Religion and Politics

August 13, 2018

Our Founding Fathers recognized that organized religions were poisonous to a Representative Democracy and explicitly put a wall between government and religion. They did not preclude that men (women were not allowed participation in government at that time) with religious convictions would apply their religious principles to how they governed, only that their religion could never be the reason for why they governed (i.e. the goal of governing is never to be the institution of an official religion).

However, government may also be just as toxic for religion as vice versa. Perhaps the involvement of the Evangelical Movement in the present government has done far more damage to their institutions than the benefits realized thus far. For decades now the American Evangelical Movement has sought to impose their religious beliefs on the rest of the country through political activism. They routinely condemned the character of Liberal and Conservative politicians who also happened to oppose their legislative agenda. Their claim to political legitimacy was their moral legitimacy – they wanted a government and people who govern that reflected their moral beliefs – and they claimed that it was their Christian duty to elect men and women who reflected their heart-felt religious beliefs.

Throughout the history of the country, whenever organized religions flexed their political muscle it tended to expose the illusion of their moral authority. For example, the Christian religion’s justification of slavery with scriptures, and Native American programs that resulted in cultural and actual genocide. The result has been the recognition by the wider society that Christian control of government policy results in harm to our democracy and to society as a whole.

The present condition of American politics is yet another confirmation that when Christian leaders exert extraordinary control over society, then we all suffer. It also illustrates that Christian involvement in government has revealed that the Christian kings have no clothes – to quote their own scriptures their “sins have become naked before the Lord”. The same Christian leaders who condemned Clinton for his moral shortcomings and called for his impeachment, openly excuse their support of Trump whose character and behavior daily manifest every contradiction to their teachings on moral character.

The Christian leadership justify their hypocrisy with the anticipated results of reversing Constitutional rights to abortions and freedom from discrimination. They even justify some of the most basic tenets of the teachings of Christ such as taking children from parents and locking them up, refusing services to people based on their sexual preference or religions. Some people argue that Christianity by nature is intolerant and dangerous to freedom, and when put into practice in government policy results in a destruction of liberty and tolerance. I am not so sure about that being true for all Christians, but it is certainly true when Christianity becomes a part of government policy.

The risk that these “Christian” leaders supporting Trump no matter how immoral he behaves or evil his policies are, is that their followers will come to see their hypocrisy and question whether their leadership is authentic. The even greater threat to Christianity is that the followers of these corrupt hypocrites will lead their flocks to conclude that their faith is not so much misplaced as it is false.

What Do We Do?

July 11, 2018

If there are three words that describe the current social/political climate it could be corruption, cruelty and (in)competence. It’s a tough world. What could Progressives offer as an alternative? Many argue that Progressives need to become street fighters and go at the White Nationalist takeover of our government. Maybe we need the opposite in the sense of tactics, but not strategy. Martin Luther King was as tough as anyone, tougher than most. To continue to maintain non-violence when attacked, to continue to hold consistent with principles even when politics compel compromise… these are the qualities of toughness rooted in moral courage. This is what Progressives need and if we need an example, then the recently nominated Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez. Maybe its too early to tout Ms. Ocasio-Cortez, but the way she campaigned was absolutely what I think will work. She was an unapologetic Progressive who overcame the political machine with face-to face, personal campaigning. She was elected as the Democratic Party nominee in an overwhelming Democratic District, but she was not the anointed nominee and she was labelled by the DNC as “too Progressive to be elected”.

Ms. Ocasio-Cortez calls herself a “socialist democrat”, but her personal grace and authentic beliefs when challenged by voters won them over. People don’t care about labels when the candidate is speaking to their immediate needs and concerns. She never seemed to lose her composure or sense of decency as she walked the District as the challenger to not only the Nationalist blitz but also her own Party’s power structure. I think she demonstrated that the way to win is with decency, ideas and compassion.

Progressive should fight and fight hard, but fight with the same moral conviction of Dr. King. We have to fight first for control of the Democratic Party, with ossified leadership long controlled by Wall Street, then onto convincing Americans to recapture the compassion, the decency and the hope that was America not long ago.


July 10, 2018

Justice Kennedy has made three extraordinary decisions that will leave a legacy that has literally changed American society forever: The Right of Gay couples to be married, the Citizen’s United and the decision to retire during the Trump Presidency. The decisions on the Constitutional Right of Gay people to marriage certainly changed society and the concept of Gay marriage seems accepted by most of our society. However, no Constitutional Right will be safe under a Trump appointed Court.

Citizens United effectively ended democracy in the United States through the widespread corruption of politics. There is an argument the Russians and a terrible Hillary campaign had more to do with Trump being elected than big money contributions, but the net effect of Citizens has been to enable corporations to determine who the candidates will be in any major election. This is especially true since Kennedy helped other Conservatives to end the Union Movement and gut anti-trust safeguards. For decades, Conservatives have railed against “judicial activism” but the present SCOTUS has ignored numerous, long-standing legal precedents mostly in cases involving the rights of women and of Labor.

The worse effect of Kennedy will be the calculated decision to allow Trump – someone who has no respect for the rule of law – to appoint the next Justice and guarantee an activist, reactionary Court for decades. Trump has already promised to only appoint Anti-Choice candidates. The nibbling around the corners of the Roe v Wade decision has been ongoing for decades, but the fundamental Right has been affirmed. This SCOTUS has already shown an activist willingness to ignore decades of legal precedent to effect their conservative agenda, they will have no problem going right at Roe.

Don’t look to Dems to prevail in the fight to delay the vote on a replacement until after November. The GOP will drag it out as long as they can to continue to motivate their base, but in the end, they will confirm a reactionary Justice before November. Trump will have at least two Justices that will have pledged loyalty to him, in the event of any challenge to the Mueller Investigation. The lasting legacy of Justice Kennedy will be the catastrophe he has been for our democracy and basic Rights.


The IG and Amusing Musings

June 26, 2018

The IG report on the Hillary investigation ended with the proverbial whimper. Instead of one of the “greatest scandals of all time” and “a massive criminal conspiracy”, we ended up with nothing more than a couple of FBI agents bad mouthing the President (and Hillary) and an FBI Director who acted improperly to influence an election (against Hillary). However, the spectacle of GOP Senators trying to exploit the only aspect that conforms with their delusions of the “deep state”. At the very same moment Special Agent Strzok and his girlfriend were calling Trump a “fool” and expressing fear that he would be elected, members of the very Congressional Committees now expressing outrage at their opinions include the following:

Sen. Lindsey Graham Trump “is a disgrace and a nutjob”

Sen. Marco Rubio Trump “is a con man and pathological liar”

Sen. Ted Cruze Trump “is a sniveling coward”

Sen. Mitch McConnell trump “doesn’t know much about the issues” and was a “snake-oil salesman”

That’s just a sampling of the hypocrisy of the GOP in the whole “Hillary is corrupt and should be locked up” and how terrible it is that FBI agents said bad things about the President. There would be an argument if the their opinions affected their investigation or the legal conclusions, but the (and very inconvenient) fact elicited was that the Director Comey acted improperly and to the detriment of the Hillary Campaign.

This was just another of the numerous greatest scandals of all time and most corrupt FBI scandals of all time, along with Obama bugging Trump Tower and millions of illegal votes campaigns that have fizzled down to just another Trumpian delusion. The Senate exam of the IG and his report was at least an amusing interlude in an otherwise frightening time.

The Face of Evil

June 25, 2018

The current crisis of forced separation and internment of immigrant children may not be the first moral crisis faced by the country on the issue of immigrants, but it may be the most challenging. Virtually every wave of immigrants to the country has been met with controversy and hostility. The pattern of immigration crises has always been the same in many regards, waves of immigrants precipitated by some natural or economic disaster enter the country. Initially the need for cheap labor provides a benefit for American businesses (e.g. Chinese workers and the Railroad industry), but once Americanized and owning property and demanding rights they become the object of hostility and violence. Demands are made to curtail the immigration, political parties exploit the bigotry and even encourage violence and laws are passed (e.g. No-Nothings). The process is always the same, even to the details of the accusations. First immigrants are dehumanized and grouped together in hostile stereotypes. The Chinese were not educated human beings but were “coolies”, The Irish were “Micks” the Italians were “dagos”. The threats they posed once they gained some economic traction were always the same and eerily similar to the ones used by Trump: immigrants were violent “murderers and rapists” and posed a cultural as well as criminal risk. The voices and the words of hatred used by immigration demagogues are always the same. They exploit fear with hatred. They dehumanize the immigrants to make it easier to justify suspending legal and moral norms. They even extend their hatred to first and second generation children of immigrants (e.g. Japanese-American Internment Camps).

However, even with our history of demagoguing, violence and moral hypocrisy towards immigrants, we have never as a country ever used the children of immigrants as a tool of terror. This is a uniquely Trumpian development and its manifest immorality (evil) is beginning to shake loose some threads of the political cult. Even the Evangelicals who long ago sold their souls I exchange for a Supreme Court seat are protesting. The Catholic Bishops are protesting. Virtually every religious institution is condemning the Trump Policy. Labor and even Business organizations are condemning the practice – for god’s sake, even the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is condemning the forced separation and internment of children and infants.

It obvious to any sentient human being that these children are being used for deterrence (if you bring your children we will take them from you) and negotiating leverage. Trump capturing his true abusive character protests like an abusive husband “I hate doing this. It’s all your fault. I wish you wouldn’t force me to hurt you, if only you would be reasonable and do what I want you to do…”

Other immigration crises were resolved once the demagogues were exposed and disenfranchised, and now the previous generations of “murderers, rapists and drug dealers” are now an accepted part of American society. This crisis has begun to expose the moral monster a minority of Americans elected to office, and the moral bankruptcy and hypocrisy of most of the GOP who stand by with each successive scandal and self-created crisis. Anyone watching Secretary Neilsen (herself a mother and from the family of an immigrant) lie and justify abusing children as a policy saw the face of evil. The only question unresolved is: what will you do in the face of evil?

Father’s Day

June 18, 2018

A friend of mine once told me that no matter what anyone ever tells you, you will never be prepared for how your life will change when you have a child. That observation is so true. I’m not necessarily talking about how it changes decisions on how we spend our time, our money and other aspects of lifestyle. Being a father to children causes a fundamental shift in how we see and relate to the world. We become less dismissive of bad behavior and bad jokes. It changes choices of where we eat, the movies we watch, and the minutia of life that we never thought twice about previously. We begin to think more, and about different things. We become more concerned with issues like education, ongoing wars, and other events in the wider world.

Above all else, becoming a father shifts our focus from being egocentric to relating to the world in terms of how events affect other people, especially our own children. It also compels a sense of urgency to change the world for the better and to build a better future. And it’s a permanent change. The focus, the care and the responsibility doesn’t end when they become independent adults either. If anything, it causes more angst because the day to day contact ends and you always wonder how they are doing. It doesn’t change either when they have their own children. That just means it starts all over again for you with the grandchildren. There’s no denying that being a good father is a burden and a daily challenge, but it is a burden of love that rewards you more than your children.

This Father’s Day I am grateful for my children, and also grateful for how fatherhood has made me a better human being. And so, if you are planning on having children think twice because no matter how much you think about it and prepare for it, you have no idea…

The Swampiness Gets Swampier

June 18, 2018

New York’s Attorney General filed a lawsuit today against the Trump Foundation, alleging the Foundation violated numerous laws regulating “charitable” Foundations, IRS and State tax violations, Campaign Finance Law violations and self-dealing. This is one of an accumulating number of legal problems involving corruption with the self-declared swamp drainer, including the following:

  • Trump Inaugural Committee: The Committee raised over $107 million to pay for the Inauguration celebrations, and still has not provided an accounting for over $38 million. The money just disappeared.
  • Trump Hotel/Emolument Clause Violations: The Trump hotel profited over $3 million in its first year while most other D.C. hotels showed no profits, and two went bankrupt. Foreign dignitaries hoping to curry favor (or at least an appointment) with Trump know to book rooms and events at the Hotel. The Emolument Clause was written precisely to avoid this type of situation.
  • Payments to women to cover-up extra-marital affairs alleged to have violated Campaign Finance Laws and involving money from foreign donors.

Scott Pruitt is a walking corruption machine, with 15 formal investigations directed at him at last count. He may soon be following in the resignation perp walk with other Trump Cabinet members such as Tom Price (HHS) and Gary Cohn (NEC) for financial wrongdoing. Add to them the special White House advisers DJ Gribbin, John McEntee, Rob Porter and Keith Schiller, along with Flynn Senior and Junior, and you have more people being forced to resign/fired for corruption or scandal in the first year of Trump’s Presidency than in the 8 years of Obama. No wonder Walter Shaub, the Government Ethics Chief resigned.

During the transition Trump announced that they were asking every US Attorney to resign (except notably NY District’s Preet Bharara who was later fired for refusing to stop a Trump-related investigation).  This is a norm for every new Administration and nearly all AGs are usually retained. What was not normal was that Trump also announced that they wanted every Inspector General to resign so he could replace them with loyalists. That move was blocked by Congress. IGs are like Federal Judges in the sense that once appointed and approved they stay until they choose to retire. IGs are combination auditors and investigators who are charged with investigating the investigators. They are people nominated and approved because they have not only impeccable professional credentials, but also unquestioned ethics. And they are busier than ever right now…

Maybe after the full and formal indictment of Trump’s fixer (people who aren’t criminals don’t need a fixer) Cohen is announced we will discover all the swamp draining did was reveal the swamp monster – and how does he maintain that tan in the swamp?

We Can Do Business with Them

June 14, 2018

President Trump’s top economic adviser, Larry Kudlow, defended the indefensible suggestion that Russia be re-admitted back to the G6 by inadvertently invoking an historic phrase from WWII. While virtually all of the allies cringed with loathing at the suggestion (Italy initially said Russia should be readmitted once they abandon occupation of Crimea and Eastern Ukraine). Trump made the suggestion on the very same day that the head of the National Security Counsel testified to Congress that was Russia was actively planning to interfere with the mid-term elections. The suggestion led to some terse responses from other world leaders. France’s Premier pointed out that values and principles should be upheld. Britain’s Prime Minister pointed out that Russia not only invaded to countries but has also attacked her Country’s elections and laws as well. Germany said that it does not reward countries who have and are still attacking German elections (ouch!).

Kudlow, argued that principles were secondary to business and inadvertently (I assume) paraphrased Stalin’s justification for the pact with Hitler at the onset of WWII! Stalin told his comrades that Germany was a world leader and they could “do business” with Hitler. We all know how that ended. Britain’s Prime Minister Chamberlain also thought he could make a deal with Hitler and left British woefully unprepared for the start of WWII. Putin knows his history and uses it to his advantage.

Trump and his compatriots are certainly used to dealing with thugs and criminals – as one former Trump attorney said you don’t need a fixer with good guys, you do when you deal with the mob. However, making deals with mob run construction trades in New York City is not the same as geopolitics. The real currency in politics is power, not money. Appeasing Putin will have the same result as appeasement has had in history. No wonder Europeans suggest that Trump is a better advocate for Russian interests than western democracies.

Oh … Canada!

June 13, 2018

No one should be that surprised with the news of Trump’s temper tantrum and personal attacks on Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. News pundits wonder at what prompted the all out attack by Trump and his top aids, but I know the real cause. It seemed to be an irrational and disproportionate response to a relatively benign statement from Trudeau on the disagreement over tariffs. Some speculate that Trump didn’t want to appear passive prior to the summit with Kim (not Kardashian). Some speculate that he was only appealing to his base (especially farmers who have the most to lose with a trade war).  But its the personal nature of the attack is the clue that leads me to the real reason.

Prior to the G6 Summit, Trump went out of his way to antagonize allies and in so doing, simply reinforced the world’s concept of him as simply ignorant. Trump seemed to have a particular thing against the Canadians. He claimed that the Canadians burned down the White House in the War of 1812, and also claimed the equally false claim that we have a trade deficit with Canada, Trudeau in particular. Once there in Quebec, the Canadian media highlighted several uncomplimentary issues about Trump. For example, it was pointed out that Trudeau was clearly taller than Trump, although Trump’s physical exam indicated that Trump was 2 inches taller than the Canadian Prime Minister. The speculation was that the extra inches in height (and adjustments to weight) were just enough to put Trump out of the range of being classified “obese”. As Marco Rubio learned, its not good to point out Trump’s physical shortcomings. However, the real topper was an article pointing out that Trudeau could hardly hold back laughing out loud as he presented a gift picture of the Hotel Trump’s grandfather owned that was used as a bordello back in the day. While Trump took the gift seriously and Sarah Huckabee-Sanders Tweeted how nice a gesture it was and how well the relationship was going. It became apparent that they had been fooled the morning Trump abruptly left. Apparently stewing on Air Force One, he issued the salvo of harsh, personal attacks.

Of course, behavior like this from anyone, let alone the President is not only irrational, it is also contrary to the welfare of the Country. It is totally consistent with his mental illness. Malignant Narcissists respond with rage whenever they feel slighted personally. The younger (and taller) Trudeau is sophisticated, educated and very popular. He got along very well with Mrs. Trump, and the dance they had together during his last visit led to some very poorly disguised snickers from the other guests (Melania reportedly had just refused to dance with Trump). If this explanation is accurate, then it highlights how dangerous Trump can be with the slightest of slights. It kind of reminds us of… the Great Leader.

Hmmmmm… National Security

June 12, 2018

What do they know that we don’t know? When you consider the list of the most senior members of the Country’s national security structures – National Security Adviser, NSA Directors and CIA Directors – who have been warning Americans of the danger of the actions of Trump, it’s really worrisome. These are men who have served Republican as well as Democratic Presidents. They are men who have NEVER spoken publicly even when they disagreed with policy actions, who are now very publicly speaking out. Here’s a partial list of men who have been sounding alarms about Trump:

Former National Security Advisers: Poindexter, Powell, Scowcroft, Rice. The only former National Security Adviser who has not been critical of Trump has been Flynn, a Trump appointee and now convicted and cooperating witness on the Russian Probe.

Former NSA Directors: Hayden, Rogers, Alexander.

Former CIA Directors: Gates, Woolsey, Tenet.

Together, these men have led the intelligence gathering apparatus since 1985. All of them have been publicly critical, even alarming in their comments and none of them have ever gone public before in their criticism of an existing President. Of course, Trumpanzies will start jumping around and blabbering about the “Secret State”, a secret society that apparently has been responsible for running the Country for decades (along with the Masons and Illuminati).  Foreign intelligence agencies have already begun to scale back sharing intelligence with us. What do they know?

It makes you wonder.