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Stop Sign, via FreeFotoPlease pardon this slight departure from the usual topics of this blog.

I’m sure most of my readers know by now about the Groper-in-Chief’s Twitter tantrum, this past Saturday, over his predecessor having supposedly wiretapped his campaign offices in Trump Tower (WebCite cached article). He hasn’t offered the slightest evidence for this accusation — which is quite serious. He’s had a few days to come up with something … anything! … even remotely supporting his claim, but has refused to do so. In fact, the Apricot Wonder has asked Congress to investigate and find the evidence supporting it (cached).

That’s right, folks. Not only does the GiC have no basis for what he spewed, he knows he doesn’t, and now demands other people somehow find that evidence for him.

Julian Sanchez of the Cato Institute offered a breakdown of how the alt right’s Dear Leader came to make this ridiculous accusation (cached). Among the conclusions of his analysis:

It’s worth noting here that, contra Trump’s claim on Twitter, none of the articles in question claim that phones were tapped. Indeed, it’s not even entirely clear that the order the FISC finally issued in October was a full-blown electronic surveillance warrant requiring a probable cause showing. If the FBI was primarily interested in obtaining financial transaction records, corporate documents, and (depending on both the facts and the FISC’s interpretation of the FISA statute) perhaps even some stored e-mail communications, that information might well have been obtainable pursuant to a §215 “business records” order, which imposes only the much weaker requirement that the records sought be “relevant to an authorized investigation.”

In sum, there’s very little there, and what is there, does not, in fact, support the GiC’s contention. He’s lying, plain and simple. And as I said, he has to know he’s lying.

But take note what happened here. The Apricot Wonder used Twitter as the platform for a big fat honking lie … and as a result, we’re now saddled with a Congressional investigation into wrongdoing which — at the moment — we have no reason to believe ever took place. All because of a Twitter fit that the mass media duly reported.

And that brings me to my idea: A mass media moratorium on reporting the Groper-in-Chief’s tweets. That’s right. What we need for the media to stop fucking reporting on every bit of lying drivel that comes out of the Groper’s Android phone. The country would be spared a lot of trouble, if they’d just do that.

But they won’t. “The president’s tweets are news!” reporters and editors will say. But, while that seems true, it’s not. Presidents say and do a lot of things in the course of a day which aren’t actually newsworthy. The Apricot Wonder’s tweets should be treated that way. If his infantile spew weren’t reported on, a lot of this shit wouldn’t happen. And he wouldn’t be able to misdirect us.

One might also say that the media should report on the Groper’s lying tweets, then debunk them. However, that won’t accomplish anything of substance, and it certainly won’t discourage the Apricot Wonder from lying even more. In fact, this approach actually fuels him, and he’s counting on the media to at least try to debunk him. This is because — amazingly enough — he wants the media to debunk his lies! You see, he’s playing up to his fanbois, and in their eyes, being debunked actually reinforces whatever outrageous thing he says. This is because of a well-documented psychological phenomenon known as the backfire effect. Ultimately, the Groper is counting on the media to report his lies, then make clear they’re lies, because this only deepens his relationship with the people he’s speaking to. Reporters who relay his lying tweets then show they’re lies, are just doing the GiC’s work for him. They might as well be on his payroll!

It’d be a good idea if, generally, the media treated the Groper like the infantile, paranoid, thin-skinned, whiny cretin he is. The media are showing him a degree of respect he hasn’t actually earned. If they did that, the attention whore who infests the Oval Office would have no choice but to grow up and begin acting his age. Cutting off his ability to build on his raging, immature “base” would benefit everyone.

Ed. to add: As of July 2 it has become crystal-clear that a moratorium on the GiC’s tweets is not merely a good idea, it’s imperative.

Photo credit: FreeFoto.

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Photo from Word of Faith FellowshipThe Associated Press continues to report on the vile shenanigans that have gone on at the Word of Faith Fellowship church in Spindale, NC, which I blogged about just a few days ago. I wondered, when I first posted on the subject, how and why this church was able to continue doing what it’s been doing for decades, unaffected by the North Carolina legal system. Well, this latest AP report explains why. The fix, it seems, was in (WebCite cached article):

At least a half-dozen times over two decades, authorities investigated reports that members of a secretive evangelical church were being beaten. And every time, according to former congregants, the orders came down from church leaders: They must lie to protect the sect.

Among the members of the Word of Faith Fellowship who coached congregants and their children on what to say to investigators were two assistant district attorneys and a veteran social worker, the ex-followers told The Associated Press.

Frank Webster and Chris Back — church ministers who handle criminal cases as assistant DAs for three nearby counties — provided legal advice, helped at strategy sessions and participated in a mock trial for four congregants charged with harassing a former member, according to former congregants interviewed as part of an AP investigation of Word of Faith.

Back and Webster, who is sect leader Jane Whaley’s son-in-law and lives in her house, also helped derail a social services investigation into child abuse in 2015 and attended meetings where Whaley warned congregants to lie to investigators about abuse incidents, according to nine former members.

Yeah, that’s right. This church employed all its legal connections to derail prosecutions, for example:

According to nine former members interviewed by the AP, at least five other congregants who are lawyers participated in or were present during coaching sessions designed to circumvent investigators.

Back and Webster also helped sabotage a Rutherford County Department of Social Services investigation in 2015, according to Jeffrey Cooper’s brother, Chad Cooper, an attorney who said he attended a church meeting convened to undermine that probe.

Chad Cooper, who left the church last year, said also participating in the meeting was Word of Faith member Lori Cornelius, a longtime social services worker assigned to a nearby county.

Cooper said social services personnel were investigating complaints that students were beating classmates at the church-run K-12 school to cast out devils, and that teachers, including Whaley, encouraged the violence.

There’s more — a lot more! — to this story, which is much longer and more substantial than the AP’s earlier piece (cached). I urge you to read it … all of it. It shows how, as with the Roman Catholic Church and its “priestly pedophilia” scandal, this church used its status as a religion, and its deep connections to the region and the legal system, to ensure it was, effectively, above the law. But the interference went beyond just church members who were attorneys and social workers (which, by itself, is quite bad enough). Brad Greenway, for a time District Attorney of Rutherford County — and who is not a member of this church — was quick with excuses for why he couldn’t prosecute at least one case:

Asked why he didn’t do more — especially since he said he believed people were being beaten — Greenway said, “I don’t know what you’re expected to find if you went there. You’d find a building. … Are you going to find shackles? Handcuffs?”

Greenway said outsiders don’t understand what it’s like to try to make a case against the church.

Here’s my paraphrase of Greenway’s whine: “Boo hoo hoo! It’s just too hard to develop a case! There was nothing <sniff> I could do! It was all <snuffle> just so hopeless! We had no choice <sniff> but to let a church we knew was abusing people <sniff> continue doing so! Boo hoo hoo!” Any DA who can’t make a case when s/he knows there’s one, should just fucking resign and let his/her betters take over the job. (Which may be why he’s no longer in that position.)

But actually, it appears Greenway was much more sympathetic to Word of Faith Fellowship than just unable and unwilling to make a case. As the AP explains, he actually tipped them off to key developments:

One of the former congregants interviewed by AP, attorney Jeffrey Cooper, also said that … Greenway … leaked information to him and other church lawyers about a 2012-2013 grand jury investigation he was conducting into the church.

Greenway told the AP that he talked to Cooper and other church attorneys about the investigation, but couldn’t recall specifics of the conversations. But he denied supplying the church with “inside information.”

He acknowledged, however, that when asked by Cooper and church attorney Josh Farmer “something about ‘What are you going to do? What do you think is going to happen’…I might have said, ‘We’re going to the grand jury.'”

Look, I get it. This is the Bible Belt (er, the Bobble Bay-elt) where churches are sovereign … just as R.C. hierarchs were (and often still are) sovereigns. No one messes with a church, even when that church is messing up people really badly. They’re all godly outfits, you see, so it must be just fine. Right?

Photo credit: Word of Faith Fellowship Web site.

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Bible-706658Way back in the day, when I was a college-going Christian fundamentalist, I frequently heard how the Catholic Church discouraged its adherents from reading the Bible. Since I was studying medieval history, I was well aware that the medieval Church didn’t want the Bible in the hands of non-clergy, and forbid translating it into languages the common folk might understand (i.e. anything other than the Latin of the Vulgate). The Church backed up this prohibition with force, which sometimes proved fatal, as for example to William Tyndale, who’d translated the Bible into the English vernacular.

Having been raised Catholic, though, I knew that the R.C. Church had ended this policy. In fact, the Church has translated the Bible into many languages, including the New American Bible released in 1970, a copy of which we had in our house. And after Vatican II had called for Mass to be said in the vernacular, Bibles were being read openly to parishioners in their own languages, in Catholic churches around the world.

Yet, many of the Protestant fundamentalists I spent time with persisted with the notion that the R.C. Church still didn’t want lay Catholics to read the Bible. Nothing I said about it could dissuade them. They weren’t buying it … at all.

I’ve long since left that particular crowd behind, but I still hear Protestants (especially of the fundie variety) saying pretty much the same thing. It’s a fable that just keeps being passed around among them, even though it’s no longer true. I imagine they’re all going to be disappointed by something Pope Francis just said, as reported by Vatican Radio (WebCite cached article):

Speaking to the crowds gathered in St. Peter’s Square following his weekly Angelus blessing, the Pope urged those present to give the Bible the same place in daily life as cellphones and asked: “What would happen if we turned back when we forget it, if we opened it more times a day, if we read the message of God contained in the Bible the way we read messages on our cellphones?”

The Bible, he explained, contains the Word of God, the most effective tool in fighting evil and keeping us close to God.…

“That’s why, he said, it is necessary to become familiar with the Bible: read it often, reflect upon it, assimilate it. The Bible contains the Word of God which is always topical and effective” he said.

Inviting the faithful to carry a pocket-sized Gospel all the time, the Pope concluded with the words: “don’t forget what would happen if we treated the Bible as we treat our cellphone, always with us, always close to us!”

It’s not true, of course, that the Christian Bible “is always topical.” It’s actually the collective product of its times, with its various constituent books having been written between the middle of the last millennium BCE and the middle of the 2nd century CE. Those documents are all much more relevant and timely to those who wrote, and first read, them than they are to modern people. Even so, I’m amused that Pope Francis just skewered a common anti-Catholic fundamentalist canard that’s been thrown around for ages. Make no mistake … the lie that the R.C. Church doesn’t want lay Catholics reading the Bible, is exactly that: A lie the fundies’ use to disparage Catholicism.

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Angry mob photo, via CrackedLife has certainly become dangerous for some folks here in the US. Specifically, people of foreign origin or who have any kind of “alien” appearance. In the last couple weeks there have been two incidents in which people were shot, and one killed, merely because they’re not of northern European descent. The first such killing, as the Kansas City Star reports, took place in Olathe, KS late last month (WebCite cached article):

An Olathe man who reportedly told two strangers — Garmin engineers originally from India — to “get out of my country” before he shot them in an Olathe bar was charged Thursday with first-degree murder in the death of one of the victims.

Adam W. Purinton, 51, allegedly shot Srinivas Kuchibhotla, 32; Alok Madasani, 32, of Overland Park, and another bar patron, 24-year-old Ian Grillot of Grandview.

Kuchibhotla died at a hospital after the 7:15 p.m. shooting in Austins Bar & Grill near 151st Street and Mur-Len Road.

In another similar incident, reported by the Seattle Times, a Sikh in Washington state was shot by another enraged foreigner-hater (cached):

Kent police are looking for a gunman who allegedly walked onto a man’s driveway and shot him, saying “Go back to your own country.”

The victim, a 39-year-old Sikh man, was working on his vehicle in his driveway in Kent’s East Hill neighborhood about 8 p.m. Friday when he was approached by an unknown man, Kent police said, after talking with the victim.

An altercation followed, with the victim saying the suspect made statements to the effect of “Go back to your own country.” The victim was shot in the arm.

I particularly love the irony of how someone who’s so courageously pro-American that he’s willing to shoot foreigners, somehow was so cowardly about it that he found it necessary to wear a mask when he did so. Yeah, that’s the reality of folk like this: Deep down — and in spite of all their sanctimonious bluster — they’re really just sniveling, infantile cowards. Of course, they’re still immensely dangerous … but cowardly and infantile nonetheless.

Yes, folks, dawn truly has broken on the Groper-in-Chief’s America. All hail the victorious Alt Right! Too bad for them, they’re actually the “All Wrong.” The idea that law and order can be restored by driving all the supposedly-violent foreigners out of the country, is just fucking ridiculous.

Photo credit: Cracked.

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Saint Patricks Cathedral in New York - NYC - USA - panoramioFallout from the worldwide Catholic clerical abuse scandal continues raining down all over the place. The latest example comes from New York City, whose archdiocese wants to borrow money to improve their cashflow, as Reuters reports, which has been choked due to payouts to abuse victims (WebCite cached article):

The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York is seeking permission for a $100 million mortgage on some of its valuable Manhattan property to fund its compensation program for people sexually abused by its priests, a spokesman said on Wednesday.

The archdiocese said last October it would compensate people who had accused priests of abusing them as children, including those prevented by statutes of limitations from filing civil lawsuits. It said at the time it would seek loans to fund the payouts, which are being decided by two independent arbitrators.

On Monday, the archdiocese filed a petition in New York state court in Manhattan seeking approval for a one-year mortgage from JPMorgan Chase on land it owns behind St. Patrick’s Cathedral; the Lotte New York Palace hotel is located on the site. The petition was necessary under a New York law governing the use of church property, Joseph Zwilling, an archdiocese spokesman, said in a telephone interview.

“Because we have begun the process of paying out the compensation to victims, the archdiocese has taken this short-term loan to cover the payments,” Zwilling said.

As Reuters explains, the archdiocese is also soliciting claims by abusers who haven’t come forward yet, which may well add to their liabilities. That’s laudable, as such, but really, it’s the least they could do at this point. As with almost every other diocese on the planet, they spent years, and maybe decades, covering for abusive clergy and effectively enabling the abuse by continuing to grant abusers access to children, even in cases when they were known abusers.

It’s widely assumed that Catholic dioceses are wealthy … and nearly all of them are. But in many cases, their wealth is tied up in real estate, and while it has value, it’s not cash in the bank that they can write checks against. Hence, tactics like this, borrowing against their real estate. But I can’t say I’m sympathetic. As I said, this scandal was decades in the making and was fuelled by depraved and amoral hierarchs who put the reputation of their precious Church above everything else — even the welfare of children in its care. Disgusting.

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Crepuscular Rays at Noon in Saint Peters Basilica, Vatican City (5939069865)I can’t really say this story surprises me. Pope Francis’s “abuse commission” was doomed from the moment he announced its creation, several years ago. There is no way any such group was ever going to be able to investigate “priestly pedophilia” or bring about any changes that could prevent child abuse in the future. It quite simply was not going to happen. As the Religion News Service reports, an Irish abuse survivor who’d been invited on the panel, has given up and quit (WebCite cached article):

Irish abuse survivor Marie Collins has accused the Vatican bureaucracy of “shameful” resistance to fighting clerical sex abuse in the Catholic Church as she quit a key panel set up by Pope Francis.

In a major setback for the pope, Collins on Wednesday (March 1) announced that she had resigned from the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors established by the pontiff in 2013 to counter abuse in the church.

She said the pope’s decision to create the commission was a “sincere move” but there had been “constant setbacks” from officials within the Vatican.

“There are people in the Vatican who do not want to change or understand the need to change,” Collins said in a telephone interview from Dublin.

Collins is not the only abuse survivor on the panel to have had trouble with it. A year ago, Peter Saunders was sidelined by the commission, and he condemned it — although, as RNS explains, he hasn’t resigned.

Look, any veteran watcher of the R.C. Church could have predicted this outcome. The Vatican is the most change-averse organization on the planet. They resist change at all costs, all the time. There’s a kind of defiant psychopathology that sets in with all the hierarchs once they become princes of the Church. They can get petulant and even angry about having to change, and about being faced with their own wrongdoing, as with New York’s Cardinal Egan back in 2012, retracting his namby-pamby pseudo-apology for what happened while he’d been bishop of Bridgeport, CT. Really, they’re all very childish … which should be no surprise, since immaturity and the religious mind go hand-in-hand.

At any rate, I am disappointed for Ms Collins. It appears she had thought the Pope’s commission might accomplish some good, back when it started, and she still says the Pope himself sincerely meant it to work out. But it didn’t, and it won’t, because it can’t. That’s just how the Vatican, and its black-robed denizens, are.

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Word of Faith Fellowship Church grounds in Rutherford County, N.C. / CBS affiliate WSPAThe American South isn’t called “the Bible Belt” for nothing. Churches pervade the area, and range in size from megachurches with tens of thousands of congregants, to tiny little backyard shacks that host services for just a couple families. Some of those churches, especially those that call themselves “non-denominational,” can get pretty weird. And I’m not just referring to charismatic or “holy roller” churches … those are weird, too, to be sure, but in Bible Belt terms they’re almost mainstream. No, by “weird” I mean downright cult-like, in ways that most Southern churches aren’t.

One of those cult-like outfits is the Word of Faith Fellowship in rural Spindale, NC. The Associated Press spoke with former members and published a story outlining outrageous abuse that had been meted out to some congregants (WebCite cached article):

From all over the world, they flocked to this tiny town in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, lured by promises of inner peace and eternal life. What many found instead: years of terror — waged in the name of the Lord.

Congregants of the Word of Faith Fellowship were regularly punched, smacked, choked, slammed to the floor or thrown through walls in a violent form of deliverance meant to “purify” sinners by beating out devils, 43 former members told The Associated Press in separate, exclusive interviews.

Victims of the violence included pre-teens and toddlers — even crying babies, who were vigorously shaken, screamed at and sometimes smacked to banish demons.

As part of its investigation, the AP reviewed hundreds of pages of law enforcement, court and child welfare documents, along with hours of conversations with Jane Whaley, the evangelical church’s controlling leader, secretly recorded by followers.

The AP also spent more than a year tracking down dozens of former disciples who scattered after leaving the church.

Several former followers said some congregants were sexually abused, including minors.

This cultish church, of course, denies all of this:

But hours after the AP’s stories were released, the church posted a statement on its website calling the allegations false and contending they were made by “certain former members” out to target the church.

The problem with this is, the abuse was substantiated by sources independent of what people simply claimed had happened. They were backed up by recordings, law enforcement reports, etc. So it’s not just some people’s word against theirs.

A lot of these abusive practices appear to be predicated on the notion that people’s problems are caused by demons and/or devils, which can be driven out by the abuse. This is, of course, medieval thinking … but sadly, it’s still all too common in 21st century America.

Rather shamefully, though, as the Friendly Atheist points out, this isn’t the first time Word of Faith has been caught abusing its congregants. Its vile tactics were reported on as long ago as 1995. And in 2014, some Word of Faith operatives were charged with beating a man in an effort to drive the gayness out of him (cached). So none of this is really news. What I expect will happen, now, is what happened all those other times … i.e. Word of Faith will go back to being the abusive cult it’s always been, and local authorities in North Carolina will look the other way. After all, dey gotsta drive dem dere demons out!

Photo credit: WSPA-TV, via CBS News.

Hat tip: Friendly Atheist.

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