Monthly Archives: December 2019

CT, Call Home

Call it a seasonal epiphany four and a half years in the making, but late is always better than never.  As you are already aware, on December 19, Christianity Today editor Mark Galli declared, “Trump Should Be Removed from Office.”  And right on cue, the modern day Judases–Franklin Graham and Jerry Falwell, Jr.–exacted another down payment on their souls in exchange for proximity to power and past donations from the Trump Foundation.  (NOTE: As some commentators have pointed out, Galli’s major concern was not the fate of American democracy and values, but the credibility of the evangelical movement.  Even if it was self-serving, I learned a long time ago, never criticize someone for doing the right thing, even if their motives are suspect.)

Image result for evangelical preachers lay hands on trumpAs welcomed as Galli’s denunciation of Donald Trump as an immoral human might be, I am afraid his salvo was misdirected.  In the age of social media influencers, Galli would have been better served by addressing his remarks, not to the flock, but to the shepherds.  How do you expect the minions to understand what they have become when members of the clergy, who weekly preach the gospel to them, remain silent or fail to draw on their own training as pastoral counselors to point out the hypocrisy of evangelical devotion to Trump.

Imagine if Galli had chosen a different tack in which he does not humble the masses, but shames the messengers for abdicating their role as moral influencers.  Consider the following as an alternative to the December 19 editorial.

The dilemma of reconciling one’s political support and Donald Trump’s lack of a moral compass is not a collective one for the evangelical movement, but a personal one for each and every member of your congregation.  And one that demands the clergy provide pastoral counseling as we are taught “to mirror the way Jesus cared for people and taught his disciples to do the same.”

Make it personal.  Ask your congregants, “Would any of you be okay if you came to me for spiritual renewal and I told you Christ is okay with …

  • satisfying one’s lust by committing adultery?
  • constantly comparing your accomplishments and possessions to others?
  • expressing anger at anyone who disagrees with you?
  • equating success with net worth?
  • indifference to the suffering of others?
  • bearing false witness to justify your actions?
  • overindulgence or excessive desire for material goods?
  • the ends justifying the means?”

Would you call someone who lived their life based on such advice a true Christian?  Would you look to that person for leadership or as a role model?  I would hope not.  But you have.

As Jesus says in Matthew 22:21, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s; and to God the things that are God’s.”  You can leave governance to our political leaders, but you must never let them become the arbiters of your values.  And when they try, you must reject them.

But the evangelical community is not alone.  Every day we watch professionals in every walk of life excuse Trump for behavior they know is wrong.  The latest example emerged in this morning’s edition of our local paper which includes a regular op-ed column titled, “Coach’s Corner.”  The author Howard Pines is a local resident who presents his credentials as follows.

…has more than 30 years experience as CEO, chairman and founder of BeamPines, a premier firm in the executive coaching business.

Today’s edition with the title, “Presidential Tantrums,” compares Trump to other commanders-in-chief who were known to let off a little steam on occasion.  These include (drum roll) George Washington, Theodore Roosevelt, Harry Truman and Dwight Eisenhower.  Can you say “moral equivalency?”  I knew you could.   But the icing on the cake comes in the final paragraphs which include the following two sentences.

I believe that Trump’s mannerisms are not unique, and if history remains true, his actions to date do not threaten our democracy.

My sense is the real question with President Trump is will he retain a first rate team, and does he have the objectivity and clarity of judgment to not let his emotions color his decisions.

Let’s take these one at a time.  I do not know what history books Mr. Pines reads but they must not include the evolution of any nation in which fascism emerged as a viable ideological alternative.  My history books document how none were more democratic when the dictator who led the movement left office voluntarily or involuntarily.

As for sentence #2, remember Mr. Pines is an executive management coach.  Imagine him telling any corporate client, “Don’t worry if you’ve gone through several chiefs of staff, communications directors, department heads.  Give it more time.  Let’s see if it works out.  Just keep doing what you’re doing.”  Or after observing the CEO’s behavior for three years, making the following report to the board of directors, “I know the boss is a little thin-skinned and sometimes it hurts the bottom line, but he’s only been CEO for three years.  Maybe he’ll grow into the office.  And I know you’re concerned he hasn’t shown you the books in three years.  I’m sure he’s not hiding anything.”

“Galli” gee, I “Pines” for the day when we hold the president of the United States to the same standard we hold the person who sits next to us in a house of worship, the CEO of a major corporation or just the people we call friends.

For what it’s worth.


All You Need to Know, Redux


The following post contains the actual transcript from testimony during Tuesday’s meeting of the House Rules Committee at which the committee established procedures and time limits for Wednesday’s debate on HR 755, Articles of Impeachment against Donald Trump.  It is the clearest evidence  even Trump’s staunchest defenders cannot and will not answer the only question that matters.

House Rules Committee Chairman Jim McGovern, Democrat from Massachusetts:

Was the president’s call with President Zelensky perfect, as the president has said, and was it appropriate for him to ask another country to investigate an American citizen?

Ranking Member of the House Judiciary Committee Doug Collins, Trumpist from Georgia:

Image result for doug collins rules committee testimonyI find, there was nothing I, as I said before there’s nothing wrong with the call, and when you look at it, and again I frankly, the last…

[extended pause]

The problem we’re having right now is exactly the last 15 minutes of this, great oratory on a lot of things that mean nothing to this actual impeachment.  I mean we get down to the bottom line here, and and I’ll just leave it at that, let him answer that question, I’ll get back to it later, because everything has been thrown out here is exactly what the problem we’ve had in the discussion, I mean this idea of throwing law in fact, we’ve disproven the fact, we’ve talked about the law, law didn’t broken, it didn’t put it in the Constitution so I’m, I can yell on both of them, I can talk about both of them, but the problem we have here is, is this is the very problem we have, and I’ll just address one thing before I let it by, or if you want to let me switch right now, I will. I’ll give it to him.

In their book All the President’s Men, Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein referred to similar gibberish as “a non-denial denial.”  But the more appropriate description comes from Elaine Benes (Julie Louis Dreyfus) of Seinfeld fame, who would have called this “the yada-yada-yada defense.”

For what it’s worth.


The Passion of the Trump, Part I

The inspiration for today’s post comes from the following passage that appeared on May 18, 2019 in “Letters to the Editor” in the Interlake Daily newspaper based in Kalispell, Montana.

Let’s not let this happen. Please stop and think. Remember, what they did to Jesus when they crucified him and he said “forgive them for they know not what they do.” Well you do know what you are doing. Stop the hate in the world. Stop crucifying Donald Trump!

~Lynda Klein, Prey, Montana

The Betrayal (A Parody)

Excerpts from “The Gospel According to Nancy”

14 Then one of the Twelve sycophants–the one called Rudy Giuliani–went to the oligarchs.  15 And asked, “What are you willing to give me if I deliver him for you?”  So they counted out for him 62.5 million rubles. 16 From then on Rudy watched for an opportunity to hand him over.

17 On the 25th day of July, the sycophants came to Donald and asked, “Where do you want us to make preparations for the phone call?”

18 He replied, “Go into the situation room and connect me to a certain man named Zelenskey and tell him, ‘The president says: The appointed time is near. I am willing to invite him into my house, but first he must do us a favor, though.'” 19 So the disciples did as  Donald had directed them and prepared the call.”

20 When evening came, Donald sat with the sycophants at the cabinet table partaking of a bucket of KFC and a Diet Coke. 21 And while he was eating, he said, “Truly I tell you, I am afraid that some day, one of you will write a book or go on Fox News and betray me.”

22 They were very sad and began to say to him one after the other, “Surely you don’t mean me, Sir?”

23 Donald replied, “The one who has dipped his hand into my bucket of chicken will betray me. 24 The son of Fred will go just as it is written about him. But woe to that man who betrays the son of Fred! It would be better for him if he had not been born.”

25 Then Rudy, the one who would betray him, said, “Surely you don’t mean me, Sir?”  Donald answered, “You have said so.”

26 While they were eating, Donald took a chicken leg, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to his sycophants, saying, “Take and eat; this is what has made my body what it is today.”

27 Then he took the can of Diet Coke, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. 28 This is bloody good and shall be a remembrance of this day. 29 I tell you, this may be the last we partake of it until that day when I drink it new with you in my penthouse in Moscow.”

30 When they had sung several choruses of “Dixie,” they went out to the South Lawn.

36 Then Donald said to them, “Sit here while I go over there and tweet.” 37 He took Steven Miller and his two sons along with him, and he began to be irate and troubled. 38 Then he said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with anger to the point of death. Stay here and make sure I do not leave out any insults or slurs.”

43 When he came back, he found the twelve sycophants sleeping, because their eyes were heavy from hearing Donald repeat the same thing over and over. 44 So he left them and went away once more and tweeted a second time, saying the same thing.

45 Then he returned to the sycophants and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? Look, the hour has come to place the call, and the Son of Fred is delivered from the hands of Joe Biden. 46 Rise! Let us go! Here comes Rudy!”

Related image47 While he was still speaking, Rudy, one of the Twelve, arrived. With him was a large crowd of Fox News prime time hosts with cameras and microphones. 48 Now the betrayer had arranged a signal with them: “Ask me who ordered me to investigate the Bidens.” 49 Going at once to Donald, Rudy said, “Greetings, Sir!” and pulled out his smartphone to betray his client.

50 Donald replied, “Do what you came for, friend.”

 51 With that, Miller reached for his sword, drew it out and attempted to sever the cables connected to the cameras and microphones.

52 “Put your sword back in its place and take out your iPad,” Donald said to him, “Remember, the tweet is mightier than the sword. 53 Do you think I cannot call on Putin, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of bots and trolls?”

54 Unbeknownst to Donald or the sycophants, a servant of the legal magistrate bore witness to the confrontation and reported it to the proconsul.

[To be continued]

For what it’s worth.

The Newest “ISM”

RACISM: A belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race.

SEXISM: Prejudice or discrimination based on gender.

AGISM: Prejudice or discrimination against a particular age-group and especially the elderly.

Source: Merriam-Webster Dictionary

We’ve heard a lot about the explicit and implicit impacts of racism, sexism and agism during the run-up to the 2020 election.  Of the seven Democrats who have qualified for the December debate, all are white, raising the question whether there is still some intrinsic bias which puts candidates of color at a disadvantage.  Likewise, print and broadcast media are flooded with stories, ironically, about double-standard media coverage of female contenders.  And finally, much has been made of the age of both the incumbent and several Democratic aspirants.

In the currently unobtainable ideal of a post-bias America, we need to remember what comedian David Steinberg tells us about the thin and blured line between stereotypes and inconvenient truths.  Consider the following excerpt from Steinberg’s 1974 routine titled, “Prejudice.”

We have to face up to a few facts.  Some Jews are good with money.  Some blacks have rhythm.  Some orientals all look alike.  And some Puerto Ricans are naturally good with cockroaches.

Which brings me to the latest manifestation of political bias–WEALTHism.  The term does not appear in the Oxford English Dictionary or any digital reference.  If it did, I suspect the definition would follow the model established for other preconceptions about population cohorts.  “Wealthism–prejudice or discrimination based on economic well-being, especially those of substantial means.”

Related imageI have been thinking about this since November 8, when the Washington Post published an op-ed piece by Jennifer Rubin titled, “Just what we need: Another billionaire Democratic candidate.”  The reference was, of course, to Michael Bloomberg’s pending announcement whether he would enter the 2020 contest for the Democratic nomination.  Rubin gives several reasons why she thinks Bloomberg’s late and media based campaign will fail.  And suggests the former New York mayor would be a welcome foil for other candidates who have been in the race for most of 2019.

Biden and the rest should not feel slighted. I suspect most of them will be happy to jab at another billionaire candidate and tout their own humble beginnings (Scranton! Oklahoma!). They might even seem more appealing by comparison, if only because they are working hard to earn voters’ support.

In a sense, Rubin echoes Steinberg’s 1974 comic routine.  “Some billionaires were born with a silver spoon in their mouths.  Some are narcissistic egomaniacs.  Some think they are masters of the universe.”  But others are not.  For every Donald Trump and Bernie Madoff, there is a Warren Buffett, Ewing Kauffman and Aaron Feuerstein. (If you do not recognize the last two names, that is my point.)

As you are surely aware, Bloomberg has since joined the fray and spent in excess of $32 million on television spots eliciting charges he is trying to “buy” the presidency.  That may be true.  But, one should also ask, “What is he selling?”  To find out, I went to his 2020 website and found the following platform.

  • We have an economy that is tilted against most Americans.
  • We have a health care system that costs too much and doesn’t cover everyone.
  • We have communities ravaged by gun violence.
  • We have schools that aren’t preparing our children for success in an increasingly high-tech world.
  • We have an immigration system that is cruel and dysfunctional.
  • We have a climate crisis that is growing worse by the day.
  • We have special interests that corrupt Washington and block progress on all of these issues.

Not much about which a progressive Democrat could argue.  And I cannot help but wonder how Trump and his lemmings could convince voters these are the irrational rants of a socialist.  Bloomberg is anything but. 

Please do not take this post as an endorsement.  There is still a long way to go, and eventually Bloomberg will have to face voters and the media.  At this juncture, I am only suggesting Bloomberg, like any other candidate, deserves a fair hearing.  Do not reject him solely because he is a billionaire. That would make you a “wealthist.”

For what it’s worth.

Why England Voted


On the first day of class, regardless of the course, I always ask students, “Why are you here?”  As one would expect, the answers range from the practical, “It’s a required course for my degree,” to “I read the catalogue description and it seemed interesting,” to “I was curious when I read your reviews on ‘’ and several suggest your classes are unique.“  Then I wait and say nothing.

On a good day, a brave student will eventually ask, “So, why are YOU here?”  But just in case that does not happen, my next slide initiates the discussion.  The answer is simple, “Fate!”  How else does someone with three degrees in political science and 13 years in state government end his career as a professor of entrepreneurship in a business school.  It is a long story and I won’t bore you with it.  The teaching moment during the ensuing classroom exchange focuses on opportunity.  When someone shares an idea or suggests  you might be a good fit for their organization and asks, “Have you ever thought about …?” even if the answer is no, your response should be, “But I will now!”

Once I revealed my academic credentials at the start of my Milan class, several students began asking my opinion about Donald Trump, what I thought would happen in 2020 and whether Italy, in the midst of its own “populist” fervor, could learn anything from the American experience.  After admitting I am a loyal member of the anti-Trump resistance and hope an overwhelming majority of 2020 voters would see Trump for the conman he is, I shared the same advice I gave you, my readers, on November 1.  Forget American politics for now.  Pay closer attention to Great Britain.

Image result for great britain election results 2019As I have said in previous blog entries, I hate it when I’m right.  Such was the case as exit polls Thursday night signaled an overwhelming victory for Boris Johnson’s Conservative Party.  With 365 of 650 seats in the House of Commons, voters in the United Kingdom (and I use the term “united” loosely) gave the Tories a mandate.  The problem?  Nobody seems to be quite sure what the mandate is for.  Prime Minister Johnson ran largely on the platform of finalizing Brexit, something polls suggest a majority of citizens still oppose.

What’s more, Britain parliamentary elections now seem to be the equivalent of our electoral college.  Can the Conservative Party really declare a mandate when 56.4 percent of all ballots were cast for someone other than Tory candidates?  Despite the fact voter motivation is as clear as London on a foggy night, media pundits in both England and the United States have posited various explanations, including:

  • It did not depend whether one was for or against Brexit. Sentiment was more about moving on after three years of on-again, off-again negotiations with the European Union.  As Larry the Cable Guy would say, “Just, get ‘er done.”
  • The election was about the lesser of two evils. Johnson went into the election with net approval rating of -20 (36-56).  Not to be outdone, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn entered Thursday’s plebiscite with an unprecedented -44 net approval rating (24-68).  And, as I have said before, when there are two evils, voters will look to a third alternative.  Labour and Liberal Democratic losses in Scotland did not translate into Conservative gains.  Instead, the separatist Scottish National Party picked up 13 seats including the one held by Liberal Democratic leader Jo Swinson.
  • The loss of long-time Labour constituencies including blue collar workers and the Jewish community. More about this later.
  • Labour’s taking its cues from social media rather than the general populous. The day before the election Labour leaders were predicting a close vote or even a party victory based on the Facebook and Twitter enthusiasm for their cause.

The truth?  This is not an either/or situation.  All the above can be true at the same time, which gives the Democratic party much food for thought when it comes to 2020.  Let’s take these one by one.

  1. Focus on things that have gone unresolved for the past decade.   Infrastructure investment. Comprehensive immigration reform.  Sensible gun regulation.  Again, it should be no surprise voters are intrigued by a 37 year-old mayor of a middle-sized city.  Forget policy.  They want someone to fill the potholes.
  2. Understand the difference between likeability and favorability. It’s not about a drinking partner.  It’s about who Americans see as a role model, representing us at home and on the world stage.
  3. Remember who brought you to the dance. Working stiffs (male and female, black and white, young and old) who care about bread-and-butter issues.  Articulate a clear vision of the future where they will have a different, but indispensable role, in the economy despite automation and global competition.  And how that value will be compensated.
  4. Stop talking about identity politics which undermines party unity. Despite every effort, Corbyn was unable to shake perceptions of anti-Semitism once he referred to Hamas and Hezbollah as “friends.”  Instead, he could have talked about how he understood the fears and grievances on both side of the Israel/Palestinian conflict but its hard to support either when one side keeps lobbing missiles and vows to push the other into the sea.  And the other gives its adversary the middle finger by expanding settlements on land that is a bargaining chip in any permanent resolution.
  5. Start talking about identify politics. How farmers and inner-city residents are both victims of Trump’s unnecessary trade wars.  How parents’ concerns about their children’s future are legitimate whether the threat is addiction to methamphetamine or being the victim of a stray bullet while sitting on the front porch.
  6. Remember, America is a democracy not a “Tweetocracy.” The overwhelming majority of voters are just to the left or right of center.  And they shift from one side to the other when respectfully presented with a better vision and solutions to real problems.
  7. And finally, grow some cajones! When, on the debate stage or in a one-on-one interview, candidates are asked irrelevant questions, respond by asking a better one.  For example, every contender has been quizzed whether they plan to raise taxes.  Sorry, but that’s not the right question.  It’s not about how much but what you get in return.  Do we question consumers who pay more for the latest smartphone?  They decide whether it is worth the additional expense based on the utility and features.  Just ask voters in Kansas and Louisiana.  Under low-tax GOP governors, both states saw a decline in the quality of public services, the most evident being education.  Both former solidly red states are now run by Democrats who raised taxes to restore public investment and services voters sorely missed.

Bottom line?  Johnson’s 43.6 percent “landslide” should be a warning Trump could win re-election despite his current 41.9 percent approval rating (Source: FiveThirtyEight).  Stopping counting a candidate’s social media hits; pay more attention to polls of random voters.  And finally, control the narrative.

One way to do this is by taking a page out of the Silicon Valley playbook.  It is called “coopetition.”  Founders and investors in high-tech companies realized, if they worked together to grow the “industry,” there would be enough demand for any legitimate player to succeed.  Prior to the next debate, the participating Democratic contenders should come together and decide, in advance, this is how we want promote our “industry,” the Democratic Party brand  Within those parameters, we can present how each of us can contribute to the overall growth of our common constituency.

HISTORICAL FOOTNOTE:  The title of today’s post is a play on “Why England Slept,” John F. Kennedy’s thesis while a student at Harvard University.  Later published with a foreword by Henry Luce, the text focuses on Great Britain’s failure to recognize the Nazi threat and prevent World War II.

For what it’s worth.