Friday, October 4, 2013

Shut down

To quote a co-worker, “The federal government is the only entity that could cut costs and shut down, and still lose money.”
When I look at the things people are whining about that have been closed due to the shutdown, I ask myself where the logic is in many of these programs.
For instance- the national monuments in Washington, DC have been closed. Each of these monuments has a gift shop that has been closed. I understand the monument being closed, as it costs federal dollars to pay the upkeep, power bill, security, etc. But the gift shop? Are you telling me that the money-making business isn’t profitable and requires federal dollars to maintain? How about step #1 is we stop putting federal tax dollars into postcards for tourists, and force the stores to run themselves? It seems so logical.
Next, national parks have also been closed. Again, I understand why. Maintenance, ranger staff, etc., they all cost money to operate. Except don’t most parks also charge admission? And have charitable organizations that support them? How is it then that they also need federal tax dollars? I think the problem here is that the federal government is supporting them at all. Why aren’t these parks (which often have restaurants, gift shops, classes, etc., inside) self-supporting? It seems fairly logical to me that they should actually be able to make money, and not drain federal tax dollars!
And the panda cam? Seriously? It’s not the absurdity that it had to be shut down. It’s the absurdity that tax dollars paid for it at all! Are you really telling me that there isn’t some corporation out there that wouldn’t love to sponsor the panda cam just for the goodwill PR benefits? Or a non-profit that wouldn’t raise funds to pay for it? I’d donate, wouldn’t you? Or how about people have to pay “admission” to view the panda cam?
Here’s another little thing to think about- a friend of mine works for a government contractor. S/he has been vocal about how “stupid” the government is for shutting down. And regularly vents and complains about all the “perks” that “Congress” receives. (I beg you, please, share with me just one “perk” that you can back up with unbiased facts.) Meanwhile his/her company (again- a federal contractor) is having the company party this week. It’s a massive, huge festival/fair. Roller coasters, games, rides, free food, etc. It easily will cost the company about $1M. Is it not hypocritical to demand that “congress” (I think many people use this term completely wrong) live frugally, and demand on a shoestring operation, while spending federal dollars on roller coasters and cotton candy? Or is it because you perceive that elected officials are all wealthy and chose their careers that you don’t see it the same way when your upper management is wealthy and also chose their careers?
Ultimately what is happening right now in our legislative branch is an amazing and elegant thing. Simply put, this country is equally split on a very divisive new law. Some believe that the Affordable Care Act is a good thing, others do not. Our elected representatives are only a reflection of the divided country. Our elected officials are representing what we as a country feel.
So how about instead of complaining and criticizing them, we support them? Has anyone considered that angle? Has anyone really thought about the fact that this is all a good thing?
Sure the shutdown is effecting millions of people. But right now the government is doing something many of us are not brave enough to do in our own lives. When you run out of money, you stop spending. It’s the “first rule of holes” concept (stop digging). When a business runs out of money, it goes out of business. It lays off employees. It cuts costs. It looks for new ways to make money.
Shouldn’t the government do the same?
I do feel a great deal of sympathy for my furloughed friends. I was unemployed and underemployed for 3 years. Believe me, I know how hard and scary it is to not know how long it will be until you get your next paycheck. But here’s the good news- you know you will get one. Most people don't have that peace of mind.
So I beg of my friends, instead of complaining about the government, stop and ask yourself what is really important. Where should tax dollars be spent? On the panda cam? And where can revenue be found? A museum gift shop?
And here's some food for thought- Mitt Romney took a debt-riddled Massachusetts, turned it around, and made it a profitable state in just one term in office. How? He turned resource-sucking programs into revenue generating ones. 
Makes you wish things had gone differently one year ago. 
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Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Help Prevent More Unnecessary Tragedies by Contacting Your Senator About S.1284 and S.689 Today

The tragedy at the Navy Yard is yet another wake-up call to both citizens and lawmakers that the United States needs legislative reform.

The Navy Yard, Sandy Hook, Aurora, Fort Hood, Tucson, Virginia Tech, Columbine, and several other unnecessary mass murders all had one strong, undeniable detail in common- mental health disorders.

Placing the blame on firearms regulations will not stop mentally ill persons from attacking and hurting others. The root of the problem is the mentally ill, not the tool the person chose for their attack. The real problem lies with sick persons who were not treated for mental illnesses adequately.

The time has come to raise awareness of mental health disorders in the public square and provide more resources to help ill persons. All individuals need to learn and identify the mentally ill among them, and help the sick and afflicted get help. Schools need to be given more resources to identify and serve mentally ill students.

The stigma of mental awareness needs to be lifted so that the ill will not be afraid to admit their sickness and reach out for help.

I urge you to support the mental health funding levels in the Senate FY2014 Labor, Health and Human Services and Education Appropriations Bill (S.1284) and to cosponsor and enact the Mental Health Awareness and Improvement Act of 2013 (S. 689).

There has been a cut in state funding for mental health services and supports of nearly $5 billion over the last three years.  The Senate funding bill includes a roughly $107 million increase for much-needed, critical mental health services at the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) and would fund the National Institutes of Health (NIH) at FY2012 levels. 

S.1284 makes important strides in investing in "upstream services" such as suicide prevention, consumer programs, Project AWARE, etc. to begin to address the treatment chasm (80 percent of children and 66 percent of adults that need treatment do not receive it).

In the wake of the the Navy Yard shooting, the Sandy Hook tragedy, Aurora, and all of the other national crises, bi-partisan legislation was introduced by Sens. Tom Harkin and Lamar Alexander to assist states and local communities in addressing mental health needs ("upstream" services). 

The Mental Health Awareness and Improvement Act of 2013 (S. 689) was passed by an overwhelming vote of 95-2 in April as an amendment to a legislative vehicle that has since been pulled from the Senate calendar.

I urge you to support the funding levels in the Senate FY2014 Labor, Health and Human Services and Education Appropriations Bill (S.1284) in any future spending package or Continuing Resolution and to urge the Senate to have the House consider the Mental Health Awareness and Improvement Act of 2013 (S. 689). These important bills will help address the mental health and addiction needs in our state and communities.

You can show your support for this bill by contacting your Senator (click here to find your senator and her/his email address), and sending her/him the text in bold above.

Share this message on your blog, Facebook, Pinterest, etc. Help spread the word, and encourage everyone to not just "like" the post, but SEND THE MESSAGE TO THE SENATE TO SUPPORT SENATE FY2014 LABOR, HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES AND EDUCATION AND APPROPRIATIONS BILL (S.1284) AND THE MENTAL HEALTH AWARENESS AND IMPROVEMENT ACT OF 2013 (S.689)!

You can learn more about this legislation on the Mental Health America website. 

Why Are American Health Care Costs So High?

Friday, September 13, 2013

Vladimir Putin Attempts to School Americans on Democracy and Diplomacy

Vladimir Putin wrote an op-ed for The New York Times regarding the "conflict" in Syria.

This has been met with some very mixed reactions, including one member of Congress to say it made him "sick to his stomach" to read it.*

Putin attempts to remind and school Americans about diplomacy, what the Pope thinks, and almost inexplicably- democracy.

He goes on to say, "We need to use the United Nations Security Council and believe that preserving law and order in today’s complex and turbulent world is one of the few ways to keep international relations from sliding into chaos. The law is still the law, and we must follow it whether we like it or not. Under current international law, force is permitted only in self-defense or by the decision of the Security Council. Anything else is unacceptable under the United Nations Charter and would constitute an act of aggression. "

Vladimir Putin is telling Americans to follow current international law?!?

But before you start to think the man has a point, he then continues on to say that yes, gas was used on the Syrian people, but not by Assad's regime. He suggests the rebels did it to themselves to invoke sympathy.

And then this "former" KGB hack makes this gem of a statement, "force has proved ineffective and pointless."

And don't miss the part where on 9/11 Vladimir Putin in all sincerity asks Americans to recall the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"The world reacts by asking: if you cannot count on international law, then you must find other ways to ensure your security. Thus a growing number of countries seek to acquire weapons of mass destruction. This is logical: if you have the bomb, no one will touch you."

Be sure to stay to the end, where Vladimir Putin, the president of Russia, former KGB agent, the man who turned off gas to his own people in the middle of a freezing winter, possible Chechnyan war criminal, persecutor of gays, and human minotaur, says in response to President Obama's address to the nation:

And I would rather disagree with a case he made on American exceptionalism, stating that the United States’ policy is “what makes America different. It’s what makes us exceptional.” It is extremely dangerous to encourage people to see themselves as exceptional, whatever the motivation. There are big countries and small countries, rich and poor, those with long democratic traditions and those still finding their way to democracy. Their policies differ, too. We are all different, but when we ask for the Lord’s blessings, we must not forget that God created us equal.

Again, "it is extremely dangerous to encourage people to see themselves as exceptional."

And that, my friends, is what defines the difference between Russia and America.

Now I understand why the congressman was sick to his stomach.

*This post is not indicative of the writer's thoughts on the Syrian conflict, it is merely a reflection on her opinion of Putin attempting to be a compassionate communist educating Americans on liberty and democracy.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Mine-golia Mongolia

I recently read a fascinating [to me] article in Bloomberg Markets magazine regarding mining in Mongolia. To sum it up in simplest terms, a very large multi-national corporation has a very large copper mining project going on there. (And some other smaller companies too.) The company, Rio Tinto, stands to make a great deal of money over many years off this project. It is one of the largest known copper deposits, if I recall correctly.
In an interesting case of corporate responsibility and working with the government and the people of the country, Rio Tinto not only paying the country for permission to be there, plus paying taxes, and employing many local nationals, they are going a few steps beyond that. For instance, Rio Tinto paid taxes in advance.
Did you know Mongolia is a democracy? It's true. It is. And that's what makes the next part more interesting.
Mongolia has been giving money to its citizens. Forget taxes. Rio Tinto is paying all of that. The government is just giving money to its people. Payments, free money, cash. For nothing. This is the "payment" Rio Tinto makes in exchange for taking their copper.
Keep in mind this is a country where most people outside of the large capital city live in yurts with no electricity. They have retained their nomadic, hunting, and gathering lifestyles. And now the government is giving them an extra $11,000 a year.
And following the history of pretty much every case of free handouts ever, now the people want more. They were given money, and they liked it. And now they want more free money.
This is a democracy. The president has to run for re-election. So naturally he's campaigning and telling the people what they want to hear. "We're going to make that big bad corporation pay up! Give us more money! They can't just come in here and strip our land while our people live in yurts! No!"
The president even held a big special legislative meeting where he gave a chilling speech. He made it clear that the government was going to move in and have more control over the mines. And that the companies would pay up. And the government would give the people more.
A few days later, he had the bank accounts of Rio Tinto frozen. He claimed it was because they didn't pay their taxes that year. The company pointed out he was right, they didn't pay them in that year, because, at the country's request, they had paid all of their taxes in advance! Their accounts were then unfrozen.
A president had that much control. No checks or balances. No oversight. So one to remind him of this large multi-national contract and its details.
Or maybe he knew full well what the contract said. (Not knowing about the millions and millions in advance taxes that the government relies heavily upon is a pretty big "oopsie.") And he was just campaigning.
Granted his campaigning and presidential style have a strange Hitler and Stalin propaganda vibe to them.
This situation (which may have progressed further by now- I was reading an article from May) is a fascinating one.
This isn't a case of a big bad company coming in and taking advantage of a poor, undereducated country. In fact, if what I have read is true, the company is actually doing things right. It has employed many of the locals, provided education opportunities for locals to go abroad, is showing environmental safety concern, and let's not forget those advance taxes. Those taxes which are pretty much just straight to the pocket payments of every citizen of the country.
Has there ever been a case in the history of the world where a government has moved in, taken over commercial operations (particularly ones that have proven to be lucrative), forced its people to become dependent upon them (the government), and it turned out well?
Where does this leave the corporation? Do they cave and let the government take over? (Hand over the keys and say, "Sure, you drive!") Has any company ever done that? Sold out to a government and walked away from profits?
There are some interesting similarities to copper and Mongolia to oil in the Middle East, particularly Saudi Arabia. In Saudi the people do not pay taxes. The government makes so much money off of oil that it gives money to its citizens. It's true. Just for being a Saudi male, you are given money. Plus they have family money. This (combined with other cultural issues there) has led to an interesting problem with laziness and education. What incentive do the men have to work or get a decent education if the government is just going to give them money? (And these are not people living in poverty. These are wealthy people.)
There will likely never be a war with Mongolia over copper the way there has been with government controlling oil and lands in the Middle East.
But it is an interesting discussion.
What responsibilities does the corporation have to make the government happy? Many investors have been looking to Mongolia as the next big pay day- what is their moral responsibility? (Or is it even a safe investment anymore? Does anyone think the government won't ruin the situation?)

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Born Republican? Born Democrat?

Are political ideologies genetic?
Watch this short 2.5 minutes video and you may be surprised!
From Academic Earth: Born Republican? Born Democrat? 
Created by

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Sebelius is right not to take immediate action in lung transplant case.

Making headlines this week is the story of a young girl who needs a lung transplant as soon as possible. But the realities of the situation are thus- child-size lungs do not become available very often. And the transplant list rules and regulations do not get her access to adult lungs.
The family (rightfully) took to the media to help their daughter out. And they petitioned the Health and Human Services Secretary, Kathleen Sebelius, to override the rules, and direct the transplant organization, UNOS, to give their daughter lungs.
A lot of right-wing types are calling Sebelius a "one-woman death panel" for her choice to not jump and do.
The case has now gone to U.S. District Judge Michael Baylson who wrote in a temporary restraining order that by refusing to set aside the existing rule for children, Sebelius had failed “to protect the very few children nationally who are subject to it.” He added that the evidence showed that the rule “discriminates against children and serves no purpose, is arbitrary, capricious and an abuse of discretion.” Baylson, a George W. Bush appointee, scheduled a hearing for June 14.
Sebelius now has 10 days to either issue a directive, or not do anything.
Here is why she would be right not to do anything-
(and shame on anyone who considers themselves a defender of the Constitution for not seeing it this way)
First and foremost, precedent. We cannot have a cabinet secretary determining who lives and dies. If she says yes in this scenario, what happens when another family needs a transplant next week? An appointed cabinet secretary is an incredibly political position.  She (and/or any of her successors) does everyone justice by not allowing herself to become a "death panel." Her job is of such a highly political nature that it is only a matter of time, nay minutes, until campaign favors, bribes, etc. become a question in transplants.
I think it goes without saying that absolutely nobody wants to see transplants become a political topic!
Transplants, above all other issues, should remain an incredibly fair, honest, and transparent decision. And that is absolutely why it was right to make this situation go through a judge.
I know many people cannot help but feel compassion and want to override "the system" to help out a dying girl. No one can be blamed for that.
But right now this little girl does have some more time. She needs the lungs, but she has a few more weeks. And that is why it is right to let this play out in courts. Judges have the right to feel compassion, recognize a bad law, and make the appropriate change so that it sets precedent that can help others.
(It also protects any medical professional who may help the girl if she gets the lungs. Otherwise, a directive from a political authority may or may not open up the door to a lawsuit from a different family who needed the lungs, but didn't get them because they went to the girl. That lawsuit could easily involve the doctors.)
Let this play out in the courts so that the right thing can be done not just for the little girl, but for all transplant patients down the road. No one is arguing that it is a bad regulation that needs to be fixed. So let's let it get fixed the proper way, and not in a way that could create further problems down the road.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Keep Discrimination Out of the Boy Scouts

Last week I read something so prejudiced, so full of self-righteous bias that it made me sad for hours. I had to stop reading it and walk away. For hours the thought haunted me that someone could be so blinded by their uneducated, prejudiced beliefs, as to proudly put it in print, and think that others would agree and sympathize with them. They probably even think that God will bless them for being so much more righteous than the rest of us. It depressed me for hours that this person is out there representing my religion and all that I hold dear. I knew I had to say something, I had to put my thoughts into print, and make it public, that such discrimination does not represent me, or the official position of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
The words left on, in response to the official Church statement on the decision of the Boy Scouts of America to not discriminate or exclude gay young men from the program, were simply, “I’m so glad my boys are out of Scouts now. I would not want my little boy in the same troop as a gay 10 year old boy.” (The comment was moderated and deleted.)
To this person, and anyone else who has criticized the Church’s position, I ask you this- Why would the Church not support the BSA decision to allow gay young men in the program? After all, the Church allows gay young men to be members of the Church! A young man can be gay and pass the sacrament, so why should his sexual orientation keep him from obtaining a merit badge?
How Does the Church View Homosexuality?
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints acknowledges that same-sex attraction is a sensitive issue which requires kindness, compassion, and understanding… Not exclusion and discrimination.
The Church’s doctrinal position is clear: Sexual activity should only occur between a man and a woman who are married. However, that should never be used as justification for unkindness. Jesus Christ, whom we follow, was clear in His condemnation of sexual immorality, but never cruel. His interest was always to lift the individual, never to tear down. (
In short, the Church firmly believes that all people are equally beloved children of God and deserve to be treated with love and respect. Church apostle Elder Quentin L. Cook stated, “As a church, nobody should be more loving and compassionate. Let us be at the forefront in terms of expressing love, compassion and outreach. Let’s not have families exclude or be disrespectful of those who choose a different lifestyle as a result of their feelings about their own gender.”
Let’s repeat that last line. “Let’s not have families exclude or be disrespectful of those who choose a different lifestyle as a result of their feelings about their own gender.”

Love the Sinner, Hate the Sin, Know the Difference
Maybe it needs to be re-stated and explained in a more direct format for those who cannot separate down the difference between opposing gay marriage and a gay 10 year old boy.
The Church opposes gay marriage.
The Church does not oppose gays, regardless of age.
The Church does not oppose 10 year old boys, regardless of sexual persuasion.
The Church opposes pedophilia, sexual harassment, and discrimination.
Pedophilia, sexual molestation, and sexual harassment are crimes.
Homosexuality is not a crime.
Acts of discrimination are crimes.
Not all gays are men.
Not all pedophiles and sexual predators are gay. Many are straight.
Not all gays are pedophiles or sexual predators. In fact, most are not.
A ten year old boy is unlikely to act on feelings of attraction, whether straight or gay. Any ten year old boy who makes inappropriate sexual advances on another boy or a girl, needs emotional counseling and assistance. This is a child that needs help, not hate.
A young boy will not “turn gay” or suffer from any sort of malady by sitting next to a gay young man at a troop meeting. He is, however, likely to learn discrimination, bias, and prejudices from his parents.
Not all gay individuals are out to convert you. They will not all be attracted to you. They are not attracted to every member of the same sex in the same way that you are not automatically attracted to ever single member of the opposite sex. To assume that a gay young child will "hit on" or "try to convince" your child of the same sex is not only naive but delusional.

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland said, “You see, same-gender attraction is not a sin, but acting on those feelings is—just as it would be with heterosexual feelings.”
To those individuals who feel that the second a man looks at another man “in a gay way,” and thinks that just the natural feeling of attraction is a sin, might I remind you of Matthew 5:28, “But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.” Do you intend to hold yourself, and all other straight individuals, to that same standard? Are you without sin? Can you cast that first stone?
President Boyd K. Packer made the point equally clear when speaking to Church members with same-gender attraction. “‘We do not reject you…We cannot reject you, for you are the sons and daughters of God. We will not reject you, because we love you.’”
With the Church’s position so openly and obviously clear, why would anyone doubt the continuing alliance with the Boy Scouts?

Help! There’s a Gay Child in the Scout Troop!
If you are uncomfortable with your child being in the same troop (or classroom, car, or at a birthday party) with another child (for whatever reason- whether it be sexual orientation, behavior, language, etc.), you are always welcome and able to sit in and watch or supervise the proceedings. Watch and see if your concerns about the other child are warranted. I have never found or heard of a troop or classroom that had too much parental involvement.
Parents, what will you tell your son when you pull him out of Boy Scouts? “I’m sorry, but there may be a gay little boy in your troop someday, so we can no longer support this organization. Don’t listen to anything the prophet and apostles have said about not rejecting others with same gender attraction, or whether or not it is a sin. I know better.”
Or will you teach your son that we, like Christ, choose to love all of God’s children? And that you hope he will join his voice “with others in unreserved condemnation of acts of cruelty or attempts to belittle or mock any group or individual that is different – whether those differences arise from race, religion, mental challenges, social status, sexual orientation or for any other reason. Such actions simply have no place in our society.”
Will you remind your son that in this Church we believe that regardless of sexual orientation, “any sexual activity outside of marriage is wrong, and we define marriage as between a man and a woman. However, that should never, ever be used as justification for unkindness. Jesus Christ, whom we follow, was clear in His condemnation of sexual immorality, but never cruel?”
I can only sympathize with and pray for parents of a gay little boy (or girl). It must be hard to know that your son or daughter will grow up in a world full of prejudices against them, even within the Church. How hard must it be for a loving parent to hear ward members or neighbors say that they would rather remove their children from the Scouting program, than let them socialize with a gay child. My heart breaks for the parent of the gay child.
In my personal experience, a ten year old boy, eight year old, or even twelve year old boy, is highly unlikely to express preferences of sexual attraction, even if he has already experienced them. Ten year old boys are highly unlikely to share deep feelings about anything at all! Ten year old boys are more likely to avoid contact with girls, let alone talk to them, or about them. Ten year old boys are just not known for sitting around and talking about what kind of girl they are hoping to spend some alone time with. A ten year old boy with an attraction to other boys is just as likely, if not more likely, to avoid discussing his feelings. He knows that others view such feelings with prejudice, and will not share them openly. How sad that such a young boy must already know prejudice and that adults don’t like him, just because he exists.
Considering the lack of emoting and sexual activity of most young boys, the BSA decision is irrelevant to the regular operations of the Scouts. But it must bring some comfort to parents to know that their son will not be kicked out or left out, if he has indeed expressed a sexual identity at such a young age.
Again, with the Church’s position so openly and obviously clear, why would anyone doubt their alliance with the Boy Scouts?
“We do not reject you…We cannot reject you, for you are the sons and daughters of God. We will not reject you, because we love you.”
  “Ye Are the Temple of God,” Liahona, Jan. 2001, 87.

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Friday, April 26, 2013

California Passes Law to Allow Non-Citizens to Serve on Juries

In italics: the Associated Press report
In normal font: my [incredulous] thoughts

The California Assembly passed a bill on Thursday that would make the state the first in the nation to allow non-citizens who are in the country legally to serve on jury duty.

What the heck?? WHY??? 

Assemblyman Bob Wieckowski, D-Fremont, said his bill, AB1401, would help California widen the pool of prospective jurors and help integrate immigrants into the community.

It does not change other criteria for being eligible to serve on a jury, such as being at least 18, living in the county that is making the summons, and being proficient in English.

Does not change other criteria? It change the most important and significant criteria!!! YOU HAVE TO BE AN AMERICAN!!
From the California Courts official website: (written prior to the new law being passed)

California law says you are qualified to be a juror if you:
  • Are a U.S. citizen
  • Are at least 18 years old
  • Can understand English enough to understand and discuss the case
  • Are a resident of the county that sent you the jury summons
  • Have not served on a jury in the last 12 months
  • Are not currently on a grand jury or on another trial jury
  • Are not under a conservatorship
  • Have had your civil rights restored if you were convicted of a felony or malfeasance while holding public office
No one is exempt because of his or her job, race, color, religion, sex, national origin, sexual orientation, or economic status. If you are qualified, please follow the directions on your summons and call in or report as instructed. You will receive additional information when you report for service. Even if you are qualified to be a juror, you might still have what is called an "undue hardship." An undue hardship is a difficult situation that prevents you from being able to serve. If you face an undue hardship, you may be able to be excused from jury service or postpone service.

The bill passed 45-25 largely on a party-line vote in the Democratic-controlled Assembly and will move on to the Senate. One Democrat - Assemblyman Adam Gray, of Merced - voted no, while some other Democrats did not vote.
Democratic lawmakers who voted for the bill said there is no correlation between being a citizen and a juror, and they noted that there is no citizenship requirement to be an attorney or a judge. Republican lawmakers who opposed Wieckowski's bill called it misguided and premature.

No correlation between being a citizen or a juror? Jury duty has always been considered a patriotic duty!!!

Assemblywoman Diane Harkey, R-Dana Point, said there is no shortage of jurors.
"Jury selection is not the problem. The problem is trial court funding," Harkey said before the vote. "I hope we can focus on that. Let's not break something; it's not broken now. Let's not whittle away at what is reserved for U.S. citizens. There's a reason for it."
Wieckowski's office said the bill is the first of its kind in the nation and suggested that courts regularly struggle to find enough prospective jurors because jury duty is often seen as an inconvenience, if not a burden. His office did not cite any statistics but pointed to a 2003 legislative report that said numerous articles have noted high rates of non-participation.

Note to the AP: those two paragraphs would have made more sense in reverse order. 

But I digress. 
"high rates of non-participation"
So launch a freaking marketing campaign encouraging patriotism, civic duty, and the importance of a fair and just trial!!
It will be a lot cheaper than the lawsuits you are going to get down the road when people start appealing that their jury was not American or their peers!

A 2007 survey by the Center for Jury Studies said 20 percent of courts across the country reported a failure to respond or failure to appear rate of 15 percent or higher. The center is run by the National Center for State Courts, a Virginia-based nonprofit dedicated to improving court systems.
It's not clear, however, if that rate translates to a shortage of jurors in California.


Noting that women were once kept off juries, Assembly Speaker John Perez, D-Los Angeles, said the judicial system should be changed to allow a person to be judged by their peers.
"This isn't about affording someone who would come in as a juror something," Perez said. "But rather understanding that the importance of the jury selection process of affording justice to the person in that courtroom."

Keeping women (or any minority race for that matter) off of juries was about discrimination and unequal rights.  Not including non-Americans on juries is not discrimination! We're talking about a court system designed to uphold the Constitution! 
I will be reasonable here and try to see the other side of this argument. If it is an area that is heavy on immigrants, and the basis for our jury system is a trial of our peers, I can almost see the argument for it. And although the AP says nothing of it, I will assume the law made a point to allow LEGAL immigrants. (I'm sure a few people will read it and jump to illegal immigrants, just like I did, out of habit.) 
Legal, long-term immigrants, are (if they choose to be) very much a part of the community, and in most cases "peers." Especially in states like California. 
An estimated 10 million Californians are summoned for jury duty each year and about 4 million are eligible and available to serve, according to the Judicial Council, which administers the state's court system. About 3.2 million complete the service, meaning they waited in a courthouse assembly room or were placed on call.
In 2010-2011, the most recent year available, only about 165,000 people were sworn in as jurors.
Some details on immigrant numbers in the U.S. and California.
"The number of immigrants (legal and illegal) in the country hit a new record of 40 million in 2010, a 28 percent increase over the total in 2000." (Source: Center for Immigration Studies)
"We estimate that 28 percent of all immigrants are in the country illegally. Roughly half of Mexican and Central American and one-third of South American immigrants are here illegally." (SOURCE: CIS)


 California had 227,876 immigrants become LEGAL permanent residents in 2009.  (Source: California Watch)

I can almost talk myself into this idea that legal immigrants, especially if they are long-term permanent residents, should be on a jury. (Note use of terminology here. I said SHOULD, not could. I am sure many could, in the sense that they have the requisite familiarity of the laws.)

But then I think of Amanda Knox and her trial in Italy.
What if Italy's laws allowed for non-Italians to serve on juries? Her whole family, plus you and me, could all move there, become permanent residents, make sure we live in the right jurisdiction, and hope to be put on her jury! All just to make sure she gets off!
The thought is preposterous, right? Americans serving on Italian juries? Even if a long-term, legal resident there, we don't expect it to happen. 

Okay, so maybe that's not the most applicable example.

Here is a more realistic one-
Illegal immigrants in certain neighborhoods commit a lot of certain types of crimes. (Don't try and argue that I'm being racist or biased here. We all know that crime is much higher among illegals.) In fact, in a small neighborhood in Southern California, it is not completely out of the realm of realistic possibility that the criminal court docket will have a large number of cases involving young, illegal immigrants.
What if a very large group of sympathetic legal immigrants made it a point to live in that same area?
Oh wait, they probably already do.
But here's the thing, now they have motivation for doing so. And not just local Californians, but anywhere across the U.S. If you want to really make a difference in culture and laws, the court system is the way to do it. So why not start suddenly congregating large groups in an area where they can make a difference on juries?
And I'm not trying to imply that all immigrants will be naturally sympathetic to illegal immigrants. (In fact, I think they may have more reason to be biased against each other than other demographics.)
Not all immigrants are from the same country. Legal immigrants come from all over the world all the time. And I welcome that! I am fine with that! (All thoughts of the Boston Bomb Brothers aside.)
But! Can immigrants on a jury uphold the U.S. Constitution and not hold a defendant to the standards of "the old country?" This is my sticking point, right here. Can immigrants, who may or may not be interested in becoming citizens (it is a long process and many legal residents may be interested in becoming citizens and just are not there yet), be expected to not allow for prejudices from previous cultures to influence their decisions?
I realize it is biased to say that they cannot. But! I really have to believe that. How can they look at someone from their own country, on trial in a different country, and not give some allowances for previous culture, while enforcing the current one?
I am a die-hard, red-blooded, patriotic American and defender of the Constitution. I just cannot stomach or accept the idea that a non-American has the right to judge me in a court of law. The court system is based on an American document. It should be defended by actual Americans!
Is this just a case where we need to open our minds to the idea of change? Would it be so bad if immigrant (legal or illegal) defendants had someone on the jury from a different country (their own or otherwise)? Does it make it a more legitimate jury of peers?
But I can't help but come back to the reverse thought- would I expect foreigners to serve on juries in other countries?
I feel that there are 2 sides to my response. The one that sounds a little prejudiced and biased against immigrants, although I truly do not mean to be so. I have no problem with foreign born residents! I welcome it! I love diversity! But am I biased in thinking that their previous culture will color their ability to serve on a jury? Am I wrong to think so?
I really have to keep thinking on that. Because I do feel that maybe there is some unjust discrimination in that way of thinking.
(It hearkens to the old idea that women were not capable of serving on juries because of their natures.)
But I absolutely cannot let go of the idea of anyone but an American serving on an American jury! It just doesn't work! I can't accept it. If I am to be held accountable to the laws of this country, I expect to be judged by the citizens of this country.
The end.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

I can't back the "gendered marriage" fight.

At this exact moment as I sit here typing, the US Supreme Court is debating gay marriage. The Court will weigh 2 different cases this week. Today it is the appeal of California Proposition 8 (Prop 8), which banned gay marriage. The second case will be heard tomorrow regarding the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).
I am personally somewhat torn on the issue(s). I'm a conservative [mostly] Republican, as such, one might expect I would be completely in favor of "defending" marriage, and opposing gay marriage. 
However, I do not. I was opposed at some point in the past, when all things gay were distasteful to me. I have changed and matured, and realized that was a petty, ignorant, and small-minded way to think. I do not in any way, shape, or form, hold bias against, or discriminate against my homosexual fellow humans. 
The official position of my church is "We firmly support the divinely appointed definition of marriage as the union between a man and a woman because it is the single most important institution for strengthening children, families, and society."  And as such, I choose to stand on the side of my church. 
However, I do not agree with anyone who uses the well-being or protection of children as their reason for fighting gay marriage. If your reason for opposing gay marriage is based in religion and the belief that marriage is "divinely appointed... between a man and a woman" then say so. That I can support. That I believe in. 
But I cannot support  the Religious Right, (RR), or "defenders of marriage," that have this strange desire to legislate the world into what they want it to be, where every child has a mother and a father, and lives in the suburbs, with a dog and a cat. That is not what the real world really looks like. I don't condone them for wanting it to look like that, but it isn't realistic, and it doesn't actually help anyone.
Let me explain. 
Most families will never fit the RR's vision for what a family looks like or should be.  Of couples that marry, not all will produce biological children. Not all couples will stay married. Most homes do not fit the "traditional" mold. 
And yet, all of the RR arguments are to encourage that mold. 
This is small-minded thinking. you cannot legislate to make everyone look or act like you. To think that blocking gay marriage will create these perfect families is like trying to put the toothpaste back in the tube- it just won't work. Most homes are already divorced, or single parented, or adopted, or fostered. They are not perfectly little Cleaver Clans. We cannot legislate with the idea and goal that we all want or have that. It's great that that is what they want (to be the Cleavers), but most households don't, and won't, ever look like that. 
So instead of blocking gay marriage, and pretending this somehow is better for children, I choose to not take side. I choose to focus on charitable activities and actual legislation that really would help less fortunate children. (You want to make a difference? Donate $18 to RiverKids, and feed a child in Cambodia for 2 months, and help protect the child from the very real possibility of sex trafficking.)

The following article was printed in a conservative publication. I choose to not cite it or link to it, because I don't want to send traffic to it, or attract the attention of the writers to my own blog.  It is a perfect example of using emotional rhetoric and claims with no basis in reality or facts. One major reason I cannot support the RR fight is their lack of credible, scientific facts and claims. 
The following article ran with the title "The Inequalities of "Equal" Marriage." I have inserted by retorts and rebuffs in red. The largest failure of this article is to make any mention of adopted children, step-children, children of divorce, abandoned children, foster children, etc.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Draft Romney to Rescue Detroit!

You know what is wrong with this-  Let's Draft Romney to Rescue Detroit (Fox News)

Nothing. Absolutely nothing. 

In fact, every single word of it makes sense!

"... Detroit is effectively bankrupt and the governor of Michigan is about to appoint a receiver to try to save the city..."

"I’m betting Romney will turn the Detroit economy around, just like he turned a failing, bankrupt Salt Lake City Olympics into one of the great successes in Olympic history. And we already have a precedent -- Ronald Reagan turned around Jimmy Carter's malaise, misery and 21.5% interest rates in record time. He turned an economic disaster into the greatest economic expansion in history (adding 20 million jobs)."

Governor Snyder, are you listening? 

Where's the petition? I want to sign!

Monday, January 28, 2013

3 Different Stores, 3 Different Experiences

Tonight played out in some very unexpected ways for me. I had to go to 3 different stores- Cracker Barrel, Walmart, and Stein Mart. Three very different stores, in three very different parts of town, with three very different clientele.

My first stop was Cracker Barrel, right off the highway, on the far end of town from where I live. I had to return a book on CD I had "rented" from their library. (It's a fabulous service and I highly recommend it.) If you have ever been in a Cracker Barrel you know that the store patrons and restaurant patrons all pay at the same check out counter. I got in line behind one older gentleman. A line formed to the side of the man by people coming out of the restaurant. I was in no rush and let 3 people go ahead of me, even though I was there first. They never even noticed I was standing there. Another older gentleman did see me and saw how many people I allowed to go past me. He insisted I go next, even though, quite frankly, I really didn't care. My business was transacted quickly and easily and I left.

My next stop was Walmart. We have 2 of these behemoths in our town. One is brand spanking new and is right by my house. That was where I had purchased the items I was returning today. It's clean, bright, and rather nice. When I shop there I expect to run into people I know. I also expect courteous treatment. Don't get me wrong, there's still the "people of Walmart" crowd, but for the most part, it's not a bad shopping experience.

And then there is the other Walmart in town- the one in the ghetto. Except it isn't in a ghetto, it's just closer to the ghetto than the other store. This Walmart is actually right next to the "nice" mall, Target, Best Buy, and all of the other big stores in town. It's smack dab in the middle of everything. And yet most people avoid it like the plague (I wish I had). It's dingy, dark, and full of the scariest, nastiest people you have ever seen.

A few days ago I went to the Good Walmart to return some items. I walked straight in, went to customer service, got helped immediately, and left. I got home and realized I forgot the second bag of items, and needed to go back and return them. Because I had to drive to the far end of the galaxy to go to Cracker Barrel, I stopped at Ghetto Walmart.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Firearms, Gun Control, and the Second Amendment

My first real job out of college was for a homeless shelter for teens in Houston, Texas. At that point in time my professional ambition was to plan fancy fundraising events for the most deserving of charities. I worked there just short of one year before I moved back to my home state of Virginia. It was then and there that I got a job interview through a recruiter with "one of the oldest and biggest non-profits" in the U.S. I was shocked to find out that non-profit was the National Rifle Association. The job description sounded good, the company's location was ideal, and I had nothing against the NRA, so I went to the interview.

I wasn't a fit for the position in their charitable wing, but was referred upstairs to a different "event planning" position. I got the job- a trade show and special events planning position in the membership division. It was a fateful turn in my career path- one that would almost always include guns. 

At the time I was hired I had never held a real gun before. I had held a few BB guns, and shot them at tin cans on a fence in a field in Mississippi. But I had never seen a gun range, let alone fired a real weapon. I was a Republican with a Southern upbringing, and that was enough to convince me (and the people that hired me) that I was in favor of the Second Amendment. But to be honest, I had never really thought much about it.

I didn't work at the NRA for long before someone took me down to the range, enrolled me in the range and firearms safety class, put a .22 pistol in my hand, and taught me how to shoot. "Punching holes in paper." It didn't take long for me to discover two things- I was a natural shot, and I really liked when things go bang.

I've never had an inclination to go hunting, nor do I expect I ever will. (Although I wouldn't mind removing one or two raccoons from the population behind my house.) But the range has always held a certain appeal for me. It takes skill, discipline, and focus to get a bull's eye. Just like an NBA player isn't guaranteed every free throw, or Tiger Woods a hole in one, shooting at a target doesn't always mean a perfect shot.

I left the NRA after a while and moved on to other (event planning) jobs, just to end up working at Beretta USA a few years later. Beretta is one of the largest firearms manufacturers in the world. I worked in the law enforcement and defense division, where we sold large numbers of firearms and parts to police and military.

While I worked at both organizations I dreaded telling new acquaintances, or even strangers, where I worked. Rarely was my employer's name met with neutrality; it was always met with a heavily biased response, whether positive or negative. I was called a "babykiller" more times than I can count. If the new person was pro-firearms, I was almost always asked what kind of guns I owned. Or I was subjected to the person's testimony of the Second Amendment, and a list of their favorite weapons.