Nel's New Day

April 28, 2019

The Religions of the Right

The religious right loves guns, wants to own women’s bodies, and listens to rantings of hatred and violence from Dictator Donald Trump (DDT). These leading stories are since their holy time of the Easter weekend on April 19-21:

Yesterday, a young white man killed a woman and injured another three people at a synagogue in Poway, near San Diego, because he hates Jews. The tragedy occurred on the last day of Passover and six months to the day since another gunman killed 11 people at a synagogue in Pittsburgh. At his rally in Green Bay (WI), DDT made a short statement against anti-Semitism and hate “which must be defeated.” Then he launched into his familiar diatribes. The FBI people who investigated him are “scum,” according to DDT. He welcomed “lock her up!” chants about Hillary Clinton—who hasn’t committed any crimes—and then lied about Democrats wanting to execute babies. He denounced the media who covered the event as “sick people.” The day before he again defended protesters at United the Right, the Charlottesville (VA) protest organized and advertised as a racist and which supremacist event. [Photo: the self-described “young, vibrant man” at his rally.]

Two days before the Poway shooting, hundreds of people admired the guns filling a football-field-size venue at the NRA convention, and DDT bragged about pulling out of the international agreement, the Arms Trade Treaty, that regulates arms sales to keep weapons from human rights abusers. Technically, the U.S. has never been in the agreement because the conservative Senate has refused to ratify it since 2013. At least 101 countries have formally agreed to the treaty, and the U.S. joins Iran, North Korea, and Syria in the 29 countries refusing to sign thus far.

Other messages sent to the NRA cult members include “the first to uphold ‘Judeo-Christian values’”; VP Mike Pence’s opposition to the Green New Deal; Sen. Ted Cruz’s (D-TX) ridicule of the Democratic primary; and DDT’s mocking presidential candidate Joe Biden. The biggest cheers came from DDT’s “building the wall” and his lies that 400 miles supposedly built “by the end of next year.”

It was on his way to speak for the fifth consecutive year at the NRA convention that DDT spoke about his being “a young, vibrant man.” The convention was as woebegone as DDT looks in this photo. A schism in the NRA led to Oliver North leaving as president after only one year and Wayne LaPierre staying on as CEO. North didn’t show up at the convention in Indianapolis, leaving LaPierre the floor to accuse North of “extortion” for threatening to release “damaging” information about him.

The NRA had spent $30.3 million for DDT’s presidential campaign, but the money may have been funneled from Russia. Now the NRA has serious financial problems plus the New York AG, Letitia James, is investigating the NRA’s tax-exempt status. Some of the organization’s related businesses have also received subpoenas. James said that the NRA claims to be “a charitable organization” when he’s really “a terrorist organization.” The NRA is chartered in New York. NRA sued its ad firm, Ackerman McQueen, claiming that it won’t turn over financial records. Ackerman was paid $40 million in just 2017. LaPierre accused North of siding with Ackerman to the alarm of some board members. Ackerman is behind NRATV, the online streaming network that annoyed some board members from straying from Second Amendment issues. The network had addressed race wars and depicted trains in the children’s show Thomas & Friends in KKK hoods.

One difficulty came from the NRA Foundation, a charity, transferring over $100 million to the NRA and lending the NRA $5 million in 2017. Unlike donations to NRA, the ones to the Foundation are tax-deductible, which makes the transfer legally questionable. The NRA also paid $18 million since 2010 to the company that produces Under Wild Skies, a hunting show on NRATV. The NRA’s advancement director had a stake in the production company for most of that time, another possible nonprofit violation. These problems could lead to the NRA’s nonprofit status being revoked. In addition, the Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo questioned the NRA for insurance it offers to gun owners.

NRA members also think that leaders of the embattled gun rights group have lost their way and sense of mission. Members also complained about the NRA’s close ties to DDT. One member said to “stick to guns” and “keep your mouth shut about the wall.” Another one cancelled her membership because of the financial scandals. People might want to send IRA their “thoughts and prayers.”

Last Tuesday, the Saudis beheaded 37 citizens, most of them minority Shiites, in a sectarian-driven mass execution. One of them was well-known Shia religious leader, Sheikh Mohammed al-Attiyah. Thus far this year, the Saudis have killed 100 people.  At least six of the 37 killed were minors despite international law that prohibits death sentences for minors. Saudi Arabia has a pattern of executing minors.

Radical Rabbi Shloo Aviner told Jews that burning churches is acceptable if it’s in retribution for Christian actions. He claims that the Notre-Dame Cathedral fire is justified because of “the mass-burning of Talmud volumes by French Catholic priests” in 1242. “Christians must be punished,” Aviner said. The burning of the Talmud almost 800 years was triggered by Nicholas Donin, a Jewish man who converted to Christianity. Aviner doesn’t recommend burning of churches generally—“for the time being”—but in Israel “the issue is more complicated.” The targeting of homes, vehicles, and Palestinian individuals in Israel is a daily occurrence, and the website Mondoweiss notes:

“Several churches have been burnt in Israel in the last few years, and the police have been spectacularly useless in capturing the arsonists. In several cases, the arson was accompanied by slogans familiar from ‘price tag’ attacks in the West Bank (mostly along the lines of Jewish vengeance).”

Franklin Graham, son of famous evangelist Billy Graham, has said that God should kill gay people, and he’s applying that ethic to presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg. Asked about the heckling that Buttigieg has received for being gay, Franklin responded with Leviticus 20:13:

“The Bible makes it very clear that homosexuality is a sin. ‘If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination.’ (Leviticus 20:13). That’s what God says and that settles it for me. I stand with the Word of God. I care enough about people to tell them the truth and to warn them about the judgment to come for all sin.”

The verse finishes, “They shall surely be put to death; their blood is upon them.’”

The D.C. Circuit Court agreed with the House rules that prayers for the chamber must be “religious.” A self-described atheist is forbidden to offer a secular prayer in the House of Representatives. The judge made the decision, not against the person delivering the prayer, but against its content. The House had defended its position that the rules require “a religious invocation” from the time of former House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI).

On the flip side, the IRS has determined that the Satanic Temple is a church. The group will have the same benefits as other religion organizations such as tax exemption and protection from discrimination. Its founder, Lucien Greaves, said, “I am following a code of ethics, having fellowship with brethren. Why can’t I be a religion?” Once called a cult, Christianity has entered mainstream religion. Benjamin Zeller, religion professor, described a letter that Pliny the Younger wrote in the second century to Emperor Trajan about Christianity at that time:

“This Roman governor is complaining about the Christians and using all this anti-cult language. He says that they have these secret gatherings, they’re stealing children from families, they’re engaged in weird sexual practices, and they’re disrupting the social order. Just replace ‘early Christians’ with whatever your current cult fear is.”

In the 19th century, Joseph Smith, founder of the Mormons, was regarded as a con man. The church became a political movement after their establishment in Utah, and the 20th century saw them as a business. Now they’re mainstream. Protestants think that religions must have beliefs and a deity, both of which need to be taken seriously.

Maybe DDT followers and the NRA can declare themselves religions.

Careful! Jesus Christ has risen. And he’s watching.

June 16, 2018

DDT: Week 73 – More Lies to Add to His Thousands

“I didn’t do anything wrong!” Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) repeated this sentence in a whiny voice during his impromptu press conference on the White House lawn this morning as he lied about a wide variety of issues. A few corrections to the record:

  • The OIG report did not exonerate in the Russian investigation. It was about the way that the FBI and DOJ handled the Clinton email investigation.
  • The same report did not show any bias against DDT because the report indicated that there was no bias.
  • There is no indication of “no collusion,” “no obstruction.”
  • Former FBI Director James Comey did not commit some “very criminal acts,” according to the OIG report.
  • Paul Manafort did have something “to do with [DDT’s] campaign.” With the campaign for five months, Manafort ran it for three months, including his highly visual presence at the GOP convention.
  • President Obama was not responsible for the Russian annexation of Crimea, and “going across the red line in the sand” concerned Syria, not Ukraine.
  • DDT did not always hate the war exercises. He got the idea for the gift to North Korea of ending these exercises from Vladimir Putin.
  • Tearing children from their parents at the Mexico border is not the Democrats’ law. It is not a law—in fact it’s against the law as “deterrence—and it’s a policy created and ordered by DDT and AG Jeff Sessions. And he does not want “laws to be beautiful and humane.”
  • The Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers are not “liberating” communities from the scourge of MS-13; ICE is deporting law-abiding immigrants.
  • Despite DDT’s declaration that Michael Cohen is not his lawyer, it’s not clear when that happened.

If DDT didn’t lie about something, he said, “Let’s not talk about it” as he did when asked whether he dictated the statement on Donald Trump Jr.

DDT’s classic statement to the reporters:

“Hey, Kim Jong-Un is the head of a country, and I mean he is the strong head. Don’t let anybody think different. He speaks, and his people sit up at attention. I want my people to do the same.”

Pressed about the meaning of the statement, DDT tried to cover by calling it “sarcasm.” DDT continually describes the mass murderer as “very talented,” “great negotiator,” “very funny guy”–the pandering never stops.

[The Time cover for June 18, 2018, by Tim O’Brien, meant to address DDT’s political attacks on Robert Mueller.]

DDT’s justification for giving away the farm to North Korea without getting anything in return is that he is guaranteeing “complete denuclearization.” A fact-check of his claims at the June 12 news conference and interview with George Stephanopoulos indicates he has added more lies to the thousands he has told since his inauguration. The complete analysis is here.

  • Far more vague than past agreements, this one is not “comprehensive” with no definitions of “denuclearization.”
  • DDT dropped training war exercises without consulting the Pentagon or South Korea. He complained they were “expensive,” but South Korea pays 50 percent of the non-personnel costs of U.S. troop presence on the peninsula.
  • President Clinton didn’t give North Korea billions of dollars in the agreement of 1994; the money went to companies in South Korea, Japan, and the EU. The 1994 agreement contained North Korea’s use of uranium until George W. Bush broke the agreement and North Korea started building nuclear weapons.
  • Iran’s involvement in its regional politics hasn’t improved since DDT dropped the Iran agreement. President Obama never gave Iran money in the agreement; $1.8 billion was the U.S. debt for U.S. military equipment never delivered in 1980 when Iran released four U.S. detainees. Another $150 billion was released from Iranian frozen assets in banks throughout the world. After Iran pays its debts, it will have about $32 billion of their own money left.
  • The U.S. has a trade surplus—not deficit—with Canada.
  • U.S. funding for NATO, based on gross national income, is under $500 million a year out of the nation’s $700 billion military budget. Indirect funding is what the U.S. spends on its own military or missions not including
  • NATO.

Desperate to find some win out of his losses to North Korea, DDT claimed that “thousands of parents” begged him during his campaign to bring back the remains of their beloved sons from the Korean War. The youngest parent would be over 100 years old.

Bored when he arrived in Singapore, DDT demanded that the summit be moved up one day. He was convinced that the idea was bad only when someone told him that he would get better prime time coverage the next day. (Why is it that most DDT news sound as if it belongs in satire columns?) DDT also prefers North Korea state-run news to the Fox network. Wonder how long Fox will stay friends?

In late 2017, DDT said:

“The horror of life in North Korea is so complete that citizens pay bribes to government officials to have themselves exported abroad as slaves. They would rather be slaves than live in North Korea. … Citizens spy on fellow citizens, their homes are subject to search at any time, and their every action is subject to surveillance. In place of a vibrant society, the people of North Korea are bombarded by state propaganda practically every waking hour of the day. North Korea is a country ruled as a cult. At the center of this military cult is a deranged belief in the leader’s destiny to rule as parent protector over a conquered Korean Peninsula and an enslaved Korean people.”

Now DDT claims that “[Kim’s] country does love him. His people, you see the fervor. They have a great fervor.” He loves North Korea so much that he saluted one of its military officers. DDT was briefed to not salute military officers from other countries. Conservatives complained about a negative reaction from Democrats to DDT talking to North Korean leadership after Republicans bitterly decried the possibility of President Obama even speaking to Kim Jong-Il. Democrats, however, objected only to DDT’s obsequious behavior before the leader of one of the world’s most oppressive regimes. DDT also called President Obama an “amateur” when he bent at the waist to shake the hand of Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah before DDT bowed to the Saudi’s King Salmon leader. DDT doesn’t even reach the status of “amateur” in his behavior to Kim Jong-Un.

In a 2014 report, the UN described “systematic, widespread and gross human rights violations,” the country as a ruthless police state where as many as 120,000 people are kept in political gulags under horrific conditions; other prisons, effectively labor camps, hold people for ordinary crimes. Telephone calls are monitored, and citizens are punished for watching or listening to foreign broadcasts.” It also wrote about North Korea’s absolute monopoly on information and control of social life”—what DDT said he wants in the United States by eliminating any freedom of expression, opinion, and association.

The aftermath of the G-7 summit also continues to reverberate: DDT’s trade advisor Peter Navarro took back his words about a “special place in hell” reserved for Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau after Sens. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Orrin Hatch (R-UT) criticized Navarro. He said that the term he used “lost the power of that message,” Navarro’s version of an apology.

Gone is any cordiality between Canada and the United States. The Canadian Parliament unanimously voted to condemn DDT’s attacks after DDT’s and his minions’ highly insulting statements following the G-7 summit. Their motion condemned the attacks on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and rejected “disparaging ad hominem statements by U.S. officials which do a disservice to bilateral relations.” About the motion, Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland said, “It’s very nice to represent a united country.”

China is also not happy after DDT imposed a 25-percent tariff on $50 billion of Chinese exports. Claiming that the U.S. “launched a trade war,” China has dropped promises to buy more U.S. goods. Tariffs on washing machines, the first item that DDT caused domestic suffering, have raised prices 17 percent on laundry equipment in three months.

Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN) said that his party is in a “cult-like situation” with their support of DDT, citing the GOP refusal to disagree with DDT on his tariffs. “It’s not a good place for us to be,” he added with the luxury of someone not running for re-election. Corker agrees with MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough, once a strong DDT supporter, who claimed on his Morning Joe Show that “primary voters in the Republican Party have devolved into a Trumpist cult.” Don Trump Jr. agrees with Corker: “If it’s a cult, it’s because they like what my father is doing.”

DDT holds an overwhelming popularity with Republicans, but only 40 percent of the people in the U.S. fit into that category. Otherwise, he has dropped considerably since his inauguration. During the past 18 months, his net approval has decreased in all 50 states from six to 31 points.

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