It appears that I might be less fallible than the Pope

Good news.

Pope Francis has declared the death penalty wrong in all cases. This is a definitive change in church doctrine. Traditionally, church doctrine accepted the death penalty if it was “the only practicable way” to defend lives, which was a ridiculous loophole exploited by church officials and politicians as a means of justifying the death penalty. 

But Francis said executions were unacceptable in all cases because they are an attack on human dignity.

It's about time. I've opposed the death penalty since I was in high school, which means I was about 25 years ahead of the infallible supreme pontiff of the largest church in the world.

Maybe I should've been named Pope. It would seem that I might be slightly less infallible than the supposed apostolic successor to Saint Peter. 

Just imagine if Elysha Dicks had to refer to me as "Your Holiness" or "Most Holy Father."

Amazing.

The Pope's reason for opposing the death penalty is all fine and good, but the reason for my opposition has always been far simpler and more logical:

Human beings are fallible. We make mistakes. Since 1973, 144 people on death row have been exonerated, which means that it's very likely that the United States has executed innocent people throughout its history. 

In fact. a study in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in 2014 found it very likely that 1 in 25 death row inmates are innocent.

As a person who nearly confessed to a crime he did not commit and came close to being convicted of that crime, I know all too well how insidious the criminal justice system can be when someone believes that you are guilty. 

And I'm white American. Just imagine what might have happened to me had I been a minority or an immigrant.

The death penalty is dangerous. Its very existence endangers the life of every innocent American citizen who might end up in the wrong place at the wrong time. 

Frankly, this is a no-brainer. A slam dunk. An obvious decision, even though it took the Catholic Church about two thousand years to finally agree with me. The death penalty should be abolished immediately, as it has been in almost every European and Latin American country in the world. In fact, 95% of all known executions in 2017 were carried out in only six countries:

China, Iran, Saudi Arabia, the United States, Pakistan, and Iraq.

We keep great company. 

Yet 55% of Americans still support the death penalty because they are incapable of imagining that any one of those 144 men and women exonerated while on death row could ever be them or a loved one. 

How many more death row inmates must be exonerated or even executed before we decide that human beings are far too fallible to allow the state to take our lives as a form of punishment?

I'm happy that the Pope finally agrees with me. Everyone else should follow suit. 

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Insecure cowards are leading the most powerful nations on the planet.

Disney's latest film Christopher Robin has been banned in China. While no official reason has been given, government sensors have previously blocked images of Winnie the Pooh after bloggers used him to parody Chinese President Xi Jinping.

A particularly widely-shared post, which first popped up in 2013, shows a photo of Xi Jinping and Barack Obama alongside an image of Pooh and his friend Tigger.

It takes a special breed of thin-skinned, humorless coward to be so upset and afraid of being compared to a fictional bear that he must prevent a country of 1.3 billion people from ever seeing a film featuring the bear.

It's also so incredibly stupid. Banning the movie from China only brings attention to Xi Jinping's resemblance to the lovable bear. I had no idea that he looked anything like Winnie the Pooh, nor had the resemblance ever occurred to me, but now I can't not see it.  

So dumb.

People who are unable to laugh at themselves are sad and weak, and if they have accumulated power, they can be very dangerous.

We've witnessed this unfortunate truth in our country, too.

People like the Chinese President and Donald Trump do not understand that strength is not demonstrated through bravado, hyperbole, the strong arming opponents, the censoring of criticism, and an unwillingness to apology. 

All of these things are signs of weakness and insecurity. 

Truly strong people are capable of honesty, authenticity, and vulnerability. They are willing to make fun of themselves and are not afraid to speak about their flaws, foibles, and weaknesses.

They don't ban films, dishonor men and women of greater accomplishment than themselves, denigrate opponents through name-calling, and erupt into angry tweet storms every time someone criticizes them.

People of great strength are able to criticize themselves. Laugh at themselves. Admit fault. Apologize. Ask for forgiveness. 

They might not like the fact that they look like a cuddly Disney bear, but they don't shrink from the comparison. They laugh along with us and move on. 

It's tragic that the leaders of the most power countries in the world do not understand this.  

I got mentioned in the New York Times yesterday for a teeny tiny thing that I feel so good about.

I made the news yesterday. A tiny bit of it, at least.  

From The New York Times:

WASHINGTON — A U.S. free speech group on Friday asked President Donald Trump to unblock 41 Twitter users after a federal judge in May ordered him to restore access to a group of individuals who filed suit.

U.S. District Judge Naomi Reice Buchwald in Manhattan ruled on May 23 that comments on the president's account, and those of other government officials, were public forums and that blocking Twitter users for their views violated their right to free speech under the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

The Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University on Friday sent the Justice Department a list of 41 accounts that remain blocked from Trump's @RealDonaldTrump account. 

The blocked users include a film producer, screenwriter, photographer and author. 
__________________________

I'm that author.

The Knight Foundation issued a press release that included a copy of the letter sent to the Justice Department. That letter includes a spreadsheet listing the 41 Twitter users who they are requesting to be unblocked. 

I'm #30 on the list.

It's not a big deal. I'm not an attorney trying desperately to protect the rights of asylum seekers on the border. I'm not writing the briefs that stopped Trump's bigoted travel bans from going into effect. I'm not a prosecutor on the Paul Manafort trial or an investigative reporter looking into emoluments violations in the Trump administration.

I wasn't protesting in Charlottesville one year ago when a Nazi who Trump equated to counter-protesters just a day before drove his car through the crowd, killing Heather Heyer and injuring dozens of her fellow protesters. 

My participation in this lawsuit is not a big deal. It's a small thing. Tiny, really. A thorn in Trump's side at best. I didn't stand in court and argue the case. I'm just one of 41 Americans who used a social media platform to speak directly to the President in a way that he didn't like. 

Or more likely Trump didn't want my fellow Americans to see me speaking directly at him anymore. Didn't want my fellow Americans to see what I was saying. 

In response, Trump blocked me.

So I asked to be included in the Knight Foundation's lawsuit. I found the right person and sent an email. Several more emails were exchanged. I provided some information and agreed to allow my information to be made public.

That's it. It's not much. 

But it feels good to stand against the tide in my small way. It feels good to stand alongside those doing the hard work. The important work. The work that history will remember and honor.

I'm just a teeny-tiny cog in an enormous machine that is attempting to protect and save our country and its people from this corrupt, incompetent, unethical, and immoral Presidency.

But damn it feels good.    

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There is nothing wrong with Bigfoot erotica

Virginia Democrat Leslie Cockburn is accusing her Republican opponent, Denver Riggleman, of being a “devotee of Bigfoot erotica” based on screenshots he appeared to have posted of a Bigfoot with a large penis.

Yes, Bigfoot erotica is a thing. If you'd like to do a deep dive on the subject, Katie Heaney wrote a piece in 2014 that will explain this subculture to you fairly extensively. 

Leslie Cockburn lives in rural Rappahannock County and is running against Denver Riggleman in the state’s 5th Congressional district, which includes parts of Charlottesville.

I am no fan of Denver Riggleman. He is a Trump supporter who has campaigned alongside a white supremacist. He should not be elected to any office in this country. 

But if Riggleman is a fan of Bigfoot erotica, I don't think that has any bearing on his capacity for serving the constituents of Virginia, and I think that Leslie Cockburn's use of it as a campaign issue is inappropriate, narrow-minded, and stupid.  

I don't understand Bigfoot erotica. It's definitely not for me, and if I'm being honest, just the thought of Bigfoot erotica makes my skin crawl. But there is apparently a subset of human beings who finds excitement and pleasure in this unusual form of sexualized literature, and if it brings them happiness and hurts no one, then far be it for me or Leslie Cockburn or anyone else to criticize.

Yes, I'm defending Bigfoot erotica. I'm defending a person's admiration of Bigfoot erotica. I'm defending a person's right to write and read and fantasize about sex with Bigfoot. 

I'll even defend having sex with Bigfoot if everyone involved is a consenting adult participant.  

If we're going to be a society that stops caring about what people do in the privacy of their own homes, then this must extend to all interests, fetishes, and personal predilections that do not conform with our own. If I want the bigots of the world to stop concerning themselves with the private lives of my gay, bisexual, and transgender friends, then we must extend this desire to the private lives of all people.

As long as no one is being hurt and everyone is a consenting adult, we have no right to judge the multitude of ways that our fellow human beings find happiness, pleasure, and love.  

Bigfoot erotica makes no sense to me. It strikes me as the one of the least arousing concepts on the planet. But that doesn't mean that it's wrong and that someone should be condemned for finding pleasure in it. 

Leslie Cockburn is running against a man who has campaigned with a white supremacist. She is battling a Republican supported Trump's decision to separate migrant families at the border. He defended a Republican tax cut that sent more than 90% of the money into the hands of the wealthiest Americans. Stood by Trump when he equated torch-bearing Nazis in Charlottesville with counter-protesters. Voted for a man who bragged about sexually assaulting women.    

There is plenty of ammunition to use against Denver Riggleman. Plenty of proverbial bullets to fire in this campaign for Congress.  

His alleged appreciation of Bigfoot erotica should not be one of them.  

Trump vs. Me

I received some good news today. 

Back in July of 2017, I was blocked by Donald Trump on Twitter after tweeting at him: 

While there are ways to get around a block and see Trump's Twitter feed, the block prevents me from ever commenting on any of his tweets or tweeting directly at him. I was teaching about 25 girls from around the world at a private school on the day that I was blocked, and upon hearing that I was blocked, they broke into a spontaneous, joyous dance around me, seeing this as a badge of honor and a reason to celebrate. 

It was a beautiful moment, but I was still upset. 

It wasn't right. 

This week The Knight Foundation, whose attorneys represented the plaintiffs in the Knight Institute v. Trump lawsuit, which alleged that the President’s actions in blocking individuals from the @realDonaldTrump account violated the First Amendment, contacted me.

On May 23, 2018, the judge in the case ruled in favor of The Knight Foundation and their clients and issued an order declaring that blocking the plaintiffs from @realDonaldTrump because they criticized him in reply tweets violated the First Amendment.  

Following that decision, the plaintiffs in the lawsuit were unblocked. 

I sent an email to the Knight Foundation a few months ago, asking if I could join the lawsuit or become involved in some way. This week, an attorney from the Knight Foundation replied, offering to forward my information to the Department of Justice for the purposes of getting me and other Americans in my situation unblocked as well.  

No guarantees that it will happen. Thus far Trump has only lifted the block on the nine defendants in the case, but it's a start.

Either way, it'll probably make a good story one day. 

Fly, Baby Trump! Fly!

You probably heard about the baby Trump balloon being flown in protest of Trump's visit to London. In addition to flying it over Parliament Square during his visit with the Queen, video and stills of the balloon have been all over the news, and protesters have been filling Trump's Twitter feed with video of the balloon to ensure he sees it as much as possible. 

I would've done the same but the damn coward blocked me on Twitter and has yet to lift the block despite a court order.

The balloon is funny, and I'm thrilled to see the people of Europe protesting the same vile policies that so many Americans are protesting as well.  

Trump appears to be of two minds on the subject. On Thursday he told reporters, "I believe that the people in the UK - Scotland, Ireland, as you know I have property in Ireland, I have property all over - I think that those people they like me a lot and they agree with me on immigration."

Yes. Apparently Trump thinks that Ireland is part of the UK. He's been getting blasted about that stupid comment for the last day or so. 

But Trump also told reporters 

"I guess when they put out blimps to make me feel unwelcome, no reason for me to go to London."

Whether or not he feels welcomed or not in the UK, the most telling remarks came from the protesters responsible for the balloon. 

"The only thing that Donald Trump hates is being ridiculed, so that's what we're trying to do."

"Whilst representing Trump's inflated ego and his thin skin, this is also about opposing his hate-fueled, misogynistic politics."

"You can hurt Donald Trump by making him feel stupid, so that is what we are doing."

It's true. Trump seeks praise at every turn. He's desperate to appreciation and approval. He lauds himself with self-congratulation like no other President before. 

Honestly, I've never heard another human being offer himself so much self-praise before. 

It's remarkable, appalling, and frightening to think that the President of the the United States is incapable of brushing off criticism. Unable to ignoring ridicule. Unwilling to allow divergent opinions to be expressed openly.

It's why he has blocked me and so many others from Twitter. It's why he refuses to speak to news outlets that don't offer him praise. It's why he repeatedly and constantly lies about accomplishments that never happened and attacks previous Presidents for things that never happened.

Think about it: His first act as President was to lie about crowd size.

It's why this Trump balloon is undoubtedly going to hurt his fragile ego and enrage his prickly temper. 

The one thing to take solace in from this racist, misogynistic, baby-caging liar of a President is that unlike previous chief executives, Trump is easy to hurt and easily embarrassed.

Stage the largest protests in the history of the world on the day after his sparsely-attended inauguration. 

Mock him using skits and monologues on late night comedy shows.

Make him so uncomfortable that he cannot attend the Kennedy Center Honors or the White House correspondents dinner.

Refuse to visit the White House after winning the NBA championship or the Super Bowl.

Tweet uncomfortable truths at him until he's so upset that he must block you. 

Fly a Trump balloon outside Parliament while he is inside, mistaking Ireland as part of the UK.    

It doesn't make up for banning religious groups from our country. Separating families. Caging babies. Equating counter-protesters with Nazis. Enacting policies that will destroy our environment. Pardoning racists. Giving enormous tax cuts to the wealthiest Americans. Attempting to strip away healthcare from millions of hard working people. Denigrating the free press. Violating the emoluments clause. Bragging about sexual assault. Lying again and again and again.  

Still, it's something. When you can't get rid of a bully, poking him where it hurts is at least a little satisfying. 

This balloon is a little satisfying. 

Name your sources or begone!

It wasn't a fight. More like a minor confrontation.

I was pouring myself a soda at my local McDonald's on Sunday when I heard a man telling a couple who I know fairly well that "President Trump is going to make a great Supreme Court pick."

The couple - McDonald's regulars who I see almost every day - were reading the newspaper. The man was standing besdie their table, shifting from one foot to another. Restless. Anxious. 

"You think so?" the husband asked.

"President Trump says he's going to make the best pick ever," the man said.

"You believe everything that man says?" the wife asked with a chuckle.

"I believe him," the man said, undeterred. "And you know what else? I hear that Justice Ginsburg doesn't even write her own briefs anymore. She has interns doing it. She needs to retire, too."

"Actually," the wife said, "all of the justices rely on law clerks for drafts of their opinions. It's a totally normal thing."

"Oh yeah?" the man asked. 

"Yeah," the husband replied. 

Stymied, the man returned to his coffee on the other side of the restaurant. 

I was so annoyed. I wanted in on this conversation. I wanted to debate. I was armed and ready. I was also angry that the couple hadn't told the man that justices wrote opinions. Not briefs. Also, justices have law clerks working for them. Not interns.

I hate missed opportunities.

After topping off my soda, I turned to the couple, who were both still smirking. I wished them a good day, and they wished me luck in the golf course.

"I've already played," I said. "Poorly as usual."

Then the man was back, reappearing without me even seeing him approach. "Another thing," he said. "I hear that Justice Ginsberg falls asleep on the bench. Can you believe that? Time for her to retire if you ask me."

I looked up. I stared. He was looking down at the couple, but all I needed was a little eye contact and I would be in. "C'mon. Look over here," I willed. "Please."

Then it happened. He glanced over at me. We locked eyes for a moment. He acknowledged my presence. It was on.

"You heard?" I asked. "Who did you hear this from?" 

"Huh?" the man asked. I think my entry into the conversation surprised him. He wasn't expecting me to speak. It was a sneak attack.

"I'm wondering who told you this?" I asked. "Did you know that every Supreme Court session has a gallery of court reporters and public observers? Did you know that RBG exercises every day. Pushups and planks and squats and bench presses. Cardio, too. It's well documented. And before Scalia died, she went hunting with him regularly. Hardly sounds like someone asleep at the bench."

"That's not what I heard."

"Who?" I asked. "Who did you hear this from? Name your source." 

"People," he said.

"Who?" I pressed, politely but insistently. "C'mon. Someone told you Ruth Bader Ginsberg sleeps at the bench. Who told you?"

"Whatever," the man said, slinking away.

Maybe not slinking, but I like to think that he was slinking. Either way, he beat a hasty retreat back to his coffee, perhaps to regroup.

The husband offered me a surreptitious thumbs up, and I nodded back and left.

Not a fight. Barely a confrontation. 

But so much fun. 

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We march again.

One of the only wonderful things about the Trump administration has been the remarkable protests that his hateful, xenophobic, idiotic policies have engendered throughout our country. Americans coming together in historic numbers to stand opposed to hate, bigotry, sexism, corruption, and the purposeful destruction of our environment for personal profit. 

The Woman's March was the largest single day protest in American history and spread throughout the world. My family marched on that day, and it is a memory I will cherish forever.

There were protests at airports following the various iterations of Trump's bigoted travel bans. The Tax March. The March for Science. Protests following the Stoneman Douglas High School shooting. Protests following Trump's withdrawal from the Paris Agreement. Protests following Trump's DACA decision. Many, many more.  

Today Americans march is opposition to the authentically evil of separation of children from their migrant parents. Hundreds of thousands of Americans - and maybe more - will once again stand in opposition to Trump - a man elected by a minority of Americans - and his cruel and indefensible immigration policies. 

Peaceful, forceful, unending protest. It's a beautiful thing. The only beautiful thing to come out of the election of this vile, ignorant, self-serving human being. 

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Jesus was a brown, undocumented immigrant who crossed national borders illegally ill

For those awful human beings who believe that child separation on our southern border is an appropriate policy but also profess a deep and meaningful belief in a Christian God (or in the case of Attorney General Jeff Sessions attempt to use that Christian doctrine to defend this unrighteous action), this church sign is an excellent reminder that Jesus, Mary, and Joseph were all refugees who illegally crossed national borders, too.

In fact, Jesus and his parents were more akin to the asylum seekers crossing our border today - impoverished brown families fleeing persecution and death - than any racist, white American who supported a President who called these people racists, thugs, criminals, and "bad, bad people." 

Also, since so much of Trump's immigration policy is based in racism (note that we only separate families with brown skin when the majority of undocumented immigrants arrive in this country via airplane and overstay their visas), it's also an excellent moment to remind everyone that Jesus's skin was probably just as brown as the immigrants, refugees, and asylum seekers crossing our southern border.

I've been in many, many churches in my life, and I am always amused by the number of white Jesuses hanging on crosses at the front of the church.  

Jesus was a lot of things, but white was definitely not one of them.

In fact, if Jesus returned to Earth today (as so many Christians believe he one day will) and attempted to cross Mexican-American border, he would look very much like the Mexican and Central American parents who are currently being separated from their babies and toddlers by indecent, evil human beings who have forgotten the long lens of history and ignored the lessons found within their Bibles.

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What would Jesus do?

Attorney General and all-around bigot Jeff Sessions attempted to defend the parent-child separations that are taking place on the southern border this week by citing a passage from the Bible:

"I would cite you to the Apostle Paul and his clear and wise command in Romans 13 to obey the laws of the government because God has ordained the government for his purposes," Sessions said. "Orderly and lawful processes are good in themselves. Consistent, fair application of law is in itself a good and moral thing and that protects the weak, it protects the lawful. Our policies that can result in short-term separation of families are not unusual or unjustified."

I'm not a religious person, but I've read The Bible from beginning to end three times, and this is not so hard to understand. Christians simply need to ask themselves one question:

What would Jesus do?

Whether you believe that Jesus was the son of God, a prophet, or simply a smart and righteous guy, his teaching, as presented in The Bible, is unwavering and unambiguous.

Would Jesus separate a child from their parents?

Would Jesus refuse to bake a cake for two men who loved each other and wanted to spend the rest of their lives together? 

Would Jesus, a refugee himself, send asylum-seekers back their home country and an almost certain death?

Would Jesus cut permanently cut taxes on the wealthy while offering fractional, temporary tax cuts to middle class?

Would Jesus have voted for a man who brags about sexual assault? Defrauds Americans with a fake university? Lies constantly? Commits adultery with porn stars and then pays them off with hush money? Stands accused of sexual assault but almost two dozen women? Insults Gold Star families, war veterans, the disabled, and women? Refused to rent apartments to black families? Demands costly military parades? Befriends brutal dictators who have locked up hundreds of thousands of his citizens in gulags?

If Christians simply applied the "What would Jesus do?" question (and perhaps in some cases actually read The Bible instead of trusting the teaching of politically motivated religious leaders) to these policy decisions, the choices would be clear.

No, Jeff Sessions. The Bible does not support your barbaric policy of separating children from their parents on the border. Jesus would never do such a thing, and "What would Jesus do?" is is the only Biblical standard that should apply to Christians and/or bigots who attempt to use The Bible to defend their barbarity.  

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Ruth and Bush

This is a photograph of future President George H. W. Bush and Babe Ruth in 1948. 

The cancer-stricken Babe Ruth donated an original manuscript of his autobiography to Yale University. He presented the gift during an on-field ceremony at Yale Field, where he was greeted by the Bulldogs’ baseball team captain, George H.W. Bush.

I love this photograph. I love to imagine what these two men - the greatest baseball player in history and the war hero-turned Yale scholar - were thinking this day. What were their lives like? Did they have any idea that the lives of two historic men were intersecting that day? Did they have any idea how they would both be forever remembered by history?

Ruth would die months later from his cancer, though his legacy and records have stood the test of time.

Bush would go on to be President of the United States, and 70 years later, is still alive and kicking. 

It's photos like this that make me yearn for a time machine so I could go back to that moment and see all that a photograph does not allow you see or experience.

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So many white people...

The White House hosted military spouses last week. Here is a photograph of the group, released by the White House.

Noticing anything odd? 

It's admittedly odd that the entire group appears to be female, given that about 15% of the armed forces is female, so there are presumably some male military spouses in America. 

But much more disturbing is the color of this group. America's armed forces are 40% non-white. The odds of a group of 52 military spouses containing no people of color are about 1 in 300 billion. 

My physicist friend Charles calculated it for me. 

The only way this group doesn't include a single non-white members is if the White House deliberately avoided inviting non-white spouses.

The blatant racism of Donald Trump and his administration never ceases to amaze me.

Then again, let us not forget the color of the White House and Republican Congressional interns for last year. 

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Constantly frowning and avoiding dogs at every turn

Grammar is important, especially when it comes to the design of memorial plaques. Ignore a few basic rules of grammar and you could end up with this:

A woman who both never saw a dog in her entire life and never cracked a smile.

Quite the departure from what this foundation was presumably intending. 

When I asked my nine year-old daughter to read this and tell me what she thinks of Nicole Campbell, she said, "A grumpy, dead person."

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The best way to rewrite this plaque is probably this:

In loving memory of
Nicole Campbell
Who never saw a dog that didn't make her smile

"Who never saw a dog without smiling" also works, but I like the seemingly irresistibility of dogs that the first option implies. 

Either is far better than portraying Nicole Campbell as some unsmiling monster who managed to avoid dogs for her entire life. 

When the words are important and permanent, you need to get it right. 

The Trump administration has been the most type-ladened organization that I've ever seen. Not only is Trump's Twitter feed ("official statements" according to his press secretary) filled with capitalization, spelling, and punctuation errors, but typos abound in this administration.

Just last week, Sarah Huckabee Sanders read a statement containing this:

“Iran has a robust, clandestine nuclear weapons program that it has tried and failed to hide from the world and from its own people.”

Unfortunately, the "has" was supposed to be "had."

Big difference. 

A statement from Sanders’s office on the death of former first lady Barbara Bush was dated April 17, 2017, a full year prior to her death.

A White House press release last May said that Donald Trump was traveling to Israel to promote “the possibility of lasting peach.” 

A lasting peach sounds great, but not quite as good as lasting peace in the Middle East. 

An ever-updating list of public typos and spelling errors, verbatim, from the Trump White House, can be found here.

 My favorite so far is Trump's official inauguration portrait. At a time when he was forced to lie about his lackluster inauguration attendance and his post-inauguration parade route was so visibly devoid of human beings, Trump released his portrait containing a typo so obvious that you had to wonder if anyone in the new administration had a brain. 

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A dose of 1850's racial politics to start my day

Five minutes ago, at 5:34 AM, my nine year-old daughter, Clara, walked down the stairs, sat beside me, and the first words out of her mouth were these:

"Hey Daddy, I was reading about Harriet Tubman yesterday, and I was wondering:  Why did the northern states agree to pass The Fugitive Slave Law even though the north wanted to abolish slavery?"

Just how I wanted to start my day. 

I'm starting to think that she reads too much. 

Philosophy explained. For real.

I'm not a philosopher by training, but I studied philosophy in college and have continued to pursue my study to varying degrees in my personal life.

This does not make me an expert.

But if I were to teach a class on philosophy on the high school or college level, I would use this board as both the syllabus and the final. It's a brilliant, succinct, and amusing summary of the general tenants of philosophy.

I love it so much. 

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Eleven is evil.

Just after the United States launched missile strikes against Syrian chemical weapons facilities, Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis said, "I've never seen refugees as traumatized as coming out of Syria. It’s got to end."

Sure, but over the last three years, the number of Syrian refugees admitted to the United States has been this:

2016: 15,479
2017: 3,024
2018: 11

Even though decades of immigration data and almost every economist in the world will tell you that refugees bring added wealth and prosperity to a nation through entrepreneurship, hard work, and an increasingly robust tax base, and even though Jesus himself was a refugee, Trump has all but stopped the flow of Syrian refugees to our country, and his Evangelical base continues to support him through this cruel and evil process.

Hush money paid to porn stars and Playmates. Accusations of sexual harassment and sexual assault from more than two dozen women. Bragging about sexually assaulting women. 

Evangelicals reject the veracity of these mounting charges and somehow sleep soundly at night. 

But you can't refute these immigration numbers. America has stopped saving the lives of Syrian refugees, despite our ability to do so, despite the economic logic of doing so, and despite the Secretary of Defense's claim that he's ""never seen refugees as traumatized as coming out of Syria. It’s got to end."

From 15,479 to 11. 

It's despicable. 

And this isn't really an issue of immigration because Trump himself stated that he would like more immigrants from places like Norway than "shit hole countries" like Syria. Trump has made his position very clear:

We will take immigrants from the wealthiest, most stable countries in the world, but your tired, your poor, and your huddled masses? 

Not so much. 

Then again, Syrian refugees pose another real problem for Trump:

Just like Jesus, they aren't white, and they aren't Christian. 

Since racism or religious bigotry are a hallmark of this administration, you can see why it would be hard for Trump to accept these brown skinned, Muslim refugees.

When you launched your political career with lies about Muslims on rooftops during 9/11 and been charged multiple times by the federal government with housing discrimination because of your refusal to rent to African Americans, it's clear that Syrian refugees aren't going to sit well with xenophobe in the White House.    

Meanwhile, men, women, and children die in Syrian refugee camps. These are men, women, and children who are willing to come to our country and work long and hard for a better life. 

I don't believe in a heaven and hell, but if they exist, this is the kind of thing that would cause a person to burn in eternity for sure. 

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Good news/bad news on the exoneration front

Good news: 

Lawrence McKinney, 61, jailed for 31 years for a crime he did not commit - rape and burglary - has been awarded one million dollars in compensation from the state of Tennessee.

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A decidedly different outcome from Lamont McIntyre's fate, who I wrote about a couple weeks ago. 

Bad news:

It wasn't easy. And it almost didn't happen. 

Upon his release from prison, McKinney received just $75 after three decades behind bars.

"Because I had no ID it took me three months before I was able to cash it," McKinney told CNN.

After he was freed, Mr McKinney sought a full exoneration. This was the only way he could petition the state for a more appropriate settlement. But in 2016, a parole board unanimously voted against a full exoneration, even though all DNA evidence indicated he was not guilty of his crime. 

One board member defended their decision not to exonerate him with this gem:

"The victim's descriptions to police matched McKinney's description, to a tee."

However, Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam reversed the parole board's verdict and unilaterally exonerated him in December 2017. Only then were McKinney's attorneys able to get him his one million dollar settlement. 

Had the governor not intervened, McKinney's $75 settlement would have stood. That amounts to .006 cents per day of incarceration. 

Six-thousands of a cent per day behind bars. 

Even now, the settlement of one million dollars amounts to just $88 per day, and once attorney's fees have been deducted, that amount is closer to $61 per day.

There is no way to return 31 years of a man's life, but the state can at least ensure that his remaining years are spent is relative leisure and comfort.  

Is that really too much to ask?

Recently, Nevest Coleman made news after being released from prison after 23 years thanks to DNA evidence and immediately returned to his job as Chicago White Sox groundskeeper. 

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Coleman endured a 12-hour interrogation, during which he was punched by a detective when he denied any involvement in the killing.

Told he could go home if he confessed, Coleman was coached to say that two other men had carried out the murder while he acted as a lookout. Coleman gave a statement, then recanted as soon as his lawyer arrived, according to court records.

Coleman and co-defendant Darryl Fulton both gave confessions and were convicted of rape and murder, while a third suspect who did not confess, was never charged.

As a person who came precariously close to confessing to a crime he did not commit after hours of interrogation and false promises, I can't tell you how much I feel for those men. I know what it's like to be in that small room, desperate to escape, feeling like you never will. 

The same detectives who coerced Coleman and Fulton's confessions were involved in other questionable cases. Just last month, defendants arrested by the same detectives but later exonerated by DNA evidence reached a $31 million settlement with the city.

Colemman and Fulton have yet to learn how much they will receive. 

Hopefully more than a groundskeeper makes. 

Republican interns are white.

Look no further than the current crop of White House summer interns to understand precisely what hardline Republican immigration policies are all about. 

You need to aggressively disregard people of color to end up with the group of almost entirely white people. 

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Lest you think this is an aberration, here is a photo of last year's White House interns. 

Note the striking similarity. 

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And here is a photo of the Republican Congressional interns from last year. 

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In case you're wondering what the Congressional interns for the Democrats looked like, here is their photo. 

Pretty much says it all. Don't you think?

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It's always strange when state-run TV and the President aren't totally in sync

When state-run television Fox News publishes poll data like this, there should be absolutely no question about the will of the American people. 

Yet not a single one of these measures have been put into place. 

When the American people overwhelming support legislation, and that legislation does not happen, there is only one reason:

Money. 

Republican donors, including and especially the NRA, are blocking this legislation with threats to withdraw campaign donations, and politicians who favor dollars over the will and safety of constituents are allowing it to continue.  

Even more important, we must remember that when it comes to issues related to guns, America is not nearly as divided as Republicans and the NRA would have you believe. This poll - commissioned and published by Fox News - shows enormous consensus amongst Americans related to these basic, common sense measures.  

A large majority of Americans want gun reform. Reasonable, rationale, sensible gun reform. It's only a loud, political active minority with money to burn and the gutless, useless politicians who take their money who are preventing  it from happening. 

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International Night: A reminder of what our country can and should be

Last night my family attended my school's first ever International Night.

I didn't know what to expect. I wasn't involved in the planning of this event, so when I arrived, I was blown away by all that we experienced. Lining the walls of the cafeteria and the hallway were booths featuring countries from around the world, each managed by students and families who originated from those countries. 

My school is filled with immigrants from all over the world:

Nepal, Israel, Peru, China, India, Germany, Sweden, Poland, Ireland, Vietnam, Mexico, Korea, Columbia and many, many more. 

Each one of these booths featured foods, information, and artifacts from the country, and it was staffed by adults and children who were excited to tell us all about their homeland.

Later, there were performances in a packed auditorium. We watched a Chinese yoyo demonstration, a martial arts demonstration, and lots and lots of dancing and music from all around the world. 

Elysha and the kids sat between a Nepalese family and two children from Vietnam. I watched one of my colleagues perform an Irish step dance. I chatted with folks from Poland, Peru, Columbia, and Mexico. 

Best of all, I didn't sit with my family. I chose to stand, partially because I wanted to be ready to take photos and videos of some of my student performers, but also because I wanted to watch my children's faces as they watched the performances. I love to see the wonder in Clara and Charlie's eyes as they watch something new and exciting, and these performances did not disappoint.

The little girl who loves learning about new countries and cultures was enthralled by every moment, and the boy who can't sit still for a single second sat still for nearly the entire time. It was as much fun to watch them as it was to watch the action taking place onstage.

It was a beautiful celebration of the many cultures that come together within our schoolhouse walls every day. 

We live in a country of immigrants, and this is one of our greatest blessings. My daughter ate Chinese moon cake and Irish cheese. She chatted with a student from China and asked questions from an immigrant of Sweden. Charlie was awestruck by the model of the Taj Mahal and stared in fascination at the Chinese yoyo. He "might want to learn to Irish step dance."  

What a remarkable evening of learning, connection, and understanding.

There are people in our country today who truly believe that America is a white, Anglo-Saxon, Christian nation, despite everything that our Funding Father's wrote and the long and storied history of the people who built this country. There are people in this country who would have us close our borders to the world, even when every economic study published states clearly and unequivocally that immigration strengthens a nation's economy. 

We have a President who would build a wall on our Southern border. We have a President who seeks to reduce immigration in our country to its lowest levels ever by removing family reunification systems and threatening DACA recipients by eliminating their protections. 

We have a President who routinely lies about the rate of illegal immigration and characterizes immigrants - documented and undocumented - in the most vile terms. 

We have a President who has been routinely deporting US military veterans because of their immigration status. They are good enough to risk their lives for us in Afghanistan and Iraq but not good enough to continue to reside in this country.    

Their country. 

Last night was a bold reminder about how beautiful our country can be when people of different cultures come together for a common cause. My heart and spirit were lifted last night as I looked across an auditorium that was awash in every color under the rainbow and saw nothing but smiling, happy faces.

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