What Would Jesus Say?

 

Commenting on a former White House staffer’s recent revelation that Vice President Mike Pence routinely converses with Jesus, comedian Joy Behar light-heartedly suggested on The View that Pence might be crazy.

As  you might expect, the backlash has been savage. The right-wing media are in full cry, demanding ABC get rid of The View. Fox News, for example, aired the “controversy” more than 30 times last week.

And Pence responded to Behar’s questionable joke by claiming that his Christian faith is “probably” the most important thing in his life.

I wonder what Jesus would say to that.

I think the answer is in the Gospel of Luke, where Jesus told us:

Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess.

And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner.

I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.

Which of these two men does Pence resemble?

The vice president might want to discuss that parable with Jesus the next time they have a chat. And while he’s at it, he might want to beg for forgiveness. For the Good Book also warns us against taking the Lord’s name in vain.

More on the backlash

Pence’s “Christian” faith

 

Legacy of a Tainted Election

 

Now that we have all seen how the Russians meddled in the 2016 elections, you might think the courts would give Americans a mulligan. Voters were tricked into making the wrong choice, so can’t we void the election results and do it all again?

The short answer is no. There’s nothing in the Constitution to allow that.

We’re stuck with Trump unless Congress decides to impeach him, and you know that’s not going to happen as long as the Republicans are in control.

The consequences of that tainted election continue to haunt us. One of the first things this Congress and this president did, for example, was revoke an Obama regulation designed to keep guns out of the hands of lunatics.

So when an obviously mentally ill youth massacres students at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School in South Florida, we have to wonder whether there’s a connection. And you have to ask if the insane bloodshed will ever end.

You know as well as I do that as long as the Republican Party controls Congress and the White House, the plague of gun violence will remain unchecked. The NRA has these craven politicians in its bloodstained pocket.

Meanwhile, Trump and his minions are running amok in Washington, looting the Treasury, trashing the environment, oppressing the poor and minorities – and doing their best to provoke a Third World War.

We the people may seem powerless to stop the mayhem, but there is one thing we can do. Vote the perpetrators out!

We might not have to wait for 2020 to give Trump the boot. If we give the Democrats control of Congress in November, they could impeach him. And even if they don’t impeach him, they could at least end the legislative assault his congressional minions are waging.

And they would send a message to the rest of the world that American democracy isn’t dead yet.

More on the latest massacre

Letting mentally ill buy guns

Meddling and the Constitution

Russia’s election meddling

Trump administration’s rampage

 

Man’s Inhumanity to Man

 

There’s a mean streak in mankind, and if it is tolerated, it breeds monstrous behavior. Alarmingly, that’s what seems to be happening in today’s America.

You can see it in social media where trolls bare their ugly souls.  You can see it in the news where unspeakable acts of cruelty and mindless rage are reported daily. And you can certainly see it in today’s politics.

I’m sure you’ve noticed how vicious political campaigns have become. And almost every day we get new revelations of the kind of dirty tricks employed to win elections.

For example, we are now getting the details of Russian intervention in America’s 2016 elections and they’re really creepy. We don’t know yet how much involvement there was by Americans, but it is obvious to me that the Russian saboteurs had help.

Neither of the major parties is completely blameless of course. But the Republicans have become the flag bearers for society’s sickness. They  persistently revel in the defiant display of abhorrent behavior and rank inhumanity.

Their mascot should be the Grinch.

Their unashamed attacks on food stamps, health care and other humane government programs betray their crabbed instincts. So does their relentless assault on the environment. And so does their cynical opposition to common-sense gun control laws…

Now they are targeting the disabled.

Republicans in Congress are trying to roll back the rights of the handicapped to enjoy the same public facilities as other Americans.

Their bill sailed through the House on Thursday despite desperate pleas from disabled protesters in the gallery. Several protesters, some in wheelchairs, were thrown out by Capitol police.

It now goes to the Republican controlled Senate, where you can be sure protesters will again show up in force.

You might think the Republican senators will be moved by the sight of pathetically  disabled human beings pleading for protection of their rights.

But that isn’t how today’s Republicans are. They seem to enjoy inflicting misery.

The Republican senators will most  likely vote against the handicapped, just as their pals in the House did. Disabled Americans can only hope the Democrats will muster the muscle to turn back the assault.

What’s in the bill

Russia’s dirty tricks

 

Making America White Again

 

When I was a boy, the sun never set on the British Empire. And in colonies like Jamaica, we were subjected to a pseudo-English culture. Our exam papers were graded in Britain, we used English pounds at the grocery store, we drove on the left side of the road in English made cars and so on.

I imagine that’s the way it was then in the other colonies.

But not in America. The American colonists had thrown off the imperial yoke and set off on their own to build a new nation.Those who didn’t like that idea emigrated to Canada, which was still a British colony.

Over the years, immigrants flocked to America,. They came at first from England and Scotland (seeking relief from religious and political persecution), then Ireland (because of the famous potato famine).

The persecuted Jewish people also found refuge in America. Later, as the flames of war engulfed their countries, Italians, Germans and other Europeans came to populate this new land.

A 1965 change  in America’s immigration policy triggered an influx of Latin Americans, many of them forced from their homes by political and economic upheavals (at least partly the result of US foreign policy).

And with political instability in Asia and Africa, immigration from those regions also increased significantly.

America’s population became more diverse and its culture less “white.”

Now, two and a half centuries after the Declaration of Independence, some Americans are trying to protect their threatened colonial culture.

With the son of a German father and a Scottish mother in the White House and white supremacists politically active across America, there is an obvious campaign in progress to retain the country’s European heritage.

An immigration bill passing through Congress reflects this trend. Under the bill – named the Reforming American Immigration for Strong Employment (RAISE) Act – the number of legal immigrants allowed into the United States would be reduced by 40 percent in the first year and by 50 percent over a decade.

Simply slashing immigration is not the main purpose of this bill. It includes provisions specifically designed to curtail immigration from Latin America and other non-European regions.

Trump makes no secret of his motives. He used a derogatory slur recently to describe countries in Latin America and Africa and wondered out loud why America didn’t get more immigrants from Norway.

This is a big deal for America. If this movement succeeds, no longer would the Statue of Liberty welcome immigrants “yearning to breathe free,” regardless of their cultural heritage. Instead, her torch would light the way for a new wave of English speaking European colonists.

So much for the promise of that independent America in which all of the world’s people would be seen as equal.

About that immigration bill

The change they fear

 

A Bloody Blow – by Russia?

The way I see it, Russian saboteurs dealt another vicious blow to America yesterday as another apparently deranged creature committed yet another bloody massacre using a military grade automatic weapon.

Yes, call me crazy, but I blame the Russians (and their American accomplices).

This hostile power is working relentlessly  to destroy America from within.  One obvious instance is Putin’s  meddling in the 2016 presidential elections.

And there is ample evidence of continued meddling in America’s politics – on social media sites, for example.

Putin’s objective is not just to have his pawn in the White House. He is interested in stirring up partisan hatred and disrupting America’s democracy.

Obviously, he would like to kill as many Americans as possible in the process.

How? By supporting the NRA.

The NRA is suspected of funneling Russian money into Trump’s presidential campaign. And the links with Russia go deeper, much deeper.

Wittingly or unwittingly, Republican politicians have eagerly joined Putin’s campaign to wreak havoc in America.

By misinterpreting the Second Amendment, these callous  demagogues have consistently blocked legislative attempts to curb the mass shootings that plague American society. Naturally, they are generously funded by NRA lobbyists.

The NRA’s obvious motive is greed. The association is the political front for arms dealers who want to sell their guns. But I am convinced there’s another even more sinister force at work – Russia’s sabotage of American society.

And, if I am right, that would make the NRA and their political stooges guilty of treason, wouldn’t it?

More on the shooting

More on the NRA and Russia

 

Peace in Pyeongchang

Sandra and I have been watching the Winter Olympics way past our bedtime this week.

She is especially fascinated by the figure skaters. I enjoy them too, but they’re all so breathtakingly talented that I wonder how the judges can decide who is first, second and so on. To me, figure skating is an art form more than a sport.

And what an art form!

Watching Ryom Tae-ok and Kim Ju-sik, the pair from North Korea, last night, who could remain unmoved?

It wasn’t just their skill and grace. All of the skaters had that in abundance.

What touched me was their nerve tingling vulnerability. They seemed so ephemeral, so fragile, flitting about the ice like a pair of mating butterflies (photo).

And I wondered why anyone would want to incinerate them.

For that’s what we in America may be about to let happen. We are watching passively as Trump apparently gets set to blow up the Korean peninsula.

Why? Officially, it’s because North Korea’s leader calls him names and threatens to fire nuclear missiles  at America. But the real reason could be to provide a distraction as the Mueller investigation becomes ever-more threatening.

Obviously, the South Korean people don’t want war with their neighbors. They cheer as wildly for the North Korean athletes as they do for their own.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in has welcomed the North Koreans and seems willing to talk peace with their Dear Leader. But the signals from America’s top brass are perplexingly mixed.

Do we the people want war?

As I watch the Olympic athletes late into the night, I wonder how that could possibly be.

More on the North Korean pair

A thaw at the Winter Olympics

More on US signals

 

What’s Choice Worth?


 

I doubt that Trump has ever eaten a can of baked beans. His taste, I understand, runs to Big Macs and Diet Coke with occasional side-trips to steak and caviar. But I am sure whatever his preferences may be, he indulges them to the max. He didn’t get that fat by accident.

Obviously, he thinks Big Macs and Diet Coke are too good for the poor. He wants them to eat beans and similar stuff preselected by Uncle Sam.

There’s nothing nutritionally wrong with beans, of course. What’s wrong is the loss of the right to choose.

Not everyone enjoys beans (for example, the ancient Greek mathematician Pythagoras loathed beans). Some Americans might prefer wonton soup. Some might prefer tacos. Or curry chicken. Or  oxtail soup. Or a Big Mac and Diet Coke.

Surely, in the Land of the Free, even the poor should be free to eat what they like?

In Trump’s budget proposal, he seeks to replace a portion of the food stamps provided to low-income Americans with a USDA package.

No, I am not kidding.

The food stamp program now gives 42 million Americans vouchers – worth $125 a month – which they exchange at the grocery store for whatever they want to eat. Trump’s budget would replace some of the voucher’s cash value with:

…shelf stable milk, ready-to-eat cereals, pasta, peanut butter, beans and canned fruit, vegetables, and meat, poultry or fish.

No Jamaican patties or banana chips… no ox tail soup… no salt fish and ackee… Indeed, apart from pasta, I don’t recognize any “ethnic” foods on Trump’s list. One of Trump’s minions boasted that it’s “a hundred percent American grown.”

I suppose if you’re poor in America, you’d better learn to enjoy your can of beans. Or you could vote Trump and his minions out of office when you get the chance.

More on Trump’s budget

 

Why the News is Fake


 

Who spews “fake news”? The conventional media, as Trump and his pals insist? Or the alt-right propaganda mills?

I suggest the answer might be all of the above.

From the dawn of civilization, mankind has wrestled with the concept of truth.  It’s an elusive notion.

Truth is as subjective as beauty. And that’s the truth as I see it. Your concept of truth might be quite different.

Facts are concrete. You can measure a man and report that his height is six feet. But is he tall? To you and me, perhaps. But not in Holland or the Sudan, where the average male height is over six feet.

We see the world through the prism of our personal experience. And, of course, that varies widely.

But there’s more to fake news than individual perception.

As a news reporter for most of my life, I tried to give accurate accounts of the events of the day. And despite the intense pressure of deadlines, I repeated what I had learned without distortion. But it was usually what I had learned, not what I knew.

Reporters seldom witness the “news” unless they’re covering a speech or meeting, or some other event. They get their story from some presumably authoritative source  or sources. And you can bet sources aren’t always truthful.  They often “spin” the facts to benefit themselves.

I notice there’s a lot more “spin” today than there used to be, especially in political “news.” And a lot of today’s political news is coming from unnamed sources. I submit that if you know you won’t be identified you might be tempted to doctor the facts – or even make up “facts” of your own.

Also, today, with so much of the media owned by corporate and political interests, there’s a high probability of pressure on reporters to conform to a preordained agenda (Fox News is a blatant case in point.)

Of course, some fake news is totally made up. Occasionally, stories are meant as satire, which it seems few readers understand.

But I am sure the alt-right “news” mills aren’t being misled by sources. And they aren’t playing satirical games. I believe they are obviously and deliberately feeding us lies designed to influence public opinion.

It’s up to us to take everything we hear or read – or even see – with a few grains of salt.

We have to check and double-check as much as we can. We have to consider the source, if it’s provided.

And even then, we have to  trust our own instincts. If a story smells fishy, it probably is just fake news.

More on fake news

 

This, Too, Shall Pass

 

If you have stocks or invest in a pension fund, you’re probably worrying about the precipitous decline in the DOW. But don’t panic. We’ve been there before and we’ll be there again. What goes up must come down, and what comes down usually goes up again.

You might have known this crash was coming. Stock prices were inflated. And much of the “wealth” they represented was just hot air.

What is Google really worth, if anything? Facebook? Netflix?

There’s a lot of sizzle there, but where’s the beef?

I suspect there’s more to the market’s fluctuation than that, though. Forgive me if I sound like one of those wild-eyed conspiracy theorists, but I believe there’s some skullduggery afoot.

Most of the securities belong to a handful of people – something like 5 percent of the US population. More than half of the country don’t own any stocks or bonds at all.

What about those pension plans? Doesn’t everyone have a 401 (k) or something like that?

Sorry. Only 10 percent of Americans have pensions. And their investment is in mutual funds, which aren’t the ones moving the market. It’s the big hedge funds, with their massive trading volume, that are triggering the volatility.

With that kind of concentration in so few hands, I wonder if sinister forces are at work.

I’m sure the big investors include some bad actors. And they make money when the market fluctuates, not when it rolls along at a steady pace.

You know what the experts say, buy low and sell high. And the lower the market, the bigger the bargains. So if you own a huge portfolio, why not sell a chunk of stock to push prices down? One or two traders wouldn’t have the clout to do that, but what if there was a conspiracy involving a bunch of the big guys?

Of course, they wouldn’t make any money if the market didn’t go up again, so you can bet they’ll be working the levers soon to make that happen.

You probably think I’m crazy. After all, what do I know? If I were so smart, wouldn’t I be rich?

But I’ve lived a long time and I’ve seen the DOW fall too many times to remember. And, this I can tell you,  the market always comes back up.

So if you own a few shares of Wal-Mart or GE, don’t let them scare you out of the market. Hang on, Sloopy, hang on.

How the DOW is doing

How the market is manipulated

A case in point

Listen to Sloopy

 

Shaming is Out of Hand

I would be among the first to cry shame if I became aware of someone in authority abusing that power to make another human being perform any kind of sexual act.  But I’m getting tired of the accusations of “impropriety” in the press and on social media.

It’s all part of a culture of shaming. Especially on social media, people are shamed for being fat or showing too much or… just about anything that someone finds offensive.

It seems to me that this judgmental trend is reflected in the daily revelations of sexual peccadilloes committed by politicians, celebrities and other prominent folks.

Some are genuinely horrifying, but some seem to be mere prudishness. Is America returning to the days of the Scarlet Letter?

And the venom associated with some of the accusations is way over the top. When a politician commits suicide because of it, I wonder if it’s getting out of hand.

There’s a chilling effect on the workplace, too.

Soon, we will all be afraid to mention that someone’s new hairdo looks nice, or to compliment a coworker for losing a few pounds.

And Heaven forbid that a guy would dare to “flirt” with that pretty new employee in Accounting.

America is in danger of becoming a nation of finger-wagging prudes.

I happen to like it when some lady “gives me the eye” or flashes me a suggestive smile. Of course, it isn’t going to go any farther. But it gives my spirits a lift.

Yes, I know, shame on me at my age!

But come on folks, loosen up!

Playful banter between the sexes makes life more bearable. It would be a shame to see it go away.

To make the current witch hunt even scarier, there seems to be no way to defend yourself. What happened to the presumption of innocence until proven guilty?

People are being convicted in the court of public opinion without the benefit of a trial. And that’s un-American.

Some of the accusations go way, way back, too. Shouldn’t there be some kind of statute of limitations? We all hope to learn from our mistakes and become better with time, don’t we?

We are all human. And humans are subject to wayward impulses. I don’t care who you are, I bet you do not have a record of perfect behavior.

And if we hope for forgiveness, we should be prepared to forgive.

About that suicide

Catherine Deneuve’s view