So, What Are You Going to Say to…

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In what passes the monumentally stupid vote by the United Kingdom earlier this year to depart the European Union, the United States – riding a wave of Bubbas, white nationalists, racists, gay-bashers and just enough people that didn’t like seeing someone beneath them rise above their situation – elected a total buffoon to the leader of the free world. That’s right, if you’re just waking up…Donald Trump – he of “grab them by the pussy” fame, who said “why don’t we use nukes? We got ‘em?” who says he knows more about a foreign terrorist organization that those who have been tasked with fighting said organization (and I’m just getting warmed up) – will, come January 20, be inaugurated as the 45th President of the United States. To say the U. S. shot itself in the foot isn’t enough…it literally shot itself in the head and spattered the White House with cranial goo.

Let’s get this out of the way first. The Democratic Party was somehow blindsided in the 2016 elections, much like the GOP was in 2012 with their insistence that Mitt Romney was going to win in a landslide. Instead of being aware of the level of vitriol from a frothing, rabid pack of hyenas, the Dems instead thought they could get by with Hillary Clinton. Clinton’s list of issues too numerous to mention here became the albatross that eventually strangled her, and the party, for which there wasn’t a method of recovery. Like Al Gore in 2000, Clinton can sit back and say she took the popular vote, which she can use with a $1.50 to get a cup of coffee at McDonald’s.

And before we move on, the “Bernie Bros” can sit their ass down, too. Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders was spared the “oppo research” that a serious candidate would have faced in an election. Clinton went gently on him and, if Sanders had reached the General Election, the GOP machine would have ripped open the seal on every vote Sanders had cast in his 35 years in Washington, D. C. Then there would have been the opportunity for Trump to rip him with the “socialist” and “communist” labels, dog-whistle words that still have a bite in today’s world.

So now we enter the alt-right world, that where everyone is wrapped in the flag and carrying a Bible. So, what are you going to say to…

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Your LGBTQ friends – One of the major platforms of the Republican Party – and supported by Trump – was the rescinding of LGBTQ rights that have been earned over the past couple of years. Marriage equity, workplace rights, such things that made members of the LGBTQ community equal legally among the rest of us will be torn away as soon as Paul Ryan (well, maybe not him…he’s probably pulling a Boehner and saying “fuck this” as soon as possible), Mitch McConnell and the Bible thumpers can pen the bill. And then there’s the point that Mike Pence – now the Vice President-Elect – is a supporter for allowing for CONVERSION THERAPY for gays, something that has been proven to be inconclusive at best, harmful to the person at worst and ILLEGAL in five states.

What do you say to those – your friends, family, co-workers – that will become a second-class citizen again? Do you think your “Make ‘Merica Great Again” jingoistic slogan is going to work when your gay brother can’t see his significant other in the hospital (or make decisions on his care) because he isn’t “married” to him? Do you think that, when they’re being marched to the conversion camps, your lesbian co-worker is going to think “boy, my friends really had my interests at heart?”

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20 million newly non-insured people – Once the Affordable Care Act, or “Obamacare” is rescinded and the Republicans provide exactly nothing to replace it, what do you tell that five-year-old cancer patient who lost their health care because of Trump’s election? What do you tell that Muscular Dystrophy patient that, after finally getting the health insurance necessary to be able to afford their medications and be able to function in their daily life, they no longer will receive insurance? “Well, I’m not paying anymore for them…let them eat cake!”

Pregnant women – Hopefully for those of you who have daughters they don’t make a mistake – or have a pregnancy that is life-threatening – in the future. The reversal of Roe v. Wade has been the goal of the GOP and its Moral Supremacists since the 1970s, that the ability of a woman to make choices regarding her health care should be taken by the federal government because a group of men whose only experience with a vagina is having emerged from one that “they know best.” Get ready for the increase in back-alley abortions performed by charlatans who can’t even enter medical school, let alone be licensed as a physician!

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Libertarians – So you don’t like “big government?” Well, the entry of an entirely GOP dominated Executive, Legislative and potentially Judicial branch only ensures that there will be laws mandating what you can do in your bedrooms, what you can and can’t say regarding the leaders of the country (Trump himself supports weakening the First Amendment to allow for jailing of opposition and has “jokingly” supported the murder of journalists) and that you must prostrate yourself when you’re in your living room and “The Star-Spangled Banner” comes on.

There’s one truth to the GOP – they are only for small government when it is things that they object to…they’ll enact every law possible to take every right from the people if it is necessary to maintain power (Patriot Act?). So, you don’t like a couple of environmental laws to protect the sand newt? That will be the least of your concerns.

There is a litany of other things, but let’s not give the StormTrumpers any ideas about who to attack next.

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The date 11/9 will go down as the last stand of the American Racist. It will also go down as the birthdate of the American Taliban, one that will look to rule by religion rather than logic, that will castigate anything that’s darker than its alabaster melanin and will, when presented with 21st century change and challenges, will return us to an 19th century age when children were fodder for the meat grinders in the slaughterhouses in Chicago, women were a subjugated class that shouldn’t be heard from at best and insignificant at worst and minorities, foreigners and “Muslims”  knew to get their asses out of town – or to their “section” of town – before sundown.

It is also oddly ironic that today is the anniversary of Kristallnacht. Kristallnacht, or the “Night of Broken Glass,” was the destruction of Jewish properties by both agents of the Nazi Party in Germany and German citizens who believed that the Jewish population was to blame for the demise of their nation in 1938. Over two days of rioting, 1000 Jewish synagogues were burned to the ground and 7000 Jewish businesses were destroyed. The estimate of the number of Jewish people killed was 91, although some historians state the actual count may have been higher. There were also 30,000 Jewish people who were “taken into custody” and sent to the concentration camps. We may not have as much broken glass but, since we’ve elected a fascist, we’d better get used to what they can do once in office.

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Is it possible that this was all just a ploy by Trump to get elected and he’ll magically change once he is inaugurated (I’ve had a supposedly intelligent person say that to me)? No, 70-year old men – and the vapid followers who will be looking for their own piece of meat from the vulture feast – don’t change their spots when presented with great power. They become more entrenched and see what else they can steal before they are told they can’t have any more. We’ve allowed the American Taliban to take over and woe will the nation be in the future.

(And, as a final note, get ready for the upcoming pardon from President Barack Obama to Clinton in one last “kiss my ass” to the American Taliban, because it’s coming.)

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Let’s Bring It Down a Notch…Actions and Rhetoric Getting Out of Control

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One thing that has been a constant in the United States is that we have a healthy appetite for conflict, differences of opinion and combative discourse. It’s been ingrained in the nation since its inception, since we first landed on Plymouth Rock, that there have been two (or more) sides to every story and that story has to be defended. Since the midpoint of the 20th century – hell, perhaps a bit earlier? – those actions have been spinning out of control and its time to bring it down a notch.

(Writer’s note:  If you say that “well, your rhetoric is causing it, too” I will probably respond by saying yes. At the same time, I’ve always had a philosophy…if it walks like a duck, swims like a duck, quacks like a duck and shits like a duck…it’s probably a duck and I will call it as such. Hence, when I soon hereafter will refer to Trump as a Nazi officer, he has earned the title through his actions, his philosophies and his own rhetoric.)

The 2016 Presidential battle between former Secretary of State and Senator Hillary Clinton and wanton stain on the human condition Donald Trump is the latest example of how things have gotten a bit out of control. Back during the Republican National Convention, there were cries of “Kill her!” and “Lock her up!” implying that the rules of common decency, law and “innocent until proven guilty” didn’t apply to the Secretary. It’s only gotten worse since then, especially since it appears that Oberführer Trump will crash and burn spectacularly in about three weeks.

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First there have been the constant rantings from the candidate himself, basically saying that if he wins, all is good. If he loses, however, then there’s a massive conspiracy that is working against him that is trying to steal the election (and, quite honestly, trying to watch the simpletons who support Trump wrap their minds around this concept is utterly stunning). The very action of accusing the election of being unduly tilted is, at the minimum, an insult to the men and women acroEss the nation whose sole purpose is to ensure that the election is properly run. At the maximum, it is “banana republic” territory when you see something along the lines of what used to happen (and still does) in Cuba, with Fidel Castro winning a “vote” of the people by a 90% margin.

For well over 200 years, this country has been founded on the fact that, come a national election, the people make their choice and the Electoral College decides the outcome (that’s an argument for another time). NEVER in the history of the country has one candidate decried the system in saying that it is conspiring against them or that “unseen actors” are trying to sway the results. Even in the hotly contested 2000 election, then-Vice President Al Gore conceded the election to George Bush (for better or worse) rather than drag out the process and put a bigger strain on the democracy than the back-and-forth debate was doing at that point.

But no, now we have a narcissistic bastard who can’t believe that everyone doesn’t love him. And its having an effect on the general populace.

Having his own “John McCain moment” last week, Republican Vice Presidential nominee (and frequent Trump apologist) Mike Pence stood in front of a woman and ACTUALLY HAD TO SAY “Don’t say that,” when she went off on a rant about how the campaign was being stolen from Trump and that she, “personally, if Hillary Clinton gets in, I’m ready for a revolution.” Adding to this, longtime Trump surrogate and Milwaukee Sheriff David A. Clarke Tweeted a photo of a mob holding torches and actually had the audacity to say, “(It’s) Pitchforks and torches time.”

Thus, we can’t be surprised when it actually spills over into, you know, actual firebombing. A North Carolina office of the Orange County Republican Party was firebombed over the weekend, while a swastika was spray painted next door along with the quote “Nazi Republicans leave town or else.” At this moment, there are no suspects in custody but, in a remarkable piece of laying personal politics aside, the DEMOCRATS in the state led by two academics raised over $13,000 to help the Republican Party rebuild or find other office space to conduct their business (yes, there was some backlash against the idea, but if you think the GOP would have done the same thing if it were reversed, you have more faith in Republicans than I do).

Finally, the mere act of endorsing a candidate has brought up one of the ugliest occurrences in the history of journalism. The Arizona Republic, which in its history has never endorsed a Democratic candidate for President (and we’re talking 125 years here), did just that last week in endorsing Clinton (and this isn’t the first conservative newspaper to endorse Clinton by any stretch). Their readership responded in a controlled, reasoned matter…and if you believe that, I’ve got a bridge in Brooklyn to sell you.

Reporters received threats along the lines of “You’re dead, watch your back,” “You should be put in front of a firing squad,” or “We will burn you down” as a reply from their readers. The threats even reached as far as going to the delivery people whose only connection to the paper is DROPPING IT ON A FUCKING DOORSTEP. As a finale, there were many who discussed Don Bolles, a former journalist with the Republic who, 40 years ago, was murdered through the usage of a car bomb in a case he was investigating (Bolles would die 11 days after suffering many painful injuries). Such a fate for the editorial board was repeatedly wished.

When did this bullshit reach this point?

Difference of opinion in politics is supposed to be resolved through logic, evidence and discussion. Unfortunately, when one side started either making up evidence or denying the existence of logic, the discussion went out the window quickly. Instead, now all we have are different factions who lock into a viewpoint, immovable in their ideas lest it shatter their little world. In fact, it has gotten so bad that CONSPIRACY THEORIES are now a part of political campaigns, as frequently used by Trump over the course of the 2016 elections (and not just against Clinton – he literally carpet-bombed the GOP with a plethora of conspiracy lulus).

Over the remaining three weeks of the election (and it will be three weeks as Clinton will decimate Trump in the general election), it is pertinent on the people of the United States to try to clean up this mess that has been created. That squalor has been around since – well, if we had to place a blame, it is when the public square became the internet and ideas could be shared in seconds rather than in the time it took to make a phone call or send a telegram or a letter. While public discourse is a good thing (in most cases), there’s sometimes it does step too far.

With the internet, we’ve become more fractured, more frayed. We find things that support our own theories rather than actually taking the time to examine things from another side. This has only made us more unhesitatingly ugly towards each other, with that ugliness now beginning to slide over into the potential for real violence (remember how one candidate said the other could be taken care of “by the Second Amendment people” or that said candidate would “jail” a political opponent…but I digress).

It’s time we reverse this trend and I’ll make an effort along these lines. I will try not to be combative with people I discuss issues with – no matter how moronic they become – and will try to maintain a semblance of logic, evidentiary process and clear discussion. Now I will couch this in the fact that, if someone steps outside those boundaries, then all bets are off and hellfire is coming. By doing this, perhaps it is a step in the right direction.

We still have time to change the discourse in the United States. Perhaps we can even affect the discourse in Washington, D. C., and other legislatures around the country. The alternative isn’t a pretty one as, for the past eight years at least, we’ve seen a precursor that could explode into all measures of incivility.

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Has the 2020 Presidential Campaign Begun Already?

I settled in last night for the only Vice Presidential debate on the schedule for the 2016 campaign honestly with no expectations for either candidate. Democratic nominee Tim Kaine and Republican pick Mike Pence are the type of guys that don’t rock the boat, they speak in measured tones, they offer ideas and occasionally jab at their opponent with some repartee or pointed remark…you know, the way that politicians did debates before the Orange Scourge came to the fore. What I didn’t realize by watching last night is that the campaign for President in 2020 has already begun.

First, let’s talk the VP debate.

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The first half-hour or so of the discussion between Kaine and Pence was anything but. Rather than let each other have their two minutes to answer the question at hand, both – but Kaine was by far more annoying as he seemed to do it EVERY time – would interrupt their opponent (and a serious knock on moderator Elaine Quijano, who never had control of either candidate – perhaps it’s time we give the moderators some rules enforcement capabilities…a shock collar around a candidate’s junk is a pretty good step). It seemed that they wanted to take the tactics that Trump displayed during the first Presidential debate and espouse on them for the VP soiree. I’m sure that these candidates wanted to look like they were defending their partners while trying to score some points, but both came off poorly with the amount of interruption.

As the debate rolled along, both sides seemed to score points for their pet causes. Pence was quite good at demonstrating the Republican stance – that “America has to be seen as strong” and he presented very surface-level thoughts on that subject (my pet peeve, “strengthening a depleted military,” was a part of the discussion). Pence presented his not-very specific ideas in a thoughtful, temperate and professional manner.

Kaine, for his part, went a little further into details of what a Clinton/Kaine administration would do. The problem is, when the surrogate does these things, it does kind of lock the Presidential candidate into a box. There’s a thin line between Pence’s approach and Kaine more-detailed explanations and Kaine stepped over that line. For all the information he was putting out, however, Kaine ruined it all with constant interruptions of Pence while he was speaking. I know Kaine wanted to defend his running mate against the attacks of Pence, but he went WAY too far in doing so. I don’t know if the pre-debate planning for Kaine included a watching of Trump during the Presidential debate – and the aside of “Don’t do this” (didn’t he learn anything from watching his partner debate the Volcano of Hate?) – but, as a longtime politician and someone who has been through a debate before, he should have shown much more tact and couth. As it was, he came off as a rabid Chihuahua by the time the final bell rang.

Finally, Pence did have the “package” when you look at someone. Yes, it is highly superficial and ignorant, but that is the way politics IS in the 21st century. Pence LOOKED the part of a Vice President, of someone that could step in should something happen to the leader of the country and reassure a shaken nation that everything would be alright. Kaine looked like the frazzled operator of a mom-and-pop grocery store that was constantly running out of items to sell. Pence was calm; Kaine was peppy to the point of annoying. Pence was measured in his statements; Kaine seemed to spit his sentences like he was in a rap battle. Pence was tranquil in his appearance (for the most part); Kaine always looked like he was ready to leap out of his chair to say something. As far as the debate, Pence wins by a split decision.

But there was something else that I noticed during the debate on Tuesday night. Pence continually (and wrongly) denied that the Republican campaign was an “insult based” one – has he LOOKED at who he’s running with? In fact, as Pence was continually denying that the Trump/Pence ticked were running an “insult based” campaign, his partner was on Twitter INSULTING every moment of the debate. That wasn’t the most telling thing of Pence’s performance, however.

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While the 90-minutes plus debate wore on, Pence outright refused to take accountability for any of the litany of statements made by his “boss” during the course of the campaign (and there have been plenty of examples). When Kaine would hit Pence with Trump’s statements on Mexicans and Muslims or his multiple statements regarding treatment of women (among others), Pence skillfully slipped taking any responsibility for them, basically leaving Trump out to dry on his own petard. After realizing that Pence was in no way going to have the back of his party’s nominee, it became obvious why.

Pence isn’t playing for being the #2 on the winning ticket in 2016. Pence has already set his sights on the 2020 campaign and is using the time on the ticket with Trump to solidify his hold on the nomination four years from now. By taking this action, Pence gets a jump on any other candidate – Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, perhaps a center-right candidate such as Senator Ben Sasse of Nebraska or another moderate Republican who might actually bring the party into the 20th century (too much to ask for them to progress to the 21st…baby steps, folks) – by LOOKING Presidential and putting his version of “conservatism” in front of the people of the GOP.

The problem for Pence is he doesn’t know what type of Republican party is going to emerge from the wreckage of this year. Pence parties like it is 1899 and those types of policies just aren’t going to cut it in the 21st century. Ryan and Sasse, as well as other younger Republican conservatives, know the value of compromise, know that they have to work with the opposition to get things done and know that there are some former benchmarks of their party that need to change lest they shrivel and die. They also haven’t been corrupted by the alt-right conspiracies or other people’s hardline conservatism. If the StormTrumpers flame out as expected in November, then their ilk will be banished to the wastelands. The question is whether Pence has done enough to be able to remain on the Ark or will he be a part of the wanderers.

As to the debate, the bottom line is even after hearing Kaine and Pence speak, no one is basing their decision on their place on the ticket. When Sunday rolls around for the second Presidential debate, will Cheeto Jesus have learned his lesson and at least cracked the workbook to try to have some substance? Will Cheeto Jesus actually try to LOOK Presidential or will he try to bluster and bully Clinton during the Town Hall meeting (many believe that was one of the things that hurt Al Gore in 2000 against the second George Bush after he leapt from the stool and stormed into Bush’s personal space during a similar Town Hall debate), something that NEVER works when you’re among the people? And can he tolerate having been beaten not only by a woman but also by his subordinate in the two previous debates? (My bet:  No, bullies only know how to bully, and no.)

Donald Trump
The thing that is known is that Mike Pence is going nowhere with this ticket, but he’s OK with that. It makes him a lock to come back for a run in 2020 and he announced that last night.

So A Third Party Vote Isn’t “Wasted?” Take A Look…It Is

GOP 2016 Trump
With all the turmoil over the 2016 Presidential campaign – and the choice between a duplicitous but highly qualified Hillary Clinton and a raving nutbag of racism, misogyny and xenophobia in the Tangerine Nightmare (that’s right, I don’t even begin to name him – my choice), never in the history of the United States has there been a riper time for a third party candidate to make an impact. Because the two “major parties” have been unable to nominate someone who could, you know, actually LEAD the country, someone like the Libertarian Party or the Green Party could step in and fill the void. Unfortunately, that doesn’t seem to be the case.

Let’s take the Libertarian Party first. The only other party to actually be on all 50 ballots in the U. S., the Libertarians have reached a crossroads in their existence. Long viewed as the “hippie” party because of their views on legalization of marijuana and policies that put more into personal responsibility than governmental rigor, the Libertarians are actually the only party (other than the two major parties) to actually register a notable percentage of the vote in 2012; in that Presidential election, former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson garnered 1,275,951 votes across the U. S. – roughly 1% of the votes in the election (and the best ever showing by the Libertarians).

When it comes to the 2016 Presidential efforts, however, the Libertarians took a page from the GOP playbook instead of…well, being Libertarians. Johnson (who had previously run for President as a Republican in 2012 and, after losing that nomination, suddenly “saw the light” and became a Libertarian), believing that he would be easily nominated again for the party’s Presidential ambitions, instead had to fight off accusations that he wasn’t “libertarian” enough (heard that somewhere before?) and that someone who was a “true Libertarian” needed to be chosen. In the end, however, Johnson and his Vice President pick, former Massachusetts Governor Bill Weld, earned the nomination of the party.

Turning our attention to the Green Party, they have also nominated the same candidate that they chose in the 2012 election. Dr. Jill Stein, a longtime activist with the party, was selected in 2012 and garnered absolutely no attention from anyone whatsoever. How bad was it? In that 2012 election, Stein drew in 469,628 votes, less than the population of Brevard County on the East Coast of Florida.

Fast forward to 2016 and, instead of picking someone who might be a “fresh face” for the party, the Greens picked Stein again. The choice was made despite the factor that she has been viewed by many as anti-science and has tossed her hat in the ring with 9/11 conspiracy advocates (like the Orangutan Mutant). Party officials obviously were looking for someone and, lacking anyone with even the inkling of name recognition that Dr. Stein (who also offered her nomination to former Democratic Presidential hopeful Senator Bernie Sanders if he would just switch to the Green Party) had, decided to stick with her (these things have pretty much eliminated her from contention, much like Johnson’s Aleppo mistake and, just this last weekend, his contention that “nobody got hurt” during the bombings in New York and New Jersey and the knife attack in Minnesota, dismisses him as a serious contender).

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There’s several problems with looking towards the “third party” option in this or any election, but we will only deal with a few of them here. First, voting for a “third party” option is the waste of a vote (and, as you will see, the statistics demonstrate this); second, that a solid third party has yet to form; and third, that the other parties are not following a path towards success if they are trying to infiltrate the two party system.

First, if you are considering a vote for a third party candidate this year, take a look at the numbers. Of the elected positions in national government – the President and Congress – how many of those seats are held by the Libertarian Party? The total would be zilch. What about governorships in the United States? That, too, would be zero. You have to go to the state legislatures to even find a Libertarian, and that total would be four out of 7383 seats available. In local elected offices (of which there are tens of thousands of elected positions), there are only 145 wielding power.

What about the Green Party? They don’t even register on the national or state scene, with no elected officials in any national or state government. The Green Party does register about the same numbers on the local scene as the Libertarians – an estimated 137 positions – but there’s problems for the party overall. When it comes to actually getting votes, they aren’t even on the ballot in all 50 states FOR PRESIDENT, let alone running in other races.

The second point – that no solid third party has formed in the past 30 years – takes into account those parties that “stood alone” from the two party system, of which none have been successful. The Tea Party was a subset of the Republican Party (in fact, if the Republicans didn’t want to be in the situation they are now, they should have cut the Tea Party loose from the start) and the Dixiecrats were a subset of the Democratic Party after World War II (and they were eventually cut off by the Democratic Party). Those parties that tried to stand alone – Ross Perot’s Reform Party had a nice run in the 1990s before petering out after the turn of the century and there are individuals who choose “Independent” as their party (despite the fact there isn’t a “dedicated” Independent Party) – have never been able to grasp the public’s attention for very long.

The third point – that the smaller parties are taking the wrong approach – is an easy one to correct. Instead of trying to elect one of your members to the Presidency, why not try to make inroads into the local and state realms of government. Remember those numbers presented earlier? The numbers that showed that, of all the state and federal elected positions, that only four seats would be occupied by someone that identified as Libertarian and zero by Greens? The numbers that showed that, of local governments, slightly less than 300 seats were held by someone not affiliated with either major party?

If the Libertarian or Green Party were able to actually make an impact on the local political arena – instead of 300, how about 30,000 elected officials? – then they would be able to spark the changes that they seek on the state and national scene. Even if either Johnson or Stein were elected, do you honestly think that the Congress – dominated by the two major parties – would choose to work with them? It is something that has to grow from the ground up, not from the top down.

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It is thought that pulling the lever for one of the non-mainstream candidates will be a form of “protest,” of “voting on principle,” when it will in fact be a waste of your voice. By pulling the handle for either Johnson or Stein (or any of the other candidates who may emerge on your ballot for President), you are saying that, while you don’t like either of the major party choices, you also don’t want to be involved in the process of choosing from the two most likely choices someone who WILL be the next President of the United States (and yes, it can sometimes seem like you’re getting screwed, but at least you made a choice as to who would be screwing you).

Who do you want making the key decisions, not only for our nation but also for the usage of our military men and women, for the conduct of our foreign affairs, for the security of the nation, for the efficient operation of our government and for raising up everyone instead of a select few? By voting for a third party candidate, you abdicate your ability to make the choice – the compromise that our democracy is built on – and choose the future leader of the country.

With all hope, it won’t have an effect on the outcome of the race. In 2000, the Green Party’s Ralph Nader was able to garner 2.9 million votes, with some saying that it doomed Al Gore’s hopes for the Presidency (and remember that, in Florida, Gore is reported to have lost by 527 votes despite winning the popular vote nationally). In 1992, Perot ran as an Independent (he had yet to create the Reform Party) and earned a whopping 19% of the vote, arguably denying the first George Bush a second term in office (Bush lost to Bill Clinton by roughly 5.8 million votes; Perot earned 19.7 million).

The choice may be an ugly one, but it has to be made. A petulant display of “making a point” by choosing a minor party’s candidate isn’t a protest but an abdication of responsibility. Perhaps someday these parties will have worked to the point where they can challenge the current stalwarts of politics, but that time isn’t now. Thus, we have to choose from the two candidates who represent the major political parties and, after the votes are tallied, WILL provide the 45th President of the United States.

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What’s My Problem? It Should Be Everyone’s Problem…

After one of my essays the other day, someone had the audacity to ask me what was my problem with the Republican Party. “Why don’t you go after the Democratic Party the way you go after the Republicans?” the person asked. I offered a quick, Facebook-friendly reply – which wasn’t enough for that person (it seldom is – Facebook is not an essay-friendly arena) – so I thought that I would take the time to fully enunciate what “my problem” is with the Republican Party, at least the way that it is constituted today. When I reach the end, I think that most people might recognize that it should be everyone’s problem.

I came of age in the 1970s, in the post-Watergate/post-Vietnam Era when we questioned everything that made up the government (in fact, it is why I still question it today). Whether it was the federal, state or local offices, none of them were given a break over the conditions in the United States. Republicans back then were not identified by their blind addiction to denial of social norms – abortion was an issue that was just beginning to bubble – but were more likely to be viewed on their business acumen, foreign policy expertise and respect for the military, things that everyone could get behind including their counterparts. Democrats at that time were looked at as the voice of the “people,” the party who would actually stand with those who needed the help the most when the times were the toughest, and protected them sometimes against those businesses that threatened them.

As the 1980s rolled around – and especially after the mixed results that were the presidencies of Richard Nixon (and, after his resignation, Gerald Ford) and Jimmy Carter – the two parties were still somewhat malleable in that they stood for different things but worked together for the improvement of the United States. The election of Ronald Reagan was something the country needed – a new rebirth, if you will – and it did serve to recharge the nation. I served in the United States Marine Corps during Reagan’s presidency and, while seeing him build the world’s greatest military, I also saw the Republican Party’s treatment of its fighting force in decrepit barracks and base housing, inadequate equipment, improper usage in military actions and other various areas of governance, including the denial of the AIDS epidemic and other societal ills.

Because of the success of Reagan, President George Bush – Bush I, as I like to call him – was a natural choice to continue. But Bush was different:  he was practical, he knew that you couldn’t just force the military anywhere for any reason (perhaps because of his days at the helm of the Central Intelligence Agency, he had a bit more “intelligence,” no pun intended) and he also knew you had to pay for the military. Thus, when he paid for the First Gulf War (or military action as “war” was never declared per se) by raising taxes, he was doomed as the 1990s began.

The true segmentation of the Republican and Democratic parties (and there is a segmentation, they are not “the same”) – and the reason for my look at one over the other – came about in the 1990s. When Bill Clinton became President in 1992, the nation took off, arguably because he worked with a Republican-led House of Representatives and Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich in 1994 and they maximized the “tech surge” of the mid-1990s. It was the second term of Clinton, however, that put the nail in the coffin for me.

Instead of being pleased with making the country work, the rising “neo-con” movement in the Republican Party – not happy to have a military that was sitting on the sidelines, wanting a bolder and more aggressive foreign policy and willing to do whatever it took to regain not only the power in Congress but also in the White House – seized on Clinton receiving a hummer from intern Monica Lewinsky and turned that into an impeachable offense (ever the opportunist Gingrich, rather than trying to staunch this wave, grabbed a surfboard and rode along with it). Fortunately, a more-rational Senate was able to stave off the slathering idiots that were the neo-con Republicans screaming for Clinton’s removal, but it would only be a momentary pause before the truly shitty schism would develop between the two.

The Republican neo-cons weren’t happy with skewering Democrats, they also ravaged their own. First they took down John McCain in 2000 with a bogus “black child” scam, getting their hand-picked puppet, George Bush (or Bush II), into the nomination, then they would turn the targeting on Al Gore as the election hinged on the state of Florida (the “swift-boating” of John Kerry four years later was just icing on the cake). Having seated 10 of the last 12 Supreme Court Justices, the Republicans were able to use the U. S. Supreme Court to shut down any further review of Florida’s recount in 2000, with 538 voters being the determining factor in Bush’s 2000 Electoral College win (Gore won the popular vote) over Gore.

Once back in power – and with the attacks of 9/11 – the Republican neo-con movement was given the proverbial golden chalice of opportunity to sweepingly affect the United States and they took full advantage of it. They enacted the Patriot Act of 2001 – with a reluctant Democratic Senate coming along (only Wisconsin Senator Russ Feingold, a Democrat, voted against it) – arguably the worst piece of legislation in the history of the country. They started first an air campaign against the alleged (true) mastermind behind 9/11, al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, in Afghanistan, but then for some inexplicable reason transferred most of their attention to an air and ground invasion of Iraq and its dictator Saddam Hussein, in essence starting a two-front war.

While making these mistakes, they also spent money like drunken sailors on shore leave. Instead of maintaining steady tax rates, the neo-cons lowered taxes – apparently thinking that there would be a magical money tree that would just drop $100 bills from the sky – while pushing an extreme anti-everything social policy that impeded on the rights on every person that isn’t a white male in the U. S. If that wasn’t enough, then the fiscal collapse of 2008 occurred – and the resulting “bank bailout” that was started by President Bush – before President Barack Obama came to office.

Now, in my entire existence, the Congress may not have agreed with the President, but they at the minimum did their job and attempted to work with the President. They passed bills, put them to the President and it was up to him as to whether he wanted to enact them. They WORKED with the President and/or his personnel. From the start of the Obama Presidency, however – and epitomized by now-Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s infamous “our job” speech (“Our job is to ensure that the man in the White House is a one-term President”) – the Republicans have done exactly NOTHING to further the cause of the United States (and please don’t try to say the 60 or so votes to end the Affordable Care Act constitutes “action”).

Where I come from – my core beliefs – is that government works the best when it does keep its nose out of the lives of its citizens. There come moments in a nation’s history, however, when it does require the “voice of reason” to step in and make a determination. Slavery, the right of women to vote, civil rights, abortion, equal protection for women and LGBT persons…these are all moments when the federal government has to step in and say, as a whole for the nation, that there is one rule for one nation. Through this method, one area of the nation cannot inflict its ignorance, giving the country a black eye over something that should be settled (as Alabama recently did over the gay marriage issue).

With these issues, the Republican Party seldom seems to be on the right side (slavery seems to be one of those rare occasions). Rather than embracing the rights of people, the GOP seems to kowtow to a small sect (and I use that term in its perfect religious intentions) of people who consistently chop off their leaders’ arms for not trying to be more accepting of people DIFFERENT THAN THEM.

I don’t want to see leaders blaming people for being disadvantaged or poor, I want to see those leaders attempt to help those people (a great program in North Carolina, started by a Republican, encouraged people on public assistance into a two-year program that eventually saw those people get off the dole). I want to see schools given every tool available for the children rather than hear politicians cry about the tax expenditure (education is the only way to ensure that we improve as a country) of simply providing textbooks. I want to see leaders who try to improve life for everyone rather than improve it for a few. I want to see intelligence praised instead of derided, as many in the GOP do when it comes to science.

As to the military (and as a veteran), I would like to see our troops used less rather than more. I’d prefer to see them used only as a TRUE last resort instead of as a “peacekeeping” force (as they have been since World War II). And, if you’re going to use the military, supply them with the equipment they need, pay them well, take care of their families and, when they come home, take care of the veterans and their medical conditions. The Republicans who say that they cannot take care of veterans – calling it an “entitlement” – shouldn’t ever darken the door of Congress again.

This means you have to have money for everything. Paying for a strong military, infrastructure, improvements overall for people’s daily lives, business and education improvements…it all takes money. While it can be streamlined, it also needs funding to function. Taxation for government is a necessary evil and denying that increase in revenue is a death sentence to being a third world country.

This isn’t to say all Republicans are evil, just as it isn’t to say that all Democrats are saints. But, when the scales are weighed, I see one side doing more for people and the military overall and it certainly isn’t the one that is represented by the heavier animal. I’m always open for presentation of evidence to the contrary but, for the Republican Party, that evidence is rather sparse.

Is that answer good enough?

Wondering Whatever Happened to…For February 1

Filthy15

Sitting around wondering whatever happened to the “Filthy 15” while pondering…

You Want to Talk About Double Standards? In December in Akron, OH, Daniel Kovacevic was the subject of a brutal verbal tirade from Deone Slater on a sidewalk in a busy neighborhood. Kovacevic was so in fear, reports state, that he called police in to get Slater away from him. Police arrived on the scene and did speak to Slater, who was yelling profanities at Kovacevic…because Kovacevic wanted to walk in front of Slater’s business, a barbershop, while carrying a loaded rifle slung on his shoulder.

While Ohio is an open carry state – even to the point of being able to openly carry WITHOUT a license – Slater was understandably bothered that Kovacevic chose to do it in front of his business and really didn’t understand why police had an issue with his displeasure. “They (police) asked me why do I have a problem,” Slater said. “He’s a threat to me and my people. He’s a threat to me.”

If you hadn’t figured it out, Slater is black while Kovacevic is white and Slater believes this played into police reaction, which they deny. Still, the state of Ohio is the one that saw police shoot to death a 12-year old Tamir Rice for having a toy gun (among other superb examples of police work in the state), but in this instance decided to speak to a business owner about being upset over a guy walking around in front of his place of business carrying a rifle and running off his customers. Double standards, anyone?

What, You Contributed How Much? OK, Go Ahead and Kill Kids… – In the state of Florida, the stupidity normally runs towards criminals running into the swamp and being eaten by alligators or a bicyclist who shoots himself to death because he’s carrying his gun on him, but this one takes the cake. After the Republican Party of Florida was partially the beneficiary of $200,000 in political contributions from Tenet Healthcare, state officials dropped quality standards for surgical procedures for children with heart defects despite those procedures being in place for nearly four decades without being questioned.

Tenet Healthcare is a for-profit hospital that was under review because many tests and services for pediatric cardiology weren’t being performed at the hospitals owned by the company. As such, the Tenet-owned hospitals were unable to maintain a proficiency in heart operations for children, even on some babies younger than six months. A doctor from Johns Hopkins University suggested that the Tenet hospitals stop performing surgeries until their performance could improve. The hospital system ignored them.

Since those Tenet-run hospitals didn’t conform to the state’s standards for children’s heart surgeries, the state got involved. The state also quickly closed their investigations after $200,000 in campaign contributions were given to Governor Rick Scott’s political action committee, Let’s Get to Work, and the Republican Party of Florida. Of course, the politicos in charge claim that there is no “pay for play” in action in this case.

You might think that protection of children might be something that everyone would be interested in. Apparently not in the state of Florida…

For SHAME, Woman! Wear The Proper Clothes! – In Kansas, apparently a lawmaker is more interested in what a woman might wear when she appears in front of his committee instead of what the committee’s work might entail.

Kansas State Senator Republican Mitch Holmes instituted an 11-point dress code that dictated what was an “acceptable form of dress for women appearing in front of his committee.” Holmes, who said he thought about putting in something for men but eventually decided that “they didn’t need any guidance,” is the chairman of the Senate Ethics and Elections Committee and says he wrote the instructions “because provocatively dressed women are a distraction.”

Naturally, the pervert Senator caught some flak for these “guidelines.” A fellow Senator, Democrat Laura Kelly, plainly said, “Oh for crying out loud, what century is this?” Another female Senator and the ranking Democrat on the Holmes committee, Oletha Faust-Goudeau, stated, “In my 13 years in the Legislature, that’s the first time I’ve ever read anything like that.”

After several days of being the laughingstock of the Kansas Senate, Holmes was finally shamed into removing the rules from his committee. “My failure to clearly specify that all conferees, regardless of gender, should strive to present themselves professionally is unacceptable. I apologize and meant no offense. I have decided to retract the conferee guidelines,” Holmes said in a written statement. He has refused any further statement on the subject.

Perhaps now the Senator can get about the business of rescuing Kansas’ rapidly escalating budget deficit rather than worrying about seeing some woman’s cleavage.

Perhaps A Remedial Course in the First Amendment Is in Order – Last week, the University of Missouri assistant professor who called for “some muscle” to rough up a student journalist during a campus protest in the fall was charged with a misdemeanor assault charge. Almost as quickly, the professor was able to avoid prosecution by agreeing to complete 20 hours of community service and not violate the law for the next year.

The problems began at the University of Missouri on November 9 when professor Melissa Click, who had joined several protestors who were protesting the delay that the school’s leadership was taking in its investigation into several racial matters on the campus, aggressively approached two student journalists who were working for the campus newspaper. Click allegedly grabbed one of the student journalists and called for “some muscle” to forcibly remove them from reporting on the scene of the protests on campus.

It must also be added here that Click is a professor of communications on the campus and had a courtesy appointment with…the University of Missouri’s School of Journalism, which she not surprisingly resigned after violating that little thing called “freedom of the press.”

Although the legal case is apparently solved for Click, the school still has to decide what to do about her position. There is a tremendous uproar from the state Legislature to have her tenure revoked, but there is an almost equal crowd that is willing to accept the apologies that she has made and move on. At the minimum, she should have to take a review course in Journalism 101 and maybe keep that “freedom of the press” thing in mind next time around.

Now the answer to the question…whatever happened to the “Filthy 15?”

TipperGore                            PeopleMagazine1985

Three decades ago, there was a movement afoot that attempted to crush the rise of “shocking” lyrics found in pop, rock and metal music of that era. Led by then-Senator Al Gore’s wife Tipper (we never really found out who else was with Tipper in the group, just that she had a “legion of followers”), the Parents Music Resource Center railed against all forms of music that it felt violated certain standards that it set (and, once again, there was no indication of how these standards came about). They called the songs the “worst of the worst,” the worst offenders, the “Filthy 15” and the PMRC even went to Congress testifying about how “this type” of music was destroying the youth of that day.

The PMRC, as they were known, wanted to introduce a ratings system, much like what was done with movies since 1968 with the MPAA film ratings system. Instead of PG, R or X, however, the PMRC wanted something a bit different – D/A for drug/alcohol references, O for occult, V for violence and, sure, X for profanity or sexual references. After a hearing in front of Congress didn’t get the ratings system that they wanted, the PMRC was able to run the long con on the music industry that they WOULD be able to get their ratings system through eventually. The two parties ended up settling for the “Parental Advisory: Explicit Lyrics” sticker that we’ve come to ignore for the past 30 years.

FrankZappa

To look back at the “Filthy 15” today, you would really have to chuckle. Metal bands such as Judas Priest, Motley Crue, W.A.S.P., Mercyful Fate, Def Leppard and Twisted Sister (yes, the song that Donald Trump currently is using in his Presidential campaign, “We’re Not Gonna Take It,” was a part of the “Filthy 15”) were easy targets for violent or occult references, but some of the others were comical. The Mary Jane Girls (“In My House” for being sexually explicit), Cyndi Lauper (“She Bop” an ode to masturbation) and Madonna (“Dress You Up” for being sexually explicit in probably what was her most non-sexual song ever) all earned the ire of Gore and her coven of mommies whose ears hurt when they heard these songs.

It seems the ladies had a particular wing of the PMRC built for the iconic Prince. Not only was he there for “Darling Nikki,” he also earned his place on the list with Scottish songbird Sheena Easton (“Sugar Walls” was written by Prince) and his protégé Vanity (“Strap On ‘Robbie Baby’”). Yes, if you couldn’t figure it out, it was for profane or sexual content that these songs made the PMRC list.

DeeSnider1

The two gentlemen above (along with musician John Denver, oddly enough) were at the forefront of testifying against Gore and the witch hunt from the PMRC. Noted musician Frank Zappa, while not a member of the “Filthy 15,” eloquently testified to Congress against the censorship of music, while singer Dee Snider of Twisted Sister said at the time that the music was no different than what kids had done throughout history…finding a way to rebel against their parents’ staid world. Unfortunately, Zappa would pass away in 1993 from colon cancer; Snider still is on the road, performing with Twisted Sister and as a solo act, and he admits to listening to everything that his children do to make sure that it is appropriate for them to hear, only censoring in the most extreme cases (he notes the Tenacious D song “Fuck Her Gently” was not appropriate for his eight year old daughter in an interview).

So what happened to some of the other “Filthy 15?” Vanity, for her part, never quite had the career that she might have had if she had stayed under Prince’s tutelage (she was supposed to be the female lead in Purple Rain, but had a falling out with Prince before filming began; the role would then fall to another Prince acolyte, Apollonia). The album that her PMRC greatest hit appeared on, Wild Animal, wasn’t exactly memorable and, in 1985, she posed for Playboy. In the early 1990s, she shed the stage name Vanity (returning to her birth name), found Christianity and became a minister. Regarding her days as “Vanity,” she said to Rolling Stone, “I was young and irresponsible, a silly woman laden with sin, not caring for anything except fame and fortune and self.”

The same is also true for Blackie Lawless, the founder and leader of W.A.S.P. Their song “Animal (Fuck Like a Beast)” was one of the biggest bombshells of the PMRC and Lawless’ photograph – of him with a circular saw blade protruding from his groin as he played bass onstage – was waved frequently during the hearings in Washington, D. C. in 1985. Lawless, however, now is a born-again Christian and states that he hasn’t played the song – either live or otherwise – in more than a decade.

Others, however, are unapologetic for the music they created. Easton commented to Billboard that “parents have the right to filter the content that their children are exposed to. If parents felt that “Sugar Walls” was inappropriate…they were well within their rights. Adults, on the other hand, are free to choose what they want.” Prince noted that the “times were different back then” in saying, “I wouldn’t stand out today if I were brand new.”

Finally, there are those that viewed that “Parental Advisory” label as a badge of honor. King Diamond, the vocalist for Mercyful Fate who went on to form his own eponymous band, stated, “The sticker never served as a warning, but more as a stamp of approval that kids ended up looking for in record stores.”  Vince Neil of Motley Crue echoed Diamond, saying, “Once you put that sticker on, that album took off. Those kids wanted it even more.

And as for the PMRC and Tipper Gore? The organization doesn’t even exist anymore and Gore separated from her husband in 2010. She continues to be a political advocate, this time for the LGBT community and in support of AIDS research. Meanwhile, no one pays any attention to the sticker on the CDs anymore and songs such as Big Sean’s “I Don’t Fuck with You,” Tove Lo’s “Talking Body” (where she sings “we fuck for life”) and other songs are readily played on the radio nowadays with little thought about their lyrical content.