Monthly Archives: July 2016

If You Want to Live in a Theocracy…

Let me paraphrase the late Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

I too have a dream.  That Americans will live in a nation where they will not be judged by the deity to whom they pray or not, but by their values and ethics, whatever the source.
The event which triggered this blog was NOT the recent Republican National Convention where religion, and specifically Christianity, were constantly on display.  More about that later.  I began thinking about this topic when someone shared with me the first article about WikiLeaks' release of emails from the Democratic National Committee.

As always, the news media is focusing on only a portion of the story.  Headlines in the major newspapers and stories on cable news present this revelation as confirmation that the Democratic National Committee was biased in its support of Hillary Clinton.  The following email from DNC CFO Brad Marshall to other DNC staff including executive director Amy K. Dacey is among the most egregious.

From:MARSHALL@dnc.org
To: MirandaL@dnc.org, PaustenbachM@dnc.org, DaceyA@dnc.org 
Date: 2016-05-05 03:31 
Subject: No shit

It might may no difference, but for KY and WVA can we get someone to ask his belief. Does he believe in a God. He had skated on saying he has a Jewish heritage. I think I read he is an atheist. This could make several points difference with my peeps. My Southern Baptist peeps would draw a big difference between a Jew and an atheist.

 
Sadly, instead of telling Marshall the email is inappropriate, her one word email reply?  "AMEN" (her capital letters).

But that is only half the story and maybe the least important.  We had just been witness to a Republican National Convention which promoted a melding of church and state.  It began on the first day, when SC Pastor Mark Burns, in the opening benediction, warned, "Our enemy is not other Republicans, but is Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party."  What happened to the other party being referred to as the "loyal opposition?"

In reference to the Republican candidate, he continued, "We are thankful that you are guiding him [Trump], that you are giving his the words to unite this party, this country, that we together can defeat the liberal Democratic Party...Because we are the conservative party under God."

In his acceptance speech, Trump proposed a greater role for religion in political discourse, promising to repeal laws which prohibit tax exempt organizations, including churches, from political activity.  There are two kinds of tax exempt organizations in the IRS Code.  Those designated as 501(c)(3) are generally charitable or educational entities.  Currently, religious organizations fall into this category.  Advocacy groups such as the US Chamber of Commerce are designated as 501(c)(6).  The major difference is contributors to a (c)(3) charity can deduct the gift on their individual tax returns.  Contributors to a (c)(6) cannot. Under Trump's proposal, someone like Sheldon Adelson could create a religious entity (not very hard as proven by John Oliver on HBO's Last Week Tonight) and offer personal income tax deductions to "donors" who support political speech given from the pulpit.

Is this wrong?  Ask Thomas Jefferson who wrote the following in a letter to the Danbury Baptists in response to their congratulations on his election as president.

Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between Man & his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, & not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should "make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof," thus building a wall of separation between Church & State.
So if you want to live in theocracy, there are plenty of nations where you are welcome.

Which brings us back to Marshall and Dacey.  Not only did they demonstrate improper bias, they chose to undermine a candidate based on his religious beliefs or lack thereof.  To use choice of faith as a criteria for public office, is a violation of the very principles on which our country was founded.  For both their lack of neutrality during the nomination process and their violation of the imperative of religious freedom,  Dacey and Marshall, and chair Debbie Wasserman-Shultz if she knew and said nothing, must RESIGN IMMEDIATELY or be FIRED.  (Not to mention the sheer stupidity of raising the issue in an email.)

In contrast, I was heartened listening to Senator Tim Kaine yesterday.  In previous posts, I stated I have no problem with people using faith as a source of inner strength and personal ethics.  Kaine ascribed his passion for social justice to his religious upbringing.  But this man, who as a Catholic personally opposes abortion, supports the law and Constitutional right for women to control their own bodies.  This is a good start.

Let me close by sharing one other dream.  If we really believe in separation of church and state, one day a president of the United States will be sworn into office with his or her hand on a copy of the Constitution as this is the ONLY document they promise to faithfully execute, not any religious artifact.

For what it's worth.
 Dr. ESP

When Pigs Sing

The late Daniel Patrick Moynihan, U.S. Senator from New York, once said, “You are entitled to your opinion. But you are not entitled to your own facts.”

I was reminded of this a couple of weeks ago when a member of our regular foursome showed up at the golf course wearing a “Make America Great Again” cap.  Knowing my head would not be in the game, I informed the others I would not be joining them.  When asked why, I responded I did not want to be near a reminder the presumptive nominee of a major political party saw no problem re-tweeting an anti-Semitic image which originated in a neo-Nazi chat room.

The Trump supporter’s counter? “I don’t believe you.”  I offered to send him the URL so he could see for himself.  [NOTE:  The image was originally posted on 8ch.net/pol/ on June 22, 2016.  It has since been deleted, but the page was archived here and can be viewed near the bottom of the page.  Additionally, the Twitter account of the person who created the graphic @fishbonehead1 was removed by Twitter for posting racist material.]  Donald Trump re-tweeted the image on July 2, 2016.

The Trumpster turned and walked away.  I asked, “Don’t you care your candidate does this and then claims it was made with a Microsoft shape or was really a sheriff’s badge?”  [NOTE: The logo of the National Sheriffs’ Association is a five pointed star.  And those police departments with six pointed stars ALL have the circles attached to the ends of each point.] In line with Trump culture, rather than face the facts, he suggested I needed to get back on my meds.

Robert A. Heinlien was right.  In his book Time Enough for Love, he states.

“…[A] fool cannot be protected from his folly. If you attempt to do so, you will not only arouse his animosity but also you will be attempting to deprive him of whatever benefit he is capable of deriving from experience. Never attempt to teach a pig to sing; it wastes your time and annoys the pig.”

Rather than direct other Trump followers to facts which contradict their candidate’s accusations and falsehoods, I decided a better use of my time was advising my friends to buy stock in Kraft Foods, the maker of Kool-Aid.  The demand must be extremely high these days.

For what it’s worth.
Dr. ESP

All Enemies, Foreign AND Domestic

On Thursday night, Republican candidate Donald Trump took pride for the following clause in his acceptance speech.

As your President, I will do everything in my power to protect our LGBTQ citizens from the violence and oppression of a hateful foreign ideology.

This is offensive on many levels.  Not only is selective protection of human rights unacceptable, it is not even a step in the right direction.  In effect, it accommodates hateful behavior by those not called out.  In this case, Trump has no problem condemning followers of Islam for their treatment of specific U.S. citizens but turns his back when Americans, including his choice for running mate, pass laws and propose policies designed to degrade and demonize those who live an “alternative” lifestyle.

Second, what is a foreign ideology?  Christianity and Judaism are also foreign ideologies.  They did not originate in the United States.  They were brought to America (ready for this) by immigrants many of whom were not screened or vetted.

Third, does this mean traditional Mormon attitudes toward members of the LBGT community were okay since Mormonism is home grown.  Many in the LDS community now reject gender discrimination, but as late as 2012 Pew Research reported 65 percent of Mormons felt “society should discourage homosexuality.”

Fourth, as part of the naturalization ceremony, immigrants who adopt America as their home are required to take the following oath.

I hereby declare, on oath, that I absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state, or sovereignty, of whom or which I have heretofore been a subject or citizen; that I will support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I will bear arms on behalf of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform noncombatant service in the Armed Forces of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform work of national importance under civilian direction when required by the law; and that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; so help me God.

It requires naturalized citizens to defend the county against “ALL ENEMIES, FOREIGN AND DOMESTIC.” Natural born citizens of the U.S. are not obliged to take a similar pledge.  Even the presidential oath does not include this phrase. The only native born Americans who take an oath containing this phrase are members of the armed services.  Shouldn’t the commander-in-chief do the same?

Let me propose a simple solution.  When registering to vote, every American should affirm their allegiance to the Constitution and swear to resist all enemies, foreign and DOMESTIC.

For what it’s worth.
Dr. ESP

 

“Under the Bus” Is Full (For Now)

 

Or people for whom I feel sorry.

One of the most bizarre episodes during the Republican National Convention was the inclusion of material from Michelle Obama’s 2008 speech during the Democratic National Convention in Melania Trump’s address on Monday night.

After two days of denying the charges of plagiarism, the campaign finally released a statement by one Meredith McIver, who took responsibility for the “mistake” and tendered her resignation (which was not accepted).  As usual, the press accepted this account hook, line and sinker.

I’m sorry, but I’m more curious than that.  I know it is a political tradition for underlings to take one for the team.  And that would be satisfactory except for a couple of inconvenient truths.  First, on Tuesday morning Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort told CNN’s Chris Cuomo, “Melania Trump knew exactly what she was doing.”  As the primary person responsible for ensuring the convention went off without a hitch, Manafort chose to throw the candidate’s wife under the bus instead of holding himself accountable.

As you may have guessed by now, I am no fan of Donald Trump.  And this incident confirms my disdain.  It is one thing to use your spouse as a prop for your political ambitions.  It is another to hang her out to dry TWICE in a period of three days.  I have no idea what kind of person Melania Trump may be, but I understand she is a very private individual.  And, having been director of operations for Fritz Hollings’ presidential campaign in 1984, I have seen the impact on personal relationships caused by the rigors and pressure associated with a run for the White House. Speaking in front of the convention attendees and a national TV audience is not something that comes naturally to Ms. Trump.  And she performed well in support of her husband.  But when it was disclosed the speech contained lifted material, Mr. Trump had two responsibilities.  One was IMMEDIATELY to acknowledge the mistake and recognize how gracious  First Lady Michelle Obama had been under the circumstances.  Second, and more importantly, he needed to stand up for his wife.  Instead, he let staff and surrogates question her honor. If he had done the CORRECT thing, Manafort would not have had the opportunity to take her down on Tuesday morning.

But, remember I said he hung her out to dry TWICE.  Once Ms. Trump’s integrity was questioned, it opened other avenues of inquiry.  Did she have the “chops” to write the speech as she claimed?  Her speaker’s bio in the convention program states she “obtain a degree in design and architecture at University in Slovenia.” (NOTE: Their syntax, not typos.)  It did not take long to discover she had dropped out of school after one year and holds no degrees.  Donald Trump has repeated this falsehood multiple times.  Did he think no one would notice? You do NOT set up your wife to be embarrassed like this.

Unfortunately, there is more than one seat under the Trump campaign bus.  The second one is reserved for Ms. McIver, the staff writer who took the fall for plagiarizing Michelle Obama.  There’s only one problem.  Much like Melania Trump, the campaign put McIver in an untenable position.  As stated above, the media have failed to follow the leads to their obvious conclusion.

After reading the stories in the Washington Post and the New York Times, I realized none contained a picture of Ms. McIver.  Out of curiosity, I wanted to know what she looked like.  I Googled images of her and on the first row of thumbnails, I found the following two pictures.

640

The first came from McIver’s Twitter page with the caption, “I just wanted to set the record straight. @realDonaldTrump is a wonderful man.” The second is with Donna Root, an executive coach, from her website PRWEB.COM.  I doubt McIver has the PhotoShop skills to create the first image.  She is a former ballerina and English major.  Someone had to help her.  So once again, instead of taking personal responsibility, the campaign put her in an embarrassing position.  They also put her in a position where she had to lie.  On her Twitter page, a follower Brian Mahoney found the two images and pointed out the inconsistency in focus.  Her response? “The lighting was just off in the picture because Mr. Trump was standing by a brightly lit window.”  You be the judge.

UPDATE: Meredith McIver’s twitter account has been suspended and the fake picture of her and Donald Trump has disappeared.  The picture now on the left is a cropped version from another site.  Once the original PhotoShopped picture was deleted, the link to my blog was broken and the image could not be viewed.

This ruse makes everything else suspect.  As Judge Judy always says, “If it doesn’t make sense, it probably isn’t true.”  Which takes us back to her statement of contrition.  First, would we have been better informed if McIver or the campaign had simply released her resignation letter? I would have much preferred to see what she told the “boss” rather than the sanitized legalese contained in her statement.  Second, in her narrative of what happened, she actually throws Ms. Trump under the bus again.  “Over the phone, she read me some passages from Mrs. Obama’s speeches.”  This confirms Manafort’s earlier statement, “She knew exactly what she was doing.”  Are we to believe Ms. Trump did not remember the material she had researched and shared with McIver?  I cannot help but wonder who approved this statement before it was released.  And I wonder why McIver, who claims a long personal and professional relationship with the Trump family, would do Ms. Trump such a disservice.

Two women, the candidate’s wife and a long-time associate, are placed in embarrassing positions and Paul Manafort,  a hired gun, still has his job.  It’s not very visible, but I imagine somewhere under the the Trump campaign bus is a sign that reads, “Reserved for Females.”

For what it’s worth.
Dr. ESP

 

Breaking News or Broken Record

The term “breaking news” used to be reserved for momentous events.  Before the plethora of cable news channels, newsrooms employed the moniker judiciously as it meant breaking into regular programming and required approval from network executives.

Sadly, those days are long gone.  When EVERYTHING is breaking news, the label loses it value.  CNN is probably the most frequent perpetrator of this offense.  Consider the following examples.

BREAKING NEWS: Trump to speak at rally.   One hardly needs an alert when the network has been showing a vacant podium for two hours for an event which has been on the candidate’s calendar for days.

BREAKING NEWS: Repetition of elements of the Nice terrorist attack hours after they were initially reported.  Wouldn’t a more honest lead-in be in order? “For those of you just tuning in, we’re going to recap when we know about the situation in Nice.”

This morning, CNN outdid itself.  During a panel discussion from the site of the upcoming Republican convention, the anchor informed the panel she had to cut off the conversation, “as we have breaking news out of France.”  What could possibly be significant enough to terminate the never ending parade of talking heads speculating whether Donald Trump would be viewed as more likable coming out of the convention?

Was there another terrorist attack? Did CNN go to a correspondent in France?  NO!  First, they played a promo for their convention coverage.  Then they went to commercials.  And when they came back, they did one more segment from Cleveland.

Ironically, the eventual report from Nice did have breaking news.  French authorities had discovered a message from the attacker to an unknown recipient asking the recipient “to bring more weapons.”  In other words, the text or email suggested the attack was not the actions of a lone wolf.

Last weekend, my wife and I re-watched All the President’s Men, which chronicles how Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward covered Watergate for the Washington Post.  Some of the most compelling scenes are the discussions during which the editors of each of the news desks decide what will be in that day’s edition.  In one sequence, editor-in-chief Ben Bradlee (played by Jason Robards) understands the initial reports surrounding the break-in are not yet significant enough to warrant front-page coverage.  Bradlee was saying, “We’ll put the story on Page One when it deserves to be there.”

Perhaps, Jeff Zucker (CNN), Roger Ailes (FOX) and Phil Griffin (MSNBC) should take a two hour break this weekend, watch All the President’s Men and rediscover the roles and responsibility of managing editors of major news organizations.

For what it’s worth.
Dr. ESP