Feb 132018

Would you believe that at a recent elementary school dance at Kanesville Elementary School in Weber County, Utah, attendees were required to accept invitations to dance? This supposedly “(promotes) kindness.”

And it’s even a little more bizarre than that. Ahead of time, each attendee makes a list of five other attendees with whom s/he agrees to dance. Oh, but no worries! If there’s any discomfort with such a list, “that’s certainly something that can be addressed with that student and parents.”

Well, thank God for that. I’d hate for it to get weird.

Folks, this is asinine. We can guide our young people, instructing them to be polite with one another, consider each other’s emotions, and so forth. But they still have to—need to—figure out how to navigate these little rituals and customs themselves. And the bottom line is little boys are going to hurt little girls’ feelings, and little girls are going to hurt little boys’ feelings. Guess what? That’s OK. Learning to handle rejection is part of the deal.

Moreover, do we really want to tell a girl that she can’t say no to a boy asking her to dance? That she may not refuse a request to be closer to her?

That she filled out a card, so she better follow through now?

Do I really need to go into what a rotten idea this is?

We can and should teach empathy. We might even give examples while doing so. But attempting to issue highly specific directives for a real-life event does nothing to promote genuine understanding, particularly when the messages are this muddled.

(Because we also can and should teach respect for boundaries.)

 Posted by at 10:21 am
Feb 102018

Apocalypse Now is one of my favorite films ever.

Nathan and I have watched most of my other all-time favorites together, but we haven’t done that one yet. I told him nearly from the beginning of our ongoing film conversation that while I thought it was spectacular, I didn’t watch it very often because it deeply depressed me for a couple of days. So we’d need to wait until a good time to do that, both for my sake and his. Apocalypse Now speaks clearly and artistically to some powerful, terrible truths about human nature. And in that way, it earns its R rating more than any popcorn movie with throwaway sex and violence in it ever could.

It may have been as long as ten years since the last time I saw it. As I type, I’ve been actively engaged as a human trafficking warrior for less than one. I’m curious to gauge my reaction to the film now, with that new context.

At the Alabama Human Trafficking Summit yesterday, Carolyn Potter, executive director of The WellHouse, co-hosted one of the afternoon sessions I attended. Her organization primarily rescues young women from sex trafficking. At the end of her presentation, she commented that we should be sure we “engage in some self-care tonight; a bubble bath, a favorite meal, or something. We’ve all been pounded with darkness all day long.”

That’s a good way to put it.

You don’t have to learn very much about human trafficking to be disgusted. The depraved, heartless cruelty that is necessary to enslave another human being would be alarming in a single person. That there is enough of it in the world to fuel a thriving $200 billion industry is completely sickening.

You also don’t have to learn very much to be called to action. As I’ve said more than once, at the end of Pat McCay’s presentation in August, I knew I couldn’t be idle. If I have time to do anything in the world, then I have time to take up arms and help fight this war.

I intend for 2018 to be a big year for myself in this war, and more importantly for the North Alabama Human Trafficking Task Force at large. I have begun working on our web site, and there are extensive improvements on deck. We also have a growing Twitter presence. (Are you a local on Twitter and not following us? If not, why not?) I am also the nascent public relations director for the task force, so you can expect to hear more from me in the days to come about events we sponsor and how you can help.

(Not that you need to wait to hear from me again to join the war. We meet the first Tuesday of every month at 2 p.m. at the National Children’s Advocacy Center on Pratt Avenue in Huntsville. The meeting is attended by social workers, law enforcement officers, medical professionals, educators, and concerned citizens, and you are welcome.)

 Posted by at 5:46 pm
Feb 082018
  • I’m not paying attention to the timeline day to day, but I happened to learn from a Facebook friend (who quit at the same time) that today is day 100 of my teetotalism. It’s amazing how much better I feel, how much my sleep has improved, and how much my capacity for handling stress has been enhanced. It’s like a superpower. I don’t see ever going back.
  • Elon Musk wants to build a city on Mars. I won’t live to see that. He won’t either. But I’ve begun to think my children might.
  • I can button blue jeans that are one size smaller now. I’m thinking they’ll be comfortable in another three weeks or so.
  • Actor John Mahoney has died at 77. He is probably best remembered as Frasier’s dad, but his most memorable role to me was irascible jackass talk show host Grant Gubler in Reality Bites. RIP.
  • Super Bowl Bullet: Tom Brady is being figuratively eviscerated for not congratulating Nick Foles personally after Super Bowl LII. This is piling on. He’s getting it because he’s Tom Brady. (And NFL lawyers: I called this a “Super Bowl Bullet” and I’m not going to call it anything else ever. Come get me.)
  • I’m about a month out from posting a comprehensive review of the Dr. Squatch soap line. There will be no review of Duke Cannon, because something in it made me itch. As folks seem generally happy with it, I’m presuming that’s my own peculiarity. (Loved the smell of the Naval Supremacy soap, though.)
  • Knowing something of my musical proclivities, my old friend David recently recommended Kraftwerk to me. I’m enjoying very much. Autobahn and Computer World are available to listen to free on Amazon Prime. Autobahn is truly brilliant, and I’m going to purchase it. It blows my mind that it was originally released in 1974.
 Posted by at 11:46 am
Feb 072018

President Trump wants a military parade to top one he recently saw in France. So says this Washington Post story. “We’re going to have to try to top it,” he reportedly said.


There are several things I hoped Donald Trump would get over once he got into office, and he hasn’t really gotten over any of them. This is one of the most annoying. When you are the leader of the most powerful country in the world, you rarely need to overtly “top” anything. In my view, this is simply another manifestation of the defect that drives Trump to directly answer every little pissant that rubs him the wrong way.

Dude. You’re the President. You don’t need to acknowledge buzzing gnats.

Dude. We’re the United States. We don’t need to show our equipment off.

I am a lifelong supporter of the U.S. military. I deeply appreciate its fine men and women and the freedom they secure with their sacrifices. I further understand that they use fantastic machinery as part of that effort.

But there is a very big difference between, say, my children checking out a tank on static display at an appreciation event and that same tank rumbling through the streets of the capital to the sounds of cheers and patriotic music.

From Twitter feed of @DavidRomeiPHD

The military parade is a mainstay of crackpot dictators with ridiculously adorned “military” uniforms and fists in the air (and yes, for the record, I think it was an extremely poor choice for France too). They are, as Garry Kasparov poignantly noted, what weak leaders do to try to appear strong.

I am an unapologetic and proud American exceptionalist. As I’ve often said and written, if there’s going to be a biggest kid on the block, don’t you want to be him? And if there is one country in better position than others to propagate its values and customs, I think it ought to be the United States.

However, we must never lose sight of why we have a strong military. Part of that strong military are these weapons that would be on display in Trump’s parade. These things are fantastic, but they are also terrible. They are some of the most purpose-built machines in the world, designed to deliver death and destruction efficiently and effectively.

But do we build and possess them hoping to deliver death and destruction with them? Of course not. We build and possess them hoping that we won’t have to. We should appreciate that we have these things. But appreciation need not be celebration.

A military parade of the sort Trump envisions is not consistent with American values. I hope he realizes that before it happens.

 Posted by at 10:28 am