Hurricane Harvey has delivered a crushing blow to the people of Houston, and the surrounding communities in Texas. It is time to open your wallets to help. If you are interested in researching prior to giving, please visit Charity Navigator. Credit to NPR for researching this information, I am just trying to spread the word.
Oh, the irony.
Few places in the United States are more attuned to science than the Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill area, collectively known as the Research Triangle. In 2014, Forbes ranked the Research Triangle as the second most-educated metropolitan areas in the U.S. Three top-tier research universities – Duke, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and N.C. State – are located in the Triangle, as well as a handful of other smaller colleges and universities. The major employers (SAS, Lenovo, Glaxo-SmithKline, CREE, Red Hat) in the area thrive off the science-focused talents of the community. Tech and pharma startups abound, and major medical and public health research organizations are headquartered in the area.
In short, the Triangle as a whole does not suffer fools and charlatans.
Which leads me to wonder why the Flat Earth International Conference decided that the right place to convene is Cary, NC? The Raleigh News & Observer reported on the upcoming conference in the Monday morning edition, which almost caused a spit take of orange juice into my cereal bowl.
And the conference is sold out! Who is attending this farce? $149 to attend!
The conference claims two sponsors, one called Celebrate Truth with the stated mission to “promote God’s Truth and expose the world’s lies.” These lies are inspired by Satan, or so they claim. They have a DVD for sale.
The other sponsor seems slightly more grounded, the Gordon Rocket Company that sells an L shaped wood stove that looks appropriate for cooking and keeping warm when stranded at the ice wall at the edge of the flat earth.
Year after year, bullet after bullet, burial after burial, we hear the same pathetic, empty statements from those whom we have chosen to lead our country. From their privileged offices in our nation’s capital, we’ve seen no action. Instead, consider what we’ve witnessed in just a few short years.
December 14, 2012 — Newtown, Connecticut: Twenty elementary school children and six of their teachers killed at Sandy Hook Elementary.
Mitch McConnell’s response: “We are all crushed by the news of today’s horrifying massacre in Newtown. I invite everyone to lift their hearts in prayer for the victims and their families and to unite around the hope that there will soon come a day when parents no longer fear this kind of violence in our nation again.”
September 16, 2013 — Washington, DC: Twelve people killed at the Navy Yard.
McConnell says: “We’re all thinking about today’s tragic shootings at the Navy Yard, about the victims and their families…Many people in the area – and across the country – will be directly affected by this terrible tragedy. We pray for all of them”
May 17, 2015 — Waco, Texas: Rival motorcycle gangs kill nine at a restaurant. There were over 170 arrests made after the incident.
McConnell says: “We’re all thinking of and praying for the victims and their families. Given the horrendous event at the Boston Marathon on Monday, followed by the event near Waco last night.”
June 17, 2015 — Charleston, South Carolina: Dylann Roof kills nine worshipers at a historic black church.
“The depth of loss these families must be feeling is simply awful. So I want the American people to know the Senate is thinking of them today and the victims that they love. We’re also thinking of the entire congregation at this historic church. We’ll continue to do so as more about this about this tragedy is learned in the hours and days to come.”
June 12, 2016 — Orlando, Florida: Omar Mateen kills 49 people at Pulse, a popular gay nightclub.
Mitch McConnell says: “The nation’s prayers are with the victims and their families in the wake of this terrible tragedy. We thank the citizens and first responders who helped rescue and save lives amidst horror and chaos.”
October 1, 2017 — Las Vegas, Nevada: Steven Paddock kills
fifty-eight fifty-nine people on the Vegas strip, firing automatic weapons from an upper floor of a resort hotel. In addition to the fatalities, over five-hundred people were injured.
McConnell says: “What happened in Las Vegas is shocking, it’s tragic and for those affected and their families, it’s devastating. It’s hard to even imagine their pain. I hope they know we are praying for them now, I hope they will find strength in the love and kindness of those around them in this hour of darkness and pain.”
Hundreds of lives senselessly lost, and these are just some of the major mass shootings that have occurred in the past five years. The United States has witnessed about one incident of gun violence with three or more victims per month throughout these past five years. With the additional lives lost through gun-related crime, domestic violence, and suicide, the death toll is staggering. The inescapable conclusion is that we need solutions.
And all Mitch McConnell has to offer is thoughts and prayers.
I am not calling attention to McConnell’s inaction because he is a Republican and I am a Democrat. I am not singling him out because he is an outlier among his Senate colleagues. He is not the most rabidly pro-gun Senator, there are many others vying for that title from both major parties.
I am singling out Senator McConnell because he is the leader of the majority party in the Senate, perhaps the single most important position responsible for writing the laws we live by. I am addressing his inaction because he is in a unique position to act, on behalf of his constituents and the American people. History has tragically afforded him ample opportunities to provide some corrective measures to address gun violence.
Yet at every opportunity, he gives us more thoughts, more prayers.
Even in these politically polarized times, there are reasonable compromises that address the concerns of law-abiding Americans. Poll after poll shows broad support for a variety of solutions, all requiring a legislative champion, leadership, action. Perhaps there are market-driven solutions that we should consider.
Senator McConnell, spare me your thoughts and prayers.
In the age of Trump, I wake up every day to a daily outrage that seethes in me for a good part of the day. Ironically, I find myself more engaged at work because it is a distraction from the looming crises initiated by this President. Never mind that the organization that I work for depends heavily on the largesse of the U.S. Government. We soldier on hoping the axe will not fall, and thus far our hopes have been answered. But our problem is small potatoes.
On Tuesday, Trump delivered a forty-one-minute lecture filled with bombast and caviling to the U.N. General Assembly, to mixed reviews from the right and stunned appraisals from the left. Who knows what world leaders thought, particularly Kim Jong-Un, whom Trump labeled with the sobriquet “Rocket Man” before the distinguished world body in New York.
Stating that the U.S. is “ready, willing, and able” to “totally destroy North Korea”, Trump then suggested that it was the United Nations job to fix the situation. “That’s what the United Nations is all about; that’s what the United Nations is for. Let’s see how they do.”
After lobbing a grenade into the middle of a riot, he hands off responsibility for putting the pin back to someone else. The DPRK is threatening the United States and its neighbors with nuclear missiles, and Trump responds with counter-threats. These tit-for-tat threats leave no room for face-saving maneuvers from North Korea. Worse, Trump’s vacillations on the Iran nuclear deal will make North Korea wary of pursuing negotiations with the United States, recognizing that we are acting in an untrustworthy manner. This is not the way to handle a nuclear-armed rogue state.
In this case, the fundamental instinct that Trump seems to operate on is that as the most powerful country in the world, we can assert our strength over North Korea (and any other perceived bad actor) without the need to participate in negotiations. In Trump’s calculus, talk is for losers, not the powerful. Therefore if the United Nations cannot check Kim’s threats, we will use our unsurpassed military might to eliminate his threats, consequences be damned.
In Trump’s view, not only do we have the right to strategically remove material threats posed by North Korea, we have the right to “totally destroy” the hermit nation. This is Trump’s personal modus operandi writ large, the idea that if someone attacks you, you respond with a disproportionate counter-attack, overwhelming an opponent regardless of the merits of their complaint. This strategy learned at the feet of the late Roy Cohn has served Trump well in private life and in his Presidential campaign. But Trump is no longer acting on his own behalf, and his weapons are nuclear warheads, not lawsuits.
The bedrock notion here is that might makes right. Because we are powerful, our actions cannot be immoral, they are righteous. By dint of our power, any aggressor then is morally unjust. The logical fallacy is that were North Korea to successfully attack Japan or South Korea, then their actions would be justified by their military superiority. Or consider a North Korean attack on New Zealand, the Philippines, or Thailand, bystander nations that have no reasonable defense against nuclear annihilation. By virtue of their might, North Korea would be morally justified in attacking and destroying these countries.
The United States has arguably acted in this fashion before, most recently in Iraq. But even in that case, there were careful lines drawn. The effort was undertaken with a host of international allies, with the clear intention of toppling a regime that had few friends in the region or the world. Trump takes this idea even further, threatening not just a regime but a nation of twenty-five million people, neighboring two of our largest trading partners. Furthermore, by word and deed, his administration has closed off any face-saving exit from what could be a catastrophic armed crisis.
Make no mistake, if we or an ally are attacked, we have a unique obligation to respond. At the same time, a just response is a measured response, and even in – especially in – the case of a nuclear-armed rogue state, the path to diplomatic resolution must remain open. This is not an easy needle to thread. The options are few and mostly bad. With his speech to the UN, I believe Trump has simply made a bad situation worse.
Inspired by the WordPress.com Daily Post, September 22, 2017.