Our Republican Congress

In Politics on March 10, 2015 at 6:38 pm

Imagine a Tom Cotton letter during the Cuban Missile Crisis. Imagine a Tom Cotton letter going to Gorbachev.

This really honks me.

Is it treason? Maybe if words meant things. Hyperbole notwithstanding, treason is the crime of betraying one’s country. Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) admits undermining the President’s negotiations are a “feature, not a bug.” Looks clear to me.

I’ll grant you, betraying the President isn’t necessarily the same thing as betraying the country. But, like it or not, we elected Obama, his administration is charged with crafting our nation’s foreign policy, serving on the United Nations, negotiating (or not) with Iran.

Tom Cotton isn’t.

In fact, there is a Foreign Relations Committee, led by Bob Corker (R-Tenn.). Sen. Corker is trying to cut a deal too, a bi-partisan bill ensuring Congress has the chance to approve the President’s deal (really the United Nations’ deal) with Iran before it is approved. If Sen. Cotton was serious, he’d work with his own government (and/or his own party) before moving on to Tehran’s.

Much has been written about Obama’s so-called “Imperial Presidency,” but perhaps little as revealing to the GOP mentality as this, Sen. Cotton’s short-sighted undermining of the executive branch as a whole:

…the offices of our Constitution have different characteristics. For example, the president may serve only two 4-year terms, whereas senators may serve an unlimited number of 6-year terms. As applied today, for instance, President Obama will leave office in January 2017, while most of us will remain in office well beyond then—perhaps decades.

What these two constitutional provisions mean is that we will consider any agreement regarding your nuclear-weapons program that is not approved by the Congress as nothing more than an executive agreement between President Obama and Ayatolla Khamenei. The next president could revoke such an executive agreement with the stroke of a pen and future Congresses could modify the terms of the agreement at any time.

Most senators stay on for decades. Sadly, this is just one of the incontrovertible failures we Americans have chosen to live with, the Kardashianization of our campaign financing; but the real power isn’t the scarecrow they hold up to call “dictator,” the real power is the loony minority fringe that keeps taking the country hostage, because drama.

On the world stage, this weakens, no—betrays—our country’s best interest. By Sen. Cotton’s logic, any foreign nation negotiating with a sitting president is doing so at their own peril, nothing from the United States of America can be trusted. Or, short of that, it can be trusted only as far as you can trust the craziest person in Congress.

Kid Magic

In parenting on November 23, 2013 at 4:53 pm

The ancients believed words had magic. They were right.

Take the words “mommy” and “daddy.” Two more magical words have never been spoken. Admittedly, there’s not much that’s magical about mini vans and pick up lanes, screaming babies and poopie diapers. For that matter, there may be nothing magical in the parents’ daily grind; but perhaps it’s because we weren’t meant to grind in the first place. Perhaps our daily lives were meant to be lived nearer to the magic.

My wife and I are the proud parents of a young superhero-in-training who sometimes answers to Superman, and other times answers to Batman. Today, it’s Batman.

Batman is four, but don’t let his age fool you. He has every conceivable advantage over the grownups.

For one thing, he’s new here on earth; his heart and mind are still pure. His body, freakishly efficient. For another, he absorbs data faster than the Borg Collective. The world is teeming with exciting lessons he can’t unravel fast enough. Brushing his teeth, using the microwave, putting away toys and generally building self-reliance. He has to learn, and so he learns.

Read that again: He has to learn, and so he learns. Our little Batman is compelled. He wants to do these things, naturally.

Fact is, Batman takes us to school every day. His sense of wonder and intellectual curiosity are contagious. As we pay closer attention, dial into his channel so to speak, we’re learning to be better parents and adults. And it isn’t just brushing and butt-wiping. It’s space and planets. Continents and countries. State capitals and football scores. (As I write this, Batman informs me that cows have one stomach with four parts.) In short, it’s all we can do to get the heck out of the way. At best, we manage a balancing act. When we don’t, we fall. We dress him because he’s taking too long. We put his boots away because it’s easier than calling him back to do it right. Sometimes we can’t figure out how to frame answers to his questions in a way that a four year old superhero can understand. I struggle not to interfere when he’s learning—something apparently even an errant “Good job” can derail. But, mama and papa keep at it.

We talk to him. We watch his body language for cues. We see the way he hops when he learns something particularly exciting. We hear the squeak in his voice when he chokes up with excitement. There are also the sad cues, like when he withdraws silently to the study to sit facing the wall with slumped shoulders. It’s a self-imposed thing he does when he feels defeated. Maybe when mama and papa have put him off for too long. “Just one more minute, buddy,” four hours after the first time we said it.

But, the parenting gig is magical. We don’t always get it right. Sometimes it drives us absolutely nuts, but I think the magic is always there, buried in our brains, to save us from those nuts times. The times when things tilt; dishes go unwashed, cupboards go bare. Sometimes we can access the magic and save the day. Sometimes we lose our way completely. But we’re grownups. We’re the lost ones. It’s not like we’re kids, whose magical compass shines brightly from their DNA. Our handicap is that we have to find a route back to the magic.

For me, it’s hearing the word, “daddy.” It’s kind of my Mjolnir moment, Thor’s magical hammer, which only the Thunder God can wield. Its inscription: If He Be Worthy.

If He Be Worthy.

Mommy. Daddy. Magical words imparting the power to do dishes, scrub tubs and fold laundry. Magical words, just like the ancients claimed. We only need open our ears and hearts and all things are again possible. We are reminded of the sanity that comes from a life in balance—reminded because, when we follow our little Batmen, Wonder Women, princesses or police men and women, it’s them leading us to more balanced lives. It’s them returning our sense of wonder and peace.

Batman is my Superman

Batman is my Superman

Back to School; Lock and Load

In Polemics, Politics on August 16, 2013 at 5:06 pm

Pencils. Paper. Books. Guns.

Arming teachers is a wild risk for everyone, including gun rights’ advocates, who will have much to answer for when one of these programs goes wrong.

Consider: According to a 2004 joint report issued by the Secret Service and Department of Education, the risk of your child being killed in a school shooting is 1 in 1 million.

To put the problem of targeted school-based attacks in context, from 1993 to 1997, the odds that a child in grades 9-12 would be threatened or injured with a weapon in school were 7 to 8 percent, or 1 in 13 or 14; the odds of getting into a physical fight at school were 15 percent, or 1 in 7. In contrast, the odds that a child would die in school-by homicide or suicide-are, fortunately, no greater than 1 in 1 million.

Today those odds may be slightly different, but consider what happens to those odds when you add more guns.

For starters, there’s the increased potential for accidents. Even experienced gun safety instructors make mistakes (read: accidentally shoots a student). This cop famously shot himself in the foot during a gun safety demonstration in a classroom. We live in a litigious culture, so we need to factor the resulting lawsuits when things don’t go as planned. Then there’s the cost of arming and training teachers. The insurance premiums. And what about the politicization of George Zimmerman and Trayvon Martin? Imagine that, but in the classroom.

Despite claims to the contrary, no correlation can be drawn between school shootings prevention and arming teachers; the probability of a school shooting is low without armed teachers, so how will proponents measure success? Also, consider Columbine, where armed guards made little to no difference in preventing or slowing down Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold. So, exactly what is gained by putting greater strain on teachers?

Then there’s the matter of educational priorities. Is the United States of America a country where guns come before books? Arming teachers represents a major step in advancing our cultural arms escalation. Consider: Teachers aren’t “supposed to be” soldiers or law enforcement officers. They’re not “supposed to be” Wyatt Earp. They are supposed to be scientists, philosophers, musicians, or artists. They are supposed to provide an atmosphere for creativity and learning so that the next generation can do better for their children than we’ve done for ours. They are supposed to teach conflict resolution that doesn’t involve intimidation and violence, and lead by example. Children are supposed to learn that reason has a seat at the table of ideas also. If we abandon these ideals, what’s left?

Clarksville, Arkansas is at the center of a debate just like this. For now, students there can leave their flak jackets at home.

Teachers and teachers’ unions fought to prevent arming its teachers last July. Legislators thought they’d found a work around and sought to cram the program down teachers’ throats anyway. They cited a little known law that allows licensed armed security guards on school grounds, but the Attorney General weighed in later, saying public school districts didn’t qualify as “guard companies” eligible to be licensed armed guards.  The Arkansas Board of Private Investigators and Private Security Agencies agreed and voted to suspend school district employees’ security licenses. For now, teachers in Clarksville remain unarmed.

To be clear: The law in Arkansas is unchanged. Law enforcement and private security personnel may continue to carry weapons on public school grounds. Students are no less safe than they were before, and far safer than they might have been otherwise; teachers may not serve as armed security officers.

We all want an end to school shootings. We all want our children to receive the best education possible. Leaving guns at home is a good start for a calm learning environment at school. Letting teachers do what they do best is even better. Let them teach.

If you are passionate about gun sense in America, visit http://www.momsdemandaction.org. Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America is a non-partisan grassroots movement of American mothers demanding common-sense gun reforms from legislators, state and federal; companies; and educational institutions.

Have an opinion on arming teachers? Please sound off below. 


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