Family values criminals

Author: admin

Over the last couple of years, we’ve seen many Republican politicians arrested, charged, found guilty and hauled off to jail. So many, in fact, it makes one wonder why.

Oh, there’s an occasional Democrat here and there. But, the majority of the felonious miscreants come from the GOP. So, again, why?

Here in our Arizona desert desolation, we have a doozy. The guy’s name is Paul Petersen. He’s our Maricopa County Assessor – at least that’s his day job. Maricopa County is some 4-million souls. But, Petersen has not been around much lately. A check of the pass for his private spot in the Maricopa County parking lot shows its been used only 59 days this year.

Republican Peterson is now hidden in a federal slammer somewhere looking at 60 felony charges in three states – Arizona, Utah and Arkansas.

The litany of charges reads like this: smuggling 70 women from the Marshall Islands to the above states for private financial gain; aiding and abetting the same; wire fraud; committing federal visa fraud and money laundering. And, he charged each of the women $40,000 for his services!

As I said, county assessor seems to be only his day job.

By education, Peterson is an attorney. So, too, was his father, David. We’ll get to David shortly.

In sum, the 62 counts arise from Paul’s apparent scheme of finding pregnant women in the Marshalls, convincing them to come to the states ( charging $40,000 each), having babies and putting them up for adoption. Then, he charged the parents-to-be a separate fee which, according to indictments, brought his take to several million dollars.

He had a couple of women accomplices; one in the Marshalls to do the scouting and lining up the mothers-to-be and another, stateside, to make medical admissions in the three states and find applicants for the baby sales. We’re told the pregnant women were kept in private houses under very crowded and unsanitary conditions. Near as the feds can tell, this has been going on for about nine years!

Then, there’s David Peterson, the pater. David, another Republican, got himself into the Arizona State Senate, representing Mesa in the ‘90’s and rose to the rank of majority whip for a term or two. But, his day job was running a non-profit called Family Services Committee which sponsored – wait for it – adoptions. David even got several bills passed into law that speeded up the Arizona adoption process and got taxpayer dollars to recruit adoptive families.

Then, David was elected State Treasurer. He sent his son, Paul, to college to get his law degree and Paul decided his specialty would be – wait for it again – adoption law.

Father David was also running Arizona Communities of Character Council and Arizona Character Council Foundation where he managed to secure more taxpayer dollars, according to the state’s largest newspaper, The Arizona Republic.

David fielded calls and faxes from his State Treasurer’s office and clocked many hundreds of miles for what he called “community updates” representing his non-profits mixed with some legitimate state treasurer’s business. He kept his personal involvement in the “non-profit” business a closely guarded secret. The Republic described him as a “ pitchman who didn’t understand boundaries between state and personal business.”

After several years, David Petersen’s double life leaked out and he was forced to resign from public office.

Meantime, son Paul became a fixture in state GOP politics, holding several positions before running for – and winning – the Maricopa County Assessor’s office. And he, too, had this “little non-profit business” on the side. Also, “unknown to nearly everyone,” we’re told.

Martha McSally, one of our current U.S. Senators also had run-ins with legal authorities when, in the Arizona Legislature, she messed around with campaign funds for something other than campaigns. She lost her race for the Senate but our GOP Governor appointed her to fill in the remainder of the late John McCain’s term, regardless of the previous voter rejection.

Current U.S. GOP Congressman Duncan Hunter of California, was re-elected in 2018 despite several federal indictments for using campaign dollars for lavish living. Chris Collins, a House member from New York, also was re-elected in 2018 regardless of his guilty plea to insider stock trading. He resigned just before going to jail.

There are other Republicans who’ve been charged with felonies or have otherwise been forced from federal or state offices. As previously noted, there’s been a Democrat or two but the GOP is way ahead in miscreant body count.

It’s also worth noting the national GOPer’s in or headed to the hoosegow. Manafort and Ryan are only the best known of the convicted. There are others. Some have served their sentences. Others await the judge’s decision. Looks like Rudy G. may possibly be headed to involuntary confinement, too. Along with a couple of his co-workers in this country and abroad.

And, who can forget our President. The top Republican himself may be headed the same way. Hard to tell these days with so many details breaking so quickly. The next few weeks and months will largely determine his fate.

Meantime, the federal lockup where Paul Petersen is being kept is a law enforcement secret, I’m told David still resides in the Mesa area. Might be worth one of your famous phone calls, DT. Professional courtesy.

Keeping faith

Author: admin

With the possible exception of the Civil War, our nation now seems more divided, more acrimonious, more splintered and filled with outright hate than at anytime in our history.

The causes are many. Solutions seem few. Each day, it seems another dose of division is sewn into our nature and those divisions appear wider than ever. None of us can escape them. Nor should we if we’re ever to come out of this dark period intact.

But, one societal separation bothers me more than any other. And that’s the often stark divide between citizenry and law enforcement.

It’s not enough to say there’s fault on both sides. Which, of course, there is. Our suspicion of some of them and their suspicion, and on occasion, treatment of some of us seems to make the news daily.

What set this train of thought going for me was an incident that happened just down the road from our house the other day. Six local officers coordinated their morning break time to meet at a coffee shop for a latte or two. As they sat chatting, the manager came to the table and asked them to leave. Just go! Seems a customer had complained the presence of the officers was making him/her “uncomfortable.”

There’s so much wrong with this picture. Obviously the action of the manager was ridiculous. So, too, was the unreasonable request from the customer. The presence of half-a-dozen local officers was “disturbing?” Why? My first reaction to the story was what was in the customer’s mind – or background – that made him/her so “uncomfortable?” And the next thought: was the customer Black? A totally outrageous situation made worse because of the extreme ignorance of both the customer and the manager.

This dustup may be isolated. But, there’s more at play here than just a citizen complaint. While conduct between most law enforcement and most citizens on a daily basis is routine, we’ve seen many instances when it’s not. The oft-photographed murder of unarmed Black men and teens springs to mind. The difference in treatment by law enforcement on the basis of race has been well-documented. And, whenever it happens – wherever it happens – it’s wrong.

And so is this: the dangerous decisions by lawmen in many parts of the country that they’ll enforce certain laws and ignore others. Our western sheriffs are often the most strident. In Washington, Idaho, Utah and Oregon, many have not only said they won’t enforce gun laws but will actually arrest federal officers who may try to do so. Sworn to uphold all laws, some have decided to be selective. Which is illegal and sends terribly mixed messages to citizens. When is a law right and when is a right law deemed wrong? That’s what courts are for. Not cops.

The relationship of law enforcers and law abiders is one of the most important basics in a civilization. The balance is best when there’s trust demonstrated by all participants. But, when officers become selective – when they become threats to unarmed citizens through words or actions – the results can be deadly.

Similarly, citizens can also alter that delicate balance by acting inappropriately or making unreasonable demands. Our local “uncomfortable” latte drinker is one such.

In younger days, I spent a lot of nighttime hours doing “ride-alongs” with cops. I became very familiar with some of the dangers they face each shift and some of the unreported good things they do just because they’re the right kinds of people. I have a healthy respect for what they do, how they do it and why. Often dangerous work. More often, thankless work.

We need them. They need us. It’s just that simple. We may live in difficult times. We may be surrounded by politically turbulent times. We may be victims – or perpetrators – of the hateful divisions faced daily or deluged by lies and disappointments in our national politics.

But, we must strive for – earnestly work for – a continuing respect for laws and the people who enforce them. If we lose that trust – that faith – that respect one for another – not much else matters.
 

Rope’s end

Author: admin

How much political and moral abuse is one nation expected to take before something breaks? How much pressure of criminality and wholesale corruption must we endure before the necessary Constitutional action is undertaken to end it?

These questions have been running back and forth in my mind for some time. As the continuing litany of lies and damned lies flows from this Republican administration, I keep wondering where we’ll see the end. What that end will be.

As a lifelong student of politics, I’ve watched the oft-proven criminality of our president and his minions with disdain but with a sense of history and a belief that we will see a just end.

While hope lingers that such will be the eventuality, Trump’s out-of-control dictatorial conduct has forced me to tie a bigger knot at the of my rope of patience.

The last hope there was any tiny shred of humanity left in him died abruptly for me with the revelation he wanted to shoot legal immigrants trying to enter this country. Shoot to kill. Shoot to maim. Pierce their bodies with electrical spikes atop his fictitious wall. Dig water trenches along our entire southern border and fill them with snakes and alligators.

The sickness of Trump’s mind could legitimately be compared to some 12th century tyrants in Asia or Europe who put the heads of their slain enemies on spikes. About the only terrible torture he skipped is the boiling in oil!

Trump, Pompeo, Giuliani, Mnuchin, Miller, Pence, Kirchner, Graham, Myers, Ross and more have trampled truth, ignored both facts and constitutional oaths, conducted themselves with shame, outrageous conduct and lie after lie after lie after lie in their misbegotten roles in national governance.

Like the Wicked Witch in “The Wizard of Oz,” Trump has now sent his “flying monkeys” around the world seeking foreign help to support his “deep state” conspiracy dementia. What the Hell do the leaders of France, Germany, Australia, New Zealand and South Korea think about this country? How must they think of future international relationships or even trust us to uphold old ties when Trump is acting so criminally?

The whole Ukrainian deal, with its lies by Trump, Pence, Giuliani and Pompeo, has become a true representation of how far this demented person in the Oval Office will go to retain power. How far he’ll go to distort, undermine and attempt to savage his perceived “enemies” and possible political opponents.

To the disdain, anger, hatred and oral effluent flowing from Trump you can add the morally reprehensible inactivity of nearly every Republican in Congress. Especially the Senate. Consciously and conspicuously ignoring their oaths to “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution,” Republican Senators have cowered in fearful self-service. They’ve put their personal retention in office above those oaths and their pledges/promises to constituents. Their individual love of power has overcome duty.

But, I will give them and other so-called Trump Republicans this: they’ve been the prime source of changing our traditional political two-party system from Republican versus Democrat to truth versus lies. With the paid flatulence of rightwing media mouths to assist, people are more divided. Facts are becoming more irrelevant.

Yes, the House will impeach. Yes, the Senate will hold a trial. But, it’s length, the search for truth and honest decision-making are all up for question. All Senators will take an oath to “judge fairly and with open minds.” But, many, like Idaho’s Risch, have already publically disavowed published facts and renewed their loyalty to Trump. Just how much “open mindedness” will you find in him?

If all this sounds like a rant, it is. But, it’s also an acknowledgment of a fellow citizen who’s disappointed in the present and fearful for the future. Someday, by some means, Trump will have to leave the presidency. Whether he’ll walk out of the White House or be carried out is still a very real open question.

So, too, is the issue of what he’ll leave behind. One victim will be a badly wounded nation, suffering from all he has inflicted upon it. Another will be a two-party political system that likely will never be the same as it was just a few years ago. There will also be several million fellow Americans who’ll be angry, defiant and some who may resort to violence against others. In some quarters, there will be political chaos and feelings of disaffection.

What will our political system – our nation – look like five or ten years down the road? Will we have cobbled together a functioning government, able to respond to the needs of it’s citizens? Will we have replaced hate/anger with renewed optimism? Will acceptance of our differences and cooperation return within our national political structure? Or, will we have to create new ways of getting past all we are now enduring to have a better future?

All open questions that, before Trump, we didn’t have to answer. All before we had to realize we have a president who advocates killing and maiming people from other nations who’re simply seeking survival and a better life.

The complicit

Author: admin

At what point do complacency and self-service become complicity? When does a lack of responsible, legal action become malfeasance in office?

And, the next question: are Republicans in the U.S. Senate guilty of both?

The evidence is overwhelming that Senate Republicans have become Trump’s personal sycophants, unwilling to execute the Constitutional powers given them. You have to wonder if that inaction has made them complicit in his oft-illegal conduct.

Clearly, the most dangerous name in today’s political world is Mitch McConnell. Aside from stacking literally hundreds of federal judgeships with unqualified Trump nominees, he’s personally throttled all House-passed legislation that’s come to his desk as Senate Majority Leader. He’s the dam holding back the flow of responsible progress on climate change, defense, budgeting, minimum wage, worker safety, voter protections and much more.

McConnell represents the terrible misuse of power granted his position under the rules of the Senate. For him, the elections of 2016 and 2018 continue. With a slim margin of just four votes, he has beaten back any reasonable attempts at bipartisanship and exacted a terrible toll of division and hatred. Strong words but apt.

More than that, he’s used treachery and willful suppression to keep the muzzle on those in his party who might otherwise chose to work in the interests of the country rather than support the arrogance of McConnell. There are some who’ve cautiously dared to put forward some thoughts of responsible legislation. But, he’s kept the lid so tight nothing gets past his round file.

There are others of McConnell’s ilk, such as Jim Risch of Idaho, who have clear Senate responsibilities but who’ve failed miserably. Risch, chair of Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has ducked every opportunity to stand up to Trump, stop some of his egregious activities in foreign affairs, take some serious role in the conduct of international diplomacy and undertake serious attempts to mitigate some of Trump’s effects on world matters.

Senate Republicans have, by inaction, made Trump more powerful and more dangerous. Our Constitution provides clear checks and balances between Executive and Legislative branches of federal government. Under McConnell, and typified by Risch’s lack of leadership in foreign affairs, Trump has stomped around the world breaking treaties, reneging on relations with our historically significant partnerships with other countries and made enemies of world leaders in the process.

Thanks, in large part, to McConnell and his GOP cohorts, we have operated for the last couple of years, not as a Republic, but as a demagogic authoritarian state. We’ve watched checks and balances ignored while a federal judiciary has been loaded with incompetents, historic treaties abrogated, federal agencies ransacked, valued professionals forced to resign, seen protections of our environment rolled back or obliterated, watched lobbyists write laws, watched Trump’s “friends” in powerful Cabinet positions forced out by corruption and scandal.

And more. Much more. All the while, McConnell and his 51 Republican minions have stood by, watching the willful destruction, seeing the damages to responsible governance attacked and witnessing damages to institutions that will take decades – if ever – to restore.

This has nothing to do with the traditional two-party system of government. Not a thing. But, it does have everything to do with one man’s irresponsible, ignorant behavior and another’s willingness to damage a governmental structure for his own personal power.

So, again, the question. At what point do complacency and self-service become complicity? Are Senate Republicans guilty of both? The answer has to be yes! The length and weighty evidence is damning.

It’s going to be up to the national electorate to pronounce judgment in 2020. Some of the guilty will, no doubt, live to further avoid future obligations another day.

But, some, like McConnell, are on the ballot next year. And, some, like McConnell, have opposition. Worthy opposition. Very qualified opposition.

If punishment isn’t extracted at the polls, if those in office who’ve stood by and callously watched without action are not disavowed, then we, too, may share their complicity.

I’m done forgiving

Author: admin

“TO ERR IS HUMAN; TO FORGIVE, DIVINE.”

Most of us, I suspect, have lived our lives usually honoring those wise words. With the possible exception of serial killers, terrorists, school shooters or a Trump presidency, that old maxim holds pretty true. Few of us have led such exemplary lives that we can’t use a little forgiveness now and then.

But, something’s happened in the world of politics to push such advice to intolerable limits. “Erring” has become so despicable that “forgiving” is damned near impossible. Yet millions of voters keep buying in.

There were times when politicians, asking for our support, knew that support carried with it a high level of expectations of proper behavior. And, if one turned out to be a miscreant – or worse – they paid the penalty of being ostracized by the electorate and were most often shoved off to some lonely, deserted place. They paid for bad behavior with the loss of both job and our respect. Today, not so much!

In 1987, Colorado Senator Gary Hart was an odds-on favorite to be the next shining star of the Democrat Party. Good looking. Reasonably middle-of-the-road outlook. A good bet for future political success. Until 1987. Media reports began popping up linking the married Hart to blond – and single – Donna Rice. Hart responded with the expected denials. Then he said something to the national media that was really stupid. “If you think I’m messing around, follow me and see how wrong you are.”

Follow they did. And right they were. Hart was photographed living the “single” swinging life with Ms. Hart. Career ended on a boat dock and he rightfully disappeared from public life.

Over the years, a few other “bright lights” suffered the same two-timing fate as Hart. Some cheating on their spouses. Some with criminal activity. Some with misusing political funds. And who can forget the night a prominent Texas Senator frolicked in a D.C. fountain with his mistress – Fannie Flagg. Career ender.

Today, it seems, nearly anything goes and, whatever deviant behavior an office-holder prominently exhibits, often seems to have no negative effects on his/her career.

Mark Sanford is exhibit one. A few years back, while governor of South Carolina, he lied to his staff, the media and wife about disappearing to “hike the Appalachian Trail.” What he really did was fly to Argentina to shack up for a week with his mistress. He was “forced” to take a break in his political life. Then, he resurfaced, ran succesfully for the U.S. House and is now a Republican candidate for President. Wha Hoppen?

In Arizona, former Sheriff Joe Arpaio, convicted of ignoring a federal court order, is trying to get his old job back. Two years ago, he wanted us to send him to the U.S. Senate. We didn’t.

Arizona also has two members of Congress found guilty of behaving badly with state campaign funds. One was subsequently elected to the Senate and other, after losing that Senate race, was appointed to the same job voters said she shouldn’t have.

One of Florida’s senators was elected governor – then to the Senate – even after being nailed by the feds for ripping off federal health care dollars in the millions. Last year, California re-elected a member of Congress even though he and his wife had been indicted for using campaign accounts for luxury living he obviously couldn’t otherwise afford. Before him, they repeatedly elected his crooked father to the same office several times.

Two members of Congress are enjoying the high life of national politics even as both are under current indictments for insider trading. Both re-elected AFTER the charges were filed.

In Idaho, former Boise Mayor Brent Coles, forced out of office for misusing public dollars, did time in the slammer. Now, he’s running for mayor again. Former State Senator John McGee of nearby Canyon County fame, forced out of office for improprieties with female staffers and stealing a car. Now, he’s running in a new election.

“To err is human.” I got that. But, in every field of endeavor, there’s a whole lot of “erring” going on. Lawyers, doctors, firemen, the clergy, politicians and hookers. We’ve got that “erring” thing down pretty good. And, in many cases, we also do pretty well in the “forgiving” department.

But, politicians have pushed the “forgiveness” envelope all out of shape. Scott, Rorabacher, Sanford, Coles, McGee, Arpaio, McSally, Trump and a bunch of others. They “erred” and kept right on going. Public trust be damned!

Those who’ve “erred” and seemingly ignored the consequences of such behavior will not be getting my vote in 2020. Nor should they be getting yours.
 

Whither thou the F-35

Author: admin

So, Boise is still wrestling with the issue of whether the U.S. Air Force should put F-35 jets at Gowen Field on the South side of the Boise Airport. Good luck with that.

We can speak to the F-35 issue with some personal experience since we live about 10 miles in a straight line from Luke Air Force Base outside of Phoenix. Luke is the training site for nearly every nation that we’ve sold F-35’s to. Pilots come here from all over the world to learn how to handle what I’ve been told is one tough aircraft to fly. Currently, Luke has about 100 F-35’s with a full compliment of about 180 due in coming months. Imagine those numbers at Gowen Field. Not hardly.

Our home is nearly under the downwind landing approach to Luke on the Northeast as are thousands of others. So, noise levels aren’t nearly what they are on the takeoff side which is to the Southwest. Most of the time. Occasionally, when prevailing winds shift, we get a taste of takeoffs. That’s when the windows rattle. Not often. Just once-in-a-while.

Boise’s F-35 problem is largely one of its own making. With some terrible assistance from Ada County.

The first airport in Boise was on Boise State University campus. Old dirt strip where Varney Airlines started, grandfather of United Airlines, we’re told. When growth forced re-locating, the plateau on the edge of the desert above town was chosen. So far, so good. And it worked as planned for a long, long time.

But, not now. And that’s where the failures of the City of Boise and Ada County come into play.

As Boise and the county grew, each allowed residential and commercial growth at both ends of the runways, except for the required minimal space for aircraft operation patterns required by the FAA. Soon came cries from folks bitching about aircraft noise. What the Hell did they expect? As subdivisions grew so, too, did the airport with demands brought on by that same growth. Didn’t anyone in local government see what was coming?

Because of increased civilian/military demands, airport facilities expanded. As a former pilot who flew out of there, considering safety and growth values, I’d argue not much more activity can be crammed into that space. Something’s gotta give.

In the Phoenix metro area, with huge residential and commercial growth around the Luke AFB area, government got it right. When we bought our house two years ago, we – and thousands others in about a 20-mile-square area – signed a legal closing document that told us about Luke, expected noise and other conditions of an active flight area. A very active flight area. No future bitching!

Given prevailing winds and angle of the runways at Luke, we really don’t have a problem. But, as you drive past the other end of the runways – to the Southwest – you see no subdivisions for miles. Some industrial and farming allowed. But, no homes.

The dual jet F-35 uses afterburners on takeoff. That about triples normal noise. Once aloft, afterburners are shut down. But, if you’re under planes at takeoff, it’s a bitch. I’d hate to live Northwest of Gowen for 10 miles. Add to that, more often than not, there are multiple takeoffs at the same time. F-35’s usually fly in pairs or groups of four.

F-35’s should operate out of Mt. Home AFB, some 40 miles South and West. Not Gowen. But, Boise/Ada County officials would come unglued because of expected short-term economic loss.

So, you’ve got the physics of multiple jet aircraft operations in an area with thousands of residents under the flight path or you’ve got some sizeable fiscal loss of those same operations.

From outside, looking in, Mt. Home is the place for the F-35’s. Period. That aircraft is going to be around for a long, long time. Just as B-52 bombers will likely fly for 100 years with occasional engineering updates, the F-35 will last for many years with the same sort of re-engineering. It’s a multi-function plane, tailored for USAF, Navy and Marine use. Some fly normally. Others jump straight up. You’re really talking about an aircraft platform with several configurations. Much cheaper to update than to go to a whole new aircraft.

Length of service of the F-35 is not often discussed. It should be. Putting F-35’s at Gowen is not a short-term proposition. Once the base is reconfigured for them, they’ll be there a long time.

Future military flight operations should be at Mt. Home where the area is set aside for such. In time, it’s likely the National Guard at Gowen will expand and need more room.

Bringing the F-35 to Idaho should be decided on the basis of needs of the military and safe aircraft operations, not the local economic situation. Put ‘em where they belong. Out there.

Oh, and one more thing. Last week near Tucson, an A-10 Warthog – like those at Gowen – accidentally fired a missile. Accidental, yes. But that happens. No one hurt. But, what if it has been off the Northwest end of Gowen Field. Oh, say near Five Mile Road and Amity. Just sayin’.
 

Politics and religion?

Author: admin

A man-of-the-cloth friend asked my advice recently.

“Wait a minute,” thought I. “We supplicants are supposed to be the ones asking his advice when we have issues.” And I wasn’t prepared for his question.

“What do you think about a church study class dealing with politics and religion,” was his query? “I know both are touchy issues.”

“Touchy?” No more than cooking steak for a Hindu picnic. But what surprised me more than his question was the quickness and firmness of my response.

“Not only do I think you should,” I said, “I think it should be part of the faith programs of all churches that feel a responsibility to work in the worldly community of their parishioners. Not so those same parishioners are taught some obligation to vote or think a certain way, but so they can resolve issues of religion and politics that most of us have but are unsure how to reconcile.”

Then, in days following our discussion, I ran across an article by Rachel Held Evans who writes professionally about issues of faith and politics from an evangelical perspective.

Armed with a bundle of recent religious surveys, Ms. Evans concluded many young adults are turning their backs – especially on evangelical churches – because “they perceive evangelical churches to be too political, too exclusive, too old-fashioned, unconcerned with social justice and hostile to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.”

She wrote, “I point to research showing young evangelicals often feel they must choose between their intellectual integrity and their faith, between science and Christianity, between compassion and holiness. The evangelical obsession with sex can make Christian living seem like little more than sticking to a set of rules when these same millennials long for faith communities in which they’re safe asking tough questions and wrestling with doubt.”

Ministers wearing jeans, a fancy coffee shop in fellowship hall, larger worship bands and other current “style changes” are not what she means. She points out millennials were raised on advertising and rock bands and have a “sensitive B.S. meter.” It may be those “style changes” are some of the very things causing an exodus among the young.

Evans says many of her peers are being drawn to high church traditions – Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy, the Episcopal Church – precisely because the ancient forms of liturgy seem unpretentious, unconcerned with ‘being cool’ and are refreshingly authentic. “We want a truce between science and faith,” she wrote. “We want to be known for what we stand for – not what we’re against. We want to ask questions that don’t have predetermined answers. We want churches that emphasize an allegiance to the Kingdom of God over an allegiance to a single (political) party or a single nation.”

One more thing from Ms. Evans: “Whenever I write about this topic, I hear from 40-somethings and grandmothers – Generation Xers and retirees. Their messages are clear: ‘Me, too!’”

Just after reading her latest work, the collective worlds of modern Christianity and politics collided full-on for me as Pope Francis stunned many Catholics and much of the rest of the world. When asked about gay men in the priesthood, he responded “Who am I to judge them?” That must have put some new cracks in the old Vatican walls.

Just as many Americans are feeling their recent votes have brought them a political world they weren’t expecting, some are also re-examining recent religious swings away from mainstream churches. They’re looking a second time at the newer, hipper, more flashy services that mask an unforgiving base of rigidity mixed with similar unforgiving political themes. They’re finding churches of the “you’ve-got-questions, we’ve-got-answers” approach to Christianity are more exclusionary than inclusive.

Many years ago, we were told of old-line Baptist – and even Mormon churches – where congregants were told to seat themselves on one side of the aisle if they were Democrats and the other side if Republican. I never experienced that but heard the stories too often to discount them.

A lot of more moderate, mainline clergy are hesitant to introduce the subject of politics in religious study classes. For good reason. Some have either been handed their walking papers after doing so or found themselves with a congregation splintered along political lines. If you wear a turned-around collar, mixing the two can be a career-changer. It shouldn’t be.

But, as Ms. Evans writes, “Millennials want to be challenged to live lives of holiness, not only when it comes to sex but also when it comes to living simply, caring for the poor and oppressed, pursuing reconciliation, engaging in care of our world and becoming peacemakers. You can’t hand us a latte, go about business as usual and expect us to stick around.”

At the end of any hour-long worship service, congregations walk back out into the other world where they’ll spend 167 other hours before meeting again next week. For one hour. Many will either find their belief system challenged by a world of politics or their politics caught up in their beliefs. Some will try to reconcile the two – some will simply be confused.

Without trying to convert votes like souls, churches have a responsibility of spirituality of citizenship for the family and body as they do for preparing us for life everlasting. We turn to religion for comfort, for perspective, for truth, for relief, for sustenance, for meaning, for the outreach it provides to make us more well-rounded creatures of God.

But, our lives are lived overwhelmingly in a secular world. If churches don’t help us understand and become more comfortable with our surroundings and decisions in that world, they’re avoiding a responsibility to help us become better individuals. We don’t need to be told whom to vote for or what to vote against. We don’t need to be told what Jesus would do. We don’t need to be given lectures about political issues.

If approached in an open, moderate manner – if reasoned discussion can make us better informed – if acceptance of other’s views can be allowed as equally important as our own – if new associations can be made between our American systems of governance and our faith to create more informed, more intelligent participants – the worlds of religion and politics can be very compatible. And we may be better for the experience in both our worlds.

A unique skill

Author: admin

The night Donald Trump was elected, I said to Barb, “Before the end of his term, he’ll have pissed off everyone he comes in contact with. Every one.” Being prescient isn’t one of my strong suits but three years of evidence seem to make the case.

From individuals to entire nations, he’s angered them all. He seems to have a real knack for it. But, there’s significant evidence of a growing “push back” of sorts taking place.

Here’s one. General James Mattis. Former Defense Secretary, lifelong Republican and someone whose 40 years of military service have been honored by just about everyone. Except you-know-who.

Those who’ve followed his career know Mattis is Marine down to his camo shorts. A professional who knows intimately – and who lives by – the chain-of-command. An order is given and his answer is always “Yes, Sir.” Even when Trump criticized and belittled him both during and after his Secretary of Defense posting, Mattis kept his military bearing.

But. Mattis has written a book about his career and includes some hints of how he feels about Trump. Not out-and-out blatant criticism but you get the idea when he writes “I found him to be of limited cognitive ability.” And several other verbal jabs.

Yet, while Mattis is holding his tongue – for now – it’s likely we’ll be getting a fuller picture soon. “There is a period in which I owe my silence,” Mattis said, referring to his post-Trump days. “It’s not eternal,” he added, “And it’s not going on forever.” Boda Bing! Boda Boom! My guess is about December, 2020.

Another case. Trump criticized Faux Nuews. Told his followers, “They’re not working for us” and suggesting that a new and “more supportive” media network was needed.

Now, many of us figured Faux would knuckle under and “come to heel.” But, no. Fact is, several of the major Faux players got up on their hind legs and told Trump they weren’t “working for him.” They got downright indignant and claimed media “impartiality” and told him they’d report the facts as they happened to be.

Putting Faux Nuews and the word “facts” in the same sentence has been – and likely will continue to be – an oxymoron. But, at least they took a stab at journalistic professionalism for once and bit back.

Still more evidence. The exodus of Republican members of Congress.
Lot’s of ‘em. Many angry at Trump and tired of defending him. The reasons vary but the flight is real. Going into the 2020 election, Democrats needed a net gain of four seats to take the majority in the Senate. That is, keep all they have and add four. Seemed out of reach. Now, not so much. Arizona, Colorado, Maine, Georgia, for example, seem winnable. How ‘bout that?

And more. As Trump has fired former “best people,” many have not just shuffled off to deserved anonymity. Several have written fiery books and others have taken to more respectable media to tell “the inside story” of White House chaos. Some are even making big bucks on the “chicken dinner” circuit telling their tales to other Republicans. Yes, Virginia, Republicans!

And this. One night last week, little Donny Junior went to Kentucky for a well-publicized speech to the GOP faithful on behalf of the one-term, right wing governor who’s in a surprisingly hot re-election fight. Kentucky Republicans in Mitch McConnell’s home state spent heavily to promote Donny. Even rented a 7-thousand seat auditorium. And when Donny went to the mike, he looked out on a throng of 200. Yep, 200! In Kentucky?

And more. National farmer’s organizations are coming unglued over the beating they’re taking from Trump. The same guy they backed so heavily in 2016. The tariffs – real or promised – are killing ‘em. Along with a couple of years of bad weather. You can see the bib overalls on TV, night after night, swearing both at-and-off Trump. Lots of rural vows of “Never again!” Who’d a thunk?

And those examples are all domestic. We haven’t talked about other entire countries. Some who don’t even want him to visit. The President of the United States persona-non-grata. Media – and many politicians overseas – are skewering anything Trump related. And, in those few countries still trying to keep up appearances, heads of state are plotting ways of dealing with Trump. Or going around him.

Yep. Real push back. Not to say ol’ Donald will be a one-termer just yet. With Russian election meddling and worldwide computer hacking, 2020 results could go sideways. And, as we learned to our sorrow in 2016, there’s the Electoral College to deal with. He’s already lost the popular vote once and won. Could it happen again? Who knows?

Trump’s continual back-stabbing of once loyal staff, supporters and entire countries continues unabated. But, we’re seeing more people openly turning on him and biting back. Or staying away. We’re seeing once valued fellow-travelers taking open stands of opposition.

Still, there’s that one last bastion standing with him. Republicans in Congress who’ve every reason to dump him but lack the guts to do it. He’s still got the most dangerous politician in America – Mitch McConnell – riding shotgun. At least for now.

But, as said at the outset, Trump has this one unique quality of turning friends into enemies. So, a guy can always hope!

The downside

Author: admin

On a daily basis, we’re told by all the pundits “This early in the presidential election, polls don’t mean much.” Then they trot out the latest numbers and make all sorts of comparisons.

They’re right, of course, about how little numbers mean 15 months out. Interesting, but predictive of nothing you can hang your hat on.

Still, there’s one polling category taken that I don’t see included very often and, to me, it means as much – or even more at times – than all the others. Even now. And that’s the “unfavorable” count.

The reason for the interest in “unfavorables,” is a case can be made voters falling into that category probably assured the unexpected 2016 victory of Trump.

Clinton was the clear polling leader going into that election with a good margin in her favor. But, underneath those numbers were her “unfavorables.” And they were sizeable. Over 50-percent.

Some of the pollsters I trust most have a similar interest in those figures and several have what seems to be a reasonable explanation for how they fit into her loss.

They opined people in that category looked at her – looked at him as an unknown – closed their eyes and voted for Trump. The unknown. Broken down by polling data such as age, education, race, economic and party indicators, their reasoning seems sound.

So, if you measured the “unfavorables” of all the Democrats running at the moment, who do you think would have the highest rating? My guess would be Biden.

Yes, he currently holds a wide lead over the rest of the pack when voters are asked who they favor. Solid lead. Good numbers. But, the same four decades of valuable experience Biden brings to the contest also work against him.

The reason for that is clear. Take the crime bill Congress passed in the ‘70’s. Biden voted “no.” He had his reasons at the time. Given his experience, that vote may have seemed right. Then. But, nearly 40 years later, with crime in the streets and mass murders in our schools, churches, synagogues and the marketplace, it’s very difficult to face questions about such a vote in today’s campaign. So far, he hasn’t developed a clear response that makes sense under today’s conditions.

There were other votes of his that, at the time, were probably solid but which are now outdated. That’s the trouble with longevity, as I’m also finding out. Times change. Thinking changes. Issues evolve. Sanders and Warren, with years of elective service, also have some votes they’d probably like to take back. Or, would just as soon not talk about on the campaign trail. Same reasons. And both have sizeable “unfavorables.”

In current polling, yes, the figures are mushy and subject to change day-to-day. But, a pattern is developing that shows about 16 of the 20 candidates should seriously think about going back to their day jobs. Biden, Warren and Sanders have double-digit leads over everyone else. The numbers separating the top three change with each poll. But, the placement over the rest of the field doesn’t.

I’m especially disappointed in Beto. He’s not going to win the race and he’s not favored as a vice presidential pick. His numbers are bad and not likely to get better. At the same time, in his home state of Texas, incumbent John Cornyn is vulnerable in his re-election try. And, Beto, who came within three-percent of beating Ted Cruz in 2018, could likely beat Cornyn if local polling is accurate.

That U.S. Senate race is extremely important for Democrats, along with a couple of others because if they don’t take the Senate, the gridlock will continue. If O’Rourke continues his doomed campaign, you can write it off as an ego trip but it ain’t smart politics.

Pundits all talk about how important the 2020 election is. And they’re right! But, some of the presidential candidates – like Beto, Booker, Bullock and Gillibrand – seem more wrapped up in their own little worlds than considering the big picture. While Democrats stand to pick up even more of a majority in the House, the Senate is in doubt. And that’s where the action is.

Former Colorado Governor Hickenlooper saw the writing on the wall, dropped out of his losing presidential effort, and is running for the Senate against a troubled incumbent in what seems to be a “purple” state. Washington State Governor Inslee quit and decided to run for a third term at home. Good thinking by both men.

But, back to the “unfavorables.” If the media really wants to fulfill its role of helping voters be more informed about the candidates and issues, that number should get more attention and be used often. I’m certain the candidates know what they are. You can bet the farm Trump and his people know his.

Their importance weighed heavily in determining the 2016 race. They deserve a lot more public notice this time around.

War

Author: admin

America was attacked by Japan on December 7, 1941. Just 32 hours later, President Franklin Roosevelt declared war in response.

The nation became instantly focused on the business of war. Industry turned on a dime and began producing armaments of all descriptions. Commerce quicky set up a war footing and became part of the massive effort. Young men and women signed up for military duty. Civilians of all stripes were either in uniform or became part of the campaign in hundreds of ways.

It was war! We won.

We are now under attack again. For those who are repulsed and sickened by the massacres flowing from guns in this country, we are at war again! War!

This is not something politicians can solve with new laws. Even if they had the backbone to write ‘em. We’ve already got more laws dealing with guns than we can prosecute. Laws aren’t the answer.

Think about Sandy Hook. El Paso. Dayton. Las Vegas. Orlando. Parkland. Columbine. Do you think for a second that the shooters in all these massacres loaded their long guns, stopped at the door and thought about laws they were about to break? Were any of them stopped by legislation?

Banning violent video games – ala Walmart – isn’t the answer. All developed nations on earth have violent video games. Are they having as many massacres per capita as us? Any?

Psychiatric or mental treatment won’t stop the shooting. As far as we know, only one shooter in all the tragedies listed above had any contact with mental health professionals – Sandy Hook. Medical professionals can’t find ‘em all before they kill.

We are at war! None of these “answers” being proffered can stop the killing and, taken together, they’ll still fail. In wars, there’s the battlefield and there’s the home front. Not now. We are currently living on the battlefield. Schools, hospitals, churches, mosques, temples, concerts, nightclubs, streets, stores. Where we live, shop, play, worship. We’re living on the battlefield.

It’s the guns, damn it. It’s the guns. You got unlimited and free access to guns? You got killers.

In our state, when arrested for DUI, the state takes the car. Period. That takes care of that. One by one. Separate the driver from the car.

When someone is convicted of a crime while on drugs, our state – and many others – not only locks ‘em up but also enters them into a program to separate ‘em from drugs. Separate.

But, also in our state, sorry to say, we have open carry laws. More than that, you can carry concealed without any classes, no permit, no training. You can carry in stores, libraries, restaurants, bars. Now, there’s a “great” idea. Bullets and booze. What could go wrong? It’s the guns, damn it!

We have a war on our hands. Nothing short of it. All these damned piecemeal approaches will not work if, somewhere out there, in this nation of 330-million souls, there are hundreds or even thousands of people with mass murder on their minds. They can’t be found before they kill. They don’t wear tags. They all look like the rest of us. There’s absolutely no way to cut ‘em out of the herd before they act.

Politicians don’t have the guts to take on the NRA. But, that’s one piece of the larger puzzle that has to be solved. The NRA is a cancer on our society that’s paid out more than 24-million-dollars to members of Congress in the last decade. It’s bought them and it’s bought their silence and inaction. We’re currently successfully bankrupting some hate groups by getting large, court-ordered civil damages for their wrongdoing. It’s time the NRA paid up. Seems New York State A.G. is working on that.

If we’re to stop the killing – stop the massacres – stop the killers – we have to look at this as a war. Nothing less. It requires us to temporarily turn from other issues and concentrate every resource we own directly on this one murderous problem. We have to go back to December, 1941, and put this nation on a war footing. Focus directly on what and who’s killing us and stop it. Nothing less will stop the tragedies that have ended so many innocent lives.

I don’t know all the answers, if answers there be. But, I do know this nation (1941-1945) waged massive wars on two fronts and won both. We dedicated ourselves to a single purpose – winning – and we did. If we could stop ‘em “over there,” we can damn-well stop ‘em here. America can still walk and chew gum at the same time.

We’ve got the money, the brains, the technology. But, so far, we’ve lacked the will to take this head on. We’re at war. Our streets and structures have become the battlefield. We are living in the midst of the killing. We are safe nowhere.

If that’s not war, what the hell is it?