The Disconnect is Real

twentytwentynews, surreal times, trump, politics, climate change

Jerry Waters, Contributor

I don’t know about you, but I’ve been feeling pretty disconnected lately. Disconnected in the sense that I don’t understand the hostility and self-righteousness and fear that’s screaming at me from conservatives. I used to be able to disagree without it becoming personal. Hell, we used to be able to find some small middle ground on which to discover mutual respect, but that’s nonexistent now.

Normally, I write about science and the environment. Usually, those are safely nerdy topics that don’t generate a tsunami of political heat. But lately, that hasn’t been the case. I’ve been threatened and ridiculed over things that I never imagined would be controversial politically. I mean, clean air and water? Space exploration? Conservation of natural resources? Yeah, I get that there are conflicting sides and different interests at stake, but I don’t understand the vitriol from the right.

We all still live on the same planet, right?

I mean, why is the head of the EPA hell bent on rolling back every regulation that protects the beautiful country we live in? Do people really want coal ash, fracking byproducts, and other chemicals in their drinking water with no legal means of recourse against the companies doing the polluting?

Why, again, are we drilling for oil off our coastlines? Why are we unnecessarily hastening environmental reviews for major construction projects destined to kill endangered species and lay waste to natural landscapes?

More importantly, why are Trumpsters and conservatives so mad at me for caring about the environment or worrying about the consequences of space exploration and research? They love to hurl insults and threats, but they’re very thin-skinned if you push back at all.

I’ve been amazed at watching them make excuses. The “tax cut” fiasco which explodes our deficit and exacerbates wealth inequality. Ignoring the fact that the Russians definitely and calculatingly interfered with our elections. Their stunning failure to fix healthcare and their laughable plan to repair our nation’s infrastructure. They worship Trump as infallible and excuse his every ignorant, crass, and dangerous remarks. They live in a toxic, mind-numbing, non-permeable bubble of misinformation and propaganda.

Perhaps, I’m not the one who is so disconnected after all. Indeed, “the Russians are laughing their asses off” because we suffer such an ignoramus, who is systematically dismantling our government and squandering our diminishing natural resources for his own profit and self-aggrandizement.

I will continue to write about the environment and science, but I had to get that off my chest. Each day, I’m sickened that Scott Pruitt is in charge of the EPA and that our children’s education is in the comically incompetent hands of Betsy DeVos. While we were distracted by the dizzying displays of perpetual White House scandal, Trump presented a budget that eliminated funding for public broadcasting and for NASA’s education programs. I mean, this shithead wants to get rid of the TVA and defund any efforts to produce renewable energy.

It’s exhausting keeping up with Trump’s destruction of our beloved country. It’s heartbreaking watching this greedy buffoon and his cronies get rid of necessary environmental regulations and reviews so that they can make a few bucks in the short term.

I’ve no doubt that America will survive this, but it’s clear that every day that Trump is in office that our nation becomes diminished, sicker, and unstable. The anti-environment and anti-science fervor that has swept the Republican party must be stopped in its tracks because the consequences will be deadly.

Forgive my rant, I’ll get back to writing about the things I love, but in the era of Trump I find myself banging my head on my desk regularly.

Saudi women can drive but have a long way to go

saudi, woman, driving

Jerry Waters, Contributor

It’s beyond comprehension that the other day was historic because Saudi Arabia’s king finally decided to let women drive automobiles. Until the royal decree becomes effective in a few months, Saudi Arabia will still hold the ignoble distinction of being the only country in the world where women are prohibited from driving. Check your iPhone X and tell me what year this again…

Before you start celebrating a huge victory for women’s equality, it’s critical to note that women are still undoubtedly second-class citizens in that country. Saudi women still must adhere to a strict dress code and aren’t allowed to make their own decisions. They may soon be able to drive, but they have an incredibly long road to travel before they achieve anything remotely resembling equality.

The country’s conservative Wahhabi Muslim establishment is not at all happy about this blow to patriarchy and they see this as a sign that country is about to become a sin-filled Hell hole. They said the same thing in the past about educating women and letting women watch television. To them, women will be driving on the highway to Hell.

Hearing this news really put the issues that women in America face into sharp focus. In the US, we are still dealing with pay inequality and women’s healthcare issues. Although we are not as oppressive as the Saudis, we’re still a patriarchal society. American oppression just takes more subtle forms. Look at how we treat women in business and politics. Look at all the double standards we have that are embedded in our culture.

Yet, Americans love to believe that they are so much more advanced. It wasn’t really that long ago in the history of our nation that women fought men for their right to vote. We never quite could pass an Equal Rights Amendment. Although Obama was able to pass the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, Trump is doing everything he can to try to tear it down. Abortion may be legally a woman’s choice, but with all the restrictions imposed by states, good luck finding a clinic or insurance to cover the procedure. Women still don’t have equal representation in any level of our government. Only a sparse handful are CEOs.

Women are routinely discriminated against in America, but we like to pretend that we’re past all that now. Just like having a black president made racism magically disappear.

Globally, young girls are forced into sex or marriage every single day. They are tortured and abused and sold. In some countries, women who have been raped are stoned to death or murdered by family members in “honor” killings.  The ones who aren’t killed often end up disfigured or seriously injured for life.

So, let’s not spend a bunch of time congratulating an asshole king for deciding that women could finally be allowed to drive. Don’t pop the champagne corks thinking that this means that radical reforms in religion and government are coming rapidly to usher in an unprecedented age of equality for women around the world. The Saudi king took a baby step and it’s a very small step in the right direction. But let’s be real, it’s unbelievably overdue and it’s miniscule when compared to all the other changes that will have to be made for women to have true freedom and liberty in that country.

Here in the US, we’re electing misogynist clowns like Trump who will do everything in their power to roll back all of the progress women have fought for and won. Make no mistake, there is a real war against women.

Soon, Saudi women will be driving and that’s a great thing. Let’s not lose sight of the goal and let’s remember how much further we have to go. We’re still not anywhere close to where we need to be.

Not your Mother’s Brand of Feminism

feminism, equal pay

Elizabeth Dawson, Contributor

I grew up with an odd view of the world. My mother was a 60 and 70s era pantsuit wearing feminist but she struggled with addiction and mental health issues so I grew up in my grandmother’s house and she had a very old world view of the woman’s role in society. I came up always wanting to be feminine and I wore vintage clothes before vintage clothes were cool. I harassed my grandmother into giving me money and I would hit the garage sales in the neighborhood and buy the most ridiculous, crazy dresses and sport them around like I was the coolest person on the block. Of course I was the scorn of my friends because I was odd and my family just scratched their heads and put up with it. My grandmother enjoyed it though because at least I liked to dress up. At least I was feminine. I was the antithesis of what my mother stood for and yet I was very head strong and had a very particular view of myself in this world. That view of myself did not include marrying well or allowing a man to support me. I rebelled against both my grandmother’s views and my mother’s version of feminism. I didn’t realize at the time was that I wasn’t alone in this new take of feminism.

As I hit the workforce, I found my mother’s version of feminism quite a bit. Women that wore pantsuits and thought that being a female in a man’s world was literally trying to be a man. I don’t scorn these women. They paved the way for my generation in the workforce yet it wasn’t my style. I did everything a man could do in the workplace and then some but I did it as a feminine woman. I was happy to don the dresses that my predecessors had scorned. I was a millennial feminist before that label was ascribed to my generation and yet I learned some valuable lessons both in my personal and professional life.

Because I didn’t have that nurturing mother type in my life, I learned the value of work and money early. I knew that I would always have to support myself because that safety net didn’t really exist. I did have my father and he helped me but my strength and my resilience came from tough lessons learned. I had men in my life that felt it was an acceptable course of action to remove money I worked for from my accounts to the detriment to myself and my children. I found out first hand about the inequity in the wage gap for women. Though these issues are tough, these are first world problems. I have traveled quite a bit for my job and personally. This experience has shown me that most of the world’s poor and starving are women and their children. Poverty is sexist as Melinda Gates has said and even though here in the United States, we make $.80 to a man’s dollar, outside of the U.S., conditions are far worse. The women of the world make our clothes, our technology and earn a starving wage to do so. I realized then that the millennial feminist cannot just be a state of mind, a law put into place for workplace equality or some heartfelt resistance movement. The real power for us women is in cold hard cash.

The new brand of feminism needs to stand for economic justice and the rest will follow. Martin Luther King said that “civil rights means nothing without economic justice.” So we as millennial women salute our predecessors and their fight for equal rights. We salute the suffragists. Our next fight is the end of slave wages. Women do not need charity but rather understanding. They need the means to invest in education, health care and well-being for their children. If this fight is fought now and won, we as women will have the power to improve the rest. So I implore you to find your own way to fight to improve the global wage gap. Buy products only from companies that pay their employees properly. Purchase with your conscious. Fund non-profits with this purpose in mind. The change will occur by economic means and this change cannot just occur for American women. It must occur for all women.

Protesting is more American than apple pie or the NFL

american, apple, pie, flag

Clete Wetli, Contributor

While the Idiot-in-Chief was visiting Huntsville, AL last week to support Bigly Luther Strange for Senate, he took a moment from his usual and meandering cacophony of self-adulation to encourage the NFL to fire players who engaged in the political protest of kneeling during the National Anthem. Although most Americans use that anthem time to down another beer or have another bong hit before the game begins, Trump thinks that kneeling during the anthem makes athletes traitorous, un-American enemies of the state.

The crowd cheered loudly when they heard Twitler make his proclamation and screamed in approval when he advocated harder hitting in professional football. Perhaps, his supporters already have traumatic brain injury in common with many veteran players and feel that if they must live with it, so should everyone else. Like all of Dolt 45’s experiments in extemporaneous speech it was replete with juvenile insults, fictitious assertions, embarrassing machismo, and enough non-sequiturs to qualify for any number of pathological psychological diagnoses.

However, it was his stance on peaceful protest that had America shaking its head. Of course, no one expected the dolt buffoon to be familiar with laws that explicitly prohibit the President and other government officials from trying to influence the personnel decisions of private companies, like the NFL. The Orange Menace barely speaks in coherent simple sentences as it is. What was amazing was that he didn’t understand why protesting is a sacred constitutionally protected right in our democratic republic.

It never occurred to The Drumpf that America was born in protest. That our country’s greatest achievements are the product of peaceful protests and demonstrations. Protest is the oxygen of our democracy. Some attend rallies and hold signs, some write, some sing, some paint, some seek public office, but protest against politicians and the government is the very real and necessary expression of freedom and independence. More so, when it is a minority opinion or deeply unpopular view.

Tragically, many cities across the US have passed a myriad of ordinances that restrict the right of peaceful protest by charging permit fees and imposing other undue burdens designed solely to quell freedom of speech and expression. Regularly, people seem increasingly ready to advocate censorship if it means being exposed to an opposing view. This is a dangerous trend that diminishes public discourse and threatens our freedom and independence.

For its part, the NFL responded to Trumpzilla by standing in solidarity with the players who chose to take a knee. Many in the NFL may not have the same political views as the protestors, but at least they understood the importance of protecting their right to express themselves.

Ironically, the outrage that’s being expressed by many on the alt-right is humorous since they amass weaponry under the protection of the Second Amendment in case they feel they need to take up arms against the government. That’s patriotic to them, but protesting institutionalized racism and discrimination merits termination from your job?

Too many people believe that because they can block someone on social media that it should be the same way in real life. They also love the algorithms that ensure that they are only fed content that they are sure to like. But that type of groupthink isn’t what makes a representative democracy strong and vibrant. It’s antithetical to progress and growth. Instead, we should be listening to opposing views even more and protecting people’s rights to expression. If you disagree with professional athletes taking a knee during the anthem, then make your case on why they are wrong. We’d love to hear it. Firing them or banning them is what they do in dictatorships.

Protest is as American as apple pie and the NFL. Well, apple pie is as American as French Fries, but that’s another story. In the meantime, Trump really needs to shut his French-fried apple pie hole and figure out a way to keep his soul-mate in bad haircuts, Kim Jung-Un, from starting World War III.

Clete wrote something that offended me- I’m going to my safe place

facebook, censorship, intolerance

Clete Wetli, Contributor

I was incredulous this last week when the morons at Facebook banned me from posting to groups for a week because they claimed my article link had either offended someone or it had been reported as spam. Are you fucking kidding me? Honestly, it could have been Franklin’s piece, our Canine-American editor, but what kind of anencephalic idiot bans a liberal Yorkie, without an opposable thumb, that can type?

Over the last few years, some very fragile and whiny liberals have politely requested that I not post on their groups because they felt my posts were “off-topic”. I’ve complied, even though I felt their polite censorship was counter-productive and ridiculous. Oh, the horrors of having to endure an opinion that isn’t exactly the same as yours…

One of the reasons mainstream Americans can’t stand liberals is because of this kind of stupid shit. When did we get so overly-sensitive that we feel it’s imperative to ban or report someone who doesn’t share the exact same view we have? I know it’s really difficult to just scroll past an opinion article on a Facebook group that was set up for community organizing, but do you really think that it’s a good idea to report or censor that person who’s on your side?

If what I just wrote offends you, then please go to your fucking safe place and watch your puppy video and use your inhaler until you think you can handle more. C’mon folks, we’re better than this. I thought Democrats and liberals were all about free speech. Apparently, that’s only true if people agree with you.

This is exactly why I’ve spent the last several years going on the Dale Jackson Show on WVNN as a weekly guest and hosted my own liberal talk show for a year on that hard-right conservative station. Dale Jackson, unlike some liberals, actually welcomes opposing points of view because it makes for good radio and entertaining, thoughtful, and confrontational debate. Yet, many liberals are too afraid to even talk to Dale and that, my friends, is another big reason we keep losing.

It’s easy to sit behind a keyboard and troll and complain about things you don’t like. It takes a little courage to articulately express your opinion and engage in some meaningful debate. So, whoever decided to turn me or Franklin over to the Facebook gestapo- you won for a very brief moment, but we will be back. You can stew in self-righteous anger and indignation and file as many complaints as you like.

Or, maybe you could try writing an opposing opinion or going on a talk show and defending your viewpoint. Maybe, you could do something more than filing an anonymous complaint or showing up to rallies with twenty people sporting clever hand-made signs bitching about the injustices of the world.

Look, I get it, but liberals need to get the fact that you can’t preach tolerance while practicing intolerance. People have written some truly nasty commentary on my work and expressed some morally bankrupt opinions on my Facebook page. You know what? I let them. I heard them. I engaged them. I may not have changed their mind, but I let them talk. I let them because people could then see the folly of their arguments and the flaws in their points. They were self-evident. That’s what free speech is all about. You know what else? I learned a few things from the people I vehemently disagreed with. It made my points stronger and my arguments better.

Enjoy your safe space, my deeply offended friend. When you come out, you’re still going to have to deal with reality and deal with opinions you don’t like. If you’d like to actually start winning some elections, it would be really fucking sensible to quit censoring folks that are on your side and learn how to listen to those you oppose.

If you think I’m offensive now, just wait until my book comes out… Until then, feel free to boldly make your anonymous comments and complaints to Mark Zuckerberg, the guy who sold ads to Russians who posed as fake Americans to meddle in our election for Trump.

That’s all, snowflake, you can go cuddle with your puppy video…

Stop Hating the Media

stop, hating, media

Clete Wetli, Contributor

The legendary newspaper titan and the inspiration for the term “yellow journalism”, William Randolph Hearst, must be smiling from his grave. Although excoriated for his enthusiastic embrace of sensationalism, Hearst knew intrinsically that dramatic conflict and hyperbole was a guaranteed money maker. It’s what most people wanted and he delivered. However, the profession of journalism pushed back against Hearst and, for a considerable time, protectively preserved its categorical and significant distinction from entertainment. Once twenty-four-hour cable news and the internet hit the scene, the rules changed again. Now, most people who think they are watching news are instead consuming opinion and debate on news stories they never watched or read to begin with.

Discussion of policy is simply the arena or staging ground for the combat. It has become increasingly irrelevant to most of the spectators. The focus is on the contenders and their ability to engage in “one-upsmanship” and contemporaneous snark. Hearst would have adored Trump, just as most in the media did and still do. Love him or hate him, he’s a cash cow.

So, stop hating the media. This is what consumers want. They demand it. In fact, they are doubling down on their commitment to it. They’ve never had more choice, more control, or more availability. Those who deny this reality will continue to lose influence in the realm or public opinion, political power, and policy advocacy.

Rather than hating the media, it’s time to embrace it and get better at manipulating it. Trump won because he played the media like a fiddle. Clinton lost primarily because she never found a way to generate genuine excitement for her campaign because of her understandable fear and disdain of controversy. Trump lives on controversy. Clinton saw the campaign as a format to exchange ideas, Trump saw it as a mixed martial arts cage match.

As liberals decry the deterioration of objective journalism, conservatives have not only cheered its demise, they have built an impenetrable echo-chamber of confirmation bias that caters exclusively to its base. They embrace the sensational, albeit nonsensical, war they’ve started with truth and facts. They appeal to emotion and shamelessly recognize fear as the most powerful one that influences human behavior and decision-making. This is precisely why they continue to win in spite of the truth and the obvious viciousness and impracticality of their ideas in a democracy that was designed to serve the diversity of its citizens.

Stop hating the media. Learn from it and get better at messaging, marketing, and manipulating the debate. Stop with the intellectualizing and ivory-tower politically-correct condescension, regardless of its moorings in undeniable ideological truth. Whether liberals like it or not, the television ratings matter far more than being correct. It isn’t selling out to accept this fact, it’s a realization that the environment has changed and learning to win in a new landscape.

Yes, ultimately, the policies and ideology matter. But, as Alec Baldwin once said in the classic movie about sales, Glengarry Glen Ross, “Coffee is for closers.” Right now, liberals aren’t closing the deal and they’re spending too much time bitching about the rules in a game they don’t fully understand. If you can’t win, then no one’s going to care about your brilliant ideas and they will drink every last cup of coffee just to spite you.

It’s time for liberals to work on their brand and aggressively market the ideas that made America great in the first place.  It’s time to learn a few things again from P.T. Barnum. Why do you think Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore rode a horse named Sassy to his polling place in the primary? Yes, it was ridiculous, but he won that news cycle hands down. Just mull that over a minute.

Stop hating the media. It’s time to own it.

Opioids killing more people than at height of HIV/AIDS epidemic

opioid, epidemic

Clete Wetli, Contributor

In June of this year, Blue Cross/ Blue Shield released a mind-boggling report that more people are dying annually of opioid overdoses than were dying during the height of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in America. Certainly, more died of overdoses than were killed by terrorists. Some 33,000 people are dying every year and it’s now one of the leading causes of shortened life expectancy. Yet, we’re more worried about spending gazillions on our bloated defense budget and finding new and interesting ways to incarcerate people unless they’re white collar criminals.

We wrongfully stigmatize those with addiction by rejecting that it’s a disease. We tend to assign the cause of addiction almost always to a lack of will or irretrievably flawed moral fiber. Now, the problem is that many of the human beings addicted to these drugs weren’t exactly the type of people that most associate with addiction or drug-seeking, hedonistic behavior. A good many of these folks were prescribed these drugs legally for legitimate medical issues, but find themselves rapidly and hopelessly addicted. When the prescription can’t be refilled anymore, they seek whatever they can to stave off withdrawal. They buy pills off the street or inject heroin for the first time.

How many people have to die or go to jail before we get serious about treating addiction in a humane and sensible way in this country?

Sadly, since Nixon first declared the War on Drugs in 1972, the issue has been hyper-politicized and millions of Americans have needlessly died or suffered so politicians could win votes. Of course, doctors and Big Pharma wipe their very sterile hands of all this as they exchange money for their respective expert services. The biggest secret is that dentists are usually the biggest offenders. Who wants to settle for Naproxen when the tooth doc is offering a Percocet? We’ve been conditioned to believe that the only real pain meds that work are the ones that are only available by prescription.

Sadly, the Drug War has had a slew of unintended consequences like no-knock warrants and civil asset forfeiture. But there’s so much more. See what happens if you’re driving and happen to get pulled over by a cop and you have one of those pill organizers on you- the kind that have a compartment for each day of the week. If you don’t have your prescriptions handy, you’re going to jail. When it comes to drugs, you are guilty way before anyone ever thinks you may be innocent.

Yes, there are those too that just want to chase the dragon and get fried out of their minds. These are the people who need our help and who need therapy. Yes, they need to suffer the consequence of their actions, but they also shouldn’t be treated as sub-human and dispensable. When given a real chance and some genuine hope for a better future, people do recover from addiction. It’s not pretty and it’s messy and sometimes it takes a long, long time.

We tend to lump all these drugs together and, ironically, refuse to stigmatize legal drugs like alcohol, nicotine, and caffeine because most folks really like those chemicals. Well, alcohol is different because law enforcement pays the bills off of DUI’s.

Isn’t it time we quit painting it all with a big broad brush and use some evidence-based practices to deal with individual situations in their context? It seems like so many other countries have a handle on this, but we can’t ever seem to find solutions that don’t end up with more people dead or in jail.

Let’s quit wringing our hands and shaking our heads. It’s time to be fucking outraged because this is a crisis we can do something about. It’s going to take some political courage, a bunch of money, and an army of addiction counselors. But, it’s worth it. Let’s quit treating addicts like criminals and actually help them recover.

We can start by holding doctors and Big Pharma accountable for their role in this epidemic.

Profiles in Poltroonery Starring Betsy DeVos Or “Another weak, another blow too pub lick edjucashion!”

betsy, devos, bears

Franklin, Contributor, 10 out of 10 grizzly bears approve this message.

This week, Education Secretary, Betsy DeVos, known unofficially as the Bane of Public Education, announced that she had no desire to go after student loan lenders who engage in unfair or fraudulent business practices. You know, like banks that gave out high interest loans to attend the fabled ivory tower of higher education known as Trump University. In a letter to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, she told the watchdog agency to back off as part of a broader Republican effort to stymie the agency’s investigative and enforcement capabilities.

DeVos hates consumer financial protection almost as much as she hates public education itself. Her letter to the CFPB came on the heels of her stunning decision to revisit Title IX sexual harassment policy in public education. Apparently, DeVos is very concerned about the rare occurrence of false allegations of assault, rather than the thousands of sexual assaults that do occur or the untold number that are covered up or unreported.

DeVos has spent her entire silver-spooned career fighting for the rights of the wealthy elite to soak up taxpayer dollars so that their children can go to private or charter schools with their tuition subsidized using public funds. This is vitally important because without those subsidies they cannot escape the shame of enduring education amongst the commoners without great inconvenience. Indubitably, this must be prevented at all costs. After all, what’s the point of being filthy rich if it doesn’t come with privileged entitlement? Why should rich people have to pay taxes that fund public education and then also have to pay for little Randolph Ellington Snodgrass, III to go to Fancy Pants School for Gifted Lads in Uniforms? Everyone knows that Master Snodgrass could not possibly endure a ride on a filthy school bus surrounded by grubby plebians…

Yes, Betsy DeVos understands the controversies of our modern age. That’s why she feels it’s important to teach kids creationism as divine truth and evolution as an unproven theory. Who needs national educational standards? According to DeVos, rural Mississippi will teach the “3 R’s” even gooder than they do in New York City without pesky interference by the Department of Education! Besides, if they don’t like that in Mississippi, they can always see if there’s an opening in the Fancy Pants School for Gifted Lads in Uniforms.

As the heiress to the Amway fortune and sister to the founder of mercenaries known as Blackwater, DeVos own “business career” is a shining example of nepotistic hegemony and snake-oil salesmanship. Using Amway money, she helped finance a company called Neurocore which has a bunch of “brain performance centers” offering biofeedback therapy for mental health disorders, which is about as effective as “praying the gay away”, but with much more technology and even fewer positive results. It must be effective because it’s expensive, right?

During her confirmation process as Secretary of Education, she didn’t hesitate to teach America’s children the value of plagiarism and her firm belief that all schools should be armed to the teeth in case of grizzly bear attacks. Her genius agenda for public education basically consists of defunding public schools and paying teachers even less while ensuring rich white folks can get “school choice” vouchers so they can choose to self-segregate.

After six months of praising Trump’s every move, she is finally enacting her own agenda to ensure that America’s kids will never be exposed to dirty words like “climate change” or “evolutionary biology” ever again.

So, it is with great amounts of wine, as I weep uncontrollably for our nation, that I bestow upon Betsy DeVos the very first Profile in Poltroonery. We can’t wait to see what you do next year. Maybe, you’ll get rid of science in schools altogether so that children have more time for mandatory Christian prayers. Maybe, you’ll ditch the metric system and replace it with cubits. Betsy, you put the k in education!

Damned if you don’t

school, closings, weather

Clete Wetli, Contributor

Last night, we got the message that the City of Huntsville cancelled classes due to the potential of severe weather as Hurricane Irma was predicted to bring heavy rain and wind into the Tennessee Valley. The kids were jubilant, the adults not quite so much. Then, on social media there was great bitching and anguish over the decision. Most folks were very upset because they felt that the severe weather threat was overstated and that they were now forced into spending some unplanned time with their kids. They were irate because, in many cases, it would mean having to take a day off work presumably without pay.

The best part was inadvertently listening to WVNN conservative talk show host Dale Jackson picking it as his “Number One Thing You’ll Be talking About Today” and excoriating the school administrators for the decision by calling them cowards. I was scanning stations while I was coming back from the store with bread and milk so that we could make milk sandwiches should Armageddon begin. Mind you, Jackson has no kids, but he’s quick to disparage the school system for their decision to err on the side of abundant caution. He thinks the whole decision was based on their fear of lawsuits from angry parents.

I think too many parents would be angry no matter what decision they made. In this case, Alabama Governor Kay Ivey had already made an emergency declaration before the storm changed intensity and direction. This means that cancelling class would not require a “make-up” day. The school systems made their decision yesterday based on the forecast that included wind advisories and a tropical storm watch for the area. Of course, things changed and the forecast wasn’t entirely accurate.

Cue rage and rending of clothes and gnashing of teeth and cursing in foreign tongues! How dare they!! Yes, Dale Jackson was right, this is the number one thing you should talk about today- not disaster relief, not Equifax’s hack, not tax reform, not 9/11 memorials- yes, we should burn the effigies of school administrators and be sure they hear our feverish outrage!

Alrighty then. Now that your done foaming at the mouth, you may wish to consider that if this is, indeed, your number one issue for today, your life is darn good. I have a feeling that later in the day, that will change after your kids complain about being bored and not being able to go outside because it’s raining. Or, you’ll stay enraged like Dale Jackson, who remains completely unaffected by this issue, and gripe incessantly to ever person who’ll listen because that’s sort of y’alls happy place. Ooh, I bet your pissed I used the colloquial word “y’alls” in a sentence, too…

C’mon, whatever happened to our ability to just roll with things? I mean, they made a decision on the best information they had at the time and, yes, they erred on the side of abundant caution. I may be going out on a limb here, but I prefer that rationale over making decisions out of carelessly embracing risk or being completely unaware of severe weather threats or using a Magic 8 Ball for major decisions.

Yes, you will have to interact with your children if you’re able to pry the cell phones out of their hands. You will feel intense guilt as you binge watch Game of Thrones or whatever other non-productive thing you do on a Monday when you should be working. Some of you will even declare at 2:20 that it’s 5 O’clock somewhere. Eventually, your outrage will subside or it will grow as you begin to seriously contemplate a career change as a right-wing talk radio show host.

So, let’s lighten up on the school system. They’re doing the best they can. Those poor folks are truly damned if they do and damned if they don’t. Remember, they’re dealing with your genius angels every single day. Yeah, your genius angels and those bratty moron kids down the street, yet teachers have to do all of that completely sober. So, you’ll make it through this one unplanned day. Remember this afternoon that it’s probably 5’Oclock somewhere and toast the school for unplanned family time.

I wonder what Dale Jackson’s “Number One Thing” will be when he finally does have kids? Probably, complaining about how that Hawaiian Punch cartoon character on his kids juice boxes turned them into liberal snowflakes. Well, we can only hope.

Why Joel Osteen’s response to Harvey was wrong

joel, osteen, harvey, houston

Jerry Waters, Contributor

On social media, there has been relentless criticism of mega-church pastor Joel Osteen for not immediately declaring that the enormous church could be used as a public shelter for Hurricane Harvey flood victims. Osteen has said that the city didn’t ask for help until they realized the magnitude of the disaster and, now, the church has opened its doors in response to their request.

Most of the folks criticizing Osteen are doing so because they have deep disagreements with him about the validity of the ‘prosperity gospel’ themes that are central to his theology. Others despise Osteen because they take issue with a church leader amassing vast personal wealth which they believe contradicts the message of the Christian Bible.

Why does a man who claims he’s devoted his life to following Christ need a ten-million-dollar house and a yacht?

Personally, I think the ‘prosperity gospel’ is nothing more than excuse for greed, excess, and hypocrisy. It turns Christianity into a transactional process where good behavior is rewarded with wealth. To me, this is also incredibly vain and self-centered because believers of this theology really think that the Almighty is tuned into their every thought and action in order to reward or punish them. In fact, if you think about it, it’s exactly the opposite of the humility and selflessness that Jesus preached.

Followers of the ‘prosperity gospel’ are quick to say that amassing wealth is not sinful and that Jesus would not want his devout followers to be poor. Of course, anyone who’s read scripture knows that Jesus forsook wealth and went out of way to warn his followers by saying, “Truly, I tell you it is difficult for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again, I tell you that it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God…”

Well, I haven’t tried to push any camels through a needle’s eye, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they try it on ‘MythBusters’ next season and we’ll see how that works out.

Yet, I don’t think that Osteen’s wealth or his brand of Christianity is the actual problem in this situation. I mean, those factors were definitely responsible for the light-speed acceleration of social media vitriol, but they weren’t the spark that set off the explosion. I think that the spark was a failure of leadership.

Osteen’s problem was that he failed to properly communicate until after the situation became a PR nightmare and he was forced to respond. His city just got hit with historic flooding and he was silent until forced to speak. Perhaps, he wouldn’t be facing controversy if he had been proactive and told people that he had previously reached out to city officials. Perhaps, he could have offered other types of assistance to people that were looking to him for leadership.

Personally, I don’t care much for him, his religiosity, or his ostentatious display of wealth. I think he just failed as a public figure and as a leader in a time of crisis. Unfortunately, like other public figures that think highly of themselves, he won’t admit he made any mistake. He’s been doing interviews defending himself and doing lots of explaining.

Disasters tend to expose the reality of a person’s character. In the aftermath of Harvey, we’ll see tremendous acts of heroism and we’ll see people looting their neighbor’s house. We’ll see generosity and we’ll see price-gouging. It will all be on display and all too slowly things will get rebuilt and life will normalize.

Right now, people material help and they need leadership. When it came to leadership, Joel Osteen failed epically. If he’s not careful, God’s going to take one of his yachts away to teach him a lesson.