America

I am not really an NFL fan (I prefer the college game.) But I do watch the Superbowl and I enjoy watching the ads. I thought the best ad this year was Radio Shack — ‘The 80s called and they want their store back’. It was the best because it is true. Radio Shack is an outdated version of an outdated concept and will likely soon go the way of Montgomery Wards and Blockbuster Video.

The most controversial ad this year was not from GoDaddy instead it was from an advertising giant that has created some of the iconic ads (think Polar Bears) of Superbowls past. The ad was Coca-Cola’s ‘America’.

[By way of disclaimer, I am a Pepsi guy, I only drink Coke when I am in the Atlanta airport]

In this ad a number of young girls sing America the Beautiful, each singing a portion in a different language, over a video that jumps between iconic outdoor scenes and images representing a number of ethnic groups in the United States.

One of my favorite radio personalities, Jan Mickelson of WHO referred to the ad as

A beautifully done dose of toxic sludge. This is the intentional opposite of E pluribus unum, Latin for “Out of many, one” Coke is NOT it.

A number of my conservative friends and colleagues expressed outrage at the ad on their Facebook walls and Twitter feeds.

Unfortunately, I think that many of my conservative friends have let their anti illegal immigration zeal be mis-interpreted (or actually become) anti-immigrant. Before anyone accuses me of pulling a Chad Brown I am very much an immigration hawk. Had his campaign made it to the caucus, I would have voted for Tom Tancredo. I continue to oppose any form of amnesty for illegal aliens especially a path to citizenship. I believe that English must be the official language of the United States and the State of Iowa. However, I really like the ad. It is beautifully done as Jan Mickelson said, but I disagree that it is a dose of toxic sludge.

In fairness, I should probably point out that I am a child of immigrants. My mother is from Guam, a US territory. She is a US Citizen by birth but was not a US Citizen at birth. When she was born, before World War II, Guam was a Naval Protectorate of the United States and natives of Guam were without country. Unless they were naturalized, they did not hold United States (or any other citizenship.) The Guam Organic Act of 1950 made Guam a US territory. It also conferred US citizenship upon those born on the island after April 11, 1899. (BTW, that means my mother cannot run for president since she is not a natural-born citizen of the United States.

My father was not a US citizen. He was a permanent resident alien, here legally. He came to this country legally from Jamaica to attend the University of Wisconsin and retired after over forty years as a professor at UNI. I am not sure why he never bothered to become a US citizen. As an aside, I was born just over a year before Jamaica became independent. At the time of my birth my father was a British subject. He later became a Jamaican citizen and held a Jamaican passport. I guess that means if I run for president I might have a Ted Cruz problem

. I wonder if I could claim dual citizenship (subjectship?) in the US and Great Britian? Having an EU passport would speed my time through the immigration lines when I work in Europe 🙂 Or, perhaps I can claim Jamaican citizenship. Unfortunately it is too late for me to try out for the Jamaican Bobsled Team for Sochi 🙁  It could’ve been me and Usain Bolt!

Both John Kennedy and Ronald Reagan referred to America as a city on a hill. Even in these difficult economic times, America, the land of freedom and opportunity, continues to attract immigrants from all over the world. As a nation, we need to embrace those who come here through the front door, those who obey our laws and want to become a part of America. One of the ways that America is special is the way we treat immigrants. Anyone can become an American. People like WHO’s Simon Conway, who come here legally and are naturalized, are Americans. By contrast, a foreigner can become a French citizen, but they will never be French.

[Aside: I know there will be some reading this who will immediately say, that it is arrogant to refer to ourselves as Americans — America is a continent, not a country. But America is a nickname for the United States of America, like calling a beloved grandmother ‘Nana’.]

So why am I not offended about hearing America the beautiful sung in different languages? Because we are out of many one (E pluribus unum). We ask immigrants to this country to adopt our language and culture but that does not mean that they completely give up theirs. Most of our great American cities have little Italy’s and Chinatowns. Last year I visited the three largest Polish cities in the world, Warsaw, Chicago and New York. Here in the upper Midwest you see the influence in food, culture and architecture of Czech, German and Scandinavian immigrants. I spend a lot of time on the West Coast with large Asian immigrant communities. Initially these communities have retained much of their native heritage including their language. Many of the old-timers, understandably, never became truly fluent in English. Subsequent generations typically assimilate very well. English is eventually their first language and over time many lose their ancestral languages all together.

I thought it was interesting to see the videos of the individual girls who did the singing on the video. All of them spoke perfect unaccented English (as perfect as any teen or tween girl’s English can be). What I saw was a group of American teenagers with beautiful voices who just happened to be a generation or so removed from their immigrant heritage singing respectfully of their homeland in the languages of their ancestors.

As an American, a conservative and a patriot, I am an immigration hawk, I believe that English must be our national language, I believe in American Exceptionalism, and I still believe that immigrants should be welcomed into our city on a hill.

A Brown Man reflects on White Santa

Brown Santa

The Author as ‘Brown Santa’

Last week Megyn Kelly of Fox News stepped into a controversy of her own making buy declaring that both Santa (Claus) and Jesus (Christ) were white. Kelly was referring to a column in Slate by Aisha Harris suggesting that Santa should be represented by a Penguin.

Kelly said:

For all you kids watching at home, Santa just is white …

For the record, Kelly is white (and blond) and the author of this blog has occasionally referred to himself as:

One part yellow, two parts brown and on part black — which makes me at least as black as Barack

Our culture has become hypersensitive about race. One of the side-effects is that for white people (including white Hispanics) race has become the third rail of public discourse. Yet minorities are free to say whatever they want about race with almost no repercussions. So, while my cracker friend Steve can’t blog about this topic, for fear of being called racist — I can.

As I have mentioned in other posts, I grew up with out any really strong racial identity. My neighborhood was as integrated as any in Cedar Falls. Most of my neighbors were educated professionals like my parents, primarily engineers and college professors. I hate to admit it but I always thought of myself as being just like all my friends — white. It was interesting when in middle school my father took a sabbatical and we lived for three years on the island of Guam. My mother is from Guam and I am half Chammoro (2 parts brown). On Guam I was no longer a minority, I was now in the majority. Interestingly almost all of my friends were haoles (a sometimes derogative term for white people)  probably because of shared experiences.

As for Santa Claus, it is understandable that people want to adopt the mythology of their culture to fit their own ethnic identity. Santa Claus has a convoluted past. The Santa that we recognize in the United States seems to be an admixture of the Greek St Nicholas, and the German/Norse Wodin/Odin. Since Greece is a Mediterranean country St Nicholas would logically be Greek with Greek/Mediterranean features — probably dark skin and brown hair. So, Santa Claus looks like me — he’s probably my size as well!

However, as a brown-skinned person who has lived in a tropical climate I have trouble believing that any of my brown homies would voluntarily leave a Mediterranean climate and move to the North Pole. So even though I have more trouble identifying with the big guy I am absolutely sure that Santa must be white!

Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt (FUD) — Proposed RPI Rule Changes

rpiMost people in the computer industry are familiar with the acronym FUD. FUD stand for fear, uncertainty and doubt. It describes people’s natural reaction to change. Sometimes this reaction is justified other times it is not.

At this weekend’s quarterly State Central Committee meeting, there are two proposed rule changes that could have a significant effect on the operation of the Republican Party of Iowa in the future. The first is a proposed amendment to the RPI Constitution that would allow delegates to the state convention to elect the RPI chairman. The second is a proposed amendment to the RPI Bylaws that would place term limits on SCC members and prevent members from working on campaigns, being employed by PAC, or registering as lobbyists. Given the current climate withing our state party — I prefer to call it a family feud not a civil war — my phone is ringing off the hook and my inbox is filling up with different people explaining to me the real reason for these proposals. So far the most popular conspiracy theories seem to be (in no particular order):

  • This is an attempt by the Ron Paul faction to wrest control at the convention
  • This is an attempt to remove Tamara Scott and Monte Shaw who are both registered lobbyists
  • This is an attempt to force the establishment members of the SCC to vote against a proposal that is supported by the grassroots thus making them vulnerable to defeat at the district conventions
  • This is a racist attempt to remove the only non-white SCC members — Gopal Krishna and me. [OK, you got me — nobody actually suggested this, but since we would be the only two affected by the term limits — I thought I would use the opportunity to play the race card and the victim card!]

Setting the conspiracy theories aside, in this post I will discuss the merits of these proposals and I will share with you how I intend to vote on them (at least at this time

). The full text of the proposals are online at TheIowaRepublican.com.

First I will address the Constitutional amendment. It was proposed by SCC member Mark Doland. The proposal has the following key points:

  1. The chair and co-chair will be elected by the delegates at the state convention
  2. The chair and co-chair will take office at the close of the state convention (SCC members already do)
  3. The chair or co-chair can only be removed by a 2/3 vote of the SCC for cause

Currently the chair and co-chair are elected by the SCC. I really like the idea of the convention electing these two officers. I am always in favor of more grassroots involvement. The main concern I have heard is that the grassroots would lack the requisite knowledge to select a chair and co-chair. While there may be some  merit to the argument — the SCC has  chosen both good and bad chairs and co-chairs in the past even with inside knowledge. I am sure the grassroots would do the same.

One of the issues I have with the proposal is that the chair and co-chair would take office at the end of the state convention. This would mean that every single election year we would replace the entire leadership of the party right when we should be preparing for the general election. On the other hand, given the contentious nature of our party — I am not sure that electing the leadership at convention in June then having the election cycle run by a lame duck is a good idea either. I like the idea — I could probably be persuaded on this point.

The biggest issue I have is the requirement for a 2/3 vote of the SCC to remove the chair or co-chair. At first I was OK with this but after hearing from a number of people I have flip-flopped. In my opinion requiring a super majority to remove the chair and co-chair puts too much unchecked power in the hands of the leadership. While I do not recall an SCC actually removing an officer. A few have resigned before the SCC had the chance to act. This accountability has served the party well over the years. I would be more supportive if the SCC could still remove officers by a majority vote

I also dislike the phrase for cause. It is even less clear than the phrase from the US Constitution — high crimes and misdemeanors. Now, I would hope that any time an SCC moved to remove an officer it would be for cause but unlike the constitution, this is a simple vote to remove not an impeachment or trial.

The bylaws proposal comes from SCC member David Cushman. Cushman’s proposal has several parts:

  1. Term limit of 3 consecutive terms for SCC members
  2. SCC members may not be employed by a PAC or campaign
  3. SCC members may not accept compensation or gifts from a PAC, campaign, elected office holder or registered lobbyist
  4. SCC members may not be registered lobbyists

I have never been a supporter of term limits on any level. The fact that only two of us on the SCC have served three or more consecutive terms, is proof that the will of grassroots is the most effective form of term limits. While I am not a supporter of term limits, I do not have really strong opposition either.

My position on the conflict of interest proposal is a little more nuanced. As an SCC member, I have campaigned on a platform of not endorsing candidates in a primary or caucus, not accepting any form of remuneration from any candidate or PAC, and not serving on the board of any organization whose primary purpose is to influence the government.  My reason is that I do not want even the appearance of conflict of interest in my service. On the other hand I have not really publicly advocated to hold others on the SCC to the same standard. Yes, I was involved in the failed constitutional amendment at the 2012 convention but it was put together by a large group of individuals and in my opinion over reached.

As a practical matter, the conflict of interest rule that I would heartily support is this:

No officer of the Republican Party of Iowa (including the Finance Chair and Legal Counsel) or member of the State Central Committee (including Iowa’s National Committeeman and National Committeewoman) shall be employed by a campaign during a primary or caucus

The restriction on compensation or gifts is fine but impractical without a little wordsmithing. I agree in principle, but I have a collection of hats, t-shirts, pens and notepads that I have received over the years and you would be hard pressed to suggest that they represent a conflict of interest. I could support a limit on gifts but I think that prohibiting campaign schwag is impractical and unnecessary.

The PACs and lobbyist restrictions are a little bit more complicated. I like the idea, but many of these organization also have 501(c)3’s as well as PACs and it would be in many cases simple to take an SCC member who is an employee of a PAC and make them instead an employee of the related 501(c)3. I agree with Cushman that there is potential for conflict of interest here.

Historically we have had examples of some who have navigated these waters gracefully and others who did not. For example I did not have a problem with former chair Kayne Robinson serving as NRA president. However, even though I was a Matt Strawn supporter, I felt his association with Strong America Now was unwise and hurt the party.

I am rambling again. I have been around long enough and spoken to enough activists in the Iowa GOP to believe that on Saturday, we could and should pass the much narrower, trimmed down alternative to the Cushman amendment that I propose above.

Even though I have pledged to hold myself to a much higher standard — I believe that such a decision should be made by the broadest cross section of our party’s grassroots — as a constitutional amendment at the state convention.

 

 

 

 

Ted Cruz, two legs and a wobbly stool

Ted Cruz at the Iowa GOP Reagan Dinner

Ted Cruz at the Iowa GOP Reagan Dinner

Last Friday, I had the chance to go to Des Moines and hear Texas Senator Ted Cruz speak at the Iowa GOP Reagan Dinner. I thought it was a good event overall. Kevin Hall over at TheIowaRepublican.com had some commentary on the event in general and while I agree with much of what he wrote, I won’t repeat it here. My focus is on the keynote address and the featured speaker, Ted Cruz.

This was my first opportunity to hear Cruz speak in person. I have to say that I was impressed! Cruz was articulate, passionate and right on the issues. He is after all white hispanic and these days his people could use some love 🙂

I thought that Cruz did an admirable job addressing the elephant in the room. (Can I say that about a Republican event?) That is, he defended his epic 21 hour filibuster that resulted in the government shutdown. While many in the party have portrayed his actions as a failure, he argued that by motivating people and making them aware of the debacle that is Obamacare, we as a party won a victory. I am not sure that I fully agree, I think the truth is somewhere in between. I admire Cruz for taking a stand and leading in the fight, but if this was a victory I am not sure how many more victories we can stand. I still think it was a fight worth fighting, but as Napoleon said,

I may have lost the battle, but not the war.

Cruz is a very good speaker, he spoke clearly and passionately without notes. He wore a lapel mike so he could move about the platform and it made him seem closer to his audience — very effective. He managed to work some Texas street cred into his speech, even though his background is Harvard Law via Princeton, he managed to twice say a y’all. Though he couldn’t get too far away from his Ivy League education because in the same sentence he used the phrases: y’all’s help and fait accompli.

Cruz spoke passionately on two issues, growth and liberty. He suggested — and I agree! — that these are winning issues for Republicans. He even referred to Ronald Reagan’ three legged stool. My problem with Cruz is not what he said, rather it is what he did not say.

Growth and Liberty are only two legs of the stool. The third leg is Traditional Values, while I am not questioning the senators bona fides in this area, it was a notable omission in his remarks. Especially given that he was speaking to an Iowa GOP audience

In the Iowa GOP even many of the Liberty Folk especially those in positions of party leadership are doctrinaire social conservatives. One of the things that I think the party has done right under current leadership, is take a stand on the issues identified in the platform. Issues like life, marriage, educational choice and Second Amendment.  I find it puzzling that in a State where Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum were the previous caucus winners, that Cruz would not even mention social issues. I like Cruz, I like what he had to say about liberty and growth — I also want to hear about the third leg lest the stool topple over.

The thing I hate most about Politics

SCC Member Wes Enos

SCC Member Wes Enos

The thing I hate most about politics is that sometimes, you find yourself aligned with your adversaries and against your friends. I wish it were the case that the people I personally like were always on the same side of issues as me — unfortunately that is not the case.

I have watched the on-going saga of Kent Sorenson and the Bachmann campaign, the Paul campaign and the NICHE list from a distance. I really don’t know Sorenson, but as the evidence mounted, it began to look (at least to me) more and more like he had in fact at they very least violated Senate rules. So, when Sorenson resigned yesterday, I thought it was the right thing to do for the Senate caucus and the GOP. But, I still don’t know the man and I don’t really have a personal stake in his actions.

On the other hand I have served two terms on the State Central Committee with Wes Enos. Even though Wes and I have been on different sides of some battles at RPI (he voted for AJ’s first term) we have been on the same side (he voted against AJ’s current term) more often than not.

Today I learned that Wes resigned from his position as Deputy Chief of Staff for the Senate Republican Caucus under Senate Minority Leader Bill Dix. Wes had been a staffer on he Bachmann campaign and had publicly defended Sorenson against claims that he was paid to jump ship from the Bachmann campaign to the Paul campaign. I don’t have any insider information on whether Wes volunteered to resign or he was encouraged to resign but in the end I think it was a good move. The Senate Republican Caucus needs to be able to put this incident behind them and move on in preparation for the 2014 legislative session and the crucial 2014 midterm elections.

During the 2012 caucuses, Wes served simultaneously as a Bachmann staffer and SCC member. He was not the only one, RPI Chairman AJ Spiker, RPI Co-Chairman David Fischer and  RPI Finance Chairman Drew Ivers were all paid Ron Paul staffers while serving on the SCC. After 2012, Wes saw the light and pledged to not serve concurrently on the SCC and a primary or caucus campaign again.

I believe that current events have made it impossible for Wes to continue to effectively serve on the RPI State Central Committee. The appearance of impropriety in the Sorenson pay to play scandal and Wes’ proximity to the parties involved has become yet one more impediment to RPI doing it’s job and working to elect Republicans.

In light of these events I believe that it is time for Wes to step down from the SCC — not because I believe that he did anything wrong, but because I think his presence will become more and more of a distraction in the days ahead.

Wes, it has been a pleasure to serve with you and I wish you and yours the best. I hope you can put this unfortunate chapter behind you and move forward.

I Join a Battle I Fully Expect to Lose in a War I Can No Longer Ignore

Don Quixote de la Mancha

Picasso’s Don Quixote de la Mancha

On Friday, I called into the Simon Conway Show on WHO Radio and called for the resignation of RPI chairman AJ Spiker. Shortly after, during his guest spot on the show, fellow SCC member Jamie Johnson also called for AJ’s resignation.

As I suggest in the title of this post, I do not expect AJ to actually resign and I am certain that there are not enough votes to remove him from office. Even so, I can no longer sit by and ignore the damage being done to this party.

The Republican Party of Iowa is experiencing a crisis — a crisis of confidence. The current hot button  issue is the scheduling of the 2014 Republican State Convention and the potential for that convention to nominate the Republican candidate for US Senate.  The convention debacle is just the tip of the iceberg, my call for AJ’s resignation goes much deeper than the timing of the convention. Kevin Hall at the Iowa Republican.com asked me for a quote on this for his weekly column and I said;

My call for AJ’s resignation or removal is not based on the moving of the convention date. Rather it is a general leadership style that is absolutely tone-deaf to any input from outside his inner circle. The convention date is just the latest in a string of such incidents.

Ultimately, we are going into 2014 with the rare opportunity to pick up a US Senate seat and the level of distrust between the leadership of RPI and the grassroots has never been higher. The convention date is just another example of AJ squandering an opportunity to at least consult with the governor, our senate candidates, or the newly formed District Executive Committees and get buy-in or form a consensus. Instead, by making the decision and doubling down in response to criticism, he has managed to further weaken our party and thus our candidates. AJ is not the only one to blame here but the stakes are too high to continue down this path. He needs to go.

RPI has always struggled to find a way to be relevant to the county central committees and activists across the state so this problem is not new. However, as I said in the quote above, the current administration has been absolutely tone-deaf to any input from outside its inner circle. As much as this current administration talks about the grassroots of the party, and we the people — at the end of the day it is really  all talk.

The convention date issue is a perfect example of the way AJ runs the party. Now, I have received some criticism for commenting on this issue because I did not attend the last SCC meeting. But even that is an example of AJ listening only to his inner circle. In July, an SCC member asked AJ, in an electronic forum for SCC members (OK, I admit it,  it was on Facebook) when the next SCC meeting was. Traditionally SCC meetings are scheduled a year in advance, but AJ had not done so. AJ replied that the meeting would be in September. I cleared my weekends in September waiting for the announcement. In mid August we were told to expect a meeting in two weeks. By that time, I had already scheduled to be on site at a client facility in California and I could not make it back in time for the meeting. In his note to the SCC, AJ said they were trying to make a September date work but there were conflicts. Maybe I’m not part of the inner circle on the SCC [and even if I were, I am pretty sure that I am not now :)] but AJ didn’t ask me if the August date had any conflicts. In fact it looks like he didn’t ask a lot of people because four SCC members could not attend due to longstanding prior commitments (one additional member did not attend due to a family emergency). Ultimately, what has turned out to be the most controversial SCC meeting in recent times was also the most poorly attended.

When AJ brought the date issue up to the SCC he brought it to the Organization Committee. The Organization Committee, headed up by Gopal Krishna, had not been given the proposal in advance but quickly agreed and sent it on to the full SCC. There has been some debate (and unfortunately some name-calling) about the SCC vote on the date, but the SCC passed the measure with no dissenting votes. Instead of informing the committee in advance and giving the SCC time to examine the proposal and perhaps seek input from the counties, AJ waited to the last minute and the committee went along with it. Now, I don’t think AJ did anything wrong here, he didn’t violate any rules — he just failed to give the SCC opportunity for any meaningful input in this decision — and it has come back to bite all of us.

Of course, If you have read this far, you probably now that when the decision was made to move the convention date, the governor, Senator Grassley and all of the declared US Senate candidates said that it was a bad idea. Apparently AJ had not gotten their input either. In fact even though the date change was in response to an interpretation of Iowa election law, he had not sought the advice of the Secretary of State’s office either.

As pressure began to mount from all sides to move the convention back to the June date, SCC member Joel Kurtinitis (an AJ supporter) requested that AJ call a meeting of the SCC, by teleconference, to discuss the matter. AJ told the SCC that he would be meeting with the Governor’s office and all the senate campaigns to discuss the issue. I thought that this was a good idea, better late than never. After a week passed, I seconded Joel’s request. In the end, AJ met with the interested parties, and RPI Legal Counsel William Talbot. Based on an opinion from Talbot, AJ ignored the wishes of the governor’s office and the candidates and unilaterally decided not to call and SCC meeting. Of course, he also ignored the requests that Joel and I had made for such a meeting. In the face of criticism, AJ’s response was to double down and become more entrenched in his position — even ignoring requests for input from the SCC.

After AJ’s announcement that he would not change the date, it became apparent that there were enough SCC members willing to sign on to a call for a meeting that it was going to happen with or without AJs blessing. And then Secretary of State Matt Schultz dropped a bombshell. Saying that,

no political party should use the excuse of the final date of the statewide canvass to determine the date of its special nominating convention. Furthermore, to state that it is necessary to hold a special nominating convention after the conclusion of the state canvass is not only misleading, it is false.

Finally, AJ called for a meeting of the SCC by teleconference scheduled for  Monday, September 23.

We have an historic opportunity to pick up a US Senate seat, we have an open US House seat and we need to win back a majority in the Iowa Senate. During these crucial times, instead of leading the party forward and preparing us for victory in 2014 — we find ourselves more divided than at any time in my memory. AJ has ignored any input from outside his inner circle. Rather than embrace the newly formed District Executive Committees and use them as an opportunity to build the party, he pushed back against their formation and challenged their legitimacy.

To be fair, the ills of the party, are not all AJ’s fault. But, as Chairman of the Republican Party of Iowa, he has not been part of the solution — he is a part of the problem. It is time for him to go.

It’s not about Valedictorians (or Drug Mules)

Ivaledictorian probably need to start this post with a disclaimer, I really am a conservative Republican. While it is well known that I was not a Ron Paul supporter, I have always had libertarian leanings (I opposed the Patriot Act, I think it is wrong for the NSA to spy on US citizens without cause, I believe we should not go to war without an explicit congressional declaration and I believe that Federal government lacks the authority to over rule state medicinal or recreational marijuana laws.) Like Congressman Steve King, I am also an immigration hawk — so much so that in 2008 I was a Tom Tancredo supporter (before he got tangled up in the National Popular Vote) In my previous post, I expressed my displeasure with Congressman Steve King’s choice of words in opposing the Gang of Eight amnesty bill and the Dream Act. While I share his opposition, I believe that a side-effect of his use of such obviously loaded language is to take the focus off of the what both the congressman and I believe is the primary issue. The territorial integrity of the United States and the rule of law.

After talking about 130 pound drug mules with calves the size of cantaloupes, he said,

… until the folks that want to open the borders and grant this amnesty can define the difference between the innocent ones who have deep ties with American and those that have been … undermining our culture and civilization and profiting from criminal acts, until they can define that difference they should not advocate for amnesty for both good and evil …

When I heard the above statement from King, I was shocked!!! Did he really say that if you could separate the sheep from the goats that he would support amnesty? The interviewer then asked,

And how would you recommend separating the good from the bad

King’s response,

I suggested it can’t be done. But you can protect and preserve the rule of law. It is an essential pillar of American Exceptionalism and if we grant amnesty, to even a smaller component of this population of 11 million then what we have done is, we have set aside and destroyed the the rule of law …

At the end of the day, I agree with Steve King (at least on immigration — not on the NSA). This talk of drug mules and valedictorians is simply a red herring. I suspect that most illegals who entered as children are neither. Some will take advantage of the situation and become valedictorians, others will squander it and end up in our prisons. But these outliers do not form the basis of a rational argument.

I oppose any plan that under any circumstances grants citizenship to those who enter the country illegally.

I am a right-wing, Christian, conservative, Republican, opposed to the ‘Dream Act’ and any other form of Amnesty — even I think Steve King should apologize

kingIs it just me? Am I the only republican in Iowa besides, Linn County Supervisor Brent Oleson who thinks Steve King’s recent comments on immigration were out of line? Maybe it is because I am a brown-Hispanic, but I think Congressman Steve King’s recent comments on the Dream Act were unnecessary and inappropriate. They lacked the level of civility and decorum that I expect from my guys in Congress. I heard the congressman defend his statements on the Jan Mickelson and Simon Conway shows on WHO radio yesterday. I heard the entire interview from Newsmax and I still think the congressman was out of line. King was speaking about the so-called Dream Act and the Gang of Eight immigration bill.

Let me start by saying, I agree with King. I oppose the Dream Act and I oppose the Gang of Eight immigration bill. I strongly oppose any Path to Citizenship for anyone, who at any time under any circumstances entered the United States illegally. My problem with the Congressman is not with his votes or his position on immigration, my problem is with what he said, and the way he said it.

Here is an excerpt from what Congressman King said,

Some of them are valedictorians — and their parents brought them in. It wasn’t their fault. It’s true in some cases, but they aren’t all valedictorians. They weren’t all brought in by their parents. …

For everyone who’s a valedictorian, there’s another 100 out there who weigh 130 pounds — and they’ve got calves the size of cantaloupes because they’re hauling 75 pounds of marijuana across the desert … Those people would be legalized with the same act

I know that the Congressman has been on the border and spoken to the Border Patrol but where did his numbers come from. I agree that not every youngster brought into this country illegally is a valedictorian. In fact only a very small number of children born and raised in this country grow up to be valedictorians (unless they attend Cedar Rapids Washington High School which graduated 67 valedictorians in 2011!) But is the ratio of valedictorians to drug mules really 1:100? And if so, how does the congressman know? Further the depiction of illegal immigrants as being 130 pounds … with calves the size of cantaloupes is bordering on racist. (To be fair, many of King’s critics have also used loaded terminology to describe the resident’s of King’s western Iowa congressional district.)

Regular readers of this blog know that I am not a very politically correct person. In fact I will sometimes write or say something outrageous for effect. However, whenever I do so, I do it knowing that I am deliberately violating some societal norm. Listening to Congressman King defend his statements, I am not sure that he understands why they were objectionable. Rather than apologizing, or saying (like Rush Limbaugh) that he was being absurd to illustrate absurdity — King doubled down and said his critics did not listen to the entire interview.

I listened to the entire interview, and as an Iowa Republican, I expect better.

I believe the jury made the right decision — but I’m not celebrating (part 2 in a 3 part series on the George Zimmerman Trial)

stand-your-ground-250x250This post is the second in a series on the George Zimmerman trial. The first post really wasn’t about the trial at all, rather it gave opportunity to insert my thoughts, perceptions and experience into the current debate on race. In this post, I want to focus on the trial, the verdict, and the law. In my next post, I will discuss some of the aftermath of the case. As I said previously, I think that both my liberal and my conservative friends may be surprised at my comments.

When the verdict came in my Facebook and Twitter feeds lit up. Most of my online friends are white conservative Republicans many with libertarian-leanings. A large number would self-identify as evangelical Christians and many are gun owners as well. While I agree the jury returned the correct verdict, I was surprised at the level of glee (I am not sure how else to describe it) in the posts. They were celebrating the same way I did in the summer of 1978 when, while detassling and listening to a transistor radio, I heard the that the Supreme Court had overturned racial quotas in collegiate admissions in the landmark Bakke case! (I know, I was a political geek even then.)

Many of the status updates I saw were ecstatic, some examples:

Justice!

Restored my faith in the system!

Amen!

This rambling post is my response to the verdict. I will discuss: The Facts, The Non-Facts, The Law,  The Verdict, and The Conclusion.

By way of disclaimer — readers should be aware that the author is a Christian, conservative, libertarian-leaning Republican of mixed race who holds an Iowa Non-Professional Permit to Carry Weapons, but has never owned a gun.

The Facts

The facts in this case are relatively straightforward. But, in the homage to Bill Clinton, I want to clarify “what the meaning of the word ‘is’ is.” By fact I mean statement that is demonstrably or verifiably true. There can and are true statements regarding this case that cannot or have not been verified. For example some of George Zimmerman’s statements to police describe events for which there were no witnesses. While these may be true, I will in this discussion put them in the Non-Fact category since they are not verifiable.

Trayvon Martin was a 17-year-old black high school student. Martin was staying at the home of his father’s girlfriend who lived in a gated community in Sanford, Florida. Martin was serving a suspension from school after drug residue had been found in his backpack. On the night of the shooting, Martin was returning to his father’s girlfriend’s house carrying a bag of Skittles and a can of Arizona Watermelon Fruit Cocktail Juice. Martin was wearing a dark hoodie. Martin was unarmed on the night of the shooting. Martin’s social media posts and other electronic communications indicated that he had been involved in fights. Martin’s drug and fighting history was not admitted into evidence in court.

George Zimmerman, a white Hispanic was a  29 year old part-time college student. Zimmerman had applied unsuccessfully to join the Prince William, Virginia Police Department and took courses towards an associate’s degree in criminal justice. Zimmerman was captain of the neighborhood watch. On the night of the shooting, Zimmerman was armed with a Kel-Tec Pf9, 9mm handgun.

On the evening of Feb 26, 2012, Zimmerman was driving through the neighborhood and he called 911 to report a ‘suspicious person’. [911 transcript]

The dispatcher asked Zimmerman if the guy is ‘white black or Hispanic.’ Zimmerman responded, ‘He looks black.’

As Zimmerman continued to talk to the dispatcher he says, ‘… he’s running!’

The dispatcher and Zimmerman discuss which way Trayvon is running.

The dispatcher asks, ‘Are you following him?’

Zimmerman replies, ‘Yeah.’

The Dispatcher says, ‘OK, we don’t need you to do that.’

Zimmerman says, ‘OK.’

Police found Zimmerman standing next to Martins body. Martin had been shot in the chest at close range. Zimmerman had injuries to his face and the back of the head.

Zimmerman admitted to shooting Martin.

A witness made a 911 call in which screams from a struggle and a gunshot are heard.

A witness saw Martin on top of Zimmerman delivering repeated blows.

The Non-Facts

There are a number of assumptions in this case that many people believe are facts. While they may be true, they are largely unsubstantiated so I list some of them in the Non-Facts section.

George Zimmerman is a racist. [Well, everyone’s a little bit racist :)]

Trayvon Martin was not a racist.

George Zimmerman singled out Trayvon Martin because he was black.

Trayvon Martin attacked George Zimmerman therefore Zimmerman acted in self defense.

George Zimmerman attacked Trayvon Martin, therefore Martin was killed while defending himself.

Martin purchased Arizona Tea and Skittles to make Purple Drank.

The Law

In this case, the prosecution asked for 2nd Degree Murder. Florida law defines 2nd Degree murder as:

The unlawful killing of a human being, when perpetrated by any act imminently dangerous to another and evincing a depraved mind regardless of human life, although without any premeditated design to effect the death of any particular individual …

The judge in her instructions gave the jury the option of finding Zimmerman guilty of Manslaughter as well. Under Florida law, Manslaughter is:

The killing of a human being by the act, procurement, or culpable negligence of another, without lawful justification according to the provisions of chapter 776  …

The chapter 776 reference above includes Florida’s Stand Your Ground law 776.012

… a person is justified in the use of deadly force and does not have a duty to retreat if: (1) He or she reasonably believes that such force is necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another or to prevent the imminent commission of a forcible felony; or (2) Under those circumstances permitted pursuant to s. 776.013.

This is further clarified by 776.013(3)

A person who is not engaged in an unlawful activity and who is attacked in any other place where he or she has a right to be has no duty to retreat and has the right to stand his or her ground and meet force with force, including deadly force if he or she reasonably believes it is necessary to do so to prevent death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another or to prevent the commission of a forcible felony.

The Verdict

I believe that the jury made the correct decision. I was really surprised when the prosecution chose to try Zimmerman on 2nd Degree Murder. Apparently the judge was as well since she added the option of manslaughter in her instructions to the jury. Even without the no duty to retreat provisions of the law, I do not believe that a case could have been made for manslaughter. If Martin had attacked Zimmerman, Zimmerman may not have had an opportunity to retreat so Stand Your Ground would not even apply. Based on the lack of eyewitnesses there was insufficient evidence to convict Zimmerman of anything.

The jury made the right decision — George Zimmerman should have been found not guilty.

The Conclusion

As I said before, I think a correct verdict was handed down by this jury. It was a decision consistent with the facts and Florida law. Was it justice? Since only George Zimmerman knows what really went on that night I have no idea.

On the other hand, I do think that George Zimmerman made a poor decision to exit his vehicle and that resulted in the confrontation that left Martin dead. A poor decision but not an illegal one. Zimmerman was under no legal compulsion to heed the dispatcher’s advice and not follow Martin. Part of any reasonable training on carrying a concealed weapon is the advice to not provoke conflict. Deadly force should be a last resort and while one is carrying a weapon, unless one is under imminent threat, every effort should be made to avoid potential conflict that could necessitate using it.

Zimmerman is not a hero as some of my conservative friends have suggested. Nor do I think he makes a good poster boy for Stand Your Ground. Even so, I definitely am a supporter of Stand Your Ground (and related Castle Doctrine) laws. As the Florida law says, and person who reasonably believes that such force is necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another or to prevent the imminent commission of a forcible felony should be free to use force, up to and including deadly force, to protect themselves if they have not initiated the confrontation, there should be no duty to retreat. In Iowa (since this is an Iowa political blog) Republicans have an opportunity to take over the Iowa Senate in 2014. If we do so, we need to enact a Stand Your Ground law.

What about race? What if Zimmerman decided that Martin looked suspicious because he was black? My answer is that it changes nothing in this case. He would have broken no law if he called because he saw a black teenager after midnight in his neighborhood. The issue at hand in this case, under Florida law was, did Zimmerman reasonably believe that he was under imminent threat of death or great bodily harm. And if so, had he the initiated the conflict by attacking Martin or otherwise breaking the law which would have exempted him from the protections of Florida 776.013.

It is likely that the Martin family will file a wrongful death lawsuit against Zimmerman. They have already settled a similar suit against the homeowner’s association on whose behalf Zimmerman was acting as neighborhood Watch Captain. I believe that if such a suit is filed, the Martin family should and will prevail.

Finally, the racial angle. This case has divided public opinion along racial lines. Since I am of mixed race, my opinions are mixed. Of course, the usual suspects (including President Obama, whose son — if he had one — would look like Trayvon) are using this incident as a cause célèbre to incite anger in the black community.

As I look at Facebook and Twitter, many of my friends are gleefully posting every news story they can find of black-on-white or black-on-black violence. In my opinion their actions are just as bad as those of Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton.

As I said, the jury reached the correct verdict — so why am I not celebrating? One life lost, one life destroyed, two families devastated. Racial tensions increasing across the country. I see little here to celebrate. I am naive enough to want to live in a color blind world. I may lack the eloquence of Martin Luther King, but:

I want to live in a world where the only time I need to worry about the color of my skin is to determine whether I am tan enough to wear a salmon colored shirt — sadly I am not 🙁

Once again, a rambling post. My next post will be on the aftermath of the trial. In particular the federal response and the possibility of federal hate crime or civil rights prosecution.

 

I have four sons and one of them looks like Trayvon Martin, I on the other hand look like George Zimmerman (Part 1 in a 3 part series on the George Zimmerman trial)

DSC_4313This post is the first in a three-part series on the George Zimmerman trial.This is really a post about race. From the beginning, the death of Trayvon Martin and the subsequent trial of George Zimmerman was about race. Had Martin and Zimmerman both been black (or white Hispanics) no one outside of Florida would ever have heard about the case. At NBC, the today show edited the 911 call made by Zimmerman to make it look like he was profiling Martin because of his race. In the edited audio, Zimmerman tells the 911 operator:

Zimmerman: “This guy looks like he’s up to no good … he looks black.”

What actually occurred was an exchange between Zimmerman and the 911 operator.
Zimmerman: “This guy looks like he’s up to no good. Or he’s on drugs or something. It’s raining and he’s just walking around, looking about.”
911 Operator: “OK, and this guy — is he black, white or Hispanic?”
Zimmerman: “He looks black.,”

Zimmerman only brought up Martin’s race when prompted by the dispatcher. Whether Martin was targeted or profiled because he was black, only Zimmerman knows. By selectively editing the 911 call, NBC news did much to make this look like a racial issue.

Further clouding the issue is the characterization of George Zimmerman as a white Hispanic. The two terms don’t really go together, white speaks to race and Hispanic speaks to origin.

Race in America is complicated. The picture above is me and my four sons. By background, my father was from Jamaica. His father was from mainland China and his mother was Jamaican quite possibly by way of Africa. Racially he appeared to be black with a hint of Asian features. My mother is from Guam, Guam is a Pacific island in the Micronesian chain. So racially, I am of mixed race, African (not African-American), Jamaican, and Chamorro (the name for people from Guam). But it gets more complicated than that.

The Census Bureau defines Hispanic as:

… Cuban, Mexican, Puerto Rican, South or Central American, or other Spanish culture or origin regardless of race.

By that definition, I am Hispanic too! Guam was colonized and held by Spain until the Spanish-American War. Guam’s culture has been heavily influenced by Spain, the language (Chamorro) has strong Spanish/Latin influences. The dress, culture and religion have all been shaped by Spanish rule. My mother even has a Hispanic maiden name — Cruz. Yes, I am the guy that gets to check almost all of the boxes on the forms. (In reality, I never check any of the race/ethnicity boxes!)

Race in America is confusing. When my father came to this country as a young college student in the late 1950’s the DOT had no idea what to put on his Driver’s License, there was no check box for Jamaican, so they chose Caucasian. My father was a professor at UNI and I remember another professor saying in the press that he was the only black faculty member. I guess he was … since my dad was Caucasian!

My kids have is even worse than I do since I married a white girl. We are a mixed marriage, still relatively uncommon in Iowa. Coincidentally, my neighbors have a mixed marriage too — one Norwegian and one Swede — at least that passes for a mixed marriage in Minnesota where they’re from 🙂

My wife is of German/Polish/Scottish/Irish descent. Predominantly German with names like Schuler, Miller and Krause. So my kids are a little bit of everything. If you take a close look at the picture you will see that my boys and I run the gamut from dark dark brown/black to white with me being a bit brown in the middle. My son Jonathan, the whitest of the boys, is in the Army and his drill sergeant looked at his name tag and said”

Chung, are you adopted?

Last year I played in a ping pong (we call it table tennis because we’re Asian) tournament with three of my sons. Two of the boys won medals and when the tournament director paged us, all four of us went to the registration table. She looked at us and said, “Chung? Are you all related?”

brothersIn my own family it is also complicated. These are pictures of me and my brothers. (I am the good looking rather mysterious guys in the shades.) We also run the gamut. I am the lightest skinned of my brothers. Brian (in the middle) is the darkest and James (on the right) is in between. I recall an incident a few year ago when I was at the gym and I asked someone whether my brother (Brian) was riding an exercise bike. The person I asked said no, the only person in the room is African-American. Of course it was my brother Brian. One day Brian asked me whether African-Americans greeted me on the street.  I said no, I wasn’t quite sure what he was talking about. He told me that since he looks black he is randomly greeted by other black people based on the color of his skin. (Sort of like the secret handshake of motorcyclists.)

This whole race thing is confusing. In addition, race and the perception of race is in my opinion also a matter of self-identification and cultural upbringing. While my parents were brown (mom) and black (dad), I grew up in Cedar Falls, Iowa. My parents were university professors and we grew up in a middle class neighborhood surrounded by families of educated professionals. Our neighborhood was probably as racially and ethnically diverse as any in a community like Cedar Falls. We had three black families (if you count us) all college educated professionals and an Indian  family. I went to Price Lab School, a laboratory school connected with the UNI College of Education. In order to provide a more racially integrated environment, black students (they weren’t — or is it we weren’t — African-American in those days) were bussed in from Waterloo.

Growing up, I never really thought about race. But I thought of myself and my family as being just like my friends and their families, all of whom were white. If pressed, I would probably have thought of myself as white — after all, my father’s driver’s license said Caucasian. When I was in high school, my dad’s cousin came to live with us for a while when she attended college. She is from Jamaica and related to my father on his mother’s side of the family. She is Jamaican African with out any Chinese background. On day I was at a friend’s house and his mom (a white non-Hispanic) said,

David, who was that black girl over at your house the other day?

It took me a minute. Black girl? What black girl? Then it hit me, she was talking about my cousin. I guess she was black. I told his mom, “Oh, you must mean my cousin Sharon from Jamaica!”

His mom then reassured me that,

We never thought of you as being black.

Fortunately I was raised in a time when young people were to be respectful of their elders and I did not make a sarcastic comeback like, “That’s OK, I never thought of you as being white”, or “Hmm … neither did I”

In defense of my friend’s mother, she is a sweet lady and treated all of her son’s friends like her own children regardless of race. She was however, a product of the times and circumstances in which she grew up. I share this not to criticize her but rather to share that until I was in high school I really had never bothered to consider my own racial identity.

When my eldest son was born I filled out the demographic information on his birth certificate. In the race section i listed all of the various races that applied (sort of all of the above). After we left the hospital, the form was returned to me, I had forgotten to sign it or something. I took a look and they had replaced my son’s rich heritage with the single word: CHINESE. I signed the form but before returning it,

… in an act of civil disobedience, I took a bottle of white out (yes, it really is called white out!), removed the word Chinese form the race box and replaced it with the single word … HUMAN. To this day I am certain that my son is the only official HUMAN born in the state of Iowa.

Personally, I do not think that the Zimmerman/Martin case was about race.

If race is the lens through which we must view everything in our society, then I don’t know how to view the results of this case because.

I am a white Hispanic (at least a light brown one) — I am George Zimmerman

I am African-American (well African-Jamaican) — I am Trayvon Martin

At the end of the day I am not George Zimmerman and I am not Trayvon Martin. Those racial and ethnic characteristics describe me but in a fundamental way — they do not define me. In the next two posts in this series, I will share my thoughts on the actual case and its outcome. Stay tuned, I think both my liberal and conservative friends will be surprised.