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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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.

Who Will Be the First to Stand Up to the Bullying GOP Nominee?

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Barely a week into his tenure in the White House (and a SHORT one it should be), the GOP nominee has literally been the “bull in the china shop” with disastrous actions that are too numerous to mention here. He has enacted his draconian viewpoint of the world, including the dismantling of ObamaCare (with no plan to replace it, leaving 30 million in the lurch), building the border wall against Mexico (at the States of America’s taxpayers expense; Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto has already canceled a state visit because Cheeto Jesus thought it was to discuss Mexico paying for it), and a variety of other items that have run from populous (he might be the ONLY stupid ass to believe that he won the popular vote – and get ready, he’s ready to use taxpayer money on HIS OWN FUCKING CRUSADE to investigate it) to fascist (you DON’T tell departments of the government they can have NO CONTACT with the people – it’s not a business, it is a GOVERNMENT office that is supposed to respond to the people). What has been the question many are asking is who will be the first to stand up to the bullying buffoon (not counting Nieto…sorry, you lost your cred by talking to him during the 2016 campaign).

If you’re thinking that the politicians are going to stand up, you’re fooling yourself. The Democrats are literally rebuilding their “brand” and, short of being able to block some legislation in the Senate (due to the GOP’s bastardly racial gerrymandering (as ruled unconstitutional by the U. S. Supreme Court) of districts from 2010 that has basically made House of Representative elections in the States a worthless endeavor), they really are trying to reconstruct to have some sort of impact in 2018. The GOP? Please excuse me while I pick myself up from a laughing heap on the floor…the GOP is going to use every opportunity that this cretin presents to ram their agenda through. Of course, there’s always that thought that, once they get the things they want, they’ll eject the GOP nominee through what would essentially be a palace coup and install one of their own – a person so heinous that he believes you can use shock therapy on someone to move them from gay to straight – into the Presidency.

Besides, if anyone in the political spectrum was going to stand up to this pile of shit, they would have stopped him in the GOP primaries or the General Election.

Other countries might be the ones to call the GOP nominee’s bluff, but it is a tenuous thing. Nieto’s move may be just the start in a cacophony of rebuttals by nations who, quite honestly, might just tell the GOP nominee to go fuck himself. While it might hurt them, the Chinese aren’t exactly going to buckle under if he blusters on about how they should run their currency, what they should do with their military or other weighty and serious issues. Putin even will reach a point where the GOP nominee becomes a liability rather than comedic relief and will cut him loose. And let’s not even get into our OTHER allies (that’s right…Russia and China are SUPPOSED to be allies) who might be willing to work with our country and the crackpot at the top but aren’t ready to work with a cannon that is looser than a 60-year old whore in Thailand.

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Will it be business? Boy, you have a future in stand-up comedy if you keep firing zingers like that! Besides the oligarchy that is in virtually every Cabinet position, there are more businessman running things in this Administration than you would find…well, in that whorehouse in Thailand. Secondly, these bloodsuckers aren’t interested in the future of the democracy or the ability of the country to function as the leader of the free world. As long as the stock ticker goes up (and, let’s be honest, this could be some of the citizens as well due to their dependencies on 401(k) accounts based on the markets), as long as the balance sheet shows a profit and as long as government isn’t hammering on them, they could give a fuck about which party or person is in charge in the White House, even if they’re standing over a smoking heap at the end of it all.

Perhaps, though, we’ve seen who will be the first harbingers of resistance to the scourge in Washington. The Million Woman March – which featured men and kids too, but whatever – has been estimated at anywhere from 2.9 million to 4 million strong, if you count the different groups that rallied around the world and not just in D. C. on the Saturday immediately following the inauguration. Such areas as Chicago (250,000, enough that they couldn’t march but still held the rally), Los Angeles (100,000), Atlanta (63,000), Seattle (100,000) and Austin (50,000) coincided with the D. C. march, where an estimated 500,000 marchers dwarfed the miniscule efforts of the tiny-handed one and his pitiful gathering.

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Before we lay the banner of the salvation of the country at the feet of those who took part in the multitude of marches, however, we’ve got to see some staying power. One of the things that kills a movement faster than anything else is a lackadaisical attitude – a “we did it!” victory lap, if you must – and then not turning out again when it is necessary (say, Election Day 2018). There is another day of marches and protests set for April 15 – Tax Day, or the ritual screwing of the citizens of this country by the government – and let’s see these types of numbers again. If they show up, then we’ve got a movement; if not, then we’ve got to try something else.

As far as myself, I’m going to see what that April 15 march is like where I live. I’m going to continue to hammer on that shiny copper nail head that sits on his tuches and believes he is the Emperor. I’m going to call out those that blindly support him. I’m going to continue to speak through essay as to his worthlessness, inadequacy, and lack of qualifications for the job (and the country) he’s crapping on. Those of you who say “wait and see?” I don’t need to wait and see…and if you “wait and see” too long, there might not be something by that time worth fighting over.

It’s only going to get worse from here. As of this afternoon – because of the direct words and actions by this imbecile along with the fervent nationalistic fervor that is eating at the innards of many countries governments like a rabid tapeworm – atomic scientists in charge of the Doomsday Clock moved it to its closest point since 1953. Let’s hope that “midnight hour” doesn’t strike anytime soon.

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Remember…To Impeach Her, You Gotta Elect Her

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We’re going to take a pause on my “Top Ten Underrated Hard Rock Songs” to slip a final tidbit in regarding a pretty big deal that’s happening next week.

There’s been something that has been bugging me of late. The tumultuous 2016 General Election campaign has brought seemingly the worst out of people rather than their better angels. But one of the things that has been particularly annoying is the moves by the Republican Party – recognizing the fact that Donald Trump won’t get into the White House without an invitation or a paid ticket (as Bill Maher, who contributed the title of this essay a few months ago, has said, “It’s too late to get away, Republicans. You’ve handcuffed yourself to the dead hooker, now drag it to the finish line!”) – to already subjugate the prospective Presidency of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

First it was Arizona Senator John McCain – himself locked into a death duel for his seat in the Senate – who said that, should Clinton be elected, that the Senate would block any nomination she made for the Supreme Court of the United States. Then the reptilian Senator from Texas, Ted Cruz, echoed the sentiments of McCain. Finishing it off, Utah Representative Jason Chaffetz, the head of the House Oversight Committee, said his group had enough subjects to investigate Clinton “for the next two years.” (Imagine then the richness of the irony of Chaffetz potentially facing a similar investigation as Clinton for his use of a private server.)

It wasn’t always like this. Prior to the ascension of Ronald Reagan to the Presidency, the two sides – Democrats and Republicans – would often work together with the interests of the citizenry of the United States at the forefront instead of the political party they were affiliated with. It is well known that Reagan and then-Speaker of the House, Democrat Tip O’Neill, would often bash heads as opposition leaders, but they would also find a common ground and work things out for the betterment of the country.

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There was even that type of shared partnership in the 1990s during the Presidency of Bill Clinton. His opposite number, then-Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich (and really…is there a better vermin name for a politician than Newt?), did at one time have the ability to negotiate with Clinton and work for improving the welfare of the people. Then came the incident that would separate the two leading parties in the United States into warring camps instead of able leadership.

The 1998 impeachment of Clinton – the charges were perjury (lying under oath about not having a sexual relationship with Monica Lewinsky) and obstruction of justice (same situation) – only came about after the Republicans took charge following the 1998 midterm elections. Forgetting that the House of Representatives could bring charges but the Senate would try the President, the case led to the acquittal in the Democrat-led Senate, not even coming close to the two-thirds that were necessary for conviction.

From that point on, the fragmentation of the political structure in the United States – and the damage that it continues to do – has only gotten worse. The Gore/Bush 2000 election only exacerbated the situation (with the election eventually ended by decision of the Supreme Court), then the Second Gulf War and invasion of Iraq after 9/11 further separated everyone. The election of Barack Obama to the Presidency brought out a racial attitude from the GOP that was unprecedented (OK, maybe it was around from 1965, but it really came out strong after Obama’s election – twice). That attitude lead to the nomination in 2016 of a xenophobic, fascist, racist and misogynous misanthrope that allowed the id of the GOP to be displayed publicly to be nominated for President by the party.

Now we stand on the precipice of the final act of this Presidential season, where we will likely see Hillary Clinton become the first woman (and the first spouse of a former President) to be elected. The shape of the Congress is still under question, with many saying that the Senate is a lost cause for the GOP, but that the House will remain in the hands of the Republicans by a slim margin. This is important in that it will be a direct reflection of what we can expect for the next couple of years at the minimum.

In Washington D. C., it is who is in control of the Congress that is the most important thing. If the opposing party of the President is in control of both sides of Capitol Hill, then nothing gets done. If the sitting President’s party oversees both sides, then there’s too much of a rubber stamp for the President and no check on his (or, we will be able to say soon, her) actions. In a perfect world, there would be one side of Congress in one party’s hands and the other in the President’s party (House or Senate, it doesn’t matter). Normally this would force them to work together but, as we have seen since probably the late 1990s, that hasn’t been true.

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There is one problem, however. I’ve noticed that people are already tossing around the “impeachment” word when it comes to Clinton and that is outrageous. First off, the woman hasn’t even taken the goddamn office yet…normally you should impeach someone for the actions of their Presidency (both Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton were impeached for actions during their tenures, not before they became President – same would have been true for Nixon IF he hadn’t resigned). To try to charge someone for their PREVIOUS actions before they are President is unprecedented and shouldn’t be an acceptable action.

Impeaching the President of the United States is saved for severe crimes and treasonous acts, not storing e-mails on a goddamn computer (or a blowjob, in her husband’s case). If you can SHOW where Clinton, through an e-mail, had a motherfucking effect on a foreign policy act or that said e-mail landed in the hands of a foreign power and they used it for ill intent, then you must be better than Congress, who has investigated her a minimum of 10 fucking times and for more than 30 years (to the tune of roughly $500,000,000) and hasn’t charged her with a goddamn thing.

Here’s a suggestion that will send the alt-right into a frothing, ravenous frenzy. President Obama, as he begins to see the sun set on his days in the White House, has the right to issue pardons to certain U. S. citizens, forgiving their actions and/or crimes they may or may not have committed. How about Obama save one of those Presidential pardons for Hillary, stating firmly that Clinton, prior to her inauguration on January 20, 2017, is absolved of any “actions” she may have done in the past. With a stroke of his pen, Obama could save the country a bunch of money and a bunch of bullshit.

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The GOP would go off the rails, looking for ways to circumvent Obama’s pardon, but they would be unable to do so. Without the specter of Chaffetz’s investigations (or someone else who might threaten impeachment) hanging like The Sword of Damocles, the fucking government might have to work together and get things done. And if it hasn’t been evident, the Democrats may have introduced obstruction, but the Republicans have perfected it.

I can get it if you don’t agree with Clinton’s political stance or her party’s ideas. I can even understand it if you’ve got legitimate problems with some actions she might have done in the past. What I cannot understand is why someone would want to continue to dwell on these issues (hello, GOP?) and even go to the lengths of putting the country through such a divisive and partisan exercise as potentially impeaching a President-ELECT who hasn’t even had a week in office. I also can’t stand it when people can’t rub two of their brain cells together to form a cohesive thought and simply run with whatever bullshit is fed to them by the alt-right, which has the potential to be the single most destructive faction in the United States’ history.

After Tuesday night, we’ll have a new President chosen (and we should, if Cheeto Jesus can be tossed in a straightjacket long enough to roll him to the asylum). Why don’t we try something unique…starting a Presidency by working together rather than tearing each other apart? It seems to work well for every other sane country in the world, why not us?

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Dear Bernie Fans: Don’t Become the Democratic StormTrumpers

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Since the campaign started immediately following the second inauguration of Barack Obama as the 44th President of the United States, it seems that there has been a course. On the GOP side, they rolled out a clown car of buffoons, religious zealots, has beens and never weres and even three civilians, just to give the right seasoning to the idiocy. Now they are down to a representative of each of those categories and I will let you figure out where they go.

On the Democrats side, however, they were supposed to be the adults in the room. They put up a solid policy person in former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who seemed as if she were a shoo-in for the nomination, but some challengers arose. Former Maryland governor Martin O’Malley was supposed to represent the “new guard” of the Dems (at the wet-behind-the-ears age of 53), while Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders was to represent the progressive side of the party. On the way to the coronation of Hillary Clinton as the nominee – she did, after all, swallow her pride and take a position in President Obama’s cabinet following his crushing defeat of her in 2008 – a strange thing happened:  the people listened to someone else.

Much like the knuckle draggers who began listening to the rantings of a lunatic on the GOP side (once again, take your pick of lunatic), some on the Democratic side found a message in the anti-Establishment rhetoric of the Independent Senator from Vermont, Sanders. An avowed democratic socialist (definition:  while businesses can run just fine and not under government ownership, heavy taxes WILL be paid by those companies; the money then will fund several social programs that will lift all boats, such as free college and other items), Sanders’ message first alit on the ears of the youth, then on those who were disillusioned with having to look at another Clinton taking a turn in the White House.

Sanders stunned Clinton from the start, battling to a near draw in Iowa before moving onto his backyard in New Hampshire and taking the bellwether state by a large margin. Clinton regained her footing by romping through the South in early March, but Sanders hasn’t gone anywhere. Of the 33 primaries or caucuses that have been held to this date (with the delegate-rich state of New York up for grabs on Tuesday), Sanders has won 16 of them, primarily states with large white demographics and large college towns that will probably be Republican states come November (Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, etc.).

Sanders’ performance has not only driven out every other candidate in the Democratic race (O’Malley at least made it to the first primary in Iowa before dropping out; Lincoln Chafee, Jim Webb and Lawrence Lessig didn’t even make it that far), he’s getting the attention of many in the Democratic Party. Noted director Spike Lee led a pro-Sanders campaign ad that featured such fellow Hollywood celebrities as Rosario Dawson, Susan Sarandon and Dr. Cornell West and other celebrities such as Danny DeVito, Sarah Silverman and Mark Ruffalo (the Hulk in the Avenger movies as well as a two-time Academy Award nominee) have also come out in support of Sanders’ campaign.

But as the campaign has gone along, Sanders has been the victim of the political system. For the first time in ages, the Democratic usage of superdelegates may have an impact on the outcome of the primary. While only behind Clinton by a bit more than 200 elected delegates – those that are allotted by the results of the primaries – Sanders is vastly behind Clinton in the pledged superdelegates that the party uses as a final check on the results of the primaries. Of those pledged superdelegates, Sanders has earned 31; Clinton has picked up 469. Thus, when some news outlets post the delegate count, they show it as a rout for Clinton, 1758-1076, without pointing out that the superdelegates are a huge factor in that count.

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Once again much like the StormTrumpers of a particular candidate in the GOP race, the Sanders forces have been responding in similar manners. During a fundraiser held by actor George Clooney and his wife, Amal, for Democratic candidates in San Francisco on Friday night, Sanders supporters protested the fundraiser and Clinton, refusing to look at the work that the fundraiser was doing for “down the ballot” candidates in the upcoming races (of the nearly $350,000 raised, approximately $300,000 of it was to go to the Democratic National Committee and candidates from the Democratic Party in several states; Sanders has done little to no campaigning for fellow Democrats in their races). Hurling insults at Clinton’s motorcade and carrying derogatory signs, the Sanders supporters seemed to lack the knowledge of what the Clooneys have done for people, if anything else.

Then there’s the tactics that are straight out of Roger Stone’s handbook (if you’re in a cave, Roger Stone is the GOP “strategist” who works with Drumpf). According to many superdelegates, phone calls as late as 2AM have been made by Sanders supporters to their homes. Many of these persons who have issues with the superdelegate process have taken to populating websites and databases such as those called the “Superdelegate Hitlist” (perhaps noting the murderous tone, it now is the “Superdelegate List”). Those that venture online and attempt logical discussion with Sanders supporters on the Democratic process are often met with a literal wall of non-discourse and, when discussion is taken to the nth degree, commentary that seems as if it has come from a StormTrumper themselves.

The battle between Sanders and Clinton has had moments when it has been an excellent exchange of ideas and viewpoints as to the future of the Democratic Party and perhaps even the United States itself. Lately, however, the civility that the two candidates have carried has been fraying a bit, perhaps because they’ve been at this for several months and there’s still a long time until the convention in July. What the candidates – and what their supporters – have to remember, however, is that they are all on the same side.

Unlike the train wreck that is occurring before our eyes on the GOP tracks, the Democrats have two excellent choices. While neither is perfect, either one presents a logical and practical future for the United States in both domestic and foreign policy. Clinton’s vision is one of pragmatism and hard work; Sanders’ is one of bold steps that would alter many aspects of life in these United States. But with either one, the option is better than what is slobberingly gazing from the opposite side.

Over the past few months, we’ve seen a U. S. Senate who will not even consider doing their jobs – the work of leading the country – over confirming a nominee for Associate Justice on the Supreme Court of the United States. We’ve seen several states enact draconian legislation against LGBT persons, knocking them down to second-class citizens because of a “religious freedom” to be as fucking bigoted as they can be. We’ve also seen one candidate on the GOP side freely admit that the U. S. should be led as a “Christian nation,” despite the fact the Constitution that he seems to so lovingly want to follow says that something such as that should NEVER be done. Do you really want three or four SCOTUS seats, more “religious freedom” bullshit and other social doctrines attacked by whomever comes out of the GOP coven?

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Look, Sanders supporters, I get it. You’re tired of the same old politics and want a change. Through his very candidacy, Sanders has garnered the attention for those changes. But if his supporters continue to call those that support Clinton “Democratic whores,” it’s going to be a bit difficult to be able to keep him in the mix or potentially even consider some of those ideas he has so powerfully presented so far.

The ability to look at things logically and, if the facts demonstrate that the fight is truly unwinnable, to be able to accept whatever prize can be gained from the battle is one of the measures of compromise that this nation is built on. To either downgrade Clinton or pout in your rooms and not vote if “your guy” doesn’t win is juvenile at best. Look logically at the situation and hopefully the skies will clear…if you don’t want Iran in the Western Hemisphere as a theocratic government for the U. S., the only way to go is with the eventual Democratic nominee, whoever it is.

The Paradox of Ted Nugent

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There are occasions in our lives when we regret some of the things we’ve enjoyed. Everyone has that particular hair cut that, if there are photos still in existence, they cringe when the Polaroids come out. There are clothes that have been – or, in many cases, still are – in our closets that are so far out of style that they might be coming back into favor any day now. But what happens when it is some of your favorite music, actors or other performers who have gone so far off the rails that you’re in a paradox of how to justify supporting them anymore?

The man that is known as Ted Nugent has worn many a hat in his nearly 70 years on planet Earth. First known as a guitar virtuoso with the Amboy Dukes in the late 1960s, Nugent segued into a highly successful career as a solo artist through the 1970s and 1980s, the era of “Album Oriented Rock.” As the grunge movement of the 1990s began, however, the “Motor City Madman” suddenly fell out of favor, which ushered in the next, more controversial phase of his life.

Long an outdoorsman that talked about his connection with the “spiritual” nature of the world (AKA in relation to the Native American mode of thought and lifestyle), Nugent suddenly moved into more dangerous territory as a vehement supporter of the National Rifle Association and its vigilant (some might say dangerous) support for the Second Amendment. That was fine when there was a Republican in the White House, President George Bush (Bush II), but when President Barack Obama was elected in 2008, Nugent went off the deep end…in fact, it started before President Obama was even elected.

In 2007 during a concert appearance, Nugent allegedly said to the audience, “This country should be ashamed. I wanna throw up. Obama, he’s a piece of shit. I told him to suck on my machine gun.” When the elections came around again in 2012, Nugent piped up again in stating, “If Barack Obama becomes the president in November, again, I will be either dead or in jail by this time next year.” Nugent has also gone to the lengths of calling the President of the United States a “sub-human mongrel,” a term so vile and racism-laced that virtually no one supported him. Obama hasn’t been the only one who was the target of Nugent (no pun intended), in fact it seems that anyone with a “D” in front of their name has drawn the ire of Nugent’s political scat.

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Political viewpoints aside, Nugent has also gone after homosexuals, the poor, “foreigners” (“Foreigners are assholes, foreigners are scum.”) and feminists (“What’s a feminist? A fat pig who doesn’t get it often enough.”). But it seems that Nugent finally found a group that he couldn’t take on…or maybe it was a subject that he shouldn’t have broached.

In February, Nugent went on a rampage on his Facebook page, accusing prominent Jewish leaders of promoting the anti-gun agenda in the United States. In his screed, Nugent scathingly and derisively touched on their association with anti-gun activities in saying, “They hate freedom, they hate good over evil, they would deny us the basic human right (hey, Nugent’s words) to self-defense & to KEEP & BEAR ARMS while many of them have tax paid hired ARMED security!” While some of his fans tried to point out that he might have gone too far, Nugent instead ranted further, stating, “Never fucking again, assholes!”

The targets of Nugent’s rant? Such prominent Jewish leaders as former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg (called “Mikey” on the rant, as many of the photos had some sort of derisive commentary that mentioned their ties to Israel), California Senator Dianne Feinstein, New York Senator Chuck Schumer, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emmanuel and prominent attorney Alan Dershowitz, among others. Naturally, the comments drew a huge amount of outrage, not only from those that disagree with Nugent but also those who support the NRA that went as far as calling for Nugent’s removal from the Board of Directors of the organization. Perhaps realizing that he’d finally stepped too far (and apparently the NRA was about to pull the trigger on his removal), Nugent issued an apology and said he “wasn’t anti-Semitic” (but that was after he had already said…well, here).

As a fan of hard rock music, I like Nugent’s work. While we’re not talking Beethoven or Mozart, some of his work is among the best classic rock and hard rock tracks in existence. When his solo career slowed in the 80s, he formed the powerhouse super group Damn Yankees with Tommy Shaw of Styx and Jack Blades of Night Ranger and put out a couple of albums of really good music. And Nugent puts on a great live show, if you can get by the political rants that he goes off on nowadays.

I’ve also had the chance to meet him on a couple of occasions through my days in radio. Both times were like a force of nature had swept through the room as Nugent – who says he has never had any drugs or alcohol – bounded through the fans with an energy that would rival that of a 20-year old. He also always seemed to have time for his fans before, during and after every show.

But that doesn’t negate his actions of today nor those of his past. When I was younger, I could overlook Nugent’s history due to that youthful ignorance. Today – and especially with the power of the internet – it is difficult to do that.

There are several questions regarding his proclivities with wanting his ladies to be – and I will put this as delicately as possible –a little on the younger side. Spin Magazine found that Nugent somehow persuaded the parents of a 17-year old girl to allow him to became her legal guardian, naming it the 63rd “sleaziest” moment in rock history (and that’s saying something). And there are legends that Courtney Love – yes, the widow of Nirvana’s Kurt Cobainonce performed a sex act on Nugent when she was 12.

Now, if that weren’t enough, there’s also the question regarding Nugent’s method for avoiding service in Vietnam. Of draft age when the war was at its apex in the late 1960s, Nugent was able to get a deferment, but just exactly how is the question. According to a 1977 High Times interview, Nugent supposedly let personal hygiene go for up to a month – including performing bathroom functions in his clothing – to get the military psychologists to give him the deferment. In 2006 – not surprisingly at the height of his paramilitary, right-wing rebirth – he told the British newspaper The Independent that he made that story up. Whether he is a draft dodger or not – he did actually get a 4F deferment, the question being was if for a worthy reason or not – is the big question.

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This is where the paradox takes place and it is something that we have seen in many of our pop culture icons throughout history. Arguably the first noted case of this type of situation (since we have a hard time going back before “yellow journalism” or the paparazzi) was popular) was in the case of actor Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle, who was a popular actor and performer in the 1920s. Despite his bulk, he was a noted dancer and his comedic timing was impeccable, leading many to admire him and Hollywood to pay him $1 million in 1920 for his talents.

That was before a highly publicized rape trial, however. From 1921 through the next year, Arbuckle was the defendant in the rape and manslaughter trial of actor Virginia Rappe. Two trials ended in hung juries and the third finally acquitted Arbuckle, but the damage was already done. Arbuckle would never again reach the level of success he previously found, passing in 1933 of a heart attack at the age of 46.

That type of situation – celebrities with public admiration tainted or destroyed by scandal – has been seen through the 20th century to present times. Henry Ford and Charles Lindbergh, the “Hollywood Blacklist” that ensnared Dalton Trumbo and the “Hollywood Ten,” to O. J. Simpson, Michael Jackson, Sinead O’Connor or Jared Fogle…all have seen or saw their careers either crippled or ended by scandal in their lives. But what do people who admire them do?

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There is no easy answer for this situation. I can still enjoy listening to Nugent’s music, but there is a constantly nagging voice in the back of my head that will not silence some of the things he’s done. Others might be able to easily separate the juxtaposition – it seems that fans of Donald Drumpf find it far too easy to do that – but does that say more about their either pleasure of enjoying an artist or thinking that an egregious error is “OK” (sorry, there’s some things that just aren’t allowable)?

You might be able to put a different subject in its place and you might have a different answer for each different subject, but the paradox that is Ted Nugent is still something that I have to ponder and, unfortunately, I’ll probably never come up with an acceptable answer…either to myself or to anyone else.

Obstructionism Isn’t a Governing Style

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On Saturday night, I was preparing to go to a basketball game when the news came down. It was reported out of Texas that Associate Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, one of the more conservative Justices in the history of the Supreme Court of the United States, had passed away in his sleep at a hunting lodge in Texas. Justice Scalia reportedly was found dead on Saturday morning and the hunting lodge was so remote that news of his passing wasn’t announced until late Saturday afternoon.

Needless to say, I was quite surprised about this news. I didn’t take any particular glee in the announcement, however, although some did (and, for some of them who were directly affected by Scalia’s stance on several critical Supreme Court decisions such as gay rights and abortion, I can understand that). I decided to wait for a bit before making any sort of pronouncements or addressing any thoughts on the issue – 12 hours seemed about right in my opinion. If only some others would have taken the time to employ the same tactic.

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Virtually as soon as the word came from that ranch in Texas where Justice Scalia had been hunting, the Republican Party began to obstruct the thought of President Barack Obama putting someone in Scalia’s seat. The Senate Majority Leader, Kentucky Senator Mitch McConnell, literally said an hour after Scalia’s passing, “The American people should have a voice in the selection of their next Supreme Court Justice,” when other people – including ideological opponents of Scalia’s including New York Senator Chuck Schumer and current Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid – were offering condolences to the family. Another Senator, Utah’s Mike Lee (another Republican), who heads the Senate Judiciary Committee, didn’t even have the guts to respond, instead sending a lackey, spokesman Conn Carroll, to say that the chances of President Obama putting someone in Justice Scalia’s seat was “less than zero.”

The odious remains of the clown car known as the GOP Presidential nominees (more on this later this week) sounded like a bunch of harp seals in responding about the subject on the Sunday morning talkers. On Twitter, Texas Senator Ted Cruz remarked that “Justice Scalia was an American hero. We owe it to him and the nation for the Senate to ensure that the next President name his replacement.” There is plenty of evidence that negates Cruz’s statements as Presidents have, since the creation of our nation, nominated Justices up until they left office.

Florida Senator Marco Rubio was especially ripped by the Sunday hosts for his incredibly stupid statements that he made on the subject. Apparently someone in the Rubio camp informed Super Mario that, when a sitting President is down to the final year of his Presidency, he just quits being President and lets shit fall where it may. On Meet the Press, host Chuck Todd directly said to Rubio, “Do presidential terms end after three years?” when Rubio said, “In the last year of a president’s term…there should not be Supreme Court nominees put into lifetime positions.”

Even on home turf with Fox News, host Chris Wallace drilled Rubio when he asked if any President should be able to make second term Supreme Court appointments. “I’m not saying it’s illegal,” Rubio said. “I think we should wait until after November before we move forward on confirming any justice to the Supreme Court.” Wallace then administered the smack down to Rubio – the last time that such a situation occurred was under President Ronald Reagan when he nominated – and the Senate confirmed – Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy in 1988. “It doesn’t really matter what Reagan did back in ’87,” Rubio snottily – and incorrectly – said.

And this is just the tip of the iceberg of the obstructionism of the Republican Party in this particular circumstance.

Unfortunately, since the Republican “neocon” insurrection that led to President Bill Clinton’s impeachment over a blowjob at the tail end of the 1990s, the politics of obstructionism is all the people of the U. S. have received. Whether it is the Democrats in control of the Congress and a Republican in the White House or vice versa, it seems that no one wants to actually govern this country anymore. The politics of – well, actually being political – have been pushed aside for partisanship, “point scoring” and bullshit “line in the sand” positions rather than actually trying to lead the nation. As a result, not a damn thing is getting done.

We like to think of our nation as a great example of something that should be the target for other people and other nations to be. Instead, we’ve become a fucking joke in that we cannot even meet in a room to hear about a budget plan for the upcoming year, sit through a President’s State of the Union speech without yelling out bullshit or even give that President the common decency of allowing him his Constitutional right to nominate a person to the highest Court in the land.

President Barack Obama: Inauguration Day 2009

If you don’t like the President, that’s your prerogative. You can allow him to nominate his candidate for the Supreme Court without being derogatory towards the man and the office. Then you can demonstrate your obstructionism (and your disrespect to doing your job) to the citizens of the United States, either by not meeting with the candidate or not holding hearings for said candidate. Then it is on YOU to explain to the citizens of the country why someone who was OK as a judge when they were reviewed and approved a few years previously (because trust me, the Obama Administration isn’t going to pick someone that hasn’t already been approved by the Senate previously and probably by close to a unanimous vote) is suddenly not good enough to be a Supreme Court Justice.

This is the point where the obstructionism may fall apart. The GOP is staking their hill on this Supreme Court seat and it could very well lead to their downfall. With a third of the seats in the Senate up for grabs in November – including some in battleground states that the Republicans need to maintain their grasp on to hold the majority in the Senate – it is possible that a divisive issue could swing the vote one way or the other. Such a subject as naming a Supreme Court Justice – or the resulting blocking of said Justice – could motivate a sizeable bloc of voters to come out against a particular party (in this case, the GOP) and end their Senate majority.

The other question is why would the GOP try to stake this hill? If they are successful in delaying the selection of the Supreme Court Justice until after the November elections, they have to win said election to be able to put in someone they prefer; those odds do not look good at this time (odds makers have pretty much every combination of Democrat versus Republican with the Democrat winning). The next Democratic President could nominate Obama, which would be anathema to any Republican, worse than any nominee that Obama could come up with. There is also the chance that, should a Republican win, Obama could put through a Supreme Court replacement once the new Congress is seated and before the new President takes over (tricky, but extremely possible).

Now conservatives are going to cry that “Reid was obstructionist to Republicans when he was in charge,” and they’d be right. But what was he going to put forward from a Republican House…one of the 50-odd passages repealing the Affordable Care Act? Bills that stripped away through the riders on the side other rights that President Obama had fought to earn for women, gays and other groups that Republicans love to oppress? Repeals of Planned Parenthood funding? Tell you what…when both sides start passing bills straight up, without any riders that bastardize the original purpose of a bill, then you can talk about not having them considered by the other body in the legislative branch.

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Both sides need to realize that obstructionism is not a governing style. It is time that people actually look at who they are voting for and put people in the Congress (and get rid of these Tea Party nutbags who pretend to be “small government” but are basically religious zealots masquerading as small government practitioners) that will work together – rather than against each other – and put someone in the White House who will actually come down to Capitol Hill and sit in the office of the leader of the opposing party and find common ground to lead the nation. Furthermore, the Congress itself needs to get off its ass and move – and do its job rather than hiding behind “listening to the American people” as a reason to not do anything. It could start with doing something as simple as putting someone in the seat of Associate Justice of the Supreme Court.

Welcome Back, My Friends: What to Expect from Tuesday’s GOP Debate

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Welcome back, my friends, to the show that never ends!
We’re so glad you could attend,
Come inside! Come inside!

Emerson, Lake and Palmer, “Karn Evil 9

If it seems like we are in a Bill Murray-esque “Groundhog Day” scenario, it is about to come to a close. On Tuesday night, 13 of the 14 remaining candidates from the Republican Party will meet at the Venetian in Las Vegas, representing the final time in 2015 that the GOP will parade their talent across the stage for the U. S. voter. It is expected that, by the time of the next debate two days after the State of the Union address in January, this field will be whittled down again (since the start of the campaign, three candidates – former Texas Governor Rick Perry, current Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal and current Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker – have already tossed in the towel…and thus completes our moment of silence for them).

It is appropriate that Las Vegas is the host of the final GOP debate for 2015 because, for many of the candidates, it is a full-out gamble that they’re taking by staying in the race. The four men who will make up the undercard (or “kiddie table”) debate – current South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham, former New York Governor George Pataki, former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum and former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee – were unable to make the criteria for the main CNN debate (to be eligible, a candidate had to poll at least at 3.5% nationally or at 4% in either Iowa or New Hampshire) and probably should have left this contest months ago (another candidate, former Virginia Governor Jim Gilmore, was left off this stage because he doesn’t poll at all in the GOP race, he just hasn’t gotten around to ending his campaign). They do little for the process other than to confuse voters, offer nothing as to “fresh” ideas and simply aren’t viable (on the Democrats side, Martin O’Malley serves this purpose all by himself). There would have to be a tremendous “change of fortune” if any of these longest of “long shots” were to pay off with a residency in the White House.

The nine person GOP All-Star team that will be in the “Main Event” – billionaire businessman  Donald Trump, brain surgeon Ben Carson, current Texas Senator Ted Cruz and Florida Senator Marco Rubio, former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, businesswoman Carly Fiorina, current New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and Ohio’s Governor John Kasich and current Kentucky Senator Rand Paul – could have probably been cut as well, but we don’t want to have three debates that would provide emergency rooms with more alcohol poisonings than they could handle. With just the top four alone – Trump, Carson, Cruz and Rubio – nearly three-quarters (73.5%) of the GOP has decided who they will back. The other five candidates divvy up 15% of the vote, not enough for any of them to mount a serious charge at the top and probably not enough to swing the top four in any particular direction (the rest are basically undecided, either supporting one of the bottom four or have truly not made a choice). As such, this debate (and maybe they’ll do it by the January debate, but I’m not holding my breath) might be the last time we’ll see this many GOP hopefuls on the center stage.

The run-up to this debate has been intriguing if not necessarily pretty. Paul was a last-minute addition (due to a late Sunday Fox News poll that showed him doing well in Iowa) to get him to the main stage. There was talk that he would be shuttled to the undercard debate, which brought the threat from Paul of either a lawsuit or a resignation from the campaign. Trump has been wavering atop the ladder, with a surprising Cruz passing him in some polling while Trump has extended his lead in others. Finally, there has been the grandstanding that many in the GOP have done as a result of situations in the world and in the United States over the past few weeks.

This debate is being billed by CNN – who will put commentator Wolf Blitzer in as the moderator, with assistance from CNN Chief Political Correspondent Dana Bash and Salem Radio (co-host of the debate) talk show host Hugh Hewitt – as a comprehensive look at the threat of terrorism and foreign policy. With the attacks in Paris and in San Bernardino over the past few weeks, the actions of ISIS and terrorism in general has come to the forefront as an important issue. This doesn’t bode well for a few of the candidates – Carson, Fiorina, Kasich and Paul in particular – because it isn’t their forte. Some of the other candidates on the stage – Cruz, Rubio, Bush and Christie – have been very consistent with their proposals to counter terrorists’ threats. It is Trump who is the wild card simply because he presents “solutions” that will not even be seriously considered (registering a religion for government surveillance or forcing them into “training camps”, bombing the “shit” out of ISIS regardless of where they are, etc.); the real question is when will Trump grow up and figure out simple civics and government protocol and offer viable ideas.

The tone of the debate on Tuesday night is going to be two-sided. For those at the bottom of the totem pole – Paul, Kasich, Christie (making his return to the main stage after being “sent to the minors” for the last debate) and Fiorina – they are going to have to put out a big bet (in keeping with our Las Vegas theme here) and hope that it hits in their favor. This could be some sort of proposal to combat terrorism, an attack on another candidate showing how their position is wrong, or a particular stance that makes them potentially look like “the adult” in the room rather than a pandering child. Expect the “slings and arrows” for this debate to come out of this bunch because, let’s be honest, they haven’t got anything else to fall back on if they are to be viable in the campaign.

The top five in the GOP – Trump, Cruz, Carson, Rubio and Bush (and he barely gets into this class) – will probably be on their best behavior, especially Trump. After months of acting like your crazy, drunken uncle at the Thanksgiving or Christmas gathering, Trump is now being tracked down by the one candidate who is actively looking to pull away his supporters, Cruz. He has to try to look somewhat “sane” as he tries to parlay the attack of Cruz (who was called by none other than Arizona Senator John McCain a “wacko bird”). Cruz, who has basically burned every bridge he might have been able to use in the GOP to push his candidacy forward, HAD been the “lunatic fringe” of the GOP before Trump came along and now is potentially viewed by some as more “Presidential” than before. Instead of staying this course, Trump is strangely resorting to trying to portray himself as having a better “temperament” for the Presidency (as the rest of the political world does massive spit-takes); whether that strategy pays off has yet to be seen.

These five guys will, for the most part, spar lightly with each other but mostly will look out for the heavy ammunition from the back of the pack. Despite his bombast, Trump isn’t well-versed in foreign policy matters, so he’ll probably sit back and look for someone else to make a mistake (instead of the one Trump did in the last debate when Paul pointed out China – one of Trump’s favorite targets for beating – wasn’t a part of the Asian trade pact recently negotiated). This plan doesn’t bode well for him, however, as it could result in a drop in the polls if he doesn’t display “strength.”

I expect good showings from both Cruz and Rubio on this issue. The two are well-versed from their Senatorial work in potential foreign policy options and could present a viable course of action. Bush might surprise here, if he can separate himself from the Albatross that were his brother’s actions in the Middle East, while Carson suffers from a worse case of the same condition that afflicts Trump – no knowledge of foreign policy (although this would be a good time to demonstrate that he’s been listening to his advisors and show some deep thought on the subject).

What has held true for all the previous debates – and will continue to hold true for this one – is that it won’t have much effect on the current campaign at all and I don’t say that cynically. Trump has been the leader since he stepped into the race this summer and, despite every verbal bombast, insult and slur that he’s thrown, he’s either maintained the lead or expanded it. It isn’t going to be until that late-January debate that there might be a change in the numbers on the board, more so true if there are some candidates who come to their senses and realize they have no shot at the big prize and withdraw from the race. While Las Vegas may be the city where “dreams come true,” it more often than not crushes those dreams into dust; it will be that way for some of these GOP candidates as we head towards the end of 2015.

How the Democrats Can Become Relevant Again

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about how the Republican Party could become relevant again with a few tweaks to their mentality. At that time, I made the statement that the same could be said for the Democratic Party. “But why,” you might ask, “the Democrats have had the White House for the past eight years, they’re controlling everything.” In reality, the Democrats are in control of nothing and need to retool their inner workings if they are to be relevant in the coming years.

As I did with the GOP, I actually sat down and looked at those candidates that are vying for the 2016 Democratic nomination for President. It’s a pretty sorry lot if you look at the choices:  the frontrunner in this year’s race was SUPPOSED to win in 2008, but she (yes, that’s right, a female “Leader of the Pack”) failed to engage on a “personal level” with voters who looked past her towards a young, dashing black man and chose him…oh, by the way, she also has more baggage in her campaign bus than the Allure of the Seas has when it sets sail; the second place choice for the Democrats is a self-admitted “democratic socialist” (which sounds about as possible to me as a person who is “socially liberal, fiscally conservative”) who is saying all the right things regarding changing things in the United States but provides hardly any insight as to what those changes would be if he were elected President; the third place contestant comes off his past two jobs in Maryland and Baltimore, where there has recently been more than enough turmoil in the streets between the citizenry and those in law enforcement potentially caused by his policies, and a few more never-weres who aren’t even registering on the radar. Hell, even the sitting Vice President of the United States, someone who should have the inside track to the nomination after a two-term President leaves office, is reluctant to join this field.

Democrats don’t exactly have the best track record when it comes to recent times in the office of the Presidency. While many like to bash Jimmy Carter as “the worst President of all-time,” he actually did something that no other President has done:  kept us out of a war. That one plus (OK, let’s give him two…an attempt to bring peace to the Middle East with an agreement between Israel’s Menachem Begin and Egypt’s Anwar Sadat), however, was heavily pounded by an economy that tanked in the late 1970s, skyrocketing gas prices, the taking of the U. S. Embassy in Tehran by Iranian students hell-bent on a religious takeover of the country and a general “malaise” (Carter’s words, which he bore as an albatross for his entire presidency) that fell over the United States.

Carter was such a disappointment as the President of the United States that the GOP took over for three consecutive terms in the office, something that hadn’t happened (one party controlling the White House) since Franklin Delano Roosevelt was President during World War II (add in Harry Truman and the Democrats controlled the White House for 20 years during that time). It would take a transformative figure to break the Republican logjam and, when he did break through, it set the spike in the center of the two parties and, to a further extent, the nation as a whole.

Bill Clinton was young, he was telegenic, he did things with his campaign that no other politician had done before (going on a late-night talk show and playing “Heartbreak Hotel” on the saxophone while wearing shades? Groundbreaking, some would say…an embarrassment, others would claim). These attributes – along with his experience as Governor of Arkansas – ushered Clinton into the White House beside Hillary Clinton (who is the Democratic frontrunner in 2016, the Democratic answer to Jeb Bush on the Republican side), who was to have a sizeable impact on the policies of the Clinton Administration.

Clinton would go on to win two terms because, at least in the first term, he got things done. The economy, aided by the surge in computer technology in Silicon Valley, boomed throughout the 1990s as it seemed everyone had all the things desired by the people. There were some on the Republican side – a rising breed called “neocons” – who didn’t see Clinton’s success as a good thing and set about destroying it in its tracks before another Democratic run could get started.

The last four years of the Clinton Presidency was dogged by accusations against not only the President but also the First Lady (give the GOP credit there, they knew that Hillary had her eyes on the White House as the leader of the Free World even back then). An illicit relationship between Clinton and one of his interns led to only the second impeachment of a President in U. S. history, one that was easily squelched but has since damaged the relationship between the two parties. The spike set back in 1996 was firmly driven in and, add in the Gore/Bush election of 2000 and the animosity raised by that, one would wonder how we get anything done anymore (and many would say we don’t).

There are several ways that the Democrats can woo back independents and maybe even some Reagan Republicans to ensure that the party stays viable. All they have to do is change some of their tenets and a more centrist party will be the result.

First off, Democrats, government and spending isn’t the answer to everything that goes on in Washington, D. C. An article in the Washington Post points out the difficulties in one of the pet projects for the Democrats, subsidized housing. The Department of Housing and Urban Development points out that 2.6% of those in housing subsidized by the U. S. taxpayer have exceeded the income limits to be eligible for such housing but haven’t moved out. In one case, a New York family of four makes nearly $500,000 but pays slightly more than $1500 for the three bedroom apartment subsidized by the government. Worse yet, a single person with assets of $1.6 million was still in a $300 one bedroom apartment in Oxford, NE, paid for with help from the government.

Now, 2.6% isn’t much when compared to the 1.1 million families that are in this situation, but the inaction by the government is problematic. Instead of having a plan in place to move people from these situations – like other social programs, meant to be temporary not permanent – the government says they won’t do anything because a policy isn’t in place.

It is time that the Democrats actually look at things on an individual basis – education, drug policy, law enforcement, and the military (at the minimum) – and determine why the money being spent isn’t doing more for the cause. In the case of education, it is obvious that spending more on the situation isn’t helping, so why aren’t we looking at successful nations (such as Japan) and implementing some of their programs. Every student isn’t a “priceless jewel” in the making; sometimes a student just isn’t cut out for accelerated learning programs and a college education. Sometimes that same student will achieve far more by going into other fields than picking up a piece of paper that says they are great at philosophy.

Tightening up the spending in many areas – rather than pitching cash on things that require no changes – is a great first step, Democrats.

Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump gets a lot of grief over this, but the Democrats are more than likely the ones to be bitching about every little breach of “political correctness” that occurs. While sometimes necessary, there are times when Democrats will whine about a term used in a joke, which should be a bastion of verbal discussion that is far removed from political correctness. Comedian/political commentator Bill Maher spoke about this last year when, after comparing the situation then to the 1990s, said the following:

“In 2014, political correctness is making a comeback, and now with the Internet, it’s easier than ever.  In the 90s, you had to at least get off your ass to be in a fake group with hurt feelings. You needed signs, you needed petitions. You had to feed Al Sharpton. Back then, getting worked up over nothing was a lot of work.”

“But now, it seems like all the Internet exists to do is point at the latest person who said the wrong thing, so the rest of us can feel morally superior.  And that’s not what the Internet is for.  That’s what college is for. Now social media is all about ‘gotcha.’  A homophobic businessman, or a sexist cartoonist, or a college president who fat-shamed his dog by naming it Waddles…You can’t purge everybody who doesn’t evolve exactly on the timetable you did.

Things haven’t changed much over the last year. What Maher and many are saying is that the Democrats should grow a pair and quit worrying about every perceived slight that seemingly happens.

Finally, the Democrats cannot be complacent in the belief that the ‘melting pot’ that is the United States will continually be counted on to support their causes. In the Hispanic community, it is estimated that 55% are Catholic; as such, some of the Democratic policies in place may not be in line with some Latinos’ mindset. Hard work is rewarded in the Hispanic, Asian and Indian cultures rather than accepting a great deal of assistance from the government and these blocs are growing vastly in the U. S., perhaps viewing the Republican side as a more viable one.

If the Democrats do these things, then they will be set for the next 50 years, at the minimum, with a viable hand in the political landscape. If they continue to neglect things, especially spending (yes, it is time to cut some of the social programs that are available, along with Social Security and the military), then it will be difficult for the U. S. electorate to hand them the checkbook for the country. Without that change alone, Democrats may win elections from simple numbers but won’t be in position to enact any budgetary guidelines because they can’t handle how to spend the money.