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Scoot: Is 'thug' the new N-word?

President Obama used the word “thug” to describe the young rioters in Baltimore.  The mayor of Baltimore called those rioting and looting in the streets of her city “thugs.”  CNN’s Erin Burnett challenged a Baltimore city councilman on their use of the word “thug.” 
The violence in the streets of Baltimore Monday inspired many to use the word “thug” to describe those in the streets who were destroying the property in their own neighborhood and that has led to a debate over whether “thug” is the new N-word because in this case, the “thugs” were African-American.
 Most people have an instinctive response when considering whether “thug” is the new N-word, but it’s important to first consider why that is even a question.
The sensitivity over the use of the word “thug” reveals the heightened sensitivity about race relations in America.  Condemning the use of the word “thug” to describe the hundreds of young African-Americans who took to the streets of Baltimore to express their anger and frustration caused many to assume that those using the word “thug” were using it out of hate, rather than a description of the collective actions of a group. 
The word “thug” is defined as a violent person, especially a criminal.  President Obama referred to the young people in the streets as “criminals and thugs.”  The origin of the word “thug” goes back to the 19th century when the British in India used the word to define a member of a band of thieves and murderers.  Nowhere in the definition or the origin of the word is there implication of race. 

While the definitions and origins of words are important, the contemporary application of words is more important than the definitions and origins.  Intent can define what words mean in the context of present-day society.
So, has “thug” become the new N-word?  The answer obviously depends on whom you ask and their answer will depend on their perception of life.
During an exchange between CNN’s Erin Burnett and Baltimore city councilman Carl Stokes, Burnet could not understand why the word did not apply to the rioters.  Councilman Stokes said that “thug” was not the right word to use because “These are children who have been set aside, marginalized, who have not been engaged by us.”
Frustrated that Erin Burnet continued to support the use of the word “thug,” Councilman Stokes said on CNN, “Just call then n*****s.” But quickly said, “No. We don’t have to call them by names such as that.”
As a radio talk show host that always strives to be sensitive and understanding, especially of the things I can’t possibly know first-hand, I still must defend the use of the word “thug” to describe the rioters or anyone who lowers themselves to violent behavior.  I can’t speak for others, but in my heart, I have used the word “thug” to describe behavior, regardless of skin color.  I have used the term “thug mentality” to describe numerous people, including NFL players.  But never was my use of the word intended to replace the N-word or be specific to race.
If some people are using “thug” to only define young, black males, then they are using the word in place of the N-word.  But we should be free to use words to describe behavior without others instantly adding new meaning to a word that is naturally not a racial term.
However, I do predict that the new controversy over the word “thug” will add new meaning to the word and its use and will, therefore, be considered the new N-word.  That is strictly an emotional reaction and not an intellectual reaction.
What we learn from this is that too many Americans apply race to everything and many are actually looking for ways to proclaim victimization based on race when that is not the intent. 
In the process of every act of communication, there is the intent of the communication, but there is also the reception of the communication and often that two are different.  In communicating anything – there is what you intend to communicate, but you do not always control how others will receive, or interpret the communication.
It will not matter if the intent by many in the media is to use “thug” to describe behavior without specifying race, but if through the media there is enough public condemnation of the word because it is being associated with a racial connotation, then the word “thug” may very well become taboo and equivalent to the N-word.
To fully understand why it is absurd to declare the word “thug” equal to the N-word, one has to wonder if it would be acceptable to describe a young, white, tattooed male who is acting violently as a “thug?”  If it is never acceptable to use the N-word even when describing a white male, then the N-word and “thug” are obviously, not the same.
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Locations : Baltimore
People : Carl StokesErin BurnetErin BurnettObama


Scoot: Obama calls Baltimore rioters "thugs"

President Obama said the participants in the rioting and looting in Baltimore are “criminals and thugs” during a White House press conference with the Prime Minister of Japan.

There was a lot of speculation over whether the President would address the unrest in Baltimore after the funeral of Freddie Gray, the male suspect who died while in the custody of Baltimore police.  Earlier, the White House press secretary said that what was going in in Baltimore was mainly a “local” issue.  I thought that was a huge miscalculation of the events in Baltimore and America’s perception of those events.

While the President may not have direct jurisdiction or be in a position to lay out the strategy for dealing with unrest in an American city, the President is the leader of this country and the rioting and looting as a response to years of a tense relationship primarily between police and the black community, is a problem that exists across this country and citizens need to hear where the leader stands on such matters.

President Obama said that there is no excuse for that kind of violence and the young people and adults who participated were robbing their community of jobs and opportunities.  He mentioned that since Ferguson there have been regular occurrences of questionable interaction between police and individuals, “particularly African-Americans.”  He made of point of saying that police unions must do a better job of acknowledging that there are bad cops and not be so quick to “close in the ranks” when something questionable happens.

President Obama said there are many communities in America where there is no father to guide young males and that too many fathers are not present because of a drug problem or incarceration.  Obama said in too many communities the primary employer was the drug industry.

But the President did not address the issue of why fathers are so scarce in some communities and by failing to address that question he leaves the impression that the men who are fathers and the communities they live in bear no responsibility.

The President did not go into detail when he said that we need school reform.  I immediately thought about the Department of Education and the role the government plays in public education.  The biggest problem with education is the number of young people who are sent to school with no respect for authority or an understanding that learning is the only way to improve their standing in life.  That responsibility falls on parents – voters – and politicians seek to blame everything but the behavior of individuals.  There is always an excuse for behavior, rather than a demand that individuals are accountable.

I agreed with President Obama when he said that police departments, communities and this country need to do some soul-searching and that we must all pay attention to the problems all of the time and not just when there is an eruption of unrest and violence.  Obama said the solution to the problems “would require everybody.”

Once again, the President, a politician, said that children should not be born into poverty without focusing on the cycle of behavior that leads to children being born into poverty.

There are deep challenges in many communities in New Orleans and across America that many of us can only try to understand.  But there are also many resources available, along with many opportunities that are ignored while the political blame game continues.  An education or a job does not come knocking at your door.  It is up to you to take the initiative to seek education and jobs that change your path in life.

The President is right – there is no excuse for the violence that has occurred in Baltimore.  No excuse!  Isn’t the President really saying that individuals should be held accountable for their behavior?
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Locations : BaltimoreNew Orleans
People : EarlierFreddie GrayObama


Scoot: The Metairie double murder and the mentality of lawlessness

The arrest of two young people by the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office for the double murder on a quiet street in Metairie brings to light a shocking reality.  You no longer have to venture into what might be called a “high crime” area in order to feel a threat from young criminals. 
JPSO should be congratulated for finding and arresting the two suspects in the double murder, Dexter Allen, 17, and Haraquon Degruy, 18.  According to police, these two individuals drove to Metairie in a vehicle they had stolen earlier with the intent to commit a crime.
Degruy told police that Allen shot and killed 56-year-old David Pence and his 25-year-old son, Nicholas.  The suspects were apparently planning to rob people in a garage and drove around the block.  When they came back around everyone was gone.  Sheriff Newell Normand said the suspect saw a house door opened and then walked in the house allegedly killing David and his son Nicholas execution style.
The idea that criminals are mobile and willing to steal transportation to travel to suburban areas to murder and steal is alarming.  But there is no need for panic.  This tragic double murder should still be considered an isolated incident, but it proves this kind of incident can happen virtually anywhere.
Many who live in Metairie are shocked by the killings in a calm suburban neighborhood, but the criminals who travel to those areas with the intent of killing and stealing have been a threat to the people in their own neighborhoods.  It’s easier to ignore the problems when they happen in a neighborhood far away.  It’s impossible to ignore the problems when they come into your neighborhood.

Social tolerance for having babies with no intent on parenting those babies produces the mentality of young people who have never been taught rules or respect.  This lawless mentality needs to be addressed honestly, but there is little hope politicians and leaders will address it with the harsh honesty needed.
Politicians and leaders have continued to blame the “crime problem” on the lack of education and the lack of jobs.  The economy and past injustices have been blamed over holding individuals within cultures totally accountable for their actions.  Politicians and leaders grandstand by blaming only outside influences rather than blame the behavior of the individuals who vote and support their causes.
The double murder in Metairie was not the result of police brutality.  It was the direct result of a mentality of lawlessness in New Orleans and in America.
Today, we watch criminals, not protesters, riot in Baltimore over the frustration that white police officers mistreated a black suspect.  We don’t yet know what happened and perhaps the Baltimore police could have done a better job of communicating with the community about the process of the investigation.  At this point, justice may be served, but it will now be shrouded in a veil of violence.
The mentality of lawlessness transcends the double murder in Metairie and the destruction in Baltimore.  Police have too often been guilty of administering lethal force unjustly, but rioting, as we all saw in Ferguson, MO only makes the participants as guilty as the actions they protest.
The solution is long term, but coddling the criminally minded must stop.  The acceptance of rewarding sexual urges that produce babies and a governmental system that supports that activity must end – now!
There is no longer any excuse.  Police must be free to be tough without being racist.  Politicians must be courageous enough to talk about the real problem, rather than side-step the issue for the sake of votes.
We – as a society created – or at least, allowed this situation to be flourish.  Now, we – as a society – must unite with a demand that those in power do something the change the threat of attacks – not from foreign sources – but from Americans.
I hear people say that there is nothing we can do, but I have seen recently how powerful the voice of society can be when it comes to disapproval of the status quo.
The voice demanding change must be loud and united!
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Scoot: What if your ancestors owned slaves?

A controversy sparked over actor Ben Affleck’s request to producers of a TV show to omit the fact that his ancestor was a slave-owner.  Are we accountable for the actions and decisions of our ancestors?
PBS is investigating the producers of the show, “Finding Your Roots,” to determine if the network’s editorial standards were sacrificed when the program did not include the information that Ben Affleck’s ancestor owned slaves.
The TV show features the family roots of different guests and there was a communication between the show’s producer and upper management asking for direction on how to handle Affleck’s request.
In defense of the decision to omit the information that the actor’s ancestor was a slave-owner, the producer said that they left out that portion to focus on other interesting aspects of his life.  Affleck’s mother was a “Freedom Rider” in 1964 and a great-grandfather was into the occult.  But there was no mention of a slave-owner in the family.
In a Facebook post, Affleck stated, “I didn’t want any television show about my family to include a guy who owned slaves.  I was embarrassed.”
Affleck also said that it is “important to remember that this isn’t a new program,” and guests willingly provide information about their families and should be allowed to choose what is, or is not, part of the content.
There was obvious concern over omitting the fact that Affleck’s ancestor was a slave-owner because in a communication between the show’s producer and Sony Pictures co-chairman and chief executive Michael Lynton, Lynton said, “I would take it out if no one knows, but if it gets out that you are editing the material based on this kind of sensitivity then it gets tricky.  Again, all things being equal I would definitely take it out.”
This controversy raises the question about whether we should be accountable for the actions of our ancestors.  Last night, Affleck posted on Facebook, “We deserve neither credit nor blame for our ancestors and the degree of interest in this story suggests that we are, as a nation, still grappling with the terrible legacy of slavery.”
Is it fair to judge people today by the actions and decisions of their ancestors?  I think not.  It is wrong to judge the past by the standards of the world we all live in today.  I am not excusing the practice of owning slaves, but as long as those were decisions made by our ancestors in the distant past and no longer reflect who we are today, I don’t believe visiting that past, no matter how horrible, on individuals today is justified.
I can understand why Ben Affleck felt embarrassed by an ancestor who was a slave-owner, but there are a lot of great people who have defied what their ancestors stood for in the past.
The question of whether we are held accountable for the past is an important part of much of the racial tension in America today.  One side is quick to say, “Look what you did to us!” The other side responds with, “I wasn’t part of that.” 
To some degree, both sides have a point, but as long as we, as a nation, hold onto the past – we will never escape it!
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Topics : Entertainment_Culture
People : Ben AffleckMichael Lynton


Scoot: Are you under the spell of a political party?

Many Louisiana voters are following a national trend by registering as Independent or No Party, rather than Republican or Democrat and this may be a positive sign that more American voters are rejecting the strict party lines that have defined America.
Particularly in recent years, Americans have elevated party affiliation as a badge of honor and also a position from which to launch hate-filled rhetoric. 
Louisiana Secretary of State Tom Schedler says that Independent or No Party voters are the fastest growing group of registered voters in the state and this if part of a national trend.
From last August to today, 51% of new registrants were not republican or democrat, but had no party affiliation.  Rejection of the label of republican or democrat is an obvious response to the increasing discontent Americans have for the two parties. 
Senator John McCain publically admitted that the new GOP-led Congress had been purposely holding up Obama appointees as political payback for Democrats taking advantage of their majority to push through presidential appointees.  While it can be argued that both sides play the game of politics, it is also important to point out that, we, the American people, are not being adequately served by those sent to represent us in Washington, D.C. and that is one of countless examples of political grandstanding.
Politicians from both the Republican and Democratic Parties fear no consequences from voters for participating in the opposing virtually anything proposed by the other party.  And while both parties fight to protect and advance their party’s image, the American people are watching a government that acts as if the power of their party is more important than doing what is in the best interest of the American people.  Perhaps this trend of voters’ unwillingness to embrace either main party will begin a wave of change in the status quo of the political process.
In recent years, I have noticed what appears to be an increased importance in defining every talk show host as either liberal or conservative.  I ran into someone I worked with many years ago and telling him I was doing a radio talk show, the first and immediate question was, “Are you an Obama supporter?”  I thought it was strange that after so many years, that was the most crucial information he wanted from me.  My answer was honestly vague when I said, “It depends of what issue you’re talking about.”  But that individual’s desire to label me was indicative of what’s important to many Americans today.
Not all, but many people, feel the need to be part of a group that helps them define who they are.  It is also quite common for individuals to belong to a group without believing everything the group stands for. 
As long as it is easy for the politicians of the two primary parties to specifically label voters as republican or democrat, the more the politicians will succeed at dividing and conquering us. 
So what are you?  A Republican?  A Democrat?  Independent?  No party affiliation?
If you are honest with yourself and secure in your political beliefs, you do not identify strictly with either the Republicans or the Democrats. 
If you are a independent thinking American, then you are confident enough to judge every issue on its own merits and you do not need membership in either party to steer your political path.
If you have been clinging to the label of Republican or Democrat – it’s not too late to become an American voter who is willing to defy labels and group mentality and help break the political spell both parties have cast on our country!
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Topics : Politics
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Locations : LouisianaWashington, D.c.
People : John McCainTom Schedler


Scoot: How the Pelicans can beat the Warriors

The city of New Orleans acted like a big-time NBA city Wednesday night when the Pelicans fought hard to beat the San Antonio Spurs 106-103 to advance to the NBA playoffs and take on one of the best team in the NBA – the Golden State Warriors this weekend!
The Smoothie King Center was packed and filled with the raw emotion of possessed Pelicans fans wildly cheering until the final tick of the clock because the win was never a guarantee against the defending NBA Champs! 
During the season, the Pelicans struggled to draw big crowds in spite of having arguably the best player in the NBA in Anthony Davis.  But in the final game of the season that would determine if the Pelicans had a ticket to the playoffs for the first time as the Pelicans, Anthony Davis led a team that was not to be denied.
The Pelicans enter the playoffs as the #8 seed and will face one of the elite teams in the NBA Saturday afternoon in Oakland.  One of the biggest challenges the team and Coach Monty Williams face is more psychological than physical.
With the Pels eading by 23 at one point in the first half, the Spurs fought back and the outcome of the game Wednesday night was in doubt until the final few seconds.  The Pelicans not only fought a physical battle, but also an emotional and psychological battle. 
The defending NBA Champion Spurs roared back in the game and psychologically the Pelicans were challenged with remaining mentally tough until the end.  Fighting an opponent mentally can drain a team as much as a physical battle and the most impressive aspect of the victory was the Pelicans winning that mental battle against a seasoned champion.
The fact that the game was intense on both the physical and the mental front made the victory and the trip to the playoffs this weekend even more celebratory!
The challenge now becomes how to use that impressive win over the Spurs to boost their confidence without it becoming so satisfying that the Pelicans lose their passionate edge. 
This is a common challenge, not only in sports, but also in almost every aspect of life.  In our daily lives, personally and professionally, we all must deal with the tendency to become complacent after experiencing the victory of reaching a major goal.  It’s human nature to celebrate a victorious milestone to the point of feeling satisfied.  Therein lies the challenge.
Coach Monty Williams’ message to his team must focus on how to use the final win to inspire the team rather than satisfy the team.
NBA Coach Phil Jackson was often called the “Zen master” because of his ability to get his teams to focus only on the moment at hand rather than past accomplishment.  In any sport it is very difficult to repeat as champion the year after winning a championship and that speaks to the tendency to become satisfied by winning. 
Phil Jackson won 11 NBA Championships – the most of any coach in NBA history.  But what was most amazing is that with the Chicago Bulls and the Los Angeles Lakers, Jackson won three championships in a row.  Under Jackson, the Bulls won the NBA Championship in 1991, 1992 and 1993 and Jackson led the Lakers to championships in 2000, 2001 and 2002.  To “threepeat” in any sport is an unprecedented accomplishment.
I always view sports as a metaphor for life and by following our favorite teams and players we can all learn about real life situations.
Most of the experts and NBA fans would be shocked if the Pelicans beat the Warriors in the first round of the playoffs, but it is not an impossible task.  The Pelicans have a top player in Anthony Davis who is playing with precision and passion and he is surrounded by players that compliment his innate talents.  It is also fair to mention the human emotion of facing what you perceive to be an inferior opponent.  It’s conceivable the Warriors would take the Pelicans too lightly.
Yes, the Pelicans can beat the Warriors, but only if the coach and the team can use the win over the Spurs to build confidence and come to understand the “Zen zone” of sports and not allow themselves to be satisfied by what has been accomplished and look only toward what can be accomplished!
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Topics : Sports
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Locations : New OrleansOakland
People : Anthony DavisMonty WilliamsPhil Jackson


Scoot: Turns out that Marco Rubio loves rap music

Republican Senator Marco Rubio is considered to be one of the young, new faces of the Republican Party.  Rubio is 43 and a first term senator with a great American success story as the son of Cuban immigrants.

As the Republican candidates line up in their fight for the nomination, each candidate will espouse the beliefs and ideology that they believe will most resonate with voters. 

Marco RubioSenator Rubio has been open about his appreciation of rap/hip-hop music and many of the artists of the genre.  If country music is traditionally considered the most popular music among conservative Republicans, then rap and hip-hop might be considered the least popular. 

Senator Rubio has said he has admiration for Eminem and Tupac and once said that N.W.A.’s song, “Straight Outta Compton” was one of his favorite songs.  This morning on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” Rubio said he’s a big fan of Nicki Minaj and personal friends with Pitbull.  Asked if Pitbull would be at his campaign announcement, Rubio said that the artist had a scheduled trip to China.  That begs the question – will Pitbull join Rubio on the campaign trail?

It may be hard to believe at times, but politicians are people, too!  We should all assume that politicians, like everyone else, have their favorite music genres and artists.  New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, who may be close to announcing he is running for president, is known for his appreciation of Bruce Springsteen.  And maybe Christie likes “The Boss” for his music and not just because he is a New Jersey native.  Senator Ted Cruz, who was the first Republican to announce his candidacy, said that he became a fan of country music after 9/11.

I don’t recall any prominent Republican candidate being a rap/hip-hop fan – until Marco Rubio.  As president, Obama has referenced the music of rap/hip-hop and the artists and he and the First Lady allow their daughters to listen to rap/hip-hop.  I don’t like to generalize, but it seems unusual for a Republican presidential candidate to be a rap/hip-hop fan!  That may not be my favorite music, but I love when stereotypes are shattered.

But here is the dilemma for Senator Rubio and it is worth watching this because it might just reveal a lot about how politicians abandon what they really believe and tell potential voters what they think the voters what to hear.

Will Rubio use the music he likes during his campaign?  Or, will he set aside his personal choice and associate his campaign with music that is more commonly appreciated by the greatest number of conservative Republicans?

The ugly underbelly of politics is coated with deception.  Politicians will adopt positions on issues that appear to reflect their true personal feelings, when their public positions are fabricated to attract the largest number of voters.

I don’t believe that every politician who opposes abortion in all circumstances would not allow their teenage daughter or someone close to them to have the option to choose.  Former VP Dick Cheney was well-known for his strong opposition to same-sex marriage, but no longer in office, Cheney publically embraced the marriage of his lesbian daughter.

It’s hard to believe that there are not Southern Democrats who politically support gun control, extensive entitlements and other issues for the sake of representing their voters, even if those positions differ from their personal beliefs.

The game of politics – and make no mistake it is a game – encourages hypocrisy over honesty and for that reason I think it will be interesting to observe Senator Rubio’s choice in music during his campaign.  If Rubio does distance himself from his appreciation and admiration of rap/hip-hop and some of the artists, I’m certain his excuse will be that he has grown out of that stage.  But has he?

My appreciation in certain types of music has been relatively consistent over the years and I assume your taste in music is mostly consistent, as well.  I have always loved new music and have quickly embraced it, but there is still a common denominator in the type of music that has always moved my spirit.

We should pressure politicians to be true to their beliefs and not be so quick to change or hide their true feelings simply to appease voters – us.

If you like what Senator Rubio stands for politically – I hope you support him even if he likes a type of music that you loathe.

And if the Republican Party is struggling to attract younger voters, maybe a Republican candidate that appreciates rap and hip-hop is a move in the right direction!
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Scoot: Senator Rand Paul may be dangerous to both parties

Kentucky Senator Rand Paul (R) blamed both parties for the state of our nation as he announced his candidacy for the Republican nomination in 2016.

Sounding more like an Independent than a Republican, Senator Paul officially opened his presidential campaign by condemning Democrats and Republicans.  Paul said that under both parties, the rich got richer and the poor got poorer.  He talked about work ethic and said that work is not punishment.

Republican candidates like Senator Ted Cruz and Governor Bobby Jindal, are blatantly playing into the hands of the Religious Right and the more conservative base of the Republican Party, holding the belief that it will take a very conservative, not moderate, Republican candidate to win the White House in 2016. And so the battle for the soul of the Republican Party begins!

The Presidential Election of 2016 will be a defining moment for the Republican Party.  As many conservative Republicans work to pull the party to the right – many voters that felt disenfranchised by the influence of the party’s conservative base will feel they are not welcomed back to their party.

Younger voters, women and minorities helped elect and re-elect President Obama and following the defeat in 2012, many Republican leaders, including Gov. Jindal, declared the need for major change with the direction of the party.

Churches in Iowa are already opening their doors to be courted by Republican candidates and expect to have direct influence on some candidates’ policies, especially regarding social issues. Pastor Brad Sherman from the Solid Rock Christian Church in Coralville, Iowa said, “I’m concerned that the truly conservative base will get split up so many ways and we’ll end up with a moderate.”  

Some of Iowa’s prominent pastors who get heavily involved in shaping the messages of politicians have bragged about uniting behind Senator Rick Santorum in 2012 and saw his popularity rise.  In 2008, the support of evangelical churches in Iowa were part of former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee’s success.  But why would these churches promote that they had influence over two candidates that had no real shot at winning the Republican nomination?

Expect a political earthquake within the Republican Party during this upcoming presidential campaign.  In many ways, the stage is set for the Republican candidate to win the White House in 2016, but not if the party rallies behind a right-leaning candidate that promotes a religious agenda that heavily depends on exciting voters over social issues.

Senator Rand Paul should be a serious threat to his Republican challengers and to the presumed Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.  Paul is a libertarian-leaning Republican and that will make his message very attractive to many of the voters who have joined the exodus away from the party.

Two major challenges for Rand Paul are his support from the Tea Party, which is viewed by many mainstream Republicans as too far right - and his foreign policy image.  Paul’s father, Congressman Ron Paul, has projected an isolationist strategy.  Rand Paul has not been so extreme on that issue, but will need to assure voters that he will have a strong foreign policy as ISIS continues to define the political landscape in America.

Every poll shows that the great majority of the American people are disgusted with the status quo of political parties and he is wise to present himself more as an Independent who is a Washington outsider. Hillary Clinton will have to battle the perception that she represents the political establishment and Rand Paul is in a position to make her appear more of a Washington insider.

It is almost an eternity until the political conventions next year and a lot can happen to change the political climate - but right now, Senator Rand Paul is smart to position himself as a candidate who wants smaller government – not only fiscally – but also in the area of individual freedoms.

One of Rand’s campaign themes is defeating the political machine and unleashing the American dream. Of course, we all know that every candidate starts out with grandiose ideas and promises and no voter should blindly follow any candidate.  They will all tell us what they think we want to hear to win an election realizing that once in office voters rarely seem to hold elected officials accountable for their actions – or lack thereof.

It has always been the more extreme factions of any group that attract the most media attention and that’s why it’s time for the silent moderate majority to speak out and demand that the extremes of either party are defeated!

Share your thoughts and comments with me: Scoot@WWL.com

Photo via Michael Vadon, Flickr
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Scoot: Media frenzy over religious freedom laws continues

The continuing frenzy over the new religious freedom laws is not the result of the liberal media, and is certainly not a liberal “lynch mob” as conservative Newt Gingrich says.  The attention to these new laws is the direct result of Americans reacting to laws that protect businesses that want the right to discriminate against the LGBT community based on their religious beliefs.  It’s 2015 and sad that this is even an issue. 

This week, Governor Mike Pence of Indiana proudly signed the state’s new Religious Freedom Restoration Act into law.  Immediately, there was condemnation of the new law from top corporations like Apple and Angie's List to the NCAA, which is holding the Final Four in Indianapolis this weekend.  Following the harsh criticism of the state and the call to ban future sporting events from the state, Governor Pence held a press conference and requested that the state legislature make changes to the new law so that it does not discriminate against the LGBT community.

Since yesterday, the media frenzy over this controversial issue has been fueled by more action on the part of those who think it is the American way to allow religious beliefs to justify discrimination.

Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson said he would sign the state’s newly passed religious freedom bill, but then “crawfished” his way back to saying he wants changes in the law.

Republican Newt Gingrich said that the opposition to the religious freedom bills in Indiana and Arkansas are an example of a liberal “lynch mob.”

A family-owned pizza parlor in Indiana publically announced that they are vowing to reject serving gay weddings because they are a “Christian establishment.”

It is almost laughable that politicians and citizens are defending the new religious freedom laws by saying the laws do not allow discrimination against the LGBT community.  Well, if that’s the case – then what are the laws actually designed to do?  I have yet to hear an intelligent answer to the question.

It is clear that the motive behind passing religious freedom laws is to protect businesses that refuse to do business with members of the LGBT community from discrimination lawsuits.  That reveals that the laws do allow discrimination.  Why are those who support these laws seemingly unwilling to admit that yes, the laws do allow discrimination.  And if they don’t, what do the laws do?

To further accentuate the irrational ignorance surrounding the issue of gay rights, Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear is arguing that his state’s ban on same-sex marriage is not discriminatory because it applies to straight people too!  That is not a misprint – that’s what Governor Beshear said to justify the law.  Hey, governor – “straight people” don’t marry members of the same sex.  Those who do are “gay people.”

Rather than learning from our past, too many Americans are looking for reasons to discriminate and the last resort seems to be the use of religious beliefs.  Freedom of religion is a precious right in America and the strategy for opposing gay rights is based on the idea that if a Christian business is not allowed to discriminate against the LGBT community based on their religious beliefs, then Americans are losing their right to freedom of religion.

To refuse to do business with the LGBT community based on one’s religious beliefs is obnoxiously hypocritical unless a business refuses to do business with any sinner.  Why pick and choose the sinners you serve?  And who could even serve themselves?

From what I know about Jesus in the Bible – I cannot bring myself to believe that Jesus would refuse to do carpentry work for someone based on their sexual orientation.  Were not those suffering from leprosy banished from society?  Did Jesus reject them? 

It seems obvious that Jesus set countless examples of inclusion that are being ignored today.  And those ignoring His examples are the ones who are most loudly thumping their Bibles!

Since Arkansas is now working to pass a religious freedom law I wonder if the state will no longer be considered for the Super Bowl, the Final Four, the NBA All-Star game – oh wait…I guess they don’t have much to lose!

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Scoot: Could an American flag T-shirt incite violence?

Our Founding Fathers would never have envisioned a day when wearing an American flag T-shirt at a school on American soil would be considered an act that could cause disruption. Welcome to America – 2015!
Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court announced it would not take up a major First Amendment case involving free speech and a school in California.  The Court let stand a ruling that supported the decision by officials at Live Oak High School near San Jose to ban students wearing American flag T-shirts to school.
The controversy erupted on May 5, 2010 – Cinco de Mayo – which, in California and some parts of the country, is more than an excuse to drink, party and leave work early to hear your favorite band.  For Mexican Americans in places like California, Cinco de Mayo is considered a day of pride and a day to honor their ethnicity.
On Cinco de Mayo 2010, three high school students defied a school request not to wear American flag T-shirts to school on that day because that might incite students of Mexican heritage.
School officials believed the threats of violence against the students wearing the American flag T-shirts were real and the shirts should be banned for the safety of all students.
The three high school students charged school officials with violating their First Amendment rights to express their political opinions by wearing the T-shirts and sued the school.  A federal judge tossed the suit out saying the school officials had a “reasonable forecast” that the American flag T-shirts “could cause a substantial disruption” on the school’s campus.  That decision was upheld by a federal appeals court and by not hearing the case, the Supreme Court let stand the federal appeals court decision.
The lawyers for the three students in their suit against the California school cited a landmark decision about students protesting the Vietnam War nearly 50 years ago.
In the case of Tinker vs. Des Moines Independent School District in 1969, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of students who were suspended for wearing black armbands to school to protest the Vietnam War.  The Court ruled that school officials must respect the freedom of speech of students as long as the expression is silent, passive and does not cause disruption.
But the lawyers for the California school district used the same Supreme Court ruling to argue that the Tinker ruling gives school districts the authority to restrict the free expression of students if they fear a reasonable chance of disruption, which was the school’s belief.
The question is whether school officials correctly identified the threat of “reasonable disruption,” or if the threat was used to appease the high school students of Mexican heritage.
Attorney Robert Muise, who represented the students in California told Yahoo News, “It is far better in our civilized society to teach students about the First Amendment and why we tolerate divergent views than to suppress speech.”
I agree that students have a right to freedom of speech, but if schools have reasonable concern that student expression will lead to violence, then should the schools be allowed to make that determination?
I think it is also fair to point to the possible motive of the three students that challenged the school’s request not to wear American flag T-shirts to school on Cinco de Mayo.  Since that day carries so much pride and emotion for many students in a state with a heavy Hispanic population, like California, did the students decide to wear the American flag T-shirts for the purpose of taunting and inciting students of Mexican heritage?  If that was the motive of the students, then their actions could be considered antagonistic.
This case is a reminder of how divided we are in America.  A nation built on a concept of freedom and a nation supported by a Constitution that guarantees that freedom and diversity coexist, should not be a nation that is intolerant of certain groups of people.  I question whether the students would have worn American flag T-shirts on St. Patrick’s Day to make sure anyone Irish realized they were in America.  Fear and paranoia about some groups, like Hispanics, is irrational and un-American.
But it is also fair to consider that any students of Mexican heritage should be secure enough with their heritage to not allow the sight of an American flag T-shirt to have any impact on pride in their heritage.
Our Founding Fathers would never have envisioned a day when wearing an American flag T-shirt in school on American soil would be inappropriate, but our Founding Fathers would never have envisioned a day when people in America were so intolerant of each other.
We have a lot of work to do to live in a nation that embodies the spirit of everything America is supposed to stand for!
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