The Joy of the Take Down and Making Media Matter

 

For people that do what I do, i.e. social & political commentary, there's nothing more fun than a good take down piece. 

The pleasure you get from a good take down is the same that you get gossiping over a cigarette outside of the office door. There's the satisfaction of saying all of the things that need to be said that nobody else is saying. There's the excitement that comes with doing something that you know is just a little bit wrong. 

And, of course, people will watch, read and share the shit out of it. 

Ahh, but just like gossip, the problem with most take-down pieces is that on the whole, they accomplish nothing. As much fun as the office gossip is having, what office policies and directions do you ever actually see them change?

"Sally no longer works here. That's what we changed." 

Yes, my point exactly. 

"We wished her the 'best of luck' in her future endeavors, lol."

Ha ha. Good one. But you're getting me distracted. 

The point I'm making is that the take-down piece, as it is usually written, is written for the purpose solely of the take down. It doesn't persuade anyone to a new point of view. It doesn't call for any action. It doesn't promote a new way of thinking, introduce new ideas, or stand up for anyone. 

That means that in the long run, the take-down for the sake of take-down was ultimately a wasted endeavor. 

I think about these things sometimes. Like during Sunday Mass when the priest says things like, "Let us call to mind our sins," and, "Love your neighbor." The take down just doesn't fit. 

"Well, if you're going to go all Catholic-y on us, shouldn't you edit out the word 'shit' from earlier?"

Yes.

"And someone getting fired is never a laughing matter."

Perfection, it seems, takes time. 

But I am trying, which is why I would like to think these things do cross my mind, and it's why I think about how one can give higher purpose to their endeavors. It's why I would like to think that there can be some good that comes from being a political junkie with a loud mouth.

But how, exactly, does one do that? 

I had a conversation with a guy not too long ago and asked him what he did. He's a pharmacist. An important job. He provides people the necessary medicine that they need to live and be healthy. I couldn't help but laugh as I compared the importance of his work with the work that has paid my bills since after college. 

"So much of what we do in the media world doesn't matter," I said. We write things, we meet about things, we obsess over things that ultimately don't have any lasting impact on society whatsoever.

Reality shows. If-it-bleeds-it-leads news stories. That same song, again. Ads that push you to 'act now.' 

Except that what we do does matter, doesn't it. We affect moods, motivate people to take action, help unite, or help divide. A well crafted message can start wars or end them. Media, in it's purest sense as the mechanism by which communication is transmitted, is how you pass along knowledge from one person to another so that they can become the doctors and the inventors and leaders of tomorrow.

So why do we write what we write, or say what we say? What should we be trying to accomplish when we step onto the battlefield that is today's politics?

Motivations matter. I think to be a positive voice in today's world, it comes down to striving for your work to always do one of these things:

  1. Provide inspiration
  2. Provide clarity
  3. Provide truth
  4. Provide advocacy

If we're not trying to do one of those things, then what are we trying to do?

I'm a politically independent blogger and podcaster who is often wrong but insists on writing about politics anyway. If you enjoyed this post, join dozens (literally!) of others and follow me on Facebook here.

I May Be An Anti-Trumper, But I'm Growing Numb To Your Anti-Trump Rants

Hey, everyone. Can we tone it down just a little bit? I'm talking about the anti-Trump stuff. I get it. You hate him. I didn't vote for him either. 

But here's the feeling I'm starting to get when everything I see is a constant barrage of anti-Trump negativity: numbness.

Did you get that? Not happy. Not sad. Not mad. Not disgusted. Numb.

I can't imagine that I'm the only one. Yet the man has only been in office 100 days. How many more will be numb to the criticism when you need them to listen the most? Like an actual major scandal? Or, let's say, October of 2020?

And here's the thing: I agree with you! I am on your side! If I feel this way, how do you think someone you are trying to convince feels?

You are trying to convince others, right? Or is this just a little show you're putting on for yourself and your friends?

"We can't normalize this," you say. Then you repeat it again. "We cannot. Normalize. This."

Then you say it again. And again. And again.

You know what is becoming normal? You making a big deal about anything and everything. Which leads me to my point. I like a good fresh piece of information aimed at taking the guy down a notch just as much as the next guy. But you can't operate on outrage mode 100% of the time, all day, every day, and expect people to listen to you. 

Case in point? How about a daily browse of Slate? What used to be an interesting, albeit left-of-center read, has become a daily call to alarm. Look, the Russia stuff, I get it. The ineptitude, I'm aware of. The bluster and attitude embarrasses me as an American. But just today you hear how Trump's incorrect history on the Civil War isn't just wrong, but dangerous! Trump's healthcare bill won't just be bad, it will be an unmitigated disaster!  The drama!

Meanwhile, over at The Daily Beast, we learn that Stephen Colbert didn't just go after the president with his now infamous monologue, but that he demolishes him with it.

Did he really? Is that what really happened? He was demolished?

It's all so loud, so much of it for show, and worse yet, often not new at all. 

Let me put it to you in terms you might understand: Fox News. You hate Fox News, right? So do I. Totally partisan. Do you believe Fox News anymore when they say they have a "Fox News Alert!"

"Absolutely not," you say. "They say it all the time and don't usually deliver anything new. Nobody believes them anymore."

I know exactly what you're saying.

I'm a politically independent blogger and podcaster who is often wrong but insists on writing about politics anyway. If you enjoyed this post, join dozens (literally!) of others and follow me on Facebook here.

Have We Lost the Power to Persuade?

Ann Coulter's Berkeley speech cancelled due to threats of violence. Trump supporters refusing to believe negative stories about the president. America is more polarized than ever and both sides refuse to listen to the other. Is the real reason because we've lost the ability to persuade others?

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An Easter Prayer for Peace

I'm not one to write often about religion or spiritual affairs. Others are better at it, and if we're being honest, perhaps a bit more qualified in the holiness department.

But it wasn't lost on me that amidst this past Sunday's Easter celebrations and the slick marketing we see in our churches, one of the things that often gets lost in the celebration of the resurrection is the brutality of the execution. 

Crosses are turned into beautiful, stylized pieces in everything from jewelry, to tattoos, to corporate logos.

"What happened on the cross was a beautiful thing," is a tempting, churchy-sounding catchphrase you might hear this time of year. Except it wasn't.

There was nothing beautiful about crucifixion. It was the most brutal form of punishment in its day. The punishment afflicted on Jesus, the man from Nazareth, was designed to inflict maximum pain and suffering.

Yet, we know from the scripture readings that Jesus went willingly and accepted the fate that awaited him. He didn't raise an army to fight against his oppressors. He didn't condemn them. Instead, he offered up a simple prayer.

"Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing."

To believe that Jesus was fully God does not do justice to his ministry. Being God, perfect and all knowing in every way, is easy. It is the belief that he was also fully human that puts into true perspective the life that Jesus lived on Earth. To be fully human is to be tempted, just like the rest of us, with the trappings of humanity.

Greed. Anger. Retribution. Surely he must have been tempted to allow his thoughts and actions to go there while facing a tortuous death fueled by all three.

Yet, Jesus overcame all of those with unrelenting love. The entire ministry of Jesus, right up to his death, was a ministry of peace.

Our world today is rife with conflict. The situation in Syria is deplorable. Conflict with North Korea seems ever more inevitable. Even developed democracies, such as the one in which we live, are not immune from a level of political polarization that we've not seen in decades.

How should we respond? What actions are we called to do? What are we politically called upon to support?

It's easy to issue a blanket critique of every fired missile or military show of strength. It's easy to support them in favor of human rights. Information in today's world is murky, international security and human rights issues are complex, and the right answer is often elusive.

If solving our world's problems was easy, there would be no debate on what to do next.

But this is the way the world has always been. The question we must ask ourselves is what does it mean to be a Christian today's world? What does it mean to truly follow the teachings of Jesus and incorporate them into our lives?

I don’t have all of the geopolitical answers, but I do know that a desire for peace must be our default setting, and love for all must be what motivates our lives.

"Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength."

"Love your neighbor as yourself."

The greatest commandments. Simple yet profound.

Easter is an opportunity for everyone, religious and not religious, to examine the state of affairs in their own lives and in the world around them, and to engage in a period of renewal. 

We have an opportunity to do that right now.  This Easter, let's pray for peace.

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 here. 

Syria Strike: Thoughts The Day After

The United States launched a missile strike in Syria last night. As one of my friends pointed out, it just so happened to the 100 year anniversary of the U.S. getting involved in World War I. Some thoughts.

1) The most important thing that needs to be said is that the slaughter of innocent people must stop. This isn't a statement in favor or, or opposed to, military action. It's a statement about the killing of innocent civilians. Conditions are so deplorable in Syria that people are risking their lives to flee it. We're told that the Syrian dictator has used chemical weapons against his own people. How does the world community put a stop to it? We have an obligation.

2) Let's not rush to judgement against this limited strike, and let's sure as hell not rush to war. Our politics are toxic right now, and that means we're quick to knee-jerk our reactions to events one way or another based upon our politics. This is not the time for that. If the Syrian regime used chemical weapons against it's own people, then a targeted, limited airstrike isn't unreasonable. Any military conflict in this part of the world has the potential for devastating consequences, however. Everyone needs to be sober-minded about this situation.

3) Was this a political move on Trump's part? He's been looking for ways to be seen as less influenced by Russia. He wants to be seen as decisive. He also is trying to urge China to tackle the North Korea issue by saying if they don't deal with them, we will. This attack against the Syrian government helps him on all of those fronts. 

4) Situations like this are why it's so important to have credibility with the American people. One of the most important things needed in a crisis situation is to have trust that your leaders are telling you the truth. The Trump administration has had a hard time with this. This isn't a statement on politics; it's a statement on honesty. One of the first things I did this morning after watching Trump's statement was to check to see what other world leaders were saying about this strike. It gave me some degree of comfort knowing that the U.K., Australia and Japan didn't think this move was entirely insane. I should be able to trust my government. It's hard with the group they have in charge today.

5) The world needs to find a way to come together and rid itself of all rogue regimes. How is it that in a world full of so many seemingly rich, powerful, and decently good countries, we can't find a way to dispatch rogue regimes like we see in Syria, North Korea or beyond? I know it's complicated. I know there are a lot of players. This isn't a critique of anyone. But these are two countries. One starves and tortures it's own people and the other launches chemical attacks against theirs. I don't know what the answer is, but there has to be a way to stop this.

So, where do we go from here? Look for ways to promote peace. Look for ways to promote an end to the slaughter of innocents. Look for ways to promote truth. Look for ways to do all of those things in a unified fashion as a country and with our allies across the globe. 

It won't be easy and I don't have all of the answers, but that is the task at hand today.

I'm a politically independent blogger and podcaster who is often wrong but insists on writing about politics anyway. Follow me on Facebook at this link here.

With Republican Failure On Healthcare, These 3 Things Changed Immediately

House Republicans pulled their bill that would have overhauled Obamacare today. With Democrats united against it, they couldn't pull off the balancing act needed between hardline conservatives looking for as much of a repeal as possible, and moderates who wanted to keep many of the provisions.

This could be a game changer for Republicans, including the president. Here are 3 things that changed immediately with the Republican failure:

1) Trump lost his image as the in-control closer. Donald Trump fancied himself throughout his entire business career as being a closer. That was the big asset he was going to bring to the presidency. That was what he needed to do this time around to get the vote passed. He couldn't do it. Not only that, but in the lead up to the vote, he tried to get Republicans on board with threats (vote yes or lose your seat in the next election). Donald the Authoritarian didn't seem to scare anyone off.

2) Paul Ryan's speakership may be in trouble. Donald Trump isn't the only one for Republicans to blame. This was House Speaker Paul Ryan's failure more than anyone else's. Reports say the president didn't want to immediately tackle health care, and instead wanted to focus on things that could have been quick, consensus-building wins, like infrastructure improvements. Instead, it was Ryan who convinced Trump and his team that Obamacare repeal should be their first priority. That strategy is all well and good if you have the votes. But they didn't have the votes. Why would you force the bill if you don't have the votes? Why would you force the issue when the bill has a terrible approval rating? That's a mistake that falls squarely on Paul Ryan. Will he be able to overcome it?

3) Republicans disunity went on full display. Republicans wanted everyone to believe they were united and ready to govern. This shows that they aren't. There are a group of ultra-conservatives out there who, as this bill shows, are very far away from the more moderate wing of the party. Expect both groups to blame Trump and blame Paul Ryan, which in the end will help create on very dysfunctional family.

Democrats shouldn't relax. Republicans still have a long time to roll back Obamacare. For now, however, they can enjoy their win thanks to a Republican party that decided to do too much, too fast.

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 here. 

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.

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

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.