Category Archives: Politics

Politics:
Although I seldom express it, I’ve been known to have an opinion on things of a political nature. These are either essays, opinion, or factual reports (the line blurs these days).

Broad Strokes

It’s particularly vexing to me when I see a friend or family member say or post something that puts down “the gays”. It paints a broad brush stroke over a whole group of humans and robs a piece of their dignity.

I’m not gay…but I’m also not straight. I’m open-minded. The sort of talk above exasperates me to hear, because what if the love of my life isn’t some heteronormative female? What if I completely switch teams? What if I love lots of different kinds humans all at the same time? Then that brush would paint over me as well.

In my younger days, I used to make jokes about fat chicks, and it always confused me how many physically fit women within earshot would fire back their disapproval of my jokes. My thinking at the time was “well, you’re not fat, so why do you care?” The answer is that anyone can become fat, and then the jokes would cover them as well.

It’s just bad form to put down a group of people because of what they are and what they do. That’s weak sauce; lowest-common-denominator talk show monologue humor, even on its best day.

Please consider what you say and how it lifts up or puts down those who know you. We affect each other in ways we may yet understand.

Amen

Adverb for agreement and consent. Amen.
Statement of “so be it”. Amen.
Punctuation to a long prayer. Amen.
That is the past. These are our hopes. This is our intent. Amen.
Please let us move on, dream on, go forward into the dark night. Amen.
Pushing to the sunrise of our souls, of our world. Amen.
Leaving all our shadows behind. Amen.
It’s time to turn the page and love again. Amen.
Lifting up our prayers like a billion lights in the sky. Amen.
The past is gone for good. It’s time to say: Amen.
Amen. Amen.

Visual Spacial

Those who say men are better at visual-spacial tasks have never seen women compete in rhythmic gymnastics. The way these ladies handle the apparatus — hoop, ball, clubs, ribbon — proves to me beyond a shadow of a doubt that they are just as capable as men, and are equals. This requires just as much proprioceptive capability as aiming a ball at a a goal.

That being said, the United States did not have a contestant in the rhythmic gymnastics competition in Rio Olympics this year, and that’s regrettable. However, girls who have the training and skills in these apparatuses have a handful of venues in the U.S. to use these skills: marching band feature twirlers; alt-music stage performers; Burning Man (and regional burns); fire spinning; side shows; travelling circuses; etcetera.

So don’t tell me women can’t navigate through space as well as men. That’s just incorrect.

Liberty Dysmorphia

So the eventual fallout with the Supreme Court ruling knocking down state laws that prevent same-sex marriage is that homosexual people can now enjoy the same rights and privileges that straight people have been enjoying for a long time. Yet, in some sections of the country, there is a vociferous yet futile pushback. Some people who don’t want the world to change are crying about activist judges (yet not about activist legislators), and are screaming about the SCOTUS ruling being an affront to their religious liberty.

Here’s what’s wrong with this stance: the SCOTUS ruling does not, in any way, require clergy to marry gay couples. That is still covered under the separation of church and state. It is not an infringement of religious liberty. It does not force religious adherents to do anything. One can still practice and believe as they wish; that is our right. But that right extends only into matters of religion. In matters of society, that is not the case. The SCOTUS ruling nullifies all secular laws that prevent homosexual marriage, so even if those laws are still on the state books, they are unenforceable because any couple prevented by those obsolete laws can file suit against the state, county, or clerk, and the state will lose.

The answer to this “affront” against religious liberty, as proposed by those who don’t want to play by the rules, is to stand behind any religious liberty laws (of man) and refuse to issue licenses. Just because they disagree with homosexual marriage, they claim that they can deny the license on religious grounds. The Texas attorney general threw this solution up for any county clerks to follow in case they had objections.

However, the final answer to that problem is the growing notion that if a public servant cannot fulfill the full duties of their civil service role, they should step down from office if they don’t want a civil rights lawsuit on their hands. Most counties, when they look at the balance sheet, would rather not go into protracted litigation simply because one or two county employees don’t want to do their job.

So why do so many True Believers weep and gnash their teeth over gay marriage being an affront to their religious liberty? Initially, I had a hard time understanding that. But to get to the root of the issue, I had to draw upon my own experience from when I was a dyed-in-the-cloth True Believer. The issue of religious liberty stems from the notion that all things in the world are under God’s kingdom, and that all ideas held by the church are the law of the land. In their eyes, their reality is the only reality. It follows, then, that the church’s idea of marriage is the only law allowed. To have the law of man (or any other religion) come in and say, “Hey, there are other realities,” is ecclesiastically uncomfortable, and to them it feels like a personal attack, an attack on the faith. “How is it possible that God’s Kingdom must make space for this? There is only God’s Kingdom!” Any statement that mandates that other viewpoints are also valid is seen as an attack.

When a viewpoint doesn’t fit reality, it is time to adjust the viewpoint or let it go. Even faith can evolve (nobody is stoning people who get divorces, case in point). The fact of the matter is that homosexuality is a part of reality. Allowing homosexuals to marry is not a religious attack.

GRK in full bloom

Coming in on RADAR

I have a passing fascination with the machinery of this country’s infrastructure. Being the son of an Air Force mother, I had the fortune of seeing the technology that powers the defense and commerce of this country first-hand, and it gave me an understanding that this network of beacons, RADAR installations, weather stations, radio towers, VOR stations, GPS anchors, etc., is a lot bigger than any one of us, and its presence, on the Federal dime, was (and remains to be) for the benefit of everyone. It filled my young mind with a sense of civic duty, that I’m a part of this large body politic, and that in some way I had a part to play in my little area of this large landscape.

For as long as a few years, I’ve wanted to go check out the nearby NOAA/NWS RADAR station GRK located 500 yards from the shore of Granger Lake near Granger, TX. Today, having a completely open afternoon and a strong need to get out of town for at least a few hours, I plotted my route, hopped in my car, and headed up Highway 95 from Elgin, through Taylor, then Granger. The skies were mostly cloudy, air warm and humid, wind strong from the South blowing in the moist Gulf air for what may be an interesting evening of storms Monday. Seemed like a perfect time for a drive to see this station.

The installation’s tower stands approximately 5 stories tall from the ground to the lightning rod mounted on top of the dome, and is fronted by three portable box buildings holding the RADAR telemetry equipment, radios, servers, batteries, generators, and anything the NWS would need to operate and debug this instrument from remote. The entire installation is caged by three-strand barbed wire, chain-link fencing, and some of the prettiest “No Trespassing – Private Property” land on the map.

The surrounding landscape is rather flat and this installation is on the top of a very long hill, so it commands a perfectly unobstructed view of the sky in all directions. From that location, I’m sure I could’ve seen the tops of the clouds as far south as San Antonio and as far north as Waco, if not farther. I can only imagine the view from the top of the tower, and can imagine the dish inside the dome making its slow sweep across the landscape, just above the horizon, stacking invisible cones of varying slopes as it shoots out its microwave beam of slow light, observing the brightness and distance of the reflections and how much the movement of water and wind shift the color of those reflections (which is generally how Doppler RADAR works). I look out across the Granger Lake basin, and it’s a big, busy sky.

Passing miles of soybean crops, I'm coming up eastbound to GRK on FM 971.

Passing miles of soybean crops, I’m coming up eastbound to GRK on FM 971.

Coming up closer to GRK on FM 971. This installation is

Coming up closer to GRK on FM 971. This installation is actually taller than it looks.

GRK from the Southwest.

GRK from the Southwest.

GRK from the graveled parking area directly across the highway from the gate.

GRK from the graveled parking area directly south across the highway from the gate. Note the signage actually reads “GRL02”, which I’m sure is short for “GRanger Lake”.

GRK from the Southeast.

GRK from the Southeast. I believe the building on the right to be the generator and battery facility.

Close up of the GRK RADAR dome. I wonder what sort of radio-transparent material it's made of.

Close up of the GRK RADAR dome. I wonder what sort of radio-transparent material it’s made of.

The view from the hill down into the Granger Lake basin. This is all downhill from here.

The view from the hill down into the Granger Lake basin. This is all downhill from here.

From the dam at Granger Lake, you can see the GRK dome towering above the landscape in the distance.

From the dam at Granger Lake, you can see the GRK dome towering above the landscape in the distance near the center of the frame.

It’s just a little installation, nothing major, but it is a symbol and a functional part of something much larger than all of us. We benefit from the data this instrument and the federal agency that operates it provides. When you are looking for your local TV meteorologists to give you the news about how wet your shoes are about to be, this instrument is where they are getting their data. Regardless of how they trump up their weather technology advantage over their televised competition, they don’t actually have their own Doppler RADAR equipment – the National Weather Service does. Without this stream of data, your good-haired meteorologist has no job and you have no warning about the F4 tornado heading your way. For this service alone, I am willing to pay my taxes. For this alone, I am proud to be a citizen of this land.