My EXTREMELY RARE defense of a Trump official against an unfair attack by liberal media.

Take notice because it is an EXTREMELY RARE occasion where I would defend the Trump administration and am critical of the liberal media.

This week on NBC’s “Meet The Press” Chuck Todd, who I generally like, I thought was being unusually manipulative of the narrative. The complete episode is the links below on YouTube. The interviewing question is about the six minute mark. He was interviewing White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows about the violence, rioting and vandalism especially and Portland Oregon and Kenosha Wisconsin. He cited Trump’s campaign claim that people would be safe from day one and he was going to solve all problems of violence. Okay I don’t mind calling him out for such a ridiculous claim. In fact I wrote a blog in 2016 saying that the “I’m the only one that can make you safe” rhetoric was especially scary to me. It was a fear that was fulfilled when unidentifiable federal law enforcement rounded up people in Portland a few weeks ago.

Todd went on to ask why can’t Trump do something about all of this violence if he had promised to keep everyone safe. Meadows replied that Trump had offered on multiple occasions to send federal law enforcement to help but the mayors and governors (Democrat variety) had all refused.

For once I thought a Trump official had a legitimate response to what was clearly designed as a “gotcha” question.

Todd went on to suggest “Are you saying that Trump isn’t president of all America? Has he abandoned the Democrat run cities?” I thought that was ridiculous and manipulative.

Liberal media (which I usually adore) can’t have it both ways. They complained when Trump said in federal storm troopers and were quick to say that local officials should have the right to refuse such federal interference. Now they were complaining that Trump wasn’t doing anything when in fact he was trying to do more but couldn’t because the locals technically were supposed to invite him in.

Of course this is all prompted by Trump’s RNC claims that a vote for Joe Biden is a vote for chaos in the streets. I don’t mind them saying “We have chaos in the streets now with Trump as president so why can you say that rioting is a Biden issue.” As much as I dislike Trump as much as his rhetoric is entirely counterproductive rather than being a unifying force, in this case I think the liberal media went too far.

Cherish this moment my conservative friends. You won’t see me do it often.

Joe Biden is the Lightweight Candidate We Need

In a normal year Joe Biden wouldn’t stand a chance against a decent candidate for president. I’ve watched pretty much every minute of the virtual Democratic National Convention the past 4 days. I have concluded there is nothing that the Republicans can do to produce 4 days of message that can in any way compete with what the Democrats have produced. But if I pull back and try to get some perspective on what I’ve seen, I’ve concluded the Biden is a lightweight when it comes to solid policy.

Basically the message of the Democratic Party is that we’re not going to be the kind of total fuck ups that Trump and his cronies have imposed upon us these past 4 years. There entire message is basically the following:

  • We won’t sit by idly while hundreds of thousands of people die in the pandemic.
  • We believe in science, medicine, and common sense.
  • We won’t lock children in cages.
  • We don’t like Nazis.
  • We understand suffering and loss and we empathize with you.

Ask yourself would that kind of platform have won a presidential election in any other year? Trump has set the bar so incredibly low that any decent human being can jump over it. And basically that’s all Joe Biden has going for him. He is a very kind, empathetic, decent human being.

At least during the Democratic primary season we had lively debates over the type of universal healthcare we would have. The policy details mattered. Do we completely eliminate private insurance? Do we have a public option but keep private insurance as a possibility? What do we do in concrete terms about racism, police brutality, gun violence. The Democrats still care about health insurance, racism, sexism, reasonable gun reform. But set your “way back machine” to 1984 when Walter Mondale famously said to Gary Hart “Where’s the beef?” quoting a famous Wendy’s hamburger commercial. Where are the details? How are we going to do any of these things?

The only person still talking substance such as $15 minimum wage, universal healthcare, student loan forgiveness, and other issues that were at the forefront of the early Democratic debates is Bernie Sanders. He promises us that Biden will work for all of these things. But his belief is based upon the fact that his people and Biden’s people had task force meetings in which they sat down and worked out compromises on these issues that both candidates could endorse. If not for Sanders pushing Biden to sign on to these policies we have to wonder what substance would exist in the Biden campaign at all?

In any other year, against any other candidate, the lack of policy specifics that we’ve seen over the last 4 days would be unsustainable against a solid Republican with a well thought out set of policies. Fortunately for the Democrats, the opposition is even more disorganized, even emptier of specifics, and even more incapable of defending itself against any sort of reasoned criticism.

Don’t get me wrong… the differences between the candidates could not be greater. The consequences of this election could not be greater. Obama’s warning that the future of our democracy is clearly at stake is absolutely terrifyingly true.

But the primary voters clearly made the right choice. Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, Andrew Wang all had bold revolutionary ideas about how to fix what is wrong with the country. But America can’t stand a revolution when it’s on the brink of collapse to begin with. Pete Buttigieg, Amy Klobuchar, and Kamala Harris were not so radical but were also unproven and in that respect a little scary. We need stability. We need safety. We need nothing more than a kind, decent, empathetic human being who feels our pain and is not an egotistical, vain, narcissist who values appearance over substance and thinks of no one but himself.

In some ways the pandemic was the best thing that could’ve happened to the Democratic Party. The average person doesn’t really care if Trump solicited foreign interference to help his campaign. The average guy is so cynical about politics that they don’t care that if Obama told people the sun rises in the east and sets in the west that Trump would call it fake news. The average guy doesn’t care that Trump is racist, misogynistic, narcissistic, and immoral. But the average guy cares that the country is being ripped apart by a pandemic and Trump is acting like it’s no big deal.

Furthermore the pandemic forced this new virtual format onto the convention and it could not have been a bigger blessing. I think it’s pretty clear that the party convention as we have known it for decades is now a thing of the past. This format gives the party unfiltered access to the airwaves. In a traditional convention when some speakers are speaking or some prepared video is showing, the news channels don’t follow it second by second. They always have floor reporters interviewing people from various delegations. They have their pundits setting up the major speakers and analyzing what they think is going to happen.

Over these past four days with very few exceptions the cable networks (and I’ve only watched MSNBC and CNN) have basically turned over 2+ hours of their programming to the DNC to put up whatever they want. The intimacy of the speakers sitting in a room looking in to the camera as if they are speaking directly to you is so much more powerful than having someone stand at a podium full of raucous drunk delegates wearing funny hats that I don’t think we will ever see a traditional convention again. Even the cross-country tour of America during the roll call vote was so much more compelling than the traditional roll call that if we do return to a convention hall, I think will still take a video tour of the country.

I can’t imagine how on earth the Republicans can produce anything as remotely compelling as what we’ve seen over the past 4 days. Trump, his wife, Pence, nor any other Republican leaders can put forth a narrative the likes of which we’ve seen from the Democrats. This time Republicans can’t hide behind the energy and hoopla of a live convention. The only way the virtual format works is if you can make a personal connection to the voters. Of course there is a base who will follow Trump blindly into hell and of course they will appeal to that. But anything that is remotely a swing voter is in no way going to be able to be swayed by anything they put on the screen next week. If the swing voters have seen anything of the DNC this week it’s going to be impossible to demonize the Democrats for anyone other than the blind followers whom they already have in their camp and cannot be persuaded otherwise.

It will be interesting to see what happens next week but my guess is that the Republican political operatives are all changing their underwear and wondering what the hell they’re going to do.

Their only hope at this point is to do what Obama warned us against. Their only hope is to sow distrust in the electoral process itself. To try to invalidate the election. To destroy Democracy. We can only hope that our democratic (small “d”) institutions survive this assault.

The Republicans are a wounded animal backed into a corner. It remains to be seen if they will indeed destroy our democracy to remain in power. The danger is real. All we can do is hope that the nice guy can prevail.

I Unfriended a Trumper Against My Own Policies

I had promised myself that I would never unfriend someone on Facebook over their political views but I violated my own policy today. I had promised myself that I would only unfriend someone who was blatantly racist, homophobic, or blatantly attacked someone’s religious beliefs such as anti-Semitism or anti-Islamic posts. I guess it’s because I had too much faith in people to be able to engage in rational discussion. I always hope that even if I can’t change someone’s mind, I can convince them to seek the truth and to respect my own beliefs. But a guy that I went to school with who I barely knew posted a message on Facebook today that just pushed me over the edge and I had to unfriend him.

I try so hard to show respect to people with opposite views. I’ll attack their views but I don’t get personal. But in this circumstance unfortunately the behavior of this acquaintance (never really was a friend) pushed me to the limit and behaved in a way that confirms the worst stereotypes about Trump supporters.

Those who know me know that I’m unapologetically liberal, progressive, Democrat etc. and that I enjoy a good political debate. While some people refuse to engage people with opposite political views, I like a good argument. Rather than routinely unfriend people with whom I disagree, I challenge them to defend their position. They don’t necessarily need to agree with my positions. Just provide the evidence for yours.

The typical response I get is a big case of “What-About-ism”. Whatever I accuse Trump or the Republicans who support him of doing the counterargument is invariably What about Biden-Hillary-emails-Benghazi etc. etc. which I always say if they did anything really wrong then call a grand jury and try to get them indicted and tried. After all Atty. Gen. Barr has proven himself to be pretty much in Trump’s pocket. But that still doesn’t excuse the things Trump did.

He posted the following meme on his Facebook timeline which I follow as a “friend”.

Of course the idea that somehow being a good Christian means that you have to be against Obama and in favor of Trump is patently ridiculous to me for a number of reasons. One of the things I like about candidate Pete Buttigieg is his position that one political party can’t claim a monopoly on Christianity especially when so many of their policies seem contrary to the gospel values of caring for the poor and the weakest among us. But anyway… rather than just go off the deep end and start ranting about the ridiculousness of the whole premise of the meme, I decided to challenge the poster to defend their position. What specifically has Obama done that is contrary to Christian teaching and compare that to Trump. I should have also asked what specifically has Trump done to reverse that situation? How has he brought back Christianity to the horrific policies of the previous investigation but I didn’t think to ask that. Here is an exact quote of what I replied.

“Make a list of the anti-Christian policies of Trump versus anti-Christian policies of Obama and guess which one is longer. Certainly not Obama. What anti-Christian thing did Obama ever do? Enlighten me. On Trump side…

Rollback environmental regulations. Made friends with brutal dictators (not in a good way). Put children in cages under deplorable conditions. Filed suit to have Obama care overturned which would have put millions of people without health care. Has lied more than 16,000 times since he’s taken office (as of January this year). At a recent prayer breakfast when the minister gave a sermon about “love your enemies”, Trump’s response was “I’m sorry Rev., I don’t think I can do that.” And then trashed Nancy Pelosi for saying that she prays for him. And trashed Mitt Romney for following his conscience after swearing an oath to God. Trump budgets have proposed cuts to all sorts of social safety net programs that affect the poor. Despite the gospel call to welcome strangers he routinely trashes immigrants falsely claiming that they are all murderers and rapists. Even those who are legitimately fleeing persecution in their home countries he is refusing to treat them any humane way.

Obama told one major lie “If you like your healthcare you can keep it” an extremely small percentage of people had to change health care plans after Obama care. He used some indiscriminate drone strikes against terrorists that probably killed some innocent people with collateral damage. That’s the only negative things I can think about Obama and his entire eight years.

Enlighten me.”

I used a tactic that I often do in political debates in that I make brief arguments against my own people. In this case I thought of a pretty big lie that Obama told. By the way when I talk about politicians lying, I separate out broken promises from outright lies. For example Obama said he would close the detention facility at Guantánamo Bay. He didn’t do it because Congress wouldn’t let him. Failure to deliver on a promise I see as different from a lie. On the other side Trump said that Mexico would pay for the wall. I don’t look at that as a lie. I never believed it would happen as did anybody else who can think rationally. But it’s a broken promise and not a lie. Stretching for something else to accuse Obama of I wasn’t particularly fond of his indiscriminate use of drones to kill terrorists. So I may have someone exaggerated my dislike of that policy because it was the only other thing I can think of that remotely was contrary to my Christian beliefs.

I always take the opportunity to criticize my side or perhaps partially agree with criticisms of my side because I want to distinguish myself as different from those who blindly follow EVERYTHING that their political heroes proposed.

My final challenge was “Enlighten me.” Basically okay dude… drive up. Show me your cards. Show me your winning hand. Make your case.

I expected more What-About-isms such as Bill Clinton’s infidelity, accusations that Hillary and/or the Clinton Foundation were corrupt, perhaps what about Hunter Biden etc. Those are the kinds of arguments I usually get in return from my Trump supporting acquaintances. Of course those are all deflections from the real point we were discussing but I’m used to it. It just gives me another opportunity to come back at them and say get back on topic and don’t do What-About-isms. But that’s not what I got. Here’s the exact quote of his reply.

“For being a so called intelligent person you an idiot and I’m not the only one that thinks so according to other people you share Facebook with”

REALLY? That’s the best can do is call me an idiot? It is so hard to not personally attack someone who behaves in such an (pardon me) idiotic manner. How do you take the high road? How do you respect the person you are debating when the best they can do is call you an idiot? How do you try not to stereotype Trump supporters when you get a response like that? He makes reference to other Facebook friends who also think I’m an idiot. I think I know who he is referring to. That guy frequently gets in political debates with me but we manage to keep it civil and reasonably rational. He often tries to rise to my challenges to prove his point. And while we vehemently disagree with each other I don’t think he has ever called me an idiot. I think the only thing he has ever accused me of is being seriously uninformed. That doesn’t mean either of us is going to change the other ones mind but at the end of the day I can respect him for at least trying to discuss the issues.

I really didn’t know what to do. I thought I would give him one more chance so I replied…

I challenge you to come up with a rational argument to support the position you posted. I post what I believe to be a rational argument against your post. And your only response is to call me an idiot. How do you expect me to take you seriously if that’s the most intelligent thing that you can come up with in response. I repeat what I said before. Enlighten me. Explain to me why the premise of your post is true. You don’t have to buy my counterarguments but I challenge you to defend your own position with specific examples of how Obama’s policies were contrary to Christian teaching. And try to do so without personally attacking me or any other Democrats or liberals. Defend your position. Don’t just call people names. I didn’t attack you personally.

He replied less than a minute later…

I have better things to do. Trump 2020

To which I replied…

So do I

So I captured the image, copied the comments, and unfriended him. It really pissed me off that I had to do it. I want so much to believe in people. I refuse to think he represents all Trump supporters but then I guess I’m idealistic.

My Reaction to the Mueller Report: I Told You So

On July 16, 2018 Pres. Donald Trump held a press conference in Helsinki Finland alongside Russian Premiere Vladimir Putin. When questioned about Russian interference in the 2016 election, Trump stated that he believed Putin’s denials despite the fact that the entire US intelligence community and Justice Department says there is massive evidence of a well coordinated Russian campaign of disinformation using social media and other methods. (View entire press conference on YouTube) Political pundits screamed “Russia must have something on Donald Trump”. They could find no other explanation as to why he would ignore his own experts and defend Putin. Just days prior he had also been at a summit with North Korean dictator Kim Jung Un in which he claimed he had negotiated a nuclear disarmament treaty that made the world safer. In fact the agreement had no teeth and really nothing had changed between the US and North Korea. The next day I wrote a blog post titled “There’s No Collusion or Blackmail Because They Didn’t Need It”.

There’s No Collusion or Blackmail Because They Didn’t Need It.

I said in part…

The entire Trump campaign was poorly managed. There was no need for cooperation with Russia because Russia’s efforts were already so sophisticated and organized that it needed no coordination with the Trump organization itself. I think those of us who are sitting around waiting on Mueller to come up with a smoking gun that proves collusion occurred are going to be sorely disappointed. There just wasn’t any collusion because there didn’t need to be. Why would Russia risk it? Like I said, they were already way more organized and effective than the campaign itself.

Yesterday a highly redacted version of the Mueller Report was released and it reached the conclusion that despite attempts to connect with Russian officials, the campaign did not conspire or collude with Russia. It makes it abundantly clear that Russian did have an extensive coordinated campaign of misinformation during the 2016 election. It makes it abundantly clear that Russia believed that supporting Trump was in their best interest. There is ample evidence that Russia has benefited by having Donald Trump as president. That still doesn’t mean it was a coordinated effort. Basically my prediction was correct. Trump is right. There was no collusion although the report makes it clear that the word “collusion” really isn’t important. The real operative word would be “conspired” but there is no evidence of conspiracy either. Basically the report agrees with my prediction that the campaign wasn’t clever enough to engage in such coordination.

Robert Mueller stopped short of saying that Trump engaged in obstruction of justice, however the report listed 10 incidences that could be evidence of obstruction. Because it is a long-standing DOJ policy that a sitting president cannot be indicted, he made no such suggestion that he should be. And despite Trump’s claims that he was completely vindicated, the report clearly says that nothing in the report regarding obstruction exonerates the president. It points out that after the president is out of office, he can still face criminal liability for his actions. He notes that it is the job of Congress to determine if he is guilty of any crimes. However media analysis notes that even if the House of Representatives passed Articles of Impeachment and the Republican majority Senate failed to vote him out of office he could still face criminal liability after he was out of office. And if he was removed from office, he could still face criminal charges. All of that impeachment does is remove a person from office. It does not impose criminal sanctions such as jail time.

A failed impeachment attempt would likely be worse for the Democrats than to put up with Trump for another two years. It would only serve to make Trump a martyr and embolden his base. Personally I don’t think they should attempt to impeach him. Also note that while Nancy Pelosi is often portrayed as being radically out-of-control and a danger to the president, she herself agrees that impeachment is not appropriate under these circumstances.

For me, the most disturbing part of the report was that on multiple occasions several administration officials refused to carry out Trump’s orders because they were most likely illegal. I did not double checked the list but I believe all of those people are no longer with the administration. Without so-called “human guardrails” to keep the president in check, the government is at grave risk. It might be a best strategy for the Democrats to leave Trump alone and hope that his current staff and cabinet members fail to keep him in check and he is permitted to go forward with his illegal ideas.

The bottom line is I predicted that the Mueller Report would not make a difference. I predicted it would not find conspiracy or collusion. And I was right.

One more thing… Russia didn’t interfere

It bothers me that Russia’s actions are described as “interfering” in our electoral process. If they are guilty of some crime for such interference then every political party, PAC, or other organization engaging in political speech is also guilty. Like it or not Russia was exercising the beloved American right to free speech. They didn’t hack our voting machines that we know of. They didn’t stuff ballot boxes. They didn’t kidnap voters and keep them from voting or engage in any sort of election fraud.

All that they did is produce propaganda. They engaged in false political speech. Our own political parties do the exact same thing. Why are we so outraged at their actions? Are we saying it’s okay for us to lie to ourselves but we can’t let others spread the same lies? The problem is not Russia. The problem is that our gullible electorate will believe outlandish things with no basis in fact, no independent facts in support, and routinely ignores all attempts to debunk such lies. As long as the large portions of the American voting population refuses to engage in rational, critical thinking and make reasoned decisions about who to vote for, our government, our society, our way of life is at grave risk. And Russia is not the problem. We are.

There’s No Collusion or Blackmail Because They Didn’t Need It.

I’ve come to the conclusion that except for an unproductive meeting between Trump Junior and a Russian lawyer, neither Trump nor anyone in his campaign actively colluded with Russia. Furthermore I don’t think that Russia has any blackmail leverage on Trump. If the infamous “peepee tape” actually exists I doubt that it would really do any more damage than the rumors of its existence have already done.

I reached these two conclusions based on the simple fact that neither of them were necessary.

The entire Trump campaign was poorly managed. There was no need for cooperation with Russia because Russia’s efforts were already so sophisticated and organized that it needed no coordination with the Trump organization itself. I think those of us who are sitting around waiting on Mueller to come up with a smoking gun that proves collusion occurred are going to be sorely disappointed. There just wasn’t any collusion because there didn’t need to be. Why would Russia risk it? Like I said, they were already way more organized and effective than the campaign itself.

After Trump’s despicable behavior yesterday at the Helsinki press conference with Putin, the pundits are all saying “Why would Trump behave this way if they didn’t have something on him?” That’s a kind of the psychological transference. Those who assume that Trump is being blackmailed, do so by presuming that Trump shares their own value system. They asked themselves “Why?” and try to put themselves in his shoes in order to understand his behavior. One would say to themselves “The only way I would turn my back on my own country and snuggle up to a brutal Russian dictator is if they had something on me.” People with active empathy operate that way. It’s natural when attempting to understand someone else to put themselves in that position. The flaw in that logic is that Trump’s value system is vastly different from the ordinary, logical, ethical adult human being.

I admit that I am definitely an amateur psychologist but I have had lots of training and study of human behavior under the guidance of people who are experts in the field. I understand the psychology of threat and defense. I’ve seen firsthand the way that perceived threats can mold and motivate our behavior. I also understand that because people with different personality types have varied self images, they perceive threats to that self image differently based upon their personality type. To understand someone’s motivation you have to understand their self image and then look at what can threaten that self-image. What are the “I am…” statements that are key to one’s self-image?

In the case of Trump, his self-image revolves around the idea that “I am a winner”. Every time Trump perceives a threat, his go to response is to remind you that he beat Hillary Clinton. He brings up that topic in the most out of context situations you can imagine. He did it yesterday during the press conference. Nobody asked him “Did you beat Hillary Clinton?” But he found it necessary to raise the topic.

So let’s say for the sake of argument there was no collusion. Let’s further fantasize that no one was suggesting there was collusion. Or suppose we get to that day in the near future when Mueller concludes his investigation and there is no evidence of collusion. Trump will continue to deny that Russia had any effect on the election not because he’s being blackmailed but because it would indicate that his victory was tainted by their interference. It attacks his self image of “I am a winner”.

You don’t get to the position that Putin got to in the KGB without being a skilled manipulator and without having a deep understanding of how to motivate someone. Putin takes advantage of Trump’s malleability to trick him into behaving as he did yesterday. Look at the way that Trump answered the question about who do you trust more… your own intelligence people or Putin? Trump replied that Putin made very strong denials. He didn’t say Putin showed me a bunch of evidence. It was the power of Putin’s personality that led Trump to trust him. Trump said “Why would they do it?” It takes no imagination to hear those words coming from Putin himself in an attempt to deny the activity.

Trump has demonstrated his malleability of opinion before. He tends to believe the last thing that he heard. (Such as what he hears on Fox News.) Case in point the roundtable discussion that he had with congressional leadership a few months ago on immigration especially the dreamer situation. He was ready to accept many of the proposals that Pelosi and other Democrats made at that meeting. Immediately afterwards his own people had to talk him down from those commitments that were significantly contrary to the standard Republican positions on the issue. Without even trying to manipulate him, Pelosi and the Democrats got him to briefly agree to all sorts of concessions. They weren’t trying to trick him into anything. They were just stating their positions and he was ready to agree to it. If they had a written statement prepared for him to sign at that moment he might have signed it.

Now take that demonstrated malleability and put it in the hands of a skilled manipulator like Putin. It completely explains everything we saw yesterday.

We are also seeing that Trump has a strong Messiah complex. He not only has a self-image of “I am a winner” but he also sees himself in the statement “I am a Savior”.

He was totally unprepared for the responsibilities of the office. He’s made repeated statements on various topics such as “nobody knew it was this complicated”. He appears to be overwhelmed by the weight of responsibility. Even the skilled, experienced, well educated, political and diplomatic experts have that feeling so one can only imagine the effect that has on someone who is none of those things.

Yesterday Trump repeatedly made reference to the fact that the US and Russia are nuclear powers and cited that between the two us we have 90% of the nuclear capability on the planet. He said that he would sacrifice political expediency if it meant better relations with Russia. I don’t think he’s scared of some secrets that Russia is holding over him personally to blackmail him. I think he’s scared of nuclear war with Russia. Liberal pundits worry that an incompetent person like Trump has access to the nuclear launch codes. I don’t think we have to worry about that. I think he is scared to death that there will be a war while he’s president. Listen carefully to what he said yesterday. He is willing to sacrifice anything to have a good relationship with Russia because they represent a nuclear threat. He said so in the press conference if you really listen to what he said.

It also explains his behavior with North Korea a few weeks ago. Upon return from that meeting with Kim Jung Un he tweeted that we could all sleep better now that the nuclear threat was over. He was even asked why he would be so accommodating towards North Korea and he justified it by saying that he had made peace with them and eased the tension that was an existential threat.

I can’t prove anything that I’ve said here is true. It’s just a hypothesis. But I believe it is a hypothesis that fits the facts. And if we are to apply Occam’s Razor that the simplest explanation is probably true, then the simplest explanation is that Russia didn’t need cooperation with the Trump campaign to do what it did. And it doesn’t need compromising material in order to manipulate Trump to do its bidding.

There was no collusion. There is no blackmail. Because they didn’t need it.

How Advocating Violence Discredits Second Amendment Supporters

I’ve come to the conclusion that our inability to engage in civil discourse is a greater threat to our Constitution, our democracy, Christian values, and our lives then all of the guns that have been used to commit senseless murder. Our battle ought not to be against guns themselves but against the violent culture in which we live that devalues human life and disrespects the other core values upon which our nation was founded. Sadly much of this violent discourse and disrespect for human dignity and the value of life comes wrapped in a cloak of false Christianity.

As a case in point, I recently came across a meme posted on a Facebook group called “Nation In Distress””. There are apparently a bunch of gun enthusiasts who are radically passionate about their Second Amendment rights. I know nothing about the organization so I won’t speculate about their origins, connection to NRA etc.

The meme had a photo of David Hogg who is one of the Parkland Florida high school students who has been a major voice for gun control since the shooting there. The text on the photo reads “If this man came to your door and demanded you give up your guns what would you do?” Here is a link to that post.

My first reply to this meme posting was as follows

I got 2 “likes” and 2 “loves” as well as a supportive reply comment from a friend of mine but no one else from the page in question responded to my message.

Today the meme appeared in my timeline again probably from a like or a share and I began reading through several of the other replies. It’s sickening to wade through the comments. First of all let me say as I’m writing this there are 114,000 comments, 22,963 shares and 46,000 reactions to the original post. So it’s a little bit difficult to wade through all of them and obviously I did not.

From my unscientific incomplete survey of the responses I would say perhaps 5% of them took my position that the young man is not trying to take your guns that he’s only advocating for common sense regulation. Some of these suggested that Mr. Hogg and his friends be treated with compassion and understanding because they had been so affected by such a tragic incident. One of them, although a bit condescending, suggested he was suffering from PTSD and pitied him. At least it indicated some amount of compassion or empathy.

I will be generous and say another 15-20% were kind enough to say they would ignore him, slam the door in his face or just laugh. Maybe 5% more were dismissive personal attacks saying things such as “He’s not a man he’s a boy”. One that I found most ironic said “I would tell him he’s too young to have a gun.” The boy in question I believe is 17 so technically that’s correct but I wonder if he would’ve said the same thing if he was 18 considering in Florida you can own such weapons at age 18.

Some of these dismissive messages attempted to discredit him saying “He didn’t witness the shootings as some have suggested. He is a senior and the shootings took place in the freshman building.” Others made the unsubstantiated claim that he wasn’t there at all. Fortunately someone pointed out that even if he didn’t personally witness any of the shootings that does not diminish the effect the events had upon him. The responders stated something to the effect that “I wasn’t there either. I live in a completely different part of the country yet that horrible incident affected me as it should have everyone in the country.”

I found it interesting that I did not find anyone who said “I would call the police because someone was trying to steal my lawful personal property”.

However the vast majority of replies advocated violence against this unarmed young man. The viciousness and volume of those kinds of responses were what discouraged me and shocked me the most. I was especially disappointed to see one such reply from a friend.

On the news I had seen stories about the numerous attempts to discredit the leaders of the #NeverAgain movement and the March for Our Lives rally. I was dismayed to see people engaging in these attacks. So far what I have seen on the news about these personal attacks has either been unfounded or absolutely proved incorrect. If you’re only response to a political opponent is to attempt to discredit them rather than to engage in a logical support of one’s own position or in a logical attack on the opponents position (rather than the person) then that does not serve your own cause very well.

Yet these kinds of attempts to personally discredit political opposition are pretty much par for the course these days and although it disappoints me and disgusts me I can understand that’s what people do when they don’t have logic on their side. So I wasn’t that upset that such ridiculous tactics were being employed.

I had heard there were death threats against these kids but had not personally seen them in the way that I saw them on this particular Facebook post. That really affected me to see how easily these people’s first response was to advocate violence.

Most of them said something to the effects of “I would give him the bullets first” which while despicable was a bit clever. The nicer ones only threatened to shoot him in the foot or kneecaps rather than empty their clips in his brain. Maybe 10% of the violent responses were for physical violence rather than shooting him. Most of those were “I would give him the butt end of my gun in the face”. Most of the violent responses simply said they would shoot him. One particularly interesting response was “Shoit him” which drew replies which said something to the effect of “How do you expect us to take you seriously when you can’t even spell “shoot” correctly?”

I suppose that the appropriate response is to send a note to the FBI to warn them that there are a large percentage of 114,000 comments on this particular message that are advocating gun violence against unarmed citizens. My fear is that someday one of these nut-jobs will actually pick up their AR 15 and go shoot some unarmed teenager carrying a protest sign. And then there will be all of the controversy saying “Why didn’t somebody report this person when they were advocating violence on Facebook” Fortunately we don’t have “thought police” in this country. Even the Florida shooter who posted on YouTube that he wanted to grow up to be a school shooter really wasn’t actionable even though it could have been taken more seriously. It’s not reasonable to expect the FBI to wade through hundreds of thousands of comments on this one of what are no doubt numerous similar Facebook posts and to track down all of the individuals who have threatened violence.

I think the one that set me off today was someone who brought up the Scripture quote from Luke 22:36 which says in part “sell your cloak and buy a sword”. This particular passage has long been used as sort of a biblical confirmation of the Second Amendment right to bear arms. I’ve heard people say it is biblical proof that it’s okay to carry a gun under the concept that guns are the modern-day versions of a self-defense weapon like a sword.

While the person who quoted the Scripture did not appear to be among those who was advocating violence, this alleged Christian chose to use Scripture to defend the right to bear arms rather than to use Scripture or Christian doctrine to denounce the threats of violence that were rampant in this message thread.

That particularly upset me. Even though this particular person was not among the advocates of violence, I’m confident that many of those who were advocating violence would probably describe themselves as Christian warriors with divine support for their position.

Like all Scripture, this particular passage is open to a variety of interpretations. Most reasonable theologians simply say that taken in context, Jesus is warning them that unlike their previous missionary missions where he told them to take nothing with them, they should be prepared for persecution. The footnote in the New American Bible attached to Luke 22:36 says:

* [22:36] In contrast to the ministry of the Twelve and of the seventy-two during the period of Jesus (Lk 9:3; 10:4), in the future period of the church the missionaries must be prepared for the opposition they will face in a world hostile to their preaching.

The apostles themselves seemed to take him too literally when they said something to the effect that they already had two swords and Jesus rebukes them shouting “It is enough!” The idea that 2 swords was sufficient to defend 12 men would tend to indicate he wasn’t being quite as literal as they thought he was. The New American Bible footnote on this verse says

* [22:38]It is enough!: the farewell discourse ends abruptly with these words of Jesus spoken to the disciples when they take literally what was intended as figurative language about being prepared to face the world’s hostility.

A few verses later when one of the apostles cuts off the ear of one of the Roman soldiers attempting to arrest Jesus, Jesus tells them to put away his sword and he heals the injured soldier. Luke 22:49-51. This doesn’t bode well for the interpretation that somehow violence is the answer.

While the quoting of Scripture in a way in which I disagreed was the trigger that caused me to respond, I knew better than to try to argue Scripture with someone. I respect those who can read the same passage and come to a somewhat reasonably different interpretation than the one which I hold.

Instead it prompted me to respond in such a way as to suggest what I believed would be a more Christian response that I would’ve hoped someone in this thread might have offered. So I posted the following comment.

The complete comment reads as follows:

Let’s say for the sake of argument that this person did come to your door and ask for your guns. He’s not doing that. He’s never advocated taking those guns away from you. Let’s also say for the sake of argument that I disagree with him (although I don’t). The vast majority of the people responding to this message have advocated violence against an unarmed person. Not one of you has said “I’m so sorry that you and your friends had to suffer the senseless murder of your classmates but I respectfully disagree with you and hope that at some point you can begin to heal, to find peace, and to respect those of us who differ with your political positions. I disagree with your proposed solutions to the problems of senseless gun violence. I pray that no children will have to experience what you and your classmates have experienced. May God bless you and may you know the peace of Christ.” That’s what I would do if I disagreed with him and if he did something like come after my guns (which he is not done). But the vast majority of the people replying to this message have not suggested they would behave in such a manner. Instead they have threatened violence against an innocent unarmed young man. One of you said “read the Bible”. I do. That’s why I would respond in the way I have suggested. Also not one person has responded to my previous comment that suggested that these teenagers were only suggesting that we enforce the part of the Second Amendment that says “well regulated”. What part of well-regulated don’t you understand?

That final sentence really sums up my whole approach to the debate. I continue to be dismayed by the concept that any form of gun control is somehow misinterpreted as the first step on a slippery slope to banning guns altogether. The Second Amendment reads:

A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

The amendment itself speaks of regulation as an axiom presupposed as part of the discussion of the right to bear arms. It ties this right to bear arms to “being necessary to the security of a free State”. I fail to see how adding reasonable common sense regulation on weapons violates the Second Amendment. Does the unregulated access to deadly weapons secure a free state or make it more unsecure?

Historically an obvious motivation for the Second Amendment was so that the people could rise up against an unjust government authority. The British had confiscated the weapons of ordinary people thus diminishing their ability to rebel against that unjust authority. One of the ironies of this debate is that one could argue that the Second Amendment would ensure the right of black people to take up arms against racist police who are gunning down unarmed innocent civilians as a matter of course. I’m not advocating that in any respect whatsoever because I’m an extremely nonviolent person. But a strict constructionist view of the Second Amendment would say that the kind of abuses that African-Americans are suffering at the hands of racist government run police forces are exactly the kinds of issues for which that amendment was written. I doubt many Second Amendment advocates would agree.

Back to the original topic… The defenders of these teenagers have asked rightly “Why are people who are attacking these kids while supporting the Second Amendment so fearful of they who are exercising their First Amendment rights?” I consider it part of the wisdom of our Founding Fathers that the Bill of Rights is in the particular order that it is. The First Amendment says:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

The fact that this amendment precedes the Second Amendment tells me that they considered it of higher priority. It tells me that they valued civil discourse, peaceful assembly, petitioning of the Government for redress of grievances as more important than the ability to take up arms against an unjust Government.

Isn’t that what these children are advocating. They are speaking their minds. They are making use of the free press. They are peaceably assembling. They are petitioning the government for redress of a grievance. That is at the core of our American heritage, our democracy, our founding principles, our Constitution, our civil society, and our Christian values.

I don’t have the answer to the issue of gun violence. These kids don’t either. But I fail to see how further violence or advocating such violence, especially against innocent teenagers, is an appropriate response either. If the members of this particular Facebook group and of Second Amendment advocates in general expect to have their voices heard and respected and to have their opinions given serious consideration then it is not enough to defer from calling for violence. They must denounce those who advocate violence as well. Anything less hurts their own cause, hurts our Constitution, hurts our society, destroys the reputation of Christianity and its values, and threatens democracy itself in ways far more dangerous than these tragic shootings.

Let the Medicare Cuts Kill Me. But Answer a Question First.

I’ve had a severe disability my entire life. I’d never walked. I have spent all of my 61+ years in a wheelchair. I was able to go to college and to work full-time as a computer programmer for 2 years after college but as my disability worsened I could no longer work full-time. I began collecting Social Security disability because I had accumulated sufficient time paying into Social Security that I became eligible. I’ve been fortunate enough to live with my parents my entire life. My mother passed away a little over eight years ago and although my dad is in his 80s he’s in pretty good shape. Still he needs help to be my caregiver. I qualified for Medicaid and as a result of that I’m able to get a home health aide 2 hours per day to help get me bathed, dressed, and in my wheelchair. About a year ago my disability worsened to the point where I could no longer eat and now I’m dependent upon a G-tube for nutrition. Last December after severe respiratory issues I had to have a trach. I use a ventilator at night. Throughout the day I occasionally need my trach suctioned. About a year ago Medicare/Medicaid paid for a new motorized wheelchair. It was my first new wheelchair in over 28 years.

Is no exaggeration whatsoever to say that if it were not for Medicare and Medicaid I would be dead. There is no way that I or my family could afford my medical expenses. If I was not fortunate enough to have my father who could care for me most of the time, I would be depended on Medicaid to pay for a nursing home.

Both the House and Senate versions of the repeal and replace Obama care plans call for significant cuts in Medicaid. Because I was Medicaid eligible prior to the Obama care expansion, I’m hopeful that I will still be eligible and have sufficient funding to keep me alive even if these current proposals pass and become law. But there are no guarantees on that. Nobody really knows what these proposals will ultimately due to the Medicaid system. The Congress itself has no idea what the real consequences will be. Let’s set aside for the moment how obviously irresponsible that situation is.

Let’s suppose for a moment that our country is in such dire circumstances that the continued existence of our democracy depended on cutting Medicaid to the point where it might cost me and other people like me our very lives. Because my lifelong disability, I’ve not had the opportunity to serve my country in a military capacity. The willingness to give one’s life for one’s country is one of the noblest sacrifices a human being can make. So let us suppose hypothetically that the sacrifice of my life and the lives of others like me will save this great nation from financial collapse or some other horrid disaster.

Of course I do in the slightest way believe that our country is in such dire circumstance such that the sacrifice of my life is necessary. But just for the sake of argument let’s say that it is that situation. Under that circumstance I would do the patriotic thing. I would offer my life to save this great nation of ours.

So I say to Congress… Go ahead and kill me. Take my life for the good of the nation. Let me serve my nation honorably as if I had given my life on a battlefield. I’ll take that. It will be noble. My life will not be in vain.

But before I make that sacrifice answer one question for me.

Why do all of these plans include massive tax cuts for rich people? How will these tax cuts save our country? Are they sufficiently necessary that I need sacrifice my life in order to to justify these cuts?

Okay hyperbole aside… Answer this even simpler question… How will tax cuts for the rich improve healthcare for anyone? How will these tax cuts fix what’s wrong with Obama care?

So I say to every member of Congress… Until and unless you can give me a reasonable justification for the tax cuts and explain in any kind of logical fashion why they are a necessary part of this plan that will benefit anyone except those who are receiving the cuts themselves… How dare you ask me to sacrifice my life for your ludicrous plans?

Meryl Streep Agrees with Me

In a previous post, I criticized Democrats for giving a free pass to Representative John Lewis for saying that Donald Trump was not a legitimate president. As a bit of a joking aside, I also said one should not be afraid to say that Meryl Streep is overrated.

Apparently she agrees with me on that part. In the video below she continues her criticism of Trump and his administration but admits that she is overrated, over decorated, and goes on to say she is over persecuted. I agree with all three.

Democrats Need to Admit that Congressman Lewis Went Too Far

Anyone who’s followed me on Facebook for more than five minutes knows how liberal I am and how much I dislike Donald Trump. So nothing that I’m about to say should in any way be construed to be in support of Republicans, conservatives, or Donald Trump.

What I dislike most in politics or anywhere in life is hypocrisy. With conservatives being allegedly pro-life but in favor of the death penalty, claiming to be Christian yet having a little regard for the poor, and dozens of other hypocritical stances I come down especially hard on the conservatives.

But recently my own side has really ticked me off with a huge lump of hypocrisy regarding Congressman John Lewis. In a recent interview with Chuck Todd, Lewis says that he doesn’t believe Trump is a “legitimate” president. This naturally drew a number of angry tweets from Trump which challenged Lewis to stop wasting his time and get to work on fixing the numerous problems and his own congressional district including poverty, crime, and a host of other stereotypical urban issues. He followed up by accusing Lewis of being “all talk”.

The liberal media, which I usually adore, pounced on Trump for daring to criticize Lewis who is described as a civil rights icon. The piles of hypocrisy upon hypocrisy on both sides are so huge I can’t believe it.

First of all let’s set our “Way-Back Machine” for a few months ago when Donald Trump hinted that he might not accept the results of the election. Republicans and Democrats, liberals and conservatives, people of all kinds were quick to condemn him for daring to suggest that one might disrespect the voice of the people. I was among those who said it was his most un-American statement to date. I don’t take that back and I don’t think anyone else should. Absent any 100% clear fraud or corruption that would invalidate an election, one has to respect the outcome of our democratic process.

Yet Lewis is doing exactly what Trump said he might do. He is saying that the outcome of the election was illegitimate. While Lewis believes that the activities of the Russians, the FBI, and who knows whom else rises to the level that justifies his claiming that Trump is illegitimate as president, the facts at this point simply do not support that. While I abhor the fact that the Russians tried to meddle in our political process and I think some of the actions of the FBI need some extra scrutiny, Hillary didn’t lose the election because these outside influences cost her votes. She got the number of votes she was expected to get. Trump won because he got more rural white votes than anyone anticipated. Unless we can somehow prove that Russia drummed up close extra votes in Wisconsin and a couple of other states, Russia really did not change the outcome of the election.

So in my opinion, Congressman Lewis is guilty of doing what Trump only hinted that he might do in disrespecting the outcome of the election. I know it sounds a little bit childish but in a dispute between Trump and Lewis, the defense of “He started it” directed towards Lewis is legitimate. Did you really expect Trump not to fire back at such a public and in some ways invalid attack on him?

Yet the media is jumping all over Trump for daring to attack a “civil rights icon”. It’s as if all of the good things that Congressman Lewis had ever done somehow earned him a free pass to throw invalid criticism at a duly elected president. Trump’s accusation that Lewis is all talk and no action can easily be construed to be disrespectful to Lewis’s lifetime of work in civil rights and his great personal sacrifice in Selma. However in context Trump’s criticism has an implied “okay so you’re a great man but what have you done lately”. The truth is I don’t know. I would rather see the media specifically disputing Trump’s accusation that Lewis is ignoring the needs of his constituents. But all we are getting is an indignant “How dare you criticize such a great man?”

Taken to extremes we would say “Who cares if Bill Cosby drugged and raped women? Look at all the good he has done?” Or “Who cares if Mel Gibson is a racist anti-Semite? I laughed my ass off in all of the Lethal Weapon movies?” While expressing one misguided opinion doesn’t invalidate Lewis’s lifetime of good work, neither does his lifetime of good work give him a free pass to make over the top statements and not be called out for them.

The approach of the Democrats towards Lewis statements are to sort of solemnly say things like “well that’s the way he feels” and they stop short of applying the “illegitimate” label as did Lewis. For example this morning Bernie Sanders was on the ABC “This Week” Sunday morning show and repeatedly declined to take the bait from George Stephanopoulos who tried to get him to agree with Lewis. Sanders also went on to say that he would attend the inauguration. But at no time did Sanders criticize Lewis in the way that Trump was criticized when he hinted that he might not accept the outcome.

While I really don’t expect the Democrats to criticize their own as rigorously as they would criticize Trump, I’m very disappointed that no one is that the courage on the Democrat liberal side to say that Lewis’s comments are a step too far. I happen to feel the same way about anyone who says “Trump is not my president”. He is your president whether you like it or not. And to say that he isn’t is to do the exact same thing that we criticized Trump for back in the debates when he said he might not accept the outcome.

The liberal media in its criticism of Trump’s handling of Lewis’s comments tries to point out the hypocrisy of Trump because he spent so much of his own energy supporting the birther movement which tried to delegitimize Obama. So basically the media is saying to Trump “Why are you criticizing Lewis for doing what you already did yourself?” Yet they are ignoring the fact that both Lewis’s illegitimate comments and Trump’s birtherizum were both false ideas to begin with. Saying that “You have no right to criticize our guy for being wrong because you were wrong too” is not a legitimate defense of Lewis.

While we’re on the topic of such things let’s talk about boycotting the inauguration. I’ve got no problem with people not wanting to attend. I’ve got no problem with people not wanting to perform at celebrations. If you don’t want to be associated with Trump that’s fine. I would not go if I had a free ticket and it was across the street. But I will be watching it on TV and while you’re free to watch or not watch, I think you should watch. I think we should all be watching. I think we dare not blink for a nano second during the Trump administration. Like the famous Weeping Angels from the Doctor Who TV series, you have to keep your eyes open because the minute you blink you are dead. If you really fear Trump then you need to be vigilant.

As much as I watch liberal media… MSNBC, the Daily Kos, MoveOn.org etc. I understand that they are liberal media and I don’t trust them to be anymore “fair and balanced” than I do Fox or Breitbart. That’s why I need to see the inauguration. I need to hear Trump’s inaugural speech. I need to get as many unfiltered news sources as I can. If our entire democracy is at risk at the hands of Trump and his people, I want to see it with my own eyes so that I can speak more clearly about what’s going on.

I don’t blame Trump for lashing back at Congressman Lewis. I don’t blame him for lashing back at Meryl Streep. I don’t blame him for lashing back at anyone who criticizes him. But the way to fight Trump not to simply say “How dare you attack an icon?” Criticize him on the merits or lack of merits of his arguments.

By the way I hate to say it, but my definition of the word “overrated” is someone who has received more adulation and praise than they actually deserve. While Meryl Streep is a great actress and deserving of much of what she had earned, let’s be serious people… Is she really THAT great? Can anybody be THAT great? You can be really, really good and still be overrated. People make jokes about how she always wins everything and nobody stands a chance against her at awards time. Aren’t those jokes a backhanded way of saying that perhaps, just perhaps, it’s somebody else’s turn to win once in a while? Doesn’t that hint that she’s overrated?

If the liberals and Democrats want to maintain the moral high ground, they have to feel free to say that Congressman Lewis, while entitled to his opinion, may have gone a step too far. And they have to feel free to say that maybe Meryl Streep has gotten a few too many nominations and awards. There are much better ways to attack Trump than to blindly defend one’s own icons against Trump’s legitimate criticisms of them. And if those criticisms are not legitimate then you need to be more specific than just to say “stop attacking our icons”.

Protest Trump but Don’t Say Not My President

Last night we watched spontaneous protests in cities coast-to-coast protesting the Trump victory. While I share in their sadness because I not only liked Clinton but thought that Trump was totally unsuited for the job, the one thing that disturbed me about the protest was the signs that said “Not My President”.

He is your president.

If this had been, as Trump predicted, a rigged election then you might’ve had a point. There was no evidence to support his claims that it was rigged before the election and there is no evidence of it the day after that it was rigged.

When you say “Not My President” you are engaging in reverse birtherizim. You’re trying to delegitimize the legal and proper election of the president of the United States under false pretense. You’re stooping to the fear mongering that you are allegedly protesting against. When Trump said that he would potentially not accept the results of election in which he lost, the center and the left and even some of the right said that that was one of the most un-American things that he said among all of the dozens of horrible things that he said. It was pointed out that acceptance of the results of an election is among our most fundamental principles and Trump’s initial lack of pledge to do so was among his worst sins.

He is your president.

The worst part of that realization is that in many ways it is your fault as well.

Where were the crowds marching in the street when he called Mexican immigrants rapists and murderers?

Where were the crowds marching in the street when he denigrated not only John McCain but every other American POW?

Where were the crowds marching in the street when he praised communist dictators?

Where were the crowds marching in the street when he suggested unconstitutional religious restrictions?

Where were the crowds marching in the street when he mocked disabled people?

Where were the crowds marching in the street when he denigrated women on so many occasions that I can’t count?

Where were the crowds marching in the street when he threatened to lock up his political opponents and failed to quiet the crowds who screamed murderous things about his opponents?

Where were the crowds marching in the street when he advocated sexual assault against women and then denied that it was a big deal that he had done so?

Where were the crowds marching in the street when he said he would not necessarily accept the outcome of a legitimate election?

Marching in the streets founded this country.

Marching in the streets brought about the civil rights movement.

Marching in the streets hastened the end of the war in Vietnam.

Marching in the streets works. So why didn’t you use it when there was a chance for it to do some good? There were handfuls of protesters at various Trump events and some of them braved physical assault and my hats off to them. But don’t stand in the street now and say “Not My President”. He is your president and it is your fault and my fault and the fault of the 49.5% of the American people who didn’t even bother to fucking cast a ballot.

I thought I had done as much as I could. I stood up to the hate speech on Facebook. I posted antitrust messages. I stood up for Clinton and the falsehoods leveled against her. I stood up for women’s rights as best I could. I donated to the Clinton campaign. Had I been able to, I would’ve gone to a Trump rally wearing a sign pasted on my wheelchair daring Trump to make fun of me. Maybe I should’ve written this blog sooner. Apparently I didn’t do enough.

Did you do enough?