Once Upon a Time…

Gather around, boys and girls, let me tell you a story about what life was like back in the “Before Time”.

The year was 1990.  The Internet wasn’t a thing yet, but CompuServe was, and Sears had just launched Prodigy.  (Yes, Sears. Believe it or not, Sears was the Amazon of their day.)  We were only two years removed from Reagan, Newt Gingrich and Donald Trump were still on their second wives, the Berlin Wall had just fallen, and grunge didn’t exist yet.  In short, it was a great time to be alive.

Back in those days, yours truly lived in a wonderful land called Texas, and Texas was in the midst of electing itself a new governor.  See if this sounds familiar:  The Republicans nominated an colorful, brash, outspoken, businessman, one with zero experience in government, while the Democrats nominated, wait for it, *gasp*, a woman, one who had made her career in politics.

Texas, then as now, was solidly a red state, and Texans do love their colorful brash outspoken businessman types (see Perot, H. Ross), so conventional wisdom was that the Republican nominee, Clayton Williams, was a sure thing, a done deal.  Never mind for a second that the Democratic candidate, Ann Richards, might be more qualified for office.

Then one day the tides turned.  Our boy Clayton made a joke about rape.  And that joke, somewhat mild by today’s standards, changed the trajectory of the entire campaign.

Now, let me stop right here a moment , and be clear about a few things.

At no time was Clayton Williams ever accused of any sexual misconduct.  There is no indication he ever grabbed anyone by their… anything.  There were no accusers from his past. No women came forward with complaints.  No shopping malls banned him from their Sears.  And, as far as we know, no actresses, comediennes , or potted plants were masturbated in front of.

What he did do was this:  Inclement weather was delaying a campaign event, and Williams compared it to rape, saying “if it’s inevitable, just relax and enjoy it.”

I should also point out, nothing he said suggested that he advocated or condoned sexual assault in any way.  Nothing he said implied that one could get away with sexual assault if one was famous or took someone furniture shopping.

Further, there was no question that it was a joke.  Although in bad taste, everyone knew it was as a joke.  Everyone sort of knew he was a bully and an idiot, and perhaps he didn’t take rape as seriously as he should, but no one, then or now, has referred to him as a sexual predator.

Yet overnight, what had been a huge lead in the polls dwindled away.  His supporters turned away from him in droves.  In the end Ann Richards was elected the first women governor of Texas.  (With an asterisk, there was another before her, but that is a whole other story.)

Why?

Well, boys and girls, back in those days the people of Texas, including the Republicans of Texas, decided that character matters.  They were unwilling to sacrifice their principles or their values just for the sake of party loyalty.  They were unwilling to overlook a serious character flaw just to keep the other side from power. Principles mattered. Values mattered. I know it’s hard to understand today, but it was a different time back then.

And thus a Democrat, a woman, became the governor of the reddest of the red states.  And guess what?  Texas survived.  Texas remained Texas.  There were no riots in the streets, no gun confiscations, no rampant waves of abortions, no sharia law, and the whole state didn’t turn gay overnight.  None of the fear-mongering we know today came to pass.  Texas remained steadfastly Texas.

What did happen was, the people of Texas came together and rejected someone they found to be unfit of character, and instead elected someone they might not agree with, but at least someone they could respect.

**sigh**

That all seems like such a very very long time ago now.

 

The Opposition

The Republican Party is imploding.  Ana Navarro, one of my favorite Republicans, tweeted the other day, concerning the exodus of conservative Senators Bob Flake and Jeff Corker…

Will last sane Republican left, pls take Reagan’s portrait & turn-off the lights?

CNN recently published Say goodbye to your Republican Party, an opinion piece by Kurt Bardella, also about this exodus, and specifically Steve Bannon’s role in it, summarizing…

And now the Republican Party as we knew it is gone. It is a thing of the past. There is no going back. The silence of the majority has eroded the moral fabric of the Republican Party.

And just to bring the point home for me, a very dear friend of mine had this to say, and I literally could not agree more…

I understand political compromise to get the closest one can get to a representative of one’s wishes, but I’m not willing to compromise on basic integrity, honesty, truth, and decency.

The Republican Party, if not imploding, is definitely changing. And not for the better.

I had hoped that one of the bright points of the current presidency might be a reckoning within the GOP.  That when forced to take sides, enough of them would chose what was right over what was expedient.  A few have, but many have not.

I’m losing hope that the few remaining Republicans with principles have any hope of retaking control of their party. From the recent resignations, it appears they are too.

I also hoped this might lead to a party split, and/or the formation of a new conservative party, one for REAL conservatives. But I fear that’s not happening either.

It seems the people who call themselves “conservatives” (quotes intentional) are perfectly fine with a party and leadership devoid of integrity, honesty, truth, and decency. They seem perfectly happy with the abandonment of facts, knowledge, rationality, expertise, and science. They are quite comfortable with dismantling any and all aspects of the First Amendment, just so long as you don’t do anything even tangentially related to the Second Amendment.

None of this I can abide.

And that’s not even starting in on the “nationalism” dog whistling that targets anyone who isn’t a straight white Christian male citizen. And while not all “conservatives” are giddily embracing this new bigotry, many are.  But more importantly, the ones not welcoming this are remaining silent, or willfully ignorant, of its existence.  For me, this silent complicity is just as bad as active participation.

This I cannot abide either.

I’m at the point where I’m ready to do the unthinkable, and join the opposition, even if only as a temporary, “enemy of my enemy” sort of thing. Truth is, I already have, I just haven’t announced it publicly yet. I wasn’t quite sure how I would explain it. Well… I guess I just did.

Therefore…

As long as men like Donald Trump are in power, as long as men like Steve Bannon shape policy, as long as men like Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan stand by and do nothing, and as long as true conservatives no longer feel welcome in the “conservative” party, I will do anything and everything I can to support the opposition.

So I did.  I joined the opposition.

When I renewed my driver’s license a few weeks ago, under the section for updating my voter registration, for the first time ever, I checked the box next to the Florida Democratic Party.

I hope this is temporary.  I very much would like to go back to my previous “No Party Affiliation”.  Or even join a viable third party that might rise from the ashes of the current GOP.  But for now, anyway, I am a Democrat.

God that feels weird.

But the world became a much weirder place on June 16, 2015, and even more so on November 8, 2016. And it hasn’t gotten any less weirder yet.

Because here’s the thing.  Sometimes you can’t stay in the middle, sometimes you have to pick a side.  Sometimes you have to stand up and be counted.  Sometimes the not making a choice is making a choice.  Like RUSH said…

You can choose a ready guide
In some celestial voice
If you choose not to decide
You still have made a choice
You can choose from phantom fears
And kindness that can kill
I will choose a path that’s clear
I will choose free will.

Okay, so that doesn’t fit the situation exactly, but you get the idea.

You Can’t Trust the Media

You’ve heard this before, probably a lot lately.  Fake News!

Trump supporters have a whole toolkit full of excuses for their president’s behavior, from “he speaks his mind” to “he’s still new to the job”, but one of the popular excuses I’m hearing lately is a little troubling, and it goes something like this…

Oh, that’s just the media, you can’t trust them, you can’t believe anything they say.

Okay, let’s stop and look at this for just a moment, I promise this will be brief.

Is the media a profit-based enterprise driven by an agenda that has nothing to do with the truth?  Yes.

Does the media use sensationalism, hype, and exaggeration to attract viewers/readers/eyeballs?  Yes.

Does the media frequently present things in a way that makes whatever it is look worse than it really is?  Yes.

A big fat outstanding “YES” to all of the above, and more.  But…

There is one thing the media uses, a tool of the trade, if you will, that they cannot alter for their own benefit, even though they may try.

Facts.

Facts have a lives of their own, outside of the media, they can be corroborated and verified independent of the entities reporting them.  A fact is either true or it isn’t (which is to say it is not a fact), and because we have the entire sum of human knowledge available at our fingertips, this can usually be determined quickly and easily.  Hell most of them are on videotape.

It doesn’t matter what spin a reporting organization puts on it, it doesn’t matter how far left or right they lean, at the core of what they are reporting are facts.  Or made up bullshit.  And guess what, it doesn’t take long to figure out which organizations deal in facts (no matter how honestly or dishonestly), and which organizations have no interest in actual facts, choosing instead to make up their own “alternatives”, for readers/viewers who also have no interest in actual facts.

So, no matter what the story is, look past the sensationalism, look past the bias, look past the hyperbole, look past all the other media circus nonsense, and pull out those little nuggets of facts buried there at the bottom.  Use multiple sources, covering the entire spectrum, from left to right, and eventually you will see that, although the spin may be diametrically opposed, those core facts are still there, unchanged.  Living a life of their own.

The part you cannot trust is the analysis of those facts.  You can’t trust the spin.  You can’t trust the sensationalism.  You can’t trust the editorializing.   But… facts is facts.  You can trust facts.  The one thing legitimate media does reasonably well is vet their facts.  Partly because it’s far too easy to disprove false facts these days, partly because they suffer a huge loss in reputation when they get the facts wrong.

So…  You can’t trust what the media says about President Trump?  Damn right you can’t.  But that’s not the end of the story.  Know this… What the facts say about President Trump – that’s reality.  And no amount of tinfoil lining in that red baseball cap will change the facts.

We Get It, Shut Up Already…

Growing up in the South, as many of you can probably relate, I was taught that, if you don’t have anything nice to say about someone, don’t say anything at all. Generally speaking, that’s a good rule to live by in a polite society, and generally speaking, I try to abide by that.

Recently someone dear to me asked me why I spent so much time bashing our current president, suggesting maybe I should revisit the rule about what to do when not having anything nice to say.  I imagine she had grown tired of what I’m sure seems an incessant drumbeat of negativity on my part, and I can understand that.  So if I don’t have anything nice to say, why can’t I just say nothing at all.

It’s a fair question, and one that I’m sure if you hold political traditions in high esteem, or if you’re indifferent to politics, or if maybe even your sympathetic to our current president, you’ve probably asked this about me yourself.  Why does he keep banging on about Trump, why can’t he give it a rest already.  He hates Trump, we get it.  Shut up already.

I want to answer that question, but first, in my defense let me point out, I have scaled back recently.  I’m focusing much more attention on puppies and kittens, and trying to only post about Trump only when he does something even more egregious than the last horrible thing he did.

This has actually been pretty easy lately, considering the last Trump thing I complained about was when he said that, marching with neo-Nazis and Klansmen and other white supremacists, there were also some “fine people”. I’m sorry, but fine people simply don’t march with Nazis.  If you march with Nazi’s you are pretty much by definition no longer a good person.  I am still somewhat stunned that there exists a need to point this out.  Anyhow, it’s been pretty hard to top this “some of the racists are good people” statement.  Hard but not impossible, but I digress…

So, if I don’t like Trump, why can’t I just be quiet about it?  Lots of people didn’t like Obama, you didn’t hear them complaining.  Well, you did, but that’s beside the point.  There is no Trump/Obama equivalency, moral, political, or otherwise.

This president, and his presidency, is fundamentally different than all previous presidents.  All of them.  Yes, even Nixon, although he is probably the closest. This president is different, deeply fundamentally different, and not in a good way. If you do not yet grasp that, you may as well stop reading now.

Most presidents you can give the benefit of the doubt.  I didn’t think Obama was qualified to be president, but I didn’t think he was the Devil incarnate either.  I think he meant well, I think his heart was generally in the right place, and I think he did the best he knew how, given a difficult situation.  This is the same thing I thought of George W Bush before him, and Bill Clinton before that, and Bush 41 and Reagan before them.  I would have widely differing opinions of their results, but I never really questioned their motives.  I never doubted their goal was truly to “serve” as president.

This president does not mean well, his heart is not in the right place.  He is not there to serve.  He is there for himself, his ego, and his business interests.  He has no moral center, no character.  He is a narcissistic psychopathic megalomaniac on his best day.  He is not, by any measure, a good person.  He is, by many different measures, a bad man.

Beyond that, he means to do harm.  He carves out whole groups of people as scapegoats, on which to blame all of America’s problems.  It is literally how he began his campaign.  This not only ensures that things go badly for the scapegoats, but it also guarantees that we never get around to addressing the real causes of our problems.

He has normalized racism and hatred.  He has made it acceptable, almost fashionable.  He, and his policies, and the people he has tried to surround himself with, present a clear and present danger to us as a nation and as a people.  He is a danger to our very humanity.  He threatens who we are, at the deepest level.

When I was in Washington DC earlier this year, we visited the Holocaust Museum.  This is not an easy museum to visit, at least not if you have anything approaching human emotions, but it is important, and I would urge anyone who has the opportunity, to visit, if even for a little while.

This trip was short and by intention largely improvised, so we were unable to see the regular exhibit, but we instead took in a special exhibit called “Some Were Neighbors: Collaboration and Complicity in the Holocaust”.  It examined the German culture early on, before the camps and the trains and Krystallnacht, and the other “big” events.  It didn’t start big, it started slowly, quietly.

In the early days, Germany’s president and chancellor portrayed immigrants and Jews as the source of their country’s problems.  Change “Immigrants and Jews” to “Illegals and Muslims” and you can hear exactly the same rhetoric today.  The exhibit examined not so much the early slights and harassments and persecutions of those people, but rather looked at the responses of the typical Germans.  These were all ordinary everyday people, presumably good people.  Yet some joined in, while others helped protect and defend the victims.  Some spoke out, but many simply looked the other way, choosing to say nothing, do nothing, to mind their own business.  They had nothing good to say about their government, so they said nothing.  We see these same occurrences, and these same responses, today.

The exhibit focused on facts and actions, and tried hard not to pass judgement or ascribe intent on those who chose to stay on the sidelines, but it is frightening when you understand just how easy it is for “good people” to look the other way when bad things begin to happen.

Some joined in, some opposed, some looked the other way.  I knew, right then, right there, what sort of person I wanted to be.  This is not easy.  I am still trying to figure out what it means to be that sort of person, and I may annoy many of you in the process, but I know, at least a part of it is, that I cannot be silent.

We bought coins in the museum’s gift shop.  They are plain metal slugs, that say simply “What you do matters”.  I keep my coin with me, if not in my pocket, then on my desk or kitchen counter, but always in nearby.  I see it every day.  And it reminds me, every day, that what I do matters.

That is why I cannot, and will not, remain silent about the actions and character of our current president.  Some of this may sound like snark, and admittedly, some of it is, that’s a part of my nature that stubbornly refuses to be repressed. But, there are important things happening, bad things, on many, many different fronts, all swirling around the train wreck that is our executive branch, and while that remains true, I will not remain silent.

I’ve made my decision.  You must decide for yourself what you must do.  But remember…

What you do matters.

Why Can’t Republicans Repeal and Replace Obamacare?

Lately our President’s team and our Congressional leaders have been throwing verbal jabs back and forth, each blaming the other for the failure to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, which those of you not paying attention, is the official name of what we have taken to calling “Obamacare”.

In the latest, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has indicated the repeal failed because of artificial timelines and unreasonable expectations on the part of the President, for whom “it may not have been understood” just how these things work.  Dan Scovino, Trump’s director of social media fired back basically saying “more excuses”, you’ve had seven years, how much time do you need?

Now I’m going to do something that might surprise you.  In this blame-apalooza between Trump and Congress, I’m siding with Trump.  Yes, you heard me.  Trump said on day one he was going to ask Congress for a bill to repeal and replace Obamacare, and as far as I know, he did essentially that.  He did his part.  The only other thing he had to do was sign the bill when it came out the other end.  A bill that never came.

It was up to Congress, and particularly the Republicans in Congress, who by the way, have literally FULL control – they can do anything they want, it was up to them to actually come up with the replacement.

Now Trump was no help on that front, but honestly, did anyone think he had an actual plan?  Come on, of course not.  We all know he’s not a “details” guy, he just blusters around and throws out tasty sound bites, and expects others to come up with the details for him.  This is not new, he has literally always worked this way.  No one should be surprised by this.

So, Republicans, with a solid majority in both houses of Congress, were unable to pass a bill to repeal and replace.  Why?  It’s simple.  Their bills were, in a word, shit.

Trump promised to repeal Obamacare and replace it with something better.  Remember?  Better.  That’s the key point here.  The replacement was meant to be an improvement.  It was going to be “a beautiful picture”, remember – his words.  And you know what?  I’m on board with that.  I can get behind that.  You want to repeal the ACA and replace it with something better, you have my full support.  Have at it.  Seriously.  Do that.

The problem is, not one single bill from the Republicans, not the House bill, not the first Senate bill, not the revised second Senate bill, not the repeal-now-replace-later bill, not even the “skinny repeal” bill, whatever the fuck that was, not one of those bills was even remotely better than the existing ACA.

Not.  One.  Of.  Them.

Not even close.  They were all, demonstrably and quantifiably, worse.  And by a lot.

How do we know they were worse?  I’m glad you asked.  Did you know, we have a department of the government, the Congressional Budget Office, whose sole job it is, I mean really, this is the only thing they do all day long, is to look at every single piece of proposed legislation that comes out of Congress, and determine its financial impact.

These are not politicians or bureaucrats.  These are accountants and actuarials and statisticians and economists, you know, the mathy, sciencey guys.  In short, they’re professional bean counters, non-partisan bean counters, and they count up exactly how many non-partisan beans it’s going to cost us, for literally every piece of legislation.

And they counted the beans for each of those repeal and replace bills, the ones that survived long enough to be counted anyway, and they all came up short.  Way, way short.  And yes, I know:  projections, estimates, error, all of that.  Sure, but… even if their estimates are off by a factor of ten.  Even if the exaggerated the impact to ten times worse than reality, those bills are STILL significantly worse than the ACA they meant to replace. More uninsured, higher premiums, less coverage.  By any measure, each and every one of the proposed bills was far worse than Obamacare.  Like I said.  Shit.

The real shame for Republicans here is not that they failed to repeal Obamacare.  The real shame is that, in the end, there were only three Republican Senators, only three, unwilling to sell out their constituents and replace Obamacare with something they knew would be worse.  That, is shameful.

So, why could they come up with nothing better?  Well, first off, what nobody ever realized, according to our President, is that:  healthcare is hard.  I mean really hard.  It’s complicated, with like lots of math and probabilities and charts and stuff.  Us ordinary guys have no chance of understanding it.  Who knew?

Beyond that, to come up with something better almost certainly means moving closer to universal coverage, that’s just the way insurance pools work.  And it probably means moving closer to single payer, or otherwise removing the profit motive from the business of deciding who lives and who dies.  And because modern-day Republicans have decided they will always side with businesses interests over the best interests of individuals, they can’t move in either of those directions.

To be fair, Democrats often side with businesses over individuals too, but at least they’re coy about it.  They at least pretend to support and value the individual, and on rare occasion even put forth legislation to reflect that, you know, just to keep up appearances.  Things like, for example, oh, I don’t know, the Affordable Care Act.

And by the way, the ACA is devolving into the problem it is today precisely because of the business interests at work with the Democrats during its creation.

So where does that leave us?  Well, Obamacare is starting to stink like day old fish.  All this flailing about in Congress for the last six months has done nothing to solve the problems with the ACA.  It still needs to be fixed.  Or replaced.  Either way, I don’t care, but the result HAS TO BE something better than what we have now.

I cannot explain why no one in Congress understands that.  Even Trump figured out that part of it.  Sad.

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