Putting Shirkey’s Latest Controversy In The Correct Context

If you came here because you were looking for more about Mike Shirkey’s most recent (as of February 11th, 2021) controversial comments, first of all, welcome!  Secondly, buckle up, because there’s a LOT you haven’t been told, and it's not all about our dear poser of a state senator.  Oh, don’t get me wrong, he’s an ass and a half, and he’s about as effective a legislator as damp sod, but while several of the things he said in the video clips you’ve seen are inexcusable, the context in which he said them doesn’t leave him as the primary bad guy here.  He’s still a bad guy, he’s just not the bad guy in this situation.

I was originally going to call this piece “Cut For Time,” because that’s why you haven’t gotten this context.  Today’s newscasts and social media soundbites are too short, and most outside news outlets don’t bother doing deep dives into the goings-on here in Hillsdale County.  With this particular matter, they don’t see the necessary context as necessary, they just see the headline: “State Senate Majority Leader Denies Obvious Fact.”  That’s the situation that has allowed the local Republican Party leadership to frame this entire story their own way in an attempt to take Shirkey down a peg or two.

What you’re not getting is THEIR backstory.  To truly grasp the plot of this unintentional dramedy, you have to know who the characters are.

That starts with the former Hillsdale County Republican Party leadership.

Like the state and national-level parties, the Hillsdale GOP was previously under the control of, what was at the time, the neoconservative majority within the party.  These former heads of the county party were (and still are) not genuine conservatives in the fiscally responsible, small government, individual liberty sense.  They’re the tax-and-spend, fiscally-freewheeling-when-it’s-their-cause, socially conservative, borderline if not full-on theocratic, big-government liberals.  State Senator and Majority Leader Mike Shirkey, who represents all of Jackson, Hillsdale, and Branch Counties, is this type of Republican.

If you’ve watched the original video (embedded above), you’ve heard Shirkey say that some years back, Hillsdale’s GOP turned into a “shit show.”  He wouldn’t admit it on the spot because he’s a coward who resorts to deflection or outright lies when confronted, but he was talking, in part, about the type of men he was sitting with.  Maybe not those three men specifically, but their type exactly.

So who are this new crop?

Hillsdale County Republican Party Chair Darren Wiseley most recently ran for and lost the District 58 Michigan House seat which term-limited State Rep. Eric Leutheuser was vacating.  That seat went instead to Andrew Fink, a man from Ann Arbor who moved to Hillsdale County two years prior to running and was backed by a dark money ad campaign conducted by the supposedly “independent” non-profit electioneering arm of Consumers Energy – a big utility corporation here in Michigan which, through that campaign arm, spends a LOT of money on backing their choice of candidates.  Why Fink was their choice remains unclear, but the general assumption is that the reason why the company bought and paid for him is to protect their investment in wind turbines that have been and continue to be built across Branch and Hillsdale Counties.  The amount of dark money spent on pushing Fink was unprecedented for Hillsdale County, and Wiseley was one of the three candidates who got screwed over by it.  That doesn’t justify his current positions in any way, but it helps explain why he ran for party chair shortly thereafter.

Jon Smith, now the party secretary, is a local activist who has worked for several years alongside perennial sheriff’s candidate and self-styled justice advocate Jon-Paul Rutan.  Smith is the man who recorded the video above, which you've seen clips of in the news.  Wiseley was sitting across from him, next to Shirkey.

Sitting next to Smith is believed by locals to be Lance Lashaway, currently a board member for the City of Hillsdale’s Downtown Tax Increment Finance Authority, and an active member of the county party among this group.

I mentioned Jon-Paul Rutan.  He, these three, and a total of about a hundred people from the area took two charter buses to participate in January 6th’s attempted seditious coup in Washington D.C.  Smith even went so far as to do a Facebook Live stream from what he called the “front lines” that day.  In a subsequent video of a meeting of the county party – live-streamed and recorded by active member Penny Swan, another local political activist, who has ran and lost races for Hillsdale city council – at least one person among this group admitted to having been either on the Capitol steps or inside the building, making them eligible for a harrowing phone call from the FBI, and there are several indications that lead many of us around here to believe that the bureau has, in fact, been in contact with them.

I know several of these people personally.  I have interacted with all of them at some level over the years.  Despite all my disagreements with Rutan, I voted for him in the most recent sheriff’s election because all of the other options – including the previous undersheriff who had committed forgery of the county treasurer’s signature on an IRS document and had the previous sheriff (himself a theocrat) attempt to cover it up for him – were even worse.  I had supported the second-most-recent effort that Swan had made to get elected to the city council (I even designed her campaign logo as an in-kind contribution).  I’ve had plenty of friendly conversations with Smith.  And while I didn’t support Wiseley’s run for state rep, I readily defended him when he and the candidate I DID support went on the offensive against their carpetbagging, dark-money-funded opponent.

Bringing this back around to the neoconservatives whose positions they usurped, the Republican Party is guilty of exactly the same internal dirty tricks that the Democratic Party is guilty of.  The Democrats actually learned it from the Republicans.  I’ve seen it play out many times with people in my life who ran for local, county, and even state-level office.  If the GOP doesn’t like you, they will not only change all the rules to prevent you from coming anywhere near close to being elected, they will do it with such cold-hearted ruthlessness that it will utterly break you.  My own parents have been victims of this, as my stepfather ran against Leutheuser for the District 58 seat that first time around.  I saw the damage it did to both him and my mother.  Damage that continues to this day.  It’s not pretty.  It’s not acceptable in any way.  It’s devastating.  It’s deeply painful, and it causes rifts that you never in a million years would have expected to form.  I will never forgive the Michigan GOP and their local and state-level Good Ol’ Boys Network for what they did to my family.  Ever.

None of this is to defend who the new county party leadership currently are.  All of it is to say: who those people currently are is not who they used to be.  Over the recent several years, these people have collectively turned their negative experiences into a desire for revenge, control, and what they misguidedly see as justice.  That is what led them to run for and take over the leadership of the Hillsdale County Republican Party.  That is what led them to buy into Nazism, Trumpism, and the Big Lie.  It doesn’t excuse their decisions, behavior, or actions, because they all know better; each and every one of them, and I’ve told them so.  But it does explain those decisions, behavior, and actions.  That’s their motivation.  They got beaten down, and now they want to be the ones doing the beating.

So when you heard Shirkey say that the Hillsdale County GOP turned into a “shit show,” that is what he’s talking about.  When he was asked what that means and he shrugged off the question, it’s not because he isn’t willing to venture a guess, it’s because he’s a coward who isn’t willing to say out loud what everyone, himself included, understood the intent of that comment to be.

Unironically, he’s a coward about saying it because abusers usually are, at heart, cowards, and he’s one of their abusers.

Oh, I told you up front, he’s not in the clear here.  He’s just as in the wrong as they are.  But if you want to know how they got the idiotic opinions that they currently hold, if you want to know why they censured Shirkey for not being the Nazi that they all have become, if you want to understand how he knows how to play them like a fiddle… it’s because he was there all along, watching it play out, and playing his own part in their previous political failures.  He’s gaslighting them with that phrase.

See, here’s the thing: nobody actually likes Mike Shirkey.  The fact that he was ever elected in the first place, and the fact that he’s kept getting re-elected speaks to the success that the MIGOP has had with gerrymandering over the years.  His previous House district map was insane.  It’s no better at the moment, either, and won’t be until our state’s brand-new independent redistricting commission gets the 2020 census results and draws their first map.  His Senate district isn’t gerrymandered, but it’s been a Republican stronghold for its entire existence, and it’s pretty much a given that whoever wins the Republican primary for that seat is the winner of the seat itself.  The party, under its neoconservative leadership, was never going to abandon such a loyal neocon as Shirkey, so when he was term-limited in the House and ran for the Senate, his win was, in every sense of the word, guaranteed.  They never liked him, either, but he adamantly argues for their policies in near-lockstep, so they put up with him.
The only good thing about Mike Shirkey is that he’s term-limited in 2022 and will never hold state-level office again.  Oh, he wants to be governor, but this state will never vote to put him in that position.  His political career is all but over.  Good riddance.

But the sickening, hilarious truth is that his assessment of the censure, the people who approved it, and the entire situation that put him in a position to be caught on camera saying what he did... is absolutely correct.  Wiseley, Smith, Lashaway, Rutan, Swan, and their whole crew went after the county party positions because they thought it would give them some power to use and abuse for the purposes of bringing about a reckoning with those who they believe are in the wrong.  But Shirkey correctly points out that the censure is meaningless, it has no authority, it holds no power, it does not punish him in any way by any stretch of the imagination, and it’s nothing for him to be concerned about.  He also correctly observes that they’re going to find the state party completely unresponsive to their desires and whims, they’re only costing themselves a seat at the table, and that means a complete and total inability to serve their local party members and constituents.

On the opposite side of that coin, while nearly everything the Hillsdale County Republican Party’s current leadership stands for is dead wrong, they are correct in that Shirkey is advocating “going along to get along,” which is exactly how the state and national-level parties keep everyone in line with the whims and dictates of the powers that be.  That’s not acceptable.

But you’ll never change that about either of the major parties.  In fact, you’ll never change that about any political party, at any level, anywhere, ever.  That’s the nature of party politics.  That’s part of why George Washington warned us not to form political parties at all.  That’s why I personally reject political parties altogether and vote based on my principles.  You can fight City Hall.  You CAN’T fight The Party.

So what does it all mean, and why does it matter?

Well, for one thing, it shows that Nazism is an insidiously creeping ideology.  What I mean by that is, it takes over by speaking just enough truth mixed with the lies that otherwise rational people believe it, are corrupted, then open the floodgates for the more violent, purely evil ideology to take root.  That’s what happened to the Hillsdale County Republican Party.  Nazism found the rejects, those who had been beaten and broken by the neoconservatives, told them they had to stand up and fight back against the corruption, and pushed them to revenge for what was done to them.  Accompanying that were the messages that only THEY were real Americans, that anyone who thinks differently from them are traitors to this country, that Trump is the godhead of good governance.  Yeah, yeah, I know; but when you’re as downtrodden as these people have been, you're particularly vulnerable to buying into completely insane ideas when the people pushing them play to your victimhood.  That’s how Nazism achieves its goals: sneaking in disguised as the solution to your personal problems.

For another, it shows that the Republican Party is not long for this world because they didn’t learn the lesson the last time.  Let’s go back to our high school American History classes.  Remember who the Republicans are?  And I’m talking about the whole party; the Nazis, the neocons, the Reaganites, the Goldwater guys and gals… everyone under the Republican Party tent.  They’re the Whigs.  They’re the part of the Whig Party that didn’t fracture into other minor parties or join the Democrats.  Ironic that the same problems which caused the formation of the Republican Party – the Whigs’ denial of reality, refusal to stamp out bad actors, and lack of any real ideas – are the problems that are causing its destruction.

I have no sympathy for Shirkey, the Hillsdale GOP, or anyone who continues to this day to call themselves a Republican.  They all know better.  They all did it anyway.  They all deserve the consequences of their respective actions.  I washed my hands of it all a long time ago.  The Republican Party as an entity will continue to destroy itself from within, they will never hold major elected office again, and good riddance to the lot of them.

Who would have guessed that, 167 years after the Republican Party was founded under the oaks in Jackson, Michigan, the events that played out some 21 miles southwest at a restaurant in Jonesville would encapsulate the very essence of its demise?

…Oh, yeah, I forgot to mention that: the restaurant where they met is Spangler’s, which is currently facing massive punitive fines for defiantly keeping its dining room open during the lockdown.  That’s why Shirkey and the Hillsdale GOP chose to meet there.  The food is pretty good, too, don’t get me wrong, but they met there for political reasons.

I’m not unsympathetic to Mitch Spangler’s situation; I understand why he did it – it’s a new location that he sank a lot of money into just before the pandemic developed, and he can’t afford to shut down entirely.  But he didn’t have to, and while he was taking a financial hit by doing delivery and pick-up only, so was everyone else.  He’s not special and he doesn’t get to defy the rules, especially not when Hillsdale County had the worst infection rate per capita in the entire State of Michigan at the time.  There were other ways he could have generated more revenue.  Many other restaurants, here and elsewhere, found them.  If Spangler had gone about it the right way, he wouldn’t be facing those fines, and contrary to his claims otherwise, his restaurant would still be open.

The fact that he did it the WRONG way and is now playing victim is exactly what gave the Hillsdale GOP the incentive to meet with Shirkey there.  They were making a political statement by using that particular restaurant to meet with the highest-ranking elected official in their state’s party to accuse him of, among other things, not opposing the state's lockdown measures more strongly.  Thus continues the cycle of Nazis recruiting and using those who have a bone to pick with the system.

And now you know -- to borrow a phrase from the late, great Paul Harvey – the rest of the story.

Have a Cup of "Do The Right Thing, J.J.," How About That?

UPDATE: J.J. Hodshire has now had me blocked from Hillsdale Hospital's Facebook page.  So I guess he won't be offering that apology he owes all of us.  So be it.

Screenshot showing that I've been blocked from commenting on Hillsdale Hospital's Facebook page.

You messed up, J.J.  And now you're even deeper in it because you're yelling at good people who are pointing out that you messed up.

Let's start at the beginning.  On Tuesday, Julie Appleby of Kaiser Health News, reprinted in Crain's Detroit Business, published an article entitled "How Hillsdale College employees got COVID vaccines ahead of schedule."  Far from biased, though certainly adding necessary context (as any good piece of journalism does), the article lays out the basic facts: Hillsdale Hospital received more than twice the requested amount of Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine in late December and had no suitable storage for it.  Hillsdale College heard of the need, has the suitable storage, and offered it to the hospital.  Two weeks later, the college faculty and staff were allowed to jump the state's mandated timeline for vaccination tiers.  Seems like an open-and-shut case of quid-pro-quo. Because it is... even if Hillsdale Beauty College did also receive staff vaccinations at the same time (plausible deniability is such a wonderful thing, no?).

Then yesterday, Hillsdale Hospital President and CEO J.J. Hodshire used his institution's weekly Facebook Live broadcast to not only deny any and all wrongdoing, but attack the people who DARED to point out that what he did was wrong.

Typical of someone who knows they're wrong but is trying to deny it, he couldn't get his dates correct, and even if he had, the dates he was giving -- January 6th or 8th -- do not excuse what happened.  He claims that Michgan moved to Tier 1B, which includes "educators and others," as he emphasized, before the hospital was aware of the change, thus excusing him for jumping tiers.

Which is bullshit, and he knows it, because not only is that a pure cover-your-ass, post-hoc excuse, it's flat-out incorrect.  Yes, Michigan DID move to Tier 1B, but as noted by Jeff King -- whose exact words of "do it better" were quoted by J.J. in his rant about "trolls" and those who supposedly don't contribute to our community -- as of December 23rd (and as was current as Hillsdale Hospital administration understood it in early January), the "educators" that Tier 1B included, according to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, were "Pre Kindergarten through High School teachers, support staff and child care workers who usually have direct contact with children."

A list of those covered in Michigan's Tier 1B phase of COVID-19 vaccinations, including "Pre Kindergarten through High School teachers, support staff and child care workers who usually have direct contact with children."

In other words, the "educators" that J.J. is citing in Tier 1B are K-12 school employees -- kindergarten, elementary, middle school and high school staff.  Not college faculty.  Not college administration.  Not college staff.  Yet, as the article notes and Hodshire admits in the video, the college staffs received their vaccinations alongside the local K-12 school staffs.  They didn't belong there.  Regardless of what you think about the state's vaccination schedule, regardless of what you think about the college's defiance of state health directives, the college staffs didn't belong there.

The "and others" that Hodshire adamantly focused on seems to come from the below chart from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, showing "other essential frontline workers" in Tier 1B.

A chart from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, showing "School and child care staff" as well as "Other essential frontline workers" in Tier 1B of the state's COVID-19 vaccination timeline.

The problem with that, however, should be obvious.  Given the context of the tier's initial description and the fact that "school care and child staff" are shown in Tier 1B on this chart, as well, it's safe to say that Hillsdale Hospital's chief executive officer is taking severe liberties with that term.  It doesn't mean what he's claiming it does, and no amount of linguistic twisting and pretzel logic will make it do so.

J.J. wrongfully let the colleges jump the line.  Period.  There is no disputing the fact that he is in the wrong here.

Then he went live on Facebook and ranted for over an hour about "trolls" and "haters."

This was J.J.'s Rudy Giuliani outside Four Seasons Total Landscaping moment.  And I'm not the one to make that connection... that came from former Hillsdale Daily News reporter, now KPC Media reporter, Sam Fry.  Certainly not a "troll," as Hodshire repeatedly referred to those of us who have the gall to question his wrongdoing.

Screenshot of Sam Fry's Facebook comment: "They ought to just rename the hospital Four Seasons Total Healthcare after this trainwreck of a press conference.  This gives Rudy Giuliani a run for his money."

To say that I'm a "troll" or someone who isn't active in our community is an outright lie, and J.J. knows me better than that.  To claim that Jeff King is a troll (and I say this as his friend) is accurate, but he certainly has done his part for our community, having helped establish the city's Airport Advisory Committee and been an active voice in city politics while he lived in the area.  The other members of the public who saw this story and reacted to it accordingly all have their own roles to play here in Hillsdale, both the city and the county as a whole.  "Trolls" and "haters" we are not.  We simply call out wrongdoing when we see it.  We saw it here.  We're calling it out.

I'll once again address him directly.

Look, J.J., you know me.  I know you.  Cut the bullshit.  Admit you were wrong.  Apologize.  Promise to do better from here forward.  You don't need to make it worse for yourself (which is what you did yesterday), you need to do what's best for both you AND the hospital by apologizing to the community, admitting your error, and promising to do better.

Also, apologize to Rachel.  She was trying very hard to rein you in yesterday, and you simply gave her no room to do so.  She didn't deserve that.

As for Hillsdale College, same thing.  Cut the bullshit.  Admit your role, admit you were wrong, apologize, and promise to do better.  The staff and administration who were responsible for organizing the clinic, and who knowingly allowed the violation of state guidelines, should have said "no, we're not next in line, give it to the people who are ahead of us first."  But you didn't do that.  That was wrong.  Make it right.

Again, as with all matters in which Hillsdale College is involved, I am disclosing that I am a Hillsdale College employee, but I do not speak for them and they do not speak for me.  These opinions are my own, and as I've demonstrated many times before, I do speak out when my employer does wrong.  This is one of those cases.

And for the record, no, I was not offered a vaccination through the college, nor would I have accepted it if the offer had been made.  For one thing, it's not my turn.  For another, I'm waiting out the long-term effects.  I'm certainly not an anti-vaxxer, but these vaccines are still in trials -- that's what this is, a trial, that's what you're signing up for when you get it -- and I don't put things in my body without knowing all the possibilities.  When I'm satisfied that it's safe for me to be vaccinated, I will absolutely get the shot.

But I'm sure as hell not going to jump the line to do it.

CORRECTION: I initially attributed Tuesday's article to Julie Appleby as a Crain's reporter.  Turns out I missed a section of the byline.  She is, in fact, a reporter for Kaiser Health News.  Crain's merely republished the article.  My apologies for the error.

ADDENDUM: My initial writing did not include this line, and some participants who were unaware that the clinic was in violation of state guidelines took the previous portion of the sentence to mean that they should be made to apologize.  That was not my intent, and I apologize if I made you feel as if I was directing the scorn toward you.  Please know that I do not fault you for being unaware of what was taking place.  It was a fast-moving situation, and it's perfectly understandable that you didn't have all the facts.  I do not hold you at fault.

Hillsdale Either HAS a Public Bus Service or It Doesn't.


dys·​func·​tion·​al  |  \ (ˌ)dis-ˈfəŋ(k)-shə-nᵊl \

A: "N
ot functioning properly; marked by impaired or abnormal functioning."

Oxford English Dictionary:
1: "Not operating normally or properly."

Cambridge Dictionary:
"Not behaving or working normally."

Macmillan Dictionary:
2: "Not working normally."

Collins Dictionary:
"...used to describe relationships or behavior which are different from what is considered to be normal."

2: "Having a malfunctioning part or element."

The City of Hillsdale's Dial-A-Ride public bus service is wonderful... when it's open.  Which is becoming less and less the case these days.  I've taken the bus all over the city for various reasons for about 16 years now, and the experience has consistently degraded due to (and I'm being blunt in the name of honesty here) bad management.  There are multiple problems, and I'll be addressing all of them here today.  Believe you me, this piece has been a long time coming, but my experience just moments before I sat down to write this -- which I'll relay to you shortly -- was the final straw.  I've had it.  It's time for the city to make a choice.

Dial-A-Ride is, primarily, a paratransit service, established to help the disabled and infirm travel around the city as everyone else does, without the need to find a private driver who may or may not be available to take them places, or who may not have a vehicle with the capacity for wheelchairs or walkers.  Public transit is its secondary purpose, but given that its primary purpose receives only a bare minimum of use -- certainly not enough to financially sustain its existence -- it makes sense to focus more on the public transit side.  That is the pathway to success.

But neither of those sides is getting the focus.  School runs are the primary concern because of the semi-lucrative income that they bring.  The ridership is reliable, it brings in much-needed revenue, and it places the cost of bus ownership and maintenance on the city rather than the schools themselves, which is no more than the city would already be spending anyway.  Mind you, this is on top of the buses that the city's public schools already own, and Dial-A-Ride also services the city's private schools, which don't have their own buses.

Which is great for the schools, but terrible for Dial-A-Ride and those of us who WOULD otherwise depend on it, because parents have apparently requested that adults not ride the public bus system while their kids are being transported on said public bus system, and Dial-A-Ride has complied with that request.

I've often relied on the bus to get to the schools where I announce sporting events, and I try to get there about two hours before the game starts in order to set up equipment, get my game materials prepared, give myself enough time to fix any problems that may arise, and be comfortably ready to go before the warm-up starts.  For a typical 5:30 start at Hillsdale Academy, that means I'm in the gym by 3:30.

Several years ago, under previous management, they asked me to call and schedule before 3:30 PM, as they shut down at 4, and school runs take up that final half-hour.  Since that was the time I had set for myself anyway, I had no problem with that, but it did bring up the subject of the school runs.  If someone has a 3:30 doctor's appointment, how are they going to get home?

A couple years back, that time changed to 3:15, because not only did we have to schedule around school runs, but the method by which drivers were being directed had changed, and it was now going to take longer to find a way to schedule rides.  Again, not TOO big a deal for me, but this was the point at which I knew it was only going to get worse.

Recently, I was told 2:45 was now the time.  That's with the standard three available buses, three available drivers, and the service still ostensibly "running" until 4 PM.  I'm not particularly happy about it, but what was I going to do, say "no, you're going to take my call up until 3:30 again, and you'll like it?"  They do reserve the right to ban riders for abusive behavior.

So now we get to today.  Today, I knew that my regular ride home from work at the TV studio was not going to be available, so I had planned on walking across the street to the grocery store, picking up a snack, then calling Dial-A-Ride to get a ride home.  Not that the walk is long, but if you follow me on Facebook, you know that there's a hill I have to conquer to get from there to here, and its incline constantly increases as you approach the top.  It's a pain in the ass, even if you're not a cardiac patient like myself.  Hillsdale High has used it to train their cross-country runners for years.  I could be fit as a fiddle and still get winded walking up that hill without grocery bags in my hands.  It's reasonably worth the $3 to take the bus instead.

I left the studio at 2:30 and did a tiny amount of shopping before getting to the customer service desk right around 2:40 to check out.  When the store employee called Dial-A-Ride, she was told that they were already closed for the day because one driver was out sick.

One driver.  One driver being out sick shut the entire service down for the rest of the day -- save, I assume, for the precious school runs, which due to the COVID-19 pandemic, are now down to only elementary school students from kindergarten through the fifth grade.

This is, quite frankly, bullshit.  This is a sign that the people running the show don't know what they're doing, and are incapable of competently managing the service.  I don't know if that's simply the fault of Dial-A-Ride manager Susan Kehn, or if she's getting direction on this from City Hall, but either way, it's ridiculous and counterproductive, and it needs to be fixed.

That fix starts with the privacy of the school runs.  In the scary and dangerous big cities across this fine country (a couple of which I grew up and went to school in, one of which rather proudly so), school kids ride buses with the general public every day.   For some reason, these people seem to think that Hillsdale is less safe.  Now, excuse me for daring to interject logic into the discussion, but I thought that was part of the whole "small town" appeal that Hillsdale aspired to: we're supposedly safer than the big city.  We're not, and I've addressed that before, but these people are the Pollyannas to which I've been pointing that out for many years now.  Their hypocrisy is stupid and worthy of all the mockery it's given.  If the big city kids can ride with adults in the same vehicle, Hillsdale kids can handle it just fine.  No more school-only bus rides on Dial-A-Ride.  That has to stop immediately.

The other problem to note in my experience today -- and others recently -- is the mismanagement of routing.  And it's not just the length of time needed for scheduling a ride, it's the wait time.  It used to be about 20 minutes from call to pickup on an average day.  If the bus didn't show up within 20 minutes, and you had to get somewhere immediately, you could call again and they would work to fit you in as soon as possible.  That is no longer the case, and it's because of the routing problem.

If you can't figure out how to make a bus get from Point A to Point B in a timely fashion within a city of merely 5.7 square land miles, you don't belong routing buses.  That's just all there is to it.  If that hurts anyone's feelings, I'm sorry it hurts you, but that's the simple truth.

Here's the baseline job description.  You have to know the street map of Hillsdale like the back of your hand (and really, it's not that hard, it's mostly a cardinal direction grid).  You have to be wholly capable of either guessing where an address is, or quickly looking it up.  You have to be able to make a list of pick-ups and destinations and figure out the shortest way to make a group of them work within 30 minutes from the first to the last.  And you have to be able to do all of those things simultaneously.  If you can't, it's not the job for you.

If the city can't find someone who is capable of doing all of that (and let's face it, former manager Judy Buzo was more capable than most at that job), maybe it's time to split up the responsibilities and hire two people.  Employee A takes calls and hands them off to Employee B.  Employee B does the work to put each caller on the most suitable bus, then hands it off to Employee A.  Employee A then radios the bus and has the driver add those stops.  Efficiency is the key here, and if Dial-A-Ride ever hopes to make revenue that's worth a damn, it's going to have to solve the routing problem and return to prime efficiency.

The lack of available drivers is also a problem, and this is one that I know for a fact that City Hall has a role in.  Yes, there is a shortage of qualified drivers because A: there's not much reason for people living in Hillsdale to have a chauffeur license, and B: those who do are already employed elsewhere, and Dial-A-Ride doesn't pay as well.

Now, I'm not suggesting that the city raise the pay rates; that's already governed by contract negotiations with the union... though I'm sure they wouldn't turn down a good offer if the city made one.  But the city already employs people with CDLs, and it wouldn't take much money to pay for training and testing for these CDL holders to get their chauffeur license.  The employees who take that offer would then be on a list of possible substitutes for the regular Dial-A-Ride driving staff.  Even if nothing else at the bus service changes, this alone would prevent today's ridiculous situation from happening again -- unless every single driver and potential substitute somehow fell ill, which is highly unlikely.

And, for the record, even without substitutes, being down one driver is no excuse for closing early.  Lack of subs is not a loophole here.

Finally, lack of funding is the biggest issue.  Again, I'm not suggesting the city simply dump money on the problem, but there are myriad proactive ways that they could be making more money, and they have thus far refused to do so.  For example:

  • Sit down with the City of Jonesville and finally work out a joint services agreement.
    It is absolutely stupid that both cities have gone this long without sharing Dial-A-Ride.  You cannot take the bus to Walmart unless it's the appointed day and hour to do so, because it's in Jonesville.  You cannot take the bus to the medical offices that are in Jonesville.  You cannot take the bus to do shopping in downtown Jonesville, where the storefronts are more open and active than Hillsdale's, despite being the smaller city.  Jonesville gets the business, Hillsdale gets the Dial-A-Ride income.  The increase in gas and maintenance is negligible.  It's a win-win.
  • Expand service hours to 8 PM.
    How the hell is anyone supposed to do anything around town if they're working from 9 to 5 and the buses stop running at 4?  And you wonder why more of the general public doesn't ride?  Yes, this means hiring more drivers.  This means staggering shifts.  This means better routing.  This means a lot of necessary changes, some of which will cost money.  But as we say in the private sector, it takes money to make money.  If Dial-A-Ride ever hopes to be "a thing," as the kids say, it's going to have to bite the bullet and do this.  Start by running only one bus beyond 4 PM to build up the ridership, then grow from there.  This isn't rocket science, it's simple business sense.
  • Add Park & Ride commuter service across the county.
    This one's the moonshot, and frankly, I don't have all that much faith in it, but I'd like to see how much demand there is.  It would require more buses and more drivers, and it would be long into the future before the city should even consider spending money on it, let alone be able to afford it.  But how nice would it be to take the morning bus into town from, say, Reading, get all your errands done in town, then take the bus back to Reading again in the evening?  The City of Hillsdale, proper, is not geographically large enough to justify fixed bus routes... but Hillsdale County is.  It's something to consider down the road.  When there's money available to do it well and do it wisely.  That's not now.  But it's something to work toward.

I know for a fact that I'm not alone in my frustrations, and I know that my ideas have merit.  These are not problems I've invented to cause controversy (or for any other reason), and I didn't just pull my proposed solutions out of thin air.  The dysfunctional state that Dial-A-Ride is currently in is unacceptable.  I call back to the title of this article: Hillsdale either has a public bus service, or it doesn't.  It's time for this city to make the decision once and for all.  Either fix the problems or just shut it all down.  And shutting it all down isn't an option.

Principled Conservatism? Fink Again.

Two ads from Citizens for Energizing Michigan's Economy: one supporting Republican Andrew Fink, the other supporting Democrat Ranjeev Puri.

What do you get when you combine a first-time candidate for state office -- in the person of Andrew Fink -- with an unscrupulous, deep-pocketed dark-money group, and a four-way primary race in Michigan's 58th State House District?

You get the current situation.

Hillsdale city councilmember Bill Zeiser first brought this subject to light earlier this month in a post on Hillsdale's Hot Debates.  As Zeiser noted in his post, the group "Citizens for Energizing Michigan's Economy" had not been active on Facebook since 2017 before buying ads for several state representative candidates this summer.  One of their video ads paints Fink as a "conservative," a "former captain in the United States Marine Corps" who they claim has a "plan to protect our freedoms and Christian values."

"Citizens for Energizing Michigan's Economy" is also running ads for Ranjeev Puri, a Democratic candidate in Michigan's 21st District, located in western Wayne County (metro Detroit, for those who don't live in Michigan, which generally votes Democrat to begin with).  A video ad for him touts the candidate as "an experienced leader who worked for President Barack Obama" who will make sure everyone has the "education, health care, and skills to succeed" following the coronavirus pandemic, and who they claim has a "plan for new opportunities for Michigan."

Not exactly a principled group, these "Citizens for Energizing Michigan's Economy."

So who exactly are they?  According to the Energy and Policy Institute, they are a 501(c)(4) organization funded primarily by Consumers Energy, which uses the supposed "social welfare organization" to run borderline-legal campaign advertising in favor of candidates that (something something something maybe they get a promise from or maybe they just hope something something something) will support Consumers Energy's policy agenda in Lansing.  In fact, on the topic of legality, EPI notes that around this time in 2018, Patrick Anderson of the Anderson Economic Group filed a complaint with the IRS to challenge "Citizens for Energizing Michigan's Economy" on their tax status.  According to EPI:

Anderson writes that CEME is “operating in direct violation of its claimed purpose to ‘receive and administer funds for social welfare purposes’ …  The primary purpose of CEME, as evidenced by its activities and expenditures, is to conduct political campaigns that support or oppose specific candidates for state offices in the State of Michigan.”

In 2017, EPI writes, CEME contributed $25,000 to the Electric Markets Research Foundation, a "front group for electric utilities" which has "commissioned papers supporting utilities’ positions on issues like net metering and the need to extend the lifetimes of non-competitive coal and nuclear plants, and has distributed them to state utility commissioners at [National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners] events."

EPI also notes the following connections:

  • CEME President Howard Edelson, currently also president of the Edelson Group, managed Consumers Energy's 2012 campaign against a ballot initiative that would have increased the state's renewable energy level to 25% by 2025.
  • CEME Vice President Brandon Hoffmeister is also Consumers Energy's Senior VP of Governmental, Regulatory, and Public Affairs.
  • CEME Treasurer/Secretary Ronn Rasmussen is formerly Consumers Energy's Vice President of Strategy and Research.
  • CEME's former Vice President David Mengebier was also formerly Consumers Energy's Senior VP of Governmental, Regulatory, and Public Affairs, and was also the president of the Consumers Energy Foundation.

In short, "Citizens for Energizing Michigan's Economy" is the dark-money political campaign arm of Consumers Energy.

When Bill Zeiser first pointed all of this out -- which he apparently found out about through seeing one of CEME's ads for Andrew Fink on Facebook -- I, among many others, immediately called on Fink to address the issue.  Specifically, I gave him three questions to answer:

  1. Is he knowingly accepting dark money contributions -- regardless of whether they're direct or in-kind?
  2. If so, what does he plan to do for the donors in return?
  3. If not, does he denounce the group and reject their backing?

I issued those questions to him on July 9th.  He did not bother responding until this morning, July 22nd, when publicly visible questions on his campaign's Facebook posts began picking up pace.

Now Fink is fighting a losing battle to claim that I'm spreading lies about him.  Here's the long and short of it:


A bit of a mistake on my part there: they're a 501(c)(4) organization.  An extremely minor detail, but the error necessitates correction.

Oof!  Self-pwnage, as the kids would say.  (See?  I'm hip and with it.)

Another error on my part: the ad does not include video of Fink.  It includes still images.  To use a Bushism, I was misremembering it.  To be fair, I only watched it once or twice earlier this month and hadn't seen it since, so I'm sure you can understand.  However, the point still remains: working in media as I do, I know that it takes good-quality still photographs to produce the level of video that CEME did.  I find it hard to believe that they just pulled some pictures off of Fink's social media pages to use for that spot.

For the record: yes, I DO support Mayor Stockford in this race, but I am not actively campaigning for him beyond sharing the occasional post of his on Facebook.  I do not work for Stockford's campaign, nor have I donated to him.  And my support for Stockford IN NO WAY has ANYTHING to do with Andrew Fink's refusal to condemn and reject the support of an unethical campaign arm of a monopolistic utility corporation.

I did not realize my error about the video until I prepared to write this piece.  But again: the still images are of reasonably high quality, well-suited to the purpose.  I find it hard to believe that was any coincidence.

Additionally, I want to make it absolutely clear why Lauren Fink's attempt to connect with me upsets me, because you might get the impression that I'm insulted by the lack of friendship due to our shared Hillsdale College connection.

No.  That doesn't matter to me in the least.

What angers me is that Lauren reached out to me STRICTLY for the purposes of campaigning, almost as if she thought that our shared Hillsdale College connection meant that I would automatically be interested in supporting her husband's candidacy.  As I pointed out in the comment above, I'm not a means to a political end, and the fact that I work as the public address announcer for Hillsdale College does not mean that I would simply support the political candidacy of someone also connected to Hillsdale College.  I vote based on principle, not popularity in my various and assorted social circles.  I also vote based on principle instead of political party.  I vote based on principle, PERIOD.  So trying to connect with me out of the middle of nowhere for campaign purposes does not sit well with me, and the impression I get that it was because we share that connection sits even less well with me.  It's insulting, it's disingenuous, and it's not acceptable.  That's why I didn't bother responding to the request, and I will not do so in the future, either.

That being said, somewhat ironically, Adam Stockford and I are also connected through Hillsdale College, he being a graduate of the school, as well.  But Adam and I more specifically know each other through his own political career as a city council member and mayor of Hillsdale.  I back him because I've seen his work, and I believe he is the best person for the District 58 seat.  I have no such experience with Fink.

Perfectly stated by Zeiser here.

Then Andrew attempted to double down in several places where I had commented, but here's one from my Uncommon Sense page:

ALL of this could have been avoided If Andrew Fink had simply said, for example, "I reject the support of Citizens for Energizing Michigan's Economy, and I promise that I will do what is right for the people of Hillsdale and Branch Counties, not what Consumers Energy asks me to do."

But this candidate refuses to say those words, and now he's wrongfully accusing me of lying about the whole thing, hoping in vain to make it all go away.  He refuses to condemn this unethical and misleading ad campaign... most likely because he knows he'll benefit from it.  So the question must be asked: is he beholden to Consumers' agenda?

Some Christian values.

UPDATE: As of 11:30 PM this evening, he's still trying, which would be sad if it weren't so hilarious.


UPDATE 2 (7/23): Fink has now cleared up ANY question about the issue: he has been bought and paid for.  Remember: a vote for Andrew Fink is a vote for Consumers Energy.


Apathy and Corruption in the City of Hillsdale

Hillsdale City Hall

This opinion piece, originally written on the old Josh's Uncommon Sense blog on May 15th, 2015, is presented here for archival purposes.  This is the article that precipitated the launch of the short-lived Hillsdale News Now, and placed Josh among the most-followed commentators in Hillsdale County.

NOTE: This post is coming a couple of days early due to its time sensitivity.  The Hillsdale City Council meeting at which a city manager hiring is expected to be approved is tonight, Monday, May 4th, at 7:00 PM.

If I told you to go to 97 North Broad, would you know where that is?

Chances are dangerously high that you wouldn't.  Because nobody in the City of Hillsdale seems to know that we even have a City Hall anymore, let alone know where it is, what's going on there right now, or who's seeking to represent their ward in the November election.

Do you even know that there is a November election?

Do you even know that there are vacancies on the city council right now?

Are you paying attention to local politics at all?

Are you even alive right now?

I shouldn't be too terribly harsh.  We have no real press in this city.  We have no newspaper outside of a lone reporter, a lone sportswriter, and whoever Gatehouse can dupe into writing for them for a pittance this week.  We have a radio station that rips and reads the police blotter, and that's about it.  Sometimes the Jackson Citizen Patriot covers a few stories from the county, but their audience is Jackson County, not us.  And getting the Lansing TV stations to cover anything going on here?  Ha!  Good luck!

It's no wonder you're so woefully uninformed.  There's barely any journalism going on in this town at all.

But let's face it: that's no excuse.  Those of us living here at the spring of the St. Joe just don't give a damn.  City politics?  We can't be bothered.  It's not important to us.  We've got bigger fish to fry.  We're more concerned with... well, anything but city politics.

Remember that big hullabaloo about the streets last year?  City Hall wanted to unnecessarily raise taxes to pay an outrageously overestimated amount of money for street repair, and we collectively -- correctly -- replied, "are you kidding me?"  But beyond rejecting that ballot proposal, what else did you do?  Oh, sure, a few people showed up at city council meetings to present alternatives... which, of course, the council simply rejected out of hand, saying "I don't wanna!" in their best three-year-old voices.  But were you there to see it?  Were you even aware that it had happened?

Again, the chances are dangerously high that the answer is "no."

I keep saying "dangerously" because you're most likely unaware of the latest news to be coming from the pentagonal structure sitting between Broad, Hillsdale and Carleton.

(Did you even know that City Hall is a pentagon?)

In case you missed it -- and you did, because literally everybody did -- April 21st was the deadline to file petitions to run for the vacant city council seats in Wards 1, 2 and 4.

(Do you even know what ward you live in?)

Nobody filed.  Absolutely nobody.

Well, okay, one person did.  Bruce Sharp.  But he's an incumbent.  Everyone else is either term-limited or leaving for their own reasons.

That means that there are currently four council seats that will go unfilled barring write-in campaigns, and Ward 2 (which happens to be where I live) will have no representation on the council at all.  Additionally, no one filed to run for city clerk, either, so after this election, council is going to have to appoint someone to that position.

Now, before you say "well, then, maybe YOU should run, Josh," I'll disabuse you of that notion immediately.  That's not my calling.  I can barely manage my own life let alone the governance of a city.  Even if it were my calling, I'm not familiar with the inner workings of city government enough to simply jump in and expect to be an effective legislator.  Because, unlike our current state representative, I actually take the time to learn about my jobs before I bother applying for them.  I don't belong in that seat right now, if ever.

There's another seat that I don't belong in, an equally important seat, and none of the people currently up for the job belong in it either.  I'm referring, of course, to that of the city manager.

Last week, in the Facebook group Hillsdale's Hot Debates (the "social media" that WCSR credited with unearthing this story), a couple of members did some digging into the history of the top two candidates that the search committee is considering, and they came up with some rather interesting facts.  Among them being that one candidate, William Cooper, bankrupted the last city he ran.  The other candidate, David Mackie, bankrupted himself and faced a bit of legal trouble for ripping off his investors in an apartment complex renovation deal.  Oh, and the guy heading up the search committee?  That would be Doug Terry, the interim city manager... who, it has been rumored, will get the job if no one else is hired.

Conflict of interest?  Nahhhhhhhhhh.

Of course, knowing that the heat was on, the city put together a hastily-scheduled public meeting to introduce the two candidates.  How hastily?  They announced it to the media on April 30th, and it was scheduled for May 2nd.  That's right: a Saturday afternoon meeting announced on Thursday, when most people already had plans for the weekend lined up well before then.

Intentional flight under the radar?  Nahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh.

Now, Linda Brown resigned as city manager all the way back on February 2nd.  You might be asking yourself right now: isn't there some sort of time limit as to when the city council has to hire a new one?

Why, indeed there is!

According to the municipal code, "The Council shall, within 90 days after any vacancy exists in the position of City Manager, appoint a City Manager for a period of not less than one year nor more than five years and shall fix his compensation."  The period of 90 days after Linda Brown's resignation?  Guess when that ended?  Yep.  May 3rd.  The day after the hastily-scheduled public meeting.  A Sunday, no less.  A Sunday that has come and gone, and we still have no city manager.

Additionally, the code also states that [emphasis mine] "The Council may appoint or designate an acting City Manager for a period not to exceed sixty days during the period of a vacancy in the office or during the absence of the City Manager from the City and shall have all the responsibilities, duties, functions and authority of the City Manager."  Which means that Terry's appointment has actually been longer than allowed by law for more than a month's time now.

One Hot Debates group member who was at Saturday's meeting reported to me that Terry was rather irate at the fact that his actions and motivations were being called into question -- on the Internet, no less; the nerve of those people! -- and after arguing against allowing public comment, he had to be taken out of the room and shown that the law requires it.  That fight then continued in front of the city council, which led to a vote to essentially tell him to sit down and shut up, and public comment was, in fact, allowed.  Because, you know, the law requires it.

Needless to say, Doug Terry is not a happy camper right now.

Much of the problem is the "good ol' boy" situation in this town.  Some of it just comes with the territory of small town politics: everyone knows everyone else.  But that being the case, and everyone being well aware that conflicts of interest are to be avoided, there should be a lot less of it going on, and it's just business as usual around here.  As the late, great, George Carlin famously said, "it's a big club, and you ain't in it."

Yet even if it weren't for that club, what it really comes down to is the fact that there has been no transparency in this search at all.  That fact is merely exacerbated by the "good ol' boy" situation.  The city council ostensibly conducted the search internally in order to save money -- instead of hiring an independent firm to do it, as is done by every other city that even half-assedly tries to make it look like they're not as corrupt as Hell itself.  I mean, hey, it's a fairly decent excuse.  Begging poor is relatively easy to pull off when roughly half of your streets make Kabul look like a motorist's paradise.

But it gives those in charge of the internally-conducted search far too great an opportunity to dupe not only the council, but the entire city as a whole.  There was supposedly a wide field of potentials to choose from, and we're only hearing about two of them.  We have no other names, we have no information about how these two were picked, we would know absolutely nothing about even THESE two candidates if it hadn't been for a couple of people outside the process -- and not even in the media -- doing a simple friggin' Google search!

Did the city council even bother to do that much?  Apparently not, because councilman Patrick Flannery told the Daily News, and this is a direct quote, "We are happy to present these two candidates.  I see both candidates moving the city forward, to help us with the goals we have before us."

Bankruptcy and fraud are goals of the government of the City of Hillsdale?  Well, to quote Spock, "It would explain a great many things."

That same Hot Debates member tells me that only one other person from the group was there Saturday afternoon, and while disappointment isn't quite appropriate in this case given the short notice, it's not as if the third floor is packed to standing room at any given city council meeting.  This is the norm in this town.  Everybody bitches about the legitimate problems, but when it comes time to actually take action, nobody shows up.  It's like we're living in an M. Night Shyamalan movie called "The Non-Event."  All this buildup, and then... just totally flatlines.

Actually, that pretty much describes every M. Night Shyamalan movie, but that's neither here nor there.

The point is, we need to get off of our fat backsides and do something.  And I'm yelling at myself here just as much as I'm yelling at you.  I'm guilty of this, too.  We all are.  Civic involvement in this city has just hit what is most likely an all-time low.  Certainly the lowest it's been in any of our lifetimes.

And when we all find out what the result of that apathy is, complaining about the streets is going to be the least of our worries.

Correction: In the initial version of this post, I accidentally flipped the names of the city manager candidates in relation to their respective issues.  The post has been updated to correct the error.

My Country, 'Tis of Thee

The Declaration of Independence.

It’s the Fourth of July, Two Thousand Twenty.

This is one of those situations in which my tendency to be long-winded is actually beneficial, because there’s no short or succinct way to sum up my feelings about this specific day.  To say that I’m conflicted would be close to the sentiment, but there’s no real conflict there.  I know exactly what the situation is, and I know exactly where I stand.  I know that there is nothing in conflict between my own positions and the ideals of the United States of America.

The conflict lies between those ideals, and the so-called “conservatives” who back a Nazi named Donald Trump, a man who surrounds himself with Nazis and various other white supremacists, who foments racial violence, who paints anyone who stands against him as “the enemy,” and who has succeeded in very nearly destroying this country, all while claiming to be a “patriot” and taking credit for successes that either weren’t his or haven’t happened at all.

The conflict lies between the ideals of this nation, and the system of policing that was allowed to develop within in, growing out of slave patrols prior to the Civil War, and further developing in the Jim Crow era into a force specifically intent on enforcing segregationist laws.  It is a system that is inherently racist, will never cease being racist, and must be dismantled and replaced with an actual public safety apparatus.  This does not mean eliminating law enforcement, it means eliminating this system of law enforcement, commonly known as “community policing.”  It is both unnecessary (as proven by drops in civilian criminal reports every time it’s cut back) and harmful (as proven by numerous factors, not the least of which being the disproportionate rate of police murders of innocent black people per capita).

The conflict lies between the ideals that were enshrined in the Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution, and the so-called “conservatives” who claim to want small government and individual liberty – but only individual liberty for white, middle-class people like themselves, while electing politicians who vote against them despite claims of supporting the middle class, and looking the other way while those politicians perpetuate the revolving door between government and the private oligarchy of corporations; turning what was once a capitalist economy into an inverse fascist economy, complete with the violent jackboots on the ground to attack and imprison those who dare to protest it.

The conflict is not mine, the conflict is between The United States of America – my country, which I love because of the ideals it was founded upon – and those who would seek to destroy it from the inside while claiming to be “patriots.”  The latter group includes the Republican Party, fake “libertarians” who are nothing more than Republicans trying to usurp the libertarian name (which started with Murray Rothbard, by the way, and he was the first to admit that), and the small but extremely vocal minority of active voters who still – by intentional ignorance at this point, which you know is my biggest pet peeve – believe that anything is better than letting a Democrat win any given election.

I could address that group here, but there’s nothing left to be said about them besides that they’re forces for evil working against the very foundational purposes of this country.  And even if I were to say that to them, they wouldn’t listen.  They’re hopeless.  They cannot be reached.  They cannot be convinced.  They have turned their back on the self-evident truths that formed the basis for this experiment in 1776, and they will not return.  They are to be rejected, socially and politically.  They are not Americans by ideal, they are merely Americans by where they happen to have been born.

That last point is something we have to discuss.

Many of you know I’m a big fan of late-night TV, and one of my favorite hosts in particular was Craig Ferguson.  Ferguson is Scottish by birth, but became a U.S. citizen in 2008, even going so far as to broadcast the test and his swearing in ceremony.  His American patriotism is no surprise if you’ve followed his career.  He has a prominent tattoo of Benjamin Franklin’s “Join Or Die” political cartoon on his right arm.  He had a panel talk show on the History Channel by that name (Join Or Die with Craig Ferguson) in which he and the panelists would debate interesting topics in American history, such as the greatest Founding Father, the most doomed presidential campaign of all time, or history’s biggest douchebag.  His memoir is titled “American on Purpose: The Improbable Adventures of an Unlikely Patriot.”  The man has a deep and passionate love for what this country was meant to stand for.

Since its publishing, that title has been an inspiration to me.  What does it mean to be “American on purpose?”  Ferguson described it thusly in the book’s last paragraphs:

“For me, becoming an American was not a geographical or even political decision.  It was a philosophical and emotional one, based on a belief in reason and fairness of opportunity.

“I swore an oath not to be cowed by the authority of kings and churches.  I won’t allow any kids of mine to grow up as I did, witnessing casual hatred between children just because it had always been that way.

“I didn’t become any less Scottish when I became an American.  The two are not mutually exclusive.  I am proud of my heritage.  I will always be Scottish in my heart, but my soul is American, which means: between safety and adventure, I choose adventure.

“Scottish by birth, but American on purpose.”

He has such a perfect grasp on it.  It’s so elegant in its simplicity, and powerful in its meaning.  To be American on purpose is to truly believe in and embrace the American ideal: all people are created equal, we all have the same inherent individual rights, and nobody gets to violate those rights.

Ferguson’s memoir was published before Trump’s election, during the Obama administration, and he hasn’t updated it since, so it doesn’t include his perspective on the current situation in this country.  He’s spoken out about that elsewhere, though, and it’s pretty clear that he stands with the American ideal, not those who are trying to tear it down through false “patriotism” (which he does decry in the book, as it was on full display during the Bush administration).

Strange how the very basis for the existence of this country can be seen, embraced, and expressed more clearly and concisely by immigrants who come here; as opposed to the charlatans posing as “patriots” who were born here – and want to keep the immigrants who seek a better life in this country out of it, I might add.

But that’s nothing new.  America has always had a problem with racists (we fought a whole war over that, and we obviously still haven’t fixed the problem), xenophobes, misogynists, religious zealots, homophobes, transphobes, and any number of other types of hateful people and groups who manage to weasel their way into political power.  Prior to our involvement in World War II, there were even Nazi sympathizers in prominent places of business and politics in this country.  It’s sadly no surprise that they’ve risen to prominence yet again.  Hatred is all too easy to fall into and spread.

I’ll relate this to my standard statement to fake “Christians” – and “Evangelicals,” in particular, who are actually just the renamed Dixiecrats of old by way of the “moral majority.”  How are you representing Christ by being hateful?  We can tick off all the boxes: racism, homophobia, transphobia, xenophobia, Islamophobia, religious bigotry of any kind; I’ve seen it all.  We all have.  You cannot claim to be a Christian and tell gay people that the way God created them is a sin.  Fucking learn science, you hateful shits.  God made them that way, and God doesn’t make mistakes.  You’re not Christians, and you’re certainly not Christians on purpose.  You’re bigots, and you’re the reason people reject God.

The same applies to these fake “Americans” – and “conservatives,” in particular, who are also just the Dixiecrats of old by way of the “moral majority.”  How are you representing America by being hateful?  We can tick off all the boxes: racism, homophobia, transphobia, xenophobia, Islamophobia, secular bigotry or any kind; I’ve seen it all.  We all have.  You cannot claim to be an American and tell black people that their demands for justice make them “the enemy.”  Fucking learn the Constitution, you hateful shits.  We are all to be protected equally under the law, and that hasn’t been happening.  You’re not Americans, and you’re certainly not Americans on purpose.  You’re traitors to this country, and you’re the reason why people think America is evil.

Let me address the misnomer these fake “conservatives” usurp, as well.  I’ve explained this before, but it bears repeating in this context.  “Conservative,” in the true, traditional American political sense, means adhering to the founding and governing principles of the country as laid out in the Declaration and the Constitution.  Basically, to be a conservative means that you believe in the inherent rights of all people, that government should exist only to protect its people and uphold the laws that protect those inherent rights, and that as long as what you’re doing doesn’t harm anyone else or their property, you’re free to do it.

In that sense – the TRUE sense – of the term, I am a conservative through and through.

Donald Trump is not.  His supporters are not.  The Republican Party is not.  The Republicans ceased being a conservative party when Ronald Reagan brought in the “Evangelical movement,” which I have said many times before was the worst mistake he ever made.  Barry Goldwater warned him that they would take over the party.  Billy Graham warned him that the party would take over the religion.  They were both correct.  And as I said before, these people are nothing more or less than the Dixiecrats who left the Democratic Party in the late 60’s through the early 80’s.  Regardless of the reasons why (and we can debate that until we’re blue in the face), the Democrats began supporting the civil rights movement in the mid-60’s, and the Dixiecrats started looking to build bridges on ostensibly economic issues with the Republicans.  Then it became “moral” issues.  Then they finally admitted that meant social issues.  Now they’re openly racist once again.  They are not conservatives.  You can’t even call them big-government liberals (though they are).  They’re just racists.  That’s what motivates them.  Nothing else.

But those people, as I said earlier, are a small, vocal minority in this country.

There’s still a problem, though.  The majority of We the People of the United States of America, historically, have not been bothered enough by that hateful minority enough to care about the problems that minority causes until it reaches power.  We’re a live-and-let-live bunch, but we tend not to stand up to the live-and-kill bunch because we’re not usually in the crosshairs.  That’s not being American, on purpose or otherwise, that’s just being.  Being American means being American on purpose.  It means standing against anyone who would oppress, attack, kill, or let die, on the basis of race, creed, skin color, sex, gender, orientation, nationality, or status as an immigrant or citizen.  Being American on purpose means to actively stand for the American ideal, not simply dismiss the problems and hope they get solved down the road.

We have to be American on purpose.

And that’s exactly why I’m not conflicted today: because I’m seeing that happening.

We have people protesting in the streets because the government is not only ignoring the problems, the government is actively perpetuating the problems.  We have people protesting in the streets to demand justice, not just decry the lack of it.  We have people protesting in front of the houses of elected officials, demanding their action or resignation because they have done little to nothing to fix the problems.  We have people working politically to remove the corrupt, indifferent, and performative dead weight in governing bodies.  We have an ongoing, nationwide protest of a government that has become so anti-American to the point that this protest has even spread around the world, with solidarity demonstrations in countries that both do and do not have the same or similar problems.  People are tearing down the statues and monuments meant to honor evil, oppressive and racist historical figures, almost all of which (save for those outside our country) were put up to intimidate black people after the Civil War and have nothing to do with “heritage,” only hatred.

THAT is American patriotism.  THAT is being American on purpose.  This country was founded on protest and destruction of property that represents oppression, including the Boston Tea Party.  This country’s ideals were upheld by protest and destruction of property that represents oppression, including John Brown’s raid on Harpers Ferry.  This country’s ideals demand that response and more, as “whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.”

There is no more patriotic, American activity than protesting, fighting, and abolishing a corrupt, oppressive, outright destructive government.  And baby, you’d better believe our current government fits the profile.

So I’m encouraged today.  This is the 244th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence.  Americans are standing up against the government that has been holding them down.  Americans are showing their patriotism by protesting and working to eliminate the problems.  Americans are demanding the American ideal is upheld.

It is the Fourth of July, Two Thousand Twenty.  Independence Day.  From every mountainside, let freedom ring.

Fredo Speaks: Socialism Is Bad Except When It's Not

An image of Frederic "Fredo" Trump's head, facing right, set against an American flag background.  Fredo's likeness is Donald Trump Junior's face edited onto Eric Trump's head.

A guest post written by Frederic "Fredo" Trump

Author's Note: Frederic "Fredo" Trump is a fictional character.  Any resemblance to a real person, living or dead, is wholly intentional.

My father says it best: America is not and never will be a socialist country.  Except when it is.  And when it's politically expedient.  And when it benefits us Trumps.  Never when it benefits you, though.  That's the bad kind of socialism.

See, trade deficits mean American jobs got taken out of the country, so if we eliminate the trade deficits, that means more jobs will come back here.  It's simple cause and effect.  Now, eliminating trade deficits means putting tariffs on foreign goods that we should be making here at home, which foreign countries will pay for -- like Mexico and the wall.  I honestly can't believe how many people don't understand this simple concept.  You'd think they experienced economic growth under free trade policies or something.

And, of course, if you put tariffs on things to shrink the trade deficit, the other countries are going to retaliate with tariffs of their own.  It's called a trade war.  They're easy.  All you have to do to win is take taxpayer dollars and give it to the industries that are losing money.  People like free money, and as we all know, that's what tax dollars are.  That's the good kind of socialism: the kind that my father believes will get him re-elected.  Which, as Alan Dershowitz so correctly pointed out, is in the national interest, so he can do anything he wants toward that end.

Now, some people are equating this to farm subsidies in failed socialist countries like the Soviet Union, Cuba, Venezuela, Nambia, or Wakanda.  I can assure you, this is not true.  Those countries were run by socialists.  My father is not a socialist, and America will never be a socialist country.  We're just doing this one socialist thing because our totally capitalist policies made it necessary.

The bad kind of socialism is in things like Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, SNAP, and the whole concept of the so-called "social safety net."  It's even right there in the name!  "Social," as in "socialist."  These programs exist only to prop up the lazy disabled and elderly people who just don't want to pull their weight anymore -- or welfare queens, most of whom are... well, not like us.  And by "us," I of course mean we decent, patriotic Americans who believe in this country and know that it takes hard work to get to where people like my father got when his father gave him all his money.

Hey, I understand: people like to be alive.  I get that.  Do I look stupid to you?

The same image of Fredo Trump as used above.

But think of all the chaos and disorder that would result from just cutting all the spending government does on other things.  Think of all the countries we haven't liberated yet.  Think of all the military members who would be forced to come back home to their families.  Think of all the government agencies we'd have to cut back on.  Think of all the federal employees who would have to find jobs in the private sector.  Think of all the nothing that Congress would have to do, as opposed to all the nothing they do now.  It would be madness!

No, that kind of socialism is clearly evil.  Sure, it wasn't always bad.  It was good when it got F.D.R. re-elected.  That was in the national interest.  But now it's bad because the people who vote for my father don't like it -- except when they lose it and realize that they did this to themselves, but that happens after they voted for him, so it doesn't matter.

The long and short of it is this: the Trump family is here for you.  We gave up our lives of luxury in the private sector to live lives of luxury on the backs of you, the American people, and your hard work; and we'll do all we can to ensure that we get richer and you get what you voted for.  That's the America we should all believe in.

*SNORT!* *cough* *sniffle* *HACK!* *cough* *cough* *SNEEZE!*

Well, I held out as long as I could... which was a surprisingly long time, actually.  One of my bosses caught the cold / automatic sinus infection bug about two weeks ago, and I was around him just about every day in all that time.  I only came down with it just this past Sunday, and it didn't really hit me until Tuesday.

As far as colds go, this one is actually rather mild.  I wasn't knocked out by it at all, and most colds do knock me out for a while.  It's the length of the sinus issues that are the problem.  The past few nights have been rather sleepless, and my voice -- while not shot, per sé -- is a bit rough.  Good thing I haven't had any games all week, but Monday's Academy games might strain my vocal cords a bit.

I'm about ready to attach one of these things to a vacuum cleaner and shove it up my nose.

A black plastic nozzle from an air pump.


Well, here we are.

I've been saying for years that I need to set up my own personal web site.  I have things that I want to share with the world on my own terms, and this is the best way to do that.

What will you be able to find here?  Oh, all sorts of stuff!  Everything from my personal musings to political ramblings, various projects that I work on in my (extremely limited) spare time, playlists from games and DJ gigs, information necessary to life... things of that nature.  It's hard to describe everything just yet because, honestly, I don't really know what all I want to do with it, myself.  I have ideas and plans for a few things, but who knows?  It may well grow beyond that.  It may not.  We'll find out together.

So, allow me to officially welcome you to my world.  Enjoy your stay.