Nel's New Day

May 8, 2022

Russia’s Victory Day Approaches

Today is Mother’s Day in the U.S., and the nation’s first lady, Dr. Jill Biden, made a secret visit to Ukraine and talked with Ukrainian first lady Olena Zelenska. Very few first ladies have ventured into active war zones on their own. Biden and Zelenska spent time with children working on art projects for their mothers. (Photo by Susan Walsh/AP) 

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also made a surprise visit to Ukraine, going to Irpin, damaged by Russia’s attempt to take Kyiv at the start of the war, and raised his country’s flag at the Canadian Embassy in Kyiv. Canada will lift trade tariffs on Ukrainian imports for one year, give Ukraine another $50 million in assistance, and impose more sanctions on Russian individuals and groups.

President Joe Biden met on a video call with other G7 leaders—Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, and Japan—and Ukrainian President Volodymyr and pledged to phase out Russian oil imports.

The U.S. will ban citizens from providing services used to operate multinational businesses, create workarounds from sanctions, and hide ill-gotten wealth for Russians. These services include accounting, trust and corporate formation, and management consulting services. Other new U.S. sanctions affect industries supporting Russia’s military capabilities such as the motor and boiler sectors. Other U.S. bans are on over 2,600 Russian and Belarusian military officials including personnel operating in Bucha where multiple war crimes were committed.

EU plans a new round of sanctions against three popular state Russian TV stations spreading the misinformation about Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. Another EU target could be Putin’s alleged girlfriend and mother to some of his children Alina Kabaeva. Putin’s two daughters by his ex-wife Lyudmila are also sanctioned by the U.S. and the UK. Kabaeva, 31 years younger than Putin, is an Olympic rhythmic gymnast who moved to politics. [Visual – Ukraine Putin’s girlfriend]

For the first ten weeks of the invasion into Ukraine, Russia has spent $900 million—each day—not counting losses from economic sanctions. The money pays Russian soldiers; provides munitions, bullets, and rockets; and replaces/repairs lost or damaged military equipment. By April, Ukraine may have destroyed over 5,000 pieces of Russian equipment with the flagship Moskva the most expensive. Thousands of critical weapons and cruise missiles each cost $1.5 million.

Russian soldiers also damage Russian equipment. They share tips about destroying equipment on their cellphones, and one fighter said, “I don’t follow stupid orders, I simply refuse.” Another soldier told his family that the regiment had one tank left and “we broke the tank ourselves in the morning so not to go [on an attack].”

More senior Russian military commanders are being deployed to Ukraine. The British Defense Ministry explained:

“Difficulties in command and control, as well as faltering Russian performance on the front line, have drawn senior Russian commanders onto the battlefield, likely to take personal leadership of operations.”

The deployments put senior officers at “significant risk, leading to disproportionately high losses of Russian officers in this conflict. This results in a force that is slow to respond to setbacks and unable to alter its approach on the battlefield.”

Russians also fail with their inability to electronically intercept, alter, and jam communications. A leading electronic war (EW) specialist was killed in a command post near Izyum. Ukraine, on the other hand, does an excellent EW job, and NATO has provided EW equipment and training. The big Russian systems with heavy top-down command structures are better used in static positions. British intelligence officials reported that one-fourth of Russian invaders were lost in 74 days, called “combat ineffective” with the most elite units, including its Airborne Forces, experiencing the highest attrition.

Russia’s most important holiday, Victory Day on May 9, represents the May 8 defeat of Nazis ending World War II. The Russian event is commemorated on the following day because of the time difference between Western Europe and the Soviet Union. With multiple failures by Russian President Vladimir Putin in his invasion of Ukraine, the 2022 parade has been reduced “by almost 35 percent” because of soldiers deployed to Ukraine and their huge casualties. According to Sasha Lensky in The Spectator, the disasters of the last ten weeks make May 9 the “cult-of-war day, glorifying the nation as Ultimate Victors, while hinting at forthcoming revenge for the collapse of the Soviet Union, as well as issuing dark threats to unnamed enemies.”

While Putin kills World War II veterans in Ukraine, he sent a message praising them for their involvement in the second world war, calling Victory Day a shared history. He used the message to repeat disinformation about his mission, falsely claiming it was to stop Naziism.

May 9 has been of great concern for Ukraine because it may escalate Putin’s war. GZERO stated that Putin can’t “announce the capture of Kyiv and the installation of a Kremlin-compliant president there” so he he needs to find alternative ways to pump himself up. Ben Wallace, Britain’s defense secretary, predicts Putin is “probably going to declare … that ‘we are now at war with the world’s Nazis and we need to mass mobilize the Russian people.'” According to Oleg Ignatov, a senior analyst for Russia at Crisis Group, a declaration of war would allow far more Russian conscripts for a longer period of time, imposition of martial law, and requests for more support from Russia’s international allies. Like the two or three Russian claims of Syrian victory while continuing the killing, Putin could declare a victory such as securing Donbas while accelerating the destruction and murders.

Putin wants to drag the U.S. into a war that President Joe Biden has struggled to avoid while the media has enabled this attempt by spreading exaggerated news that the U.S. helped Ukraine sink the flagship Moskva and kill Russian generals. On Fox, Tucker Carlson accused Biden’s officials of escalating the war by “bragging about” sharing intelligence that helps Ukraine kill Russian soldiers and declared they “want war with Russia.” The Pentagon announced that it shares intelligence with Ukraine but denies involvement in the disasters. Biden told senior intelligence and defense officials the leaks must stop.

Six Russian cruise missiles fired from aircraft hit the region of Odesa although Ukrainian air defense shot down four rockets. In Bilohorivka, a village of 850 people, a Russian bomb on a school killed two with another 60 missing. Thirty people sheltering there were rescued. Chechen forces said they took Popasna, a town of about 20,000 which is 30 miles south of Bilohorivka, and Ukrainian troop withdrew from the Luhansk area because “everything was destroyed there.”

Ukrainians may drive Russian troops back from the country’s second-largest city, Kharkiv, with a counteroffensive north and east. The Ukrainian infantry assault is supported by artillery, tanks, and other armored vehicles. Ukraine is also trying to regain Snake Island, 20 miles off the coast, to delay Russia’s attempts to control the Black Sea and sank a Russian landing ship in the Black Sea that was taking an anti-aircraft missile system to Snake Island.

In a third evacuation of Mariupol’s Azovstal steelworks, all civilians, making the final total about 800, escaped after numerous Russian attacks on the place. An estimated 2,000 Ukrainian fighters remain in the tunnels where they have been for weeks. On April 21, Putin announced victory in Mariupol and still refused to pause military activity for civilian evacuation.

Russians also completely demolished the former Mariupol theater which they struck earlier this year despite its clear labeling “CHILDREN.” It was used not only as a bomb shelter but also as a gathering for evacuations from the city. About 600 people, mostly civilians, were killed in that strike, and Russia may be trying to erase evidence of war crimes described by witness accounts of 23 survivors, rescuers, and people familiar with the refuge. The number of deaths might be higher: about 1,000 people were inside the theater at the time of the strike, and only 200 people were seen escaping. Russian soldiers may have either pulverized or removed them. A bombing survivor said, “They came not to capture the city—they came to destroy it. They are trying to hide how many people actually died in Mariupol, hide their crimes.” Last month, Russians used mobile crematoriums to burn civilian bodies after Russia “ordered the destruction of any evidence of crimes committed by its army in Mariupol,” according to the city council. Satellites found at least two mass graves outside Mariupol.

For months, Patriarch Kirill, leader of the Russian Orthodox Church, pushed Putin into killing Ukrainians and devastating their land. Pope Francis has now revealed a 40-minute virtual talk with Kirill on March 16 in which he warned Kirill not to become “Putin’s altar boy.” The pope added, “We are not clerics of the state. We cannot use the language of politics but that of Jesus.” A meeting on June 14 in Jerusalem between the two religious leaders has been postponed. The Russian Orthodox Church in Amsterdam is one of a growing number of priests and churches separating ties from their leader in Moscow.  

Kirill’s church said that it was “regrettable” that “Pope Francis has the wrong tone for conveying the contents of the conversation.” Kirill is among those in the proposed sixth round of EU sanctions against Russia. Kirill’s spokesman said the sanctions are not in touch with “common sense.” The Russian Orthodox Church in Amsterdam is one of a growing number of priests and churches separating ties from their leader in Moscow.  

Formerly one of the biggest grain exporters in the world at 11 percent of the world’s wheat and 17 percent of corn, Ukraine has stored almost 25 million tons of the grain after Russian troops blockaded its ports. Most of the summer crops have been planted, but Russians are jeopardizing future crops by stealing farm equipment. They are also stealing grain and taking it to Russia.

Putin has worked to keep only disinformation spreading throughout Russia, but hundreds of thousands of VPNs (Virtual Protector Networks) are daily downloaded in Russia, granting Russians to information blocked by Putin. VPNs hide the IP address, encrypts data, and rout them through secure networks to conceal online identities for secure and anonymous internet browsing. Like shortwave radios used in the 1980s allowed forbidden news of dissident arrests on the U.S. Radio Liberty. Government bans on VPNs would create a technological challenge, and many Russians use them to access nonpolitical information and entertainment. Even Putin spokesman Dmitry Peskov uses them.

Putin apologized to Israel after his foreign minister compared Judaism to Adolf Hitler, using anti-Semitic tropes and Nazi propaganda to justify the invasion of Ukraine. Sergei Lavrov dismissed Zelensky’s Jewish faith with the discredited claim that “Hitler also had Jewish blood.” To Putin’s false “denazification” excuse for attacking Ukraine, Zelensky said Lavrov was using tactics similar to those employed by Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels during World War II.

For weeks, Russian state TV has been encouraging Putin to use nuclear weapons to demolish cities in the U.S. and other Western nations. When a panel tried to point out that no one would survive the war because of the West’s nuclear weapons, the host glibly responded, “We’ll start with a blank slate.”

January 9, 2022

Pope Francis: Pets v. Children

Filed under: Religion — trp2011 @ 8:07 PM
Tags: , , , , , , ,

According to Pope Francis, people who have pets instead of children are “selfish,” demonstrating a “denial of fatherhood or motherhood” that “diminishes us, it takes away our humanity.” He followed that statement in an interview by saying this value system reflects a “sign of cultural degeneration.” Although the pope has no known pets, unlike many of his predecessors, he wrote in his 2015 encyclical on the environment, “Laudato Si’,” or “Praise Be to You. On Care for Our Common Home”:  

“Because all creatures are connected, each must be cherished with love and respect, for all of us as living creatures are dependent on one another.”

His statement about pets and children resulted in an immediate backlash. Massimo Comparotto, the president of the Italian branch of the International Organization for the Protection of Animals said:

“It is strange to think that the pope considers love in our lives to be limited in quantity, and that giving it to someone takes it away from others.”

(Right: Our Latte questions a decision by the veterinarian.)

Others had longer explanations. Flora x. Tang, a doctoral student in theology and peace studies at the University of Notre Dame, wrote for the National Catholic Reporter, referencing her fostering kittens;

“I recall when I was 15 and was separated from my own parents for half a year due to flawed American visa and border policies that granted me a visa but denied a visa to my parents. Similar visa policies are still in place today, arbitrarily separating non-American parents and children for much longer than half a year at times. Whether I and many other non-Americans who live in the U.S. would be able to start a family, and what rights our children might have in this country, depend on whether such policies continue.

“Because of these and other complex circumstances in my own life, family — as well as fulfilling my maternal instincts of loving small animals — will always look different for me.

“I no longer look to pet ownership or parenthood as necessary milestones in my own life. Rather, in discovering new and creative ways to love others (animal or human), I learn daily that our universal calling toward fruitful love may look a myriad of ways for each one of us. Fostering cats, mentoring college students, and teaching catechesis to neighborhood children have become not temporary placeholders of motherhood for me, but equally fulfilling as vocations in themselves…

“The church’s view of childbirth, or intention to conceive children, as a central and crucial part of marriage continues to contribute to its theological justifications against lesbian and gay relationships, its prohibition on artificial contraception and its views on gender complementarity. While the church acknowledges the life-giving vocations of celibate religious men and women who dedicate their lives in service of others, it does not honor that option for married couples who choose to dedicate their lives to service in ways other than childbirth or adoption.

“The pope’s view that couples who choose not to have children are selfish also fails to acknowledge the many barriers that prevent single people and couples from raising children. This includes people who live in poverty or unsafe conditions and people who work multiple jobs to make ends meet for themselves. The absence of a nationwide paid maternity and paternity leave, as well as rising cost of pediatric healthcare, likewise prevents many from giving birth to and caring for their newborn children without going into debt. The decision to have children is further complicated for those who live in areas of the world most significantly affected by climate change. Barriers as such may prevent families from having children of their own, but do not prevent them from demonstrating much courage, love and discernment to which we are all called.

“My Catholic faith teaches me that all are called to service and self-gift. All are called to pour out their love for others, especially for those who are vulnerable in our society. Rather than a unilateral obligation, biological or adoptive parenthood is but one sacred way to fulfill this universal calling. As much as the church looks to large families as models of love, families who do not have children for a variety of reasons may also serve as examples through the creative ways they love themselves and their communities as the church together navigates the ever-complex circumstances of life.”

Another Catholic woman who has one daughter wrote:

“The pope’s words are quite hypocritical: The church talks the talk on families, but it doesn’t walk the walk. Many of its beliefs and policies are decidedly not pro-family.

“Consider, for example, the second-class status married people have had in the church itself for centuries. For close to 900 years, the church has deemed celibacy crucial to a priest’s vocation. By being unmarried, it was thought, the priest more fully conformed to the life of Christ, and thus his role was more elevated spiritually. ‘As followers of Christ, we must aim for that pure love which renounces life,’ theologian Max Thurian wrote.”

She continues by describing the Catholic Church’s prevention of invitro fertilization. The pope’s speech was about the importance of adoption while Church adoption agencies block same-gender couples from fostering or adopting their children. Yet while the Church bans artificial contraception, he chided a woman expecting an eighth child after having seven others by cesarean section. “That is an irresponsibility,” he told her and advised Catholic couples not to breed “like rabbits.”

My favorite response may be this piece, “Pope Francis, Your Comments on Choosing Pets over Children Don’t Add Up” from Sergio Peçanha:

Dear Pope Francis,

I was born Catholic. Long story short, today I am a stray sheep.

Something you said recently concerned me. You criticized people who don’t have children. You said that people who have pets instead of children are selfish and that pet-parenting “takes some of our humanity away.”

Coming from the leader of a church that forbids priests and nuns from getting married and having children, this doesn’t seem like something you fully thought through.

Pets make us better humans. They are a constant reminder of some of the most important values in life: love, loyalty, being in the present and finding joy in the small things.

Think: A dog finds transcendency in a fake rawhide bone. They are capable of seeing god every day, as soon as their owners get home. And cats … well, they have their own way of teaching us we’re not quite that divine. Animals give us way more than they take away from us.

Second, my bet is that most households are not choosing between pets and children. Some may not be able to have children. Others may not want them because they find different callings more fulfilling. Look in the mirror for a second: Think of how much good a person can do for humanity if they are not focused on nurturing one single being.

And it is not like we are underserved in the baby department — the planet will reach 8 billion people this year.

Finally, we all make choices. They usually involve trade-offs. You have made such choices. Everybody knows that Pope Benedict XVI, your predecessor, is the definition of a cat man — a single guy without kids who owns cats.

I’m sure that you were not suggesting that Benedict is selfish. Nor are the priests and nuns who must choose between having children and joining the church you run.

The point is: Priests and nuns make a choice. Just like you did. Just like Benedict did with his celibacy and his cats. Just like people who don’t have children do, for whatever reason they hold sacred.

Exercising free will is not equal to being selfish.

Besides, if some people want to say that their pets are their kids, who cares? Sometimes they even look alike …

Yours,

 

 

 

 

 

As my partner (left with Coco a few years ago), a Catholic while she was growing up, said, “It’s the Pope’s fault. He skims off the elite breeding stock to marry Jesus.”

Pope Francis took his name from St. Francis of Assisi, patron saint of animals. Although a playboy until he was 22 years old, St. Francis is not known to have any children.

September 23, 2021

COVID Grows in GOP-Controlled States

In states supporting Dictator Donald Trump (DDT), opposition to mandating vaccinations just got crazier. Florida state Sen. Manny Diaz, the GOP chair of the state Senate Health Policy Committee, wants to “review” school vaccine requirements for such illnesses as measles and mumps. This on top of preventing COVID vaccine mandates. And the appointment of Joseph Ladapo, who opposes mask requirements at school and supports COVID treatments that don’t work, for surgeon general and secretary of Florida’s Department of Health. Wannabe presidential candidate Ron DeSantis, Florida’s governor, made the appointment, and Ladapo immediately gave parents “sole discretion over mask-wearing at school. His order supersedes earlier ones, wiping out court cases against DeSantis’ ban on school mask-wearing mandates. COVID has killed at least 51,892 people in Florida since the start of the pandemic, and over 3.5 million people in the state, including Manny Diaz, have tested positive for the virus. Ladapo has a history of writing op-eds for the Wall Street Journal, questioning vaccinations and mask-wearing while advocating hydroxychloroquine for a treatment. He also believes in “herd immunity,” allowing the coronavirus to spread unstopped.

A COVID spread in California showed the importance of wearing masks. When an unvaccinated teacher in Marin County took off her mask to read, she spread COVID-19 to 26 students, including 50 percent of her students. The school requires masks, but she didn’t comply. The classroom used social distancing, masks, ventilation, and an air filter, and the farther the students were from the teacher, the less likely they were to contract the disease.

On the Fox network, DeSantis called President Joe Biden’s approach toward the pandemic a “failure” and described the large number of deaths, infections, and hospitalizations in his state a “great success.” During his talk, he referred to his use of monoclonal antibody treatment. DeSantis’ biggest donor has millions of dollars invested in this treatment, and DeSantis ignores vaccines in favor of his donor’s money-making stocks. The Orlando Sentinel, Florida’s biggest newspaper, pointed out DeSantis had tweeted only once about vaccines in 130 tweets about COVID but nothing about people who had died. He did write twice about the state’s annual python hunt.

Seven Southern states ranking in the bottom ten for vaccinations, neighbors to Florida, comprise 70 percent of the orders for monoclonal antibodies in recent weeks. Costing 100 times the amount of vaccinations, the treatment also doesn’t have lasting effect against COVID.

DeSantis’ unswerving faith in mask bans for schools comes from his belief in California psychiatrist, Mark McDonald, who promotes the use of animal deworming Ivermectin for human COVID cases instead of vaccinations. McDonald compares masks on children to “child abuse” and apartheid, South Africa’s racist segregation in the 20th century. On social media, McDonald called people who wear masks “retarded.” DeSantis also listens to Dr. Scott Atlas, DDT’s adviser who pushed White House coronavirus task force members to let people to contract the virus with no government intervention.

In August, Florida Poison Control Centers reported 27 Ivermectin-related cases. DeSantis’ COVID surge is also causing a shortage of water because it needs to be diverted to liquid oxygen for hospitals.

According to an August poll, 60 percent of people in Florida supported in-school masking. In addition, 61 percent agreed the recent COVID spike was preventable, 73 percent see it as a serious problem, and 53 percent believe the surge is a serious problem. The majority opposes DeSantis’ policies.

  • 68 percent: local officials should be able to require masks in indoor public spaces.
  • 69 percent: withholding pay for school officials requiring masking, which DeSantis is doing, is a bad idea.
  • 59 percent: everyone should be required to wear masks in indoor public spaces.
  • 63 percent: masking is primarily a public health issue and not about personal freedom.
  • 62 percent: health care workers should be required to have vaccinations.
  • 60 percent: teachers should have vaccination mandates.

DeSantis’ net approval rating fell 14 points in Florida by early September since early July, and 59 percent of registered Florida voters oppose his presidential run. He’s also behind his leading opponent for Florida governor, Rep. Charlie Crist, by double digits.    

DeSantis may be killing off his voters: 63 percent of the recent deaths in the state are over age 65, and seniors have been 79 percent of all pandemic deaths in Florida. Death numbers in Florida may be higher than revealed because the state hasn’t released these numbers in its 67 counties for three months. Both numbers of infections and deaths in Florida have dropped since DeSantis revised the method of counting these. Florida isn’t alone in the increasing number of deaths; this chart shows DDT-supporting counties

The number of deaths from COVID in Florida may appear to be shrinking because the state’s Department of Health changed its method of reporting death data. With the new system, a week’s data dropped the number of daily deaths from 262 to 46 although the same number of people died. Instead of deaths reported by the recorded date, the system used by most states, Florida tallied new deaths by the date a person dies, shifting a spike during a downslope and moving the downslope forward in time, creating an “artificial decline” in recent deaths during the current rise in cases.

Another form of disinformation about vaccines comes from evangelicals, including a popular app for evangelical churches, Subsplash, that urges viewers to fight pressure to get vaccinated. Users can put any lies on the app that they want. The National Religious Broadcasters fired Daniel Darling, senior vice president of communications, because he wouldn’t recant his pro-vaccine statements. On MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough’s show, he said his faith motivated him to get vaccinated and was proud of doing it. Darling described the vaccines as an amazing feat of discovery by scientists.

On the other side, Pope Francis and other high ranking Catholic leaders are calling on believers to be vaccinated against COVID because protecting others is the moral thing—a “God’s grace” and “an act of love.”

In other states:

Arkansas doesn’t mandate masks and spent $265,448 of COVID funding to enrich former Gov. Mike Huckabee by buying booklets containing disinformation about coronavirus from his company, EverBright Media. It contains the statement, “face masks aren’t recommended as a way of preventing Coronavirus for healthy people.”

Georgia has skyrocketing numbers of infections, hospitalizations and fatalities, but Gov. Brian Kemp told Fox that people can be trusted to do the right thing. He also signed an order telling “businesses to ignore any local COVID restrictions.”

Mississippi has the highest COVID rate in the nation but has no health mandates, and Gov. Tate Reeves blasted President Biden for any mandates and hopes to sue him. If Mississippi were a country, it would be second only to Peru in deaths per capita, and the vaccination rate is 42 percent. Reeves explained why deaths are okay with people in Mississippi:  

“When you believe in eternal life—when you believe that living on this earth is but a blip on the screen, then you don’t have to be so scared of things.”

In his political statement, Reeves didn’t say how that covers all the people killed by those who choose to not be unvaccinated.

South Dakota’s ten-day motorcycle rally in Sturgis, like last year, was a super-spreader event. Cases in Meade County, briefly home to 700,000 motorcyclists, rose over from a weekly rate of 644 infections to 3,819 infetions plus seven deaths. A neighboring county to the home of the rally jumped from three cases a day at the beginning of July to 160 after the rally. Most of the affected counties have lower vaccination rates that the state’s average of 49 percent. The almost 700 percent increase after the rally was two and a half times that of the percentage leap last year although the daily deaths stayed about the same.

In Tennessee, one-third of the positive cases were youth under 19 years of age after school opened in August. Gov. Bill Lee signed an order leaving students’ mask-wearing up to parents. He recommended vaccines which weren’t available to anyone under 13.

On the more educated side, a New Hampshire legislator and retired doctor, William Marsh, has switched parties from Republican to Democrat because of the GOP House leadership’s anti-vaccine position.

Analyzing why conservatives have fought so hard against protecting their health, political analyst David Graham suggests they are upset with losing influence. In the Atlantic, he wrote:

“[Conservatives] are angry at someone (elites, liberals, the government, the establishment) for telling them how they ought to live… They want to live exactly as they please, even if that means they may die—and even if that means making other people sick along the way.”

Anti-vaxxers are doing more than just yelling against vaccines and masks. They block public meetings, threaten officials with violence and death, and beat up people whose job is to ask them to wear masks and provide proof of vaccination for entry to businesses. Abuse from anti-vaxxers forced the closure of mobile vaccination clinics in Colorado and Georgia when they threw garbage and lit fireworks on healthcare workers. A California clinic had to close down because a person refusing to get a vaccination attacked healthcare workers who wouldn’t give him a vaccination proof card. The stories continue, some of the violence perpetrated by law enforcement. Yet Republican leaders continue to support their behavior, just as they refuse to admit that DDT lost the election.

June 13, 2021

The Polarization of Religion

Until the last half century, Christian religions in the U.S. believed in the separation of church and state: they ran their religions and let government run the country. Until the 1970s, evangelical Christians focused on piety, but secular political activists began working with the rising generation of evangelical leaders such as James Dobson, Jerry Falwell, and Billy Graham. Their desire for power led them to support a twice-married man whose children were alienated instead of an evangelical progressive president for their next leader. Since then, conservatives calling themselves the “Moral Majority” have lost the meaning of “moral” and shrinking enough that the “majority” is disappearing.

These are some recent examples of how conservatives care nothing about morality if they can control the government. Their disregard for the following the ethics of Christianity, however, may be losing membership for conservative Christianity.

People of Praise, the small offshoot of the Catholic Church, is under investigation for sexual misconduct. DDT’s Justice Amy Coney Barrett is a member. In December, a woman reported to the police about her high school physics teacher at the religion’s school sexually assaulting her in 2001 when she was 17. She reported the assault to the school dean five years later. The teacher remained for another five years, despite the dean believing the girl and telling another school official, until the teacher was hired to lead a Phoenix (AZ) charter school, Great Hearts Academies, that didn’t ask for his employment record. He returned to the Minneapolis area in another four year and became headmaster of another Christian school. Last month, the school, Chesterton Academy of the Twin Cities, announced the teacher was taking an indefinite leave of absence because of the sexual assault allegation. Other former members of the religion have reported assault and physical abuse. After Barrett was nominated for the Supreme Court, they formed a private Facebook group. With a membership of 1,700, the People of Praise can’t afford to lose any members.

The Southern Baptist Church, with the largest denomination among Protestants, is suffering the same polarization as political groups—arguments about racism, requirements for political loyalty, etc. As in the government, conservatives fear the groups has gone too far to the left from the Bible’s strict authority as well as concern with racism and gender issues. They want to take over complete power at the upcoming week’s meeting of 16,000 Southern Baptist pastors and leaders in Nashville (TN). They expressed other concerns such as suitability of women giving sermons, treatment of sexual abuse, and the dangers of “critical race theory” allowing history and other information about racism.

The fight using leaked letters and whistle-blower recorders has continued for weeks. Relative moderates such as Russell Moore and (no relation) Beth Moore (no relation to Russell) have left, and conservatives rejoiced at their absences. The conservative campaign of “take the ship” is using T-shirts with the slogan and car flags with a pirate image. Southern Baptists are back to their “roots,” splitting from the Northern members in 1845 because of the SBC’s support for slavery. In the 1990s, the church tried diversification, and the current president, J.D. Greear, encouraged the church’s membership to assert “Black lives matter” in the past year. Ordaining women as staff pastors may have driven conservatives over the edge.

Conservatives urge their leadership to attend next week’s meeting and elect a conservative president. His election may drive off more members because conservatives can try to block any mention of CRT and ignore sexual abuse within the church. Two years ago, the Southern Baptists promised to address sexual abuse within its congregations, but nothing has changed. The conservatives’ choice for president has been accused of blocking attempts to root out abusers and stop “bullying and intimidation” toward sexual abuse survivors.

In a closed meeting, one of the conservatives said that their need to “preserve their base” overrides working against sexual abuse. The church’s “base” has shrunk for 13 straight years, down to 14.5 million in two years by 287,000 members, partly caused by conservatives worshipping the cult of DDT.  

This month, Pope Francis expanded rules in the Catholic Church against sexual abuse to criminalize sexual abuse of adults by priests and laypeople with power in the church. The Catholic Church has had difficulty adjudicating child abuse, but the sexual abuse against adults can be even harder. In the past, Church law considered sexual relationships between priests and consenting adults sinful but not criminal. Priests were rarely removed from their position.

Although the pope’s new rule appears to be positive, at least a dozen priests accused of abuse have been sent back to their parishes or to new positions within the Church, some of them after the Vatican overturned recommendations from local dioceses. Chicago priest Michael Pfleuger was reinstated after multiple accusations of sexual abuse. One of his accusers called it “a cover-up because of his popularity” and described Pfleuger’s abuse. Investigating boards claimed they found no evidence although they didn’t talk to the priests’ victims.

Texas has a new church, the “Rod of Iron Ministries,” for those who want to worship guns, preferably AR-15s. It plans to provide sanctuary for “patriots” from the war they believe will come from the “deep state.” The leader of the “Sanctuary Church,” is Hyung Jin “Sean” Moon, son of Sun Myung who founded the Unification Church. Their followers were nicknamed the “Moonies.” The younger Moon said the new church’s name comes from the Book of Revelation stating Jesus used a “rod of iron” to protect himself and others, which Moon took to mean the AR-15. Co-founder of the church is Moon’s brother, Kook-jin “Justin” Moon, the CEO of nearby gun manufacturing company Kahr Arms.

Former Moonies are horrified with the new church, saying “these people are just getting crazier and crazier… I don’t know what’s going to happen next.”  [Visual – Moon]  Follower Nicholas Skulstad was arrested last month for allegedly ramming his car repeatedly into a New York Department of Transport vehicle in Westchester, New York, smashing its window, and attacking officers at the scene. He screamed, “I’m Jesus Christ! You are going to die today! Are you ready to die?” His car contained a “List-to-Kill” of current and former public officials and other figures. Earlier he told people the COVID vaccine was the “mark of the beast” and talked about the coming “purge” to eradicate everyone who “commits evil, like pedophiles.”

Echoing Deposed Donald Trump (DDT), Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been voted out of power, in his case after a 12-year rule. The event took two years and four elections, but the center joined the left in Parliament for a 60 to 59 vote. Unlike the U.S., violence has not yet erupted, but members of the ultra-Orthodox parties loudly heckled the new administration. Netanyahu promised to overturn the election, like DDT, and his loss of the office leaves him open to legal problems after being indicted for bribery and corruption.

While in office, DDT tried to restructure the Middle East under the control of Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS), DDT’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, and Netanyahu. The triad would overrule a 1994 peace treaty between Jordan and Israel that would force Jordan out of overseer of Jerusalem’s Christian and Muslim holy sites. Kushner deliberately ignored history to overlook religion of the past by creating an economic alliance. The plan has currently failed: DDT and Netanyahu are both gone, MBS is out of favor with the white House, and Jordan has regained power, visiting the White House this summer.  

Christian-nationalists believe that God’s will should control the U.S. and anyone not Christian in the “right” way or won’t conform to their agenda is illegitimate. Thus overthrowing an election is justifiable. Less than a year ago, 68 percent of white evangelicals believed that the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution were divinely inspired; the figure increased to 74 percent within six months. Another 68 percent believe that the January 6 insurrection was caused by Black Lives Matter and Antifa. According to a recent study, 27 percent of white evangelicals, more than any other religious group, believe QAnon beliefs are “mostly true.” And 67 percent of evangelicals think DDT’s loss was “not at all fair.”

Polling on QAnon believers from the Public Religion Research Institute and the Interfaith Youth Core:

By party: 23 percent of Republicans, 12 percent of independents, and 7 percent of Democrats support QAnon conspiracy theories.

Overall: 14 percent of Americans believe in QAnon, 46 percent reject it outright, and 40 percent are doubters but don’t rule it all out.

Specific questions increased the percentage to 15 or 20 percent:  A group of Satan-worshipping pedophile and child sex traffickers control the U.S. media, government, and financial worlds;  if a storm will soon sweep away the elites and restore the rightful leaders (20 percent); and true American patriots may have to resort to violence” to save America.

“Things have gotten so off track, true American patriots may have to resort to violence in order to save our country,” according to 28 percent of Republicans.   

Cicadas return every 17 years, flying around and sometimes landing on people. When one landed on President Joe Biden’s neck as he was leaving for the G7 summit, QAnon went crazier. The cicada was a secret sign about big things to happen.

Child (nymph) + underground + 17 = pedophiles operating an underground sex-trafficking ring because Q is the 17th letter of the alphabet.

It’s Sunday, and here is religion in the United States.  

February 24, 2019

More Need for Wall on Religion

At the beginning of a four-day conference regarding clerical sexual abuse in the Catholic Church, Pope Francis called for “concrete and effective measures” to solve the behavior of the Church’s leadership. After four days of speeches about the need for action and the “outrage of the people,” Francis closed the summit by calling for an “all-out battle” but few concrete remedies. Sometimes avoiding the purpose of the meeting, Francis larded his speech with data regarding abuse in schools, at athletic facilities, and within families, talking about the dangers of the digital world.

Nicholas Kristof, columnist for the New York Times, writes about the problems of Christians who claims to be superior to all others:

When a journalist for the Illinois Baptist newspaper reported in 2002 on a Baptist pastor who had sexually assaulted two teenage girls in his church, one apparently just 13 years old, he received a furious reprimand.

Glenn L. Akins, then running the Illinois Baptist State Association, offered a bizarre objection: that writing about one pastor who committed sex crimes was unfair because that “ignores many others who have done the same thing.” Akins cited “several other prominent churches where the same sort of sexual misconduct has occurred recently in our state.”

In the end, the Baptists ousted the journalist, Michael W. Leathers, while the pastor who had committed the crimes, Leslie Mason, received a seven-year prison sentence and then, as a registered sex offender, returned to the pulpit at a series of Baptist churches nearby. So Leathers is no longer a journalist, and Mason remained a pastor.

That saga was cited in a searing investigation by The Houston Chronicle and The San Antonio Express-News that found that the Southern Baptist Convention repeatedly tolerated sexual assaults by clergymen and church volunteers. The Chronicle found 380 credible cases of church leaders and volunteers engaging in sexual misconduct, with the victims sometimes shunned by churches, urged to forgive abusers or advised to get abortions.

“Some victims as young as 3 were molested or raped inside pastors’ studies and Sunday school classrooms,” The Chronicle reported.

Leathers told me he is glad he wrote the 2002 article, even if it cost him his career. He expressed frustration at Southern Baptist priorities: The church leadership would expel a church that appointed a woman as senior pastor, even as it accepted sexual predators.

The indifference to criminal behavior is an echo of what has been unearthed in the Roman Catholic Church over the decades. The latest sickening revelations are of priests getting away with raping nuns and with assaulting deaf students.

These new scandals provoke fresh nausea at the hypocrisy of religious blowhards like Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson who thundered at the immorality of gay people even as their own Southern Baptist network tolerated child rape.

I suspect it’s no accident that these crimes emerged in denominations that do not ordain women and that relegate them to second-class status.

“If God is male,” Mary Daly, the feminist theologian, wrote, “then the male is God.”

The result may be threefold: an entitled male clergy, women and girls taught to be submissive in church, and a lack of accountability and oversight. It’s complicated, of course, for many of the Catholic victims were boys, but there does seem to have been an element of elevating male clergy members on a pedestal in a way that made them omnipotent and unaccountable.

“Underneath it all is this patriarchy that goes back millennia,” Serene Jones, the president of Union Theological Seminary, told me, noting the commonality of the Catholic and Southern Baptist Churches: “They both have very masculine understandings of God, and have a structure where men are considered the closest representatives of God.”

The paradox is that Jesus and the early Christian church seem to have been very open to women. The only person in the New Testament who wins an argument with Jesus is an unnamed woman who begs him to heal her daughter (Mark 7:24-30 and Matthew 15:21-28).

The Gospel of Mary, a Gnostic text from the early second century, suggests that Jesus entrusted Mary Magdalene to provide religious instruction to his disciples.

But then conventional hierarchies asserted themselves, and women were mostly barred from religious leadership.

After The Chronicle’s investigation, the Southern Baptists have promised greater training and more background checks, but what’s needed above all is accountability and equality.

“Prohibiting women from the highest ranks of formal leadership fosters a fundamentally toxic masculinity,” Jonathan L. Walton, the Plummer professor of Christian morals at Harvard, told me.

Baptist women have been ready to be heard for a century. I know because my great-grandfather John Howard Shakespeare was the leader of Baptists in Britain from 1898 to 1924 and practiced his sermons on his wife. When she once insisted that she had something else to do, he locked her in an upstairs room.

My great-grandmother Amy, wearing a long dress, then climbed out an upper window and onto a tree branch, and finally clambered down the tree to the ground.

Perhaps inspired by such a strong woman, Shakespeare favored the ordination of women. “That women are not yet permitted to take their proper share in the life and work of our churches is, to our thinking, a relic of barbarism,” he wrote in 1901.

So much has changed for women since then, yet even today a majority of religious women still belong to denominations that do not ordain women. And as long as inequality is baked into faith, as long as “men of God” are unaccountable, then sexual assaults will continue.

The problem is not just wayward pastors and priests. Rather it is structural, an inequality and masculine conception of God that empowers rapists.

And, perhaps, embarrasses God.

September 16, 2018

Sexual Abuse: Religion Wants Silence

Pope Francis wants silence about the Catholic Church’s leaders sexually abusing members, but more information about the epidemic is pouring into the media. New York has issued subpoenas against the state’s eight dioceses, and New Jersey created a task force to investigate allegations of clergy sexually abusing minors and any attempts of the church to hide the abuse. In charge of the New York investigation, the state’s AG Barbara Dale Underwood also encouraged the state legislature to pass the Child Victims Act that would permit civil suits until victims are 50 years old and seek criminal charges against abusers until age 28. Pennsylvania prosecutors who recently concluded that 300 priests in the state had sexually abused over 1,000 children during the past 70 years. New York, New Mexico, Illinois, Nebraska, and Missouri have already started investigations or inquiries.

In West Virginia, Bishop Michael J. Bransfield, whose diocese covers the entire state, resigned after allegations of sexually harassing adults. Bransfield is a close associate of former Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick who left his position after allegedly molesting an altar boy and coercing seminary students to sleep in his bed. McCarrick was elevated to cardinal despite warnings over many years.

Cardinal Donald Wuerl, the archbishop of Washington since 2006, told his parishioners that he is leaving because of poor judgment when he was bishop of Pittsburgh. Pennsylvania investigators named Wuerl over 200 times in its report about the systemic abuse of more than 1,000 children by over 300 priests when bishops and other church officials concealed crimes and protected predatory priests. Wuerl allowed an accused abuser to stay in his ministry and banned victims from speaking during a settlement agreement.

The bishop of Buffalo, Richard J. Malone, has thus far ignored calls for his resignation after an investigation from a local radio station revealed he kept priests in ministry who might be threats to children. When Malone pretended transparency and released the names of priests accused of abuse, he omitted dozens of names.

Four U.S. cardinals went to meet with Pope Francis to discuss the problems of Catholic leaders’ sexual assault. One, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston, has been accused of knowing about a priest’s sexual abuse and allowed him to remain in his ministry. DiNardo had appointed the priest, arrested last week on charges of indecency with children, to a leadership role as episcopal vicar for Hispanics after he met with accusers at two separate times.

Knowledge about sex abuse by Catholic Church leaders has erupted around the world with revelations of abuse and cover-ups in Australia, Ireland, Belgium, France, Chile and other countries. A leaked report from Germany included information about 1,670 church workers—over four percent of the clergy—were involved in the abuse of 3,677 children over seven decades. Researchers said that many more cases probably existed because they were not allowed access to confidential records.

A Dutch newspaper found that 20 of 39 Dutch cardinals, bishops, and their auxiliaries are accused of covering up the sexual assault of children between 1945 and 2010, four of them accused of sexually abusing children. The report stated that the church destroyed files of accused clergy.

As states ponder dealing with Catholics abusing children, the evangelicals have decided that AG Jeff Sessions’ virulent anti-LGBTQ policies and “religious liberty” discrimination aren’t enough for their approval. Fundamentalist Christians are throwing him under the ever-growing bus because he recused himself from investigation into the Russian scandal after meeting with Russians during the campaign of Dictator Donald Trump (DDT). Jerry Falwell Jr., is calling on DDT to fire Sessions because Sessions “really is not on the president’s team, never was.” Never mind that Sessions was the first senator to endorse DDT when he looked like a loser, agreeing with DDT’s hardline immigration policies. To Falwell and other evangelicals, the only real leader is the serial liar who attacks women.

At the “state dinner” with evangelicals, DDT told them that Democrats will “overturn everything that we’ve done … quickly and violently” if they get elected and called the election “a referendum on your religion.” To evangelicals, VP Mike Pence, the real believer, is invisible because they want power, not religion.

Evangelicals are also calling for parents to shun their LGBTQ children. “Ex-lesbian” Assemblies of God pastor Janet Boynes published an article on Charisma News, a Christian website, urging parents to refuse to meet their children’s partners and cut the children out of their life. Her solution:

“As pastors, people look to us to take the lead on showing love and hospitality, embracing those who do not know Christ…. You are willing to throw God under the bus because this is your child or loved one. What does that say to God about where your heart is?”

Last November, Ralph Shortey, an anti-LGBTQ former state senator in Oklahoma who served as DDT’s state GOP chair, was charged with felony child prostitution, child sex trafficking, and possession of child pornography. The 35-year-old father of four girls resigned from the state legislature last March after he was found in a hotel room with a 17-year-old male. Both were naked. Shortey cited his Christian beliefs as the reason that he voted against a transgender “bathroom bill” and for other anti-LGBTQ bills including a measure allowing business owners to discriminate against LGBTQ people. He pled guilty to child sex trafficking and appeared in court last week, seeking leniency. In his 14 Craigslist ads, he sought a “boy,” offered sex with his wife, and requested group sex with strangers. On the message app Kik, some with usernames referencing child pornography, Shortey wanted interaction with children, listing his background as work as church bus driver and activities with the state YMCA Youth and Government programs and the state American Legion leadership week Boys State.

In Ohio, Wesley Goodman, a GOP first-term representative and proponent of “natural behavior,” resigned the week before Shortey’s fall after Goodman engaged in sexual activity with a male visitor in his legislative office. During his campaign years earlier, a father had gone to Tony Perkins, head of the conservative Family Research Council, to complain after Goodman sexually fondled his son. Perkins promised action but did nothing, and Goodman won his next election because evangelicals protected the sexual predator.

Another anti-LGBTQ “Christian” minister has resigned because of sexual misconduct and “undesired physical displays of affection.” Father Eric Dudley, married and father of three, left the Tallahassee St. Peter’s Anglican Church after complaints followed by an inquiry by senior priests. Dudley had left St. John’s Episcopal Church after ten years because of the Episcopalians’ pro-LGBTQ position and founded a church associated with the Anglican Church of Uganda. He called marriage equality a “well-oiled political scheme involving the media and Hollywood” that caused people to accept bisexuality, polyamory, and identification as “any gender.”

The Mormons also failed to refer cases of sex abuse allegations after investigating missionaries and a stake president. The leaked document read, “The missionary department is reluctant to send this elder home where he may face prosecution for a felony.” When a missionary accused of sexually abusing a child in a foreign country was sent back to the U.S., the Mormon leadership “determined no action would be taken.”

These sexual predators are only a few of the people who take the moral high ground in their war to make the United States a theocracy while abusing others.

Dylan Charles writes:

“Of the world’s two major religions, one is engaged in a generations long campaign of torture and murder of non-believers, and the other is always mired in sex scandals involving child rape, pedophilia, molestation and high level cover ups.”

These authoritarian religions control behavior from fear, forcing people to follow the leaders without doubt, without evidence. These rigid patterns eliminate the opportunity for open minds and education because dogmatic religious leaders don’t permit questioning. The superiority of conservative religious leaders—usually males—is rapidly taking over the United States. The leadership in the federal government, consumed by making more money, will do anything to get their own way—cheat, lie, abuse, cover up wrong doings. The result is a class society of haves and have nots in which people constantly experience more and more abuse—physical, sexual, and emotional.

September 4, 2018

Kavanaugh, Woodward, Plus More News

Democrats may not win the fight to keep Brett Kavanaugh out of the Supreme Court, but they’re putting up a good show. Only two nominees—Robert Bork and Harriet Miers—had lower poll ratings, and neither one was confirmed. Only 38 percent of people want Kavanaugh on the high court, and 39 percent think he should not be confirmed. Women in particular dislike him in their 46 percent opposition. One reason might be that he tried to imprison a 17-year-old immigrant pregnant from a rape although the Supreme Court has ruled that she had the right to one. Rachel Maddow has a 21-minute segment about Kavanaugh’s behavior on the bench that doesn’t match his assurance to gullible Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) that Roe v. Wade is “settled law.” In her opening statement at the hearing, Sen. Diane Feinstein explained how Kavanaugh has already ruled against Roe v. Wade. [visual]

The Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Kavanaugh started today, less than 15 hours after the White House finally released 42,000 pages of documents about him. In a fit of speed-reading, Chair Chuck Grassley (R-IA) claimed that he and his staff had reviewed all these documents in less than three hours. Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) still withholds 93 percent of the records from the time when Kavanaugh was White House counsel and staff secretary for George W. Bush by invoking presidential privilege although Bush cleared the records for release. Some of these may have had to do with Kavanaugh’s support for torture. The White House alerted reporters to the Democrats’ comments, perhaps to show their obstruction. But instead the message may have been that an unindicted co-conspirator has nominated a justice for the nation’s highest court, one who he hopes will exonerate him by ruling that the president is above the law and refuses to release the nominee’s records.

Kavanaugh may also face questions about his possible lying under oath in an earlier confirmation hearing.

In a bad photo op for Kavanaugh, he refused to shake hands with the father of Jamie Guttenberg who was murdered at the Parkland (FL) high school earlier this year. Feinstein had introduced Fred Guttenberg (left) in the committee chambers so Kavanaugh knew who he was. Kavanaugh stared at him for a short time before he turned and walked away. When Kavanaugh returned, he bragged about coaching his daughter’s basketball team. Footage of the interaction with Guttenberg shows that the White House lied to cover up for Kavanaugh’s rude behavior.

Just when people thought that DDT had stopped fighting with AG Jeff Sessions, DDT spent the last day of his Labor Day weekend lambasting Sessions for the indictments of Reps. Duncan Hunter (R-CA) and Chris Collins (R-NY) for misusing campaign funds/fraud and insider trading/securities fraud. DDT’s objection is that he wants the DOJ to hold off on prosecuting the charged congressional members so that they can win their districts. He is a loser in this argument; almost two-thirds of people oppose firing Sessions and back investigator Robert Mueller.

“So I have another bad book coming out. Big deal,” said DDT in a conversation with Bob Woodward about his new book, Fear: Trump in the White House, about DDT’s time in the White House. DDT spent most of the talk either claiming that he would have liked to talk to Woodward for the book, saying that no one had ever told him, and explaining what a wonderful job he was doing. Woodward told at least six people with access to DDT that he wanted to talk to DDT, but DDT claims that no one except maybe Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) had mentioned it to him. Kellyanne Conway admitted on the conversation that Woodward had talked with her about an interview with DDT.

Woodward writes that DDT’s closest aides, including Gary Cohn and Rob Porter, hid papers from his desk to keep him from signing them because they viewed DDT as a danger to national security. Woodward reported that Chief of staff John Kelly described Trump as an “idiot” and “unhinged,” Defense Secretary James Mattis said DDT has the understanding of “a fifth or sixth grader,” and former personal lawyer John Dowd called DDT “a fucking liar,” telling DDT he would end up in an “orange jump suit” if he testified to special counsel Robert Mueller. Dowd resigned the day after DDT told him that he would be a “real good witness.” DDT called AG Jeff Sessions “mentally retarded” and a “dumb Southerner”; DDT told Rudy Giuliani what he’s “like a little baby that needed to be changed.” Explaining his strategy in Afghanistan, DDT told his generals, “You should be killing guys.” Fortunately, Mattis didn’t kill Bashar al-Assad in April 2017 as DDT requested. The book portrays DDT as lonely and increasingly paranoid, obsessed with the media’s perception of him and with his base.

Fox analyst Howard Kurtz debunked Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders’ defense by pointing out that sources for Woodward’s book are current as well as past employees.

U.S.-backed Saudi Arabia forces are deliberately bombing dozens of Yemeni civilians—some of them at least 40 children riding on a school bus in Yemen when they were taking a rare field trip. On the day of the attack, the head of the coalition stated that the bus was a “legitimate military target.” Later the report indicated that the attack was “unjustified” but only because the suspect was not on the bus, not that they had killed children. The U.S. sold the bomb to Saudi Arabians after DDT lifted the ban on these sales. DDT has said nothing about the tragedies in Yemen.

Desperate for new headquarters, the FBI lost their chance to move out of downtown Washington, D.C. across DDT’s hotel to the suburbs. DDT likely scuttled the deal to keep another hotel from moving into the area. Federal employees were ordered to not discuss any of his comments. To keep the FBI headquarters in place, officials greatly underestimated the cost of not moving the facility.

The white man who murdered two people at a video game tournament in Jacksonville (FL) and then turned the gun on himself to commit suicide has been described as having a mental illness. His easy access to guns was not responsible for the tragedy according to the state AG Pam Bondi; she blames the gathering of people to play video games, for example the football video game Madden. Intent on wiping out any taint of domestic terrorism by white men in the United States, Politico joined the myth by exonerating Timothy McVeigh of any terrorism. In 1995, the 27-year-old white man bombed a government building in Oklahoma City, killing 168 people and injuring over 680 others. Sam Anderson maintains that McVeigh was no terrorist—he was just depressed because his favorite football team, the Buffalo Bills, had started losing. Given his sad life, Anderson claims, “it is easy to imagine how this young man might have been lured into making a bad decision.” The article was abstracted from Anderson’s book Boom Town. Is it possible that the United States could reduce the murder and domestic terrorism rate by banning video games and football?

Pope Francis has a solution for the allegations that he covered up sex abuse by church leaders and lied about knowing nothing regarding his meeting with Kim Davis, the Kentucky clerk who went to jail for refusing to issue marriage licenses to same-gender couples. He called for silence.

When he ran for president, DDT’s name was on 19 brands; now it’s on just one—furniture sold by a Turkish company selling Trump furniture.

DDT has reached 60 percent—in his disapproval rating. His approval rating is 36 percent, and 53 percent think that his interference with Mueller’s investigation is obstruction of justice. At 63 percent, an additional ten percent support the investigation. Mueller’s case against Manafort received 67 percent believing it was justified, and two-thirds oppose DDT’s pardoning Manafort. Sessions also gets 64 percent support from being fired, and 61 percent believe that DDT committed a crime if he told Cohen to make hush money payments to Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal.

DDT makes up his own approval ratings. In a call to a radio talk show, he said that he adds “another 7 or eight points’ to the existing approval rating, and at a rally in North Dakota, he recommended adding 12 to any of his polls.

DDT has greatly helped ratings for MSNBC and Rachel Maddow in particular. In August, MSNBC was the second-most-watched network across all of basic cable, and The Rachel Maddow Show was number one for total viewers on cable TV for the last week of August and top the 25-54 demographic throughout August, beating Sean Hannity. While MSNBC’s ratings rose over that in 2017, both CNN and Fox went down. All the MSNBC shows—Chris Hayes, Laurence O’Donnell, Brian Williams, Ari Melber, Hallie Jackson, Nicolle Wallace, Katy Tur, and Ali Velshi—had substantial gains and record-breaking numbers. Kudos to genuine news instead of screaming people and fake propaganda.

August 26, 2018

Religious Leadership, Abusive and in Control of the U.S.

The Nuns on the Bus are traveling again in October, this time from Los Angeles through 21 states with 54 events during their 27 days and aimed directly at Mar-a-Lago, where they finish with a “Fiesta for the Common Good.” For the sixth time since Sister Simone Campbell, leader of a Catholic social justice lobby, fired up her followers, the nuns plan to protest, this time the GOP tax plan just in time for people to pick their candidates at the 2018 general election. Critics of the $1.2 trillion tax cut, mostly going to the richest people and biggest corporations, point out that it increases the budget deficit and income inequality. Even worse, Republicans plan to use the tax cut’s deficit from giving money to the wealthiest Republicans to eliminate or at least reduce Social Security and Medicare.

After Pope Francis addressed a letter to the 1.2 billion Catholics in the world, lamenting the horrific sexual abuse by church leaders in Pennsylvania, Sister Simone spoke with Amy Goodman on Democracy Now. The sister called on the pope to go beyond writing a letter and take action.

Goodman pointed out that she and the nuns, who fought for social justice, “were investigated more than any of these priests, who preyed on children and adults, seminarians as well.” “When attacked, let’s deflect it,” Sister Simone said to explain the Catholic approach toward the abuse. “We certainly see that in politics right now in our nation,” she added. Sister Simone called on “serious change” in the leadership in a church that ignores women in leadership positions.

“We have all this pious talk about how men and women are created in complementarity and all that, but then we leave women out entirely….”

Sister Simone and her small network was criticized by the Catholic church for “being a bad influence on Catholic sisters in the United States, because we worked too much on the issues of poverty.” The leadership’s focus on abortion and sexual orientation focuses its perspective on sex, “and they become the righteous judgers. And this is wrong. This is wrong.”

Asked if women should be priests, Sister Simone described the “priestly functions” that she performs and “should be acknowledged.” She also thinks that priests should be able to marry, the way that they could before 1200. At that time, a wife might be able to inherit a cathedral if she were married to a bishop. The solution was mandating celibacy.

Pope Francis’ letter promised that “no effort” will be spared to change a church culture that allows both the abuse and the conspiracy to hide it. In Ireland, where the pope is visiting, he may have trouble convincing people after his recent appointment of Philip Boyce as bishop. With only 160,000 residents, County Donegal has the worst record of sexual abuse in Ireland. Four of the 14 accused priests were convicted, including the Rev. Eugene Greene who was imprisoned for nine years after raping and molesting at least 26 boys between 1965 and 1982. Boyce refused to defrock Green in the late 1990s. Residents said that the pope’s appointment of Boyce belies his words, as Francis continues to shuffle along those who protect abusers.

In another case, Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, who served as apostolic nuncio in Washington, D.C. from 2011 to 2016, wrote that Pope Francis ignored his information about Theodore Carrick by removing sanctions that Pope Benedict XVI placed on McCarrick in 2013. McCarrick, a long-time successful fundraiser for the Vatican, had been aged out of his position of Archbishop of Washington, D.C., and Benedict’s sanctions limited him from leaving his residence at a seminary and performing public Mass. Francis repealed the sanctions and “continued to cover” for McCarrick, making him “his trusted counselor” who advised Francis on several bishop appointments in the United States. The Catholic Church made several settlements to McCarrick’s sexual abuse traced back 47 years, but the Church always covered for his activities until he was blocked from public ministry on June 20, 2018.

Viganò calls for Pope Francis and others involved in the coverup of McCarrick’s abuse to resign, adding that complicity of John Paul II’s and Benedict XVI’s respective Secretary of States, Cardinals Angelo Sodano and Tarcisio Bertone had led to the delay of the sanctions.  Benedict had ignored both of Viganò’s memos about McCarrick from 2006 and 2008 until Richard Sipe, a psychotherapist and specialist in clerical sexual abuse, sent Benedict a statement about McCarrick’s abuse. Viganò also reinforced the record of cover-up in Honduras by Cardinal Rodriguez Maradiaga and his record of cover-up in Honduras, saying the Pope “defends his man” to the “bitter end,” despite the allegations against him.

In the past three decades, the Catholic Church has paid out over $3.6 billion to settle abuse case.

During his visit to Ireland, Pope Francis largely addressed the “family” with no specifics about stopping the sexual abuse within the Catholic Church, and Colm O’Gorman, a clerical abuse survivor, called the pope’s remarks an “extraordinary deflection.” Ireland’s Prime Minister Leo Varadkar spoke about actually doing something rather than merely express regret and sadness. Colm O’Gorman, a clerical abuse survivor and the director of Amnesty International Ireland, called the pope’s remarks on Saturday morning an “extraordinary deflection.” He also said that the pope’s statement that Catholics should share the shame were an “insult to faithful Catholics, who have no reason to feel shame because of the crimes of the Vatican and the institution church.”

Francis received a far more lukewarm greeting than the one for John Paul II in 1979, and thousands of protesters gathered in Dublin.

More deflection came from Cardinal Raymond Burke who blamed homosexuality for the child abuse, ignoring the science that this abuse is a sexual disorder, more common in men,that has nothing to do with sexual orientation. Men have more access to boys than girls, especially in the Catholic Church where women have few leadership responsibilities.

High profile U.S. Catholics such as Cardinals Sean O’Malley of Boston and Donald Wuerl of Washington, canceled their trips to be with Francis in Ireland. O’Malley has been accused of concealing sexual abuse among clerics, including a 2015 report about McCarrick, and Wuerl, bishop of Pittsburgh from 1988 to 2006, granted reassignment and retirement requests to priests accused of sexual abuse without reporting their behavior. Current bishop of Pittsburgh, David Zubik, claims that there are no confidentiality agreements about sexual abuse, but he offered a victim money for his children’s college tuition and some counseling in return for his silence.

A letter calling for the resignation of all U.S. bishops is gaining traction since massive reports of sexual abuse coverup; last May, Chile’s 34 bishops all resigned after a sexual abuse scandal. The letter declares:

“The catastrophic scale and historical magnitude of the abuse makes clear that this is not a case of ‘a few bad apples,’ but rather a radical systemic injustice manifested at every level of the Church. Systemic sin cannot be ended through individual goodwill.”

The Irish Catholic Church has a long history of abusing children and women. In a Catholic program that finally ended in 1996, at least 10,000 unmarried mothers or “morally wayward” women were enslaved against their wishes in Magdalene laundries where they worked for no pay, no pension, and no social protection—sometimes for their entire lives—to wash clothes and linens for major hotel groups and the Irish armed forces. The report begins only in 1922; they may have a much longer history.

Many of the women were sent to these laundries after they gave birth in homes run by nuns, one of the most infamous in the small town of Tuam. An investigation found a number of tiny skeletons on the grounds after an historian raised an alarm, who reported that almost 800 children, mistreated at the home are buried there. Her evidence comes from 800 death certificates found at the home, some of them with malnutrition as the cause, but records of only four burials. Conservative Bill Donohue, president of the Catholic League, ranted against any accusations against Catholic abuse, but Ireland has failed to continue its investigations after discovering the first 35 skeletons. Children who lived were all sent off to foster families.

If Brett Kavanaugh is confirmed as Supreme Court justice, Catholicism will continue to dominate the high court with two-thirds constituency. Meanwhile, DDT is packing the other courts and the government agencies with radical fundamental Christians—almost all male and many of them also abusers. Running the U.S. House are a Catholic and a fundamentalist Christian—both male. Over 45 percent of Congress is Catholic—twice as many as the Catholic percentage in the U.S. Over half the U.S. population is female, but only 20 percent of Congress are women.

Most conservative Catholics and evangelical Christians don’t object to DDT’s sexual misconduct, cruelty, lies, and illegal activity. Until the conservative religious and male control of the United States changes, the nation will continue to be run by people who are obsessed with sex and have no interest in social justice.

February 5, 2017

DDT Aims U.S. toward Bigoted Theocracy

With 80 percent of the evangelical vote in the recent election, Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) is paying them back for their loyalty. He nominated Neil Gorsuch for the Supreme Court to get anti-abortion, anti-contraception, anti-death with dignity rulings. At the National Prayer Breakfast, he promised to allow tax-exempt churches to promote candidates from the pulpit and engage in other political action while keeping their tax-exempt status. And he appointed Liberty University President Jerry Falwell Jr. to an educational task force for the Department of Education that will use right-wing fundamentalist Christianity in controlling higher education through eliminating regulations to keep the institutions secular.

In a bizarre appearance, DDT gave a speech at the National Prayer Breakfast that lambasted Arnold Schwarzenegger’s performance on The Apprentice and asked the audience to pray for the series that he produces. Then DDT proceeded to justify his ban against Muslims entering the United States by saying that  it will ensure that everyone in the U.S. will follow “our values of religious and personal liberty.” About Senate Chaplain Barry Black, DDT asked, “Is that an appointed position? I don’t even know if you’re Democrat or if you’re Republican, but I’m appointing you for another year, the hell with it.” Yup. The hell with it.

DDT used Jefferson’s language at the prayer breakfast to argue for limiting worship in the United States to Christianity and eliminating the Islam religion:

“It was the great Thomas Jefferson who said, the God who gave us life, gave us liberty. Jefferson asked, can the liberties of a nation be secure when we have removed a conviction that these liberties are the gift of God. Among those freedoms is the right to worship according to our own beliefs. That is why I will get rid of and totally destroy the Johnson Amendment and allow our representatives of faith to speak freely and without fear of retribution. . . .”

The founding father believed in the “right to worship,” not the right to take away other people’s rights.

The last fragile vestige of separation of church and state came from the Johnson Amendment from over a half century ago, but Rep. Jody Hice (R-GA) and House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA) have introduced legislation to eliminate that law. DDT declared he would destroy the law. The proposed bill would ban religious institutions from donating to campaigns, but there can always be amendments.

Under the existing Johnson Amendment, religious groups may discuss political issues but not endorse candidates. Religious groups may spend up to 20 percent of their operating budget on political organizing and advocacy without violating their tax-exempt status. LifeWay, a religious research organization, found that 79 percent of U.S. citizens don’t believe “pastors [should] publicly endorse political candidates during a church service.”

DDT has still not overturned President Obama’s executive order that prohibited federal contractors from discriminating against workers on the basis of sexual orientation, but he is considering an executive order allow religious beliefs to discriminate against anyone. The basis of the drafted order:

“This Constitutional protection ensures that Americans and their religious organizations will not be coerced by the Federal Government into participating in activities that violate their consciences, and will remain free to express their viewpoints without suffering adverse treatment from the Federal Government.”

Although the news media has focused on the order’s effect on LGBT people, it could be disastrous for children, non-Christians, unmarried heterosexual couples, unmarried mothers, and women’s reproductive rights, including contraception and abortion—in short, permitting anyone to refuse any services for any self-declared “religious” reasons. The order could permit child abuse, domestic violence, injuries, any persecution or humiliation, and perhaps even murder. Parents could deny medical attention to their children and allow them to die.

The order would cover “any organization, including closely held for-profit corporations” “when providing social services, education, or healthcare; earning a living, seeking a job, or employing others; receiving government grants or contracts; or otherwise participating in the marketplace, the public square, or interfacing with Federal, State or local governments.”

In addition, the order would allow any church or charitable organization  to be directly political without losing their tax exempt status if  it “believes, speaks, or acts (or declines to act) in accordance with the belief that marriage is or should be recognized as the union of one man and one woman, sexual relations are properly reserved for such a marriage, male and female and their equivalents refer to an individual’s immutable biological sex as objectively determined by anatomy, physiology, or genetics at or before birth, and that human life begins at conception and merits protection at all stages of life.”

According to the draft of the order, agencies shall faithfully discharge their duty to accommodate the religion of federal employees and shall not promulgate regulations, take actions, or enact policies that substantially burden a person’s or religious organization’s religious exercise

Asked if DDT believes that Islam is a religion, senior White House aide Sebastian Gorka, a former Breitbart national security editor, refused to answer. Islamphobia has run rampant at the White House: its National Security Advisor, Michael Flynn, described Islam as a “cancer,” which “hides behind this notion of being a religion,” and Steve Bannon has made other inflammatory comments about the religion. Avoiding to answer this question indicates that the answer would probably be “no—Islam is not a religion” from the White House administration.

Pope Francis called out DDT on his Muslim ban, criticizing “the contradiction of those who want to defend Christianity in the West, and, on the other hand, are against refugees and other religions.” Francis explained:

“The sickness or, you can say the sin, that Jesus condemns most is hypocrisy, which is precisely what is happening when someone claims to be a Christian but does not live according to the teaching of Christ. You cannot be a Christian without living like a Christian.”

The pope cited the Parable of the Sheep and the Goats in Matthew 25 which concluded, “I say to you, what you did not do for one of these least ones, you did not do for me.”

[Note: DDT’s staff must have taken away his phone again. Thus far, he has not tweeted against the pope–just the “so-called judge” who overturned his Muslim ban.]

Fundamentalist Christians are accusing progressive women of being witches if they don’t support DDT. In the past men controlled women by declaring them witches and killing them. The water test meant that they were innocent if they drowned and guilty—and then burned at the stake—if they survived. Twenty-first century men are bringing back the threat of witchcraft for uppity women who marched for our rights.

According to “prophet” Rick Joyner, any opposition to DDT is the sign of devil influence and explained that the march’s “out-of-control rage” had to be Satanic. Lance Wallnau accused the nature of “the progressive spirit” in “a desire to control and intimidate, manipulate”—just like witchcraft. Jim Bakker chimed in with his second wife, Lori, to talk to Billye Brim who explained that the march was “driven by demons” and called on her viewers to pray in order to “control the demons that were in those women.” Bakker agreed that he sensed “the most evil spirit I have ever felt” in his hotel lobby on the day of the march.

Bakker was imprisoned for several years and then divorced after his sex scandal, including an alleged rape, and accounting fraud. Jerry Falwell, Sr. called Bakker a liar, an embezzler, a sexual deviant, and “the greatest scab and cancer on the face of Christianity in 2,000 years of church history.”

Despite the founding of the nation on religious liberty, almost one-third of people in the United States think that only Christians can be real “Americans.” Once again, the youth of the nation may save the country: 44 percent of adults over 50 find Christianity being a key whereas only 18 percent of adults younger than 35 agree.

Religion as the key to being a part of the national identity is far more prevalent than it is in other countries. Only 13 percent of Australians, 15 percent of Canadians, and 15 percent of Europeans believe that belonging in their countries is tied to the Christian religion.

In answer to another question on the poll, the same percentage of people in the U.S.—32 percent—think that people have to be born in the country to be an “American.”

Under DDT, the United States is shifting from being a “flawed democracy” to a white supremacist theocracy.

October 11, 2015

State May Be Separating from Church

FILE - In this Tuesday, June 30, 2015 file photo, the Ten Commandments Monument is pictured at the state Capitol in Oklahoma City, Okla. The Oklahoma Supreme Court’s June 30 decision to order the monument removed from the state Capitol grounds has so angered conservatives in the Legislature that some Republicans are calling for justices to be impeached. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki, File)

In another failure for Oklahoma conservatives, after they didn’t execute Richard Glossip at the end of September, is the removal of a one-ton granite monument with the text of the bible’s Ten Commandments. Afraid that protesters would obstruct their actions, a “large Oklahoma Highway Patrol presence” guarded the workers late at night. The behemoth isn’t gone; it’s just moved a few blocks away where it doesn’t violate Section II-5 of the Oklahoma Constitution mandating that public property can’t be used to benefit or support any “sect, church, denomination, or system of religion,” either directly or indirectly. Gov. Mary Fallin has asked voters to amend the state constitution so that the monument can return to the capitol grounds. Oklahomans might want to note the Sixth Commandment, “Thou shalt not kill,” when considering future state executions.

 

Teaching evolution in public schools does not violate the First Amendment, a federal district court has reaffirmed. Kenneth Smith of Harpers Ferry (WV) had filed suit, stating that his religious freedom rights were violated because his daughter learns about evolution in public school. She plans to be a veterinarian, and her father claims that evolution is teaching her “a faith base (evolutionary ideology) that just doesn’t exist.” Judge Gina M.Groh ruled that he couldn’t prove that state agencies had committed any wrongdoing. Last year, the creationist group Citizens for Objective Public Education (COPE) sued to stop the state of Kansas from implementing new science education standards that included the teaching of evolution. COPE argued that by teaching evolution, public schools had effectively endorsed atheism as a religious viewpoint. They lost too.

Forced to find money elsewhere after her older brother’s sexual crimes, Jill (Duggar) Dillard, of 19 Kids and Counting, decided to collect money with her husband,Derick Dillard, for a mission to El Salvador. Disillusioned fans after the experience seemed to be more a vacation than actual work were  right: the Dillards had applied for missionary status to the Southern Baptist Convention that decided the couple lacked enough education. Fortunately for them, they still have the money from the “Dillard Family Ministries,” a tax-exempt religious organization that keeps them from having to declare how much money they have or where it is.

This tax-exempt status of religious groups may someday run into legal trouble. Pope Francis has already taken potshots at churches that “worship the God of money” instead of helping the sick and the poor as Jesus commands. Televangelists and preachers who run their “churches” like businesses or political organizations may want to take notice. As in the U.S., Italian churches act as umbrellas for its property and businesses to avoid taxation. Religious groups operate churches as hotels and still don’t pay taxes. One famous example of tax dodging in the U.S. is John Hagee, who reorganized his TV station in 2001 as a church to shelter tax records for his income of over $1 million. Hagee’s personally-owned 8,000 acre ranch is covered through the Cornerstone Church.

In one segment on his HBO show, John Oliver satirized U.S. churches and preachers such as Pat Robertson who run ponzi-like schemes in begging money in return for God’s favor. After the first episode of “Our Lady of Perpetual Exemption,” the IRS was skewered for conducting only three audits of churches in 2013-14 and non for the four years before that. Any designated “church,” including the Church of Scientology, is tax exempt. Oliver didn’t reveal how much money he received, but the thousands of responses indicated quite of bit of loot. (Oliver gave all the donations to Doctors without Borders.)

john oliver

Luckily for the Duggar family, they are getting financial assistance from GOP presidential candidate Mike Huckabee through partnership in the sales of a political DVD series. The company markets the series with an initial “free” item, available for only shipping and processing. Ordering it automatically enrolls the “purchaser” into future sales. The “Learn Our History” series supposedly teaches “historical facts without bias” and American pride as the videos  “…recognize and celebrate faith, religion and the role of God in America’s founding…,” and “…correct the ‘blame America first’ attitude prevalent in today’s teaching.” We can assume that many tax-funded charter schools will be showing the videos.

Pope Francis seems to suffer from ambivalence when regarding LGBT people. Progressives praised him when he seemed to support LGBT families before they were disturbed with a supposed meeting with Rowan County (KY) clerk, Kim Davis, who had refused to issue marriage licenses to same-gender couples. The Vatican explained that she was just part of a crowd, and the pope met for 20 minutes with a former student and his male partner while in the United States. Now The Vatican has fired Monsignor Krzysztof Charamsa after he said he was proud to be a gay priest and in love with his boyfriend. Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombard, said that Charamsa could remain a priest but could not work at the Vatican.

Charamsa made his announcement just before the Vatican hosted bishops from around the world in a synod discussing families. The reports issued indicate confusion. One of the four groups spoke of a need to reach out to families while another claimed there is a need to point out the sins of current attitudes. Another question is whether the documents are to be distributed publicly or given to the pope as advice.

GOP presidential candidates take great pride in claiming their religious beliefs, but their anti-Christian positions may cause difficulties for them. In a townhall meeting, New Jersey Chris Christie was heard to provide too much information about his use of contraception with his wife. Concentrating on Christie’s sex life, the media failed to publicize the question that led to Christie’s humor. In his audience, a man had cited three biblical verses to argue that Christians should oppose foreign wars and support environmental conservation. Basically, the man was echoing the position of Pope Francis, who the GOP also opposes.

Purporting to be Christians, the GOP candidates oppose curbing global warming, raising the minimum wage, and providing a path to citizenship for undocumented people in the U.S. Jeb Bush said, “I don’t get my economic policy from my bishops or my cardinals or my pope,” and Rick Santorum accused the pope of not being a scientist although pontiff has a degree in chemistry. Marco Rubio said that protecting the economy might be more important than protecting the planet.

Both anti-marriage equality GOP candidates Rand Paul and Donald Trump are affiliated with the Presbyterian Church, which supports same-gender marriage, and Mike Huckabee and Ted Cruz use Christianity to oppose marriage equality and help for undocumented immigrants, a pathway that conservative Christian groups endorsed in 2013. Huckabee tried to work his way out of trouble at the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference (NHCLC) in April by emphasizing the need for border security. That was the day after the head of the NHCLC had said that “Republicans must cross the Jordan of immigration reform to step into the promised land of the Hispanic faith electorate.”

It’s a difficult time for conservatives in a changing landscape.

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