Monday, March 7, 2016

6 Character Flaws That Disqualify Trump from being President of the United States

Trump is the archetype of what the liberal media thinks conservatives are. If you were to borrow some space in the mind of your average MSNBC anchor, the typical Conservative is an old man boomer who is a rich socialite, heartless “fatcat” businessman, lying politician, amoral opportunist, misogynistic, characterless leader. Who does that sound like?

That image of conservatives is something I have lived my life to prove wrong.

I firmly believe in a color blind society. I firmly believe in equal rights for all no matter their gender, orientation, race, religion, or background. I firmly believe in strong economic policies because it helps the poor. I firmly believe in care and compassion for the poor and the vulnerable. I firmly believe that every person deserves respect.

Now let’s look at some facts:

  • In December, Donald Trump suggested that we ban Muslims from entering the United States. (And is unsure if he would have supported the Japanese internment camps that FDR created during WWII.)

  • On Sunday he failed not once, but three times to denounce the KKK and its onetime leader, the infamous racist, David Duke on the eve of a series of southern primaries.

  • After the first FOX debate he didn’t get his way and proceeded to try to bully Megyn Kelly by trying to insinuate that his bad performance was due to her menstrual cycle.

  • He has mocked John McCain’s military service implying that only losers end up in POW prisons.

  • He even mocked a journalist at a campaign event because he had a physical handicap. (And this is only the tip of the iceberg if this article has any truth in it at all.)

  • He lies in every speech claiming that Mexico will pay for a wall along the border. This will not happen. If Trump thinks it will, he is crazy. But I don’t believe he is. I think he is smart enough to know that it will not happen. Unfortunately, that means that he must be lying every time he speaks.

If you do not value people enough to respect others, even those you disagree with, you should not serve in high office.

I’m not looking for an angel. I know that people make mistakes. I am more than willing to forgive mistakes. But the above list establishes a pattern where Trump habitually judges people by the sex, religion, physical appearance, and background. That kind of pattern is unacceptable in anyone. It is disqualifying in a leader.

I believe that these character flaws are enough to compel me to oppose Donald Trump as a leader. If I was looking for a Republican leader, I would look for someone who has demonstrated understanding of the platform, loyalty to the organization, and personal investment. In case you haven’t been following the record on these points: Trump has demonstrated no understanding of the platform avoiding questions about it in debates, he has been a Democrat and no one seems to be able to explain why he is now a Republican (unless it is because he doesn’t believe that Obama’s long form birth certificate is legit), and he has donated to high profile Democrats, including Hillary, even in fairly recent elections.

If I was looking for a conservative leader, I would have deep concerns about Trump’s history of supporting higher taxes (some say he pushed what would have been the biggest tax increase in American history), his praising Planned Parenthood even in the face of recent damning video evidence, his blaming President George W. Bush for the attacks on September 11, and the fact that he seems to want to undercut free speech in the United States.  

I believe that he fails as a respectable leader, a Republican, and as a conservative.

America must return to principles and reject the racist tendencies. America must reject the disrespect for women, the mockery of the disabled, and the devaluing of POWs. America must reject judging whole people groups en masse disregarding bedrock principles of “innocent until proven guilty” and judging each person by who they are and their own actions.

I might be old fashioned, but I believe in holding leaders to basic standards of behavior. I have invested my life in our political process because I believe that there are principles that are worth fighting for, and I will not surrender that fight ever. The founders coined the phrase: “I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic.”

I would like to I would like to borrow from that and add my own twist: “I will support and defend the core principles of United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic, no matter what party they come from or how popular they are, because some battles are worth fighting, even if they are not popular.”

Post by Jeremiah Lorrig

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

The Good Spy

I had never heard of Robert Ames until I received this book as a Christmas present. Yet in The Good Spy: The Life and Death of Robert Ames, Kai Bird tells the remarkable story of a remarkable man, made all the more so by his down-to-earth ordinariness.

Bob Ames joined the Army in 1956 after graduating from college. Four years later he was recruited by the CIA, where he worked until he was killed in the Beirut embassy bombing on April 18, 1983. His specialty was the Middle East. Put another way, Ames joined the CIA when Eisenhower was president and served the Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Ford, Carter, and Reagan administrations. And in The Good Spy, Bird elegantly captures the complexities of this highly turbulent area, and our foreign policy, in an understandable fashion.

In a moment of realization that the world is smaller than we think, Bob Ames was killed in Beirut, the same city where Kim Philby was confronted. In an even weirder twist, Bob owned a trunk that had formerly belonged to Kim's father. Yes, the world of espionage is small, and even people who belong to different eras are connected.

What Ames excelled at, and what made him such an effective spy, was his ability to make friends and understand people and cultures. Contrary to the image of the spy as a quasi-military agent, Ames used his espionage and intelligence work to promote and further peace. His detailed intelligence work, and ability to create back-channel communications to people that the US government could not publicly admit it was talking to, helped to diffuse or contain situations before they escalated to military engagements.

Peace in the Middle East may be elusive, but so far, at least for the United States, Israel/Palestine has not become another Vietnam due in part to the work of Ames and people like him. It's easy to look at conflict zones and wish they were better; more difficult, yet just as important, is realizing that they could be much worse. The Good Spy demonstrates how certain ordinary people, often acting invisibly, can bring a sense of calm to tumultuous times. Robert Ames was such a person, and his murder in 1983 was a blow to both our foreign policy and peace.

Click here for more book reviews.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Did Republicans Lose the Culture War?

Several months ago the Politico published an article called: How Republicans Lost the Culture War. I have been thinking about it and although I think the author is very right that the “Culture War” is a loss and has been doomed for at least 5 years, I do, however, think he overstates his case. I know my thoughts might be controversial, and I would be happy to dialogue in the comments, just keep it civil. 

So here are my thoughts on the "Culture War" and what the future looks like from here: 

For the last three or so decades many in the Republican base have been motivated by what has been called the "Culture War." They have trained foot soldiers to engage the enemy, they have mobilized voters on key issues, and they have rallied their troops time and time again to "defeat evil." But despite all that, the culture war has been lost. Politico is just one example of a post-mortem of the war. Long standing warriors have told me that they are tired of it; millennials are refusing to fight; and we are constantly being told that history is against us.

But there is more to it than that.

The loss of the “culture war” doesn’t equal loss on issues like abortion. The pro-life position, even with the culture war faux pas, is gaining ground. Legislators and political activists are fumbling the ball, but the hearts and minds are moving our way.

Republicans are desperately trying to figure out birth control because Santorum walked it out in front of people and believes it is all wrong and Romney didn’t know what to say because he is a bit of a squish on the topic, but that doesn’t mean the GOP is going to lose on the issue of making everyone pay for abortions.

The Politico author appeals to the “march of history” to show that the GOP is doomed on social issues. The fact is that only works if you accept the progressive approach to history where everything is marching slowly toward their socialist utopia. But they don’t know history. The fact is that slavery, racism, acceptance of various sexual practices, and even abortion have come in and out of style (and law) over the centuries. Just because a “culture war” is lost, doesn’t mean that political choices are set in stone.

The reason I believe the “culture war” is lost is not because of unartful politics, it is lost because the “foot soldiers” think it is stupid. Most rank and file conservatives (especially conservative Christians) think that politics is the wrong way to change hearts and minds. Many, like me, reject the idea that they are supposed to be soldiers in a “culture war” and would rather focus on helping real, purhaps lost, people.

Young people today are more likely to want to volunteer at a pregnancy resource center than protest at an abortion clinic. Young people are more likely to try to show the unconditional love of Jesus with gay friends than try to outlaw their lifestyle. Young people have told me that they don’t want to be bullets in a “culture war.” They would rather lose the “war” than lose sight of their real goals, caring for people and sharing unconditional love.

In the end, the “culture war” is a failed project, but not because it was defeated politically, but because it was abandoned by those expected to fight it. Those who still are trying to keep it alive are out of touch.

Does the loss of the "culture war" mean that Christians, conservatives, and Republicans (three groups that I associate myself with), are giving up on making a difference in the culture? No, it just means that the culture isn't a battleground, it is a place where we must be salt and light, where truth must be spoken in love, and where hurting people are desperately in need of hope.

How do we translate this new phenomenon into a new political world? How do we end abortion in America and save lives? Conservative stalwart Morton Blackwell has said countless times,
"people don't care how much you know until they know how much you care." I think that applies to good laws. They wont be changed until people see that we care.

I believe that abortion will be abolished in my lifetime, but it wont be because we hate abortion doctors. It will be because people see that we love people and that includes both the baby waiting to be born and the mom struggling with life.

For a Christian, if there is a conflict, it is not against flesh and blood, but against powers and principalities, beyond this world. But what is hanging in the balance? Nothing less than the lives of those who need true, unconditional, empowering love. Seeing those lives changed by love is worth losing a dozen culture wars.

Post by Jeremiah Lorrig

Thursday, February 19, 2015

A Spy Among Friends

For some time Ben Macintyre has been one of my favorite history authors. With books such as Agent Zigzag: A True Story of Nazi Espionage, Love, and Betrayal (excerpt here), Operation Mincemeat: How a Dead Man and a Bizarre Plan Fooled the Nazis and Assured an Allied Victory, and Double Cross: The True Story of the D-Day Spies (review here, excerpt here), he has written several books now on the absurdity that took place during WWII British spycraft.

His most recent book takes a step forward in history. In A Spy Among Friends: Kim Philby and the Great Betrayal, Macintyre moves on to the Cold War. As highlighted in the previous books, British counterintelligence was so strong that they were able to capture every last German spy in the country. Yet during this same period, it was a virtual sieve for the Soviets.

Many of the British intelligence officers were in the pay of the Soviet Union both during and after the war. Most famous among them was Kim Philby, the agent who for a time served as the head of the division responsible for spying on the Soviet Union.

For decades, Philby lived a double life, deceiving even his closest friends, most notably MI6's Nicholas Elliot and the CIA's James J. Angleton. And that is the angle that Macintyre takes in this book: how Philby deceived his friends and, even more broadly, how the good old boys friend network within MI6 shielded him from suspicion.

These British operatives all grew up together. They went to school together. They knew each other's parents. They were all good British stock. Many were fools, most were alcoholics. But they were fellow aristocrats, and because of this, their trust for each other, and their continued employment, was based on cultural elements deeper than job performance. It was simply unthinkable that one of them could be a spy, so for a long time it was unthought regardless of the evidence. The very people Philby was deceiving provided his strongest shield.

This is what makes this book so different from the other three Macintyre has written about the British intelligence agencies. In Zigzag, Mincemeat, and Double Cross, the British are the sharp and intelligent heroes hilariously exploiting the cracks in the strict yet bumbling German hierarchical system where no one wants to be the bearer of bad news. Those stories are great fun, where the British keep pulling off greater and greater capers and the Germans keep falling for them.

A Spy Among Friends inverts that narrative. Here is an agency so welded to its aristocratic classism that it cannot see its own weaknesses. And although his writing is once again excellent, this book has a decidedly different tone. In contrast to the prior comedies, this story is a drawn out tragedy as again and again Philby escapes detection. Where the prior books exposed British culture's superiority to the German system, this one zeroes in on its weaknesses. One could almost say that the common theme through all these books is never underestimate the power of office culture. The very same loose camaraderie that helped win WWII proved to hamstring the agency during the Cold War. And that is what made Philby's betrayal so great--more than being a spy, he had been a friend.

Click here for more book reviews.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Best George Washington Quotes

George Washington by Gilbert Stuart
Today is Presidents Day and therefore George Washington's birthday. In honor of the day, I have compiled my favorite quotes attributed to America's first president. I hope you can appreciate the wisdom here and are inspired by this great man.


“I hope I shall possess firmness and virtue enough to maintain what I consider the most enviable of all titles, the character of an honest man.” ― George Washington

Be courteous to all, but intimate with few, and let those few be well tried before you give them your confidence. - George Washington

True friendship is a plant of slow growth, and must undergo and withstand the shocks of adversity, before it is entitled to the appellation. - George Washington

Let your heart feel for the afflictions and distress of everyone, and let your hand give in proportion to your purse. - George Washington

I walk on untrodden ground. There is scarcely any part of my conduct which may not hereafter be drawn into precedent. - George Washington

Washington Crossing the Delaware by Emanuel Leutze
“To encourage literature and the arts is a duty which every good citizen owes to his country.” ― George Washington

“Real men despise battle, but will never run from it.” ― George Washington

“Be not glad at the misfortune of another, though he may be your enemy.” ― George Washington

George Washington by Robert Field
“The hour is fast approaching, on which the Honor and Success of this army, and the safety of our bleeding Country depend. Remember officers and Soldiers, that you are free men, fighting for the blessings of Liberty -- that slavery will be your portion, and that of your posterity, if you do not acquit yourselves like men.” ― George Washington

“I had rather be on my farm than be emperor of the world.” ― George Washington

“LIBERTY, when it begins to take root, is a plant of rapid growth.” ― George Washington

Truth will ultimately prevail where there is pains to bring it to light. - George Washington

It may be laid down as a primary position, and the basis of our system, that every Citizen who enjoys the protection of a Free Government, owes not only a proportion of his property, but even of his personal services to the defense of it. - George Washington

While we are contending for our own liberty, we should be very cautious not to violate the rights of conscience in others, ever considering that God alone is the judge of the hearts of men, and to him only in this case they are answerable. - George Washington

Signing of the Constitution by Howard Chandler Christy
Post by Jeremiah Lorrig

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Fifty Shades of -- Oh You Know

So. Fifty Shades of Grey. If I am to believe all the Christian blog posts I see, every Christian woman in America is being tempted to go see this film. And if they do it is going to bring on the apocalypse. It all seems a bit overblown, doesn't it? I mean even if this film is as depraved and wicked as the bloggers would suggest, how is it worse than the googlebytes of pornography and erotica already created and seemingly all around us? Will seeing this one film, unless perhaps you are in that group that has never once indulged in pornography or lust, corrupt you that much more than whatever your normal life routine involves?  Let's not forget that Jesus condemned looking at a woman with lust in your heart long before the technology existed to capture that woman's image in a photographic reproduction. Lust predates the cinema by far.

Yet something about the warnings and the pleadings rings true. Unlike most pornography, which is still heavily stigmatized in our culture, Fifty Shades of Grey, especially among women, seems oddly acceptable. Partly this is because Fifty Shades was seen as made primarily for women. In our society, we primarily think of sex as a male pursuit, and not as a particularly wholesome one. In fact, much of what passes for sexual content these days is so much about men oppressing and possessing women, that any sexual content created for women that attempts to cater to their desires seems like some sort of relief. Also, since it is largely women that have stigmatized pornography, and have generally held men in contempt for using something so wasteful and self indulgent, the idea exists that anything women can enjoy must be superior, morally and spiritually,  to male-centric pornography and fantasy. This grows out of both christian fundamentalist and secular progressive assumptions about the superiority of women (when appropriately exercising their femininity) to men (when over indulging in their masculinity).  

And so, the Christian bloggers warn, don't see this film! We know you are sexually unhappy! That your husband's beer belly isn't as nice looking as Christian Grey's chiseled abs! But that's exactly why you mustn't see it! It will destroy your marriage! It will make you discontent! It will alienate you from Christ!

And I suppose it might. Anything might, really, because anything in life can become an "idol" (as the Bible would describe it) and do all those things. But that warning is misleading to those who will inevitably see it, because, to them, it may not do all those things. It might be an exciting movie and lead to an even more exciting night at home with your lover and that might be it. This might lead you to think those bloggers were full of themselves and lead you to disregard more of their beliefs. Make no mistake, some of them are hypocrites who will see the movie even though they told you not to. But overreacting to the film is a disservice to all involved.

You see, for humans, sin is like an addiction. (I can’t claim this analogy as my own, as best as I can tell, Dr. Timothy Keller originated it in a 1999 sermon, though I suppose he might say he got the imagery from the Bible). Some addicts — drug addicts, alcoholics, sex addicts — are what we call "functioning addicts," which means they can maintain their addictions while carrying on their lives in a seemingly normal and healthy fashion. I think the majority of humans are functioning "sin addicts." They have it under control. They have their indulgences but they keep them manageable so they don't interrupt their ambitions and plans in life. It's only the ones that lose control and see their life spiral into chaos and destruction that we collectively pity or otherwise condemn as a cautionary tale. The rest we usually admire.

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the former head of the International Monetary Fund, is now an international joke, not because he is a sexually promiscuous predator, but because he lost control of his habits. He acted out one time too many and lost control of his narrative, and now, people who probably knew about his proclivities and envied him, laugh at him. Even if he survives prosecution he will never again command public respect.  

So the most dangerous thing that might happen if you see Fifty Shades of Grey is not that you might cheat on your husband; it's that you might not. It's that you might enjoy it at no harm to yourself, and that enjoyment might send you searching for other highs that maybe you'd been told would be disastrous for you, and your continued success at beating the odds would become so intoxicating that it would become its own drug. Because the worst thing about drugs is not that you might get in a car accident or hurt someone you love; the worst thing is that you give over control of your life to a substance and lose yourself. That is not a guarantee that something cataclysmic will happen to you; its just a bad way to live.

Likewise, sin is a bad way to live. Nothing in the Bible promises that your sin is going to destroy your life. It certainly can; but it is possible to sin safely. It is possible to keep it under control. But God wants you to have more than that. He wants you to have peace.

The film's stars looking... perplexed? Rumors persist that neither particularly enjoyed making the film.
Ultimately, if I'm to believe what I've read, seeing Fifty Shades of Grey probably isn't good for you. But it also isn't going to kill you. It's probably not going to destroy your life. And telling people it will do worse than it actually may is as devastating as when Eve believed she would die just from touching the fruit in the garden. She touched it, and nothing happened. Cling to what is true, and make your best judgments from there.
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