Monday, June 20, 2016

Am I surprised that four gun control bills failed today?

Let's do the gun math.

a typical AR 15 semi automatic assault rifle with a 30 shot clip
There are 56 Republicans in the Senate earn $174,000 each. The NRA alone has donated $36 million to these 56 senators, roughly $643,000 each. This just in, four different gun-control bills were rejected. Quantity of my surprise, zero.

Okay, more math. There are 56 Republicans in the Senate. It requires exactly 7 to lose their jobs if we would like to prevent a future Orlando, or Sandy Hook, or San Bernadino, or black church massacre, or abortion clinic shooting, or movie theater assassination, or Columbine. Ironically, that's one mass murder for each of the Senate Republicans that should've listened to the 3/4 of us that recognize the second amendment is necessary, but also that reasonable and enforceable gun controls on assault weapons.

Before you start screaming that I may lilly livered liberal, know that I am not. I believe the Second Amendment is designed to ensure the safety of democracy. I also believe that democracy can be used in our favor to slow an epidemic of hate, which also coincidentally is being kindled by the same groups against gun control.

If you believe in democracy, and protection thereof, then you also must believe that the majority is able to make decisions and institute regulation for the good of society. Some individuals will claim I'm stomping on individual rights. I want the individual right to go to church, attend a concert, send my children to school, without worrying that some religious nut job embarrassed about his own sexuality, that some racist kid with a tiny penis complex, that some pro-lifer that only values the unborn, or some kid that went off his medication after sustaining a lifetime of bullying because he was an introvert, loads up an AR-15 with 180 rounds of ammunition. I also think I have the right to do this without depending on an untrained, undereducated redneck with his NRA bumper sticker to defend me with his 45 caliber hand cannon which would put a whole in the bad guy, through the undercover cop approaching him from behind, through the wall, through the car window, and through the skull of a toddler before coming to rest embedded in a mandatory seat required for child safety.

Go ahead, ask me how I feel about gun controls. I fucking dare you.




Monday, June 06, 2016

Endangered Gorilla Killed after Child Falls into Habitat


One of this week’s trending topics on Facebook and twitter was a tragic story. A small boy fell into the gorilla habitat at the Cincinnati Zoo. Minutes later the western lowlands gorilla, a critically endangered species, was shot and killed by zoo personnel.

A tragic story has been made even more tragic through misinformation and misguided opinion on social media.

Here are six ways that Facebook and twitter users made the situation worse.


It’s the mother’s fault!


I’m a father of 14-year-old twins, a boy and a girl. I don’t know a single father or mother that has never in their lives lost sight of their three-year-old. I compare it to a trip to Walmart. You’ll see a toddler screaming and a mother completely exasperated, and usually another child being completely ignored. Those of you without children stand in judgment. I know I did. “If that were my child I would…” I’ll let you complete the sentence in condescending judgment. 

Parents, however, understand. We’ve all been there. Every child no matter how loved, well behaved, and never neglected has had a complete meltdown in public. Every child has also disappeared striking panic into their parents hearts, usually for less than 30 seconds, but feeling like an eternity.

The parents aren’t at fault. It was a bad situation that could’ve happened to any of us. In fact, the mother saw what happened and immediately called 911 for assistance. By all accounts she was there with multiple children, probably having a wonderful day. Distracted for 10 seconds, the curious three-year-old took advantage and went on an adventure.

Who agrees with me? Not the more than 500,000 people that signed an online petition requesting charges be brought in the death of the animal against the mother. However, the district attorney in Cincinnati and investigating police officers found absolutely no wrongdoing. Furthermore, witnesses also universally corroborated that the mother carried no-fault.

The zookeeper overreacted and killed the gorilla.


The zookeeper, whose name did not appear in any of the press briefings in my research, was very likely the best possible individual to make the decision.

I feel for this zookeeper, who probably has loved this gorilla and cared for him for years. However, the zookeeper also knew the capabilities of this animal. In fact, the gorilla is one of the most dangerous creatures in the zoo, and zoo personnel are not permitted in the habitat at the same time as the gorilla.

The zookeeper had to make a horrible choice and had minutes, or maybe seconds, to come to a decision. The zookeeper could have tried a tranquilizer. The zookeeper could have waited and persuaded the beast to come away from the child. The zookeeper decided, not based on public opinion or potential liability; he or she decided that the risk to the child outweighed their own desire to protect the gorilla.

This was an impossible choice, and one the zookeeper will be living with for the remainder of their life. It is not for us to judge. We only can thank him or her for their service, and trust the decision they made. 

The zoo was at fault.


This dense jungle is home to the Western Lowland Gorilla,
a critically endangered species. Source: WWF
The Cincinnati zoo is one of the top five in the country and recognized worldwide for excellence. The organizations’ dedication to protecting, conserving, and educating people about endangered species has been beyond reproach.

It was a tragic day at the zoo. However, the administration, facilities, and workers were not at fault. Not only do they follow best practices, in many cases they wrote the best practices.

Yes, the zoo will make some changes. In light of the publicity, they have to.

The district attorney also investigated the zoo and the personnel and found absolutely no fault or evidence to support criminal action.

The gorilla was protecting the boy.


Unfortunately, even the wisest people on social media accounts don’t know what was happening inside the brain of that gorilla. How do we know this? Because the people who worked with him every day didn’t know how he would react. The best experts in the world can’t predict how he would react.

This alpha male gorilla weighed 450 pounds. He was able to drag the child by one leg the way we would carry a damp towel, and with as much consideration.

This was a situation that in 17 years the gorilla had never experienced. It’s impossible to predict his ultimate reaction to the boy, or to anyone approaching while the boy was in his custody.

Regardless of the state of mind of the creature, there’s no doubt that the boy was in imminent danger.

The parents are out for a big payday.


Within minutes crowdfunding campaigns started for the child, the gorilla, and even funding for prosecuting criminals. Absolutely none of this was the doing of the parents.

In fact, in their first public statement, the parents said they had no need for any charitable donations and encouraged anyone whom felt the need to give to the Cincinnati zoo.

The parents are thankful for the outcome, but I’m sure are saddened. They don’t blame the zoo, and they have actively supported them throughout this process.

Lastly, we don’t need Donald Trump to prove racism is still prevalent on the web.


I was blown away at the outright evil I saw. The number of comments with racial undertones or blatant bigotry was massive. It made me ashamed to be an American. This three-year-old boy with a beautiful brown complexion became an instant poster child for bigotry, particularly the stereotype that somehow black parents are less capable. 

There are a huge number of factors that contributed to this tragic event. An amazing number of people made a judgment simply based on the color of a child’s skin, and for that they should be ashamed.

Social media can be a powerful tool or a destructive force. It’s easy to presume, but I encourage all of you to embrace and understand the collective power you have. Yes, make yourself heard, but remember to do so after thoughtful research and true understanding. Sometimes that’s not possible, so as in this case, the best response is silence.

Friday, November 06, 2015

Are religious conservatives and political conservatives destroying each other?


I just read an interesting article from Pew research on American religion. Since 2007 Americans are 4% less likely to attend religious services, 7% less likely to associate themselves with a particular religion, and 3% less likely to believe in God. This may not seem like big numbers, but each percentage point represents more than 3 million people.

My question is this. A small segment of Christians are extremely vocal and extremely fundamental. This group of Christians seems to have been embraced by the GOP, particularly since Pres. Obama's election. In the process, we've seen the Republicans shift so far right, and cater to ultraconservative denominations.

Are religious conservatives and political conservatives destroying each other?


Many people, including myself, have left the Republican Party because of their determination to eliminate the separation of church and state. We left because they've thrown science under a bus, bolstering the distrust of science of creationists. (You can believe in a Creator and in the value of scientific discovery. Many do.)

The most extreme among the Republican presidential candidates are often embracing the values of the most extreme Christian groups.
  • fear of Islam
  • rejection of evolution
  • homophobia
Furthermore, far right political beliefs are now becoming embraced by conservative Christians, even though many of them conflict with core Christian beliefs. 
  • rejection of welfare
  • rejection of immigrants
  • embracing military action 
  • perception of persecution 
  • fear of terrorism 
  • racism
Worse, many political platforms are based in the business success of corporate lobbying.
  • a national defense three times the size of the second largest standing army.
  • defense spending larger than the rest of the world combined.
  • a pro-gun lobby that generates more gun sales than automobiles and the highest gun related violence in the world
  • rejection of social policies that reduce health care spending 
  • rejection of energy policies that reduce the dependence on fossil fuels
The Republican Party has condoned these extreme politicians because the voter base is loyal. They know they are causing apathy among voters, however, the apathy is taking place in the wide center, and extreme Republicans outnumber extreme Liberals. They win elections by reducing turn out, not through persuasion. 

Not only does this relationship create apathy toward politics, but now, it seems, it may be creating apathy toward religion. 

Most Christians are very centric in their political beliefs and many see caring for others as a Christian responsibility as well as a government responsibility. 

A very vocal minority creates the perception that religious and political extremists are commonplace and tightly tied together, I believe that apathy and distrust toward politicians has spread to apathy and distrust for the deep roots that faith has built in this country. 

At no point was this more clear as when the new Pope visited America. The Catholic Church has traditionally been more conservative than most Protestant Churches. However, politicians and extreme Evangelical Christians spoke out against the Pope because he is perceived as more tolerant of diversity and beliefs, embracing of science including climate change, and a proponent of reducing violence particularly between religious sects.

Correlation does not equal causation! 


Naturally, extreme conservatives are going to draw the correlation between the time table of the Obama presidency and the fall in religious value. 

While apathy in politics is increasing, and apathy in religion is increasing the most logical potential causation is where the two intersect. There is no doubt that extreme Christianity and extreme political conservatism distinctly overlap. 

This doesn't equate to direct causation either. It's simply more likely.

The sad conclusion... 


While the Republican Party and the Christian faith are closely tied and both experiencing attrition, this attrition actually helps Republicans. 

Fewer voters increases the likelihood of Republican success. Apathy helps the Republicans.

Few Christians however, can lead to overall declines in the importance of faith to our society and our nation. Apathy hinders the Churches. 

I believe in God. I believe that most Christians are good people dedicated to the betterment of our communities and society. Those Christians are being dis-empowered unwittingly by a relationship with a group of politicos driven by thirst for power, greed and pride.