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So we are THAT country. We are the country that doesn't bring charges against our leaders when we commit crimes against humanity, when we commit war crimes. We harbor our war criminals and let them live their lives out with their great wealth and their families. We allow them to watch their grandkids grow up and to collect honors and dividends. We allow them to sit back in Wyoming and Texas fishing and painting (badly). We listen as the media excitedly gets an interview with George W. Bush, Dick Cheney or Karl Rove to hear their opinions of current events, not once mentioning a complete lack of credibility since they are indeed war criminals. We pretend that isn't the case. We pretend they have something of value to say. We pretend they did nothing wrong.

George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Karl Rove and the CIA, and the rest of the Bush administration involved acted in the name of all United States citizens. They used tax payer money to fund their war crimes, but we don't demand they pay for these crimes. They are privileged old white men. We are willing to turn a blind eye and in doing so we become complicit. Our apathy and blindness to the truth makes us guilty as a nation. If we don't serve justice upon the guilty and bring justice for the victims, we are guilty. We are saying to the world that America does not respect torture victims, we don't respect our own laws, and we certainly don't respect international law. We are saying to our politicians that they can commit the most atrocious acts without any real life consequences. Go ahead. Do it again. You get a free pass. Guess what, there should not be a free pass for torture.

George W. Bush is a criminal. Dick Cheney is a criminal. They broke U.S. laws. They broke international law. They authorized the torture of detainees. They are all criminals. The Torture Report that was released by the Senate describes the vile and inhumane tactics used…more cruel than anything I imagined…waterboarding someone 183 times until his abdomen was distended, forced nudity, and rectal feeding. It is heartbreaking, devastating and disgusting at least to me, as an American, as a world citizen, and as a human. This was done in my name. It was done in your name. When did we become the country that would allow these atrocities and not hold those guilty responsible? I feel shame that this happened, but I also feel so ashamed that we are not attempting to bring justice for the victims. We are protecting war criminals. This is not the United States of America, the home of the free and the brave. We are now the home of apathetic cowards for not prosecuting our human rights violating, above-the-law criminals.

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I'm sick to hell of politically correct attitudes that we have to respect the ignorant and stupid opinions of those who disagree with reality.

I do NOT respect opinions that are based on hate, racism, or sexism.
I do NOT respect opinions that ignore scientific or historic fact.
I do NOT respect opinions that are based on lies, rhetoric, or propaganda.
I do NOT respect opinions that are based on greed, false equivalence, or religious doctrine.
I do NOT respect opinions that are based on ignorance and stupidity.

"We are all born ignorant, but one must work hard to remain stupid." - Benjamin Franklin
There is no place that these nonsense opinions are illustrated better than the twenty four hour news coverage where show after show has the same five stories with different representatives of opposing sides (no matter how misinformed a side might be) sitting around arguing. I am over it!  

If we stopped pretending that unreasoned opinions are legitimate to the conversation, we would not be arguing about whether or not climate change was real, but rather, how to make the greatest impact on climate change in the shortest amount of time. We have to stop arguing with troglodytes about the existence or non-existence of problems in the world and focus on solutions that will lead humanity to progress.

Media outlets must stop wasting everyone's time by creating false, sensationalized ‘debates’ by giving a voice to the louts of our nation. Stop giving the redneck, moronic, climate change denier, and the idiotic, bible beating, creationist a seat at the discussion table with scientists and historians. Stop interviewing the racist homophobes down the street and giving them the same legitimacy as the human rights activist. It is not good television and it is vastly destructive to the country and the world. Stop giving ignorance an equal voice!

We could be moving past the false arguments (or at least not stagnating to this degree) if media would quit making the ignorant and the haters relevant. Not to say that we should ignore that they exist, but we should not give them the spotlight to spread their dimness. Just laugh them off. They are not qualified to be leading discussion, policy, or public opinion. We need standards in media coverage.

A healthy exchange of ideas, perspectives, and opinions is important, but every single ridiculous, poorly thought out, baseless, uneducated, ignorant opinion does not need to be represented in the mainstream media's conversation. This isn't a left or a right issues. It is an all encompassing issue and there needs to be some sort of litmus test that weeds out the quack ideas. Right now the standards are based on what will bring a program attention even if it is for an insanely stupid guest. Again, bad for the country, bad for the world.

The job of news organizations is to report what's going on in the world, which means you may have to actually do some work and educate the American public on a little bit of history so they can understand why certain things are occurring. We should not be arguing irrelevant points to appease the dumber-than-shit, Sarah Palinesque, illiterates in the United States!

“You are not entitled to your opinion. You are entitled to your informed opinion. No one is entitled to be ignorant.” - Harlan Ellison
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Yesterday, I was told to "tone it down" by a libertarian male after I posted the fury of my views on the Supreme Court of American Idiocy’s decision in favor of Hobby Lobby. Once again, because some people are effing stupid and willfully ignorant, women will be denied aspects of healthcare. Way to go, worst SCOTUS in history!

This individual went on to say that he disagreed with me and he was being “logical and reasonable”. I was PISSED! First, don't tell me what to do or how to feel. I am upset by a bullshit ruling and I can express it any way I please. Second, don't tell me to "tone it down" when a basic right of women's reproductive health is in jeopardy. It is condescending and misogynistic. How dare anyone say ‘tone it down’ to a woman expressing fury and emotion over a hypocritical, biased Supreme Court decision while stating that they are just being a ‘logical and reasonable man’. F#%k YOU!

I had posted the following article and quote with some choice words:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/...

"The owners of those companies believe some forms of birth control -- emergency contraception and intrauterine devices -- are forms of abortion because they could prevent a fertilized egg from implanting in the uterus."

I don't know the actual religious beliefs of this man, but I do know he calls himself a libertarian.  I'm not sure if he thinks that anything that prevents a fertilized egg from implanting in the uterus is an abortion or whether his 'logic' is that the government can't force a company to provide medical care that they as employers don't believe follows their religious doctrine. Either way he’s effing stupid. If he believes preventing a fertilized egg from implanting in the uterus is an abortion, he is needs a lesson in basic biology. It's an egg. It's not an embryo or a fetus. It's an egg!

I am fine with religious diversity and protecting religious freedom, but I am not fine with protecting religious freedom that goes against science and truth! I'm not okay with protecting one person's religious freedom while gutting another's. I'm not fine with an employer restricting an employee's religious freedom by imposing its own. A corporation, which we all know is considered a person these days, is allowed to have religious views. It can decline medical care to women based on these views, regardless of the woman's belief or needs. And yes, they are making medical decisions by denying birth control access. Fifty eight percent of women on birth control are on birth control for reasons other than or in addition to controlling birth. It is used to reduce risk of cancer, prevent ovarian cysts, lesson symptoms of endometriosis, lesson severe cramps, and control Polycystic Ovary Syndrome…just to name a few. Now, an employer can make these woman suffer or pay out of pocket...if they can afford it. Let's face it, a Hobby Lobby cashier with two kids is probably going to choose to suffer in order to have enough money to care for her children. The idea that she has to make this choice is un-American, in my opinion!

Another concern everyone should have with corporations having religious rights is their ability to trump human rights. What if they claim that they don't believe in vaccines? Are companies going to deny children proper medical care based on religious beliefs? Are Jehovah’s Witnesses going to argue against blood transfusions? Are Christian Scientists going to object to healthcare in general? Are Scientologists going to object to provisions for mental health care? Are these hypocritical, non-reality based, human- created religion espousing companies going to continue to build on this ruling and chip away at healthcare? This is a frightening and very real concern that every citizen of these United States should be vehemently opposed.

Hobby Lobby only has two ‘religious’ issues…the control of women that they consider property and profits. We as a nation should all know by now that the majority of the products sold by Hobby Lobby are made in China, an abortion friendly country. China actually encourages abortions. Hobby Lobby also invests in their 401(k) plans to the tune of $73 million in contraceptive companies. Their claim of religious exemption is pure bull$hit that the Bought and Paid Supreme Court of Hypocrisy thinks is just fine. It isn't okay in any sense of the word.

This is about men controlling women’s bodies and lives. The number of people who supported the SCOTUS5 decision who tried to engage me in conversation on Twitter last night was astounding. I can’t be bothered with such out-of-touch idiocy wrapped in a pseudo-religious agenda. Their profiles are usually all-telling…such patriots with their devotion to god and family. I posted a quote from a ‘godly’ preacher that summarizes the mentality, "No woman wants to be submissive to a man who isn't 100% submissive to God". I think that sums it up.

So to the one who told me to ‘tone it down’, I WILL NOT! To quote Jon Stewart, "I'm not going to censor myself to comfort your ignorance."  

(Note: I called a few insurance companies this morning and could not get a clear answer on whether policies that don't cover birth control exist or what the cost difference is between those policies (if they exist) and ones that do. I want to know if employers are paying extra for birth control or if it is just the cost of a policy for women. Anyone who has that answer, I would appreciate it left in the comments. I would also suggest that the cost of policies that limit women’s access to healthcare should be more expensive…due to the cost of underwriting.)

Discuss

I am a feminist and proud of it. I have written about women’s rights and issues, marched and rallied for women’s rights. Hell, I was even an organizer of a couple of rallies/marches. When the Republicans vote against equal pay, it pisses me off and I’m not afraid to say so. When women’s reproductive rights are challenged, I am the first in line to fight. When women are mistreated in the United States and the world, I do everything I can to participate in the dialogue in hopes of being part of the change. Do I believe that women deserve better than what this world currently offers us? Hell, yes!

That being said, I am having trouble with the current dialogue with regard to Elliot Rodger that this culture of misogyny created his dysfunction. Is he a misogynist? Yes. Are his rants full of hate towards women and the men who get women’s love? Yes. Yet, if you look at everything from his ‘manifesto’ to the information his family has made public, you see he had mental health issues from a very, very young age. His family has stated that Elliot had been seeing therapists since the age of 8, sometimes multiple therapists simultaneously. This fact is a signal that his parents, by the time Elliot was merely eight years old, felt there were issues beyond what they could handle. It signals that they had exhausted all other normal parental instincts, common sense, advice, books, etc. and they needed professional help in hopes of helping their son. It does not signal that they were raising their son to reflect any misogynistic views they may have held, as the media has suggested. It signals that they were trying to help their son. It signals that there was something very difficult going on with what we now know was a mentally ill child. To suggest that all mentally ill people are products of their environment, upbringing, or a reflection of their family’s values is an insult to all the families worldwide who struggle to help mentally ill loved ones. Such a view does not reflect an educated understanding of the diverse issues comprising the mental health crisis.

If you take the time to read the entire manifesto, you may notice odd points that Elliot Rodger made throughout its entirety. Even when he is describing the blissful times of his life, he can’t help adding strange points that seem to make him a victim. For example, he claims that he was not the product of a planned pregnancy. He hated his preschool and the socks he was forced to wear there. He states that on his third birthday, his friend’s mother cut the cake and gave the first piece to his friend and not him…it was his birthday after all. He was uprooted and moved to the United States. His parents divorced and he was devastated. He mentions being annoyed because his sister was allowed to invite her friends to his ninth birthday party. He claims that everyone was mean to him or bullied him with few exceptions. He was moved from school to school over the years for various reasons that seemed to suggest his inability to fit in from very early on. Some of these bizarre memories this 22 year old shares as tragic events in his life occurred when he was as young as three years old. He claims to remember these events and finds them significant enough to share. Still, such events are not unique to him. Many similar things happen to everyone, but are either not seen as tragic or are not even in one’s memory bank.

Elliot Rodger also goes on and on about his family bloodlines, his travel, his social standing, his taste for the finer things, fashion, and opulence. He demonstrates an inflated sense of self and self-worth throughout the manifesto. He is narcissistic in his description of himself and his life (I’m not diagnosing, just describing his writings). He states all this while sulking about not being cool, not being popular, and not getting the attention he deserves. It is bizarre—from beginning to end. His perception of his childhood almost seems contrived—a picture painted to blame society, his family, his peers, anyone but himself or in reality, his mental instability. I don’t recall him mentioning that he was seeing a therapist as a young child. I don’t recall mention of a therapist at all until the very end of his manifesto. Reports credited to his family friends say visits to his therapists were almost a daily part of his life since the age of 8 and he omits this fact. It seems that Elliot wanted readers to believe that his life was perfect until the mean girls of his adolescence appeared—the scapegoat for his psychopathy.

Toward the end of his manifesto, I almost couldn’t read his repetitive and insane rants-though I forced myself to just to try to get some understanding. It didn’t work. I doubt that anyone who completely read the document came away with any better understanding of Elliot Rodger. It was like being in a tornado of disjointed ramblings. It was the first time I ever read something where I was able to see someone literally becoming more and more unhinged.

I agree that a conversation about the treatment of women needs to happen. It needs to be had for a vast number of reasons beyond Elliot Rodger's mental illness. In the 21st century, women are still being stoned, still have to cover their faces with hijabs, are raped, forced into marriage, kidnapped and sometimes killed for getting an education, and on and on. US congress people voted against equal pay for women. The fight for women's rights is everywhere. My fear is that dominating the airwaves and social media with misogyny rhetoric in response to the mass murders committed by Elliot Rodger, it overshadows the two points that I consider to be the root of this tragedy: mental illness and access to guns (an entirely different article to be written). I believe his mental illness caused his behavior, not a predilection for misogyny. I believe his fixation could have just as easily been to hate a race, religion, or any other random thing he chose.

I am not excusing his heinous crime in any way. His actions were disgusting, incomprehensible, and criminal. This does not discount the fact that this boy was mentally ill, an issue we must address as a nation if we want to be able to stop these violent instances from occurring around the country. Elliot Rodger was mentally ill and he was able to legally purchase guns. That is the issue at hand. This is the dialogue we need to have.

Discuss

For the purpose of this article, let’s take climate change off the table. I won’t even state my opinion on it. Pretend that Global Warming is not even part of the discussion. A few simple questions. Do you want to breathe clean air? Do you want you children to breathe clean air?  Do you want to drink clean water? Do you want your children to drink clean water? Do you want to maintain the beauty of nature?  

Next set of questions:

How do we do this? Do we move away from oil and coal as the main energy sources? Yes. Do we try to move towards clean energy such as solar and wind? Yes. Do we stop fracking? Yes. Do we stop the use of certain pesticides? Yes. Do we regulate the proper disposal of chemicals? Yes. Do we have safety standards for factories and businesses that deal with dangerous chemicals and pollutants? Yes.

This is all just common sense. We see oil spills and chemical spills. We see the sacrificing of water safety to gain access to natural gas. We see all the disgusting factories with their discolored smoke stacks pumping who knows what into the air. Why are some people against making improvements that would stop these harmful processes?  Why in hell aren’t we all on the same page?  If there are solutions that would solve, begin to solve or minimize any one of these atrocities, why aren’t we all working towards them? Is it the way these issues have been packaged?  Is it Global Warming believers v. deniers…or Science v. God will take care of us?  

As we see the impact of the massive chemical spill in West Virginia, the aftermath of the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, and concerns around the globe of air and water quality, don’t most citizens of the United States and the world want to do better? If there are new technologies that can be developed to improve on the processes and bad decisions that cause these events, they should be pursued. We are supposedly a country that believes in exceptionalism. We believe in innovation. We believe in ourselves.  

So what the hell is our problem? Can’t we just all agree that we have free will, and with that comes great responsibility, and we should of course NOT want to put ourselves, our children, or future generations into a toxic world? You don’t have to believe in Global Warming to want to protect the environment.  You don’t have to want to protect the environment to want to protect yourself or your family. This isn’t rocket science. It’s self- preservation in the most basic sense.  You just have to think…and once you or your kid have contracted some cancer caused by some pollutant that you ignored because Global Warming is a hoax (in your mind), it’s too late.

Discuss

Thu Nov 28, 2013 at 09:26 PM PST

Thanksgiving Hope

by Kathryn Brusco

This Thanksgiving, I have been thinking a lot about ‘hows’ and ‘whys’. Why are so many assholes ruling the world? Why are so many greedy bastards running the businesses that employ millions? Why does it feel like a master/slave society? Why does it feel like the United States is going backwards in so many ways and that this world isn’t moving forward?  

The Patriot Act initiated back in the Bush Days, NDAA still in effect under Obama, NSA documents released by whistle blowers disclosing invasive spying on US citizens and others, never ending wars, drones, terrorism (whether it’s foreign or domestic or even the U.S. killing innocent victims with drones or in ‘authorized’ wars), and famine are just a few of many societal tragedies that plague this world of ours. How is it possible that people in this world are still starving to death and don’t have access to safe water? How is it possible that violence is so often the knee jerk reaction on international, national, and individual levels? How are people against equal pay for women? How are people against a livable minimum wage? How are people against helping the poor? Why would anyone want to cut Social Security, Medicaid, and Welfare instead of making improvements? Why are people so callous? Why are people okay with billionaires paying employees what amounts to basically slave wages?  How can people fight against healthcare for all? Why do we allow big business to propagate against global warming and continue to polluting the world at all, much less into the danger zone? Why do we as a nation not stand up for what is right? Why don’t more people care about the rights and wrongs in the world unless they are directly affected? Why don’t we as a society educate ourselves on world events, cultural struggles, religious differences and commonalities? Why don’t we work together to improve the entire world instead of fighting like terribly behaved, unsupervised children?  

Most of the time, I truly don’t understand human nature. I don’t understand how we have not evolved beyond the point of cruelty to one another and destruction of anything we touch. I don’t understand how we dismiss, deny, or don’t even care about the facts. I don’t understand how a social structure of stupid white men as the ruling class (for the most part) came to be. I don’t understand why so many are incapable of seeing anything from anyone else’s perspective. I don’t understand how one person can make millions of dollars for minimal work while another works three times the hours and can’t make ends meet or how the millionaire can feel superior because he got lucky. I don’t understand how one soul is born into riches, while another is born into war torn poverty and starvation or how the wealthy often find a reason that their life is equally tragic compared to someone struggling to survive.

There are times when my heart fills with hope over occurrences around the world. Gay marriage slowly becoming legal across the United States has been a positive sign. Across the globe, seeing a new generation of voices, rising in pockets, that supports better ideas, leadership, peace, and fairness has made me believe in a better tomorrow. Listening to individuals like Malala Yousafzai who risked her life to stand up for the education of women in Afghanistan has been inspiring. There are moments when I think that things will get better and people actually care, but there is always doubt to whether enough people care to make the changes the world needs, and whether enough people are thinking beyond their own families, personal shopping, and making the big paycheck. I wonder if people can comprehend or even think about the fact that everyone wants safety for themselves and their families. Everyone wants a good life with proper shelter, food and clean water. Everyone wants basic healthcare and everyone deserves these basic needs met, in the U.S. and all around the world.  

On this Thanksgiving, I am thankful for my family, the overall good health of those close to me, and the never-ending hope that the world will eventually wake up, replace the hurting with caring for one another, and will stop the destruction to the environment.  Also, I am thankful for the hope of new generations with new insights, and a renewed fight for what is right to build a stronger world community. We should be more evolved at this point in our collective history than evidenced by the actions we display, but at least there are signs of a better future. I am thankful for that.

Discuss

 As we approach the holiday season, it is so delightful to see Republicans embracing the true meaning of the season by cutting food stamps (the SNAP Program) and not raising the minimum wage.   All the while, these Republicans support tax loopholes for wealthy CEOs and the oil industry.  
  Ahhh…I can see it now, Jesus patting Boehner on the back for making cuts to the SNAP Program and standing strong against raising the minimum wage.  What a guy this Boehner is!  He and the Republican Party, making sure that those below the poverty level go from unbearable financial situations to beyond nightmarish scenarios.    
   Let’s see…what company is the perfect example?  Who has been all over the media recently?  McDonalds? That’s a good one. Total rubbish when it comes to employee wages.  Or Wal-Mart? Yes. Their employees recently made national news since many of their employees rely on food stamps or donations in order to simply put Thanksgiving dinner on the table. Heaven forbid that these large companies (and there are many more) actually pay their employees a livable wage.  
  Due to recent headlines, let’s continue to use Wal-Mart as the example. A Wal-Mart sales associate making $8/hour will bring home $16,640 a year (assuming they don’t take a single week off).  That averages out to $1,387 a month.  Let’s round it to $1400.  Subtract $830 for the median cost of a two bedroom apartment.  For our purpose, we will assume that there is one parent and one child in the household. They are now down to $570 for everything else for the month.  Subtract $160 for average utility costs. They are now down to $410. Let’s say a car is not an option due to low wages, so this person takes the bus. It is about $2 per day round trip to work, so we will estimate $40 a month. They are now down to $370. According to the USDA, the average cost of food for a single female is about $160 a month on what they refer to as the Thrifty Plan, meaning the plan that simply keeps you from starving. Let’s face it, Wal-Mart workers should be thrifty?  No splurging for them, not even for a holiday. So, now it is down to $210. For a single child living with their mother, the average food cost is about $135 (again, on the Thrifty Plan).  Now it is down to $75 (adding a second child to the scenario would put them well beyond their monthly budget).  With $75 left for the month, we must hope this single mother and her child don’t need a phone, a doctor, clothing, or any extra childhood expense such as a field trip, birthdays, Christmas, soccer, ballet, or that they ever, EVER want to dine out.  Yes, food for the month is only based on the cost of home prepared meals.  What mother wants to take her child out to dinner anyway, or to see a movie, to play mini golf, or anything extra for fun?  Why would Republicans possibly offer a higher, livable minimum wage or food assistance to this lazy mother who can’t afford a single vacation or sick day?  This doesn’t even account for day care, insurance or any other necessary costs that families incur.  
   I would love to see Boehner, Cantor, and McConnell live on this income for a month before they promote any more of their propaganda of the lazy, disgusting, dehumanized poor.  I would love to see Mike Duke (the outgoing CEO of Wal-Mart, who in 2012 received compensation of $20 million) or Doug McMillon (the incoming CEO of Wal-Mart whose compensation for 2012 was $9 million), live on this income.  I would love to see them work the hours, live the lifestyle, stay within the insanely tight budget with not one dinner out, not one extra trip to the store, not one splurge (not even a drink, boys!), nothing extra…or the entire budget would be off.  If any of these men had to face that moment when their child needed a new coat, but couldn’t afford it; if any of them had to send their six-year-old to school knowing his shoes were a size too small and their child’s toes were curling, but they couldn’t afford a new pair; if any of these men had to go to bed hungry, so that their child wouldn’t be hungry, or if any of these men couldn’t take their child to the doctor, because they couldn’t afford the co-pay; would they see what they are doing to their workers is wrong?  Would they pay their employees enough to survive?  What happened to the saying, “We are only as weak as the weakest link”?  Wal-Mart is weakening its own team with no regret or remorse.  Raising the wage to $12.00/hr would cost the consumer 46 cents per trip, according to Huffington Post calculations.  As a consumer, it’s worth it.  
  The Walton family, who owns Wal-Mart, has a net worth of more than $25 billion and they choose to send their employees home without a livable wage and without the means for basic needs. And, why?  So they can buy another plane or another multi-million dollar work of art?  I am sure that they and their peers with the same business practices are making Jesus proud, stuffing their bank accounts while screwing over the working poor.  Maybe this makes the Jesus they know proud.  Of course, this particular Jesus is the Jesus of twisted conservative fables…the Jesus who believes that the rich need more and to hell with the poor.  I’ve never read about that Jesus in the Bible.
   Every year millions of Americans read or watch Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol”.  It’s a story that we all know well.  Year after year, we are appalled by Scrooge.  This year more than ever, many Americans can relate to the greedy CEO who not only doesn’t care about his employees, he doesn’t even think of them on a human level.  This year, it’s the tragic American tale, led by the Republicans, the Party of Scrooge. Bah, freakin’ humbug!

Discuss

  Violence, even well intentioned, always rebounds upon itself. - Lao Tzu

As you sit in the church that was the center of your faith as a child, you look around with a sense of warmth and joy.  You have all gathered to celebrate a cousin’s wedding day.  Perhaps, it is a cousin with whom you are still close, or one you have lost touch with over the years.  Either way, you are in the moment, enjoying family unity. You are reunited with the elders in your family for what you fear will be your last time knowing how difficult it is for everyone to gather all at once. You reconnect with those of your own generation and meet their beautiful children for the first time. It is a moment you treasure as you wait for the ceremony to begin. You hug your wife closely and glance at each of your children. The groom and his attendants enter and music begins to play.  Everyone stands and turns to watch the bride begin the long walk down the aisle. She is glowing.  You look toward your cousin and see his eyes tear up at the sight of his bride.  As you take your wife’s hand, there is a flash of light and a loud explosion. You fall to the ground, unsure what has just happened. You try to get up only to realize that you are under a pile of rubble.  You push and pull with what little movement you have until what lies upon you begins to slowly shift inch by inch.  A beam of light becomes visible. Is it a way out or are you even alive?  Is this what death feels like?  What about your family, your children, your spouse? You struggle harder under the weight of debris until you are able to shift and move toward the light. Pulling to the surface of the debris, you glance where your wife and children were only moments ago. There is no sign of them. You begin digging franticly as you hear voices of those who have run into the destruction to help.  When you are finally able to reach your wife and children, they are lifeless.  Everything appears to be occurring in slow motion.  It is at this moment that you finally look beyond your immediate surroundings, realizing the extent of the destruction. You become aware of other survivors, some badly injured from burns, shrapnel, and the weight of the destroyed building. You can’t think or feel. Your family has been murdered.  

What do you do when the feeling returns? Do you want revenge? What if you are told by the authorities that at your cousin’s wedding, you were in the presence of a terrorist (something you either didn’t know or don’t believe) and that the collateral damage, the lives of your family members, your wife and children, were necessary for the safety of another country?  Would you join an organization that was opposed to this government responsible for the attack? Would you join the military in your own country in order to seek retribution?  

This is happening in Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Yemen and probably other locations around the world. The United States is using drones to target “known terrorists” and in the process killing civilians, including women and children.  Is this the solution?  Is this creating more terrorists than it is eliminating?  If this happened to you in your home town in Alabama, Arizona, Kansas, or New York, would you just understand and move on with your life or would you want to act? Would you want the people responsible for this violent act to pay?

We saw this after 9-11.  It was the worst attack on U.S. soil in history.  Almost 3,000 people were killed that day. Murdered. United States citizens were shocked, angry, and scared.  It was a devastating event in U.S. history and affected every American deeply and personally. Immediately, the consensus in the United States was to find and punish those who planned and set in motion the act of terrorism.  

The government and the people wanted someone held responsible…so much so, that the Bush administration invaded a country with faulty (fabricated) evidence.  We invaded a country in retaliation for the most tragic event in recent U.S. history that had nothing to do with the attack on the United States.  We bombed their cities, destroyed their infrastructure, and removed their leader, Saddam Hussein (who was later tried and killed by the Interim Iraqi government).  Over 125,000 Iraqi civilians were killed in this war.  All of this, including loss of American soldiers lives and at great expense, for it to be determined that Iraq was not the country responsible for the attack on 9-11. How should the U.S. be perceived? As a terrorist state that kills women, children, and the elderly?  If you were an Iraqi citizen, would you be pleased that another country invaded your country and killed your family, friends, and leaders, and destroyed all means of livelihood, leaving an unstable government in place? Would you feel terrorized? This war has been going on for more than ten years. You would have lived in a war zone for a decade? Who are the terrorists?

The argument often deflects from the unconscionable ‘mistake’ to the fact that Saddam Hussein was ‘evil’. Obviously, he was a bad man who did bad things, but wasn’t it up to the Iraqi citizens to determine the future of their country?  Was it morally acceptable for an outside force to make these decisions without a full understanding of what the country wanted, needed, or was able to handle?  Is it acceptable that our nation attacked another based on lies?

Many U.S. decisions are defended as being made in order to prevent other foreign terrorist attacks on U.S. soil…a preemptive strike strategy to eliminate potential terrorists at all costs. This is the way of the present. What about the future? What are the alternatives? What is the best that we can do as a nation and as world? The cost of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan is estimated to be $4Trillion to $6Trillion. Is there a better use for that money? Could this money have been applied more constructively? Of course.

We, as the human race, must evolve beyond this need for violence and revenge. We must end the senseless cyclical ‘eye for an eye’ behaviors that have plagued the history of the human species. There has to come a time when we can look at human nature, history, and flawed logic to recognize that our actions are not resolving anything. Since when are we all not humanists?  Since when do we not acknowledge that an American child’s life or death holds no more value than that of a Yemeni child or any child? The idea that drone warfare among other violent tactics is the solution to terrorism is absurd. The idea that drone warfare used on innocent civilians is not terrorism is absurd.  Violence breeds violence. Terror breeds terror. This has to be acknowledged. It is long past time for change.  

Discuss
“There are no easy answers’ but there are simple answers.  We must have the courage to do what we know is morally right.”- Ronald Reagan
Speaker Boehner,  

America and the world are witnessing Congress deadlocked on funding the federal government and raising the debt ceiling. You have allowed the Tea Party, which wants to defund the Affordable Care Act at all costs, to control you since the beginning of this Congressional battle.  The Tea Party has been allowed by you to dictate what goes up for a vote on the House floor. You have allowed the federal government to shut down and the U.S. to once again come dangerously close to defaulting on our debt.  You have done this at the cost of the American people.  You have done this at the cost of the world economy.  

Many of the more established and rational Congressmen and women in the Republican Party, your party, have not hesitated to point out the irrational and inappropriate tactics being used by House republicans led by the Tea Party.  Many have pointed out this is not the time or even the proper procedure to address the Affordable Care Act, and it is not acceptable to put the livelihood of Americans and the world at risk.  In response, the Tea Party rhetoric has changed, but when push comes to shove, it always comes back to the Affordable Care Act.  

You know what you are doing is wrong.  You know what you are doing is hurting your constituents and the nation as a whole.  You know that many Tea Partiers ran on a platform of shutting down the government.  This is their destructive power play.  You have not led the House.  You have not led your party.  You have been a pawn.  You have done this out of fear of losing your speakership.  You have done this for selfish reasons and in the process, you have empowered the Tea Party.

You have a very brief opportunity, right now, to be brave, to be selfless, and do the right thing.  Call a vote on the clean C.R.  Call on a clean vote to raise the debt ceiling, not a debt ceiling deal that puts the U.S. and world back in this same scenario in six weeks, but one that extends the debt ceiling for a meaningful amount of time.  Call a vote right now.  Put hundreds of thousands of federal employees back to work.  Keep the businesses that rely on these workers financially viable.  Allow the United States of America to pay its bills.   Be brave.  Lead.  Be the Speaker of the House that in the year 2013 brought Republicans and Democrats together for the better good of our nation.  It doesn’t matter what party has more votes on this bill.  It matters that the Speaker of the House does the right thing.  It matters that you act out of bravery and morality.  Be the Speaker of the House that puts country before politics.  Now is the time.  It is your last chance before we hit the debt ceiling.  It may not be the easy answer to you, but it is the simple answer, the right answer, the brave answer.  Showing courage, you could single handedly change the dynamic in D.C. and in doing so, the legacy of your Speakership.  Make this moment count!  

Discuss

 The GOP is so out of touch with Middle Class America that it is disgusting and hard to fathom that they have been sent to DC to represent citizens of the United States.  They have now shut down the government in a repugnant politicized attempt to defund the Affordable Care Act.  ACA has been signed into law.  Prior to passing through Congress, it was debated and compromises were made.  It has been vetted by the Supreme Court.  President Obama ran on healthcare reform in the 2008 election and won and the 2012 election and won, (while several Tea Party candidates ran on a promise to shutdown the government…and they have succeeded).  Now, the day ACA was implemented, the Tea Party with the support of some GOP members have demanded more compromises on ACA in order to persuade them to vote to fund the government.  How they think that shutting down the government over healthcare reform that was already negotiated and signed into law is okay, is beyond insane.  Democrats already compromised on ACA.  

  To make things worse, Boehner’s lack of a spine against the minority Tea Party members who are the squeaky wheel, has caused this entire problem.  He is weak…and orange!  He is empowering the minority of the Republican party instead of moving forward with those that act reasonably and responsibly.  He is empowering the fools within his party, giving them a voice stronger than their majority.  He is a fool, beyond fools, and deserves to lose at least his speakership.  

  This government shutdown affects all of us and will only get worse as it drags into the debt ceiling debate.  Presently, over 800,000 federal workers have been furloughed.  Many of these workers live paycheck to paycheck.  They do not lead extravagant lives and they don’t have extravagant salaries.  They have mortgages, grocery bills, children to raise and at this exact moment, no income.  This is unacceptable!  And, now there is talk that they may not receive back pay once a CR bill is passed.  A few Congressmen who have stated this are Richard Burr (R-NC, net work $1.5M-$2.8M), Chuck Grassley (R-IW, net worth $33.9M), Jeff Flake (R-AZ, net worth $300,000), John Barrasso (R-WY, network $5.7M), and Tim Scott (R-SC, network $3.4M).  Noticing the net worth of these individuals, it becomes obvious why they are out of touch.  They don’t live as average Americans live.  They are the top one percent, with one exception, Jeff Flake.  They can afford the extravagances of life and must believe that the working middle class can as well.  They think that there is an area in the average American budget where financial belts can be tightened when there is in fact already extreme difficulty surviving on their salary.  These Congressmen do not understand how difficult it is for the majority of Americans to survive in such a modest lifestyle.  They do not have any idea what it is like to live within a tight budget in order to simply make ends meet.   Congressman can afford to lose a month or two of income…or significantly more.  The majority of Americans cannot!

  This isn’t just affecting those who have been furloughed.  Depending on the length of this extortion, restaurants, shops, and millions of other businesses will suffer.  The job market, which is recovering from the recession at a slow pace with sequestration as an additional noose, is not going to handle this additional pressure.  This isn’t just about grandstanding for National Parks with World War II veterans at your side (Bachmann, yes, I am talking to you, you moron).  This is about individuals who are responsible and dedicated who may now be forced, by no fault of their own, to default on their own obligations.  

  Let’s take a look at others leading the charge in the government shutdown.  The worst of the worst for caving to the Tea Party, Majority Leader of the House, John Boehner (R-OH) with estimated net worth around $4M; Eric Cantor (R-VA), $5.4M; Paul Ryan (R-WI) $2M; Ted Cruz (R-TX) $1.7M; Michelle Bachman (R-MN) $1.7M; Tom Coburn (R-OK) $3.1M; Darrell Issa (R-CA) $448M; Mitch McConnell (R-KY) $27M; and James Inhofe (R-OK) $11M.    

  Now, you can search the internet and find out that there are also many Democrats with extraordinary incomes.  Yes, there are.  The difference is that the Democrats do, without hesitation, want to make sure that furloughed employees are compensated with back pay, so they can financially survive.  Democrats want to fund the government without setting the precedent that a small minority can defund a law that has been negotiated, passed both Houses, and signed by the President of the United States, which will enable millions of Americans who are uninsured, whether it is due to financial difficulties or preexisting conditions,  to get insurance.  Democrats want to fund Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, Head Start, Women’s Health, along with a myriad of services, institutions and infrastructure that make America work.

  Is there a problem that so much of the government, the US Congress in particular, is run by the top 1%?  I believe there is a major problem that is only partly due to cost to run for office effectively.  A candidate must be connected to the top 1% or basically sponsored by big business or private funding to run an effective campaign.  Campaign financing is outrageous with the current system.  How do we solve it?  Obvious reform needs will never pass with this Congress.  I suggest a law with a requirement that while serving as a member of Congress, one must live on $50,000 a year.  That was the median income for households in 2011.   It would put Congress right in the middle with the rest of most Americans.  Wait! Congress, you don’t like this idea?  Why?  Because it would be difficult?  That’s exactly what I thought.

Discuss

    Have you ever gone out for a nice quiet dinner only to be seated at the table next to a family with an unruly child?  You know, the one who screams, demands, won’t stay in his seat, and runs around the table almost knocking over waiters and waitresses with trays full of savory dishes, drinks,  and decadent desserts?   While the entire restaurant is appalled and annoyed at the disruption that has now ruined the dynamic of the dinner they had envisioned, the parents sit there indulging the child’s every whim, catering to his demands, and coddling this inappropriate behavior.  You want to lecture the parents on how to correct this behavior.  You want to tell them to stop giving into the child, put the child in a timeout, or go sit with the child in the car until he chooses to behave appropriately.  You want to fuss to the parents that the child is affecting everyone, not just the family.

     This is what Boehner is doing with Ted Cruz and his minority tea party cronies.  Senator Cruz, who has only been in office for eight months, has somehow managed to wrap House Majority Leader Boehner around his little finger.  Rather than funding the government, Cruz, the freshman senator, has been able to make irrational demands that have nothing to do with the funding the government…and he’s been taken seriously by Boehner.  He has been able to run around whining about the Affordable Care Act, a bill that passed the House, the Senate, and was signed into law by President Obama, a bill that was deemed Constitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court.  This debate has now officially linked the defunding of ACA with the funding of the government and caused a government shutdown, despite the fact that if Boehner had presented the clean CR bill passed by the Senate, the House had the votes to fund the government.  All of this, because Boehner doesn’t have the sense, the moral compass, or lets face it, the balls to stand up to the Tea Party and all it’s childish behavior.  He continues to coddle them, giving them a larger and stronger platform by not just calling them out, sitting them down, and telling them that their behavior is unacceptable, unreasonable, undemocratic and intolerable.   By not allowing the vote on the clean CR bill, he continues to empower Cruz and his Tea Party cronies while weakening himself, the Republican Party, and the United States.  He has put the entire country at risk.

     This will surely arise again in a few short weeks when the debt ceiling debate begins.  This is not just affecting the Tea Party or the Republican Party, but the entire country and in a broader sense, the world.  As long as Boehner continues to act as a defunct parent, leader (and I use that term loosely), and generally an incompetent fool, this kind of economic turmoil is going to periodically occur at the hands of a few foolish congress people.  I suppose that when they ran on a platform of shutting the government down, they kept their promise.  Now, if they would just keep their oath of office to “faithfully discharge the duties of the office” rather than play political grand standing games at the expense of the American people.

Discuss

 I became aware of the tragedy at the Boston Marathon on Twitter prior to the mainstream media reporting on the story.  Once the media began reporting, I watched a nightmarish scenario unfold.  At this moment, three are dead, including an eight-year-old boy and one hundred and seventy six people are injured.  This took place on U.S. soil.  It is personal.  Even U.S. citizens that never follow news or world events are devastated.  They know every detail the media has to offer at this point.  The country is in mourning.

  What is troubling me is that we as a nation are not to the point where we consider ourselves as members of a global community.  We don't collectively pay attention, unless it occurs in our backyard. I wish the average citizen had deep concerns when violent acts took place in other countries.  I wish U.S. citizens at least knew what was occurring daily around the world and when they heard about it, they didn't regard it as some abstract event in some far off land.  I wish they would take it personally when any child, woman or man is killed by a bomb, a gun, or a stone anywhere in this world.  I wish mainstream media and Congress put as much focus publically on what is going on in the world as they do on Jay-Z and Beyonce traveling to Cuba.

  Here is a list of just a few of the violent acts that have taken place from March 12th to April 15th, 2013.  This is unacceptable.  It is barbaric. We as a Global Community should be able to find solutions to reduce the violence.  

March 12th- Israeli forces shot and killed a 22 year old Palestinian activist in clash
March 19th- Bombs killed 60 in Iraq on anniversary of Iraq invasion
March 22nd- Violence in Myanmar between Buddhists and Muslims leaves 20 dead
March 29th- 3 injured in Sri Lanka when Buddhist extremists attacked a Muslim owned business
March 29th- 18 Shiites killed by car bombs in Iraq
March 29th- Pakistan, 12 killed and 35 injured in suicide bombing
March 30th- More than 40 killed in Nigerian violence
April 1st- 8 killed in Syrian rebels v. regime, children among dead, missile struck     Palestine killing many, a least140 total killed Easter Sunday, 56 civilians,     and     civilians flee cities
April 1st- 19 die in Nigerian violence
April 5th- 14 militants killed in Pakistan
April 6th- 11 killed by gunmen in Nigerian violence in the village of Midlu
April 7th- Pakistan, 10 militants killed, 5 injured in clashes
April 7th- One dead in a violent clash in Egypt between the Christian minority and      Islamists that lasted four hours
April 7th- Afghanistan, 10 children (ages 1-12) and a woman killed by airstrikes, US       State Department officer and 5 others killed by suicide bombers
April 7th- 7 Americans killed in Afghanistan suicide bombing
April 7th- 12 policemen killed by gunmen in Nigerian violence
April 9th- 1 dead, dozens injured in Bangladesh clash
April 10th- 14 killed in clashes with Mexican police
April 11th- 4 policemen killed by gunmen in Nigerian violence
April 14th - 20 were killed by militants at a court complex and a car bomb, among the dead two human rights lawyers.
April 14th- 7 were killed in the Central African Republic due to civil unrest
April 15th- Darfur region of Sudan was said to be too violent for humanitarian aid to enter.
April 15th- As elections approach in Iraq, 37 killed, 140 injured
April 15th- Syria regime sends airstrikes on the towns of Yabrud, Douma, Harasta,     Sbeineh, and eastern Damascus
April 15th- 6 found dead, one decapitated in Cancun, Mexico
April 15th- Boston Marathon bombing, 3 killed, 100+ injured

  This is by no means a complete list of violent attacks around the world in the time frame I chose.  To be honest, I got tired Googling. I could cite serious incidences of mass violence around the world for hours, and quite possibly for entire day or more during which time new incidences would occur. Looking at this list, you may think that this type of thing is typically happening outside the U.S.  Not so fast.  Sixteen mass shootings occurred in the U.S. in 2012:

February 22, 2012- 5 killed in health spa in Norcross, Georgia
February 26, 2012- Multiple gunmen killed one persona and injured 20 in Jackson, Tennessee
February 27, 2012- 3 students at Chardon High School in Ohio were killed by classmate
March 8, 2012- 2 killed and 7 wounded at a psychiatric hospital in Pittsburgh, PA, by a gunman with two semiautomatic handguns
March 31, 2012- A gunman killed 2 and injured 12 at a North Miami, Florida, funeral     home
April 2, 2012- A 43-year-old former student at Oikos University in Oakland, California, killed 7 “execution-style,” 3 more were injured.
April 6, 2012- 2 men killed 3 black men and injured 2 in Tulsa, Oklahoma, in a racially motivated attack.
May 29, 2012- 5 were killed when a man in Seattle, Washington, opened fire on a coffee shop and then killed self.
July 9, 2012- 3 killed at soccer tournament, including a 16 year old soccer player in Wilmington, Delaware
July 20, 2012-12 are killed, 58 wounded when James Holmes entered a movie theater with a semi-automatic at a midnight screening of The Dark Knight Rises
August 5, 2012- 7 killed at Sikh temple in suburban Milwaukee, Wisconsin, including     the gunman
August 14, 2012- 3 killed at Texas A&M University, one of the dead was a police      officer.
September 27, 2012- 5 killed, 3 injured in Minneapolis, Minnesota, by former co-    worker, one of the dead was shooter
October 21, 2012- 4 killed, 4 injured at a spa in Brookfield, Wisconsin, one of the dead was the shooter who took his own life
December 11, 2012- 2 killed, plus the shooter who too his own life at a mall in Portland,Oregon
December 14, 2012- 26 killed at Newtown, Connecticut school, 20 were children

  Reading this, one may attempt to argue that these incidents were perpetrated by a select few, unstable individuals.  Again, not true.  There have been more than 3,300 gun deaths in the U.S. since Newtown, a four month time frame.  

  According to an article from atlanticcities.com dated January, 22, 2013: http://www.theatlanticcities.com/...

•    If it were a country, New Orleans (with a rate 62.1 gun murders per 100,000 people) would rank second in the world.
•    Detroit's gun homicide rate (35.9) is just a bit less than El Salvador (39.9).
•    Baltimore's rate (29.7) is not too far off that of Guatemala (34.8).
•    Gun murder in Newark (25.4) and Miami (23.7) is comparable to Colombia (27.1).
•    Washington D.C. (19) has a higher rate of gun homicide than Brazil (18.1).
•    Atlanta's rate (17.2) is about the same as South Africa (17).
•    Cleveland (17.4) has a higher rate than the Dominican Republic (16.3).
•    Gun murder in Buffalo (16.5) is similar to Panama (16.2).
•    Houston's rate (12.9) is slightly higher than Ecuador's (12.7).
•    Gun homicide in Chicago (11.6) is similar to Guyana (11.5).
•    Phoenix's rate (10.6) is slightly higher than Mexico (10).
•    Los Angeles (9.2) is comparable to the Philippines (8.9).
•    Boston rate (6.2) is higher than Nicaragua (5.9).
•    New York, where gun murders have declined to just four per 100,000, is still higher than Argentina (3).
•    Even the cities with the lowest homicide rates by American standards, like San Jose and Austin, compare to Albania and Cambodia respectively.

 So, what's the point of delineating the global violence problem?  I believe we need to face it. We need to discuss and address it in the U.S. and as a Global Community.  We need leadership and efforts put in by everyone.  We need a common goal of a more peaceful world. We must know what is going on in the world.  We need the evening news and twenty-four-hour news cycle to report the WORLD NEWS.  We need to care about Syrian children as we do our own.  Every person killed around the world is someone's mother, sister, daughter, son, father, brother.  No one's loss of a family member is any less painful that another's.  We need to feel the loss and pain of those suffering violence around the world, not just when it is within our own borders.  The violent atmosphere around the world will touch everyone's life at some point in time.  It will seep through every border. This is the 21st century.  We can do better, but it is going to take time, effort, and awareness on everyone's part. We cannot allow children to grow up in commonplace and accepted violence. This should not be labeled as an idealistic or naive point-of-view.  The world of ours will never be perfect, but WE CAN AND MUST DO BETTER.    

  I am not trying to diminish in any way what happened at the Boston Marathon, yesterday.  It is beyond comprehension that anyone would do such a thing.  It is heartbreaking and devastating.  I am just suggesting that we must stand together as a World Community against these acts that occur everywhere, every time they occur.  

Discuss
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