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“It’s the best of times and the worst of times,” said Nadine Smith, the chief executive officer of Equality Florida, as she reflected on the recent gains for LGBT individuals, including marriage rights—and the horrific slaughter of those at Pulse Nightclub in Orlando in the early morning hours of Sunday, June 12.

Her words hit home for me. I’ve been struggling to reconcile spontaneously bursting into joyful tears in the voting booth, mere days before Orlando thrust me back into the violent reality of our times.

Any violence that indiscriminately targets a specific ethnicity, or religion, or race, or national origin, or gender is onerous. I see every person whose life was cut short or is still suffering grievous injuries as being just like my son, who is gay. My tears flow freely as the names and ages are called out on the news with small details of their ordinary and extraordinary lives as described by families and friends. My heart goes out to share their grief.

The worst of times.

It feels like a lifetime ago that I was shedding unexpected tears in that voting booth. I admit to feeling emotionally overwhelmed as I cast my vote for a woman to be the nominee of a major party for president of the United States.

The best of times.

I remember when there were jobs I couldn’t apply for because I was a woman. I remember when I couldn’t get a credit card without my husband’s signature. I remember having to sign an affidavit saying I would never get pregnant again in order to qualify for a VA loan to buy a house, since both our incomes were necessary to get the mortgage.

“Despite all the negativity, she kept reaching, exceeding her grasp … lesson learned.” —Helen, Palm Desert, on Hillary Clinton

After many years of involvement in the women’s rights movement, including service on state and national boards of major organizations, I have seen my share of challenges and triumphs. I remember when using “Ms.” to identify women as individuals—without regard to their marital status—was considered unthinkable. I remember when women were expected to train the young men who they knew would eventually be promoted over them. I remember when being crudely hit on by a client was considered a compliment.

“Going all the way back to the ’70s and ’80s and the ERA battles … this is not the end, but it sure as hell is closer than we have ever been. My granddaughter can shape her own future—be a combat troop commander AND Miss USA, or president of the United States” —Pat, Palm Springs

Many of my friends fell in love with Bernie Sanders’ agenda. They might never self-describe as Democratic Socialists, but they like his approach and willingness to challenge the status quo.

“Regardless of candidate preference, the idea of a female taking on such a role—the presidency of our country—proves to individuals everywhere, especially young girls, that they don’t have to settle for less.” —Alejandra, Thermal

“I like many of Bernie’s policies, but Hillary knows her way around Washington and the world. As the leader of the world for almost a century, the United States is way behind in electing a female president.” —Alice, Desert Hot Springs

I would never vote for a candidate merely based on a single arbitrary characteristic, like gender, color or religion. However, all things being equal, I would give the nod to a well-qualified woman over a well-qualified man, just because we need to catch up with the rest of the world. (It does look as if “all things being equal” won’t apply to this election, in any event.)

“In the voter’s booth, I’ll take ‘calm intelligence’ over ‘erratic instincts’ every time. My reaction is that I am standing proud with women everywhere.” —Janet, Palm Desert

“I cried when I saw Hillary walk onto the stage with arms open … I am so proud of her and proud to be me, a woman.” —Anita, Rancho Mirage

Women have led nations all over the world, in countries with varying predominant religions, and even in the face of security and military challenges far worse than those we face. Women have won presidential elections in South Korea, Malawi, Argentina, Kosovo, Iceland, Malta, Philippines, Nicaragua, Ireland, Sri Lanka, Guyana, Latvia, Panama, Finland, Indonesia, Liberia, Chile, India, Lithuania and many other places, to say nothing of nations where women have served as heads of government in the position of prime minister or other titles.

“The historical aspect of it didn’t hit me until election night.” —Pat, Indio

“When I was listening to Hillary’s acceptance speech … I was so emotional that all I kept thinking was how I wish my mother could’ve been there with me, celebrating this moment in history, something she always dreamed of.” —Claudia, La Quinta

There are many women, and men, who will not support Hillary BECAUSE she is a woman and who still believe a woman’s place is in the home—in the background, in the support role. There are women who are uncomfortable identifying with Hillary’s persona, because it often evokes misogynist reactions and they don’t want to suffer those same reactions. There are those who have a negative view of Hillary based on scandals and various “—gates.”

“It will make a difference to have a woman in the White House, and it’s long overdue. Compared to all the powerful men in history … whatever mistakes she may have made are, in my opinion, far less egregious. Thanks to all the heroic women who have come before me and who made this possible.” —Helen, Northern California

“Maybe I’d vote for her if she divorced Bill!” —Val, Indio

Going back to Nadine Smith’s comments in the wake of the Orlando killings, the Equality Florida CEO said: “I vacillate between sadness and anger, but mostly pride (at what we’ve accomplished).” I, too, am saddened and angered that anyone, for ANY reason, indiscriminately murders innocents. At the same time, I am full of pride and hopeful that we have a chance through a new approach, a woman’s approach, to model our values and our better angels to the world.

“I’m thrilled, like every other woman should be.” —Nancy, Palm Desert

“Our time has finally arrived.” —Kathy, Oceanside, formerly Palm Springs

I yearn for her candidacy to show my two granddaughters that they can achieve anything.” —Dori, Palm Desert

When Hamilton, a revolutionary approach to a Broadway musical, won the bulk of trophies at the Tony Awards, one of the producers, echoing a line from the script, said it all for me:

“Look around. How lucky we are to be alive right now. History is happening.”

It is the best of times.

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 zesty and zingy Independent comics page: The K Chronicles pays tribute to Muhammad Ali; Jen Sorenson compares Donald Trump and a Muslim cleric; This Modern World ponders toddlers killed by guns and bathrooms; and Red Meat claims it does not know where that smell is coming from.

Published in Comics

On this week's toaster-oven-style weekly Independent comics page: Red Meat has issues with a sweet treat; Jen Sorenson takes some intelligence tests of our times; The K Chronicles examines the effects of the boycott on North Carolina; and This Modern World offers yet another installment of primary phenomena.

Published in Comics

The current flap about Hillary Clinton playing the “woman card” is nothing short of ridiculous.

As a woman, I know what it feels like to be trivialized (called “honey” and “girl”), talked down to (“mansplaining”), ignored, talked over, interrupted and denied a seat at the decision-making table.

I also know what can happen to one’s career if one stands up for oneself or responds in kind. So much for the “woman card.”

Why aren’t we talking about Donald Trump playing the “man card”? After all, he’s trying to be some sort of alpha male by appealing to other men who wish they had the guts (and the money) to just say whatever they want. You know—a guy who puts down women based on looks, presumes women have less stamina to pursue their ambitions, makes unwanted physical advances, bullies to get his way, ignores a woman if she’s not a “10” and prefers to hire women without children—all while telling everyone how he respects women. (Trump not too long ago said: “[A female employee] is not giving me 100 percent. … She’s giving me 84 percent, and 16 percent is going towards taking care of children.”) An alpha male never makes apologies or excuses his behavior. He is self-focused, self-justifying—and believes that everyone else is there to help him, serve him, entertain him and sleep with him. It isn’t that the alpha male doesn’t provide opportunities for smart and capable females; it’s that he’ll only do it when it benefits him—and he can’t help seeing women with sexist presumptions about how they should look and act.

If merely being female is playing the “woman card” and gives women some kind of advantage, then why are there so few women in positions of power? Only 12 percent of seats on corporate boards in America are held by women. Women have headed their governments in the United Kingdom, Germany, Brazil, Argentina, Lithuania, Liberia, Bangladesh, Denmark, South Korea, Norway, Chile, Poland and many countries—but not in the United States. Less than 20 percent of congressional seats are held by women, and we are actually losing ground on getting into elected office at the state and local level. In 1998, we ranked 59th in the world in the percentage of women in our national legislature; in 2014, we were 98th, just behind Kenya and Indonesia, and barely ahead of the United Arab Emirates. Less than 25 percent of statewide offices are held by women, barely higher than in 1993.

Women make up half of California’s population but hold less than 30 percent of state, county and local elected offices. Of more than 400 cities in California, only 51 have female majorities on city councils, and 69 cities have no women serving at all. That’s actually better than most other states.

While we’re used to seeing lots of women heading charitable functions and raising money for good causes locally, the statistics on women holding public office here in the Coachella Valley are depressing. In both Palm Springs and Rancho Mirage, just one of the five councilmembers is a woman. Coachella has one of four; Desert Hot Springs, Palm Desert, La Quinta and Indio each have two women out of five councilmembers. As for Cathedral City and Indian Wells … not a single woman can be found on their city councils. At the Riverside County level, there are no women on the Board of Supervisors.

This lack of women in political positions has consequences. Arend Lijphart, a former president of the American Political Science Association, says there are “strong correlations between more women legislators and more progressive policies on issues like the environment, macroeconomic management, support for families, violence prevention, and incarceration.” Worldwide studies that have found women legislators introduce more bills than men regarding civil liberties, education, health, labor and other important issues affecting day-to-day life. In addition, research indicates that nations that elect women to key national leadership roles enjoy increases in economic growth, largely based on a more participatory style and the ability to manage difficult situations requiring cooperative approaches.

Hey, that “woman card” sounds pretty good!

When Donald Trump accuses Hillary Clinton of playing the “woman card,” and attacks her for “enabling” her husband’s womanizing, keep in mind his own philosophy about marriage, as written in Trump: The Art of the Comeback: “I tell friends whose wives are constantly nagging them about this or that they’re better off leaving and cutting their losses. I’m not a great believer in always trying to work things out, because it just doesn’t happen that way. For a man to be successful he needs support at home … not someone who is always griping and bitching. When a man has to endure a woman who is not supportive and complains constantly … he will not be very successful unless he is able to cut the cord.”

Compare that mentality to the fact that Clinton found a way to work through public humiliation to keep her marriage and her family intact. She was supportive in making her husband successful. If the woman card means not living by the alpha male philosophy, then I don’t mind voting for a woman just because she is a woman.

Meanwhile, my woman card apparently got lost in the male.

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

In the beginning, it isn’t clear if Donald Trump will even make it inside.

It’s around 10 a.m., April 29, on Burlingame’s Old Bayshore Highway—just south of the San Francisco International Airport—and protesters have just finished forming the second of two human fences that they hope will block access to the only road entrances to the adjacent Hyatt Regency, site of the 2016 California GOP Convention.

The protesters forming the fence sit cross-legged across the road, their arms joined through sections of plastic tubes that are penned with slogans such as “Stop Hate,” “Capitalism Kills” and “Love Trumps Hate.”

Trump, the leading GOP candidate, is slated to speak at a 12:30 p.m. luncheon, and Burlingame police officers line the sidewalk nearby, their eyes fixed on the protesters.

About 100 yards north up the road, closer to the hotel lobby, the crowd of activists surrounding the other human fence is far larger. There, dozens of anti-Trump protesters hold signs that read, among other things, “Make America Hate Again” and “Californians Against Trump/Hate.”

A brass band snakes through the crowd, lending an air of festivity to an otherwise tense scene. Tania Kappner, a Bay Area activist, directs much of the action through a megaphone.

“I need about half of you to go support the folks locked down on the other side. Not everybody, just half!” she says. “We need to shut this entire road all the way the fuck down!”

Inside the Hyatt, past the line of police, the mood is expectant, almost giddy. The line to see Trump speak stretches more than 100 feet long, and because he has a Secret Service detail, it moves slowly—aside from a bag check, attendees must pass through a metal detector.

Inside the banquet ballroom, after it is announced Trump made it into the building, albeit a bit late (he was secreted in through the rear), he is introduced by State Sen. Joel Anderson, R-Alpine, who hails Trump as “our next president,” and then gets the crowd involved. “To all the lobbyists who think they can buy our freedom,” he says, and then the crowd joins in, “you’re fired!”

When Trump finally enters, the mood is electric.

“That was not the easiest entrance I’ve ever made,” he says, drawing laughter. “It felt like I was crossing the border.”

Trump then goes on a rambling account of his campaign thus far, how he’s proven his doubters wrong, and how he’s more popular than the other candidates. (Just days later, the other two remaining Republicans would suspend their campaigns, clearing Trump’s path to the GOP nomination.) True to form, he calls Ted Cruz “Lyin’ Ted” and Hillary Clinton “Crooked Hillary.” He mocks John Kasich for eating during news conferences.

Trump says he will be heading to Indiana soon to hang out with coach Bobby Knight.

“He’s a winner,” Trump says. “That’s what we need now, we need winners.”

Aside from trade deals and immigration, Trump avoids talking about the issues, and mostly praises those who support him. He mentions an endorsement he received from 16,500 members of the U.S. Border Patrol, and refers to them as “phenomenal,” “great-looking,” “strong” and “in-shape.”

He also assures the crowd he will have no trouble building the wall he’s promised on the Mexican border.

“It’s so easy,” he brags. “I can just see that beautiful pre-cast plank, good solid foundations, nice and high … ”

One can barely hear his words through the applause.

When Trump finishes, the hotel is on lockdown, with police holding the line against an increasingly riled-up group of protesters. The only way out is a side door leading to the parking garage, and broken eggshells—from raw eggs thrown by protesters—line the walkway as luncheon attendees shuffle uneasily to their cars.

Back inside, the Monterey County Republican Party is the only county party with a booth, as was the case at the state GOP convention last fall. And once again, the table is set up with a “Delete Hillary” cornhole game that aims to bring light to Clinton’s so-called scandals. The game is in keeping with the wireless password for convention attendees: “hillarycantbetrusted.”

Monterey County GOP shotcaller Paul Bruno, the Central Coast regional chair for the Ted Cruz campaign, is sipping a cocktail near the table later in the day.

“We’ve been deleting Hillary, and we’re going to continue deleting Hillary,” he says. Bruno adds that he just got back from a Cruz rally in Indiana, and praises Cruz for being “somewhat of a maverick.” But, he says, all the GOP candidates “bring a lot to the table.”

The evening brings a speech by Kasich, the most moderate of the GOP candidates, who was trailing heavily in the polls. His tone is wistful, as if he already knew that his defeat was sealed.

“I’ve been endorsed by over 70 newspapers,” he says. “Wish it mattered.”

Kasich ended his campaign several days later.


The next morning, the Hyatt is packed with attendees wearing “Team Cruz” stickers. Cruz will be giving a speech at a 12:30 p.m. luncheon. For Cruz, the most conservative of the candidates, it’s been a tough week: On April 26, Trump swept Cruz in five states, and on April 28, former House Speaker John Boehner referred to him as “Lucifer in the flesh.” It would get even tougher in the week that followed: On May 3, Cruz suspended his campaign after getting trounced in the Indiana primary.

But on this day, the excitement in the banquet room is palpable, and Cruz is introduced by former Gov. Pete Wilson, a surprise guest who recently endorsed Cruz.

“Never has the California Republican primary election been so critical to the future of our nation,” he says.

When Cruz finally takes the stage, he is welcomed by rousing applause. “God bless the great state of California!” he says, drawing cheers. After thanking some people, he begins praising Carly Fiorina, who he named as his running mate April 27.

“Carly terrifies Hillary Clinton. I picture Hillary thinking about Carly, tossing and turning, and tossing and turning—in her jail cell,” he says.

He then goes on to describe his platform: Abolish the IRS, rein in the EPA, end Common Core education, “rip to shreds” the Iranian nuclear deal, and repeal Obamacare.

Shortly after Cruz’s speech is a seminar about the Republican National Convention, and the complex set of possibilities that would play out if Trump didn’t win 1,237 delegates—an outright majority that would secure the nomination.

After the seminar, in a men’s room across the hall, a 50-something man tells an elderly man that he didn’t know it cost $900 to become a delegate.

“You know what they say in Poland?” the elderly man says.

“I should let you know I’m Polish,” the other man responds.

“Tough shit-ski. You know what they in southern Poland?”

“I don’t know.”

“Tough shit-ski, y’all.”

Trump, who could barely make his way into his own party’s convention, may actually find his way into the White House.

This piece originally appeared in the Monterey County Weekly.

Published in Politics

On this week's extra-spicy weekly Independent comics page: Red Meat enjoys a long-overdue dinner; Jen Sorenson plays the Woman Card; The K Chronicles wonders what Zoe Saldana is doing in Nina; and This Modern World examines the forever campaign.

Published in Comics

On this week's Trump-tastic weekly Independent comics page: This Modern World checks in again with The Incredible Trump; Jen Sorenson uses an algorhythm; The K Chronicles mourns the passing of Prince; and Red Meat gets in some business trouble.

Published in Comics

On this week's day-after-4/20 special edition weekly Independent comics page: Jen Sorenson looks at the phenomenon that is Ted Cruz; The K Chronicles makes a surprising yet welcome discovery; This Modern World examines yet more primary-election phenomena; and Red Meat finds someone sleeping naked in the yard yet again.

Published in Comics

Boy, this has been an ugly election cycle. The candidates and their supporters have been dragging some pretty dark parts of our society into the spotlight, and it has not been pretty.

But for me, there is at least one shining green light to be seen: Both parties appear ready to be getting ready to accept cannabis into our “legitimate” society in one form or another—although there are still some fairly stark differences in their stances.

So, with the California primary coming up in June, let’s look at where the remaining presidential candidates stand on cannabis.

The Red Team

A Republican administration is generally viewed as a setback to the legalization movement. But even the Red Team is getting on board with a wider acceptance of cannabis.

GOP front-runner Donald Trump is typically vague regarding marijuana, and has changed his publicly stated views on legalization several times over the years. In 1990, he said that all drugs should be legalized and regulated to end the failed War on Drugs. Now that he’s the GOP Golden Boy (Orange Boy?), he’s hedging his bets regarding legalization for recreational use. In a recent interview with Bill O’Reilly, when pressed on the issue, the closest Trump would come to supporting legalization was to say that “there are some good things about” it. However, Trump did not hesitate to assert his complete support of medical marijuana.

Running a distant second in the GOP race is Texas Sen. Ted Cruz. At the 2015 Conservative Political Action Conference, Cruz said he was opposed to legalization for adult recreational use. But earlier this year, he said he would not roll back the laws enacted in Colorado and Washington, so he appears to be softening a little on the topic. He told radio talk-show host Hugh Hewitt: “When it comes to a question of legalizing marijuana, I don’t support legalizing marijuana. If it were on the ballot in the state of Texas, I would vote no. But I also believe that’s a legitimate question for the states to make a determination. And the citizens of Colorado and Washington state have come to a different conclusion.” Cruz also says states should regulate medicinal use without federal interference: “I think it is appropriate for the federal government to recognize that the citizens of those states have made that decision.”

The GOP’s longest lasting also-ran, Ohio Gov. John Kasich, has been completely opposed to cannabis, even for medical use. But even he appears to be loosening up a little. While still generally opposed to legalizing marijuana for recreational use, he said at a town hall in Hollis, N.H., “Medical marijuana, I think we can look at it.” Kasich, who has admitted using marijuana himself several times, recently discussed the topic on The Late Show With Stephen Colbert. While he opposes incarceration in favor of treatment for drug-abusers across the board, he explained his opposition to legalization thusly: “The problem with marijuana is this: We don't want to tell our kids, ‘Don’t do drugs, but by the way, this drug’s OK.’”

Colbert fired back with a wry: “Isn't that what alcohol is?”

You can watch the exchange here.

The Blue Team

A Democratic White House is the great green hope for the legalization movement, with Bernie Sanders being wholly in favor of a complete end to the War on Drugs, and Hillary Clinton now stating 100 percent support for medical cannabis.

Clinton’s position is in an evolutionary phase. In 2011, she opposed complete legalization in favor of decriminalizing the possession of small amounts of marijuana. But on March 24 of this year, she told Jimmy Kimmel: “I think what the states are doing right now needs to be supported, and I absolutely support all the states that are moving toward medical marijuana, moving toward—absolutely—legalizing it for recreational use.” She continued: “Let’s take it off … Schedule I and put it on a lower schedule so that we can actually do research about it.”

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders is the only candidate to receive an “A” rating from the Marijuana Policy Project. Sanders has long expressed support for allowing states to make decisions regarding cannabis legalization, even going so far as to say that he, personally, would vote in favor of legalization in his state. On a national level, he staunchly supports marijuana decriminalization and medicinal use.

While other issues in the election cycle are causing wide rifts, it appears that marijuana’s time has come at last. It’s a new day for cannabis, America!

In Other News

• With California barreling toward expected legalization, the county of Los Angeles is giving itself a time-out, of sorts, to figure out how to handle cultivation in unincorporated areas. The county has banned dispensaries from operating on county land since 2011, and has temporarily banned all cultivation—even by patients. The current ban is in place for 45 days to let the county assess the best way to approach cultivation, including environmental impacts and possible criminal activity. Coupled with the long-standing ban on dispensaries, the ban leaves few options for patient access. The ban can be extended for a year if deemed necessary by the county Board of Supervisors.

• On the lighter side, pizza-delivery app Push for Pizza has teamed with Nikolas Gregory Studio in Queens, N.Y., to produce a pizza box than can be used to make a pot pipe. The brain-child of 25-year-old Nikolas Gregory, the box features a perforated cutout that serves as the body of the pipe. And, y’know that miniature plastic table thing that supports the middle of the box? Well, they’re making it a ceramic bowl that slides into the cardboard body from the box top.

Genius!

Published in Cannabis in the CV

On this week's spritely Independent comics page: The K Chronicles is embarrassed by North Carolina; Jen Sorenson examines shell companies; This Modern World bitches about Bernie; and Red Meat's cowboys deal with a sorting issue.

Published in Comics