Saturday, May 27, 2017

My Wish List

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I read an article the other day that said Democrats don't have any plans of their own, all they do is bitch about Republican plans. Well, of course, that isn't entirely true. Hillary had plenty of policy plans but they got drowned out by endless discussion about e-mails.

But that's all beside the point now and I know that I've been so distraught about Trump that I am guilty of writing mostly about him for the last few months rather than what I'd like to see for America.

So, here's my wish list.

1) We have fought and wrangled and protested and debated so much about Obamacare, that I wish we'd just repeal and replace it with with Medicare for all. Rather than the endlessly complex components that go into creating the ACA, let's just make it simple. Figure out how much we all have to pay (based on income) to give every single America the ability to walk into a hospital or doctor's office and get the care they need. We know it is possible because a bunch of other progressive countries have had universal healthcare for years. Let's eliminate the middle man, which is the insurance companies. They've been the stumbling block forever.

2) Let's raise the cap on Social Security contributions and make it solvent as far as the eye can see. If you're one of those lucky people who've made a gazillion dollars thanks to being a part of the American Dream, more power to you. Now pay up.

3) I have always wondered why wages are considered more taxworthy than other types of income. Tax my neighbor down at the rich end of the block the same on his capital gains as you do me on the hours recorded on my time card. The rich create jobs by investing and building. I create jobs by consuming.

4) And speaking of consuming, let's raise the minimum wage to a rate high enough to support a family with at least some modicum of dignity. By doing so, we'd take millions off of food stamps and that would make higher-ups, who so resent having to help pay for "moochers" very happy.

5) Let's get that infrastructure thing going that both Hillary and Trump talked about during the campaign. And I mean, let's us do it. What I don't mean is for Saudi Arabia to pay Erik Prince billions to do it. We are America. Can we not afford to build our own goddam roads?

6) Let's make student loans, if not free, at least, interest-free. And while we're at it, let's do the same for vocational training. Not everyone is meant to get a 4-year degree but we'll always need plumbers and electricians and builders and mechanics.

7) But before we decide what our kids on going to do post secondary education, let's make sure they have a thorough grounding in the basics and that every child attends a school, a PUBLIC school, that is safe and sturdy and has all the resources and teachers it needs to do its job.

8) Let's encourage workers to join unions again. In every negotiation between management and labor, both parties should have representatives that have their best interest at heart. \\

9) Let's start valuing our earth again. We probably can't do away with fracking and drilling and mining in the next 10 years but that should be our goal - to turn to resources that treat land and the air and the water more gently....and to train our people for these jobs of the future rather than telling them they can still be coal miners. Do they really want their children to be coal miners if there is a cleaner healthier option?

10) Let's get out of Afghanistan. Have we made a difference in 16 years? Will we make a difference if we stay another 16 years?  What does the end game look like?

11) Far as I'm concerned, the same goes for Iraq, Syria, Libya, Yemen - let them all duke it out as best they can. We can't fix the whole world.

12) Let's have commonsense immigration reform. Yes, we need defined borders and we need to know who is coming across them. Yes, we need to vet all those people. But tearing families part who've done us no harm or leaving families stranded at an airport because they have a Muslim name - that's not the America I know and love.

13) Yes, let's pursue every alternative for limiting climate change.

14) The hardest one of all: let's stop hating each other. I have not a clue about how to make that happen.






Thursday, May 4, 2017

Fighting A Losing Battle

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I guess, like Hillary, I am now part of the Resistance but I don't feel very triumphant about it. I don't have any bullets or bombs, only words, and they seem like pitiful weapons against what is currently going on in my country, the sliding backward that I'm watching happen before my very eyes.

I used to believe we were the best, certainly not perfect, but the best in so many areas. We were brave and bold and creative. We invented things and then invented ways to make those things faster and more efficient and cheaper. We built things - beautiful buildings and bridges and highway systems. In order to do this, we took in people from all over the world - scientists and architects and physicians and physicists and added their expertise to our own. We forged ahead to discover technological miracles. It was the American Way.

We have never been as kind and gentle as we sometimes like to believe, Every advance in civil rights had to be fought for with protests and police dogs and billy clubs, with arrests and even murders, but in the end, the right way always won. Before it was over, women could vote and Black people could drink at the same fountains and attend the same schools and gay people could marry the partners they loved.

We believed in science and education and we believed in using those things to help our country and the world. We were always the first to arrive with aid after any disaster. We showed up with food during famines and medicines during pandemics and weapons during genocides. We took in the refugees those catastrophes left behind. We were the world's generous-hearted Uncle Sam.

We were usually ahead of every modern curve - we pioneered workers' rights and environmental progress and medical cures and advanced education even for non-elites.

No more. We are regressing in every one of those areas. Our infrastructure is crumbling even though our rich are richer than they've ever been before. We are closing the door to immigration, even deporting, not just criminals but settled, productive residents. Trump's budget drastically cuts research into cures for diseases. We are moving away from public education into for-profit schools, from which politicians get huge donations. The E.P.A's funding is being slashed in Trump's proposed budget. As I write this, the Republicans are getting ready to vote on repealing Obamacare and replacing it with something that barely qualifies as healthcare. (Guess who gets the biggest contributions from insurance and pharmaceutical companies?) Red states are passing ever harsher restrictions against voting and ever harsher restrictions against abortion and other areas of women's healthcare. The Republican Congress just passed legislation allowing employers to forego paying overtime. They passed legislation that allows companies to no longer keep track of employees who get hurt on the job. They are considering repealing the Endangered Species Act. They are considering privatizing our national parks in favor of drilling and mining. There may be an executive order today making discrimination legal based on religious grounds.

So, I'll resist in my own small way but I find it heartbreaking that all this was evidently what my fellow Americans wanted. It was totally predictable. The Republicans, now that we have given them complete control, are doing what Republicans always do. They've never tried to keep their anti-progressive views a secret. The best the Democrats can do is fight a futile rearguard action to lessen the awfulness a little.

So half me yells, "fight!" and the other half sighs and says, "fuck it."

As I watch us retract into a more fearful, smaller, sadder, selfish country.








Wednesday, April 26, 2017

When The Truth Is Too Dangerous


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I've always thought of myself as a practical, down-to-earth person. I don't generally believe in fantasies (even religious ones) or conspiracy theories. Do I think corruption exists?  Oh, absolutely, there is plenty of under-handed corruption that goes on in the world but I'm talking about big league conspiracy, the kind that form the basis for so many novels like The Manchurian Candidate. I'm talking about the kind of conspiracies that could cause a war or a governmental meltdown. I find the people who believe 911 was an inside job, the brainchild of Bush and Cheney, to be utterly ridiculous. I find the people who believe Obama was a secret Muslim, a traitor working to hand the U.S. over to the Muslim Brotherhood, to be totally nonsensical.
There was one conspiracy in my lifetime that I believe was such a case and that was the assassination of President Kennedy. I never thought we Americans were told the true story behind that tragedy and we probably never will, at least not in my lifetime.
Why? Not because our government didn't care but because the information would have been so explosive no one could have predicted the aftermath. Was it Cuba? If we'd known for sure, nothing would have satisfied the American people except blasting that island off the face of the earth. Was it Russia? Once we were forced to face that fact, there would have been nothing for it but to go to war with a nuclear state. So I believe the powers-that-be at the time decided the best course of action was to bury the truth deeply to avoid the catastrophic consequences that would have resulted from such a revelation.
I believe were are exactly at that point again. I think the evidence is overwhelming that the Trump administration colluded with Russia to steal the 2016 election. There is evidence galore of the contacts between the Trump campaign and the Putin people. I believe our entire leadership knows what happened - from the FBI to the CIA to the Republicans to the Democrats. The list of Trumpers who were intimate with the Russians (and later lied about it) is beyond any possibility of coincidence. We have Stone and Manafort and Flynn and Sessions and Kushner and the Trump sons and Miller. Some of them were working for and taking money from Russia even as they worked on the campaign, such as Flynn, who the Trump administration made National Security Director, in a position to attend every ultra-classified meeting. Did they even vet him? Would he have passed inspection if they had? We don't know because they refuse to turn over any documents regarding the situation.
The story of Flynn struck me as bogus from the start. The General was fired as National Security Director for supposedly lying to Vice-President Pence but at that point, the administration had known about Flynn's contacts with Russia and Turkey for over three weeks and Pence certainly must have known because he was head of the transition team and had been given a letter by Elijah Cummings, warning him about Flynn's background. And it raises the question: if Trump knew and knew Flynn was lying to Pence, then why didn't the president inform him? I expect the answer is that Pence knew the truth all along. (Pence, our see-no-evil, speak-no-evil, hear-no-evil Number Two).
So, we are in roughly the same place as after the Kennedy assassination only this is even worse. At that time, if we'd been told the truth, we would have directed our fury outward at another country. (Although we did have militant right-wingers back then too who detested Kennedy). We are far from that same country today. We are now so divided that both sides are dug into their foxholes. We have our own news sources and we all think we know the difference between real news and "fake" news. 
One side will swear to their souls that Donald Trump is a hero, savior of the working class, sent to America directly by Jesus, being persecuted by a globalist cabal of millionaires and billionaires (except his own millionaires and billionaires, of course).
The other side, my side, believe in their hearts that he is a corrupt wannabe-oligarch like Putin, a liar and a scammer turning our country into a fascist haven as we watch. Even traitor isn't too strong a term for us.
So, this time, we would turn our on fire on each other. What does that mean? Would there be an actual revolution with blood running in the streets? Very likely. Our loathing of one another is so powerful, I don't think we would hold back. Who would the police follow? Who would the army follow? Who would win and what would the end look like?
I don't think our leaders know and I don't think they want to know. So, they all dither around and pretend they are doing serious investigation but they are really not.  They let out bits and pieces but no smoking gun. In the end, I think they will tamp it down just enough to muddle through without a civil war. They'll try to keep Trump in check. They'll hold their breath for four years (or maybe he'll get impeached for something else, like conflicts of interest, God knows, there are enough grounds) and hope that Americans come to their senses by 2020. 
Then they'll heave a sigh of relief at having dodged a lethal bullet.                                                                 


                                                     


Saturday, April 22, 2017

Retreating To Our Safe Spaces

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I've been called a snowflake more times than I can count in the last couple of years. Sentimental depictions like the one above are probably part of the reason why. Compassion is not an admired quality among conservatives. They think liberals are a bunch of squishes because they care about little kids shot in their schools and wolf families being gassed in their dens and immigrant mothers being pulled away from their terrified children and yes, the Earth itself.

Ya' gotta' be tough to make it as a Right-Winger. If you boo-hoo about things like toddlers drinking lead-laden water, you're too simpy to be considered a good conservative. If seeing birds covered in oily goo makes you sick at your stomach, you're a sissy libtard. If you worry about climate change and hungry children going without school lunches and Americans losing their healthcare, why, then you need to take your coloring book and crayons to your safe space and let the right handle the hard stuff.

They can shrug off frightened children in refugee camps and shot toddlers and deported fathers and young black boys dying in the street because, don't you know, all those people are scary and we have to think of our own self-protection. It seems to me, they are the ones who need to go to their safe space. They can build barricades around it and take their guns in with them. They can allow in only white people.

I don't consider myself a snowflake. I stand ready to face the problems of the country and the world, and deal with them but I will admit to being absolutely bewildered by what has happened to my country. I used to think the vast majority of people I knew in my youth were pretty nice. They weren't all saints or heroes but they were decent people. Now it seems that many us have gone from empathy for the world around us to completely uncaring about anyone but ourselves.

Were some people always so hateful and they just got sick of holding it in? Is what we're living through now some kind of backlash against what is considered political correctness? Have we always been this way but now social media gives us a platform to say anything we please? Some of what I read on Facebook is so vicious, it leaves me shaking my head. Who are these people? Where did they come from?

I've never been one of those "America is Perfect" patriots. We often been a long way from perfect but generally we tried to be leaders in helping the planet solve its most perplexing problems. When did we turn against education. When did science become a bad word?

Richard Nixon signed the Clean Air Act in 1970 - Republicans were environmentalists then too. Later in 1970, we celebrated the first Earth Day. Before the year was over, we created the Environmental Protection Agency and passed the Clean Air, Clean Water and Endangered Species acts. These were all popular with a broad cross-section of America.

I can hardly believe that less than 50 years later, we elected a government that is in a full-fledged retreat into ignorance. They've cut the budget and the staff of the EPA. They are once again allowing energy companies to pour their pollution into our waterways. They want sell off public lands and even privatize our national parks. They are probably going to end the Endangered Species Act. I could go on but it is too depressing.

In 2015, after years of negotiations, the nations of the world came together to sign the Paris Agreement, a pact to lower emissions and cut CO2 levels in an effort to slow climate change, which 96 percent of all the world's scientists believe is a real thing.

But the Trump Administration pooh-poohs climate change and is considering whether the U.S. should pull out of the Agreement. China, which has long yearned to be the most powerful nation on earth, is standing by, ready to take our places as the movers and shakers on climate change if we renege.

Abandoning the fight against climate change is just another way for conservatives to take their crayons to a safe space. Unfortunately, dirty air and water will follow them there.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

It's Easier If You Don't Have To Think

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To me, this chart is the starkest illustration of the state of American politics today.  In 2013, when President Obama was contemplating bombing Syria over their use of chemical weapons on their own people, 38 percent of Democrats approved, as did 22 percent of Republicans. In 2017, when Trump actually bombed Syria for using chemical weapons, Democratic opinion barely changed - 37 percent approved. But suddenly, Republican approval climbed to 86 per cent, based solely on who was president at the time, although the 2013 attack was actually many times more deadly than the one in 2017.

Furthermore, Republicans are now on record as giving their president kudos for finally doing something Obama refused to do. No, Obama wanted to do it but he took the question to Congress (which Republicans then were adamant that he should do - the Constitution and all, you know) but Congress withheld their authorization. Now that it's Trump, who did not go to Congress prior to bombing, it is perfectly fine with his supporters.

Many people say that there isn't a nickel's worth of difference between the parties. They're wrong. It may have been so when I first got seriously involved in politics. Back then the parties had philosophical difference but they were both rooted in a desire to work for the good of the country. Oh, there were the bad apples, as there always will be in any conglomeration of people but for the most part, they were motivated by love of country.

Somewhere along the line, the Republicans changed. The heart and soul of their party was subsumed by a lust for power at any cost.

For the most part, they've used hate to do it. It wasn't enough to disagree with opponents, those opponents had to be demonized. It started with the Clintons. Yes, Margaret, there was a vast right-wing conspiracy and it is still alive and well today. The Clinton years were one long witch hunt. The Republicans threw everything at the wall and finally, Monica Lewinsky stuck. At long last, a reason for impeachment, even if it was trumped-up.

And at the same time, of course, stories circulated about the Clintons that they were drug runners and serial killers. Russia was not the originator of planting "fake news". The Republican right does a pretty damn good job of it themselves.

Then came Obama and conservative hate grew even more intense. Obama was a Kenyan Muslim who wanted to make Sharia law the law of the land. He was a traitor. The R's in Congress stonewalled everything he tried to do. They filibustered on a level never seen before. They shut down the government for the second time in recent history. They let our credit rating be downgraded. They threatened default of our debts and fiscal cliffs. I'm not making all this up. Mitch McConnell, a one-man wrecking ball when it comes to our democracy, has bragged about it.

Take the sequester. It was supposed to be so awful that neither party would allow it to pass. Supposedly, the Democrats were opposed to cuts in social programs while Republicans were opposed to the military cuts. It was supposed to force cooperation. But, surprise, the R's let it go into effect and they lived with it during Obama's administration. Now, they have total power and guess what? The social cuts will be maintained but the military part of the sequester will be overturned. Another battle won by hook or by crook.

Another huge win by McConnell and his crew is the destruction of the Supreme Court. They began by refusing to confirm any of Obama's federal court nominees. Didn't matter who it was. They simply refused to confirm the huge backlog waiting their approval. They practically forced the Democrats to resort to going nuclear if they wanted to get any of Obama's judges confirmed. That set the stage, of course, for what came next. McConnell and the R's simply refused to even interview Judge Merrick Garland, nominated by Obama to fill Antonin Scalia's seat. (You know, Antonin Scalia, about whom all those stories swirled that he was murdered?) The nominal reason was that Obama was in his last year and a president shouldn't be able to nominate a justice so late in his term. (Although we've confirmed 19 justices in a president's final year in office.)

So McConnell held the seat open for ten months until a Republican won the White House and then proceeded to get Trump's nominees confirmed by way of the nuclear option, meaning it no longer takes 60 votes to confirm a SCOTUS nominee. The Supreme Court will now simply be a partisan establishment, just like the rest of our government has become.

And then, after all this, Donald Trump came on the scene and ran the most hateful, vicious campaign I've ever seen in my many years monitoring politics. (I believe sincerely that he had help from the Russians which is rather amusing if Putin thought for one minute that Trump wouldn't throw him under the bus if he thought it was in his best interest. I don't believe The Donald has any loyalty to anyone whose last name isn't Trump.

So, the Republicans hold the levers of power in every area - the states, the Congress, the White House, all the federal agencies, the Supreme Court. Trump ran as a populist but so far, I can't think of one thing the R's have done to help those forgotten working people in Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin....  If you know of something, please let me know.

What disturbs me most about all this is that  Republicans are so caught up in the pig wallow of their success that they don't even recognize what they've become.

Democrats felt the same about bombing Syria whether Obama was president or Trump was. But the sheep-like Republicans don't need to think about it. It's all about who made the call and they are perfectly happy to be led either way.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

What Have They Done For You Lately?

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I assume this was the bottom line for rational Trump voters (not the Deplorables, of whom there are many - they have their own website where they compete with one another to see who can be the most vicious and vile or the Trump evangelicals who believe Trump was sent to us directly by God). I'm talking about the Trump fans who could be your neighbors or co-workers. Decent, kindly people.

I think this was the argument that sold them. Trump told them he was fighting for them, the forgotten Americans, as opposed to the Washington elite. With his populist campaign, he promised to bring back good jobs and eliminate the competitors for those jobs and re-write trade agreements that encouraged industries to outsource. And not only did they elect him, they gave him a Republican congress so he wouldn't be obstructed (as Obama was) by his opponents.

They gave the R's free rein to do all the wonderful things for the working class they said they would do.

By the time, Trump was inaugurated, I gave him almost zero credibility. His whole persona seemed like a giant shell game to me. But....if he'd begun with an infrastructure program, I might have begun to gain a little faith. If instead of trying to take health insurance from millions of Americans as his first project, he'd worked hard to accomplish the goal of jump-starting the economy and creating jobs by rebuilding our crumbling bridges and highways and electrical grid and airports and buildings and transportation systems, I might have started to buy in. And I don't mean by giving ginormous tax breaks to corporations to encourage them to do it. I mean by financing it ourselves, even if we had give up a ship here or a plane there or cut back on rebates for oil companies or tax breaks for billionaire realtors and bankers.

Jobs for real people - I might have considered that he was serious about "fighting for us".

And even now, after health care flopped, the next plan is tax reform. Like the Republican version of the American Health Care Act, tax reform will also benefit primarily the rich.

He brags about United Technology agreeing to move only 1000 jobs out of Indianapolis instead of 1,700 they'd originally slated for lay-off but they are in the process right now of closing their Huntington plant which is another 700 jobs. And Ford and others say their future plans for America were already in the works though Trump is taking the credit. Meantime, he puts a hiring freeze on federal employees, which incidentally, those are jobs too.

I've always thought I'd like to have a real conversation with a Trump supporter. Someone who would actually discuss our different political views. I would ask them what Trump and the Republicans have done so far to assure them that they are fighting for us. Trump's very first executive order raised the amount regular people pay on their mortgages. They've done away with regulations that mandated how much industry could pollute our waterways. They want to end the Endangered Species Act. They passed a law allowing hunters (I hesitate to even call them hunters, which is a name that implies some honor) to kill hibernating bears and gas mother bears and wolves and their cubs in their dens. They want to privatize some of our federally owned lands to open it up to drilling and mining and fracking. They approved both the Keystone and Dakota pipelines against the will of the people who actually live in those areas and fear for their clean water. The saving grace was to be a law that said the pipelines must be made of American steel but, of course, they've withdrawn that order. They've rescinded the regulation that says our employers must pay us overtime. They are adamantly opposed to increasing the minimum wage. They passed legislation that will allow our internet providers to sell every bit of information they have about us. They passed a law that says investment bankers no longer have to work "in the best interest of their customers". These are just things I remember off the top of my head. I'm sure I'm forgetting some important ones.

I'd ask my Trump friend - did you truly believe we'd have a wall and that Mexico would pay for it? I always thought that sounded absurd. And if you wanted illegal immigrants from coming to our country, why wouldn't they start with employers, which is the weakest link in the immigration chain? No jobs, no immigrants. Wouldn't that be cheaper and more humane than dragging people off as they took their kids to school or opened their businesses?

Did you really think their rushed Muslim ban was well thought out? Do we really make America safer by leaving students and grandmothers and sick babies stranded at airports? Are we safer because Muhammed Ali's son was interrogated at the airport....twice....simply because of his name?

I might have started to have a little faith in Trump if he'd appointed people to his cabinet who seemed eager to help their agencies become more responsive and more efficient. Instead he put a bunch of rich foxes in charge of the henhouse. An EPA Director who doesn't believe in climate change. An Education Secretary who doesn't believe in public education. A HHS Director who doesn't believe in health care, especially in the form of Medicare or Medicaid. An Energy Secretary who doesn't believe in energy policy. A HUD Secretary who knows jack shit about public housing. And I think he's up to seven former CEOs of Golden Sachs (the very people he used to call the "global cabal"). There may be others by now. He's barely begun to fill the jobs it takes to run these agencies. Who needs'em? We have too many people already.

If you're interested in seeing what cuts Trump has in his proposed budget to see if you agree with them, here is a list.

Instead of experienced people, America is being managed by Steve Bannon, Jared Kushner (Trump's son-in-law) who  seems to have a finger in every presidential pie, and of course, Ivanka, who will be her father's "eyes and ears" in the West Wing (which I would take to be a little creepy if I worked in the West Wing).

So tell me, Trumpie friend, just out of curiosity, what have he and Republicans done for you lately?

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Lead Me To The Low Road

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As a Democrat here's what I wish that my fellow Democrats would do -  simply refuse to be involved with the Gorsuch hearings in any way. I wish they'd register their rejection of this theft of a Supreme Court seat by walking out, denying the process their cooperation and their votes. The Republicans have the power to confirm Judge Gorsuch and undoubtedly they will, but at least there would always be an asterisk beside his name due to being given a stolen seat despite the disapproval of the Democrats.

I have nothing personal against Gorsuch and I never have would never have recommended such a strategy two years ago. I doubt I'd agree with the Judge on many issues but I always believed that our constitution gives a president has the responsibility for nominating SCOTUS justices while in office, even ones who aren't my personal cup of tea.

But then, Antonin Scalia died and the Republicans engaged in an astoundingly egregious display of dishonest partisanship regarding President Obama's nomination of Merrick Garland for the Court. They could have simply voted him down. They had the votes but instead, they took it to the nth degree of insult by refusing to conduct hearings or even interview him.

Mitch McConnell simply stated that Obama would not be allowed his constitutional privilege in his last year in office. In fact, he took it further by suggesting that if Hillary Clinton won the presidency, they would hold the seat open for four years! Only a Republican, I guess, in Republican eyes, would ever be allowed to choose new justices for the SCOTUS bench.

Now the tables have turned. McConnell intones in that irritatingly unctuous manner he has that the Democrats must stop stonewalling and get with the program of confirming Gorsuch. The Supreme Court needs that ninth justice (unlike the entirety of Obama's last year). Judge Gorsuch, McConnell tells us was overwhelmingly approved when he was nominated as judge - as was Garland. He is extremely highly thought of among his peers - as was Garland. Gorsuch is an good and honorable man - as was Garland. Garland's integrity and honor didn't cut any ice with Old Mitch when the shoe was on the other foot but now, Democrats need to be bipartisan good citizens and confirm Trump's choice. Uh huh.

Michelle Obama said, "when they go low, we go high". It's an honorable philosophy but we've seen how well that technique worked, haven't we? Those who took the low road seemed to always reach the finish line first. While they leveled howitzers at us, we tried to defend ourselves with squirt guns. Not very effective.

So where's that path down to the low road. I'm ready to take it all the way to the end.