Can The GOP Really Be Fixed? By Rick London

    Politics is not my favorite thing.  I understand a little about it because I worked on The Hill for close to a decade. Up close, it’s like Hollywood with power rather than money. It’s not real pretty. (Don’t get me wrong, the city of Washington is one of the most gorgeous anywhere).

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    It taught me one very important thing.  Never ever be a “party person”.  My favorite uncle, was a retired Congressman (R-PA) who ran and won 3 terms. But something was changing in his party that didn’t sit quite well with him.   So he switched to the other party and under a two-term President worked as his Secretary Of Mining Safety both terms.

     But that was not the last straw that helped me make my decision to go Independent and study each candidate carefully; it merely “sealed the deal”.

      One thing I do know about political parties.  For America to be strong, we need a very strong two-party system.   What we now have is a very very strong Democratic party, and 26% on the fringe with the leadership of the NRA’s Wayne LaPierre, or Romney, or someone. Who knows…and who really cares?

     Today they (Finally) got what they wanted.  To like little yappy dogs, nip at Hilary Clinton’s ankles.  And that is exactly how it looked.  A group of men with American popularity rating so low (26%) in a “gotcha”) battle with the most popular woman in the world.  They had the usual suspect cheerleaders in the background; Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, et al all yelling “Go, baby go..you guys are winning the Super Bowl”.

      Here’s the problem.  Of course we know they weren’t winning anything and chances are the GOP’s (AKA “Guns Of Paradise”) ratings will drop another 5-10% in the polls after today’s circus.  Why was it a circus?  Because they did the predictable to make it a circus. 

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     Today’s hearings should have been anything but political, yet that is all it was, lest the questions from Democrats which were basically fact-finding queries.  America knows diplomacy is a dangerous game. We didn’t take Reagan’s team to task when we lost over 200 Marines in Saudi nor 47 diplomatic workers under GW Bush.  We know this kind of thing happens, and we know diplomacy is dangerous. Very dangerous.  We also know it is underfunded.    In addition, we also know the democrats asked for more funding for it for embassy security, the GOP turned it down. 

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     But let’s just say none of that is so.  Let’s just say a political party with a popularity rank of 26% positive was to be on television at a hearing with the world’s most popular woman (who they all know were as much as fault as were the Reagan administration or GW Bush administration for our diplomatic and military losses then).

     This would have been the perfect opportunity, had the GOP had decent leadership to huddle before the event and say, “Guys, we’re going to do the unpredictable.  We know all the facts.  We can play ‘trial by fire –gotcha’, or we can come in with an olive branch and use this event to turn our party around by doing the right thing……finding a solution with her, to keep this from happening again, even take some blame if we must for under-funding and promising never to under-fund our embassies again.”

     Can you imagine what that would have done to the GOPs popularity rating?  Dems, Independents and undecided would be standing in line to buy their GOP ticket.    But Jane Austen knew “Pride And Prejudice” long before the rest of us did, and they couldn’t  get past that. Once again,  The predictable.  

      Why can’t they simply change?   The NRA has convinced most of them our “socialist government” is coming for their guns.  And they believe it.  And they continue to send the NRA their hard-earned money.  And of course this is all about “principles and absolutism..whatever in the world that means. I haven’t a clue.   If someone will stop and look closely, the Obama administration wants what 70%+ of NRA membership wants.  Background checks, remove extended magazines and closing loopholes for easy purchasing. I am a defender of the 2nd Amendment.  I’m not for gun control. I’m for gun laws that work, and are enforced.  Something tells me every time I turn on the news, those two elements are not in place.  Common sense.   Not socialistic, and a safer nation.  Contrary to popular GOP belief, enforcing decent gun laws is no more socialistic than enforcing smart traffic laws. 

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      So the GOP again looks at the Dems.  “But they’re sinners.  They are pro-choice and abortion is an abomination.” If it is any consolation, I don’t know anyone who is pro-abortion.  In addition, Central America taught us that the pro-life movement has run its course.  It doesn’t work.  All the pro-life movement does is make itself wealthier.  Central America has the highest abortion rates in the world.  Abortion is illegal in every country but Uruguay.  How does it happen?  Any way a woman can, but more often than not using the ulcer drug Cytotec which is not safe in the least, and if the pregnancy turns into a birth, the chances of birth defects is very high.  But its as common as aspirin in Central America and would be in America too (should abortion become illegal or impossible to procure).

 So vote pro-life, you get about twice as many abortions….and extremely dangerous ones at that. Many won’t use Cyotec. They will use the old trusty coat-hanger that may (or may not kill her).   In today’s safe clinical environment, the mortality rate of the pregnant woman is .06%, one of the safest medical procedures available.  When/if it ever becomes illegal, the mortality rate will not only go up, so will the amount of abortions, by a great deal.

  So Dems are not the ghoulish “party of death” that so many think. Most of us understand that pro-choice with a prudent mixture of contraception and family planning means less abortions. Millions less.  It’s been proven over and over.  But this is for the real world; not for people in an insane attempt to control women’s bodies.  Those people have made up their “minds” anyway.  They don’t care that this reduces abortions by millions, as long as they can hang on to their antiquated politics that needs dusting worse than a 150 year old boarded up saloon from the Old West. 

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      But another blemish on the GOP is that Americans are not dumb.  Where they are trying to outlaw abortion, they are also attempting to make contraception and family planning education nearly impossible.  What in the world does that accomplish?  That’s a rhetorical question. It is to control women’s bodies and it is very very sick and, of course,  will backfire to a way lower than 26% positive rating (but I can guarantee it helped get the GOP to a rating that low).  I predict the ranking will drop to about 12% before they decide to fold.  A few stragglers might remain but I’d be very surprised.  Just pray for intelligent leadership…..but don’t take that to the bank.  They better be intelligent and have the ability to work fast. 

     And so it goes.  The circle of hate in the GOP party taking them further and further closer to the abyss…. The Contemporary Museum Of Former Political Parties”.  I wonder if they’ll build a monument to ol’ Wayne LaPierre in the front showing a pistol silencer to a child (out of love of course). 

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Rick London is a freelance writer, author, cartoonist, and songwriter.  He spends a great deal of time with his wife popular nature and wildlife photographer Lee Hiller-London.  London founded Londons Times Offbeat Cartoons and funny gifts in 1997.  Lee Hiller owns the popular online shopping shop LeeHillerDesigns.com.

                                                                                     

America’s Economy: International Tourism. Why Are Gun Safety Laws So Important? By Rick London

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BREAKING Victory! New York will be the first state to pass gun laws in response to the mass shooting at Sandy Hook.
New laws include restricting access to the mentally ill, bans on assault weapons and extended magazines, background checks for private gun sales, a statewide database of gun licenses. and harsher punishments for gun crimes, particularly smugglers.

As you probably observed, it didn’t “just happen” overnight.  We were angered and felt powerless every time another mass murder happened. To add icing on the cake, before any American had a chance to express grief, the NRA and it’s groupies were making the story “all about them and their guns and how the second amendment” blah blah…” as if those of us who own guns or have owned them didn’t have that concern.

It simply showed us that people set their priorities differently.  For some, their guns are like their wives or 

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children (or in many cases even more valuable) but for most of us, the children, teachers and other innocents being murdered was the only story here.
 I am a pure Constitutionalist, hence the 2nd Amendment to me is as important as the rest of them.   But here is a case that I know is going to be mentioned in the Supreme Court regarding “what is a gun and what is not”.  It was the same thing in 1935 when machine guns were banned except for military use.  Anything that was once “a gun” that becomes automated, is no longer

considered “a gun” or “arms” but “a military issued weaponry”, and not protected by the 2nd Amendment, hence a moot point  Citizens had to turn in their machine guns and all of them claimed the Constitution would fall apart and the end of the world would be very soon.

Well the world continued, and thrived, and many many less machine guns were bought because the few that got pushed further underground were so expensive, only the very wealthiest criminals could afford them, and no teens, nor young adults, those who are using the majority of automatics and/or extended clips now. 

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And even if all that didn’t exist, our 1st Amendment rights trump anyone’s 2nd Amendment rights any day (also proven in court in 1935. Every citizen had the right to walk down the street without the fear of being blown into little pieces to the point of no identification (a machine gun like an automatic or pistol with extended clip can do that same kind of damage).  So

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America is finally coming into the civilized world.  

 Keep in mind, banning the automatic weapons is part of the solution, but not even close to all of it.  What is goingto be a factor that decides whether America continues to go down the slippery slope of “outlaw-land” or not, is the extensive background checks that finally will be put in place.  

Of course the NRA has “it’s script” that is written for its members, created only to raise money for them.  Whenever the government mentions the idea of extensive background checks, the NRA sends out the same, or nearly the same fear-based letter every single time to it’s members that in a nutshell says, “And so what is next?  We know what is next.  They take our guns away.  

And only you can prevent this and we’re counting on you.  Will you be sending us $10?  $25? $50? $100 or this amount_________?  And it works.  By now anyone who has been a member for at least a year, may not understand it, but the NRA’s fear-based fundraising letters, written by the very best psychologists-turned-marketers knows the score.

On the other hand, these days, one of the first things International tourists look for in their research is violence in the country in which they feel might be a fun and/or interesting visit.  

So they check gun deaths in the U.S.  30,000 in 2011.  Nope, no way.  So they check Canada.  Gun deaths in 2011 – 37.   It doesn’t take an Einstein to figure out what country they would be visiting in 2011 with their family of 4-5.  

And those families of 4-5 are in the millions each year.  And thanks to yours truly, the NRA, and its brainwashed members who think that any day now their 2nd Amendment rights will be breached, the topic is not even raised.  After all, what could be more important.    America can afford to lose millions of dollars each year in tourism dollars if it means something as important as the “heroic NRA” fighting for your rights.

The problem is, they aren’t fighting for your rights.  They are fighting to put money in their pockets after each gun story, Newtown tragedy, etc.  The background checks has been a much-needed law in this country for a long time. It exists in every other civilized country. It does not breach any law-abiding citizen’s right to bear arms.  If it is upsetting to you, it is time to look within, not at the government, concerned parents, murdered citizens and their families, etc. What are you hiding?  If you have nothing to hide in your background, extension background checks should please you. 

It keeps guns out of the hands of people who are not mentally or emotionally capable of handling them.

But you know the NRA mantra.  When guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns.  Well that’s not exactly true.  Guns will never be outlawed.  But when sick violent people are outlawed from getting guns, where they will have to go to buy them, deep into the black market is so expensive, only a small minority of them will be able to afford them.

Is it foolproof?   Of course not.  But it is a very good start.  And it is a message to our citizens who have been staying indoors an awful lot, not going to crowded theaters, malls, downtown or other places where people might be found shooting a gun, will begin doing public commerce again.  And there are millions of them.

And more importantly it sends a message to the world that the citizens are welcoming them back. Though we love our guns, and we do, we love people even more. And we love the fact that we live in one of the most beautiful countries in the world, if not the most beautiful, and friendly, and if it means doing our best to keep guns out of the hands of sick/dangerous people to welcome them back, so be it.  If it means saying goodbye to automatic weapons and extended magazines; and leaving them with the military, for whom they were designed in the first place, so be it.

In other words, the U.S.A. is not as insane as they may believe it is, and they do believe it is, and we are surely willing to work on the useless violence, even if it means loss of profits to the NRA and its affiliates, no, especially if it means loss of income to that gang of thugs.  

The gun dealers, gun show operators etc. will have to learn to act like professionals and deal with the government to make certain guns go to the right persons, or simply go out of business.  It is a win-win for everyone.  They do not need to be in the gun business if they don’t understand that simple face which is about to become law.  And the NRA has no business teaching us about gun safety if all they are trying to do is make it more unsafe, to raise money again and again.  

Tourism, our country’s major breadwinner which has virtually dried up due to the unregulated gun laws (and gun laws that are ridiculous and don’t work) are now looking at America again as a possible destination).  Do you know that most travelers from different countries looked at us as they do Syria, Iran, Gaza, etc?  Seriously.  They picked safe(er) countries such as Germany, Switzerland, Scandanavia etc.  And who could blame them.  Those days are changing. FINALLY.

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Rick London is a freelance writer and songwriter.  He launched Londons Times Offbeat Cartoons and Funny Gifts in March 1997. It has been Google #1 ranked offbeat webcomic since 2005 and Bing’s #1 ranked since 2008.  London is active in Childrens, Animals and Environment rights. He lives with his wife popular nature/wildlife photographer Lee Hiller-London who owns and runs Lee Hiller’s Hike Our Planet Nature Blog and Lee Hiller Designs nature photography and artwork gifts and clothing.

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Where Do I Live? In The Here & Now…Sort Of….By Rick London

         Sometimes people ask me where I live and I tell them I live “in the now”.  Of course that is not totally true because when things get rough, even given years of excellent therapy, I find myself living in the “then”.   Generally cold weather and overcast skies will send me scurrying to the “then”; not unlike snowbirds from Canada settling in southern Florida for the winter, yearning for the “good old days”.

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      But given my life, and all its ups and downs as a writer, I can honestly say most of my time is spent living in the now.  And it’s not because I am better than anyone else, or even understand the way the world works better than anyone else.  I don’t.  I just happen to like who I am.  I like that I know how to stand up for whom I am (healthy boundaries).  I don’t tell lies to people, not even “little white lies” so that they’ll feel better. I’m not perfect. I’ve chopped down some cherry trees (and didn’t admit it), but I strive to be honest.  Sometimes that hurts people’s feelings, but in the long run, most tend to appreciate constructive criticism. And sometimes I’m wrong.

      Every now and then a new writer or cartoonist will send me a portfolio of his or her work.  And that is not because I am a master of what I do, but that I’ve been doing it for over a decade and am published and licensed in numerous places, and generally that is the goal of most writers and/or cartoonists.  If one has willfully entered this “trade” with the idea of retiring to a home in Malibu, might I suggest a career in plumbing or medicine. 

     I have made it a point to always give an honest assessment of what someone has showed me.  If it has potential (in my mind), I let them know as soon as possible. If it is dismal, I let them know that (in a tactful manner) that I don’t believe it has commercial value.

 The good news is that creativity, the arts, writing etc. can all be learned. And better more advanced instructors can help one advance rapidly.  I was fortunate to have a mom (starting early in my life) who was quite astute in the arts and letters. I later found mentors, some of whom were the best in the humor writing and cartooning business, and even later, upon returning to college, some of the best professors in the business of teaching college courses.  So I really have no excuse not to be able to produce and produce often and be creative often. And still, I sometimes miss the mark.

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      There is a certain generosity about the arts and letters which at first glance goes unnoticed.  But given that the purveyor of this creative mass is put into a fully focused form, and manifested into some kind of medium meant to share with others, not knowing if the creator is going to make one penny or not, but gives totally of oneself, sharing one’s inner soul (yes even in humor), it is a pure act of giving.  There of course are times when the creation becomes a “commercial success”. To me, it is still a sharing situation.  There are plenty of ways to make an easier living (than sharing one’s soul with the world), but the artist, writer, painter, musician etc. is willing to “give what it takes”.

     My wife Lee Hiller-London started climbing and hiking the mountains of Arkansas in early November 2009.    She owned a small digital camera which was more for personal use than commercial, so she knew the chances may be slim of any kind of commercial success, but she had found a new dimension of herself by hiking, taking photos and documenting what she saw.  She became a photo-poet.

      In spite of a lot of obstacles, a new form of commerce began taking place on the Internet called “digital design” in which one transfers one’s art, photography, text etc. onto clothing, gifts, cards and other collectibles.  I had been working in digital art since 2005.  It did not take her long to pick up the craft and she was off to the races.

      In time, she was able to buy a high-end professional camera and her brand, “Lee Hiller Designs” began to flourish.  Within 3-4 years, she had taken tens of thousands of photos and hiked hundreds of miles in the beautiful Ouachita Mountains of Arkansas.

     Though I now have inherited her old camera (and enjoy taking nature and wildlife pictures a great deal), it is not my major muse.  I still enjoy writing offbeat cartoons which I use for my Londons Times Cartoons.  I find great inspiration in the forest, often using animals, trees and other living things as the theme of the cartoon.  I jot down ideas while hiking and develop them when I get home from the adventure.   When my head is clear of all cobwebs (after a hike), which it generally is, I can create with the best of them.  If I’ve been closed up at home for several days (which happens) due to weather or some other reason, I am lucky to be able to spell my name correctly.

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      Writing, painting, drawing, music, etc. does not have to be for celebrity, money, or fame.  In fact, it is more often done for personal achievement than audience feedback.  For the first few years I was in cartooning and humor writing, it was only as a hobby, and I was curious how far I could take it before anyone even noticed I was doing it.  I never expected to get published much less my own line of products.  I don’t think my wife Lee did either (she’s actually a much better artist than me).

      Yet, I can remember a ½ lifetime ago, around age 28, moving to New York, haunting the comedy clubs trying out my newly written material, bothering scouts from Letterman and then Johnny Carson etc.  Fame was the key. I felt I would not be happy unless I made my appearances and “knocked ‘em dead” on those shows.  Yet the more I pushed to get what I wanted, the more the universe pushed back to tell me it was not what I was getting. 

     In retrospect, all that is part of growing up.  At age 44, when I decided to settle on cartooning, and later product engineering and designing, it was for me. I truly thought the pursuit of any kind of acknowledgement from my peers or the public was over.  The great irony is that that is when it started. 

     I began Londons Times in 1997.  By September 2001, my team and I had created about 3000+ mostly color cartoons.  I’d also written hundreds of e-zine articles and songs.  And then came a major heart attack.  My cardiologist suggested I let go of anything that was stressful.  By then, cartooning and writing had become stressful, mainly because I’d gotten so involved in it, I never learned to smell the roses.  If I was succeeding, that is, as a business, I would have never known it.  I was just too busy doing it.

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      So I stopped and returned to college; something I’d not done in several decades.  I figured going to college online would be a breeze. After all, nobody looking over my shoulder, go at my own pace, etc. Not so. It was more difficult than any state college I’d attending (and I’d attended my share of them).  All work was state-of-the-art as the courses had been modeled from MIT.  I was out of my league and I knew it.  All assessments were proctored by the local school system.  Though it had to be the most difficult learning experience ever, it was also the most pragmatic. Nearly everything learned there came into play at one time or another when I finally decided to start back at cartooning again.

     By 2005, I had completed about 8 credits out of 20 to graduate.  Then a serious illness struck and I needed surgery.  It took me several months to recover and I was able to finish 3 more credits before an even more serious illness hit and put me on the sidelines.   The school was patient and would have let me continue (even at my slow pace) but being online, at the time, they were heavily monitored by the NEA, and I was on grants, loans and scholarships. 

They asked me to send them my medical records which I did, and they went to bat for me but it was not enough.  So I was unable to finish which broke my heart for a good while.  Then in the middle of my work the thought hit me, two of the most successful people on my school advisory board, Bill Gates and Michael Dell never finished college.  Not that I’m in their league but the fact is they didn’t.  There was no reason I should quit trying in my work just because academia didn’t work out.  So I carried on.

Please don’t get me wrong. I enjoy making money as much as the next fellow.  But as I was getting to know myself along the way, I learned a valuable lesson.  Money, for the sake of just money, that is, working at any job or career just because it pays well, even if I abhor it, is a loser’s game. The funny part is, one learns that lesson after the first paycheck.

“Well that wasn’t enough money. I’ll work harder and make some more”.  Then comes the next paycheck. “Oh, I see I’m going to have to double down on the work, and really pull in the dough.” And that cycle never ends. Ever.  One can be making millions if not billions, and still that dark cloud is hanging overhead. It’s a race for money and nothing else.  One’s moral compass can easily get knocked out of kilter. 

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One gets so busy making money and keeping up with the Jones’, he/she forgets the importance of helping those closest to him/her like brothers, sisters, mothers, close friends etc.  So they distance themselves and go on highly visible missions to Haiti or Central America to prove their charitable worth.  And the world is watching them because they know.

 It is truly no way to live; and I didn’t want to go to my grave that way, and I was surely headed in that direction.  I was blessed to get out of that vicious cycle.  “Show-off charity” is disturbing at best, especially for the giver, as he/she knows he doesn’t have the guts or courage to give to those who need it most in his/her own family, community, etc.

 I’m not saying that going to other countries and supplying blankets, food and other relief is not a wonderful thing, it is.  But if it is a substitute for helping those you love, or once loved, it is a travesty that borders on being criminal.

So, here I am “training myself” not to worry about what “will happen then”.  What will be will be. Que sara sara.  Whatever.

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So it’s Friday. Tonight Lee and I will be shutting down the pc’s for several hours and enjoying Shabbat which we observe each Friday at sundown.  We’ll do our Torah study in the morning and at sundown tomorrow, catch up on work and other silly stuff that are obligations which exist so we can keep the lights on and gas in the cars.

Then, like all mature adult couples, Lee has rented two episodes of “Portlandia” for us to watch tomorrow night and she’ll make some fun organic gmo-free dish with sesame seeds and such in place of that evil Orville Reddenbacher gmo-heavy oversized Chernobyl popcorn.  And all those years we thought he was our kindly grandfather figure.  He’s simply the kindest face in a huge corporation that blows up its corn to 3 times its normal size using GMOs (Genetically Modified Organisms) compliments of Monsanto. And corporations are not people, my friend…and neither is popcorn.

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Rick London is a freelance writer, designer, songwriter and nature-lover. He launched London’s Times Offbeat Cartoons And Funny Gifts which have been Google & Bing #1 ranked for 7 years.  His stores such as Rick London Gifts offers funny tees, mousepads, mugs & other funny collectibles at reasonable prices.  He is married to popular nature wildlife photographer Lee Hiller-London and they live and hike in the beautiful Ouachita Mountains of Arkansas to commune with Nature.