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 .)

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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  )

To Protect And Serve

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It took me a long time to understand people who hate cops. I grew up a middle class straight white boy in the Pacific Northwest. I didn’t have much trouble with police. When they did show up, I’d talk to them and they’d go away. And for far too long I was under the impression that this was how most people interacted with your average American police department.

My view of police officers growing up was that they were the good guys. They were the heroes. They were the men and women risking their lives on a daily basis to protect our society from chaos and harm. Some of my favorite television shows and movies involve good cops trying to do good work.

For a time I even worked for law enforcement. For two years I transcribed police records for the Law Enforcement Support Agency which handles records from the Tacoma Police Department, Puyallup Police Department, Lakewood Police Department, and Pierce County Sherriff’s Department. I went on ride-alongs with police officers. I learned what kind of people become cops and what being a cop is like. And for the most part, I gained tremendous respect for the police in general.

It was exhilarating reading and transcribing 50+ police records every day and seeing what their day to day life is like. One cop described it to me as ‘vast amounts of time of complete boredom punctuated by moments of absolute terror and action’. I’ve read hundreds of accounts of local police officers saving lives and making the streets safer.

That’s not to say that I saw nothing wrong. I lost count of how many times I transcribed phrases like, ‘suspect apparently fell on pavement’ or ‘suspect hit head on top of police car’ or ‘suspect lost a few teeth after we cuffed him and lost hold of him’. There was even a guy known for going through pairs of boots at an alarming rate due to the amount of people he kicked with them.  But most of the reports weren’t like that and the reports that were, I told myself were reports in which ‘bad guys’ got hurt. So what? Right? Does anyone really care if an accused rapist gets his ass beat by cops?

I learned that there are basically three kinds of cops or at least three primary motivators for cops.

There are the Boy Scouts. These are the Captain America sorts who genuinely want to help and embody the spirit of protecting and serving their community. These are what people tend to think of as good cops. If you have to personally deal with a police officer, this is the guy you want.

There are the adrenaline junkies. These cops joined the force because action movies made being a cop look like an adventure and what other job puts you right in the thick of it like being a cop? These are the cops who love a foot chase because of the unwritten rule that if ‘you make us run, we make you pay’. They love a car chase too. Anything that gets the blood pumping. These guys can go either way and it’s largely a personality thing as to whether or not they’re going to end up being a positive part of the police force.

Then there are the bullies. These are assholes who picked on other kids growing up in school and quickly learned that the only way to keep picking on people is to get some authority. These are the guys who will bounce your head on their car. They’ll take your license and not give it back just to fuck with you. They’ll arrest you for domestic violence and ask your wife out. They’ll make sure your arrest comes with at least a little bit of pain. These are the last kind of cop you want personally dealing with anyone you care about.

A good police department has the right mix of all three.  You need the boy scouts to keep the department honest. You need the adrenaline junkies because they’re never going to freeze or bitch about the danger. And you need the bullies to hurt people who are hurting people. Finding the right mix is difficult.

If you’re a boy scout cop, the worst part is you’re likely doing your job in a way that benefits the community but never makes the papers. The result is that the public thinks that you’re all bullies because wild dogs make more noise than domestic ones.

Before it appears that this is just me telling you how great cops really are, understand that I said all of that, so that I can say the next part with what I feel is a fairly informed opinion on the topic.

For the most part my defense of police officers and police departments can be seen as essentially #NotAllCops. This is a weak argument in favor of cops because ‘not all cops’ means ‘some cops’.  And if it’s your loved one lying dead in the street with bullets in him from a police issued gun paid for by your tax dollars and the only reason he’s dead is the color of his skin, saying ‘not all cops’ isn’t helpful. In fact it’s cruel. So what if not every cop is willing to murder an unarmed black man just because they can. The fact that any one cop would is bad unacceptable. It’s like having 1% cancer.

Unfortunately it is more than one bad cop. Over 1,000 people lose their lives to police bullets every year in this country. The Black Lives Matter movement was the result of an epidemic in lethal run ins between people with brown skin and the police departments across this country. It’s a simple slogan asking for the simplest of rights. A right that any true conservative should care about: the right to life. This is why NFL players take a knee for the anthem contrary to what you might have heard from Fox News or the White House). It’s the simple idea that when the police show up, they’re there to help everyone because black lives matter too. Sadly that is far from the reality we live in.

The problem is that the actions of police departments across this nation show again and again that black lives do not matter to police departments. In fact, this is where everyone seems to agree. The systemic racism of police departments throughout America is so well known that in Charlottesville, three of the most popular flags the Nazi thugs marching in the street flew were the Nazi flag, the Confederate flag, and a black and white flag with a thin blue line representing the police.  The combination of African Americans being killed by police, actual Nazis infiltrating the police force, and officer after officer getting little if any punishment for killing people of color has made it practically impossible for one to differentiate between those who fly the thin blue line flag who are just supporting the police and those who would feel at home in Hitler’s Germany.  And increasingly, the difference barely matters. Once the killing of a certain group of people is allowed, the only real difference is number of dead. Then the only question to be asked is how many you’re willing to allow to be killed before you pull your support?

Much like how so much of our news media has been corrupted, the same can be said of our police departments. Just as we need good journalists we also need good cops. The answer cannot and should not be that there should be no police whatsoever. Such talk is anarchy and while I know anarchy has its fans, I’m not one of them.

This is why though I am an atheist I take the ‘love the sinner, hate the sin’ approach to police departments. I like the idea of police, but I hate how they’re going about it. Those who hate cops make perfect sense to me now. I don’t hate all cops. I hate the bad ones and applaud the good.

I want to share a bit of a thought experiment. Imagine having such a sense of civic duty and righteousness that you want to risk your life on a daily basis genuinely making your city a better and safer place in the most direct way possible as a police officer in your town. Now imagine being that person and having to deal with the modern day militarized, gung-ho, racist occupying force mentality of the modern police department in any sizable city. Not every cop is experiencing that. Some are there for all the wrong reasons. But some are exactly those guys.

The last thing I want to say is to any cop reading this is that you stop being a good cop the second you let a bad one keep hurting people you’re supposed to protect and serve. I know speaking out against fellow officers is dangerous both from a career and personal standpoint, but I was under the impression you joined the police force to risk your life for what’s right. Do that. Be the hero I looked up to as a kid. It’s the only way things get better.
– Jack Cameron

The ICE-age Must End

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I’m going to use this article as a place to add things we know about the children who have been stolen from their parents by the United States Government under orders from Donald Trump.

I feel like this is something that I shouldn’t even have to write about. What sane person capable of empathy or compassion would need someone to explain why stealing children and putting them in cages is wrong? If you’re in favor of such a policy you lack sanity, compassion, or empathy. Or maybe all three. I don’t know.

So lets start with what we don’t know. Right now we don’t know what records ICE is destroying, but we do know they have plans to destroy records of abuse, sexual assault, and death. I’ve personally seen paper shredding trucks arriving at the for-profit prison here in Tacoma that is currently holding at least 22 parents of children who have been stolen from them. We also don’t know how records have been destroyed that could have reunited families, but we do know that some records have been destroyed.

We know in Victorville, California in the Mojave desert, the facility is overcrowded and lacking medical staff and has had multiple cases of scabies and chickenpox. A current member of the medical staff at that facility said, “It’s gone from bad to worse ― there are going to be some detainee deaths,” Check out this article from The Nation if you want to get an idea of what these facilities are really like.

We also know that at least one ICE employee used his status to steal the identities of immigrants. When they aren’t stealing identities, they’re roughing up people just for the hell of it.

Some might ask what this dramatic increase in immigration enforcement is all about. It’s not about an increase in immigrants. Immigration to the United States has been going down. It’s about ICE modifying their rules so that they can grab pretty much anyone they want to like a modern day gestapo. This is allowing them to grab up people who are legal residents of this country as reported in the LA Times.

If all of this isn’t enough to give you pause and realize that our immigration policies have severe flaws that rise to the level of crimes against humanity, then maybe the fact that after stealing these children some were literally given to human traffickers who will sell them into the sex trade to the highest bidder will. This comes not from some fringe media, but the New York Times.

Do you need to hear that the children who weren’t sold to be whored and fucked were tied naked to chairs and beaten? They were. Do you need to hear that at least one sex offender was in charge of these children? He was. Do you need to hear how the present administration thinks reuniting a child with her parents and adopting that stolen child out to an evangelical white family is basically the same thing? They do. Do you need to hear that pregnant women have been abused and had miscarriages because of the way ICE treated them? They were. Does the danger of you child being stolen from you go away if you are a United States citizen? It doesn’t. 

And before you think that the present regime (it’s difficult to call this group of criminals, con men, authoritarians and white supremacists an ‘administration’) is going to stop stealing children who are stripped, beaten, raped, and sold to whore mongers, they’ve budgeted for an increase in these Trump Camps.

Before you think they’re destroying records just for fun, there’s money in it. They’re charging desperate parents up to $800 for cheap DNA tests to find their children.

A common argument made by the anti-immigration crowd is that they should just come here legally, but it turns out that even if you play by the rules, in some cases children are still stolen. Including a 3-year-old who was taken from his father who had crossed the border legally.

ICE needs to be abolished. The people behind this inhuman, psychotic, genocidal program need to be punished and imprisoned. One can only hope that if they are, they are treated with the same courtesy they have shown the desperate men, women, and children coming here for a better life.
– Jack Cameron

 

Avengers Infinity War

 

Avengers-Infinity-War-Team-Cap-Banner

Slight Spoiler (This scene is not in the movie)

Avngers Infinity War (Non-Spoiler)
Back in the 1990s when I was really getting into comic books I would tell people how Marvel should just start making Movies and TV shows that all take place in the same universe like they do with comics. The Marvel Cinematic Universe is something I wanted for decades before it happened. And after ten years they’re finally reaching their end game for a storyline they started in 2008.

Directors Joe and Anthony Russo had an impossible job: Take characters from 18 previous movies, some technological, some tactical, some magic, and some cosmic, and make a coherent story that ties up storylines that were spread throughout movies from the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe. This is similar to what Joss Whedon had to do with the first Avengers movie except multiplied into double digits. Most of all, they had to have Thanos, a character with less than five minutes total screen time all together, be as fearsome and dangerous as he’s been built up to be. I’m happy to say that the Russo brothers not only pull this off, but go far beyond that.

With so many characters, it’s no surprise that some characters do not get much to do or say. What is surprising is how few characters I can say that about. The Russos did a fantastic job of giving even secondary characters a good moment or two.

Perhaps the most important aspect of Infinity War is how Marvel earned this. Taken on its own, Infinity War is a non-stop action slugfest. Taken with the 18 films that have led up to Infinity War and this fight is one of the most earned fights in cinema history. One of the key things that plague DC Universe movies is that they simply have no patience. The first Avengers movies was the fifth MCU movie. They did five whole movies without much more than a wink or a nod at each other. DC did exactly one movie (Man of Steel) that didn’t explicitly have direct connections to the other movies. Imagine if Captain America: Civil War was the second movie in the MCU. It wouldn’t have made any sense because we don’t yet really care about the characters. Now imagine the opposite. Imagine if Batman vs Superman wasn’t the second movie in an ongoing franchise. Instead it’s the 13th movie (like Civil War). Suddenly the stakes of Batman and Superman fighting actually matter. There’s a classic moment in the first episode of Community when Jeff Winger says, “I can pick up this pencil, tell you it’s name is Steve and go like this…[breaks pencil] and a part of you dies just a little bit on the inside.” That’s basically storytelling in a nutshell. DC is under the impression that the important part is breaking the pencil. They’re wrong. The important part is naming the pencil. It’s only after we know the pencil has a name that we care. If we don’t know the characters we can’t care about them.

The action in Infinity War is unrelenting and incredible. Given all of the things going on with so many characters it is impressive as hell that they were able to do everything they did without making it confusing.

 

Overall, Infinity War is a fine addition to the MCU and the best of the Avengers movies in my opinion. In order to talk more about this and its connection to the comics that inspired it, I need to get into spoilers.

Infinty War (SPOILERS!!!!)

Infinity War impressed me on a number of levels, but I think one of the best things about it is that it put millions of viewers in a position comic book fans find very familiar. When reading a comic book, if one of the side characters die, you know it’s kind of serious. If one of the major characters die, you know it’s really serious. And if half of the major characters die, you know they’re almost definitely going to be brought back. This was true the first time Thanos snapped his fingers and killed half the universe back in 1990.

Check out the list of dead from Infinity Gauntlet #2 (Note that only Black Panther is disappeared in both the comics and the movie.)

InfintyGauntlet2

There are of course significant differences between the comics and the films, but one of the other surprising things about Infinity War is that it has a lot of things in common with the comics. In the comics Thanos is in love with the entity Death. She’s resurrected him and told him to kill half the universe. And so he gets the Infinity Stones to do so. In the MCU abstract concepts aren’t entities (yet). So instead they give him the motivation of feeling the universe is dangerously overpopulated. This also comes from the comics. There’s an issue of Silver Surfer leading up to Infinity Gauntlet in which he makes much the same argument.

Perhaps the biggest difference is that unlike comic books (usually), we have to wait a whole year to find out what happens next.

This gives Marvel a great opportunity to integrate their TV stuff. They could easily have episodes of Agents of SHIELD, Daredevil, Luke Cage, or any of the other upcoming seasons of Marvel shows in which half the cast disappears into dust. If history is any indication, Agents of SHIELD will touch on it while the other shows will not.

While it’s true that they’ve killed off characters we know are coming back, (Sony isn’t going to let Spider-Man die after only one of their movies.) it’s still impressive to end a movie that’s likely going to make a billion dollars in less than two weeks with the bad guy killing half the universe and smiling at the sunset. When DC killed Superman in BvS they felt the absolute need to put hovering dirt above his coffin to make sure even the dumbest person in the theater knew he was coming back. With Marvel, at least they had the guts to kill them dead.

What happens next? Well I can tell you what happens in the comics. If you don’t want to know, skip this paragraph. In the comics it’s the Silver Surfer who falls through Dr. Strange’s roof to warn everyone about Thanos. Then half the universe disappears. Then the rest of the heroes show up to save the universe. Of course Thanos is all powerful and it does not go well. Eventually Thanos tries to become one with the cosmos, but he retains his mortal body. Nebula gets her hands on the gauntlet and puts everything back how it was, but that includes her being on fire. She loses the gauntlet only to have Adam Warlock pick it up and save the universe. Of course in the MCU, Adam Warlock has only been hinted at and isn’t likely to save the day. That role seems to be filled by another hero, Captain Marvel.

Captain Marvel is the symbol you see on Nick Fury’s space pager in the after credits scene. She’s a human named Carol Danvers who has quite the colorful history in the comic books. Carol is an old spy pal of Wolverine’s, got her mind, personality, and powers stolen from her by the X-Man Rogue in Rogue’s first appearance, ended up getting a whole new power set and becoming a space pirate for a while before eventually going back to being an earthbound superhero who is more than comfortable in space. These days she’s taken up the role of Captain Marvel and runs Alpha Flight Station, an orbital platform that tries to keep the Marvel universe safe from near constant alien invasions.

Of course in the MCU, since they have yet to get the rights to the X-Men back, most of that isn’t going to happen in the upcoming Captain Marvel movie or in Avengers 4. Instead I expect that there will be a variation of the Nebula moment (given that she’s still alive) and everyone who got killed by Thanos with the snap of his fingers will come back (though Heimdal and Loki are probably dead for good). I’m personally holding out hope that Avengers 4 is going to give us at least a hint that the next big overarching storyline is Secret Invasion.

That’s all speculation naturally. Officially, next up for Marvel movies is Ant-Man and Wasp which takes place shortly before Avengers 3 and Captain Marvel which takes place in the 1990s. It’s going to be a long year waiting for Avengers 4, but I get the feeling it’s going to be worth it.

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