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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|Comments Off on Donald Trump and the Hillsong Church

Why WW84 was so bad

Wonder Woman 1984 Poster

First, let’s look at Wonder Woman the movie (2017). This movie came out of nowhere. I don’t think that anybody thought that the movie was gonna be good. I remember going to the movie theater and having little or no expectations. The casting was magnificent. From Gal Gadot to Christopher Pine, to Robin Wright to Denny Huston, the casting was just perfect. As the movie unfolds, you have this wonderful landscape of the Amazon island of Themyscira. Connie Nielsen plays the Amazon Queen and the mother of Diana. As with most of the superhero movies, the initial 15 to 30 minutes is sucked up by telling the back story. Here, we see Diana grow up. We see her become more and more competitive. We see her become stronger.

Let’s fast-forward to the trenches of World War I. There is a scene where Diana understands what she must do. She takes control of the merry band (Charlie, Samir, the Chief and Steve). Later on in the scene where Diana runs out of the trench into no man’s land – is one of the best scenes that I’ve seen in the past 10 or 15 years. It’s about grit and determination. It’s about understanding who you are and what you can do. It’s also about trying to do the most for your fellow man. Besides that, it was visually stunning. Next, we see Diana almost single-handedly taking out a German garrison that is nestled into a village. After the fighting settles down, he returned to the humanity. Charlie, for all of his bluster, really cannot shoot. Or at least, he can’t shoot anymore. Diane is a warrior. She could’ve trashed Charlie. Yet she did not. This movie was about friendships. It was about humanity. It was about a superhero being more human than the rest of us.

I’m not sure what WW 84 was about. I don’t have any idea why they decided to make a movie in 1984? Why didn’t they make a movie in World War II? Why did they make a movie about the Cold War? Instead, they pick an obscure year that seems to have no particular meaning.

Do you remember the old short story the Monkey’s Paw? Remember you to get three wishes from the monkey’s paw but there would be something odd or tragic with the wish. Like you would wish for million dollars and you find out that your wife, who you love dearly, died and her insurance policy was worth $1 million. So, only something awful to accompany your wish. Basically, that’s what this movie was about. There was some ancient artifact which could grant you one wish. Diana wishes for her beloved Steve to return. Diana’s officemate, Barbara, wishes that she could be Diana. Soon, Barbara begins to develop Diana’s strength that her speed. Unfortunately, Barbara begins to lose her humanity. She becomes cruel and mean. For Diana, we find out throughout the movie is that she begins to lose her powers. The exact reason is unclear. It is only towards the end of the movie we figure out that she is losing her powers because she wanted Steve to return. For some time, in the middle of the movie, I thought she was losing her powers because Barbara was gaining her powers. I was wrong.

There are lots of things in this movie that makes absolutely no sense. Let’s fast-forward to the final scene in which Maxwell Lord, the bad guy, played by Pedro Pascal, is using some sort of fancy satellite contraption to touch the TVs of millions upon millions of people around the world. He is granting their wishes. I have no idea why this type of incantation causes a windstorm so powerful that Diana, Wonder Woman, is stopped in her tracks. She is unable to make any headway. She tries to throw her magic lasso and that doesn’t make any headway either against the fierce winds. What?

There are several of these head scratching moments throughout the movie. Diana and Steve Trevor steal or borrow a jet from the Smithsonian. Remember that Steve Trevor was a pilot in World War I. These were single-engine prop planes basically. Yet, he is able to jump into the cockpit of a jet and with no instruction, he figures everything out. He is able to fly it without a problem. What? To make matters worse, he is flying from the United States to Cairo, Egypt.. He knows nothing about radar. He knows nothing about advanced navigation. Prof he is there. What? (He does fly back from Cairo without a problem.)

This movie did not have any of the great camaraderie that we saw in the first movie. It did not have the humanity that we saw on the first movie. It just simply doesn’t hold together as well as the first movie. I would give the first movie 9/10 stars. WW 84 gets 4/10 stars.

By |2020-12-31T22:50:59-04:00December 31st, 2020|Movies|Comments Off on Why WW84 was so bad

Reflection, More Work

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

Well, thankfully, the hand wringing is over. For days after the election I had anxiety and nervousness. I was constantly checking my cell phone and the TV news networks and the old radio. Finally, it is over. Former VP Joe Biden won the presidential election!!! Sen. Kamala Harris has been elected to serve as vice president.

In the meantime, our current president has been … well, he has been himself. He has spun up conspiracy theories about our elections. The only conspiracy theory that he hasn’t thrown out there on Twitter or Facebook would include the one about the Klingons using their Star Trek transporter to magically cause millions of votes for Trump to vanish into thin air.

What happened?

After the 2016 election, I spent a lot of time trying to figure out exactly what happened. Although Hillary Clinton was probably not the best progressive candidate, she was good. She had solid support. Of course, there were circumstances that she could not control, which included FBI director James Comey reopening an FBI investigation into her emails just weeks before the election. Yet there was something else that happened in that race. (Pun intended) Although the polls tightened, they really did not suggest a Donald Trump victory.

In their book Identity Crisis, authors John Sides, Lynn Vavreck, and Michael Tesler try to explain not just the fact that Trump won but how he won. They suggested that race played an incredibly large role in Trump’s victory. Trump won white men with only a high school education by a large margin. Trump connected with that demographic. Somehow, almost inexplicably, Trump also won suburban white women by a large margin. The 2016 presidential election was all about race.

Although we were promised that 2020 was going to be different, it may have been more the same. Prior to the election the national polls suggested that Joe Biden was way ahead of Donald Trump. The polls suggested that states like Texas and Florida were leaning Democratic. Yet Trump won Texas by six points and Florida by three points. Yes, some of this is within the polling margin of error, but there has to be something else going on, since it appears that every poll underestimated the Republican candidate. North Carolina Sen. Thom Tillis was trailing his Democratic rival in almost every single poll yet, somehow, he won the election. How were the polls so wrong? Some analysts have postulated a “shy Trump voter”—middle-of-the-road, average Republicans who simply wouldn’t admit to pollsters that they’d be voting for Trump. (I think that this explanation is popcock. Trump supporters are NOT shy.) Others have suggested underlying racism among the electorate that Trump appealed to—and those voters, too, wouldn’t admit they liked Trump for that reason.

Unfortunately, I don’t have the answer. All I know is that I’m not sure that it’s wise for anybody to trust polling until we figure out how to fix this problem. Some have suggested that caller ID is the problem. Thirty years ago, pollsters would expect that 50% of the calls that they made the person would hang up and not answer any questions. Now, pollsters expect that over 90% of their calls do not go through. This is a problem with telephone polls.

Georgia

With all the craziness that happened with polling, it is kind of amazing that Georgia seems to have slid into the Democratic column. Georgia. It is actually kind of mind boggling. If Georgia can turn blue, any southern state can turn blue. Mississippi, Texas, Louisiana—they can all be blue. We still need to do more research in figuring out how Georgia was able to make this huge transformation, but it appears that Stacey Abrams, former gubernatorial candidate and former Minority Leader of the Georgia state House of Representatives, was a large part of the reason. (more…)

By |2020-12-13T00:45:23-04:00December 13th, 2020|Elections|Comments Off on Reflection, More Work
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