The Art of Hypocrisy

FOLIO VOICES
story by SEAN T. SMITH

The Carl Vinson carrier strike group is poised to unleash hell. President Trump has promised that if China cannot reign in North Korea, the United States will handle the “problem.” In past weeks, the U.S. sent 59 cruise missiles into a Syrian airbase, closing it down for about six hours. Our forces also dropped the MOAB, aka the “mother of all bombs,” on a mountainside in Afghanistan. Cable news media fawned over the “beauty” of our firepower. In recent years, our military has conducted drone strikes throughout the Middle East, and has waged prolonged wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Yet as a nation, we cling to the belief that we have the moral high ground and the United States is a shining paragon of virtue and morality.
In short, we have refined hypocrisy to an art form. Our nationalism blinds us to history, our ignorance compels us to blind faith, and our faith binds us to destruction. Our leaders reflect these beliefs, and our commander-in-chief exemplifies the nation’s staggering propensity for self-righteousness. We reap the consequences of our collective hypocrisy globally and nationally every day, and as the world hurtles toward the abyss of nuclear war, it is worth examining our faith.
MORAL HIGH GROUND?

In April, the Iraq Body Count project (IBC) reported civilian deaths from violence are 173,686–193,965 from the second Iraq war. A National Geographic article published in October 2016 puts the number of deaths considerably higher, at almost a half-million.
Airwars reports that this March alone, 1,200 civilian casualties occurred in Syria as a result of coalition air strikes.
The U.S. is the only nation in the world to deploy nuclear weapons in war. Conservative estimates place the cumulative death toll in Hiroshima and Nagasaki at 225,000. The narrative is that these bombs were necessary to end World War II, and save American lives. This may be true, but the fact remains that those bombs resulted in nearly a quarter-million civilian deaths.
The U.S. also boasts more people in prison, by far, than any other nation on the planet.
According to the CIA, 56 countries have lower infant mortality rates than the U.S. Some of these countries include Bosnia, Cuba and Latvia.
Today, 46 million Americans live in poverty; the poverty rate in the United States is the highest in the developed world.
Do these statistics sound like a nation that has the moral high ground?
NUCLEAR STANDOFF

President Trump has discovered that his ratings go up when bombs fall, a fact that gives Americans a good reason to pack a bug-out bag and stockpile seeds and dried food. North Korea has nuclear weapons, and its fearless leader seems almost as anxious to play with his toys as ours does. Unlike Jack Kennedy and Nikita Khrushchev, who took the world to the brink of nuclear war during the Cuban Missile Crisis and who were each careful and calculating, we now have Donald Trump and Kim-Jong-Un, two man-babies playing a game of chicken with nuclear warheads.
Whether it’s Iran, Syria or North Korea, what gives the United States the right to make a preemptive strike, including a nuclear one? The argument can be made that it’s in our national best interest. That is not a moral argument, however, and selling such an action to the American people always involves moral superiority. The enemy is “evil.”
If war breaks out in North Korea, hundreds of thousands of civilians will die. North Korean artillery will shell Seoul, and there is no way for coalition forces to stop the ensuing slaughter.
If we start wars that result in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of women and children, how can we still claim to be virtuous?
GOD MUST BE AN AMERICAN

Without the evangelical vote, Donald J. Trump could not have won the Electoral College. Christian fundamentalists, who profess to follow the teachings of Jesus Christ, largely supported him because he stated that he’s pro-life. Many were single-issue voters who ignored his statements on other issues, and who also decided to overlook his public statements and lifestyle choices.
Many of the same people who voted for Trump because he claims to be anti-abortion don’t seem to mind rushing to war and killing innocents. They also overlook the bodies of immigrant children washing up on shores both foreign and domestic.
The pro-war, pro-gun, anti-safety-net group defines itself as “pro-life.” Yet they voted for a narcissist billionaire who wants to cut programs for the poor. How is this possible? After all, Jesus said, “If you wish to be complete, sell all of your possessions and give to the poor and you will have treasures in heaven; then come follow me.”
The same folks who howl about government intrusion are perfectly willing to insert the government into our bedrooms and women’s wombs. Protestors carrying signs and bibles shout that All Lives Matter, yet somehow the Black Lives Matter movement is wrong.
We have collectively become so inured to hypocrisy that we no longer even recognize it. Unless we take the time to examine our beliefs and our actions as a nation, we can no longer call America the leader of the free world.
We must lead by example. We must show, rather than tell; act rather than pontificate.

____________________

Yes, the World is Going To Hell in a Handbasket

When the wolf really is at the gates

One of my favorite children’s tales is The Boy Who Cried Wolf; my  boys understand it well. Parent’s know how frustrating it is when kids exaggerate or fabricate danger, provoking a response from us that is out of porportion to reality. The moral, of course, is that when the danger is real, help never arrives.

A good friend of mine, a staunch conservative, is fond of saying “Sean, people have been saying that the world is going to hell for as long as there have been people.” He’s right about that. Humans have always found reasons to fear the future, whether justified or not. The biblical flood is a part of mankind’s collective memory, with varying versions found on most continents. Furthermore, some form of Armageddon or the Apocalypse is also a part of most major religions.

Jesus said he was coming back soon, and the early apostles took that to mean within decades, looking to the heavens for signs of the return of the king. Since those days, Christians have proclaimed that the end times are upon us with regularity, and pointed to the alignment of prophecy and circumstance to justify the dire predictions.

In the U.S. an entire subculture has evolved around the idea of “being prepared,” and folks with varyng degrees of committment and motivations go to great pains to monitor the news while stockpiling food, weapons, water, and medical supplies to ride out The Fall while providing security and a future for their families. A lot of these folks are highly intelligent, skilled people with military backgrounds.

There is a certain tendency  in mainstream media to write off the preppers as crazy “tin-foil -hat” people. I write post-apocalyptic fiction and military thrillers, and I’m afraid these folks are right. The trouble is, no one is listening. I’m about to purchase a firearm for the first time in twenty years, and I’ve got a bug-out plan and a go-bag.

Why now?

The world has always been a dangerous place, and evil men are relentless in their quest to weild power over others. Our capacity for goodness, self-sacrifice, cooperation and innovation is in a constant state of war with our innate propensity for violence, destruction and atrocity. The religions of the world understand this ongoing battle between light and darkness.

For the first time in human history, mankind has the ability to eradicate himself in multiple ways. Nuclear winter, biological warfare, climate change, and Artifical Intelligence are all pathways to destruction. The doomsday clock is ticking, and the fate of the world hangs on the brink of a yawning abyss.  With the rise of nationalism, a resurgant Russia, and immigration problems that are doomed to grow worse, I fear for our future. The causes of danger and the methods of our self-destruction are tangled together.

Nationalism

Trump’s ascent to power is not an anomoly common only to the United States. The United Kingdom voted yesterday to exit the EU, bolstered by a populace reeling from and outraged by the infux of immigrants and the perception that they have lost autonomy and surrendered sovergeinty to the European Union. France’s far-right intends to call for a similar refferendum, as does Sweeden. Scotland will likely leave the U.K. in favor of joining the rest of Europe. The union itself took a huge hit, loosing 1/6 of its economy. There is enough momentum building that could propel the E.U. right off a cliff, taking the rest of the world with it.

The recent surge in nationalism around the world is inextricably bound to other factors. First, there is the anti-intellectual movement, which propagates the idea that experts are not experts, scientists are not scientists, and Facebook memes and snappy twitter characters hold the real knowledge. This age of unreason came to the United States with Sarah Palin as its poster child, and has come of age in the last months with Donald Trump now representing the party of Lincoln. Just about every country in the world has some version of Trump at the moment, from neo-nazis in Germany, to the South Pacific, and even South America.

Nationalism itself relies upon fear of others. It is the creed of walls and war, and history remembers this while men forget at their own peril. The last two world wars were the result of nationalism run amuck, and at the height of the cold war the Soviet Union and the U.S. took the world right up to the bitter edge of extincition. Bombers in the air, ICBM missiles awaiting launch codes, submarines stationed off coasts silent and deadly. While the far right in European countries beats its collective chest, Vladimir Putin is licking his chops. When Trump calls for abandoning our founding principles and wipes his ass with the Constitution, China sees opportunity.

Immigration and the refugee crisis

The rise of nationalism thorughout the west is tied directly to the refugee crisis, immigration, and the financial collapse that occured at the end of the Bush presidency. It’s an adverse reaction to globalization, and a longing for the dream of simpler times that were never simple nor true.

Had the United States not invaded Iraq, we wouldn’t be here yet. That war created a vacuum, which led directly to ISIS, which wants to kill the world and is spurring the influx of refugees throughout Europe. Failing economies make ideal breeding grounds for fear and xenophobia, and when there are legitmate concerns over terror attacks like Brussels, Paris, and Orlando immigration becomes a hot-button issue. Close the borders and let them drown, comes the battle cry. Already hurting economies are struggling to cope with people who aren’t assimilating quickly enough. It’s a global powder-keg.

Global Warming

As climate changes lead to more severe storms, droughts, and shifting weather patterns, the immigration crisis is going to get worse.

Mass migrations and displaced populations will continue to put pressure on the developed nations. Unfortunately, in this age of unreason, many politicians and voters believe that the experts have it all wrong. Global warming, my ass! It’s snowing outside. Never mind that the iceshelves are melting at rates that confound even the most aggressive models, the oceans are growing more acidic, the bees are dying off, and water shortages and wildfires are commonplace even in the West.

The combined effect of global warming and nationalism will inevitably lead to wars. Remember the fall of rome? Goths,  Visigoths and Vandals, displaced populations, sacked the capital more than once. The Huns came roaring across the planes.

  
The people who deny climate change are either doing so because they have a vested intrest in doing away with envornmental restrictions, or are just plain duped by the propaganda campaign funded by the first group. Either way, the result is that nothing gets done in time to stop what’s coming, let alone prepare for it. Because that is going to take cooperation, and with the rise of nationalism, cooperation is turning into a bad thing, for we musn’t work with the enemy. Build a Wall!!!

WAR

Despite reductions in nuclear arsenals, men have more than enough warheads ready to launch and trigger a nuclear winter. There are multiple flaspoints.

  
1. The Middle-East

Whether it’s ISIS, Iran, or Israel, the Mid-East has long been a bomb waiting to go off. In addtion the the sectarian violence betwen Shia, Sunni, and Kurds, there is also the universal hatred for Israel. A war there could start in many ways and quickly escalate. Israel has nuclear weapons and those nukes are key to its defense doctrine. They will use them if attacked by Iran, and Iran  seems intent upon wiping Israel from the map.

2. Russia

Russia annexed Crimea, and is actively engaged in the Ukrainne under the guise of humanitarian aid. The fact is, many residents of Eastern Ukraine support a stronger relationship with Russia, so the country itself is divided, making this civil war vulnerable to Russian intervention. As Russia militartizes the artic, this also opens a pandora’s box. Canada and the U.S. are vying control of resources below the melting ice and for the sea lanes which are opening up due to global warming. Russia rages against the sanctions placed on it, and resents the expansion of NATO into it’s traditional sphere of influence. Putin can’t wait to see a weakened Europe, a distracted U.S.

3. China

China is building airstrips on islands manufactured out of coral reefs in waters contested by Japan and the Phillippenes. Last week, Chinese aircraft came dangerously close to U.S. warships in the region,  and flybys are becoming a common occurance. How long before someone makes a mistake? One with international, and perhaps catastrophic consequences. Furthermore, China and Russia are working to improve their relationship, planning huge infrastructure projects together and developing trade relations in an effort to cut the United States and Europe out of the loop.

4. The United States

  

  
If Trump wins the Presidential election, God help us all. This guy has advocated giving nuclear weapons to the Saudis, expressed admiration for Putin, and is one word away from declaring war on an entire religion of more than a billion people. He believes his own hype, and this is incredibly dangerous, thinking that international relations are nothing more than business deals he can bullshit and bully his way through.

If Trump doesn’t win, then all that outrage that got him this far is going to be seeking an outlet. We may end up destroying ourselves in the end. And where the U.S. goes, so goes the fate of the world. 

Given the current state of affairs, that’s a scary truth.

America needs a Reformation

church and flag

Religion and politics have been wrapped around one another for thousands of years. From a purely political standpoint, religion was frequently used as a means to control the populace and consolidate power.This was true of the Egyptians, the Aztecs, the Romans and Jews. As Christianity spread throughout the world, first through the travels of the early Apostles, and later by the growing Catholic Church, the teachings of Christ were often subverted and forgotten. The masses did not understand the simplest tenets of their own beliefs, for services were held in a language they did not understand and read from Bibles they could not read.

When Martin Luther published his famous The Ninety-five theses in 1519, he sparked a reformation, and shook the world to its foundation. With the invention of the printing press, believers had access to translations of the Bible for the first time, and the Catholic Church lost its monopoly on the faithful. In many ways, the reformation was about returning to the past, rediscovering something  true and old, rather than finding something new.

The core of the reformation was the primacy of the cross,  placing faith above works, and Justification by grace, which is not earned, but rather comes from God himself. The reformation focused on the teachings of Jesus rather than the laws of men. This, too was later twisted for political ends, with the rise of nationalism throughout Europe.

after_the_world_by_Lifrasthir.png

Christianity in America needs a reformation

As the 2016 election looms, the Christian vote becomes crucial in determining who the next President of the United States will be. Once again, politics and religion are interwoven, and with consequences which will reverberate around the globe. Christians in the United States are not as homogeneous as the Catholic Church was, but over the last forty years the evangelical movement has morphed into a political beast which equates belief and faith with a clear political agenda. It’s an agenda that is often blatantly contradictory to what Jesus taught.

As the younger generation leave churches across the country in droves and membership dwindles,  prominent church leaders scratch their heads and bemoan the intrusion of humanism and secularism, point fingers at liberals, and grow more conservative. Rather than turning to the cross, they instead turn to politics.

Here are a few important ideas that seem to have vanished from the collective Christian mind in America:

Judge not

You, therefore have no excuse, you who pass judgement upon someone else, for at whatever point you judge the other, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgement do the same things.” (Romans 2:1)

With the absurd debate over transgender bathrooms and gay-rights all over the news, Christians seem oddly focused upon codifying their judgements, and howling insults and hate from the pulpit and the rooftop. This is not only contradictory to what the New Testament teaches, but it also serves to drive a wedge between believers. It is a terrible stumbling block for many. Hypocrisy and judgment will kill belief as surely as the plague, and the church in the U.S. is ravished by these things.

Humility

“For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” (Luke 14:11)

Jesus taught much about humility. Not the kind of humility that we should take pride in and use as a weapon, but actual humility. Somehow, Christians still line up behind leaders, both religious and political, who exalt themselves every day. From the T.V. preachers with fleets of jets to Donald Trump, Christians get behind these clowns in spite of the obvious contradictions between what they profess, what they do, and what they actually believe.

“Woe unto you Pharisees, because you give God a tenth of your mint, rue and all the other kinds of garden herbs, but you neglect justice and the love of God. You should have practiced the latter without leaving the former undone. Woe to you Pharisees, because you love the most important seats in the synagogues and greetings in the marketplaces.” (Luke 11:42-43)

By focusing on law, men turn from the truth. Laws are of man, while God is God. Yet here in America, we have reverted back to the same sort of legalistic thinking which led Jesus to revile the Pharisees. Law becomes subversive to faith, eroding it, undermining it, ultimately destroying it.

Jesus preached charity

“One thing you lack,” he said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” (Mark 10:21)

“What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? (Matthew 16:26)

In the United States, where success is conflated with goodness, this idea of charity has been engulfed by the religion of capitalism. Prominent church leaders and politicians have made the claim that God invented capitalism, which has nothing to do with Christ. Worse, the poor are paid lip-service on Sunday morning, then demonized throughout the week, called lazy, freeloaders, and nastier things by talking heads on the news. Folks ought to re-read the Sermon on the Mount, and then the rest of the Gospels.

poverty 1

While there is nothing wrong with wanting a limited government, this demonization of the poor has taken on tones that would make Jesus weep, and many Christians speak this sort of hate with their own mouths.

Jesus taught love

At the heart of Christian belief is love. Love is the greatest commandment.

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. ” (Matthew 22:37)

We have forgotten this, it seems, in America. We routinely see hateful speech coming from those who sit in pews every Sunday, from those who preach at the pulpit, and from leaders who sway voters because they make the claim that they are Christian.

While Jesus spent most of his time with outcasts, criminals, and prostitutes, in churches all across this country there is the spirit of judgement, exclusion and hate, rather than that of acceptance and love.

Conclusion

Since the rise of the “Moral Majority” in 1979, the Christian Right has become a potent political force in the United States, with the majority of Christians identifying with the Republican Party.

Now that Donald Trump is the presumptive GOP nominee, it’s time for Christians to re-examine their faith as it pertains to politics. Because Trump’s entire existence on this planet has been defined by greed, hate, infidelity, arrogance, and lies.

Regardless of the outcome of this Presidential election, the church across America needs to solve the problem at its core. The only way to do that is to turn back to the words of Christ.

 

 

Tears of Abraham, now Available!

What would another civil war really look like? That’s the question I try to answer with this new thriller, set in the near future.

abraham cover final

The country is more polarized than it has been at any time since the years leading up to the first Civil War, and there is a deep undercurrent of anger which is now spilling onto the streets. If Democrats win the White House, where does all that rage go? There is a revolution of some sort on the horizon, and it is my fervent prayer that it’s not the violent kind. Once, folks on the fringe spoke of it in whispers, but now the idea is gaining traction, with politicians and leaders using rhetoric designed to incite outrage.

One reader noted that “if Hemingway and Clancy wrote a novel about the next American Civil War, it would be this book.”

I wrote this book to entertain, but also to spark a dialog. Those who clamor for war seldom know what that really means, what the cost will be.

I hope you will read, enjoy, and talk about it!

http://www.amazon.com/Tears-Abraham-Sean-T-Smith/dp/1618688197

 

 

 

 

America Never Stopped Being Great…and here’s why.

Breaking-Light-in-Lamar-ValleyThe sky is not falling. Despite the ongoing narrative from many politicians who capitalize on fear and anger, America is still a great nation. We are bombarded by posts on social media and on the evening news claiming that the country is in free-fall. That we have squandered the light which made us a beacon of hope to the world. Nonsense.

We have plenty of problems, and I write  often about them. In spite of our flaws and our divisions, the United States remains great and will continue to be unless we allow ourselves to succumb to the self-fulfilling prophecy these political clowns and talking heads are perpetuating. In terms of opportunity, ideals, economy, resources, and global power, the U.S. is yet a “city on a hill” which far surpasses the hopes of even our visionary founding fathers.

Why is everyone so angry and afraid?

Scroll through your news feed on any social media site. “We have gone off the rails,” Trump howls. “God’s judgement is upon us,” Cruz wails. “When a million people stand up and fight, they win,” Bernie extols. But Sharia Law is not coming, our guns aren’t being confiscated, Mexicans aren’t streaming across the borders raping and pillaging in hordes, and FEMA won’t stick you into a death camp. The gloom and doom makes you want to build a bunker and start stockpiling seeds food for the coming apocalypse.

The trouble is, this insidious mentality has crept into our national psyche in a way that endangers the future. This fear-based thinking ignores reality, overshadows the things that are true and good all around us. So here are some things to remember.

Ideals

Democracy works. America began the “great experiment,” and despite the absurd Presidential election we are watching, the Republic is still the best thing going. The division of power between the branches of government functions as it was designed to, and the Constitution remains intact. Yes, there are issues, and Congress and the Executive branch often don’t get along. That’s by design.

The U.S. continues to champion  human rights and democratic ideals around the world, and while there is some hypocrisy there, the truth is undeniable that the U.S. does much good in the world. When there is a terrible tsunami, earthquake, or genocide, the world still turns to the United States.

We have come far as a country. Black people are no longer considered 3/4 of a person and aren’t chattel; we have a black president. Women can vote, and we might have a woman in the Oval Office within the next decade. We have made great strides in the war on poverty and gay rights. Freedom of religion, the arguably single most important founding principle upon which our nation was built, is still protected.

Economy

The United States has by far the most powerful in the world and this will continue to be true for the foreseeable future. Employment is up, the national debt is down, and we may well see a balanced budget again soon. Listening to the politicians, you’d think that the U.S. ranked just above Afghanistan in terms of GDP.

20-largest-economies

Resources

Our national resources made this country the envy of the world. Of course, our greatest resource is our people. We are a melting pot, and still attract the best and brightest from around the globe. In terms of sheer natural resources, the U.S. continues to be at the forefront, coming in at #2 behind only Russia. Forest, coal, water, oil, and natural gas are tremendous national assets. The U.S. is ahead of Russia with its ability to exploit these resources, and will do more to protect and manage them.

Despite the fact that the U.S. is falling behind many western countries in education, the existing brainpower of our populace continues to exert a significant “brain drain” on the rest of the world. Our scientists lead the world in more fields than we can count, and we are on the cutting edge of technology, health-care, and entertainment.

Power

Listening to Donald Trump pound a podium, one could be led to believe that Putin is holding off on invading Europe and the East Coast only because Trump might win. God forbid. We hear about catastrophic cuts to defense and claims that the Obama presidency has weakened our armed forces beyond repair, making us vulnerable to threats real and imagined. The truth is, Russia is aggressive, and so is China. So how does U.S. defense stack up? Note the disparity in spending between the United States and the rest of the world.

bi_graphics_globalfirepower

For those of you who read my work, you may guess that I’m a hawk. I’m certainly for maintaining a robust military. The United States is able to influence global geopolitics because of both its economic and military strength. Our Navy continues to add new ships with staggering technology and capabilities. Our Air Force boasts the most lethal fighter jets and bombers in the sky. Our infantry is the best-trained on the planet, and our special forces operators are the most deadly.

Culture

America gave the world Rock and Roll, Blues and Jazz, Saving Private Ryan, Grapes of Wrath and Born to Run.

Our innovations birthed the internet, the i-Phone, Microsoft, and Tesla. We are risk-takers and explorers, and we’re stubborn. The Protestant work ethic is strong in us, and while our values have evolved with the times, the Christian ideals of God, Country, and Family remain at the core of our national soul.

So the next time you hear someone say that we need to “make America great again,” I hope you will remember these things.

The party of Lincoln: Tears of Abraham

  
Lincoln is easily my favorite president, for without him the United States of America would not exist, and the world would be a vastly different place. We’d probably be speaking Russian and waiting in bread lines. Lincoln’s essential goodness propelled the nation to great heights. He was willing to shed blood to truly take America back. He freed the slaves with the Emancipation Proclimation and believed that our greatness lay in our unity.
Lincoln weeps among the stars as he watches Trump pander to the worst in us. Fear. Rage. Suspicion. 

Trump is unwilling to condemn David Duke, former Grand Wizzard of the KKK, and The Donald wants to outlaw an entire religion. The more offensive his is, the higher his ratings go. He is putting the Republican Party out of business. And conservatives know this.

Trump is surfing a wave of outrage, a tsunami of destruction and paranioa crashing into the country and smashing the nation. He won’t win the election. But he isn’t nearly as dangerous as the incoming wall of poision he’s riding. Because those waters won’t recede any time soon.

What happens after Trump looses the general election? Well, I wrote a book about that. Tears of Abraham releases March 22 2016. The first Civil War was bloody. The next one will be worse.

http://www.amazon.com/Tears-Abraham-Sean-T-Smith/dp/1618688197

JEA: Take the Power From the People

JEA
Thomas Jefferson said “the sheep are happier left to themselves, than under the care of the wolves.” As the Jacksonville Electric Authority eyes proposed changes to regulations for roof-top solar, this public utility must decide what sort of entity it is: will it build community, which is its motto, or destroy it. At the recent board meeting held on the opulent 18th floor of the JEA tower, the board listened patiently to members of the Jacksonville business community and concerned citizens . Let’s hope they actually heard.
What is the plan?
In broad terms, JEA would like to reduce the buyback rate for grid-tied solar by 36%, which will do great harm to the burgeoning industry and the community itself. Essentially, they would like to charge homeowners one fee for the power they use, but reduce the credit given for the electricity the resident creates with a solar array. This makes solar less economically attractive for business owners and residential customers alike.
Why would utilities do this?
The unfounded argument that utilities use to justify proposals like this is that consumers without solar subsidize those who do. This has been refuted over and over again all over the country. Policies like this are incredibly short –sighted. JEA has an enormous solar farm, and is committed to adding to this over the course of this year. That’s a good thing, something to be applauded. What is unacceptable is the underlying idea that the utility would like to generate its own solar power, but crush the ability of the average homeowner to do the same thing. JEA seems to believe that the two are somehow mutually exclusive, when the reality is that more generation capacity is a good thing.
Hostile Takeover
If these proposed changes go into effect, JEA will have quietly committed the hostile takeover of solar in its service area. Public-owned utilities aren’t supposed to behave this way. In Nevada, something similar is occurring now, where a utility owned by Berkshire Hathaway destroyed the economics of roof-top solar overnight with the stroke of a pen. In Jacksonville, solar accounts for a tiny fraction of the total electricity generated. While it is true that the utility is losing some revenue stream, it is also benefiting from the increased production of energy. There is no justification for a utility owned by the people to follow Sun Tzu and act like there is a war, because the people will wind up losing.
Impacts
Real people with real jobs will be put out of work by these proposed changes. The economic ripples will wash over families and communities. Can a company with the motto “building community,” move forward with a plan which will actively destroy lives and smash an entire sector of that very community?

solar2
Perception
Renewable energy is the future, and Jacksonville would like to define itself as a forward-thinking, vibrant city of tomorrow, rather than the slightly smelly backwater the name conjured in years past, where folks are set in their ways and change is seen as a threat. We are better than that, on our way to becoming vibrant, diverse, and truly metropolitan.
Our city needs to attract more businesses, more intellect, and the energy of youth. One of the most impactful speakers at the Board of Directors meeting was a self-proclaimed millennial. He pointed out that the eyes of the country are upon us. This proposal is a step backwards in every way for this great city, for these changes will stifle growth and stain the community with small-mindedness and stagnation.
Conclusion
The people overwhelmingly support solar in Jacksonville and around the country. President Bush set up the federal tax credit in 2008 to spur the growth of the industry, and the growth of solar has exceed all expectations. Our citizens want solar.
This proposal from JEA runs counter to the will of the people it is chartered to serve. So call your congressman, write the Mayor’s office, bug your city councilman, and let them know that you think these changes are unfair. Beat back the wolf.

America Divided: Trump and The Next Civil War

abraham cover final

I hoped the GOP would field a candidate that represented the best in the United States. I would have voted for that person, but it looks like we won’t have that option. Trump will win the nomination and leave the majority of the country and the world shaking their collective heads. How did this happen, and what will the consequences be?

Trump appeals to angry Americans who feel threatened, unheard, and disenfranchised, and to these folks The Donald is a beltway outsider willing to say and do whatever it takes to take America back. He is the candidate of insult and outrage, capitalizing on the mistrust of anyone “not quite American.” He wants to build a wall along the southern border and insists that Mexico pay for it and prevent Muslims from entering the country with some magical Muslim detector he will no doubt install at airports around the world. He is quick to attack the poor, pointing a finger at entitlements and insinuating that our economic problems would be solved by eliminating food stamps and medicaid.

The billionaire is a brilliant politician, somehow resonating with families who live paycheck to paycheck, convincing them that he is on their side. It appears that no matter how outrageous, inflammatory, and false his statements are, his double-digit lead will only continue to widen. He is Frankenstein’s monster, birthed by the FOX News propaganda machine, empowered by the Tea Party, which ostensibly believes in less government. Trump beyond the control of the GOP establishment now, and is bashing his way through the countryside.

The Election

Trump will win the GOP nomination. Either Hillary or Sanders will win the Democratic nomination.

In a general election, poll after poll shows either Hillary or Sanders beating trump soundly. Sanders will be able to steal many swing voters and independents, while Hillary will galvanize her base. This outcome is what scares the hell out of me, along with the GOP establishment.

After a long campaign rife with mud-slinging, veiled hatred, and ever increasing vitriol, what happens when the Democrats win? Where does all the outrage go?

Rumors of War

Texas will not go quietly. Petitions have circulated in the Lone Star state to secede from the Union. Remember Jade Helm? The distrust of the federal government runs deep in the south. When the election is over and the Republicans lose again, many citizens will feel that the outcome is unfair, that they have not been heard. More hate groups will spring up, more militias. At some point, Hillary just might get aggressive about gun control. The next President will not be able to heal a nation that fractured years ago.

Texas could sustain itself as a separate country, with its industrial, economic, and agricultural base. Texas has ports for international trade, and of course, oil. If Texas goes, much of the south will go with it.

The next President will have a hard decision to make. Abraham Lincoln chose to go to war to preserve the Union; what will Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders do?

a

War

The first Civil War took more than 600,000 American lives. The next war will be worse. We didn’t have nuclear weapons, tanks, fighter jets, or drones in 1862.

Take America Back

We are the nation that invented Rock and Roll, the light bulb, and the internet. America stopped Hitler and put men on the moon. We are innovative, hard working, and decent. The American Dream is more real to the rest of the world than it here within our borders. We are admired for our goodness yet we doubt ourselves and fight one another. The ideals of our founding fathers have been usurped, eroded, and manipulated.

Our great republic is now an oligarchy where elections are bought and sold to the highest bidder. We have been played. We must not succumb to the hate and steady stream of misinformation, but instead fight back with our votes, with acts of kindness, and open conversation with people we disagree with. Rather than howling, we should converse. There is no reason for us to be this polarized.

My next novel, Tears of Abraham is about the coming war, seen through the eyes of heroes, innocents, and villains. I believe in the essential goodness of the American people, and I hope that we can drown out the sound of evil.

 

 

http://www.amazon.com/Sean-T.-Smith/e/B00IKHPGEK

 

The Trumping of America

Donald Trump saying "YOUR FIRED" NBC Upfront for 2005-2006 Fall Line up, at Radio City Music Hall, New Tork City. May 16, 2005. John Spellman / Retna Ltd.

Donald Trump saying “YOUR FIRED”
NBC Upfront for 2005-2006 Fall Line up, at Radio City Music Hall, New Tork City. May 16, 2005.
John Spellman / Retna Ltd.

When Trump threw his toupee into the ring back in June, I dismissed him, like most Americans did, as a pretender grandstanding to satisfy his ego. The latest polls have him more than ten points ahead of the closest Republican contender, and giving Hillary Clinton a serious run for her money in the national general election. How is this possible?

Trump the “straight shooter”

Trump seems to have no filter, and this resonates with Americans sick of politicians speaking from both sides of their mouths. Folks are willing to overlook his faux pas and blunt insults because it appears to be honest, and that’s preferable to business as usual from the beltway. I totally get being disgusted with lying, cheating politicians.

What I don’t understand is how Trump supporters can’t see his bullshit for what it is. He is one of the greatest salesmen in the world, and perhaps that’s why when he makes things up, people swallow the hook. He’s lied about his own draft record, claiming he had a high draft number, when actually he had multiple student deferments, and recently insulted John McCain for being a POW.  He lied about his net worth, claiming that it exceeded TEN BILLION DOLLARS (caps from The Donald) when his net worth is actually 2.9 billion, according to a recent Bloomberg investigation.

He has called global warming a hoax, insulted Mexican immigrants, though he is sure that “some of them are good people,” and laughed off sexual assaults within the U.S. military. He claims that he invented his campaign slogan, when he adopted Regan’s.

Trump the tough guy

Trump presents himself as a tough guy. He’s going to take America back from China. He’s going to stand up to Putin, and challenge him to a knife fight in front of the White House, one shirtless ego against another. He’s going to go to war with Iran, because, well, Iran. He will put boots on the ground to stop ISIS, and the tide of radical Islam will flee before his mighty shadow.

Right.

He says these things, and people believe him because he seems to believe it himself, transmuting his own cognitive dissonance to the rest of a nation hungry to believe.

And that is deadly, end-of-the-world stuff. Saying a thing is true doesn’t make it so. We need a president who is level-headed and has a firm grasp upon geopolitics. Someone who speaks softly, and carries a big stick. Trump is the opposite. He shouts, rather than speaks, drowning out anyone who dares to contradict him.

Smashing the field

He has gutted his fellow Republican contenders, relishing in the insults and meanness, pandering to the cameras. The other politicians don’t seem to know how to fight Trump, and they’re getting kicked in the head while he gloats over them like the puffed up school yard bully that he is. The scary thing is that people like this.

Anyone who consistently refers to themselves in the third person is unfit to lead a nation.

Muddy and Vague

His platform on a wide range of important issues, from immigration to the economy is vague. He makes great claims without the means to back them up, which is typical of politicians, but particularly ironic coming from a man running as an anti-politician.

The 2016 election

Don’t underestimate Trump. He might win. What seems more likely, though, is that he will deliver the election to Hillary. That’s probably why Bill Clinton called the Donald on the phone, encouraging him to run.

Trump’s negative ratings among voters remain high. He’s not polling well among women, and has all but lost the crucial Latino vote. In the vital swing states of Florida, Pennsylvania and Ohio, he trails both Clinton in a match up. Since 1960, the road to the Oval Office goes through these states.

Republicans have good reason to worry. So does the rest of the  world.

114c933a8d981a273b7188700ad4a80d

TEARS OF ABRAHAM, cover reveal and signing announcement!

abraham cover final

The first Civil War was the bloodiest conflict in American history. The second war is worse.

While the nation tears itself apart, a soldier with a deadly secret fights his way home to his family.

Freedom is worth dying for, and love is a reason to live…but a house divided cannot stand.

Can Henry, Suzanne and the United States survive? Often the things we love we hurt the most.

Bestselling author Steve Konkoly says:

Tears of Abraham delivers a frightening look at a nation torn apart by a not so distant civil war. In classic Smith style, the conflict unfolds on a deeply personal level, delivering a guy punch of authentic military style action, sleek conspiracy undertones, and gripping family drama. I was hooked from the start by this uniquely dystopian military thriller.”

This is a deeply patriotic novel, my love letter to America. Should our differences lead to open war, the results will be beyond anything we can imagine, yet even now people clamor for secession without understanding what that would mean. While politics forms a backdrop to this book, it is essentially apolitical, a look at a conflict more than a hundred years in the making through the eyes of heroes, villains, and the innocent.

TEARS OF ABRAHAM will be released in March 2016, published by Post Hill Press and distributed by Simon & Schuster.

http://www.amazon.com/Sean-T.-Smith/e/B00IKHPGEK