Dominica Bound

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6 months ago I had never heard of the Caribbean island nation of Dominica, Wednesday–if all goes as planned–I’ll be touching down at Dominica’s main airport.

Sometime around Thanksgiving my partner suggested that we go to Costa Rica in the Spring. I checked into it and found that my (somewhat) recent marijuana conviction prevents me from going there until 2021. That seemed like a lot of time to wait to go on vacation, so we looked around for an alternative. My partner’s friend suggested Dominica as that alternative.

Dominica? Where the hell is that? Well, as I discovered it is a small (15×30 mile) island state in the Southern Caribbean. Depending how you measure, it is either the northernmost of the Windward Islands or the southernmost of the Leeward Islands. It’s Western side is in the Caribbean while its Eastern shore is in the Atlantic. It lacks the white sand beaches of some of the other islands in its neighborhood, as such it has been left relatively untouched and is still mostly covered in rainforest.

You can rent a house in Dominica cheaper than you can get a Motel 6 in the US. So we (My GF Flow and my brother Mike) are going to spend 2 weeks. We have a place on the West side for a week and a place on the East for another week.

A few of the activities that I am looking forward to are: hiking, bird watching, photography, native crafts, whale watching, snorkeling, canyoning, tubing, and checking out the waterfalls, native cuisine, hotsprings,  and just generally immersing myself in a foreign culture for two weeks. Due to cruise ships, 99% of the visitors to the island stay for only half a day, so we will definitely be the exception to the typical Dominican tourists.

Both places we are staying (allegedly) have internet so I should be able to blog the trip and then per my usual MO pull it together into one narrative post after I am back and settled.

Choosing the Lesser of 2 Evils is Still Choosing Evil

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Unless something drastic changes between now and November it seems that we will have a choice between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. Much has been written about the perils of a Trump presidency, I am going to assume that the reader is familiar with this information and focus on something that has gotten a lot less attention, the perils of a Clinton presidency.

The last time that I voted for president was 1992, it was Bill Clinton’s first term and after 12 years of Reagan/Bush the Elder, I and the majority of the country was ready for a change. Clinton, the man from Hope, offered a positive vision with imagery of a bridge to the 21st century. So I cast my vote based on that vision. Three hours after being sworn in, Clinton bombed Iraq, a symbol to the world and the nation that nothing had changed. We had a new regime in Washington but, in the end, nothing had changed. Those continued bombings of Iraq (which Clinton continued for 8 years) along with economic and trade sanctions were responsible for the deaths of at least half a million Iraqi children. I had chosen the lesser of two evils, but through my actions I had allowed evil to continue and even to flourish.

I decided that day to never again vote for a candidate that I did not want to win.  Until recently I lived in California, the primaries were decided before we ever cast a vote, so I have not voted for a presidential candidate since then. This election cycle, I find myself living in a state with earlier primaries and I did cast a vote in them. I chose Martin O’Malley even though he had dropped out of the race a month earlier, none of the other candidates met my criteria.

Being a social liberal, I have many lefty friends who argue that not voting for Hillary is a vote for Trump. Trump has proven himself to be a racist misogynist who promotes violence, obviously choosing Trump would be choosing evil. (I am not here arguing that being a violent racist misogynist rises to the level of evil, one of my best friends fits these criteria and I don’t consider him evil. However, placing one with these views in the most powerful office on the planet does rise to the level of evil.)

To get back to our original topic, does voting for Hillary equate with choosing evil?

The best argument Hillary has is that she would offer 4 years similar to Obama’s presidency. It is common knowledge that on most domestic issues Hillary is slightly to the left of Obama, but on foreign policy she sits somewhere between the two Bushes.

We all know that Hillary voted for the Iraq war and defended that stance until fairly recently. She was a driving force for our involvement in Libya, when presented with the clusterfuck that Libya has descended into she laughingly said of Qaddafi, “We came, we saw, he died.” Probably the most damning thing against Hillary is her reliance upon and claimed friendship of the war criminal Kissinger, this alone should disqualify her from the presidency.

Here is a short list of other things that illustrate the type of president Hillary would make:

  • She Supported welfare reform which sharply increased deep poverty in the US;
  • She opposes the reinstatement of Glass-Steagall;
  • She received millions of dollars in wall street donations (see previous point);
  • She actively supported the 3 strikes legislation of her husband; and
  • She operated the “Bimbo Eruption Squad” during her husband’s campaign and presidency, which attempted to shame women who had been preyed upon by her husband.

For these reasons, it is my belief that choosing Hillary Clinton is, in fact, choosing evil.

Party Before Country

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I watched most of the Fox News Republican debate last night from Detroit. My take away is that these folks don’t care about our country and it is all about posturing to attain personal power.

Cruz and Rubio took turns using Trump as a punching bag. The insults were fast and furious…con man, charlatan, unhinged, pathological, liar, racist, blowhard, dangerous, fraudulent, phony, too old, Rubio even brought up Trump’s penis size (I am waiting to see politifact chasing Trump around with a ruler to fact check that one).

All of these insults may have a basis in fact (I don’t know and don’t want to know about the penis size), and should probably disqualify someone from being president. But when the debate was all said and done…both Cruz and Rubio announced that they would support Trump if he got the nomination. WTF? I can’t trust anyone to be president who would support a con man or a charlatan, or a dangerous fraudulent phony who is too old to be president to hold the highest office in the land. The debate last night only served to disqualify at least 3 of the candidates (I am unsure if Kasich should be disqualified, he didn’t leverage the insults against Trump and may not believe them to be true). But certainly, Trump, Cruz, and Rubio are unfit to be president.

An Unpopular Post

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This post is in response to the KKK rally and resultant riot in Anaheim today.

I would like to open by stating unequivocally that I oppose the Klan and its beliefs in all of their forms in the strongest manner possible. They and their adherents are despicable and their ideas can and must be challenged whenever and wherever they raise their head.

However, I also firmly believe that it is not the popular speech that needs protecting.

The LA Times has an article describing a large crowd of counter-protesters swarming the much smaller group of klansmen with weapons and fists and dragging at least one to the ground. Three people were stabbed at least one counter-protester was stabbed with a Klansman’s flag pole/spear. The spear wielding klansman and an unannounced number of counter-protesters were arrested. This is early and some of these “facts” are bound to change. The rest of this post is based upon these early reports and a change in the “facts” may change the sincerity of what I am about to say.

Two things strike me about this incident that may be unpopular to state. First, the spear wielding klansman should be promptly released from custody. You do not need the law to grant you the right to defend your person, it is an unalienable right. Secondly, and probably more controversially, any of the counter-protesters who took place in the attack should be charged with a hate crime. Allow me to expound on this second point below.

I oppose the very concept of hate crimes and believe they should be repealed. Hate crime legislation is thought crime legislation and has no place in a free society. If a group attacks and injures or kills a man leaving a bar, I am not particularly concerned with the “why” as I am with the “what”. It doesn’t matter to me what the thinking process that led to the attack was and I fail to understand why it is worse if the reason is that the attackers hated gays or blacks or whatever than if the reason is that the attackers just wanted to see what blood looks like seeping into the ground. There are already laws on the book making it illegal to attack/kill people, the judge has some leeway in sentencing in which to consider motive and relate it to length and severity of punishment; we do not need to add another crime making their thoughts illegal too.

However, if we are going to have laws on the books to protect certain classes, I can think of no group as hated as the klan nor one more in need of protection.

The first amendment needs protecting, even for these abhorrent people. This is not to say that their statements should go unchallenged. For example: a counter march across town, a picnic, a celebration that these cretins can only muster 5 people should be enjoyed by the masses. We should celebrate how far we have come and strategize on the ways to move further toward the ideal. I think it is only fair to assume that a celebration of 1000 or more will get more publicity than a sad pathetic group of 4 or 5 speaking to no one will.

The klan is a group based on hatred. But when I see pictures of the faces of the counter protesters as they surge for the attack, I feel like an animal at the end of Animal Farm peering through the window; I can not be sure who is the pig and who is the human.

Agree? Disagree? Let me know in the comments, don’t forget to include why.

TL/DR: Hatred should be opposed in all of its forms. We already have laws targeting specific actions, we do not need specific laws targeting thoughts.

 

One frocked up election

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Or, perhaps, the most frocked up.

Up until two years ago I spent 18 years in California. Before we ever got to vote the primaries would already be decided and we would be presented with tweedledee and tweedledum. It is a farce, everyone knows it and very few care. I would end up simply not voting.

Since then I’ve moved to Missouri which has comparatively  early primaries, I thought this election might be different, a real choice for a change. I liked the Democrats’ Lessig and OMalley and I found the Republicans’ Kasich was at least saying some of the right stuff.

Of course, the media excluded Lessig from consideration and OMalley gained no traction in the whitest of white early states. Meanwhile Kasich is still in the race but has been sidelined by those very same states. So even though we are still 3 weeks away from voting, every candidate that I could consider backing has already been excluded from the race.

But wait, the reader states, there are still choices, we have Clinton, Sanders, Cruz, Rubio, and Trump; there are still choices to be made. Let’s take a look at these choices, for entertainment’s sake we will look at them in reverse alphabetical order.

Donald Trump: A nationalistic populist. With no political history we can only guess how he would govern. Over the years he was swayed back and forth on every issue, all we know for sure is that he is (or at least acts like) a racist intent on stoking racial violence.

Bernie Sanders: A geriatric democratic socialist with a lifetime in politics. He says all of the right things about campaign finance reform, healthcare, and banking reform but does not appear to have put much thought into energy policy, foreign affairs, or many other important topics that the next president will have to deal with. He is already 74 years old and probably not very agile at taking in new information and processing it.

Marco Rubio: A first term Senator without a single accomplishment on which to stake a claim. His rhetoric makes him the most anti-libertarian candidate in the field, he is a classic neo-con.

Ted Cruz: A first term Senator known more for what he opposes than for what he believes. He is the obligatory paleo-conservative in the race. This is the same role played by Huckabee and Santorum in the past. If it wasn’t for our broken campaign system he would already be back dragging the Senate down.

Hillary Clinton: The most Nixonian candidate since Nixon, she touts Kissinger as someone to look up to. She also is a classic neo-con and has vowed to get us into more wars while taking away more rights. She has not spent a single day of her adult life scandal free but she blames everyone else and never once takes a look in the mirror. She, like Rubio, would further extend the Bush/Obama doctrine of executive overreach and denial of habeas corpus.

And that’s it, those are our choices. WTF? This is the best we can do? A nation of 320 million people and this is it? There is an old saw that we get the politicians that we deserve, if there is any truth to this, we truly are a debased and facile nation.

It appears that I will be sitting another election out.

It’s Not You, Hillary. It’s Bill.

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For women and women’s power, Hillary being the front runner in the Democratic primaries is a momentous occasion. Hillary could be the first female president in our nation’s 240 year history. No one can doubt the momentous nature of the moment.

But just as Hillary’s candidacy is momentous for women, it is equally disastrous for men. Wait. Hear me out. This isn’t about Hillary, it is about Bill. We could get our very first First Gentleman in our nation’s history, a very big moment indeed for men. But we don’t get to choose our First Gentleman, we are saddled with whomever the presidential aspirant drags along. And in this case, it is Bill; to state that he is not representative of the best that men offer is a gross understatement. As a man, it pains me that Bill may become the representative of men of our generation in future history texts.

I can hear the reader stating that this is preposterous, but allow me to demonstrate with a small thought experiment and you will surely agree with me.

Imagine that the roles were reversed. If we had a man running for president and his wife was as deplorable as Bill. Many many affairs, numerous rape accusations, a documented one-sided affair with a person of vastly inferior standing. All documented and played out in public for the world to see. What would be our views of this woman? Would she serve as a role model for young women? Is it different when it is the First Gentleman instead of the First Lady?

After 240 years men may be about to achieve, for the very first time, a First Gentleman, surely we can do better than Bill. If we can’t do better than Bill at present, then it would be far better to wait. Far better to wait, to postpone this historic moment until a better candidate for the first First Gentleman comes along. After all, we only get the opportunity for the first First Gentleman once, do we want to blow this historic opportunity on Bill Clinton (pun unintended and kind of gross)?

Iowa Caucus Day…We Are So Screwed

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Neither party speak to me; a social liberal, fiscal radical, who opposes empire in all of its forms. With that said, I could probably get behind Sanders if he weren’t so old. Despite Bernie’s supporters excitement, if he loses today in Iowa then he will only win New Hampshire, Clinton will sweep the rest. It seems highly likely from today’s vantage point that the election will boil down to Hillary against Trump. While they both have supporters within their parties, they also have large negative ratings. This raises the question, at what level is voter turnout so low that the election is deemed illegitimate?

Trumps negatives sit at 60% and Hillary is not far behind at 52% while a whopping 70% view her as being dishonest. Nobody has ever been elected (or re-elected) president with negatives above half. With Hillary against Trump, this election year will be the first as it appears that one of these lying conniving dishonest people will be president…whether the majority likes it or not. My prognostications: Trump wins the first four states quite handily and goes on to get the nomination. Bernie comes close in Iowa, wins New Hampshire, and never reaches 30% in any other state. Trump and Hillary slug it out in the general election…negatives for each increase…and voter turnout barely exceeds 40%. (Lowest turnout ever was 49% in both 1996 and 1924.)

So the question remains, if 6 out of 10 voters stay home on election day, can the election be deemed legitimate? What do you think?

Guns, gun control, and their discontents

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I’ll be up front; I don’t give a fuck about folks’ right to own guns. I do, however, care a lot for a little old thing called the Bill of Rights. To weaken any of its protections is to weaken them all. The Second Amendment has already been weakened to mean only guns. 2nd Amendment crusaders are effectively gun crusaders. The 2nd Amendment refers to “Arms” with no reference to guns. The gun nuts stood by while daggers, spears, blow-guns, swords, nunchuks, crossbows, switchblades, blackjacks, throwing stars, etc… were made illegal (this short, off the top of my head, list  are all illegal in the US or parts of the US.)

A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

No mention of guns, but if arms includes guns, logic dictates that it also means every arm less lethal than the most deadly firearm that we qualify for protection. With this understanding, it is clear that we have already lost 99% of our 2nd Amendment protections. Gun nuts do not care about the 2nd Amendment, they care about guns, machismo, and a pseudo-patriotism (which serves to justify the other two.)

That leaves me very little sympathy for the NRA and its minions.

On the other hand, behind the histrionics of the other side of the debate, is little else other than anti-ruralism.

Some numbers may help to illustrate this. Guns account for approximately 36000 deaths, 60% of these are suicides and 3 percent are accidental. This leaves around 13500 gun homicides a year.  As many people die from automobiles, falls, or accidental poisoning as die from all of guns and suicide exceeds them all. All of these other dangers can be lessened without infringing further on the Bill of Rights. If you really cared about saving lives, why not reach for the low baring fruit? Mostly because the anti-gun folks aren’t as anti-gun as they are anti-gun culture.

So, neither side really garners sympathy while both support the Orwellian concept of a national database of the mentally ill. This leaves me in the awkward position of not caring about guns while simultaneously opposing further restrictions on them.

In short, gun nuts need to become weapons nuts to gain my sympathy, while anti-gun nuts need to amend the Constitution to gain my sympathy. Until then, I can only feel contempt for both sides of the debate.

Short Note on Terrorism and Encryption

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When the Paris attacks occurred, “security” agencies on both sides of the Atlantic jumped into the media spotlight to declare that encryption had helped the terrorist planning remain secret. Their spokespeople in the media (see NYTimes, etc…) were quick to jump in making unfounded claims based on secret sources. As time went on these early stories were retracted, or as the case of the NYTimes, simply pulled without comment.

Then a text was found on a terrorist’s phone in clear text. The tech privacy/security community was quick to jump out with their own claims that the terrorists did not use encryption.

Both sides are wrong and both of their arguments are red herrings, they both do a dis-service to those they claim to represent.

Let’s start with the privacy advocates’ arguments. All that we know is that the terrorists sent at least one message unencrypted, we do not know anything of the (probably many) messages sent previously. To focus on the fact that they did not use encryption (when logic tells us that they probably did) makes it seem that if they had used encryption then it would be alright to call for governmental back doors to its use. Refusing to enter the sty with the 3 letter agencies would have been the better course, for when it is eventually proven that the terrorists did in fact use encryption for some communications, the argument is lost.

The NSA/GCHQ/FBI arguments for back doors is based on a false dilemma. When these agencies make  claims that terrorists used encryption the correct response is not “did not”, but instead “so what!”. So what if they did use encryption? That does not lead to the conclusion that no one else can use secure communications.  Without privacy there can be no freedom, each is contingent upon the other. These terrorists traveled by train, should we make travel by train illegal? These terrorists had passports, they could not have accomplished their deed without these passports, should we outlaw passports? This is preposterous, it is as preposterous as the claims that secure communications should be banned because the terrorists used it.

I have a right to secure communication and privacy. If I choose to encrypt the data on my phone, my tablet, my computer; then that is my choice [edit: same as whether I choose to lock my house and car]. The government does not have a right to a back door to that data [nor keys to my house]. The privacy advocates argue that any governmental back door could be exploited by bad actors and should therefore not be mandated. I would take a different tack, and argue that the government has no right or authority to demand a back door, even if it could be proven that others could not exploit it. It is my nature endowed right to privacy to have my data secured and my communications private, period.

I recommend Wickr for secure communications. Wickr is encrypted messaging and is available for Windows, Linux, OSX, Android, and iOS. It is easy to use and free for personal use. You can message me at user “foggytown”

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