Yes: Amendments T, 69, 70, 72, sugary drink tax, schools … Hillary

My ballot is ready for delivery. There’s a law in Colurado that photos of filled out ballots are not allowed. Mine is in the secrecy sleeve.

The election ballot came in the mail the other day. I hear a bunch of people haven’t quite made up their minds yet. I don’t get that. Not that I’m any kind of political guru, but here are my takes on the election.

While I like the convenience of mail-in ballots, having to place first class postage on them is a form of a poll tax. Old school student that I am, I will drop off my ballot at the polling place on election day.

I predict the Democrats will take back the Senate and make a big dent in the House GOP majority. What will continue to stalemate congress is the heavily gerrymandered districts that benefit the Republicans. Democrats who get elected in Republican districts will likely be there for one, maybe two terms. The SCOTUS decision upholding the Arizona election commission as a non-partisan redistricting tool and the 2020 census should enable the creation of more competitive districts.

Presidential Electors – Hillary and Kaine: I was/am an ardent Bernie supporter but now reluctantly for Hillary – but solidly, 100 percent behind her. A vote for Hillary / Kaine is a vote for the Bernie movement. If you’re for social justice, getting money out of politics, balancing income disparity, cracking down on Wall Street, further health care reform, fixing trade deals, then, maintaining a Democrat in the White House  will move that agenda.

I predict Hillary will win by a landslide. It will be unbelievably huge – believe me. Hillary is lucky she’s isn’t running against McCain or Romney this time. It would have been a tight 2016 race.

Write in Moon

If you’re one of those “Bernie or Nobody” or “Hillary and Trump are both terrible” voters, it’s not like you don’t have choices. There are 22 pairs of candidates on the Colorado ballot. If you don’t like any of them, there’s a “write-in” blank. Because of third party candidates, Hillary is likely to win in Utah … WHA’???!!!

If it’s any consolation to my Wyoming friends voting for Trump, in any scenario from a Hillary landslide to a Hillary squeaker, Wyoming goes solidly for Trump. Trump is guaranteed three electoral votes.

For those of you who have forgotten what you learned in political science class, we don’t vote for candidates, but rather for electors who, in turn cast each state’s vote for president. Electors aren’t bound to vote how the state directs them, however. There are people who don’t like this approach, but we’re a nation of states not a nation of people, as we are sometimes led to believe. The electoral college system provides equity to the least populated states.

US Senator – Michael Bennet: This is a no-brainer for me. In a purple state like Colorado, the US Senators have to govern to the center. Michael Bennet after being appointed by Governor Hickenlooper, had a tough reelection campaign in 2010 against Ken Buck. He’s proven his ability to work on both sides of the aisle including with junior Senator Cory Gardner. He stays out of papers and governs quietly.

Representative CD 2 – Jared Polis: I’ve known Jared and his partner Marlon Reis for a number of years. I think I first met Jared when he was managing his foundation and eventually on the state board of education. He is another guy who has to be sensitive to the Republicans in his district, which expands north and east. I’m okay with that.

I tend to support people I know – Republican or Democrat – and that’s no exception for these contested races:

CU Regent – Alice Madden

State Senator – Steve Fenberg

County Commissioners – Elise Jones, Deb Gardener

As for the judges, the blue book gave them all a pass. I’ll let them ride another term.

Constitutional Amendment T – YES: This reminds me of that Seinfeld pilot episode within an episode when a guy is sentenced to be Jerry’s butler. Rather than take this provision out of the constitution, the reference to slavery and involuntary servitude should have just been removed. There are plenty of similar punishments that happen in the forms of community service, restorative justice retribution, etc.

Constitutional Amendment U – NO: People / Corporations who use public land for private purposes should continue to pay taxes. The constitution is no place to be dealing with administrative costs as being a reason to exempt users from paying tax.

Constitutional Amendment 69 – YES: Big pharma and mega-insurance companies are against this one. If it passes, it will signal other states to opt out of the Affordable Care Act which has been a boon to big medicine. There are many people who will be turning 65 soon and enrolled in Medicare. Why should I be okay with paying a little more income tax? It’s for the common good. Besides, I don’t have kids in the public school system and I don’t complain about paying those taxes, because education is public good.

Constitutional Amendment 70 – YES: When I was a kid, I worked for the minimum wage, which was, seems like $1.32, and for a 12-year old that was a lot of money – especially when I was allowed to work sometimes 50 hours a week. What else did I have to do? The minimum wage isn’t supposed to be a living wage. It’s a benchmark. It’s a starting wage. The current $8.31 isn’t even a starting wage. However, for workers who think they can make a living on $9.50 / hour, I have news for them, they better get two jobs or get fit to work into something that is better paying. Small and micro business owners have a good gripe in that this could be an undo burden on them, but it’s a cost of doing business. If a small biz is just squeaking by paying workers $8 an hour, maybe it should evaluate the business model.

Constitutional Amendment 71 – NO: The reason the constitution gets amended so often is because if it isn’t in the constitution, the state legislature can change a law passed by referendum at the drop of a hat. If anything, the constitution should be amended to say that any law passed by referendum can be changed by the legislature, but any changes have to be by majority of each county’s legislators, independent of party of affiliation.

Constitutional Amendment 72 – YES: Taxes like these are paid by people who knowingly use a product that is bad for them like tobacco (in fact, it’s written on all the packages). Tobacco also happens to be addictive so it’s an easy sell. Tobacco smoking isn’t a right, it’s a choice. People who choose unhealthy options, regardless of reasons, also place a burden on the public health and safety through second hand smoke, avoidable health problems such as heart and lung disease. The bad lifestyle choosers also get into insurance pools driving up premium costs. This isn’t about tobacco users (they often think laws like this gang up on them) but rather about tobacco. Also, if this were only a law passed by referendum, the tobacco company lobbyists would have a hey day lining elected officials pockets to get the law gutted.

Proposition 106 – NO: I think there are adequate ways for caregivers to end a person’s life or a sick person to end their own life without adding this huge death industrial complex behind it. Let’s see, there’s Smith and Wesson, the left over oxycodon … This is a choice that a person makes after consultation with family friends, preacher, their dog. The government has no place in this decision.

Proposition 107 – YES: I imagine both political parties are against an open primary because it allows independent voters to vote in either partys presidential primary election. I don’t know how any one who stood in line for hours thinks the caucus system is better than a direct primary.

Proposition 108 – NO: While independent voters would be able to vote in a party primary for state and local candidates, it allows an exception for non-presidential candidates to be selected by a convention of party elites. This must be a compromise voter suppression measure proposed by the GOP.

Boulder County Issues 1A, 1B, 1c – YES: I always vote for the pittance of sales tax increases to maintain infrastructure including parks and open spaces. I seldom use the open spaces, but they are a public good.

Boulder County Issue 1d – NO: Term limiting candidates should be left up to the voters to decide. If the District Attorney is doing an okay job, let him/her serve as long as the public can stand them.

City of Boulder 2H – YES: This is a tax similar to the tobacco tax proposed in Amendment 72. If a person wants to make unhealthy choices, they should be willing to pay a little extra. The Big Gulp from 7-Eleven now costs $1.59 and a refill is $.99 – I’m pretty sure your average Big Gulp drinker would pay 50 cents extra. I know I won’t mind. I’ll continue to buy my fountain soda here, than travel to Longmont for my occasional to save on taxes.

City of Boulder 2I – NO: There are other ways to better utilize the Boulder water supplies. Denying land owners water isn’t the right way to do it. There’s a big debate happening in town now about residential growth. Allocation of scarce resources needs to be a more balanced approach.

City of Boulder 2J – NO: The city of Boulder council is not a full time job and providing access to benefits available to city employees encourages people to run for office not to serve, but to self serve because of the health insurance benefits.

City of Boulder 302 – NO: There is no need to legislate term limits. If anything, there should be another effort to establish city council wards in Boulder to create more equitable representation. Remember the time when two council members lived in the same house?

Boulder Valley School District 3A – Yes: Even though I don’t have kids in the school system, education is a public good. I helped on 2A many years ago which fixed the existing schools and built some new ones.

Yours truly, Michael and Jerry mugging at BIFF

Scientific and Cultural Facilities District 4b – YES: I am self-interested in this one. I’m a member of the Boulder International Film Festival board of directors and some of our funding is SCFD. This is one of most worthwhile taxes, particularly for small to medium sized arts organizations.

In another race of interest to me, I think this is the biggest game changer of all the overlooked elections in the country:

Wyoming CD At Large – Liz Cheney: I predict the Virginia carpetbagger and daughter of Dick Cheney will win in a landslide. She quasi-moved back to Wyoming to take the open seat held by Cynthia Lummis. I further predict that Cheney will ditch Wyoming after two terms and run for president in 2020 / 2024. Carpetbagging worked for Hillary Wyoming is a way easier path to the top than going through New York. If she wanted to take the big state route, Texas – corporate home to her dad’s firm Halliburton – would have been the obvious choice.

Advertisements

Keep affordable housing from being an elephant in the room

jim snow tree

Silver Sage Village in Boulder, Colorado consists of 10 market rate and six affordable homes.

The “Dealing with Diverse Personalities” retreat is coming up at the end of September – there’s still time time to sign up. The retreat is not for the faint of heart.

Like dealing with issues of housing affordability, it’s not an easy topic to discuss since it requires people to step out of their comfort zones.

Most affordable housing discussions are about density and development scale, parking, traffic, grants, public / private partnerships – the “stuff” of affordability.

Once built, however, affordable housing and the diversity that goes along with it can be sources of personal conflict which happen at the national, local and neighborhood levels. As a refresher, I’ve written about diversity and cultural competency as a prelude to the Arcosanti retreat and folds right into discussions about affordable housing.

There’s been quite a bit of discussion about affordability in cohousing. Here are a few of my observations about it which I originally wrote for the EcoEducation Village Institute.

In my past lives I was a city planner, then developed Habitat for Humanity affordable housing and served a term on the Boulder Planing Board. I currently live in an affordable cohousing home.

Silver Sage Village has 16 homes of which ten are market rate and six were built as part of the city of Boulder’s permanently affordable housing program.

Wild Sage cohousing across the street partnered with Habitat for Humanity as well as the city affordable program. Here are a few of my random thoughts and suggestions:

privilegeDiversity and cultural competency cross cut when it comes to affordable cohousing.

I suggest you have a serious and frank discussion among yourselves about why you personally – as opposed to philosophically – want affordable housing in your neighborhood.

Get strong commitments about all being willing to pay more money out of pocket to level the field for those who cannot otherwise afford to live there.

It’s obvious that partnering with others, rather than tackling affordable housing on your own is necessary. Even if you do find ways to subsidize building costs those don’t lower monthly Home Owner’s Association fees.

coho suburb aerial– I suggest you build the homes so they are all affordable to people / families of similar means. At Silver Sage, over the years, a perceived caste system arose. Dealing with a more socio-economically diverse community is a challenge for people, particularly since stereotyping may be involved.

The Silver Sage Village affordable homes are 800sqft and worth $150000 and limited in annual appreciation. The market rate homes are between 1100 and 2300sqft and valued at $500000 and $800000 and rising.

For the affordable home owners with limited appreciation, it’s a challenge to keep HOA fees equitable. Affordable homes are the same as market rate homes in the sense that the equity is earned differently. Rather than having to tie up large amounts of cash into a home, affordable homes are lesser expensive, in exchange for earning the equity in small annual chunks.

Becoming more culturally competent is a step toward breaking down the notions of privilege or lack, thereof.

– I suggest building all similar sized homes so the homeowner fees are more equally distributed. At Silver Sage fees range from $450+ to $650+/month which includes gas heat and water and build enough homes to spread around the fees. I think the sweet spot is around 32.

the-not-so-big-house– I suggest you design the homes ala “The not so big house” by Sarah Susanka to encourage residents to use the common house.

At Silver Sage the common house is used more by the affordable homeowners because our living spaces are smaller.

The common house here is used a majority of the time by by non-residents who rent it for studio and office space and outside events like meetings and classes. The market rate homes are designed like large homes in the suburbs and plopped into cohousing with large living rooms and big kitchens.

These are a few of my ideas and suggestions when considering whether or not you want to have affordable homes in your neighborhood / community. It’s not as easy decision to make, when you take into account the potential demographics of those who live in affordable housing.

Everyone each have different life experiences, current lifestyles, and it is imperative that all community members recognize these differences and learn how to embrace them in the contexts of their own lives.

If you  intellectually think affordable housing is a good idea, but not sure why it’s so hard for you to accept it emotionally, take a chance and step out of your comfort zones, sign up for the “Dealing for Diverse Personalities” retreat September 30 – October 2nd in Arcosanti, AZ.

This ‘bucket list’ thing has been going around social media …

Fired a gun  – I’ve gone hunting a few times and blasted a few tin cans back to the Stone Age with an AR-15.

Gone on a blind date – I’m of the age where I’ve had successes and failures writing personal newspaper classifieds and internet dating.

Skipped school – I didn’t skip school when I was a kid, but during college, I planned my schedule so I always had three or four day weekends.

Watched someone give birth – No

Watched someone die – I was in a hospital emergency room when I saw a guy die from shoveling snow.

Visited Canada – Many times. The most memorable was a high school road trip with a bunch of kids from around Wyoming. We drove to Prince Rupert and boarded a ferry there for Sitka. We were on a Presbyterian work crew at Sheldon Jackson College.

Visited Hawaii – I’ve only been once in the mid-1980s to visit relatives and watch the University of Wyoming play Hawaii in football. It’s nice to watch a football game in balmy weather.

Visited Europe – It was a layover in Amsterdam on my way to Uganda. Staying longer is on my list of things to do.

Visited Las Vegas – What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas.

Visited Washington DC – Many times. My aunt lived there. I went to Nixon’s 1973 inauguration and Clinton’s inauguration in 1993.

Visited Asia – After all my grandparents died, my family made a pilgrimage to Japan. Kumomoto is where the big earth quake just happened.

Visited Africa – I was in Uganda for three weeks shooting a movie that never came to pass.

Visited Florida – Many times. I took a college class and visited all over the place, including Key West. Florida has the most cattle of anywhere in the country.

Visited Mexico – I worked in Zacatecas, Mexico off and on for about five years. That was quite the experience. My idea was to keep people from coming the the US to work. A couple of these little towns would be deserted when all the men left for construction jobs. I set up a bunch of home sewing operations putting together hair ties. In the end, I learned that the reason all the maquillas are located along the border is because of transportation.

Visited Australia – I have a proposal out to show my cohousing movie there.

Seen the Grand Canyon in person – Several times. I’d like to do some adventure there, as opposed to looking over the edge. If you’ve seen one gouge in the ground, you’ve seen them all. The Grand Canyon of the Gunnison is at least as spectacular.

Flown in a helicopter – When I was airlifted out from the Big Thompson Canyon after the big flood I rode in a Chinook to Fort Collins. This was 1976 before cell phones. My friends and family thought I was dead.

Been on a cruise – When in Alaska, I was technically on a cruise ship. My high school mates were in steerage on a liner called the Wickersham. I remember venturing to the upper decks and hanging with people in tuxedos and long dresses.

Served on a jury – I was on a grand jury in Wyoming. While in Colorado, I have never been called. Technically, I’m not supposed to mention that I was on the jury.

Been in a movie – I’ve been in a studio movie, “Catch and Release.” I was Passerby 257 in some Pearl Street Mall establishing shots. A couple of my friends are making a short movie next week and I’ll be an extra in that.

Visited L.A – Many times – nothing memorable though. Disneland, maybe.

Been to New York City – Many times. The most memorable was watching the Super Bowl between the Falcons and Broncos in the Stonewall Inn on Christopher Street. I didn’t realize it was a famous gay bar at the time.

Cried yourself to sleep – When my cat died.

Played in a band – I played in the Fremont County community orchestra. I keep threatening to get out my fiddle and hack away at it. I picked up my grandfather’s violin I loaned to a second cousin. She was done with it.

Recently colored with pencils – No

Sang karaoke – In Hawaii, there was a lot of that when it was new in the US. I can’t remember the last time I sang in a bar – unless it was at a college reunion at the Wagon Wheel Bar.

Swam in the ocean – A few times. I’m not much of a water dog and don’t seek out the water.

Paid for a meal with coins only – When McDonald’s hamburgers were $.15 there was not much credit card use in those days. In a short movie I made in Vail a few years ago, the main character having a bad day ended up paying with his loose change, including from the ‘leave and penny – take a penny’ tray.

Made prank phone calls – Call to local store, “Do you have Prince Albert in a can? Well, let him out!”

Laughed so much you cried – I used to really laugh a lot when I was a kid to the point of tears. Not so much as an adult. I also got bad grades for citizenship. Tonight Bill Maher made me laugh so hard I cried when he told 25 things you don’t know about Ted Cruz. 

Caught a snowflake on your tongue – The other day when it was coming down in cotton balls.

Had children – No

Had a pet – Family pets. I had three cats that were under my guardianship.

Been skinny dipping – At church camp, there was a pond and a bunch of us stupid kids jumped into ice cold, frigid water. Not very smart.

Rappelled down a building/tower – At the University of Wyoming, there were several building climbing routes and rappelling was a part of it. I also put up some routes in downtown Lander. I got in big trouble for that, especially since they ended up in route descriptions in the local newspaper.

Gone zip lining – I haven’t zip lined, but have swung in a big swing that pendulummed down from a big crane at the Colorado State Fair. It was a zero gravity experience.

Been downhill skiing – This was probably my last year. I skied four times and I’m not moved to go again, but who knows.

Been water skiing – I went once at Keyhole Reservoir near Devil’s Tower.

Been camping in a tent – I’m from the west. I carry one in the car at all times.

Driven a motorcycle – The biggest motorbike I’ve ridden is a 50cc Aprillia scooter.

Jumped out of a plane – No, but given the opportunity I’d do it. If George HW Bush could do it half crippled up, I can do it.

Gone to a drive-in movie – My first drive in movie was Cleopatra at the Motor-Vu in Cheyenne. I live in the Holiday Neighborhood which used to be the drive-in movie.

Done something that could have killed you – I fell asleep at the wheel driving back from Dubois to Lander. I woke up in the nick of time.

Done something that you will regret for the rest of your life – Yeah, it wrecked a friendship. Time has healed it, but one of these days we’ll talk about it.

Rode an elephant – The circus came to town in Lander and as a publicity stunt, I was asked to ride the elephant.

Rode a camel – No, but I did see camels that were for transport in Uganda. I didn’t think about asking about getting a ride. It was hard enough getting used to traffic on the wrong side of the street.

Eaten just cookies or cake or ice cream for dinner – I’ve eaten dessert for all three meals. The best thing about adulthood is being able to eat what I want and not have someone tell me it will spoil my dinner, I can spoil my dinner if I want.

Been on TV – I ran a public access TV station and on from time to time. Cheyenne has a pretty good local TV station and they offer time for event organizers to be on the air as a public service. I also used to be on for my work in city government from time to time.

Been in the newspaper – I’ve been writing in newspapers since 1963. I was in National Geopgraphic once.

Stolen any traffic signs – Some of my friends had traffic signs in their dorm rooms. Taking traffic signs wasn’t on my crime list back then.

Been in a car accident – The first was when I slid the Falcon through an intersection into one of my neighbors. The latest is when I rolled my Eurovan on the Hoback highway between Pinedale and Jackson a couple summers ago when I was sick. I shouldn’t have been behind the wheel.

Stayed in hospital – My longest stay was for six weeks a couple years ago. I was on my death bed, but snapped out of it.

Donated blood – I’ve heard there are people who do this on a regular basis. I’ve donated once for some camaraderie thing.

Had to pay a fine in the past 12 months – Traffic ticket. I was unloading stuff in front of the Boulder Theater for the Boulder International Film Festival and got an illegal parking ticket. I was going to contest it, but didn’t get around to it.

Eaten snails – There was a French restaurant in Denver where I had some escargot. I like ’em.

Gotten a piercing – Other than jabbing myself in the finger with a knife or needle?

Gotten a tattoo – Only the temporary ones that came in bubble gum. Topps made tattoos of baseball players. Mickey Mantle is worth several hundred dollars.

Driven a standard car – My first manual transmission was a red Ford Falcon and my last stick was a 1993 Eurovan that I just traded for a new Jetta.

Ever owned your dream car – I owned my two dream cars, a 1965 Karmann Ghia and a 1973 VW convertible.

Been Married – Yes, but it wasn’t memorable.

Fell in love – My first love was the best love. I’ve been in complicated love.

Paid for a strangers meal – In Mexico, I would regularly pull over in taxi cabs and treat the drivers to shrimp cocktails.

Driven over 100mph – Only once when a college ‘mate pegged his Roadrunner passed 120mph on a straight away between cornfields in Nebraska.

Worked in a pub – I ran booze between the bar and the Hitching Post Inn banquet rooms in Cheyenne during Frontier Days. That midnight to 8am shift was a lot of fun for a teenager.

Been scuba diving – No, I’m a land lubber.

Found a dead body – No

Lived on your own – Still do.

Sat in the back of a police car – The one time I was arrested for DUI, I sat in the back of a police car. It was a false arrest and I got close to suing the cops.

Written or published a book/story/poem/song – I was a newspaper writer. I’ve been rewriting a bunch of my columns and adding stuff like this list to jog my memory about stuff for a memoir I want to finish by this time next year when I turn 64 – just like the song.

We need your ‘like’ of our ‘Plein Air in Thin Air’ trailer!

Click on this image and watch the two minute trailer. Click the ❤️ . You’ll be asked to log in with your facebook or set up an account.

I’m working on a documentary to be shot in Wyoming during August and we’re trying to win the Wyoming Short Film Contest. The theme is “WY am I Here?”

Please watch the trailer and give us a “like!” You’ll be asked to log in with your facebook account if you’re not already a vimeo user.

The Wyoming Film Office gives away $25,000 to the winner that goes toward a Wyoming production. We’ll be making the movie in Grand Teton National Park this August.

The top-10 are decided by popularity contest with no regard to production value. The winner is picked by a panel of judges based on the dogs selected by the production team friends and family – it’s click bait from the Wyoming Film Office. Everyone is having a problem with this, but it cuts down on those who sit at their computers and hit play, over and over.

The main voting criteria has to do with promotion of Wyoming. What a great way to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the US National Park Service than from the top of the Grand?

Please watch the trailer and give us a “like!” You may have to log in with your facebook if you’re not already a vimeo user.

“WY Am I Here”? What if a 62-year-old grandfather of six decides to climb the spectacular Grand Teton and make never-before drawn pastel views of the expansive landscape?

Laramie artist Joe Arnold has been mountaineering for 50 years. He and his son, Jason, are planning an expedition to Grand Teton National Park for an ascent of the Grand Teton (13,776′) North Ridge route (rated 5.8).

It will be a five-day bonding experience for two generations of climbers with an unusual but creative mission at the summit.

Art 321 in Casper was the location for the CLICK! conference. Watch the Plein Air in Thin Air trailer and ‘like ‘

How did I come across this project?
I went to the Wyoming Arts Council CLICK! conference in Casper a couple weeks ago.

I ran into Joe Arnold. We were each presenting about our art works at the conference.

A couple years ago, Joe won a Wyoming Arts Council fellowship. I did a tribute video about his project which was a trek to Patagonia.

We got to talking. I was looking for a movie to make for the film office contest. I thought about my two works-in-progress, but wasn’t inspired.

Joe has a trailer finished, making it the perfect project.

Take a look and click on the heart in the upper right hand corner of the video player. We want to get into the top-10 of the beauty pageant.

Here’s the rest of the team:

  • Director and Director of Photography: Eric Randall
  • Production Assistants: Jacob Chmielowiec and Tim Hall
  • Music By: Dave Beegle davebeegle.com
  • Produced by: Alan O’Hashi and wyocomedia.com
  • Associate Producer: Jason Arnold
  • Executive Producer: Joe Arnold joearnold.org

The Spirit of Culture: Is diversity highly over rated? 

Click on the banner to read the full conference schedule.

Diversity, inclusiveness, cultural competency: are they just feel good buzz words?

Do they result in big benefits or big hassles in the long run?

I don’t know anyone who is AGAINST the tenets of equality and fair play in the abstract.

I don’t know anyone who considers themselves a “racist” but we’ll also talk about the roots of violence and privilege that play out in the 24 hour news cycle of today and enable bad behavior in smaller communities.

I’m leading a workshop at the “Aging Better Together” conference in Salt Lake City May 20-21 called “The Spirit of Culture” which addresses inclusion and diversity from first person perspectives – your prespectives.

Here’s a link to the slide presentation I’ll be making at the conference.

We’ll work as a group and as individuals while thinking back about our upbringing, the people of influence in our lives and how we can understand ourselves to better relate to others.

A cohousing community is a unique social construct that isn’t inherently in the American cultural DNA.

Another topic we’ll discuss in the context of cohousing is that of affordability – the types and prices of housing and the persons and families who live in them.

Workshoppers will leave some tips and exercises they can share with their communities.

This will be the most important workshop you’ll attend – if you dare.

Be nice to your mail carrier this holiday season

christmas seals

Christmas seals appeared on all my parent’s cards they sent out during the holiday season.

I stopped to chat with the postman as he was locking up the Silver Sage Village mail boxes. I get a few things by 1st class mail, but it’s mostly bills and junk.

Today was no different as the mail ended up in the circular file headed to the recycling bin. The other day I got a letter from the IRS saying I owe a few bucks. Maybe government agencies are obliged to use hard copy and resort to first class mail.

“Things have been really crazy. We made a deal with Amazon and now have 40 percent of their business,” he lamented. “That, plus everyone has started mailing a lot earlier this year.”

Like November 1.

The post office, unlike FedEx and UPS delivers on Christmas and Sundays. He said some days he starts at 7am and doesn’t get finished until 10pm and mail is getting delivered at odd times.

What about “Neither snow, nor rain, nor heat, nor gloom of night, stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.”

“Oh, that’s still true, but this month the mail just gets delivered later! We’ll get it figured out eventually.”

I’ve been selling a bunch of stuff on eBay which also must have a deal with the postal service. On all packages, I get a postage discount, plus I don’t have to go to stand in line at the post office and can have the occasional chat with the postman.

Every year, I plan to send out hard copy Christmas cards, and every year I don’t get around to it. Fifty cents for a stamp and fifty cents for the card – a buck to send a greeting and well wishes is a pretty good deal.

I remember when I was young, my parents sent out Christmas cards every year. That tradition included going to the post office and picking out just the perfect stamps for that year’s mailing.

It was also a time to make donations to fight tuberculosis and putting those on the envelope was also signs of the season.

I don’t even remember mailing packages. Once in a while something would be sent to my aunt in Washington DC, but she generally came back to Cheyenne for Christmas. She always brought with her “big city” gifts like Godiva ch0colate, sweaters from Lord and Taylor.

These days, all that fancy stuff is now very common and available in malls.

We’ve become mass society.

The Baby Boomer diaspora also contributes to the package shipping explosion. When my grandparents died, my uncles and aunts didn’t come around as much any more. That meant my cousins didn’t come to town much either.

Any presents had to be mailed. That was all before FedEx and UPS. When all the cousins were in high school, the unwritten rule was, no more gifts.

I really don’t send stuff out, but now that I’m getting to the point in life that I’m downsizing, I’m selling stuff on eBay. Why on earth I held on to that Charlies Angels lunch box, I’ll never know (although I still have a crush on Kate Jackson) but someone will enjoy having it gathering dust on their shelves.

The few holiday greetings I’ve sent out are gift cards to amazon.com or event tickets. As long as there are kids, there will be a demand for unnecessary stuff. The cycle seems to keep going and going.

Even if I don’t get around to sending out cards this year, I’ll at least be nice to my mail carrier this holiday season.

By the way, I learned that this quote which has become the US Postal Service motto was written by Greek historian Herodotus, 503 B.C. The words are inscribed on the General Post Office facility on 33rd Street and 8th Avenue in New York City.

Do unto others as you would have them do unto you

 

While many conservatives respond to Bernie Sanders’ speech at Liberty University with frustration, dismissing him as a left-wing socialist, one Liberty graduate was not so quick to dismiss Sanders. In fact, he argues that Sanders is the candidate campaigning on the principles of Christ. “When I heard Bernie speaking in that way, when I saw that guy on stage at Liberty University, I saw John the Baptist. . . .crying out to the religious leaders, the Pharisees of his day,” said the graduate, calling himself Jim, “calling them corrupt and complicit with those who have all the power and all the money and all the wealth, and abandoning the people that God loves, that God cares about…”

 I give a few bucks to Bernie Sanders from time to time. In exchange for that I get emails all the time. They generally end up in the trash, but this was of interest to me because he spoke at Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University about the importance of equality from a biblical – Old and New Testament – perspective.
Dear Alan,

Earlier this week I spoke at Liberty University. For those of you who do not know, Liberty University is a deeply religious institution. It is a school which tries to understand the meaning of morality and the words of the Bible, within the context of a very complicated modern world. It was founded by the Reverend Jerry Falwell, and the vast majority of people at Liberty strongly disagree with me, and perhaps you, about abortion, marriage equality, and other issues.

You might be asking yourself, “Why on earth would Bernie Sanders go there?” It is a fair question within the context of our modern politics.

I spoke at Liberty University because I believe that it is important for those with different views in our country to engage in civil discourse – not just to shout at each other or make fun of each other.

It is very easy for those in politics to talk to those who agree with us – and I do that every day. It is harder, but not less important, to try and communicate with those who do not agree with us and see where, if possible, we can find common ground. In other words, to reach out of our zone of comfort.

So I went outside of my zone of comfort. Watch this video of my remarks there and read what I have to say about the ideas of morality and justice as they relate to income inequality and other critical issues facing our nation.

The message I gave at Liberty University is that the moral choice is to fight income inequality, and that the just thing to do is to work to make our society more fair. Below are some of my remarks to Liberty from the video above, but I think it is important to share them with you here as well so that you can share with others how I approach these issues.

I am far, far from a perfect human being, but I am motivated by a vision which exists in all of the great religions – Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Buddhism and others – and which is so beautifully and clearly stated in Matthew 7:12. “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the prophets.” The Golden Rule. Do to others what you would have them do to you. Not very complicated.

I told the crowd at Liberty University that I understand that issues such as abortion and gay marriage are very important to them, and that we disagree on those issues. I get that. But there are other issues out there that are of enormous consequence to our country and the world and that maybe, just maybe, we don’t disagree on them. And maybe, just maybe, we can work together in trying to resolve them.

Amos 5:24, “But let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream!”

Justice. Treating others the way we would like to be treated. Treating all people with dignity and respect.

It would, I think, be hard for anyone in that room where I spoke to make the case that the United States today is a “just” society or anything resembling a just society.

In America today there is massive injustice in terms of income and wealth inequality. Injustice is rampant. We live in the wealthiest country in the history of the world but most Americans don’t know that because almost all of that wealth and income is going to the top one percent. We are living at a time where a handful of people have wealth beyond comprehension – huge yachts, jet planes, tens of billions of dollars, more money than they could spend in a thousand lifetimes. But at the same time, millions of people are struggling to feed their families or put a roof over their heads or find the money to go to a doctor.

When we talk about morality and when we talk about justice, we have to understand that there is no justice when the top one-tenth of one percent own almost as much wealth as the bottom 90 percent. There is no justice when all over this country people are working long hours for abysmally low wages, $7.25 an hour or $8 an hour, while 58 percent of all new income being created today goes to the top one percent.

There is no justice when, in recent years, we have seen a proliferation of millionaires and billionaires while, at the same time, the United States has the highest rate of childhood poverty in the industrialized world. How can we talk about morality when we turn our backs on the children of this country? Twenty percent of the children in this country live in poverty and that includes 40 percent of African American children. There is no justice when, in the wealthiest country in the history of the world, children in our country go to bed hungry.

There is no justice when the 15 wealthiest people in this country saw their wealth increase by $170 billion dollars in the last two years. That is more wealth, acquired in a two-year period, than is owned by the bottom 130 million Americans. And while the very rich become much richer, millions of families have no savings at all and struggle every week just to stay alive economically, and the elderly and disabled wonder how they stay warm in the winter. That is not justice. That is a rigged economy designed by the wealthiest people in this country to benefit the wealthiest people in this country at the expense of everyone else.

There is no justice when thousands of people in America die each year because they don’t have health insurance and don’t get to a doctor when they should, or when elderly people are forced to choose between food or medicine because our citizens pay the highest prices in the world for prescription drugs. That is not justice. That is not morality. That is simply an indication that we are the only major country on earth that does not guarantee health care for all as a right.

There is no justice when low-income and working-class mothers are forced to separate from their babies one or two weeks after birth and go back to work because we are the only major country on earth that does not have a paid family and medical leave policy. That is not justice. That is an attack on family values that everyone should be appalled at.

There is no justice in our country when youth unemployment exists at tragic levels – with 51 percent of African American high school kids unemployed or underemployed. No. We apparently do not have the funds to provide jobs or educational opportunities for our young people but we sure do have the money to throw them into jails. Today, the United States has more people in jail than any other country on earth, and many are serving time in inhumane conditions. That is not justice. That is the destruction of human life.

I am not a theologian or an expert on the Bible or a Catholic. I am just a U.S. senator from the small state of Vermont. But I agree with Pope Francis when he says: “The current financial crisis… originated in a profound human crisis: the denial of the primacy of the human person! We have created new idols. The worship of the ancient golden calf has returned in a new and ruthless guise in the idolatry of money and the dictatorship of an impersonal economy lacking a truly human purpose.”

He also states: “There is a need for financial reform along ethical lines that would produce in its turn an economic reform to benefit everyone. Money has to serve, not to rule.”

In his view, and I agree with him, we are living in a nation and in a world which worships the acquisition of money and great wealth, but which turns its back on those in need. And that must end. We need to move toward an economy which works for all, and not just the few.

Throughout human history there has been endless discussion and debate about the meaning of justice and the meaning of morality. I hope that by getting out of my comfort zone and speaking with the students at Liberty University that I can be a part of a dialogue with people who might not agree with us. I hope that some of them conclude that if we strive toward morality and toward justice, that it is imperative that we have the courage to stand with the poor and working people of our country.

In solidarity,

Bernie Sanders