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 .)

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

 

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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.)

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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.

NOTE: This review was featured in my weekly newsletter, Notes From Table 30. The comments section is for those who want to talk about this review and other content from the newsletter. Not a subscriber to the newsletter? You can do that right here.

Trumpism is the new McCarthyism

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“Around the country he flew, reckless and audacious, stopping long enough to make a new charge, to exhibit a new list, a good newsworthy press conference at the airport, hail-fellow well met with the reporters, and then on to the next stop, the emptiness of the charge never catching up with him, the American press exploited in its false sense of objectivity (if a high official said something, then it was news, if not fact, and the role of the reporter was to print it straight without commenting, without assaulting the credibility of the incredulous; that was objectivity). It was like a circus; he was always on the move, his figures varied, his work was erratic and sloppy, he seemed to have no genuine interest in any true nature of security. It sometimes seemed as if he too were surprised by the whole thing, how easy it was, how little resistance he met, and so he hurtled forward to newer larger charges. But if they did not actually stick, and they did not, his charges had an equally damaging effect: they poisoned. Where there was smoke, there must be fire. He wouldn’t be saying those things unless there was something to it. And so the contamination remained after the facts, or lack of them, evaporated….

All of which did not displease the Republican party. The real strength of [him] was not his own force of brilliance, it was the acquiescence of those who should have known better.”

The above quote is from David Halberstam’s book, The Best and the Brightest. He is talking about Senator Joseph McCarthy. He goes on to talk about how McCarthyism only lasted a few years but the impact of his relentless and meritless hunt lingered for decades and heavily influenced our view of communism leading into the Vietnam War. I kept all of this in mind as I read and reread the above passage because the description above, though written decades ago sounds for all the world like Trump since 2016. If Donald Trump is this era’s McCarthy, what can we learn from the past about where we are headed?

Both men have a habit of making things up. Both men have a habit of playing the victim. Both men like to act as though they are the only hope for America. While there are certainly plenty of differences between the two, as the quote above attests, the two had some striking similarities.

McCarthy’s impact on the 20th Century in America cannot be overstated. It was the echo of McCarthy that kept Americans believing in the myth of monolithic communism. That helped the United States misinterpret the war in Vietnam as a war against communism rather than a war for an independent Vietnam. This would prove catastrophic for both countries and kill over 58,000 Americans and countless Vietnamese.

Keeping this in mind, when it comes to Trump’s behavior towards immigrants and refugees, how much of his attitude towards these people is going to be reflected in his supporters decades after Trump is out of office? What poison is Trump putting into our American culture? And if we are aware that he’s poisoning the culture, is there a way for us to counteract that? Will these vilifications lead us into some future conflict that could be avoided if only some people were not taken in by his lies? I do not know the answers to these questions, but I feel like they are questions that should be in our heads as the Trump regime goes on.

Part of me wonders if the similarities between the two men are actually coincidence. Perhaps Trump purposefully modeled Joseph McCarthy’s tactics. Is that giving Trump too much credit? Then again, maybe this is just some sort of American archetype that appears from time to time to take advantage of people’s fears and exploit paranoia and bigotry. Just how much is history repeating itself?

Unlike McCarthy, Trump is being investigated by the FBI. There is the chance that maybe now that all other checks and balances have failed to stop him, that Mueller’s investigation will end this sham of a Presidency. But how much destruction will happen before that happens and how will Trump echo through the coming decades? In many ways I fear the damage has already been done.

I try to take a bit of comfort in the McCarthy/Trump comparison. Just a few years after the height of McCarthyism, Joseph McCarthy was dead. History correctly views McCarthy not as a hero trying to save America but for the proper villain that he is. One can only hope that a similar fate awaits Trump in the future.

– Jack Cameron