Episode 04 – Do Not Download Until OK To Discuss Gun Violence

In this episode we look at the two common arguments in the all-too-familiar cycle of having a gun violence debate: gun regulation, and mental health treatment.

Links to articles/publications referenced in this episode:
https://psychiatryonline.org/doi/pdf/10.5555/appi.books.9781615371099
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4318286/

Music included in this podcast with permission or appropriate use of CC license: RSPN by Blank & Kytt, Balkan Beats by The Freak Fandango Orchestra.

Ways to support Off Baseline – subscribe, and leave reviews on iTunes/Google!

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Episode 02 – Big Buttons, Bigger Coping Skills ft Jody DeBoer LMSW


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In this episode we discuss the erroneous ballistic missile alert in Hawaii, the deportation of Jorge Garcia and what role does immigration law play in society. LMSW Jody DeBoer joins to discuss the general functions of community mental health centers and their important role in the health of individual communities.

Recommended reading: Raven Rock: The Story of the U.S. Government’s Secret Plan to Save Itself–While the Rest of Us Die by Garrett Graff

Music included in this podcast with permission: Balkan Beats by The Freak Fandango Orchestra, Bad Seed by The UK’s.

Episode 01 – MLK, Feedback Loops, and Conflict ft Rev Steven Andrews

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In this episode I introduce the concept of the podcast at length, and perhaps efficiently. Rev Steven Andrews joins to reflect on MLK, social media dialogue, conflict, and communication.

Recommended reading: The Color of Law by Richard Rothstein.

Music included in this podcast with permission: Balkan Beats by The Freak Fandango Orchestra, Bad Seed by The UK’s.

The Off Baseline Podcast

I am launching a podcast called “Off Baseline”, which aims to navigate the news through the macro and micro lenses of sociology, psychology, history, anthropology, communication theory, political science, economics, and other social sciences. Essentially I will seek to process current events through these lenses, through interview of peers and available interviewees, and the trusty ol’ coping skill of humor.

Subscribe to the RSS & use with your favorite podcast app. (Coming soon to iTunes)

SUBSCRIBE to the show on YouTube

FOLLOW the show on Twitter: http://twitter.com/offbaseline

LIKE the show on Facebook: http://facebook.com/apagadobaseline

Music is “Balkan Beats” by The Freak Fandango Orchestra https://freakfandango.bandcamp.com/ used with permission from the artist.

Look for the first show in January 2018. This is not a full time job, so I will be experimenting with manageable show structures and frequency.

Making Sense of “Pro-Life” Politics

 

Maybe it’s just that the Chem Trails are extra strong here in Kansas City, but the phrase “Pro Life” in its contemporary use has always perplexed me. When someone says that Christians should be Pro Life, they mean to say that Christians should vote for Republican Presidents to appoint judges to overturn Roe V Wade and Republican congressmen to draft legislation to outlaw the clinical practice of abortion, no matter how horrible the rest of their politics are. It doesn’t matter if the rest of the platform increases poverty, racial/gender/economic inequality, war, selfishness, and greed. Ayn Rand is the new Jesus. This version of Jesus touts Objectivism, which asserts “Man—every man—is an end in himself, not a means to the ends of others; he must live for his own sake, neither sacrificing himself to others nor sacrificing others to himself; he must work for his rational self-interest, with the achievement of his own happiness as the highest moral purpose of his life.” Paul Ryan idolizes new Jesus. He also claims to follow old Jesus who said “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself”. An interesting paradox, to say the least.

Sam Harris likes to do thought experiments. It makes his racist ideas seem less racist on the surface, because he uses big words and a soft voice. In the spirit of Sam Harris, lets imagine a world in full implementation of the aforementioned policies, where the midterms broaden the GOP lead in the house, and, lets say Trump starts golfing every single day instead of his current historic pace, taking short breaks to dump on Muslims and African Americans with Groyper meme retweets, but staying mostly out of the way:

Abortion is punishable by death per the Eye for An Embryo Act. Rural and urban America continue to get poorer and poorer with less access to healthcare (“Patient Choice”), low wages without worker leverage (“Right to Work”), lower class mobility and understanding of historical context, (“School Choice”) and increased overall economic desperation (but a sweet flat tax!) leading to growing rates of violence (made worse by zero gun regulation) in an increasingly impoverished society. There aren’t even enough churches to take in all the kids, or single moms. Society has been re-organized so that women can’t choose abortion and have limited access to birth control, but at the same time divorce is still totally cool, because men gotta go do their thing, ya know? Lead and stuff. Abortions still happen daily, despite the risk of the death penalty. This was supposed to fix it.

But hey lets back up from Current GOP Platform Paradise for a second. I have no problem with people being against abortion. I am. I happen to actually think that most of the population is also against abortion, including most of the “Pro Choice” crowd. This may come as a shock to you, but I don’t think it should. Abortion as it circumstantially exists is a human tragedy. We ought to do everything we can to get abortion rates down as low as possible. God-willing, to end its occurrence entirely. We need results.

But I’m sorry; “Pro Life” is Fake News.

The premise behind the current evangelical Pro Life movement is to say that life is valuable because God created it, right? Life is precious. “I knew you before I formed you in your mother’s womb.” – the Lord said to Jeremiah. *(But that’s when it stops making any sense, because the Lord gave the rest of His message to Jeremiah: “Once you turned about 12 years old, I couldn’t have cared less whether you died from starvation or cruise missiles. Honestly your only task is to have another Christian baby so its life will be valuable for another 12 years. It makes me happy.”)

I take issue with using the words “Pro Life” in one breath to say we have to protect embryos from abortion, and in the next three breaths drafting legislation to make it harder for a single mom working two part time jobs to get food stamps for her post-fetus, cutting access to lifesaving healthcare to millions of post-fetuses who weren’t born wealthy, and launching carpet bombing campaigns on brown post-fetuses caught up in their governments’ crimes, which can usually be defined as not being America. The Pro Life movement seems to make two definitive philosophical claims: human life begins at conception, and ends when it leaves America, has poor parents, becomes a teenager, or isn’t white.

That’s why I happen to believe the movement is largely disingenuous. I don’t think many of its followers are. I don’t think family and friends that fit this definition of Pro Life are being intentionally misleading: I see it as a genuine passion to right a wrong as they see it. I think it is seen that way largely because of cynical political strategists and PR campaigns, not Biblical truths. It is seen that way because Feminism is a threat to maintain a monopoly of power, not Biblical truths. It is seen that way because tax cuts are apparently so important that a child sex predator is needed for that extra vote, not because of Biblical truths. That’s when we hear that probably the most boring-looking centrist Democrat on the planet wants to abort babies up to the 5th year after full-term (conveniently ignoring the work he’s done for Kingdom of God to bring justice to the Klu Klux Klan). Or when we hear fantastical tails of underground baby body part smuggling based on the dubious interpretations of bad actors. It’s meant to scare you into altering your voting behavior, it’s not meant to champion the unborn.

Then we get to the question of whether a legal ban of abortion could actually be effective to decrease abortion rates. We have good reason to believe it is unlikely to stop the “back alley” abortion phenomenon. This is evident in states where access is extremely limited or the process is made legally arduous. We also have reason to believe it is becoming widely more accessible as medicine and technology improve. And this was acknowledged way back in 1869 in a newspaper edited by Susan B Anthony called The Revolution (boy we don’t have publications like that anymore, or I guess publications in general), the writer wrestles with anti-abortion views and the skepticism of banning it,

Much as I deplore the horrible crime of child-murder, earnestly as I desire its suppression, I cannot believe with the writer of the above-mentioned article, that such a law would have the desired effect. It seems to me to be only mowing off the top of the noxious weed, while the root remains.

There are aspects with which I continue to struggle.

First, a tool that became a force for that same wave of societal conflict and change was birth control. Before birth control, only men could have casual sex without the risk of needing to take months off from work, thereby missing out on promotions or even losing their jobs. And. They. Did. Like, alot. Even holy people. Birth control imperfectly but significantly balances this for women. This one hardly poses an ethical dilemma for me, personally. Even regarding ’emergency contraception’. I know there are some radical theories of personal identity attesting that every sperm is sacred. I’m a nice guy, and a therapist, so I don’t call people idiots very often. People who believe that are being idiots. See, I can’t even fully do it. Mike Pence, you’re an idiot. (okay I can do it)

More problematic for me is an inconvenient truth: Access to abortion essentially liberated women from a hegemonic patriarchal order, allowing them the choice of staying at home to raise children, rather than the obligation. The continuity of social norms aren’t shifted by people suddenly waking up and thinking ‘oh yeah, women should have the same rights, jobs, and wages as us men. Here you go.’

A functionalist sociology theory does not seem to get us there. Equilibrium will not suddenly change to include rights it hasn’t considered in 200 years. It requires conflict, and it requires change to that structure. Without the conflict that legalized access to abortion forced, women’s rights in the 20th and 21st centuries looks completely different. This is a source of internal conflict for me, and one with which I’m honestly still ethically wrestling.

I’ve always idealized myself Kantian, and acted like a Utilitarian. I think we all do to an extent. (Even libertarians! Every libertarian I’ve met has driven on roads, and a few even wear seatbelts). I confess that the universal moral value of “Life” is a claim I set to make when I hit “New Post” and I acknowledge the theoretical inconsistency. Did I mention I got a “C” in philosophical ethics in college? That was 2008, and I’d like to think a decade later that I could bring that up to a C+.

I happen to agree that human life is inherently valuable and precious, marked by the image of its Creator. I also happen to agree that we need action in addition to renewal of the heart to protect the sanctity of life. I also like what the term Pro Life appears to suggest at face value.

It’s time “Pro Life” was taken beyond a cardboard public relations campaign. I’m not the first person to have this idea, perhaps obviously, and thankfully. Pro Life has largely stemmed from ideas of “Consistent Life Ethic” or “Seamless Garment” theologies of pacifist Catholics in the 1970’s. There’s also the New Pro Life Movement, which outlines a much different set of values and policies than the current ethos of front-loading value onto the nine months following intercourse. Here’s my new pro life policy platform. Keep in mind, this isn’t an attempt to establish a specific political movement, this is merely a set of policy positions that I consider to be actually “Pro Life”.

God’s creation of and love for people Christ sanctifies and gives us equal meaning, value, and purpose. Every human life is sacred from womb to tomb. Inequality is an anti-Christ. Therefore, I value positions that are truly pro-life.

I value the sanctity of life, therefore I fight systemic, personal, and cultural racism in all forms. This includes continued a historical framework for understanding in the history of slavery, genocide and oppression on American soil, requiring initiatives to counterbalance existing systemic forces of oppression. I support reparations.

I value the sanctity of life, therefore I acknowledge and champion a broader Feminist struggle for women’s rights. To champion this cause is to fight patriarchal hegemony through fighting sex trafficking, rape culture, sexual harassment culture, economic inequality, and access to resources like medical care.

I value the sanctity of life, therefore I wholeheartedly support Medicare for All as the ethical stewardship of a nation that has amassed enough wealth to provide for the medical needs of its many inherently precious lives. This will save a lot of babies, it turns out, because prospective mothers will know that they will have adequate healthcare for themselves and their child.

I value the sanctity of life, therefore I support programs that fight poverty and income inequality at home and abroad. At home, I support New Deal and Great Society safety-net programs of SSI, SSDI, Medicaid, Food Stamps, and public housing. As the challenges of post-industrial globalization and automation evolve, this includes newer programs such as paid family medical leave, expansion of existing social programs, a tax structure that discourages massive wealth accumulation, and ultimately an economic and political system that counterbalances the fallen human nature of selfishness and greed.

I value the sanctity of life, therefore I oppose moves of aggression for American Empire, neo-colonialism, the military industrial complex, genocide, oppressive occupations, and “nation-building”.

I value the sanctity of life, therefore I oppose the death penalty. “Go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.” – Matthew 9:13

I value the sanctity of life, so as a voter and activist as professional and family life allow, I will champion political leaders and movements who align with these policies.

 

Three things I learned about the President.

I would say I’ll never wash my hand again, but that would be a severe health code violation, and also, gross.

I received a text this morning from Kristin, one of my coworkers right before my shift at Parkville Coffee.

 

I seriously thought it was a joke, despite her literally telling me “this is not a joke.” Classic Kristin. But just in case it wasn’t I made my way down Main Street, where I was told “You’re not going anywhere.” The giant secret service agent eventually changed his mind after I pleaded my case that I “have a shift at 12 at that coffee shop over there.” Also, after they wanded and patted me down a few times.

Tensions were high as I walked in. Another giant secret service guy yells at me “Hold on just a minute!”; he wants to wand me down again as Kristen tells him “he works here!” A few happen-stance customers, regulars, and a couple handpicked people from the blocked off crowd were in there as we were all instructed to cram into the back of the store while the bomb-sniffing dog made his rounds. It was a real intimate moment that a barista can rarely share with the customer. I found out things such as what it looked like when everyone’s personal space was violated and what our collective body odor smelled like on a late-July Kansas City day.

 

Naturally, the orchestra of press packed themselves densely into a corner of the shop.

 

We started rehearsing what we would say, who would pour coffee, and who would ask him if he wanted room for cream. Then, about an hour of anxiety-ridden anticipatory nothingness.  It was probably more like 5 minutes, but you know how things are when the President is about to visit. Thoughts were twirling in my head, as I imagine were for my other coworkers. I noticed I was a little shaky, and remembered that I was getting a haircut at 3:15 tomorrow. Crap, why do I keep putting off shaving?  I just look more like I’m fifteen years old when I’m trying to grow a beard than when I just shave the whole damn thing. The baby-face weirdly looks older for me. 

Then, oh hey, heavily armored cars with flags on them. This just got real. After a few minutes, I look through the glass of our front door, and despite us all being told to put our phones away by men that could step on me without losing their balance, I surrender to my lack of self-control.

 

It’s the big guy. He’s taking his time, talking to everybody on his way, like human beings might do with other human beings who breathe air. He doesn’t seem animatronic. Maybe all those internet websites with brightly colored backgrounds and bold comic sans text were wrong.

After one of our regulars by the name of Big Al tries to sell him a car, he eventually makes his way to the counter to order. He shakes our hands one by one as we introduce ourselves. Now, important backstory: this isn’t the first time I’ve met a famous person.

I shared a sauna with Royals hall of famer George Brett for a previous employer’s company promo. At that same job, another Royals great by the name of Frank White dropped in for a visit. He was standing ten feet away so I bravely rose from my desk, shook his hand, and… well the plan was to tell him my name. But I replaced that air time with a long awkward pause. WHAT IS MY NAME? “…..It’s an honor to meet you, Mr White.” Sit back at your desk, Nathan, you’re homeschooled.

So back to Barack. Emelie and Amy push our new lavender cookies. Our roaster Tyler gives him a sample of our Ethiopian roast, which he now executively approves. We iterate that we can make literally anything! If the President of the Free World wants a 13 shot Austrian goat milk half-caf cappuccino with sprinkles, by God we’re ready. Oh, just a black iced tea? We have that too.  

Also, the man bought a ton of pastries – except for scones because “we’re not in England”. Touché.

Now remember that case of the shakes I mentioned a couple of paragraphs ago? I have since proudly conquered said shakes. After all, I remembered my own name! “Nathan. It’s a pleasure!” There was nothing I couldn’t do! So I stop Kristen, instead of standing around useless a second longer, proclaiming “I’ll put ice in it.” So I filled that sucker to the brim. I knew it was a hot day and Mr President probably needed a refreshing cold beverage while he mulled over US policy options for Gaza while simultaneously figuring out how to make my student loans magically disappear. This very act might have saved lives. I am not unimportant – I very well could have changed the course of history, in the way that a slightly less-cold drink could never fathom. 

He asked us about our lives, again, like a non-animatronic human person. I told him I was in grad school for counseling. Seriously, what are the chances I would stroll on into work and meet the President of the United States of America and look like a competent American worker in front of him!?

“This is a really good tea. A little too much ice, though.” The drink was overflowing as he wiped his hand on his presidential pants. Kristen, who poured the tea, wasted no time: “Nathan did it! It was Nathan.” It was a nice feeling of competency while it lasted, so I just shrugged as Obama walks away, and in typical folksy form, replies, “You sound just like Congress!” And as slow and deliberately as he arrived, he was gone.

Oh, and here’s the three things I’ve learned about our 44th president:

1. He has a perfect handshake. Not too firm, solid grip, appropriately timed.
2. He’s tall.
3. He now knows me as the guy who put too much ice in his Earl Grey iced tea. 

I feel that this screenshot neatly packages the events of July 30th, 2014 in a face:

 

What a weird day.

Baseball – Why It’s More Than a Game {VIDEO}

A piece I wrote for JustBats.com.

We’re always looking at how we’re different from one another:

whether it’s political beliefs, religion, race,

who your friends are, or who your enemies are.

When I was five years old I already knew all of these differences.

So did my brother, and we didn’t exactly get along.

Then he handed me a bat, and taught me to hit a ball with it.

And suddenly, we had something in common.

I learned how to play a game,

but it’s so much more than a game.

It was where I learned that even if you’re taller than me

I can still out-hit, and out-run you.

It was where I learned how to fail, and that it was okay

because you were going to fail too!

I learned that enemies could be friends.

It’s an incredible game.

Baseball changed everything for me

by teaching me that when you step up to home plate

with a bat in your hand

no matter where you come from,

who you are,

what you’re used to,

or what you know –

you’re still ninety feet away from first base.

Thoughts on the Grandest of Noses

Before I continue, let me just disclaim: I had a hard time writing this, because I didn’t want to. Yes, I’m devastated to have to live in a world without Robert Engel – known instead to me and the rest of his “grandgeese” as Grandpa Bob – and without my future kids getting a chance to know him like I have, as well as all the rest of my friends and loved ones. But what I mean is it’s a shame for me to try to sum up how he meant to me in a few short paragraphs: it was much more fun to live it, and this account of him is more than likely going to fall short. Well, this is me giving it a try anyway. So here we go. Continue reading

Its a good day to burn a heretic!

C.S. Lewis,

Billy Graham,

Justin Martyr, John Wesley, J.I. Packer, John R.W. Scott, the Westminster Confession of Faith,

William Lane Craig,

Rob Bell

they’re all wrong. I know this for a fact because I have been thinking about theology way longer than these schmucks have… thus my interpretation of the Bible and anyone else who agrees with me carries divine authority that I will call logic. I am definitely not driven by emotion or egotism.

Strangely authoritative and confident on who is going to hell,
Nathan

//tongueandcheek