The Denome’s Advocate: California’s crime against inmates

The recent fires in California have wrought incredible damages on the state, particularly in the human cost. According to Reuters and NBC News, 45 people total died between the Tubbs Fire in Napa and the Thomas Fire near Los Angeles. The human costs don’t end with just the deaths, however — some 3,800 of California’s firefighters are inmates battling blazes for a dollar an hour, according to KQED.

The inmate firefighter program has existed in California since World War II, when, according to the Atlantic, California pressed prisoners into service to replace the men who had gone overseas to fight the war. Since then, the program has expanded and become voluntary.

In the program’s history, four inmates have died in action, including two in the past two years, according to the Los Angeles Times. Not counted in those deaths are inmates who died in the program while not fighting fires; just recently, an inmate perished on a training hike, according to KQED.

This begs the question of how humane the program actually is. Regardless of whether the inmates are volunteers, no one, incarcerated or free, should be receiving slave wages for a job in which they run the risk of death.

In its explanation of the conservation camps, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation stresses the work that the inmates do, and the results of their efforts. It particularly highlights the public works projects and safer activities, such as conservation projects and search-and-rescue missions.

And yes, we should recognize the good work these camps do, whether it be fighting fires or clearing a hiking trail. However, The Marshall Project, a criminal justice watchdog, showed that the inmate firefighters are typically responsible for more backbreaking and thankless labor while fighting fires.

This only adds to the heightened risks for diseases firefighters already face. According to the International Association of Firefighters, a labor union, all fighting personnel have a higher risk for cancer, heart disease, respiratory disease and hepatitis B and C. In short, California sends 3,000 inmates into treacherous situations, with their risking death or impairment down the line — all for a dollar an hour and a few days off their sentence.

Does the system necessarily need to be done away with? No, the inmates are volunteers, and housing them at conservation camps year-round helps reduce California’s overcrowded prison system. However, does the system need reforms? Most definitely.

Inmate firefighters deserve a far higher wage than they currently make, one that, minus the cost to the state of housing them, is on par with that of normal CalFire personnel. If the fires are going to continue and more people are going to be incarcerated, we might as well compensate them fairly..

The Denome’s Advocate: Israel, an apartheid state? (Opinion)

Author’s note: It has come to my attention that this article has garnered extreme criticism from the opposing perspective. However, after a number of productive conversations on the issue with critics, and doing further research, my stance on the issue has not changed. I understand, though, that many statements were made without source attribution. So in that regard, I have made several corrections and clarifications to the article and cited sources, as noted in the revision below.

 

T

he entire world, not just the U.S., seems to be on edge lately. Along Gaza’s border with Israel, in the always-contentious Middle East, 29 Palestinian citizens were killed last week in protests against the Israeli government, mostly by Israeli snipers, according to NPR.

Normally, I leave discussing world issues to my colleague Aishwarya, but something about the Gaza protests in particular struck a nerve with me. This kind of violence doesn’t happen in America during protests; there’s no reason it should happen in Gaza, or anywhere else.

While militants from the terrorist group Hamas were among the protesters killed, a number of citizens perished in the violence as well, and thousands more were wounded, according to NPR. Among the citizens killed was a Palestinian journalist, Yaser Murtaja, who was wearing a jacket that clearly marked him as a member of the press.

Israel claimed that the protests had turned violent and citizens were being encouraged by Hamas, as an Israeli army spokesperson said to foreign press. However, there’s no excuse for shooting journalists who are clearly labeled as such, or other bystanders such as farmers, as NPR also reported. A pro-Palestinian legal organization, Adalah, called the response to the protests a violation of international law.

This isn’t the first time Israel has viciously treated Palestinians; it’s been a common occurrence for about a half-century, in both Israel itself and the occupied territories that Israel controls. Since 2000, over 7,000 Palestinians have been killed in conflicts with israel, as compared to just over 1,000 Israelis, according to B’tselem, an organization that tracks human rights abuses by Israel in occupied Palestinian territories.

However, tensions ratcheted up even further in late 2017 when America, under the direction of President Trump, announced that it would move its embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, officially recognizing the city as Israel’s capital, according to the Washington Post. Palestinians — and much of the rest of the world — were outraged, with the U.N. soon passing a resolution condemning the U.S. decision 128-9, as the Post also reported.

While the protests last week were against Israel’s continued ban on travel from the Gaza Strip, the heightened tensions of late have likely played a hand in both Israel and Hamas’ more extreme behavior. And while Hamas has had a presence at the protests, throwing rocks and firebombs at Israel’s encampment, no Israeli soldiers have died so far, according to NPR.

Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians is eerily similar to how apartheid South Africa treated black citizens in the second half of the 20th century: with segregation, racism and needless violence. A report by a UN committee of Arab countries from 2017 accused Israel of committing apartheid-like international crimes.

The U.S. response to this? Rather than further investigating whether apartheid was actually happening in Israel, America, led by UN Ambassador Nikki Haley, threatened to stop funding programs perceived as “anti-Israel,” according to the Washington Post. Less than a year later, the U.S. announced the embassy move, sparking another round of protests.

Israel is responsible for the killings themselves, but the U.S. needs to examine its role in allowing their ally to continue to oppress the Palestinian people. Israel can claim it is the real victim and the Palestinians are obstructing peace all they want, but it does not really help their cause when they fire at protesters from behind a wall.

Updated 4/13/18

The Denome’s Advocate: Show some solidarity to striking teachers

Gun violence as a problem in schools has reached a new level In the news; it is overshadowing the fact that in West Virginia, school has not been happening for the past week.

West Virginia educators have been on strike since Feb. 22, claiming they are underpaid. They have continued to negotiate, even after the state legislature and governor approved slight raises for them.

No raise they receive, however, is going to change the fact that teachers are indeed ridiculously underpaid, nor will it correct the teacher shortages California and many other states face.

The first of those problems is an infamous nationwide issue. A Brookings Institute study found that in comparison to other developed countries, American teachers are paid far less than even the poorest-paying of foreign nations. American high school teachers make about 71 percent of what similarly educated Americans make, compared to Finland, where upper secondary teachers make 91 percent of what their highly educated peers in other fields make.

Americans can’t do anything about Finnish teachers, although we would do well to look at their highly-ranked education system and improve our own. However, here’s a radical idea about America’s teachers: give them the same salary as a similarly educated worker.

In West Virginia, teacher pay is unjustly low; non-career/technical education secondary school teachers make only $45,000 a year, according to TeachingDegree.org. That’s a solid $13,000 below what the average high school teacher makes throughout the U.S. Moreover, teachers are saddled with extra expenses that come with their line of work, such as buying school supplies. In response to a question from NPR’s Education Team, some teachers said they spend over $1,000 yearly on classroom supplies.

Comparatively, the median salary for an engineer in the U.S. is $94,000 a year, according to Sokanu, in a field that often requires less education than teaching. And with all due respect to the engineers of America, none of them would be where they are today if not for their teachers.

If America is to have a meritocratic pay system and call it fair, it would be wise to actually make it fair. Otherwise, people aren’t going to enter the profession in the first place.

That’s how the aforementioned teacher shortage in California has taken shape. According to the California Teachers Association, a third of teachers in the state are nearing retirement age, and in order to offset the already-existing deficit of educators, 100,000 new teachers are needed over the next decade.

Unfortunately, the problem typically goes unnoticed in the Silicon Valley; teachers here often make double the median salary of educators in America, based on numbers from Transparent California. However, Silicon Valley is so exorbitantly expensive that even a six-figure salary isn’t enough for a person to not be considered low-income in some cases, according to the Mercury News.

To offset both the shortage and the pay issue, the CTA endorses the idea of simply paying teachers more. Of course, it’s not just as easy as passing legislation to raise salaries, but rather than give millionaires another tax break, the government could at least expand the tax credit for teachers buying school supplies.

Until their salaries go up more than the 5 percent raise their governor proposed, or other action is taken to fairly compensate educators for their work, West Virginia teachers should feel more than entitled to remain on strike. And even though student activists already have their hands full with gun control, the least they can do is raise a fist in solidarity with teachers during the March for Our Lives.

The Denome’s Advocate: A return to the Dark Ages for Silicon Valley

Downtown Mountain View is covered in them. Walk up the Stevens Creek Trail and you’ll probably notice at least three. Heck, according to the Wall Street Journal, they’ve ended up as far as the Burning Man festival in Nevada.

I’m talking about a Silicon Valley product, but certainly not the one you’d expect. In addition to the 700 million iPhones in circulation, about 1,000 colorful Google Bikes, known as G-bikes, have made their way around Silicon Valley and beyond, according to Fortune.

Google originally produced these bikes and stationed them around Mountain View as a way for their workers to get around, but the approximately 80,000 denizens of the city have taken to using them as well. In the previously cited Wall Street Journal article, one woman spoke about how she and many others use the bikes as a way to commute or simply ride around the city.

On the surface, there’s little reason for Google to do this (in fact, the company is beginning to try and crack down on non-employees who use the bikes). But at the same time, philanthropic actions to host communities by tech companies are increasingly becoming not a boon for the cities or their residents, but for the companies themselves.

In fact, companies have begun to use their mere presence as a way to manipulate hosts in a variety of way. Apple’s humongous new campus in Cupertino, just down Homestead Road, was granted to the company in order to keep it in the city, not necessarily because it would be beneficial to the populace, according to Wired.

This sets a dangerous precedent for the communities in which tech companies reside, especially South Bay cities where the economy is almost exclusively based off the industry. City councils are bending the wills of their communities and giving excessive amounts of power and land to communities, allowing them free reign over entire swaths of municipality.

Such an arrangement isn’t freedom; it’s feudalism, not much different from the kind practiced centuries ago in medieval Europe.

Beyond the G-bikes in Mountain View, Google also has control over an entire district of the city: North Bayshore, wedged between the San Francisco Bay itself and U.S. Highway 101. According to the San Jose Mercury News, Google has plans and permission to build 10,000 homes in the area for its employees.

Short-term, this arrangement seems wonderful, for all three parties involved: the city, the company and its workers. But as time drags on, Google gradually begins to benefit more and more, while the city and employees become less their own parties and instead subjects of the company.

Housing prices will initially drop for Google employees, but nothing will be done to help other struggling families in the area, who don’t work in tech. In fact, simply by giving Google the land to develop, Mountain View has already diverted resources that could otherwise be spent on low-income housing.

And while Google employees no longer have to live in trucks, they’ve become even more dependent on the company than they already have been, between the housing, food and services they receive for free in exchange for their job. They are Google’s serfs by choice, but,  as the company continues to expand, will see their wages drop and eventually become corporate slaves.

In that scenario — albeit the unlikely, worst-case one — current Google employees are the lucky ones. As cities begin to relinquish more control over to tech firms, low-income people and public employees will suddenly find their futures in the hands of private companies rather than the government. Google provides welfare benefits, Google pays you very limited wages in exchange for housing and food, public schools become Google schools.

There’s nothing — government regulations-wise — to stop Google from doing this in Mountain View, or Apple in Cupertino, or Amazon in Seattle. And as long as corporations can buy politicians with donations, there’s very little incentive for government officials to stop it.

The end scenario is that the U.S. becomes the U.C.: United Corporations of America. The average person will wake up every morning in corporate housing, eat three corporate-provided meals a day, use corporate transportation to get to their corporate job and, as payment, receive a certain amount of corporate credit that ultimately goes straight back into the system when they buy breakfast the next morning.

People will become serfs. Bosses will become nobles. CEOs will become kings. The only people this future is enviable for are all in latter groups. The majority will be cogs in a machine.

Thankfully, that’s all the worst case scenario, and quite an unlikely one as well. But it would greatly behoove the more vulnerable citizens of the Silicon Valley, and the rest of America by extension, to ensure certain safeguards are in place to prevent this for occuring.

More affordable housing needs to be built and regulated by cities, not private companies with their own interests. Government regulations allowing smaller companies a chance to compete need to be put in place. And most importantly, local politicians must learn ways to balance satisfying the business community and protecting the citizens of the municipality.

WIth these actions, cities and business in the South Bay can thrive in harmony for years to come. Otherwise, we’ll be bowing at the feet of His Majesties Sundar Pichai and Tim Cook. Here’s hoping that they at least let us keep riding the G-bikes.

Follow Thomas Denome on Twitter at @thomas_denome

The Denome’s Advocate: A picture speaks a thousand words less than a recording

Last week, at a journalism convention in Dallas, I heard in a seminar that a picture speaks a thousand words, but a long article should not necessarily be associated with good writing. At some point over the weekend, I connected this in my head to the current situation with Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) and President Trump’s criticism of him.

Franken was last week accused of sexual harassment and groping a radio show host and model in 2006. As proof, the model produced a picture of Franken with his hands over her chest while she was sleeping, with a mischievous smile on his face.

Franken soon apologized, accepted responsibility and was humbled for the time being. People on both the right and left have called for his resignation, either for the act itself or to prove Democrats are not hypocrites in the face of the sexual harassment scandal facing Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore.

And of course, Trump jumped on Franken as well, saying on Twitter, “The Al Frankenstien (sic) picture is really bad, speaks a thousand words.”

Trump is not wrong; the picture has already been damaging to Franken’s career and may have lost the Democrats a solid presidential candidate. But Trump would do well to remember that for all the words the Franken picture figuratively speaks, he actually said this out loud:

And when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything … Grab ’em by the p—-. You can do anything.”

Any weight that picture may have is lighter than the impact of those 24 words. The picture of Franken was taken while on a comedy tour, before Franken was a senator. Immature and disgusting as it may be, it was meant to be less an act of humiliating or degrading women and more of a joke.

Trump, on the other hand, said the aforementioned remarks in 2005, in conversation with Billy Bush, the host of “Access Hollywood.” Among the other things he spoke of doing on tape were trying to sleep with a married woman. At other points in time, Trump has bragged about entering the locker rooms of teenage girls while they are getting dressed.

Additionally, consider the other allegations against Franken and Trump. On Monday morning, a second woman came forward and said that Franken had groped her at one point in 2010. Conversely, Trump has been accused by 12 different women of some form or another of sexual harassment. One of those claims was that Trump raped a girl when she was a teenager.

And lastly, consider their responses to being accused. Franken apologized within hours of being confronted with the allegations. Trump has still not apologized and has even embraced his sexist image, to some extent. He won the presidential election only a month after his lewd comments surfaced.

I’m not going to defend Franke. In fact, I still believe he should resign; his actions are exactly what Democrats have been trying to say they disavow over the past year. However, Trump should have been gone a long time ago. And while Franken may go back to Minnesota in disgrace, Trump’s new home should be either a federal prison or a Trump Tower penthouse, with his name on the list of nationally recognized sex offenders.

 

Follow Thomas Denome on Twitter at @thomas_denome

(SATIRE) The Denome’s Advocate: Trump announces ambitious “America Seventh” plan

President Trump officially erased any doubt that he was considering no longer putting America first when he unveiled his “America Seventh” Plan on Sunday. The move came only a day after Trump was criticized for supposedly believing the word of Russian President Vladimir Putin over that of American intelligence agencies.

In a statement accompanying the announcement of the plan, Trump both touted the the nationalistic aspects of his vision, while downplaying the fact that the plan walked back on his previous “America First” promise.

“Make no mistake: we will still MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN!” the statement said. “But as it stands, I’m also beholden to foreign entities and favoring authoritarian leaders, so those guys get priority. However, we will still MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN! After we make Russia, China, Saudi Arabia, the Philipines [sic], Norway and Nambia great again, that is.”

Trump was immediately criticized for his list, with reporters pointing out that “the Philippines” was spelled wrong in the statement, Norway was not relevant to anything the president addressed in the plan and Nambia was not a country.

When pressed about the last of those criticisms, Trump responded on Twitter.

“All these haters and losers are saying Nambia is not a country, but they’re wrong! Fine African nation! Great Health Care system! The capital is a beautiful place called Covfefe,” Trump said in the tweet, taking advantage of the increased character limit Twitter implemented last week to use 171 characters instead of the 140 he would have previously been restricted to.

Despite the increased character limit, Trump was still criticized for making another error, with him having again inserting the mysterious non-word “covfefe” into one of his tweets. However, in a press briefing, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the mishap was intentional.

“The president has no issues with autocorrect. Their relationship is amazing, much better than the one between Obama and autocorrect,” Huckabee Sanders said.

This reporter performed a Google search and can confirm that “Nambia” is indeed not a country and the city of “Covfefe” does not exist. Trump was likely referring to Namibia, a country in southwest Africa, with the capital Windhoek. Namibia’s health care system is not as good as Trump describes it — the country ranks 168th out of 190 countries on the World Health Organization’s Ranking of World Health Systems — but it has made the Rugby World Cup five times since 1990! That’s something to be proud of!

The release of Trump’s plan came in the middle of a multi-country trip throughout East Asia, where Trump has attempted to reassure American allies of the U.S. commitment to the region and diplomatically isolate North Korea over its continued development of nuclear weapons.

However, Trump changed his tone on the latter issue, saying that he was now willing to be friends with North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un. Trump has previously suggested the two leaders meet, possibly over a meal of hamburgers, but has never opened the door to friendship.

Yet in a statement, North Korea rebuffed any meeting Trump might propose, unless it was in a place the North Koreans found acceptable.

“Supreme Leader Kim Jong-Un will not meet Donald Trump at any old McDonald’s. If they are to have a discussion, it will only be at Pyongyang Bistro, the finest eatery on the planet,” the statement read.

Trump refused to even entertain the idea of eating outside America however. On Twitter, he made a jab at Pyongyang Bistro while also suggesting a venue of his own for the meeting.

“Pyongyang Bistro is horrible. A friend of mine said to never eat there ever! Disgusting! But Trump Grill has 5 stars on Yelp!” Trump said.

Trump Grill has two stars on Yelp. A recent review of the establishment described the food as “just like a sad Applebee’s level of quality.”

Follow Thomas Denome on Twitter at @thomas_denome

(Perspective) The Denome’s Advocate: How gun violence hurts us all

By nature, I’m a funny person, or at least try to be one. Whenever I see a piece of news, my first thought is, “How can I make this hilarious?” And so, the hardest things for me to write about are tragedies, like the mass shooting America endured on Sunday.

I’ll admit, I got really angry when I first saw the news that a gunman had killed 26 people just outside San Antonio. Considering that the massacre that happened a few weeks ago in Las Vegas was still in the back of my political mind, I wasn’t quite ready to process another mass shooting. As common as mass shootings are, there haven’t been two within 90 days of each other since long before the infamous Sandy Hook massacre in 2012.

Originally, I had another satirical piece planned for this week, this time making fun of President Trump’s Twitter having been deactivated for a short while. I had a headline (“Trump deactivated by White House staffer in last day on the job”) and even a first paragraph written. But I put my humorous side on hold for a day.

Today isn’t a day for jokes, especially not from me. It’s hard to keep a smile on my face all the time, but there are some points where it’s necessary to loosen up and be the guy to make everybody’s day a little brighter. However, violence hits close to home with me, and not just gun violence. Any kind of violence.

I wear my pacifism on my sleeve loud and proud. Since I adopted the practice last summer, I have not done anything or called for actions toward someone or something with the intent to injure. Violence, no matter what it’s in the name of, is morally wrong. And I wish every single other person in the world had that same thought with me.

I could stand up on a soapbox and call for stricter gun laws, or even for banning handguns altogether. I already went on a Twitter rant about both. But for once, I agree with Republicans who claim that it’s not the time to discuss gun control or any sort of gun policy whatsoever.

We need to have a deeper discussion about why violence exists at all in the world.

People hurt other people all the time for the most petty of reasons. Poor neighborhoods all over inner-city America are plagued with gang violence. Radical religious zealots in countries the world over justify persecution and murder with their twisted view of otherwise peaceful institutions. Husbands beat wives, bullies beat other children, the powerful beat the weak; it’s an epidemic. No human has ever gone their life without a violent thought.

I don’t want to say we’re hopeless as a species, because we are not. Humanity has survived in spite of its faults for millennia and there’s no sign that anything will change for centuries to come. But if we meet our collective demise, it’s not going to be because we all came together in one giant group hug and then suddenly dropped dead. Short of mass-extinction events, the only other plausible scenario where humanity meets its end is at the hands of one another, via a massive nuclear conflict that makes the planet uninhabitable.

That may appear to be far removed from a comparatively small-scale tragedy like a mass shooting or even just a fistfight, but violence adds up. Justifying one form of violence as “normal” will only become a gateway for making more things normal. Mass shootings are quite common in America and the media covers them nonstop; if the same thing were to happen with racial genocides in other countries, we wouldn’t be shocked when one group begins to wipe out another. We’d get used to it and turn a blind eye.

It’s an extremely slippery slope that doesn’t start with someone else. It starts with every single one of us. As we normalize violence more and more, we care less and less about the consequences. If you advocate for war, or any form of violence against other people, consider that.

I’m not going to ask you to consider gun control right now. If you disagree with me on the need to regulate guns, another mass shooting probably won’t change your mind. But make sure this latest mass shooting, which you very well may otherwise forget about by 2018, sticks to you. Even if we can’t solve guns, we can start to solve violence. Together. Because suffering doesn’t care about race, gender, religion or political affiliation.

Suffering only wants to break us down and ruin us. But I have confidence that we as humans are stronger than that. Harmony with one another is 100 percent achievable. And it starts with you.

Follow Thomas Denome on Twitter at @thomas_denome

The Denome’s Advocate: Privilege is the problem

If I had to describe Harvey Weinstein in two words, I’d call him a privileged synonym for donkey. If I had to describe Donald Trump in two words, I’d call him a privileged synonym for donkey. If I had to describe any man who sexually demeans women in any way shape or form, I would call them a privileged synonym for donkey.

I don’t get why I or any other man should have to say this to our peers, but it is not okay to insult, inappropriately touch, harass, bother or intimidate women. WIth that being said, I can clearly pinpoint exactly why a sexual harassment epidemic exists: the privilege of being male.

Males have been traditionally dominant in human society since its inception, and remain so to this day. There’s a reason that there’s a women’s movement to this day and not a men’s movement: women have been ignored for millennia and are only now being given the platform they rightfully deserve as equal members of society.

However, it seems as though older generations of men still have sexist beliefs ingrained within them, largely due to the privilege they have long enjoyed as the “superior” sex. Look at Trump or Weinstein; their history as sexual predators has roots in their history as powerful men who figuratively tower over weaker women.

The problems go much deeper than that, however. In most interactions between men from the silent generation and women, there are subtle and not-so-subtle hints of sexism in the man’s actions. Even Trump’s antithesis, Bernie Sanders, isn’t immune to this: frequently, during presidential debates last year, he would interrupt and talk over Hillary Clinton.

And when older men, many of whom are the idols of new generations, display sexist tendencies, it trickles down. A millennial who is infatuated with Trump (rare as they may be) isn’t going to be disgusted with the president calling a news anchor an offensive name; he’s going to reject the narrative that sexual harassment is bad and grow into a creep, a domestic abuser or a rapist.

Worse yet, there’s also a stigma against males who want to change this culture and actually show respect to women. The idea that a man can be a feminist is disgusting to conservatives, many of whom are the same people who turn around and provoke a harassment lawsuit.

In reality, males are some of the most important feminists (rather ironic considering the feminist movement isn’t about men at all). Sexist culture will only end if men of newer generations are able to stand up and recognize the privilege they’ve inherited, then reject it. There is nothing that makes a man in any way more qualified than a female, save for some situations where men are simply more physically able through evolution.

And so, I proudly identify as a “femanist,” as all other young men should. Those who don’t are part of the problem; they are the reason sexism will remain alive and well in America.

(SATIRE) The Denome’s Advocate: Trump attacks gold stars, outrages kindergarten community

Secondary school classrooms around the nation have a lot to worry about right now, from a rise in the number of sexual assaults in schools and funding and staffing shortfalls to the rising number of bear attacks since January. However, kindergarten classrooms have mostly been forgotten in the chaos, as the nation has apparently decided that any child born after No Child Left Behind should be left behind.

Last week, President Trump made sure to bring primary school back into the national conversation when he levied attacks against gold stars. Many teachers in kindergarten and first grade have traditionally relied on gold stars as a way of rewarding students for good behavior in the classroom.

Despite the positivity of the gold star program, Trump reportedly had harsh words for it when talking to a kindergarten teacher last week. According to Rep. Frederica Wilson (D-FL), who overheard the remarks, Trump said that it wasn’t fair that teachers gave out gold stars to some kids and not others, and that the kids who didn’t receive them “thought that’s what they signed up for.”

Trump also personally attacked the congressman on Twitter.

“Frederica Wilson didn’t get half as many gold stars as me in kindergarten!” Trump said.

The White House backed Trump’s statement up in a press briefing on Friday.

“It’s highly inappropriate to question four-star presidents,” White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said, alluding to a release by Trump’s kindergarten class noting that he had received four gold stars when he was five.

Wilson fired back, however, noting that she and others had received far more gold stars than Trump in kindergarten.

“I’m personally very proud of all the gold stars I recieved,” Wilson said, removing the cowboy hat she routinely wears. Out from under the hat fell several hundred gold stars.

The Department of Education later confirmed that Trump’s four gold stars were, in fact, well below the national average for kindergarteners.

“If he had been in Alabama or Louisiana, he would have been a regular genius compared to the rest of his classmates,” a Department spokesman said. “But compared to the majority of the nation, he’s well behind on his gold star numbers.”

Teachers were further outraged by Trump’s comments, as some saw Trump’s comments as demeaning to the practice of gold star-giving.

“What does he mean, ‘it’s not fair that some get gold stars and some don’t?’” one California teacher said. “I make sure to give gold stars to every student in my class. What with the $12,500 we spend on education per student, there’s enough to make sure every child receives a high-quality public gold star!”

Trump’s comments also drew subtle criticism from his predecessor as well. While campaigning on behalf of a candidate in New Jersey’s governor race, former President Barack Obama made sure to note that he had received several thousand stars from his teachers in kindergarten.

The crowd responded approvingly. As Obama left the stage, chants of “four more stars!” could be heard.

(SATIRE) The Denome’s Advocate: Reality admits to having a liberal bias

Stephen Colbert’s 2006 claim has finally been validated, as Reality, the famous State of Things, officially confirmed last week that they has a liberal bias. Various factors pressured Reality into going public with the announcement, most notably President Trump and his allies claiming that Trump’s sabotage of the Affordable Care Act would lower health care costs, rather than increase them.

“That really pissed me off, hearing that,” Reality said. “I wanted to call him out on it, but I couldn’t really do that and keep looking objective. So I basically decided I’d throw any confusion over whether or not I’m impartial out the window.”

Reality’s leftist leanings have been developing for much longer than just a few years, they said.

“Ever since the late 80s, when Reagan really started pushing this trickle-down economics crap, I’ve slowly been showing off more and more that conservatism doesn’t really work and liberalism does,” Reality said. “It became pretty obvious during the Clinton administration, but for all the people who haven’t quite yet noticed, I felt like I should go ahead and just confirm for everyone that I am indeed a registered Democrat.”

In addition to confirming their bias, Reality announced a new book in their long-running series of essays on current affairs. The book, to be published in 2018, will be Reality’s attempt to detail a darker time period in the history of the world in a lighter tone and will be titled “Unfortunately, You Aren’t Dreaming.”

Among the topics the book will cover are the state of American politics in the era of nationalism and the unfairness of current world economic system, among other things. Reality also will include a short personal chapter, revolving around how people have taken to distorting the truth and resorting to deceit just to promote their rhetoric.

“Unfortunately, there are always going to be greedy people in the world who can’t understand that sometimes, the other side is right,” Reality said. “People lie and that’s something I can’t change. What I can do is try to make sure people understand that the only way to preserve truthfulness in the world is to remain vigilant and stand up not for what they believe is right, but what they know is right.”

Another portion of the book will be spent acknowledging the role Reality’s main rival, Fiction, has played in shaping the world over the past several years. Fiction has taken an increasingly powerful hold on the minds of some, partially through the way people have weaponized it to toy with the beliefs of others.

While they are unhappy with the current situation, Fiction said they also are aware that the power they have will not always be used for good.

“Typically, falsehoods and fantasies are something for a dystopian novel, not life as we know it,” Fiction said. “While I love the fact that I’m so popular, things like fake news and propaganda have gotten so out of hand that it’s starting to seriously impact the way people see Reality.”

Reality concurred that weaponizing Fiction is a problem, then went on to note that Fiction typically seems to be a more conservative than liberal problem.

“All this drama about fake news and election hacking, it’s always perpetuated  by the Republicans, or the Russians, or some other group that helped get Trump elected,” Reality said. “Maybe it’s just my bias talking, but I don’t really think it’s good for anyone, not even Republicans, if they’re deceiving others and others just to try and further their agenda. As a liberal, it’s hard to watch the country and world go down this path.”

Reality reassured their fellow liberals, however, that things would improve over time and confirmed their belief that there is a light at the end of the tunnel.

“To any liberals who are struggling with this out there, cheer up,” Reality said. “Hopefully in late 2020, you can stop pretending I’m something else.”

Follow Thomas Denome on Twitter at @thomas_denome

The Denome’s Advocate: The media has a gender problem too

Think of five or six famous journalists off the top of your head. You might come up with names like Jake Tapper, Robert Costa, Megyn Kelly, Walter Winchell or Maggie Haberman. Regardless of who you think of, your list will likely skew much more white and male.

Then consider the Editorial Board of The Epitaph. While we may be an extreme example, the editors here are in a 12:2 female to male ratio. In my entire tenure with this publication, there have been almost three times as many females on Editorial Board as there have been males. Overall, females make up 75 percent of student enrolled in journalism schools, according to USA Today.

But in professional journalism, the numbers are flipped. According to the American Society of News Editors, only about one-third of newsroom employees are female. Even fewer are ethinic minorities of either gender.

Of course, this begs the question of why there’s such a gap. Am I automatically more qualified for any journalism position than my colleagues just because of my chromosomes? Or do I and all other males in journalism suddenly bloom into clones of Bob Woodward the minute we graduate from college?

That’s obviously not the case. My, nor any other person’s, gender has no bearing on how good of a reporter one is. Rather, disparities in the newsroom merely show a worrying trend, not just in how reporters treat each other, but in how the public treats female reporters.

A famous example would be when former New York Times executive editor Jill Abramson was fired three years ago, partially because of her brash personality and tendency to make unilateral decisions, Times Publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr. said in an interview with Vanity Fair. But imagine a male in her position. A male having a hard shell and making decisions without or against the input of others is not an anomaly; it’s a TV drama stereotype.

I can’t and won’t speak for my male colleagues in journalism, neither those I know on The Epitaph nor professionals whom I have never met. But at this point, it’s overwhelmingly common for a “pushy” woman to be hated, or described with words I’m not allowed to use here. Newsrooms are apparently no exception.

And obviously, the blame falls on more people than just those in the newsroom. The general public is already hostile to journalists at record levels; according to Pew Research Center, only around 30 percent of Americans trust their local media. The number is even lower for the national, mainstream media.

However, female journalists go through worse than the mere impact of public distrust. Look no further than President Trump and his comments about Megyn Kelly in 2015, when he called her a “bimbo” and implied she was menstruating while moderating a presidential debate. Or take Clay Travis, a Fox Sports host who said in an interview with a female CNN host that he only believes in “the First Amendment and boobs.”

After hearing this, it’s a wonder that so many females apply to journalism schools in the first place. Less surprising is that they leave the profession after college; campuses are already a hotbed for sexual harassment, and being a reporter probably doesn’t provide any reprieve.

And thus, it doesn’t just fall to me, a male reporter, to respect my female colleagues who do work just as or more important as mine. Instead, it’s up to consumers and subjects of media interest like Trump to consider their biases and understand when they are saying something out of line.

I, meanwhile, will continue to applaud all the women, including my own co-reporters and editors, who still do incredible work in the face of misogyny. Because, unlike some other males in this world, I believe in the First Amendment and nothing more.

Follow Thomas Denome on Twitter at @thomas_denome

The Denome’s Advocate: America needs to turn red – but not Republican

For the past few decades, America’s favorite punching bag has been socialism and its twisted younger brother, communism. The McCarthyist tide in the 1950s, during which fearful Americans reported their neighbors as communists, was only the start of a larger trend of bashing state-run economies and fighting unnecessary wars to remove them.

The fear of socialism continues today. In 2015, a poll by Gallup showed that only 47 percent of Americans would vote for a socialist for president, compared with 50 percent who wouldn’t.

Yet in the 2016 election, socialist candidate Bernie Sanders, nearly won the Democratic Party nomination. Later, his opponent, Hillary Clinton, ran on a leftist platform influenced by Sanders and won almost 4 million more votes in the general election than her opponent.

Clinton is far from being a socialist. But it’s becoming clearer with every wave of elections that socialism is no longer quite the dirty word is once was.

Now, full disclosure: I am a dues-paying member of the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) and supported Sanders in the primaries. With that being said, there is every reason for American voters to reconsider their thoughts on socialism and its role in American government.

Currently, American politics follow a very worrying trend. Consistently, both Republicans and Democrats, while with differing methods, put profit over the good of the people. That’s simply how capitalist society works. Even mainstream Democrats, members of the party of liberal social and economic policies, still reject ideas like a single-payer health care system, on the grounds that it would simply not work with America’s economy. Hillary Clinton herself said that single-payer health care “will never, ever happen.”

Well, Clinton will never, ever be president. Maybe she should reconsider prioritizing the profit of private hospitals and insurance companies over the well-being of millions of low-income Americans and seniors.

Single-payer health care, the idea that taxes collected by the government will fund coverage for every citizen in a nation, is a shining example of the war between socialism and capitalism. In our current system, companies literally profit off life or death scenarios. As an extreme example, cancer drugs can cost over $10,000 a month. In single-payer, however, people are not just the material inserted into a figurative machine that produces dollars; they are the sole reason the entire system exists.

This people vs. profit mindset is slowly coming to light more and more in America. Health care is far from the only issue with a socialist solution. Student loan debt is the direct result a system where colleges prey on American students. Universal free public college would remove profit from and reinsert people into the equation. Climate change, described by Sanders as “the single greatest threat facing our planet,” is fueled by for-profit oil companies having free rein over large swaths of the environment. An energy economy that’s run for the good of the people and not so Rex Tillerson and his pals can buy another yacht will save millions of lives.

That’s what Americans say they won’t vote for. Policies that stop the powerful from steamrolling the poor and instead provide for the general welfare of the population. Anyone who argues against socialism because it “costs too much” or “stomps on our liberties” is indirectly responsible for more suffering. You cannot put a price on anyone, not even a single human.

Americans may just willfully be living in ignorance. Some may understand this situation  and still disagree. While that is aggravating, it is also the right of the people to their own opinions. However, understanding how capitalism has caused problems in America, acknowledging the need for change and then proceeding to do nothing is not going to solve anything. Someone like that is not a socialist, but a neoliberal.

After all, for the amount of attention given to the splitting of the Republican Party, Democrats also have their own factional war going on. There are two sides; one composed of progressives, who either have socialist sympathies or outright socialist policy. Senators like Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), who supported Sanders’ single-payer plan from last month, or Brian Schatz (D-HI), who has his own similar proposal that allows anyone to buy into Medicaid, fall under this category.

The other side are the neoliberals. Nobody symbolizes this role better than House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, who did not support Sanders’ plan or a similar effort in the House. It’s important to note, however, that Pelosi is from San Francisco and her supporting leftist policy like universal health care would win her votes, not lose them.

Pelosi underscores everything wrong with moderate Democrats. They argue for liberal economics and social liberty, but stop short of actually addressing the root problem. In what may or may not (it’s may) correlate to this moderate Democrats like Clinton often have their campaign coffers filled by big banks, big insurance, big oil and of coursebig tech. According to OpenSecrets, Clinton herself raised about a fourth of her total money from outside contributions, via dark-money organizations like her SuperPAC. Sanders, by comparison, funded his entire campaign with small donations.

Is a party split likely? Not very. Even though reactionaries on the right are itching to separate from the mainstream Republicans, they fear a Democratic supermajority arising from a divided right. Socialists likely have the same fears. In an ironic fashion, the powerful are yet again stomping on the weak in America.

Thus, we are at an impasse as of right now. A third party is not viable. Americans are in need of an education on the socialist system. Until then, the strong will continue to destroy the weak, one unpayable debt at a time.

Think of that as a call to action. https://dsausa.nationbuilder.com/join

 

Follow Thomas Denome on Twitter at @thomas_denome