Put Down the Mobile Device, You’re Not Helping

There’s a lot of shit going on in the world today.

It seems like every generation says this. We always think that what we have to deal with is somehow more complicated and burdensome than our forbearers. Yeah, I’m worried about the orange-faced narcissist in the White House pressing the red button with his infamously small fingers.  And I’m worried that the social safety net that has been part of what has made this country great since at least FDR, is systematically being dismantled at the hands of a few alt-right ideologues.

But the Vietnam war, civil rights activists being lynched, mustard gas in WWI…. Slavery. There’s been a lot of fucked up stuff in every generation.

Having said that, there really is a lot of shit going on in the world today.  And the internet (Exhibit A for why we can’t have nice things) – enjoy the download speed while you still have it – only makes things worse.

The political dialogue in the country is the most toxic I’ve ever seen it. The internet only exacerbates it (as I was typing this, a combination of fat fingering and spell check momentarily had “sexacerbate” on my screen – so yeah, I coined that phrase).

We no longer sit down across from our neighbor at a cookout or talk to him across the fence and have respectful conversations. I know this sounds like a hokey notion from Mayberry circa 1950, I’m not suggesting we have to try to live in a bygone era. But, Good Christ!  Let’s at least take a collective breath before we go running to Facebook and trying to dress-down or one-up some stranger’s uncle from Eau Claire.

You wouldn’t know it, but the internet wasn’t created just so we could all get more angry at each other. Not every Instagram post, tweet, or public comment has to be treated as the next front in a culture war.

I’m honest enough to admit that I can get riled up with the best of them.  I’m not sitting here wanting to buy the world a Coke.  I’m simply saying that not everything has to be treated with the wrath of Curt Schilling when his daughter was cyberbullied.  By the way, I’ll allow that one.  I’m not fan of Schilling, but I’m fan of dads and daughters, even if it means a little frontier justice once in a while.

So, if you’re one of those online jihadists who, rather than acknowledge that you might agree with someone 98% of the time, chooses to treat the other 2% as a chance to use your caps lock button or affix a hashtag to something, remember: social media apps are like a nuclear weapon; or a sex toy on a first date.  Just because you have it, doesn’t mean you have to use it.

Case in point for all of this – Matt Damon. Damon supposedly said, “There’s a difference between, you know, patting someone on the butt and rape or child molestation, right?” Now he’s taking a lot of heat for it.  But, I agree with him. I mean, there is a difference, isn’t there?

If you’re predisposed to look for a fight, you can find one here.  If you want to act as though Matt Damon is not sensitive to any kind of unwanted sexual advance, you can. But you’d have to ignore the story and read only the headline. If you read the story, you’d see that he also said the following.

Both of those behaviors need to be confronted and eradicated without question, but they shouldn’t be conflated…

and

When you see Al Franken taking a picture putting his hands on that woman’s flak jacket and mugging for the camera, going like that, you know, that is just like a terrible joke, and it’s not funny. It’s wrong, and he shouldn’t have done that…

and

… the fear for me is that right now, we’re in this moment where at the moment — and I hope it doesn’t stay this way — the clearer signal to men and to younger people is, deny it. Because if you take responsibility for what you did, your life’s going to get ruined.

All of these seem like reasonable statements. But the last of them seems especially perceptive, even if potentially apologistic. It’s a good point and worthy of consideration in the public dialogue, especially if we want the next generation of boys to be the ones to take responsibility for eradicating this stuff.  In some cases ruining someone’s life might actually be the appropriate response. But can’t we at least talk about it first?

Unfortunately, the internet – where every infraction is a capital offense and every disagreement calls for a boycott – wasted no time in meting out its special breed of derision and scorn.

Trust me, I’m not shedding tears for men like Franken just because they didn’t bend someone over their desk and rape her like Matt Lauer did. I’m not excusing unwanted horrible behavior. I also think that women have been screwed so hard for so long that I can’t get upset if in some instances men might be punished more severely than necessary. Particularly if it’s a rich guy or a someone that abuses a position of public trust.

Women have been dealing with this shit for years.  And frankly, there’s something entertaining about seeing the next dirtball get his public comeuppance. But it’s particularly incumbent upon those on the right side of the issue to not portray all of these accusations as the same act.  As with anything else, there are differences of degrees and the distinctions may be subtle or overt.  It’s intellectually lazy to fail to understand that. But hey, I understand. You haven’t tweeted in the last few hours and you’re worried that you might not get as many follows if you don’t jump on the blood in the water.  But when you engage in this sexacerbating, you’re not doing anything to solve the problem. You’re just fomenting outrage where it probably need not be.

Sure, we could treat that creepy guy at the office who sneaks up behind a woman and rubs her shoulders the same as we treat Harvey Weinstein or a gymnast’s pedophile doctor.  We could also start cutting off hands for shoplifting and make Matt Damon wear a scarlet M for “Mansplainer” But why bother?

We’ve got the internet for that.

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Winner Winner, Chicken Dinner

Five days ago in this space, with respect to the next mass shooting, I said,

It’s not a question of if. It’s not even a question of when. You can be certain it will only be a few more days before the next one. The only question is how many body bags we’ll need.

Well, if you guessed only 5 more days and 4 body bags, you’re a winner!

 

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Same Shit, Different Day

Another day in America, another mass shooting.

My heart breaks for the children – they played no role in their own gruesome demise. But I’m starting to feel less sympathy for the adults that keep returning to office the spineless nitwits that can’t stand up to the gun lobby.

When you vote for these people and when you worship at the altar of guns, you can’t be surprised when someone walks into your church, movie theater, or elementary school and executes dozens of people in minutes, if not seconds.

I stand with those who are fed up giving thoughts and prayers and holding moments of silence. No thought or prayer or act of holding your tongue for 60 seconds is going to stop the next lunatic that decides to settle his score with his ex-wife by gunning down a bunch of mostly innocent people.

Yes, I say “mostly,” because, despite the NRA’s insistence otherwise,  it’s pretty friggin’ apparent that guns do in fact kill people. If you keep voting for those that “support gun rights” or “believe in the second amendment” I’m not certain you’re innocent anymore. These acts of mass murder are no longer an aberration. There’s no question they will happen again. It’s not a question of if.  It’s not even a question of when. You can be certain it will only be a few more days before the next one. The only question is how many body bags we’ll need.

There’s a reason you can buy a Chevy but not an armored tank at a used car dealer. There’s a reason why you need a prescription for Oxycontin and you can’t just buy it off the shelf next to the Oxyclean. I can’t think of any other thing that can cause instant death, the way  firearms can, that isn’t either outlawed or at least  closely regulated.

I’ve spent a lot of time picking on Republicans in this space – and rightfully so. But to be clear, many on the left have just as much blood on their hands.  Democrat Henry Cuellar represents the Texas district where the latest church shooting occurred.  Think about that notion for a minute –  it’s not even unique that a shooting occurred in a church, it’s now an accepted term.  That’s where we are in America.  A “church shooting” is now a thing.

Henry Cuellar got two-thirds of the vote in the 2016 general election. He got almost 90% in his primary. He has an A- rating from the NRA. Yeah, I guess it’s not an A+, but as I tell my kids, as long as you’re doing your best I’m proud of you. I’m sure Wayne Lapierre is plenty proud of Henry Cuellar.

Henry Cuellar didn’t come to office in a palace coup. He was voted in by the people of Texas 28. Some of whom probably died in that church on Sunday.

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Oh, to be young (and stupid) again…

The adage “You can never have too much insurance” was almost assuredly created by an insurance salesman.  But there’s some truth to it.

One of the salient corollaries to that adage is that you need to have insurance before something happens.  And I’m not just talking about pre-existing medical conditions. Travelers won’t sell you a homeowners policy after your house burns down. It just doesn’t work that way. It’s the same reason Monty Hall won’t let you look behind the respective doors and then make your choice.

Which brings me to this guy.

There are at least two things about which he has nary a clue. One is the aforementioned Monty Hall reference.  The other is a baseline understanding of the concept of insurance.

Insurance is like a Plan B contraceptive. You hope you never need it but you’re always glad it’s available when you do.

Now, I’m going to uncharacteristically take it a little easy on this hipster because he’s young. There’s probably still time for him to grow up (assuming he learns to drive better). But the hypocrisy here is about as obvious as a Nancy Grace fart.

Google it.

 

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Repeal and Replace, Rinse, Repeat

I read an article the other day that suggested the reason the Repubs are so gung ho on repeal of Obamacare is that they put all their eggs in their promise to their base that they would get it done. But I actually think if they repeal it they’re putting the final nail in their coffin. Even people that voted Republican were coming out at the town halls to object. And millions of old folks that rely on Medicare are going to vote against these people if they repeal.

I don’t work inside the beltway so I guess I’m supposed to defer to the pundits. But I disagree with the popular sentiment that these guys have boxed themselves in.  I think McConnell and Ryan could have had it both ways. They could have let all their constituents keep the health insurance they now have and still could have gone to their base and said “we tried, we really did, but you saw the Dems and two or three defectors screw us.”

They have  an easy (and factually accurate) place to put the blame and I don’t think it would have necessarily cost them their majority. Susan Collins would probably still be pretty safe in Maine. Same for McCain (his health status complicates things but if something happens to him in the short term, Arizona has a Republican Governor to replace him).

The Republicans are so far gone in their efforts to do Trump’s bidding that they may have already lost the mid-terms.  But right now, at least that proposition still stands at “maybe.” I think the only thing that really guarantees it is if they succeed.

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Someone Needs to Say This

As I write this, the news of the attack on the GOP baseball team is still unfolding. Let’s hope that there are no fatalities. But let’s also remember the biblical adage of reaping what we sow.

If you want to know Rep. Steve Scalise’s position on gun rights click here.  Spoiler alert: he has an A+ rating from the NRA.

This event will be covered and portrayed as shocking because of the victims’ fame. But let’s not forget that these shootings occur day in and day out, with clock-work-like regularity, in every city in America, to hundreds of other people who are also parents, spouses, and sons and daughters. Innocent victims all. None of them are any less deserving of our sympathy just because they lack celebrity.

And let’s also not forget that these preventable tragedies happen because of fealty to the gun lobby by people like Steve Scalise and the dozens of others on the ball field with him.

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It’s the Stupidity, Stupid!

Lost in the hubbub of the folly that is the current administration, including the xenophobia, the incompetence,  the amateurish management inside the White House, the theories that Trump is crazy like a fox, that he’s a “populist,” a megalomaniac, or that he’s  just a novice politician and he may still find his groove, is the notion that he is hopelessly, inexcusably uninformed. In fact, I believe he is, frankly, borderline stupid.  Despite all his bluster that he knows more than the rest of us, there is no evidence, either empirical or anecdotal, that tends to suggest he is anything but ignorant on the vast majority of topics about which he bloviates.

We Americans seem to suffer from a persistent fallacy that suggests that anyone with a lot of money can’t be stupid. “Trump can’t be dumb, look at the fortune he’s amassed.” Really?

His dad got him started in the business. He’s run multiple hotels and casinos into bankruptcy. He is almost single-handedly responsible for the failure of the USFL.   He seems to have made a lot of money by cheating and bullying people in business deals and claiming that makes him a “great negotiator.” His fake college is a sham. And judging from the male apples that have fallen from his tree, he hasn’t been endowed with a particularly intelligent genetic code. Donald Trump is the slick, east coast version of this guy. So, yeah, give credit him for being persistent and maybe even a little perceptive like a modern-day P.T. Barnum.  But that doesn’t make him smart.

It’s become a trite observation to say that many of us “took Trump literally but not seriously.”  Those that perpetuate this cliche seem to believe that the bombastic Trump, despite his limited vocabulary and juvenile demeanor, is apparently also a poet that speaks in subtle metaphors.  Although the latter half of the admonition is probably true, everyone took him literally.  He was elected precisely because a lot of people really do want a massive wall between us and Mexico.  A lot of people really do want to ban Muslims from this country, and lot of people really do want to dismantle Obamacare.

Most of us understand that you can’t “drain the swamp” easily. Most of us understand that judges are not incompetent for upholding the law.  Most of us, prior to the election, already understood that healthcare is complex. But not The Donald.

Every day, with all the panache of a 4th-grader making his first oral presentation, speaking in short, simple sentence structure or incomplete superlatives, he seems to say things that are a revelation only to him, or are simply nonsensical. As this story notes, in one day alone he reversed himself on six campaign promises.

And thus, back to my premise. Donald Trump is not your typical promise-breaking politician. Rather, like a child, he simply doesn’t understand that you can’t say whatever you like one day and something entirely different the next.

Trump wants his big wall like a kid wants pizza for dinner every night or a ride to school in a rocket ship.  He seems to genuinely believe that if he asks for something enough times, the adults will find  away to give it to him.

So, when you see Donald Trump unwittingly contradicting his campaign promises, it’s not because he’s duplicitous, it’s because he really is only now learning things that most of us have known since middle school.

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