David Brooks Forces The Educated Left To Look In The Mirror, And They Don't Like What They See

In July 2017, David Brooks, a moderate conservative columnist for the New York Times, wrote a piece that rankled the more left of center.

There was no bomb throwing. Just an observation about the educated class that Books considered himself a part of. 

He tells the story of taking a friend with only a high school education, insensitively (as he tells it), into a gourmet sandwich shop that uses high-end, hard-to-pronounce ingredients. The friend is uncomfortable, and they wind up going out for Mexican. 

He used the story as one example of how the educated class often excludes the non-educated class, and how that contributes to the class divide. 

“To feel at home in opportunity rich areas, you’ve got to understand the right barre techniques, sport the right baby carrier, have the right podcast, food truck, tea, wine and Pilates tastes, not to mention posses the right attitudes about David Foster Wallace, child rearing, gender norms, and intersectionality.”

“It’s not really the prices that ensure 80 percent of your co-shoppers at Whole Foods are, comfortingly, also college grads; it’s the cultural codes.”

One thing that seems to have rankled the more left of center is that he didn’t touch on the things liberals consider to be a contributing factor in inequality. Lack of public school funding was never mentioned. He didn’t blame Republicans for wanting tax cuts for the rich. You get the idea.

Reasonable people can disagree on those things, but the very fact that people reacted to such a benign column is telling. This column touched a nerve, and the nerve it touched doesn’t have anything to do with tax policy. David Brooks held up a mirror to the educated class, and many didn't like what they saw.

The truth that David Brooks revealed in his column is that for all of the educated class’s well-meaning, the people they often say they want to help are never going to be them. They will never fit inside the upscale areas of the city with its yoga studios, high-end shopping and dining establishments, and they certainly won’t fit in any sort of cultural environment with them, socially or in business.

The educated class simply won't let them.

Does this make the educated class the bad guy? 

No. Exclusion and tribalism infect all cultures and classes. An elite going into a more working class area may easily find himself on the outside if he doesn’t know much about tools, or hunting, or auto mechanics. Your artistic elites do their excluding when their tastes in music and art and writing get more and more obscure. Christians do it in churches with their own lingo that makes it clear to people who don't go to church as often that they aren't them.  

Exclusion, and tribalism, are human problems. As humans, we all do this. 

And maybe that's precisely what has bothered so many of the well-heeled, left-of-center individuals who read Brooks's column. After all, discussion about how other groups exclude and marginalize others is certainly within the purview of lofty, educated discussion.

Perhaps what bothered them the most was finding out that, in some matters, they're no better than everyone else.

I'm a politically independent blogger and podcaster who is often wrong but insists on writing about politics anyway. If you enjoyed this post, you absolutely have to follow me on Facebook here.

Is Russia Behind The Trump Leaks?

Donald Trump's presidency has been battered by relentless leaks over the Russia scandal? Could Russia, itself, be the source of the leaks? In this episode of Jason Griffin Radio, four reasons why it would make sense for Russia to be involved. 

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In Defense of Columbia

Another Columbia shooting. One dead. Two injured. Cue the anti-Columbia posts from some in the city and surrounding areas lamenting “how bad things have gotten” and how this is all because the city “cares more about parks than hiring more police officers.”

I get it. Seeing a shooting in the news is scary. And as Columbia has grown, it seems as if violence happens more often.

But I also know our political climate is one where people like to blame others and get in their digs when things are done differently than they would do in their community, or when blaming is easier than seeking to put the problem in context.

I don’t fault people for feeling the way they do. I hate seeing these shootings as well. I hate that people have lost loved ones. I hate the fear they cause. I hate the bad rap they give our community.

But if you want to know the truth, I love living in Columbia, have loved living here for 15 years, and no, I don’t feel unsafe when I go out at night.

Context is everything, and often that is what is missing from the news coverage about violence in our city.

So far, this year, a quick search of the news and police records show that Columbia has had 5 homicides. And yes, that is a problem. If this trend continues, we could see 10 before the year is out.

But how many of the homicides and shootings are the result of some truly innocent victim getting shot versus someone getting involved with groups of people that they shouldn’t have gotten involved with? I want to be clear that I’m not blaming the victims, but the truth of the matter is that for someone keeping their nose decently clean, your chances of being involved in a homicide are very, very low.

And let’s keep in mind that Columbia isn’t the same size it used to be. When I first moved to the city in 2002, the most recent 2000 Census put our population at 84,531. The most recent Census estimate for 2016 puts that number at 120,612.

Columbia, in just 15 years, has literally grown by 36,000 people, essentially adding a Jefferson City to its population numbers. With an increase in population, unfortunately, comes an increase in crime.

While we’re talking about Jefferson City, let’s not forget that they have had 3 homicide investigations this year. The current population of Jefferson City is 43,112. That’s one third the population, more than half the homicides.

If you’re betting the odds on where you’re most likely to get murdered, which city would you pick?

Maybe your answer is neither. Perhaps a smaller place like Moberly is more for you. They’ve had 3 homicides in 2017. Their population 13,890. With that homicide rate, if they were the size of Columbia, they would be on their 26th homicide right now.

Believe me, I’m not trying to bury my head in the sand here and act like this violence isn’t a problem. I get it. As a parent, yes, it scares me, too. Yes, I want it fixed and fixed now, too. 

But what I'm sick and tired of is people using it as an excuse to criticize the city.

I hear this kind of talk from some quarters of the people who live here. I also hear it from others outside of Columbia who seem to want to knock the way of life here. Although I can’t put my finger on it, I’m not so sure some of it doesn’t stem from a little red state versus blue state (or in this case, blue island) that is infecting our American discourse. Or, maybe it's small-town, big-city envy. We're not that big of a place, but we're the biggest in the area. I know big-city envy first hand from growing up in Southern Illinois listening to how awful Chicago was. (At last count, less then 200,000 call the 2-county metro area I grew up in home, while 9 million people have chosen to live in Chicago).

“All the shootings. All the protests!” (See “Concerned Student 1950” if you aren’t familiar.) Man, I would sure hate to live there!”

Except for it doesn’t seem that people hate it here when I walk around the city. Last I checked, people aren’t heading out in droves to Fulton or Mexico or Boonville or some other small town just to spend a day. I walk around downtown Columbia and see it packed with people. When is the last time you saw a packed downtown Jefferson City on just a random day outside of a planned event?

And let’s talk about the parks for a minute. Is it fair to say we’ve funded parks at the expense of the police department?

If you want to spin it that way, that’s your right. But here’s the truth behind that. Some years ago, Columbia residents were offered a chance to increase their sales tax to give parks more money. They voted yes. Some years later, residents were offered the opportunity to significantly increase their property taxes, with some saying that was the only way to fund more police officers, and residents said no. Two separate issues, two separate votes.

And, you know what? I like those parks. Those parks are one reason people want to live here. It’s because of those parks that the Show-Me State Games come to town every year, drawing visitors from across the state. I would venture to say that those parks help keep some kids of trouble.

The truth is, people are moving here because it's a great place to live. National media puts Columbia on lists because we're a nice place to live. 

And do we have problems? Of course we do. Is everything perfect with our city government? Where is it ever? Is the violence a concern? Yes, absolutely. 

But is now the time to pull the panic alarm, like some residents and ratings-driven media people seem to be ready to do, because the place is going up in flames?

I think the answer is no.

I still love Columbia, Mo.

I'm a CoMo based, politically-independent blogger, podcaster and former talk-radio host. Often wrong, I insist on writing about politics anyway. You should absolutely follow me on Facebook here.

The Megyn Kelly, Alex Jones Interview Is An Inappropriate, Unnecessary Stunt.

There's only one reason why NBC and Megyn Kelly conducted an interview with Alex Jones.


The whole thing is an inappropriate and unnecessary stunt.

Alex Jones is a controversial talk radio host who has promoted several outlandish conspiracy theories, including the most disgusting of all, that the Sandy Hook massacre was a false flag operation.

Just the very thought of giving this individual air time has outraged parents of the children killed at Sandy Hook, who can't believe that NBC and Kelly would give airtime to someone who has promoted remarks they find so abhorrent. 

Kelly has tried to defend this interview as simply trying to understand a controversial and influential figure. "I find Alex Jones's suggestion that Sandy Hook was 'a hoax' as personally revolting as every other rational person does," Kelly said in a statement. "It left me, and many other Americans, asking the very question that prompted this interview: How does Jones, who traffics in these outrageous conspiracy theories, have the respect of the president of the United States and a growing audience of millions?"

I suppose those are valid questions. If I really thought this interview was going to give us those answers, I would be eager to hear them. 

But those answers don't seem likely to be coming. No, the clips seen so far seem to indicate this is simply about bringing the freak show and the controversy to NBC for maximum ratings gain.

As far as any redeeming value, what will we get? What new piece of information will we learn that will change our understanding of the world? In what way will Alex Jones be held accountable other than Kelly's let's-try-to-look-tough, "That's a dodge," line? What will be different on Monday after this airs?

Nothing, of course, is the most likely answer. Nothing except Alex Jones, who says that Sandy Hook was a hoax, will get free publicity and an opportunity to make his outrageous claims to millions. Nothing except that NBC will get ratings.

And nothing, of course, except that parents, friends and family of those killed at Sandy Hook will get victimized just a little bit more.

No, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to see this exactly for what it is, which is a stunt, and to try to make it more than that insults our collective intelligence.

Considering the pain this interview will cause those who grieve the loss of life at Sandy Hook, 9/11, and other acts Jones has claimed as hoaxes, and considering the lack of any redeeming news value, this is an interview that should never air. It's unworthy of the airtime it will receive and the label of serious news from a national broadcaster. 

Let's hope NBC does better in the future. 

I'm a politically independent blogger and podcaster who is often wrong but insists on writing about politics anyway. If you enjoyed this post, you absolutely have to (come on, do it!) follow me on Facebook here.

It's Not the Crime It's the Cover Up; And Like the Travel Ban, It's Trump's Own Words That Hurt Him Most

President Donald Trump's own words were used against him when the courts ruled against his travel bans. Could it be his own words that do him in on obstruction of justice charges?

Even before Trump took office, there were questions about whether the Trump campaign colluded with the Russians on influencing the outcome of the election. Did collusion happen? Who all was involved? Did the president know? Those were, and are, the questions the American people have been asking. 

But as much as it might be a dream come true for some Trump haters should it turn out the president be involved with Russia, that is a charge that is far from proven. 

The way the president explained it when he fired FBI Director James Comey, Comey had assured Trump on three separate occasions that he wasn't the subject of an investigation.

And the president's words seem to be backed up by none other than James Comey himself. During testimony in front of the Senate, Comey testified that he had indeed told the president that he personally wasn't under investigation at the time, although he did note that could change.

"I discussed with the FBI's leadership team whether I should be prepared to assure President-Elect Trump that we were not investigating him personally. That was true," said Comey in prepared remarks ahead of his testimony. "Without him directly asking the question, I offered that assurance."

But like America learned during the Watergate scandal, it isn't always the crime, but the cover up, that can do you in.

Richard Nixon resigned rather than face impeachment during that scandal, not because he was accused of breaking into the Watergate Hotel, or even because it was thought he knew about it in advance. It was because he tried to cover it up.

Now we learn that Trump is under investigation for potential obstruction of justice charges in the current Russia scandal. Why?

According to Comey's testimony, President Trump wanted this investigation to go away, and expressed this desire to him.

"I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go. He's a good guy. I hope you can let this go," Comey says the president told him.

But that statement isn't enough to say with certainty that Trump was trying to thwart the investigation. That type of statement could simply be construed that Mr. Trump was simply expressing that he would like the investigation to be ended, not that he was ordering or demanding that it go away.

No, the real trouble for Mr. Trump happens when you look at his intent as a whole, and this is where the president's own words get him in trouble once again.

"When I decided to just do it, I said to myself, I said: ‘You know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made up story, it’s an excuse by the Democrats for having lost an election that they should’ve won,’” Trump admitted in an interview with NBC News.

Trump got in trouble with the courts because of his own words with the travel ban. He couldn't argue it wasn't about banning Muslims when he, himself, had said during the campaign he wanted to ban Muslims. Now, he is facing an obstruction of justice investigation because he, himself, said that part of the reason he fired James Comey was because of an investigation he wanted to go away.

It's not always the crime, but the cover up, and it looks like the president is in for a long summer.

I'm a politically independent blogger and podcaster who is often wrong but insists on writing about politics anyway. If you enjoyed this post, you absolutely have to (come on, do it!) follow me on Facebook here.

Admit It: You Weren't Really That Offended by Kathy Griffin's Stunt

Happy Saturday morning. 

I know everyone in the outrage industry has moved on to the Comey testimony and whether or not Donald Trump's actions asking for him to end his Russia investigation amounted to obstruction of justice. 

As it should, but can we jump back to the Kathy Griffin thing? For just a moment?

I know this is old news, but with hindsight being 20/20, maybe we should all take a moment to admit that we weren't that offended by it.

To be clear, I'm not simply saying that I wasn't offended by it, which I wasn't. I'm literally going a step further and saying that those who say they were offended by it weren't really offended by it.

Why would they be?

Kathy Griffin is a comedian who hates Donald Trump. The joke, I'm guessing, is that she hates Donald Trump so much that she wishes she could cut off his head.

"Hey, look at her! Ha ha! She really does hate him. She cut his head off! Get it?"

"That's stupid," Trump supporters and liberals who feel compelled to be fair to both sides will say. On that point, they are right. 

But enough of the righteous indignation where people act like if they had to condemn racially-motivated attacks against Barack Obama that included nooses that you have to condemn Kathy Griffin's joke just as harshly. 

You don't. They aren't the same thing.

Obama in a noose wasn't just simply an attack on Obama, the man. It was an attack designed to mock the millions of black Americans who have faced discrimination and violence simply because of the color of their skin. The people who took part in those lines of attack went after the hopes and dreams of millions of African Americans in one of the cruelest, most-demeaning ways possible.

Kathy Griffin went after one guy with a dumb joke that was over the top and not funny.

Do I feel sorry for her? Not terribly. The crying press conference was a bit much. I'm not a Donald Trump fan, but it's not his fault Kathy Griffin posed with his severed head. Given our polarized politics, she should have known the reaction she got was going to be what it was.

But this post isn't so much about her as it is the millions who piled on with their contributions to the outrage machine, wasting what can only amount to gazillions of hours in lost productivity talking about something that didn't matter. 

In the grand scheme of things, did this really deserve the attention we gave it?

Next time, let's reserve our collective outrage on something that will make a difference.

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.

In Laying Off Staff, Columbia Daily Tribune Condescends and Insults Reader Intelligence

Pruning limbs. That's how the publisher of the Columbia Daily Tribune decided to describe the firing of long-time employees in a column Saturday. 

The newspaper outlet, arguably Columbia's newspaper of record until Saturday, had apparently let several staff members go this past week.

I don't know the particulars. Based on my Facebook feed they include political cartoonist John Darkow. Joe Walljasper, with a history at the paper dating back to 1994, had his final column with the paper published this weekend.

I hope the newspaper's publisher didn't give these employees the same condescending story he tried to give the paper's readers on Saturday night. 

The Tribune, locally owned by the Waters family for over 100 years, sold the paper last year to GateHouse Media. At the time, the Waters family stated that the sale was the best thing for the future of the paper. Enter Rustan Burtun, the paper's new publisher, who was hired from a paper in Juneau, Alaska, in January.

Rustin has been apparently studying up on things we like here in Columbia, and it seemingly didn't take him long to learn about everyone's favorite bur oak tree.

Armed with knowledge he must have assumed we would relate to and a need to defend the layoffs, Columbia and the good people at the Columbia Daily Tribune learned first hand what their new publisher thought about them.

"In 2013, the state champion bur oak tree at McBaine was given what this paper referred to as a hefty dose of TLC. Work included removing dead limbs, fertilization, soil aeration and other remedies intended for older trees," Burton said. "This story seems to have much in common with the state of our local newspaper today."

"Like the old oak tree, we have been fighting battles on many fronts," Burton went on to say. "And like the tree, every once in a while we need a bit of TLC."

Just in case you didn't get the point... "Pruning isn't as painful for a tree as it is an organization, but the result of not doing it can be just as catastrophic. A tree left unpruned can weigh itself down so much that it can break apart when the next storm hits," said Burton. "We understand that you may be unhappy that we pruned some limbs, but we hope you will be glad that we are still here with deep roots.

What a way to let them know you care. 

I'm not going to act like Burton doesn't have a tough job. Newspaper ad revenue is down. I understand, first hand, economics and tough choices. I've been a part of letting people go. It's tough and nobody likes it. But when the revenue isn't there, it isn't there, and people lose jobs.

But these people aren't limbs. I don't know a single one if them, but I know the media business, and I know from what the paper used to be that these people worked their ass off for their community and for the Columbia Daily Tribune. I know they are probably scared to death right now about what they are going to do next. What do they do and where do they go when their whole professional life has been devoted to a craft in less demand?

These are real people. And the fact that their dismissals were compared to yard work is disgusting. The fact that their dismissals were followed up with a column that was half defending the decisions and half sales job was just as disgusting.

I hope Rustan Burton will forgive me when I say that, as a result of these terminations, I just can't get too excited when he points out that, "We are making software upgrades," or that, "Our advertising team has been training intensely on an entire new suite of some of the best digital advertising products in the country."

I'll bet Joe Walljasper and John Darkow and all of the others don't really care, either.

I don't know Rustan Burton or his motivations. What I do know is that some of the people let go were devoted to this city and to their craft. 

If this column is any indication of what Rustan Burton thinks of his people, this city, and the readers of the Columbia Daily Tribune, I hope his stay is short. My advice for him if he wants to be here for the long haul is to think of the people who create his product as real people rather than excess plant trimmings, and to stop insulting the intelligence of his readers. 

Welcome to Columbia, Rustan. 

I'm a former Columbia, Mo. radio host, political blogger and advocate for better media. If you appreciated this post and want to see more like it, please follow me on Facebook here.

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?"


"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.