Neither side has a monopoly on incivility and anger

By Michael d’Oliveira

One of the tactics in American politics these days involves pretending as though everyone who agrees with you is always respectful and civil and the other side is filled with angry and disrespectful people.

And like many things involving politics, the reality is much different.

The truth is that both sides, liberal and conservative, contain groups of people who exceed the kind of behavior that society generally defines as socially acceptable.

On several occasions, liberal protesters have yelled at and harassed Republican politicians and members of the Trump administration in restaurants and other public places.

The same has happened at several Trump rallies. Trump supporters have regularly yelled at members of the media, including the use of profanity and the middle finger.

Most recently, Democratic Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi was yelled at and harassed by a group of conservatives in South Florida. One man called her a “piece of shit.”

Regardless of whether or not this type of behavior is acceptable, only politics is capable of getting people this worked up and angry.

And only politics is capable of blinding people to the fact that no side has a monopoly on incivility and anger.

The alteration of this “Halloween” billboard (the featured image at the top of this post) is a good example of that – people thinking only the other side has a problem.

If anyone wants to argue one side has a bigger problem with incivility and disrespect, that’s an argument that can be made. But arguing one side is completely innocent of this kind of behavior is not an argument that can be made credibly.

And, of course, leading that charge of lacking credibility is President Donald Trump.

As someone who has repeatedly condoned and encouraged violence, Trump somehow thinks he’s the best person to call the Democrats an “angry mob.”

At a political rally on Oct. 18, Trump praised Republican Congressman Greg Gianforte for body slamming a reporter. “Any guy who can do a body slam – he’s my guy.”

The next day, Trump called the Democrats an “angry mob.” And then he said something about unity, which is the perfect thing to expect if you’re the kind of guy who constantly belittles your political opponents.

Thankfully, there are at least some Republicans and conservatives who are speaking out against Trump’s language.

Radio host and former Republican Congressman Joe Walsh is one of them.

On Twitter (below) he wrote, “The President encourages & applauds physical violence against a journalist. Hey Republicans, don’t ever complain again about violence coming from the Left.”

We need people on both sides to call out violence and the encouragement of violence.

Stop crapping on fast food workers just for trying to make more money

By Michael d’Oliveira

Every employee in the world wants to make more money.

Every day, many around the world ask for a raise to try and get it.

Not everyone is successful but the ones who are usually get met with praise and congratulations.

Everyone, that is, except for fast food workers.

For some reason, when fast food workers say they want more money.

Maybe it’s the fact that fast food workers aren’t widely respected by many people. Their job is seen as being at the bottom of the economic food chain by many and they think the wage they make now accurately reflects that.

Fast food workers who want more money are often met with insults and predictions that paying them more will lead to being replaced by computers and robots.

The meme below predicts replacement. But ordering kiosks alone don’t seem to have much of an impact on employment levels in fast food. The vast majority of jobs in a fast food restaurant are behind the counter – people making food or cleaning or doing some other kind of manual labor a kiosk can’t do.

In the comment section of a story about fast food workers asking for a $15 wage, one person on Facebook wrote, “Clu3, naw naw naw…. I was an Assistant Engineer in college makin $15/hr… and I had to be actively in pursuit of a degree for that!!! I can’t see it, they have to miss me with that ?✌?let them strike, and get replaced with a kiosk ?”

Another person, who supports a wage increase for fast food workers, has the perfect response”

“It’s cute how people will say “Why should a fast food worker get paid $15 an hour when a paramedic gets paid $15 an hour for saving someones life?” instead of “How come a paramedic gets paid $15 an hour while a 30 minute ambulance ride costs $900?” Wow, it looks like the fast food worker, the paramedic, and the person in the ambulance are all getting fricked and somehow mad at eachother about it instead of being mad at the people who are profiting off them.”

But no one seems to be talking about another important point: in this country, people aren’t paid what they deserve or need. They’re paid what they can negotiate for.

As Clint Eastwood in Unforgiven said, “deserves got nothing to do with it.”

That’s how wages have always worked. Workers try to get as much as they can and ownership tries to give as little as they can.

In our capitalist society, we’re told it’s up to us to get as much as we can for ourselves – grab as much of the pie as we can slice. But, suddenly, fast food workers aren’t supposed to get a bigger slice of the pie? They aren’t part of capitalism?

No one should be judged for trying to make more money.

The hypocrisy of “shut up” culture: Kanye West edition

By Michael d’Oliveira

The hypocrisy of “shut up culture” reached new highs (well, lows actually) this week with Kanye West’s Oval Office meeting with President Donald Trump.

The newly crowned leader of “shut up culture” is Candace Owens. A conservative pundit, Owens has gotten a lot of attention lately – from conservatives and liberals.

Not too long ago, Owens did a whole video on that now classic conservative saying: celebrities should shut up.

In the video, Owens says, “Here’s the thing, famous ladies and gents: Nobody cares what you think. Nobody.”

And nothing says “nobody cares what celebrities think” than devoting a three-minute video to talking about how nobody cares what celebrities think. Truly not caring would involve just ignoring the thing you claim to not care about.

Fast forward to this week and Owens is smiling from ear to ear and talking to everyone about how great it is that Kanye, who, in case you’ve forgotten, is a celebrity, has spoken out against the Democrats and everyone else who is anti-Trump.

On Fox & Friends, she said Kanye was “Bold enough to move the ball forward and start speaking about these things publicly.”

Quite the turnaround.

Of course, this naked hypocrisy of telling one group of Americans they can’t be part of the political conversation while praising another for the exact same thing is nothing new. It was written about on this website earlier this year.

This hypocrisy and these double standards represent one of the big problems with our public discourse: some of us would just rather shout at people we disagree with.

It’s certainly everyone’s right to disagree with anything anyone says. If some actor or musician tells you Trump sucks, you don’t have to agree. You can even reply that liberal celebrities are the ones who suck.

But it rings very hallow to tell some celebrities they shouldn’t be involved in politics while telling others they are great for doing so.

And Owens is probably the last person who should be telling celebrities to shut up. She’s basically a celebrity herself. She’s certainly treated like one by many conservatives who like what she has to say.

Before the internet, most people couldn’t have their political opinions disseminated to the entire world. That kind of widespread exposure was really only reserved for celebrities, people in the media and politicians.

But in the age of social media, literally anyone can say or write something and the whole world will pay attention. It doesn’t matter if you are an expert in what you’re talking about or you have many years of experience, you can become famous just by expressing the right opinion at the right moment.

The game has changed, and we’ve become a society where everyone’s opinions can suddenly drive the public discourse. The time of telling others to not use the platforms they have access to are over.

There’s no time limit on public accusations of sexual assault

By Michael d’Oliveira

When Christine Blasey Ford made her allegations against now Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, it produced the usual questions that come with accusations of sexual assault: Why would a woman wait 40 years to come out with her story?

Why would she stay quiet while the man who allegedly assaulted her was nominated for other judgeships or positions of power?

Why didn’t she say something sooner?

There are a lot of stories about why women stay silent, and the two main reasons they give are shame and a belief that telling their story won’t matter.

As for when a woman should reveal her accusations against powerful men, the answer is simple: when she decides. It’s not for anyone, especially men who have no idea what it’s like to be raped or harassed, to assign a time table for women who claim they are the victims of such behavior.

Ford may or may not be telling the truth. But she’s not subject to anyone else’s judgement as to when she should have come out with her story.

Human beings are complicated. They don’t react in the neat and tidy little ways you want them to. Sexual assault is an emotionally scarring experience. Beyond the physical trauma, the victim is left emotionally devastated with huge self-esteem and image issues.

You can’t expect someone still dealing with the impact of sexual assault to have the courage or clear-mindedness to be able to take on everything that comes along with going public with their story.

According to RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network), an anti-sexual violence organization, sexual assault can cause PTSD, depression and flashbacks. “After a traumatic event, it is typical to have feelings of anxiety, stress, or fear, making it difficult to adjust or cope for some time afterwards,” states RAINN’s website.

There is a huge cost to accusing a Supreme Court nominee of attempted rape.

There are death threats, huge amounts of public ridicule and the uncomfortable saga of having to reveal possibly the worst moment of your life to the world.

It’s very reasonable to think someone would want to avoid that. It’s also reasonable that when Kavanaugh was nominated for his previous positions, Ford decided that maybe telling her story wasn’t worth the trouble.

But there are few positions of power and influence that compare to being a Supreme Court Justice. She may have finally decided she couldn’t see this man rise any higher.

Our decisions aren’t made in a vacuum. There are repercussions for those who accuse powerful men of unseemly actions, especially if there are powerful interests invested in his success.

When women do come forward, we should keep an open mind and be cognizant that speaking about sexual assault is no easy thing.

Conservatives and democratic socialists are wrong about democratic socialism

By Michael d’Oliveira

Mention democratic socialism and many conservatives shriek that it’s an attack on American values; basically, the softer side of Karl Marx.

Mention it to a group of democratic socialists and it’s hailed as a system that will ultimately replace capitalism for the better.

They’re both wrong.

Democratic socialism is neither the forebearer of communist hordes, nor is it something that will bring about an end to every negative consequence of capitalism. That’s because capitalism is an integral component of democratic socialism.

Free enterprise, free markets and the private control of the means of production are key to creating an economy that can support the social programs popular with democratic socialists.

If you want proof, look to Europe. Democratic socialism governs most of Western Europe, especially Germany. Europe’s most economically powerful nation has a robust social welfare state. They also have a robust private economy where individuals and corporations control their own businesses and are free to trade, innovate and produce without any significant interference from the government.

Germany isn’t some communist hell hole. It’s a very rich nation with a very high standard of living. Its people aren’t starving. It’s an example of how you can have a welfare state that is able to financially support its welfare programs. It most certainly is not Venezuela.

Private property and free enterprise are values that a majority of Europeans believe in. They don’t want government to run and control the means of production. What they do want is a balance of government regulation which tries to protect workers and consumers while still allowing companies to remain profitable and viable.

Both conservatives and most democratic socialists believe in capitalism or some form of it. If you ask a democratic socialist if someone should be able to open a business, odds are most, if not all of them, will say yes. They may be in favor of forcing corporations to pay higher salaries and taxes, but they won’t advocate for the government taking over that business.

Real, pure, unadulterated socialism and communism don’t actually have much support here in the United States. And that’s a good thing.

But that may be in jeopardy if we keep having disingenuous discussions about democratic socialism.

If democratic socialism is constantly depicted as being the answer to capitalism, the real answer to capitalism, communism, may find more and more fertile ground.

But while conservatives are great at making democratic socialism into a boogeyman, the real experts of misrepresenting democratic socialism are democratic socialists. And right now, their leader is Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez – a self-styled democratic socialist who is running for Congress in New York.

In August, she detailed some examples of democratic socialism, which included café co-ops and supporting worker-owned businesses.

Co-ops and worker-owned businesses aren’t examples of democratic socialism. The first is a partnership between two privately owned businesses. That’s the very essence of free markets and capitalism. No one in the government stopped those businesses from working together. As for worker-owned businesses, again, that’s not democratic socialism because it has nothing to do with government. It was a group of private individuals owning a business together.

The economy is so important in this and every other country and we need to have real, honest, accurate discussions about what kind of policies we want to shape that economy. We can’t do that when people are pretending something is something it isn’t.

Everyone should stop calling for Trump and Clinton to be locked up

By Michael d’Oliveira

“Lock her up” is a staple of rallies hosted by President Donald Trump. It’s a chant directed at Hillary Clinton for all the crimes conservatives claim she’s done.

It’s become a very tired chant – one that’s been yelled for years but brings Clinton no closer to getting thrown in jail. It’s also a chant that shouldn’t be uttered. Calling for the incarceration of a major political figure before she’s even been charged with a crime is dangerous, divisive and distracting.

In July of 2016, Washington Post opinion writer Jennifer Rubin wrote about the “lock her up” chant. “The suggestion is that Hillary Clinton was not just wrong, negligent or dishonest but should be imprisoned. In lieu of policy disagreements we now criminalize the opposing party’s nominee,” she stated.

She was right.

The same should be said for liberals saying “lock him up” about Trump.

Like Clinton, Trump has been the subject of countless newspaper articles, television broadcasts and other media outlining supposed and alleged crimes.

And, like Clinton, all or some of it might be true.

But “might” is the key word here.

Nothing has been proven and no charges have been filed. Neither Trump nor Clinton have been convicted of anything.

Liberals who chant “lock him up,” or post it on social media, are acting no better than the Trump supporters who think the justice system should just throw Clinton in jail with no trial.

But the phrase seems to have become just as popular with Trump’s critics as it has with Trump supporters.

Asked why he put bars on Trump’s Hollywood Walk of Fame star, an artist who goes by the name Plastic Jesus, said Trump was “goin’ to jail.”

It should be noted that, even if a court of law found Trump guilty of something, there is a very slim chance he would actually go to jail. Presidents just don’t go to jail in this country. For a myriad of reasons, both good and bad. So, if you really dislike Trump, don’t get your hopes up too much.

That being said, “lock him up” and “lock her up” are both corrosive phrases that do nothing but make people less likely to listen to each other.

It’s just not something that should be said in a country where the rule of law and due process are vital to the stability of the country.

But that’s politics today. Say something as incendiary as possible, no matter what the consequences.

A picture can be worth a thousand lies

By Michael d’Oliveira

Stop trusting photographs.

Seeing is not always believing, especially when politics is involved.

On her verified Instagram account, Lynne Patton, an official with the Department of Housing and Urban Development, shared a meme of CNN anchor Anderson Cooper.

The meme reads, “If the media will lie about this what else are they lying about?”

If you go just by the photo, it might look as though Cooper was trying to make the water look deeper than it actually was. He wasn’t.

Cooper defended himself and his reporting and debunked the meme by playing a video of his coverage – from Hurricane Ike in 2008.

Cooper clearly wasn’t trying to make things seem worse than they were.

“The good news here is the water is subsiding,” he says in the video. The whole point of having the camera crew on the road and Cooper just a few feet away was to demonstrate how deep the water can suddenly get and why people should be cautious and stay on the road if possible.

So, Cooper basically did the opposite of what the meme claimed he did.

If anyone is lying here, it’s the person who made the meme.

There’s also a good chance that they just saw the photo and assumed they knew the whole story. Jumping to conclusions seems to have become the national pastime.

That’s why you can’t trust photographs. They can be taken out of context or even photoshopped.

One recent meme (posted below) claims that a group of baseball players, in what looks like the 1950s, kneeled during the National Anthem in protest of black lynching’s.

By the way the men are standing, it’s clearly a team photo with no political agenda behind it. But the crowd behind the men also offers a clue: many of the people seem to be sitting. Something most people don’t do during the National Anthem. Either way, there’s no proof the players were protesting in the photo. So there’s no reason you should just believe they were just because someone slapped a few words on a photo.

If the American experiment is going to survive, Americans, as a whole, are going to have to become a lot more skeptical about what we read, hear, and see. As Hunter S. Thompson said, “In a democracy, you have to be a player.” Was he talking about “fake news”? I doubt it. But, in today’s democracy, being a player means being good at not letting false information fool you.

Accusations should not be automatically believed or dismissed

By Michael d’Oliveira

The following is quite insane:

“The charge of sexual assault against [Supreme Court nominee] Brett Kavanaugh is disqualifying and we call on him to immediately withdraw his nomination for the Supreme Court,” said Ilyse Hogue, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America in a New York Times article about the sexual assault accusations against Kavanaugh.

Did you catch that?

“The charge of sexual assault . . . is disqualifying.”

So, apparently, for at least one person, accusation is all that’s required to decide someone is guilty.

No proof needed anymore.

No need to investigate or verify.

Just assume its true and be done with it.

And Hogue’s statement on skipping past the trial part of the court of public opinion, and going straight to sentencing, came when the accusations by Ford were still anonymous.

Would Hogue call for a liberal, pro-choice Supreme Court nominee to step down if someone made anonymous accusations against that nominee with no proof? Very doubtful. But if Hogue’s attitude were applied to everyone who submitted themselves to public office, every single person, no matter if they were truly innocent or guilty, could be derailed with a few minutes spent creating a Microsoft Word document and an email account.

I don’t want to see Brett Kavanaugh confirmed as the next associate justice of the Supreme Court. I don’t think his ascendency to the highest court in the country would be a good thing.

But I do want to see him afforded the basic right to have the accusations of his accuser investigated before he is judged on what she claims happened.

When someone is accused of sexual assault, no one should automatically believe or dismiss the accuser. But each accusation should be taken seriously and investigated. False accusations can ruin careers, relationships and reputations. But individuals who are truly guilty of sexual assault need to be punished accordingly. They certainly shouldn’t be allowed to be placed into positions of power and influence.

That’s why accusations should be investigated before they are taken as fact.

That’s a right that should transcend politics.

Sadly, it’s not.

When some public official gets accused of sexual assault, so many of us either automatically believe or dismiss the accuser based solely on the political background of the accused. And that’s really quite sad and pathetic.

It’s one of the most shameful aspects of our public discourse.

When Democratic Senator Al Franken was accused of bad behavior, many liberals dismissed his accuser of being politically motivated. Likewise, many conservatives automatically believed her and called for Franken to step down. Which he eventually did.

Now, we find ourselves in a situation where the shoe is on the other foot and no one seems to remember what they were wearing just a short while ago.

Korea was “the good war” on a smaller scale

By Michael d’Oliveira

World War II is often referred to as “The Good War” because it ended the threat of Nazism and Imperial Japan.

Killing human beings is never “good.” But World War II illustrates that there can be good goals associated with war. The world is infinitely better off because of the brave men who fought against the Nazis.

But there’s another war that was just as “good” as World War II, and it happened only five years after America and its allies defeated Hitler and Tojo.

Today is the anniversary of General Douglas MacArthur’s amphibious landing at Inch’on. On September 15, 1950, 40,000 Army and Marine Corps infantryman landed at Inch’on during the Korean War.

Up until that point, the North Koreans had been winning the war and had conquered all of South Korea, except a small pocket of American and United Nations resistance – Pusan. The landings at Inch’on cut the supply lines of the North Koreans and forced them to retreat.

Unlike the D-Day landings in World War II, which were the beginning of the end of the Nazis, the Inch’on landings weren’t the beginning of the end of the North Koreans. Today, the Peninsula is still divided between North and South.

There was no final victory against North Korea. After Inch’on, the war lasted another three years and ended in stalemate. In World War II, good had triumphed completely over evil. But in Korea, good and evil merely decided to put a halt to the fighting.

But it was not a failure.

Inch’on, and every other battle fought by America and its allies in the Korean War, deserves to be remembered just as much as every battle fought in World War II.

Because of the 36,914 Americans who died during the war, 51 million South Koreans are free today. It’s not on the same scale as freeing an entire continent from fascism, but it’s no less admirable and no less worthy of remembrance.

Satellite images of the Korean Peninsula at night show that the difference between South and North Korea is the difference between light and darkness – literally.

The image at the top of this article shows one nation as thriving and prosperous; a country lit up at night because the vast majority of its citizens are given the opportunity to succeed and provide for themselves.

The other half of the image is a different story.

It’s an illustration of the slavery, poverty and depravation that the North Korea people have to endure daily.

If it weren’t for the Americans who fought and died in the Korean War, millions more Koreans would be living in darkness – literally and figuratively. For that, we should honor them just as much as we honor our World War II veterans.

The time I met a superhero

A few of my friends grew up reading about superheroes in comic books. I found my superheroes in the pages of World War II history books and Hollywood war pictures.

But, like my friends, I never thought I would actually meet the superheroes I read about. But years after I began writing, I’ve met a few. The latest was Mr. Fred Conrod, whom I interviewed last September for the local paper I work for.

Mr. Conrod, who died last month at age 93, was a superhero right out of central casting.

A member of “The Devil’s Brigade,” the famed commando unit depicted in the 1968 film of the same name, Mr. Conrod fought seemingly everywhere in Europe during World War II – Italy, France, Norway and Germany.

Officially known as the First Special Service Force, they were given their nickname by the Germans. They got it by wreaking havoc behind the German lines and leaving their calling card on the enemy soldiers they dispatched – “Das dicke Ende kommt noch” was German for “The worst is yet to come.”

Mr. Conrod’s experience in the war could make for a pretty good movie with a lot of action, a good bit of humor and some a little luck. There was even some romance. “I had a great time in Southern France. I dated the prettiest girl in Nice,” Mr. Conrod told me last year.

In Norway, when the terror and adrenaline of combat gave way to the boredom in between battles, Mr. Conrod said he amused himself by sneaking into a German camp and stealing a motorcycle.

But, as entertaining as his story is, it’s scary to think of what the world would look like today if Mr. Conrod and others hadn’t won the war.

Thankfully, Hitler was wrong about who the real “super men” were.

They weren’t of Aryan descent. They were American boys whose parents and grandparents came from every corner of the human race. American kids of Italian, Japanese, English, Scottish, African, Russian, Hispanic, French, Irish, even German descent, to name a few, who grew up playing baseball and learning knots in the Boy Scouts.

They were shaped and toughened by the Great Depression, grew into men and answered their country’s call with honor and distinction.

Super heroes save a fictional world.

The men of Mr. Conrod’s generation saved the real one.

We can never fully repay that debt. But we can remember what we owe.