Columbia Police Eagle Stop Video: What A Difference An Angle Makes, Why Cops Should Embrace Body Cams & Why Police Shouldn't Police Themselves

One of the most troubling things that happens in the police-violence debate is just how often the truth gets lost. I consider myself a civil-libertarian when it comes to such matters, and I find few things more infuriating than when police try to bury bad behavior under the rug. Just the same, the rush to judgement from many in the community against the police takes away from those officers who try to do a good job, and it hurts moral in a job that already doesn't pay well enough for the risks.

A recent fight at an Eagle Stop convenience store on North Providence Road in Columbia brings up several things that need to be said when it comes to having honest conversations about police violence. One of the most important things we see from this incident is why it's important to not always rush to judgement when it comes to accusations of police abuse. Another is that police officers need to embrace the use of body cams rather than fight them. Finally, as well-meaning as the Columbia Police Department may be in releasing additional footage in this incident, their comments show why we shouldn't allow the police to police themselves.

What a Difference An Angle Makes

In the aftermath of the Eagle Stop fight, it didn't take long for cell-phone video to make its way into the hands of local television station ABC 17. Watching that video, it appears that a Columbia police officer shoved a woman for no good reason. If this was the only thing that was released, we might be asking quite a few questions of the officer that shoved her. However, you'll see below it a second video released by the Columbia Police Department that tells an entirely different story. 

The first video, showing what appears to be an unnecessary shove, is below.

In the second video below, released by the Columbia Police Department and taken from body cam footage from one of the officers present, we see that the woman who was shoved may have been trying to protect a possible suspect, and wasn't moving away from him when commanded by officers. According to the Columbia Police Department, the man in the red shirt, that she appears to be protecting, had just fired a gun at another individual. 

Police Body Cams Protect Good Cops And Weed Out The Bad Ones

Since the Ferguson riots in 2014, many communities have pushed for their officers to wear body cams, and many police officers and police unions have fought it. They worry that some things might be taken out of context, and on that argument, maybe they have a point. 

However, there is only one reason why we have a better understanding of this incident from what the cell-phone footage showed, and that's because we have body cam footage. Cops who do their job properly shouldn't fear body cams. Cops who don't should. 

In fact, as far as body cam footage in Columbia is concerned, they seem to have helped police more than they hurt them. 

Melissa Click may have wanted you to believe that the police were the ones out of line when she confronted them that fateful day at the Mizzou homecoming parade, but the body cam footage told a different story.

When University of Missouri Police Officer Zachary Chinea and Columbia Police Department Detective Timothy Giger fatally shot a suspect in the Hitt Street parking garage, it was Chinea's body cam footage that helped show unquestionably that officers would have feared for their life and had only seconds to react after the suspect pulled a weapon on them.

In fact, the only time I can think of that police footage really caused a headache for the Columbia Police Department was when it's SWAT team conducted a drug raid, terrorized a family, found an insignificant amount of marijuana and paraphernalia and shot the man's dogs. You know what? Maybe they shouldn't have done that. 

Did I say that was the only one I could think of? Google's search algorithms reminded me of another.

The Police Shouldn't Police Themselves

The Columbia Police Department's shooting of a man's dogs in a drug raid that resulted in taking next-to-nothing off of the streets is a good example of how the police don't always operate in a way that the public would expect of them. That's why we need oversight of our police departments.

I was glad to see the Columbia Police Department release body cam footage of the Eagle Stop incident and provide more clarity into what happened. However, in releasing the footage, it was the comments from the police department itself that showed why the police aren't in an objective position to provide that oversight.

In releasing the body cam footage, the Columbia Police Department said that all uses of force will be reviewed by the chain of command, and that any complaints will be investigated by the Internal Affairs Unit. Then, they went on to defend the incident.

"The body worn camera footage begins just after Spencer Ervin (seen in the red shirt) fired a gun at another person. Officers quickly move to apprehend Ervin who dropped the gun and was standing behind the woman you see being shoved in the cell phone video. Officers give directives to the woman to move out of the way. The woman appears to be preventing officers from taking Ervin into custody. Ervin appears to ignore officers’ commands to see his hands. Officers direct Ervin to get down on the ground which he complies with. The woman continues to ignore officers’ commands and is subsequently pushed out of the way so officers’ could take Ervin into custody. Ultimately, the woman was obstructing officers from taking Ervin, who had just fired a gun at another person, into custody. Further, the body worn camera footage shows subjects continuing to approach officers after Ervin is detained. Officers are observed establishing a perimeter around Ervin and the evidence. Officers gave lawful directives to the subjects to disperse. When the subjects refused to do so, officers deployed OC spray."

Investigation? Why would one even be necessary? It appears from the Columbia Police Department's own words that the whole incident has already been figured out. They say the woman was preventing officers from taking a suspect into custody. They say she ignored officers' commands. They say she was obstructing. They point out that the suspect had just fired a gun at another person. A legal opinion has been rendered by whoever wrote the release that orders to disperse were, in fact, lawful.

What could the police department possibly investigate about itself that it hasn't already figured out?

To be clear, I don't disagree with anything that was written, but the point is that you can see, even in this incident, how the police department has framed the narrative completely in their favor. That's why they mentioned the gun twice in the same paragraph.

"The body worn camera footage begins just after Spencer Ervin (seen in the red shirt) fired a gun at another person..."

"Ultimately, the woman was obstructing officers from taking Ervin, who had just fired a gun at another person, into custody..."

Again, not that they're wrong, it's just that it isn't objective. It's human nature to defend your organization and the people that you work with. If I worked for the Columbia Police Department and wanted to defend my friends, I might have written the same thing. 

That frame of mind, however, isn't the proper frame of mind necessary for proper oversight. That's why independent review of police conduct is vital in today's society.

Every Incident Is Different

One final thing worth mentioning is that as we continue to debate police abuse in our country, we need to constantly keep an open mind and realize that every incident is different. The circumstances that are unique to this story are just as unique in every story that makes the headlines, no matter how much the media wants to give them the same general narrative. 

As cell-phone video continues to be more easily distributed, and as police body cam usage continues to grow, public instances such as these will become more common, not less so. As they do, the police owe us transparency and every effort possible to change bad behavior, and the public owes them an open mind as they try to do so.

I'm a politically independent CoMo blogger and podcaster who is often wrong but insists on writing about politics anyway. If you enjoyed this post, I hope you'll follow me on Facebook at the link below. (If it doesn't display, follow me here).

Two Months Into Trump, Some Hope

March 20th will mark two months of Donald Trump. I won't speak for his supporters in what they had hoped he would accomplish in the first 100 days, but for those who didn't support him, our fears of an all-out dictatorship look like they'll take a little longer than that to happen. 

Sixty days in, there has been plenty to be concerned about. For some, it's the wall, or the treatment of minorities, that have concerned them the most. For others, it's just the general sense that this guy doesn't have the temperament or mental capacity for the job.

Whichever it is (and for many of you, it's likely both), there is some hope.

First, it should be clear to everyone by now that our government doesn't run at the whim of one man. Information that the president doesn't want you to hear is still coming out of the government, and it's getting into the hands of a free media who report on it whether or not the president like it. Some on the right may call this the workings of a "deep state," which sounds conspiratorial, but did they really think that the career bureaucrats were just going to march in lock step with whatever Trump wanted to do?

We have a big government, and it's ran by a lot of people. "My way or the highway" works in business and in dictatorships, but as much as Trump may want that for himself, they've not yet started construction of the wall, the first version of the Muslim ban had to be halted, and Obamacare has yet to be repealed.

Not that none of those things won't come to pass; they very much might in some form. However, we have a system of checks and balances in this country that is designed specifically for times like these. No matter how much Trump wants a wall, Congress has to fund it. No matter how much he wants a Muslim ban, he has to do things within the Constitution or courts will tell him no (and they have). Regardless of what he wants to do with Obamacare, or his budget, Congress has to give the okay. 

This is all happening because people have spoken out. The voices of the people standing against policies they consider wrong and inhumane are having an impact, and that's another item of hope. The fact of the matter is that courts have thrown out the Muslim ban because people spoke out and encouraged it to be challenged. Obamacare will likely not be repealed in its entirety because people will speak up when it's suggested that the government do away with the things that people need the most.

There is light at the end of the tunnel, but know that you cannot let up. Some in Trump's administration, and some of his supporters, have suggested that those who voted against him should just shut up and let him govern. Believe me when I tell you that they wouldn't say that if the protests weren't working. If you want to continue to protect the values you hold dear, you have to keep speaking out. 

We've got a long way to go, but if we keep the pressure on, we just might survive it.

I'm a politically independent blogger and podcaster who is often wrong but insists on writing about politics anyway. If you enjoyed this post, I hope you'll follow me on Facebook at the link below (or if it doesn't display, follow me here).

MBS Textbook Exchange in Columbia Just Sold To Barnes & Noble; Here's What Their New Owners Say About Columbia Jobs

According to the Columbia Daily Tribune, MBS Textbook Exchange in Columbia was just purchased by Barnes & Noble Education. This is a big deal given that the Tribune reports that MBS employs over 800 employees and is the 9th largest employer in Columbia.

So, I was kind of surprised when local media reported it and didn't give any mention on what might happen to the local employees. I tried to find some answers in the Columbia Daily Tribune article. Just a lot of talk about how excited the people at Barnes and Noble Education are about the acquisition. KOMU-TV has the story, too. They, too, seem to just be quoting from a press release.

With a purchase like this, one of three things is going to happen. The local operation will stay the same, it will grow, or it will shrink. 

Shrinking, obviously, would be bad news for Columbia. At a minimum, one would hope they keep their current operations going here with a strong, local workforce.

So, I emailed their corporate office and asked. Marcia DeMaio, the Senior Corporate Communications Specialist for Barnes & Noble Education, forwarded to me the following statement from Patrick Maloney, the President of Barnes & Noble College, who said the following:

"MBS will be a wholly-owned subsidiary of Barnes & Noble Education, operated as an independent division, and we do not expect there will be much change to the day-to-day operations of the MBS workforce. Barnes & Noble Education and MBS are two complementary businesses that have worked together for years and share similar cultures. This transaction is about growth, and we believe employees will have more opportunities over time as part of a larger company with a better ability to serve customers. We are thrilled to have the MBS team join Barnes & Noble Education." 

So, there you have it. If true, that's good news for our local economy, and even better news for those employed by MBS. 

Indeed, if they could grow the operation, that could be even better news. My hope is that our friends at Barnes & Noble Education are wildly successful, fall in love with Columbia, and expand here. Coupled with the announcements that United Airlines will add daily flights to Denver and additional flights to Chicago, plus the news that American Outdoor Brands will bring 150 jobs to Boone County, this could be a great week.

Of course, Barnes & Noble's true commitment to Columbia remains to be seen. Actions, not words, will be what ultimately matters. Here's hoping that this is an acquisition that is a win-win all the way around, especially for the 800 plus employees who helped make MBS Textbook Exchange a company worthy of national interest. 

I'm a Columbia, Missouri-based blogger who writes about politics, business & life, often to the ire of those who love me. If you enjoyed this post, I hope you'll follow me on Facebook at the link below.

Left Or Right, Missouri Politicians Should Drop Divisive Politics and Focus on THIS

One of the things that bothers me to no end as I travel the state of Missouri is how underrated of a state we have.

If you're sick of divisive politics, encourage your legislators and the governor to work on something that could bring us all together: economic development. 

Now, before you click away from this based upon the idea that economic development is a boring topic, let me tell you that I'm not talking about economic development in the boring, statistical, antiseptic political speak of, "We need more good paying jobs here in our state."

That's the end result of economic development, sure, but that type of talk is safe and unoriginal. Every politician regurgitates some sort of line about it.

I'm talking about economic development in the sense of let's get out there, talk about how awesome of a state we have, and talk about why everyone should want to live, work and play here. 

Let's get to work turning this place into a destination.

You know what kind of destination I'm talking about: one of those places everyone talks about as being up-and-coming, fast-growing and on-the-move. Places like Austin and Silicon Valley. Places that not only bring jobs, but have a hipness factor that attracts younger generations who are looking to put down roots of their own someplace.

Why the hell shouldn't we? St. Louis has a wonderful cultural scene with one of the nation's best free art museums, an emerging culinary culture, and great entertainment options. Kansas City is gorgeous, friendly, home to many large companies and is revitalizing its downtown. Columbia is an excellent college town with big-time SEC sports, a nationally recognized journalism program, not one one but TWO nationally-recognized film festivals, and is one of the fastest-growing cities in the Midwest. Our rural areas offer some of the best outdoor recreation in all of the Midwest with amazing trails and scenery.

But who knows about these things outside of our state? Who in our government is getting that message out there to people with the idea of encouraging them to come here? Maybe someone is giving it a shot, but I don't hear much about them, and what I do hear isn't really delivered with much zeal.

Let other states be the ones that let their right and left wing extremes get everyone caught up in debates over bathroom bills, religious freedom bills, Planned Parenthood, etc. Our politicians in Jefferson City should be working together to make sure everyone in the country knows what Missouri has to offer and then do everything they can to get them here in droves. Our message of opportunity should be delivered with passion and be delivered consistently to anyone who will listen. Let's get some people together who are ready to be zealots for this place - people who will stop at nothing to turn this place into the next big thing.

I think the opportunity is there. Share this if you agree and hope our politicians will follow suit. 

I'm a politically independent blogger and podcaster who is often wrong but insists on writing about politics anyway. If you enjoyed this post, I hope you'll follow me on Facebook at the link below.

The Political Engagement For Which We Should All Strive

It's always struck me how the religious realm sometimes finds a way to make it into regular life. Occasionally, if the world needs to hear a message, the message seems to find a way to get out there, even for those of us afflicted with Catholicism.

Unlike the more evangelical denominations, who's preachers are allowed to, how shall we say it, do whatever the hell they want, Catholics and many other mainline protestant denominations follow what's known as a liturgy, which is basically a fancy church way of saying that the readings were all picked out by the church years ago in advance, and as a result everyone is going to hear the same thing this weekend whether it fits with anything happening currently in our world or not.

So I couldn't help but notice that in the midst of our current political environment (which, if you haven't noticed, is toxic), that the Catholic Mass readings for the past several Sundays have been the Beatitudes. Ah, yes, the challenging part of Christianity. Not only do you have to love your neighbor, but then the game gets upped with a requirement to love your enemy. How are we supposed to do that?

It's as if someone is trying to send us a message.

The timing of this couldn't be any more co-incidental. Not only is this a challenge that, given our political state, we must try to rise up to, but I also promised my friend Tim Miles (who is a speaker, blogger and podcaster who writes really smart things about business and is much better at this than I ever will be) that I would behave myself in at least my next 3 blog posts after he generously plugged my blog in his podcast.

Is there any better way to behave oneself than to reference the Beatitudes? I don't think so, and it's not as if I don't need the message myself. I, too, can be a little bit of an antagonist in the political realm.

It's an easy trap to fall into. Someone says something outlandish? Come back with a reply to take them down a notch. Someone takes a position that is at odds with your worldview? Categorize them as being part of a class that is beneath you.

And what does this behavior accomplish? More respect? Changed minds? Not really. Maybe you get a momentary feeling of satisfaction from it, but the long-term effect is simply more bitterness and divisiveness.  

So, what does this mean? What are we supposed to change? Should we no longer argue politics? Do we no longer get to take a stand for the values we hold dear? No, but we do need to bring respect and decency back into it. 

I often can't help but notice we say things on Facebook to strangers that we would never say in person with anyone we would want to maintain any sort of relationship with. I've noticed that so much of our discourse involves tearing down groups and ways of thinking than it does promoting our own ideas. 

Yes, you should you stand up for your ideals. Yes, you should continue to contribute to our national discourse?

What we must get better at is promoting our ideas based on the merits of those ideas, and not based on the merits of what other ideas lack, or what we don't like about the people promoting them. 

Sometimes I wonder if we don't argue as much as we do because we've simply fixed a lot of the easy-to-fix problems. If you look at our country today, there has never been a better time to be alive. Our health care is pretty good. Most of us have enough food to eat. 

The issues we face today are the hard-to-solve issues. How do we balance the right to own weapons with the fact that people get killed by bad guys with them. How do we maintain our status as a beacon of hope in the world for immigrants without letting bad guys in or having it impact our quality of life. What sort of special rights should minorities receive? How do we repair relationships between racial minorities and police when those poor relationships go back generations upon generations.

Fixing those problems takes thought, a sense of empathy towards others, and a sense of realism. Maybe you've heard the phrase that says, "If you're not a liberal at 20, you don't have a heart. If you're not a conservative at 40, you don't have a head."

It's an over-simplification, of course. The truth is there are plenty of 40-year-old liberals and plenty of 20-year-old conservatives, and we need people with both hearts and heads to solve our problems.  

Not to be all Kum ba yah with this thing, but that really is the reason why we need everyone to participate. 

But our motivations as we try to tackle our problems are critical. We have to ask ourselves what our motivations are for taking the positions we take in the first place, and whether those positions are designed to help people or to get back at them. Sometimes, it seems like we take positions just to satisfy a political ideology that we've decided to give ourselves. The notion of "I'm a proud (insert ideology here), and so I believe (insert position here)," is backwards.

I have a theory that if you were to take a staunch liberal and staunch conservative, force them to get to know each other first, and then lock them in a room and tell them they can't come out until they reach consensus on how to solve several contentious issues, that the ideas they come back with would be really pretty good. That's the type of problem solving you get when you have people who mutually respect each other and try to listen to each other come together with intellectual honesty and try to work things out for the benefit of everyone.

And I guess it all really comes down to that. Be respectful & try to help people. If we're looking for direction on the type of political engagement we should all strive for, that's really all we need to do.

I'm an independent-leaning blogger and podcaster who is often wrong but insists on writing about politics anyway. If you enjoyed this post, I hope you'll follow me on Facebook at the link below.

Jason Griffin Radio: For Milo, Things Ended Quickly

Milo Yiannopoulos had everything going for him: an editing job at a prominent website, a $250,000 book deal, a speaking slot at the conservative CPAC convention, TV interviews and college lectures. Then one day, thanks to a past video resurfacing, it was gone. On this episode, we discuss where Milo goes from here and the dangers of having your entire brand be based on provocation. 

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Claire McCaskill's Incredible Slam of Republican Proposals to Divert Public Money to Private Schools

As a political junkie, it's not every day I hear a new argument that I haven't heard before. Leave it to none other than Missouri Senator Claire McCaskill to bring a new angle to the debate regarding public money being used for private schools. 

I've long admired Claire for her political smarts. She's a blue senator who somehow manages to win in a red state. I've voted for her many times even when I've gone red with other candidates. 

It should surprise no one that has watched her over the years that if anyone can take an issue that is a favorite among Republicans and re-frame it as a slap in the face to the rural voters that elected them, it's Claire McCaskill. 

Speaking incredulously about the nomination of Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos and Republican desires to divert public school dollars to private schools (in the name of school choice), McCaskill couldn't help but point out, "In rural areas of this country, there are not private schools for parents and kids to choose. They would have to drive miles."

She went on to say, "If the essence of this woman's career is to take money out of public schools in rural communities and put them in private schools that will never exist in many of these small communities, they are kicking in the shins the very voters that put them in power."

You can watch the exchange below.

Well played, Senator. Well played. 

I'm an independent progressive type who writes about politics because I love the game. Follow me on Facebook at the link below.

So Many Stories On The Obamacare Debate Are Sensationalist; Here's A Boring Real One To Help Focus The Debate

With Donald Trump in the White House and the looming threat of Republicans repealing parts of the Affordable Care Act (a.k.a Obamacare), I thought I would share some personal perspective on the insurance debate. This isn't a sensationalist piece. My story is completely boring, but I think that perhaps that's what makes it precisely worth sharing. 

The purpose of this is not to sway someone to the Democratic viewpoint, or the Republican viewpoint, but simply to refocus the conversation away from a partisan win for one side to a practical conversation to what's best for people. 

I totally understand where people who want very little regulation or government-funded health care are coming from. They look at it from a personal responsibility angle. Personal responsibility is a story line that conservatives love to promote and it's a story line that they often like to view themselves through. (I am where I am today because I made the right decisions.) There's truth to that viewpoint. I believe that many people are where they are because of the decisions that they've made. I believe you end up where you end up in life more because of the decisions that you make than because of not. What I don't believe is that narrative is the end-all, be-all.

I had never been one to worry too much about insurance. As a healthy male in my thirties, I carried a personal health insurance policy (one wasn't offered through the small business in which I worked), but one with an extremely high deductible ($5,000). That policy, the one with absolutely zero co-pay aside from an annual check-up (not a sick visit), cost me around $150 per month. 

I started re-thinking my deductible when a very close friend of mine, playing soccer with a group of Brazilians he admittedly had no business of playing with, blew out his knee. Dumb move. That required a trip to the ER, multiple doctors visits, a surgery with an overnight stay, and rehab. Nice little medical tab simply from an afternoon of soccer. I started thinking about questionable decisions I make every day. Running. Running on trails. Biking on trails. Running and biking on trails I had no business being on. I realized that I, too, was a mortal. I realized I was one stupid move from being out five thousand bucks.

But what if it wasn't just $5,000? What if I was sick and needed treatment that lasted a couple of years? What if I simply timed an injury incorrectly and had the treatments span the end of one year and start in the next? $5,000 turns into $10,000 pretty quickly.

So I switched to a different plan on my wife's insurance. I started paying $80 more dollars a month for something that would actually cover me in the event of an unfortunate illness or idiotic mistake. 

I did it because I could afford it. Because even though I notice $80 per month, the money is there to make that decision.

What if the money wasn't there for any of it? What if I was one of those who didn't make enough to afford any insurance but too much to get government coverage? The potential costs seem to know no ends.

This story doesn't stop with my friend or my own realized mortality. It's amazing how life happens to everyone, even when it's never happened before. 

Within a year's time, my youngest son got to be the fine recipient of two corrective eye surgeries, and my wife needed a surgery. Thanks to insurance, we were out a couple grand. Without it we would probably have been out forty to fifty. These weren't crazy surgeries. These were of the routine variety of things that come up in life. 

This is where the next thing you know, for a lot of people, they're in debt. A lot of debt. Debt not for some extreme example created by Democrats for the sake of a presidential campaign where the calamities are endless. We're talking about lots of debt for things that just happen in life.

Again, this isn't a piece to try to say, "We need to keep Obamacare." I'll let Democrats make the case for that and debate those of you from the other side with your list of, "Yeah, but..." arguments. 

My point here, again, is to frame this conversation in real terms for real people. 

  • What if my friend didn't have health insurance?
  • What if my wife didn't have good health insurance for our family?
  • What about people who simply can't afford good health insurance?
  • What about people who need long-term treatments for illnesses?
  • What about people who need expensive medications?
  • What about people who can't get or afford insurance because of preexisting medical conditions?

I personally know people who have medical bills in the millions of dollars. They will never repay this money. 

I started this piece with a little talk about personal responsibility. Again, I get the argument. People want to think that they are where they are simply because they pulled up their bootstraps and made the hard decisions. They don't want to think luck has anything to do with it. 

But it does, at least a little bit, doesn't it? Things beyond our control come up, especially when it comes to illnesses and medical care. We have a situation in our country where we are one of the richest nations on Earth, yet many people either can't afford quality care, or they can't afford to get ahead in life simply because they were dealt a bad medical hand.

When we talk about the healthcare debate, instead of worrying who gets a partisan win, I hope that our politicians remember what we're trying to fix.

If you enjoyed this piece, please follow my page below. I'm an independent, kinda-libertarian, progressive guy that writes about politics, business & life (but a whole lot about politics). 

On Milo, Maybe You Should Just Ignore Him

Back when I was maybe 25-ish and was the program director at a conservative talk radio station, I was contacted by an interfaith group of community religious activists who wanted to meet with me about one of the nationally-syndicated programs we carried on our station. Their request was that we take it off of the air. Anti-Islam; bad for America.

I took the meeting. They were nice people, but persistent in their belief that he practiced hate speech. I towed the expected line about our station allowing controversial speech on the airwaves, belief in free speech, and letting the market decide. Blah, blah, blah.

The truth is, I was kind of pissed that they decided to push the issue when they did. I wasn't a fan of the show, and was about to start pressing my case that the guy was too nuts for our station. Their efforts to force it off the air were a detriment to that.

You see, this was one of those shows that had not really a huge following, but a rabidly loyal following. Now, if the station decided on its own to take it off the air, it's end of story, right? Maybe people would call and complain or threaten to never listen again or whatever, but there is no story there beyond that if you just let the station do it. 

Activist pressure is another story. If these activists decide to protest it, now what? If the station takes it off the air, after public protest, then the conservative radio station caved to public pressure from a liberal group. Listeners revolt. Now the show is elevated. The show this group found disgusting, but not many people really listened to, is now a show that everyone is talking about. He either goes back on my station more popular than ever, or he lands on a competitor more popular than ever.

Believe it or not, I was a bit more cocky then than I am now. The meeting had the veiled threat of an advertiser boycott, and I just told them flat out why that wouldn't work for reasons noted above. They left respectfully, but not happy, but I'll be damned if they didn't listen to me and didn't make a public stink about the show. 

Life goes on. Other things came up. I left the radio station and that show has outlasted me in the eleven years since I walked away. The guy is still a nut, and you would know the name if I gave it to you, but chances are most likely that no matter what your political persuasion, you don't listen to him.

I can understand if someone reads this and says, "You should have done the right thing and pulled that show if you thought it was too much." I don't disagree with you. But politics and nuances are a tricky thing, even at the lowest-of-the-low political levels of local talk radio programming.

I tell you this whole story to relate it to another controversial figure in American politics today: Milo Yiannopoulos. In his day job, he's a senior editor with the right-wing Breitbart News. He's also popular on the college speaking circuit. 

Chances are you've heard of him not because of his job at Breitbart, nor even the speeches that he gives, but simply because of the controversy that surrounds him. The campus protests you watched on the news in Berkeley were organized to pressure the university into cancelling his appearance because many believe he engages against hate speech. 

If a cancelled speech is the ultimate goal, then I suppose the protesters achieved what they set out to do. Indeed, the violence from those protests caused his event to be cancelled.

But how many people know about Milo Yiannopoulos today who didn't know about him a week ago? How many people asked themselves, "I wonder what he has to say?" How many more people will spew his talking points when engaging in debate with liberals? How many people will be pushed over to "his side" because "the other side" engaged in violent protests?

I have no data to back it up, but I'll bet those numbers will be higher than the few hundred who would have attended his speech. 

There's a lot of vile speech out there. I won't defend the content of it, but I really do believe the 1st Amendment is the most vital American right we have. 

The best way to counter a bad idea is not by suppressing it, but by promoting a better idea of your own. Elevating the creator of the bad idea to prominence only gets it out there more.

If you enjoyed this piece, please follow my page below. I'm an independent, kinda-libertarian, progressive guy that writes about politics, business & life (but a whole lot about politics). 

Sorry Guys, I Just Can't Do The Super Bowl This Year

For the first time in my adult life, I'm not watching the Super Bowl. I can't remember the last time I didn't watch it. Maybe one year when I was a kid? If I ever did miss a game, maybe I was a high-schooler out delivering pizzas or something, but as far as my memory can serve me, I've never missed a one. 

Not this year. I have no desire to watch it and so I won't.

I used to be an avid NFL fan, but I've stayed away in recent years. I don't believe I watched a single game last year until the last one. How could I miss Peyton Manning giving it one last shot? But as Peyton got one final Super Bowl win and I wrapped up the game feeling satisfied, I had a feeling that Peyton's expected retirement would be mine, too.

I could act like this is some sort of a protest piece. I could tell you that I've been disgusted by the domestic abuse scandal (I have been), or outraged by allegations of covering up known concussion issues (I have been), but at the end of the day, I've just lost interest in the whole spectacle. 

"You could always watch it for the ads," one might say, which I don't disagree with. Ah, but I work in the ad industry. The last thing I want to do is watch another ad.

Sunday is my day off.

The entertainment value alone could be a draw, I suppose, but how? Cheap, safe, corporate entertainment? "Now, let's honor America with a salute to our troops." Everyone cheers and acts like we're a united America.

Disgusting.

Not the part about honoring the military, of course. But when you say something nobody disagrees with, are you really saying anything at all? Where's the art in that? We've just witnessed the hijacking of America by a rogue president who seems hell bent on blowing up the world, and we're going to play it safe? 

There I go making things political again.

Maybe the problem is me. Maybe I'm pissed about the election. Maybe I'm pissed about the NFL in general. Maybe I need a vacation. Maybe I just want to break away from the monotony of it being Super Bowl Sunday and feeling obligated to watch the Super Bowl. 

I have no idea. Somebody else somewhere can give it a better diagnosis than I can. Frankly, figuring it out is somebody else's job. I have absolutely nothing to bring to the table on what the NFL can or should or might do to bring me back into the fold.

I simply write this with the feeling that I'm not the only one walking away this year.

There's a whole new world in existence for me this Sunday. When it comes to the Super Bowl, I've decided to just walk away.

I'm an independent, kinda-libertarian, progressive guy that writes about politics, business & life (but a whole lot about politics). If you enjoyed this piece, I hope you’ll follow my page below.

On Walls and Immigration Bans, Intent Matters

As someone who has written against Trump's order to ban Muslim immigrants and refugees from a select group of countries, I've been asked directly what makes his ban different from Obama's ban when he stopped processing Iraqi refugees in 2011.

(I should clarify that I didn't so much as write against the ban, but rather pointed out that the Bible commands us to love our neighbor, which seemed to rankle some Christians in favor of it).

While USA Today outlines the differences between the two policies, including the fact that Obama's was directed at one specific country over a specific threat, I still think the broader question stands:

Why is it okay for Obama, in the face of a perceived threat, to decide he needs to slow down an immigration program, but not okay for Trump to do the same thing? The same question might apply to illegal immigration, where Obama had some illegal immigrants deported.

These are fair questions, and I'm going to give you the best answer I can. All I ask is if you're a Trump supporter, you give strong consideration to what I'm about to say.

Here's my answer: intent matters, and the things you do and say and the tone you set matter when it comes to discerning intent. 

Donald Trump the candidate gave every indication on the campaign trail that he's an individual who would use fear and bigotry to rile up the base. 

Of Mexican immigrants, he said that Mexico isn't sending it's best, but, "They're sending people that have lots of problems, and they're bringing those problems with us. They're bringing drugs. They're bringing crime. They're rapists. And some, I assume, are good people."

On Muslims, Trump the candidate said, "Donald J. Trump is calling for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country's representatives can figure out what is going on."

When the Muslim parents of a U.S. soldier killed fighting for America gave a speech against Trump at the Democratic convention, Trump wondered allowed if the soldier's mother didn't speak because, "She probably, maybe she wasn't allowed to have anything to say. You tell me."

Many of Trump's defenders have noted that Trump's Muslim ban isn't a Muslim ban, but is simply a ban on immigration from countries deemed dangerous. Other immigrants from other Muslim countries are allowed in.

Again, intent matters. Even Trump supporter Rudy Giuliani admits that a Muslim ban is exactly what Trump was originally going after. According to an interview Giuliani gave with Fox News, "When he first announced it, he said 'Muslim ban.'" Giuliani went on to say Trump asked him how to do it legally.

So, there you have it. That's the difference. For many of us, we don't demand a completely open border with Mexico, nor do we demand that everyone who applies to come into this country be granted access. We just want our immigration policy to be conducted without fear-mongering and with a sense of humanity. This isn't some sort of left-wing notion, as evidenced by the below video from 1980 during a Republican debate between Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush.

Ask yourself: are Trump's recent actions the actions of someone who soberly, looking at the evidence, decided these were the things needed to keep our country safe? Or, are these the actions of someone who decided a long time ago that he was going to go after Mexicans and Muslims when he got into office?

We have the past statements of Trump the candidate to give us an indication of what Trump the president is thinking. For many people, the answer is painfully clear.

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Stepping Out of the Age of Fear

"The only thing we have to fear is fear itself." - Franklin Roosevelt

I wrote those words from memory, because it's a quote that any entry-level hack of a writer can quote from memory, thinking that they were some sort of wartime rallying cry. 

Turns out I was wrong. They were actually spoken during Roosevelt's first inaugural address in 1933. It would be six years and some change before the Nazis invaded Poland. We all know what happened next. War broke out across the world, and millions of soldiers and civilians were killed, including 6 million Jews exterminated for nothing more than their ethnicity. It ended with a maniac's suicide in Berlin and the first and only (as of this writing) nukes dropped on an enemy in Japan.

So, clearly not everyone was listening to Mr. Roosevelt.

I often hesitate when I see the comparisons of our current political climate to that of Nazi Germany in the 1930s, but I would be a liar if I told you I don't think about it often. The Nazis didn't come to power from so much of a hostile takeover, but from people ceding power to them out of fear. 

Fear of immigrants. Fear of political opponents. Fear of a challenging economy. Fear of those who challenge their worldview. It all seems like the United States of America, circa 2017.

If this seems like an anti-Trump piece, I suppose it is. Anyone who's read what I've written recently (likeherehere, and perhaps my shortest and most favorite here) would be right in making that assumption. 

But it's more than that. It's an anti-state-of-our-society piece. Trump is not so much the cause, but a symptom of, the fear and hate gripping one side of the political spectrum. The other side is not immune.

Fear of the rich. Fear of the police. Fear of a challenging economy. Fear of those who challenge their worldview.

You could say our world is made up of two opposing ideologies reacting out of fear. 

But that hypothesis might be too forgiving. I wonder just how much of the fear is real, and how much of it is simply an excuse to let our worst impulses as humans run wild. The urge to be tribal. The urge to hate. The urge to win and conquer. If it was simple fear, wouldn't we be seeking answers to calm it?

I see it with conservatives who cite murders by illegals as reason for a wall, despite numbers showingimmigrants have lower crime rates and no evidence suggesting undocumented ones have higher. I see it in other wild proclamations that just aren't true. I couldn't help but notice a Facebook post from Lester Holt at NBC News yesterday. Donald Trump stating that murders in Philadelphia are out of control, yet the facts showing they've gone down. Why say it if it isn't true? Does he know it isn't true? Does he care? 

I see it with liberals, too, who use words such as "white privilege" and "micro aggression" as reasons to create safe spaces and dismiss any point of view that doesn't agree with their own. When Michael Brown was gunned down by a cop a two-hour drive and a lifetime away from my house, millions made up their mind that it was a cold-blooded murder by a racist cop before a shred of evidence emerged to back the claim. Nothing the prosecutor would say as he decided against charging Darren Wilson was going to change the minds of those who already made up their mind.

Maybe in the anti-truth era, it's truth that we ultimately fear. That has to change, because confronting and acknowledging uncomfortable truths is the only way out of this awful climate.

I had a guy on the right side of the fence ask me the other night what we needed to do to bring both sides together. I told him it started with intellectual honesty. Trump people calling out Trump when he does wrong and the left calling out their own when they do the same. It really is the only way forward. Tribalism can only end when two sides are listening to each other rather than talking at each other, but you can't listen to another if they lack credibility. 

The great thing about credibility is that to have it, you don't have to be right all of the time. A desire to seek the truth, speak the truth, and admit when you're wrong go a long way.

The truth is we live in an utterly complex society, and our tribal nature offers comfort and protection in a world that we don't entirely understand. What makes us human, though, is our ability to seek truth and show empathy, compassion and understanding despite our nature. 

Maybe Roosevelt was right after all, that what we really do have to fear is fear itself. We can overcome it if we choose to.  We just have to work at it.

Is there a word for pretty-independent, kinda-libertarian, progressiveness ? Well, that's me, and I hope you’ll follow my page below.

The Women's March Missed An Opportunity With Pro-Life Women; Will Pro-Life Christians Miss an Opportunity With Refugees?

By most accounts, both of the major marches in Washington, D.C. were major successes. One was a march by women protesting Donald Trump's presidency, the other an annual pro-life march calling for an end to abortion.

Both managed to get their message out loud and clear. Both were covered extensively by the media. The March for Life even had a speech from Vice President Mike Pence, the first time someone as high-ranking as the VP has ever addressed such a crowd.

It's been argued, however, by some pro-life women that the women's march missed an opportunity by not being inclusive of them. Salena Zito, writing for CNN, lamented that, "Feminists who were pro-life but supportive of social justice issues like gender equality and immigration rights were uninvited." Indeed, the Washington Post reported that the group New Wave Feminists, an antiabortion group who was originally listed as a sponsor of the women's march, was dropped by march organizers after a strong backlash. March organizers apologized to New Wave Feminists, saying, "We look forward to marching on behalf of individuals who share the view that women deserve the right to make their own reproductive decisions."

What could have been an opportunity to show credibility was instead used by opponents to shape the protests as having a partisan agenda. It's a shame, because the march I witnessed in Columbia, MO was represented by a host of issues. But when the big idea (a march for women) doesn't match up with what march organizers really want it to be about (reproductive rights), credibility gets lost. 

The credibility of pro-life Christians will now be put to the test. Mere hours after President Trump severely restricted immigration from several majority-Muslim countries, Fox News reported some individuals from those countries, including refugees and those who put their lives on the line for the United States, were being detained. The New York Times reports further issues across the country and abroad.

Now will be the time for movement Christians to show whether they themselves are more than just partisans. As some of their opponents on the left like to ask, "Are you pro-life, or are you really just pro-birth?" As Christians use their Christian faith to profess their reasoning for why abortion should be ended, their credibility will rest, in part, on how they tackle some of the teachings of their faith that might be considered left of center.

"You shall love your neighbor as yourself." Mark 12.31

"Then He will also say to those on His left, 'Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry, and you gave me nothing to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave me nothing to drink; I was a stranger, and you did not invite Me in; naked, and you did not clothe Me; sick, and in prison, and you did not visit Me.' Then they themselves also will answer, 'Lord, when did we see You hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not take care of You?' Then He will answer them, 'Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.'" - Matthew 25.41-45

The Women's March did, in fact, miss an opportunity to grow their movement beyond partisan limits. Will Christians supportive of the Right to Life do the same?

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Trump Really Does Want a Wall & Muslim Ban; For Christians On The Fence, Here's What The Bible Says

Well, here it is: word tonight that President Donald Trump really does want to build a wall, and that he really does want to effectively ban Muslim refugees from the Middle East. According to the New York Times, he'll sign an executive order diverting federal funds to the wall on the southern border with Mexico, and take steps to curtail legal refugees from the Middle East. 

So much could be written about it, and believe me when I tell you that I get the complexities of our nation's immigration policy.

But if you're a Christian in this country (as so many of President Trump's supporters are), I hope you'll take into consideration this passage from the Gospel of Mark:

One of the scribes came and heard them arguing, and recognizing that He had answered them well, asked Him, "What commandment is the foremost of all?" 

Jesus answered, "The foremost is, 'HEAR, O ISRAEL! THE LORD OUR GOD IS ONE LORD; AND YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND, AND WITH AL YOUR STRENGTH.' The second is this, 'YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.' There is no other commandment greater than these."

 (New American Standard Version, Mark 12.28-31)

So simple and so clear. Love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength. Love your neighbor as yourself. These are the commandments that matter most.

What message do you think these policies will send our neighbors?

I really do get the complexities of defending our nation, but is that all these policies are about? When you hear them cheered, is that all the cheering will be about?

For you, if you're a Christian, will these policies send the message you want to send? 

Whether you're on the fence or you've already made up your mind where you stand, I hope you'll consider what we're commanded to do and help us move forward in that direction.

Is there a word for pretty-independent, kinda-libertarian, progressiveness ? Well, that's me, and I hope you’ll follow my page below. 

 

 

Is This Not The Best Image Of News Reputation On The Internet?

My friend Robyn shared this little tidbit via Facebook, and I'm not so sure that this isn't the best outline of news reputation (who to trust, who to not to trust, who to share and who not to) that I've ever seen. 

The image from WildYucatanMan on Imgur is below.

If you want to fight fake news, the first step is identifying who's the most trustworthy.

But I think there's a couple of extra steps involved, especially if we want to be a more informed and less partisan society. 

First, we have to start consuming multiple sources of news. Check out some of those publications that lean differently than the way you lean. Maybe you'll disagree with them and simply learn something about the other side. Or, perhaps, you'll learn something new that challenges your pre-existing worldview. 

Second, and this is important, you have to make an effort to actually check out multiple news sites every day, and NOT just clicking-through on them when you see a story come up on Facebook. When you rely on Facebook, you're relying on Facebook's algorithm to determine what you see and read. Facebook, for all it has done for society, is in the business of increasing your engagement with Facebook, not providing you with news.

So get yourself a feed reader, or just simply make it a point to check some of these out every day. Then, be someone who shares and speaks the truth. The way we have a more unified, less partisan society is by listening to each other, and the only way for someone to listen to YOU is for you to have some credibility. 

Things are tense in our society, but it's going to get better. It's going to happen one person at a time, and it's going to start with you.

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Day Two of the Trump Era: Pictures of the Columbia, MO Women's March

Bonus reading: One of the best images you'll find on the Internet showing where news outlets land in terms of credibility and partisanship. It's on my blog and you should read it here.

Saturday, January 21, 2017. Day Two of the Trump Administration. Here's how hundreds (if not thousands) of men and women in Columbia, MO responded. I firmly believe there is no value more sacred or important to our nation than the right to dissent. View the slideshow below.

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The Trump Inauguration: I Think I'll Pass

On election night, I wrote something to the affect of needing some time for the results of Trump's win to sink in. Acceptance, they say, can take time.

Yet, acceptance of reality, and acceptance by being comfortable with things, are two different things. For me, my acceptance of the reality of the upcoming Trump presidency comes in waves of horror. 

It's hits at inconvenient times and over the most peculiar of things. Like when they swear him in, it will be done by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. It's nuts. It's like hearing about a dysfunctional celebrity getting married in a sham ceremony, then realizing it won't be officiated by some rogue priest, but the Pope himself.  

It dawned on me the other night, after watching video of Donald's press-conference circus in which he berated a CNN reporter and fended off allegations that the Russians had compromised him, that we'll force military members in a prestigious military band to play Hail To The Chief every time he walks into a room. I had accepted the salute; it's common decency. The Hail To The Chief realization hit me like a ton of bricks.

"You'll just have to get over it," people like me are told, by people who aren't entirely wrong. The results, as influenced by a Russian leak of information as they may be, are indeed the result of enough of My Fellow Americans deciding on this direction. 

And the result shouldn't be entirely unexpected. After all, it wasn't the Russians who rigged the Democratic primary in Hillary's favor. They weren't the ones who decided to be shady with an email server. They weren't the ones to create the impression of pay to play. Take Trump out of this, and you have a political party that got exactly what it deserved.

Unfortunately, it feels like we're now left with a country that will be ran for at least 4 years by a coalition of white nationalists, anti-vaccers, multi-level marketers and prosperity gospel promoters. If that seems like great reality television, that's exactly what you'll get.

I know I'm supposed to root for Donald Trump's success. It's the right thing to do. It was Barack Obama who noted after the election that Trump's success is our success, and he's right.

But the presidency shouldn't be a reality show, and it shouldn't be full of dramatic narcissism. We can wish someone the best without being enablers. 

That's exactly what I intend to do, to not enable. To not get sucked into the drama. It's not healthy for me, and it sure as hell isn't healthy for the country. 

I think I'm going to pass on watching the inauguration. 

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Trump's Dismal Ratings Show Hillary Was The Problem: That's Good News Democrats

Two interesting polls caught my eye over the past couple of days.

The first, and the one everyone is talking about: Trump's approval ratings just days before the inauguration. According to an ABC poll, here's how respondents said they approve or disapprove of Trump's transition.

Approve: 40%
Disapprove: 54%

What's more, only 44% said they thought Trump was even qualified to serve as president! On both the approval and the qualified question, his affirmative numbers are LOWER than his popular vote percentage, all before he even takes office!

The obvious question: Why are they so low? 

Some may argue that this is due to him courting controversy post election. Common sense, right? Twitter rants against John Lewis and Alec Baldwin show a lack of focus on the importance of the job at hand. Not only that, but as the New York Times reports, his cabinet nominees have stumbled. 

All makes sense, EXCEPT the post-election Trump is not some sort of crazy-different version of the Donald Trump we had in the campaign. Those of us who didn't vote for him are getting EXACTLY what we expected from him. Surely, approval ratings lower than his vote percentage aren't from people all of the sudden being surprised by his behavior. So, what could it be? 

It all starts to make sense when you look at it through the lens of his opponent, Hillary Clinton. 

It seems completely plausible that there are a sizable number of people who voted for Donald Trump who did so despite not liking him. They had misgivings about him, and still have them today. If that's the case, that would mean that they simply had more misgivings either about his opponent, or perhaps the Obama legacy in general. 

So, which is it? Obama, or Hillary? A-ha! Here's another poll! According to a CNN/ORC poll, he leaves office with his approval rating at 60%!

Nostalgia? Perhaps. But that's a 20 percent difference between Obama's approval rating and Trump's. If you take these polls at face value, isn't a poor Hillary candidacy the most logical explanation?

It was Bernie Sanders, himself, who pointed out a year ago that polling showed him to be the much stronger candidate against Trump. Say what you want about Donald, but let's not forget that Hillary Clinton had a lot (I mean a LOT) of baggage herself. Maybe Russia did hack the DNC, but they didn't cause the email scandal, or cause the appearance of pay-to-play. More than anything they exposed that the Hillary-supporting DNC helped rig the election against Bernie Sanders, quite possibly the stronger opponent.

All this is good news, Democrats. Yes, the incoming Trump Administration and all of its cronies will in all likelihood be terrible for the country. But perhaps the caricature (that I, too, am guilty of creating in my mind) of Trump's win being from the groundswell of alt-right idiots isn't exactly true.

Maybe Hillary was just a terrible candidate, and Trump really did win as the "lesser of two evils" candidate. He wasn't the one I cast my vote for in that regard, but can I really say I would be approving of Hillary's transition and her appointees if she had one?

The hope for Democrats is that the vast majority of people already see this thing for the joke that it is. Give people a better candidate in 2020, and you really do have a chance to win this thing back in 4 years.

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Megyn Kelly Leaves Fox News: Why It's Great For Her & Why Fox News Will Survive It

Megyn Kelly made big headlines with her announcement that she'll be leaving Fox News. The New York Times reports that she'll have a daytime talk show, as well as a Sunday show that attempts to challenge CBS's 60 Minutes. 

The NYT article points out that the move won't be without it's challenges. She'll have a larger but more fickle audience, a challenging daytime time period, and be trying to take on a dominant ratings monster on Sundays. 

Still, it's a good move for her. For starters, after publicly clashing with Donald Trump during the election and detailing sexual harassment by former CEO Roger Ailes, the Fox News culture doesn't seem like the right fit for her anymore. This past year it could be argued that she rose above the culture. Therefore staying for more money could be seen as selling out. 

Secondly, the NBC move will give a rising star a chance to branch out. She'll have an opportunity to be seen by more people and expand her capabilities beyond the daily political grind. 

Third, although details of her contract have yet to be released, she'll presumably make more money. 

This move will certainly come as a blow to Fox News. Megyn Kelly has been a ratings winner, and her departure leaves the network with a prime-time lineup consisting solely of white men (Sean Hannity, Bill O'Reilly and Tucker Carlson). 

But this is a loss that Fox News can survive. What Fox News has done better than any other cable news network has been to build a brand. Fox News operates itself as a conservative alternative to the mainstream news, and the personalities it chooses to present on its channel are hired to fit that brand. They are to cable news what ESPN is to sports: while both have personalities that are successful in their own right, no one person is bigger than the network. 

In the end, Fox News is the biggest loser in this deal, but it's a survivable blow. For Megyn Kelly, the stakes are high, but the payoff could be tremendous.

Best of luck to each as they move on in 2017.

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