Politics and the World

Top Posts of 2016

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10. Keanu!!!, in which I review the Key and Peele film.

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9. How Should I Spend My Lottery Winnings, in which I make plans for a couple million bucks

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8. The DO’s and DON’T’s of Action Flicks, in which I compare and contrast the original Jack Reacher film with Skyfall

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7. How to Spot a Racist, a post that is even more important today than it was when I wrote it in 2013

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6. The Greatest Depictions of Single-Minded Emotion, a continuously popular blog

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5. VOTER’S GUIDE: California Propositions and Measures, a helpful voting tool

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4. Back Story, the story of my debilitating back injury and the miracle that went with it

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3. Ghostbusters (2016): A Superfan’s Perspective, my thoughts on the reboot

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2. Going Long: Reviews for “Kill Me Now” and “Angry Video Game Nerd: The Movie,” reviews of a couple of independent films made by popular Youtube artists

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1. Predator versus “Predator,” my take on female teacher sexual scandals

 

 

VOTER’S GUIDE – California’s Propositions and Measures

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NOTE: The views and opinions expressed in this are purely my own.  I simply want to expound upon my political thoughts regarding this year’s election, and I hope that there’s someone out there that finds this of interest.

If you’d like to read about the third party candidates, go here.  If you’d like to hear my thoughts on the Republican candidate, go here.  If you’re interested in knowing more about my thoughts on the Democratic nominee, go here.

But for now, let’s take a closer look at Claifornia’s propositions and measures, shall we?  Since I am from San Diego, my ballot may be a little different than yours.

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THE MEASURES

Measure A: The SANDAG Tax

It sucks when you already voted to pay for something and then the project goes over budget, but that’s what happened here. It’s a half a cent tax increase that will fund the Purple Line Trolley and a coaster to Del Mar.

MY VERDICT: I say we do it. SANDAG is already committed to finishing the projects but do not know how they can fund it otherwise. Let’s save them the embarrassment of hosting a bake sale.

Measure B: The Lilac Hills Ranch Development

We have a housing crisis in San Diego, and this measure promises to help fix it.

MY VERDICT: Hell no! The only reason this is on the ballot is because the people behind the measure weren’t able to put it through the traditional way due to the fact that they would directly benefit from the real estate venture. AND they cut all of the regulatory provisions before they put it on the ballot. AND it’s on environmentally protected land. AND the majority of the space will be used for retail. Hell to the no.

Measure C: The Chargers’ Stadium Plan

A convadium!

MY VERDICT: As Tony Hawk said, “There’s no such thing as a convadium.” This is corporate welfare that would in no way benefit the tax payers.

Measure D: The Citizens’ Plan

This would raise the city’s hotel tax rate in an effort to pay for (part of) Measure C. Chargers fans love the idea of charging (pun) fans of rival teams. Mwahahaha! I can hear them twisting their mustaches now!

MY VERDICT: @#$% you.

Measure E: Removing City Officials

This measure would make it easier to remove and replace elected city officials who’ve committed crimes or other wrongdoing.

MY VERDICT: Well, we’ve had a pretty long string of bad mayors in San Diego. The current status quo requires death, resignation, loss of voter eligibility or a recall. This would allow for a special removal election. Seems like a good thing in our corrupt city.

Measure F: Job Security for Deputy City Attorneys

Basically city attorneys can be fired for no reason within the first two years of getting hired. This is much different than any other civil position, and this would require “good cause” for terminations.

MY VERDICT: No one is against this one. It seems like a no-brainer.

Measure G: Changes to the Citizens’ Review Board

There is already a board that review cops, but this changes their name and gives them the authority to review police involved shootings.

MY VERDICT: El Cajon was going to put this into place BEFORE the shooting last month, but they decided to put it on the ballot. This is a good way to give the community a voice and to keep things calm when there is actually no wrong-doing by the police.

Measure H: Changes to the City’s Purchasing and Contracting Process

Right now if there is a project that will require private contractors, the governing body has to publish an ad in the paper 10 days before filtering bids. This would put an end to the ad in the paper and would simplify things back to standard disclosure.

MY VERDICT: No one is opposing this, and newspapers? Seriously?

Measure I: San Diego High’s Balboa Park Location

There’s a charter school in Balboa Park. No, really, there is. They had a 50 year lease, and it’s up. This is to renew that contract.

MY VERDICT: You can’t build a new school by next year, can you?

Measure J: Money for Mission Bay and Other Parks

Right now Mission Bay Parks make a lot of money and other municipal parks don’t. This would allow the city to spread the money around and make repairs where needed in a more timely manner.

MY VERDICT: I LOVE Balboa Park and would like to see more money going there. I mean, they didn’t even have the resources for their centennial last year. Come on!

Measure K: Forcing a November Runoff

Right now if a candidate wins by a margin of more than 50% in the June primaries for city council, they win. This would put the two top competitors on the November ballot instead.

MY VERDICT: This one is split straight down party lines. The Republicans, who tend to win in June, say no. The Democrats, who tend to lose in June, say yes. It seems pretty silly to me, but whatever. Vote yes? Why not give the people more of a voice?

Measure L: Voting on Initiatives and Referendums in November

More people vote in November than in June. If something is going on the ballot, this would put it on the November ballot automatically.

MY VERDICT: This comes from the same place as K. I have to ask, what’s the point of having a June ballot if nothing is on it but primaries that don’t even matter until November? You know what? I change my verdict on K. Just do away with June as a month!

Measure M: Raising the Cap on Affordable Housing Units

Right now if you want to expand low income housing, you have to put it before the voters. This would just allow city planners to make that decision without the need for a vote.

MY VERDICT: Again, we are in a housing crisis. Yes please.

Measure N: Taxing Marijuana Businesses

If (likely when) Prop 64 passes, this would allow the crop to be taxed.

MY VERDICT: Every pothead I know says, “Legalize it. Just think of how much the government would get in taxes!” Don’t make every pothead I know into a liar. Vote yes.

Woooh!!!!

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THE PROPOSITIONS

51 – $9,000,000,000 for schools. That’s a billion with a b. It adds $500M of debt every year to the budget, it seems to bank roll construction companies, and it won’t go to the neediest school districts.

52 – Stipulates that legislators cannot divert funds away from Medi-Cal, thus ensuring that Medi-Cal and hospitals get the money. No one is opposed to this. Vote yes.

53 – Requires state projects over $2B to be approved by voters. This one is complicated as well. Basically a public works project (a bridge or a hospital) is paid for by the government and then paid back by the user (toll or patient). The high speed rail (which may be the target this bill is intended to take down), for example, costs a lot of money and should be paid for by ticket sales, but if it fails, eventually the tax payer is on the hook. So this would be a community accountability provision to theoretically stop government officials from “signing blank checks.” However, there are a couple of problems. 1) Local projects would be on the state’s ballot (ie San Francisco projects voted on by all of California). 2) There are no provisions for emergency spending, so they would also have to go on a ballot before the project could be started.

54 – Requires that bills are posted for three days on the internet before voting. Oh, and print. Yes, and print. Again, newspapers?

55 – There was a provision put in place for “rainy days” that was always meant to be temporary (7 years). It taxes higher income people (over $263K a year) at a marginally higher rate. Opponents of this measure argue that we shouldn’t be using income tax to fix our schools (which apparently need $9 BILLION dollars). As some papers have argued, this tax sucks, but not having the resources we need sucks worse (paraphrased).

56 – Packs of cigarettes will cost $2 more a pack, and e-cigs will have the tax too. The money will go to Medical. Looping in vapes makes sense, but this is a tax on the poor in my mind. Making a pack of cigarettes cost over ten bucks doesn’t stop addicts from reaching out for their addiction. It simply hurts their family’s budget more.

57 – Makes it easier for nonviolent offenders to get parole. But this one is more complicated than that too. 1) Nonviolent criminals can earn credits to shorten their sentence through good behavior and receive incentives such as education. 2) Juveniles won’t be able to be tried as an adult without a judge’s order. Obviously, the second is noble, but here’s the thing about the first. Rape of an unconscious person, taking hostages, and setting off a bomb with intent to injure are not considered violent crimes, according to the Penal Code.

58 – 1 in 5 students in California are not fluent in English. Right now there is a government mandate that dictates that those students are only taught in English-immersion classes so that they don’t languish in bilingual classrooms. This would allow for a variety of teaching methods rather than just one. Studies have shown that language immersion doesn’t work for every student, so this seems like a way to undo a government overreach.

59 – Pass or fail, this does nothing except express your opinion. If you hate the US Supreme Court’s verdict regarding Citizens United, vote yes. If you think political spending is free speech, vote no.

60 – THE MOST IMPORTANT vote in the country. In California, we are being asked to make a decision that will have a HUGE INFLUENCE on the entire world’s culture.   I’m not talking about Prop 64, which would decriminalize recreational marijuana. That would only change California’s culture, and it’s already been done in other states anyway.  Of course I am speaking of Prop 60, which would require all pornographic actors to wear condoms. The man behind this proposal is a gay rights activist with a myopic viewpoint that condoms are the method everyone should use. His reasoning for this new standard is that he doesn’t want young people to think “the only hot sex is without a condom.” He’s drawn criticism not only from the adult film actors but from other gay rights activists for his condoms only stance.  In my mind, this is a definite overreach. How would you enforce this legislation? I mean, if two cops bust in on a porno shoot and announce who they are, the viewers would simply fill their palm with more lubricant and expect that things are going to go in a new, exciting, possibly kinky direction. Besides, there are other ways to fight off AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases, mainly a once-a-day pill that is the primary tool for adult actors right now that our advocate thinks is a cop out. The fact that the pornographic industry is as widespread (pun) as it is and there hasn’t been an AIDS epidemic should be illustrative enough to give the industry some trust that they are self-regulating already. Lastly, and possibly most importantly, if young people are watching porn and thinking it’s “the only hot sex,” they’re going to be sorely disappointed by reality.

61 – This prop has the most campaign spending in California history, so yeah!! It’s important to note that the majority of that spending is by the pharmaceutical companies to try to get you to vote no. The intent is for this bill to save Californians money when they buy their medicine, but it’s not exactly clear how it will work. It’s actually a landmark vote, and people like Bernie Sanders are campaigning hard for it to pass. But if it will actually work is up in the air, since a lot of that hinges on how those pharmaceutical companies respond to the state’s “negotiations” for drug prices after it passes.

62 & 66 – 62 repeals the death penalty. 66 speeds it up. The one with the most votes wins. This is a heavy issue. Vote your conscience and godspeed.

63 – Requires a background check to buy ammunition. I think this came from a Chris Rock routine, didn’t it? Obviously, if you’re a 2nd Amendment person, you’ll vote no. If you’re a stereotypical Californian, you’ll vote yes and hope there’s a provision to require a background check for gluten as well. I won’t say much on this, but if you’re a Boy Scout camp and have a rifle range, I hope your kids are trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, and reverent enough to pass.

64 – Legalize it. Cypress Hill will advertise it.

65 & 67 – Okay. This one is complicated. 67 is a referendum. You see, 67 bans plastic bags, and California already voted to ban them. So 67 is a revote on the issue. However, 67 would take the 10 cent tax from the bag fee and gives it to environmental funds, which currently goes to the grocery store. Here’s what you need to know. Both of these measures are on the docket, because the plastic bag companies put them there. They want you to vote No on 67 and Yes on 65. Here’s where it gets tricky. If 65 passes, it eliminates 67. In other words, if you don’t want plastic bags, you have to vote yes on 67 (to ban plastic bags) and no on 65 (to give the tax to the environment). If you want to keep plastic bags and want the money to go to the environment, vote no on 67 and yes on 65. If both pass, only 65 passes. Does that make sense?


Aw yeah!!!!

 

VOTER’S GUIDE – Hillary Clinton

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NOTE: The views and opinions expressed in this are purely my own.  I simply want to expound upon my political thoughts regarding this year’s election, and I hope that there’s someone out there that finds this of interest.

If you’d like to read about the third party candidates, go here.  If you’d like to hear my thoughts on the Republican candidate, go here.  If you’re interested in knowing more about California’s propositions and measures, go here.

But for now, let’s take a closer look at the Democratic candidate, shall we?

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Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Has there been a more controversial candidate in my lifetime? And why is she so much of a lightning rod? Certainly, there is SOME validity when her supporters say that her critics are acting out of a misogynistic worldview. When her opponent, for example, says she “doesn’t look presidential” or when inarticulate Trump supporters say “there’s just something about her,” they are likely referring to the fact that she’s not like our previous presidents. You know, she’s not a dude. It’s kind of like the lizard brain comments that members of white America have made about our current president. “He’s obviously not American.” Eek!

But there’s got to be more to it than hatred because she’s a female Ghostbuster, right? I mean, look at all of the scandals that she and her husband have been accused of! And that’s kind of the key for me. “She and her husband.” People that say that every witch hunt Hillary has endured is because she’s a woman miss the point. It’s because the Clintons – both Bill and Hill – are deemed untrustworthy by at least a portion of the population.

But here’s the thing, a part of me wants to forget about Bill and rage against the patriarchy, because it DOES exist. And it has been unfair to not only Mrs. Clinton but to a lot of women. I remember when she was first lady and people were complaining that she was too uppity and should know her place, sit down, shut up, and worry about things like the color of the curtains in the first bedroom and flowers on the side of the interstate like our previous first ladies. I remember being young and dumb in the 1990s and making jokes about her appearance and teasing my conservative buddies, suggesting they should ask Chelsea Clinton to the prom. I hear how people talk about Hillary to this day and note that it’s not the same way they talk about men in the same position. Regardless of how much they hate a man’s politics, they don’t say he’s catty or shrill or on his period. Talk about a vote to blow up the system!! Can I vote for an overweight, handicapped, non-English speaking, vegetarian Native American lesbian already?!

If you’ve been paying attention, Hillary is a two-faced career politician that will resort to underhanded tactics to get where she wants. This is true of all two-faced career politicians that will resort to underhanded tactics to get where they want. This leaves us with two questions:

1) Do you want a two-faced career politician that will resort to underhanded tactics to get where they want?

2) Are the rules different for Hillary?

And my answer?

1) As a centrist, I can answer that question for a lot of you. I’ve been paying attention and puking in my mouth every time you say it. Yes, you do. As long as they are on your side of the aisle, and before you get mad at me and say that isn’t true, ask yourself one little question. Have you ever justified the actions of your candidate by shrugging and saying this? “Well, they all lie. That’s why he HAS TO lie.” If you’re a Democrat or a Republican, of course you have. I don’t even know you, and I’ve heard you say it. Stop being disingenuous.

2) Just look at the undercover videos. Despite the fact that Hillary’s “political maneuverings” are essentially the plot line of every election movie in history, she has undergone severe scrutiny that is unprecedented.

Now, I just want to take a moment to clarify my position on this. I think these tactics are absolutely disgusting. They are the bane of our political process, and when you combine it with the entertainment journalism of the mainstream media and our animal instincts to be attracted to violence, you end up with stupid choices based on emotional responses to guys dressed up in Donald Duck costumes and street fights in front of political rallies. If you’re reading my opinions, you’ll probably see that I am neither a Democrat nor a Republican. There is no one that I can feel good voting for; partially because I want something that can’t exist in our money-fueled political system. I puke when you shrug off your candidate’s lies, because I am waiting for the candidate with enough integrity, determination, and grit to tell the truth and stand up for their convictions. And that person’s “truth” sure as hell had better not just be that “Rosie O’Donnell is disgusting.”

Alright, back to Hillary.

Let’s set aside the controversy for a moment and focus on her policies. I know that might be hard for some of you, but I don’t want to talk about Benghazi or e-mails or Chinese businessmen in the Lincoln bedroom. I really don’t want to talk about real estate deals from before I was in middle school. I just included them here for the purposes of search engines, and I’m done now. 🙂

Hillary is a hawk when it will get her your vote. She’ll talk about raising the minimum wage if she thinks it will cure your Bern with an “I’m with her” yard sign. She will remind you over and over again that she was part of the team that took down bin Laden, because you probably voted for Bush hoping that he would, and she’s hoping you will remember that when you’re in the polling station. Of course there are certain issues that she will never bend on, and some of those are serious issues that I know a lot of us disagree with her on. But overall, because she’s a two-faced career politician that will do anything to get what she wants, she actually cares about what the voters want, and as much as I hate to admit it, one of the things I value in a leader is that they listen to what their followers want and/or need.

Hm. Did I just endorse Hillary Clinton for president? I think I might have. At least one of her two-faces.

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VOTER’S GUIDE – Third Party Candidates in the Presidential Election 2016

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NOTE: The views and opinions expressed in this are purely my own.  I simply want to expound upon my political thoughts regarding this year’s election, and I hope that there’s someone out there that finds this of interest.

If you’d like to read about the Republican candidate, go here.  If you’d like to hear my thoughts on the Democratic candidate, go here.  If you’re interested in knowing more about California’s propositions and measures, go here.

 

First of all, I think it’s funny that the California ballot pretends this is more than just a two party run. It barely qualifies, so why not put the two major parties at the top? It isn’t alphabetic. Is it by when they registered? If so, wouldn’t Hillary be on the page before the nominees are listed? She’s been running for president since she was 8.

Ahem.

Let’s not rule out the other three parties. Let’s examine them seriously.

 

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La Riva is very much against war, calling Clinton a war hawk and accusing her husband of being a war criminal as a result of the bombings in Kosovo and Bosnia. She’s the true “blow-up the system” candidate. She wants to change everything and work towards absolute equality. She is on the ballot in only a few states (Vermont, New Mexico, Iowa, Louisiana, Colorado, Washington, New Jersey, and California), and is the founder of her party. She previously had been a member of other parties and had tried to get the nomination through one of them, losing to Ralph Nader. While I admire her advocacy for social justice, I see her overall political views to be too radical for this moment in time. Realistically, a vote here would be valuable only as a protest against the two party system that sends a message that you want a more socialist agenda. If she were to actually become president, I would have serious concerns about how well she could play with others.

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Stein ran against Hillary before. I bet you didn’t know that? She was the Green Party candidate in 2012, but since this election has been such a dreamboat for America, she’s getting a lot more buzz as an alternative this time around. If you were upset that neither of the major candidates seem to be focusing on climate change enough, then this is your platform. They want to declare a state of emergency on the environment and get to work. Stein is the organic, clean fuel, environmental candidate, so much so that she has drawn criticism for her stance on GMOs and vaccines. She’s also a jobs advocate, believes health care and education are rights, wants to try to end poverty, and wants to reform the judicial, veteran, and immigration systems. While the Democratic Party likes to think of themselves as the place for idealists, they tend to attract pragmatic progressives who don’t think the Green Party has a chance at actually winning. Stein’s priorities are very specific to fixing what her party perceives as being broken, and unfortunately that narrow point of view has made her into a sort of pariah. With not much chance of making it to The White House, this is the team you vote for if you want to send a message that you care about the environment more than you do about party politics.

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It’s kind of interesting how much The Libertarian nominees are discredited as totally incompetent when you take into account the fact that both Johnson and Weld have been governors. Their platform is the ultimate hands-off approach to governance. If you want to know their stance on abortion or drugs or even education, it’s basically that people should be able to make their own choices without government interference. They do, however, have some areas that they find important enough to get involved in, such as criminal justice reform, wasteful spending, and term limits. There does seem to be an inherent flaw in the ideology, in my opinion. The official platform for education says, “Governors Gary Johnson and Bill Weld believe nothing is more important to our future as a country than educating our next generations.” However, making education a priority and then saying that you will “end the department of education” seems like a contradiction. Or maybe I just don’t get it. Also, saying that the free market rights itself is a worry. The free market is driven by low costs, which has led to historical slavery and environmental destruction. Whole species of animals have been “righted” by the free market, and despite the fact that conscientious people know that child labor is used in creating their smart phones, they still buy them. The only thing that protects the most vulnerable from being exploited is intervention on behalf of the people (ie government). So I don’t personally favor Libertarian ideology, but then again, I don’t really know exactly what they stand for. Johnson got booed at the Libertarian Convention for suggesting that maybe it’s a good idea to actually test people for competence behind the wheel before letting them drive. In a party so divided that the merits of a driver’s license is a hot topic of debate, it’s hard to say what a Libertarian actually believes, and since Johnson often gives non-committal answers or sounds uninformed on various topics, it is really hard to see what he personally stands for. I guess the point in 2016 isn’t so much to consolidate the party’s platform into one cohesive model so much as to confront what some voters perceive to be a broken system. Again, with little actual chance of moving into the beltway of Washington this election cycle, this is a protest vote. Libertarians tend to either be disenfranchised Republicans or disenfranchised Democrats, proving that the two party system is so poor at representing people that the one thing people running from both parties can agree on is that they hate the two party system.

VOTER’S GUIDE – DONALD J. TRUMP

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NOTE: The views and opinions expressed in this are purely my own.  I simply want to expound upon my political thoughts regarding this year’s election, and I hope that there’s someone out there that finds this of interest.

If you’d like to read about the third party candidates, go here.  If you’d like to hear my thoughts on the Democratic candidate, go here.  If you’re interested in knowing more about California’s propositions and measures, go here.

But for now, let’s take a closer look at the Republican candidate, shall we?

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Interestingly enough, Donald J. Trump is also a protest vote. I said earlier this year that Trump voters aren’t that much different than Sanders voters. They are both mainly made up by working class people who think that their jobs are threatened. But whereas Bernie’s people wanted to compete with highly educated immigrants by reforming higher education in this country, Trump supporters are mainly concerned with competing with immigrants for lower paying, more unskilled labor. The biggest difference between them is where they focus their rage.

Bernie Sanders supporters were indignant at a system that they feel has let them down. Education costs being one of the biggest issues, they were also worried about rising health costs, disappearing social security, and social injustices and inequality. They are angry at the government for letting them down, and interestingly enough given the age of their beloved candidate, the older generation’s excess.

Donald Trump supporters are also mad at the government, particularly the current administration, but they are also angry at the people that threaten “the American way of life.” This is where the worry sets in, because a lot of what they say regarding this subject is either racist or sounds an awful like it is. The really worrisome aspect of this is that what they are saying has been empowered by the candidate himself.

Donald Trump’s temperament is a huge problem. He’s obsessed with getting into silly flame wars on Twitter and making cheap jokes about D-list celebrities. Probably because he himself is basically a D-list celebrity. He’s the guy you cast when you want cameo of a rich guy in your movie, but if it’s more than a couple of lines, you better call Christopher McDonald or Craig Kilborn.

It’s important to understand how Donald Trump sees the world. He is a deal maker, a business man. He sees things in a transaction-oriented manner. What can I get from you to make this worth it for me? When we went to war in Iraq, he thought it was a smart investment, because we could take their oil reserves. We don’t need to protect Japan and South Korea, because they should just get their own nuclear weapons and protect themselves. Theoretically, this works in the business realm, although it is often said that Trump doesn’t like to follow through on his arrangements, refusing to pay for services rendered and shortchanging his wives in their prenup agreements. How well would quid pro quo at best or the art of welching on the deal at worst serve the U.S. in foreign relations? It would probably destabilize Asia and gain us the reputation of being colonial war criminals.

As to domestic affairs, Trump is a guy who says he will close the loopholes that he benefited from as a “smart” businessman, but he hasn’t proposed any policy that would do so. Instead, he has promised to eliminate the “death tax,” which would personally benefit his estate. If you aren’t familiar with what the estate tax is, it’s basically when a person with a lot of money dies and their money is given away in the will, the recipient pays a percentage of their inheritance (ie income). He also wants to put a moratorium on financial regulations, cutting corporate taxes, and slashing the top rate on personal income taxes. This is a bill of goods sold to the Republican Party over the years as a way to generate jobs and stimulate the economy, which it would do if the 1% were interested in spreading their wealth. What we’ve seen over the last few decades, however, is that the gap between the wealthy and the working class has only widened, that more money is being horded at the top, and that despite all of the evidence, blue collar workers will vote against their best interests as long as they buy the rhetoric that the sagging economy is actually being caused by “those libtard socialists in Washington.”

Here’s why some people will vote for Trump despite the fact that … well, that’s he’s Donald Trump. Wedge issues. If you believe that abortion is immoral, then you have a stake in who is appointed to The Supreme Court. If you think that there’s a threat to your Second Amendment rights, then you have a stake in who is appointed to The Supreme Court. If you hate Hillary Clinton, think she personally murdered a bunch of people and has a tattoo on the back of her neck that says “666,” then you think that God can’t possibly work miracles as long as a Democrat is in the office, so we have to show the world how much we love Jesus by sucking it up and electing anyone that the holy Republican Party chooses from their pool of saintly, God-fearing vessels of Christ!

Wow. That got pretty twisted. Sorry about that.

1) You don’t have to worry about Roe V. Wade, because you already re-elected Bush to fill those Supreme Court slots with anti-abortion advocates, remember? Problem solved!

2) No one is trying to take your guns, and even if they were, you would shoot those commies long before they could, right? Problem solved!

3) Are you nucking futs?!?

Donald Trump is not the droid you’re looking for.

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Black and White Movies: The 2016 OSCARS

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The Academy Awards and the issue of representation in film.

 

Sunday, February 28th, 2016.  I’m settled into the posh seat at the local cinema to watch my Superbowl, the Academy Awards.  I go in knowing what to expect.  This is going to be a tour de force moment for this year’s host, Chris Rock.  Despite it being a fantastic year for movies, the buzz surrounding Hollywood’s biggest toast to the craft is mainly about two things:

  1. Will this be Leo’s year?
  2. The controversy best summed up by the hashtag: #OscarsSoWhite

Before we even get into the theater, other audience members are talking about it.  “They never give Academy Awards to us for our merits.  Lupita Nyong’o got it for playing a slave.  Denzel got his for playing a thug.  And Halle basically got hers for having sex with Billy Bob Thornton.”

It’s not that she’s wrong.  It’s just that this other theater-goer and I have very different opinions on this matter.  I think she’s looking too far into the conspiracy.  Lupita won because she was a stunning newcomer.  Denzel won because it was a make-good.  And Halle Berry won because despite Monster Ball being a so-so movie, she was friggin’ brilliant in it!  It hurt me that the controversy was suddenly marginalizing the success of black actors that have won in the past.

And yet, she was not taking the argument far enough in a different direction, in my opinion.

That’s the thing about the 88th Annual Academy Awards.  At times the message was belabored to the point of ridiculous proportions.  And at other times, the message was so focused on a myopic point of view that it missed the point entirely.

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One of my favorite moments of the night was when Jacob Tremblay (Room), who was presenting with Abraham Attah (Beasts of No Nation), went off book while presenting Best Short to say, “Hey, Chris, I loved you in Madagascar!”  And then he explained to his Abraham, “He was the zebra.  He was hilarious!”  THIS after giving possibly the greatest performance of any child actor in film history.  Man, I hope that kid doesn’t turn to drugs, crime, and face tattoos.

 

If you’re unfamiliar with the – let’s just call it a conversation – allow me to explain.  In the midst of unarmed black men being shot by police officers and private citizens and white supremacist presence at political rallies where they are forcefully ejecting minority protesters, the fact that this is the second year in a row where there are no black nominees in any of the acting or directing categories became a hot topic.

The conversation was the text and subtext of much of the day.  In fact, before the broadcast, one of the fashion commentators threw in a rather subtle burn.  At least I think she did.  It’s fashion commentary, so it’s kind of difficult to say what is supposed to be serious and what isn’t.  But when commenting on Best Actress contender Saoirse Ronan’s appearance, the commentator said how much she loved the Brooklyn star’s “luminous, pale white skin.”

So as Kevin Hart said, it was Chris Rock’s job to address the elephant in the room and then make everyone comfortable, and Rock did an incredible job.  Not only did he give one of the funniest monologues in memory, he also both defused and clarified the issue.

Chris Rock's Best Lines

And beyond the monologue – and the obvious black and white part of the conversation – the issue was just kind of batted around from time to time until it got tiresome.  There were a few notable times it was brought up. On the other hand, there were a few times when it went awry.

Two moments in particular were very hard to watch.  They were awkward and clearly did not land.

stacey dashThe introduction of Stacie Dash (Clueless) was spectacularly flat.  It’s been described as a “black Twitter inside joke,” but apparently the Fox News commentator who spoke out against Black History Month really is the Academy’s hope for racial diversity outreach.  I honestly thought it was a joke about Rachel Dolezal at first.

asian kidsThe introduction of three Asian children with tuxedos and briefcases as “accountants from PricewaterhouseCoopers” – Ming Zhu, Bao Ling, and David Moskowitz.  You know, because everyone knows Asians and Jews are good at math!  Oh, and the built your phones too!  This joke had absolutely no depth besides to insist on racial stereotype and was far more exploitative of the ambitions of the children involved than it was clever.

There were neutral moments too.  Chris Rock revisited the Compton theater he took us to the last time he hosted.  The intention in the original broadcast remained the same.  Not only are the Academy Awards out of touch with black audiences, but the same is true the other way around.

Jude Law

Chris wisely did not resurrect his other joke from his previous Oscar hosting stint.  You remember, right?  When he kept saying over and over how Jude Law was only famous because he was white?  Ha!  Hilarious!!

And there were a few moments later in the show that worked quite well.

Black History MonthAngela Bassett starred in a parody short that showed how the Oscars might celebrate Black History Month.  It was risk-taking and funny

Sacha Baron Cohen, Olivia WildeWhen Sacha Baron Cohen is invited to present, the Academy knows they could get more than they ask for.  He was supposed to present as himself, but instead slipped off to change into his Ali G persona.  Instead of giving a synopsis of Room, like the teleprompter was – well, prompting him to do, he gave a full-blown satirical performance that set our own prejudices against us.

That’s where I feel like the argument failed.  It was made clearly apparent that people of color are not being given proper representation or opportunity in film.  But while the broadcast only hinted at other issues, it remained a mainly black and white matter.  And that’s where I feel like we are having a dishonest conversation.

Here is a picture from a film in the 1950’s.

Taza Son of Cochise

How offensive, amiright?  Instead of casting indigenous actors, they simply employed white actors and then employed a technique now commonly referred to as “redface.”

It’s a lot like blackface.

blackface

And yellowface.

yellowface

And brownface.

brown face

Thank goodness we’ve moved past those antiquated, outdated, racist practices!

short circuit

Still. . . I mean… That was the 80’s.  It’s not like we would –

Lone Ranger

That’s pretty bad.  But… I mean… This year?

Pan

Oh man.

Pharo

Okay. Yeah.

I’ve been talking about this since the release of The Lone Ranger.  Hollywood has created opportunity for minority actors, but just like they did in our racist past, they are giving these roles to white actors.  This time, however, instead of making wild claims that they are “protecting our children” and “common decency,” they are afraid that the audience won’t accept an actor that doesn’t already have a proven box office pull.  And because the list of minority actors with monetary appeal is short (and make no mistake, the ones that are on there are mainly black), the roles are cast white and made up in redface, blackface, yellowface, and brownface.

I’m glad that the conversation has begun.  And maybe things have already started to get better.  After all, the tenor coming from Hollywood is a positive one for representation.  I just hope that we don’t get lost too far into the whole black/white debate and forget about everyone else.

Predator versus “Predator”

Jennifer Fichter

Jennifer Fichter

Her name is Jennifer Fichter, and she is smoldering hot.  At the age of thirty, she had a promising career as a teacher in Polk County, Florida.  Just one little problem.  According to a telephone call that was recorded by a concerned mother, Ms. Fichter turned into a melted puddle every time she looked into one of her student’s eyes.

I know what you’re thinking.  Lucky kid, right?!

“Approximate number of how many times you all had possibly been together.  If you had to give me a number, Jennifer, how many would it be?”

“About 30?  20?”

“So, you’re telling me that you all possibly had sex 20 or 30 times?”

“Yeah, I guess.”

That’s a bit problematic, and it can create a lot of other issues.  Like pregnancy, which it did in this case, resulting in an abortion.  According to that same phone call, “He knew, and he helped make the decision.”

Okay, so put yourself in that position for a second.  You’re seventeen years old, you’ve been keeping a relationship with your super hot teacher a secret, and now you’re helping her decide what to do with this unwanted pregnancy.

But still, lucky kid, right?!?

“I love him,” she says later.  “I want to be with him. . .  Our relationship became stronger over time, in spite of everything that we went through.”

Yes.  “RELATIONSHIP.”  He’s not even out of high school yet, and he’s already landed himself this awesome chick with a great job.  Can we say it again?  Lucky kid, right?!?

“Honestly.  I don’t regret anything with him.”

According to records, Jennifer had made it about a month into the school year before she hooked up with the seventeen year old student.

“What does a seventeen-year-old have for you?” the mother asks.

Evidently, Jennifer just likes taking care of her boyfriends.  She’s just a nurturing person.  This would extend, I suppose, to the two other boys she was convicted of engaging in unlawful sex with.

Oh, you didn’t think this was an isolated act, did you?

No, in most of these cases where a teacher has engaged sexually with a student, there is a pattern of habitual behavior, whether the teacher is a male (and thus labeled a predator) or a female (and thus labeled a “predator”).  Indeed, if you found Jared Fogle to be a bit disturbed when he said, “Middle school girls are so hot,” then you should probably wonder about a teacher who tells her colleagues that she’s having “gooood” dreams about one of her students, regardless of whether or not the person in question has lost a lot of weight by eating Subway and still resembles a creepy Michelin Man or whether they look like a young Demi Moore.

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Jared Fogle

The problem most people have with calling these female teachers a sexual predator is that we tend to think of these incidents as “victim-less crimes.”  Men think of the prospect of sex in the same way they think of a lottery.  They spend a lot of money buying tickets, they fantasize constantly about what they would do if they won, and then when they are presented a winning ticket, the idea of turning down a “once in a lifetime opportunity” is physically painful.  And if those winning numbers are the measurements of their seemingly out-of-reach, smoking hot teacher, then wow, what a lucky kid!?!?  But nothing is so cut and dry as that.

Again, put yourself into that student’s shoes.  And we can even use the particular case of Jennifer Fichter for our imaginary scenario.  I want to do that for a couple of reasons.

First, a lot of people rationalize that since the boy was seventeen that it was somehow not as big of an issue as it would have been if he was, say sixteen (Virginia Hinckley), fifteen (Rebecca Bogard), fourteen (Debra Lafave), thirteen (Pamela Rogers), or twelve (Mary Kay Letourneau).  Although it should be noted that in all of these referenced cases, there were people willing to argue that the boys involved were “lucky.”

The second reason is because as a boy, if I had Ms. Fichter as my teacher, she would have fueled a lot of my own adolescent fantasies, so I can sympathize especially with the lottery winning analogy I made in this particular case on an id level.

Jennifer Fichter 02

She seems like she’d be a good listener.

Set aside the fantasy for a moment and put yourself into the student’s shoes.  A teenager simply doesn’t have the emotional maturity to deal with either a casual fling or a sustained relationship with an adult that is in a totally different place in their life.  Think of your own formative years, about your romantic notions of true love, about your first experiences with love and dating and kissing and sex.  Now imagine that same naive, wide-eyed discovery of the adult world happening with someone who is an adult, who has responsibility for your welfare and authority over you, who is possibly married and has children closer to your age than they are.  It’s hard enough to be a teenager and to be learning about heartbreak and disappointment without the prospect of drunk dialing your first love/eighth grade English teacher.

And what’s crazy is that it’s easy for us to see this when it comes to our daughters but difficult for us to do so when it is our sons (as a society, not in the literal sense of your actual son.  Nope.  Those mamas are NOT happy when this happens to Jr.).  Male teachers in this country are guilty as soon as the accusation is raised, but there’s a sort of wink-wink-nudge-nudge glee when it’s a female teacher.  The crimes could be identical, but the punishments are uneven.  And in many cases, the argument is made that the female teacher is the victim of the male student.

Sarah Jones

Sarah Jones

Take the case of Sarah Jones, for example.  The former Cincinnati Bengals cheerleader turned teacher said she had been in love with her victim since he was fourteen.  She claims he had never thought of her as a teacher, despite that she was in fact his teacher his freshman year of high school.  Her case, however, revolved around her deteriorating marriage and the alleged abuse that took place there.  Her student evidently “consoled” her and helped her get through her difficulties.  He made her feel pretty.  Despite the overwhelming evidence of the “affair” (because that’s what the media calls it when the teacher is a woman), she was sentenced to five years of diversion but no jail time.  She isn’t even registered as a sex offender.

At least she won’t be teaching anymore.  Otherwise, who knows how many more “lucky kids” there might be.

 

 

If you liked this post, you might be interested in this one about sexual abuse against women.