Hello Jell-O

In 1988, Mike Tyson and Michael Spinks fought for the undisputed heavyweight title in what was billed as one of the greatest fights in history. Ironically, the event was held in the now-defunct Tr-mp Plaza Hotel and Casino in New Jersey. Tr-mp called the fight a “monster.”

It lasted 91 seconds.

According to Wikipedia, Image result for mike tyson vs. michael spinksSpinks, the loser, conceded that “fear was knocking at my door big time.” Tyson (who today is a Tr-mper) reportedly said, “The first punch I threw, he wobbled a bit. I knew right there I had him.”

Sound familiar?

I don’t know what could have been more predictable than the outcome of the Senate Democrats’ efforts to get a deal on DACA and the DREAMers in exchange for the necessary votes to keep the government running. And I don’t know what could have been more predictable than how the press would cover the whole thing—as a fight with a clear winner and a clear loser.

CNN’s Jake Tapper is about as mainstream as journalists come. He is conventional in his view of politics and how to cover it. He began his Sunday news show with words straight from a fight promoter’s lexicon: “Shutdown showdown.” Senate Democrats, not being idiots, knew how the press would cover this story. It wasn’t hard to figure out: Who would blink first? Who would be able to take the tough punches? Who would stand and fight until they won? Now, after we have witnessed the political equivalent of a 91-second fight, we know the answers: Senate Democrats blinked first. They were unable to take a punch. And Republicans stood and fought until they won.

And you know why the Republicans won this political fight? Because they’re ruthless assholes. And in order to beat them, you have to either fight like ruthless assholes or you have to outsmart them. Democrats did neither one. They were Michael Spinks and found fear knocking at their door bigtime. Republicans were Mike Tyson—who once got pissed off during a fight and gnawed both of Evander Holyfield’s ears—who saw Democrats wobble a bit after the first punch was thrown and they knew they had Democrats then and there.

The wobble came when Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer met with Tr-mp last Friday. Schumer, who by now ought to know he can’t trust Tr-mp, admitted he offered to pay some amount of money for Tr-mp’s colossally stupid border wall. That was it. Fear had knocked on Schumer’s door and he answered it. Talk about Jell-O. Republicans then, sensing a sure victory, ratcheted up the rhetoric, including an unforgivable racist advertisement paid for by the Tr-mp campaign, an ad that Democrats answered by caving in to Mitch McConnell, allowing Tr-mp and his ugly apologists to claim victory for him.

The truth is that Democrats, the party of government, should never have, without a clear strategy and commitment to win, jumped into the shut-down-the-government ring with ruthless assholes who don’t much like government in the first place. Democrats are the good guys when it comes to the value of government and the services it provides, and using a shutdown as leverage runs contrary to their nature. They aren’t vicious cutthroats who use our troops as props in a sick game of chicken. They aren’t callous schmucks who use anti-immigrant racism to appeal to the worst instincts of some Americans and stoke resentment in others. That’s why Senate Democrats had to use their smarts, not their ruthlessness, to help the DREAMers.

And it just wasn’t very smart for them to get into a fight unless they were prepared to take some hard punches and still keep fighting. Clearly they weren’t. And the only thing that was accomplished by their well-meaning efforts, was that they look weaker than they really are. Senate Democrats can, with the filibuster, keep some bad things from happening to the country and help get a few good things done, like, possibly, a decent DACA-DREAMer bill. But behind that filibuster strategy has to be a willingness to, when it matters, stand in the ring and slug it out with Mitch McConnell, who is as ruthless as they come and as big an asshole as exists in Washington.

Speaking of assholes, one of Jake Tapper’s guests on his Sunday program was Mike Mulvaney, Tr-mp’s budget director and a former congressman who was one of the most zealous right-wingers imaginable. Tapper played a clip of Mulvaney—who supported the supposedly infamous shutdown in 2013 when Obama was in office—being asked if “the fight” in 2013 was worth it. Mulvaney said at the time:

MULVANEY: It was. Any time you fight for something you really believe in, and something you think is important, then the fight is — the fight is going to be worth it. If you stand up for what you believe in, I think you’ll always end up on the right side of things.

Apparently, Mulvaney was right. There he was on CNN and elsewhere on Sunday, four years and four months after that disgraceful shutdown in 2013, riding high as a proud member of the Tr-mp administration, enjoying his party’s complete control of every branch of the federal government. Neither he nor his party paid a price for their attempt to hold the country hostage for 17 days just because Republicans like Mulvaney and Ted Cruz did not like Obamacare. It didn’t hurt them a bit, as we are reminded every day when Tr-mp and Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell torment us with their presence. Democrats, when the next fight comes up, need to remember that. If DREAMers are worth fighting for, and if Republicans insist again on getting in a ring and having it out, then that’s what needs to be done—without political fear.

Michael Spinks, who lasted 91 seconds against Mike Tyson in 1988, retired and never fought another fight. Senate Democrats don’t have that option. They are elected officials who were put in office by their voters to do the right thing and fight the good fight. If they aren’t willing to do that when it matters, then Democratic primary voters should send them into retirement.

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Women + Men + Children + March = Hope

I normally don’t approve of parents bringing their little kids into political protests. But, dammit, this time it is different. This moment isn’t just about this or that public policy. It is about defending American values that are worth defending. And this sign gives me the most hope for the future that I have had for some time:

Khrushchev’s Granddaughter: “Trump’s America is in some ways even worse than Russia was during my Soviet childhood.”

Remember Nikita Khrushchev? Okay, maybe you, like me, only remember him from history books. He led the Soviet Union during the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962 and was removed from power in 1964 by his rivals. In any case, Khrushchev, who died in 1971, had a son named Leonid who was killed in World War II, leaving behind a two-year-old daughter named Julia. Khrushchev adopted his granddaughter Julia, who later had a daughter named Nina Khrushcheva. Thus, Nikita Khrushchev was both the great-grandfather and the adoptive grandfather of Nina Khrushcheva. Got it?

I said all that to introduce excerpts from an article written by Nina Khrushcheva (“Donald Trump’s not quite Joseph Stalin. But his ‘Fake News Awards’ should scare us”). She was born in the former Soviet Union in 1964 and today is a scholar and writer, working as an associate professor of international affairs at the New School, in New York, as well as a senior fellow at the World Policy Institute. While Senator Jeff Flake is getting a lot of attention for comparing Tr-mp to Stalin, Khrushcheva has her own take:

As a former Soviet citizen, I am frequently overcome by a horror-movie feeling of fear and disbelief. It’s almost as if I don’t know where I am. In cosmopolitan New York? Or back in monotonous Moscow, listening to Soviet leaders boasting from the Kremlin about Communism’s drummed-up victories and denouncing their illusory enemies? … Frankly, Tr-mp’s America is in some ways even worse than it was during my Soviet childhood. When I was growing up in Moscow in the 1970s, not even Pravda used such menacing language for the Kremlin’s critics.

She wasn’t finished. She briefly discussed the history of a few autocracies who labeled journalists as enemies, journalists who “were subsequently censored, harassed, injured, or even killed just for doing their jobs.” She said that “America under Tr-mp,” although a place where journalists’ lives aren’t in real danger and they are free to provide “the real facts,” is nevertheless a place where Tr-mp’s attacks on journalists, his threats of lawsuits, his desire to change our libel laws, “can amount to the conditions of state censorship” because such actions are “designed to instill intimidation and fear.”

Khrushcheva—remember she grew up in the Soviet Union—ends her provocative piece this way:

Not only does Trump appear less democratic than the Soviet autocrat Khrushchev, but his anti-free speech rhetoric places him in unsavory company; the current pantheon of world rulers who share his disdain for the free press include Russia’s Vladimir Putin, Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan, China’s Xi Jinping and the Philippines’s Rodrigo Duterte.

In democratic societies, a free press guaranties that the state’s menacing language can never turn into menacing actions against its people — as Stalin’s Gulags did. That’s how many dictatorships have thrived. Where would Nazi Germany be without Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels, who dubbed the Jews the “sworn enemy of the German people” because they doubted Adolf Hitler’s Aryan agenda?

Of course, the flashy real-estate tycoon-turned-reality-TV-star-turned-foulmouthed president is arguably more like Charlie Chaplin’s buffoon character in “The Great Dictator” (1940) than the real Hitler or Stalin. Or perhaps Trump is more like Hollywood’s mean clown “Pennywise” — “Trumpywise” — insulting some, punching others and scaring the rest.

But the danger of this nightmare is that it gets more real every day. And the longer it lasts, the harder it will be to wake up.

Our job is to keep the nightmare from becoming more real, and one way of doing that is by encouraging and supporting good journalism and calling out those among us—our friends, family, co-workers, and neighbors—who can’t tell real journalism from propaganda.

 

Is This The Country We Want?

It is certainly true that at least some Americans have the country they want. In one way or another they chose, they voted for, this stuff:

First, from CBS News:

A 39-year-old Detroit man who had lived in the U.S. for nearly 30 years has been deported to Mexico. Jorge Garcia came to the U.S. with his family when he was 10 years old and has long sought legal status. Garcia, who worked as a landscaper and had no criminal record, was deported on Monday and can’t return to the U.S. for a decade.

His wife and two children, who are all U.S. citizens, hugged him and sobbed as they said goodbye at the airport, the Detroit News reported.

This moral outrage is directly—directly—linked to voters who voted for Tr-mp, many of them falsely claiming to be “family values” voters. Family values my ass.

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Recent research indicates:

The U.S. has the highest maternal mortality rate in the developed world, and children born in America have a 70 percent greater chance of dying in childhood than those born in peer countries.

As you might have guessed, the problem is worse—twice as bad—if you’re black, especially if you’re poor and black. And, as you might have guessed, part of the problem has to do with the choices American voters make year after year:

According to the study’s authors, the problem of stillbirths in the U.S. is also heavily impacted by inequality among women and families, particularly with regard to healthcare access.

This moral outrage, lack of access to quality healthcare, is something voters could fix if they wanted to. Many are ignorant. Many don’t give a damn. I know that is true because Tr-mp’s approval rating after one year in office is still hovering around 40%, which is 40 points too high.

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Related to that moral outrage is another one, summed up in the headline of a piece published by The New York Times, “Making Medicaid a Tool for Moral Education May Let Some Die.” The “moral education”—advanced by Republicans and championed by the Tr-mp administration of course—is the imposition of a work requirement on poor folks who get Medicaid. If you can work and don’t, forget about getting any health care. What will happen is predictable because it has been tried in Tennesse. People delayed doctor visits and used more expensive emergency rooms for treatment. Another result:

Delayed care can kill. Breast cancer is the second-leading cause of cancer death among women. One of eight American women will get it. Detecting it early is critical. Specifically, the five-year relative survival rate for localized breast cancer is 98.5 percent when detected early, but only 25 percent when detected at a distant stage. Waiting for 60 days or longer to get treatment raises the risk of dying of breast cancer over five years by 85 percent.

Another study from Tennessee found that losing access to Medicaid led to delays in diagnosis, so more breast cancers were caught at a later stage. Women who lived in low-income ZIP codes were 3.3 percentage points more likely to receive a diagnosis of late-stage cancer than women living in high-income ZIP codes.

The author of that Times piece wrote:

The problem with the latest twist in Republicans’ effort to pare the social safety net is that removing the poor’s health insurance may not just make their life more difficult.

It might kill them.

Again, some folks just don’t give a damn.

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Consider this headline in a country that is called, dubiously, the greatest country on earth by some people:

With CHIP funds running low, doctors and parents scramble to cover kids’ needs

In case you don’t know, CHIP is the Children’s Health Insurance Program—established under the Social Security Act—which provides healthcare to some 9 million lower-income kids. The reason the “CHIP funds” are “running low” is because of Republicans. Yep. It’s that simple. If you voted for a Republican, you voted for this moral outrage.

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And if you voted for a Republican, any Republican, you contributed to the further erosion of reproductive rights. From Roll Call:

Anti-abortion groups, pursuing a list of priorities, hope to further capitalize on the Republican control of both chambers and the presidency in 2018.

Groups that oppose abortion scored a series of wins last year, including the appointment of several conservatives to top Department of Health and Human Services positions, the House passage of a late-term abortion ban bill and the confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch.

On the list of priorities for anti-choice zealots is legislation that would ban abortions after 20 weeks. We all know, thanks to Republican voters across the country, that the bill could pass the House with plenty of room to spare. But thanks to voters across the country who put 49 Democrats in the Senate, it ain’t going anywhere there. So, if you care about reproductive freedom, thank someone in your life who voted for a Senate Democrat. Here’s my “you’re welcome” in advance.

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Oh, by the way, there’s more to worry about on the reproductive rights front::

State officials are dismayed that the Trump administration has stalled the process for applying for new family planning money the states are counting on. Abortion advocacy groups worry that the delay may mean the administration is planning to target abortion providers or rewrite family planning policies.

How sick is it that people who pretend that abortion is murder are so eager to stand in the way of family planning money?

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Last September, Tr-mp rescinded the Obama Administration’s DACA memorandum (“Exercising Prosecutorial Discretion with Respect to Individuals Who Came to the United States as Children”) that protected DREAMers, some 700,000 young folks who know, and only know, this land as their home but aren’t technically citizens. Tr-mp recently said (read: lied) he would sign any deal that could be worked out on DACA. Then, shithole-gate happened and he reneged (reneging is a natural reflex for him).

Thus, DREAMers are, by design or by neglect, in a constant state of fear about their futures. Again, this moral outrage is directly attributable to Republicans. Directly. Don’t even bother arguing about it. If you voted for a Republican for any federal office, you are responsible. Yes, even if you voted for Lindsey Graham.

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Consider that there is still no director for the National Park Service and that Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke wants to nearly triple the fees at the busiest national parks. And consisder the following from an NPR story headlined “Majority Of National Park Service Board Resigns, Citing Administration Indifference“:

Since taking office, President Trump has sought to roll back protections of national parks and public lands under the auspices of the Department of the Interior. The administration has ordered a dramatic downsizing of two massive national monuments in Utah and has announced plans to open up oil drilling in protected areas of the Arctic and the Atlantic.

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For the next outrage, I will go back to July of 2017:

Income Inequality Will Survive the Nuclear Apocalypse: The class responsible for the lucrative rush to war can literally buy its way out of annihilation, thanks to the boom in luxury bunkers.

I confess. I never really imagined there were such things as “luxury bunkers.” Modest doomsday bunkers, yes. But “posh shelters” where the rich “can ride out the coming calamity”? Nope. It just never occurred to me as it did to some folks:

…renovated and newly built bunkers have become popular with Trump’s compatriots in the upper crust. Which is only fitting, since he’s partly responsible for the boom: As the Independent reported earlier this year, “Americans [are] building doomsday bunkers in ‘record numbers’ since Donald Trump’s election.”

Perhaps the most offensive part of this story is how these wealthy folks have planned for their future security after they survive a nuclear holocaust:

But what about jealous outsiders? What if a roving band of mutant proletarians suddenly shows up at the front door? They’re prepared for that, too: The facility [in Kansas, of all places] has a well-stocked armory, a sniper post, and, per their website, “a military grade security system that includes visible spectrum cameras, infrared cameras, proximity sensors, microphones, trip sensors, passive detectors, as well as confidential defensive systems both automated and manually operated.” If the wretched of the scorched earth miraculously make it through all of that, they will then face walls up to nine feet thick, plus a series of blast doors “designed to withstand sizeable explosives.” Now that’s a gated community.

The fact that these wealthy folks have so much spare cash on hand—prices for the Kansas silos begin at $1.5 million for 920 sq. ft and go up to $4.5 million for “penthouse units”— is one thing. It is another thing, a thing that results from our choices as citizens, that such facilities can be planned and built and sold. And if you are tempted to think that prohibiting such activity is an outrageous idea, then tell me this: Why can’t you plan, build, and sell an opium farm?

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Finally, on to some personal responsibility. I, like most Americans, have used Amazon to purchase items. Here’s what my personal choice, added to the choices of millions upon millions of Americans, has wrought:

Amazon Is Thriving Thanks to Taxpayer DollarsThe tech giant has received more than $1 billion in tax breaks. The government is also funding food stamps for many of its workers.

As the linked article makes clear, Amazon’s welfare-queen status is “a concerted strategy.” Six years ago, Amazon hired “a specialist in economic development tax credits,” which is a fancy way of saying “a specialist in corporate welfare.” But the bloodsucking doesn’t end there:

The famously grueling jobs in Amazon warehouses have also created strains on local services. Bloomberg reported in October that emergency responders visit the Amazon warehouse in Licking County [Ohio] at least once a day to attend to an injured worker. Local residents have to fund those forays because Amazon pays no property tax in Licking County under their subsidy deal. Voters approved a $6.5 million property tax levy in November to keep the Fire Department operational.

Image result for amazon logoWe all should think about that the next time we click on Amazon to order something. Not only does it hurt retail jobs in our communities, it costs us in other ways. There just ain’t no free lunch. Many of us thought we were getting a good deal when Amazon began and didn’t charge sales tax for purchases, which at the time gave it a critical advantage over local retailers. Amazon also exploited other “loopholes in tax legislation” that have led to this:

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos has a net worth of about $100 billion. Take that down to $99.5 billion and nobody working at any Amazon facility in America would need assistance to eat.

The problem is that Jeff Bezos isn’t in the “assistance to eat” business. And the fact that he feels no need to be in that business is partly my fault—and yours if you use Amazon. And, perhaps more important, it is the fault of all those voters who don’t demand from politicians laws requiring employers to pay a living wage to all workers.

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Some of us, indeed, have the country we want. Our choices—how we use our suffrage and our savings—have consequences.

The Strangest MLK Day Of All

“We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.”

—Barack Obama, February 5, 2008

few Americans today know how deeply Martin Luther King, Jr., thought about the issues of his time and how to confront them. He had an intellectual’s curiosity about the world he experienced and, more important, about the world so many poor blacks—and whites—experienced in front of his eyes.

Harvard cognitive scientist Steven Pinker tweeted today:

A good day to read MLK’s fascinating My Pilgrimage To Nonviolence. He learned from Enlightenment thinkers, rejected Marx, Nietzsche, and traditional Christianity, embraced a complex human nature, & of course Gandhi’s nonviolence (not the same as pacifism).

I took Pinker’s advice and read the piece. You should too. It was fascinating. Even if you disagree with some of King’s conclusions or his theological defenses, you will see just how lucky we were to have had this man among us during the tumultuous 1960s, when it was, until the election of Tr-mp, most recently possible to imagine our democratic experiment failing, or at least turning out much worse than it did.

I want to focus on two passages from the work Pinker cited. King greatly admired Reinhold Niebuhr, the famous American theologian and intellectual who was born right here in Missouri. Niebuhr’s thinking, King said, helped the future civil rights icon

to recognize the illusions of a superficial optimism concerning human nature and the dangers of a false idealism. While I still believed in man’s potential for good, Niebuhr made me realize his potential for evil as well. Moreover, Niebuhr helped me to recognize the complexity of man’s social involvement and the glaring reality of collective evil.

In so many ways, “the glaring reality of collective evil” is still with us today, not just with issues of race and bigotry, but with issues of economic justice and the exploitation or neglect of large segments of our population—citizens, quasi-citizens, and non-citizens. But I want to move on to another passage, this one critical of Niebuhr, that is even more relevant to our present condition:

My study of Gandhi convinced me that true pacifism is not nonresistance to evil, but nonviolent resistance to evil. Between the two positions, there is a world of difference. Gandhi resisted evil with as much vigor and power as the violent resister, but he resisted with love instead of hate. True pacifism is not unrealistic submission to evil power, as Niebuhr contends. It is rather a courageous confrontation of evil by the power of love, in the faith that it is better to be the recipient of violence than the inflicter of it, since the latter only multiplies the existence of violence and bitterness in the universe, while the former may develop a sense of shame in the opponent, and thereby bring about a transformation and change of heart.

I ask you to read that passage more than once. It is the heart of Dr. King’s strategy for confronting the “collective evil” he saw. He talks about a “true” pacifism that is “a courageous confrontation of evil by the power of love.” Agree or disagree with that philosophical position, but at least acknowledge that it proved to be a relatively effective way to bring about the “transformation and change of heart” that King desired. Our country did change for the better because of non-violent actions like the bus boycott in Montgomery, Alabama, and other acts of courage.

But the forces of reaction and racial angst and racism didn’t disappear. Obviously they are still with us today. And in some ways things seem to be worse now than at anytime since the death of Dr. King. Why? Well, look at what Dr. King’s rational non-violent strategy for confronting evil and changing hearts and minds depended on: “a sense of shame in the opponent.” In order for his approach to work, he counted on the people he was confronting, or at least those in power who tacitly supported such people, to have a sense of shame, an awareness of social responsibility built on a personal moral responsibility. Where, I ask you, is that requisite sense of shame in today’s Republican Party’s leadership or among its members or in the conservative media complex that supports Tr-mp and the Republican Party?

Republicans in Congress, Republican officials around the country, and conservative punditry, with very few exceptions, have constantly defended the indefensible bigotry and tolerated the intolerable ignorance and lied to protect the pathological liar in the White’s House. The latest shithole-gate fiasco is the perfect example. We all know Tr-mp said what he said and meant what he meant. But there has not been one Republican who was in the room, who heard Tr-mp talk trash about immigrants from non-white countries, come forward and confirm what most of us know. Even Lindsey Graham, who got credit from Dick Durbin for confronting Tr-mp in real time about the remarks, won’t just come out and say exactly what happened. All he will say are variations of, “The President and all those attending the meeting know what I said and how I feel.” 

Worse, though, are Senators David Perdue of Georgia and Tom Cotton of Arkansas, who Tr-mp is now relying on to buttress his desperate lie that he did not say what he said. Perdue and Cotton were both at the meeting, and after the nasty remarks were reported, they issued a joint statement saying they “do not recall” Tr-mp using such language. Just couldn’t remember. By Sunday, though, their tr-mpnesia had been cured. Perdue suddenly remembered that what Dick Durbin had told the world—that Tr-mp indeed used, repeatedly, the shithole comment about some non-Norwegian countries—was “a gross misrepresentation.” Cotton, also cured of his temporary “do not recall” disease, said, “I did not hear that word,” which is the same as calling Dick Durbin a liar, since Cotton made the point that he was the same distance from Tr-mp as Durbin had been.

Perhaps now is the time to remind you about David Perdue’s and Tom Cotton’s pasts. In June of 2016, Perdue was at one of those conservative Christian “Faith & Freedom” events when he suggested those gathered should “pray” for President Obama “like Psalms 109:8 says.” Everyone at that gathering knew what he meant by referencing that scripture. That passage had been often used to suggest death for Obama. Here’s Psalms 109:8-12:

Let his days be few; and let another take his office. Let his children be fatherless, and his wife a widow. Let his children be continually vagabonds, and beg: let them seek their bread also out of their desolate places. Let the extortioner catch all that he hath; and let the strangers spoil his labour. Let there be none to extend mercy unto him: neither let there be any to favour his fatherless children.

It is true that Perdue only quoted the first verse in that horrific passage, but his cynical suggestion wasn’t lost on anyone. How do you appeal to a “sense of shame” in someone like that?

And then there’s the particularly shameless Tom Cotton. I will never forget what he did in his 2014 Senate race against Democrat incumbent Mark Pryor, who was a devout Christian and Bible-believer. In a response to a question about the infamous Supreme Court ruling in the Hobby Lobby “religious freedom” case, Cotton said:

Barack Obama and Mark Pryor think that faith is something that only happens at 11:00 on Sunday mornings. That’s when we worship but faith is what we live every single day.

Cotton, in true Tr-mp fashion, never apologized for that remark, not to President Obama or to Mark Pryor. Again, I ask you, especially given how Cotton just lied on national television in order to protect Tr-mp, how to you appeal to a sense of shame in someone so morally bankrupt?

Add to all that the many conservatives who have gone on television to defend Tr-mp’s remarks, whether they believe he made them or not. The “Christian” pastor of Dallas’s First Baptist Church, Robert Jeffress, told the Christian Broadcasting Network’s David Brody:

Apart from the vocabulary attributed to him, President Trump is right on target in his sentiment.

I remind you: that man is a Baptist minister. Others with no discernible sense of shame include all those right-wing pundits, most of them Christians, who Media Matters quoted in a handy piece the other day. These and other folks on the right demonstrate not only a missing sense of shame, but their responses demonstrate just how little difference there is between their positions and the position of racist David Duke, who said:

Donald Trump questioned Thursday why the U.S. would accept more immigrants from Haiti and “shithole countries” in Africa rather than places like Norway.”Trump spoke Blunt, hard truth that makes PERFECT TRUTH! So, Mr. Prez -ACT ON IT – DON’T CAVE IN !

If you were a Republican or a conservative with a sense of shame, a sense of shame that is necessary if non-violent actions are to remain effective ways of changing hearts and minds, wouldn’t you at least consider Image result for moral compassthe possibility that your moral compass is broken if it points in the same direction as one wielded by a proud white supremacist? Huh?

Finally, on this day I will leave you with words from an interesting writer named Roxane Gay, a Haitian-American born in Omaha, Nebraska. In a piece related to the shithole scandal, which appeared in The New York Times last Friday (“No One Is Coming to Save Us From Tr-mp’s Racism“), she wrote:

Now, in response to the news about the reports of the vile remark, there are people saying “vote” and highlighting the importance of the 2018 midterm elections, as if American democracy is unfettered from interference and corruption. There is a lot of trite rambling about how the president isn’t really reflecting American values when, in fact, he is reflecting the values of many Americans.

That is the depressing part of all this. Even after the civil rights successes in the 1950s and 1960s, even after turning Dr. King into a cultural hero deserving of his own holiday, even after electing Barack Obama president, we are still at a point where vile racist remarks really do reflect the values of many Americans. Just how many Americans, time will tell. But Gay makes a point related to the “the glaring reality of collective evil” Dr. King non-violently opposed:

But the president is not alone in thinking so poorly of the developing world. He didn’t reveal any new racism. He, once again, revealed racism that has been there all along. It is grotesque and we must endure it for another three or seven years, given that the Republicans have a stranglehold on power right now and are more invested in holding onto that power than working for the greater good of all Americans.

There’s no doubt about that. The Republican Party is the country’s biggest problem right now. No, it is worse than that. The Republican Party, under Tr-mp and sold out to him, is the country’s biggest existential threat right now. And there are days when it is hard to generate any hope that things will change significantly anytime soon. Roxane Gay captures that feeling:

I am tired of comfortable lies. I have lost patience with the shock supposedly well-meaning people express every time Mr. Trump says or does something terrible but well in character. I don’t have any hope to offer. I am not going to turn this into a teaching moment to justify the existence of millions of Haitian or African or El Salvadoran people because of the gleeful, unchecked racism of a world leader. I am not going to make people feel better about the gilded idea of America that becomes more and more compromised and impoverished with each passing day of the Trump presidency.

This is a painful, uncomfortable moment. Instead of trying to get past this moment, we should sit with it, wrap ourselves in the sorrow, distress and humiliation of it. We need to sit with the discomfort of the president of the United States referring to several countries as “shitholes” during a meeting, a meeting that continued after his comments. No one is coming to save us. Before we can figure out how to save ourselves from this travesty, we need to sit with that, too.

Perhaps today, of all days, is a day to reflect on the fact that no sainted cavalry is coming over the hill to rescue us. The Republican Party is lost and irredeemable. The Democrats are trying but lack any power. Robert Mueller, no matter if he finds the worst, will not find a GOP-controlled legislative branch willing to take action. Roxane Gay is right. No one is coming to save the country.

This one is on us. You and me.

Missourians And Other Americans Discover The Obvious

It’s as if some Americans just discovered that Donald Jeenyus Tr-mp is a racist shithole. Maybe it was the plea for more Norwegian immigrants that finally did it. I dunno.

What I do know is that some Missourians seem to be discovering for the first time that our governor is also a shithole. Just after Eric Greitens gave us his State of the State speech on Wednesday—in which he ignored the controversies surrounding his official conduct in office—a television outlet in St. Louis reported on some un-pro-life personal conduct by our “EVERY LIFE IS PRECIOUSeric greitensleader, who everyone knew had ambitions to be POTUS. That behavior can be summed up thus:

Greitens, a married father of two, fornicated with another man’s wife who didn’t much care for the arrangement. That unhappy man provided an audio recording he made of his wife confessing to the affair. Oh, she also made mention that Greitens had secured her hands, blindfolded her, and then took a picture, saying, in effect, that if she ever told anyone about the affair, pictures of her would be “everywhere.” The husband (now former husband) said:

He took a picture of my wife naked as blackmail. There is no worse person. I think it’s as bad as it gets, It’s as bad as it gets when someone takes advantage of something.

That’s what our governor stands accused of: blackmailing a married woman he had sex with. Heck, even Tr-mp hasn’t been accused of that, has he?

In any case, anyone who has followed the rise (and now hopefully the fall) of Eric Greitens should not be surprised. Since I like both subtlety and rocketry, I’ll quote Chase Woodruff, writer for “50 States of Blue,” who opined on Twitter:

Eric Greitens has always been a terrible, vicious, fork-tongued sociopath. His gov campaign was pure post-Ferguson white revanchism. He cut millions from MO nursing homes. He’s had his eyes on the WH for years while posing as a maverick outsider. Fire him into the fucking sun

3…2…1…Liftoff!

 

Genius Democrats? Hardly.

♦ His mental state is being openly and widely questioned in polite society.

♦ He was just named the world’s numero uno oppressor of press freedom by the Committee to Protect Journalists.

♦ He pardoned a disgusting fellow racist from Arizona who announced today he is running for a seat in the United States Senate.

♦ He begged the Russians for election help, fired the FBI Director who was investigating his and his campaign’s role in an attack on our electoral system by those Russians, and has constantly run interference for the man, Vladimir Putin, who authorized that attack. Oh, and he has viciously slandered those who have continued investigating the attack on our country.

♦ He has made life miserable for countless immigrants, both through his personal rhetoric and his administration’s policies, while making life for neo-Nazis much more comfortable.

♦ He just signed a tax bill that robs from our kids’ futures, jeopardizes social programs, and enriches already rich Americans and corporations.

So, naturally, some Democrats met with Tr-mp today on immigration and helped legitimize and normalize him, helped make him look like something other than the bumbling, lying fool most of us know he is, and that most Democratic politicians try to suggest he is, when they seek our support. Huh?

I don’t know anymore. I don’t know what is wrong with a Democratic Party leadership group that collectively tries to claim Tr-mp is unfit for office while simultaneously sanctioning open meetings with him—Dick Durbin and Steny Hoyer sat right next to him today—the visual effect of which was to make him look at least marginally fit. He didn’t drool or grab anyone’s crotch. He didn’t speak in unknown tongues or slur his words. He didn’t scream obscenities or order those gathered to “get up” and give him a standing ovation. With cameras rolling, he bantered back and forth just long enough, and with just enough understanding of the issues to fool an untutored public, that eager television pundits could score this a “win” for Tr-mp, coming as it does when the political sky is full of dark clouds about Tr-mp’s stability and temperament and, yes, his sanity.

Nancy Pelosi tweeted the following yesterday:

pelosi tweet

Why, if we are to believe Nancy Pelosi is sincere (I do), did she allow any Democrat in the House, not to mention Steny Hoyer, the Democratic Whip, to attend a televised meeting with Tr-mp in which the “symbol of hate” was a topic of discussion, a bargaining chip? Please. Somebody explain. I beg you. How can a Democratic leader call Tr-mp’s border wall an “immoral and hateful obsession” and then watch Democrats cordially meet with the obsessed man and talk about it?

Meanwhile, congratulations, Democrats. You just made it a little bit harder to rid the country of the menace that is Donald Tr-mp and the Republicans who empower him. You were props in an ongoing surreality show that, after today, has at least a better chance of a second season. And what did you get for your cameos? This:

Ample Confusion After White House Immigration Meeting

Maybe Tr-mp is right after all. Maybe he is “a very stable genius” and some Democrats in Congress are the idiots.

How Evangelicals Are Using Trump, How Trump Is Using Evangelicals, And How God Is Using Them Both To Kill Us All

[Note: This lengthy essay will likely be my last for a while, since I traditionally take a few weeks off this time of year. But I offer you something to chew on this Xmas season, something you desperately need to understand about a very strange contingent of this country, a contingent I was once a part of.]

“For many conservative evangelicals, Jerusalem is not about politics. It is not about peace plans or Palestinians or two-state solutions. It is about prophecy. About the Bible. And, most certainly, it is about the end-times.”

Dr. Diana Butler Bass, scholar specializing in American religion and culture

The presidential election of 2012 was held on November 6. Appearing once again that week on The New York Times Bestseller list for Paperback Trade Fiction—in the number one spot—was the book Fifty Shades of Grey. That book had been on the list for 32 weeks. The number two spot that election week was Fifty Shades Darker and number three was Fifty Shades Freed, completing the erotic trilogy about consensual BDSM written by E. L. James.

Obviously, some pious folks on the right considered the popular Fifty Shades trilogy, affectionately known as “Mommy Porn,” a sign of the decadent times, even if some of the decadent readers were ostensibly followers of the decadence-hating Lord:

Tragically, the fact that professing Christians are tearing these books off the shelves comes as no surprise to those watching the spiritual climate of the so-called “church” today. There has been a sad display of sexual atheism that has been plaguing the church for a long time.

nyt bestseller listChristians weren’t just “tearing” libidinous BDSM books off the shelves, however. That same New York Times bestseller list posted a few days before the 2012 presidential election featured a book in the number eight spot called The Harbinger. That book—which had been on the bestseller list at that point for 42 weeks—was written by a Jewish rabbi who, unlike most Jewish rabbis, was a Christian. His name is Jonathan Cahn.

And besides being a Jew who believes Jesus is his savior, Cahn is a strange cat.

The full title of Cahn’s book does not pull any punches: The Harbinger: The Ancient Mystery that Holds the Secret of America’s Future. I won’t go into the spooky details, but suffice it to say that Cahn believes that just as God allegedly judged and destroyed ancient Israel for its collective sins, so too will he judge and destroy the United States, if we don’t get our shit together. Cahn believes the 9/11 attacks and the Great Recession were part of God’s warning to us to straighten up or else:

Before God judges a nation, He sends warning. But America, like Israel, has not responded with repentance, but with defiance.

Part of our national defiance was that election of 2012. The voters defiantly and devilishly elected Barack Obama president for a second term. And according to Cahn, they otta notta done that. God was not pleased because Obama supported a woman’s right to choose, a right that some see as a usurpation of God’s authority to wantonly terminate pregnancies himself. And God was not pleased either, according to Cahn, when the Supreme Court legalized gay marriage in 2015 and Obama celebrated by lighting up the White’s House in a rainbow of colors. Cahn said:

Mr. President, by what authority did you take the sacred colors of God’s covenant, the colors of His throne, and the sign of His mercy in the face of judgment and turn them against the purposes of God and the Word of God on which you swore your oath?

Cahn wasn’t finished:

The city on the hill has grown darkened. It has forgotten the God of its foundation. The temples of its culture have been expunged of His presence and are now filled with idols in His place. It’s forgotten the warning that was embedded in the vision of the city on the hill. For it was also written and prophesied, “If our hearts shall turn away so we will not obey, but shall be seduced and worship other gods, our pleasures and our profits, and serve them, we shall surely perish.” In other words, we will stand at the precipice of judgment.

Now, you might think that only fringy people like Pat Robertson, Ray Comfort, Glenn Beck, and the folks at World Nut Daily buy into this embarrassing nonsense. Nope. Cahn said back in 2013:

The Harbinger is reaching Capitol Hill and we have gotten word that about fifteen Senators and members of Congress are reading The Harbinger, they are reading the book.

Jesus. Allah. Buddha. Say it ain’t so.

In any case, fast forward to today. Cahn has written another book. This one is called The Paradigm: The Ancient Blueprint That Holds the Mystery of Our Times. Yep. This book piggybacks on the last one, but with more details about who is who. The Amazon summary of the book includes this:

Prepare to be stunned, shocked, illuminated, and amazed. The Paradigm will reveal secrets and mysteries taking place all around you and show you what you never could have imagined.

Yes, you never could have imagined, for instance, that Bill and Hillary Clinton are actually in the Bible. But there they are, albeit in disguise. And so is Barack Obama. And, you might have guessed, so is Donald Tr-mp.

I shit you not.

Bill Clinton is King Ahab, the seventh monarch of Israel, who was, you might suspect, a bad hombre. Ahab brought wicked idolatry to the Israelites through the agency of his nasty little wife, Jezebel. Of course! Hillary is, Kahn says, our very own Jezebel, who may not have plotted to give pagan gods like Baal official status in God’s holy land, but did turn America into a New Age paradise, complete with seances that, of course, didn’t really happen. Again, I shit you not.

isaiah and obama 2Next up is Barack Obama. His biblical role is Joram, the son of, uh, King Ahab and Jezebel (you figure that out). Joram also became King of Israel. According to Kahn, Joram had “a continuous hostility to God,” you know, just like Obama!

Okay. We’re just now getting to the good part. Enter the “warrior.” Or, the WARRIOR! That would obviously be none other than Mr. Two Corinthians himself, Donald J. Tr-mp, playing the part of Jehu, yet another king of Israel. Kahn describes the man God raised up:

He’s a warrior. He’s not even a politician…He’s a warrior. He’s a fighter. He fights with everybody…He’s zealous. He is not gentle at all. He is coarse. He’s a fighter. He’s fighting everybody and he begins this race to the throne…and the Bible describes the race to the throne as, the word is “crazy.” They said he was crazy. He drives crazy. The man drives furiously. It’s crazy. But he gets to the throne. Even though it’s a crazy race, he gets to the throne…The zeal is a crazy zeal, but he’s used by God, and he’s the most unlikely person.

Now, at this point Kahn gets to the denouement. He says Jehu the Tr-mper has “a showdown against the former queen,” Jezebel:

So, you have the former queen, and you have Hillary Clinton. You have the warrior, you have Donald Tr-mp.

Well, what did Tr-mp do to Hillary Clinton? Naturally, Kahn says, against the odds and the pollsters, he beat her in the last election:

So, he wins. He now heads to the capitol city. Jehu heads to the capitol city. Now, why does he head to the capitol city? To drain the swamp.

Once more, I shit you not. Kahn doesn’t tell us whether Jehu hired a bunch of Goldman Sachs swampers to drain the biblical swamp, but that’s an aside to this theological farce.

Perhaps now would be a good time to explain what the Bible says actually (allegedly actually) happened at the hands of Jehu. First, Jehu killed Obama, I mean Joram. Then he turned to Jezebel, I mean Hillary. Wikipedia has a nice summary of her gruesome fate at the hands of the Old Testament Tr-mp:

Knowing that he was coming, Jezebel put on make-up and a formal wig with adornments and looked out a window…Jehu ordered Jezebel’s servants to throw her from the window. Her blood splashed on the wall and horses, and Jehu’s horse trampled her corpse. He entered the palace where, after he ate and drank, he ordered Jezebel’s body to be taken for burial. His servants discovered only her skull, her feet, and the palms of her hands—her flesh had been eaten by stray dogs, just as the prophet Elijah had prophesied.

Compared to that fate, Hillary’s defeat last year doesn’t seem so bad now does it? The threats to “lock her up” seem preferable to being defenestrated, trampled in the street, and turned into Purina Dog Chow at the urging of a prophet of a very pissed off God. I wonder why I didn’t learn that story in Sunday School? Political correctness?

Weirdly, all of that drama takes us to Jerusalem and Tr-mp’s decision to, eventually, put our embassy there and, possibly, bring on the Last Days, the End Times, or maybe, the final installment of The Hunger Games.

TImage result for jerusalemhe ancient history of Jerusalem is as murky as it could be. No need to go deep into the complex of competing claims and the bloody history of the place. True-believing Jews believe King David conquered the city 3000 years ago and made it theirs. Bible-thumping Christians believe Jesus was buried there, until he wasn’t. Virgin-loving Muslims believe Muhammad was beamed up to, well, the Land of Virgins. The bottom line is this: the decision to move the embassy was designed to appease people like Jonathan Cahn and other wild-eyed evangelicals (and some equally wild-eyed Orthodox Jews) who believe Tr-mp is anointed by God to be his divine instrument, apparently a fitful fiddler fiddling with the fate of all of us. Speaking with once disgraced and still disgraceful televangelist Jim Bakker, Cahn said:

Jerusalem is the center of biblical prophecy, everything is centering on it, that’s the end game, that’s the final goal—Jerusalem.

Why? Because unless the “Jews return to Israel…and rebuild the third Temple of Solomon on the hilltop the Jews call the Temple Mount and Muslims call the Noble Sanctuary,” Jesus ain’t coming back anytime soon and there won’t be any End Times in which countless numbers of folks will be slaughtered. Thus, in order to hasten his return and start the carnage, shit has to start happening. And what better way to make shit happen than bringing in a shit storm named Tr-mp?

Jesus is supposed to “return to Jerusalem to rule the world from his throne on the Temple Mount,” says Pastor Mike Bickle, once associated with former Texas governor Rick Oops Perry, who is now Secretary of the Department of an Agency to be Remembered Later. I personally could think of better digs than the Temple Mount from which to rule the world, like a white sand beach in the tropics, but then I didn’t write the Bible.

In any case, the indispensable Right Wing Watch informs us:

Over the past decade in particular, Religious Right political gatherings frequently included Israeli flags, the blowing of shofars, and harsh denunciations of the Obama administration for supposedly having betrayed Israel. Religious Right leaders and allied politicians who have warned that God would send natural disasters and otherwise punish the U.S. for insufficiently supporting Israel or pressuring it to give up land in a peace deal include Liberty Counsel’s Mat Staver, “historian” and political operative David Barton and Texas Republican Rep. Louie Gohmert.

During the presidential campaign, some of Trump’s boosters declared that he was anointed by God, like the biblical Persian King Cyrus, who had freed Jews in his kingdom to return to Jerusalem. Likud Knesset member Yehuda Glick, who came to D.C. for Trump’s inauguration, which he called a “miracle,” said that if Trump moved the embassy, he would be “the latter-day Cyrus!” At a POTUS Shield gathering in March, a speaker suggested that if Trump fully embraced Israel, he could be famous for thousands of years just like Cyrus. And this week, after the policy change, Christian Zionist leader John Hagee returned to that theme, saying that Trump “will be remembered for thousands of years.”

Ah, Pastor John Hagee. When you see or hear his name, you know more crezzy shit is coming, like telling Tr-mp that people will remember him thousands of years from now. Personally, I wouldn’t want to live in a distant time and place where the folks had nothing better to do than remember a man whose pubescent intellect pokes through the cable glory hole every morning and is masturbated by the IQ assassins on Fox & Friends. But that’s just me.

Just yesterday Hagee, a big-time televangelist with a big-ass church in San Antonio, was on CBN News bragging a little bit:

What President Trump is doing is one of the most courageous political things that’s been done in Washington in a long time…President Trump, when I spoke to him in the White House about this several weeks ago, he said this very emphatically. He said, ‘Other presidents have failed you, but I will not disappoint the Christian community in this issue. I will stand with Israel, and we will at some point in time, move the embassy.”

Now that we know Hagee has Tr-mp’s itching ear, it’s time to get really technical and talk about the Jubilee, found in the OT. Hagee said he told Tr-mp,

that God measures everything in modules of 50 years. And I said this is a principle that’s carried out in Leviticus, the 25th chapter. I said, “If you look at 1917, it was a Jubilee Year, and the Balfour Amendment came, and then in 50 years, it was 1967, and Jerusalem was reconnected to Israel, And you add 50 to 1967, and you’re in 2017.” I said, “This is the year to move the embassy and make that declaration because it is a biblical timing of absolute precision.” Thank God, he’s going to do exactly that.

So, at the word of a grifting televangelist who is using a Bronze Age book as his guide, Tr-mp decides to make God’s train to Annihilation Station run on time. Ok. But all this complicated and self-serving ciphering has made me dizzy. But I’m not as dizzy as Pat Robertson’s son, Gordon, who said:

I believe at this point in time, Israel is God’s stopwatch for everything that happens to every nation, including America, from now until the Rapture of the Church and beyond.

Rapture? Did someone say rapture? Yippee! It’s about time we got to some madness made in America! The rapture is distinctively a home turf invention, an interpretation of scripture arising in the early third of the 19th century, with a man named John Nelson Darby doing the heavy lifting. According to End Time Ministries, the rapture is a magical escape plan:

Image result for raptureAt the Second Coming of Jesus Christ, all born again Christians will be caught up in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18). At the sound of the “last trumpet,” the dead who were born again during their lifetime will be resurrected from the dead. At the same time, those who are born again and still alive on earth will be transformed instantly, from mortal beings to immortal beings. Romans 8:11 tells us that our mortal bodies will be made alive if we have God’s spirit living in us.

These flying Christians will, no doubt, cause quite a traffic jam, both up there and down here. But the rapture theory, the version of it that sees Christians rescued before all the bloody fun starts, is an important part of the whole nightmare. It allows many evangelicals to talk tough about the future, believing they will be hanging out at the Cloud Nine Sports Bar when the Last Game, the Super Bowl of Wrath, comes on.

One popular evangelical site says of that awful day:

The Final Holocaust is so terrifying, so deadly, so inescapable that God personally steps in to stop it lest not one human be left alive!

Ah! What a merciful monster! Praise be to him for that compassionate gesture!

The author goes on with his rapturous description:

In the Great Tribulation 2 ½ million die every day for 42 months. In Auschwitz less than a thousand died each day. That means 2500x as many people die every day. Or to put it in Auschwitz terms—the number of people that died every day at Auschwitz will die every 30 seconds in the Great Tribulation! Or in other terms living on earth will be like living in an Auschwitz death camp—and in death toll there will be the equivalent of an Auschwitz Holocaust twice a day for 42 months!

Oh, but that’s only halftime! There’s more:

One out of every two people will die during the Tribulation (see Rev. 6:8 and onward), some through the ravages of war, others by starvation, and amazingly many others by the ‘beasts of the earth’. So, whether by death that comes instantly and thus less dreaded or a slow and painful death that is lingering and agonizing-50 percent of all people will die. The world’s population was 6,415,574,176 yesterday, so that means at least 3,207,500,000 will die.

PictureAll of our trees, “everything green will be destroyed,” these strange Christians say. The sun and moon will grow dark, “as  nature goes into revolt.” Hell will let loose “hordes of locusts, the size of horses,” which “will be allowed to sting men like scorpions.” These “men will beg God to let them die but they will not die,” says the defender of the all-merciful Almighty.

One must keep in mind that these weird true-believers are actually looking for ways to speed up this scenario. Sometimes they get a little giddy contemplating the possibilities. The Christian Broadcasting Network’s Sr. International Correspondent, Gary Lane, called Tr-mp’s decision a “bold step” and “very historic.” Then he told us of its biblical implications:

Related imageFor prophecy, many Christians believe that those steps will lead to a highway from Egypt through Syria, from Cairo to Demascus and through Jordan and Israel. It would be almost like a triangle there. The other significant thing is it may be setting the stage for the biblical battle of Gog and Magog—not the End Times as far as Armageddon is concerned, but the first steps before Armageddon….Very historic times and I think we’re going to see the best is yet to come.

Yikes. Tone it down, big fella. Your inner Tr-mp is showing.

All of this you can escape, presumably, if you’ll just send a seed-faith gift (start with $100; don’t try to cheap your way into heaven!) to the first telepreacher you see (or if you can’t find one, send the dough to me; I’ll make sure the Lord gets it). Oh, and don’t forget to vote for Roy Moore on Tuesday! The WARRIOR Donald Jehu Tr-mp needs him for his swamp-cleaning agenda in D.C.!

Needless to say, this is all nuts. But the gullible don’t think so. And the gullible vote. That is why we had the election of Tr-mp and why we are on the eve of possibly sending a theocrat in Alabama, with a penchant for pedophilia, to Washington D.C. The same people who believe in Bible prophecy, who believe when the time is right that an angry and vengeful God will send horse-size locusts to sting us, kill millions upon millions of us, make rivers overflow with our blood—just after he teleports born-again Christians into bliss—these same folks, at least many of them, believe that all of Tr-mp’s and Moore’s female accusers are lying, as part of a plot to thwart God’s redemptive plan. Whew.

Image result for evangelical vote 2016While it is true that an overwhelming number of evangelicals—we’re talking about mostly white folks here—voted for Tr-mp, most of them didn’t do so because they expected Tr-mp to move our embassy to Jerusalem and hasten The End. There were many different reasons for their vote. But cultural grievances and fear—fear of dying, fear of God’s wrath, fear of facing hell—is always mixed in the electoral soup. The preachers who bank (literally) on these grievances and fear are out in full force these days. Their black-and-white sermons and public pronouncements; their insistence that Christian America is under an unholy threat, both from within and without; their framing politics as a good-versus-evil zero-sum game, has a profound effect, especially when the message is reinforced on Fox “News” and on talk radio and online. After all, if it weren’t for white evangelicals, Tr-mp would likely be in Moscow right now interviewing pee-shooting hookers for jobs at his yet-to-be-completed hotel there.

As for the Roy Moore-Doug Jones race ending tomorrow, a Pew study indicates that about one-half—one-half!—of Alabamians are white evangelicals. These folks are frequently bombarded with religious propaganda emanating from some very strange teachers. It is no wonder that Tr-mp seems like a persecuted hero to them, or that a gun-toting, teen-loving theocrat gets the benefit of their divinely derived doubt. As I said, that propaganda is rooted in grievance and fear, powerful motivators to believe the unbelievable—and powerful motivators to vote.

From the start I believed that the Democrat Doug Jones had no better than a two in ten chance to win in Alabama. Perhaps his odds are better now. Perhaps he will win, but I still have my serious doubts. I hope I’m wrong and people in Alabama surprise me. But no matter what happens tomorrow, this is bigger than just this one race. We still have the spooky specter of an evangelical-fueled Tr-mpism running and ruining the country, possibly the world.

The truth is that Tr-mp is using evangelicals, and evangelicals, mostly white, are using Tr-mp. He needs their votes and they need his judicial appointments, who will stop reproductive rights and gay marriage, two issues that to these zealots demonstrate our decadence even more than the success of mommy porn a few years ago. But there are some freakish evangelical extremists who are also looking to accelerate what they believe is taking way too long to actualize (for God’s sake, Hal Lindsey has been preaching this the-end-is-near hokum for almost 50 years and still going): a series of events involving Israel and her geographical and spiritual enemies that will lead to unspeakable destruction and the death of countless people—particularly and oddly, countless numbers of Jews.

So, wsimulated image of rapturee have Tr-mp’s plan to move our embassy to Jerusalem, seen by evangelicals as a pleasure-enhancing, Israel-affirming act that will, they believe, lead to the outpouring of God’s wrath on, of all people, the people of Israel. If Fifty Shades of Grey represented cultural degeneracy related to the boundaries of pain and pleasure,” surely this strange evangelical eschatology represents something much, much worse. Because there is something disturbingly sadistic about people championing a foreign policy that they believe culminates in inexpressible suffering, while those raptured rapturous champions watch it all from the clouds.

_________________________________________________

For your education or for your pleasure, your choice, I am posting two videos. The first one is the source of many of the quotes I used from Rabbi Jonathan Cahn. You really should watch the entire presentation, which has been viewed 1.2 million times. Marvel at the fast talk, the dreadful hermeneutics and theology, the slick sales pitch. And look at that audience, as the light goes off in their heads.

The second video is from this past weekend. It features two of my favorite peeps, Joy Reid and Frank Schaeffer, discussing the whole End Times nonsense. Enjoy!

Justice For Franken?

“I of all people am aware that there is some irony in the fact that I am leaving while a man who has bragged on tape about his history of sexual assault sits in the Oval Office and a man who has repeatedly preyed on young girls campaigns for the Senate with the full support of his party.”

—Al Franken, December 7, 2017

I have followed Al Franken’s political career closely. I have read his books. I wanted him to run for president. Now, he’s on his way out of politics. And it was his Democratic colleagues who insisted on it. Were they right in doing so? Was justice served in Franken’s case?

The most basic definition of justice is “fairness.” But what is fair and unfair in this world is, ultimately, left for people to judge. In a criminal or civil trial, a judge or jury theoretically metes out justice, even though all of us can point to cases in which we believe justice was not served by a particular verdict. Thus, the achievement of courtroom justice—where an objective law is supposed to be applied to the subjective circumstances—is to some extent in the eye of the beholder. And, as beholders, our eyes are cloudy with all kinds of experiences that cause us to evaluate a set of facts very differently.

Outside the courtroom—where we don’t have objective laws to guide us and where the rules of evidence are not codified—the concept of justice is even murkier. In such a lawless and ruleless domain, the clouds in our eyes matter even more. Rather than applying a statute to a set of facts, we are left with applying our own sense of right and wrong to what may or may not be facts. And because we all acquire our personal sense of right and wrong and our perception of reality in different ways, through different experiences, naturally our judgments will frequently vary.

In the case of Al Franken, anyone could tell by listening to his speech on the Senate floor today that he does not believe he has been dealt with justly:

A couple months ago I felt that we had entered an important moment in the history of this country. We were finally beginning to listen to women about the ways in which men’s actions affect them. The moment was long overdue. I was excited for that conversation and hopeful that it would result in real change that made life better for women all across the country and in every part of our society. Then the conversation turned to me.

Over the last few weeks, a number of women have come forward to talk about how they felt my actions had affected them. I was, I was shocked. I was upset. But in responding to their claims I also wanted to be respectful of that broader conversation, because all women deserve to be heard and their experiences taken seriously.

I think that was the right thing to do. I also think it gave some people the false impression that I was admitting to doing things that in fact I haven’t done. Some of the allegations against me are simply not true. Others I remember very differently. I said at the outset that the ethics committee was the right venue for these allegations to be heard and investigated and evaluated on their merits. That I was prepared to cooperate fully and that I was confident in the outcome.

You know an important part of the conversation we’ve been having last few months has been about how men abused their power and privilege to hurt women. I am proud that during my time in the Senate I have used my power to be a champion of women and that I have earned a reputation as someone who respects the women I work alongside everyday. I know there’s been a very different picture of me painted over the last few weeks, but I know who I really am.

Serving in the United States Senate has been the great honor of my life. I know in my heart that nothing I have done as a senator — nothing — has brought dishonor on this institution, and I am confident that the ethics committee would agree.

Nevertheless, today I am announcing that in the coming weeks I will be resigning as a member of the United States Senate.

“Nevertheless.” Clearly Franken doesn’t believe justice-as-fairness is being done in his case. But just as clearly, many of his Democratic colleagues, many of them his friends, disagree. Some of them offered reasons, thoughtful reasons, for their very public calls for Franken to resign. Senator Tammy Duckworth said she was “deeply disappointed” by his behavior. She thanked “all those across America who have come forward to share their stories,” and said “their courage and strength in driving this long-overdue national conversation is awe-inspiring.”

My senator, Claire McCaskill, simply tweeted at 10:34 yesterday morning: “Al Franken should resign.” That was it. A spokesman for her said she would not offer any other comment beyond what she had said previously, after the allegations first surfaced.

It was just about a month ago when Franken appeared with McCaskill in St. Louis at the annual Truman Dinner fundraiser for the Missouri Democratic Party. Franken was the featured speaker. The St. Louis Post Dispatch wrote:

Much of Franken’s speech was spent playing up McCaskill’s ability to work across the aisle with Republicans. He said she has the crucial element in the Senate of being “tough without being a jerk.”

I suppose McCaskill’s “Al Franken should resign” tweet was an example of toughness. Whether it was “without being a jerk,” I will leave up to you. But my response to her tweet went in another direction, having to do with her recent meeting with Tr-mp:

Ok, then. But now we, as your Missouri supporters, expect you to never go to the Tr-mp White House again and meet with (*normalize*) the self-admitted sexual predator who lives there. Deal?

Image result for mccaskill sits beside trumpObviously McCaskill did not respond. She is, apparently, out of responses on the Franken matter. But the point stands: If McCaskill doesn’t want Al Franken to stay in the Senate and conduct business there, that’s her judgment. But justice—my concept of it anyway— demands that she refuse to do business with Tr-mp, who admitted his sexual predation on a bus, just before he met a Hollywood star. Will McCaskill ever go to the White’s House and meet with Tr-mp again? The last time she did she was seated right next to him. I didn’t see her refuse to take that seat. I haven’t heard her call for his resignation. Consistency demands it now.

Since most of the Senate Democrats, including Bernie Sanders, are on record asking for Franken’s resignation, they are all obliged to refuse to deal with Tr-mp, and they are all obliged to ask for his resignation. Will they? Will they stop meeting with him? Will each of them ask for his resignation?

Here is what Bernie Sanders tweeted out this morning:

We have a president who acknowledged on tape that he assaulted women. I would hope that he pays attention to what’s going on and think about resigning.

Bernie hopes Tr-mp will pay attention. He hopes he will think about resigning. He said the same thing on CBS this morning, and that statement leaves one wondering just what Bernie has been doing for the last couple of years. We know, and Bernie knows, Tr-mp is paying attention. And we know, and Bernie knows, Tr-mp isn’t thinking about resigning. What is unknown is whether Bernie and the Democrats will continue to deal with the sexual predator in the White’s House, will continue to normalize his administration.

Now that our side has tried, convicted, and pronounced sentence on one of our own, whether it was fair or not, it is past time that they stop engaging a man who has no business holding the once-high office he holds. If our side doesn’t want to deal with Senator Al Franken, they damn sure should not deal with Tr-mp, who has admitted to doing much worse. Yet, today Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer—who as Minority Leader called on Franken to resign—are in fact meeting with him. We, as Democrats, should demand this double-standard come to an end.

Finally, back to the concept of justice. Despite his obvious reluctance to believe justice-as-fairness was done in his case, Franken is doing the right thing, the just thing, by resigning. There is a utilitarian concept of justice that says a just result is one that ends with the best possible consequences. In Franken’s case, without the support of his colleagues, he cannot serve his constituents as well as he did before. He knows that. He also knows he will continue to be a diversion and, thus, distract from what he called today “the proud legacy of progressive advocacy” of which he has been a part. So, despite his other failings, Franken deserves credit for not trying to fight this one out, as so many lesser politicians have done and are doing. His constituents should thank him and his colleagues should thank him.

And all Democrats should use this moment as a dedication to, or rededication to, the vital #Never-Tr-mp resistance movement.

Jeff Flake And My Apology

Published on December 5, 2017, at 12:27pm

On October 24 of this year, I made a terrible mistake. I posted the text, with my praise, of Republican Senator Jeff Flake’s speech on the Senate floor that outlined the “moral treason” of the Republican Party. Here’s part of what I wrote and the part I am most ashamed of:

If I could have, at the moment those old words came through my television, I would have put my liberal Democrat arms around conservative Republican Jeff Flake and given him a big American hug. As I said, he will disappoint, but today we shared something that we Americans cannot afford to lose, but are fast losing—and may be unable to save.

Jeff Flake.jpgThis is a blog of repentance. Thus, I repent. I am sorry for saying that. I am sorry for feeling it. I am sorry I am such a terrible judge of people. I truly thought there was some glimmer of principle behind what Jeff Flake said that day. There wasn’t.

Just a few minutes ago I turned on my television and saw Flake sitting right next to Tr-mp during a luncheon to discuss, among other things, the harmful GOP tax fraud bill making its way through Congress. Flake sat right next to Tr-mp. Right next to him. Right next to him when he endorsed the pedophile from Alabama. Flake couldn’t have been closer unless he sat on Tr-mp’s lap.

Which is where he now belongs.

All that Flake previously said, about not normalizing “the regular and casual undermining of our democratic norms and ideals,” about not “meekly” accepting “the daily sundering of our country,” is as worthless as a degree from Tr-mp University, or a Sunday School lesson from Roy Moore. Flake said in October,

Without fear of the consequences, and without consideration of the rules of what is politically safe or palatable, we must stop pretending that the degradation of our politics and the conduct of some in our executive branch are normal. They are not normal.

Dear Mr. Flake: When you sit next to Tr-mp, when you sit next to him while he is telling lie after lie, while he is endorsing a pedophile, while he speaks of “unity,” you are making him and his lies normal. I don’t care why you do it. You, Jeff Flake, are making it normal. You said in October:

It is often said that children are watching. Well, they are. And what are we going to do about that? When the next generation asks us, Why didn’t you do something? Why didn’t you speak up? — what are we going to say?

You, Mr. Flake, will have to answer to that next generation, to your kids and grandkids. What are you going to say? How are you going to explain why you sat next to such a degenerate man, such a man whose behavior you said is “reckless, outrageous, and undignified,” as well as “dangerous to a democracy”? What are you going to say? That you sat there normalizing such a man in order to give tax cuts to wealthy donors? Is that what you will say? That you allowed yourself to be used as a prop in the normalization of indecency, or eagerly volunteered for the job, in order to rid the country of the estate tax?

Huh?

Senator Flake, you may as well go ahead and endorse Roy Moore now and get it over with. There’s no sense in pretending any more. You have made a fool of yourself.

And made a fool out of a lowly liberal blogger here in Joplin. Thanks a lot.

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