About My Politics


I’m completely unashamed to flaunt the fact that I’m a lifelong bleeding heart liberal. Call me a Kennedy Democrat. Call me a Jimmy Carter Democrat. I take absolutely no offense. To me it’s a compliment. My parents and grandparents were all Democrats. On my moms side we were Catholic and that of course made us fans of Kennedy. My dad and his father before him were both union sheet-metal workers which made us Democrats as well.

My mother was always politically active but even more so as a result of my disability. She spent many years as a lobbyist for grassroots advocacy organization for the handicapped called COVOH (Council Of Volunteers and Organizations for the Handicapped). I even have done some lobbying at the state legislature myself. I’ve always seen it as the government’s role to help out any kind of disadvantaged people whether it is a disability, racial minority, or economic underdog of any kind.

I plan to use this blog to comment on the state of the world today. To comment on politics. And to do so from an unapologetic liberal bias.

Why Gun Control is Different from Abortion and January 6

It occurs to me that our nation is currently divided over three large issues: gun control, abortion, and the assault on democracy specifically the January 6 riots. One of these things is not like the others.

While pro-choice advocates try to frame the abortion issue as an assault on women’s rights, for the true believers it is not about women’s choice. A large percentage of our population truly believes that human life begins at conception. They believe that abortion is a murder just as foul as what took place in Sandy Hook, Parkland, or Uvalde. If you truly believed that an unborn fetus was a human being, you would be as opposed to abortion as anyone who already is. It is possible to see their point of view even though you can totally disagree.

Tomorrow night, the house committee on January 6 will present evidence of the horrors of what happened that day. They will condemn those who organized and instigated the event however that won’t make a difference to some people. It is clearly evident that the people who took part in the January 6 attack on the capital as well as many who supported them truly believed that Trump won the election. For a moment, separate the fact that they had been fed a pack of lies. If you have sincerely believed that you were defending democracy against an existential threat rather than actually being the perpetrators of such a threat, you right have done the same thing. You can disagree with the basic premise behind the actions but ultimately it is possible to understand why the people at the capital did what they did.

Set aside for a moment the hypocrites who exploit the true believers of both of those issues for their own personal or political gain. It is possible to understand, given their personal perspective with which you may justifiably disagree that they are acting reasonably within their own belief system.

The same thing cannot be said for gun control.

For reference purposes, here is the text of the Second Amendment.

“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 Supreme Court has previously ruled under Heller that this extends to personal ownership of a handgun and that the Second Amendment does not solely apply to militia. Heller does not in any way suggest that this constitutional right need not be well regulated. Both a liberal and a conservative law clerk who worked in the Supreme Court during the Heller decision recently co-wrote an op-ed saying that we cannot blame Heller for our current situation. Nothing in that decision suggests that Congress cannot pass gun control legislation.

Apart from a minuscule, twisted minority who believe that Sandy Hook and Parkland were staged events, there are no true believers with which one could sympathize in the same way that one might understand those opposed to abortion or those who believe that the election was stolen. The true believers on the issue of gun control have placed their Second Amendment rights above the constitutional right to life. They ignore the words “well regulated” claiming that any attempt to regulate or limit gun ownership somehow violates their rights. Even if the words well regulated did not exist in the Second Amendment, it is indefensible to suggest under any circumstances that a constitutional right to ownership is somehow more important than the right to life.

One of the justifications used in the leaked draft of the Supreme Court decision which will likely overturn Roe argues that because abortion is about life, it should be judged under different standards than other constitutional rights.

Center and left media are making a big deal out of the fact that 88% of people believe in universal background checks and large majorities are in favor of other common sense regulations on gun ownership. They are blaming Republicans for ignoring the will of the people.

This morning on MSNBC a political commentator said that normally one thinks of threats to democracy as being big events such as a fraudulent election, a military coup, or a war. He suggested that the institutional loopholes such as gerrymandering, the electoral college, and the filibuster which allow the minority Republicans to stagnate Congress into inaction against the will of the people are the real existential threat to democracy. The majority want gun control. The majority are pro-choice. The majority voted for Joe Biden.

The Republicans are characterized as hypocrites and cowards who are at the mercy of Trump, his misguided supporters, and a powerful NRA lobby. While they are largely to blame, the general public is equally at fault.

The left needs to learn lessons from the pro-life movement. The religious right has become so politically active and so steadfast in their desire to overturn Roe that they have succeeded. They have done so by ignoring the racism, misogyny, deceptiveness, ineptitude, and narcissism of Trump solely because they believed he would install conservative justices and Roe would be overturned. Being anti-abortion has been a litmus test for political candidates that has superseded all other issues including Christian values such as the treatment of the poor, the elderly, the disabled, and immigrants.

The reason that the power-hungry in Washington can get away with ignoring the will of the people is that the people are not expressing their will in the way that the Constitution prescribes for them to do so… at the ballot box. The minority will of the antiabortion movement has succeeded because they have exercised their vote ruthlessly in favor of their position.

Two things have to happen to change the situation. The left needs to attack candidates vigorously on the issue of reasonable gun restrictions. They have to pull out all the stops with the same ruthlessness with which the antiabortion movement has attacked Roe. I hate to say it but, if the antiabortion lobby succeeded by publishing photos of aborted fetuses, maybe we need to release the autopsy photos from Uvalde. Okay so that’s extreme but still, they need to wield their political power fearlessly on this issue perhaps even setting aside other issues such as climate change to concentrate on this.

The other thing that has to happen is that the left needs to call out the hypocrisy of being so-called pro-life when it comes to abortion but placing Second Amendment rights above the right to life. They need to persuade religious fundamentalists and all people of faith that common sense gun control is very much a pro-life issue that should not be divided along liberal/conservative lines. These same pro-life arguments can be made on things like healthcare and immigration reform. The Catholic Church has a doctrine called the “Consistent Ethic of Life” by being not only opposed to abortion but being opposed to the death penalty and strong on issues like healthcare, immigration, and other social justice issues. The left needs to work with them and to shame other alleged pro-life elements into seeing gun control as a pro-life issue.

Recent Republican primaries have illustrated that Trump and his followers do not have a monopoly on the Republican Party. Although, some Trump-supported candidates have seen victory in primaries it has not been a clean sweep. Last night a Republican who voted in favor of impeachment survived a primary challenge. We need more such courageous Republicans who will oppose Trump and stand courageously against him and his supporters. Similarly, we need a few brave Republicans who will go against the NRA lobby and illustrate to the rest of the Republican party that they need not be held hostage by the Trump fringe or the NRA.

Congress is stagnated and ignores the will of the people because the people are not exercising their political power to elect candidates that represent their values. The only thing to stop a bad guy with a gun lobbyist in his pocket is a good guy with the power of the people in his pocket.

“Don’t Shoot the Messenger” — A Defense of Social Media

So I’m watching “Morning Joe” on MSNBC this morning and Joe and Mika have concluded that Facebook and Twitter should be held accountable for promoting the violence of the alt right. This was somewhat sparked on by the story that Fox News had to pay out a legal settlement for misinformation they promoted that resulted in someone’s death. I don’t recall the details of the case I wasn’t paying that close attention to that part of the story.

The difference between Fox News and social media is that Facebook and Twitter do not actually create the content that their sites carry. Fox News creates its content and therefore is solely responsible for what goes out over its single channel of airwaves and cable. If guests on their programs provide misinformation of which Fox News does not approve, they have ample opportunity to rebut that information and to refuse to invite such guests back on to its programs. It can easily exercise editorial control.

Facebook is not a single channel nor is Twitter in the same way that Fox or other media outlets are. Facebook is a billion channels as is Twitter. It is a physical impossibility to monitor the billions of users that these platforms have. We hear daily how these platforms have shut down tens of thousands of accounts that are promoting hate and violence yet it only takes a few clicks to create another such account in such accounts can even be created automatically by software bots.

Another report said that lies about election fraud have dropped on Twitter considerably since Pres. Trump’s Twitter account was suspended. Twitter defended its policy of allowing Trump to post whatever he wanted in violation of their normal terms of service because they concluded that as an important public figure it was in the public interest to have his thoughts published unfiltered. When his content and the content of others included things such as misinformation about the virus which was clearly contrary to the public interest, Twitter and Facebook took steps to flag such content as false and/or misleading. It was only after his activities could be clearly and definitively linked to violent activity that the accounts were totally suspended.

One also has to ask if Facebook wasn’t doing anything to try to stop such abuse of its platform, why did so many of the alt right and conspiracy mongers moved to Parler?

One has to wonder what civil libertarians and progressives might have said had these platforms been more actively censoring content. While such censorship by a private company does not, as some claim, constitute a First Amendment violation, it still would have drawn criticism had it been overly aggressive.

Blaming Facebook and Twitter for the content posted there is like blaming the mail if someone sends a bomb through the mail. Or blaming the roads if someone drives a bomb somewhere.

Ultimately the responsibility for hate and violence comes from the perpetrators of those messages and those who actually act upon them. As I have stated in other blogs, the uneducated American public who is so gullible that they will believe anything that they read online is responsible for the situation. And again I blame our education system which is not creating people who can think critically and weigh evidence for themselves. If Trump told people that the sun rises in the west and sets in the east they would believe him despite the evidence of their own eyes. I’m reminded of the science-fiction novel written by the famous Isaac Asimov titled “The Gods Themselves”. Asimov’s inspiration for the title of the book was a quotation from the play The Maid of Orleans by Friedrich Schiller: “Mit der Dummheit kämpfen Götter selbst vergebens” that is “Against stupidity the gods themselves contend in vain”.

Much of their criticism of social media is the algorithm that directs people towards hate sites. While no one (including Facebook and Twitter) really know how their algorithms work, in order for those algorithms to support their business model for advertising purposes, the algorithm has to analyze the content and the choices to read and like content of individual user. I’ve never been directed towards a hate site because I don’t typically post hate content. Facebook directs me towards sites that deal with hobby electronics, maker projects, science news, SpaceX and other space exploration news. It does so because it has correctly determined that those are the things that interest me.

Facebook also directs people correctly towards content that I create most importantly through my involvement in an organization known as ATMakers which is a group of hobbyists, makers, and other interested people who create assistive technology. It also provides a meeting place for users of assistive technology, therapists and other professionals to get information about AT resources. The activities of this Facebook group have transformed people’s lives. We have considered moving to a different platform that is less controversial than Facebook but in the end have concluded that no other existing platform provides the capabilities and the broad reach that Facebook provides.

More importantly Facebook directs me to groups and pages dealing with neuromuscular disease specifically my disease Spinal Muscular Atrophy. Tomorrow I will begin taking a new drug that will treat my SMA disease. I would’ve never heard of that drug had I not belonged to SMA related Facebook groups. And I would’ve never been directed towards those groups had Facebook not analyzed my interests and directed me there.

Didn’t social media critics ever hear the proverb “don’t shoot the messenger”?

The Piano Scarf Lady Changed My Mind

One of the things that bothers me so much about political discourse is the way that people paint large groups with such a broad brush. For example out of the tens of thousands of protesters this summer who protested police abuse and other social justice issues there were probably only a few hundred that only engaged in rioting, looting, and other acts of violence. Yet the entire group was characterized as lawless people.

As I watched the events of January 6 around the US capital I tried to apply my own standards to the Trump supporters. While I was appalled at the couple of hundred violent people who stormed the building killing a capital police officer, terrorizing those inside, and violating the sanctity of “the people’s house”, I tried to keep perspective that outside were thousands more who would doing nothing more than cheering, waving flags, and exercising First Amendment rights of protest. I wasn’t going to paint all Trump supporters as being violent thugs.

As I looked at the people outside the capital they looked like ordinary middle class citizens. Soccer moms and Little League dads who had been unfortunately duped into believing that democracy was under attack by progressives who had stolen the election. I had sympathy for them because I knew they would be characterized in the same vein as those who had actually stormed the building. These were not shirtless tattooed people with face paint and a Viking horned helmet on.

Then last night I watched “A Late Show with Stephen Colbert” in which he made fun of the Trump supporters who were stupid enough to identify themselves through social media posts and interviews. He then showed a video clip of a woman who appeared to be maybe 30 years old. Nicely dressed in a nice coat and a stylish scarf that looks like a piano keyboard. She was sobbing severely saying “They maced me!” I immediately had sympathy for her. Here was one of these innocently duped soccer moms who had gotten caught up in the crowd and had suffered being maced for trying to express her beliefs. She said she sat one foot inside the building and they maced her. She went on to identify herself as “Elizabeth from Knoxville Tennessee”. The fact that she had identified herself was part of the reason Colbert was making fun of her which I thought was kind of funny as well. Yet my heart went out to her. And then the reporter asked “And why did you want to go in?” To which she replied in a tone implying that the answer was obvious but she answered anyway “We’re storming the capital! It’s a revolution!”

Okay now I get it.

Even though she did attempt to step inside the building while thousands of others remain peacefully outside, it opened my eyes to the fact that this was not some gun toting, Molotov cocktail wielding, burn it all down, antiestablishment, militia member yet she still believed sincerely that she was taking part in a revolution against a duly elected government.

While it doesn’t say much for the strength of your “revolution” if a little spritz of mace is going to send you running away sobbing, it does tell me that you need not be an extremely radical antigovernment nut job to sincerely have believed that the government needed to be overthrown.

Granted she did try to enter the building while others stayed outside so there is that distinction. So I’m trying hard not to characterize the thousands who stood outside doing nothing but waving flags and chanting Trump with the same broad strokes of the shirtless, face painted, horned idiots who actually pranced around inside the building vandalizing the place and terrorizing Congress and the staff. But the idea that such ordinary looking people truly believes they were participating in a revolution is probably what scares me the most. Trump will be gone in another 12 days (or sooner). Congress completed its work. Democracy survived as I always was confident it would. But something is really, really wrong in America. Way too many people are too gullible and too willing to participate in a cult of personality.

In a previous blog here I said that Trump didn’t collude with Russia because he didn’t need to. Russia was completely capable of “interfering” in our election without him. And I also somewhat absolved Russia from blame for merely exploiting the gullibility of the American voters to believe such disinformation. I blamed our education system who has not taught us to be critical thinkers nor instilled in us a deep understanding of how democracy is supposed to work. I continue to think that it is a lack of education in these areas that is the real root cause of our problems. That is not to exonerate responsibility from those such as Trump, his co-conspirators in Congress, or even the Russians who are exploiting this weakness in American society.

The link below is the Stephen Colbert routine from January 7 that I spoke about above. I’ve queued it up to the “Piano Scarf Lady” about seven minutes in but you might want to watch the entire 11 minute clip of Colbert’s routine. It’s pretty funny.

My Vote Doesn’t Count and If You’re a Democrat in Indiana Yours Probably Won’t Either

It’s Election Day 2020 and many of us will be sitting on the edge of our chairs tonight and probably for several days to come to find out the results. You will hear lots of talk about how important it is that “every vote counts” and “every vote be counted”. While counting the votes is indeed important, if you’re a Democrat in Indiana, most years your vote for president doesn’t mean Jack shit.

I’m not talking about voter fraud or the fact that I submitted a mail in absentee ballot because my disability. I’m talking about people who go to the polls today, placed their ballot for Biden/Harris, it gets counted and added to the Indiana total. But it doesn’t affect the outcome of the election.

The reason is that Indiana is primarily a Republican state. While Indianapolis, Gary, and some other urban areas are heavily Democrat, overall there are enough rural votes that are strongly conservative and Republican that unless we have an especially strong Democrat candidate, all 11 of Indiana’s electoral votes are going to go to the Republican. I couldn’t find registration numbers for the general election but in the June primary there were approximately 4.5 million registered voters in Indiana. For the sake of argument let’s assume that 2,250,001 people voted Republican and 2,249,999 voted Democrat. The result would be that all 11 Indiana electoral votes would go to the Republican. Now of course if I was one of one or two lazy Democrats that didn’t vote then I would’ve made a difference.

However according to Wikipedia in 2016 Trump got 1,557,286 and Clinton got 1,033,126 a difference of 524,160. So unless we had over half a million lazy Democrats who didn’t vote in 2016, the Indiana outcome would’ve been the same. And as we know Clinton won the popular vote but because of this winner-take-all electoral college system Trump won the electoral college and became president.

Some people have said that a way to reform the electoral college without abolishing it completely is to get rid of the winner-take-all and allocate the electoral votes based on congressional district outcome. Electoral votes are determined by the total number of members of Congress. We have nine house members and two senators giving 11 electoral votes. Let’s suppose we put two of those votes on the statewide total in the other nine votes based on who won the district. In 2016 Clinton won the 1st and 7th congressional districts (Indianapolis and Gary area) and Trump won everything else. In that case since I live in Indianapolis in the 7th district my vote would’ve at least contributed to 1 electoral vote. In fact 2 states Maine and Nebraska do it that way.

Even though that would be somewhat more equitable, it would still allow for the possibility that a candidate could win the popular vote and not win the electoral vote. How did we get to the system of the electoral college? Why is it in the Constitution? I’m no history expert but I know a little about it. First of all we need to talk about how states are allocated number of representatives.

Originally the Constitution separable representatives at 65 from 1787 until the census of 1790. The apportionment based on the 1790 census resulted in 105 members. From 1800 through 1840 the number of representatives was determined by the ratio of the number of persons each was to represent. However the way to handle fractional reminders evolved over those years. The methods involved and the numbers grew. In 1911 the house size was fixed at 433 with provision for one additional seat each for Arizona and New Mexico when they became states giving a total of 435. There was a temporary increase to 437 when Alaska and Hawaii became states but since then it has stayed at 435. See this linked document from the U.S. Census for details.

In 1788 the first Congress based on the new Constitution as mentioned before had 65 seats in the House of Representatives plus 26 senators (2 each for the 13 states) giving 78 electoral votes. The distribution among the 13 states ranged from just one representative and two senators for Rhode Island and Delaware giving them three electoral votes each up to 10 representatives and two senators for Virginia. The system was set up to narrow the gap between the small states like Rhode Island and large states like Virginia. Had they only counted representatives, which were based on population, the ratio between these two states would have been 1/10 = 0.10 ratio. However by giving every state the same number of senators and 2 electoral votes to go with them the ratio was 3/13=0.23 ratio more than double what it would’ve been otherwise.

Compare that instead to the current situation where in California has 53 members of the house plus 2 senators for a total of 55 electoral votes and 7 states have only one representative and 2 senators. That gives us a ratio of 3/55= 0.0545 including senators and 1/53=0.0189 without senators. While the inclusion of 2 senators have a much bigger impact for smaller states then it did in the early days, the giant gap in representation between large states and small states is far beyond what it was in the days of the original 13.

This system of assigning representatives, senators, and electoral votes was designed to give smaller states a bigger influence. But with a large disparity between large states and small states this system of allocation makes things worse for small states. While one can argue that large states deserve a bigger congressional presence than small ones, when it comes to choosing a president it means that large states that have a nearly equal proportion of voters in the two parties become hugely influential. These are the so-called “swing states”.

For the same reason that it is not fair to Democrats who live in Indiana that their state is going to go mostly Republican in most presidential elections, it similarly not fair to Republicans in New York or California that typically go Democrat. If you’re in the minority party in a particular state, your vote essentially contributes nothing to the outcome of the Presidential election.

During the contested election of 2000 in which everything came down to recounts in Florida I listened carefully to the audio from the arguments in the Supreme Court. TV cameras are not allowed but they did allow live audio. During the questioning one of the justices (I’m sorry I forget who) pointed out that there is nothing in the U.S. Constitution that says that my vote for president has to be counted! That’s absolutely true. Nothing in the Constitution says that we get to vote for president. It is up to the individuals states to decide how they will choose electors to the electoral college.

It is only by state laws that we get any say in it at all. Did you read your ballot when you voted in Indiana? The following language appears above the names for president. “A ballot cast for the name candidates for President and Vice President of the United States is considered a ballot cast for the slate of presidential electors and alternate presidential electors nominated by that political party or independent candidate”. Here is a sample Indiana ballot.

But that’s only because that’s how Indiana (and all the other states) choose to do it. They could just as easily say that the state legislature would pick the electors for the electoral college. They could even say that members of the House and Senate for that state would be the electors. And as we mentioned before, not every state has the winner take all policy.

Suppose you had a Republican state with a Republican state legislature, congressional delegation, and governor. Suppose they didn’t like the fact that the Democrat got the most votes in the state. They can hastily pass a law voiding the election, inserting their own slate of Republican electors and send them to the electoral college. That’s highly unlikely but the Constitution would not have a problem with it. It’s up to the states to pick their electors however they choose.

One of the reasons that we have the electoral college apart from the way it’s allocated to benefit smaller states, is because the founders didn’t trust the people with such an important decision. The original idea was that educated knowledgeable people (people meaning rich white guys) would come together representing the best interests of their state and do what was right for the country by picking the right person. In some ways the electoral college was designed protect to the country from a candidate like Trump. They speculated what if a populist who could sway the mind of uneducated voters were to get a majority of votes but was otherwise unqualified to hold such an important position? It would then be up to these wise men who were entrusted with the fate of our nation to do the right thing and elect someone who is qualified.

There were a large number of Republicans who were uncomfortable with Trump as their candidate. Listen to some of the nasty things people like Lindsey Graham and Mitch McConnell had to say about Trump during the Republican primaries leading up to 2016. It was entirely within the power of the Republican Party to decide that Trump wasn’t fit and to replace him with a different candidate or even possibly vote for Clinton although that was highly unlikely. Instead, knowing that they would hold great power by having an alleged Republican in the Oval Office who held to alleged conservative principles and most of all who would appoint conservative justices to the Supreme Court that they “did the right thing” by listening to the people who gave Trump the electoral majority even know he didn’t when the popular vote.

There’s another way that your vote for president might not count. That is if there is a tie in the electoral college. In that case the US House of Representatives picks the president. If you’re a Democrat you say “That’s cool! Democrats lead in the house 232-197 with 5 vacancies.” But that’s not how it works. When the House decides a tied electoral vote, each state gets 1 vote! By my rough count with the possibility of some vacancies I didn’t account for Republicans have the majority of House members on a state-by-state basis with 26 states having Republican majorities. Theoretically a Democrat could when the popular vote, have a tie in the electoral college, have it go to the House of Representatives where the Democrats hold the majority, but because it’s one vote per state we could still have a Republican president. Here is the current composition of the House of Representatives.

During the 2016 election Trump constantly said “The system is rigged” and he was convinced he was losing. He was half right. The system is rigged and because it was rigged he won. George W. Bush won in 2000 because of the same rigged system.

Biden, Harris, and other Democrats are saying that the future of democracy is at stake. They say that Trump represents an existential threat to a democratic way of life. Time will tell if that is hyperbole or not. But the real threat to a fair and equitable system of choosing a president clearly is this antiquated, states-rights-driven, electoral college system and its bizarre arcane backup of throwing the election into the House of Representatives. Not to mention the bizarre precedent of the 2000 election in which the Supreme Court issued what progressives and conservatives alike claim was one of the worst decision in the history of the court essentially decided the election. Many constitutional scholars have argued that the Supreme Court had no standing in Bush v Gore. And as we’ve stated, how the states choose their electors is not a federal issue. It is clearly a state issue.

In the early days of our country, actually up until the end of the Civil War, most people identified their citizenship with the particular state in which they lived. They didn’t consider themselves to be a citizen of the United States. They were citizen of Virginia and Pennsylvania or whatever state. It wasn’t just a situation of our history long debate over large central government versus a loose collection of affiliated states. Our very identities were tied to the states themselves and so anything that promoted state’s rights was important early in the country.

But this isn’t the late 1700s or early 1800s. It’s 2020. I’m a citizen of the United States of America who just happens to live in Indiana. And while we can engage in serious dialogue about big government versus small government and other such federal power issues, it is absolutely ludicrous that the only office that affects ALL Americans, the President of the United States, is chosen by such an arcane, unfair, contrary to its original purpose, system of electoral votes.

As a brief aside, our primary system is highly flawed as well. Because Indiana holds its primary late in the season, by the time they get to us, the race is already over. In June Biden had already locked up the nomination. But that’s a separate topic of why your Indiana vote doesn’t count.

Whatever happens over the next few days in regards to the winner of this office, if you REALLY care about the future of this country, the future of democracy, and a fair and equitable system choosing the most important office in our country and the free world then you will take all that energy, anger, angst, motivation that you displayed when you stood in line for hours risking your life to a pandemic just to cast a vote that in many places didn’t mean squat and channel that into abolishing the electoral college and amending the Constitution for direct vote for president.

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.