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You’re an 18-35 year old male. Your job is physical in nature. Maybe you work construction. You’ve got a wife. Kids. You work hard. You make okay money but the bills aren’t getting any cheaper and the wife and kids sometimes seem to spend it faster than you can make it.
The combination of trying to be a good Dad, trying to be a good husband, and trying to make ends meet is daunting in the best of circumstances. It only makes sense that you might have a drink or two at the end of your day. Maybe you smoke cigarettes or pot. Maybe on the weekend you try some harder drugs.
You tell yourself you deserve it. You tell yourself it’s just how you cope with day to day life. One day things do not go your way. Your boss is being an asshole. Some coworker fails to do his job which messes up your job. You go to the bar and have a few after work. You get home. Your wife is mad that you got drunk. She’s mad at the money you’re spending which reminds you how much money she’s spending. The argument gets loud. Maybe you hit her. Maybe you don’t. Either way, some neighbors call the police. In the state of Washington police responding to a domestic dispute arrest whoever they determine to be the aggressor. More often than not, it will be the male. So the next thing you know you’ve been arrested. The charge is Assault 4 Domestic Violence. If you managed to break anything in your house you’ll probably be charged with Malicious Mischief. Your bail is $1,000 no bond. That means you’ve got to come up with $1,000 cash to get out. You don’t have $1,000 laying around and neither do your friends. One day a prosecutor shows up to your cell and tells you that you can leave jail and not only will you be free, but the prosecutor says he won’t even seek any more jail time. All you have to do is plead guilty.
So you plead guilty. You figure that will be the end of it. You’ll get out. The prosecutor gets another conviction. Everyone’s happy. But then they tell you you’ll have to go for a Domestic Violence Evaluation. You don’t think much of it because it’s gotta be better than jail. You get out of jail. You might find that while you were in jail you discover that there is now a no contact order that does not allow you any contact with your wife. You literally can’t go home. You also can’t talk to, call, email, or text your wife. You can’t tell someone to tell her something. Any of that would be considering a violation of the no contact order which would result in more charges, possibly more jail time, and worst of all, it will establish a pattern which increases the chances of significant penalties for your actions. If you’re unlucky and sent a bunch of texts to her, an overzealous prosecutor may make each text a separate charge. If you want any of your stuff from the house, you’re going to have to have the police there with you.
With luck, maybe your wife wants to have the no contact order lowered or removed. If not, then you need to find a place of your own and that’s not going to be easy because when a prospective landlord does a background check on you they’re going to see an assault charge and probably have no idea that it might have simply been a loud argument. There’s also the part where if you spent any length of time in jail before getting out, you may or may not have a job to come back to making it even more difficult.
You get yourself squared away. Maybe your friend has a spare bedroom. Maybe your wife wants the No Contact Order lifted but it can’t happen until you get that Domestic Violence Evaluation.
So you go to the evaluation. You learn it’s not free and that you have to pay out of pocket for just about everything that happens at this agency. A counselor asks you what happened. You tell your story. You try to remain calm. You try to explain how everything you did was entirely reasonable given the circumstances. You tell the counselor how you are not a violent person. When you hear that the counselor is going to talk to your wife (who the counselor calls ‘the victim’), you aren’t sure what she might say and so you mention that she likes to make stuff up.
You find out that when this is done, you will at the very least end up with an 8-hour anger management class or at the very most a full year of attending domestic violence group therapy. There will be random drug tests. Each of these things is going to cost between $30-$60 depending on where you’re going and how much money you make.
You also find out that while you are in the program you are to remain alcohol and drug free. You learn that any random drug test that comes back positive will mean three additional months of the program. You learn that failure to show up to the required classes can result in unfavorable reports going to the court which may or may not result in you going back to jail. You may also learn that successful completion of the course is required before any lifting of the No Contact Order can be implemented no matter what you or your wife want.
If you are incredibly unlucky and have managed to lose your home and your job during the course of this, you may find yourself in the unfortunate position of needing to come up with money for your weekly classes simply to avoid going back to jail all while trying to find housing and a job with a background check that says you assault people.
I have been working for an agency that treats domestic violence perpetrators for eight months. I’m an anger management counselor. If you lack a pattern of criminal activity, did not have charges that were all that serious, or did something that was reasonable but illegal, you may find yourself in a class like I run. The scenario I described above is the most common sort of client I encounter. The details change, but the overall story often remains much the same. Knowing that I do my best to treat my clients with a level or respect and care that most of this system lacks. I do not do this because the clients deserve it. I do it because no one learns much from someone who does not respect them and I would like to help. But I also cannot pretend the system is not broken.
I tell clients that I got into this field to help people and that I will do the absolute best I can to help them get through this uncomfortable and sometimes outright horrifying stage of their life. I also tell them that if I fail to help I will at the very least make this portion of the process as painless as possible because treatment and training should never be punishment. My job is not to punish. It’s to help.
I can see how what I have written may be considered taking the attacker’s side. It’s not. I am showing the attacker’s perspective. Domestic violence is a serious, dangerous, and all too often life-endangering occurrence. Reporting domestic violence can literally be the difference between life and death. It is for this reason that I feel so strongly that we need to provide ongoing support and help for domestic violence victims and perpetrators. I feel we can do much better than what we do now. Hopefully I can be a small part of making those necessary changes.
– Jack Cameron
A few years ago a friend of mine invited me out to lunch to talk about a Kickstarter campaign he wanted to do. I did some research and gave him my thoughts on crowd funding in general and what I felt would make a compelling and successful Kickstarter campaign. He succeeded in raising over $100,000. Since then I have consulted on dozens of projects. These consultations have been everything from a quick once-over to fully controlling the entire campaign. In every case, the campaigns I worked on succeeded.
Initially this seemed like a promising thing. If my advice was helping these people succeed in making thousands (sometimes hundreds of thousands) of dollars, maybe I could make a few bucks of my own consulting on Kickstarter campaigns. Unfortunately, the one problem with this is that most individuals who are launching Kickstarter campaigns do not have money to spare for a ‘Kickstarter Consultant’. Often when talking to potential clients they would be incredibly generous and passionate about the project and my working on it until I mentioned wanting to be paid for my work.
This led me to create Kickstart Your Kickstarter which is now available through Amazon.com. This simple e-book is much of my Kickstarter expertise distilled down into an easy e-book with just the necessary information one might want if they were going to start a Kickstarter campaign. And because I know that Kickstarter creators rarely have money, I’m selling this short little e-book for 99 cents.
I will not get rich selling this book, but you may very well get rich after reading it.
– Jack Cameron
As some of you know, I recently started driving in Tacoma for Uber. Many people want to know what my experience has been like and I figure this is the best way to tell everyone all at once. What I’m going to do here is tell you the process I went through. If you are interested in becoming an Uber driver yourself, there is a link at the bottom of the article. Click it. If you use that link and become an Uber driver you and I BOTH get at least $100 after your 40th ride. It’s a referral bonus.
I became interested in Uber for two reasons. One was that I needed a new car. The other was that I needed a job where I could make my own hours. Uber has such a need for drivers that they have a program called Xchange Leasing where you can lease a car that qualifies for Uber through a participating dealership. You can apply for the program through the link at the bottom of this article. Once you apply, they will tell you whether or not you’ve been approved in a day or two. Even if you have bad credit you’re likely to be approved. There’s a chance you will only be approved for a car that is already in the program. This will limit your options, but as long as you’re patient, you should be able to find a car that suits your needs. I’m currently driving a 2012 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid.
The way the lease works is that every week when you get paid, Uber automatically takes out the payment for your leased car. (Typically between $135-$175 a week.) If you make less than the payment amount any given week you can pay it directly or pay it the following week. You do not want to get more than a week or so behind on payments. There are a couple of things that make Uber’s lease different from most car leases. One is that there is no mileage cap. This is understandable as Uber would like you to drive as much as possible. The other is that after the first 30 days if you need or want to return the car, you can do so after giving a two week notice with no penalty beyond paying for the weeks you had the car. If you keep the car for the duration of the three year lease, at the end they will give you the option of buying the car. While the payments are fairly steep, the advantage of this lease over others if you’re driving for Uber make it a relatively easy choice.
The other advantage to Uber is that you can never be late to work or be unable to take a day off. There is no event in your life that you’re going to miss because you had to work. You can Uber any day, any time and you can stop any day, any time. If you want, you can never work on Monday again. You need time in the morning to get the kids off to school? You can take all the time you need. Want to take a four hour lunch? Go right ahead. Just looking to make some extra money around the schedule of your other job? Uber is great for that too.
These are the reasons I got involved with Uber. Now I’m going to explain what the process was like getting into a leased car and beginning to drive people around for money. I’m going to be talking about specifically what it was like for me in the Tacoma area but most of this can be applied anywhere.
Getting The Car
Once you are approved, Uber will send you a list of participating dealerships. These are dealerships that typically have cars available for leasing through Xchange Leasing. Most dealerships have a specific person who deals with Uber leases. You will want to find out the name of this person and keep in touch with them. This part of the process was easily the most time consuming. It took me roughly four weeks of calling and emailing to find a participating dealership that had a qualifying vehicle available. Their stock of these vehicles changes daily. Often I would call just after a vehicle was leased or sold to someone else.
When you go to the dealership, bring $250 in cash. They will want the down payment before they get the ball rolling on getting the lease in order. You will then want to talk to your insurance company. They will give you specific instructions on the type of insurance required for the lease. This is insurance provided by you. Uber does not pay for it. The dealership will not let you drive the vehicle off the lot without this insurance. There is Uber-provided insurance as well, but this does not take the place of your personal car insurance.
Getting Your Car Ready For Uber
Next up, you need to go down to your local Uber office with your new car. An Uber technician will inspect the car. If you got your car from a dealership, you probably will have no trouble whatsoever. Most Uber offices are fairly busy. Expect to wait a little while.
After passing the inspection, they will give you a piece of paper with links to two online courses. One is a general knowledge test of your area. This test is about forty questions long and fairly simple. The other is an online defensive driving course and it is not short. It’s a six-stage online driving course that goes over just about every aspect of driving. It’s like online driver’s ed and it takes a few hours to complete. I did it in two sittings.
Now that you’ve passed the car inspection, the general knowledge test, and the defensive driving course, you need to wait for Uber to process all of that and send you an Authorization Letter. When you have that letter, you can take it down to your local city government office and get a local business license. Most cities are very familiar with Uber driver’s doing this and will be very helpful. In Tacoma you can get the business license for $25 (or $99 if you think you’ll be making more than $12,000 through Uber).
Finally, once you have the business license, you can go back to the Uber office and they will get you set up in the system and get you an Uber sticker for your car. Once this is done, you’re officially an Uber driver and can start going out and earning money immediately.
The 10 Steps For Leasing A Car To Be An Uber Driver
- Use this link to apply. Wait to be approved. (Usually 24-48 hours)
- Find a participating dealership that has a car.
- Give the dealership $250 down payment.
- Get insurance for the car.
- Take the car to Uber to have it inspected.
- Take an online test of general regional knowledge (About 40 questions)
- Take an online defensive driving course (This is long. It takes 4-6 hours.)
- Wait for Uber to process everything and email you an approval letter.
- Take copy of approval letter and get city business license.
- Take business license to the Uber office. They will give you an Uber window sticker. They will get you into the system and you can turn your app on and start driving.
– Jack Cameron
Back in high school I wrote this thing about racism. It was a bit of a disaster. Since then, as a white heterosexual male, I have decided to specifically NOT write about racism if at all possible because the last time I did, things went badly. But I kind of feel the need to break that rule.
His name was Alton Sterling. And if I tell you he was a black man who encountered a police officer you already know the rest of the story. You know the story because it’s the story of Dontre Hamilton. It’s the story of Eric Garner. It’s the story of John Crawford III. It’s the story of Michael Brown Jr. It’s the story of Ezell Ford. It’s the story of Tanisha Anderson. It’s the story of Akai Gurley. It’s the story of Tamir Rice. It’s the story of Rumain Brisbon. It’s the story of Jerame Reid. It’s the story of Tony Robinson. It’s the story of Phillip White. It’s the story of Freddie Gray. It’s the story of Sandra Bland. It’s the story of being black and unlucky in America.
We hear these stories of police shooting black men and women almost as often as we hear about white men committing mass shootings. And each time much like mass shootings we are outraged and paralyzed. Our outrage is understandable. How can these terrible atrocities happen in broad daylight on the streets of the greatest country in the world? Our being paralyzed takes a bit more explaining.
Part of it is the uncomfortable truth that racism is alive and well in America. We did not kill it with Civil Rights. We did not kill it by electing Obama. And if we did not kill it, then we have to admit it’s still out there. We have to admit that some of our friends, neighbors, relatives, and maybe even ourselves are racist or have racist tendencies. And that is really hard to do. It’s so hard to do that it would be much easier to simply deny it and pretend that racism is over. But it’s not. And what are we to do with that?
Another easy option is to simply vilify the police. This is unfair. The vast majority of police officers will go their entire career never firing a shot at anyone. And not every police officer is racist. But the terrible actions of a few make the police an easy target for blame. If we can blame it all on the police then maybe, we do not have to confront any racism closer to home. But this does not work because police officers come from the community. Despite their militarized appearance, these men and women are members of your community whether they act like it or not. They did not arrive at the police academy with no racist thoughts in their heads and suddenly become racist. They were racist before they were cops and the modern police environment nurtures that racism.
There are good reasons for this. Even a fully trained and ethical police officer will still sometimes have to physically put handcuffs on another human being and then put that human being in a cage. For most people, this requires a bit of a disconnect. I have gone on ride alongs with police officers and watched it happen. I have seen the moment when the person a cop is talking to stops being a person to him and starts being a thing. A good cop will tell you that you have the right to remain silent. What they are actually saying is, “Nothing you say will help you because you are no longer a person to me.” Unfortunately this depersonalization does not just make it easy to put someone in a cage. It also makes it easy to put them in a grave.
We’re paralyzed because even if we confront these truths we still don’t know what to do about them. I know that I have biases. I am aware of them and I do my best to combat them, but it is not always easy or obvious. And even being successful does not change what’s happening in this country.
I have given this a lot of thought. These are my suggestions based on what I know. I am interested in what you think of these suggestions. I am interested in other suggestions. I am interested in finding things we can actively do to stop this.
Keep Racists Afraid
One of the worst things about Donald Trump’s presidential campaign is that racists think he has legitimized racism. When the Republican Presidential Nominee is saying things like “Look at my African American.” and calling Mexicans rapists bigots everywhere think that maybe it is okay to spout racist crap publicly. It is not. Fellow white people, any time we hear some blowhard saying racist crap whether it’s a stranger or your best friend, you need to call them on that shit. If we are going to ask our police departments to stop their systemic racism, we need to do the same.
America has a love affair with guns. As a result we lose 30,000 men, women, and children every year due to gun violence. That’s ten 9/11s every year. Of those 30,000 about 1,000 are police involved killings. It is important to note that not all of these killings were unjustified, unwarranted, or unnecessary. It is equally important to note that far too many of them involved white cops shooting unarmed black people. In a time when we have Tasers, beanbag rounds, and verified de-escalation techniques using lethal force should be the cop equivalent of the nuclear option. It should never be used unless it’s the only thing you can use.
One of the biggest problems with police involved shootings is that the prosecutor who brings charges against the police is usually the same prosecutor who spends every other day of his life working closely with that same police department. Imagine this. You are a local prosecutor investigating a police involved shooting. If you charge the cop with murder, right or wrong, you are going to upset the rest of the police force which is going to make your job on every other case very difficult. Such a prosecutor is not likely to get endorsed by the police union during the next election. There is a clear conflict of interest in these situations. The way around this is to make every single police involved shooting a federal case with federal investigators and a federal prosecutor. Until this step is taken, I do not expect we will ever see a significant number of these cases actually get any justice.
One of the worst things to happen to modern police forces in this country was the use of surplus military hardware on the streets of America. Giving military weapons and vehicles to a systemically racist police department that already dehumanizes much of the population of a city is a recipe for slaughter. And that is exactly what we have seen again and again. If you give men weapons of war, they’re more likely to fight one. It should be noted that the blame cannot be placed on the police department or the military alone. The blame also falls on city councils and voters who do not approve adequate funding for police departments almost giving them no choice but to accept military handouts because they’re better than nothing.
This is not how the police force always worked. There was a time when a uniformed police officer walked a beat. The police officer knew everyone on that beat and more importantly everyone knew the cop. If a cop had a problem on his beat more often than not he knew the perpetrator. It’s more difficult to use lethal force on someone when you know them. It’s also harder to vilify a police officer when they’re someone you actually know and who has demonstrated that they are simply there to keep the peace. This is what was known as community policing. It’s something that is lacking in most police departments. If you wonder if your neighborhood has community policing ask yourself if you know the cop that patrols your area.
One of the things you can do is raise your children to be tolerant. Raise them to celebrate diversity rather than be afraid of it. Tell them that we are strong because of our differences and that no human being is superior to another and all life is equally precious. Show them movies with leads who aren’t white. Have them read Between The World and Me when they’re a teenager. Do not tolerate hate speak from children. If we can all commit to this, we can ensure that in the future bigots are the only minority who are afraid.
These are the ideas I have. I do not know what else to do. While I was writing this a 32-year-old man named Philando Castile was shot and killed by police officers who pulled him over for a busted tail light in Minneapolis.
I am not okay with this being normal in the United States of America. I do not have all the answers. But I think it starts with talking. It starts by speaking up. It starts by giving a damn and saying, “Black Lives Matter.”
– Jack Cameron
In 1991 I was a right leaning teenager who did not want to go to war. I was pro-death penalty. I was anti-abortion. I was anti-gay. I was also anti-getting-shot-at-on-the-other-side-of-the-planet. Eventually I met up with some acquaintances that wanted to firebomb the local Army Recruiting station after hours. They called me up to see if I was interested. I turned them down because it seemed like a stupid thing to do and it would not solve anything.
Despite my conservative leanings, I ended up looking more and more at the whole political structure. I started reading Noam Chomsky. I went up to Seattle and watched the documentary Manufacturing Consent based on Chomsky’s book of the same name. And then I had this epiphany: The Republicans were corrupt. So were the Democrats. The whole damn system was corrupt and had been for decades if not longer. We needed a new American Revolution.
1992 was an election year and I would not be able to vote because I would not be 18 until a month after the election. This did not lower my interest in the election. I was angry at George Bush for getting us into a half-assed war. To my mind at the time we should have done nothing or gone right into Baghdad and declared Iraq the 51st State. This kicking them out of Kuwait but keeping Saddam in power and not really stopping them from doing the exact same thing again bugged me. Besides. George Bush Sr. used to run the CIA and was involved in everything from Iran Contra to the plot to sell crack in inner city neighborhoods to help fund more wars in Central America. He was a walking talking piece of the big machine.
When Bill Clinton became the Democratic frontrunner, I had a subscription to Rolling Stone. They did an interview with him involving all of their top writers including Hunter S. Thompson. Each of the writers did an article about the interview. Each of them mentioned how Bill Clinton said he wanted more cops on the street while looking at Hunter. I liked Bill Clinton’s optimism. I liked that he was not an old man. I liked a lot of what he said. But he was a Democrat. That meant he was part of the corrupt machine.
And then there was Ross Perot. Perot wasn’t a Democrat or a Republican. He was a short firecracker of a man. A businessman from Texas who was somehow a billionaire. He was using his own money and insisted he could get America running the way he got his businesses running. He wasn’t afraid to say things that were not politically correct. He seemed pragmatic. I liked him. I bought his little book and read it. All I remember from that book is that he said that as a kid he wanted a job where he didn’t have to work outside. He was not part of the machine as far as I could tell. The establishment did not like him and I liked that. But he was a billionaire from Texas and probably not the guy who was going to help the common man. Still, there was something to be said for voting for a guy who was not a Democrat or a Republican because fuck the two party system, man.
I went to see Bill Clinton speak in Seattle during the election. It was an outdoor venue near the waterfront. They played David Bowie’s ‘Changes’ just before he took the stage. Regardless of your opinion of Bill Clinton and his politics, it is impossible to deny his ability to work a crowd. By the end of his speech I was all about this guy. When Ross Perot did a campaign stop, I saw him too and felt disappointed. That guy just didn’t have Bill’s charisma and seemed a bit unsure of himself. I didn’t quite believe Perot actually believed the things he said. I wanted so much to like Perot but I just couldn’t. I liked Bill Clinton, but he was part of the system and the system was totally screwed up and corrupt and needed to be destroyed.
As I said, I was not able to vote in 1992. So I did not have to make a decision. I watched all the debates. I watched Ross Perot quit, then come back, then quit again and completely implode. I watched Bill Clinton win and I thought about how it felt like a turning point for America. There was optimism in the air even though I was pretty sure it was bullshit. I mean I did not expect Bill Clinton was going to do a damn thing about the atrocities in East Timor for example. He probably didn’t even know where East Timor was.
Time passed. I learned more. I watched as Republicans started attacking Bill Clinton for fooling around as if he was the first President to ever do such a thing and saw their hypocrisy for what it was. Sure, the Democrats were part of the system, but at least they did not resort to this sort of character assassination. By this time I had changed my views on gay rights and abortion. I still thought the death penalty was necessary for some people and that everyone had a right to have a gun. But I really could not get past this ‘holier-than-thou’ crap pedaled by Congressional Republicans.
I started thinking about the system. The big corrupt machine. The eradication of the Middle Class. The completely hypocritical and useless drug war. The ‘tough on crime’ bills that ruined lives and did nothing to lower the crime rate and everything to increase the prison population. College was becoming so expensive that your parents had to make six figures or you needed a scholarship or a loan you would be paying back forever. The rich getting richer and richer while the poor weren’t just getting poorer. They were dying. Welfare recipients were cut to five years of service. After five years, you were on your own and could die for all they cared. The safety net for human beings was being erased.
I looked at all of it that I was aware of and came to a fairly disheartening conclusion: I cannot stop it without a lot of people helping me kill a lot of people. You aren’t going to convince the head of Walmart to stop keeping so much money. Talk to any seriously rich person and they will tell you how they are terrified of losing their money. It does not matter how much they have. I could see no way to create the revolution that I felt needed to happen without a lot of blood. And there was no way that blood would be one-sided. There were people who were alive right now who might have otherwise lived okay or even good lives who were going to die in such a revolution. And that’s when I made a personal decision.
I would not fight for the revolution. I understood those who wanted it. I wanted it. But if you seriously fuck with the system, the system will fuck you back. Every time. History is littered with examples. Look at Henry Wallace. Look at JFK, RFK, and Martin Luther King, Jr. Look at George McGovern. Look at Edward Snowden. The revolution is tough. It will destroy your life. It will kill you. And each of those people had more money and more power than I will ever have. I am a bug to be squashed compared to those men.
I like Bernie Sanders. I agree with almost everything he says. I donated to his campaign. I have a bumper sticker with his name on it on my car and it’s been there for months. He is right that we need to get money out of politics. He is right that we need a political revolution away from never ending war and towards actual progress for the people of this country. He is most definitely a guy who does what he feels is right regardless of consequences and I respect that. If I were the young man I was in 1992 I have no doubt that right now I would be telling you how Bernie Sanders is our only hope for a sane outcome in this election and that a vote for Trump or Hillary is just more of the status quo in varying degrees. I would be shouting it to anyone who would listen and commenting on any Facebook thread of a friend silly enough to disagree with me because the big corrupt machine needs to be brought down and sure, we can all agree that Trump is terrible, but Hillary Clinton isn’t going to destroy the machine any more than her husband did. I would have ‘B-E-R-N-I-E’ on my forehead in permanent marker.
I am not the young man was in 1992. A few weeks ago I looked at the electoral count and realized that Bernie Sanders simply did not have the votes he needed to become the nominee. In every state he lost someone complained about it being rigged or about some sort of corruption or cheating. Maybe some of it was true. Maybe not. It did not matter. Not really. I was around in 2000 when I watched George W. Bush actually steal an election. This was how American politics worked. It’s like bedtime when you’re a kid. You might not like it or agree with it, but it is what it is and sure, you can change things but that’s not going to actually matter until next time anyway. They are not going to retroactively give it to Bernie.
And so I put my support behind Hillary Clinton. This move upset quite a few of my friends. They did not understand it. They thought I was compromising my values. Their mistake was thinking that just because we endorsed the same candidate we had the same values. That simply wasn’t true. My values are fairly simple. I want to be able to live my life with as few uncomfortable moments as possible while helping as many and hurting as few people as I can. I do not have any interest in being a soldier and I never have.
Hillary Clinton will likely lead us in what will basically be a more conservative version of Obama’s administration. The drone strikes will continue. Guantanamo will not close. And the use of force will always be on the table. But we will get a modest minimum wage increase, continued healthcare, continued gay rights, equal pay for women, and some actual infrastructure funding that is sorely needed. None of those good things will happen under Trump. Trump will not work with the Democratic Congress on anything he doesn’t care about. I drink Coke, but if you’re all out of Coke, I’ll take Pepsi because Diet Coke is terrible. I’m not going to burn the store down because there is no Coke.
Yes, the big machine is still out there making the trade of human lives for profits. In many ways it is stronger than ever. And for that very reason I do not have a lot of interest in directly fighting it. Back in 1992 you had to firebomb a recruiting station to get arrested. These days if you go to the wrong website, you can be put on a list, you can be detained indefinitely without ever being charged with a crime. Anwar al-Awlaki was an American citizen who spoke out against America, who advocated violence towards American people, who conversed with terrorists, but he never actually killed anyone. He mostly talked and wrote. That did not stop the Obama administration from killing him. It did not stop them from killing his 16-year-old son two weeks later despite his son being suspected of nothing at all. He too was an American citizen. Neither of them had a trial. We live in a very dangerous world where money is the only goal or God and suspicion is all that is needed to have you incarcerated indefinitely or killed. If you want a revolution, fine. But changing things takes time. If you want a revolution right now then it’s going to be bloody and people you care about are going to die for it. And I want no part of it because there is absolutely nothing pointing to that revolution being successful and even if it were, what guarantees are there that it would be any better?
I realize that you could read all of this and simply determine that I am a coward too afraid to stand up for what I believe in. I doubt anyone who really knows me would agree. But to make it clear, yes, I am aware that the entire political structure is corrupt and in desperate need of change. Yes, I am aware that Hillary Clinton does not have a spotless record and does not share every opinion I have. Yes, I am aware that for most of us our wages have gone nowhere, our job prospects are minimal, and in just about any way you look at it our lives could be better than they are. I am also aware that none of this will be resolved before November. You can go on and on about ‘What if this..’ and ‘What if that..’ and tell me all about how Bernie is the only real choice and how anyone who is voting for Hillary must be asleep and not awake like you. Go ahead. But Jill Stein and the Libertarian guy’s name that I can’t even remember aren’t popular enough to win and Bernie is not going to win anything if he isn’t the Democratic nominee. In November your choices are a former First Lady of Arkansas, former First Lady of the United States, Former US Senator, Former Secretary of State and current Democratic Presumptive Presidential Nominee who happens to have a former President of the United States as an advisor and spouse OR you can choose a person who publicly said women need to be treated ‘like shit’, a person who has said he is willing to nuke Eastern Europe, a man who encourages his audience to beat protesters, a man who calls Mexicans rapists, a man who makes fun of people with disabilities, a man who raped his first wife and said it was okay because spousal rape was legal at that time, a man who suggests we should keep lists or have people wear something to signify what religion they are, a man who failed to make money while owning a casino, and a man who repeatedly talks about wanting to sleep with his own daughter.
I know for some of you nothing I say will make Hillary Clinton someone you can vote for. That’s fine. If you want to vote for Trump. That’s fine too. If you want to vote for a third party candidate or write in Bernie Sanders or Minnie Mouse, you can do that too. We at the very least like to pretend it’s a Democracy and no one should take away your right to cast your vote however you want even if that means not voting at all. You have that freedom. As do we all. It your choice.
However, you do not have the freedom of absolution from the consequences of that choice. You do not get to say, “It’s Hillary’s fault I didn’t vote for her because she didn’t court my vote enough.” No. You did not vote for her because you did not want to. People fought and died to make sure you have the right to vote. The least you can do is own that responsibility.
It is easy to get discouraged. It is easy to feel like maybe the world needs a horror like Trump to wake up. Such feelings are understandable but ignore the human cost. It ignores the people who will suffer and die under Trump. Right now bullies are hassling kids and using Trump slogans to do it. If he were President it would be even worse.
I understand that to some Hillary is the enemy and always will be. But you have to choose your battles. You want to fight with all your might to get Bernie in? Go right ahead, but that’s a battle you will not win. I personally think it would be better to vote for the person most likely to work with Bernie when he goes back to the Senate and that is not Donald Trump. It’s Hillary Clinton who voted the same as Bernie 93% of the time.
But damn, isn’t that kind of bleak for a leftist revolutionary? We can’t get the progressive in office so we have to go for the establishment candidate who is just going to give us more of the same of what we have had the last eight years? We can’t take down the machine because it will destroy us? We have to live actually live with this? Yeah, it can be depressing and disheartening if you look at things in a certain way. But I don’t.
Instead I look at this simple truth: There is more good than bad. Don’t believe me? Let me leave you with this story.
I have a good friend named Kristopher Brannon. We went to high school together. He was the one driving the car that took me up to see Bill Clinton back in 1992. For the last ten years he has been tirelessly advocating for the return of the NBA Super Sonics to Seattle as the human mascot, Sonics Guy. He has been to thousands of sporting events, parades, grand openings, festivals, and council meetings. His work is so prolific and inspiring that a documentary was made about him called Superfan. It premiered at the Seattle International Film Festival three weeks ago. After spending the weekend in Seattle for the premiere, Kris came back to his home in Tacoma to find it ransacked. His collection of Sonics jerseys and memorabilia were stolen. So was his late father’s ring. It was devastating. You want to talk about discouragement? Imagine spending a decade making thousands of appearances, collecting hundreds of unique and rare items, and then it’s all gone.
And then something happened. A friend of his started a crowdfunding campaign. She set the goal at a modest $1,000. It would not replace what was lost but it could help get him back on his feet. The $1,000 goal was met in hours. In two weeks that the campaign has been up, over $7,000 has been raised by over 200 people. (You can still donate to his campaign by clicking here.) There’s a benefit concert happening later this month. Kris had his possessions stolen by one person. He was helped by hundreds of people. Yes, the machine is out there and fighting it is near impossible. But there is good right here right now. This will be true regardless of who gets elected in November. It’s important to remember the basic goodness of humanity.
I’m not writing this to convince anyone of anything. I just had some stuff I needed to get out. If it resonates with you, great. If it doesn’t, oh well.
– Jack Cameron
I watched X-Men: Apocalypse last night. My first reaction was, “Well, that was a solid addition to the absolute mess that is the X-Men movie franchise.” Now before we get too far, let me say that I have been reading X-Men comics since I was twelve years old and have read literally every issue with ‘X-Men’ in the title that has come out since 1962. When it comes to the X-Men, I know what I am talking about. Also, from here on out, spoiler alert.
Of course the movies deviate substantially from the source material and I am not going to fault them for that too much. What I want to talk about here involves time travel and timelines and what appears to be a complete lack of understanding of these things on the part of the creators of the X-Men movies. In order to get into this properly I need to talk about all of the other X-Men movies before I start talking about X-Men: Apocalypse.
The first X-Men movie came out in the year 2000. The fact that it existed at all was impressive at the time. Growing up in the 1990s, an actual live action X-Men movie seemed impossible. X-Men began the franchise and while it had its faults, I liked it. X2 was even more to my liking. Wolverine finally got to cut loose and we learn about his time at Alkali Lake as a government experiment on the part of William Stryker.
Then came the disaster that was X-Men 3. Up until X-Men 3, Bryan Singer was the director. But Singer decided to go do Superman Returns and out of what appears to be sheer spite, the studio got Brett Ratner to replace him. Brett’s X-Men 3 was terrible. They killed a bunch of characters. They botched the introduction of new characters. They essentially ignored the idea of anyone being able to do a competent sequel by giving later creators nothing to work with.
It was no surprise that the next X-Men movie wasn’t even an X-Men movie. It was Wolverine: Origins which smartly decided to be a prequel to avoid the mess that was X-Men 3. Unfortunately this was the only thing they did that was smart. Wolverine: Origins was so bad it almost makes X-Men 3 look good. It also introduced all sorts of screwy continuity that has for the most part been entirely ignored by every X-Men movie before or since. They treat it like it doesn’t exist and really, you should too.
At this point it seemed that the X-Men movie series had gone the way of the Batman series after Batman & Robin. A once promising franchise that crashed and burned after a couple of terrible movies. This is why X-Men: First Class was such a breath of fresh air. Young Xavier and Magneto is incredibly compelling. It’s kind of weird that Marvel has never had a whole series about these two in their younger days. X-Men First Class shows us how the X-Men first formed and integrates their world into ours including a starring role in the Cuban Missile Crisis. We also get the briefest of cameos of Wolverine. By the end of the movie Xavier is in a wheelchair, Magneto is known as a bad guy, and the X-Men have been formed. As far as continuity is concerned, there were a few hiccups including the part where Xavier and Mystique had never previously behaved like lifelong friends in any of the other movies, but for the most part it worked.
There was another Wolverine movie called The Wolverine that took place after X-Men 3 and included flashbacks to WWII but for the most part didn’t really add anything except some more Wolverine stuff unless you count the post-credit scene where Magneto and Xavier show up asking for help.
And then we get to X-Men: Days of Future Past. This movie tries to take everything that has come before it and have it all make sense. Unfortunately it fails spectacularly and has created what I consider a fatal problem for the franchise. For starters, the part at the end of The Wolverine does not take place in the distant future but that’s where they need his help. But let’s just skip right by there. In Days of Future Past the X-Men from the distant future are being hunted to extinction by giant robots called Sentinels. So Kitty Pryde uses a power they never explain and she’s never had before to send Wolverine’s consciousness back in time to 1973 to stop an assassination that will lead to their terrible future. They succeed and Wolverine wakes up in the future and everything is fine and everyone is alive again and they aren’t being hunted. That is where X-Men: Days of Future Past leaves things with the exception of a post-credit sequence involving Apocalypse messing with pyramids.
However, there is a larger problem in Days of Future Past that is not immediately apparent. When Wolverine’s consciousness is sent back in time into his younger body he has to search out Xavier who it turns out is taking medication that allows him to walk but kills his mental powers. He’s also a drunk who is uninterested in saving himself let alone the world. The time traveling Wolverine literally shows up at his doorstep and changes all that. This is important. It is what allows Charles Xavier to become Professor X. The problem is that if Wolverine did this while time traveling, then how did Xavier ever get out of this funk in the original timeline? How did the X-Men form when Wolverine had not traveled back in time? How did Magneto escape his cell in the original since Quicksilver was only recruited after the time traveling Wolverine suggested it?
At the end of Days of the Future Past, Wolverine is badly injured and found by Mystique pretending to be William Stryker. The next time we see Wolverine he is at Alkali Lake under the supervision of the real William Stryker with no explanation at all as to how that happened. That’s all well and good except for the part where Days of Future Past changed the timeline. In the original timeline, Magneto didn’t put a stadium around the White House and fill Wolverine full of rebar before tossing him into the water and so Stryker/Mystique would not have found him there.
This brings us to X-Men: Apocalypse*. There is a lot to like this in this movie. Magneto’s story of trying to live a normal life and not being allowed to, finally watching Xavier fight a battle in his mind, and a near-perfect Wolverine cameo appearance immediately come to mind. But the problem that started in Days of Future Past and gets worse in Apocalypse. Since Magneto never did what he did in Days of Future Past in the original timeline, we do not know if Magneto ever tried to settle down before or if this is new. We also do not know if the X-Men fought Apocalypse in the 1980s in the original timeline. If they did, it could not have possibly happened the way it does in Apocalypse because both Magneto and Mystique are in very different places then they seem to be in 2000’s X-Men. Mystique was not known to the world in the original. Nightcrawler had never been to the X-Mansion in the original timeline. There are dozens of these kinds of problems that all make it very difficult to pay attention to the rest of the movie for me because the creators never bothered to make sure their continuity was solid. Instead the creators want to have their cake and eat it too, essentially allowing the new timeline to lead up to 2000’s X-Men with no explanation as to why or how that makes any sense.
One could argue that this timeline and the original timeline are one and the same and that Wolverine always traveled back in time, but the problem with this is the scene where Wolverine wakes up and everything is okay. If that’s what they’re leading up to, they’ve failed to do the groundwork.
I realize that for many, none of this matters. For many all they want is some reasonable special effects, a bunch of fighting, and a loose plot to hang that on. As a life-long fan of the X-Men and someone sees bad continuity as bad storytelling, it bugs the hell out of me.
That said, X-Men: Apocalypse is on par with the rest of the X-Men movies. Good characters. Decent acting. Some great sequences. But a fundamental flaw in their continuity and plotting.
– Jack Cameron
*Yes, I know that Deadpool is technically an X-Men movie and it’s a great movie but it does very little when it comes to overall X-Men continuity and so isn’t relevant for this article.
It is no secret that I am a Democrat. I am fairly vocal about it on my Facebook page, on this site, and elsewhere. In 2008 and 2012 I donated to Obama’s campaign. In 2016 I have donated to the Bernie Sanders campaign. I have a Bernie bumper sticker on the back window of my car. If you ask me who I want to be the next President of the United States out of the current people running, I will tell you Bernie Sanders. And yet that is not enough.
Unlike many of my fellow Bernie Sanders supporters, I believe that Hillary Clinton is an incredibly accomplished woman with the best resume a Presidential candidate has had in my lifetime. I also believe that if Bernie fails to get the nomination, Hillary Clinton is a fine second choice who I will be happy to endorse, support, and help elect. This, for many, is falling short of being a True Bernie Supporter.
To add insult to injury I also feel that what the Republicans want more than anything since they failed to find a viable candidate is for Democrats to rip each other apart and so I refuse to bash Bernie Sanders or Hillary Clinton. I do not see any reason that I should do what the GOP wants me to do unless they pay me. It would seem many Bernie supporters I personally know would prefer to work for them for free.
In the last two days I have been personally approached online and off by multiple friends of mine who are Bernie supporters. Each of them has tried to convince me that Hillary is a terrible Presidential candidate and seem genuinely upset when I refuse to agree with them. Keep in mind these are personal friends who know that I am already a Bernie Sanders supporter. Given the chance to vote for Bernie in the election I will and they know that. And yet, that is somehow not enough.
When I tell people that I feel Hillary is a near equal candidate to Bernie, far too many Bernie supporters get angry. It’s important to note that I said ‘near equal’ not ‘the same’. Bernie and Hillary while both being Democrats are very different. Hillary is a terrible substitute for Bernie. However she is a fine candidate in her own right. I could explain why, but I do not feel the need to. Plenty of others have done a far better job of that than I can.
My point in writing this is to point out that if you treat your allies (who are already voting for your candidate) like the enemy, you are failing at supporting your candidate. In November I will be voting for Bernie Sanders or I will be voting for Hillary Clinton. And I am fine with either choice regardless of how many people might want me not to be.
– Jack Cameron
UPDATE: I was reminded that there is a contingent of Bernie fanatics who believe that Bernie should run as an independent if he fails to get the nomination. This of course is the only hope for the Republican Party to get the White House in November. Splitting the Democratic vote will only help someone like Trump get in the White House. It will not result in a Sanders Presidency. When I point this out these people typically say that Trump as President will just make ‘the revolution come sooner’. These are living, breathing, and allegedly thinking Americans who genuinely want a violent revolution of the United States with apparently no regard for the loss of life that may result. The breadth of the short sighted stupidity on display in this scenario is amazing.
Luckily, Bernie Sanders himself is far smarter than many of his followers no matter how fanatical they may be. He’s said so himself that he’s not running as an independent.