Archive for October, 2017


President Trump joked about a bugle call that is customarily part of the armed forces’ time-honored tradition of showing respect. The bugle call occurred during Trump’s interview with Fox News.

“What a nice sound that is. Are they playing that for you or for me?” Trump exclaimed. “They’re playing that in honor of his (Hannity’s) ratings.”

Weeks ago, Trump furthered the NFL–U.S. Flag debate when stating, “That’s (kneeling) a total disrespect of our heritage. That’s a total disrespect of everything that we stand for,” Trump said, encouraging NFL owners to smack-down unruly players.

Trump almost make it sound as if the U.S. Flag is a person.  Accordingly, everyone must be reminded that our nation’s flag is not a person. As such, the flag owns no heritage. Rather, our nation’s flag is meant to be a symbolic representation of American values. And like everything in our live, our nation’s values are shrouded in strengths and weaknesses.

The Supreme Court has found laws banning desecration of the American flag to be unconstitutional. The court ruled that it falls under the First Amendment protection of free speech in the Constitution. Despite this, the majority of states continue to have desecration laws on the books. Yet none will prosecute anyone for it.

Trump has no intention of prosecuting people who kneel during the National Anthem. Trump already knows flag desecration is not against the law. By highlighting NFL players kneeling, Trump reminds people of those who died in national service and aligns their emotions to something deeply offensive. This sentiment represents his constituents popular view. In highlighting an act of kneeling, Trump highlights a “moral crime” his constituents find angry. He’ll then walk away and let the common anger of self-righteousness flame emotions and parlay this vision into a windfall of ideological hate.

So then why continue to parlay the “flag disrespect” ideology? Perhaps because Trump’s point is to suppress the communication of ideas. For Trump, falsity is easier to accept and the acceptance of his opinion often has little to do with truth itself. In essence, for Trump, “truth” is not absolute. Accordingly, almost everything contradicting his view may well be considered a “clear and present danger.” Likewise, the majority of Trump supporters adopt some version of the “clear and present danger” mentality. Need an example? Trump’s 2016 “… war on Christmas” scenario. Need another? NFL Players kneeling disrespects the flag.

Throughout my years of travel, I’ve seen many things done to America’s flag. Most of them involve obscenities, stomping and burning. These acts occur both here in the United States and world over. None of them resulted in America weeping? I never saw the Statue of Liberty crying when I returned home. Nor have I seen people wailing in the streets of middle America. Nope. Not once.

However, if we take Trump’s at his word, “…that the U.S. Flag (and ideals) must not be disrespected,” then I have a few questions.

  • One in five children in New York City are food insecure. How does hunger in America impact the desecration of America and how does your war on NFL Players kneeling help reduce this problem?
  • In the past six-months, you’ve celebrated proposed radical shifts healthcare insurance that would expose tens of millions to lack of quality healthcare and deepen healthcare inequality. Can you please explain how this is not a form of desecration to American values and how does your war on NFL Players kneeling help reduce this problem?
  • While terminating healthcare subsidies, Energy Secretary Rick Perry defended a controversial proposal to subsidize coal and nuclear power plants. The argument is that because coal and nuclear power can’t compete with cheaper (and cleaner) sources of power, they need to be subsidized. Can you please explain how removing healthcare subsidies while simultaneously providing subsidies to an ever-changing energy market is not a form of desecration to American values and how does your war on NFL Players kneeling help reduce this problem?
  • Desperate Puerto Ricans are said to be drinking water from potentially toxic superfund sites. Does desecration of American ideals occur only within the continental U.S and how does your war on NFL Players kneeling help reduce this problem?

I doubt we’ll get any answers.

Trump predictably got a standing ovation from the hundreds of people at the annual Values Voter Summit. Ovations included remarks for the flag, God and Israel. The “war on Christmas” theme has proven politically potent for years on the right, stocked by conservative media including Trump’s favorite, Fox News.

The President insists he’s simply standing up for the flag. But the flag is not a person. The flag, in and of itself, feels no pain. All Trump is doing is stoking culture wars.

At the end of the day, Trump’s decision to embroil the NFL in politics will reshape the NFL experience for millions. And for those needing a job, searching for someone to care for a sick child or drinking water from a toxic superfund landfill, you’re pretty much screwed.

But hey, at least the our U.S. Flag is not being disrespected. Right? Right!

Prior to the Congressional Baseball Game in June, Nationals Park in Washington, D.C., players on both the Democrat and Republican teams gathered at second base for a moment of silence and prayer. Likewise, after the Las Vegas shooting, President Trump and Vice President Pence held a moment of silence at the White House. Then both NFL teams held a moment of silence prior to last night’s ‘Monday Night Football“‘ battle. Last, but not least, let’s not forget to mention the New York Stock Exchange, Dancing With the Stars, the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, equally providing their own ‘moment of silence.’ There’s probably been tons of “moments” during the last several days, but nothing more.

These ‘moments’ are ritualized and repeated. I envision the conversation of legislative leaders. “Oh! Another shooting. Pull the ‘Moment of Silence’ card from the rolladeck.” Read instructions.

  1. Acknowledge how saddened you are;
  2. Tweet your prayers and love to affected family and friends;
  3. Hold a moment of silence, preferably in public (looks more humble);
  4. Say it’s too soon to discuss meaningful gun law changes while the nation heals; and
  5. Do nothing.

Look at the Pulse Nightclub, Virginia Tech, Newtown, Luby’s Cafeteria, San Ysidro, San Bernardino, Fort Hood, Columbine, Las Vegas, etc, etc, etc. Same card. Same instructions. In fact, I believe the card gets so worn out that the government printing office presses new ones every other year.

Moments’ are the best anyone can expect. However, for the dead, they get lots of moments … damned eternal moments.

However, have an NFL football player kneel during the National Anthem and all hell will break loose. Get the President to rip kneeling NFL players in fiery speeches to an all republican crowd, call fans to boycott and demand NFL owners get those sons of bitches off the field. Ensure fans publicly denounce players, with some calling for their heads.

And victims of gun violence? Silence. Need meaningful gun legislative leadership? Silence.

Why?

It’s About Mathematics

In the 2016 election, National Rifle Association spent a stupendous $54.4 million, almost all of it in “independent expenditures,” meaning spending for or against a candidate but not a direct contribution to a campaign. The money went almost entirely to Republicans to a degree that almost looks like a misprint (but isn’t): Democrats received only $265.

Who are the top ten recipients?

  • Ryan, Paul
  • Young, Don
  • Johnson, Ron
  • Cornyn, John
  • Thune, John
  • Toomey, Pat
  • Paul, Rand
  • Sessions, Pete
  • Rubio, Marco
  • Blunt, Roy

The NRA endowed the 54 senators who voted in 2015 against a measure prohibiting people on the government’s terrorist watch list from buying guns with $37 million in support. The NRA also gave $27 million in direct and indirect support to 50 senators who voted against a bill to require universal background checks for firearms purchases.

Sadly, the Las Vegas victims were on the wrong end of legislative mathematics. If the 59 Las Vegas victims had given $54 million in campaign contributions, another $37 million in direct and indirect support, and $27 million in other support, we’d have meaningful gun legislation. But Las Vegas victims didn’t donate $118 million. They were shot.

Until we change the mathematics, someone living today will become the next victim in the next mass shooting. In the meantime, let’s make sure NFL owners fire those “sons of bitches” (as Trump would say) NFL players for being disrespectful to the United States Flag. Surely, we wouldn’t want America to be disgraced on national television.

After all, we have priorities. What’s yours?

Puerto RicoCNN writer Eric Levenson wrote, “Almost a week since Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico, the US recovery efforts there have been markedly different from the recovery efforts after Hurricane Harvey in Texas and Irma in Florida. Fewer FEMA personnel are in place. Grassroots donations from fellow Americans are much smaller. The US territory still remains without power. And President Donald Trump has yet to visit.

Levenson noted the response effort.

  • Hurricane Harvey: For Hurricane Harvey, FEMA had supplies and personnel positioned in Texas before the storm made landfall on August 25.
  • Hurricane Irma: Even more federal personnel responded to Hurricane Irma when it made landfall in Florida on September 10.
  • Hurricane Maria: By comparison, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands have seen much fewer personnel since Hurricane Maria hit, according to FEMA.

Trump stated hurricane relief to Puerto Rico and Virgin Islands were hampered due to the fact of the large, big, huge ocean … water all around. Water water everywhere. Taking to Twitter, Trump noted the island’s political leaders can’t get their own people to help.

“... Such poor leadership ability by the Mayor of San Juan, and others in Puerto Rico, who are not able to get their workers to help …. want everything to be done for them when it should be a community effort. 10,000 Federal workers now on Island doing a fantastic job.

In reality, the current administration’s use of assistance comes to simple mathematics. If you reside in an area needed by the administration, you are in luck. If you reside outside that geopolitical need, you’re screwed.

A Hard Truth

The total population of Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont equals roughly 3.2 million. And the population of Puerto Rico? Approximately 3.4 million. Now if Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont were hit by a major hurricane, Trump’s administration would respond immediately.

So why not for Puerto Rico or the Virgin Islands?

It’s all about voting rights. At the end of the day, voting rights of United States citizens in Puerto Rico, like the voting rights of residents of other United States territories, do not have voting representation in the United States Congress and are not entitled to electoral votes for President. In each Presidential election, Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont have a combined 11 electoral votes. Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands have zero. Texas has 38 and Florida has 29. If you’re an American President seeking reelection, you don’t shaft Texas or Florida.

However, if Trump shafts Puerto Rico and Virgin Islands, there’s no lasting political repercussion. Trump can call Puerto Ricans lazy, overstate relief efforts such as “… all buildings have been inspected and this is a great news story.

Here’s another Trump tidbit.

“We have done a great job with the almost impossible situation in Puerto Rico,” Trump said. “Outside of the Fake News or politically motivated ingrates … people are now starting to recognize the amazing work that has been done by FEMA and our great Military.”

Basically, Puerto Rico can die a slow death and nothing will happen. The greater US may be horrified. We’ll “Tsk! Tsk!” at the water-cooler. But truth be told, most won’t care and neither will many legislators. However, if we’re called by Christian or Buddhist faith, then we care called to change the world. Each of us must become socially engaged. We must also challenge and repel hatred, anger and bias, even those found within our own leadership. As such, we must become aligned and engaged upon the ethical precepts of our faith.

If we don’t, all of us will eventually succumb to geopolitical numbers.

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