Right Side, Wrong Side…

I’m happy to report that I believe we’re all done bickering about Trump’s stupid vanity wall.  His decision to declare a non-emergency National “Emergency” was, in effect, a surrender.  He never got the funding for his useless wall from his own party.  It finally penetrated his head that he REALLY wasn’t going to get it from the opposition party.  So he declares an “emergency” even while admitting it’s not an emergency and throws the whole thing into the courts – where, I suspect, he’ll lose based on his own words.  But he’ll have an “out.”  The thing can be adjudicated for years and when the rulings finally go against him, he can blame someone else.  It’s the only thing he’s really good at: blaming others for his own failures…

Trump is stubbornly wrongheaded.  He doesn’t admit defeat.  He is actually defeated on a fairly regular basis; he just doesn’t admit it.  I know, that sounds silly in view of the fact that, while declaring his “not-emergency”, he DID mention “defeats” in his stupid travel ban fight.  But that was a fight he ultimately “won”, meaning he didn’t suffer “defeat” so much as “setbacks.”  Talk of early “defeats” served only to make the outcome that much more “glorious” to himself and his base.  In this wall fight he got his ass handed to him – by a girl.  But he just did what he does – he pretends he won anyway – the TRUE ‘Delusional Trump Syndrome.’  Sadly, losing the wall fight doesn’t mean there won’t be more horror stories about his maladministration’s cruel treatment of human beings at the border…

I used to be surprised – really surprised – that so many people continue to stand with him despite all of the available evidence of his complete failure as a human being.  But I’ve been spending a LOT of time with history, lately, and I’ve recently become quite comfortable with a realization I probably should have made years ago: there are ALWAYS people on the wrong side of history – and there always will be.

Think of the worst atrocities of humanity throughout time and no matter what the subject, you’ll find people supporting the worst.  They’ll lie, they’ll scream, hell, they’ll fight wars in the name of the very worst of humanity – and they’ll do it with pride!  There’s just something…wrong…with some people.  They start wrong and stay wrong – and they’re still out there.  The US finally fought a war to end slavery but there are still plenty of people out there who would readily return to the slave system if the law allowed.

Think of the Walton family of Walmart infamy.  They have workers and managers because the law limits their options.  But if they could, I believe they would replace the workers and managers with slaves and overseers.  Sure, they would deny and feign outrage at such a suggestion but their actions have already exposed them.  Walmart could easily pay it’s employees a living wage and remain profitable but they steadfastly WILL NOT do one thing for the workers that made them so rich if not required by law – and even at that, they try to “trim the edges.”  Walmart’s shoddy treatment of employees is the poster child of greed in this once-great nation but they’re hardly alone…

It’s tempting to want to identify and name the “reason” but the reason doesn’t matter.  Stupid?  That’s the easiest one and it’s probably correct in some cases, but I know far too many smart people who support the wrong things for that to be a blanket explanation.  Greed?  To be sure.  Hate?  Sometimes.  Fear?  Absolutely.  Ignorance (not the same as stupid) is often in play.  The one thing I can say for certain is this: there are many possible adjectives to describe people on the wrong side of history but none of them are “nice.”  None of them – not one – reflect the best qualities of humanity.

So how does one know which side of history one occupies?  It’s quite simple, actually.  The moment your position includes harm to some innocent person trying only to do the things you, yourself, want to do, time for a re-think.  If you need a rule of thumb, try the so-called “Golden Rule”: Do unto others as you would have others do unto you.  In this case, it’s credited to Jesus but one can find that idea expressed in every major religion and/or philosophy in the history of mankind – because it’s so…obvious!

If YOU wouldn’t be a slave, don’t enslave.  If YOU wouldn’t be a victim of theft, don’t steal.  If you wouldn’t have your child taken from you for some…Trumped up reason, don’t take children away from others.  If YOU wouldn’t have yourself returned to the hands of your would-be killers, don’t return others to their would-be killers.  See how easy it is?  I hope you’ve paid attention and I hope I’ve helped.

I’ll tell you this: there IS a test…and it happens every day…

The Worst Among Us…

I’ve been re-reading some history recently.  In this case, it’s American history but I keep reflecting on the fact that some history just repeats itself, over and over, without regard to time or location.  One of the most important takeaways I’ve come to on this round is that nearly every social problem this country faces could be solved by requiring a living wage.  I can imagine the push-back on a declaration like that, all of it the contrived and false arguments of the wage pirates.

Jeff Bezos has been in the news quite a bit recently.  One of the things that stuck in my mind is the comment in his response to the attempted blackmail that he started Amazon in his garage and drove the packages to the post office himself.  Uh-huh.  It’s one of the more common stories the wage pirates tell, how they succeeded with hard work and “pluck” – whatever the fuck that means.  It seems they ALL start in the garage or on the kitchen table.

Bezos didn’t become the richest man in history by driving packages to the Post Office himself.  He became the richest man in history by over working and underpaying hundreds of thousands of employees.  Microsoft held the position of richest company in the world for awhile.  They got there by committing crimes.  They’ve been convicted of various anti-competitive business schemes so many times, I lost count years ago.  Apple?  Oh, the vaunted Apple.  Chinese workers held in compounds at near slave wages build the phones  while Apple charges premium prices.  Wage piracy.

The Kennedy fortune was reportedly built on bootlegging during Prohibition.  The official family story is Grandma Kennedy working doggedly in her dry cleaning store.  The Bush fortune was built selling weapons and poison gas to the Nazis during WWII.  (Not speculation.  The company was convicted.)  Even the Drumpf fortune was reportedly built on prostitution.  I’m actually a proponent of legalized prostitution but back in those days, the most common way to acquire the “girls” was to kidnap them.  Human trafficking.

I’ve long held that the people who rise to the top of the economic pile tend to be the people most willing to do whatever is necessary, ethics be damned.  Invariably, these people are NOT the “best and the brightest.”  They tend to be the LEAST among us.  You, too, can succeed, son, if you’re willing to kill grandma and your grandchildren.  I know, hyperbole, right?  Consider this; Prescott Bush sold weapons to the Nazis during WWII.  George H. W. Bush (41) was a pilot during the war.  His plane was shot down.  WAS 41’s plane shot down with ordinance sold to the Nazis by Prescott?  Who can say?  But it’s possible.  Whether it was or not, Prescott was willing to risk George H.W. for a dollar.  THAT’S the “glorious truth” of the people who rise to those positions.

History is littered with these bottom-feeders, willing to do anything, to anyone, for a buck – so long as nobody tries to do the same to them.  For me, the American Civil War sums it up, nicely.  The South was willing to fight a war (okay, send poor people to fight a war) because the North was trying to forcibly take away their right to forcibly take away the rights of other human beings.  That kind of convoluted thinking is still out there.  There are still plenty of people who would utilize slavery if they could get away with it, today, but since they can’t, they’ve carved out a multitude of alternatives that get as close as possible.

I’ll tell you this: it’s time to stop assuming these people – given the chance – will do the right thing.  History proves they won’t.  Your best bet is assuming they’ll do the wrong thing – the worst things.  It’s time to stop treating these people as anything other than the thieves they are…

Pulling For the Saints…

I’ve been a football fan for as long as I can remember.  My first favorite Quarterback to Wide Receiver tandem was Roman Gabriel to Jack Snow.  The two played together for the Los Angeles Rams from 1965 to 1972 so…it’s been awhile.  I ran a Fantasy Football League for YEARS – long before fantasy football was “cool”…or profitable…or easy.  In the early days, we used to have to wait for the stats to come out in the Wednesday paper and add up our own scores.  (No computers to do the work for us and NEVER in real time.  I have to admit, I like the new way better…)  So, as you can imagine, it’s a big deal for me to say that I don’t intend to watch the Super Bowl.

For me, this Super Bowl (number 53 – screw the Roman Numerals) embodies everything that has changed in the game for the worse.  I’m pulling for the New Orleans Saints.  Yeah, I know, they’re not playing.  But every person in the world who knows the game knows they should be playing.  Anybody who knows anything about football knows the Rams are in on a clear foul that was simply ignored by an officiating crew that is normally SO dedicated to detail they can find a football in a pile of human beings and place it within a chain-link of where it’s supposed to be.  But they didn’t see the two-foul penalty everyone else in the world saw.  A multi-Billion dollar operation that got egregiously sloppy for two seconds and changed the outcome of one of it’s most important games.  That seems likely…

Then there are the New England Patriots.  Again.  The greatest team ever with the Greatest Quarterback ever.  Just look at the numbers.  Football fans always measure success by Super Bowl wins.  It’s not an unreasonable measure.  But it can leave a QB with greater career stats and NO Super Bowls automatically below a QB with…sometimes terrible stats but at least one Super Bowl win so it’s not perfect, either.  Through the years, I’ve been exposed to an additional, unexpected statistic: number of asterisks.  I think the higher the number of asterisks that can rightly be associated with your team or players, the lower that team’s standing in the G.O.A.T. conversation.  It’s the first number that should be sorted.  In my mind, the Patriots have three, ‘Spygate’, ‘Deflategate’, and invulnerability to parity, though I’m only going to discuss one – ‘Spygate’ – here.

Inevitably, the  subject irritates Patriots fans.  It shouldn’t but it does.  I’ve had the conversation many times.  I’ve heard many assertions.  I’ve heard so many re-interpretations of Patriot cheating from people I trust, I started to accept some of them as factual.  So I decided to double-check my understanding of events regarding the first of their scandals, the practice that became known as ‘Spygate.’  As it happens, my memory was not entirely correct on the topic.  In fact, the details were far worse than I remembered…

Teams used to use hand signals from the coaches on the sidelines to tell the players what to do.  ALL teams knew that if they could decipher even one of the signals, they could enjoy a sometimes significant advantage during the game.  Trying to decode signals was, really, just part of the game.  But Bill Belichick and his Prep School buddy Ernie Adams had a better idea: what if they could recreate opposing teams defensive playbooks and hand signals for their own use?

Contrary to popular belief, the scheme started in 1991, when Belichick was first hired as the new Head Coach of the Cleveland Browns.  By all accounts, the scheme there failed and Belichick was out after two years.  But by the time he was hired as the head coach of the Patriots in 2000, he and his buddy Adams had refined the system.  Through the years, the details have been softened; a camera was set up where it shouldn’t have been.  Belichick simply misinterpreted a rule.

In fact, a couple of guys were dispatched to opposing teams’ practice facilities where a Videographer would disguise himself as a member of the media or NFL films and record defensive coaches hand signals while another guy would create hand-drawn diagrams of the player positions.  If they got caught, they were told to say they were from NFL films or Kraft Productions.  An honest “misinterpretation” doesn’t require disguises or cover stories, right?  Mostly, they didn’t get caught and the raw footage and diagrams were turned over to Belichick’s buddy, Adams, who collated the information into detailed breakdowns.  Each shot would include the down and distance markers, the hand signals, and – as an “inside joke” – a tight shot of a cheerleader’s top or skirt.  Each film set was associated with the proper diagram.  Essentially, the Patriots were recreating opposing teams defensive playbooks.

Think about it: if deciphering ONE hand signal during a game might provide an advantage, consider what having access to the entire playbook could do.  And did.  The scheme ran from 2000 through 2006.  During that time, the Patriots “won” the Super Bowl in 2001, 2003, and 2004.  The other teams in the league all suspected something…untoward…was up.  Apparently, it was constant chatter around league insiders but since nobody had any proof, it was all just talk, dismissed as success envy.

The Patriots finally got caught in 2006 – twice.  After the first time, the league sent out a memo to ALL teams reminding them that recording opposing hand signals was against the rules.  The Patriots kept doing it anyway but now the other teams were on the alert for what to look for and the second time it happened the information became public knowledge.  Among that public was one Arlen Specter, a United States Senator from Pennsylvania – and a Philadelphia Eagles fan.  The Eagles had been one of the teams cheated by the practice and he was irritated.  He threatened to pull the NFL’s antitrust exemption so the NFL went into damage control mode.

But the league didn’t really investigate the extent of the scheme.  They took the Patriots’ word regarding the extent – which means nobody can say, for sure, how much information may have been retained by the Patriots, even after they were caught and the improper information destroyed.  For their part, the Patriots didn’t volunteer one bit of information they didn’t have to.  Think of it as the NFL’s version of ‘Don’t ask, Don’t tell.’  Even in damage control mode, Belichick eventually admitted to “at least” 40 games…

Through the years since, I’ve auditioned several possible reasons the league just allows the Pats to get away with the various things they get away with, none of which made much sense.  The most likely reason in my mind?  Robert Kraft, owner of the Patriots, is one of the most powerful men in the league.  Apparently, he’s often referred to as the “assistant commissioner” and he’s one of three men on the “Compensation Committee.”  The Compensation Committee sets the annual pay rate and bonuses of the League Commissioner, Roger Goodell.  How much garbage are YOU likely to throw at the guy who sets your pay?

Bear this in mind: this is the simplified version!  I left out truckloads of detail in an attempt to keep it “short.”  But I want to be clear.  I was really just trying to refresh my own memory.  I don’t care if you watch and enjoy the Super bowl.  (Four hours of your life for eleven minutes of action?  Awesome!)  I don’t care if you maintain loyalty to the Patriots.  But I don’t plan to watch the “big game” because…well, I just don’t care anymore…

Disorganized Crime…

I keep wanting to equate the Trump Crime Family with Tony Soprano as in; why does his base continue to think Trump is the ONLY honest guy in his mob organization?  The problem?  Tony’s crew was competent.  In all those years, ONE guy – Big Pussy – got busted and ended up sleeping with the fish.  (Full disclosure: I haven’t seen an episode in years.  I may have forgotten other busts…)

The Don Trump’s criminal enterprise is more like The Gang That Couldn’t Shoot Straight.  They likely would have gone their entire lives without getting caught if the Don hadn’t surrendered to his ego and run for President…

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Speaking of surrender, I don’t know for sure if I’m glad to see he finally caved on his wall funding.  His position was hurting Americans across the land so standing down was good.  But hurting Americans across the land would, sooner or later, have affected Republicans in Congress and I think we all know by now that the ONLY thing that’s going to get Republicans to challenge Trump is a direct threat to their own phony-baloney jobs…

No, I know.  I can’t really get behind actual harm to actual Americans in the name of a political stunt…

Mr. “Art of the Deal” never understood the position he put himself in.  Nancy COULD NOT back down once he started his assault on the government workers.  If SHE had caved, Trump would have been shutting down the government every time he wanted to do some NEW, dumbass thing.

It’s a parenting issue.  One cannot give in to a child’s tantrum unless one wants to experience tantrums from that point forward…

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I’m glad they got Roger Stone.  The noose is tightening around Donnie’s throat.  I saw Barney Frank on ‘Real Time’ recently.  He said he’d rather beat Trump at the polls than in a court of law.  I agree.  No matter how much fun it is to fantasize, Trump isn’t going to jail.  The US does NOT indict her ex-Presidents regardless of the crimes they commit.

All you need to do is consider international war criminal George W. Bush.  He can’t travel freely around the world because of his crimes but he CAN travel freely around America…

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Despite my best efforts, the Dem Wars are heating up again.  I watched an episode of the Samantha Bee show.  Samantha is a die-hard, dyed-in-the-wool Democrat.  She did a bit about all the women jumping into the race with an, “Oh, and Tulsi Gabbord, too” slap.  Tulsi is an established Democrat.  Her “crime”?  When the DNC started manipulating the 2016 primaries, she quit her role as vice-chair – publicly.  Apparently, she thought the DNC should be just facilitating an honest primary.  You know, like their charter dictates.  Now she’s on the out’s with Dems.

It appears they aren’t interested in a candidate with integrity…

Security Insecurity…

Alright, this is getting stupid.  Our National Shame is SO focused on his useless vanity wall he’s letting security go at nearly EVERY other level.  A certain segment of our population is screaming about the dangers of uncontrolled immigration and simultaneously reducing controls on who enters this country and how – all because they’re terrified of people coming to this country and requesting asylum legally.

TSA agents across the land aren’t getting paid but they still have to pay their bills so they’re calling in sick and doing “gig” work.  (“Gig” work is the new term in this vulture economy.  It’s a euphemism for “you’re on  your own.”)  Homeland Security isn’t funded.  Think about that.  Homeland Security isn’t funded because of a temper tantrum over…well, the security of the homeland.  This, despite the fact that the security of the homeland is pretty much as solid as it’s been since 9/11.

As it happens, people running for their lives and begging for help don’t really represent a threat and it doesn’t matter how many times a certain segment of our population says otherwise.

Truthfully, I’m conflicted.  I’m enjoying watching Pelosi hand Trump his ass over his vanity wall.  I even enjoy seeing his petty little responses.  They’re so…revealing.  As in, he revealed a Congressional trip to Afghanistan, a violation of security.  But then, MY income isn’t affected, yet.  I feel for the people who aren’t getting paid and I’m concerned about the inevitable ripple effect.

Trump insists he’s going to save this country if he has to destroy the country to do it…

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I really love AOC.  No, not the Architect of the Capitol.  I mean Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.  Holy gods has she got everyone in a dither.  The right effing hates her because she’s the personification of progressive values.  The Democrats effing hate her because she’s the personification of progressive values.  Progressives love her.

She’s a young, minority woman.  Three straight strikes, if you’re an old white man.  People keep trying to smack her down but they keep missing the mark.  What?  She dances?  DANCES?!?  She knows about marginal tax brackets!  So, of course, the right insists she doesn’t understand marginal tax brackets.  She’s opposed to incremental baby steps, the current buzz-phrase Democrats are using meaning “do nothing to upset the status quo.”

Sure, it’s fun but it’s dangerous.  Sooner or later, one of those salvos from the left or the right is going to land…

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So…IS Bernie personally responsible for claims of sexual harassment in his campaign?  No.  Unless HE did it, or one can prove he did nothing when he learned of it.  But that doesn’t stop the left – yes, the left – from attacking him aggressively over it.  Dems fear Bernie for the same reason they fear AOC.  It’s all that…progressiveness…when all they want to do is maintain the oligarchy as currently structured.  Sure, because it’s working so well for so many people.  I suspect it’s the left that’s keeping these charges alive in an effort to smear him…

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Dems are starting to come out of the woodwork running for President.  I think there’s a sense that just showing up might be enough to beat Putin’s Puppet.  Okay, hyperbole alert, there.  But the mood seems to be – unless one is a dedicated, dyed-in-the-wool Trump supporter – people want him OUT.  The right person with the right message has a real opportunity.

According to Rolling Stone, there are currently 27 candidates running or considering a run.  So far, no word from Hillary.

I think the ONLY chance Trump has of re-election is if the Dems and Progressives re-ignite the Dem wars of 2016.  So, of course, you can bet the opposition is going to fuel the divide.  Sadly, it’s not going to be too hard, either.  Dems are dug in: it’s NOT going to be a Progressive.  Progressives are dug in, too: we can no longer afford non-progressive politics.

Of course, it’s FAR too early to say who the best candidate might be.  I’d prefer someone younger to someone older – but Nancy Pelosi has certainly made a case that an… “experienced” politician has value in politics.  I’d prefer a Progressive, whether a Democrat or just someone running AS a Democrat.

Both the Republicans and Democrats can breath at least ONE sigh of relief: according to the Constitution, AOC is still too young to run for President…

The Truth of Automation…

A few years ago, back when the $15/hour movement started, a photo started floating around the web.  It wasn’t necessarily THIS photo but it looked something like this:

mcdonaldsautomated-2005

That’s an automated McDonald’s ordering system.  The photo was intended as a threat: “Demand an honest wage,” the message went, “and we’ll just automate your job away entirely.”  As with all things rich vs. poor, it’s a lie.  Here’s why:

The $15/hour movement got started around 2015 (and even at that would have left countless people below the poverty line).  That photo is dated 2005.  This is the web; maybe it was a typo but the caption noted that it was a prototype, the wave of the future.

I don’t mean to put too fine a point on this but the concept of a for-profit business is, well, to make profit.  Consider that an axiom.  It means that a business should, by rights, do any and every legal thing it can do to create profit.  The wealth hoarders at the top usually view the workers who generate the revenues as leeches and ALWAYS view the ‘Employee Compensation’ line on the P&L as a “problem.”  (Curiously, not the ‘Executive Compensation’ part, just the ‘Worker’ part…)

That means that automation is coming whether or not the corporation pays an honest wage.  There are two – and only two – considerations on the topic: dependability and public acceptance.  The corporation is already chipping away at the ‘acceptance’ part by offering these kiosks as “conveniences.” (As we know, today’s “convenience” is tomorrow’s “Screw you, YOU do it!”)  The very moment the ‘dependability’ part catches up, you’ll see fully automated McDonald’s everywhere you look – without regard to the pay rate of the workers.

Paying the workers an honest wage – or not – never enters into the equation.  Sooner or later, those workers are going to be out of a job as a result of automation.  The ONLY thing that will result from the lack of honest pay is that the workers’ plight will be worsened when they’re finally cut loose.  If they were paid an honest living wage while the transition to automation occurred, they’d be better positioned to absorb the loss of that job while they find another one.

I’ll tell you this: I don’t know about you but I’m kind of tired of all of the fraudulent excuses and stories being peddled in an attempt to justify theft from the workers…

Dedication, Bad and Good…

I’ve got to hand it to them, the Trump base.  Mexico has (stunningly) failed to write a check for his stupid border wall.  Hmm, who could have guessed?  Now, the Democrats won’t pay for it, either, based on nothing more than the fact that it won’t work.  So, some enterprising individual, a guy named Brian Kolfage, set up a GoFundMe account to raise the cash from the rubes who simply WILL NOT accept that ladders defeat walls.  The entire account was only trying to raise one-fifth of the Trump demand and they only raised a fraction of that amount – but still, it was a LOT.

Predictably, the account didn’t reach it’s goal.  Now, the goal has been shifted to an attempt to build the wall privately.  (The original campaign was to give the money to the Trump maladministration.)  But the people who donated to the original campaign have to actively opt-in or they get a refund.  It turns out, though, that Mr. Kolfage may not have cared one way or the other whether the wall campaign ever succeeded.  HE, apparently, just wanted a new, updated database of conservative email addresses he can use to raise funds for other conservative issues and even to sell.

So, essentially, conservatives have actually paid someone to sell their email addresses to other commercial interests so they can be buried in SPAM…

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One of the many and varied lies Capitalists tell to justify their greed is that they get to keep all of the revenue somebody else generated because THEY (the rich person) “took the risk” when they set up the business.  Did they?  Well, yeah, sure, they did take a risk.  But was it a BIGGER risk than the employee who went to work for a business that might fail?  I don’t think so.  In my experience, it was a much smaller risk.  The people at the top of the economic pyramid usually have financial back-up plans.  They get golden parachutes.  If the company fails, the owners get cashed-out.  The workers just get out, often with little or nothing to show for their efforts…

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I got a little worked this week watching law enforcement officials in Wisconsin talking about their heroic efforts to bring home a kidnapped 13 year-old girl.  Each department took turns congratulating themselves and other departments for their dedication and determination and how all of that dedication and determination brought the girl home.  But you know what?  They didn’t!

Look, for the most part, I respect cops and the work they do.  I have no doubt they were trying to find her…but they didn’t.  They didn’t know where she was.  They didn’t know who took her.  They didn’t know who killed her parents.  If SHE hadn’t escaped and sought help, they might never have found her OR the perpetrator (a white guy, btw).  Yet, there they were, “Oh, MAN, we did a great job!”

I think they should have cranked up the ‘Humble Pie’ knob a bit and given props to the young lady – who saved herself…

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A young cop got murdered on the streets of California this last week.  Police followed a trail that led to the home of the perpetrator who, very graciously, killed himself, saving the state huge money in trials and incarceration.  We started hearing tons about the cop; how she was new, dedicated, and looking forward to following in her father’s footsteps.  From a media standpoint, it didn’t hurt that she was VERY telegenic.  But we heard nothing about the killer.

At some point, that became suspicious, to me.  They had his body.  They knew who he was.  Yet we heard nothing.  I began saying, out loud, “This guy is white or we’d already know everything there is to know about him.”  (I didn’t even need anyone else in the room.  I just said it, out loud…)

Guess what?  White.  Coincidentally, named Limbaugh. (Relationship unknown, though he DID live in Florida for a time…)

So, we’ll get a day, maybe two, telling us about how he was “troubled” and what a tragedy this is.  If he had been some darker shade of brown, though, we would have been treated to at least a week – possibly two – detailing how his inherent violence wrought havoc on “our” peaceful way of life.

Racism is one of the United States’ prime sources of dishonor.  We were born a racist nation and elements among us have worked tirelessly to ensure we never, ever outgrow it.

Thankfully, there are intelligent, empathetic people in America, too…