‘Treasonous’ Trump: Republican Sentiment Toward President Shifting

Photo via www.kremlin.ru.

It’s no surprise to see outrage and condemnation from the Left whenever Trump does something egregious. So in the aftermath of Trump’s Helsinki Summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin, there’s not much news there. What is newsworthy though is the fact that conservatives – including supporters of Trump – have been increasingly critical of the President in the wake of the summit. Collected here are quotes exclusively from Republicans / Conservatives.

“The damage inflicted by President Trump’s naiveté, egotism, false equivalence, and sympathy for autocrats is difficult to calculate.”
John McCain, Republican Senator

“The president must appreciate that Russia is not our ally. There is no moral equivalence between the United States and Russia.”
Paul Ryan, Republican Speaker of the House

“No negotiation is worth throwing your own people and country under the bus.”
Abby Huntsman, Fox News Channel Anchor

“It’s disgusting. It’s just wrong. A U.S. president talking to our biggest enemy and not even offering mild criticism. That sets us back a lot.”
Neil Cavuto, Fox Business Anchor

“It is the most serious mistake of his presidency and must be corrected immediately.”
Newt Gingrich, Former Republican Speaker of the House

“[Trump] made us look as a nation more like a push over. I did not think this was a good moment for our country.”
Bob Corker, Republican Senator

“This answer by President Trump will be seen by Russia as a sign of weakness.”
Lindsey Graham, Republican Senator

“This was atrocious and no American president should ever behave this way.”
Karol Markowicz, Conservative Columnist for NY Post

“I’ve said a number of times and I say it again, the Russians are not our friends.”
Mitch McConnell, Republican Senate Majority Leader

For those who are worried about the President’s coziness to Putin and wondering what they can do: Contact your legislators and ask them to hold Trump accountable for his actions and to our country – and hold Russia accountable where needed as well.

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No Surprise: Workers Suffer While Rich Benefit From Tax Cuts

Photo by Capturing the human heart. on Unsplash

CBS News recently released a report on how the Tax Cut & Jobs Act is working out six months after its implementation. The basic gist of it is: The rich are continuing to get richer on the backs of their (often overworked) employees.

Six months after the Tax Cut and Jobs Act became law, there’s still little evidence that the average job holder is feeling the benefit. Businesses are spending nearly $700 billion on repurchasing their own stock so far this year. Because many senior executives are paid in company shares, buybacks temporarily boost their pay, sometimes at the expense of investments in infrastructure or workers.

No Surprise

This should come as no surprise to anyone who has done a little research. Studies show that the rich are less likely than the poor to be giving with their money. The reason for this is because of understanding. It’s easy to give a lot when you know the plight of those in need. Privilege breeds all sorts of unconscious assumptions about those lacking it. Studies show that this also holds true for those who gain privilege. People who come from poor beginnings but gain wealth tend to lose sight of their roots – impacting their ability to understand the world of those who have less than they do.

Additionally, the more well-off someone is, the more likely they are to see themselves as “self-made”. When people don’t understand the ways public services, interactions with others, and luck have impacted their success, they’re less likely to be giving or acknowledge the important role social programs, public services, multiple chances, and caring individuals provide in giving people the opportunities they need to succeed.

CASE IN POINT

In my home state of Utah there is an interesting case study in this via Senator Orrin Hatch. He comes from humble beginnings and continues to insist that he is working for the poor and disenfranchised even as he votes YES on bills that have the potential to further burden the middle-class and poor. He can no longer relate to or understand the world he came from because his wealth, stature, and experiences have impacted his ability to see that world properly.

The facts behind how the rich act vs. the poor have clear implications for the viability of things like “trickle-down economics” and tax cuts for the rich: Since the rich tend to keep more of what they get, it’s unlikely these methods of wealth redistribution will work. This is clearly evidenced in the recent report on how the Tax Cut & Jobs Act is faring in action. Since the rich are essentially the wealth redistributors in the United States, their obscene accumulation of wealth will have ultimately disastrous consequences for our economy and country.

REMEMBER HOW LUCKY YOU ARE

It’s important that we do not lose sight of these facts as we manage to climb the economic ladder ourselves – lest we become like Senator Hatch, President Trump, and others who see being poor as a self-made condition. I hope that those of us who have found success in life will listen more to those who are struggling rather than falsely believing that we have the answers they need to find success – if only they would follow the path we did.

Jesus Was The One Yelling At LDS General Conference

Easter is a time when most Christians tend to focus on Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection. However, I feel spurred to briefly discuss Christ’s life due to an incident that happened Saturday at the LDS Church’s General Conference meeting in Salt Lake City. During the conference’s afternoon session, Crystal Legionaires shouted from the audience “Stop protecting sexual predators!” – a reference to the ongoing scandal of abuse and cover-up currently rankling the mainstream Mormon religion.

Reaction to the outburst has been mixed. There are those who believe it was needed and those who believe it was disrespectful. I find it to be a great opportunity to talk a bit more about Christ – maybe even a fateful one considering it happened on Easter weekend. The incident exemplifies one of Christ’s personality traits: unabashed activism. Below are three ways Christ was an outspoken critic of the status quo and a harbinger of change.

Jesus called out leaders for hypocrisy

Jesus was not a fan of the Pharisees – the religious and political leaders during His time. On several occasions Jesus publicly rebuked them for their hypocrisy and immorality. He lists eight woes of the Pharisees in Matthew 23 – among them:

  • They made a show of praying and worshiping instead of carrying out these tasks quietly and humbly. (Matthew 23:13-14)
  • They taught that temple oaths weren’t binding unless sworn by gold – essentially placing gold higher than God. (Matthew 23:16-22)
  • They adhered to the letter of the law rather than the spirit of the law. (Matthew 23:23-24)
  • They were critical of others’ misdeeds but didn’t keep their own house in order. (Matthew 23:25-26)
  • They portrayed themselves as righteous but inside harbored wicked thoughts. (Matthew 23:27-28)
  • They spoke of dead persecuted prophets in high regard, but were persecutors of the righteous themselves. (Matthew 23:29)

Jesus got angry and even violent

One of the more interesting stories in Jesus’ life tells of a time He traveled to Jerusalem for Passover. When He arrived at the temple He found people selling animals and exchanging money on the temple grounds. In a fit of rage, Jesus overturns tables and whips the money-changers and animals, driving them both from the temple like a shepherd herding livestock, yelling at them not to turn His Father’s holy house into a place of business.

Jesus dirtied his own hands to help those in need

Jesus was a very strong advocate for the poor and disenfranchised. Throughout the New Testament, He is constantly calling on those with more to give to those with less. He regularly mingled with lepers, prostitutes, and all manner of disenfranchised people. His form of ministering meant interacting regularly with those who needed Him most – not giving lectures from behind a pulpit.

The radical Savior

On Easter, a day set aside for us to reflect on the ultimate sacrifice Jesus made, I hope we can think more on how to exemplify the radical kindness He embodied. I believe, whether by merely following Christ’s example or by being pushed by the Holy Spirit, Crystal was doing just that. She was giving a voice to the voiceless and calling out our religious leaders for their tone-deaf response in the face of an unfolding crisis.

Victims of sexual abuse by church leaders have been trying for years through traditional means to have their voices heard and changes made. But so far, LDS prophets and apostles have been uninterested in coming down from the pulpit and mingling with the disenfranchised.

In the face of this silence, with traditional avenues exhausted, increasingly radical steps become necessary. Protests and civil disobedience have long been the drivers of change throughout history. As more drastic actions like Crystal’s are taken, I hope those watching will remember that whipping people and overturning tables is not out of the realm of possibility when answering the question “What would Jesus do?”. Instead of offering condemnation, perhaps it’s time to start listening.

Gun Regulation: Balancing The Second Amendment With Responsibility

There is a saying you hear often among certain segments of gun owners: The Second Amendment is in place to protect us from a tyrannical government.

But if the Second Amendment is really about individual defense against the government, then isn’t it time to start treating citizens like soldiers when it comes to armament? Not just anyone can join the military and handle a gun. Similarly, if We The People want to mount a proper defense against a tyrannical government, we need citizens who are properly trained, responsible, and mentally prepared to handle firearms – otherwise said citizens will prove to be liabilities instead of assets.

Freedoms have always come with responsibilities and qualifications (as they say, “freedom isn’t free”). First Amendment protections end with lying – thus why slander and libel are not protected forms of speech. The Second Amendment is the same: Protections end where the inability to demonstrate responsible and clear-headed ownership of firepower begins. The Second Amendment itself states that armament be “well-regulated” – the Right To Bear Arms is not an unqualified free-for-all.

Well-Regulated Armed Citizenry

But what does a well-regulated armed citizenry look like? I propose five core regulations:

  1. Passing a comprehensive health/psych exam
    • Addresses physical and mental ability to manage a weapon (averts gun deaths – especially those from suicide)
  2. Receiving 30 hours of gun safety and human ethics training
    • Weeds out those who are not willing to put in the time to be properly trained with a gun (averts gun accidents)
    • Encourages responsible gun ownership and can instill a sense of civic duty – giving renewed purpose to those considering crimes or suicide
  3. Passing a background check
    • Helps keep guns out of the hands of criminals (averts gun crimes)
  4. Restricting manufacture and selling of large magazines and gun modifications
    • Limits the ability of people to kill on a large scale (averts mass shootings)
  5. Re-evaluation every x-amount of years through a written test, background check, and health/psych exam
    • Makes sure 1-4 are kept in check long-term

These regulations are easy enough that any responsible citizen will be able to properly arm themselves, while also providing actionable ways to reduce gun deaths across the board. Implementing these for all new weapon purchases, trades, and manufacturing immediately would make an impact – though it may take time to see considering the amount of unlicensed weapons already circulating in our country.

What About Weapons Already in Circulation?

Admittedly, trying to get tabs on all the weapons already out there in our country would be difficult if not impossible. That’s why I believe in a grandfathering clause for weapons already in the hands of gun owners. People would only need to get licensed if they purchase new weapons.

However, it would be good to try and get as many gun owners to turn over unlicensed weapons as possible. To that end, I believe we should provide trade-in incentives for those willing to exchange their older unlicensed weapons with newer licensed ones. We could also create penalties for the owners of unlicensed guns that are used in crimes (regardless of if the gun owner participated in or knew about the crime themselves) to further encourage people to voluntarily opt-in older weapons.

Ultimately however, we need to work on moving forward – even if the state of gun circulation we’re building out from is messy and imperfect. We need to understand though that because of the grandfathering clause it will take longer to see results. We may have to wait decades in order to see the fruits of our labors clearly (though I still believe there would be an immediate and observable change as well).

Not Government-Run

The final piece of this regulatory framework that I believe is really required to get backing from both ardent gun owners and the general populace is assuaging fears about the government regulating guns and stripping away rights. To that end, I believe an independent organization should be created to oversee gun licensing in the United States – one that is not tied to either the federal government or the gun industry. I would expect such an organization to be made up of Constitutional scholars, state governors, retired law enforcement officials, and former military leaders.

It is understandable for people to be fearful of something that could impact what they cherish – gun owners are no exception. But the evidence is strong that gun accidents and deaths are highly correlated with gun availability. I believe the framework above can bring gun owners and those worried about gun deaths together to a place where both are getting what they need.

Immigrants, Muslims, Mormons, Jews: From Small Atrocities to Large Massacres

Recently news outlets across the country have been lighting up like a Christmas tree with stories of  beloved family and community members facing deportation (see here and here for just a couple examples). This, along with items like the Muslim travel ban, have led to widespread rebuke among progressives in the United States – with some even invoking Hitler. While cries of internment camps and extermination orders may seem outrageous and hysterical, it’s important to look back on history to see just how far-fetched these ideas are.

1900s Germany

While antisemitism was already brewing in Europe during the 1930s, an economic crisis brought it boiling over. In Germany – with concerns about poverty, inflation and unemployment – antisemitic groups such as the Nazi Party found an ideal scapegoat in Jews. Once the Nazi Party came to power in 1933, the true, horrifying scope of their antisemitic agenda revealed itself slowly over the course of a decade.

Legislation restricting places Jews could work at was the first to come. After that came restrictions on the political rights of Jews. Then came segregation laws, which forbid Jews from doing various things in the public sphere while outlawing Jewish culture and materials made by Jews. Finally, laws requiring Jews to register their property, change their names to be more easily identifiable, carry special passports, and otherwise make themselves identifiable as Jews were passed.

The first mass slaying of Jews happened in 1938 when the paramilitary wing of the Nazi Party clashed with Jews, resulting in 91 Jewish deaths, damage to hundreds of Jewish businesses and synagogues, and 300,000 Jews being placed in internment camps. In 1941, mass killings of Jews became commonplace and in 1942, nearly 10 years after the Nazi Party’s rise to power, the “final solution” to transport all Jews to concentration camps for extermination was proposed and implemented.

1800S UNITED STATES

In the 1830s a new religious movement formed in the United States: Mormonism. Mormons were seen as peculiar at best and sinister at worst. Among other things, there were concerns about Mormon religious beliefs, their loyalty to their prophet, and their growing numbers. These fears eventually led to persecution and clashes between Mormons and other Americans – and eventually led to government actions (including an extermination order) that forced Mormons to flee from the United States to the relative safety of what is now Utah in the 1840s.

Even then, concerns about Mormons did not end. In 1879, President Hayes told U.S. diplomats to seek help from European governments to keep Mormon converts from travelling to the U.S. Later, in 1883, President Cleveland asked Congress to ban Mormon entry into the United States – essentially instigating a Mormon version of Trump’s Muslim travel ban.

MODERN-DAY LESSONS

Rhetoric today surrounding refugees, immigrants and Muslims is largely the same as it was for Jews and Mormons during these two time periods: There are concerns about increased crime and terrorism, growing movements, and worries about American jobs being taken. But, just as with the Mormons and Jews, these fears are overblown or completely unfounded.

Statistics show that undocumented immigrants commit less crime proportionally than U.S. citizens. Similarly, people are more likely to be killed by a white supremacist or anti-government fanatic than be killed by an Islamic terrorist. As for jobs, statistics show that the presence of undocumented immigrants actually raises wages for U.S. citizens and creates nearly as many jobs as they occupy (maybe even more). On top of this, illegal immigrants pay into our tax system without being able to reap most of the benefits.

SNOWBALL EFFECT

Generally one of the most prevailing themes in stories about undocumented immigrants being deported or Muslims being arrested and held at airports is how much they are valued (and needed) in their community. Right now, we are tearing away people who are clearly productive and contributing members of our society. We are tearing them away from their families, neighborhoods, churches and colleagues – leaving only a painful gap with absolutely no discernible benefits.

It wasn’t right in the 1800s and 1900s and it’s not right today. And while there haven’t been any extermination orders yet, if we don’t realize we’re heading down the same dark path we’ve been down before, it can easily happen again. As history has shown us, everything always starts small – but all it takes for small atrocities to snowball into large massacres is the silence of good people.

DNC scandal, Republicans a boon for Bernie Sanders campaign?

Bernie_Sanders_(20033841412_24d8796e44_c0)

Bernie Sanders speaks at a campaign rally. Photo courtesy Nick Solari.

Bernie Sanders’ campaign has been in hot water lately. After Sanders’ staffers illegally accessed campaign lists for Hillary Clinton, the DNC swiftly moved against the Sanders campaign – revoking their access to all campaign data, including the data Sanders’ campaign compiled itself.

However, despite the seriousness of what the Sanders campaign did, Sanders himself seems to have come out of the DNC scandal relatively unscathed – and possibly even stronger from it.

The Sanders campaign fired at least one staffer directly connected to the breach and attacked the DNC for denying them access to their own data – saying they were damaging the democratic voting process. The DNC ultimately backed down from the Sanders campaign and access was restored relatively quickly.

Even with the DNC’s about-face, the Sanders campaign is now suing the DNC for their actions. Additionally, rumors have swirled about the DNC favoring the Clinton campaign – with one Sanders campaign official even insinuating that the campaign staffer who accessed Clinton data was a DNC/Clinton saboteur.

No-nonsense diplomacy

The quick response to firing those deemed responsible for accessing Clinton’s campaign data, the DNC quickly caving to the Sanders campaign and restoring their data access, and the Sanders campaign’s continued pursuit of the DNC via lawsuit – all while Sanders himself maintains tact in regards to Hillary Clinton – makes Sanders come off as a quick-acting, diplomatic candidate with little tolerance for wrongdoing.

Even Donald Trump – who has had plenty of negative things to say about Sanders himself – seemed to stand behind Bernie Sanders in the debacle, applauding Sanders’ tact while attacking Clinton for her lack of it.

Trump is not the only Republican who has seen virtues in Sanders either. The presidential candidate seems to have far wider Republican appeal than Clinton. While the Facebook group Republicans for Bernie Sanders boasts over 19,000 members despite just being created this year, a Republicans for Hillary group that has been around since 2012 has a mere 319.

Multiple articles have been written about Republicans’ love affair with Bernie Sanders as well, while articles about Hillary Clinton and Republicans tend to be antagonistic. Reasons for backing Sanders differ among Republicans – some love his idea to audit the FED and go after big banks, while others back his views on education and the economy. Others simply believe he is the most likely candidate to upset the status quo.

Cross-party candidate

While the reasons for backing Sanders may differ among people, it seems that more and more people are eyeing him as the most likely Democratic nominee – and, even among Republican pundits like Ann Coulter, the most likely to win the presidential election if he clinches the Democratic nomination.

The race is far from over, but with Sanders’ cross-party appeal and demonstrated ability to weather at least one scandal without getting messy, it’s clear voters, other candidates, and the media (another thing he has in common with Republicans) will want to watch him closely.

Family vs. the world (How buzzwords can kill thoughtfulness)

Words are incredibly powerful. Even small nuances and phrases can unconsciously influence the way someone acts or thinks.

One of the recent refrains heard by religious establishments these days is some form or another of “Families are being threatened by the world.”

Us vs. Them

Without even realizing it, by using the phrase “the world” one sets themselves apart from everyone else – thereby absolving themselves of their own involvement in the world’s issues, while simultaneously propping up the idea that if everyone just did what they did it would fix everything.

This also reinforces the belief that it is unnecessary – and even counterproductive or dangerous – to let others live differently in the way that is best for them, to reach across the aisle, or to think outside the box to help tackle and solve the world’s problems.

Nevermind the fact that there are people the world over who have had families or relationships strained and complicated due to a religious dynamic (whether it be lack of religion, losing religion, or finding religion).

Family: Isn’t it about time?

That’s not to say that religions don’t have some great ideas about keeping families and community strong. Notions of togetherness such as family dinner, a day of rest from work and investing in family members are fantastic and necessary.

But even those are only good if they’re practiced, yet…

…too many people wait outside temple doors during a family member’s wedding simply because of a difference of belief.

…Sundays, a day of rest and family togetherness, are often one of the busiest days of the week – splitting up families for hours on end as they attend to different meetings and church duties. Weekdays are often a mad scramble between work/school and church activities and responsibilities with serious family time often getting pushed to the side or discarded.

…too many people have disowned or shamed family members who walk a less religious path for their own health – or have tried to coerce them into a religious way of life rather than loving them and encouraging them on the path that makes them happy.

…couples who would make great parents and want to start families, and could help alleviate the overcrowding in foster care and adoption systems, are unable to do so because they can’t legally marry or adopt children.

Us and Us

There are a lot of things that threaten families and we’re all to blame for the state of the world today. And while religion certainly holds some good ideas about how to run a family, it’s going to take a world full of different ideas, compassion and fearlessness to find solutions to the world’s problems. We can’t separate ourselves or close ourselves off in fear or prejudice.