Inequities in the System

deathpenalty580

This is interesting, and disconcerting. In 2014, thus far 10 people, from 5 different states, have been executed in the United States–5 blacks, 3 whites, and 2 Hispanics. In each case, the victims were white.

About half of all US murder victims are white. But three-fourths of all executions involve white victims. Why is that?

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Ann Kiemel Stricken with Cancer

Ann Kiemel Anderson in September 2013 (with birthday cake).

Ann Kiemel Anderson in September 2013 (with birthday cake).

I’ve been blogging for over 10 years. No post has received more comments than a post in 2006 titled “Ann Kiemel, Wherefore Hast Thou Been?” It has thus far received 85 comments.

I just received this update from a reader, reporting that Ann Kiemel is dying of cancer.

“Last year, Ann had surgery to correct bones in her foot that were not fusing. A very painful recovery ensued and she had to take prescription painkillers. Some of you may know from her last book, “Seduced by Success,” that she became addicted to these drugs years ago after suffering multiple miscarriages. She went through rehab then and has remained drug-free until the foot surgery.

“Around the first of February 2014, she went back to rehab to detox from the drugs. She stopped updating her website about this time but a friend took it over for her. Ann was in so much pain that the doctor knew something else was wrong. A scan revealed blood clots in her lungs. She was sent home with blood thinning medication, but the pain continued.

“MRI and PET scans revealed an aggressive, metastasized cancer throughout her body. Jan (her twin sister who has cancer herself) is at her side. More updates will be posted to Caringbridge and Facebook. This is so, so sad. How could the cancer have gone unnoticed for so long? Please be in prayer for Ann’s family.”

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Be Nice to Customer Service

I called AT&T yesterday to fix a billing error. I talked to a woman sales rep–a black woman, by the way she talked, if I may be stereotypical (and possibly wrong). She was very thorough, and got things straightened out.

I concluded, “Thank you. You’ve been very helpful and very professional.”

She immediately perked up, as if she hadn’t been complimented in years. Her friendly tone shifted up a couple notches as she wished me a great day.

Be nice to the customer service people on the other end of the line. They get chewed out by angry callers all day long for stuff they didn’t do. Give them a moment of satisfaction. Everyone needs that.

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This has been a Very Warm January. Really.

jan2014-temperatures

The lower 48 states cover less than 2% of the world’s surface. What was the GLOBAL climate like during January? According to a Feb 20 report by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration:

  • Globally, January was the 4th warmest January on record (since 1880). The others were also recent years: 2002, 2003, and 2007).
  • Globally, we’ve now had 347 consecutive months (29 years) that were warmer than the average for the 20th century.
  • Globally, we’ve now had 38 consecutive Januarys (38 years, if you’re trying to figure it out) that were warmer than the average for the 20th century.
  • Alaska actually had warmer-than-average temperatures during January 2014. The average January temperature for Fairbanks is 1.1 degrees, but the average this year was 16.4 (it hit 45 degrees one day).
  • In the US, 2012 was the warmest year on record (the 11th warmest globally).

The report noted that the cold air blasts we experienced during January were fairly normal during the 1900s. We just don’t remember it, because we’ve had so many relatively warm winters in recent years.

It’s fascinating how Americans view the world. While 2012 was America’s warmest-ever winter, Europe experienced the type of cold we had this year, with hundreds of people dying. However, Americans didn’t look at Europe and proclaim, “See, global warming is a hoax!” When Americans sample the weather at a particular time in the specific place where they live, and conclude that that’s how it is in the rest of the world–well, I tend to ROTFLOL (that’s text-speak for “rolling on the floor laughing out loud”).

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Another One Bites the Dust

Phooey. Went to Espresso Gallery this morning, where I’ve spent numerous hours over the years writing, editing, and reading. Very comfy and classy place.

A favorite hangout for Christians, too. I frequently eavesdrop on spiritual-related conversations, and many church small groups meet there. Plus, they have a non-caffeinated “Hot Carmel” drink which I love and which I’ve never seen anywhere else (I need to avoid, as much as possible, caffeine). They know me when I come in the door.

KNEW me, rather. This morning, a “Sorry, We’re Closed” sign hung on the door. I’m guessing–too much competition. Fifty yards away, inside a BP station, is a Higher Grounds coffeeshop. Last year a Dunkin’ Donuts went in just down the road. And currently under construction, right across from the Dunkin’ Donuts, is a Starbucks. Espresso Gallery probably realized they wouldn’t be able to compete. Sad.

I suggest they relocate to the north side of Huntington. McDonald’s has a lock on coffee business there, since Coffee D’Vine went out. We desperately need an alternative.

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Jimmy Fallon – A New Carson, Sort Of

The new Tonight Show set has a NYC skyline.

The new Tonight Show set has a NYC skyline.

In the opening show, Jimmy Fallon and Will Smith danced a very funny "History of Hip Hop."

In the opening show, Jimmy Fallon and Will Smith danced a very funny “History of Hip Hop.”

On the third Tonight Show, Fallon and three guests (Tim McGraw, Emma Thompson, and Bradley Cooper) played charades. It was hysterical.

On the third Tonight Show, Fallon and three guests (Tim McGraw, Emma Thompson, and Bradley Cooper) played charades. It was hysterical.

I never watched “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon”–too late for me–but always heard it was good. I sometimes saw clips of clever musical pieces he did. So this week I began DVRing “The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon.”

I watched the first three night, and I really like it. With his versatility, and the types of things he does during the show, he brings back a lot of the creativity of Johnny Carson.

I always found Jay Leno to be very smart, yet mostly a one-trick pony who too often resorted to crudeness. Fallon–I think I’m really gonna like him.

I also like the idea of bringing the Tonight Show to New York City. A whole different vibe.

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Rushing to Judgment

kitty-genovese

50 years ago the phrase “I don’t want to get involved” entered the American lexicon, thanks to the New York City murder of Kitty Genovese. According to the legend, 38 people watched, and did nothing, as she was raped and stabbed to death outside her apartment.

I say “legend,” because it didn’t happen that way. You can read the real story here. The New York Times chose to go with a more sensational approach, and everyone accepted that inaccurate account.

We regularly learn “new details” which put old stories in new light. People write memoirs, sealed documents get released, reporters reexamine old stories, scientists and archaeologists make new discoveries. DNA tests exonerate persons, locked away for decades, whom society had despise as murderers.

Historical revisions occur frequently in matters of war and foreign relations, for which enduring secrets are common. I wonder if, in ten years, we’ll understand the Bin Laden raid, 9/11, Benghazi, and other recent events in a very different light.

But we live in a microwave world, with instant analysis. I try to keep that in mind when listening to pundits proclaiming the definitive truth about events even as they unfold. As the X-Files told us, “The Truth is Out There.” It just may not be known to the general public…yet.

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The Insidious Creation of Doubt

doubts-questions

We all know smoking causes cancer and other medical problems. The science is irrefutable. But that wasn’t always the case.

It’s interesting how the tobacco companies defended themselves. They didn’t try to win arguments. They just created doubt.

Tobacco companies poured tens of millions of dollars into “scientific organizations” to do research regarding lung cancer and other types of tobacco poisoning. But scientists were NOT allowed to study the actual affect of tobacco on the body. Instead, they looked at any OTHER possible causes of tobacco poisoning. They identified about 20 substances that COULD cause lung cancer.

So, when a lifelong smoker developed lung cancer, they could dig around and say, “Yes, smoking may have caused it. HOWEVER, ten years ago this person visited such-and-such a place, where he could have been exposed to such-and-such a chemical, which is also known to cause lung cancer in lab animals. So we can’t be sure that cigarettes are to blame.”

They didn’t need to prove anything. They just created doubt. That worked for several decades, until scientific fact overtook them.

The same tactic is being used by the major carbon producers–oil, coal, and auto companies–in the climate change debate. In fact, one of the key “scientists” in the tobacco debates was a man through whom the tobacco companies funneled $45 million. He’s a professional “denier,” who began arguing that we can’t be SURE global warming is caused by man despite the overwhelming evidence.

Numerous other professional deniers–some of them actual scientists, but almost never actual climatologists–also make their living creating doubt about the nature of global warming.

When you see someone on TV downplaying climate change, Google their name and organization. You’ll inevitably discover that, if the person is indeed a scientist, climate science isn’t his area of specialty and he has never done actual research into climate science. And you’ll find that the organization is funded primarily by the carbon producers. But nobody takes the time to check.

(The book “Climate Coverup” exposes all of these organizations and professional deniers. It’s quite fascinating, and disturbing.)

Numerous phony scientific organizations with environment-friendly names have popped up, with spokespersons who go on conservative media to denounce the claims of climate scientists, especially the claim that global warming is caused by human activity.

They can be quite crafty. Some will go even as far as saying, “Global warming is probably caused by human activity. However, there is at least a very little amount of uncertainty, so let’s not rush into anything.” And so, we do nothing. That’s what the carbon producers want–believe anything you desire, just don’t take any action. It’s all about creating doubt and preventing any action from being taken.

A 2009 study showed that 97% of published climate scientists, persons who actually do climate research, were convinced that global warming is caused by human activity. Nearly every scientific organization worldwide has affirmed the same view. But the PR campaign by the carbon producers has been incredibly successful, at least in the United States, where doubt about global warming has increased substantially. The US is unique in that way.

In the future, the successful efforts of the carbon producing companies will become a text-book case in public relations classes. (In my Masters in Public Relations classes, we studied various cases where PR efforts convinced the general public to embrace nontruths.)

Defense attorneys use doubt. They don’t need to prove that their client is innocent. They just have to create enough “reasonable” doubt that one juror will say, “He probably did it, but I can’t be positive.”

In politics, doubt is a standard tactic. Create doubt about Obama’s citizenship and faith, about Romney’s business experience, about John Kerry’s war record, about George Bush’s intelligence, about Reagan’s age and mental capacity. You don’t need to prove anything. Just create doubt.

I suppose Satan works the same way to turn people away from the truth about Christ. And he has plenty of ammunition.

Satan creates doubt about the validity of Scripture. He raises doubt about the reality of Christianity by pointing out hypocrisy among Christians and churches. He convinces you to doubt your own past experiences with Christ. He raises doubt about what you’ve been taught about the faith. He works in a million ways to convince people, “Christianity isn’t for real.”

But convincing isn’t even necessary. Just tell them, “You’ve never seen Jesus or an angel, never heard God speak, never experienced a miracle that can’t be explained any other way. You can’t know for sure. So why commit your life to something with so much uncertainty?”

Satan doesn’t need to prove that Christianity is false. He just needs to create doubt.

The task for the other side–convincing people that smoking really is harmful, that climate change really is caused by human activity, and that Christianity really is true–is extremely difficult. Doubt, especially when people demand absolute certainty, is a big giant to slay.

Fortunately, truth always wins. The tobacco industry lost the war of public opinion. In 30 years, nobody will doubt the reality of climate change–the evidence will be everywhere. And death, which nobody can escape, will eliminate all doubts about whether or not Jesus is for real.

———

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Melting Pot America

Interesting: 10% of US heterosexual marriages are between persons of different ethnicities. That’s an increase of 28% since 2000. It’s a positive thing in America to see the melting-pot in action.

Now if only our churches could grab onto the melting pot concept. It’s been said that Sunday morning is the most segregated period of the week. Blended marriages, I guess, is one way to help correct that.

At Anchor this week, in addition to all the Caucasians, we had black, hispanic, and Indian persons in the pews. And a sprinkling of Canadians.

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A Look at 11 Presidents on This President’s Day

L-r: Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, and Nixon.

L-r: Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, and Ford.

On this Presidents Day, I wanted to look back at all of the presidents during my lifetime, starting with Dwight Eisenhower. I wanted to say something positive about each of them. My strong belief is that every one of these presidents has served with the right motives–to advance the United States of America. They have all worked hard in the best interests of my country, and I respect them all. I despise how, today, we demonize our presidents. I despise the way so many Americans show open contempt for these public servants, and the way media pundits feed that contempt. It’s disgraceful, and it’s not the way I was raised.

So I wanted to keep it positive.Yes, there is plenty to criticize about each of these men. They are all flawed men. But that is not for today, President’s Day. Today, I want to honor them. So here goes.

Dwight Eisenhower. I was born in the middle of Dwight Eisenhower’s presidency. Bob Gates notes in his book that from the end of the Korean War until Ike’s presidency ended in 1961, not a single American soldier was killed in action. This from the allied commander of the biggest war in history. He was a warrior, but didn’t relish taking military action–he knew the costs. That impresses me. Lately, historians have been taking a new look at Ike’s presidency with great appreciation for what he accomplished and his demeanor as president. I think Ike would have been a fascinating president to observe (had I not been in diapers).

John F. Kennedy. I wasn’t yet politically aware during Kennedy’s presidency, so I wasn’t paying attention to him during his presidency. However, it’s clear that he brought new energy to the country. I’m so impressed by his challenge to land a man on the moon, and return him safely, within 10 years. That was an enormous goal. But he believed in the capabilities of America enough to issue the challenge, and the country rose to it. He also advanced the cause of civil rights, despite plenty of opposition from his own party.

Lyndon Johnson. Johnson knew how to get things done. As Senate Majority Leader, he was recognized as a master at gathering the necessary votes. He knew how to schmooze, how to work the phones, how to twist arms. Bill Clinton, also, is recognized as a master politician in this way. But from what I’ve read about him, Johnson was the true master of the artform. He also passed the Civil Rights Act, and famously said that he had just given Republicans the South for the next generation. He was correct–Democrats switched over to the Republican Party, and they still control the South. But Johnson knew this was the right thing to do, and he was willing to pay the political price. That is so very commendable.

Richard Nixon. Nixon, of course, is a tragic figure in many ways. But I think he was always on track regarding what was best for the country, and he seemed to be able to see around the curve. He dealt skillfully with China and Russia, opening opportunities for later presidents. He took strong action regarding the energy crisis, back when OPEC was becoming dominant; for instance, he instituted the national 65 mph speed limit. Perhaps nobody since has been as strong on the foreign policy front. In his post-presidency, he cranked out a number of books which added thoughtful takes on important issues.

Gerald Ford. Ford was the first presidential candidate I voted for…and that was one of only three times my candidate lost. President Ford had a shortened presidency, and his main job was just holding the country together. But he did that, and such will be his legacy. Pardoning Nixon was not a popular move, but I think it was the right move and enabled healing to come to the country after a shattered presidency and a disastrous war. He was a good man, a moral man, a man of integrity and character, and he was respected by everybody in Washington. He was exactly the right man for that unique time.

L-r: Ford, Carter, Reagan, and Bush.

L-r: Carter, Reagan, Bush, Clinton, and Bush.

Jimmy Carter. I always viewed Carter as having a genuine, thoughtful Christian faith not much different from my own. If I sat down to talk with him about my faith, we would be on the same page. And I felt he represented Christ well while in office, and certainly while out of office. He is often mocked for his “malaise” speech, but I don’t think the criticism is fair. I remember hearing that speech and thinking at the time, as a college student, “He’s exactly right. That’s what is happening in the country.” I deeply respect his post-presidency activities, from Habitat for Humanity, to monitoring elections all over the world, to meeting and negotiating with tyrants. I found Carter to be admirable in so many ways. He was also an example for my life, modeling how a Christian can have a strong sense of social justice–and even be a Democrat at the same time. Largely through Carter, I came to realize that many Democratic Party issues are Christian issues. He gave me much to think upon.

Ronald Reagan. Reagan brought a heightened sense of dignity to the White House, setting the stage for every president since (for instance, always wearing a suit in the Oval Office). His sense of humor was tremendous, and he used it skillfully. He had a sense not so much for what he wanted to accomplish as president, as he did for what he wanted America to be. In many ways during the 1980s, America conformed to the image of Ronald Reagan.

George H. W. Bush. President Bush didn’t seem to harbor ill feelings toward people–about things they said about him, or things they did. He was a genuinely nice guy. I greatly admire the relationship he and Bill Clinton have developed. Bush 2 seems to have inherited a lot of his father’s spirit. I also admire the way he conducted the Gulf War, and how he built an international coalition. He respected the roles of everyone around him and let them do their work. He kept his hands out of his son’s presidency, yet maintained his role as father–and by all appearances, he and Barbara were astoundingly good parents. Above all of these other presidents, George H.W. Bush was a humble man.

Bill Clinton. Clinton is the type of person who, when he enters a room, takes over the room. He has an out-sized personality, the type of person who is energized by meeting lots and lots of people–shaking hands, interacting with people, etc. Coupled with that is a stellar intellect and political skills that are off the charts. Since I’m a communicator, I admire people who can communicate well. Clinton knows how to explain things clearly. All the evidence shows that he’s a superb father. And as a Christian, I rejoice that despite his escapades, he salvaged his marriage. As an ex-president, he has done extraordinary work through the Clinton Initiative. He has redeemed himself in my eyes, and I view him as a national treasure.

George W. Bush. George Bush, like his father, is a good man. I believe he’s a man of integrity and good moral character. Bush governed largely by instinct, as he will admit, and for that you want a person of integrity and character. In his second term, when things weren’t going well in our wars, he implemented the surge against the advice of his political advisors, and it turned out to be the right move. He also marginalized Dick Cheney, his right-hand man, and in his place listened more closely to Condi Rice and Bob Gates. This accounts for some of the positive things that occurred during that second term. Cheney continually urged Bush to pardon Scooter Libby for his involvement in outing CIA operative Valerie Plame, but Bush refused. Good for him. As an ex-president, Bush has been absolutely exemplary–perhaps mostly by not doing anything. He has been very gracious toward his successor, and has steadfastly avoided doing anything to get in his successor’s way.

11-obama160Barack Obama. Obama is a deeply thoughtful person, as is clear from his two books, “Dreams of My Father” and “The Audacity of Hope” (both of which I’ve read). In the latter, he wrestles with numerous policy issues, showing me clearly that he had made himself highly informed on a number of crucial issues. I loved the vision he set forth, and the mindset he showed toward dealing with complex issues. I think it has served him well in dealing with the military (who invariably want more men and equipment), and in dealing with Republican Congressman whose top goal was to deny him re-election, and who have continually thwarted him. I feel he has shown much restraint, though his level of frustration must be out of this world. It must also be frustrating to be opposed by so much of the Christian community, and to be labeled continually as a Muslim, when in fact he has clearly articulated his faith in Christ several times. It angers me, the way Christians have demonized him. And yet, he keeps his cool, showing himself to be wise beyond his years. I also greatly admire his role as a father and husband. He has nothing to be ashamed of there.

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