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.

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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.

 

The Decision of the FBI not to prosecute Secretary Clinton

I am extremely disheartened to have found out today that the FBI chose not to prosecute Secretary Clinton for gross negligence in handling our national secrets.

The very appearance of this  decision feeds into many Americans’ belief that the justice system is not blind; and that it does favor and protect those that are politically connected. The decision of the FBI has basically confirmed that there are people that are above the law, and are afforded the right to do so. We must not be naïve on this: this decision has indeed harmed the very fabric of our society, further dividing our country over someone who is not being held accountable for their actions. Even more frustrating is the fact the FBI Director has called Clinton’s actions “extremely careless” with our national secrets, which is exactly how “gross negligence” is often defined. It would seem that the FBI Director is engaging in linguistic gymnastics to try and justify not prosecuting the former Secretary of State. I personally believe the FBI Director was a coward on this matter; choosing to not go against the political pressures that were being brought to bear on him instead of pursuing justice for Secretary Clinton’s malfeasance, and choosing to set a proper standard for all Americans under the justice system that each person must be held accountable for their bad acts, particularly while holding public office.

Even though Secretary Clinton will not be prosecuted, there was malfeasance that occurred under her watch. And as a former public servant myself,  I will not use my vote to show that I condone what she did in public office. I will not be a part of awarding her a promotion for this misbehavior and betrayal of the public trust. I cannot tell you who to vote for come November, but for me, I will not be voting for anyone for president in November. This has tempted me to vote for Trump, however, I still feel he is not fit for the presidency no matter what she has done, so I will not waiver from my conviction. As I stated before, America deserves better from both parties. I still believe that the American public deserves someone who they can believe in to be an honorable president and who restores trust and faith in the American system of government, and that person is certainly not Secretary Hillary Clinton.

Defending Trump on one issue: the use of the six-pointed star

This is when I really start to  hate political campaigns; when all logical thought processes go out the window.

If you’ve read my previous articles, you would know I am no fan of Donald Trump. I think he represents the worst of our political process, and he is only helping to tear us apart as a nation.  However, I feel I have to be objective and come to his defense in one respect: the use of the six-pointed star in one of his tweets. This controversy over the six-sided star has been trending on my facebook page almost all weekend, and it finally got to the point I had to respond.

People are up-in-arms over this issue; calling it racist, saying it refers back to the yellow stars worn by the holocaust victim survivors, that it is insensitive.

Given the context of the tweet, the six-pointed star had nothing to do with holocaust victims, the Jewish faith or racism. I hate to use caps, but I’m going to in this instance: THERE ARE TIMES WHEN A GEOMETRIC SHAPE IS JUST A SHAPE! NOTHING MORE!  And then Secretary Clinton adds her two cents on the matter, calling it’ disturbing.’ NO IT’S NOT! IT’S A SHAPE THAT IN-CONTEXT, DOES NOT MEAN ANYTHING! IT’S A SHAPE! IT’S A GRAPHIC!  I would have had more respect for Secretary Clinton had she simply dismissed this as a made-up controversy, recognizing that there was no context connecting the star to the Jewish faith or the Star of David, and moved on, instead of trying to score political points off of this hyberbole. But no, she joins the legions of people that sees things that just aren’t there.

Context matters, people. The tweet had nothing to do with the holocaust, or Israel or the Jewish people. It was about Secretary Clinton and her perceived corruption. This is where political correctness goes off the deep end, when it tries to read into something that isn’t there, and when it forces people to change a geometric shape from a six-pointed star to a circle. That’s the actual controversy here, of us getting to point of having to censor graphics despite the lack of any contextual evidence showing there was any kind of connection between that star and the Star of David, other than the fact that people just ASSUME Trump is racist, so the star MUST BE INTENDED TO BE RACIST.  Also, the star wasn’t even yellow, IT WAS RED!  Perhaps there would have been some validity to the argument that it was insensitive had it been actually yellow, or colored as blue and white, the color of the Star of David on the Israel flag. BUT IT WAS NOT!

Stop creating controversy where there is none. Use your heads instead of having knee-jerk reactions. Donald Trump says enough things that are controversial and gives people the right to be angry at him, this wasn’t one of them. Stop being so over-sensitive that you get so offended by every little thing, even things that were not intended to be offensive when taken in proper context.

Independence Day

I wish everyone a wonderful and safe fourth of July! Please take a moment to pray for or think about our troops. As the saying goes, ‘freedom isn’t free.’ Independence Day is always a good opportunity to express our gratitude for the sacrifices our men and women in uniform have made to not only secure our freedoms, but to protect them throughout the years and to keep us safe. Thank you, members of our Armed Forces, for your brave and dedicated service!