Better Know A Candidate: Tulsi Gabbard

tulsi-gabbard-niko-house-sergio-flores-getty-1068x713Seth Moulton is not the only military veteran running for President of the United States in 2020. Tulsi Gabbard, a representative in the US House for the state of Hawaii served in the National Guard in combat in Iraq in 2004 and 2005. At the time her team was called to deploy, Tulsi was running for reelection after serving two years as the youngest congressperson in Hawaii’s history at the age of 21. She could have requested to stay, but chose to serve alongside her fellow teammates.

She came back working as a legislative aid to a Senator for Hawaii for few years. Then in 2012 Tulsi ran for one of Hawaii’s seats on the US House of Representatives and won in 2012. While serving a member of Congress she has served on the Armed ServicesHomeland Security, and Foreign Affairs Committees. She announced her candidacy for President of the United States in January.

Tulsi has already received more than 65,000 individual donations, allowing her to be part of the first Democratic debates. Her first official campaign commercial for president speaks to the need to focus on people and get out of these endless wars. She’s spoken in support of gay marriage despite her parents being very vocally against it. An uncommon word in politics comes up a lot in her campaigns: Love. She has a strong belief in the universality of love and the power of love to create change. Her campaign material is very upbeat given the current political climate and I think that makes her a bit of a refreshing candidate.

– Jack Cameron

*A version of this article originally appeared in my weekly email newsletter, Notes From Table 30. Subscribe here.

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Better Know A Candidate: Seth Moulton

Seth_MoultonWelcome to the first installment of Better Know A Presidential Candidate. Each week I’m going to talk about one Presidential candidate and explain to you who they are and why they are a better choice than Donald J. Trump. I figured I would start with one of the lesser known contenders. His name is 40-year-old Seth Moulton.

Seth Moulton is currently a member of the House of Representatives for Massachusetts. He went to Harvard. He’s a Marine who did four tours in Iraq. He became disillusioned with the war because he recognized that George W. Bush had started the war on a lie. He chose to continue his service to his country by running for Congress and was elected in 2014. He is a member of the Budget Committee, the Armed Services Committee and Investigations Subcommittee. Now he’s running for President of the United States.

I like that he’s a military veteran. While I never served, I respect those who have. I come from a family with veterans. I believe those who served in the military recognize the concept of service to one’s country on a level that Donald Trump will die never knowing. This is another thing that makes Moulton someone I’d be happy to see facing off against Trump, who has never behaved in any way that would cause someone to think he is not a coward.

Another aspect of Moulton’s campaign that sets him apart from many of his Democratic contemporaries is his eagerness to talk about foreign policy and how badly Trump has damaged America at home and abroad with his foreign policy blunders. (If you want to hear Bernie Sanders say “Uh…” ask him any question about foreign policy.)

I don’t know that Moulton will be able to beat out the field of far more well known candidates, but I would have no problem with him being the Democratic nominee. Here’s a bit more about him.

– Jack Cameron

*This originally appeared in my weekly email newsletter. You can subscribe to the newsletter at http://tinyletter.com/jackcameron

Heroic

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Heroic
by Jack Cameron
I remember the fire like it was last weekend. We were only kids back then. I was over at Billy’s apartment because his place had a television and Transformers was on after school.

To tell you the truth, I didn’t really like Billy. Don’t ask me why. If I think about it, he was a lot like me. Though I’d never do what he did. I put up with Billy so I could watch cartoons.

I don’t know where he got the matches. I was busy watching television. But I heard the strike of the match and it turned my head. The first one didn’t light. He tried another one. It didn’t light. A third. A fourth. I went back to watching the Autobots fight the Decepticons.

Just as Transformers was ending and G.I. Joe was starting I heard the match ignite. I turned my head and saw the flash of the flame in Billy’s eyes. Billy was literally playing with fire. Then the match went out.

I had an idea. So I got up and ran down the hall to my place where there was no television. I found what I was looking for. I opened the spigot on top of the small yellow bottle. As I walked down the hall, I started spraying the liquid from the bottle onto the floor creating a trail from my apartment to Billy’s.

When I got back, Billy had a match lit. He used it to light another match. I sprayed some more of the liquid onto Billy’s floor.

“Drop the matches, Billy. They’re dangerous.” I said.

Billy dropped them without putting them out. So dangerous.

They flames hit the lighter fluid and ignited the trail.

“Oh shit, Billy!” I said, “You started a fire!”

As the fire reached the hall, I started pounding on doors, “BILLY STARTED A FIRE! BILLY STARTED A FIRE!”

Luckily I was able to let people know the dangerous thing Billy did. I was a hero.

Unite, Cheat, or Die

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I got into a lot of fights in elementary and middle school. I actually enjoyed fighting. It genuinely felt good to hit people who deserved to be hit. I didn’t pick on weak kids. I found bullies and beat the hell out of them. The thing of it is, I was known for ‘not fighting fair’. I would kick opponents in the crotch. I would poke them in the eyes. I would kick them when they were down. And I almost never lost. Some would say, “That’s because you cheated.” But while there are rules to boxing, wrestling, and baseball, there are no rules to a school yard fight.

I bring this up because the Democrats keep thinking they’re boxing when it’s a school yard fight with no rules. We are less than three weeks away from what may very well be the most important midterm election in our country’s history. Democrats are registering people to vote in record numbers. Republicans are doing everything possible to stop people from voting. In North Dakota, they’re insisting every voter needs a street address in order to stop over 35,000 Native Americans who use post office boxes from voting. In Georgia, a man running for governor is using his current job to try to stop over 53,000 voters from being able to vote. Over 70% of them are black. All across the South over 1,000 polling places have been closed to make it more difficult to vote. I could go on and on about the ways that Republicans try to stop people in general and non-white people in particular from being able to vote. In a country that supposedly prides itself on democracy, the fact that one of the two parties isn’t trying to sway voters but instead trying to kill their ability to vote speaks volumes about the Republican Party’s corrupt racism.

They cheat and they win.

And what do Democrats do? We eat our own. Last Summer using racial slurs and doubt, Trump said he’d donate a million dollars to a charity of her choice if Senator Elizabeth Warren submitted to a DNA test and found any Native American traits in her family as she had said there were Native Americans in her family tree. This past week she revealed DNA results that said it was very likely that she was telling the truth. It’s worth noting here that she never said, “I am Native American.” It’s worth noting that because people are saying she said that and attacking her for it. And when I say people, I mean fellow Democrats. When Trump saw these attacks on Warren this week by fellow Democrats I’m sure he got hard. I even had an allegedly ‘progressive’ Facebook friend unfriend me over it.

And when my Democrat friends weren’t attacking Elizabeth Warren, they were attacking Hillary Clinton for something she said about her husband’s affair from the previous century. Both Hillary and Bill Clinton have said that they are never running for office again. They’ve been explicit about this. And yet, especially from the sore Bernie Bros out there, bringing up the Clintons is the one thing they and the Alt-Right racists absolutely LOVE to do.

It’s also worth noting that the people we’re attacking on the left tend to be women. Women are a favorite target of Republicans and apparently of misguided and/or gullible Democrats. We need to stop this.

Republicans are well aware of our habit of eating our own. Here in Washington State, knowing the purity tests many Progressives use to fight other Democrats, Republicans created a fake Progressive PAC and then sent out fake mailers claiming whatever Democrat was on the ballot wasn’t ‘progressive enough’. Each mailer suggested a different prominent Democrat to write in. This is their attempt to split the Democrat vote through lies far too many of us are gullible enough to buy.

We outnumber the Republicans. We are better educated than the Republicans. But for whatever reason, when it comes down to beating the other team, we’re too busy worried about whether our teammates are wearing their uniforms correctly to actually play the game. And the people we’re playing against are cheaters.

Do you want to know what stopped me from fighting all the time when I was a kid? Other kids started bringing knives and guns into the equation. And they started joining gangs. I stopped fighting because they were cheating back and uniting. If we really want to beat these guys and I’m of the opinion that defeating them may be the only hope our country has from falling into a fascist regime, then we’re going to have to do at least one of two things:

We either need to recognize that fighting each other only helps the Republicans and learn to fucking unite. Or we’re going to have to cheat. Republicans have the uncanny ability to unite behind whatever monster is on the ballot as long as there is an R next to their name. (Trump coined the term ‘Lyin’ Ted’ regarding Ted Cruz and hosted a rally in Texas where he endorsed him last night.) Democrats will attack another Democrat for saying the wrong thing once. We need to stop that or we need to start coaching children to say they were molested by Republican candidates or something similarly heinous. Or we can just keep losing.

Unite, cheat, or die. Those are the only choices for Democrats in 2018. Choose wisely.

– Jack Cameron
(A version of this article appeared in my weekly newsletter last week. Subscribe at http://tinyletter.com/jackcameron .)

How I Spent My Summer Vacation

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Note: A version of the following post was previously published in my weekly newsletter. Click here to subscribe.

In early 2002 I quit my job at Amazon.com. I was answering customer service emails in a small Tacoma office that used to be a bank. When they announced that they were closing the office and letting the offices in India take over, they were also nice enough to offer us work in the Seattle office answering phones. Instead I quit on the last day of the Tacoma office operating and cashed in my stock options the next day. I used that money to sustain my family and me for the next two years. A few months later I ran into a former coworker. He looked at me like a guy who cheated the system. Why wasn’t I working? What was I doing as a fully able bodied adult not spending my days working a job?

The answer was simple. I was spending time with my five-year-old son and my seven and eight-year-old stepdaughters. I was studying writers and improving my writing skills. I was giving myself a mini-retirement in my 20s.  And many of my peers resented me for it.

In 2015 I got laid off after working an IT job for two years. Before that I was working as a marketing and technical writer for five years. Before that I worked in logistics at a paving company for two years.  Before that I had a string of temp jobs as I got back into the workforce after two years of mini-retirement. (I once did the math to see what those stock options would have been worth if I hadn’t sold them back then. It was just over $400,000. It seems like a massive mistake, but I wouldn’t trade that amount of money for those two years with my kids.)

After getting laid off from the IT job, I went on unemployment and tried without any luck to find something new. It didn’t help that I was one of 21 people laid off, all of us with similar skillsets. As my search for work approached the six month mark, I was notified that my unemployment would be cut. I did some research and found that I could extend it another six months by going to college.

I had attended some classes at Tacoma Community College twenty years earlier, but never got a degree. Now I was back as a 40-year-old student. I chose to get into Human Services with the intention of being a clinical therapist. (I was looking for a profession where I could help people and not break my back or knees when I got older.)

During this time I kept expenses low and used financial aid and loans for the most part to make ends meet. I also received help from friends and family and started driving for Uber. In my second year at TCC I started an internship as an Anger Management Counselor which soon turned into a paid internship. I was employed again and not just as an Uber driver. Unfortunately, budget cuts resulted in my not being paid for the final months of the internship and Uber’s car lease program died, resulting in my car being repossessed. So I took Summer classes just to get the financial aid money.

I excelled in college. More than that, I really enjoyed studying and learning. After two years at TCC, I applied for the Evergreen State College Tacoma program. My first year there was incredibly rewarding and challenging. Most weeks I was reading over a hundred pages a day.  Evergreen is famous for not giving out grades, but what you get instead are evaluations of how and what you did in class. These could be far more damning if one didn’t apply themselves.

After my first year at Evergreen Tacoma I was in love with the program and more excited than ever to get back to it. I considered taking Summer classes, but my girlfriend pointed out that I was mentally and physically exhausted and that maybe I needed a break.

As adults, taking a break is frowned upon. Anything more than a two-week vacation and you’re some sort of lazy bastard who isn’t willing to put in the work to help themselves. One of the first questions people ask when meeting each other is ‘What do you do?’ This nearly always translates into ‘What is your job?’ and saying you don’t have one is met with derision or suspicion. It’s irresponsible to not be working when you’re able to. What gives you the right to sit around and do as you like without punching a clock or waking up at a particular time if you’re not rich, right?

It’s this sort of mentality more than any financial barrier that keeps grown adults from allowing them to take care of themselves by just taking an extended break. One of the first things I learned in the Human Services department is that job number one is not ‘do no harm’ or ‘meet people where they are at’. Self-care is job number one. The reason people burn out, the reason people freak out, the reason people shoot up their place of employment is because they do not know and do not use good self-care techniques.

I once went to an old friend’s funeral. He had been a custodian at the local high school for over 40 years. They placed his nameplate from his desk that had his name and the words ‘Chief Custodian’ on top of his coffin. One of the guys who spoke at the funeral tried to make some sort of analogy about him not just being Chief Custodian of the school, but Chief Custodian of life. I couldn’t help but think at the time that he was more than his job or at the very least he should have been.

Back when I worked at Amazon.com, I found a sign someone had taped to the bottom of my keyboard. A message from a former coworker. It said, “If someone made you an offer of sacrificing 50 of the 52 weeks in a year to work at least 40 hours a week for $30,000 a year, would you take that deal?” It was, of course, a rhetorical question. If I was reading that sign, I had already accepted that deal.

Since then I have been someone who sometimes takes time off from that deal. It’s not always easy. It’s rarely accepted by my peers, but it is always worth the trouble.

As the Summer began my landlord decided to move his daughter into my house leaving me with no place to live and no income. Thankfully, a couple of old friends have let me stay in a room in their basement (for a modest monthly payment). I’m more grateful than I can say for their generosity as without it this Summer would have been impossible. The house is across the Narrows Bridge and far away from everything else in my life. I’ve referred to the place as Outpost Zero.

I did a couple of low paying freelance writing gigs over the Summer and worked on my novel. I drank with friends. I read and wrote a lot. I spent some time wandering around Pt. Defiance with my now nearly 21-year-old son. I got to spend a lot of time with my girlfriend. I caught up on movies, television shows, books, and comic books that I haven’t had time to get to during the school year. I meditated and took some time for myself. I lost over 20 pounds. And I launched a campaign to pre-order my first novel. It’s been a very eventful, but mostly relaxing Summer vacation.

Another aspect that is just as forbidden as taking extended time away from work is asking for and/or receiving help. To some, one should always earn whatever they have and should not have whatever they have not earned. On the surface this seems like a practical way to look at the world, but upon closer inspection such thinking justifies not helping those who need it and more importantly, functionally destroys the very concept of true community. My breaks from work and my attending college would be impossible without the help of countless friends and family. I could not have taken the Summer off without my friends letting me live in their basement. Friends and family have bought me drinks and meals. Directly before I started at TCC, I had a financial hardship and crowdfunded over $1,000 from friends and strangers to make ends meet.

For some accepting this sort of help is considered wrong or having failed on a societal level that is unacceptable. But I’ve also helped others when I’ve been able to. One of my friends who let me stay at Outpost Zero needed a place to stay shortly after Hurricane Katrina. He found a home in my apartment. A few years ago a family I know was homeless. I let them stay at my house for a while. And everyone I know is aware that I’m always good for a ride to the airport. Helping when one can and accepting help when it is offered is part of being a functioning community and nothing to be ashamed of. It is actually one of the most human things that we do.

I can’t help but be excited for the upcoming school year. One of my classes is on the midterm elections. That’s going to be all sorts of fun. But I also can’t help but think of all my friends and acquaintances who do not understand the life I lead or how I lead it. To them, I am not behaving like a productive member of society because I’m not spending my time helping someone else achieve their dream of having a profitable company. I’d love to explain to them that they would be better off if they took breaks. I’d love to tell them how life is so much more than how much money you make or the social value of having a day job. Maybe some of them will read this and think about taking some time for themselves.

As I end this latest break, I’m feeling more rested and able to tackle my last year at Evergreen. This year is going to be especially challenging because once again I’m employed. I’ll be working in the writing center at Evergreen Tacoma as a writing tutor. In a way it’s a perfect job in that it will fit around my college schedule and involves skills I not only have but enjoy using. In the Spring there’s a community fair project that’s going to take a lot of work. You’ll hear more about that from me later.

Some people thought I was crazy when I quit Amazon. Some people think I’m crazy for being a 43-year-old man able-bodied man who takes breaks from working. I think they’re crazy for never questioning the idea of never taking a mini-retirement. I know people who’ve practically missed their kid’s entire childhood because they were busy working. I understand that the work affords a certain level of lifestyle for the children, but I can’t imagine a retirement in the future that’s worth that sacrifice of time away from your kids. Luckily I never have to. It’s unfortunate so many others cannot say the same.

– Jack Cameron

Throats Slashed! Sold Into Human Trafficking!

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Oh my God. Did you hear? Homeless people are getting their throats slashed. Women are being grabbed in parking garages and sold into human sex trafficking. Children are being grabbed up off the streets. The media isn’t telling you about these things and the police are hiding these terrible stories from you.

More and more this is the sort of thing I see on my social media feeds and it’s almost always bullshit. The difficulty here is that all it takes is one person making something up. Then some well-meaning people share it thinking they’re helping, usually with a ‘Be careful out there’ warning to their fellow social media users.

I’ve been covering Tacoma homicides for over a decade now. Over the years I’ve received countless ‘tips’ about all sorts of horrific and gruesome murders that never happened. I will do my due diligence and contact the police department, the Medical Examiner’s office, and local reporters to see if there is any meat to the rumors, but there rarely is.

It’s gotten to the point where I can spot a lie before I research it. Here are some things to watch out for.

Lack of Detail: Exactly where did this happen? Who was involved? What did they look like? What time was it when it happened? How many perpetrators were there?

Sensationalism: If the story sounds outrageous and there isn’t any media coverage whatsoever of the story, then it’s likely false because the media LOVES outrageous stories. Last week I saw a story about a guy who stole an airplane from Sea-Tac. When it first appeared on social media I was skeptical, but within minutes the story was picked up by mainstream news because a story like that when true is worth covering.

Personal Anecdote (and nothing else): Personal accounts of terrible things are always compelling, but they’re also among the least verifiable forms of evidence. That’s not to say that everyone who tells you something terrible that happened to them is lying. But if there is no other evidence to back up their story, it’s healthy to be at least initially skeptical.

Secondhand Information: Occasionally I’ll get emails from people who will tell me that my depiction of a homicide is inaccurate because they know a guy who was there and… But of course if I ask to talk to that guy, they can’t produce him.

Now it should be noted that in all of these cases it’s possible that the story you’re being told is actually true. Sometimes things happen quickly and it’s hard to give details as to what happened. Sometimes the true story is so sensational it sounds false. Sometimes things happen to you and you have no evidence that they did. Sometimes you hear a story from someone and never talk to them again. This is why it’s good not to just assume that they’re lying to you.

Instead what I suggest is to believe the story until you find reason not to, but not to share the story until you have some sort of corroboration. Multiple sources are good. Confirmation from authorities or experts is better. Physical evidence is even better.

Ask questions. If someone says something happened and they talked to the police, ask for the incident report number. If someone tells you something incredible happened, ask for the source of that information.

Do your own research. If someone has supposedly been killed, ask the Medical Examiner’s office. Contact the police department’s spokesperson. Check various media websites.

Be respectfully skeptical. There’s no reason to call someone a liar until you have evidence that they are one. The truth is occasionally hard to prove. My rule is fairly simple when it comes to sharing information: Trust, but verify. If it can’t be verified, depending on the source I might still believe it, but I’m not going to share it.

– Jack

A Better Lie

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It has taken eight years of work to get my first novel ready for publication and now, I can finally announce that you can pre-order a special early edition of A Better Lie through my IndieGogo campaign. There are only 100 copies. Each is signed and numbered.

A Better Lie is a novel about a handful of employees at a flower shop who start selling alibis to their customers as well as flowers. It’s also about an affair that gets out of hand and a heist connected to the Russian mob. On top of that it’s a bit of a tour of Tacoma.

I’m the sort of person who believes you should get an idea of what you’re buying before you buy it. So in that spirit, I’m sharing a special short about a character from A Better Lie. Let me introduce you to Augie.

– Jack

Augie

by Jack Cameron

“This is a great apartment…”

There was a pause after he said it. Augie was fairly certain the boy could not remember his name. Augie didn’t mind. He wasn’t sure of the boy’s name either. Tony, Troy, something with a ‘T’.

He watched from the bed as the boy walked around his apartment. The boy had his shirt off. Augie was enjoying the view. This boy was probably half Augie’s age with skin so white it looked like milk. He had that farm-boy-in-the-city look to him. Augie wondered how many times the boy had done this sort of thing. The boy picked up a framed photo from the dresser. Augie almost forty years ago standing next to his friend Daniel. Dan the man. It didn’t matter where they were, Dan could score enough reefer for him and all of his friends. The photo was taken in Quang Tin Province, Viet Nam. Two weeks later Daniel was dead. Shot by a sniper.

“Whoa.” The boy said, “Is this your dad?” Augie couldn’t help but smile. He’d be sixty-eight in a month but he didn’t look it at all.

“How about you stop playing with my stuff and start playing with me?” The boy smiled and crawled into bed with him.

Augie woke up around one in the morning. The boy was gone. He got up. He checked the top right drawer of his old oak dresser. His wallet and keys were still there. He glanced around to make sure nothing else of value was missing. He noticed a Post-It on his front door. It just said, “Thnx. Put my # in your phone.”

Augie grabbed his cell phone and checked the contact list. He had well over three hundred contacts in here. He went to the T’s but nothing jumped out. Oh well.

Augie smiled. As finding companions online went, this one was fairly successful. They both seemed to have fun. No one was hurt and all was well with the world. He opened the refrigerator and found that he was wrong. The boy had taken something. His last beer was gone.

Awake and thirsty, Augie threw on some sweatpants and a t-shirt. He grabbed his wallet and keys and walked out the door. It was a nice night. And MSM was only a few blocks away. He decided to walk it. The MSM Deli was known for great sandwiches and one of the best beer selections in the city. It was also open 24 hours and frequented by police officers.

As Augie passed an alleyway he noticed a short, jittery looking guy standing near the entrance of the alley. Down the alleyway about a hundred feet further, there was a large man doing a bad job of hiding. The jittery guy began to approach Augie and then stepped away. These guys were two of the worst muggers Augie had ever seen. If Augie were even ten years younger, he might cause these guys some problems just on general principle. But as it was, he kept on walking.

At MSM, Augie selected a can of Wingman Ace IPA. It was a Tacoma brew and Augie liked to buy local. He paid the cashier, who put the can in a brown paper bag. Augie stepped out of the place, opened the can, but kept it in the bag. He took a long drink as he passed a police officer walking in. If the cop were a hard ass, he could have given Augie a problem, but cops didn’t usually bother the customers of MSM without good reason.

Augie spotted the jittery guy again about half a block away. Still standing in the alleyway. Augie finished the can before he got there and tossed it on the ground. He wanted his hands free if this turned into something. The jittery guy stepped into Augie’s path.

“Y-you…you got a light?” Augie eyed this guy trying to determine if he was already high or shaking due to withdrawal. Whatever the case, this guy was dumb as a post.

“You don’t have a cigarette.” Augie looked back into the alley. “Where’s your friend?” “Wh-what?” “The big guy. I’m supposed to reach in my pocket for a smoke while the big guy approaches me and then demands all my money or something, right?”

“Wh-who are y-you?” The jittery guy took a few steps back.

“You’re not wrong.” Augie heard from behind him. As he turned around, he felt the punch. It hurt like hell, but he pretended not to notice. He stayed standing, though he wanted to fall. He wanted to show these guys he could take a punch.

“Wait.” Augie said. He could taste blood in his mouth. He ignored it. “You should know something first.”

“What’s that?”

“Two things. One, you’re going to have to beat me unconscious or dead because I’m not giving you anything.”

“What’s the other thing, tough guy?”

“You’ll win. I’m too old to stop you, but I promise you, before the fight is over, you’re going to lose an eye. Possibly both. I will make it my final act in this world. Now I’ve got about eighty bucks in my pocket and a couple of maxed out credit cards. You decide if that’s worth wearing a patch the rest of your life.”

Augie got ready to kick this guy in the crotch as hard as he could. Then the guy said, “Taylor, forget this guy. Let’s go.”

Augie spit some blood on the ground and smiled. That was it. The boy’s name was Taylor.

END.

To read more about Augie, pre-order A Better Lie at IndieGogo.com.
(Link not working? Copy this: https://bit.ly/2LSG0MI  )