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Heroes Among Us; Being Prepared Makes Anderson County Strong

By Greg Wilson/Publisher, Anderson Observer

Last week tragedy visited Anderson County, as a troubled teen killed his father with a gun and then travelled to the local elementary school in Townville and began shooting at little children and their teachers.

Six-year-old Jacob Hall died as a result of the attack and another teacher and student were injured. There is no way to measure the sorrow of the loss of a child, especially in this kind of incident.

The only solace is the community is not planning a dozen more funerals today, and for that we have more than one hero to thank. 

First Jamie Brock. A 30-year veteran volunteer firefighter, Brock was first on the scene of the shooting, and he acted quickly and decisively, quickly subduing the shooter and in the process saving untold numbers of lives. 

But in the aftermath, Brock refused to take the spotlight as hero, even though it was richly deserved. But he was also right when he said:

“My reaction to yesterday’s event was no different than any other fire or law enforcement personnel who their lives on the line to protect their communities every day,” Brock said.  “The true heroes of yesterday’s senseless tragedy are the teachers that put their lives on the line to protect their students, the principal who through fears of her own did what’s right to ensure the safety of the school.  They deserve to be called heroes and to them I tip my hat.” 

Generous and humble, Brock is correct. Our first responders, law enforcement, fire departments, EMS and others who are often asked to show up in situations from which others a fleeing or attempting to find rescue is unquestioned. 

This does not diminish the truly heroic, life-saving, act by Brock who could just as easily been another victim of an armed assailant with little regard for life. Brock should be long remembered after this event as a hero and a model community servant who puts other citizens ahead of his own well being.

Brock was the first, but by no means the only hero in this story. As he said, those teachers and administrators who put their own lives in jeopardy are to be hailed for their bravery.  

And then there are all of our first responders.

Brock, along with other first responders in Anderson County were ready when the shooting happened because they have been constantly training for just such events for years. He and others who responded share the credit as well at least in part because of this training.

When they arrived quickly on the scene, a plan they knew was in place to make sure all students and the school were safe, the school was secured and there was and orderly and safe way to move the children to another sight until the work was done. 

John Milton wrote: “They also serve who only stand and wait.” And that could be the part of the motto of our first responders in Anderson County. But only part.

The real quote should include another word or two, saying: “They also serve who are making preparations while they wait to serve.”

Anderson County is blessed with one of the top-rated Emergency Services Departments in the nation. Visitors from all over America come to Anderson to witness, and take notes, on the best way to be prepared to serve citizens in times of sudden need. 

Our Emergency Services folks have been asked to help take the lead statewide in such incidents as last year’s Midlands/Lowcountry historic flooding, sending not only law enforcement and logics experts, but accountants and appraisers and volunteers to help organize food and water distribution. Many county employees left home to live in tents to contribute to this effort.

When hurricanes hit (or threaten to hit), when ice storms are coming, or earthquakes shake in South Carolina, you can be certain one of the first calls made is to Anderson County Emergency Services for advice and help. 

In 2014, Anderson County, Emergency Services was able to avert the evacuation of AnMed patients by working with all area resources to keep water flowing to the hospital when a pump station failed and the facility was without water.  

And when two recent crisis hit at once, a major gas spill and an acid leak from a tank on I-85, Emergency Services was able to handle both because they had plans in place. 

A lot of credit can be shared for the ascension of our Emergency Preparedness Division to this lofty place. County Council, the sheriff’s office and other administrative offices all share in making the work of that division a priority and supporting their efforts. At least most of the time. 

(Though some don’t seem to understand it is difficult to budget for emergencies, or that planning and preparation are tremendous investments in saving lives and money during times of crisis.)  

But the lion’s share of credit should go to another unsung hero, the man who has a rare combination of vision, passion and preparation for Anderson County - Emergency Services Director of Chief Deputy Taylor Jones.  

Since 2008, Jones has directed emergency management, unified emergency 911 communications and homeland security services to the citizens of Anderson County. He was deputy director before that and also has experience as a paramedic. 

But his love of this community and attention to detail and planning for crisis is what sets him apart.  

The most recent incident in Townvile demonstrates this. For several years, Emergency Services has been providing training to law enforcement, first responders, schools, businesses and other organizations on how to respond in the event of an attack by an active assailant. Every school district has participated in this detailed training. 

The training, including actual exercises with simulated attacks, offering a plan preparing any group to respond to such an event.  

If you have not participated in this training, the he action plan can be reduced to three things:

  1.  Run. Get away from the gunman if possible if you have a clear, safe exit.
  2.  Hide. If you cannot run, find a hiding place, locking/barricading doors when possible.
  3.  Fight. When you cannot run or hide, fight. Throw things, attack as a group, whatever it takes. As dangerous as this sounds, statistics show that chances of survival increase by nearly 90 percent among those who fight back versus taking a passive position. 

I can write these off the top of my head, not because I have been through a complete training, but because I have heard Jones repeat this information so often to the media and in conversation. 

Working with other groups and agencies, Anderson County Emergency Services has developed plans for natural disasters, serious accidents, environmental threats, threats posed by violence, threats against national security and a very detailed guideline on dealing with a crisis at the Oconee Nuclear Station. 

Many of these plans will never be put into action, and yet require constant update and revision to ensure all parties involved are up-to-date on what to do when the worse-case scenario happens.  Homeland security and the state also requite plans for readiness in times of other emergency events. Again, all plans must be updated often to assure they proper people and groups are contacted and ready to act. 

Each plan required regular and systematic meetings with local governments, businesses, schools and hospitals which are intertwined and dependent on one another. The government needs the community to bounce back from disaster quickly to avoid an economic downturn, and businesses need the area safe and clear to remain open. Everything is interconnected. State and local governments need to work with individual entities to ensure a community not only survives a disaster but also thrives.   

And while planning may seem boring to many, without it, when sudden and threatening events arise, we can be grateful not everyone shares that view. 

Anderson County Emergency Services have long been recognized by national and state awards for their behind the scenes plans, and the supervision of the execution of those plans when needed, for a long time.

The tragedy in Townville put on display this organization and preparation.   

“We had hoped we’d never use this training,” Jones said of the event. 

But because of the heroic action by Brock and important heroic preparation by Jones and Emergency Services, lives were saved and the situation was quickly, safely and efficiently handled; something which has often not been the case in similar events across the county. 

Three cheers to Brock and three more to Jones for following their calling to keep us all safer in Anderson County. 

As former Sen. Joe Lieberman said following the 9-11 tragedy:

“Every day, first responders put their own lives on the line to ensure our safety. The least we can do is make sure they have the tools to protect and serve their communities.” 

I hope our elected leaders - national, state and local - who control the purse strings remember this come budget time.


LeBron James: Why I Support Hillary Clinton

By LeBron James/for Business Insider

Cleveland Cavaliers star LeBron James is endorsing Hillary Clinton for president. Below is the op-ed he has written about his decision, which he has exclusively provided to Business Insider. The op-ed will also be published in the print edition of the Akron Beacon Journal on Monday.

Two years ago, I told you I was coming home to Northeast Ohio — where I was born and raised. When I came back, I had two missions.

In June, thanks to my teammates and all your support, I accomplished my on-the-court mission. We came back from being down 3-1 in the NBA Finals to finally grab what we’ve waited 52 long years for: a championship in Northeast Ohio.

Holding that trophy was beyond words. It still hasn't hit me. But for me, coming home was never just about basketball.

As a kid, I didn't have much money. It was just my mom and me, and things were rough at times. But I had basketball. That gave me a family, a community, and an education. That’s more than a lot of children in Akron can say. There are a lot of people who want to tell kids who grew up like me and looked like me that they just don’t have anything to look forward to.

That’s dead wrong. And that’s why I came back to Cleveland to continue my second mission. I am determined to make sure my kids in Akron have what they need to become their best selves. Opportunities, a support system, and a safety net for kids in poverty or kids in single-parent households shouldn't be limited to those lucky enough to be blessed with athletic talent.

When I entered the league, I founded the LeBron James Family Foundation. I didn't know it at the time, but my mission has become clear. We give kids in Akron the resources and opportunities they need to stay in school and reach their dreams through education.

I don’t want to see any of them fall through the cracks. That easily could have happened to me.

But I was fortunate enough to have support and mentors around me who kept me on the right path. That’s what we’re giving these kids through my foundation. And when someone believes in you, that changes everything.

I’m so proud of the more than 1,100 students in my Wheels for Education and Akron I PROMISE Network programs. We’re working on year six now, and my kids have big plans for their futures.

A lot of them didn’t think college was for them, but now I hear they want to become things like doctors and business owners. We even have a future astrophysicist. I can’t wait to see how far these kids can go.

I also tell all my kids how important it is that they give back to the community. Because if basketball has taught me anything, it’s that no one achieves greatness alone. And it takes everyone working together to create real change.

When I look at this year’s presidential race, it’s clear which candidate believes the same thing. Only one person running truly understands the struggles of an Akron child born into poverty. And when I think about the kinds of policies and ideas the kids in my foundation need from our government, the choice is clear.

That candidate is Hillary Clinton.

Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton at the Democratic National Convention.Alex Wong/Getty Images

I support Hillary because she will build on the legacy of my good friend, President Barack Obama. I believe in what President Obama has done for our country and support her commitment to continuing that legacy.

Like my foundation, Hillary has always been a champion for children and their futures. For over 40 years, she’s been working to improve public schools, expand access to health care, support children’s hospitals, and so much more.

She wants to make sure kids have access to a good education, no matter what zip code they live in. She’ll rebuild schools that are falling apart and put more money into computer science. She’ll make sure teachers are paid what they deserve so they can give everything to their students.

She also has plans to make college a reality for more people in America, especially for those who can’t afford it. My kids in Akron are proof of the hope and motivation that come from knowing college can be in their future, no matter what obstacles they might be facing.

Finally, we must address the violence, of every kind, the African-American community is experiencing in our streets and seeing on our TVs. I believe rebuilding our communities by focusing on at-risk children is a significant part of the solution. However, I am not a politician, I don’t know everything it will take finally to end the violence. But I do know we need a president who brings us together and keeps us unified. Policies and ideas that divide us more are not the solution. We must all stand together — no matter where we are from or the color of our skin. And Hillary is running on the message of hope and unity that we need.

There’s still a lot of work to be done in Akron, Northeast Ohio, and all across our great country. We need a president who understands our community and will build on the legacy of President Obama. So let’s register to vote, show up to the polls, and vote for Hillary Clinton.

This is an editorial. The opinions and conclusions expressed above are those of the author.


Opinion: Lack of Civility at Council Meeting Exposes Inhospitable Attitudes

By Greg Wilson/Publisher Anderson Observer

On Tuesday night, an unusually large crowd showed up at the Anderson County Council meeting, largely to speak out on the proposed hospitality tax.  

Proponents and opponents of the measure were equally divided in the opening citizens’ comments. During the public hearing several more spoke, with slightly more speaking against the tax. 

Council ultimately killed the hospitality tax for now. In full disclosure, I think this was a mistake, but respect those duly elected officials who made their decision. 

What concerns me is the level of incivility on display at Tuesday night’s meeting, particularly from the anti-hospitality tax camp.  

The actual issue of the hospitality tax was nearly lost in accusations and allusions to things which had less than nothing to do with the issue at hand.

There was ridicule and venom in the words and tone of many who chided council members, the same council members who had held multiple town halls, delayed the vote, and sought more public input on the tax than they did on the actual fiscal year budget for the county. Interesting that attendance and comment on the hospitality tax dwarfed citizen comments on the budget, which actually determines how the county will spend every single dime for the coming year. 

Many of the council members were attacked personally, or spoken to with great disrespect, and accused of collusive self-interest and worse. Many members looked a bit shell shocked, even those who opposed the hospitality tax, by the unsettling level of vitriol and accusation. They deserve better. 

Multiple times council was accused of attempting to “sneak” the hospitality tax by the public. This is patently untrue. The ordinance was placed on the public agenda, released the Friday before the meeting in which the first reading was held. This is exactly how every single proposal is put forth, and exactly what the law requires. The sad fact that most citizens neither attend county council meetings nor read the agenda, in no way suggests anything underhanded concerning the hospitality tax. 

During comments, there were repeated references to former Anderson County Administrator Joey Preston, who has been gone since 2008, references to violations of the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution (something the Patriot Act and NSA have essentially voided, but something that had nothing to do with the issue at hand), rehashing of other past events in county council history and a myriad of ramblings which had absolutely nothing to do with the hospitality tax. These folks owe council and our county leaders an apology. 

There were also a lot of financial figures put forth in these angry comments that were completely erroneous, again insinuating it was council members, not them, who were behind a campaign of misinformation. 

Is this where we have landed in Anderson County, a place where we cannot disagree on issues without resorting to playground-like attempts at bullying and catcalling? 

Council had already publicly shifted on the issue enough votes to kill the bill had already made that fact know before the meeting. 

In spite of this, someone or some group hired a company to make robocalls to many citizens received, mostly targeting older citizens with landlines, spreading misinformation and propaganda about the hospitality tax. It was so bad for Anderson County Councilman Tom Allen threaten to get an attorney in the matter. Councilman Francis Crowder, who is ill, was also targeted and finally recorded a message on his machine indicating he no longer supported the bill. 

Both Allen and Crowder voted in favor on first reading.

I am not going to get into the role of a council representative as steward, not proxy, here. I have made that clear in past columns. But clearly at least two councilmen heard enough loud opposition to change their votes without the need for the aggressive robocalls, which it is still unclear who exactly paid for last week. 

But I am going to ponder what happened to civility in public discourse. 

My family has been a part of Anderson County for at least seven generations. I was raised here, and manners were a huge part of my upbringing. “Sir” and “Ma’am” were the only way I was ever to address anyone adult. This is something still a part of my life. I was also taught to respect others, even those whom did not share my family’s worldview or opinions. I was taught that asking questions is fine, disagreeing is fine, but looking down on others, ridiculing others, is not. Name calling and high handed catcalling was surely not tolerated. 

My dad, who passed earlier this year, was well known for responding to those who put others down in his presence, including close friends, with the phrase: “Does that make you feel better?”

Such words of wisdom are in short supply these days, and obviously not just in our hometown. 

Just look at television shows, especially the cable news channels. Whether you are watching CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, or one of the networks, superficial pettiness and gossip have supplanted real news. They all put forth “experts” whose credentials are often as shaky as their opinions are uniformed. No former print journalists like Walter Cronkite, Chet Huntley or David Brinkley types on the air any more. We now have pundits and scattered former politicians looking for a way to feed their need for attention and make a few extra dollars post real careers.

Bullying chefs, rude and disrespectful contest judges, attack-first talk show hosts, glib preachers, news program hosts and politicians, all seek to be among the ratings winners with their uncivil put downs of those who may not agree with their particular position.

In there better moments, most Americans are voicing concern over the erosion of civility in government, media and social media. One recent poll suggested that nearly 70 percent of Americans believe lack of civility is a major problem that has worsened during the the recent financial crisis and recession. More distressing is that nearly 50 percent of those surveyed said they were withdrawing from the basic tenants of democracy—government and politics—because of incivility and bullying. Giving up because of incivility is a sad indictment on our culture as well, and something that will not bring change.

Another survey found most Americans report they have been victims of incivility (86 precent). Their most common encounters with rude or disrespectful behavior come while driving (72 precent) or shopping (65 precent). Americans also admit to perpetrating incivility—approximately six in 10 (59 percent) Americans acknowledge that they themselves have been uncivil.

Approximately seven in 10 Americans have either stopped buying from a company or have re-evaluated their opinions of a company because someone from that company was uncivil in their interaction. Further, nearly six in 10 have advised friends, family or co-workers not to buy certain products because of uncivil, rude or disrespectful behavior from the company or its representatives. All of these reported buying behaviors are significantly on the rise. 

Nowhere is the problem of incivility more prominent than in politics with political discourse between candidates degenerating into attack ads and worse. On the eve of a presidential election, a casual look an how the two presidential candidates for 2016 are spending attacking each other than setting forth a detailed vision for America is one more sign of where we’ve come.

Which brings us back to county council. Despite all of the data, I still believe we are better than that in Anderson County. There are too many indicators that the this community to conclude that some of the venomous language of Tuesday night’s meeting reflects who we are 

But our duly elected representatives chose to vote down the measure for now. Those who disagree can privately meet with there council member with hopes of reviving the issue at a later time. Those who agree should thank them for voting in the way they preferred. This is how government should work. 

There were glimmers of hope. West Pelter Mayor Blake Sanders exhibited the kind of grace and civility and even humor. I was hoping for on both sides. Sanders explained why a hospitality tax had been good for West Pelzer and why the thought it would also be good for unincorporated areas of Anderson County. The result: the attackers turned on him and his town with snide and critical remarks.

This has always been a community that is looks out for one another. Look around any given day, AIM is helping single moms finish college and break the cycle of poverty; Meals on Wheels is serving nearly 500 seniors a hot meal; Clean Start is giving the working poor and homeless a place to wash their close, take a shower, write a resume and find clothes for job interviews; the Anderson Emergency Soup Kitchen is providing a hot meat and three to those who would otherwise go hungry; the Haven of Rest and Salvation Army are reaching out to those in desperate need; plus dozens of others including the United Way, Red Cross, Good Neighbor Cupboard, Lot Project, and numerous churches and individuals who as part of their daily life work hard to make Anderson better for their friends and neighbors. 

People are moving here from all over the world to be a part of this great community, and many of them are jumping right in to help make it a better place. 

We should all join them and these great local organizations as elements of positive change.  

Working together is one of the best ways to create more civility and understanding.

But this does not negate the truth that it is important for all to find ways to tone down the divisive rhetoric in our areas of disagreement. Such progress could lead to a new pool of qualified leaders in the years ahead who might want to serve in public office, and allow for legitimate discussion on debated issues. 

Issues which will impact our county deserve respectful, reasoned discussion from each side. That is not what happened Tuesday night, and we are all better than that. 


Healthcare Deserves More Attention in Campaign

By The New York Times

The reaction to opening a medical bill these days is often shock and confusion — for the insured and the uninsured. Prices and deductibles keep rising, policies are drowning in fine print, and doctors are jumping on and off networks. So why hasn’t the growing burden of health care gotten more attention in the presidential campaign?

One reason may be the sheer complexity of the system. Yet Hillary Clinton, if you look closer at her proposals, has a range of interesting ideas on how to tackle costs and improve care. Donald Trump, meanwhile, rarely ventures beyond his “end Obamacare” slogan.

With incomes for most Americans stagnant, individuals and families insured under the Affordable Care Act or through employers are bearing more of the cost of medical treatment.

Since 1999, premiums for family health plans have grown much faster than inflation and wages.

Deductibles for individual coverage increased 63 percent on average, to $1,221 per year, from 2011 to 2016 for people who gethealth insurance through their employers, according to a report released last week by the Kaiser Family Foundation and the Health Research and Educational Trust. Workers’ contributions to premiums grew more slowly than in previous five-year periods but still jumped 23 percent, to $1,129 a year. By contrast, average incomes were up just 11 percent, which means many people are being forced to cut back elsewhere to pay for care. And some people are choosing to forgo or delay going to doctors and hospitals when they are sick.

The cost of prescription drugs is another big problem for people with or without coverage. The average price of brand-name medicines jumped 164 percent from 2008 to 2015, according to Express Scripts. And 24 percent of Americans find it very or somewhat difficult to afford prescription drugs, according to a 2015 Kaiser Family Foundation survey.

Mr. Trump seems oblivious to these trends. His sparse health care proposal is built around a repeal of the Affordable Care Act, without any regard for the millions of people who would be hurt by that change. Twenty million Americans have gained health care coverage in the six years since the law was passed, bringing the uninsured rate to a record low. The law has problems — for example, there are too few insurers offering coverage on the health exchanges in rural and suburban areas — that the next president and Congress will need to fix. But it is generally working effectively and has cost the government less than expected, according to the Congressional Budget Office and the staff of the Joint Committee on Taxation.

Mr. Trump says he would replace the law’s subsidies and Medicaid expansion with tax deductions for health insurance premiums paid by individuals and families. But that would primarily benefit the rich, not the millions of low-income and middle-class people who would lose coverage if the law were dismantled. Mr. Trump’s plan also includes several vague ideas for lowering costs. One of them is to increase competition among pharmaceutical companies, but Mr. Trump does not say how he would do that.

Mrs. Clinton clearly understands the issues and has someplans that could help. Deductibles and other out-of-pocket costs have risen for workers covered by employer-based plans as businesses have shifted more costs onto employees. Mrs. Clinton wants to provide a tax credit of up to $5,000 to help people pay out-of-pocket costs, including for prescription drugs. That’s a good idea, but it would be even better if people received assistance when they faced expenses rather than when they filed their tax returns.

Another proposal from Mrs. Clinton would lowerprescription drug costs by allowing Medicare to negotiate with pharmaceutical companies. Drug makers, of course, hate this idea because it would reduce their revenue, and they would surely lobby Congress to defeat a bill. She has also suggested ways to lower costs by hastening the arrival of generic medicines. And she has promised to provide detailed policies to reduce needless medical procedures and to root out fraud and inefficiencies, moves that could prove effective in the longer run.

Health care is just the kind of difficult subject that presidential candidates ought to talk about more. If Mrs. Clinton were to speak regularly and in more detail about her health ideas, she could start building support for them with lawmakers and the public. She would also further expose the shallowness of Mr. Trump’s agenda.


10 Reasons I Left the Conservative Evangelical Project

By Brian McLaren

In evangelical families like the one I grew up in, conservative meant good and liberal meant evil. We conservatives were on “God’s side,” and “they” were of the devil. That’s what many of us were taught and that’s what we believed. Many still believe it. 

Brian McClarenKaty Perry comes from the same conservative evangelical background I do. That may come as a surprise to anyone who saw her singing in places like the Democratic National Convention and speaking in support of Hillary Clinton. (Attending such events is not on the bucket list of anyone from our background.)

I don’t know the details of Perry’s breakup with political conservatism, but I spent over 20 years as an evangelical pastor, and the more deeply I engaged with the life and teaching of Jesus at the heart of my faith, the less enamored I became with the political project to which evangelicalism was giving its soul. I felt increasingly out of sync with an evangelical community more concerned with conservative politics than the compassion of Christ.

How else do we explain why nearly 80 percent of white evangelicals currently embrace the candidacy of Donald Trump, whose way of life and values could not be more opposite to their own? How else can we explain their visceral disgust with Hillary Clinton who, whatever her flaws, is a committed Methodist Christian who grew up in Sunday school, started out as a young Republican, and was drawn into social justice concerns through the influence of a youth pastor?

Katy Perry and Donald Trump … They’ve got me thinking about 10 reasons I have had to part company with the Conservative Evangelical Project:

1. I want to associate with people who are respectful and treat others, even their opponents, with basic human decency and civility.

Too many conservative leaders have become increasingly disrespectful to the point of being rude, crude and mean-spirited. It’s become impossible to ignore — from Rep. Joe Wilson, R-S.C., shouting “You lie!” during the president’s State of the Union address to Donald Trump reaching historic lows with name-calling, crude insults, genital braggadocio, and violent rhetoric. 

2. I can’t support regressive thinking that longs for a time when life was worse for nearly everybody except people like me. 

Whether you like President Barack Obama or not, former religious right activist Frank Schaeffer told the ugly truth about contemporary conservatism: It has carried out a vicious “slow motion lynching” of our first African-American president. Today’s conservatives have been undermining voting rights for minorities, vilifying immigrants, scapegoating LGBTQ people, and resurrecting white privilege and white supremacy to maintain systemic injustice. One simple word in Trump’s campaign slogan — “again” – harkens back to a time of deep discrimination against everyone who doesn’t look like or pray like me. 

3. I won’t be pandered to or manipulated based on religious self-interest or bigotry.

Today’s conservatives support a frightening array of proposals that go against our Constitution’s call for “equal protection”: banning people from entering the country based on religion, mass surveillance of communities based on religion and creating registries of people based on religion. 

4. I am drawn to policies that support conquering poverty, not perpetuating it.

When I began to understand the complex causes and conditions that trap people in poverty, I better understood the need for quality education, nutrition, health care, child care, occupational safety, fair pay, racial equity, and public transportation. I became increasingly drawn to leaders who work to reduce poverty by reducing teen pregnancy, addiction, family breakdown, domestic violence, gangs, mass incarceration, and untreated mental illnesses. In short, the more I became committed to poverty reduction, the more I saw how conservatism keeps people trapped in poverty.

5. I cannot support the massive transfer of wealth from the poor and middle classes to the rich.

Conservatives often complain that liberals want to transfer wealth, but the fact is, for decades conservatives have supported a massive transfer of wealth to those who need it least. They have long promised that if we just help the rich through tax cuts, deregulation, and undermining worker rights, the benefits would “trickle down” to the rest of us. When I was younger, I was naive enough to believe this kind of voodoo economics, but with age I’ve come to see that all that actually trickles down is a toxic slurry of pollution, unemployment, crumbling infrastructure and economic inequality that is pummeling Americans, regardless of race or religion.

6. I have grown so tired of being misinformed and manipulated about abortion. 

Here are the facts: Abortion rates went up under former Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, then down under Bill Clinton, remained level during George W. Bush and have fallen about 13 percent during the Obama administration. There were 29 abortions per 1000 women aged 15-44 in the Reagan years, and the number has dropped to 16 today. As evangelical-born writer Rachel Held Evans has said, criminalizing abortion only reduces its safety, not its incidence.

The conservative culture war on abortion has failed. Its “baby-killer/women-hater” rhetoric has polarized and paralyzed us for decades. If we want to reduce abortion, we must focus on policies that have been proven to do so: better education, health care, and wages — which, it turns out, are policies that also improve women’s lives and strengthen families. 

7. I care about the health of the earth. 

My faith leads me to support environmental policies that build a cleaner, more sustainable and ultimately more profitable future. When I hear conservative candidates talk about shutting down the Environmental Protection Agency and getting rid of government regulations that protect the environment, I wonder how many more Flint-style water crises there will be, how many more Gulf oil spill disasters there will be, how many more inches (or feet!) the sea will rise, and how much national and global instability will result. I’m no fan of big government, but conservatives argue for shrinking government to a size that it can no longer hold big business accountable as it plunders our one and only beautiful planet earth for short-term profit and long-term disaster.

8. I won’t feed terrorism. 

Too few conservatives seem to understand the simple strategy of terrorism: use inexpensive, unpredictable, and highly visible attacks to instill fear among rich and powerful nations to entice them to bankrupt themselves financially and morally through endless and unwinnable wars. When conservatives advocate for “bomb the hell out of them,” “waterboarding” and “carpet-bombing” strategies to beat terrorism, they are foolishly marching us right into the trap the terrorists have set.

9. I am sincerely concerned about Trump’s base.

A good friend of mine, a Trump supporter, said this to me the other day: “Whatever you think of Trump, white men like me feel like we’ve lost a lot. We’re everybody’s whipping boy. We’re tired of being disrespected. Trump gets that.” I think there are millions of Americans, many of them white and working class, who feel like my friend. Their jobs were shipped overseas. They’ve been hurt by an economy that aggregates wealth at the very top. They’ve fallen between the cracks of a dysfunctional Congress so divided that it gets next to nothing done. Sadly, beyond stirring them up with angry speeches, once Trump gets what he wants from them — their vote — he’ll leave them even worse off and therefore angrier. We need actual policies that will help them build a better future, not vain promises about returning to the past.

10. I believe in the power of love, not the love of power.

I understand that millions of Americans are pumped up by Trump’s talk about being tough, his “punch him in the face” bluster, his disgust with a free press, and his glib praise of dictators and torture. But my faith leads me to see true greatness in service and true power in love, self-control, and neighborliness — not domination, reactivity, and revenge. Trump’s love of power may have served him well in business and entertainment, but in political leadership, it will be his Achilles’ heel, and his reactivity and lack of humility will make him chaotic and dangerous.

Not only that, but supporting a crude, angry, unaccountable and self-indulgent leader sets a terrible example for our children and grandchildren. And if conservatives reward Trump with a victory, can you imagine what the next generation of conservative politicians will be like?

Listen, I don’t always agree with everything that goes under the label of progressive, and progressives need to be way more effective at communicating and implementing their best ideas. But I cannot support any party or candidate — local, state, federal or presidential — characterized by mean-spiritedness, bigotry, unfairness, carelessness toward the poor, funneling wealth to the richest, undermining abortion reduction, destroying our fragile planet, playing into the hands of terrorists, exploiting the anger of suffering people, and being driven more by the love of power than the power of love.

Any one or two of these reasons would have been sufficient to lead me away from voting conservative. All of them together make me a consistent and passionate progressive voter in this election, win or lose … not in spite of my Christian faith, but because of it.  

To all who come from the conservative evangelical heritage Katy Perry and I share, I would say this: Your pastors, parents, or radio/TV preachers may not grant you permission to break up with conservatism, but you have it anyway. 

Permission is granted by your conscience.

(Brian McLaren is an author, speaker, and networker among innovative faith leaders. His fifteenth book, The Great Spiritual Migration, was just released. He is an Auburn Senior Fellow and board chair of Convergence Network.)


375 Top Scientists Warn of Immediate Dangers of Global Warming

Yesterday, 375 of the world’s top scientists, including 30 Nobel Prize winners, published an open letter regarding climate change. In the letter, the scientists report that the evidence is clear: humans are causing climate change. We are now observing climate change and its affect across the globe. The seas are rising, the oceans are warming, the lower atmosphere is warming, the land is warming, ice is melting, rainfall patterns are changing and the ocean is becoming more acidic.

These facts are incontrovertible. No reputable scientist disputes them. It is the truth.

Despite these facts, the letter reports that the US presidential campaign has seen claims that the earth isn’t warming, or it is only a natural warming, or that climate change is a hoax. These claims are false. The claims are made by politicians or real estate developers with no scientific experience. These people who deny the reality of climate change are not scientists. 

These claims aren’t new. We see them every election cycle. In fact, for the Republican Party, they are a virtual litmus test for electability. It is terribly sad that the party of Lincoln (the president who initiated the National Academy of Sciences) has been rebuked by the National Academy today. It is sad that the party of Teddy Roosevelt, who created the National Park System, is acting in a way antithetical to his legacy. It is also sad that the party of Nixon, who created the Environmental Protection Agency, now is trying to eliminate that very organization.

What is perhaps most sad is that the party of “fiscal conservatism” is leading us on a path that will result in higher economic and social costs for all of us.

What we don’t know is what the future will bring. Will the warming be gradual or sudden? Will ocean rise increase at a faster rate or not? Will we continue to see major ice shelf collapse? Increased droughts and heat waves? Will we be able to adapt?

A rational decision maker would take action to manage the risks from climate change. This threat is to our health, our communities, and our economies. A changing climate with warming seas and an acidifying ocean will cause real economic losses for our generation and for the future.

In the letter, the scientists venture deeper into politics than scientists are generally willing to tread. They describe the inane Republican platform and the foolish position of the Republican nominee Donald Trump. Basically, Trump wishes to scrap our environmental agreements, which have resulted in reductions to our own emissions as well as very strong agreements to reduce global warming through international agreements. 

Despite the excellent work over the past 7 years, we have not seen the increase in energy prices that the denialists claimed would occur. Instead, we’ve seen huge reductions in the cost of wind, solar, and other renewable energy sources.

We were right, they were wrong. We can deliver reliable energy to the USA at a low cost, with less pollution.

We scientists have warned the country and the world about the dangers of climate change for decades. We are now seeing our predictions come true. There are no longer any reputable scientists who disagree that humans are the major factor changing the climate.

We have also seen that real action can be taken to reduce pollution. That action will not hurt our economy, rather it has built the new energy economy of the future.

Despite this progress, some people want to take us backwards in time – they want to undo our progress. For those who vote in anti-science politicians who attack the scientific experts rather than our pollution problem, your legacy will be the climate change that you could have helped prevent. Those voters will own climate change.

What will that conversation be like with your kids?


Time for Full Disclosure on Candidates Health

New York Times Editorial Board

As President Obama’s graying hair suggests, the American presidency is perhaps the most grueling and stressful political job there is. This year, both major party candidates for that job are past the nation’s customary retirement age. And while submitting health records is not a requirement for the job, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump would be doing American voters a great service by furnishing a much clearer picture of their physical health than the abbreviated and sunny reports provided so far.

What brings the health issue to mind, of course, is the video of a stumbling Mrs. Clinton being hustled away from the 9/11 memorial service in New York on Sunday. She reappeared some two hours later to say she felt great. Hours later, her doctor issued a statement saying Mrs. Clinton had been suffering from pneumonia — a diagnosis Mrs. Clinton had received two days earlier and which came as a surprise even to some members of her campaign team.

Mrs. Clinton had coughed her way through multiple appearances last week, insisting it was nothing more than “allergies,” while her campaign pushed back on reporters who noted her coughing, telling one to “get a life.”

Mrs. Clinton has released more information about her health than Mr. Trump has about his. Mr. Trump’s evaluation consists largely of a terse and bizarre report written by Dr. Harold Bornstein, his gastroenterologist, who, after a brief examination, said that if elected Mr. Trump, a self-professed fast-food addict, “will be the healthiest individual ever elected to the presidency.” Mrs. Clinton’srecord, consisting mainly of a letter written by her personal physician, Dr. Lisa Bardack, on July 28, 2015, is more than a year old and, while acknowledging her problem with blood clots, could use some updating.

In recent years, presidents and presidential candidates have been more forthcoming about their health than their predecessors. Franklin D. Roosevelt, a polio survivor, was seldom photographed in his wheelchair, and in his last re-election campaign concealed the cardiovascular disease that would kill him within a year. John F. Kennedy struggled with a debilitating back injury and denied he had Addison’s disease, a serious adrenal gland disorder.

By contrast, in 1985 Ronald Reagan openly discussed the colon cancer that required doctors to remove two feet of intestine. In 2008, John McCain gave reporters access to hundreds of pages of records that ended questions about health issues, including melanoma, linked to his Vietnam-era captivity. In 2014, President Obama volunteered that he’d had a persistent sore throat checked out, and the diagnosis was acid reflux. The issue was addressed before anyone asked about it.

Now Americans are deciding between Mr. Trump, who is 70, and Mrs. Clinton, who is 68. Whoever prevails will have to deal with round-the-clock demands, so it seems entirely relevant to inquire about their medical histories and current health.

On Monday, a spokesman for Mrs. Clinton said she would release additional health information in coming days. For his part, Mr. Trump said he would make public “very, very specific” records, a remarkable promise coming from someone who has resolutely stonewalled on his tax returns. Should both candidates honor these pledges, and provide plenty of detail, the winners will be the voters.


The Question That Could Define the Presidential Campaign

 Opinion writer/Washington Post

Frank Luntz, the Republican political consultant, is a master of the political epigram. Under his tutelage, the estate tax became the death tax and global warming became climate change. So Luntz, once again going to the heart of the matter, recently put an either-or question to a group of about 50 people: What would you rather see, Donald Trump’s taxes or Hillary Clinton’s emails? Upon that question hinges the election.

Luntz was speaking to an invitation-only gathering in the Hamptons. There was only one acknowledged Trump supporter in the room, yet when Luntz called for a show of hands, most of them went up for Clinton’s emails.

Luntz conducted his mini-survey more than a week ago. Had he done so after Clinton collapsed at the Sept. 11 memorial service in New York, the numbers would have been higher. Here, in a single episode, were the Good Hillary and the Bad Hillary in gripping and worrisome relief. The Good Hillary is the woman who shows up — no matter what. She is dutiful and responsible and determined not to be the woman Trump says she is — too frail for the physical challenges of the presidency. She would rather collapse than not attend the memorial service.

And yet the Bad Hillary is here, too, the one whose opaqueness is so troubling. She was diagnosed with pneumonia on Friday, yet she said nothing about it to her traveling press corps. On Sunday, she was forced to leave the commemoration ceremony and had trouble getting into her SUV. From the video, she seemed to buckle, her legs going wobbly, and she had to be lifted under her arms into the vehicle. The press corps was again not informed of what happened. Clinton was taken to her daughter’s apartment, where, among other things, she was rehydrated. When she emerged about two hours later, she looked fine. She waved to the crowd. “I’m feeling great,” she said. “It’s a beautiful day in New York.”

No! First of all, it was not a beautiful day. It was cloyingly humid. Second, while I am in no position to say she was not “feeling great,” I have had pneumonia myself, and it sure took me a while to get back to normal. Clinton had been diagnosed on Friday. This was Sunday.

Instead of issuing some anodyne statement, Clinton should have said what had happened — and how she actually felt. At the same time, she should have said that she so much wanted to honor the victims of the terrorist attacks that she attended the ceremony against her doctor’s orders. That would have been commendable, even a bit heroic. Instead, she turned the incident into yet another issue about transparency.

The paradox of Trump is that greater transparency will not teach us anything. There is nothing to learn from Trump’s taxes. It is a given that he pays very little, that he has donated next to nothing to charity and that he has reneged on his pledges. He is worth less than he claims, but so what? He is as he appears, a flamboyantly tanned liar who, some dislocated visitor from Mars might conclude, is a pumpkin running for president. The mystery is not Donald Trump. The mystery is the people who support him.

Luntz asked about Clinton’s use of a personal server for her emails. By itself this is mere piffle. Historians of the future will be baffled by what a to-do we’ve made of it and how we’ve allowed an epic liar such as Trump to constantly accuse her of committing a crime. What crime? Is it similar to the one Colin Powell committed when he was secretary of state and used a personal email account for government business? Apparently not. I don’t hear Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), the chairman of what amounts to the Permanent Special Committee to Harass Hillary Clinton, vowing to go after Powell, as he has Clinton.

In 1978, the public intellectual Susan Sontag published “Illness as Metaphor.” Sontag herself suffered and died from cancer, which is the disease she originally had in mind, but she later expanded her thesis to AIDS, which some considered not simply a disease but (just) retribution for a gay lifestyle. That ugly metaphor still kicks around a bit, but the notion that we somehow earn our diseases causes us to look for the chink in someone’s armor to explain their death — ah, he smoked, ah, he was overweight, etc. In Hillary Clinton’s case, the metaphor is transparency. It could prove politically fatal.


Orlando Shootings Could Change U.S. Gun Laws


The Orlando mass shooting is different from the terrorist attacks in Brussels, Paris and San Bernardino, California. Different also from the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, or the multiplex movie theater in Aurora, Colorado, or the Virginia Tech mass shooting in Blacksburg, Virginia. 

When Omar Mateen killed at least 49 people and wounded more than 50 others early Sunday at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida, the victims were not a random group of people sharing the same physical space. They were all part of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community. 

With this, the Orlando massacre could prove to be a turning point in the gun-control debate. Mateen may have cemented an alliance between gun-regulation advocacy groups and the well-organized LGBT social movement. It could catalyze the mobilization of a united front that expands the political and social reach critical for passing meaningful gun regulations. 

As a criminologist, I have reviewed and written many studies on mass shootings, and Orlando stands out because of the convergence of four key characteristics.  First, it is the most deadly mass shooting in U.S. history (the deadliest overall was committed in Norway in 2011, where 77 people were killed). Second, the crime was carried out with assault-type weapons (the AR-15). Third, the shooter, law enforcement authorities say, pledged allegiance to Islamic State during the attack. Fourth, and most crucial, the attack singled out a specific community and appears largely motivated by sexual prejudice, which, by definition, becomes a hate crime. 

These four characteristics have never before combined in any one U.S. mass shooting. The horrific 2015 attack at the African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina, for example, was categorized as a hate crime. But it was not connected to any jihadist ideology. The confessed shooter, Dylan Roof, did not use military-style weapons, and fewer than 10 people were killed. The same components apply to mass shootings that occurred in other religious sites,, such as the 1991 attack on a Buddhist temple in Arizona. 

The mass shooting in Orlando provides a unique opportunity to shift the burden of proof about the necessity for stronger gun-control regulation. First, it is critical to acknowledge that the majority of mass shooters have been marked by mental health issues, social alienation or work disgruntlement. They had a variety of personal motivations, often not aimed at weakening government legitimacy, which is what motivates groups like Islamic State or al Qaeda. The most frequent motivations are revenge or a quest for power. 

Orlando fits the pattern of Islamic State-inspired shootings that seek to spread fear and portray the U.S. government’s counterterrorism strategy as ineffective. In addition, Islamic State has pointed out to possible recruits that they should take advantage of the Second Amendment right to bear arms, which a majority of Americans view as a fundamental constitutional pillar.  

Yet, this right to bear arms could pose a serious national-security vulnerability because it provides violent extremists the same legal protections that American citizens enjoy. The result? The lack of tough gun regulations makes it easier for Islamic State recruits to kill Americans at home or stage mass shootings abroad with assault-type weapons bought legally.

After the attacks in San Bernardino and Orlando, the public could press Congress to acknowledge that weak firearm regulation is a serious breach in the protection of the homeland against domestic and foreign aggressors.

After all, this wouldn’t be the first time that U.S national security was used as a reason to restrict constitutional rights. After 9/11, the American people gave up more than a few constitutional rights when the Bush administration, under the USA Patriot Act and various presidential directives, weakened civil liberties for the sake of bolstering U.S. security.

One of the most controversial breaches of fundamental constitutional rights permitted the National Security Agency to turn its signal interception inward and spy on the American people without first obtaining legal warrants.

Public calls to regulate firearms for national-security reasons and possibly save more American lives – despite Second Amendment rights -- should not come as a surprise.

To improve homeland security, the argument goes, U.S. citizens would be better protected if more restrictive background checks were performed and if people were required to prove “good character.” This could include not belonging to any group “prohibited” from owning firearms -- the mentally ill, for example, or criminals or terror suspects (like Mateen). It should also include people deemed high risk for committing violent crime, such as individuals with a police record for threatening the life of another. 

In attacking the Pulse nightclub, a well-known LGBT gathering spot, Mateen took aim at a community with an estimated 9 million members across the United States. For more than 20 years, the LGBT community has mobilized into a powerful social movement that has demonstrated its ability to successfully advocate for a broad range of rights.

In previous mass shootings, because the victims and their families were not linked by any specific bond, such as identity or social-movement involvement, a cohesive mobilization to advocate for stricter gun regulations was often complicated and difficult. 

The unique characteristics of the Orlando mass shooting, however, could influence passage of meaningful gun-control reform in Congress. Something even the tragedy of 20 dead first-graders at Sandy Hook could not bring about. 

The LGBT community was targeted with unprecedented violence in Orlando. This media-savvy community led the 20-year cultural shift in how Americans view gay people and gay marriage, one of the most successful social-justice movements of modern times.

Combining the LBGT community with national- security demands for stricter control of gun sales well could create the momentum needed to propel Congress to act. 

(Frederic Lemieux is program director of the Security & Safety Leadership Master's Program, as well as cybersecurity strategy and information management master's degree and police and security studies bachelor's degree at The George Washington University.)


S.C. Leaders Failed Us All Over Past 10 Years

South Carolina’s state government is on life support.

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