An Ugly Voice — Peter T. King

I had no intention of writing about this topic again this week.  I was fairly certain it would come up again in the near future, for I don’t think the final word has been said yet, but I thought the topic was put to bed for a nap, at least.  Until, that is, the abominable New York Congressman  Peter King had to open his mouth and spew the most ludicrous thing I have heard and get the needle on my radar twitching and my fingers itching.  And what topic is that, you may be wondering?  The NFL decision to fine teams & players who refuse to stand for the playing of the national anthem before games.

My feelings on this are well-known and do not bear repeating, but an examination of Mr. King’s statement is definitely in order.  As I mentioned in my last post about this topic, Take A Knee, there was one team owner who stood above all the rest in the decision of the team owners.  Christopher Johnson, acting owner of the New York Jets, stood up for his players …chris johnson.jpg“I never want to put restrictions on the speech of our players. Do I prefer that they stand? Of course. But I understand if they felt the need to protest. There are some big, complicated issues that we’re all struggling with, and our players are on the front lines. I don’t want to come down on them like a ton of bricks, and I won’t. There will be no club fines or suspensions or any sort of repercussions. If the team gets fined, that’s just something I’ll have to bear.”

I applaud him for being the only one to stand heads above the rest, to have the courage of his convictions, to stand for his players.  But apparently Representative King viewed it a bit differently …Pete King.pngHe is comparing taking a knee rather than standing at attention for a stupid song to a Nazi salute?  He is comparing a peaceful protest against police brutality and racial injustice to a group of people who commited murder, who committed genocide, who committed crimes against humanity when they killed more than 6 million people???  What tree did this ‘man’ fall from?

I commented on his tweet:

“You are delusional, Mr. King, and not worthy of the office you hold.  Have you ever read the U.S. Constitution?  I suggest you do so, post haste.”

That was mild, compared to what I wanted to say, but Twitter has a word limit, and presumably a set of standards about language, so I restrained myself.  But let us ask a question here:  Is this the ‘new norm’?  Is what used to be admirable no longer so, and bigotry now what is looked up to?

I was encouraged that, with few exceptions, the comments to King’s tweet were along the lines of voting him out of office, which tells me that no, We The People have not become cruel, heartless, anti-freedom idiots.  But how did we come to this point, to this place where we are electing people to high offices in our federal government who have so little humanity, no empathy for humans?  And in New York, of all places!  C’mon, New Yorkers … you’re better than this!

Peter King photo.pngMr. King piqued my curiosity … people don’t just become this way overnight, after all … so I dug a little deeper.  What I found is an unapologetic racist, an intense Islamophobe, homophobe.  King has been in office since 1992, and it is the opinion of this writer that it is well past time to take out the trash.  Let us hope that there is a strong, viable candidate running against Mr. King in the 2nd congressional district of New York in November.

Let’s Talk!

It’s hard to believe it has been nearly two weeks already since I wrote the post Give-and-Take.  That post was the experiment I tried in response to a challenge by Lisa Jensen writing as The Snarky Activist, where we each tried to find one good thing to say about Donald Trump.  My goal was to try to start a conversation between right and left, conservative and liberal, republican and democrat.  A conversation where we listen … actually listen to the other side, and respond with respect, yet without sacrificing our own views.  The post was enormously successful, beyond my wildest imaginings, and the feedback (140 comments) was beyond encouraging.  Lisa and I discussed it and decided to try to turn this into a multi-post, joint effort project.

civil-discourse.jpgOne thing we decided was that the conversation would be more meaningful if we limited it to a single topic at a time, and get everyone on the same page.  I suggested, and Lisa concurred, that we would put it to my readers to choose the topic.  I initially put together a list of about 30 topics, looked at it, set it aside, and then tonight I pulled it up and looked at it again and just shook my head and started cutting.  I narrowed the field to six of the ones I think are high priorities.  You will note that there is an elephant in the room.  I have intentionally NOT put issues related to guns on the list at this time.  The Santa Fe school shooting has, I think, left us all too raw for the moment and I fear we could not calmly discuss anything related to gun regulation.  I know I couldn’t … not yet.  Soon, however, I do want to open this topic, most specifically a ban on assault-style weapons.  But not just yet.

purpose of disagreementWe have had a lull in this project, partly because Lisa was on a business trip all last week, and I have been battling a respiratory infection all week.  But I don’t want to lose the momentum, so I hope that by mid-week, we can open a new discussion on the topic you guys choose.  Please select two choices from the following topics.  If there are other topics you would like us to discuss either now or in the future, please let me know in the comments.  I am thinking one discussion every 10 days or so, and the format is still being considered.  All ideas are welcome … you guys are part of this project too!!!

I’m looking forward to hearing your suggestions, and also to engaging with everybody, doing our small part to try to narrow the gap that is tearing this country apart.  Thanks to all for your interest, enthusiasm and participation!

Snarky Snippets for a Saturday Afternoon

Our friend, Eschudel, suggested after my last ‘snippets’ post that ‘Snarky Snippets’ might be a fitting title when I write a compilation of bits ‘n pieces.  Another friend, John, seconded the motion, and since I liked it too, these posts will from now on be called just that!  Thank you Emily and John – there will be a little something extra in your Christmas stockings this year!

Today, I am working on the next stage of our ‘listening and understanding the other side’ project … I really need to come up with a name for it … with Lisa Jensen, and I have to go out in a bit and run some errands, so I am in a bit of a time crunch.   A few worthy things in the news caught my eye this morning, so I shall take advantage of this opportunity to write another Snarky Snippets post!


The headline in Politico read:

Week 53: Trump Goes Spy Hunting and Gets Skunked

Even some of his staunchest supporters couldn’t manage to applaud his performance.

By JACK SHAFER May 26, 2018

“Master table-turner Donald Trump is at it again, spinning the latest damning news from the Russia investigation and flinging it back at his critics to make him look like a victim, not a perp.

This week’s twirl of the table had Trump spinning his interpretive energies into “SPYGATE,” his racy label for the alleged “Criminal Deep State” conspiracy against him. Why call it Spygate? Trump, who lives for catchy buzz-phrases and slogans, told an ally he wanted “to brand” the informant as a spy, and that such language would leave a more lasting impression on the media and public.”

spy v spyNow, personally I am finding this whole “spygate” thing tedious, ridiculous and beneath the dignity of any politician, let alone one who occupies the Oval Office.  But to the point here … we, my friends, are being played.  We sensed it all along, but this is the proof.  He chooses his words and phrases for maximum impact.  Even though he angers the majority of us, it does not matter, for we remember, we notice, we comment, and the media keeps the story alive – that is all he really wants.

It would be wonderful if I could propose, as I have before, a moratorium on everything Trump.  If the media could go, say, a full week without so much as a mention of his name, and if those of us who write this sort of blogs could write about, horse-racing, flowers, art and gnomes for a week, without mention of DT.  But it won’t happen, can’t happen, and there are some very good reasons why it shouldn’t happen.  Just be aware, though, that he is playing us for fools – let us not prove him right.


Conway vs Conway

It would appear that George Conway, wife husband of Trump’s main boot-licker Kellyanne Conway, does not agree with his wife’s boss’ politics.  Gee … might it be he has a functioning brain, unlike his wife?

As far back as last June, Conway began tweeting tweets that were less than complimentary to Trump, things like this:george-conway-tweetMild, in my book, but it raised eyebrows among Kellyanne’s co-workers, and likely Trump himself.  After that, it is said, he became a Twitter star.  I wish I had known, for most have since been deleted and I haven’t time to dig around the ‘net for archived copies.  But he hasn’t stopped there, according to Business Insider.  Two writers of political commentary say that they occasionally receive emails from Mr. Conway with suggestions on how to strengthen their anti-Trump arguments.

Early in the Trump administration, Mr. Conway was offered positions in the Trump White House, first as Solicitor General, and then as the head of the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division.  He turned both down – probably a good thing.

You have to wonder how this affects their home life, since Kellyanne seems to have been programmed to nod and agree with everything Trump, and hubby is leaning more and more anti-Trump.  Do I hear divorce lawyers salivating?


Gotcha?

Harvey Weinstein was finally arrested yesterday, some seven months after he was accused of sexually harassing, assaulting, or raping more than a dozen women last October.  Weinstein was led in handcuffs past a gantlet of photographers on Friday as he appeared in court to face charges that he had raped one woman and forced another to perform oral sex.  But look at this picture, folks …Weinstein smilesWeinstein smiles-2Don’t you just want to slap that smile right off his ugly mug?  Since October, I have hoped to see him spend the rest of his days in prison, but now I am even more hopeful of that outcome.  To smile … that smug little smile … they should tie him to a stake in the middle of Hollywood Boulevard and let women come throw eggs, rotten tomatoes or just spit on his face!

No, not a cruel bone in my body …  😈

After stating the charges, the prosecutor, Joan Illuzzi added that the inquiry had shown “that this defendant used his money, power and position to lure young women into situations where he was able to violate them sexually.”  She also noted that the investigation is still ongoing.  Weinstein’s attorney, Benjamin Brafman, said Weinstein intends to plead “not guilty”.  Seriously???  Weinstein was released on $1 million bail after only a few minutes in the courtroom.


And I end with a cartoon or two to bring you a smile … or more likely an eye roll.  Enjoy the rest of your weekend, folks!

toon-2toon-3toon-4

The Banana States of America — Part II

This morning I published Part I of this two-part series looking at the 8 criteria that, in part, define nations that might be considered ‘banana republics’ by the modern connotation.

Continued from Part I …

#5 – Inadequate Access to Healthcare.  The United States continues to be the only developed country that lacks universal healthcare.  The Affordable Care Act (ACA) of 2010 was a small step in the right direction of ensuring everyone would have at least basic health coverage, but did not go nearly far enough, and is being shredded by the current regime with no replacement in sight.  Add to that the fact that the U.S. has some of the highest medical expenses in the world, and you have many who are left untreated simply because they are not able or willing to go into bankruptcy to treat an illness.

#6 – Dramatic Gaps in Life Expectancy.  The disparity in life expectancy rates dramatically illustrates the severity of the growing rich/poor divide in the United States. A recent study by Washington University and published in the Journal of American Medicine Association (JAMA) indicates that average life expectancy now varies by more than 20 years depending on where you live in the United States. Life expectancy for males is 63.9 years in McDowell County, West Virginia compared to 81.6 years in affluent Fairfax County, Virginia or 81.4 in upscale Marin County, Calif. That is especially eye-opening when one considers that life expectancy for males was 68.2 in Bangladesh in 2012 and 64.3 for males in Bolivia, one of the poorest countries in Latin America, in 2011.

#7 – Hunger and Malnutrition.  The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) defines food insecurity as a lack of consistent access to enough food for an active, healthy life.  Estimates vary, but most organizations put the number of Americans who suffer from food insecurity as being between 42 – 48 million, or about 1 in every 8 people. In the 1950s and ’60s, hunger was a word associated with developing countries, but the word can now be applied to the U.S. as well.  According to the organization Share Our Strength, more than 13 million children go to school hungry, and one in every five lives in a household that is food insecure, without sufficient resources to provide enough food.

#8 – High Infant Mortality.  A report released in 2014 by Save the Children found that “the United States has the highest first-day death rate in the industrialized world” (babies dying the day they are born) and that the European Union has only about half as many first-day deaths as the United States: 11,300 in the U.S. vs. 5,800 in EU member countries. “Poverty, racism and stress are likely to be important contributing factors to first-day deaths in the United States,” said the report. Save the Children also reported that the U.S. had a rate of three first-day deaths per 1,000 births, the same rate the organization reported for developing countries like Egypt, Tunisia, Sri Lanka, Peru and Libya. Meanwhile, Mexico, Argentina, Chile, El Salvador and Costa Rica were among the Latin American countries that had only two first-day deaths per 1,000 births. So, a baby born in El Salvador or Mexico has a better chance of living to its second day than a baby born in the United States.infant mortalityData by Center for Disease Control

In my opinion, there is one other important criteria that should be added to this list, and that is ‘Education’, another area in which the U.S. lags pitifully behind in this 21st century, but perhaps I will address that in a separate post soon.

When I started this post a few days ago, I began with the intention of being a bit cheeky, rather a bit of my usual snark, but as I did more research into each of the above topics, my snark turned into genuine concern, and I lost the urge to crack a joke somewhere along the line.  No, we are not becoming, in the true sense of the word, a ‘banana republic’, nor are we likely to any time soon.   But we are on a downhill trajectory that, unless corrected, may find us at the bottom of the rubbish heap of industrialized nations.  Where we once were a leader, now we lag far behind the pack.  Where we once were the example other nations looked to, we are now looked down on as not even being on the same playing field – the farm team, as it were.

I need to make it perfectly clear, also, that much as I might like to, I cannot blame our current course on Donald Trump, for the trend began long before he took office.  However, I can and do blame him for failing to even see the problem and implement policies that might reverse these trends, for failing miserably in having any sense of what is right and good for the nation and its people. I blame him for being so concerned with his own self-image and “winning” that he has miserably failed We The People. The current administration and Congress have a delusional sense of values, a misguided notion that if they take care of only the wealthy, the wealthy will see to the rest of us.  I think the evidence is to the contrary, and without a government actively working to reverse the trends about which I spoke, we can only sink deeper into a hole we began digging decades ago.

I hope I have provided you with a bit of food for thought, as whatever the faults of this country, whatever mistakes we have made in our 230+ year history, I do not wish to see this nation fail, be turned into just another third-world country because a few wealthy people and a few corrupt politicians did not take their responsibility to the human race seriously.

The Banana States of America — Part I

dana milbankA recent OpEd piece in The Washington Post by journalist Dana Milbank, carried the same title as this post … yes, I ‘borrowed’ it from him.  The premise of the article was that this 115th Congress is the most authoritarian in the history of the United States.  An excerpt from Mr. Milbank’s column

“Hillary Clinton warns of a “full-fledged crisis in our democracy.” Rex Tillerson, the former secretary of state fired by President Trump, now warns that “American citizens are on a pathway to relinquishing our freedom.” (Too bad he didn’t say so when he was on the job.)

They are both correct, in a sense, but right now the fear of the United States going totalitarian doesn’t feel quite right. This crowd is too clownish to be Stalinist. Rather, the United States is turning into a banana republic …”

That is precisely what our friend Roger has been saying all along.  And he (Milbank, not Roger) goes on to cite some specific examples, such as …

“The president of the United States orders the Justice Department to investigate his political opponents. The Justice Department complies.

The president, The Post reports, personally urged the postmaster general to double the rate it charges Amazon, apparently because he doesn’t like the coverage by The Washington Post, owned by Amazon founder Jeffrey P. Bezos.”

But rather than dwell on the article, which you can read from the link above, I wanted to find out what, exactly, constitutes a ‘banana republic’, so I did some research.  Technically, the term ‘banana republic’ refers to a country that is politically unstable with an economy dependent upon the exportation of a limited-resource product, e.g. bananas, minerals, etc. But in today’s conversations, it became an epithet for a country whose governing institutions are corrupt, arbitrary, and generally inadequate.  Clownish.

I came across a list of ten criteria that defines a banana republic in the modern day usage.  The United States, at this point under the leadership of Donald Trump, fits the bill for 8 of the 10, the only two missing being ‘torture’ and ‘high unemployment rates’.  I think we should take a look at these points.  As I researched, pondered, and wrote, this piece well exceeded my self-imposed outer limit of 1,200 words, even though I trimmed as much as I felt it appropriate to trim.  Thus, this became, over the course of a few days, a two-part series.  This is Part I, and Part II will follow this afternoon.  I also subtly changed the direction of my thoughts as I read, studied and learned more.   Where feasible, I have included links for those who may wish to learn more. Please forgive my wordiness, but I do hope you will give some thought to what I am about to say.

#1 – Rising income inequality and a shrinking middle class.  This isn’t a new complaint, for five years ago, in 2013, a well-researched report in the Journal of Economic Perspectives asserted that the U.S. now has the highest income inequality and lowest upward mobility of any country in the developed world. They found that while the picture grows increasingly bleak for American’s embattled middle-class, “the share of total annual income received by the top 1% has more than doubled from 9% in 1976 to 20% in 2011.” And earlier this year, a report by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development OECD also found that the U.S. now leads the developed industrialized world in income inequality.

#2 – Unchecked Police Corruption and an Ever-Expanding Police State. Let me just throw out a few names for you, folks, starting with Trayvon Martin, Philando Castile, Samuel DuBose, Freddie Gray, Sandra Bland, Walter Scott, and the list goes on … and on.  Unarmed black men and women who were killed by police only for the crime of … being black.  And in every case except that of Walter Scott, the police who did the killing walked away scot free.  But more … add to that the way immigration raids by ICE are conducted, the way drug raids are conducted, enhancements to FISA, and you see a pattern of an authoritarian police force.

#3 – Highest Incarceration Rate in the World.  The U.S. has an incarceration rate of 737 per 100,000!  The next highest is Russia, with 615 per 100,000 people.  Does this mean that U.S. citizens are the most criminal in nature?  No, not at all.  Much of it is due to the ‘war on drugs’, which has emphasized draconian sentences for nonviolent offenses.  The prison industrial complex has become quite a racket. From prison labor to construction companies to companies specializing in surveillance technology, imprisoning people is big business in the United States—and the sizable prison lobby has a major stake in keeping draconian drug laws on the books.

#4 – Corrupt Alliance of Big Business and Big Government.  Need I say more than gun-makers, NRA and Republicans in Congress?  Consider Benito Mussolini’s definition of fascism: the merger of state and corporate power. Consider the previously unchecked power of the too-big-to-fail banks.  And now, with Trump rolling back the Dodd-Frank banking regulations, we are returning to that state.  Banks, oil & coal companies, the gun manufacturers and others are holding hands with the Trump administration and the 115th Congress as regulations to protect the environment and the people are demolished.

To be continued …

Take A Knee …

1st amendment Today, the National Football League (NFL) took it upon itself to slash the 1st Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.  The owners implemented a new rule that teams and therefore players will be fined if they take a knee on the field during the national anthem.  Now, they are allowed to remain off the field during the playing of the anthem, but they cannot show their protest as Colin Kaepernick did in August 2016.  Washington Post columnist EJ Dionne said it well …Dionne-tweetCommissioner Roger Goodell had this to say …

“The policy adopted today was approved in concert with the NFL’s ongoing commitment to local communities and our country — one that is extraordinary in its scope, resources, and alignment with our players. We are dedicated to continuing our collaboration with players to advance the goals of justice and fairness in all corners of our society.

The efforts by many of our players sparked awareness and action around issues of social justice that must be addressed. The platform that we have created together is certainly unique in professional sports and quite likely in American business. We are honored to work with our players to drive progress.

It was unfortunate that on-field protests created a false perception among many that thousands of NFL players were unpatriotic. This is not and was never the case.

This season, all league and team personnel shall stand and show respect for the flag and the anthem. Personnel who choose not to stand for the anthem may stay in the locker room until after the anthem has been performed.

We believe today’s decision will keep our focus on the game and the extraordinary athletes who play it — and on our fans who enjoy it.”

People of conscience who are fortunate enough to have a wide platform want to use that voice to rally against injustice, and they will be fined if they do so.  What’s wrong with this picture?  How did we get so out of sync here?

kneelingPatriotism?  Loyalty to country?  The flag is a piece of cloth and the anthem is a song.  Nothing more.  They are symbols, but symbols of what, exactly?  What is patriotism?  Does patriotism require that we sit down and shut up when we would speak out against an unarmed black man being killed by a cop for no reason other than that he was black?  Does being loyal to our country mean that we cannot speak out when people are being discriminated against because they are gay?  If that’s what patriotism and loyalty mean, count me out!

POLICY STATEMENT
The 32 member clubs of the National Football League have reaffirmed their strong commitment to work alongside our players to strengthen our communities and advance social justice. The unique platform that we have created is unprecedented in its scope, and will provide extraordinary resources in support of programs to promote positive social change in our communities.
The membership also strongly believes that:
1. All team and league personnel on the field shall stand and show respect for the flag and the anthem.
2. The Game Operations Manual will be revised to remove the requirement that all players be on the field for the anthem.
3. Personnel who choose not to stand for the anthem may stay in the locker room or in a similar location off the field until after the anthem has been performed.
4. A club will be fined by the League if its personnel are on the field and do not stand and show respect for the flag and the anthem.
5. Each club may develop its own work rules, consistent with the above principles, regarding its personnel who do not stand and show respect for the flag and the anthem.
6. The commissioner will impose appropriate discipline on league personnel who do not stand and show respect for the flag and the anthem.

You know what I would like to see?  I would like to see every single player on every team take a knee during the anthem in the first games of the season.  At least one team owner had some cojones.  Christopher Johnson, the chairman and C.E.O. of the New York Jets, said the team would not punish players who choose to kneel during the anthem, despite the cost.

“There will be no club fines or suspensions or any sort of repercussions. If the team gets fined, that’s just something I’ll have to bear.”

Mike Pence, a known bigot and Trump sycophant, tweeted thisPence tweetStunning. Victory. For. Trump. That, folks, is what this is all about. If Trump speaks out against the NFL, they are afraid they will lose fans and thus lose some of those billions they rake in every season. Gotta keep the madman at the helm happy.

There may be some hope for a reversal, as the NFL and the team owners failed to consult with the players union.  The NFL Players Association (NFLPA) issued the following statement:

“The NFL chose to not consult the union in the development of this new ‘policy,’ ” the NFLPA said in a statement. “NFL players have shown their patriotism through their social activism, their community service, in support of our military and law enforcement and yes, through their protests to raise awareness about the issues they care about.

The vote by NFL club CEOs today contradicts the statements made to our player leadership by Commissioner Roger Goodell and the Chairman of the NFL’s Management Council John Mara about the principles, values and patriotism of our League.

Our union will review the new ‘policy’ and challenge any aspect of it that is inconsistent with the collective bargaining agreement.”

I hope they find the entire policy to be inconsistent.  This is a slap in the face to the 1st amendment, to the right of free speech, the right to protest.  Football players cannot take a knee, but white supremacists, neo-Nazis and the KKK can shut down entire cities and create an atmosphere of chaos and violence?  Trump denigrates the football players for a peaceful, calm, silent protest, while he calls the violent bigots and racists from the Charlottesville rally ‘very fine people’. Trump nfl vs kkk.jpgThink about this one for a while, folks.  Trump is cherry-picking the U.S. Constitution.  He likes to always be “the winner”.  And who, then, is the loser?  We The People.

Good People Doing Good Things — JJ Watt

I did not even have to go in search of this week’s ‘good person’ — he fell right into my lap.  Okay, okay, no not literally.  But he was a headliner today, so he wasn’t hard to find.  As you all know, sports is not my strong suit, and football (American-style, with the ovoid pigskin, for my non-US amigos) is definitely not my forte.  But yet, today’s good person is an excellent football player, I am told, but an even better human being.  Allow me to introduce today’s good person doing good things, Justin James Watt, better known as JJ Watt.Ellen tweetJJ Watt is star defense end for the Houston Texans and on Saturday it was announced that Mr. Watt will personally be paying for the funerals of all ten victims of the Santa Fe, Texas, school shooting the day before, Friday, May 18th.  That’s right – you heard me – he is paying for all ten funerals, 9 students and 1 teacher, who were shot and killed on that fateful day.  Now, that in itself would have earned him a place in this post, but there is so much more that he gets the whole post.

Watt’s history of helping out after school shootings dates all the way back to 2012 and the Sandy Hook shooting where 27 were killed.  Watt invited some of the children from Sandy Hook Elementary to meet him and participate in a day of football and much-needed fun at the Texans’ stadium.

“I just kind of wanted to give them as normal a day as possible, just running around, having fun, going out on the field. We were kicking field goals. They were trying to put it through the uprights. Just be kids. And to see them in a normal setting, having fun and big smiles on their faces was awesome.”

Watt-Sandy-Hook

On Monday, Watt visited with survivors of the Santa Fe High School shooting at Clear Lake Regional Medical Center and cheered both the victims and the hospital staff!

Watt joined the Texans in 2011, and has been doing good things for the community almost since day #1.  On July 2, 2011, the Berry family was traveling home from a vacation in Colorado Springs. The parents, Joshua and Robin Berry were killed in a head-on collision while also leaving their two sons, Peter and Aaron handicapped. Their daughter, Willa, suffered minor injuries. Watt met the children at a fund-raiser and grew close with them. He played wheelchair basketball with them and pantomimed rolling a wheelchair after sacking a quarterback in a 2012 game. The pantomime was an agreed upon signal between the Berry children and Watt as a post-sack celebration.

Justin J. Watt Foundation, a charity organization that provides after-school opportunities for children in various communities, in order for them to get involved in athletics in a safe environment. This foundation’s motto, “Dream Big, Work Hard” is sold on wrist bands and T-shirts. Since this foundation was launched in 2010, Watt has raised over $1 million.

Remember Hurricane Harvey that hit Houston last August?  JJ Watt started a fund-raiser to help the victims of Harvey and kicked it off with $100,000 of his own money.  He said he was hoping to get the fund up to $200,000 with donations from others.  But guess what?  Mr. Watt has some selling-power, for the fund blew past the $200,000 mark in a matter of hours and finally ended up at $37 million from more than 200,000 donors!  And he took a personal interest in seeing that the funds were distributed where they were most needed, often working into the night with relief groups and organizers.

In addition to Watt’s mega contributions to humanity, he does a lot of little things, too.  For example, there was the time he popped in to surprise his favorite teacher on the day of her retirement, thanking her profusely for all she’d done not only to inspire him, but all of the kids she’d taught during her 41 years as an educator.Watt-teacherThere is much negativity about sports super-heroes these days, their exorbitant salaries, arrogance and hedonistic lifestyles.  It is heartwarming to come upon one like Mr. JJ Watt, who is truly a humanitarian, who is using both his money and his voice to do things to help people.  Thank you, Mr. JJ Watt, for all the good you do and have done.Watt-tweet

He doesn’t just talk the talk, he walks the walk.  Two thumbs up to Mr. Justin James Watt!  two-thumbs

Jimmy Kimmel Speaks …

It says something when a comedian shows more intelligence, more compassion, and more humanity, than the men and women we elected to administer and oversee our government.  Jimmy Kimmel is a comedian, not a politician.  He makes his money cracking jokes, making people laugh.  But on a number of occasions, he has used his platform, his voice, to send a message to our elected officials, and also to We The People.  Last night was one of those occasions, when he spoke briefly, yet eloquently of yesterday’s school shooting in Texas.

“Hi. Before we get to our guests—and the jokes tonight—I want to take a moment because, as you know, we had another school shooting today. This time in Santa Fe, Texas. At least ten people were killed, ten are wounded. Mostly high school kids. 

And, once again, our leaders are sending their thoughts and prayers. President Trump said he is with the people of Santa Fe in this tragic hour and will be with them forever—except for when it comes time to do something. Then he will not be with them. And neither will any of the congresspeople—or governors—who don’t ever do anything because they are fearful that it will hurt them politically. They know the truth. They know this has gone too far. But they’re too cowardly to do the right thing. They care more about the support of the NRA than they do about children.

So they sit there, with their hands in their pockets, pockets that are full of gun money, and do nothing. They just wait for the outrage to pass, because it didn’t happen to their children. There’s only one way to look at this: How would you feel and what would you do if these were your children who were killed today? The truth about our democracy is that the people don’t make laws, we vote for those who do. So… the least you can do is register to vote right now. I mean the only way we can make any meaningful impact on this epidemic is to make sure we vote for politicians who will do something.”

I give a standing ovation to this man for having more sense and being a better person than those who are sitting in the Capitol or the Oval Office today.

 

Meet David Sadler …

Over 2 million black Americans were unable to vote in 2016.  One in thirteen African-Americans are not able to vote due to a felony conviction.  In four states, Florida, Kentucky, Tennessee and Virginia, that rate is one in five!  My initial intent was to write this post on the topic of ‘felon disenfranchisement’, as it is called.  But I came across the story of one man who fought to restore his right to vote and is now running for state senator representing the 25th District of Alabama.  This man’s story is amazing.  Be sure to take a look at the ‘hugs’ video!

He Walked for His Right to Vote. Now He’s Running for Office.

David Sadler wants to be the next state senator representing the 25th District of Alabama, a stack of three counties in the southern part of the state that includes the capital, Montgomery. He is handsome, charismatic and passionate, and speaks in the apolitical language of unity and justice. He’s running as a Democrat but doesn’t strongly identify with any political party.

He probably won’t win — the 25th District is overwhelmingly Republican and white — but don’t tell him that.

“We’re going to win,” Mr. Sadler said on one unusually cool evening late last month, as he hunkered down on the general-admission lawn at the Montgomery Biscuits’ minor-league ballpark. His 5-year-old son, Dennis, sat curled on his lap, wrapped in a thick yellow Biscuits blanket.

Mr. Sadler, who is 45 and runs a car service in Montgomery, recounted a recent conversation with one of his regular clients, a political pollster. “You cannot win. Flat out. You cannot win,” Mr. Sadler recalled him saying. “But then, within five minutes of talking to me, he said, ‘You know what? Let me take that back. If anybody can win, you can win.’”

You’d think that Mr. Sadler would be the kind of citizen-politician who would define the American system, fulfilling its ambition to be a participatory democracy. But it’s only through his own extraordinary efforts to break down the system’s barriers against him that he can even vote, let alone run.

Mr. Sadler grew up near Pittsburgh as a clean-living, law-abiding kid in a family of drug dealers. Shortly after starting college, he was charged with attempting to sell a small amount of crack cocaine to an undercover informant. It was a case of mistaken identity, he said. But he agreed to plead guilty — he was young and afraid, and his court-appointed lawyer told him it was the only sure way to avoid prison.

In 2000, Mr. Sadler moved to Orlando, Fla., with plans to play professional football in the arena league. At the first workout, he ruptured a tendon in his knee. He gave up sports and applied to a master’s program in international business at the University of Central Florida, but his request for financial aid was denied. “And that’s how I found out I was a convicted felon,” Mr. Sadler said. “I had no clue.” The consequences, he quickly learned, were not limited to financial aid. He couldn’t get jobs other than menial labor, and — along with about six million other Americans with a criminal record — he couldn’t vote.

Felon-disenfranchisement laws have had a huge and largely unnoticed impact on American politics, including possibly altering the outcome of the 2000 presidential election. Most were passed in the late 1800s explicitly to keep black people from the ballot box, and today they continue to hurt minorities disproportionately. But lately the tide has been turning, as many states have made it easier for people with criminal records to vote again. In Florida, which disenfranchises more people with criminal records than any other state, voters will decide in November whether to restore voting rights to as many as 1.5 million of their neighbors. And New Jersey lawmakers are considering whether to join Vermont and Maine as the only states to allow people to vote even while in prison.

For Mr. Sadler, the only way to regain the right to vote was a pardon from the governor of Pennsylvania. So he did what anyone with limitless energy and a very good pair of shoes would do: He hand-delivered a clemency petition, walking from Orlando to the governor’s office in Harrisburg. Over 32 days in the dead of summer, he walked 1,178 miles, dawn to dusk daily, sleeping on benches and subsisting on whatever food he could afford along the route. He grew a beard and lost 25 pounds. “That walk was like my pilgrimage to manhood,” Mr. Sadler said. “I looked like Forrest Gump.”

The governor denied his petition. But his walk earned him publicity and the attention of a veteran civil-rights activist and political organizer in Alabama, Jerome Gray. Mr. Gray convinced Mr. Sadler to move to Alabama and lead a push to restore voting rights to the more than quarter-million disenfranchised Alabamians. Mr. Sadler took the job, and traveled around the state in support of a 2004 state law that made it easier for people with a criminal record to regain the right to vote.

When Mr. Sadler tried again for a pardon, Mr. Gray gave him some advice: “Don’t make any noise this time. Don’t walk; don’t do anything.” Instead, Mr. Gray said, lie low. In 2011, it worked. “I say it’s my rebirth,” Mr. Sadler said. “It took me 16 years, but I got it.”

Since then, Mr. Sadler has gotten married and started a family — he and his wife, Destiny, have three young children. Last year, he helped push for another significant reform of the state’s infamous “moral turpitude” law, a Jim Crow-era relic that has blocked hundreds of thousands of people from voting.

He also has a streak of showmanship, an instinct for virality and a desire to connect with people that could serve him well in public office, but which have so far manifested in a series of increasingly bold and disarming public actions, beginning with his long-distance trek. In 2016, Mr. Sadler stood blindfolded outside the Biscuits’ stadium and offered free hugs — “to prove to people,” he said, “that it’s not the same old South.” Fans of all colors and ages took him up, and a video of the event has gotten more than six million views on Facebook.

Last July 4, in response to the shootings of unarmed black men around the country, Mr. Sadler staged his own hanging in the heart of downtown Montgomery. The holiday crowd stood and gawked, but the police left him alone. A sign taped to his body said “Dear D.O.J.: Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death.”

That’s not a political platform, exactly, but it speaks to Mr. Sadler’s basic message, which is, he said, “to restore hope and self-worth through faith.” His hope, in the immediate future at least, is to energize the tens of thousands of eligible voters in the 25th District who don’t usually turn out — many of whom may be able to vote for the first time since having a criminal record, thanks in part to his efforts. (He’s not giving up the stunts, though: he said his campaign plans to carry a sofa to cities around the district and invite voters to sit down and talk.)

Jerome Gray, the political organizer, has no illusions about the challenge Mr. Sadler faces, but he declined to count him out.

“He came to Alabama with no car, and now he has a transportation service,” Mr. Gray said. “He owns his own home. He has a fleet of cars. That guy, I don’t write him off, because he won’t go away.” – The New York Times Editorial Board – 16 May 2017