Can Politics Get You Fired?

- - Nelson Lewis

I’ve talked before about the tricky topic of politics at the workplace.  But in such politically polarizing times, it’s important not to forget.  In liberal workplaces, conservatives feel isolated and won’t reveal their political views for fear of judgement.  We live in a free country, and that’s great, but having the wrong political viewpoint could get you fired.  Is this legal?  Yes and no.  Unless you work for the government, you do not have the right to free speech at work.  Here are some instances, however, where your political views and involvement could have legal protection:

Concerted activity: Employers can prohibit political discussions and campaigning at work, they can’t prohibit discussions about conditions, so if an employee discusses why one candidate is better for everybody as workers, then that’s okay.  Yet employers can also force you to attend meetings and listen to one-sided political pitches.  

Labor union insignia: Employers can prohibit most political buttons and stickers, they can’t prohibit union insignia.  So while they could prohibit a “Trump-Pence” sign in your cubicle, they can’t prohibit a “Food Workers Union for Trump”.

Objecting to discrimination: If you object to discrimination based on any factor, then Title VII protects you against retaliation.  So if somebody made an offensive comment about Obama being black or Hillary being a woman, you can report about that without getting in trouble.  

Political affiliation: Most states have laws prohibiting termination for political affiliation or activity, but not all of them.  The degree of these laws of course varies from state to state; for instance, it’s illegal in Oregon to fire somebody based on how they vote, and you can’t retaliate against employees for off-duty political participation in California or New York.  

Contract: If you have a contract saying that you can only be fired for “cause”, find out what that’s defined as.  Read up before you make any official announcements or get too blunt at the water cooler.  

The New Obama?

- - Nelson Lewis

Last month, the Guardian ran a long profile of the 32 year-old Abdul El-Sayed, a doctor born to Egyptian immigrants, who is campaigning for Governor of Michigan.  The article quite unabashedly branded the young would-be politician as “the new Obama”, a “progressive hero” with soaring rhetoric struggling in a state that’s been hit with no shortage of issues and filled with a dabdul el-sayedeeply dissatisfied populace.  Unlike Obama, El-Sayed is actually a Muslim.  A pretty devout one, in fact, who prays several times a day.  People talk of a politician who you’d “want to have a beer with”.  Since the Koran forbids alcohol consumption, this cancels out El-Sayed.  

El-Sayed has been campaigning in regions of his home state that pretty solidly voted for Trump, and are inclined to be pretty hostile to what would be America’s first Muslim governor.  In the article, the author, Drew Philp, talked about how in these regions he was introduced by a transgender man, representing the “progressive” image that El-Sayed is pretty blatantly courting.  In the regions where he’s campaigning, plenty are wondering how he feels about Sharia law.  His response is that he supports the separation of church and state, and wouldn’t take away anybody else’s right to pray.  It’s a nice response, but dodges the question.  If he’s as devout a Muslim as he claims, then many are wondering how El-Sayed can support secular government.  I suppose it’s the same reason that some Jews eat pork and some Christians kill.  

While Philp writes nice things about El-Sayed, there are other things that he omits.  For example, one of his most enthusiastic supporters is Women’s March organizer and vocal jihad/sharia law advocate Linda Sarsour.  His father in-law is a former president and current board member of the Michigan chapter of the terrorist-linked Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR).  In med school, El-Sayed received a Paul and Daisy Soros Fellowship (guess who they’re related to), leading some to suspect that he’s being groomed and funded by the Soros family.  Even so, Philp’s portrait does reveal that El-Sayed could very well be a new Obama: a young anti-establishment politician with soaring rhetoric spearheading progressive ideals.  

A Catholic School Without Jesus?

- - Nelson Lewis

I’m not Catholic, but I do recognize and respect that Catholic schools are, well, Catholic.  And who is one of the central figures of Catholicism, and Christianity as a whole?  Jesus.  While I don’t agree with tearing down Confederate statues on public property, I do at least understand (or try to) where the other side is coming from.  But do you know what makes no sense?  One independent Catholic school in San Anselmo, California, San Domenico School, has opted to remove statues of Jesus and Mary from their campus so as not to offend their non-Catholic students.  

If you go to a Catholic school, and you’re offended by statu

Buddy Christ

In the film “Dogma”, the Catholic Church tries to rebrand itself as “hip” through a new mascot, “Buddy Christ”. It was pretty ridiculous, but at least he was still Jesus.

es of leading Catholic figures, then you should probably change schools.  It’s an independent school of course, but is still affiliated with the Catholic Church.  But looking at the school’s website, there’s little mention of Catholicism, apart from the fact that the school was founded by the Dominican Sisters.  This sounds like some kind of step to secularize the school and attract a non-religious crowd, but also doesn’t that kind of defeat the purpose of religious education?  Catholic education in particular.  

In the 19th and early 20th century, a large number of Catholic immigrants arrived in America from Ireland, Germany, Italy, Poland, Canada, and other countries.  For many of these groups, Catholicism represented an important aspect of their culture and identity.  In the communities where they settled, many of these groups started their own, Catholic schools, viewing them as an alternative to what they considered Protestant-leaning public education.  To remove these symbols to be more “politically correct” is to disregard this heritage, which I quite frankly find more offensive than a statue of the Virgin Mary.  

The Politics of Silicon Valley

- - Nelson Lewis

As one of the centers of the modern tech revolution, Silicon Valley and the tech industry have a growing economic power that could readily translate to political power.  While the tech world has typically been pretty aloof when it comes to politics, this most recent election, which seems to have gotten everybody from Lena Dunham to Jenna Jameson political, has changed that.  In recent months, the big names in tech have revealed themselves as the wall at facebooklimousine liberals we all knew they were as they railed on Trump’s actions and policies.  I recently read a very interesting article that talked about politics in Silicon Valley, and it had some interesting findings.  

With plenty of money, and a lot more years ahead of them than George Soros or the Koch brothers, these tech giants could be a major political force.  A new survey from political scientists at Stanford has suggested that they could push lawmakers, Dems in particular, further left on various social and economic issues, and are in favor of redistributing enough wealth (God knows Apple’s got more than enough to go around).  At the same time, they undermine the influence of some of the more traditional supporters of the Democratic Party, such as labor unions, and could strive to push them away from business regulations.  The study revealed that most tech entrepreneurs are pretty liberal, Bernie and Hillary supporters almost to a man.  Except about government efforts to regulate business, particularly with labor, in which their views are surprisingly Republican.  And that’s not surprising; much as these guys like to use nice words, they’re still business tycoons trying to make more money.

The survey exclusively looked at the “elites” of the tech world, the millionaire and billionaire executives who could actually influence politics.  Silicon Valley has had a weird evolution since it first became a tech hub in the 70s, from countercultural to libertarian to champagne socialist that favors both wealth redistribution and laxer regulations.  Over time, and with their money and media influence, these tech giants could change the Democratic Party.

McCain is a Fighter

- - Nelson Lewis

John McCainJohn McCain may be a controversial figure, and has certainly made his fair share of blunders over the course of his life, but at the same time, the man is a badass.  In Vietnam, McCain broke both arms and a leg when his plane was shot down, nearly drowned in a lake, and was bayoneted by North Vietnamese soldiers.  And that was before he got captured.  After he got captured, he was offered an early release because his father was a high-ranking admiral, but McCain refused unless everybody who arrived before him got released first.  He ended up spending five years as a prisoner, during which he was tortured by his captors, yet refused to reveal any information.

Fast-forward more than 40 years later, McCain remains a fighter.  Even after he was diagnosed with brain cancer last month, he’s kept a positive attitude and overall joy of life, encouraging those around him to do the same.  If anything, he’s got a history of surviving, and his mother is still alive today at age 105.  He recently released a video on Facebook thanking those who have supported him, and even those who refused to do so.  “Even those who want me to die don’t want me to die right away”, he said jokingly.  

Without doubt it’s a tragedy to see McCain, a man who has been fighting his entire life, end his life like this, against something like brain cancer.  Yet the truth of the matter is that McCain certainly isn’t dead yet.  If I were bayoneted, had most of my limbs broken, and spent five years being regularly tortured, I don’t know if I would survive, but McCain, did, and he’s prospered ever since.  Unfortunately, the tail-end of his career has seen its fair share of low points.  In 2008, he lost the race to the Presidency to Barack Obama, many people believe to his choice of a running mate.  And last month, his thumbs-down vote on the Senate’s healthcare bill meant that Trump’s new bill will have to once again wait, which has met with the ire of his fellow Republicans.  Nonetheless, it’s time to think of the great work that John McCain has done.  

Scaramucci Gone For Good?

- - Nelson Lewis

When Scaramucci first appeared on the horizon, most people couldn’t believe he was real; it was like somebody took the worst parts of “Jersey Shore” and “Wolf of Wall Street” and put them into one person.  But just as quickly as he strutted onto the stage with braggadocio to spare, “the Mooch” was gone.  

Scaramucci 5 fingers

In this photo, Scaramucci counts to five, coincidentally half the number of days he stayed in office.

Ultimately, the hedge fund executive overestimated his value to the Trump camp, as evidenced by his over-the-top “New Yorker” interview filled with derogatory comments about other White House staffers.  The Mooch didn’t seem like somebody to take orders from anybody, and sure enough balked when he learned that he had to answer to the new chief of staff, John Kelly.  His tenure as communications director was just 10 days, the shortest in the position’s history.

While Scaramucci may have been ousted before Saturday Night Live had a chance to lampoon him in a “Jersey Shore” crossover, he’s thankfully not going anywhere.  Instead of spending time with his five children or opting to save his marriage to wife #2 (they’re currently separated), Scaramucci has taken to Twitter, blaming his premature demise on reporter Ryan Lizza, who published the New Yorker piece about him.  He’s compared Lizza to Linda Tripp, who taped conversations with her friend Monica Lewinsky where she revealed details of her affair with Bill Clinton.  

Of course, that might be a little different from what actually happened, and in interviews, it’s safe to assume that what you say is going to get repeated.  Since Scaramucci was fired before he could get officially sworn in, or before Spicer officially left the role, Spicer is currently in a sort of gray area over who is going to take over when he officially ends his term later this month.  I wonder who will replace him!

Voter Fraud in Virginia

- - Nelson Lewis

Through most of the 19th century, “machine politics”, as epitomized by the infamous Democratic-affiliated Tammany Hall, dominated New York City.  While organizations like Tammany helped empower the Irish who came to New York en masse during the 19th century, they were also extremely corrupt, using everything from bribes to ballot stuffing to gang violence to ensure the Democrats stayed in power.  And history, as the saying goes, repeats itself.  

One Virginia college student this week, Andrew Spieles, was sentenced to 100 days in prison for submitting fraudulent voter registration forms

Boss Tweed cartoon

Boss Tweed, the infamous leader of Tammany Hall in the mid 19th century, known for his corruption, would probably love the idea of registering dead voters.

listing the names of dead people for a political organization connected to the Democratic Party.  No gang wars, sure, but still, registering dead voters does sound like something that a corrupt political machine would do.  A student at James Madison University (who clearly didn’t pay attention during his US history class), Spieles worked as a staffer for Harrisonburg Votes in 2016, and was paid to register as many voters in the area before the election as possible.  He entered voter information into a computer system used by the Virginia Democratic Party, which would be delivered to the Registrar’s Office in Harrisonburg each week.  

Last August, the office recognized the name of a dead person, and from there found numerous falsified forms, such as the names of deceased individuals and incorrectly entered personal information.  Spieles admitted that he prepared these false voter registration forms through “walk sheets” given to him by the Virginia Democratic Party, although said that he and he alone was involved.  This could just be the actions of a dumb kid who wanted to get a bigger paycheck.  It could also be the sign of something darker.  Of course, the Democrats needed all the votes that they could get in Virginia, a swing state, this past November.  

Trump Is Everywhere

- - Nelson Lewis

Do you ever track the “trending” sidebar on your Facebook news feed?  You’ll see a lot of stories: Bartolo Colon joining the Braves, a news reporter reciting the longest official place name in Europe (the Welsh village Llanfair­pwllgwyngyll­gogery­chwyrn­drobwll­llan­tysilio­gogo­goch), or the birth of Siberian Tiger cubs at the Hamburg Zoo.  But since June 16, 2015, when he officially announced his run for President, Donald Trump has been trending on my Facebook literally every day.  That’s waking up to see his name on Facebook 780 times mornings in a row.  And his name has shown up 71 times on this very blog.  That’s pretty amazing.  

Of course, Trump’s been a high-profile name for a long time.  His name has been synonymous with being a “flashy billionaire”.  In January 2015, rap group Rae Sremmurd released the song “Up Like Trump”, where they compare their fortune to Trump’s (of course Sremmurd has very little in common with Trump, wealth included).  Just five months later, Trump announced that he was running for President in 2016, and he was suddenly taking headlines like he never has before.  

Donald Trump speech

Next time you’re on Facebook, look at your Facebook news feed and count all the times that you see this same face

I don’t typically care for the New York Times; to say I don’t agree with much of what it writes would be a gross understatement.  But I recently read a pretty interesting article about one man who tried to avoid any news related to Donald Trump for a week.  Not avoiding news altogether, simply avoiding any news that had to do with Trump.  And finding anything Trump-free proved extremely difficult.  Even Big Bang Theory creator creator Chuck Lorre has taken to inserting anti-Trump messages in the closing credits of every episode.  It reminds me of the book “Donnie Brasco”, written by FBI agent Joe Pistone about his time spent infiltrating the mafia in the 1970s and 80s.  In the book, Pistone talks about how many of the mobsters he met were incapable of discussing any topic not related to the mafia or illegal activity.  The media right now is just like one of these “24 hour gangsters”, except their constant fixation is Donald Trump.  

The firm mediaQuant measures “earned media”, basically all coverage that isn’t paid advertising.  To calculate the dollar value, they count every mention of a particular brand or personality online, then estimate how much the mentions would cost if somebody were to pay for them as advertising.  In January, Trump broke their records, receiving $817 million in coverage in just one month, nearly $100 million more than the next 1,000 highest-value brands combined.  

In the article, the author argues that Trump-related media coverage has eclipsed that of anybody else in history.  Think of the coverage for a celebrity or reality show star, such as Kim Kardashian.  Think of the coverage a high-profile billionaire businessman like Bill Gates or Warren Buffett gets.  And think of the coverage a major world leader gets, such as Barack Obama.  Trump is a high-profile celebrity, billionaire businessman, and major world leader, all rolled into one.  All presidents are omnipresent, particularly in the digital age.  Barack Obama, whose presidency occurred during the rise of the modern social media age, had a strong presence, but that’s paled in comparison to Trump, whose rise to gigastardom has occurred right at the height of social media.  

Comrade Bernie’s New Foe

- - Nelson Lewis

I’m never going to vote for Bernie Sanders.  Not only is he pretty old (liberals who made fun of McCain’s age conveniently forget that he was older than Jack was when he ran for President back in ‘08), but also his political views are pretty darn far-removed from mine.  He’s a caricature of the Vermont liberals who helped him propel to political superstardom.  But much as I like to poke fun at “Comrade Bernie” and his supporters, the guy does have heart.  That’s one of the reasons he was able to go so much further in his 2016 Presidential run than he ever should have, helping divide the Democrats, a party he’s not even part of (he’s registered as an “Independent”, and only registered as a Dem for the 2016 Election).  

With Bernie’s 2018 senatorial re-election bid coming up, an opponent has arisen.  Much like the rest of this country (apart, of course, from the limousine liberal teens smoking pot at liberal arts college across the country), Democrat Jon Svitavsky is fed up with what he calls the aging hippie socialist’s “Robin Hood shtick”.  But while he’s bashing Bernie for basking too much in the limelight, I don’t know if he’s a better option: an aging first-time candidate who claims to be even more anti-establishment and “far more liberal”.  So, Vermont is of course going to love him.  He is, however, a strong advocate for the homeless, which I do respect.  While he claims to already have some name recognition in the state, a simple Google search has come up with little info on him from before he announced his plans to oust Bernie.  

jon svitavsky Vermont

Jon Svitavsky

Svitavsky claims, not without good reason, that Bernie divided the Dems enough to give Trump the edge and win the election back in November.  He also states that an FBI investigation into a commercial real estate loan Bernie’s wife orchestrated has left him, who relishes in his image as an “incorruptible” politician, in a pretty tough spot.  Bernie is still very popular in his state (shocker) and beyond, but this scandal could be an issue.  His wife has been accused of overstating financial pledges and grants to get at least $6.7 million in financing for the now-defunct Burlington College back in 2010.  It’s also possible that Bernie used his political influence to get the loan approved.  

Svitavsky has yet to get the Democratic nomination, but he seems to be gaining popularity in a grassroots movement.  I think it’s pretty amusing to watch two guys leaning so far left that they’ve almost fallen over duke it out over whose more liberal, but it’s also pretty scary.  Everybody is going more and more extreme and further away from the center.  It’s almost like moderate candidates are simply getting ignored, and the only way to get people riled up is by being the most firebrand.  But of course that’s dangerous, and is going to do little to unite our country.  

Why Millennials Don’t Go to Church

- - Nelson Lewis

I’m a Christian millennial.  But you know what?  I’m in the minority.  According to one study, just 20% of Americans under 30 believe attending church is important, and 59% of them raised in a church have dropped out.  Most of my peers spend their Sunday mornings nursing their hangovers or going to brunch as opposed to heading off to church, and their attitudes are at best indifferent and at worst openly antagonistic.  Regular churchgoers aren’t getting any younger.  What are churches supposed to do if they want to attract a younger crowd?  

Ulm cathedral sunset

Here is the church, here is the steeple, open the doors, there’s no young people

Despite this increased disinterest in church among my generation, most churches aren’t doing anything new to connect with them and change their minds.  It’s almost like they don’t care that they aren’t reaching younger people.  Take a look at the Catholic Church: Pope Francis’ new “kinder, gentler” Catholicism has been resonating with a lot of younger people, but at the same time those same people aren’t going to church.  Because even if Francis says stuff they like, the local church nearby them is pretty much the same as it always was.  They’re blowing a pretty big opportunity to reach new people.  Many churchgoers want to spread the teachings of Jesus and help make the world better.  But that’s kind of tough with how they’ve been acting.

The traditional church, with a pastor preaching to his flock, accompanied by Bible studies and bingo nights, isn’t appealing to millennials.  My peers like being part of something that values them and treats them as equals.  But plenty of modern churches aren’t doing that.  They aren’t asking younger people for their input, and their social activities aren’t appealing to younger people, which tells millennials that they don’t really care what they think.  And because of that, they’ve been adopting an attitude of “well if you don’t care then neither do I”.  Some churches have been reaching younger people with “pub theology”, where a pastor meets at a bar with parishioners to talk about Christianity.  Drinking alcohol to excess can get tricky, but at the same time, things like that are going to reach a lot more younger people than Friday night bingo.  For example, if millennials aren’t going to church on Sunday because they’d rather be doing Sunday brunch, then why don’t churches simply offer their own Sunday brunch?  Christianity is a wonderful thing, but for Christians to reach more people, they need to change their methods, otherwise they risk becoming irrelevant.