Author: michaelwich

Getting Involved

As a few of you know, I started volunteering with my political party a couple months ago. I wanted to get involved again and to hopefully make a difference. So far, it has felt really good to make a  contribution, and being a part of the political process. Yes, it means helping make those calls that no one wants to receive. Yes, it means walking in neighborhoods, and knocking on doors, and potentially meeting irate individuals who don’t want to be disturbed by political stuff. But to me, it is important to help get the word out about candidates, particularly local candidates who are running in state house and senate races. It is nice seeing citizens interacting with the people running for office, talking with the candidates on their doorstep and seeing democracy in action. For me, it is important to be able to see the people beyond just the palm cards they hand out or drop off on the door knobs, and to actually get to know them. People should be informed on who is running to represent them at the state level, and are looking to make decisions for their communities.  And for me, over the last month or so, I have met some very incredible people. I met Christina Hall, running for House District 24. I’ve walked the neighborhoods in her district a few times already, and it’s been an amazing experience.  I do hope she goes far in her political career. And I’m particularly proud to say she’s become one of my Facebook friends. I’ve met Sarah Maestas-Barnes, and helped walk a neighborhood for her campaign as well. For me, she is another impressive and sharp candidate.  I’ve also met another candidate running for Sandoval County Commissioner, Jay Block, who is an upstanding guy who served his country in the Air Force. If you know me, the military and military service is a big thing with me. I also got to reunite with a gentleman running for a NM Senate seat whom I used to work with in Heather Wilson’s congressional office, Diego Espinoza.  Personally, I would encourage more people to get involved, and to actually get to know their candidates. There are some fine people running for office, and actually taking the time to walk the neighborhoods with these candidates might give you a new perspective on the political landscape (even if they don’t happen to represent your area). And heck, you might even make new friends out of the experience.

Reflections on the 2016 Republican National Convention

The 2016 Republican Convention, up to this point for me as an outside spectator, has been an unmitigated disaster. The Republican Party instituted a platform that continues to be intolerant and insensitive towards the LGBTQ+ community. The Republican Party still stubbornly refuses to acknowledge that we need to respect and honor the members of the LGBTQ+ community, and to allow their members to have the freedom to pursue their own happiness by recognizing their rights to get married, and to allow them to be treated no differently than any other American. The Republican Party still chooses to pass moral judgment over this community, and essentially condemning them for being who they are. And the party continues to ostracize and make life difficult for the transgendered in their party platform, including arguing against making discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identification illegal. Discrimination against groups of people is wrong and our laws should reflect. But by taking these controversial stands, we are losing out on the opportunity to tear down barriers for members of this particular community and those that support the gay community from being able to believe in and vote for members of the Republican Party who are on the ballots. By outright dismissing the LGBTQ+ community and their needs through the Republican Party’s “defense” of marriage as being between “one man and one woman,” we continue to drive massive numbers of voters away. We want more people to be able to believe in the Republican Party’s message of limited and sustainable government, of lower taxes that do not burden the individual tax payer, a strong national defense and holding government and those that work it accountable for their actions. But we’re not going to attract any new voters to this message by continuing to alienate people by fighting the wrong fights, and sending the wrong message to voters that the Republican Party is bigoted toward the gay community, and implying that their votes or input are not welcomed within our party. Society changes with the times; America needs to be able to adapt to the needs of everyone by willing to change its views on traditions such as marriage. We need to stop shooting ourselves in the foot, and change how we approach and interact with the LGBTQ+ community and their issues. They are Americans too; they need to know that the Republican Party understands their issues and can govern over them fairly and justly, and see to it their needs are met. Right now, the Republican Party has not shown this community that they can be trusted with high office, as they would be afraid that we would insist on imposing our own moral views on their community, which we do not have a right to do.      

The Republican Party platform also continues to be heavy-handed with abortion. The way we approach this issue continues to drive away single-issue voters. The Republican Party needs to simply state that although it fundamentally disagrees with the use of abortion, that it respects the individual woman and will honor their choice in this matter. It should stop trying to overturn Roe v. Wade, and trying to actively take the right to choose away from women. The Republican Party needs to focus its energy and resources on adoption, and making it easier to adopt so that adoption can become a better and more preferred choice than abortion for women. We need to emphasize that we need to encourage all women to consider bringing new life into this world; and once it is brought into this world, that child will be cared for and protected. I am pro-life, and I want to see more women choose adoption, but this is not a choice we can force upon women. This is a choice they must make for themselves. As a religious conservative, I am a strong believer in the free will that was granted to us by our creator. By recognizing and honoring this choice that women have, and not working to take it away, we can slowly take down this barrier for women who will not consider the Republican Party based on the abortion issue alone. Just like the gay community, we want a broader number of people from mainstream America being able to consider our party, and to be able to say, “I can get behind that party and its beliefs.” Right now, many women cannot do that. And this is why, between how we treat the gay community, women and minorities, the Republican Party is hurting for votes, and is simply unable to win the presidency without outside help from independents.

For the 2016 Republican Convention, things were not helped by Ted Cruz and his choice not to support Donald Trump. I understand why he couldn’t support Trump, as I do not either, but the way he expressed his displeasure was self-serving and, in my humble opinion, “slimy.” He could have chosen to not speak at the convention, as other Republicans chose to do. He could have used the opportunity to show more grace, and focused on how the Republican Party can appeal to more voters. But he chose to use the opportunity to speak as a means to stab Trump in the back; and for encouraging voters to simply “vote their conscience.” To me, this only reinforced Donald Trump’s ‘Lying Ted’ characterization, and showed that Cruz is only out for Cruz in his political ambition. And worse, it only emphasized Republican disharmony on the national level. If we want the Republican Party to fracture into many smaller parties, than we should follow Cruz’s example, and continue this in-fighting. If we want unity within the party, we have to do a better job of putting forth what our core values are: limited government that is not intrusive in people’s lives, and is sustainable. No new entitlements such as free college tuition for everyone. No fifteen dollar an hour minimum wage that would crush companies and would drive them to bankruptcy. Responsible government that respects individual rights and respects the areas where individuals must take responsibility for their own lives. Tax policy that understands that over-taxation is a problem that can deny people the ability to achieve their desired quality of life and their own version of the American Dream. Tax policy that does not punish achievement or success. And a strong national defense. These are the things that must be at the fore front of the Republican Party platform, not opposition to gay marriage or its heavy-handed approach to abortion.

There were other issues that distracted from the Republican Convention, including the alleged plagiarism within Melania Trump’s speech. To me, if you’re borrowing material for your speech, why are you borrowing it from the current first lady, from the opposing party? The plagiarism issue is real and needs to be called out, but the fact that they borrowed talking points from someone on the Democratic side of the aisle was very troubling for me. To me, it only reinforces to me the fact that Trump and his wife identify more with the Democrats than they do with the Republican Party, and that they truly are Democrats in Republicans’ clothing.

And then there is the scandal with Scott Baio, and what he chose to tweet the day after he spoke at the convention, seemingly referring to Secretary Clinton with a derogatory term for women. The tweet was referencing a picture with Hillary standing in front of a banner, with one letter blocked out, that changed the meaning of the banner altogether. I am very much appalled by this tweet by Scott Baio. The Republican Party has enough problems with its image that it does not need this juvenile humor, or even appearing that it condones this message of referring to women with this term. The Republican Party should have distanced itself from Scott Baio and this tweet. This is yet another facepalm moment for me from this convention.

 And then, while all this was happening, we had Representative Steve King make an ass of himself while being interviewed by MSNBC, saying about white people and minorities, “I’d ask you to go back through history and figure out, where are these contributions that have been made by these other categories of people that you’re talking about, where did any other subgroup of people contribute more to civilization?”  Representative King was basically bragging that white people made the most contributions to civilization. This is utterly disgusting, and degrading to minorities and the contributions they have made to western civilization. And this is once again another example of how the Republican Party comes off as appearing to be racist. We need more diversity in the party, it is a problem we need to address and work on, but we are not going to get solutions with insensitive and asinine comments like these.

There is so much reform that needs to take place in the Republican Party. The Republican Party needs to do some soul searching, and needs to confront head on the problems that it is causing for itself. I sometimes wonder if anyone is going to wake up inside the Republican National Committee and start pushing for such reform to take place, to make sure the Republican Party does not end up becoming extinct like the dinosaurs as demographics inside our nation continue to change, or more people begin to reject the Republican Party for the self-inflicted wounds that it causes to itself.        

Feedback on Recent Developments in the Political Arena

Today, Donald Trump officially made his choice for Vice President: Mike Pence of Indiana. I do not agree at all with this choice. Even though I do not support Trump and will not vote for him in November, I am concerned about the overall negative perceptions that this will leave with mainstream America in regards to the Republican Party.

So what is wrong with Mike Pence?  For me, it was his the handling of the Religious Liberties bill for his state. Within the LGBTQ+ community, this bill was perceived to be an effort to make it legal to discriminate against their community based on their sexual orientation. This is not the message I want to be sending to the gay community from the Republican Party. As I explained in my previous post, The Need to Fix Republican Branding, the Republican Party, to be able to be able to expand their voter base and to be able to win the presidency, needs to start being more welcoming, and to start fighting battles that do not drive away massive amounts of people. To do this, you need to send a message to the gay community that they are valued and accepted by the Republican Party for who they are and that their contributions would always be welcomed into the party. By choosing Mike Pence, someone who signed into law a bill that so many within the LGBTQ+ community opposed, you are only reinforcing perceptions about the Republican Party, that it is neither accepting or understanding of the gay community’s needs, nor do they wish them to ever be involved in the Republican Party. To me, having Mike Pence as the Vice Presidential pick once again drives more people away from the party than what it attracts, and sends them straight to the Secretary Hillary Clinton camp without them even considering other Republican policies.

I was further disheartened to have read that the Log Cabin Republicans reported that the Republican Party passed their 2016 platform that, for all intents and purposes, was the most ‘Anti-LGBT platform’ in the party’s history. Here is a link to that story: Log Cabin Republican President: GOP passed most anti-LGBT platform in p. arty history. I want my fellow Republicans to wake up. Demographics are changing in this country. The ways of ostracizing the gay community are not acceptable. The more you do this, the more you increase your chances of losing every presidential race from here on out, and are only increasing your chances of losing both the House and Senate. You risk marginalizing your entire party, and ensuring that the Republican Party will never hold high office again. The more you remain obstinate in your disapproval and judgmental nature of the gay community, your party will continue to lose. As a loyal Republican, I do not want to see this happen; I want this problem to be fixed before it is too late.

The Republican Party needs to earn the trust of the American People for them to vote them into high office; to trust them to represent their needs. Having someone like Mike Pence or encouraging language in the party platform that proves divisive, such as with the North Carolina bathroom bill and language against gay marriage, only shows many people that the party is not ready to be trusted with their needs. You have to prove that you are willing to govern over everyone, and not just your own constituencies. And until the Republican Party stops trying to enforce its own way of doing things on the whole population, the Republican Party will continue to see defeat every four years. This needs to change.

Prayers for the victims in France

Once more, communities around the world are suffering due to terrorism, this time, it is in Nice, France. Again, all I can offer are my thoughts and prayers for the families of the victims and those who are injured as a result of such a deplorable act.

As a global community, we need to, with one voice, condemn these acts and continue to seek out those that would commit such heinous acts and either bring them to justice or remove them from this world. People that are attracted to such violence need to know that lifestyle is neither glamorous nor does it do anything for them in the next life; all it does is to get them dead, and hurts many innocent lives. We need to work to get people to think about the consequences of their actions and to start to respect life in all its forms, and for all those that share this world with them.  We need to let them know that no matter their religious beliefs, they do not have the right to take someone else’s life.  We need to start to see the value in each person, and to value the contributions that person adds to this world. In short, we need to start becoming a community again and start rebuilding our connections to each other. I am not sure how we go about doing this, but this is something that just has to be done.

The Black Lives Matter Movement

Given what’s been happening in the headlines, I figured this would be a good time for me to come out and talk about the Black Lives Matter movement.

Unlike some of my fellow Republicans who summarily dismiss this movement, and only see it for the violent protests that are generated by the activities of this group, I acknowledge that the movement has valid reasons to express their anger and outrage; and that they are absolutely justified in demanding change from law enforcement and from our society at large. However, this organization should be doing two things that could help validate their cause with mainstream America.

The first is that instead of having knee-jerk reactions, this organization should be calling for peace from its members following a controversial shooting and should be waiting for the authorities to complete their investigations before jumping to conclusions and initiating protests that would give some of their members the opportunity to turn violent. Having a period of calm and a period of cooling off could be what this nation needs, and to allow the authorities to do their jobs and to investigate without adding additional pressure to the situation in the form of protests that could turn into riots. And if the police officer is found to have been unjustified and charges are brought, then the Black Lives Matter could feel vindicated that justice is being served for their community members. Let the authorities do their jobs, and protest afterwards if you don’t agree with their conclusions.   

I recently saw the news coverage of Alton Sterling, and originally, I felt that the shooting of the man who was pinned to the ground was not justified and was murder, however, I later learned Sterling was apparently armed who also had a criminal record. Those pertinent facts could change my perspective if these reports are true, and I do believe we owe it to everyone involved to wait for the investigation to take place and for the conclusions from that investigation to be released before drawing any firm conclusions on the matter on whether lethal force was appropriate. In our society, we do believe in an assumption of innocence before being proven guilty.  This belief should be granted to everyone, from those who are accused of crimes as well as police that have been involved in these shootings. The video showing Sterling’s death was shocking and was indeed very provocative, but we might not have all the facts. So let us be patient and see what the on-going investigation uncovers. It could very well turn out the police officers involved in the shooting violated policies and were not justified in using deadly force and should be charged with some degree of murder, but it could just be as true that their actions were in fact justified, and that the optics have led us to reach an unfair and biased conclusion. Jumping to wrong conclusions now could have far more damaging consequences later on, when it becomes hard for members of Black Lives Matter to accept the conclusions of an investigation. If Black Lives Matter is truly interested in justice, their leadership should be encouraging their members to wait for the findings of the investigation to be released before determining whether protests are warranted. It is far too easy to come to the wrong conclusions while we do not have all the facts. (And for the record, I still believe the Minnesota shooting of Pilando Castille was wrong, caused by a ‘twitchy’ police officer who did not follow proper procedures, but I too will allow the authorities to do their job with their investigation and see what comes from it).  

The second thing Black Lives Matter needs to be doing to show they are a legitimate organization with legitimate concerns is to try and police their own ranks, and discourage vandalism and violence whenever they see it happening. Members of the Black Lives Matter organization should never be throwing rocks or fireworks at police officers. You may disagree with how you are being treated by the police, but police officers should not be treated with such disdain and vitriol.  That helps no one. Police have a difficult job as it is without them adding to their stress. And they are putting their lives on the line so we might be safe. Throwing rocks or fireworks at anyone can cause serious bodily harm; and this is not something anyone should condone. No one should suffer traumatic brain injury, spinal injuries or severe burns for simply doing their jobs. Protesters do not have the right to harm other people with their actions. People need to think about the consequences of their actions to their fellow Americans, and to other members of their community. The members of the Black Lives Matter movement who are agitating the situation should be put on notice by their own leadership that their acts are not appropriate and must stop. So should the slurs against the police calling them ‘pigs’ or any other slurs or chants that de-humanizes them. Members of the Black Lives Matter movement demand to have respect from the law enforcement community for their members and rightfully so; it is only right to show that same respect back to the law enforcement community.  To me, the Black Lives Matter movement should have shown much more compassion toward those Dallas police officers who gave their lives in service of their communities, and should have allowed for a period of calm in all communities to allow for proper grieving before demonstrating again.  This would have been the compassionate thing to do. This could have also been a show of good faith that could have helped ease tensions, but that did not happen, and as such, turned into a wasted opportunity.

So what should be done about these controversial shootings? I think the first thing that needs to be done is to look at state laws. I personally think it would help with the prosecution of police officers that have acted inappropriately behind the badge by having a murder charge specifically for police officers, such as “Homicide resulting from careless or unlawful police action.” The more police are charged with crimes, the more juries are going to struggle with the charges they are being faced with…does a wrongful shooting constitute first or second degree murder, or manslaughter, voluntary or involuntary? Having a specific homicide charge for police officers who were acting in a way that they thought were discharging their duties but after an investigation, are proven that they failed to do that, would likely help prosecutors get convictions. I think sentencing for such a new criminal statute should be, in most cases, a little more lenient than other charges such as manslaughter. In a split-second situation, the officer could have made a genuine mistake that took someone’s life. That mistake, though well intentioned, may not rise to the level of needing to be put away for over a decade or more. Perhaps a reasonable sentence for this crime should be between four and fifteen years. Circumstances that should be factored into sentencing should be their existing service record, or if the offending officer showed remorse during the investigation or was cooperative (which likely should result in a lighter sentence) or whether they tried covering up the crime or otherwise showed a “consciousness of guilt” (and would result in a harsher sentence).

I think the communities should have a way of having an easier time communicating their feedback on officers to the police department. For example, whenever there is a police interaction with a community member, perhaps they should be required to give that community member a business card with their name and badge number printed on it. They could then go online to a website or call a phone number to provide feedback to the police department on that particular officer. Questions that should be asked should include everything from, “Was this police officer professional or courteous?”, “Did this police officer put you at ease during your encounter with them?” or “Do you have concerns about how this officer acted?” Such feedback could help establish patterns of behavior that a police department can use to evaluate their officers, and if officers show some inappropriate behavior, the police department can either choose to monitor this officer, re-train them, or even, if appropriate, contact those citizens about filing a more formal complaint. The police department needs to make getting feedback from the community about their officers a priority, and using it to help evaluate their ability to “protect and serve.” They should also be more proactive in investigating their officers; do not wait for the community to come in and file an official report. If the public use a system like this to vocalize serious complaints about an officer, go to them instead of having them come in and file a report. Make the public feel that the police take complaints about their officers seriously, and that there would be vigorous investigations into their concerns.

Of course, it would also help if the police officers have an opportunity to introduce themselves to community members and have opportunities throughout the year to continue to interact and bond with the community. Events such as the National Night Out which is coming on August 2nd, which could allow police officers that work in particular neighborhoods to meet with the neighborhood associations, and to really get to know the community they serve. There needs to be numerous events throughout the year, where officers and community members and interact, where children can come and see a patrol cruiser, play with the patrol car’s lights, and get to put a face on the person wearing a police uniform. By knowing the police officers, and having those officers build a relationship with the neighborhoods, trust can be built, and people can be assured that those serving them will act in upstanding ways to protect their lives and their property from harm.

As an addendum to this very long post, I want to add that I saw the hashtag #alllivesdidntmatter on Facebook. I just want to criticize the use of this hashtag. Many are saying that All Lives Matter movement is missing the point, that Black Lives Matter never said that all lives didn’t matter, that what they are doing is showing the black community is the one that needs the special attention and effort now. However, for me, if members of the Black Lives Matter movement are out there throwing rocks and fireworks at police in their protests, they are showing a blatant disregard for other people’s well being and safety, and are indeed broadcasting to the world through their actions that they themselves don’t believe that ‘all lives matter.’ I also read a disheartening tweet which basically said that the shooter of the Dallas police officers was called a murderer, but not the police officers in Minnesota or in Louisiana that were involved in those controversial shootings. There is a big difference in that scenario; we know the Dallas shooter committed those murders and was not justified in his actions. There is ample evidence to know that what he did was first degree murder. The investigations into the police shootings have not yet been concluded, so alleging that the police officers in question are ‘murderers’ would be premature and just inflammatory. Again, we all have the right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty. We must all remember that in these trying times, and show civility and respect toward one another.             

The Dallas Mass Shooting

I just want to extend my thoughts and my prayers to everyone affected by the shooting of the 12 police officers in Dallas last night.  This is not the time for politics, this is a time for mourning and healing.  I hope the family members of the police officers receive the support and comfort from the community they need to put their lives back together and to mourn their loved ones.

This only emphasizes the need for our communities to come together, and to put new focus on protecting life, and seeing the value in each person and the ties they have to their families and friends. People have families, children, wives, husbands, brothers and sisters, and none of them deserve to have their lives destroyed by this grief and tragedy. Moral values within our communities seem to be eroding, causing us not to think of how our actions affect each other.  I hope and pray this tragedy prompts good acts to bring our communities back together and to strengthen our bonds of community. We to remind everyone that life is precious, and it cannot be replaced once it is taken. We must always strive to do what is right by each other, no matter what may be happening to aggravate us or incite us to anger. If there is social injustice, let’s work for peaceful change, not to take matters into our hands and cause innocent lives to be lost.  No one deserves that.

Let us all try to strive to leave a positive impact on our communities during the limited time we are all on this earth, instead of one that destroys communities and brings harm to our fellow neighbors and our countrymen and countrywomen.

 

Gary Johnson and the Clinton scandal

First of all, I want to add the link to the FBI statement from FBI Director Comey on Secretary Clinton’s email scandal. I encourage anyone voting in this election to read it thoroughly. It is eye-opening, as well as disheartening to see no criminal charges come from this incident. Here is the link:Statement by FBI Director on Clinton Emails. Based on what is said in this statement, Secretary Clinton should have been facing multiple counts of gross negligence for the transmission of classified and sensitive secrets with the private email server, but that is neither here or there now. The standard has once again been set, Secretary Clinton is above the law.

But this article is going to focus on Gary Johnson, and what he has said about this scandal, as many of his comments are not covered by the national media. I saw this today on Facebook, and I knew I had to respond on my blog; as I responded to one of my friends in their support of Gary Johnson on the social media site. Here is the link to that story: Gary Johnson Says Clinton is No Criminal. I am blown away by Johnson’s ignorance with a quote from him in that story: ““I’m not a stone-thrower when it comes to Hillary Clinton and her emails and her server,” he said. “I don’t think there has been criminal intent on Hillary Clinton’s part. I don’t see an indictment.”

Gross negligence in handling national secrets does not require criminal intent. Many have been expressing this on national media outlets, including former federal prosecutors. Comey admitted that Clinton sent classified materials that were marked as classified when they were sent; showing that Clinton lied to the American people that said she had sent no classified materials, or that she sent no materials that were classified at that time. Comey admits that Clinton showed “extreme carelessness” in handling classified and sensitive materials, a term that is frequently used to define “gross negligence.” Comey should have at least taken this to a grand jury and tried to have held Secretary Clinton accountable. But he did not bother doing that. And all Johnson could say is, referring to Clinton, as ““a wonderful public servant.” There is clearly malfeasance on Secretary Clinton’s part regarding this email server, and all Johnson can say is she’s a “wonderful, public servant?”  How is Johnson even trying to demand accountability over this situation? Does he not see that by not prosecuting Secretary Clinton, the Justice Department has set two standards, those for ordinary people and those that are politically connected?  What Secretary Clinton did during her tenure of Secretary of State is inexcusable and should be condemned, particularly from those that used to be public servants themselves. But not Johnson.

In my opinion, Johnson is part of the problem by making excuses for Clinton; dismissing what otherwise would be corruption and malfeasance because there was “no intent.”  Who in the world intends to be grossly negligent? Gross negligence is still a crime despite the lack of intent.  This has to stop. These comments by Johnson on Clinton only prove he is unfit for office, and will not have the moral compass necessary to keep those in government accountable for carrying out such misbehavior.

I continue to pledge to vote for no one during this election cycle for president because I strongly feel America deserves better and should demand a higher quality of candidates for its highest office.