COVID-19 Lack of Domestic Planning

Shortly after the terror attacks of 9/11, our nation created a cabinet department of the U.S. federal government named The United States Department of Homeland Security. Its stated missions involve anti-terrorism, border security, immigration and customs, cybersecurity, and disaster prevention and management. But 17 years and billions of net discretionary dollars annually, we are met once again with a potential crisis that we are not utilizing or prepared to handle.

When we reflect on natural disasters just after 9/11, such as hurricanes Katrina, Irma, and Maria, our nation with an allegedly prepared Emergency Management System in place witnessed casualties surpassing the 9/11 events. Today, these epicenters are still in some forms of recovery mode in planning because of the beuracacy of how emergency management is mitigated.

In 2009 our nation endured the H1N1 virus pandemic, where an estimated twelve thousand people in the United States died from flu symptoms. After action reviews by the CDC and healthcare professionals began recommending annual flu vaccinations so that such a crisis does not occur again. The problem with that particular plan and model is that the debate over healthcare, where, and who should be vaccinated a mixed bag of messages. Additionally, the congressional political hot potato of “repeal and replace” health coverage has many citizens, not uninsured or underinsured. Therefore, there is no plan and billions of dollars wasted while our leadership sits on the sidelines using political tactics rather than scientific or strategically planned tactics to win a pandemic war.

Today we are witnessing a crisis without any planning. However, most disturbing is that the very agency, The U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the very agency that is supposed to keep the public informed, has been almost silent and somewhat nonexistent. Instead, the Vice-President of the United States has been the Coronavirus “expert,” leaving the Centers for Disease Control and Homeland Security out of the equation. To prove my point, I bet many of us cannot name who the Secretary of Homeland Security? That assessment alone should send a chill any emergency management taskforce because once again, we do not have a plan to execute and remedy the coronavirus.

A question we should begin asking leadership is, “where did the nearly $51 billion dollars spent each year at Homeland Security go?” “where is our investment to handle any crisis?” After all, these are your tax dollars and should meet a means test as to how your money is spent and how we prepare ordinary citizens.

What I have learned about Homeland Security and various emergency management agencies isn’t a pessimistic outcome but a reality. Emergency Management agencies are ill-equipped in strategic leadership to handle any situation. A critical reason is that emergency management is not led by professionals and experts in their field, but led by politicians with an amateur role to read from a teleprompter without an ounce of understanding about the topic at hand. It is as if we have handed out honorary doctoral degrees to politicians and kept the real doctors on the sidelines.

While I am optimistic that the coronavirus will go away, I am increasingly concerned that agencies such as Homeland Security and elected leadership is far behind the learning curve of understanding and impact on its citizens. You wouldn’t send troops to the front lines of battle, ill-equipped and untrained. Perhaps we need to learn how to defend ourselves on the domestic front by learning to win a pandemic war and solve some critical local issues.

The ACLU is Not Our Friend

Since the beginning of President Trump’s tenure, there has been rhetoric about immigration, and violent sex offenders turned loose from prisons. Leading the way is, supposedly, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). But the ACLU has habitually missed significant steps forward in fighting for the rights of those impacted by the sex offender registry. Instead, the ACLU failed to identify the inaccuracies, injustices, and misinformation about sex offender registries. Instead the ACLU focused upon people that are not American citizens and have direct diplomatic relations with their respective nations to highlight an obvious problem. Registrants have no constituencies what so ever. While I think it is essential to protect all people, the American based (ACLU) focused on non-Americans to grow its membership internationally, alienating sex offenders, families, allies, and most of all the common American citizen.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is a nonprofit organization whose stated mission is “to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to every person in this country by the Constitution and laws of the United States.

The ACLU has had since the 2006 federal passage to a nationally based sex offender registry has failed to become involved in the sex offender registry issues. Anyone that performs a web search where the ACLU has become a defender of registry issues may be in for quite a surprise. The ACLU has made no real effort to fight for the rights of registrants and their families. However, when a case such as Packingham v. North Carolina or the recent Michigan Doe vSnyder, the national ACLU will take credit for something it didn’t really have an initial substantial interest or follow-up after the fact. The ACLU habitually misses civil justice by quickly touting a win in the courtroom but failing to apply that win to the public for immediate use. It is deeply saddening and an injustice to all of those impacted by the sex offender registry that the ACLU has done nothing to enforce the rulings after the fact or to become involved in complex registry issues. The lack of representation by a nationally known organization somewhat renames the ACLU to the “Abandoned Civil Liberties Union.”

Sure, there can be a supporting argument that Michigan ACLU did a marvelous job in protections of those impacted and punished by sex offender registries. However, it is safe to say that the national ACLU didn’t lend the Michigan chapter much support. Instead, I foresee the ACLU with an agenda to further other registries without taking into consideration that “all registries do harm” approach. Therefore, I am a skeptic of the ACLU because the organization fails to embrace the sex offense conversation and the collateral consequences associated with registries.

Over the past year, I and many others have reached out to form partnerships, memberships, and request guidance or assistance for blatant human rights violations of registered sex offenders particularly in North Carolina or the national level. Such developments surround the Alabama Castration law, registrants in North Carolina unable to attend religious services, and the Georgia Halloween issue that quickly spread into North Carolina that still goes unanswered and unchallenged. Each and every time, I received a reply that “the ACLU is unable to provide assistance at this time.” My question to the ACLU is, “when is an approrpiate time?” Thos on the sex offender registry have endured ex post facto policies and inhumane liberties for decades. Yet the ACLU rushes to the #MeToo movement alienating simple Americans because they are not as cash rich as the Hollywood machine to capitalize a money gravy train. When the ACLU fails to address the complexities of sex offender registry issues presents a harsh reality to the sex offender community that the ACLU has given its stance about sex offender registry rights by completly ignoring them and will continue to ignore them.

But one thing is for sure, the ACLU and its chapters are quick to send out a mass mailing or email to beg for our money. It presents an appearance that the ACLU has migrated from grassroots to become a cash-for-rights agency, or it appears to be the reality for most registrants.

People listed on the sex registry, not on probation or monitored, are banned from religious services, banned from public spaces, banned from picking up or dropping off their children from school or daycare, banned from attending church, banned from visiting a state fair, banned from Facebook or other social medial platforms, cannot vacation or commercial properties in Florida or other states without registering within so many hours or the threat of jail. Yet, the ACLU remains invisible to sex offender registrants. The harsh reality is that at least those detained in an immigration holding center have more freedoms and representations than a person affected by the sex offender registry because they may do all those things mentioned once released. Immigrants are not living under a bridge, homeless, jobless, have a sex offender stamp printed on their driver’s license or passport, can receive health care, and assistance for legal advice. Registrants do not have these basic needs and equal access to these rights as Americans.

Civil rights begin right here on our doorsteps. Our nation relies upon effective leadership and organizations to advocate our concerns. But the ACLU with its ennoormous tax-free breaks and agenda on the backs of hard working Americans has gone to the wayside in the name of big donors and publicity of the easy tasks. The ACLU has become an agency center-stage to politicize its agenda by involving itself in the center of the #MeToo movement. Doing so presents a one-sided advocacy that rather than a focus on liberty and justice for all which implies both sides. Clearly the ACLU doesnt seem to care about liberty and justice unless it is profitable for them and allows easy access in giving the ACLU sole recognition value for hard work done by grass-roots advocates. The nearly 1 million registrants and their families have been significantly let down by the ACLU.

The purpose of “Me Too”, as initially voiced by Tarana Burke as well as those who later adopted the tactic, is to empower women through empathy and strength in numbers, especially young and vulnerable women, by visibly demonstrating how many women have survived sexual assault and harassment, especially in the workplace.

The ACLU has had nearly a decade to identify through various high profile federal cases grass-roots organizations to help benefit their primary cause and mission statement. Organizations such as NARSOL, ACSOL, WAR, and other state-affiliated organizations seek a relationship with the ACLU. But perhaps the ACLU is too ashamed to deal with real problems or association? With almost a million registrants, there doesn’t seem to be a blip on the radar screen that the ACLU is an ally the registry community can rely upon or trust. Civil liberties don’t take sides. It is to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to every person in this country. This is where the ACLU has failed us and will continue to do so until the registry community hold them accountable for for abandoning registrants. Registrants are not seeking to overturn convictions. Registrants are simply asking for liberty to be preserved after incarseration or sentencing once completed.

We must immediately stop any contributions to the ACLU financially and socially until it returns towards its grassroots of defending liberty and civility for all citizens. Registrants can no longer depend on the ACLU name to support unjust causes – unless, of course, you have a significant cash reserve to present to them. The ACLU must stop acting like a social club with a velvet rope among the very supporters of liberty. Perhaps it is time to close the good ole boys club and support real causes that affect real people?

Eventually, the ACLU will become ensnared into the registry somehow. I certainly do not wish that upon anyone. However, for the lack of ACLU representation amongst us it will perhaps take years of trust building to return towards a civil and educative conversation. The ACLU has abandoned those impacted by the sex offender registry and should be ashamed to call itself an national organization that “defends and preserves the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to every person in this country. ” A friend would not abandon another brother.

I Will Bear True Faith and Allegiance To The Same

Recently I had a delightful evening conversation (and I do mean that in the sincerest way) with my neighbor’s whose political ideologies significantly different to mine. We didn’t exchange heated debates or blame assessments with one another. We talked casually about how the government shutdown was affecting ordinary people, children, and the flow of our economy. We collectively agreed that the government shutdown seemed to be used as political weapons once U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was immediately sworn into office. I was stunned to hear from various Trump loving supporters that they had no confidence in his ability to lead or be reasoned with. To hear this coming straight from all an all staunch conservative room was almost surreal-like.

In the conversation, I heard my neighbor say something that stuck with me. She said the oath of office for the Presidency says, “I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign or domestic, that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same.” Her interpretation of “true faith and allegiance to the same” means citizens are utterly loyal to the Constitution and believe in its laws to protect them – not to ever hurt them for legislative purposes or personal agendas. Although her political leanings are far-right, she voiced her concerns that the President has lost touch with preserving the constitution but creating a personalized agenda to tear it apart. She ended with a greater concern that the president may intend to create a divisive moment in history that leads to the start of a civil war between liberals and conservatives. She went on to say that the President doesn’t listen to his advisors, press, or people unless they make him look good in a photo session or on television. But the Trump rhetoric and personal insults are pitting American against American. The mood almost felt like how most Democrats felt during the presidential election cycle. However, it had caught up with the most conservative and evangelical Christian voters.

Another highly conservative male that lives down the block chimed in and quickly presented a biblical scripture to use against Trump’s constant anger filled rhetoric. He said, James 1:19 says, “Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger;” He went on to explain that the President isn’t listening to those hurting and using his Twitter to vent his anger which seems something the devil would do.

The room filled with frustrations about how to remedy a situation but not to the point of anger, only great disappointment. Yes, there were some emotional moments that seemed to be misinformative news opinion, but the overall tone was bonded by the unity that we were all voters with differing viewpoints but at least willing to compromise and become respectful of one another. The lesson learned from that moment was we could accept defeat or deadlock but were willing to put a critical issue aside for the sake of others. Esentially we all agreed now is not the time to introduce an expensive border wall. It was that ah-ha moment that made me wish the President was sitting in that room to hear from the people that voted for him exclaiming they won’t support or vote for him in future. To that group of ultra-conservatives, the president went against Christian ideals by putting children, families, and our nation at risk over a politically divisive issue. A woman in the group mentions 1 Timothy 3:5 “For if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church?” as to infer that Trump is hurting families no matter what the cost.

As the conversation entered into nearly its second hour of discussion, we quickly began to realize that our disappointment, disgust, and perhaps energy was expended to waste time but give insights that we should be people with an ability to respect one another. We did say that our strength is best spent by turning off the television, Facebook and involving or volunteering ourselves in issues that are dear to our hearts. Perhaps turning off the “Trump reality show” where ratings and statistic, not God or humanity, seem to be the vanity he craves and relishes upon and we incidentally are becming adicted to.

Upon reflection, I was glad to be in a room with adults that respected differing viewpoints and exchanges. It is a continual lesson with regards to “do unto others”readings. Additionally, it allows people to either be heard or listened to in an exchange of values over politics. Sometimes we are quick to create our personal safe space in avoidance of sensitive or trigger subjects where we may feel outnumbered or marginalized. It is not to assume or duplicate our personal Via Dolorosa but to discover astonishing and sometimes unexpected outcomes on the opposite spectrum of us that finds a moment of unity and accidental allegiance.

Church on the Decline

Growing up as a child I attended church and Sunday school.  I grew up in a family that didn’t regularly go to church but I went occasionally with my grandma or would go with friends. Because I had a diverse group of friends from various denomination backgrounds, I was exposed to many religious services. However, when it came to Sunday school the message was simple and clear to “treat one another the way you wanted to be treated.”  I am sure there were higher level adult conversations in other Sunday classrooms with elders and mature audiences with churches, but I keep reflecting back to when did the message of “treat one another” lose its path or meaning? 

At these various churches there were activities such as church softball teams, piano lessons, choir, arts, baking, youth fellowship, Boy and Girl Scouts, summer trips, and the list goes on. Despite being mostly a visitor at the time I was welcomed, treated as a member, and provded opportunities to grow with that particular community. The elders of the church and Sunday school teachers were just that – teachers. Nearly everyone I encountered at a young age was a school teacher somewhere in the community. It was perhaps the first time that I could see the “real” them versus the school teacher role. 

Without attempting to sound stereotypical, there were male choir directors that presented effeminate mannerisms, but we still listened to what they said and were coached to sing on key – or close as possible. Nobody in any of the congregations made reference to being mindful or become concerned because of their traits. Again, the emphasis was placed to treat others the way we wanted to be treated. 

Somewhere along high school when Reagan became president the tone of the church significantly changed. It was as if a national purge was taking place. There was no longer room for anyone politically, socially, or different. The softball teams, arts, choir, summer trips, Boy and Girl scouts, baking, arts, and so on were abruptly ending. 

There was a new surge by the far-right and conservative to bring order and controls back to the church – all while blaming homosexuality as the demise of Christianity. However, from my perspective and viewpoint I was witnessing a witch hunt of labeling anyone slightly effemenient or butch to be associates or associated with the gay/lesbian community. The irony is that the far-right actually was the demise of religious attendance in America for failing to treat others as they would themselves. 

Whenever the country appears to be on the brink of turmoil or divided there are religious leaders or far right voices that exclaim blames to homosexuality or liberal thinking. It became so problematic that churches began directly asking members and visitors if they were practicing gay or lesbians. Today that practice is no longer widely used. However, congregations have begun implementing background checks on members for various reasons. To me, any church or religion with a background check shouldn’t be considered a church. Again, churches are losing its own faith to follow how to treat, respect, and welcome others as you would like to be treated. 

Perhaps all individuals should be reminded the valuable lesson of “treat others the way you want to be treated?”

Political Shutdown Games

I am not normally political. This post will be an exception because I am an American and I am concerned.

Please allow me to frame the issues involved with “the wall” in its actual terms. Despite what the media is saying, this is not about Democrat vs. Republican. In short, the executive branch of our government is threatening to declare a national emergency since the legislative branch will not authorize the seizure of private American property for a federal works project nor will fund it. The executive branch has already shut down the federal government. It is currently threatening to extend this government shut down for however long it takes for the legislative branch to cave.

Let us break this down. 

First of all, the framework of our government is based on checks and balances. Power is divided into three branches: the Executive, the Legislative, and the Judicial. The Legislative branch controls the purse strings of government and creates laws. The Executive branch carries out those laws. The Judicial branch tells us whether the laws are constitutional or not. Each branch was designed to be able to balance the other branches.

Why? As shown by our original rebellion, Americans didn’t want a King or a Dictator when we were setting up our government. We were not particularly thrilled with a House of Lords telling us what we could or could not do either.

In this case, the executive branch wants to:
(1) take governmental cash; 
(2) create its own law; 
(3) take away private property from American citizens; 
(4) create its own federal works project. 

At least three of these functions fall within the power/ responsibility of the legislative branch. So, what is the problem? This is one of the most naked power grabs by the executive branch over the others in recent history. Once that power is exercised, it is going to be difficult or impossible to regain any balance again. The executive branch was never meant to have that much power (see our country’s previous concerns about Kings and Dictators). Is this constitutional? Very doubtful. Should all Americans be concerned? That is a question for you to answer yourself. 

Second, a “National Emergency” is generally declared under these general conditions: 
(1) Natural disasters including hurricanes, tornados, and earthquakes to name a few; 
(2) Public health emergencies such as significant outbreaks of infectious diseases;
(3) Military attacks; 
(4) Civil insurrection;
(5) Any unusual and extraordinary threat, which has its source in whole or substantial part outside the United States, to the national security, foreign policy, or economy.

Now the first 4 aren’t applicable. The last category was meant to be short-term only. It was designed to be reviewed by the legislative branch every year after it’s enacted (because again; the check and balance is fundamental to how we operate).

So, what is the problem here? If national emergencies can be declared by the executive branch for non-emergency purposes which vest power in one branch of the government why would that branch ever let go of that power again?

Third, the seizure of private property (known as “eminent domain”, a body of law which says the government cannot just take your home without due process). You are joking, right? No. The US/Mexican border is 1,933 miles long. It runs through 4 states (California, Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas). Only 33% of that land is actually owned or managed by the Federal Government. A sizable percentage of that land is owned by the Indian nations. It is land preserved for those tribes by treaty and land given under treaty is not land owned by the United States. These tribes already have a lot of reasons to be angry at the Federal Government. This would be pouring additional gas on an open flame.

The other 64% of that land is privately owned. 

How much land would have to be taken? The amount of land that the Federal Government would have to take would likely run 1,237 miles long to 12,371 miles deep (assuming a 1 to 10-mile DMZ from the border into the United States). Even if we could only take 100 to 500 ft of land in densely populated areas, that is a lot of private property that is going to be seized by the Federal government. 

The land necessary for this project would also run through some highly populated areas in the US such as San Diego, Calexico, Nogales, El Paso, and Laredo. There will be a lot of Americans who are going to have their homes and businesses taken by the federal government. Which will also mean a lot of lawsuits.

In terms of the federal works project, these types of works include hospitals, bridges, highways, walls and dams. These projects may be funded by local, state, or federal appropriations. If they are federal, they are funded by the legislative branch of our government (the same branch that our executive branch is currently trying to take power from). Is the seizure of power constitutional? Not likely given the separation of powers discussed above.

Finally, these considerations do not take into account the sheer cost, human and monetary, that will be involved. The Department of Homeland Security estimates the current cost at $21 billion for construction alone (not counting costs of maintenance or costs associated with increased military/federal patrolling). 

Ask yourself a simple question. When was the last time that you saw a governmental project brought in under time and under budget? Does anyone remember the “big dig” in Boston, Mass? The actual costs are likely to be much higher. This estimated cost also does not include compensating folks for taking their land or the associated impact upon their businesses. 

The Federal budget deficit grew to $779 billion dollars in 2018 according to the Treasury Department. How are we, as a country, going to fund this project? How are we, as a country, going to deal with the additional debt? Unlike private businesses, our country cannot declare bankruptcy. 

This is not about Democrat vs. Republican. It is not about who has the best zingers measured in 10 second sound bites. It is about our country. The core of this issue deals with the profound and immense changes the outcome will have on the structure of our nation. This is the way that we, as a country, should be framing these issues. Please think about it.

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