Category: Culture

The women of America are leading the opposition to Donald Trump

madison-wi-women-march-1-21-2017
Sign carried by a participant in the Madison, Wisconsin Women’s March (Photo taken by Kari Nelson and provided by Sarah Lloyd)

Ladies and gentlemen, the opposition to President Donald Trump is officially here!

Earlier today, millions of people across the United States and on all seven continents around the world (including Antarctica!) participated in Women’s Marches in Washington, D.C. and numerous other locales. The Women’s Marches are the single largest action by the women’s rights movement that I have witnessed in my lifetime by far.

Although I was unable to attend any of the Women’s Marches, here are some observations from the Women’s Marches (all of these are courtesy of either social media of participants or news sources with an online operation of some kind):

The opposition to Donald Trump is not going to be led by a single person. It’s going to be led by a large segment of the American people.

3% of Americans own half of America’s guns

If you’re wondering how small the demographic that the NRA and other gun lobby groups are fighting tooth and nail to protect against people who want common-sense gun safety legislation, it’s a very small demographic. It’s not quite as small as the demographic that has an obscenely large portion of of our nation’s wealth, but it’s pretty close to being as small:

Half of America’s civilian-owned guns are owned by only 3% of American adults. Here’s some more detail about the very small gun hoarder demographic in this country:

Americans own an estimated 265m guns, more than one gun for every American adult, according to the most definitive portrait of US gun ownership in two decades. But the new survey estimates that 133m of these guns are concentrated in the hands of just 3% of American adults – a group of super-owners who have amassed an average of 17 guns each.

The unpublished Harvard/Northeastern survey result summary, obtained exclusively by the Guardian and the Trace, estimates that America’s gun stock has increased by 70m guns since 1994. At the same time, the percentage of Americans who own guns decreased slightly from 25% to 22%.

I’m not advocating for taking guns away from law-abiding citizens, but it makes absolutely no sense for a person to hoard dozens of guns.

My thoughts about flag burning

A little over 30 miles from my home, a flag-burning case is all over the local news.

In Urbana, Illinois, Bryton Mellott, 22 years of age, was booked by local law enforcement for burning the U.S. flag as a form of political protest. Specifically, Mellott was booked for disorderly conduct and violating the Illinois flag desecration statute, which officially classifies flag desecration as a felony in Illinois.

I want to share my own thoughts about flag burning.

Unless there are aggravating circumstances in a particular case (such as flag burning on government property of any kind, flag burning on private property not owned by the individual burning the flag without permission from the property owner, or causing a broader public danger by burning the flag (such as igniting a wildfire or setting fire to something other than the flag)), flag burning should be considered a form of protected free speech. As someone who comes from a family that has had many family members serve in our nation’s Armed Forces, I regard the U.S. flag as a very important national symbol, and burning the U.S. flag is something that I would never do. If I wish to air some kind of grievance that I have about politics or government policy, I will write a blog post, either on this website or another website, about it. However, as long as no damage is being done to property other than the flag itself, the flag in question is the property of the individual burning it, and the flag burning is taking place on one’s own private property or, if on someone else’s property, with permission from the property owner, I don’t believe that flag burning should be a criminal offense of any kind. Keep in mind that I don’t personally approve of burning the flag as a form of protest, and it is something that I would never even consider doing. If you wish to dispose of a U.S. flag in a proper and dignified manner, I recommend contacting an organization like the American Legion or Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) for information before disposing of the flag.

Also, I strongly disapprove of making violent threats towards people, even people who are convicted or accused of criminal activity. We have a judicial system in this country that is built on the principle of due process, not vigilantism.

Bruce Rauner’s War on Downstate Illinois

Republican Governor Bruce Rauner has, despite winning a very large percentage of the downstate vote in the 2014 Illinois gubernatorial election, waged a war on downstate Illinois ever since taking office, much of which involves, either directly or indirectly, his political hostage-taking in regards to the state budget (which Illinois has operated without for a very long time because of Rauner).

There are several reasons why Rauner’s destructive politics has negatively impacted downstate Illinois.

Agricultural education

Rauner has, as recently as March of this year, targeted agricultural education, which has helped thousands of Illinois farmers better understand the land and farming practices, for complete elimination of state funding. This is obviously a blatant attack against downstate Illinois by Rauner, since nearly all of the agricultural industry’s economic activity in Illinois occurs downstate.

Higher education funding in general

It’s not just agricultural education that has been negatively impacted by Rauner’s War on Higher Education. Higher education in general, and, in particular, Eastern Illinois University, have felt the wrath of Rauner since taking office. Rauner has refused to fund public higher education institutions in Illinois. Eastern Illinois University, which serves a very conservative region of the state, has been forced to lay off nearly 200 employees and is on the brink of being forced to permanently shut down.

Illinois State Museum

Another casualty of Rauner’s War on Downstate is the Illinois State Museum, which is located in Springfield. The state museum was forced to close due to the lack of a state budget, meaning that the art exhibits, natural history exhibits, and other exhibits housed at the state museum are not accessible to the public.

Whoever Democrats nominate in the 2018 election for Governor of Illinois will have to address the concerns of downstate voters in order to defeat Bruce Rauner.

My use of “New York values” versus Ted Cruz’s use of “New York values”

As a lifelong Midwesterner, it’s hard to resist the opportunity to bash New York City. Another person who likes to bash New York City is Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz, who has made “New York values” a common phrase in his stump speech.

However, the “New York values” I like to bash and the “New York values” that Ted Cruz likes to bash are two different concepts.

The “New York values” I like to bash are corruption and the political boss culture within New York State (especially within New York City), as well as corporate-owned politicians who represent Wall Street’s political interests and not the people of New York. Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D-NY), a pro-Wall Street “Democrat” who is one of the most corrupt elected officials in America, is someone who exemplifies the New York values that I despise. I’ll often use “Chicago values” to mean the same thing in an Illinois context, “Milwaukee values”, “Philadelphia values”, “Los Angeles values”, “Detroit values”, etc. in the context of other states/regions, and, in a national context, “big-city values” or “DNC values” (the latter referring to the corporatist Democratic National Committee).

Ted Cruz, on the other hand, uses “New York values” as a form of coded racism, bashing New York because it has a lot of people who aren’t white, Christian bigots. Additionally, Cruz uses “New York values” to bash fellow Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, who is from New York City. This is very common in the Republican Party, in fact, Wisconsin Republican politicians are known for bashing Milwaukee at every opportunity.

However, Cruz sure loves New York values when it comes to filling his campaign coffers with cash:

Ted Cruz might say he has a problem with “New York values,” but he seems happy to take New York money.

The Texas senator’s swipe at Donald Trump in Thursday’s debate didn’t just earn the ire of the New York Daily News (whose front page today showed the Statue of Liberty giving him the finger) and New York Mayor (Bill) de Blasio (who took to CNN demanding an apology) — it also might alienate the city’s donors he has been carefully courting.

Cruz’s campaign raised $223,750 from New Yorkers, according to finance reports available through September. Robert Mercer, the hedge fund investor who has given $11 million to a pro-Cruz super PAC and is one of his most important backers, lives on Long Island.

Ted Cruz may hate New York City just as much as the guys on the old Pace Picante ads, but loves taking New Yorkers’ money.

Explaining the syllabic character system I’ll use for featured images of blog posts, starting in 2016

AUTHOR’S NOTE: This blog post is a living blog post, meaning that more information will be added by the author in the coming days.


Starting in 2016, when a blog post that I write on The Progressive Midwesterner uses a featured image, it will be in the form of a drawing of mine that utilizes a set of syllabic characters that I’ve devised. Not all blog posts will use featured images, and multiple blog posts may use the same featured image.

Here’s the letters of the syllabic characters that I will use for featured images of blog posts, starting in 2016:

Syllabic Characters Guide Revised
Letter-by-letter guide to syllabic characters (image created by the author using Trimble SketchUp Make)

However, it’s worth noting that, for a few letters (specifically, H, K, Q, and R), I intended to use different letter designs to represent those letters. Here’s the original system of letters in the syllabic character system that I devised (which I will not use):

Syllabic Symbols Guide
Original draft of letters of the syllabic character system (image created by author using Microsoft Paint)

Here’s some basic terminology associated with the syllabic character system:

  • Character – Representation of a syllable in the syllabic character system
  • Inner line – See Syllabic line
  • Inside (1) – The right side of an upperline letter
  • Inside (2) – The left side of a lowerline letter
  • Inside quarterline – A horizontal line in the part of the letter that is halfway between the median and the syllabic line
  • Letter – Representation of an individual letter in the syllabic character system
  • Long space – A space, used between words, that is one-half of the width of a letter
  • Lowercase – The status of the first letter in a syllable being lowerline
  • Lower line – Below the syllabic line
  • Median – A horizontal line in the center of a letter
  • Meridian – A vertical line in the center of a letter
  • Outer line – A horizontal line in the part of a letter that is furthest away from the syllabic line
  • Outside (1) – The left side of an upperline letter
  • Outside (2) – The right side of a lowerline letter
  • Outside quarterline – A horizontal line in the part of the letter that is halfway between the outer line and the median
  • Short space – A space, used between syllables within a word, that is one-quarter of the width of a letter
  • Stub – The short section of the syllable line that is one-quarter of a letter in width and located on each end of the character
  • Syllabic Character System – The system of syllabic characters
  • Syllabic characters – See Syllabic Character System
  • Syllable – Unit of pronunciation in a word
  • Syllable line – The center horizontal line that separates lowerline and upperline letters
  • Tie – A short section of the syllable line that is one-quarter of a letter in width and located between letters within a syllable
  • Uppercase – The status of the first letter in a syllable being upperline
  • Upperline – Above the syllabic line

Here’s how I classify each letter:

  • Outside vertical line letters (B, C, D, E, F, H, J, K, L, and R) – These letters all share a common trait: They all feature a full vertical line along the left-hand side for a letter above the syllable line and a full vertical line along the right-hand side for a letter below the syllable line.
  • Median letters (I and T) – Both of these letters feature a vertical line running through the center of the letter.
  • Full box letters (M, N, and O) – All three of these letters feature vertical lines on both sides of the letter and a horizontal line on the edge of the letter that is furthest away from the syllable line.
  • Half box letters (G, P, Q, and Y) – All four of these letters feature a horizontal line halfway between the syllable line and the outermost part of the letter.
  • Triangular letters (A, U, V, and W) – All four of these letters feature a triangular shape.
  • Inside connection letters (S and Z) – Both of these letters connect to the syllable line on the right-hand side for a letter above the syllable line and the left-hand side for a letter below the syllable line.
  • Letter isolate (X) – This letter does not neatly fit into the above categories.

Here’s some basic rules for syllabic characters:

  • Syllabic characters are read from left to right, with a zig-zag pattern in multi-letter syllables.
  • If the first letter in a syllable should be uppercase (first syllable of proper nouns, the article “I”, etc.), the syllable begins with a letter above the syllable line (i.e., an upperline letter).
  • If the first letter in a syllable should be lowercase, the syllable begins with a letter below the syllable line (i.e., a lowerline letter).
  • The first letter is written with the left edge of the letter being one-quarter of a letter width from
  • The second letter of a syllable is written with the left edge of the second letter being one-quarter of a letter width from the right edge of the first letter, and the second letter is written on the other side of the syllable line from the first letter.
  • The third letter of a syllable is written with the left edge of the third letter being one-quarter of a letter width from the right edge of the second letter, and the third letter is written on the same side of the syllable line as the first letter.
  • Fourth, fifth, sixth, etc. letters of syllables alternate sides of the syllable line.
  • The syllable line extends from one-quarter of a letter width to the left of the first letter within the syllable to one-quarter of a letter width to the right of the last letter within the syllable. Should a syllable only consist of one letter, the lone letter counts as both the first letter and the last letter for this purpose.
  • Between syllables within a word, a short space of one-quarter of a letter width is used.
  • Between words, a long space of one-half of a letter width is used.
  • Letters are never written directly above or below each other, with one exception: Acronyms are treated as a single syllable (even if not pronounced as a single syllable), and each letter of the acronym is written both above and below the syllable line (i.e., a double letter), with each double letter being read as a single letter.
  • Although a non-standard use of the syllabic characters, writing all letters in a syllable above the syllable line can be used to represent shouting, and writing all letters in a syllable below the syllable line can be used to represent whispering.

Yes, anti-Muslim bigotry is un-American

Charles Blow, a columnist for The New York Times, wrote this column about how anti-Muslim bigotry that has become prevalent in the race for the Republican presidential nomination in the aftermath of the Paris attacks is un-American. Last time I checked, “Anti-Muslim is Anti-American”, the title of Blow’s column, is trending on Twitter, and I strongly encourage reading Blow’s column.

He’s right…opposing an entire religion is an un-American ideal.

Republican presidential candidates, most notably Donald Trump and Ben Carson, have gone all out in recent days to pander to the lowest common denominator in American society, bigots, in order to support their crackdown on an entire religion. Trump has supported closing mosques (Islamic places of worship) and creating a national registry of Muslims. Carson has publicly compared Muslims to rabid dogs. What Trump, Carson, and other Republicans are supporting is absurd and offensive. Proposals to crack down on Islam from Trump and other Republican candidates blatantly violate the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, and comparing Muslims to rabid dogs is downright offensive. Even worse, what Republicans like Trump and Carson are saying is eerily reminiscent of the rhetoric that Nazis used to justify their hatred of Jewish people in the 1930’s and 1940’s.

Not all Muslims are members of an Islamic fundamentalist terror group like ISIS, al-Qaeda, or Boko Haram. In fact, the overwhelming majority of Muslims here in America live peacefully and regard those Islamic fundamentalist jihadists as barbaric militants who don’t represent their view of Islam. We should embrace religious freedom in this country, not crack down on it.

 

A country music and NASCAR-loving atheist responds to Si Robertson’s offensive remarks about atheists

Si Robertson, who is a member of the cast of A&E’s Duck Dynasty, publicly claimed that atheists don’t exist because the calendar that we Americans use is based on Jesus Christ:

Duck Dynasty star Si Robertson doubts the existence of atheists. The TV reality show star recently said that he doesn’t believe it is possible for a person to not believe in God but still use a calendar.

“There’s a lot of skeptics,” Robertson told the Christian Post. “I don’t believe there’s such a thing as an atheist. Because there’s too much documentation. Our calendars are based on Jesus Christ.”

There’s two reasons why Si Robertson’s claim is absolutely false:

  1. Atheists do exist, in fact, I’m one of them. I like country music, NASCAR, and some other aspects of Southern culture, but I don’t believe in God; I believe in reality.
  2. The only part of the Gregorian calendar, the civil calendar of the United States, that is based on Jesus in any way is the number of each year, and even that is inaccurate. This is because year 1 in the Gregorian calendar is supposed to represent the year in which Jesus was born, when, in reality, Jesus is believed by scholars, who have studied the Bible and events that occurred in the Roman Empire during and around the time of Jesus’s life, to have been born approximately 4 to 6 years before year 1 in the Gregorian calendar. The months of the year were all named by the Romans, and the days of the week were named after objects in our solar system.

You can view my video response to Si Robertson’s offensive remarks about atheists, featuring me speaking in an Southern accent instead of my normal voice or my announcer voice that I normally use in YouTube videos, here:

Wisconsin’s Melissa Sargent makes the case for legalizing recreational marijuana

Once again, Melissa Sargent, a Democratic member of the Wisconsin State Assembly from Madison, has proposed legalizing recreational marijuana in Wisconsin.

While Sargent’s bill has zero chance of being enacted by the Republicans who control Wisconsin’s state government, I strongly support all efforts to legalize marijuana for recreational use in this country. Sargent made a great case for legalizing marijuana in her home state of Wisconsin in this editorial, which was published by the Madison, Wisconsin-based alternative newspaper The Cap Times:

Adults choosing to use marijuana in the safety of their own home is a matter of personal liberty and freedom. As a matter of philosophy, the government must have a compelling reason to make something illegal in our society. If an individual action does not harm yourself, your neighbors, or your community, it is no business of the government. Likewise, Wisconsinites with ailments that could be alleviated through marijuana should have the freedom to use inexpensive and effective medicine that works for them.

As Wisconsin deals with devastating financial shortfalls created by Gov. Walker, we must look at all available options for generating revenue. While Republicans demonize the use of marijuana, what is truly criminal is the money Wisconsin is losing by not legalizing it.

As of today, each stop a police officer makes for simple marijuana possession costs taxpayers, on average, $425. Over 650,000 Americans were arrested in 2012 for marijuana possession. That’s one possession arrest every 48 seconds, and more arrests than for all violent crimes combined.

With limited resources, and an overextended prison system, it is not sustainable to continue imprisoning people for these offenses.

What Sargent is talking about are not just Wisconsin problems by any stretch of the imagination. They’re serious problems in every state in this country where marijuana is illegal. Legalizing marijuana for recreational use would bring states more tax revenue, save taxpayers money, reduce the number of people who are incarcerated, and provide more freedom to people. As Sargent herself stated in her editorial, “…the most dangerous thing about marijuana in our society is the fact that it remains illegal.”