I really liked this image I found on Facebook earlier today defining Gay Pride vs. Straight Pride because I’m sad to admit that I’ve had the “straight pride” argument with family members and some of them just really can’t seem to get beyond themselves to understand what the entire movement is actually about.

Gay people aren’t trying to flaunt their sexuality or push themselves upon you, but the fact that people are still uncomfortable by something as simple as gay people holding hands or kissing in public or wearing matching rainbow shirts is a great introduction to why this kind of thing is still necessary in the first place.

I’ll be honest – I don’t know a lot of gay people.

I know some, but the overwhelming majority are still straight, and yet LGBT rights are important to me because it sickens me that another couple could get harassed, threatened, or even killed walking down the street just holding hands or showing affection – the same as I do with my wife without a second thought.

And it really grinds my gears when people argue that gay rights isn’t something that affects them or that they don’t have time to worry about it because they’re trying to keep food on the table because as far as I’m concerned, if we’re not willing to stand up for equal rights in our country, none of the rest of it even matters.

Even if you live in a small town like I used to where the population is 99% white and 100% straight (or so you think…), gay rights matter because people are people, and nobody deserves to be treated like a second-class citizen because of who they love. If advocating for their equality bothers you, then you’re part of the problem.

I get that it’s challenging to understand how marginalized a group of people is if you’ve never felt that way yourself, but sometimes I feel like some people among us aren’t even trying.

Today I came across some outrage on Facebook about Harvard offering a black-only graduation ceremony to complement its traditional ceremony, which was of course interpreted as reverse racism because these African American students wished to have an event that specifically excluded white students…

…and mind you, that wasn’t exactly true

…but nonetheless, the misunderstanding of embracing one’s culture versus intentional segregation continues to leave a scathing mark on a white culture that still doesn’t seem to grasp how its own actions, both historical and up to the present, are what’s led us to this racial divide in the first place.

Actually pay attention to the news and make a tally of how many unarmed white children today are killed by police officers thinking they’re a threat to society. Look across your Facebook feed and see how many people are outraged by Kathy Griffin’s weird beheading photo shoot last week and then ask how many were equally outraged by all of the anti-black rhetoric aimed at President Obama during his presidency.

In my own world of writing and words, take a look at the most offensive word of all – the n-word – and acknowledge how unlike other words like fuck and cunt, we don’t even say the word because that’s how ugly of a history it has…

This is a group of people who haven’t had to deal with slavery and segregation directly, yet still feel its hateful burn a hundred years after the fact, and they have to cope with people who claim that racism isn’t even a problem in America anymore all the while banners of the confederacy still fly in some states, and marginalized glares are felt in neighborhoods across the country, and sometimes people hang nooses from trees … but it’s only a joke, so maybe they should just lighten up?!

Fuck that noise.

The difference between black people and white people celebrating their heritages and cultures is that, until the end of time, there will forever always be a scar on black heritage caused by a point in time where white people deemed them less than human, and it’s a scar that white people must work to mend every single today on behalf of our ancestors.

For some of us, this is less of a big deal than others and we welcome our African American friends with open arms, but others want to fight – everything has to be a fight … to slouch blame or to deny injustices that are still very present in our world because personally they’re not directly at fault.

Like many problems that face our society today, racism is complicated and it’s unpleasant to talk about, but every time a white person wants to fuss about how only minorities can celebrate their pride or how they’re not the ones who had slaves, they only serve to cement the issues deeper in modern times instead of actually acknowledging them and trying to move forward as best we can.

Whoever came up with the term reverse racism is living in denial of the actual origins of racism, and frankly I’m tired to having to explain injustice to smart people who are acting emotionally stupid about this issue that is way bigger than they think it to be.

So I read a guest column in the Orlando Sentinel – a newspaper that I normally respect – that pitched this tired allegation once again that at the end of the day, Democrats are just sore losers who will stop at nothing to avoid admitting that we lost the election…

…even if it means taking down the president as a result…

And I can’t help but just laugh and laugh and laugh at that hypocritical perspective after all that we’ve endured from the Republican line during President Obama’s time in office:

  • Three years of demands to see Obama’s birth certificate, then his long form birth certificate, under allegations that he was born in Kenya and not Hawaii.
  • Three years and seven investigations into the attacks on the US consulate in Benghazi on Sept. 11, 2012.
  • Over 50 attempts by the House to repeal, dismantle, or otherwise defund the Affordable Care Act since it was signed into law in 2010.

Just for the record, Donald Trump got elected 187 days ago and has now been in office for 113 days.

I won’t even argue with the merits of each of those efforts … except for the birther movement because that was just ridiculous … but for Benghazi and critiques over the ACA – fine. Republican representatives had concerns and were obligated by their constituents to see them through, albeit excessively, but still…

Three years to investigate an attack 8,000 miles away in which four Americans lost their lives.

Five years to fight a healthcare bill that has affected the lives of tens of millions of Americans, both for better and for worse.

But now it’s suddenly excessive to spend barely than six months looking into whether there was influence from another nation that compromised the election of the President of the United States?!

Now that the shoe is on the other foot, it’s time for us to put this pettiness behind us and come together to support our President … who may have been installed by a foreign government, but probably wasn’t … we’ll just have to trust him despite not having given any reason to date why we actually should!

No. Just no.

You don’t get to dig in your heels for every passionate argument that your side had during the last eight years and then call the other side a bunch of crybabies when they raise question asking for a similar level of scrutiny. Especially after Donald Trump has done more to act suspicious – like firing the guy leading the investigation against him – than all of the “We need to pass the bill to know what’s in the bill!” and “If you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor!” you can throw at the Obama administration.

Just like you wanted to know whether those four lives in Benghazi were lost due to negligence, we want to know if Donald Trump is a legitimate president because for all of the talk the Republican party makes about concerns over voter fraud, they sure haven’t seemed too concerned with this notion that a foreign entity may have dipped its hands in our election.

Maybe they’re not so concerned because it resulted in their guy beating Hillary, but the integrity of our election should be worth more than either candidate.

So come back to me in 3 – 5 years if we’re still beating this drum and are just unwilling to accept the numerous facts laid out around us, but for now stop acting like a bunch of babies and let your president stand up to the level of scrutiny that ANYONE in the highest office in our nation should be able to handle.

Healthcare By Any Other Name

May 6, 2017 6:33pm
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This article from a few years ago from the Huffington Post said it pretty well, but in reading all of the back and forth about the GOP’s new “healthcare” bill that passed the House the other day, I can’t for the life of me understand why everyone who supported it didn’t fight back hard on the simple use of referring to the Affordable Care Act by its formal name rather than the nickname it was given as a jab by its opposition.

By adopting the name Obamacare, it was basically giving the Republican party a free shot to take at the legislation that anyone who hated President Obama could easily get behind, regardless of actual content. We saw that last year when voters were quoted as not understanding that Obamacare and the Affordable Care Act were literally the same thing!

From politicians to the media, and trickling down to your average Joe on Facebook, this would’ve been such an easy perception to control if every time someone tried to call it Obamacare in discussion, the other party corrected them and called the law by its proper name. It was always meant to be a slam by the Republicans, so make them own it alone and separate the language from the president to better represent what the bill’s actual goal was all along – providing better access to healthcare for all Americans.

Ignorance Breeds Misinformation

May 1, 2017 7:03pm
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I haven’t had a chance to watch much of Bill Nye’s new show on Netflix, Bill Nye Saves the World yet, however I found myself doing a bit of research into one of the segments on the show after a Facebook comment criticizing Bill of thinking that families with extra kids should be taxed higher.

Wha???

So I found the segment in question – it was the roundtable discussion during Episode 13 entitled Earth’s People Problem – and Bill and his three guests spent about seven minutes talking about overpopulation and ways to address it through education and family planning, and also the impact that different populations (e.g. in the developed world vs developing countries) make on the environment through how they utilize resources, create pollution, etc…

The exchange itself took place like this:

Bill Nye: So should we have policies that penalize people for having extra kids in the developed world?

Dr. Travis Rieder: I do think that we should at least consider it.

Nye: Well, ‘at least consider it’ is like ‘do it.’

Rieder: One of the things that we can do that’s kind of least policy-ish is we could encourage our culture and our norms to change…

Dr. Rachel Snow: I would take issue with the idea that we do anything to incentivize fewer children or more children. I think it’s all about … this is where it’s justice, it’s human rights … we’re really clear – people should have the number of children they want, the timing of children, and if some families have five or six children – god bless them. That’s fine, but most people end up with fewer.

Dr. Nerys Benfield: But when you talk about penalties, who are you going to end up penalizing, right? Even in a rich country like the United States, we’ve gone down that road before and who ends up being the people who are penalized is poor women, minorities, disabled women…

Nye: How are they penalized?

Benfield: There was forced sterilization that was legal in the United States even up into the 70s, so we really have not come at it from a place of justice necessarily in the past…

It’s a good, open discussion that sees a question posed and then is almost immediately rebuked by the other experts on the panel … and even the guy who is willing to entertain the idea (not Bill Nye, BTW) only said we should consider it! And yet somehow all of that got construed into this…

Anyone who actually watched the discussion in its entirety – or even the 65 seconds around this specific notion – could vouch that the host wasn’t suggesting “higher taxes” or penalties at all. He merely posed a policy question to address the problem, as the leader of the panel, and then allowed his guests to explore the subject.

The problem is, many people will never watch the actual segment in question – arguably, I have doubts as to whether some of the writers of those articles ever did – but instead, they’ll share these stories around on social media and have discussions about how terrible liberals like Bill Nye want to tell you how many kids to have and then remind you that Bill Nye isn’t really a scientist, anyways – he’s just a TV host whose spent the last 25 years focused on educating people about and advocating for science.

What’s sad is, if any of them really wanted to know what Bill Nye’s perspective is on overpopulation, they could watch this interview he did with Big Think a few months ago. SPOILER: It doesn’t mention higher taxes or eugenics even once… 😛

Last week I wrote a fairly extensive editorial on my thoughts about United dragging Dr. David Dao off one of their flights from a human rights & basic dignity standpoint, however after reading some comments on Facebook today, I’d like to touch on what I’m going to call the customer service side of this whole mess.

The comments in question were a post by Mike Rowe – a guy whose thoughts I enjoy reading, though I happen to agree with part of what he said this time. The gist of it being concern that in the fourth or fifth apology from United CEO Oscar Munoz, they’ve essentially made it ok for customers to ignore when the crew of an airplane tells them to do something…

“But in the process of finding him blameless, he suggested that millions of passengers are under no obligation to follow a direct command from United employees. And that’s a hell of a lot more disturbing than a beat-down in the main cabin.”

Mike goes on to say that we don’t have a right to fly because we can always be removed for being beligerant or too big to fit in one seat or whatever reason the airline decides to use … and for most of those scenarios I would agree. If you’re drunk or disruptive, then sure – off you go. If you’re lucky, maybe they’ll even land the plane before kicking you out the door, but it’s that any reason deemed necessary where I take some exception because remember here that in this particular case, Dr. Dao was assaulted because United needed his seat to fly their own employees to another airport for work the next day.

And I don’t think that’s right.

Yes, I get that airlines run on thin margins, and that they overbook because there’s an average number of people who don’t show up for their flights as scheduled and the airline doesn’t make any money if those seats otherwise fly empty, but just like those United employees had someplace to be, so did their customer … their paying customer, and in accordance with taking his money in exchange for a plane ticket, it’s the airline’s responsibility to transport him to his destination as agreed.

And sure, it’s true that in its 47-page Contract of Carriage, United reserves its right to deny boarding to any customer it wants if nobody else volunteers when they end up on the inconvenient side of this overbooking teeter totter that they play … but does that make it right???

Those four employees had to get to work the next day to ensure that United’s planes were able to fly on schedule.

But so did the doctor who had patients to see the next day.

Just as overbooking is a relatively common thing in the airline industry, so is employees transferring from one airport to another – the idea that they don’t have a better handle on this issue and that it results in kicking paying customers off of their flights is the real travesty here!

So to Mike’s comment citing that we need order on our airplanes because they’re not democracies, they’re a place to follow orders, I would challenge that it’s the airlines who should lead this responsibility by providing stellar customer service, not the passengers who need to suck it up and accept whatever treatment they’re given because everyone has places to go and flight attendants have a thankless job.

In any other industry, if a business took a customer’s money and then refused to give them the service that they’d purchased, they’d face a day in court because that’s the entire reason said relationship exists between business and consumer … but because of the perceived safety concern, air travel has become an industry where consumers are left little to no actual protections after the airlines and the TSA have taken their own liberties from passengers just trying to travel in their own country and pay good money for the trip.

Last week we watched a guy get beaten because he didn’t want to leave the plane that he was scheduled to fly.

If I sell milk for a living and I sell you a gallon of milk, I can’t just show up at your house later on that evening and demand the gallon back because one of my truck drivers is thirsty and needs a drink so that he can complete his route healthy and refreshed tonight.

That’s my problem for not having enough milk in the first place, and to think that my customers should have to compromise for my own shortsightedness when they’re probably thirsty and want some milk to go with their cookies, too, is bad business.

And that’s why we have consumer protections in place to ensure that customers actually get the goods and services that they pay for.

Americans shouldn’t need a lawyer to review the 47-page contract that comes with their plane ticket in order to make sure that they’ll actually get from A to B like they’re expecting.

Regulations and Buying a New Home

March 16, 2017 10:23pm
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I just read a post on Facebook bitching about how much regulations add to the cost of a new home in America…

You know, like the ones that require builders to be licensed professionals who are going to craft the place where your family lives.

The ones that require your home to be built to best practices so that it’s less likely to catch fire or collapse due to shoddy craftsmanship.

The ones that ensure access to utilities are properly installed and accessible throughout the neighborhood.

The ones that check to make sure that the other guy is legally allowed to sell you your new house before you give him a huge amount of money.

And even the ones that help to protect the banks from risk so that they’ll be willing to loan you the money to pay for your new home.

Regulations aren’t all bad, and in a greedy, capitalist society like ours has become, government regulations are the common man’s last defense between the good and the bad. At least if you prefer your house with four walls and a roof over your head.

Not a Fan of Guns

March 10, 2017 11:49pm
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A lot of people have terrible judgment, at least when it comes to whether they think they have the right to take another person’s life.

That’s why I’ve always hated “Stand Your Ground” laws like the one we have here in Florida. They sound great on paper, but in practice it never seems to be the guy who’s about to rape your wife after breaking into your house or the guy threatening to kill you with a knife.

Instead, it’s I saw a guy walking down the street who looked pretty menacing, so I killed him.

Or, the guy in front of me in the movie theater wouldn’t put his cell phone away, so I shot him.

That second one is a hot news story locally because it literally happened a few miles away from my house. Two guys got into an altercation about one not turning off his cell phone – at the movie Lone Survivor, no less – and so the other guy, a retired captain from the Tampa PD, “felt threatened” enough to pull his gun and kill the guy.

A 73 year-old who should’ve had decades of experience didn’t know better.

Countless stories filled the news last year about unarmed black people killed by police officers … who should’ve known better.

Hell, we even hear stories about soldiers overseas who kill civilians and get away with it … and they should know better, too.

So no, if these “trained professionals” don’t have good enough judgment to determine who should live or die by their side arms, then maybe no one is qualified to be carrying them around “in self defense.”

Because the punishment for not putting your cell phone away in a movie theater isn’t death.

The Affordable Care Act has its flaws, there’s no denying it.

Healthcare costs are continuing to rise and with the individual mandate, it’s put a lot of people in a sticky situation where they can’t afford to carry insurance, yet they can’t afford to not carry insurance, either.

As President Trump apparently just realized what the rest of us have been saying for years, “It’s complicated…”

…BUT…

To say that the Affordable Care Act is “a disaster with nothing to love” is an insult to the millions of Americans who were able to get health insurance under the ACA, particularly those who have been able to get life-saving treatments thanks to their new coverage.

So the ACA has its problems … what do we say?

“We can’t afford to help sick people treat their cancer or their heart disease or their chronic diabetes because it’s just too expensive???”

Bullshit.

In 2015, Americans spent $3.2 trillion on healthcare – 17.9% of our GDP, and … like our defense budget … more than any other nation in the world.

And yet unlike defense, we don’t have the healthiest people in the world. The USA is 43rd in life expectancy and no surprise, we’re not the best at treating cancer, either. We’re really good at some types, like breast cancer, but we fall short in others and those where we do excel, we spend a lot of money to only be minimally better than those in our wake.

It was a historic step in the right direction when the Affordable Care Act was passed in 2009, and as long as the USA still dwindles embarrassingly low in these types of quality of life statistics, we’ve still got a ways to go. But it’s blasphemously ingenuous – when Americans have used its benefits to beat life threatening diseases – for anyone, much less the President of the United States, to claim that the ACA was a complete and utter failure.

Was saving the life of this award-winning tech journalist a failure to you, Mr. Trump???

Then Stop Doing Racist Things…

November 15, 2016 2:32am
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An ongoing theme that I’ve been noticing over the last week, and honestly something that I’ve keyed into for a while, is that frankly a lot of people don’t really seem to know what racism even is.

If they did, we wouldn’t keep hearing the same excuse over and over again – “I didn’t mean it in a racist way” or “My comment wasn’t intended to be racist…” The latter was the response given by the mayor of a small town in West Virginia after supporting the post of a county employee who wrote on Facebook“It will be refreshing to have a classy, beautiful, dignified First Lady in the White House. I’m tired of seeing an ape in heels.”

You know, because apparently West Virginia never got word that references to apes and monkeys have long since been established as ethnic slurs against black people.

Even earlier today I read a report quite literally from the local high school less than 5 miles down the street from my house where a white teacher said to a group of black students, “Don’t make me call Donald Trump and get you sent back to Africa.”

A high school teacher – someone who the community has trusted with teaching our children – doesn’t understand what racism is.

I get the impression that most people’s understanding of racism basically begins and ends at slavery and segregation, so anything that’s ever happened since the 1960’s can’t possibly fall into the same category – no jokes, no offhand comments, no words that they hear other races say that they can’t imagine why they can’t say them, too. These things are all said in jest and no harm is intended, so they can’t possibly be racist … and if they are, then it’s just the PC police pulling the race card to make everything about race.

Here’s a ProTip for you – If you don’t mean to be racist, then stop doing things that are racist! – it’s not complicated!!!

Making jokes about lynching the president … who’s black … happens to be racist.

Continuing to use racial slurs that anyone over the age of about 22 knows are racial slurs … is a racist thing to do.

There’s no excuse for this stuff. My oldest son is 2.5 years old and actively working on talking, and we already have to steer him away from saying words that are only for adults. As far as I’m concerned, once you’re old enough to have taken a history class or two, you should start to understand that racism is bad and as a society it’s something that we try to steer away from.

Because the thing is, I’d love to give these people the benefit of the doubt and say that “they just didn’t know!” but come on now. These people are nowhere near 22 years old – one is a high school gym teacher, the other is the director of a non-profit – they’re both old enough to know better. They just don’t want to.

Disappointingly, I have friends and family who use the same excuses and it’s absolutely cringeworthy every time, not only because they should know better, too, but also because I like to think of them as better people than that.

It’s not “political correctness,” it’s you behaving like a racist.

If you don’t want to be called a racist, then don’t act like one.

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