Sunday, April 25, 2021

I protest

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."

So there it is. The First Amendment. 

Then why have 34 states proposed 81 laws to curb protests? Why have at least three of them – Florida, Oklahoma and Iowa – passed anti-protest bills into law?

Holy crap. Those bills appear to be in direct contrast to the First Amendment. They will no doubt draw lawsuits from all over the place declaring their unconstitutionality, if they haven't already. Yay, civil rights lawyers.

The proposed bills apparently are emanating from mostly Republican controlled states or Republican controlled state legislatures. You don't have to scratch deep into the dirt to ascertain why this is happening: after last year's summer of discontent, with demonstrations ranging from coast-to-coast (as well as internationally) following the death of George Floyd, an unarmed African American murdered by policeman Derek Chauvin, there is intent to hinder and discredit the Black Lives Matter movement supporting police reform.

So apparently, the best way to dismantle BLM is to take away their fully American right to protest, as defined in the Constitution.

I suppose the state legislatures proposing these bills could argue from a states rights standpoint because it's Congress that "shall make no law...," but that argument would probably butt heads with the supremacy clause found in Article VI that shows federal laws supersede state laws. Yay, Constitution. Yay, lawsuits.

I'm assuming these anti-protest bills are designed to cut down, if not eliminate, perceived violence and property damage that generally comes with passionate protest. Interestingly enough, the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (ACLED) have found 93 percent of last year's BLM protests to have been peaceful (see here). So there's that. Unless, of course, you want to accuse BLM of being antifa in disguise, thereby renewing your QAnon membership.

In some of these anti-protest bills, there exist clauses absolving motorists from running over protesters who might be blocking streets. That's horrendous. It's a bill sanctioning attempted murder. Violence to stop protests about violence? Sheesh.

As suggested above, the right to protest is as an American institution as baseball. You need reminders? The Boston Tea Party (destruction of property), women's suffrage, the Viet Nam-era anti-war demonstrations (Kent State comes to mind), the Abolitionist movements prior to the Civil War, the March on Washington that powered the civil rights movement of 1963, even the Triangle Shirtwaist fire protest of 1911 that brought out 80,000 protesters and ultimately changed labor and safety laws.

The list is endless. And defiantly American.

Yay, protests.

Sunday, April 18, 2021


As the new week approached, it seemed our whole neighborhood was suddenly put atwitter (not to be confused with Twitter, which is something completely different and perhaps generational):

It was the approach of the City of Lexington's recently revamped recycle and collection schedule.

Nobody, it seemed, was exactly sure when their trash would be picked up.

In the Park Place Historic Neighborhood, where I live, trash was picked up on Fridays, with the recyclables collected every other Friday. Seemingly simple enough, espcially after years abiding by this schedule.

But a month or so ago, we got a mailing notifying us that the collection schedule was changing on April 13. Included was a color-coded calendar with dates featuring green spaces, blue spaces or red spaces, with no explanation of what the colors meant for those specific dates.

The notification also included a Web site that directed a resident to an interactive map to find our particular trash collection day. That's great for people with access to a computer. Part of the trouble is that not everybody has computers.

Anyway, as the new collection week approached, our neighborhood Web site lit up like a Christmas tree. I may have been responsible as the original author of a post asking if anybody in our collection district understood what was happening. About 15 people responded, and none of them had a real clue.

Some of us thought collection day was Thursday, others thought it was Friday. The Find-My-Trash-Collection-Date Web site told each of us to enter our address to find our personal collection day.

It turns out that, for our neighborhood at least, nothing had changed. Trash collection was still on Friday, with recyclables every other Friday.

But in order for the schedule to get off to the correct start, our recyclables were going to be collected for a second straight week to set the correct stagger in motion from the previous schedule. So there. Easy peasy.

I figured there had to be at least 32 college degrees (I might be exaggerating), including a sprinkle of graduate diplomas, among us trying to figure out the neighborhood schedule in our Web site conversation.

Some of the confusion, I think, was the color coded calendar. Some people were equating the blue dates with their blue recyclable containers and the green dates with their green trash containers. The color coding actually correlated with the collection district you live in on a city map. We live in a green district.

The dates colored in red are holidays, when only garbage and recycling rollouts are collected.

The city was doing all this to make its collection more efficient, and I guess maybe it is. Just don't ask our neighborhood to look into it.

Sunday, April 11, 2021

Share and share alike

 Cast of characters: Dave, Billy, TJ, Shawn and myself.

Location: West Second Avenue, Park Place Historic District.

Premise: If you need it, and I have it, you can use it.

I really, really, really love my neighborhood. Yes, I've been down this road before, but the more I think about it, the more remarkable this whole scenario becomes. I mean, I've lived in great neighborhoods in my 70 years, including a childhood Nirvana in a place called Fountain Hill, PA, where the borough playground was right across the street from our house. We also lived in Portsmouth, NH, where we were 10 minutes from the Atlantic Ocean and 10 minutes from Pease Air Force Base (where Dad worked), and another 10 minutes from the Portsmouth Naval Yard, all major stops along the Cold War highway back in 1959. That was exciting stuff for a budding 8-year-old history buff.

But I was a child back then, lost in my own world, and nowhere do I recall having neighbors as remarkable as I have now.

Here's the current situation. TJ, who lives catty-corner from us, raises egg-laying hens. But recently he lost several of them to nocturnal predators that roam the area, either foxes or raccoons, and could he borrow my Hav-A-Heart humane trap to catch the critters? The trap, by the way, isn't mine. A former neighbor, who has since moved to Charlotte, let me have the trap back when we had groundhog issues. He said he knows where I live if he needs the trap back.

Shortly after I let TJ borrow the trap, I needed to use his pressure washer. Bingo, it was waiting in my yard within the day.

After I pressure washed my picket fence prior to painting it, Billy, my next-door neighbor, wondered if he could borrow the pressure washer. He knew it was TJ's (he'd used it before), so there was no problem. TJ wouldn't mind. That was months ago. The pressure washer is still at Billy's. I guess TJ doesn't mind.

On the other hand, I still have TJ's bottle of Sta-bil, a gas additive for the pressure washer.

All of this was after I had borrowed Shawn's pressure washer months earlier to clear off my porch prior to staining.

Dave, directly across the street from us, recently let me use his stand-up garden claw, an invaluable tool when you have a small area to turn and you don't really need a tiller. It's a great help when you want to prep the lawn for seeding.

I've occasionally paid Dave back by mowing his lawn or watering his vegetable garden when his family has been on vacation. That's how it works.

Meanwhile, Dave borrowed TJ's shop vac some time ago. I think he still has it.

Our block is like a lending library with no due dates and, so far, no late fees.

Billy has been known to take his leaf blower and clean out my lengthy street-to-alley driveway. What Billy may not know is that while he and his family were on a recent extended weekend trip to Illinois, Dave mowed Billy's yard. And on Friday, I brought Billy's trash containers back to his house after the garbage trucks came by.

Just the other day, Billy gladly let me borrow his metric ratchet set to assemble a garden scooter that came from China.

We often exchange bottles of beer around the fire pit, whether they be classic or crafted.

Our wives are also involved. Crockpots have been summoned for socially-distanced neighborhood get-togethers. Recipes are shared. Garden techniques are exchanged. Billy said we can plant tomatoes in his raised flower beds. He'll get some tomatoes out of it if the squirrels don't get them first.

If somebody gets sick, food magically appears from several addresses.

And so it goes. My only question is whether I live in a remarkably unique neighborhood, or are many other neighborhoods like this? It seems pretty special to me.

Sunday, April 4, 2021

Baseball and voting rights

Just a couple of days into the 2021 major league baseball season, baseball suddenly finds itself in the middle of a social and political vortex.

This is because baseball commissioner Rob Manfred correctly decided to pull this year's All-Star Game out of Atlanta in the wake of an egregious state senate bill signed into law putting severe restrictions on voting access within that state.

The Georgia Senate is controlled by Republicans, who saw both of their Federal senate seats turn over to Democratic control in a special runoff election in January. In response to losing, the Georgia GOP decided to change the rules for voting.

Under the new law, Georgia voters face new provisions, such as less time to request absentee ballots. Drop boxes have been pared down to where some counties have just one box. Offering water to voters waiting in lengthy lines is now a misdemeanor. It is now illegal for election officials to mail out absentee ballot applications to all voters. There are many other restrictions in the 98-page bill that is now law. (see here).

While the law is meant to apply to all Georgia voters, there is a target audience that will be more severely affected. Lower income voters and minorities – and specifically Black voters who electrified the Democratic victories – will suffer because they might not have access to transportation to distant polling stations, or even a required driver's license for voter ID.

This law will be challenged in court. Already, at least three lawsuits have been filed.

The Georgia Republican Party, apparently, are poor losers. They have become the party of The Retribution of Old White Guys who either cannot see, or are afraid of the browning of America. Ooops, there goes their power...

So, thank you baseball, for taking a stand.

The argument for rewriting voter law is The Big Lie that the past election was rigged. This claim, espoused by conspiracy advocate and former president Donald Trump, has been empowered by the Republican Party desperate to maintain power. Never mind that then Attorney General Bill Barr said there was no voter fraud. Chris Krebs, then the Director of United States Cybersecurity, said there was no fraud and indeed, stated it was the most secure election in U.S. history. The Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger said there was no fraud. Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell said there was no fraud. They are all Republicans. Why are they being ignored by their own party?

It's why we had the outrage of January 6, where an insurrectionist mob, claiming cancel culture, tried to cancel the government by storming the Capitol while it was in session to certify the electoral votes.

Voter suppression is an abomination directly opposed to the foundation of this country. The right to vote is who we are. Apparently, so is suppression.

The Constitution of the United States was ratified in 1789, or 232 years ago. The 14th Amendment to the Constitution, ratified in 1868, provides equal protection to all citizens under the law. The 15th Amendment, ratified in 1870, states that the right of citizens to vote shall not be denied. The Voting Rights Act, signed in 1965, was needed to enforce the 15tth Amendment of 100 years previous.

Good God. Instead of suppressing voters, we should be empowering them.

Interestingly enough, baseball can find itself in the forefront of many civil rights issues. According to the National Baseball Hall of Fame, Moses Fleetwood Walker became the first African American to play professionally, when he signed to play for the Toledo Blue Stockings of the American Association as a catcher in 1884.

Six decades later, Jackie Robinson brought righteous integration to baseball in 1947. But even then, it took 12 years before the Boston Red Sox signed Pumpsie Green to become the last major league team to integrate.

And now, baseball is taking a stand again. There are a lot of reasons to like baseball and what it means for this country. Supporting voter rights is one of them.