Support Me for Trump’s Running Mate

I am excited to announce that I have made the short list for Donald Trump’s running mate.  This all came to fruition during one of our secret society gatherings where Donald issued a call to action for all of his loyal followers.  The request was simple, write an essay on how to make America great again.  You will find my winning essay below which I proudly call “Ameridome.”

Imagine a country that is impenetrable to our enemies.  In fact, not just our enemies, but any unwanted guests.  Whether they believe in different gods, speak in different languages, or simply have an undesirable skin color.  Such a majestic place has never existed, but it could.   Thanks to breakthroughs in technology, the ability to construct an electro magnetic dome over the continental US is now within our grasp.  For a mere 3 quintillion dollars (that’s a 3 with only 18 zeros) we can completely encapsulate our entire country in the warm blanket of a beautiful, protective shield.  Not only will this keep people out, but it will also serve to keep greenhouse gases in which could make the northern most point of Minnesota feel like Miami all year round.  

Now I know there will be lots of questions about how this will work, but the answers to most of these questions are surprisingly simple… No.  For example, while this dome protects America from foreign invaders, can Americans leave the country for vacation?  No.  What about business travel?  No.  Can we trade with other countries?  No.  At least access the beaches and our coastal waters?  No.  But these are small prices to pay for a free country that has no threat of foreigners.  We must focus on the benefits.  By not letting anyone new in, we can ensure that our reproduction will be pure, using only the seeds and eggs of red blooded Americans. In just a few generations, we can have a society that has the same language, same accent, same ideas, same fashion… hell, we might even get to one skin color with all that inbreeding.  ‘Cause in order to make America great again, we have to make Americans great again.

Many of you will be asking how we can pay for this absolutely stunning (albeit invisible) dome.  Can Mexico really fund the entire thing?  Of course not.  A project of this scale requires sophisticated planning and out of the box thinking.  We’ll need great leaders, great materials, great workers, and of course great big money printing presses.  But that’s just the start.  Once we get our plans in place, the real funding process begins.  First of all, we aren’t simply going to deport our illegal immigrants. That would be insane.  These are solid laborers.  We are going to sell them back to Mexico for $10,000 per head.  If Mexico can’t afford these fine laborers after paying for their share of the dome, we will simply put them up for bid.  Syria will need to rebuild their country soon, so there’s plenty of pent up demand.  The next thing we’ll do is default on all of our foreign debt, which frees up trillions of dollars.  It won’t matter anyway since we’ll be in a hermetically sealed bubble, and since we’re in a bubble, we’ll also sell all of our nuclear weapons, if other countries want to fight it out, let them.  Most of the victims are probably would-be refugees anyways.  Finally, anyone on public assistance including single moms, the disabled, veterans… anyone who wants a government benefit can work for it by helping build our dome.  

Once the dome is in place, we can truly focus on making America great.  Literally, there will be no country like it on Earth, and even if there was, we wouldn’t know about it due to our self imposed isolation.  This is the vision our founding fathers had from the beginning.  Complete and total independence.  No need for foreign oil.  Well, technically, no way to get foreign oil.  No H1B visas.  No manufacturing in China.  Everything will be America made with American materials.  Sure, we won’t have lithium for battery production, but we have to keep our phones plugged in most of the time anyways.  We will drill everywhere, frack everywhere.  Hell, we’ll have so much energy we’ll be practically radiating it, or actually radiating it.  

All of this can be yours with our new Ameridome.  By simply voting for Trump, and me, John Miller as his running mate, you can have everything I have described above.  It’s true.  Don’t look for evidence or facts that may contradict this.  Those are just things people who don’t believe in greatness say.  Listen to my words, because my words are what you, as red blooded Americans who will vote for anyone with a GOP label, want to hear.  

According to my people, my essay put me just ahead of Sarah Palin and Kanye West.  If can edge out Vladimir Putin, I’m in.

America – Post Trump or Cruz

Trump and Cruz

Let’s face it. Either Trump or Cruz are going to win the GOP nomination. In preparation for a possible general election victory for one of these two, I have compiled some mitigation plans for those who might be adversely impacted by this outcome. While this list is not all encompassing, it should provide you with some basic guidelines for how to survive in this new America. If that sounds overly dramatic, I encourage you to read on.

For starters, the similarities between the positions of these candidates and our arch nemesis, ISIS, are uncanny:

  • Believe our nation is founded on a single religion (albeit different religions), but feel strongly that those religious views are more important than “secular” laws.
  • Women don’t own their reproductive rights, those should be determined by an elected group… which in America is over 80% male.
  • Everyone should have a gun, ideally more than one, and the bigger the better.
  • Women cannot fight in combat, ‘cause they’re women… frail, emotional, and distracting to men who have needs.
  • Torture of your enemy is completely acceptable; I don’t care what that Geneva Convention says.
  • Actually, we’re going to double down on that. It is also ok to kill the families of your enemies, ‘cause once you ignore one line in the Geneva Convention, what good is the rest of that crazy document.

Some of you might be thinking that I’m being a bit extreme. Sure Trump has said some crazy things, but those comparisons can’t be true for Cruz? Except they are, and in many cases more so. Therefore, it is important that we plan accordingly, so I have organized my plans by demographics, as each will need to deal with this new regime with different tactics. Many of you will belong to more than one group, and will likely need to deploy a myriad of strategies. So let’s get started.

Non-Christians (regardless of gender)

This is no longer really your country. It was founded on Christian principles, and as such you can conform or leave. The good news is that it is extremely easy to fake being a Christian. Pretty much anything you do wrong can be absolved by asking for forgiveness from Jesus, and you get the right the discriminate against almost anyone due to your “deeply held belief.”  The really good news here is that the bible is written in such a way, that you can pretty much cherry pick any line, tailor it to your need, and “sincerely believe it.”  So this one is technically a benefit for all, providing you play by the rules.

Women

This one is a bit tougher. The guidelines above don’t apply at all since identifying as another gender in this new world will likely become a crime. Therefore your choices are fairly straightforward. If you’re wealthy, any new laws won’t impact you as you can simply travel to a first world country to accommodate your needs. If you’re not wealthy, you have two choices. Succumb to your new status as a person whose rights will systemically disappear at the will of a few hundred elected men. If this doesn’t suit you, then you can do what Mexicans have done for decades. Walk dozens of miles over rough terrain, with minimal water and try to make it to a more civilized nation. I wish there a better way, but both of our GOP candidates strongly believe that birth is very important in determining your destiny, and you were born with the wrong gender.

Elderly and / or Disabled

Your first order of business is training. You will need a skill, as this country is not for freeloaders. Sure, you may have worked for 40 plus years or even been injured gallantly serving our country, but we cannot support you if you’re not contributing. No free passes. Period. Once you learn your skill, you can apply for any number of jobs, where your hourly rate will be determined by the market. American corporations cannot compete on a global scale with preset minimum wages. So save your sob story about being in a wheelchair, with Parkinsons, and any of your glory days stories from taking the beach at Normandy for someone who cares. Pick up a shovel and dig. A days work for a days pay damn it, cause this is Murica!

Mexicans

If you’re here illegally, you’re done.   Leave your kids at the border, and go home. Nevermind the impact it will have on the businesses that have illegally hired 6 million or more of you. That’s their fault. Go home. If you’re here legally, good news! You get to stay! However, we reserve the right to pull you over any time because your kinda brown and brown people look a lot like illegal immigrants… so… sorry, we’re gonna need to see your identification.

Muslims

Good news and bad news. If you’re just kinda Muslim and don’t wear any of the traditional Muslim garb, you might get by. Just see the guidelines for legal Mexicans, and consider changing your last name to Jones or Smith. Something like Khan is likely to garner unwanted attention. If you’re here on a Visa or in the process of migrating legally, then the news is not so good. You are an enemy of the state, and have two choices. Go back to where you came from, or go to Gitmo. I really don’t care either way. As the old adage goes, you don’t have to go home, but you can’t stay here.  Oh, and we’re going to need to claim your mosques under eminent domain.  We’re down to just 300,000 churches, and we’re going to need to your buildings to erect giant crosses with a dead guy in a loin cloth.  Totes not gay.

Gays and Lesbians

You’re pretty much fucked.  I recommend pairing up with a gay member of the opposite gender, and agreeing to keep your actual relationship behind closed doors.  In other words, think about it like masturbation.  Everyone does it, but no one talks about it.

Anyone “Brownish” or Darker

Please see the rules for legal Mexicans. We can’t know who you really are until we see your identification. Without said documentation, you are probably a member of ISIS.

Anyone with a Phone, Computer, or Electronic Device

You need to stop sending dick pics immediately. In fact, destroy all of your devices right now and obtain new “air gapped” devices. If you don’t know what they are, look them up. Only use these devices for approved communications such anything to do with how much you love your country, or how much you hate Islam. Even something as mundane as a grocery list via text could be a problem. Want your wife to pick up some “Basmati” rice at the grocery store? Guess what? Muslims eat Basmati rice and the government is listening. You could be branded a terrorist or a sympathizer. If you’re not sure what is acceptable to communicate, I suggest reading a great book by George Orwell who covers this brilliantly in 1984. It should give you the key information you need to avoid any possible “thought violations.”

Last But Not Least – Anyone in the Bottom 95% Income Level

Contrary to what you might be hearing in the debates, you will be responsible for funding the country. Even though you only have 40% of the total wealth, you need to pay for 100% of our government needs. Why? Because the top 5% earned that 60% of the wealth, and you didn’t. If you don’t want to pay your share, work your way into the top 5%. What? College is too expensive? Shut the fuck up, and get another job, and possibly another one depending on market determined wages. We didn’t build this great country on the backs of people who complained. We did it the old fashioned way, by people who inherited it. If you’re not one of those, than you can be one of the 0.01% who break the barrier by achieving the American Dream without help.

I hope you find this guidance helpful as I find it is best to prepare. Our country has a rich history of merchandising our own extremism as Patriotism. We did a fine job in the forties with our Japanese internment camps, again in the fifties with communist blacklists, in the sixties we showed our strength of states rights as George Wallace stood strong ensuring no one darker than he entered a school. I am confident that neither of these two will let us down either.  So raise your American flag in one hand, your bible in another, and help us make America again!

 

 

Which President Owns the Lion’s Share of Our Debt?

Deficit By President

When you look at the chart above, does it surprise you? Is this what you hear when you read, watch or listen to the news? The entire GOP campaign has been about Obama’s “failed presidency” and the $19 trillion dollar debt he racked up.   It is often said that history cannot be judged in the present, because we are too close to it.   In other words, we feel the emotion, our buttons are pressed, and no matter how good things are, the temptation to get bitter that it isn’t better is often just too much not give in to it. And there are always louder voices on the angry side than there are on the happy side. Few people create huge gatherings to shout about how great things are (except when a sports title is won), but given them a reason to be angry or a common enemy and they’ll come out in droves.

Therefore, it requires time, often decades to look back at a given period to evaluate objectively how successful an era was. As we look back on how history has evaluated leaders and time periods, there are two measures that rise above all others when determining that success.   The level of peace and stability a society felt, and their prosperity. To another degree, scientific achievements define an era as well, but typically they are directly correlated to the first two measures. We created nuclear weapons (and power) as a direct result of World War II, and sent a man to the moon to demonstrate ballistic missile capabilities to the Russians.   The Internet boom was defined by the prosperity that came with it, as well as the volatility of moving faster than we ever did before.

Over the last 36 years, we have had five presidents. Of the five, Reagan is often referred to as the most successful. He turned around an abysmal economy, is credited with ending the Cold War, and was a key player in the fall of the Soviet Union. Given these critical milestones, it would be difficult to fault the man for being the first president to leave our nation with a 12-figure deficit. Not debt, which is the cumulative effect of deficits over time. In fact, under Reagan, the model Republican, the annual deficit grew 80% by the time he left office. This fact, in and of itself, wouldn’t be so bothersome if it was a black swan. A one-time event in response to extraordinary times. The problem is, it didn’t end with Reagan.

Of the 4 remaining presidents, only two left office with a smaller deficit than they started with, and neither were Republican. Bush (41) increased the deficit by 87%, and he did so in just 4 years! His brother, Bush (43) is a bit more difficult to measure because the denominator he inherited from Clinton was negative. Clinton took a $290 billion dollar deficit (which was a mere $72 billion just 12 years prior) and turned it into a $236 billion dollar surplus. Yes, he had help from a booming Internet economy, but we have had analogous booms before and after, and no one has ever achieved such an enormous swing prior to Clinton.

By the end of Bush’s (43) second term, he took a $236 billion dollar surplus to a $1.4 trillion dollar deficit, accounting for close to a $2 trillion swing. In fairness, a huge spike was related to the financial crisis and the government response. However, even if you remove that spike, Bush still added $700 billion to the annual deficit in his final year making it roughly 10 times the size it was when Reagan took office. In comparison, Obama took a $1.4 trillion dollar deficit down to $500 billion during his 7 years in office, cutting the deficit by two thirds. So while it is fair to say that Obama added $6.5 trillion dollars in debt, imagine what this number would be if Bush had another 8 years. It is important to note that an administration can’t simply create a budget out of thin air. They have to work from the baseline they start with, and either cut or grow from there.

Imagine a publicly traded business with a former CEO who took a company from the black into the deep trenches of the red. A new CEO comes in and reduces those losses year over year, ultimately cutting them by 64%. Who would Wall Street view more favorably? It wouldn’t even be a question, yet when we evaluate the success or failure of each administration, it is a question.

As a society, we focus too much of our intellectual capacity on political party affiliations, and fan fare when it comes to our choices. I have heard the Christian candidates refer to a biblical quote multiple times this election… “we will know them by their fruit.” For those not familiar with this Christian citation, it means that a person’s actions define their character.   The fact is that the Republican party of the last 3 decades is not the party of small government or financial conservatism. We can see that in their fruit. Out of 5 presidencies, the three Republicans grew the annual deficit every time, and the two Democrats decreased it every time.

In other words, if you truly consider yourself a Republican as defined by Lincoln, you might want to consider voting for the only actual Republicans in this election. For the record, both of them happen to be Democrats.

Before You Vote… US Economy Decoded

This presidential election has been nothing short of historic.  Establishments have been challenged, party positions are evolving to further extremes, and we even have a reality TV star to headline the show. Sure, he openly and without shame acknowledges that keeping Mexicans and Muslims out of the country is a priority, but it wouldn’t be entertaining without some Family Guy humor.  Sadly, too many of our constituents find that more appealing than an actual understanding of our government, its challenges, and a productive approach to solutions.  This is especially true when it comes to our economy which has hardly been mentioned in the debates.

The primary reason is that no one can really grasp the concept of trillions.  It is a number beyond anything tangible for a population with a median net worth of $45,000 per adult.  That places us at 19th globally, behind Canada, Japan, and a large portion of Western Europe.  In other words, the US isn’t exactly the greatest country on Earth when it comes to wealth or income equality.  Given that fact, I thought the most helpful way to think about our government spending and the US economy was to break it down to an individual level.  While the average person can’t conceive of the 6.5 trillion the US spends each year, a person can identify $21,000.  The amount spent on each man, woman, and child by the US government.

Of course that money doesn’t actually go to our citizens directly.  It goes to infrastructure, defense, medicare, and host of other services required to run a first world country.  In total, it comes to $6.5 trillion dollars, or roughly one third of the total US GDP ($17 trillion).  While that is up over 20 percentage points from a century ago (roughly 10% of GDP), the portion of the GDP made up by the government has been roughly one third since the end of World War II.  Meaning that no matter which party was in office, our spending relative to the size of our economy has remained mostly constant.  In fact, the only notable change is that during the Reagan administration, the percentage went about about 4 points never to return to its sub thirty percent glory.   Meaning the entire notion of Conservative or Liberal spending is moot… they both spend and many cases the portion spent was higher under a Republican administration.  

Now, back to that $21,000 and how it is spent.  The first $8,600 goes to entitlements.  Before you get hung up on the word “entitle”, the important factor to remember is that this money is committed over long periods of time and therefore takes years or even decades to control.  So even the most Conservative leader couldn’t reign this cost in during a single term or even a second term.  $4,000 of this goes to social security and government pensions, and $4,600 goes to medicare.   Unless we’re going let our elderly go without healthcare and meager social security payments (averaging $1,300 / month or just under $16,000 / year), this money is essentially taken right off the top.  Leaving us with just $12,400 per person per year for everything else.  So where does that go?

Well, aside from from $1,000 which goes directly to debt interest, we have $11,400 for what we think of as discretionary spending.  Here’s where that goes.  $3,100 goes to education, $3,000 goes to defense, and $1,500 goes to welfare.  That’s right, 5% of our total spend or 10% of our discretionary spend goes to welfare.  So for the conservatives that believe in tithing, we are right in line with our welfare spending for what good and decent Christians consider charity.  These three areas total $7,600, leaving us with with $3,600 to spend on everything else.  This includes; transportation, utilities, our government employees, national parks, and basically any other government service you can think of.

Let’s assume the $3,600 is constant and it is really about tradeoffs of where you spend it.  That leaves us with $3,100 for education and $3,000 for defense.  Put this in perspective.  The US ranks 14 globally in education.  We rank first in defense.  Not by a little either.  When you hear people complain that our military has been depleted, tell them this.  The US spends more money on defense than the next highest 13 countries combined.  Think about that visually.  On a chart, you’d have a bar going all the way to the top for the US, and you’d have to stack up the next 13 bars to even match the US.  Of course national security is critical.  But maybe we can just spend more than the top 5 combined, and still be Herculean in comparison.   I love our military, and I prioritize care for vets above all else.  That isn’t where the $3,000 is going though.  It is used to fund roughly 700 bases in 38 foreign countries, $4.5 billion aircraft carriers, $100+ million fighter jets, and other state of the art machinery.  While the pay of an average solider barely eclipses $40,000 per year.  Until we start putting more money in our soldier’s bank accounts, it is probably wise to stop saying it isn’t patriotic to cut military spending.  

How many US citizens even have a cursory understanding of this?  Our media doesn’t even report it.  The research for this post took hours of scouring through government websites and validating numbers from multiple sources.  Every election debate should start with a fact based model of our economy, our government spending, and direct specific questions at candidates for what he or she would do to address our problems.  Instead, we talk about walls, deporting families, the “war on Christianity”, and the evils of socialism.  Maybe instead of creating voter ID laws that attempt to manipulate elections, we should require our candidates to complete a comprehensive exam on our government, economy and foreign policy, then publish the results for the voters.  In most municipalities, a garbage man needs to pass a written test before even being considered.  Yet the only qualifications for becoming President of the United States are being a natural born citizen and over 35 years old.  

The framers of our constitution never contemplated that our president would have the power to destroy the planet multiple times over with nuclear weapons, or that our financial system could take down the global economy with complicated financial derivatives that hedge hedges.  We need to stop choosing our candidates based on who has the better sound bite, and start evaluating each on his or her understanding of the challenges in this country, and providing informed solutions.  It begins with each of us becoming more informed, and demanding the same of our politicians.  Each of you wields $21,000 per year in influence.  It is your money, which is merely being stewarded by our representatives.  Choose wisely this election cycle.  Otherwise, the former star of a reality show who has filed bankruptcy 4 separate times could become your new elected leader.  

Behind the Virus of ISIS

The responses to the tragedy in Paris have run the gamut from “Pray for Paris” to the French President Hollande saying that “we will be ruthless” in the fight against ISIS.  While all of these reactions feel like natural and even appropriate responses, they will also be fruitless.  When your enemy not only doesn’t fear death, but embraces it, threats and demonstrations of strength only serve as fuel for their propaganda.  Sun Tzu, who is often regarded as one of the greatest minds in military history, said that you must understand your enemy.  He further elaborated that it isn’t their army you are confronting, it is the minds and ideas that run the army.  ISIS is doing just that with it’s Western enemies, and we are feeding right into it.

Think about it.  ISIS attacks targets in Iraq and Syria, what does the West do?  A combination of drone strikes and arming rebels with Western weapons and training.  The former ends up being used as a recruiting tool, and the latter puts those very weapons in the hands of ISIS who control the traffic.  We seem to believe we are fighting a war over territory, with finite enemy lines. Where one side can pound the enemy lines of another relentlessly, and ultimately take away their will to fight.  This is not that war.  There is no territory.  The war being fought is one of ideology, and it knows no geographic constraints.  In order to beat this enemy, we must put more energy into understanding them, and more importantly emphasize with them.  Do not confuse this with sympathy, care, or even mercy.  It is an emotional understanding.

In the US, the number of non-Muslims that have read the Quran is so small, it is essentially immeasurable.  One study found that over 99% of Americans have never even held a Quran.  Instead, we do one of two things, both with complete and utter ignorance.  We state that Mohammed is a false prophet, or we do the politically correct thing and say that we must respect everyone’s belief.  Would you respect a belief that states, “Kill disbelievers where you find them… such is the reward of disbelievers.” ?  Because that is an actual verse in the Muslim holy book.  Again, our reaction is either; Islam isn’t a real religion, only mine is, or we say that it is an allegory or being taken out of context.   Either response indicates an unbelievable lack of understanding about our enemy.

In an effort to resolve this systemic issue which could possibly result in a third world war, I thought I’d provide a simple framework.  For starters, stop thinking about Islam, and start thinking about your belief.  You know, the one that is absolutely right.  Yeah, that one.  Since I am an American and the majority of our country identifies as such, we’ll go with Christianity, but you could substitute anything including science and reason.  Imagine believing beyond the shadow of any doubt that Jesus is the Lord and Savior.  Follow his teachings and you will spend an eternity in Heaven.  What would convince you that this belief you have built your life around is not true?  The stance of almost every single GOP presidential candidate is “nothing.”  Even in the face of indisputable evidence, these allegedly brilliant leaders would not change their position on their religion.  They go so far as to cite how their belief will be used to influence their presidency, and often to raucous applause.

Now take that example a step further, and this is where it gets tough.  What if you learned that Jesus wanted you to cleanse the world of filth and evil?  Impossible, you’d say.  Jesus was all about love and forgiveness.  However, that is essentially what the Rapture will be according to the bible.  And the majority of our presidential hopefuls aren’t shy in admitting they share that belief.  Now apply that understanding to Islam, and more importantly fundamentalist Islam using the same mentality a fundamentalist Christian would use when reading their holy book.  This is the paradox we face with belief.  We seem to readily accept our own, while simultaneously dismissing another’s to the point of not even comprehending it.  In each instance, when faced with evidence to the contrary, we respond with “faith.”  We claim not to be “awesome” enough to understand our deity, but that we have faith that it is for the greater good.

If American’s and Westerners can start to at least grasp this concept, we can win the war against ISIS and every other organization that fills it’s vacuum.  The problem with this approach is that it is not politically correct, and moreover it is not politically viable.  Imagine a study which found that the majority of Born Again Christians shared some type of trauma in their life before converting.  In other words, some type of empirical proof that people fill gaps in their life with religion.  Who would print that?  It almost seems cruel.  Like telling a six year old on Christmas Eve that Santa isn’t real.  The fact is, most religious subscribers cannot even comprehend life without their belief.  It creates a perceived reality with comfort and failsafes.

So why would fundamentalist Islamist be expected to give up their beliefs?  These are people recruited in early adolescence, often with no education, little food, and even less hope of escaping the cycle of violence and despair.  Facing all of this, an Imam approaches one of these hungry and hopeless youths and promises him food, shelter, and a future.  It isn’t until he is enveloped with faith, community and a feeling of strength that he learns his role is to help fulfill the Rapture.  Imagine looking back on the poverty and hopelessness, and ahead to the promise of paradise that goes with dying in battle.  Nobility, righteousness, fighting for the holy cause.  Do we honestly believe that we are going to win this battle with brute force?

The fact is that ISIS has perfected a battle strategy pioneered by the patriots that founded the United States.  We would never have defeated the powerful British going musket to musket on an open field.  So we resorted to militia warfare.  Taking advantage of the slow speed of a conventional army, we used it to our advantage.  Raiding supply lines, burning shipments, and targeting officers with small, quick groups of militants.  We broke every rule, and we did so because we believed in freedom, and we were willing to die for it.  Make no mistake, our American patriots were terrorists to the British.  The British lost because they underestimated the creativity and passion of men who were willing to die for something bigger than themselves.  The fact that the cause of ISIS is delusional is moot.  It is as real to them as Jesus or God is to a devout Christian.  We like to believe they are primitive and lack sophistication… just as the British thought of the Americans.  Well, they just executed a six prong coordinated attack with the exact number of casualties they planned for.

These are not stupid people.  They are cunning, agile, adaptable, and most importantly they understand us.  No less than two decades of studying our operations, behaviors, and responses.  We have drones, aircraft carriers, and the most advanced military on Earth.  What good is that when a single tweet can mobilize a dozen men with small arms and explosives to hit multiple targets at once?  This is a war of ideas.   So we can “pray for Paris” or promise a ruthless response, but it begs an important question.  What are they hoping we do?

Grand Ole Pessimists

The party of small government.  That has been the mission of the GOP since inception.  Intended to be the voice of the people, in the face of a potentially tyrannical government, the GOP was born to represent the people and the rights of states.  Regardless of political differences, the Republican party stood for the individual, liberty and freedom.  This is what was written in 1856 in Philadelphia.  How far they have fallen?  As of this year, this is the party that has led the biggest congressional investigation in history.  The most committees (10), the longest duration (3 years), the most expensive ($6,000,000), and all of this without a single charge or indictment.  That’s right, the Benghazi investigation exceeded Watergate on every conceivable measure and the only known accomplishment it achieved (according to Kevin McCarthy who, as of today, who is no longer pursuing the Speaker of the House position) is hurting Hillary Clinton’s poll numbers.

Anyone who reads my posts knows that I am not a fan of the Republican party.  This isn’t about bias, it is about facts.  Over the last 7 years, the Republican party has not accomplished a single significant outcome.  Even in their efforts to block their opposition’s outcomes they have failed, and done so with futile consistency.  Over 50 times the Republicans in Congress have voted against the Affordable Care Act, with full knowledge that these were largely symbolic votes.  What an unbelievable waste of resources.  The party that is supposed to be the champion of the people has clearly lost its way.  A key indicator of this is that Trey Gowdy, the leader of the Benghazi investigation, is now a serious contender for the Speaker of the House.  What exactly is this party hoping to accomplish?  Besides stopping others from accomplishing anything?  Which they have also proven to be inept at doing.

It begs an important question.  Who is actually voting for these people, and why?  Maybe you believe Obama is the anti-Christ. Fine.  What is your proposed solution?  Because so far, the only platform offered by the current GOP presidential candidates is to unwind everything Obama has done.  In tangible terms, this means taking health insurance from over 10 million people, potentially starting another war in Iran, and most importantly infringing on the rights of over 100 million women.  One candidate, Huckabee, is willing to use his potential executive power to bring in the military to do so.   Again, I want to reiterate, I am fully aligned to the original promise of the GOP.  Who wouldn’t be?  Liberty, small government, and an assurance that our government is FOR the people not against them.  It is what the American dream was built upon.  Unfortunately, that is the polar opposite of the what the current Republican platform stands for.

The majority of the Republican presidential candidates believe that Judeo-Christian principles supersede the constitution.  Nevermind the First Amendment, or the fact that the bible describes the appropriate way to beat a slave, or an actual dollar amount that should be paid to a father of a rape victim.  These factors don’t figure into the equation of the typical Republican voter.  They stand for individualism, not some social doctrine.  They aren’t going to give in to the Liberal Media machine.  No, they think for themselves, right?  Except they don’t.  The cognitive dissonance represented by this alleged informed voter group is beyond insanity.  Their principles only align to those that agree with the party line.  In other words, groupthink.

I can’t emphasize this part enough.  I would be a Republican if it weren’t for Republicans.  I believe in freedom, liberty, and most of all an open debate on issues that matter.  But that isn’t what Republicans are anymore.  They are the Doublespeak as outlined in George Orwell’s 1984.  They are the secret thought police who believe it is ok to tap your phones, enact religious tests for office, and they will call you out publicly the moment you go off script.  As they did with Kevin McCarthy.  So when you go to the polls in 2016, ask yourself if your candidate really represents what you believe.  Not what they tell you that you should believe, but what you actually believe is right.  Otherwise, you are conformist.  Which is the opposite of what a Republican is supposed to be.

I’ll close with a simple thought.  What do I believe the ideal Republican would do?  He or she would represent what an individual would want.  The right to choose, the right to make their own decision, they believe you need a reason to make something illegal.. not legal, and most of all, they would allow the debate to happen.  It wouldn’t be a test.  It would be debate.  May the best argument win.  Have you seen these attributes in any of the Republican presidential candidates?  If so, vote for him or her.  If not, challenge, and demand a different candidate.  Otherwise, I would contend, you are not the Republican that you think you are.

Hashtag This…

It never ceases to amaze me how quickly grown adults can act like children when given a new toy.  But there is one huge difference between kids and adults.  With kids the new “thing” comes in quickly, they figure out the best parts, apply them to their learning, and then phase them out and move on to the next thing.  With adults, we take exponentially longer to figure out how to use them, and when we do, we find the one thing that creates the most polarization and obsess on that attribute until we’ve pissed everyone off, and then look for the nitrous button to up the intensity even further.  And there is no toy generating more buzz these days than the hashtag.  When it started it was a way to track a conversation, but it has quickly morphed into a brand on a given position.  Given the complexity of positions, it grossly oversimplifies abstract or layered thoughts to some word combination under 20 characters.

The latest trend is #BlackLivesMatter, which could not possibly be more condescending to what would otherwise be an obvious statement.  Of course black lives matter, as do police, and so forth.  We shouldn’t have hashtags where there isn’t even a logical option for the antonym view.  It’s not like #BlackLivesDontMatter is trending.  Because “Lives” fucking matter.  Now we have #IStandWithKim in support of the Kentucky clerk who has been jailed for not issuing marriage licenses in the wake of same sex marriage being ruled legal.   What part of her position does that hashtag stand for exactly?  It could mean; freedom of religion, opposition to same sex marriage, that you only believe in Christianity, or an infinite amount of other things.  Whatever it means, the definition is an amalgamation of whatever conversation is trending, or however the media decides to spin the narrative.  Either way, it will eventually mean something very succinct, and not necessarily what you wanted it mean.

Take the Tea Party for example.  It was a grassroots movement around conservative spending, and keeping the federal government’s role limited.  In no time at all, it became a conduit for a bigger military (not conservative spending), and policies that would have created more US intervention in the world, more federal legislation a la abortion, and overtly supported broader wire tapping for all US citizens (unlimited federal role in government).  Though the Tea Party overtake didn’t happen exclusively because of social media, the concept is the same.  When you reduce the complexity of a broad view to one or two words, or even one like Republican or Democrat, you reduce the argument to “Pro” or “Con”.  When, in fact, the argument should be about the nuances, and options to reach an outcome.

Apply this principle to foreign affairs or domestic politics with a business lens.  Let’s say a hashtag campaign begins… #NoLayoffs.  It sounds like a great idea, and one that should resonate with any employee.  However, what if the choice was no layoffs and go out of business in less than a year, or 5% of the workforce is let go and the business transforms into something more profitable and enables future jobs?  The common sense argument loses out to the one that catches fire.  And #NoLayoffs is going to resonate with employees and their families.

The fact is, the onus of a message has to land on us as the audience, reader, or viewer.  Without doing so, we become the primates we descended from.  We put the power of our decisions and actions with a few, or worse… the random groupthink that comes from a large consortium.  I am not anti-hashtag.  But I do believe that we all, collectively, have to do more and influence others to be more diligent with news, information, and formulate positions that are informed.  Otherwise we are simply reduced to talking point.  At best, an ambiguous statement that could mean anything, at worst, a polarizing one that could mean friend or enemy to the colloquial aunt or uncle.  The responsibility is yours.  Unless you want to fall prey to my new campaign #ElectKanye which is not about Kanye becoming president, and more about voting him off the island.

 

The Fox & The Henhouse

Humans are social creatures who need a sense of community, and we create that environment both physically and virtually at every opportunity.  Look at the neighborhoods of major cities in the US and other developed countries.  You’ll find Chinatown, Little Italy, and a host of other culturally specific groups that choose to create geographic areas that feel more comfortable for the residents within.  It is almost an innate need to remove perceived risk factors or stressors from our lives.  Even today, over fifty years after the civil rights movement, ask a black person how comfortable they are in a primarily white neighborhood, or vice versa.  While it does happen, it is more the exception than the rule, and the people breaking those barriers are often not representative of their broader subculture.

However, these safety nets we create for ourselves are not always beneficial and in many cases can expose us to risks we are almost incapable of seeing because of what these nets are comprised of… which is primarily comfort.  When one becomes too comfortable, one tends to slip into complacency.  We see this happen in hunting accidents, animal trainers who are mauled, and even careless driving accidents.  When we get comfortable and stop scrutinizing situations, bad things can happen.  Extend that analogy to information from news, media, politicians or other outlets, and I would contend the risk is exponential given the broad reach coupled with the appetite for seeking familiarity.

Think of how quickly “Obama is a Muslim” spread across the Conservative base.  Or how we react to an unarmed black man being shot by a cop, a school shooting, an act of terrorism, the list goes on.  We have become a society that reacts without reflection, and we allow media outlets to pull the strings like we are marionettes.  Ask yourself how often you read or watch outlets that provide the opposing argument to a given issue.  And even if you do, is it because you want to hear how wrong they are, or because you want to genuinely understand the other side of the argument?  If it is the latter, you are a rare breed.

Take any issue that one would consider polarizing; the best example I can think of is abortion.  Those who support choice, saw the Planned Parenthood videos and focused on how edited they were.  Those that oppose choice, saw atrocity.  And the outlets we chose to watch for an editorial perspective likely fanned the flames of whatever it was you wanted to see.  But here’s the problem.  The media is not some altruistic entity that simply wants to provide an unbiased view of a given issue.  They are for-profit entities that generate revenue on ratings, and those ratings determine the value of their advertising.  So if you’re Fox News, you’re going to generate higher ratings by pandering to your base.  Therefore there is no incentive to provide an objective view, and a huge incentive to fuel the emotions of viewers with provocative undertones.

I pick on Fox, because in my humble opinion, they have the most loyal viewership and their audience tends to drink whatever they are serving.  If Fox News believed man made client change was important, something tells me that Conservatives would eventually be voting for environmental reform.  Instead they feed the industry line about jobs, and how important it is for regulations to be removed so these “philanthropic” energy companies can create more jobs.  Meanwhile, they fail to report that these same companies are taking in record profits while benefiting from significant tax exemptions.  But a carbon tax… well… that’s just a non-starter.  Think of those poor coal miners that would go out of work.  The question we should all be asking is, who is challenging this paradigm?

If the news outlets generate their revenue from companies who buy advertising, and these are the same companies that are simultaneously funding campaigns of politicians, who exactly is monitoring the news outlets?  Making matters worse, is that Conservative outlets leverage that problem in their own marketing to suggest they are more credible than the “Liberal media.”  And their audience actually believes it.   Try to conceive of how much power that provides large companies with.  Need to shut down the carbon tax argument?  Sign a lucrative advertising deal with Mr. Murdoch and he’ll make sure that everyone knows who the real enemy is… those tree hugging hippies who want to pass job killing regulations.  We are figuratively asking the Fox (pun intended) to watch the henhouse, and are making it even easier by becoming social endorsers for the fox itself.

As a society, we need to become more skeptical.  Not cynical, but skeptical.  What is the underlying issue?  Why is it a problem?  What is the impact?  How do we know?  Would you trust Anheuser Busch if they told you their beer would make you smarter?  Bring that same skepticism to anything you read or watch.  I realize that the average lay person doesn’t think he / she could make an impact on the issues that make the news.  One person can’t change the climate or our economy, right?  Good thing no one told Martin Luther King Jr or Nelson Mandela that one person can’t make a difference.  If that seems too bold, maybe we can just ask you to step out of your figurative Chinatown for the day.  There’s a whole world out there, and you might just learn something.

Don’t Click…

In less than a week, there have been two major shootings that hit the news.  One in France, the other in the states… and one huge difference in news coverage.  In the French incident, almost all of the coverage was on the heroes who intervened to save what was likely over a dozen lives, with many articles not mentioning the shooters name even once.  In the US shooting, every major news site not only names the shooter, but has his face on the front page.  Acknowledging that this one hits close to home since both the shooter and the victims were journalists, it begs an important question.  Why give any murderer the notoriety he or she seeks?  In each of the school shootings over the last two years, the focus of every story was the shooter, with the tiniest portion covering the impact or prevention measures.

It is widely established that perpetrators of these horrific acts are motivated by legacy.  Their lives often feel meaningless, and they need something to be remembered for.  With the intensity of media coverage and the 24 hour news cycle, journalists and reporters will go into extraneous detail on every aspect of a shooter’s life.  Providing a step by step instruction manual to would be shooters.  Think about it.  Imagine a loner sitting at home, feeling no purpose, possibly abused or chemically imbalanced.  He sees the coverage a movie theater shooting, and a man with orange hair in a similar colored jumpsuit is on every channel, news site, and social media outlet.  This guy is thinking, “people will remember <I’m not mentioning the coward’s name>”.  Not too far in the future he sees a guy (not mentioning name again) on the news who shoots three Muslim students, followed by weeks of coverage of his Atheism.  Not only providing a platform for this coward’s thoughtless violence, but fueling tensions among Muslims and Atheists.

Here’s what I can’t understand.  If someone created and used a highly innovative, effective bomb that killed hundreds, no one would tolerate any media channel providing instructions on how to make that bomb.  Yet we continue to support outlets that egregiously promote the key motivator for mass shooters, their name.  I am fully cognizant of the need for free press, and the responsibility to give us all relevant information.  Any filtering creates a precedent and environment for the overstepping of government power.  In a free, capitalist system, the only way to affect change is to impact the revenue.  And while people would love to believe in journalistic integrity, clicks and television ratings highly influence how a story is told.  As an example, Fox News referred to the “Public Option” of the Affordable Care Act as the “Government Option” because Republicans told them the word “government” invokes more ire in their supporters.  Which also happens to get higher ratings and more clicks.

In other words, the only way to change the behavior of the media, and (more importantly) reduce the likelihood of mass shootings, is to give them the motivation.  Something that will incentivize them with revenue and create a positive outcome.  I have a simple solution.  We start a campaign called #coward.  The intention is to tell the media that we don’t need the name of the shooter, a simple Coward 1, Coward 2 and so on will do.  And when that moniker is in the link or subtext, we click that story instead of another with the shooter’s name.  And while it sounds ideological, and possibly hokey, it is all in the positioning.  Let’s assume that each article covering a shooting that includes the perpetrator’s name is a grain of sand.  Each time the story is watched or read, a grain of sand goes into a jar.  When the jar is full, a mass shooting happens.  Would you ever voluntarily put that grain of sand in the jar?

We live in an age of free information.  Anyone who wants to know the name of a criminal can find it easily enough with a quick Google search.  There is no filtering bias when the information is already in the public domain, and zero benefit in providing notoriety to a sociopath motivated by notoriety when the information is widely available already.  So let’s send the collective media a message that Coward X will do, and we’ll not only read your story, we’ll share it with #coward.  There will always be organizations that dive into the sewer to be provocative, we can’t change everything.  But we can be the example for others to follow.  We can create an environment of self imposed, responsible journalism by being responsible consumers.  So the next time an atrocity occurs, ask yourself if you really need to read the article with a picture of an orange haired prisoner whose name I still won’t mention… or if you should contemplate how far that jar is filled already.  It’s just one grain of sand…

 

Abortion, the GOP & their GOD

As the GOP primary debates and campaigns heat up, it is becoming increasingly clear that a candidate’s stance on abortion will be a binary switch for many Conservative voters.  According to a Gallup poll in May, 23% of pro-life voters said they would only vote for a candidate who was pro-life irrespective of their positions on other issues.  This percentage has likely increased with the recent release of undercover Planned Parenthood videos.  While I fully respect the polarity of this issue, I am also convinced that the vast majority of those holding ardent positions against abortion don’t have a viable alternative.  Here are some facts.

According to the CDC, nearly half of the of the pregnancies in the United States are unintended.  That number surges to 80% for females under 19 years old and though that isn’t surprising it is important to note that 7% of US pregnancies are teenagers.  What is most disturbing is that no matter what age the female is, the percentage goes up considerably as income goes down.  This is also supported by the abortion rate… decreasing 28% among high income women and increasing 18% among low income women over a recent ten year period.   In other words, the less resources and education you have, the more likely you are to have an unplanned pregnancy.  When that happens (assuming no abortion occurs), the odds of that female breaking the cycle of poverty are nearly insurmountable.  There are so many unfavorable stats, it would take an entire post to cover them.  In summary, the impacts for the child include higher likelihood of drug use, higher probability of incarceration, lower education, emotional issues, lower income, and a myriad more.

Now I realize that the fundamental pro-life argument is that all life is precious and none of these things should factor into the equation.  All of our lives are subject to the random chance of who we are born to.  It is a fair point.  I certainly wasn’t born into wealth or privilege, and I thrived.  So why not give everyone that chance?  Right?  The fact is that I agree with that philosophy, but it doesn’t address the actual reality.  Globally, abortion rates are almost as high in countries where abortion is illegal.  The only difference is the risk of the mother dying is estimated at up to 1,000 times higher when performed illegally.  Admittedly, statistics are tough to quantify when practices are down in the shadows to avoid prosecution, but that likely only serves to drive the percentages up.

So let’s simplify the argument.  If nearly half of all pregnancies are unplanned, and 40% of those (according to the CDC) result in abortion, and making abortion illegal doesn’t measurably reduce the volume of abortions, what does this measure solve?  Other than increasing the likelihood of a woman dying by 1,000 times?  The actual solution resides with understanding the actual problem.  Prevent unplanned pregnancies.  I’m not saying it is easy, but it has a more measurable impact on the abortion rate than any law regulating abortion.  Study after study has demonstrated that comprehensive sex education in early adolescence including both contraceptives and abstinence significantly decrease the likelihood of an unplanned pregnancy, through adulthood (note, abstinence education alone has no measurable impact).  If you can just reduce the number of unplanned pregnancies by 10%, the number of abortions goes down by 130,000 per year!  And all you have to do to achieve that is spend more money on sexual education… and if you focus on the economically disadvantaged, that number goes even higher.

My goal here isn’t to persuade anyone that is pro-life to become pro-choice.  I simply want to convey that if a pro-lifer wants to make an impact, they should stop fighting legalized abortion and focus on preventing those unwanted pregnancies.  Making a philosophical argument on when life begins is moot.  I can argue that a 12 week fetal brain is barely formed and still lacks the amygdala, which is required for the most basic neurological function, let alone cognition. The pro-lifer could retort that unique DNA can be found in a zygote.  So be it.  None of it advances the actual argument on the issue.  That solution is clear and backed by mountains of data.

Which brings me to my close and the ultimate purpose of this post.  Over the next several months, the 17 (and growing) GOP candidates will be describing their views on a range of issues.  Their position on abortion will be a “check the box” statement that will determine where 20% of their votes could go.  On an issue that will have no measurable impact on the outcome.  Perhaps that 20% should evaluate the cognitive dissonance between abortion and the GOP stance on immigration.  The leading candidates speak of building a wall to protect our border (i.e, preventative measures), but are quite clear that anyone who made it through should be deported… making hispanic life seem a bit less precious than a 12 week old fetus.  That sounds… what’s the word, oh yeah, opposite of their position on abortion, which is no preventative measures, but deportation is not an option.  For a party that loves to speak of morality and God, they seem to lack the logic to comprehend either.