Gun Violence Overload

February 17, 2018 2:26am
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My brain is completely fried from everything surrounding this week’s mass shooting at a high school in South Florida.

Yesterday I wrote an essay about my thoughts, which didn’t get the support that I had expected.

Today I spent way more time than I should commenting on threads with people who will never ever ever consider guns to be even one iota of the problem because it’s everybody else’s fault – parents, violence in the media gun-free school zones – you name it, they’ll point the finger and then make sure that we never mention their beloved guns in a negative light on their watch. It’s so apathetic and sad, it leaves me speechless.

When I went to pick Christopher up from school, I couldn’t help but notice that the flagpole out front had the American flag flying at half mast, and I paused for a second to try and figure out how to explain to a four year-old that it was a symbol of respect because a very bad person had hurt some kids at another school.

On the plus side, holding his hand as I walked back through the parking lot to our car renewed my position on this matter because I realized that I’m going to have kids in the public school system for probably the next 15 years and I’ll be damned if I’m going to stand by and just accept that active shooter drills need to be a part of their curriculum because adults can’t get their shit in gear and figure out how to stop bad people from barging into their schools carrying guns.

I’m still VERY ANGRY about the topic, and I’m rapidly losing respect for anyone who shrugs it off and says that there’s nothing we can really do because that’s bullshit and my children deserve better.

It really disgusted me to find before I started writing this that in fact I’ve already written about mass shootings many times before…

I don’t know how we as a nation got to be so lethargic about gun violence, as if it’s just the uncomfortable side of our right to bear arms that we all have to accept in the name of freedom.

The NRA, an organization that as far as I’m concerned should be leading the charge on responsible gun ownership, spends tens of millions of dollars every single year lobbying politicians to steer clear of any legislation even remotely resembling gun control.

And gun sales spike every time there’s a shooting, just like they surged whenever a Republican talked about how Obama was trying to take away our guns when calling that statement an utter lie doesn’t even begin to do it justice.

My mind goes numb just trying to wrap my head around it, but I know that we’ve got to change. We’ve got to have open dialogues about all sorts of ways to combat mass shootings, from mental health to better background checks to more parental awareness, better security in schools, and maybe some guns even need to come off the streets, too.

I know that gun advocates consider that to be treason, but if we can’t even protect our own children in their own schools anymore, we don’t deserve to call ourselves The Land of the Free. 

Kids deserve better from us and adults need to start acting like adults.

When kids who had to hide inside of closets beg on TV for adults to do something, anything to help protect them from all of this senseless violence, every last one of us should be ashamed. 

Parents shouldn’t have to bury their teenagers because you’re too afraid to loosen your grip on the assault rifle that you cuddle with in bed every night out of this paranoid delusion that it’s the only thing protecting you from your government.

The entire world shakes its head and sighs about how pathetic it is that America can’t seem to figure out its gun problem when it has almost as many weapons as it does people and it spends more on its military than it does on taking care of its own people.

America cannot possibly be “the greatest country in the world” when we stand by and do nothing while our kids are murdered at their schools, and I’m tired of listening to people give excuses – young and old, gun owners and paid-off politicians and just crabby Republicans in general – who shrug their shoulders and say, “There’s nothing that we can do…”

Stand up and get the fuck out of the way so that those of us who still care about our kids can do something before even more schoolchildren are chalked up to statistics.

Entertainment vs Politics

September 24, 2017 4:21pm
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I’ve never quite understood the arrogance with which some people cite that celebrities should stay out of politics.

Politics affects all of us whether we’re fast food workers or policemen or teacher or multimillion dollar actors and athletes, and just because they’re lucky enough to have a larger paycheck than the everyday man shouldn’t diminish their right to voice their own political concerns and beliefs.

I think what rubs me the wrong way the most about all those currently up in arms about the football players who’ve chosen to protest by either taking a knee or simply not coming out of the locker room during our national anthem is how crude these so called fans are towards a very real fear for the very people that they idolize. You would think that if someone who you religiously follow every game day took a few minutes before each game to speak out against something as serious as racial inequality and police brutality, then the least a fan could do is take a few minutes to listen.

…and not try to follow this bizarre, Republican talking point about how it makes them unpatriotic and disrespectful to deflect attention away from the real issue at hand…

Of course, Donald Trump came out tweeting all sorts of rage about how horrible these displays are, even calling for the team owners to take a stand and fire these individuals … which is A) ironic, considering the bile and hatred that he tweets on a daily basis, not to mention B) a gross interpretation of the 1st amendment to the Constitution … you know, the thing that soldiers actually fought and died for out on the world’s battlefield.

Now I don’t really care about what the President says because eight months plus an enduring campaign in, we know that his prerogative is to chant out whatever will best get his base riled up.

What I do care about, on the other hand, is his base who stands behind and believes in this mentality that patriotism is about unwavering allegiance and even more importantly, that police brutality is mostly something that black citizens bring upon themselves … blah blah blah … Chicago, black on black violence, etc, etc…

It shows that these people don’t care so much about our actual freedoms as they do about protecting a symbol of our freedoms … one that maybe doesn’t shine quite as brightly as some of us would like to think. But it’s easier to call a professional athlete spoiled and ungrateful across the Internet than it is to accept that racial inequality is still very much alive in this world – even if the only black people you ever encounter in your own little slice of rural America is the ones throwing the pigskin around on TV every Sunday for more money than you’ll ever see in your lifetime.

It says something when no matter how a group of people choose to protest, none of them are “acceptable” to you … protests in the streets are too violent, yet a silent protest before a game is deemed disrespectful. It says that you would prefer just to not hear about their protest at all, which is crude because this is a really important issue to someone you claimed to be a fan of, but it’s also frankly disrespectful to the freedom itself – so which is a grosser crime, making a silent protest of our national anthem or disregarding the very freedom that our national anthem represents???

Not everyone has the luxury to not care about politics, but the least you can do as an American is respect other people’s rights to care about politics themselves for a few minutes before they spend the next two hours risking life and limb to entertain you.

movie thoughts … Transformers: The Last Knight

September 18, 2017 2:43pm
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I remember a time when I actually liked the Transformers movies.

The first one (2007) wasn’t bad – a good, solid action flick with plenty of humor thrown into the mix.

And even the second one (2009) was alright, though I never really cared for the name.

From there, though, is where I feel like this franchise started to go downhill – first with Megan Fox’s replacement in #3, and then with Shia LaBeouf being randomly bumped for Mark Wahlberg in #4.

Just to be absolutely, 100% clear without equivocation – Transformers 5 is a raging dumpster fire that should make every last person who appeared in the credits ashamed, as well as everyone who went to see it in the theater, and oh hell, pretty much everyone who spent their 2 hrs 34 min to watch it EVER.

Spoiler #1 – Marky Mark is “The Last Knight.” Because why have some awesome, giant robot fill that roll when … Mark Wahlberg is around?

Spoiler #2 – He’s every bit as awful as he was in Transformers 4.

I don’t even know what to say about these movies anymore. Continuity is garbage, seeing Wahlberg written as a cooler star than Optimus Freaking Prime is just mind blowing, and the plot reads like somebody just throwing darts at a board, and then remembering that they promised a role to XYZ actor every 30 minutes or so and just penciling them in wherever.

Every time the name Cade Yeager is spoken out loud makes me want to punch an Autobot in the face.

The idea that apparently every historical event ever was won only because of the Transformers reads like a Hasbro wet dream.

Megatron negotiating with lawyers is … not what I want to see a 40-foot evil robot doing in a movie, ever.

Oh yeah, and P.S. This plot about bringing Cybertron to Earth already fucking happened once in Transformers 3!!! But I guess while they needed to teleport the planet back in 2011, now it’s cool for them to just drive it across the universe like a planet-sized taxi cab?!

Also also – drones??? 

You have 40-foot tall fighting robots – why do you also need drones?!

*sigh*

So yeah, the movie is garbage … even moreso than the last one was, and yet it will probably be less garbage than Transformers 6 whenever that comes out, because when it comes to Hollywood, dumpster fires are almost impossible to put out.

On Nazis and Free Speech…

August 19, 2017 12:29am
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So today’s humor column ended up being about Nazis.

I’ve been really flaky with my writing lately for a number of reasons, and the insanity of white supremacist sympathizers across one of our political parties certainly hasn’t helped matters any.

I would’ve never believed that we as a country could become so divided that conservatives would actually side with people waving Nazi flags before they could agree with liberals about the intensity of racism still brewing in our society, and how something as simple as a statue commemorating one of the leaders of the rebellion would still be given a pass when white people carrying torches see it as a symbol worth marching around while calling out for racial purity.

…and how it isn’t painfully clear that this incident was exactly what we feared from electing Donald Trump president, as he felt inclined in his first comments to point out that there were other people doing bad things in the crowd, too, and that there were probably some fine people on both sides of the issue.

Fine people and Nazis are two terms that never belong in the same sentence together.

I’ve seen people arguing for the free speech rights of the Nazis – which doesn’t technically exist if they were inciting violence … something that semi-automatic weapons and torches tend to imply, as far as I’m concerned.

I’ve seen people arguing that the girl who died got what she deserved, whether she shouldn’t have been in the way of the car or shouldn’t have been protesting in the first place … which is just asinine.

I’ve seen people crying that “they don’t know what to say anymore without getting judged” while they constantly and consistently judge and marginalize minorities every other second of their day.

It’s utter madness, and it’s had me thinking a lot about free speech and whether the way we practice it is really in our best interests. I mean, the idea behind not wanting the government to pick and choose who gets to speak seems to be rooted namely under the worry of, “What if I’m next?!” but what if by not citing that certain types of speech are unacceptable under the guise of “freedom,” we’re actually signing our own fate by cultivating the types of thoughts that would take advantage of that freedom for the worse.

For example, hate speech and truly vile thoughts are perfectly protected until one suggests any form of violence, and as a result it gives those ideas the opportunity to manifest until they build numbers strong enough to go out like they did last weekend, and between their own aggressions and those who stood up to them, somebody ended up dying from it…

…and if you watched the special report that VICE did from Charlottesville, at least one of the key players involved didn’t really feel much remorse that it happened.

My point is, by not taking a stronger stance against white supremacy – even just like Germany and some of the neighboring countries did by banning display of any Nazi propaganda in public – is that enough of an open door for them to get their foot wedged in???

And the reason this all scares me is that I know that comparisons to Hitler are very much abused online, but in this case when actual Nazis marched in the streets of an American city, I feel that it’s relevant to bring up – when we see resemblances to Adolf Hitler in Donald Trump and the Republican Party and in these Nazi thugs gathering last weekend, we’re not comparing them to Hitler in his glory days when he was executing his Final Solution and trying to conquer the world, but instead we’re seeing similarities to the years leading up to Hitler’s rise.

Remember that Hitler didn’t take over Germany by force, but very much politically – even running for president, though he didn’t win – by bringing together people with the most extreme views. In Hitler’s case, it was his fellow antisemites and those who believed German blood to be the superior race, whereas since his election we’ve seen Trump propose a ban on Muslims, hostility towards immigrants – both illegal and inadvertently not, declare war against pretty much anyone who disagrees with him – especially the media, and inherently lead his supporters to breed this hatred of other people walking among them who he’s convinced have one way or another marginalized them.

Call them what they are, though they wear it as a badge of honor – by bringing together these deplorables, Trump has groomed himself a small and fiercely loyal group of followers who see him as the last saving grace, aside from the return of Jesus Christ himself, for America. And hence we’re in this bizarre light where nothing he can do is wrong to them – racist and sexist remarks, treasonous behavior, warmongering … and that’s scary when you consider how they all fit into the bigger picture…

  • You have a group of loyal believers to do his bidding.
  • You have a much larger group of complacent followers who hope for change and are willing to look the other way.
  • And you have the rest of us, who he’s essentially cast as the enemy because we believe in facts and education and reason, all of which have no place in his agenda that is based primarily on filtering money and power up to a mighty few business elites at the top of the chain – all else be damned.

I’d have had a little more respect for Donald Trump if he had done what any sensical leader would do and fiercely condemn any mention of Nazi beliefs from the first moment that they hit the airwaves, but instead he hemmed and hawed and rubbed his toe in the earth because as much of an idiot as Trump is, he no doubt realizes that those people are also Trump voters … and he needs them.

Ultimately for what, it makes me afraid to imagine.

Today I picked up a few donuts from Dunkin’ Donuts through the drive-thru, and they messed up my order.

Even after correcting it at the window, there was still a mistake but I had already driven off and it wasn’t worth turning around to go back, yet it reminded me of that classic argument against raising the minimum wage that goes something like – “If you can’t even get my fast food order right, why in the world should you get paid $15/hour?!”

I spent some time pondering this during my drive, and here’s what I came up with…

First and foremost is simply that everyone makes mistakes at their job, with many being a lot more serious than overlooking the occasional chocolate-frosted donut. I work with databases and statistics for my day job and there are plenty of instances where a number gets transposed or a query is missing a clause that produces inaccurate results, yet the immediate reaction isn’t typically that I don’t deserve to be paid a living wage for my work because I’m just so stupid.

Because that’s what the minimum wage is intended to be – a livable standard for what employers are required to pay their workers for an honest day’s work. And while you can argue that frying donuts and the like are minimally valued skills, tell that to the corporations that make billions of dollars each year off of those workers’ efforts.

Along those same lines, though, I got to thinking about what causes people to make mistakes at work and I would bet my missing chocolate donut that understaffing plays a significant factor because anytime that I go to a fast food restaurant, the employees seem to be running around like crazy between all of the various tasks that they need to cover. In fact, never having worked fast food myself, it consistently shocks me to see that the same person taking orders is the same person filling drinks, taking money, and rounding up your order from the various stations, too.

Think about it – most fast food restaurants have a separate window first to pay at, but instead more often than not there’s just a sign posted telling you to move to the next window.

Clearly it was the original intention to have two separate roles, yet at some point in fast food land they decided to consolidate the work onto a single person … but I’ll bet they didn’t also consolidate the pay between those two jobs in turn!

It’s really the same thing we see happening in almost every industry – workers being expected to do more work with less time and resources – and yet service industry workers seem to be given a harder time over slipping up when there’s literally too many things on their plate to get every order exactly right.

So ultimately I think that the two issues here are completely separate – if an employee doesn’t consistently perform, it could be that the person just isn’t paying attention OR it could be that the work is being mismanaged and the workers aren’t being setup to succeed in the first place. In a way, is it really fair to hold the worker responsible for a wrong order when they were also being barked at to get the restroom cleaned and take care of the people at the counter and don’t forget to take their 15-minute break while they’re at it because the boss ain’t paying no overtime?!

The minimum wage angle, on the other hand, to me is really simple – if your employees can’t make ends meet on what you’re paying them, you’re not paying them enough, and if you can’t afford to pay them any more, then your business model is flawed and you shouldn’t be in business.

Separate issues, and as an aside I also tend to think that if we were a bit nicer to fast food workers in general, they might be more likely to get our orders right than shouting for their termination because our iced coffee got made with skim milk instead of 2% like we’d shouted into the unintelligible speaker box 90 seconds ago. 😛

Digital Frustrations

June 26, 2017 9:01pm
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So I got this message saying that the YouTube app won’t work on the TV in our bedroom after the end of this month, and in a way it’s kind of frustrating and at the same time I kind of get it… 😕

It bugs me that this is supposed to be a Smart TV, and it’s not that old – I bought it in 2013 – and yet a good number of the apps that it used to support have already been discontinued. I didn’t really care about the Twitter app because who uses Twitter from their phone?!, but I use the YouTube app quite a bit, actually!

On the other hand, I know that in this case the specific reason why the YouTube app is being discontinued is because YouTube is finally dropping support for their Flash-based apps and requiring HTML5 only, which is a significant change, and apparently one that Samsung is saying this model of TV simply can’t support. Not a huge surprise considering that the TV only has a single-core processor, whereas my first iPhone (an iPhone 4) came with a dual-core processor and the latest iPhone 7 models are now up to quad-core processors…

…in fact, I’m pretty sure that the curved, 4k tv that I bought the following year for our living room has a quad-core processor…

In a way, it’s the same frustration that I have with the handful of apps on my iPhone that no longer work with the current version of iOS. Knowing how app producers seem to come and go like the wind, it’s not really a huge shocker that these companies knocking out apps for $0.99, or even $4.99 – $9.99, aren’t making much effort to keep them compatible with future versions of iOS and Android. In many cases, I’m sure that some of them have already gone out of business by the time these newer versions come along!

And so just like I can’t very well expect my old NES cartridges to play on my Wii or Wii U, I get that companies want to focus on the latest and greatest. But I think it’s aggravating when the media remains the same across generations – like DVDs for PS2 – PS4 or digital for iOS – because at least when we used cartridges it was obvious that the old carts just wouldn’t fit in the new systems. 😛

It’s just tough because in an increasingly digital world as we purchase more and more digital content, we’re faced with this virtual tug-of-war where we have to keep purchasing either hardware or software over and over again to continue enjoying our original purchases. At least with my old Nintendo, I can still plug my NES into the TV and try blowing into those cartridges until they finally work, but I’m not necessarily going to keep an old iPhone handy just so that I can play the Oregon Trail app that I bought a few years ago and now can’t handle Apple’s latest release.

The same goes for my TV – I wouldn’t go out and buy a whole new TV just because one channel stopped being compatible with it, yet that’s kind of what I’m faced now if I want to watch YouTube videos in bed anymore.

Sure, I could get a Roku box or even dig out my AppleTV … if that supports the app update … but the native app on the TV itself was so much easier.

I really liked this image I found on Facebook earlier today defining Gay Pride vs. Straight Pride because I’m sad to admit that I’ve had the “straight pride” argument with family members and some of them just really can’t seem to get beyond themselves to understand what the entire movement is actually about.

Gay people aren’t trying to flaunt their sexuality or push themselves upon you, but the fact that people are still uncomfortable by something as simple as gay people holding hands or kissing in public or wearing matching rainbow shirts is a great introduction to why this kind of thing is still necessary in the first place.

I’ll be honest – I don’t know a lot of gay people.

I know some, but the overwhelming majority are still straight, and yet LGBT rights are important to me because it sickens me that another couple could get harassed, threatened, or even killed walking down the street just holding hands or showing affection – the same as I do with my wife without a second thought.

And it really grinds my gears when people argue that gay rights isn’t something that affects them or that they don’t have time to worry about it because they’re trying to keep food on the table because as far as I’m concerned, if we’re not willing to stand up for equal rights in our country, none of the rest of it even matters.

Even if you live in a small town like I used to where the population is 99% white and 100% straight (or so you think…), gay rights matter because people are people, and nobody deserves to be treated like a second-class citizen because of who they love. If advocating for their equality bothers you, then you’re part of the problem.

I get that it’s challenging to understand how marginalized a group of people is if you’ve never felt that way yourself, but sometimes I feel like some people among us aren’t even trying.

Today I came across some outrage on Facebook about Harvard offering a black-only graduation ceremony to complement its traditional ceremony, which was of course interpreted as reverse racism because these African American students wished to have an event that specifically excluded white students…

…and mind you, that wasn’t exactly true

…but nonetheless, the misunderstanding of embracing one’s culture versus intentional segregation continues to leave a scathing mark on a white culture that still doesn’t seem to grasp how its own actions, both historical and up to the present, are what’s led us to this racial divide in the first place.

Actually pay attention to the news and make a tally of how many unarmed white children today are killed by police officers thinking they’re a threat to society. Look across your Facebook feed and see how many people are outraged by Kathy Griffin’s weird beheading photo shoot last week and then ask how many were equally outraged by all of the anti-black rhetoric aimed at President Obama during his presidency.

In my own world of writing and words, take a look at the most offensive word of all – the n-word – and acknowledge how unlike other words like fuck and cunt, we don’t even say the word because that’s how ugly of a history it has…

This is a group of people who haven’t had to deal with slavery and segregation directly, yet still feel its hateful burn a hundred years after the fact, and they have to cope with people who claim that racism isn’t even a problem in America anymore all the while banners of the confederacy still fly in some states, and marginalized glares are felt in neighborhoods across the country, and sometimes people hang nooses from trees … but it’s only a joke, so maybe they should just lighten up?!

Fuck that noise.

The difference between black people and white people celebrating their heritages and cultures is that, until the end of time, there will forever always be a scar on black heritage caused by a point in time where white people deemed them less than human, and it’s a scar that white people must work to mend every single today on behalf of our ancestors.

For some of us, this is less of a big deal than others and we welcome our African American friends with open arms, but others want to fight – everything has to be a fight … to slouch blame or to deny injustices that are still very present in our world because personally they’re not directly at fault.

Like many problems that face our society today, racism is complicated and it’s unpleasant to talk about, but every time a white person wants to fuss about how only minorities can celebrate their pride or how they’re not the ones who had slaves, they only serve to cement the issues deeper in modern times instead of actually acknowledging them and trying to move forward as best we can.

Whoever came up with the term reverse racism is living in denial of the actual origins of racism, and frankly I’m tired to having to explain injustice to smart people who are acting emotionally stupid about this issue that is way bigger than they think it to be.

So I read a guest column in the Orlando Sentinel – a newspaper that I normally respect – that pitched this tired allegation once again that at the end of the day, Democrats are just sore losers who will stop at nothing to avoid admitting that we lost the election…

…even if it means taking down the president as a result…

And I can’t help but just laugh and laugh and laugh at that hypocritical perspective after all that we’ve endured from the Republican line during President Obama’s time in office:

  • Three years of demands to see Obama’s birth certificate, then his long form birth certificate, under allegations that he was born in Kenya and not Hawaii.
  • Three years and seven investigations into the attacks on the US consulate in Benghazi on Sept. 11, 2012.
  • Over 50 attempts by the House to repeal, dismantle, or otherwise defund the Affordable Care Act since it was signed into law in 2010.

Just for the record, Donald Trump got elected 187 days ago and has now been in office for 113 days.

I won’t even argue with the merits of each of those efforts … except for the birther movement because that was just ridiculous … but for Benghazi and critiques over the ACA – fine. Republican representatives had concerns and were obligated by their constituents to see them through, albeit excessively, but still…

Three years to investigate an attack 8,000 miles away in which four Americans lost their lives.

Five years to fight a healthcare bill that has affected the lives of tens of millions of Americans, both for better and for worse.

But now it’s suddenly excessive to spend barely than six months looking into whether there was influence from another nation that compromised the election of the President of the United States?!

Now that the shoe is on the other foot, it’s time for us to put this pettiness behind us and come together to support our President … who may have been installed by a foreign government, but probably wasn’t … we’ll just have to trust him despite not having given any reason to date why we actually should!

No. Just no.

You don’t get to dig in your heels for every passionate argument that your side had during the last eight years and then call the other side a bunch of crybabies when they raise question asking for a similar level of scrutiny. Especially after Donald Trump has done more to act suspicious – like firing the guy leading the investigation against him – than all of the “We need to pass the bill to know what’s in the bill!” and “If you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor!” you can throw at the Obama administration.

Just like you wanted to know whether those four lives in Benghazi were lost due to negligence, we want to know if Donald Trump is a legitimate president because for all of the talk the Republican party makes about concerns over voter fraud, they sure haven’t seemed too concerned with this notion that a foreign entity may have dipped its hands in our election.

Maybe they’re not so concerned because it resulted in their guy beating Hillary, but the integrity of our election should be worth more than either candidate.

So come back to me in 3 – 5 years if we’re still beating this drum and are just unwilling to accept the numerous facts laid out around us, but for now stop acting like a bunch of babies and let your president stand up to the level of scrutiny that ANYONE in the highest office in our nation should be able to handle.

Healthcare By Any Other Name

May 6, 2017 6:33pm
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This article from a few years ago from the Huffington Post said it pretty well, but in reading all of the back and forth about the GOP’s new “healthcare” bill that passed the House the other day, I can’t for the life of me understand why everyone who supported it didn’t fight back hard on the simple use of referring to the Affordable Care Act by its formal name rather than the nickname it was given as a jab by its opposition.

By adopting the name Obamacare, it was basically giving the Republican party a free shot to take at the legislation that anyone who hated President Obama could easily get behind, regardless of actual content. We saw that last year when voters were quoted as not understanding that Obamacare and the Affordable Care Act were literally the same thing!

From politicians to the media, and trickling down to your average Joe on Facebook, this would’ve been such an easy perception to control if every time someone tried to call it Obamacare in discussion, the other party corrected them and called the law by its proper name. It was always meant to be a slam by the Republicans, so make them own it alone and separate the language from the president to better represent what the bill’s actual goal was all along – providing better access to healthcare for all Americans.

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