People Unclear

This is number 27

Apparently there remain a number of people unclear. The recent allegations against Alabama senatorial candidate Roy Moore has raised the issue of sexual harassment perpetrated by people in power. Concern has apparently reached to the highest levels of our government. That is most strange, because I thought these concerns actually made it to the highest office in the land back in January. For now I will only consider what is going on in Congress, where the number of those unclear appears beyond scandalous.

Wednesday’s episode of ABC World News Tonight with David Muir has the story of current day treatment of congressional abuse. Unknown to me until now is that people working for Congress have largely been getting a pass on making  inappropriate passes. As disclosed in the news, congressmen and others of power are getting a discount ride. Here’s what you receive when you complain:

  • 30 days of counseling
  • Required to sign a non-disclosure agreement
  • 30 days mediation
  • 30 days cooling off period before you could take legal  action

How many ways are to spell “protect the powerful” are there left? A senator (for example) tries to hump an intern, supposedly a heterosexual hump, and she gets counseled 30 days—thirty days of somebody explaining to the person it may have been her fault? I can only imagine. Then the accuser has to agree not to take all this mess to the New York Times. Then 30 additional days dedicated to convince the accuser it may have been a harmless flirtation. Follow that by 30 days to consider the consequences of taking on a powerful member of Congress. Then you can sue. You can sue, that is, provided you have not already been beaten down by the process.

So, how is that working out? Not bad if you look at the statistics. The news report shows an average of 13 cases processed each year over the past 20 years. Seems to be working.

And cheap, too. Taxpayers have only had to shell out $16 million to shelter congressional misbehavior. My pocket is feeling lighter already.

Are some people still totally unclear? Apparently the breeze from Alabama has started to blow some of the smoke away, and clarity is coming. A proposed bill, which has to be passed by Congress and signed off by the Groper-in-Chief, would make that counseling and mediation rigmarole optional. Also the process would allow victims to complain anonymously. And wait… Here it comes. The guilty person would have to pay any awards to the victim. Is this a novel concept or what?

Can I hope some people are finally waking up? It’s time for me to see how long I can  hold my breath.

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The Government You Paid For

Number 11

So this meme came across my Facebook feed, and I thought, “Is this for real?” I mean, did a government official stiff the American taxpayers $250,000 in order to pull off a politically-motivated publicity stunt? This requires some Skeptical Analysis.

I left today’s Colts game because and I will not dignify any event that disrespects our soldiers, our Flag, or our National Anthem.

Apparently Mr. Pence did attend the game, and he did make a publicized exit. At what cost to the taxpayers? Somebody else is thinking the same thing:

Adam Schiff Retweeted Vice President Pence

After all the scandals involving unnecessarily expensive travel by cabinet secretaries, how much taxpayer money was wasted on this stunt?

Adam Schiff added,

So what was the cost? An item posted to Market Watch took a stab at it:

The answer is likely hundreds of thousands of dollars, at least.

CNN White House reporter Kevin Liptak tweeted that Air Force 2 costs the government $42,936 an hour to fly, and estimated Pence’s trip to Indianapolis took about two and a half hours flying time, each way. That would put the flight’s cost well over $200,000.

And that doesn’t include the costs of a hotel room in Indianapolis,where Pence spent Saturday night, and extra police protection in Indianapolis. Fans at Sunday’s game were asked to show up early due to enhanced security at the stadium.

The Market Watch post mentions the cost of staying at a hotel, an expense the taxpayers do not bear, since attending the game was not official business. Also, when Mr. Pence flies on personal business (a football game), he is required to pay the equivalent of first class passage. However, his Secret Service detail must be booked in the hotel, and it appears to me that I have been billed personally for this expense. I need to take a closer look at my tax return to verify.

Anyhow, let’s take as a given that Pence flew to Las Vegas (official business) and then to Indianapolis (personal business), and then to Los Angeles for Party business (not government business). Under other circumstances his itinerary would have been to Las Vegas (government business), then to Los Angeles (private business). The added cost was Las Vegas to Indianapolis and for all practical purposes from Indianapolis back to Las Vegas (Las Vegas is sort of on the way to Los Angeles). A round trip flight of Air Force 2 was made for personal business with a few thousand dollars of the cost being reimbursed by Mr. Pence (or the Republican Party). That’s a hefty load for watching the opening ceremonies of a football game.

And why was this expense incurred? Glad you asked:

I asked @VP Pence to leave stadium if any players kneeled, disrespecting our country. I am proud of him and @SecondLadyKaren.

Of course, Pence and Trump had no way of knowing that Pence was going to exit the game early and thereby cost taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars to pull off of a political grandstand:

Adding to the speculation that Pence’s abrupt departure was political theater, reporters traveling with the vice president were reportedly told to wait outside the stadium because there may be a early departure.

All right. It’s junior high time at the White House. Good to see the government we paid for is not so stuck on themselves they can’t have a bit of fun. At taxpayer expense. Sorry, it’s too late to get your money back.

The Age Of Embarrassment

Number 15 in a series

From the journal Science

 

There was a time we now call the Age of Enlightenment, centered in the 18th century. It was a time of scientific awakening, a time from which sprang many of our modern scientific principles. That was so three centuries ago. We may now have entered the Age of Embarrassment:

Science Teaching Guidelines Trigger Criticism in New Mexico

Sept. 19, 2017, at 5:09 p.m.

By MORGAN LEE, Associated Press

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — Environmentalists and educators raised new objections Tuesday to proposed changes to teaching standards for science in New Mexico that substitute references to rising global temperatures and climate change with statements about climate “fluctuations.”

The New Mexico Public Education Department has suggested several custom additions and deletions as it moves forward with adopting a set of science standards developed by a consortium of states and the National Academy of Sciences.

Additions that highlight the study of New Mexico’s unique natural history are being overshadowed by several deletions of references to evolution, the 4.6 billion-year age of the earth and climate change.

My goodness! Is it time to ride that old dinosaur into ground again?

The story, featured in The Washington Post yesterday, further describes idiotic themes promoted by the Mercer Counter public school system. According to the Post report, a lesson contained the following language: “imagine that human beings and dinosaurs existed at the same time.” It continued: “So picture Adam being able to crawl up on the back of a dinosaur!” Additionally: “He and Eve could have their own personal water slide! Wouldn’t that be so wild!”

The Associated Press story, running in U.S. News and World Reports, has more to say. Issues such as this are often advanced by politicians who have personal stakes. Apparently one such is Representative Jim Smith, who is also a retired school teacher. He is quoted as saying:

“I think it’s better to take the middle ground where people in all those different areas of the state can accept standards that they can teach within,” he said. “You give students the opportunity to come to their own conclusions. I as a science teacher certainly don’t deny that there is global warming happening. I think ‘fluctuations’ is a better term for it.”

An inch-deep Google search does not reveal a lot about Representative Smith’s personal life, and his record in Santa Fe shows a genuine concern for good government. However, statements such as “You give students the opportunity to come to their own conclusions,” are indicative of the creationist movement’s approach to public school encroachment. Laws enacted in other states to promote “teaching the controversy” have demonstrated to be thinly-disguised fronts to enable teachers desiring to promote creationism and other biblical teachings. One effect of such laws is to provide cover for teachers who go outside the curriculum and introduce religious concepts.

From all appearances, Dr. Smith finds fault with the idea that human activity is mainly responsible for global warming. He likes the term “fluctuations” to give the idea the climate has always been changing, and there is no need to take action to forestall any calamitous consequences. He takes this stance in defiance of the best conclusions of modern science.

A story appearing in the Albuquerque Journal further highlights attempts to dilute the teaching of biological evolution:

 

The plan was criticized Friday by Stephanie Ly, president of the American Federation of Teachers New Mexico, who called it a “perverted, watered-down vision” of the Next Generation Science Standards.

Ly accused Ruszkowski in a written statement of proposing standards “that question climate change, deny evolution, promote the fossil fuel industry, and even question the age of the Earth – all areas of consensus among the scientific community.”

One proposed addition to the high school curriculum asks students to use a model to describe the effects of energy flows on Earth “that were caused by natural occurrences that are not related to human activity.”

Another omits the word “evolution” and replaces it with the phrase “biological diversity.”

Nothing has to date been signed off, and science teaching in New Mexico remains safe for the present. The continued actions by fact-deficient public employees remains a concern to a population still possessed of a healthy respect for fact-based governance. Though it may never come to pass, we continue to look forward to that day when creationists ride the dinosaur into the sunset.

And may Jesus have mercy on our souls.

People Unclear

I’m posting enough of these I need to recognize a series. This is number 12.

I get a bunch of my story ideas from Facebook. Let me restate that. I get almost all my story ideas from Facebook. This one came through my feed yesterday, courtesy of a Facebook friend. See the image. It’s a screen shot from Facebook, and I’ve turned down the brightness so  you can read the name of the originating publication at the bottom. It’s TheFederalist.com. And here’s what’s interesting.

The lined story was posted by Bre Payton, who is a staff writer covering culture and millennial politics, and she has some interesting things to say about the just started trial of Democratic Senator Bob Menendez of New Jersey:

Media Won’t Talk About Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez’s Corruption Trial

Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez’s upcoming corruption trial has gotten very little attention from members of the media. When they do talk about it, they like to leave out the fact he’s a Democrat.

And that is strange on two levels. First, the media—meaning mean stream news outlets—pay little attention to (do not report much on) the Senator Menendez trial. Second, when they do talk about it, they neglect to mention that Menendez is a Democrat. Double strange, because double false.

Mainstream media have been reporting on the Menendez trial. CNN:

Newark, New Jersey (CNN)As he walked into the federal courthouse in New Jersey, Sen. Bob Menendez became emotional.

Speaking to reporters gathered in the rain Wednesday, he appeared to choke back tears as his son and daughter stood by his side.
“Never, not once, not once have I dishonored my public office,” said Menendez, a Democrat.

ABC:

U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez “sold his office for a lifestyle he couldn’t afford” by accepting luxury trips and other favors from a wealthy doctor seeking political influence, a government prosecutor told jurors Wednesday during opening statements of the Democrat’s corruption trial.

CBS:

A federal prosecutor said Wednesday the case against New Jersey Sen. Robert Menendez is about a corrupt politician who, “sold his office for a lifestyle he couldn’t afford, and a greedy eye doctor,” CBS News’ Pat Milton and Erica Brown report.

Prosecutor Peter Koski methodically and meticulously laid out the U.S. government’s corruption case against 63-year-old Menendez, a Democrat, who is charged with accepting bribes including lavish vacations and hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign donations from Salomon Melgen, a wealthy Florida eye doctor, in exchange for political influence and favors to advance his business interests.

NBC:

WASHINGTON — The first U.S. senator to face bribery charges in nearly four decades goes on trial Wednesday in a case that could affect the Senate’s partisan makeup and the fate of President Donald Trump’s legislative agenda.

Robert Menendez, a Democrat in his 12th year as a senator from New Jersey, is charged with using his influence to do favors for a Florida eye doctor accused of overbilling Medicare. In return, prosecutors say, the doctor treated Menendez to “a lavish lifestyle that included private jet rides and vacations in Paris and the Caribbean.”

The New York Times:

Since his indictment more than two years ago, Mr. Menendez, a Democrat, has steadfastly proclaimed his innocence, and last week he reiterated that. “I am going to be exonerated,” he said in a brief interview on Wednesday with reporters following a rally protesting President Trump’s immigration policies.

I am not too sure how many of these mainstream media sources I am supposed to name in order to reveal that mainstream media are covering the Menendez trial. And they are calling him a Democrat. And they have been calling him a democrat for years. From The New York Times, 7 March 2015:

For decades, Senator Robert Menendez has been one of the immovable objects of New Jersey politics. Even now, staring down expected criminal charges, the Democratic lawmaker has vowed not to give way.

So, what am I missing here? I suspect what I am missing is that Bre Payton, who reports on culture and millennial politics, has now taken a turn at writing about the news—without first reading the news.

I am guessing some of the people who commented on the Facebook post are in the same situation. Here are some comments on Facebook, without naming names:

It wouldn’t surprise me if the piece is right about it being under-reported, especially the fact that he is a Democrat. Like the author says, the NY Times piece neglected to say he was a Democrat until it was edited a few hours later, and even then it was placed in the fourth paragraph. I would lay odds that if Menendez had been a Republican, the Times would have featured that fact much more prominently, maybe even in the title.

Imagine if he were a hated Republican. It would be a top story and the only story in many cases. As things are everyone expects that Democrats lie cheat and steal so it’s not news.

Imagine if you were actually adding something to the conversation rather than spouting off emotionally charged nonsense…

Hmmmm…. So you don’t think that pointing out the contrast between the way that “the media” treats republicans and democrats is adding anything. It’s not nonsense because it’s true. It’s also not emotionally charged, just a simple observation. Just trying to understand. You must be one of those that thinks that there is no real difference in the way that the media treats public figures. Either that or you think that all republicans are bad and so deserved to be treated differently. Which is it?

Apparently a bit of persecution complex is showing. To paraphrase, “The mainstream heads won’t hype the dirt unless it’s about a Republican.” For “Republican” you can substitute “conservative” or “Christian” or “white person.”

For the record, I’ve been on the story for several years:

This is another one of those posts. Sometimes (often times) people just don’t seem to get the point. In this case it’s Democratic Senator Robert Menendez of New Jersey:

WASHINGTON — Federal prosecutors charged Democratic Sen. Robert Menendez and wealthy donor Salomon Melgen on Wednesday with participating in a long-running bribery scheme.

New Jersey’s senior senator used his office to benefit the Florida eye doctor in exchange for nearly $1 million in gifts and campaign contributions, prosecutors say.

68-page indictment outlines 14 criminal counts against Menendez, 61, including eight counts of bribery. Melgen, a 61-year-old West Palm Beach, Fla., ophthalmologist, faces 13 counts, also including eight bribery counts.

That’s from 2 April 2015. Maybe Bre Payton needs to follow my blog.

To be sure, Bre Payton’s story posted to The Federalist pointed out that The New York Times was slow coming around to the fact that Menendez is a Democrat:

On Sunday, The New York Times published a 1,288-word article about the trial, which begins Wednesday, without once mentioning Menendez’s political party affiliation. The newspaper of record then stealth-edited the piece hours later. The updated version identifies the New Jersey senator once in the fourth paragraph as a Democrat.

I like the phrase “stealth-edited.” Stealthy. In the middle of the night. When nobody was looking. So nobody would notice the Times was trying to play favorites. Good try, Payton, and welcome to the world of real news. If you worked for a real news outlet you would know it works something like this:

Editor: Nick [Corasaniti], did you write this? (Of course he did.)

Nick: Yes (gulp), sir.

Editor: I just read it. It’s already on the streets. You failed to mention Menendez is a Democrat.

Nick: Oops!

Editor: Fix it right now. Fix the on-line edition and print a correction in today’s edition.

I would like to contrast that with how things are done in the not-so-mainstream media:

The conspiracy-choked story of Seth Rich’s killing has made a sudden comeback thanks to Fox News, but the latest reporting seems to have generated more controversy than credibility.

Rich’s family is demanding a retraction from Fox for airing unsubstantiated claims about the Democratic National Committee staffer, whose death last year generated a wild river of theories and innuendo about who was behind it.

Fox’s latest reporting on the unsolved crime has an odd twist: Much of its work relies on a private investigator who is also a Fox News contributor. The investigator, in turn, is being funded by a frequent Fox News guest.

I would not bother to bring up this item, except that with Fox News this has been the modus operandi for much of its existence. Please do not ask me to cite additional examples, and I will not ask you to read them when I post them.

Don’t cry for me, Venezuela

This is number 6.

The truth is I  never left you.

And you know the rest.

Hugo Chávez rose to power in Venezuela in opposition to the Puntofijo Pact. The pact was an agreement entered into by three prominent Venezuelan political parties in 1958, following the ouster of dictator Pérez Jiménez. The co-signers sought to cement democratic processes into Venezuelan politics, but the effect was to exclude other than the three dominant parties. Particularly excluded was the Communist Party. Eventually only the AD and COPEI parties shared power. The two relied heavily on Venezuela’s oil revenues to solidify their political hold, and when oil prices fell, the ruling parties increasingly used violent means to suppress opposition.

Chávez was a career military officer when he instigated a coup against the government in February 1992. That and another attempted coup in November failed, and Chávez was jailed. Meanwhile, government suppression of human rights and systematic corruption began to erode the government’s legitimacy, and President Carlos Andrés Pérez was impeached and removed from office. In 1994 the new government freed Chávez, who began to shop around the region, particularly with Fidel Castro’s Cuba, for support. He was elected president in the 1998 election:

Voter turnout in the election is disputed. Voter turnout was 63.45%, and Chávez won the election with 56.20% of the vote. Academic analysis of the election showed that Chávez’s support had come primarily from the country’s poor and “disenchanted middle class”, whose standard of living had decreased rapidly over the previous decade, while much of the middle and upper class vote went to [Henrique Salas Römer].

The direction of Venezuela under Chávez became clear in short order:

Chávez’s presidential inauguration took place 2 February 1999. He deviated from the usual words of the presidential oath when he took it, proclaiming: “I swear before God and my people that upon this moribund constitution I will drive forth the necessary democratic transformations so that the new republic will have a Magna Carta befitting these new times.” Freedom in Venezuela suffered following “the decision of President Hugo Chávez, ratified in a national referendum, to abolish congress and the judiciary, and by his creation of a parallel government of military cronies”. Soon after being established into office, Chávez spent much of his time attempting to abolish existing checks and balances in Venezuela.[162] He appointed new figures to government posts, adding leftist allies to key positions and “army colleagues were given a far bigger say in the day-to-day running of the country”. For instance he put Revolutionary Bolivarian Movement-200 founder Jesús Urdaneta (es), in charge of the Bolivarian Intelligence Agencyand made Hernán Grüber Ódreman (es), one of the 1992 coup leaders, governor of the Federal District of Caracas.

There was not doubt that Chávez intended autocratic rule based on socialism. Chávez’s program involved massive social programs that relied upon oil revenues. When oil prices started to collapse these programs became unsustainable, but Chávez did not move to rescind them. That’s a brief recount of how Venezuela got to where it is now. From The New York Times:

CARACAS, Venezuela — Food shortages were already common in Venezuela, so Tabata Soler knew painfully well how to navigate the country’s black market stalls to get basics like eggs and sugar.

But then came a shortage she couldn’t fix: Suddenly, there was no propane gas for sale to do the cooking.

And so for several nights this summer, Ms. Soler prepared dinner above a makeshift fire of broken wooden crates set ablaze with kerosene to feed her extended family of 12.

Recollections of the Peron era in Argentina are difficult to avoid. Chávez is now dead since 2013, and Nicolás Maduro, a more or less cookie-cutter version of Chávez, is attempting to carry on, with similar success. The people of Venezuela may have welcomed the increased power Chávez’s social reforms promised, but these came at the price of government suppression to legitimate opposition. From The New York Times:

Five months of political turmoil in Venezuela have brought waves of protesters into the streets, left more than 120 people dead and a set off a wide crackdown against dissent by the government, which many nations now consider a dictatorship.

An all-powerful assembly of loyalists of President Nicolás Maduro rules the country with few limits on its authority, vowing to pursue political opponents as traitors while it rewrites the Constitution in the government’s favor.

And I am not inclined to shed a tear.

Buyer’s Remorse

Number 12 in a series

You know what I dislike? I’ll tell you what I dislike. I dislike it when I turn out to be so right that I get a cramp. Fortunately that’s not too often. But here is an instance that caused me considerable distress:

Expect President Trump to keep the Affordable Care Act until or unless a comparable replacement can be found. Raucous detractors of Obamacare will now face a unified Republican Party that will find affordable health care to be not so bad, now that they will be able to take credit for it.

Yes, that shoe has finally dropped:

‘Let Obamacare Fail,’ Trump Says as G.O.P. Health Bill Collapses

WASHINGTON — The seven-year Republican quest to undo the Affordable Care Act appeared to reach a dead end on Tuesday in the Senate, leaving President Trump vowing to let President Barack Obama’s signature domestic achievement collapse.

Mr. Trump declared that his plan was now to “let Obamacare fail,” and suggested that Democrats would then seek out Republicans to work together on a bill to bury the Affordable Care Act. If he is determined to make good on that pledge, he has plenty of levers to pull, from declining to reimburse insurance companies for reducing low-income customers’ out-of-pocket costs to failing to enforce the mandate that most Americans have health coverage.

What is happening is what was foreseen months ago, even as candidate Trump thumped his repeal and replace message to voters. Appeal for the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) is rooted in a considerable segment of voters for whom the main street path to health care is not working. Where these people were last November we may never know, but we know where they are today:

‘Don’t repeal Obamacare — improve it’: Republicans face wrath at town-hall events

After burning up seven years of congressional action and pushing forward 60 pieces of legislation to repeal the ACA, members of congress are coming to realize something. The primary job of an elected official is not to enact legislation, it’s to get re-elected. It’s been observed for 70 years in my memory that politicians acknowledge there is no point in having ideals if you are not in office to put them into action. Republicans in Congress are facing the reality they they can become ex politicians if they do not harken to the will of their constituents.

Currently the focus is on the Senate, this after the Republican-dominated House of Representatives voted in their own proposal last spring—a proposal which proved to be about as popular as the measles, for which there is also a cure. The Republican majority in the Senate is threadbare, and notable defections have defeated all attempts to pass repeal and replace legislation. As noted, there are not even enough votes to repeal the ACA, leading the President to his current stance—do nothing. We’ve seen a lot of that this year:

Counting the number of laws he’s signed, President Donald Trump has been more productive in his first 100 days than any president since Harry Truman, according to press secretary Sean Spicer.

“Despite the historic obstruction by Senate Democrats, he’s worked with Congress to pass more legislation in his first 100 days than any president since Truman, and these bills deliver on some of his most significant promises to the American people,” Spicer said at the White House daily press briefing April 25.

President Trump achieved this impressive record by shouldering the heavy load of his office and demonstrating impressive leadership. I’m joking, of course.

Winding down, I need to make yet another prediction. My prediction is that Republican lawmakers, who dominate both houses of Congress, will get an earful from the voters, and will get to work fixing well-known deficiencies in the Affordable Care Act—but not until next year. Check back with me later and see if I missed the mark, again.

Is too late for me to get my money back?

Number 2

Did I mention I receive regular emails from Dr. Robert Jeffress, pastor of the First Baptist Church of Dallas, Texas? Yes, I’m sure I did. Here’s another one. See above.

There is no way I can make too much of this. Read the message and realize this is aimed at adult humans inhabiting one of the most advanced and modern countries on this planet. Once you let that soak in, look at the message:

Six Practical Strategies to Defeat Satan’s Destructive Plan for Your Life!

You did not read that wrong. The supposedly adult audience is presumed to believe in the reality of a fictional character. To put it into perspective, let me restate the above with a minor word change:

Six Practical Strategies to Defeat The Joker’s Destructive Plan for Your Life!

Yes, the fictional character known as The Joker, Batman’s nemesis, has a destructive plan for your life. Of course we always knew that. When did The Joker ever have anything socially beneficial. The Joker always worked against society and toward his own self interests. Fortunately there has always been Batman to protect us.

There is somebody else working toward his own self interest.

The First Baptist Church of Dallas wants your money:

First Baptist Dallas is a Southern Baptist megachurch located in Dallas, Texas. It was established in 1868 and, as of 2016, has a congregation of about 12,000. The church, considered influential among evangelical Christians in the United States, also owns and operates a school, several radio stations, and Dallas Life, a mission for the homeless on the southern edge of Downtown Dallas. The current pastor is Robert Jeffress. Jeffress is currently leading the congregation in a $130 million campaign to re-create its downtown campus. The project is the largest in modern church history.

The church operates a mission for the homeless. That’s good. That’s socially responsible. The homeless are not the only beneficiaries of the church’s good will:

For the 2016 US Presidential election, Jeffress endorsed and appeared at rallies for the Republican candidate, Donald Trump, though he initially endorsed Dr. Ben Carson. Jeffress also declared that Christians who would not vote for or support Trump as the Republican nominee were “fools” and “motivated by pride rather than principle”, despite Trump’s lack of an evangelical or Christian background. Jeffress also stated that if a candidate ran on the principles found in the Sermon on the Mount, he “would run from that candidate as far as possible” and would still vote for Trump. On June 21, 2016, candidate Trump named Jeffress to participate in an advisory board of evangelical leaders.

This appears to be a mutual admiration society. Also a political collaboration:

On Thursday morning, as part of National Day of Prayer festivities at the White House, President Donald Trump signed an executive order he said delivered on a campaign promise to evangelical leaders. The order instructs the Internal Revenue Service not to enforce the Johnson Amendment, a 50-year-old law banning pastors from making endorsements from the pulpit.

The order essentially calls for the end of a law that’s never been enforced.

First Baptist Church Dallas Pastor Robert Jeffress, who pushed Trump throughout the campaign to repeal the Johnson Amendment to remove the threat that it could be used as a cudgel against pastors.

Jeffress is controversial, having repeatedly linked homosexuality to pedophilia and called Catholicism and “Babylonian mystery religion” inspired by Satan. Wednesday night, Trump invited Jeffress and some of his fellow pastors to the White House before signing the executive order. “Mr. President, we’re going to be your most loyal friends,” Jeffress said at the dinner. “We’re going to be your enthusiastic supporters. And we thank God every day that you’re the president of the United States.”

After the president issued the order Thursday morning, Jeffress praised it as a promise kept, despite the fact that the Johnson Amendment is still on the books.

First an explanation of the Johnson Amendment from Wikipedia:

The Johnson Amendment is a provision in the U.S. tax code, since 1954, that prohibits all 501(c)(3) non-profit organizations from endorsing or opposing political candidates. Section 501(c)(3) organizations are the most common type of nonprofit organization in the United States, ranging from charitable foundations to universities and churches. The amendment is named for then-Senator Lyndon B. Johnson of Texas, who introduced it in a preliminary draft of the law in July 1954.

Now, from Wikipedia, here is a description of a political action committee (PAC):

In the United States, a political action committee (PAC) is a type of organization that pools campaign contributions from members and donates those funds to campaign for or against candidates, ballot initiatives, or legislation. The legal term PAC has been created in pursuit of campaign finance reform in the United States. This term is quite specific to all activities of campaign finance in the United States. Democracies of other countries use different terms for the units of campaign spending or spending on political competition (see political finance). At the U.S. federal level, an organization becomes a PAC when it receives or spends more than $1,000 for the purpose of influencing a federal election, and registers with the Federal Election Commission, according to the Federal Election Campaign Act as amended by the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 (also known as the McCain-Feingold Act). At the state level, an organization becomes a PAC according to the state’s election laws.

Now that everybody understands the ground rules, here is how it works out:

You want to contribute to your favorite candidate running for office, say $1000. Perfectly legal. It’s going to be $1000 down a black hole, but it’s for a good cause. You earned the $1000 as salary and paid $250 in federal income tax on it. So that was $1000 you donated plus the $250. Sounds like a raw deal, yes?

But wait. Salvation is at hand. Jesus is your friend. You “join” a church with the name “Jesus wants Donald Trump for President.” You donate you $1000 to the JWDTFP Church, and you don’t pay taxes on  that income. That church meets in rented office space in a strip mall in on Legacy Drive in Plano, Texas. They hold services on Sunday, attended by the pastor, his wife, his accountant. They open the envelops and count the money.

They take the money to a professional adversing firm and pay that company to  create television ads promoting Donald Trump for President. Donald Trump’s re-election campaign is now underwritten by the American taxpayers. Breathtaking inanity!

Can’t happen, you say. The IRS will never accept the JWDTFP as a legitimate church. Think not? Suppose the IRS does push back. Imagine the backlash. The United States government is now in  the business of deciding what is a church and what is not a church. Didn’t we previously visit that problem in merry old England? It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, and the government told citizens what was a church and what was not a church. Hence:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion…

Are we about to  rewind this issue? Has it come to  pass we now have the government we paid for?

There is going to be more of this. Keep reading. And may Jesus have mercy on our souls.

Buyer’s Remorse

Number 7 in a series

I’ve been posting a bunch of  these recently. Then, there’s been a lot of this stuff going around recently. It’s buyer’s remorse, and it’s becoming manifest by the day. Here’s something posted by a Facebook friend:

Yesterday at 10:19am Daily Mail Online

Do they think the citizens are going to sit idly by while they orchestrate a coup. Don’t mess with God’s anointed. My prayer is that all these wacky rebels are unseated. May their intrigues be their downfall. Watch them fall into the pit they are digging for our president. Normal people would wait until the next election and run a good candidate. That’s the system that makes America great.

There follows a link to a piece in Daily Mail Online concerning Democrats wanting to remove Donald Trump from office:

Two dozen Democrats get behind bill to lay foundation for removing Trump for being mentally ‘incapacitated’ (but they’d need Mike Pence to agree)

Obviously my friend is a supporter of the sitting president. It’s why I asked her to become a Facebook friend. This blog hungers for vital insights.

The phrase I found most interesting is, “Don’t mess with God’s anointed.” Yes, it has come to that. When all else fails, God has your back. We should all be so blessed.

Obviously I was unable to leave it at that, and I responded kindly that it is difficult to tell when somebody is speaking on behalf of God and when somebody is just speaking their own mind. Could be that God doesn’t really like Donald Trump? We may never know. I checked in with President Trump to get an edge on this. Luckily I subscribe to his Twitter feed:

I heard poorly rated speaks badly of me (don’t watch anymore). Then how come low I.Q. Crazy Mika, along with Psycho Joe, came..

…to Mar-a-Lago 3 nights in a row around New Year’s Eve, and insisted on joining me. She was bleeding badly from a face-lift. I said no!

Watched low rated for first time in long time. FAKE NEWS. He called me to stop a National Enquirer article. I said no! Bad show

Word is that Van Susteren was let go by her out of control bosses at & because she refused to go along w/ ‘Trump hate!’

I am extremely pleased to see that has finally been exposed as and garbage journalism. It’s about time!

Crazy Joe Scarborough and dumb as a rock Mika are not bad people, but their low rated show is dominated by their NBC bosses. Too bad!

The FAKE & FRAUDULENT NEWS MEDIA is working hard to convince Republicans and others I should not use social media – but remember, I won….

….the 2016 election with interviews, speeches and social media. I had to beat , and did. We will continue to WIN!

I am thinking about changing the name CNN to !

My use of social media is not Presidential – it’s MODERN DAY PRESIDENTIAL. Make America Great Again!

And that about says it all. It’s my reconstruction of a thread that ran from Thursday through Saturday last week. It’s what we are paying $400,000 a year for in salary, not including expenses.

And some are showing signs of buyer’s remorse:

Top Republicans denounce Trump after he tweets about Mika Brzezinski ‘bleeding badly from a face-lift’

I am not one of those, because I’m enjoying the show. Some would say “twisting the knife.” But that’s just me. There’s going to be more. Keep reading.

And may Jesus have mercy on our souls.

Buyer’s Remorse

Number 6 in a series

It haunts your troubled sleep. It drags down your day. It gags like a prickly pear cactus stuck in your throat. It’s called buyer’s remorse. And for a reason.

You had reservations. It had a nice sheen, and it tinkled when thumped. But it had a hollow feel to it. It seemed to lack a degree of substance. And there was the stench. Something was not right. You attributed its malodorous quality to rough handling by others. Not your friends. Did I mention how shiny it was?

You purchased it, and you brought it home, to your house. Where you lived with your family. People who trusted your judgment and advice. Who looked up to you. Previously. And you brought this home. Along  with the odor. The awful  smell that would not go away. And you showed it to your family. And they asked about the odor. You reminded them how shiny it was.

Now it sits there. And you know you can’t take it back. Back to the place where you purchased it. That place is no longer there. That place was just a store front. Set up for a fleeting period. To make the sale. And then move on. Buyer’s remorse hangs like rotting road kill around your neck.

And here is when you first began to notice:

Mika Brzezinski:Nothing makes a man feel better than making a fake cover of a magazine of himself, lying every day, and destroying the country It’s a good feeling..

That wasn’t enough. Brzezinski and Morning Joe co-host (also fiancé) Joe Scarborough continued to mock President Donald Trump. Continuing from above:

She didn’t stop there, continuing to mock Mr Trump by calling him the man with the “teensy” hands – which are out of view on the cover – before adding: “Yeah the guy with the little hands … I was talking about Trump.”

The president is notoriously sensitive about the size of his hands, so much so that he assured the American people there was “no problem” in that regard during a televised presidential debate. Read into that what you will.

During the segment, Ms Brzezinski also criticised the Trump administration at length and said its officials should not act “lobotomised” because they are scared of the president, Reuters reported.

The Morning Joe hosts featured live interviews of Mr Trump during the 2016 election, to the point where they were accused of being too close to him, but have become much more critical.

The honeymoon is over. Within a span covered by an egg timer, the Leader of the Free World answered back, displaying the aplomb and maturity that has marked his public life:

I heard poorly rated speaks badly of me (don’t watch anymore). Then how come low I.Q. Crazy Mika, along with Psycho Joe, came..

…to Mar-a-Lago 3 nights in a row around New Year’s Eve, and insisted on joining me. She was bleeding badly from a face-lift. I said no!

This to be clear. The foregoing was not found scribbled on the restroom wall in a TA truck stop alongside Interstate-35. This is on White House stationery and emanating from  1600 Pennsylvania Avenue in our nation’s capitol. This is is an official communication of the United States of America. Things have sunk that low. And conservative America is erupting  in buyers remorse:

Fox News anchor Julie Banderas blasted President Trump’s attacks on Mika Brzezinski Thursday, saying “that’s not how you run a country” and imploring Trump to “just walk away.”

Banderas hit Trump’s tweets during a segment with Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel. Fox News carried the interview instead of Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin’s remarks at a White House press briefing, according to The Washington Post.

Continuing:

Banderas knocked McDaniel’s defense of Trump, saying the president didn’t “need to stoop to that level.”

“I don’t care who you are. You don’t stoop to the level of that. I mean that’s like me scolding my 4-year-old for using a bad word and then me repeating it. That’s just not how you run a country or you parent a 4-year-old,” Banderas said.

“I mean I have to be honest, you know, if you see this negative commentary on a show, change the channel. Ignore it. I mean that’s what I tell my kids: When somebody’s mean to you, don’t fight back. Just walk away.”

Banderas also defended former President Barack Obama’s lack of reaction to attacks on him during his presidency.

“People used to call him a Muslim. People used to call him under-qualified, a sellout to America, a hater of Israel,” she said. “I mean they called him every name in the book, but you didn’t see him lash out.”

The Hill further reported:

After Trump slammed “Morning Joe” co-host Brzezinski and suggested that she had been “bleeding badly” from a “face-lift,” Republican lawmakers rushed to denounce the remarks, saying they were beneath the dignity of the presidency.

“The President’s tweets today don’t help our political or national discourse and do not provide a positive role model for our national dialogue,” Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.) said in a statement.

“It’s hard to understand, and not presidential,” Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said, according to NBC News’s Frank Thorp. “I’m just embarrassed — embarrassed isn’t the right word — I just regret it.”

“Mr. President, your tweet was beneath the office and represents what is wrong with American politics, not the greatness of America,” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) wrote on Twitter.

And more. However, evidence abounds the rot penetrates to the core. From acting Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders:

Filling in for White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer for the second time this week, Sanders spent most of the briefing struggling to defend President Donald Trump’s viciously personal tweets directed at Morning Joe co-hosts Mika Brzezinski and Joe Scarborough.

“I think the American people elected somebody who’s tough, who’s smart, and who’s a fighter, and that’s Donald Trump,” Sanders said, painting him as the victim of “bullies” in the media who criticize his actions and policies on a daily basis.

Reiterating some of the language expressed on Morning Joe of late, she said, “Frankly, if this had happened in the previous administration, the type of attacks launched on this program, the things they say ‘utterly stupid,’ ‘personality disorder,’ ‘mentally ill,’ constant personal attacks, calling multiple members ‘’liars,’ liars to their faces, while they’re sitting on their programs, the rest of the media would have said, guys, no way, hold on.”

Deeper than that. From the First Lady of the United States:

“As the First Lady has stated publicly in the past, when her husband gets attacked, he will punch back 10 times harder,” the first lady’s communications director Stephanie Grisham said in a statement to CNN when asked about the tweets.

It is all too clear from this most recent excursion to the depths of depravity there will be no redemption.

To conservative America I take great joy in reminding you that it was you who spied the package on the shelf, you smelled the package, you admired the package, you bought the package. There will be no taking it back to the store. You paid for it with your souls, and now you own it. It is your own brand writ large. It is what you have come to stand for, now all grown up and installed in the highest position in the land. This piece of putrid flesh is not only your embarrassment, it belongs to all of us, as well. This mental midget, the culmination of American conservative politics, is deranged, impetuous, petty, pathologically dishonest, immoral. And he has access to the nuclear codes.

There are some who may say, “John, tell us what you really think of the current president.” To that I will respond. You know where I live. Come by to visit. Buy me a beer. I will tell you. I may even buy the beer.

And may Jesus have mercy on our souls.

Upstairs Downstairs Inside Out

Revisiting a theme from a few years back

What is it about diplomats behaving badly? There was this business about an Indian diplomat abusing the employment of a member of her household staff in violation of American law and also contrary to the terms of the staffer’s work visa:

Anyhow, society in other places is much more stratified, and it’s expected there will be a privileged class and a servant class. That’s the way it was in this case.

Arrest, strip-search of Indian diplomat in New York triggers uproar

(CNN) — The prosecutor in the U.S. government’s case against an Indian diplomat charged in New York with visa fraud related to her treatment of her housekeeper expressed dismay Wednesday over the direction the case has taken.

So, that sort of thing is not going to happen again.  Except when it does:

(CNN) — A high-ranking Bangladeshi diplomat based in New York accused of forcing his servant to work for up to 18 hours a day without pay was charged Monday with labor trafficking and assault.

In a case described by the district attorney as “very disturbing,” Mohammed Shaheldul Islam, 45, a deputy consul general of Bangladesh, is alleged to have used a combination of physical violence and “vile” threats to control the victim, Mohammed Amin, for a period of several years.

Americans need to get used to the fact that in other cultures human exploitation is normal and a way of life, particularly for those privileged to be the exploiter rather than the exploitee. Accounts of what transpired in the Devyani Khobragade case would indicate the caste system remains intact, and the Indian government comes down on the side of the exploiter:

On January 10 the Indian government ordered the expulsion of US diplomat Wayne May because he had assisted Richard’s family in securing T-visas and traveling to the United States. Media sources stated that May had taken “unilateral actions” in expediting the travel of Richard’s family from India and violated various procedures with respect to actions taken related to the case. Media sources also quoted disparaging remarks about India and Indian culture made by May and his wife on their personal social media accounts since their posting to New Delhi. At the time of his expulsion, May was the head of the embassy’s diplomatic security contingent managing a staff of 424 security officers including 10 Marine Security Guards, and had been in India since 2010. The expulsion of a US diplomat by India is viewed as unprecedented. In the history of the US-India relationships, a similar event has happened only once when India blocked appointment of George G B Griffin, a Reagan appointee to the post of US political counselor, the third-ranking post in the United States Embassy.

The best we can hope is the United States continues to place its regard for human rights above any need to curry favor with a foreign  power. More may develop. Keep reading.