Another Black Man Given Impromptu Death Penalty By Police-COPS NEED BODY CAMS NOW!

I don’t even want to write a blog about this… I am sick of this “same story” playing out again and again in the USA: A random, innocent black man shot to death by police.

Thankfully, in this case, a civilian’s camera was running.

The footage speaks for itself:

Here is the Anderson Cooper discussion on the shooting:

The citizens of the USA are weary of unjustified shootings, beating, arrests, and murders of individuals by police. It happens to individuals of all ethnicities. Yet, it happens disproportionately to African Americans. Much of that situation is carried on the back of a failed “Drug War.” Though, as in the shooting at hand, you never know when being pulled over even for a taillight infraction that you will survive the interaction with cops. To the good cops out there, my hats off to you. This isn’t about you.  It is about the vicious, malevolent, and inhumane officers among you who take advantage of and hurt those who they have sworn to protect.

What is the answer? I’ll give you my opinion on what is the fastest way to make progress. I assert the the first major step is an immediate Executive Order by President Obama that all officers, unless undercover, must wear a functional body cam while on duty. Also, that a no tolerance clause for “my cam wasn’t working” be added. If an officer’s body cam “isn’t working” during a questionable situation or any situation where a citizen is injured, he/she will be put on appropriate leave and the situation investigated. If a 2nd situation happens, unpaid leave. If a 3rd, termination. Though, if any investigations lead to charges, then the law should run its course in those cases. Of course, in my perfect world scenario, it would still take time for police departments to order body cams and train officers to use them. Due to that, a reasonable time limit would need to be included in the Order.

I am not a huge fan of Executive Orders. But, we are in a position where the red-tape must be sliced through post haste for the protection of the populace at large from its “protectors.” Executive Orders have been used for all kinds of things. Obama might as well use one in the best interest of the American people during their immediate time of need. Are body cams a total, 100% solution? No. Still, mandatory body cams are a hell of a step in the right direction.

I also call for town, county, and state governments to create citizen boards, voted in by the public and who are NOT, nor have EVER BEEN members or law enforcement, for the oversight of law enforcement in said jurisdiction. They must have enough power to handle situations and recommend the dismissal and/or charges brought upon corrupt or abusive officers of the law.

The only positive, and I use that term in the loosest possible way, is that the shooter, North Charleston Officer Michael Slager of South Carolina, has been charged with murder. Unfortunately, a 50-year-old black man, Walter L. Scott, is now dead over a broken tail light.

I have only two more things to say: 1. To the family of Walter L. Scott, I am so deeply sorry for your loss. It is my sincere hope that you are able to get as much justice as is possible for your murdered family member. 2. To the citizen who recorded the video of the shooting, the USA is forever in your debt for bringing the truth of this shooting to light. Thank you for your courage.

-Luke

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Joke about How a Business Should Be Run in Indiana…

This is how a business should run in Indiana.

This is how a business should run in Indiana.

First as tragedy then as farce. The new “Religious Freedom” law has forced me into a comedy career in order to explain how a business, open to serve the public, should run in Indiana.

Mike Pence Signed the “Religious Freedom Bill

Governor Mike Pence RFRA Religious Freedom Bill

Governor Mike Pence RFRA Religious Freedom Bill

Mike Pence signing Freedom of Religion Bill

Mike Pence signing Freedom of Religion Bill

FINALLY all the people in this picture, who were up until now apparently persecuted in Indiana and deprived of religious freedom, in spite of the State Constitution and Bill of Rights of 1851, will be able to worship according to the dictates of their deeply held religious beliefs! Thanks, Darth Pence! You are the Moses of modern day Indiana, setting the captives free from bondage! (in a private ceremony paid for by public dollars) YAY!

I Poll Atheists- 97.6% Don’t Care if You Wish Them “Merry Christmas”

During the last few weeks I have had and also overheard multiple conversations about the supposed, “War on Christmas,” and how atheists supposedly hate people telling them, “Merry Christmas.” As an atheist myself who enjoys the Christmas season, I was curious what other atheists think about the situation. Personally, I have no problem with a person wishing me, “Merry Christmas, “Happy Holidays,” “Happy Hanukkah,” “Merry Kwanzaa,” or, “Happy New Year.” So long as you are sincerely wishing me well in your own way, I am cool with that.

When I was enjoying a cup of coffee and reading some Carl Sandburg at Waffle House several days ago, I got to be a fly on the wall when a few employees had their own ideological battle over what phrase is appropriate this time of year. As a customer was leaving, their server said loudly, “MERRY CHRISTMAS!” The customer answered in kind. A few moments later, another employee mocked the first server, “Christmas isn’t for four days! You don’t need to say, ‘Merry Christmas.’ You can just say, “Happy Holidays.’ It covers everything.” The first server then replied, “I can say, ‘Merry Christmas,’ if I want! It is my Constitutional right!” As the two went back and forth, another server joined in on the side of the non-“Merry Christmas” side and the first server got even more agitated. It ended with some dishware being tossed angrily into the sink bin and the second server announcing, “You say what you want! It’s your job!” with the implicit warning that saying, “Merry Christmas,” could get you fired.

After the conversation cooled down, I asked all three, “Does your company have a specified policy on what to say during the holidays?” All shook their heads in the negative and one replied, “No, I don’t think so.” I said, “Just for the record, I am an atheist, but, I have no problem with a person saying, ‘Merry Christmas,’ ‘Happy Holidays,’ or whatever to me during the season.” Oddly enough, the second and third servers from the previous conversation did not seem happy to hear my interjection. Yet, not upset enough to argue with me. I also asked the three of them if they had experienced any negativity from any customers to being told a particular holiday phrase. They all said, “No.” It was strange to see people getting so riled up about what seemed to be a non-issue. I felt like the ironic atheist, publicly defending, “Merry Christmas.”

With my interest peaked even more about the issue, I decided to poll some of my fellow atheists to see what they thought about it. I did an informal poll on two different secret atheist groups on Facebook that I participate in.

My poll was simple. I posted,

“I’d appreciate the Club’s help with an informal poll for a Christmas article I’m working on. Here is the question…

As an atheist, does it offend you when a stranger says, “Merry Christmas,” to you, rather than, “Happy Holidays” or something more generic for the season? Please start your response with, “Yes,” (that it does offend you) or, “No,” (that it doesn’t)”

I got responses from atheists from all over the United States and in multiple other countries. The responses totaled 84 votes between the two Facebook groups.

The results were:

– 82 atheists had no problem being wished a, “Merry Christmas.”

-2 said that the phrase did SOMETIMES bother them.

The two voting that the phrase was at times offensive to them added,

“Yes, sometimes, I do get offended, but only because I live in the south where everyone just always assumes everyone is Christian. I’m tired of always having to live by their rules. I also am aware that it’s a small thing that I don’t need to sweat, so don’t anyone go off on me.”

and, “Yes, depending on the person saying it. If they know me personally, then they know I’m an atheist and I would expect them to respect me enough to say happy holidays as I would do the same in return as my wish for them would reflect whatever religion they observe. From a stranger, no, doesn’t bother me at all.”

All said and done, over 97% of the atheists polled did not mind people telling them, “Merry Christmas,” at all. The two people who did find it offensive, only did under certain circumstances. Though my sample group was not very large, it did offer great variation in culture and geography. That said, I don’t think that the whole, “War on Christmas,” by atheists is everything the media cracks it up to be. Heck, the vast majority of the atheists polled even celebrate Christmas to some degree.

I have rarely every found an atheist that had any problem with another person’s personal expression of their own religious beliefs. But, we do tend to get upset when religious dogma is imposed via federal, state, or local government. As much as we value the rights of individuals, we also value the Constitutional restrictions regarding government pushing or showing preference to any religion. Again, I speak generally and not for every atheist in the world. We don’t all live on an island, have an atheist Pope, or think the same thing… and, we’re more like a herd of cats than a herd of sheep.

You have the right to say whatever holiday season well-wishing you want to people. They may like it or may not. Likely, they won’t even care.For me, I generally respond to a person with what they offered me. If, “Merry Christmas,” I respond with, “Merry Christmas.” If, “Happy Holidays,” I answer the same back. Still, I do think that, “Happy Holidays,” is the most comprehensive and inclusive benison. It includes all holidays and and excludes none. Yet, I know that some Christians feel excluded when not specifically blessed per their specifications. They don’t give much credence to the holidays of other faiths during this season and have tunnel vision for Christmas. Only wear that shoe if it fits. I am not trying to ruffle your feathers. Let each search their own conscience regarding this issue.

There is enough drama in life. There is no need to spend December pissing on one another’s holiday campfire and fighting battles that don’t exist. So cheer up! The, “War on Christmas,” is just a sham. Merry Christmas! Happy Holidays! And, have a great New Year!    -Luke

Sony Could Learn an Important Lesson From Salman Rushdie.

It is a sad day…

Apparently, North Korean cyber-hacker terrorists have inspired Sony Pictures to self-censor the release of the upcoming movie, “The Interview,” due to threats of violence and the leaks of proprietary Sony emails and movies.  At the risk of oversimplification, Sony Pictures caved in to the threats and demands of cyber-terrorists. As there are few issues that I am more passionate about than freedom of speech and artistic expression, this situation troubles me.

We are living in a day and age when a person or group being “offended” about something said or written by another person creates an implicit social necessity for the offender to cease and desist their expression.  Such a social ethic will ultimately work against the society which embraces it. When a person’s words or art can be stuffed and silenced by the offended, there is no longer a reason to think about, debate over, and educate one’s self regarding the issue at hand. A lack of such intellectual, ethical, and/or dogmatic tension in a society causes its culture to atrophy like an unused muscle.

Over recent decades, there have been several fails and wins as it pertains to the censorship of a work of literature, art, or the creator himself (or herself.) One of the best examples of a fail of many in media and governments to support free expression and publishing was the scandal over the publication of cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad in the Danish newspaper, “Jyllands-Posten,” in 2005. For more information on that situation, see the video (including worthy polemics by Christopher Hitchens) directly below:

One of the greatest wins that has occurred in modern history regarding the refusal to self-censor was in the case of Salman Rushdie and his book, “The Satanic Verses.” The book not only drew fire from a portion of the Islamic community worldwide, but a real and direct Fatwa death sentence for Rushdie via the former leader of Iran, the Ayatollah Khomeini. Yet, the book continued to be published and Salman Rushdie, under threat of assassination, lived nine years under police protection. Through much struggle, the would-be censors did not win and free expression ruled the day. See the news clip below from 1990 regarding the Fatwa:

As Sony has acquiesced to the cyber-terrorists’ demands not to release, “The Interview,” a dangerous precedent has been set that takes the practical reality of free expression back decades. As long as some nation or group is willing to make threats, a major film company can be brought to its knees. Some have said that this really isn’t a big deal and at the end of the day, it’s just a movie. I beg to disagree. If we are willing to give up our voice, our freedom of expression, our art, or our literature due to the whims of tyrants, seen or unseen, what WOULD be worth fighting for? If we, in this country, would not tolerate censorship of our free expression from within, then damn censorship from without.

I can understand the apprehension that Sony executives are feeling. I am sure they are fearful to buck this North Korean tiger. But, we are behind you Sony, as well as the writers, directors, producers, and actors in the movie. Don’t let these cyber-terrorists pull your card. Release the film. We will come see it, threats or no threats. We are Americans and free expression is our business. This is not just about the film any more. It is about something much bigger…

“So in a democracy no one, however powerful or impotent, can have a right not to be insulted or offended. That principle is of particular importance in a nation that strives for racial and ethnic fairness.” – Ronald Dworkin

The US Embargo Against Cuba is Ending- Better Late Than Never

I am looking forward to smoking my first Cuban cigar! Today, President Obama spoke about the changing of the United States’ official approach and policy toward Cuba. For the full speech, see the video above. The U.S. will end the decades-long embargo and be immediately working to re-establish diplomatic relations which have been severed for over fifty years.

For some more relevant information and a good laugh, check out this recent segment about the Cuban Embargo from, “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver.”

I Was Going to Write A Blog on the Garner Case, But Jon Stewart Already Said What I Was Going To

Jon Stewart covered basically everything I was going to say about the Garner killing, so I’ll just watch his dissertation and shake my head. It is hard to write when I’m frustrated…

All I will add in general is that, if this type of thing cannot be dealt with by the respective local, county, or state governments, the federal government is going to have to step in. I call this killing an unjustifiable homicide and the officers involved MUST be brought to trial, as in the plethora of similar cases currently in the news (and not in the news). The American people have lost faith in their own law enforcement. We do not trust cops. We fear that in any run-in with police we may be hurt, have our rights violated, or be killed. This situation cannot go on as it is. It is reaching a dangerous boiling point and it makes us look to the rest of the world like a nation policed by barbaric, treacherous oppressors.

For more information on the case, check out this video by The Young Turks (includes original video of killing):

And another on the frequency of citizens being killed by cops in the USA vs other nations:

AMAZING! Humans Land Philae Space Probe on a Comet! Go Science!

Philae Lander Space Probe Tweet By ESA

Philae Lander Space Probe Tweet By ESA

Amazing news! Thanks to a ten year mission by the European Space Agency, the unmanned Philae Lander has landed on a comet travelling 41,000 mph through space some 4 billion miles from earth! Talk about hitting the bull’s-eye! It is truly astounding to me that we have come from the first manned flight of an airplane to this in barely over one hundred years. Humans can accomplish marvelous things when we work together utilizing all the tools that science has to offer!

Please visit the link below for more information:

CNN Story Link

2 Songs for Veterans Day and Happy Birthday to the Marines! (Video)

It’s Veterans Day! I tip my hat to you vets of all ages out there! Also, yesterday was the 239th birthday of the Marine Corps.

I was honored earlier this year to sing my song, “Ballad of an Old Soldier,” for the Indy Honor Flight WW2 vets. It was inspired by veterans in my family and WW2 vets that I used to have on my oxygen route when I was in the home healthcare industry during my early twenties. Several of them would share their memories of the war with me unprompted and I was glad to listen. I even had two men who lived less than a mile from one another who had been in the same battle. One served in the Navy and the other in the Marines. They did not know one another, and due to HIPAA regulations, I could not tell them about one another. Yet, their experiences from WW2 and attitudes toward them were very similar.

I wrote, “Afghanistan,”  for younger veterans about seven years ago. I was a driver for a moving company at the time and delivered an international shipment to a Marine who was fresh back from the war. As he shared some of his experiences with me, I said, “You know, you really don’t see a hell of a lot about Afghanistan on TV anymore. It’s all about Iraq.” He replied, “Nope. Afghanistan just isn’t sexy enough for TV.” That conversation inspired me to write this song.

Both songs are available for download on Cdbaby and iTunes:

Ballad of an Old Soldier:

CDbaby link

iTunes link

Afghanistan:

CDbaby link

iTunes link

Also, to any of my fellow Americans who strive to maintain freedom and liberty, help others in this life, and make things a little better for all of us in general, thanks to you as well! Just being a kind person, a good mom or dad, purposing to keep growing as an individual, setting a good example for others, and encouraging others in this life is admirable. Many fight for the cause of freedom and liberty from within our own borders with songs, pens, one-on-one conversations, street actions, and social media. Regardless of how you go about it, keep up the good work! -Luke

Florida Lawmakers Make Feeding Homeless Illegal- 90 Year Old Man Arrested

Ricky Bobby's response to  Fort Lauderdale, Florida lawmakers.

Ricky Bobby’s response to Fort Lauderdale, Florida lawmakers.

Due to new laws against “food sharing” in  Fort Lauderdale, Florida, a 90 year old man has been arrested for serving food to the homeless in a public park. Please read the following link for more information:

Local Florida News Article on Arrest of 90 Year Old Man for Feeding Homeless

I have read lots of recent posts on social media decrying this law and the actions of police in arresting Arnold Abbott merely for serving food to hungry people. It is good that people are outraged. This is an issue that ANYONE should be passionate about.

When I was a Christian believer for many years, I thought it was important to help the less fortunate and I did what I could. I’m an atheist now and I believe in helping the homeless just as much as ever and do it when I can. Just two weeks ago, I invited a homeless man to have lunch with me in Indianapolis. We both had a good time and ended up with full stomachs. I suppose if I did the same thing in a public park in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, I may have ended up in jail.

Helping other people is a human value, regardless of the accompanying ideology. Because of that truth, I assert that any lawmakers who, by force of law, would stand in the way of humans helping less fortunate humans are behaving in an inhumane fashion. If they happen to be Christians, they are an offense to the teachings of Jesus. If they are secular, then they are an offense to the values and practices that have allowed our species to move forward across the many centuries due to mutual help and working together for the benefit of the group. If they find themselves in another dogmatic camp, they are likely in error of those teachings as well. I have done a fair amount of study on various religions, and I have yet to find a verse in any sacred text that says, “When ye find people homeless and hungry, do your best to screw them over.”

Regardless of our own personal dogma, we should stand in unity against such lawmakers as these, ridicule them publicly, and ignore their foolish laws. They are against humanity. They are against mercy. They are against love. Enough said. No further argument required. And to relevant law officers involved, you have no obligation to enforce these wretched laws. Your duty is to protect the people in your jurisdiction, homed or homeless, and not to oppress them.

Please visit my site below for some related tips on encouraging others on a daily basis:

The Butterfly Flutter Project

And this link for a story about a homeless man who shared his beautiful song on a public piano:

Homeless Man Shares His Beautiful Melody on Piano- A Lesson on Humility and Compassion (Video)