So, my son can download a 3-d printable gun?

3D Printed Gun, Twentytwentynews

Clete Wetli, Contributor

Look, my son can barely be trusted operating a toaster and now I hear that it’s legal for folks to download guns that can be made from a 3-d printer? Are you fucking kidding me? I mean, aside from questionable household appliance operation, this kid can run circles around me when it comes to cyber-technology.  Hell, about the time I finally learned to successfully program a VCR and figure out dial-up, he was hacking through network security at his elementary school; so he could play Minecraft- whatever the hell that is.

It’s not ok to be able to download printable guns that kill people. It will never be ok.

Yeah, the Trump administration lifted the ban on this madness because they’ve turned it into a “free speech” issue. Yep, we need untraceable guns in America like a starving dog needs two assholes…

Just because you can do something, doesn’t mean you ought to…

Anyway, this whole concept of being able to download a plastic gun that can be assembled without any traceable serial number ought to be horrifyingly disturbing to most Americans.

As I’m writing this, a judge has temporarily suspended the insanity, but it seems like only a brief stopgap measure before Hell’s gates swing wide open.  C’mon, is there anyone with two brain cells to rub together that thought this was a good idea?

First, there are a few practical issues. Primarily, plastic isn’t exactly all that safe for firearm construction and it’s very likely that the first few dipshits who fire their printed weapons may find them exploding in their tiny orange hands. Second, plastic tends to have somewhat adverse reactions to heat, so their newly acquired phallic symbols may turn flaccid after shooting a few rounds- however, that may be something they’re used to already.

I mean, mankind has had some seriously dumb ideas, but this one is even more stupid than the K-cup or the rhythm method or edible toilet paper. Yeah, I know there are big-time geniuses ready to point out that these new-fangled printers cost thousands of dollars and blah, blah, blah. Look, cell phones weighed twenty pounds not too long ago, too.  But, try to buy a semi full of fertilizer and you may be probed in places you never thought possible.

Whether you are a big time 2A person or a tree-hugging peace activist, there’s no one who could possibly think that downloading a printable firearm is a sane, sound idea. Although we are focused on the constant media parade of mass shootings, so many people are dying in domestic violence situations or suicide. Do we really need more firearms out there that can’t be traced or controlled?

There’s already enough stuff on the internet that’s falling into the hands of the wrong people, insane people, murderous people, and there are no easy answers to a lot of these questions. Yet, some of these questions are very simple have pretty damned obvious answers, like- 3d printable guns is a very fucking stupid idea because no good ever will come from it! Yeah, just like that. The dumb fuck promoting this stupidity had about the same marketing forethought as, say, the Tide pods morons or Elon Musk’s affordable flamethrower.

Seriously, it’s time that we get control of the proliferation of guns in our society. It’s time we start thinking proactively to prevent nonsense like 3d printable guns from ever being a real and accessible thing in in the first place.

It’s not enough to bitch and protest every time there is a televised massacre or a heart-wrenching suicide story. It’s time to vote and it’s time to stand up against this kind of insanity. In your heart, you know that printing 3d guns is a horrible idea and it should be stopped right now.

Nothing good will ever come of this and you know it.

Why did Mo Brooks Vote against the Opioid Bill?

Clete Wetli is a liberal political activist living in Huntsville and a regular contributor to AL.com. Email Clete at decaturclete@gmail.com or visit cletewetli.com.

In a rare and stunning display of bipartisanship, Congress voted 396-14 to pass a package of bills (SUPPORT for Patients and Communities Act) that would expand substance abuse treatment and law enforcement efforts to help stop the opioid epidemic that’s killing 150 Americans a day. As usual, Rep. Mo Brooks put his extremist brand of Tea Party politics over the interests of his constituents and voted against sensible legislation that would save lives in North Alabama.

It seems Brooks was more interested in spending tax payer dollars on an unnecessary ‘Space Force’ rather than doing something about the drug crisis that’s ravaging his district. Or, he’s been trying to figure out a way to explain why he voted for Trump’s tax scam that’s making our debt and deficit explode. I guess he feels like spending taxpayer money on space cadets is more important than helping people get the treatment they need but can’t afford.

Not known for his innovative solutions, Brooks probably thinks War on Drugs tactics will solve the problem. Things like expensive mass incarceration, mandatory minimums, and “just say no”. Well, we all know those approaches didn’t do much to curb the availability of drugs on our streets and simply made the problem worse.

All of this is hardly surprising given Brooks’ bizarre notions about healthcare. To Brooks, healthcare is a privilege that should only be affordable to “people who lead good lives” and folks with pre-existing conditions should just suffer by paying much higher rates. Maybe, he feels that people who were over-prescribed painkillers by doctors getting kickbacks ought to just suffer, as well. Maybe, he thinks that folks with genuine chronic pain issues or terminal illness ought to just suck it up and try to cope without medication if there’s a chance they may become addicted. According to Brooks, they should just work harder at leading “good lives.”

In Brooks’ home county of Madison, someone overdoses every six days. Yet, Brooks doesn’t think it merits a legislative response and he probably bemoans the idea of tax dollars being spent on substance abuse treatment. His base loves the more expensive and less effective option of mass incarceration, because it allows them to stigmatize people dealing with addiction. Although ineffectual, it makes conservative politicians appear tough.

In North Alabama, everyone knows someone who’s been adversely affected by the opioid crisis. Doing something immediately about it should be a top priority for every member of Congress. Instead, Brooks has been trying to figure out how falling rocks raise sea levels and how to justify the need for space soldiers. Yeah, we’ve all been worried about those Tang-drinking scientists going to war with each other on the International Space Station.

The problem is that Brooks takes every opportunity to paint government as an inefficient and incapable entity that simply devours money. He, like President Trump, fails to realize the magnitude of this crisis and the need to ensure that people who need treatment can get it. In this situation, government has an obligation to help and the right legislation will pave the way for necessary funding that will save and transform lives. Brooks’ ‘no’ vote on this legislation shows the people of North Alabama exactly what his priorities are. They certainly aren’t with North Alabama communities battling the opioid crisis.

The problem with extremists like Brooks is that they always put their narrow ideology over the practical needs of the people they were elected to represent. It’s bad enough that he ignores climate change and increased the deficit, now Brooks voted against helping people get the care they need. Once again, Brooks failed North Alabama.

Who gets to define “fake news”?

Clete Wetli, Contributor

As Facebook faces a Congressional inquiry and public relations nightmare into their sharing of private user information and the dissemination of fake news, we must determine what exactly makes a news story fake. It’s not enough to simply claim that a biased or slanted piece is fake and it’s also dangerous to haphazardly label satire and other forms of written expression as fake to suppress circulation.

News is broadly defined as the reporting of recent noteworthy or important events. It is supposed to convey the facts and the relevant, salient details of a situation that has changed. Pieces are published or broadcast based on their potential to engage news consumers and that decision is based on a subjective opinion of the piece’s newsworthiness or importance. Obviously, opinions and editorials are commentary on news, but in today’s media landscape they are often infused in the reporting of news. Opinion injected into news may be annoying or distasteful, but it doesn’t necessarily render news as suddenly fake. It may make the presentation of the news slanted and may influence consumers to feel a certain way about it. When this happens in its most extreme form, it is propaganda.

Fake news is a deliberate attempt to make a news story appear true when the writer or publisher knows that it is based on lies, hearsay, or that pertinent facts have been purposely omitted. This can be treacherous as stories develop quickly, change dramatically in substance, and when the totality of facts is not immediately known.

Although the methods and forms of news products has changed, it is worth remembering that this conflict is certainly not new in our society. Revisiting the legacies of William Randolph Hearst, Joseph Pulitzer, and Joseph Goebbels are, indeed, illuminating when studying the effects of mass media and deliberate bias in shaping public opinion. Fundamentally, mass media communication has always been a deliberate decision between a sender of information and a receiver. In this discussion, both bear culpability in the arena of “fake news.” Senders, or publishers, have a responsibility to accurately label their content. Receivers, or consumers, bear the task of determining the validity of content and, more importantly, must accept the idea that no one source should be blindly accepted as definitive. Consumers need to do their research. Publishers need to be ethical and carefully label content to avoid consumer confusion.

For example, twentytwentynews.com is clearly left-wing commentary and it’s labeled as such. The moniker of “news” in the title is appropriate because it deals with changing, noteworthy current events and it’s made immediately clear to readers that the news is presented through editorial comment. No one comes to this site expecting a “just the facts” presentation devoid of interpretive insight or commentary. Just in case there is any confusion, the editor and mascot is a hipster Yorkie, which should serve as a big clue to those might mistake it for, say, CNN or The New York Times. Twentytwentynews.com doesn’t pretend to be something that it is not and, in fact, celebrates its dedication to liberal ideology and political policy. For example, when we’ve had fake satirical interviews between the Yorkie and public figures, it’s not masquerading as truth and may God help you if you are confused in any way. If you are, we’ll have Franklin, the Yorkie editor-in-chief call you to clear up any misunderstandings.

In a world where we can’t trust corporate publishers to be forthright about their labeling of content and suspect that news stories may be slanted for political purposes, it is up to consumers to do their research and step out of their algorithmic, pre-determined comfort zones. However, after you fight off nausea due to watching a few minutes of Fox and Friends to learn how crazy people think, you can always come back to twentytwentynews.com for some mental healing and reading material that is significantly higher than our president’s preferred fourth-grade vocabulary level.

The battle over defining “fake news” is just one skirmish in the modern media war. The only way to win in this war is to seek higher truths, to critically read dissenting opinions, and to remain skeptical and analytical.

Remember, if it walks like an orange spray-tanned, narcissistic, bullying, grifter ignoramus, if it talks like an orange spray-tanned, narcissistic, bullying, grifter ignoramus, if it tweets like an orange spray-tanned, narcissistic, bullying, grifter ignoramus, it’s probably Donald Trump and don’t let delusional apologetic conservative blow-hards with orange-tainted lips tell you any different.

The “Better Angels of our Nature” Trade their Halos for Horns

angels, demons, twentytwentynews

Clete Wetli, Contributor

Even if politics isn’t your thing, you’ve got to admit that Trump forcing Attorney General Jeff Sessions to fire Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe on a late Friday night with a day left before McCabe’s retirement will be remembered as an epic low-down dirty rotten douchebag move.

In the last year, we’ve all become rather numb to these crass, juvenile maneuvers by the most embarrassing and corrupt president in our nation’s history. But, McCabe’s firing is uniquely despicable on many levels. Did the Orange One forget that McCabe is a witness in the Russia Investigation? Wasn’t Trump’s gimp, Sessions, supposed to recuse himself from anything related to the probe?

Is there no limit to Trump’s willingness to desecrate our national conversation and government?

It’s true that politics has devolved into a mud-slinging free-for-all and that finding statesmanship in public discourse today is like discovering a unicorn frolicking in a sewage treatment plant.

Yet, it seems that most people don’t mind much. Hell, they don’t even have one fucking clue as to what voting district they live in and they’d be more likely to guess what size bra Kim Kardashian wears than to tell you how many Amendments make up the Bill of Rights.

I bet more folks know who Stormy Daniels is than Andrew McCabe.

Somehow, we’ve decided to follow the bully, rather than the smartest guy in the room. We’ve sodomized the angels of our better nature while we’ve traded in our halos for horns.

We mock science and embrace the dumbest delusions so long as they confirm our most deeply held biases. Trump did not create this; he is merely the bitter and foul culmination of a burnt stew of moral, cultural toxins and intellectual laziness that fueled his political rise. Trump is the epitome of a charming, yet stupidly vulgar man who baffles with his brazenness and astonishes with his unnecessary cruelty. He is understandable only as a grotesque caricature. Any attempts to humanize him result in bestowing upon him characteristics he is not capable of possessing. Such as empathy, nuance, forethought, and advanced strategy. He is an idiot savant, with most of his character reflecting the former.

The Russians easily played us because collectively we have embraced sound bites over hard-fought knowledge. We don’t make time to find the truth. We refuse to struggle for understanding. We settle for the salacious, abbreviated headline and claim we’re too tired or disinterested to dig any deeper.

We’ve become a slave to autocorrect and we only consume what’s easily digestible in our electronic feed, which is driven by our previous feeds and the system is designed to quietly discard anything that could cause us the slightest intellectual discomfort. If it somehow sneaks in, we fucking unfriend and block that vile shit quickly.

We’ve excommunicated and exiled our better angels. They may be momentarily relieved after the horror they’ve been forced to witness. Yet, they yearn to come home so they can remind us of our potential before we surrender completely to mediocrity and banality.

They knock on our doors every now and again and we slam them angrily like they’re some annoying proselytizing teenagers hawking unwanted pamphlets with instructions for our unlikely salvation. Some of our better angels are just missing in action. Most are suffering PTSD, I fear.

Somehow, we’ve got to find that high road again. I don’t think the answer lies in compromise. How do you compromise with the abomination of Trump or his deplorable, racist, dipshit supporters? You can’t. It’s time for vision and mission and clarity of purpose. It’s time to wash off the mud and to aspire to inspire.

No matter how much time passes, Trump is still unworthy of the office and still a greedy, entitled, shit-gibbon.

I just miss our better angels. I hope that they’ll come back soon. In the meantime, I’ll try to remember what it was like to have a leader that spoke in complete and uplifting sentences.

When Stupid Ruled the Land

twentytwentynews, trump, idiocracy

Franklin, Contributor

(Warning: If you are a Trump supporter, then do not attempt to read this because there are big words and opinions that differ from the one you were told to have. It is recommended that you stare at the picture, get angry, blame Obama or Pelosi, and tweet your outrage using any profanity you can spell without asking for help.)

An iconic moment in the orange toddler-king’s rise to the proverbial high chair of political power was when Hillary Clinton made the remark about Trump’s morally bankrupt and dim-witted supporters being “deplorable”.  Let me tell you, those imbeciles were more outraged than when someone slowly explained to them that “heads I win, tails you lose” was a scam perpetrated by liberal youth. Look, I’ve tried to give the Trumpers the benefit of the doubt, but I’ve come to the certain, inescapable conclusion that they are proud of their stupid dipped in ignorance which is then deep-fried in perpetual mean-spiritedness.

History will remember this era in American politics with chapter titles like, “When Stupid Ruled the Land” or “The Whining Rise of Dolt 45”. It’s beyond comprehension that his cult of cretins celebrates his incoherent misspelled tweets and glory in his uncreative, lame-brained insults; until you remember that the only thing surpassing their staggering stupidity is their capacity for jealous hatred.

Ironically, they are as thin-skinned as their idiot idol who loves to hurl rude epithets against his opponents, but is outraged and wounded when he gets the same treatment. Liberals are used to juvenile attacks and have endured insults from conservatives for decades. But, Clinton calls them “deplorable” and, suddenly, they are calling suicide hot-lines, sucking their thumbs, and re-enlisting their security blankets that they retired when they were eight years old.

Well, I’m done trying to be polite and not discuss the obvious. Trump and his Republican Party are truly a bunch of morons. They’ve put people in cabinet positions that would have to learn a thing or two just to rise to a base level of incompetence. Although, that was part of Trump’s meathead plan, he forgot that the repercussions would have a negative impact on him and his drooling base, as well. For example, his dipshit idea to cut taxes for the wealthiest and deprive people of basic healthcare at a time when the economy is doing well and there are legitimate concerns about inflation and over-valuation in the stock market. Oh, and that little thing about exploding the debt and deficit. Yep, classic dumbass move! However, the Trumpsters are content with their tiny bonuses or raises and don’t see how they are getting screwed. Well, not yet and, to be honest, someone may still need to draw them a picture using stick figures and crayons.

At first, we could all handle Republicans trading in their morality because we knew that they were hypocrites and that it was a sham from the get-go. That’s why they had no problem voting for the mush-for-brains “pussy grabber”.  However, it was surprising that they decided that deliberate ignorance and intellectual dishonesty would be their new rallying cry. Sort of like how during the election the economy was teetering on disaster and America was a shithole, but it somehow magically changed when Trump changed the drapes in the Oval Office to a “Third-World Dictator” gaudy gold.

America is rapidly becoming a kakistocracy, even if Republicans have no clue what that word means. As liberals, we’ve got to come to terms that just because we’re smarter doesn’t mean we’ll win. It’s time to find ways to appeal to people’s emotions again or we’re doomed to be ruled by dumbest and meanest among us.

In the meantime, y’all better buckle up because this is about to get a whole lot worse. Just wait until the bloated orange genius and his sycophants try to react to the unexpected crisis that’s inevitably going to come our way. He’s probably already got a rough draft of the tweet blaming Obama while bragging about the size of the crowd that saw it.

As a nation we’ve survived through many obstacles, I just hope we can survive this new wave of self-inflicted stupidity until 2020. Otherwise, we may as well start banning books, burning scientists and teachers at the stake, and start using Magic 8 balls to guide our policy decisions. In all fairness, I think Magic 8 balls have a better track record than Trump…

 

Dear Paul Ryan: thanks for the extra $1.50! I’ll try not to spend it all in one place.

twentytwentynews, politics, political, news and commentary

Franklin, Contributor

In a recent, but quickly deleted, tweet by Republican Speaker of the House, Paul Ryan, he triumphantly declared the following as a victorious declaration regarding the success of the recent Republican tax cuts:

“A secretary at a public high school in Lancaster, PA, said she was pleasantly surprised her pay went up $1.50 a week… she said [that] will more than cover her Costco membership for the year.”

Hell, yes! What more proof does middle-class America need to show that this wasn’t a massive transfer of wealth to the rich while defunding the federal government?

I just checked my paycheck and I got three extra bucks! Thanks to Paul Ryan, I can finally afford to buy about 140 things imported from China with questionable amounts of lead-based paint at the Dollar Tree or purchase 600 gumballs from the machine in the lobby… that’s 12 rock-hard gumballs a week or 6 stale jaw-breakers!!

Oh, the freedom that this unexpected opulence and wealth brings… I can’t even imagine how many gumballs the Koch brothers can buy with the breaks they got!

It’s totally worth a 1.5 Trillion-dollar addition to the deficit. It’s worth defunding so many necessary government programs. C’mon, it’s not really about my awesome financial windfall (43 extra boxes of Milk Bones a year or one concert ticket), but it’s really about the great give-away to the richest in our nation. You know, the “job-creators”! The wouldn’t take the millions they’re receiving and buy back stock or just spend it on new yachts… they’re all about trickling down every penny of those millions upon us!

Right now, I’m so loving the 3-dollar trickle I just got! At this rate, I’ll only need to wait about 2000 dog-years before I get the kind of Milk Bones that Trump’s average Cabinet Member will get.

I just don’t understand why Ryan deleted that awesome tweet. He should be so proud to deliver a public high school secretary such a hug sack of cash. It probably more than makes up for the shitty 2% COLA raise she gets every ten years on the whim of legislators’ largesse. She’s probably so excited by this that it’s possible she may donate the whole thing to the Republican Party for all their efforts to improve education and the environment. Or, she may use the windfall to buy all the supplies she needs to do her job that the school system just can’t pay for. In any case, they’ve removed so many pesky regulations that she might even toast them with a glass of highly suspect water from the break-room faucet.

Oh, Paul Ryan, you are such a champion for working class folks! We are so grateful for the few unexpected bucks you gave us each week. We totally understand why you and your millionaire friends feel entitled to much, much, much, more. It’s only fair, because you guys are the sacred “job creators”!

With the stunning success of these tax cuts, we can’t wait to see what happens now that so many people won’t have access to affordable health insurance. We can’t wait for you to apply this same philosophy to banking regulations or clean water or civil rights. We’ll just sit right here and patiently wait for your amazing trickle down. We love getting trickled on.

So, as we calculate and plan how we’re going to spend our bountiful tax-savings, we just want to thank you, Paul Ryan. You’re the heavenly mix of Eddie Munster and P90X. I plan to borrow $30 so I can afford to buy the Ultimate P90X kit with my extra money this year!

Unfortunately, I’ll never be able to afford your hairstyle or your divine ability to describe a turd as the gift we’ve been waiting for all our lives. Either way, us middle-class folks will try not to spend all our newfound wealth in one place. Thanks, Paul, you’re the fucking best!

I take a winter vacation and all Hell breaks loose

Twenty Twenty News, Satire, Clete Wetli

Franklin, Contributor

So, I decided to take a little winter break after getting twentytwentynews.com off the ground this last year. As a Canine American without opposable thumbs or vocal chords that are worth a shit, this was no small feat, so I figured I had earned a break and that things would be okay in the capable hands of Clete Wetli, Jerry Waters, Elizabeth Dawson, and others who have helped with this effort. Obviously, that worked about as well putting Harvey Weinstein in charge of Human Resources at a Hooters.

My crew, who assured me that they would keep things running while I was gone, seemed to have also taken a little respite of their own. At least Wetli posted some of his al.com crap here on the site, but he certainly hasn’t been writing new content for us, or annoyingly re-posting it everywhere like used to do.

I called Dawson and she claims she’s been busy making some kind of bizarre post-modern sculptures out of red clay, C-4, and the tear drops of all six moderates left in Alabama. She mentioned something about being busy with the Alabama Women’s Caucus of the Arts and drinking copious amounts of vodka while binge watching Homeland. After muttering some obscenities, she promised she’d come back to work when she ran out of liquor or reached critical mass in her existential crisis, whichever came first.

Yeah, that’s called Tuesday in case you were wondering. Wetli called, but   seemed genuinely surprised when I answered my phone. He thought he’d leave another one of those fake sounding rambling messages, but he heard the guttural disgust in my voice and he begrudgingly agreed that he’d start writing some pieces again. He claims he’s been super busy working on a project with Huntsville Recovery to help deal with substance abuse and the opioid crisis in the community. Cool, I had no idea the guy even had a day job or could even pass a drug test on his best day.

Jerry’s phone was disconnected, so I went over to his apartment which is actually the detached garage at his mother’s house. He was watching a YouTube video on how to build your own massive telescope to detect alien life while he was painting his toe nails lavender. Anyway, I really don’t want to talk about it, but Jerry agreed to begin contributing again. He also signed an agreement to never wear flip-flops to the office.

So, there’s no way to recap the last two and a half months except to acknowledge that Trump hasn’t blown us up, yet. Of course, now we are learning that he’s a self-described “stable genius”, instead of being the annoying, perpetually masturbating, special needs Russia-humping fucktard that we all thought he was.

Somehow, we have all survived a year of Trump the depraved, moronic dipshit and his repugnant Republican Congressional sycophantic whores. They have been working hard to erase all the progress we enjoyed during the Obama years and they are determined to change our noble democracy into the worst of kakistocracies for their own enrichment.

Well, I’m back in the office now and I promise that we’ll start cranking out some insightful commentary on the news once again, First, I have to figure out which stable genius decided to put “Africa” by Toto on a perpetual loop every time I turn on computer.

“The wild dogs cry out in the night
As they grow restless, longing for some solitary company
I know that I must do what’s right
As sure as Kilimanjaro rises like Olympus above the Serengeti
I seek to cure what’s deep inside, frightened of this thing that I’ve become”- yeah, try to get some work done with that shit blaring. It really makes me wonder if Trump wrote those lyrics… nothing shocks me anymore.
So, it’s good to be back and this dog is ready to hunt again.

America is Losing its Spine

american exceptionalism

Clete Wetli, Contributor

We all see how Trump is chaotically obliterating political institutions and norms; in some cases, he’s motivated by pathological arrogance and, in others, fueled by breathtaking ignorance and unfathomable incompetence. We have succumbed to a delusion of binary team-sport politics where allegiance to party precedes critical thinking and the honest evaluation of facts and context. With the advent of non-stop media catering to our prejudices and technologies allowing us to blithely side-step facts that cause us discomfort, many people would agree that we relinquished our nation’s collective brain quite some time ago. We react to problems and crisis like petulant, impatient children now, instead of as rational adults who are willing to think through all the consequences.

Now, America is losing its spine.

We are refusing to stand up for what we believe or call out the plethora of obvious malignant dysfunctions. We insist with juvenile certainty that America is the greatest country in the whole wide world, while we are clearly losing ground rapidly. Now, I know some of you are bristling at this assessment and reflexively point to your own record of civic involvement and political activism. Indeed, if you have been involved as more than an apathetic spectator in our democracy, then your efforts are celebrated, but you must understand that you are part of an ever-dwindling minority. More Americans have become content to just simply watch and shake their heads in tepid frustration.

In the face of staggering economic injustice as evidenced by the top one-percent amassing close to forty-percent of the nation’s wealth, we simply complain and keep struggling until the next stagnant paycheck. We don’t demand better, we don’t fight back, we don’t do anything that might rock the boat.

As we continue to lay waste to our environment and natural resources, we reject the evidence that is plainly in front of us. We reject it because if we don’t, it would create change and disruption that would interfere with our embedded routines and our addiction to disposable products. We have no spine as we face this growing crisis because the threat is not perceived as an immediate obstacle to our lives.

We blow-hard bicker and bitch, yet most of us do nothing. The issues are complex and understanding them requires research and insight into historical context and evolution. Yeah, who’s got time for that nerdy shit when Justin Bieber and Selena Gomez are getting back together?

Our brainless, spineless age is characterized by narcissism. Our smart phones have become nothing more than mirrors into our own self-aggrandizement and confirmation bias. Our democracy is getting destroyed by a man-child who struggles to write coherent tweets and we move through our workaholic days like zombies. Many of our fellow Americans truly believe that signing an online survey means that they have meaningfully participated in our democracy. They think that voting in the presidential election means that they should be honored as patriots. They accept no criticism of their state or country because they’ve been taught that they must defend the team they chose at all costs.

They certainly don’t like to be told that they suck as citizens because they refuse to participate in civic activities or political activism. Remember, the brain went first and now they are giving up their spine. Soon, the heart will go, too, but they may not realize it unless someone informs them with an emoji-laden text.

Look, I know this is cynical, but I think it’s time for truth. It’s time to be angry and to be willing to stand proudly with the minority of my fellow citizens that still have a brain, a spine, and a heart. I will speak out and stand up against Trump because he continues to defile America.

It’s time for America to find its spine again.

Prosecuting cross-over voters just more Republican intimidation

voter, suppression

Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill and the Alabama Republican Party should be ashamed of themselves, but we know that they are incapable of shame. That would infer that they had some degree of political conscious. It would also mean that they wanted more people to participate in the election process given the dismal turn-out numbers, but their actions show that’s clearly not the case.

Last year, Alabama legislators in the Republican supermajority passed a bill making it a felony for voters who participated in a partisan primary to vote later in the runoff of the opposing party. There wasn’t any significant effort to educate voters about the rule change and it appears that 676 Alabama voters, all Democrats, unwittingly violated this absurd law.

John Merrill wants to put them in jail and ruin their lives with a felony conviction.

At every turn, Republicans have tried to make it harder for people in Alabama to vote. Obsessed with the fantasy of rampant voter fraud, they’ve passed voter ID laws which are nothing more than a poll tax. Now, they’re threatening to put in people in jail and label them as lifelong felons just because they may not have understood this new ridiculous law. This is nothing more than intimidation and another Republican ploy to keep poor and minority voters away from the polls.

Perhaps, it would be a much better use of Merrill’s time to expand voting rights. Maybe, we could increase early voting or change the election day to Saturday or Sunday so that people wouldn’t have to take off work to cast a ballot. It may sound crazy, but shouldn’t we be more focused on automatic voter registration instead of creating more barriers to exercising a fundamental American right?

If we’re going to have this stupid cross-over voting law, wouldn’t it make sense to register by party affiliation like they do in other states? Well, it would make sense unless you’re a Republican hoping to put some voters in jail as a way to intimidate Democrats from showing up to the polls.

Their efforts to suppress voting aren’t all that surprising considering the lengths they’ve travelled to implement widespread gerrymandering in Alabama. Since they can’t seem to win with their regressive policies, they’ve taken to rigging the system every chance they get so they can falsely claim they have a huge legislative mandate. It’s time for Alabama Democrats to make this a central campaign issue and call these cheaters out publicly as often as possible.

Alabama Republicans have been hard at work for years trying to suppress voting and gerrymandering districts because they know that demographics are rapidly changing. They know that their predominantly older, white male base is shrinking rapidly. They know that less people are falling for their faux morality and bogus family values platform. They know that if they make it harder to vote, less people will exercise their rights and that plays right into their nefarious plan.

We’ve got to do more than just make legal challenges. We’ve got to make sure that the people of Alabama understand how this is impacting them. We can do that by making sure the media covers this issue. We can also challenge our current leadership to discuss these issues publicly. We can’t be satisfied with voter suppression being third page news. It negatively affects everyone in the state.

John Merrill and his Republican cronies need to quit messing with our voting rights. Instead, he should be focused on doing his job, which should include making it easier for all eligible voters in Alabama to exercise their rights.

Jailing cross-over voters and giving them a felony record is a pathetic waste of taxpayer dollars and a travesty. Stop this insanity.

Drug Companies and Doctors to Blame for Opioid Crisis

opioid crisis

Clete Wetli, Contributor

Since 2000, over 200,000 Americans have died of opioid overdoses. Let that sink in. Yet, Big Pharma is still manufacturing opioids painkillers as fast as they can and doctors may as well be handing them out like bagged candy that goes into Pez dispensers. In the meantime, drug manufacturers have poured millions into lobbying Congress and have hired a slew of former DEA operatives to combat efforts to end the overprescribing of painkillers and their diversion to the street.

In the meantime, Americans are dying at unprecedented rate. If they’re not dying from the legally obtained prescription drugs in their medicine cabinet, they’re dying from cheap heroin obtained on the street often laced with fentanyl.

As Trump attempts to destroy Obamacare, he neglects to mention that one of the mandated, essential health benefits that he wants to abolish is the provision for adequate and affordable mental health care and substance abuse treatment. Prior to Obamacare, many health insurance policies did not cover behavioral health treatment or the coverage was demonstrably inadequate. It seems that the Trump administration’s answer is to levy harsher punishments on addicts rather than attacking the source of the problem- Big Pharma and doctors.

The legal system continues to stigmatize methadone treatment, and other forms of medical maintenance for addiction, in the face of all evidence that proves its effectiveness. Instead, a system has been created that penalizes people for trying to manage their addiction and, ultimately, become drug-free. The real culprits, the corporate pill pushers, are making billions off America’s pain. To them, addiction isn’t a disease, it’s a highly profitable industry.

As the Washington Post recently showed in the stunning article “The Drug Industry’s Triumph Over The DEA”, pharmaceutical giants have figured out how to beat the DEA and Congress at their own game by buying influence and offering high-paying jobs to the government employees who would expose them. The drug industry also looks at multi-million dollar fines as simply the cost of doing business because the fines are only a scant fraction of the enormous profits they make every single year. Obviously, they look at the death toll as just another cost of doing business.

In America, we are still fighting a failed War on Drugs by failing to address the root of the problem. We have resorted to mass incarceration for users, while continuing to allow drug manufacturers to get away with murder. We celebrate rich pharmaceutical company executives as winners and demonize addicts as losers with no chance for redemption. We fail to fund treatment. We spend more on interdiction than education. We impose harsh penalties for drugs like marijuana and equate it with heroin, while simultaneously creating more highly addictive prescription medication. We ignore evidence-based practices and worry more about assigning blame than finding solutions.

It’s clear that the problem will persist until America gets serious about changing the rules that allow drug companies to shower politicians with cash. Obviously, the death toll is something we’ve learned to live with, just like we’ve come to accept higher numbers of casualties in mass shootings. We’ve convinced ourselves that we’re somehow helpless and hopeless when it comes to solving these problems.

First, let’s stop the flow of pharmaceutical lobbying money to Congress. Second, let’s change the law so the DEA can stop drug manufacturers from flooding our streets with opioids. Third, let’s prosecute doctors who are overprescribing and making a fortune off addiction. Last, but most important, let’s demand that people have access to affordable mental health and drug treatment in their health insurance plans.

Not all drugs or drug addicts are the same and we’ve got to get smart about America’s drug use, abuse, and addictions. It’s time to go after those who are making the problem worse while laughing all the way to the bank.

Forget the “Just Say No” bullshit and try “Just Say Yes” to giving people an opportunity to recover.