The Democrats: Calm as a Duck On Top of the Water…

DNCPhiladelphia

After the debacle that was the Republican National Demolition Derby last week (really didn’t think it was possible to bottle up that much hatred in one room), the Democrats get their turn in the barrel for the next four days. Starting today up until former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is nominated on Thursday, the Democratic National Committee will throw their shindig in Philadelphia to nominate their choice for President and the proceedings have the appearance of a duck. If you know anything about ducks, they look calm and placid on top of the water, but they’re paddling like hell underneath it to keep everything moving.

It pretty much seems that, at every step along the way, the Democrats have tried to shoot themselves in the foot at every opportunity that they get. 2016 was supposed to be the year that they were supposed to reward Clinton for her patience after getting beaten in 2008 by Barack Obama and, for the most part, the major players that could have given her issues stayed out of the way. Vice President Joe Biden didn’t have it in his heart following the passing of his son and other prominent Democrats lacked the national name recognition to be able to mount a charge (looking at you here, Martin O’Malley). But the DNC was definitely caught with their pants down when it came to a certain septuagenarian from New England.

Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont caught on to the wave of voter disdain for those in Washington (despite him being a part of the Washington scene for the past 25 years) and threw the first of several monkey wrenches into the coronation of Clinton. The first warning shot came in Iowa, where Clinton eked out the slimmest of victories over Sanders, and continued onward. At some points, Sanders would pull off the impossible – evidenced by his win in Michigan – and many, especially younger voters, were enthused by the policies espoused by Sanders (free college, $15/hour minimum wage, etc.).

BernieSanders1

Sanders proved to be an excellent foil for Clinton, whipping her into shape for the general election as she had to campaign hard in the Democratic primary to ward off Sanders’ run. Neither would be able to garner the number of delegates outright to be able to earn the nomination, so the choice came down to the super delegates, the members of the Democratic Party who serve as the final arbiter of such decisions. Despite the cries that it was unfair – but, to be honest, Sanders knew the rules and failed to attempt to even woo them before the primaries began (probably because he just joined the Democratic Party to run for President, not because of a long affinition for the group) – super delegates overwhelmingly supported Clinton and, as a result, she will be the nominee Thursday evening.

All is not calm in the Democratic world, however. There are factions of Sanders supporters that, despite what their candidate has said about supporting Clinton and defeating Cheeto Jesus, are behaving like petulant children who will pout because they didn’t get their way. These “supporters” have threatened to either not vote or to vote for another candidate, such as the Libertarian Party’s Gary Johnson or the Green Party’s Jill Stein (who ran an underhanded campaign in offering to give up her nomination for President if Sanders would join their party), to “make their protest known.” There’s only one problem with this:  by doing so, they would be giving the election to the Orangutan Mutant, who would destroy the system far worse than Clinton ever could.

Throw in the perceived voting irregularities, Clinton’s investigations by the Republican-led Senate over Benghazi and the Federal Bureau of Investigation over her private e-mail server, Clinton’s less-than enthusiastic approach to campaigning (the female Clinton has always been a policy wonk, unlike her husband and former President Bill Clinton, who enjoyed the campaigning) and the idea that it was “ordained” by the DNC that Clinton would be the nominee (among other things) and there’s plenty of “paddling like hell” under the water that is occurring.

That doesn’t even begin to add in the latest Democratic shooting of foot. Leaked e-mails from a Russian hack show that the DNC at the minimum wasn’t happy about the Sanders campaign looking to usurp the nomination from Clinton and, at the max, actively was wondering how to stop Sanders’ rise. While none of the e-mails were from Clinton, one e-mail in particular from the Chief Finance Officer of the DNC, Brad Marshall, questioned Sanders’ religious background and whether he was an atheist (many socialists, as Sanders purports to be, are at best areligious and at extreme atheist) and how it could be used against him in certain areas of the country.

Although there is little to no evidence that any action was taken on this or other e-mails, the chair of the DNC, Representative Debbie Wasserman-Schultz of Florida, has been ushered out as the chairman of the DNC effective following the convention (not a big deal as she would have served her term by the end of the November elections) because of the viewed impropriety. This has been something the Sanders campaign has sought for some time because of several perceived slights from Wasserman-Schultz towards the campaign and the scheduling of debates (something that the Sanders campaign agreed to before the campaign started). The actions following Wasserman-Schultz’s announcement aren’t going to soothe anyone’s feelings, however.

DWS

The hiring of Wasserman-Schultz by the Clinton campaign as “honorary chair” of the campaign isn’t going to settle any ruffled feathers. Instead of just letting Wasserman-Schultz lurk behind the scenes and advise the campaign – much like what many think deposed Fox News honcho Roger Ailes will do with the Drumpf campaign since his dismissal – the announcement by the Clinton faction is a stick in the eye to the Sanderites. It is a sign once again that, instead of a placid lake, there are at least ripples in the water.

Alas, as the Democrats converge on the City of Brotherly Love for their convention, their attempts at showing a “united” front seem to be coming apart at the seams. Over the next week, there will be the usual parade of party hierarchy and celebrity speakers (including Lady Gaga – take that, Mr. Oompah Loompah, for star power!), but it is going to be the thoughts of two people that will draw the most attention.

First off will be Sanders and his speech on Monday night. Sanders has already appeared with Clinton on the campaign trail and fully endorsed his former opponent, but it will be how well he can convey that same message, after all of the turmoil of the past few days, and be taken as sincere with his speech. Several other people in the Sanders camp, including his wife Jane and former campaign manager Jeff Weaver, would also be great advocates for Sanders supporters to move on to Clinton.

Hillary Clinton Begins Presidential Campaign In Iowa

The final person who will be able to make an impact is Clinton herself. No matter how many people say good things about her, whether it is family, coworkers, friends or rivals, it will be Clinton’s speech on Thursday night that will sway many opinions. Can she find a way to present the current course of the United States in an optimistic light and show how her Presidency would further the goals of the country? This will be important because of the “doom and gloom” speech that was sputtered last week (hell, the entire Republican National Demolition Derby sounded like the Hellmouth had opened and demon spawn were ravaging the world). If Clinton can show that there is an “adult in the room” and project a solid, stable base for the next Presidency, it could go a great way to winning over people.

But that’s not coming until Thursday. Until that time, we’ll have to see if the Democrats can put it together and not just give the appearance of unity but actually show that it exists. If they are able to overcome their own self-inflicted wounds, then they will come out of Philly with the rockets roaring. If they can’t, then there’s the 4:1 chance that Cheeto Jesus might rise up from the brimstone.

Why Are the Feds Slow On the Uptake in Oregon?

Militiaman

It didn’t take us long to get into the Year 2016 until we have our first serious confrontation.

Armed militiamen (we’ll get into this in a moment) have “taken over” a federal headquarters for a national park ridge in Oregon following a protest in a nearby town. Swearing to fight off “anyone” who threatens to try to remove them from the land, these ammosexuals who got dressed in their Sunday-finest camouflage to “go to meetin’” say they will maintain the post and continually brag about the weaponry they have and the numbers (approximately 150 by estimates). Oh, and their leader is the son of the Nevada cretin Cliven Bundy, who was doing well with his own diatribe against the federal government (despite the factor he owes over $1 million in grazing rights fees) until he started talking about how the “Negro” needed to be treated.

Yes, Ammon Bundy is at the helm of this little coffee klatch, except the problem is the klatch doesn’t have books (they may have coffee), it has AR-15s. One of many militiamen who flooded to Oregon to protest the further jailing of two Oregonites for arson (they admitted they were burning their land, the fire got out of control and that they threatened federal authorities who put the fire out; originally jailed for a short period of time, federal judges said it should have been longer and the men had to surrender to authorities), Bundy and his buddies decided they weren’t quite ready to head back to Nevada. Instead, they thought it would be a good idea to forcibly take a federal property, then swear that they would shoot any local, state or federal agent who came to try to force them from the area.

Lovely way to start the year, isn’t it?

There are several problems with this beyond simply the legal issues that it implies (and those would be treason, sedition and, if any federal, state or local officers were killed or injured, first degree murder charges; then we’d get to the small shit like seizing federal property). The people in Oregon whom Bundy says he’s helping have said they DON’T WANT HIS HELP. The two men involved in the arson case have already reported to federal prison to continue to serve their sentences and have issued statements through their attorneys that in no way do those at the Bundy camp represent them. It doesn’t stop with just the two men at the center of the case, either.

The Pacific Patriot Network, a loose-knit group that claims to oversee militias on the West Coast, said it “does not support seizing federal property” even though it understood the frustration with the federal government. A group that united behind the Bundys in 2014 in their case in Nevada, the Oath Keepers, has made sure to keep a far distance away from Ammon Bundy this time around. Although others wouldn’t speak ill of Bundy, they also “wish he wouldn’t have done this,” according to a report from Reuters, because it draws a mark of ill-repute on militias.

But here’s the big question that surrounds this situation. Why haven’t the federal authorities – either park rangers, Federal Bureau of Investigation officers, Department of the Interior officers, SOMEONE from the government – reacted to the situation? Is it because it isn’t a threat to anyone at this point? Or is it because these are whites involved in the situation?

The federal government hasn’t exactly had the best track record when it comes to armed standoffs with anti-government opponents. The incident in 1992 in Ruby Ridge, ID, that led to the death of three people (including a woman, a child and one U. S. Marshal) is considered to be one of the worst run operations in the history of law enforcement. Using a Rules of Engagement that was extremely draconian (down to the killing of noncombatants and animals, if necessary), the Ruby Ridge incident was held up as how “not” to handle such a situation.

While the hearings regarding the Ruby Ridge incident were ongoing, the FBI and ATF agents earned another blemish on their records. In attempting to deliver an arrest warrant on David Koresh and a search warrant of his Branch Davidians compound in Waco, TX, four ATF agents and six members of Koresh’s Branch Davidians religion were killed. After a 51-day standoff, the FBI and ATF – believing that children were in danger inside the compound – raided the compound. A resulting fire (investigations revealed it to have been set by those inside the compound in a final suicide pact with Koresh) from the attack killed the 76 people who were inside the compound.

Since those two incidences, however, the federal government has been rather subdued in its responses to domestic incidences. The Bundy case from 2014 – where 1000 militiamen basically dared agents to take some shots at them, all for naught – is a case in point. It is also very likely that this case in Oregon could be run much like the 2014 Bundy case was handled by federal authorities.

In essence, this is a battle being fought on the government’s turf. They can cut off electricity to the building, cut off water, put a loose circle of agents around the area – or none at all – and simply wait for Bundy and his fellow yahoos to decide that playing soldier isn’t as much fun when you have to fend for yourself. Then they’ll come out and, as they do, you pick them up and charge them with an assortment of laws that they’ve broken – or do nothing at all and make them look even more foolish.

There is another point being bandied about out there and it does bear some discussion amongst the adults in the room. These are all, for the most part, middle-aged white males who are involved in this situation in Oregon. What would be the reaction of the federal authorities if there were 150 black, Latino or Asian men heavily armed and storming a federal building?

It is loosely comparable, but we’ve seen a similar response from governmental authorities in the past. In 1985, police in Philadelphia, armed with arrest warrants and orders to evict members of the Black Power group MOVE from a building, instead ended up in a firefight with said group. The Police Commissioner at that time, Commissioner Gregore Sambor, ordered the building to be bombed and Philadelphia Police Lieutenant Frank Powell dropped two one pound “water-gel explosive” devices on the roof of the house.

The results were catastrophic. Not only did the resulting explosion destroy the top of the building, it started a fire that spread to an estimated 65 buildings that surrounded the targeted house (police also refused to allow for firefighters to fight the fire, due to the chance MOVE members might shoot at them). In the end, eleven members of MOVE, including five children, died as a result of the fire, 250 people were left homeless (MOVE members who survived said that survivors were shot at by police as they fled the carnage) and ZERO political or law enforcement personnel faced any repercussions from the event.

Perhaps we’ve come a distance since that day in 1985 – or even those days in 1992 or 1993 – where such usages of force would be considered. There are easier ways to bring about the closure of a standoff – some of which I mentioned previously, cutting off water, power, essentials that would eventually force someone out of a stance – rather than going in with guns blazing. With this current situation, we can only hope that it ends with a peaceful solution; with a Bundy involved, however, and the rhetoric they and the militias wield, they will try to push every button possible to try to goad the government into a fight.

What Does hitchBOT’s Destruction Say about the U. S.?

hitchBOT

It was a story that I had heard about a couple of years ago and thought was pretty cool. Researchers in Canada were building a robot that was incapable of movement but, through usage of linguistic programming and some limited conversation skills, would be able to traverse long distances. How, you might ask? Through the kindness of the human race, which would transport the robot around for nothing. A GPS system would keep track of where it was and, at 20-minute intervals, would snap a photo of its surroundings.

Christened hitchBOT, the robot – a gangly looking creation that still had some charm to it (as you can see in the photo above) – was able to get across the expanse of Canada in 2014, a 3700-mile trip that saw hitchBOT endear itself to the Canadian people. Earlier this year, hitchBOT got much the same reception as it crossed the Netherlands and Germany without as much as a scratch on its metallic frame and no damage to its sensitive computer systems.

So what would happen if hitchBOT attempted to cross the United States? The result is a saddening thought on the human – or perhaps the U. S. – condition as it aims straight at the heart and ignorance of people in the U. S.

Starting in Boston two weeks ago, hitchBOT had slowly been able to work his way down the Eastern Seaboard, taking in a Boston Red Sox game (probably should have headed to Yankee Stadium to see a real team play) and other “events.” The goodwill ended for hitchBOT on Saturday, however, as hitchBOT was found decapitated outside of Philadelphia, its useless arms and legs ripped from its body (the appendages were added to give hitchBOT a more “human” appearance) and the “head” nowhere to be found. From photos of the scene on Sunday, hitchBOT looked no different than the trash that fills the gutters of a major U. S. city.

“Sadly, sadly it’s come to an end,” Frauke Zeller, one of the robot’s co-creators, told the Associated Press after learning of hitchBOT’s demise. Zeller hasn’t committed to rebuilding hitchBOT and taking another shot at the U. S., but it seems that others working on the project are at least open to the idea. In a note on hitchBOT’s website, they say, “Sometimes bad things happen to good robots. We know that many of hitchBOT’s fans will be disappointed, but we want them to be assured that this great experiment is not over.”

The better experiment might be how shitty is the United States that some jackass/es gets their jollies out of the destruction of something they don’t own?

Sure, there are other countries where hitchBOT might not have had a really good time either. Some of the more criminally active areas of South America or Africa probably would have sent hitchBOT back in pieces also. The Middle East would have been difficult, too, but the place is a fucking war zone; humans have trouble getting out of there in one piece literally, mentally and emotionally. But this happened in the United States, where we are supposedly so civilized that we are the GREATEST NATION ON EARTH!!!

There is a brilliant video clip from the HBO show The Newsroom where Jeff Daniels, playing a television anchor, is on a discussion forum at a university. After a coed asks what makes the U. S. the greatest country on Earth, Daniels’ character Will McAvoy rips into her with a three-minute diatribe that says the only things that the U. S. is Number One in is number of persons incarcerated in prison, the number of people who believe angels exist and military spending (all correct, by the way). He then laments that we used to be a country that did good things and for the right reasons, to the utter silence of the auditorium.

(Would have liked to have embedded the video of this clip here, but HBO seems to have stretched their tentacles out and removed that capability. You can find it on YouTube, however.)

We used to be a country where people could depend on each other despite their differences. We used to be a country where you could potentially even work your way across the U. S., doing small jobs to earn some cash before heading onto the next town. Up until probably the 1970s, people freely traversed the continent and seldom met with any issues. Now, we can’t even exit our doorways without a feeling of dread, wary of those we see and willing to destroy anything we don’t understand.

How many of us actually know who our neighbors are? How many would see someone from the subdivision they live in needing some help getting back home from the grocery store and offer a ride? As a nation we’ve cocooned ourselves to the point that we refuse human interaction, settling for a virtual version across smartphones and computers instead of the real thing.

The destruction of hitchBOT is an extension of this malady. When faced with something that we might not understand, we choose not to engage it. Worse yet, someone with a brain the size of a walnut thought it would be better to destroy the robot rather than just let it be. That’s right, U. S. citizens…we let the equivalent of the “flour bag baby” with a microchip die and it didn’t even reach the 30-day mark of the experiment.

I certainly hope that the researchers in Canada make another run at hitchBOT. Maybe hitchBOT II will have some defense mechanisms that will keep it better protected. Then people in the U. S. can stupidly complain about Canada using “militaristic robots” to invade the country.