Pack of Dogs (2017Mar17)


magrittepipe

Friday, March 17, 2017                                            8:51 AM

I can’t say enough bad things about the Trump administration, or the Republicans who collaborate with him. I could simply describe what they’ve been doing, or, thankfully, what they’ve been trying to do (judges have, so far, held back his most traitorous executive orders). It makes my blood run cold.

And the evil goes so deep—first there’s Trump and his coterie—a ranker bunch of troglodytes is hard to imagine—but then there’s the Republican Congress as well, quietly doing even worse, more long-lasting damage to this country. Then there’s the barrage of hypocritical distractions—like Trump’s ‘Obama tapped me’ claim, or his wishful thinking about the media being unreliable. Then there’s the gutting of the State Department’s career lifers—the institutional memory of government—and the firings of Federal D.A.s—including the one who was investigating Trump. And the rolling-back of Obama’s last six months of legislation—for no reason other than it being Obama’s.

The perfect storm of a popular criminal winning popularity, the media’s lobotomy over HRC’s fitness to serve, and the extreme partisanship of the GOP, making them willing to go along with Trump’s mendacity—all of this puts our country in the hands of the worst bunch of cronies imaginable. One of these assholes actually used the word ‘compassionate’ when talking about cutting the ‘Meals on Wheels’ program.

I don’t think we can wait for grounds for impeachment—we need a national referendum on our confidence in Trump as head of state—followed by a special election. Otherwise, we stand on ceremony while this pack of dogs chews up America’s best furniture.

And that’s the trouble, isn’t it? You and I—we’re capable of feeling shame, capable of feeling a sense of responsibility, unable to see ourselves as better than our neighbor, unable to ignore ethics. What a disadvantage that puts as at! We’re like an old-fashioned guy, who’s too much a gentleman to strike a lady, facing off against a deranged bitch with a razor. We need to climb on our high horse, to strike down this monster with all the justifiable outrage of good Americans.

All that’s needed is a consensus that Trump is beyond the pale, that he is a mistake we made—we don’t need to wait politely for four years—we need to act. I call for a national referendum and a vote of no confidence in this pig masquerading as our leader. Or we can wait until they’ve done all the damage they can—and spend the next twenty years struggling to get back to where we were three months ago.

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Another Break With Ethical Tradition (2017Mar15)


ShirtwaistFire_01

Wednesday, March 15, 2017                                            3:32 PM

The Ides of March are upon us. And how fitting, when here in the present our would-be empress was character-assassinated, leaving the throne to a pack of criminals. And how paper-thin their pretense at public service—a quick bill to allow coal-waste dumping in local waterways, as an appetizer for removing 24 million from health insurance—and gutting the EPA (something even that old crook, Nixon, saw the point of enacting).

In what way are these shameless epicureans serving the public good? In what world are we not being sold out to the moneyed interests? And does wanting a ‘change’ in Washington mean wanting more protection for the big corporations and less concern for the average citizen—along with a heaping helping of incompetence and malfeasance? How is it that legitimate leadership has never before required so many PR people to be expert liars?

I saw a few minutes of FOX News today—they were clawing at Rachel Maddow’s reputation for revealing some information about Trump’s tax returns—claiming that making a big deal about them was liberal hysteria. No discussion (that I heard) addressed the fact that he is the only modern president to hide that information during the campaign—and continue to hide it, even after taking office. Neither did I hear anyone question why that is. But, boy, did they have fun ragging on Rachel.

Not that we should expect much different from a guy who won’t even put his assets in a blind trust for the duration of his term—another break with ethical tradition. Listen, my dad used to put me in charge when he was on vacation, too—it didn’t mean it wasn’t his business anymore. Ironically, while Trump has become the world’s most famous liar, he gets very emotional about how we should trust him to always do the right thing—I’d like to see him do one right thing.

An objective observer might remark on how ‘bigly’ the Trump camp jumps on any error, real or imagined, from anyone outside their circle—yet they minimize any errors of their own as if the rules don’t really apply when talking about such important poohbahs as Trump. But hypocrisy is a big word—and remember—‘nobody knew how complicated’ it would be to be president. How much more complicated would it become if he were to attempt to be a good president? Please. Let’s be realistic.

Ending the EPA is such a disastrous wish that many people are reassuring themselves by thinking, ‘oh, Trump’s too incompetent to make it happen’. My concern is merely the fact that he wants to. There was a famous fire in NYC’s Triangle Building a century ago—many women were killed due to the fact that the owner chained the exit-doors shut. The outrage over that mass immolation caused a few labor reforms. But here we are, one hundred years later, and Trump wants to chain the safety-doors to the entire country.

In what universe is this pig making a successful pretense of leadership?

ShirtwaistFire_02

Even If Millions Die (2017Mar14)


SimonLegree

Tuesday, March 14, 2017                                        9:11 AM

Blizzard today—trying to make up for a virtually snow-less winter—everything’s shut down—we cross our fingers that the electricity stays on. They named the storm ‘Stella!’, mostly so everyone could do a bad Marlon Brando imitation, I think.

The SCOTUS nominee is being heard today—the Dems have found a case where he ruled a man was legally fired after he deserted his broke-down truck in sub-zero weather. This sort of warm-blooded-humans-vs.-cold-blooded-cash dichotomy seems to be the real dividing line in politics today.

Bernie Sanders’ socialistic leanings are the one side of it—recognizing the dysfunctional aspects of Capitalism and having a desire to make government more humane and supportive. The Right wants money to remain money, should mountains of corpses pile up or not. Of course, they can’t be that blunt—so they go with ‘small government’—meaning a government that stands by and watches while business owners eat their fill of human misery.

And it isn’t their cruelty that disturbs me—it’s the mindless inefficiency of allowing millions to sink into difficulties—difficulties that will become a public expense, eventually—instead of implementing a significantly smaller ‘preventative’ public expense, up front. That’s the thing with the Right—they bitch about spending money on people, about ‘caretaker’ government—but they never address the costs, going forward, of neglecting those people.

The Right has taken education and health care and made them profit centers—and dysfunctional. College graduates start their careers as indentured servants to the banks—two centuries ago, you had to commit a crime to be treated that way. Still, it pairs nicely with all the for-profit-prisons that are reintroducing African-Americans to slavery. Surgeons and specialists hold out their hands for money, like maître de’s who keep out the riff-raff. To the Right, life, liberty, and learning are commodities to be paid for, or withheld. Inefficient. Short-sighted. And, yes, cold-fucking-blooded.

Trump

No wonder Trump is their idol—the most thoughtless, uncaring, authoritarian pig they could find. And don’t be fooled into gleeful celebration that Putin is now criticizing Trump—Putin wanted him in office because of the disruption he would inevitably create—now that he’s there, Putin is free to pile on with the naysayers—it even makes him look less complicit—so don’t be fooled.

But there is a strange beauty to the Right’s agenda—politicians who convince their voters that government is a bad thing—genius! Rich people who convince the middle class that the poor are the problem—inspired! Children of immigrants, in a nation of immigrants, that want to spend billions on a wall—to keep out the immigrants—incredible!

The Democrats, as uninspiring as they may be, are the only party that makes sense for a non-millionaire, or anyone who works for a living. That the Republicans can still make a pretense of representing the Silent Majority is indicative of our muddled journalism and our lack of education. The CBO estimates that 24 million people will lose health insurance under TrumpCare, but the GOP are rushing it through anyway—yeah, they’re on your side alright.

And with all the stumbling and bumbling in DC, the stock market still thrives—those people know what most voters do not—that the GOP is good for business, and will always be good for business, even if millions die.

MrPotter

Kamps for Kids (2017Mar04)


Saturday, March 04, 2017                                        7:08 PM

Americans are crazy. We started our country by revolution—and then decided we’d keep our guns, just in case, forever. If you think about it, to this day, if a state threatens to secede everyone takes it very seriously. Imagine—an over-two-century old union of more than fifty sovereignties—and if a single one of those states said, ‘we’re gonna secede’ no one would laugh. Even with the Civil War’s failed secession as an object lesson in how destructive that is—Americans still like to think of our country as a work-in-progress. States still like to think they are stand-alone entities.

It’s a natural mistake—look at Brexit—a union even greater than our own—and one of its strongest members sees no better move on the geopolitical chessboard than petulant isolation. The European Union may outweigh the United States, but they don’t have our experience—guys, you’re only supposed to threaten to do something as stupid as quitting.

I shouldn’t brag, though. With our new ‘alternate reality’ schism, I’m sure the citizens of several states would grab their guns and stand at the barricades, if Bannon told them to. And even without declaring civil war, the gun-related death-toll in America outnumbers the body counts of several military hot-spots around the globe. We love our guns and if you don’t like it, I’ll plug ya.

Which makes it kind of strange that military service is such a rarity in the USA. A very small percentage of our young people go through military service as a rite of passage. Enlistment and training were an assumed stage in any man’s life, in any country, for many centuries—a man who didn’t serve in the military was no man. This tradition stretches back to the coming-of-age rituals of tribal societies. And we have broken that thread.

Don’t get me wrong—I was turning eighteen the same year that draft registration was abolished—I was one of the first people to find out what it was like to live life without any contact with military training. And while the Viet Nam war was winding down, it was not yet over—so being left out was a good thing, as far as I was concerned.

And I’m not advocating military service as part of a healthy upbringing either. But the practical results concern me. With military training confined to the innocent bystanders of drive-by shootings—and that being pretty poor training by any standard—one wonders how well-prepared we are to deal with countries where military service is still the rule.

Not because they have bigger armies or anything—just because their young people have the harder side of life rubbed in their faces as a part of their life—and while that is extremely unpleasant, it is also very eye-opening. I think a lot of young Americans are walking around with droopy eyelids—and they are in danger of becoming caught unawares by others—not just on land or sea, but in science, in business, and in trade. And from what I hear, a few of them could use the exercise, also.

It’s natural for a sixty-one-year-old to go on about how kids today need this or that—and military training may be the worst possible choice. But it seems to me that America doesn’t need a large army—not today, anyway. So, enlisting a bunch of young people in a government program of a less-exclusively-military nature might be a workable idea—it would fit in with a well-planned infrastructure renovation program and have the kids leave with some job skills, too—kind of like FDR’s CCC program.

I don’t know. I do know that coming-of-age rituals are beneficial—they help confront young people with self-discipline and the rigors of adulthood—and prepare them to be serious members of the community. There are too many places for people to gather online—and not enough places where people literally gather—it’s easy for young people to just drift off and get lost. With some sort of civil service program, we could at least reduce those who drift off to those who really want to.

When we make it hard for young people to find jobs, we send a lot of good people down into cellars with bongs, where they wait for the world to come find them. What a waste of all that youthful energy and enthusiasm. This country’s aversion to anything socialist in nature will be its undoing in the end—some things are better achieved through socialist programs—that’s just a fact. But there’s always that handful of people who’ve found a way to make a buck out of the lack of a program—and they shout bloody murder about the reds taking over, as soon as you go for their rice bowls.

Of course, if anyone listened to me, I’d be eternally damned. The reality of such a program would be corrupt, inefficient, possibly even predatory, by the time the ‘serious’ people got hold of it. But if it was done nicely, people would actually benefit from it—and so would the country as a whole. Still, we have the Soviet Union as the ultimate example of a good idea that became a genocidal crime against humanity—so perhaps I should just shut up about camps for kids.

Hurry Spring   (2017Feb21)


Tuesday, February 21, 2017                                             4:06 PM

Well, today settles it—I get maudlin towards the end of Winter. I start writing poems, I start playing piano in a minor key, I write bitter diatribes with far more than my usual cynicism. My taste in music gets a little weepy, a little dirge-y—I read more than watch TV. It’s a whole ‘Spring-better-show-up-soon’ depression-fest.

Also, I tend to write a lot more personal stuff—half of what I write this time of year is either too personal or too depressing to post—and I go on and on about stuff that I’m pretty sure isn’t driving the throngs to my blog—but that’s February for me. I’m fading fast—and I need some sunshine.

Well, things have settled down a bit—I’m used to either rooting for a Democrat administration, or I’m worrying about the one, really-big mistake that a GOP administration is currently making—I’m not used to purely dysfunctional—that’s a new one on me—and, I suspect, on all of you as well. But normalization is inevitable—short of storming Penn Ave, we’re stuck with the Clown until 2020—and the more avidly we stare, waiting for an impeachable offense, the less likely one is—‘a watched pot…’ and all that.

I’m still getting used to an America that is not actively trying to exceed itself—I’ll miss that forever, or until it returns, whichever comes first. Never before has a candidate won an election with a message of despair. “Make America great again”—I’d like to punch that fucker right in the mouth—the only thing that isn’t great about America is your benighted ass, you fucker, and the cowering, feebleminded jerks who voted for your sick agenda.

But let’s not get ourselves all worked up, every damn day, over the same old tragedy. What’s done is done. The odds on Trump sitting his whole term are long—one definite drawback to not knowing what you’re doing: you don’t know the rules. And while Trump may rubber-stamp some of the GOP’s worst legislation, they will find it hard to actually work with him—everyone does.

Fortunately for the Republicans, their platform was already custom-tailored for wealthy bastards with no public conscience—but they will inevitably try to mollify their base with something—and that’s where they and Trump will part ways. Trump’s penchant for blaming the establishment will ring rather hollow in 2020, after four years of being the establishment, so it’s hard to see him pull this off a second time—unless he actually does something.

But like most of his kind, Trump’s greatest ally would be military strife—even Bush-43 looked more dignified with Americans dying all over the place. Thus, it isn’t that I don’t want Trump to do anything—it’s that I’m afraid his ‘anything’ has some dark options waiting. Improving education, creating jobs, fixing our infrastructure—these would all be laudable accomplishments—if Trump can improve anything on such fronts, I’ll be glad to reevaluate—but I’m not going to hold my breath.

As much as I look forward to the coming of Spring, it will be all the more bitter for being a time of rebirth in an new age of tyranny—for 2017, T. S. Eliot will have got it right: “April is the cruelest month….

Today’s poem and videos all contain cannibalized artwork from my one and only book of illustrated poetry, “Bearly Bliss”. It may seem ironic that my hand-tremors make me unable to draw, yet I still try to play the piano with the same hands—this is because I’m used to sucking at the piano, whereas I was once pretty good with a pen.

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To-Do List   (2017Feb15)


godessette

Wednesday, February 15, 2017                                       12:37 PM

We get it—you guys love a good debate—if I had Kelly ConJob as my truth-squirmer, I would too. Spicer, as well, though no Kelly, has been described as “the M. C. Escher of bullshit”. So, let’s say that your delusional reasoning wins every argument—that still leaves the question of what to do. And, on that score, even “He won—shut up and sit down” doesn’t really cut it.

Let’s look at the proposals we’ve heard so far. At the top, there’s ‘build a wall’, which I consider more of a ‘what not to do’—it’s efficacy is questionable, over and above (if you’ll pardon the wall analogy) the question of the cost and logistics of the actual building. We made it through two centuries and two world wars without a wall—the crying need for it, here in 2017, still eludes me. And if America truly requires a wall, why are we stopping at one? Where is the wall for the Canadian border?

Then again, sea-walls on both coasts would actually be of use, in the global warming and ocean-level rises to come—why are we building a wall in the only place we don’t really need one? Never mind.

Moving on—we have the travel ban, the refugee freeze, and the repeal of Obamacare—but these are things being undone, not things we’re going to do. They all represent giant steps backward—and even if you don’t agree with that sentiment, there’s still the question of, outside of what we’ll undo, what (again) are you going to do?

Trump’s excuses for re-upping our carbon-footprint may sound like they are designed to bring back manufacturing and other jobs—but that’s not what they actually do—they simply make profit for Big Oil. The opportunities we are losing by our reluctance to embrace alt-energy industries is the real, long-term effect of his petroleum-friendly policies—and his bent towards commodifying education isn’t going to help the job market either.

It may be a misnomer to label Trump a traitor to his country. I suspect that wealthy people don’t see countries as rallying points in the way most of us do—they look at concentrations of wealth as the sovereignties of their world—and they’re not far wrong, though their patriotism is mere lip-service.

His continuing confusion of his presidency with a more familiar role, that of a commercial executive, is further indication that when Trump commits treason, he is ignorant of that aspect of his actions. He thinks he’s running a business, or worse yet, a TV show. Unfortunately, neither of these roles ever expects responsibility of its holder—except for the bottom line. And we’ve seen Trump’s bottom lines—often in the red—so, there’s little joy there, as well. Yet there are still those who insist they voted to put a businessman in the top slot—I might agree more fully if they’d specified a successful businessman.

Trump might have more readily caught on to the fact that ethics were involved, had he not become a member of the Republican party—but they are the Party of the Rich, so what choice did he have? As Vonnegut said, ‘we are what we pretend to be’. So, even if Trump is not the billionaire he pretends to be, he stills has to act like one.

In the end, I point out the lack of goals not to spur Donald to create some—truly, the less damage that a-hole does while in office, the better for all of us—but to point out its very comfortable absence from Trump’s agenda—he’s a fighter—he loves confrontation—but he ain’t much of a doer. His egotistic impetus to run for the office contained no vision of a better America—he only meant that, if elected, he would consider America great again—because we had elected him. And in this he is very much a Republican.

combwbattle

Trump Is God (2017Feb11)


inferno25

Saturday, February 11, 2017                                             10:02 AM

Supporters of Trump show similarities to evangelicals—blind faith, blindness to the truth, and an eagerness to pick a fight with non-believers. And I think we can put some of the blame for our political chaos on our collective blind spot—religion. Do you have a religion? I do not. Many Americans have a religion which they are deeply invested in—and many Americans have absolutely no belief in the supernatural—horror-, or Christian- based.

America believes in religious freedom and the separation of church and state—which is good in that it protects Jews, Muslims, Sikhs, Buddhists, Hindus, and atheists. The trouble resides in its protection of orthodox and extreme religious sects—anything short of public terrorist acts is permissible—including science-denial, misogyny, and racial discrimination—all features of certain, otherwise ‘legitimate’ religions.

Just as freedom of speech is sometimes misused—as when a neo-nazi’s public speaking goes unmolested—so, too, is freedom of religion misused to perpetuate ideas like those of Julius Evola (a hero of Steve Bannon’s) who was a little too radical for Mussolini, but is enjoying a resurgence due to Trump’s administration.

America made a great leap forward when it founded itself on the idea that religion was too iffy to form a basis for our laws or our government—where, hitherto, no government was without its state religion—a partner of the secular power structure, enforcing a deeper obedience than can be achieved by mere physical intimidation. Nonetheless, in separating the church from state, we only solved half the problem.

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Atheism’s numbers are growing—now that we have ‘magic’ in flight, in medicine, in digital electronics, etc., we have less interest in the non-responsive magic of angels and deities. Open study of archeology and variant scriptures such as the Dead Sea Scrolls have given us a clearer picture of the human side of religion—offering proof that, even if the original supernatural encounters had happened, the leaders of subsequent sects modified the original faiths to meet the exigencies of change and power.

Over the centuries, changes in society and culture caused changes in religion—and modern findings of this destroy the monolithic, unchanging image that religion likes to project. If God were real, neither he (nor she) nor his rules would ever change—which makes today’s religions either false, or sacrilegious, i.e. false unto themselves.

We also have a much smaller world now—the different religions across the globe are used to being insulated from each other. But now, especially in America, one can have a neighborhood containing members of every religion on earth—and while religious freedom protects each of those faiths, it can’t protect people from noticing that these other faithful are blindly true to something entirely unconnected to that which they are blindly true to. It may seem a small thing—but the old joke is true: everyone is an atheist about all religions except their own. It is only a small step from recognizing that everyone around you believes in hogwash, to recognizing that you are in the same boat.

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Aside from the competing magic of science and technology, and the pitfalls of ‘comparison shopping’ for religion, perhaps the most insidious threat to organized faith is our recognition of the hollowness of authority. Where we once looked to religious leaders and political leaders and respected journalists as authority figures, we rarely get through a month without one of these archetypes being indicted, exposed, or debunked. Today’s surge in atheism is just a symptom of a larger tendency to distrust those in power.

To me, the whole thing is an issue of being wishy-washy or not—you either accept the magical thinking of your faith or you don’t. You can’t have it both ways. If the afterlife exists, if souls exist, if God exists—then a lot of what we are doing is wrong—and we shouldn’t be doing it. I respect the Amish for their refusal to indulge in tech. I respect the Christian Scientists for their refusal to use modern medicine. If you’re going to believe in magic, don’t be half-assed about it. These religions with one foot out the door seem hypocritical to me.

But they are in the majority—and their dilution into something modern people won’t laugh at is a far greater retreat from faith than all the furor over abortion or evolution. Their own embarrassment is a far greater enemy of their faith than any argument we atheists can provide.

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I remember when, as a boy, the Catholic Church demoted all the saints that were too close to fairy tales—my own name-saint, Christopher, and other popular saints like St. Valentine, St. Patrick, and St. Nicklaus—were considered too apocryphal to be included in the Church’s saint’s-day calendar. They were not entirely disowned or erased, but their high visibility became an embarrassment to modern Catholics, and they were no longer to be part of our serious rites of worship. That may be where the seeds of my atheism were sown—don’t name me after the guy who supposedly carried the infant Christ across a torrential river (the Christ-bearer) and then turn around and tell me the guy might just be a fanciful legend after all. That’s no way to cement my faith.

Times change—and religions change with them. The fact that times change slowly—and that each generation is presented with a religion as if it were a static foundation—has kept this simple truth from becoming an obvious fact—until now, when change is swift and communication swifter. Religion has become pitifully threadbare in modern times—the idea that a man can have a special connection to the eternal is hard to maintain when that man gets busted for pedophilia, or when that man decides that suicide-bombers are his favorite converts.

We are stuck now between a rock and a hard place—the Muslim extremists would be perfect poster-boys for atheism, if we weren’t so dead-set on pretending that there is a significant difference between one Judeo-Christian-Muslim faith and another. People even go so far as to argue that Christianity has never indulged in murder or terrorism—a patent falsehood that only reveals a deep ignorance of history—and not very ancient history, either.

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To me, the most ugly, yet hilarious, paradox is that we, as a nation, are not ready to contemplate a presidential candidate who is an avowed atheist—yet we are completely unable to take a presidential candidate’s faith seriously. While ‘God will provide’ might make sense at home, it is beyond the pale when speaking of public policy. Reagan, Bush, et. al. were always at their most laughable when they reached back for their fundamentalist rationales to explain their decisions. And that’s overlooking the more basic paradox of one faith’s extremist becoming the leader of a multi-faith nation—or designating one faith as more quintessentially American than all the others.

Then there’s the darker issue—that, for many Americans, money is their God, and hypocritical playing on religious heartstrings is fair play, as long as there’s a profit to be made. Religion has been used as a prop for the powerful since the dawn of civilization—Karl Marx was very clear that he felt religion was used to keep the masses subject to state-determined morality. America is famous for having severed the direct link between power and faith—but such things have the ability to morph into other paradigms. We have recently seen many Americans embrace the return of faith as a political power-base—an ignorance that saddens any educated student of American history.

Religion fills a need. Even I, knowing that faith is an imaginary construct, still feel the lack of its warmth and security. My atheism has not made me feel happy or safe—I have simply had to accept that religion is false, and live with that. I even avoid promoting atheism, since I wouldn’t wish it on a happy believer. But when religion gets on its high horse, as if it were real, I am the first to rise in opposition. This defensive posture is a weak one—and the rise of atheism has spurred a sudden strength in the religious—but religion itself has weakened in its obsolescence.

inferno34

So now we have a new president who got himself elected mostly through demonizing violent extremists of a certain religion—and pretending to support the more popular Christian one. No one is blaming religion itself for any of these problems—most Americans react to Muslim extremism by redoubling their faith in Christianity—even though their differences are minor details. The insistence on blaming Muslims for terrorism is a backhanded way of avoiding religion as the true culprit. Extreme religion of any kind always puts faith above reality, worship above humanity—and there isn’t a one of them that hasn’t descended, in the end, into bloody violence.

So why this blind faith in Trump—why do facts simply bounce off the Trump supporters? My theory is that religion has become too embarrassing, but people still need something to believe in—and Trump fills the bill. Like a god, he offers easy answers, no explanations, and an unbounded self-regard. Further, he sees no obligation to jive with observable reality. If you are an evangelist, or have evangelist leanings, in a world that is slowly waking up from the dream of heaven and hell, Trump is a perfect substitute. Plus, he allows you to attack someone else’s religion without even having to stand up and declare yourself a member of your own.