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?

For the GOP, Call Me When Someone with Something to Lose Speaks Up

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In every analysis of the Republican Party and the dotard that leads them, the statistics say that their numbers are going down. Since the act of swearing in Orange Foolius in January, his overall approval has fallen in ALL 50 STATES, including those that he won in the November election handily (in Alabama, his approval has fallen 11%). Much of this is driven by the departure of independent and “swing” voters who migrate between the two parties, but there is also some eroding of support from those who align with the GOP, especially rural whites that haven’t seen the “winning” they were hoping for.

These numbers are noticed by those who bear the brunt of the idiot’s ravings, the Congress and state officials, whose ratings have cratered. Battered by the continued quagmire that Congress is – even though they have majorities in both bodies – these members of the GOP (in one of the most ridiculous statements that exist in the human vernacular) aren’t viewed as “conservative enough” and face backlash from the electorate. With this in mind, two of the stalwarts of the Republican Party in the Senate have chosen to resign rather than risk being rejected in the upcoming 2018 elections.

Last week, former President George Bush (II) blistered the current administration with a speech that called into question not only his abilities but the methods of leadership (nationalism) that Orange Foolius was trying to inflict on the country. Earlier this week, Tennessee Senator Bob Corker opened the exodus from the Senate by stating that he would not seek reelection in 2018. Then, in a stunning speech on the floor of the Senate where he stated that Orange Foolius was “debasing the nation,” Arizona Senator Jeff Flake also indicated that he would not seek reelection in what was expected to be a bruising fight (Corker did not face much threat of being “primaried”).

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Add in the current maverick streak from the senior Senator from Arizona, John McCain, and the nuanced and thought out positions of Maine Senator Susan Collins (also considering leaving the Senate), Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski, Kentucky Senator Rand Paul (continuing the family tradition of being “Dr. No”) and Nebraska Senator Ben Sasse, you might believe that there is an uprising in the GOP that would pitch this jackass out on his plump ass along with the Confederacy of Dunces he has convened. For me, however, give me a call when someone in the GOP with something to lose actually speaks up against the fool that they say is their “leader.”

There’s a base statement that people must keep in mind whenever you hear someone speaking out against a particular subject. For lack of a better way to put it, the old gambling axiom of “What skin do you have in the game?” is precisely the thing to remember.

“Skin,” for those that aren’t up on that vernacular, is to have something at risk, usually something that is of a loss (sometimes significant) to you. In the gambling world, that usually entails some monetary wager. In this circumstance, however, it would mean having to put something on the line that would be greater than any monetary wager could ever be.

In the case of Flake, there was already plenty of evidence that he was going to have a very difficult time in getting through the GOP primary, let alone trying to beat a Democratic challenger and a revved-up opposition in a state that is supposedly shifting to the left. Flake also had previously spoken out against the current administration in the same passive aggressive manner in a book he had written, Conscience of a Conservative, which basically aired his grievances with Orange Foolius’ administration without mentioning him by name.

Corker, when he was first elected in 2006, said he would only serve two terms as a Senator, apparently employing the philosophy that if two terms was good for the President, it was good enough for a Senator. But there are other things that might be more appealing for the popular Tennessean, including a run at the Governorship in the Volunteer State. He also hasn’t ruled out being involved in government (on the state or national level) again in the future.

McCain’s story is well known by now. The veteran Senator, elected to his sixth term as the senior Senator from the Grand Canyon State just last year, was diagnosed earlier this year with a terminal brain tumor called a glioblastoma. Once diagnosed with the condition, patients have a usual life expectancy of 14 months, so it is obvious that, unless there are some Area 51-type secrets floating around Washington D. C., that McCain will not likely end his current term as Senator.

Although these three men (and we’ll get to Murkowski, Collins and Sasse in a moment) have served admirably for the past 12 years minimum, they have helped to create the issues that currently plague our nation. Corker was on the short list for the #2 seat on the GOP ticket with the Tangerine Nightmare and was one of the first legislators in D. C. to support him and his candidacy (the other, the Keebler Elf Jeff Sessions, received a cozy Attorney General appointment for licking his master’s boots). And other than his dramatic, Caesar-esque “thumbs down” vote on trashing the Affordable Care Act (the ACA or, to the simple minded, ObamaCare) this summer, McCain has supported the extreme rightward jerk of the GOP, especially after his drubbing by Bush II (and the neocons trashing of his reputation by insinuating he had an illegitimate black daughter) in 2000 and the resulting realization that he had to change or be steamrolled.

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Normally when you’ve completely fucked something up, you’re expected to stick around and fix it (often called the “Pottery Barn Rule” and made popular by then-Secretary of State Colin Powell in 2002 to Bush II prior to invading Iraq). But these three men are doing the exact opposite. Instead of trying to stick around and cure the ills that their previous actions have brought, they are supposedly going to be “liberated” by being able to vote their conscience (but note they didn’t say “oppose the current President and his actions”).

If you can name someone else who might actually tell Orange Foolius to go screw himself, I’m all ears. Right now, the GOP is like the person they elected, a flaccid chihuahua that has been defanged and declawed. While Murkowski and Collins (who was rumored to be potentially running for the governor of Maine until she shot that down earlier this month) have been a thorn in the side of Orange Foolius since he took office, they haven’t exactly been rabid opponents of the person WHO LEADS THEIR PARTY. With the right arm twisting, they could probably be coerced into the madness (note how, during the debate on the ACA, that both Maine and Alaska were targeted for “extra money” to try to sway the two Senators).

Some might say Sasse has the potential to be that Republican who can lead the party out of its nihilistic nationalism, but he is a first-term Senator that, should Breitbart editor Steve Bannon still be the Crypt Keeper when he comes around for re-election in 2020, will face one of his minions. Additionally, there’s just enough mystery about Sasse to still say he’s your typical, “screw you, I got mine” Republican who doesn’t look beyond anything but the party line (in 2016, he voted against the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act, which would have given states block grants to fight opioid abuse and fund recovery programs).

Paul, who has gone over to the Dark Side in disavowing his libertarian roots in favor of staying in power in D. C. as a Republican (guess who is a frequent golf partner for the Hacker-in-Chief?), has no desire to buck the current administration. If he can get a few concessions that demonstrate he trying to castrate the current federal system, then he can claim his Ayn Rand fantasies are being implemented and still be admired by those who would rather watch Rome burn than build it up.

Absolutely nobody who has spoken out from the GOP has any “skin” in the game. Not one of these people previously mentioned has put their Congressional seat on the line, their reputation, or their years in what was once a party that championed business, trade and was anti-Communist (now it is isolationist, crapping its panties and dreaming of a fascist to save their totalitarian day). And there isn’t anyone currently among the crop of cephalopods – including the tortoise Mitch McConnell nor Paul “Eddie Munster” Ryan – who is showing any ability to step up and tell this administration “Enough,” as Flake lamely did in his Senate speech, especially elected officials like this.

It is time that someone – hell, a massive number of someones – assumed the role of an adult in the Republican Party as a whole and Congress for a start and looked to change things. There is something that Flake said that was spot on: “Regret because of the coarseness of our leadership…Regret for the compromise of our moral authority, and by our, I mean all of our complicity in this alarming and dangerous state of affairs. It is time for our complicity and our accommodation of the unacceptable to end.” It is time that the “adults” in the GOP revolt against the odiferous emanations that emit from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue like rancid flesh at a slaughterhouse. Or is it already too late for the party to be saved from the transformation into a fascist organization under the leadership of Bannon and his ilk?

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Does EVERYTHING Have to be Political Nowadays?

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Yesterday was one of the more fun days of the entire calendar year, unless you had a dog in the hunt or lots of cash riding on the myriad of outcomes. Super Bowl LI (51 if your Roman numeral translator is on the fritz) featured the scrappy, underdog Atlanta Falcons versus the dastardly and favored New England Cheaters Patriots in the battle for the National Football League championship for 2016. The game itself – once again, depending on who you rooted for – was arguably one of the best in history. But what was the recurring theme that ran through pretty much everything that happened yesterday indicates a particularly troubling aspect that is occurring in our society.

I started watching about 4PM (Eastern Time), usually the time when the new Super Bowl ads start showing, but what showed up on the screen? The Resident, sitting down with Fox News “editorial commentator” (because he damn sure isn’t a journalist) Bill O’Reilly, discussing politics. Now I am pretty sure that President Barack Obama was the first president to sit down with whichever network was broadcasting the Super Bowl game – Obama, if nothing else, is a huge sports fan – and the networks, especially Fox, used that time to get political with the man in the White House. The bigger question is why did this relatively young “tradition” need to continue?

It isn’t about the politics. There are enough times that The Resident can get on television, can get on the internet or even online. There’s scant little time in today’s world when you can get a respite from the onslaught of politics. That would be proven as Super Bowl Sunday wore on.

Reports from several outlets stated that the entirety of the pre-game and halftime shows – featuring the cast members of the musical Hamilton and the outstanding entertainment prowess of six-time Grammy winner Lady Gaga, respectively – were being broadcast by Fox on a five second delay shouldn’t have surprised anyone, but it seemed that everyone was SHOCKED by this travesty. Fox, it seemed, was “violating” free speech rights of the performers by potentially editing their performances (albeit about the best they would be able to do is hit a “mute” button). This seemed to upset many, but it really shouldn’t have.

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Since the 2004 Super Bowl and “Nipplegate,” every live event has been put on a delay, in theory to allow for the producers/directors to switch cameras or to mute the audio should someone utter one of George Carlin’s “Seven Dirty Words.” I’ve actually watched sporting events on television where one of the players involved in the game action utters an expletive and it is muted by whichever network is broadcasting the game rather than aired (that doesn’t mean there aren’t instances it slips through). It goes back a bit further than that to 2003 when U2 singer Bono, while accepting an award at the Golden Globes for their work on the soundtrack for the film Gangs of New York, said that receiving the award was “really, really fucking brilliant.” The blood running from the ears of those whose sensitivities were violated brought about this change, it wasn’t something that came from the election of The Resident and his vociferous supporters.

What it did demonstrate is that virtually everything that goes on nowadays is being viewed through the political prism whether it is applicable or not. It isn’t a new phenomenon, either, as I can recall back to the Bill Clinton administration when an innocent online discussion about gender inequality or even minimum wage increases would normally have one idiot that would bring up the Monica Lewinsky situation or some other political hot topic and go off the rails. That is the first point where, if there were some travesty that occurred or situation that defied whatever “norms” people assigned to something that the phrase “Blame (insert President here),” happened. Since then, it’s only gotten worse.

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Talk about how changing light bulbs from incandescent to LED can save energy and money? Fucking Obama (it was actually President Bush II who signed the order in 2007 to make it law)! FEDEX has to buy more tires because the roads are bad (not the potential 100,000 miles that they put on each set in a short time span)? Government pricks! “Censoring” Lady Gaga from singing on the Super Bowl? Motherfuckers at Fox! How DARE they! An actor makes a statement in support of the current President? Racist bastard (actor Matthew McConaughey was castigated by liberals for suggesting that everyone “give The Resident a chance” despite the fact that he never endorsed him. The Neo-Nazi website Breitbart, however, all but promoted McConaughey for sainthood for “defying the Hollywood elite” despite not knowing just who the hell he is)!

While politics is something that people can believe passionately about, it isn’t and shouldn’t be interwoven into every goddamned thing that we do in our existence. There is the ability to turn on the television and simply watch a television show or a movie without it being some sort of allegorical statement about our world today. There are the chances to listen to music or read where the subject matter isn’t about one political side or the other. There is plenty of sad realities of life that occur that politics doesn’t even touch, let alone have any effect on. There are also plenty of joys that never see a political side.

The same can be applicable to people. While you may find that you like someone – maybe even love them – very much but they have a different political philosophy than you, that in no sense is a reason to get rid of them. There are plenty of areas outside of that one miniscule part of life that makes those people enjoyable for 99.5% of the time. It makes literally no sense to excommunicate someone from your circle simply because of that reason alone (the same is also true of religion and being a believer/non-believer, but that’s a discussion for another time).

Does that mean that you must listen to everyone? No, not in the least. For example, if someone believes that there were 3-5 million illegals who voted in the 2016 Presidential campaign even though EVERY SHRED OF EVIDENCE says otherwise – then it is best to not discuss political topics with that person. That STILL doesn’t mean they can’t be important to you and your life, you just choose not to share that tiny segment of the world.

Then there are those that show themselves to be so inflexible in dogma that discussion cannot move forward one iota. Those are the people that you cannot do anything about (you’re not going to change their mind). It is best to disassociate from those, even though at one time they might have been a valuable person.

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It is important to say that, if someone broaches the political issue with their commentary, then it is free game. Actor Meryl Streep was roundly castigated by the conservatives for her comments during this year’s Golden Globe awards. Likewise, singer Toby Keith was lambasted by liberals for playing The Resident’s inauguration. THOSE are situations where politics could enter the discussion, when someone is actually exercising their free speech rights, not when it is what someone MIGHT do once they hit the stage or get a microphone in front of them. It is very much a Schrödinger’s Cat paradox in that you don’t know what you’re going to get until you “look in the box” – the actual moment that a particular artistic situation presents itself.

With the above said, everyone could chill out a bit instead of injecting politics into every waking moment of our lives. We need those moments to decompress, to take time to examine instances that arise in the political spectrum and come up with thoughts that help us develop as people and perhaps as informed members of a community. To apply the political litmus test to everything in your existence sounds like a way to perpetually live in either fear or anger.

From Draining the Swamp to Filling the Cesspool

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It is often said about a Presidential administration that you can garner much of their goals by the people that the President names to different Cabinet positions, organizational heads, and ambassadorial positions. In the second Bush Administration, there was a great deal of concern about A) the number of people from his father’s Administration that he tapped (especially his VP, Dick Cheney, who was Secretary of Defense under his father), and B) those that were involved with the military previously (such as Donald Rumsfeld, who was his Secretary of Defense). That the Bush Administration during its eight years ramped up military action (and, as a result, spending) in hindsight should come as no surprise to anyone.

After the stunning turn of the 2016 General Election, the GOP nominee now has the same issues facing him that 44 other men have had – deciding who would best push forward the agenda of his Administration. After mouthing platitudes about wanting to “unite the people,” why has the GOP nominee done exactly THE OPPOSITE of what he says he wanted to do? A simple look at those he has chosen for the different Cabinet appointments and political seats demonstrates that, instead of “draining the swamp” as he said he would, the GOP nominee is filling the cesspool that his Administration will become.

The problems began with his staffing of those members that DON’T have to go through a Congressional hearing to be able to take their seats. The choice of Steve Bannon, the former editor of the Neo-Nazi news site Breitbart.com, to be his chief strategist – along with former General Michael Flynn as his national security adviser and Reince Priebus as Chief of Staff – rang alarm bells for anyone who could rub two brain cells together. Bannon’s “fiery rhetoric” at Breitbart (which poked at Jews, women, and Democrats, just to name a few) indicated to many that the GOP nominee was going to try to run the country like he ran his campaign – short on facts, long on insults, racist, misogynous, and xenophobic rhetoric. He got Priebus out of the way from his duties as chairman of the Republican National Committee by making him his lapdog “directing” White House operations (you really think that Priebus could direct the GOP nominee to do anything?). Flynn very nearly ended his run with the GOP nominee’s Cabinet by continuing to push conspiracy theories, but his son took the bullet for him earlier this month over “Pizzagate” to effectively quiet many.

Then there South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, who wasn’t smart enough to see her gentle execution by the GOP nominee for her opposition stance during the campaign. In taking the position of ambassador to the United Nations, Haley may believe she is “serving” the country, but if she looked up what normally happens in a time of strife, she may not have taken the position. Any time that there is a particularly noteworthy moment at the UN – a critical vote or an important discussion on a dire situation between the member nations, let’s say – the Secretary of State swoops in and takes the reins from the UN ambassador. The reason she was put there? South Carolina Lt. Governor Henry McMaster, a vehement supporter of the GOP nominee, will take over as Governor with Haley subserviently sitting in New York.

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If you thought this was bad, the worst was yet to come. It seemed that the criteria used by the GOP nominee was to identify what the job was of the department that he was choosing the Cabinet secretary for, then put the least qualified person into that position. Billionaire Betsy DeVos, the selection for Secretary of Education, has no qualifying degree from any school in the field of education. What qualifies her to be Education Secretary? The fact that she donated $1.8 million to the GOP nominee’s campaign and that she has advocated (re:  demanded) a shift from the public-school system to “voucher programs,” private and religious institutions. The purpose of the Department of Education is to set standards for ALL schools – to go in with the express purpose of destroying the very thing you’re supposed to be supporting is outlandish. (Add in that she is the brother of the founder of Blackwater, the heinous “mercenary” force that is supposed to be a “military company” that was used by the Bush Administration during the Second Gulf War, and she’s even more despicable.)

It doesn’t get better. Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions was unable to get a position on the bench in the federal court system 30 years ago because of his racial statements regarding the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and other organizations. But now he’s been chosen to be the next Attorney General under the GOP nominee’s Administration.

The GOP nominee tapped on one of his former opponents, much like President Barack Obama did when he picked Hillary Clinton as his Secretary of State in 2008, when he pulled Dr. Ben Carson into the mix despite Carson saying he wanted no part of a government position. So, what position do you think would be benefitting of a world-renown brain surgeon? Surgeon General of the U. S.? Nope. How about Secretary of Housing and Urban Development? Despite the efforts to portray Carson as someone who rose “from the projects” he would be now leading, the only relative experience that Carson has with the Housing Department is that he lives in one.

Then there’s Scott Pruitt, the Attorney General of Oklahoma, that has been nominated to take over the Environmental Protection Agency. Despite the factor that he’s currently SUING the EPA for its regulation of power plants, Pruitt is a known climate change denier who proudly touts this fact to anyone who will listen. Pruitt also is a longtime advocate of fossil fuel usage. That you would put someone in charge of an agency that is tasked with PRESERVING the environment whose main raison d’etre is to destroy the very department tasked with that cause, you’re not putting the best personnel into the position.

Pretty much look at any department and you can virtually smell the shit from the cesspool. Tom Price, Secretary of Health and Human Services? A doctor who is looking to destroy the Affordable Care Act and Planned Parenthood and advocated for not labeling food. Former Labor Secretary Elaine Chao as Transportation Secretary? A carrot tossed to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, her husband, for support in the Senate?

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Wilbur Ross and Todd Ricketts as Commerce Secretary and Deputy Commerce Secretary, respectively? Billionaires who bailed out the GOP nominee previously or an opportunistic hypocrite who was previously critical of the GOP nominee that owns the Chicago Cubs. Steven Mnuchin, the Treasury Secretary? Formerly a part of Goldman Sachs, the Wall Street investment firm the GOP nominee railed over through the entirety of the campaign. Toss in former Texas Governor Rick Perry as the Secretary of Energy (seriously, does he even have an energy idea beyond “drill here?”) and you have a Confederacy of Dunces that rivals a Marx Brothers movie.

In fact, you could say that there are two paths that the GOP nominee is going down. One is that he is creating the ultimate oligarchy, as six of his nominees to prominent positions in his cabinet have donated $12 million to his campaign. You could also say that the GOP nominee is forming a military junta, as he continues to fill major spots in his organization with people with lifelong military backgrounds, including former Marine Corps generals John Kelly (Homeland Security) and James Mattis (Defense), both positions that have traditionally been put in the hands of civilian oversight (Flynn is also a former general and Bannon has a military background).

And we’re supposed to give this a chance?

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The problem is that, once the process begins for those that require Congressional approval, there’s virtually nothing that can stop it. Due to the stupidity of the Democratic Party back in 2014 when they blew up the procedures to push through lower federal court justices, the GOP now just has to have 51 votes to end filibusters on Presidential appointees (this applies to everything outside of the Supreme Court) and move to a vote. When it was for their own good, the Democratic leadership was all for this change. Now it comes back to bite them in the ass.

If there is to be a check on the GOP nominee’s ignorance of choices, some help is going to have to come from some of the “renegade” members of the GOP itself. Virtually every choice is unqualified to be in the spot they were picked for – quite like their prospective boss – and should receive a negative vote in their respective committees. That’s not going to happen, so the Democrats must pick their battles wisely if they are to enact some changes out of the GOP nominee’s festering cesspool. Otherwise, the symphony of destruction is warming up…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

When did this bullshit reach this point?

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

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

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

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

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

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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…