Archive for category Politics

Taking one for the Team

I’ve always admired Al Franken and today was no exception.  His speech on the Senate floor today was one I’ll remember for a long time.  He owned up to making women feel uncomfortable and with the timing of the #MeToo movement, there just isn’t any room for debate about his intent versus how it was received.

Note that we’re not talking about adultery here, or anything close really.  As a former comedian he probably crossed some lines he shouldn’t have and now regrets it.  But the point is, he’s owning up to it and now realizes this is not the time for an investigation.  In fact, it’s an opportunity.  Because while the Democrats are in the midst of cleaning house — calling for the ouster of Conyers and Franken, the Republicans are writing checks in support of an accused child molester and somehow have no issue with working hand in glove with the pussy-grabber in chief.  It’s important to notice the omission of the word “alleged” along with the words pussy-grabber in chief.  There’s a tape of it. 

This gives Democrats the moral high ground on this issue and I think that’s important.  Minnesota will elect another Senator and be fine.  By taking one for the team, Franken took the whole what-about-ism debate off the table.  The only question on the table now is how Republicans deal with their own house, and we’ve already seen the strategy.  When accused, double down – it’ll be perceived as a show of strength.

Not this time however.  I’m anxious to see the numbers when November 2018 rolls around, but Republicans are going to do terrible with women, Gen Xers, and Millennials.  And it will be well deserved.

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The Political Jesus

I mentioned in a previous post that I had signed up for a 2 day seminar on The Political Jesus, which was held November 10th and 11th.  An article in The Times piqued my interest and after checking it out a little bit, I figured it might be an interesting endeavor.

Motivation

Since on a good day, this blog has about 3 followers, and I’d guess over half my Facebook friends are pretty sick of my political posts and have me on ignore, one might wonder why I bother.  Well, sometimes I do too.  But I think the answer is, it’s really for me, not you.  I do this for myself because it’s a part of who I am.  Given my knowledge in this area (hint: about as dumb as it gets) I do not seek to preach about anything.  Far from it.  I simply find it interesting.  I have an innate curiosity.  If you do as well, feel free to read on.  If not, by all means go do something else.

There’s a fair amount of evidence in this blog and on Facebook that suggest I may have an ax to grind with Republicans.  Okay, I’ll own that one.  The same is not true of Christians however.  I have no ax to grind with anyone’s faith practice.  We may differ on what works for us as that’s a very personal, individual, and experiential thing.   But I like to think I’m open-minded enough to not scoff at they way in which people practice a faith.  As far as I’m concerned, knock yourself out.  There might be one exception to this.  I’ll admit to frustration with those who are quick to espouse strong opinions combined with being not very well-informed.  I’ve run into a few people like that, but the majority of people I know and love are intelligent people doing what feels right for them, and I couldn’t be happier about that.

It’s necessary to point this out as this particular seminar combines the two things you’re not supposed to bring up at a dinner party: politics and religion.

Influences

I think everyone runs into a few people in their life who are highly influential.  Impact players is how I think of them.  Sometimes I make a list of the top 5 people who have influenced my life in one way or another.  It’s an interesting exercise.  The same can be true of authors/books.  Sometimes you read something that gives you that aha moment that lasts.  Two of mine are David Aldrich – author of www.snohomishobserver.com, and Karen Armstrong – author of “A History of God

It was hard not to be in awe of just how brilliant Dave was.  We used to have a weekly breakfast with a group of guys for the sole purpose of discussing the things you’re not supposed to talk about in a social settings: religion and politics.  Absolutely fascinating.

Dave was a modern-day social justice warrior in every sense of the word.  He led protests, blogged in favor of the little guy, and questioned authority at every turn.  He paid a pretty steep price at times for living by his ideals.  He had been at times, very successful in business, but more often than not, his insistence in standing by his principles cost him in the private sector.   At a young age he was ousted from Pemco for attempting to organize a union.  He believed it was the right thing to do and did until his dying day.  But he didn’t care about being rich.  He cared about doing the right thing.  He was a rare breed.

A History of God gave me an appreciation of highly educated people who have done deep dives on the subject of religion in attempts to tie it all together.  Judaism, Christianity, and Islam have a common denominator – each faith traces its roots back to Abraham.

Admittedly, much of what Armstrong writes is over my head.  I concluded her target audience must be mostly other well-educated historians.  But I definitely had some useful takeaways.

As an example, when everything is put into the context of a timeline, it’s interesting to find out that as a people, we humans transitioned back and forth a few times between the notion of God in the plural form to monotheism up until about 680 CE.  I grew up thinking that pretty much monotheism was settled matter except for maybe during the time of cavemen.

Additionally Armstrong challenges us to go through the exercise of reconciling our religious and political beliefs.  Trust me, this is not an easy exercise, but it’s a worthy one.

Speaking of timelines, one other thing I hadn’t considered until reading Armstrong – the books of the bible were written by a collection of authors between 800 BC and 110 CE.  That’s 910 years.  So there are numerous books that make up what people refer to as “the infallible word of God” written by dozens of authors with vastly different perspectives and agendas.  I’ve always felt that explains a lot.  I’m 57 years old and the world is a lot different now that it was in 1960.  910 years is an incredibly long time.   It then becomes incumbent upon me to put this little factoid into perspective as I move ahead with everything else I learn.

The Presenters

Reading the bios of the presenters intrigued me as I had already discovered that as a self-professed dumb person, it’s interesting to hang out with intelligent people when you can.

The detailed bios of Arthur J. Dewey and Celine Little can be seen here.

Just having a Ph.D. doesn’t make you always right.  I get that.  One has to be careful about the sources of information we choose to learn from.  It’s a good idea to try to sniff out any underlying motivation someone might have for the particular message they are sending.  Is it financial?  Is it to try to recruit?  Is it to espouse conspiracy theories and gain followers?  Why are you here anyway?

I was pretty happy with the end result in that the whole time I felt like both presenters were in the education business.  Both had written books and yes, they were for sale but less than $20.

Admittedly there were times when I was a little lost just because I’m not familiar enough with the players in history to keep up with the story.  But you gotta start somewhere.

Context is Important

We spent Friday night learning about the social and economic context of the early followers of Jesus from the first century.   Enter: The Roman Empire.

A full discussion on the Roman Empire in the early centuries CE is both out of scope for a blog post and also, beyond my ability to articulate anything insightful because I honestly don’t know anything insightful.  It’s not been a strong area of study for me at any point in my academic career.  But I can share a few takeaways.  Here’s what I learned:

  • The Roman Empire was a brutal regime
    • If you’ve seen Gladiator or The Borgias, which would have been several centuries later, you would have an understanding of how brutal the Emperors were in constructing the Roman Empire.
  • The Jewish-Roman War of 66 – 70 CE was particularly brutal
    • Over 1M people killed.  100,000 enslaved.
    • To the victors belong the spoils.
      • The Roman Colosseum was one artifact built with the spoils 70 – 80 CE
    • Public humiliation was a big part of it, even after the war was over
      • Coins that depicted Romans as the masters and Jews as the slaves
  • These facts are important for centuries later to give context to the intense anger between the Romans and the Jews

Dyadics and the Social Pyramid

In the graphic below, the top-tier of Senators and Administrators represents 5% of the population.  The Nobles, Patricians and wealthy Plebeians represent 10%.  The remaining 85% of the population are what Dewey referred to as the Dyadic’s – lesser human beings in more of a servitude role.  A simpler way to think of it is, the top 15% considered themselves worthy of the gifts they received.  The bottom 85% were there to serve the top 15% – or else.

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Additionally the Dyadic’s in general had the following characteristics

  • My identity is found in others’ eyes
  • My social group defines me
  • Change requires going beyond my means
  • If one does attempt to change out of this group, they are labeled
  • To venture out of the Dyadic group with your thought process is rebellion

Lastly, for the pyramid scheme to hold, the bottom 85% needed to believe they belonged there.  The upper echelon addressed this issue though (in large part), fear.

There are artifacts that when closely studied by historians depict the notion that the culture of the Roman Empire was such that the closer you were to the top of the social pyramid, the closer you were to God.   If you were a slave, by definition you were out of favor with God.  This is important for later when the subject of resistance comes into play.

Early Resistance

Now that we have a little bit of context around the timeline and the relationship between the Romans and the Jews, it’ll make more sense to discuss the life of Jesus, the agitator in chief.

First of all, as we all know from history, Jesus was a Jew.  Right off the bat he’s not in good standing with the Roman Empire.

There are many examples of Jesus’ controversial teachings throughout the many books of the Bible that illustrate why he might be out of favor with Rome, so I won’t reiterate what you probably already know.  The short version is, the message that there was a greater kingdom than Rome, and that God would provide for its poorest members (which was completely counter to the thought process espoused by the Roman Empire), were offenses that were by themselves punishable by death.  To top it off, his disciples made the claim that he was the son of God.  This was the final straw that put the issue on the table for Pilot to have to deal with.   Nothing will threaten the existence of the Roman Empire, period.

The teachings of Jesus by themselves were the earliest form of Christian resistance.  Much of what he did were subtle attempts to stick it to the Empire in one way or another.  The important part is, he did it by messing with peoples’ heads.  Teaching the Dyadics to reach outside their comfort zone and think in completely different terms.

The Crucifixion

As mentioned earlier, the Roman Empire dealt with its threats through intimidation and fear.  They were not the original inventors of crucifixion (the Persians and Macedonians practiced it before the Romans did), yet they perfected it.

Tens of thousands of people were crucified by the Roman Empire.  Dewey described it as “the ultimate act of being shamed into oblivion.”  An important piece of this message is that not only were you subject to a horrific death – sometimes it took multiple days for death to actually occur – you were also subject to being forgotten.  This was part of the deal.  It was also punishable by the empire to talk about or otherwise make martyrs of anyone who was crucified.  This is important later on when the narrative is around resistance by Christians of the late first, and early second centuries.

Also worth noting with respect to being forgotten into oblivion, Dewey mentioned that there are only 2 known artifacts in history that depict the crucifixion before 400 CE.  That’s a full 370 years after the death of Jesus.

That seems incredibly odd to me and suggests that the fear tactics of the Romans to obliterate the existence of those crucified out of the memories of everyone were in part successful.

In the mean time, the books of the New Testament were written as well as many others, so obviously he was not forgotten.

Controversial Assertion

One problem with going back over 2,000 years in time is that there’s not a lot of hard evidence to support some of the assertions that were made.

According to Dewey, it’s not clear that Jesus ever predicted his own death.  This claim is asserted in the gospel of Mark (approx. 70 CE, or about 40 years after Jesus’ death).

The Next Wave of Resistance

As mentioned earlier, the Jewish-Roman War from 66 – 70 CE was particularly brutal.  Putting this time period into perspective, it was about 40 years after the death of Jesus.  If my limited understanding is correct, the last books included in the canonical Bible were completed around 110 CE.

The writers of the Gospels and other New Testament books followed in Jesus’ path of resistance in that they were committed to a storyline that was in absolute defiance of the Roman Empire.

Just the act of remembering someone who was crucified was a poke in the eye. The New Testament authors, some of them martyrs for having taken the ultimate risk in tweaking the beak of the Roman Empire to support the narrative of this incredible man whom they were determined would NOT be forgotten in history, was the ultimate form of resistance.

  • The poor shall inherit the earth.
  • There is a kingdom greater than the Roman Empire
  • Paul even preached an apocalyptic message in his alternative vision

There are many other examples, but these suffice to tell the story of the risks that were taken to keep his memory alive.

The Narrative

Here’s where it gets interesting.  In my mind, 100 years is a long time to evolve a storyline.  As I mentioned earlier, spread that out amongst several different authors with competing agendas and perspectives, and you have to question whether the stories were written as ‘factual documentation’ or a storyline in support of a narrative the authors wanted to achieve.

I had felt as early as the 3rd grade that many of the stories in the Bible should not be taken literally, but rather, the purpose was to illustrate a point. Jonah and the whale comes to mind.

Dewey confirmed this notion with examples of verses that were provably false as actual historical events, yet served a useful purpose of the authors to get their message across.  This tactic of resistance was to get inside the heads of those who held power.  Creating a narrative that threatened that power was effective, and given the inability to put forth any kind of physical fight against the Empire, about the only tool they had.

There are numerous examples of this, but the ones we talked about were the story of the Good Samaritan, and the example of how it would be easier for a rich man to pass through the eye of a needle than to get into the kingdom of heaven (I’m probably misquoting that a bit).  The Good Samaritan example is better because it follows the recognizable pattern of Goldilocks and the 3 bears where the 3rd bowl of porridge was just right.  This pattern of storytelling dates back centuries BC.

Did they make it all up?  No, I don’t think so.  Did they invent a great deal of it?  Probably.

Yet another Controversial Assertion

According to Dewey, “the narrative around the crucifixion is predominantly fiction.”  Doesn’t mean it didn’t happen.  It just means that much of the storyline was invented by the writers to give meaning to the story and rebel against the Roman Empire.  This one will take some chewing on.

Constantine the Great

(Here’s where out of ignorance I have to hand-wave and fast forward a couple of centuries).

It’s called the turning point of Christianity because after literally centuries of persecution of the early Christians, all of a sudden a Roman Empire decides to adopt the religion as the official religion of the Empire.  (Not a lot unlike how the Republicans stole God from the Democrats and courted the Evangelical voters).

In 313 CE, Constantine decriminalized Christian worship.  This is right out of the John Kerry playbook of “I was for the war in Iraq before I was against it.”

In any case, the irony here is off the charts.  The very empire that did everything they could to wipe Jesus off the map is now in charge of the religion.  They stole it.

There’s a ton written about Constantine the Great here.  I won’t bore you with any more of it, other than to point out the historical timeline.

Resistance Today

The question came up, as often does, about Faith vs. Works.  Dewey didn’t waste much time in answering that question.  In short, his answer was the early Christians stressed the importance of “They will know us by our deeds.”   That was what I was hoping to hear.  I get the faith part, but I’ve always felt the actions are more powerful than words or prayers for that matter.

This topic of discussion always reminds me of the various “profiles” of modern-day churches that seem to have more emphasis on one or the other.  Sometimes (and I’d say the Catholic church is a prime example of this, based on my own experience), there’s mass (no pun intended) confusion about which is more important.  You’ll see lay people, priests, nuns, bishops, cardinals… who have made social justice their main focus through works.  Under the same roof, we have the Bill Donohue’s of the world who seem to have an obsession with the 10 commandments and Catholic doctrine.  I’ve always felt screw doctrine, feed the poor.  That’s an oversimplification, but it illustrates the point.  Additionally, Catholicism includes in its roster Sean Hannity, Hugh Hewiitt, and Bill O’Reilly.  I’d really be interested to know which schools they attended because wherever it was, the entire teaching staff should be terminated.

I have nothing against the message of personal responsibility.  Just ask my kids.  They got the message.  What I have a problem with is the Darwinian approach of survival of the fittest with zero emphasis on compassion.  Exacerbated by the fact that many of the people who lack compassion were born on third base.

I also believe that Faith alone lends itself to the “Frozen Chosen” moniker that is well deserved by many.  I guess I am preaching here a bit.  I should stop.

In any case, I felt somewhat validated in my own practice of exercising resistance to the Trump Empire — and let’s not kid ourselves, that’s what it is.  I also feel like my priorities are in line with action preferred over piousness.  Far from perfect.  But at least I was able to validate my thought pattern isn’t too screwed up.

React v. Respond

So here’s the nut.  Here’s my biggest take away from the 2 day event.  Resistance is good.  Keep doing it.  Shine a light on the Empire, but maybe with a little less reckless abandon. Think things through a little bit before responding and attacking.

A lot of times, my intentions are no different from the early followers.  In a not so subtle way sometimes, I’m ‘trying to get in the heads of the upper echelon, as well as the modern-day dyadics who have drunk the cool-aid so-to-speak.  Remember, for the pyramid of the Empire to work, the lower 85% has to believe in the system.  My mission is to help a few people dis-believe in the Empire.

Twitter will be my biggest challenge.  As Dewey pointed out, Twitter is a contest to see who can get the most re-tweets by coming up with the snarkiest comment. This one will be hard for me because, well, I’m pretty adept at coming up with snark.  I’ve gotten a lot of practice over the years.  My challenge will be to slow it down a bit and think through those responses so that they are not reactionary.

Closing

The point of attending was to learn something from smart people and I feel like I accomplished that, so it was time well spent.  Writing it up helps reinforce the learning as well.  It’s not so much for anyone who might read this as it is a gift to myself.

I don’t feel like I practice enough “works” to be able call myself a social justice warrior, but it would be nice to have time to get to that point some day.  Maybe in retirement.  This job is a challenge.  In any case, whether it’s seemingly pointless tweets or blog posts or Facebook posts, I see benefit in continuing to rail against the Empire.  There’s just so much fundamentally wrong with it, it feels like being passive is not an option.  At least for me.

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Math

Today was a bit of a breakthrough day for Republicans speaking out against Donald Trump.  The latest defector is Jeff Flake from Arizona who announced he will not seek reelection in 2018, but also went on the record criticizing the president as a ‘divider’ of people and not a leader in any sense of the word.

This announcement followed Bob Corker’s recent story.  He also will not be seeking re-election and has denounced Trump as a serial liar.

Last weekend, John McCain made an appearance on The View and was asked if he was afraid of Trump.  Laughter ensued for an extended period after that question.  Of particular note though, was his comment about how the poor are at a disadvantage when it came to the draft in the 1960’s.  Poor people served.  Rich people got deferments for “bone spurs”.  Gee, I wonder who he meant by that comment.

The problem with all of this as I see it, is that Trump is terrible at math.  He’s got a 52 seat majority in the Senate and desperately wants a legislative ‘win’ he can hang his hat on (so far he has zero in 10 months).

I’m not sure why he’s so adamant about insulting the legislators in his own party when he needs their help to get his agenda moved along.  Let’s see, 52 – (Flake, McCain, Corker, Murkowski, Collins) == Oh crap, I don’t have enough votes to get this passed.

I’m thinking tax reform is doomed and it’s just as well.  The Ryan plan wants to eliminate the inheritance tax which affects earners who make over $5M a year, and pay for it off the backs of the middle class by eliminating the SALT (state and local income tax) deduction which, you guessed it, will be paid for by the middle class.

The trickle down effect of cutting the corporate rate from 35% to 20% or even 15% is a mirage in that corporations reward their officers with stock price gains.  So what do companies do with the savings from the tax cut?  They buy more stock.  I lived this nightmare at Xerox.  Every year Ursula Burns would announce more share buy-backs because it boosted her own personal compensation.  They didn’t hire more workers.  Quite the opposite.  They outsourced as much as they could, including my entire team of 6 engineers.  I’m not just making this stuff up, I lived through it.

Trump likes his war heroes to not be captured.  I like my presidents to be good at math.

 

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The Smothers Brothers

smothers

“mom always liked you best” was an LP that influenced me a great deal growing up. I listened to it over a 100 times I’m sure. It’s hard to believe that these guys were the “rebels” of prime time TV in the late 60’s for having the audacity to partake in satire on racism, The President, and The Vietnam War.

smothered_main

The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour was a great combination of music and comedy but the brothers had a particular talent for discovering other talent and giving them a chance on their show.  Steve Martin, Rob Reiner, Mason Williams to name a few.

From Wikipedia: other guests included  George Harrison, Joan Baez, Buffalo Springfield, Cass Elliot, Harry Belafonte, Cream, Donovan, The Doors, Glen Campbell, Janis Ian, Jefferson Airplane, The Happenings, Peter, Paul and Mary, Spanky and Our Gang, Ringo Starr, Steppenwolf, Simon and Garfunkel, The Hollies, The Who and even Pete Seeger were showcased on the show, despite the advertiser-sensitive nature of their music.

David Bianculli wrote a book called Dangerously Funny that is a pretty good account of the struggles between Tom, Dick, and CBS over show content.  CBS had to try to balance the brothers’ loyal followers with letters from angry fans who wanted the show censored, and even reported pressure from the White House.  Eventually the Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour had to be taped 10 days ahead of time so CBS could review/edit (sensor) content and not long after that the show was cancelled.

Donna and I randomly met a local gal at a party of a friend in Tualatin who dated Tommy Smothers in the late 1960’s. Their first date?  Tommy was a presenter at the 1968 Grammy Awards show.  She got a back-stage pass to the Grammys as a first date.  As the story goes, the relationship didn’t last because old Tom liked to indulge in the hooch a little too much for her tastes.

A few years ago we made a trip to the Chinook Winds casino in Lincoln City to see the Smothers Brothers, well past their prime, but still pretty funny.

 

 

 

 

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Contempt

Socrates, considered by many to be one of the wisest men of his time, is credited with the phrase:

“I know one thing; that I know nothing.”

This strikes me as a wise thing to say indeed. Here we are on this 8,000 mile wide ball, orbiting around the sun with few clues about how we got here or how far the galaxy extends. We know certain things to be true through rationalization. We know other things to be true through our experiences and sensory perception. But those 2 things only go so far.

The ants in my back yard have a perception of the universe and it extends across about a 100 square foot area. They know nothing of Tigard, Sacramento, New York or London. It’s beyond their comprehension.

What if humans are the same way?  Pythagoras figured out the relationship of the sides of triangles (C^2 = A^2 + B^2) that we know to be the indisputable truth. Einstein gave us E = MC^2. Certain things we can prove. Other things we cannot so we are left to be the judge and jury based on sensory perception. As intelligent as we humans are, it occurs to me that we’d be wise to admit, like Socrates, that we’re incredibly dumb.  Why?  Because there are many things beyond our comprehension.

This is what bothers me about the Trump administration. They think they have all the answers and know best. There isn’t an ounce of humility in the lot. Not only do they ignore science, they actively try to purge the EPA staff of people with opposing views on climate change. It’s Orwellian.

Every administration is only as good as the people it hires. Trump has made some enormous blunders in the hiring department as evidence by the revolving door at the White House. This is what happens when you run a business modeled after the Corleone Family and then try to butt-fit that into a democratic government. Loyalty is all that matters. Other qualifications be damned. Let’s review who we have here and start with my least favorite hire, our ignominious attorney general.

Jeff Sessions. Sessions drew fire during his confirmation hearing for previous comments about the KKK and his long-standing feud with the NAACP. As attorney general he seems to be exercising a subtle form of racism under the guise of “law and order”. There appears to be fringe elements of the police force that believe they have permission to fire on people of color with reckless abandon because one thing they can count on is not being held accountable. Race relations appear to be headed on a steep decline. According to Jeff, you’re a law-abiding American if you stand for the anthem and abstain from pot. That’s all he seems to care about. Oh, and don’t laugh at him in public or you might find yourself in jail like Desiree Fairooz did.

Sebastian Gorka, former Deputy Assistant to the President. His job (apparently) was to appear on television and be the most arrogant tweazer-beak imaginable. His 15 minutes of fame were up after the 9th circuit struck down Trump’s executive order and his signature issue – the now infamous travel ban.

Steve Mnuchin, Treasury secretary. His qualifications for the job are that he was a hedge fund manager and former CIO of Goldman Sachs. So much for draining the swamp. Steve likes to get around in private jets at our expense in case “he needs to take a secure call.” Oh, and he likes to bring his wife along in case there’s an eclipse to see. My biggest problem with Steve though, is that he bets my grandchildren’s future on “wishful thinking”. The tax cuts being proposed, which he has his fingerprints all over, are based on the faulty assumption that cutting taxes for the rich will somehow stimulate the economy enough to make up for the losses. We’ve tried this experiment before and it didn’t work very well. The rich bought quite a few new yachts though, and that industry thrived (on the bright side).

Tom Price, former Health Secretary.  Tom got canned for flying around on private jets.  Additionally, as the guardian of our “health” he was on the front lines of the AHCA which would have taken away health coverage for tens of millions of Americans.  Tom never gave a damn about healthcare.  It’s always been about the tax cuts.

Stephen Miller, Senior policy advisor to the President, is that guy in high school who tried to get attention by doing stupid stuff. Stephen likes to pontificate and say things like “The president’s authority on this issue shall not be questioned”, which is embarrassing for him when a few days later the 9th Circuit strikes down the Travel Ban. Stephen likes to fancy himself a cog in the Trump wheel because he’s aligned with Trump on deporting 12 million people – at least he likes to talk about how that’s the right thing to do.

Steve Bannon, former Chief Strategist. Now the Managing Editor of Breitbart News. An extremist if there ever was one. Need I say more? I didn’t think so.

Betsy DeVos, Education Secretary. Betsy is atop America’s biggest pyramid scheme, Amway. She’s so rich she uses her own private airplane so as to not get in trouble for spending tax payer money. Must be nice. She’s quoted as saying “It’s possible” that her family donated as much as $200 million to the Trump campaign (and another $921,000 to 21 other Senators). More swamp draining! I’m pretty unclear on how an Amway executive’s skill-set translates into Education Secretary, and I’m sure the donations had nothing to do with the appointment. Betsy is aligned with Trump’s vision of destroying public education in this country by starving the beast and promoting charter schools. I’m not against charter schools. I just think it’s incredibly naive to think that the solution to our failing school system is to throw the baby out with the bath water. Oh, and Betsy is an advocate of guns at school — in case any Grizzly Bears are on the prowl out on the back playground.

Paul Manafort, former campaign manager.  The problem with Manafort is that he’s a career lobbyist.  If you’re promising to drain the swamp, you shouldn’t need a lobbyist on staff with close ties to The Ukraine.  Time will tell, but the betting odds are with Manafort doing time in the slammer for his efforts in the Trump campaign.  The easing of sanctions on Russia in exchange for campaign help has a nasty smell to it and the FBI knows it.

Sean Spicer, former press secretary.  It’s kind of hard to be angry with Spicer sometimes because he provided so much material for Saturday Night Live.  The Melissa McCarthy skits behind the podium are near the top of the list as some of the best skits ever.  Spicer’s downfall was on day one of the job.  For some reason he decided to introduce himself in his new role by having a hissy fit about the reporting on the inauguration crowd size.  It didn’t carry any credibility what-so-ever though.  The pictures don’t lie.  He got off to a horrid start and never really recovered.

Michael Flynn, former National Security Advisor.  Flynn set a record for the shortest stint before getting your hand caught in the cookie jar; 24 days.  Another staffer with a footprint in Russia dealings including accepting money from foreign governments on the side.

Anthony Scaramucci, former press secretary.   This guy walked around like the BMOC from day one.  His ego rivaled Trump’s, which is to say it was off the charts.  In the end, his own stupidity did him in.  Another hedge fund manager with ties to Goldman Sachs, the trash talking press secretary got his tit in a ringer by going off on a 10 minute rant reminiscent of Sonny Corleone to Ryan Lizza of the New Yorker.  It wasn’t as bad as Trump’s Access Hollywood tape, but it was pretty close.

Kellyanne Conway, counselor to the president.  Kellyanne’s contribution to the United States since becoming a cabinet member is she invented the term ‘Alternative Facts’.  That in itself is going to prove to be a very nice gift come 2018.

Ben Carson, HUD Secretary.  Ben’s a fine fellow.  Hard to dislike Ben.  I’m sure all neurosurgeons are ten times smarter than I am, but he destroys his own credibility when he says the pyramids were built as grain silos originally.  And the sheep nod in unison.  Ben has zero qualifications for the job of HUD secretary, but he wouldn’t be the first person in this position.  It’s not his fault, really.  Trump chooses to reward Carson, DeVos, and Sessions for their loyalty and generosity with no regard to how well they might perform in the position.  That’s the part that stinks.

Rick Perry, Energy Secretary.  He’s from Texas, he must know something about oil/energy right?  The problem is he’s a climate denier, is on the Trump train for promoting coal, could care less about the environment, offers up “oh well” on Sandy Hook, and thinks Obergefell v. Hodges should be overturned.  Just the kind of alt-right conservative we don’t need right now.

Lynne Patton, HUD development office for NY and New Jersey.  Lynne must have done a heckuva job as Eric Trump’s wedding planner because her loyalty was rewarded with a government position.  Like Carson, DeVos and Sessions, it’s not what you know, it’s who you know.

Jared Kushner, senior advisor to the president.  Might as well employ some nepotism while he’s at it.   Jared’s initial claim to fame is that he married Ivanka Trump.  His final claim to fame will be that as a senior advisor to the president, he advised Trump to fire James Comey.  Well, that didn’t work out so well now that we have Bob Mueller on the case.  Or did it?  Jared also got the job of bringing about peace in the middle east.  He’s been over there at least once, but so far no agreement.  Who knew that negotiating a peace deal could be so hard?

Calista Gingrich, United States Ambassador to the Holy See.  This one cracks me up as the 3rd Mrs. Gingrich is going to represent the US to Vatican City. And I’m not being judgmental about divorce. I’ve failed in this area as have many. But Newt’s failures are off the charts cruel to his ex-wives. I mean, who brings up divorce papers to sign to a woman who just finished a chemotherapy treatment?

Mike Pence, Vice President.  Not a lot unlike Rick Perry, there are so many irritating things about Mike Pence that it’s hard to articulate them all.  Suffice it to say the hypocrisy of being a right-wing conservative who supports the Republican ideals of Darwinism while bowing in prayer every 15 minutes is enough to make me puke.

So that’s quite a staff that Trump has surrounded himself with.  Crooks, liars, hypocrites and nar-do-wells.

The Second Tier – The apologists

The first list was a list of people actually hired into the Trump administration.  That would be bad enough by itself but we’ve got legions of Trump apologists who know he’s nuts but refuse to call him out (more on the why of this later).   Let’s see, we’ve got:

Lindsay Graham talks a good story every once in a while, but at the end of the day he’s been a loyal supporter of the unhinged one.  Reminds me of that saying about it’s not what you say, it’s what you do.

Tom Cotton, Joe Barrasso, John Cornyn — Leading republicans always huddled around the podium in support of Mitch and Paul.

Mitch McConnell, senate majority leader.  The architect of the block on Merrick Garland will never be forgiven for his disregard of bipartisan efforts.  The republicans thought they could go it alone this time with control of the Senate, the House, and the White House.  That turned out to be wrong.  Karma’s a bitch.

Paul Ryan, Speaker of the House.  Paul should have been a magician.  Never before have I seen someone come across as so reasonable, so mild-mannered, so … sensible while overtly trying to pick the pockets of the American people and reward his donors.  A self-proclaimed Ayn Rand follower, that’s pretty much all you really need to know about Paul Ryan.  He’s quiet on Trump because he’s has a private love affair with Tax Cuts for the wealthy.

Mike Lee and Ted Cruz.  These 2 guys get a category all by themselves.  Two of the original Tea Party renegades, Lee and Cruz definitely disrupted Washington.  The problem with obstructionism is that what goes around comes around.  Cruz is actually an intelligent guy.  Anyone who has argued cases before the Supreme Court is no dummy.   That’s what’s scary about it.  They know exactly what they are doing and they want to take the country back 50 years on social issues.  Al Franken, in his book “Al Franken Giant of the Senate” stated it well about Ted Cruz: “I like Ted Cruz more than all of my colleagues in the senate do.  And I hate Ted Cruz.  He’s that guy who will rat out your NCAA office pool to senior management and cook fish in the company microwave.”

Marco Rubio, Chuck Grassley.  Complicit in their silence as the Trump train is derailing.   I can hardly wait for after the resignation to read about how they didn’t really support him all that time.

Devin Nunes.  The guy who works on a bi-partisan investigation into Russian interference in our elections, and without prior authorization or permission, runs to Trump with sensitive information about the investigation.

Ladies and Gentlemen, your Republican party.

The reasons I hold Trump and the Republicans in such contempt:

  • Blatant Racism
    • Charlottesville
    • Puerto Rico
    • Completely missing the point on NFL player protests
    • White Supremacists are now becoming more overt in society, feeling empowered/supported by the Administration
    • His mistreatment of Muslims. By painting all Muslims with a broad brush, he fails to realize the obvious. If we are to defeat extremists, we need the help and cooperation of moderate Muslims, who number in the billions (that’s billions with a B)
  • Violations of the Emoluments Clause
    • Lining his own pockets at taxpayer expense and he couldn’t care less about the lack of ethics involved
  • Conducting foreign policy via Twitter
    • Throwing Tillerson under the bus in the middle of negotiations
  • Attacking private citizens
  • Ignoring the Russian Sanctions vote
    • The senate voted 98-2 for the Sanctions.  It’s a month past the deadline.  No action from the White House.  Seems kind of suspicious.
  • Zero transparency on his own Tax Returns
  • Killing DACA
    • He’s got no solution himself, so he came up with the brilliant strategy to kill it and then make it congress’ problem.
    • Even many republicans think deporting millions of hard working, law abiding, tax paying people who came to the US as children and know no other country is cruel.
  • Reckless tweeting with respect to foreign leaders
    • Rocket man
    • Mexico will pay for the wall
    • Somehow I feel less secure when the thin skinned one starts yammering on about nukes as options on the table
  • Destroying the environment
    • Pulling out of the Paris Climate accord
    • Deregulation means more Flint, Michigan stories just around the corner.
    • The consequences of the GOP strategy are irreversible
  • Tax cuts for the wealthy
    • A canard from the Reagan years that just won’t go away
  • Trump’s obsession with coal
    • The US is missing a huge financial opportunity to be a world leader in clean energy
    • Automation is the real jobs killer, not coal mining jobs.  Why isn’t the focus on retraining centers?
  • The war on climate change believers
    • Federal employees who believe in climate change have been targeted with witch hunts
  • Purposely destroying the ACA exchanges
  • Trump’s election ‘fraud’ commission head by Kris Kobach and Mike Pence is a voter suppression commission in disguise.  Republicans are actively gerrymandering districts for 2018.
  • Blatant disregard for US intelligence agencies
    • He’s still not sure if it was Russia or China or “some 400 pound guy in his bed” who interfered in the elections even though there’s mountains of evidence to the contrary.
  • Petulant behavior on a daily basis
    • “Ariana Huffington is unattractive, both inside and out. I fully understand why her former husband left her for a man – he made a good decision.”
    • “My fingers are long and beautiful, as, it has been well documented, are various other parts of my body.”
  • Obstructing justice on the Russia investigation
  • Failure to acknowledge the 2016 interference and make sure it’s fixed/secure for 2018
  • Head in the sand approach on gun law reform
    • There are several other country models we could learn a thing or two from… if only they weren’t bought and paid for by the NRA
  • The complete lack of a moral compass
  • Letting the CHIP program expire which supported 9 million women and children
  • Liar in chief.  The Politifact Scorecard rated his statements as follows
    • 21% True
    • 12% Mostly True
    • 67% Half True
    • 21% Mostly False
    • 33% False
    • 15% Pants on Fire

So there it is.  And that’s the short version of why I cringe when I see some of these people on television.  They don’t represent me and I don’t think they represent anyone but themselves and their donors, frankly. You have to ask yourself, is this what making America great again is supposed to look like?

Getting back to the original point about downplaying one’s belief that he/she is smart and  has the power to solve the world’s problems all by themselves, I leave you with two Trump quotes that I believe illustrate root cause:

“I know more about ISIS than the generals do. Believe me.”

“I alone can fix it”

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Now we’ve got overt racism in the ‘burbs

[ Note: I’m refraining from writing about recent events in Las Vegas because I think it’s disrespectful to politicize a tragedy before the bodies are even cold yet.  Saving that topic for another day.  But it’s a safe bet that I will eventually politicize it.  In spades. ]

Sunday I had a couple of errands to run over in the cozy little Sherwood, Oregon.  If you’re looking to visit a slice of Americano suburbia, go to Sherwood.  Shopping malls, fast food galore, Home Depot, great schools, nice neighborhoods.  Until Sunday I had never run across anyone in Sherwood who was anything but accepting of their fellow man.

I had decided it was time for a haircut and needed to pick up a few things at the grocery store.  Shortly after pulling into the miniature strip mall parking lot, I parked my truck.  Getting out I noticed a confederate flag bumper sticker on the back window of the truck next to me.  This one was different though.  It had a snake superimposed on it with the caption “Don’t tread on me”.  I immediately drew the conclusion that this guy is a first-rate imbicile and was hoping I our paths didn’t cross.  don-t-tread-on-me-rebel-flag-9

Taken aback sightly at the overt nature of displaying a symbol that is offensive to so may, now we’re implying that you’re the hard-working stiff and the rest of us are trying to mooch off you.  My first thought was get thee back to thy trailer and STFU (the truck was about a 15-year-old Ford popcorn wagon that can fit about 3 boxes in the back if they aren’t too heavy).

Just when I get my experience with Jasper behind me, at Safeway I see this bald guy with shades on, arms tattooed to the hilt (so far, no problem), but for attire he decided to put on a t-shirt with a message that had sociopath written all over it.  This within an hour’s time.

preorder-hoist-the-black-flag-ultra-thin-vintage-t-shirt-21__79121.1479401177

Like 99% of the blog posts I write, I blame the Republicans for this.  Trump specifically, with his “both sides” defense of the “Unite the Right” Nazi contingent at Charlottesville who murdered 32-year-old Heather Heyer. But I blame the rest of the Republican party for their complicity.   It’s as much about what they refuse to say versus what they do say.

Paul Ryan for example won’t be baited into saying nary a word against the man who promises to bring him a divine, heavenly Tax Reform package that punishes the blue states and rewards the 1%.  Ryan was recently asked if he had any issue with Trump’s handling of Puerto Rico and replied with “I think his heart is in the right place.”

The pattern hasn’t gone unnoticed.  Hurricane hits a red state, he’s sending orders right away to get his underlings down there.  Hurricane hits a territory with mostly brown people, call me after my tee-time this Sunday.

I’m thoroughly convinced Trump’s denigration of Muslims, Mexicans, and indirectly, African-Americans, his abject failure to condemn the Nazi’s, along with the establishment Republican silent complicit behavior are the reasons I’m seeing an uptick of these outward symbols of hate and racism. They are sanctioned. There’s no other explanation for it.

I’m also convinced Republicans have been having a wet dream about tax cuts ever since November 8th, and absolutely nothing shall stand in the way.

You can label me disappointed in my fellow-man.  But I’m furious with the Republican establishment.  The Tea Party / Duck Dynasty crowd are too dumb and too far gone to fix.  But the establishment Republicans know better and they are complicit.  At the end of the day it’s all about greed and Tax Cuts.

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Seismic Shift at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave

There’s an ancient proverb that says “The enemy of my enemy is my friend”

Hot off the press, #45 (can’t bring myself to call him President yet) just announced bipartisan work efforts on tax reform and infrastructure. This is akin to throwing the freedom caucus under the bus. I’m starting to like this guy.

Desperate for a win of any kind, I think #45 had an epiphany of sorts and realized a divided republican caucus is of no use to him whatsoever in this goal.

The biggest enemies of the people are the leaders beholden to monied interests. Chief among these is Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell. Both are pounding sand right now and I couldn’t be happier about it. When they hear #45 talk about “dinner tonight with Chuck and Nancy”, you can be sure their blood is boiling. They thought control of the House, the Senate, and the White House was a free pass at making their donors happy. Didn’t work out that way. If you’re looking for who to blame, look no further than the freedom caucus led by Mike Lee and Ted Cruz. Their obstinance led to their own demise.

Steve Bannon, fresh off his 60 minutes interview declared war on the Republican establishment who he claims is “.. trying to nullify the election results”.   #45 clearly ran on a populist agenda — which is 180 degrees out of sync with the Freedom Caucus.

What I heard #45 say is that his wishes on tax reform were for it to go to the middle class only. The top-tier were not going to get a tax break, and worse, their taxes may even go up. He’ll get a lot of democratic support for this idea and if voted on as a bipartisan bill, moderate republicans and democrats will pass it with no issue.  Additionally he wants to work with “Chuck and Nancy” to get some infrastructure wins.  Of all the ideas on his agenda I’ve always felt this one has the best chance of getting any kind of bipartisan support.

Last but not least, he specifically called out wanting congress to “do something about DACA” but I took it to mean some sort of compromise solution that did not involve deportation.  I truly believe he wants to do the right thing here, but he needs the specifics to be someone else’s idea for political reasons.  Ann Coulter is hotter than the fire of 1000 suns right now.

I have no predictions about where this will lead, but right now I’m happy as a clam that #45 just flipped Grover Norquist, Ted Cruz, Mike Lee, Mitch McConnell, and Paul Ryan the bird.

It would not surprise me if #45, seeing his entire presidency about to be neutered by the midterm elections, switched parties.

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