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Monday, October 31, 2016

The FBI, Comey, and Poison Letters


Emails, emails, emails … emails ad nauseam. The latest email fiasco smells to high heaven.

Just days before the election, FBI Director James Comey sent a letter with very little detail and facts to members of Congress that seemed to be related to Hillary Clinton's controversial use of a private email server as U.S. Secretary of State. The letter was so sketchy that nothing significant was revealed.

Apparently, these emails were discovered as part of an investigation into former New York congressman Anthony Weiner, who is suspected of having sexually charged communications with a 15-year-old girl. Investigators discovered the emails while looking into devices used by Weiner. Weiner is married to – and currently separated from – longtime Clinton aide Huma Abedin, who had access to the same device or devices. The link to Clinton is evidently second-hand at best.

The FBI obtained a warrant to begin a review of the emails. The Wall Street Journal reported that there may be as many as 650,000 emails on the laptop, but it is unclear how many may be relevant to the Clinton email server investigation. This makes many wonder why Comey would reveal information about such a voluminous amount of communication that he thinks requires review at this particular time.


Pure Speculation

First of all, no one knows if anything in these emails is pertinent to Clinton's use of a private server during her time as Secretary of State, and no one knows whether any classified information could have any bearing on previous investigations. It appears that Comey sent the letter without knowing if any of the emails were marked “classified” or if they were duplicates of those already in the FBI’s possession. Speculation without detail is very troubling.

Comey could not even put a timetable on how long it will take to review the new material. Officials believe such a task could not be completed before election day.

Although Comey said he believed it was important to send the letter “in light of my previous testimony,” a bipartisan group of nearly 100 former federal prosecutors and senior Department of Justice officials, including former Attorney General Eric Holder, have signed a letter saying they were "astonished" and "perplexed" by Comey's decision.

The authors of the letter said they were "moved" to speak out publicly because Comey's action violated "settled" DOJ tenets. Justice Department officials are instructed to refrain from commenting publicly on pending investigations except in "exceptional circumstances," as well as to "exercise heightened restraint near the time of a primary or general election," said the letter.

(Pierre Thomas. “Former Attorney General Holder and Other Former DOJ Officials Pen Letter Criticizing Comey.” ABC News. October 30, 2016.)

Attorney General Loretta Lynch objected to Comey's decision to notify Congress that the FBI was reviewint the newly discovered email. Lynch based her objection on a long-held Justice Department policy that federal authorities should not take any action that may interfere with an election.

(Kevin Johnson and Richard Wolf. “Attorney General Lynch objected to FBI director going public with email review.” USA Today. October 29, 2016.)

Of course, Clinton campaign officials urged Comey to provide more details since the letter is fueling conspiracy theories that could hurt Hillary Clinton's bid for the presidency. Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid sent a letter to Comey that said his disclosure to Congress, made 11 days before the election, might have violated the Hatch Act, which prohibits partisan politicking by government employees.

“Your actions in recent months have demonstrated a disturbing double standard for the treatment of sensitive information, with what appears to be a clear intent to aid one political party over another,” Reid wrote.

(Mike DeBonis. “Harry Reid says Comey ‘may have broken the law’ by disclosing new Clinton-related emails. The Washington Post. October 30, 2016.)

Georgetown University law professor David Vladeck said, “I do not think he has committed a crime.” But, he said, “I do think he has abused his office.”

“Prosecutors have no warrant to characterize the behavior of someone not charged with a crime,” Vladeck said. “And it is grossly inappropriate for a prosecutor to fan political flames when there is no basis to even suggest any unlawful conduct.”

Deja Vu All Over Again 
Didn't the FBI already clear Clinton of charges about the private server? In July, Attorney General Loretta Lynch said she would follow Comey’s recommendation not to pursue charges regarding Clinton’s private e-mail server. Then, Comey said that 110 e-mails sent to or from the server contained classified information but “no reasonable prosecutor” would bring charges in this scenario.

Now, as many Americans determine for whom to cast their votes, Comey claims he needs to “supplement” his previous testimony. In the meantime, all of this new, vague complication once more has Clinton's opposition calling for complete transparency and insisting on the need to know the truth. In all fairness, the pertinence of these Weiner emails to any criminal conduct by Clinton may be nil. Why the FBI would choose to act without proper cause is even more disturbing than whatever content may be contained in the questionable emails.

The truth? The truth is that Comey's letter has already damaged the Clinton campaign. And, the truth is that presently the emails have absolutely no “pertinence” whatsoever to Clinton's investigation.” In his letter to Congress, Comey admitted “the FBI cannot yet assess whether or not this material may be significant.” The biggest truth is that Comey's lack of proper assessment and his poor judgment could negatively influence what many are calling the most important election in their lifetime. The political implications reek of manipulation and improper influence.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Beautiful Is In the Brain



This ringing endorsement that something or someone is aesthetically pleasing remains an often used adjective to describe an appeal with a very high standard of excellence. Yet, what common standards do we employ in the judgment of beauty? Can they even be articulated?

Philosophers have long been interested in beauty. The nature of beauty is one of the most enduring and controversial themes in Western philosophy. The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy states that beauty has “traditionally been counted among the ultimate values, with goodness, truth, and justice.”

Beauty is a primary theme among ancient Greek, Hellenistic, and medieval philosophers. And, it was central to eighteenth and nineteenth-century thought, as represented in treatments by such thinkers as Shaftesbury, Hutcheson, Hume, Burke, Kant, Schiller, Hegel, Schopenhauer, Hanslick, and Santayana. By the beginning of the twentieth century, beauty was in decline as a subject of philosophical inquiry, and also as a primary goal of the arts. However, there were signs of revived interest by the early 2000s.

Is beauty subjective – located ‘in the eye of the beholder’-- or is it an objective feature of things?
Camps of thought include:

  • The classical conception is that beauty consists of an arrangement of integral parts into a coherent whole, according to proportion, harmony, symmetry, and similar notions.
  • The idealist conception is conceived – in contrast to the classical aesthetics of integral parts and coherent whole – as perfect unity, or indeed as the principle of unity itself.
  • Also, some ascribe to a theory based in the ancient tradition of “love and longing” and profess that beauty is related to qualities in bodies, “by which they cause love, or some passion similar to it.”
  • Many hedonistic thinkers of the 18th century accounted for beauty in terms of pleasure. “By beautiful we generally understand whatever, when seen, heard, or understood, delights, pleases, and ravishes us by causing within us agreeable sensations.”
  • Philosophers in the Kantian tradition identify the experience of beauty with disinterested pleasure, psychical distance, and the like, and contrast the aesthetic with the practical. “Taste is the faculty of judging an object or mode of representing it by an entirely disinterested satisfaction or dissatisfaction. The object of such satisfaction is called beautiful.”
(Crispin Sartwell. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. 2016.)

All of these philosophies seem to apply to our concept of beauty. Yet, the boundaries of aesthetics stretch beyond this thought. There are so many times we experience awe associated with beauty and feel totally unsure of what has struck us as “beautiful.” Could such a common appraisal be somehow explained? Is there some way we can know what strikes us as intensely beautiful?
Well …

Tomohiro Ishizu and Semir Zeki from University College London conducted research that found that people from all kinds of different cultural/gender/age backgrounds have a similar response to works of visual art and music they believe possess beauty.

Zeki found, by examining MRI images of his subjects’ brains, that when people look at something they find beautiful, a portion in the front part of the brain called the medial orbito-frontal cortex “lights up.” That is, there’s increased blood flow in this area. He believes it’s a near-universal response to beauty.
The visual stimuli included paintings of portraits, landscapes and still lifes … The auditory stimuli included classical and modern excerpts.
The research team emphasizes their theory is tentative and will “stand or fall” with future theories. They wrote:

“Our proposal shifts the definition of beauty very much in favor of the perceiving subject and away from the characteristics of the apprehended object. Our definition… is also indifferent to what is art and what is not art. Almost anything can be considered to be art, but only creations whose experience has, as a correlate, activity in mOFC (medial orbitofrontal cortex) would fall into the classification of beautiful art… A painting by Francis Bacon may be executed in a painterly style and have great artistic merit but may not qualify as beautiful to a subject, because the experience of viewing it does not correlate with activity in his or her mOFC.”

(Tomohiro Ishizu and Semir Zeki. “Toward A Brain-Based Theory of Beauty.”  
PloS. July 06, 2011.)

By contrast, Zeki said, he found that when people see something that’s aesthetically displeasing – something they find ugly – it lights up a completely different part of the brain ( the amygdyla).

This study doesn’t necessarily mean that all forms of beauty are represented in the same way in the brain, and, granted, other parts of the brain could play a role. Yet, it does confirm that seeking beauty is seeking to reward our pleasure centers and stimulate us with dopamine, the feel-good chemical of the brain. The degree of activity in the medial orbito-frontal cortex correlates very strongly to the degree to which we find a thing attractive.


To close, it seems that our brains find common ground in beauty even if we are unable to articulate exactly what is “beautiful.” I'm not sure of all the implications of this finding; however, anything that increases dopamine is sure to have lasting appeal. This view of beauty makes one think of the id, the personality component made up of unconscious psychic energy that works to satisfy basic urges, needs and desires. After all, the id acts according to the pleasure principle. Beauty surely stimulates the id.

The id relies on the primary process to temporarily relieve the tension. The primary process involves creating a mental image either through daydreaming, fantasizing, hallucinating, or some other process.

Freud believed the id is a reservoir of instinctual energy and also compared it to a "cauldron of seething excitations" with no real organization.

Who hasn't seen something unresistably alluring, found themselves in that steamy bucket of admiration, and set sail for the life fantastic? Blame it on your happy mOFC – it just took a sweet hit for the beautiful.

What photos do you think qualify as “beautiful”?

Monday, October 24, 2016

Drug Distribution: The Story of Miami Luken and the Temponeras Connection


For at least 10 years, the United States government fought a behind-the-scenes war against pharmaceutical companies – wholesale distributors of prescription narcotics that shipped drugs from manufacturers to consumers. The Drug Enforcement Administration targeted these middlemen to force companies to police their own drug shipments. This would keep millions of pills out of the hands of abusers and dealers, and it would be much more effective than taking the fight against diversion to each drug store and pain clinic.

Many companies complied and held back drugs. Some did not. 13 companies identified by The Washington Post knew or should have known that hundreds of millions of pills were ending up on the black market, according to court records, DEA documents and legal settlements in administrative cases. Even when they were alerted to suspicious pain clinics or pharmacies by the DEA and their own employees, some distributors ignored the warnings and continued to send drugs.

The 13 companies – large and small distibutors – included Fortune 25 giants McKesson, Cardinal Health and AmerisourceBergen (which together control about 85 percent of all pharmaceutical distribution in the United States) and regional wholesalers such as Miami-Luken and KeySource Medical, both based in Ohio, as well as Walgreens, the nation’s largest retail drugstore chain.

I am using the article from the Post written by Lenny Bernstein, David S. Fallis, and Scott Higham to relate details of a report with significant local interest. I know I am taking content from the original source. My purpose is to inform readers about the tragic events of what has become known as the Scioto County Pill Mill Era.

I beg all readers to read The Washington Post article in its entirety for the best perspective. I pray the reporters will understand my significant plagiarism. I condensed content and copied material for distribution purposes. I thank them for writing the account.

The Story of Miami-Luken and the Temponeras Connection

Starting in 2011, the DEA had repeatedly warned Miami-Luken, an Ohio-based distributor, about suspicious sales of opioids, according to Jim Geldhof, then the agency’s program manager in Detroit. The DEA spoke to the management of the company and warned them they had to look at their sales.

Yet investigators couldn’t persuade lawyers at the DEA headquarters to allow them to take action.
Geldhof said orders to show “cause” that he requested in 2013 were not even issued until November 2015. The matter sat there for two years while Geldhof, who was unsure of the cause for delay, told officials, “You tell us what you want and we’ll give it to you.”

Even employees of Miami-Luken, the drug wholesaler, reported seeing troubling signs. Two of them reported “up the chain” – Cindy Willet, a pharmaceutical buyer, and a customer-service representative were concerned about large oxycodone orders by a particular southern Ohio pain clinic.Their warnings reached senior company officials, including then-chief executive Anthony Rattini. But little changed.

Frustrated about the inaction, Willet told investigators in 2015 that she eventually “stopped talking to (Rattini) about her concerns because he wasn’t doing anything about it. It was as if it was falling on deaf ears. Tony never stopped an order.”

The pain clinic in question was no other than Unique Pain Management, based in Wheelersburg, Ohio, in the epicenter of the opioid epidemic.

The clinic was run by a father-daughter team of physicians, John and Margaret (Margy) Temponeras. Between December 2009 and June 2010, the clinic’s monthly orders of oxycodone rose from 67,800 doses to 104,400.

Despite signs that something was wrong, Miami-Luken did not investigate the dramatic increase, according to the DEA. “Miami-Luken not only continued to ship Dr. (Margy) Temponeras oxycodone, but also shipped increased amounts,” the DEA alleged.

However, Margy Temponeras ordered so much OxyContin from Miami-Luken that in August 2010 she drew the attention of Purdue Pharma, the drug’s manufacturer. Purdue cut Miami-Luken’s OxyContin supply by 20 percent, prompting Miami-Luken to halt drug shipments to Temponeras, records show.

Last year, a federal grand jury indicted the Temponerases and a pharmacist on charges that they conspired to illegally sell medication, alleging that at least eight people had died of overdoses connected to the drugs.

Three of those people died while the clinic was receiving drugs from Miami-Luken between November 2008 and August 2010, according to the indictment and DEA records. It is unclear whether Margy Temponeras also purchased drugs from other distributors, or whether any of those who died consumed drugs distributed by Miami-Luken.

The Temponerases are scheduled to stand trial early next year (2017). Their attorneys declined to comment to the Washington Post. An attorney for the pharmacist, Raymond Fankell, who is also scheduled to stand trial next year, said Fankell’s involvement was limited to helping Margy Temponeras set up the dispensary in her office and to filling her prescriptions at his drugstore.

During one of their interviews with Rattini, DEA investigators asked how the company documented suspicious orders. Rattini pointed to his compliance officer, who put a finger to his head. “It’s all just up here,” he said.

The agency is now attempting to revoke Miami-Luken’s license. The company has asked for a hearing before a DEA administrative law judge and is battling the DEA in federal court over a subpoena for agency records.

(Lenny Bernstein, David S. Fallis, and Scott Higham. “How drugs intended for patients ended up in the hands of illegal users: ‘No one was doing their job.'” The Washington Post. October 22, 2016.)

Please read the entire article by clicking here: 

Margaret Temponeras, John Temponeras, and Raymond Fankell were charged with illegally running a pain clinic and distributing pain killers not for a legitimate purpose and outside the scope of medical practice.

Their office was raided by the FBI and DEA in 2011. At the time Margaret Temponeras' license was suspended in 2013, she was referred to as "one of the largest dispensers of controlled substances in the United States."

WSAZ News said investigators reported that Margaret and John Temponeras would "examine" more than 20 customers per day and would provide large amounts of prescription medications to the customers who they likely knew where drug addicts who were diverting or selling the medication.

Investigators said the Temponeras' would charged at least $200 per office visit, only accepted cash, and would not accept insurance payments.

The Temponeras' would allegedly refer patients to Fankell to fill the prescriptions.

The indictment alleges that once local pharmacies refused to fill prescriptions ordered by the Temponeras, the Temponeras had Fankell train a pharmacy technician to work at a dispensary at the pain management clinic. The dispensary was called Unique Relief LLC. They only accepted cash payment and a limited number of insurance payments for filling prescriptions.

The indictment lists the following as those whose deaths have been linked to the Temponeras:

Thomas Austin: September 26, 2008
James Smith: October 3, 2008
Monte Loop, Jr: October 8, 2008
Troy Dummitt: January 15, 2009
William Stapleton: April 29, 2009
Ira Marsh: Ocyober 29, 2009
James Tolliver: November 6, 2010
William Darby: March 1, 2011

The three are charged with two counts of illegally distributing medication, which each carry a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a million dollar fine, these charges also carry an enhanced penalty of 20 years to life in prison if death resulted. John Temponeras and Raymond Fankell were charged with one count and Margaret Temponeras with two counts of maintaining a place for the purpose of distributing controlled substance, a crime punishable by up to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $500,000. 

(“UPDATE: Three Face Federal Indictment for Wheelersburg Pill Mill.” WSAZ 3 News. 
June 18, 2015.)

Thursday, October 20, 2016

The Race For Scioto County Sheriff -- Needed Reforms


The race for Sheriff of Scioto County demands our attention. I believe we need change and a new, concerted effort to increase transparency and to improve community interaction. There are several steps that could be taken to accomplish these goals. I hope the sheriff, whoever it may be, will work on some important reforms. I believe strongly this is needed in Scioto County. Allow me to address the actions I believe should be taken.

Body Cameras

The Scioto County Sheriffs Department should purchase and use body cameras.

Of course, privacy issues exist. A few legislators have argued that all footage from these cameras should be exempt from state opens records law. In addition, some enforcement officers are skeptical about the equipment, claiming that body cameras wouldn’t change their willingness to use force during an arrest.

Body cameras are not a quick and easy fix for all problems related to police transparency and accountability. However, a new study shows that equipping police with body cameras may be an effective way to improve the behavior of officers and the public with which they interact.

Researchers at the University of South Florida released a report of a yearlong body-worn camera pilot program at the Orlando Police Department, in which they randomly selected 46 officers to wear the devices and compared them against 43 officers who did not.

In the 12 months from March 2014 through February 2015, use-of-force incidents — also known as “response to resistance” incidents — dropped 53 percent among officers with the cameras. Civilian complaints against those officers also saw a 65 percent decline.

The study also showed significant reductions in the number of civilian injuries by officers wearing body cameras, and of injuries to the officers themselves.

Officers who didn’t wear body cameras in the study also used force fewer times over the year, though the drop-off was less substantial.

Dr. Wesley G. Jennings, principal investigator for the study and associate chair in USF’s Department of Criminology, said officers in Orlando were initially skeptical about the equipment, with some claiming that body cameras wouldn’t change their willingness to use force during an arrest. The statistics appear to tell a different story, even though only one in four officers in the study agreed that wearing the devices had any impact on their behavior in the field.

Many officers reported that the equipment changed citizen behavior and helped to de-escalate confrontations between civilians and police. They also said body cameras improved evidence collection, and helped them more accurately recollect events and fill out reports. According to Jennings, most officers didn’t feel burdened by the body cameras.

(Press Release. “University of South Florida Study Finds Police Body-Worn Cameras Reduce Citizen Complaints, Positively Influence Officer Behavior, Change Attitudes.” October 13, 2015.)

Naloxone (Narcan)

In the throes of an opioid overdose epidemic, Scioto first responders – including the Sheriffs Department should carry and administer naloxone. The horrible death toll incurred by substance abuse would be much worse if not for naloxone.

The Ohio Department of Health states Naloxone (also known as Narcan®) is a medication that can reverse an overdose that is caused by an opioid drug. When administered during an overdose, Naloxone blocks the effects of opioids on the brain and restores breathing within two to eight minutes. Naloxone has been used safely by emergency medical professionals for more than 40 years and has only one function: to reverse the effects of opioids on the brain and respiratory system in order to prevent death. Naloxone has no potential for abuse.

Per the Ohio Revised Code Section 2925.61(D) a peace officer employed by a law enforcement agency is not subject to administrative action or criminal prosecution if the peace officer, acting in good faith, obtains naloxone from the peace officer's law enforcement agency and administers the naloxone to an individual who is apparently experiencing an opioid-related overdose.

In addition per the Ohio Revised Code Section 4729.51, a law enforcement agency is not subject to licensure as a terminal distributor of dangerous drugs for the sole purposeof possessing naloxone. Thisrecent change permits law enforcement agencies to purchase naloxone from wholesalers or other terminal distributors without a license by the State of Ohio Board of Pharmacy.

(Updated Ohio Code. “Law Enforcement Agencies Seeking to Obtain Naloxone Hydrochloride – Narcan® October 04, 2016.)

Lisa Roberts, with the Portsmouth City Health Department in Scioto County, calls naloxone “a superhero” for its life-saving abilities. Roberts’ agency was the first in the state to have a naloxone program, named Project Dawn in honor of a young mother there who died from an overdose.

Other health officials in Ohio believe naloxone admistration is vital. AIDS Resource Center Ohio Chief Operating Officer Peggy Anderson, explains the role of the substance in saving lives of those who overdose: “If we lose them to an overdose then we have lost an opportunity to have a productive life in the future.”

In 2015 alone, Ohio EMS personnel administered naloxone 19,782 times.

The administration saves lives. Monroe, Michigan, police Chief Charles McCormick IV recently updated the Monroe City Council about the department’s use of the drug. McCormick said, “Since the program began in August, six individuals — four men and two women — have been resuscitated through naloxone by these officers. That is six lives saved in just two months.

“The purpose of this new program was to further increase our public safety services to reduce fatal overdoses by allowing public safety officers to carry and administer nasal naloxone to overdose victims,” the chief told the council. “As in so many aspects of public safety, a positive outcome is dependent upon strong teamwork. While an officer is administering the naloxone, another officer is providing rescue breathing.”

(Danielle Portteus. “Police save six lives since training to give naloxone.” The Monroe News. October 20, 2016.)

Mental Health Training

The Scioto County Sheriffs Department should be required to have special training to deal with the mentally impaired.

Enforcement officers deal with those suffering from mental health issues every day. Increasing their knowledge of the mental health care is so important to good policing. It is estimated that about 17.5 million Americans over the age of 18 (or 8 percent of the adult population) had a serious mental health disorder in the past year. Of these, about 4 million people also struggled with a co-occurring drug or alcohol dependency.

Dr. E. Fuller Torrey, a psychiatrist and the founder of the Treatment Advocacy Center, a nonprofit group in Arlington, Virginia., that promotes access to mental health care, said police officers had by default become “the first line of contact” for severely troubled people who once might have gone to a community clinic or mental health crisis center.

Dr. Torrey pointed to San Diego, where calls to the sheriff’s office involving mentally ill people nearly doubled from 2009 to 2011, and to Medford, Oregon, where, he said, the police in 2011 reported “an alarming spike in the number of mentally ill people coming in contact with the police on an almost daily basis.”

In some places in the United States, crisis intervention team training is being is being implemented to help officers identify mental illness and determine the best course of action.

The training (CIT) consists of a 40-hour training program for police forces that educates officers on mental-health issues and medications. It teaches about mental-health services in the local community.
CIT also teaches methods that help de-escalate heated situations by encouraging officers to allow vulnerable individuals to vent their frustrations to reduce the risk of violence from both the police and offenders.

Major Sam Cochran of the Memphis police department, a retired officer and a coordinator of the CIT program, emphasizes that law enforcement should partner with local mental-health agencies:
If communities give attention only to law enforcement, you will fail as a training program. You cannot separate the two.”

These training programs are a step toward preventing injustices for individuals. Providing officers with appropriate training not only improves the ability to handle job stress, but may also provide mentally ill offenders with a chance to receive treatment.

(Fernanda Santos and Erica Goode. “Police Confront Rising Number of Mentally Ill Suspects.” The New York Times. April 01, 2014.)

Lt. Michael Woody, Retired of the Akron, Ohio Police Department said this about determining the effectiveness of initiating CIT training …

“I had to ask myself what values are essential to becoming an effective CIT officer. The single most important skill is the ability to communicate.

“There are those unfortunate officers who have not been given the training to communicate with the public in any situation – and would love to have it. There are also officers for whom it just comes natural to communicate easily with individuals. But, there are officers out there who not only do not know how to talk to people but, don’t want to learn how. Why? Some officers believe that hardnosed command-type vernacular is correct in all situations. After all, FBI studies have shown that an officer who lets his or her guard down and appears “weak” is more likely to get injured or killed.

“But, do you know that this course of action can easily backfire when trying to deal with someone in mental crisis? A mentally ill person needs the calm, caring voice of someone who understands the illness, the medications, the 'voices,'  the support groups available, etc. The uniform can be very frightening to persons in mental crisis. Add to that scenario an officer commanding a person hearing voices to “stop and desist” and the outcome can turn out less than that desired by everyone present."

(Lt. Michael Woody. “The Dutiful Mind: Police Training in Dealing with the Mentally Ill” Connecticut Alliance to Benefit Law Enforcement – CABLE. 2016.)

The Akron Police Department received $1.3 million dollars from the federal government to start up this program. Of the 18,500 police departments across the country that have grants Akron was picked as one of 500 that are being showcased as “Best Use of Funds”. Lt. Woody received the national “The Major Sam Cochran Award for Compassion in Law Enforcement” in 2002 and “The Heart of Gold Award” in 2001 from the Mental Health Board of Summit County. He is currently affiliated with the Northeast Ohio Universities College of Medicine in Rootstown, Ohio.

Mental health training for enforcement officers is proactive. It represents a positive step in public service. It also offers a definite avenue of improving community and police relationships. It may even save an innocent life – the life of a victim of police violence or the life of a responding police person.


We, the public, will cast our ballots in a couple of weeks. It is a simple obligation with far-reaching consequences. We must improve our Sheriffs Office. I think that is something which most of us agree upon. It is my wish that the candidates respond to the voters about exactly how they intend to make needed changes and improvements. The opportunity to elect the best public servant exists. What will we and our sheriff do?


Wednesday, October 19, 2016

The Mike Crabtree Response to a Vile Letter Against Kevin W. Johnson


On October 18, the Kevin W. Johnson for Commissioner Campaign filed a letter with the Scioto County Board of Elections against Mike Crabtree, Scioto County Commissioner, stating,”The Crabtree re-election campaign is engage(d) in a ‘hit and run’ strategy of distributing various materials without attribution; that is, without any ‘Paid for by’ information.”

In an exclusive interview, the Daily Times reported that Mike Crabtree denied the letter came from him or from his campaign. The interview claimed Crabtree said “he would not condone the material because he’s not seen all of it.”

Wayne Allen, Times reporter, wrote in this interview that Crabtree stated ...

'They (material in question) did not come from me or my campaign. I’ve seen a few emails flying my way, urging me to denounce something I’ve not seen,' Crabtree said sitting in his courthouse office Tuesday morning.” (October 18 – my inclusion)
It was also reported “one person” on October 14 asked Crabtree to denounce the material ...

On October 15, one person asked Crabtree to denounce the material. His response to the request was, 'My campaign has not sent out any literature to date. We had nothing to do with the mailer. I only heard of it yesterday evening. It is unfortunate that you are labeling me or my supporters in this way.'”

In his defense, it is reported that Crabtree said his campaign would not be capable of financing such a mailing because he’s trying to gather enough money to fund a mailer of his own. Crabtree said ...

I’ve got friends and he’s got friends and sometimes your friends of someone else does things for their own motivation and sometimes they jump on the bandwagon. The only thing I can tell you, it’s been all I can do to raise money and put enough of my own money to get a few radio ads and I’ve got some flyers I’m going to try to send out. I doubt I can send them all out because I don’t have the money for that, none of my flyers have anything like that on them.” 
When asked about his response to the letter filed with the Scioto County Board of Elections it is reported that Crabtree said ...

It looks to me that he stepped on someone’s toes and they are getting even with him.”

(Wayne Allen. "Candidate files complaint with election board." 
Portsmouth Daily Times. October 18, 2016.)

It is virtually impossible without using forensic evidence to discover the source of the vile letter, and the potential damage to Kevin W. Johnson's campaign has already been done anyway. I have absolutely no idea who composed, sent, and condoned the material. I trust Mike Crabtree had nothing to do with the letter; however, I do not blame Kevin Johnson for being upset and filing his charges against the Crabtree campaign. I hope he finds the criminals who devised and carried out the scheme.

But, you see, there is a much bigger issue here than the race for county commissioner. It is the recognition of a cancer that exists in Scioto County. There is no question that the intent of the letter is to feed the vile prejudice of a segment of the population. Few would admit publicly to being infected by this bigotry, yet we all know it exists. The letter was composed to appeal to homophobes. It was sent out to stir the emotions of this hate group and to sway the vote by igniting those who condemn homosexuality.

I read the Daily Times response from Mike Crabtree. I believe it is sorely lacking. Please, allow me to explain.

This letter must be soundly, unequivocally condemned by all. There is no excuse for the unfounded, contemptible charges in the letter. Everyone should defend Mr. Johnson without making conditions or excuses for the criminal activity. Period. To say I cannot "condone" the material is weak, weak, weak.

If you reread Crabtree's comments as reported by the Times, Crabtree says as of October 18 … I’ve seen a few emails flying my way, urging me to denounce something I’ve not seen.”
I, for one, find it hard to believe Mike Crabtree had not even seen the letter at that point in time. The letter was the talk of the county and it had been for a few days, so for an opponent to say “I have not seen it” is suspect. In fact, he admits hearing about the letter as early as October 14.

My campaign has not sent out any literature to date. We had nothing to do with the mailer. I only heard of it yesterday evening. It is unfortunate that you are labeling me or my supporters in this way.”

When did Mike Crabtree read the letter? You decide. I believe he knew about it and likely read it by October 14. By the way, why is the person who asked him to denounce the letter not named? And, of course, why didn't he denounce it if he had read it?

As he addressed the content of the letter, Crabtree seemed to blame the deed on “your friends of someone else doing things for their own motivation.” What does this mean? I can only assume he believes “friends” may be behind the letter. I think this excuse is weak and, frankly, it amounts to falling miles short of the needed strong condemnation. Such “friends” and such “motivations” are depraved and homophobic.

And, the coup de grâce of transfer is the justification for the letter given by Mike Crabtree. He says …
It looks to me that he stepped on someone’s toes and they are getting even with him.” 

“Getting even”? There is nothing “even” about the letter, nothing that remotely implies equality. To me, this scapegoating is simply unacceptable and borders on inciting other such debased attacks on Kevin W. Johnson. Why doesn't Crabtee vow to join Johnson in finding the culprits who committed this criminal activity instead of essentially saying “he had it coming”?

I want to close by saying that I am using speculation in this blog entry. I thoroughly understand the limitations of such examination. I do not want to be a vehicle against Mike Crabtee and his campaign. I am sure he will have more to say about this letter.

However, I do want to be a part of the exposition of prejudice and hatred in my home county. I hope that the perpetrators of this offense are found and punished. Also, I hope this entry helps all of us to acknowledge the devastating effects of hate speech against the gay community. There is no excuse for such behavior.

As a heterosexual, I admit that long ago I had to face my own bias about sexuality and commit to necessary change. How easy it was then to speak out against something I didn't fully understand. I was wrong to judge, and now I realize that no moral or philosophical ground has a defense against love. I strongly believe now that it is important not only to talk the talk but also to walk the walk. We must respect and embrace our homosexual community. Love demands it. 


Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Kevin W. Johnson -- Victim of Criminal Political Attack


I went to our mailbox a couple of days ago and retrieved two letters – one addressed to me and the other addressed to my wife. The letters were dated October 13 with the usual local Columbus, Ohio postmark. I opened my letter, unfolded the one page contents, and began to read the enclosed flier.

The flier informed me that Kevin W. Johnson, candidate for Scioto County Commissioner, was (1) a gay activist, (2) an alcoholic, (3) an atheist, and (4) a troublemaker (the word in all caps) who had wrecked the city while serving as Portsmouth Council member.

To make matters worse, the flier heartlessly featured a photo of Mr. Johnson's “gay lover who died of AIDS” and pointed accusations of Kevin Johnson being an unwanted outsider “not from Scioto County. In large, bold print at the close of the flier, it read “IS THIS WHO YOU WANT AS COUNTY COMMISSIONER???” The intent of the correspondence clearly was to defile Kevin Johnson.

Shock and a feeling of utter disgust filled me as I realized the letter was the most despicable, slanderous election scheme I have ever seen. Of course, this vicious attack was carried out by some of those supporting Kevin Johnson's opponent. There is no doubt about this although no affiliation or signature was used. How cowardly of the perpetrator(s) to remain anonymous.

Angered, I wondered how any low-life slug(s) could have printed such garbage and mailed it to me. In fact, although I felt exceedingly sorry for Mr. Johnson as the victim of his opponents, I took it as a personal affront because I support Kevin W. Johnson for county commissioner. I have discovered this mailing was perhaps targeted.

I know Kevin Johnson, so I knew he would respond forcefully to this affront. He said this on his Facebook page in response to the letter:

This is what a friend and supporter found in their mail today. No return address; no attribution; highly illegal (campaign requirements). And very expensive as color copies are $0.25 a piece, normally.

Though I was advised that my opponent's campaign (or a supporter thereof) would resort to malicious and repugnant attempts to defeat me, I never thought they would attack my Paul as well.

How DARE they !! Paul suffered from bone cancer for six painful months before passing away on March 20, 2009. HOW DARE THEY !!

Say all you want of me; even if not true (like absolutely all this malignant screed except for the fact I am not from Scioto County). But if you wish to attack Paul, please join me out back of my place any night, you scum.

Evidently my opponent's campaign needs to resort to this type of crap. IS THIS WHO YOU WANT AS COUNTY COMMISSIONER???”

Kevin W. has served the City of Portsmouth with distinction as a council member. I admire his intellect and his initiative as he strives to make our community better. He can be outspoken, and I like this about him. He is not one to sit passively and merely rubber stamp decisions and ideas. Kevin cares about details, and he will act independently when necessary to meet critical standards. In short, he is the kind of leader I want to guide our county.

I really don't have to defend Mr. Johnson against his opponents. He is perfectly capable of doing so himself. Yet, I feel obliged to make some comments about the “charges” leveled against him.

Vindictive campaigns in Scioto County are symptoms of a sickness in the political system. Perpetrators of maintaining the system employ threats and lies to insure their domination of the local government in this county. With a “good old boy” mentality, that group exerts tremendous pressure and control that fosters inequality and injustice. I am not a conspiracy theorist. I am a realist who has experienced firsthand how the system works. Money, power, and influence control much of the county.

Those in the system are often guilty of homophobic, prejudiced behavior, but they cloak it under the guise of being Bible-thumping, “right-thinking” Conservatives. In truth, they are judgmental hypocrites bent on keeping the poor and underprivileged under the boot of oppression. They frequently use accusations as a tool to “dirty” the opposition. And, let's not forget that money – as Kevin said, “expensive color copies” – also insures greasing the system in place.

No person should be subjected to the violations endured by Kevin W. Johnson. With the clear intention of demeaning him – no, destroying the man – his opponents attempt to besmirch Johnson with unspeakable ad hominem attacks designed to play upon bias and false rumors. Think of it. In one page, Kevin W. is accused of being an alien troublemaker, an alcoholic, and an atheist. And, we all know what labeling him “a gay activist whose gay lover died of AIDS” is meant to convey to the closed-minded in Scioto County, don't we?

Politics can be messy. Politics can even be falsely accusatory. However, politics must never cross the line of decency as criminal behavior. I would ask you once more – “What kind of person(s) would resort to this level of foul, lewd behavior in a misguided attempt to sway an election? I think the answer is obvious.

As First Lady Michelle Obama said while defending her husband's legacy, Barack Obama has risen above personal attacks and taken the high road even as opponents have questioned his patriotism, his honesty, his citizenship and his faith.

"Are you going to get angry or lash out?" she asked. "Or are you going to take a deep breath, straighten your shoulders, lift up your head, and do what Barack Obama has always done — as he says, 'When they go low, I go high.'"

"That’s the choice Barack and I have made. That’s what has kept us sane over the years. We simply do not allow space in our hearts, minds, or souls for darkness," she said.

I believe Kevin W. Johnson, an ex-Marine, will also remain “always faithful” to taking that “high ground,” and he will defeat the dark forces that threaten to destroy his character. I believe that those who connived to write this letter will pay for their despicable conduct. I believe that love always defeats evil -- this is no exception.

* Here is the text of the letter so that you can refer to it for yourself:

Monday, October 17, 2016

Lighting the Way for Syrian Refugees -- The American History Lesson


History serves as a readily available documentary of past decisions and actions. British historian and academic George Macaulay Trevelyan (1876-1962), once said “Every true history must force us to remember that the past was as real as the present and as uncertain as the future.” This is pertinent to the United States in 2016 as it ponders the plan to admit Syrian refugees.

Fearing terrorism, many Americans are opposed to opening America to Syrian refugees, especially when the regional powers, Iran and especially (a richer and Arab country) Saudi Arabia, have done little. Presidential candidate Donald Trump believes the present vetting process is far too weak, and allowing these refugees into our country will surely allow a large number of terrorists to operate freely on American soil.
First of all, we must consider we do not elect the leaders of other countries. We must answer the call for refugees ourselves. Meanwhile England, Germany,Turkey, Lebanon – 29 countries are accepting refugees.

Dr. Ramy Arnaout of MIT and Harvard Medical School, now at the Beth Israel Deaconess medical center in Boston (Who also happens to be the child of Lebanese immigrants.), argues that it’s time for the U.S. to move aggressively in making room for more of the people displaced by the horrors in Syria.

Arnaout says …

The mantle of that legacy now falls to us. Syria’s huddled masses yearn not to breathe free—a luxury in war—but to breathe at all. Do the words with which we caption our defining monument not include these people?

“Syria gave us Steve Jobs and Jerry Seinfeld. “The business of the American people is business,” said Calvin Coolidge. As Americans, we should know a bargain when we see one. Syria is a fire sale. Lady Liberty's “golden door” should be open with Syrian refugees first in line.

The alternative is we keep that door shut—and consider outsourcing our conscience to oil sheikhs and mullahs.

Do we want to trust the future of the world we used to lead to the mercy, generosity, and tolerance of the Saudis? Are we content to play second fiddle to the Germans and Greeks? Or can we begin to salvage our tattered reputation and sense of self by demonstrating some basic human kindness?”

 (James Fallows. “Martin O’Malley Is Right: America Should Be Taking More Syrian Refugees.” The Atlantic. September 07, 2015.)
In support of Syrian immigration, President Obama says the “overwhelming numbers” of Syrian refugees referred to the U.S. by the U.N. have been women and children., and, in fact, 67 percent have been children under the age of 12 and women, according to State Department data.

Despite claims by those such as Donald Trump who say that the Obama administration plans to accept anywhere from 100,000 to 250,000 Syrian refugees, by law, the administration can admit slightly more than 10,000 in fiscal year 2016, and no refugee commitments can be made beyond that.
Gina Kassem, who oversees the State Department’s refugee resettlement program in North Africa and the Middle East, says the primary focus is on those in need. The entire process takes between 18 and 24 months.

“Mostly we focus on victims of torture, survivors of violence, women-headed households, [and] a lot of severe medical cases,” she says

According to Kassem, less than half of one percent of those from Syria who resettle in the United States are single young men. Those who are qualify as among the most vulnerable, either because of severe medical needs or minors who don’t have family to support them.

(Bill Whitaker. “How the U.S. screens Syrian refugees. CBS News. October 16, 2016.)

Iain Levine, deputy executive director for program at Human Rights Watch, says,“Sowing fear of refugees is exactly the kind of response groups like Isis are seeking. Yes, governments need to bring order to refugee processing and weed out militant extremists, but now more than ever they also need to stand with people uprooted from their homes by ideologies of hatred and help them find real protection.”


Applying the History Lesson

Absorbing immigrants and refugees is always disruptive—for any nation, for any kind of refugees.
It may be beneficial to look back to the 1970s and President Gerald R. Ford's unwavering support of human rights as South Vietnam fell to the North. To be honest, President Ford is largely a forgotten man – a president who served a mere four years, a man who pardoned Richard Nixon after Watergate and who opened the doors of America to Vietnamese refugees after the fall of Saigon. He did both of these things at great political risk to himself – he lost the election of 1976 to Jimmy Carter – while believing that uniting the country in dark times was of the utmost importance.

By the time President Gerald R. Ford took office in 1974, the United States’ involvement in the Vietnam War had been radically reduced. In 1975, renewed fighting saw communist-supported North Vietnamese forces pushing closer to Saigon, the capital of South Vietnam, which was still a U.S. ally. Saigon,would soon fall to the North and the process of reunifying Vietnam would begin.

Facing the fall of South Vietnam, President Ford acknowledged the serious human rights issues facing many South Vietnamese residents. These included forced relocation, being held as political prisoners, and even death. Many abandoned their homes and sought asylum and refugee status in the United States and other Western nations.

Ford quickly organized a humanitarian, emergency military effort to evacuate refugees to the U.S. in 1975. In less than a week, thousands of Americans and tens of thousands of Vietnamese would be evacuated from Saigon as the North Vietnamese Army closed in on the capital city.

One hundred and thirty thousand Vietnamese left South Vietnam that April, ten times the number for which the State Department had planned. In the final phase alone, in just over 14 hours’ time, Marine helicopters lifted out almost 8,000 U.S. military personnel, South Vietnamese, and their dependents—about 5,600 from Tan Son Nhut airport, another 2,206 from the roof and courtyard of the U.S. embassy in Saigon, and dozens more from other locations.

(Bartholomew Sparrow. “Inside America's Massive, Messy Evacuation From Saigon.” New Republic. April 29, 2015.)

And, let history attest to the quick passage of the Indochina Migration and Refugee Assistance Act of 1975. Enacted on May 23, 1975, this Federal legislation established a resettlement assistance program for the Southeast Asian refugees. In 1976, the act was amended to include refugees from Laos. The Indochina Migration and Refugee Assistance Act allowed some 200,000 Cambodians and Vietnamese to enter the United States under a special “parole” status and provided financial assistance for their resettlement.

The act had been strongly supported by President Ford and opposed by those who feared an influx of Southeast Asian refugees after the end of the conflict in Vietnam. Many Americans at the time believed that a large number of refugees would deflate wages and create a social burden. At the time, unemployment in the United States hovered near double digits.

In a May 1975 article in the New York Times, Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.) commented that "barmaids, prostitutes and criminals" should be screened out as "excludable categories." Sen. Joe Biden (D-Del.) "charged that the [Ford] Administration had not informed Congress adequately about the number of refugees" -- as if anyone actually knew during the chaotic evacuation. "I think the Vietnamese are better off in Vietnam," said George McGovern in Newsweek.
Vietnam refugee Quang X. Pham, who served as a Marine pilot in the Persian Gulf War and authored the book A Sense of Duty: My Father, My American Journey, recalled ...

"The new governor of California, Jerry Brown, was very concerned about refugees settling in his state. Brown even attempted to prevent planes carrying refugees from landing at Travis Air Force Base near Sacramento. . . . The secretary of health and welfare, Mario Obledo, felt that this addition of a large minority group would be unwelcome in California. And he said that they already had a large population of Hispanics, Filipinos, blacks, and other minorities." 
(Quang X. Pham. “A Lesson in History: Resettling Refugees of Vietnam.” All Things Considered. Public Radio. January 14, 2007.)

Yet, the President was steadfast. Even though Ford had described the Vietnam War as "a war that is finished as far as America is concerned," Ford's attention was now focused on the refugees.

To pave the way for these refugees’ arrival, Ford had been gathering a coalition of church groups, southern Democratic governors, labor leaders, and the American Jewish Congress to secure housing and jobs. Nonprofit groups, including the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Civitan International, and the International Rescue Committee, sponsored families while providing food, clothing, and shelter until the refugees could support themselves as the non-profit International Rescue Committee coordinated the Herculean effort.

Pham remembers …

I am not aware of any other politicians, antiwar protesters, esteemed journalists or celebrities visiting Fort Chaffee, Ark., where my family was temporarily housed for two months. But Gerald Ford did. 
April 1975 was indeed the cruelest month for us. But thanks to President Ford's leadership, we experienced America's kindness and generosity during our darkest days. We owe him our deepest gratitude in remembrance.”

(Quang X. Pham. “A Lesson in History: Resettling Refugees of Vietnam.” All Things Considered. Public Radio. January 14, 2007.)

Under the leadership of President Ford, American civil society began answering the call and assisting refugees' resettlement in countless ways. Within the days of their arrival on American shores, refugees were placed with sponsors throughout the nation. Generous and capable, American civil society helped to cultivate new and proud Americans.

 (Cynthia A. Bily. “Indochina Migration and Refugee Assistance Act of 1975.” 2015.)

Maintaining Human Rights With a Historical Significance

Michael Crichton – American best-selling author, physician, producer, and director – said,“If you don't know history, then you don't know anything. You are a leaf that doesn't know it is part of a tree.” I believe America is the tree of freedom and liberty. In order for us to nurture its future, we must always be open to saving those in peril from war and destruction.

Like Vietnam of old, Syria is suffering from a terrible war, and like Vietnam, the refugee crisis can be tied to America's involvement in a regional conflict. Who can deny the United States was at least partly responsible for the refugee crises as the U.S.-led war in Iraq changed the region? Is it time to help refugees again? Brookings Institute reports over 80 percent of Americans, across party lines, believe strongly in the Golden Rule (spelled out as treating others as you want them to treat you).

Brookings claims …

“Even in the middle of a U.S. presidential campaign that has been breathtaking in its exaggerations and racism, with devastating terrorism providing fuel, 59 percent of Americans say they are ready to accept Middle East conflict refugees, and 56 percent express openness to Syrian refugees specifically. These numbers increase dramatically among millennials (18 to 34 year olds), with 68 percent saying that they are supportive of taking in refugees from Syria and other Middle Eastern countries.

“Not surprisingly, and as on many other issues, there is a deep divide across party lines, with 77 percent of Democrats expressing openness compared to 56 percent of Independents and 38 percent of Republicans. Among Trump supporters, only 22 percent are supportive, compared with 80 percent of Clinton supporters and 81 percent of Sanders.

“This majority could be larger, if it weren’t for exaggerated fears: A plurality of those who oppose receiving Middle East war refugees (46 percent) name concern about terrorism as the principal reason. Yet, Americans overestimate the terrorist threat emanating from refugees. When asked to estimate the number of refugees charged with terrorism since 9/11, only 14 percent say it’s fewer than five, while 28 percent estimate it to be 100 or more. The actual number is 3.”

(Shibley Telhami. “America’s puzzling moral ambivalence about Middle East refugees.” Brookings. June 28, 2016.)

These statistics suggest that despite the terrible toll and horror of terrorism, Americans can be persuaded to aim for much higher moral ground. The goal of 10,000 Syrian refugees is a drop in the bucket of an estimated 9 million Syrian refugees that have left their homes since 2011. Facts show (as of July, 2016) the United States has had a difficult time even implementing the modest target. So far, about 3,500 have been accepted.

If the U.S. could have started taking in hundreds of Syrians in 2011, when the country's civil war began, think of how many innocent lives might have already been saved. In large part this did not happen because President Obama's administration was extremely worried about the very terrorist threat that Republicans are hyping now. It's led the administration to be so cautious in processing applications that barely any refugees have qualified to come.

Once upon a time, in the 1970s, political divisiveness was very real, but it existed in a context that still allowed strong, committed leaders to uphold the United States' place as the moral conscience of the world. Then, without caving to fear mongering by political opposition and to raw, unfounded emotional anxieties of worried citizens, American leaders like President Gerald R. Ford understood the importance of the creed of fueling the lamp beside the golden door. They took their case to the American people who fiercely defended liberty, and they found unparalleled resolve in the brave people of the land.

In New York harbor, the mighty woman with the torch still stands as a beacon to those in exile. However, some now would gladly extinguish her flame of freedom while exhorting their baseless fears. Terror wins when America becomes walled and isolated to the rest of the world. It must not betray its very fabric of diversity. When one seeks freedom our shores represent the heart of the nation – let it forever remain open to those who share our desire for liberty. 


Saturday, October 15, 2016

Questions for Pastor Throckmorton and His Editorial About Establishing a Christian Supreme Court

First of all, let me say Tim Throckmorton, Senior Pastor at Crossroads Church in Circleville, is an acquaintance whom I greatly respect. I know Tim to be a devout, devoted minister who serves the community. He is a fine man. I do not, in any way, write this entry to besmirch Pastor Throckmorton. I would never challenge his knowledge of theology; however, since the election is a temporal matter, I feel I must disagree with his editorial in the Daily Times.

Mr. Throckmorton writes that this election matters to him for a number of reasons, and he offers three points:

Point 1: “The next president will appoint not one but up to perhaps four United States Supreme Court justices and this election will determine not only who they will be but what kind of world my grandchildren grow up in.”

Point 2: “Every indication is that within the next ten years things could dramatically change if Justices like former Justice Scalia are not appointed. My friend Jim Garlow writes, “Freedoms come in 'threes.' Political freedom, economic freedom and religious liberty coexist together. Take one away and the other two will eventually disappear. One cannot exist without the other two.” 
Point 3: “This election will affect the rest of my life! A supreme court that is no longer shaped by the Constitution our founders gave us will probably last for the remainder of my lifetime... and yours.”

(Tim Throckmorton. "Why this election matters… to me."  
Portsmouth Daily Times. October 14, 2016.)
Refuting Point 1

The President does not directly appoint Supreme Court justices.

The appointment and confirmation of Justices to the Supreme Court involves several steps. Each of these is set forth by the Constitution and have been refined by decades of tradtion. The candidates are nominated by the President (Article II of the Constitution). Then, they must face a series of hearings in which both the nominee and other witnesses make statements and answer questions before the Senate Judiciary Committee, which can vote to send the nomination to the full United States Senate. Justices must have the “advice and consent” (approval) of the Senate by a majority. Confirmation by the Senate allows the President to formally appoint the candidate to the court.

The Supreme Court will not effectively determine the course of American society.

As far as “determining” the world in which Americans live, the Supreme Court does not have that kind of all-reaching power. In fact, the Constitution gives the Supreme Court the power to check, if necessary, the actions of the President and Congress. The power of the Supreme Court is limited by the other two branches of government. The whole Congress also has great power over the lower courts in the federal system. District and appeals courts are created by acts of Congress. These courts may be abolished if Congress wishes it.

Here is a very useful analogy:

“The Supreme Court is like a referee on a football field. The Congress, the President, the state police, and other government officials are the players. Some can pass laws, and others can enforce laws. But all exercise power within certain boundaries. These boundaries are set by the Constitution. As the 'referee' in the U.S. system of government, it is the Supreme Court's job to say when government officials step out-of-bounds. 

(“The Role of the Supreme Court.” Adapted from The Presidency, Congress, and the                                                    SupremeCourt. Scholastic Inc. 1989.)

It is false to assume that unless we have judges like Scalia, Christians will be severely threatened.

This is the presumption that if the court moves in a more liberal direction, there is a great risk that Christianity will being grossly restricted or even banned.

Christian leaders have threatened and used civil disobedience when the Supreme Court did not support their cause. It is well within their rights to protest peacefully any ruling of the Supreme Court. For example, they did this with the issues of gay marriage and gender identity.

Still, it is an inconceivable over-generalization that protecting a civil right like gay marriage presents a threat that will be “the beginning of the end of Western Civilization” – something touted by Deacon Keith Fournier, a Catholic deacon, and Mat Staver, the founder of Liberty Counsel, in their “Pledge in Solidarity to Defend Marriage.” Christians are not victimized by gay marriages. Churches have always had the right to discriminate whom they will marry as evidenced by the Roman Catholic Church that refuses to marry those who have been divorced unless the prior marriage has been annulled by the Church.

In spite of right-wing Christian rhetoric to the contrary, the Constitution is a secular document. The separation of church and state is clearly defined. A true democracy must hold certain limitations on the exercise of a particular religion as it applies to matters of state. It also accepts that all religious “truth” is equally valid and equally protected – that includes the religions of Jews, Muslims and those who eschew all religions. It is important that the Supreme Court stands against the establishment of a theocracy as it insures all citizens have liberty and justice.

Justice Scalia, himself, opted not to probe the intensity or validity of a plaintiff’s religious conviction. Get too deep into second-guessing matters of spiritual belief, he noted in his landmark 1990 opinion denying peyote-using Native Americans an exemption from everyday drug laws, and there’s no getting out: “What principle of law or logic can be brought to bear to contradict a believer’s assertion that a particular act is ‘central’ to his personal faith?” Neutral laws must hold sway, or every religious objector becomes, in Scalia’s words, “a law unto himself.”

(Dahlia Lithwick. “Scalia v. Scalia.” The Atlantic. June 2014.)

Refuting Point 3

The point that we may face a Supreme Court that “will no longer be shaped by the Constitution our founders gave us” is emotional language without logical support.

Our judges and courts constantly struggle both to uphold the Constitution and to insure it remains a living document, not just aged words in a single rigid, literal interpretation. To suggest that the Supreme Court makeup somehow encourages a world in which “Christians are being beheaded” and “Christians chaplains are being purged” and “first graders can no longer be called boys and girls” is argument by emotive language.

Substituting facts and evidence with words that stir up emotions in an attempt to manipulate others into accepting the truth of an argument is not acceptable in any court of law. Invoking the reference to our founding fathers to defend the fears of the right is an appeal to patriotism, a ploy often used by politicians to bolster their status. I have even known religious leaders who employ emotion deceitfully.

Mr. Throckmorton, you say: “My friend Jim Garlow (an evangelical leader in the political arena) writes, 'Freedoms come in “threes.” Political freedom, economic freedom and religious liberty coexist together. Take one away and the other two will eventually disappear. One cannot exist without the other two. The genius of America is that it had all three, until recently.'”

This is the same Jim Garlow who in 2014 called in to the “Point Of View” radio program to discuss his participation in the Vatican’s summit on marriage. During the course of the conversation, Garlow offered up a rather interesting argument against the acceptance of gay marriage...

“All the people who advocate for so-called same-sex marriage ought to have to live in homes in which the plumbers who built them, or the electricians who built them, didn’t understand the difference between the male and female end of piping or plumbing or of electrical as well and see how that home works out for them.”

The same Jim Garlow who wrote on Facebook …

“My 'Trump vs Hillary' article added 100,000 shares in 5 1/2 hrs. Now at 3,100,000. In spite all of Trump's very obvious sins, weakness & shortcomings (yes, they are many. U don't need to tell me) I would like to help in some small way to assist in electing him with the hope that we might save freedom for the globe, save the republic... & protect us all from Jezebel 2.0.”

Mr. Garlow may need a lesson on just exactly what freedom entails. It appears he cannot restrain from judgmental condemnation and name calling while using religion to advance his personal beliefs. He is not a person I believe when he tells me American genius.

To Close

Pastor Throckmorton, I respectfully submit the following in response to your invoking the founding fathers: 

Thomas Jefferson, a son of the Enlightenment, once revised the Gospels to 'remove the gold from the dross.' Jefferson was convinced that the Gospels had some worthy information and some information that was added later by his 'superstitious biographers.' Jefferson’s version of the life of Jesus removed the miracles, included some of Jesus’ ethical teachings, and then ended abruptly with Jesus’ death and the stone rolling over the tomb.”

(Sr. Theresa Aletheia Noble. “Justice Antonin Scalia and the Foolishness of Christianity.” February 13, 2016.) 

It seems from the beginnings of this nation's history, leaders have struggled with their religious beliefs, especially as they pertain to matters of government. The author of the Declaration is no exception. I still believe in our system of government and trust that the changes to all branches will serve the public.

Mr. Throckmorton, my friend, I believe the Supreme Court makeup is not enough reason to support a particular candidate for the presidency – especially after President Obama's choice was not even given the courtesy of a review. And, if I may make an assumption, even though your editorial did not actually name your choice, I believe you support Donald Trump.

Believing that Donald Trump is a savior of Christian beliefs is simply misjudgment spurred by discontent with politics. Please reference that students at Liberty University, one of the largest evangelical Christian colleges in the country, have issued a public statement denouncing Donald Trump, highlighting the increasingly bitter divide among conservative Christians about whether to continue supporting the Republican nominee. 

Correct me if I'm wrong, but the heart of Jesus’ teaching involved welcoming the downtrodden and embracing social outcasts. He taught to accept those that society rejected – people like lepers, the poor, and other outsiders – much like the spurned immigrants, those with gender differences, and even the second-class status of women today. The bible that Jesus read and believed and preached, the Hebrew Bible, bears witness to the same principles.

Does rich, acidic-tongued businessman Donald Trump represent these values, even remotely? You may think so. I do not. I refuse to allow his scare tactics and bullying behavior to effect my choice of candidates. If Trump has been born again, as he claims, he has not accepted the charge of changing his disturbing, even obscene behavior.

Trump is possibly destroying the platform of American Christians. I agree with Daniel K. Williams, professor of history at the University of West Georgia and author of Defenders of the Unborn. Williams writes ...

"For the sake of their principles and their faith’s credibility, evangelicals who have reluctantly backed Mr. Trump in order to get a conservative Supreme Court may want to ask themselves how it will look to the rest of the nation if churchgoing, 'pro-family' Christians remain some of the last ones propping up Mr. Trump’s candidacy after droves of other Republicans have denounced their party’s nominee for his morally offensive statements.

“Something greater than the Supreme Court may be at stake for American evangelicalism in this election, though most Christian right advocates do not yet realize it. If conservative evangelicals’ support for Mr. Trump requires them to retract their convictions about the values of decency, marital fidelity and Christian virtue in public life, are they at risk of attempting to gain the Supreme Court at the cost of their movement’s soul?”
(Daniel K. Williams. “Why Values Voters Value Donald Trump.” The New York Times. August 20, 2016.)

Friday, October 14, 2016

Trump Objectifies Women Over and Over Again -- The Proof Positive


Donald Trump has bragged about his ability to grope, kiss, and make other other unwanted sexual advances to women. He calls this “locker room” talk. Also, after a tape revealed this offensive dialogue, several women have come out of the closet to reveal that Trump made unwanted sexual advances on them. Trump swears these women are all lying and claims to have evidence that will refute their claims of inappropriate conduct.

All of this is very disturbing. The thought that the Republican candidate for President of the United States has habitually assaulted and demeaned women is unthinkable. As more reports appear, one becomes more and more convinced that “where there is smoke, there is fire.” Yet, none of these charges have been proven in court.

Still …

There is absolutely no doubt Donald Trump objectifies women. 

Trump's disgusting dialogue with Billy Bush proves this. In it, he brags about appalling and illegal behavior. These words matchs the objectification of his now famous quote: “You know, it doesn’t really matter what (the media) write as long as you’ve got a young and beautiful piece of ass." In addition, in a 2002 interview, Trump said 30 was the “perfect age,” and once a woman reaches 35, it’s “check-out time.”

Trump has a very disgusting perversion. He absolutely knows no bounds when it comes to sexual objectification. During a September 2004 interview, Trump told Howard Stern that his daughter, who was 22 years old at the time, was beautiful.

“Can I say this?” asked Stern. “A piece of a–?”

“Yeah,” the business mogul replied.

In a different interview, Trump boasted about using his power to sleep with contestants in the Miss USA and Miss Universe pageants, which he owns. “It could be a conflict of interest, but, you know, it’s the kind of thing you worry about later, you tend to think about the conflict a little bit later on.”
Trump continued by revealing he would sneak backstage at Miss Universe.

“Well, I’ll tell you the funniest is that before a show, I’ll go backstage and everyone’s getting dressed, and everything else, and you know, no men are anywhere, and I’m allowed to go in because I’m the owner of the pageant and therefore I’m inspecting it,” Trump said. “You know, I’m inspecting because I want to make sure that everything is good.”

(Stephanie Petit. “Donald Trump Once OK’d Howard Stern Calling Daughter Ivanka a ‘Piece of Ass.’” People. October 09, 2016.)

Then, of course, by now everyone knows of Trump's derogatory comments about the looks of Rosie O'Donnell, Megyn Kelly and Carly Fiorina. He used words like “fat pig” and “dog” and “slob” and “bimbo” to berate them.

Here are a few of the lesser-known objectifying comments made by Trump (And, there are many more.):

* In an interview with Vanity Fair, while he was still married to Ivana, Trump said: “I would never buy Ivana any decent jewels or pictures. Why give her negotiable assets?”

* On August 28, 2012, Trump insulted Arianna Huffington, the Huffington Post co-founder, about her looks and made jokes about her divorce. He tweeted Huff was “unattractive both inside and out. I fully understand why her former husband left her for a man- he made a good decision.”

* In 2011 Trump was in court testifying in a deposition over a failed Florida real estate project when lawyer Elizabeth Beck asked to take a break to breastfeed her three-month old daughter.

Trump and his team objected, so she pulled out her breast pump to prove it. In an incident that Trump does not dispute, he walked out of the room, telling Beck she was "disgusting.”

(Claire Cohen. “Donald Trump sexism tracker: Every offensive comment in one place.” The Telegraph. October 08, 2016.)

If the 2005 tape of Trump and Billy Bush that features Donald saying he is “grabbing (women) by the pussy” and is doing so because “when you’re a star, they let you do it,” is just “locker room” talk, then Trump must consider the world his juvenile, male, “locker room” domain. Evidence shows Trump has no problem using women – saying what he wants about them and doing what he wants to them.

Perhaps most disturbing, the overwhelming majority of those who still support Donald Trump for president – after all of the evidence that he harasses and objectifies women – are men. Yes, many men condone Trump's behavior because he dares not to be politically correct and because ___________ . (You know what truth should fill in the blank.) It is this: “They believe women are second-class citizens.” In the 21st century, this is still true of many men – evidently true of those who give Donald Trump a pass on his lewd, incurable behavior.

How do I know? Because when these men do speak out against male violence or sexual abuse against women or objectification of women, they are prone to cast females as girlfriends, wives, mothers, or in other periphery roles. They tell other men to imagine a female victim as “somebody’s wife, somebody’s mother, somebody’s daughter, or somebody’s sister.” It doesn't occur to them that a woman is also a “somebody.”

It is my sincere hope that Donald Trump is decisively defeated by Hillary Clinton, a candidate who has a long history of championing women's rights. Lately, every time I look at my granddaughters, I envision Trump in the presidency and rue the day. He has nothing to make them respect him, no matter how many “great” business deals he makes. Nothing. If a man cannot respect women and consider them equal, he is a user of females who must be exposed. Trump will not change because he enjoys his demeaning role. No one can show evidence otherwise.