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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.

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.

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.

It’s time to end electronic voting

By Michael d’Oliveira

Once the wave of the future, electronic voting in the U.S. needs to be a part of the past.

This month, multiple media outlets reported that children at a hacking conference successfully demonstrated ways they could hack U.S. voting systems.

There is now the possibility that a foreign power or a non-state actor could tamper with our election results. And the goal may not even be to get a preferred candidate to win. It may just be about sewing mistrust and doubt about the system, which could undermine the legitimacy of the actual legitimate winner.

In an article by The Guardian, Jake Braun, a former White House liaison on cybersecurity, says, “’We know that Russia has done this before. They did it in the Ukraine, where they hacked Ukrainian election results on the government website. Fortunately, the Ukrainians caught it and shut the website down. But then the Russians announced that their candidate had won on RT, when he hadn’t.’ Disarray ensued, and the Russian press had a foothold from which to begin spreading the allegation that the winner of the election wasn’t legitimate.”

Braun also says, “The No 1 thing we found last year wasn’t a hack at all, it was the fact that we opened up the back of the machine, and of course, no surprise, all the parts are made across the world, especially China.”

To solve this, we could throw a lot of money at better security for our elections. But that’s no guarantee of anything. These hackers almost always seem to get around whatever security is in place. Obviously, they aren’t always successful. But the failure to 100 percent guarantee the security of our elections is enough of a reason to turn back the clock on electronic voting.

It’s time to go back to paper ballots, a system that worked fine the entire time it was in use. The only exception was the 2000 election and the “hanging chads.” Those chads were a mistake but one that can be easily avoided.

Paper ballots are more secure than electronic voting and practically immune from tampering from a foreign power or a bunch of hackers somewhere in China or Eastern Europe.

I don’t know how much it would cost to do an all paper ballot system. But having a stable Democracy where the majority of Americans have faith in the reported results is worth the extra cost.

As for the timeliness of tallying the results, that’s never been a problem for paper ballots. Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s last election was in 1944 and the results were announced within a day or two of the election. Plenty of time for the winner of an election to get ready to take the oath of office in January.

It’s time to return to paper ballots. It was a good, effective and trustworthy system and there’s no reason why it can’t be again.

Even without swimsuits, Miss America will still be about how women look

By Michael d’Oliveira

Gretchen Carlson told Good Morning America last month that Miss America would no longer have a swimsuit competition.

“We will no longer judge our candidates on their outward physical appearance. That’s huge. And that means we will no longer have a swimsuit competition,” said Carlson, a former Fox News commentator and the chairwoman of the Miss America board of directors.

On The View, Carslon said Miss America would also be more open to women with body types who haven’t been included

Meghan McCain said she’d be fine with a swimsuit competition if “plus size girls” were also a part of it. “I one hundred percent agree with you,” responded Carlson.

But despite this move to make Miss America less about “outward physical appearance,” it’s not exactly going to be the revolution Carlson is promising.

All the announced candidates for Miss America 2019 [now posted on the organization’s website]
are stunningly beautiful – just like every year before. As for the “plus size” candidates, they’re also all beautiful and they’re also within that socially acceptable definition of “plus size.”

No one in this competition is going to be seriously overweight. No one is going to have less than perfect teeth, less than perfectly clear skin or less than perfect hair. They’re all going to fit the traditional standard of beauty as in years past.

These women may not be parading themselves around in heels and skimpy bathing suits, but Miss America is still going to be entirely based on outward physical appearance.

What Carlson really means is that all the gorgeous women judged during the actual event are going to be judged based on what they say or do. In that respect, she’s right – Miss America will be about brains and talent.

But, in reality, only women with a certain type of outward physical appearance are actually allowed into the Miss America event. You can’t call yourself inclusive if you don’t actually include everyone.

But not including everyone is okay. This is a private organization and it has the right to decide the standard by which people are admitted. There’s nothing wrong with that, especially since there’s nothing racist or bigoted about Miss America. Women of multiple ethnic and racial backgrounds are a part of the event.

But let’s be honest about what this change means. If someone wants to trumpet this as a moment of progress for women, go ahead. Just don’t pretend like superficiality isn’t still a big part of Miss America.

You can be against illegal immigration and still want immigrants treated humanely

By Michael d’Oliveira

While racism and bigotry do underpin a lot of the rhetoric of some people who are anti-illegal immigration, not everyone against illegal immigration is a racist or a bigot.

There is nothing immoral or cruel about someone wanting to control the flow of immigration into their country. The morality and humanity, or lack thereof, of an immigration policy comes in how people and families are treated. Preventing someone from entering the country illegally is not automatically cruel and inhumane. Ripping families apart is.

A lot of people who come here illegally do so because they’re desperate to provide for themselves and their families. They only want to find work and they aren’t here to steal, smuggle drugs, or worse. We should treat these people with compassion and humanity.

Unfortunately, some of the people who come here illegally are not here for innocent reasons. Having a system where everyone comes here legally is the only way to distinguish between the two groups and keep out as many gang and drug cartel members as possible. Can any system prevent every problem or avoid mistakes? No. No system is perfect. Will people still come here illegally? Yes. People who are desperate and destitute don’t have time to wait for paperwork. No one in their right mind would let their family be exposed to a dangerous situation longer than they had to just to wait on some paperwork. Human beings are not like that. They take action to protect themselves as soon as possible. Everyone should be able to empathize with that.

No one should get mad at desperate people just because they couldn’t wait to fill out form I-140. They certainly shouldn’t use racist or derogatory language to describe them either. But no one should get mad at someone who just wants to implement a humane, fair, immigration and border policy.

Stop the hyperbole surrounding illegal immigration

No, the Democrats don’t want illegal immigrants to come here and vote, as former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee wrote on Twitter today. “Nancy Pelosi introduces her campaign committee for the take back of the House,” he wrote above a picture of what appears to be Mexican gang members.

Wanting an increase in legal immigration or a decrease in children being separated from their families does not mean you want to see illegal immigrants getting in line at polling places on election day.

And, as horrible and immoral as separating families is, comparing ICE (U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement) to the Nazis is not accurate. “No more pussyfooting around any more. ICE = NAZIS,” wrote the Americans for Bernie Sanders Facebook page.

There are many atrocious acts committed in this world. The scale goes from cheating at golf all the way up to rounding up human beings and putting them in gas chambers. The Nazis occupied the farthest end of the spectrum. ICE ripping children from their parents’ arms is terrible, but it’s still not comparable to the Nazis.

Speaking in hyperbole does nothing to advance the conversation. You can speak out against horrible policy decisions without resorting to hyperbole.

No, renaming schools and removing statues does not “erase history”

By Michael d’Oliveira

When the news came out that a Virginia elementary school would be renamed after President Barack Obama and no longer after Confederate General J.E.B. Stuart, a familiar argument re-emerged: the renaming was “erasing history.”

One Facebook user wrote, “At some point erasing the history and monuments is going to come back and bite you.”

It’s an argument that has been uttered time and time again, especially when local officials somewhere decide to remove Confederate statues or flags from public land or facilities. It’s also an argument that is wrong.

The purpose of statues and monuments is not to teach history. That’s what books, museums, and educational lectures, etc., are for. Pretty much anything teaches history better than a statue because history is often complicated and can’t be summed up with a few pounds of stone or marble. Not even ones with plaques on them tell the whole story. No one stumbles upon a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee and suddenly learns everything about the Civil War. No one visits the Iwo Jima Memorial and suddenly learns everything about World War II.

If statues and monuments were imperative to learning about history, Benedict Arnold would be a forgotten figure. There are no monuments bearing his name or likeness. Everyone who knows about Arnold learned about him by reading a history book or some other kind of non-statue way.

Statues and monuments are not about teaching history. Statues and monuments are a direct reflection of the values and priorities of the people who erect them. Confederate statues and monuments were erected because the people who built them venerated the Confederates and the Confederacy. They saw the generals as heroic figures to be idolized. That’s why Abraham Lincoln has such a prominent and large memorial in a very prominent place in Washington, D.C. The Americans who built his memorial wanted to express to the world how much they respected and revered him.

You certainly wouldn’t put up a statue of someone you hate.

In at least one case (and probably many more) the New Orleans Liberty Place monument, before it was removed, had an inscription that read, “United States troops took over the state government and reinstated the usurpers but the national election of November 1876 recognized white supremacy in the South and gave us our state.”

Unlike many Civil War era statues, which just give a wink and a nod to white supremacy and violent insurrection and treason, the Liberty Place monument, which was erected shortly after the war, comes right out and declares it without leaving any doubt.

Which brings us to why (with few exceptions, such as historic battlefields), these Confederate statues don’t belong on public land: nothing that promotes the subjugation of fellow Americans or human beings in general should be given a place of prominence on public land. If someone wants to fly a Confederate flag or build a Confederate statue on their own property, that’s their right. But seeing Confederate symbols on public property is not a right.

Symbols have a certain amount of power. They can be used as something to rally around, just like all those neo-Nazis rallied around the statue of Robert E. Lee in Charlottesville last year. Removing these Confederate statues and monuments is not an effort to erase history. It’s an effort to erase some of the symbolic power of men who were on the wrong side of history.

Being gay seems to be the only “sin” that gets you denied service

By Michael d’Oliveira

The Supreme Court’s ruling yesterday regarding the case of the Colorado baker who refused to bake a cake for a gay couple in 2012 is the latest fight over how the LGBT community is treated in this country.

In a 7-2 decision, the court ruled in favor of the baker.

In her dissent, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg wrote that the baker clearly discriminated against the gay couple. “What matters is that Jack Phillips [the baker] would not provide a good or service to a same-sex couple that he would provide to a heterosexual couple. In contrast, the other bakeries’ sale of other goods to Christian customers was relevant: It shows that there were no goods the bakeries would sell to a non-Christian customer that they would refuse to sell to a Christian customer.”

Supporters of the baker cite his freedom of religion. They don’t believe anyone should be compelled to violate their religious faith.

Phillips told the New York Times in 2014, “When I decorate a cake, I feel like I’m participating in the event. I believe the Bible teaches that homosexuality is wrong. And to participate in a sin is wrong for me.”

Phillips and others are certainly free to think homosexuality is a sin. Just as I’m free to believe that homosexuality is part of the normal human experience and that there’s nothing sinful about consensual sex between two adults in the privacy of their own home.

But it seems as though it’s the only “sin” that is used as a reason to deny someone service.

Why aren’t adulterers being denied service?

Why are devout Catholic bakers still making wedding cakes for people who have already had at least one divorce?

Why aren’t people who worship “false gods” being denied service?

Why aren’t people who take the lord’s name in vein being denied service?

And it’s not just confined to wedding cakes and other types of private business transactions.

The LGBT community is virtually the only group that has to actively fight against legislation that either aims to restrict its rights or prevent it from becoming more equal with heterosexual individuals.

Not everyone who is against gay marriage or gay adoption is a bigot. But the movements aligned against the expansion or preservation of gay rights are fueled by a lot of bigotry. There are a lot of people who say “love the sinner, hate the sin.” But there are also a lot of people who actively seek to demonize and dehumanize homosexuals. They often get compared to animals and are treated as less than normal human beings.

This is part of the underlying reason why the LGBT community is targeted so often when other “sinners” seem to not get any attention at all.

People don’t like adulterers and idolaters, but the “sin” of homosexuality seems to elicit a special kind of hatred. It could be partly a visceral reaction because many people are uncomfortable with the physical act of two men or two women having sex. Whatever the cause, it’s clear there’s a lot of hatred. Again, not everyone against gay rights hates homosexuals. But there’s no denying the ones who do are a big reason the LGBT community faces the obstacles it does.

Chelsea Clinton is the most consistent person in politics today

By Michael d’Oliveira

Most liberals and conservatives only speak out in defense of their own. Chelsea Clinton defends everyone, regardless of who they are, if she thinks they haven’t been treated properly. On her Full Frontal show this week, Samantha Bee called Ivanka Trump a “feckless cunt” for not standing up to President Donald Trump about his immigration policies.

The response has been typical. Many liberals don’t think it’s a big deal and many conservatives want Bee to be fired. It’s reminiscent of the Roseanne Barr episode earlier this week where many conservatives were the ones trying to downplay what happened and many liberals were the ones up in arms.  Bee has apologized to Ivanka Trump, but she’s already lost two advertisers, Autotrader and State Farm. More may follow in the coming days.

But while liberals and conservatives play musical chairs over how appropriate Bee’s remarks were, Chelsea Clinton has once again proved to be one of the few consistent voices.  “It’s grossly inappropriate and just flat-out wrong to describe or talk about @IvankaTrump or any woman that way,” wrote Clinton on Twitter.

But this isn’t the first time Clinton has defended a member of the Trump family.

In August of last year, she called upon everyone in the media and the country to stop talking about Trump’s son, Barron, in a negative way. “It’s high time the media & everyone leave Barron Trump alone & let him have the private childhood he deserves.”

In November of last year, she also called upon people to leave President Barack Obama’s daughter, Malia, alone. Her defense of Malia and Barron probably come from her own experience of growing up in the White House and having to endure media scrutiny and ridicule, including being called a dog by Rush Limbaugh.

In May, Clinton called a tweet by Philippe Reines, former press secretary and senior adviser to Hillary Clinton, “vile.” Reines was talking about Vanessa Trump divorcing her husband, Donald Trump, Jr. “Vanessa being with a Latin King must’ve driven you insanely jealous,” wrote Reines.

But none of this means Clinton doesn’t believe in criticizing Ivanka or any of Trump’s other adult children for what they say or do. She told Stephen Colbert in March that, “I think anyone who works for the president certainly should expect to be scrutinized for whatever decisions not only he or she is making, but whatever decisions the White House is making on any given day.”

But there are lines you don’t cross. Everyone’s idea of the line is different. Clinton seems to have drawn her line with using profanity to describe individuals. You may not agree with where she puts her line, but you can’t say she’s not consistent. And in a world full of hypocrites, that’s worth talking about.

Why “it doesn’t affect me” isn’t good enough anymore

By Michael d’Oliveira

Part of the reason public support for gay marriage has increased so dramatically over the last 15 years is because, unlike abortion, many people view it as something that doesn’t affect them or others.

According to the Pew Research Center, support for gay marriage was 35 percent in 2001. In 2017, it was 62 percent.

But while “it doesn’t affect me” was probably good enough to sway public opinion in favor of gay marriage, and possibly even influence the Supreme Court decision legalizing gay marriage in 2015, as a society, we need to do better.

“It doesn’t affect me” accurately describes the private relationship of two consenting adults. What two gay men or two lesbians do as a couple is nobody’s business but their own. Their love and commitment to each other is not going to negatively impact the ability of any heterosexual couple to have a happy marriage or raise healthy children.

But “it doesn’t affect me” also has a certain negative connotation to it. It implies that the only reason to grant someone rights is because it won’t impact yours. There’s an implied idea that one depends on the other. Nobody says, “Christians should be allowed to worship freely because it doesn’t impact Sunday football.” Christians are allowed to worship freely in this country because we all believe they have the right to do so. The same view needs to become predominant when it comes to thinking about gay marriage and other LGBT rights.

To be clear: nobody should be forced or shamed into exposing the belief that LGBT couples have the right to be married. No one should be called a homophobe or a bigot just because they say, “it doesn’t affect me.” If we’re truly going to get people to change their minds, courteous and open conversation is the only way to go.

The way to change people’s minds is to highlight the humanity of the LGBT community and hope the thinking progresses in the right direction. As open homosexuality becomes more accepted by society, that will probably be the case. But it’s not something that can be taken for granted. History shows that it is possible for societies to backslide and regress.

LGBT individuals deserve the right to get married because they are human beings. They have the same hopes, dreams, fears, foibles, flaws, and potential as everyone else. They want to love, be loved, and be accepted by their friends and family for who they are. No one chooses to be gay because, for many people, that choice means being ostracized from their friends and family.

Nobody chooses to be discarded in that way. Most human beings, if they truly could choose, would make the choice that doesn’t involve negative social consequences or the physical harm and death that befalls many homosexuals, especially in countries where being openly gay is dangerous.

It’s a lesson in humanity that has its most recent example in the lesbian couple who proposed to each other at the same exact time in Memphis.

You can see the joy and happiness on display, just as you would when you see a man propose to a woman. That’s because we’re all human beings who experience the same emotions. We’re not really different, not in the ways that really count.

I see two lesbians but, what I really see is two human beings who are in love. I wish them a long and happy life together.