The Loss of a Legend

I couldn’t bring myself to do it yesterday, but I wanted to share why the loss of Carrie Fisher, a woman I never met in person affected me so profoundly. I was so depressed I could barely function yesterday, and burst into tears through the day.

I grew up in the 80s when there weren’t many female rolemodels for me to emulate. When I was young my father showed me Star Wars for the first time, and I was instantly a fan! I watched A New Hope with him and saw this woman step out of a prison cell after watching her whole world torn down, and she took charge anyway. After that, my fantasy games usually involved me being Princess Leia. I played her in several Star Wars RPGs through high school, and entered the online roleplaying world as a direct outgrowth of that, where I played Jianna. She wasn’t a princess, but she was a tough as nails fighter who didn’t take shit from no one…just like Leia.

She wasn’t my only strong female role model thouprincessleia1gh. I also began watching the old Wonder Woman Series– the one with Lynda Carter. But that’s not who this post is about. Wonder Woman and Princess Leia taught me how a woman should be, should act, and should react to things. You now truly know ME.


220px-carrie_fisher_2013As I grew older and began struggling with my own body image issues, so did Carrie Fisher, who was strangled by her role as Leia. She grew older, had a child, gained weight– just like me. But she refused to accept the criticisms of others. Instead, she doubled down and demanded to know what right they had to say how her body should look. Even then, as she faced many of the same struggles as I did, she was strong and graceful. She was beautiful to me.

Last year when I went and saw the Force Awakens, I screamed and cried to see my idol return to the screen in the role I loved her in so dearly. At the end of Rogue One, I cried to see the young, beautiful Princess Leia standing there to receive the plans. I thought it must be Billie, Carrie’s Daughter, playing the role because it looked so like her. But, to find later it was Carrie herself, just CGIed, still made me smile.

I’m happy that filming has wrapped up on Episode 8, and Leia will be in it. For me the heartbreak of this next year will be all the more poignant knowing that I will see her on the screen again once more. Princess Leia and Carrie Fisher meant a great deal to me.

I pray for her family and friends who knew her personally. I now regret all the times that the time just wasn’t right for me to go to a con and meet her personally. I should have gone. I wish I had. But I can’t change the past. But, I’m also praying for all the girls like me, who just lost one of their rolemodels far too soon. Someone who had so much more to give to the world. It’s a tragedy. It’s horrible.

She drowned in moonlight, strangled by her own bra…

Facing America’s Boogeyman: ISIS and Islam, a guide for people who wonder

ISIS is the new boogeyman of our times.  Rarely does a day go by without some news story linking some horrible event in the world back to ISIS, often whether there is an actual link or not.  If the media truly can’t find a story to link to ISIS, they speculate instead on why ISIS is so quiet.  This spreads a sense of panic throughout the population as people collectively wait for the hammer to drop.  Meanwhile, they take it out on those around them.  This scapegoating catches all Muslims, young and old, and it’s become so bad that Arab nations have warned their people not to travel to America wearing traditional Arab garb.   Islamaphobia is on the rise, and  hate crimes against Muslims in the US have tripled.  The current presidential election has pushed this even further, and it’s reaching a breaking point.  People are dying.  Kids are being beaten half to death while being called terrorists.  Shooting at churches because you don’t share their beliefs is the very definition of Unamerican.  This is not okay.  I, for one, can no longer remain silent.  I want to be clear, I loathe ISIS, I am not defending ISIS.  I am, however, defending the innocent Muslims who hate ISIS even more than we do.

Me too, Yoda, me too.

Star Wars has taught us that this hate largely stems from fear and anger.  Much of the recent anti-Muslim sentiment comes from the actions of Al-Qaeda and more recently ISIS.  They have become America’s boogeyman, but like the boogeyman, as you come to understand it, the fear goes away.  The greatest weapon against fear is understanding.


The holy flames around him show this is Muhammad, but all other identifying features are removed.

Islam was founded in the Middle East by a prophet named Muhammad who traced his prophetic ‘lineage’ to both Jesus and Abraham of the New Testament.  The newly founded Islam shared many of the basic beliefs of Judaism and Christianity.  One of its distinguishing features was an emphasis on pure monotheism.  That means, among other things, that Muslims believe Jesus was not the son of God, but a Prophet like Muhammad and Abraham.  It also means that they don’t revere any sort of idols, spirits, or saints.  Only God was to be worshiped.  This is, incidentally, why images of Muhammad, Jesus, and Allah are forbidden in Islam.  Muslims believe that to be a form of idolatry.  Where you do see images of Muhammad, identifying features are removed.  Christians themselves suffered the same anxieties early in the formation of the religion, leading to several ecumenical councils to resolve the conflicts and unite the church.  Islam believes that they share a God with Jews and Christians, and  respect the teachings of Abraham and Jesus.  We have more in common with Islam than not.

Now, fast forward to the 20th century.  The Ottoman Empire stood


The Ottoman Empire’s reach before World War 1 destroyed it.

as a powerhouse in the region since 1299, and managed to mostly fend off western powers seeking to conquer the Middle East (With a few notable exceptions.) Most of the major colonizers did not care to push too hard, as the area was seen as largely worthless desert and the Ottomans made it more trouble than it was worth.  At the end of World War I, however, the Ottoman Empire fell.  When Allied forces took it apart, failed to consider the ethnic diversity of the areas.  It was far too large for that.  Instead, Britain and France signed a secret treaty with Russia (The Sykes-Picot agreement)  dividing the Middle East between them based on their own interests.


This effectively removed any self government among locals as the French, British, and Russians played a game of “Whose (territory) is bigger?”   If you think I’m just making these connections up, ISIS fighters have said it themselves.  These people know their history, and they are angry about it.

Over the next few decades, Arab control over their countries dwindled.  This was partially borne out by the actions of Western rulers, who treated the countries like their own private resorts.  In 1906, Iran had experienced a constitutional revolution, and installed the new Pahlavi government government which was popular with Iranians and the west.  In 1953, the United States overthrew it.  Iran was a major tourist destination, but westerners were not subject to Iranian law, leading to several high profile cases where Westerners literally got away with murder.  That’s right, for decades, America, Britain, and Russia ran


A photo op at the Tehran conference.  Notice anyone missing?  Iranians sure did.

roughshod over the Middle East–and it infuriated the population.  Populations in the Middle East starved while western countries became rich off their oil.  For example, the 1943  the Tehran Conference between Joseph Stalin, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and Winston Churchill was held in the Soviet Union’s embassy in Tehran.  The problem?  The Shah of Iran was not invited to talks deciding the future of his country.

The Middle East in the 21st Century

This sets the stage for the 21st century, when ISIS formed.  Most westerners think that this is where we step in to the story.  To most, September 11, 2001 was the opening salvo of a war between Islam and the west.  Not true.  From the eastern point of view, the war had been going on for decades, and they were losing.  For 50 years western countries treated the Middle East as their personal piggy banks.  This lead many Muslims to believe Jews and Christians were out to destroy Islam, giving many of these colonialist struggles a religious bent.

So, imagine how these people felt when US forces invaded Afghanistan, then Iraq, after 9/11.  Americans moved in and toppled Saddam Hussein, disbanded the army, and set up forces in Iraq.  Right or wrong, many Muslims considered this another conquest of Islamic territories by western forces.  Many of the soldiers from Iraq’s army, well trained and armed, went north to join the insurgency lead by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi in the northern regions of Iraq, along the Syrian border.  They were ruthless, brutal, and efficient.


Al-Qaeda, which had been mostly based out of Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, and Pakistan formed an alliance with this group in Iraq.  They saw it as an opportunity to expand their power, which was declining after US forces waged war on them after September 11.  However, the Iraqi group was too brutal, and they lost a great deal of support among the populations as they sought to enforce Islamic fundamentalism to a degree unheard of in the region: smoking, drinking, and TV were forbidden and the rights of women were heavily curtailed.  The US helped drive Al Qaeda out of Iraq with what we call “The surge” in 2006, but the group was not destroyed.  It moved and began to rebuild in Syria.

In Syria, they sought to overthrow Assad, who had once nurtured their network and sought to use it against the United States.  As the emboldened terrorists became more brutal, Al-Qaeda even cut ties with these extremists.  Think about it: They were so vicious that Al-Qaeda thought that they were just too extreme to be allied with them.  It became a theocratic militia that was heavily armed and willing to brutally kill anyone who stepped even slightly out of line with their beliefs.  Shortly thereafter, al-Zarqawi is killed in a US strike, and the group becomes known as the Islamic State in Iraq. (ISI)

In 2011,  the Arab Spring protesters spread across the region.  Assad had always been a


If your neighborhood looked like this, wouldn’t you try to take your family somewhere safer?

heavy handed dictator, but torturing a group of young students who painted some anti-government graffiti sparked massive protests spread throughout the country.  Climate change leading to failed crops also likely contributed to the tensions.  Assad’s crack down created rebels and sparked a civil war, which led to destruction like this image, and the flood of Syrian refugees fleeing the destruction of their country.  Assad took it even further when he intentionally radicalized the rebels by releasing Jihadist prisoners to prevent western countries from coming to their aid to overthrow him.  The Syrian Rebels and ISI join forces, forming the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or as the Arabs themselves know them: Daesh.  These groups turn away from Assad and launch strikes into Iraq, defeating the weakened army and allowed them to take control of a large portion of Iraq within days.  This was the heyday for ISIS, but it is now over.  Libya, Russian, and US forces continue to drive them back and weaken them.

Isis’ goal is to resurrect the old Caliphate, which they believe will lead to the Apocalypse.  However, to date they have not managed to land a successful attack on US Soil.  While they have organized horrible attacks in Europe, most of their victims are the Muslims that ISIS perceived as “not Muslim enough.”  Here is the UN report on where most of ISIS’ casualties lie.  According to the Global Terrorism Index, only 2.6% of terrorism victims worldwide are in the west.  That number includes 9/11.

 But now, ISIS is declining, becoming increasingly fractured, and losing power fast.  isis20mapISIS has gone from a massive, militarized force conquering cities and holding huge portions of countries while promising world domination, to a few small pockets with militants who occasionally launch suicide attacks.  “This is definitely the death knell of ISIS’s territoriality as it was once known,” Daveed Gartenstein-Ross, a counterterrorism analyst and senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, told Business Insider. “The caliphate as it was is gone. They’re not going to be able to hold anything like the territory they did before.”  They have switched to traditional terrorism in order to try to stay relevant, and occasionally make bold claims, many of which are unsubstantiated.  For example, today ISIS claimed to have shot down a US war plane, but that was quickly dismissed by the Pentagon.  Which makes sense, when you consider that the US isn’t currently fly missions over Syria due to the recent coup attempt in Turkey closing our main base in the region.

While ISIS is a horrible, evil, vile organization that should be cleansed from the earth, it is not a phenomenon that Americans need to live in fear of or drastically change policies over.  We also shouldn’t seek to ascribe every bad thing that happens stateside to ISIS, as the Media tends to, nor to blame all Muslims for what ISIS is doing.  They are even more the victims than we are.  While some pledging allegiance to ISIS have attempted terror attacks, these are called “lone wolf” attacks.  They are largely amateurish, no more damaging than what Americans are doing to themselves every day, a635837782338429979324976173_muslims-vs-terroristsnd nothing on the scale of what ISIS does to Muslims in the Middle East every day.

We need to understand that ISIS doesn’t represent all Muslims anymore than Westboro Baptist Church represents all Christians.  Every religious and social movement has it’s extremists, and ISIS is an example of Muslim extremism.  They’re just loud, annoying extremists that tend to get a whole lot of attention, which encourages them to be louder and more annoying.  And you see where this is going.

This is only scratching the surface of the elements that brought ISIS into the world.  There is so much more, among other things the various sects of Islam and the jockeying between them, the political responses of each, but to go into all that would take far more than a short blog post.  If it is something you are interested in, I highly recommend Reza Aslan’s book No God But God.  He does a far better job of explaining this incredibly complex topic.




Voting for the lesser of two evils isn’t working, but Gary Johnson could go to work if we voted for him.

Those who know me on Facebook know that I am avidly anti-Trump.  12322890_10154136688499255_2363743427567508546_oSo yesterday when I posted another in a long list of anti-Trump memes on Facebook, I was surprised when it got so much attention.  So much so that discussion lasted well into the next day with several of my Trump-supporting friends outright demanding I remove it.  Others questioned why I so passionately support a third party candidate and made it clear that they thought I was throwing my vote away by supporting Gary Johnson.  While I’m at it, here is his Facebook page, as well as his twitter account, since it seems so few people have heard of him. This surprises me, as  Governor Johnson has been featured in the media quite a bit lately. He is experiencing a meteoric rise in the polls following the concession of Sen. Bernie Sanders from the race for the Democratic nomination.  At the time of this writing, Johnson sits a13692860_10153221237214364_5382740154455619403_ot 13% according to CNN, a mere 2% away from the 15% threshold he needs to be included in the national presidential debates.  Considering those numbers have risen 3% in the last couple of weeks, things are looking good for Governor Johnson.  It’s obvious that voters are starting to #FeelTheJohnson and get on board with #TeamGov.  If you’ve seen those hashtags around Facebook and Twitter, now you know why.  With the failure of the Never Trump movement, Republicans have even begun endorsing Governor Johnson.

Who is Gary Johnson?  He’s the former Republican governor of New Mexico– a traditionally Democrat state.  He also ran for president in 2012, first on the Republican ticket, but he was excluded from many of the debates.  After this he continued his candidacy as the Libertarian party nominee.  They received approximately 1% of the vote, largely because they were not on many states’ ballots.

Like Gary Johnson, I believe that many people are Libertarians, they just don’t know it because they don’t understand the party’s values.  The libertarian party is a party based on the policies of small government that doesn’t intrude into your lifestyle, equal civil liberties and the abolition of the welfare state.  They want to reduce government spending, rather than cut taxes.  Governor Johnson has an excellent track record of doing just that when he was governor of New Mexico.  During his two terms as governor, Johnson reduced taxes on income, gasonline, and capital gains, despite resistance from his democratic legislature.   As governor, he followed a strict, small government approach.  Mickey Barnett, a member of the New Mexico Republican National Committee was quoted in the Washington Times as saying “Any time someone approached him about legislation for some purpose, his first response always was to ask if government should be involved in that to begin with.”  With bigger and bigger government pushing it’s way into our lives, that is a much needed perspective in our federal government.  Reduce the size of the government, reduce the spending, reduce the taxes.  Timely, given that our national debt is currently at 19.3 TRILLION and rising, not falling.  That is a number that the United States is going to have to face eventually.



On the issues, Johnson is clear: He supports a women’s right to chose, small government, marriage equality, internet freedom, and intelligent immigration reform.  Click that link to watch a snazzy youtube video explaining all their policies in 2 minutes 10 seconds.  And please, don’t take my word for it: Read his stance on the issue that matters to you here, or here.  If you read the quotes in whatever section matters to you, you will find a candidate with startling consistency.  He says the same thing over and over across years, without vacillating whenever the polls change.

One of the reasons presented to me as a reason people support Trump (Ironically, by a friend of mine who did not support Trump), was because he was a businessman who knows how to run a multibillion dollar corporation, but Trump has filed for Bankruptcy 4 times– in 1991, 1992, 2004, and 2009In addition, he and his companies are the subject of approximately 3500 separate lawsuits, many of which accuse him of unethical business practices.  This is unprecedented for any nominee for president.

Unlike Trump, who inherited his money from his father, Johnson is a self made man.  He began as a handyman, then started his own business: Big J Enterprises where he was the only employee.  From that beginning Johnson grew Big J Enterprises into a multi-million dollar corporation with over 1,000 employees.  All this was before he ran for governor of New Mexico, against the advice of elder republicans who thought he should run for the legislature first.  Johnson knows how to grow a business, while According to Fortune Magazine, Donald Trump would be richer if he’d have stayed out of business and invested in index funds.

Another point brought up by the same friend was that Trump is speaking out about ISIS, and turning it into his own personal boogeyman as Bush did with Al Qaeda, however, Trump’s plan of action is a secret, making it impossible to speak on directly.  Given some of the statements Trump has made about foreign policy, however, I don’t put much credibility in that plan.  Meanwhile, those who would know how to handle the threat of Daesh support Gary Johnson, he beats both Trump and Clinton in polls of our active duty Military.

Finally, there’s the personal side of Gary Johnson.  The guy is just plain awesome.  Gary gary-johnson-on-top-of-carstensz-pyramid-copyJohnson climbed mount EverestShortly after he  broke his leg.  Even after an ice sheet collapsed on him and gave him frostbite, he kept going.  On the way back down he forgot to turn on his oxygen, and ended up going 2 hours with a rubber mask on before he even realized that.  He’s still an avid triathlete that runs about 15 miles a day and participates in Marathons, Ironman competitions, and triathlons when he’s not campaigning.  He is described as having an “Incapacity of bullshitting” and being zen like in his mannerisms.  He’s also pretty good shirtless (Seriously, click this and scroll down a bit).  This is a far cry from any of the other candidates currently in the race nationwide.

Gary Johnson will appear on the ballot in all 50 states.   But even so, many resist considering a third party, saying the addition of a third only puts Hillary closer to winning the general election because Johnson isn’t polling as well as Trump or Hillary.  That is not necessarily true at this point.  Johnson’s poll numbers are climbing quickly, and as Bernie Sanders supporters showed, a grassroots movement can surge and challenge the status quo.  Furthermore, the drawn out Democrat battle has left many Sanders supporters dissatisfied and looking for a third viable option.  At the same time, the Never Trump movement has also had a severe disappointment just yesterday evening when the movement to change the rules failed at the last minute (The media described it as “Putting down a rebellion”, and Trump was officially made the Republican nominee for president.  Meanwhile, support for Gary Johnson has surged tremendously in recent months, and his poll numbers continue to rise.  Ironically, while writing this article I had a pollster call me.  While I normally hang up on them I stayed on this time to voice support for Governor Johnson.

dont blame me

Americans want to be on the winning team, I get it.  That’s why so many people suddenly became Broncos fans last February when they hadn’t followed football before, and why these bumper stickers always appear after elections.  However, democracy was not founded on trying to pick the winner.  It was created to give power to the people to elect the best candidate.  There have been upsets in the history of presidential politics– presidents who won by one (electoral) vote.  But even if you don’t feel like Johnson can win (And for the record, I disagree)–you should vote for who you feel is the strongest candidate.  If a third party can gain traction, the addition of that third party puts into play the probability that the contestants left will win by a plurality instead of a majority. That will send a message to congress in itself that the candidate does not have the full support of the people, and will lead congress to reassert itself. The office of the president has become substantially more powerful over the last decades as majority support vacillated from one party to the other. A third party is just what Americans need and want, as is evidenced by the rise of Trump.

America was not designed with a two party system though. It became two party in the late nineteenth century after the Civil War. Now there is a movement in the country to break the back of the two party system by introducing a third.  We’ve all heard of this.  The Tea Party, Green party, Libertarian party, etc.

With a two party system, one party can gain advantage over another by whoever has slightly more than 50%, so with each election that balance shifts slightly. That’s part of the problem, ultimately democrats and republicans have CLOSE to 50%, so nothing can get done and there is no particular incentive for most politicians to cross party lines and vote with the other party (And when that DOES happen it tends to make news). Most votes go right along party lines, so when the democrats are in power they pass a whole slew of legislation and the republicans can’t stop them. Then when the Republicans take charge they spend all their time trying to undo what the Democrats did instead of improving things. (Obamacare, much?)

Introducing a third party into power will help to put an end to this. Even if we start small and only get a few people elected, and the balance is 40% Democrat, 40% Republican, and 20% of a third party, the Dems and Republicans would HAVE to cross party lines and recruit members of other parties, without this they wouldn’t have the votes to pass or repeal any legislation of any kind.  It will force politicians to work together instead of staying in “red” and “blue” camps.

I hope you think about it.  In my opinion, Gary Johnson is a candidate who is clearly tremendously superior to either Trump or Hillary.  He has governmental experience as well as corporate experience, he is an amazing and determined individual who is capable of doing anything, even winning the presidency as a third party candidate.  He has proven his ethics and integrity over decades.  Your vote and talking to people could make all the difference in this contentious election.  We’ve tried voting for the lesser of two evils, and it’s not working.  Instead, lets vote for a candidate with real credibility.






Actually, the world isn’t falling apart.


The past two months and more have been extremely trying, with many unable to watch the news.  From the ambush of police officers in Baton Rouge and Dallas, the shooting at the Pulse nightclub in Orlandoa fascist, xenophobic dictator rising in the east, it seems as though the world is going to hell in a handbasket.  Many are expressing concern for their own safety, especially given that there seems to be a war going on against our police officers–public servants who are here to protect and serve us.  However, study after study has demonstrated conclusively that we are living in one of the least violent periods in world history.

Compared to all other historical periods, our chances of dying by violent means are the lowest in recorded history.  That includes war as well as criminal activity.  We have longer lives, more children, and if you are reading this post it means you’re sitting in front of a computer or smartphone that puts you in the top 20 percent of the wealth of the world (Conservatively speaking.)  Yet every night the media inundates us with images of bombs exploding (In some far off country), terrorist groups (Who have never landed a successful attack on US soil), shootings, riots, and war threats between other countries.  It makes it seem as though these events are commonplace–after all, we see them every night.  But that is an optical illusion–look hard at the facts.

optical illusion


These events are all spread over an enormous geographical area.  Let’s take the recent police shootings as an example.  On July 5, Alton Sterling was shot while pinned to the ground by two police officers.  The very next day on July 6, Police shot and killed Philando Castile as he sat in his car.  While these two tragedies are horrible and certainly are a cause for concern which goes far beyond these events and does speak to the institutionalized racism that exists in our criminal justice system, I want you to consider the distance and time involved.  24 hours and 1200 miles apart.  How many people, do you suppose, would you see stopped by police on the side of the road between those two places?  And if we expand it out to include the rest of the country, how many traffic stops and arrests happened that very day, and nothing at all went wrong.

Of course, headlines of “Man arrested without incident” wouldn’t grab nearly the same attention as when things do go wrong, and to focus on when things go right would be to dilute the shock value of when things go wrong.  When it comes down to it, the media is focused on readership, ratings, and shock value.  Stirring the pot is social media like Facebook and Twitter, where we are daily inundated with constant reports, updates, and reams of editorials whenever something attention grabbing does happen– and updates on Candy Crush and Bejeweled Blitz.  Our friends share these, furthering the congestion of too much information.  It suddenly appears as though police are waging a war against us, which ferments anger and fear– and we all know, fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, hate leads to the dark side.  Which we are seeing in full now.




Fun fact: 2016 is on track to be a deadly year for police officers, but it’s STILL only slightly over half way to the number of officers killed in 1972, when this happened all before.  Tell me if this sounds familiar:  A shooter born in America, discharged from the navy for “character and behavior disorders,” takes up radical politics, develops anger towards the police over perceived racial injustices, so sets up in a building outside of police headquarters and starts shooting police.  It happened… in 1972.  Did you think I was referring to something recent?

This shows that these experiences are neither new in America, nor are they as constant and widespread as the media would have us believe.  So, why does it appear that bad things are happening all around us, every day?  Why does it seem like the world is such a frightening, scary, dangerous place?

Communication, my friend.  Back in 1972 if you wanted to hear about the events in New Orleans Louisiana, you had to wait hours, if not days for the news to catch up, and then it came to you on the family TV, once.  Families would see it together, shake their heads, and move on decrying the collapse of western civilization.  Now, with the invention of Facebook, twitter, and the 24-hour news cycle with a constant hunger for more to talk about, it’s hard to forget the truth behind the violence, and that truth is that it’s incredibly rare and incredibly unlikely to affect you.  So rare, that it’s easy to forget that violent crime rates are now less than 15 in 1,000 people.  That is INCLUDING all of the recent mass shootings.  Put this into context:  According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, you were more than three times more likely to experience a violent crime in 1994 than you are today.


What does all this mean?  It means the world is actually safer now than it was when I was growing up.  Communication and instant notifications from around the world simply make it seem scarier, and it is this fear that has led many Americans to begin lashing out at each other as well as the police officers that protect us.  I plead with you not to give in to the fear and hatred.  Most people are not racist–though of course with any large population there are exceptions.  Most police officers are good people doing a tough job with the best intentions, though again there are exceptions.  Most politicians have the best of intentions when they put themselves out there and ran for office.  The media thrives on these exceptions, and the exceptions are becoming normalized through our day to day interactions.  It’s an optical illusion, making the violence appear much bigger and more widespread than it actually is.