When will we stop listening to Dick Cheney?

Think of things that the average person complains about: the internet is slow or their sports team loses a crucial game or, God forbid, they get stopped by a train on their daily commute.

In the moment, these things are frustrating to a lot of people, myself included. But some perspective on these “hardships” never hurts.

Somewhere, right now, someone has a terminal illness or has no means to get food or water. Somewhere else, a flood just swept away a family’s house or a person’s child was just the victim of gun violence.

It sounds depressing – and it is – but it gives you something to be mindful of as you scream at a slow-moving train or throw your laptop across the room because the Wi-Fi isn’t working. A lot of our problems aren’t that bad when we put them in perspective.

This is when former (Vice) President – and current spokesperson for Shameless Hypocrisy, Inc. – Dick Cheney comes into the discussion.

When you think about our country’s current situation, especially in Iraq, don’t forget how badly degraded our standing in the world was when Cheney was shaping foreign policy.

When we waged war in Iraq, based on faulty intelligence and questionable motives, what did Cheney and company say?

The conflict would only take months. Wrong.

There were weapons of mass destruction. Wrong.

It would be a quick and easy war. Wrong.

There was a connection between 9/11 and Saddam Hussein. Wrong.

If being wrong was a crime, Cheney would be serving at least three life sentences in prison. And maybe he should, since his failure to get things right resulted in thousands of dead U.S. soldiers.

Not only was he wrong, but his insistence that we invade and occupy Iraq only served to undermine the U.S. operation in Afghanistan, where we seemingly let the 9/11 perpetrators off the hook. It was only until the Bush/Cheney administration left office that we shifted our foreign policy back toward Afghanistan and finally took out Osama bin Laden and a whole host of other al-Qaeda leaders.

So Mr. Cheney was wrong on just about every foreign policy decision he had a role in making when he was in office. Yet, for some mind-boggling reason, the current Republican Party is taking their policy tips from him, all while the media keep giving him a platform on which to shamelessly talk about how bad the current president’s foreign policy is.

How many more times does Cheney have to screw up before we stop listening to him?

All of this is not to say that these are boom times for America’s foreign policy. What I’m saying is that we, the American people, shouldn’t confuse a slow-moving train for a terminal illness. We should not confuse today’s challenges in the middle east with the inept foreign policy perpetuated by Dick Cheney and friends.

Instead, whenever Cheney opens the lopsided orifice on his face, we should remember just how bad things were when he was influencing U.S. policy decisions – foreign and domestic – and how awful things could be if Cheney were still in charge.

Oh, and he shot a guy in the face for God’s sake.

Farewell, Summer 2014

There’s always that one day that seems to represent the end of summer and the beginning of a much cooler, less bright autumn season. It doesn’t have to be the official start of the fall season, but it might as well be.

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You wake up and there’s a darker, more menacing tone about the world. The heavy clouds hang over the earth looking like they’re about to burst at the seams. And the air has a certain coolness from which you know it will never fully recover.

Today is that day. And it’s sort of depressing, isn’t it?

It’s just that we spend the first two decades of our lives either waiting for summer to come or hoping that it never ends. And I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to change that state of mind, even if work doesn’t take a summer vacation like it used to.

Yes, I live in northeastern Ohio and autumn is a beautiful season to watch happen.

There’s a spark to summer, though, that doesn’t exist within any of the other seasons; it’s corny but true. When we’re kids, we think that one year we might get lucky and the spark will never go out. As adults, we know better.

We start to realize, though, that part of why summer is so special is because it ends.

To paraphrase some dialogue from Ray Bradbury’s Dandelion Wine, it may be sad that summer happens and goes away so quickly, but if it stayed and we got bored, that’s real sadness.

So life continues to speed up and the brakes start to fail and there’s nothing we can do to change it. We can only let the seasons fly by us like a NASCAR race that we’re simply here to watch.

What we do have the power to control is our ability to appreciate these fleeting moments as much as we can.  Summer is gone, but fall has promise that we shouldn’t deny ourselves.

So, watch some scary movies. Carve a pumpkin. Go on a hayride. Pick apples from an orchard. Drink warm cider. Jump in a pile of leaves. Go to a football game. Just get all you can from these moments, because they happen fast.

I know that’s what I’ll try to do.

And, of course, there will always be the kid within me, anxiously waiting for summer to circle back around.

Farewell, Summer 2014. It was fun while it lasted.

Fox host Megyn Kelly shows misleading Bush speech from 2007

There is not enough time in any person’s life to correct the copious amounts of misleading information that Fox News shamelessly vomits into the minds of its loyal viewers. But every once in a while, the “fair and balanced” network drops a pile of shit – excuse my language – so large that it’s impossible not to step in it.

It’s bad enough to stumble upon their network one evening and hear their blatantly disingenuous “reporting,” but it’s even more frustrating to see that some people actually buy into it.

On Thursday night, Megyn Kelly, host of the Kelly File, showed a video clip of what she called a “frighteningly accurate” warning from George W. Bush in 2007. In the clip, Bush defended the troop surge taking place at the time and said that leaving Iraq too soon – before the Iraqis could control their own country – would have dire circumstances.

This proves, according to Kelly, that Bush was right about Iraq all along. Heck, he even predicted what is unfolding in the region today.

To the average Fox viewer, the lack of any meaningful context is something they have come to love and admire about their favorite news channel.  What viewers of a network like this want is the ability to draw a line from earth’s ills directly back to President Barack Obama, regardless of how delusional the argument is.

But, if you remember doing “connect the dots” in kindergarten, you’d know that you can’t just connect the number one dot to the number eight dot and hope the rest of us don’t notice.

That’s what Megyn Kelly tried to pull on her viewers Thursday night.

The point of the troop surge – the same surge Bush was defending in the video clip shown by Kelly – was to establish a “unified, democratic federal Iraq that can govern itself, defend itself, and sustain itself, and is an ally in the War on Terror.” In other words, the surge was meant to stabilize the region and create an environment where the Iraqis can stand on their own feet so, ultimately, the United States could get the hell out.

A year after that 2007 statement, the Bush administration was satisfied with the results of the surge, and President Bush signed a Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) with Iraq. The agreement required that American combat troops withdraw by June 30, 2009, and that by December 31, 2011, all American troops leave Iraq altogether.

Again, this was signed by George W. Bush.

Megyn Kelly may have had a valid argument to make if she didn’t just ignore what happened between Bush’s 2007 speech and what’s happening in Iraq today. But even George W. Bush, the architect of the Iraq debacle, had agreed to have troops leave when they ultimately did. And whether it’s George W. Bush signing the SOFA or Barack Obama implementing it, leaving Iraq was what the American people overwhelmingly wanted. And, today, the public still doesn’t want to jump into another ground war in the Middle East.

I get it – Fox News has an agenda to which they must strictly adhere. But facts matter, and so does context. Avid Fox News viewers may be drawn to this type of shoddy reporting – mainly because it aligns with their far right ideology – but the rest of us shouldn’t be fooled.

Stop trying to justify the killings of unarmed black men

Here’s what happens: A black teenager or young adult is killed, sometimes it’s by law enforcement and sometimes it’s just some guy with a gun who’s pretending to be law enforcement, and a faction of white people feel it is their duty to justify the killing.

Regardless of whether it’s politically or racially driven,  it’s certainly disturbing.

First, they’ll dig up as much dirt on the young victim as they can, and then use it to defend the cold-blooded killing.

“See, he was wearing a hooded sweatshirt or stealing cigars or, gasp, walking down the street in broad daylight!”

Then they’ll start circulating photos of the victim that may paint him negatively. Because only black teens take photos of themselves flipping the bird and trying to look bad-ass.

Once this inevitably fails – because even most white people know an unarmed black teen shouldn’t face the death penalty for acting like a teenager – they move on to the strategy of finding as many possible instances of white people being killed by black people.

“See, it happens to white people, too. Why doesn’t the media cover those stories?”

And then, when they stop pretending to care about facts or justice, they start raising money or having rallies for the guy who killed the unarmed teen. Darren Wilson, the Ferguson police officer who killed Michael Brown, may just be able to retire early after all the donations he’s received – nearly half a million smackers – since gunning down Brown with six bullets.

Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images

To my fellow whiteys: stop.

The stats are alarming, and they overwhelmingly contradict the argument that this isn’t about race.

African Americans are incarcerated at nearly six times the rate of white people, and one third of black males will see prison time in their lives (Bureau of Justice Statistics). Black and white people use drugs at similar rates, yet black people are almost four times more likely to be arrested for drugs (Human Rights Watch). African Americans serve about as much time in prison for a drug offense as white people do for a violent offense (Sentencing Project). For black men ages 20-24, the top cause of death is gun violence; they are four times more likely to be shot and killed (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention).

And, in this month alone, five unarmed black men, including Michael Brown, have been killed by a police officer. One of those men was killed for the terrible offense of picking up a toy gun at a Walmart.

Just imagine if these numbers were reversed. Good God, if that were the case we might actually try to change them.

But, we continue to live in two different Americas when it comes to law enforcement, and instead of wanting to change this reality, a sizable number of white people either deny the disparities or try to justify them.

Yes, white people are unnecessarily killed too, and sometimes those killings don’t get as much national media attention. But that’s because, by and large, justice is served in those cases. Kill an unarmed white teenager, especially if you’re black, and you’re probably going to prison. There are hardly ever two sides to those stories. Heck, people actually mourn the victim instead of rationalize the killing.

But when someone like Trayvon Martin or Michael Brown is killed, the goal of too many white people is not to seek justice, but instead to find justification.

And that is something we need to change if we want to call ourselves the United States of America.

A letter to the mayor of #Ferguson, Mo.

To the mayor of Ferguson, Missouri, an American city:

I plan on keeping this short, but I wanted to make sure I chimed in on this issue, as so many Americans – black, white, Asian, etc. – have been doing over the past few days.

An unarmed, 18-year-old boy, Michael Brown, was shot and killed by one of your police officers, while he was walking to his grandmothers house this past Saturday. Witnesses say Brown had his arms raised in the air before he was shot multiple times and left dead in the street for hours.

The citizens of your city – American citizens protected by the U.S. Constitution – decided to speak out since their representatives, you included, have done nothing to address their concerns. In response, the police department (although it resembles the military of a country like Iran or North Korea) has decided its most important concern is to smother any type of dissent that might shed light on what happened.

The police in your city have used tear gas, rubber/wooden bullets, and other violent methods to prevent people from exercising their rights. Reporters have been arrested and shot at for trying to shed light on this national disgrace, and police officers have arrested people for trying to take videos of the disgusting spectacle – a right that we all have.

Just now, I heard you say that you couldn’t possibly second guess those police officers. The American people see what is happening and ask, “why not?”

The people of Ferguson need to be allowed to voice their concerns, the police department needs to answer for what it did to an unarmed boy, and you need to step down. Only someone of complete and utter incompetence could let their city turn into the likes of a middle eastern war zone.

What you have allowed to happen in Ferguson has pushed us further toward a dark past that no American wants to experience again, and you should be thoroughly ashamed.

With much disappointment,

Sean Colarossi
American Citizen

The mayor of Ferguson, MO, James Knowles, can be contacted at jknowles@fergusoncity.com or 314-521-1043.

GOP senators to college students: Screw you

This is fairly simple: when a person takes out a loan, whether it’s for college tuition or a car, they have to pay an interest rate on that loan. Ideally, the borrower will find a reasonably low interest rate for paying back the borrowed money.

In the case of college tuition loans, millions of current or former students who have borrowed money are currently stuck with high interest rates, making it even more difficult to pay back this money. Many have been stuck with this debt for years and have interest rates higher than 7 percent.

So while we all agree that college tuition costs are absurdly high and need to be reined in, it’s important that, in the meantime, we try to ease the burden of these costs in other ways. After all, student loan debt in the U.S. weighs in at $1.2 trillion, the second largest source of consumer debt in the country. debt-2

This is where a proposal by Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Democrat of Massachusetts, comes into the fold.

Warren’s proposal is pretty straightforward: borrowers with student loans and higher interest rates would be able to refinance at a rate below 4 percent. The plan would have helped 25 million people save thousands over the length of their loan.

Sounds pretty sensible, right? And, if we had a more open-minded and practical political environment, it might not have even mattered if President Obama and a Democratic senator from Massachusetts were advocating for the proposal. But open-minded and practical are bad words to Republicans who are allergic to anything that the president supports.

As was the fate of so many Senate proposals, from background checks on gun purchases to health benefits for veterans, the bill will not advance. All “no” votes, as is usually the case, came from Republicans senators.

If you’re wondering why politics is so awful and such common-sense proposals keep dying in the Senate, just go onto Google and type, “Senate Republicans block…” The results are astounding: equal pay, jobs for veterans, tax breaks, minimum wage increase, etc.

Sadly, today’s vote to block another logical proposal is simply par for the GOP’s course.

A side note: three GOP senators exercised some bipartisanship and voted in favor of the student loan proposal – Susan Collins (ME), Bob Corker (TN), and Lisa Murkowski (AK). They deserve some praise.

Time to drop the ‘pro-life’ label

The issue of abortion rights has long been a source of heated debates in this country, from kitchen tables to congressional hearings. Many devoutly religious Americans, most of whom vote for Republican candidates in any given election, will not budge on this issue. They proudly claim, “I’m pro-life,” as if it’s a badge they’ve earned fighting in some noble war. But this issue hardly has to do with life, especially since there isn’t much science to support the idea that life begins at conception.prolife11

Still, these people will plaster bumper stickers all over their cars as a way to show how much more compassionate they are than the rest of us, simply because they oppose a medical procedure that some women in dire circumstances opt to receive.

But in instances that involve the actual protection of life, the Republican party and it’s self-righteous, pro-life supporters are nowhere to be found.

If you mention the death penalty in a room full of these folks, you’ll hear applause. Okay, so killing people is morally acceptable if you’re using it as a punishment for killing people. It doesn’t seem to matter if we’re now using questionable methods to carry out these executions, as long as these terrible people are killed. Heck, it doesn’t even matter that a percentage of those put to death actually end up being innocent. Oh well, I suppose, that’s a price worth paying.

How about health care? Jesus was a pretty big fan of providing free health care and healing the sick, was he not? So, anyone who wears the pro-life badge would love the idea of implementing health reforms that expand access to health care for millions more Americans, regardless of pre-existing conditions and financial status, right?  Nope. President Obama signed it into law, so they’ll call it socialism, create a bunch of misinformation surrounding it, and do whatever they can to obstruct it. Opposition to the president trumps saving lives any day of the week.

Okay, but what about gun violence and mass shootings? Just today there was another shooting at a high school in Oregon, and that’s just one of at least 74 school shootings that have taken place since the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary. Any group that calls itself pro-life couldn’t possibly support expanded access to weapons that are increasingly being used to kill American children, could they? Think again. In states where pro-life governors or legislators are in charge, gun laws have actually been weakened since the shooting in Newtown. Protecting life sounds good, but the NRA lining the pockets of these lawmakers is just a little bit better.

Food stamps to help families have a healthy meal? Nope, they want to cut funding for that. A strategy to combat climate change for future generations? Nah, they don’t even believe that the change in our climate is taking place.

Overall, these folks have done a pretty terrible job living up to the pro-life label they’ve so proudly given themselves.

So, to my Republican friends: I am not asking you to change your views; I know that’s simply not possible. Instead, I’m kindly asking you to drop the disingenuous “pro-life” moniker. It’s a catchy slogan, sure, but there is simply no evidence to support the idea that you care about saving a single life.