February 06, 2017 – Forrest Trump

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Beyond photography and illustration, I also spend a lot of time tinkering with personal projects. I could write a book about the shenanigans on Capital Hill, but I’ll let the professional news outlets do that. I feel like this image speaks for itself.

Whatever your own personal beliefs may be, I still predict that history will not favor this man.
Good night, and good luck.

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Trump – The Stakes Are High

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With the Republican party cannibalizing itself, Trump’s race to the White House has managed to plow forward unimpeded. After the first wave of disillusioned Democrats, scratching their heads wondering how on earth a boorish windbag like Donald Trump could continue to pull off victory after victory, establishment GOP figureheads have themselves joined the ranks of Trump critics. He is a chameleon, a game changer, an insurgent candidate – it’s true. And there is nothing good about it. We can advocate for change in our political process, but this is not the proper path.

At the end of the day, Trump can scarcely claim to be a Republican in the first place. His base is not a contingent of highly educated political scholars. They are average working people who are as fed up with the broken machinery in Washington as anybody else, and they support him from a place of absolute knee-jerk emotion, checking reason at the door. How else could his proven lies stick? How else can a politician, of any stripe, behave the way he has behaved – and continues to behave – without backlash?

It’s a dangerous game we’re playing. There’s nothing wrong with an electorate that’s fed up with political gridlock and economic despair, but flocking to the loudest, meanest bully in the schoolyard is destructive at most, foolhardy at least. We need look no further than what we’ve seen at his rallies – from photographers being choke-slammed and press members being penned in for ridicule to ethnic minorities and protesters being assaulted – and we ought not talk ourselves into thinking that violent rhetoric doesn’t influence violent behavior. We are better than this. There are better people to represent the conservative half, and it is a damn shame that the largest barrier preventing genuine intelligent statesmen (and women) from entering the race is money. A Trump victory will be the ultimate proof; we will no longer be able to say that political positions in America aren’t flat-out bought.

Will tonight’s debate be the same shit-show as the previous dozen?
My money is on continued chaos and a dangerous lack of much-need discussion.
Follow me on Twitter @LenseBender for live updates.

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Fiorina Drops Out – But The Damage Has Been Done

Fiorina postAfter demonstrating unexpected prowess on the debate stage during the fall season, the meteoric rise reversed course; technology executive Carly Fiorina has quietly excused herself from the table. After declining poll numbers and her absence from the most recent debate, news of her quitting comes as little surprise. After the indictment of anti-abortion activists David Daleiden and Sandra Merritt – the individuals responsible for the altered Planned Parenthood video that Fiorina relied so heavily on – Fiorina’s dismissal from the race couldn’t have occurred soon enough.

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Fiorina entered the GOP race in April 2015. Extolling the virtues of small government, she relied heavily on her business experience – especially her “elegance under pressure” during her tenure as CEO of Hewlett Packard. She effectively handled critics who drew attention to her firing from Hewlett-Packard after a merger with Compaq – an action that led to 30,000 layoffs – as well as critics of her stance toward de-funding Planned Parenthood.

“While I suspend my candidacy today, I will continue to travel this country and fight for those Americans who refuse to settle for the way things are and a status quo that no longer works for them. I will continue to serve in order to restore citizen government to this great nation so that together we may fulfill our potential.”

Pretty words to conclude an ugly presidential bid.

While Fiorina’s bid has ended, her repeated lies continue to circulate, and promise to continue influencing the Planned Parenthood and abortion debate well into the future. Hers is a legacy of dangerous disinformation. Even though she lost, she has once again proved how influential and effective a well-told lie can be.

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Why We Need To Eliminate Marriage

Equality post“When I am instructed by the all-knowing Jehovah to profess an ostensibly ‘equal’ brotherly love within the same pages where I am instructed to murder my fellow man for engaging in a love act, I can’t help but look elsewhere for guidance.”

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Among people of all ages, ethnicities, and religions, a growing acceptance of same-sex marriage has been growing. This acceleration of tolerance culminated on 26 June 2015 with the Supreme Court decision in the case of Obergefell v. Hodges, declaring that states cannot prohibit the issuing of marriage licenses to same-sex couples, or deny recognition of lawfully performed out-of-state marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

In the 5-4 decision, the highest court of the land invalidated gay marriage bans in the United States of America. This was no longer a state’s rights issue. A push for equality and a celebration of our inalienable rights had occurred.

Many consider this a progressive forward movement, failing to recognize the near fifty-fifty split in the court’s decision, a figure which loosely reflects the national attitude toward same-sex marriage. Some citizens of faith – certainly not all – viewed the move as an attack of their religion, and the bellicose rhetoric of conservative radio began once again to sound the trumpets about the “War On Christianity.”

The decision to overturn gay marriage bans has been viewed by some as the first stumble on the slippery slope. Some groups genuinely believe that the government has become a bloated, liberal bureaucracy that intends to dismantle their church, manipulate their faith, and legislate morality. Regardless of how foolish such an attitude may outwardly appear, the court’s decision served not to end the argument, but to reinvigorate opposition to marriage equality.

There has been unanimity among the GOP presidential candidates to have the decision overturned. The only difference in their rhetoric would be the degree to which they would fight. Ted Cruz, who won the Iowa Caucus on February 1st, has spared no opportunity to express his fervent opposition to same-sex marriage – an ironic stance for any patriot, especially a student of constitutional law.

In an 1802 letter to the Danbury Baptist Association, Thomas Jefferson made reference to the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. He wrote, “Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between Man and his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of the government reach actions only, and not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should ‘make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,’ thus building a wall of separation between Church and State.”

If we are to examine the topic, perhaps we could recognize that the issue of marriage equality truly does hinge on the definition of marriage; we have a semantic legal problem, not a religious or moral one. The term itself, marriage, has both secular and religious connotations. In a land where there is a supposed “wall of separation” between church and state, it is the word itself that has led to such persistent conflict. The only sensible argument – an argument that has yet to be made by any politician on the hill – is the argument to eliminate marriage from our legal doctrine altogether.

It sounds extreme, but it’s actually quite sensible. If we view marriage as a tradition largely steeped in religious values, then we all ought to acquiesce and consider the term a religious one. If there is indeed a separation of church and state in these United States, then no statehouse should recognize any marriage of any kind. If we can view marriage as the joining of individuals in a religious ceremony, then it is appropriate for the ceremony to be privately held, between those individuals being married and their faith community. The government ought have nothing to do with it.

In order to honor the Equal Protection clause of the 14th Amendment to the Constitution, it is necessary to strip marriage of its legal status. Heretofore, the legal benefits of marriage have been distributed by a discriminatory legal apparatus that would not grant those same benefits to same-sex partnerships. This is wholly in violation of the 14th Amendment which mandates that individuals in similar situations be treated equally under the law. This is precisely why the Supreme Court eventually ruled as they did.

All partnerships, homosexual or heterosexual, should be required to apply for a domestic partnership – not a marriage license – should they seek legal status and the benefits bestowed upon legal partnerships. Fears of government intruding on hallowed faith traditions will be quelled. Citizens will enjoy greater equality under the law. People can continue to define marriage however they please, and there will be no legal consequence to those who disagree.

Supporting strong domestic unity will have a net-positive impact on our society. Such unity will serve only to create more satisfied, socially invested patriots, regardless of the form their love happens to take.

It would be a challenge to identify a distinction between denying same-sex lovers equal rights under the law and refusing to let a black person drink from the same water fountain as a white person. This is the 21st Century, and we cannot accept any argument that would diminish a person’s inalienable rights.

Spread the word.

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Sarah Palin Endorses Trump In Iowa

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Many initial responses, especially among the political left, may hinge on shrugs. After all, it’s no secret that Sarah Palin is the darling of the Tea Party movement. In her own way, she’s just as bombastic as Donald Trump. It would follow that anybody who likes Sarah Palin probably already enjoys the aggressive rhetoric of the GOP front-runner. As pitiful as the reality is, celebrity endorsements work. And this one is a big win for the Trump campaign.

Tuesday afternoon, Sarah Palin, former governor of Alaska and 2008 vice presidential nominee, officially endorsed Donald Trump for the office of president of the United States. This is the first major endorsement for any candidate on either side. With narrow poll numbers between the Trump and Cruz camps , this type of endorsement may prove to have a significant impact in Iowa. Despite being a consistent and trustworthy punch-line, Palin remains well-loved and influential among Tea Party voters. This move, just thirteen days before the caucuses, may be the ammunition Trump needs to emerge victorious.

Like Trump, Palin is a successful reality television personality who is unusually gifted at deflecting negative attention and recovering quickly from scandal. A generation ago, Trump’s rhetoric would not be tolerated. Among the conservative Christian crowd, his multiple marriages alone would be enough to raise eyebrows. In today’s political climate, denying refugees entrance and promising to use nuclear arms against Islamic State are positions welcomed with applause.

This begs the question: what does it say about the GOP when authoritarian, arrogant, and often ill-informed reality television stars are knocking on the doors of the White House? Palin’s endorsement shouldn’t mean anything, but that isn’t the reality. It’s a new book deal, more media exposure for Trump, and probably renewed discussions for yet another television show. It’s all theater, we know it, and we gobble it up like hungry pigs anyway.

Just as any Hollywood celebrity endorsing a candidate shouldn’t mean anything, the American voter is more inclined to support a candidate because Johnny Depp says so, without ever so much as reading an article, watching a debate, or crunching a number. This needs to change, and it can’t happen quick enough.

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Politicians – Willful Ignorance And Dangerous Oversimplification

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“The regulation of anonymous and pseudonymous communications promises to be one of the most important and contentious Internet-related issues of the next decade.”

~ A. Michael Froomkin

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Yes, it’s primary season. We all know it and it’s difficult to escape the constant pandering, posturing, and promoting. Each candidate is trying to provide their best sales pitch to the greatest number of people. At this point in the race, we are in an information loop; with so many candidates on the GOP stage, we’re hearing the same messages on repeat. If you’ve watched one debate, that’s enough to understand what the candidates stand for.

Statements from these debates are dissected, scrutinized by newsrooms,  and they’re stripped of context and converted into soundbites by radio personalities. During the GOP debate on Wednesday, each candidate spent a significant amount of time on outrage, on how President Obama has failed, and on what programs and executive orders they intend to eviscerate should they win the seat. What’s troubling about this is that very little time was committed to explaining precisely what they would do instead. It’s disconcerting, listening to ambitious political leaders pounding the podium and insisting on burning the building to the ground without explaining what they would build in its place. When fewer personalities cling desperately to the stage, perhaps we’ll be presented with a clearer picture.

One of Mr. Ben Carson’s statements stood out to me. It was emblematic of how truly uncombed the GOP’s philosophy has become. To call the GOP disconnected is a kindness; if their oversimplified statements are more calculated than they appear, there’s only one conclusion we can take from the debate: the GOP does not respect the intellect of its constituents.

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Midway through the GOP debate, Ben Carson connected two dots that any reasonable person should find outlandish:

“When you go to the Internet, you start reading an article and you go to the comment section. You cannot go five comments down before people are calling each other all manner of names. Where did that spirit come from in America? It does not come from our Judaeo-Christian roots, I can tell you that.”

The auditorium, predictably, erupted with applause. If we are to paraphrase his statement, though, it would appear to condemn America for falling into an attitude of meanness and contention, and the problem comes from prevailing secular attitudes that threaten to divorce America from is great religious traditions. I didn’t hear much discussion about this particular statement following the debate, but it clearly resounds with the Republican party and with GOP supporters. The implications are important.

First and foremost, Carson unwittingly evoked the parable of the invisible man, although he missed the point entirely. He also insisted that religion, specifically Christianity, is the panacea to help resurrect civility in the industrialized world. Like many in his cohort, Carson attempted to evoke a vision of a more civilized and cooperative American past, a 1950s pastiche of “simpler times.” The problem with that is that there has never in our history been a time of social perfection, and the ethnic strife and Cold War anxieties of mid-century America are the reality that “Leave It To Beaver” denies.

What Carson failed to realize is that anonymity is a problematic concept, and the lack of accountability that it promotes will almost always result in mischief. Bank robbers wear masks for a reason. White collar criminals are good at erasing their tracks. YouTube comment sections are rife with hateful rhetoric because nobody is held accountable for the words that stream anonymously from their fingertips. No amount of religion is going to change that.

What our leaders should be doing is promoting an atmosphere of accountability, not religious piety. They should not only preach from the pulpit of truth and transparency, but they should follow it up with sound legislation that reinforces that transparency. That is infinitely more American than insisting Christianity is the answer, than denying refugees because of their race or creed, than stripping regulation from the financial sector, of which every America citizen has a stake.

Watching politicians making broad statements about the decline of culture is offensive. Insisting on a monolithic one-shot solution – be it religion, a giant wall, or a fleet of gunships – is an unrealistic and dangerous lie. We need thinking leaders who do not pander to the lowest common denominator, but instead inspire greater conversation and comprehension of our status as a nation-state. Don’t tell me about how President Obama has failed. Tell me what you are going to do that is so much better. And while you’re at it, you had better tell me why.