Not a Review of Wonder Woman

I’m not a movie reviewer, just a big fan of movies and super heroes, so I’m not going to review Wonder Woman. I’m just going to say that if you like one or both of those things, you should go see it.

It’s a film with a pure theme and a refreshingly honest story. Our hero is heroic. She does the right thing because it’s the right thing. Not because of some tortured backstory or daddy issues. She’s a good person who cares about people and frankly it’s nice to have a hero who exemplifies heroism again. Especially from DC, who’ve thus far managed to whiff it on Batman and Superman.

Wonder Woman isn’t a perfect film, and I could pick a few nits if I wanted, but it’s unwarranted when it does so much right. Despite the fantastical story, all the characters feel and act genuine. 

Oh, and Wonder Woman’s badass theme riff is on full blast in the action sequences, just like it ought to be.

You should see it. Go and do that.

Thanks Donny

I’d like to take a moment, now that we’re a couple solid weeks into the Trump shit-show presidency, to express my gratitude to Mr. Trump.

You see, back in my school years I’d always taken my teachers at their word when they told the class how good we had it here in the grand old U S of A. I never actually thought much about what that meant until I was older and had a little life experience under my belt. But now that we’ve got our very own brand of fascism growing right here at home – like a black mold infestation you didn’t know about until it clogged your pipes and started crawling out of your sink and up your walls – I’m really beginning to understand what they meant.

So I’d like to thank Mr. Trump and his cronies/string pullers (ahem, Bannon) for taking the time out of their very busy schedules (presumably where they sit around in the most thickly-moneyed, racist, angry old white man circle jerk to ever grace the planet) to show me what it’s like to watch everything your country was supposed to stand for get squeegeed away like the leavings of their aforementioned “self congratulation parties.”

Thanks for making it so clear to me that no rules or decorum, nor iota of decency or moral compass, or even the tiniest mote of empathetic feeling, makes any difference in how this nation is run so long as the people in charge fucking get their dollar bills yo.

Thanks for making it crystal clear, with your Goldman Sachs appointees and your Dodd Frank neutering executive orders, exactly what and who matters to you.

Thanks for putting your bigotry and racism on full display with your inanely constructed attempt at banning Muslims from entering the country, unless of course they’re from nations where you have business dealings. See above point. Money before bigotry, I guess.

Thanks for all your stupid tweets, may they live forever. I really fucking hope someone is taking them all down for the eventual annotated history of your flawed presidency, that way when future generations look at what you did they can read your insane ramblings along with it to better gauge the full scope of your psychosis. I wonder if any text books will be written about your particular brand of mental illness? (Get help. Seriously.)

Finally, thanks for showing America who we really are. Despite all your egotistical lies, your pandering to foreign adversaries, your complete and total lack of comprehension of what it means to be an american citizen, you’ve brought people together in marches and protests against your dumb ass in a way that is unheard of for a new president. You’re really winning at being the least popular ever!  Good job on that.

#ThanksDonny

Well. Shit. Here we go.

There’s a lot to be talked about regarding the rapidly advancing Trump administration. To say that it will be unlike any other in my lifetime would be a gross understatement – the potential and likelihood for governmental corruption has skyrocketed to levels you’d normally expect from tinpot dictators and banana republics. Today I want to bring up two things, each touching on ethics and the responsibilities of our federal government.

The first is from last month. On 60 Minutes Mr Trump said he would decline to take the presidential salary. Upon first glance this might seem absurdly noble. The man is rich on his own after all, he doesn’t even need to be paid to be the president!

This is a fucking disaster of an idea.

If you speak to any employer in America they will tell you that not only would they never hire someone who agreed not to be paid, that person is in all likelihood going to steal from you. As with any job in this nation, the salary is recompense for the time and work put in. Beyond that, it serves as a method of holding a person accountable. By waiving the salary he is not only telling us that he isn’t interested in being paid for his work as president, he’s telling us that he’s isn’t interested in being responsible for his work as president. In fact, it looks like nothing short of a kleptocracy in which he will use the office to enrich himself and his already wealthy cabinet members.

Given many cabinet members positions are at cross-purposes to the jobs they’ve been selected for, it should be a real shit show. An Exxon CEO as secretary of State, our nation’s chief diplomat? His job is to secure oil deals, diplomacy will be a far distant second priority. A Goldman Sachs exec as secretary of the Treasury? By all accounts he profited greatly during the housing crisis. Rick Perry as secretary of Energy? The man said it should be dismantled.

All together it looks like a big ass ball of financial conflicts of interest poised to roll right over the nation.

Which brings me to my 2nd point. There is a clause in the constitution which forbids a president from taking any form of payment from a foreign power. Of course, Trump is in violation of this clause right now.

Every other president has willingly divested of their own financials while sitting in office, but Trump has shown no inclination to do so. Senator Elizabeth Warren is planning on introducing legislation that would require this to happen, and frankly it ought to be mandatory.

It seems all but destined to fail, and fail hard, possibly with echoes for years to come.

The republican party holds majorities in the both the House and Senate. For this bill to pass into law, forcing the president to abide by the constitution’s anti emoluments clause, a significant number of GOP representatives and senators would have to back it. While there have been a few that seem to hold our constitution more dear than party affiliation, I’ve read nothing that indicates enough of them will be willing to hold Trump’s feet to the fire in this way.

If this bill fails then the chances of actually holding Trump accountable for his financial conflicts of interest drops greatly. Not only that, it could set the stage for future presidents to engage similar corruption and self dealing. If you want to go one step further, it allows for the constitution to be ignored at will, without changing it via the amendment process.

If we set the precedent that allows Trump to do whatever the hell he wants, where does it stop, and do we even have a United States of America afterward?

 

 

53,880,318

I’m going to go into the nitty gritty a little bit on this one, because the information is pertinent and bears explaining. Many people in the country don’t understand how the Electoral College actually works, which is amazing to me because we go over this shit every four years.

First, the states of Nebraska and Maine will be exempt from the rest of this because they apportion their electoral votes to each candidate proportionally. The remaining 48 states are winner take all states. What that means is that the winner of the vote in any other given state traditionally gets all of that state’s electoral votes. Now, if you’re reading between the lines, you’ll realize that this system essentially ignores the minority vote in these states for the election of the president.

I see you shaking your head. Stop it. Listen. Both parties have a set number of electors in each state. Here in Arizona each party has 11. Donald Trump won Arizona, so the 11 Republican electors get to vote for president. The 11 Democratic ones get to sit on their thumbs. Now, in Arizona Donald Trump won by about 3.6% (let that sink in – in fucking open carry, gun show every weekend, cowboy ass Arizona, he only won by 3.6%).

Let’s break it down into real numbers though, as it will illustrate my point better. Trump had 1,252,401 votes here. Clinton had 1,161,167. A difference of about 91,000 votes. The million plus people who voted for Clinton? They get no representation in the election of the President of the United States because all 11 of Arizona’s electors are given to the Republican candidate (this year, as with most, because Arizona). Mind you, we’re not voting for President of Arizona, we’re voting for a national position here. But those votes are essentially tossed aside because they aren’t the majority in their state.

This happens in 48 of 50 states.

This is how you end up with generations of disillusioned citizens who feel like their voice is never heard and never matters. And frankly, it’s tough to blame them. They’re voting for the leader of the nation but their vote never leaves the confines of their own state. This is how you end up with a candidate winning the popular vote by 2,700,000 votes across the country and still taking a shellacking in the Electoral College.

Fun fact, if you take all the minority votes from each state and add them up it comes out to 53,880,318 votes, from both parties combined, that bear no effect on the winner of the national election. No other nation uses this arcane and unintuitive method of selecting their leader.

My red friends like to think I’m against the Electoral College because Hillary lost. And you know, I’m upset that we elected an idiot. A narcissist. A bigot. A liar and a thief. A man whose own corruption far exceeds anything we’ve seen in a president ever before. But no, I’ve held this opinion since I first learned about winner take all laws and how they warp the purpose of the Electoral College.

Personally, I do believe a national popular vote would be best. But failing that, proportional distribution of electoral votes would be better and more representative of the current citizenry.

53,880,318 votes will not be represented when the electors convene to vote for the next President of the United States. The system is broken and it needs an overhaul.

Inspired by this article. It can be a little tough to parse, but is definitely worth the read.

Current popular vote data taken from here.

Let’s Talk About White People

I’m not going to go too long on this, partially because I’m not sure it’s entirely my place as a white dude, and partially because the longer it goes the less likely I am to be coherent on the topic.

Over the last year there’s been a huge resurgence in the populace’s discussion on race, bolstered in no small part by the recent election. This isn’t going to be about Trump vs Hillary, this is going to be about the acceptance of a man who ran on a platform of division and fear and won the presidency of the United States by scooping up what many are calling the white working class vote.

If this is an accurate account of how he won then it must mean that a large swath of white voters either were not offended by his bigoted and misogynistic behavior, or they in fact believe he’s right in those views. Those views, by the way, are well documented and not up for debate. He’s equivocated and had his spokespeople spin for him, but there can be no excusing the remarks as “just things you say on the campaign trail” or “locker room talk.” Pussygate got Billy Bush fired. It seemed to have had no ill effect on Mr. Trump.

So, Trump displays deplorable behavior. A fair number of places call him out on it, and then you get the tried and true name calling defense.

Don’t call me a bigot. Don’t call me a racist.  You’re so mean. Stop being nasty to me. Don’t call me a misogynist. No one respects women more than I do.

As a white guy I can almost empathize. There’s a lot going on these days and people are touchy as always. Rightfully so. It’s very easy for a white person to open their mouth without thinking and say something  offensive, even if that wasn’t necessarily their intention.

Pay attention here, this next bit is important. If you offended somebody and it wasn’t your intention to do so, you fucked up. Not them. It’s not someone else’s fault if you offend them. Communication is a transfer of ideas. If your intent is lost or misconstrued it is your fault for not being clear enough, or for having a bad idea. Mostly the latter.

Which gets to the heart of my point. I’ve seen a lot of white people get righteously indignant lately at the idea that they might have exhibited intolerant behavior.

“I’m not a racist,” they say. “I have black friends!”

“I’m not a misogynist, I have a mom and a daughter and a sister!”

It’s a kneejerk reaction to a perceived insult. Fellow whiteys, listen the fuck up. Most of you probably aren’t racist. That does not mean that you’ve never acted or thought like one. I know I have. Get over the idea that being called a racist or a bigot is an insult to the core of your pure white being and do a little introspection. Actively try to see things from another person’s point of view for once and then try to be better.

Goddamnit, TRY TO BE BETTER.

I’ll end with this. A lot of us white folk are “not racist.” We go about our lives, thinking we’re being fair to everyone, trying to keep an even keel. It’s not enough. You’re doing it wrong.

Be actively against bigotry and racism and misogyny. Call it out when you see it. Don’t let it slide. If you don’t call this shit out and absolutely RAIL against it then you are complicit in its acceptance. Don’t allow for it. There’s no excuse for treating another human as if they’re somehow less than. Show no quarter to those who exhibit bigoted behavior, especially elected officials. Their job is to represent us and they are not owed our respect. The respect part comes when due representation is achieved.

Resist and denounce shitty behavior. Upset your keel once in a while.

 

 

We hold these truths…

… to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

There is perhaps no more quintessentially American passage than this piece from the Declaration of Independence. It is the very basis for much of how we live our lives and govern ourselves. And yet, the system by which we select the leader of our nation is clearly not based on the notion that all men are created equal.

There are different notions about the reasoning for the creation of the Electoral College – the body of people which actually selects the President every four years – and not one of those reasons has anything to do with equality.

In the 68th Federalist Paper Alexander Hamilton proposes that a series of electors – “Men most capable of analyzing the qualities adapted to the station and acting under circumstances favorable to deliberation, and to a judicious combination of all the reasons and inducements which were proper to govern their choice.” – actually vote to decide who will be the President. This presupposes that the general populace may in fact not be intelligent enough to be trusted on this issue. Over 200 years later and I believe we’ve now established a baseline for this assumption.

Particularly relevant today is another passage I will quote for you.

“Talents for low intrigue, and the little arts of popularity, may alone suffice to elevate a man to the first honors in a single State; but it will require other talents, and a different kind of merit, to establish him in the esteem and confidence of the whole Union, or of so considerable a portion of it as would be necessary to make him a successful candidate for the distinguished office of President of the United States”

Clearly Hamilton underestimated how far talents for low intrigue and the little arts of popularity might carry a person.

Regardless, this particular reason for the existence of a body that has the power to supersede the popular vote is clear. The general population is not to be trusted with the fate of the nation, lest some group gain sufficient popularity to drown out all opposition. It’s a scary notion, but the purpose was pure. The founders knew that it would be possible at some point that a man, wildly unfit to run a country, might gain sufficient popularity to run for president. The Electoral College was at least in part meant to be a safeguard against that.

In this article on Vox.com (which you should read) Sean Illing interviews Akhil Reed Amar, the Sterling professor of law and political science at Yale. In this interview Professor Amar explains that slave states also benefited from the Electoral College. At the time slaves could not vote, but their population was counted (albeit not fully due to the 3/5 clause) toward the number of electors that a state would have. Of course, we no longer have slavery, and thus no slave states, making this particular purpose of the college moot.

Here, I believe, is where we come to the second crux of institutional inequality among voters and the states. Each state has a set number of electors, determined by the number of Senators and Representatives, regardless of voter turnout or margin of win by the candidate with the most popular votes in that state (in all instances excepting Maine and Nebraska, which do not have winner take all laws).

If you care to do the math, and I do, it becomes very clear in short order that no two states are on equal footing as far as the voters residing within are concerned. California has 55 designated electors and a population of approximately 38.8 million people. That means that by population, each vote in California is worth about .0000014474 electoral votes. In my home state of Arizona we have a population around 6.731 million people and 11 electoral votes. That comes out to .0000016342. It’s a small, nigh on imperceptible difference, but it is a difference. In California a person’s vote is worth less than mine in Arizona, when distilled down to the base of it. And that’s just one failure of the imperfect system we use.

That is, of course, using the flat population as a guide for how many electoral votes a state has. It does not in any way take into account the actual number of people who voted, which further skews the value of your vote. Arizona gets 11 electoral votes if 200,000 people vote or 2,000,000. That’s the real rub of the numbers. The more people vote in each state, the less the votes are worth on the national stage. If you vote for someone who does not win in your state that’s the end. Your vote does not go into a big national vote pot, it stops counting. It dies. Your state’s electoral votes go on to  whomever won in that state.

It’s a bit depressing, especially in a state like mine or California, that sits very comfortably on one side of the party line or another. Therein also lies an issue. Voter turnout is very likely suppressed by this system, because voters can do math and why would they go to the polls if they know that their vote will be drowned out by the more popular view in their state?

The means by which we choose our national leader are deeply flawed. We don’t choose so much as make a suggestion which we expect our electors to follow unilaterally.

In the case of this election our electors have an opportunity to choose the man the majority of states chose, but not voters, or to go rogue and deny the presidency to perhaps the most incompetent and unfit man to ever run in the history of our nation. He lost the vote of the people by a margin that continues to grow. At the time of this writing Clinton leads Trump by 797,000 votes. A narrow margin in a country of 320 million people, though somewhat less narrow in a pool of 122 million votes taken (so far).

This is where the system supplants democracy and takes the power away from its citizens. I’m no huge supporter of Mrs Clinton, but I can tell an ignorant buffoon when I see one. Donald Trump is a direct danger to our country and by extension the very world. He ran a platform based on hate with antisemitism and misogyny and bigotry against Mexicans and Muslims as cornerstones. He is a divider of people, not someone who has any desire (or capacity) to unite and lead us all.

The irony is that in this particular election the use of the Electoral College for which Alexander Hamilton argued would enforce the will of the most people and prevent a moron from claiming the highest office in the land.

The electors have never flipped in the history of our nation, and to expect it now would be unlikely in the extreme if for no reason beyond the inertia of the system. But that is no reason not to make your voice heard. Be loud. Be obnoxious. Give no quarter. Never allow hate or intolerance to be normal. This is not normal.

Speak out. Make your voice heard.

Never give up.

While you’re at it, read up on the national popular vote bill and get your vote to count the same as everyone else’s.

 

 

So, guns huh?

It’s difficult to find the right words, or even the right avenue to sling the words down, to address the topic of gun control. It’s a hot button issue for almost everyone, in one way or another.

Just so we’re all clear, I’m going to drop a disclaimer here at the front.

I own a few guns. They haven’t been shot in years, and probably need some repair. For the most part I’m not interested in shooting anything anymore, except with a camera. I have enjoyed shooting in the past,  I have enjoyed hunting in the past. The reasons I’ve enjoyed those things have little to do with the actual firing of a gun. I’ll confess that among my hobbies, if I had infinite dollars to spend, target shooting would probably happen once or twice a year.

That being said, I’m going to say a few more things and I apologize if I meander or go totally off the rails. Maybe I’ll even edit this before I post it.

In the wake of what’s happened in Orlando there has been a huge outcry demanding tougher rules on guns, and assault weapons in particular. This seems more than reasonable to me. Lives are more important than the ability to purchase a machine whose purpose in creation is cutting people down in large swaths. I don’t think anyone I know would argue against that point. Even the people I know on the right – and I live in Arizona, an open carry state where it seems like everyone and their mom, poodle, and goldfish live and breathe Republican – are in favor of making it more difficult for people on terror watch lists to get these types of weapons.

Despite this, I see a lot of meme’s being posted to Facebook by people who I know and otherwise respect, decrying the notion of “Blaming the guns” for the atrocities committed with them.

I want to make this point as clearly as I can, so take a deep breath and read the thing I’m typing instead of the thing that the NRA wants you to see.

No one wants to confiscate your guns. No one wants to take away the rights of typical, more or less upstanding citizens who only want to shoot targets and fuzzy woodland creatures. No one. Not President Obama. Not Hillary Clinton. Not Bernie Sanders. Certainly some people are for a ban on assault weapons. You know, the ones made specifically for killing people. I tend to be in that group, but that’s a layer of specificity beyond the point of this post.

To go along with that, no one is blaming the naughty, naughty guns for the tragic, horrible events that they are used to carry out. Most of the blame goes to the shooter, as it should. But these things continue to happen, at a rate unheard of in any other country on the planet.

Hey, guess what America. There’s still one thing we lead in. Good fucking job.

At a certain point, society has to take responsibility for the people it creates, and the policies that allow them to flourish, unhindered.

Despite the NRA keeping the federal government from being able to actually study gun-violence, we do have some statistical data. I’ll start here with a handy website that tracks all of the mass shootings in America. You’ll note that as of today, June 14th 2016, there have been four since the shooting in Orlando. SINCE. As in, NOT INCLUDING.

You’d have to wonder, why in the world, if nearly everyone is in favor of at least SOME form of regulation, does it never happen?

Well, it doesn’t happen because the NRA doesn’t want it to happen. This must be abundantly obvious, to any who look at the situation with even the barest hint of clarity. The NRA is more concerned with making sure you can buy guns in America than it is with whether or not you’re alive to shoot them.

The NRA lobbies Congress unrelentingly, every year, to the tune of $3 million or so. Mitch McConnell, Majority Leader in the Senate, is openly bought buy the NRA (dreadfully melodramatic music choice for the video on that link, sorry).

I was going to say this is just another instance of our corrupted government taking its marching orders from big money lobbyists, but it feels crass to be so reductive about it. Vast amounts of money are spent every year by lobbying firms like the NRA to influence policy, and they don’t GIVE A FUCK what you or anyone else with a vote thinks.

The truth is that it isn’t reductive at all, in fact it is quite the opposite.

It’s expansive.

Expansive to the point of affecting every human being that lives in America. All of us.

We live in a world of acceptable risks. We drive with our children and loved ones in the car, knowing that it’s possible we could all die from the decision. The risk has been studied, steps have been taken to mitigate it. We have seat belts. You are required to pass a test to drive legally.

We go out to the movies, assuming our relative safety.

We go to work, assuming our relative safety.

This is usually the part where someone says “Ah, but if you regulate the guns the black market will take over and they’ll just buy them illegally!”

If you were about to say that, turn around and tell the NRA to make sure it greases up before it shoves its hand up your ass to use you as a puppet.

The Orlando shooter bought his weapon legally. Would he have sought one out illegally to carry out his evil (yes, evil. Real, fucked up, human evil) plan?

Possibly, but we didn’t make him. We let him go pick one up like it was a bag of oranges.

I’ll go back to the driving metaphor one more time. Cars are for moving people and product around. They are dangerous to use, but we’ve made provisions for that and put plans and systems in place to deal with accidents when they happen.

Guns, by their very nature, are destructive tools. If you shoot something, you had better be intending to destroy the thing, because that’s what happens when a thing gets shot. They serve no other purpose, whether it’s a paper target or a human one.

It is well past time to start regulating tools of destruction, and demanding that our government – who we fucking voted for and elected, not the NRA – take our concerns seriously.

They can regurgitate an endless stream of thoughts and prayers, but when they aren’t followed up with actions that are determined to reduce the number of times we have to offer up those empty warm fuzzies then it is time to vote them the fuck out.

I am as serious as a heart attack. The rest of us go to a job and do a thing because our bosses pay us to do the thing they want. Well, so do our congresspeople. It’s time to make sure they know who the goddamn boss is in this country. We elected them. Their position is one of service to us, not the lobbyists.

Call, write, whatever. Go out and be heard. Because if you don’t exercise your authority then you don’t have any, and the lobbyists get to keep pretending they own the country, and the flow of guns to any madman with a credit card and a grudge will continue unabated.

P.S. – A final link, worth the read.