Author: Louie

A free-lance writer from Central Pennsylvania, I'm an avid outdoorsman who loves hiking, hunting, reading, and politics.

On Children in Cages… Let’s Take a Deep Breath

The debate surrounding the separation of children from their parents after being detained at the border is really starting to wear on me.

It’s not that a third of the people in my social media feeds, TWO thirds of the cable news networks I see on TV, and even my own local newspaper are relentlessly accusing me of being the moral equivalent of a Nazi sympathizer just for being a conservative. Frankly, it doesn’t even register anymore, because the progressive left has been accusing literally anyone slightly to the right of them of being Nazis for so long that the accusation has lost all meaning and significance.

It’s that the vitriol, spite and sheer disgust infused in this particular round of artificially induced outrage is dangerously hyperbolic, harmfully misdirected, and ultimately disingenuous… and yet its participants are claiming the supreme moral and philosophical high ground while sincerely accusing anyone who disagrees with them of facilitating a second holocaust. (Which, again, would be deeply offensive if we weren’t already inured to being called goosestepping thugs literally every time we dare to commit the high crime of espousing a basic conservative, classically liberal, or traditionally religious viewpoint.)

It may sound like an exaggeration, but I’m just going to keep gesturing wildly to HuffPo, Slate, Salon, NPR, CNN, MSNBC, and the freaking NEW YORK TIMES… and the countless stories they’ve run doing just that. Quite frankly, the idea that espousing a conservative mindset or supporting basic immigration control policy that even Barack Obama supported as recently as the previous decade, qualifies one as a bigot is a disturbing chill on political discourse, and yet it’s become the norm: Each new thing the Republican party does is new WORST THING EVER, AND ANYONE WHO DOES NOTHING TO STOP THEM IS COMPLICIT.  And so both sides soon start to think “What’s the point of even talking anymore?”

Some people are going to feel understandably offended that the very real passion they feel for this issue is being labeled as “artificially induced.”

But it’s exactly that. Not on a personal level, but a societal one. The idea of a child being torn from the arms of a mother is a jarring image, a heart-wrenching event, a horrifying prospect, and a court-mandated function of our Federal legal system that saw exactly zero mass demonstrations (either online or in the streets) until the wrestling tag-team duo of Donald “Cheeto” Trump and Jeff “Devil Lettuce” Sessions appeared in the political ring with a folding chair.

These practices, and the pictures of them, have existed for YEARS without this public outcry. In fact multiple retractions had to be issued after news outlets posted a picture of a detainment center that was taken during the OBAMA administration. It’s simple, standard procedure: If you break into a house and bring your kid along to watch, you will be separated from your child when you’re “detained.” Moreover, the reason ICE cannot detain children with their families is something called the Flores Consent Decree from nineties, which was broadened and enforced by the Ninth Circuit Court.

Even the “staggering number” of these cases isn’t new.

What IS new is the sudden, dramatic increase in people turning to claims of asylum after being caught, and people don’t understand that this is actually EXACERBATING the detention problem. Read the governments overview of how asylum application works, and more importantly, the differences between Affirmative and Defensive application:

  • The quickest, easiest, and safest way to gain asylum to the United States is, in a shocking twist, to arrive here legally, at a port of entry, fill out the proper paperwork, go through an interview process, and enjoy your stay until your appointed hearing, when your asylum eligibility will be verified.
  • However, if someone is caught crossing the border ILLEGALLY, and they only claim asylum AFTER they are caught and threatened with deportation, then they need to prove their case as part of their criminal defense, because the fact that they did not claim asylum in any other nation, or claim it at a proper port of entry, makes their claim suspect, and a judge has to make the final call.

In the case of the former, Coyotes started advertising this as a guaranteed method to enter the country, and encouraged migrants to bring their children along for emphasis, coaching them just enough to gain entry. Under old regulations, the centers would not detain them, but the refugee would have to report back on a specific date, and if their asylum claim was found to be frivolous (of which nearly 90% are), they would be deported. So they would just skip their court date and never show up, becoming fugitives. The number of people entering the country this way and disappearing has EXPLODED in the past three years alone, even though violence in Central America has been raging for nearly a decade.
In the case of the latter, well, the number of families and children crossing the border illegally has QUADRUPLED, and most are claiming asylum after they are caught as well, trending towards the record highs seen back in 2014 with the expansion of DACA to illegal immigrants.

And so, with a dramatic overflow of DEFENSIVE asylum requests and the massive backlog of AFFIRMATIVE asylum requests that have failed to appear, the Department of Justice is now holding people until their hearings along with the people already being held, because the sheer number of traffic coming over the border is overloading the system.

And in BOTH cases, United States law says children cannot be detained that way.

The Asylum Request procedure may be unpleasant, but it is not the result of meticulous persecution as much as it is the sad byproduct of two decades of legal, judicial, and bureaucratic pileup that’s unable to properly cope with a massive volume of people trying to exploit a legal loophole.


And this usually brings us to what is easily the most frustrating and emotionally-driven stage of the outrage, which inevitably plays out something like this:

“THEN THE LAW IS WRONG! We’re criminalizing people for a victimless crime! We need to CHANGE the laws! How can YOU, who CLAIMS to be a Christian, support this CLEARLY MORALLY EGREGIOUS state of affairs! This isn’t what Christ would have wanted! It’s monstrous! And if you’re not outraged, then you must be monstrous as well!”

Ok, pump the brakes.

First of all, arguing that illegal entry to a country is a victimless crime is arguable at best, and in this case, it’s not a moment of libertarian enlightenment. It’s actually some pretty grim foreshadowing.

SECOND of all.. I’m old enough to remember five days ago, when the Supreme Court’s Masterpiece Cakeshop decision was a travesty; a horrific violation of the separation of Church and State by siding with that despicable baker man for having “RELIGIOUS beliefs.”
In fact, I’m old enough to remember five minutes ago, when we were all busy browbeating Jeff Sessions and Sarah Huckabee Sanders for using the Bible to justify upholding the rule of the law, because that’s what the SLAVE OWNERS did a hundred and fifty years ago.
Let’s ignore the fallacy of deciding that if something is used incorrectly to justify something bad, that everything else it’s used to justify is bad as well. Let’s also ignore the hypocrisy of then using that same thing to justify your own politics instead.

Because as a Christian, I actually agree; the laws need to be changed.

Our current system is NOT optimized to handle such a volume of people trying to either honestly claim asylum, or people who are hoping to exploit it and roll the dice on overloading the system. We need an overhaul of the laws, rulings, and procedures for the detention process and detention centers because we absolutely should allow families to be humanely detained together, and then admitted or deported together.

Because that’s how sovereign nations with laws and borders are supposed to work.

The fact that the current detention process is broken is not proof that it needs to be obliterated. Instead, it demonstrates the need to reform and update it so that migrants can be processed efficiently, comfortably, and fairly.

And that’s where the agreement usually breaks down: Even though separating children from their families is ostensibly the problem, that proposed solution tends to MAGICALLY result in the goalposts of the issue shifting dramatically. Suddenly, NO ONE should be detained, because entering the country illegally shouldn’t be a crime, and detaining a family together is suddenly just as bad as detaining them separately. We concede that families should not be separated, and to our surprise, we are still accused of being tiki-torchbearers.

We get lost down a rabbit-hole of open-border arguments and discussions about the philosophy of unrestricted movement. And this is why so many conservatives don’t even want to engage the issue, because they see the bait-and-switch coming and they are tired of being called to account for a grievance they didn’t start, only to be clubbed over the head with a highly debatable political philosophy they don’t agree with. Even in Congress, where every Republican suggestion to fix the issue is met with Chuck Schumer reading his decline slowly and dramatically into a news camera for an entirely new set of reasons.

If the child separation issue is something you legitimately want to solve, then call your congressman or senator, and encourage them to work across the aisle to get rid of outdated restrictions and budget the money we need to improve security and processing capabilities at the border so families won’t be stuck in legal limbo.

Or just keep virtue-signalling on social media.

Yup. That picture was fake too.

~ Louis Petolicchio lives and writes in Central Pennsylvania, where he’s patiently waiting for the WWE to call about the rights to his “Cheeto and Devil’s Lettuce” tag-team idea. Follow him on Twitter!



Yes. Antifa is just as bad for America as White Supremacy

When Antifa fights the Alt-Right, we all lose.

For all the love people have given Antifa recently, they and the alt-right are absolutely, equally, and completely terrible.


Something that the media-driven circus fight has made everyone forget.

Make no bones about it: Nazis are straight-up evil. Ideologically, politically, morally, and spiritually evil.

This first part is just for Republicans/Conservatives/Libertarians, because, frankly, the left doesn’t care what we do or say about Nazis. Their minds are already made up. This just for our own good health.
In spite of reports and arguments to the contrary, I think the rally in Charlottesville was primarily a gathering of white supremacists and/or a ploy to force non-racists under their umbrella by association. It was so evident from the organizational phase alone, that controversial media figure Gavin McInnis, a proudly transgressive foe of political correctness, refused to go.
Moreover, I’m of the opinion that Donald Trump was absolutely wrong in not specifically calling out the white nationalists as evil right off the bat, and I think he absolutely compounded his error with his subsequent comments.

Nazism and white supremacism have crept into our party, our movements, our political house, and we need to evict them with extreme prejudice because they are antithetical to our worldviews; supporting centralized governments to suppress free speech, thought, and entire races of people.
For those actually familiar with conservatism: GUYS. These are literally the same knuckleheads that Buckley chased OUT of our temple back in the SIXTIES. What possessed you to let them back IN??


Enjoying Pepe memes and sticking a metaphorical finger in the eye of political correctness doesn’t make you a “white nationalist,” and merely being “anti-SJW” doesn’t make the White Nationalists conservative allies.
Enjoy watching Return of the Jedi? So did Jeffery Dahmer. That doesn’t make you a serial killer any more than it makes him your friend.

Their movement is hateful, they have no problem with violent protest, and they want a resurgence of a society that slaughtered millions of people.
Everyone has a right to speak, but NOT harass, intimidate, brutalize and murder their fellow citizens.
As long as we are a nation where we can change laws and policy at a voting booth, there is no excuse for that kind of behavior, and it needs to be punished.

So with that in mind, how can one possibly equate leftist groups like Antifa with human debris like the violent sections of the Alt-Right? It’s pretty simple:

1:Antifa, and the radical left in general, is JUST as violent as the Alt-right.
2: Their violence is giving LEGITIMACY to the Alt-Right.
3: Their core philosophy, in spite of the rainbow-colored, “friendship is magic” veneer their rhetoric has, is just as TOXIC as the Alt-Right.


“Gulags are no fun unless you share them with EVERYONE!”


1: The violence perpetrated by Antifa is not just MORE extreme and extensive than the Alt-Right, it actually PREDATES the violence from the alt-right.

Don’t kid yourselves. The “anti-fascist resistance” black blocs started breaking windows and faces long before the “alt-right” did; gleefully throwing punches and starting dumpster fires while Richard Spencer was still whining into his webcam about “white genocide.”
And it’s off the proverbial chain.

They suppress free speech on campuses by heckling, rioting, and attacking not just speakers they disagree with… but their own liberal professors who dared to so much as talk to those guilty of thought-crime. They routinely harass, intimidate, and physically brutalize their fellow citizens.  They ran down and beat people who disagreed with them or who voted for the wrong candidate. They livestreamed themselves doing it. They bragged about their violence on social media. They attacked people with bricks in tote bags, sticks, rebar, and box cutters. They beat REPORTERS so badly that it sent them to the hospital… and then stated that they DESERVED it. They maced anyone wearing a MAGA hat.. and even one of their own when he lost his mask and they thought he was on the other side. They nearly beat someone to death with a bike lock. They started fires, smashed windows, and ripped up buildings to prevent events they disapproved of from taking place, and physically assaulted anyone trying to attend.

They stabbed… a freaking… horse.

NONE of these were the “Nazi” gatherings they supposedly formed to protect us from. They were literally just presentations or peaceful demonstrations (usually hosted by conservatives, libertarians, or Republicans) that Antifa did not like.

When their “fascist” foes failed to actually manifest, Antifa settled for declaring anyone who disagreed with them to be a fascist, justifying their mindless rampages.


They are brutalizing people with a ridiculous level of mob violence, and mayors and university presidents are letting them do it. They give the police and security orders NOT to intervene, and eventually started to do Antifa’s work for them, by trying to bar speakers and events the black bloc had blacklisted.

And in light of the horror in Charlottesville, the smug response from the left, instead of condemning these jackbooted thugs who are using surprisingly fascist tactics to “resist fascism” is usually something along the lines of:



No, it’s true. While figures loosely associated with the Black Lives Matter protest have actually killed a number of people, including police officers, Antifa and the rest of the radical left have not killed anyone like that white supremacist did.

BUT it hasn’t been for lack of trying. (And I’m not talking about just beating someone in the head with a chunk of metal; their preferred method of “dialogue.”)

Meet James Hodgkinson, someone who apparently fell into the public’s memory-hole the second he didn’t fit the narrative:


He was just your average, left-wing, progressive activist, who wanted free healthcare, voted for Bernie Sanders… and opened fire on a group of Republicans practicing for a charity baseball game, almost killing Representative Steve Scalise. All of this was done for explicitly political reasons. The only reason no victims died was because of the miracle of modern medicine, and the fact that Hodgkinson was killed during a ten-minute shootout with Capitol Police before he could finish the job.

In short, their tactics are EXACTLY the same and their extent of violence is actually worse than the Neo Nazis. They aren’t just “counter protesting.” They are intentionally attacking people in a violent and premeditated fashion.


2: The barbarous behavior and mental gymnastics of both Antifa and the radical left are just normalizing and legitimizing the Alt-Right.

They normalize the alt-right when they spend the last two decades shrieking that anyone who disagrees with them is a fascist, pretty much destroying any meaning the word had.

They legitimize the alt-right when they accuse everyone from Rand Paul to Ted Cruz, to Mitt Freaking Romney (who is about as offensive as a cork-board) of being far-right, white supremacists.

They completely destroy their credibility as crypto-Nazis exposers when they accuse Dave Rubin, who is literally a gay Jewish man, of being a Nazi.

rubin tweet

Both Neo-Nazis and the radical Alt-Right expand their tent by finding otherwise reasonable people and saying “See? We both like Return of the Jedi. We’re on the same side.”
The Radical Left responds to this recruiting tactic by finding those same otherwise reasonable people and and shrieking “SEE? YOU BOTH LIKE RETURN OF THE JEDI! YOU’RE ON THE SAME SIDE!”

The Alt-right is literally just pointing at the Radical Left and saying “Look. They want to destroy your culture. They want to destroy everything. We can stop that.”
The Radical Left immediately debunks this simplistic, fallacious argument… by proposing that we blow up Mount Rushmore. Because White Supremacy.

So why is this such a problem? Mostly because the LAST time Antifa did this, around 80+ years ago, we wound up with Nazi Germany.
What am I talking about? Well, buckle-up, buttercup, because we’re about to embark on an unpleasant lesson in history and morality.


I am ready for unpleasant things!

The case is made that even IF Antifa’s violent methods are as bad as the Alt-Right, it’s justified by the nobility of their cause.
It’s where all those incredibly ignorant, offensive, and intellectually dishonest memes comparing the Black Bloc to the Invasion of Normandy came from.


The fact is, Antifa is the embodiment of a toxic, destructive ideology that is as every bit as horrific as Nazi Fascism.

They aren’t the cure to the cancer of white supremacy, and they DEFINITELY aren’t fighting Nazism on the beaches of France. They’re brawling in the streets of Weimar Germany, telling themselves that no amount of collateral damage matters as long as it’s for the greater good.
Just like Goebbels did.

They are literally the para-military arm of radical communism.

“Antifa” isn’t just short for “Anti-Fascist.” It stands for “Antifaschistische Aktion,” a far left group of radical communists who struggled for power in Germany in the early 1930s with Nazi street thugs. They lost the fight, driving both the ruling political leadership and general populace into Hitler’s arms, but were revived in the 1980s with all of the same principles, gusto, and deep love of mob violence.




Somehow, down through the years, we’ve kept our deep-seated and completely valid aversion to Nazism, but we’ve given Communism a free pass, because “their hearts were in the right place.”

This is where morality of thought and morality of action come into play: What someone thinks/says, and what someone actually does.

Nazis believed in strict public order, forming strong fascist governments, and exterminating all the racially impure and “traitorous” elements in their grasp to ensure that government’s strength.
So the Nazis established totalitarian governments, subsidized the press, suppressed free speech, and imprisoned or executed their political enemies. And in what has been rightfully burned into our brains as one of the most horrific atrocities in modern history, began to systematically exterminate over nine MILLION people just because of who their parents were.

Communists believed in removing the ruling class, returning the means of production to the people, equality of outcome for all, strong socialist governments, and the purging of political dissidents for the safety of “the people.”
So the Communists established totalitarian governments, subsidized the press, suppressed free speech, and imprisoned or executed their political enemies.

Oh, and they systematically exterminated somewhere in the neighborhood of one HUNDRED and fifty million people. Highlights include:

Even if you decide that the “motivation” for their deaths are better than the Nazis, it doesn’t make them any less dead. These were not people killed in some lunatic plan of racial purity. They were killed strictly out of convenience. Killed merely to trim down overpopulation. Killed out of necessity to preserve the unquestioned power of the party.

Killed for simply thinking the wrong things.

When Antifa protestors show up waving the hammer and sickle, or even banners with their logo on it, THAT is the legacy they are intentionally taking up. A legacy that has not only killed MILLIONS of human beings, but killed them for some of the worst reasons.

“Well those don’t count because that wasn’t real Communism. They weren’t doing it right. It’ll be different this time.”
Guess what? Richard Spencer and company is saying the exact same thing about White Nationalism. Do you believe THEM?


Antifa and the radical left don’t discriminate based on skin tone or ethnic background. They discriminate based on ideas. If you have the wrong ideas, you will be physically hurt until you recant or die.

Yes, Nazism and White Supremacy are 100% the wrong ideas. Good thing that’s the only thing Antifa is fighting, right?


Congrats! If you, like the overwhelming majority of moderates in America, fall into one of those categories or believe in the basic law of the land, you’ve got an appointment with a bike-lock-swinging protestor!




Also, according to protestors, you’re now an honorary Nazi! How does it feel?

I will fully acknowledge that there are perfectly decent people, laypeople and clergy alike, who also counter-protest these Neo-Nazi scum.
As should we all.
However, I’m having a hard time believing it was a group of socially-aware vicars charging White Nationalists demonstrators, wielding pipes and chains and swinging hands.
And it’s not the priests and rabbis, but the antagonistic radicals like Antifa that the media and alleged-academics alike are joyfully encouraging to continue this uncontrolled, misdirected form of mob justice; openly cheering for extra-judicial street gangs to hunt down and bludgeon people they don’t like.

People ask why I refuse to condemn one without condemning the other.
Because the Antifa protestors are using the exact same tactics, with higher levels of violence, to push an ideology that’s just as bad for the country as the Neo Nazis.

Refusing to call out this abysmal behavior from the left is every bit as morally reprehensible as refusing to call out the Nazis in the Alt-Right.



So don’t ask me to pick a side in this ugly brawl of equally bloodthirsty, totalitarian ideals. They’re both just groups of rabid animals, slowly shoving America down the path of the Weimar Republic as the media hungrily fans the flames for more ratings.

BOTH parties have a lot of soul searching to do, and all the moral posturing and peacocking in the world won’t change the fact that there is a rotten canker lurking at the heart of the progressive movement that is every bit as dangerous as Nazism.

And if we can’t figure this out, forget it. I’m moving to Poland. They seem to be the only ones in the world that know what’s up anymore.



~ Louis Petolicchio lives and writes in Central Pennsylvania, where he staunchly opposes both Fascism and Communism, which somehow became a minority viewpoint within the last six months. Follow him on Twitter!

Outrage Over Cut Funding to Meals on Wheels is Stupid

Your indignant fury over the possible elimination of the 4% contribution the government provides to budget for Meals on Wheels is both objectively overwrought and dumb.
Pictured: The aftermath of Donald Trump’s previous attempt to destroy aid for retirees.
Unless you’ve deleted your Facebook/Twitter/Instagram account, you’ve probably heard about Donald and Melania Trump’s attempt to single-handedly crash Meals on Wheels into a brick wall of budget cuts and hasten the demise of the elderly, infirm, and poor… Most likely as part of their diabolical plan to finally clear those deadbeats out of their low-income housing so Trump can build more casinos.
(In the unlikely event that someone from CNN is reading this and is debating whether or not to use it as an “anonymous source,” that was sarcasm.)
 However, if your first reaction to this news was to immediately share an article or image declaring how we could fund Meals on Wheels for a thousand years if only Melania would just stop buying solid-gold flatware for about five seconds, then you’re part of the problem. It’s easy to feel angry when you see the extravagant lifestyle the first family lives while simultaneously hearing about how innocent charities are getting their shoe-string budgets slashed by Washington, but is this how we fix the it?
Don’t get me wrong: The idea of Donald Trump sucking at the teat of the American tax-payer for his own personal pleasure is a mental image that is deeply disturbing for a whole shopping basket full of reasons. The PROBLEM is that the entire argument being made by this fabricated hub-bub is grounded solely in that mental image; built exclusively on the fact that at least 1/3 of the populace and 3/3 of the media are convinced that the Trumps are stealing everyone’s gold and hoarding it in a cave beneath New York City like a family of gaudy dragons.
“Tonight on Rachel Maddow…”
Unfortunately, when it’s framed in those terms, that outrage is completely misdirected, fallaciously over-exaggerated, and ultimately very silly, and I think you need to rephrase or rethink why you care. The whole affair has become a glorious exercise in misdirection, bias confirmation, and psychological projection. That’s a pretty heavy accusation, but let’s cover some things real quick:
1: This Was Never About Meals on Wheels.
This was never about Meals on Wheels for the media, it definitely was never about Meals on Wheels for the Democrats, and, in all honestly, was probably not really about Meals on Wheels for you either.
This whole thing started because the President’s proposed budget has a veritable army of belt-tightening cuts for a large swathe of agencies, organizations, and non-profits, almost each and every one of which has SOMEONE throwing apoplectic fits. It’s sparked hot debates about whether or not the federal government should be subsidizing non-profits, steering the direction of culture, or micro-managing education to begin with. The progressive left doesn’t like having these arguments, both because these arguments are hard and because the idea of Trump controlling art, charities, and schools creates a lot of cognitive dissonance. However, they can’t say they want to keep increasing federal power creep to pave the way for Hillary’s 2020 come-back, so instead they roll out what is literally one of the most sympathetic and inoffensive charities of all time: Meals on Wheels.
Suddenly, we have a completely different narrative. Innocent charity workers, busily baking healthy meals for the elderly, when an evil billionaire breaks down their door with a fire ax and tells them he’s cutting the power and repossessing all their ovens to use in his upscale steakhouse? This has gone from a debate over federal subsidies to something that’s two celebrity guest stars away from being a late 80’s television special.
But the real kicker?
2: Meals on Wheels Isn’t Even Directly Funded by the Government
No, seriously. Meals on Wheels doesn’t receive direct funding from the federal government, and their INDIRECT funding, as dispersed by local municipalities with money from the federal Older Americans Act along with any NON-federal funding provided by the state, accounts for less than THREE PERCENT of their yearly budget.
It’s the proportional equivalent of what you spend on a couple of candy bars during your weekly pilgrimage to the grocery store, and not even all of it comes from Washington.
And that’s just the national average. In some areas, it barely breaks 1% of the local chapter’s annual funding.
Some estimates place the federal government’s annual contributions to Meals on Wheels is right around a quarter of a million dollars. That’s not a lot of money by federal standards, right? So why can’t Donald just skip one of his exotic golfing trips and just give money to the poor already?
Donald Trump - Celebrity Style
Eat your heart out, starving old people. Real Men Have Curves.
3: Sorry. This Has Nothing To Do With Presidential Spending Either.
Everyone, left AND right, is desperate to paint the Trump family as this money pit of ostentatious spending… including the Donald himself, who seems to be weirdly committed to his public image as a cartoon rich person come to life.
Unfortunately, the sad fact of the matter is that lavish spending by the First Family has become the modern norm, regardless of party affiliation.
And you know what? It’s a legitimate problem. It’s a problem for the First Family, and for politicians in general.
HOWEVER, we’re lying to ourselves if we’re pretending that this is an issue that we’re only just noticing now.
If you’re having an aneurysm because Melania Trump doesn’t want to move into the White House (or whatever costly activity that Vox and Salon’s Facebook pages say she needs to give up), but had absolutely nothing to say when Michelle Obama took a government jet to go dress shopping, then your sincerity is in question. Conversely, if you spent eight years ripping Obama for golfing on weekends, and are now rabidly defending the Donald for doing the same thing, your sincerity is in question.
For or against, or somewhere in between, we need to treat presidential spending equally. And we need to stop pretending that limiting some random aspect of the First Family’s leisure expense is a realistic solution to whatever line-item we support in the budget.
4: Governments Shouldn’t Subsidize Charities.
It’s the job of the general public.
I fundamentally dislike the idea of the government sponsoring, financially supporting, or subsidizing charities and non-profits; especially ones that were never explicitly tied to government programs. I believe that people need to be intentional and proactive in their efforts to support their communities, rather than lazily waving their hand at the IRS saying “You take care of it.”
It’s the fundamental difference between liberalism and conservatism in the United States: The State handling all matters of charity vs. the people handling it.
First of all, I am a lot more comfortable and confident in personally deciding which non-profit causes I want to support with my finances than I am in Uncle Sam’s ability to do so. Second, there is something deeply unsettling about giving the government carte blanche permission to pick winners and losers among a WIDE field of charities, some of which I may support and some of which I may oppose, and then raise all of our taxes to force us to pay for them regardless of personal opinion.
This isn’t a crazed, libertarian screed against social policies writ large. It’s a concern over an unnecessary government mandate regarding an area of life that does perfectly fine on its own. Frankly, in an age of interminable national debt, it’s a discussion economists think we should be having about a lot of things. Over 90% of funding for Meals on Wheels America comes from corporations, trust funds, and private citizens. So why is Washington’s lowered involvement even a concern?
“Here. Let me ‘Donate’ that for you.”
5: Meals on Wheels is a Charity. Which Means It Can Be Supported by People Like You.
Now, statistics say the odds are pretty low that you have ever personally interacted with the official Meals on Wheels America organization. Frankly, the odds are still kind of low that you’re actively involved with whatever your local equivalent organization is.
My generation, the Millennial Generation, is supposedly the most “civic minded” and “socially aware” generation born in the twentieth century. And we are frothing at the mouth because the federal government is refusing to cut back on luxuries in order to do our charity work for us.
Maybe it’s time we actually stepped into the shoes that all those overly-smug sociologists keep handing to us. Instead of just running our mouths about wanting the Trumps to just commit seppuku while signing a “Fund all charities 4ever plz” bill, we could actually do something about it.
Do you know how much money we could raise? Go look at the last Facebook post ranting about how Trump is personally gunning down the last survivors of his Meals on Wheels massacre, and look at the number of likes and shares.
If every one of those people gave up their daily Starbucks and donated it to Meals on Wheels America, we would outstrip the government’s yearly contribution in a MONTH.
Seriously. Just this post from The Week. Around 3,500 people. $4 a day. 30 days.
That’s over four-hundred grand.
No matter how many vapid “#CoffeeAddict” tags you add to your Instagram picture of your morning pick-me-up, it’s still a luxury. You don’t need it any more than Donald needs to golf.
“Take THAT, China!”
And guess what?
People are already doing it.
Reports say that Meals on Wheels has been receiving up to FIFTY TIMES its usual amount of donations since this debacle began.
So WHY doe we need to government to raise taxes, filter money through layers of bureaucracy, and lose an astonishing amount along the way, when we can LITERALLY GET THE JOB DONE FROM OUR PHONES? You don’t even have to leave your couch.
THIS is why the outrage is stupid: It was fabricated out of nothing, to cover a funding issue the government doesn’t even need to be involved in, because most of the people sharing the Facebook memes are too lazy to fix the problem themselves.
If you’re a progressive, and you hate the Trump’s lavish luxury spending when you think they should be helping vets and disabled people get hot food, then put your money where your mouth is, and donate your coffee cash to Meals on Wheels. If you’re a conservative, and you hate government spending and think the private sector can handle it, then put your money where your mouth is, and donate your coffee cash to Meals on Wheels.
This isn’t Trump’s problem. This isn’t the government’s problem. It’s our problem.
Still angry about Meals on Wheels? Skip Starbucks. Use a K-Cup. Donate to charity.
 *   *   *   *
 ~ Louis Petolicchio lives and writes in Central Pennsylvania. He has been actively organizing a company of adventurers to steal back his gold from Trump Mountain, but is still seeking a good burglar. Follow him on Twitter!

If the 2016 Presidential Candidates Were Video Game Companies

Whenever politicians try and meddle in video games, the result is always awful. However, video games apparently make for some hilarious politicians. So here’s the 2016 presidential candidates… and their uncanny digital entertainment doppelgangers:

<> the Fox Business Network Republican presidential debate at the North Charleston Coliseum and Performing Arts Center on January 14, 2016 in North Charleston, South Carolina. The sixth Republican debate is held in two parts, one main debate for the top seven candidates, and another for three other candidates lower in the current polls.


Donald Trump: Electronic Arts


I mean, was there any other possible option? A massive, well known corporate entity, they are almost universally reviled by everyone who comes into contact with them professionally, but still inexplicably successfully and popular despite employing some of the worst business practices in their industry.  They don’t have their own platform, piggy-backing on everyone and anyone else’s, making it their own. They haven’t developed anything unique or worthwhile in forever, instead relying on incessantly releasing newer and crappier titles for ideas that have been around for over a decade.

Mindless entertainment, sports, fast cars, and allegations of racism are their bread and butter; the cornerstones to their business models. The irony is that they also tend to pop up the champion of random, surprisingly progressive causes. They have a fetish with buying up as many subsidiaries as possible, slapping their own logo on them, and forcing loyal fans of those franchises to come crawling back and play by their rules if they want to play those titles again. This is second only to their obsession with making other people pay for things, preferably more than once. They’ll try to straight up copy popular client efforts from their competition, but the result just feels creepy, artificial, and super orange. Consistently rated as the “Worst in America,” they still remain an unstoppable juggernaut in their field, and they have enough leverage to completely rewrite the rules as they see fit.


Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio: Sony and Microsoft


Known for their industry leading platforms, they’ve become the benchmark for presentation, as well as continuing to develop and produce ideas of their own. Currently engaged in a massive arms race and rivalry, the deep, dark, secret that their fanboys will never confess is that the two entities have a LOT more similarities than differences. While each one jealously holds on to a few exclusive titles, the vast majority of the stuff they present is available  cross-platform. Not to mention their mutually annoying habit of backtracking or revamping their public statements if the public opinion doesn’t react well to it.
Yeah, their controls are a bit different, and they have generally different personalities and tones to their message, but, at the end of the day, they still wind up feeling like two sides of the same coin. Except for security. They have WILDLY different ideas about security, and it shows.

Pundits spend an uncomfortable amount of time speculating what would happen if the two ever put aside their differences and joined forces, but the only thing more similar that their ideas and platforms is the size of their egos, and unless one of them suffered a sudden, crushing defeat, it’s doubtful we’ll see them team-up anytime soon.

sony-vs-microsoft“TO THE DEATH!!!”

(Which is which? I’d say that Ted Cruz is Sony because he generally has much a much more relaxed and free-wheeling approach to national security and personal privacy… and because of the Trump-ed up rumors that he’s secretly a foreigner plotting to brainwash children with Canadian thoughts. Rubio is Microsoft just because he’s so uptight about privacy, trade, and security issues…and Microsoft is younger than Sony.)


John Kasich: Ubisoft


They will literally never stop reminding you of how open-minded, moderate, and reasonable they are. Ever. (Seriously. The beginning of EVERY. SINGLE. ONE of the Assassin’s Creed games. That splash screen talking about how the development team is so diverse and chill and stuff.) While they were hot stuff about five or ten years ago, now they spend most of their time just releasing mindless sequels to their various franchises and titles, not really developing anything of significance in recent memory. Nevertheless, they waste no effort reminding you of how potentially important they are and how groundbreaking those ideas were way back in the day when they first came up with them. They also have a deep love of rewriting history, sometimes for the sake of entertainment and sometimes for the sake of hiding poor voting decisions.

The irony is that in spite of ceaselessly trying to cultivate an aura of cosmopolitan inclusiveness, they are wracked by accusations of sexism and general hostility towards feminism, even though the reality is probably very different. The accusations are usually fairly petty, but quickly explode to massive proportions, and although both can claim to be generally far ahead of their competitors when it comes to women’s issues, they still get hit the hardest. They desperately want to be number one, but have to be content with being number four.


Ben Carson: Nintendo


A well-known social fixture since the 80s and generally loved by everyone, you just can’t stay mad at them. Their most recent endeavors have pretty much flopped, but that can’t overshadow the massive legacies they’ve built for themselves or their irrepressibly positive outlook on the world and their chances of success in it. No matter how hard they face-planted, they’ve just kept trucking; not so much marching to the beat of their own drum as grooving along to a funk bass-solo that only they can hear.
They don’t take obvious hints to cease doing something, and you always get the impression that they know something you don’t. Sometimes this works out for them, and sometimes it doesn’t.

They’ve definitely produced a few titles and platforms that are widely viewed as “unusual” at best and “downright bizarre” at worst, but that hasn’t stopped them from owning it. Like Trump/EA, they’re often accused to appealing to the lowest common denominator and refusing to play by the rules. However, like Trump/EA, they have enough of a sphere of influence outside the current fracas that they just don’t care.

The BIG difference between the two is that people actually have fond memories of Nintendo.


Jeb Bush: Ensemble Studios (R.I.P.)


This one is actually for the Bush Legacy in general because, let’s be honest, Jeb is chained to his family legacy no matter what he does.
Once an incredibly popular developer, they peaked in the early-to-mid 2000’s and then just faded away. As the developer of the popular Age of Empires franchise, they changed the way we view global strategy and colonialism. While by no means original or revolutionary, they simplified and expedited the process.

In general, their mechanics were good and, with a couple exceptions, they produced solid, if not spectacular titles. Their ideas and releases became a legacy and mainstay in conversations about strategy or gaming in general.  They pretty much defined RTS games/the presidency/Florida-Governors for the entire millennial generation, for better or worse.

Unfortunately, they just couldn’t compete with or adapt to newer, bigger, faster, more aggressive developers and just stopped gaining traction. They were very close with Microsoft/Rubio, but were soon left behind by them as well. In spite of what, in theory, should have been impenetrable money-armor, they refused to delay the inevitable and closed up shop.

As the wannabe successor to his father and brother, maybe it would have been more accurate to compare Jeb to Robot Entertainment… except that Robot Entertainment is still functioning.


Hillary Clinton: 3D Realms


They were HUGE in the 90s and early 2000s and completely squandered their comeback in the late 2000’s, but they just refuse to go away. With an aristocratic pedigree of 90’s hits, it’s hard to deny them what they want, but people are just surprised to find out that they’re still around. They’re famous for proposing groundbreaking titles in the 90s, which tended to be a little controversial, but ultimately couldn’t keep pace with their competition… or even effectively manage their own organization. They made a ton of massive, grand promises during the 90’s, and completely failed to deliver on all of them. They had a brief resurgence in a more minor capacity in the early-to-mid 2000’s, but they still continued to squander their money left and right while constantly relying on their former status to keep opening doors for them.

They had their big chance to come back in the late 2000’s and fulfill the tease they had been putting on for over a decade and it not only fell through completely, but they had to sit on the sidelines and watch a young, fresh-faced rival take it from them and actually make it work, and they had to put on a fake smile and pretend to be happy for them. (In case you’re not picking up on it, we’re talking about Obama and healthcare.)

They’re still around, still kicking, and they still have “all these big plans.” We’ll see.
They are also wracked with women’s issues; mostly negative ones. Spending most of the 90’s trying to make excuses for or cover-up the bedroom abuses and indiscretions of their other half, they are now under fire for presenting a cartoonishly stereotypical “strong female hero” as an apology for victim blaming so many abuse victims twenty years ago. In other words, they aren’t gaining traction with anyone who wasn’t already playing their games in the 90s, but that won’t stop them because  “IT’S THEIR TURN!”


Bernie Sanders: Blizzard Entertainment


They’ve been doing the same thing for decades and they’re extremely popular online and with people under the age of 35. (Most of the people over the age of 35 view them with deep suspicion, convinced they’re ruining the next generation.) Hailed by everyone as presenting bold new ideas and concepts, the reality is that nearly everything they’ve produced is borrowed from somewhere else (like Games Workshop). A gaming juggernaut powered primarily by micro-transactions, it’s notable for being one of the biggest developers in the world, while still acting (and fixing bugs) like an outfit running in someone’s basement. Their followers are extremely dedicated, vocal, somewhat socially awkward, and convinced that everything they produce is literally the best.

While they initially had trouble attracting women and POC to join them, their fans are growing very diverse, if not terribly good with economics or long-term perspective. But that’s ok, because neither is the company, making massively grandiose promises about their plan’s abilities that they can’t keep. However, as long as they are focused on doing one type of thing, with a handful of major titles, and they keep doing it well, their fans will never desert them.

Not to mention that they promise to let you play for free…. up until a certain level, after which your money is what’s paying for everyone else’s free time.


What do you think? Agree? Disagree? If it was up you, who would you pair with who and why? Let me know what you think, and don’t forget to vote in your party’s primary, just to tell your grand-kids that you participated in the Reality Show Election of 2016!

~ Louis Petolicchio lives and writes in Central PA, and, personally, he would rather NOT elect the human embodiment of EA to the highest office in the land. Follow him on Twitter!

The President wants an honest, “politicized” conversation about shootings? Fine. Let’s have one.

President Obama, following the campus shooting in Roseburg, Ore, declared that mass shootings ARE something Americans should politicize. Maybe it’s time we indulged his wish.

Less than a full day had passed after the events in Oregon before President Obama was already stumping for gun control in Washington. In one of the more callous, tone-deaf statements he has made this year, he said
“…somebody, somewhere will comment and say, ‘Obama politicized this issue.’ Well, this is something we should politicize. It is relevant to our common life together, to the body politic.”

This isn’t the first time our president and/or his associates have tried to advance a political agenda on the back of a tragedy, and usually the response of the conservative and gun advocacy wings is a call for Washington to stop politicizing people’s pain and suffering.
However, it’s important to realize that, to the majority of American bystanders, who are equally horrified by events like those played out on October 1st, this stance comes off as an equally callous dodge to a very important issue. Average Americans are outraged by mass shootings, and are demanding real, viable answers, and while liberals may be giving vague, smarmy, non-solutions, conservatives give the appearance of trying to avoid the subject completely when they say “we shouldn’t politicize this.”
Additionally, this constant delaying of conversation allows highly partisan opposing voices to control and dominate the discussion; setting up straw men and thoroughly pillorying their opponents with fallacious arguments, ungrounded emotion, and misleading statistics. Then, it’s only a matter of time before left-leaning websites like Slate and Salon have taken a horrific tragedy and figured out some convoluted way to blame the entire thing on inanimate objects, “toxic masculinity,” and the Christian Right.

Frankly, I’m tired of it.

I’m tired of immortalizing human monsters like the Umpqua Community College shooter. I’m tired of the 24-hour media circus that encourages other angry, disenfranchised people to right their wrongs with violence and murder. I’m tired of the self-righteous, hypocritical posturing from beltway liberals who will adamantly demand smothering gun regulations “to save lives,” but have no problem surrounding themselves with armed guards.

I’m tired of hearing late-night hosts trot out the same, tired talking points and accuse Americans of willful insanity, and generally talk to us like we’re children. I’m tired of seeing gun advocates groundlessly demonized, as their ideological opponents are viciously gas-lighting them with implications that they’re purposefully defending a culture of violence and death. I’m tired of the lies, the misinformation, and blatant ignorance. I’m tired of debates where the talking points are made over fresh corpses.

I’ve previously said that I dislike media and pundit exploitation of recent tragedy, but Obama believes that this issue is one that SHOULD be exploited and capitalized on… so he and Hollywood have spent the week hounding the airwaves, saying it’s time the United States had an open, honest, realistic talk about gun control.

You know what? Maybe he’s right.

Maybe we SHOULD be politicizing these mass shootings and exposing some uncomfortable things, because the facts simply do not support the narrative we’ve been force-fed.

The president wants us to have an open, honest, “politicized” conversation about guns and shootings?
Fine. Let’s have one:

Let’s talk about how gun homicide rates in the United States have dropped FORTY-NINE percent since the 1990s, and that the United States is actually the safest it’s been in DECADES, in spite of the fact that the number of guns bought has dramatically INCREASED.

homicide rateLet’s talk about England, where they have regulated guns into near non-existence… and now where someone is stabbed every four minutes as the violent crime rate is rises.

Let’s talk about how, if we factor in per-capita murder rates IN GENERAL, not just firearms, the United States isn’t even in the top 100 worldwide… and we’re only even that high because of a handful of super-violent (and liberal Democrat) cities like Detroit, New Orleans, and Baltimore.

Let’s talk about how, in spite of the President’s bluster, the USA is still in the same (low) bracket murder rate as plenty of other “advanced nations” like Norway and France:

murder rate

Let’s talk about how hammers were used to kill more people than AR-15s (WITH HIGH CAPACITY MAGS!!!) in 2011.

Let’s talk about how a huge percentage of “firearm related deaths” aren’t homicides… but suicides. You say that banning guns will decrease the number of suicides? Let’s talk about Japan and Korea, which have the lowest gun ownership per capita and yet have the highest rates of suicide on the globe.

Let’s talk about how even if America WAS descending into violent chaos, Obama’s constantly referenced “common sense” gun laws would be completely ineffective at best, and advantageous for shooting sprees at worst. Why? Because nearly every horrific event of this nature during his presidency has occurred in states that already HAVE those laws, and they don’t work.

Let’s talk about how even if we DID enact his “common sense” regulations on a national level, none of them would have stopped these maniacs from obtaining weapons. They passed background checks, sat through waiting periods, and none of them purchased firearms from gun shows.

Let’s talk about the numerous scholarly studies, ranging from Harvard to the CDC, which have found that regulating firearms will have little to no impact on violent crime.

Let’s talk about Australia’s gun “regulations,” frequently used as the paragon example that the United States should be following… a paragon with a massive spike in crime, robbery, and sexual assault that occurred immediately following the ban, and how it’s taken fifteen years for those rates to drop back to below pre-ban levels.

Let’s talk about the numerous women across the country that have stopped rapists and murderers because of their constitutionally-protected access to firearms. Or maybe we should talk about the likely scenario that gun bans would see a large spike in violent sex crimes against women, like it did in England and Australia.

Heaven forbid we support the idea of women having the ability to defend themselves.

Let’s talk about the fact that the worst school massacre in modern history happened during Prohibition, and didn’t even involve firearms.

Let’s talk about the fact that, in spite of the nearly constant howl from places like Slate, Salon, and your sociology professor, not only are these mass murderers NOT the product of “toxic,” gun-toting, NRA, Republican cultural forces, the majority of these shooters were irreligious, apolitical, and some had only loose associations with left-wing or far-right wing fringe movements. None of them were members of the NRA.

Let’s talk about the fact that the shooter in Oregon was an avowed atheist who was reportedly targeting Christians for his sick executions. Let’s talk about THAT.

Let’s talk about how students of UCC and the surrounding community, following this atrocity…. Are actually even MORE in favor of gun rights.

But those aren’t the kinds of “honest conversations” that the president and his allies want to have.

That it isn’t the right KIND of politicizing. They don’t want a conversation with facts and trending statistics; especially if those stats make them look wrong. They want a conversation based solely around vapid emotional outrage that can be farmed from social-media slacktivists ad-infinitum; a conversation that doesn’t ACTUALLY care about public safety.

An open, honest, and analytical conversation has never been what they wanted.

If we want to have an open, honest conversation about guns, then we need to acknowledge that there is no verifiable, legitimate, or even just coincidental correlation between gun ownership/availability and murder rates. It’s not argument of “correlation does not equal causation;” the correlation itself doesn’t even reasonably exist.
On the other hand, while it’s just as impossible to prove causation, there actually DOES appear to be a correlation between banning/confiscating guns, and increases in violent crime.

If we want to have an open, honest conversation about guns, then we need to acknowledge that smugly saying “I don’t want to ban guns, just regulate them,” isn’t a valid response, because the “common sense” regulations that the President is proposing are ALREADY IN PLACE and they DON’T WORK. Even if you DO want to ban guns, that has already been tried and doesn’t work either. Data from countries that have effectively done just that indicates that it has little to no bearing on actual rates of violence; even INCREASING it in some cases.

If we want to have an open, honest conversation about guns, then we need to acknowledge that the knee-jerk, feel-good, emotionally-exploitive and politically-expedient rhetoric that the anti-gun lobby throws around after every public tragedy isn’t based on any actual facts or figures. Just feelings.

Unfortunately, “feels” are not a basis of statistical reality.
(Neither are Trevor Noah soundbites.)

South Africa’s gun violence and murder rate is, like, six times higher than America’s. Just saying.

This has nothing to do with gun owners being callous, or selfish, or paranoid. This has everything to do with them being opposed to a highly partisan camp of people being more than willing to railroad and enforce a bad system (that is already not working) and quite possibly endanger even MORE lives, just for the sake of their emotional self-satisfaction.
People accuse us of not caring, but, on the contrary, we seem to be the only ones caring about all the lives that DON’T get TV time. Or, more accurately, lives that aren’t part of the body count next to someone ELSE’S TV time.

Our leaders want to control and ban weapons when weapons clearly aren’t the problem; people are. It might be a tired trope, but the data backs it up.
We just don’t want to address it because that’s not a problem with an easy, soundbite solution, and our culture is no longer willing to address problems unless they have easy, soundbite solutions.

Want to have an honest conversation about mass shootings and violence in America?
Then it’s time to acknowledge the fact that blaming and banning the weapons used is not just short-sighted, but completely misdirected.
It’s factually incorrect, it’s functionally ineffective, and worst of all… it’s LAZY.

Stephen Colbert is right about one thing: We need to change SOMETHING. But we need to grapple with the big issues, and not just swing at the low-hanging fruit of “gun control;” a fruit that isn’t even on the right tree.

~ Louis Petolicchio lives and writes in Central PA, and he finds it super weird that liberals have spent the last year telling him that cops are out-of-control murder-machines… and then telling him that cops are the only ones qualified to have guns. Follow him on Twitter!

GOOP and the Clinton Campaign: How They’re Annoying Different People for the Same Reasons

Gwyneth Paltrow, in her highly publicized and ridiculed “Food Stamp Challenge” last week, unintentionally demonstrated the underlying problem that Americans have with Hillary Clinton.

And no. It’s not that they’re both blonde.

goopclintonIn case you missed it, last week, Gwyneth Paltrow was nominated by celebrity chef Mario Batali to take the “Foodbank NYC Challenge,” where participants try and see if they can eat for a week with the same budget that a person living on SNAP (food stamps) has… which they estimate to be about $29 a week. Aside that not only is that number disputed, and that the SNAP program was only meant to SUPPLEMENT a grocery budget, the challenge was an echo of an earlier version in 2013, and meant to raise awareness for the hunger and poor nutrition that people living on government benefits experience.

Paltrow partook in the paltry pantry plunge with a passion:

And she was virtually crucified in the court of public opinion for it.

Having the media, especially the Washington Post, descend on her various faux pas is nothing new. Her celebrity lifestyle site, “Goop,” has become a virtual speed bag for reporters/comedians in training who want to demonstrate the utter disconnect between celebrities and normal people.

Let’s be honest: When you say that your blog is for designers and cooks strapped for cash while pushing the most expensive, top of the line products… or make comments about how single mothers working 9-5 don’t have it as hard as a multimillionaire movie star, you kind of bring it on yourself.“EVERYONE can afford this! This is what I GARDEN in!”

And when she gave up on the challenge just four days in, the ridicule only got worse. Some of it was actually legitimate criticism of her food choices. One drew attention to the “inexplicable number of limes.” (Seriously though. There’s SEVEN limes. Why?? Is scurvy a big fear in the Paltrow household?)
When this style of food stamp challenge was last run in 2013, with left-leaning senators taking selfies with their pitiful meals, some conservative lawmakers, and housewives, responded by tweeting pictures of what a huge difference that a little bit of crafty consumerism can make on a low budget:

Paltrow was accused of planning her week poorly on that kind of budget, and I would agree. I mean, if you’re strapped for cash, and need a cheap, filling food high in protein and calories, peanut butter is your friend. (The lack of peanut butter really bothered me for some reason.)

Across the board, the backlash to Paltrow’s endeavor was negative, and people were downright insulted. Especially to the people who DO live on food stamps, it just felt like a rich, white, blonde celebrity was patronizing them for publicity points. Their reaction was probably best summed up by a comment I saw on Facebook:

“You don’t know us, you don’t know our family’s struggle, and acting like you do just trivializes what we’ve done.

But here’s the kicker:

Paltrow doesn’t really deserve any of this criticism.

Was it ham-fisted, poorly executed, and in the end, rather laughable? Yes, yes, and yes.

However, what reporters and the public alike don’t seem realize is that Paltrow’s spectacular failure just UNDERLINED the point she was trying to make from the beginning: Wealthy DON’T get the struggle that poor people go through. They literally cannot.

As far as shallow, pedantic “awareness raising” campaigns go, this one takes the cake. (Not literally, because, y’know, food stamps, but still.) The storm of media mockery created a discussion about food stamps and surviving on the government dole that Democrat senators could have never instigated on their own.

It was never meant to be a statement for people living with SNAP benefits. It was meant to be a call to action for the people who have never had to. She wanted to demonstrate that rich people cannot effectively relate to poor people. Even if you disagree with her, her challenge implosion was a good illustration for her argument.

It’s a pity that Paltrow didn’t do this challenge TWO weeks ago, or else Hillary Clinton might have learned an important lesson before she stumbled into her first week of campaigning for president:

If an obscenely wealthy person tries to act like one of us peasants, they will fail, and the public will hate them for trying.

During her first announcement week, we were treated to a hit parade of innocuous, vapid, but well-meaning gestures as Hillary Clinton embarked on a cross-country road-trip in her giant, glossy-black Chevy van, affectionately nick-named “Scooby.” literally have no idea how badly I wanted it to look like this instead. You don’t. She would have legitimately won my vote if her van looked like that. You think I’m kidding, but I’m being dead serious. You don’t even know.

And she definitely gave it the old college try:
She kicked it off with a super casual, social-media announcement that packed more diversity into two minutes than a late 80’s Saturday morning cartoon show.

She took a van to Iowa instead of a private jet.

She stopped and talked at coffee shops.

She ate at Chipotle.

She flew home coach.

She carried her own bags.

She tried. She tried SO HARD.

Unfortunately, people just didn’t buy it.

Oh, there were plenty of awkward gaffes that happened along the way: Not only was she unrecognized by the employees at Chipotle, but she didn’t leave a tip. Her van was spotted parked in a handicapped spot. Her “everyday American” audiences were actually hand-selected and screened. The “students” posing in her coffee shop photos were actually active Democrat party coordinators.

Her “hip” social-media announcement and attempted virtual groundswell felt less like Hillary desperately trying to recreate Obama’s natural appeal to the youth vote, but more like a retiree trying to wear skinny jeans in an attempt to convince the world that “they can be cool too!”

The Clintons on the Campaign Trail.

But none of these were anything but minor news fodder for more conservative publications. (Honestly, half of America has wrongly parked in handicapped spots at least once, most people don’t tip at Chipotle, and having friendly audience is pretty standard your opening week.)

No, people didn’t buy it for the same reason they scoffed at Paltrow’s Food Stamp Challenge: A well-established national figure, who’s spent the better part of the last twenty-five years making it very clear that she’s above the average citizen, suddenly trying to act like a populist champion comes off as more than a little insincere.

So what’s the difference between Paltrow and Clinton?

Short answer: Sincerity and consistency.

For all of her faults, Gwyneth Paltrow genuinely seems to have a heart for the causes she pushes, even if the causes are misguided and her attempts to help are… bizarre. She actually seems to care. On top of this, the idea of Paltrow helping the poor in the richest, whitest way possible is nothing new. She is literally (in)famous for it.
Paltrow has always presented herself as just your “regular person” with “regular people problems”…. who happens to have millions of dollars and enduring celebrity status. hilariously, but consistently, tries to help the less fortunate with solutions only the rich can afford.

Hillary Clinton, on the other hand, has only ever been consistent about ONE thing: wanting to become president.

When even SNL sees through your facade after less than five hours of your debut, there’s a problem.

Even before she had officially announced, Clinton was already being chided for hiring high-powered image specialists to change her public appeal. Now, this is pretty freaking common for politicians of every stripe. The reason it raised so many eyebrows is that the personality Hillary chose to work with is the diametric opposite of how she’s behaved for the better part of her public career.

Republicans knew a wealthy, corrupt, scandal-hounded, power-hungry Washington’s insider that had ridden her husband’s coat-tails to success and wanted even more.

Democrats knew a driven, strong, powerful, pant-suited woman who was never afraid to independently assert herself and was ready to make history wherever she went.

So, whether you think of her as the Wicked Witch of the West or America’s response to Angela Merkel, her new persona as just a regular ol’ grandma whose taking a break from being hip, cool, and perfectly average in order to casually run for president is… confusing

However, aside from her new-found personality, which literally did not exist two week before her announcement, people, especially Democrats, are taking issue with her remarkably fluid policies. (It’s just a given that Republicans will hate her policies no matter what they are.)

While some of her more ardent sycophants, like Michael Tomasky from the Daily Beast, believe that Hillary is the key to reversing the “rightward drift in this country since 1980,” others vehemently disagree, including others at the Beast. In an open letter to the candidate, David Freelander accuses Clinton of being a phony; just saying whatever Democrats want to hear and avoiding “rubber meet road” scenarios.
This sentiment has been echoed by Bernie Sanders and even Roseanne Barr, who both say Clinton is just microwaving old ideas and trying to pass them off as new, exciting, home-cooked meals of her own invention.

When Bill de Blasio is considering running against her in order to provide Democrats with a REAL “leftist alternative,” you know there’s a problem.

It’s not that the Democrats see Hillary as being too moderate. It’s that they don’t see her as ANYTHING… besides someone who wants to be president. She consistently gives off an air of complete entitlement, and has been running her campaign like someone who DESERVES the presidency. What Hillary doesn’t seem to understand is that this is not a unionized factory; seniority does not automatically mean promotion.“You don’t understand. I put the time in. It’s MY turn. I DESERVE to lead you.”

She may BE the hope that progressives have been waiting for. They got a start with Obama, but gridlock, compromise, and generally unfulfilled campaign promises torpedoed that particular wave of hope and change. They’re gun-shy, and they want a candidate who will follow through, not someone who will treat the nomination as a coronation.

And Hillary is not showing signs of following through.

She’s already back to riding first class.

People are quick to say that it’s not such a big deal, but the problem is, when your campaign focuses such heavy attention on those little, scripted, “everyday American” moments, you’re going to be expected to keep it up.
Republican contenders haven’t had to deal with this particular sort of scrutiny because their campaigns have been almost universally issue-driven. Hillary is the only one who has placed such a huge emphasis on who she is as a person, because she’s trying to reinvent herself. But that’s coming back to bite her.

It’s not just about riding in planes, or even where you eat. It’s about WHY you do those “everyday American” things.

Obama didn’t just play basketball with college students for the cameras. He actually plays basketball. Bill didn’t learn to play saxophone just to get airtime on NBC. He actually plays saxophone. Regardless of politics, both of those presidents had extraordinary appeal and charisma, especially with young voters, because they felt REAL; they felt SINCERE, even if they weren’t.

Hillary, on the other hand, feels like someone just handed her a list of “Things Americans Do” and a list of “Things Democrats Like” and she’s reading them off to the cameras. It’s like she doesn’t even think about the crushing irony of what she says half the time.
She’s been attacking CEO’s for their unfair wealth, lamenting the mean-spirited nature of modern politics, and arguing that politicians need to stop with the massive flow of cash from questionable sources.
Meanwhile, conservatives and progressives alike are silently screaming “BUT YOU DO ALL OF THOSE THINGS!”

Hillary’s campaign is obviously a paper tiger when it comes to policy issues, which is why she NEEDS this to be a coronation. Once she gets into the general election, she’ll be able to fall back on the usual “Us. V. Them” rhetoric, declaring that liberals and moderates will HAVE to vote for her, because she’s their only choice. (Since Elizabeth Warren’s not making any more presidential overtures, they might be stuck with Hillary after all.)

But she can’t play those cards in the primary, and so until she actually goes into the ring with Republicans, she has to convince Democrats that she’s the populist hero they need.

Both Paltrow and Clinton have annoyed people by more common than they are, but with one, it’s amusing. With the other, it’s malignant.

Gwyneth Paltrow thinking she’s just like poor people is funny, in part, because she seems to think it’s true, and the media has gotten a LOT of mileage out of this harmless delusion. She actually believes it.

With Hillary Clinton, it’s very obvious that she doesn’t, and that just gives the whole facade a menacing air. Hillary leads anything but an average life, and her skin-deep attempt to convince people otherwise is insulting. Americans don’t like that. It’s perfectly justifiable to try and reinvent yourself for maximum appeal, but without ACTUALLY changing your behavior, it’s just so many nice curtains over a boarded-up window.

(Which doubles as a fitting illustration of Hillary’s policy on transparency.)

With Republicans like Rand Paul and Ted Cruz, even if you think they’re completely insane, no one questions if they actually believe what they’re saying. In fact, the Democrat strategy against them seems to bank on the public taking them completely at face value.

With Hillary Clinton, on the other hand, not even her own base is sure she’s for real.

~ Louis Petolicchio lives and writes in Central PA, where he hopes to one day be rich enough to see the products featured on Goop as the bargains Gwyneth Paltrow clearly thinks they are. Follow him on Twitter!

Indiania: Why Freedom of Association Is So VERY Important.

GLAAD? Human Rights Campaign? George Takei? That debacle in Indiana is exactly how you drive moderates away from you. At the very least, it’s certainly not how you convince them that you’re fighting the good fight for truth, justice, tolerance, and equality.

(Ok, maybe not George Takei. The man is legitimately entertaining, regardless of your politics. But I digress.)

As the dust settles from the roaring, raging witch hunt in Indiana, people everywhere are feeling…. kind of uncomfortable.
The quietly determined push/pull struggle between pro and anti gay marriage activists took an awkward bent when a fairly innocuous and commonplace law (more on that later) was passed by the state of Indiana, and the community which has historically been the most fervent advocate of “tolerance” jumped right down the collective throat of the Hoosier state, screaming all the way.

Politicians, celebrities, and business moguls had to take numbers to see who could loudly denounce Indiana first. Civic leaders were scolded and ridiculed nationwide, citizens were accused of universal bigotry, and any Indiana-based industry was boycotted almost immediately, strictly for crimes of geography.
Oh, and let’s not forget how an ambush reporter and an awkwardly-worded response catapulted an unprecedented level of speculation onto the viability of having a wedding catered by a pizza parlor. Which, apparently, IS a thing. Who knew?

BUT, we’re getting ahead of ourselves.

What IS “Freedom of Association?”

Freedom of Association is pretty much what it sounds like: The freedom to associate with whomever you choose.

Functionally, it means that no one can or should force you to be part of something you disagree with. (Even during the days of the Draft, allowances were made for Conscientious Objectors; people who wanted no part in violence.) It is the knowledge that you are free to express and act on your beliefs with legal and social safety.

Why is this important? Simply put, because Freedom of Association is an intrinsic element of Free Expression. You know, the First Amendment? That right which lets you express yourself without being victimized by the government or your neighbors? That thing?

Pretty important.

And while it may not be EXPLICITLY stated as a guaranteed right in our Constitution or our Amendments, like it is in South Africa’s, political philosophers across the world agree that it’s an implicit element of the Freedom of Speech; an indivisible component.
Oh, and so does the Supreme Court, which has ruled that the Freedom of Association, while arguably not explicit, is unarguably implicit in our Bill of Rights.

Now, the first thing that both thoughtful liberals and conservatives will ask is:

“But haven’t we already placed limits on the Freedom of Association with the Civil Rights Movement?”

Short answer? Sort of.

The Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 60s limited the Freedom of Association… to a degree.
While purist libertarians (mournfully) and radical liberals (gleefully) agree that those few steps somehow give carte blanche permission to obliterate the Freedom of Association altogether, it is important to remember that those limits were established for specific solutions to specific problems usually with a government interest… or affirming rights that were already stated as belonging to all people. Half of those rulings and laws were essentially an asterisk next to the preexisting rights and protections saying “When we said all people, we MEANT all people.”

In other words, it does not justify a call for private restriction on people who refuse to, NOT deny a service to a person, but rather, participate in an activity they do not support for religious reasons, a freedom that Civil Rights was not attempting to infringe on. Just because we started chipping away at a right, for reasons saintly or sinful, doesn’t mean we should keep doing it, and that first chip is not a blank check to be grudgingly or gleefully handed to the government to rampantly dictate how we conduct our private lives and businesses.

In short: Stop comparing the campaign for “Marriage Equality” to the Civil Rights Movement, because they are two very different things, with very different legal ramifications, and very different sociological environments.
In that article, liberal/progressive libertarian writer Julian Sanchez argues that not only are they two different things, but that using the Civil Rights movement to justify abolishing Freedom of Association is unconstitutional at best, and exploitative at worst.

So what’s an RFRA?

The original RFRA was a bill put forward by Chuck Schumer (D-NY), passed almost unanimously by Republicans and Democrats alike, and signed into law by President Bill Clinton in 1993. It prohibits the government from “substantially burdening a person’s exercise of religion, even if the burden results from a rule of general applicability” except in cases where a “compelling governmental interest” can be demonstrated. It was ruled to be unconstitutional to apply it at a state level, and so states are free to adopt or ignore their own RFRA’s as they see fit. Essentially, it’s a reiteration of the First Amendment

And it’s a REALLY good thing, not just for “White, Christian, Anglo-Saxons,” but for EVERYONE.

The law was enacted to specifically help protect not just mainstream Christianity, but EVERY religion, and since it’s enactment, it has helped people from virtually every faith and creed: Muslim firefighters wishing to grow harmless, but non-regulation beards, Sikh federal employees being able to keep their ceremonial knife-pendants with them in government buildings, and a variety of protections for different Native American religious practices.“Thanks, RFRA.”

It’s proven to be such a good idea, that over 20 different states have enacted their own, state-level versions of the Federal RFRA, and thirteen more have similar proposals in the works.For over the past two decades, Federal and state RFRA’s have been supported and used by both the ADF and ACLU (who HATE each other), and lauded by politicians on both sides of the aisle with relatively little complaint.

So… why do people hate Indiana’s RFRA?

They (people like Chuck Schumer, who insists that his federal version was “totally different”) will tell you it’s because that, unlike other versions, Indiana’s RFRA is the ONLY one that applies to private suits and business, and since the state purportedly does not have specific anti-sexuality discrimination laws on the books, it allows for the wholesale discrimination of homosexual patrons in private business.

The problem is, none of that is true. First of all, both other state RFRA’s AND the Federal RFRA have been applied to private suits and cases, even a circuit court in California ruled that the federal RFRA could apply to private or business cases.
Oh yeah, and, of course, the Supreme Court’s decision in the Hobby Lobby case last year said pretty much the same thing.

As for wholesale discrimination… That doesn’t really work out either. While Indiana might not have specific, anti-discrimination laws based on sexuality, the language of their law would still allow businesses, regardless of religion, to be prosecuted for it. The RFRA is not an automatic “get out of jail free, because Jesus” card, and claiming it’s protection is no guarantee of winning your case.  It’s just an option the defense can try to use and a layer of protection from frivolous infringement on religious practice.

However, none of that information could stop the unmitigated witch hunt in Indiana to right all those nonexistent wrongs.“She disagrees with our very specific set of political philosophies! BURN THE WITCH!”

I call it a witch hunt because I honestly cannot think of a better comparison to make regarding the massive storm of relentless emotion and McCarthy-style tactics kick-started for so little reason or proven cause.

And it worked.

The leaders of Indiana have lined up like contrite schoolboys, promising to change things so people will stop hating them and that hateful, bigoted pizzeria you’ve probably heard so much about? The massive media scandal that snowballed from an off-hand interview has forced a family restaurant to close their business due to death threats and they have no idea when they’ll be able to reopen.

What’s the problem with what happened in Indiana?

The problems are numerous, but it ultimately boils down to three:
The misinformation, the shameless bullying, and the self-destructive hypocrisy.

You have a law that was never about discrimination or cake suddenly framed as being exclusively about both and nothing else. Because Hollywood said it was true, people everywhere bought it, even though the Indiana RFRA was not, is not, and was never going to be any kind of assault on the LGBT community. You have a pizza place touted as the smoking gun of Indiana discrimination, when, in fact, they specifically said they would happily serve anyone of any persuasion. However, responding that, if asked, they probably would not cater a same-sex wedding, has instead creating a media caricature of “prejudice pizza people” running to the media to proclaim their bigotry. you feel the hate?

You have the outrageous response to their fairly innocuous comment that didn’t put the brakes on until someone threatened to firebomb their place of business. Twitter and Facebook exploded with people viciously harassing and verbally abusing every single Indiana-bred scapegoat that was presented to them, shamelessly using terrible language to browbeat people who disagreed into quiet silence.

You have the movement that’s suddenly weirdly OK with these kind of mob-rule tactics to intimidate people into hiding their true natures and beliefs. (Familiar?) Celebrities and CEOs were stumbling over themselves to see who can be the first to bravely boycott the fiscal giant of Indiana, while conveniently ignoring the rest of the 20+ states with the same laws…

… and still happily doing business with gay unfriendly nations like the People’s Republic of China. Apple CEO Tim Cook even announced his pious boycott of Indiana while simultaneously opening Apple stores in the VIOLENTLY homophobic (but wealthy) nation of Saudi Arabia.

What the Indiana protest boils down to is a movement of people who are quick to pounce on an easy, convenient target that required little risk to berate, and then mercilessly browbeat them for daring to imply that views counter to their own deserve the same rights and protections.

The live-and-let-live “If you don’t like gay marriage, then don’t get gay married” slogan has been amended with a much more menacing “…but we’ll be damned if we let you miss the wedding.”

Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act and the resulting vitriolic backlash has implications that go far beyond “marriage equality,” and even the most politically un-savvy people can sense it.

Infamous bloggers like Matt Walsh would be quick to say that this is just the unmasking of the true, malignant liberal intent, but most of the people supporting same-sex marriage have the best intentions, and several of my liberal and moderate friends are a little disturbed by what happened in Indiana.

While they really do want marriage equality, it wasn’t supposed to happen this way; trampling all over people who dare to think differently. The easy transition that the LGBT/Marriage Equality movement makes from oppressor to oppressed is not seen as a good thing, especially among moderates, nominal supporters, and especially libertarians, who were all for marriage equality, but not at the expense of basic rights.

The Irony

Some people are uncomfortably OK with hardline, authoritarian tactics as long as it supports their particular philosophy, but people who are not as completely committed to a cause are frankly quite frightened by it, and the behavior displayed by the same-sex marriage lobby in Indiana is doing more to make people question their methods than support them.

For all the shade that thrown towards bloggers like the aforementioned Matt Walsh, behavior like this is how you feed them; create more of them. When you confirm all of the fears that those people have been spreading, you do their work for them.


But the really ironic part is watching same-sex marriage advocates use the bullying tactics to skirt the rule of law and trample on the same rights of free association and expression that they once used as their primary argument. Why does this frighten liberals as well as conservatives? Because trying to destroy someone or something based on their personal views goes doesn’t sit well with some old-school progressives. They had to grow up on the receiving end of it, and, deep down, a lot of them still don’t think total turn-about is fair play.

More importantly, is the implication that comes from the potential of destroying the freedom of association. It would hurt everyone. You’ve heard the arguments:

“You wouldn’t forced a Jewish printer to make anti-semitic flyers.”
“You wouldn’t force Muslim butchers to serve pork.”
You wouldn’t force a gay hair-dresser to style hair for someone who opposed gay marriage.”

While they might seem overused to you, they are perfectly valid, and Stephen Crowder, in his admittedly dramatic video about asking Muslim bakeries to make gay wedding cakes, raises an important question: “What will liberals do when two things they support, like LGBT rights and multicultural preservation, clash?”

But that’s the beauty of supporting the Freedom of Association: It means they will never have to answer that question.

The expressive rights of both parties will be protected, and they won’t have to conform to a mob-rule or government-mandated standard that violates personal values.
Logically, Freedom of Association is just as much of a boon to liberals as it is conservatives.

In Closing: Freedom of Association is vital for people on both sides of the aisle.

The point, at the end of the day, is not about cake, or pizza, or even same-sex marriage. The point is the ABILITY to even DISCUSS those things without worrying about all of society and government descending upon us in a fiery rage. When you have to quickly murmur your basic support for a cause before you’re even allowed to discuss it, there’s a problem.

THAT GOES FOR CONSERVATIVES TOO. We need to WELCOME discussion and debate, not destroy it.

Peaceful non-participation for reasons moral, political, and spiritual, is a valued practice of both conservatives and liberals. “Freedom of Association” is our liberty to do that, whether we’re for a social cause or opposed to it, and it protects EVERYONE. When either side tries to get rid of it, it opens the door for bad things to happen.

I don’t know what frightens me more: The idea that people honestly don’t see how incidents like this one erode the freedoms of association, free speech, and religious expression… or the idea that people do, and that they’re OK with it.“For social justice!”

Don’t be so quick to get rid of the Freedom of Association, because you may need it someday… and the odds are you’re using it already.

Louis Petolicchio lives and writes in Central Pennsylvania. He has only been to Indiana once, and his time there was remarkably uneventful. Follow him on Twitter!

Three Interesting Things That Will Be Decided By the 2016 Campaign Season

With his announcement at Liberty’s Monday Convocation this morning, Ted Cruz has managed to beat his other prospective opponents to the punch in declaring his bid for presidency and officially fired the starting gun for the disorganized bum rush that will be known to history as the 2016 Presidential Election. As America braces itself for the deluge of debates, political advertisements, and awkward family holiday conversations, there are three big things, that may not seem so big at first, that will be worth watching:

1: The End of the Bush/Clinton Dynasties

I really don’t know what else you can call it besides “dynasty,” since these two families feel like they’re second only to the Kennedys and Roosevelts for number of decades spent controlling large sections of our nation’s government.
Both Jeb Bush and Hillary Clinton have been eying up the 2016 presidency, generating obscene amounts of money and making as many promises about their terms of office as they can without ACTUALLY announcing, coasting practically on name recognition alone. both just really miss being able to walk into the White House whenever we wanted.

However, both families are also on their last political leg, and this campaign will decide whether or not Clintons and Bushes continue to be politically relevant, or fade from public eye. It might sound a little dramatic, but it’s true. None of the other Bush siblings or children have demonstrated any interest in the political scene, Chelsea Clinton appears perfectly content with her charity work, and neither Jeb nor Hillary are getting any younger. If they decide to run (which they are almost certain to, the ongoing investigation of Hillary’s email notwithstanding), this will be the last big gasp of their legacies.

Of the two, Hillary has been less ham-fisted about her intentions to seek office, but with her age and the various health issues cropping up, this may be her last chance to try. If not for then, then for the steadily increasing amount of baggage she seems to accumulate, intentionally and unintentionally. However, the bigger issue is still her age and constitution. If she does not or can not run, the odds are pretty good she won’t be ABLE to try again. In short, for Clinton, it’s now or never.

Jeb, on the other hand, has to contend with the legacies of two predecessors which share his name, both of whom started their presidencies with very high ratings, and departed very unpopular. Jeb has the uphill battle of convincing a nation that’s gotten tired of the Bush name that he’s still worth voting for, and if he doesn’t make it, a Romney-style “Rinse, repeat, and retry” isn’t going to fly very well for a nation that feels like it’s had enough of the Bush name to last a very long time. He may have been one of only three people to serve two full terms as governor of Florida but, as bizarre news stories continually remind us, the rest of the nation is not Florida. In short, if Jeb Bush is unable to convince the American people that he’s worth electing on his own merit, he’ll have to wait even longer than Hillary to try again, and he’s already long past the average ascension age for presidents.

Either way, one of these names is going to decline. Both have a reasonable chance if they run, but this cycle is likely the last chance they’ll get, and they, in turn, are the last members of their families who have shown any interest in doing so.

2: The Democratic Party Forced to Choose Between Immigration and Organized Labor (And More).

The most recent flurry of Democratic activity has made it pretty clear that immigration reform is going to be one of the major talking points/arguments of the coming election, at least on their ticket, and they’re gearing up to try and claim the exploding Hispanic and Latino voting bloc. Unfortunately, this threatens to divide their foundation in a major way, chiefly among labor unions. the better part of the last century, labor unions have been a major contributor of the Democrat Party’s bread and butter, both financially and at the voting booth, and it’s seen many unions evolve from the arguably necessary push-back to overbearing business practices of the turn-of-the-century, to little more than glorified election enforcers, who do remarkably little for their members beyond the basic platitudes of negotiating health benefits, and their image to the public is… mixed. However, one age-old tradition that has remained unchanged among organized labor is their complicated and often hostile relationship with immigration. Since day one, unions have been unable to agree on the pros or cons immigration reform, and with the decline of American industry, this divide has only grown wider, with debates over it even threatening the stability of monolithic unions like the AFL-CIO, which has been steadily splintering for the last decade. Less than two years ago, another branch of over 40,000 workers announced their disassociation with the country’s largest labor association, mostly due to AFL-CIO’s fairly open support of relaxed immigration policies and healthcare changes, which many saw as harmful to American labor.

However, even the AFL-CIO has far from given Democrats carte-blanche approval of whatever immigration reform they propose, and honestly, with workers questioning the point of union that would sacrifice their jobs to newcomers, they can’t afford to. Even the relatively party-line AFL-CIO is opposed to open, unbridled immigration, makes no allowance for guest workers, and a number of other major elements of Democrat Immigration Reform. Their relatively close-mouthed endorsement essentially says they want to legalize whoever is already here, already working, and already part of the union, but not much else. In short, the vision the Democrat leadership has of immigration is not exactly shared by labor unions, and if things were tense while immigration was still being treated as a side issue, imagine what will happen when it takes center stage. While the Latino community has been a noted component of American labor and industry since the industrial revolution, they have garnered such major Democratic attention recently largely due to the sudden population explosion and immigration from the Southwest. They recognize that Hispanic and Latino people will comprise a formidable voting bloc in the coming years, and want to secure their votes early.

However, their sudden bestowal of lavish amounts of attention to a specific demographic has left other major members of the Democrat party feeling disgruntled and disenfranchised. Organized labor is worried that their jobs are going to be sold out for political reasons, moderates are worried that sudden sweeping reform is going to far too far, and certain branches of the NAACP are pushing back against what they claim is preferential treatment of immigrant students.

In other words, if the Democrats are wanting to make immigration their main show horse for 2016, then they may lose a large portion of their base in the process, not just for this election, but if they make it stick, for elections in years to come.

3: The Weight of Ethnicity.

This one’s all about Ted Cruz, and what he is; more specifically, what people SEE him as. For those unaware, Cruz is of Cuban extraction, and if he were to win, he would be the nation’s first Hispanic president, and the nation is going to have to clarify what it thinks being “Hispanic” is. Technically, the fiercely conservative and controversial Cruz is considered a minority.“What NOW?”

This election will be interesting, if for no other reason at all, than to see how pundits, specifically those on the left, treat Cruz’s heritage. While some might just slap a “Latino Uncle Tom” label on him and call it a day, I think it’s much more likely that his opponents in the Democrat party will try and negate his Hispanic background altogether. They can, and probably will, point out that Cruz is just another white guy, with typical “white guy privilege,” and technically, they’d be right.
You see, it gets tricky because “Hispanic” is an ethnicity, not a race. But then again… “Latino” isn’t technically a race either. (It might “become” one in 2020, but they’re still not sure.) So, on the one hand, it would be pretty easy to toss out Cruz’s heritage altogether on those grounds, giving progressives a free hand to berate him for being so, ugh, white and Republican. The PROBLEM with this is that if they do that, they are, in turn, completely trivializing the heritage, struggles, and legacies of hundreds of thousands of Latino people across the United States of America.

In fact, a large number of Hispanic and Latino people hailing from different areas of the Caribbean and Central America are likely to still have a large amount of European extraction in their background, but still strongly identify with their Latin culture. It’s Cruz himself who is making a major statement of his Hispanic heritage, and while he may not be over-politicizing it, he’s certainly not shying away from it either. Since his first official campaign ad was in Spanish, he appears almost ready to capitalize on it:

This has the potential of major significance because race relations are once again an object of major scrutiny. While many liberal pundits will likely be quick to dismiss Cruz’s own heritage, it’s going to force some uncomfortable conversations within the progressive movement.
For a long time, progressives have presented the unbelievably complex racial background of Hispanic and Latino people in a very simplistic manner, especially in issues of race. If they push, critique, or challenge Cruz on this subject, they will need to seriously reexamine the semantics they’ve been using regarding the Hispanic and Latino community for the better part of the last thirty years. We’d have to start asking awkward questions like “at exactly what skin tone does a Latino person become ‘white?'” We, as a nation, will be forced to consider the different of race and ethnicity and how they compare in regard to respect and… (dare I say it?) “Privilege.” For the moment, although liberal websites like Salon have lost no time in viciously mocking him, they have conspicuously avoided talking about his Hispanic background. Perhaps the various talking heads will ignore it completely, or just make passing comments about Cruz exploiting his heritage to “steal” Hispanic votes and go back to making jokes. (Because you OBVIOUSLY can’t possibly be Hispanic AND conservative. EVERYbody knows that.)

BUT, if they DO stop to seriously address it, then the dialogue about the changing cultural landscape of America will have just gotten a WHOLE lot more complicated… All thanks to Ted Cruz merely being present in the proceedings. Will he have a chance of winning? Honestly, at the moment, that seems pretty darn slim. But if Cruz is good at one thing, it’s seizing the spotlight, and while he probably won’t rake in the votes, he’s going to clock a lot of media attention, and with that attention is bound to come a renewed discussion of race and ethnicity.

So, while the bigger moving and shaking of the coming presidential election begins, I, for one, will be very interesting in seeing how this particular trio turns out.

Louis Petolicchio lives and writes in Central Pennsylvania, and he honestly has no idea who he’d vote for in 2016. Follow him on Twitter!

The Grinding Gears of Christian Dating Advice

You’ve seen the endless myriad of lists and columns shared on Facebook with “advice” for “20-Somethings,” and, especially from Christian blogs, it’s nearly all about dating.
As a Christian 20-Something, I think I can speak for a lot of us when I say that… we’re a little frustrated by it.

If you’re not a Christian (or just not interested in dating), then you probably won’t care about this. But if you want to learn about a subject which will get your Christian friends squawking like irritated hens… read on. thing there’s almost always a “Love Hands” picture involved. Kind of like a trigger warning.

This isn’t about Joshua Harris-style courtship (and the weird Duggar resurgence) or about the new wave of “anything-goes” love, as championed by people like Rob Bell.
This was spurred by an article in Relevant Magazine where a woman named Erica wrote to columnist Eddie Kaufholz wanting to know why single men in churches today seem to be afraid of dating single women in churches; wanting to know “where all the brave men” are. From what I’ve seen, the irritation Erica expresses is not only common, it’s perfectly valid.

Where HAVE all the good men gone? Or women, for that matter?

In “Why Don’t Guys in My Church Ask Women on Dates,” Kaufholz agrees that it’s a shame, and one probably to lay at the feet of the late 90’s, early 2000’s courtship movement. With the huge emphasis on marriage, an unnecessary amount of stress is loaded onto starting relationships, making it extremely difficult to just get to know someone without implying lasting commitment. He says a lot of men are afraid of dating at a church, because they just aren’t ready to shoulder the massive amount of commitment that comes bundled with a casual date.

And you know what? He’s right. Asking someone to lunch should not be the same as asking for their hand in marriage.“So I’m thinking “Charlize” as the name of our first child.”

But the problem is, he pretty much goes right to the “Christians need to be more bold and casual in their dating life” trope, and leaves it at that.
This is where things get supremely frustrating for us “Twenty-Somethings.”

When post-high school and post-college Christian singles express frustration with singleness and are given dating advice, they’re almost always told to either be more serious about their intent… or more casual.
Serious or casual?
Serious or casual?
The Christian blogger community honestly cannot seem to decide what the proper serious/casual ratio should be in a Christian relationship, but they are all very convinced that it should definitely be more heavily geared towards one over the other.

This leaves us “middle-ground” people stuck between a rock and a hard place.
On one hand, to the people who wear “I Kissed Dating Goodbye” like a suit of paginated armor, looking for someone to hang out with but still have the spark of romantic interest means we’re being selfish, shallow, and worldly. On the other hand, the equally fanatical, over-corrected, counter-courtship movement will quickly shout down anyone who says they’re dating with the intent to marry as being too preoccupied with relationships.
Some shun the dating scene altogether, because if you’re actively looking for a relationship, then you’re just being “thirsty.” You’re not defined by your relationships, dangit, and giving in to the dating/marriage scene just means you weren’t strong enough to define yourself!

This weird dichotomy is especially prevalent on Christian college campuses. I know. I went to a school like this.
The only thing more annoying than the constant, quiet, relentless pressure to be engaged before you graduated, was the constant, grating, and highly vocal opposition to it.
If you’re too casual, then you’re a flirt, and if you’re too serious, then you’re clingy. There really isn’t a winning combo in the church dating scene.

Basically, a lot of us “twenty-somethings” feel like we’re caught in the middle of a war, and we really don’t like either side. The idea of dating within the church is equated to walking a minefield of what is and isn’t an appropriate level of interest, and the constant, conflicting stream of Christian advice bloggers aren’t helping:

“Ok, not too serious…. not too serious… alright, come on guys, gotta be a little more serious than that, kick it up a notch and- GAH! What are you doing!? YOU’RE TOO COMMITTED! Reverse! Reverse! Back to casual!” don’t understand… how am I supposed to be in 1st and 5th gear at the same time? What even is this?

 We’re getting mental whiplash from all the sudden starts, stops, and changes of direction regarding “Christian” dating, and we’re busting up our romantic transmissions trying to keep up with all the “advice.” We WANT to learn manual, we really do, but the frantic, scattered, and conflicting directions we’re being given aren’t helping.

However, I think the constant argument over HOW to drive the car has missed a much bigger problem for “twenty-somethings” dating in the church: Mainly, that we don’t have a road to drive ON.

The Real Problem

The Kaufholz article is right. The dating culture in modern churches is deplorable. But not necessarily for the reasons given. If you spend more than five minutes in either the comments section of either the article itself, or on Relevant’s Facebook’s page, one of the most common complaints boils down to:

“WHAT single men? WHAT single women? Even if I WANTED to ask someone out, there’s no one there!”

thPictured: The Millennial Dating Pool in the Modern Church.

Writers and bloggers have spent so much of the last two decades fighting over HOW Christian young adults should be co-mingling, that they’ve missed the fact that those young adults have stopped going to church. They’re conspicuously absent from the pews, but no one seems to have noticed.

We’re always told that we need to be more serious or more casual, but when we point out that there’s really not many people to try being serious or casual WITH, we’re told that our standards are too unreasonable.

Except that… they’re not. There really IS an absence of young adults in the modern church.
In fact… they’re leaving in droves.“Sorry, Church. It’s just not working. It’s not you. It’s me.”

Research indicates that TWO-THIRDS of young adults who attended church regularly in high-school, stop going in their early twenties, and by their early thirties, only one third has come back.
“Young Adult” ministry isn’t really a thing right now, and that’s a big problem. I go to one of the only churches in my entire COUNTY that has one, and we’re still very small, mostly because a lot of young adults have already given up on the church.

To make things worse, “dating culture” in general is in wide decline, even by secular standards. It’s not just alarmist articles declaring that people are rage-quitting because of a poor risk/reward ratio, but serious concerns as to how impersonal, digital communication and the pervasive “hook-up culture” are slowly killing the standards for meaningful relationships.

Pop culture has hammered home the idea that casual sex is a healthy part of human activity with such wild abandon that society is slowly forgetting that committed, intimate, interpersonal relationships are a healthy part of human activity too.

If dating culture is suffering in the regular world, you can bet your sweet bippy that Christian dating is too. And us “twenty-somethings” are tired of advice that’s not helping to fix the problem.

Young men and women aren’t dating in the Church because there’s not many of us there to begin with.

The modern church makes it very hard to even meet people our age, let alone date them. We come back from college to find a vacuum. In a church world where most  ministry jumps straight from a High School Youth Group to small groups dominated by married couples… young, single Christians are honestly feeling pretty left out.

Everyone either seems like a little kid, or basically our parents’ age, and we can’t relate to either group. So a lot of our peers just… leave.

Kaufholz is actually advocating one of the best mediums between “committed” and “casual,” telling Christians they need to be honest and casual, but not afraid of committment. I just don’t think that’s addressing the real problem right now.

Why aren’t “Twenty-Somethings” in the Church aren’t asking each other out on dates anymore? Lots of reasons; some Kaufholz even touched on:
Because we’re afraid of not measuring up to that person we’ve been crushing on; not just physically, but spiritually.
Because we don’t want the awkwardness of a break-up… while still going back to the same Church.
Because half of us honestly don’t know HOW anymore.

But most of all, we’re not dating because the dating field at our churches is usually SO narrow that it consists of only a few people.
People just feel more comfortable casually dating when there’s a larger group to interact with. If there’s only a handful of people in that group, you can preach “casual dating” until you’re blue in the face, but it won’t dissipate the stress single Christians feel. Tiny groups mean a big fear of “make or break,” and so men and women just… avoid dating.

The church needs to forget the courtship v. casual debate and fix the bigger problem first. They need to focus less on micro-managing the interactions between young adults, and more on providing them with a chance to interact to begin with.

And you know what, “Twenty-Somethings?” If they do, we need to respond.  It rests with us as much as it does the Church. We complained churches were boring and their doctrine constraining, so they built bigger churches with rock-concert stages, cafes, and sermons full of nothing but good vibes… and young adults STILL left.“Come on! The church is  a freaking stadium and Joel preaches nothing but personal gain and happiness. What more do you people want???”

In the digital age, where you can order your “perfect” date from OkCupid right after you’ve built the perfect pizza on the Domino’s website, we’ve gotten really impatient and really hard to please. And that is OUR fault.

But that doesn’t mean we should be ignored.

Instead of lobbing re-used dating advice at us, help us solve the bigger problem.

It isn’t about being too judgmental of dating, or how serious/casual we need to be. The real problem is that there aren’t many young adults in the Church right now, period.
Both sides have a vested interested in fixing this problem, and we need to start working together.

The Church at large needs step up to fill that ministry gap between high-school and small groups for middle-aged married couples.
Twenty-Somethings? We actually need to respond if/when they do this. We’re quick to gripe about a lack of opportunity, but when it’s presented to us, we’re too lazy to do anything.

In short, young, single Christians are tired of being the rope in the weird tug-o-war between the “Courtship” and “Casual” camps, and we’re starting to miss our friends.

The ministry for young, single Christians is extremely important and widely neglected. You need to have bricks before you can build a house, and you need to have Christian “Twenty-Somethings” actually in church before you can give them advice on how to “church-date.”

You know what? Eddie Kaufholz is completely right. Young, single Christians DO need to be more bold, more casual, and less afraid of dating. But that openness isn’t going to fix the dating scene by itself.

It’s time for both parties to stop dancing around meet each other half way. We need to get Young Adults involved in Church again.

Or maybe we should just forget the whole thing, throw up our hands, and surrender to our new ChristianMingle overlords. Because if this trend continues, that’s probably where we’re headed.

And nobody wants that.

Louis Petolicchio lives and writes in Central Pennsylvania. He absolutely despises the term “Twenty-somethings,” and doesn’t drink coffee, making all the coffee-date examples in Kaufholz’s article super hard to relate to. Follow him on Twitter!

“Je suis Charlie”… And Why Most of America Isn’t.

In the wake of the brutal assault on the Parisian headquarters of satirical magazine “Charlie Hebdo,” the world has been shocked, outraged, and disgusted with radical, militant Islam. Meanwhile, the United States is strangely quiet… and weirdly critical. Not of the terrorists, but of the magazine.
January 7th was a tragic day, as two masked gunmen stormed the building shouting “Allahu Akbar,” and began slaughtering staff, editors, and cartoonists for daring to insult Islam. Leaders around the world joined together in a massive show of mourning and solidarity less than a week later.

America, on the other hand, both as a government and as a populace, has been relatively silent. All things considered, it’s rather out of character for country infamous for inserting itself into every major world event for the last century. Beyond the typical condolences and lip service, the nation made famous for pulling on its cowboy boots and impulsively charging to the defense of anyone who has been wronged (whether they want our help or not) really hasn’t had much to say.

Why is that?
Simply put: Because we don’t know how we’re supposed to react.

As a society, and especially as millennials, we’ve spent the last decade being “educated” in the proper, progressive, enlightened “do’s” and “don’ts.” But now we witness one cultural ideal we’re supposed to admire, gun down another one. What do we do when two of the basic tenets of “progressive liberalism” are completely incompatible?

What do we do when “sacred cows” start killing each other?

American Liberals are at an impasse. For so long, they have been sacrificing the basic rights of Western Liberalism at the sacred altar of “Multicultural Glorification,” that they don’t know how free speech works anymore. The amorphous term “Tolerance” is king… but what happens when tolerating a group that is vocally intolerant of literally everything “progressive” results in dead bodies?

They are horrified by the very real threat of violence that can come from speaking your mind, but the “Je Suis Charlie” hashtag makes them equally uncomfortable, because, after all, Charlie Hebdo is an offensive magazine, right? And they technically started it by making fun of other cultures, right? Right?
Maybe it would have been better if they had just been more respectful of Muslim beliefs; more open to dialogue. The shadows of classical liberalism and its love of freedom might still echo faintly, but they are at odds with the drowning monotony of its inoffensive, 21st century descendent in the United States.
To set some background, let’s not fool ourselves: Charlie Hebdo is far from a wholesome magazine.

It’s crude, lewd, rude, and it absolutely revels in it. Sarcastic in the extreme, the scathingly satirical publication is, for the confused American millennial, essentially what would happen if South Park and The Onion had an unholy love-child that started a political newspaper.

hebdocartoon“Michael Jackson: White at last.”

It makes no false pretense; Charlie Hebdo is proudly and offensively irreverent… and would never be able to survive in the United States. If right-wing censors didn’t try and shut it down for it’s often very inappropriate content (and cover art), then the left-wing censors would for its extreme political incorrectness. They go out of their way to be offensive, and they have been publishing extremely controversial covers since 1970. Here’s what some consider their top 16. (If you haven’t picked up on it yet, there is some offensive imagery in that link.)

Je-suis-charlie-6Muhammad promising “100 lashes if you don’t die of laughter!”

But here’s the kicker: Charlie Hebdo is a VERY left-wing publication.

This wasn’t a conservative bastion. This wasn’t a church. This was an extremely liberal, progressive publication.
They self-identify that way, and that just makes things more confusing for American Liberals.

Charlie Hebdo is fiercely anti-war, anti-nationalist, and anti-organized religion. If they’re not criticizing France’s already vastly reduced military budget as still being too large, then they’re lambasting the Catholic Church for being homophobic and intolerant. You can hardly accuse the artists behind their irreverent caricatures of Muhammad as being bigoted, recalcitrant, conservative racists. Many of the people killed in the attack were known for their extremely progressive views on race, sexuality, economy, and politics. Cabu, “one of the most emblematic cartoonists at Charlie Hebdo,” spent the majority of the last 40 years viciously attacking right-wing ideas and latent euro-centric racism with his art.

But NONE of that matters, because they still created wildly offensive imagery that mocked Islam and Mohammed, and for that, someone felt they had to die.


The worst part of it? The best reaction that Millennial Americans can produce is “Well, they really shouldn’t have been publishing those cartoons to begin with.”

It’s been a week since the massacre, and now that the initial shock and horror has started to fade, people are starting to push back against the lionizing of the bawdy peddlers of satire, and in an incredibly puzzling twist, many of these are social progressives.

This isn’t a case of Islamic apologists like Reza Aslan insisting that REAL Islam has literally nothing to do with terrorism whatsoever, or advocates of sharia law in England saying that the massacres are good thing because it will teach those who disrespect Allah a lesson. This isn’t even a case of typical millennial contrarianism.

It’s a case of seeing people, on Twitter, on Tumblr, and on my own Facebook feed, writing condescending messages about how “well, yeah, they shouldn’t have been killed, but they shouldn’t have been making fun of other cultures either,” and actually believing it.

SERIOUSLY? How do you even equate that? As the shock settles, more and more people are standing up and saying Je ne suis pas Charlie. I am NOT Charlie.” All because they honestly believe that Charlie Hebdo and its staff were inherently wrong for what they did; inherently wrong, openly racist, and ultimately culpable in the resulting violence.  And to the American liberal, it is a perfectly logical line of reasoning.

They are quick on the draw about how they still stand against violence, bigotry and racism (even though that stand would require them to condemn elements of fundamentalist Muslims, which they won’t do, because “bigotry and racism”), but their circular logic ultimately winds up at the same, deluded destination: The idea that even the most equal opportunity satire is still evil if it mocks a group that the progressive establishment has declared as “disenfranchised,” and that said satire is solely responsible for any resulting violence.

If you’re sitting there like some pious gasbag congratulating yourself on your own enlightenment because you’re convinced that Charlie Hebdo and it’s caricatures deserved to be condemned, you are literally the worst kind of person.

Free Speech. THAT is the difference between American liberals and European liberals. Oh, they both might be economic bedroom buddies, low impact socialists, and of the same mind when it comes to sexual liberation, but when it comes to free speech? Say what you will about the French, and I often do, but they will never hesitate to speak their mind. An American liberal? Not so much. Because it might be offensive.

You’re not a social crusader. You’re not even a liberal. You’re just a sell-out who doesn’t REALLY value free speech, or even understand what liberalism means.
Oh, you SAY you do, and you give it plenty of lip service, but when the rubber meets the road, you will remain convicted that the right to free expression ends where someone else’s feelings begin. Because feelings are important, and once somebody is triggered, well, we can’t really blame them for any actions they might take.

Even if that means PULLING a trigger on someone else.

“Not Guilty. I was triggered by his drawing.”

Let me simplify this for you:

Taking the stance that Charlie Hebdo‘s publications are somehow at fault for the resulting violence is LITERALLY THE SAME ARGUMENT as saying “Look at what she was wearing! She was asking for it!”

Do you UNDERSTAND how TWISTED that is? That is literally the TEXTBOOK DEFINITION of victim blaming. You are doing what you have been fighting against for the past DECADE, except NOW, people are DYING.

I don’t know what should be offensive: The subconscious assertion that Charlie Hebdo was asking to be attacked, or the subconscious acknowledgment that Muslims can’t be trusted to control their fanaticism. By taking that above stance, you are affirming BOTH, and weirdly echoing that “patriarchy” you’ve been fighting for so long.

If a video of a woman being verbally harassed (or in some cases, just greeted) drives you to greater action than a video of an Islamic terrorist gunning someone down in the street like an animal, you need to revisit your priorities.

Still not asking for it.

If “Je Suis Charlie” or caricatures of Muhammad make you uncomfortable, then focus on this gentleman instead:

View image on Twitter


Ahmed Merabet was the man gunned down in that video. A Parisian policeman who was killed protecting the Charlie Hebdo building. A man who had just as much right to be “triggered” as the terrorists.

But Ahmed, and his fellow policemen, who ALSO lost their lives, had to make a choice: Do they choose freedom of expression, or complete, extreme, cultural sensitivity. They chose free speech, and they died for it. Why? Because they GOT it. They understood what living in a free society means. So remember Ahmed. He a lot more justification than you to condemn a comedy magazine, and he did not.

(Not technically a direct quote from Voltaire, but you get the point.)

Americans make a great big show of loving liberty and freedom of expression, but when it comes down too it, we censor with the best of them. America is not Charlie.
As a people, we are afraid of the power of free expression, so we corral it whenever possible, punishing those who deviate from the accepted standards. Right now, “liberal” progressivism is in power, and people who express thoughts that run against it are dissuaded.

Freedom of Speech is the root issue at stake here.

I could speculate as to why the United States administration snubbed the anti-terrorism demonstration in Paris.
I could mock celebrities who think that, somehow, an act of Muslim terror, committed in France, with RUSSIAN weapons, is the fault of lax American gun laws.
I could even join the New Yorker (Seriously, the New Yorker, of all things) in pointing out that the days of claiming Islam to be a “Religion of Peace” are coming to a close.

But the real issue is the matter of free speech. You don’t have to love Charlie Hebdo, but you don’t have to finish the work of Sharia fanatics by shutting them up or condemning them for perceived evils.

All I’m asking is that you take a break from the ceaseless, mindless, and dogmatic defense of “cultural sensitivity” and make a stand for free speech.

Fundamentalist Islam is the enemy of free speech. There’s no way to sugarcoat it. If you offend them, they will silence you at best, or kill you at worst. This time it wasn’t a church, or an embassy. This time it was a very left-wing, liberal newspaper suffering the brunt of their wrath. The staff of Charlie Hebdo was gunned down for not complying.

And how are they reacting?

By printing THREE MILLION copies of their next issue, featuring the Prophet on the cover:

New-Charlie-Hebdo-cover-finds-Mohammed-crying-declaring-Je-Suis-Charlie“All Is Forgiven:” The Cover of the Coming Issue.

Apparently Frenchmen don’t like being told to shut up…. and I actually respect them for that.


And so, America must choose between two sacred cows:

Do we dogmatically defend the idea of perfectly glorified cultural sensitivity, censor the unpleasant, and condemn Charlie Hebdo for racist bigotry, writing off the outrage as Islamophobia? (Neither of which is true.)
Or do we defend free speech, and the right of free expression, acknowledging its paramount importance to liberty, acknowledging that no man or woman deserves to die for what they’ve written or drawn?

The two are becoming increasingly incompatible, and whether we choose now, or delay it until later, we WILL have to make the choice. I hope we choose the latter, but I fear we have already settled for the former.


Louis Petolicchio lives and writes in Central Pennsylvania. Follow him on Twitter.