Saturday, September 24, 2016

Trump advocates stop and frisk, "take their guns." But he meant only black people's guns.

Donald Trump's response to the recent police shootings of black men was to say how he would handle this increasing violence: by reinstating "stop and frisk."   That's a police practice where police officers routinely stop people on the street and check their IDs and run a computer check.  If any infractions are listed (even a traffic violation), the police then have the power to search them and/or their cars.    The practice has been outlawed as unconstitutional by a federal district court judge.   So it is no longer allowed.   But Trump says, as president, he would reinstate "stop and frisk. . . .  It worked so good.   We have to do it."

But here the thing.   In touting "stop and frisk," Trump said:   "And if you find a gun, you take their guns."     You take their guns?   Isn't a good part of Trump's avid base the crowd that screams about Hillary's going to take your guns?   Even Trump himself famously declared that "Hillary wants to get rid of the second amendment," and she will confiscate your guns.    Is this a change to an anti-gun stance for Trump?

Oh, I see.    Stop and frisk is something you only do in black neighborhoods.   So, when he was talking about that, he was talking about taking black people's guns.   Now I get it.   And I'm sure his supporters did too.

Ralph

New poll good Clinton news -- yet questions remain

An NBC/WSJ/Telemundo national poll of likely voters was released on Sept. 21, with both two-way and four-way results:
     Clinton      48%          Clinton     43%
     Trump       41%           Trump      37%
                                             Johnson     9%
                                             Stein             2%

Demographic breakdown is interesting.   Among Latino voters, Clinton leads with 65% to Trump's 17%.    But compare Trump's 17% with George Bush's Latino support in 2004 of 44%.   And McCain's 31% in 2008 and Romney's 27% in 2012.   Trump's getting 10 points less than Romney, who lost.

It's reassuring to show how Trump is faring poorly, even among other demographic groups in which Republicans do well.  Unlike the above figures, these numbers are not percentages of the total vote, but the lead Trump has over Clinton, compared with the lead Romney had over Obama in 2012.

                                      Romney          Trump
White men                    +27%              +13%
Non-college men       +26%               +18%
Conservatives             +65%               +55%
Republicans                 +87%              +77%

He's averaging about 10% less support overall in these groups than the candidate who lost four years ago.  The question that remains for me:   with these encouraging numbers for Clinton, why are the one-on-one polls still as close as they are?

On issues asked about, Trump leads only on handling the economy, while Clinton leads on handling all other issues.   However, this baffles me.   On honesty:   Trump leads 41% to Clinton 31%.   How can people believe that he is more honest when he lies so effortlessly . . . about everything?    Perhaps those who only listen to FoxNews and right-wing radio really don't know that he is lying, because the interviewers do too.

Ralph

Friday, September 23, 2016

White privilege and implicit racism

Would someone please sit Mike Pence down and explain to him what "implicit racism" is and what "institutional racism" means.   He made pretty dumb comments last night about the controversy over police shootings of unarmed young black men, saying that there is no discrimination, no racism here.   He wants people to stop talking about it, because it only creates unrest;  it's "divisive."

I honestly think he simply doesn't understand the concept -- which, in my book, pretty well indicates that he does not recognize it in himself and his culture.   And that's the problem.   White privilege does not recognize how much it depends on implicit and institutional racism.   The first step in doing something about it is recognizing its existence.

Ralph

Smithsonium's Museum of African-American History and Culture opens today in Washington

The long-awaited National Museum of African-American History and Culture, part of the Smithsonian complex and located on the National Mall in Washington, DC, opens today.   Yesterday's New York Times provided an advance 8 page special section, including an interview with the lead designer, Ghanaian-British architect Freelon Adjaye.

It's message begins with the symbolism in the design itself.   Rather than another classic white marble building (the Washington, Jefferson, and Lincoln monuments, etc.) this building is a bronze, anodized aluminum material fashioned into a metalic fretwork skin, with views of those other buildings through the filigree openings.  The triple-tiered silhouette of the building has its origins in Yoruba culture;  and the filigree design motif is reminiscent of metal grillwork made by African-American metal workers in Louisiana and South Carolina that had West African roots.  The building's color is a dark brown that, in certain light, is said to be "on fire."

The galleries are arranged so that one begins in the underground three levels with the history of Africans being brought to this country as slaves.  The chronological narrative moves forward as one ascends to the above ground levels.    There are public spaces on the ground level, then more museum galleries in the three levels above that, with contributions to sports, arts and culture on the upper level.

Items for the collection were solicited through an open invitation for people to bring what they had -- sort of an Antiques Roadshow meet-up -- where curators examined the artifacts and assembled a collection from the people.   There's an outfit worn by Marian Anderson when she sang on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial after the DAR refused to allow her to perform in their auditorium.  There's Harriet Tubman's hymnal.  Muhammad Ali's boxing gloves.  Louie Armstrong's trumpet.  Althea Gibson's tennis racquet.  Oprah's couch.   Chuck Berry's red Cadillac.

And it's not only the good stuff.   There are slave chains, and a KKK hood.  Replicas of slave cabins and jail cells.   From what I read, the history galleries include the horrors of what really happened;  but there is also celebration of the achievements and contributions, including recognition of the Tuskegee Airmen, the Harlem Hellfighters, and the civil rights heroes.   Thurgood Marshall on the Supreme Court.  And, of course, Barack Obama as the first black president.

Although there is extensive coverage of the civil rights struggle, sadly, in the article there is little mention and no pictures of any artifacts from Martin Luther King, Jr.  I try not to be judgmental, after all the King children went through;   but one can't have read the Atlanta newspapers over the last five years and not be aware how often the siblings have been in court, fighting with each other over the sister's wish to treat their father's bible and his speeches as sacred, historical relics to be shared with the public -- and the two brothers' attempts to gain control so they can sell them to the highest bidder.    One can only assume at this point that they were not about to donate such valuable possessions to this museum.

The Times article ended with a full last page given over to a reprinting of the Langston Hughes poem, "I, Too," from his Collected Poems (published in 1994 by Doubleday/Penguin Random House;  copyright by the Estate of Langston Hughes).   It is so powerful, and so appropriate for this occasion.
         
"I, too, sing America.

"I am the darker brother.
They send me to eat in the kitchen.
When company comes,
But I laugh,
And eat well,
And grow strong.

"Tomorrow,
I'll be at the table
When company comes.
Nobody'll dare
Say to me,
'Eat in the kitchen,'
Then.

"Besides,
They'll see how beautiful I am
And be ashamed --

"I, too, am America."
  

Thursday, September 22, 2016

What next? Lynchings? Part 2

Part 1 of this question on Tuesday, Sept. 20th focused on Trump's hint that we should deny due process (fair trial, legal representation) to Ahmad Rahami, the man charged with the bombings.   Schoolyard bullies have picked up Trump's racist rhetoric;  now his toxic fascism is infecting the media as well.

CNN ran this crawl beneath its newscast asking:   "Does bombing suspect deserve due process?"   That should not even be a question in the United States.  You don't have to "deserve" due process.

It's a constitutional right -- for citizens and non-citizens alike.  We  should resist the effort of the political opportunists -- leading Republican politicians, not just Trump -- to undermine what makes us who we are as a country.  It's what Hillary Clinton meant when she responded to yet one more police shooting of an unarmed black man: "It's not who we are."

Ralph

Another point of view: "Clinton is correct, but Trump understands the public's concerns."

Timothy Stanley is a British journalist, historian, and blogger.   Formerly a member of the Labour Party in Britain, he has left it and now writes often about U.S. politics, usually from a Republican point of view -- not a crazed point of view, however.  (Note how it has  come to be important to make that distinction, as "moderate" and "sensible" have almost been severed from our associations to the word "Republican.")  Here's a piece Stanley posted about Trump's and Clinton's responses to the recent bombings.


-----------------------
"Terror and Fear Play into Trump's Hands," by Timothy Stanley, reprinted from CNN.com

There's a tradition of not injecting political comment into terror incidents, out of deference to those affected. But let's not be na├»ve. The wave of attacks that occurred over the weekend are the context to this presidential election. They are one of the reasons why Hillary Clinton's politics seem out of date and Donald Trump's seem more relevant. . . .

The attacks came just after the country marked the 15th anniversary of 9/11 and before a summit at the United Nations on the refugee crisis. An ISIS-linked news agency has already claimed that the man who stabbed nine people in Minnesota was one of theirs. In the murky world of Islamist terrorism, it's hard to distinguish between trained operatives and lone wolves who act almost on impulse. But the intention is always the same: to create an atmosphere of tension in order to intimidate the West into withdrawal from the Middle East.

It's precisely because the terrorists want to cause panic that many officials choose to react with calm and precision. Compare and contrast the reactions of Clinton and Trump. Trump told supporters that a bomb had gone off in New York hours before any details were confirmed by the police. He added: "We better get tough folks. We better get very, very tough." Clinton also referred to a bombing, but urged patience and discouraged speculation, saying: "I think it's important to know the facts about any incident like this."

In a normal election, we might say that Trump failed a character test: he pre-empted expert analysis and riled the public up rather than calming them down. When he speaks off the cuff like this, he's simply being negligent.

But 2016 isn't a normal election. America isn't living through ordinary times. Before 9/11, the country had some experience of domestic terrorism but seen few foreign attacks on its own soil. In the last two years they have become increasingly common.

And the tone of officialdom -- once so reassuringly objective -- now sounds anodyne. For instance, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio initially described the bombing in his city as "intentional" . . . .  The choice of words was odd. What kind of bomb isn't "intentional"? And why, many Americans will be asking, be so reluctant to speculate that terrorists are involved when terrorists have been so active of late? . . . .

In short, Trump sounds like he understands the public's concerns. Clinton sounds bureaucratic. Worse, it's the bureaucratic tone of a foreign policy establishment that has presided over the apparent decline in American security. Some voters feel that Clinton and her ilk put the US on the frontline of the terror conflict by voting for the Iraq War. That she helped expand that conflict with the bungled removal of Gaddafi from power in Libya. And that the US's vacillating involvement in Syria both weakened dictator Bashar al-Assad yet failed to remove him, stoking a civil war that gave rise to ISIS. All of these readings of history are highly subjective and questionable.   But they are believed verbatim by a significant rump of voters and have bled into wider public opinion.  It can be summed up as: "Hillary's been around ever since this trouble started. Trump wants to end it."

Security is his strongest issue. His economic protectionism appeals mostly to those affected by foreign competition in the declining rustbelt and won't be what he wins on if he wins. His pledge to build a wall along the Mexican border, however, might be couched as a defence of American jobs and sound like xenophobia -- but it subconsciously taps into concerns about security. A nation that can't control who comes in or out isn't a nation at all. Nativist campaigns against immigration in the past have often accused arrivals of importing foreign conflicts. Italians were thought to bring the mafia, for instance. So by linking the threat of Islamism to open borders, Trump is articulating ancient fears of "the other".

Liberals may condemn Trump for exploiting such worries, but they would be fools to dismiss the concern itself. It is real. It is justified by the Islamist campaign. And liberals might need to rethink how they articulate their own response to the situation. Technically, Clinton's was correct -- thoughtful, authoritative. But in the present circumstances, Trump's was emotionally more apposite.*  The context to this election is terror in every meaning of the word.   Trump has understood that from the very beginning.

------------------------------
Ralph

*  I never quite remember the definition of "apposite," which makes you think of "opposite."   But it's very different (I looked it up, again).   Merriam-Webster defines it as:  "highly pertinent or appropriate."  Colloquially, I would say it comes close to "exactly right," which I think would fit this author's meaning.   I find this piece by Timothy Stanley "apposite."  He's not saying Trump is right;  he's saying Trump is on to something very important to pay attention to, and Democrats will ignore it at their peril.   Not to jump on the Trumpism bandwagon;  but to acknowledge the fears and offer your own interpretation.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Quote of the week -- until it's displaced by another

This is from Seth Meyers, host of "Late Night" tv show.   He's referring to Donald Trump's one sentence attempt to put an end to his five year crusade to discredit the president of the United States by spreading false rumors and claims about his place of birth.

Meyers"  "You don't get to peddle racist rhetoric for five years and decide when it's over.  We decide when it's over -- and it's certainly not over after a 30 second statement in the middle of a hotel commercial. . . .  The bottom line is this.  Trump built his career on a racist lie because he's a racist and a liar."

Breaking news stories -- Trump and Christie

Tuesday, I promised that "tomorrow" I would post an article from a different point of view about Trump's and Clinton's appeal to voters -- unless something else preempts it.   Well, leave it to Trump to dominate the news.   So look for the other article tomorrow.  Here are quick summaries of some breaking news on Tuesday:

1.  Reports are that Donald Trump gave $45,000 in campaign contributions to New York State Comptroller Alan Havesi and subsequently got Havesi's approval of a special tax abatement from New York that saved him $97 million in taxes on a building.   Havesi later went to jail for accepting bribes as comptroller;  but he was convicted on a different case,  not the one involving Trump.

2.  Washington Post investigative reporter, David Farenthold, has been doing dogged investigation into the Trump Foundation and Trump's (lack of) charitable donations.   His findings have already documented that Trump has put no money of his own into his charitable foundation since 2008.  But he gets other people to donate.  And then he writes checks from the foundation and passes them off as his own "charitable donations."   It's from the Trump Foundation, see?   The breaking news is further damning evidence from Farenthold, showing that as much as $258,000 of foundation money -- supposedly a tax deductible charity -- has been used by Trump to settle legal battles of his various businesses.

3.  New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is not on trial himself in the Bridgegate scandal trial that is underway, but his former deputy chief of staff and his crony from the Port Authority are.   They are the ones who exchanged the emails that are the "smoking gun" that got the politically vindictive lane closings under way.   Bridget Ann Kelly emailed Bill Baroni at the Port Authority:  "Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee," which was the signal, and to which Baroni replied:  "Got it."   And then the lane closings were set up.  It was already assumed that the defense lawyers would use "Gov. Christie knew about it while it was happening" in their defense.   In other words, to show that it was in the culture of the administration to do pay-back things like this.

The breaking news is this.    In the opening remarks of the trial, the prosecutor also stated that Gov. Christie knew about this at the time it was happening.  Even though Christie has spent all this time flatly denying that he had any knowledge of it.   What will be the outcome?   For Christie, no legal consequences in this trial.   He's not on trial.   But politically?   That remains to be seen.

If prosecution and defense are both making the claim, they must have good evidence.  And that is obviously David Wildman, Christie's inside man at the Port Authority in a job that Christie got them to create, specifically so he would have someone to keep him informed and do his bidding.  Wildman was also charged in the bridge closing scandal;  but he is cooperating with the prosecution in a plea deal  and apparently no longer protecting his old boss.

So Wildman has obviously told them this -- and it fits with that now infamous photo of Gov. Christie, Wildman, and Baroni, standing together after the 9/11 memorial ceremony.   They're all laughing and acting jovial.  This was at the height of the lane closings and the furor from motorists.   Everyone believed Christie must have known;   how could he not know?   Now they seem to have testimony that he did.

Wildman must have told the prosecutor the truth about Christie's knowing.   They were laughing about the revenge they were exacting against the mayor of Ft. Lee, a Democrat, who had refused to endorse Christie for reelection.   Pressuring Democratic mayors was part of Christie's ambitious plan to win reelection as a Republican governor in a blue state with big support from Democrats, making him seem inevitable for the Republican presidential nomination in 2016,    Didn't work out so well for him.

It's a fast-moving media circus out there.  There's been another police shooting of an unarmed black man with his hands up, this one in Oklahoma.  Once again, someone's video showed what really happened, which differs markedly from the report the involved police officers had filed.

Ralph

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

What's next, Trump? Lynchings?

It's hard to keep up with Donald Trump.  He just keeps upping his demagoguery.    Speaking about the arrested bombing suspect, Ahmad Rahami, who was injured in a shootout with the police and is in a hospital, Trump lamented:

“Now we will give him amazing hospitalization. He will be taken care of by some of the best doctors in the world. . . .  [He] will be given a fully modern and updated hospital room, and he’ll probably even have room service, knowing the way our country is. “On top of that, he will be represented by an outstanding lawyer.”

Does Trump even know that Rahami is a U.S. citizen?   And, although the evidence against him is overwhelming (video of him putting something in the dumpster, his fingerprints on the unexploded bombs in New Jersey), he is still entitled to due process -- which includes legal representation and a fair trial.

This is not the first time that Donald Trump has seemed to want to do away with the Constitution when it suits him.   Using a religious test to bar people coming into our country;  toying with censoring what can be published -- or even put on the internet.  And now eliminating due process.

Ralph

Responding to the NY/NJ bomb attacks

The bombs that exploded in Manhattan and those found, but not exploded, in Manhattan and in New Jersey seem now to be the work of one man, who is in police custody.   So far, the evidence the police have released points to this being an individual's work and not directly sponsored by a terrorist organization.  (see update below].  Twenty-some people were injured, but no one died.  All were released after hospital emergency treatment.  Still, this has had a major impact.  Because it reminds us we are vulnerable.

The suspect is 28 year old Ahmad Khan Rahami, a naturalized U.S. citizenborn in Afghanistam and immigrated as a child with his family.   He works in his family's fried chicken restaurant in New Jersey.   A friend told reporters that Ahman was always friendly and generous but that he had changed recently, becoming "more serious."  Nothing has yet been released as to whether he may have been in contact with radical groups on the internet.

I have nothing but praise for the first responders and law enforcement agencies involved.  The explosion happened around 8:30 Saturday evening.   By early Monday morning, investigators had learned the identity of a man seen on video surveillance tapes putting the device in the dumpster in New York.  They had also concluded, because of similarity of materials used, that the bombs in New York and those found in New Jersey were probably the work of the same person. 

The NYPD used an emergency internet alert (like a Megan alert, presumably) to put out a "wanted" mugshot and the name of the suspect around 8:00 am on Monday.  They asked for anyone who knew anything to get in touch.  A bar owner recognized that the picture and the man sleeping in the entry of his bar were the same -- and called the police.   Shortly after 11:00 am, the suspect was captured in Linden, New Jersey, after a gun fight that wounded two officers.   He was taken into police custody and charged with attempted murder.    That is extraordinarily efficient, great work by all involved.

Mayor DeBlasio and his police and fire commissioners are to be applauded for keeping the situation under control and for keeping the city calm.   President Obama, too, by reminding us with his calm manner and words not to give in to the fear that terrorists seek to foment in us, leading us to change the way we live our lives.

How did our presidential candidates respond?   Apparently Donald Trump thinks political advantage trumps leadership.  He issued a warning that "this is only going to get worse. . .  It's a mess, and it's a shame, and we're going to have to be very tough."   He also was quick to speculate that there must be "foreign connections."   And, of course, being who he is, he had to put himself into the spotlight, telling Fox News that "I called it," referring to his immediate response on Saturday night, before there was any evidence of what caused the explosion, that "it was a bomb."

The fact that we all thought it probably was, and that he turned out to be right about that, does not alter the fact that he did not display the kind of leadership we need in a crisis.   Where President Obama exuded strength and calm, Trump fanned the flames of fear and provocative behavior.  It is a well known fact that ISIS uses videos of Trump making inflammatory comments about Muslims as a recruitment tool.  It also tends to alienate our Muslim allies that we need in this fight against ISIS.

And, just as expectedly, he has tried to make political gain with it ever since -- ramping up his call for stricter immigration policies and even raising the question of free speech, toying with the idea of making it illegal to print bomb-making instructions.  " . . . you buy magazines and they tell you how to make the same bombs that you saw. . . .  now people will go crazy, they'll say Trump is against freedom of the press.  I'm totally in favor of freedom of the press. . . . [But ] Those people should be arrested because they are inciting violence, OK. They are making violence possible. They should be arrested immediately. They have websites that tell how to make bombs, how to make all sorts of things that are totally destructive, and you know where they are coming from, and yet we don't want to touch them because of freedom of speech."

[pause to clear the air]

Hillary Clinton had a very different response.   On Saturday night, she issued a simple statement expressing concern and calling for calm and waiting for evidence before drawing conclusions.    On Monday, with that evidence available, she stressed her experience in dealing with terrorists as Secretary of State and of being part of decisions that the president had to make about fighting terrorists on the battlefield.  She denounced Trump's response as "demagogic" and "irresponsible, reckless rhetoric."   She also urged not villainizing the millions of law-abiding, peaceful Muslims living in our country.  "We are going after the bad guys and we are going to get them, but we are not going to go after an entire religion and give ISIS exactly what it is wanting," Clinton said.   It was noted in some news releases that Clinton has "given speeches on defeating terror multiple times throughout the 2016 campaign, including policy-focused addresses in Minneapolis and New York earlier this year."

Yes, but . . . .   Tomorrow (unless something else preempts the news) I plan to post a thought-provoking article that takes a somewhat different point of view:   "Clinton is correct, but Trump understands the public's concern."   That's the political conundrum.

Ralph

Late update:   It's now known that Ahman Rahami traveled to Pakistan three times in recent years, staying with family there.  It's also said that he has a wife there, who has been cleared to come to the U.S.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Former Defense Secretary Gates calls Trump "willfully ignorant about the rest of the world"

Robert Gates is a highly respected Republican, who earned a PhD in Russian and Soviet history from Georgetown University.  He served for 26 years in the the National Security Council and as head of the CIA, before being appointed in 2006 by George W. Bush to succeed Donald Rumsfeld as Secretary of Defense.   President Barack Obama asked him to continue in the position in his cabinet, and he did until his retirement in 2011.   He is considered by many as the best Defense Secretary of the post World War II era.   As a Republican in a Democratic administration, his views were highly respected, and he worked closely with Hillary Clinton when she was Secretary of State.   They sometime agreed and sometimes disagreed.

His op-ed article in Friday's Wall Street Journal is the subject of much discussion.   Here is CNN reporter Eugene Scott's summary.

*     *     *     *     *
"Robert Gates criticized both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump on their preparedness to handle US foreign policy -- but the former defense secretary reserved his harshest language for the Republican nominee. . . .  When it comes to credibility problems, . . . 'Trump is in a league of his own. . . . The world we confront is too perilous and too complex to have as president a man who believes he, and he alone, has all the answers and has no need to listen to anyone,' Gates wrote.  'A thin-skinned, temperamental, shoot-from-the-hip and lip, uninformed commander in chief is too great a risk for America.'

"Gates called Trump too 'willfully ignorant about the rest of the world' to be commander in chief. . . .  At least on national security, I believe Mr. Trump is beyond repair. He is stubbornly uninformed about the world and how to lead our country and government, and temperamentally unsuited to lead our men and women in uniform,' Gates wrote.  'He is unqualified and unfit to be commander in chief.'

"Despite his harsh criticism of Trump, Gates wrote that he remains an undecided voter.  He criticized Clinton for advocating 'ill-fated regime change in Libya' and her shifting positions on the Iraq War and US trade agreements.

"'Mrs. Clinton has ruled out putting U.S. ground troops in Iraq and Syria 'ever again,' he wrote. 'That is a politically driven categorical declaration of a sort no president (or candidate) should make, and it raises the question whether she would pull out the 5,000 U.S. troops now in Iraq. She has expressed no new ideas to deal with the boiling caldron that is today's Middle East.'  But, he wrote, Clinton can still earn his vote.

""Mrs. Clinton has time before the election to address forthrightly her trustworthiness, to reassure people about her judgment, to demonstrate her willingness to stake out one or more positions on national security at odds with her party's conventional wisdom, and to speak beyond generalities about how she would deal with China, Russia, North Korea, Iran, the Middle East -- and international trade,' he wrote. 'Whether and how she addresses these issues will, I believe, affect how many people vote -- including me.'

"Gates, who worked for eight presidents for more than 50 years, said the best commanders in chief hire advisers who aren't afraid to contradict their boss.

"'All of the presidents I served were strong personalities with strongly held views about the world,' he said.  'But each surrounded himself with independent-minded, knowledgeable and experienced advisers who would tell the president what he needed to hear, not what he wanted to hear.  Sometimes presidents would take their advice, sometimes not. But they always listened,' Gates wrote."
*     *     *     *     *
Robert Gates is as close as they come to a truly bipartisan, experienced public servant who is respected by even those who may disagree with him on some issues, as did Hillary Clinton from time to time.   But they also agreed on others.    His is perhaps the most important support that Hillary Clinton could hope for that she doesn't already have.   I hope she will be able to earn his vote.

And Trump's response?   He said of Gates:  "He’s a mess, so he goes out and he says negative things about me. I never met him, I never talked to him. Believe me, I am so much better at what he’s doing than he is, you won’t even believe it. . . .  A nasty guy;  probably has a problem we don't know about."

That comment says a lot about the speaker . . . and nothing about the subject of the comment.

Ralph

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Correcting the Bill Clinton quote

I just found the original version of what Bill Clinton said to Trevor Noah about Hillary's supporters, which is even better than what I quoted yesterday.   Here's the original:

"Most of her strongest supporters are those who've
worked for her or have done business with him."

A Sunday anti-sermon

The National Religious Broadcasters sponsored a debate between a group of evangelicals, two of whom are Trump supporters and two who oppose him.

I don't want to be disrespectful of anyone else's religious beliefs, and perhaps one should never apply logic and reason to religious discussion.  But as an escapee myself from an extended family that includes many deeply involved, biblical literalists, I cannot help noticing some of the contortions they put themselves through in trying to say two things that are completely antithetical at the same time.  So I took a look at the lengthy summary provided by Right Wing Watch.

The big question that plagued me in college, as I grappled with finding a more liberal approach to the deep existential questions, was:   How can God be all powerful and also allow such evil to exist in the world?   Either God is not all powerful, or he's not good.

Saying that God gave man the freedom to choose, and it's up to us to solve the problems that God created?   No, that does not satisfy me.  What a cosmic cruelty to create a world with evil that affects people who have no possibility of overcoming that evil?   I decided I just couldn't go along with such a sadistic supreme being.   So I gave it up.   I'm not a militant atheist;  just an agnostic humanist who no longer feels the need to find an answer to the ultimate question about a supreme being.

Well, that's all a little beside the point of what I wanted to write here.   But I guess I'm trying to explain my sensitivity to a kind of thinking that still gets me riled up, 65 years later.  Here's what caught my eye in an excerpt from this debate.   It stood out, in the lengthy summary of the debate, like a breath of fresh air -- a bit of reason in a swamp of mush.

Bill Wichterman, who once served as a special adviser to President George W. Bush, is one of the Never Trump evangelicals.  He challenged the others who say they won’t vote for Clinton because they believe she’s a liar, but will vote for Trump hoping that he’s been lying and doesn’t really mean what he says.  

It seems to me a special problem that only people practiced in lying to themselves about reality -- like literally believing that all the incompatibilities in the Bible are true -- can make this leap.  Sometimes, it's a marvel to behold.   Some of them even say that God has sent Donald Trump to be our president at this time.  Ah, the power of the human mind to rationalize.  Anyone who wants to read some of their contortions, here's the link:

http://www.rightwingwatch.org/content/conservative-evangelicals-debate-whether-christians-should-support-trump 

Yes.   The man lies, people.   Stop saying God sent him to save us.   If you want to say you agree with him, then vote for him.   But don't blame God.  It's time to start using the L word.

Ralph