Nel's New Day

July 25, 2017

Boy Scouts Become Political

Every speech that Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) makes is a new low. Instead of being congratulatory or uplifting, the self-pitying messages are either whining about his unfair life or self-aggrandizing. Ceremonial speeches carry the same tone as his campaign speeches.

The day after he was inaugurated, DDT spoke in front of the Memorial Wall at the CIA, an agency that he had consistently disparaged and compared to Nazis. His fourth full sentence referred to the “dishonest media,” a theme he repeated later in the speech including the accusation that it falsified the number of people at his inauguration. He proceeded to brag about the large number of people in the military who voted for him, the number of times he was on the Time cover, and his unadulterated praise for Michael Flynn who was forced to soon leave the administration because of his Russian connections.

In May, he spoke to graduating cadets at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy about his victimization, especially by the media:

“No politician in history – and I say this with great surety – has been treated worse or more unfairly.”

DDT’s speech to honor veterans at the Kennedy Center immediately before the Fourth of July again focused on himself and his grievances. Instead of a focus on heroes, he pushed his customary complaint about the “fake news” at a time. His goal is to do away with the freedom of the press guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution and celebrated on July 4.

Last weekend DDT spoke at an event commissioning the $12.9 billion USS Gerald R. Ford. He urged 6,500 people to call Congress and ask members to pass the budget. Then he added a request to call senators “to make sure you get health care.” Many people there were members of the military who receive federal health care that is not in jeopardy. As commander-in-chief, DDT was technically giving naval officers an order to make political requests to lawmakers. Once again, the man inaugurated as president last January violated the norms separating military and politics which presidents are supposed to honor and protect. His own protectors will justify his actions by saying that he is ignorant of these norms; the question is how long ignorance can be an excuse for his buffoonery.

Two days later, DDT’s he violated the ban on Boy Scout’s participation in political events. In front of 24,000 Scouts and 16,000 other attendees at the Boy Scout Jamboree, he went all out in proselytizing adolescents  the same way that Adolf Hitler did with his Hitler Youth groups. The Nazi party used youth to spread propaganda, and youth groups numbered 5.4 million members before the organizations became mandatory in 1939. Last year, a Trump supporter created “Trump Youth” with an anti-Jewish bent. Although comparisons between DDT and Hitler have long been considered offensive, the connection is growing closer. Eagle Scout Michael Moore compared the scene at the Jamboree to the thousands of Hitler Youth chronicled in the 1934 propaganda Nazi film, Triumph of the Will.

John McLaughlin, acting director of the CIA under George Bush, tweeted that the rally “had the feel of a third world authoritarian’s youth rally.”

DDT called Scouts “young patriots,” and they responded by cheering “USA! USA!” DDT slammed his opponents and incited his audience to boo President Obama; whined about his struggles in the White House; and recalled his great election for his office. He called for the repeal of the Affordable Care Act and said that Secretary of HHS Tom Price might be fired if the repeal didn’t pass.

“By the way, are you going to get the votes? You better get the votes. Otherwise, I’ll say, ‘Tom, you’re fired.’'”

Once again, he talked about “fake news” and demanded loyalty from his officials. In short, he made the speech another boorish campaign rally.

DDT opened his speech in front of tens of thousands of you by cursing, “who the hell wants to talk about politics anyway?” Some of his speech veered from politics to DDT’s partying with the rich and famous on yachts and offering a possible off-color story about meeting real estate developer William Levitt.

Other DDT comments in his speech:

  • “Today, I said we ought to change it from the word ‘swamp’ to the word ‘cesspool’ or, perhaps, to the word ‘sewer.'”
  • “Many of my top advisers in the White House were Scouts. Ten members of my Cabinet were Scouts. Can you believe that? Ten.” [DDT wasn’t but President Obama was the equivalent of a Cub Scout in Indonesia, and four other presidents—John F. Kennedy, Gerald Ford, Bill Clinton, and George W. Bush—were also Boy Scouts. DDT failed to mention that AG Jeff Sessions was also an Eagle Scout.]
  • “Some of you here tonight might even have camped out in this yard when Mike was the governor of Indiana, but the scouting was very, very important.” [Who knows what he meant!]
  • “We’re doing a lot with energy.” [DDT’s introduction to Rick Perry.]
  • “I have to tell you our economy is doing great.”
  • “Do we remember that date? Was that a beautiful date? What a date…. But do you remember that incredible night with the maps and the Republicans are red and the Democrats are blue, and that map was so red, it was unbelievable, and they didn’t know what to say? …And you know we have a tremendous disadvantage in the Electoral College — popular vote is much easier.”
  • “I’ve known so many great people.”

The Scout Law commands that Scouts be “trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, and reverent.” The Boy Scouts of America invited DDT because he is the honorary president of BSA. His comments were not their responsibility, but their tepid response to his speech was inexcusable. https://www.facebook.com/pg/theboyscoutsofamerica/posts/?ref=page_internal  Many of the hundreds of comments on the BSA Facebook page agreed with this position. For DDT supporters who accused some people of merely having different political views, one commenter had a pitch-perfect response:

“People disrespect Trump because he treats people terribly (both perceived enemies and friends), whines like a child, acts like a criminal hiding something, and tries to skirt the law at every turn. It’s not because we have different political views.”

Dan Rather also hit the bullseye with his statement:

“A grown man who is so insecure as to seek affirmation in a group of teenagers is not a man with the maturity to lead a nation. A man who is so self-absorbed as to make every utterance about himself and his needs is not a man with the vision to elevate a nation.”

DDT encouraged the crowd to cheer when he claimed that President Obama had never attended one of the Boy Scout Jamborees. Yet the former president taped a speech for the 100th Boy Scout Jamboree seven years ago. He highlighted the role the Boy Scouts had played in America’s history and praised the leadership skills the organization seeks to instill in its members. Transcript and video here.

For the past 80 years, presidents have inspired Boy Scouts with their speeches: Franklin D. Roosevelt, good citizenship; Harry S. Truman, fellowship; Dwight D. Eisenhower, “bonds of common purpose and common ideals”; Lyndon B. Johnson, work to better the future; George H.W. Bush, potential for a new generation; Bill Clinton, doing “good turns”; George W. Bush, serving others. This year, DDT slammed the media, his predecessor, Hillary Clinton, his opposition—any slight offense while he praised himself for getting lots of votes. GOP lawmakers stayed silent.

In contrast to the Boy Scouts, the Girl Scouts—no relationship—announced 23 new badges focused on science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). New CEO Sylvia Acevedo explained that scouts requested many of the badges that range from robots and engineering for kindergarteners and first graders to cybersecurity and programming for the older ones. Acevedo said that she became an engineer and a rocket scientists because of her Girl Scout experience, and many female astronauts were Girl Scouts. According to Acevedo, “we are focused every day on creating girls of courage, confidence and character to make the world a better place. We are totally dedicated to create the best leadership experience for girls in America in a nonpartisan way. That’s our focus.”

How sad for the Boy Scouts that all they got was DDT.

March 13, 2016

Christianity – Good, Bad, Ugly

 

Good:

After over seven years in office, President Obama has decided not to include abstinence-only education programs in his budget. Ronald Reagan began in 1981 to fund these programs that are proved to be failures, and funding “grew exponentially” between 1996 and 2006. In 25 years, taxpayers have been forced to pay over $1.5 billion for these failed programs. One survey showed the doubling of participants in one type of this program who would “probably” have sex during high school. Teen pregnancy has steadily declined in states that require comprehensive-sex education while teen pregnancy in states where abstinence-only sex education is allowed and even mandated stays high.

States with the highest rate of teen pregnancies are New Mexico, Mississippi, Texas, Arkansas, Louisiana, and Oklahoma—places that mandate sex-education programs stress abstinence and “the importance of sex only during marriage.”New Hampshire, Vermont, Minnesota, Massachusetts, and Maine had the lowest numbers of teen pregnancies in the nation during the same time. Teen pregnancy costs the U.S. about $9.4 billion in 2010.

Unlike the Boy Scouts, the Girl Scouts have long refused to engage in bigotry, a policy that occasionally makes them the target of conservative religious groups. The most recent event comes from a Missouri Catholic archdiocese when St. Louis Archbishop Robert Carlson urged priests to sever all ties with Girl Scout troops, accusing them of “exhibiting a troubling pattern of behavior.” A week later the Girl Scouts of Eastern Missouri had raised a record amount of money at its annual fundraiser—over $350,000. In addition, increased sales of Girl Scout cookies has caused shortages, and  several local businesses offered to host cookie booths in their lobbies.

In a possible lessening of Catholic anti-contraception position, Pope Francis said that its use in avoiding infecting fetuses with the Zika virus is better than abortions. He said, “Avoiding pregnancy is not an absolute evil.” For example, Pope Paul VI permitted African raped nuns to use contraception. The Catholic church’s position on preventing contraception does not hold up in Latin America: 88 percent of Mexicans, 91 percent of Colombians, and 93 percent of Brazilians support the use of contraceptives. Francis also said that Catholic lawmakers are free to vote for same-sex marriage and civil unions in opposition to Pope Benedict XVI’s document in 2003 when he was Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger that explicitly forbid Catholic legislators from voting for same-sex marriage or unions.

Bad:

Good news, bad news. Idaho is getting rid of a law mandating daily Bible readings in schools while allowing Bibles to be used in school classes—including science.

The Rev. Dwight C. Jones, mayor of Richmond (VA), thinks that the First Amendment protects him as he hires people from his church to do volunteer work for the church while being paid by the state’s capital city. Over ten percent of Richmond’s executive-level positions were filled by members of Jones’ church, First Baptist of South Richmond. Head of public works for Richmond, Emmanuel Adediran, was discovered supervising renovation work for First Baptist while on his city’s job. Two contractors also listed Richmond city offices as the billing address for estimates on kitchen equipment for the church. One employee has already been fired, but more are in the pipeline. Jones is asking for respect “for the wall of separation between church and state.”

Many Christians who fear Sharia Law in the U.S. support Christian Law. GOP presidential candidate Ted Cruz is one of those according to his wife, Heidi. She claims that her husband is the only one able to provide a “combination of the law and religion.” According to Heidi Cruz, “the God of Christianity is the God of freedom, of individual liberty, of choice and of consequence.” She also calls Christians “loving” and  “nonjudgmental”–the same ones who want to take away rights from people. Cruz is running on a platform that rights in the United States come from God and talks about “Christianity under attack.” He openly supports torture, carpet bombing, distribution of water in Flint only to anti-abortion religious centers, and has connections to which supremacy groups.

GOP presidential candidate John Kasich, who claims to be “small government,” goes beyond pushing Christianity through the United States. He wants an agency to make Christians out of everyone in the world. His proposed tax-payer funded agency would “beam messages around the world about what it means to have a western ethic, to be part of a Judeo-Christian society.” In many ways, Kasich is as dangerous as his GOP competition, but the media gives him as pass as a “moderate Republican.”

Ugly:

God has declared that domestic violence abusers should have the “freedom” to “open carry” guns in order to protect themselves, according to Rep. Jeff Coody in his defense of an Oklahoma bill that passed the House by a large majority. When Rep. Mike Brown asked if the government had a responsibility to protect other people, Coody said, “No.” Since the state passed a concealed carry law, it is at a 10-year high for rapes. This bill also removes any requirement for permits or training before people can buy guns. “If we give people some freedom, people tend to use that responsibly,” Coody said.

Proving that “religious liberty” is only for Christians, Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ) is furious that President Obama has blocked the sale of a San Carlos Apache sacred site to foreign-owned Resolution Copper. He justifies his actions by alleging that the place has never been sacred, despite testimony from Scientists for the Society for American Archaeology the site has been used for religious purposes since “well before recorded history.” The area had been closed to mining since then-President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s recognition of the sacred land in 1955. Tribe members have occupied the site since it was sold out to the mining company according to a provision in last year’s National Defense Authorization Act. The sale would mark the first time in history that Native American land would be handed over to foreign interests by Congress.

Just when people thought that the Catholic Church might try to stop child sexual abuse, the church has delivered a different message. The guidelines for training newly ordained bishops state:

“According to the state of civil laws of each country where reporting is obligatory, it is not necessarily the duty of the bishop to report suspects to authorities, the police or state prosecutors in the moment when they are made aware of crimes or sinful deeds.”

This directive ignores the pope’s statement that “everything possible must be done to rid the church of the scourge of the sexual abuse.”

Girls-are-like-apples-on-trees

In addition, just plain creepy weird:

“Girls are like apples on trees. Their fathers are the farmers, whose job is to care for them. He must protect his apples from pests and disease. He must guard them against thieves who may pick his apples prematurely. Neither those at the top nor those at the bottom can help their location. But, when each reaches peak ripeness, it is the farmer’s job to harvest that fruit and give it to whom he will, to those in need. So there is nothing wrong with the apples still on the tree and nothing wrong with the boys who seek them. But it is the farmer’s duty to provide for both, in due season.”

That comes from Vaughn Ohlman, who thinks that Christian youth aren’t marrying early enough because fathers are too selective about which “boys” they give their “girls” to in marriage. According to Suzanne Titkemeyer, Ohlman is upset because he wanted a girl in his church and the father wouldn’t “give” her to Ohlman.

Mass shootings have increased within the past few weeks across the nation, but the GOP refuses to take any actions for prevention.  Their solution is prayer. Several months ago, the president said, “[T]houghts and prayers are not enough…. It does … nothing to prevent this carnage from being inflicted someplace else in America, next week or a couple of months from now.” House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) responded, “When you are praying, you are doing something about it. You are revealing the presence of God….  That is why prayer should always come first.” No comment on what should come next. For Christian Republicans, solutions are denial and prayer while giving all the resources in the nation to the wealthiest people. This would be worsen under a fundamentalist Christian president.

February 12, 2014

Social, Political Issues

It has been said that a picture is worth a thousand words. Sometimes a short quote tells the whole story. Following are some quotes from around the country during the past few weeks on politics, racism, and just plain stupidity.

Gretchen Carlson on the Fox network about the retail chain CVS no longer selling tobacco products: “Is it OK legally … to restrict tobacco availability in a private store like this. For people who smoke, you know, they have a right to buy cigarettes. It’s not illegal.” [For Carlson’s edification, abortion is also legal, but some states have closed down every clinic that provides the surgical procedure.]

Gary James, former candidate for Enid (OK) city council, about his refusal to serve blacks, gays, the disabled and “welfare people” in his restaurant: “Well if you work, you own a business, pay your taxes, you’re more than welcome here. If you’re on welfare, stay home and spend my money there. I don’t deal with these people walking down the street with no jobs on welfare…. I’ve been in business 44 years, I think I can spot a freak or a f*ggot. I really don’t want gays around. Any man that would compromise his own body would compromise anything.”

Michele M.’s response to James: “Gary James refuses to serve wheelchair bound persons, black people, Hispanics, mixed race couples, gay people, people who wear hats, people who ask for Budweiser, liberals, men with longish hair, people wearing clothes he doesn’t approve of, people with facial piercings, on and on. If you pass first inspection, don’t think you’ve got it made. If he doesn’t approve of an overheard conversation, if he decides you’re effeminate, if your politics don’t agree with his, if you don’t like the way you cheer for the wrong team, etc, etc., Mr. James will charge you more.”

[Followup: Internet social media is now listing Gary James’ restaurant as a gay bar.]

Fox network’s Bill O’Reilly: “[In black precincts, there is] “chaos in the streets, in the schools and in the homes.”

Kirk Cameron (former Growing Pains star) about the 33 couples married at the award ceremony: “How did you like the Grammy’s [sic] all out assault on the traditional family last night?”

Bryan Fischer (American Family Association) on the same subject: “Heads up: Grammy telecast to feature sodomy-based wedding ceremonies.”

Todd Starnes (Fox network) continuing: “I’ve never seen such a display of intolerance, bigotry and hatred. #Grammys #antichristian.”

John Pisciotta (head of Pro-Life Waco): “The Girl Scouts were once a truly amazing organization, but it has been taken over by ideologues of the left, and regular folks just will not stand for it.” [Is that why a man in Temecula, CA pulled a gun on a Girl Scout selling cookies?]

Ryan Zinke (Republican State Senator running for the U.S. House in Montana) who called Hillary Clinton the “Antichrist”: “We need to focus on the real enemy.” [He also claimed that Newt Gingrich is “senior advisor” to his campaign, but Gingrich denied this.]

Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) to single mothers who receive government assistance: “Maybe we have to say ‘enough’s enough, you shouldn’t be having kids after a certain amount.’”

Illinois Catholic bishop Thomas Paprocki: Gay couples need to be severely “disciplined” for participating in the “redefinition of marriage.”

Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) regarding House reason for no action on immigration reform: “Here’s the issue that all Republicans agree on: We don’t trust the president to enforce the law.” [It’s also a talking point that many other GOP members, including House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) use.]

Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) after Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) suggested that the law start in 2017 after President Obama leaves office: We don’t know who’s going to be president in 2017.” [A reason for never passing any legislation.]

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie at a GOP Governors Association fundraiser in Chicago: “You want income equality? That is mediocrity. Everybody can have an equal, mediocre salary.”

Mike Huckabee, about free birth control for women: “And if the Democrats want to insult the women of America by making them believe that they are helpless without Uncle Sugar coming in and providing for them a prescription each month for birth control, because they cannot control their libido or their reproductive system without the help of the government, then so be it.” [In 2005, Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee signed a law mandating Arkansas insurance plans provide contraception coverage, including church-affiliated organizations such as hospitals and universities.]

Rep. Michele Bachmann, who doesn’t know that there is no longer any “Soviet Union”: “It appears that Belarus, which is a nation friendly with the Soviet Union, may have a subcontracting contract to build a part of Obamacare.”

Bachmann on immigration reform: “It isn’t the conservative Republican immigration policy that immigrants don’t like, it’s our stance on fiscal conservatism, the Constitution, patriotism, the fact that we believe in limited government and personal responsibility.”

Rep. Pete Sessions (R-TX) about unemployment benefits: “It is immoral.” 

AOL CEO Tim Armstrong on why his company will no longer match employee 401(k) plans: “We had two AOL-ers that had distressed babies that were born that we paid a million dollars each to make sure those babies were OK in general.” [What? No reinsurance plans for large claims of over AOL’s 5,000 employees? Valleywag posted a visual to show the relationship between Armstrong’s salary and “distressed babies.”]  

distressed babies

Rep. Patrick J. Tiberi (R-OH) about House Speaker John Boehner’s (R-OH) to accomplish anything: “Right now, Jesus himself couldn’t be the speaker and get 218 Republicans behind something, so I think Speaker Boehner is trying his best to come up with a plan that can get close to that.”

Chad Brown (former Polk County Republican Party of Iowa Co-Chair): “My opinion is the ‘Duck Dynasty Wing’ of the Republican Party has taken over the GOP, and they’re not about to retreat in their war on science and common sense.”

The most amazing one on Sunday:

Conservative columnist David Brooks on Meet the Press about the need for immigration reform: “It’s not who runs the Republican Party. Do the leaders who want to have a long term future, a presidential national future, as a multi-racial party, do they run the party or does [Michael Needham of Heritage Foundation] run the party. The truth is Mike runs the party.”

President Obama also managed a few memorable quotes during a ten-minute interview with Bill O’Reilly on the Fox network immediately before the Super Bowl. It is a tradition that the current president sits down for a brief interview with the network that projects the annual game.

When O’Reilly asked about the many times that former IRS Doug Schulman had been to the White House: “That’s not what happened. Folks have again had multiple hearings on this. These kinds of things keep on surfacing in part because you and your TV station will promote them.”

When O’Reilly claimed that people thought that the president avoided calling Benghazi a “terror attack”: “They believe it because folks like you are telling them that.”

The night after the Super Bowl, the Fox network played more of the interview. O’Reilly asked, “Do you think I’m unfair to you?”

The president responded, “Absolutely. Of course you are, Bill. But I like you anyway.”

When O’Reilly pressed the president on how he had been “unfair” in the interview, President Obama said, “I think regardless of whether it’s fair or not, it has made Fox News very successful… What are you going to do when I’m gone?”

O’Reilly thinks that the interview will go down in “journalistic history.”

The quote of the week that no one will hear on the Fox network: “Given the military’s preparations on September 11, 2012, majority members have not yet discerned any response alternatives that could have likely changed the outcome of the Benghazi attack.” That’s the conclusion of a report from the GOP House Armed Forces Committee about the four deaths at the U.S. diplomatic outpost in Libya.  

May 11, 2012

Catholics Attack Nuns, Girl Scouts

Filed under: Uncategorized — trp2011 @ 6:04 PM
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The Catholic Church declared war on women’s birth control earlier this year, creating a great media stir. But their latest crackdowns are even more unbelievable. First they attacked the nuns when, in mid-April, the 86-year-old pope came down on the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, the main umbrella group of women’s orders in the United States that represents 57,000 nuns in this country. A three-year doctrinal assessment determined a situation of “crisis ….characterized by a diminution of the fundamental Christological center.”

The complaint from the Vatican was “a prevalence of … radical feminist themes incompatible with the Catholic faith …. theological interpretations that risk distorting faith in Jesus and his loving Father … including commentaries on ‘patriarchy’ which distort the way in which Jesus has structured sacramental life in the Church; others even undermine the revealed doctrines of the Holy Trinity, the divinity of Christ, and the inspiration of Sacred Scripture.” Sounds pretty serious. So what have the nuns been doing to deserve this condemnation?

According to the pope, the nuns are ignoring issues of “crucial importance” to the church such as abortion, homosexuality, and euthanasia while devoting themselves to issues of poverty and economic injustice. Vatican officials are also riled because nuns made public statements that “disagree with or challenge positions taken by the bishops, who are the church’s authentic teachers of faith and morals.” So the nuns want to help the poor and get them health care.

Seattle Archbishop Peter Sartain has been appointed to oversee reform of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, which includes rewriting the group’s statutes, reviewing all its plans and programs (including approving speakers), and ensuring the organization properly follows Catholic prayer and ritual. The reform, which could take up to five years, would include a review of ties between the Leadership Conference and NETWORK, a Catholic social justice lobby, which supported the health care act despite bishops’ objections that it would provide funding for abortion.

Many nuns and their supporters said the investigation reflected church officials’ misogyny and was an insult to religious sisters, who run hospitals, teach, and play other vital service roles in the church. The investigation into the sisters’ actions comes at the same time that the Vatican continues to fend off lawsuits against the male leaders of the Catholic Church—priests, bishops, etc.—for their involvement in huge numbers of child abuse by priests during the last half century.

According to Nicholas Kristoff, “Nuns were the first feminists, earning Ph.D.’s or working as surgeons long before it was fashionable for women to hold jobs. As managers of hospitals, schools and complex bureaucracies, they were the first female C.E.O.’s. They are also among the bravest, toughest and most admirable people in the world.” He writes about seeing them “defy warlords, pimps and bandits” and describes the actions of Sister Rachele Fassers, who defied the African warlord Joseph Kony after he kidnapped 139 students from a Ugandan girls’ school. She hiked through the jungle after Kony and his menacing army of 200 rapists and torturists, demanding that they release the girls. They let the great majority of the girls return with her. While bishops disgrace the Catholic Church by shielding priests who rape children, nuns continue to work for the neediest.

In the Bible Jesus was concerned about poverty and social justice with no mention of abortion and homosexuality. Mary E. Hunt, a Catholic theologian, writes, “How dare they go after 57,000 dedicated women whose median age is well over 70 and who work tirelessly for a more just world? How dare the very men who preside over a church in utter disgrace due to sexual misconduct and cover-ups by bishops try to distract from their own problems by creating new ones for women religious?” Just one example is Sister Joan Chittister’s order of 120 nuns that runs a soup kitchen, a huge food pantry, an afterschool program, and one of the largest education programs for the unemployed in the state of Pennsylvania. This is who the pope is attacking.

“To me, it’s quite puzzling that our work with the poor, which Jesus told us to do in the gospels, would be the source of such a criticism,” said Sister Simone Campbell, head of the Catholic social justice group NETWORK. Campbell said she believes the Vatican targeted her group because of their support for healthcare reform. “They like it when we just do service, but don’t have thoughts, don’t have questions, don’t have criticism. That is a real challenge in a political society, when we have to do a deep, nuanced analysis in order to know the way forward for this, for the common good.” She added, ”I actually find it quite a badge of honor to be thought to be working so much for those who live at the margins of our society. That’s what we’re about. That’s who we are.”

“The church hierarchy never recoiled in horror from pedophilia, yet it recoils in horror from outspoken nuns,” Times columnist Maureen Dowd wrote in a recent column. Kristof added, “Even as bishops have disgraced the church by covering up the rape of children, the nuns have redeemed it with their humble work on behalf of the neediest.”

In the nineteenth century, the Catholic Church excommunicated an Australian nun named Mary MacKillop after her order exposed a pedophile priest. Eventually she was permitted to return to her order where she became famous for her work with the poor. The pope canonized Sister Mary in 2010 as Australia’s first saint. He declared, “Let us be guided” by Sister Mary’s teachings. Perhaps someone will remind him of what he did and said two years ago.

As if the attack on the nuns isn’t enough, the Catholic Church has gone after the Girl Scouts on their 100th anniversary. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops accuses the Scouts of having a partnership with Planned Parenthood (not true) and distributing materials on human sexuality (also not true). The bishops were very vague in the letter from the bishops’ Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth, stating they will look into the Scouts’ “possible problematic relationships with other organizations” and various “problematic” program materials. The Catholic bishops spend their time investigating the Girl Scouts while not protesting the Boy Scouts child abuse debacle.

Out-dated Catholic beliefs which may return because of the current pope’s narrowness are punishing even high school students. A conservative school operated by the Society of Saint Pius X, a group representing traditional priests who broke from the Catholic Church in the 1980s, forfeited a championship baseball game rather than play the team from Mesa Preparatory Academy because that school has a girl on its team, Paige Sultzback. She sat out two other games against Our Lady of Sorrows in Phoenix (AZ) in respect to the Lady’s philosophy, but the coach wanted her to play in the final game. A statement from Our Lady of Sorrows explained that the school teaches respect by not placing girls in athletic competition where “proper boundaries can only be respected with difficulty.”

The Vatican should be lucky that people still have an allegiance to the church after the way that they seem to endorse child abuse with no punishment and repress their members. They should just let the nuns do their good work, let the Girl Scouts have their campouts, and let school kids play baseball. As Dowd said, “How do you take spiritual direction from a church that seems to be losing its soul?”

February 23, 2012

Is It Lying or ‘Puffing’

Puffing. That’s the term that we used for smoking a cigarette for most of my life. Now, thanks to Supreme Court Antonin Scalia, the word has a new definition. Yesterday the court discussed the constitutionality of the 2006 Stolen Valor Act which makes lying about having military honors a crime. During their exchange, justices voiced concern about laws that would potentially cause politicians and others to be indicted for lies and “exaggerations” about accomplishments or failures—false college degrees, extra-marital affairs, etc.

“In the commercial context, we allow a decent amount of lying. It’s called puffing. So maybe we allow a certain amount of puffing in political speech as well. Nobody believes all that stuff, right?” That’s Scalia’s take on whether political lies are acceptable.

Let’s take Newt Gingrich’s response to ads about his ethics violations during his tenure as Speaker of the House of Representatives. “I was exonerated in every single case,” he said. After being charged, Gingrich agreed to pay $300,000 and admit he had “engaged in conduct that did not reflect creditably on the House of Representatives.” During the investigation, he submitted letters from his lawyers for which “the [House ethics] subcommittee was unable to find any factual basis.” Committee members stated that Gingrich “should have known” that the information in the letters “was inaccurate, incomplete and unreliable.” (Scalia would probably say that he was “puffing.”)

After the ethics committee voted 7 to 1 to reprimand him and require a $300,000 penalty, the full House passed the committee report by 395 to 28. Does this pass the Scalia test that nobody would believe Gingrich? I’m guessing not. When he claims that he was completely exonerated, millions of Americans nod their heads in agreement, thankful that the people accusing him of these ethics charges are wrong.

What about a state representative in Indiana, Bob Morris, who refuses to sign a resolution recognizing the Girl Scouts’ 100th anniversary because it is a “radicalized organization” that is “quickly becoming a tactical arm of Planned Parenthood” and that its agenda “includes sexualizing young girls” and promoting “homosexual lifestyles.” Morris’ lies has led to loss of members, meeting places, and status for the Girl Scouts because people believe him.

Jonathan Libby, a lawyer arguing against making lying illegal because of constitutionally-mandated free speech, said the law should not criminalize speech unless it “causes imminent harm to another person” or the government. He explained that laws against fraud and perjury were constitutional because those lies caused harm. The question here is the definition of “harm.”

Hundreds of politicians were elected in 2010 because they lied about their aims and goals. With their newfound power, they switched lanes from improving the economy and getting people jobs to their program of restricting people from voting, eradicating unions and fair wages, eliminating women’s reproductive rights, etc.–in short, doing harm. Now fewer than a couple of dozen people are providing over $100 million to “puff” about candidates, skewing the election in the way that they want.

Can a car salesperson justify lies about the condition of a used car by the new definition of “puffing”? Or would “free speech” justify lying about the condition of a house to a prospective purchaser?

Many years ago, I tried to smooth over a situation between a good friend and her young daughters by “puffing.” My friend firmly said, “I don’t lie to my children!” It was a great lesson in parenting that I’ve never forgotten. It’s a lesson that politicians have never learned. Their speeches show that they not only “shade the truth” but also openly lie about situations, knowing that they can persuade many people that what they say is factual.

Last night during the debate about whether women deserved contraception, the Republican presidential candidates talked about how our current culture is tragic because of “immorality.” I claim that lying to the people is also a form of “immorality.” How sad that a judge in the highest court of the United States would justify lying by the country’s leaders because we are not supposed to believe anything that they say.

The next time anyone accuses you of lying, just tell them that Scalia says you’re just “puffing.”

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