Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Did a Movie Exec Ruin Passengers?

I really wanted to see the movie Passengers, about two hibernating passengers on a spaceship headed to another planet, who wake up 90 years too early and face life and mortality aboard an otherwise person-less vessel--a vessel that may be breaking down. I'm a sci-fi buff, and the script has generated buzz for years before finally making it to the big screen this December, with likable leads Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence. The writer, Jon Spaihts, was regarded as such a rising star that he was immediately hired to work on the reboot of the Alien franchise and other high profile projects.

Then the reviews came out:
"The major creative players either didn’t realize that they were essentially making a feature-length ad for Stockholm syndrome, or... they didn’t really care. And with Tyldum so glibly dismissive of (or oblivious to) what on paper might have seemed like interesting moral questions, the script doesn’t matter that much anyway. What matters here is the film’s effect. And the effect of Passengers is to turn frothy sci-fi romance into an astonishingly retrograde statement on autonomy and consent, and to turn one of the most likable actors in Hollywood into a total fucking creep."
Wait what? Not knowing anything about the finer plot details, this of course fascinated me. I wanted to know more.

How was it that this highly prized sci-fi project could ignore the fact that-- SPOILER ALERT -- when Pratt's character, Jim, sabotages the pod of Lawrence's character, Aurora (so he won't have to live out his days on the ship alone)  he's essentially committing a mixture of murder and rape? After all, according to the plot points I read... he essentially lies about why she woke up, and gets her into bed. What's worse--at the end, Jim and Aurora get over their "rape-cute" and fall in love.

Intrigued at how the script attempted to justify this (and how studio execs could let it slide) I sought out the script online, And I found not the movie that made it into theaters, but John Spaihts actual original script, which you can read here, at least until someone takes it down.

The general plot is the same--but the film's final third, which follows Jim's self-centered act, differs in significant ways. Ways that I believe made Spaihts script superior (but still flawed) to the movie version.

Don't read on if you want to read the script for yourself first. SPOILERS ahead.

The biggest difference is pretty big. And you can see why a studio exec might have wanted to cut it. But in a way, it's the only ethical route out of the sin Jim's committed. And taking it out alters the movie in a fundamental way.

The difference is this: In the end, all the passengers aboard the ship--with the exception of Jim and Aurora-- are killed.

In the movie version, Jim fixes the reactor in a heroic act, saving everyone aboard, which redeems him in the eyes of Aurora, who decides that living aboard the ship for the rest of her life with the man who raped her is what she wants, because... love I guess?

In the original script, however, Jim and Aurora fix the reactor together... and then the system reboots. When it reboots, something terrible happens:

Or, at least the computer thinks the pods are empty.

It's a moment that suddenly casts everything before it in a new light. The villain of the movie, alluded to at varying times earlier in the film, is the large, soulless corporation that built this "asteroid-proof" spaceship and seemingly cut corners to maximize profits. Jim's earlier griping about the world no longer needing engineers like him... well, this shows the implications. No one thought through the dangers, and thousands of people in an instant are jettisoned into space, despite Jim and Aurora's frantic efforts to save them (there's a harrowing scene of the ship's captain, waking up a moment before he's shot out to his death).

Jim's rape-y act kind of starts to pale in comparison to the negligence and greed that just murdered thousands of people. 

Lest you think the movie leaves us on this horrifying note, there are still a few minutes to go. And that running time establishes Jim and Aurora as something quite different than they were before. Now they truly are alone. But they don't want their lives to end. They don't want their time remaining to be in vain. 

Now at least, you can see a valid reason why Aurora might dismiss what happened earlier. The two form a new kind of partnership. If before was simply lust and romance, now it's parenthood. It's guardianship.

The script establishes earlier that on-board the ship, there is a storage facility with the genetic material of every passenger. For the rest of their lives, Aurora and Jim use this genetic material to bring to life the children (or clones, I guess) of everyone who was lost in the tragedy. Aurora uses her writing chops to pen a book about the massacre and building a livable world on the ship. With this context, Aurora's decision to forgive Jim, and their ensuing romance, becomes, in a "tangled" way, at least justifiable. The characters have motivations that transcend shallow romance. The world they create aboard isn't for them-- it's for those who died, and the generation raised in their honor. At worst, it's their way to survive.

Now, you can think this ending is just as bad--some studio exec certainly did. But it's certainly less of a Stockholm-syndrome story/Bro-fantasy and more in the vein of other sci-fi epics which address the coldness and cruelties of corporations and delve into morally complex issues.

I wonder what Jon Spaihts thinks about the changes. In the meantime, I guess I'll wait for the film to come out on Netflix.

Monday, December 05, 2016

Will Pizzagate Destroy Reality?

In 2009, the Cartoon Network show "South Park," skewered the "political commentary" style of Fox News luminaries like Glenn Beck, who sometimes made outrageous accusations with no basis in fact, couched in their defense, "I'm just asking questions." The character Cartman accuses student council president Wendy Testaburger of, among other things, committing genocide against Smurfs. Several students, believing that the questions wouldn't have been asked if there wasn't truth to the allegations, form a mob and demand Wendy face justice.

It seems like a ridiculous scenario, the kind of thing that can only happen in the cartoon world. But in the real world, a bunch of people have started the same behavior--"just asking questions"-- and it's already causing real world violence.

Is Hillary Clinton covering up a worldwide pedophile ring? Is the Clinton Foundation cover for an international pedophile syndicate? "I'm just asking questions." To a lot of people, these questions sound ridiculous. But to a growing number of self-professed sleuths gathering on internet message boards, these are questions worth investigating... and the more questions they ask, the deeper down the rabbit hole they go.

If you want a taste--and believe me, you don't--check this nutbar fever dream out.

It boils down to this. First, some white supremacist on Twitter made up a story about Anthony Weiner's emails revealing a Clinton pedophile ring. Then, among the thousands of embarrassing emails uncovered by Wikileaks in the days leading up to Donald Trump's election, there were a few in Clinton adviser John Podesta's gmail account that referred to pizza. For example:
John -- Hosting pizza party at Belmont for HFA on April 10. Maya Harris is joining, but need you. Can you come? Thanks much, Tony
Now, this looks totally innocent, to some people. The people who don't ask questions. But some of the other pizza emails seemed strange to people who have never left their basements or had a social life. A bunch of staffers joking about how to split up the last slice from an office party. An email from a realtor asking if John had left a handkerchief with a "map that seems pizza-related" on the kitchen island at a rental property. Just look up the word "pizza" in Wikileaks and you'll find 149 results. Is it possible that these emails were all just about pizza?

Yes, but no. Because, get ready for this... the site 4chan proposed that some of the words in these emails are actually code words. The source for these code words is.... well, unknown, but this 4chan user figured it out. By plugging in the code words for innocuous words like "pizza," it turns out that Podesta, the realtor, a dozen staffers, a pizza parlor owner and everyone else in the emails were actually talking about the cutie underage minors they were going to kidnap, torture and rape.

If this seems like a stretch to you, these good-hearted internet citizens would tell you that you're not asking enough questions.

Snopes did a pretty thorough teardown  of why the "evidence" uncovered is most certainly bullshit, but all the debunking has done nothing to dissuade people from threatening the owner of a pizza parlor in D.C. and neighboring businesses.

Lest you think this is just fun and games, yesterday, a man with a gun walked into that same pizza parlor and fired a shot.

But of course, if your one who "asks questions," then you're already suspicious of the timing. What a coincidence that just when people are starting to believe pizzagate, a guy walks in with a gun?

Well, what if the gunman was just a "crisis actor?" HE HAS AN IMDB PAGE!!!!!

You can see a pattern in anything. If you look hard enough, everything is a conspiracy. Just because some things look alike or some people know each other or some places exist side by side doesn't mean they have a nefarious connection.

I believe in facts. Not speculation based on what art someone owns or whose party someone's brother once attended. Find a victim, find a crime scene, find forensic evidence, find one iota of proof that isn't an attack on someone's character or something you found that originated on 4chan. Nothing here would stand up in a court of law... that should tell you something.

These are real people that are being accused of gruesome, terrible things. They're not abstract cartoon characters. John Podesta, Hillary Clinton, the pizza guy, etc. You may not like their politics. You may not like them personally. But an accusation of pedophilia is pretty heavy. An accusation of running child trafficking is even heavier. That's pretty big weight to be throwing at someone based off of conjecture. Even an accusation is something that sticks with someone. You put it out there, you give it a semblance of validity, you might convince someone, not just that you're "asking questions," but that it's true. And that has consequences. False accusations can have real life negative effects. Especially something like this that gets people rightly fired up. You want to encourage some righteous wannabe hero to engage in some vigilante justice? Intelligent people don't make charges without real solid evidence. Find it, tell the world! But engaging in witch hunts based on circumstantial (to be generous) evidence, guilt by association tactics, and pure speculation doesn't help anyone. It hurts people.

That's my view. But it isn't the view shared by those whipping up pizzagate hysteria, the "just asking questions" crowd. Unfortunately, it seems to be spreading like a sickness. Now this same crowd is saying that the fake news sites that proliferated this election cycle weren't fake at all.

How many people who voted for Donald Trump did it because they believe Hillary Clinton runs a pedophile ring? You can laugh that off, but you can't laugh off the fact that there were millions of people who thought that there was something about her emails that made her more untrustworthy than a man involved in a fraud lawsuit he would later settle for $25 million dollars.

We're taught to question what people tell us. That's a good thing. But when the truth itself becomes a question, when there's no such thing as "fact," only the level of "digging" you've done online, reality itself becomes distorted. It's one thing to question the bias of the media.... its another thing to claim all media is in on one big conspiracy to protect a pedophile ring. Again, the media is not a bogeyman, it's made of individuals, many of whom actually have children they'd be interested in protecting.

Consider this... if the Clintons were running a pedophile ring, wouldn't some media outlet want that story? The Boston Globe won a Pulitzer for outing the Catholic Church for protecting abusive priests. Wouldn't there be some intrepid reporter going undercover, finding that dungeon below the pizza parlor?

I'm just asking questions.

Friday, November 11, 2016

We The People Still Have The Power

Not a great start for President-elect Trump, attacking freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, and freedom of the press in less than 140 characters.

Fascist tweets aside, I'm willing to keep an open mind about a Trump Presidency (call this the "acceptance" stage of grief). Right now, all we have is the fear-- we have yet to see how he and the disturbing people he's surrounded himself with will put their chilling rhetoric into action. It's hard to imagine--given everything Trump has said (or Tweeted) and done--how he will suddenly become an enlightened leader. Even half of his supporters aren't expecting great things here (the non-deplorables). But it is possible that with an organized opposition, any damage he can do to this country will be limited.

In the past few days, millions of Americans have mobilized in cities around the U.S. as a show of force. There are 59.9 million people who voted against Trump--a slim majority of American voters-- and what these protests show is that we're not going to be silent and we're not going to be steamrolled.

This is not a repudiation of those who voted for Trump. Sure, some in the crowd may demand the election be overturned, but that's not realistic, nor is it the point of these mass demonstrations. These protests are meant to serve as a warning. In our lifetimes, we've seen rapid social progress for the rights of minorities, women and LGBT citizens, advances in world peace, environmental health, and economic prosperity-- if Trump rolls back any of the rights or protections we've fought so hard for, these protests make it clear that he and the whole country will hear about it.

Even Wall Street sent a strong signal to Trump in the late hours of Election Day. Dow futures plummeted, before the market returned in the morning to make gains. It's hard not to see that blip as a threat from Wall Street-- screw up this economy, and these are the charts America will be looking at come next election.

We cannot forget that we have a government that answers to its people at all times. Not just on election days. Civil disobedience and protest have a long history in this country-- from the Boston Tea Party to Rosa Parks to Woodstock. Americans stood up for what they believed in against the powers that stood against them, and by show of solidarity and by virtue of their righteousness, won. This is the story of America. It's not anti-democratic to protest... it's in our blood.

Now is not the time to curl up in a ball and cry (though, that's an understandable emotion). Now is the time to get involved. For too many years, too many of us have been Facebook activists. We've forgotten what it means to hit the streets, to shout, to stand and be seen. To get involved.

This is a call to action.

Trump may be our next President, but he will not be our Dictator. When he threatens our liberties, we cannot, and will not, take it lying down.

Pay attention to what Trump does next. If he appoints a white nationalist anti-Semite as his chief of staff. If he allows Mike Pence and his ilk to pass discrimination laws against gay Americans or restrictions on women's health. Watch and see if he takes health care away from millions, while replacing it with nothing. Take notice if he endangers our security by pulling out of alliances and international treaties, or if he rattles the nuclear saber and risks war. All of us need to hold him accountable for his actions-- and not just those who didn't vote for him, but those who did. If he hurts us, don't stay silent.

Let us always remember the words of the infamous Access Hollywood tape. Not the "grab them by the pussy" part. The part that reveals what kind of man Trump is and how he may govern:
"And when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything."
It's up to we, the people, over the next 4 years, to make sure he can't.

Wednesday, November 09, 2016

Hillary Was Who They Said She Was

Like 50,000,000+ other Americans, I am shocked and dismayed, and greatly fear the future. That's never happened after an election in my lifetime. When Bush defeated Kerry in 2004, I thought plenty of people were nuts. But I didn't fear for my country that way I do now. Maybe Trump will prove us all wrong. Maybe he won't run the country the way he ran his businesses, bankrupting them while enriching himself, maybe all the racist and sexist talk and behavior was only hot air aimed at making a billionaire more relatable to the common man, maybe...

But we all know who Trump is. We've been saying it all along. The surprise is finding out who Hillary really was.

Last night, Hillary supporters gathered in the Javits center were crying and stunned by the bad, unthinkable news that kept rolling in. They'd come expecting victory, instead, they faced their worst nightmare. Whether you believe the dire apocalyptic scenarios put forward by many political writers or not, there's no denying that at a certain point in the evening, for Hillary supporters, it felt like the end of the world.

And at that moment, she sent John Podesta to speak to the crowd, and tell them to go home.

Which would have been fine... I guess... If she and her campaign really were going to wait until every last vote was counted. Kerry, in 2004, waited until the next day too. Of course, we know what happened in 2000 as well.

But a heartbeat later, before the Javits center could even fully clear out, Hillary conceded to Trump in a private phone call. She didn't speak to her supporters. She didn't speak to a worried, fractured nation or a frightened world. She went to bed.

Bernie supporters tried to warn us from the beginning. They claimed she'd lost touch with the people, that she didn't feel our pain. The Bernie Bros that I dismissed as deluded about their candidate's electoral chances were right. This election came down to who was more passionate about the country, who cared about fixing its problems. Hillary, to be charitable, played it safe, choosing a message that to stay the course, with slight corrections, was the more prudent way forward. I still believe she was right... But that doesn't matter. The message was all wrong--it failed to connect with the people she needed to win. As it turned out, her temperament, calm, above-the-fray, unmoved... was the problem.

It had nothing to do with the emails.

And at our darkest hour, Hillary proved her critics right. She took thousands from the likes of Goldman Sachs to give inspirational speeches, but the speech she needed to give, one she'd been paid millions for by the American people, she refused.

John Podesta... John friggin Podesta... told us to go to bed instead.

Hillary abandoned us, abandoned the party, abandoned the country at a time when we needed her to say everything would be okay, that progressive ideals aren't dead, that the fight will go on, renewed and reinvigorated. She needed to tell us this is day one of building New Democratic engines in our communities, so that a million young, engaged, and idealistic Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warrens, and Hillary Clintons emerge to save this country from its worst impulses.

Maybe we should have paid her more.

Losing last night was a tragedy--the extent of it is yet to be seen. It could have been redeemed somewhat by a triumphant call to return to the principles that made our country the shining city on a hill, the beacon of light and freedom to the world.

Hillary was silent. I hope and pray we don't follow her example.

Monday, November 07, 2016

Why I'm Against Trump's Social Policies

I believe government should follow the same principle as doctors do: "Do No Harm." Law is a blunt instrument: while a certain bill may be proposed with the good of the people in mind or passed into law with the best intentions, often there are unforeseen or ignored consequences that do more harm than good.

As such, I believe the government should be very careful to not pass laws that disproportionately affect small slivers of the American populace or violate the standard that "all men are created equal." I believe it is the government's job to protect the vulnerable from the will of the strong, to protect the minority from the ignorance of the majority. To make sure that freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and basic human rights are always respected, for all.

Protect the vulnerable? At first blush, anti-abortion, pro-life laws may appear to do that. If I were a woman and found myself pregnant, I would not get an abortion. I think this has to do largely with my view that life is a miracle, and my experience growing up with my sister, Shari, who has severe autism. When I think about how genetic testing could mean that parents would choose to prevent people like my sister from ever being born, it causes me deep distress. I know the sacrifices my parents made and the incredible strength it took to raise my sister, and I know not every parent has those same resources or abilities. I'm not sure even I would be able to meet that challenge. But it troubles me how close some abortion decisions can come to sounding like arguments for eugenics.

However, I am not willing to cut off my thinking there. First, I am a man, not a woman. I will never be in that position to make such a decision about my body. So I need to consider what it means to force someone to carry a child for nine months, at risk to their own health and welfare. If abortion was as simple and clear cut as murder, you certainly wouldn't see such a split in public opinion (the devil isn't fooling 50% of Americans). You wouldn't have concessions from Republicans allowing for exemptions in case of rape and incest-- after all, if the baby is innocent, then why should the crime be a reason for the baby's termination? If abortion is murder, would every miscarriage become a murder investigation? If late-stage health problems were to put a pregnant woman at risk, would doctors hesitate to save the mother's life over that of her child's? I can't pretend this isn't a thorny issue. Expecting a law to address it adequately and humanely is hopelessly naive.

Trump's VP Mike Pence agrees that abortions based on genetic tests smacks of eugenics, which is why he passed a law banning such a practice. But he will never have to live with the consequences of that law-- and he's done exactly nothing in his state to address what happens when that down syndrome baby is born. Will he force the parents to care for the child? With what money and what resources? What has he put in place to make sure that child won't suffer? Isn't it an incredible cruelty to inflict on expecting parents--to make a mother carry to term a child who she may not want, who may not even survive? Pence even banned the one good that could come from an abortion-- requiring fetal tissue to be buried or cremated, rather than using those cells to help save the lives of others.

Trump portrayed women getting an abortion at a late stage in her pregnancy as monsters, "ripping the baby from the womb." But the facts show that uniformly, women getting late term abortions wanted to have their baby-- the baby, sadly, wasn't viable. Having those "abortions" was literally the worst and most painful moment of their lives. Why is Trump bringing additional hardship to grieving mothers? Is it really to save vulnerable lives? Or score political points?

Abortion is a tragedy no matter what choice gets made. What makes Donald Trump and Mike Pence more qualified to answer such a personal crisis than women, their doctors and their families?

Creating new life is the greatest miracle-- perhaps the only miracle-- mankind is capable of. If you have to force people to perform that miracle, you've got bigger problems that no single law can solve. Instead of punishing women and their doctors, our efforts should focus on creating a more supportive environment for women, children, and families. Trump's businesses don't even offer paid maternity leave. Pence voted against paid maternity and paternity leave time and time again. I believe that if you want to protect life, you can't just force birth--you've got to actually support policies that give young families and single mothers the time, money and resources necessary to raise a healthy child.

I also believe people should be able to live, love and worship without government interfering with their lifestyle. The party of Trump believes one of the nation’s biggest problems is transgender people using the bathroom, and that the Supreme Court needs more people like Scalia, who wrote a scathing dissent against the court’s approval of gay marriage. Mike Pence's idea of "religious freedom" is the freedom for businesses to discriminate against a group of people for having different beliefs.

Hey, I believe in free speech. If you want to spout bigoted views, have fun. But a line is crossed when you allow those people to cause real harm to others. If you don't believe in gay marriage--don't marry someone of the same sex. Hand out religious tracts. Blog about it. But don't ban gay volunteers from serving this country in the military. Don't vote against a law that expands existing hate-crime protections to outlaw attacks based on sexual orientation or gender. Speech is one thing, stopping someone from a career, exposing someone to physical abuse... those are something else.

I believe that separation of church and state is something our forefathers baked into the constitution, having fled from religious persecution themselves. We know the dangers of theocracy-- we can see it in other countries around the globe. The Johnson Amendment doesn't prevent a preacher or a rabbi from supporting Trump or even advocating for a candidate from the pulpit--it prevents them from using their subsidies and tax breaks from Uncle Sam for political purposes. If tax-exempt churches and synagogues were allowed to collect and use money to fund political ads and campaign events, they could potentially become nothing more than giant Super-Super-PACs, washing campaign donations in holy water to skirt campaign finance laws. Trump wants to allow this. Probably because his idea of a non-profit charity, the Trump Foundation, only exists to support Trump campaigns.

Trump has gained a lot of followers from the "anti-PC" crowd, upset that they catch heat for saying inappropriate and derogatory things that they used to be able to get away with. They use the phrases "social justice warriors" and “feminist” as slurs. I don’t think that’s right. Just because someone advocates for equalizing a system they view as unequal doesn’t mean they're inventing any narrative that “white people are evil.” There are otherwise reasonable people who claim there’s no racism in America, that women are already being treated like men, or that the impoverished are poor because they’re lazy. All PC-culture aims to do is get us to question those assertions and examine why it is that we discount the feelings of others.

If someone tells me I've done something or said something racist/sexist, my first instinct is to apologize and figure out how I can avoid causing such offense in the future. How does a racist/sexist person respond? By insisting that it's the other person's problem, not theirs. I don't think our government should act like a racist/sexist person. If a minority group expresses concern about their treatment at the hands of the majority, it is our government's job to examine that and protect those people from further harm. Not blame that minority for causing its own problems.

We live in a more open, accepting, and free society than human beings have ever lived in. When Trump says "Let's Make America Great Again," he references a past that was not so open, not so accepting, and not so free. As someone who believes in social justice, in equality, in acceptance, I look at Trump's partnership with Pence and the statements both candidates have made and I can't envision them doing anything but sticking with the Republican party line-- one that approves conversion therapy for homosexual youths, believes creationism belongs in the classroom, and that thinks women's rights extend only so far.

I can't support going backwards. To do so would be to cause harm to those who are finally getting a fair shot in a country that long denied it.

If we can't protect those citizens, then what kind of government do we have?

Why I'm Against Trump's Foreign Policy

“Radical Islam” is not a magic phrase, an “abracadabra” that will suddenly make ISIS pack up and leave. “Well, she said ‘Radical Islam’ was the enemy, so I guess we’re done here,” said no terrorist ever.

Still, many Republicans get upset that President Obama and Hillary Clinton don't use those words to describe ISIS.  Some believe the reason the President and other administration officials do this is because either they're secretly supporting terror, or simply don't understand the threat. In fact, there are very good reasons to be "PC" in this case, and limit our description of terrorists to exclude a specific and simplistic religious label.

The first reason should be obvious--calling these terrorists "Islamic" feeds into ISIS propaganda. The Islamic State’s message is simple: "the West has declared war on Islam, so we’re waging war on them." ISIS surely appeals to violent, mentally-disturbed people, but its sales pitch isn't "wanna rape and murder? come on down!" ISIS depends on creating a narrative where America is the evil empire, out to destroy the Islamic way of life. Our counter-messaging depends on making it clear our war is not against Islam, but those who use it as justification for murder, rape, and other atrocities. Do we really want to say, “Yeah ISIS, you’re right! We do hate Muslims!" I’m sure that will play very well and not at all add fuel to ISIS recruiting efforts.

ISIS has used the words of Donald Trump, not Hillary Clinton, in its propaganda videos, to “prove” that the West seeks to destroy Islam. It’s hard to imagine any action America can take to invite more acts of terror than to elect a guy who openly pledged to keep Muslims out of America.

The second reason, of course, is that there is no "understanding" to be gained by treating these terrorists as "Islamic terrorists." In what ways would our strategy change if we focused on the religious aspect as the driver of terror? Well... you start to go down a dark road. Why is it that many Republicans think that Islam is one monolithic hive mind where everyone believes the same interpretations and beliefs? Or that it's any more prone to extremism than any other religion or nationality: historically, vastly more slaughters of innocents were committed by Christians.

If every Muslim is a suspect, it stands to "reason" that to be safe, you'd have to treat every Muslim differently. Plank one of Trump's plan is to ban all Muslim immigrants. But does it stop there? Are the 3.3 million Muslims living in America our enemies? What about the millions of Muslims who have never committed an act of terror, nor supported one? Or our Muslim allies? What “final solution” can you come up with when you believe all the followers of a different religion are monsters, or that the acts of a few represent the threat of the many? The road this leads you down is a road humanity has traveled down before, to disastrous results. 

How does Trump’s ban plan work? Do you give everyone a religious test they need to pass? Judge them on appearance? How about that little Syrian boy? He’s Muslim… is he a terrorist?

Even if you believe profiling suspects wouldn't mire us in false-positives, add wasted man-hours interrogating Cat Stevens, feed a culture of paranoid xenophobia and inspire more extremism... you'd still be stuck with reason number three: the intelligence value of being friends with your "enemy." 

Just because the middle east hasn’t turned into happy unicorn land in the 15 years since 9/11 (while we actively fought wars there for most of it, and left power vacuums in Iraq and Afghanistan thanks to the short-sighted policies of Donald Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney, and George W. Bush) doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t continue to work with Islamic nations. How else can we gather intelligence? Send a white guy with a Texas accent into Syria to say, “Hey there partner, I’m totally a Muslim who is into ISIS and not a spy! So when's that next terrorist attack?” Maybe we keep our troops stationed in flying blimps, instead of our bases based in Muslim countries? 

Bush tried capturing suspected terrorists and torturing them. Even then, to know who those terrorists were required coordination with intelligence services in Muslim countries. They don’t want these guys threatening the stability of their nations either. How does completely giving up diplomacy help anyone? We saw what happens. War. Stupid, pointless war. Do you want more troops on the ground? Are you going to fight?

Hillary and the current administration would rather those Islamic nations, Islamic rebels, and Kurdish militias do the fighting for us, with our support. A plan that so far, is working. Declaring Islam as our enemy doesn't aid those alliances. 

Trump's counter-argument has not been to offer up a real plan to fight ISIS (it's a secret, he says) but to accuse Hillary of having conflicts of interest that would prevent her from making decisions in the interest of the American people. Should we list the countries Trump and his close allies have done business with? Or perhaps just point out the differences between the charitable Clinton Foundation and the not-so-charitable Trump Foundation

Are we to believe that Trump, with zero diplomatic experience, multiple business conflicts of interest, a dependence on fake Russian news sites for intel and a declared willingness to abandon our NATO allies at the drop of a hat, would be better? Based on what?

I shouldn’t have to say it, but a senator, a Secretary of State, or even a President, is not Superman (or Wonder Woman). He or she can’t stop every worldwide catastrophe, every death personally. Trump seems to think he can fix everything himself—he’s actually said that. He accuses Hillary of doing nothing because certain things in the world still occur. 

Hillary, her entire career, has fought for human rights here and abroad. Her accomplishments have been a mixed bag, but they're not nothing

Just because we don’t live in a magical puppy utopia doesn’t mean Trump, who has dedicated his whole life only to Trump, will do any better. Considering he never addressed any of these issues until a few months ago—and Republicans certainly didn’t during 8 years of George W. Bush, I don’t see how we can have any faith he will.

Sunday, November 06, 2016

Why I'm Against Trump's Economic Policies

Genius and talent don’t only exist among the privileged, and far too often, bright young people who could potentially be the next Einstein or Steve Jobs never get the chance, because of their situation—too little money, too little opportunity. Liberals believe that the best way to help even the playing field is to make sure resources are available for the disadvantaged, to make sure they have access to food, shelter, and education. These things cost money. 

It used to be, in the era when labor unions were strong and more businesses were local and home grown, instead of huge corporations, that people got a living wage for their labor. Now they don’t. And so liberals believe that those who have enjoyed the incredible advantages offered by being upper class in America, those who profit massively from the businesses that pay workers shit, should do their part to help those at the bottom. If your CEO makes 20 million a year, and your company makes millions in profits, and your workers can’t feed their families, the government either has to step in and stop that abuse, or step in and fill the gap.

Conservatives like to call this communism and conflate it with progressivism. But it’s a far, far cry from seizing entire businesses and profits, assigning people to jobs and distributing the money “equally” like communist Russia. Liberals believe that a progressive tax structure, in the end, works for everybody. The money ends up back at the top, because of a few factors. One, a healthier, well educatedwell-compensated workforce is more productiveTwo, poor people spend money. Not on private jets, but consumer goods. This money flows into the economy and ends up feeding business profits. Three, we don’t need to waste as much money on the things that poverty tends to create—crime, homelessness, astronomical health care costs. 

On the flip side, conservatives believe the more money concentrated at the top, the better. They think the poor are scum that will suck the teat of Uncle Sam for the rest of their lives. They think the poor can’t be trusted with money. Trickle-down economics has been Republican policy since Reagan, and every Republican presidency has proven it wrong. The 80s saw a devastating recession under George Bush. The 90s boomed under Clinton. The 00s led us to the greatest economic disaster since the great depression thanks to George W. Bush. 08-16, the economy has come back under Barack Obama. Do you see a pattern? Liberals do. 

And its not like rich Americans have suffered liberal policies. Why does Trump believe doing the same thing Republicans have tried and failed at for years will produce different results? Why do the rich, who haven’t been hurt at all by economic downswings, reap the benefit of tax cuts while poor Americans get their health benefits cut, their salaries kept at starvation levels, and face the loss of life-saving social services? Why does Trump believe that the middle class will benefit if the rich people get richer—even though that has never been the case?

Friday, October 28, 2016

Someone Explain Why Anyone Should Care About Hillary's Emails

We're 11 days away from an election that could determine the course of the United States, and the world, for decades to come. In one corner, we have the chosen candidate of white supremacists everywhere, a man who has admitted to sexual assault, a man who has conned hundreds of people out of their hard-earned money, a man who has never done one act of public service in his entire life. In the other corner, you have a career politician who OMG EMAILS EMAILS EMAILS!!!!!


Honestly, why is this even an issue? You have one reason to not vote for Hillary: you are a Republican when it comes to social issues, and you want abortion banned, the gays back in the closet, and the minorities to shut up. This is not debatable, because it is literally all Trump brings to the table. If you want a Supreme Court packed with Scalias, Trump is your man. In fact, if you're not particularly bigoted or racist, you have a pretty compelling argument to vote for Hillary.

So why would EMAILS EMAILS EMAILs cause you to say, "Fuck Hillary, I'm a Trump guy?"

More of Hillary's emails have been read, studied, picked apart and agonized over than the works of Shakespeare. There is no person on Earth who can claim to have released more emails to the public than her. George W. Bush, who suspended civil liberties, rewrote the constitution, slept through 9/11 and embroiled us in two costly wars-- well, he "lost" 22,000,000 emails. We will never see them. They were on the private server of the Republican National Committee.

Despite this unprecedented scrutiny, this magnifying glass over every quip from a low-level Democratic party campaign worker... literally NOTHING illegal has been found. NO emails of her plotting to kill Americans in Benghazi. NO emails of her sharing Monica Lewinsky nude pics. NO emails of her promising Iran she'll give them nukes as soon as she's elected. NOTHING. NADA. ZILTCH.

The FBI, the RNC, Wikileaks, the press, Russia, even the right wing conspiracy media... not one of these entities has found any email that surprises and shocks us. Oh, politicians are calculating? They try and speak out of both sides of their mouth? Their staff can get petty and catty? OH MY GOD!!!!! TELL ME something I don't know.

It's within your rights to be sick of politicians. But lets not pretend these things are great crimes. Let's not pretend they're worse... or even equivalent... to the very real crimes Donald Trump has been getting away with for years-- things that have been proven in a court of law and recorded on videotape. Let's not pretend that being a politician is worse than inviting a white supremacist to help run your campaign.

Did Hillary erase emails in which she discussed taking bribes from the Saudis? The Republicans would say, "YOU BET!" But there's no evidence of this. It's all speculation. Hillary could have erased an email revealing she's really Emperor Zod of the Planet Kylophon, here to enslave the earth and steal the world's reserves of Beanie Babies. That email MIGHT EXIST!!! But it doesn't, and that line of thinking should also have you wondering what things might exist in Trump's email, right? After all, we don't have any of his messages. Not one. We don't even have his tax returns.

Was Hillary careless with classified information? Well, it depends whether you think the state department email system, WHICH WAS HACKED, is safer than Hillary's own email system, which is apparently so secure that no one can find her Emperor Zod emails. It also depends whether you give a damn if she accidentally revealed that a general's favorite soup is split pea, which is the kind of ticky-tacky shit the government slaps "CLASSIFIED" on ever since the Bush administration.

All of this hand-wringing, all of this "HILLARY BELONGS IN JAIL!" bullshit... WHY? Every single telescope, microscope and endoscope has been focused on her for close to 30 years... and nobody has found absolutely anything to imprison her for! What's the charge? What's the evidence? And... WHY DOES IT MATTER?

Imagine someone pitched a movie with Hillary as the villian: "You see, the bad guy, she's this woman who, well, she used her own email server. And MI-6 has to send James Bond to take her down." This is not compelling stuff.

By all means, if you have ideological differences with the Democratic Party, vote Republican. I'll point out that Trump is not a Republican, and you should worry about him destroying your party, but at least I'll understand why you're voting the way you are.

But if you're a so-called fence-sitting independent? Can you really not tell the difference here?

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Trump Proud That He Didn't Mention Bill's Infidelity

While most Americans believe Hillary Clinton won last night's debate by speaking in complete sentences and not just mixing together random words with coke/amphetamine/terminal-illness sniffles, Trump and his good friend Sean Hannity have pointed out otherwise. While Hillary was a big bad meanie--insisting that The Donald's shady, sometimes racist business practices, multiple bankruptcies, demeaning comments about women and dangerous comments about our allies abroad were somehow relevant to his qualifications for the presidency--Trump himself showed "enormous restraint," a quality Americans are looking for in a President:

"I was going to say something extremely rough to Hillary, to her family, and I said to myself I can't do it. I just can't do it. It's inappropriate, it's not nice."

After restraining himself for several minutes, Trump let it all out with reporters immediately after leaving the stage:

How Bill Clinton's affairs relate to Hillary's abilities to be President, the twice-divorced Republican nominee who admitted to cheating on his first wife didn't say.

Monday, September 19, 2016

They Were Terrorists

Ahmad Rahami & Dzhokhar Tsarnaev

What happens to a dream deferred?
Does it dry up
like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore—
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over— like a syrupy sweet? 
Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.  
Or does it explode? 
          --Langston Hughes
 We expect our terrorists to come from overseas. They are not American, they can't be.

(We forget about Timothy McVeigh and Eric Rudolph and we call Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold and Dylann Roof and James Holmes by different labels entirely. )

They are not American, they can't be.

Which is why our leaders say these (brown and Muslim) killers don't deserve their constitutional rights. The right to remain silent, the right to a lawyer and a fair trial, the right to not be tortured-- these are rights of Americans--the murderers and rapists and thieves among us. But they are not American, these (brown and Muslim) killers. They can't be.

They came here like so many of our (white, not Muslim) grandparents and great grandparents did, escaping places with no constitutional rights to become citizens of the United States. They became mechanics, opened hair salons. They were high school wrestling captains and Olympic hopefuls. They were restaurant owners and obsessed with auto racing.

Except they weren't like us.
The Tsarnaev family was a neighborhood nuisance, said Rinat Harel, a longtime neighbor. She and other neighbors called police five years ago when the two brothers would hold loud parties and drink late into the night in the courtyard. 
The brothers were “just obnoxious teenage boys,” Harel said, but the father, a short, beefy fellow, was a constant irritant who regularly threw his trash in neighbors’ recycling bins despite being asked to stop, filled precious spaces in this parking-starved city with cars he was working on, and claimed a 10-minute loading zone as his all-day storage space.
 Except they weren't like us.
The Rahami family’s chicken restaurant had its own tense relationship with the community, though it drew a horde of loyal patrons who appreciated their cheese fries and friendly service. 
At first, the restaurant was open 24 hours a day and became a local nuisance, said J. Christian Bollwage, the mayor of Elizabeth and a neighbor. Rowdy crowds appeared after midnight. Dean McDermott, who lives nearby and is a news videographer, complained, as did others. Often Mr. McDermott discovered patrons loitering in his yard and urinating in his driveway, and he called the police.
Except they weren't like us.
Even as members of their extended family found their piece of the American dream, the Cambridge Tsarnaevs’ experience in their new land curdled. Money grew scarce, and the family went on welfare. Zubeidat was accused of stealing from a department store. Anzor’s business, never prosperous, faded.
 Except they weren't like us.
In response to the persistent complaints, the mayor said that the Elizabeth City Council passed an ordinance compelling the chicken restaurant to close at 10 p.m. But the Rahamis flouted the order and neighbors continued to summon the police. Mr. McDermott said that once when officers responded, one of Mr. Rahami’s older brothers got into a fight with a police officer and was arrested. Before the case was resolved, Mr. McDermott said the brother fled to Afghanistan. 
Mr. McDermott said a fragile truce was reached, whereby the restaurant would close at midnight or 1 a.m. A few months ago, however, a for-sale sign appeared on the front.
 Except they weren't like us.
The mother found solace in a deepening religiosity, the father, icy to such devotion and ill with cancer, went home to Dagestan, a place that was never really home to start with. And the boys underwent transformations so dramatic that some friends could barely recognize them.
Except they weren't like us.
Mr. McDermott said that in the lawsuit the elder Mr. Rahimi claimed that he had been discriminated against because of his race and ethnicity. The mayor said: “It was neighbor complaints; it had nothing to do with his ethnicity or religion."
It had nothing to do with his ethnicity or religion (brown, Muslim). It was neighbor complaints.

A neighborhood nuisance. Loud parties and drink late into the night. Obnoxious. A constant irritant. Tense relationship. A local nuisance. Rowdy crowds appeared after midnight. Loitering. Urinating.

Money grew scarce, and the family went on welfare. Accused of stealing.

Got into a fight with a police officer and was arrested. A few months ago, however, a for-sale sign appeared on the front.

"It was neighbor complaints; it had nothing to do with his ethnicity or religion."

Is it only coincidence then? Two families from overseas (we expect our terrorists to come from overseas), pursuing the American dream, like so many of our grandparents and great grandparents did (except they weren't like us), becoming citizens, becoming our neighbors, only to find they weren't citizens, they weren't our neighbors. They were "neighborhood complaints."

They weren't Americans. That could never be.

They went back to the places their families had escaped from. They found solace in a deepening religiosity. Underwent transformations so dramatic that some friends could barely recognize them. Then they returned. Were they who we expected all along? Or did something happen along the way? Did we ever treat them like a neighbor, not a neighborhood complaint?

What happens to a dream deferred?

Tuesday, August 09, 2016

Dishonest Media Afraid of Trump's Unlimited Power

Robbie Republican 
By Robbie Republican

In my lifetime, I can't recall there ever being a clearer choice for President of the United States. In times like these, when everything we love is under assault from immigrants and Islamists, and the gays and commies are teaching our children about anal sex and the "sharing economy," are we so fallen as a people to consider handing our nuclear arsenal to a woman who, at best, hands out classified information like free samples at Costco, and, at worst, has murdered at least two people while laughing maniacally at rape victims?

It's especially baffling when you consider that the Republican nominee is Donald Trump, a successful  and respected businessman who has sacrificed so much for America and dedicated his life to building this country, brick by brick. But ever since he expressed a desire to stop murderers and rapists from treating this country like their own personal blood orgy, the liberal media has organized a coordinated campaign to tar and feather him. Republicans are used to being compared to Hitler... it's practically a libtard pastime. But this... I've never seen anything like this.

For example, Trump retweets an image, clearly depicting Hillary as being both a crook and a slave to Wall Street. The liberal media goes out of its way to say it's actually anti-semitic, because the person who made the image just happens to be a neo nazi and the star happens to look like a Jewish star. And when Trump explains that no, the image created by the neo nazi isn't anti-semitic, and the star is just a sherrif's star, the liberal media says he's lying.

Then, Trump is savagely, brutally, violently attacked by a Muslim extremist, and what does the liberal media do? They accuse Trump of being a bigot for gently pointing out gender inequalities in the Muslim world.

Trump reaches out to a young mother and her baby, and arranges for them to be escorted from his loud rally to a quieter room, presumably so the young mother can nurse and the baby can sleep? Suddenly, Trump hates babies.

This week? A new low. Trump points out that if 2nd Amendment supporters unite and use their political power against Hillary Clinton, she won't be able to steal our guns. What does the media report? That Trump ordered Hillary's assassination.

It's unreal. At this point, Trump could cure cancer and the liberal media would claim he put pharmaceutical companies out of business. And yes, Trump could cure cancer, believe me.

What is the media so afraid of? You'd think that because Trump once had a hit show on NBC, he'd be welcomed. But in fact, that's exactly the source of the media's fear.

You see, NBC cancelled Trump. They tried to silence his voice. If Trump wins the White House, he'll be on every television in America, 7 days a week. His voice will be impossible to silence. His presence will be everywhere. He cannot be ignored.

Just imagine. Trump's brilliance, his eloquence, his visage of Aryan beauty, on display in your home, at all times. Every moment of every day, filled with his wisdom, from 140 characters, to long, wide-ranging inspirational speeches on every topic under the sun. The liberals will be unable to turn him off, unable to shut him down. He will be where he belongs-- in your face, in mine. His voice will wake our children up in the morning and put them to sleep at night. There will never be a second when the values he represents and the policies he has so lovingly crafted will be far from our hearts and minds.

One State of the Union address a year? Ha! How about one a day?

Right now, the liberal media controls the message, but that will be impossible once Trump has the ear of the world. Impressed by him now? Just wait until he has the full backing of our military and financial might. He's proven he knows how to build an empire and keep it going, no matter what lies the media tell. NBC will rue the day they cancelled The Apprentice, but for Trump, that fateful turning point will be seen as the moment a great man became even greater. Why settle for one night a week, when this man... this god among men... can be our everyday beacon of hope?

Trump on your TV. Trump on your computer screen. Trump on your smartphone. Trump on your car radio, on your in-flight entertainment, on the Jumbotron at ballgames. Trump 24-7, a constant stream of this conservative icon and Republican stalwart, espousing everything that is wrong about America and how he, Donald Trump, can fix it. His soothing voice with its musical lilt, entering your mind throughout the day, transforming your whole being into a kind of Trump antenna, tuned to receive the solutions to everyday problems that only Trump, in his infinite wisdom alone, can provide. He will be there always, looking over your shoulder, watching out for you. Like a big brother would.

Plus, we will probably see a lot more of Ivanka too. And you can't tell me you're not interested in that, right guys?

The media will try their best to silence him, to quote him in context and out of context until your head spins. But if you can't get enough of Trump--and I don't know who can--make your voice heard this November. Because the liberals want to change the program. Trump? He cares about making America great again.

That's what should dominate the ratings, for next four, eight, who knows how many years? Our children will thank us for it.

[Note from Adam: Views of Robbie Republican do not reflect my own... ;)]

Trump's Word Games

"Hillary wants to abolish, essentially abolish, the Second Amendment. And by the way, if she gets to pick her judges: Nothing you can do, folks. Although, the Second Amendment people, maybe there is."

Trump said these words. They're on video, as you can see here below:

What did Trump mean? Well, to us regular folk, it seems pretty clear that Trump was saying that if Hillary is elected, she will ban guns, and in that case, there will be nothing anyone can do... except for gun owners. What can those gun owners do after Hillary is elected that no one else can? Trump doesn't quite spell it out. But gun owners possess something that non-gun owners don't. What is that?

Well, according to a Trump statement:
That's right... gun owners have "the power of unification." In the event of a Hillary Clinton election, this "power of unification" will prevent her from naming judges that will take guns out of the hands of the mentally ill and criminally inclined. 

He totes mcgoats wasn't suggesting that anyone shoot her. Gosh, dishonest media, where would anyone get that idea?

The uncomfortable laughter heard in the video above makes it clear that if this is what Trump meant, those in attendance sure didn't know it.

Wednesday, August 03, 2016

Trump's Winning Debate Strategy Vs. Hillary Clinton

It seems to be the general consensus--at least among Democrats--that when it comes time for the Presidential debates, Hillary Clinton will wipe the floor with Donald Trump. There's evidence that Trump himself is worried about this, already hemming and hawing about the debate schedule. If you'll recall, he actually sat out of one of the Republican debates because he didn't like the results of the previous one.

There is little doubt that when it comes to knowledge of government, public policy, and the issues at stake in this election, Hillary Clinton has a better grasp. But the Democratic nominee would be wise to study Trump's past debate behavior and rhetoric--the angry orange man may not know how to "win" a debate, but he certainly knows how to derail one. And for Trump, that could be as good as winning.

Here's how Trump "beats" Clinton in a debate:

1. Attack the questions and the moderators.

Not even Trump's biggest defenders believe he has a great handle on the issues (the most common defense is, "he'll have the best advisors.") One of his best strategies to buy time to formulate answers and distract from his lack of knowledge will be to go after a group that most of his supporters uniformly hate. No, not Muslims... the Media. He will most likely be called to task for previous things he's said on Twitter, in interviews, and rallies, and his winning strategy will be to accuse the moderators of bias (remember Megyn Kelly), the questions for being unfair, and the debate process itself as being rigged. By de-legitimizing the debate, he seeks to mitigate its impact. Instead of losing the debate, his supporters will be able to say he successfully withstood a character assassination attempt. Expect that any pointed question about his temperament, behavior, or prior statements will be parried with a defense that the media is out to get him and deliberately skewing the coverage.

2. Interrupt, mug for the camera, and talk over Hillary.

Donald Trump loves attention. He thrives on it. As we heard in their respective convention speeches, there's quite a contrast between Hillary and Donald's speaking styles. You'd think a calm, well reasoned argument typically wins out over an unhinged ramble. Usually, you'd be right. But to use the Republican debates as an example, Trump uses his demented charisma not to make a powerful argument, but to steal the stage. He's consistently robbed other candidates of speaking time. Look at what he did to "poor" Jeb Bush, an experienced politician who certainly speaks more coherently on the issues--Trump silenced him, again and again, in front of a national audience, and made him appear weak. Trump set the rhythm of the debate by never allowing his opponent to make a point uninterrupted. Trump will attempt to deny Hillary the time to make a reasoned argument and bully her off the stage, For him, it's better if viewers are distracted by him muttering, "Crooked Hillary," or if the network cuts away to catch him mugging for the camera, than if the audience is able to focus on Hillary's words. The more focus he can pull toward him--even if its negative--the more he makes Hillary disappear.

3. Mock Hillary with nicknames and attack lines.

Trump doesn't want a debate. He wants a circus. Debates favor the best arguments and the strongest speakers. A circus is pure entertainment. John Kasich made some inroads--too late--among Republicans because he mostly stayed out of the ugly fray and stayed on topic during the Republican debates. Meanwhile, Little Marco and Lyin' Ted fell by the wayside because they stopped looking Presidential and started looking like damaged little boys on the playground. Trump got them to play in the mud, and they soiled themselves. Trump's goal is to get Hillary agitated and get her to break decorum. As Michelle Obama said in her convention speech, "When they go low, we go high." If Hillary forgets this, and goes low, Trump will be able to feed a narrative of name-calling and childish bickering to the news media. That will dominate the headlines the next day, instead of his debate failures and lack of substance.

4. Protest, then Parrot

Otherwise known as the Mitt Romney debate strategy. Also a strategy well-known to Melania Trump's speechwriter. And it's the best way for Trump to seem Presidential and "take the high road." The "Protest, then Parrot" strategy boils down to this. First, accuse your opponent of being out of touch, of just not getting it: America needs a change from politics as usual. Then--nearly word for word--lay out the same exact strategy your opponent supports. For added effect, one up it. For example, Hillary lays out a $275 billion dollar plan to put people to work rebuilding America's crumbling infrastructure? Accuse her of selling out the working class, redistributing wealth, and raising our taxes... and then propose spending "at least double" to put people to work rebuilding America's crumbling infrastructure. Time and again, if Hillary lays out a plan, Trump will say it will raise our taxes and sell out America, and then will recite the same plan, except he'll do it by cutting taxes and saving America. Trump won't need to bring any of his own ideas--other than The Wall--he can just steal from Hillary. Most political commentators and the audience watching at home thought Mitt Romney won the first debate in 2012, even though everything he said on stage was wildly out of character and ran counter to the policies he'd advocated for his entire campaign. It's winning by blurring the lines--sound just like your opponent, and some people won't be able to tell the difference. Even better, your opponent is caught off guard and has nothing to say.

5. Go left.

The Bernie or Bust strategy. Realistically--and the polls show this--a Bernie Sanders supporter isn't going to vote for Trump. The Donald knows this... or at least the people in his campaign do. But Trump's appeals to the Bernie set aren't designed to win votes... they're designed to lower turnout for Hillary. A left-leaning Bernie supporter who doesn't vote for Hillary is a win in Trump's book, especially in swing states, where the polls are close. If he can consistently attack Hillary's ties to Wall Street, her support for the war in Iraq, the DNC's questionable ethics, he can keep the discussion about Hillary's commitment to progressive values alive. Heck, he might even go out of his way to praise Jill Stein! If he can keep a few thousand left-leaning voters from pulling the lever for the only left-leaning candidate with a realistic shot at the Presidency, he tightens the race. And as we saw in Florida in the 2000 election, that could make a big difference.

Can Hillary withstand these strategies? Can she counter them? She's certainly heard it all and faced much worse throughout her long time in politics. If she can demonstrate her mastery of the issues and keep her emotions in check--unlike Rubio and Cruz--and command attention and respect the way Jeb Bush couldn't, she should succeed just like all the prognosticators expect. But if Trump gets under her skin and steals the microphone, the debates could be a wash, doing nothing to move the needle for her. That's a win in Trump's book, and it's something the Clinton camp should take very seriously.

Saturday, July 09, 2016

All Lives Matter Is Racist. Here's Why.

What do people not get?

"Black Lives Matter" is in response to a world that hand waves away the unnecessary deaths and ever present discrimination against African Americans. A majority that too often says minority issues are "not our problem." Every day, society is acting as if black lives don't matter, or matter less. That's why when you say "all lives matter," you're either completely missing the point, or an unabashed racist.

Of course all lives matter. No one is saying they don't. You're arguing against a straw man. Let's not pretend the civil rights act suddenly made everything hunky dory. Until white Americans take responsibility for the institutions, policies and attitudes that remain biased against those with different skin, and seek to change them, we can't claim all lives matter. Not when we act as if black lives don't.

When you say "all lives matter," you're not making some bold brave stand for humanity. You're just telling black people, once again, that their perspective, their experience, their lives, are worth less.

Friday, July 08, 2016

What Matters

No one is asking for perfection.

As long as police departments continue to be staffed by human beings, and not sophisticated crime-fighting robots, tragic errors in judgement, sometimes brought on by racial biases, will continue to happen. No amount of training or culture shift can ever remove incompetency entirely. I get that.

Being a police officer can be a scary job, and when a quick reaction can be the difference between life or death, the calls get tough to make. I get that too.

And sometimes, sure, even when we see the videos, we can't quite tell what happened. The instant replay doesn't quite give us indisputable evidence either way. I get that too.

What I don't get... and what I'd imagine most decent people don't get... is how police departments and our elected so-called leaders can continue to erode the public trust by acting like all these shootings are just accidents, incompetence, or tough calls. As if it was some office worker who accidentally lost a big client, or the keynote speech just bombed, or Larry in accounting fudged the numbers.

If you kill someone, you haven't just failed at your job. You've killed someone. That's should be more than a fireable offense. Officers who pull their weapon and kill someone should face appropriate punishment. They've committed a crime. Many would charitably call it involuntary manslaughter.

Instead, there's this circle the wagons thing that happens every time. The police protect their own. The people have no faith justice will be served... because it never is. From Rodney King to Philando Castile, police officers who use excessive force go free or get a slap on the wrist. Fireable offense? Many aren't even fired!

There's an old saying the police like to repeat over and over--"Better to be judged by 12 than carried by 6." Sure, we all would. The problem is, these officers are never judged by 12. That outcome is unfathomably rare. So an officer is left with a different calculus--the only thing holding them back is bad press. Shoot first--maybe be asked some questions later.

The public isn't demanding perfection. We know that's impossible. But we demand accountability. Killing someone isn't just some workplace fuck-up. Someone is dead! Why should an officer of the law get a pass? Because their job is tough? Because they got scared? Shouldn't we examine any evidence that suggests they didn't have to be? That someone didn't have to die? Those responsible for the murders of police officers in Dallas yesterday will be rightly captured, tried, convicted, and punished. What about the police officers responsible for murdering--however inadvertently--people they were sworn to protect and serve?

By all means, even up the racial makeup of the nation's police departments, so there is less disparity between the demographics of a police force and the community it serves. Put a camera on every cop, so there's a unbiased record of truth in every interaction. Train officers in peaceful deescalation of conflict and the proper procedures for securing a suspect. Work to break ingrained stereotypes and eliminate racial profiling. All that will help.

But the biggest thing that matters? When someone is killed needlessly, justice must be served. Right now, no one trusts the police, the justice system, or our politicians to do that. Of course there is anger toward law enforcement. Because they keep on treating these cases as if each victim was just a set of tragic circumstances, an unfortunate error, instead of a living, breathing person who didn't deserve to die.

I wonder why that is?

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