In a post-Weinstein era, where do we go from here?

It was said almost immediately in early October, when dual articles in the New York Times and the New Yorker exposed an alarming pattern of inappropriate and abusive sexual behavior by film mogul Harvey Weinstein, that this was a watershed moment.

But it’s hard to tell if something truly is a watershed moment while it is happening. It’s the events and reactions that occur after that determine that.

Three months later, there’s no doubt it was a watershed moment, indeed.

Women have been racking their memories of all the times they have inappropriately harassed and kept their silence, the victims of an existing punitive culture that deterred women from speaking out against powerful men.

Men, conversely, have reflected on all the times that their behavior towards women may have crossed the line and if they, too, are guilty of sexual impropriety.

What’s different now is we’ve finally entered a new age where we, as a society at large, are ready to listen to women and accept their stories.

And my how the floodgates have opened. Kevin Spacey. Louis CK. Charlie Rose. Matt Lauer. The list goes on of men who have been publicly accused and subsequently lost their jobs, or faced punishment and public shaming.

My worry is that people will get lost in this cloud of constant accusations. I worry that the discussions will to devolve to “Who’s next?” followed by, “Will he lose their job?”

Because if that is the case, then we lose the question that truly matters: Where do we go from here?

Moving forward, will we now live and work in an environment where men, knowing that they will be held accountable for their actions, will think twice before they act? Will we begin educating youths of the improper nature of sexual misconduct, even before they know what sex is – like we do with drugs?

What’s happening now will not matter if we don’t learn anything moving forward, and that is where conversations need to be directed.

Exposing people for their past behavior is a good start, but more important is making sure that this behavior doesn’t persist.

As far as how to deal with the accused, well, that’s another discussion. What we’ve obviously learned is that this issue is not black and white. When hearing about alleged misconduct, we need to decipher if the accused has exhibited a lifelong pattern of pervasive sexual misconduct, or if they made a mistake.

Will they vehemently deny the allegations and demean their accusers, or will they accept responsibility and strive to become a better person? Those are the questions we need to ask ourselves, and judge accordingly.

There’s a lot of ugliness being reported now. I’m sure there will be more accusations coming. But often, the brightest times emerge after the darkest storms.

Let’s hope there is brightness ahead.

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A world without Trump

While Americans differ wildly in political ideology, I think one thing that most Americans can agree on is that we would be a less divisive country right now if someone other than Donald Trump was in charge.

It’s impossible to process news without hearing his name spoken every 10 seconds, and it detracts from our ability to register what is important and what isn’t.

And that’s one of the ultimate tragedies of this administration. It’s disenchanted our concept of a true democracy.

Yes, people are motivated, and the midterms elections will tell us the official temperature of the electorate. But that’s 11 months away. And most people are just fed up with the arguing.

If you want a telling sign that the institutions of American democracy are collapsing before our eyes, then read the analysis from scholars and journalists who have spent years of their lives studying governments of third world countries that have collapsed.

The signs are the same. People take for granted that our country is so far advanced that we would never be in danger of a democratic backslide. But what you must realize is that it doesn’t happen overnight. It happens slowly and in plain sight.

Delegitimizing the media. Undermining elected representatives and judges. Scapegoating minorities. Venerating the idea of national security and a strong military.

These are the basic ingredients of a destabilizing administration. And everyone should be alarmed.

But that will play out as it may. One of the reasons I stopped blogging this summer is because I became tired of being yet another voice screaming into an endless abyss about Donald Trump. At some point, the voices drown each other out. And it just makes you feel powerless.

So here’s what we’re going to do. From now on, I want to chime in on important things happening in the world. But from this day forward, I will never mention Donald Trump’s name again. Not until Tuesday, Nov. 3rd, 2020, when he is hopefully voted out of office.

The Weinblog is back – though almost certainly not on a daily basis – and it will be totally devoid of Trump. If I discuss a news item that has ties to him, then I will find a way to circumvent his influence on the subject, and certainly refrain from using his name directly.

And it will be a breath of fresh air.

From now on, you get current events. Trump-free.

A world without Donald Trump.

That’s the Weinblog’s motto from now on.

The truth about sanctuary cities

There is not much disagreement among Americans that there should be a standardized process for non-citizens to enter America, and those who fail to meet those requirements should be subject to punishment and/or deportation.

The means to get there is the sticky point.

Of course, there was once a point in our nation’s history when the lone requirement was simply to make it to Ellis Island. A doctor would take a look at you to make sure you’re relatively, and voila, you’re on the path towards becoming an American.

Indeed, if you’re reading this, you almost certainly descend from somebody who had that very experience. Of course, times have changed, and the criteria to become American is understandably — and appropriately — more stringent.

There are an estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the United States. If you ask some conservative thinkers, their solution would be to round them all up and toss them out tomorrow. That’s just not realistic for an abundance of reasons.

For one, it would put our economy in a tailspin. Undocumented workers contribute billions of dollars in taxes each year. In some cases, they contribute more than those in the top 1% tax bracket who get numerous tax exemptions.

Secondly, it’s simply impossible to identify who is illegal and who is not without discriminating and infringing on people’s rights. Strict and forceful deportation policies create an environment of fear among all immigrants, legal or not.

And this is what brings us to sanctuary cities.

The term derives from a religious movement in the 1980s, when churches felt a moral obligation to shelter Central American refugees from countries fleeing war and persecution. By taking them in, they were subverting the law, but offering sanctuary to innocent victims escaping the horrors of their home nation.

The term has since become more heavily politicized, and was taken to a whole new level during the 2016 election as the central platform focus of Donald Trump.

In 2017, the term “sanctuary city” conjures up images in people’s minds of a lawless city where illegal immigrants can do whatever they want without being criminalized.

But the truth is, according to many published accounts, that local police departments support sanctuary cities.

What qualifies a location a sanctuary city is their refusal to cooperate with the federal immigration agency, ICE, which essentially has a mandate to use any means to identify illegal immigrants and give them the boot. Cities that cooperate with ICE are requested to keep inmates in jail even when they’ve been cleared for release so it can be determined if they should be deported or not.

Not only does this open cities up to potential lawsuits when a detainee is, in fact, legal — which has precedent — but it exacerbates that sentiment of fear between immigrants and police. It eliminates any incentive for immigrants to cooperate with police, thus taking away what could have been a valuable source towards tracking down actual illegal immigrants who are continuously breaking the law.

So while sanctuary cities do exist as a symbol of America’s growing diversity, their primary function is to create a safer environment within cities between residents and police.

Now this isn’t meant to be a total defense of illegal immigrants. They should migrate to America legally. Though it should be noted that while there are plenty of real life incidents of undocumented persons committing violent crimes — sometimes even murder — against innocent Americans, statistically, it doesn’t make it any more likely that an illegal immigrant will commit murder more often than someone who was born here.

Immigration is a very complicated issue. Sanctuary cities are just a part of it.

Next time you hear someone complain about a sanctuary city, maybe you can inform them that they don’t exist as a safe haven for murderous gangs from Latin America, but rather, as a place where local police departments can act in partnership with residents to enforce the law and track down those who truly abuse their privilege of living in America.

When Donald met Vladimir

If you’re tired of hearing about Trump and the Russians, skip to the bottom where you’ll find a video of a golden retriever saving a fawn from drowning.

OK, so Trump met with Putin. For an hour. In the same day the two had met for a highly-anticipated two hour closed door meeting in which both nations expressed entirely different readouts on how it went.

Consistent with the way the whole #KremlinGate scandal has gone thus far, I presume people on the left will label this as another element to the biggest scandal in political history; people on the right will shrug and wonder why we’re so consumed with this topic; while Trump and his team will condemn the news media as “fake” and “sick.”

All three are wrong. At least, so far they are.

As I have expressed before, anyone who doesn’t fully comprehend why even the semblance of collusion between the U.S. and Russia is newsworthy is clearly ignorant or indifferent towards history.

You know the phrase the “Evil Empire?” A Mets fan might respond and say, “Yeah, the New York Yankees.” Well, no. The Evil Empire is the Soviet Union. A country whose name, when spoken aloud, would force high school students to retreat under their desks 60 years ago.

A country that once threatened our annihilation by pointing missiles at us from less than 500 miles away.

Since World War II, there has been practically nothing to gain from cooperation with Russia. Nothing. They have been a hostile actor not only to the U.S., but to our global allies. Their goal, even today, is to disrupt the world order to better align with their own interests.

Russia ceased to be the Soviet Union in the late ‘80s. Thus, millennials grew up without a fear for Russia. And even though Russia is no longer a communist state, they have reverted back to being an authoritarian state since Putin’s ascent to the presidency at the turn of the century.

In short, Russia is not our friend. President Trump is right in that it is not a bad thing to engage with countries who we have long been feuding with. Diplomacy always trumps hostility (no pun intended). But Russia is a special exception. For years, their country has been in decline. International sanctions have left them economically crippled. Unpopular invasions (in Crimea, Ukraine) have left them geopolitically alienated.

Russia is a declining state. But they are compensating for this downturn by asserting their influence on global order by intervening in other country’s elections in support of candidates who they believe would be more lenient towards them. And it’s working.

So given all of this history, both historically and currently, and given the hysteria surrounding the investigation into possible collusion leading up to the election, it is nothing short of mind-blowing that Donald Trump, in a room full of 19 leaders from our nation’s most powerful countries, some of which are our staunchest allies, would bypass them and head straight to Vladimir Putin for a one-hour, private chat. With only a Russian translator.

Never mind the security issue of not knowing what exactly the Russian government translator literally said to Trump and Putin — considering where his national interests lie – but the fact that Trump didn’t realize that this would be a significant event in light of all that’s already going on shows just how obtuse this man really is.

#KremlineGate is probably the most avoidable scandal in political history. First you have Fredo, I mean Donald Trump Jr. accepting a Russian meeting last summer under the context of it being part of Russia’s support for Donald Trump, and now Trump sitting down and yapping with Putin like they’re old buddies — all in plain sight of other world leaders who have every right to wonder what the heck is going on between these two guys.

Any collusion between Russia and the U.S. is a big deal. Will it ultimately be impeachable? Who knows. But this isn’t a left/right issue. It’s a new chapter in what has been a very complicated and unfriendly history between the U.S. and Russia.

OK, I’m done. Here’s the dog video I promised.

My supreme return

As perhaps one or two of you may have noticed, I have not posted in a while. The first week I had a good reason: I was in Orlando for a work trip. The last couple of weeks, however, I just decided I needed a break.

Think of it as my summer blogging vacation (even though summer only started five days ago).

But there were a few reasons why I wished to take a break. One was just to give myself a mental vacation. When I get home from work from a long day, it’s nice to not have to worry about any other obligations.

Secondly, I was getting exhausted from complaining about Donald Trump every day.

Last, I really wanted to use the time to brainstorm how I could channel my creative energy towards a project that can be more productive towards my future. I have no aspirations to become a professional blogger. But I do feel like one day I will come up with an idea that will be worth pursuing – whether it’s a book idea, a screenplay, or any other writing project. Something that can one day be published and enjoyed by the world.

I still haven’t gotten there. And until I do, I figure the most productive answer is to keep writing as much as I can on a regular basis. So, blogging can certainly fulfill that for now.

But it likely won’t be daily. And more importantly, if I am going to discuss politics and current events, I want to talk about things that matter. Not Trump’s tweets. Not the latest outrage on social media. But things that affect the way we live.

Today, for instance, the Supreme Court made two important announcements: It will make a decision in October on Trump’s travel ban, and it will also hear a case involving a Colorado baker’s refusal to serve a gay couple, citing a violation of religious freedom included in the First Amendment.

The travel ban decision is important. Not because it will dictate whether certain immigrants can or cannot come to the U.S. for a short-term period, but because it will set a precedent on the president’s ability to unilaterally enforce immigration restrictions, and therefore set boundaries on presidential powers overall while either strengthening or weakening our government’s longstanding system of checks and balances.

And any one hoping that Neil Gorsuch might become a bit more moderate once he hit the bench is probably disappointed by now. In agreeing to hear the case on the travel ban, the court granted the administration’s request to stay the injunctions put in place by lower courts, thereby putting portions of the ban into effect. Gorsuch (along with justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito) wrote dissenting opinions stating that they would’ve allowed the full ban, without limitations, to take effect right now.

The case on a worker’s ability to deny service to gay couples based on religious grounds is important for obvious reasons. If they side with the businesses, then it has the potential to derail progress this nation has made advancing gay rights, two years after the Supreme Court effectively legalized same-sex marriage nationwide.

One does not need to ask which side Gorsuch will take on this one.

Finally, Monday marks 20 years to the day when Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone in the U.K) was published.

Now if you could look back on any development in the last two decades that strongly benefited humankind, it was the introduction of the Harry Potter books, which encouraged a generation of children to fall in love with reading.

In the Potterverse, good ultimately defeated evil as Harry got the better of Lord Voldemort.

Let’s hope real life reflects that.

We’ll always have Paris

It’s basically gotten to the point where we are living in a cartoon world where the Trump administration is playing the role of the archetypal bad guys.

Like, if you were to write a kids’ movie or a dystopian novel, and you envisioned an adversarial government as the story’s antagonist, but exaggerated it so much that the reader or viewer would find it implausible that such evil would exist in real life– that’s what we are dealing with.

Our president is boorish and immature. The chief strategist whispering in his ear is a present day Joseph Goebbels. Our Attorney general embodies the appearance of a generic southern racist.

They’ve scaled back on civil rights, LGBT protections, healthcare protections, and now, they are doing all they can to repeal environmental protections.

The latest being Thursday’s announcement to rescind our involvement in the Paris climate accords – a pact signed by 195 countries to limit carbon emissions with the hope of saving the planet, an agreement that was spearheaded by Barack Obama two years ago.

I feel like I say this every week, but … how is this real?!

Trump climate

The one silver lining I tell myself is that just because Trump states something aloud or signs an executive order doesn’t mean things change with the drop of a hat. There’s still checks and balances that limits his abilities and other mechanisms that act as a bulwark against his tyranny.

In this instance, the climate accords state that there is about a 4-year removal process, meaning that full removal from the agreement may be determined by who elect in the 2020 presidential election.

Hate is building for Donald Trump. It’s been happening since day one. But it’s only a matter of time until there is an unprecedented, large-scale rally in Washington, D.C. calling for his ouster.

And if that occurs, I don’t think I’d be able to live the rest of my life with dignity if I don’t go.

Not only is Trump enraging so many with his mind-boggling decisions, but he’s also corrupting our intelligence by making up words.

Either you know about “covfefe” or you don’t. In short, Trump tweeted a made-up word, didn’t delete it for five hours, and the world scratched their heads until then trying to figure out what he meant.

When the media asked Press Secretary Sean Spicer what the president meant — fully expecting him to say it was a typo — Spicer answered seriously, “The president and a small group of people know what he meant.”

I’d say the inmates are running the asylum, but I think we’re well past that.

All I know is that if things don’t change quickly, I think we’ll all be drinking at Tiger Woods levels really soon.

Tomorrow is Friday. after all. The perfect time to start.

Happy covfefe everyone.

A new way to catfish, and tragedy in Baghdad

Remember when being “catfished” meant that you were the victim of an online seduction hoax?

If you don’t, just ask Manti Te’o about it.

Well, forget that MTV-like kerfuffle, because thanks to one diabolical Nashville Predators fan, the term has taken on a whole new meaning.

In case you didn’t hear this story, for Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Finals between the Predators and the Pittsburgh Penguins on Monday, a hockey devotee named Jake Waddell, of Ohio, decided to:

  • Purchase a catfish
  • Refrigerate it to keep it from rotting
  • Transport it to Pittsburgh from Ohio
  • Flatten it with his truck to reduce its size
  • Store it in between two layers of underwear to gain entry with it into the arena
  • Wait for his opportunity to be near the glass surrounding the ice
  • Throw catfish

Catfish iceThrowing catfish onto the ice is a common practice at the Bridgestone Arena in Nashville. If you think it’s weird, note that in Detroit, they throw octopi.

The fan was then promptly ejected and charged with three misdemeanors.

But the conviction and dedication that this fan showed to complete his scheme is definitely worthy of rebranding the term “catfishing.” Especially when it’ previously accepted definition was pretty dumb to begin with. Bravo sir.

But let’s move from Nashville to Baghdad. The two epicenters of country music.

While everyone is still grieving and mourning the Manchester terrorist attacks, it’s easy to forget that terrorist attacks happen with even greater frequency in the East than the West. In the past several days alone, terrorist attacks by ISIS have caused double digit casualties in Egypt, Iraq and Afghanistan.

The attack in Baghdad on Tuesday occurred at a popular ice cream shop, where parents with their kids often visit, especially during Ramadan to break their fast. More than 30 people were killed.

Baghdad ice cream

This tragedy has barely been mentioned in the U.S., even though, like Manchester, it resulted in the death of innocent children who were just doing things that kids like to do. Instead of going to a pop concert, they were eating ice cream.

Now I’m not going to judge anyone for the fact that one attack received publicity over another, or scrutinize why that happens in the first place, I just wanted to make sure that people who didn’t get the chance to hear about it are now aware.

Speaking of Manchester, Ariana Grande has responded to terror in a big way, first posting an inspiring message on social media, and then announcing that she will beAriana Grande returning to the city this Sunday alongside Katy Perry, Justin Bieber, Coldplay, Pharrell Williams, Usher and more for a benefit concert for the victims’ families.

We will never stop terror. But we we can do is show that it will cause us to live in fear.

When terror happens, we come back with even greater kindness than we showed before the attack.

Terrorists may accomplish their goal of ending lives, but they will never achieve their desire of breaking us down as human beings.

And more importantly, they will never stop us from living in a world where a man can freely walk into a hockey arena and toss a catfish onto the ice.