Advertisements

Tag Archives: mitt romney

Trumped: The End of the GOP as We Knew It


Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

Today I have just a few quick thoughts on the end of the GOP’s #NeverTrump campaign. 

It came as I thought with the crushing defeat that the Donald dealt Ted Cruz and John Kasich in Indiana last night. Now I really expected one or both to stay in the campaign to try and deny Trump a first ballot nomination in Cleveland, but the campaign to stop Trump seemed to end today when Ohio Governor John Kasich ended his campaign.

It started last night when “God’s Annointed One” for the Presidency, Ted Cruz ended his campaign to establish a theocratic state based on the theology of Christian Dominionism. Though he tried to cast himself as a successor to Ronald Reagan’s conservative mantle in the #NeverTrump movement, that was nothing more than a charade, Reagan would have never considered Cruz a real conservative, nor would have Barry Goldwater, the true ideological father of the now dead modern conservative movement. In fact Goldwater detested and distrusted the Christian Right. The end of Cruz’s campaign was also the death kneel of the Christian Right which expected that one of its own, Cruz, Huckabee, or Ben Carson, would be the GOP nominee this year. It is funny, back in October or November Teddy of last year was one of the favorites to win the nomination while Trump was considered a long shot outsider at best. 

However, the problem for Cruz and the other candidates of the Christian Right was threefold. First the influence of the Christian Right is declining. It’s leaders are old and increasingly ignored inside and outside the GOP, with the exception of people like Cruz. The polling numbers on this are incontrovertible, and the fact is that the incredibly partisan and hardline policies of leaders of the Christian Right is contributing to the rapid loss of young people in churches and the growth of the demographic known as the Nones, or those with no religious preference.  Second, there were too many of them in the race, and they bled votes from Cruz in the early primaries. The third was brought on by Cruz himself, nobody, even in his party likes him. He is viewed as creepy, Nixon without the charm, and former Speaker of the House, John Boehner summed up what many people feel when he  said that Cruz was “Lucifer in the flesh.” That fact was demonstrated in the Iowa caucuses when Cruz’s campaign used dirty tricks and torpedoed the campaign of Ben Carson, making thousands of phone calls the day of the caucus to tell caucus voters to vote for Cruz since Carson had dropped out. It was a bold faced lie and it enabled him to steal a win there. 

As far as Cruz goes, and everything that he represents, I can only say good riddance, and I hope you lose your next senate race. 

What this signals for the GOP is yet to be determined, but like many others I beleive that it signals the end of the GOP as we have known it. The party leadership may attempt to unify behind him and to control him, but it will be an uncomfortable alliance, and one which Trump holds the winning cards. The GOP is broken, it ignored the advice of those who wrote the post-mortem of the 2012 defeat of Mitt Romney, and now they have been “Trumped” so to speak. Trump’s negatives are such that even if he wins the general election, which based on current polls that pit him against either Clinton or Sanders show him losing hardly, the GOP may well lose the Senate, and many seats in the House. The fact is that Trump does not give a damn what Reince Priebus and GOP leadership think, he will do what he needs to win and if he does win, he will take the credit and do as he pleases. Some influential members the GOP conservative media base are already saying that in spite of the collapse that they will not support Trump. 

At first the GOP dismissed Trump. Then they tried to marginalize him, then when it was too late attempted to stop him. At every turn Trump outmaneuver end them, appealed to the anger and frustration of GOP voters, harnessed that energy, and “Trumped” the GOP leadership at every turn. It was quite fascinating to watch, and if I wasn’t a historian and well aware of the kinds of emotions Trump is playing to I would laugh it off. 

But as I have Sid since November, Trump cannot be underestimated, and if the Democratic nominee and party underestimate him, they too may end up being Trumped. So if there are Democrats or progressive out there feeling a sense of satisfactory schadenfreude in this, don’t celebrate too soon. 

So anyway, enough for today. Have a great evening. 

Peace,

Padre Steve+

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under News and current events, Political Commentary

The Promise of Riots 

 

  
Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

A short comment on the results of Super Duper Tuesday and the dangers that the day brings for both the Democratic and Reupublican parties. My words are certain to offend the sensibilities of partisans of every candidate in both parties currently fighting to win their party nomination for President, and I really don’t care, because I care more for the country than any candidate, and for the peaceful preservation of the Union and Liberty more than the short term political gain of any party, faction, or individual candidate. 

The Super Duper Tuesday primaries are over. On the Democratic side Hillary Clinton swept states in play. While the results in Missouri and Illinois were close she won each primary and in the popular vote outpolled Bernie Sanders by around 900,000 votes in the four states at play. She also increased here Delaware count in both pledged delegates and Super Delegates. Let it be known that I am not a big fan of the Super Delagate system, but that is the system that the Democratic Party has used for decades, but all the candidates know that going in, even Bernie Sanders. 

But compared to the Republican race the Democratic primaries are positively civil, boring, and mundane. Sanders has made things interesting, and probably made Hillary a better candidate, and Hillary should do her damnedest to reach out to Sanders and his supporters if she wants their support in the general election. Truthfully I like Bernie Sanders a lot, and agree with most of his positions on the issues. His Democratic Socialism is little different that Franlkin Roosevelt’s New Deal. But the fact is Sanders owes his success to the Democrat who did not run, Senator Elizabeth Warren. It was her true populist voice in economic issues and her refusal to run that gave Sanders his opening. At the same time like Hillary, but I am not blind to her faults and some of the things in her past that give people reason not to fully trust her. What does that make me? I guess an unpopular realist who because I am serving in a Federal office cannot publicly endorse any candidate, but I can comment on policy, history, and what I believe. 

Likewise, Sanders supporters who say they are progressive but would vote for Trump to spite Clinton if she wins the nomination are fools, and not at all progressive if they believe what they actually say and then do that. True progressives understand the value of realism and pragmatism and getting what you can get; for sometimes progress is slow, but it if you keep working you achieve it, ithout handing victory to people who hate you. Those Sanders supporters who call themselves “progressives” but would be willing to vote for Trump to spite Clinton are like the German Communist Party members in Weimar Germany who worked against the Social Democrats and gave Germany to Hitler. A pox on them if they do that. The same would go for Clinton supporters who if she lost the nomination to Sanders did something similar. Since I don’t see any way for Sanders to win the nomination short of a total Clinton meltdown or scandal so big that would turn the Super Delagates against her, I don’t see the latter happening, and if there was such an event the Democratic Party would rapidly coalesce around Sanders, or maybe rally to nominate Warren. 

But I digress…

No matter what happens with the Democrats, the really interesting thing is what s going on in the GOP. Trump won a crushing victory in Florida as well as convincing victories in North Carolina and Illinois. He won a very narrow victory in Missouri over Ted “nobody likes me” Cruz, and lost in Ohio to John Kasich because the Repulicans allow “winner take all” primaries means that Kasich won every delegate in his home state, without even winning a majority of the vote. And that is how the GOP hopes to defeat Trump? Give me a break. That is cloud-cuckoo-land thinking. 

That has set up an interesting scenario. The GOP “establishment” has been doing everything that they can to try to stop Trump from winning the nomination outright. Many have actually gone on record with that stirring the ire or Trump and his most vocal supporters on conservative talk radio, media, and the Internet. Prominent leaders of the right wing media including Rush Limbaugh, and Coulter, and Breitbart News are all in for Trump, and they are hammering the GOP establishment, and people still listen to them. It doesn’t matter what Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell, Reince Prebus, Mitt Romney, or even George W. Bush has to say; they are all weak or even traitors if you ask Trump and his most ardent supporters. In response you have Glenn Beck and many other conservative pundits and politicians  doing all that they can to fight Trump. This is a civil war and existential struggle for the GOP, and truthfully I don’t see it surviving in any form that we once knew, and as a former Republican who spent 32 years as a party loyalist, in my opinion, as much as I hate what the GOP has become, that is not a good thing, and Republicans have only themselves to blame just as the Democrats were for what happened to them in 1860 and 1968, the Republicans in 1964, and German conservatives in 1932 and January of 1933. They all destroyed themselves with little help from their opponents. Thant my friends is history, that is reality. 

What portends is an absolute disaster for the GOP. If they fail to stop Trump from winning a majority, he wins. If they stop him, and keep him from an outright majority, even though he will likely have 400-500 more delagates at the convention than eith Cruz or Kasich, they will have achieved a Pyrrhic victory. Trump is not your run of the mill boring Republican. It is his money and brains in stoking the anger of Republicans, not only against the Democrats and Obama, but the GOP establishment that has brought him thus far, and he is not done. 

He has tacitly endorsed violence against opponents, and journalists, even conservative journalists who get in his way. On Wednesday he said that there “would be riots”  if the GOP tried to deny him the nomination, even if he was short of the majority needed to win the nomination at the GOP convention in Cleveland outright. He is not joking. His supporters have almost as little love for the GOP as they do the Democrats. He and they will not accept what they see as being cheated out of the nomination, and frankly, while I am not a Trump supporter by any means I would have to agree with them if I was in their shoes. The current GOP is Republican in Name Only. It is not the party or Lincoln, not the party of Ulysses Grant or Teddy Roosevelt, not that of Dwight Eisenhower, or even Barry Goldwater or Ronald Reagan. It has become a proto-fascist party run for the most part by Christian radicals bent on establishing a theocracy, embodied by Ted Cruz, that is now collapsing on the weight of unfulfilled promises to people that they have made for decades. Frankly, Trump’s supporters are declaring war against the GOP establishment, and if they don’t win that war they will leave the GOP as a smoldering ruin of hubris as they destroy it in their way out. 

Maybe my analysis of both parties is wrong. As a historian I don’t think it is, but I could be wrong. It wouldn’t be the first time and certainly won’t be the last. But as Mark Twain is reported to have said, “history doesn’t repeat itself, but it does rhyme.”  

But then maybe I’m just too much of a realist and have too much understanding of people and history for any ideologue or radical of any persuasion to take what I have to say seriously. But then as bad is this all is maybe it is what we all need to cause us to wake up and re-embrace the promise of of the words spoken by Abraham Lincoln at Gettysburg, “that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom – and that government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not shall not perish from the earth. ” 

Until tomorrow, 

Peace

Padre Steve+ 

2 Comments

Filed under News and current events, Political Commentary

Time for It to Come Down

confederate-flag-picture

It has been 150 years since the revolt of the Confederate States of America officially ended. However, the flag of that revolt still flies over on the grounds of the South Carolina capitol, remains part of the state flags of a number of former Confederate states, and is displayed in many fashions by people with various motives. Some belief, even genuinely that in displaying it they are honoring the men who fought under it. For others it is a symbol of continued defiance against a government that they hate, while for others it is a potent symbol of their hatred of African Americans and their earnest longing for a racist past that they believe were the good times.

That flag in its various guises, the Confederate Battle Flag, the Confederate Naval Ensign, or the National Flag of the Confederacy, sometimes called the Stars and Bars is an important part of American history. As such it cannot be completely done away with, it should remain as a part of history and as such confined to museums and things like reenactments of the battles. That being said, it has no place being flown over statehouses and should also be removed from the state flags that still retain it.

That flag is a part of my family’s history. If I wanted to I could join the Son’s of Confederate Veterans in a heartbeat. I have ancestors on both sides of my family who volunteered to serve the Confederacy even as their neighbors were declaring for the Union in what was then the western part of Virginia, what is now West Virginia. They were small time slave owners as well as yeoman farmers and they chose to serve a regime that despised them almost as much as it did the blacks. As members of the 8th Virginia Cavalry they fought until 1865 and following the war, some were reconciled to the Union while others refused to be and continued their revolt in other ways. Only one thing could have caused them to fight for a flag that offered them so little and that was they, like so many Southerners of similar means believed that keeping the black down ensured that they were superior to someone. If that meant enslaving blacks and fighting for a regime that did so, so be it. In fact after the war the patriarch of my paternal side refused to sign the loyalty oath to the United States and lost his family’s lands and plantation in addition to the slaves that he had already lost.

There was a time when I was young and desiring some kind of American military heritage to be proud of took a type of pride in the purely military side of the family, no matter what it was, Revolutionary War, Civil War (North and South), the World Wars as well as the service of my own father in Vietnam. As such I turned a blind eye to the cause that my ancestors who served the South fought and in some cases died to not only defend but to expand, if need be by the overthrow of the Union through force of arms. That cause was slavery, and while so many want to clothe secession and the term “states rights” the one right for which the South seceded was the right to enslave blacks and to expand that institution to non-slave territories, and even force anti-slavery Northerners to cooperate with through laws such as the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850, the Kansas-Nebraska Act and the Dred Scott Decision.

But this is not surprising, the revisionist historians of the Lost Cause triumphed in telling the story of the Civil War where force of arms failed. These people, including some historians managed to shift the focus of the war to the stories of the great soldiers who fought in the war, and to the lie that the war was about “constitutional” issues when in fact the South was winning almost every court and congressional battle regarding slavery in the decade and a half before secession. The South’s over-reaction to the election of Abraham Lincoln, an election that they sabotaged for their cause by splitting their electoral votes between the candidacies of Stephen Douglas and John C. Breckenridge is to this day lost on them.

The fact is that the Confederate Flag in all of its forms is not a symbol of freedom, it is not a symbol of a heritage that any person, even descendants of Southern veterans should take pride in.

Instead it is a symbol of treason. It is the symbol of men who sworn to uphold the Constitution that Senators, Congressmen, military officers, and other Federal officers and officials callously abandoned when their side did not win an election.

It is a flag of a republic which Alexander Stephens its Vice President described in his Cornerstone Speech:

Our new government is founded upon exactly the opposite idea; its foundations are laid, its corner- stone rests upon the great truth, that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery — subordination to the superior race — is his natural and normal condition. [Applause.] This, our new government, is the first, in the history of the world, based upon this great physical, philosophical, and moral truth.”

It is the symbol of a rebellion that brought about a war that cost between 650,000 and 750,000 military deaths, many more wounded and billions of dollars of damage to the country.

It is the symbol of men who after they regained control of their states passed innumerable laws to prescribe slavery in all but name through “Black” and “Jim Crow” laws.

It is the symbol of the original American terrorist organization, the Ku Klux Klan that used violence and murder to oppress and kill blacks and their supporters for a hundred years after Appomattox.

It is the symbol that neo-Confederates, White Supremacists, neo-Nazis and other racist and hate-groups rally around.

It has also found a home in some parts of the Tea Party Movement and the current Republican Party.

Some Southerners and others have defended it and fought to keep it flying on various state capitol grounds, war memorials and state parks. It is flown or displayed by individuals over homes and on vehicles, even in states that shed thousands of lives to end the Confederate rebellion.

As for me, a career military officer and descendent of Confederate veterans I find the Confederate flags in all of its forms hateful, divisive and treasonous. When I see it displayed outside of museums and reenactments my blood boils, especially when I see it displayed as a political statement against a government and Constitution that I have committed my life to defend.

I believe that all Americans should oppose its display, especially on the grounds of government facilities. I find it little different in substance than the Swastika banner of the Nazi Party, which became the national flag of Germany. Both flags were the symbols of regimes that were based on the belief in a superior “master race” and which desired to expand their racial views to other lands. While there was a difference that the Nazis believed in exterminating as well as enslaving those that they deemed to be “sub-human” the ultimate goal of the Confederacy was to perpetuate slavery and expand it over a people that they also believed to be sub-human.

Now I do believe that the Confederate flag does have a place, and the proper place for it is in museums and historical reenactments. I think that it also can be legitimately displayed on the graves of men who fought under it. As for the men who died for that flag, despite their cause I have a measure of sympathy as one who has served in war. They were valiant and brave soldiers even if the cause that they served was evil. I agree with Ulysses S. Grant who at Appomattox stopped the cheers of his soldiers noting:

I felt…sad and depressed, at the downfall of a foe who had fought so long and valiantly, and had suffered so much for a cause, though that cause was, I believe, one of the worst for which a people has fought.” He later noted: “The Confederates were now our countrymen, and we did not want to exult over their downfall.”

Apart from that I believe that displays of this flag only serve to show either historical ignorance or to display racist or anti-government attitudes that serve no constructive purpose and which only serve to encourage totalitarian enemies of freedom.

Thankfully, for the first time prominent Republican politicians beginning with Mitt Romney but now including South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley and South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham are calling for the removal of the flag from the grounds of the South Carolina State Capitol. Others need to as well. It is about time that the Confederate flag, and the racist ideology that it stands for comes down for good.

Peace

Padre Steve+

1 Comment

Filed under civil war, History, News and current events, Political Commentary

The Continuing Racket of the War Profiteers

 war-business

 

What is the cost of war? what is the bill? Major General Smedley Butler wrote: “This bill renders a horrible accounting. Newly placed gravestones. Mangled bodies. Shattered minds. Broken hearts and homes. Economic instability. Depression and all of its attendant miseries. Back -breaking taxation for generations and generations. For a great many years as a soldier I had a suspicion that war was a racket; not only until I retired to civilian life did I fully realize it….”

With all the domestic political news and the apocalyptic talk and actions surrounding John Roberts the Supreme Court and Obamacare it is hard to believe that we are at war for over 10 years and are at war or now preparing for war all over the Middle East. Iraq, Iran, Syria, Afghanistan, Yemen, Somalia, the Persian Gulf, Libya, Egypt, Pakistan, you name the place there is a real a present danger of US forces becoming involved in even more war. The Trinity of Evil, those Politicians, Pundits and Preachers and over 60% of Americans now are in favor of sending in ground troops to fight the Islamic State.

There are no statesmen left in Washington DC only shills of the Right and Left and their masters from Wall Street to K Street. The only people profiting from this are the war profiteers who even if the budget gets cut and they fail to deliver usable weapon systems on time or in budget will still get paid. The losers will be the military personnel who must fight the wars who will get tossed onto the street by those that claim that personnel costs are the problem. Of course those that make this point are almost always the same lobbyists that shill for the defense industries and the banks. But enough about them.

Right now tens of thousands of American military personnel and other Department of Defense, Federal law enforcement, intelligence, diplomatic, humanitarian workers as well as contractors in Afghanistan. Tens of thousands more (mostly contractors)  are helping to shore up the Iraqi government against the Islamic State or are fighting wars by other names in Pakistan, Yemen, the Horn of Africa.  Others are deployed to counter Iran or standing by to assist other allies should the conflict in Iraq and Syria spill over the boarders. Of course this does not take into account the instability in Egypt, Libya, Eastern and Central Africa that threatens even more war or the potential of turmoil in Europe, especially the Ukraine. Likewise a crisis with the Euro Crisis could bring about more financial disasters or even revolutions in countries that are our allies. By the way let’s not forget about the nutcase leaders of North Korea who could provoke war on that side of the world in a heartbeat.

But never mind this, let’s fight each other instead threaten insurrection when we don’t get our way. But wait, I digress…

Did you know that while Americans stand in harms way almost every real or potential enemy has been armed, subsidized or assisted by American corporations and paid for by American tax dollars.  We have armed much of the world with weapons that have already in Iraq and Afghanistan killed thousands of American military personnel. But those were small time weapons compared to what we have provided to Egypt, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and yes even Israel. F-15, F-16 and F-18 fighter planes, Tomahawk cruise missiles and Harpoon Anti-Ship Missiles, M-1 Tanks, M113 Fighting vehicles, Patriot Air Defense systems, you name the weapons system the war profiteers will sell it and US taxpayers will pay for it. These are weapons that very easily could be used with great effect to attack American interests should leaders in any of those countries decide to use them against us. I only include Israel because in 1967 its forces viciously attacked the USS Liberty which was operating in the Eastern Mediterranean Sea as Israel launched its pre-emptive war against Egypt. Although all of these countries are “allies” we must remember that alliances are only as good as the interests and values that unite nations.

Our defense industries with the support of the government sell advanced weapons to nations that often are less than trustworthy allies, allies of convenience that have little love for the United States but welcome the weapons and training that we provide.  They often use them to suppress the aspirations of their own people and plant the cultivate the seeds of radicalism and revolution.  It is hard not to cringe when pro-democracy protestors are killed by totalitarian regimes whose police and military are armed to the teeth with American made weapons. When those totalitarian regimes fall as did that of the Shah of Iran in 1979 those weapons fall into the hands of people radicalized against us by our support of their former oppressors.

Certainly nobody seriously believes that the angry masses in the countries that we have armed to the teeth with the latest in American weaponry would not use that weaponry against us should they desire.  But wait…. our politicians, arms dealers, bankers and their political, religious and financial backers certainly wouldn’t put Americans in harms way? Perish the thought, but not so quickly. They have done so before and will do it again.

Smedley Butler is one of under two dozen American military personnel to win the Congressional Medal of Honor twice. He saw the dangers of Fascism as well as the danger of unlimited corporate and business power to profit by war. Butler was not only a  valiant Marine he was also a commander that in war and peace cared about those who served. He saw how American finance and banking interests helped drag us into the Fist World War, the promises broken by the government and the lives destroyed by war.

In his book War is a Racket Butler wrote eloquently about how the heads of corporations and their political supporters in both parties were the only benefactors of war. He wrote of the plight of the soldiers that served and returned wounded and often changed by war and he did not mince words in what he saw. He became an anti-war activist. He was a supporter of the Bonus Army, the veterans that “occupied” Washington DC during the last year of the Hoover Administration to get the bonuses promised for their service and were violently evicted by troops under the command of General Douglas MacArthur. If he was alive today I have no doubt that he would be an active supporter of the current “Occupy” movement and opponent of politicians, political activists, lobbyists and even preachers that advocate even more war.

butler-medals1

Butler’s War is a Racket as well as other published works are a worthwhile read and should make the most rabid fan of war think twice. Butler’s patriotism and devotion to the United States and the Constitution is unquestioned. His warnings are strong, he was a prophet in regard to the dangers of the Military-Industrial Complex well before President Eisenhower coined the term as he left office. He detailed how corporations made obscene profits often by selling the US Military vast amounts of materials that it could not possibly use and which taxpayers bought while business leaders and bankers made their fortunes that they never had realized when the nation was at peace. He reminds us of the dangers that our founders recognized about entwining ourselves in other people’s wars. While his answers on how to end war are now utopian dreams because of advances in technology and the wars which now rage without end in sight they are nonetheless not a bad place to start a debate.

Butler writes movingly about the price paid by veterans years after the war, men broken in body, mind and spirit from their war service.

“But the soldier pays the biggest part of this bill.

If you don’t believe this, visit the American cemeteries on the battlefields abroad. Or visit  any of the veterans’ hospitals in the United States….I have visited eighteen government hospitals for veterans. In them are about 50,000 destroyed men- men who were the pick of the nation eighteen years ago. The very able chief surgeon at the government hospital in Milwaukee, where there are 3,800 of the living dead, told me that mortality among veterans is three times as great as among those who stayed home.” 

CARTOONS profiteer_0001

One would think that things would be better now but our veterans’ health care system is a train wreck and there is an epidemic of suicide among active duty troops and veterans. In 2005 after years of hand wringing the Bush administration grudgingly increased the number of Soldiers and Marines even while cutting Navy personnel and ships to the  minimum that they could despite ever increasing operational tempos. The Navy was reduced by over 50,000 sailors during the Bush years and now when the Navy is needed more it has been reduced to the point that 8-10 month deployments with short turn arounds will be normal.

Now the Obama administration is cutting back partly due to the withdraw from Iraq but mostly because of the economic crisis. However the bulk of these cuts are falling on the military personnel and not the war profiteers. The Army will be cut by nearly 80,000 in the coming years the Marines by 20,000 and that may increase if the budget takes the sequestration hit without any reduction in operational tempo. These Soldiers and Marines will enter a bleak job market where many employers give little value to military experience or training, which has resulted in a vastly higher unemployment rate for Iraq and Afghanistan veterans than the general population.

It wasn’t much different in Butler’s day. He writes:

“Boys with a normal viewpoint were taken out of the fields and offices and factories and classrooms and put into the ranks. They were remolded; they were made over; they were made to “about face”; to regard murder as the order of the day. They were put shoulder to shoulder and through mass psychology, they were entirely changed. We used them for a couple of years and trained them to think of nothing but killing and being killed.

The suddenly, we discharged them and told them to make another “about face”! This time they had to do their own readjusting, sans mass psychology, sans officers’ aid and advice, sans nation-wide propaganda. We didn’t need them anymore. So we scattered them about without any “three minute” or “Liberty Loan” speeches or parades.”

Butler recounted another visit to a different veterans’ hospital:

“In the government hospital at Marion, Indiana 1,800 of these boys are in pens! Five hundred of them in a barracks with steel bars and wires all around the outside of the buildings and on the porches. These have already been mentally destroyed. These boys don’t even look like human beings. Oh, the looks on their faces! Physically they are in good shape but mentally they are gone.” 

There are thousands and thousands of these cases and more and more are coming in all the time…

That’s a part of the bill. So much for the dead-they have paid their part of the war profits. So much for the mentally and physically wounded- they are paying now with thier share of the war profits. But others paid with the heartbreaks when they tore themselves away for their firesides and their families to don the uniform of Uncle Sam- on which a profit had been made….”

I could go on but I think that Butler says it quite well and with the passion of a Marine who was wounded on more than one occasion and won the Medal of Honor twice.

The only people that want war are those that profit from it and don’t have to pay the price paid by those that have to fight them and pay for them. When I see pictures of Mitt Romney protesting in support of the Vietnam war while getting deferment after deferment to avoid service it makes my head spin. My head spins even more when I hear him talking brazenly about committing US troops to even more war. For me the pictures of Romney’s pro-war protests as a college student avoiding war on educational and religious service deferments as millions of other Americans went to war are up there with the pictures of “Hanoi” Jane Fonda giving aid and comfort to those that were killing our troops.

Butler’s detractors and they are legion on the political right attempt to paint him as an isolationist or appeaser of Hitler. However they misunderstand him and his work. They don’t understand as Butler understood that there would not have been a Nazi Germany without Versailles and that was not possible without the American intervention on the side of Britain and France in 1917. That involvement was driven by the bankers and industrialists who had supplied raw materials, weapons and technical patents to the British and French, and had done so before with the Germans who believed that they would lose their investments if the Germans won the war. That would have happened in late 1917 or early 1918 had not the Americans declared war and entered the war on the side of the British and French.

Most of Butler’s current critics have never served a day in uniform much less a day in a combat zone. They make their livings and profits by the sacrifice of others and other than a few of his quotes have never read anything about him.

If you sense indignation in my voice it is real. I have lived the nightmare of PTSD for over 7 years. I see and work with the young men and women that have bravely endured the hardship of combat deployments and come home physically, mentally and spiritually wounded. To our credit we are trying to do better, but that doesn’t always happen. But for the war profiteers even that will be too much. If military spending is cut you can bet that they will not take the hit that military personnel, their families and our veterans will take. They and their political benefactors will not allow it.

I am a military man through and through. I have spent nearly my whole life associated with the military as a dependent of a Navy Chief who served in Vietnam and a career of over 30 years divided between the Army and Navy. Some of my friends dads did not return from Vietnam, other friends and those who I have served with have paid with their lives in Iraq or Afghanistan while others suffer the continuing wounds of war.

This is personal for me and it is also motivated by my faith as a Christian. Today when I see prominent and politically influential right wing Evangelical Christian leaders and pastors beat the drums of war I am reminded of how Butler chided the pro-war clergy propagandists of the Great War. He wrote: “So vicious was this war propaganda that even God was brought into it. With few exceptions our clergymen joined in the clamor to kill, kill, kill. To kill Germans. God is on our side…it is his will that the Germans be killed.” Only today, it is not a blood lust for German blood, it is a blood lust for Moslem blood and it gets louder ever day.

Such preaching is not much different from the right wing pro-war preachers who advocate killing Moslems simply because they are Moslems and that go out of their way to preach the value of “pre-emptive war” despite such wars being against the Christian understanding of the  “Just War” or international law against such war that we as Americans helped develop after World War Two at Nuremberg and to which we hold the leaders of what we call “rogue nations.”

I only wish that our leaders; political leaders of both parties, religious leaders, and even business leaders would see the folly of this course and their responsibility for the results.

Someone has to say it.

Peace

Padre Steve+

Note: All quotations from “War is a Racket” by Smedley Butler copyright 1935 and 2003 by the Butler family. Amazon Kindle edition. 

3 Comments

Filed under ethics, History, middle east, Military, News and current events, Political Commentary

What Does it Mean? Will Rogers, Padre Steve & Election 2014

blm141101

“The trouble with practical jokes is that very often they get elected.” Will Rogers

Last night in battle of the witless, funded by the soulless, and empowered by the clueless the American electorate finally finished the 2014 warm up for the 2016 bloodletting known as the 2016 General election. Why they call it that I don’t know, we haven’t had a general as President since Eisenhower, but I digress…

What does it all mean? Actually I don’t know, I have some ideas but there is one thing I know, it means nothing because people do not change, especially the Trinity of Evil, the politicians, pundits and preachers that work overtime to get power and maintain it for power’s sake so they can use the police power of government to enforce their will by restricting the liberties of those who do not share their views.

But this is a far deeper question than we would want to contemplate. The problem in American life and politics is that we lack any kind of historical perspective, not only about the world, but our own history and that extends across the ideological spectrum of the country, that is why over eighty years ago Rogers noted “The short memories of the American voters is what keeps our politicians in office” and why he noted “The problem ain’t what people know. It’s what people know that ain’t so that’s the problem.” Ignorance is bliss and my God there is a lot of bliss out there today…

pb141015

That my friends is why no matter what party they represent we too often elect the worst examples of the human species into office; many times in the case of congressmen, for decades, or until the cows come home. Since cows like to stay out late, play cards, and drink that can be a very long time.

But we as American voters elect them and we collectively are idiots for doing so.

My God, in what civilized country could a man like the disgraced, court-martialed, convicted criminal, serial liar and Talibanesque religious fanatic like Gordon Klingenschmitt win a State Senate office in Colorado with over 70 percent of the vote? But assured that Klingenschmitt, running as a Republican but motivated by the soulless hatred of his Christian Dominionism will be around for a while. He is a megalomanic with delusions of grandeur and feelings of unjust persecution. There is a reason that he was court-martialed and thrown out of the Navy and why anyone should be very afraid that any party, including my former party, the Republicans would ever even allow someone like him to enter a race under their banner.

I guess that is one of the big reasons that I am not a Republican, too many soulless, clueless and heartless religious fanatics just like him are driving that party and the country to the abyss. Like Rogers I can now say “I am not a member of any organized political party — I am a Democrat.” But again I digress…

gordon-rides-the-bomb-copy1

But whenever I hear the name Gordon Klingenschmitt; a man who entered the military with a political-religious agenda, dishonored his uniform, made a mockery of faith, family, slandered countless of his commanding officers and fellow chaplains in the Right Wing media; all in the name of Jesus, I get upset, and wish a pox on any political party, or voter who would elect this man or anyone else like him. Klingenschmitt and many like him are quick to label liberals or progressives as Nazis, but they are the people who have said they would, if they ever had the political power to limit the rights or people that they admittedly hate, be it for political, religious or social issues.  Their targets, Democrats, liberals, blacks, gays and lesbians, Moslems, immigrants, and any other group that they want to demonize to mobilize their base depending on their needs.

You see my friends, that is what this election meant. Yes, one can say it is a rejection of Obama and his policies by voters, but it is also, and much more importantly a return to religious fanaticism as a basis and instrument of policy among elected officials. Klingenschmitt may be an outlier right now, but he and others like him are now the face of the GOP. If you are a moderate in the GOP, get ready, you will be either pushed out or forced to adopt their extremism because theirs is a religious crusade that allows no dissent. If you are a secularist, an economic conservative or a “strong on defense” type in the GOP for whom religion is a minor concern, or something best left at home or in the churches, get ready, you too are on their hit list. The problem is that people will do anything to gain power, even make allies of guys like Klingenschmitt and the other American Taliban that are just like him.

I wonder if people will ever learn, but as Rogers said:

“There are three kinds of men. The one that learns by reading. The few who learn by observation. The rest of them have to pee on the electric fence for themselves.”

I guess there are going to be a lot of people learning by in that manner over the next two years….Let me take a deep breath and then continue…. thank you.

For those that think the election will have the effect that people Klingenschmitt and the religious fanatics like him think  that it will, think again. It has the potential of destroying the Republican party, with consequences as important and perhaps as dire as the collapse of the Whigs in 1854 and the split in the Democrat Party between 1856 and 1861. (For those that don’t know about that split it helped light the fire that became the Civil War, read some of my Civil War articles, I cover it to some degree in them.)

Some Republicans recognize this, they know that the victories last night came mostly in reliably conservative states and districts, or places that depending on the year and the situation can swing between Republican or Democrat control. Neil Newhouse who was Mitt Romney’s pollster noted yesterday that “the image of the Republican Party has actually gotten worse since the end of 2012.”

That my friends is what this election meant. Senator Rand Paul, a man who has his eyes on the white House noted: “The Republican Party brand sucks, and so people don’t want to be a Republican… why?…The problem is the perception … that no one in the Republican Party cares.” The problem is that it is no longer about perception, it is about reality. The fact is that unless one is rich, white, male, or a conservative Christian you don’t matter to those now driving the party. The attitude is “you are either for us or against us.” It is a no-compromise attitude which will be their downfall and may very well split the party if old line Republicans finally grow some balls and say no to it. 

oh141105

As far as hope for what the new Republican controlled Congress will do, only one in four Americans think they will do better than the split Congress that we have had the past four years and a full 40% said in that survey said that nothing would change in Washington DC. This is something that Tea Party party pundits Erick Erickson, who I am not a fan of, noted over at Politico.com two days ago:

“So while we are going to see a Republican Congress in name in January, its small-government rhetoric is certainly not going to fool or win over the party base. In 2014, the American public has shown that it hates Washington, D.C., and the Republican leaders in Washington are demonstrating why. They have assembled a team of strategists, consultants, and other political operatives who eat, breathe, and sleep Washington, D.C. Instead of standing for something, they stand for anything they think might get them back into power.

The message from Washington’s Republican elite is no longer that government is the problem, but that Democrats in charge of government are the problem. That might work in 2014, but it’s not going to carry the day in the next presidential election. Republicans cannot make the case that government is the problem when they covet the power of controlling it to the extent they do.” http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2014/11/midterms-hollow-victory-gop-112463.html#ixzz3IE1eHexj

Be assured the Democrats are no gem right now, like the GOP they too have some wing nuts in the party. Though I am a Democrat there have been times that I wonder if the Democratic leadership have lost their souls and are more intent on maintaining power than solving problems. Based on the massive number of e-mails I received from Democrat and progressive organizations that I support, almost all dealing with fundraising, which ran about twenty a day during the last two months of the campaign have to wonder. Yes, I know that to fight the Koch brothers funding wars brought about by Citizens United that one has to have a lot of money, but those e-mails did not motivate me, they were annoying and disruptive. 
The GOP won yesterday because it won where it was supposed to win, in states where it had the home field advantage, in states where legislatures limited the opportunities of poor, elderly, students living away from home, military personnel serving out of state as well as minority voters to vote by in effect creating a defacto-Poll Tax. But such a strategy goes back to Paul Weyrich, the co-founder of the Heritage Foundation who said in 1980:

“Now many of our Christians have what I call the ‘goo-goo syndrome.’ Good government. They want everybody to vote. I don’t want everybody to vote. Elections are not won by a majority of people. They never have been from the beginning of our country, and they are not now. As a matter of fact our leverage in the elections quite candidly goes up as the voting populace goes down.”

But in 2016, it will be a different electorate, an electorate radically different from the one that voted yesterday. The 2016 electorate will be much more favorable to Democrats, one that is not enamored with people like Klingenschmitt. They are young people who want to get ahead in life and are not concerned about someone’s religious beliefs, no fueled by racism, accepting of minorities, women, immigrants and the LGBT community. Those voters typically don’t vote in large numbers in mid-term elections, but do in presidential elections and their influence will be decisive particularly if the new GOP Congressional majority does what I expect to do by focusing on a narrow agenda that is being defined by crackpots, conspiracy theorists and religious fanatics, further driving them, as well as anyone of moderation away from the GOP. If the Democrats can get off their ass, they will keep the White House and will have an excellent chance to take back the Senate in 2016.

I am no expert, but I do know history and I know human nature. I could be try wrong about all of this, but no-matter what I am glad this election is over. The only break I got from it was going to German for the Oktoberfest, with good friends who spanned the political spectrum from left to right. It is almost enough to want to move overseas and be an expat if it means that I don’t have to listen to all of the lies and dirty campaign ads that were a staple of both parties this year. But then we can thank the Supremes and their Citizens United decision for that.

blm141105

The campaign wore me out and I look forward to at least a few months of peace, before the next phase of the 2016 campaign begins.

Peace

Padre Steve+

 

2 Comments

Filed under History, News and current events, Political Commentary

The Price to Be Paid: Politically Motivated Christian Leaders Destroy the Faith

martin_niemoller_magazine_article

“I hated the growing atheistic movement, which was fostered and promoted by the Social Democrats and the Communists. Their hostility toward the Church made me pin my hopes on Hitler for a while. I am paying for that mistake now; and not me alone, but thousands of other persons like me.” Martin Niemöller

The statistics don’t lie. The United States cannot and should not be considered a Christian nation and any sense of the definition. To be blunt that is not the fault of secularists. It is the fault of Christians especially those political partisan pastors and pundits of the christian Right that for the past 40 years have sold their souls for political power at the expense of the Gospel.

While many people, even a majority describe themselves as Christians the fact is that what is now believed is not a Christianity that is in any sense Biblical, Catholic or Orthodox but rather a packaging of certain “Biblical values” that happen to be great political wedge issues for Christian leaders seeking political and economic power.

Nowhere was this shown more than the brazen flip-flopping of Christian leaders during the last election who adamantly opposed the nomination of Mitt Romney on the basis of their understanding of Christianity and Mormonism so long as there was a chance that a non-Mormon had a chance at the Republican nomination. Of course those leaders, even those that opposed Romney on theological grounds rapidly gave him their blessing once he won the nomination. The theological gyrations made by those leaders of the Religious Right in that process were fascinating to watch, much like a train wreck, but fascinating nonetheless.

A recent Barna survey noted that less than one half of one percent of people aged 18-23 hold what would be considered a “Biblical world view.” This is compared to about one of every nine other adults.  Other surveys bear this out.

This should not be surprising to anyone that has watched the growth of what passes as Evangelical Christianity in the Mega-Church age and the retreat of conservative Catholics into the Church culture and theology of the 1400s. It is the same ideology that brought about the Reformation. But then maybe that is not a bad thing.

What has to be said is that the American Church cannot really be considered Evangelical or Catholic. Rather American Christians have subscribed to an Imperial Church model that must throw itself at those that hold power in order to maintain their own political, economic and social power.

While these leaders talk about and rail against things that they believe to be “sinful” such as homosexuality, abortion and birth control they willingly turn a blind eye to the treatment of the poor, advocate wars of aggression and bless cultural and economic norms that go entirely against the Christian tradition as they go about with a Bible in one hand and Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged in the other.

One can have legitimate debates in the Church about what the Bible and Christian tradition define as sin and we should have those debates taking into consideration Scripture, Tradition as well as what we have learned from the Sciences and the Social Sciences. But the fact is that those in the Religious Right are terribly inconsistent in this, much like the religious leaders of Jesus’ day who he condemned for the same type of hypocrisy.

Think about it: The Barna Group in another survey of people 18-29 years old asked what phrases best described Christians: The top five answers “Anti-homosexual, judgmental, hypocritical and too involved in politics.” This view was held by 91% of non-Christians and a staggering 80% of young churchgoers.

This hypocrisy was again demonstrated this week. Many of these politically corrupted religious leaders turned a blind eye to the gutting of the Voting Rights Act of 1964 by the Supreme Court, or cheered that decision despite the fact that many of not most of those adversely affected by that decision are African American Christians. The next day after cheering this result they lambasted the same justices for overturning the Defense of Marriage Act and refusing to hear a challenge to California’s Proposition 8, dealing with the Federal recognition of Gay marriage. The histrionics exhibited would be comical if the men and women ranting away were not so vehemently hateful towards their opponents. The tragedy of their behavior is that even more people will turn away from even reasonable Christians.

The fact is that young people are leaving the church in unheard of numbers and it is very evident to me why they are doing so. The Church has embraced the culture wars over preaching the Gospel, which if I recall correctly is based on loving people, even ones enemies.  Jesus said it so well: “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” John 13:35 NRSV.

The leaders of the Christian Right may hope able to bring out enough culture warriors to win or at least hold their majority in the House of Representatives in the next mid-term election for the Republican Party, but at what cost? One can debate the merits of the Obama administration and its decisions and policies. But to be authentic Christian witnesses we cannot simply become the religious appendage of a political movement whose leaders hold the Church and religious people in general in distain even as they mobilize them to support policies that are in the long term detrimental to those who claim the name of Jesus.

In the 1920s and 1930s the Churches of Germany and many parts of Europe did the same thing. They felt that their values were under attack by Communists, Socialists, Jews and yes, even Homosexuals. In order to maintain their influence and power they willingly allied themselves with the Nazis. When they spoke up against the Nazis it was seldom because they were defending anyone but their own ecclesiastical power and place in society.  When the war was over and young people began to question the actions of those that led the Church in Germany it began a process that has led to the de-Christianization of that country.

The constant hate filled attacks of Christian leaders on those that are not Christians will come back to bite them. This is not fantasy, it is reality. One only has to look at the history of the Church to see it played out time after time. But then, unless we decide to re-write history like David Barton does so well why bother reading it?

I will be writing more about this in the coming months in what will be a number of very well researched and documented articles.  But figured that I would kick open the door today. The actions of many Christian leaders are dangerous to the faith as a whole. The political opportunism is short sighted and ultimately will hasten the decline and fall of what we know as Christianity in America.

Perhaps Christian leaders who have sold their souls for such paltry political gains should be asking these questions: What does it profit a man to gain the whole world but lose his soul and what does it profit the Church to wield political power but lose its soul?

Bonhoeffer-194x300

Dietrich Bonhoeffer once noted “If you board the wrong train, it is no use running along the corridor in the other direction.” 

It is something to consider.

Peace

Padre Steve+

2 Comments

Filed under christian life, civil rights, News and current events, Political Commentary, Religion

%d bloggers like this: