A Long-Awaited Calm…

November 8, 2020 2:11am
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The kids are in bed, and the house is quiet. Today is my wife’s 41st birthday and the boys and I made her a cake, which despite the challenges shopping for the ingredients with two kids actually ended up being a lot of fun.

Regardless, today the 2020 election was finally called for Joe Biden, and so now is the time for a bit of reflection…

What can I say? In a year like 2020 where each month has felt like a decade and it seems like we faced an even uglier challenge than before around every turn, today feels strange to be finally confronted with something we’ve craved for so long … calm.

This entire week has been a blur and every night that passed without any of the remaining states calling a result I know had so many of us nearly comatose as we watched America’s democracy dangling by a thread. As the week progressed and more and more mail-in ballots were counted for Biden, it felt like things were going to get better, but as the Trump propaganda machine churned up on schedule about rampant voter fraud, you couldn’t help but think that this asshole was still going to manage to pull it off somehow.

I mean, I suppose even now that could still technically happen, though I think it’s unlikely given that pretty much every allegation of potential fraud has been disproven by the local media in each of the states in question.

I know, I know – “Fake news! Blah blah blah!”

I can’t wait to relegate that term back to The Onion where it belongs.

Because Donald Trump’s presidency has just been, in a word, tedious, and I don’t even want to hear Republicans try to compare it to eight years under President Obama because we’re never going to agree that those two aren’t even in the same galaxy. One president fueled racism and sexism and bigotry and divided the country with anger and bitterness … while the other one tried to give everyone equal access to healthcare.

One of them spoke eloquently and was a friend to the international community while the other one picked fights every chance he could get and spent most of his time beating his own chest.

But tonight wasn’t about Donald Trump.

That’s one of the things that I enjoyed the most in listening to President-Elect Biden’s acceptance speech was that he didn’t resort to name-calling and bitter jabs and language meant to rile up the audience as he spoke. He was gracious, and humble, and also direct in the type of country that he believes America to be.

And I don’t know if him and Senator Harris can get us there, but I sure as hell have got a lot more faith in those two than I’ve ever had in the Trump family of con artists and hucksters.

I may not be as naive as I was 12 years ago when President Obama was first elected and everything felt like rainbows, but I’m not so cynical that I’m ready to be a Republican who just wants to burn the whole thing down while keeping a modest cut for myself. I understand that government can’t solve everything, however I do think that it’s reasonable for it to establish the rules and standards around which we live our lives in a modern society. So I’m looking forward to having a president once again who cares about climate change and accepts that systemic racism is a thing that we should work to eliminate and recognizes that capitalism has done a lot of great things, but it’s also created a tremendous wealth gap in which those at the top take advantage of those at the bottom.

More so, I think we can look to a President Biden to actually build on the policies of his predecessors and not simply strive to dismantle everything done by the guy who came before him.

They’ve got a lot of work ahead of them, and there’s going to be a lot of resistance. Of those 70 million people who voted for Trump, some of them – hopefully not many, but certainly some – will vehemently hate everything that they set out to do and will claw tooth and nail to hold onto their ugly, MAGA principles that have been enabled by our president for the last four years.

That said, my hope is that for the rest of the people – the ones who aren’t racist or sexist or generally horrible – my hope is that Biden/Harris can find a way to bridge the gap to those people help address some of their concerns with regards to the economy and government regulations and not becoming the socialist state that many fear Democrats want for the United States.

I hope that they can inspire positivity as opposed to hatred.

We’re going to have our very first female Vice President who’s also a person of color – think of what that says to younger generations who haven’t felt the full struggle that their parents and grandparents have felt due to their gender or skin color yet!

I feel comfortable letting my kids listen to these leaders speak as the biggest role models in politics – something I certainly haven’t felt from the Trump admin over the last four years.

I don’t expect them to solve all of our problems, but I do think that they’ve got a good shot and moving the ball forward again.

Congress is going to be a struggle, particularly if Republicans maintain control of the Senate.

Rich folks certainly aren’t going to be excited about paying more in taxes, and the business world in general might be worried about having a leader who doesn’t put economic growth above anything and everything else.

And lord knows that in his two months left in office, Trump is going to continue kicking and screaming and throwing his little tantrums, and he’s probably going to do a few more ugly things before he finally gets evicted in January. The most ardent of his base will likely continue to protest, and while I hope that it doesn’t come to it, it wouldn’t entirely surprise me if we see some more violence between both sides as his impending legal battles only prove the end of his presidency to be more certain.

My own personal goal, which starts with this blog post, is really to try and get all of the Trump trolling out of my system so that I can completely and utterly forget about him and instead focus my thoughts on the future without him.

I’m sure that even after he’s left the White House, we’ll continue to hear the Trump name for years to come because he’s going to rely on that enthusiastic base to feed both his bank account and his ego. I read a rumor the other day that he might start up his own television network, you know, because Fox News abandoned him and all! So we’ll probably continue seeing those stupid, red hats for the foreseeable future.

It’s not a perfect solution. In fact, it’s only the very start, but I do know this – electing Joe Biden to replace Donald Trump puts out the fire of having a crazy person in the most powerful position in the land. 

There’s so much more to do, but I think this is a really good start.

Faith in Our Voting Process…

November 6, 2020 11:17pm
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Amid all of the chaos that has come from this election, one thing that admittedly I find a bit intriguing are the scenarios that the Trump campaign and his party have used to drum up this mistrust in the electoral process that we’re now seeing play out particularly around the counting of mail-in ballots.

The most common, no doubt, is boxes of ballots showing up for the other party, which I suppose could be a possible concern if you have very little faith in our voting process to begin with … because really if you think about it, there’s a lot of faith that goes into voting even without mail-in ballots being part of the equation…

  • We trust that the person who checks IDs and voter registrations is actually doing their job.
  • We trust that ballots across the country are designed in a fashion that are easy to understand.
  • We trust that the machines used to tabulate our votes are free of bugs and malicious software.
  • We trust that the people loading boxes of ballots into trucks for the central tabulation that happens in some states doesn’t miss one.
  • We trust that the people loading boxes of ballots into bigger counting machines make sure that none stick to the bottoms of each and every box.
  • We trust that all of the websites aggregating and summarizing voting data once the results are made public manage all of that data accurately.
  • We trust the media to publish and report on those results fairly and accurately to the entire world, including calling winners in every state and eventually the election as a whole.
  • And after all is said and done, we trust the electors of the electoral college themselves to actually vote the will of the people and execute on the results of the election.

That’s a lot of trust just for the average American walking into a voting booth to cast their vote, so for people who are ok with all of that … what’s with the stretch to also trust ballots of the mail-in variety which are delivered through the USPS, which includes ballots from our troops overseas and people traveling who can’t make it to the polls in their home state … oddly enough including most of the people who work in Washington, D.C.!

The truth is, one of our voting process’s greatest strengths is also a weakness – the anonymity of a person’s ballot once it’s been cast. Because the way our system is purposefully designed, although taking a ballot to vote puts a check mark next to my name in the voter registration database that “I voted!” in the 2020 election, nowhere is it actually recorded how I voted.

Or how many ballots I fed into the machine after I left that little booth.

You just have to trust me, and the elderly lady standing by the machine who tells me to feed in one page at a time, that I only submitted one ballot. But there’s nothing on my ballot to tie my name to my vote so that someone could later review the results to say, “Hey, this guy submitted four different ballots at different locations!” or “How is this dude voting when he’s already dead?!”

Voting while dead is another common allegation for voter fraud, but the system isn’t really designed to thoroughly prevent it from happening outside of simply having the trust of a couple of random people along the chain.

And I’m not necessarily saying that this needs to change, mind you, although I think to some extent if we ever do move to some form of online voting we’re going to have to give up a little secrecy in exchange for security.

My point is simply this – voting, and democracy in general, requires some faith and it’s certainly not without its share of flaws, however mail-in ballots aren’t the villain in this story. Tens of millions of mail-in ballots are used in every election – this year we just had to lean on them more heavily due to COVID-19. If anything, we should be thankful that we had another option to extend the vote to 65 million Americans who otherwise might not have exercised their civic duty due to risk of the pandemic.

And the people who took advantage of mail-in ballots to cast their votes shouldn’t be used as a scapegoat when one party has lost its faith in the electoral process in general because it’s looking like it won’t produce the results that they were hoping for.

Coronavirus, Day 234 – A COVID Election

November 4, 2020 4:34pm
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Votes are still being counted as I type this, but it looks like Biden might’ve actually won.

Which is a relief, but I’ll write more about that later!

The delay, as we expected, is due to the huge spike in mail-in ballots thanks to the pandemic – almost 3x the number of mail-in ballots from 2016, which is kind of NUTS if you think about the sheer volumes…

Total Ballots

  • 2020 (so far) – 137 million
  • 2016 – 127 million

Mail-In Ballots

  • 2020 (so far) – 65 million
  • 2016 – 24 million

Early Voting – In-Person Ballots

  • 2020 – 36 million
  • 2016 – 23 million

Election Day – In-Person Ballots

  • 2020 – 36 million
  • 2016 – 82 million

In a way, it’s comforting to see that so many people took the COVID precautions seriously enough to vote via mail instead of in person on election day – at least 40 million extra people at the polls certainly would’ve increased the risk of exposure! I ended up voting early for my first time and it was super easy, so it’s likely something I’ll do again in the future just to avoid the crowds even after the pandemic has passed.

…which despite the unscientific argument of many politicians, is still definitely here even with Election Day itself behind us, as the US logged another 94,000 cases and almost 1,200 deaths just yesterday. I know that even if/when Biden does win, we’ve still got a couple of months of Trump policies to deal with before he takes over, but I can only hope that come January having a different voice in the White House changes the American perspective on this virus so that we can actually get in front of it and stave off more waves while we wait for a vaccine to be ready.

If Trump Gets Re-Elected Tomorrow…

November 2, 2020 11:58pm
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…I won’t go so far as to say I’m moving to Canada or anything – namely because Canada is very cold and I’m pretty sure we’re not allowed in right now due to COVID anyways – but I’ll certainly be disappointed, to say the very least.

Amid all of the craziness that’s plagued our daily lives for the last four years of America’s reality TV president, the easiest way for me to sum it up is that Donald Trump is an asshole and we deserve to be represented by somebody who isn’t.

It comes down to basic human decency because as far as I’m concerned, all of the other issues that we face as a society don’t mean much if our country can’t maintain a basic standard for how we treat each other within our borders, and Trump has done nothing but tear down our values since before he took office. When sexism and racism and bigotry and xenophobia rain down from the highest office in the land, it encourages other people to be assholes, too, because hell, “If the President said it, that must be presidential now!”

Yes, I want a president who cares about a strong economy and military showing, but I also want one who’s looked at throughout the international community as a leader instead of a bully.

It’s ok to be frustrated by how the press covers you, but to claim that our free press “is the enemy of the people” is not ok. Just like it’s not ok to label anything that you don’t agree with as “fake news.”

I want a president who doesn’t pick fights with people all. of. the. time. – whether they’re professional athletes or war veterans or kids who are passionate about climate change. The term unpresidential doesn’t even begin to describe Trump’s behavior on Twitter and in front of his favorite hosts on Fox News. He’s turned the office into a three ring circus and we’re all tired of cringing every time we wake up to see what he’s managed to sully the American image with today.

I know a lot of people voted for Donald Trump because they wanted someone who wasn’t a politician for a change, but this was a mistake. Instead of a politician in the White House, we got a cruel-hearted con man who reduces every problem we have to dollar signs and who’s biggest trait is being able to pull the ugliest out of the fans who vigorously chant his name.

Unlike President Obama and so many that came before him, I can’t let my kids watch him speak because I don’t know who he’s going to dig at next and it’s a damn shame that we live in a time when the President of the United States isn’t fit to even be a role model for our nation’s youth.

We need a leader who will speak kindly and rationally, who will look at our problems honestly and listen to our experts because they’re our experts. 

We need someone committed to bringing us together and representing all of us, not tearing us apart and pitting Americans against each other whether they’re red or blue, rich or poor, black or white.

Ultimately, I fear that if Donald Trump gets re-elected tomorrow, it will be like letting the bully win … reaffirming the asshole … and giving him carte blanche to reap even more havoc upon our nation in his second term that will only serve to set us back even further.

The economy is important. Healthcare, and welfare, and infrastructure, and international discourse are all important. Lots of things that our federal government does are important, but first and foremost, we need a leader who isn’t a complete asshole in the White House.

Without that basic level of respect – for the office, for the American people, for our international neighbors and for everyone who we inhabit this tiny blue dot with – without respect, none of the rest of it even matters.

*fingers crossed*

Alien Bugs? In Washington???

August 1, 2020 10:48pm
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Last night I started watching the CBS show BrainDead from a few years ago out of curiosity, and today I finished up its mere 13-episode run as the first show that I’ve truly binge-watched in a long time!

I stumbled across it purely by accident. Earlier in the week I found myself watching this hilariously fun table read of the Scott Pilgrim movie with the cast via Zoom and I realized that as great as she was in that movie, I didn’t really know much of anything else that Mary Elizabeth Winstead has starred in. Somehow I stumbled upon this weird sci-fi comedy about bugs taking over the brains of Congressmen, and what can I say?

OMG – It was soooooo addictive!!!

I think a big part of the appeal of this story is that it’s told from the perspective of someone who doesn’t like politics, so it’s not so much one party looking better than the other as it is both parties filled with stupid bickering and fighting for their own self-preservation instead of actually doing what’s best for the people.

Of course, it gets way worse as the bugs continue their infestation and more and more of Congress gets infected…

I literally ended up watching the first 6 or 7 episodes of this series last night after the kids went to bed, and if I didn’t have to worry about watching the kids the next morning because Sara worked overnight, I would’ve loved to just blow through the entire thing because they did an outstanding job with their cliffhangers and leaving you desperate to see what was going to unfold next.

It actually left me wondering how the series would’ve moved forward if it hadn’t seen its untimely demise and gotten cancelled after just the first season because I honestly felt like the ending was a little rushed. I think I read something on Wikipedia that the next seasons were going to follow the infection spreading to other sectors – Wall Street, Silicon Valley, and Hollywood – so that could’ve been interesting, particularly if the Washington cast was still involved and they could’ve played with how the different systems intertwined.

But alas, it wasn’t meant to be, so instead we’re left with this fun, little 10-hour sprint of alien infestation that could’ve been more, but admittedly was still a whole lot of fun to watch for what it was. If you have any interest in the more satirical side of politics, and you can handle watching bugs crawl into people’s ears, I highly recommend it!

Last night the President of the United States hypothesized on live television to an audience of 10+ million people that the scientific community should explore injecting ultraviolet light into the body to combat Coronavirus. And also injecting disinfectant into the lungs.

Which … look … I don’t have a problem with the president spitballing random ideas that pop into his head for members of his cabinet to then research.

I mean, I’d rather he let the experts come to him with ideas that they’re researching using actual scientific methods and principals, but in the bigger scope of things, what bothers me when Trump goes off on his little brainstorming sessions like this is that believe it or not, lots of people in this country look up to him as a role model and actually follow through on the random things that come out of his mouth.

Like the elderly couple who poured themselves glasses of aquarium cleaner after hearing the President talk about how maybe hydroxychloroquine might be a wonder drug for COVID-19. One died and the other ended up in intensive care.

Note that a month later, one study of the drug was cut short after patients began exhibiting irregular heartbeats and nearly two dozen died.

Of course, in classic Trump form today he’s claiming that his off the cuff comments were made as a joke to dig at the liberal media in the room – because who doesn’t like a good joke when 50,000 Americans and counting have died from the disease that two months ago the leader of their country was denouncing as little more than a hoax and a political jab at his re-election.

So last night I rewatched Idiocracy – a movie that I honestly didn’t even really like when I first saw it – but I’ll be damned if it didn’t hit way too close to home! How did we get to this place where not only are people proud to deny science in favor of their own whims, but now they’re very much willing to risk their own lives by parading through the streets without masks in protest of their rights to act like the responsible adults that they’re not in the middle of a global pandemic?!

I read a few comments earlier in response to Michigan’s governor removing many restrictions as her citizens had demanded, but also in turn requiring people to wear masks when they’re out in public…

“They can’t make us wear them!” 

“As far as I know, this is still a free country!”

And my favorite – “My husband didn’t risk his life so that I could be told what to wear to the grocery store…”

I … don’t know how to talk to people with this kind of mentality anymore because if they’re this hellbent on doing things their way, they’re perpetually going to be a part of that percentage that’s part of the problem, not part of the solution.

Despite a public health risk not only to themselves, but more importantly to others in their community, these are the same people who refuse to get vaccinated, who go to work and send their kids to school even when they’re sick, and are basically just selfish assholes. And all we can do as their neighbors and friends is do our best to stay away from them in hopes that in the end they only hurt themselves and not the people around them.

It’s a sad perspective to have to take, but when the President tells somebody to jump off a bridge and they actually do it, what else is there for the rest of us to do except for to view that person at best as a cautionary tale?

Well, that and we also need to get ourselves a President who stops telling people to jump off of bridges.

I’ve been kind of geeking out on Pete & Pete nostalgia lately after learning that the actors that played the brothers – Danny Tamberelli and Mike Maronna – not only still hang out and in fact do a podcast together, but they also tour and are coming to Florida this spring and I have tickets to go see them!

Nonetheless, after watching this great series of retrospective videos that Nickelodeon did a couple of years ago with Danny and Mike, it naturally got me thinking about the rest of the cast and what they’re up to these days…

And for a brief moment, I got spooked.

Ellen was always one of my favorite characters on the show, particularly for her bond with Big Pete. What can I say? I was just reaching my teenage years when this show came out, so it was girls like Ellen and Clarissa and Melody and Z.Z. who served as my first crushes on my favorite TV shows that I watched during those years. And yet like much of the rest of the Pete & Pete cast, I couldn’t really recall seeing much Ellen represented in more recent shows, so I decided to google the name of the actress who played her…

…and I got a fairly convincing profile of someone who is apparently very into Donald Trump and conservatism and generally just being an awful human being.

Could that be the same crush from my own boyhood who was a girl, and Pete’s friend, but was she a girlfriend???

Well, thank god – no, she wasn’t!

I’m not going to post the name here because there’s no need to attract unwanted attention, but I will say that her picture was close enough that 25 years later you might say, “Sure, I suppose that could be her.” It wasn’t until listening to a couple of interviews – one with Ellen herself – that it came to light that she’s mostly stepped away from Hollywood and instead is a doctor now! And the other lady was apparently just being born at the time Pete & Pete was airing, so that’s a pretty good indicator that they were definitely different people, too. 😉

Relieved is the right word, that’s for sure. I remember how shocked I was to find that an old friend from high school had gone hardcore conservative, complete with gay bashing on Facebook and the whole nine yards. And I recall me and my friends absolutely loving Dennis Miller and his rants on HBO back in our teenage years, despite his bizarre political flip to the dark side that came a decade later. But not someone from the cast of Pete & Pete.

All of the Blue Tornado Bars in the world couldn’t produce a brain freeze capable of that level of mental shutdown… 😀

Do We Really Need Billionaires???

January 24, 2019 1:32am
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I thought this was an interesting article from the other day talking about comments made by new Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez about income inequality and the hoarding of wealth at the top end of the scale…

As usual, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is right: There should be no billionaires

Just looking at billionaires in the US, there were roughly 540 people back in 2016 with a combined net worth of $2.4 TRILLION!!!

I’m sure you probably recognize the names in the top 5:

  1. Jeff Bezos – $112B
  2. Bill Gates – $90B
  3. Warren Buffett – $84B
  4. Mark Zuckerberg – $71B
  5. Charles Koch – $60B

It’s worth noting that three of the top five have made pledges to donate 99% of their wealth (Gates, Buffett, and Zuckerberg), but what about the other $2.15 trillion spread out among only 537 individuals in the United States? $2+ trillion is more than the GDP of Brazil. Or Canada. Or Russia. Or 180 other countries around the globe!

Put it another way, the average billionaire is worth about $4.1 billion.

The median net worth in America is about $11,000.

On top of that, there’s the old statistic that something like 70% of Americans don’t have $1,000 saved that they could tap in the event of an emergency.

Now I’m not saying the answer is just take it all from the wealthy and redistribute their wealth more evenly – at 350 million people, that would only end up being about seven grand per person!

That said, when do we get to a point where maybe we have to say, “You have way more than enough. Please share with the little guy…”???

A million dollars is something that all of us have fantasized about at one point or another. You can buy things that cost millions of dollars such as mansions and yachts and sports teams and other expensive things that people think about when they dream of being rich.

A billion dollars, on the other hand, in a way just seems silly. You can’t spend a billion dollars on any one thing, or even a whole bunch of things! I would challenge anyone to go to NYC or LA and try to spend a billion dollars without buying companies or whatnot – I don’t think you could do it, and for the people who do, they’re not even doing it themselves because investors always travel in packs. 😛

And sure, that’s the real counter argument – billionaires invest that money into whatever ventures interest them, and it creates jobs, and hopefully additional wealth … but all in the same, it just makes me wonder if all of that is worth it when A) profit is still their primary motive for those investments, and B) we’ve got all sorts of people around this country who are really struggling in one way or another, whether it’s the guy living under a bridge or the family in suburbia embarrassed to apply for food stamps because dad just got laid off from his job.

I don’t claim to know the answers, or even how to connect all of the dots here, but I do believe that if part of our income equality in America stems from CEOs skimping on wages because it’s better for corporate profits, they should be taxed to make up the difference because no one should work a full-time job and still live in poverty in America.

Looking at the math, if 540 people – or 0.000001% of the population – own 3% of the entire nation’s wealth, which expands to over 50% of the nation’s wealth if we widen the net to 5% of the population (17.5 million people) … something’s not right there.

So what do we do about it?

In the interest of encouraging more educated discussion regarding topics of public interest…

Persons will be prohibited from engaging in conversations on a given topic in the event that said person does not possess a level of education on the topic that meets or exceeds the general level of education of the other conversation member(s).

For example, an American with an 8th grade education concerning the subject of human biology shall be permitted to speak on this topic with individuals possessing a general education of 8th grade or lower.

For example, an American with a kindergarten-level education concerning economics shall not be permitted to speak on this topic with individuals possessing graduate or doctorate-level education.

This legislation shall apply to persons of all occupations, income levels, and government positions.

Classy Like John McCain…

August 26, 2018 5:11pm
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I always thought that this was a pretty classy moment during the 2008 campaign when John McCain stood up to his own supporters in defense of Barack Obama. It was something that I’ve NEVER seen another politician do.

And I think it says a lot about the Republican mentality of those whose first action upon news of McCain’s death was to cut him down as less of a soldier, or a veteran, or a politician. That party – and its supporters – could stand to learn a few things from a man like John McCain.

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