Power To The People

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Question Everything

My latest column is up at AND Magazine!

Here is an excerpt:

In the aftermath of the U.S. presidential election, suddenly America has a new crisis:

FAKE NEWS

1453300608Fake news has been around for a while, but it seems that the election of Donald Trump as the next President of the United States has suddenly brought this crisis into the limelight. We’re not talking, of course, about satire sites like The Onion. Most times when you see fake news, it actually looks fairly real, unless you know what to look for. People’s increased reliance on social media for news has made it a lot easier for fake news to make the rounds. As the famous saying goes, “a lie can travel halfway around the world before the truth can get its pants on.”

This crisis is reached such proportions, the president Obama has found it necessary to speak out on the issue. However, like most on the left, his agenda with the fake news crisis has more to do with shutting down right wing media than with actually ensuring that people are getting honest news.

I myself have noticed a lot of fake news permeating Facebook and Twitter, especially during the Republican primary. The first sign of fake news is usually (though not always) a sensationalistic headline, commonly known as “clickbait.” Clicking on the link would take you to some obscure blog which, if it had any source material at all, would usually refer to another blog site that posted the exact same thing, word for word. By the time you make it to the source article, there may have been a few sentences added, but there was no real source at the source. The more nefarious sites are actually dressed up to look like legitimate news outlets, but if you look at the URL, it doesn’t quite add up.

Continue reading here.

Trump vs The 1st

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Even though he isn’t officially the president until January, it seems that President-Elect Donald Trump can’t do much of anything without stirring up some controversy.  In the weeks since the election, the media has devoted ridiculous amounts of time and energy to micro-analyzing every name drop or rumor related to his potential cabinet picks – it’s become so banal it just isn’t worth paying attention to anymore.  But while everyone toys with the idea of ‘Secretary of State Mitt Romney,’ The Donald apparently decided that cabinet-related controversies were too boring.  Time to stir the pot:

Here’s a screenshot, just in case the tweet gets deleted:

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I know that the vast majority of Republicans aren’t fans of flag-burning, except when it’s done as part of the proper disposal of a flag (or when the protester accidentally lights himself on fire).  I’m not a fan of flag-burning-as-protest myself.  I don’t condone it, I won’t participate in it, no matter whose flag it is.  But regardless of anyone’s personal feelings regarding the practice, it is a legitimate form of dissent, protected by the First Amendment.

I normally wouldn’t care what Donald Trump has to say about flag-burning, except for a couple of minor details:

  1. He is the President-Elect, and will be POTUS in just under two months.
  2. This is not the first time The Donald has made statements that directly contradict the First Amendment.

The Supreme Court has already ruled that flag burning is a Constitutionally-protected form of “symbolic speech,” and the President doesn’t take an oath to protect and defend only those parts of the Constitution that he agrees with.

The big question moving forward is, how will Republicans react to Trump’s anti-freedom screed?  One of the hallmarks of the 2016 election cycle was Republicans willing to set aside conservative values and ideals to side with Donald Trump, and I’ve already heard from multiple Republicans (who voted for Trump) who’ve said that they would be okay with President Trump violating the Constitution, as long as it’s for something they agree with.

Thus far, the response from the Right seems to be “meh.”  Trump’s comments have been downplayed, called a distraction, or dismissed as unserious…and yet, had this type of pronouncement come from a Democrat president-elect, the resulting apoplexy from the GOP would be epic.

This kind of statement, coming from the next Leader of the “Free” World, should worry all freedom-loving Americans.

Does that seem right to you?

“It’s a free country!”

This used to be a mantra, but we don’t hear it so much anymore…because, truth be told, it just isn’t true.  We used to be a free country, but after 200 years of the evolution of our government into a massive bureaucratic state, we aren’t anymore.  We may not even be the freest nation in the world anymore.

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U.S. Bill of Rights

Amendment I

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

  • If you yell “fire” in a crowded theater, you could be charged as a criminal.
  • Certain statements are considered to be “hate crimes.”
  • Refusing to engage in business for religious reasons can result in fines and forced re-education.
  • Peaceable assembly in large numbers requires a paid permit from the government.

Amendment II

A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

  • In many states, gun ownership is prohibited to certain people based on specific, legislatively-defined criteria.
  • Certain types of arms are outright banned for private ownership.
  • In most states, legal gun owners are required to obtain costly permits in order to bear arms in public – and then, only if their arms are concealed.
  • Many states ban openly bearing arms.
  • In times of peace, as in times of war, the U.S. government maintains a standing army, rather than a ‘well regulated Militia.’

Amendment III

No Soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the Owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law.

  • In some states, law enforcement officials are allowed to legally invade a person’s home, without the homeowners’ consent, to conduct surveillance.

Amendment IV

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

  • For several years, the NSA used general warrants to collect data on many Americans’ phone calls.
  • The police can put up a roadblock and stop & question you at any time, as long as they say they’re trying to stop drunk driving.
  • In some states (California in particular), authorities set up roadblocks to check cars for compliance with government-mandated air pollution standards.

Amendment V

No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.

  • According to the United States Supreme Court, if you exercise your 5th Amendment right against self-incrimination, but don’t actually tell anyone that you’re exercising your 5th Amendment rights, your very silence can be used as evidence against you in court.
  • In 2005, the US Supreme Court ruled that the government can transfer property from one private owner to another private owner.

Amendment VI

In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defence.

  • In major cities (and some cities not so major) across America, you can now be ticketed and cited for traffic violations by automatic cameras.

Amendment VII

In suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by a jury, shall be otherwise re-examined in any court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law.

  • We may actually be good on this one.

Amendment VIII

Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.

  • We can’t seem to agree on the definition of “cruel and unusual punishment,” so instead of giving the most horrific criminals in our society a quick, painless death, we lock them up for decades, until they die.  How is that not cruel & unusual?

Amendment IX

The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.

  • Modern government seems to think that, if it isn’t explicitly protected within the Amendments, it’s okay for them to regulate…hence the Department of Education, the Department of Energy, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Health and Human Services, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the Department of Justice, the Department of Labor, the Department of Transportation, the Department of the Treasury, the Department of the Interior, the FAA, the FDA, the FCC, and so on…

Amendment X

The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

  • Modern government seems to think that, if it isn’t explicitly protected within the Amendments, it’s okay for them to regulate…hence the Department of Education, the Department of Energy, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Health and Human Services, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the Department of Justice, the Department of Labor, the Department of Transportation, the Department of the Treasury, the Department of the Interior, the FAA, the FDA, the FCC, and so on…

 

So when it comes to the Bill of Rights, we’re 1 out of 10.  Not too shabby.

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Change We Can Believe In

Before the election:

Conservatives abandoning their principles

Republicans bullying everyone to vote for Trump

Democrats bullying everyone to vote for Clinton

Everyone pushing the narrative that the world will end if the other guy gets elected

This is how it felt, as someone who disliked all of the candidates, writing about the election:

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Throughout, this was my general opinion of the political world:

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After the election:

Republicans see a mandate, even though Trump got fewer votes than Romney.

Based on the numbers, Trump didn’t win, as much as Hillary lost, but Republicans are spiking the football like this is the BIGGEST WIN EVAH!

Liberals are having a collective melt-down because the election hurt their feelz.

Trump won’t be president for a couple of months, but they’re already marching in the streets.

This is how it feels to browse through social media this week:

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Today, this pretty well sums up my opinion of the political world:

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What 2016 Says About Us

Reprinted from original, found on AND Magazine.

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Who do we really want to be?

While I’ve written quite a bit about the 2016 election, with only days to go, I feel like I haven’t been completely honest about how I truly feel about what this, the most contentious election in my lifetime, means for America, and could mean for the world.

 

Since the beginning, Donald Trump has been a loud-mouthed, lying, crude rude dude.  He is definitely not the kind of person we should want as the next President of the United States.  According to him, of course, he has the “best personality” and the “best temperament,” but anyone with half a brain can quite easily see that this isn’t true.  Yes, he’s been (mostly) successful as a businessman.  Yes, he’s been successful as a reality TV star.  But while it would be nice to have a successful businessman in office – one who understands how free market capitalism is supposed to work – that in and of itself does not qualify anyone for public office, especially the office of President of the United States.

 

As for Hillary Clinton, I have often wondered why she is still relevant in the Democrat Party at all.  Her entire political career has been defined by one scandal after another.  She’s like that employee whose resume looks amazing, and she on a good day, she gives a good interview, but then she turns out to be incredibly incompetent, screws everything up, and then tries to blame all her failures on someone else.  And now, despite being shackled with a record of exceptional levels of failure and corruption (and, according to the latest from WikiLeaks, a smattering of Satan worship sprinkled in just for good measure), she is the Democrats’ presidential nominee.

 

Why these two?  The American political scene, all across the nation, is tearing itself apart.  Relationships have been broken, the vitriol keeps on mounting.  It just seems to get worse and worse the closer we get to election day.

 

Third-parties offer no refuge

 

And it gets even better once you realize that even the third-party candidates are no refuge.  They all stink this time around.

 

While everyone goes apoplectic over Trump vs. Hillary, it all just makes me wonder, “Why?”

 

Why so much passion and energy wasted over two of the worst candidates in modern history?   It’s become so bizarrely consuming that it’s difficult to get real news in the U.S.  Seems like it’s all election coverage, all the time.

 

But when it gets right down to it, all of the blustering about how this is “the most important election of our lifetime” is just that: bluster.  It doesn’t actually mean anything substantive.  Until this election, the previous election was “the most important election of our lifetime.”  The next election will, yet again, be “the most important election of our lifetime.”  This type of hyperbole seems to be fairly effective at getting people riled up, but when we’re getting riled up over what, in the political realm, amounts to two piles of steaming excrement, it pays to step back and ask: “What in the world are we doing to ourselves?!?”

 

As a conservative, formerly a stalwart Republican, I am told with some frequency that by refusing to vote for Donald Trump, I am, in fact, voting for Hillary Clinton.  It doesn’t seem to matter how much I agree with other conservatives/Republicans on the horrendous levels of corruption the Clintons have been involved in over the years.  By refusing to toe the GOP party line, I have made myself the enemy.  Over the past few months, I have been called various names.

 

Closet Democrat.

 

Hillary worshiper.

 

Traitor.

 

But for me, the coup de gras, and the motivator for my finally putting this to paper, was when a friend from high school wrote a post on social media basically saying that if you aren’t voting for Trump in order to stop Hillary from becoming president, you’re siding with Satan.

 

This is a person that I like and respect, and one of my goals is to like and respect him after this election is over, no matter the outcome.  But I’ve already had to ‘unfriend’ a few people I like and respect due to their constant vitriol over my continued insistence that both major candidates stink.  People seem to have so fixated on the idea that they MUST support one bad candidate in order to stop the other bad candidate that they can no longer see their candidate is bad – in the relative world of politics, apparently, the other guy’s badness makes your guy good, no matter how bad he or she truly is.

 

For a while now, this election cycle has reminded me of certain periods in the Old Testament.  The people of Israel had a covenant with God that dated back to Abraham.  God had led them out of Egypt.  They had crossed the Red Sea on dry land, and had seen Pharaoh’s army drown behind them.  But when Moses went up on the mountain to speak with God, he took just a little bit too long, and the people went astray.  They created their own god, and proceeded to worship it.

 

Manna from Heaven

 

It wasn’t much different after they finally made it to the Promised Land.  Now, these were people who had been fed by God himself with Manna from Heaven.  He had led them with a pillar of cloud by day, and a pillar of fire by night.  He had stopped the flow of the Jordan River and allowed them to cross.  He had caused the walls of Jericho to come tumbling down at the sound of rams’ horns and the shouts of His people.

 

But even with this rich history of God’s might and miracles, the Israelites struggled to stay faithful to God.  It seemed that they were always looking to the ways of the world around them.  It seems that they were constantly falling away from God to worship Asherah (a fertility goddess whose worship included the celebration of sex), and Baal, an Egyptian/Canaanite god.  Throughout the Old Testament, it seems that His Chosen People went through phases: they turned to God, but as things went well for them, they turned away from Him and conformed to the ways of the surrounding nations.  As they turned away from God, things went badly for them, and they ended up turning back to Him, and He rescued them.

 

I can only imagine the vitriol in ancient Israel:

 

“A vote for any god but Baal is a vote for Asherah!”

“A vote for any god but Asherah is a vote for Baal!”

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Finally, the people of Israel had had enough.  It wasn’t enough to temporarily take on the gods of the surrounding nations until things went bad for them; they wanted to be like those surrounding nations.  They wanted to be a true political power in the region; to flex their muscles and see the neighboring nations cower.

 

They wanted a king.

 

Samuel, the prophet of God, had rescued Israel from the Philistines, and had basically kept the nation in line with God for many years, but after a while, the people of Israel decided that Samuel was too old to lead them.  They wanted a king – they wanted to be like all of the other nations around them.  They wanted to see what real political power was like.

 

“Listen to the voice of the people in all that they say to you; for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected me from being king over them.  Just as they have done to me, from the day I brought them up out of Egypt to this day, forsaking me and serving other gods, so also they are doing to you.  Now then, listen to their voice; only—you shall solemnly warn them, and show them the ways of the king who shall reign over them.”

-1 Samuel 8:7-9

 

Every time I read this, I am dumbfounded.  The people of Israel would have had an oral history that told of the great miracles God had done for them.  They were being led by God himself, through the prophet Samuel, who made a circuit of the tribes of Israel every year (1 Samuel 7:15-17).  Yet still, the people of Israel rejected God, because they wanted to be like the rest of the world.

 

This seems to be how it is for Republicans – while they have spent many years claiming to stand up for virtue, saying that “character matters,” now, all of a sudden, character doesn’t matter so much as it used to.  What do things like ‘virtue’ or ‘principles’ matter if they don’t win elections?  WINNING is what matters.  Everything else can be set aside.

 

God’s sovereignty

 

Eventually, the people of Israel turned had turned away from God so many times that their eventual return to God was more ceremonial than anything else – even their revivals lacked authenticity; they were just going through the motions, waiting for the next orgy to worship some foreign god.  And finally, God allowed the nation of Israel to be destroyed.

 

That is how it feels with America these days.  We have reached a point where even many of our churches don’t recognize God’s sovereignty.  Christians claim that God is on our side, even as they actively reject him in their daily lives.

 

Throughout the Bible, God has been less concerned with the current political scene than he has been with the hearts of individual human beings.  Ancestry doesn’t matter (Matthew 3:9).  Rituals don’t matter (Mark 12:28-34).

 

In my mind, the real question is this: Why does it matter whether I choose Trump, or Clinton, or Johnson, or Stein, or McMullin?  We seem much more concerned with claiming that God is on our side than we are of ensuring that we are on His side.  We are so concerned with maintaining our own well-being that we have forgotten that Jesus did not “come to bring peace, but a sword,” (Matthew 10:34).  If we truly stand for God, we will be rejected by the world.  And while Christians in the Western world seem intent on bending God to their own definition of morality, God “is the same yesterday and today and forever,” (Hebrews 13:8).

 

As Christians in the modern world, we have taken our eye off of the ball.  Like the Israelites of old, we look to worldly leaders to save us, when we should be looking to God.  We point at the other guy’s candidate, expounding on the speck in his eye, rather than looking to the log in our own eye (Luke 6:41).  We have set our hearts on earthly things, and not on things above (Colossians 3:1-4).

 

Christians in America should take a good, hard look at what it is we are supporting when we choose to back a Republican – any Republican – because we consider the other side of the political aisle to be that much worse.  When I read through the Scriptures, Jesus never seems to be all that concerned with worldly governments.  “People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7).

 

The freedom and security that we have enjoyed as Americans will be fleeting.  While we should try to keep it, there is nothing we can do to stop its downfall, because men will always fail us.  No matter how bad Hillary Clinton may seem, Donald Trump will not save our nation.  No matter how bad Donald Trump may seem, Hillary Clinton will not save our nation.

 

Only God can save us, and He is less concerned about the collective nation as a whole as He is with what is in your heart, right now.  Stop looking at the macro.  Look inside yourself.  Look to Him.  Pray for the Peace that passes all understanding.  Don’t let 2016 tear us apart.  If each of us, today, sets petty politics aside and decides to work for the Eternal Kingdom, maybe then we can make a real difference.  But as long as we focus on Us vs. Them, we are no better than the Israelites of old, focusing on the wrong thing because we want to be just like the other guy.

Double-Standard Democrats

My latest column is up at AND Magazine!

Here is an excerpt:

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How to describe Democrats and double-standards?
They’re like white on rice.
Like peas and carrots.
Like pigs in…well, you get the idea.

The Democrat Party is full of contradictions, such as President Obama, the head of one of the most opaque administrations in our modern times, constantly prattling on about how very transparent his government is.

Or assuring us that voter fraud doesn’t exist, and then doing all that they can to block each and every measure put forward to help detect and prevent such fraud.

But this election season, they’ve kicked it up a notch. Or five.

During the final presidential debate, when Donald Trump refused to pre-concede the election, Democrats and the media obsessed for days over how Trump was “undermining our democracy.” Of course, rigging the primary to ensure Hillary’s nomination doesn’t undermine our democracy at all, and a political party that busses people around from polling place to polling place on election day helps to keep our democracy intact.

 

Continue reading here.

Trumpkins Attack!

I find it amusing how Trump’s followers continue to jump all over Megyn Kelly, in a grudge that started over a year ago with a less-than-fawning question at the first GOP Primary Debate.

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I’m not a fan of Donald Trump or FOX News (I don’t watch cable news, except for a clip on YouTube every now and then), and I must say that it’s been fun to watch.

The latest in this ongoing grudge between the Trump-obsessed and Megyn Kelly has come with an appearance by Newt Gingrich, discussing Trump’s electoral chances.  According to Trump’s supporters, this was a MAJOR BURN! OMG!

Watch the video here:

According to Gingrich’s logic, Kelly has committed a cardinal sin by spending time covering negative news about Donald Trump, while apparently spending insufficient time (in Gingrich’s judgment) focusing on negative stories about Hillary.

This is how you have to be in order to support one of the major party candidates in this election.

Gingrich was right about one thing: there are two alternative universes in this election.

For Trump’s supporters (not those reluctantly voting for Trump to stop Hillary, but those who are really supporting him, like Gingrich), you have to put on some massive blinders to everything negative about Donald Trump, and then attack anyone and everyone who deigns to take seriously any of those negatives.  Any negative glance at Trump is considered an endorsement of Hillary, and no matter how many times you’ve pointed out Hillary’s negatives in the past, if you criticize The Donald in any way, shape, manner, or form, YOU’RE A HILLARY SUPPORTER AND A TRAITOR!

Likewise, Hillary’s supporters put on their own blinders, ignoring her long and distinguished career of failure and scandal…and if you point out the fact that she is a horrible human being only interested in money and power, who truly cares nothing for the American people beyond how she can use them to increase both for herself, YOU’RE A TRUMP SUPPORTER AND A TRAITOR!

And if you support anyone who isn’t Hillary or Trump (Heaven forbid!), you end up beset on both sides.

The argument from Gingrich, that Megyn Kelly is biased because she hasn’t sufficiently condemned Hillary, is intellectually dishonest and rather ridiculous.  I’ve seen this first-hand: to a Trump supporter, it doesn’t matter how often, in the past, you’ve pointed out how bad Hillary is.  ANY negative statement about Donald Trump must be IMMEDIATELY followed by a negative statement about Hillary Clinton.  What was said in the past doesn’t matter.  All that matters is the moment, and if you focus on anything bad about Donald Trump, then you’re just exposing your tacit support for Hillary.

This obviously isn’t the big burn that Trump’s supporters say it is.  Gingrich came on as a Trump supporter, and immediately got defensive when asked a tough question about the state of the election, and negative perceptions about Donald Trump, based on the Billy Bush video.  The only means Gingrich had at his disposal to turn the discussion away from bad news about Donald Trump was to start loudly & forcefully demanding that Kelly immediately say something negative about the Clintons.

Now, I’m only guessing here, but the only way that this makes sense to me is that it’s a convenient way to cleanse the palate, perpetuating the state of denial among Trump supporters that they chose a bad candidate…because AT LEAST HE ISN’T AS BAD AS HILLARY, YOU CUCK!

The entire argument is intellectually vacuous, yet this seems to be all that the Trump camp has to offer.

Another interesting case-in-point is this recent appearance by Ben Howe on Tomi Lahran’s show on The Blaze TV:

The entire exchange is fascinating to watch, but in my opinion, the gold comes toward the end:

HOWE: What do we get out of pretending that lines don’t exist that shouldn’t be crossed for our candidate?  Why do we have to support the candidate under any and all circumstances? Is there a line that he could cross that we might finally say is enough? 

Lahran: Well, absolutely, but I think for any line that he could have crossed, Hillary has already crossed!

So, in other words, what Tomi Laharan is saying here is that there is no line for Donald Trump.  You may as well re-phrase it as “Well, absolutely, but no, not at all!”  Any and all negative aspects of Trump’s behavior and personality shall be ignored, BECAUSE HILLARY!

She goes on a little later in the interview, after Howe points out that we can deduce how Donald Trump will govern based on his record, to say that “he really doesn’t have a record because he’s an outsider.”  This, bizarrely enough, is how it gets rationalized: Donald Trump’s years-long history of making public statements on political issues can all be ignored.  He has no ‘record,’ because he hasn’t been a politician voting on or signing laws…and if you do end up getting a Trump supporter to look at Trump’s record, you must immediately offer a counter-point proving that Hillary is worse, lest you be accused of trying to get a Clinton elected.