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On this week's cranky Independent comics page: Red Meat feels lonely; Jen Sorenson looks at the true damage a Hillary-Bernie brawl could cause; The K Chronicles thinks we should #arrestgovsnyder; and This Modern World asks some primary-related questions.

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The “protest pit” outside of the Republican Presidential Debate at Saint Anselm College in Goffstown, N.H., on Saturday evening was a fenced-in area in a field about a quarter mile down the road from the main entrance to the campus.

Bumper to bumper traffic ran in front of the pit—odd, given that NH State Police were letting few cars on the campus. Most were told to turn around. No one that Republican leadership didn’t want in was getting anywhere near the Carr Center, where the debate was taking place.

Powerful lights shone down on the scene from one side—lending it an eerie cast. Behind the fence facing the road were a couple hundred supporters for a few of the Republican candidates. But that was just the first layer: Behind them were about 500 activists with the Fight for 15 campaign—organized and bankrolled with $30 million as of last August by the Service Employees International Union (SEIU). Union leaders had bused in SEIU staff and members; student activists; and allies from other unions and immigrant organizations from around the region—at least 13 busloads from southern New England overall, according to the campaign’s registration form for the event. It was a respectable showing, if not the “massive crowd of underpaid workers” that SEIU’s press release had promised.

So there they were. Supporters of a $15 an hour federal minimum wage, a fairly diverse group, standing in a snowy field on a back road, enthusiastically waving banners—some quite creative, cylindrical and glowing from within like Japanese lanterns—and periodically trading chants with the mostly white right-wing activists in front of them.

Their presence was part of the tactic to raise the profile of the Fight for $15 campaign by protesting presidential debates and other high-profile events like the Super Bowl in recent months. That makes sense.

What doesn’t make sense is why SEIU pulled out 500 people onto a chilly windswept hill in suburban New Hampshire to protest for a laudable reform that their chosen presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton, absolutely does not support.

Clinton, like Barack Obama, has come out in favor of a $12 an hour minimum wage. Bernie Sanders, the only candidate whose politics are in line with labor unions like SEIU, is also the only candidate who publicly supports the Fight for $15 campaign’s main goal—a $15 an hour minimum wage. That’s barely a living wage at all in many parts of the country, and hardly the huge ask that opponents make it out to be, especially given the wage freeze imposed on most Americans by corporations and our political duopoly since the 1970s.

Yet the leaders of the 1.9 million member SEIU backed Clinton last November, joining the heads of a number of other large American unions in supporting the candidate with a proven record of pushing policies completely antithetical to union demands. They have already pumped millions to Clinton super PACs over the heads of their largely voiceless members.

In response, a coalition of progressive unions and activist union members has formed Labor for Bernie to win as many union endorsements for Sanders as possible, even as Sanders has amassed a $75 million warchest from mostly small donations—without the truckloads of cash that labor unions have traditionally lavished on Democratic candidates over the past few decades.

With Sanders doing very well in the NH polls and possibly capable of staying in the race all the way to this summer’s Democratic National Convention, it appears SEIU leadership made a serious miscalculation this election. The fallout from that miscalculation is already playing out in the very state where they organized the standout for their Fight for $15 campaign over the weekend, and where a key primary is taking place today.

Two New Hampshire SEIU locals—560 (Dartmouth College workers) and 1984 (NH State Employees’ Association)—broke ranks with SEIU leadership last fall and backed Sanders for president. Both locals were present in Goffstown on Saturday.

Whether Bernie Sanders wins the nomination and election or not, current SEIU leadership—and the leadership of every union marching in lockstep with the worst elements of the Democratic Party—is going to face increasing pressure from its rank-and-file members to stop supporting pro-corporate anti-labor candidates like Clinton. Likely culminating in major grassroots insurgent campaigns aimed at removing union leaders perceived as sellouts—as has happened on many occasions in labor history. It remains to be seen whether such internal reforms will happen before the major unions collapse under the death of a thousand cuts being inflicted on them by their traditional political enemies and their erstwhile allies alike.

SEIU and less democratic unions like it could forestall the looming civil war in their own ranks—and increase the American labor movement’s chance of survival—by learning from the more democratic practices of the 700,000 member Communication Workers of America (CWA)—whose leadership stepped aside last year and let their members directly decide: a) If they should endorse any candidates for POTUS, and b) Which candidate they should endorse.

CWA members, some 30 percent of whom are Republicans, voted to back Sanders in December.

Jason Pramas is the Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism’s network director. He has been a member of three SEIU locals (925, 285 and 888) over the past 18 years, and helped lead a successful union drive with SEIU Local 509 last year—at the cost of his job.

Copyright 2016 Jason Pramas. Licensed for use by the Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism and media outlets in its network.

This report was produced by the Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism and is part of their “Manchester Divided” coverage of the madness leading up to the 100th New Hampshire presidential primary.

Published in Politics

There has been a relentless stream of town halls, meet-and-greets, panel discussions and rallies in New Hampshire in advance of the Jan. 9 primary—but we were probably at the only event where “Party in the USA” blared from the speakers as the crowd filed into their seats.

We were definitely at the only happening hosted by Trevor Noah.

A disembodied voice asked us to kindly turn off our cell phones, though the request was blatantly ignored by a crowd full of people who were furiously Snapchatting the scene as Noah and correspondents from The Daily Show—Jessica Williams, Ronny Chieng and Hasan Minhaj —took to the stage. It was an off-air event, after all, so how else would we prove to friends that we were there?

Podium Pandemonium was “a debate about debates,” and the festivities found Fusion’s Alicia Menendez, DNC Vice Chairwoman Donna Brazile, Howard Dean, New Yorker correspondent Ryan Lizza and MSNBC’s Michael Steele attempting to answer questions about our modern political process. While there were jokes—Noah opened by thanking “all of the college kids we lured with free pot,” and “all four” of the black people in the audience for showing up—there wound up being a surprisingly substantive discussion wrapped up in a shiny Comedy Central package.

“That is what a debate needs: a good amount of laughter and honesty,” Noah said, almost too earnestly for someone standing at a podium.

Because they’re not campaigning, these panelists were likely among the most honest, candid people making appearances in the Granite State this week. Brazile wanted to get one thing out of the way up front: From a campaign worker perspective, debates are awful. There are too many; they’re a bear to prepare for; and candidates don’t like them—they prefer town halls and one-on-ones.

Too bad, says Dean. “Politics is a substitute for war,” the former Vermont governor and presidential hopeful said. “We used to kill each other over succession of power and the distribution of resources, and debates are the modern equivalent of throwing gladiators in the ring.”

Dean may have missed the memo about this being a humorous debate, but he was right that everybody following along at home is always hoping for a moment comparable to “You’re no Jack Kennedy.” They’re spectacles that exist at the intersection of entertainment and politics—much like, dare we say, an evening with The Daily Show.

Still, there’s plenty we could fix, and the panel had a few ideas. Why, for example, can’t we fact-check candidates? Asking a question, getting an answer, and moving on seems silly in an age when we can access endless information at any time. There’s more accountability during NFL games, where at least there’s a review of calls made on the field.

As for the number of debates: Dean thinks the endless debate cycle is part of the reason Romney lost in 2012, as the Republican had to move to the right with each subsequent faceoff.

They also discussed questions in debates culled from Twitter and Facebook, most of which seem canned and pre-decided: Pathetic, pandering, toothless attempts to appeal to young people, who for some reason rarely ask about things like student debt? All of which raised the meta question of why the people in New Hampshire speaking most thoughtfully about reforming the debate process were doing so at the behest of comedians.

There was some progress in deciding what a better debate might look like: two candidates, one hour, no moderator—a real discussion of the issues. If we’re going to have moderators, said Brazile, we need more diversity, but added that what’s most valuable about debates are the candid moments, and the chance to see politicians as they are, having conversations.

“What you just described,” said Noah, “was Twitter.”

This report was produced by the Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism and is part of their “Manchester Divided” coverage of the madness leading up to the 100th New Hampshire presidential primary.

Published in Politics

There’s a man with a dark complexion hocking “Bomb The Hell Out of ISIS” lapel pins. His heart’s not really in it.

The next vendor over from him isn’t legitimately feeling the energy, either, his long hair and thick Boston accent a dead giveaway that he’s a foreigner in Trump country. In any case, the prices on “Make America Great Again” merchandise are non-negotiable—for hats, $20 or $25, depending on whether the letters are embroidered or ironed on, and $5 for flags. There’s no bargaining with these leeches.

No pocket knives. No guns. No food. No water. No pepper spray. The guy in front of me snickers at the instructions, and asks his friends to hold his place in line as he presumably goes to stash one of the above items—probably not a bottle of water.

The woman in front of me is the principal of a middle school.

A reporter approaches a couple behind me from Wells, Maine, and asks if they have an opinion on Tom Brady’s relationship with Donald Trump. The guy says, “They’re both winners. I know that. They’re both honorable.”

The journalist returns: “Who do you consider less honorable—Roger Goodell or Obama?” Guy goes, “Goodell, because you’re in Patriots country.”

Then on through the metal detectors. You have to pity a Secret Service agent who studied hard and dedicated her life to protecting dignitaries, but got stuck on the Trump detail.

Inside, a 50-something bumps into the son of a friend. “Hey, aren’t you in college? You should be at the Bernie rally—free tuition!” The lad chuckles awkwardly, then skips back over to his gaggle of goobers.

As I pound details of the scene into my cell phone and eavesdrop around the fast-filling gymnasium, in front of me, a white guy in an Under Armour cap resembling a du-rag unfolds his USA Today and begins to read an article titled, “Barack Obama: Muslims ‘Part of Our Family.’”

If anybody sees the president, be sure to tell him that his pre-primary trolling of conservatives worked. That mosque visit was like gasoline to this dumpster fire.

A veteran opens the show by claiming that under President Donald Trump, vets will be able to go any hospital they want. He then leads the crowd through through the Pledge of Allegiance, with a couple of markedly eager folks pledging especially loud like annoying kindergarteners.

Next up, a co-chair of the New Hampshire Republican Party explains how Trump helped revitalize the Wollman Rink in Manhattan—a routine story on the campaign trail—and how that means he can make America great again. The next surrogate goes even further, promising jobs to the hundreds of young people on hand.

Trump is the kind of guy who makes loud entrances. On top of that, he seems to have an extraordinary number of supporters who cup their hands when they clap, all together sounding like firecrackers popping in a metal bucket. It’s every asshole uncle from every family in New England, all in one place, feeding off mutual stupidity.

Then a message comes over the loudspeaker. It says Donald Trump respects the First Amendment as much as he adores the Second Amendment, but this is a private rally, the voice says, so protest isn’t allowed. Should a demonstration break out, the crowd is told, Trump supporters shouldn’t touch or harm the group or individual, but rather, they should stand beside them holding a placard in the air and chanting, “Trump. Trump. Trump.”

An hour and 45 minutes after the scheduled start time, there’s still no sign of Trump. Meanwhile, his supporters and sycophants are using Donald lines on one another. “You’re fired,” a woman says to her husband after he fumbles his cell phone onto the floor.

Trump walks in at 7 pm, a whole two hours after the scheduled arrival time, and jumps right into the rapes and killings being committed by illegal immigrants. In your apartment. Right now! The candidate gives props to Maricopa County, Ariz., Sheriff Joe Arpaio, and then rails about the border and undocumented (“illegal”) immigrants. “It’s very unfair to those who legally go through the process,” Trump laments.

Then the Paris attacks, sleazebags, and ISIS using the Iternet that Americans founded to recruit our children. Our children!

Also: Mexicans are paying for the wall on our southern border, because Trump “has a great relationship with Hispanics.” He’s going to get their jobs back from China. He can do this in an hour, since “everyone in Washington agrees” that it’s the right thing to do.

Bowe Bergdahl. Then back to immigration. Then health care. “I want to get rid of Obamacare and give you something great.” The crowd goes nuts. “We’re going to make our country rich again.” Add bananas to the nuts.

I sneak out the back.

As I’m exiting, perennial fringe candidate Vermin Supreme and a small platoon of misfits slide in the side door.

So much for the metal detectors.

This report was produced by the Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism and is part of their “Manchester Divided” coverage of the madness leading up to the 100th New Hampshire presidential primary.

Published in Politics

On this week's highly desirable Independent comics page: This Modern World talks to some political commentators; Jen Sorenson chats with a union member who supports Trump; The K Chronicles discusses some stuff he didn't get at first; and Red Meat finds Milkman Dan being a bully.

Published in Comics

On this week's tantalyzing Independent comics page: Jen Sorenson wonders what would have happened in Flint had it been a rich city; The K Chronicles finds similarities in racism and littering; This Modern World examines phenomena found in presidential primaries; and Red Meat gets ready to settle an argument, of sorts.

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Words have meanings.

In the hyped-up atmosphere of the presidential campaign season, words are being used as political weapons—apparently assuming the audience is ignorant.

I want to change that, particularly with regard to words like “sexist” and “feminist” and “enabler” and “abuse.”

If a wife defends a philandering husband, is she an enabler? Not necessarily. If a man is a womanizer, is he therefore an abuser? Not necessarily. Can someone be a feminist AND be sexist? Unfortunately, yes, and that can describe either men or women. These words are not interchangeable.

Sexism is an attitude based on traditional stereotypical gender roles. (All definitions used are consistent with both and Webster’s Dictionary.) When someone, male or female, judges another on the basis of the role they’re supposed to play, they’re being sexist. Donald Trump is sexist when he denigrates a female candidate’s appearance based on the stereotypical assumption that women are supposed to be, first and foremost, attractive. Criticizing a woman for her tone of voice not being soft and sweet is sexist. A woman is sexist if she believes that the husband in a relationship should be the breadwinner, and the wife should fulfill the role of mother and homemaker.

Feminism is the advocacy of social, political, legal and economic rights for women equal to those of men. A woman who believes in equal pay for equal work (feminism) can simultaneously believe that women should stay home (sexism); they expect fair treatment out in the world, but they still hold sexist attitudes about what goes on inside a relationship.

A philanderer, or womanizer, is a man who has relationships, often of a sexual nature, where he cannot or has no intention of having a lasting relationship—a man who carries on flirtations regardless of his marital status. A womanizer is the guy almost every woman knows, from junior high school on, who has the compulsion to pursue every woman as a potential sexual conquest. They can be married or single; they flirt with every woman they meet. Some are insecure; others just like women. They’re not necessarily sexist and may be feminists.

When a woman acts in that same manner, constantly flirting whether married or not, she is called a slut or a nymphomaniac—a woman with unquenchable, even “abnormal” sexual desires. Where a man is described as a shameless flirt, a woman with identical behavior is considered abnormal; after all, “boys will be boys.” Sexism is evident in these definitions.

During the 1970s sexual revolution, I knew a couple who believed in open marriage, in which each partner was allowed to have sexual relations with others; they drew the line if the outside relationship included dinner. For them, the sexual act was purely physical, but dinner implied a relationship, an intimacy that would threaten their marriage. One of my friends recently dated a man who was quite happy to periodically “service” the wife of one of his old friends, a man who had become ill and could no longer satisfy his wife sexually. The woman’s husband knew of and was not threatened by his wife’s “affair.”

There are couples who stay together for financial reasons, or who stay married but live separately. Some couples no longer relate to each other with sex as an essential part of their intimacy. There are couples who, despite their partner’s flirtations or affairs, stay together “for the children,” or for financial reasons, or because they love each other in ways that those outside the relationship cannot understand. Some spouses don’t want to know what their partner is up to, evidently believing that “ignorance is bliss”—if they knew, they’d have to do something about it, and they don’t want to change the status quo.

I respect people who have figured out their own relationships and seem satisfied with their arrangements. How they work it out is their business—and shouldn’t be part of a political campaign.

We live in a time when 1950s rules no longer apply in the workplace. Harassing is persistently disturbing, bothering or pestering. What at one time seemed acceptable, or was tolerated, is now sexual harassment—meaning unwelcome sexual advances, especially if compliance is a condition of continued employment or advancement.

“A ha!” you might say. “That means Bill Clinton was a harasser. After all, Monica Lewinsky was a subordinate working in the White House.” But the Clinton/Lewinsky relationship was consensual, not unwelcome, and she was an adult. Did he act inappropriately? Of course he did, and I can’t forgive him for the public humiliation of his wife. Yet his wife seemed willing to forgive him, and they worked out their marriage in their own way, so who am I to judge?

“What about all the other women with whom Clinton was involved?” It’s clear he was a philanderer, but however inappropriate, his extramarital activities were consensual with adult women. (A claim of rape has never been substantiated.)

A good case can be made that Bill Clinton is a feminist and is not sexist. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said of Donald Trump, who does judge women differently that he judges men, based on stereotypical assumptions. Trump would probably not want to be labeled a feminist, but by touting equal treatment for women, he’s a shining example of how one can be both feminist and sexist at the same time.

Trump says Hillary “enabled” (condoned or facilitated) her husband’s extramarital affairs and thus cannot stand up for women. Wrong. Accepting and even defending a spouse’s infidelity does not mean one is not still a feminist regarding public policy.

Hillary accurately described some of Donald Trump’s boorish statements as indicating a “penchant for sexism.” Trump responded with, “If Hillary thinks she can unleash her husband (on the campaign trail), with his terrible record of women abuse, while playing the women’s card on me, she’s wrong!”

In an editorial responding to Trump, The New York Times said that Trump’s aim is clearly “to dredge up an ancient scandal and tar Mrs. Clinton with it in a clearly sexist fashion.” In other words, holding a wife complicit in her husband’s behavior is based on the underlying belief that if a man strays somehow, his wife is at fault. Her role is to keep him satisfied. According to Trump on Fox News, “She’s not a victim. She was an enabler.” Enabling would mean Hillary facilitated her husband’s behavior, rather than merely tolerating or forgiving it.

How does the general public see all of this? A Fox News poll indicates that voters see Bill Clinton as more respectful of women than Donald Trump—50 percent for Clinton, and only 37 percent for Trump, so Trump’s play may backfire. We’re not ignorant.

Spouse attacks were tried against Sen. Dianne Feinstein and vice presidential candidate Geraldine Ferraro based on their husbands’ business dealings, and against John McCain for his wife’s alleged drug use. All of this is nothing more than dirty politics—an attempt to put an opponent on the defensive and dominate the news cycle.

We should not reward such sleazy attacks.

Words have meanings.

Anita Rufus is also known as “The Lovable Liberal,” and her radio show airs Sundays from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on KNews Radio 94.3 FM. Email her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.">This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Know Your Neighbors appears every other Wednesday.

Published in Know Your Neighbors

On this week's uniquely 2016 Independent comics page: This Modern World looks at The Awesome World of the Future; Jen Sorenson wonders whether those people occupying that building in Oregon are patriots or Owl Qaeda; The K Chronicles smokes some crack with God; and Red Meat hopes today is a better day.

Published in Comics

I admit I’m feeling unnerved.

The terrorist attack in San Bernardino followed seemingly unrelated events including the shooting of Black Lives Matter activists in Minneapolis, and the murder of three people at the Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs, Colo.

Then came the fire-bombing at the mosque in Coachella, and the death of my old friend George Zander after the gay-bashing he and his husband, Chris, suffered in downtown Palm Springs. (As of this writing, it is not yet clear whether Zander’s death was directly related to that assault.)

Coincidentally, I recently ran out of new books on my nightstand, and began re-reading two old favorites: 1984 and Brave New World. They are both incredible novels—but reading them at the same time is perhaps an unnecessary punishment at a time when our own country’s future seems to be so precariously hanging on the next presidential election.

George Orwell’s 1984 is set in a world of never-ending war, invasive government surveillance, the manipulation of history, tyranny dominated by the presence of Big Brother, and the control of society by a privileged class via a party motivated purely by power. The book was published in 1949, after World War II, and uses the destruction of London as its physical backdrop (not unlike the devastation depicted in Mad Max or Clockwork Orange). It also envisions a society in which citizens are controlled through fear and intimidation.

Orwell introduced concepts we use today. When things are described as “Orwellian,” we mean they go too far in manipulating or depriving the population of the basic necessities of life. The concept of Big Brother became a reality television show on which a group of people live together, isolated from the outside world—and always under the watchful eye of the television camera. “Doublespeak” and “groupthink” came straight from Orwell’s frightening vision of a totalitarian future in which children spy on their parents, and the ultimate punishment for independent thinking is to be confronted by the thing that frightens one most. Anyone who has ever read 1984 cannot possibly forget Winston Smith and the rats.

Brave New World, written by Aldous Huxley and published in 1932, casts the future as a perpetually happy utopia in which people live in a clean, efficient, technically advanced society, without traditional marriage or family—embryos are artificially manufactured with restricted abilities and ambitions. Class distinctions are fully accepted based on sleep-programmed education from infancy, and the size of the population is strictly controlled so each class can be provided with everything it needs. A drug keeps the population docile, and those few who dare to see themselves as individuals are banished to uninhabitable parts of the globe. Individuality is discouraged, and society is run as a benevolent dictatorship.

How do these two books relate to my being upset about the beating of the Zanders and the bombing of the mosque? These two local crimes seem motivated by individuals willing to use violence based on their individual visceral opposition to gays or Muslims; a recent study by Nathan Kalmoe, a University of Michigan doctoral candidate, articulated a broader explanation of the willingness of individuals to use violence for political gain.

At a time when the leading candidate of one of our two dominant political parties is shamelessly using demagoguery—attempting to gain power by arousing the emotions and prejudices of others—to play to the fears of Americans in exchange for political support, it is no surprise that Kalmoe found that combative and even violent political rhetoric can make some Americans see violence as an appropriate means to an end.

“The rhetoric of ‘fighting’ for a cause, declaring ‘war’ on problems, and suffering ‘attacks’ from opponents, is how political leaders, journalists and citizens often talk about politics,” says Kalmoe. “Political leaders, pundits and citizens regularly demonize opponents and emphasize the righteousness of their own goals. Language like that may facilitate moral disengagement, which allows people to rationalize the harm they do to others.”

To be fair, most people in the study opposed violence, but a significant minority, ranging from 5 to 14 percent, agreed with the use of violent options, while between 10 and 18 percent were indifferent. That means millions of ordinary Americans accept the general idea of violence to gain political ends. Not surprisingly, Kalmoe found that young adults are more prone to adopt violent attitudes after exposure to such language—possibly explaining the appeal of groups like ISIS and domestic militias that seem to offer a way for disaffected young people to act and not just feel powerless.

Both Brave New World and 1984 are cautionary tales, and each depicted a future that has not come to pass. But we do have elements of each: surveillance; calls for a greater invasion of privacy, even of citizens; the manipulation of language to mean something other than what it means (in 1984, the three central principals are “War Is Peace; Freedom Is Slavery; Ignorance Is Strength”); conformity in the name of assimilation; the use of drugs to minimize distress; turning on each other in the name of security (“If you see something, say something”); and class consciousness.

More than 25 years after Brave New World, Huxley wrote a nonfiction work, Brave New World Revisited, in which he considered whether the world had moved toward or away from his vision. According to Wikipedia, Huxley concluded that the world was becoming like the future he had envisioned much faster than he originally thought it would.

My conclusion, after San Bernardino, the attack on the Zanders, and the Coachella mosque is that we are much closer to 1984 and Orwell’s prediction that fear would be the ultimate motivator of political power.

If we are to retain our values and head toward a more optimistic future—one in which our religious houses of worship and the Zanders of our world are secure—we need to recognize that casting every conflict in apocalyptic language and falling for demagogic rhetoric must be rejected.

If you think your vote doesn’t count, think again—while you still can.

Anita Rufus is also known as “The Lovable Liberal,” and her radio show airs Sundays from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on KNews Radio 94.3 FM. Email her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Know Your Neighbors appears every other Wednesday.

Published in Know Your Neighbors

On this week's candy-filled Independent comics page: The K Chronicles recalls an incident in the kitchen; This Modern World experiences the campaign season of the damned; Jen Sorenson looks at dangerous campaign emissions; and Red Meat discusses some controversial holiday sausage.

Published in Comics