Tuesday, May 5, 2015

James Edward Jeter a.k.a. @JEDTHEFISH7 Arrested for Domestic Violence and Battery

I was a little surprised to learn that one of the young Democrats attacking me on Twitter actually got himself arrested for battery and domestic violence. His name is James Edward Jeter and his Twitter handle is @JEDTHEFISH7.

He was foolish enough to post his own inmate card on Twitter so I suppose it doesn't matter if I share it with you now. He seemed to take a perverse pride in the fact that he spent time in prison.

While I and some conservative friends were making fun of his arrest record, drug use, and liberal politics, I noticed something was up when he failed to come clean about why he was arrested in Las Vegas, NV. I assumed that it was some sex-related offense that would be embarrassing to him. In reality, however, it turns out he was arrested for domestic violence and battery about three years ago. That's serious as a heart attack. You can check out his arrest record here.

I supposed I'm interested in this case because I just don't understand how a young white person living in the South could vote for Barack Obama. It makes no sense to me that any young white person living anywhere in America would support a party that discriminates against them through affirmative action or sets up barriers that make it harder for young whites to succeed. Yet, somehow, Obama has won the support of folks like James Edward Jeter.

I suppose that Mr. Jeter is part of a dangerous, drug-using element of our society, and that people like him feel they have no place in the Republican party. At home in the Democrat party, Mr. Jeter is happy to spout off on liberal topics including the definition of feminism.

Maybe this sad case instructs us on how we should define the difference between Republicans and Democrats. If you've been arrested for domestic violence and battery, then the Democrat party has a place for you right next to @JEDTHEFISH7, Sen. Ted Kennedy and President Clinton.

John C. Drew, Ph.D. is an award-winning political scientist.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Constructing His Own Reality: Thoughts on Former MV Planning Commissioner Robert (Bob) Bruchmann

I just got back from a bizarre meeting of my HOA's board of directors. As I was discussing our new PEX project, good old Robert (Bob) Bruchman was flipping me off in front of my fellow homeowners and board members. This guy is really out of control. He was doing this in an immature, passive-aggressive fashion as if he was just rubbing his nose while starring at me. This sort of childish, unprofessional behavior seems to be the norm for a fellow who thinks of himself as a professional in the construction management field.

As you may know, my HOA is in the midst of a $2 million PEX installation project. So far, I have been deeply disappointed by the the work of Robert (Bob) Bruchmann who was hired to provide oversight to this project. Bruchmann, by the way, is a former Planning Commissioner for the City of Mission Viejo. The first thing I need to point out is that the quality of the work done under Bob's supervision through his consulting company Construction Resource Services, Inc. has been much lower than I expected.

Crooked hose bib approved by Robert
Bruchmann. Note that the faucet itself is
not flush with the wall.
As you can see from the photo to the right, Bob Bruchmann is approving low quality work. In this photo you can see that the faucet is not flush with the wall and that it is sticking out crooked. This is the sort of crappy looking work that reduces the curb appeal of my unit.

What concerns me the most, however, is that I simply do not trust this guy. I heard a complaint from a fellow homeowner indicating that Bob Bruchmann swore at her.When I asked Bob about this matter, he indicated that this homeowner was the one using foul language. Bob wrote me about this interaction indicating that the neighbor "...who's allegation foul language was in fact coming from her mouth as many in the neighbor will assert..."

The problem with this statement, however, is that Robert Bruchmann has made a similar allegation in the past, claiming that others were inaccurate when he was reported for making an intemperate remark. For example, the president of the California Republican Assembly, Celeste Grieg, reported to the Orange County Register that her local members said Bruchmann was cursing and became belligerent at a meeting "because he was upset that Saddleback Republican Assembly didn't endorse a person he was supporting." According to Celeste Grieg,

Here you have a man that comes with his own agenda, becomes belligerent, and then starts making accusations that he's going to destroy (Saddleback) RA. The best thing is to ignore him. I wish him good luck, God bless him, and I hope that where ever he goes, people are aware about the type of person (he is).

Grieg also defended the SRA, calling the group "people who have no reason to lie," and she described the
Eilenn Childs and Robert Bruchmann
complain about being denied membership
in local California Republican Assembly group.
members as decent, respectable and honorable.

Instead of apologizing, Bob Bruchmann basically accused the local CRA folks of lying about him. He said he never stood up or said a word, adding that "once I told Matt that I was going to stay and listen to what they were going to say I had nothing more to say." In my opinion, the disagreeable Robert (Bob) Bruchmann described in the Orange County Register article is the same out of control guy making implausible statements here at Del Prado HOA. 

When I asked Bob Bruchmann about this, he responded with petulant fury. He wrote me: 

Drew your comment concerning a political report is so unintelligent based on political attacks that I fear you often speak without thinking through your shallow assessments of many situation.  Politics by people that are challenged by those with a different political opinion will lie in any effort to gain advantage. Perhaps you may remember the Speaker of the House lied about Romney not paying taxes in the last presidential race, and recently after it was proven he lied, did not have the moral or ethical character to admit he lied. Many folks that have been highly educated with lots of initials after their name lack character simply because they think they are smarter then regular folks. Wise up John!

As any normal person would note, Bob Bruchmann does not understand that Gov. Romney was attacked by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, not Speaker of the House John Boehner.

Bob Bruchmann is so obnoxious that he accused the editor of the Mission Viejo Dispatch of lying about him, while his fellow commissioners on the Mission Viejo Planning Commission voted to depose him from his Chairmanship position. In this instance, Bruchmann again behaved in a bizarre fashion according to an article in the Mission Viejo Dispatch:

The commissioners took up the issue at the beginning of the meeting. Bruchmann immediately read a statement attacking his detractors and defending his previous media statements disparaging some commissioners and council members. He then marched out of the meeting, left the building, and never returned. Bob is Trish Kelley’s appointee to the Commission. He was selected in January by his four colleagues for a one-year stint as chair, but in May Rick Sandzimier made an unsuccessful motion to remove him, expressing concern that meetings were being conducted in an unprofessional manner. The issue resurfaced at the September meeting after Bruchmann wrote a comment to the Dispatch chastising Commissioners Ernisse and Swan for their opposition to high density housing. Ernisse and Swan said it was unacceptable for Bruchmann to make false public statements about the Commission, and the removal issue was agendized for October. The discussion included Bruchmann’s combative style and disrespect shown toward residents and fellow commissioners.Vice-Chair Spillman agreed a chairman should foster discussion instead of curtailing debate, but he did not join the other three in ousting the Chairman.

All in all, I think it is fair to say that Bob Bruchmann is a loose cannon with a bad memory. He is the sort of person who has a bad habit of erupting in public when people disagree with him. I cannot, with a clear conscience, recommend him to any HOA as a construction consultant. I also check the registration for his company, Construction Resource Services, Inc. and discovered that it had been suspended by the Franchise Tax Board. Mr. Bruchmann insists Construction Resource Services, Inc. is incorporated in another state, but he has not provided me with information on which state that is as of yet. Like CRA president Celeste Grieg, I hope that where ever he goes, people are aware about the type of person he is.

John C. Drew, Ph.D. is an award-winning political scientist.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

The Fifth Way: A Journey to the Heart of an Aramaic Jesus by David Brisbin, MDiv, LPPC

By all reasonable accounts the Christian church is in decline right now. Consequently, I am grateful that Fifth Way: A Western Journey to the Hebrew Heart of Jesus courageously applies the latest in Bible scholarship to trace out, in a very personal manner, the implications of living a Christian life that reflects the unquestionable Jewishness of the Aramaic Jesus.
Cover art for Dave Brisbin's second revised
version of The Fifth Way: A Western
Journey to the Hebrew Heart of Jesus.

David Brisbin is championing a fresh take on the Aramaic Jesus, an approach which may turn things around for Christianity and provide the wholesome insight of Christ to a new generation of believers. As such, I see Brisbin’s book as an extremely important contribution in a world where it seems as if pastors themselves are perhaps too squeamish about the messy details of Bible scholarship. In contrast, Brisbane’s book suggests a fresh approach to life that depends on trust in God, comfort with ambiguity, and a large dose of forgiveness. In my view, these are three ideas that remind me a great deal of the teachings of Jesus himself. Brisbin even seems to mirror Christ’s somewhat annoying mysterious by asserting that the Fifth Way taught by Jesus cannot be adequately captured in books.  It can only be experienced by living life, moment to moment, in complete trust in God.

As far as I can tell, Brisbane perspective is influenced by – but cannot be reduced to - his sincere seeking of the Lord in the context of Brisbin’s shame as both a childhood survivor of sexual abuse and as a Catholic divorcee. His carefully planned book presents us with a compelling account of the scriptural study and daily practice which left him content with the cheerful knowledge that he is loved by God.  His main metaphor is the vision that we are frogs living in a deep well, blind to the realities of the larger world outside the well. As we ask God to help us, Brisbin suggests we may be surprised to experience shovel loads of dirt dumped on our heads. Brisbin suggests that what seems like an inappropriate response to our heartfelt prayers may actually be our God’s rather mundane way of filling up our wells and slowly raising us up to the surface of the planet.

As a political scientist, I especially enjoyed the manner in which Brisbane describes the other four ways by leveraging the work of Josephus, a first century Jewish historian. As you may remember, Josephus categorized Jewish political life around the time of Jesus according to different ways of reacting to the impact of Roman colonialism. Brisbin, for example, sees the Sadducees as yielding to superior force and profiting from their control of the Second Temple. He sees the Pharisees as seeking to manipulate that superior force through religiously based arguments. He sees the Essences as fleeing the oppressive situation by moving to isolated desert locations where they practiced a monastic lifestyle. Brisbin surprises me the most, however, by including the Zealots in his model. He sees the Zealots as the ones who resist through their efforts to fight back against Roman rule, an effort highlighted by the Zealot’s willingness to die at the Judean fortress Masada.

In this historic context, Brisbin sees Jesus teaching a healthier Fifth Way.  For example, Brisbin relies on existing scholarship to help us better understand the words of Jesus through the lens of the Hebrew/Aramaic language and traditional Jewish idioms. This focus on the Jewishness of Jesus makes Jesus’s words much easier to understand and less likely to cause befuddlement or off-the-cuff rejection.

As such, I think it is fair to say that Brisbin’s The Fifth Way represents a rather substantial popularization of recent scholarship regarding the creation of the New Testament and shares Brisbin’s excitement regarding the potential healing qualities of an improved understanding of the Aramaic language and the Jewish culture of Jesus.  Consequently, I also think it is fair to say that this is a timely and contemporary book that puts this new scholarship into an agreeable and practically accessible form. It leaves us with a fresh take on Jesus which, for most readers, should take away much of the guilt, shame and confusion they may experience when they initially access the New Testament. Brisbin’s book will also give those who are already intuitively clear about the consistency of Jesus’s message quick access to the source material they need to persuade those who may, or may not, be relying on the latest linguistic and scientific advances in Christian theology.

I imagine that Brisbin’s critics will point out that Western civilization - with all its guilt and shame - seems to have been doing pretty well without the assistance of what we learn from modern Bible scholarship.  

Even Brisbin suggests that while increased information can easily give us a truthful and easier-to-understand Jesus, it may not give us the sort of Jesus that appeals to television viewers or facilitates the growth of large standing armies. Nevertheless, I suppose the good news about the Good News is that Brisbin has paddled into the ocean of this new scholarship and he has now come back to report to us that the surfing is pretty good. His personal testing of this Fifth Way gives me confidence that greater scientific knowledge about Jesus and his Jewishness will allow us to hold tight to much of what is most attractive about Christianity, while also allowing us to mercifully dispense with what has become unattractive and inappropriate about Christianity. From my perspective as an ex-Marxist, Tea Party activist, I can report that I feel comfortable with Brisbin’s overview of contemporary issues and his defense of a slightly more complex Christian world view, a world view which allows me to feel more comfortable with divorce and assisted suicide, while still allowing me to remain unhappy with gay marriage and the sheer evil of Communism.

After attending Brisbin’s church and reading his book, I certainly have the feeling that he is a good guy to have as a friend and that his cheerful manner provides a realistic way to enjoy a joyous and free life.  The book provides a dependable example of this approach when he reports how he attempted to help a young women deal with anger, guilt, and shame she felt for a friend who left the Christian faith for Judaism and then later committed suicide. The story shows us how Brisbin’s perspective allows him to comfort the young woman through Biblically based knowledge in a manner reminiscent of how Jesus himself dealt with religious conflicts and deep-seated guilt. This story certainly provides an accurate description of the Dave Brisbin I have met in real life at the church, theeffect, where he serves as the teaching pastor. 

Over the course of the book, the reader will experience some of the healing and comfort Brisbin provides on a daily basis. With his words, we gain a contemporary look at the historic Jesus who offers a Fifth Way in which we can escape the stoning of our peers and simply go and sin no more. It is a book that will soften the heart of the Christian atheist and enlarge the heart of the Christian seeker. It may even be the book that turns things around for the Christian church and the larger civic culture that depends on it.

John C. Drew, Ph.D. is an award-winning political scientist.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

It Takes a Village: Rethinking the Prodigal Son with Ken Baugh

Trish and I visited Capo Beach Church in San Clemente yesterday to hear our ex-pastor, Ken Baugh, speak on the topic of the prodigal son. I say ex-pastor when I should say real pastor, since I feel like a step-child who absolutely refuses to acknowledge the new dad in mom's life. At any rate, our real pastor set the prodigal son story into a fresh framework regarding how village life took place in the time of Christ.

The gist of the message is that it makes all the difference in the world to see the prodigal son and his father as living in the center of a small village surrounded by a protective wall. This, of course, is in contrast to my usual vision of the father as living on a large hacienda in the middle of a ranch in the middle of nowhere. As far as I can tell, Baugh's fresh perspective is inspired, in part, by Kenneth Bailey's book, Finding the Lost Cultural Keys to Luke 15, (St. Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House, 1992).  A later version of this bookThe Cross & the Prodigal: Luke 15 Through the Eyes of Middle Eastern Peasants (Downers Grove: Intervarsity Press, 2005) was honored in 2006 as a "Year's Best Book for Preachers" by Preaching magazine.

The gist of the argument is that the prodigal son is a much more exciting story when you see the story retold from the perspective that both the father and son were living in a tight compact village. In this interpretation, the son's demand for his inheritance looks more disrespectful, and his sudden desire to cash it out and move to another country looks like a means of escaping the offended villagers. Likewise, the father's running out to meet his prodigal son looks more like an attempt to protect the son from the hostility of the villagers than a made dash of parental enthusiasm. Finally, the feast itself appears to be a way of rehabilitating the prodigal son into the life of the community. 

As such, this version of the study - as a tool of insight into the personality of God - leaves us with an image of a God who is willing to sacrifice everything to win back his errant son. In a larger sense this interpretation is quite significant, as I understand it, since Muslims have used this story to suggest that Jesus's sacrifice is unnecessary to securing God's forgiveness. When we reinterpret the story as a tale of the father's sacrificial love, then the Christian meaning of the story becomes more clear. 

At any rate, it was great fun to see Ken Baugh in action again. This was one of his most interesting sermons and a real eyeopener when it comes to understanding Jesus in his own historical context. It was refreshing to see Ken Baugh in good form. I should also report it looked to me like there were about 18 of us Coast Hills Church folks in the crowd. Our attendance was a subtle reminder for Ken Baugh that we have his back and that we miss him, his message and his trustworthy scholarship.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Not Now Honey, I'm Sniping: My Take on Clint Eastwood's New Film

I am surprised to report that I was disappointed in American Sniper. I thought it was going to be a glorified look at how the U.S. is using every tool in its toolbox to stop Islamic extremism. Instead, I was treated to a version of Chris Kyle's life that celebrates his ability to multi-task regarding his over-watch responsibilities with his wife's need for attention.

While I would have been okay with an Navy SEALs in Iraq version of Top Shot, I found myself bored that Clint Eastwood gave us a remarkably clumsy romance, nearly constant marital discord, complaints about Chris Kyle's emotional unavailability. Instead of the informative, heroic story I was looking for, I witnessed Chris Kyle obsessively calling his wife back home in the U.S. (I find it annoying when my wife calls me at work.) I was not expecting to see a film about how war interferes with domestic tranquility.

For all these reasons, I was not surprised to learn from a recent story in PJ Media that Taya Kyle played a large role in the film according to lead actor, Bradley Cooper.
When filming, Cooper said he was focused on being accurate toward Kyle’s character, so his personal thoughts about America’s War on Terror did not come into play. “The honor, it’s right there, I’m standing next to Taya Kyle and any time you get to play an individual who has really lived, or is alive, that’s a privilege but especially when it’s this man, Chris, and the fact that we were going to do it while he was alive and then I continued once he died and she really was the reason why it became the film that it became, you know, that’s the honor,” Cooper said at the Washington screening of American Sniper, which was directed by Clint Eastwood.
I have a hard time understanding why this movie broke so many box office records given its decidedly misguided approach . It was fun, of course, to see a little about Navy SEAL training. I was reminded of those moments in my own life when, in the company of other men, you needed to know that a man is straight before you mercilessly joked about him being a fag. By end of the movie, however, the only parts that really got my attention where the examples of Islamic cruelty in the form of a woman pressing her child into grenade throwing, an evil enforcer who uses a drill on a child, and a sudden invasion of a restaurant/torture chamber. The parts of the movie that caught my attention were not consistent with either Kyle's book or the truth.

Concerns about how the Qur'an encourages child soldiers, the murder of innocents and the use of cruel torture techniques had little resonance with Mr. Cooper:
PJ Media asked Cooper if working on the film changed his perspective of the War on Terror.
“Never even thought about it. It was all about being accurate toward that character [Chris Kyle] and what he went through and that’s always been the intent … to create and reflect the human that I got to know and that she [Taya Kyle] knew as her husband,” Cooper said.

Following tradition, Kyle's fellow warriors pounded 
more than 100 Navy SEAL trident pins into his casket.
I thought this movie was popular because it was a creative take on how the most lethal sniper in U.S. military history managed to accumulate 160 confirmed kills out of 255 probable kills by blowing off the heads of those who wish us ill. After all, American Sniper is based on Chris Kyle's autobiography American Sniper: The Autobiography of the Most Lethal Sniper in U.S. Military History. This movie, however, seems do everything its power to distract from content advertised in the book's title. For me, the best part of the film was watching the work of Kevin “Dauber” Lacz, a former Navy SEAL who served two combat deployments to Iraq. In a couple of scenes, Lacz is shown calmly and quickly picking off the bad guys in a manner that I believe was reminiscent of the real Chris Kyle. Lacz was brought into the film as the SEAL technical adviser and was persuaded by the star, Bradley Cooper, to play a role in the film.

The movie had so many liberal micro-aggressions in it I am starting to wonder why liberals pan the film as an ideological affront. One of the bad guys - an expert insurgent sniper, "Mustafa" - is portrayed as a person who is at least as courageous as Chris Kyle. Mustafa is a former Olympian who works alone and jumps from rooftop to rooftop like a fully armed deer. Eastwood wants to remind us that our enemies have virtues too. Later, angry Iraqis swarm Chris Kyle's unit in a not so subtle attempt to let us know the U.S. is not entirely popular among the people it is trying to protect. The moral of the film seems to be that if you are going to survive as a sniper you need to repress your intellectual curiosity about your cause and listen to your wife about when it is time to quit.

All in all, I have to agree with the critics who see this movie as a troubled look at war, instead of a patriotic celebration of how the U.S. delivers justice overseas. I am with David Denby of The New Yorker who described the film as "Both a devastating war movie and a devastating antiwar movie, a subdued celebration of a warrior's skill and a sorrowful lament over his alienation and misery."

Among conservatives, we are apparently so hungry for a positive portrayal of American soldiers that Eastwood's Hollywood version of Chris Kyle's book is met with praise from Sarah Palin. I still do not get it. I would have liked to have learned more about what made Chris Kyle and Kevin Lacz effective snipers. I would have been okay with being exposed to some of the boredom of sniper life. I am disappointed with a portrayal of this American hero which seeks to remember him mainly as a triumphant family man.

John C. Drew, Ph.D. is an award-winning political scientist.