Ending the Madness: Early Voting for the 2016 Presidential Election in Florida

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For the past few Presidential elections, I’ve been fortunate enough to be able to vote early. In 2008 and 2012, I voted in Illinois, which wasn’t exactly a battleground state in either election and in 2004 I was in North Carolina, long before it became a “purple state.” Thus, with the 2016 Presidential election, I looked to take advantage of early voting once again, but this time it would mean something. My wife and I’s recent move to the state of Florida put us both in a “battleground” state for probably the first time in our lives, something that at least I relish…and perhaps shouldn’t have.

In Florida, there’s a long history of problems with the voting process. Everyone knows about the issues back in the 2000 General Election, where the term “hanging chad” became more than just the name of a Chippendale’s dancer, and lengthy lines at polling places on Election Day have become commonplace. But there is the brutal honesty when it comes to elections overall; a Loyola Law School professor found in a study that, between 2000 and 2014 and in hundreds if not thousands of elections across the United States, there have been 31 TOTAL CASES of voter fraud out of more than one BILLION votes cast. Thus, the bullshit emanating from the mouth of the Republican candidate (and others in places of responsibility) that voter fraud is “rampant” is something I ignored. In fact, it ramped up the reason for both my lovely wife and I to vote early in this election.

There are three ways you can vote in the state of Florida. One is wait until Election Day, which was immediately out for my wife and I. With a young child and work schedules, the potential of standing for hours (remember the lines in the 2008 and 2012 elections in areas) on Election Day was about as welcome as a proctology exam. When it came to voting early, there were two choices available:  going to an early voting precinct or a mail-in vote. I was interested in voting by mail – as it was something that I had never done – so both my wife and I ordered mail-in ballots for the 2016 election.

A funny thing happened on the way to filling out that ballot, however. The state of Florida, Republican Governor Rick Scott and Secretary of State Ken Detzner were chastised by U. S. District Court Judge Mark Walker for THROWING OUT MAIL-IN BALLOTS because signatures that were on file did not match that which were on the ballots. In Florida, if a mail-in ballot isn’t signed, people are given the chance to correct said ballot. By law, the different county election boards have to contact the voter and attempt to get the ballot signed. In the event that signatures didn’t match, however, the ballots were completely tossed out with the voter not informed of the action. Walker’s ruling forced the state to contact people to inform them their ballot wasn’t counted because of the difference. It was just the latest instance of voter disenfranchisement by the GOP in the state (Scott also initially refused to allow for a voter registration extension after Hurricane Matthew hit the state; a federal judge ordered a week’s extension).

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Want more? In Miami two women – at least one with Republican ties – were arrested for violations of voter laws. In one case, a 74-year old woman was arrested for allegedly blatantly marking ballots (if they were left blank) in favor of Republican mayoral candidate Raquel Regalado. In a separate case, a woman hired to register new voters was found to have allegedly fabricated several voter registration forms, including some applications that were submitted for people who were deceased.

Add in the instance of the Republican voter in Iowa who was arrested for voting twice (in an ironic twist, for the GOP nominee) in the Iowa elections (and take a look at her Facebook page…it’s a bit disconcerting) and there was a sudden need to get this shit over with quickly. As such, both my wife and I decided to go to the early voting booths to register our vote for 2016 and its races.

It was a beautiful, sunny Florida day when my wife and I forced our way through the hordes of Trump and Clinton supporters who were physically battling it out on the sidewalk of the library where we were to vote. Upon reaching the doors (and making sure we didn’t get pulled into the carnage behind us), my wife and I reached the entrance. “Trump or Clinton?” the man at the door asked.

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My wife paused in thought for a moment and was whisked away, despite my pleadings and the two guys holding me back from chasing her abductors down. Looking at me, the man asked again, “Trump or Clinton?” I responded with the Democratic nominee and was led into a plush room where I voted quickly…hey, there was a full bar after you fed your ballot into the machine and I was given a draft Yuengling! About 10 minutes later my wife, with a vacant look in her eyes, came out and said “Clinton will win,” despite the fact I knew that wasn’t who she had planned to vote for (hey, it’s a Carville/Matalin thing, don’t judge us!). She had a Hi-C juice box in her hand and said nothing more about what had happened and, with that, we were done with voting for 2016.

Now, if you believed that, you shouldn’t be allowed to vote because of basic stupidity.

The only part that was true was it was a beautiful day in Florida. There was some traffic at the library, but everyone was in a great mood as we entered the polling location. There were no protestors, no “voter watchdogs,” no politicking at all. After coming to the poll worker, my wife and I were questioned about the fact we had requested a mail-in ballot (with my poll worker drilling me a bit harder than my wife’s) and we ensured them that those ballots would be destroyed (and they were – you don’t have a great shredder for nothing).

This is the point where things got a bit strange, however. After I was given the ballot, the poll worker said to me, “Go to the cubicle and fill it out.” Fill it out? I wondered, until I got to the cubicle and saw a black ink pen waiting on the dais. Yes, that’s right…in the 21st century, with the advancements in electronic voting, I was going to fill out a ballot by COLORING IN A CIRCLE like I was taking the SAT!

This is completely unacceptable. Sure, maybe it was a factor that the Hillsborough County Superintendent of Elections, Craig Latimer, didn’t want to roll out the automated machines for the early voting process. Perhaps there were some costs involved in having those machines prepped for the early voting process and it was a money-saving maneuver. Perhaps he believes that the ink and paper written ballots are more than enough for those who are voting early. It sure as hell doesn’t lend credence to voter satisfaction or knowledge that their vote is being accepted, logged and counted as it should be…but I digress.

After completing my end-of-semester final…I mean, my BALLOT FOR THE 2016 ELECTIONS…I then went over to a nice older lady who instructed me to feed it into a machine. That machine didn’t exactly strike confidence either as basically all it did was say that it had passed through the machine. There was no “VOTE COUNTED” display nor was there anything to alert the poll worker that there might have been a problem with registering the vote. The best I could do was accept that the poll worker said the vote was entered and, accepting my little voter sticker, accept her wishes for a “good day” and exit the polling area.

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And that is the way it will go for virtually 150 million U. S. citizens who vote this year. No shenanigans, no “voter fraud,” no “voter watchdogs” sticking their noses into the process.

Yes, this year has provided us a tremendously stressful election. Normally sane people – people that would normally take up for their fellow man, believe in the dream for ALL people in the United States that they can improve their station in life and believe that we are the world’s beacon of light – have suddenly become xenophobic assholes who want to deny everything to everyone. Normally sane people – ones that wouldn’t take any disparaging remarks about women or minorities, going to the edges to fight against such idiotic people and their language – suddenly are misogynous reptiles that toss such beliefs under the bus in the name of “nationalism.” Normally sane people – those that have railed against dictators, strongmen and other such threats to a democratic process – suddenly support a fascist bastard because “he tells it like it is.”

Unfortunately, that is the way this nation has become, fractured and with the break separating even further day by day. We must reverse this process at the end of this election. We should at least TRY to work together, talk sanely about issues and try to find a way to move the country forward. But, as we have already seen, the GOP isn’t exactly looking to do that. Thus, either we must force them to action or vote them out…there’s no other option.

For myself and my lovely wife, the 2016 General Election is over. We’ve placed our votes. Our duty is done and I myself am at peace. I can watch the returns come November 8 and be satisfied that I exercised a special right that U. S. citizens have that other countries do no provide their countrymen and women. I can also be worried of what the future may hold with an electorate that is so separated…it, and I, will be.

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Protests Only Work When It Hurts…

It’s funny the things that will come up when you’re in the process of moving. During me and my wife’s latest move from the foothills of North Carolina to the Gulf Coast of Florida, I happened across probably one of the more disappointing moments from this year (at least until possibly the election in November)…

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Now, the seats weren’t fantastic – in fact, they were at the other end of the arena from where the stage was situated. But they were square on with the stage and would have offered a great opportunity to see much of the crowd enjoying the show from Bruce, one of the legendary performers in rock history (I could tell stories about seeing him in 1980 for a six-plus hour show, but we’ll save that for another time). My wife and I were eagerly anticipating the show as it had been many years since either of us had been able to see “The Boss” in action.

Then the North Carolina General Assembly and asswipe Governor Pat McCrory got their panties in a bunch.

In February, the Charlotte City Council passed an ordinance extending protections to the lesbian/bisexual/gay/transgender (LGBT) community. A part of this ordinance – and the issue that sparked the most controversy – was the provision for allowing people to use the restroom of their gender identity, rather than that of whichever sex they were born. In essence, the ordinance allowed those who were in the process of shifting from one sex to another to use the restroom of that other sex (male transgendered individuals could use female restrooms and vice versa).

The response by McCrory and the GOP-dominated North Carolina legislature (which has been gerrymandered to make it virtually impossible for a balanced legislature to occur – witness the THREE TIMES that the federal government has called the state’s legislative districts unconstitutional) was immediate. Convening a special session of the General Assembly (one outside the normal working times of the legislative body), McCrory and his henchmen pushed through HB2, a bill that was so overreaching in its aim it was destined for the “unconstitutional” bin almost from the start.

Not only did that bill immediately set that “all people” had to use the restroom of the birth sex, but it also removed the right for minorities and the LGBT community to sue through the state court system for discrimination. It included a provision that prevented individual cities from enacting their own laws that differentiated from state statutes. With many Democratic representatives protesting by leaving the voting floor, the statute passed through the General Assembly with only about 12 HOURS of overall discussion.

This was the end of March and, within days, the impact was felt. Several local productions in theaters around the Tar Heel State reported that the rights holders to significant stage productions (plays) were pulling their approval for performance over the bill. The streaming provider Hulu pulled the production of a program they had set for airing out of North Carolina over the bill and PayPal suspended expansion of its operations center in the state. This was but the tip of the iceberg, however.

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Many entertainment artists have also pulled out of shows that they were scheduled to perform, including “The Boss,” Pearl Jam, Boston, Bryan Adams, Ani DiFranco, Ringo Starr, Nick Jonas and Demi Lovato and Cirque du Soleil. The real thunder came down, however, over the past couple of months, first with the National Basketball Association’s removal of the 2017 NBA All-Star Game from Charlotte. Then, just yesterday, the National Collegiate Athletics Association (NCAA) removed SEVEN championship games or playoff sites from the state, citing the law as the reason. All totaled, the loss of business regarding all of these repercussions could total to as much as half a billion dollars by the year anniversary of HB2’s passage, with the NBA All-Star Game accounting for about $100 million of that total, and could even impact future business in the state.

The reason this came back to me was not only a result of the move. Finding that ticket stub for an unused concert was simply the catalyst for a reply to model Kate Upton’s Twitter hissy fit over athletes not standing for the National Anthem. Of course, over the weekend was the opening weekend of the National Football League season (and the 15th anniversary of 9/11, just coincidentally) and, following in the footsteps of San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s continuing protest against inequality in the United States, some players either did not stand for, knelt in protest or displayed the “Black Power” salute as the National Anthem played. This bunched Upton’s panties, who stated, “This is unacceptable. You should be proud to be an American. Especially on 9/11 when we should support each other.”

The continued attention being drawn to what has now become a movement (hey, if a subject catches the nation’s attention for more than two years – yes, it’s been that long since the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, widely considered the spur – it is a movement) is only done when a protest has an impact. Kaepernick has been vocal in the past regarding the issues of black people in the United States and their treatment at the hands of law enforcement, but no one was paying any attention to what he was saying. It wasn’t until his act of defiance of not standing for the National Anthem – and attention was drawn to the fact that he was doing it – that there became a national conversation (admittedly sometimes not about what Kaepernick wanted to talk about, as with Upton’s attempt at using her First Amendment rights by silencing Kaepernick’s, but still there was discussion).

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For a protest to have an impact, there are a couple of things that it should have. It has to have some financial teeth, some fiscal bite, that pushes some to reconsider their positions (it also has to have a side that understands those fiscal implications – apparently North Carolina Republicans are morons if they issue this response). Along with that, it should have some emotional impact on people. There were plenty that were upset over Springsteen’s decision to not perform in North Carolina, just as there are more than likely many upset that Demi Lovato didn’t come to North Carolina or that LeBron James won’t be making an appearance during the NBA All-Star Game in the state. A protest only works when it hurts, either physically or emotionally. That is what makes a protest enact the change that comes about (eventually) with issues.

I’m putting those unused Bruce Springsteen tickets back in the desk as a reminder to myself for a couple of reasons. One, something has to be lost (in some cases) for a protest to have its desired effect, and Two, there is the ability to protest at all levels, from the richest of us all to the poorest. It will be some time before the protests of the actions in North Carolina and the national discussion of inequality are adequately addressed, but hopefully it is sooner than later.

Wondering Whatever Happened to…For February 1

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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?”

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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.

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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.

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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.

Wondering Whatever Happened to…For January 14

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Sitting around wondering whatever happened to Suzi Quatro while pondering…

So I Guess ANYONE Can Be a Hero Now – When someone is injured in the course of defending the country in a time of warfare, they are granted the right to wear the Purple Heart due to their injuries (if you’re my silly little brother, you refuse the reward after nearly losing an eye in the First Gulf War, but that’s another story for another time). If you perform feats of heroism above and beyond what are expected of mere mortals (or perhaps because you’re scared shitless), you earn more prestigious medals such as the Bronze or Silver Star or the ultimate expression of heroism, the Medal of Valor. Whenever you normally see these awards, you can be assured that the person wearing the award has performed a very special feat…or can you?

A federal court in California ruled earlier this week that a former Marine can wear certain service medals he did not earn, somehow determining that this was a “form of free speech.” Apparently Elven Joe Swisher, who served in the USMC after the Korean War and was discharged honorably in 1957, has taken to wearing the Silver Star and the Purple Heart. The problem? He was never awarded either military honor.

In 2001, Swisher filed paperwork for disability payments for post-traumatic stress disorder from his time in the military, in particular “secret combat missions in North Korea.” He was granted the payments and, in 2004, wore the Purple Heart when testifying at the trial of a man being tried for solicitation of murder in an attempt to make him look more reliable as a witness. When this came out – after the passage of the Stolen Valor Act – Swisher was charged under the Act and his payments stopped.

In 2012, however, the Stolen Valor Act was challenged in the Supreme Court, where the Justices ruled that it was “free speech” to just WEAR the medals, as long as you didn’t CLAIM you earned them. In 2013, the Congress changed the Stolen Valor Act to remove the illegality of wearing a medal from its verbiage. The decision by the federal court on Monday set aside Swisher’s 2007 conviction for violating the Stolen Valor Act but did not overturn his conviction.

We constantly hear about “respecting the military” from those who have never served. Add this to the list of the continued disrespect that the military receives.

It Was a Tragedy, But You’re Pushing It Here – Once again out of California – who seems to want to challenge Florida for the title of “stupidest state in the U. S.” – the widow of one of the victims of December’s mass shooting in San Bernardino has decided to file a lawsuit against the county. In her claim, Renee Wetzel, the widow of Michael Wetzel, says that the county and 25 unidentified individuals and the respondents to the shooting were “negligent and careless” in their actions and that her husband’s death was preventable. If this weren’t outrageous enough – no other family member of a victim from the shooting, which was an act of terrorism by two radicalized Muslims (one an American citizen), has filed any court actions – the price tag on the lawsuit will make you choke.

Wetzel is asking for a grand total of $58 MILLION in damages in the case:  $3 million for lost wages from her husband’s death, $25 million in general damages and $10 million in general damages for each of the couple’s three children. The county attorneys haven’t responded as of yet out of respect to those who were victims of what was a horrific crime; even one of the woman’s attorney, Andrew J. Nissen, wouldn’t indicate where the alleged negligence came from that the county supposedly committed.

Look, it is tragic what occurred in San Bernardino, but this doesn’t give you the right to make a mint off the situation. It just goes to demonstrate that there is serious need for tort reform – and a method to punish frivolous lawsuits – in the United States.

And On the Other End of the Spectrum – The family of a 12-year old girl in Pennsylvania who was shot to death by an elected constable isn’t blaming the man for the death of their family member but rather her father, who escalated the situation.

According to reports, Constable Clark Steele (in Pennsylvania, a constable is an elected position that can serve warrants, transport prisoners and perform what would be administrative law enforcement powers) went to a home in Duncannon, PA, on Monday to serve eviction papers on the residents, Donald and Sherry Meyer. When he knocked on the door of the address, Steele was met by the business end of a shotgun being aimed at him by Donald Meyer and Steele fired one shot in self-defense. That shot traversed the length of Meyer’s arm, shattering the bone, and exited at the elbow. It then hit Meyer’s daughter, Ciara, in the chest as she stood behind him, killing her on the scene.

Family members, in a refreshing change of pace, didn’t immediately castigate the officer, however. “None of us in our family have any hard feelings toward him,” one family member commented. The family knew about the history of the male Meyer and asked a reporter, “Did anyone let him (the constable) know that he was going to be walking into a rat’s hole?” Meyer, who was due in court later this month for a case on a DUI and resisting arrest (the eviction was a separate case) now is in jail for aggravated assault, reckless endangerment and other counts.

The family may very well receive some settlement from the police over the unfortunate death of their family member, but at least they realize there wasn’t any malicious intent in the constable’s actions.

Sometimes, There Are No Other Words That Can Be Said – In Virginia, Delegate Mark Cole decided that 2016 was the year that the state government had to make sure that restrooms in public schools were being used properly. On Tuesday, the representative for the 88th District in the Virginia House of Delegates filed a bill that would require students that use the restroom at school to use the “designated restroom for a specific gender” or be fined.

The law defines gender as “anatomical sex, mean[ing] the physical condition of being male or female, which is determined by a person’s anatomy.” To most, that would mean that a physical examination of the person – in this case, a child – would be necessary to determine if the person was going to the right potty house instead of trying to “sneak a peek.” For his part, Cole has said that it is simply a bill that will only be used if there is a “complaint.” He also says that it wouldn’t require a “genital check,” but a simple look at someone’s student registration or birth certificate.

You would think there were other things in Virginia to be concerned with…

Now the answer to the question…whatever happened to Suzi Quatro?

Many might remember Quatro for her quick – and I do mean quick, as in fleeting – appearances on the television series Happy Days in the late 1970s as Leather Tuscadero, the little sister to Fonzie’s girlfriend Pinky Tuscadero (herself a fleeting memory), who fronted a powerful rock and roll band that “broke the norms” in the 1950s. As it turns out, to those who thought that Quatro was “just an actress,” there was a whole lot more in the package than they expected!

Happy Days wasn’t Quatro’s debut in show business. In fact, Quatro had actually been around much longer than that, especially making a huge impact in the music business. In the 1960s at the tender age of 14, she joined with her sister Patti in a band called The Pleasure Seekers, finding some success in the Detroit music community. After turning 18, Quatro then would move to England and became successful in West Germany as a hard rock act. From 1973 to 1980, Quatro would win some form of the West German magazine Bravo’s Bravo Award (73-74 the Gold, 1975, 1978 and 1979 the Bronze and 1980 the Silver) for Best Female Singer. The U. S., however, preferred their Suzi to be a little softer, with her only success in the States a tune called “Stumblin’ In” that peaked at #4 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1979.

Quatro has served as the inspiration for many of the women who have gone on to have success in the world of hard rock/metal in the music business. It is arguable that, without Suzi Quatro, there wouldn’t have been The Runaways and, as a result of that, no Joan Jett, who is now enshrined in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Others who have given Quatro credit for inspiring them to get into music include the Talking Heads’ Tina Weymouth (who was encouraged by her then boyfriend and now husband, fellow Heads’ member Chris Frantz, to listen to Quatro albums to learn how to play the bass) and singer/songwriter KT Tunstall.

Quatro calls England home nowadays and it appears that she’s beginning to slow down a bit. She last appeared in the United States in 2013, when she was given the Distinguished Achievement Award from the Detroit Music Awards (her birthplace) and, in 2014, Quatro performed what has been called her “final” Australian tour. At 65, Quatro has a handful of shows scheduled in Europe for 2016, where she will continue to rock the fans who come to see her. But don’t expect her to just quit; on her website, Quatro states, “I will retire when I go onstage, shake my ass and there is silence.”

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