a practical, workable solution out there. The National Popular Vote Bill can correct this problem. The essence of what it will do is this:

Under the compact, the winner would be the candidate who received the most popular votes from all 50 states (and DC) on Election Day. When the Electoral College meets in mid-December, the national popular vote winner would receive all of the electoral votes of the enacting states.

What this means that the Electors from the states would no longer follow a winner take all approach in each state. Instead, they would simply respect the votes of the majority of American voters. The President would truly represent the majority of the country, not the wishes of people in certain geographies.

I think this is the best option for making sure that we do not have a President whom a large portion of the populace dislikes, opposes or even fears. Because the President must be a national figure and represent the will of the national electorate, while Congress provides the check of the states wishes. That is the goal of the system.

Thursday Politics #Politics

I am going to try and restrict my political rants to once a week from here until the end of the election. Cannot swear I will be successful, but I will at least try. I have a few thoughts to share this week.

Reasons I will Accept

Donald Trump is a terrible person with no moral character that I can possibly see. He is a hateful, mean, cruel person. And his candidacy and campaign are based on the lowest of the low parts of our country’s character: fear of the other, jealousy, and xenophobia. I personally find absolutely no redeeming quality to him or his campaign. But I know that there are those that do find some qualities or reasons.

One of my conservative friends who has wavered on his support of Trump did state this week the one reason why he will not vote for Hillary. And while I do not agree with him, and in fact view the reason from the exact opposite perspective, I will accept it. He is afraid of what kind of appointees to the Supreme Court Hillary will make, and the overall trend in the Court. Again, I think the exact opposite if Trump were elected. But I am willing to accept this as a reason for some to make that electoral choice. Though that acceptance comes with the caveat that I do not think that the people that Trump would select would be all that great from any perspective.

The overall point of this comment is that if you have a couple of issues that you feel very strongly about, and one of the candidates has a stated view that you feel is in opposition to these, or is strongly in favor of one, I can generally accept your view. What I am less tolerant of is those who will vote simply for partisan reasons, because this election has transcended basic issues of party, at least Trump has.

Homeless and problems

This week we had our annual Neighborhood Watch Night Out gathering. Where the people from our neighborhood gather together to eat good food. Chat about what is happening in our lives and the neighborhood. Get a visit from the local Police Commander. And discuss matters of safety in our little stretch of the city.

For the most part, I enjoy these gatherings. But there are a few parts of it that bother me. The majority of our little neighborhood is older and white. And at some point, the issues of homeless people, crime and marijuana come up. Bear in mind this is not a wealthy area, these are working class folks, mostly middle class. And yet they will complain and bring up some points that fail the logic test, and I have to bite my tongue.

They complain that the homeless population is high because we live in Colorado, with legal marijuana. Which is true to some extent. But then they turn around and then complain about how these homeless people are abusing the system because they get drunk and end up in the emergency room. Note that it is not the pot smokers who are ending up in the ER, it is the drunks, and yet somehow pot is at the root of it all in these people’s minds.

The other one that drives me up the wall is complaining about the panhandlers. And they make comments about how they are not even homeless people, that they are doing this as a job. And that some make as much as 30 grand a year doing that. First, if it is so lucrative and easy, why don’t they go out and do that instead of the jobs they have (or don’t have?) Why don’t they go out and stand in the sun and heat with no shelter for 8 hours, get yelled at, spit on, have crap thrown at them? And then the matter of how much they really make has not been proven. Most studies indicate that the panhandlers make maybe $300 a month, which wouldn’t even pay the rent.

And then this group of people, who are sitting around drinking beer and margaritas, smoking cigarettes, complains that the panhandlers just use the money on booze and drugs. What, poor people are not allowed to have the same vices as the rest of us? The problem for most homeless is not that they waste money on vices. It is because the fixed costs of rent, utilities, insurance that are needed to survive in this country are way beyond their grasp. In other words, the Rent is Too Damn High!

Anyway, those are my rants and discussions for this week. Return next week for more, I am sure I will have some to share.

The useless blame game #Politics

An interesting thing about the Orlando shooting is how some people are seeing it as an excuse to become violently xenophobic. It reminds me of 9/11. I remember how before 9/11 the comedian Dennis Miller was actually mildly interesting and funny, but 9/11 changed him. He became far more caustic and full of fear and hatred.

I have begun to see this trend regarding the Orlando shooting. Some people are using the shooting as an excuse to attack Islam. They lay the hatred and homophobia of the shooter at the feet of Islam. They say that is where he got that hatred from. Ergo it is his Muslim faith that motivated the attack. His time on ISIL websites and claim in his call before the attack claiming that he was doing this for ISIS are clearly further proof. The logic is this: he was a Muslim, he claimed to be performing this action in the name of Islam, therefore it is his religion that is to blame for his actions. If you accept that logic at face value and think that it is justified to attack an entire religion for this than I have another case to discuss with you.

This past November a self-proclaimed Christian, who described himself as a deeply religious Christian, attacked a Planned Parenthood center in my hometown. He murdered several people and wounded others. And might have killed even more if he was more competent. This shooter had spent a lot of time on websites that discussed how Planned Parenthood was evil. And he spent a lot of time telling people that their actions would condemn them to Hell.

If I apply the same logic that is being used to condemn Islam because of the actions of the Orlando shooter than I must also condemn Christianity for the actions of the Planned Parenthood shooter. That is simple logic.

Or, as an alternative, we could look at these shooters as individuals; angry, hateful individuals who do not represent anyone or anything but themselves. Instead of transferring the blame to something larger we simply accept that some people are terrible, with twisted ideologies and have left the accepted practices of society behind them. They may be sociopaths, or delusional, or some combination.

If we stop playing the blame game and instead focus on the actions of the individuals we might then turn to a more productive approach. If we instead looked for ways to make certain that people have more ways to get help when they have mental or emotional issues. If we eliminate the stigma of receiving mental health help that might help us all.

If we move beyond the blaming of groups and addressed other practical issues. Like how do we make it harder for individuals to obtain weapons that improve their ability to rapidly kill large groups of people? And how can we do this without turning the nation into a police state? Because those questions are far more practical and helpful than asking if a religion or culture is inherently evil. That gets us nowhere and encourages fear, bigotry, and blind hatred. And that is not an American Value.


Today’s outrage #Politics #Trump

I woke up to this astounding piece of news from The Evil One’s latest speech.

It is not so much that he was speaking complete fabricated truths, which is unusual. It is the way he phrased it and spoke of this that it irked me. I am beginning to think that he is living a complete dream world.

I remember at one time coming up with an idea for a role playing game setting. It would be to play in the world of the CBS network Prime Time procedurals. The world of NCIS and CSI. Where terrorist plots, bombings and attacks happen with regular frequency. Where The best & the brightest are working for secretive agencies and pitting themselves against secretive masterminds. Where serial killers are masters of their craft and can kill with impunity until one of the secretive agencies figures them out. It is a gripping world, and if you spend too much time with it, you can begin to think that is what the world is really like. But it is just fiction.

I am beginning to think that Donald Trump really thinks that fictional world exists. That there are brilliant mastermind criminals out there just plotting to kill us all and destroy our country. And that there are brilliant people who could solve all of these problems if we could just unleash them and let do whatever they say is necessary.

It reminds me of the attitude that began to permeate the country after the release of Rambo: First Blood Part 2. When young people who had not served began to trumpet this idea that we could have won in Vietnam if we had just approached the war correctly.

I have news for Donald Trump and the rest of this ilk. The world is not a TV procedural. You cannot track down and kill any terrorist just by unleashing the best and the brightest minds. Not every problem can be solved in a day’s work or a week long mini-series story arc. The problems of this world are complex and require a lot of work to resolve.

If you could solve the world’s problems with some prayer and by saying the right things in a few speeches than life would be very different. It takes action, work, and thought. Acting differently is being willfully ignorant. And that is no way to lead a country.

Time for a thought experiment #Politics

Orlando was a terrible thing. I have made my views on gun control very clear here on this blog. And I have no tolerance for those who would single out and attack minorities for any reason. But that is not what this post is about. Instead, I want to conduct a thought experiment.

The public has a right to know how these people got here.

We have to screen applicants to know whether they are affiliated with, or support, Jewish groups and beliefs.

We have to control the amount of future immigration into this country to prevent large pockets of Jews from forming inside Germany.
If I told you that I pulled those lines from a speech by Adolf Hitler it would certainly make sense. Or this:
I want us all to work together, including in partnership with our Jewish communities. But Jewish communities must cooperate with law enforcement and turn in the people who they know are bad – and they do know where they are.
Again it does not take really any imagination to imagine this line coming from Hitler or one of his Nazi officials. Of course, you would be wrong to think that. Because both quotes below are pulled from the speech that Donald Trump gave yesterday in response to the Orlando shooting.

The public has a right to know how these people got here.

We have to screen applicants to know whether they are affiliated with, or support, radical groups and beliefs.

We have to control the amount of future immigration into this country to prevent large pockets of radicalization from forming inside America.
I want us all to work together, including in partnership with our Muslim communities. But Muslim communities must cooperate with law enforcement and turn in the people who they know are bad – and they do know where they are.
I do this to make a point. It is that Donald Trump is a tremendously dangerous individual. He is making immigrants and Muslims a scapegoat and object of fear. This is a common technique of the demagogue. These are nothing new in America. Our history is chock full of politicians who made a living out of scapegoating certain groups: immigrants in general, Irish, African Americans, Jews, Communists, Hispanics, Chinese.
What makes this uniquely dangerous is that we have never had a Presidential nominee of one of the major parties who follows this practice. There have been some who got close. Most recently the career of George Wallace for example. But this is clearly the closest anyone has gotten using these tactics. And the people of this country, on both sides of the political divide, need to recognize what is going on and unite in saying ‘No, we are better than this, we will not allow someone to lead us down this dark path of hatred and fear.’

This really is a BFD! Time to unite behind her #Politics

What has been inevitable for a couple of months was made official last night. As Hillary Clinton finalized the nomination for the Democratic Party. This is a Big Fucking Deal folks! As the child of a strong woman who had to fight her share of battles in a world dominated by men I for one welcome the opportunity to vote for the female candidate of a major political party. I welcome the chance to follow up a minority male with a female President.

To all of my many friends who have been Sanders supporters, I get it. I know your pain. I recognize that the ideological views of Bernie Sanders are far closer to our Progressive views. I am closer to his views than Hillary’s in most cases (except gun control.) I think that his approach to many things would help the country. There is a fundamental problem with economic inequality in this country that needs to be addressed. None of this changes that.

A lot of people complain that Hillary is not a true Progressive. That her ideals have been compromised, that she gets too much money from the banks and other big money sources. That she is a warmonger who will pursue a terrible foreign policy. And of course, we as a nation have been continually exposed to an unending barrage of hatred against Hillary for nearly 25 years now.

Here is the big crucial point, though. And the reason why this is a such a big deal. We live in a large ethnically, culturally and geographically diverse country that is technologically very advanced. A country that has, up until 2008, been represented by old white men. It is about time that our national leadership represented the entire population.

Economics does matter, it is a big deal. But changing our representation to adhere closer to the entire nation is an even bigger deal. Particularly in this election when her opponent is the personification of everything that is terrible and bad about the old culture in this country.

I remember being moved to tears when Obama was elected. At what that moment meant for our country. And electing Hillary in the face of terrible hatred and cultural fear will mean even more. This is the chance for us as a country to renounce fear and hatred. Embrace our entire culture, not just the world of old white men.