If You’re Going to “Show Support” for the Military, Show it FOR ALL

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When it comes to my service in the military, I am proud of it, but I don’t make a big deal out of it. My Honorable Discharge hangs proudly on my wall (thanks to my Mom, may she rest in peace, for keeping it all these years) and I have several photos that show me at different stages during my four years of service. I do fly the United States Marine Corps flag on military and some national holidays but, as previously stated, I usually don’t make a big deal of my veteran status. A situation recently has made me rethink this situation, however, because it seems that veterans still get short shrift in most arenas.

Recently I was flying back from a fantastic family trip to the Outer Banks of North Carolina (something that I would encourage people to do at least once – it is a historic, beautiful, exciting and fun area to visit) and doing what is the worst part about flying – waiting for the call to board the plane. If you’re one of the few people on Planet Earth that haven’t flown, let me set the stage for you: imagine a herd of cattle in a pen waiting for the train to open up and then, in an orderly procession, slowly meander onto the transport. That’s what loading a plane is like, only in a human form.

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Anyway, back to the point. The gate attendant (the airline was unimportant, but they recently bought the naming rights to the Las Vegas Raiders new stadium) was doing a fine job, actually moving the cattle forward with some rapidity, when I heard her make this call. “At this time, we’d like to allow all active duty, reserve and retired military to board the aircraft first and thank you for your service.”

I’ve heard this on many an occasion but, for the first time, this set me off.

Airlines aren’t the only ones who have fallen victim to this mindset. Many restaurants and other businesses, when looking to “Salute the Troops,” will often use those three designations – active duty, reserve service and retired – often negating those who aren’t actively in service and didn’t retire from the Armed Forces but did actually served for a substantial amount of time in some cases. According to estimates from the National Conference of State Legislators, there are 18.8 million veterans in the United States. Of that total, there are roughly 2.1 million retired military persons and 2.3 currently active or reserve members of the Armed Forces. That means there are over 14 MILLION people in the States of America whose service to the country is being disrespected.

I am sure there are plenty of instances of this, but I don’t have to go any further than my family for examples. My service in the USMC was honorable but, after four years of active duty (and two more in the Reserves), I decided that the military lifestyle wasn’t for me and walked away. Service in the military isn’t for everyone and, although I credit the military lifestyle for being an important building block in the creation of me, I recognized that it wasn’t something that I wanted to make a career of philosophically, politically or otherwise. In short, I was proud of my service, but I wasn’t looking to do it permanently.

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For an example on the longer end my brother, from the time he entered the USMC, wanted to make a career of it. The little idiot actually signed up to JOIN THE INFANTRY, for fuck’s sake. And he served admirably in the first Gulf War, where he was injured by a shattered windshield on his troop carrier (the glass from the windshield nearly took one of his eyes out) as his unit rumbled into Kuwait City, but he refused the Purple Heart.

As the years went on, however, the wear and tear of the military and, in particular, the infantry requirements began to debilitate him. Four years short of making his lifetime goal – to serve for 20 years in the military – the USMC had to medically discharge him because his body was so broken down he couldn’t go on (a prime example of “the mind wanting to but the body unable”). So, for statistical purposes, my brother – who gave his body in service to the country – is NOT a “retired” veteran…just a “veteran” but not worthy of recognition. Nowadays he makes do, but without the retired military veteran’s pension that he had worked so long for.

This type of story can go further, even to today’s veterans. How many of the young men and women have returned from Iraq or Afghanistan, after four or eight years of service (or shorter, in some cases) with debilitating or life-altering injuries, and face this same type of thought? That you are “not worth honoring” because you aren’t currently serving or retired? And what about those 14 million plus veterans who did their jobs – and did them honorably, from Berlin to Okinawa, from Vietnam to Korea, from Grenada to Beirut, from Baghdad to Kabul, in “peacetime” (an oxymoronic statement about the States of America) and in times of war – but yet are neglected when it comes to recognition or treatment?

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Recognition of veterans has always been a bit shitty in the States of America, to be honest. We talk a good game about “supporting the troops” but, when it comes down to actually taking care of that Afghanistan veteran, now a quadriplegic, who is trying to get by on a Social Security check or getting the right mental health care for that Vietnam veteran who saw a village on the Mekong wiped out by napalm and still wakes up at night screaming, this country hasn’t come up for them. We have an amazing capability to create veterans, we also have a tremendous ability to tell them to fuck off when they need help the most.

In the grand scheme of things, whether ALL veterans are honored with special treatment isn’t that big a deal. But instead of segmenting some for “special recognition,” it perhaps would make more sense to either recognize ALL of those who served – regardless of whether they are active, retired or “just a veteran” – or just don’t bother with the platitudes. If you want to show “support for the troops,” how about taking care of them once their service is complete rather than a couple of bucks off a meal at Golden Corral?

“Timeless” A New Television Show That Will Work Your Mind

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If it’s fall, then it is time for the new programs to hit the television screen from not only the traditional networks but also cable and streaming services. Most of the time the programs presented – especially by the traditional network outlets – are simply retreads of past programs that do little to engage the audience or test their thinking capabilities. But there are some programs that have come out that might be worth checking out. We’ll take a look at a few of them over the next couple of weeks, but let’s start with the best of the lot.

NBC has been the purveyor of some excellent programs over the past few years. It’s been three years since The Blacklist premiered on the Peacock Channel and, just last year, NBC put on another fine action-drama with Blindspot. They may have topped themselves, however, with their most recent entry, Timeless.

Timeless is the story of Lucy Preston (actor Abigail Spencer), a college professor with an ailing, bedridden mother and her stay at home sister, Amy, who takes care of her while Lucy attempts to gain tenure and follow in her mother’s footsteps. Things take a turn, however, when the college she teaches at (and where her mother was quite famous) refuses to grant her tenure, leaving her in a difficult spot. That changes when Homeland Security calls Lucy in for a project.

Coming into a warehouse, Lucy is dumbfounded to meet Connor Mason (Paterson Joseph), a brilliant scientist who has been working on undisclosed “experiments” for the government. According to Homeland Security agent Denise Christopher (Sakina Jaffrey), one of Mason’s projects was a time machine that, after a raid by terrorists led by Garcia Flynn (Goran Visnjic, who has been making an excellent living playing bad guys of late…or is he…well, not yet), has been stolen. Flynn and his cohorts have taken the time machine back to May 6, 1937.

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As a historian, Lucy knows the significance of the date. It is the day the Hindenburg exploded upon landing in Lakehurst, NJ, but she still doesn’t understand why she’s there to help Mason and the government. Mason explains that, with her knowledge and background in history, she is the best person to send to make sure that history doesn’t change, lest something happens and the “future” from 1937 is altered. Mason explains that there is a creaky prototype of the “Mothership” (the time capsule stolen by Flynn), but it only holds three riders; going along with Lucy on the trip are Wyatt Logan (Matt Lanter), a military man (probably Navy Seal from his apparent expertise) who has recently lost his wife and will provide the muscle for the team, and Rufus Carlin (Malcolm Barrett), a computer wizard and engineer on the creation of the “Mothership” who can handle the prototype and get it to and from whatever period of time they have to enter and return.

Upon reaching the flight line where the Hindenburg is landing, the threesome notice that the ground crew (the men catching the lines dropped by the dirigible to anchor the ship) are keeping the ropes off the ground, long thought to have been a theory as the cause for the grounding of the ship and the subsequent spark that set off the hydrogen gas in the blimp. The trio also see Flynn among the ground crew (having told them to keep the lines off the ground) and make chase, but are unable to catch him. Thus they have failed in their mission – keeping history the way it is known – and now must figure out why Flynn wanted to change it.

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Doing some research, Lucy learns that many noteworthy people – bankers, politicians, royalty and the elite – will be on the return flight of the Hindenburg to attend the coronation of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth in England (which actually was supposed to happen in “our” history) and that Flynn is potentially looking to destroy the ship at that time to have the maximum impact on the future. Meanwhile, Wyatt hooks up with a reporter who reminds him of his deceased wife (and who was supposed to be one of the people killed on the ground in the original history of the crash), who doesn’t quite believe their story but does help them on their trek.

Our set of adventurers eventually end up in jail after killing one of Flynn’s associates (and finding a detonator in his pocket) and, in an attempt to escape to stop Flynn from destroying the Hindenburg, Rufus – who had previously stated to Mason that he didn’t want to go on the mission because as a black man “there isn’t a time in history that was good for me” – causes enough of a ruckus that the police come in, billy clubs brandished, ready to beat him senseless. This gives Wyatt enough time to pick the lock and, with Rufus’ help, immobilize the guards to stop Flynn.

The threesome board the Hindenburg and find the bomb, but are unable to stop it from exploding. They do, however, save everyone on board after forcibly taking over the ship and making it land, thus giving the passengers the quickest way off. During the resulting hubbub, Lucy comes face-to-face with Flynn and, to be honest, this is where it gets a bit interesting.

Flynn tells Lucy that he is looking to preserve history for the better, not destroy it, and tells her to ask Christopher about a certain group known only as “Rittenhouse.” He also shows her a diary that, to Lucy’s horror, is in her handwriting and apparently talks about the trips that are in the future. Wyatt comes upon them and tries to shoot Flynn, but he returns fire and misses Wyatt but hits the female reporter behind Wyatt after he jumps out of the way and kills her. With the Hindenburg now destroyed, the adventurers return to present time not knowing what they’ll find when they get there.

At first glance, there doesn’t appear to be much wrong other than some altering affected by the crew’s forcible crash landing of the blimp. The team has learned that Flynn is there to alter U. S. history but, even though the history of the Hindenburg has been slightly altered and the passengers who were killed in the original history survived (while none perished in the new historical trek), there doesn’t appear to be much out of line. Christopher sends the team home, at which point the show takes another stunning turn for one of the characters.

Lucy returns home and calls out for her sister but, to her utter amazement, her mother calls for her and comes out of the kitchen. A flabbergasted Lucy breaks down in tears at the sight of her mother in vigorous health (remember, she departed with her mother bedridden), but she still wants to know where Amy is. Her mother doesn’t know what or who she’s talking about and, to Lucy’s horror, she picks up a photo that used to feature the three Preston women that now just features Lucy and her mother. As the pilot ends, Lucy is called back by Christopher as Flynn has taken off to another point in history in the “Mothership.”

The second episode – which dealt with the assassination of Abraham Lincoln – is pretty much along the same lines, but a couple more twists are tossed in. Rufus and Mason now seem to be in cahoots as Mason has Rufus recording all the interactions between him, Wyatt and Lucy while they are on their missions, with those recordings going to the shadowy group that Flynn talked about with Lucy after the Hindenburg crash. Second, upon returning from the Lincoln mission, Lucy learns that her father in her original history met and married one of the survivors of the Hindenburg disaster and that is the reason why Amy doesn’t exist. This also leads Lucy to wonder about her OWN background (logically) and, lacking an answer on that front and returning home, finds another change in her history as her mother is throwing a party for her wedding engagement (imagine if you walked in and your mother was doing THAT for you!).

Personally, I’ve always held a fascination with alternative history (if you’ll remember, I was also big on The Man in the High Castle last year) and this show definitely taps into that vein. It goes back to the conundrum about a variation of the Grandfather Paradox known as the Hitler Paradox – if you could go back in history and kill Hitler before he begins World War II, would you do it? The problem with these types of questions – and something that is done well in Timeless (albeit only to Lucy right now – it is supposed to also affect Wyatt and Rufus at some point) – is that changing any point in past history would have an effect on what occurs in the future.

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Without Hitler and let’s just add in World War II also, would the United States have achieved all it did as a world superpower? Would there have been the Korean War, the attempts to stop the Russians and the Domino Theory? Maybe someone who died in WWII would go on to commit worse atrocities than Hitler? Would nuclear weapons have been developed? There’s plenty to think about there (and it does apply to everyone’s life – change one thing in your past and it would alter who you are today).

Timeless taps into this uncertainty and, while Lucy, Wyatt and Rufus are attempting to keep history as they know it correct, there are just enough things that they don’t or can’t prevent that it still has an impact on the present day world (Lucy’s sister disappearing, her mother healthy, etc.). What happens, for example, if they come back from a mission and Wyatt’s wife is suddenly alive? Does he quit? And what about Rufus? What is his purpose and why is he recording the crew?

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The possibilities are endless with this show. Future episodes are looking (and this is from my own knowledge of history and the titles of each episode) at the Manhattan Project, the siege of the Alamo and the Watergate burglary, but there is a wealth of situations that could be investigated. The characters are what keep you interested, critical for any drama, as you try to figure out if Lucy goes mad at some point from all the changes in her personal history, which in some way causes Flynn to start his criminal (hey, we’ve yet to figure out if it is criminal or not, remember) actions, can Wyatt overcome the loss of his wife and the mystery of Rufus (not to mention Morgan, Christopher and this mysterious organization).

Airing at 10PM on Mondays after The Voice, Timeless is a way to test your mind and expand your thinking while being entertained at the same time, making it a fresh show amidst the mindless banter out there (really, do we have to see Kevin James doing a new version of King of Queens? He really isn’t that funny to begin with!).

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

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With all the turmoil over the 2016 Presidential campaign – and the choice between a duplicitous but highly qualified Hillary Clinton and a raving nutbag of racism, misogyny and xenophobia in the Tangerine Nightmare (that’s right, I don’t even begin to name him – my choice), never in the history of the United States has there been a riper time for a third party candidate to make an impact. Because the two “major parties” have been unable to nominate someone who could, you know, actually LEAD the country, someone like the Libertarian Party or the Green Party could step in and fill the void. Unfortunately, that doesn’t seem to be the case.

Let’s take the Libertarian Party first. The only other party to actually be on all 50 ballots in the U. S., the Libertarians have reached a crossroads in their existence. Long viewed as the “hippie” party because of their views on legalization of marijuana and policies that put more into personal responsibility than governmental rigor, the Libertarians are actually the only party (other than the two major parties) to actually register a notable percentage of the vote in 2012; in that Presidential election, former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson garnered 1,275,951 votes across the U. S. – roughly 1% of the votes in the election (and the best ever showing by the Libertarians).

When it comes to the 2016 Presidential efforts, however, the Libertarians took a page from the GOP playbook instead of…well, being Libertarians. Johnson (who had previously run for President as a Republican in 2012 and, after losing that nomination, suddenly “saw the light” and became a Libertarian), believing that he would be easily nominated again for the party’s Presidential ambitions, instead had to fight off accusations that he wasn’t “libertarian” enough (heard that somewhere before?) and that someone who was a “true Libertarian” needed to be chosen. In the end, however, Johnson and his Vice President pick, former Massachusetts Governor Bill Weld, earned the nomination of the party.

Turning our attention to the Green Party, they have also nominated the same candidate that they chose in the 2012 election. Dr. Jill Stein, a longtime activist with the party, was selected in 2012 and garnered absolutely no attention from anyone whatsoever. How bad was it? In that 2012 election, Stein drew in 469,628 votes, less than the population of Brevard County on the East Coast of Florida.

Fast forward to 2016 and, instead of picking someone who might be a “fresh face” for the party, the Greens picked Stein again. The choice was made despite the factor that she has been viewed by many as anti-science and has tossed her hat in the ring with 9/11 conspiracy advocates (like the Orangutan Mutant). Party officials obviously were looking for someone and, lacking anyone with even the inkling of name recognition that Dr. Stein (who also offered her nomination to former Democratic Presidential hopeful Senator Bernie Sanders if he would just switch to the Green Party) had, decided to stick with her (these things have pretty much eliminated her from contention, much like Johnson’s Aleppo mistake and, just this last weekend, his contention that “nobody got hurt” during the bombings in New York and New Jersey and the knife attack in Minnesota, dismisses him as a serious contender).

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There’s several problems with looking towards the “third party” option in this or any election, but we will only deal with a few of them here. First, voting for a “third party” option is the waste of a vote (and, as you will see, the statistics demonstrate this); second, that a solid third party has yet to form; and third, that the other parties are not following a path towards success if they are trying to infiltrate the two party system.

First, if you are considering a vote for a third party candidate this year, take a look at the numbers. Of the elected positions in national government – the President and Congress – how many of those seats are held by the Libertarian Party? The total would be zilch. What about governorships in the United States? That, too, would be zero. You have to go to the state legislatures to even find a Libertarian, and that total would be four out of 7383 seats available. In local elected offices (of which there are tens of thousands of elected positions), there are only 145 wielding power.

What about the Green Party? They don’t even register on the national or state scene, with no elected officials in any national or state government. The Green Party does register about the same numbers on the local scene as the Libertarians – an estimated 137 positions – but there’s problems for the party overall. When it comes to actually getting votes, they aren’t even on the ballot in all 50 states FOR PRESIDENT, let alone running in other races.

The second point – that no solid third party has formed in the past 30 years – takes into account those parties that “stood alone” from the two party system, of which none have been successful. The Tea Party was a subset of the Republican Party (in fact, if the Republicans didn’t want to be in the situation they are now, they should have cut the Tea Party loose from the start) and the Dixiecrats were a subset of the Democratic Party after World War II (and they were eventually cut off by the Democratic Party). Those parties that tried to stand alone – Ross Perot’s Reform Party had a nice run in the 1990s before petering out after the turn of the century and there are individuals who choose “Independent” as their party (despite the fact there isn’t a “dedicated” Independent Party) – have never been able to grasp the public’s attention for very long.

The third point – that the smaller parties are taking the wrong approach – is an easy one to correct. Instead of trying to elect one of your members to the Presidency, why not try to make inroads into the local and state realms of government. Remember those numbers presented earlier? The numbers that showed that, of all the state and federal elected positions, that only four seats would be occupied by someone that identified as Libertarian and zero by Greens? The numbers that showed that, of local governments, slightly less than 300 seats were held by someone not affiliated with either major party?

If the Libertarian or Green Party were able to actually make an impact on the local political arena – instead of 300, how about 30,000 elected officials? – then they would be able to spark the changes that they seek on the state and national scene. Even if either Johnson or Stein were elected, do you honestly think that the Congress – dominated by the two major parties – would choose to work with them? It is something that has to grow from the ground up, not from the top down.

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It is thought that pulling the lever for one of the non-mainstream candidates will be a form of “protest,” of “voting on principle,” when it will in fact be a waste of your voice. By pulling the handle for either Johnson or Stein (or any of the other candidates who may emerge on your ballot for President), you are saying that, while you don’t like either of the major party choices, you also don’t want to be involved in the process of choosing from the two most likely choices someone who WILL be the next President of the United States (and yes, it can sometimes seem like you’re getting screwed, but at least you made a choice as to who would be screwing you).

Who do you want making the key decisions, not only for our nation but also for the usage of our military men and women, for the conduct of our foreign affairs, for the security of the nation, for the efficient operation of our government and for raising up everyone instead of a select few? By voting for a third party candidate, you abdicate your ability to make the choice – the compromise that our democracy is built on – and choose the future leader of the country.

With all hope, it won’t have an effect on the outcome of the race. In 2000, the Green Party’s Ralph Nader was able to garner 2.9 million votes, with some saying that it doomed Al Gore’s hopes for the Presidency (and remember that, in Florida, Gore is reported to have lost by 527 votes despite winning the popular vote nationally). In 1992, Perot ran as an Independent (he had yet to create the Reform Party) and earned a whopping 19% of the vote, arguably denying the first George Bush a second term in office (Bush lost to Bill Clinton by roughly 5.8 million votes; Perot earned 19.7 million).

The choice may be an ugly one, but it has to be made. A petulant display of “making a point” by choosing a minor party’s candidate isn’t a protest but an abdication of responsibility. Perhaps someday these parties will have worked to the point where they can challenge the current stalwarts of politics, but that time isn’t now. Thus, we have to choose from the two candidates who represent the major political parties and, after the votes are tallied, WILL provide the 45th President of the United States.

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The GOP Has an Opening…And They Should Take It

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Over the time I took my month-long break, the real reason became evident to me. After the Indiana primary, billionaire charlatan Donald Drumpf became the “presumptive” (and there’s a reason that is in parenthesis) nominee for the Republican Party and my brain basically shut down to be able to comprehend how 13 million people could be that idiotic. After violating every common decency of politics – remember his rant against Megyn Kelly, the “bimbo?” How about his damnation of former Prisoner of War and current Arizona Senator John McCain? (I’d go on, but you get the idea) – the GOP could not put someone up that could defeat a misogynistic, xenophobic fascist and serial bankruptcy whore (who also enjoys not paying his employees yet claims to be running for “the little man”) whose very ideas for “Making ‘Merica Grate Again” (intentional) is to round up 11 million people he views as “illegal,” keeping everyone from entering the United States that comes from a country that has “terrorist activities” (news flash, asshole…that’s pretty much every country in the world) and building a wall (for about $25 billion) that he has no clue how to pay for (you think Mexico’s paying for it? You’re a fool…). It seemed impossible that a party that once had such leaders as Abraham Lincoln, Dwight Eisenhower and even Ronald Reagan could sink to such depths.

Alas, the GOP did. As the last month has gone on – and Drumpf’s statements get more outlandish – Republicans have been doing gyrations on how to balance their “support” for the Orangutan Mutant while at the same time being able to distance themselves from him. Some, such as Senators Patrick Toomey of Pennsylvania and Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, will basically break into a run to get away from reporters seeking their opinions on something Mr. Oompah Loompah has said. Others, such as Senator Dan Coats of Indiana, can’t even come up with a policy position that they AGREE with Drumpf. Even the leadership of the GOP, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, cannot triangulate their “support” of Trump with the gibberish that spurts out of his pie hole. It has actually gotten to the point where McConnell says at the start of interviews, “I’m not going to be commenting on the presidential candidates today.”

But the Orange Dictator has now given the GOP a way out…

During a rally in Atlanta on Wednesday, Duh Donald gave the Republicans every reason to toss him into the street. In his diatribe at the rally, Il Duce Donald basically said “get behind me or I’ll do it by myself.” He said that the current leaders of the GOP should just “be quiet,” else he plans to “go it alone.” “A lot of people thought I should do that anyway, but I’ll just do it very nicely by myself,” Trump said, though he did not elaborate on what doing it “by myself” would mean.

GOP! You’ve got your off-ramp!

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Now is the time that the GOP ought to look at the Orangutan Mutant and state, “OK, asshole. Run on your own. You’ve shown no interest in helping this party – hell, you continue to denigrate it with every word you utter – and, in fact, are threatening our hold on the Congress, the Senate especially and a large lead in the House. There’s the door, Little Donnie…and don’t let it hit you in the ass on the way out!”

Every time that Drumpf opens his mouth, the Republicans have to go on the defensive about what he says. Take, for example, his verbal sewage over Federal Court Judge Gonzalo Curiel. Curiel, the judge of record in the California fraud case regarding the vilified criminal activity that was Trump University, was basically lambasted by Drumpf over several days. The unbelievable lengths that the Cheeto from Queens took against the judge – stating that him “being Mexican” (despite the judge being a U. S. born citizen) biased him in the case, that a Muslim couldn’t hear the case either because of Drumpf’s idiotic statements – had the entirety of the GOP backpedaling faster than Aqib Talib against a wide receiver. They have to do this instead of pushing their agenda and, if they are able to dump Drumpf, then they could actually get about presenting their ideas than Drumpf’s Fantasyland of Delusion. (We won’t even get into how bullying Drumpf’s BS was as Curiel, as a judge, cannot comment on cases he is hearing or what someone says about him…that is the textbook definition of “bully,” much like Drumpf’s statements were the textbook definition of “racist.”)

When it comes to the Republican National Convention next month in Cleveland, Ryan needs to step to the dais and say, “The delegates have been released from being bound to the candidate of their state’s selection. We are doing this due to the fact that the person who earned the most votes is unfit to be a candidate, let alone to be President. We also have to make sure that the tradition and honor of the Republican Party survives…with the person who received the most votes, we cannot do that.” Failing that, the GOP should just designate that they will not be nominating a candidate for President in 2016 and instead concentrate on something much more important to the RNC.

34 seats in the Senate are currently up for grabs in the 2016 general election. Currently holding an eight Senator advantage, the Republicans would have to win 21 of them to maintain that lead. According to Cook Political Report’s rundown on June 10, seven of those seats are tossups (six Republican, one Democrat), meaning that their margin of error is basically nil. The GOP cannot have a plague on the ballot like Drumpf and expect their advantage to remain unless they abandon the White House and concentrate on the Senate (and, to a lesser degree due to gerrymandering, the House).

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If the leadership of the GOP doesn’t do this, then they threaten to bring about the extinction of the Republican Party. Once considered the “statesman emeritus” of the GOP, even former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich has succumbed to the sickness that the Orangutan Mutant has inflicted on the organization. In an interview with “Fox and Friends” on Monday, Gingrich – one of the more respected members of the GOP (for some reason) – stated that a newHouse Un-American Activities Committee” be created.

Now, for those of you without a history background, the group that Gingrich speaks of was initially founded to go after Nazis in the U. S. Once World War II was over, the committee then moved onto Communism, calling into question the patriotism of virtually everyone in the county. President Harry Truman denounced the committee in 1959, citing it as the “most un-American thing in the country today.” But it wasn’t until 1975 that the “Internal Security Committee” (as the HUAC had been renamed in 1969) was disbanded.

For a former member of Congress to promote the reinstatement of one of the vilest committee’s in the history of Congress – one that ruined lives with no evidence and that could censor anything it felt was “subversive” – it is just a further statement of how far down the rabbit hole the GOP has gone. It has all been because of their presumed nominee, Herr Drumpf, who has repeated the vilest things that can be stated by a presumed member of the human race. The GOP has the opportunity to distance themselves from him – either through not nominating him, nominating another candidate or “sitting out” 2016 – but the question remains whether they have the spine to do it or not. Since they cannot seem to be able to separate being a U. S. citizen from being the member of a political party, the question is a viable one.

Rail Against a Theocratic Government? Start with The GOP’s Vision for the United States…

It wasn’t always this way. There was a time when the Republican Party was one that stood up for business interests, be they the street corner “mom and pop” shops or the monolithic companies such as General Motors or General Electric that employed thousands of workers. They stood for a strong defense, a military that was prepared to do battle anywhere but wasn’t wasted on piddling matters that weren’t of our nation’s interests. They also could, at one point in their history, be the spark of what were some of the great movements in the United States, changing what would be the course of our nation.

So what happened to the “Grand Old Party,” the GOP, the Republicans? Religion, and in particular the zealous “Religious Right” is what happened to them. (And this guy? Your guess is as good as mine…)

Over the past few weeks, a couple of states in this country – both with Republican leadership in their legislatures and Republican governors – have passed some of the most heinous laws this country has seen since the Jim Crow days following the close of the Civil War.

Bathroom

In North Carolina, Governor Pat McCrory (who has that same sheepish “look what I got away with” bullshit smirk that President George Bush [Bush II] had) signed into law HB 2, officially titled the “Public Facilities Privacy and Security Act.” Much like other Republican bullshit laws like the “Patriot Act” or the “Troubled Asset Relief Program,” HB 2 was a move by the GOP-led General Assembly to thwart an ordnance that was passed by the city of Charlotte – and only applicable in that city, it must be stated – that allowed for transgender persons to use the bathroom facilities of the sex that they identified with (as such, a man in the process of switching to being a female would use the ladies’ room and vice versa). Calling a special session of the General Assembly to Raleigh (at a minimum cost of $42,000 per day for a state currently running a budget deficit), the GOP felt this HAD to be addressed.

The law specifically outlawed transgendered people from using the restroom of their changed sex, saying that they had to use the facilities of the sex they were identified with on their birth certificate (which of these GOP assholes is going to be the guardian at the gate?). Not only was this an abomination, the General Assembly went further in stripping the rights from lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered people (LGBT) from state anti-discrimination protections (although they were never mentioned in any discrimination laws previously), including job protection and housing requirements. Finally – and as a last “fuck you” to the people of North Carolina – the General Assembly made it law that no city can raise their minimum wage over what the state deems correct (this is irritating enough on its own).

North Carolina doesn’t take the prize for being the biggest bigots on the block, however. Mississippi voted through the “Religious Freedom Restoration Act (see what I mean about bullshit titling?),” through a bicameral system dominated by Republicans. In that act, the bill allows for the out-and-out discrimination against LGBT people by businesses based on religious reasons. The bill was signed into law by another Republican, Governor Phil Bryant, and is now in effect in the state.

TheProblem

Other states with Republicans running things have gotten wise and decided it wasn’t worth screwing up business dealings with other states for the potential to have such “religious freedom” laws on the books. Arizona, Georgia, Idaho, Maine and Ohio have decided that the ability to have businesses welcomed in the state, movies and television shows filmed inside their borders or athletic events contested in their arenas is better than being a social outcast. This is something that North Carolina is learning and Mississippi will probably be learning soon.

In North Carolina, the National Basketball Association is considering the removal of the 2017 NBA All-Star Game and the All-Star Game Weekend festivities from the city, with Basketball Hall of Fame member Charles Barkley seconding those statements. The NCAA is looking at its 2017 and 2018 college sports tournaments, which could host at least 20 games at venues in the state, and whether it will hold those games at those arenas. PayPal has decided against opening a global operations center in Charlotte over the passage of the law (which was to have provided 500 jobs) as Apple, IBM and Google have also lined up in opposition to the law. The streaming television provider Hulu pulled production of its pilot for a new show, Crushed, from the state and, on Friday, Rock & Roll Hall of Fame member Bruce Springsteen canceled a concert in Greensboro, citing the oppressive new law as the reason. All of these individual items could cost the state hundreds of millions of dollars in revenues and it is probably just the tip of the iceberg.

The Republican Party enjoys talking about how they dislike the theocratic government of Iran or the hideous atrocities that groups like ISIS inflict on their people in the name of religion, but let’s start with them as a zealous religious group that would look to install a theocratic reign of terror should they be allowed everything they would like to see installed (nullification of Roe v. Wade would just be the beginning). The different “religious freedom” laws are about as ludicrous as it gets as NO ONE is infringing on the freedom of ANY religion in this country. Last I checked, you could freely walk around the streets of Anywhere, USA, with a Bible, Book of Mormon, Qur’an or Torah without anyone accosting you. You can gather anywhere – a park, a home, a school or even an actual house of worship that isn’t taxed by said government – without the danger of having the government shut it down. You can even – shock of shocks – WEAR A PENDANT DECLARING YOUR FAITH openly in public. So quit with this bullshit of “religious freedom” and call it what it is – the new way of saying “racial or personal bigotry.”

Since the civil rights movement of the 1960s, the GOP has slowly been eaten away by the “religious right,” and it has been a slow process. It started against those who were “different” – minorities, gays (this was also the time of the Stonewall Riots in 1969), “foreigners” (screw the fact that many in this country were maybe one or two generations removed from being a foreigner themselves) or “hippies” who were against the Vietnam War. As the 70s came along, that “Religious Right” became capitalized as the GOP discovered that it was a sizeable force that presented several things that a political party likes – a solid voting bloc that won’t sway and, in most cases, quite affluent to be able to support the party financially.

That “Religious Right” became the “Moral Majority” that spewed its vile verbosity across the country in the 1980s, perpetuated by President Ronald Reagan and George Bush (Bush I). With such hucksters as Jim Bakker, Jerry Falwell, Oral Roberts (who once famously said that “God would call him home if he didn’t raise $6 million” in a certain time frame – when it didn’t happen, no one called him on his bullshit), Benny Hinn and others piping their drivel across cable networks, their power continued to grow (never mind that they couldn’t keep their privates in their pants if their lives depended on it). While it might seem it calmed in the 1990s, it only changed its face into the Neo-Conservatives.

ReligiousRight

Those “conservatives” (and I will use that term because there are SOME conservatives out there who are aghast that their GOP has been overrun by religious zealots) have destroyed what was once a party that did things, that tried to run a country. These “conservatives” now want to deny everyone anything (including gay marriage and any other rights), put Christianity as the only religion of the land and, in essence, become the same theocracy they say they preach against (they have their “perfect leader” in Rafael Eduardo Cruz). This isn’t a political party, this is a religious movement that is impersonating a political organization, not the Republican Party or GOP that was around after World War II.

Fortunately, the world is changing. There are fewer and fewer of these brain-dead religious zealots pandering to a close-minded bigoted electorate who still want to look in the bathrooms and bedrooms and keep an eye on what people do, but it isn’t dwindling quickly enough. It’s time to let the GOP know that their archaic social stances will keep them from ever being considered seriously as a political entity. Within a generation, either the GOP will have grudgingly entered the 21st century or they will have died a painful death (they may very well be in those death throes now). If it brings an end to this bigotry masquerading as “religious freedom,” then I’m all for it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“The Man in the High Castle” Is Captivating Television

It has been some time since we took a look at some of the new offerings from the movie, television or music worlds and that is a good thing. First of all, I’m not going to waste your time telling you about something that is completely awful (I know I said Quantico wasn’t very good, but it hasn’t been canceled yet…that means some people must like it). If I am going to take the time to offer up something, 9 out of 10 times it is going to be worth checking out (or at least I think so). That is what we have when we look at a new offering that has just been released.

HighCastle

There is a completely new world out there when it comes to the streaming services. The days of when these outlets simply provided a way to catch the latest movies or watch an old show (or a new one) are causing rapid changes in what they offer. Part of their attractiveness is that they can be watched over virtually any device. In the beginning it was just computers, then the outlets branched into tablets, cellphones and video game devices. Now, the HDTVs that come out (with the spanking new 4K technology and “smart” TV capabilities) have one or more of these streaming outlets pre-programmed on them.

Maybe it is because of the above that the streaming outlets made the moves they did. Such outlets as Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and Hulu Plus have decided to swan-dive into the deep end of the pool and produce their own shows rather than just offer the other networks’ material (and, in most cases, pay out the ass for the programming). Since I wasn’t around for the start of House of Cards or even Orange is the New Black, I am trying to find something that I can get into that is new to many (and can take over while I wait for the spring session of Blindspot and the second season of Mr. Robot to start) and it appears that Amazon has the next big thing.

Released on November 20, The Man in the High Castle is a ten-episode series that was foisted on the public all at once, meaning you can take it in the traditional episodic doses or can fully immerse yourself in it through a “binge.” This method of “broadcasting” (hey, it’s the only term I can think of that applies) has its pros and cons; it does allow you to blast through it in one big marathon but, if you take it one or two episodes at a time, you might forget that you are watching it and not go back to the series (confession:  I DVRed The Player, meaning to watch it but never did. It was canceled two episodes into its run). With High Castle, I sincerely doubt that someone is going to forget they have it in the library.

The series is based on the book of the same name written by one of the great minds of U. S. literature, Philip K. Dick. Dick, who wrote the science fiction classic Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? that eventually became the basis for the classic 1982 film Blade Runner (one of my personal favorites), this time steps into the alternative history genre and has the same impact there that he had with science fiction. The person who brought High Castle to the air, Frank Spotnitz (best known for his work on The X-Files), also deserves kudos for producing an excellent product.

The year is 1962, ten years removed from “V-A Day,” or the day that Nazi Germany and the forces of Imperial Japan defeated the United States in World War II. As a part of the peace, the Nazis take over the Eastern part of the United States virtually all the way to the Rocky Mountains, renaming it the Greater Nazi Reich; the Japanese, for their efforts, take over from the West Coast to the Rockies with their Japanese Pacific States. Between the two, running the ridges of the Rockies, is a Neutral Zone to separate the Nazis and the Japanese that has become an area to provide living space for segments of society (minorities, homosexuals and other “deviants”) that would otherwise be persecuted or even killed for who or what they are.

It is a tenuous peace between the two international powers, however. An aging Adolf Hitler is in failing health and, as Himmler and Goebbels jockey for position to take over from him, the Japanese grow concerned that Hitler’s death would result in warfare that would force them out of the former United States. Since the end of WWII, Germany has become a technological powerhouse, developing the hydrogen bomb and planes that fly from New York to San Francisco in two hours, while Japan has languished in its imperial peace. This is an important part of the program, but it isn’t the only plotline to pay attention to as the show continues.

The show opens up with a young man, Joe Blake (Luke Kleintank), visiting a factory in New York City on the seemingly innocent premise of looking for a job. He strolls through a totalitarian Times Square replete with the Nazi swastika burnished on video boards and flags and, upon reaching the factory, finds the manager. As we sit in on their meeting, we discover it isn’t for a job in the factory; Joe is being hired to drive a truck across the Greater Nazi Reich to Canon City, a town in the Neutral Zone, for The Resistance, a rebel alliance looking to oust the Nazis from the country.

After demonstrating his will to do the job, Joe gets the keys from the manager just as Nazi troops raid the factory. While the bullets fly, Joe is able to get away from the factory intact, but everyone else is not so lucky. The Nazis summarily execute everyone who was in the factory save for the manager, who is taken into custody and, as we find out through the first episode, tortured mercilessly.

As Joe is doing this, we go to San Francisco where another part of the story is developing. Juliana Crain (Alexa Davalos), who has assimilated nicely into a post-war Japanese society (taking aikido lessons and embracing their medicinal and cultural offerings), is stunned to meet up with her half-sister who tells her she has a great new job. Later in the evening, Juliana and her sister meet again under much more dire circumstances; Juliana’s sister hands her a package and cryptically tells her to take care of it before running away. As Juliana hides in the shadows, Japanese soldiers execute her sister in the street.

Running home, a perplexed Juliana (why would soldiers kill her sister) looks in the bag her sister gave to her. In the bag is a film entitled The Grasshopper Lies Heavy and, after viewing the reel, Juliana discovers it is an alternate reality film based on what happened if the Allies had instead won World War II (you with me so far?). Spurred to action by watching the film and the death of her sister, Juliana leaves her boyfriend (Rupert Evans) who hides that he is part Jewish, a crime punishable by death even in the Japanese Pacific States, and heads for Canon City with a ticket procured for her sister to make the trip.

The remainder of the first episode brings our protagonists to Canon City. Blake has what might be called an uneventful run but discovers that, out on the Great Plains, hospitals are crematoriums for the sickly and elderly instead of healing (remember, that’s Nazi Country). Juliana has her own issues, with a female passenger on the bus she is taking to Canon City mysteriously stealing her belongings but not the movie reels. The first episode ends with a twist that I honestly didn’t see coming and, after seeing it, nearly made me rocket into the second episode rather than allowing the first one to sink in fully.

Beyond the point that we have several different plotlines intersecting in this one hour – the impending death of Hitler and the potential for war between the Nazi and Japanese, the trips of both Blake and Crain to Canon City to do what isn’t exactly known and the film (is it possible it’s true?) and its purpose – there is an attention to detail in creating the false reality of “this” divided U. S. nation that is remarkable. There are far too many things to point out that helped to convey the dread and dismay of the conditions of living in such a situation and, with the supporting cast, all viewpoints are offered (Crain’s mother hates the Japanese for killing her husband; Blake meets a police officer who was in the U. S. military but now accepts his fate with the Nazis). It potentially indicates that there are some deeper analogies that we might see in the future of the program.

The Man in the High Castle also showed me that there is a new reality to the future of television. Unrestrained by broadcast guidelines or traditional “broadcasting times,” these shows being put out by the streaming networks are quality works that should demand a great deal more attention from the viewing public. If every program was of the high quality that High Castle is, then there would be a greater impetus to “cut the cord” from normal cable and network broadcasting, which have become staid with their product.

If you haven’t had a chance to check out these streaming channels, you’re missing out on what could be a bountiful arena of choices for your viewing pleasure. You’re definitely missing out on one of the best programs of the year with The Man in the High Castle; I’d suggest climbing onboard the wagon soon for both the show and for the streaming channels.

How Do You Solve A Crisis? By Closing the Door and Ignoring It

At its essence, the United States is a country that has been and continues to be built upon immigrants. Someone from nearly every nation in the world has crossed the borders of the U. S. and given up their birthright citizenship, with those immigrants in pursuit of what the signers of the Declaration of Independence penned more than two centuries ago, the pursuit of “Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.” Furthermore, there are those that have come to the U. S. of no desire of their own as refugees due to dangerous situations that are occurring in their home countries.

These refugees come to the United States usually because of warfare that either targets an ethnic group (such as the situation in the 1990s in Bosnia) or a religious or political conflict. The ongoing civil war in Syria is the latest in these myriad of situations where the world has found it necessary to take in those forced out of their home country due to the deteriorating conditions on the ground. Another situation, however, has now sprung up threatening those refugees even more.

Blame for the terrorist attacks in Paris have, by some conservative outlets, been laid at the feet of those Syrian refugees after someone opined that a member of ISIS (who has taken responsibility for the attack) infiltrated Europe with a refugee group from that country. Despite the fact that this has been debunked by officials on the ground in France, this irrational fear has sent a sizeable chunk of the U. S. and one of the two parties in its political system into a frenzy. It has also presented the dilemma of how do you solve a refugee crisis…if you’re a part of that group in the United States previously mentioned, it seems you handle it by closing the door and ignoring it.

The sheer inhumanity of some of the statements coming out of those running for the GOP nomination for President of the United States in 2016 is appalling. Speaking to conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie started off the blowhard bluster by saying he “wouldn’t even let 5-year old Syrian orphans into the country.” Christie believes that the United States, the richest nation on the planet, can’t support any orphans and they shouldn’t be admitted because they have no family. Oh, by the way, he also “doesn’t trust the administration” to make sure any refugees coming in aren’t a terrorist threat. Governor, would that be different if there were a Republican in the White House?

Texas Senator Ted Cruz, his own father a refugee himself from the power struggle in Cuba decades ago, upped the ante with his opinions. On the campaign trail Cruz espoused a “religious test” to determine who would be able to come in. Of course, no Muslims would be able to pass that test, but Christians would be given the proverbial “cheat sheet” because “there is no meaningful risk of Christians committing acts of terror.” To be fair, one of Cruz’s fellow Senators, 2008 GOP Presidential nominee John McCain, blasted Cruz for this viewpoint.

Another player in the GOP race that is struggling to make any headway, former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, chided the Obama Administration in pushing his denunciation of accepting refugees because of their Muslim faith. “The #1 job of the President is to protect America, not protect the reputation of Islam,” Huckabee said as he condemned an entire religion on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.” He continued with his derision of the Muslim faith in making a similar statement that Cruz made in that “Christians” wouldn’t commit acts of terror and should be let in freely.

The stupidity coming out of the GOP continues even today. Beside the factor that Dr. Ben Carson can’t seem to grasp the idea of foreign policy and Donald Trump believes we should just “bomb the shit out of ISIS” and close a few mosques to thwart terrorist threats, there aren’t many voices that are looking for a reasonable solution. There are some calls for sanity, most notably from former Florida Governor Jeb Bush and current Ohio Governor John Kasich, but they lack any concrete approach to solving the issue. Meanwhile, more than two dozen Governors across the U. S. have said they won’t accept any refugees from Syria (tough shit, guys; according to the Refugee Act of 1980, the federal government can put the refugees anywhere they want) and conservatives across social media are vehemently against allowing any Syrian refugees into the U. S.

This is all an outrageous embarrassment to U. S. citizens, not only as a country but also on our alleged “faith-based” background.

It shouldn’t come as any surprise that we’ve been down this path before. Instead of living beside several Indian nations in the 19th century, the answer by the U. S. government was to round up those tribes by force and send them 1000 miles from their homes, removing them from their tribal lands in the southeast U. S. In 1838, the “Trail of Tears” (a term coined by the Choctaw Nation in 1831 when they were moved west and since applied to the overall plan of removal), the forced march by military units of the Cherokee Indian nation (the final tribal removal), would result in roughly 5000 people dying on the trip, something that is a crimson stain on this country’s reputation and history.

Even in the 20th century, the shortsightedness and intolerance to others by U. S. citizens was apparent. In what some might find to be a shocking statement, U. S. citizens were against taking in Jewish refugees from Europe prior to the start of World War II. In evidence uncovered by Historical Opinion and tweeted throughout this week, some of the same claims used against the Syrian people and their refugee situation were used against the Jewish people.

Then there is the fact that, as many are wont to say, that the U. S. is a nation founded on “Judeo-Christian” values. Besides the fact that the Founding Fathers wanted the U. S. to be as far away from a theocracy as humanly possible, if those principles were put into effect it would be a good step. Respect for your neighbor, reaching out to assist the poor and needy, looking out for your fellow man…all great tenets of most religions, not only Christianity. The reality is that the “religious” in the U. S. aren’t even close to this mission statement.

Accepting in the downtrodden is something that is a traditional statement in the Bible. There are a host of scriptures that state a follower of Jesus Christ should take in those that need help, provide shelter for those that are threatened. Instead of reaching out to help those in need – and the Syrian refugees definitely fall in that category – some of these “Christians” turn their backs on those people when they need the help the most.

Finally, what does the very statue that many of our ancestors saw when they immigrated to the U. S. say about the subject? On the Statue of Liberty (ironically a gift from France on the U. S. centennial), the poem of Ezra Lazarus defines the base thought that should be held by every citizen of the U. S.:

Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses, yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore,
Send these, the homeless, tempest tost to me,
I life my lamp beside the golden door.

This is what the United States is based on. Freedom, the “unalienable rights” of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, the ability to come to this country with nothing and become anything…this is the basis of who we are, the thread that holds the fabric of the United States together. If we are to start unthreading that fabric by deny those principles to those looking for entry to the United States – to those very people that perhaps need it the worst – then the dream of what the United States truly is and the beliefs that it is built on have been pissed down the gutter in the name of “security” and “tranquility.”

We do not uphold the traditions of this country – nor of our founding fathers or even our religious figures – if we cannot find it within ourselves to assist those in life-and-death situations. Sure, we have to screen the people coming into the country, but it is also said in today’s Wall Street Journal by former U. S. Ambassador to Syria Ryan Crocker that “the U. S. vetting system is strong.” Crocker also puts in the second caveat, something that all U. S. citizens should remember:  “So is (the U. S.) tradition to welcome the oppressed.”

The current response of many people in the U. S., including those in one of the two major political parties, is a monumental embarrassment to citizens of the U. S. It is time to make a return to what this country once was – a country that was strong, that didn’t cower to terrorist’s threats, that stood for those we might not agree with in their time of strife – otherwise that “shining city upon a hill” that Ronald Reagan once spoke of has been extinguished and is nothing more than a bland political posture point that hypocrites can hang their hat on.

What if the Answer to Terrorism is That There Isn’t One?

ParisAttack

Much like the rest of the world, I’ve been riveted to the coverage and aftermath of the terrorist attacks in Paris. The news agencies, in their haste to “be first” with the story, refused to simply say that “the situation is flexible” and that they weren’t fully aware of the ramifications of the attacks at any point. As such, the world saw the death toll mount from a dozen…then 30…then 60…until, on Saturday, the most up to date death toll of 129 was released, along with 352 injured in one manner or another. (There are unconfirmed reports that it has risen to 132 people as of Monday morning.)

The tragedy of such a violent attack on one of the world’s most beautiful cities is at once angering and saddening. That a multicultural center of the world such as Paris could be the focal point of such a racist and theistic attack – if we are to believe that it is the work of ISIS, as reports throughout the weekend suggest – leaves a person to wonder just what may come next. With 9/11, we kind of knew that the perpetrator of that attack, the Osama bin Laden-led Al Qaeda in Afghanistan, had shot everything the organization had into that travesty; with this attack in Paris, however, it was a meticulously run military-style operation that was well-planned and could be transplanted to any major city on the planet. Moscow? London? Tokyo? Rio de Janeiro? Mexico City? Los Angeles? New York again? It would not take much to have a similar style Paris-type attack occur at these or any one of hundreds of major locales in the world.

As the weekend continued, the dichotomy between the thoughts of people was vastly different. My Facebook and Twitter accounts hummed with the drumbeats of war, with the sentiment of “bomb them back to the Stone Age,” while a smaller faction of voices advocated for a peaceful remedy to the situation. This same point/counterpoint was seen on Sunday morning when some of the opinion show’s hosts (such as Fareed Zakaria’s GPS on CNN) suggested not taking any action against ISIS (with the opinion being that, by the world not showing any aftereffect from the terrorist attack, it would force the group from their terroristic actions) while their guests, mostly members of the United States government and former military commanders, sounded the clarion call for the troops to come to the battlefield for another Middle East conflict.

Being the Marine at heart that I once was on active duty, you never want to see war. I don’t know of any military person – from the seaman on a nuclear sub in the Navy to a grunt in the Army trenches to a flyboy in the Air Force dropping his bombs from afar – who actually cheers when his brethren are sent off to a conflict. The U.S. military, if we are to be honest, has been wrongly used arguably since the end of World War II, put in situations where it is supposed to fight but not win and defend without going on offense.

The unfortunate thing is war is probably where we are headed again. France has “declared war” (according to its leaders) against ISIS and enacted bombing runs (approximately 20 over the past few days) against ISIS strongholds in the Middle East. Beyond that, the U. S. and Russia continue to battle “terrorist elements” (the problem being is that the U. S. and Russia don’t exactly view the same people as terrorists) that may include ISIS in Syria and the Iraq government, known for its ability to tuck tail and run in the face of the black flag of ISIS, continues to “fight” the group inside its borders.

Diplomacy is always the correct route to take first but, in the situation with ISIS, what do you diplomatically do? It isn’t as if there is a way to put sanctions on the money that ISIS has and, if there is, no one has done it as of yet. You cannot restrict the travel of the group’s “leaders” (because that is a constantly changing cast of characters) or appeal to a segment of the ISIS community that they should “rise up” and overthrow those in control of the organization. Hell, there isn’t even representation in the United Nations nor an elected figure whom you could have logical negotiations with.

By all estimations, ISIS is one of the biggest terrorist groups in the world but probably one of the smallest military groups. The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) estimates the size of ISIS inside Syria and Iraq to be somewhere between 20,000-31,000 people, with other organizations stating it is more along the lines of 100K-200K. Outside of Syria and Iraq, in such areas as Africa and Asia, the count is between 32,600-57,900 jihadists that are considered the “Military of ISIS.” If those numbers were totaled up, ISIS followers and military totals somewhere between 52,600 and 257,900, depending on who you believe. That is slightly more (if we take the high end) than what the country of Saudi Arabia has (249,000) but less than that of Japan (317,913).

Spread out as the organization is, one nation cannot take on the entire responsibility of battling ISIS. It has to be a worldwide coalition of countries using every bit of their resources, including putting men and women at risk of losing their lives or being maimed, on the battlefield (remember, I personally dislike the term “boots on the ground” because it removes the human factor that people might actually die from your actions), through the skies and by locking down the borders where ISIS is supposedly in power. It would take Europe, Russia, the U. S. and the Middle East – countries like Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Iran, who haven’t exactly been stepping up to the plate in this fight – putting aside their personal distrusts if (and that is a mighty big IF) they are to destroy the group.

But here’s a thought… what if the answer, the response to “terrorism,” was to do nothing at all?

By its inherent definition, “terrorism” is the usage of “terror” or frightening people to achieve a political goal. Whether the terrorism is an attack on a military ship (the USS Stark in 1987 and the USS Cole in 2000), on an iconic building, monument or area (9/11, the Paris attacks) or on people who supposedly follow the same faith (ISIS claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing in Beirut on November 12 that killed 43 people, mostly Muslims; it was overshadowed by the Paris attack the next day), the goal is to force changes in lifestyle, actions or political philosophies. There are some differences with ISIS, though, that make it a bit different.

In the past, terrorist organizations would make political or financial demands, such as when the Irish Republican Army or Red Army Faction in Germany would request the release of key leaders of their organizations during the 1970s or a ransom for hostages they held. While ISIS does this too (especially if it is a Western hostage), they are more interested in building a nation of their own, taken from other Muslim countries in the Middle East. Would their power – and their uncanny ability to draw in followers from around the world – be dismantled by simply ignoring their actions?

Israel is an example of what might be done regarding terrorism. While they are one of the most aggressive countries when it comes to protecting their own people (as any nation should be), they don’t dwell on the subject when an attack occurs. The knifing attacks over the past few months, while they did draw attention, quickly went away as Israelis cleaned up from the attacks and continued about their lives as if nothing happened. They have gotten used to the air-raid sirens that will pierce the night or shatter a day’s tranquility. They choose not to let terrorism dictate what they will do with their lives.

I know many would say, “Well, I don’t want to live like that.” Unfortunately, we don’t have a choice anymore. This isn’t the 1970s, where it took days to traverse between continents. Today, a person in Nebraska can be in Baghdad within 24 hours if they so desire. That same holds true for potential terrorists, provided they can penetrate the extreme amount of security that is in place around the world.

Second, there is a fallacy that we can be “perfectly safe.” No matter what restrictions are put on, no matter how many security devices are used, there is nothing that can be made “perfectly safe.” All you can do is make it as safe as humanly possible and, if there is a failure, you reinforce the safeguards and continue on with life’s activities.

Finally, let’s look at the actual opponent. Despite the boogeyman persona that has been laid upon ISIS, nearly the entire world will never cross paths with a member of the group. To battle ISIS, we have to ignore what they do while simultaneously thwart their attempts through diligent security measures that will on occasion fail. By giving them the credence that they are at the proverbial “barbarians at the gates” puts unnecessary fear into the weak and wastes the efforts for those that are vigilant.

Terrorism isn’t a “war” that can be won. In war, you battle over territory until one or the other side is defeated. With terrorism, there is a nine-headed Hydra that can never be extinguished. The best that can be hoped with terrorism is that it is castrated to the point where its actions are miniscule and its impact on people nearly non-existent. If we are able to reach that point with ISIS, then the battle will have been won.

When All Else Fails, Attack the Messenger: Thoughts on the Third GOP Debate

After I took a week off last week, the third debate for the Republican Party snuck up on me. That week spent away from a computer left me with little debate preparation that would have given me some insight into what might be the major themes of Wednesday night’s soiree in Colorado, but that sometimes isn’t a bad thing. The ability to go in fresh sometimes will allow you to view things in a different light and present some new insights that you might not have previously considered. Unfortunately, the overall performance of the GOP in last night’s debate – and at the same time the presenter of the debate, the cable network CNBC – left me feeling nothing.

I should have known from the start of the debate that it was going to be a massive train wreck (and an apology to comedian Amy Schumer for using the title of her movie in that manner). Lead moderator Carl Quintanilla, a respected investigative reporter who has traversed the world (and an alumni of where the debate was held, the University of Colorado at Boulder, for trivia’s sake), opened the proceedings with one of those “eye roll” questions that occur far too often. Likening the debates to a “job interview,” Quintanilla asked the GOP candidates what was their biggest weakness (one of those bullshit psychological questions that come up sometimes in employment interviews). After getting several milquetoast responses from pretty much the entirety of the ten-person stage, the debate careened off the tracks.

At no point in the debate did it seem that Quintanilla had any control over what was going on in the event. Quintanilla allowed the candidates – ALL of them, not just a couple – to run roughshod over his direction of the event. I lost count of the number of times that there was little to no response to a question from the candidates and he often let the candidates interject at times when, according to the rules of the debate, they didn’t have a horse in the race (Carly Fiorina was particularly irritating in this account). His co-moderators – fellow CNBC journalists Becky Quick and John Harwood – weren’t much better with their questions and also were ridden like Grand Canyon mules over the span of the debate.

There was also no reason to have more than these three people asking questions of the candidates. I could have done without watching snake oil salesman Jim Cramer pushing his mug across the screen – even if it only was a couple of questions – and Sharon Epperson’s appearance wasn’t necessary either. In fact, if Cramer and Epperson’s raison d’etre was to give some more prep time to the triumvirate of Quintanilla, Quick and Harwood (who all seemed very unprepared for the event), they failed miserably.

With this said, there was no reason for the reaction from the GOP candidates to some legitimate questions that came up during the debate on Wednesday. It was a case of those under questioning shooting the messenger rather than answering the questions – regardless of their difficulty – presented to them.

One of the most popular methods of anyone under fire – whether they are in politics, entertainment or even the media itself – is to attack the person who is presenting the challenge to them. This is well-known in the debate world as an ad hominem attack and is recognized as a logical fallacy that allows for those under fire to sometimes escape the flames by turning the attack back on the questioner (the “messenger”). It is a tactic that has been well practiced by those in the GOP, railing against the “mainstream media” while at the same time avoiding queries about questions surrounding their past and/or their policies.

Give it to the men and Fiorina on the stage, they were quick learners during the debate last night. After the crowd expressed their displeasure with a line of questioning put towards former Governor Mike Huckabee about Donald Trump’s “moral purity” (a completely correct displeasure, by the way), the others seemed to grasp onto the “red meat” of attacking the media for the line of questioning would give them the desired response from the Republicans in attendance.

Dr. Ben Carson grasped onto that tactic next when questioned over his involvement with a nutritional supplement company called Mannatech. After stating that he had no connection with the company, Carson was challenged by Quintanilla regarding the usage of his image on their website, among other things. After Carson shot a shit-eating grin over his face following the umbrage of the audience to Quintanilla’s questions, he deftly was able to avoid the question.

The problem? The line of questioning was a viable one. The company in question, Mannatech, and Carson have had a relationship for the past decade. Carson shot many videos promoting the company and gave several paid speeches. The company has previously been sued by the state of Texas, resulting in a settlement with then-Attorney General (and current Governor) Greg Abbott for $5 million and the banishment of founder Samuel Caster from having any job with the company. The company has also settled a lawsuit with the Securities and Exchange Commission and still faces issues regarding the claims of cures their “dietary supplements” provide.

A similar situation arose in what many recognized as a “big” moment during the night’s debate. Senator Ted Cruz fed the lions of the right by rattling off the list of “insulting questions” asked by the CNBC panel. “This is not a cage match,” Cruz began (and you got the feeling this is one of those prepped answers he had been waiting to use). “Donald Trump, are you a comic book villain? Ben Carson, can you do math? John Kasich, will you insult two people over here? Marco Rubio, why don’t you resign? Jeb Bush, why have your numbers fallen? How about talking about the substantive issues?”

The problem was is that Cruz’s attack on the moderators was in response to, once again, legitimate questions from the panel. The Trump question was why his policies – including deporting 11 million people, building a nearly 2000 mile long wall along our border with Mexico and forcing them to pay for it and his handling of Russia and the Middle East – “sound like a comic book version of a presidential campaign?” Needless to say, Trump did not answer the question, instead replying to the Mexico situation by saying, “A politician cannot get them to pay…I can,” a non-answer if there is one.

Carson’s question was on how his flat tax plan – similar to that of tithing to a church (someone has to remind the GOP there is a SEPARATION between church and state) – wouldn’t leave the U. S. with a huge budget deficit. Instead of pointing out what cuts would be made or other tactics necessary, Carson instead responded by saying, “That’s not true,” and never answered the question.

Cruz himself dodged a legitimate question. When asked about why he opposed the recent deal in the U. S. Congress that would set the U. S. budget for the next two years, Cruz instead railed about how the moderators wouldn’t ask anything substantive and didn’t actually get around to answering the question presented to him.

And let’s not even get into Trump’s convoluted stance regarding guns…

When you have no defense for the positions you’ve taken, when you have no knowledge beyond the bare-boned rhetoric that has been presented, the only other course of action is to attack the messenger. The GOP seems to have done that pretty well – and not without some truly atrocious questioning by the CNBC moderators to bring it on – in avoiding being held responsible for their proposals and actions.

With this situation taken care of, there were some takeaways from last night’s debate. The one thing I consistently kept wondering about was what the candidates meant when they complained about how government doesn’t do anything. My knowledge of history looks at things like FDR’s “New Deal,” which helped to get the U. S. out of the Great Depression (along with World War II), how government investment in medical research found cures for major diseases such as polio and smallpox, investment in education (especially college educations) has allowed for the baby boomers to be the most educated generation in history and investment in sciences that led to NASA and our exploration of space (and this is just a small sampling). Instead of consistently railing about the “evils” of government, try to admit that sometimes things wouldn’t get done unless there was government intervention.

Secondly, I saw a bunch of candidates complain about Washington seven ways to Sunday as if it were a bastard stepchild. The takeaway I had with was “Why do any of these people want to do something that A) they aren’t going to invest in (in reply to my above thoughts) and B) they despise to the point that they do?” Out-and-out hatred of an institution isn’t exactly going to be something that makes those there welcome you to the table and it isn’t going to inspire confidence in how you will “change” it. Instead of “making America great again” (which is about as asinine a statement there is; our country is already great and it hasn’t gone anywhere except for those nimrods who see boogeymen around every corner), how about we “improve on the United States we have?”

As to the candidates, it was Rubio’s best debate to date and sets himself up well for a future run (perhaps 2020) for the nomination (I don’t see him getting it this year really, but it wouldn’t be a surprise). Chris Christie found his groove (too little, too late) and Kasich was pretty good about presenting a moderate Republican stance. I don’t like to say someone was a “loser” in the debate, but the “Fat Lady” is warming up in the wings for Bush. Rubio flicked aside Bush’s attack on his Senatorial attendance and voting record without breaking a sweat and Bush spent the remainder of the night awkwardly trying to regain his footing.

There’s less than two weeks to the next GOP debate (November 10), so some of the things I’d like to see done won’t come true. I’d like to see the “kiddie table” debate dropped (hey, if you haven’t dug yourself over the 2% mark by this point, you don’t have any viability in the race) and perhaps see a couple of those candidates that were on the “main stage” step aside. Perhaps a little contraction in the GOP race – say eight candidates instead of 14 – would allow some people to truly put their support behind someone with a realistic shot at winning the nomination. It won’t stop, however, the “red meat” rhetoric out of the GOP regarding their “persecution” by the “mainstream media.”