June 24, 2021

Abuse is Closer Than We Think

By Glenn

Many of the old German folk tales deal with risks and threats. Children needed to learn that there are dangers in the world. What must of us don’t realize is that the dangers are closer to home than we want to admit. 

Most of us prefer to believe threats come from strangers: “Stranger Danger.” The story of Little Red Hood can illustrate the point.  A wolf is the the villain, while the grandmother is the victim.

In reality children are more often than not hurt by someone they know.  “Trusted family” members hurt children.

“Good Christian” youth ministers, priests and preachers hurt children.

Coaches hurt children. Rape occurs in the home. Abuse occurs in the home.

The predators in our society walk amongst us.  We know them, and they know us.  This fact makes it harder to protect the people we love.  We simply don’t want to recognize and admit the threat. 

We would prefer to believe there are wolves out there ready to pounce.  

The Catholic Church refused to admit systematic abuse.   

The Boy Scouts of America refused to admit systematic abuse. 

The US Olympic Committee refused to admit wide spread abuse. 

Criticizing something, or someone, we love is hard. 

Demonizing a stranger is easy.  A similar scenario plays out with guns. There is a paranoia sweeping through American about strangers with guns. 

The reality the gun in the home is much more of a threat than a stranger with a gun.  Accidental shootings and suicides kill and hurt more Americans than “Stranger Danger.”

As people bring more unsecured guns into the home for protection, who is more likely to get hurt?

 A child? A family member? A friend?

The moral of the story is simple.  Dangers and threats are real.  The paranoia around “Stranger Danger”, however, blinds us to the dangers in our own homes, churches and schools.

June 17, 2021

Unreliable Energy

By Glenn

Here we go again.  ERCOT, Electric Reliability Council of Texas, has warned us that the Texas power grid is about to fail.  That doesn’t sound very reliable to me.

It must sound reliable to Greg Abbot and Dan Patrick. They failed to provide solutions in the last legislative session.  A few ERCOT Board members did resign.  This failure, however, is a systematic problem, not a personnel problem.

We learned about the reality of systematic failure just this winter. In February, millions of Texas lost power.  At least 151 of our neighbors died as a result.  The real death toll may be as high as 700 Texans.

According to the Dallas Federal Reserve, Texas families and businesses lost between “$80 billion–$130 billion in direct and indirect economic loss.” At the same time, energy providers made billions in profits.  I guess failure is just good business.  Does it make sense to your family?

The summer heat is threatening a repeat of the freeze, and ERCOT wants you to suffer for these profits. 

It has asked you to “set your thermostat to 78 degrees or higher – every degree of cooling increases your energy use by six to eight percent” and to “Turn off lights and pool pumps and avoid using large appliances like ovens, washing machines and dryers.”

This shouldn’t surprise you.  The ERCOT board is made up of industry leaders.  As I wrote in February, Texas Republicans have made it clear that they don’t believe in regulation or oversight. 

Republicans call this the Free Market.  Energy companies are free to make a profit, and you are free to suffer.

It doesn’t have to be this way.  The Texas Legislature needs to put some teeth in energy reliability legislation.  It is wrong for companies to collect billions in customer dollars and then drop the ball when we need it most.

Michael Webber, an energy professor at University of Texas, wants more done on the demand side.  Customers need help insulating their homes and apartments.  Quality windows and insulation can be costly.

The Legislature should provide tax credits and rebates to improve Texas homes.  Not only would this reduce demand, but it also would make the indoor climate more comfortable.

As Texans, we pay billions in taxes and energy bills.  We should be calling the shots in Austin, not the energy companies.  We need reliable energy.  Systematic failure is not an option.

June 10, 2021

Turn Up the Heat

By Glenn
Glenn Melancon

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I love heat. It shouldn’t surprise anyone that summer is my favorite season. I’m always happy to see winter far behind us.

Growing up summer always meant sun, water and travel.   Dad’s government job offered us many opportunities beyond a secure paycheck and good healthcare. His vacation was always a family vacation. 

Sunrise over water

When we were in the United States, Mom and Dad would pack up the car and drive us to Louisiana. Both of their parents lived outside of New Orleans about an hour from each other.

Summer was a time to be outside and rekindle friendships with my cousins.   There was no Facetime or Facebook.  We simply had time together in the summer and holidays.

When we lived in Germany, Mom and Dad always made time and saved money for us to take a Grand Tour.   Our trips were inexpensive, but they weren’t cheap. 

More often than not, we would picnic on the side of the road. The big challenge was keeping the sandwich container on the top of the Coleman ice chest from dropping into the ice. Nothing is worse than a soggy sandwich.

Accommodations were also spartan. Sometimes Dad would pack the heavy canvas tent, and we would find a wonderful campground. When that option was not available, they always found an small guest house or hotel.

Traveling this way made our vacations pack a punch. We saw Paris, Rome and Venice.  We learned about the castles, churches and the Beaches of Normandy.

Jackie and I tried to offer our boys the same treasures.  We camped from East Texas to the Grand Canyon.  We spent time with grandparents and cousins.  We’ve saved money for big trips to Germany, France and Italy. 

This summer we had a unexpected surprise.  Christopher’s Army station put him in South Carolina, while Alexandre’s Air Force assignment ordered him to Florida.   We packed up the car and drove to see them and their families.

Jackie, always the planner, found us an affordable beach house in Florida.   Our sons and their wives joined us as well as our granddaughter and Jackie’s mother. We had four generations living under one roof for a week.  

I love the summer heat.  It is liberating and refreshing.  Summer is a time to see our beautiful country and the world.  Most of all, summer is a time to make memories.

June 3, 2021

Trust Texas Women

By Glenn

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Life for Texas women is about to get much more stressful.  The Republican led Texas Legislature just passed, and Republican Gregg Abbot signed, a new law allowing vigilantes to harass women.  

Conservatives simply don’t trust Texas women.   They want the government and busy bodies to invade the privacy of a doctor’s office.  They want power over pregnant women.

In America women have equal rights.  They are intelligent enough to make informed medical choices.  A woman has the right to walk into a doctor’s office without having a conservative politician looking between her legs.  Most of all, she has a right to self-defense.

Pregnancy is one of the most dangerous and complicated periods in a woman’s life.   Not only do they risk significant health and life dangers, many too often face angry boyfriends, husbands, and parents. 

Texas women have one of the highest maternal mortality rates in America.  The Texas Legislature just made this matter worse.  

The new law allows random people to sue a doctor, nurse or anyone who “aids and abets” an abortion.   Using words like “aiding and abetting” creates a criminal atmosphere.

An abortion is when a fetus separates from the wall of the uterus.  A miscarriage is an abortion that happens naturally.  Somewhere between 25% and 30% of pregnancies end in miscarriage.   In Texas women chose to end their own pregnancy 9% of the time.

In other words, natural abortions occur more often than medical abortions.  How are Texas vigilantes going to tell the difference?   Will they even care?  Does anyone doubt that some busybody lawyer, or disgruntle boyfriend, will abuse their new power over women?  

The Texas Legislature just made every miscarriage a potential crime.  Crimes must be investigated.  

I know many women who want to announce their pregnancy as soon as possible.  They are excited about the pregnancy.  Now, they should wait. 

If they announce their pregnancy and it ends, they open themselves, their friends and medical staff to a lawsuit.  Is it really that hard to imagine vindictive relatives or coworkers accusing a woman of an illegal abortion?  

I trust Texas women.  I trust women to walk into a doctor’s office and understand the medical advice they receive.  I trust women to develop their own moral understanding of the world.  They don’t need medical advice from a politician. 

Politicians in Austin just made pregnancy in Texas much more complicated.  They grew the size of government.   Conservatives simply don’t trust Texas women.  

May 27, 2021

Expert Advice

By Glenn

My dad, Yves “Buster” Melancon served for twenty seven years in the United States Army.  He earned the rank of Chief Warrant Officer 3.  He started his career as a mechanic and ended as an Automotive Superintendent.

Some of my best memories are helping him work on cars.  In the 1970s he didn’t have a computer to diagnose a problem.  Most of the time, he used simple observation.

I say simply, but it was trained.  He trained his eyes and ears to determine what was working and what was broken.  Dad was an expert.

Yves “Buster”/”Frenchy” Melancon, Somewhere, Vietnam

I find it odd that so many people today attack experts.  There is a good reason to listen to them.  Dad always said “Never let your gas tank go below one quarter.”

There were a couple of practical reasons for this advice.  First, you should never completely trust your gauges.  Running the gas down to the extreme limit could mean running out of gas.  Second, he had seen the bottom of gas tanks.  Water, sludge and other impurities settle down there. These are no friends to your engine.

Another great piece of advice was to always check your oil level.  By the 1980s, more and more cars only had what he called an “Idiot Light.”  To save money car companies started removing the oil pressure gauge.

The Idiot Light didn’t really provide the driver with any useful information.  It simply said, “hey idiot, you have a problem.”  It could be the water, the oil or some other unknown issue.

One night, my oldest brother ignored my dad’s expert advice.  He drove from DeRidder to Lake Charles for a concert.  He didn’t check the oil.  As he drove home in the middle of the night, the car ran low on oil and left him stranded.

Dad knew.  His training and experience educated him.  The Army promoted him and gave him responsibility based on his expertise.  As an officer in the United States Army, his expertise saved lives.

Yves “Buster”/”Frenchy” Melancon, Somewhere, Vietnam

Our society benefits so much from experts.  Experts provide clean drinking water, reliable energy, good roads and healthy bodies. 

The anti-expert fetish started in the 1960s.  Experts found that seat belts saved lives and wanted a law mandating seat belts.  Car companies lied and said seat belts killed.  I am so glad we listened to the experts.  The next big fight was over smoking and then second hand smoke.  Once again, the experts were right, and the tobacco industry was wrong.

Experts save lives.  Yes, sometimes expert advice is disruptive, but we ignore that advice at our own peril. We have the ability to solve problems if we are willing to train our eyes and ears. 

May 20, 2021

Trust, Not Fear

By Glenn

Sunday, May 23, is the Western Christian holiday of Pentecost.  According to Christian scripture, the Holy Spirit emboldened the frightened followers of Jesus on Pentecost. 

The holiday derives its name from the Jewish feast of the first fruits. God commanded the Hebrews to offer their first fruits to Him fifty (penta) days after Passover.  This sacrifice was an act of faith.  They had to trust that more fruits would follow.

Many Christians mistakenly translate faith as belief.  The word actually comes from the Latin “fides” which means “to trust.”  A faithful person trusts God.

Trust is central to the Gospels of Jesus.  Jesus constantly taught his disciples that God would provide.  They simply needed to trust.  Often the disciples did not trust him and became frightened.

Humans are pretty bad at trusting.  We worry about our next meal.  We worry about our health.  We worry about the weather.  We fear our neighbor or our government.  We fear for our lives.

According to the Gospel of John, the Apostles feared for their lives after the crucifixion of Jesus.  They even locked themselves in a room.  There the risen Jesus appeared to them and said “Peace be with you.”

Immediately, this brought them comfort and hope, but when Jesus left, they remained locked inside a room.  They were afraid to venture out.  They didn’t want to risk their lives. 

All that changed on Pentecost.  The Holy Spirit came to them and provided them comfort and strength.  They were no longer afraid and went outside. 

El Greco,Pentecostés, 1597)

Outside they found people from all around the Mediterranean, strangers.  Each had their own customs and language.  When they Apostles spoke, they were heard and understood by all.   They no longer sounded like they were “babbling.”

God had lifted the curse from the Tower of Babel.  Humans could now understand one another.  Humans could learn from one another.  Humans didn’t have to fear one another.  Humans could live in peace with one another.

Peace, however, requires trust.  When we trust others, we make ourselves vulnerable.  We risk our prosperity and our lives.  Jesus certainly trusted.

Jesus asked his followers to trust, not judge.  If someone is hungry, feed them.  If someone is sick, heal them.  If someone is a stranger, invite them in.  All these commandments put us at risk.

The Gospel of Jesus is a message of hope and peace.  Pentecost is a festival of strength and comfort.  If we trust the Gospel and love our neighbor, we have nothing to fear.  Peace be with you.

May 13, 2021

Opposite Day Shouldn’t Be Everyday

By Glenn

Every once in a while, when they were young, my boys would play “Opposite Day.”  It was game about saying one thing, but meaning another.  For example, if you want to someone to “stay,” you would say “go.”  If you wanted the TV “on,” you would ask someone to turn it “off.” 

The game is actually pretty hard.  Most of us are brought up to tell the truth.  It takes effort to create a whole new vocabulary based on “opposites.”

As a historian, I have watched conservatives play a similar game since the 1970s.  Their ideas are so unpopular; they have to create words and phrases that mean the opposite of their intended results. For example, conservatives like Ronald Reagan hated Social Security and Medicare. 

The federal government had set up these programs to reduce poverty and increase the health of American seniors.   Unlike capitalism which benefits the investors, Social Security and Medicare benefit the general public.  That is right.  Social Security and Medicare are socialism.  The public funds these services through taxes.  No investor gets a dime of profit.  

Wall Street hates this fact.  They believe they are entitled to profit from every financial transaction.  They want to privatize Social Security and Medicare in the same way the Defense Department has privatized arms production. 

Reagan knew he couldn’t attack these programs head on.  When Barry Goldwater, the 1964 Republican nominee for President, ran his election on privatizing Social Security and leaving Civil Rights to the states, Lyndon Johnson trounced him with 61% of the popular vote.

In 1980 Reagan found three magic phrases to destroy popular programs: failed government, tax cuts, and deficits.  These three phrases allowed conservatives attack popular programs from Social Security to public schools.

Conservatives famously find small, outrageous issues and pretend they are representative of all.  Anyone remember $600 pentagon hammers or $10,000 toilet seats?  These are supposed to represent failed government, but 50% of federal spending supports Social Security and Medicare.

These outrageous stories are enough, however, to trigger tax cuts for “investors.” Reagan argued investors would generate more tax revenue and lower deficits.  Have you noticed this never happens? 

The deficits then trigger a whole new debate about cutting spending.  To save money conservatives then raise the retirement age, cut teacher salaries and reduce reimbursements to doctors and hospitals.

We have now had nearly 40 years of conservative opposite language.  They have raised our taxes and broken our public services.  Why do voters reward them?

May 12, 2021

“your white soldiers will be lost to you”

By Glenn

January 8, 1865 Confederate Major-General Howell Cobb wrote to James A. Seddon, CSA Secretary of War.  Cobb objected to Robert E. Lee’s proposal to use slaves as Confederate soldiers.  The CSA simply lacked the free man power to continue its war of Southern Aggression. 

Cobb’s objection was simple: “The day you make soldiers of them is the beginning of the end of the revolution. If slaves will make good soldiers our whole theory of slavery is wrong but they won’t make soldiers.”

Cobb knew his fight was a Revolution in favor of White Supremacy.  His was not simply a power struggle between the state and federal authorities.  No, he was in a fight for the soul of nation. 

Would America become a multiracial society, or would it remain a county for Whites Only? Confederate soldiers knew why they were fighting. Why don’t you?

I think that the proposition to make soldiers of our slaves is the most pernicious idea that has been suggested since the war began. It is to me a source of deep mortification and regret to see the name of that good and great man and soldier, General R. E. Lee, given as authority for such a policy. My first hour of despondency will be the one in which that policy shall be adopted. You cannot make soldiers of slaves, nor slaves of soldiers. The moment you resort to negro soldiers your white soldiers will be lost to you; and one secret of the favor with which the proposition is received in portions of the Army is the hope that when negroes go into the Army they will be permitted to retire. It is simply a proposition to fight the balance of the war with negro troops. You can’t keep white and black troops together, and you can’t trust negroes by themselves. It is difficult to get negroes enough for the purpose indicated in the President‘s message, much less enough for an Army. Use all the negroes you can get, for all the purposes for which you need them, but don’t arm them. The day you make soldiers of them is the beginning of the end of the revolution. If slaves will make good soldiers our whole theory of slavery is wrong but they won’t make soldiers. As a class they are wanting in every qualification of a soldier. Better by far to yield to the demands of England and France and abolish slavery, and thereby purchase their aid, than to resort to this policy, which leads as certainly to ruin and subjugation as it is adopted; you want more soldiers, and hence the proposition to take negroes into the Army. Before resorting to it, at least try every reasonable mode of getting white soldiers. I do not entertain a doubt that you can by the volunteering policy get more men into the service than you can arm. I have more fears about arms than about men. For heavens sake try it before you fill with gloom and despondency the hearts of many of our truest and most devoted men by resorting to the suicidal policy of arming our slaves.

May 6, 2021

Broken Clock

By Glenn

Representative Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) is the daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney.  She is also the House Republican Conference Chair, third highest-ranking House Republican in the House of Representatives.  Representative Cheney wants her fellow Republicans to stop lying about the 2020 Presidential election.

On Monday, May 3, 2021, she wrote “The 2020 presidential election was not stolen. Anyone who claims it was is spreading THE BIG LIE, turning their back on the rule of law, and poisoning our democratic system.”

Cheney and the majority of Americans know this Big Lie incited the assault on the January 6th United States Capitol.  Rioters wanted to stop a Constitutional process.  The Constitution requires Congress to count the votes submitted by the 50 state governments. 

Each state has the right under the constitution to conduct its election and count their own votes.  Every state did and reported their votes to Congress.  Congress was in the process of counting the votes when rioters attacked Capitol Police and broke down doors to get inside.

The rioters killed four and injured 138 police officers.  The lies about the 2020 election fueled this attack on our democracy.

On April 30, 2021 Newsmax admitted it spread false information about the election.  Facing a defamation lawsuit, Newsmax retracted and apologized for its false reporting.

“Newsmax would like to clarify its coverage of Dr. Coomer and note that while Newsmax initially covered claims by President Trump’s lawyers, supporters and others that Dr. Coomer played a role in manipulating Dominion voting machines, Dominion voting software, and the final vote counts in the 2020 presidential election, Newsmax subsequently found no evidence that such allegations were true. Many of the states whose results were contested by the Trump campaign after the November 2020 election have conducted extensive recounts and audits, and each of these states certified the results as legal and final.”

Statement About Dr. Eric Coomer, Director of Product Strategy and Security at Dominion Voting Systems, Friday, 30 April 2021 03:30 PM

These are the facts.  It is unconscionable for a political party to continue its attacks on our democracy.  Representative Cheney is trying to lead her party to the truth.  The truth is the first step to healing from the attack.

Unfortunately, too many Republicans have invested in the lie.  Both Republican politicians and voters have refused to accept the will of the people. 

Because of her defense of our democracy against lies, Republicans want to remove her from her leadership role.  Republicans have abandoned allegiance to the Republic for allegiance to a man.  Do we really have to wait for another Oklahoma City bombing for Republicans to defend America?

April 22, 2021

Limited Government and Accountability

By Glenn

The contrast between United States Constitutional Law and Biblical Law are striking.  The US Constitution places limits on government.  The Bible grants absolute power to kings and fathers.

Let’s look, for example, at one of the most famous stories in the Bible.  The Bible tells this story to illustrate the wisdom of Solomon. We, however, can also see the powers held by Biblical governments.

According to 1 Kings 3:16-28, two women got into an argument over a baby.  They lived in the same house and delivered sons days apart.  Then something went terribly wrong, and one mother accidentally killed one of the boys during the night. 

The death became a dispute when one women accused the other of swapping a dead baby for a live baby.  King Solomon had to decide which mother was telling the truth.  He ordered the live baby cut in half and distributed to each woman. 

The story ends dramatically when one mother pleads for the baby’s life and agrees to give up claim to her son. 

Judgment of Solomon. Pilgrimage church of Frauenberg in Styria (Austria)

“The other woman shouted, ‘Go ahead and cut him in half. Then neither of us will have the baby.’ Solomon said, ‘Don’t kill the baby.’ Then he pointed to the first woman, ‘She is his real mother. Give the baby to her.’ Everyone in Israel was amazed when they heard how Solomon had made his decision. They realized that God had given him wisdom to judge fairly.”

While everyone may have recognized the wisdom of Solomon, no one questioned the power of Solomon.  He literally order a baby cut in half.  God gave Solomon absolute power.

Thankfully, the American system of justice is based on real evidence and not theatrics. The Bill of Rights lays out the protections for a person accused of a crime. 

Police officers must collect evidence in a reasonable manner.  They must petition a court for a search warrant based on probable cause.  They are not allowed to compel, or torture, the accused to extract evidence.  Prosecutors must present that evidence to a Grand Jury for permission to go to trial.

The trial itself must be open to the public.  The accused must be able to confront their accuser and cross examine evidence.  A jury of citizens, not a judge or police officer, decides the fate of the accused.  If the jury finds the person guilty, the punishment can neither be cruel nor unusual. 

All of these protections are called due process.  The Constitution requires government officials to follow due process.  A judge or police officer who takes the law into their own hands is breaking the law.  They are not Biblical kings. 

I am proud to live in the United States of America.  To keep our pledge to the Republic and the flag, rouge government employees must be punished.  It is the American way.