The problem with principles

I’m not a man of principles. That’s not to say that there aren’t things that I believe that are near universal, but it’s just that I don’t tend to view policy decisions and other things through the lens of principles. It seems we get ourselves into trouble when we do that, and I wonder if there’s some kind of a liberal/conservative divide on how we let principles guide us. I’ve been thinking about this quite a bit in the Trump era (which I hope won’t be a real era, but nevertheless feels like one already).

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When (flawed) theocracy comes to town

I posted this on Facebook, along with a video that might still be available here.

I’m opposed to theocracy, and I don’t think religious law should ever be the basis for civil law. That said, many Americans claim to want laws based on Christianity. Oddly, many of these same people are now so enshrined in the cult of Trump, that they can’t even see how they’re being led so far astray from their religious teachings.

What’s even more strange to me is how often some groups of Christians talk about fearing the devil, and how he will lead them away from Christ if they aren’t super careful. I can’t imagine these folks following anybody less Christ-like than Trump, but there they go, without a fear in the world that they might be falling into the trap they’ve been warned of over and over.

Of course, I don’t believe Trump is the devil. I don’t believe either exists. But if I believed in those things, I can’t imagine not being very afraid to watch people following the obviously wrong guy, without thinking twice about it. If you made a movie about the devil, his life story could look a lot like Trump’s

I wanted to hold on to this post, outside of Facebook, but I also wanted to preserve one comment on the post, that came from a Jesuit Priest I’ve known since I was a teenager. I don’t know if he would be OK with me sharing his words outside of Facebook, so I won’t credit him by name, but I want to preserve his message nonetheless.

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Are we the same? Dislike of Trump and dislike of Obama.

I really do not like President Trump. I don’t know him personally, but I don’t like what I see on TV and on Twitter. I don’t like what I read, and I don’t like what I hear. He doesn’t seem like somebody I would want to spend much or any time with, and I’m sure if he worked in my department I would want little or nothing to do with him. I find him very self-centered, with a narcissistic personality disorder vibe. I don’t like his speech pattern, and an article from Vox in October 2016 sheds some light on how unusual it is. I don’t like many of his policies, but I am even more bothered by his unpredictability and the lack of clarity that he thrives on related to what his policies actually are. He generates a real visceral disgust in me, and I am looking forward to the day his presidency is over, whenever that may be. People clearly felt a similar disgust over Obama. It makes me think about the differences.

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Words (should) matter

I’m a stickler for using the “right” words for things. I’m sure I get it wrong myself, especially when speaking, but I try. There are a few things that I find particularly bothersome (perhaps because of their widespread use). Students I mentor have to deal with my routine correction of them, and they often pick the “incorrect” usage just to tease me, which is fun, but the poor usage bothers me when it’s not an attempt at humor. This is, admittedly, pedantic in some respects, but I think it matters, and I’ll explain why, after describing some of these nuisances.

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Amazon and the Cult of Trump

Trump took to Twitter this morning to share some thoughts about Amazon. He doesn’t like Amazon. My guess is that he doesn’t like Jeff Bezos, because Jeff Bezos leans liberal. There’s not much out there on his political views, but when he bought the Washington Post, there was some reporting on it, and there’s not much evidence for any support for traditional conservative/republican causes. So, like most things with Trump, my guess is that this is a personal, and petty, feud, with no principled structure at all. But Trump is still out for Amazon. And that’s going to be a big point of conflict for the Cult of Trump, who show their true colors over and over when it comes to going against their proclaimed values to follow their cult leader.

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Trump and Russia: my best guess

There are conflicting narratives in the political world. This has likely always been true, but the separation of the narratives feels more palpable than any other time in my life. Sure, we’ve had conflicting narratives before: Reagan painted a picture of a world where the poor were living large on the handouts of the rich, and the counter-narrative was that nobody is “living large” and that people need help. There has been the belief that deregulation is good for us because regulations provide a costly burden, and this is countered by the cost is worth the protection that regulations provide. But these were issues of perspective, not issues of mutually exclusive views of the world. That feels quite different from what we have now, especially when it comes to Trump and Russia.

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The benefit of the doubt bites me in the ass, again

I try. I really try. I try to see things in a less frenzied hyperbolic way. I try to give the benefit of the doubt. I’m often wrong, and the benefit of the doubt isn’t deserved, but I still feel better as a human being. Others might feel worse to be wrong, but I don’t mind being wrong, and would rather be wrong while reasonable than right while frenzied. That’s just me. But twice in the last few days, I’ve tried to be that way, and it seems that I’ve been too kind. Of course, the title of the post is a bit hyperbolic and frenzied in itself, because nothing actually bit me in the ass. In fact, I’m not sure any of this affects me personally at all, but here’s where giving the benefit of the doubt seems to have failed me, and the bite in the ass (which isn’t a big deal), was my wife saying “I told you so.”

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