Saturday, July 23, 2016

The Decider

So, it's Tim Kaine.

You know, that's a fascinating choice.

Hillary Clinton announced today that her running mate will be Virginia senator Tim Kaine.

That is a fantastic choice.

More, it’s a testament to her character and it says a great deal about how Hillary Clinton not only sees the world, but Americans in general.

In particular the choice of Tim Kaine tells you what Hillary Clinton thinks of her supporters.


And it’s a hell of a compliment.


You see, Donald Trump picked Mike Pence specifically because Pence appeals viscerally to the worst elements of the Republican base.

It’s obvious.

There's nothing even vaguely complicated or nuanced about Mike Pence at all.

There's no risk whatsoever for Trump in Pence.

Pence was the safe choice.

Pence is anti-everything. He's Anti-immigrant (including birthright citizenship), Anti-Federal Reserve (and all the Glenn Beck conspiracy nuts cheered), Anti-tax (he's a flat-tax guy and the conservative libertarians just wet themselves in glee), Anti-Education, Anti-EPA and a climate change denier, Anti-renewable energy (fossil fuels all the way and drill baby drill), Anti-Iran Deal, Anti-healthcare, Anti-abortion, Anti-stem cell research, Anti-evolution, Anti-Science, Anti-sex education, Anti-LGBT.

About the only thing Mike Pence is for is God, Guns, and War and not necessarily in that order.

Mike Pence wasn't a complicated decision, there’s nothing subtle or nuanced about his selection. Which figures, given that Trump is about as subtle and nuanced as a drunk at a frat party dancing on the table with a bra on his head.

Mike Pence is the clanking mechanical heart of the Party of No.

Trump picked Pence specifically because when he looks out at the chanting crowd Trump sees a simple, uncomplicated black and white world, us and them.

There are Stormtrumpers and there are enemies and there ain’t nothing else.

He picked Pence specifically because he doesn't think very much of his supporters' ability to grasp complex issues.

They're the howling mob, they’re the people who think Celebrity Apprentice is highbrow entertainment. Trump knows it’s not. He knows what kind of people watch his TV shows and visit his casinos and golf clubs. Those people are cash cows, marks, not his friends.

Trump’s base understands one thing: no. No. No. No. No immigrants. No abortion. No evolution. No big government. No Taxes. No deals with Iran or Russia. No liberals. No compromise.

They understand single syllable words, wall, war, gun, God and not necessarily in that order.

And Mike Pence is that guy.

Donald Trump picked Mike Pence specifically because he is that guy.

He is that guy. No. No. And no.

He's a more dignified (if that word has any meaning here) and well spoken version of Sarah Palin and he was picked for the same reason, because he appeals viscerally and emotionally to the very worst and most extreme elements of the Republican Party.

Trump isn't stupid, he just plays stupid on TV because that's the demographic he's aiming for. That’s who he thinks his supporters are.

And Tim Kaine?

Kaine is the anti-Pence.

Tim Kaine is why you should vote for Hillary Clinton – even if you hate her. Even if you hate everything about her.

You see, the Presidency is about choice.

The Office of the President, more than anything else, is about decisions.


George W. Bush was right, he was The Decider.


He just made shitty decisions.

The President is the decider.

And choice of running mate is a potential president’s very first major decision.

Who a candidate chooses tells you a lot of what you need to know right up front.

Trump’s selection of Mike Pence shows you exactly how his future decisions will go. They’ll be simple. Us and them. Black and white. You’re either with us or you’re against us. And made specifically because they appeal to the people keeping President Trump in power and for no other reason. There’s nothing else behind his decision. Nothing. He’s a guy who rose to fame on popularity and he doesn’t have any other move. None.

Now, take a minute and extrapolate…

…to the Supreme Court

…to foreign relations

…to the economy

…to healthcare, education, religion

…to war and peace.


You are unlikely in the extreme to see the reasoned and careful decisions of the last eight years under a Trump Administration.


Which brings us to Tim Kaine.

Unlike Pence, Tim Kaine is many shades of grey.

His choice as running mate shows careful, in-depth, strategic analysis on Clinton's part.

The kind of careful, deliberate, in-depth, strategic analysis you want from a president.

Kaine is a democratic Senator from Virginia. A state of military bases and conservative ideals. Think about that, think about what it takes to get elected as a democrat in Virginia. Kaine has a reputation as a decent forthright honest upstanding guy, bi-partisan, willing to work with conservatives and liberals with equal enthusiasm – those traits make Kaine well liked by his colleagues in the Senate, on both sides of the aisle.

And that is a damned rare thing nowadays.

Imagine a Senate, a Congress made up of guys like Kaine. Imagine how different our world would be today. How much better.

Strategically, Kaine is from Virginia. If Clinton wins the White House, Virginia’s democratic governor will appoint Kaine’s replacement in the Senate. If Clinton had chosen Elizabeth Warren or Sherrod Brown, their replacements would have been Republicans – in a Senate with a Republican majority. Did you think about that? It’s not enough to win the White House, not if you really want to do all those things Bernie talked about. You have to win back Congress too and starting out another point down isn’t the smartest way to go about that.

Clinton and her team are playing the long game, making strategic decisions that will win the war, not just the current dust up. She could have picked Warren or Sherrod or even Bernie Sanders. But she didn’t. Leadership isn’t about giving people what they want, it’s about doing the right thing for the right reasons.

Tim Kaine is the right thing. For all the right reasons.

This morning I’m seeing Bernie supporters saying things like, “Guess Hillary doesn’t want our votes after all, screw her.”

I’m seeing progressives saying the same thing. They’re telling me, hey, look at this, see? Tim Kaine is pro-bank deregulation and supports the Trans-Pacific Partnership and, holy shit, he’s a Catholic and therefore he’s obviously anti-abortion!

And I can see their point of view. I can.

But Tim Kaine is not Mike Pence.

And you have to look beyond the surface.

Kaine has spent his entire professional and political life fighting for civil rights.

In a lot of ways he’s done the things Bernie Sanders has only talked about.

Don’t get me wrong here, I’m not bashing Sanders. I’m not. I’m asking you to look a little deeper, hell, a lot deeper.

What I’m saying is if you actually look at Kaine in depth, as Clinton obviously did, you’ll see that she is very much listening. Perhaps that’s why Bernie Sanders himself endorsed her.

Maybe, if you look at Tim Kaine, you’ll see Bernie didn’t sell you out after all. Maybe, just maybe, you were right about him all along.

Look here, as a lawyer, Kaine spent two decades representing poor people who had been discriminated against in housing and employment based on race and disability. He won landmark cases and changed the law regarding fair housing, employment, and representation for minorities – and a lot of that was pro bono.

That’s the kind of thing Sanders talks about regularly, isn’t it? Kaine didn’t just talk about it, he did it.

He changed the world for the better.

He made the world a better place for a hell of a lot of people. Down in the trenches and the tenements where it counts.

Kaine took that experience and taught others. Literally. He taught legal ethics at the University of Richmond School of Law for six years. He was a founding member of the Virginia Coalition to End Homelessness. Again, these are very things Bernie talks about. Kaine is out there doing them.

As Mayor of Richmond Kaine was the first white man in that position in more than ten years, chosen by the majority black city council in no small part for his record fighting for equality and civil rights. Because Kaine didn’t just talk about civil rights and equality and race, he leads on all fronts by example – as Bernie does. Kaine turned Richmond around, he renovated schools in poor neighborhoods and built new ones, he gave tax breaks to projects that directly benefited the city and opposed tax increases that didn’t, he brought back business and jobs, and his policies reduced gun crimes by more than 55%. Under Kaine, Richmond went from poverty and crime to being named one of the 10 Best Cities in America to do Business by Forbes – and the key to all of that was Kaine’s commitment to and leadership on racial reconciliation.

Tell me, is that not something Bernie Sanders would enthusiastically support?

You know what the biggest controversy of Kaine’s tenure as Mayor of Richmond was?

He spent $6,000 in public funds on buses to send citizens to the Million Mom March against Gun Violence in Washington D.C.

When pro-gun elements funded by the National Rifle Association tried to make something of it, Kaine raised money privately and paid the city back with interest for use of the buses and took the wind right out of the NRA’s sails. That’s right, Kaine himself paid to send citizens concerned about gun violence to Washington so their voices would be heard. Sounds like something Bernie would do, doesn’t it? And for all the right reasons.

As governor of Virginia, one of the largest and oldest tobacco producing states, Kaine banned smoking in public venues – Making Virginia the first Southern state to do so.

Now you think about that.

This guy faced down the NRA and the Tobacco Lobby on their own home turf and won.

Kaine isn’t a guy who does a thing because it’s popular, he does it because it’s the right thing to do.  Who’s that remind you of?

And then Kaine went to the Senate.

And one of his very first acts on Capitol Hill was to deliver a speech on the Senate floor in support of the bipartisan "Gang of Eight" immigration bill. Kaine gave the speech entirely in Spanish. The first time in the history of the United States that a speech was given by a Senator on the Floor in any language other than English. 

As a senator Kaine has spoken out strongly against Citizen’s United. He supports strong regulation of the financial industry and he supports Dodd-Frank – while at the same time acknowledging banking industry concerns and suggesting that a vibrant economy requires balance. He’s a vocal supporter of immigration and has been one of President Obama’s biggest supporters in this area.

And then there’s abortion:

"I have a traditional Catholic personal position, but I am very strongly supportive that women should make these decisions and government shouldn't intrude. I'm a strong supporter of Roe v. Wade and women being able to make these decisions. In government, we have enough things to worry about. We don't need to make people's reproductive decisions for them."

Here’s a man who, for religious reasons, cannot himself support abortion, but who believes – and openly says so – that his beliefs should not be forced upon others. This is a man who believes in actual liberty, the actual right to choose, and actual freedom of religion.

This is an example for every American to aspire to.

On nearly every topic near and dear to liberal and progressive hearts, and many moderate conservative ones as well, Tim Kaine sets the example. Gay rights, war, the economy, the environment, energy, climate, education, civil rights, gun violence and gun rights, crime, taxes, this guy leads the way in every case.

Yes, Kaine has expressed pro-business and pro-trade ideas. Business and trade are part of America and as an American you should want both to be strong and vibrant. But if you look at Kaine’s statements in detail you’ll see that the difference between Kaine’s pro-business stance and that of Trump/Pence is that he doesn’t believe business should come at the expense of people and his record in every detail proves that all the way back to Richmond. Liberals, Progressives, Conservatives, and Libertarians can all find something to agree on in there.

Hell, if Tim Kaine was running for President instead of Clinton or Trump, I’d vote for him.


Kaine is the anti-Pence.


Tim Kaine is a brilliant choice by Hillary Clinton.

Tim Kaine shows you that she is listening to your concerns.

She is listening to Bernie supporters and taking them seriously, but she’s also the kind of leader who is going to make the right choice for the right reasons and not because it panders to popularity. And that matters.

She’s also listening to conservatives who hate and despise Trump and Pence and she’s going to have to win over those people not only to win the White House but because it’s the only way to move the country forward again.

And she’s listening to herself. To reason. To strategy. To long term goals. To doing what’s right instead of what’s popular.

Trump listens only to the cheers of the mob.


The Supreme Court.  

Foreign relations.  

The economy, healthcare, education, religion, civil rights, war and peace, the role of government, the role of religion, race, gender, identity, climate, science, life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Those are the things in play here.

With the Supreme Court alone, the next president will decide the nature of America for decades to come.

With Kaine, Clinton has shown you what kind of Decider she’ll be.

With Pence, Trump has shown you the very same thing.

The choices – and the consequences – could not be more clear.

It is now time for you to decide for yourself what kind of Decider you are.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

The Latter Days Of A Better Nation, Part III


You know, it's one thing watching the great Bill Paxton in the movie Aliens.

Paxton as Pvt Hudson, face all screwed up in fear and horror, spittle flying from his mouth:

“That's it, man. Game over, man. Game over! What the fuck are we gonna do now? What are we gonna do?

That’s acting.

That’s entertainment.

That’s why Paxton is a star. That’s why people remember his every performance.

But it's another thing entirely when it's your political philosophy.

“Presidential elections are won by a few million votes. If Hillary wins, we’re going to be overwhelmed with refugees, with immigrants. That’s it. It’s lights out America.”

It's lights out America.


That was Ann Coulter this morning. Once again predicting the fall of America and the End of the World.

With these people it's always lights out, America.



Everything is a worst case scenario. Fear. Terror. Panic. Fire and flood, invasion, war, plague and famine, chaos in the life support system. And if that's not enough, their mean spoiled little shithead of a God is always about to send in a hurricane or an earthquake or a flood or a Wall Street crash because he's pissed off and throwing a tantrum about some goddamned thing. Ebola. Iran. Vladimir Putin. Gay marriage. Transgenders in the bathrooms. The shambling 50-years-dead ghost of Saul Alinsky. United Nations troops marching on Texas. Black people in the streets. Islam in the schools. They're coming for our daughters, they're coming for our healthcare, they're coming for our Jesus, Oh My GOD they're coming for our guns! They hate us for our freedom, they hate us for our exceptionalism, they hate us because they anus.

It's always some goddamned thing with these people.

They crow about how great America is – this mythological magical exceptional America where everybody is either a straight white protestant who lives in a little house with a white picket fence and a giant H-1 Hummer SUV out front and farms the land from horseback with an American Flag and a Bible in one hand and an AR-15 Super Jesus Peacemaker in the other while the woman folk pop out little white Christian babies like Pez dispensers and God showers down Viagra from the sky in a rain of freedom and liberty Hallelujah and Amen or they're the fucking help and they know their place.

These people, they harp endlessly about the greatness of this nation, how their God has chosen us – us – over all others, our military might, our fabled Constitution ... while at the same time crying endlessly like Chicken Little about how it's all so fragile that if you don't do exactly as they say, why, it'll all come tumbling down. Lights out, America. GAME OVER, MAN, GAME OVER!


This is a symptom of a people who have no challenges. No goals. Other than keeping what they have.


This is a symptom of a people who live inside a castle surrounded by a moat and barbed wire, terrified every single day that the peasants are going to rise up out of the mud and the shit and their slavery and show up waving torches and pitchforks and demand the good life too.

This is a symptom of a diseased greedy religion, a religion of selfishness and intolerance, one where salvation is the promise of eternal happiness and smug satisfaction for you and yours while every single other person who has ever lived or will live burns forever in endless torment.

This is a symptom of a political process that intends to make a nation of immigrants "Great Again" by banning immigrants and building walls to keep refugees fleeing war and horror and starvation and small mean gods from getting in.

This is a symptom of a people who don't want to make the world a better place for everybody. And in point of fact, their satisfaction is utterly dependent on everybody else being worse off. They have to have the biggest house, the biggest gaudiest church, the biggest truck, the biggest flag, the biggest army, the mightiest ships, the most food, the best medicine, the most TV channels, the biggest gun. They see freedom, liberty, justice, as zero sums and if others get more then they are diminished. Lesser. Ashamed. Just like their religion, heaven isn't heaven if everybody gets to go. America is only great if everybody else isn't. America is the shining city on the hill, the one with the moat and the wall, and everybody else lives in the mud below.

They get to live in the Plantation house and everybody else gets to pick the cotton all the live long day.

This is a symptom of a bankrupt intolerant exclusionary morality.

This is the end result of a political ideology that values mammon over people just exactly as their own prophet warned them of.

This is a political party who has now spent four days spewing hate and fear and pissing its collective pants in terror, LIGHTS OUT, AMERICA! LIGHTS OUT! wallowing in small fears like a child crying in the dark.

This is a political party who has now spent four days telling each other who is NOT an American, who doesn't belong, but has not once – not one single time in four days – actually offered a single solution to any of the problems we face as a people.


I passed a sign yesterday. In front of a small rural Southern Baptist Church. The sign said, “Only prayer can save America now.”


Only prayer can save America now.

This sums up modern conservativism in six simple words.

Here’s a small church in the middle of nowhere, safe, protected, unburned, free to worship as they please, free to yell at the rest of us without consequence, protected by law in fact and in practice … and yet they feel persecuted. Under assault. Endangered. Doomed. The end is nigh and it’s game over, lights out, America. Oh woe, woe! Save us, Jesus!

And they feel that way solely because they have to live in a world with other people.

They feel like that because they are afraid every single goddamned day of their lives.

This horrible religion didn’t create that fear, their fear created it.

I have watched the messages that appear on that sign for years, decades now.

There’s never, not one time, been a message of peace or hope or tolerance or optimism.

It’s always about impending doom, any minute now.

And if America doesn’t end, they’ll take credit for it – even though they’ve done exactly nothing but shit their pants and hate their neighbors. They’ll give credit to their God instead of the people out there right now laboring every single day to hold civilization together. They’ll pat themselves on their own backs in smug righteousness. Wew, dodged another one. Good job, Everybody, but it’s not over because now God’s mad about this other thing over here. And there’s the ebola. And the gays. And the immigrants. And…

… and it just never ends with these people.

Just another group of angry bitter selfish assholes peering fearfully at the sky.


That’s what we’ve become, a nation of angry bitter selfish people. Pessimists. Staring out from the walls, worried somebody is going to come take it all away.

As I’ve said to you before, pessimists don’t build starships. Pessimists don’t build the future. People like Ann Coulter never inspired anybody to anything but fear and hate and pessimism.

Fear, hate, intolerance, guns and pessimism, those things don’t make nations great. Those things don’t make for a great people or even a good person.

Hope, tolerance, inclusion, inspiration, initiative, shared purpose, spirit, justice, liberty, optimism, those are the traits of a truly great nation, a great people, a great religion.

If you want a better nation, a better future, then you have to be better citizens.

And it starts by rejecting this philosophy of doom and selfishness.

You can choose, you know.

In the end, Hudson faced his fear, found his courage, and stood steadfast in the face of horror and gave his life so that others might live.

You can choose to be that Hudson.

But better yet, you can choose to be Ellen Ripley, who said memorably:

“Get away from her, you bitch!”


Previous editions in this series can be found here:
The Latter Days of a Better Nation, Part I
The Latter Days of a Better Nation, Part II

Monday, July 18, 2016

Donation Drive

Help Jim relocate from Alaska to Florida and win fabulous prizes!

Posting here has been a bit sporadic, because as I prepare to pick and move just about as far across the continent as it’s physically possible to go I find that I don’t have much time to write long essays.

For those that aren’t aware, I’m in the process of selling my house here in the Alaskan Matsu and in about 10 days the movers will arrive to pack up our stuff – including my workshop – into trucks for shipment to our house in Florida. My wife and I will bid a teary farewell to our son, who will remain here in Alaska where he has his own life now, and we will head down the Alaska-Canadian Highway south. Why are we moving to the Florida Panhandle, land of heat, humidity, and rednecks? Well, that’s a personal matter, but the short answer is we need to be closer to family and after long consideration, we’ve decided this is the best course of action. I can write and do artwork anywhere. And like I said, we own a house there and some property. Our son is now an adult. It’s time.

We expect to arrive and be settled and back in business mid-July. During the intervening period, posting here is likely to be catch as catch can, though I will likely post short updates, observations, and descriptions of our adventures to Facebook and Twitter as we journey 5000 miles across the continent with our cats. I have no idea what route we’ll take. We tend to ass backward into the unknown, life is more interesting that way – at the moment all I am certain of is that this trip will likely be a source of much material for future essays and social media posts.

I have now successfully reached Florida. Regular writing and new posts to Stonekettle Station will resume shortly – just as soon as my office furniture arrives and the local cable company can get broadband installed (at the moment, my “office” is a folding camp chair, a laptop, and tethered Bluetooth connection through my phone). Hopefully that will be this week. Then I can get back to work.

As previously noted, unless you’re Wil Wheaton, making a living from social media is an adventure and based on my evolving business model, every once in a while I need to ask for money.  

I don’t like this.

I don’t like asking for money.

Ideally, I write something and if you like it enough, you’ll kick in.  And thankfully, you do so often enough that I can mostly survive doing this. I’ll never get rich, but it beats writing advertising jingles or flipping burgers or getting shot at.

That said, I don’t like asking for money, it makes me very uncomfortable. So the last time I did this I found a way to assuage my conscience.

Any reader who donates any amount during the period of June 1st to July 30th will be put in the running to win one of my high-end handmade art pieces worth several hundred dollars. That means if you’ve already donated to Stonekettle Station this month, you’re already entered to win.

You may enter more than once. Each donation will be counted as a unique entry.

Winners will be selected August 1st, 2016 by Shopkat.

To donate, click on the “Donation” button on the upper right side of this screen and follow the directions.

Note: Those of you who already donate via an automatic monthly payment, you’ll be entered automatically in the drawing. 

Thank you all for your continued support. See you all in Florida!


Disclaimer: To be clear, this is not a lottery or a raffle.  Donations are voluntary subscription fees specifically in support of this blog, i.e. you’re paying for content not a chance to win something.

I am not claiming any tax-exempt status or charity.

Donations are considered business income and I pay all applicable state and federal taxes on that income and I have the records to prove it.

The items I give away are my artwork, created and paid for by me.  As such I chose to randomly give them away to supporters, just as I gave away my custom pens to my fellow writers.

I’m simply using this month’s subscriptions as the pool to select from since I have no other way to determine who readers are. 

You are not paying for a chance to win a prize, you’re paying for the content of this blog and my associated social media feeds.  And I’m using this opportunity to give something back other than just my usual blog essays, Facebook posts, and Tweets.

Note: My store on Etsy is closed until 1 August, 2016.