United States of Emergency: Beyond Charlottesville

This past weekend offered a horrifying example of growing boldness empowering the hateful in America. The rally to “Unite the Right” under the alt-right banner culminated in the death of a counter protester run down by a white supremacist. Two local policeman helping to subdue the unrest were also killed in a helicopter incident.

The rally’s stated purpose was to protest the removal of a General Robert. E Lee Confederacy statue. The protest was organized by card-carrying bigot Richard Spencer, among others. Spencer played a key role in coining the term “alt-right” and has done much work to mainstream the divisive, radical ideology.

Ensuing discussions around who’s to blame for last weekend’s tragedy are moot and counter-productive. Ownership is clear. Richard Spencer, David Duke and their neo-Nazi thugs, including James Fields (the second-degree murder charge facing piece of garbage who mowed Heather Heyer) are directly responsible for the mayhem. Their words and actions incited hatred and violence that led to Saturday’s events. As political tensions blow up like powder kegs on issues such as Russia’s totalitarian actions, and the loose cannon of North Korea, it’s time for our country’s leaders to take strong, immutable positions against hate speech and violence.

To to white supremacists/nationalists/Neo-nazis trying to “take the country back,” a word of caution: nationalism is NOT patriotism. Members of “Unite to Right” are focused, not dissimilarly from their “spiritual” leader, President Trump, on entitled demanding and punishment, lacking any positive agenda to create a better, more productive America for anyone (including themselves).

There’s a severe disconnect between Spencer’s band of terrorists, who claim to feel disenfranchised, and the basic principles of inclusion. Gaining access and acceptance does not need to come at the expense of other groups. Equality and inclusion are not limited resources. The xenophobia I examined last week is boiling over, courtesy of a President that refuses to condemn the hate-filled intolerance of his core constituents. In fact, last weekend’s verbal response from The Donald adopted a “many sides” position that managed to affirm the white supremacists while casting vague blame on counter protesters. This is sickening.

You know Trump failed at bringing the country together beyond expectation when other conservatives trip over themselves to call out and condemn acts of domestic terrorism for what they are. The list includes Cory Gardner, Marco Rubio, Orrin Hatch, Chuck Grassley, Jeff Flake, and Tim Scott. Only open, vocal condemnation of white supremacists and their supporters will tell the Neo-Nazis they are not welcome here. The rhetoric of Republican leaders outside the White House is promising.

We need more than words, however. We need action. While freedom of speech is a foundational right, the border stop at inciting violent hate. Our leaders must condemn hatred and adopt all measures to protect diversity. Useless statements that allow white nationalists to misinterpret their advantage and gain momentum are the enemy.

If it’s time to “Make America Great Again,” we can’t equivocate. The alt-right is just plain wrong – and dangerous. 

America is in a state of emergency. We cannot doubt it. It’s 2017 and Nazis are terrorizing our country. Our collective response will make history – because either we stood together to expel hate, or because we failed our Constitutional commitment to each other.


Missing in Action: The Week’s Overlooked News Stories


Trump, blah blah, Marco Rubio’s yuge resignation from the 2016 presidential campaign, whatever. Believe it or not, there’s a whole world out there. Here’s three other stories that caught my attention this week…

– On Wednesday, President Barack Obama announced Judge Merrick Garland as his nominee for the Supreme Court, replacing recently deceased Justice Antonin Scalia. To understate the situation, the controversy surrounding the move is vast. Should a lame duck President (with nearly a year left in his term) be allowed to nominate a justice? Is Congress obligated to give a nominee fair hearings? Are the Executive and Legislative branches of government capable of agreeing on anything? While the media spotlight was focused on these questions, President Obama sat down with Time Magazine for an in-depth discussion on race and body image in which he acknowledges slowly changing standards of beauty. He hopes these shifts inspire the next generation to view themselves and their dreams differently. Read an excerpt of this uplifting interview here.

– Ok fine. This is related to Trump. But we found a unifying issue! On the heels of this month’s Super Tuesday success for The Donald, Google announced that searches for answers to the question, “How can I move to Canada?” went up 350%. This week we witnessed Super Tuesday Part 3 in which the rise of Trump continued and talk of a contested Republican Convention was amplified by members of the GOP establishment. While the nation watched this unfolding mess, the World Happiness Report Update 2016 from the Sustainable Development Solutions Network for the United Nations was released. If you are horrified by the 2016 election cycle and want relocation options to consider besides Canada, you may find inspiration here.

– The world of entertainment is littered with celebrities fighting for more exposure, more money, more everything at the expense of anything else (I’m looking at you Kardashians). But this week, one sports figure stood out for his humble sanity. NBA star and San Antonio Spur Kawhi Leonard still drives the same car he drove in high school despite having signed a $94 million contact extension last summer. Read about his fascinating discipline and love for chicken wing coupons here.

What was on your radar this week?

Chicken? Game Theory? Whatever. Go Kasich.


“2016 is a year marked by a rapid rise in personal cognitive dissonance. I don’t want President Kasich. Frankly speaking, a majority of the Republican Party has come to the same conclusion. The only demographic demonstrating an appetite for his candidacy are residents of his home state. Still I find it impossible not to enjoy the schadenfreude that is the Governor’s adamant refusal to quit the race. Kasich’s most high-profile campaign success is happening in real-time – acting as Chief-Thorn-in-Side to party leadership and Florida Senator Marco Rubio.”

Click here to read the full post at Contemptor.

The Unasked GOP Debate Question: Will Someone, Anyone, Please Drop Out of This Race?


“So many questions in the aftermath of an ongoing exercise in excruciating national embarrassment. But the most important one remains unanswered today. With 14 candidates left in the field and the actual primaries just a couple months away, is anyone going to make like Scott Walker and go back to screwing up his or her regular day job?”

Read the full post on the Contemptor website.


Why Aren’t More Republican Politicians Following Charlie Crist’s Example? (February 10, 2014)


Last week our own Justin Baragona wrote the insightful piece,Democrat Charlie Crist Continues To Hold Commanding Lead Over Rick Scott In Florida. My first set of reactions approached something like tentative relief that Floridian voters are showing an early preference for a left-leaning Governor in an otherwise dependably red state. My second thought was something along the lines of “Charlie Christ is looking pretty handsome for a man of 57.” (Sue me.) And in a shamefully distant third, the obvious questions finally occurred to me: Charlie Crist went Democrat? When? Why?

The politically-minded writer tries to canvass every issue of importance. But we often have day jobs, we have chores and errands, we have families. Still, I remain astonished that this one got by me. And apparently, it’s old news since Crist converted (religious language deliberately invoked) in early December of 2012, after he endorsed President Barack Obama in his successful re-election campaign. There was a lot going on at the time besides the newly-minted, second-term Obama Presidency. The Northeast was in early stages of Sandy recovery, and just one week after Crist’s announcement, the nation was jolted by the Sandy Hook Elementary school mass executions.

Yet and still this ought to have generated more buzz, back then as well as today. If only for its novelty. After all, Ranker’s list of Notable Republicans Turned Democrats has to reach for former NBA star Charles Barley to come up with 20. And though I didn’t just fall from the turnip truck and assume there’s more than meets the ideological eye to Crist’s metamorphosis (like say, lingering anger at Tea Party usurper Marco Rubio, who turned Crist into an unsuccessful third-party candidate in Florida’s 2010 Senate race), much of what Crist says about the change is worth hearing. In fact, given his newfound political relevancy and pop cultural ascension, the only remaining question I have is this: Why aren’t more genuine civil servants of the Republican ilk following suit?

Last week, Crist appeared as a guest on HBO’s Real Time with Bill Maher to promote his new book, The Party’s Over: How the Extreme Right Hijacked the GOP and I Became a Democrat (so we can also scratch altruistic reasons off the list of Crist’s  party-switching motivations). During the appearance, the once-and-hopefully-future-Gov paraphrased a well-worn quote that he’s offered to various media outlets as a catalyst for the transformation:

“I think I’ll quote my friend Jeb Bush. He said it better than I ever could…Today’s Republican Party, at least the leadership, is perceived as being anti-women, anti-minority, anti-immigrant, anti-education, anti-gay couples, anti-environment.”

Though the party is indeed perceived as largely the refuge of old, wealthy white men afflicted with an acute fear of change, this has not been enough to scare off the usual suspects. Rather than search for a new platform (even an independent one) that might serve to widen their individual appeal at the ballot box, most of these lemmings seem more than content to go over the cliff with their cohorts. When that lemming takes the form of a female or an ethnic minority (for now anyway), it just instills that much more scorn and pity.

The real question as I see it does not revolve around why Crist fled into the more inclusive arms of the Democratic Party. Rather I wonder why more Republicans of any social conscience, not to mention survival instincts, haven’t done the same. Just look at what breaking the chains of GOP messaging bondage has done for Mitt Romney’s image. That said, everyone across party lines like a winner and if Crist prevails this coming November, especially in a conservative state like Florida, the fair weather friends may just flock to the left en masse.