January 30, 2018

I’m as reflexively suspicious of the influence of religion on government as any of our Founding Fathers. There is a difference between being spiritual and being religious and it makes all the difference to the future of our Country. This is why the influence of “Evangelical Christians” has been one of the most dangerous threats to our freedoms. Fortunately, Trump has exposed these “Christian” leaders for what they are: transactional and not spiritual. Hopefully, the lie that Christian Evangelicals are motivated by spiritual beliefs and informed conscience has been exposed enough to shed a light on their destructive influence on our society. If Michael Steele, former Chair of the RNC, is any indication then the days of fraudulent Evangelicals like Tony Perkins are limited. Steele declared that these Evangelical leaders ought to just shut up and never, ever preach at him again. The straw that broke his chains to Evangelicals was from the leader of the Family Research Council that Trump deserved a “Mulligan” for paying for the silence of a porn star he had an extramarital affair with while Melania was about to give birth to their son.

Evangelical leaders justify supporting Trump because he is accomplishing their political agenda. His words and actions are dismissed by these leaders, who apparently fail to realize that some people actually believe the nonsense they preach from the pulpit every Sunday. Evangelicals think that doing something they like justifies doing many things that are wrong. It’s like saying a pedophile is an acceptable candidate for Senator, if he will outlaw abortions. Oh, they already have preached that gospel…

I am not a religious person, but I do believe that there is a right and a wrong, and no amount of right can justify a wrong. Not to go off on any theological tangent, but there have been heresies in Christian history similar to what Perkins and his league of false prophets are peddling. The basis of a spiritual life is the pursuit of meaning (e.g. God), not the pursuit of political agenda. That’s why these Evangelicals are not spiritual, but transactional. To them, the ends justify the means. They reject the idea that embracing sin in the service of God is an inherent contradiction.

I suppose arguing theological justifications to do what they want anyway is just playing their game. I operate by a less abstract principle that you know a person by what they do.



Modern Civics

January 29, 2018

What should the content of a contemporary text book on American Government include? If the text provides a functional knowledge of how our government works today it would have the following table of contents:

Chapter 1: Citizen’s United and the Origin of Modern U.S. Government

Chapter 2: Citizen’s United, the 1% and the Donor Class

Chapter 3: Citizen’s United, the NRA, Wall St. and Corporate America

Chapter 4: The U.S. Constitution and the Primacy of Corporate Rights

Chapter 5: The Three Branches of Government: Three Options for the Donor Class to Accomplish Outcomes

Chapter 6: The Two Party system: the Illusion of Choice

Chapter 7: Voting Rights and the Role of Elections: Endorsing the Foregone Conclusions After Restrictions and Gerrymandering

Chapter 8: Defining Individual Rights and the Role of Government in Working Around Them

Chapter 9: Local and State Government: Evolution, Function and the Illusion of Democracy

Chapter 10: Is Change Possible After Citizens United?

Cynical? Less so than accurate. Few people who pay attention doubt that since the Citizen’s United decision, money has controlled the purpose and the function of government. Big money elects politicians that pass laws to make more money for the donor class. Big money elects the judges to affirm and reinforce the primacy of corporate rights over individual rights.

It’s a shame. Maybe we can revive the American dream. But at this pint in our history, it is just a dream.

Shut It Down

January 22, 2018

Its pretty simple. Trump says he would approve of any bi-partisan bill on DACA. He said on camera that he would provide the political cover. A bi-partisan proposal was agreed upon – and Trump promptly said “no” along with a racist rant.

After the metaphorical “sh#t storm” subsided and work began anew on another compromise, Trump Tweeted another killer comment. Mitch McConnell complained loudly that they are still waiting on what the White House will approve to sav DACA. A third compromise was evolving to keep the government open, a continuing resolution that restored funding for CHIP – a program to help poor children to get vital health care.  Funding for CHIP was held hostage by the GOP (which is to say that these children were held hostage) as leverage to get additional tax breaks for the insurance industry. Once again, Trump vetoed the idea in another incendiary Tweet. So why did Trump sabotage the bipartisan attempts to address DACA and bring us to the verge of a government shutdown?

One theory is that Trump is doing some hard ball negotiating to get funding for his Wall. The idea is that even if the Wall is not funded as part of a DACA deal, he will swoop in at the last minute and be the hero keeping the government open. I have another theory. Trump wants a government shutdown. He said so himself in a 2017 Tweet. He publicly speculated that a government shutdown because the Senate could not generate a filibuster proof would be good for the Congress because it would end the filibuster. The GOP would only need 50 votes to pass any Legislation. This becomes even more important as the GOP majority in the Senate has been whittled down to 1 vote, and likely to change with the midterm elections. Yes… there is a method to his madness, though the method means an end that could be a disaster for the Congress (and the country).

We are only a few hours from the deadline, and the odds seem 50-50 for a shutdown, if the Dems show any spine. It’s a made for reality TV drama, ala Trump style of governing. Which means that the policy and economic implications of the manufactured chaos are secondary to the attention Trump needs. Its another reason why our country has become the laughingstock of the world while simultaneously a source of international angst.


January 19, 2018

I think that a lot of people blame Trump for the acceptance of lying or “alt.facts” in politics, but the reality is that Trump is just a manifestation of the real problem. Trump could never become President or stay President without a willingness to accept flagrant lying and denials of reality. Somewhere along the way to Trump winning the Electoral College vote, the importance of facts and reality was lost to the importance of feeling right. When large parts of the population refuse to accept scientific facts, or the clear evidence of reality, then no solutions to any problems will ever result. Observing verifiable facts and using them to define the problem is the essential prerequisite to solving problems.

We seem to be at an important point in our country’s history. When an individual fails to distinguish between what they want to believe from reality it is often diagnosed as a psychiatric problem. What happens when an entire country has the same problem? This not only scares us, it scares the heck out of allies who depend on our leadership.

When confronted with reality, Trump supporters go through a predictable, if infuriating, process. They deny the fact initially claiming it is “fake news”. When confronted with irrefutable proof of what Trump said (e.g. an actual recording of the comments), they will say he meant something different. If that fails, they claim someone else did something else (usually Clinton or Obama). There is a tolerance for a pattern of lying that defies reality and common sense. That is a far greater threat than any lie from Trump. This problem began long before Trump ran for President.

Rush Limbaugh has been denying the scientific evidence on climate change for over a decade. Sean Hannity has been talking about the “shadow government” for years. Not to pick on Fox Cable News, but people who listen to Fox and Friends exist in a universe of alt.truth.

Certainly, the devolution of the news media into corporate shills marketing to consumer groups contributed. People who watch Fox Cable News exist in a different universe from those who watch MSNBC. The lack of information being reported absent commentary by the reporters is amazing. News is less news than a few facts, in or out of context, used to become a platform for commentary. It seems like even those traditional news outlets have adopted a concession to alt.truth by qualifying each report by offering the alt.version from the other side, no matter how divorced from reality. Qualifying facts with political spin, or diluting reality with a false sense of fairness to the non-reality is now the journalistic attempt to assuage people who want to believe non-reality?

The media program is clear though: generate fear and outrage (facts or the truth is not necessary – rumors or even outright fabrications will do (e.g. the alleged Bowling Green Massacre). Once fear and outrage is accomplished it becomes easy to placate with false explanations and solutions. Conspiracies are one of the tools of media fear mongers and the enemy of reality. Conspiracies rooted in fiction becomes convincing to people confused by fear. The more facts come into conflict with a fake conspiracy, the more people cling to the conspiracy it seems.

As tempting as it is to blame the commercialization of the news media, the reality is that we are all vulnerable to fear and confusion. Its then that our values have to be the anchor. If we value facts, if we value solutions based on facts as more important than our comfort level, we would be more comfortable in general.


Happy Anniversary

January 18, 2018

Friday is the anniversary of the inauguration of Donald J. (“J for genius”) Trump. The plan is for Trump to host a $100,000 per plate gala dinner at his Florida Golf Resort. The optics of a party for the rich at a golf resort while the government is shut down are apparently not daunting for the President. After all, he truly believes he could murder someone in public and not lose support.

However, there is another even more socially and politically significant anniversary that is really is worth celebrating – the Women’s March. The massive, historic march of women across the country and in other countries has been followed by something a bit unusual. The March was not a one-time event and has led to a significant empowerment of women. The movement gave birth (excuse the pun) to significant efforts on behalf of women in our society such as the effort to identify and end sexual harassment, and the record number of women running for political office. It’s a real social and political movement and long overdue.

In the mid seventies the “Women’s Lib” movement emerged. While it did produce some important social changes, it really didn’t translate to economic and political power for women. Wages for women still lag behind men. Women rarely achieved political power. The ultimate confrontation of the women’s liberation movement’s failure to achieve and sustain success was the election of a man who openly bragged about sexually assaulting women. The brutal fact of the electoral college victory sparked the March and one year later, it appears that the massive march is more than a flash in the pan protest.

We can only become a better society as the result.




January 15, 2018

On the same day celebrating one of the greatest Americans, Dr. Martin Luther King, who said that we have a sacred obligation to refugees and immigrants, we are confronted with the words of a racist. Except this time, the racist is the President. I’m sure that in the next few days we will hear about how outrageous the comments were, or how the comments were “fake news”, or how the president didn’t really mean it that way. More of the chaos, rancor, anger and outrage we have come to expect from this Administration.

We all know what King stood for, what he said to eloquently with prophetic inspiration. We all understand that his vision of a democracy based on Christian principles of tolerance, love, and the obligation to the oppressed with poverty or injustice. We all know what Trump has said and what he stands for… The difference that strikes me this MLK Holiday is not the words or principles. The difference is in the effect of each man on those around him. As our Christian Evangelicals Conservatives are wont to say: “you will know him by his fruits”.

King inspired people with his actions that spoke of compassion, honesty, integrity and courage. He actually put his life on the line and when he did, he united people not in hatred of their opponents but in the goal of compassion for the victims. Although regularly threatened with death, or the loss of his freedom, he never defended himself as much as the goal. Although regularly confronted with opposition to his tactics such as non-violence by other leaders of the civil rights movement, he never attacked or exploited divisions. Instead always worked for unity. He remained humble and was never the first to speak or to volunteer to lead, even after he won the Nobel Prize.

King demonstrated the attributes of a true leader – words and actions that inspire others to be inspired and united, and they stand today in stark contrast to Trump. George Wallace once said that there was too much dignity in Washington and not enough anger. That was the quintessential belief of a populist, a racist populist at that.