Three Things You Need to Know - September 25, 2017

Trump vs. the NFL.

President Trump went to war this weekend, and it wasn’t with anyone you might expect. Trump went to war with the National Football League.

It all started on Friday at a rally in Alabama.

The very next day, Trump took to Twitter to explain:

To be fair, Trump is just saying what most of us have been thinking ever since this whole “take a knee” thing began. But with all due respect to the President, private citizens and companies can do whatever they want. We may not agree with it, but they do have that right.

This entire thing is just stupid. There’s no other way to describe it. The President telling a company and its employees what to do is stupid. NFL players disrespecting the flag and national anthem is stupid.

If the players actually wanted to help create change, why wouldn’t they use their fame and go to the local level? Engage local police departments and build relationships. That would actually do some good. But they’re not doing that. This whole thing is a sham. So why is the President of the United States getting caught up in it?

You really can’t blame the players here. They’re just operating under the rules they’ve been given, and no one’s told them not to. The NFL could stop this if they wanted, but they don’t.

The NFL has been jokingly called the No Fun League for a reason. If they want to stop behavior that they feel is unacceptable, like overzealous touchdown celebrations, they shut it down. They could easily stop political demonstrations during their games in the same way they clamp down on everything else.

The NFL is choosing to be political. Is there anywhere we can go anymore to get away from politics?

Now we have a choice. Do we keep watching?

The Tennessee shooter intended for a high body count.

Yesterday morning, a man shot and killed a woman at a church outside Nashville, Tennessee and shot six other people. Thankfully, they are alive.

The suspect is 25-year-old Emanuel Kidega Samson, an immigrant from Sudan who came to the U.S. in 1996. Police say he is a legal resident of the U.S.

Sunday morning, Samson drove into the parking lot of Burnette Chapel Church of Christ, left his car running and got out wearing a ski mask and armed with two handguns. He shot and killed 39-year-old Melanie Smith in the parking lot, then entered the church through a rear door.

Inside the church, Samson opened fire. He never said a word.

Robert Engle, an usher, tried to subdue Samson. Samson pistol-whipped Engle in the head, but in the struggle, Samson was apparently wounded by his own gunshot.

Engle’s father then guarded Samson while Engle ran to his car to get his own gun. Engle returned and trained his gun on Samson, keeping his foot on him until police arrived.

The six wounded churchgoers are hospitalized in stable condition. Engle is also in the hospital being treated for his head wound and a separated shoulder.

Samson was treated and released from the hospital and has been charged with murder, with additional charges to follow. Church members were surprised to learn of Samson’s identity because he attended the church several times a few years ago.

Police are investigating a motive, including whether race was a factor.

Without all the facts, people are already choosing sides:

"It’s definitely terrorism."

"It’s definitely racially motivated."

"Children of immigrants hate America."

We must resist jumping on the red meat bandwagon. Immigration, terrorism, racial hatred --- all those factors may be at play here, or maybe none of them. As is often the case, the truth probably lies somewhere in the middle. Humans are complicated and evil is real.

But bandwagons won’t solve our root problem of moral decay and they won’t serve this grieving church. Let’s choose love, service, compassion and prayer for our communities and nation today. They’re the only things that will save us from ourselves.

What is happening with healthcare?

Health insurance will become unaffordable for half the country next year. That’s what this ultimately boils down to.

The Senate has until the end of the week to stop this from happening, but the Graham-Cassidy Hail Mary already looks doomed to failure.

Let’s forget the political games for a second. If nothing gets done in the next five days, what happens?

Premiums have already soared over the past couple years, but by 2018 those rates are going even higher. If you live in California, Texas, Florida or Georgia you can expect to see a more than 50 percent increase in premiums this year.

Those in Wyoming have it even harder. Your premiums are going up over 80 percent. Your southern neighbors in Colorado have it even harder, with rates hitting near 200 percent higher than last year.

It’s the same all over the country. In Virginia, a 180 percent increase. In Indiana, 117 percent. New Mexico, 84 percent. And on and on and on.

The Affordable Care Act deems health insurance unaffordable if its cost exceeds 8 percent of your family's income. With these premium increases, over half the country will be forced to pay for something, by the government, that they can’t afford.

While the political theater and games play out in Washington D.C. this week, here is what’s actually at stake: Families are about to be pushed to the brink. How is your Senator voting?

MORE 3 THINGS

This was one of the first homesteads in the area in the 1880's and was just begging to be brought back to its original glory — with a touch of modern. When we first purchased the property, it was full of old stuff without any running water, central heat or AC, so needless to say, we had a huge project ahead of us. It took some vision and a whole lot of trust, but the mess we started with seven years ago is now a place we hope the original owners would be proud of.

To restore something like this is really does take a village. It doesn't take much money to make it cozy inside, if like me you are willing to take time and gather things here and there from thrift shops and little antique shops in the middle of nowhere.

But finding the right craftsman is a different story.

Matt Jensen and his assistant Rob did this entire job from sketches I made. Because he built this in his off hours it took just over a year, but so worth the wait. It wasn't easy as it was 18"out of square. He had to build around that as the entire thing we felt would collapse. Matt just reinforced the structure and we love its imperfections.

Here are a few pictures of the process and the transformation from where we started to where we are now:

​How it was

It doesn't look like much yet, but just you wait and see!

By request a photo tour of the restored cabin. I start doing the interior design in earnest tomorrow after the show, but all of the construction guys are now done. So I mopped the floors, washed the sheets, some friends helped by washing the windows. And now the unofficial / official tour.

The Property

The views are absolutely stunning and completely peaceful.

The Hong Kong protesters flocking to the streets in opposition to the Chinese government have a new symbol to display their defiance: the Stars and Stripes. Upset over the looming threat to their freedom, the American flag symbolizes everything they cherish and are fighting to preserve.

But it seems our president isn't returning the love.

Trump recently doubled down on the United States' indifference to the conflict, after initially commenting that whatever happens is between Hong Kong and China alone. But he's wrong — what happens is crucial in spreading the liberal values that America wants to accompany us on the world stage. After all, "America First" doesn't mean merely focusing on our own domestic problems. It means supporting liberal democracy everywhere.

The protests have been raging on the streets since April, when the government of Hong Kong proposed an extradition bill that would have allowed them to send accused criminals to be tried in mainland China. Of course, when dealing with a communist regime, that's a terrifying prospect — and one that threatens the judicial independence of the city. Thankfully, the protesters succeeded in getting Hong Kong's leaders to suspend the bill from consideration. But everyone knew that the bill was a blatant attempt by the Chinese government to encroach on Hong Kong's autonomy. And now Hong Kong's people are demanding full-on democratic reforms to halt any similar moves in the future.

After a generation under the "one country, two systems" policy, the people of Hong Kong are accustomed to much greater political and economic freedom relative to the rest of China. For the protesters, it's about more than a single bill. Resisting Xi Jinping and the Communist Party means the survival of a liberal democracy within distance of China's totalitarian grasp — a goal that should be shared by the United States. Instead, President Trump has retreated to his administration's flawed "America First" mindset.

This is an ideal opportunity for the United States to assert our strength by supporting democratic values abroad. In his inaugural address, Trump said he wanted "friendship and goodwill with the nations of the world" while "understanding that it is the right of all nations to put their interests first." But at what point is respecting sovereignty enabling dictatorships? American interests are shaped by the principles of our founding: political freedom, free markets, and human rights. Conversely, the interests of China's Communist Party are the exact opposite. When these values come into conflict, as they have in Hong Kong, it's our responsibility to take a stand for freedom — even if those who need it aren't within our country's borders.

Of course, that's not a call for military action. Putting pressure on Hong Kong is a matter of rhetoric and positioning — vital tenets of effective diplomacy. When it comes to heavy-handed world powers, it's an approach that can really work. When the Solidarity movement began organizing against communism in Poland, President Reagan openly condemned the Soviet military's imposition of martial law. His administration's support for the pro-democracy movement helped the Polish people gain liberal reforms from the Soviet regime. Similarly, President Trump doesn't need to be overly cautious about retribution from Xi Jinping and the Chinese government. Open, strong support for democracy in Hong Kong not only advances America's governing principles, but also weakens China's brand of authoritarianism.

After creating a commission to study the role of human rights in U.S. foreign policy, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo wrote last month that the principles of our Constitution are central "not only to Americans," but to the rest of the world. He was right — putting "America First" means being the first advocate for freedom across the globe. Nothing shows the strength of our country more than when, in crucial moments of their own history, other nations find inspiration in our flag.

Let's join the people of Hong Kong in their defiance of tyranny.

Matt Liles is a writer and Young Voices contributor from Austin, Texas.

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