The world is not suffering from an overabundance of rational thought

The world is not suffering from an overabundance of rational thought.

I say this at least once a week. If this sentiment was true prior to our last presidential election, it’s become more relevant by a factor of about 100, since. In fact, I was inspired to write a book about it.

Anyone who knows me, knows I don’t respect opinions. Let me caveat that.  Of course, I respect everyone’s right to their opinion, but just the fact of expressing an opinion, doesn’t automatically grant that opinion some special dispensation from critique if it’s expressed around me. If your opinion has been formed using methods which lead you to conclude things that don’t comport with what is demonstrably true, then I will probably call you out on it.

For example, if you have opinions about vaccines not working, or global warming not being real, or the earth being only 6000 years old, or about all people of a certain skin tone being worthless, then I will take issue with you because you have come to conclusions which are factually incorrect, and in some cases, morally repugnant.

This is what Dick Durbin and Lindsey Graham did to the President of the United States a few days ago. They held him accountable to his morally repugnant statement about people from Haiti and other African nations.

In a subsequent Facebook conversation I was having with a pro-Trump attorney, the attorney suggested that Durbin should have suspended his moral scruples in favor of getting an immigration “deal” done, because Durbin’s constituents are more important than his moral objections to Trump.

Never mind that that position complete absolves Trump from any responsibility for serving his constituents, the American people, in this case, but the line of questioning struck me as odd and frankly, a bit alarming.

I believe in speaking truth to power and holding all people accountable, irrespective of title or position, particularly if they are demonstrating irrational behavior or saying vile things. If the President of the United States wants to make “great deals” as he claims, perhaps Dick Durbin’s and Lindsey Graham’s vocal disgust will inform the president that he needs to adjust if he’s going to be taken seriously.

And to answer the attorney’s question, not only would Durbin’s and Graham’s constituents be better served by a more reasonable and compassionate President, but the entire nation would be better served as well.

In fact, who are any of us to remain silent in the presence of racism? The idea of suspending basic human decency in favor of political efficacy makes me wonder about the underlying morality of the trade-off the attorney was suggesting. In 1630, Puritan John Winthrop borrowed from Matthew 5:14 when he told his fellow Massachusetts Bay colonists, that this new community they had left England for, would be “as a city upon a hill”, watched by the world.

What do we want the world to see?

Our “sh*thole” president

This is not Trump. This is an adorable kitten.

I’ve been resisting the urge to write something about Trump’s “shithole countries” remark for a number of reasons, but I’m having a tough time so I’m just going to rip the Band-Aid off and pen a few words. I’m up early on this rainy Friday morning so might as well get it over with.

I’m not even going to go in to what Trump said because it’s just a gross sentiment from a gross human being. You can read it here or here or even here on Trump TV.

Rather, I’m going to talk about why I was reluctant to bring it up in the first place.

Here’s the bottom line. At this point in Trump’s presidency, we can safely bucket his voters into two large groups:

Group 1: These are the diehard Trump lovers who worship him like a cult-leader. They love it when he says racist things because these things represent their own beliefs. The viler, the more bigoted, the more misogynistic he is for them, the better. They love him. He can do no wrong. They will go to their graves believing in their heart of hearts that Trump was a great person and a great president who said what needed to be said. They are Americans who are petrified of change and progress.

Group 2: These are the people who are mortified they voted for him. As such, they have turned off all news about him. They will not read this post, nor will they read anything else about him. I know a lot of my friends and family voted for Trump. I also never hear a political peep out of any of them anymore. Prior to the election, their Facebook feeds were flooded with “Crooked Hillary” nonsense, and pro-Trump propaganda, but over the past few months, they’ve gone silent. I truly think they are embarrassed. I get it. I forgive you. We have elections in this country and there will be another one soon enough. But here’s a gentle reminder – it’s OK to change your mind. You can own your mistake and then work to fix it.

So there it is. The Band-Aid is off. Now back to your regularly scheduled program. By the way, I picked a kitten for this post image because, well, Trump is disgusting and everyone loves kittens.

Christopher Hitchens speaks to us

This is just a quick post about how I’m choosing to handle the current political situation we face in the United States.

Mind you, my disappointment isn’t about which party won the election or even about presidential politics, this is about the character of the person who is now president of the United States. More specifically it’s about the fact that he seems to champion agendas of vendetta driven by emotion over the rational evaluation of evidence and reason.

With that, I created this meme.  Share it, print it, and most importantly, live it over the next four years and throughout your life.

christopher hitchens letters

From Letters to a Young Contrarian – Christopher Hitchens

 

The one-sided outrage of my right wing friends

Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump

Ever since the FBI announced this week that they are closing the investigation of Hillary Clinton’s email habits while she was Secretary of State, my right wing friends (yes I have quite a few of those) have been apoplectic. Why? Because the director of the FBI said,

Although there is evidence of potential violations of the statutes regarding the handling of classified information, our judgment is that no reasonable prosecutor would bring such a case. Prosecutors necessarily weigh a number of factors before bringing charges. There are obvious considerations, like the strength of the evidence, especially regarding intent. Responsible decisions also consider the context of a person’s actions, and how similar situations have been handled in the past.

In looking back at our investigations into mishandling or removal of classified information, we cannot find a case that would support bringing criminal charges on these facts. All the cases prosecuted involved some combination of: clearly intentional and willful mishandling of classified information; or vast quantities of materials exposed in such a way as to support an inference of intentional misconduct; or indications of disloyalty to the United States; or efforts to obstruct justice. We do not see those things here.

Which means that they recommended to the Department of Justice that they not pursue the case.  Following that recommendation, the Attorney General announced yesterday that the case is closed.

Cue the right wing outrage.

In their near irrational hatred of the Clintons (and the Obamas for that matter), my right wing friends cannot wrap their heads around how the FBI investigation could arrive at such a recommendation. To understand it, one needs to look at the statute itself and recognize that in the FBI’s judgement, mishandling 0.367% of emails over the course of a year does not rise to the standard of “gross negligence.” Nor did the investigation uncover any evidence that Mrs. Clinton willfully and intentionally mishandled that same 0.367% of emails.  Poor judgement is not necessarily illegal. Careless handling of email traffic is not necessarily illegal. Case closed.

Here’s the sad irony.

This report does not place Hillary Clinton in a glowing light by any stretch of the imagination. In fact, I think the report from the FBI was quite damning and if the GOP had a reasonable candidate, much of what FBI director James Comey documented in his brief would make for a huge obstacle for any candidate to overcome. For example, the following statement would make for very effective campaign fodder,

Although we did not find clear evidence that Secretary Clinton or her colleagues intended to violate laws governing the handling of classified information, there is evidence that they were extremely careless in their handling of very sensitive, highly classified information.

As it stands however, Hillary Clinton will still cake-walk in to the White House. Because when you juxtapose her poor and careless email practices and subsequent apparent obfuscation of those practices against a lying, racist, misogynistic, narcissistic, scientifically illiterate, policy illiterate, bigoted billionaire who incites violence and celebrates dictators and tyrants, there really is no choice.

And this is where the one-sided outrage loses all its credibility.

What is Trump?

Angry_TrumpDonald  Trump’s rise to the top of the GOP heap is a symptom of classic American anti-intellectualism, which unfortunately is the real cancer eating away at the Republican Party.

While many see Trump’s rise and even Sanders’ rise, not as anti-intellectualism, but as purely symptomatic of a growing frustration with establishment government, and certainly to some degree that is true, Trump is something much more sinister. The current discontent with the establishment was summed up nicely by a smart conservative friend of mine when he said, “People are getting tired of business as usual in politics and want change. I truly believe that the lack of term limits, and the creation of career politicians that are more worried about their next fundraiser or election instead of doing what’s right, is the cause of what we are seeing now.” But let’s evaluate this idea by analyzing both Trump and Sanders.

We’ll look at Bernie Sanders first. Sanders is a mostly economic phenomenon. His supporters are comprised of largely young, student loan-laden voters who have come to realize that our politics have rigged our economic system to favor the wealthy; to their exclusion. Our system capitalizes profits and socializes losses, something that became painfully clear during the subprime mortgage crisis and the subsequent extensive bank and corporate bailouts of the last decade, and they see Sanders as a catalyst to shake that construct apart. But being frustrated in the status quo does not an anti-intellectual make.

Trump’s rise is much more than simple frustration with the establishment. His brand of political populism in the Jacksonian sense is often a fairly clean inverse of anti-intellectualism. As wonderfully documented in Richard Hofstadter’s brilliant book, “Anti-Intellectualism in American Life,” we know that this phenomenon ebbs and flows throughout our history, and here we are again.

But instead of a true salt of the earth populist like Jackson, today we have the billionaire Trump.

Trump is the perfect poisonous mushroom sprouting from the great pile of crap that was and is the rise of the Tea Party as the dominant Republican identity. These are the xenophobes, the homophobes, the conspiracy theorists, the racists, the birthers, the anti-science (read global warming deniers), the religious zealots, and other malcontents coalescing under a Gadsden flag umbrella and whipped into an angry frenzy by 24/7 “fair and balanced” nonsense and propelled by YouTube ranters and misinformed bloggers.  Trump is the absence of critical thinking. He’s the antithesis of reasonable discussion. He’s the personification of the comments section of any Fox News article about anything social or political.

In a nutshell, Trump is a creation of the GOP’s inability to keep its fringe on the fringe, and the party is all but lost as a result.