The Internet, the Whole Internet, and Nothing but the Internet

“Truth” means being in accord with fact or reality.  The opposite of truth is “falsehood” which can also appear as logical, factual, even ethical, but is, of course, a deception, thxj321cz0whether intentional or not.  As humans we depend upon truth, where it is assumed rather than being a subject of discussion; otherwise, how could we have science, laws and…journalism?

Years ago, futurists predicted that online information would create an aggregate transparency and accountability that would benefit truth in a democratic society.  Oops.  I wonder how many of them put money on 8-track tapes, too.

Instead, the internet exploded with 9/11 conspiracies and partisans who believed that Barack Obama was a foreign-born Muslim (remember the birther movement?- the one bankrolled by our new president in a maniacal adherence to lack of evidence), or that sharks1large-1George W Bush personally engineered a theft of the White House.  Photo-shopped pictures confirmed that Wall Street flooded with sharks in subways after Hurricane Sandy and were proof that Kim Jong-un was named Time Magazine’s Person of the Year.

Studies show that when we are confronted with diverse information choices, we do not act rationally, but are instead ignited by preconceptions.  Psychologists suggest that it is a human instinct to believe what comes easiest and then submerse ourselves in information that confirms our biases, while dismissing what does not.

The internet provides a nearly infinite menu of choices to find exactly what we want with like-minded social networks where rumors do not require evidence to sustain, only the fact that they are there.  And in that echo chamber it becomes a verified “truth” and appears as authentic research.

How sinister has this become?  A man was arrested yesterday after he walked into a pizza restaurant in Northwest Washington carrying an assault rifle and fired shots. The man told police he had come to the restaurant to “self-investigate” an election-related conspiracy theory involving Hillary Clinton that spread online during her campaign.  Fake news stories circulated claiming that then-Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and her campaign chief were running a child sex ring from the restaurant’s backrooms.

And how far does this insidious reality climb?  To the top.  Michael Flynn, the retiredap_16194463376113 general whom President-elect Trump has tapped as his advisor on national security, willfully shares stories about anti-Clinton conspiracy theories involving pedophilia and several other internet-based fiction. None of them have a grain of actual truth, but Flynn gladly continues to propagate false information from extreme-bias and that is troubling as an advisor to the president.  Deeply troubling.

The truth is important, and while none of us are omniscient and no source is infallible, there is nevertheless a discipline in a sincere search for it, and that discipline does not hammer-on-thumbexist “as” the internet.  The internet is only a tool, and like a hammer, it is only as effective as the carpenter who wields it.

“Honesty is the first chapter in the book of wisdom”                 – Thomas Jefferson.

“What so proudly we hail”

flagOur flag has been getting a lot of attention lately.  President-elect, Donald Trump, has entered into the conversation (via Twitter), after a flag burning protest, to say:  “Nobody should be allowed to burn the American flag – if they do, there must be consequences – perhaps loss of citizenship or year in jail!”

His comment is gathering momentum from Americans who resoundingly agree, but it also ignites another side to a First Amendment debate.

In 1969 the US Supreme Court determined that burning a flag is protected as freedom of speech.  That never set well with a lot of th16zm4dloAmericans and in 2005 an Amendment passed in the House to make flag burning illegal.  It failed in the Senate, however, and even Republican Senator Mitch McConnell argued against it.

“The vast majority of Americans honor the flag, and rightly so. Some would go so far as to amend the Constitution to protect the flag against those who would burn it. While I share and admire their patriotism, altering our First Amendment, even for the worthy purpose of protecting the flag, is not a position I can support.

McConnell continued:  “Weakening our First Amendment could also set a dangerous precedent for the rest of the Bill of Rights. If we successfully carve out an exception to one basic freedom, perhaps those who seek to curtail our Second Amendment rights, —the right to bear arms—, will carve out another. Or the right to own private property, as expressed in the Fifth Amendment, could come under assault.”

Certainly, those who wish to override that 1969 Supreme Court decision will have to grapple with the fact that our Supreme Court also ruled that corporations have the rights of people and that giving unlimited money to a political campaign is an expression of their (corporations) free speech.  Such an elastic interpretation would have to include the burning of a patriotic symbol as a protected expression of grievance.

How ever we look at the flag, it is a flashpoint for people who feel betrayed by it, people who are inspired by it, people who are afraid of it, and people who stand by it.

flag-burnThe flag was burned two years ago in Ferguson, Missouri by people who feel that America does not provide equal protection of freedom and justice and it appears to them as a betrayal of that promise.

A flag was taken down by a university where a student displayed it on his campus porch because to foreign students passing by it represented a form of nationalist patriotism that doesn’t welcome them.  It scared them and the university agreed.

untitledWhen it is either waved or desecrated, people rally to one side or the other to defend what it means, what it doesn’t mean, what it stands for, or what it stood for.  The only common thread of that upon which we do not tread is that “Our flag represents American freedom.”

So the question is:  What is American freedom?

That’s not easy to answer.  American freedom, even as it’s outlined in our Constitution, is a vague construct.  Freedom to do what, exactly?  Live free?  What if my free imposes on your free?

Freedom to worship?  What if your beliefs deny my beliefs?

Freedom of speech?  What if that speech promotes the restriction of freedom for others?

Freedom from government tyranny?  Sure…but, government was also created to keep us free from…government tyranny.

I’m not trying to be pedantic here, but there are conundrums inherent to the very concept of the freedoms we defend.  All we can actually believe in is an idea of freedom, but ideas are not always clearly defined.  What we are believing in is not a concrete set of principles, but the feeling we get when we consider our own personal identification with that idea.  Good or bad.

Which brings us back to the flag…

A national flag is a symbol of that nation.  It is visual statement to identify the temperament, history, ideology and people comprising that nation.  The US flag signifies, as stars, the 50 united-states, and has 13 stripes representing the original colonies that revolted against Britain.  The history of that revolution, democratic representation, our sovereignty, along with the constitution binding those states with unalienable rights is woven into that fabric.

But, therein lies the problem.  A symbol is as perfect as it is benign; its realization is not.

In the 1960’s a phrase entered our lexicon in answer to the protests against the$(KGrHqZHJEEFDN6t2SSZBQ6TmcfJZw~~60_3 Vietnam War:  “America, Love It Or Leave It.”  It was conservative-ideology shorthand to define American patriotism and it meant that if you don’t like the way America handles its business, you should go (or stay) elsewhere.  It was draped around our symbol; the flag.

There was a double-standard as easily revealed as its patriotic intention as those saying it usually hated any government representation that wasn’t from their own party. But it was nevertheless embraced by many because it made them feel good about their personal connection with America.

And they proudly waved their flag.

During that time, however, conservatism was in the shadow of an emerging liberalism that began after World War II and reached its zenith during the Machiavellian, ethics-defying presidency of Richard Nixon.  In the 60’s and 70’s it became more culturally relevant to be liberal.

“America, Love It Or Leave It” endured, but it was a bumper sticker confined to the more extreme right wing.  That is until a new revolution came along; an ideological revolution from 30 years of pent up, conservative, nationalism, took hold:  The Reagan Revolution.

President Reagan, more than any other president (or at least as much as any) galvanized a decaying nationalist spirit and he turned a disenfranchised form of patriotism into something positive.  He made a lot of Americans feel good again about being an American.

reagan2_largeEven though many of us did not believe in Reagan’s jingoistic interpretation of American exceptionalism and we bristled at the wealth-pandering, class-separation he helped create, it was undeniable that a new conservative-patriotism was sweeping America.

Being a “liberal” was now being labeled less patriotic.

The neo-cons cornered the market on such brilliant, shorthand messaging to diminish liberalism and to rally the spirit of their base.  During the George W Bush administration they found a new cry, again in support of a war, and this one no one could take exception to:  “We Support Our Troops.”

What it meant, initially, was that they supported the military action in Iraq taken by that President,support_our_troops1 but it soon transcended that limitation as it was folded into the centerpiece of the sentiment; the bravery of the men and women in uniform.  The flag was part and parcel again with every representation of that statement.

But, again, we have to ask, “What does that mean?”

It doesn’t necessarily mean support of the government (of which our military is part).  Or support of the president who is their Commander in Chief, as many of the people using it today, don’t.

It no longer means support of the foreign policy directives those troops have been called to defend.

It doesn’t even mean domestic support of our troops with better health, job or education benefits.

It succeeds as socio-political panacea because there is no greater rapture of true patriotism than from the acknowledgment of those who are willing to stand in harm’s way to protect us, and that cannot be argued.

Which, again, brings us back to the flag…

a2929d6d1742f22c640f6a70670009a2Anyone standing next to me at a football game will know that I sing our National Anthem (loudly), and will see that my hat is in my left hand and my right hand is on my heart.  They will also see me making sure that my sons do the same.  I do this to show respect, humility and sincere love for our nation.

I do this to support our troops, and our citizens, in our joined fight for freedom.  I look at our flag as I sing “The Star Spangled Banner” (with its traditional patriotic understanding).  When I sing “The land of the free and the home of the brave” it is with the sincere belief that we really can stand as a nation in support of that ideal.

And I also realize that to some people that ideal has been lost or has never been realized.  They are saying that we cannot be the “land of the free and the home of the brave” if only for some.  They remind us that a flag is only cloth flapping in the wind unless the nation that flies it is true to its purpose.

We can argue either way, but the bottom line is that our flag symbolizes the idealism of a Republic and the spirit of freedom that carried our nation to sovereignty, but it can also contain the divisiveness, separation and fear that can result from exclusionary nationalism.

And so…what is that freedom it represents?

It is all of the above.  It has contradictions, vagueries, truths, triumphs, defeats, promises, shortcomings, and inspirations.  The sum of all of these gradations is the freedom to protest, even to burn a flag, and the freedom to be repulsed by that action.

Our flag is powerful because we have the freedom to interpret its symbolism in whatever way our experience compels us.  The flag belongs to all of us to wave proudly or to protest.

And that makes some people really angry.  One way or another.139405111314023385798284

The Shadow of Our Burden

Over the years I’ve heard opponents of social spending say, “If I were taxed less, I would give more generously to charity.”

On the surface, at least, that statement seems to have some validity.  I am privileged to host several fundraisers every year, helping to raise money for everything from the United Way, Habitat for Humanity, MDA, Family Children’s Counsel to local hospitals and schools, and I am always pleased by the generous turn out of this community’s citizens, many of whom are Republicans, who favor tax reductions.

Democrats attend, as well, of course, but I consistently count on reaching out to Republican friends and they rarely disappoint.

Nevertheless, the statement, above, is something that I hear with regularity and it begs for an investigation.

Could federal spending be reduced, by reducing taxes and thereby allowing for more personal charitable giving to care for those in need?

It would seem logical, if that’s true, that as taxes have systematically decreased since 1959 that charitable giving would go up commensurately.  And it has…except not with Americans who have seen the greatest decrease in their federal taxes. It has among those who can least afford to give and whose taxes have been reduced less dramatically.

The Independent Sector, a nonprofit organization focused on charitable giving, found that households earning less than $25,000 a year give away an average of 4.2 percent of their incomes; those with earnings of more than $75,000 give away 2.7 percent.

Paul K. Piff, a Ph.D. candidate in social psychology from the University of California, reaches the same conclusion that “lower-income people were more generous, charitable, trusting and helpful to others than were those with more wealth. They were more attuned to the needs of others and more committed generally to the values of egalitarianism.”

There is a more basic issue underlying charitible donations, however, than percentages. Charities have long known that donors give to charities with which they identify and from whom they might expect a more direct return. While the poor give to organizations like the Salvation Army and to their church, wealthy Americans tend to donate to the arts and humanities and to organizations where only about 10% is directed toward the poor.

Furthermore, most charities are localized and reflect community values and interests; wealthier communities get more substantial contributions than poorer communities, not in terms of percentage of local incomes, but in total dollars.

Marvin Olasky, the conservative author of “The Tragedy of American Compassion,” concedes that the federal government is more efficient at handling national economic disasters (Depressions and Recessions) but argues that in “a normally functioning economy, charities are sufficient to handle the everyday poverty…”

This, however, is not true when you look at the micro economic picture. Challenges can arise in any economy and can affect one region more than another, and poorer communities will have less resources for charity.

For reasons due to changes in local industry or natural disasters, certain areas can attain higher unemployment and economic devastation, and if that area cannot generate dollars, poverty grows, crime rises, education suffers and a new self-perpetuating cycle of depressed living occurs.

In theory, it is the Federal Government, the blind arbiter of social and economic justice, that steps in to help where the private sector cannot.

A little math reveals that Americans would have to give 10 times more than what they are currently offering to charities to replace what is spent on social welfare and relief programs, and if we are to continue to use logic, there is no reason to believe that people who hate paying taxes would increase what they currently donate in order to compensate.

As the late Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan once said, “There are not enough social workers, not enough nuns, not enough Salvation Army workers to care for the millions of people who would be dropped from the welfare rolls” without government subsidized programs.  What’s more, private charities often spend up to 90% of their revenues on administrative costs.  By contrast the federal government is held to strict accountability standards and transparency.

Tax rates for the wealthiest Americans have dropped from nearly 90% during the Eisenhower administration to 36% today, yet their percentage of private charitable giving has remained steady at 2% of their income.

Whereas for the rest of us, our tax rate has always been about the same, hovering in the 20’s, while our charitable giving has risen to nearly 3% (over 4% from the lowest earning Americans).

Many people (rich ones anyway) argue that 2% of a million dollars is a lot better than 3% of 40,000, but there is an important part of that mathematical justification they are leaving out.  While headline grabbing donations like the $100 million, billionaire Steven Schwarzman, commited to the New York Public Library might make an argument regarding what income bracket gives the most, such mega-gifts translate into less than one and a half percent of overall donations, according to Giving USA.

Rather, it’s the smaller donations by hundreds of millions of non-billionaire Americans that fuel most of the nation’s nonprofits (individuals account for about three-quarters of donations).

I do not mean to belittle the compassion of those who attend and give to charities, and I am eternally grateful to those in my community that I see, event after event, giving generously, whether Conservative or Liberal. The argument I am making is that the relatively small amount taken from our taxes and spent by the federal government to bridge the unavoidable gap between private giving is neither the enemy of our household budget nor of our economy.

I hope to offer some perspective on the truth of giving.

“There is no sweeter pleasure than to surprise a man by giving him more than he hopes for.”  – Baudelaire

Two Tickets to Paradise

In the wake of the election of Donald Trump, I was made aware of a social media site titled:  “I’m an American, why shouldpress_1_for_english_011 I have to ‘Press 1 for English’?”

I’m sure that I was directed toward it to get my dander up, as they knew what I would find, but I could not resist that confirmation and I went there.

Big surprise! (sarcasm) – I read post after post that denigrated President Obama, immigrants, liberals, and Democrats, while conversely praising President-elect Trump, gun proliferation, and anti-immigration laws.

There were several fair criticisms of government, but over 90% exhibited hatred for any screen-shot-2015-07-11-at-10_52_19-amconcept that even bordered on being progressive:  Immigration reform, the environment, gay rights, public option health insurance, gun purchase regulations, religious diversity, and allowing for refugees.

One post said stated:  “Speak English or get the (expletive) out!”

Another proclaimed:  “This is one nation under God and if you don’t like that get out you(ethnic slur)!!!”

There was a meme with two bullets over an American flag, titled: “Two Tickets to Paradise” with “paradise” written to resemble Arabic.

Another post pointed out that the “KKK was formed by Democrats” and someone piled on:  “Democrats are the real racists in this country.”

This is where I started to talk back to the page.

While there is historical accuracy in terms of the Democratic Party holding on to a founding ignorance, that is not the relevant point in today’s discrepancies.  We must ask, “Why is it that today the KKK, Aryan Nations and other white supremacist organizations now identify as Republicans?

There is no shortcut answer and first we must must look at racism, itself.  Racism is the result of adopting, or inheriting, beliefs born from ignorance and fear; it does not hold a political allegiance.

Let’s also get the history straight:  Racist Southern Democrats, who were segregationists, formed the KKK.  They were not “liberals” and they are not part of the Democratic Party today.  In fact, after the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, many Southern Democrats joined the Republican Party and formed the Conservative Coalition.

It was the Republican Party during the Civil War that championed the Abolitionists, but it was not social conservatism that led them to embrace emancipation, rather it was a non-partisan, progressive ideology at the center of their movement.

On the “Press 1…” site there were countless endorsements from Tea Party factions, of NRA sites, and links to conservative blogs and websites.  It was clear where most of the participant’s political ideologies were placed, and they reiterated the spectrum of xenophobia, segregation, and sexual stereotypes.  I am not suggesting that Republicans or all conservatives support such things – not at all – but, I have to ask the question from above:  “Why do those who do, find the right side of the aisle to be where they belong?”

This issue goes deep for me.  I don’t want my children to inherit the country these people are fighting to establish.  I want my children to embrace all cultures and rtheligions.  Not because they saw pictures in a book, but because they went to a friend’s house who is Jewish or Muslim.  Or is from Mexico, Bosnia, Syria or Iran, and they saw how other cultures contribute to a free nation.

So I called a conservative Republican friend for a “lifeline.” I asked him:  “If a growing part of your party shows the stripes of exclusionism, racism or sexism, don’t you have to evaluate why?  Don’t you have an obligation to rid your party of such affiliations?

He replied, thoughtfully, “There are as many extremists on the left, you’re simply more aware of those who disagree with you.  But they are angry at growing government infringing on their rights, spending money and threatening their children’s future with debt.  They have as much right to protest as you and I’ll bet they find your positions as repugnant.”

A well reasoned answer, but my question wasn’t answered.

“This site wasn’t created to discuss government overreach and debt,” I replied, “it was created to share the opinions of bigotry!”

He countered:  “Look at the extremists who led your party in the 60′s and 70′s, like Jerry Rubin and Abby Hoffman.  They were more dangerous than anything I see today.”

chicago7I conceded, “They were radicals, but they didn’t lead the Democratic Party!  Democrats didn’t seek their endorsements.   Yet today, the right-wing extreme; those crying for a one-language, one-religion nation with exclusionary civil rights, took the Republican Party to the edge…and won.”

I kept going:  “Tom Hayden (one of those 60′s radicals) ran as a Democrat but he was running for ‘participatory democracy,’ for civil rights and policies centering around peace and social justice.  You need to acknowledge the difference or this discussion can’t get anywhere.”

The discussion didn’t go any further.

I knew this would happen when I traipsed over to the site, and so I deserved my frustration.  I didn’t get the answer to my question, but there is good news and there is hope for the conversation.  I spent the evening with my family and had friends over and we talked about the value of diversity.

And here’s what pleased me the most—-my “lifeline” friend was one of them.

The Heritage of ObamaCare

Who knew that the concept of an individual mandate to purchase healthcare was initially proposed by the conservative Heritage Foundation?thCAXY929M

During the George HW Bush administration the conservative think tank devised an alternative to the single-payer health care being proposed by Democrats.  It followed the reasoning that was proposed by President Richard Nixon in 1974 (and even that was an extension of what Republican President Eisenhower had considered 20 years earlier) to require employers to buy private health insurance for their employees.  It gave subsidies to those who could not afford insurance.

Nixon argued that this market-based approach would build on the strengths of the private system: “Government has a great role to play, but we must always make sure that our doctors will be working for their patients and not for the federal government.”

142116_Papel-de-Parede-MonokuRo-Boo-Boo_1280x800No one said “boo” that Nixon’s plan was “unconstitutional,” and the irony is that it faced opposition from Democrats who were insisting on single-payer.

15 years later, an individual mandate was championed by Republicans as a free-market approach to health care because, according to the Heritage Foundation, it “resonated with conservative principles”; it promoted individual responsibility and opened up the unique healthcare market to endless profitability.

In 2006, Mitt Romney, as governor of Massachusetts, enacted an individual health-insurance mandate (with bipartisan support) and “RomneyCare” was praised. Republican Senator Jim DeMint of South Carolina said: “Take some good conservative ideas, like private health insurance, and apply them to the need to have everyone insured.”

untitledRomney himself said: “I’m proud of what we’ve done. If Massachusetts succeeds in implementing it, then that will be the model for the nation.”

And then….

Barack Obama, running for President in 2008, took the torch for healthcare reform from Senator Ted Kennedy and made it part of his platform, and he was elected partly because of that promise.  Yet it was very clear from the outset that single-payer reform, or anything resembling Universal Healthcare, would never meet the congressional approval needed to pass, and so the newly elected President dusted off the Conservative Handbook and the Affordable Care Act was born.

It was hurried, however, as time was going to run short when the Republican obstructionist agenda started to oppose the idea, and if it didn’t pass with Democrats in control of Congress it probably never would.  I, like many others, was (and remain) critical of it’s implementation because subsidies for the middle class and cost reducing purchases over state lines were not part of the program, but I believed that it could be a “good start” if Congress cooperated.

But, that was not to be as every Republican Senator in 2009 voted to describe the mandate as “unconstitutional. ” Republicans, who had previously supported individual mandates, including Romney, emerged as critics.  Why would they oppose what they once supported, even created?

The answer is simple: Politics.

It had to be sobering for Republican leadership to realize that if a Democrat were successful with giving Americans health coverage, and by opening up the health market that the Republican Party would be in jeopardy. Especially after the economic catastrophe realized by George W Bush’s continuation of what his own father dubbed as “Voodoo Economics1229777.”

As so, the right wing emerged with a bankrolled vengeance and a new message was fed to the masses:  “ObamaCare is unconstitutional and unsustainable.”

It wasn’t a hard spin to sell. Republicans had hammered spending and big government to the point where anything implemented by President Obama became a “cost burden that we cannot afford.”  Never mind that deficit spending was practically pioneered by President Reagan or that it was Bush-era spending and tax cuts for the wealthy while funding two wars that ushered in the deepest recession in nearly 80 years; healthcare reform was going to be labeled “Big Government” and “Socialism.”

Never mind that ACA was a realization of conservative political thinking, it was now Obama’s and the right wing would give no quarter. The only agenda Republicans drew upon with consistent obedience was to destroy a Democratic presidency and they could bank on Americans having a short memory.

I am all in favor of voicing conflicting points of view in the Town Square; it is the way our Republic was intended to serve the best ideas. I believe that the polarity from opposing i1aquote-mcconnell-obama2deologies can lead to those new and better ideas.

I do not believe that there are any flawless realizations of any philosophical or ideological agenda, but when one side of the fence changes their core principles simply to oppose the other, then we are not having the debates that lead us to improved legislation.

Then we are only playing a dishonest political game to gain power.  And that is not good for America’s health.

The Highest Moral Ground

What is the greatest threat to our political system? Oligarchic control? Elections manipulated by wealth? Economic disparity?

Those are all issues in crisis, but they are results of inattention to foundational principles. The root cause of our dysfunction is: Hypocrisy.

Until we discover the enlightenment that allows us to be honest; that mediates the deflection of accountability; we will continue on a course of political divides that will deepen, obscure reality and remove us from responsibility.

donald-trump-supporterThis is evidenced as many of the Christian Right are now celebrating the election of a man who should be considered the anti-thesis to their cause (if that cause is to be pious and principled).  A man who has been married 3 times, which wouldn’t be a moral crime itself except for the fact that he openly conducted affairs before each marriage ended.

And he is on record as a braggadocious sexual assailant.

That hypocritical stance holds righteously firm as the “Moral Majority” absolves this contradiction by pointing out that Bill Clinton was just as bad. But this is false equivalence because they never supported Bill Clinton. In fact, they vilified him for the very reasons they now dismiss as just “locker room talk.”

For the record, I never excused President Clinton’s behavior. I, like many others, was critical of his character and I even wrote him a letter to express my displeasure. He wrote back agreeing with me.

After this election and the eruption of protest that resulted, I overheard someone stating: “We didn’t protest Obama when he won, but look at what the liberals are doing to Trump!”

That has to be a transcendent definition of hypocrisy.exp_ac_baugh_obama_email_cnn_640x360

After Obama was elected I saw pictures of him as a chimpanzee, and photographs of him being hanged in effigy.

He became a Kenyan Muslim to nearly 30% of the right and Donald Trump himself carried the “Birther Movement” to the extreme in an attempt to prove that Obama was not even qualified to be President.

o-obama-effigy-hung-57016x9The entire Republican Party agreed to, and followed, the directive of Senator Mitch McConnell to obstruct every single measure the new President offered in order to “destroy his presidency.”

Shall I go on? Okay, I will….

Imagine if there were a recording of a pre-presidency Obama saying that he “grabs a woman by her p…” Would there have been any containment of the Fox-led right wing’s condemnation of the man? Their fury/delight would have created enough wattage to declare energy independence.

Imagine pictures surfacing of Michelle Obama naked before becoming First Lady. The right wing would becomeefe16aafd9a6c907458e4ad59821a4f7 apoplectic; the blogosphere would have exploded with nasty memes to degrade her conduct. In fact, they did when the First Lady was actually ostracized for having worn a strapless, evening gown to a White House function.

And so when students protest the fact that a man who will now be our President has insulted women for their looks (not even privately, but on national television regarding another candidate) – insinuated that a moderator was menstruating- who belittled a physically challenged journalist- who openly brags of sexual exploits- who besmirches the Constitutional premise of free speech…

It is false to condemn their dissent.

Nevertheless, Donald Trump will be sworn in as the 45th President of the United States and I, for one, will continue to do everything I can to move the needle to improve life for Iowans and Americans, and work for world peace to protect the lives of our children. I believe, sincerely, that this can only happen with cooperation from all sides on the local, state, and national level. I will conduct myself respectfully and honorably.

I am not surprised by, however, nor do I condemn, the0602-2016-trumpprotestsj millions of people who, at this particular time, are angry, frightened, sad, hurt, or profoundly perplexed, and are dramatically demonstrating those feelings.

Yet I implore anyone who reads my posts or with whom I may have any influence – Keep protest within the parameters of peaceable assembly. Violence is also hypocritical.

We lose ground when we do not stand on the highest moral ground.

 

My Thankful Prayer

Someone said to me, “Gary, I don’t see any evidence of American pride in your positions.  You criticize our great country.”

I was startled.  I honestly feel that my perspective is a tribute to America, even when I am critical of politicians, policies and political parties.  I never take for granted what this country provides, and I consistently give thanks for all that I have.  I’ve been educated, I have a great job, I have healthy children and I am free to speak my mind in the public square.

To bring some harmony to this dissonant chord I decided to form my political views, realized and hopeful, into thoughts of thankfulness.

I am thankful to live in a country where we are free to protest, to peaceably assemble to empower the voice of the people.  A country where such a right is recognized as essential to securing our freedom from tyranny.

I am eternally grateful to our military men and women who have bravely sacrificed so that we may have that freedom.

I am thankful that I live in a country that has recognized that clean air and clean water are vital to the health of our nation.

I am hopeful that health care reform will continue, and improve, so that more Americans can live healthier lives and reduce the fear of illness and financial ruin.

I am thankful that I live in a country where the rights of citizens are protected by ethical laws regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, or religion; and that these laws are vigorously examined to suppress the tendencies of prejudice and fear.

I am thankful to live in a country that offers support and help to those who have fallen on hard times or who are challenged by obstacles of ill health, physical or mental, or who have been raised in an environment without advantages.

I am thankful to live in a country where education is acknowledged as the engine of prosperity and freedom, and public education is offered to every child.

I am thankful to live in a country where more reasonable voices can subject an imperfect system to better governance and demand accountability from those who have taken advantage of its flaws.

I am concerned, however, that the national debate has turned into demagoguery that could compromise much of what I am thankful for.

I am concerned that many politicians are working to marginalize, even eliminate, many of those great things that we have fought for.  Things like civil rights for all Americans, environmental protections, equality of opportunity, public education, religious freedom and valuable social programs.

I’m a divorced father with two young sons, and this year my family has been extended. Today we will all gather for a lively conversation of hopes, blessings and politics.  My 17 year old is becoming engaged in the world around him and I believe he gets a little memory chip from Dad’s passion for public service.  Lately he’s been coming to the table to play his own hand.

My youngest is 11 and little of this resonates, but this won’t be the last time ol’ Dad talks about how much he cares about America.

And for now, I am thankful just to have them all for dinner.

Truth in Political Advertising

20161103_130002If there was time before the election, you know what commercial I’d like to make? It would start on a television screen that was showing one of the attack ads against me. It would be the one where the voice-over says: “Gary Kroeger said ‘Obamacare is a good start.”

The camera would pull back and I’d be watching the ad and then turn to the camera.  I’d ask the viewer: “Aren’t politics fun? For the record what I said, before the Affordable Care Act was actually in place, is that it looked uplike it could be a good start (toward reform), but only with changes that lowered costs. I said that bi-partisan cooperation could make it better, and I noted that it was actually hatched by a conservative think tank 25 years ago. In their own words (the Heritage Foundation) it was ‘a proper use of government to serve the people.’”

I’m tired of double standards in politics. I have a feeling you are, too. Several weeks ago, pollsters called people in my district and were asked about Obamacare. When it polled low, the forces against me played their hand by linking me to it. For the record, my forays into ACA have been to offer critical improvements. The ads also linked me to Single-Payer support and, also for the record, that is not something that I’ve gone into at any great length. In fact, the only time I’ve written about Single-Payer (www.garyhasissues.com) was to simply trace the history of proposed health insurance reforms by both Democrats and Republicans.

Here is my Health Care policy: I would like all Iowans to receive the best possible health care, become the healthiest we can be, with the lowest financial risks and insurance expenses possible.

That’s it. How we get there has to be a cooperative effort between left and right and we have to be able to discuss all of the market forces and options that could serve that end. What has to end is partisan vilification of ideas.

What has to happen is that we have to start believing again that it’s about the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

I’m Gary Kroeger and I approve this message.2763

A State-Bred Race


thIt’s the home stretch! I’ve been campaigning now for 21 months.  Over a year in a primary for the United States Congress and 7 months after I made the switch to run for the Iowa House.  I have been enjoying every minute of it, even though the physical and mental requirements can be, at times, exhausting.

It is a process about getting in front of people, listening, sharing ideas, and discovering new ones.  At the end of each day a candidate will access their progress and feel either that they’ve moved the 20161017_215808needle, or that they missed an opportunity.  A campaign is a test of the sturdiness of will, principles, ideology and character.

I am proud of what I have done so far, but this journey will continue, regardless of the outcome on November 8th, into parts unknown, and it will be with the purpose to serve.  I respect any candidate or incumbent for the sacrifices and commitments they have made to serve.  No one, regardless of differences, goes through this with any intention other than to do good work.

I give my opponent the same respect. In fact, yesterday at a forum, we acknowledged that we agree on a few things, even though we have fundamental (huge in some cases) differences on other topics, and I tip my hat to him for his commitment.fb_img_1476818220544

But, I am running because of those differences.

He has placed a lot of stake in a call for “Smaller/Smarter” government.  And this is where I can comfortably stand on his ground while revealing our differences.  I am all in with creating efficient, fiscally responsible, government.  I, too, want to see smarter government.

Voting for education budgets that are annually 1 to 2% lower than inflationary costs, is not smarter, however. Not when the state’s new revenue would be sufficient without giveaway subsidies and when economic growth is consistent.

Standing in the way of legalizing in-state access to medical use of cannabinoids to treat epileptic seizures, on the grounds of needing more research, may seem conscientious, but it is, in reality, a government induced smokescreen pandering to Big Pharma that spends millions lobbying against it. That isn’t smaller.

Standing with a Governor who unilaterally closed two mental health facilities without a plan to replace those beds is neither smarter nor smaller. What it does is place the financial challenge of mental health onto our local municipalities as those patients transition into our jail system.

Government is not smarter when Medicaid is privatized without enough oversight, or transitional plans in place to handle the burden of care. Government ran Medicaid with a 3% administrative cost; private MCO’s operate around 12%.   It will take a lot of new efficiencies to compensate for the difference.  And where are those new efficiencies as a patient waits 6 months for a catheter and providers wait 6 months for reimbursement and have to drop services to cover costs?

As I point out these differences I am not blind to progress. At least mental health is in our political conversation. So is water quality.  And the Governor has taken his proposal off the table that took money from the school budget to put toward cleaning our water.

Cooperation has been seen toward fighting Human Trafficking and I applaud bi-partisan efforts. But, there are ideological differences when it comes to placing priorities on public education, building infrastructure for commerce and to create jobs, women’s health, living wages, access to medicine, and civil rights for all Iowans.  That is where I carry my standard and promise to challenge any movement that compromises those garyhasissuesvalues.  It is why I’m running.

 

Though Love and Life make tearful intercession…

dc82853e7904b0731f4e903e56980211Theologian, A H Strong, defined the human will as “the soul’s power to choose between motives and to direct its subsequent activity according to the motive thus chosen.”

No more apt description of the duty of a true politician has ever been written.  Such reflection is what strengthens our moral purpose, and as a candidate for public office, the convergence of my ideas and motives are what will reveal to voters what kind of a representative I will be.

Strong continues his description of will as “The soul’s power to choose both an end and the means to attain it.”  Within our soul is our moral purpose.

The journey I am on has led me to biographies of political leaders to learn more about their motives and recently I have been drawn to biographies about Abraham Lincoln, John F. Kennedy, and James Garfield.

universe-wallpaper-20It would be easy to develop a fatalistic point of view, considering that each of these men were assassinated, but my belief is that life is a series of capricious events orchestrated by our capacity for reason; we attach meaning to stories drawn from the collision of our will and forces outside of our control.

My point of view does not deny the existence of God, it only admits that I cannot define God any more clearly than I can define love for my children; the concept transcends the confinement of words.

Lincoln, Kennedy, and Garfield each seemed destined, yet their demise was the result of careless mistakes; a lack of attention when they should have been more aware of their vulnerability.  As purpose and fate comingled in my mind, I began to think about my own mortality.  Not in a morose “Oh-my-God-I’m-past-the-halfway-point-and-the-last-half-includes-incontinence!” way, but in a reflective “What-is-the-sum-of-this-journey-so far?” kind of way.

Life will always reveal a lesson when our awareness is heightened.  I was on a flight from Chicago to Cedar Rapids in pitch-black darkness, zero-visibility cloud cover, andplane-lightning-100610-02 buffeting crosswinds from a huge storm system passing through.  I fly a lot, but this was one of those flights where the wings tilt dramatically side to side and simultaneously hit air pockets where the plane drops several feet, and I’ll admit that I said a prayer.

It wasn’t a fear of dying at that moment, but I thought to myself, “What if I did?  What was the sum of my life?  What would people say?  Would I be remembered as a good man?  Did I remember to pay the cable bill?”

I try to tame the tendencies of self-indulgence by mediating such thoughts, but I think it’s a primordial human desire to want to be worth something to others.  Suddenly a moment with my father entered my thoughts.

The memory was from an evening only two months before he passed away and he asked me if I was happy.  Not willing to accept that my father wouldn’t be here for years to come, I replied, “Yes…why are you asking me?”

GE DIGITAL CAMERA“Because I’m not going to be around forever and I want to know that my family is happy. I can believe that I had something to do with that.”

I asked him if he was scared of mortality and he said, “No.  I raised good sons and that’s how I want to be remembered.  And maybe you’ll tell your children that there was once this man named Glenn Kroeger…”

I found solace in his words because I already knew that my memories of my father would always construct a story about a good man, who was kind, wise, intelligent, and who loved his family. It would be the story of a man who achieved great success by giving his children the safety, comfort and dreams that his own childhood was denied. His flaws would be as forgiven in death as they were in life; they were not the measure of the man.

On this flight I asked myself, “Will my children feel the same way about me?”

There was an unsettling vibration under the fuselage as the plane banked against the wind to land.  But as we touched down softly and safely, it occurred to me that the answer lies in the question itself.  In these moments of perceived peril that turn into the fortune of living, our vanity is arrested by reality.

The present is a moving target that passes seamlessly into the future and instantaneously becomes the past; and it was within that infinitesimal space where my lesson found words:  To live the best of my life from each moment on.  Value is not measured by quantity, but quality. The number of years, the amount of wealth, or the accumulation of things, have no bearing on the value of a life.

My motive in this quest to become a public servant is exactly that.  As I serve the purpose of being a father by sharing with my children the best that I have to give, I will serve my constituents with the same resolve.

As my father could have proffered:  “We are immortal when our sincerest motives live in the memories of those we’ve loved. And served.”