Red State Muse: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly of the Trump Cabinet

So many people have expressed their values with passion throughout this election. Think for a moment about what mattered most to you. Now think for a moment about what might happen if your views were suddenly to become illegal. Would there be enough evidence to convict you? Hold that thought…

In reflecting on the cabinet positions with international responsibilities, I wrote about qualifications, integrity, and frame of reference. With these things in mind, I will continue with the nominations for domestic positions. With so many, I will split them up into three categories: the straightforward, the strange, and the downright dangerous. Again, we anticipate that it would be impractical for the Senate to oppose every nomination, but opposing a few might be strategic to asserting its own right to check presidential power early on. Continue reading

Red State Muse: Arrows, Olive Branches, and the Trump Cabinet

“Where you stand depends on where you sit?”

This has been an oft-repeated maxim in discussions of Donald Trump’s cabinet nominations, especially in regard to those positions related to international affairs. The original meaning is that your current situation will shape your perspective and actions. This rings true in the sense that people of integrity will always connect personal and professional parts of their lives in an honest way.

Yet, it seems to me that this expression has taken on quite a different meaning–at once both optimistic and cynical. The sense I get is that people are suggesting these nominees will act differently once in their new jobs, in spite of all evidence from their lives to this point. One side of the coin is the optimistic assumption that they will somehow perform better or differently in line with their duty to the American people. The other side of the coin is more cynical: their perspective and actions can and will be shifted or bent in spite of previous performance.

Shouldn’t conservatives expect that people of steady principles and character will act consistently? At least isn’t that precisely to what conservatives aspire? Continue reading

Red State Muse: Why Transportation Stimulus (Still) Won’t Work

We’ve been here before.

Donald Trump has promised to “Transform America’s crumbling infrastructure…” Using nearly the same language, we had this conversation in 2009 as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). Barack Obama was elected into office with hopes of lifting the country out of the recession of 2007-08. Stimulus for transforming our transportation infrastructure was a huge selling point for both Democrats and Republicans.

[Be sure to read my introduction to this series, if you have not done so already.]

At the time, I was serving as a communications executive for two state-wide transportation associations in New York State representing local highways and airports. No industry is going to refuse money on the table, but both organizations had questions about whether or not such a plan was the most effective way to go about this. The key phrase was “shovel-ready projects” and transportation officials in every state were scrambling to come up with exhaustive lists to send up the chain for review and create comprehensive estimates. Continue reading

Red State Muse: Suggesting a Critical Approach to Donald Trump

“I will give him a chance. I will not give him an inch.”

This will be my motto relative to Donald Trump. I have been silent for weeks, because I still find it astounding that our country has elected a man who in no way represents “the better angels of our nature.” I also needed a break from social media generally, which can become a vocational hazard for a communicator like me.

I say this realizing that my voice as a Democrat is essentially powerless right now in a “red state” with a fully Republican Congress, White House, and soon to be Supreme Court. While this doesn’t take away my right to speak out, given the dynamics of the recent election campaign, I would like to propose another way. Continue reading

The Politics of the Beatitudes

A few weeks ago, I had the benefit of hearing Mark Allan Powell present his lecture “Jesus Takes Sides: The Beatitudes as God’s Apology“. It was not the first time I heard his particular interpretation of Jesus’ words. However, I had not realized that he was the first to suggest that interpretation.

Over the centuries, most have tried to hold all eight verses together, suggesting that all of them point toward some kind of spiritual virtue in those that are blessed. Dr. Powell makes the case that there are two sets of four. The first is about groups of people who are in some way oppressed. The second group parallels the first as those who choose to side with the oppressed. (See the video here.)

Following the recent election of Donald Trump as President, I expressed my reservations about the same on Facebook using the Beatitudes. For each verse, I asked a question of us as a society. These verses should challenge us at all times, but especially so now. As President-Elect Trump continues to pick cabinet members who represent values quite opposite the Beatitudes, I want to repost and reserve those same thoughts here for later reflection. While many have put out calls to “give them a chance”, I am inclined to take all of these men at their word. They have already acted and spoken clearly, and we should take them seriously.

By contrast, we need to choose whose blessing we desire and whom we will choose to bless:
Continue reading

Advent Questions

Having grown up in the Baptist tradition, it took me many years to fully appreciate the depth of the Church Calendar. For starters, the Christmas Season begins with Christmas Day and continues for 12 days (thus the song). Right now, Christians everywhere are entering the Advent Season in anticipation and preparation for Christmas.

Advent is celebrated with four candles; one additional candle being lit each Sunday before Christmas. It starts with darkness and moves toward increasing light. Doubt leads us to faith as key questions carry us forward. Quiet desperation for God invites us to come and see “God With Us”. In many ways, Advent and Christmas mark the “New Year” for the Church. Continue reading