The Party’s Over…

I’ll be honest with you guys, lately I’ve been seriously considering changing my party affiliation to Democrat, for many (though not all) of the reasons stated by the author of this article…

44 years a Republican, 1 year an Independent, today I’m joining the Democratic Party

I’ve always considered myself a fiscal conservative and something of a (small “l”) libertarian. I have always been registered as an independent, i.e. “no party affiliation”, and until recently have had a strong affinity for the Republican party, at least at the national level.

I don’t know, becoming a Democrat, it feels weird. But no weirder than watching the party that formerly represented conservative values literally embrace evil and ignorance.

Maybe I should stop here for a second, because I’m afraid the word “conservative” has been redefined lately, and some of this may not make sense unless you understand what the word means, or more importantly what it doesn’t mean, to me.

– Conservatism does not mean “nationalism” or “hegemony”. Believe it or not, one can be a patriot and still be welcoming of immigrants. One can recognize that our greatest strengths are born of our diversity. One can recognize that we have always been, and if we are to remain free we must always be, a nation of immigrants. Reagan’s shining city on the hill, open to all willing to come and participate in freedom, was once a conservative value.

– Conservatism does not mean “the religious right” or “the moral majority” or “family values”. True conservatives recognize the importance of freedom of religion and the absolute necessity of a separation between church and state. True conservatives first and foremost believe in freedom, in all it’s forms. True conservatives recognize that people have, and should have, the right to do pretty much anything they damn well please so long as it doesn’t affect others.

– Conservatism is not without compassion. Conservatives recognize the need for a true safety net, and wish to provide one when needed as efficiently as possible. Conservatives understand that certain infrastructure services, e.g. roads, schools, libraries, etc, are better provided by government than a profit-driven private sector, and generally believe social services fall into that same category.

– Conservatism supports education. Conservatives, especially fiscal conservatives, recognize that the single best and most important investment we can make in our future as a nation is in the education of our people. Conservatives understand that the well educated are far less likely to be a drain on society, and that having an educated population is the single best way to reduce the cost of social services.

– Conservatism supports science. Conservatives know that science and technology are essential both to our future. Conservatives know that it was science and technology that won World War II, the Space Race, and the Cold War. Fiscal conservatives understand that profits are driven by innovation, and innovation is driven by science. True conservatives recognize and respect the value of Science.

– Conservatism includes conserving the environment. Conservatives understand that the government holds certain things in the public trust: land, air, water, etc. Conservatives believe in the importance of preserving our environment for future generations, and they recognize the cost associated with failing to do so. True fiscal conservatives do not sell out our long term future well being for short term gain.

Does the Democratic party embrace these values? Not exactly, but given the Republican’s party rapid flight from, and now opposition to, these values, they sure seem a lot closer than they used to be, if only in comparison.

So, no decision yet, but stay tuned…

Am I a Liberal?

I don’t think so, but…

Given my frequent advocacy for freedom, dignity, and basic human rights; and given my well documented disdain for our current president, I am frequently accused of being a liberal, or some variant thereof:  “socialist”, “elitist”, “democrat”, or my favorite “libtard”.  This is often accompanied by a disdain for my constant desire for and reliance on government handouts.

In the interest of full disclosure, since it comes up so often, I thought I should document my entire reliance on government handouts.  One, I once received a partial academic scholarship to a public university.  Two, I once received a single unemployment check, for $258.  (To be fair, as a business owner I have paid far more than that into the state’s unemployment insurance.)

So now that you know how heavily I’ve been sucking on the public teat, maybe it’s time I provided some background, laid out the thought processes behind my positions, and let you decide for yourself whether or not I am a liberal.  For what it’s worth, I am willing to fully accept you judgement on this, as I have no intention of changing my positions just to fit a label.

In simplest terms, I view myself as fiscally conservative, and socially liberal.

Let me address the second one first, because (gasp) I did use the “L” word there. To be more specific, I believe in freedom.  I believe in the Constitution.  It is the document that ensures that freedom.  It is my Bible.  I believe people should have the freedom to live their lives any way they like, so long as it does not harm others.  This includes who they love, and who and how they worship, and what they eat, drink, or smoke.  No one, especially not the government, should ever tell you how to love, how to believe, or what to do.

Now, based on that, I would think the proper term would be “libertarian” (small “l”), but if believing in freedom makes me a liberal, so be it.

Further, I believe discrimination is wrong.  Fundamentally wrong.  I do not believe “religious freedom” include the right to discriminate against others.  I remember the 70’s, when religious folk used their religion to justify discrimination against interracial couples, the same way they do today against same-sex couples.  It was wrong then, it is wrong now.  It is wrong.  I will fight you on this.

On the economic side of things, I believe government should limit it’s role to only those things which are best done by government.  And I believe that to be a fairly short list, but it does include a social “safety net” for those who truly need it.

I believe the best thing for consumers, producers, and the nation as a whole, is competition.  The best way to achieve competition is to start with a free market. However, the end result of an unregulated free market is monopoly, and monopolies are by nature anti-competitive.  To expand, I believe government has three basic responsibilities regarding business, there are three basic things that business cannot or will not do for itself.

One is maintain a competitive environment, the mythical “level playing field”.  This means anti-trust regulation, and enforcement.  This means banning price-fixing, dumping, and other anti-competitive practices.  There should be as little interference as possible, but like any competition, to ensure some basic fairness there have to be some basic rules.

The second thing government must do is ensure the health and safety of a companies employees, customers, and neighbors.  There is no profit incentive to do this, an unregulated free market generates horrible working conditions, occasionally dangerous products, and all manner of environmental abuse and pollution.  Again there should be as little interference as possible, but it is government’s responsibility to protect the public trust, and that includes our water, our air, and our health and well being.

The third thing government should do for business, is provide an environment in which business can thrive.  Conservatives often only read that as tax incentives or reductions, but it goes far beyond that.  It is infrastructure.  It is roads and rail and ports.  It is public transportation.  It is science and information.  It is support for research and development.  It is support for day care, and health care, and senior care, and other employee needs.  Companies are built on people.  We cannot help one at the expense of the other.  We have to help both together.

Okay, now that we’ve laid that background, here’s the fun part.  How does a fiscally conservative, socially liberal vote?

I am unashamedly a Reaganite.  I don’t agree with everything he did, but I do agree with most of it.  Yes, he created a massive budget deficit, but in doing so he won the Cold War, the single biggest and most important geopolitical event in my lifetime.  The collapse of the Soviet Union and the Eastern Bloc was a direct result of the policies he set in place during his presidency.

Secondly, he knew how to get things done.  He was not afraid to work with the other party to achieve something, a quality severely lacking today, and has been for the last decade.

Back in those days I did not vote.  If I had, it would have been for Reagan, but he had more than enough popular support, and didn’t really need my help.  To this day, his remains the one and only campaign rally I have ever attended.

George Bush (41) was the natural successor to Reagan.  Everyone thought of him as Reagan Jr, despite the obvious fact that Bush, like all vice presidents at the time, was chosen specifically because he held views opposite those of Reagan, in the ridiculous attempt to “balance the ticket”.  Still, Dukakis wasn’t much of a choice either.  Of the two, I preferred Bush, but was perfectly content to go along with the crowd on this one.  I did not vote.

George Bush found the end of his first term in a recession (mild by today’s standards, but a big deal then), and he chose to ignore it.  His position was to do nothing and let it sort itself out, which of course it would have, but people wanted action, which meant…

Bill Clinton was elected on four words: “It’s the economy, stupid.”   I had no doubt at the time that this would get him elected.  Like Bush, I thought the economy would be fine if left alone, but if this conservative southern Democrat wanted to take a shot at fixing it, I was fine with that too.  I continued to not vote.

Bill Clinton was the beneficiary of a budget surplus, the so called “peace dividend”.  That was the direct result of the end of the Cold War, and I contend to this day that that was the direct result of the policies of the Reagan administration.

Still, he managed it well, so when he ran for re-election against the very stiff, very stodgy, and overall unappealing Bob Dole, had I been voting, I probably would have voted for Clinton.  Maybe.  It was only later that we found out Bob Dole had a sense of humor, and was most likely an actual human being.  Oh well.

Lastly on Clinton, I don’t care who he played “hide the cigar” with.  That’s a matter between him and Hillary, has no bearing on his ability to run the country, and quite frankly is none of our damn business.  His biggest mistake there, was lying about it publicly.  But honestly, of all the things a president could lie about, in today’s world this one looks downright quaint.

Bush vs. Gore.  Honestly did not care.  Two equally incompetent losers.  Take your pick.  I did not vote.  Bush became president, but in more ways than one, there was no winner.

Then 9/11 happened. That changed everything.

In 2004, for the first time, I voted.  Having politicians I like and disliked in both parties, and never being a blind supporter of any group, I registered as an independent.  No party affiliation.  I am still registered that way today, but…

I voted for George W Bush.  I felt his response in Afghanistan was correct, and mythical WMD’s aside, I understood, and largely agreed with, his motivations for invading Iraq.  I still believe both of those decisions were correct, however I was deeply disappointed by his administration’s lack of planning and attention in managing both of those countries after initial fighting was done.

There is probably nothing more symbolic of the Bush (43) presidency than the “Mission Accomplished” banner.  It was clearly not accomplished, and the last thing we needed as a nation was a long, drawn out occupation.  Sun-Tzu should be required reading for all presidential candidates.  Once a year.

In retrospect, I was disappointed with Bush (43), but I’m not sure John Kerry would have been much better.  I will reluctantly stand by my “don’t change horses in mid-stream” position.

I did not vote for Barack Obama.  I wanted to, I really really did.  But I just didn’t feel he had the necessary experience and qualifications to be President.

Let me just pause here and emphasize something.  Back in those days, that was a thing.  We wanted experience.  We wanted expertise.  We wanted substance.  We wouldn’t let just any half-bit celebrity in a bad suit become president.  My how the world has changed.

Also, I had liked McCain.  This despite my disappointment in his pandering to the far right during his campaign, and his serious lack of judgement, of lack of attention to detail, in select crazy Alaska woman as his running mate.  In the end, I thought experience mattered, and voted for McCain.  It was largely symbolic, I had little doubt Obama would win.  And given the historic significance of that, I was okay with it.

Obama didn’t do a great job, but he didn’t do a bad job either.  Given the nature of the opposition, it’s a wonder he was able to do anything at all.  There is something to be said for a president not doing a bad job.  Yes, the economy was recovering slowly under his leadership, but at least he wasn’t making it worse.  And if you don’t think a president can take a bad economy and make it much worse, you don’t remember Jimmy Carter.

Obama’s not bad job of things, combined with the fact that Mitt Romney was an out-of-touch hyper-elitist rich guy who wore magic underwear, meant I didn’t much care who won the next election.  If only Romney had known that an elitist could be elected if he just pretended to be a down-to-earth racist, things might have been different, but it looked pretty certain, especially after his “47 percent” comment, that Obama would win again.

I thought this might be the time for a third party to make a significant showing, given the general dissatisfaction with both candidates.  I voted for Gary Johnson, hoping this would be the year they made a blip on the map.  My optimism was reward by this:  Gary Johnson got 1% of the popular vote.

I will not make that mistake again.

That brings us to the 2016 election.  First, let’s talk Democrats.  There were really only two near-viable candidates.  I did not think Bernie Sanders had much of a chance.  And to be honest, I thought he was a bit too progressive.  Democratic socialism works very well in Europe (surprise, they still have their freedom, they’re not commies), but we’re just not ready for that here yet.  Baby steps.

I did not like Hillary Clinton.  I do not think she is the spawn of Satan, but, and I cannot emphasize this enough, I did not like Hillary Clinton.  After Bill’s second term, when she moved to New York so she could run for the Senate, that told me everything I needed to know about her.  She was an opportunist who cared far more about her career that she did about representing the people she was elected to represent.  I still stand by that assessment.

There were 17 candidates on the Republican side.  Seventeen.  I was fully prepared to support 16 of them.  Even the crazy ones, like Carson, or the spineless ones, like Rubio, or the downright loathsome ones, like Cruz.  Personally, I liked Kasich, but I really thought this would be Jeb Bush’s year.  I was okay with that.  Literally, and I’ve said this before, literally any other candidate but Trump.  Any.  Other.  Candidate.

I follow the comings and goings of business people.  Always have.  I watch their interviews, I read their books, I try to study what makes them successful.  I knew before he announced exactly what Trump was.  And while I still believe it might be useful one day to have a real businessman in the White House, I firmly believe Trump is not the kind of “businessman” you want anywhere near public service.

So, my absolute nightmare scenario was Clinton vs Trump.  I never imagined it would happen.

It happened.  And as much as I dislike Hillary, I reject the notion that “they’re the same”.  They are not.  They are demonstrably not the same.  Intelligence, experience, and expertise still have to count for something.  As do motivation.  I did not trust Clinton’s motivation, but I trusted Trump’s far less.  And of the two, only one had the experience to be president.  So yes, I voted, for the first time in my life, for a Democrat for president.  I stand by that decision.

We are seeing today what happens when we elect inexperience.  And I’m not talking about Obama-level inexperience, we survived that relatively unscathed.  I’m talking legit, I-have-no-freaking-clue-what-I’m-doing inexperience.  So far the worst result has been the unraveling of decades of progress, and a general embarrassment on a global scale, but if that’s the worst that happens I will consider his “presidency” a success.

I am interested to see what becomes of the Republican party.  I am deeply disappointed in it’s leadership, and their embrace of Trump, who is neither fiscally nor socially conservative.  Not even a little.  They have place party, not only above country, but above their own stated principles.  This to me seems insane.  It is my opinion that the party cannot survive in it’s current state, it must either change or split.  As it is today, if it doesn’t change, I may never vote Republican again.

I am no fan of the Democratic party either, but I am a fan of sanity.  And I will continue to value experience and expertise above change only for the sake of change.

If that makes me a liberal, I can live with that.

Beauty and the Gay…

Okay, so just thinking about the fact that there are people who now will not allow their children to see the new Beauty and the Beast movie because it features a gay character. Nevermind that it’s basically a story about Stockholm Syndrome and bestiality, but having a gay character was just a step too far for them. (Not that I’m judging.) (Okay, maybe a little bit.)

And it occurred to me though, we’ve had gay characters in movies and TV for a very long time, this is nothing new. And I’m not talking about Will & Grace, or Billy Crystal’s Jody on Soap, I’m going way back…

Remember Bewitched, remember Uncle Arthur, brilliantly played by the late Paul Lynde. Totally gay. Uncle Arthur was every family’s old gay uncle. And we loved him. Just back then nobody talked about the fact he was mid-40’s, never married, but had the same “roommate” for 27 years.

Or I Dream of Jeannie. Here you have the lovely Barbara Eden playing an extremely beautiful woman, who totally adores astronaut Tony Nelson. would do anything for him, and who literally knows magic and has a thousand years of experience to draw upon. And does he hit that? No. He does not. He doesn’t even let his presumably hetero buddy Roger hit that. There has never been a more totally gay character on TV than Tony Nelson.

So you say, fine, but those aren’t kids shows. Sure, okay, let’s talk kids shows.

Sesame Street’s Bert and Ernie have been documented for years. Two guys, one bedroom, one bed, and half their conversations take place with one of them in the bathtub. They are the arch-typical urban gay couple.

And remember Captain Kangaroo? Did you ever see a Mrs. Kangaroo? Of course not. But Mr. Green Jeans was always around, wasn’t he? And who else would keep a dancing bear as a pet?

Just Stop

Let’s just stop a minute and be honest about what’s going on here…

Facts show very clearly trans-gendered women are not molesting little girls in public restrooms. But some want to believe that, or promote that, because it justifies their hatred of the trans-gendered.

Facts show very clearly that Mexican immigrants do not commit more crimes than citizens. But some want to believe that, or promote that, because it justifies their hatred of Mexican immigrants.

Facts show very clearly that Muslim immigrants and refugees are not running around killing Americans. But some want to believe that, or promote that, because it justifies their hatred of Muslims.

This isn’t about crime, or murder, or molestation, or terrorism. The facts just don’t support it. So when you take that away, what’s left?

Hate.

It’s all about hate. Pure and simple.

And for the first time, in a very long time, we have a government that is willing to use any justification, real or imagined, to act on that hate. We don’t want the “other” here, they’re not like us, they frighten us, they disgust us. So… If they’re not here, we’ll shut them out. If they’re already here, we’ll kick them out. If we can’t kick them out, we’ll make their life hell, so they are forced to act “normal”, and we can pretend they’re not “other”

Like it or not, that is our new national identity. Hate.

This nation was not founded on hate, and one day soon, the rest of us will rise up and take our country back. And all you hateful assholes can continue hating, but we will no longer let your hate define who we are. We will reclaim that shining city on the hill.

Stop the Presses!

A few quotes about the press…

Were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter.
— Thomas Jefferson

Our first object should therefore be, to leave open all the avenues to truth. The most effectual hitherto found, is the freedom of the press. It is, therefore, the first shut up by those who fear the investigation of their actions.
— Thomas Jefferson

The liberty of the press is essential to the security of freedom in a state: it ought not, therefore, to be restrained.
— John Adams

Freedom of speech is a principal pillar of a free government: When this support is taken away, the constitution of a free society is dissolved, and tyranny is erected on its ruins.
— Benjamin Franklin

A popular Government without popular information, or the means of acquiring it, is but a Prologue to a Farce or a Tragedy, or perhaps both.
— James Madison

Without debate, without criticism, no Administration and no country can succeed , and no republic can survive … and that is why our press was protected by the First Amendment.
— John F Kennedy

Societies that repress journalists ultimately oppress people as well.
— Barack Obama

The FAKE NEWS media (failing @nytimes, @NBCNews, @ABC, @CBS, @CNN) is not my enemy, it is the enemy of the American People!
— Donald Trump

 

 

That’s Trillion, with a “T”…

The GOP’s latest budget resolution proposes to increase the national debt by nearly $1 trillion per year, every year, over the next 10 nears. So I was curious. What could one buy with ONE TRILLION DOLLARS? Here are some of the more interesting answers I found…

– Every sports team. All of them. NFL, MLB, NBA, NHL, and NASCAR, and still have plenty left over for beer and nachos.

– A new home, new car? How about five million new homes. Or forty million new cars.

– Need a new phone or laptop? Fuck it, buy Apple. Yes, the entire company, and put the remaining $200 billion on an iTunes gift card.

– You could fund an entire war. Think of the naming rights… Curtis Wiggins presents: The War in Iraq. A Curtis Wiggins Production.

– One copy of the Office, complete series, on DVD, for every single person on the planet. No one would ever have an excuse to not get your references ever again.

– Want to take a cruise? Hell take all of them. You could buy a thousand cruise ships.

– Prefer to drive? You could pave the entire US Interstate Highway System in 24K gold leaf. I mean really, why subject your forty million cars to mere concrete and asphalt.

– Remember that song “I’d like to buy the world a Coke…” You could literally do that. With refills.

– Hungry? You could buy every McDonald’s on the planet. And every Burger King. Have it your way, indeed.

– And here’s the weirdest one I found. You could buy a free funeral and lifetime supply of eggs for everyone living in poverty in America. I’m not sure what this guy’s plan was exactly, but I think he wants to kill off all the poor people by way of high cholesterol…

Why the “Hamilton” incident is a big deal…

In case you’ve been living under a rock the past week (understandable given the current environment), here’s what happened…

VP-elect and anti-LGBT poster boy Mike Pence attended a performance of “Hamilton” on Broadway.  Now Pence doesn’t strike me as the musical theater type, but good for him, getting out and getting him some of that big city elitist culture.

The cast and crew, being made aware of his presence, felt the urge to make a quick statement to him at the end of the show, during their curtain call.

The audience, some of them anyway, being made aware of his presence, felt the urge to boo him.

The President-elect, as he is wont to do, felt the urge to promptly lose his shit and launch into a minor Tweet-storm tirade.

The immediate reaction of most of us, on either side of the Great American Trump Chasm, is to dismiss this as nothing more than the usual nonsense.  It’s Trump being Trump, responding to elitists being elitists.  All sound and fury, signifying nothing.

Sure, the hard-core supporters got bent about a perceived lack of respect.  And the hard-core opponents either took the opportunity to remind us about Pence’s embrace of “conversion therapy”, or pointed out how this non-event was distracting from bigger issues like Trump’s $25 million fraud settlement.  But most of us, honestly, just didn’t think this was a big deal.  Certainly nothing to get worked up about.

And that is where we are dead wrong.

Allow me to explain.  But first, let’s clear up some of the details.

It has been said that the cast of Hamilton booed Pence.  They did not.  The audience did.  If you’re whole problem with this is that the audience was disrespectful to Pence, you have a valid point.  You’ve completely missed the larger point, but your point is valid.  And by all means, please, feel free to criticize an audience for booing someone they don’t like.

It has been said that the cast of Hamilton made a disrespectful statement to Pence.  They did not.  Below is the entire statement, as read by Brandon Victor Dixon, the actor who played Aaron Burr.  Judge for yourself…

“We, sir, are the diverse America who are alarmed and anxious that your new administration will not protect us — our planet, our children, our parents — or defend us and uphold our inalienable rights, sir, but we truly hope this show has inspired you to uphold our American values and to work on behalf of all of us. All of us.”

That’s it.  That’s the entire statement.  You will notice that, despite what I imagine was an overwhelming desire on their part, not once did they include the phrase “hey, asshole…”.  Instead, they opted for the far less offensive “sir…”

If you find their statement disrespectful, you may want to go to your nearest college campus, find yourself a nice quiet “safe space”, and re-calibrate your sensitivity threshold.  You may find it has been accidentally set to “liberal”, or worse yet, to “millennial”.  As quickly and calmly as possible, you will want to move that setting back to “conservative”, or if you’re feeling particularly frisky, to “suck it up, buttercup”.

Seriously though, the statement made was a respectful yet earnest call for inclusion, a reminder of shared values, and an expression of hope.  It might be viewed as presumptive, not without reason, but I fail to see anything about the statement or the way it was read that is intrinsically offensive.

It is also, and this is the important part, a perfectly valid expression of Constitutionally protected free speech.

And here is the problem, and here is why this incident is a big deal.  Donald Trump described this statement as “harassment”.  At that moment, this became a big deal, because, as hopefully you already know, harassment is not Constitutionally protected free speech.  Nor should it be.

In one tweet, less than 140 characters, our President-elect has transformed a protected statement of hope and inclusion into a potentially criminal act of harassment. Let’s just stop and think about that for a moment.

Now obviously, if something like this were to go to court, I think we all feel comfortable that the court would not agree with this Mr. Trump’s transformation. And that is some comfort, but…  It shouldn’t have to come to that.

The leader of the free world should understand the difference between free speech and harassment. The President of the United States should respect the Constitutional right of his country’s people to speak to power without condemning it as a criminal act. Criminalizing political speech is the exact kind of tyranny our Bill of Rights was designed to prevent in the first place.

If this is how our future president is going to regard the First Amendment, and if this is how he is going to regard anything said that remotely questions him or his administration, we are in for a very difficult time.

Shake up Washington if you like, throw out what you want, but that cannot include the Bill of Rights. Above all else that must be preserved. Too many brave men and women have fought and died for those rights to just toss them out on the whim of an orange man-child who has never bothered to read them.

The People Have Spoken

And while I’m not happy with their decision, it is theirs to make, and I will respect that. I know that for many, their reasons were upright and true. I honestly, truly, deeply hope they are right about their champion. I would very much like to be wrong about the damage that might be done. And I will be the first to admit it if that’s the case.

For right now, I’ve decided that I will remain calm, try very hard not to overreact, and wait and see what actually happens.  Attempting to respond to what our new President has said is simply overwhelming, and ultimately of no consequence. I will wait and see what he does, what he is allowed to do, that is what matters, and then I will respond as events unfold. And I will hope for the best.

It may be wishful thinking, but I am hoping there are still enough good people of principle in the Republican party to keep his worst ideas at bay, and that there are still enough good people of principle in the Democratic party to help push forward his best ideas forward. It will be a time for leaders, on both sides, to stand up, be counted, and do what is right for the country. I hope they are up to it. To that end, this is what I am expecting…

Republicans…

Let me speak to you for a moment. You now have the Presidency, control of the House, control of the Senate, and are soon to have a majority of Supreme Court justices.  In short, you have literally EVERYTHING YOU NEED to accomplish your goals. Everything! You have NO EXCUSES.

You say you can make America great? Do it! Make America great. Make America better than it is right now. Healthcare, jobs, unemployment, national debt, infrastructure, immigration, crime, guns, ISIS… Take your pick. Pick at least one of those, and make it better. Pick two if you can. You have full control. Keep your leader focused on the right things, and accomplish something meaningful for the American people. There is no excuse for failure. And we will be watching. And we will be keeping score. And we will hold you accountable. You have two years. If it goes well, we may even consider giving you full control for two more. Now GO!

Democrats…

Listen up Democrats. You have ONE job. Just one. Find someone who is less reprehensible than Hillary Clinton. That’s it. And that’s a really, really low bar, so it shouldn’t be all that hard. Find someone responsible, respectable, breathing, and if possible, who doesn’t use email. Someone who can step in should the Trump administration devolve into the shitstorm we all know it is capable of if left unsupervised. Seriously, have someone ready, no more screwing around. That is your ONLY job.  You have four years to make it happen. Ready? GO!

Independents, Third Partiers, and Non-Voters…

Pay attention. Seriously, just look up once in a while. Nobody is real sure what’s going to happen next, but whatever it is, we are going to need your voice. So just, you know, be aware of your surroundings a bit.

What a difference a Pomeranian makes…

I gained a new insight into the Trump phenomenon this weekend, in a most unexpected way.

(And before you’re all like “There he goes again with his anti-Trump rantings”, hold on.  This post isn’t anti-Trump.  I am actually coming out right now and saying I am pro-Trump.  Well, I am pro-Trump: the ideal.  Relax, I firmly remain anti-Trump: the man. But this post is not about the man. I’ve had plenty to say about that already, and frankly there’s not much more can be said that hasn’t been said before. No, this post is about the ideal of Trump, which I fully support. And it is about a stuffed Pomeranian, but more on that later.)

Okay, how this all started…

Every year our company has a Halloween party and costume contest.  That’s something of an understatement.  In past years this has been a week long Halloween extravaganza, with multiple costumes, themes, skits, and daily voting, all leading up to one final week long team winner, and usually not a small amount of controversy over the voting process.  In recent years this has been augmented with us then attending the “13 Ugly Men” Halloween Party – one of THE big social charity events of the season in these parts.  This year, due to popular demand, and escalating expenses, we scaled it back to one day of contests, and the big event that night, but… it’s still a big deal.

One of the things I love about where I work is, the people there are, well, the only way to put it is… they are competitive as fuck.  It didn’t matter the prize, they just wanted to win it. And they go all out. Thus the escalating expenses from a week long extravaganza.  But even in it’s one-day scaled back form, it is still a highly competitive event. You’ve gotta bring your “A” game.

When deciding on what costume I would do this year, I looked at the rules, and one of the categories for points was “scariest costume”.  I thought to myself, what is the scariest thing I have ever seen, and my answer came to me immediately.  I would go as Donald Trump.

But it’s not enough just to dress as Trump, there has to be a hook.  Just dressing like a clown is not enough, I expect there would be plenty of Trumps walking around, no, there has to be something unique.  That’s where the Pomeranian comes in.

There’s a old comedy trope about Trumps hair, going back decades, that it’s actually a small, furry, possibly rabid, animal the sleeps on his head by day, and presumably wanders off having it’s own adventures by night.  So there was my hook.  Instead of the usual Trump wig, I would wear a stuffed Pomeranian on my head.

Now, the logistics of strapping a Pomeranian to one’s head is more difficult than one might expect.  (There’s one of those sentences I never thought I’d say.)  First, said stuffed Pomeranian wasn’t quite big enough to cover my giant head, so I ended up assembling something of a Trump-hair-sandwich with safety pins, a Trump wig on the bottom, a poly-fill eviscerated Pomeranian in the middle, and the ubiquitous red hat on top.

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Just a quick word about the hat. My red hat says “Make America ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ Again”. I wasn’t about to risk any of my money going to Trump’s pocket by accidentally purchasing official campaign merchandise.

This arrangement had the desired effect.  It was a Trump costume, with a hook, a slight tongue-in-cheek nod that the costume was meant to be humorous.  It was meant in good fun, and it was received as such, even amongst the handful of Trump supporters in our office.

Unfortunately all was not well.  While visually it work perfectly, it was somewhat top-heavy, and for reasons I won’t go into, we were outside on a windy day, and as you might expect a Pomeranian to do, it frequently leapt off my head and attempted to scurry away.

This was not a problem for the costume contest during the day, but for the big party that night it would be a big problem.  There would be much dancing, or in my case white people bouncing up and down, and much moving about, and the floor of the venue was not a place I wanted to retrieve something from to then put back on my head, so… Modifications were needed. Reluctantly, after all we had been through, I made the tough call, and decided the Pomeranian must go. Yes, I fired the Pomeranian.

This minor alteration had an unexpected consequence at the big event. Originally I had envisioned my costume as Trump: the Monster.  Maybe with devil horns poking out of that massive hair, or maybe Frankenstein bolts attached to an orange neck, or… well you get the idea.  So many possibilities.  But early on I decided that while it might be funny, out of respect for a small handful of people I know who liked him, but not for all the wrong reasons, demonizing him was not the best way to go.  No, I decided instead to stay closer to the truth, and portray him as Trump: the Buffoon.  Thus the Pomeranian for a hairpiece.  But now, that visual clue was gone.  I was just Trump.  There were no clues that I was Trump: the Buffoon, or Trump: the Monster, although a few who saw me made that interpretation anyway.

But not all. Something weird started happening.  I expected people to see me wearing my Trump costume as one would a Vampire or Frankenstein or Werewolf costume. People instead began seeing me wearing my Trump costume as one would Batman, or Captain America, or the Hulk.  In short, in the absence of visual clues otherwise, they were seeing me as Trump: the Superhero.

I started getting genuinely heart-felt thumbs-up, statements of adoration like “Love it!” and “You’re wonderful!”  There was lots of shaking of hands and taking of pictures, and appreciative smiles.  They genuinely adored this guy, and they instantly liked me, a perfect stranger to them, for this loving homage I had created to their hero.

That’s when it occurred to me… Well a few things, but first it occurred to me that, for the duration of this night at least, I had no political opinion. None. I would be just a guy having fun with a bunch of other humans having fun, and together we would celebrate, well I don’t know what exactly, but we would celebrate.  Tonight I would be a member of everyone’s tribe.

And it worked.  The highlight of the evening was when I ran into the unknown woman in a Hillary mask. I admit, that was a tense encounter at first, but she was a good sport about it, and I was committed to being a good sport about it, and it led to some wonderful photos. (Let it be known, far and wide, to one and all… I grabbed nothing.) Somewhere out there too are some interesting selfies of me with a very convincing Ken Bone.

But the other thing that occurred to me is, this really was hero worship.  This guy, or at least this image of a guy, is the hero they wanted, and after a few hours, I very much wanted them to have that hero. They deserved that hero, even if I knew deep down, having studied this man for literally decades, that this man was nowhere near the hero they held him to be. I wanted it for them.

I’ve talked with some of you before, for some time now, about the fact that I actually LIKE the idea of Trump. I do. An outsider, coming in to shake things up. Someone bold who tells it like it is. A businessman, not a politician. I like that. That really is what we need. That’s what I want too. That is EXACTLY who I want for president.

That ideal was H. Ross Perot in 92, before he went bat-shit crazy and dropped out of the race.  Believe me, up until that point, I was firmly on the Perot train. He was everything people want to believe Trump is today. Only, he was the real thing.

I have studied businessmen all of my adult life. There are several I would love see run for president. I know which ones are brilliant, and which ones are mediocre, and honestly, I would support even the mediocre ones (Carly Fiorina for example). But in that study, I also knew Trump, I knew his successes and failures, I knew how he ran his businesses and the philosophies that guided him. And I knew, even before he announced his run with the Reform Party in 2000, I knew that he was a fraud, albeit at times a successful one, and I knew beyond anything else that he was unequipped to lead a nation.

Others don’t see that, they don’t see Trump: the Very Flawed Angry Little Man, they see only Trump: the Hero.  And no matter what is shown to them, all they will ever see is Trump: the Hero. They just want it SO bad. They are practically willing it to be true. And I don’t blame them for wanting it, like I said, I do too. I wish it were true. I want a Trump. Just not this Trump.

On the other hand, I do blame them, at least a little, for allowing themselves to become so blinded by Trump: the Hero that they cannot see the truth of Trump: the Man. And I have no idea what it will take to shake that belief in Trump: the Hero. If nothing so far has, I don’t know that anything can. What does a hero have to do for you to lose faith in him?

When Trump said he could stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot someone and not lose any support, he was right. He knew then that they were following Trump: the Hero. I think he was a surprised as anyone.

Of course, this is the great danger of dictators.  They are all seen at first as the conquering hero.  The champion of the people. The savior and liberator of the common man.

That was the appeal of Stalin and Lenin, they were the outsiders who came in to shake up the status quo. That was the appeal of Mao Tse-Tung, reclaiming China for the people, from the wealthy elite and foreign influence. That was the appeal of Hitler, to put Germans first, to make Germany great again. That was the appeal of Mussolini, to restore the greatness of old Rome. That was the appeal of Julius Caesar, to wrest power from the politically corrupt Senate, and give Rome back to the people.

ALL peacetime dictators begin this way. All of them. It is HOW they come to power. This is the path of Trump: the Dictator.

So what have I learned from all this?  Well, first let me say, there are people out there who support Trump because they believe he supports their racist, bigoted, “alt.right” ideals. And whether Trump does or not, he certainly does nothing to dissuade them, and what matters is that they believe he does. Those are the true “deplorables” Hillary was speaking of.

Not all Trump supporters are bigots, and it troubles me deeply when they take to calling themselves “deplorables” as a badge of honor. To me that signals that maybe they are okay with the racism and bigotry, or at least they are okay with an alliance with the racists and bigots. I assume they are not, but their embrace of the term introduces a troubling doubt.

For the other Trump supporters, many I know to be good people, I think I have a better understanding of them. For a few hours, I was one of them, I was celebrating Trump: the ideal, I was celebrating Trump: the hero, or maybe even Trump: the super-hero.

So, yeah, I get it.  I understand the appeal. Deep down I feel that same appeal, I desire it too. I wish I could join you, the hope and joy you feel seems absolutely blissful.

But, I cannot. It was only a moment, and I must return to the real world. I cannot abandon the rational world, the world of facts. I will stubbornly cling to it with my dying breath. Your world is more appealing, but it’s a false hope, it’s an unfounded joy. It is the bliss born of ignorance. I cannot un-know what I know. I cannot un-see what I’ve seen. And I cannot live in a dream world, no matter how pleasant the dream.

If you chose to remain there, in your dream, in your bliss. I understand. And I sympathize. I share your desire. I believe in your ideals. I yearn for the same champion as you. But I cannot worship your chosen hero. I have seen what you wish him to be, and it is beautiful, but I have also seen him for what he really is.

Hillary’s Locker Room Talk

(Photo by: Matt Rourke)

There’s been a lot said lately about Hillary Clinton viciously attacking her husband’s accusers. I admit, I never really followed that closely the soap opera that was the Clinton marriage. Now that it’s come to the forefront again, I thought, in the interest in fairness (I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but I’ve been kinda harsh on Trump lately), I really ought to take a close look at this. I have to say, what I found was indeed shocking. I was truly surprised at the viciousness of these attacks.  Let’s recap what I found.  Join me, won’t you?

Monica Lewinsky

Might as well start at the top.  The cigar-hiding intern who nearly brought down a presidency.  What Bill (allegedly) did:  He porked an intern. Certainly that raises some ethical questions, but to be fair, there is no indication that any of their, ahem, “interactions” were anything but consensual.  What Hillary (allegedly) did: In a private (let’s say “locker room”) conversation, she called Monica, and I quote, a “narcissistic loony toon”.

Wow!  I know.  Talk about the mouth of a sailor. I’m sorry you had to hear language like that, but I wanted you to get the full impact of it.  Certainly someone who talks like that has no business being president.

Paula Jones

Another big name on the Bill Clinton hit parade.  What Bill (allegedly) did: Exposed himself and propositioned her.  She turned him down.  Perhaps if he’d had a Tic-Tac first, or bought her some furniture, or maybe just grabbed her by the…  Well, we’ll never know.

Anywho, he was governor, she was a state employee, so she sued him for sexual harassment. Case was eventually dismissed before reaching trial. Paula’s legal team appealed. Bill settled, with the usual “no admission of guilt”.  Paula got $850,000, most of which went to her lawyers.

What Hillary (allegedly) did:  While there is no indication from anyone that Hillary did anything to attack Paula directly, according to Paula, Bill and/or Hillary “sent out people to dig up trash on me”.

It’s not clear whether this was before or after she appeared in Penthouse magazine (for the kids out there, that what we had for porn before the Internet), not that I’m judging.  I also have no idea what was eventually “dug up”, but it had to be just awful, vicious stuff about her.

Kathleen Willey

Speaking of Paula Jones, Kathleen Willey was asked to testify in the Paula Jones case.  What Bill (allegedly) did:  He grabbed her by the…. Well, let’s just say, he put a move on her we’ll call the “Trump Handshake”.  What Hillary (allegedly) did:  Nothing.

But, her writer buddy, Sid Blumenthal (the real one, not the one quoted by Russian propagandists), had lunch with Kathleen’s writer buddy, Christopher Hitchens, where Chris mentioned a recent “60 Minutes” piece on the situation, to which Sid replied “Well she may look good today,  she’s not going to look so good by Friday.”  Sounds super menacing, right?

Of course, to the casual observer this sounds like nothing more than an observation on how quickly tides turn in the media.  But we know better, don’t we. That was clearly a threat, straight from Hillary’s mouth. Well, not so much straight as by way of a guy named Sid, which is, of course, the most threatening way to deliver a threat. And we all know how threatening writers can be, what with that whole mighty pen sword fixation they have.

Gennifer Flowers

And the hit parade continues.  What Bill (allegedly) did:  Had a long term affair with her.  By all accounts this was a consensual relationship.  What Hillary (allegedly) did:  Possibly hired a private investigator.  Now that’s just a crazy, wacky, totally unhinged thing for a wife to do when she suspects her husband of cheating.  I mean honestly, who does that?

Also, she called Gennifer a “failed cabaret singer who doesn’t have much of a resume”.  Again, I must apologize for all this “locker room” talk.  I would never use such language, were it not a direct quote, but it’s important you hear her exact words. Certainly we should never accept such crude and offensive language from a candidate for the highest office in the land.

Juanita Broaddrick

I’ve saved the best for last.  This one is special, and for the first time, we see clear unmistakable signs of an actual attack by Hillary against one of Bill’s accusers.  I know, I know, I made you wait, but trust me, it’s worth it.

What Bill (allegedly) did:  He raped her.  Or not.  She did not report the attack to law enforcement, but she did report it to the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, and the New York Times. Skip ahead a few years, and she is called to testify in the Paul Jones case.

Now here’s where it gets weird. In a signed affidavit, under oath, she DENIES that Bill raped her. Later, when Kenneth Starr is investigating the Monica Lewinsky scandal, she denies the denial.  So, did he or didn’t he?  At this point, only Juanita knows for sure.

What Hillary (allegedly) did:  Threatened her in an attempt to keep her quiet.  Or not.  In a 1999 interview she was asked if Bill, or anyone near Bill, ever threatened her or intimidated her to keep her quiet.  Her answer?  “no”.

But, and here’s where it gets really interesting, if we rewind to 1978, just after the attack allegedly happened, but before she went to the newspapers, she tells the story of the night Hillary threatened her.

Hillary approached Juanita at a fundraiser and said, and I quote, “I just want you to know how much Bill and I appreciate the things you do for him. Do you understand? Everything you do.”

Woah! Right? Did you hear that? I know that to the casual observer, that sounds like the normal kind of thing a candidate’s wife might say to literally anyone at a fundraising event.  But you and I know, that’s some serious twisted “House of Cards” shit right there. Thanking her? For everything she did?  Damn, that’s cold blooded!

So, not only does Hillary let Juanita know that she knows what’s going on, but she does it in such a way that if she didn’t know what’s going on, this Juanita chick would look like she’s batshit paranoid. Only Juanita’s not batshit paranoid, she would only be paranoid if Hillary didn’t know.  But Hillary clearly knows, I mean why else would Hillary go so far out of the way to look like she didn’t know?  Clever, right?

And, and, in the same move, Hillary doesn’t just let her know she’s on to her, Hillary in the same sentence threatens her with… with… well with… Thanks? Appreciation? Wait. Okay, I’m not sure what she threatened her with, but she threatened her with something.  I mean, that’s clearly a threat. We all know Hillary threatened something, she had to, she’s Hillary after all. I mean, you see it too, right?