Thursday, January 21, 2016

So What Are New York Values Anyway?

Listening to Ted Cruz chastise Donald Trump in the recent Republican debate by calling him out as having “New York Values” seems to be a perverted way to draw darker and firmer lines in the electoral and culture wars. 

Cruz wanted to paint Trump as a man whose ideas and values will stand in contrast with evangelical and Tea Party voters. These two groups are considered to represent conservative and "family values."

Trump did use the NY Values phrase to define himself, so it makes sense that Trump’s political opponents will now try to define the leading republican candidate by his own words. The fact that I find myself defending Donald Trump – as the presumptive Republican candidate - is itself strange since I reject pretty much all of his ideas as broadly unconstitutional and divisive. 

I have always been amused by Trump. Watching him build a real estate legacy begun by his father. Unlike many of us, Donald Trump was actually born with a silver spoon in his mouth. But that's no reason to dislike the man.

There are other reasons to dislike him and his broad brand of opportunism and misogyny. We've watched him build, then build bigger and then go into legal bankruptcy to emerge clean. His book, his beauty pageants, his casinos and his TV show all part of his ego and the pop culture zeitgeist of overt consumption, flash, consumer indulgence and voyeurism. 

Yet, I am a New Yorker too who was born and raised in the greatest city in the world. I grew up in Brooklyn, went to NYC schools, attended Brooklyn College, Queens College, and New York University.  Now I work in NYC and I am still deeply love with this town.

This beautiful city is still a wounded city that has never fully righted itself from the RELIGIOUS TERRORIST attacks of 9/11. Even though we all know that fifteen years later, as we all get older, that life must go on.

Still, I remain a NYC values voter. So what does that mean? For me it combines the U.S. Constitution, the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights and the latest version of the Humanist Manifesto.

You may disagree and that's ok. I'm not expecting you to fully agree.  Nor am I suggesting that all New Yorkers will agree or accept these stances.

But if you come to NYC you will see and feel these values in whole or in part all around you. Eight million citizens strong and getting stronger.

Not a melting pot but a simmering stew of culture, ethnicity, education, ideas and values.

News: GGF Awards Donations to One Activist and Seven Atheist, Humanist and Secular Organizations

The Godless Grace Foundation is pleased to announce its first awardees. The following individual and/or organization with receive a donation for the review cycle ending January 15, 2016.

American Atheists - $150.00 - undirected donation
American Humanist Association - $150 - undirected donation
Freedom from Religion Foundation - $150 - undirected donation
FEMEN/Inna Shevchenko - $300.00 - undirected donation ($150 of which from private GGF Board member)
Foundation Beyond Belief - $150.00 - undirected donation
National Center for Science Education - $150.00 - undirected donation
Secular Student Alliance - $250 - Directed to student 2016 Reason Rally scholarships

These first checks are modest given the number of awardees. However, the Board felt that the mix of organizations and the good that they provide to atheist, secular and humanist causes should be recognized.

The next review begins on January 16th with disbursements to new awardees on or about June 15, 2016.

We deeply and strongly encourage individual secular activists and secular organizations to apply for funding.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Flint Dreams and Flint Nightmares - A Humanist's View of the Avoidable Disaster in Flint, MI

Flint Michigan was at one time a powerhouse of industrialization. It was the home to General Motors Corporation and the city’s population built the cars that symbolized United State’s growth both economically and socially. 

Good union jobs allowed workers and their families to live the American Dream. A dream that today seems unrealistic or at least deferred for many. But a dream in my mind that remains a possibility for anyone who has the tenacity and skills to dream a better life for themselves and their family.

Flint fell on real hard times in the last few decades. It devolved really as the manufacturing jobs left the city. The city of 100,000 went from high times to high crimes and violence.

In 2013, it was reported that Flint had a crime rate that was seven times higher than the national average.  Also, the city was so financially mismanaged that from 2011 until 2015, for a second time, its finances and budget were managed by the state.

Now, a serious health crisis for the citizens of Flint has emerged caused by the redirection and use of the Flint River as its main water supply. The reason for the change in water supply was based on State government budgetary considerations.  

This decision to move to the Flint River was planned back in 2013 and the move was managed by State and local authorities in 2014. Almost immediately the citizens of Flint began to taste and smell horrible odors coming from their faucets. 

In October 2015, the State’s EPA admitted that it did not require any de-contamination of the river which was known to be severely leaden with lead and in fact falsified documents indicating that lead levels were at “acceptable levels”.

After two years of testing which found disastrous levels of lead, the federal EPA fighting with Michigan’s EPA, and a federal lawsuit brought by Flint families, the Governor of Michigan, Republican Rick Snyder, finally declared a heath emergency on January 5th of this year and apologized to the citizens of Flint, admitting “I let you down.”

Michigan's Republican Governor
Rick Snyer
This health disaster was preventable and should serve as a warning to all citizens and their municipalities. Do to not let financial expedience (in light of other considerations) of elected officials go unobserved or unchallenged.

After all, it was the Governor and his team that began the redirection process and it was perhaps the mismanagement and lies told by members of Michigan’s state and local version of the EPA that caused this crisis.

But let’s look at this from another perspective. Had this been a terrorist attack, a two-year long battle to poison Americans by foreigners, then I’m sure a war declaration would have been submitted to Congress against the perpetrators of this heinous act. 

Except the perpetrators in this case were not external. They are homegrown “terrorists” with law degrees; degrees in finance, and public health administrators elected or appointed to care for their fellow citizens. They were entrusted to manage their state and thus hold (or held) the highest power. Yet these same perpetrators placed financial considerations and the expedience of pleasing their administration over and against the people who they are sworn to govern justly and fairly.

This is not a political website per see. But it is a website which expresses humanist and humanitarian values. It is a website administered and written by people who understand the nature of politics. It is a website which knows that politicians will make decisions that impact the lives of those governed.

However, when an administration so poorly manages itself that it does little or nothing for more than a year after claims are made by its citizens to investigate State-made policies and decisions, it must be rebuked and held accountable financially, legally and criminally.

We of course wish all Flint citizens well and good health. We recognize and mourn those who died, we stand with the victims who have become ill or suffered legionaries disease caused by drinking the contaminated water. We praise the emotional and legal battle of the Flint families and  we wish to protect the innocent Flint children harmed by water contamination.

All those governed in Flint by the Snyder administration should receive justice for being placed in the crosshairs of governmental mismanagement and obfuscation. And all the politicians, from the Governor and his staff to the public servants who ignored or lied should be held to account for their decisions in any and every way possible.