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Clinton or Johnson? Listen to Other Republicans.

Typically, I reserve the first day of Fall for brainstorming my Halloween costume. Not today. This year is different. Decades from now, I won’t remember how clever my costume was…but I will remember what I did (or didn’t do) to participate in the most important el10ection of our lifetime.

For both Trump and Clinton supporters, this election feels different. A struggle over the American identity. We can’t lose this one.

Confession: I  believe Donald Trump is the most dangerous, ill-equipped Presidential nominee in generations (ever?). His win would shake my confidence in our democratic experiment.

A majority of the country agrees with me. But Trump still may win. How is that possible? Because even 10% of those who agree are thinking of voting for a 3rd party or not voting at all. The main reason: Maybe Clinton is just as bad as Trump?

Is that true? If you are genuinely undecided, where can you turn for honest information? The media is biased. Facebook feeds are pure nonsense. What information should persuade you either way?

A suggestion: Examine the criticism of both major candidates made by those who have the most to lose by criticizing them. In other words, what are their own party members saying about them? Don’t listen to their enemies, listen to those who presumably would be their friends.

Under this framework, the true difference between Trump and Clinton is clear. A staggering number of respected Republicans are risking their reputations and reversing years of tradition to publicly reject Donald Trump. The same is not true for Clinton. A sampling:georgehw

  • Republican President George H.W. Bush – will be voting for Hillary Clinton — This is unprecedented. A former President voting for the opposing party’s candidate.
  • Republican US Representative Chris Shays – will be voting for Hillary Clinton — “I think many Republicans know Donald Trump could cause great damage to our country and the world at large, and still plan to vote for him. But not me.”
  • Republican Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson – will be voting for Hillary Clinton — “I’ll be voting for Hillary Clinton, with the hope that she can bring Americans together to do the things necessary to strengthen our economy, our environment and our place in the world. To my Republican friends: I know I’m not alone.”
  • Republican National Security Advisor Brent Scowcroft – will be voting for Hillary Clinton — “The Presidency requires the judgment and knowledge to make tough calls under pressure…Hillary Clinton has wisdom and experience to lead our country at this critical time.”
  • Republican World Bank chief Paul Wolfowitz – will be voting for Hillary Clinton – “The only way you can be comfortable about Trump’s foreign policy is to think he doesn’t really mean anything he says.
  • Republican Secretary of Commerce Carlos Gutierrez – will be voting for Hillary Clinton — “I would have preferred Jeb Bush, but I think Hillary is a great choice. I am afraid of what Donald Trump would do to this country.”
  • Republican historian and writer Robert Kagan – will be voting for Hillary Clinton – “For this former Republican, and perhaps for others, the only choice will be to vote for Hillary Clinton. The party cannot be saved, but the country still can be.”
  • Republican writer George Will – “Were he to be nominated, conservatives would have two tasks. One would be to help him lose 50 states—condign punishment for his comprehensive disdain for conservative essentials, including the manners and grace that should lubricate the nation’s civic life.”
  • Republican Senator Lindsay Graham – “ There’ll come a time when the love of country will trump hatred of Hillary.”
  • Republican Gov. Mitt Romney – “I wanted my grandkids to see that I simply couldn’t ignore what Mr. Trump was saying and doing, which revealed a character and temperament unfit for the leader of the free world.”

Those are not random names. They represent some of the most respected Republicans of the last generation (and they are just a sample). Let’s be clear: N27680461903_c84b9c09d8ever has a Presidential nominee faced anything remotely like this type of rejection from high corners of his own party.

This is a stark difference between the two candidates.  For undecided voters it should be a big, red blinking light…Warning. Warning. This candidate it not normal.

  1. Based on today’s polling Donald Trump has a very real shot of becoming President of the United States.
  2. Trump continues to over-perform in polls where a 3rd party is present. His chance of winning increases with more 3rd party votes.
  3. Trump is relying on disgruntled voters to chose Johnson over Clinton.
  4. A Johnson vote is not wasted. It has real world consequences.
  5. A Trump win would only drag the Republican party further into the abyss. Returning to the party of competence, pragmatism, and classic conservatism requires a Trump loss and a party reset.
  6. The prudent choice in this one year, in this one line on the ballot, if you are in any sort of swing state, is a vote for Clinton.

Vote for Republicans or Libertarians in every other race this year. Vote for Republicans or Libertarians for President in future years. But this year…this office…this candidate is different. Use your vote to prevent President Trump.

moon

Election Hell: Surviving Facebook for the Next 95 Days

If Facebook existed in 1860–a year before an actual civil war that slaughtered  600,000 Americans– the online chatter might resemble what we are seeing now. Two sides swarming in their own bubbles, accusations growing more and more obscene…Liars! Murderer!  Treason! civil war

How in the hell are we going to survive another 95 days of this? And what will happen once one side
wins?

The vast majority of our political conversations now take place online–specifically Facebook (with a dash of Twitter). That’s depressing, because Facebook conversations usually suck.

  1. One person shares an article.
  2. Another person reads the headline (who has time to read the whole text).
  3. If the headline says something positive about their candidate they give it a LIKE, and if they are really in the mood, write a comment: “Amen” OR “I agree completely”
  4. If the headline says something mean about their candidate, then they ignore it, block the person, or comment.
  5. That negative comment will typically serve no purpose, leading to a general back-and-forth where each side rants a bit until they’re bored.

The same type of negative comments pop up again and again. Consider this random list of actual comments received on my last blog post re: third party voting this election:

  • The Personal Insult:You seem like a bit of an idiot” [Right to the point]
  • The Personal Insult Plus:Jeez Paul, you pretty much proved to everyone that you’re an idiot. I know it’s been said before but it’s worth repeating. You sir are a simpleton.” [A more complex slur with the underlying assumption that other people agree with them]
  • The Bigoted Slur: “I bet your wrist has enough flapping action to do it (cast a vote for Hillary Clinton)” [We don’t all have limp wrists]
  • The Analogy That Doesn’t Really Work:Experience does not equal qualification. I have experience flying. I am not qualified to pilot.” [What? If you have experience being a pilot, then you may be qualified to be a pilot]
  • The Historian:Sorry this is long, but if you read this I promise you will learn at least one detail you didn’t know along with 99.9% of the country.” [Followed by 2000 word essay with reference to Jefferson, Lincoln, and one ‘fact’ that they never taught you in school]
  • All the Emotions with Exclamation Points: “Tell that to to four dead Americans that were killed in Benghazi!!!!”
  • The Conspiracy Theory:Is it just coincidence that Clinton’s adversaries seem to meet untimely deaths? JFK Jr. was running for the NY US Senate seat filled by Hillary Clinton. He could have run for president and won. What do you know about that?” [I know nothing about that.]
  • Just Read the Internet:Sad that you blockheads must take so many with you. Both party’s have been in the pockets of the banking cartels since before the Civil War. It really takes little effort on the internet to see this.” [Where can I find this internet?]
  • The Office Space:I have thought really, really hard and I will burn this place to the ground before I officespacevote for either one of the major party candidates.”

Political dialogue on Facebook is mostly useless.

It does not have to be.

Empathy and genuine listening is lost online. But, Facebook is not going away, and we must figure out a better approach. If you want to have some impact with a conversation on Facebook, one option is to consider a classic concept known as Rapoport’s Rules:

When trying to engage someone and challenge their argument:

  1. First, re-express the other person’s position, so they know you understand what they are trying to say.
  2. Indicate the areas where you agree, even if only very generally
  3. Let them know if their article or post has made you learn anything or sparked some new thought in you.
  4. Only after that long preamble, offer some criticism that you feel is important.

A hypothetical example: “I appreciate that you are worried about a Trump presidency and believe that a 3rd party vote this election may serve little purpose except helping Trump win. I agree that we must think through the exact consequences of our vote, particular in this unique year. The post made me consider exactly what my ultimate objective should be when voting this time. However, I genuinely believe that having more than 2 options is critical for future elections. While they may not win, there are significant benefits for a 3rd party candidate to show stronger support this election. In some states, achieving 5% of the vote may affect ballot access. With 15% in polling, a candidate may also qualify for debates.  That’s enough for me to continue to support a 3rd party this time around.”

This is all holier-than-thou with a dash of Pollyanna. But, it’s probably the only way to usefully engage with a political adversary on Facebook. Even then, the other person will not suddenly have a change of heart. And if they did, they certainly wouldn’t admit to it on Facebook. BUT, you may still have made two key influences:

  1. Softened the Position–Made them think a little harder before they automatically parroted something next time.
  2. Influenced the Lurker–Changed the mind of the truly undecided person who was reading the exchange but would never comment on the post itself.moon

We are stuck with political drama on Facebook. As awful as it is now…we can still use it for the good. Don’t block all the people who disagree with you. Don’t ignore everything they say. Don’t insult them. Try to honestly engage. We put people on the Moon, a rover on Mars, and flung stuff way past Pluto. We can figure this out.

 

 

younghillary3

Think Really, Really Hard Before Voting for a 3rd Party Candidate. Really.

Unlike any major candidate in generations, Donald Trump is temperamentally, emotionally, and intellectually unfit to be President of the United States. He would be an embarrassment and, more importantly, present far too high a risk of precipitating an economic, social, or military catastrophe.younghillary3

If you disagree with that assessment, this post is not for you. It won’t persuade you of anything. Though I reserve the right to try to persuade you at some point before the election (and I hope you feel the same about me).   

But assuming you agree with the lunacy of a President Trump, you are left with 4 options:

  1. Vote for Hillary Clinton
  2. Vote for Gary Johnson – Libertarian party
  3. Vote for Jill Stein – Green party
  4. Not vote

Even among those who would never vote for Trump, I’m increasingly hearing things like:

I hate Trump, but Hillary is just as bad.

We have two terrible options this time.

One is a liar and one is an idiot, so I’m voting for a third party.

younghillary1I cannot state it emphatically enough: Whatever you think of Hillary Clinton, under no reasonable assessment is she “just as bad” as Donald Trump.

The demonizing of Clinton reached a peak this week with the Republican convention acting as round-the-clock infomercial promoting the Lucifer-like qualities of Hillary. If a stupendous claim is made enough times, many will believe it–the truth is pliable. Clinton is far from a saint, but the truth about her record bears little resemblance to what Trump allies scream.

Hillary Clinton served as First Lady, US Senator, and Secretary of State. She received impressive plaudits for her policy acumen, preparation, and willingness to collaborate. Just take the word of many Republicans:

  • I know Hillary, and I think she’d make a great President.” – Donald Trump, 2008
  • Clinton is an intelligent, hard-working professional….the best single choice that President Obama has made [as Secretary of State]. – Newt Gingrich, 2009
  • I think she’s done a fine job [as Secretary of State]. The problem isn’t Hillary Clinton, who’s great. – Condoleeza Rice, 2013
  • Former Secretary Clinton has dedicated her life to serving and engaging people across the world in democracy. – Jeb Bush, 2013
  • She’s a policy genius. – Mike Huckabee, 2014
  • I know her. I like her. I’ve worked with her.” – John Kasich, 2015
  • She’d make a tremendous President. […] She was extraordinarily resolute, determined and controlled in the wake of the [Benghazi] attack. – General David Petraeus, 2014

Hillary’s political opponents believe that she is highly capable—except when they are trying to beat her in an election. Then she is evil.younghillary4

There is no reason to apologize for supporting Hillary or hedge your bets by saying that both candidates are equally terrible. But, I understand that you may have deep philosophical differences with Clinton and are considering voting for a third party. Please think very hard before actually doing that.

I support third parties and have voted for a few. But this is not the election to cast a presidential vote that way.

  1. The latest polls have the race as a dead heat, with anywhere from 10-20% of voters undecided or thinking about a third party vote.
  2. A swing of even 1 – 2% of third party voters to Trump or Clinton may decide the election.
  3. Clinton’s share of the vote almost always drops in polls where third parties are included–third party candidates are hurting her more than Trump.
  4. Gary Johnson will not be elected President. Jill Stein will not be elected President.
  5. The genuine growth of a third party will be based on actually winning elections at the lower levels and building a base of support locally. Random performance in presidential elections is not the crux of the effort.
  6. Very marginally indicating support for a third party candidate’s agenda is far less important than adding your weight to prevent President Trump.  This year is not normal.younghillary2

The most important outcome in this presidential election is that Donald Trump not become the Most Powerful Person on the Planet. I am not a fatalist. I will not move to Canada if Trump wins. But if this Republican National Convention has taught me anything, it is that I’d forever regret not doing everything in my power to prevent the party of Abraham Lincoln from being smothered into oblivion by a Donald Trump presidency.

baskin4

Baskin: Red Lights, Mini-Man, & Confusion

 

Disclaimer: I am a movie review virgin (I guess this will be the only time I’ll be able to say that). As such, I have absolutely no idea how much of the story you can/should reveal in a review. So just assume that I am spoiling the entire movie in this short diatribe.

A gore-fest to join the ranks of Martyrs, Hostel, and Saw? A creepy ghost story with marauding souls? A man with a dark gift and special purpose? A time warp tale with looping stories?  Baskin might be one of these things. Or all of them. To baskin-movie-image-3be honest, I have no idea which. And that is the film’s biggest weakness.

The tale follows a fivesome of police officers as they respond to a backup call in a neighboring Turkish town. “Baskin” itself means “police raid,” and the story is built around their arriving at a demented abandoned structure in the middle of the woods.  

Before we get to that raid, we have extended build-up involving a few flashbacks (or are they?), a cafe pissing match instigated by the police crew’s resident jackass, a bathroom freakout, and car trouble. During this hour-long primer all the film’s key feelers are laid out: red lights, bloody limbs, bestiality references, creepy man in cloak, and dreams about seeing spirits.

There are many moments to love in the movie including my favorite: A-not-so-manly-dance-party-singalaong-inside-a-moving-police-van. Be honest, we all thought something horrible was going to happen during that moment of joy. The crew was exuding pure happiness, but I was on the edge of my seat. My eyes flickering everywhere trying to figure out where the bad was going to come from.

baskinThere isn’t much outright horror or gore until the last 30 minutes of the film. They arrive at the death building and chaos ensues. The first half of the trek inside the building was the best. We see flickers of light, corpses, and, eventually, living sex minions. Covered in blood, faces shrouded in matted hair. They converge on the crew, catch them, and set the stage for ritualized something-or-other. These hordes were my favorite part of the film, as the primal nature of sex was a key theme throughout. Not a sexy type of sex, but a raw sex. An animalistic drive. It was real and horrifying.

Overall, two aspects of the movie left me wanting more. First, the characters seem a little flat. We are not given any reason to actually care about what happens to them. In fact, it’s easy to root against them (especially if you are naturally inclined to be suspicious of “police conduct”). The key relationship in the film, between a veteran officer and the rookie, is undeveloped. They presumably have a father-son dynamic, but we don’t truly feel that relationship. We only know it because of a quick conversation in the middle of the film.

My biggest issue, however, was the roving story itself. I love slashers, snarky cheese-fests, and monster tales. Psycho cinema can take many forms. But my absolute favorite horror films are those that try for something more–a unique, twisty, spooky story. I’m a “story” guy. Baskin tries to do that. It deserve praise for attempting it.  But it didn’t fully succeed. Too many unanswered questions. Either that, or it was so revolutionary that the connecting ties went over my head. I’m no film scholar, so the latter may certainly be true.

I have no problem with films that don’t finish everything with a neat bow. Mystery, debate, and speculation can make for fantastic films (See: Donnie Darko, not the Director’s Cut). But there may be a point where too much is left open, resulting in sheer confusion. And the confusion doesn’t feel intentional in Baskin. It seems like there is one specific point that was being made, but I couldn’t figure it out. Perhaps this is one where we need a Director’s Cut to restore a few edits that help give the final push a little more clarity.

Unanswered questions and unfinished ideas:baskin 2

  • What was the actual timeline?
  • What was the point of the bathroom freakout by the officer with the headache?
  • Who were the creepsters and what the hell were they actually doing? Devil worship? Just evil souls from Hell? We have no idea.
  • Key in the forehead? I’m assuming it’s pure symbolism, but what it symbolized was lost on me.
  • Did the people in the woods (who pulled them out of the water) actually have any purpose in forwarding the plot?
  • What on earth did the tangle-of-scum baby birth mean?

Am I glad I saw the film? Absolutely. Should you see it? Absolutely. And if you do, be sure to let me know what the hell was actually going on.

Verdict: 6/10

Cheers-
Paul

Don’t Believe Everything You Learned in School—But, Believe Most of It.

lincolnevil If I have to read one more article/post/comment that begins “It’s time for a history lesson”…I may gouge my eyes out. It reaches a low point when we are sharing “lessons” that drag Mr. Abraham Lincoln through the mud to argue for flying a rebel flag. This week alone, I’ve heard otherwise reasonable people share kindergarten level ideas like…

Lincoln didn’t care about ending slavery.”

The South was only fighting for states’ rights and the freedom that the Founders envisioned.”

“Most Southerns in the war didn’t even care about keeping slavery.”

Look, I understand that “we shouldn’t believe everything we learned in school.” But here’s the thing: Most of the big, important stuff we learned in history class is actually true: Hitler was bad. The Louisiana Purchase was a great deal. Americans were immensely lucky to have Abraham Lincoln lead us through the Civil War.

The Confederate battle flag should not be flown over public buildings in the United States of America. Sharing the “truth” about the Civil War will not change that. Here is another  kindergarten-level “history lesson” –

Nov. 1860 – Abraham Lincoln duly elected President of the United States. He never called for the immediate end of slavery but did acknowledge that “we cannot endure permanently half slave & half free.”

Dec 1860 – Before Lincoln is even sworn-in—-seven states secede from the Union. They want to dissolve the United States of America. Why? They worried that eventually Lincoln might propose things that they didn’t like (i.e. phasing out slavery). They feared that a majority of duly elected members of Congress would agree with those proposals and change federal law. Instead of abiding by the republican system of government, persuading more people of their beliefs, running better campaigns, or offering compromises, these Southern states decided it would be best to destroy the United States as they knew it.  abrahamlincoln

March 1861 – Lincoln is sworn in as president. He vows to do whatever it takes to keep the Union together. Makes sense…as that’s kinda the President’s most important job.

April 1861 – The Confederate States open fire on an American fort.

April 1861 – 1865 – Upwards of 650,000 Americans are killed as a result of the Southern state’s decision to quit the United States. Those waving the Stars & Stripes in battle win the war. The Union is preserved at a horrific cost. In various stages/maneuvers, slavery is ended.

If those on the field waving the Confederate battle flag had won, our United States of America would not exist….

  • We would not have been able to bring our full might to bear to defeat Hitler and fascism.
  • We would not have had our united strength to combat the Soviet bloc.
  • Millions of black Americans would have been enslaved for decades longer.
  • We would not have had the talent pool to win the 2015 Women’s World Cup.

In summary:lincolnlouis

  • It is ludicrous for a public building of the United States of America to fly a flag that was raised in battle against our own Stars & Stripes.
  • Private individuals will always be able to display the Confederate battle flag as they see fit.
  • Wal-Mart, Target, and other stores are private businesses that can stock their shelves with whatever they want. (Don’t worry: in the true spirit of America, other enterprising ventures will spring up to sell Confederate flag gear if necessary).
  • When your argument on any issue hinges on attacking Abraham Lincoln and defending those that sought to destroy the United States—take a breath, wait three days, and then think harder about your position.

Becoming the Guy Who Yells At the Small Town Newspaper

We won’t move to our new house in Winchester for another week—but I’ve already written my first grumpy message to the editor of the local flagship newspaper. Lord help me. I read my soon-to-be-hometown paper for the first time and, lo and behold, 4 of the 5 editorial pieces are slamming gay people. Are you kidding me?  If this isn’t a fluke, I predict I’ll be the offline version of “angry article comment writing guy” in no time.  Kyle will have to hide my quill and ink lest I send old-fashioned newspaper rants every day.get-off-my-lawn

Not until opening that editorial page did I realize how insulated I have been since high school (and coming out)–living in reliable, friendly places for social liberals–Champaign, Chicago, DC, Reston.  Winchester, VA is much more like my hometown of Bradley, IL…except with a slightly more conservative bite. I’m not complaining, local politics are much more fun when there is real disagreement. I’m looking forward to it.

I only write this post for two reasons: (1) To have a place to post this, because I’m sure the newspaper won’t touch it; (2) To remind those interested that we are nearing VERY important Supreme Court arguments that will decide the gay rights issue once and for all (April 28th). Fingers crossed.

Anyway, what I sent the honorable Adrian O’Connor, editorial chief of the venerable Winchester Star:

Is Winchester welcoming of all couples? On a recent editorial page (Friday, April 3rd), four of the five pieces directly or indirectly referenced same-sex couples as bullies, fanatical activists, or downright threats to society.

angryOne piece in particular (“For all the re-definition…) sought to warn the community of looming disaster if the United State Supreme Court upholds lower court rulings that would allow my fiance and I to marry. We are a gay couple and are exciting about moving to the area after buying a home in the Winchester Historic District. The editorial noted that our marriage would not be “normal” because our “chosen sexual behavior isn’t natural.” It went on to suggest that our marriage must be stopped for the sake of the children and grandchildren of Winchester. Really? I would assume, considering that the lives of children are apparently threatened if gay couples marry, that the author would much prefer if my fiance and I did not move into the area at all.  

The editorial argues that gay couples should not be given the right to marry because “the differences in motives, purposes, and practices that define homosexual and heterosexual unions are so great that the English language screams for definitive specificity.” By writing that sentence, I can only assume that the author does not actually know any gay couples.

To allay our future neighbors’ fears, we’d like to share the “motives, purposes, and practices that define our homosexual union.” We are getting married as a lifelong commitment…

  • To Provide one another with unerring emotional support during life’s inevitable challenges.
  • To Have a constant companion to share in life’s joys and triumphs.
  • To Build and care for a home, sprucing up our small corner of the world.
  • To Act as a strong unit to give back to our community in volunteer work, tax dollars, and participation in local organizations.
  • To Protect each of us individually from financial setbacks or career challenges.
  • To Blend our collective families, providing a larger net of trusted friends and confidants.  
  • To Challenge each other to grow beyond our own interests and explore new ideas, hobbies, and adventures.
  • To Push one another to pursue our real passions, regardless of our fears or worries
  • To Provide love, support, and care for a child who needs a safe and stable home.
  • To Ensure care, aid, and support to one another as we age, become disabled, and need to adapt in the twilight of life.
  • To Be a final smiling face one as we transition from this life to whatever lies beyond.

Sexual orientation has zero bearing on the motives, purposes, and practices of two individuals spending their lives together. Allowing my fiance and I to share in the benefits and obligations of marriage will not only benefit us personally, it will also make our new Winchester community stronger.