The real Sean Hannity question

Hannity.jpegMichael Cohen has served as attorney for Donald Trump and his organization for many years. He’s covered up affairs for Trump, even paying off a porn star to keep silent two weeks before the 2016 presidential election.

There are problems with that behavior as it relates to federal election laws. But it also evidences fraudulent behavior in execution and protection of a non-disclosure agreement that was never signed by Trump yet has been used to publicly threaten and silence Stormy Daniels from sharing information about the nature of their illicit affair.

The Hannity Question: Round 1

Lurking behind all this sordid secrecy is the fact that a big Trump supporter with a national TV audience that numbers in the millions is also a client of Michael Cohen. That is Sean Hannity. And of course, Hannity denies that he was ever a client of Cohen. Yet Cohen’s attorneys insisted that the name of a mystery “client” be kept secret to protect their identity as the details of Cohen’s fraudulent activities are examined after a raid by the FBI that was approved by a judge who saw ample reason to suspect Cohen of considerable wrongdoing on a number of fronts.

The Hannity Question #2

So let’s pause there a moment and consider something. Sean Hannity claims that he’s never “paid” for any legal work done by Cohen. He admits to having several “brief conversations” with the attorney over matters that are not specific. Such as these, perhaps? 

alg-donald-trump-jpgYet the 1:1:1 relationship between Donald Trump, Michael Cohen and Sean Hannity must be considered a legitimate political concern. We’re talking about a lawyer in Cohen who directly represents the President of the United States. He is the subject of suspicion in conducting dishonest or outright illegal activity on behalf of the current United States President during a highly contentious political campaign whose outcomes were driven by large-scale media exposure.

We should note that there were also proven efforts documented by Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller indicating that Russian operatives used social media to adversely sway voter opinions toward Hillary Clinton while promoting positive impressions of Donald Trump. Could Cohen possibly have been involved in contact or negotiations with any such operators? It does not seem out of the parameters of Trump’s methods to have Cohen take care of such communications, even if just to get the direct on anyone who might open a can of Trump worms.

Media advocate(s)

Throughout all this, Sean Hannity has been a demonstrated advocate of the person and policies of Donald Trump. And we’re supposed to believe that his association with Trump’s personal attorney is just a coincidence.

Imagine if it had been revealed that President Barack Obama had shared a personal attorney with a broadcaster on CNN, MSNBC or any of the larger entity media companies in America? What if Obama had shared an attorney with Mark Zuckerberg, or Tim Cook of Apple. Jeff Bezos of Amazon?

The Right would have blown a gasket. Yet here is Sean Hannity, essentially in the same legal bed with Donald Trump, and claiming that he’s had no influence on the man, nor gained any favor, special treatment or information from the relationship.

Client-attorney privilege

15-cohen.w710.h473They’re all screaming about the supposed protections of the client-attorney relationship. But this is America we’re talking about, and rule of law says that when criminal activities are afoot, and they clearly are with Cohen, the law takes precedence. And when national security is at risk, as Trump has evidenced on a number of occasions by revealing classified information or issuing nuclear threats or making war without approval of Congress, then America deserves the right to know the real motivations behind all the cloaks of immature judgement that constitute the blanket fort of Donald Trump.

Lock Them Up

Trump screamed “Lock her up” toward Hillary Clinton for her use of a private email server. Well, she made mistakes. But none of them was deemed by multiple investigations to be criminal in any way.

And during all that scrutiny, she did not share with a major media personality the services of a crooked lawyer with a reputation as a mob-like fixer. That would have made heads explode on the Alt-Right. Frankly, I don’t even think the Right could make up things that sound so absurd.

Yet here we are. Stuck in a surreal world where lies and legends converge in a maelstrom of political subterfuge.

It’s time for all this to come to light. Here’s hoping the Special Masters soon to be hired to vet information secured during the raid on Cohen’s joint will find reason to force Trump and Hannity and all the rest of the scoundrels hiding behind “legal means” to tell the truth. That’s the answer to the Hannity Question we all want to know. What’s really going behind the scenes  in the Right Wing world, and how is it about to make America a far worse place than it once was?

 

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From kneeling to praying: why the NFL struggles with the beliefs of its players

TEBOW1-jumboA few years back in NFL history (around 2011) quarterback Tim Tebow got controversial for kneeling in prayer during gametime. Some supported his right to express his faith. Others found it distracting and annoying.

And the NFL, as it always does with controversies, just wished it would all go away. Despite seemingly solid status as a former Heisman Trophy winner and top-flight college athlete, Tebow eventually did go away. The typical career of an NFL player rarely exceeds three years anyway. The game is perpetual. The players, disposable.

K kneelingThen came Colin Kaepernick who kneeled during the National Anthem in protest over civil rights abuses in America. The NFL”s fans again exploded in words of support and vitriol toward a quarterback. As kneeling in protest expanded throughout the NFL, even President Donald Trump got involved Tweeting nasty comments toward all those who participated.

So it appears that kneeling in either prayer or protest is controversial to some. But is there a direct divide among people who support one but not another?

That would be an interesting subject to study. If a majority of those who supported Tim Tebow’s public demonstration of Christian faith also disapproved of Colin Kaepernick’s secular complaint over treatment of black Americans, what would that say about the real values of those involved?

And if a majority of those who stand with Kaepernick earlier hated on Tebow for showing his belief in God, what does that say about the state of culture today?

Tim Tebow.jpegIn both cases, we are witnessing attempts to bring some sort of humanity and perspective to the game of professional football. Some have argued that employees of pro football sign away the right to personal expression in favor of team and corporate loyalty. Still others project the onus of national loyalty on the situation, claiming that players such as Kaepernick and others are disrespecting the flag and even the military who fought to defend it.

But what if Tebow had come out in favor of Christian pacifism, even to the point of protesting the wars that America so proudly claims as symbols of liberation and freedom?

It would seem that players now kneeling in protest are indeed standing up for a critical aspect of American freedoms. One might even argue that fighting for civil rights by definition includes freedom of religion as well as freedom from religion.

So the anger over Tebow and Kaepernick is equally confused at its source. This stems from the seemingly poor understanding of what constitutes both religious freedom and equal rights under the Constitution. Plenty of people who claim that America is a Christian nation seem to neglect the fact that the Constitution itself states that there shall be no establishment of a state religion.

It also states that the rights of citizenship apply to all Americans, not just those who abide by the Christian faith.

Which makes the cause of Colin Kaepernick somewhat more inclusive than the cause of Tim Tebow. Because when Tebow kneeled to pray, he might have represented the portion of the population who shared some aspect of his beliefs. But when Kaepernick and Company kneel in protest for civil rights in America, they truly stand for all according to law. And the Republic run by the United States government is a system of laws.

Whether they are applied equally and fairly is the question raised by Kaepernick and other NFL players using pro football as a mouthpiece for civil rights. One could argue that those kneeling are participating in a sort of secular brand of prayer.

Trump-golf-seatedRevealing such vulnerability and concern does not set well with the ethic of machismo associated with pro football or for that matter, with a certain sort of bully pulpit ideology that has emerged since the election of Donald Trump.

The “game” that thrives on domination and violence has little patience for softies. Its fans appreciate short attention span theater. It is gladiatorial players that earn the most kudos for theatric hits and displays of triumph. Shut up and hit someone.

That’s why kneeling players really stick in the craw of those who like their football pure and stupid. The game itself has shown little sympathy even for players whose minds and bodies have been destroyed by its force and madness.

Thus pro football is in the crux of its own contradictory nature. It struggles to reconcile its punishing brand of sport with its desire for sustainability in the face of cultural pressures that may not agree with its longstanding policies.

Thus America’s Game is a microcosm of America itself. The United States of America has a conflicted personality over these same issues. It’s history is often brutal and unforgiving. It was a continent-wide genocide that led to dominance of European settlers driven by a worldview known as Manifest Destiny. The same worldview drove a belief in the right to own slaves, and for a century after the Civil War, that raw brand of prejudice still dominated American culture.

Only in the last 40 years did real equality seem within the grasp of black Americans. The election of Barack Obama as President seemed to seal an element of that progress.

But an angry distortion of what constitutes civil rights is still alive in this country. The eruption of the Alt-Right into mainstream consciousness has alerted us that the Civil War was fought, but never finished. Those same instincts live on in people who might support the right to pray, but not the right to kneel in front of NFL crowds.

And that’s why the NFL struggles with the beliefs of its players, but also with its fans.

The money-launderer in chief

The New York Times published a piece about the manner in which Paul Manafort found ways to launder money from Ukrainian sources into accounts designed to cover his tracks and support a massively lavish lifestyle. There are all sorts of legal problems with that behavior, and Mr. Manafort will someday have to address these openly thanks to his Not Guilty plea on the indictment by Special Counsel Robert Mueller. But that’s an issue for another day.

The other concern is why a guy with this level of corrupt overseas dealing was running a presidential campaign for Donald Trump. That issue will come up soon enough.

But the third and equally disturbing reason why America should be sick of the Paul Manaforts of this world is the apparent assumption, on their part, that they somehow deserve the money they get from really crooked dealings. And is President Donald Trump actually in the business of laundering money for the 1%. That is the question at hand. Trump acts like he deserves everything America can afford to give him, and a lot that it cannot afford at all.

Oozing Mnuchin

The same assumptive attitude seems to ooze from the likes of Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, who took seven flights on military jets at a cost of $800,000 to America taxpayers and thought nothing of it. His wife even took a swipe at people who criticized the couple for the acts. The New York times reported, “Mr. Mnuchin has made nine requests for military aircraft since assuming his position earlier this year and has taken seven flights. A request to use a military plane for his European honeymoon with his wife, Louise Linton, in August was withdrawn. A ninth flight is scheduled for later this month, when Mr. Mnuchin is expected to travel to the Middle East.”

louise-linton-steve-mnuchin-wedding-trump-fashion-style-moca.jpgPerhaps the use of military aircraft for official government business can be justified. But the assumption that his European honeymoon flight should be sponsored on the taxpayer dime? That’s plain arrogance.

Like kinds

Which helps explain why so many Americans distrust politicians in general, calling them freeloaders, or managing affairs for their own benefit. The behavior of Paul Manafort surely shows a breadth of greed. But perhaps the attitude of Steven Mnuchin is even more disturbing. Because without even doing anything technically illegal, he shows how the abuse of power can become so casual and commonplace that reality gets warped into something everyday Americans cannot comprehend.

This attitude is also absorptive, in that it not only feeds on the wealth it can find, it also cannot resist grasping for any type of wealth it sees within its sphere. Which is why wealthy Republican politicians want to grab hold of the money in Social Security and toss it into a free market pot where they and their buddies can divvy it up and make handsome profits just moving it around. It is a Ponzi scheme to end all.

Humble goals and security

But in fact, most Americans don’t seem to really care if their retirement money absolutely kills it in the markets. Sure, it’s nice if that $500,000 nest egg accrues a little bit after you turn 70, because a little extra spending money beyond the household budget of Social Security and interest income would be nice.

That strategy for living a life of relative comfort and security seems to piss off greedy Republicans to no end. They make the case that the “government wants your money” but in fact, it’s the other way around. Republicans want the money. They want all the money they can get their hands on.

Real welfare

Cranky old everyday Republicans with their requisite pocked white skin, white beards and thick bifocal aviator lenses love to grouse about their taxes and how Welfare Queens are living off the largesse of hard-working Americans. That’s a lie, but when the White Savior Ronald Reagan introduced the concept of the Welfare Queen, it bore appeal because it salved the racist instincts of those looking for someone to blame for a poor economy. They should have blamed Reagan’s trickle-down economics and gutting of America’s unions. Those same voters turned out for Donald Trump’s savage racial attacks and playing the blame game on minority for an economy that the GOP again destroyed during the Bush II years.

Grover.jpgThere is also patent worship for GOP nutjobs such as Grover Nordquist, whose hatred of government is so bad he comes off like the Archie Bunker of public policy. The man offers no real answers, just a lot of bitching and complaining about things he doesn’t really understand. He claims he does, but he’s nothing more than a raving idealogue on the order of a biblical creationist who worships the likes of Ken Ham.

As quoted in The Atlantic: “Trump’s regulatory regime is Reaganite,” Norquist told me. “His tax cut is Reaganite. He’s more aggressive than Reagan on labor issues.” All that other stuff—the crazy tweets, the chaotic White House, the Russia investigation, the travel ban—is just noise. What Trump was really elected to do, Norquist maintained, were the things Republicans had been coveting for years. And Trump is already doing just those things.

Those are the words and beliefs of an equally sociopathic bastard convinced beyond all doubt he is right. But there is no proof that government is really the problem, as Reagan once stated. In fact, it’s quite the opposite.

Real economic truths

Government plays a vital role in the real economic strength of America. It always has, and always will. The economy has thrived during periods of bigger government, and it required major assistance in recovery from the Great Depression and more recently, from the Bush Recession. Roosevelt’s reinvestment in the economy and the Obama stimulus packages did their job. Conservatives niggle about debt and the deficit, but refuse to do a full accounting of the money flowing out of the nation to overseas capital.

It is no coincidence that conservative also hate abortion yet don’t want to offer birth control to prevent the need. Deep internal conflicts such as these vex every conservative policy on the books. That is why conservatives can’t govern even when given all the reigns of the government, as they now have.

As for the worship of the “free market,” which conservatives laud at every turn, every company on the Dow Jones and on Wall Street depends on government infrastructure to conduct business. Government-sponsored benefits range from roads to airports to rail agencies to transport goods and people. And shall we talk about the massive corporate welfare supporting the oil and gas industries, agriculture, and automotive.

When those cranky white Republicans with the white beards moan about welfare queens, they conveniently ignore the incentives and outright cash delivered by governments large and small to make it better and easier for businesses to succeed in this country. Even NFL teams go begging to municipalities for tax dollars to build stadiums.

You didn’t build that

When President Obama spoke to businesses and told the world a few years back,  “You didn’t make that,” he was talking about the fact that the contributions of American taxpayers were the lifeblood of every business on the continent. For his honesty, he was savaged by dopey Republican critics who thought he was talking about their businesses, but that’s not what he meant at all.

But that’s the pathetic level of shallow insight driving GOP theology. God forbid a President such as Obama should look beyond the dumbest answer to any question about business and government.

The Money Launderer in Chief

But the GOP got their brand of man in Donald Trump. He’s as shallow as they come, virtually incapable of uttering more than 140 characters without mashing the English language into a horrific wordscrabble. Yet this ignorant character loves to claim the economic productivity of the Obama years as his own. Trump has done nothing other than try to resurrect dying industries such as coal to generate jobs. Other than that, he’s taken measures to gut environmental standards that protect the life and health of everyday Americans and now threatens to approve a GOP budget that rewards the wealthiest Americans and corporates with massive tax cuts while delivering a piddling amount to the average, everyday tax payers.

He’s money laundering for the 1%. We can’t put it any other way. That’s why a guy like Paul Manafort had such a role in the Trump campaign. He already knew the story. He just had to find a seemingly harmless symbol and protector for his own brand of greed. That’s the Manafort Factor in a nutshell.

What Trump’s lack of empathy with a Gold Star widow says about himself

Donald Trump lacks empathy. He seems to have no capacity for it even when called upon to console the widow of a soldier killed in operations in Niger. “He knew what he signed up for…” was all the Commander in Chief could muster in terms of kindness toward the death of a husband in service to the nation.

urlThere’s an interesting confession of sorts in what Trump said to Sgt. La David Thompson’s widow. Did Trump himself “know what he signed up for” when elected President of the United States, and by proxy, its Commander in Chief?

Trump has complained publicly that the job is hard and at times, far more complex than he imagined. In response, he has vacationed so frequently at his own luxury properties it is hard to imagine him even checking in at the White House, much less getting a full grasp of the job at hand. He wants us all to know how hard it really is, and that the nation owes him a favor for electing him in the first place.

Losing sympathy

Trump has bristled so frequently at criticism that it has become a topic of national and international disgrace. Thus the general public seems to be losing sympathy for his (lost) cause, and his approval rating is down below 40% at times. He calls everything he does not like #FakeNews and angrily attacks even people within his own political party to threaten in an attempt to force complicity. His very public arguments with John McCain and Mitch McConnell come to mind.

And let’s not forget that he demanded a creepy brand of loyalty from the fired former FBI director James Comey. The conversation between them proved that Trump will stop at nothing to get his way. Yet he is failing in that endeavor in critical ways, perhaps at a level only massive egotists can manage. When thinking about the public visage of Trump, one conjures up pictures of Nero or any number of Roman Emperors slaughtered in their tents or murdered in the Senate for their transgressions with the military or the government. It’s happening with Trump. Just give it time. If dramatic history unfolds as it has so often in the past, there is a chance he will be found murdered in his own bed by some small but disturbed minion he has insulted one too many times.

Ugly campaigns

It has become all too clear that Donald Trump did not “know what he signed up for” during an ugly political campaign in which no media really challenged his domineering approach or the personal attacks he shot at opponents in both the primaries and general election. He was given a free pass by the saner channels of media culture because no one really took him seriously. No one, that is, except a voting class so enamored with their own lack of empathy and motormouth selfish instincts that Trump seemed just like the guy they needed to “Make America Great Again.”

Trump won the election precisely because he was a man with no capacity for consideration of other people’s thoughts or ideas. That’s the way his fans like him. That’s what they expect him to be. And that’s a very different thing from what the job of President truly entails. So Trump the Candidate is constantly at odds with Trump the President. That is the disturbing duality of who our president truly is.

A threat to the world

Since his election, Trump has threatened nuclear war and made promises that he would have no problem killing the women and children of those he perceived as enemies. These happen to be instincts shared with zealous believers in Old Testament religion, where genocide is seen as an acceptable practice for those whom God adorns with power. That’s what some of these people believe: that God installed Trump as president.

That’s why evangelical voters lined up to vote for Trump. He promised them Pro-Life, but throws in a healthy dose of Pro Death because real religion is always just a coin toss away from genocide. It’s all the same dangerous instincts; from Manifest Destiny to the Holocaust, the Inquisition to Islamic fatwa. If people don’t sign up to support a nation where God and Country are freely intermixed, it’s their loss. And it usually involves their lives.

gettyimages-461656522-e1436299461791I’m a winner. So much winning!

Donald Trump has portrayed himself as a winner even after numerous failures (multiple bankruptcies) scandals (pussy-grabbing) and outright hucksterism (Trump University) showed his truly flawed character.

To keep his massive ego intact, Trump has been forced to deny everything in life that does not in some way affirm his fragile sense of self-worth.

But this takes doing, and he has been forced to become a caricature of himself. The Donald Trump we see is a Donald Trump that exists outside himself, and it must be protected lest the real Donald Trump impinge on this manufactured reality. The manufactured Donald Trump can go out and threaten nuclear war and still call himself a “family man” who loves his children and his apparently estranged wife, with whom he can barely stand to hold hands.

True empathy lacking

Thus it comes as no surprise that Donald Trump lacks true empathy when faced with the personal loss of others. Donald Trump by definition of his own duality views them as losers incapable of separating themselves from the pain they feel, and therefore stand, in his eyes, as unworthy of compassion. Their loss, no matter what its legitimate source, is a sign of weakness to him. If they cannot immediately deny it, he cannot bear to be in its presence.

This fractured view of life is the source of tectonics that drives all his actions. “I fight back,” he says when questioned about any aspect of his behavior. That’s his first response. So it is likely that he viewed the public death of that soldier as a potential blight on his own reputation. Trump did not want one more dead soldier mucking up his vision of military prowess as Commander in Chief.

Trump’s real intention when calling that widow was to warn her not to blame him for her husband’s death. That is the worst fate of all to Trump, who can’t stand the merest nick to his massive ego before he bleeds all over Twitter in complaint and defiance.

Trump blames everyone else for problems that he creates himself. That’s why he’s refused to pay contractors who worked on his buildings that failed to generate the profits he promised. That’s why he lashed out at Sen. John McCain as a failed war hero for having gotten caught and tortured when Trump himself got a phony deferment for “bone spurs” or whatever excuse was cooked up on his behalf.

Just like Trump

a-fightIt’s obvious now that half of America is accustomed to thinking like Trump. That’s why jingoistic fans are lining up to chastise pro football players as ‘unpatriotic’ for kneeling in protest of social injustice during the national anthem. The rah-rah fan base that supports Trump wants a faceless football fantasy in which personal pain means nothing to the interruption of their Sundays. Trump is their Savior from Political Correctness, a ‘non-politician’ who ‘says what’s on his mind’ even if it’s the most insensitive, ignorant, dull-minded nonsense in the universe.

And let’s remind ourselves that Trump’s Right Hand Man, Vice President Michael Pence is no better. He’s the jerk who orchestrated a walkout at an NFL game costing taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars so that Pence could behave like a self-righteous jerk and win favor with the Trump crowd who wants their football minus the human element.

If Trump himself does not believe in physical exercise on claims that it shortens one’s life, what is he doing talking about the sport of football at all? The same can be said about climate change, which Trump also denies, or healthcare access, in which Trump also does not believe. In fact, Donald Trump does not appear to actually believe in anything. Only that which benefits his own interests.

He is clearly a heartless bastard without the will to be honest with the American people and resign from a job that he does not want, and never really did. He no more knows “what he signed up for” than he ever did. So it may be the task of America to excuse him from the job he doesn’t deserve to hold.

Then we can all tell him, “You’re fired,” and let his warped little life come full circle.

 

 

Simple proof that America is at war with itself

The Chicago Tribune news coverage following the Las Vegas mass shooting included a story quoting off-duty police officers trapped in the mayhem where 59 people were murdered and hundreds more were injured when the calculating gunman perched himself in a tall hotel to take aim with scopes and guns reconfigured as automatic weapons.

Some of the off-duty police officers had also served in the military. Those that had seen combat were still shocked by the scene of women shot through the head and people bleeding out as they lay on the ground wounded or dying from the effects of a man with plenty of ammo and deadly aim.

Combat statement.jpg“I have been in combat, but I have never seen this type of mass casualty,” said police Sgt. Michael Gonzalez.

The Las Vegas shooting may have been massive in scope, but it was just a bump in the pulse of bloody shootings taking place every day in America. There is no more denying the fact. The nation itself has become a combat zone. The United States of America is literally at war with itself.

The statistics of all the deaths caused by gun violence back this up. More Americans have now died from gun violence on home soil than all the soldiers ever killed in combat in foreign wars.

This is the direct product of the murderously blind activism of the conservative Supreme Court that wields its judgements like a weapon of the vigilante ideology favored by both the NRA and the politicians it has bought and sold. The inexcusable complaint that gun control measures are an infringement of the “right to bear arms” is disrespectful to the Constitution as a whole. When people own the right to steal the life of another human being in the blink of a trigger pull, there are no equal rights to that. There is no freedom in America.

Concealed Carry poison

The right to kill has bled into Concealed Carry laws that have poisoned the nature of freedom across the country. Think about it. The person standing next to you could well be packing the cold-hearted tool of your own demise. Say something wrong to them, or conduct some unintended slight that they judge to be a threat to their person, and they can claim the right to shoot you. Right in the head if they feel like it.

It is inconceivable that the Founding Fathers ever intended this to be the presiding scenario in America. In essence, we’ve been drawn back into an era when dueling was used to settle difference, or when gunman lined up in the street (supposedly) to draw weapons and fire. That’s what the NRA has promoted as the safest brand of citizenship in America.

Ignorant claims of so-called “responsible gun owners”

Don’t you see the ignorance of these claims? When laid bare, they have no constitutional foundation at all. They do have money behind them, and people selfish and angry enough at their plight in life to abide such foolishness. Meanwhile supposed “responsible” gun owners cower behind the controversy hoping the band of idiots at the forefront of the “more guns” debate will cover their fearful asses.

Because that’s what rampant gun ownership is all about. Fear. The United States is rife with chickenshits who feel like they can’t walk down the street or mingle with other human beings without carrying a gun on their person. This is the opposite of courageous. It is the parallel of insanity.

The bleeding and dying

That police officer who carried bleeding, dying people off the concert grounds knows now that America is a literal war zone. He saw it with his own eyes. He compared it to what he saw in actual combat, in real wars, and this was far worse.

The Second Amendment needs to be clarified. Re-balanced. We need a hard, strong definition of what a “well-regulated militia” looks like, and how it functions. We should no longer leave that to the addle-brained conservatives on the Supreme Court to decide. They have originalism blindness. They couldn’t muster their way out of a cardboard box if the writing on the inside mentioned guns in any way.

But our gutless Congress and Senate when run by Republicans is even worse. Their long term claim that government is the enemy of the people is the knife to the gut of common sense. If that’s the case, they should commit hari-kiri and get out of office. If you don’t believe in the merit of government, you have no right or ability to serve.

Cognitive dissonance

We live in a combat zone of cognitive dissonance. And innocent people are dying every day as a result. Screw the gun lobby. We don’t need any more evidence to re-write the Second Amendment, or repeal it altogether. The frightening reality is that we’ve seen  Presidents succumb to gun violence several times already. Even that conservative pet Ronald Reagan got blasted by a freeloading gunman back in the day. Gerald Ford was a target too. We lost JFK. His brother Bobby. We lost Martin Luther King, Jr. And we even lost John Lennon.

Imagine that. If Happiness is a Warm Gun, America has burn marks on its holster side.

What will it take for an admission of the combat zone that America has become? Does another President need to become a martyr for the nation to wise up? That might wake up the close-minded. The backwoods and front-office gun nuts, selfish and obsessed with weapons as a sub-culture.

It’s a sickness. An addiction. But like that soldier who comes home to find life at home too quiet, it seems the gun nuts of America fear the quietude they might face if they can’t wave a weapon in yours. That’s the worst angst they can imagine.

 

Wheaton Crusaders still on the move

Not long ago, the Wheaton College Thunder were called the Wheaton College Crusaders. If you’ve studied Christian history at all, you know the origin of that name. The Crusades were a long series of mobile wars conducted by Europeans in part to take back control of the Holy Land. For two centuries Crusaders tried to gain control of the Middle Eastern world, only to lose ground in the end to the Ottoman Turks and other Muslim-controlled interests in the region.

But the angry religious energy of the Crusades conveniently found new targets for domination in the New World. It even gained gave itself a new name, in Manifest Destiny, the idea that Europeans were a chosen people of God who deserved to take over North America. And from there, the Christian religion was again used to justify genocide. Why not? The Old Testament was full of it.

Not too surprising

So the violent roots of the Christian faith and its actions around the world are never too surprising. Most recently, five football players from Wheaton College initiated a crusade of their own. The Daily Herald describes one phase of the incident this way: “According to records cited in the Tribune’s report Monday night, the student was in his dorm room when he was tackled by the football players, his legs and wrists wrapped up in duct tape, and a pillow case put over his head. He was placed in the back seat of a teammate’s vehicle, and as they drove, the players made offensive comments about Muslims, the report said.”

The players went on to sexually abuse their captive by attempting to insert an object into his rectum, all while continuing to insult the man and physically abuse him when resistance was offered.

Just like Iraq

abu-ghraibThat behavior resembles the actions of American military service personnel who tortured, beat and abused Iraqi prisoners during America’s invasion of that country in the early 2000s. The photos that emerged of those abuses rightly enraged the world, especially Muslim people who ascertained from reports about American soldiers specifically targeting Islamic taboos to humiliate Iraqi men and boys.

The American military was quite technically on a crusade of its own in Iraq. There was no real reason to invade that country after the 9/11 attacks. Yet the heated notion that Saddam Hussein was an immediate threat and that Muslim countries in general were a danger to the United States was used to ramp up approval of that war by Congress.

All this took place under the auspices of an openly Christian President in George W. Bush. It was his personal crusade to get back at Saddam for threatening his daddy and having the gall to stand up to America at all.

No remorse

dick-cheneyYet for all the ugly follies of Iraq, Bush and his henchman Cheney suffered few political consequences for the torture that occurred under their watch. Cheney even doubled down on several occasion about the merits of torture to subdue one’s enemies.

With that kind of attitude trickling down from our nation’s leaders and our own military, perhaps it is no surprise that a band of five Wheaton College football players should capture a young Muslim man from his dorm room to torture, injure and humiliate him. The fact that it happened at an overtly unapologetic Christian college such as Wheaton is quite in line with the behavior of hardline Christian leadership throughout history.  Quite recently the college fired one of its own professors for making a pro-Muslim comment. She had posted on Facebook: “I stand in religious solidarity with Muslims because they, like me, a Christian, are people of the book,” she posted on Facebook. “And as Pope Francis stated last week, we worship the same God.”

She was dismissed for that simple yet loving remark. And yet the five Wheaton College football players who kidnapped a fellow student, tortured and sexually abused him remain at the college. They were “strapped” with only 50 hours of “community service” and having to write an “eight page letter” as punishment for their actions.

Wheaton at fault

Now that the Wheaton College players are facing actual criminal penalties for their actions, it is time to hold Wheaton College publicly accountable for the mercenary brand of doctrine to which it traditionally ascribes. With its feet firmly planted in the evangelical community, Wheaton’s form of highly conservative, often repressive Christian teaching is the ideology fueling ugliness at home and abroad. Evangelicals swayed the vote for Donald Trump, himself a very public abuser, violent character and poor representative for what would normally pass for Christian virtues.

If it is indeed Christianity that men like Trump espouse, it is a Christianity rooted in intolerance and anger toward all other faiths. Witness its dog-whistle implementation as documented on the website God and Country, Military Religious Freedom and Christian Service. In a post titled “The Top Three Military Chaplain Fallacies,” it cheerleads unrelenting conversion as the ultimate expression of “religious freedom.”

The article says: “A military chaplain must have a true affinity for the lost (unconverted), and possess a love that is implacable for the Marines, Soldiers, Sailors, and Airmen that they serve. A military chaplain must exercise their constitutional right to faithfully and expositionally teach and preach the whole counsel of God’s special and propositional revelation. Why? Military chaplains that never evangelizes (sic), soft-peddles truth, willfully omits the name of Christ in prayer out of fear of offending others instead of God, substitutes Scripture with psycho-therapy, and cares more about their career than Christ are not examples of holiness and Christ-centeredness; they are examples of hypocrisy and childish-conceits.”

Religious liberty, or the opposite? 

This is what too much of America claims as “religious liberty.” Would a military chaplain schooled in these methods of unrelenting evangelical fervor truly offer any virtue of service to a Muslim or Jewish soldier?

None whatsoever. Nor did the young men who play football for a Christian college show any respect or tolerance for a fellow student when they kidnapped and tortured him for his religious and possibly racial background.

Sickness at heart

There is a sickness at the heart of a Christian faith that approaches the world with such dismissive force. It bleeds into politics, culture and public civility. It fuels racially driven prejudice based on outdated interpretations of scripture that are used by the likes of the KKK to claim that white people are God’s people. It oppresses the rights of women, of gay people, of every person born into a nation where freedom from religion is guaranteed by the Constitution just as freedom of religion is also provided.

These were not just five football players roughhousing, as the likes of Rush Limbaugh will probably say. There is sickness at heart when such rationalizations are offered. These were five young men indoctrinated to think that somehow their school or their race or their position in life gave them the right to torture and abuse another human being because they attend a Christian college whose unquiet traditions of supremacy and crusades has a long history of justifying such behavior.

That is the form of religious “freedom” to which latter day evangelicalism too often leads. And it has to be challenged. Stopped. Shouted down. And dunned from dominance of the public debate over policy and protections of civil rights.

 

You can’t “get over it” when you’re under the thumb of an authoritarian

Thumb.jpgSenior White House Policy Adviser Stephen Miller had this to say about rational resistance to the policies being imposed by Donald Trump:

“The end result of this, though, is that our opponents, the media, and the whole world will soon see, as we begin to take further actions, that the powers of the president to protect our country are very substantial and will not be questioned.”

This is clearly an authoritarian statement. It holds, at its heart, the ugly sentiments of fascism.

It is unclear why so many people who supposedly value freedom in America still seem to support the likes of Donald Trump, who cheered his advisor’s performance on the Sunday morning talk shows.

“The powers of the president to protect our country are very substantial and will not be questioned.”

Is that so? Since when does the President have the right to tell millions of Americans who did not vote for him how to think? He clearly cannot stand that notion either. As we all know, Donald Trump lost the popular vote by millions. And what is his response? He refuses to accept that fact, and went to some lengths in manufacturing his own version of reality as a result. “5 million people voted illegally,” he contended.

The real fact of the past election is that far less than 1/4 of the American people actually voted for Donald Trump. This scares the living hell out of Donald Trump. But more than that, it insults his frail yet outsized ego. That is the far more dangerous component of his authoritarian response to resistance to his policies.

Despite the harsh reality of the popular vote and its proof that Trump is not granted a mandate, he further considers Constitutional a playground for his whims. He has refused to release his tax returns to dispel potential conflicts of interest. He has stated publicly that the election results excused any such notions. He has thus claimed that his conflicts of interest are of no consequence to his presidency.

This is authoritarianism at work. And at its worst. Add in the conflation of Russian involvement in the election and pre-inaugural contact with that nation by one of Trump’s representatives, and we have a president that is operating well outside the boundaries of his authority and quite possibly, the law.

Yet Trump supporters tell his detractors to “get over it.” And that is an impossible request. One cannot “get over” the dangerous thumb of an authoritarian. We’ve seen that time and again in history. If you acquiesce to the methods of authoritarian actions and terror, the nation itself is lost.

That is where we stand. That is why we resist. This is the authoritarian thumb we must fight with all our might.

The delusional presidency of Donald Trump and the people who support him

de·lu·sion·al

[dəˈlo͞oZH(ə)nəl]

ADJECTIVE
  1. characterized by or holding idiosyncratic beliefs or impressions that are contradicted by reality or rational argument, typically as a symptom of mental disorder.
  2. Delusional disorder, previously called paranoid disorder, is a type of serious mental illness called a “psychosis” in which a person cannot tell what is real from what is imagined. The main feature of this disorder is the presence of delusions, unshakable beliefs in something untrue or not based on reality. People with delusional disorder generally experience non-bizarre delusions, which involve situations that could occur in real life, such as being followed, poisoned, deceived, conspired against, or loved from a distance. These delusions usually involve the misinterpretation of perceptions or experiences. In reality, however, the situations are either not true at all or highly exaggerated. If the delusions could not happen in reality (aliens, television broadcasting your thoughts) then a person might be considered delusional with bizarre-type delusions.

By any definition of the word, the man elected as President of the United States exhibits delusional behavior. Donald Trump either acts delusional on purpose as a means to advance his political agenda, or he is truly delusional as evidenced by his blunt denials of facts that contradict his desired outcomes or beliefs.

Donald Trump's proposed golf courseHaving a delusional person at the seat of power in America is a dangerous situation for this country, and the world at large. When a person of Trump’s stature and position cannot separate facts from fears, or fiction from fruition, the results are typically chaotic. And when a delusional leader acts out of force of personality and as a means to defy the supposed weaknesses of his predecessors, there is danger at every turn.

Recently Donald Trump ordered Navy Seals into action in Yemen. By many measures that included the death of one American soldier and five others wounded, a $75M helicopter scuttled and civilians torn to pieces in an airstrike, the effort was a hot mess that went wrong from the start. Military officials blamed lack of sound intelligence for the failure of the raid.

Yet this is how the Trump administration responded to those criticisms:

“The Trump administration’s top spokesperson called a raid in Yemen that resulted in the death of one Navy SEAL and the likely deaths of civilians a “huge success,” and rebuked any criticism of the operation as a “disservice” to the fallen SEAL.

Sen. John McCain, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, earlier called the operation a “failure.”

“It’s absolutely a success and I think anyone who would suggest it’s not a success does disservice to the life of Chief Ryan Owens,” White House press secretary Sean Spicer said today during the daily press briefing.”

We’ve seen this delusion before in the Iraq War

The same delusional arguments have been made suggesting the Iraq War even in its massively chaotic and destructive first few years was also a success. President George W. Bush stood before a large sign stating MISSION ACCOMPLISHED on a warship at sea.

This was an illustration of delusion at its worst. Bush and Cheney cost America $6T in an unbudgeted military venture that produced even more terrorism and hatred for America before President Obama sealed up the envelope as required by Iraq in its negotiations and pulled most of our troops out of the country.

That’s common sense. Yet men like Donald Trump appear to want to increase the nature and scale of American aggression in the Middle East. Delusional Twitter threats made by Trump toward Iran may inflame those possibilities. So might his ugly taunts toward China. Even his nasty confrontations with allies hold potential to turn former friends into guarded enemies of our nation.

Domestically delusional

Trump is psychotic in all these regards. And on domestic policy his opinions of how to handle immigration, such as building a multibillion dollar wall along the Mexican border, are patently insane.

Yet he garners enough support from an equally delusional and selfishly motivated segment of the American electorate that his shallow dreams and public nightmares earn a certain grade of popularity. His rants against the media for “attacking him” when all they are doing is fact-checking his statements show the paranoid nature of the man. His belligerent attitude and the sociopathic tendencies of his close advisor Stephen Bannon all mimic the likes of an insane dictator bent on bring the world to its knees by any means.

Worse yet, his insanity is serving as a smokescreen for Ayn Rand-obsessed Republicans eager to gut the EPA, privatize Social Security and throw old people and kids out on the streets with nothing more than vouchers to gain health care coverage or a decent education.

These are not overreactions. Donald Trump fit the description of a delusional individual long before he became President. He has always been narcissistic beyond the normal levels of already ignorant Americans by a tenfold measure. His show The Apprentice in which he positioned himself as an angry boss yelling “You’re Fired” shows how insanely egotistical the man has always been.

Time to impeach

There is only one answer to this delusion. That is to remove the man and everyone associated with him from power. Impeach Trump for his conflicts of interest in all his continued business dealings. Impeach him for his failure to conduct himself with respect toward other nations and their representatives. Impeach him for his known and clear collusion and favoritism toward a Russian government that has been demonstably involved in hacking the American electoral process.

The reasons keep adding up. The time to impeach Donald Trump is now. Remove the delusionary egotist from office. Drain the Swamp he’s created through unqualified and unethical nominees. Yank the likes of Stephen Bannon with his apocalyptic brand of Breitbart hate from the reins of power. And finally, put that miserable sycophant Reince Priebus back where he belongs shoveling the stables of Republican horseshit.

This has gone far enough. Impeach Donald Trump now. Before it is genuinely too late. Or he declares martial law. Or hits the nuke button. This delusional President is not going to Make America Great Again. His presence is going to ruin the good work of all those who believe in civil rights, equality, liberty and justice for all.

 

The cynicism of Shock and Awhhhh

So the term “snowflakes” was invented by the Right to describe people of supposedly shallow ideological substance. That would specifically be “liberals,” and “Progressives” and all others who, for the life of them, cannot stop standing up for the civil rights of everyone that lives in America.

In a January 29 post bearing this bold title, blogger John Galt went on a rant designed to intimidate and mock those who are participating in political protest regarding the actions of Donald Trump:

Snowflakes and Suckers can Now Begin their 2nd Week of Abject Trump Panic

Regardless of there (sic) whining, stupidity, drama, and insane screaming of the left along with #FakeNews from CNN and others, Donald J. Trump is sworn in and America’s long national nightmare is over. The protesters managed to make Middle America hate them and the two leftist controlled coasts even more.

One finds two clear strains of aggression here. First, the celebration of Shock felt by those to whom Trump’s long record of bizarre and unprincipled behavior is an affront. And second, the cynical habit of branding political opponents with patronizing labels. That is the “Awhhh” portion of the strategy.

The goal, as you can tell from the Shock Blogger above, is to always present Progressive resistance to the politics of Shock as hopelessly out of touch with reality. Hence the claim that “The protesters managed to make Middle America hate them.” That is a broad-based assumption if there ever was one. I live in so-called “Middle America” where cornfields inch up to the yards of suburbanites. Just beyond are tiny towns struggling for survival. I went to high school in those cornfields. Dated the daughters of hard-ass farmers and hung with their conservative sons who found ways to score coke and pot and hold giant parties in the barn when their parents were away.

Middle America

I’ve remained friends with plenty of those former classmates over the years. Some of those associations were helped along by social media such as Facebook. But as the primaries and election rolled forward in 2016, it was shocking to realize how shallow the political views of so many Middle Americans can be. These were my friends, but they either bought into the Shock and Awhhhh! mentality wholesale or proved somehow incapable of separating fact from fiction. Few seemed alarmed by the real dangers presented by a man such as Donald Trump.

In a New York Times feature about Women who voted for Trump, in their own words… that shallowness in critical thinking emerges, and it reveals why Trump was successful. Said one woman:. “I do read things on occasion that he tweets and I think, oh my word. I wish I could have had 10 minutes with him. Listen, Donald, you need to straighten up and stop with this foolishness. What he said about women was disrespectful. But I don’t get offended like some people do. You get through the bad and you focus on the good. Basically these were our choices, and I felt he was the better choice, and I had to overlook the negatives and focus on the positives.”

Overlook the negatives? Focus on the positives?

Here’s another opinion from one of the women interviewed by the NYT:

“I feel very, very badly for the people who are very scared for their way of life. From what I’m understanding, he’s only really wanting illegal immigrants that have committed crimes to be deported, which I agree with. I feel bad for the lesbian and gay and transsexual community that fear for their way of life. From what I understand, he says he’s not going to mess with that.

Somebody called me a racist because I did vote for Trump. Hold on, you don’t know me. Doesn’t that make you a racist by calling me a racist when you don’t know me? I’m looking for a brighter future for me and my children, and honestly I felt l like our country was kind of at risk if we did elect Hillary.”

Feeling bad

She “feels bad” for people who are scared for their way of life. Yet she goes on to absolve Trump of  possibility ill intentions. “From what I understand, he says he’s not going to mess with that.”

If these are the weak reasons she expresses for choosing Donald Trump, what is the likelihood that she would speak up if her candidate actually did so something offensive? Like ban Muslims? Shut down immigration?

What is Trump and his henchmen engaged in a Shock and Awe onslaught against the protections included in the Affordable Care Act, or the Environmental Protection Agency, or any number of other sanely conceived programs that are hated by Alt-Right conservatives whose only object, it seems, is to hate the government. And now they run it.

The brand of blind trust and naive notions given over by so many voters to Donald Trump is exactly what he wanted. And he laughed at the fact that it was happening. Middle Americans sold their freaking souls in this last election.

Endorsing hate

That endorsement has unleashed a brand of zealotry for which men such as Stephen Bannon have been preparing for years. It is their plan to implement policies rife with bigotry and political dismissiveness.

But to make matters worse, the hate and fear of this ideology has successfully been wrapped in the eternal blanket of religious confessional language. This is how great nations come to ugly ends.

That’s how it works. Zealotry is all about shocking your opponents into submission and branding those who resist with dismissive terms such as “snowflakes” so that the submissive, shallow minds of those clutching to fears perceive them as the weaker option.

And it’s working.

This is the cynicism of Shock and Awhhhh.

 

 

On Jesus and job security

IMG_6341.jpgIn the last forty years or so, conservative Christian ideology surged to the forefront of American culture. In an arc ranging from Jerry Falwell to Ralph Reed to Franklin Graham, the face of conservative Christianity has been enormously white, pandemically virile and potently political.

Through it all, moderate Christians have stood in relative silence watching their namesake religion waved like a black flag from a pirate ship. Progressive Christians have been slightly more vocal, and with the advent of social media actually found channels by which to challenge the backward contentions of conservative Christianity.

Predatory faith

But it has not been enough to keep a huge chunk of the country from falling victim to a predatory branch of the faith that has fomented dangerously false ideas. These included the widespread apocalyptic fervor centered around predictions of the End Times extrapolated from the Book of Daniel and the Book of Revelation. There is also the greed-soaked contentions of the so-called Prosperity Gospel and its steroid-level injection of motivational speaking. Finally, there is the belief that despite its propensity for legislating against civil rights, courting racism and acting like bullies on every issue it confronts, the Republican Party in America is supposedly the true representative of God’s wishes on this earth.

Conservative Christianity has sided with the bullies of this world because it suits the Crusading mentality of its aggressively militaristic past. Despite all sorts of past failings and ancient travesties in the Middle East, Christian Conservatives still see that region of the world as some sort of pathway to heaven.

Symbol of sacrifice

The true narrative of the Bible is that conservative religious zealots are never the true path to anything. Jesus did every damned thing he could to educate the Chief Priests of his day, and they still tossed him over to the Roman for crucifixion. That symbolic sacrifice of self and speaking truth to the politically powerful should ring true with real Christians. But Christian conservatives refuse to see themselves in the warped power structure of the Pharisees or the demands of the Romans, whose Emperor was considered a god.

If Christian conservatives can’t recognize themselves and their abuse of power and twisted Gospel in the biblical narrative, then it means the modern role of Jesus falls to someone else. That should be the more liberal (and thus more Christlike) wings of the Christian Church.

Taking up the mantle

Thankfully the Catholic Pope Francis is taking up that mantle. Tellingly, his statements on the real meaning of Christianity have been met with resistance from both religious and political conservatives throughout the world. Pope Francis has had to fire the most zealous and troublesome conservatives under his authority. He also fired those priests and cardinals whose consumptively grand habits were direct imitations of those conservatives priests back in Jesus’ day who wandered around in elegant dress while spewing false righteousness at every turn.

But what the Christian Church really needs is a revolution from within. That is, liberals and moderates must take up the cross and engage in direct theological confrontation with conservatives that have turned the Christian faith into a political ideology focused almost completely on denial of modernism, science and cultural change.

Job security

The reason this has not happened is likely to do with job security. Thousands of good Christian servants in this country do great things for their local flocks and the world at large. But without more radical confrontation of the conservative dogma dominating public discourse in America, pied pipers such as Franklin Graham and Pat Robertson will continue to lead millions of authoritarian lemmings over the edge of theological cliffs to a daily spiritual drowning.

But if organizations such as the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America do not speak up more soundly on behalf of the true liberal heart of faith, this nation does not stand a chance in the face of the fascist conservatism that has evolved around authoritarian brands of religion. That will have been a sacrifice of opportunity when it is needed most. Where, for example, is the public voice of the Lutheran Bishop, the closest thing Protestants have to a Pope? Is the public relations department of the ELCA that bad that we can’t hear from a good Protestant in line with the heritage of Martin Luther himself?

All about money

Perhaps this is all about membership and money, and challenging more conservative sects within the ELCA could result in splintered relationships and abandonment? Well, so be it. The Disciples of Christ wandered dirty streets recruiting believers from scratch. And if they were confronted by those who would not hear them, Jesus instructed them to brush the dirt off their feet and move on.

Whether moderate and liberal Christians have the guts to speak out and challenge the false doctrines of conservative Christianity or not is a question for the ages. These are historic times. One wonders if intelligent Christians with a heart for Jesus actually have the guts to stand up to hardline zealots who care only to win the day and the favor of the rich and powerful of this world.