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The Journey Begins

Thanks for joining me!

Good company in a journey makes the way seem shorter. — Izaak Walton

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I’ve had a lot to say since the moment I started talking. Not all of it good, truth be told.

But in this blog I intend to not just share what I’ve already written, but expand what I have to say.

I hope you’ll come on this journey with me.

Alan Vervaeke, April 29th, 2019

Blue Hair

I have Tourette’s Syndrome. If you don’t know what it is, I’ll just say that it is a neuro-chemical imbalance that makes people move their bodies or make sounds that are not voluntary or consensual. We have no choice. You can TRY to hold back, but all that accomplishes is that when you DO “let loose” it could very well be a lot worse than what was initially going to happen. My symptoms first started showing up when I was 8 with rapid eye blinking. Tourette’s wasn’t anything that was in the mainstream back then, so everyone assumed I had either (a) eye issues or (b) “nervous tics”.

My particular flavor of Tourette’s has always been muscular. I do not curse or yell, instead my head or arms will move or as is the case right now – I blow air out and sound something like a porpoise clearing its blow-hole. Tourette’s doesn’t impact me intellectually or in any other way that I can think of. It certainly played havoc with my confidence for well over thirty years, but after attending some training when I was 43, I came to grips with it and realized that the only ones bothered by it were those people watching me. I “stood out”. I was “different”. And that got me teased quite a bit in grade school and high school with names like “Blinky” or “Blinker”, and then eventually it upgraded to “Twitch”.

So imagine waking up with this EVERY. SINGLE DAY. It isn’t a problem for me. My wife accepts it. My kids do, as well. My co-workers do. But then, I’ll go to Walmart. Or the grocery store. Or the pharmacy. And if I am stressed or over-caffeinated then my tics become more pronounced. People start to stare. Sometimes they’ll look right at me and say “What the heck is wrong with you?” or “Are you having a seizure?” Some people will walk the other direction, as though whatever it is that I’m dealing with is CATCHING and they want nothing to do with it. The funny part is that for the most part I no longer really notice it. After many years, I simply learned to accept that it is part of who I am. It doesn’t give me bad breath. I’m not a poor dancer. I have a great job and make good money. BUT it makes OTHERS uncomfortable. During my dozen years in the Navy, there was always someone who made it their personal mission to give me a new nickname, or point out my “action” to as many others as possible.

So yeah – you get up every morning knowing you’ve got this “thing” and you’re cool with it … until you meet one of these types and they make sure that YOU know that THEY see it. Somehow it becomes your fault that THEY are bothered by it, and by the time the day is over you just want to crawl into bed and pull the covers over your head. In my teens, 20’s, and 30’s I developed quite the self-loathing. Even if someone well-meaning would inquire, I’d express ignorance regarding what they were asking and then walk away as quickly as possible. And seeing people with Tourette’s on TV or hear folks on the radio make disparaging comments about someone – it was hard. Anne Heche on ‘Ally MacBeal’ made my life miserable. Don Imus would regularly mock someone by yelling “Do you have Tourette’s??” if anyone stuttered.

Now imagine that everyone knew you had Tourette’s just by looking at you because along with the neurochemical imbalance is a gene that makes your hair blue. And all anyone needs to do is see blue hair, and now your worth is questionable. Your intelligence is questioned. You become automatically unfit for any number of jobs because – you know …”he has BLUE HAIR!”. People discriminate straight away because your hair color defines exactly who and what you are, what you’re incapable of, and why they want nothing to do with you. You could be a MENSA-level intellect with a Master’s degree in Computer Science and in some people’s eyes you are only qualified for Greeter at Walmart. It could impact your self-respect, income, job and romantic opportunities. Heck – the police might pull you over as well because now you look like someone who needs to be watched to ensure that you don’t harm other drivers or pedestrians because having blue hair means that you don’t have CONTROL. And if you complain about being singled out because of your hair color, then you might see the uglier side of law enforcement. It is very easy to blame those who stand out for things they didn’t even do. And if you DID do something wrong, now you have totally fulfilled upon the expectations of others who see “your kind” as a problem that deserves to be put someplace away from “normal folks”.

Can you imagine this? Have you ever? You never asked for it. You don’t WANT it. You can do anything and everything that anyone else can do – maybe even better. Faster. Smarter. It doesn’t matter. People are raised and socialized to look out for “different”. Soon you start to aim lower. Take things that aren’t what you want. Get stuck living in areas where folks with blue hair have been zoned for.

Now you start to get an idea of what it must be like to be African-American. To be hated by some because of the color of your skin. To be shunned. To have others make assumptions about you. To make seventy-five percent of what a typical white person in the same exact job makes. To be far more likely to be pulled over by the police simply for driving in an affluent area. EVEN if you live there. To have your application for a mortgage be denied. To not make it into your college of choice.

Imagine.

The Honeymoon Is Over

My wife introduced me to the Lakes Region. She has many great memories of the Lake in summer, and this was why she wanted me to come here on weekends — to travel around, see the sights, and experience the natural splendor of the area. It’s hard not to fall in love with the Lakes Region. 

We bought a sweet little place in Gilford where we started to get to know the area. Going to Walmart was almost a treat compared to the one we frequented in Massachusetts, because the employees were friendly, and the store was clean. Meadowbrook was right here with great music, the views of the Lake were awesome, you could see Mount Washington from Gunstock Hill Road, and everyone we met just seemed to be super friendly.

So we moved here. 

As in every other place I’ve lived, I became a frequent writer in the local papers. This is where the ignorance became evident for the first time. Islamophobia. Homophobia. Racism. Bias. Misogyny. The stench of fear from people who are terrified that their quiet Caucasian existence might be threatened; that somehow those with differing opinions threatened God himself. The ongoing expression of thought that would have felt “normal” in the 1940s and 1950s regarding reproductive rights of women that come out of the mouths (and pens) of old white people stuck in some kind of static time bubble. People desperately afraid of immigrants and homosexuals and the impending minimization of whites as our birth rates shrink and the birth rates of immigrants and other “undesirables” continue to rise.

There’s an appalling number of people who carry guns in public and brag about it as though New Hampshire is the Old West (in fact gun control was rampant in the Old West). A serious lack of medical care. Confederate flags on trucks display astounding ignorance, with bumper stickers displaying proof of a lack of education regarding this country, how and why it was founded, and an amazing lack of empathy or compassion for the rest of the world.

But why?

Fear. Fear as thick and fluid as molasses. Fear is the backbone of most bullies, who act out to make themselves feel big and strong when the reality is they’re simply cowards — afraid to face the world without something to bolster their flagging manhood. The brutal dictators of this world are great cowards. So is the person walking through Walmart carrying machetes while wearing a MAGA hat. The slovenly guy in Shaw’s with a 9mm strapped to his leg while wearing pajama pants. The loser who shot and killed a friend’s beloved pet. The coward who insulted my dead mother and flails about with empty threats about “the Government trying to take away his guns”. The invertebrates that threaten an older woman for having an opinion. It’s that mindset that sets this area apart.

But then … It gets worse.

Now comes the multi-faceted bigotry, Islamophobia, and anti-Semitism of one Ryan Murdough. A man who believes that blacks and whites shouldn’t be in the same schools; that the Holocaust was a hoax (my Grandfather experienced it firsthand when he entered Dachau and took photographs where you couldn’t differentiate between the living and the dead). Ryan is once again going to run for State office as a Republican on a “Fear and Loathing” platform. His freedom of speech is guaranteed, but he won’t talk to newspapers unless they think like he does. Readers of this paper have previously defended him in letters. Why? Because they fear the same things. BECAUSE THEY AGREE WITH HIM. Things like: 

“I refuse to sit back and watch the state I love turn into a Third World dumping ground while traitors and Anti-Whites try and silence anyone who opposes it.” 

“We condemn the shooting in New Zealand but to be honest we really don’t care about dead Muslims. We care about our own people and we are sick of your third world culture ruining our nations.”

“We do not support violence toward anyone but we are sick of Jews promoting third world invasions into every White nation, but we are tired of our women being raped and murdered at the hands of your pet Africans.”

New Hampshire ranks 14th in the U.S. with a two percent Jewish population. Of the 56 states or territories that make up the United States, New Hampshire ranks 47th with less than one and one-half percent of its population being African-American. Perhaps Mr. Murdough should consider moving to Montana with its 0.67 percent population of “pet Africans”. It also ranks 44th with Jews. Have a nice trip, Ryan.

Do you think Mr. Murdough is alone in his hate? He’s not. It’s a problem across this entire country. Look at the shootings! If you think he’s justified in his fear and cowardice then YOU are part of the problem. If you are terrified of Muslims then YOU are part of the problem. If you are in love with your guns then YOU are part of the problem. You wonder why no one wants to invest in industry in the northern half of this state? You wonder why jobs are hard to come by in this area? You complain about visitors from Massachusetts and Vermont and New York, when it’s their dollars keeping you afloat up here. Why are heroin and fentanyl such an issue here? It’s the reality of a miserable existence that leaves so many cold and dead inside from an omnipresent hopelessness. You can see it in their eyes.

You know what makes New Hampshire ugly? You do … by sitting idly by and letting this crap continue. By staying silent. By living in fear. By spreading hate. Or you can act like real Americans and excise this cancer before it spreads.

What’s it going to be?

“Prejudice is an emotional commitment to ignorance.” ~~ Nathan Rutstein

Disparaging Israel Isn’t Anti-Semitism

My dad was anti-Semitic and quite clear about how he felt. I grew up knowing exactly what that looked like. It was explicit. The issue at stake now is about implied anti-Semitism, and I’m just unwilling to agree with many of these “talking heads” about just what is and what isn’t.

Merriam-Webster defines the word “Semitic” as “relating to, or constituting a subfamily of the Afro-Asiatic language family that includes Hebrew, Aramaic, Arabic, and Amharic”, “of, relating to, or characteristic of the Semites,” and finally “Jewish.” Whereas the definition of anti-Semitic is “relating to or characterized by anti-Semitism: feeling or showing hostility toward or discrimination against Jews as a cultural, racial, or ethnic group.” The first known usage of this term came in 1854.

A few weeks ago, Congresswoman Ilhan Omar of Minnesota tweeted that support of Israel in Congress is driven by funding arranged by the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). AIPAC itself isn’t allowed to make direct political contributions, but acts as a clearinghouse to link candidates seeking funds with pro-Israel donors. During the 2016 presidential campaign season, AIPAC generated contributions of $212,927 for Hillary Clinton and $203,850 for Ted Cruz. Marco Rubio received $132,552 and Lindsey Graham $74,200. No surprise that all of those candidates pledged “full support” for Israel. If a Congressman strays from the AIPAC line of support, they lose their funding. In the March 22, 2016 issue of ‘Foreign Policy Journal’ the article titled ‘The Best Congress AIPAC Can Buy’ (https://www.foreignpolicyjournal.com/2016/03/22/the-best-congress-aipac-can-buy/) talks clearly and specifically about all the varying politicos (from both sides of the aisle) that come to their annual conference. The article states, “From each of those speakers, AIPAC gains a public expression of high level support for Israel.” This is exactly where Rep. Omar gets the notion about a “dual loyalty” regarding many of these Representatives.

So when she tweeted that congressional support of Israel was “.. all about the Benjamins baby”, she was dead on. We see excessive monetary influence in Congress, be it from AIPAC, the NRA, Planned Parenthood, and any number of other lobbying groups. Neither Congress nor the Supreme Court seem predisposed to do ANYTHING about the glut of cash that makes its way through the Legislative Branch of our government. If I offer to support the favorite charity of a police officer in exchange for consideration of removing a traffic violation, that is called a “bribe.” Not in Congress. I discovered this weekend that our newly elected Chris Pappas took money from the pharmaceutical industry, and I’m unhappy about that. Congress must be the voice of the people they’re elected to represent and not special interests.

Numerous members of Congress complained that Rep. Omar’s comment was “anti-Semitic”; that it employed anti-Semitic “tropes and dog-whistles.” A “trope” is simply a term for a figure of speech. A “dogwhistle” is political messaging that employs “coded language” when used against a targeted subgroup. Many of my more liberal friends use these exact words to describe Omar’s tweet. Some of my Jewish friends agree with them, and other Jewish friends decidedly do not. If you declare that Israel has no right to exist, you’re rightfully labeled an anti-Semite. There are many who oppose that view, even within the Jewish community. Progressive Jewish writer Peter Beinart recently wrote that “Anti-Zionism is not inherently anti-Semitic.” (https://forward.com/opinion/420886/why-opposing-a-palestinian-state-is-the-equivalent-of-denying-israels). One of my acquaintances insists that only Jews get to decide what is anti-Semitic and what isn’t. That seems to lack a certain objectivity. If I complain about Catholic priests molesting young boys, am I anti-Catholic or am I against pedophilia? This is where frame of mind comes in.

The issue at stake is the government of Israel will not comply with international law regarding the treatment of Palestinians, including Palestinians living in Israel and those on the West Bank (where Israel continues to expand settlements in violation of UN resolution). Palestinians started the BDS (Boycott, Divest, Sanction) Movement to encourage the global community to pressure the Israeli government in the same way that apartheid was targeted in South Africa. AIPAC is decidedly against BDS because of the economic impact to Israel — Rep. Omar is for it. BDS does not specifically state that it supports the right of the Jewish state to exist, whereas Rep. Omar does — along with a Palestinian State that is inherently part of the “two state solution.” So when a Muslim specifically calls out the Israeli government and a pro-Israeli PAC, she must therefore be anti-Semitic?

I think what we are seeing is more evidence of an anti-Muslim mindset because many Muslims are starting to take on a model of peaceful protest that takes the bite out of anti-Muslim rhetoric. Sure — we still see violence in the name of Islam just like we did against Islam just this past weekend in New Zealand. We still see Palestinians and Hamas attacking Israel. I cannot say whether that is anti-Semitic, anti-Israel, or simply a way to force global attention onto the issue. I’m not the person firing said rockets or mortars and neither are any of the readers of this paper.

We see a lot of religious bigotry in this world. Hindus fight Muslims in India and Pakistan. Shi’a Muslims fight Sunnis in Iran and Iraq. Bhuddists fight Muslims in Myanmar. The Catholics fought against everyone everywhere. This is the key reason why the United States was created with clear separation between religion and government — because religion is chaotic. This latest resolution in our own Congress makes the mistake of being biased and comes from people taking money to be that way. They should know better. So should we. I want my tax dollars to only go where people are treated humanely. Or else it is far better spent here in our country on OUR people.

The Founding Fathers Had It Right

Since Hillary lost the 2016 Presidential election, there has been a lot of talk regarding eradicating the Electoral College. I’m sorry — but if you cannot win a majority of states in the general election, you don’t deserve to be President. I hear all the Democrats (of which I am not now nor have I ever been one) in the paper and on Facebook and other social media decry the Electoral College and how they want it abolished. Poppycock! It is unfortunate that, other than the very first disputed election that went to the House of Representatives, the next four were all lost by Democrats. A Republican has never been in this position.

In 1876, Samuel Tilden won the popular vote over Rutherford Hayes, but lost the electoral vote count.

In 1888, Grover Cleveland found himself in the same position with Benjamin Harrison.

In 2000, it was Al Gore losing to George Bush.

In 2016, it was Hillary Clinton losing to Donald Trump.

And while the margin between Clinton and Trump was greater than all of the above combined, the fact stands that all of the losing candidates failed to secure wins in a majority of American states. Al Gore won 19 states. Hillary Clinton won 20. Cleveland and Tilden both won 19 of the then 39 states.

The Electoral College is important because it ensures that very large urban populations do not carry greater weight than smaller rural states. Both Gore and Clinton won the states with the largest urban populations and lost those “flyover” states overwhelmingly. This is how it should be. If you want to be President then you need to win the majority of America. In only one case that I can find — 1960 — did the winner John F. Kennedy win fewer states (22) than the loser Richard Nixon (26). Both Barack Obama and Bill Clinton won a majority of states in their elections, and I didn’t hear anyone complain then that the Electoral College needed to be dismantled.

Look — I’ve been pretty clear that I am not a fan of Donald Trump. And I voted for Gore as well. But the Electoral College is working exactly as it should. Are there voting irregularities that should be rectified? Yes. Gerrymandering? Yes. Voter suppression? Yes. But America is a republic. One made up of 50 individual legal entities. E Pluribus Unum — “Out of many, One.” Remember that? And if you cannot compel, inspire, or convince a broad swath of voters in all 50 states to vote for you such that you win most states, then you simply do not deserve to be President. Period. And Democrats looking to abolish it should be reminded of that. Sad to say, Donald Trump inspired more people in more DIFFERENT STATES than Hillary Clinton did. That is a fact. If you want to win, you must inspire America as she was created and not how you want her to be after you lose.

Now if folks want to FIX the Electoral College so that it isn’t “winner take all,” they’d have to take that up in each individual state. But you need to get over it and bring forth candidates who can win. Not change the rules of the game.

I think you should FIX it. Here is how:

If the Electoral College was modified so that each candidate got a percentage of electoral votes based on the percentage of actual votes they received, then the last election would have seen Hillary Clinton with 256, Trump with 250, and 3rd party candidates with 32.

NOW – if you take the 3rd party Electoral Votes earned (only if that particular 3rd party candidate got less than 5% of the total vote) and give them to the candidate who WON that state? Hillary gets an additional 16 Electoral Votes and Trump gets an additional 16 as well (rounded up to avoid decimals). 

THAT would have given Hillary Clinton 272 Electoral Votes and Trump 266 and Clinton would have won both the Electoral College and the popular vote and the issue of “One Person One Vote” is still maintained along with a state’s individuality! It is fair, it is well considered, and it is proportional. AND EVERY VOTE COUNTS in every state in the union.

So TRULY fix the Electoral College and you get a fair and representational allocation of votes and states.

And I’m more than glad to show the math.

The Real Enemy

I awoke last week to read that over 350 newspapers from 43 different states and territories took the time to answer a challenge from the Boston Globe. These newspapers answered the president’s assertion that the press is the “Enemy of the People.” And on that same day — August 16 — the president of the United States again attacked the press via Twitter.

Trump: “There is nothing that I would want more for our country than true FREEDOM OF THE PRESS. The fact is that the press is FREE to write and say anything it wants, but much of what it says is FAKE NEWS, pushing a political agenda or just plain trying to hurt people. HONESTY WINS!”

The least honest man in America (maybe after Alex Jones) is talking about honesty. Don’tcha just love irony?

He’s peeved, irked, and even a little PO’d because the press is fighting back. After months of being attacked by our elected president, after months of being accosted via Twitter as “the enemy of the people” by the Head Cheetoh-In-Charge, the national press struck back with coordinated editorials in major outlets across the country condemning this administration’s attacks on one of the founding principles of our country.

Trump: “The Boston Globe, which was sold to the failing New York Times for 1.3 BILLION DOLLARS (plus 800 million dollars in losses and investment), or 2.1 BILLION DOLLARS, was then sold by the Times for 1 DOLLAR. Now the Globe is in COLLUSION with other papers on free press.”

Once again, Trump equates freedom to money because he only ever thinks with his wallet.

For people like Trump, money and freedom are the same thing, but it’s more than that. In Trump’s mind, those who have the money deserve it and deserve all the privilege that comes with it. And those who don’t have money, they deserve their poverty and second-class citizenship. Trump literally can’t talk about freedom, liberty, justice, civil rights, or government, without immediately pivoting to money. Every single time.

And then there’s this:

Trump: “THE FAKE NEWS MEDIA IS THE OPPOSITION PARTY. It is very bad for our Great Country. . . BUT WE ARE WINNING!”

And that’s a problem right there. Trump thinks an “opposition party” is “very bad for our great country.” Funny how Republicans didn’t think they were being unpatriotic or very bad for the country when THEY were the opposition. Likewise, it’s interesting that Trump by implication seems to be suggesting we should have a one-party system, without opposition, where the press is strictly regulated. Like China, North Korea, Vietnam, Cuba, Laos … all communist countries.

Interesting and very troubling, isn’t it?

The press is NOT the enemy of the people. No, the press is the enemy of tyrants. The press is the watchdog of liberty. That does NOT mean you have to agree with any particular journalist or media outlet. That doesn’t mean the press is always right or to be trusted without a critical eye. Nor is it without responsibility. But in America, the press is the ONLY private enterprise given specific and enumerated rights in the Constitution, and for a very good reason. Because you see, we once lived under a different madman who believed himself appointed by God and thought himself the sole arbiter of truth.

His name was King George III and we fought a revolution to free ourselves from this tyranny.

George was a king back when the kings of England had actual and absolute power, particularly over the colonies — and were thus the sole arbiter of truth and freedom and life. And I would point out that the modern U.K. has taken great pains to limit the power of the sovereign for the same reasons America did.

Our Founders, after they’d won their freedom, wrote the Constitution specifically the way they did — and deliberately put no restrictions on the press — for this very reason. And it is fascinating how those who claim they would fight to the death to prevent ANY restriction of ANY kind upon the Second Amendment are so determined to restrict the First. In fact, 51 percent of Republicans believe the press to be “The Enemy of the State” and are just FINE AND DANDY with giving this president the power to muzzle and rebuke the press.

And so Trump declares himself the arbiter of truth and demands control of the press specifically so that he may silence his critics.

That’s not freedom. That’s just the same old tyranny of kings. It’s the very same damned tyranny that our founders feared from a president more than anything else. And Trump’s attack on the press is nothing less than an attack on the Constitution itself. It is an attack on the very foundation of this country. It is an attack on the fundamental principles of America.

And it must not go unchallenged. It must be challenged in the streets, on the floor of Congress, in the courts, and at the polls. And most of all, it must be challenged in the press. Every. Single. Day.

Donald Trump is that exact same tyrant that our founders warned us about. The very one. And when government decides what constitutes “freedom of the press” there IS no freedom of the press. When government declares itself the sole arbiter of truth, there IS no truth.

And tyranny follows soon after.

Remember that 52 journalists have lost their lives reporting on armed conflicts going back to the first World War. They died trying to bring ALL of us the truth about what happens in the world. Seven died on 9/11. Another 30+ were murdered here in the United States. They’ve been murdered in Mexico exposing the cartels. They’ve been murdered in Russia covering Putin. They risk their lives every single day so that you can read the news and know the facts while you listen to this president tell you just how dangerous the news is.

Who’s the real enemy?

We Want Immigrants

The president tweeted the following a couple of weeks ago: “We cannot allow our country to be overrun by illegal immigrants as the Democrats tell their phony stories of sadness and grief, hoping it will help them in the elections.”

Are we being overrun by illegal immigrants? Conservatives love to talk about an “invasion.” President Trump used that exact word, too. Invasion. Well, where is it? Along the border in south Texas, Southern California, and Arizona you certainly see noticeable populations of immigrants from Central America. Do you see them in Minnesota? Ohio? North Dakota? New Hampshire? How big of a problem is this invasion, really? Consider the vast majority of Americans — especially those terrified Trump voters afraid of such an invasion, the ones who live in Minnesota, Ohio, North Dakota, New Hampshire, etc — how many actual illegal immigrants do they actually run into on a daily basis? Are they being trampled in Walmart?

The funny and ironic thing though, is that these illegal immigrants come here for the same reason illegal drugs do: BECAUSE AMERICANS WANT THEM.

That’s right. Americans want them. We want illegal immigrants and we want a boatload of them. Yes, we do! We like cheap labor. It’s summertime and you need look no further than Shaw’s, Dunkies and Weirs Beach concession stands for local immigrants to do the work that the rest of you fat and lazy sloths won’t. I have a friend who runs a number of Subways who cannot find people to work in them. I bet he’d LOVE some hard-working folks from Costa Rica who would appreciate him. But in the rest of America, they like cheap stuff made by Illegal immigrants. They like their food picked, processed, cooked, and cleaned for cheap. They love cheap lawn care and cheap childcare.

Don’t deny it. I lived in Southern California 35 years ago and saw it every single day. I saw it in Massachusetts and Rhode Island. Americans complain about illegal immigrants, but you have businesses who need manual labor, cruising street corners every morning to hire cheap day laborers and they sure aren’t checking for green cards. Heck, I cannot tell you how many different men worked on my lawn in Massachusetts who couldn’t speak a word of English and got paid in cash by their boss every night after a long day of hard work.

No, we like cheap labor and we love not paying benefits, or taxes, or workman’s comp, or a living wage, or health care, or any of the other things we’d have to pay to actual Americans. Heck, how many employers do their best to screw over the LEGAL employees who ARE American citizens because they don’t want to pay benefits?

Just like drugs. We complain, we elect righteous pompous men to make them illegal, and then we keep right on buying them. Heroin. Fentanyl. Even marijuana. It is here because there is a DESIRE for it.

The simple truth of the matter is that we like having illegal immigrants around to do the work these businesses won’t pay an American. If they did, then manufacturing, customer service, tech support, programming, billing and payroll, telemarketing, pharmacy services, data processors, medical transcription, credit analysis, insurance underwriting, drafting and illustration, switchboard operators, bookkeeping, and all the other jobs we increasingly send overseas, would still be right here in America. Those jobs are in India, Russia, the Philippines and Romania now.

Trump himself just hired 70 foreign workers for his “Southern White House.” The Trump Organization routinely hires foreign workers because they’re cheaper than Americans. He says he can’t get Americans, but that’s because he won’t PAY Americans a living wage. Americans can’t afford to work for Trump. And a lot of people in that area of South Florida have tried to get hired there. No luck.

And no wall or border — no matter how secure — will change that. Just like it won’t stop Americans from buying drugs manufactured in Central America or shipping your jobs overseas. If there’s a demand, migrants — legal and illegal — will find a way. Trump tries to scare you with some MS-13 boogieman, but he doesn’t talk about the CAUSE.

Finally, imagine sending your child north through Central America to cross our southern border. Alone. For hundreds of miles. Jeez — some of you won’t drive 30 minutes for a JOB! Why would these parents do that? Because no matter how bad we make it, no matter how terrible the journey, no matter the consequences, it’s STILL better HERE than THERE. We know it. They know it. And they are willing to chance everything including their own LIFE to get that opportunity. It’s what America was founded on — coming to the Land of Opportunity, the Land of Milk and Honey. It’s the place where so many of you plant your fat keisters expecting the government to pay you to not work and then you resent those who would come here and do the jobs you won’t for the pay that you think you’re better than?

Like the Jews who fled Germany in the 1930s that we turned BACK at the Statue of Liberty; sent home to horror and death, we send these migrants back to violence and death and slavery. Grief? Sadness? Imagine having your child taken from you, not knowing where she is, what happened to him, or if you’ll see them again. Imagine being kept away from your toddler so long that your own child no longer recognizes you. Trump dismisses that grief and expects you to, as well. Because he knows that YOU are just as culpable as he is.

It’s time for President Trump to be held to account for his own actions, for his own words, for his own presidency. And it’s likewise long past time for America to face the fact that immigrants come here because WE can’t live the life we’ve become accustomed to without them. And we don’t want to.

Stuck In The Middle With You

“Clowns to the left of me. Jokers to the right. Here I am — stuck in the middle with you.” — Stealers Wheel, 1972

Everywhere I read, the doom and gloom of the Left and the paranoia of the Right are evident. One percent of the Left wants confiscation of guns that terrify them and fifty percent of the Right believes the entire Left wants to take away all their guns.

None of it is true.

We need calm and rational thinkers. We need reasonable people to have conversations about guns in America and what legislation might look like. I wrote a few months ago about simple legislation that would start the ball rolling — mandatory registration of guns along the lines of cars and dogs, along with required safety and accuracy training classes, vision checks, and personal liability insurance.

The percentage of gun owners in the United States hasn’t significantly changed in 45 years. An average of 42 percent of Americans has legally owned guns. Men overwhelmingly own guns here. The further you are from the Northeast, the more likely you are to own a gun — especially in the South. Sixty-five percent of gun owners have never achieved a college degree, and half of that number never made it to college. Folks who live in a rural setting are the biggest demographic of gun owners, as are those over the age of 50.

A gun enthusiast and good friend of mine and I have been having a conversation about rational and reasonable gun legislation. I’m an independent — he’s a Libertarian. We both own guns. We both have kids. We both love our families and our country and we are sick to death of the killing as well as the partisanship in Congress and society. We agree that something has to give. So Todd came up with the idea of a tiered system of gun ownership. We’ve gone back and forth on what it should look like. It’s an intelligent approach to guns in this country that most gun owners can probably agree with since a vast majority of gun owners already support background checks.

Let’s take a look at it, shall we?

ALL tiers would require a certificate of safety and accuracy training. The NRA already offers safety training across the country. Military services could offer this as well. All tiers would require something akin to a photo driver’s license stating what tier the bearer is licensed for. Your gun license could only be gained with proof of training. The guns you own and bear must match the tier you’re licensed for. Any violations would involve fines. A national period of registration could be up to two years to allow current owners the time to get their licenses.

Tier 1 would be all single action rifles and shotguns and would require your standard background checks for purchase as well as the license described above. The Second Amendment is all about the ability to protect your property, so Tier 1 has the least amount of restriction for guns that evoke the least amount of concern.

Tier 2 would include all single-action pistols, as well as semi-automatic shotguns with a capacity of five rounds or less. Here we’re still within the realm of self-protection and hunting and makes up the majority of average Americans owning a gun. Most gun owners fall within the first two tiers, and the monies taken in by these licenses would go towards training, licensing, and background checks as well as outreach programs.

Tier 3 would encompass all semi-automatic pistols with a 15 round capacity or less, as well as ANY conceal carry permits for ANY pistol.

Tier 4 includes semi-automatic rifles with a capacity of 15 rounds or less, and/or semi-automatic pistols with unlimited capacity. “Conceal carry” is included. In other words, this would be where all AR-15 (or the like) owners would fall as long as no clip could hold greater than 15 rounds. Or if you owned a number of semi-automatic pistols and basically wanted to own any sized clip, you could “buy up” to this tier from Tier 3 for whatever the additional cost would be.

Tier 5 includes all semi-automatic long guns and all semi-automatic pistols with unlimited capacity. So again, this is a “buy up” from Tier 4 for those who want no limit to the number of guns owned nor the amount of ammunition that can be clipped. “Conceal carry” is included here as well.

Purchases in both Tier 4 and Tier 5 would require a mandatory 30-day waiting period and a HIPAA waiver that allows reviews of medical and criminal histories. This is where a history of mental disorders (paranoia, suicide, schizophrenia, etc…) would prevent the ownership of a weapon capable of vast harm.

A Tier 3 “Conceal carry” designation would also require a HIPAA waiver — a national license standard such that a “conceal carry” permit issued in New Hampshire allows that person to “conceal carry” in any state because they’ve passed a comprehensive federal check. If you want to carry your Glock into Walmart, the rest of us deserve to know you aren’t unstable. Our local police chiefs would be the initiator for any “conceal carry” request.

HIPAA waivers would have prevented nearly every single mass shooter in the past five years. Not all. Of the 10 million plus “assault-style” weapons out there, only 40 have been used in mass shootings. The majority of Americans are responsible gun owners. Why punish them? Implementing a fair system of licensure makes it safer for everyone. Violate the terms of your license and you’ll pay a penalty — just like driving a car. Protecting gun owners, as well as the general public, should be a common goal for ALL involved. We want to keep nuts away from things that kill, whether it’s a gun, a car, a truck, or fertilizer. Everyone deserves to live without constant fear.

Is this perfect? No. But it IS a start. And we need to start somewhere.

Do We Care Anymore?

A dog died the other day on United Airlines. The flight attendant forced the family to put it into the overhead bin, and it suffocated. Within seven days a bill was brought to the floor of the United States Congress to prohibit such actions. Last week, a pedestrian bridge collapsed in Miami that so far has claimed the life of six people and possibly more. Within one hour of the collapse, a member of Congress called for an investigation into the event.

Fourteen teenagers and three adults were killed by a lone gunman in Parkland, Florida on St. Valentine’s Day and as of yet there has been ZERO legislative action taken by the United States Congress or Senate. The president stated that he supported changing the age at which an individual could purchase a rifle to 21 years old … until a week later when it was “no longer a priority” after the president met with principals of the NRA.

Here in New Hampshire, there is a bill to eliminate the death penalty. There is a bill regarding animal cruelty and abuse because of Christina Fay and her Great Danes. Yet a bill to eliminate bump stocks fails and so does a bill to raise the minimum age of a female for marriage from 13 years old to 18 years old. One local legislator representing Franklin and Hill goes on to compare transgender individuals with pedophiles because he is trying to scare parents and children while abrogating his responsibilities to the same group around the issue of guns. Maybe it is time to start paying our state legislators a living wage to attract a better class of thinker.

What the hell is wrong with our elected legislators? Do they lack human company? Are they being kept in a shed somewhere? I’ve read more letters in the past two weeks about the pros and cons of biosolids than I have about the protection of our children. Not to put too fine of a point on it, but we have more proposed legislation regarding dogs and other animals than we do for our CHILDREN! We have an opioid epidemic and yet support centers are closing due to a lack of support. I’ll say it again – what the HELL is wrong with this picture?

We’ve seen actors, producers, and directors of movies and television accused, hounded, and excoriated in the press until they quit, retire, or go into hiding with the power of the #MeToo movement. We’ve seen state and federal elected officials — like Senator Al Franken — driven out of office by these allegations and the combined might of women. Unless it is Donald Trump, at which point you’re willing to forgive, forget, disbelieve, and cry “Fake News,” when 13 separate women have accused him of sexual assault or sexual harassment. At least two porn actresses have stepped forward to say the president had sex with them while his wife was pregnant, but Fox News and the rest of the conservative right is quiet and unwilling to give it unbiased and objective reporting. What’s wrong here?

Bill Clinton said under oath “I never had sex with that woman,” and when it was proven that he had, Newt Gingrich and the Republican Party howled and called for his impeachment. When asked about the possibility of the current president having had an extra-marital affair with a porn actress, Newt Gingrich smirked and said “The Democrats are just jealous!” And when the president himself admits that he lied to the Prime Minister of Canada and “just made up” numbers regarding trade imbalances between Canada and the United States, no one seems to care.

Is Nero fiddling while Rome burns? Is the United States becoming Rome and has it reached the end of any type of moral ascendancy? We used to pride ourselves on being better than other countries. When Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi was caught with under-age girls and prostitutes, we tut-tutted and said “Oh, those Italians!” and prided ourselves on our moral authority. Yet when Ronald Reagan was caught allowing arms sales to Iran to arm insurgents in Central America, we turned our head and coughed.

Money in America is now the pre-eminent force. Money buys our politicians on both sides of the aisle, whether it is the NRA, labor unions, Big Pharma or health insurance companies. Our pastors and preachers support a narcissistic womanizer and the sales of guns that kill our children. Our senators are rolling back banking legislation that will personally benefit them while causing untold damage to average men and women who work far more hours than the elite and privileged members of the U.S. Senate ever will. And the problems are on both sides of the aisle. Certainly, the Republicans take in a lot of money from the NRA, but the Democrats are raking it in as well. Then the Supreme Court says “Hey! It’s OK!” to Citizens United and now We The People have lost our ability to truly manage our own government. What the Hell is wrong with us?

We used to have manners. We used to care. We used to be civil. I shouldn’t be surprised with the state of this country when we see the disintegration of it in our everyday life. Men wearing hats in restaurants and people wearing pajamas and fuzzy slippers out in public and into stores. Jeans and T-shirts in church and the church just thankful to have people attending. Racists writing in letters telling us we need to have a whites-only school and for women not to get fat. The Religious Right telling us that our president was “chosen by God” when it seems more apparent every day that God has washed His/Her hands of us because no one here gives hoot about our planet, our children, our wildlife or the future.

Seriously. Just what the Hell IS wrong with us? Why aren’t you angry,? Or have you simply just stopped caring?

Shove Your Thoughts and Prayers

According to the Gun Violence Archive, a mass shooting is described as four or more individuals being shot or killed in the same general time and location. The FBI defines a “mass killing” as the killing of three or more people in a public place, but the federal agency also defines a “mass murderer” as someone who has killed four or more people in the same location.

According to those definitions, there have been 30 mass shootings already during 2018. There have been five school shootings this year, as well. There have been 273 school shootings since Sandy Hook, taking the lives of 400 Americans. The numbers of children killed or injured by gun violence have steadily increased since Sandy Hook. In 2014, 609 children under the age of 12 and 2,330 teens were killed or injured from gun violence. In 2015 those numbers were 696 and 2,696. In 2016 they were 673 and 3,132. Finally, in 2017 the numbers were up to 732 and 3,234. Over 14,000 children – CHILDREN – killed or injured by gun violence in four years plus another 416 already this year. Seven dead kids per day on average.

Comparatively, 2,977 people died on 9/11. Congress created the TSA in 69 days as a response. If you go to the airport, security is overwhelming. We get patted, searched, probed, questioned, and occasionally stripped. Belts come off, shoes come off, you cannot have a full bottle of shampoo in a carry-on bag, and you can only carry on overpriced food and water that you buy in the airport.

Conversely (or perversely), in the 1,900 days since Sandy Hook there have been ZERO changes to federal gun regulations. In fact, our president rolled some back to allow people with a history of mental illness to own guns. His Interior secretary now allows greater numbers of guns and ammunition types in national parks and on federal lands. The Attorney General narrowed the definition of “fugitive from justice” and caused the immediate removal of tens of thousands of names from the FBI’s National Instant Background Check System — the system used to determine whether someone is prohibited under federal law from purchasing a gun. Most recently, the House of Representatives passed the Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act, allowing people who have a concealed carry permit from one state to use it in all other states.

But … WHERE IS OUR SOUL? After all the shootings of the past year, we’ve heard lots and LOTS of “thoughts and prayers” via Twitter and Facebook and the White House Briefing Room. After the Las Vegas Massacre, President Trump tweeted “warmest condolences and sympathies,” After the church shooting in Texas, the president tweeted “May God be with the people of Sutherland Springs, Texas.” Yesterday, he tweeted “Prayers and condolences” to the parents in Parkland, Florida after yet another shooting. “Thoughts and prayers” is apparently GOP code for “Sorry your spouse/kid/friend is dead but I won’t do a damned thing about guns.” Screw your platitudes. I’m done.

I won’t go into all of the adults who have died from gun violence since 2014 — it’s just an obscene number and most of you simply don’t care. I won’t explain how women are more likely to die in a weaponized household. You make up stories about why God himself ordained the Second Amendment just so you can cradle them to your bosom at night; because you must “live free or die” and your guns provide a means to do both. People with many guns in their home are far more likely to suffer a deadly shooting in their home. That is a statistical fact. If you own a gun, you are 33 percent more likely to have a shooting in your home. If you have children in that home, they are more likely to be the victim. Again — that is statistical FACT. I hope it isn’t your child.

But really — why the hell should I care about your kids IF YOU DON’T? Thirty thousand Americans will die from bullets this year. Fourteen kids in Florida? So what? They’re just a minor statistic in that total. So what? If the nation doesn’t care about 30,000, why would it care about 14? Why should I? Does that make me a lousy person?

It certainly does. That attitude is just about as crappy and selfish and shortsighted as it gets. But that’s AMERICA. That’s America as a nation. Right there. Every single day, more dead kids. Every day, more gun violence. We have more guns deaths in this country than some war zones. And every day, not a single thing is done about it. That’s America. When it comes to gun violence, America is crappy. Selfish. We’re no better than Somali warlords. And we’re shortsighted. We are a nation of sniveling cowards who won’t do what needs to be done to save our KIDS. “Take them, but spare me (and my gun.)”

So, if not giving a damn about the deaths of 14 MORE kids makes ME a lousy person, then not giving a damn as a nation makes AMERICA a lousy damned country indeed. Third world quality. Afghanistan. Iran. Somalia.

If you want to hold ME accountable for caring, then you have to hold America accountable, too. If you don’t like that; if you find that rude and crass and uncaring and unpatriotic and cowardly, then do something about it. As a nation.

Or just shut up. I don’t want to hear your “thoughts and prayers.” Shove your prayers. Prayers are worthless. If you’re honest with yourself, you know it. I know it. Trump knows it. Every politician knows it. Worthless. It sounds nice, but does NOTHING for the victims. If prayer worked, we wouldn’t be in this situation. But our government isn’t paid to PRAY, and I’m sick and tired of hearing about more dead kids killed by damned guns.

So do something. Or shut up. But stop offering useless prayers.