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Progress Can Be Painfully Slow

(I wrote this for the Urban News for February 2021)

Well, it seems to me that we witnessed kind of a miracle. The inauguration of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris went off without a hitch. There was no violence. There was no sign of the Proud Boys or the paramilitary group Oath Keepers. Lady Gaga’s performance of the national anthem was so good. It just made you smile.

I might be mistaken, but I think the stage was stolen by 22-year-old who I’d never heard of before, Amanda Gorman. She was the poet. She was marvelous. Here are just a few lines from her thoughtful, timely, moving poem.

We’ve braved the belly of the beast
We’ve learned that quiet isn’t always peace
And the norms and notions
of what just is
Isn’t always just-ice

First Actions

After all the pomp and circumstance was over, Joe Biden went to work. Within hours of his inauguration, he was signing several executive orders. He signed a proclamation ending the Muslim ban that was imposed by Donald Trump. He signed an executive order to promote racial equality—and he wants the government to reallocate resources to advance this directive.

Biden directed the United States to rejoin the Paris Climate Agreement. He signed an executive order requiring mask wearing on all federal properties. He then signed an order coordinating a government-wide Covid-19 response. This is just a partial list of his executive orders he did on Day 1.

On the one hand, if you are a proponent of democracy, and I am, I kind of cringe at seeing all of these executive orders. I would rather all of these actions come through the legislative process, but our legislative process is broken. It is going to take us a while to fix the Senate. So, if you wanted to get something done, we need to do it through executive action. I’m ecstatic that President Joe Biden took these measures.

January 6th

The insurrection at the United States Capital was quelled when thousands of National Guard troops were deployed to Washington, DC. On that fateful Wednesday, there did not seem to be any arrests. These domestic terrorists forcibly entered the Capital. They were allowed to rummage around Nancy Pelosi’s office and desecrate the floor of the House of Representatives and the Senate.

I was looking for a robust response. Whatever the opposite of a robust response is, that’s what we saw. It seemed to be weak and timid. It actually appeared as if law enforcement didn’t know what to do. Then, as the days wore on, the shock of what we saw seemed to wear off and law enforcement seem to wake up. Finally, as of this writing, over 150 domestic terrorists have been arrested.

Let’s be clear, the slow response was deliberate. It seems the Acting Secretary of Defense—appointed by Trump only weeks before—ordered the Army to hold back on letting the National Guard assist the Capitol Police. The National Guard were initially hamstrung. No protective gear. No guns. No nothing that would help quell an insurrection. The National Guard as originally authorized by the Trump administration was ready for a pillow fight and not much else.

It also appears that the FBI has been investigating who funded the rally before the riot. The name of the extremely dangerous conspiracy minded maniac, Alex Jones, has popped up. And we know that a number of people whose names were on the planning permits had been employed by the Trump reelection campaign as late as mid-December.

A recent indictment charged two members of the Proud Boys with conspiracy. The Washington Post is reporting that many of the members of the insurrection carried a map of the interior tunnels of the Capital. It is clear that this insurrection was not spontaneous. Some people planned for weeks if not months for this awful day.

(more…)

By |2021-02-04T13:19:52-04:00February 1st, 2021|Newsletter, Race|0 Comments

Trump Derangement Syndrome (TDS)

(I wrote this for the Urban News, January 2021)

It was almost 11 months ago when I wrote about TDS or Trump Derangement Syndrome. It is that is the feeling that falls over you when multiple conservatives have repeatedly lied to you. It is a combination of nausea, disgust, and anger—overlaid with frustration.

Recently, the lies have been flowing like the mighty Mississippi river. If there were an Olympic category for lying, Trump would be a gold-medal decathlete. If, for some reason, you thought that he would crawl into his gold-plated Mar-a-Lago hole and disappear because he lost the general election, you were, and are sadly mistaken. His crazy, stupid, paranoid, delusional and un-American tactics to overturn the election results have been overwhelming.

I could go over the list of more than 60 lawsuits that Trump and his allies have filed in state and federal courts since the election. For the most part, Trump and the GOP have lost all their “legal” challenges. All of them. What I thought was the boldest and most un-American move was when Donald Trump invited a group of Republican members of the Michigan state legislature to the White House, where he tried to pressure them into overturning the election. In what can only be called an act of patriotism and duty, the Michigan legislators, after meeting with Trump, stated in a joint press conference that they had not seen any information that would change the outcome.

Our Democracy

Conservatives always like to point out that we don’t actually live in a democracy but a “constitutional republic.” For the most part, this difference is meaningless. Our Constitution is set up so that our government is chosen by its citizens—a democracy—and works within a system of checks and balances reflecting its different governing parts—a republic.

For example, if the president tries to overstep his authority, Congress and the Supreme Court have the power to reign in the president. Also, states have authority over certain rules and laws that the federal government cannot override—including how to run elections.

But over the past four years, those checks and balances have been stretched to the limit. Trump requires everyone to be loyal to him personally, or be fired. He believes they take an oath of office to obey him, not the Constitution or the laws of the United States. Unfortunately, our founding fathers did not have an answer for this. They did not foresee all three branches of government being taken over by one person.

In my opinion, our democracy is in trouble. The rule of law is in peril. This is not like after Watergate when Americans, overwhelmingly, rejected Nixon and the Republicans who supported him. Instead, we have a large swath of Americans who believe and support the lies of Trump.

Republican Sen. Josh Hawley has stated his plan to publicly object to the Electoral College being free and fair. He’s been joined by eleven other Republican senators: Cruz of Texas, Johnson (WI), Lankford (OK), Daines (MT), Kennedy (LA), Blackburn (TN) and Braun (IN), and four newly elected senators who took their seats Jan. 3—Cynthia Lummis (WY), Roger Marshall (KS), Bill Hagerty (TN) and Tommy Tuberville (AL).

Their objection to Biden’s election will cause contentious votes in the Senate. More importantly, I think it causes more and more Americans to distrust our system. I have no idea how we get the trust back. I don’t think that there’s anything that Biden/Harris can do or say that would sow the seeds of trust in those who have swallowed the nonsense of the Trump administration. Without trust, our democracy will fall apart.

Coronavirus

As a nation, we continue to be in the midst of the worst pandemic in over 100 years. The Trump administration has inexplicably chosen to downplay the virus at every turn. Trump himself explained to best-selling author Bob Woodward last January that he always wanted to downplay the virus—because he didn’t want to cause a “panic.” Well, what he has caused instead is millions of infections which were completely preventable. Over three hundred thousand Americans have died, many because of mismanagement and misinformation. Trump’s refusal to wear a mask or endorse mask wearing has itself killed tens of thousands of Americans. The simple wearing of masks saves lives. This is a fact.

Now it appears that we have two effective vaccines. Yet, because Republicans hate government, it is near impossible for them to make the government work effectively. Back in August or September, the Trump administration knew that the vaccine from Pfizer and the vaccine from Moderna appeared to be on track for FDA approval. This is when “Operation Warp Speed” should have begun comprehensive planning on how to get the vaccine to hundreds of millions of Americans quickly. This is a huge logistical nightmare. (more…)

By |2021-01-15T21:55:59-04:00January 15th, 2021|Congress, Elections, Healthcare|0 Comments

Donald Trump and the Hillsong Church

(I wrote this for the Urban News in December 2020.)

I’m exhausted. I’m physically and mentally spent. The past six months have been draining. Almost every minute of every day I spent wondering what bizarre, crazy, cockamamie, cruel tweet and/or policy was Donald Trump going to implement today.

Were we going to lock immigrant children in outdoor prisons in Alaska? Was the Supreme Court or any number of federal judges going to strike down Obamacare? Was it going to be okay to dump coal waste in my front yard or possibly in our national parks?

Then, just to prolong the pain and suffering, the election was not over on November 3. It took four more days for projections to declare a winner. I could’ve cried big, huge crocodile tears but I did not. I rolled up my sleeves and asked, “What’s next?”

Hillsong Church

I have only gone to a couple of alternative church services in my life. In my opinion, the services were short on sermons but there was a lot of singing and fellowship. I like more traditional church services. Hillsong Church is one of these mega-churches. It started in Australia and now has churches (branches) in six continents.

Celebrities like Kevin Durant and Selena Gomez have been seen at the church. Pastor Carl Lentz, the leader of the New York branch, had a personal relationship with Justin Bieber! Now, you have to say that’s cool—or at least TMZ thinks so. Lentz had been mentored by Brian Houston, the founder of Hillsong.

But then there seemed to be a loss of focus. There was lying, cheating, and infidelity. Early last month, Carl Lentz was fired from Hillsong Church. In an Instagram post, the pastor said, “I was unfaithful in my marriage, the most important relationship in my life.”

This statement is a little jarring coming from a pastor. Wouldn’t you figure that his most important relationship would be with God first, and his wife second? Maybe I’m wrong.

To me, there are a lot of similarities between Donald Trump, the Hillsong Church, and pastor Carl Lentz. Donald Trump and the Hillsong Church seem to focus on superficial appearances. Smiles and a good photo op are more important than sitting in any “stupid” policy meeting. Being friends with Justin Bieber seem to be more important than the tenets of Christianity— honesty, fidelity, and humility.

We all remember Donald Trump clearing the street so that he could walk across Lafayette Square, unimpeded by protesters, and wave a Bible in his hand (upside down) for a photo opportunity as he stood in front of St. John’s Episcopal Church. Trump has lied. He has lied about just about everything you and I can think of, and he is still lying.

Of course, I may be wrong about Carl Lentz. He may be a great guy and fantastic pastor who just lost his way. I know I’m not wrong about Donald Trump.

Trump

Trump and his incessant whining about the election are like that child who keeps asking if he can have a cookie after being told “NO!” three or four times. (Trump and the child both need to be sent to their room.)

Trump and his accomplices have come up with one conspiracy theory after another. He has filed one lawsuit after another and lost in court time after time, but he continues. Why lie and insist that he won the election which he lost by over 7 million votes?

Maybe he truly believes that former Venezuelan Pres. Hugo Chavez (who died seven years ago) infiltrated Smartmatic (a company that supplied voting machines to only a single US county); released a computer virus that changed Trump votes to Biden votes; and covered its tracks so well that no Republican or Democrat noticed the problem—oh, and did this only in states where Trump lost.

Or maybe his whining has a purpose. Maybe Trump understands that he is in legal jeopardy. He is sending out email after email to his supporters begging for money. Maybe Trump can’t simply ask for money in a straightforward fashion. Maybe the only way that he can shake millions of dollars out of his flock—$207.5 million between Nov. 3 and Dec. 3—is with these stupid conspiracy theories.

Maybe Trump is ending his presidency as he began it, with a grift. Several federal agencies are looking into his inaugural committee which took in $107 million dollars but has not accounted for its spending. Now, as Trump exits the White House, he again is vacuuming up money from his followers.

At work a couple of weeks ago, one of the anesthesiologists was sitting across from me in the surgeons’ lounge. He wanted to know why I supported Joe Biden. He asked me to explain my support without mentioning Donald Trump. I just smiled and took a deep breath:

Joe Biden will take the coronavirus seriously. Joe Biden will restore the NATO alliance. Joe Biden will work toward universal healthcare and will strengthen Obamacare. Biden will help America rejoin the Paris Climate Accords and help you and me have cleaner air to breathe and have clean water to boat, fish, or drink. He will fight for social justice and help reform our justice system so that there are far fewer George Floyds. He will get our economy on track, and he will tax the wealthy. Biden will never call White supremacists “good people.” He will work to end corporate welfare. He will work with Democrats and Republicans and find some way to reform our immigration policy.

Not a bad list of reasons, after all. (more…)

By |2021-01-08T14:37:25-04:00January 8th, 2021|Elections, Healthcare, Party Politics|0 Comments
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