Consider the Otter

Consider the Otter

People who know me know that I love otters.  People often post photos and videos of otters on my Facebook wall, which would be weird, even absurd, if I didn’t love them.  It would also be absurd to not love otters.  They are adorable.

But I don’t simply love otters because they are adorable (although the aesthetics of their facial symmetry are undeniable.) I actually love otters because they are badass, Earth-saving heroes whose natural existence supports my philosophical worldview.

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Also – very cute. Like, ridiculously so.

What’s that about a worldview, I hear you asking in a tone that begs me to expound on this claim? All right. Settle in.

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Did you know that one square inch of otter fur contains as many hairs as the entirety of a German Shepherd? True story! It’s no small wonder then, that at the turn of the 20th century, otters were hunted almost to extinction for their pelts. After all, people like to be warm, and who’s going to miss a few water weasels?

Spoiler alert: ALL OF US! THAT’S WHO!

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But, WHY, you ask in a way that lets me know you’re totally hooked.

(See what I did there? Fishing pun. So awesome.)

OK! I’LL TELL YOU!

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Despite many delightful YouTube videos of otters ingesting doggie kibble, what sea otters actually snack on is sea urchins. Sea urchins (not to be confused with street urchins – the tousle-haired symbols of Dickensian England and French Revolution musicals) are spiky marine animals that love to eat kelp.

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Left unchecked, they will destroy entire kelp forests, and kelp forests, as it turns out, are the lifeblood of the ocean. They provide shelter and sustenance for a wide variety of marine life, while absorbing CO2. Basically, without them, the whole underwater eco-system comes crashing down. And without the underwater eco-system, the on-land ecosystem has as much chance of surviving as a black man on “The Walking Dead.” (Also, there could be zombies. I mean, maybe not, but in all likelihood, probably, there will definitely be zombies.)

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BUT! If there are enough otters to eat enough sea urchins, we all get to keep on keepin’ on, and no one has to stab the undead in their brain-holsters.

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When the only thing we considered about otters was how they could serve our individual needs, we missed their most important purpose and almost wiped them out. If we’d succeeded, we’d have wiped ourselves out with them.

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So thank you, otters, for helping to prove my philosophical worldview: We have been given a perfect eco-system in which every living creature has a purpose and should be encouraged to thrive, but if we act like a bunch of selfish buttholes who can’t see past our own personal needs, we’ll throw the whole the whole system out of whack and ultimately bring about our own destruction.

(Worldview T-Shirts available soon.)

The other thing to remember is that when a handful of humans are making choices to benefit themselves in the short run that will ultimately hurt all of us in the long run, it’s important for other humans to rise up and stop them.

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Otters. Badass, Earth-saving heroes. Just like the rest of us should be.

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How the F**K Did This Happen?!? The Rise of Trump revisited.

How the F**K Did This Happen?!?        The Rise of Trump revisited.

This is a shorter/slightly tweaked version of a piece I wrote back when Donald Trump secured the Republican nomination.  The answer to the above question is the same.  It’s just a whole lot scarier now.

So… here’s a thing that happened. Sentient e. coli Donald Trump got nearly 2 million fewer votes than Hillary Clinton, but it looks like he’s still going to get to be the president! Of America! That’s where we live, you guys!  How the F**K did this happen?  Well, I will tell you.  It’s because History, like Hollywood, loves to reboot a franchise.  Here’s what I mean.

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The year was 1916. Americans were sill feeling inspired by the box office smash, Birth of a Nation and there was growing sentiment that maybe Reconstruction was a bad idea. But then we entered “The Great War.” I assume they called it that because the few people who made it home alive were like, “Man, that war was so great. We should totally do it again sometime.” And then they died of Spanish flu. And while everyone was distracted by the mustard gas, there was a bit of a culture shift back home.

In the 1920’s, black people called bullshit on sharecropping and started a Great Migration with a side of race riots. Women called bullshit on not voting and started dancing the Charleston – the twerking of it’s time.  And Jazz called bullshit on single syncopated rhythms and was all, “eff you, music, I’ll do what I want!”

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And in response to this social progress, there was a resurgence of America’s worst pajama party, the Ku Klux Klan. The Klan had been largely dormant for the past 30 years, but now they grew to 5 million strong, marched on Washington, and got a bunch of politicians elected, like… the governor of Indiana. Crossroads of America? More like cross-burning roads of America, amirite, Indiana? (I am.)

Fast forward to the 1960’s. Some of those same klan-elected politicians are are still in Congress, and they lead a 60 day filibuster to defeat the Civil Rights Bill. 60 days! I can’t stay that angry about something longer than it takes to scroll past a video of an otter eating a snack – and who could? Otters are a goddamned national treasure. But they didn’t have otter videos back then, so they talked for 60 days, lost, and then 100% of black people voted 100% of the time and no one ever tried to disenfranchise them again. Just kidding! What I meant was then a bunch of southern democrats became republicans.

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Richard M. Nixon, candidate for the Republican presidential nomination, is seen arriving at the airport in Atlanta, Ga. with his wife, Patricia, on May 31, 1968. A crowd of about 350 people greeted them as Nixon visits the South to meet with delegates from various states. (AP Photo)

Fast forward to 2008. We elect a super smart, Christian family man, who exemplifies the American Dream fulfilled, and is focused on helping the middle class, but for some reason I can’t. quite. put. my pointy hood on, not everyone was a fan. And so the Tea Party becomes a thing, grows to 5 million strong, marches on Washington, and gets a bunch of politicians elected, including – wait for it… the governor of Indiana! Because history, like comedy, loves a callback. And this conversion therapy loving callback is apparently going to be our next Vice President!

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A couple other moments of note: In 1929, as you may recall, our stock market hit a bit of a snag and, due to a bunch of rigmarole I’m sure you’re all familiar with involving the Treaty of Versailles, when our economy went down the toilet, Germany’s went down der sheizer. (Which is German for: the scheizer.) This caused the German people to make some fairly terrible political choices, which eventually culminated in “Great War: The Sequel.” But now is not the time to discuss how Germany could elect a bellowing lunatic who stoked fear, promoted isolationism, and scapegoated an entire religion. Now is the time to discuss how we could do that.

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The other era of note is the 1950’s, when everyone was into this awesome workout craze called Duck and Cover, and Joe McCarthy took advantage of people’s fears by inventing a fun game called “Spot the Communist.” It was kind of like Pokemon Go, only, instead of collecting Pikachu, you destroyed people’s lives. And this is worth mentioning because McCarthy’s right hand henchman, a sort of living ebola virus named Roy Cohn, later mentored a young rogue he met while defending this scamp’s right to not let black people live in his buildings. And that predatory protege was… Joffrey Baratheon! Just kidding. It was Donald Trump. Trump and Cohn were thick as literal thieves for years, until Trump suddenly dropped Cohn like a hot potato, because it turned out that potato had AIDS. You remember AIDS. It’s the disease Ronald Reagan said we shouldn’t try to cure because it was only killing gay people and why would we want to stop that? What a hero.

Anyway, here we are in 2016! Birth of a Nation is back in theaters. Again, directed by a racist. No wait, I mean rapist. (It’s one letter, easy mistake.) And it is once again a time of social progress. Gay people have called bullshit on not getting married. Black people are calling bullshit on being murdered with impunity. Transgendered people just really need to pee. And someone with a vagina got two million more votes for president than her opponent! GAH! Come on, women! Isn’t it enough that a bunch of vaginas already ruined Ghostbusters! (Thoughts and prayers for your childhoods, boys, btw.)

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Plus, the last guy who got to be President without winning the popular vote – in addition to letting terrorists attack us on our home turf, getting us into a trillion dollar war with the wrong country, and leaving an entire city to drown – oversaw our economy spiraling into der scheizer.  And even though our current President helped save the auto industry, got 20 million people health insurance who didn’t have it, and oversaw a sock market that kept reaching record highs and unemployment reaching its lowest rate in four decades – plus, you know, killing the person who actually  attacked us – for some reason I still can’t put my pointy hood on, an entire fake news network, talk radio, a network of social media conspiracy theorists, and a good portion of out own Congress have spent the last eight years painting a different version of reality and treating the leader of the free world with a level of disrespect no American President has ever been shown – not even Buchanan.

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So I suppose we should not be surprised that, in a phenomenally self-destructive display of backlash, a substantial number of people (not a MAJORITY, mind you, but a substantial number) voted for a racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, trigger-happy, easily-baited, nectarine-colored narcissist whose presidency will likely culminate in the completion the Great War Trilogy. This is America! That’s how we do!

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But I was surprised.  I truly believed we were finally better than this.

It is with the deepest regret I have ever felt that I admit that I was wrong.

And now I have to look into moving to Germany, since, ironically, they’re the ones taking in refugees.

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Everything About the Way We Elect Presidents is Super Dumb

Everything About the Way We Elect Presidents is Super Dumb

Maybe our electoral process made sense in an agrarian age, or when only while male landowners could vote, but now that it has given a hate spewing reality TV star a chance to bring about the end of our Republic, it’s time to admit the system has some massive flaws.

Setting aside concerns about campaign financing, dark money, and the fact that the only people who have a chance of winning are the ones who can raise the billions of dollars needed just to run, let’s just take a look at exactly how we get our presidential candidates’ balls rolling.

We start in Iowa, a state with, I think, about 3 black people, unless one of them has recently moved.  Their Hispanic population is not much bigger, despite the fact that nationally, Hispanics are our second largest demographic.  Here’s a breakdown of the Iowa electorate from the 2010 census. Compare it to the national chart that follows.

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So, a state that doesn’t reflect the national demographics, to say nothing of what they contribute (or don’t) culturally or economically, gets to set the tone with their caucus for what’s to come in the primaries, and for the very first primary, we head to someplace even whiter: New Hampshire.

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Does this look like America to you? (I mean, it probably will 4 years from now, and apparently a solid half the county is ok with that, but still.  For now, it’s really not too representative of our nation.)

Then we move on to South Carolina, a state still so bitter about being in the Union, it took 9 people being murdered in a church for them to agree to stop flying the confederate flag at their State Capitol. (Of course, now that the guy they voted for has made it clear they no longer have to pretend to have learned tolerance, there’s already talk of putting it back.)

So now, a bunch of white folks and a super racist state have given candidates on both sides some momentum, frontrunners may have emerged, and it’s on to Super Tuesday!  But wait.  What if there are still two or more candidates running in each party?  What if, for example, one party has put forth a clown car of the worst it has to offer, and they all keep splitting votes more than two ways?

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Well then, America, you get a candidate who keeps gaining delegates without winning a majority of the vote in any primary until his competition has all dropped out!  Doesn’t that make sense?!?!?!

On the Democrats’ side, you get infighting that ultimately hurts whoever emerges as the candidate, a lot of misinformation and confusion about super delegates, and a conspiracy theory that lingers – no matter how often it’s disproven – that somehow this election has been rigged!  Whee!!!

Once the conventions are over and the nominations are official, it’s time to sit back, relax, and let the media do it’s job, correcting misinformation, challenging candidates when they spout obviously false claims, and making sure the citizenry if fully informed about what’s the truth and what’s a political tactic.  We can also count on them to make sure there’s a story there whenever they hear a “controversial” buzzword, instead of just repeating baseless suspicions that they know will have an impact on the race.  Hey, great job, everybody!  Hope you can trade those ratings for rations in the coming dystopia!

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And then, the big day arrives.  Americans head to the polls to pretend we have a say in how things go for us.  One candidate gets 1.5 million (and counting) more votes than the other, and the candidate WHO STILL HASN’T WON A MAJORITY gets crowned the “winner” because of an antiquated system designed to benefit slave-owners (which feels depressingly poetic in this case.)

And, should you be so bold as to reach out to those electors to remind them that Alexander Hamilton said their job was to ensure, “the office of President will never fall to the lot of any man who is not in an eminent degree endowed with the requisite qualifications,” be prepared for responses that will not reassure you about their qualifications (or maturity levels) either.

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So, in summary, we are expected to accept as our next president a buffoon who doesn’t even pay taxes to the country he’s now supposed to govern even though he started gaining momentum thanks to a bunch of out of touch white people in places that are in no way reflective of the make-up of America, even though he didn’t win the majority in most primaries or caucuses, even though he lost the national popular vote by 1.5 million and counting, even though his campaign openly promoted voter suppression, and there is ample evidence of election tampering by foreign powers, even though this is a person the MAJORITY OF AMERICANS DON’T WANT AS THEIR PRESIDENT, we’re supposed to just accept him because that’s how the system works?!?!

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The system is broken. And everything about how we elect a president is super dumb.

 

When They’ve Got You By the Balls, Grab ‘Em By the P***y

When They’ve Got You By the Balls, Grab ‘Em By the P***y

Unless you’ve been living in a media-free bunker – and who could blame you at this point – you know that on Friday, a tape surfaced of Donald Trump bragging to Billy Bush about getting away with sexual assault.  Suddenly, many people who had been basking in the warmth of the Trumpster fire found what shriveled remains of a conscience they had left and jumped ship.  But Trump does still have his defenders. They’ve decided to go with the spin that it was “locker room talk,” that “boys will be boys,” and even that the things he was describing don’t qualify as assault.

And then today I saw this:

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I’ve seen much more grotesque, malicious, and outrageous memes about Hillary, of course, but this one really got under my skin, which seemed sort of weird to me, until I figured out why.

It’s not just that Hillary hasn’t actually done all the things she’s been accused of – although she has been relentlessly accused, and relentlessly investigated, and – much to some folks’ disbelief and disappointment – relentlessly exonerated.

It’s not just that Trump has said so many awful things in addition to bragging about getting away with sexual assault – a well of offenses that has been abundantly chronicled, 99.9% of which his supporters (at best) don’t find offensive and (at worst) consider selling points.

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It’s not even that, if we’re forming opinions based on accusations alone, it’s worth reminding everyone that Trump has been accused of raping his wife, raping a 13-year-old girl, and running a sex trafficking ring disguised as a modeling agency, and that there’s a lot of actual evidence for all of these claims.

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It’s that although Trump never used his stubby little nugget fingers to grope Hillary herself in her bathing suit area, once she had him by the balls for doing it to other women, he chose to use her as a stand-in for all the assault victims who have ever been painted as sluts, the rape victims decried as gold diggers, the abuse victims portrayed as harassing nags who “had it coming.”

When Trump got caught behaving like the predator he is, his reaction was to deflect attention from what could actually be proven about him by attempting to shame Hillary with claims about her husband’s infidelities that ranged from vague to outright false.

Trump is certainly not the first to attempt to “smear and destroy” Hillary. He won’t be the last. There is a whole contingent of men like Trump, flaccid little losers who could never make their fathers proud, who believe that women should be subservient playthings they can mock, strike, or stick their dicks in with impunity. They are threatened to their core by a woman like Hillary who is smart, successful, ambitious, and able to call them on their bullshit.  So, if they’ve dedicated decades to trying to bring her down with a ceaseless parade of lies, well, “she was asking for it.”

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And for a large portion of the population, it’s worked.  It’s like that dude in Germany said, “If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it.”  (Whatever happened to that guy?  I bet he had tons of other great ideas.)

But, if Trump and men like him have now made Hillary a proxy for all the women who “got what they deserved,” isn’t it about time we stood up for those women?  Dismissing Trump’s words as “just words” is no better than claiming “boys will be boys” when jocks post photos of their assault of an unconscious woman online, or calling it “locker room talk” when the football team slut-shames a girl into committing suicide, or excusing “20 minutes of action” so as not to ruin the life of a promising young swimmer rapist.

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Think these things aren’t related?  A woman is being accused of all sorts of horrible things by a man who has actually done all sorts of horrible things.  And people are posting this meme.

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Now, in the words of President Obama, let me be clear.  This post is about why this meme bothers me, and why it should bother you too.  It’s not about why I’m with Hillary. I am with Hillary, but not because I’m “bothered” by Trump’s words – although I’ve been ceaselessly disgusted by the bile he’s spewed for longer than he’s been running for president.  I’m with Hillary because she is infinitely more qualified for the job than anyone who has ever sought it.  Because she has outlined detailed and coherent policies that align with my values.  Because she has dedicated her life to standing up for the people men like Donald Trump have tried to marginalize.  And because, not only am I not “bothered” by what she’s done – and what I know she can do – I’m hugely f***ing impressed by it.

And you should be too.

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America, it’s time to take a knee.

America, it’s time to take a knee.

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Colin Kaepernick chose to peacefully protest in response to racism in America.

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America responded with unabashed racism.

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Colin Kaepernick chose to exercise his First Amendment right to peacefully protest in response to racism in America.

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America responded that he should not exercise his First Amendment right because soldiers fought and died to protect the First Amendment right he is exercising. (Actual soldiers are mostly cool with it.)

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Colin Kaepernick chose to exercise his First Amendment right to peacefully protest in response to racism and brutality in America.

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America responded with confusion, because “peacefully” is not how we’re used to NFL players expressing their feelings.

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(Oh, and also with threats of brutality.)

Colin Kaepernick chose to exercise his First Amendment right to peacefully protest in response to racism and police brutality in America.

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And on September 20, in Charlotte, North Carolina, Keith Lamont Scott became the 194th black person to die at the hands of police this year, the 16th since Kaepernick started protesting.

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At 194, there’s very little to say that hasn’t already been said, other than seriously, America, it’s time for all of us to take a knee.

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To Those Who Felt the Bern…

To Those Who Felt the Bern…

Here’s a fun fact:  Monkeys and apes really like grapes.  They’ll eat cucumbers, if that’s all that’s on the menu, but they prefer more expensive fruits with high sugar content. I learned this while listening to a Ted Talk by primatologist Frans de Waal. He described an experiment in which he asked monkeys and chimpanzees to perform certain tasks, and then he rewarded some with cucumbers, and some with grapes. It turned out the monkeys who didn’t get grapes felt totally cheated. They threw nasty tantrums and even threw away their cucumbers! (Silly monkeys. Your behavior didn’t earn you any grapes, and now you’re gonna go hungry!)

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Chimpanzees, on the other hand, would (sometimes) refuse to eat their grapes until their fellow chimps were also given grapes.

Now, De Waal was trying to determine if morality was something we learn or if it’s a primal instinct, but I think the obvious conclusion to draw from this experiment is that chimpanzees are democratic socialists.

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This is a post for any chimpanzees feeling tempted to act like monkeys.

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To everyone who so fervently and passionately fought to make Bernie Sanders the nominee, first, let me just say, what you did was amazing.  You raised your voices and your voices were heard.  You reminded the party what it’s supposed to be fighting for and you convinced party leaders to join that fight. Your movement led to the most progressive DNC platform in generations. YOU DID THAT. Your causes are important, and it’s important to keep fighting for them.

So please, please, please, please, please, please, please – don’t throw away the cucumber.

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Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., wave during a rally in Portsmouth, N.H., Tuesday, July 12, 2016, where Sanders endorsed her for president.(AP Photo/Jim Cole)

Bernie Sanders championed a lot of good ideas.  Those ideas are still good, and those ideas still need to be championed, even – perhaps especially – with Bernie back in the Senate. Because here’s the thing.  Even if Bernie had gotten elected president, a president is not a king. No amount of public worship makes him a savior, and no amount of grey hair makes him a wizard. He (or she – please, let it be she) cannot wave a magic wand and, say… close Guantanamo, or… pass commonsense gun laws that 90% of the people in the country support. Wanna know how I know that?  (Um, if you seriously don’t know how I know that, maybe you should sit this one out.)

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If the President wants to address income inequality, campaign finance, student loan debt, universal healthcare, and criminal justice reform, he (or she – please, let it be she) needs the cooperation of Congress. You wouldn’t know it based on the last eight years, but Congress is the branch that actually makes the laws. It’s not easy, and it’s not quick. It takes persistence, collaboration, and cooperation. (Just ask anyone who’s been in Congress for – let’s say – 25 years without managing to do much of anything to forward the progressive agenda to which they claim to be so dedicated.)

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So, if you really want to keep your revolution going, first, you look at the states in play this year (Arizona, Florida, Illinois, Missouri, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin) and work your ass off to get the Democratic candidates in those states elected, and then…

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…you vote to put Hillary in the White House where you can count on her to sign progressive bills.

YOU DO NOT RISK GIVING DONALD TRUMP VETO POWER BY VOTING FOR HIM DIRECTLY OR BY SITTING THIS ONE OUT OR BY THROWING AWAY YOUR VOTE ON A THIRD PARTY WHO TRULY, TRULY, TRULY HAS NO CHANCE OF WINNING!

Sorry.  I promised myself I wouldn’t yell.  I just can’t understand why anyone would throw away their cucumber and choose to starve, even if what they really wanted was a grape.

Do. Not. Start. with me on the “she’s just as bad as he is” train. Really?  REALLY?

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Someone who wants to raise the minimum wage, supports paid family leave, has proposed a comprehensive four point plan to address student loan debt and make college more affordable, has a tax plan that The Brookings-Urban Tax Policy Center estimates would generate more than $1 trillion in revenue over 10 years based almost solely on contributions from corporations and the highest earning individuals in the country, who is to the left of Bernie on gun control, has called for reforming our prison system, supports comprehensive immigration reform, used a global platform to declare that women’s rights are human rights, and has spent more time fighting for universal healthcare than probably any single individual on the planet – REALLY? – that person is JUST THE SAME AS a literally (and morally) bankrupt “billionaire” whose economic proposals the Wall Street Journal said “taken at face value, could produce a prolonged recession and heavy job losses that would fall hardest on low- and middle-income workers,” who doesn’t pay the people who work for him, who started a sham “university” specifically to scam people out of their money, who went to court to defend his “right” to not let black people live in his buildings, who incites violence and threatens the press, who encouraged a foreign power with dictator tendencies to hack our democracy, who wants to build a wall and ban a religion, and who has been accused of rape multiple times including by a 13-year old child?

REALLY??????? THOSE TWO PEOPLE LOOK THE SAME TO YOU???????

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Sorry.  I’m not yelling at you, per se.  I’m yelling at that super dumb thing you said.

I know, I know, the emails, Benghazi, her vagina.  There are just so many things that make it hard for you to support her. So here’s what you can do that a monkey cannot do.  You can research all the health benefits of a cucumber.  You can also take the time to ask yourself, “Why do I hate cucumbers so much?  Have I really given this cucumber a fair shake? Or have I bought into decades of anti-cucumber messaging from a media machine largely funded by the very people I was hoping my grape would lead a revolution against?” You can keep working to make sure your grapes don’t turn sour. You can decipher a possibly over-extended fruit-based metaphor.  And hopefully, in the end, you can recognize that – even if it isn’t as tasty as a grape –  a cucumber is a filling, nutritious food, and if you throw it away, you could get stuck having to eat your own feces.

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Trump: How Did We Get Here? 100 Years in 2000 Words (or so)

Trump: How Did We Get Here? 100 Years in 2000 Words (or so)

This week, Republican delegates are poised to set a whole new standard for their bearer by nominating sentient E. Coli Donald Trump to be their man in the White House. Many within the less-Grand-by-the-second Old Party (and many more without it) have been scratching their heads harder than pre-school kids with a lice infestation trying to understand how we got here.

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Political mathletes have flooded the non-stop-talking channels to explain the delegate distribution of our nominating process, causing even people who have been voting for decades to realize that we don’t actually understand how this country elects a president, (and that we have some straight up legit concerns about the potential skullduggery of the process.)

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And the numbers nerds have a point. Trump made it halfway through April collecting delegates without ever winning more than 50% of the vote in a primary.  If Republicans had just practiced a little self-selection at the start of this fiasco, they wouldn’t have kept splitting the vote, and a “more traditional” candidate probably would have gotten the nomination. That’s what they get for not believing in evolution. Then again, if their clown car candidates were too proud and stubborn to do basic arithmetic, would any of them really have been a better choice?

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Others have posited that after decades of Fox “News” and Rush Limbaugh indoctrinating their base with racist, classist, homophobic, xenophobic, misogynistic, anti-intellectual bulls**t, it should come as no surprise that their base has nominated a racist, classist, homophobic, xenophobic, misogynistic, intellectually deficient bully. It’s a fair (and balanced) point.

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Still others have used sociological data and science words to explain Trump as the kind of super-villain that emerges in times of rapid social change, economic uncertainty, and global warfare. Trump is the excretory hemorrhage that bursts forth once enough people are operating from a desire for authoritarianism and a fear of the “other.” His supporters need the solutions to our problems to be black and white (okay, mostly white) and so they flee from the daunting twin pillars of facts and logic into the safety of blind allegiance.

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It’s also possible that we’ve reached a predictable point in our socio-political cycle. I only say that because of, you know, all of recorded history, in particular the last century, aka The American Century. In fact, it only takes a  quick journey back in time to suss out the seemingly inexplicable mystery of how we got where we are today.

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The year was 1916. Americans were sill feeling inspired by the 1915 box office smash, Birth of a Nation.  They were also becoming increasingly convinced that Reconstruction was a bad idea. But in 1917, they put a pin in that to focus on joining what was then called “The Great War.” (I assume because those who weren’t among the 16 million dead came home saying, “Man, that war was so great. We should totally do it again sometime,” right before they died of Spanish flu.)

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Once we’d avenged Archduke Ferdinand – who would have been touched and, frankly, more than a little surprised to know we cared – there were rapid social changes on the home front. Black Americans weren’t thrilled that being willing to fight and die for their country hadn’t stopped Jim Crow laws from being in full swing, so they ordered a great migration with a side of race riots. Women were working, voting, and worse yet, dancing.  And jazz was all, “Eff you, singular, non-syncopated rhythm, I’ll do what I want.”  It was a time of ideological division, which was met with a bit of resistance…

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…and the resurgence of the Ku Klux Klan. This cross burning pajama party had been largely dormant for 30 years, but in the 1920’s, they grew to nearly 4 million strong, marched on Washington, and got a bunch of their members elected to public office, including the governor of Indiana!

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Fortunately, by 1929, public backlash and the greatest economic catastrophe in our nation’s history did a lot to take the wind out of the KKK’s sheets, and we shifted our focus to the Depression. (Which, p.s., was also totally Great.)

Now, funny story. Due to a bunch of rigmarole with the Treaty of Versailles, the German economy in the 1920’s was largely dependent on the American economy, so when ours went into a tailspin, theirs went down “der Scheisser.”

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America responded to the economic crisis by – well, first by repealing Prohibition, because most folks needed a stiff drink right about then – but then by passing the New Deal, which reformed the banks, kept homes out of foreclosure, provided farm subsidies, put people to work, created social security, and ended child labor. It pissed off pretty much everybody.

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Germany, on the other hand, made a different choice. They elected a bellowing lunatic who played into populist fears, stoked public anger, promoted nationalism, and scapegoated an entire religion.

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Great War, The Sequel: We kick axis, take names, and drop the mic. I mean the bomb. Twice.

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After the war, unemployment was way down, since so many people had just permanently left the job market, and Americans celebrated with a  baby boom, which went a long way toward getting women out of the workforce and back into the kitchen where they belonged. Black Americans discovered that (once again) being willing to fight and die for their country (still) hadn’t stopped Jim Crow laws from being in full swing. But the economy was booming; the suburbs were blooming, and everyone was getting in shape with a popular new workout craze known as Duck and Cover.  Joe McCarthy invented a fun game called Spot the Communist, which was kind of like Pokemon Go, only, instead of collecting Pikachu, you destroyed people’s lives. Republicans formed the House Un-American Activities Committee, which was dedicated to blacklisting citizens and inspiring Arthur Miller.

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Fortunately, backlash from the army, the media, and even President Eisenhower put an end to the Red Witch hunts. America was fed up with this bulls**t.

The next two decades saw a civil rights movement, a women’s lib movement and a war in Vietnam.  Poor people of all races joined together to Occupy Washington.  A president was shot. A president resigned. A president put solar panels on the White House, which meant he had to go.

During this time of ideological division and rapid social change, representatives of a particular demographic staged a 60-day filibuster (led by one of those Klan-elected politicians) to stop the passage of the Civil Rights Bill.  They lost that battle and the voters that went with it, which allowed a new party the chance to win the hearts and minds of those who’d been so mis-represented. It took a while for them to coalesce into a new voting block, but once they did, they elected the man destined to fuel misguided political adoration and Republican masturbation fantasies for decades, Ronald “the misremembered” Reagan.

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Ah, Reagan. A union busting, blacklist naming bigot who sold arms to terrorists, and ignored the AIDS crisis because it was “only” killing gay people. What a hero! Who cut funding to mental health facilities, flooding the streets with homeless schizophrenics, and declared a war on drugs that quadrupled America’s (mostly minority) prison population over the next four decades – what a champion of the people! Who used code words like “welfare queen” and an alliance with the religious right to stoke the fears of all those voters democrats lost when LBJ signed the Civil Rights Bill, then pushed through economic policies and a reversal of antitrust laws that were not only detrimental to those said same voters, but have since blossomed into the Great Recession and a near extinction of the middle class. What a national f***ing treasure!

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Well, he called ketchup a vegetable and then he became one, so that is a thing that happened.

It is certainly possible to draw a direct line from Reagan to Trump, or to argue that we’re still far too wounded by the former to risk the latter, but let’s get through the century recap instead, just in case we can pick up a few more insightful nuggets.

Bush I raised taxes, so he had to go.

Bill Clinton balanced the budget and strengthened the middle class, so a bunch of politicians who would later be busted for having affairs busted him for having an affair.

Clinton also signed the Telecommunications Act, which (ironically?) paved the way for the extreme media consolidation that’s led to an empire run by conservatives who have spent the last 20 years taking a collective dump on Bubba’s wife. So that was probably a bad idea.

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Bush II turned an economic surplus into a trillion dollar deficit, spent another trillion (give or take another trillion) on a war with the wrong country, made it clear how much black lives matter after Hurricane Katrina, and led us into the Great Recession. America was, once again, fed up with this bulls**t.

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And so, the family values voters finally got their man! A scandal free Christian who was clearly in love with his gorgeous, successful wife, who pulled himself up by his bootstraps and overcame the odds to live out an American dream many were starting to doubt was still possible, all while raising two polite, intelligent daughters and inviting his own mother-in-law to live in the White House. A man destined to usher in a post-racial era of hope and change where human rights abuses would be ended, war profiteering would be punished, and the middle class would be restored!

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But for some reason I just can’t. quite. put. my. finger. on. not everybody was an Obama fan. The Fox “News” fear mongering went into overdrive. And the Koch-fueled “grassroots” movement – comprised of a now very familiar-looking demographic that keeps coalescing at particular times in what’s starting to feel like a trend – known as the Tea Party was born. Although resoundingly silent while Bush doubled our debt, these “fiscal hawks” now grew to (depending on the source) somewhere between five and ten million strong, marched on Washington, and got a bunch of their members elected to public office, including the governor of Indiana!

trump-pence-gifWhich brings us to now. It appears a certain recurring demographic whose support is secured by having their prejudices placated has cottoned on to the fact that all of the promises their politicians made to keep the arc of history from bending towards justice have turned up empty. Gay people are getting married. Women are starring in Ghostbusters. Transgendered people can pee wherever they want. And it looks like soon we might start asking police officers to stop murdering black people. Add to that the fact that we could follow up a black president with a female president, and it’s enough to send some folks spinning in circles screaming, “No! No! No!” It’s also enough to make them put their faith in a reality TV star who “tells it like it is.”

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But this time, they’re not alone. This time, we’re living with a political system that’s more oligarchy than democracy, an economy in which the game feels pretty rigged, and a society in which we wonder not if but when the next mass murder will dominate the headlines. We’ve got ISIS, the Zika virus, and a refugee crisis. Global warming is starting to seem like it might actually be a thing, and, again, because I can’t overstate how apocalyptic this is, women are starring in Ghostbusters. It’s enough to trigger some heretofore reasonable human beings into joining the fear-fest.

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And so, Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you, the next president of the United States, Mr. Donald Trump.

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When Trump gives a “speech,” it’s something Shakespeare might describe as “a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.” And his supporters cheer their brains out, because that is exactly what they want. (Except for the Shakespeare part – that s**t’s for intellectual snobs.) There are people who feel they are helpless in a world spinning out of control, and for them, the solution is to elect someone whose one and only qualification is that he makes that feeling stop.

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And here’s the thing. You can’t fight a feeling with facts. You can provide all the evidence in the world of Trump’s racism and sexism, his bankruptcies, the thousands of lawsuits filed against him by people he’s hired but never paid, the lawsuits filed against him by the lawyers who fought those lawsuits then didn’t get paid, the students he’s scammed with Trump University, the absurdity of his claim that Mexico will build the wall, the dangers of isolationism and why we shouldn’t want a wall in the first place, his complete and total lack of family values, Christian values, American values, or basic human decency. It doesn’t matter. They will not be convinced. They are operating from a place of fear that is 40 – or 400 – or 4000 – years in the making, and that will not be reversed in 4 months of campaigning between the convention and the election. Their fear needs to be addressed, and assuaged, if possible, but that may take another 40 – or 400 – or 4000 – years. Right now, the priority has to be ensuring that it isn’t rewarded.

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Based on history, all socio-political signs point to President Trump. But if we recognize that pattern, and we’re fed up with this bulls**t ahead of time, can’t we have a pre-emptive backlash for once before the disaster strikes?

Well, historically, candidates don’t win if they rely primarily on people voting against their opponent instead of for them. So, if you do want to change the pattern, here’s the thing you have to accept. Maybe Hillary Clinton isn’t the manifestation of your passionate idealism – or maybe she is – but she is an experienced diplomat with a crucial understanding of economics and foreign policy who has put forth a progressive agenda and will fight for women’s rights globally and locally. If we want her to win, we have to remind people that she is someone worth voting for.  Sure, she’s not all good.  Her flaws should make for excellent SNL fodder.

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Donald Trump is a bellowing lunatic who plays into populist fears, stokes public anger, promotes nationalism, and scapegoats an entire religion. Nothing about him is good, and his flaws could make for the final installment in the Great War series. If we want him to lose, we have to do everything we can to convince those still open to reason to make a different choice.

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If we can’t, well, brace yourselves. Because maybe 100 years from now someone will be able to summarize what’s coming with snarky jokes, but for those of us who have to live through it, it’s going to be fucking terrifying.

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