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Whose right is it anyway?

Since the death of George Floyd, our country’s cities have been besieged by protesters both peaceful and violent. Thousands of peaceful protesters have walked arm in arm on city streets, highways and bridges to bring attention to their cause – Black Lives Matter. They are not quiet and should not be. Social injustice is pervasive in America no matter how many laws have been passed to eradicate it. It is the single most blatant failure of the great American experiment.

Hundreds of violent protesters who burn, loot, vandalize and otherwise create chaos are the bad apple that spoils the bunch and police are loath to stop it. After all, police brutality is what started this chain of events. Violent protesters are using the shield of legitimate protesters to wield their brand of destruction and there isn’t a black face among them. They are wolves in sheep’s clothing. They are criminals getting away with breaking the law. They cower behind what every American thinks is the bulwark of our democracy – the United States Constitution.

First Amendment rights under the Constitution have been given such broad definitions that many rights we hold dear are in jeopardy. Our right to public safety is at risk because the police are afraid to use force against these mobs. Violent protesters are using their free speech right which now seems to include throwing Molotov cocktails at police, breaking down fences designed to protect property, vandalizing property, tossing bricks, stones and other lethal projectiles just to antagonize as a means to who knows what end. We used to call this kind of activity riots. Today it is violent protests protected under the banner of free speech.  I doubt that our founding fathers ever intended free speech to go this far.

The right to life is in jeopardy when free speech consisting of untruths, insults, fake news and worse can result in someone’s ruined reputation or worse. The right to liberty is in jeopardy when federal storm troopers invade our streets on the premise of protecting public property and arbitrarily detain anyone that dares question their actions. Our right to the pursuit of happiness is in jeopardy when Republicans allow our democracy to devolve executive order by executive order into a white supremacist autocracy. Even our right to free speech is in jeopardy when it is given absurdly to an entity, a corporation that can only speak with money. It gives a whole new meaning to the phrase, “Money talks.”

As the current administration continues to chip away little by little at the Constitution, either legally or illegally, we run the risk of losing our democracy and the rights which we, as American citizens, enjoy today. Abetted by a Justice Department that seeks to give more and more power to an illegitimate president – a president that was elected not of the people, by the people and for the people, but by an outmoded process that ignores the premise of majority rule — our rights may no longer be our rights much longer.

Democracy is not a thing to be taken for granted. How quickly we forget lessons from the past. Despots so easily undermine democracies when the people become complacent and turn a blind eye to obvious wrongs, to administrations/regimes that fail to be accountable to their constituencies and to the gross societal inequities such power produces over time. Rights given can just as easily be taken away.  Our single most important inalienable right is to make sure that doesn’t happen.

Russia Is Responsible For Trump’s Win

putin helped trump win electionNo matter how many people say that Russia’s email hacks did not influence the outcome of our election, it simply isn’t true. Those hacks and subsequent weaponization of them is the only reason we are confronted with the scariest president-elect in our history. I would even go so far as to say that Donald Trump conspired with Vladimir Putin to throw the election his way. Trump’s ego is too big not to have wanted to win, and now he is indebted to Putin.

It’s doubtful the polls had it wrong on election day. I believe that Hillary Clinton was leading in the states of Ohio, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Minnesota which ultimately gave Trump the electoral votes to win the election. Instead, Russia calculated the fragile mood of voters in those states and allowed the Trump political machine to target them with last minute fake news  and vitriolic rhetoric attacks on Hillary Clinton thereby triggering a change of vote by only a few thousand disgruntled, ignorant and uninformed voters to cast their vote for what promises to be the most detrimental administration ever to occupy the office of president.

And who is sitting in the wings licking his chops over this injustice to the American people? None other than Vladimir Putin. Not only will he have a pro-Russian president at his disposal but a cabinet full of pro-Russian hacks who clearly have more to gain by an alliance with Russia than not.

Rex Tillerson, recent ex-CEO of ExxonMobil and Secretary of State appointee, is a case in point. With a $500 billion Exxon oil deal sitting on the back burner due to U.S. sanctions, a pro-Russian government and Tillerson himself would no doubt have those sanctions lifted allowing the deal to move forward benefiting who exactly –certainly not the United States but definitely ExxonMobil and by association Rex Tillerson.

Yet another scary prospect concerns NATO. A pompous Donald Trump is threatening to pull out of our long-term European alliance while Putin sits with tanks and troops on the borders of previous Soviet satellite countries of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania waiting for the moment he can attack with impunity and bring back under Russian control.

Putin needs the United States, but we don’t need him or Russia. The Russian economy is virtually non-existent. Military production is the only thing keeping it afloat. All Putin needs is an excuse to use his military might, and America’s withdrawal or even its reduced support of NATO would offer Putin just that. Let us not forget the Crimea incident. Do you think a pro-Russian government with a disdain of NATO would retaliate?

Russia simply has too much to lose not to have a pro-Russian American government. Putin is much smarter than Donald Trump. He is a devious, calculating, sociopath who will go to any length no matter how dangerous to get what he wants.  He is a far greater threat than Trump can even think of being unless you consider Trump’s threat to his own country. Trump’s danger is his complete ignorance of world affairs other than for his own personal “brand.” He, too, is a sociopath in a less evil way.

So it made sense for Putin to influence the election. Hillary Clinton would not have furthered his agenda. There was much planning and calculation that went into his covert operation to get Donal Trump elected president. If the CIA, FBI and NSA dig deep enough, I’m confident they will find it and discover too late that Russia is responsible for Trump’s win.

Birthdays are such fun.

With a birthday that falls on or around Thanksgiving every years, I have never lacked for bag-n-baggage theatersomething to do. Typically, I am with family and/or friends as I was again this year. It happened that the Bag-n-Baggage  Christmas production of “Parfumerie” opened at the Venetian Theater on my birthday. My sister and I have been enjoying this acting company’s performances for over four years now, and they rarely disappoint. At first we had doubts about this particular play. The first hour was a bit of a drag, but it redeemed itself during the last hour. We were glad we didn’t leave in mid-performance.

The Venetian is an old movie theater that has been lovingly restored to include a fine restaurant open for lunch, happy hour and dinner.  Conveniently, the plays end just about the time happy hour begins.  Their happy hour is particularly good with more than just the usual $5 burger and fries. Two items – fried green beans and pickles and a killer hot artichoke-bleu cheese dip – are mainstays at each of our outings there. Drinks are cheap and poured without skimping.

This is where I spent my 73rd birthday and a wonderful day it was made more so by all of the birthday wishes I received from friends and family on Facebook. Having come late to the FB venue, I had no idea how important it would become to me. Did you know that the average age of a FB user in the U.S. is 40.5. There aren’t too many people my age using it, but I adopted technology long before many other people did. Of course, it has left me in the dust, but I can still manage FB. There is something warm and fuzzy about it. Friends old and new are never very far away. Children and grandchildren are particularly easy to keep track of.  It’s also hard to get lonely with all my “friends” on FB almost at my beck and call.

Still have some celebrating left to do – happy hour friends that I have not yet connected with. I can drag a birthday party out for weeks. I used to drag it out for months some 40 years ago. Now I settle for weeks. I also have a full line-up of movies scheduled that will entertain me at the drop of a hat or on $5 Tuesday, whichever comes first.

Yes, birthdays are such fun. I’m looking forward to many, many more.