Numbers in Glass

Recently, I took my family on an epic tour of the eastern United States.  We saw many things, most of which was meticulously planned over the course of several months.  But I discovered that the most meaningful was not that which was planned, but something that was found by accident. Something that my months of research missed.

We were in Boston. A city I have long wanted to visit, a city that I immediately fell in love with, a city which I will visit again. The plan for Boston was simple, walk the Freedom Trail. See where our country began. The sites, still standing, which marked the beginning of our Revolution.  It was warm that day, very warm. My children were growing tired. We had reached the Old State House, the location where the Boston Massacre occurred. They couldn’t go any further. They were hot, and tired. The two miles left on the trail was simply out of the question. Reluctantly, I agreed with my husband to leave the trail and head back to our car. Thus, we turned up Congress Street to head to our parking garage on Sudbury.  And that’s when we found it. 6 glass towers, rising 54 feet. Each tower stood atop a grate, releasing steam from the glowing coals beneath. One would think that adding steam to a hot summer day would be oppressive. Instead, as I walked through those towers I was no longer hot, but chilled.

Numbers on Glass

This one time, I want you to not look at the big picture.  Instead look closer. Ignore the city beyond the glass. Past even, the poignant words etched in black. Closer. Do you see it? I’ll help you.

Numbers on Glass

Numbers in glass. 132 panels of numbers etched in glass. A fraction of what occurred. Each number, a representation of something that should be much more than a mere number in glass. A life. Millions of lives. Reduced to nothing more than a number etched in glass. It was a powerful site to see. Humbling. Tragic. And in the light of the events of this weekend, all the more poignant. Because as we sit in the comfort of our homes, watching with horror and outrage at the events unfolding, we all too easily forget that this has happened before.

The events in Virginia are sadly, nothing new. Not to the world, not to America. They are, frankly, all too common. But we have the benefit, now in 2017, to look at the past and learn from it. We have the power to not allow the past to repeat itself.  We have an OBLIGATION to do so.  We, especially all white people, are OBLIGATED to speak against the events in Virginia. But none of this ‘both sides’ nonsense.  We must speak out against the protest began with the angry white men. Nazis. We cannot allow this to be simply shrugged away under the guise of free speech. It is time for the Confederacy to die. For Nazism to die.  We must rise up against these ideas. We cannot allow it to be someone’s ‘opinion.’ It cannot, now, nor ever again, be tolerated. In any form. We must stand up and shout, “NEVER AGAIN.” And we must mean it. We, not a single one of us, can afford to be silent on this. We cannot excuse it away. Condemn it, every one of you. Loudly. Publicly. Because if you do not, then you are complicit in what follows. Intentions matter for shit if you aren’t willing to stand up when things go sideways.  I don’t care about your vote. I don’t care about your ‘intent.’ STAND UP!!

This has all happened before. And if we are not careful, it WILL happen again. Because this is how it begins. EVERY. TIME.


With angry white men. EVERY. TIME. If we don’t stand up and condemn it now, then we are well and truly lost. And so is the dream of America. As long as we allow for this we cannot, nor will we ever, be ‘great.’ The problem with America isn’t immigration. It isn’t LGBTQ persons. It isn’t Muslims, or Atheists, or Liberals. It isn’t BLM. It’s this:


This right here. And our silence which allows it to march through our streets because ‘free speech,’ and ‘everyone is entitled to their opinion.’ NO! No, they are not entitled to the opinion that numerous groups of people don’t have the right to exist. The opinion that the color of one’s skin makes them less than.  The idea of white supremacy. Such ideas are not only anathema to the ideas upon which America was supposedly founded upon, but to humanity in general.  For as long as we allow for these ideas to exist, we will always end up here.  Always.

Eighteen million. Let that sink in. Eighteen million lives lost in those camps. Jews, Romani, Slavs, People of Color, Homosexuals.  Gone. Erased. Because these ideas were allowed to continue.  Because far too many refused to take a stand against it. And the reasons why they refused to stand up don’t matter a whole hell of a lot in regards to what was lost.  Yes, many of those that stood joined those numbers in glass. But I know I would rather be a number in glass, then one who refused to speak against true evil. Because even those who were too afraid to speak up are complicit it what occurred.

We must stand. We must speak. Because we have seen where silence leads. What does it say about us as a nation, as a people, as a human being if we do not stand now? If we do not decry what occurred in Virginia this weekend? If we allow this to be tolerated? If we are complacent? Because this is how it begins. Every time. This is how it always began. And this is how it ends.


With numbers in glass.


Death of Liberty

“So this is how liberty dies…with thunderous applause.”

The greatest danger often lies in the seemingly insignificant.  In the 14th Century rats and sea travel went hand in hand. It was just generally accepted as the way things were. Not worthy of a second thought…or even a thought at all. Yet, this seemingly insignificant fact of life destroyed nearly three quarters of the European population. More recently, the assassination of a relatively minor European noble, seemingly insignificant in and of itself, sparked what was known at the time as, “The war to end all wars.” Or, an upstart charismatic Austrian who had no real chance of attaining power in Germany eventually committing the single greatest atrocity in all of human history.

In other words, we often minimize the real threat to our humanity.  We laugh it off as impossible. Then, as we lay dying, wonder how the hell we got here. Time and time again, this phenomenon occurs throughout human history. Once the smoke clears, we swear we have learned our lesson. This will never happen again. Until the cycle repeats and it happens again.

The oft repeated line, “Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it,” is ironically given both great thought and routinely ignored.  We read and share Santayana’s great truth while simultaneously ignoring the warning. We see the horrors of the past and chant, “Never again,” while failing to see the symptoms and events in our own society making such atrocity possible. Thus, history repeats itself, and once again we are left wondering how the hell we got here. And yet, future generations look at the patterns and wonder how the hell we missed it. It was so blatantly apparent.

It wasn’t that no one saw the danger, but they were a small minority. It wasn’t that the majority were inherently evil. They were, in fact, just average human beings who were misled. The combination of charisma, economic disparity (real or imagined), and manufactured fear can easily lead once noble humans down the wrong path. It has happened frequently throughout history. It is happening again.

There is truth to Goodwin’s law and the reason is a simple one. Take a speech from any politician compare it to any speech of Hitler’s and you will find striking similarities. This is because there was a lot of truth behind Hitler’s rhetoric. He frequently addressed the truly dire straits that was the German economy. He correctly addressed the raw deal Germany received from the Treaty of Versailles. (It should be noted, the sanctions taken against Germany was not without good reason. But, many Germans felt screwed over by the treaty and Hitler, brilliantly, used this to his advantage.) We view Hitler as the ultimate evil.  Thus, view everything that came from him as inherently insidious.  It is much more complicated. Hitler was a very charismatic man and a gifted orator.  In fact, he was quite correct in identifying Germany’s problems. From the economy, to the lopsided treaty, to the weakness of the Weimar Republic…he was right. He was, however, grossly wrong in the cause of these problems. At the same time, he gave the people exactly what they wanted. Someone to blame.

To me, the parallels are obvious. Completely separate from Goodwin’s law.  I see and understand the faults inherent within humanity which can lead to such horror. There are serious problems in our society, and Mr. Trump accurately depicts many of them.  When people are hurting we actively search for someone to blame for our misfortunes. Humanity will rail against the uncomfortable truth That it is our own apathy, our own complacence, which is often the cause of our woes. Rather, we will cling to the ludicrous idea that a single group of people is responsible.  And when someone uses our own prejudices against us we rabidly cling to the scapegoat they offer us a way to absolve ourselves from any responsibility for the problems we face. Yesterday, it was  Jews and immigrants. Today, it is Muslims and immigrants.

To those who stand there in disbelief, who think it cannot possibly happen again.  I assure you, it CAN. And, if we are not vigilant, it will. We are on the brink, poised to make the very same mistakes we SWORE we would NEVER let happen again. When we do so, it will be because we have let our own prejudices blind us to the exact same patterns that precluded every dictator, every evil empire, whether in fiction or reality, that has ever been known to man.

For the last ten years, I have been the first to call out the often hyperbolic comparisons. I have done so because I believe it diminishes the suffering of millions of people. Betrays the memory of those lost. Because it diminishes my children’s heritage.  I can say, with one hundred percent certainty, had things turned out differently my children would NOT be here. I can say this because they are the great-grandchildren of survivors.  As it is, it is a miracle my husband was even born. For not only did his grandparents survive Hitler, but Stalin as well. Somehow, not only did they manage to survive the war, they also managed to escape Europe and reach America.  A feat far too few of Slavic descent attained. I tell you this, not to brag about the blessings I have received. But to show you how serious this is for me.  I love my children more than anything.  More than my own life. Had either of these men succeeded in their endeavors my children would quite simply not exist. So, yeah, it means something to me.  What seemed foreign and far away in my youth has become extremely personal.

I tell you this so you know, when I make these comparisons it is not just the typical hyperbolic rhetoric. These are real, accurate, and frightening comparisons I once, naïvely, thought impossible in American politics. I was wrong. I see that now, and I hope to God the rest of the nation does to. Before it is too late and we are left with our hands in the air wondering how the hell we got here.

Now, in the spirit of true honesty, I must say, in many ways, Mr. Trump is right.  He accurately addresses many key problems in our economy.  The American Working Man has been repeatedly screwed by failed policies. We allow China to pad the market and break many of the rules set down by the WTO.  Lack of tariffs, quotas, and other disincentives has led many American companies to move jobs overseas. On that, he is correct. He is also correct in stating that these issues need to be corrected.  Of course, what he won’t tell you, is solutions to these problems have been routinely shot down by Republicans in Congress under the guise of ‘Free Trade.’

However, my issues with Mr. Trump are greater than Democrat v. Republican, Liberal v. Conservative. My concern is with the far, far too many parallels that can be made between Mr. Trump and infamous leaders of the past. He is a malevolent narcissist. His proposed ‘solutions’ are not only morally wrong but blatantly unconstitutional as well.  If you ask me if I honestly thought that Trump could be a fascist dictator, my answer would have to be a terrified, yes.

In the beginning, I too, saw his campaign as too bombastic and ridiculous to be real. I too, thought his nomination was impossible.  It was a joke. Hilarious to watch the establishment scramble.  I, too, underestimated not only him, but the gullibility of humanity.  As he continued, I slowly became convinced this was indeed very real and very dangerous.  I have heard the defense of some of his more asinine statements.  The most blatant. “Sure, he said it. But he didn’t REALLY mean it.” Ladies and gentlemen, yes, he did. Even if he didn’t, can we really afford to take that risk? Because not that long ago there was another raucous upstart who, “told it like it was,” “wasn’t afraid to speak the truth,” a “man of the people who couldn’t be bought.” Trust me, when I say, it didn’t go so well.

Currently, the nominee of the Grand ‘Ole Party, is a man who not only blatantly ignores the constitution but also holds none of the principles of the party he purportedly leads. The scary thing is, many Republicans see it too.

This is a man who has not only insinuated he would order the murder of innocent women and children, but also firmly believes such and order would be followed without question. That is the trait of a dictator, not the leader of a democratic republic.

A man who feels humans deserve torture. A man for whom the ends justify the means. A man who would sink to the level of criminals and terrorists. A man who feels limited by the Geneva Convention. A man who has threatened war with Russia. A man who not only refuses to rule out the use of nuclear weapons, but actively calls out for more.  A man who has blatantly stated he will start World War III. People, this is not a leader. This is a dictator. Even in jest (I’m addressing my opponents early), none of this is OK, and from the ‘Leader of the Free World’ it would be disastrous.

A man who has promised law and order, despite the fact, such power is not in the jurisdiction of the federal government and not one of the enumerated powers the constitution allows the executive branch. Law enforcement, for the most part, is left up to states and cities. A man who promised an executive order mandating the death penalty, despite having NO legal grounds to do so. Who would obliterate the 8th Amendment to increase the pain of execution.

A man who has the support of nearly all the worst people on the planet. Seriously. The sheer number of frightening endorsements should be enough to give anyone pause.

A man who quotes, and seemingly admires dictators. Who does not even try to distance himself from White Supremacists and Neo-Nazi’s.

A man whose plans are nearly all unconstitutional. Immigration. Registration of Muslims (⇐ If I have to tell you why THIS is a problem…). Banning Muslims. A man who seeks to curb the Free Press. To violate the freedoms of religion and speech. Has argued, against members of his own party, to repeal the 14th Amendment.

A man whose supporters not only threaten violence, but also carry it out. Even to those within their own party. Actions the candidate has never criticized nor condemned. But actively encourages and defends. That the most violent, racist, and cruel members of our society flock to this man is cause for concern.

He is a man who ‘jokes’ about murder. Who routinely violates equal protection laws…and has since the 1970’s. A man who refuses to admit when he is wrong. A man who ‘may have’ supported Japanese internment. Praises the ‘strength’ of the oppressive Chinese government. A man who called out to another nation to break US law (and international law) while the official Republican candidate for president. (⇐Seriously, if I have to explain this one…)

He is a man obsessed with strength. Who sees pragmatism and diplomacy as weakness. A man with a self-inflated sense of purpose. Who supports rabid nationalism and genuinely thinks that he is the ONLY solution. That he is inherently superior to all others.  Come on, this is right from ‘How to be a fascist dictator 101.’

He meets criticism with threats. Dismisses them with disgusting remarks. Has admitted that he would seek laws to punish those who spoke ill of him. (⇐ Red Flag) Mentioned his genitalia in a debate…seriously!  Who wants to replace liberal appointees with loyalists. (⇐WARNING!! Literally, Hitler’s first move people.) Please, please open up your eyes and realize this man is the single greatest threat to American Democracy that EVER existed.

“To remain silent and indifferent is the greatest sin of all.”

― Elie Wiesel

I have a few beliefs that are unshakeable. The first is the resilience, generosity, and beauty of the human spirit. I believe we are capable of truly amazing and wonderful things. But that doesn’t mean I am blind to the faults of humanity. The darkness that lies within leading to horrors untold.

I believe in God. A creator. A great force of good in this world. A better life after this one. Not a God who ignores the evil in the world, but one who has taken a step back, allowed us to make our own mistakes. So we learn the lessons for ourselves.  I believe in a God who loves us, despite all our ills. A God who understands truth discovered is far stronger than truth that is given. A God who desperately wants us to get there. Who weeps when we fail. I believe he wept for Germany in the 1930’s. I believe he weeps for us now.

And I believe, with my whole heart, with every fiber of my being, with deepest conviction, the words written upon the single, most brilliant display of treason ever to grace the pages of human history.

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

I believe in this idea with a fire that cannot be extinguished. THIS is why we won the revolution. Not because of a superior army. Not because of the genius of our generals. But because an idea that once planted could not be uprooted. An idea that no war could destroy. I know that this idea has yet to be practiced in its entirety. There are those we have failed. Call me the Greater Fool, if you will, but I truly believe that this type of society is possible. I believe in the greatness of humanity. In hope.  I will cling to hope regardless of the ferocity of the storm.

My fellow Americans, we have come to a crossroads. One where we can continue our grand social experiment of equality for all. Or one where we lead from hate and fear. We have a choice, to be either on the right side of history, or the wrong one.

We need to open our eyes, and make the phrase ‘Never Again,’ mean not that it can’t happen again, to acknowledging the darkness within humanity. By making it mean it CAN happen again, BUT WE WON’T LET IT.

Our system is battered and bruised, but not broken.  We can either come together and fix the problems or we can decide it’s not worth fixing. I am not naïve as to how the system “works.” I will be voting for Hillary Clinton, because she is the Democratic Party nominee. Because I know nothing about the third party candidates. I acknowledge this is due to media bias. I agree that the two-party system needs to be dismantled and replaced with a more equal representation of our various beliefs. Yet, I know, as it stands, no third party candidate has a chance in winning a single state, let alone the election. I ask you all to consider this unfortunate truth in November. We have four years afterwards to make our elections more fair and equal.

Those who know me, know that I have never been a fan of Secretary Clinton. Despite the many disagreements I have with her, I will vote for her. I get that the status quo isn’t great. I get that many see this as a ‘lesser evil.’ I hear you. I understand. I am there with you. I too, am tired of the establishment, the lack of choice, and politicians serving their own self interests. Sick of it. I too, want change. Not by dismantling the idea, but by actually living up to it. It is a worthy goal. One I will push and strive for, for the rest of my life. But, to me, the facts are clear. Hillary Clinton does not, for all her ills, represent a clear and present danger to our constitution. Donald Trump does.

If you believe in everything Mr. Trump is selling, then by all means, vote for him. Understand that we will need to part ways. Because I will not support fear and hatred…however tacitly.  If you truly believe in everything I have spoken out against then there is nothing I can do or say to convince you otherwise. Regardless, I will continue to keep you in my prayers.

But, if you are considering a vote for Mr. Trump, merely because he has that (R) behind his name, please don’t. We need to let go of partisan politics. Let go of loyalty to party above our own interests. If that (R) is the only reason you are considering Mr. Trump, I implore you to truly consider whether this vote speaks to your conscience or against it. If your conscience will not allow you to vote for Hillary, that’s fine. I get that. Just don’t vote for Mr. Trump out of some displaced loyalty to a party that has never really had your interests at heart. (Same can be said of (D) by the way.)

If you are considering voting for Mr. Trump because you are tired of the Establishment, please, don’t be fooled. Donald Trump is very much a part of the Establishment. He cannot be bought simply because he’s the one doing the buying. Don’t be fooled into thinking that a Trump vote is anti-establishment. Open your eyes and realize, not only is he establishment, but that he represents the most insidious parts of it. If you are considering a vote for Mr. Trump as a way to “stick it to the man,” please God, don’t. Mr. Trump IS the man. If you really want to shake things up in Washington, to send a message to the politicians that we are sick and tired of their games. That their jobs are NOT guaranteed…then vote against every incumbent (R) or (D) up for reelection this November. If enough of us do it, they WILL get the message. And it has the potential to actually affect the types of changes you want. Changes we all want. For more than any Presidential election ever will.

I ask all of you to seriously consider your vote in November. To vote your conscience. To ask yourselves, if you truly believe in the constitution. And if you do, is Mr. Trump really the guy you think will uphold and defend it? These are serious times and they call for serious people. This not a joke, or a game. Who do you honestly think is the person worthy of guarding the values we hold dear? If no one, then no one is your answer.  I believe Mr. Trump to be a serious threat, not only to our Republic, but also to humanity at large.  I hope to God I am wrong. But you need to ask yourselves, is it worth the risk?

We are not Germany in the 1930’s. We are far better off, and our situation is not as dire as some would have you believe.

The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing. –Edmund Burke

World War II and the Holocaust did not occur because Germany was rife with evil people. They were just people. People who were scared, hurt, and tired. People just looking for an ease to their suffering. The majority of those who voted for Hitler and the Nazi’s were not voting for the massive genocide that followed. It was never their intent. But the intentions of an action mean very little when the result is so catastrophic. Would you so eagerly accept the apologies of someone who voted for the Nazi’s if they said they didn’t mean for it to happen? Does the fact it was never their ‘intent,’ in any way, diminish the horrors of that era? The evil unleashed upon the world? You know it doesn’t. It doesn’t change anything. Doesn’t help anything. Whether you believe the Germans were evil or fools, it doesn’t change what happened. Nor does it make it more acceptable. I urge you all to keep that in mind come November. A vote for hate is a vote for hate, regardless of how noble your intentions may be.  Fifty years from now, I don’t want America to look back with regret on what we unleashed upon the world. I cannot support a vote for Mr. Trump. Not because I am an American with American ideals. Not because I am a Christian. But because I am human, because I am a citizen of this world, and because I have the firm belief in the goodness humanity is capable of.


“There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest.”

― Elie Wiesel

A Heinous Violation

The past several weeks have been flooded with ‘violations’ of constitutional rights.  In fact, the past year has shown that a vast number of people have no idea what the constitution is, what it says, what it means and its general purpose.  Not to mention who it does and who it doesn’t apply to.  I am here to correct a few misconceptions.

First and foremost it is important to understand that the constitution (and the included Bill of Rights) does not, in any way, shape, or form, give us any rights at all.  Zero.  The rights enumerated in the constitution are natural rights.  These are things that we have a right to simply because we exist.  It has nothing to do with being an American but more so with simply being human.

When the documents were created there was a huge debate about enumerating our human rights.  Jefferson was against doing so because he felt that it would have two consequences.  One, that people would come to believe that it was the document that provided the rights and to only a select group of people (i.e. citizens).  Two, if a ‘right’ didn’t make the document then it must not exist.  In other words, Jefferson was concerned that future generations would suffer because something wasn’t written down. Wise man.

So, why were some of the founders concerned about people assuming the document gave those rights? Because that would negate the purpose of the constitution.  See, the constitution does not apply to you, or me, or any one person (or corporation) on the planet.  It applies ONLY to the federal government.  The constitution is a list of rules and regulations for the government to follow…nothing more.

This is why Phil Robertson being suspended for something he said was not a violation of his ‘constitutional rights.’ First, let’s just ignore the fact that the constitution doesn’t give rights.  And, to save my sanity, let’s skip over the vast number of politicians who fail to understand the constitution.  For now, let’s just go over what the  first amendment is, what it means and who it applies to.

The first amendment actually enumerates a number of rights but let’s start with freedom of speech.  The founders believed that you had the natural right to speak your mind without fear of persecution from the government.  The last bit is the essential part.  The belief was that any human being should be able to say, “King George sucks,” without risking imprisonment.  The amendment gives you nothing.  It does not protect you from criticism.  It does not protect you from repercussions from the public…such as, losing your job.  So, what does it do?  The first amendment tells the federal government that it cannot make any laws restricting the speech of its citizens.  That’s it.  All it does is prevent the government from persecuting, imprisoning and executing citizens for saying something (the primary purpose was to allow citizens to speak out against the government).

That being said, the amendment is not all inclusive.  Thus, the government does have the power to restrict certain kinds of speech.  These include things like revealing state secrets, yelling fire in a crowded room, slander, libel and threats against human life and wellbeing.  Hence, why it is illegal to threaten to kill or hurt someone.  So, the first amendment protects you from the government if you want to call the President a ‘lying, cheating n—’…or even if you want to tell him to go ‘f— himself.’ However, cross the line and say, “I’m going to kill that lying, cheating n—,’ and you risk being investigated by the government.  And, in doing so, the government is NOT violating your rights.

So, do we understand now, that only the federal government can violate the first amendment?  If you call your boss an asshole, he can fire you.  This does not violate your rights.  If you say the President’s economic policy sucks and as a result you are arrested…that is a violation of your rights.  See the difference?

Actions have consequences.  Nothing in the constitution protects you from consequence.  Accepting that your actions have consequences is part of being an adult.  Making the choice to say or do something means accepting the consequences that may arise from said action.  Saying something and then whining or complaining because what you said or did got you fired or ridiculed is childish and stupid.  Vocal disagreement (and in some cases, public shaming…though I don’t always agree with this tactic) are the consequences of speaking your opinion.  This is not a violation of your rights.  Claiming such is extremely childish and you should probably grow up a little.

While we are on this subject, I am going to quickly address a pet peeve of mine.  So, let’s just say we are debating free speech and religion.  You think this means that Mr. Robertson’s rights were violated.  I disagree.  You then proceed to tell me that we are a Christian nation.  That the first amendment protects you from providing birth control, seeing gay people be married and gives you the right to say whatever you damn well please.  I disagree.  You cannot follow up with ANY of these arguments: “Well the gays need to stop being so sensitive and just shut the hell up,” or “That’s the way it is and if you don’t like it, get the hell out.” Reason: The argument puts holes in your own logic so large I could drive a mid-90’s hummer through it.  If you say, ‘God hates f—,’ and I tell you that you are wrong, you believe I am violating your rights.  However, you then telling me to shut up and get out, by your own logic, is you violating my rights.  (That is not, in reality, the case but if you do believe that the amendment protects you from criticism then such a comeback is logically impossible.)  These arguments do nothing for your cause.  All they do is show the world that you are one giant hypocrite.

You are telling the world that only things you agree with are valid and any form of disagreement you see as a potential threat to your sad, pathetic and isolated worldview…and thus it must be a violation of your rights.  By telling someone to leave if they don’t like it you are telling the world that you are a bigot because you only want people who think and speak like you to be an American.  You may be a perfectly nice person but these arguments make you appear to be nothing more than a hypocritical, bigoted asshole.

The fact that we can debate our differences in a public forum is awesome.  It is one of the greatest aspects of our society.  The debate.  Do you have any idea how many countries would imprison us for doing so? The fact that Americans disagree on issues and debate them is not only one of the greatest thing about this country but also the very reason we have progressed as far as we have.  The debate is the reason we don’t have slaves, women can vote and that we have civil rights.  All thanks to debate.

You know who wants a country full of people who only share their views and opinions…despots.  Now, I am not saying that you are a despot.  What I am saying is that all despots want to suppress the ideas, opinions and beliefs of those that differ from their own.  Now, if that is the type of country you are looking for I can give you hundreds of examples throughout the annals of history as to why that is a bad idea.

I don’t think that is what you really want but that is what your words imply.  This is why people don’t take you seriously.  I am not saying that you have to agree with my opinions and beliefs…just accept the fact that I can have a differing opinion and we can still occupy the same country.  If you disagree with me, debate me.  Please.  Tell me why you disagree.  Don’t just tell me I am wrong and walk away.  We cannot possibly solve our problems that way and we have a lot of serious problems to solve.

Wow, ok.  So this post kind of got away from me.  We will stop there for now but I promise we will continue to discuss constitutional issues and the intents of the founders throughout the year.

My Response to ‘Wild Bill’

NO!!! For a thousand and ones reasons no. I find this horrifically insulting…not on my behalf but on the behalf of all those I know who experienced Hitler’s horror. Comparing Planned Parenthood (not all of which perform abortions and in which most services performed are actually birth control, pap smears, and breast exams for women who can’t afford a doctor…but you know, facts, blech) to a place such as Auschwitz is not only unfair and inaccurate but diminishes the horrors that took place. When a PP clinic takes a set of twins, amputates arms, stitches them together to create a pair of conjoined twins…often without anesthetics, then you can compare them to a Death Camp. Though he is right, Hitler wasn’t Christian…but he claimed to be and he quoted scripture and used people’s devotion to the religion to gain power and execute his goals. He may not have been a Christian but he sure took advantage of mis-teachings to corrupt a nation of people.

Also, Liberals are not the only ones throwing Hitler comparisons around…Glen Beck has been doing it since the middle of 2009. Personally, I feel comparisons of any American to Hitler (with the exception of neo-Nazi’s and the Aryan Brotherhood because, well, they admit it) are not only inaccurate but also diminish the horrors committed by that bastard, they make it trivial…makes Hitler out to be less evil. Liberals do not admire dictators. Like all groups of people there are those on the fringe…most Liberals do not admire Mao. Most would agree that a big Liberal “hero” would be John Lennon…many believe his ideals the core of modern Liberalism. In his song, Revolution, he wrote: But if you go carrying pictures of Chairman Mao, You ain’t going to make it with anyone anyhow. The point being made is that those who truly cling to a liberal doctrine would not admire such a man…those people are extremists. Like the ‘conservatives’ who bomb abortion clinics are extremists…they hijack the term to explain their twisted philosophies but in no way do they represent anywhere near the majority of the conservative philosophy. Liberals do not support dictators…at all. In fact, one of the things that angers us the most is the fact that the US government has not only supported dictators in the past but also took action to make sure the dictators they liked came to power. We object to supporting any and all dictators. If a person supports someone like Mao then they are an extremist and do not represent the values of the philosophy.

Next, it is not the fact that Israel exists that bothers Liberals…but instead how it was created. Land was stolen from its inhabitants and then gifted to another group of people. It, not surprisingly, resulted from British colonization attempts and was sanctioned by the UN. What we don’t like is that Palestinians are judged harshly for fighting the takeover of their land and continue to be judged for their anger. Want a comparison…it’s pretty much the same thing that we did to the aboriginal peoples of what is now the United States. The problem is that a third party decided the partition of a nation, which had done nothing wrong, without and against the will of its people. We may object to how it was created, and it was done in a pretty crappy way, but now that it exists we agree that a mutual peace…benefiting both parties…is the best course of action. With regards to that peace process, Israel is just as guilty as Palestine for failing to come to an agreement. I remember a few years back Palestine offered a cease fire if Israel ceased expanding settlements into the Palestinian region around the West Bank. What happened? Israel continued to expand into Palestinian territory.

Hitler’s control of the media in no way resembles the Fairness doctrine…how so…um because broadcasters who speak out against the government are not executed. How do I know we do not live in a dictatorial fascist media controlled society…because Beck, O’Reilly, Hannity and Coulter are still alive (and on the other side so are Maher, Cooper and Schultz). It is a fiction of history that Hitler disarmed the people actually, he relaxed the gun control laws of the previous administration. That being said the Jews were not applicable to these new laws relaxing the ownership of firearms because of the mass of discriminatory laws against them. The US has laws that apply to all not just a specific group of people (no one is saying that Christians no longer have the right to bear arms). Since US gun regulations, or rather proposed regulations…actually misconceptions of the proposed regulations…do not single out a group of persons to discriminate against then any comparison to gun regulations to Nazi policies is pure crap.

“Crack down on people of faith because they oppose his agenda”…ok, this one really pisses me off. First of all, as long as ‘people of faith’ are not being thrown in prison, tortured, or executed there can be no comparison…once again, trivializing the horrors of the Holocaust. Second, America was founded on democratic (that is democracy not the party) principles. We are supposed to be able to debate our differences. Why is it when I disagree with a conservative (at least some, not all…I do not believe in absolutes) I am persecuting them, cracking down on them, declaring war, etc. …and yet when a conservative disagrees with me it is just in the spirit of democracy? (Look, I am aware some on both sides are guilty of this…I am only speaking from my own experience at this point) The whole point of this government is to debate our differences…not run to the hills proclaiming persecution when people disagree with your viewpoint. Furthermore, when one uses speech to denigrate and dehumanize a group of individuals it IS hate speech.

OK, now the Muslim Brotherhood thing…first let us be very clear, not all Muslims are terrorists. So, Hitler had a Muslim SS decision…I am pretty sure a number of German Lutherans were SS as well…shall we denigrate all of them for the rest of the sects existence or do they get a pass because they are not brown? As far as sending weapons to Egypt (at least I am assuming that to what he is referring) I did not see many complaints when we were sending weapons to Mubarak. Nor do I hear anyone denigrating Reagan for doing the exact same thing with Saddam Hussein. Both Republican and Democratic administrations have provided aid and weapons to those with questionable purposes…no side is innocent in that endeavor and I am tired of the assumptions that it was all the fault of a single party…either Democrat or Republican.

“Use the word of God to convince people of the righteousness of their cause, just like liberal churches do today…” Um, ok, but don’t conservatives use that as well to promote their cause. What makes it right for a conservative to do so but not a liberal? If you really want to address this issue, most people of a faith use their religious doctrines to justify their actions and affirm the “righteousness” of their cause. This is not just a liberal thing and I fail to see how he can say that with a straight face when it is the CONSERVATIVE position that same-sex marriage should be illegal because it goes against the WILL OF GOD. Sorry, but it seems a little hypocritical to accuse liberals of having commonalities with Hitler for using their faith to support their beliefs (some liberals, not all) when a priority of an entire political party (Republican/conservative) does the exact same thing? Does it make it right that everyone uses their belief system in such a way…of course not…but you cannot denounce one while supporting the other. That is the very definition of hypocrisy.

In no way, shape, or form does Liberalism share the same goals and ideologies of Hitler. Liberals are not seeking to exterminate an entire race of people from the globe. Liberals are not seeking to imprison or execute those who disagree with our beliefs. A liberal’s goal is that of freedom and liberty…for all. We believe civil rights belong to all people regardless of their race, nationality, religion, gender, or sexual orientation. Since Hitler had a program executing homosexuals I have a hard time believing he would side with us on that one. We believe that all people should have religious freedom…the ability to practice whatever religion they choose/ or don’t choose…we also refute the idea that one religion is superior to another and thus refuse legislation that favors a particular religious viewpoint.

This is something that is very personal to me. If Hitler had his way my husband wouldn’t exist and as a result neither would my children. I find it thoroughly insulting to the survivors of this period of time for any American to in anyway insinuate that their struggles are even remotely similar to those faced during Hitler’s reign. It diminishes the death and suffering of millions to equate our petty grievances and imagined sufferings to such events. It is an analogy in American politics that needs to die solely on the basis that it is no way near a realistic comparison. Until people in the US are being led by the millions to execution simply based on what they are…religion, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation…then no. single. person in America—on either side—today can claim that the opposing side is in any way resemblant to Hitler and his Nazi regime. And trust me, compared to being gay, colored, a Jew, a Slav, or Polish in Eastern Europe during that period of time our ‘imagined’ struggles here in America today are petty and insignificant.

Taxes!!! Pt. 2

—and a brief history of economics

Here’s the problem if you keep raising tax rates: You slow down economic growth—Paul Ryan

The problem with the above quote is that it is simply not true.  Earlier we talked about how you cannot adequately compare civilizations a century apart in regards to economies and taxes. What you can do is look at the overall picture to establish trends and you must use history to establish these trends; if for no other reason than to avoid making the same mistakes.  The above quote shows the mindset of the Republican Party for the last 30 years; a fanatical adherence to the ‘trickle down’ economic theory. The problem is that it has been proven false time and time again.

The so called ‘trickle down’ economic theory is nothing new and actually dates back to the 1890’s.  Despite what many will say, over the years this theory has never been proven. For those who don’t know, ‘trickle down’ is the theory that tax breaks or other economic benefits provided by government to businesses and the wealthy will benefit poorer members of society by improving the economy as a whole. In short, cut taxes and eliminate regulations on businesses. In theory—and remember it is a theory not fact—this should work. Except for one very important thing; trickle-down economics does not take greed into account.

Income tax was established in 1913 by the 16th amendment.  Since then, ‘trickle down’ economics has been tried on several occasions. It has failed, every single time—drastically in some cases. The rates began low in 1913, but due to war and increase in manufacturing rates began to climb.  Taxes were strangling business; business did better when the government had less regulation—or so the Republicans claimed.  Thus, due to Republican control, in the twenties the tax rates began to fall.  By 1925 they fell from 73% to 25%.  And we experienced an awesome economic boom.  No, you read that right.  We cut the tax rates and the economy soared, coining the term ‘roaring 20’s.’  But remember, we know how this story ends.

The economy soared after the tax rates were slashed in the 20’s but it was not sustainable. See, while millionaires were paying a third of the tax they had previously the protections for the lower classes were disappearing. The theory was that the wealthy would spend the money they saved in taxes and stimulate the economy.  Here’s the problem, the wealthy spent money but in the stock market.  Most of the wealth in the United States was invested in Wall Street. Meanwhile, these tax cuts did nothing to help the poor.  Inventories began to rise while consumer spending declined. These factors created an economic bubble—sound familiar.  A bubble is caused by a trade in products or assets with inflated values, in short, putting more money into an asset then it is actually worth. In 1929, the bubble burst and we went into a tailspin of a depression that has not been seen before or since.

With the arrival of FDR and his New Deal, tax rates began to climb.  That’s right; in the midst of a giant depression a president raised taxes to help the country out of it.  And it worked.  Slowly, the United States began to crawl up from the gutter.  Then came World War II. Taxes soared; but with the tax increase there was also an increase in manufacturing and thus, jobs. The 1950’s ushered in a huge economic boom…despite a tax rate of 91%.  To be fair, with deductions and everything available very few, if any, actually paid this rate.

I would also be extremely lax if I failed to mention the real reasons for the economic boom in the 50’s and 60’s.  First, the United States had almost no competition in manufacturing considering the centers in Japan and Europe had been leveled during the war. We began building an immense military and put tons of money into research, ,which also created jobs. In the 60’s, taxes began to fall.  And the economy still stayed strong.  The tax rate throughout the majority of the 60’s was at about 70% and stayed that way throughout the 70’s. The 70’s, however, would bring with it a whole new set of issues.

In a word, the economy of the 70’s sucked.  That was primarily due to the oil crisis of ’73 and, later, the energy crisis of ‘79.  The 70’s also ushered in a new economic platform that had never been seen before.  Stagflation is known as a period of stagnant economic growth and rapidly growing inflation and unemployment.  This was something that had never been seen before or since in the United States.  This new issue required new ideas in halting the downward spiral.  Ronald Reagan provided just these kinds of ‘new’ ideas.  This would be the reason he won the election in 1980.

When there is an income tax, the just man will pay more and the unjust less on the same amount of income—Plato

Reagan promised sweeping changes to the economy and boy did we get it. The perfect example of be careful what you wish for.  Reagan was a firm believer in ‘supply side’ economics, commonly known as ‘trickle down’ and eventually, Reaganomics. Reagan theorized that lower taxes would make people want to work harder and longer and would then save and invest more.   Reagan slashed taxes by 25% in his first three years and closed loopholes. These cuts primarily benefited wealthy Americans and the theory was that higher investment would bring new jobs and higher pay. Paul Volker, the Federal Reserve Chairman, stopped the growing inflation by slowing the growth of the money supply and increasing the interest rate.  While this initially caused a recession by 1983 the economy began to rebound, but this time only a few would benefit.

There is some debate as to whether it was Reagan’s tax cuts or Paul Volker’s actions to curb inflation and healed the 1980’s economy.  Whether it was Reagan’s deregulation or the massive increase in government spending. But one thing is clear, between 1981 and 1988 the income rate dropped from 70% to 28%. However, wages continued to remain stagnant and the manufacturing jobs that built the middle class continued to disappear. 70% of American households had no stake in the market so they saw none of the benefits.  On top of that the payroll tax was increased. The wealthy saw their earnings by 14% while the poor saw their incomes decline by 24%.  Income taxes are paid, primarily, by the wealthy while the working class and middle class pay more of the payroll tax.  The poorest 1/5th of Americans saw their tax burden increase while the richest 1/5th saw their tax burdens decrease (CBO). Essentially, the tax burden was shifted from the wealthy to the poor. Wall Street was riding high but the poor were suffering. The wealthy got wealthier and the poor suffered more.  We were hemorrhaging jobs.  Then in 1987 the market crashed, pushing us into another recession.

George H. W. Bush  raised taxes to deal with the crushing deficits left to him by Reagan, ,costing Bush the election in ’92.  Clinton took over and raised the tax rate to 39.6%.  In a few short years he turned a deficit into a surplus, added needed regulation, and turned a recession into an economic boom.  Everyone benefited from Clinton’s economic plan. The rich stayed rich while the poor slowly began to climb out of poverty.  George W. Bush cut taxes to 35% and issued more deregulation.  Things went well for a while but it wasn’t to last. This time money was being spent in the over-inflated housing market and created, you guessed it, a bubble In the fall of 2008 the bubble burst and once again the United States began a tailspin recession.

It must be noted that outside influences had an effect on the US economy as well.  These were influences that we could not control regardless of how high or low our tax rates were.  But we would also be remiss if we didn’t note that our economy has crumbled after every major tax cut. If there was ever any doubt, ,the 1980’s should have proved that.  This backwards economic theory requires the heads of corporations to do the right thing, to increase wages and production with the savings they receive, to create more jobs…something they have proven time and time again that they will not do.  The rich get even richer on the backs of the poor.  Wall Street rides high and Main Street suffers.   That is the legacy of ‘trickle down’ economics.

Congressional Budget Office, “Congressional Study: Tax Progressivity and Income Distribution,” 26 March 1990. CIS#H782-11.

Taxes!! Pt. 1

…a little bit of history…

This month marks 100 years of income tax in the United States.  Naturally, this means that anti-taxers are out in force.  The other day I stumbled across this little nugget on the troll heaven that is Facebook and I just had to respond.

tax chart

Oh let me count the ways where this is inaccurate.  First of all, you cannot make adequate comparisons of societies a century apart.  Lots of things happen in 100 years.  It is actually no different than comparing 2013 to 1313…doesn’t work. You can look at the big picture and see trends over time, but you cannot compare the numbers directly.

Some things that were different about the world in 1913:  Passenger air travel is still primarily by zeppelins. While Ford introduced his Model-T in 1909 the moving assembly line would not come out until December of 1913, prompting a manufacturing boom.  These early engines ran on gas, kerosene, and ethanol.  Oil based engines would come later but big oil wouldn’t exist until the 1930’s.  The Romanov’s still ruled Russia.  Women couldn’t vote.  There had yet to be a world war.  Stainless steel wouldn’t be invented until August of 1913. Alaska and Hawaii were not states and Puerto Ricans were not US citizens. Those are just some of the ways that life was different in 1913.

It is worth pointing out that while none of this really has much, if anything, to do with actual taxes and economies the graphic does give a lot of numbers.  However there are quite a few it fails to mention.  First of all, ,the grand total for world trade in 1913 was 38 billion or in today’s dollars that would be 881 billion.  In 2011, it was 18.2 trillion.  Also, the population of the United States was 97 million.  Today it is 314 million.  These are some pretty important numbers to have if you want to compare tax rates and economies.  This is especially true if you want to compare tax revenues.

See, if you want to compare revenues you need more comparative data. The graphic claims that total tax revenues in 1913 were 16.6 billion in today’s dollars and that tax revenues were 2.7 trillion in 2013.  But that is if you compare the actual numbers without regards to population.  We have over three times as many people in this country than we did 100 years ago.  So that 16.6 should actually be multiplied by three to account for the increase in population making the correct number closer to 50 billion. Still, pretty big difference right?  Not so fast. A few more numbers are missing from this graphic.

In 1913, approximately 5% of the population paid taxes; in 2011 it was 56%.  So not only did the population increase three times over in the last hundred years but the percentage of Americans taxed went up 51%.  That’s 10 times the amount of the population paying income taxes making the actual number closer to 500 billion.  Not to mention the fact that the top rate of 7% was paid by exactly .05% of the population while today the top rate is paid by 2% of the population. But tax revenue was not the only thing to increase.  In 1913, the GDP was 600 billion in today’s dollars.  Currently, it is at 15.09 trillion—big difference.

So, why was it that only 5% of Americans paid income tax in 1913?  Well, this is where deductions kick in.  It was a simple deduction in 1913 of $3000 for single people and $4000 for families.  This essentially meant that no one who made less than $4000 paid taxes.  The average income in 1913 was $900.  So it goes to follow that the majority of the population was exempt from paying income tax.   Counting for inflation, this means the average income was $20,872.18 and no one making less than 93K paid any income tax at all

What happened? Why are more people paying at lower incomes now than in 1913?  This is where the hundred years of history kicks in and all the stuff I mentioned before becomes relevant.  As cars, planes, and assembly lines took off, manufacturing increased.  This provided a higher need for steel, oil, and workers.  This led to not only a boost in the economy but a big boost in worker pay as well. However this is not the only thing that happened.

In history, 1917 was a huge year.  First, let us start with Russia.  This was the year of the Bolshevik Revolution.  The year the Romanov family was slaughtered and Lenin took control of Russia.   This is hugely important because these events would lead directly to the Cold War.  This is also the year the United States would enter into an unprecedented conflict…World War I.  The events of 1917 would not only change the United States but would have far reaching impact on the world at large.

Another big year would be 1929.  The October crash and following Great Depression would have a tremendous impact on our economy and our tax code.  The 1930’s would see an implementation of public policy, supported by taxes, to ensure that Americans would be taken care of in times of crisis.  Roosevelt’s New Deal would have a huge impact, not just on our economy, but on our civilization as a whole.  The 1940’s would see yet another world war but this time the US would discover just how profitable war could be.  The 1950’s would not only see a huge economic and manufacturing boom, but would also give us the highway system…which is supported by taxes.  By the end of this decade we would also gain two new states.

Yes, the tax rates are higher now than they were 100 years ago, ,but we also have a larger country, bigger population, and a global economy that did not exist 100 years ago.  This is why you cannot adequately compare the two years.  Time has called the world to change and we must change with it.