Dear NFL: Take a Knee

Washington Redskins National Anthem Kneeling
Photo Credit: Keith Allison: Raiders at Redskins 9/24/17

With the recent changes to the NFL policy regarding player conduct during the country’s national anthem, and the decision by President Trump to withdraw his offer to the Eagles to show up to the White House for the annual Super Bowl Celebration, the spotlight has turned back to the player protests during the anthem.

The issue has often been convoluted into something it’s not, with many individuals labeling the protesting players as “unpatriotic” or claiming that they are “disrespecting the military”. But by shifting the focus of the protest to something that it has never been about allows those opposed to it to avoid what needs to be talked about, the racial disparities and inequalities present in our country today.

In 2017, 457 white individuals were shot and killed by police. In that same year 223 blacks were shot and killed. This is despite the fact that 63.7 percent of the population is white, while only 12.2 percent of the population is black.

So statistically speaking if you reversed the population percentages (so 63.7 percent of the population is black while 12.2 percent of the population is white) you would have 1,164 black individuals shot and killed by police, and 88 white individuals. And if all these numbers just seem like gibberish to you just remember this one, in the country today blacks are more than 2.5 times more likely to be shot and killed by the police then a white individual.

The sad fact is that this is just one statistic representing the disparity in the way our police force handles black individuals. When you look at statistics on police brutality and other means of excessive or deadly force, the trend remains roughly the same. Blacks are more than 2.5 times more likely to be brutalized by police.

Take a step back here and forget about all the protests and just look at the numbers. It’s clear there is a problem that needs to be addressed. So instead of worrying about the fact that players are kneeling during the anthem, look at WHY they are kneeling.

And in the meantime, lose all that gibberish about the kneeling disrespecting the military, kneeling during the anthem was RECOMMENDED by a veteran to Colin Kaepernick, the athlete that got all this started.

And lose the nonsense stating that kneeling during the anthem makes them “unpatriotic”. This is the country where protesting is your constitutionally guaranteed right and exercising that right surely doesn’t make you hate the country that grants that right to you to begin with, in fact, it might make the individual exercising that right even more grateful to be in a country where they have that right. And wouldn’t that make them even more patriotic?

But most importantly, don’t lose focus on the reasons behind the protests. And if you really want them to stop, start by correcting the issues that caused them in the first place.

Roseanne and Racism: How did we get here?

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Roseanne Barr, star of the show Roseanne, was fired by ABC following a racist tweet comparing Valerie Jarrett to a monkey, and conservatives collectively lost their minds.

Let’s begin by getting one thing straight, comparing an African American to a monkey is racist. Failure to recognize this overlooks years of racial oppression and the use of this comparison to marginalize Africans’ and African Americans’ for years. It is racist (If you still can’t wrap your mind around that read more about it here).

Secondly, conservatives being “outraged” by a private organization choosing to act on an individual for making a “political statement” is laughable. After years of conservatives preaching that the NFL should punish players for kneeling during the national anthem, they claim outrage that a private organization can punish an individual for exercising their free speech.

The same conservatives that voted for Donald Trump, who said this about the NFL protesters “Wouldn’t you love to see one of those NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, ‘Get that son of bitch off the field right now. Out. He’s fired. He’s fired!’”

You don’t get to get upset when every private organization doesn’t follow your political and personal ideology. You either continue to support the company or you don’t. Personally, I don’t see a problem with a company condemning racism.

The fact that this has divided the country epitomizes what exactly is wrong with the United States today. Racism in all it’s forms must be stamped out. Since when did that reemerge as a partisan issue? Since when did open racism become acceptable once again? And more importantly, how do we condemn it once and for all?

Genetic Sequencing and Your Privacy: Should You Be Worried?

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Photo Credit: Max Pixel

Genetic sequencing was used to catch the Golden State Killer in a way that it never has been before. And because of the phenomenal result the privacy implications of what was done has been largely overlooked (to check out how police used genetic sequencing to track down the killer click here)

To be clear, getting a serial rapist and murderer off the streets is a fucking phenomenal result. But it shouldn’t be used to justify the ethical quandary of the methods that they used.

So, what did they do exactly? They used publicly available genetic information on millions of individuals to track down the identity of the killer without having the genetic information of the killer himself. Instead, they found the genetic data from the killer’s relatives and were able to utilize that data to determine who the killer was.

Where does the potential ethical dilemma arise? It’s with what else that publicly available data can be used for. As an example, your genetic information can be used to tell if you are more susceptible to certain diseases or health conditions.

The problem isn’t that the police used this information to track down the killer, they’d be foolish to not utilize the databases that are available to them. The problem is that ANYONE can access many of these databases.

Think about if a potential employer had this data. Two applicants, one who is more susceptible to develop cancer than the other. Which do you hire? The individual that is more likely to get sick, miss time from work, and raise your company’s health insurance costs, or the individual that is more likely to stay healthy?

Of course, using this data to determine who you are going to hire is illegal. Just like it’s illegal to pay a woman less than a man for the same day’s work. You see how well that’s going.

The obvious solution is not to put your data out there, that way you are protected right? Wrong. The problem is that even if you protect your data what the police investigating the Golden State Killer proved is that your data is extremely similar to your relatives’ genetic data.

But we already knew this, that’s why brothers often look so similar. So, do you have a family member in the military? A convicted felon? Register for a program like GEDmatch? If so your information is already compromised.

The Dangerous War on Media

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The war on the media is stronger then ever. If you haven’t heard the term “fake news” you’ve been living under a rock for the last couple of years. Yet it’s still gaining traction every day and the results are dangerous.

First let’s clear a few things up, every journalist has a bias. You see journalists are human, just like you and me, and if you think you can write a political story without any bias you are only fooling yourself. Bias is a human condition, and as such will always be present in the work created by humans.

Second, most journalists that write for national media outlets in the United States have a liberal leaning. This doesn’t make the stories that they cover “fake news”, but it does mean that most national news stories will have a liberal bias. But it doesn’t change the fact that the facts presented in their stories are just that, facts. You see you can disagree with facts all you want, but a fact will remain a fact.

Facts are something that President Trump has convinced himself, and many of his supporters, changes depending on the bias of the story. Yes, a biased story might mean that there is more to the story that isn’t being presented but it doesn’t make it “fake news”, and the facts presented remain relevant.

News today isn’t any more or less biased then it’s been in the past, the difference is that people used to know how to pull the facts out of the story that they were hearing and form their own opinions. They used to get the story from more then one source to make sure they got the whole picture.

Americans today have lost that ability.

And as such Americans are gullible to attacks labeling legitimate media sources as “fake”. You see once you start labeling a news source as fake you have no way of distinguishing reality from fiction. Certain politicians would have you believe that all news sources are fake. Once they convince you of that the only person you feel like you can trust for your information is them. And if they are your news source they can convince you of anything they want to. And at that point you are following the most biased source of all, the politician.

Boy Scouts, Masculinity, and Feminism: The Hard Truth

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Every time a story about Boy Scouts of America allowing girls to join their organization pops up on one of my newsfeeds I scroll through the comments and am appalled with what I see. The amount of resistance to the idea is horrendous. A private organization has decided to change their policies to try and be more inclusive and the world responds with hate.

Who cares if they decided to allow girls to join? Why does it matter? As someone with both a son and daughter I don’t see why my son should have the opportunity to go camping and learn survival skills while my daughter is told to go sell cookies. And honestly, I don’t understand why my son can’t sell cookies if he wants to.

But it’s not until you understand the basics of masculinity and feminism that you can make sense of either the reason for the change or the opposition to it.

The right wing screams that masculinity is dying or dead, but what they fail to realize is that feminism is doing the same thing. Feminism is evolving into masculinity, and masculinity is evolving into feminism. But this only makes sense if you understand what both feminism and masculinity used to be, so you can understand what they are becoming.

Being masculine used to mean that you drank beer, watched football, and objectified women. It used to mean that you protected and provided for your family. It used to mean that you took care of your family by going to work every day.

Feminism used to mean that you stayed at home and were submissive to your husband. It used to mean that you were meek and quiet. It used to mean that you raised your kids and loved them unconditionally. It used to mean that you took care of your family by staying home every day.

But now that changes.

Masculinity still means that you protect and provide for your family, but now it also means that you raise your kids and love them unconditionally. It means that you take care of your family at both work AND home. It means that you can still drink beer and watch football, but that you respect women, even in the locker room.

Feminism still means that you raise your kids and love them unconditionally, but now it also means that you protect and provide for them as well. It means that you take care of your family at both work AND home. It means that you can drink beer and watch football, and that you respect men, even in the locker room.

You see they’re becoming the same thing, as they should be. And in a world that defines masculinity the same way it describes feminism there is no longer a need for an organization that raises boys to become men in a different manner then it raises girls to become women.

Feel free to let me know what you think in a respectful manner in the comments below!

Facebook and Cambridge Analytica: You’re Missing the Real Issue

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There are two groups of people that are upset by the Cambridge Analytica and Facebook scandal rocking the world right now. There are those upset because they are just now realizing that they have no privacy on the internet, those that are upset that Facebook sold that information to a foreign individuals and governments to try and influence elections.

The former group’s outrage is based off their own ignorance. No, those posts you put on Facebook telling them they can’t use your information didn’t do anything. The fact that you thought it did would be laughable if it wasn’t so pathetic. You don’t get privacy on the internet, especially when you are using a free service. That’s not going to change, nor should it. It’s what allows services like Facebook to make money while offering a free service.  

The second groups concerns have more merit, but what is going unaddressed is the disturbing underlying reasons on why this is such a problem. No, I’m not talking about the overall plethora of groups that have probably been doing this long before the 2016 election. And no, I’m not talking about the fact that Facebook could have and should have done more to prevent this.

What I’m talking about is that sad fact that this might be an effective way to influence elections in the United States. The founding fathers knew that the republic that they had created was entirely dependent on a well-educated populace to be effective.

That well-educated populace would not be susceptible to such rudimentary tactics by foreign entities to influence our elections. With all the ways the people can access information today there is no reason for people to be swayed by biased or outright false ads on a social media platform. With the information available people can independently verify or determine where each candidate stands on each issue and be able to determine the truth behind any other claims being made.

But the sad fact is that a large portion of the country is unable or unwilling to do this. This leads to a large portion of the country voting in an election that they really don’t know much about.

And yes, the way that Facebook sells ads on their platform needs to be addressed. But unless we address the underlying issue that makes Americans so susceptible to attacks like this we can rest assured that Cambridge Analytica won’t be the last group to exploit it.

Chemical Warfare: The “Red Line”

Missile Strike.jpgThe coalition strikes in Syria has been subject to a lot of scrutiny and speculation on what is going to happen next. Realistically though, not much is going to change. The fact that the United States didn’t act alone all but assures that.

There isn’t much worry about what Syria is going to do in response, mainly because there isn’t much they CAN do in response. They are going to rely on other countries that support them, like China or Russia, to respond for them, with the only country that might even think about doing something being Russia.

And while the recent strikes are sure to raise tensions, especially between the United States and Russia, I don’t foresee anything else happening, in part because tensions with Russia were so high in the world to begin with.

Russia doesn’t want to get involved in World War III more than any other country in the world, and they know any direct action against United States troops will lead to just that. And by not acting alone, the world has shown that they stand behind the United States against Syria and Russia when it comes to chemical warfare.  

What this latest strike has shown, and will continue to show, is that the United States and President Donald Trump are serious about cracking down on chemical attacks throughout the world. It shows that if chemical weapons are used that the United States will respond. It’s a welcome change in policy from the Obama administration who had set a “red line” on chemical warfare only to back down when the illicit weapons were used.

Quickly, efficiently, and lethally responding to chemical warfare isn’t a partisan issue. If you don’t think that chemical attacks should be retaliated against with lethal and overwhelming force, then you are a part of the problem. Because as the saying goes, if you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything.

Addressing the ever rising costs in college education: what can be done?

 

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Photo Credit: Link

There are two resounding questions when it comes to college education costs in the United States.

The first question, with the cost of college tuition ballooning over the last 30 years, is going to college still worth it? The resounding and oversimplified answer is yes. If an individual goes to a public university close to home, they can graduate while spending 40 thousand dollars. That’s without any sort of financial aid, and not accounting for any room and board.

The average difference in salary for a four-year graduate compared to an individual that only has a high school diploma? On average 30 thousand a year.

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Yes, this is over simplified, it doesn’t consider what kind of degree you get, or if you don’t have the option of going to school close to home. But it proves a point, if you go to school for the right degree it’s worth it even if you end up over 100 thousand dollars in debt.  

The second question is more divisive, what, if anything, should the federal government do to address the ever-rising cost of college tuition? This is where I propose a more radical solution. College costs have tripled in the last 30 years, even when accounting for inflation. This is absurd.

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It is also absurd to expect the federal government to foot the bill for a public institution and expect that colleges won’t take advantage of this by raising their rates further. There is a far simpler solution to keep college tuition under control.

Set federally mandated tuition caps for public universities. Set limits on the amount of fees that they can charge their students. Set limits on how much public universities can charge for textbooks in a year. Colleges can do this and still stay in business.

As an example, military students using tuition assistance have their cost per credit hour capped at 250 dollars. Schools know this and want the students to attend their universities anyways, so many of them lower their tuition rates to these students. Why aren’t school willing to do this for all their students? Because they don’t have to, and they want to make as much money off each student as possible.

Schools now have the same mindset as every corporation in the United States, how can we make the most money. When it comes to higher education that shouldn’t be the case. And it doesn’t have to be. It is time for the federal government to step in and regulate these schools, so everyone has the chance to further their education after high school.

Politics and Religion: A quick take

Supreme Court
Photo Credit: Mark Fischer

Politics and government. The two are inexplicably and forever intertwined despite the perceived “separation” of church and state, a phrase that occurs nowhere in the Constitution. For clarification lets quote what the First Amendment does state regarding religion:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.

It’s been that sentence that has been used to take religious monuments out of parks, God out of school, and just about every other rule exorcising religion from every aspect of government life. Yet look at Congress. Religious symbolism is abound. They pray before every session. You see freedom of religion doesn’t mean freedom from it.

It just means that the government won’t officially endorse any religion, and that you are free to practice whatever religion that you choose. That’s why the phrase “under God” remains in our Pledge of Allegiance, “In God We Trust” remains on our currency, and Moses and the Ten Commandments will remain in the Supreme Court.

The military prays at just about every military function. There is a book of faith at the POW table. The phrase “so help me God” is in the oath of enlistment.

Just because someone doesn’t like it doesn’t mean that the entire country bends to accommodate them. Freedom of religion doesn’t mean freedom from it. Pray where you want. Be who you are. Believe what you want to believe. This is America that’s your right. Just don’t try to infringe on anyone else’s right. And don’t freak out anytime you see religion or God at a government building or event, freedom of religion doesn’t mean freedom from it.

Gun Control: Long Overdue

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A few weeks ago, I provided a rational look at what will probably happen regarding gun control legislation in the United States. Now I’m going to provide a more in-depth look to what should happen, even if it won’t.

 
Full background checks should be federally mandated without exception. This means no exceptions for private sellers. Every firearm should be registered. Assault style weapons should be banned. Magazine capacities should be limited. Bump stocks should be banned. A strict limit of one gun per individual should be enforced. Ammunition sales should be regulated. Ammunition limits should be enacted. A violation of any of these should result in a felony conviction with a lengthy prison sentence.

Why should all this happen? Because gun control legislation works. Don’t believe me? The United States ranks 83rd in it’s per capita homicide rate, coming in at 4.9 homicides per 100,000 people. Just about every developed country has fewer homicides. And 69 percent of homicides in the United States were caused by a gun.

Four countries with some of the strictest gun control legislation it the world are, Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia and Japan. They rank 138th, 163rd, 157th, and 188th respectively in their per capita homicide rate. Japan’s homicides per 100,000 people sits at 0.3. That’s in a country where almost no one has a gun.

Putting that into perspective, if the United States had the homicide rate of Japan there would be 14,982 less homicides per year. That means over in just under 67 years, 1 million more people would be alive.

The argument that humans will just find another way to kill each other is nonsense. It’s been statistically proven false time and time again. Try and prove me wrong. Find me one developed country that passed significant gun control legislation and the murder rate didn’t drop.

The argument that the Second Amendment was created to ensure that every man could carry a gun is oversimplified. The Second Amendment was created so state militias wouldn’t be replaced by a Federal army. It seems to have worked well.

With the overwhelming statistical evidence to support the fact that the United States would be much safer with much stricter gun control laws you would think that passing significant legislation on gun control would be a no brainer. But it’s not.

In my previous article I mentioned the NRA having a significant influence on this. While that’s true there is something else even more significant at play here. The fact that 42 percent of American households have a gun in it.

People don’t want the government coming in and taking away something that they feel entitled to. It doesn’t matter if it will save a million lives. It doesn’t matter if it means kids can go to school without getting shot. America is addicted to its guns just as much as it is to its opioids, and withdrawal can be a bitch.