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.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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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.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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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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N_2009_1_2There’s a lot of talk about racism in the American Right, and especially in the Religious (or Christian) Right movement. Rightists themselves deny any racism on their part, and the more religious among them point to two things: First, that the Abolition movement of the 19th century was primarily a Christian movement; and second, that the Republican Party, to which nearly all Religious Rightists belong, was founded as Abolitionist. What’s more, they say, the Democratic Party had done more to block the advancement of civil rights, during the 50s and 60s.

All of those things are true, particularly that many Abolitionists were devout Christians and many strongly motivated by their faith. But that doesn’t mean that it’s Leftists and Democrats who’re now (according to the Right) the chief promoters of racism. The reality of the Religious Right movement is that it was founded on opposition to desegregation (in other words, it was predicated on racism). Also, those conservative southern Democrats who once tried to stonewall civil rights reforms, have since then moved over to the GOP.

Put bluntly, “the Party of Lincoln” has become something very different from what it was in Lincoln’s time.

If anyone needs an example of how religiously-inspired racism still lurks deep within 21st century American Christendom, here’s an example to consider. As WBRZ-TV in Baton Rouge, LA reports, a shitstorm was kicked up over a Catholic school student’s essay (WebCite cached version):

Parents and students of a Catholic high school received a letter, apologizing after a student’s essay that chastised African Americans circulated on the internet.

The essay, assigned to a class at St. Michael the Archangel in Baton Rouge, was about Black History Month. Instead of writing about events in February in support of equality for all races, a white student wrote she was “unpleased” with having to write such a paper and continued not everyone is created equal.…

The student referenced what she thought were passages from the bible, supporting a claim that the only race on the earth during biblical times were Caucasians.

The school has disavowed the essay, and I have no reason to assume the student who wrote it learned her racist theology there. But, she learned it from somewhere. She didn’t come up with the idea that Jesus’ apostles were all white and there were no “different ethics” [sic] in Jesus’ time on her own. Someone — and an adult someone, at that! — had to have taught her this bullshit. To be clear, there were most assuredly different ethnic groups in Jesus’ time. There were even different ethnic groups coexisting in the Levant, back then. They spoke different languages and followed different religions, and they didn’t always get along … but they were definitely there.

It’s easy to dismiss this sort of thing as a kind of “one-off,” a unique expression of Christianist racism that doesn’t reflect what others think. But I’m not sure it can be dismissed that easily. Along with the B.S. about there being no “different ethnics” in Jesus’ time, the author complained about blacks wearing ill-fitting pants, and more. Tropes like this have been going around for a long time. This student absorbed them, and will — along with other kids her age — carry them forward into the next generation.

What I’m getting at is that this story is an indicator of a larger phenomenon, one that has a very old pedigree and which doesn’t seem to be going away.

Photo credit: State Archives of North Carolina, via Flickr.

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Alternative Facts / Mike Licht, via FlickrOne wouldn’t think that much changes, simply due to an election — even a presidential election. Yes, offices change hands, with prior officials leaving and new ones coming in … and yes, some weep and wail that their side lost and the other won, and generally carry on as though the world were about to end. But no apocalypse ever comes! The outgoing and incoming officials all work within the same underlying milieux, and American life generally doesn’t change much.

But that was before the unprecedented 2016 election.

As I’ve noted already, we’ve entered a new world, one in which not only the national governmental milieux, but reality itself, is changing … unraveling, even. In their effort to rationalize their specious actions and policies, the Groper-in-Chief’s retinue freely rewrites history and alters reality as though it’s theirs to change, as they see fit. Case in point: Presidential counselor Kellyanne Conway cited a “massacre” that never even happened, as reported by the Washington Post, as the reason to ban entry from seven different countries, even for those already awarded green cards (WebCite cached article):

Kellyanne Conway has taken “alternative facts” to a new level [cached].

During a Thursday interview with MSNBC’s Chris Matthews, the counselor to the president defended President Trump’s travel ban related to seven majority-Muslim countries. At one point, Conway made a reference to two Iraqi refugees whom she described as the masterminds behind “the Bowling Green massacre.”

“Most people don’t know that because it didn’t get covered,” Conway said.

The Bowling Green massacre didn’t get covered because it didn’t happen. There has never been a terrorist attack in Bowling Green, Ky., carried out by Iraqi refugees or anyone else.

No, what actually happened in Bowling Green, KY was that a couple of terror supporters were arrested there, and have since been convicted and given long prison sentences. There hadn’t been any “massacre” there. At all. What’s more, Conway lied when she said the incident hadn’t been reported, as WaPo explains:

The arrests in Bowling Green were indeed covered, contrary to what Conway initially said. A Lexis search of major papers turned up about 90 news stories. That’s not counting TV coverage, as in the ABC news story she attached to her tweet.

Conway has since defended herself by saying she’d misspoken, and should have talked about the “Bowling Green arrests” instead. But in the process, she doubled down on her contention that, in the wake of those arrests in 2011, Barack Obama had blocked all immigration from Iraq. That also, as WaPo relates, is not true:

Obama administration officials told The Post that there was never a point when Iraqi resettlement was stopped or banned. In the aftermath of the arrests of the two Iraqis living in Kentucky, the Obama administration imposed more extensive background checks on Iraqi refugees, and the new screening procedures created a dramatic slowdown in visa approvals.

So there had been a slowdown, but no ban, on entry from Iraq under Obama.

Conway and the rest of the Apricot Wonder’s crew has been doing this consistently, and not just since he announced his candidacy in the summer of 2015. No, the Groper-in-Chief has been living in a weird alternate universe for years. One could argue it goes back at least to when the Apricot Wonder was the world’s most vocal and best-known “birther” (cached). He lied outrageously about that issue — and expressed implicit support for birtherism — for years afterward (cached). He even claimed to have received a phoned-in tip that Obama’s birth certificate was fraudulent (cached). That was in August 2012 — a full four and a half years ago, in which time he has never once produced any evidence of this supposed “fraud.”

Of course, the GiC at last publicly disavowed his birtherism, but could summon the courage and maturity to do so only at the height of the general-election campaign (cached).

At any rate, we’ve reached the point where “alternative facts” now rule the day, and media outlets that dare report that the Apricot Wonder or his people have lied about something, are derided for promoting “fake news.” Their own statements, of course, aren’t “fake news” … supposedly.

Clearly the US has become a land where the ability to think is no longer desired, and dependency on veracity is unwelcome. That, apparently, is how all the angry white men in flyover country want this nation to be, because they’re the ones who elected the Groper-in-Chief (cached), and clearly they approve of his weird alternate universe full of distortions and lies. They disdain facts and care only about whatever makes them feel better about themselves. (How the scion of an upper-upper-class east-coast family, educated at the elite Wharton School, with homes in New York City and Palm Beach, FL can possibly ever do this, is beyond my ability to comprehend. I guess I just don’t understand the psychology of angry white men in flyover country — but if this is how they are, I never want to!)

So by all means, please count this cynical, insolent, godless agnostic heathen among those who plan to resist the takeover of “alternative facts” — to the death, if need be. No one will ever be able to convince me that veracity and true facts don’t matter.

Photo credit: Mike Licht, via Flickr.

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PsiCop animated modification of original photo of Rutherford County Sheriff Robert Arnold, via WBTV / Original URL: http://www.wbtv.com/story/22057943/ten-commandments-on-display-at-sheriffs-office-causing-controversyThere are a lot of Christians who think the Ten Commandments are the pinnacle of human morality. They view them not only as the rules everyone should live by, but they think of them as having a kind of magical power to make everyone better and more moral. Or something. I guess. That’s why many of them want to post the Ten Commandments everywhere. Supposedly, being constantly confronted by the Decalogue will turn every American in to an upstanding, law-abiding citizen.

Only, all too often, it turns out this isn’t actually the case. As the Daily News Journal of Murfreesboro, TN reports, one particular Decalogue champion turns out to have been anything but law-abiding (WebCite cached article):

Former Rutherford County Sheriff Robert Arnold pleaded guilty Wednesday to three of 14 counts stemming from a two-year criminal investigation into illegally profiting from inmates through a company selling electronic cigarettes.

Arnold pleaded guilty to wire fraud, honest services fraud and extortion. Each count carries up to 20 years in prison, a $250,000 fine, supervised release of not more than three years and a $52,500 restitution payment from electronic cigarettes revenues from the JailCigs business to the county.

Now, the DNJ article doesn’t mention it, but as the Friendly Atheist points out, former Sheriff Arnold just happens to have been a major proponent of spreading the gospel of the Ten Commandments, just a few years ago (cached). At that time, he’d openly defied an earlier court order, on the pretense that he is required to do so because “In God we trust” is printed on our currency, and because “[the Ten Commandments] were the founding principles of this country.” Or something. I guess.

As I always do in cases like this, I like to point out that, for Christians, putting up Decalogue monuments (or plaques, or signs, or whatever) is incredibly problematic. First, it’s an expression of public piety, which Jesus explicitly forbid his followers ever to engage in. Second, one of the Ten Commandments is, itself, a prohibition against idolatry; depending on one’s sect, it’s either part of the First Commandment, or it’s the Second. But, given that Christians are generally unwilling to follow the words of their own scripture, I guess it’s just too hard for them to stop posting the Ten Commandments all over the place. The poor little things, they just can’t help themselves … right?

I expect Arnold and his supporters will, no doubt, consider his corruption — which he admitted in court — a kind of insignificant aberration. After all, I’m sure they’d tell me, “he’s not perfect, just forgiven.” So hey, it doesn’t really matter if he fails to live up to the faith he supposedly follows. Right? Once he’s out of jail, Arnold might even go on the Christian lecture circuit, propounding his past “sin” of corruption to his co-religionists and touting his “fallen” status as a kind of perverse credential of piety. Such is how Christianity works … as freakish as it seems.

Hat tip: Friendly Atheist.

Photo credit: PsiCop animated modification of original, via WBTV.

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