Living Large In Carson City: There Is Nothing To See Here Folks – Keep Moving Edition

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 “They that sow the wind, shall reap the whirlwindHosea

I know this is going to seem callous and crass, but oh for the days when all America had to worry about was the Iraq and Afghani wars, Michelle’s vegetable garden on the White House lawn, or even a silly Korean rapper called Psy and his blockbuster hit ‘Gangnam Style’. Those were the days of clear cut messaging (Psy is the exception) that appeared in the news cycles and moved on after a day or two. It was a time (anytime before November of 2016) when news stories were more or less one dimensional and could be covered with alacrity that allowed one’s mind to focus and then shut off if so desired.

No longer. Trump redefined the news in such a way that scandals breeds mini scandals that breed major scandals that breed tangential scandals. It’s taxing and wearing the American electorate down. Now, Trump doesn’t even bother creating his own scandals but gloms onto scandals created by others and makes them his own. The scandal du jour concerns Minnesota Rep. Ilhan Omar and a tweet she shared in response to a segement of the American Israeli community’s influence on Congressional members,

First of all, a caveat, I am married to a non-practicing Jew who is the singular most beautiful thing to occur in my life. I will always be grateful to her lineage. It’s a bloodline thing. However, the Jewish people have been snake bit from the beginning of their existence. If the Old Testament is to be believed, they suffered under their Abrahamic god’s capricious, often cruel, whims but preserved to emerge as a cohesive positive force in the world. Then there is their treatment by the Germans in WWII such that the Holocaust has become the definition of reprehensible and evil. Still, again, they preserved

The problem I have with Israeli government, not the Jewish people, is the fact that on the international stage the nation is essentially seen as a terrorist state. Since they refused to return land occupied during the 1967 war against the Palestinians, their refusal to withdraw to the original Israeli borderlines has made them a criminal nation. Compounding the issue is the hard right shift politically over the years within Israel’s ruling parties that has led to expansion of the illegal settlements and genocidal acts against the Palestinians that can not be ignored.

True, the Palestinians committed atrocities during those hectic years after the war.  True, they are the sworn enemies of Israel, but with legitimate claims on the land that Israel now occupies. With forced evacuations, unwarranted raids and attacks on their people, the Palestinians are a shadow of the threat they once represented to their aggressive neighbor. The Israeli government is quick to point out that the Palestinian’s Muslim religion puts them at diametrical odds with the well-being of what Israel stands for in the end. Yet, the ruling Israeli government is ruled by hardliners, no less rabid than American evangelicals, who want nothing less than the eradication of the Palestinian people and state.

I read somewhere that anti-Israel does not equate to antisemitism. You can hate or decry the policies of the government, but not hate the vast majority of everyday Jews; many of whom are also at odds with the government’s choices in dealing with the far less powerful Palestinians. Yet, this is what is at the base of the Omar controversy that Trump has done everything he can to exacerbate.

Omar’s tweet has been blown out of proportion and smacks of bigotry, hypocrisy, and elitism on the part of both the Republican and Democratic Parties. Omar apologized but has been the brunt of ridicule and derision for having the temerity to speak truth to the powers behind the throne. Here she attempted to clarify her stance,

So, for me, I want to talk about — I want to talk about the political influence in this country that says it is OK for people to push for allegiance to a foreign country. I want to ask: Why is it OK for me to talk about the influence of the NRA, of fossil fuel industries or Big Pharma, and not talk about a powerful lobbying group that is influencing policy? Right? Truthout 

Trump jumped into the fray earlier on calling for Omar to resign from the Foreign Affairs Committee and Congress for what he thinks was her disrespect for Israel. The entire affair has devolved into a bullshit, political claptrap of monumental proportions. The fact is American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) is the strongest pro-Israel lobbying firm in Washington, targeting all Congressmen, not just Republicans and/or Democrats. And yes, as Ady Barkan wrote in an article for The Nation, What Ilhan Omar Said About AIPAC Was Right, it is about the Benjamins,

By Monday morning, AIPAC had mobilized its allies to condemn Omar’s comment for playing into centuries-old anti-Semitic tropes that wealthy Jews control the world. Even the Democratic leadership put out a statement condemning her. All because she dared to point out that the emperor has no clothes.

As a Jew, an Israeli citizen, and a professional lobbyist (ahem, activist), I speak from personal experience when I say that AIPAC is tremendously effective, and the lubricant that makes its operation hum is dollar, dollar bills. The Nation

Officially, AIPAC is prohibited by law from raising money for candidates because they represent a foreign government. However, the group has evolved with a modus operandi that subverts the rule of law while not actually breaking the law. Writing for The Nation in an article titled This Is How AIPAC Really Works, M. J. Rosenberg stated,

In short, AIPAC’s political operation is used precisely as Representative Omar suggested.

Again, I know this because I witnessed it over and over again. I sat in AIPAC staff meetings at which the political director discussed whom “we” would be supporting in this campaign and whom “we” were going to “destroy” in that one. I also sat in on meetings at AIPAC’s huge annual policy conference, attended by as many as 20,000 AIPAC members and virtually the entire Congress, at which fundraising pitches were made.

AIPAC, of course, denies that anyone raises money at its policy conference. And it’s true. No one does… in the official AIPAC rooms. However, there are also the side rooms, nominally independent of the main event but just down the hall, where candidates and invited donors (only the really wealthy donors get the invites) meet and decide which candidate will get what. This arrangement is almost a metaphor for the whole AIPAC fundraising operation. The side rooms are nominally not AIPAC, so AIPAC can deny that any fundraising takes place at their conference. But in fact, they are the most exclusive venues in the country for candidates to raise money in the name of advancing the AIPAC cause.  The Nation

AIPAC uses a variety of “coercive” tools to bend recalcitrant members of Congress to get behind the AIPAC agenda. Nearly everyone in Congress is contacted by members of AIPAC and asked if they will support the AIPAC agenda. Those who say no or waffle can expect a mobilized attempt to change their minds including ensuring, for instance, the Congressperson is confronted back home in public discussions by someone sympathetic to the AIPAC agenda. It’s an insidious organization that puts Israel first and American issues on the back burner until they get their way.

So, the Omar brouhaha is just that a brouhaha seeded with bigotry, politics, fear, and questionable allegiances. While most people won’t recognize it, this is politics at its dirtiest and the epitome of the swamp that is Washington governance. The question really comes down to “What do we get for our lopsided support of Israel?” Politicians get the backing they need at the expense of their integrity. Evangelicals get the warm and woolly feeling deep in their guts that by supporting Israel they are helping usher in the last days before Christ returns. The president gets a distraction that pulls our attention away from his inept, corrupt, and illegitimate presidency.

Only the truth goes wanting.

 

Living Large In Carson City: Choosing The Lesser Of Two Evils, Is Still Choosing Evil (Jerry Garcia) Edition

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The one thing that truly puzzles me about Donald Trump, and there is a lot to be puzzled by, is why do religious people have such a love affair with this jerk who is obviously amoral and one of the most ungodly people to ever walk the face of the earth. I am a recovering Southern Baptist, and I can tell you from my upbringing Trump is definitely not a saint. The pious among us in my youth would have called this guy out long ago assigning him to a brief footnote in history. Not so today’s religious leaders. Here is how Trump measures up to the Christian gold standard of how one should live their lives, the 10 Commandments:

The 10 Commandments

  • I am the Lord thy God! Thou shalt have no other Gods but me!

Hmm . . . let’s see. Trump’s god is money, power, and himself.      Busted

  • Thou shalt not take the Name of the Lord thy God in vain!

Personally, I can’t verify this myself, but I wouldn’t be surprised.  Toss up

  • Thou shalt keep the Sabbath Day holy!

If God calls 18 holes of golf  holy, Trump’s good.                                 Busted

  • Thou shalt honor father and mother!

Again, I can’t say for sure.                                                                        Toss up

  • Thou shalt not kill!

We just don’t know.                                                                                    Toss up

  • Thou shalt not commit adultery!

Ha! This one is a no brainer.                                                                    Busted

  • Thou shalt not steal!

Ask people who have done work for Trump through the years.      Busted

  • Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor!

On Hillary alone, Trump would burn in hell for all time.                   Busted

  • Do not let thyself lust after thy neighbor’s wife!

Let’s turn to that muse of the porn world, Stormy D.                            Busted

  • Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s house, nor his farm, nor his cattle, nor anything that is his!

Trump’s Weird Love Affair with Eminent Domain                                 Busted

Seven out of 10 sums up my consternation. Even with giving religious people the benefit of the doubt, it still doesn’t square the fact that Trump is a sinner of monumental proportions. I mean bigly. Still, the question has to be asked, “Why does Donald Trump get a Get Out of Hell Free card” when the rest of us would be crispy critters from the get go? I can think of several reason; none of them good for America or encouraging that things will get better.

First of all, America knows that the religious right is at the core of support for Trump. Their worldview includes ending Roe vs Wade, removing the walls between church and state, supporting Israel, and protecting the president from moral outrage that should have long ago ended Trump’s presidency. All the big names in religion are represented  Graham, Falwell, Jeffress, Bachman, Reed, Perkins, and that old wackadoodle, Pat Robertson. They along with a multitude of lesser names and congregations across America (mostly white frightened Christians) are reveling in the fact they think they have one of their own in the president’s chair. Sure, they may have to hold their collective noses to assuage their consciousnesses, but hey, they believe God put Trump in office for a purpose. Who are they to judge?

Of course, power is by far the most important perk to many of the leading religious groups today. The separation of church and state as delineated in the First Amendment has always been a burr under these people’s hides. Trump saw the opportunity to play these rubes to the hilt. One of his most controversial acts was, not just placate the religious, but to enhance their access.

Trump expanded the role faith-based agencies play in the federal government in several important ways. First, his executive order creates a new office within the White House to oversee this religious expansion. That office will be staffed by an adviser to the White House Faith and Opportunity Initiative, a new position. The adviser will be “supported by experts and various community and faith leaders from outside of the Federal Government,” according to the White House.

The initiative also directs all executive departments and agencies that do not currently have a faith-based office to designate a liaison from that agency to the White House. Rewire

In the personality politics of today, access defines power. It should be noted that there are evangelicals and then there the crazy evangelicals. What is upsetting is Trump doesn’t seem to have a filter on which is which. Take Kenneth Copeland, one of the scariest men in the universe. He is one of the prosperity evangelicals who believes he can milk Christianity (read his parishioners) for all they are worth. For instance, Copeland is adept at getting his congregations to buy him airplanes. He had this to say about the new world of Trump and religion,

Copeland said that if God puts something on his heart that needs to be delivered to the president, he’ll now have a direct line to deliver that message.

“I have no doubt,” he said, “if something were to really strike my heart, if God really showed me something that I felt like and that the Lord would say, ‘You deliver this,’ I have no doubt that I could deliver it, and that was not true in presidents past even though we had influence in some areas in some ways.” Faith

Copeland is also a proponent of a National Sunday Law. Honestly, I never heard of such a thing. Well, Texas did have Blue Laws that restricted selling of certain items on Sunday, and supposedly, the Sunday Law is an extension of the old Blue Laws making it a law that Sunday is a day of rest and worship. Legislating this idea into a federal law is scary on so many levels. At this point people either believe a Sunday Law is coming soon, or that it is simply a conspiracy theory that is only a wet dream of evangelicals in their chest of wants and needs. But there is this.

Access and power are all well and good, but do they answer the question of why evangelicals are so willing to support Trump even in light of his notoriously reprobate behavior? This is where Israel comes into the equation. Christianity’s last ditch stand against the Satan and the wickedness of man comes down to Judgement Day. This is when Jesus is supposed to return the earth and smite all non-believers. Where will this confrontation occur? Israel, of course, the Holy Land. This fact makes it incumbent on believers to protect Israel’s “homeland” at all costs. After all, Judgement Day marks the day that all Christians will be taken up to heaven where they will live happily ever after.

Trump is no fool when he sees a mark ready for fleecing. Moving the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem was a poorly disguised sop meant to give the rogue state of Israel more credibility and American evangelicals the belief that they wield power to instruct the government in matters of policy.  Israel will never be anything but a terrorist state until they give back the land they illegally occupied after the 1967 war per international law, and consequently, evangelicals are complicit in the ongoing apartheid military action that Israel is visiting upon the hapless Palestinians.

So, the upshot is that evangelicals have made a deal with the devil and are stuck with the consequences and loss of any moral objectivity they once had if they ever had any at all. Think about it. They openly choose to support a known philanderer, a pussy grabber, a stupendous liar, cheat, and a morally bankrupt narcissist to secure a few repressive laws and policies that will be wiped away once the Democrats take control of the White House. Yet, the cost of laying down their vaunted Christian ideals seems to be a bothersome as a sore thumb or a paper cut. However, as the old saying goes, “If you lie down with dogs, you get up with fleas.” They should be careful what they ask for.