Freedom of Speech Is A License to Speak — Use It, Or Lose It!

As writers, we have a responsibility to speak out when things get under our skin and poke at our gut in an unrelenting way.

Words that evoke emotion or provoke thought is what writers do and should be doing, especially now at a time of one-party government led by an authoritarian bent president.

Jessica Kourkounis via Getty Images Breannamarsh15 via Reddit

Yes, our President has authoritarian tendencies. He embraces dictators like Putin, Duterte, and Erdogan and condemns our democratic allies — And no, I’m not speaking as a progressive, though I wear the label proudly. I’m speaking as a citizen of our great democracy, as someone who can’t sleep at night when I think about the man who sits in the oval office with a temperament of a five-year-old.

You may have noticed that his epidermis is thin. He can’t take criticism or responsibility for his actions or words. He has no problem blaming others for his mistakes then sacrificing them to save himself. His only loyalties are to his family and his bank accounts. That is the only constant in a chaotic administration ruled by an unstable man.

His masculinity is threatened if he’s not a “winner” or doesn’t have the biggest crowds. *wink* *wink* He responds to unflattering accusations by lashing out with pompous, incredulous lies to protect his manhood, while undermining the institutions that are a framework of our democracy: the press, the intelligence agencies, the judicial branch, the scientists and the laws that he believes don’t apply to him.

You might think he’s dumb or crass or inept at diplomacy. It doesn’t matter. He is capable of destroying us by the power he wields in the highest office, along with the controlling party of one that enables him, putting party over country to hold onto power.

The GOP started their power grab years ago by redefining electoral districts through Gerrymandering. They continued their absorption of power and deference to the powerful by hijacking Obama’s supreme court seat to keep the court conservative, by denying the reality of science for the sake of oil company profits, and by tweaking the Senate rules to favor lobbyists and special interest groups. If they approve Trump’s budget, they’ll cut programs for the poor and middle class and change the tax code to enrich the rich, allowing billionaires to control our country like Russian oligarchs — the men Trump admires and emulates.

It isn’t paranoid to think there could be a political shift in this country from democracy to autocracy. The cracks are evident in our divided political system and the uncertainty of what is real or false. Thanks to Trump’s cult-like repetition ridiculing and demeaning the “dishonest media” and branding them as “an enemy of the people.”

Undermining and vilifying the media is a playbook often used by dictators to effect a radical change in government.

“The phrase “enemy of the people” — that has a history. The only people that I know that have used that phrase were (Joseph) Stalin and the people who succeeded Stalin in the Soviet Bloc,” Nadler said. “The press is not the ‘enemy of the people.’ Nobody is an ‘enemy of the people,’ because they disagree with me or you about what we ought to be doing.”

During Trump’s recent overseas trip, he shut out the media, conducted press briefings off camera, and never held a press conference in order to control the coverage. According to MSNBC reporter Kelly O’Donnell:

When world leaders convened at the G7 Summit in Italy, the United States was the only country that didn’t hold press conferences:

If we ignore signs of the erosion of our freedoms or dismiss the notion as progressive neurosis or hysterical hyperbole, autocracy will blindside us one day.

It has happened before to people in nations content in their complacency of unintended ignorance. It happened while they sleepwalked through their day and missed the legislative creep of plutocratic policy passed by their leaders, as they pulled the strings that unraveled the fabric of society.

Whether we agree or disagree on right/left wedge issues is irrelevant, as long as we can agree that we need to be free in order to disagree.

White House Pulls The Plug On Meals On Wheels

Caution Elderly CrossingConsidered a non-essential item in the White House budget, the Meals on Wheels program will likely be terminated along with grandma — “Whose life expectancy exceeds her value to society,” according to the budget overview.

“Non-essential spending on people who’ve outlasted their expiration date will be shifted to essential budgets like the military, to help pay for wars caused by Trump‘s early morning Twitter rants.”

A White House aide cited the President’s recent tweet on North Korea and China as a reason for the increase in military spending.

Trump Disses China

“We started an office pool in the West Wing on who will attack first,” but then refused to reveal the country on which he placed his bet.

He told reporters that Trump’s poor diplomatic skills also factored into the budget increase “because of POTUS‘s tendency to insult world leaders not amused by him.” The aide emphasized the importance of shutting down non-essential programs to maintain a strong military “by killing off the weaklings that are almost dead anyway.”

During a recent White House briefing, Press Secretary Sean Spicer justified the White House’s decision on Meals on Wheels. “The President’s goal is to shift government spending from old people programs like Meals on Wheels to the youth-centric Parking Space Restoration Plan that eliminates handicap parking and wheelchair ramps.”

Reporters responded with aggressive handwaving and yelling in an effort to ask follow-up questions, which ended abruptly when Spicer threw a shoe at a reporter who spoke out of turn and got a timeout in the back corner of the room.

The briefing resumed a few moments later despite Spicer’s inability to locate the shoe he threw at the reporter. “It’s unbelievable,” he said. “That I can’t find my shoe… and that money is wasted on failing programs like Meals on Wheels…”

He continued. “Feeding people who have no interest in living or eating is a counter-productive use of public resources and an unnecessary drain on the Federal budget. Look, no one’s thriftier than I am,” then he lifted his shoeless foot and wiggled a toe through a hole in his sock.

“I’m thrifty but at least I can feed myself. Old people need to get with the program or leave the planet,” he screamed. “They need to get their ass out of bed, grab their cane, hobble down to the corner market and buy their own damn food. No one wants to watch them eat anyway,” he said, then made an “ew” face.

“For years, public resources have gone to the deadweights of society, people who no longer contribute to the workforce or their family. No one wants to hear their kids complain about grandma’s wheelchair always getting in the way.”

Maria Gloom, a 90-year-old great-grandmother enrolled in the Meals on Wheels program was invited to watch the briefing from the green room. A career government analyst for over forty years, Maria agreed with Spicer’s assessment. “He’s right,” she said. “I’ve got no family and don’t deserve to eat. Why the government continues to waste money on me I’ll never know.”

“It’s true. She’ll never know,” said a Meals on Wheels spokesperson on hand during the interview. “Maria suffers from dementia. Since there’s no one else to care for her, the government is her family now. And it’s unconscionable that the government to whom she’s devoted her life wants to take away the program that keeps her alive–”

“So, I can feed my cats,” Maria interrupted. “Meals on Wheels pays for my damn cats. How’s that for government waste?”

The Meals on Wheels spokesperson noted that Maria didn’t have any cats.

“I used to,” Maria protested. “Until the pussy grabber took them away.”

Spicer wouldn’t confirm or deny what Maria Gloom said but added, “Look at her. She’s all wrinkled like my Nonna.”

A public outcry against the White House budget prompted Maria to tell reporters. “Just give my money to veterans. They deserve it more than me.”

To which, Spicer responded, “We’re purging funds for veterans, too.” Then, he concluded the questioning, grabbed his shoe from a reporter’s mouth and left the briefing room.

DeVos To Rollout Her Vodka Soda Swap Plan For Schools

Higher education depends on a higher tolerance to alcohol. ~Betsy DeVos

Betsy DeVos speaks at CPAC 2017

By Gage Skidmore via Wikimedia Commons

In Betsy DeVos first action as Secretary of Education, she called for an expansion of Michelle Obama‘s healthy school lunch program, introducing her plan to replace sodas with vodka in school cafeteria vending machines.

A spokesperson for Stolichnaya confirmed reports of airplane-sized bottles being flow into schools across the U.S. “They can mix it with tomato juice,” said Anton Borscht. “Very healthy for the little ones.”

Betsy DeVos agreed. “Rather than serve our children soda that’s high in fructose, we can start them on a smarter healthier path to adulthood.”

When pressed about the possibilities of students falling off their chairs drunk during class and an increase in DWIs, DeVos explained. “The bottles are so tiny a child would have to consume 10 in order to fail a Breathalyzer test. An expansion of the Patriot Act’s school surveillance program will nip that problem in the bud.”

Still, child sober advocates issued a statement condemning the DeVos Vodka Soda Swap Initiative.

Secretary DeVos is sending the wrong message to parents and children nationwide. The unprecedented consumption of vodka by elementary school age students would produce a generation of future alcoholics and undermine the public education system.

DeVos disagreed.

We know about the harmful effects of soda as a primary cause of childhood obesity. Vodka would produce a calmer, healthier generation of kids by eliminating anxiety caused by the pressures of a competitive educational system which often leads to binge eating.

The Vodka Soda Swap Initiative would save millions of taxpayer dollars. President Trump’s deep-seeded relationships with Russian Oligarchs would enable him to negotiate ‘amazing deals’ that would drive the price down on imported vodka and ultimately be far less expensive than soda.

An increase in local police budgets as promised by the President would provide additional boots on the ground in public schools to prevent the abuse of alcohol by students and stop them from leaving the school grounds while intoxicated.

DeVos believes that rebuilding the nation’s public school system can start by ‘making smart choices that save public dollars and get kids drinking healthy again.’

“I had my first vodka and tomato juice when I was in junior high,” DeVos recalled. “It was one of those aha moments when you realize ‘this will change my life for the better.'”

Her family refused to comment on reports that after consuming her first alcoholic drink, DeVos walked into a wall and broke her nose. Though in a rare moment of candor, DeVos admitted, “I didn’t’ feel a thing.”

As far as other plans to improve the public school system, DeVos hinted at major initiatives in the future.

We’re considering eliminating gym and installing virtual athletic video rooms. We can then scale back on hiring teachers and shrink the bloated education budget. I know how to save public ed money. I did it in Michigan as the Republican Party chairwoman. I destroyed the public school system and education in general by funneling public school funds to sketchy charter schools that provided subpar education to our kids.

Kids today are lazy and need to be more proactive in their learning. The Internet has many wonderful free educational videos on YouTube. We should take advantage of these free supplemental aids and incorporate them into the education system. This way a child can be more involved in their educational road maps and design their own individualized program that best suits their needs.

My Vodka Soda Swap Initiative will get kids on the right track by making them more confident and open to trying new things.

DeVos declined to comment on the health problems related to alcohol addiction and impact it would have on the health system in the future.

“Healthcare is a quagmire for Congress to figure out,” she said, and then walked into a wall.

Sweden Incident: The Migrant Meatball Crisis

The sneeze heard around the world.

On top of spaghettiThe cause of the Sweden Incident became clearer late Sunday night in newly leaked information from the Trump White House. A kitchen in Stockholm is the focus of the investigation that involves a plate of spaghetti and one migrant meatball that went missing during an early bird special.

Reports from Stockholm indicate that an unidentified elderly female patron in a housecoat shuffled up to a plate of spaghetti “all covered with cheese” and sneezed on it, catapulting the meatball from the plate, which then “rolled off the table onto the floor.”

An arrest still has not been made as authorities struggle to contain the chaotic scene at the restaurant, while they search for the gray-haired perpetrator and breaded meatball. Chef Casper, who plated the dish of spaghetti and meatballs, has barricaded himself inside the kitchen refusing to speak to reporters.

Meatball sightings have been rolling into the 800 number posted at the Culinary Meatball Institute since the Sweden Incident was first reported hours earlier. However, the authenticity of these reports cannot be verified until authorities have sifted through all the calls.

At this hour, the Sweden Incident continues to unnerve a jittery country just days after the infamous Bowling Green Massacre struck fear in the hearts of U.S. citizens.

Updated at 8:45 PM

In late breaking news, officials confirmed information on the meatball’s whereabouts. A waiter at the restaurant had reportedly spotted the meatball as it “rolled out of the door,” according to several bystanders requesting anonymity.

Other eyewitnesses stated that after it rolled out the door, a pedestrian spotted the meatball in front of the restaurant in a state of “obvious distress or possibly sauced,” according to the local authorities. Then, “it rolled in the garden and under a bush.”

Officials immediately descended upon the garden in an attempted search and rescue operation to locate the meatball and return it to the kitchen.

Shortly after commencing the operation the meatball was located, prompting cheers from onlookers that quickly changed into audible gasps. Emergency responders told Stockholm authorities that the meatball was found in poor condition, described by someone on the scene as “nothing but mush.”

EMT workers were still hopeful they could save the meatball, scooped it up with a spatula then medevacked it to a local hospital where it was placed in the ICU.

Later, hospital officials announced that the “meatball had succumbed to its injuries despite efforts to save it.”

A forensic expert was called in to extract a section of meat for testing and ingested it, telling authorities that “The mush was as tasty as tasty could be, ” adding, “I’m confident that early next summer it will grow to a tree with great big meatballs and tomato sauce.”

As the CSI team wrapped up the investigation, local authorities arrested the suspected sneezer identified as Typhoid Mary, included on the WHO terror watch list, as revealed at a press conference in the hospital lobby. A WHO representative could not be reached for comment.

During the press conference, a reporter from the fake news site, Ai yai yai!, interrupted the proceedings with, “WHO could not be reached for comment?”

To which the official responded, “Exactly, WHO?”

The questioning continued for several minutes before another reporter asked, “What?”

This was immediately followed with an adamant, “No, WHO?”

Chef Casper would not respond to reporters’ requests for a statement, as he was inconsolable about the loss of his meatball and instead released a written statement to the Culinary Meatball Institute:

“If you eat spaghetti all covered with cheese, hold on to your meatball and don’t ever sneeze.”

The letter can be viewed in its entirety at a website dedicated to the survivors of terrorist sneeze attacks on minced meat.

America Elects Its Next Celebrity President

Trump Thank You TourIt’s not surprising that Trump won the election. Americans love reality television. Millions of viewers tune it to watch Survivor every Wednesday night, others can’t survive without their Tuesday fix of Dancing with the Stars. When the election mutated into a spin-off of The Apprentice, Americans couldn’t get enough of Trump’s on-the-trail antics, some of it funny, some of it scary, yet entertaining all the same.

The media also embraced the campaign’s carnival-like atmosphere, analyzing Trump’s tweets and monitoring his rallies, waiting for him to say something outrageous that would drive the 24/7 news cycle. Every day, it seemed, a Trump narrative dominated the headlines, stealing airtime from Hillary. Even when Trump wasn’t the focus of the news, his response to Hillary’s bad press became news when he inevitably stepped on the story with one of his blunders.

“This one will sink him,” the talking heads predicted, first during the primaries and then the campaign.

“He’s the Teflon Don,” another shot back. “Nothing has sunk him yet.”

That turned out to be accurate. No matter how outrageous or inflammatory Trump could be, his supporters stuck by their guy. He was entertaining, wasn’t politically correct (to a fault). He spoke to them like a friend and was somebody they wanted to have a beer with. His recognizable face and brand made them feel warm and fuzzy. They knew this guy. They had watched him on TV: The Apprentice, the Miss America Pageant, and Access Hollywood. While Hillary became ensnared in a character battle with Trump that brought out her greatest weaknesses, Trump was celebrated for his. “It was just Trump being Trump,” the guy who was everything that Washington was not.

He was the anti-presidential candidate. Though his negatives were higher than Hillary’s was, it became an asset for him, not for her. He was, Mr. Reality TV, was supposed to be outrageous and politically incorrect. That was his brand.

The Clinton campaign made a grave error using character as their focus of the campaign. Character was her greatest weakness, his greatest strength… because he was the likable reality TV star, she, the dishonest wonk, according to Trump and his supporters. The Clintons underestimated the power of a reality TV star and the audience that adored and trusted him. Even if Trump supporters thought he was a clown, he was a clown they knew. They didn’t really know Hillary, even though she had been active in politics for many years. They had heard about Benghazi and Monica Lewinsky. Knew they shouldn’t like her. But not until the email scandal and Trump’s branding of her as “Crooked Hilary,” was her character transformation complete. A complicit media that had an appetite for demonizing Clinton, assisted in propelling the narrative that Trump had created.

The media fell in love with Trump, the rating’s magnet; they adored him, even when abused by him, and overlooked facts for the sake of audience market share. They followed Trump’s Twitter activity more than leads on his questionable business dealings and character flaws. Had the media latched onto Trump’s taxes as firmly as Hillary’s emails, Trump may have been forced to release them before he takes the Oath of Office on January 20th.

I thought the media would have learned their lessons from the campaign. But they continue to allow Trump to drive the narrative, dictate the script, while they report on every tweet. They treat him like a TV star, not a president-elect. They embrace his weaknesses: his thin skin and erratic behavior, to bolster their ratings, instead of reporting on how his flaws could adversely affect our country and the world. They want to cultivate favors with the new president-elect, not alienate him.

While we watch Trump captivate the media with his outrageous statements: his bigotry, bullying, xenophobia, and sexism, as he flip-flops on his campaign promises (mostly overlooked by the press) — America loses its soul. Because they elected a celebrity they thought they knew, but really didn’t know.

The media and their audience focused on Trump’s shenanigans instead of his backstory: his global financial ties, not vetted, Russian involvement in the election (and possible coordination with the Trump campaign) mostly glossed over, along with the Trump Foundation and Trump University.

The media didn’t hound Trump to release his taxes and his supporters didn’t care if he released them or not. They believed Trump when he told them that he was under audit and that the “dishonest media” was out to get him, would crucify him if he released his taxes. By defusing the media’s influence, questioning the veracity of every negative story about him, Trump became the media authority, the only honest news source according to Trump. Because of his recognizable brand and power of celebrity to “grab them by the pussy” or “do whatever the hell I want,” he seduced the American people, who idolized their TV star, and convinced them that he would “Make America Great Again,” despite not having substantial plans to backup his claims.

Because the media embraced the notion that Americans wanted to be entertained, not informed, we are now involuntary participants in a reality TV show, unlike anything we’ve seen before. No one received a call from central casting, and yet we have accepted our roles as the electorate in a Trump presidency.

As in all reality TV shows, there will be winners and losers. However, if President-elect Trump’s cabinet picks are an indication of what to expect in future episodes, there will be no winners, except for the star and cast of the Trump POTUS TV show that will run for four consecutive seasons on every station.

We will be a captive audience whether we like it or not.

Writer’s Block: Blame It On Trump!

Trump 60 Minutes Interview

I had every intention of writing a blog post but that same old dread enveloped me like a noxious fog — President Trump.

Eye twitches.

I tried to calm myself by meditating: ohm, ohm… Oh, my God, President Trump.

Throat constricts.

I tried taking a walk to get inspired: Trees, birds… Trump.

Brain freezes.

I’ve got nothing, I said. Any thoughts? I asked Myself, usually a very good listener and purveyor of good advice.

But she wasn’t helpful this time. “I don’t know,” Myself said introspectively. “Maybe write something about Trump.”

“But that’s depressing,” I grumbled. “Thinking about Trump makes me grumpy, or dare I say, Trumpy. You know I haven’t written anything in months because of Trump.”

Myself just sighed. She knew that Trump’s bigoted, unhinged comments stifled my creativity and provoked me to yell at inanimate objects like the shoe I just tripped over.

“What the hell, shoe!” I yelled. “Are you trying to kill me?”

The shoe offered a laced up rebuke. “You left me here,” it said. “… abandoned me like all the ideas you’ve scribbled on torn pages in your notebook. This one is on you, missy!”

“But, but?”

But, there were no more buts. The shoe was right–literally.

I had no business yelling at anything and went on an apology tour to all the inanimate objects in the house.

I realized that being depressed and stuck is exactly what a bully would want from the ladies he’s grabbed by the pussy, metaphorically or figuratively.

It didn’t matter. If I allowed Trump to victimize me from afar, my voice would be silenced–exactly what Trump would want.

So, I’ll do my best not to get Trumped and rant in run-on sentences with protruding cartoon eyes. It only upsets my blog who stares at me blankly, sputtering nonsensical words across an anemic-looking page.

“Damn it!” I screamed. “Write something smart!”

At which point the sidearm of my chair slapped my wrist and said, “Stop choking the monitor!”

“My God. I’m a monster!” I unclenched the computer and wiped my fingerprints from the screen.

“Sorry blog. This anger thing is unconscious and scary pervasive. I need to get a grip without getting a grip. Use my hands for good, instead of evil.”

“The power of Christ compels you” to purge the beast and write.

But write about what? Puppies or politics?

I love puppies but their cuteness is wasted on words, best captured in video or pictures.

I love politics but lately just see the giant orange burrito spew guacamole on TV. It sends me on a taco spending spree to crush them in the compactor.

No, I need a Trumpectomy, to turn off the TV and get Trump out of my head. Once there’s nothing left of him, I’ll be able to write again.

Now, if I only could think of something to write about.

Has your writing been Trumped?