The Aftermath of 9/11 – Has it Been Worth It?

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Today marks 18 years since the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center changed the world forever, and not for just the States of America. 19 terrorist hijackers primarily from Saudi Arabia – 15 of them held Saudi citizenship, two were from United Arab Emirates, one from Lebanon and one from Egypt – seized control of four aircraft flying cross-country routes from Boston, Newark, NJ and Washington, D. C., to California (Los Angeles and San Francisco). Loaded with jet fuel, the terrorists utilized the planes as weapons, employing training that they had received at flight schools in the U. S. to pilot one plane each into the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center, one into the Pentagon in Washington and, after an uprising of the passengers on the flight, a forced crash landing in a field in Pennsylvania instead of its intended destination of the White House or Capitol Hill, home of the U. S. Congress.

The results of the 19 terrorists’ actions were immediate and numbing. 2977 people – and not all of them ever had any physical evidence of their existence ever recovered from the wreckage – were killed in the four instances, the worst terrorist attack on U. S. soil in the country’s history (the 1941 attack by the Japanese on Pearl Harbor technically did not occur on U. S. soil as Hawaii was a territory of the U. S. at the time, not a state). And, much like when Pearl Harbor was attacked, the response from the country was swift and powerful. But the question has to be asked – 18 years later in the aftermath of the 9/11 attack, has it been worth it?

In the days following 9/11, first responders sifted through the rubble of the Twin Towers, the Pentagon and that field in Pennsylvania, trying to find any survivors and, when it became apparent that there were no survivors, recover the bodies of those who were killed in the attacks. Meanwhile, the presidency of George W. Bush aggressively moved to act against an unknown opponent. In an address to Congress mere days after the attacks, Bush announced that a “war on terrorism” needed to be conducted and, with the blessing of both the House of Representatives and the Senate, received virtually everything that was asked, including wide-sweeping mass surveillance of citizens of the U. S. (the Patriot Act of 2001) and broad ability to conduct military actions anywhere in the world.

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That thoroughly expected military action is still ongoing. As a part of the actions given to the Bush administration, on September 14, 2001 a broad Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Terrorists (AUMF) was granted by Congress. This allowed the Bush administration to immediately attack – without the consent of Congress, who is the body that has the right to declare war against another country – anyone viewed as “responsible for the attacks of September 11” and any “associated forces.” The AUMF has since been used by subsequent administrations.

There has rarely, in the history of the U. S., been two documents that affected the future as much as the Patriot Act and the AUMF. With the Patriot Act, it became possible for the government itself to spy on its own people, something that would have been abhorrent to the founders of the country or, even more recent, those that fought against oppressive governments in Germany, Japan and Italy in World War II. With the AUMF, it basically allowed the government to wage war virtually anywhere in the world in the name of the “war on terrorism;” it has been used to justify military actions by not only the Bush administration but those of President Barack Obama and the current occupant of the White House in countries as diverse as Afghanistan, Yemen, Georgia, Syria, Kenya, Ethiopia, Iraq and Somalia, among others.

But other, uglier actions arose from 9/11. Now called “hate crimes,” attacks against Muslims, Middle Eastern “looking” people, people of Asian descent (Sikhs in particular, who wear turbans that are erroneously confused with being associated with the Islamic faith) and others precipitously rose, blaming them for the actions of the 19 terrorists. This included taunting people in public and burning mosques all the way to killing people, when white supremacists took lives of those that “looked like terrorists” or were “towel heads” in a murderous rampage. It is arguable that these actions go on to this day.

Citizens themselves are not absolved of any responsibilities or blame for the devolvement of society since 9/11, either. If Watergate damaged the image of the country in peoples’ minds, the 2000 election controversy between Bush and former Vice President Al Gore and the actions of 9/11 totally destroyed any belief in a “just” government. These shattered thoughts and beliefs have tumbled over the past two decades into a massive snowball that ravages the psyche of the country in an avalanche of unsubstantiated thoughts and “alternative facts,” weaponized by extremists and employed by those to justify their philosophies.

Beliefs that the U. S. were a part of a “New World Order” (a phrase, ironically, uttered by Bush’s father, George H. W. Bush) brought about the idiotic conspiracy theories that 9/11 was an act by the Central Intelligence Agency and other nefarious operators, both domestic and international, to take freedoms from the citizens of the U. S. The use of fraudulent intelligence by the Bush administration that led to the Second Gulf War and the overthrow of Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein further ripped the fabric of the country. And the virulent rhetoric from both sides of the political aisle – that if you didn’t fully support “American” action, then you weren’t a “true American patriot” – contributes even today to the massive schism that exists in our political process.

The costs of the “war on terror” brought by the 9/11 attacks also have to be questioned. The human toll is striking and depressing simultaneously – the U. S. military has seen roughly 7000 deaths and tens if not hundreds of thousands of injuries from operations contributable to the “war or terror.” The civilian cost is estimated to be conservatively 1.3 million deaths, although some estimates set the total closer to four million. And the costs to cultural, religious and historic areas – ISIS has destroyed many sites of antiquity in their version of the “war on terror” – are too numerous to mention.

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The human costs are arguably the most important thing, but the financial costs of continuing the “war on terrorism” are approaching astronomical figures. Since 2001, it is estimated that the three U. S. presidential administrations that have conducted the “war on terrorism” have spent $7.6 TRILLION pursuing terrorist targets around the world and added $2.4 TRILLION to the U. S. budget deficit. This isn’t counting what other nations, including our NATO allies, have spent in their support of the actions following 9/11.

What has all of this brought to the U. S. and the world? “Terrorism” is something that can never truly be snuffed out. It is an action that dates back to biblical times (a Jewish group called the Sicarii would use concealed daggers to execute their targets in large crowds before slipping away and the Hashhashin, an Islamic sect, were a terrorist group in the 11th century that employed terrorist killings – the group’s name is where the word “assassin” comes from) but, in recent history, has moved from a “nation-state” action to a tool used by an individual political, religious or social group that has no traditional physical base of activity. It is one of the reasons that al-Qaeda (the terrorist organization responsible for 9/11), despite the protestations of the current administration, continues to thrive around the world.

And what has been the collateral damage from the aftermath of 9/11? In the U. S., we have raised a generation of children that know nothing but “war” and a misguided view of “patriotism” that is foisted by some who use that “war” as a political tool. In the world, there are people who have seen their families affected by the bombs of some far-flung U. S. drone attack, the bullets from a U. S.-made weapon or the ravages of imprisonment for “being (insert your religion or nationality here)” that has permanently implanted anti-U. S. sentiments in their minds. And the money that has been spent on the pursuit of “war” hasn’t been spent on areas to improve life for EVERYONE, significantly impacting all facets of life around the world.

On this 18th anniversary of 9/11 and in the future, as the costs both human and financial continue to rack up, we all must ask ourselves – “Was (Is) it worth it?” The nationalism that is becoming prevalent in the world nowadays can be directly traced back to 9/11 and it is something that has to be combated because it will only acerbate terrorism throughout the world. When it comes to the aftermath of 9/11, everyone has to have the ability to examine this question and plenty of other ones truthfully and come up with their own answers because this current situation cannot be continued in perpetuity. The current situation also cannot be allowed to flourish, lest it destroy civil society and plunge the world into an anarchistic state or theocratic or fascist rule. There is no such thing as “total security” and these thoughts present not only the people and leaders of the U. S. with a complex challenge but the world as well.

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What Do You Do When You Already Know What’s Going to Happen?

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Usually when a President (note the capital letter) calls for the networks to open some airtime for him to address the nation, there is a tremendous interest from the public. I remember back when President Bush I announced the invasion of Iraq, President Clinton’s confession of his affair with Monica Lewinsky, President Obama’s announcement of the killing of Osama bin Laden, or President Bush II’s commencement of the Second Gulf War in Afghanistan following 9/11, just to name a few. All of these prime-time speeches were monumental, they Meant Something.

For the first time in decades, I have absolutely no interest in what this resident in the White House has to say, tonight or at any time. Perhaps its because of the 7000-plus documentable lies that he has told over the past two years, including the latest doozies that “all the previous presidents have told me they wished they’d built a wall (no goddamn prior President has told this asshole that)” or that “the people not working/not getting paid are behind me on this (union leaders have roundly derided that statement as false)” or “the people are calling the White House switchboard, telling me they want the wall (guess what gets shut down during a Government Shutdown, you moron? The White House switchboard).”

You might say that “politicians lie,” but this asshole has taken it to unprecedented levels. When you absolutely have no trust in what someone has to say, then why do you even want to hear them drone on about an issue when you could be watching The Big Bang Theory, Anderson Cooper 360 or, for fuck’s sake, even Hannity? But there’s a further issue at hand here – why watch it when you already know what’s going to happen?

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Normally when a President calls one of these prime-time addresses to the nation, it is a seismic moment that the President wants to calm a nation, offer them solace or explain to the country the reasons for a drastic event that is about to take place. The address from Orange Foolius tonight? It has all the drama of an episode of Nicky, Ricky, Dicky and Dawn without the “charming” children to try to make it entertaining.

Here’s how tonight’s address from Orange Foolius is going to go:

Scenario 1

The dotard gets on the screen and simply repeats many of the already disproven lies that he or one of his sycophantic minions has been spewing over whichever airwaves they can reach. Everyone has seen Chris Wallace’s dismemberment of Press Conwoman Sarah Huckster Suckabee on Fox “News” over the weekend – where Wallace basically fact-checked the brainless rube live on the air for her falsehoods – or Jake Tapper basically laughing in the face of “Acting” Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney when Mulvaney with a straight face tries to say that Orange Foolius hasn’t debased politics with his previous actions. This list is a long one, including that there is an “invasion” on the southern border (crossings are at their lowest point in years), that drugs are coming across (drugs aren’t hauled by “mules” crossing the border, they are more likely to enter at sea ports) or that “illegals” are rushing across the unprotected border (most “illegal” immigration is done through overstaying visas, not crossing on the southern border), among others.

One of the most brilliant ideas I’ve heard (and I certainly wish I could remember where I originally saw it simply to give accreditation) is to put a soundtrack on Orange Foolius’ shit spewage tonight. Put a laugh track that activates whenever he starts bragging about himself or what he’s done; have a slide whistle or a “BBOOOINGGG!” sound effect when he tries to pass off an obvious lie as a truth; go with a buzzer sound effect when he tries to blame someone else (AKA the Democrats, Nancy Pelosi or Chuck Schumer) for the Government Shutdown because HE SAID HE WAS TAKING RESPONSIBILITY FOR IT. Feel free to add your own sound effects because A) it would make for a much more entertaining speech, and B) because we’re not going to get anything substantive out of it.

Scenario 2

Unfortunately, this one is serious…and unnerving.

Orange Foolius takes the mic tonight to announce that he’s calling a National Emergency at the border, immediately ordering military troops, engineers and financing from the military to pay for all activities on the border, including the insanity of a “wall” that, according to “conservatives,” will MAGICALLY shut down all border crossing and drug trafficking for the remainder of time!

If you don’t see the seriousness of this act, then you have problems. First off, to make such a declaration is one step from institution of Martial Law, which would allow a sitting president to suspend habeas corpus rights, use the military in manners that are prohibited in normal situations (the Posse Comitatus Act) and/or basically bring a fascist state to life. While “conservatives” jizz in their shorts over the potential for these things to become a reality, anyone who believes in a free society should be outraged.

If Orange Foolius calls for a National Emergency, he should be immediately impeached for illegal actions by an elected official. There is absolutely NOTHING that makes what is occurring on the border a “national emergency.” It has been going on for the last 70 years, since the close of WWII, when the States of America became the preeminent country in the world. When you build something that everyone wants a part of, that says you’re doing the right thing. To then take an action that would be so outstandingly stupid, not to mention illegal, would be…just what this asshole is known for.

This is not a situation that calls for a “national emergency” declaration. It is women and children, for the most part, fleeing for their lives over thousands of miles. It is families looking to be able to save themselves and start a new life under freedom rather than dictatorships (mostly created by U. S. government policies, but that’s a discussion for another time). And it is people actually looking to avoid being used by cartels and demagogues for illegal purposes.

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The Congress isn’t to blame in this situation. They did their jobs, in the last Congress, to pass a compromise piece of legislation that was initially acceptable for the jerkoff in the White House until Ann Coulter and Rush Limbaugh whipped his ass with a rolled-up copy of the National Review. The House, under the leadership of Pelosi, has done the job in this Congress (the Senate, under Yertle the Turtle, won’t bring the legislation to a vote because it would pass and embarrass Orange Foolius and, by extension, themselves). The person to blame is the one who said in December he would “own” the Shutdown…Orange Foolius himself.

When 9PM rolls around tonight, I’m not giving this asshole the privilege of my viewership. I can catch up with the “post-game” shows afterwards. Of the two scenarios above, however, Scenario 1 is most acceptable, although nothing will be done from it. If Scenario 2 actually occurs, however, then the Constitutional Crisis that has been discussed for the past two years will actually come to life…which side do you want to be on?

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

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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?

Why I Didn’t Watch President Obama’s Town Hall on Gun Control

Obama takes part in a live town hall on reducing gun violence on CNN in Virginia

Thursday night, I got my sick wife (who has been battling the King of all Colds for the past week) and our son cuddled up in bed together, watching cartoons, before they headed off to Slumberland. I headed back downstairs, looking to peruse the 200-plus channels that Time Warner Cable happens to throw at me at any given moment. It was at that time that I realized that there was something on that I should have been watching but I had utterly no interest in wasting two hours of my solo viewing time on.

Earlier this week, President Barack Obama issued Executive Orders – actions that a sitting President can take, without the input of Congress, to clarify and/or adjust how his administration either adjudicates laws or applies them to the citizenry of the United States – to stiffen some of the background checks that are applied when people look to buy guns in this country. As a result of several mass shootings that have occurred across the nation and the continuing inaction by a Congress that, if a vote was to be held on legislation that all days should end in “y” couldn’t pass said legislation, Obama stepped up and announced reasonable changes that could be implemented without infringing on anyone’s right to own weapons. After making these announcements, you’d have thought Obama had pissed on the U. S. flag and run it through the colon of a water buffalo.

Conservatives immediately decried Obama’s actions as an “attack on the 2d Amendment,” “a very threat to freedom-loving Americans,” or “a way to take your guns away from you.” This paranoia was ratcheted up by virtually every conservative hack in print, televised and internet media. Even the Presidential campaigns got into the action, with Senator Ted Cruz literally running a campaign ad saying “Obama is coming for your guns,” with a picture of Obama with a military helmet on and the Cruz campaign asking for campaign contributions.

The problem with this is nowhere in Obama’s statements were any measures to take any weapons away from any owners. There weren’t any laws to prohibit any weapons from being owned, bought or sold. About the most aggressive and invasive action was a movement to increase the passing of information regarding mental health issues between departments to ensure that those with mental health problems wouldn’t be passing the increased background checks to be able to purchase weapons.

Executive Orders have been used by sitting Presidents of the United States since the inception of the United States of America. Believe it or not, even George Washington used Executive Orders to push across things that otherwise wouldn’t have made it past a reluctant Congress (because, logically, if Congress could pass laws for the President supporting his position, he wouldn’t have to resort to Executive Orders). Other things that were Executive Orders include the Emancipation Proclamation, the New Deal and the order to desegregate schools in the South and the Armed Forces. Unfortunately, there are some negatives that also fall under this umbrella, including the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II and the usage of force against Native Americans in taking their tribal lands from them.

Not surprisingly, the announcement by the Obama Administration of these new Executive Orders came a few days before the broadcast on CNN on Thursday night. CNN went to great lengths to say that they were the creators of the Town Hall, not President Obama, and also went to great lengths to state that representatives from the National Rifle Association (NRA) were invited (and declined) to participate in the program. The audience was made up of those whose lives had been impacted by gun violence and by those who believe in the sanctity of the 2d Amendment and the right to gun ownership.

So what did I do when I passed by this program on the tube last night? Continued on to watch a college basketball game between two teams I didn’t even give a shit about.

I kind of knew how the entire two-hour “discussion” would go just from watching the general shitstorm that had raged across social media when Obama initially made his announcement of his Executive Orders (by the way, you know how many Obama has used as he enters his final year? 226. Know how many his predecessor, George H. W. Bush, used? 291. How about Saint Reagan? 381. The first Bush was pretty good with only 166, but he only served four years). I didn’t really want to watch a replay of that same thing spread out over two hours on television. Still, I couldn’t help but occasionally, during timeouts in whatever game I was watching (think there was a Scottish soccer game on at some point), drop back over to CNN to see just what was going on.

Imagine if you will a room full of people who were simply there for the factor of hate-watching each other. An Arizona sheriff who is running to join the U. S. Congress (for some reason) challenged the President that his actions wouldn’t have changed anything that happened with recent mass shootings; President Obama responded by saying just because something happens doesn’t mean the response is to “do nothing.” Another woman, the widow of the late U. S. military sniper Chris Kyle, berated the President for “trying to take guns away from people” and giving “false hope.” Obama responded by speaking past her to the NRA and why they weren’t there to discuss the issue. All in all, it was a two-hour circle jerk that left no one satisfied, with both sides talking past each other instead of TO each other.

It was even worse following the discussion when the pundits became a part of the show. A former New York City cop who spoke out of both sides of his mouth joined some of the liberal CNN political commentators (Van Jones, Gloria Borger) and some conservative voices (Hugh Hewitt, S. E. Cupp) to basically yell over each other and Jake Tapper for an hour, reaching no new discussion points, basically reasserting that no one actually wants to discuss the issue but rivet their heels to the ground and not yield an inch one way or the other.

Therein lies one of the problems with the situation regarding guns in our society. There are those that take the U. S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights – two of the greatest documents for governmental leadership in the history of mankind – as if they are God-given documents that can never be challenged nor changed. The Founding Fathers gave their descendants a way – yes, difficult, but for a reason…so that it wasn’t overused – to make changes when deemed necessary. They also encouraged their descendants to make those changes as time passed.

This is why a black person isn’t still considered 3/5ths a person anymore; this is why there is liquor to drink (after a previous effort to banish such activity) and that women can have the right to vote. This is why 18 year olds who can die on the battlefields of war have the ability to vote in this country. The 1st Amendment isn’t sacred – there are limitations on how far you can go with your speech and activities – and the 4th and 5th Amendment face constant modification. The 2d Amendment shouldn’t be considered sacred, either. It should have to adjust with the times and, yes, with the will of the people, who currently believe there should be more stringent control on guns (albeit not sure how to go about that) and, by a wide margin, more extensive background checks.

So what was the reaction of people following the show on CNN last night? After SportsCenter went off the air and “College Basketball Tonight” was coming on, I jumped on Facebook to check and see if there was a raging flame war between the pro- and anti-gun advocates. I nearly woke the crickets that were there regarding the subject.

With that said, this is a critical issue to try to gain a handle on (we are never going to eradicate it, we can simply only hope to lessen the impact of the next situation). Until all parties can come together and lay aside the radicalism of their political actions (NRA, are you listening?) or we can elect a Congress that isn’t beholden to one industry (not likely either), then discussions such as what CNN aired with President Obama last night will be a waste of time. When the next one comes on, you’ll probably find me watching the Swedish curling team…there’s some drama as to the outcome with that event, at least.

Another Day, Another Mass Shooting…Part One

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It’s beginning to become arduously mind numbing. A delightful office party on a sunny morning in San Bernardino, CA, celebrating the holiday season was suddenly wracked by automatic gunfire and improvised explosive devices (IEDs). Two people, a husband and a wife with the husband actually employed by the company throwing the party (and plenty of evidence continuing to come out about), came into the gathering with this weaponry, semi-automatic rifles, handguns and bombs, blazing a trail of brains, guts and sinew across the floor of what was once a happy celebration. When the scent of gunpowder was the only thing remaining, 14 people laid dead and 17 others suffered from injuries.

Of course, the usual procedural began before the bodies had even quit leaking blood. President Barack Obama, pulled out of an interview with CBS News as the bullets flew, made his usual commentary (accurate) that we are the only civilized country that has these issues, the same speech given five days earlier when a gunman shot up a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado. President Obama also called for politicians to put aside their differences and come to agreement on a plan of action to thwart future potential attacks. Pro-guns advocates threw up the “thoughts and prayers” bullshit (more on this in a minute) rather than take any logical approach to the issue. Meanwhile, those in the middle that might actually be affected by these insane actions feel another bit of our heart, our belief in the good of man, ripped away from us.

The “thoughts and prayers” platitude (just heard President Obama utter it too, not just Republicans) is about the most useless piece of wasted words that have ever been uttered. When people lie dead and injured from situations that are simply too outlandish to comprehend, “thoughts and prayers” aren’t going to do shit for them except to make your little heart feel good that you offered something up. In reality, you’ve offered nothing except empty words that have little actual thought or prayer behind it, a simplistic vagary that has become commonplace instead of actually taking legitimate action.

With that out of the way, how do we actually go about taking care of these issues? Both sides – and why there has to be sides on this issue is completely ludicrous (we enjoy seeing people ripped apart by gunfire, spreading their life essence on the ground?) – are going to have to give on the issue.

First, the rhetoric has to be squelched. As far back as President Ronald Reagan (if not further), the depiction of the President of the United States as a Hitler-esque figure has made the rounds. Back during Reagan’s heyday, however, those photos and comparisons were held in small groups that had a more difficult time in breeding their particular stew of radicalism because of the lack of connectivity.

Those same pictures of President Bill Clinton, President George Bush, President Obama or even Hillary Clinton today can race across the United States as quickly as a fiber optic line can carry them. Along with those photos comes the rhetoric – of the federal government as “jackbooted thugs” (a term used by Campaign for Liberty and I have the e-mails), that the “New World Order” is coming or that several tragic occurrences (including 9/11) were “false flag” operations (situations “staged” by the government to allow them to impede the freedom of the ‘American’ people) – and the ability to meet and exchange radical rhetoric much easier. This leads to radicalization, whether it is on an international level or a domestic one.

No leader of the United States has looked for the destruction of the country or its beliefs. Every leader since Reagan (at the minimum) has been accused and vilified for this, however, and the rhetoric has ratcheted up as people become immune to the last outrageous statement that was made (something we’re seeing in the 2016 Presidential races also). Instead of using incendiary words – yes, words can infuse a thought or action into someone’s mind that they might not have considered previously – try disagreeing on a different level, one where actual discourse about policy comes into play.

This also applies to other aspects of our lives. Tolerance of other religions (ALL religions), respect to a person’s particular thoughts and beliefs outside of a God-based nature, even someone’s opinions on politics or other seemingly insignificant issues can, in an unfettered discussion, devolve into a frenzy of rhetoric denouncing a person to their very essence, if not directly leading to questionable talk that wouldn’t be used if a person was standing directly in front of their opponent. The rhetoric, the speech…it has to be reined in.

Before it is accused, I am all for the “freedom of speech.” I am also all for speech that advances us as a country and as a species. Continually devolving ourselves to the lowest common denominator – or even lower – doesn’t seem to be working out too well.

The next step would be to put some regulation on the weaponization of the United States. In 1994, then-President Clinton passed, along with the U. S. Congress, a ban on assault weapons for a 10-year span. That law was allowed to expire in 2004 and, although there have been attempts to reinstate the law and make it permanent, the powerful gun lobby (re:  the National Rifle Association) has been able to squelch such efforts.

There is some evidence to state that semi-automatic weapons and their availability have little to no effect on the numbers of mass shootings. It is obvious, however, since the law expired in 2004 that there has been a rise in the usage of the weapons for that purpose. From 2004 to the Sandy Hook shooting in 2012, 27 mass shootings (the definition of a mass shooting is a minimum of four people either killed or injured, including the shooter, through the usage of guns) occurred; this leaves out those that have drawn attention in 2015, including this most recent shooting, the Colorado attack or the college shooting in Oregon earlier this fall.

Semi-automatic rifles are used in the military to give troops the rapid fire that is necessary during warfare to defend themselves and fight battles. The weapon is NOT meant for use by civilians; there is no practical purpose – hunting, target shooting, etc. – that these style of weapons would be necessary to find in the hands of the Average Joe. If you’re argument is that “you’re defending the country against the fascism of our government” then you need to go back and read the first part and reexamine your mindset.

Next, there needs to be some changes to other areas of our “gun culture.” People are supposed to have insurance on their vehicles that, in the event of an accident, can help to provide compensation for any victims. The ownership of weaponry needs the same treatment as this is part of responsible ownership. It would also provide for someone to report when their weapons are stolen or sold to another party because that would alleviate any responsibility for the weapon.

Finally, the left has to get used to the factor that this is a country that was built on the ownership of guns and that, treated responsibly, this isn’t a problem. In recent mass shootings three-quarters of the weapons used were legally purchased, hence back to the tightening of what weapons are available and the need to put controls in that area. But the complete eradication of guns from the U. S. society isn’t going to happen.

Through an amalgamation of some of these previous thoughts – our country’s overall rhetoric, control on some weapons, penalties for usage of weapons in serious crimes and the understanding that every situation doesn’t call for the banishment of something you disagree with – we might start to clamp down on the overall malignancy that is festering in our soul. The inability to implement some if not all of these suggestions will just continue to lead us down a road until drastic actions take place that no one will be pleased with.

Will it happen? If you see this same article again, with a different “Part” number and a different lead paragraph, then obviously it hasn’t…

Why I Currently Don’t Support Bernie Sanders

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When it comes to my political stance, I am an independent with liberal leanings. This makes sense as, when there is that proverbial blue moon (or, as some might put it, Hell freezes over), there are some conservative candidates who are the better choice for office and I have voted for said candidate. As I’ve stated another time, I voted for Ronald Reagan in 1984, Bush I in 1988 and Bush II in 2004, feeling that every time I did they were the better candidate for the office. On a number of state ballots I have also pulled the lever with an “R” by the name. Those tendencies lately, though, are becoming fewer and farther between.

That doesn’t mean that my vote is automatically going to the Democrats. I’m not pleased with the leading choice there, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, due to a wealth of baggage that she would bring into the office of the Presidency with her. Hell, she’d probably be the first President elected who, on the day after her inauguration, would face the potential of impeachment (remember, this Congress isn’t going to change out of the GOP hands due to the House gerrymandering that has basically set up Republican strongholds in states; before you say it, yes, the Dems have the same thing in the cities, but not nearly to the same extent).

Thus, the only other logical choice for the Democrats is Bernie Sanders, the Vermont Senator who is proud of the fact that he is a “Democratic Socialist,” and whom immediately sends conservatives fleeing to the hills instead of a political science textbook. A Democratic Socialist, according to my research, is someone who believes in the policies of democracy but believes that the fruits of said democracy should be shared among all people and not concentrated in the hands of a few (if I am wrong here, please let me know in the comments…hopefully I can learn as well as you). The genial Sanders, who may remind you of a kindly Uncle or a Grandfather, is a firebrand who is giving Clinton all she wants and more, hence his leads in the early primary states of Iowa and New Hampshire.

About a week ago, I was taken to task by a friend over something I wrote. In that article, I looked at the Democrats and only mentioned Clinton and Vice President Joe Biden as viable candidates (and Biden is looking less and less likely as time goes by). “What about Bernie?” my friend asked. Over the course of the discussion, I detailed out my reasoning for not being able to support Sanders at this time…but that still has the potential to change.

Sanders is doing a great job in drawing in potential voters to hear him speak at his rallies. In Greensboro, NC, on Sunday, Sanders drew in a crowd of approximately 9000 people at the Greensboro Coliseum. It was at this rally (unfortunately I couldn’t attend as I had to watch my son…political rallies, contrary to popular belief, are not a great place for kids) that some of Sanders’ issues came to light.

One of those in attendance, a black woman from Charlotte, noted that there was little diversity to those that supported Sanders. “It’s a very white crowd,” she said in the local paper. “Right now, at this point in the campaign, maybe that’s not a surprise.” There is one of the areas that I’ve noticed with many a Sanders rally is that it isn’t the most diverse cast when it comes to support and Sanders isn’t alone with this problem. I’ve seen the same for many of the Republican candidates on the stump (Donald Trump, I’m looking at you). I have problems with any candidate who cannot at the minimum give me the impression that they have a wide base of support across all people…white, black, brown, green with purple polka dots, you name it.

The audience in attendance for the Sanders rally in North Carolina (later, Sanders would become probably the first Socialist to ever set foot at Liberty University in Virginia) was also very young. I don’t have a problem with the youth of today being politically active, I actually enjoy it more when those 18-25 are involved in their future because it inspires me to examine what is drawing them out to support a candidate. But with many of these younger voters, it isn’t about any particular policy decision that the candidate supports, it’s about the factor that they feel like the candidate was personally involved with them. All one has to do is look at how social media, especially Twitter and Facebook, have changed campaigns; do you really think Rand Paul would have an App for your cellphone that puts you in the picture with him if it weren’t for trying to capture the “youth vote?” (This has been used for other more hilarious reasons, too.)

When the youth get involved and their candidate goes down in flames, they normally don’t move onto another candidate to support, though. They get disgusted, disillusioned and disinterested in any further processes if their candidate isn’t the winner and refuse to continue to drive for their philosophies. With all the talk about Republicans supporting their eventual nominee for President, why hasn’t anyone looked at how many of those supporting Sanders would be up for supporting another Democratic nominee?

Sanders is a great speaker, especially when it comes to deriding the current state of government. Sanders doesn’t take it to the point of “America is doomed,” “America has lost its way,” or “America is in the shitter,” like Republicans do, but he does come pretty close. The thing that Sanders does well is emphasize the problems with issues such as college student debt, income inequality, the budget, the decay of infrastructure and treatment of veterans, all things that are key domestic issues that we face.

Part of pointing out the problems, however, is that you also have to present solutions. That is where Sanders comes up a bit short. Either the solution that he suggests has no earthly intention of ever being put into use (Sanders has talked about upping the tax rates for the uber-rich to 90%, raising the minimum wage (he called $15 an hour “reasonable” but suggests $10.10) and breaking up the largest banks into smaller subsets a la AT&T’s Bell system in the 1980s, among other things) or he doesn’t bring up a solution at all. Sanders is quite deficient in foreign policy, something that is critical in our global world and, at least to this independent, is important as I believe we should have a strong military, just not a wasteful one.

If Sanders were to become President, he would definitely have to curtail his “Socialist” agenda in favor of a more “Democratic” solution (otherwise he wouldn’t get anything done as President), which would alienate many of his supporters. How many of Rand Paul’s supporters ditched him as soon as he showed any inkling that he was moving towards a Republican philosophy on anything over the Libertarian route of thinking? Sanders, I fear, would fall into that same trap in that his vociferous supporters would immediately hold his feet to the coals for anything less than the entire reformation of financial distribution in the United States.

There’s plenty that Bernie Sanders talks about on the campaign trail that is dead on correct. You can also hear the passion that Sanders has, whether he is giving a speech at a large rally such as Greensboro or when he is a guest on Bill Maher’s “Real Time.” Unfortunately, there is also no chance that the solutions he proposes would stand a chance of being put into action by a Congress that can’t decide if water is wet. I’d like to consider Sanders for my vote but, at this time, he’s an option that I cannot embrace.