Own your domain, dummy

Wondering what kind of information Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh might include on BrettKavanaugh.com now that he has won his confirmation?

We’ll never know. He doesn’t own the domain.

The domain BrettKavanaugh.com is now a dedicated forum for helping sexual assault victims and ending rape. The website, titled "We Believe Survivors," was purchased by Fix The Court, which advocates for judicial transparency.

The domain and similar sites ending in .org and .net was purchased three years ago with the idea they could be "useful in any forthcoming Supreme Court confirmation battles," the organization's executive director, Gabe Roth, said. 

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Why Brett Kavanaugh didn’t purchase this domain years ago is beyond me.

Perhaps he was drunk with Squee at the time, writing crude, sexually explicit, and publicly shaming comments about Renate Schroeder in his yearbook.

Meanwhile, I own matthewdicks.com, as well as mattdicks.com and matthewdicks.net.

I also own my name on MySpace and Facebook, as well as the Twitter handle @MatthewDicks, the Instagram handle @MatthewDicks, and even the Pinterest handle @MatthewDicks.

When I see a new platform gaining steam, I grab my name just in case.

Even Donald Trump doesn’t own his Twitter handle. Instead, he is @realDonaldTrump.

I also own elyshadicks.com, claradicks.com, and charliedicks.com.

Someday Clara and Charlie are going to be very pleased about their genius father’s foresight and planning. To have a domain that actually matches your name is already unusual. It will only become more uncommon in the future, particularly when so much of our lives exist on the Internet.

I recommend that parents do this for their children.

I plan on telling my kids about this great news when:

  1. They understand the value of owning a domain like this

  2. I’ve said something regrettable or horrendous to them and need to find a way to get them to forgive me quickly.

I was a Boy Scout. I believe in being prepared.

Brett Kavanaugh and the photo that will never go away

You’ve probably seen the photo already, and even if you haven’t, you’re probably trying to put the Brett Kavanaugh hearings behind you, but I just couldn’t let the moment pass without taking a moment to highlight this remarkable image.

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I don’t know if Brett Kavanaugh sexually assaulted Dr. Ford, but here’s what I do know:

  1. The percentage of false accusations against men by women for crimes of this type is exceptionally small.

  2. An enormous number of sexual assault victims do not come forward for many understandable reasons. Remaining silent is tragically common.

  3. Dr. Ford had a hell of a lot to lose (and did) by coming forward and had little incentive to do so. Even if her testimony derailed the Kavanaugh confirmation, Republicans would simply confirm a different, equally conservative justice. She was not going to change the political leaning of the court by her testimony. She’s also had to endure death threats and Trump’s mocking attacks at his rallies less than a week after claiming to find Dr. Ford to be a credible and sympathetic witness.

  4. For centuries, female sexual assault victims have been ignored, silenced, and condemned, so I have made it a point to be as open as possible to their claims. This is not a dangerous time for young men. It is an ongoing and endlessly dangerous time to be a woman.

  5. Even if Kavanaugh is not guilty of Dr. Ford’s allegations, he lied several times during his confirmation hearings, and that alone should have disqualified him from service on the court. Republicans ignored this because they have abdicated all moral authority in this country in favor of power and fear of the Trump base.

  6. This was not a trial. It was a job interview, so the standards of guilt and innocence do not apply here. If a woman had made a credible claim of sexual misconduct against me during my interview to become a teacher, and I had responded to the charges with anger, defensiveness, partisan attacks, victim blaming, and conspiracy theories, I would never have expected to be hired. Temperament is important for a teacher and for a judge, and Kavanaugh did not demonstrate a temperament required for service on the court during his testimony.

In short, I don’t think Kavanaugh deserved to be confirmed, and a majority of Americans in the latest polling agree with me. In fact, since his confirmation, the number of Americans who don’t believe that he should’ve been confirmed has increased.

This is why I love this photo. Kavanaugh might possess the power that he has sought for much of his adult life, but he will never enjoy all of the prestige of the position. He will always be the least popular Supreme Court nominee. A man who lied on the stand and lost his temper during his hearings. And the credible allegations of sexual assault will never be forgotten.

When an Internet search is conducted on Kavanaugh in the future, this photo is likely to come up every time, and happily so. It serves as a testament to the mockery of his confirmation process and the shame that Kavanaugh has brought to the Supreme Court.

Oddly, most of the scowling women sitting behind Kavanaugh support him. They are his wife, two friends, his mother, and a former law clerk, supporting him in the moment but doing him no favors in terms of posterity.

Perhaps this is the best karma could do given the circumstances.

Matilda vs. Donald Trump

This statue of the the classic British children's character Matilda staring down a likeness of President Donald Trump has been erected to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the release of Roald Dahl's 1988 novel.

As the Roald Dahl Story Company prepared to mark the anniversary of the novel, it asked the British public to weigh in on a replacement for Miss Trunchbull, the villainous headmistress. A survey asked who Matilda’s present-day antagonist would be.

Topping the poll by a wide margin was, of course, Donald Trump.

Even in a nation an ocean away, with the likes of Piers Morgan and Nigel Farage from which to choose, the most vile person who immediately comes to the British mind is the same one who Americans despise in historically large numbers.

For the record, Matilda would kick Trump’s ass if given half a chance.

Eric Trump doesn't like me

As you may know, I was a part of the Knight Foundation’s lawsuit against Donald Trump which led to him being forced to unblock me on Twitter earlier this year.

One of the highlights of 2018 for me.

Though I had always been able to see the inane ramblings of the self-admitted sex offender and bigot currently serving in the White House, now I can respond directly to him when the need arises.

It’s usually when I’m so annoyed that exercising my freedom of speech and firing off a response to his stupidity makes me feel better.

Yesterday, however, I discovered that I have now been blocked by Eric Trump, the debatably stupidest of the two Trump sons.

I know most comedians portray Eric as the dumb one, and he certainly has a slack-jawed, mystified gaze about him, but after the enormous number of obvious lies that Donald Trump Jr. told about his meeting with Russians in Trump Tower, the title for dumbest Trump son became a lot less certain for me.

Since Eric Trump is not a public official but only pretending to be running the Trump Organization on behalf of his self-serving, racist father, I am not outraged by his decision to block me.

A little annoyed, perhaps, because he’s so easy and fun to insult (which is why I was probably blocked) but I certainly understand that he’s well within his rights to silence me on Twitter.

I suspect that Trump Jr. will also block me at some point if my tweets rise to his attention, and since he is not a public official but only a possible traitor to the United States who is also pretending to run the Trump Organization, I will not be outraged by his decision to block me, either.

Disappointed but not outraged.

Ivanka, however, is a government official. She has chosen not to take a salary, but she’s still working for the government, so she cannot block me based upon the principles of the Knight Foundation lawsuit.

Unlike her father and brothers, Ivanka is not nearly as stupid on Twitter. She did tweet out this photo of her and her son exactly one day after Americans learned that her father was separating small children from their families and placing them in cages on the border, which might receive the tone deaf award of the century, and she also supports her corrupt, sexist, and bigoted father, but she rarely says something so stupid on Twitter than I feel compelled to respond.

She’s complicit and therefore shares the blame for this disastrous and evil administration, but she’s not nearly as fun to insult.

Eric Trump was good for that, but alas no more.

Apparently my words stung a little too much.

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First words this morning

My nine year-old daughter, Clara, came downstairs this morning, and before saying another word, asked, “Dad, what started the French and Indian War?”

Why my daughter would start her day with this question is beyond me.

“Did you know,” I said, “that the French and Indian War wasn’t actually between …”

“I know, I know,” Clara said. “The French and Indians were fighting the British. I know that. I want to know what started the war.”

Just like that, she had stripped me of my best French and Indian War fact. But I was not to be deterred.

“Did you know that the war was also called..”

“Yes, the Seven Years War,” she said. “I know that, too.” Now she sounded annoyed. “I want to know what started the war.”

I told Clara that I thought the war began over the fight for land. “I think the French and the British were fighting over land in the west and control the fur trade in those areas.”

“You think?” she said. “Let’s look it up.”

So at 6:10 AM, with many other things to do, Clara and I did a deep dive on the French and Indian War. We discovered that I was correct. Though there are always many reasons for war, the control of disputed land in North America was the primary cause.

We also learned that 22 year-old George Washington led the first attack against the French at the Battle of Jumonville Glen.

We learned that the war began in North America in 1754 but expanded to Europe in 1756.

We learned that Britain gained control of parts of Canada, which was populated with 80,000 French residents, and that those people were deported following the war to make the land available to immigrants from Europe and migrants from the colonies to the south. 

“What a bummer for them,” Clara said.

Then I finally taught Clara something that she didn’t know. I explained that the French and Indian War cost Great Britain a lot of money, and to pay off their debt, the Crown tried to impose new taxes on its colonies. These attempts were met with resistance, until troops were called in to enforce the Crown's authority. These acts ultimately led to the start of the American Revolutionary War.

Great Britain won the French and Indian War, but it ultimately led to the loss of British colonies in North America and the birth of the United Stares.

“Cool,” Clara said and then skipped away. It was 6:35 AM, and she had to go learn about the composition of Neptune on Ready Jet Go.

Hydrogen, helium, and methane, if you were wondering.

Americans believe this

A new Reuters/Ipsos poll found that 84.5 percent of Democrats and 51.9 percent of Republicans would support a policy of Medicare for All in the U.S. healthcare system. About 70 percent of Americans look favorably on offering some sort of baseline medical care in the U.S.

The most recent Gallup poll finds that 79% of Americans support a woman's right to choose in some way. 29% of Americans say abortion should be legal under any circumstance, and 50% say it should be legal under certain circumstances. 

When asked, "Would you like to see the Supreme Court overturn its 1973 Roe versus Wade decision concerning abortion, or not?" 64% said no compared to 28% saying yes. 

When it comes to gun control, the most recent Gallup poll find that 67% of Americans want stricter control compared with just 4% that do not.

95% want background checks for all gun purchases and 56% would support a ban on semi-automatic weapons. 

I think it’s important to know and remember what Americans actually think and want in a time when our legislators and the President are so highly ineffective at honoring and respecting the will of the people.

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Trump is many things, but let's not forget this.

There was a lot of things wrong with Trump’s comments to ABC White House reporter Cecilia Vega during yesterday’s press conference. .

If you missed the exchange, you can check out the video below, but this is the pertinent bit of the exchange:

Trump: "She's shocked I picked her, she's in a state of shock."

Vega: “I'm not, thank you Mr. President.”

Trump: "I know you're not thinking, you never do."

Vega: "I'm sorry?"

Trump: "Go ahead"

Obviously Trump’s comment was rude, condescending, indecent, unpresidential, and probably sexist. Nothing any former United States President has ever and would ever say to a reporter.

But that’s just the start.

Also notice the collection of mealy-mouthed jackasses standing behind Trump who laugh at this act of rudeness and condescension. They are complicit in this vile act. They are the meatheads who every bully depends upon for support.

Most important, note the cowardice of Trump. When Vega says, “I’m sorry?” she’s attempting to ascertain what Trump just said. She probably heard the words correctly but rightfully assumed that it couldn’t possible have been those words.

What President - or decent human being - would say something like that? And during a press conference?

But like the frightened, little bully that Trump is, he didn’t repeat his words when questioned. He laughs at the reporter for a remark he has made almost under his breath, and then he tells her to continue while his crew of complicit jackasses laugh along at her expense.

Trump is like the high school bully who calls you a name under his breath and then denies saying it when you try to call him out.

Trump is like the high school bully who says something terrible to you and then says, “Just kidding. God… can’t you take a joke?”

Trump is the kind of human being who tries to publicly humiliate a person on the world stage by mumbling an insult under his breath and then pretending it never happened.

What a goddamn coward.

This is a guy who fires people via Twitter because he can’t muster the courage to fire them in person. This is a guy whose flat feet kept him out of Vietnam but allowed him to play golf for his entire life. This is a guy who falls in love with dictators through letters, praises America’s enemies, and fails to stand up to adversaries on the world stage.

Trump is a lot of things. Crude, sexist, racist, thin-skinned, incompetent, inarticulate, self-serving, and condescending. A self-acknowledged sex offender who pays hush money to porn stars.

A serial liar.

But also, and let’s not forget this, a goddamn coward, too.

The Republican own this self-acknowledged sex offender President

In America today, we have a President who openly admitted to sexually assaulting women defending a Supreme Court nominee who is accused of sexually assaulting women.

This is also a President who has paid hush money to porn stars to conceal affairs and has more than a dozen accusations of sexual harassment and sexual assault pending against him.

Later today, one of the women accusing Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of sexual assault will be judged by a panel of 11 white, male Republicans, all over the age of 60.

These old, white men won’t be questioning her directly. Instead, they have hired a female prosector to do their dirty work.

This is what happens when you turn your committee into a boy’s club.

In fact, the Republicans have never had a woman or person of color on the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Ever. In the 80 year history of the Senate Judiciary Committee, every single Republican member has been a white man.  

On the Democratic side, there are currently 10 members on the committee. Four women. Three people of color. Not as representative as I’d like, but at least not as sexist and racist as the Republican side. 

None of this needed to happen. Republicans knew that Trump was guilty of sexual misconduct by his own admission prior to the election, but they refused to pull his nomination and voted for him anyway. They placed an self-acknowledged sex offender in the White House, and now he is in the position to nominate and defend a man accused of similar crimes. 

Again and again, Republican members of Congress prostrate themselves to a man who said this:

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The party of the Evangelical right had allowed this to happen. They have placed an indecent, immoral, self-serving liar in the position of President of the United States.

Again and again, they place party over country.

History is going to remember them as a party of worthless, complicit, transactional politicians who supported a racist, sexist, incompetent, self-serving President, and remarkably, they don’t seem to care one damn bit.

Behold: The inventor of the chocolate chip cookie

I don’t like it when people of import are forgotten by history.

William Dawes, for example, made the exact same ride as Paul Revere on that fateful night. Took the same risks and accomplished the same goal, but because William Wadsworth Longfellow failed to mention Dawes in his famous poem, Americans do not know his name.

I hate that.

This is why I’m also annoyed that Ruth Wakefield’s name is not known by every American from sea to shining sea.

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Ruth Wakefield is the inventor of the chocolate chip cookie. Something that has brought joy to almost every American at some point in their life. Something that I thought had existed for all time was actually invented by a woman known for her baking and cooking skills.

Wakefield was brainstorming about cookie dough while on vacation in Egypt when she first came up with a new recipe, a variation on another popular treat called Butter Drop Do pecan icebox cookies.

Her original plan was to have involved melting squares of unsweetened chocolate and adding it to the blond batter. But the only chocolate she had available at the time was a Nestlé semisweet bar, and she was too rushed to melt it.

Wielding an ice pick, she chopped the bar into pea-size bits and dribbled them into the dough. Instead of melting into the dough to produce an all-chocolate cookie, the bits remained chunky as they baked.

Thus the chocolate chip cookie was born.

Wakefield and her husband owned a travelers inn Whitman, MA. That establishment, the Toll House Inn on Bedford Street (about a mile from where I once shared a bedroom with a goat) became a destination, famous for Wakefield’s recipes, which she eventually included in a cookbook, “Ruth Wakefield’s Tried and True Recipes” that she published in 1931.

Her chocolate chip cookie recipe first appeared in a later 1930s edition of the book.

Her Toll House cookie recipe was later reprinted in The Boston Herald-Traveler, and Wakefield was featured on “Famous Foods From Famous Eating Places,” the radio program hosted by Marjorie Husted (who was known as Betty Crocker).

In 1939, Wakefield sold Nestlé the rights to reproduce her recipe on its packages for $1 and was hired to consult on recipes for the company, which was said to have provided her free chocolate for life.

Soon afterwards, the chocolate chip cookie recipe spread beyond the confines of Massachusetts, thanks in part to World War II soldiers sharing their cookies from care packages with fellow soldiers from around the country.

Today you would be hard pressed to find a single American who has not enjoyed a chocolate chip cookie at some point in their life.

I know it’s only a cookie, but when something interacts with so much of American culture in such a positive way, and we know the name of the American who invented the thing, we should make a better effort to celebrate her and her accomplishment.

Ruth Wakefield, inventor of the chocolate chip cookie: A true American hero.

The people in Louisiana don't suck

This week, Louisiana became the 16th state to file an amicus brief asking the Supreme Court to rule that it is legal to fire someone because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. Louisiana joins Nebraska, Alabama, Arkansas, Kansas, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, West Virginia, Wyoming, Kentucky, Maine, and Mississippi in seeking to make it legal to fire gay people.

Seeing this list, my initial thought:

Those states suck.

The majority of people in those states suck.

What a bunch of amoral bastards.  

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Then I read this:

An recent LSU poll found 76 percent of Louisianan residents think gay, lesbian and bisexual people should have protections from workplace discrimination.

It was a good reminder that the people in power do not necessarily reflect the will of the people.

After all, we have a President who didn't receive the majority of votes and has a approval rating of 38%. 

Yet I'm certain that there are many people in other nations who look at Trump and think, "Americans voted for that ignorant, racist, sexist hobgoblin? They suck."

And with 62 million Americans voting for him, they wouldn't be completely wrong.  

Donald Trump lost last night, and I won.

On July 11 of 2017, I was walking with half a dozen teenage girls across the quad at Miss Porter's School toward the dining hall. They were my camp counselors - Miss Porters' students who were helping me teach about 25 other girls from around the world about writing, speaking,  and storytelling. We were heading to the dining hall in the waning sun of the late afternoon when I looked down at my phone and saw that Donald Trump had blocked me on Twitter. 

I had sent a tweet at Donald Trump earlier that day that read:

Proposal: If you take healthcare away from 23 million Americans, you must also give up your healthcare until those Americans have coverage.

Less than a minute later, Trump tweeted and then blocked me. I was probably near the top of his feed at that moment. My tweet had received hundreds of likes and replies and had already been retweeted 30 times. I also have a verified Twitter account (the blue check mark), indicating that I am a personality of sorts and an actual human being, making my presence weightier on the platform.

I was so angry, "Damn it," I said. I couldn't believe that the President of the United States had stopped me from receiving what he had already said was "official statements:" from the White House. My pipeline to power had been cut off, and I was enraged.  

One of the girls asked what was wrong, and I explained. Then they spontaneously burst into cheers and laughter, dancing around me, grabbing my hands and twisting me like a maypole. "I'm so proud of you," one of them shouted. "This is amazing," another one said. "You poked the beast!"

They turned that moment around for me pretty quickly. 

In the spring of this year, I joined The Knight Foundation's lawsuit against Donald Trump in an attempt to force him to remove his block on my account. I joined 41 Twitter users, including several journalists and writer (who I adore) Bess Kalb, in this attempt after the Knight Foundation had already won their first case on behalf of seven other plaintiffs in May of this year. 

Last night, on the eve before I begin my 20th year of teaching, I was finally unblocked by the President of the United States.

We won. 

I immediately sent this tweet: 

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It's not much. I can read Donald Trump's tweets with ease and respond to him directly as I wish. Will he ever see my response?

Maybe. He's seen it before. 

But it's not much. It won't help the families who have been separated at the border or the middle class families who are being fleeced by the Republican tax bill. It won't save the environment that is being plundered and destroyed by Republican deregulation. It won't restore America's standing on the world stage. it won't honor the legacy of John McCain or restore the rights of my LGBTQ friends.

It won't keep white nationalists and Nazis off our streets, and it won't bring Heather Heyer back to life. 

But it's something. I agreed to stand up, make my name known, and stand in defiance to this ignorant, racist, self-dealing Presidency, and for a moment, Donald Trump was forced to capitulate. Stand down. Back off.

It felt good to know that a man who seeks authoritarian power and routinely ignores the rule of law was forced to do something he had previously refused to do. I played an infinitesimally small part in the course of his Presidency. For a moment, I made him do something he didn't want to do. I made him follow the rule of law.  

I annoyed him.

It's not nearly enough. But add it to the marches that Elysha and I attend with our children, our donations to organizations like the ACLU, our support of political candidates who stand against this administration, our phone calls and letters, and most importantly, our votes, and maybe it's something. 

Not enough on our own, but with enough of our fellow Americans standing alongside us, perhaps more than enough.  

It also felt good, and that's important, too. In this age of Trump, it's hard to feel hopeless, helpless, and useless. It's easy to hear about the latest atrocity committed by the President and feel like our country is spiraling into an abyss. It's so easy to just give up.  

Self care is important. Finding ways of doing good and feeling good are essential. This was one of those ways. 

I was a participant in a lawsuit against the President of the United States, and we won. 

I can't imagine a better start to my school year. 

N-word bingo

It's not hard to avoid using racial epitaphs. Words that offend enormous swaths of humanity for justifiable reasons.

Despite this, people still do.

Sometimes it's because they are racist, and they use the word as a means of denigration. 

Sometimes they are thoughtless and inconsiderate, and they use the word without thinking about what it might mean to another person. These are the people who toss around the N-word because they hear others using it and therefore assume it's okay. 

Sometimes they are arrogant, ignorant pseudo-intellectuals who use the word to push buttons or claim some right that does not require claiming. These are the entitled white people, for example, who are angry that African Americans can use the word with impunity but they cannot, so they aggressively use the word in an effort to claim some linguistic territory because they have never been denied territory before. 

Think Fox News pundit. 

Mostly, though, they're just racists. People who believe that human beings of a certain skin color are lesser than them. Ignorant scumbags. Insecure, hate-mongering evil doers. Really, really, really stupid people. 

Like the President of the United States, for example. 

A new Quinnipiac University poll has found that 49% of people said they believe President Donald Trump to be a racist while 47% believe he is not. More Americans, and HALF OF ALL AMERICANS, think the President is a racist. The only thing more shocking is that 47% of Americans don't think he's a racist.

Apparently these are the people who don't read, listen, or watch the news, because there are only so many times that a human being can defend the Nazis in Charlottesville, retweet white nationalist conspiracy theories, attempt to ban all Muslims from our country, lie about Muslims celebrating on rooftops during 9/11, separate Mexican children from their families on the border, put brown children in cages, refer to Mexican immigrants as rapists and criminals, question the impartiality of Mexican-American judges, question the intelligence of African American politicians, entertainers, and athletes, and run an administration almost entirely bereft of people of color before the racism is undeniable.  

There may also be a tape of Trump using he N-word while on The Apprentice. If that tape ever surfaces (and when it comes to Trump, it seems as if every tape eventually surfaces), this clever, hilarious, and tragically accurate bingo board might be very useful. 

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It appears that I might be less fallible than the Pope

Good news.

Pope Francis has declared the death penalty wrong in all cases. This is a definitive change in church doctrine. Traditionally, church doctrine accepted the death penalty if it was “the only practicable way” to defend lives, which was a ridiculous loophole exploited by church officials and politicians as a means of justifying the death penalty. 

But Francis said executions were unacceptable in all cases because they are an attack on human dignity.

It's about time. I've opposed the death penalty since I was in high school, which means I was about 25 years ahead of the infallible supreme pontiff of the largest church in the world.

Maybe I should've been named Pope. It would seem that I might be slightly less infallible than the supposed apostolic successor to Saint Peter. 

Just imagine if Elysha Dicks had to refer to me as "Your Holiness" or "Most Holy Father."

Amazing.

The Pope's reason for opposing the death penalty is all fine and good, but the reason for my opposition has always been far simpler and more logical:

Human beings are fallible. We make mistakes. Since 1973, 144 people on death row have been exonerated, which means that it's very likely that the United States has executed innocent people throughout its history. 

In fact. a study in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in 2014 found it very likely that 1 in 25 death row inmates are innocent.

As a person who nearly confessed to a crime he did not commit and came close to being convicted of that crime, I know all too well how insidious the criminal justice system can be when someone believes that you are guilty. 

And I'm white American. Just imagine what might have happened to me had I been a minority or an immigrant.

The death penalty is dangerous. Its very existence endangers the life of every innocent American citizen who might end up in the wrong place at the wrong time. 

Frankly, this is a no-brainer. A slam dunk. An obvious decision, even though it took the Catholic Church about two thousand years to finally agree with me. The death penalty should be abolished immediately, as it has been in almost every European and Latin American country in the world. In fact, 95% of all known executions in 2017 were carried out in only six countries:

China, Iran, Saudi Arabia, the United States, Pakistan, and Iraq.

We keep great company. 

Yet 55% of Americans still support the death penalty because they are incapable of imagining that any one of those 144 men and women exonerated while on death row could ever be them or a loved one. 

How many more death row inmates must be exonerated or even executed before we decide that human beings are far too fallible to allow the state to take our lives as a form of punishment?

I'm happy that the Pope finally agrees with me. Everyone else should follow suit. 

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Insecure cowards are leading the most powerful nations on the planet.

Disney's latest film Christopher Robin has been banned in China. While no official reason has been given, government sensors have previously blocked images of Winnie the Pooh after bloggers used him to parody Chinese President Xi Jinping.

A particularly widely-shared post, which first popped up in 2013, shows a photo of Xi Jinping and Barack Obama alongside an image of Pooh and his friend Tigger.

It takes a special breed of thin-skinned, humorless coward to be so upset and afraid of being compared to a fictional bear that he must prevent a country of 1.3 billion people from ever seeing a film featuring the bear.

It's also so incredibly stupid. Banning the movie from China only brings attention to Xi Jinping's resemblance to the lovable bear. I had no idea that he looked anything like Winnie the Pooh, nor had the resemblance ever occurred to me, but now I can't not see it.  

So dumb.

People who are unable to laugh at themselves are sad and weak, and if they have accumulated power, they can be very dangerous.

We've witnessed this unfortunate truth in our country, too.

People like the Chinese President and Donald Trump do not understand that strength is not demonstrated through bravado, hyperbole, the strong arming opponents, the censoring of criticism, and an unwillingness to apology. 

All of these things are signs of weakness and insecurity. 

Truly strong people are capable of honesty, authenticity, and vulnerability. They are willing to make fun of themselves and are not afraid to speak about their flaws, foibles, and weaknesses.

They don't ban films, dishonor men and women of greater accomplishment than themselves, denigrate opponents through name-calling, and erupt into angry tweet storms every time someone criticizes them.

People of great strength are able to criticize themselves. Laugh at themselves. Admit fault. Apologize. Ask for forgiveness. 

They might not like the fact that they look like a cuddly Disney bear, but they don't shrink from the comparison. They laugh along with us and move on. 

It's tragic that the leaders of the most power countries in the world do not understand this.  

I got mentioned in the New York Times yesterday for a teeny tiny thing that I feel so good about.

I made the news yesterday. A tiny bit of it, at least.  

From The New York Times:

WASHINGTON — A U.S. free speech group on Friday asked President Donald Trump to unblock 41 Twitter users after a federal judge in May ordered him to restore access to a group of individuals who filed suit.

U.S. District Judge Naomi Reice Buchwald in Manhattan ruled on May 23 that comments on the president's account, and those of other government officials, were public forums and that blocking Twitter users for their views violated their right to free speech under the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

The Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University on Friday sent the Justice Department a list of 41 accounts that remain blocked from Trump's @RealDonaldTrump account. 

The blocked users include a film producer, screenwriter, photographer and author. 
__________________________

I'm that author.

The Knight Foundation issued a press release that included a copy of the letter sent to the Justice Department. That letter includes a spreadsheet listing the 41 Twitter users who they are requesting to be unblocked. 

I'm #30 on the list.

It's not a big deal. I'm not an attorney trying desperately to protect the rights of asylum seekers on the border. I'm not writing the briefs that stopped Trump's bigoted travel bans from going into effect. I'm not a prosecutor on the Paul Manafort trial or an investigative reporter looking into emoluments violations in the Trump administration.

I wasn't protesting in Charlottesville one year ago when a Nazi who Trump equated to counter-protesters just a day before drove his car through the crowd, killing Heather Heyer and injuring dozens of her fellow protesters. 

My participation in this lawsuit is not a big deal. It's a small thing. Tiny, really. A thorn in Trump's side at best. I didn't stand in court and argue the case. I'm just one of 41 Americans who used a social media platform to speak directly to the President in a way that he didn't like. 

Or more likely Trump didn't want my fellow Americans to see me speaking directly at him anymore. Didn't want my fellow Americans to see what I was saying. 

In response, Trump blocked me.

So I asked to be included in the Knight Foundation's lawsuit. I found the right person and sent an email. Several more emails were exchanged. I provided some information and agreed to allow my information to be made public.

That's it. It's not much. 

But it feels good to stand against the tide in my small way. It feels good to stand alongside those doing the hard work. The important work. The work that history will remember and honor.

I'm just a teeny-tiny cog in an enormous machine that is attempting to protect and save our country and its people from this corrupt, incompetent, unethical, and immoral Presidency.

But damn it feels good.    

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There is nothing wrong with Bigfoot erotica

Virginia Democrat Leslie Cockburn is accusing her Republican opponent, Denver Riggleman, of being a “devotee of Bigfoot erotica” based on screenshots he appeared to have posted of a Bigfoot with a large penis.

Yes, Bigfoot erotica is a thing. If you'd like to do a deep dive on the subject, Katie Heaney wrote a piece in 2014 that will explain this subculture to you fairly extensively. 

Leslie Cockburn lives in rural Rappahannock County and is running against Denver Riggleman in the state’s 5th Congressional district, which includes parts of Charlottesville.

I am no fan of Denver Riggleman. He is a Trump supporter who has campaigned alongside a white supremacist. He should not be elected to any office in this country. 

But if Riggleman is a fan of Bigfoot erotica, I don't think that has any bearing on his capacity for serving the constituents of Virginia, and I think that Leslie Cockburn's use of it as a campaign issue is inappropriate, narrow-minded, and stupid.  

I don't understand Bigfoot erotica. It's definitely not for me, and if I'm being honest, just the thought of Bigfoot erotica makes my skin crawl. But there is apparently a subset of human beings who finds excitement and pleasure in this unusual form of sexualized literature, and if it brings them happiness and hurts no one, then far be it for me or Leslie Cockburn or anyone else to criticize.

Yes, I'm defending Bigfoot erotica. I'm defending a person's admiration of Bigfoot erotica. I'm defending a person's right to write and read and fantasize about sex with Bigfoot. 

I'll even defend having sex with Bigfoot if everyone involved is a consenting adult participant.  

If we're going to be a society that stops caring about what people do in the privacy of their own homes, then this must extend to all interests, fetishes, and personal predilections that do not conform with our own. If I want the bigots of the world to stop concerning themselves with the private lives of my gay, bisexual, and transgender friends, then we must extend this desire to the private lives of all people.

As long as no one is being hurt and everyone is a consenting adult, we have no right to judge the multitude of ways that our fellow human beings find happiness, pleasure, and love.  

Bigfoot erotica makes no sense to me. It strikes me as the one of the least arousing concepts on the planet. But that doesn't mean that it's wrong and that someone should be condemned for finding pleasure in it. 

Leslie Cockburn is running against a man who has campaigned with a white supremacist. She is battling a Republican supported Trump's decision to separate migrant families at the border. He defended a Republican tax cut that sent more than 90% of the money into the hands of the wealthiest Americans. Stood by Trump when he equated torch-bearing Nazis in Charlottesville with counter-protesters. Voted for a man who bragged about sexually assaulting women.    

There is plenty of ammunition to use against Denver Riggleman. Plenty of proverbial bullets to fire in this campaign for Congress.  

His alleged appreciation of Bigfoot erotica should not be one of them.  

Trump vs. Me

I received some good news today. 

Back in July of 2017, I was blocked by Donald Trump on Twitter after tweeting at him: 

While there are ways to get around a block and see Trump's Twitter feed, the block prevents me from ever commenting on any of his tweets or tweeting directly at him. I was teaching about 25 girls from around the world at a private school on the day that I was blocked, and upon hearing that I was blocked, they broke into a spontaneous, joyous dance around me, seeing this as a badge of honor and a reason to celebrate. 

It was a beautiful moment, but I was still upset. 

It wasn't right. 

This week The Knight Foundation, whose attorneys represented the plaintiffs in the Knight Institute v. Trump lawsuit, which alleged that the President’s actions in blocking individuals from the @realDonaldTrump account violated the First Amendment, contacted me.

On May 23, 2018, the judge in the case ruled in favor of The Knight Foundation and their clients and issued an order declaring that blocking the plaintiffs from @realDonaldTrump because they criticized him in reply tweets violated the First Amendment.  

Following that decision, the plaintiffs in the lawsuit were unblocked. 

I sent an email to the Knight Foundation a few months ago, asking if I could join the lawsuit or become involved in some way. This week, an attorney from the Knight Foundation replied, offering to forward my information to the Department of Justice for the purposes of getting me and other Americans in my situation unblocked as well.  

No guarantees that it will happen. Thus far Trump has only lifted the block on the nine defendants in the case, but it's a start.

Either way, it'll probably make a good story one day. 

Fly, Baby Trump! Fly!

You probably heard about the baby Trump balloon being flown in protest of Trump's visit to London. In addition to flying it over Parliament Square during his visit with the Queen, video and stills of the balloon have been all over the news, and protesters have been filling Trump's Twitter feed with video of the balloon to ensure he sees it as much as possible. 

I would've done the same but the damn coward blocked me on Twitter and has yet to lift the block despite a court order.

The balloon is funny, and I'm thrilled to see the people of Europe protesting the same vile policies that so many Americans are protesting as well.  

Trump appears to be of two minds on the subject. On Thursday he told reporters, "I believe that the people in the UK - Scotland, Ireland, as you know I have property in Ireland, I have property all over - I think that those people they like me a lot and they agree with me on immigration."

Yes. Apparently Trump thinks that Ireland is part of the UK. He's been getting blasted about that stupid comment for the last day or so. 

But Trump also told reporters 

"I guess when they put out blimps to make me feel unwelcome, no reason for me to go to London."

Whether or not he feels welcomed or not in the UK, the most telling remarks came from the protesters responsible for the balloon. 

"The only thing that Donald Trump hates is being ridiculed, so that's what we're trying to do."

"Whilst representing Trump's inflated ego and his thin skin, this is also about opposing his hate-fueled, misogynistic politics."

"You can hurt Donald Trump by making him feel stupid, so that is what we are doing."

It's true. Trump seeks praise at every turn. He's desperate to appreciation and approval. He lauds himself with self-congratulation like no other President before. 

Honestly, I've never heard another human being offer himself so much self-praise before. 

It's remarkable, appalling, and frightening to think that the President of the the United States is incapable of brushing off criticism. Unable to ignoring ridicule. Unwilling to allow divergent opinions to be expressed openly.

It's why he has blocked me and so many others from Twitter. It's why he refuses to speak to news outlets that don't offer him praise. It's why he repeatedly and constantly lies about accomplishments that never happened and attacks previous Presidents for things that never happened.

Think about it: His first act as President was to lie about crowd size.

It's why this Trump balloon is undoubtedly going to hurt his fragile ego and enrage his prickly temper. 

The one thing to take solace in from this racist, misogynistic, baby-caging liar of a President is that unlike previous chief executives, Trump is easy to hurt and easily embarrassed.

Stage the largest protests in the history of the world on the day after his sparsely-attended inauguration. 

Mock him using skits and monologues on late night comedy shows.

Make him so uncomfortable that he cannot attend the Kennedy Center Honors or the White House correspondents dinner.

Refuse to visit the White House after winning the NBA championship or the Super Bowl.

Tweet uncomfortable truths at him until he's so upset that he must block you. 

Fly a Trump balloon outside Parliament while he is inside, mistaking Ireland as part of the UK.    

It doesn't make up for banning religious groups from our country. Separating families. Caging babies. Equating counter-protesters with Nazis. Enacting policies that will destroy our environment. Pardoning racists. Giving enormous tax cuts to the wealthiest Americans. Attempting to strip away healthcare from millions of hard working people. Denigrating the free press. Violating the emoluments clause. Bragging about sexual assault. Lying again and again and again.  

Still, it's something. When you can't get rid of a bully, poking him where it hurts is at least a little satisfying. 

This balloon is a little satisfying. 

Name your sources or begone!

It wasn't a fight. More like a minor confrontation.

I was pouring myself a soda at my local McDonald's on Sunday when I heard a man telling a couple who I know fairly well that "President Trump is going to make a great Supreme Court pick."

The couple - McDonald's regulars who I see almost every day - were reading the newspaper. The man was standing besdie their table, shifting from one foot to another. Restless. Anxious. 

"You think so?" the husband asked.

"President Trump says he's going to make the best pick ever," the man said.

"You believe everything that man says?" the wife asked with a chuckle.

"I believe him," the man said, undeterred. "And you know what else? I hear that Justice Ginsburg doesn't even write her own briefs anymore. She has interns doing it. She needs to retire, too."

"Actually," the wife said, "all of the justices rely on law clerks for drafts of their opinions. It's a totally normal thing."

"Oh yeah?" the man asked. 

"Yeah," the husband replied. 

Stymied, the man returned to his coffee on the other side of the restaurant. 

I was so annoyed. I wanted in on this conversation. I wanted to debate. I was armed and ready. I was also angry that the couple hadn't told the man that justices wrote opinions. Not briefs. Also, justices have law clerks working for them. Not interns.

I hate missed opportunities.

After topping off my soda, I turned to the couple, who were both still smirking. I wished them a good day, and they wished me luck in the golf course.

"I've already played," I said. "Poorly as usual."

Then the man was back, reappearing without me even seeing him approach. "Another thing," he said. "I hear that Justice Ginsberg falls asleep on the bench. Can you believe that? Time for her to retire if you ask me."

I looked up. I stared. He was looking down at the couple, but all I needed was a little eye contact and I would be in. "C'mon. Look over here," I willed. "Please."

Then it happened. He glanced over at me. We locked eyes for a moment. He acknowledged my presence. It was on.

"You heard?" I asked. "Who did you hear this from?" 

"Huh?" the man asked. I think my entry into the conversation surprised him. He wasn't expecting me to speak. It was a sneak attack.

"I'm wondering who told you this?" I asked. "Did you know that every Supreme Court session has a gallery of court reporters and public observers? Did you know that RBG exercises every day. Pushups and planks and squats and bench presses. Cardio, too. It's well documented. And before Scalia died, she went hunting with him regularly. Hardly sounds like someone asleep at the bench."

"That's not what I heard."

"Who?" I asked. "Who did you hear this from? Name your source." 

"People," he said.

"Who?" I pressed, politely but insistently. "C'mon. Someone told you Ruth Bader Ginsberg sleeps at the bench. Who told you?"

"Whatever," the man said, slinking away.

Maybe not slinking, but I like to think that he was slinking. Either way, he beat a hasty retreat back to his coffee, perhaps to regroup.

The husband offered me a surreptitious thumbs up, and I nodded back and left.

Not a fight. Barely a confrontation. 

But so much fun. 

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We march again.

One of the only wonderful things about the Trump administration has been the remarkable protests that his hateful, xenophobic, idiotic policies have engendered throughout our country. Americans coming together in historic numbers to stand opposed to hate, bigotry, sexism, corruption, and the purposeful destruction of our environment for personal profit. 

The Woman's March was the largest single day protest in American history and spread throughout the world. My family marched on that day, and it is a memory I will cherish forever.

There were protests at airports following the various iterations of Trump's bigoted travel bans. The Tax March. The March for Science. Protests following the Stoneman Douglas High School shooting. Protests following Trump's withdrawal from the Paris Agreement. Protests following Trump's DACA decision. Many, many more.  

Today Americans march is opposition to the authentically evil of separation of children from their migrant parents. Hundreds of thousands of Americans - and maybe more - will once again stand in opposition to Trump - a man elected by a minority of Americans - and his cruel and indefensible immigration policies. 

Peaceful, forceful, unending protest. It's a beautiful thing. The only beautiful thing to come out of the election of this vile, ignorant, self-serving human being. 

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