2nd Amendment Run Amok

You’ve most likely heard about the big gun rally planned at the Virginia State Capitol in Richmond on Monday, but perhaps you don’t know all the who, why, and what-for of it.

Why?

You mean, apart from the fact that a handful of gun nuts care more about their right to own an arsenal than they care about their own children?  Well, pull up a chair, my friends.  After the 2018 elections when both chambers of the Virginia legislature flipped from a republican majority to a democratic one, one of the priorities was to pass some meaningful gun legislation.  Now, it wasn’t as if they were banning assault weapons, or taking away people’s guns.  The proposed legislation has only three parts:

Two things should be noted … First, 80% of the people in this country support gun regulations such as these, and Second, these are only common-sense measures … nothing that requires gun owners to give up their currently-owned guns, nothing that stops people from buying guns … simple, common-sense measures that might actually save a few lives.

But …

A group calling themselves ‘Virginia Citizen’s Defense League’, a misnomer if ever I’ve heard one, has taken umbrage.  And thus, they are planning a rally at the State Capitol that has attracted the riff-raff and gun-toting scum in and outside of the state.  The rally has drawn the attention of militia groups from as far away as Nevada and Oklahoma, including those tracked by the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Anti-Defamation League.

Others vowing to attend include individuals associated with the Light Foot Militia, some of whom were banned from Charlottesville after the “Unite the Right” rally in 2017, which ended in the death of a counterprotester. Richard B. Spencer, a prominent white nationalist who is among 24 defendants in a lawsuit over the rally in Charlottesville, also said he might attend.

So far, Virginia’s Governor Ralph Northam has declared a ‘state of emergency’ and banned guns from the capitol building and grounds, and the FBI has arrested three neo-Nazis linked to the ‘Base’, a group that aims to create a white ethnostate.  Chatter picked up on Facebook and in chat rooms by the FBI indicates that various extremist organizations are calling Monday’s rally the “boogaloo.” In the lexicon of white supremacists, that is an event that will accelerate the race war they have anticipated for decades.

These people, folks, do NOT represent the population of the United States.  They are an extreme minority, and yet …

“They are fanning the flames for this event.  They want chaos.”

The three bills will almost certainly pass the legislature, and Governor Northam has already promised to sign them into law, and yet these gun-loving people (and I use the term ‘people’ loosely here) are determined to bring chaos into the capitol.  If I had to guess, I would guess there will be violence and there will be injuries, if not deaths.

Let me quote for you the text, word for word, of that 2nd Amendment they so love …

“A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

Twenty-seven words.  Nowhere does it say that every household should have the right to own a gun.  Nowhere does it say that people have the right to own high-powered, automatic weapons that can mow down hundreds within minutes.  Nowhere does it say that people have a right to keep an arsenal in their garages.  The framers’ language was vague, but their intent was not.  Their intent was not for John Doe to have the right to carry a gun into the grocery store and start shooting, nor for a family in the suburbs to keep a loaded pistol in their home.  People have so broadly interpreted this that any law that has the word “firearm” in it automatically riles the gun-lovers.  If I were given the task of making revisions to update the Constitution, the 2nd Amendment and the electoral college would be on the chopping block.

Now, to add insult to injury, the fool that sits in the Oval Office felt a need to ring in on the subject.  Now, as president, he might have used his office to call for calm, to call for the rally to be canceled, or to urge people to keep the protest peaceful, right?  But noooooo … he tweeted …

“Your 2nd Amendment is under very serious attack in the Great Commonwealth of Virginia. That’s what happens when you vote for Democrats, they will take your guns away. Republicans will win Virginia in 2020. Thank you Dems!”

This from the so-called “president” of a nation of 330 million people.  Keep your eye on Virginia tomorrow, my friends, because this may well be a harbinger of things to come.

The Monsters Under My Bed

Some nights, of late, there are monsters under my bed, just like when I was a child.  Some nights, the nightmares are vivid and I wake up thinking that I am screaming, but not a peep is coming out of my dry throat.  Given the things I write about, the things we all live with day-to-day, I suppose it’s no wonder.


Who knew a tweet …

Could cause such a stir?  Here’s how it started …

U.S. Representative Paul Gosar from Arizona, a republican, posted this tweet

rouhani-obama-tweet-2.jpgThe image purports to show President Barack Obama shaking hands with President Hassan Rouhani of Iran.

Trouble is, other than the obvious, that a) the photo was photoshopped – Obama never met Rouhani in person, and b) Rouhani is still in power, still the president of Iran.  The purpose?  Well, as best as anyone can figure, Mr. Gosar was, as many republicans have been scrambling to do over the past several days, attempting to find some justification or purpose for Trump ordering the assassination of General Qassem Soleimani, Iran’s second-highest ranking government official. The name of the game is “blame Obama”.

But Mr. Gosar’s response, when it was pointed out that this was obviously a fake picture, is what I find interesting.  His response was basically of the “yeah, so what?” sort …Gosar-tweetI guess that makes me a dimwit, eh?

Y’know, folks, Trump & Co, the Republican Party as a whole, have an unnatural hatred of President Obama and seemingly everything he stood for, but it has gone many steps too far.  Obama was a hundred times the man Trump is, and a thousand times better president than Trump.  It’s time for the republicans in power to start doing their jobs and stop finding ways to prove how much they hated having an African-American president, for that is what it really all boils down to.

Mr. Gosar has flown onto my radar a time or two before.  For one, he is a member of the ignoble House Freedom Caucus – a misnomer if ever there was one.  And for another, as a recipient of donations from the NRA.  He has engaged in conspiracy theories ala Alex Jones about such things as the fatal Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, and has also supported Iowa Representative Steve King, who was removed from his congressional committees for his blatantly racist public remarks.  He has accused both the FBI and the Department of Justice of treason and has referred to Native Americans as “wards of the federal government”.  He claims that the 2nd Amendment is the single most important amendment set forth by the Bill of Rights, even more important than the 1st Amendment, freedom of speech, press & religion.  He has signed the Koch Brothers pledge promising to vote against any legislation to combat global warming.  In September 2018, prior to the 2018 elections, six of Gosar’s nine siblings actively supported his democratic opponent, David Brill, saying their brother had become an extremist.  And the list goes on … this is the face of our republicans in Congress today, my friends.  This is the sort of garbage that has been lured out from under the rocks in the past decade.  Thirty years ago, such a sample of pond scum would not have gotten even 1% of the vote.

Arizona … do not send this dolt back to Washington in November!  You dishonour the name of your favourite son, the late, great John McCain when you send your trash to Congress!


Tie his hands … please!!!

The House of Representatives is expected to vote today on a resolution to force the president to halt any military action against Iran unless Congress authorizes it.  Nothing quite like closing the barn door after the cow’s already out, eh?

The measure would require that Trump cease all action against Iran unless Congress votes in advance to approve it, effectively tying his hands in the escalation of tensions between Trump and Iran.  We all see the handwriting on the wall, yes?  The House, with a democratic majority, will approve it and send it to the Senate where either it will languish along with a few hundred other House-passed bills, or rapidly be voted down.  There is a ray of hope, albeit a slim ray, because yesterday, two Republicans signaled they were inclined to support it.  Just need two more … any takers?  Doubtful, as most congressional republicans are still praising Trump for assassinating Iran’s highest ranking general.

In her statement yesterday, Nancy Pelosi said …

“Members of Congress have serious, urgent concerns about the administration’s decision to engage in hostilities against Iran and about its lack of strategy moving forward. Our concerns were not addressed by the president’s insufficient War Powers Act notification and by the administration’s briefing today.”

The divide in Congress is representative of the divide in this nation … and it is a lethal divide.  Make no mistake … that old saying, “United we stand, Divided we fall” is apt.  We certainly cannot continue as we are … that much is clear.  There is a disconnect among the people of this nation, and it extends well beyond political parties.  Donald Trump and his minions are using that disconnect to widen the gap, to make this nation so dysfunctional that it is an easy prey.  Frankly, I am sick to the death of the “us vs them” mentality. Trump-fate

Thought-Provoking Words

Until just a couple of weeks ago, I had not, that I can recall, heard of Umair Haque.  Then, our friend David sent me a piece by him that I found to be thoughtful and thought-provoking, so I did a bit of research on the man.  Umair is a London-based consultant, and author of at least three books1.  I read several articles by him, in addition to the one David sent, until Medium, where he publishes, told me I had reached my limit of free articles.  While I do not necessarily agree with all he says … after much pondering, I mostly agree.  I have highlighted in red the parts that really made me sit up and take note.  Please read the following and give it some thought.  I’m interested in hearing your thoughts.


Umair-Haque

Umair Haque

Here’s a tiny observation. Forgive me. You might not like it.

I’ve seen many countries collapse. Pakistan. Afghanistan. The Soviet Union. Turkey. Iran. Sri Lanka. Egypt. Some, first-hand. Some from afar, through the eyes of friends and colleagues.

But I’ve never seen a country collapse as fast, as severely, and as hard as America is.

America’s collapsing at an unprecedented rate. Light-speed. Terminal velocity. Turbo-charged implosion. I don’t think a country has collapsed as fast as America — maybe not in all of history. Especially not a rich and powerful one. Rome took centuries. The Soviet Union’s took decades, and it’s still rolling on. Maybe only small countries which had never really built strong institutions, barely-democracies, have I seen crash this fast, hard, and badly — but that’s the point. American collapse is something unique in modern history.

Of course, that’s a subjective judgment — we don’t have an objective speedometer for the collapse of societies. But that is what this essay will be about. To show you, a little bit, what leads me to the idea that America’s crashing and burning at light speed. I want to take a moment to share what I see, by pinning down precisely what I mean by collapse.

First, of course, there is political collapse. From democracy to autocracy, kleptocracy, and authoritarianism. America’s political institutions simply don’t function anymore. It’s [sic] democracy doesn’t represent the 70% of people who want functioning healthcare, gun control, education, safety nets — but only the 25–30% of immovable extremists who apparently want to live in the Handmaid’s Tale meets 1984 by way of Mein Kampf. Its rule of law has devolved to mass trials and mass disappearances and mothers being separated from their kids at the border. It’s critical systems of governance are so broken that 5000 people died from negligence after…a storm.

The American polity doesn’t resemble the French or German one — in fact, it looks very much like the Pakistani polity, the Saudi, or maybe the Soviet polity. It is completely and utterly dysfunctional, to a degree that is unimaginable among its rich peers. And all that took perhaps a decade or two.

Then there is cultural collapse — from a culture of thought, reason, and accomplishment, to one of superstition, violence, and extremism . Kids shoot one another in schools regularly. People die for a lack of basic medicines like insulin — and the average American appears not to know that insulin doesn’t cost $1000 a month, but pennies, even in the world’s poorest countries. Why is that? It is because the are misinformed and kept ignorant by a media that feeds them a diet of Ancient Aliens and Paranormal Files. Hence, what should be a functioning culture is now rife with dark age style superstition.

Vaccinate my kids? No way! Never mind that humanity only eradicated smallpox in 1977. But vaccination is the least of America’s descent into superstition: then there is conspiracy theory, “truth” movements, a kind of hypocritical religious fundamentalism that’s quite happy to let kids shoot each other, bigotry, supremacism. And among the professional classes who look down on that, there is a culture of overwork and abuse and greed and cruelty — followed by lowest-common-denominator consumerism as a salve for the wounds of its emptiness. All these things rising are a function of a culture that fails to educate, inform, connect, or bond people together anymore.

A culture’s role is to help people makes sense of the world, as Marcel Mauss once argued — but American culture appears only to drive people into a kind of madness, either a frenzy of violence, a paralytic resignation, or a blind rage of fear and ignorance now. How fast did that happen? Well, it didn’t seem to do that so much even a decade ago, did it?

Then there is social collapse — from a modern society of broad-based prosperity, to something more like a dystopian caste society, where each stratum bitterly resents the next, and tries to pull it down, no one lifting anyone else up. The structure of American society is not that of a healthy society any longer. A once prosperous middle class has imploded into a new poor — while a tiny number of rich grew ultra rich. American society now resembles something more like Latin America in its darker times, Egypt, or Pakistan, perhaps. But even that understates the issue, because in America, trust imploded. People don’t trust institutions. They don’t trust society. They don’t trust their neighbours. Social bonds have completely imploded — predatory capitalism’s dream of a disintegrated society of atomized human commodities has finally come true.

As a result, of social bonds imploding, norms and rules no longer appear to work at all in America. Kids shooting each other? Ah, that’s terrible — but what can you do? Shrug. Every day brings a fresh scandal — this TV star is a supremacist, that celebrity is a bigot, that politician is a wife-beater ,and so on. How far have norms of decency shattered? There is an open pedophile and rapist running for public office.2 I don’t think that has happened anywhere in the modern world, ever, so far as I know. Not even in Pakistan, Iran, or Rwanda. And it would have been unimaginable even in the America of the 2000s.

Then there is economic collapse — from modernity’s rising living standards to a new kind of poverty. America has pioneered a new kind of impoverishment — precarity, living at the knife’s edge, in constant anxiety and panic and trauma. The average person has less than $500 in emergency savings. His or her income has been stagnant for decades — and even that economic “number” vastly understates the issue, because while their parents had jobs with benefits, pensions, retirements, protections, they have none of those things. Meanwhile, the price of the basics of life — healthcare, education, finance, food, housing — has exploded, skyrocketed, gone supernova.

How much? So much so that just the hospital bill for having a child costs half of median income. Who can afford to live a decent life in a society like that? Not even in Pakistan, Iran, or Afghanistan does having a child cost so much. Not even in severely broken countries do relatively well off people face so constantly the plight of living every day right at the razor’s edge — there, they have, at least, informal safety nets, family support systems, communities to shield them, and public goods to protect them. But Americans have none of these — because predatory capitalism has reduced them to prey.

For all these reasons, the average American has no optimism left in the future. He doesn’t believe that his children will live a better life. He is right, sadly. And that is because America is now collapsing at terminal velocity — faster than any society in history, as far as I can tell.

And I think that while Americans have a sense things are breaking down around them, they don’t really understand — because they aren’t often told — that a) this is the real thing, genuine collapse b) it is happening not slower or better than elsewhere, but in fact far faster, worse and harder, and c) because it is happening so fast, there is added to the constant stress of predatory capitalism, the heart-stopping turmoil of all these kinds of collapse, political, cultural, social, and economic.

Terminal velocity. So what happens when a society hits the ground? Usually, like anything, it shatters, breaks, and explodes.

Umair
June 2018

Text dividers

1 The New Capitalist Manifesto: Building a Disruptively Better Business (2011); Betterness: Economics for Humans (2011); Why Are Europeans (So Much) Happier Than Americans? (2019)

2 The pedophile and rapist running for office was Nathan Larson, who in 2018 was running for election to Congress from the 10th congressional district of Virginia, an election he lost by a landslide.  Larson served 14 months in prison for the felony of threatening President George W. Bush’s life.

You Can Do WHAT Online???

A couple of weeks ago, November 20th to be exact, I received an email from a group called Concealed Online.  The email read …

“It was penned like this in December 1791…’A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.’

Today, almost 228 years later, The World Has Changed… I am writing to urge you to GET YOUR CONCEALED CARRY PERMIT!

This week we celebrate our nations birthday… 243 years old (using the average human lifespan that’s just over 3 lifespans ago).

In that short period of time we have fought in 5 major wars, elected 45 presidents, and have passedover 20,000 laws…

Unfortunately, many of those laws have moved us further and further from freedom all in the name of order and protection. The truth is protection starts at home and our forefathers knew it… they knew this day of BIG GOVERNMENT would sneak up on us all…

This is why I encourage you fellow patriots exercise your right to bear arms HERE AND NOW!

I just wanted to encourage you that you should Get Your Concealed Carry Permit while it is still legal and easy… California Democrats has already made it nearly impossible to get one there and the Liberals are slowly advancing their agenda in Congress.

This site helps people get their CCW Permit through online certification… They are truly patriots, they are available by phone as well if you just want more information.

There may not be an option for you to legally carry next year. Tomorrow may be too late. Get your permit while its still legal to do so.”

And then they provided a link where I could “Start the online process”.  It wasn’t the first such email I had received, but it was the first one I decided to take note of … for I was curious … is it really so simple for a person to get a permit to carry a concealed weapon as simply logging onto a website?  And so, I did a bit of digging.

When I followed the link, their website begins with an introduction that said all I had to do to obtain a Virginia (note that I don’t live in Virginia, but Virginia has a reciprocal agreement with 28 other states) concealed carry license was to watch a short video, answer 12 multiple choice questions, fill out an application, send them $65 and PRESTO!  I could go around with a gun stuck in my waistband, pocket, or maybe even a holster under my shirt.  Wow, huh?

No, I didn’t watch the video or take the 12-question test, for the simple reason that I don’t want to be on these people’s radar.  I don’t know how they got my email address, but I have no intention of giving them a reason to keep bothering me with such emails.  But, I did do some digging and found that in last year’s election cycle, this organization spent mega bucks … some $2 million … advertising on Facebook.

Its ads warned about the “blue wave.” “MOB RULE IS COMING!” read one series of ads before the midterm elections.  And after: “IT’S ALMOST OVER! The Gun Control Dems are IN.”ConcealedCarryAd-01Concealed Online launched in 2016, three years after Virginia started allowing people to take online courses to qualify for concealed carry permits. Those permits are recognized in states across the country, and even nonresidents of Virginia are eligible. The company’s owner saw a business opportunity in that. So, he developed an online training course, where people can watch a video on gun safety, take a test, and instantly download a certificate of competency with a handgun for a fee. You can take the test as many times as you need, making it nearly impossible to fail.

A writer for WIRED, Issie Lapowsky, says she took the test and intentionally answered a few questions wrong, and still passed – though she had not even watched the ‘safety’ video!

The Better Business Bureau gives Concealed Online an F rating, in part because it has received 25 complaints—primarily from people who paid for the certificate only to find out that Virginia’s permits aren’t recognized in their state.  The company’s owner says Concealed Online sells certificates to people living in states like California and Colorado, which don’t accept Virginia permits, because they can use them when they travel to states that do.

Think about that one, folks.  John Doe can decide to go on a shooting spree and get permission to carry a concealed gun in 28 states within a matter of minutes, and for only $65.  Is it any wonder that the U.S. has the highest rate of deaths by gun in the world?  Is it any wonder that as of November 19th, there have been 45 school shootings in the U.S.?  Is it any wonder that as of October 31st there had been 370 mass shootings, killing 441 people and injuring another 1,466?  And is it any wonder that as of today, December 8th, there have been 36,734 gun deaths in the U.S. this year – 14,162 murder/homicides, and 22,572 suicides.  And those so-called “prolife” people worry about abortion???

Oh, and by the way … you can also buy a gun online.buy-guns-online

crying

Give Us Back Our Elections …

One of my pet peeves is the 2010 decision by the U.S. Supreme Court in the case of Citizens United v Federal Election Commission (FEC), in which the Court ruled that the free speech clause of the First Amendment prohibits the government from restricting independent expenditures for political communications by corporations, including nonprofit corporations, labor unions, and other associations.  In a nutshell, it opened the door to unlimited donations by wealthy corporations, such lobbying groups as the NRA, and others to basically buy our politicians.  This is why we have a Congress that is unwilling to enact gun regulations, despite the fact that some 80% of the people in this country are in favour of such things as enhanced background checks and a ban on assault weapons.  This is why our very lives are placed at risk by the rolling back of environmental regulations that are so crucial to preserving life on earth.  And this is why there is an ever-widening income gap between the billionaires and the rest of us who live payday to payday.  And this is why ours is no longer a government ‘of the people, by the people, and for the people’, but rather of, by, and for only the wealthy and powerful people.

I have featured Robert Reich on this blog a few times before.  He is an economist, professor, author, and political commentator. He served in the administrations of Presidents Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, and Bill Clinton. He was Secretary of Labor from 1993 to 1997. He was a member of President Barack Obama’s economic transition advisory board.  He, better than most, understand the inner workings of our government.  Sans partisanship, he explains why we simply must overturn Citizens United, must get the big money out of politics, and return our elections to We the People.  Please take three minutes to watch …

Filosofa’s Mini Rants

Because I cannot afford a new computer at the moment, I shan’t write about today’s impeachment proceedings except to say that should Jim Jordan and I ever run into each other in person, his head is likely to look like a rotten turnip once I am done bashing it!  Since it is not prudent for me to write about the proceedings today, I figured a few snarky snippets or mini rants might alleviate some of the pressure in my head.


Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell posted the following on Twitter last evening …

“Critical legislation is currently frozen in place. Casualties of Democrats’ apparent inability to make headway on anything besides fighting with the White House.”

Seriously, Mitchie???  How many bills have been passed by the House that are sitting somewhere in your office because you refuse to even bring them to the Senate floor for a vote???  This was the most hypocritical statement I have ever heard!  The House is doing its job at the moment, investigating the criminal activities of the person sitting in the Oval Office.  You’ll get your chance to try, and hopefully convict him soon.  Meanwhile, why not earn your fat paycheck by passing some of the legislation that has been sent to you by the House?McConnellYou could start with … For The People Act to secure America’s elections, expand voting rights, and get money out of politics.  It was passed by the House and sent to the Senate 250 days ago!  The election is in less than 12 months, and your fat patootie is still sitting on the bill to ensure the integrity of the election.  Do Your JOB, Mitchell!


Gonna need a new computer after all if I keep beating the lettering off the keys …


U.S. representative Devin Nunes from California is an idiot.  There has never been any doubt.  I’m seriously considering reprising my Idiot of the Week feature for people like Jim Jordan, Mitch McConnell, and Devin Nunes! The man once co-sponsored an act to discourage frivolous lawsuits, but yet he himself seems to be ‘sue-crazy’.  In just the past two years, he has sued …

  • A stone fruit farmer in Dinuba, and two other people, for conspiring to damage his 2018 reelection by asking that Nunes not be allowed to call himself a “farmer” on the ballot.
  • The research firm Fusion GPS and a Democratic group called Campaign for Accountability for attempting to interfere with his “investigation” (quote marks are mine) into ties between President Trump and Russia when he was chairman of the House Intelligence Committee.
  • Twitter and a couple of parody accounts, including @DevinCow, who has called Nunes “a treasonous cowpoke.” He is asking for $250 million to assuage his hurt feelings.
  • McClatchy, parent company of Nunes’ hometown paper, the Fresno Bee, for writing that he had a financial interest in a winery sued by an employee who was asked to work on a charity cruise where men behaved very, very badly.
  • And, most recently, Esquire magazine and the journalist Ryan Lizza, who Nunes claims have defamed him to the tune of $75 million in writing about the Nunes family dairy farm, which is not in California, but in Iowa.

nunesSheesh … is he trying to compete with Donald Trump for the Guinness World Record of most lawsuits?

I could actually write an entire post about Nunes, but he’s not worth that much of my time or energy, so I will confine myself to his latest antics.  Now, Nunes is a conspiracy theorist … almost as much of one as Alex Jones!  Back in 2018, he came up with some long-winded theory that the FBI was conspiring against Trump.  As a member of the House Intelligence Committee, Nunes participated in yesterday’s impeachment hearings … the ones I’m not writing about tonight.

Nunes began with an opening statement which included a misleading claim that Democrats on the committee had tried to “obtain nude pictures of Trump from Russian pranksters who pretended to be Ukrainian officials.”  Then he went on to allege that the Ukraine whistleblower who reported Trump’s call to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy was “acknowledged to have a bias against President Trump” and falsely claimed that the whistleblower’s “attorney touted a ‘coup’ against the president.”

Nunes also falsely claimed that Trump’s July 25 phone call to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy was to express “concerns about foreign corruption,” even though Trump did not mention “corruption” once on the call. Nunes also falsely claimed that the “officials’ alarm at the president’s actions was typically based on second-hand, third-hand and even fourth-hand rumors and innuendo,” even though multiple witnesses testified about first-hand interactions with Trump and with others.

Here’s another one whose head should be made to look like a rotten turnip!


Oh, and now that you’ve gone and mentioned Trump …


The president of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, arrived at the White House today for a visit with Donald.  Don and Recep have a close relationship, there are ties that bind them.  Back in 2015, after Trump threw his hat in the ring, he did an interview with then-Breitbart host Steve Bannon.  When asked about how he would deal with Turkey if he were to become president …

“I have a little conflict of interest because I have a major, major building in Istanbul. It’s called Trump Towers — two towers, instead of one. … And I’ve gotten to know Turkey very well. They’re amazing people. They’re incredible people. They have a strong leader.”

Yep, straight from the horse’s mouth … a “little conflict of interest”.  But wait, it gets even better.  Two of Erdoğan’s sons-in-law play a role here.  One is Turkey’s Minister of Finance, and deals directly with Trump and Trump’s own son-in-law, Jared Kushner (you remember, the one who lied on his security clearance forms and was, therefore, not given the highest level security clearance?).  The other son-in-law is actually a Trump business partner and advisor.

After a phone conversation between Trump and Erdoğan last month, Trump pulled our troops out of Syria, leaving Erdoğan to invade the Kurdish-held lands and devastate our allies, the Kurds.  And yet, Trump praised Erdoğan …

“We’ve been friends for a long time, almost from day-one. We understand each others’ country. We understand where we are coming from. They’re highly respected in their country and in the region.”

Understands???  Trump understands NOTHING!  Another dictator that Trump praises and claims a kinship with, while he feeds our allies to the sharks.


Well, I thought this little rant might help me calm down, get rid of some of the angst residing within my head, but it has only made it worse.  Perhaps a little snack …

Disenfranchising Young Voters …

The percentage of college students who cast votes in 2018 was more than double that of 2014, the last mid-term election prior to 2018.  Why?  Two major reasons:  school shootings and the environment.  The February 2018 shooting at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, was a turning point for young people around the nation.  They were tired of seeing their friends die needlessly because of reckless, largely unregulated gun laws, or rather lack of laws.  A few activists from Parkland took the lead and motivated many more.

And then came a young girl in Sweden, Greta Thunberg, and she gained a voice that would be heard ‘round the world, and what she said with that voice was that we, the adults around the globe, have done a lousy job taking care of our planet, and that we have jeopardized hers and other young people’s futures and … she wasn’t going to take it lying down!  And her voice carried, touching the hearts and minds of young people in every nation, including the U.S.

Because of these two things, young people today are far more invested in the political process, far more aware of what is being done, who will do things to improve the situation, and they are, most importantly, voting in numbers never seen before among their age group.  My hat is off to all those who are using their voice and their vote to do what we oldsters should have been doing for decades now.  But …

Not everybody is pleased by this new wave of political enthusiasm among the youth of the country. Young people, concerned about the proliferation of guns and the destruction of the environment, are typically more likely to vote for a democratic candidate, which has thrown the Republican Party into a tailspin and led them to find new ways to disenfranchise the young voters.

The Texas Legislature has outlawed polling places that do not stay open for the entire 12-day early-voting period.  Many college campuses set up temporary early-voting sites for the convenience of the students.  However, they have neither the funding nor the need to keep those sites open for the entire 12 days, and therefore will not be allowed to have them this year.  Many students who live in campus housing do not have their own transportation and may well find it difficult to get to the polls in order to vote.  In Texas, this will affect nine of the eleven campuses of Austin Community College, as well as six campus polling places at colleges in Fort Worth, two in Brownsville, on the Mexico border, and other polling places at schools statewide.

It isn’t only Texas … Republican politicians around the country are throwing up roadblocks between students and voting booths.  In New Hampshire, a Republican-backed law took effect this fall requiring newly registered voters who drive to establish “domicile” in the state by securing New Hampshire driver’s licenses and auto registrations, which can cost hundreds of dollars annually.  Six in 10 New Hampshire college students come from outside the state, a rate among the nation’s highest. As early as 2011, the state’s Republican House speaker at the time, William O’Brien, promised to clamp down on unrestricted voting by students, calling them “kids voting liberal, voting their feelings, with no life experience.”  Say WHAT???

Florida’s State Legislature reinstated a 2014 law that the Courts struck down at the time, outlawing early voting sites at state universities, with an additional caveat that all early voting sites must offer “sufficient non-permitted parking” – something that is in short supply at most universities.

North Carolina Republicans enacted a voter ID law last year that recognized student identification cards as valid — but its requirements proved so cumbersome that major state universities were unable to comply. A later revision relaxed the rules, but much confusion remains, and fewer than half the state’s 180-plus accredited schools have sought to certify their IDs for voting.

Wisconsin Republicans also have imposed tough restrictions on using student IDs for voting purposes. The state requires poll workers to check signatures only on student IDs, although some schools issuing modern IDs that serve as debit cards and dorm room keys have removed signatures, which they consider a security risk.  The law also requires that IDs used for voting expire within two years, while most college ID cards have four-year expiration dates. And even students with acceptable IDs must show proof of enrollment before being allowed to vote.

Tennessee does not recognize student ID cards as valid for voting, and legislators have removed out-of-state driver’s licenses from the list of valid identifications.  Tennessee ranks 50th in voter turnout among the states and the District of Columbia. Only Texas’ turnout is worse.

In almost all of these cases, the excuse given for the tougher restrictions is that they are trying to cut down on voter fraud, but that argument lacks teeth, since widescale voter fraud has been proven to be virtually non-existent.  It is simple common sense that making voting convenient improves turnout.  When polling places are closed, hours restricted, photo IDs required, turnout will suffer.  What a message we are sending to our youth when we make it so hard for them to vote that many will throw their hands up in frustration and become lifelong non-voters!

One final thought.  The states where the barriers are rising fastest are in political battlegrounds and places like Texas where one-party control is eroding.  My thought is that if the Republicans have, as they claim to, the best ideas, the best platforms … then why do they need to cheat in order to win?

The young people in this country today are our hope for the future, for a future with clean air, potable water, arable land for growing food, and fewer guns in the hands of the wrong people.  If we discourage them today, what is the message we are sending?  Think about it.

Steve King — Riding Off Into The Sunset?

Well, it looks like U.S. Representative Steve King from Iowa may have finally crossed one line too many.  Maybe.  King is an unapologetic bigot in every sense of the word, and yet his district has re-elected him every two years since 2002!  Says something about the people in Iowa, doesn’t it?  A recap of some of his most egregious offenses …

  • He has a long history of white-nationalist affiliations. The Washington Post described King as the “Congressman most openly affiliated with white nationalism”. His racist comments resulted in him being stripped of all his committee assignments earlier this year.
  • In an interview with the New York Times, King questioned why “white nationalist,” among other terms, are deemed racist language.
  • On the House floor in July 2006, King suggested building a border wall along the country’s southern border and said the top of the fence could be electrified. “We do that with livestock all the time.”
  • In March 2008, King said terrorists would celebrate a Barack Obama presidency and that al Qaeda “would be dancing in the streets in greater numbers than they did on September 11 because they would declare victory in this war on terror.”
  • While talking about “Dreamers” in a July 2013 interview for Newsmax TV, King claimed that for every young immigrant who becomes a school valedictorian there are “100 out there that, they weigh 130 pounds and they’ve got calves the size of cantaloupes because they’re hauling 75 pounds of marijuana across the desert.”

steve-king-2  steve-king-3

This is but a sampling of his atrocious views … in fact, I awarded him my coveted Idiot of the Week award in March 2017 … check it out to read about more of his idiocy!  In short, he is against anyone who is not white, straight, Christian and preferably male.  But his latest seems to be, perhaps, the straw that broke the camel’s back, even in ultra-conservative Iowa.

King has long been a foe of women’s rights, particularly the right to choose to have an abortion.  On Wednesday, he was giving a speech at the Westside Conservative Club in Urbandale, Iowa, when he attempted to justify his reason for refusing to support abortions even in cases of incest or rape …

“What if we went back through all the family trees and just pulled those people out that were products of rape and incest? Would there be any population of the world left if we did that?  Considering all the wars and all the rapes and pillages taken place and whatever happened to culture after society? I know I can’t certify that I’m not a part of a product of that.  I’ve got 174 people who say they don’t want exceptions for rape and incest because they understand it is not the baby’s fault, to abort the baby, because of the sin of the father, and maybe sometimes the sin of the mother too. And so I refused to do that.”

Even the republicans were riled over that one … well, some of them anyway.  House Republican leaders broke from their August recess to publicly chastise him.  Liz Cheney, the party’s third highest-ranking member, tweeted that King’s comments were “appalling and bizarre … it’s time for him to go.”

Representative Kevin McCarthy of California, the minority leader, and Steve Scalise of Louisiana, the minority whip, both said Mr. King’s comments underscored why he had been removed from his committees.  Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds has said she will no longer support Mr. King. Even #MoscowMitch McConnell has said that King should resign!

King faces a republican contender in the primary, State Senator Randy Feenstra, and a number of republicans have said they will support any republican who is not Steve King!  If campaign donations are an early indicator, Feenstra stands a good chance, with $260,000 in donations as compared to King’s significantly lower $62,000.  And, even if King survives the primary race, he will face democrat J.D. Scholten who almost beat him in 2018, losing by only about 10,000 votes.  Perhaps the people of Iowa are tired of King’s perversion, his hateful rhetoric, his bigotry?  Let us hope so.

Open Letter To House Democrats

18 June 2019

Dear Representative ____________________________,

Today I read an article in the New York Times that said many democratic members of Congress believe impeachment is not what their constituents want.  I beg to differ.  In May, polls showed that 60% of democrats favoured impeachment, and a bit later, in early June, polls showed that 76% favour impeachment.  I am certainly among those who do.  If you claim your constituents overwhelmingly do not favour impeachment, and if 76% of democrats do favour it, then I’m unclear as to who you think your constituents are.

I understand that even if impeached by the House of Representatives, there is no possibility that the Senate will vote to try, convict, and remove Trump from office.  I further understand that he is likely to become even more unstable than he already is if the impeachment process is begun.  And, I also understand that at this juncture, you likely do not have the support of enough republicans in the House to gain a 2/3 vote for impeachment.  However …

If you begin the impeachment process, you will be able to pursue your inquiries and investigations that now seem dead in the water because of Trump’s obfuscation and cover-ups.  If you do your job properly, there can be no doubt that you will be able to build a case for impeachment, for Special Counsel Robert Mueller already did most of that work for you.  Starting with the obstruction of justice incidences that Mueller laid out, if you follow those leads, verify and confirm what you must, then I believe that you will be able to convince enough of your republican compadres that impeachment is the only recourse.

There are a few things I would like you to consider.  The first is that if Donald Trump is not held accountable for his crimes … and make no mistake, he has committed crimes against the citizens of this nation by both his actions and his inactions … then future presidents will feel they have carte blanche to act in a similar manner without reprisal.  This is an untenable situation and undermines the very foundation of our government.

Another thing to consider is next years’ election.  If Trump is successfully impeached in the House, even though not convicted in the Senate, his reputation will nonetheless be tarnished, hopefully to the point that he will not stand a chance of winning the election.  However, if he is not held accountable for his actions, his base will applaud, he will gloat, and quite possibly his base will actually expand.  Another untenable situation.

Along those same lines, you all worked hard last year to gain a democratic majority in the House.  It is my opinion that you will be putting that majority at risk by your inaction, for whether you believe it or not, the majority of democrats do want to see Trump held accountable, and the mechanism for doing that is impeachment.  If you fail to impeach, if you do not even try, I think you will lose many democratic voters who are disappointed and disgusted.  I, for one, feel very unrepresented at the moment, and I think you will find that I am far from being alone in this.

If you still believe that impeachment is not popular among your constituents, then get out there and talk to them.  Hold town hall meetings in your districts, talk to people, ask them what they think.  And I’m not saying talk only to the doctors and lawyers, the wealthy 1% of your constituents, but come down to our level, talk to people like me, my neighbors.  Talk to the average Joes in your district.  If you fail to do this, you may not be sitting in your office in the Capitol two years from now, and we may no longer have a participatory government.  Think about it.

Sincerely,

Jill Dennison, citizen, taxpayer, voter

Seeing Is NOT Believing …

The Associated Press (AP) has begun a weekly feature titled Not Real News: A look at what didn’t happen this week.  The purpose is to cull the fake news that has become widespread in this day of political corruption, video-doctoring, misinformation and more.  I find it a sad, frustrating statement of today’s world that we need such a column, but am glad that someone is stepping up to the plate to try to call out the liars and cheats.

The first story in this week’s roundup is about a doctored video with the intent of discrediting 2020 presidential candidate, former Vice President Joe Biden.  From the AP piece …

CLAIM: Video shows Joe Biden making a “shocking admission.” Biden’s speech also appears to be impaired in the video.

THE FACTS: Democratic presidential candidate Biden did not make any sort of admission. Rather, in the video, he was referencing comments made about him by President Donald Trump. The source footage was slowed down and two clips from it were cut and spliced together to produce this altered video. A social media user who uses the handle @CarpeDonktum posted the altered video to Twitter, Facebook, Youtube and Reddit on Wednesday and Thursday, calling it a “shocking admission” and saying it forced him to question Biden’s mental health. @CarpeDonktum, whose Twitter bio says he creates “doctored” videos in support of Trump, told The Associated Press that he had slowed down the video and cut the two clips together. On Reddit, he labeled the video as “doctored” because he said users on Reddit may not be familiar with his parody style videos. “All I do is make parody and funny videos,” he said. “No ill intent behind it.” The manipulated footage taken from ABC News video of Biden at Iowa Wesleyan University was uploaded following President Donald Trump’s remarks this week that Biden was getting slow and referring to him as “Sleepy Joe.” @CarpeDonktum inserted a person walking in front of the camera to hide a cut he made in the video, where he removed part of it and spliced the remaining footage together, so Biden appears to say, “Joe Biden shouldn’t be president. I think I’m either low IQ or slow or I don’t know what I am. Slow Joe Biden.” The editing of the video makes it appear to depict an uninterrupted quote. The deletion of that middle section and the omission of other, earlier parts of the original ABC footage removed context that’s critical to understanding what’s being seen — namely, that Biden was describing what Trump, as well as North Korea’s official news agency, have said about him. The Associated Press reported in May that North Korea’s official news agency had called Biden a “fool of low IQ.” ″He embraces dictators like Kim Jong Un who is a damn murderer and a thug,” Biden says in the original ABC News clip. “The one thing they agree on, Joe Biden shouldn’t be president.” He goes on to reference some of Trump and Kim’s characterization of him as “slow” or having a “low IQ.”

Carpe Donktum’s claim that there was “No ill intent …” is wrong.  Of course there was ‘ill intent’, and even though the discerning viewer, upon seeing this would at the very least question its authenticity, there are many out there who would accept it at face value.  How many people voted for Donald Trump for the sole reason that they didn’t like Hillary Clinton?  A good percentage, based on what I’ve heard and read.  Why didn’t they like Hillary Clinton, who was well-qualified and had an excellent platform?  Because they saw her as unbending, as cold.  Because they were told, falsely, that she was responsible for the loss of life in Benghazi.  Because they believed Trump and the false news who said she had secret emails that had shared information with foreign powers that breached our national security.  Because James Comey said the FBI was considering re-opening an old investigation.  Because … because … because of what they had seen or heard about her, not from her, but about her, most of which was manufactured by the GOP and the Trump campaign with the assistance of Russian trolls.

Most everyone reading this post is smart enough, savvy enough to check sources, double check the veracity of what they see and hear, especially on social media such as Twitter and Facebook, both of whom allowed Russian trolls to disseminate false information on their sites in both 2016 and 2018.  The illicit dirty pool has already begun for next year’s elections, though they are still 17 months away.  And a large number of people are ignorant enough, or lazy enough to believe everything they see and hear on these platforms.

The upcoming election is in grave danger of being the most unfair, dishonest election in the history of this nation, thanks to a corrupt GOP, a corrupt president, and technology that enables such things as doctored video.  Add to that, the largely republican gerrymandered district maps that dilute the votes of the poor and minorities, states that are trying to pass laws making it harder for young and old people to vote, and it is a recipe for disaster.

What can we do about it?  I wish I had an answer for that question.  Personally, I think that Carpe Donktum’s identity should be discovered and he or she should be tried in a court of law for attempting to rig an election, but I’m sure that’s not going to happen.  We must start holding social media sites accountable for ensuring their integrity by rooting out the faux news and blocking them.  If that’s an assault on free speech, then so be it.  I want an honest election … I want everyone to know the truth, not what the GOP and Donald Trump would like them to believe.