Post Election Meditations

I haven’t written in a while. It’s been an unduly germ-ridden winter where bugs and viruses were passed around like candy. There’s also not much to say so quickly post-election. The ‘news’ and blogosphere is already over saturated with post-election analysis and post mortem. It was fun to sit back and watch the Clintonites go completely hysterical at the loss of their anointed queen; to see a group of people, so devoid of self reflection and their total inability to accept any form of constructive criticism. The concept of if you put forth a corrupt candidate, run a bad campaign, you have a good chance of losing to your even worse opponent is alien to Clintonites.

The election of Trump is a ‘mask coming off’ moment for me. It’s the moment where you get to see at once where people stood on not just on the political spectrum but where they stood on issues such as racism, immigration, militarization of police and overall bigotry of the other. The election of Obama shattered the notion of the ‘moderate Republican’, there were none, there were racist Republicans like Jeff Sessions (our new Attorney General) and there were the dog whistling Republicans. The loss of Hillary Clinton revealed liberals to be militant right-wing Democrats, where instead of self reflection they turned to state-run fascist institutions for answers. It was the Russians and the director of FBI who caused her downfall, not her bad campaign and total disregard for the left wing of the Democratic party. The CIA suddenly became a credible institution which establishment Democrats turned to for help. Because the CIA declared, after a short investigation, that Russia did indeed tamper with US elections (as if the CIA never lies), therefore they are to blame for Clinton’s loss, we are to accept it as fact. To question the veracity of the CIA report, is anti-Hillary, sexist, racist, anti-establishment (fill in all the words that Clintonites used to describe Sanders supporters) and we get all we deserve under the Trump regime.

Since Trump’s win, all Republicans who hold public office have jumped on board his administration, even those that gave the harshest criticism of him during the campaign, which proves my earlier point, there are no ‘moderate Republicans’. Anyone who ascribes to the right wing world view is elitist, racist, warmongering white supremacist. The Democrats on the other hand doubled down on what got their ass handed to them in the first place, capitalism, neoliberalism, interventionism and reinforcement of the mass surveillance state. The party that was suppose to (but never really have) serve the working people have finally given up that mask too and showed their true colors.

I am an armchair or observing socialist or leftist at best. My political inclinations always lean left, despite being surrounded by right wing people most of my life. I don’t believe that the United States will ever adopt socialism never mind communism, but with recent events unraveling, it’s not a matter of choice, left is the only place to go. The conservative right and moderate right have exhausted itself and has revealed itself to be as ugly as Donald Trump. No one should be shocked that Trump was able to swing it and win the election, the US is this ugly underneath. When Democrats and Republicans alike rips off their mask, what is revealed is Donald Trump; an  elitist, openly racist, bigoted, Islamaphobic ranting compulsive tweeter at 3 am. While Democrats and liberals may not be openly racist, sexist or misogynist but the ire and hatred towards the working poor of this country, a demographic they’ve long abandoned, for voting for Trump is just as ugly. The founder of Daily Kos wrote an article expressing glee at coal miners losing their health insurance because they voted for Trump is one example of liberals ripping off their masks and their distain for the working poor is exposed. Matthew Yglesias, another Clintonite and liberal defending the inadequate safety rules in Bangladeshi garment factories as “OK” because different places need to have different rules or in other words, lives of poor Bangladeshi garment workers working for American companies at slave wages don’t matter as much as a GM factory worker in Detroit because Bangladesh is a poor country and they are lucky to even have a job and the US is a rich country and therefore US workers deserve better. If there is a more disgusting defense of neoliberalism, capitalism, wage theft, labor theft and murder it is summed up here:

Bangladesh may or may not need tougher workplace safety rules, but it’s entirely appropriate for Bangladesh to have different—and, indeed, lower—workplace safety standards than the United States.

On a more local level, the election of Trump has emboldened some closet racists to come out of the closet. People who I thought were ‘nice liberals’ have revealed themselves to be ugly and bigoted. The few police officers I know peripherally have rejoiced at the prospect of finally being able to do their jobs properly and not fearing suspension, termination or civil lawsuit every time they discharge their firearm. Corporate lawyers and those that work in finance finally admitted that the financial crash of 2008 wasn’t their fault but the fault of ‘irresponsible and stupid people’ who took out mortgages they couldn’t afford and feel personally aggrieved that they’ve had to take the blame and had to live modestly for fear of being scorned for their wealth while everyone else was struggling.

The conspiracy of  normalizing elitism, bigotry and racism was fomented by both liberals and conservatives. While the conservatives banged on about how black and brown people were taking advantage of government welfare; hence the relentless argument for small government (note: the largest group of welfare recipients are white people) and how the Mexicans were stealing our jobs, the liberals sat there and promoted neoliberalism even though it was causing massive poverty and killing people across the world. They reinforced the idea that rich people got their money and deserved every penny of it because they worked hard, which is indirectly saying those who are poor don’t work hard enough. There is nothing more violent than to be poor, to stay poor, to raise children in poverty. When you are poor you are invisible, no one cares what you think and you have to beg for scraps. When you are poor, member of a minority, undocumented, your existence becomes a danger as the recent ICE raids at school gates have shown. Trump’s crackdown on illegal immigrants isn’t about undocumented people, it’s about ethnic cleansing of the “bad hombres” he doesn’t like. Illegal immigrants are not only confined to Latinos, there are undocumented people of every race, including Europeans who have overstayed their visa which would categorize them under undocumented; but they are not the target of ICE raids, only brown people are. While the courts were successful in shutting down the Muslim Ban, it isn’t as successful with deportation cases are they are usually heard individually.

The thing more ugly than Trump is the faux outrage of liberals, deeming Trump’s actions ‘un-American’, calling him corrupt and a stooge of Russia. Where was the outrage at Hillary Clinton’s lies? Where was the outrage when the DNC denied Bernie Sanders a fair chance to win the nomination? And before this election, where was the liberal outrage when Obama deported almost 2 million undocumented persons or dropped 27,000 bombs in Muslim majority countries in Middle East and Africa, when Obama bailed out the banks and let American middle and working class suffer? Obama blamed Republican obstruction, but Trump was waving that executive order pen like a magic wand to get what he wants, did Obama forget how to compose an executive order and sign his name on it? What about when Obama expanded the mass surveillance state in the name of national security and terrorism threats and his relentless persecution of whistle blowers who challenged the big brother state? Now with the recent State of the Union address by Trump, fawning liberals and conservatives on CNN have declared Trump to be ‘presidential’ for the first time, all because he praised the heroism of a fallen Navy Seal during a botched raid in Yemen which killed scores of civilians that included women and children and the real ‘terrorist target’ they were after wasn’t there and the raid yielded no significant intelligence and a few days before Trump blamed the generals for its failure. A few words of platitude in front of the Navy Seal’s tearful widow makes him suddenly presidential? Perhaps the most nauseating is the normalization of the blood drenched war criminal George W. Bush. Michelle Obama and Ellen Degeneres have both been photographed hugging him in the most affectionate manner; as if he were nothing more than a loving grandpa enjoying his retirement. Iraq is still reeling from the illegal invasion initiated by George W. Bush. Presently, Iraq’s PMU forces (People’s Mobilization Unit) are in a ferocious and courageous battle to retake the Western part of Mosul from ISIS terrorists.

The two-party system has collapsed. There’s no where to go but left or self-destruct. The jig is up, the poor and downtrodden are no longer convinced that their poverty and their plight is a result of their laziness or lack of ambition, it’s the result of capitalism and neoliberalism. The ruling elites put them there and the Democrats failed to help them.

Those that rolled the dice and voted for Trump, either to piss off the establishment, their parents or to give their middle finger to liberals, hoping against hope that Trump might not be as atrocious as he appears, that he might actually care about working class whites (Trump made it clear that he advocates for white America), they’ve been scammed too. Trumped increased the military budget by $54 billion, that huge infrastructure project he talked about to put Americans back to work hasn’t materialized. He spent far more energy fighting the courts for his illegal executive order than drafting the infrastructure bill. While he can win an election with bombast and braggadocio, he’s unable to govern because has no loyalty from the executive branch of government who are leaking embarrassing details of his administration left and right. He’s begun an ‘investigation’ on the leaks, but good luck, the federal government is a behemoth and they are all united in their dislike of him.

The best thing for the United States is for the rot in government to be exposed, let the state collapse, let the unjust fascist institutions collapse, so that the left, the People, the working people, can pick up the pieces and rebuild.

Healthcare and Education: Still a Privilege and not a Right

Bernie Sanders officially endorsed Hillary Clinton. He’s officially conceded his position in the race and accepted that she is the winner of the Democratic nominee for the race of the President of the United States. Bernie supporters knew this would come but still lamented when the inevitable happened.

In exchange for Sanders endorsement, Hillary Clinton has hopped on the Bernie bandwagon for free college tuition for state universities and colleges. The New York Times headline screamed Candidates Join Clinton in Push for Tuition Plan Inspired by SandersBut, alas, upon closer examination, it’s the same old ‘means tested’, reserved for those that truly deserve it type of assistance:

Mrs. Clinton’s program, modeled after a Sanders plan, would allow members of families with an income of $125,000 or less to qualify for free tuition at schools in their home states by 2021. Funding will depend partly on participation by the states, but the idea has had wide appeal and will also be included in the party platform.

To break this down: it won’t take effect until 2021, it only applies to ‘families with an income of $125,000 or less’ and the biggest catch of all ‘funding will depend partly on participation by the states, but the idea has had wide appeal and will also be included in the party platform.’ Which really means nothing if the states get to opt out of such a program (Obamacare dejavu), and we can already guess which states will choose to opt out, those that need it the most that are south of the Mason-Dixie Line.

The Clinton campaign and the neoliberals took an idea by Sanders, which was one of his most popular platforms during his campaign, co-opted it, watered it down and is serving it up to the people as a bone the neoliberals are throwing to its voters. In the final analysis, access to decent high quality post-secondary education, just like health care, is ultimately a privilege and not a right.

A right is something that a person is endowed with by virtue of being born, by virtue of being human. A privilege or entitlement is something one must earn or be endowed with based on social class dictated by capitalism. A right cannot be taken away but privileges can be snatched away with the stroke of a pen.

Education, specifically, higher education, so crucial to the economic futures of people. Sanders made it a platform in his presidential campaign to provide free tuition to all students who wish to attend public state universities and colleges. It’s really caught on, especially with young people who are saddled with tens of thousands dollars of debt and no gainful employment after graduation. And it’s free with no strings attached, even children of billionaires could access this right. Hillary Clinton jumped on that saying that the wrong type of people (children of the super rich) will take advantage of it. But she would only take this view because she sees quality post-secondary education as a privilege and not a right. Because if it’s a right, everyone should have access to it, yes, even the grandchildren of Donald Trump. Because it’s a right.

President Obama wanted to do what the Clintons couldn’t do in the 90s, which is to pass some kind universal health care legislation where every person in America has access to good quality health care coverage that won’t put them in bankruptcy if they are uninsured or inadequately insured. His original plan was ambitious and that is to provide a single-payer system, basically Medicare for everyone (another one of Sanders campaign platforms). It would put individual, for profit insurance companies out of business and maybe the vast, expensive, overly bureaucratic medical services sector will be forced to streamline and for once, tend to the needs of their patients first before profits. What we got in the end was the monstrosity called Obamacare, an even messier, byzantine, convoluted set of bureaucracy, endless paperwork, endless cross referencing of doctors to make sure they are still on the same network as last year. Obamacare solved some problems such as people can’t be denied coverage based on pre-existing conditions, children cannot be denied coverage due to pre-existing conditions, children can remain on their parents health insurance until they are 26, and pretty generous subsidies have been provided to families on middle to higher income brackets. Those who can’t afford any insurance due to under or part time employment or unemployment can go on their state Medicaid (if their state chooses to participate in the expansion of Medicaid, another caveat that left millions uninsured). Obamacare expanded the funding of Medicaid to states accommodate those who can’t afford to purchase any insurance – but states can choose to opt out. Those who choose to not go through the bother of unending paperwork and bureaucracy will be fined, but then that fine can be waived too if you are indigent. So on the surface, while it may not be a single-payer plan, it’s a markedly improved system. Two years after Obamacare’s full implementation came into effect, 90% of the people have medical coverage of one form or another.

But the devil is in the details. This is typical of Obama, trying to find the middle of the road, a grand compromise so that everyone settling for something is better than no one getting anything. Those that voted for Obama, find out fairly early on, that this is modus operandi for every important issue of his presidency:

The lawyerly and evasive Obama, who always tries to please everybody, as usual winds up pleasing nobody.

It’s like tossing scraps to angry people, demanding that they be happy with scraps or they get nothing at all. With the convoluted Obamacare, the insurance companies still get to do business as usual – which is profiting off of people’s illnesses and injuries, albeit on a lesser scale because 80% of the premiums must go towards patient care and not administrative and marketing and any premiums not used towards patient care must be refunded back to subscribers at the end of the year. But Obama’s refusal to shut down or reign in the for-profit insurance business, insurance companies have found other ways to stick it to the subscribers. Such as charging higher deductibles, out of pocket expense and out of network expense before the ‘real coverage’ kicks in. So the best insurance policy is still to not get sick or injured at all.

The single payer-plan is a brilliantly simple and straightforward concept. It requires no in depth explanation or fancy charts created by policy wonks to explain how it works. In a civilized society, who cares about its citizens and the human rights of all of its citizens should endeavor to provide quality healthcare to all, free of charge at the point of service. It’s provided through taxation obviously, but it’s free at point of service to all that need it, any time they need it, rich or poor it doesn’t matter. This is not a privilege or an entitlement, this is a right. It is right of every human being to have access to quality healthcare when they need it. No mother should have to wait out a 105 degree fever at home with a screaming baby because she can’t afford a doctor and if push comes to shove she takes her baby to the emergency room and she’s stuck with a $5000 bill for tending to a fever which could be cured with an anti-fever injection, doctored monitored ice bath and some antibiotics. Many countries have have implemented single payer health plan and it’s worked quite well. They range from our Canadian neighbors to the north, to most of the EU countries and the UK. Yes, the cost is significant, especially as the baby boomers in each country age, but all in all, it’s a fair and equitable system where contribution and access balances each other out in the long run. And if Cuba, one of the most economically sanctioned, economically deprived countries in the world can provide universal healthcare to its citizens, what excuse is there for the richest nation in the world. And they don’t just provide the basics, they provide excellent healthcare, better than the United States. Doctors in Cuba have learned to stretch what little resources they have to make sure everyone’s healthcare needs are looked after. So, it’s not about the money or the cost, or the aging population, or smoking, or obesity, or heart disease. It’s about privilege. It’s about making sure insurance companies get richer and make more profit off the backs of the sick and injured. The elite want to keep good quality healthcare to themselves and everyone else has to make do with scraps. For all the lawmakers that strongly opposed the watered down health care reform to be known as Obamacare, they (and their immediate families) got to enjoy the best health insurance coverage that exists, offered only to high level federal employees, something that was conferred to them on the basis of their elected positions, but they don’t want to extend that privilege to everyone else.

It’s the same when it comes to education: good, high quality college education, where students graduate without debt only belongs to the elite. Only the children of the elite get to graduate college without debt. And in the new plan put forth by Hillary Clinton and the Democratic platform, only parents who make less than $125,000 per year, can their children then enjoy the privilege of attending a state university for free. So, if they make $125,500 – they’ve been shut out of this privilege because they exceeded the bottom income by $500. Why not make it free for all students? Yes, even the children of billionaires, should they wish to  mingle with those less fortunate than they, it should be seen as an investment in the future of this country. World War II veterans got the G.I. Bill and FHA loans to get a jump start in their economic futures, which then created the most prosperous generation the world has ever seen, why can’t we take that approach again with our future generations by funding their college educations for free with no strings attached. This is investment in human capital.

In the new-age quackery of ‘I am special just by being me, because I exist’ mentality, everyone tries to outdo each other in the ‘special’ department. To be special also means to be privileged in some way by having access to things that others don’t, more importantly, if everyone has what you’ve got, then you are not special enough. If everyone has access to good health care, get the doctor they want without the hassle or jumping through a million hoops, and paying through the nose just to get an appointment with a specialist then they are no longer special. If everyone can get into University of Texas – Dallas Campus, one of the best public universities in Texas, then poor Abigail Fisher is no longer the special snowflake that her mother told her she was. Especially if she was weeded out by her own mediocrity and not affirmative action quotas; an obvious and simple fact she won’t accept.

Because things that should have been a basic human right which have, through neoliberal policies, been turned into a privilege, everyone now is ‘checking their privilege’ and keeping score on who has more privilege based on what they have access to because of their race, gender, ethnicity, sexual identity, gender identity and whatever intersections I haven’t thought of yet, and the list never ends. Countless articles, blog entries, books, newspaper bylines have expounded on the subject of ‘privilege’, who’s got it and how much of it.

When trillions are spent overseas in the wars in the illegal invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan over a period of 12 years, spent without any accountability to the taxpayers; do not tell the American people that a single-payer health care is too expensive or free tuition for state colleges is unfeasible, or reduce the already meager social security benefits or means test Medicare. There is plenty of money to go around, it’s just being spent in the wrong place.

That’s what the neoliberal view reduces us to: men and women so confronted by the hassle of everyday life that we’re either forced to master it, like the wunderkinder of the blogosphere, or become its slaves. We’re either athletes of the market or the support staff who tend to the race. – Corey Robin

When everyone has access to basic rights which allows them to prosper and get ahead without needing to access some form of privilege (which, in other words, someone somewhere is being denied theirs so that you can have yours), the whole futile and often comical exercise of privilege checking will lose its purpose (and hopefully go out of fashion). If the 99% is scraping the bottom of the barrel to survive on scraps the 1% tosses out, does it really matter that Kevin the Asian kid has ‘more’ privilege because he’s Asian and not black? All this privilege checking is just a distraction the neoliberals want us to engage in to divert our attention from the real cause of all this and that is profound social and economical inequality. Corruption and manipulation of economic markets at the highest level of banking and government and the people who are elected to serve the people of this country are just serving their own interests, lining their own pockets.

The way to do that is not to immerse people even more in the ways and means of the market, but to give them time and space to get out of it. That’s what a good welfare state, real social democracy, does: rather than being consumed by life, it allows you to make your life. Freely. One less bell to answer, not one more. – Corey Robin

Half baked measures like this means-tested free tuition for state universities, only if the state chooses to participate in the program should be rejected in its entirety by the Left, it’s all or nothing. No more of this Obama, wishy-washy, in the middle of the road, trying to please everyone nonsense. The results of the last eight years show, when you try to please everybody, no real progress is ever made, just band aid measures to paper over the cracks.

We may finally elect a woman for president and I can’t feel the joy.

For as long as I can remember, it was my dream to see a woman become the president of United States in my lifetime. When I opened my third grade history book, all I saw were stern looking, powdered haired, aging white men as our presidents. The only notable exception in that array of white men was President John F. Kennedy, who was the youngest president ever elected, who was elected by the slimmest margins ever and was a Roman Catholic. We were all supposed to cheer the fact that an Irish Catholic was finally elected president – against all odds –  never mind the fact that his father Joseph Kennedy Sr. was a millionaire and bought the presidency for his son. Regardless, Kennedy broke the barrier of needing to be a WASP in order to become president. It didn’t sit right with me at the third grade and it doesn’t sit right with me now. What was obviously missing from the line up of presidents was a black president and a woman president or a combination of both. It was so glaring that it was screaming at me from my history book, even in the 1990s.

I came of age during Bill Clinton’s presidencies. It was when I first became aware of politics, feminism and equality. Hillary Clinton was a First Lady like no other. I admired her. She refused to stay home and bake cookies and dared to say it out loud. I liked that. It appealed to my nascent feminism and that girls should (not just could but should) aspire to more than finding a good husband, having babies and making his favorite meals. Life for a woman is more than keeping her man happy and that women are not to invest all of her happiness and emotional well being in her marriage and family. Even when she was just First Lady, it was obvious who our first female president might be should we get the opportunity to elect one.

That opportunity has arrived, fifteen years after her husband left the office of the presidency of the United States; Hillary Rodham Clinton, barring any serious missteps in the general election, will be our next president. She will be our first female president after 44 men have come before. But I do not feel the joy that I expected to feel.

Hillary Clinton almost got the nomination eight years ago, she missed the nomination so narrowly. I supported her over Barack Obama, I was with her. I felt suckered punched to the stomach when she lost the nomination. It was so close. Back then, I just wanted any woman to be president, I never really looked into her donor contributions, her large speaking fees from Wall Street, her connections to Wall Street, Walmart and other criminal organizations. Her underhanded campaign against Obamainciting racism and Islamophobia was something I overlooked as part and parcel of running a contentious campaign. The glaring mistake which cost her the nomination is her ‘Yes’ vote in the senate for the invasion of Iraq, whereas Obama voted ‘No’ and he took that to the bank with him.

Since those 8 years she’s served as Secretary of State under President Obama’s first term in office. The invasion of Libya and the killing of Muammar Qadaffi destabilized the region. Libya is now a failed state, the arms cache and chemical weapons that was in Libya made its way to Syria, which are now being used by US proxies. She is for the removal of Bashar Al-Assad in Syria for the sole purpose letting Israel have nuclear monopoly in the region and to break up the Hezbollah, Iran and Assad alliance. She instigated and supported a proxy war between the Gulf States and Syria, and as a result, today, half of the Syrian population have been internally and externally displaced. Her military adventurism doesn’t just end there, she supported the right-wing military coup in Honduras, which has seen the country descend into a lawless land where activists are being killed left and right.

At least 174 LGBT persons have been killed in Honduras since 2009. According to Global Witness, 101 environmental activists were murdered between 2010 and 2014, including Berta Cáceres, a fearless environmentalist who fought for indigenous land rights and who was assassinated in her home in March. In 2014, Cáceres  called out Clinton for her role in the 2009 coup, saying, “We’re coming out of a coup that we can’t put behind us. We can’t reverse it. It just kept going. And after, there was the issue of the elections. The same Hillary Clinton, in her book, ‘Hard Choices,’ practically said what was going to happen in Honduras. This demonstrates the meddling of North Americans in our country.”

These are the actions of war criminals. The fallout from these actions are nothing short of genocidal killings. Iraq, Libya, Syria and Honduras all had legitimate governments in place before US intervention or invasion. The disastrous vote in for the Iraq invasion was not a one time lapse of judgement, intervening in other countries for the sake of United States national interest (which include a whole host of questionable and immoral things) and the interest of our oil rich Gulf allies and her own personal self interest is her modus operandi for foreign policy.

Hillary Clinton considers herself a feminist, and “women’s rights are human rights”. She claims to have spent her career in public service advocating for women and children, but which women and children? Only certain American women and children? Do Central American women and children not count? How about Mexican women and children? How about the Palestinian people? Libyan people? Syrian people? Iraqi people? The Honduran people, especially now after the military coup of 2009 life has become impossible for most people to live there. Are these people not included in her umbrella of activism? Are the lives of Iraqi, Libyan, Syrian and Honduran women and children less valuable than those of American ones? How can anyone call themselves a feminist when she is friends with someone who thinks that it was “worth it” that 250,000 Iraqi children died as a result of Western sanctions. The Western sanctions imposed on Iraq by former Secretary of State Madeline Albright didn’t bring down Saddam Hussein, he was brought down by an armed invasion by US forces with far superior military equipment. When did collective punishment of civilians for the actions of one dictator become an acceptable moral choice? Hillary Clinton’s unwavering support of Israel, who have brutalized Palestinians for 70 years all on the phony premise of ‘security’ and preventing another Holocaust when Israel is the one that is carrying out the ethnic cleansing. How can that be justified?

In the domestic sphere, President Bill Clinton passed NAFTA, which hollowed out the American middle-class when factories moved their operations to Mexico or South East Asia to avoid dealing with worker’s unions. Small Mexican family farmers lost their farms to large scale industrialized farming thus precipitating a migration northward to the United States. The Welfare Reform Act of 1996 eroded the safety net for the poorest of Americans, most of which happen to be people of color. His criminal justice reform bill oversaw the largest increase in mass incarcerations of people of color, with Hillary Clinton referring to underage offenders as “predators” needing to be brought “to heel” – like a dog. This is to justifying giving children adult sentences in adult prisons. These are the actions of her husband, but she supported them and advocated for them at the time.

This time around Hillary Clinton has structured her campaign not on her positions on the issues or her past record, because they are terrible and untenable when compared to Bernie Sanders, but the campaign is all based on identity politics. Vote for me because I am a woman and I represent women’s issues and issues concerning minorities – but I get to pick which issues and which minorities are important. And if you happen to be a woman and not support me then you are not supportive of women in general. According to the same friend that felt it was acceptable that 250,000 Iraqi children died under Western sanctions, there’s also “a special place in hell for women who don’t support other women.” If there’s indeed a special place in hell for such things, I’d imagine Madeline Albright would already have a place there since she subjected the mothers of those 250,000 Iraqi children to untold grief and pain. The woman card in this campaign has been used to justify every attack and criticism, especially those that came from the direction of other white men. When Bernie Sanders didn’t quit his campaign yesterday, one of Hillary Clinton’s surrogates (Hill-bots) Amanda Marcotte wrote a piece in Salon that Bernie Sanders is “coasting on male privilege”. How this argument is logical or how it pertains to anything, I’ll let the readers decide. It’s also slightly hypocritical since Hillary Clinton also took her campaign to the Democratic Convention in 2008 where she formally released her delegates.

In 2008 where I felt hopeful and euphoric at the idea the Democratic nominees for president was a woman and a black man, and ultimately we got our first black president. I felt that something really good was about to happen, even though we were in the depths of a really bad recession. There is usually a wide gulf between expectation and reality and the reality is President Obama fell short of a lot of expectations and was a big disappointment in many areas. But for a brief moment there, there was great hope, great expectations and progressives felt that there was a chance at real change. Eight years later, when there is finally a viable female candidate for president. I can’t get excited about it. Eight years ago, I was ready to settle for any woman for president, now I want the right woman for president, a woman I can vote for and feel good about casting my first vote for America’s first female president. In my view, Hillary Rodham Clinton isn’t the right woman.

To all of her supporters, I congratulate them. I wish I could feel an ounce of what they feel and jump on the Hillary for President bandwagon, but I am going to have to sit this one out.

The Bathroom Debate is Based on Lies

The Republicans are back at their oldest past time – hypocrisy. The party that promotes freedom and getting “the government out of our lives” are back at legislating the most intimate parts of people’s lives. They’ve seemed to temporarily moved on from restricting women’s choice to choose and now are attacking transgender people and restricting them to which bathrooms they can use, which, according to laws in some states, must be the gender at birth, not the gender they transitioned to.

The transgender community are the smallest in population in the whole LGBT community. It’s estimated that transgender adults account for 0.3% of the whole US population or about 700,000 adults, even if that’s a conservative figure, let’s say transgender and non-binary transgender people top out at 1,000,000 adults (very unlikely but for the sake of argument let’s assume so), the chances of a cisgender person running into a transgender person in a public restroom in America is near nil. Unless you are in San Francisco during Gay Pride week, the chances of transgender people running into each other in any random public bathroom is rare as well.

The Republicans have once again, decided to marginalize an already marginized group further. They’ve decided on the grounds of safety for the cisgender people that transgender people shouldn’t be allowed to use the bathroom of their transition. This extends to all public spaces, schools, parks or any other public restrooms. North Carolina just passed a ‘bathroom bill’ which requires people to use the bathroom of their assigned gender at birth. Alabama has a similar law but they decided to go one step further and criminalize and arrest people who use the wrong bathroom, with the suggestion that police officers will ask for identification to ascertain that the suspect is using the correct bathroom.

All of these laws are based on the false premise of ‘safety’ for the majority of gender conforming people, that a transgender person who was born of the opposite sex at birth is sharing a bathroom (or locker room) with cisgender people is inherently unsafe. It’s implying that transgender people are natural predators and cisgender people need to be afraid of them, especially in small confined places like bathrooms and locker rooms. This is total hogwash.

The most dangerous place for child who is bullied at school are bathrooms and locker rooms where they are ‘jumped’ by other cisgender people, usually people of their own sex, not the shy and socially awkward transgender teen if there is even one at the school. Just one week ago, sixteen year old high school girl Amy Joyner was ‘jumped’ in the bathroom by other girls, she hit her head on the sink and later died. The dispute was apparently over a boy. There was not a single transgender girl in the room.

Former Speaker of the House, the third most powerful man in the country, after the President and Vice President, Dennis Hastert was convicted of child molestation and has just been handed a 15 month jail sentence. He is more of a danger in the men’s room than any transgender male (who would most likely be jumped by other cisgender men). Michelle Duggar of 19 Kids and Counting, instead of making robocalls to Arkansas voters to vote against an anti-transgender bathroom bill, her efforts would have better been served into teaching her eldest son Josh Duggar proper sexual boundaries between boys and girls instead of using her whispery hysterical voice of allowing “boys to use the girls’ bathrooms”. Josh Duggar would have benefited from some educational talks from his parents about sex.

The transgender community is a community that is gaining more acceptance and recognition but it’s still a community that is suffering deeply. Transgender teens are twice as likely to attempt sucide and be depressed. They face rejection from their families, their church, school, communities. They are more likely than their other LGBT peers to to be unemployed and suffer from depression and anxiety. They struggle to get through their daily lives without harrasement. They face a daunting choice between living their true selves or the identity that soceity ascribes to them based on gender at birth. To then pass these pointless bathroom bill making the lives of transgender people even harder, is an abuse of human rights.

Republican lawmakers need to stop watching ‘Orange is the New Black’ and look at the realities of the real world with respect to  transgender people. They are no threat to soceity. Society is a threat to them.

My Father’s Republican Party

My father died in March of 2008, right before the presidential race kicked into high gear. Hillary Clinton was still sort of the front runner then and my father hated the Clintons with a passion. He thought them both to be small-time crooks who sleazed their way into the White House. He felt that they destroyed the credibility of the Democratic Party. Though a fervent Republican himself, he admired Jimmy Carter and George McGovern, at least they had some principles and stuck to them, even at their own detriment. One memorable thing that stays in my mind is he had a poster that screamed in big red letters ‘Stop Hillary Now’ in his study. It made me laugh every time I saw it. He knew I admired Hillary Clinton for her academic achievements and career achievements, he said I was better than that and I do far more than she ever could. The Clintons were a bunch of small town opportunists who got lucky – in his not so flattering description of them.

So it was an even bigger irony that dad was a George W. Bush supporter, he donated money to his campaign, the amount was large enough that it earned a signed letter of thanks from Dubya himself. He had that letter framed and hung it in his front door entryway. Half of me thinks he put it there to wind me up, he knows I roll my eyes every time every time I walked by it. He was proud of his association with the GOP and his support for Dubya. But when George W. Bush invaded Iraq and when it became plain as day that it was a serious mistake, and the public support for the war was waning, yet Bush still insisted that he was right in doing what he did, my father regretfully lamented, “to strongarm an untenable position isn’t smart politics. Sometimes you are just dead wrong and it’s best to admit it.”

My father was what one would consider a Northeast Republican or a WASP Republican, indifferent about social and moral issues but conservative with fiscal issues. He was pro-choice. He was pro-gay marriage, pro-LGBT rights. He believed that people should live how they wish without government intrusion – though not sure what he would think about the bathroom debate these days; but like people of a certain age, he’d rather not see it, not hear about it or know about certain lifestyle details of the LGBT community. You’ll never catch him dead at a gay pride parade. He believed in equal pay between men and women and women shouldn’t be discriminated against. In fact, some of his best employees in his many years of running his own company were women, women were the most reliable and he’s rewarded them accordingly. he didn’t preach the gospel at every doorstep and couldn’t stand people who preached. And until the Clintons came onto the political scene he didn’t even dislike the Democrats, it was just not his political or life philosophy.

My father wanted government to stay out of his money and bank account i.e. low taxes. Like many, he’d complain just exactly what did the government do with all the taxes he’s paid over the years (The war in Iraq, dad). He was wary of the Patriot Act enacted by the man he supported with his vote and money. He felt that was one step too far even after 9/11. He didn’t like the snitching atmosphere that George W. Bush fomented and fostered. “That’s not the way to catch terrorists” he’d say. The extra airport security were cumbersome to him, especially with his arthritic bum knee. He was doing some consulting work for a friend which required him to travel to Kansas City once a month, he called the friend and resigned. The surveillance state alarmed him. But in spite of it all, he still considered himself to be Republican. Switching to the Democratic Party was out of the question, especially after the Clintons “crashed the party”, being an Independent seemed too wishy-washy. He liked his conservative convictions.

My father today would be ejected from the Republican Party. He’d be derided as a RINO (Republican in name only). He’d be booed out and shoved out like Trump’s opponent at his rallies. He’d also be disgusted with how the party took a sharp right turn after Obama got elected in 2008. Whereas the party’s right wing in 2008 was on the fringe, in 2016 the fringe became the mainstream. He’d be appalled at Trump making lewd references about certain body parts – he’d get on the stage and shove Trump off himself and then take him to get his head examined. The wall separating Mexico and US is equally ludicrous. Ted Cruz would be unfathomable to him as a serious presidential candidate, he barely tolerated Dubya’s sudden embrace of being born again, a militant Christian for president is making this country a real theocracy. I told him that he need not vote for Bush Jr. out of loyalty to Bush Sr., he told me to shut my yap.

He spent most of the 70s through 90s in Asia, running his businesses. The whole counterculture in America blew by him. By his assessment, Americans have it so good compared to what’s in Asia, he’s got no clue what the liberals were protesting about all day long. The only serious event which would warrant large scale protest was The Vietnam War, which he opposed strongly, but he didn’t understand anything else from the counterculture. Drugs appalled him (“I’ll stick to my scotch – thanks”), the open free sex was distasteful (not the sex, but the openness of it all – old WASPy mentality of  keeping your business private out of respectability and such). Large groups of people huddled together in some muddy field in Woodstock listening to music is just beyond his comprehension. He likes his surroundings dry, neat and orderly.

The Republican Party today would break his heart. For someone as parsimonious as he, for him to donate his hard earned money to the party is a big deal. Today, the Republican Party has morphed into a monstrosity that he no longer recognizes. In some ways, though I miss him awfully, I am glad he’s not here to see it.

Bernie Sanders and the Pope

Ever since the Bernie Sanders was invited to speak at the conference at the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences, held at the Vatican City, a swirl of conspiracy theories and blatant misreporting of the news came out in media.

Firstly, the media outlets got the initial reporting wrong mostly because Sanders relayed the news of the invitation incorrectly (I will get to that later). Sanders and his campaign said the Pope invited Sanders to speak at the conference. The Pope himself didn’t invite Sanders. The organizer of the conference bishop Marcelo Sanchez Sorondo invited Sanders, the conference happens to take place in Vatican City, the epicenter of Catholic Church. Not everything that goes on in the Vatican City is sponsored or attended by the Pope himself. However, Bishop Sorondo allegedly didn’t go through the president of the Pontifical Academy (in the US) Margaret Archer to extend the invitation to Sanders, as protocol would dictate. Archer, without checking her facts with her counterparts in the Vatican, said Sanders committed a “monumental discourtesy” by not going through her office before accepting the invitation and accused Sanders of inviting himself. Archer’s statement to the press through a telephone interview was: “Sanders made the first move, for the obvious reasons, he may be going for the Catholic vote but this is not the Catholic vote and he should remember that and act accordingly — not that he will.”

After this statement was made to the press, the anti-Sanders brigade started mocking Sanders for ‘inviting’ himself to a party where he’s not wanted. But within 24 hours, Bishop Sorondo clarified that he did indeed invite Sanders and that Margaret Archer was perfectly aware of this invitation, saying her comments were a bit “strange” – basically accusing her of lying. Bernie Sanders, not being Catholic himself, isn’t one-hundred percent sure on how the Vatican City and Catholic politics works. Many Catholics have a vague idea of how all this works and are better initiated than those who aren’t Catholics. He told MSNBC and The View that “the Vatican” invited him to speak at the Pontifical Academy of the Social Sciences and that the invitation came from the Pope. Some immediately accused him misrepresenting the facts and pandering to the Catholics, which accounts for 25% of Americans.

The Vatican City has a religious body which deal with religious matters and a political body which deal with diplomatic matters and politics with leaders around the world. Within that there are organizations which exist in the purview of the Vatican City that are not affiliated to either governing bodies, such as the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences. The invitation came from a bishop of the Catholic church, the ‘boss’ of the bishop is the Pope and Bishop Sorondo is another fellow Argentine like the Pope and is close with the Pope as well, so naturally Sanders assumed the invitation came from the Vatican City and the Pope himself. Sanders reportedly said the Pope himself have arranged a meeting with him for the less than 24 hours Sanders will spend in the Vatican. Sanders didn’t say a meeting with the Pope was already prearranged, he said he would like to meet the Pope, but the chances are probably slim as the Pope is leaving for Lesbos the next day to address the refugee crisis. The Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi said “There won’t be a meeting with the Holy Father,” the Pope was not planning on meeting with anyone from the conference as it was right before his trip to Greece. The point being made here is, you get invited to the Vatican at their leisure. This isn’t an Upper East Side charity event where if you know the right people you can get yourself an invitation to rub shoulders with important people and drink nice champagne for a night.

The invitation from Bishop Sorondo Bernie Sanders is an interesting one. The obvious being Bernie Sanders isn’t Catholic – he’s Jewish, he’s pro-choice and pro-LGBT rights, positions directly against the doctrine of the church. With all of the arm flailing, Bible beating Christians from the Republican side, not one of them has been asked to go near the Vatican. Hillary Clinton being a Christian herself, wasn’t asked either. Being a Catholic doesn’t guarantee an invitation either, as the church has expressed its displeasure and scorn at Vice President Joe Biden and Secretary of State John Kerry.

What Sanders does have in common with the current agenda of the Pope is alleviation of suffering for the dispossessed people of the world. Capitalism has gotten out of control. Rampant and unfettered greed and market speculation of the last twenty years have destroyed the economy for many. The Pope has dedicated his papacy to shining the attention on the downtrodden, the poor, the persecuted and dispossessed. He wanted to turn the church’s obsession with dogma, doctrine, finger wagging and focus the spotlight on those who need help, mercy and kindness first. If the Pope’s message were turned into a political campaign, parts of it would mirror Sanders’s political revolution very closely.

But to compare Sanders and Pope Francis I is like comparing apples and oranges. Religious differences aside, they are chalk and cheese. They agree on issues of social justice, creating a moral economy and curbing climate change but on everything else, they are in opposing extremes.

Many mistake Pope Francis I for who he really is and what he’s about. Francis preaches tolerance, mercy and love for the people who the Catholic church has marginalized and expelled (divorcees, LGBT community, women who’ve had abortions and non-observant Catholics) but it doesn’t mean he’s changed his mind on these matters. He asked for reintegration of divorcees into the church but he falls short of saying they can receive communion or that divorce is just an unpleasant fact of life sometimes, we don’t like it but it’s no longer a sin. He preaches tolerance of of LGBT community and to show love to them and if they follow the path of Jesus “who are [we] to judge” but he falls short of saying being LGBT isn’t a sin. There is still a stigma attached to women who have had abortions even though he asks his church to be merciful and forgiving towards them. He still, to the detriment of the impoverished developing and third world countries in the world, preaches against the use of contraceptives unless in extreme cases like preventing the spread of diseases. In short, he is as every bit as conservative as his predecessors, he just says it all with a bright smile and a joke. Francis I has perhaps widened the margins of what’s acceptable to the church but the church will not change its positions on any of these issues soon, if ever. The institution itself doesn’t believe in changing its doctrine just to suit the times. They don’t care that over 95% of observant Catholic women have at one time or another used contraceptives in their childbearing years and so they should do away with that ridiculous doctrine as no one observes it anyways. Or that divorce is a part of life and as long as sufficient effort was made to salvage the marriage, divorcees should still be part of the congregation. Or that being LGBT isn’t a choice but sexual orientation and gender identity is predetermined so to call them sinful is counterintuitive to the teachings of the Bible – none of these scenarios will happen.

Francis I still idolizes the role of mother. He’s still speaks of women in a patronizing manner, as a great importance to the church but only in a supporting and nurturing role. Nuns and laywomen defer to priests. The activities of nuns are to be watched over like a hawk by their male superiors. He did little to quash the ‘feminist conspiracy’ rumors in the Catholic sisterhood propagated by his paranoid cardinals and bishops. The Catholic clergy, most of whom have never lived in the real world where they had to keep a roof over their heads, children fed and navigate a marriage, but they see fit to tell us how to do all of these things. Francis I appears to make the church more liberal and open, but it’s only nominally. He’s opening the door to allow re-entry to those that left or wish to join you can sit with us but you are still not part of the club.

Bernie Sanders is the opposite of all of this. Sanders’s respect for the Pope only extends to social justice issues, issues relating to creating a fair and balanced economy and caring for the downtrodden. On issues of morality, Sanders takes a secular approach, which again is a striking contrast to the church.

In the end, Sanders did get to meet the Pope, at the Pope’s leisure. For those that don’t know, you don’t make an appointment to see the Pope, the Pope asks to see you, you make yourself available for him, should you be inclined. After all the commotion around the “invitation” or non-invitation, the Pope, in his typical candor, said meeting with Senator Sanders was nothing more than “good manners”.

“This morning when I left, Sen. Sanders was there. … He knew I was leaving at that time and I had the kindness to greet him and his wife and another couple who were with them,” the pope told reporters traveling back with him to the Vatican.

“When I came down, I greeted them, shook their hands and nothing more. This is good manners. It’s called good manners and not getting mixed up in politics. If anyone thinks that greeting someone means getting involved in politics, they should see a psychiatrist.”

As for the charge that Sanders is after the Catholic vote – the ‘Catholic vote’, like all other voting blocs are not a monolith and is very diverse. He’s running for election for the highest office of the land, so presumably, any votes from any voting bloc would be welcome.

AIPAC: It is NOT controversial that Bernie Sanders won’t attend.

Bernie Sanders announced he will not be attending the annual AIPAC (American Israel Public Affairs Committee) shill-a-thon. All the pro-Clintonites have expressed on social media that this proves Sanders isn’t a serious presidential candidate. After all, what presidential candidate of either party doesn’t attend the all important annual AIPAC shill-a-thon, which only exists to promote the interests of the 1% in not one but two countries: The United States of America and Israel.

Of course the implication is that Bernie Sanders being Jewish, the son of a Polish-Jewish immigrant, whose extended family was wiped out in the Holocaust, by choosing to not attend this hallowed event, is somehow betraying his heritage.

At the risk of sounding like I am ranting again, I’d like to set a few facts straight.

Bernie Sanders doesn’t have to attend this conference and there is absolutely nothing controversial about that at all. This event is in direct opposition to his current campaign and political revolution. Attending this event would only smack of hypocrisy, since no one in this event will be donating to his campaign or have any desire to have anything to do with him as a politician. The people attending this event do not believe he will be the Democratic Party nominee, therefore there’s nothing he can do for them.

Being Jewish in America or any other country doesn’t mean you automatically have dual-citizenship with Israel. One can be Jewish and be one-hundred percent American without feeling the need to feel any sort of allegiance (besides religious and heritage sentiment) to Israel. Israel is that friend we can’t unfriend because then all the other schoolyard bullies will unleash their fury on them. The ‘friendship’ between the US and Israel is really the thing that keeps Israel ‘safe’. Not their anti-missile iron domes. Not their nuclear arsenal, not even the billions we send them every year. All of this means nothing if the US doesn’t provide Israel with political and diplomatic cover.

AIPAC which is an acronym for American Israel Public Affairs Committee, is a very influential lobbying group in America with the expressed interest of advocating “pro-Israel policies” to the United States Congress and other parts of government. Think about that folks, there exists a lobbying group for a whole other country on a different continent, whose sole purpose is to lobby the United States legislature for favors. Not only that, anyone who is anybody, or anyone who wishes to become somebody, must attend this bloody thing every year or else you’ll appear to be anti-Israel, which will spell the end of your political career. Many other countries and organizations have powerful lobbying groups, but none require mandatory attendance every year. Republicans who know nothing about the modern history of Israel or even the history of Jews attend this thing professing their undying loyalty and friendship to a country they know very little about.

And while we are on the subject of Israel: I won’t even get into the human rights abuses in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. The land theft, the unlawful evictions because someone dug up a spoon King David used in the pathway that leads to someone’s back garden and that land now becomes “Jewish” land. I will make it simpler. This is a country whose prime minister said that the Grand Mufti Haj Al-Husseini was responsible for the Holocaust because he supposedly knew that it was about to happen and did nothing (there is no proof of this only conjecture). Therefore the Palestinians now deserve their plight, because a religious leader (not political leader) of theirs over 70 years ago, allegedly sent the Jews to the gas chambers. This is a country where a member of their parliament said Palestine cannot exist because there is no letter ‘P’ in the Arabic alphabet. Someone with a PhD in criminology said this shit, who was at one time a visiting professor to George Washington University, obviously her PhD isn’t in the history of her land of birth.

Bernie Sanders probably doesn’t want to attend this event because he doesn’t want to waste a day (or two) and be stuck in a room full of one-percenters and fascists of all stripes and persuasions. Bernie Sanders doesn’t need a ‘lecture’ on Israel or the history of the Jewish people. Bernie Sanders has no direct connection to Israel besides that he’s Jewish. He has visited Israel on at least one occasion in his younger days but he didn’t clarify when or why and he doesn’t need to.  If anyone doubts his support for Israel they dare not say it out loud because it would sound incredibly foolish.

Sanders said he will provide a copy of the the speech he would have made at AIPAC if he were to attend. I hope it reads “Get off my jock and fuck off.”

In Memoriam: The Conservative Supreme Court

Justice Antonin Scalia’s body is not yet cold and he’s already been turned into a political pawn. I can’t say I feel sorry about that, I think he might actually enjoy this.

Whilst Democrats and liberals are rejoicing behind closed doors, doing the ‘Chandler jig’ from the sitcom ‘Friends’, Republicans and conservatives are pouring their hearts out on Twitter and other social media and shaming other liberals who have trouble hiding their glee at the death of Scalia.

Along with the tributes for Scalia, Republican leaders also wasted no time stating there should be no new appointment of Scalia’s replacement until a new president is elected. Keep in mind Obama still has another 11 months in office, which is a very long time to keep a seat vacant on the nation’s highest court. The ‘no new appointment’ pledge is a not so subtle way of saying the Republican controlled Senate will not confirm any candidate the president puts forward.

For Democrats and progressives, one can’t but feel God is on their side today. Not that progressives rejoice in the death of another (I hope), but Scalia’s death was unexpected, he was not suffering from any illness that the public was aware of, so it’s fair to say no one wished him a hasty demise. Regardless, here we are, in Obama’s last year in office, he gets another chance to appoint another Supreme Court Justice. Even if his appointment doesn’t get confirmed by the time he leaves office, it’s a great opportunity to play political chess, even for the sole pleasure of yanking your opponent’s chain.

This can go a few ways:

1.) To appoint a wildly liberal candidate for the nation’s highest court, knowing full well that it will never pass confirmation, but just seeing the GOP senators filibustering while foaming at the mouth and wildy gesticulating on the hallowed halls of the Senate looking like rabid animals is a great way to get a good laugh and pass your last few months in office.

2.) Obama appoints a moderate candidate to appease moderate Republican senators, which the Republicans will still strongly oppose and filibuster and block the nomination, it will then serve as a tool for the presidential election campaign. It’s a chance to make the Republicans look even more out of touch (if that’s possible) even unstable upstairs to take the job of the president of the United States. The Democratic candidates can also use this event to their own benefit depending on if they agree with Obama’s choice or not.

3.) Obama does nothing, or ‘leaks’ a few names here and there, but ultimately kicks it down the road for the incoming president, whoever it may be. This scenario would suit the Republican playbook too well, it would essentially give them what they want. But Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders can both jump on this issue and start floating around names of who they would appoint and benefit their campaigns.

I am personally not in favor of doing nothing, because it will become another unnecessary talking point in the general election. Instead of focusing on the issues, they will talk about will he or won’t he appoint a new Supreme Court Justice and everyone have to weigh in on their opinion. The option of not giving an opinion regardless of which party you belong to will be near impossible.

About the newly departed Justice Antonin Scalia, he was seen as a stalwart of the Conservative movement in the Court. He was appointed by Ronald Reagan for his conservative views of small government and reverence to the Constitution of the United States. He’s praised for being an exemplary jurist, a brilliant intellect with a strict adherence to the Constitution with the belief that it’s a living document.

I am no legal scholar nor have I recently read the Constitution of the United States cover to cover (I last read it in high school). I can’t speak to the decisions he made with respect to the Constitution. Naturally, he has fierce intellect and a strong passion for the law along with a devotion to constitutional law, any person being considered for a seat on the Supreme Court will need to be an ‘excellent jurist and have a passion for the law’ along with superior intellect. This is not to diminish the talent of Justice Scalia, I am simply saying this is a job requirement for anyone who seeks a place on the Supreme Court. However, anyone who believes that the Constitution is a ‘living document’ when it was written over 250 years ago and the issues which weren’t present 250 years ago, we are to interpret modern day legal quandaries based solely on the words written 250 years ago, not allowing any room to apply the Constitution to modern America (which looks very different from the Founder days) is absurd.

Justice Scalia’s job was to interpret the law, in many of his decisions, especially socially relevant decisions such as gay rights, abortion rights and women’s rights, he still refers to a document that is 250 years old, when slavery was still legal, when women didn’t have the vote and LGBT individuals lived on the margins of society. When he does this, he’s no longer interpreting the law, he’s making new laws based off of old laws. He likes to accuse those that deviate from the Constitution as judicial activists, judicial activism is a concern amongst judges but wasn’t his strict adherence to a document, a document which was written in very vague terms no less, another form of judicial activism, especially when it advances conservative causes and denies people their basic rights? This is the same thing as Christian fundamentalists who take the every word written in the Bible literally and live their lives according to the teachings of Bible, literally. Today we think of those people as being out of touch with reality and many question their judgement. How is Justice Scalia’s purist views of the Constitution not the same? Granted, there’s been many amendments to the constitution, but last amendment ever made to the constitution was made on May 7, 1992, the 27th Amendment, which was has to do with salaries of members of Congress. It was an amendment that was put forth on September 25, 1789, and it was ratified 202 years later.

Like the presidency of the United States, being a Supreme Court Justice, there’s no book to guide you or inform you of your duties.  You take the sum of your experiences, on the bench and off the bench, along with scholastic learning about the law, previous experience prior to joining the bench, along with common sense and you render your best decision based on your application of the Constitution. It’s not a blind and strict adherence to the actual document itself.

If the next president wants to help America, start with regulating the police.

If the next president of the United States really wants to help America, which they all claim to love above anything else, he or she ought to start with cracking down on police abuse of power. It’s a domestic issue that has been ignored election after election. It’s treated as a not-important issue because it mostly concerns inner city minorities who are treated as throwaways, a sector of the electorate with the least power in terms of election contributions and special interests. There are special interest groups representing everyone and everything, even private prisons have lobbying representation to build vast prison complexes in sparsely populated states but there is no lobbying group representing the rights and voices of inner city people who routinely clash with the police.

It is important to preface this with stating that the majority of police officers are good, brave and decent people who love the communities they protect and serve. But there are also a small fraction of police officers who have no compunction about using their badge as tool for oppression and abuse.When 12 year old Tamir Rice was shot and killed for playing with a toy gun that looked like a real gun, we have reached crisis point.Twelve years old! He was only playing in the snow with his sister, and the person that called 911 said the gun could be a toy gun and that person called the police out of an abundance of caution, not to cause the boy’s death. And of course, Timothy Loehmann, the officer involved in the shooting was a rookie officer, said that the boy startled him and he had no way of knowing if the gun was a toy gun or real gun and that the boy could have been 20 years old. Tamir Rice was not described to be a tall or large child, his face is definitely still childlike, granted, the orange safety valve on the toy gun was missing therefore making it look like a real gun, but are rookie police officers so poorly trained that they cannot tell the difference between a child and adult? Even if Tamir Rice looked older than 12, say 15 or 16, is it appropriate to shoot a 15 or 16 year old with a possible toy gun. Officer Loehmann claimed that he didn’t get the message that the gun may be a toy gun or that the suspect is a child, so again, he didn’t know, that is their get out of jail card: “I didn’t know”, “I was afraid for my life”, “I didn’t know that suspect wasn’t armed.” Cleveland police were reluctant to charge Timothy Loehmann, even though the corner declared Tamir Rice’s death as a homicide, no murder or manslaughter charges have been filed an investigation is still pending 5 months after the shooting. Tamir Rice’s body hasn’t even reached its final resting place as investigators aren’t sure if they need his body for further investigation, adding insult to injury to Tamir Rice’s family.

Ever since the murder of Trayvon Martin in 2012 by George Zimmerman, a wannabe-cop, self-appointed neighborhood watch and trigger happy to boot, there seems what feels like an endless horror of white cops killing black men, young men, men in their prime and the cops seem to get off scot free as long as they utter the words ‘I was afraid for my life’, ‘I didn’t know he was unarmed’, ‘I didn’t know he was a minor’. Eric Garner, a father of 4 was choked to death by Officer Daniel Pantaleo, for selling loose cigarettes, yes, it is against the law to sell loose cigarettes, but is it necessary to put a man in a choke hold because he resisted arrest? And when he says ‘I can’t breathe’ why was that ignored? Of course the NYPD blues came out in force to protect their own, blaming the victim, saying that if he weren’t engaged in an illegal activity he wouldn’t be dead. Well, by that standard, any person that commits an unlawful or illegal activity and is apprehended by the police deserve to die if they don’t do exactly as the police say? Eric Garner was selling loose cigarets, which to my understanding is common but still illegal. He wasn’t committing a robbery, he wasn’t armed, he wasn’t in a fight, he wasn’t trying to kill someone and yet he was choked to death and couldn’t breath. The Grand Jury refuse to indict the officer because the officer didn’t mean to kill him and since he technically resisted arrest the officer was well within is rights to physically restrain him. 

Mike Brown of Ferguson, Missouri was another case of an aggressive youth, unarmed, but due to his large and intimidating size, the office Darren Wilson again stated that he was afraid for his life, even though he’s the one that is armed, and that due to Mike Brown’s large size, it scared him. There seems to be a running narrative here: first, all these white officers have trouble telling what age these black kids are, second, they all use the same excuse that they were in fear of their lives even though the above mentioned people were unarmed, somehow, trained police officers have trouble differentiating if a suspect is armed or not and they are not taught a safe way to find out if a person is armed or not. They are reinforcing the stereotype that black boys always look older than they really are, and that they are all dangerous.

This type of brutal policing has to stop, the vicious cycle of arrest, incarceration and reoffending for black men has got to stop. The justice system was not designed to be a racist institution, it’s to the contrary, the US justice system is supposed to be dispassionate so that proper justice can be served. But inner city communities who do not have access to good representation and only have overworked public defenders as their only resource, each public defender has so many cases that he or she is just looking to get rid their cases off their desks, public defenders often recommend plea bargains to get rid of their cases. When a defendant accepts a plea bargain, it is the same as a guilty conviction, and now that defendant has a record. If the defendant hires his own attorney and insists on his day in court as is his right under the constitution, he may be acquitted or just receive probation.

When the results of an institution or criminal justice system disproportionately affects a certain minority group, that system or institution has become racist, it may not have started out that way and that may not have been the intent behind our criminal justice system to be racist, but as it stands today, it’s very safe to say that it is racist and unfair to those that are financially disadvantaged. A balance must be struck with effective policing and making sure communities are safe and the police overreaching and abusing their power because they have a gun and badge. Since all police carry guns in the United States, it’s safe to say that in any random probability, the police will be better armed than any suspect they meet.

The American people do not care that much about what happens with the Iran Nuclear Deal or what the erratic Iranian Regime says about Israel or which rebels they are backing militarily this month. The Ayatollah can mouth off his crazy talk or tweet his crazy words, Americans don’t care. Americans care about issues at home, health care access, contraceptive access for women, basic health care for all people, police brutality and abuse, jobs, education, everything that affects us here at home, right now.

So all the ladies and gentlemen running for president now, they need to pay attention to issues at home, it’s easy to divert the spotlight away from what’s important with what’s going on overseas and make it seem more important than what’s going on at home. It’s not going to work this time, the American public is sick of it, we want our next president to clean up our own backyard, to invest in our roads, to invest in our education and our children.

The middle class.

Reviving the middle class. It’s the catch phrase of this presidential election campaign and whoever the voters believe can deliver for the middle class will be our next president. Whoever can bottle up his or her secret elixir for reviving the middle class in America and then sell it to the masses will become our next president. What no one is talking about is who exactly comprises of the middle class? All the candidates assume that the voters know who the middle class are, but do they really? The face of the middle class has changed drastically since The Great Recession. Many former middle class pursuits and creature comforts now belong to the upper-classes or at least upper-middle class. Things like private education, summer camps, playing varsity sports, all require extra money that the middle class no longer have and perhaps will not regain in the near future. All the extra disposable income the middle class have are now going towards maintaining the rising cost of living but no upward adjustment in wages, not enough to keep up with inflation anyway. And what’s not mentioned yet by any of the candidates is growing the middle class, not growing the income of the current middle class but growing the number of people who belong to the middle class, lifting people who are in the lower classes into the middle class and out of the grind and humiliation of poverty. And I don’t mean throwing money at the problem by creating more government funded programs in the form of direct handouts, that hasn’t worked in the long term but providing the lower income people the tools to move into the middle class, such as education, training and life skills, topics such as delaying parenthood until one is financially established, avoiding single parent household situations and making smart, long term financial decisions that would not only move them into the middle class but that their children stay in the middle class as well.

The next thing is of course who the Republicans and Democrats consider to be middle class and what their views of the middle class are and whether or not they want to grow the middle class. The GOP no longer recognizes what the real middle class is, they think middle class is middle white America and people who subscribe to and identify with those values and that excludes a lot of people. The Democrats need the votes of the lower income voters so their incentive to campaign to bring more people into the middle class isn’t quite there. People who already belong in the middle class depending on if they are at the higher end of the middle income scale or lower end, will more or less determine who they vote for.

How these candidates campaign for the middle class will be based on their definition of the middle class. Is it how much money you have in the bank? Your annual income? Your occupation or profession? College degree or not? Does someone without a college degree but earn upwards of $50,000 per year which is more than what some with a college degree earn does that make one middle class? Your values and tastes, such as attending the theater or the ballet or going to watch a dirt bike contest with your free time? Where you shop (Walmart or Target)? Do you eat organic food or do you eat processed junk food? Where do you go and what do you do on the weekends, ferrying your kids around to various sports games or watching football at home? What about church attendance? And finally a thorny and controversial one – parenting style. Do middle class parents parent their children differently and do they impart different values than their working class counterparts? According to Robert Putnam’s new book: ‘Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis’, the main barrier to social mobility is no longer race but social class: “Poor parenting is thus a barrier to social mobility, and is becoming more so as the world grows more complex and the rewards for superior cognitive skills increase.” He goes on to say that “Educated parents engage in a non-stop Socratic dialogue with their children, helping them to make up their own minds about right and wrong, true and false, wise and foolish. This is exhausting, so it helps to have a reliable spouse with whom to share the burden, not to mention cleaners, nannies and cash for trips to the theatre.” He points up that up to “1970s there were practically no class differences in the amount of time that parents spent talking, reading and playing with toddlers. Now the children of college-educated parents receive 50% more of what Mr Putnam calls “Goodnight Moon” time (after a popular book for infants).” The traditional authoritative style of parenting no longer works in the 21st century as cognitive and analytical skills are more important in the workforce than following orders.

The second major factor in social mobility is 2 parent families versus single parent households. The breakdown of the traditional family has been detrimental to social mobility. After Robert Putnam’s extensive research and interviews his conclusion was that a child’s 8th grade test scores do not determine whether that child graduates from college or not, but the social background of that child will determine if that child completes university or not. It’s a sad and sobering book on the decline of social mobility and family. A problem this complex and layered has no obvious solutions, Putnam didn’t point fingers at anyone or offer a silver bullet solution to this complex problem. It requires a multi-pronged approach, the first and most obvious is to discourage having children out of wedlock and having children too early, and those that do have children out of wedlock and are in single parent households, to teach them good parenting skills. Children after all, model what their parents do, interventions from schools, counselors and social services can have an impact, but the responsibility to produce productive children ultimately lie with the parents, it is not the obligation of society to raise its delinquent children. There are anti-poverty programs that can assist with parents that need help but ultimately they need to do the work.

In New Britain, Connecticut a new anti-poverty program that was included with the Obamacare legislation called ‘Child First’, several states have chosen to try out this program, which is a home visit program for vulnerable parents with young children. Social workers and nurses visit homes of underprivileged children and teach them practical parenting skills. How to soothe a baby, how to get the baby to sleep, and most importantly never ever harm the baby out of frustration by teaching parents coping skills and basic parenting skills. Being a lone parent, in financial distress with insecure food, housing, child care and employment, combine that with a fussy baby and sleep deprivation is a situation ripe for disaster. The conservatives would interject at this point that these people shouldn’t have children to begin with and since they brought this on themselves, they shouldn’t expect the government or anyone but their own families to help them. To that I have this reply, yes, poor people shouldn’t be procreating, in fact many people should not be procreating at all not just the poor, but lots of things happen that shouldn’t be happening. Global warming, melting of Arctic Ice, greenhouse gases, environmental destruction due to oil drilling, a big hole in the ozone layer, GMO foods, the Monsanto Corporation, scores of species of animals going extinct everyday due to human poaching and loss of habitat, destruction of the Amazon rainforest, all of these are manmade, done by rich people, rich corporations, done in the name of capitalism, where is outcry from conservatives on this? So, to the social conservatives out there, who deny poor people access to birth control and adequate health care, citing religion and God, at the same time shaming people who seek abortions and shaming the poor for being poor and being a leech on the welfare system, shaming them for applying for food stamps and cash aid to feed their children to survive, where is your Christian spirit? I don’t recall Jesus shaming the poor in the Bible, in fact he did the opposite, he reached out to people who were poor and marginalized and shunned by society. Jesus, however, did openly condemn hypocrites and people who drone on and on about God and morality but do not practice what they preach.

Even if we remove religion and basic human compassion and decency from this conversation, research and study after study has shown that providing assistance to children of poverty and early intervention will prevent future social ills and further drain on resources for when those children grow up. Providing food assistance and secure housing will keep them in school and to be able to pay attention and focus on their studies. Again, the problem of poverty and its solutions are complex and difficult, there’s no silver bullet. Many things have been tried to varying degrees of success, but everyone needs food on their table and a roof over their heads, that is the most basic of human needs, and there is no reason why the richest nation on earth cannot provide that for its citizens. Having said that, people need to want to improve their lives on their own, one can lead a horse to water but one can’t make it drink, the government can provide all the programs and assistance out there at the disposable of the underprivileged but if they don’t make good use of it besides the immediate cash and food assistance but don’t make long term plans to improve their lot, there isn’t much the government or charities can do for them.

I would implore each of the presidential candidates to go one step further, to find ways to lift those families currently living in poverty or working classes into the middle class by providing a road map to get there. It is always up to the individual to follow the road map, but the way our society is structured now, there is no road map, only vicious cycles of poverty, lack and need.

Finally, to all the social conservatives, who claim they so love this country, living on welfare and food stamps is no life. It is a life of insecurity, worry, fear and shame. Giving the poor a choice between gainful employment and a life on welfare, most will choose gainful employment.