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      One of the great crimes and tragedies of our world is how we treat the animals we eat (or whose milk or eggs or other products we eat and use.) Factory farming keeps them in tiny enclosures, feeds them monotonous foods, and then when they’re slaughtered it’s a terrible experience: they’re terrified and die in […]
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The Things of May

beltane-fire-fest

The May Queen banishes the spirits of winter and darkness at the Beltane Fire Festival in Edinburgh

The White House Correspondent’s Dinner was last night. I haven’t watched it since Stephen Colbert did a masterful job of making the media stars look like the self-absorbed, overpaid, underwhelming, lazy “journalists” they are.

Obama was there and couldn’t help but take a swipe at Hillary– for not knowing how to use Facebook.

President Obama poked fun at Hillary Clinton’s lack of appeal among young people Saturday night, joking at the annual White House press corps dinner that Mrs. Clinton was like an aging relative who cannot figure out how to use Facebook.

“Did you get my poke? Is it on my wall?” he said, imagining Mrs. Clinton trying to use the popular social media site. “I’m not sure I’m using this right. Love, Aunt Hillary.”

Ok, stop right there. I wasn’t at this dinner so I’m not sure of the context that this comment was made. But I have something to say about Facebook.

I hate Facebook. I’m not the only person who feels this way. And I don’t want to toot my own horn here but throughout my career, I’ve learned many different applications. I even have an application scale of my own making. The hardest one I ever learned was called HKL and I didn’t even really learn it all that well because I ran out of time before we were laid off. New applications do not intimidate me. I look forward to bending them to my will.

Except for Facebook.I don’t like the interface. It’s confusing. I can post stuff on my wall and get around but it doesn’t feel natural to me and probably never will. Perhaps I’m overthinking it. There’s got to be more to it than this stupid wall and how do you see everything in order??

But guess what? I can survive without Facebook. In fact, there is a whole side of the internet that Facebook devotees will not discover unless they leave Facebook and learn to use other apps and browsers on their tablets.

I’ll go even further. You can use Facebook in several different ways. You can use it as a social media tool. It’s a way to post all those pics you took at the last party you went to or the last time you saw all your friends from high school. Or you can use Facebook as your single entry and exit point into the internet. This is how some elderly people I know use it. Unlike what Obama is suggesting, older people get around Facebook fine. They don’t have an issue with it. It’s like the AOL of the 21st century. When everyone else moves on to SnapChat and Periscope, all your older relatives will still be on Facebook.

So, I don’t know where Obama was going with this dig at Hillary and Facebook. But if she were a normal person her age, she would be a master of Facebook. Fortunately, she is not a normal person her age and she uses everything. Or her campaign does.

Will anyone be waiting for updates to Obama’s Facebook page when he leaves office? Um, probably not as many as might have obsessively checked in 2008. Facebook is old. It’s still a classic but the rest of the world has moved on. You have to wonder if Obama knew that when he made that stupid joke.

How many “journalists” thought it was funny? Did anyone watch it last night? I’m curious to know how many younger correspondents were rolling their eyes in embarrassment while people like Chris Matthews was guffawing and chugging his chard.

Anyway, I’m picking up signals here and there that Obama and Hillary have had a strained relationship and are only bound by party obligations. So, I guess it’s no surprise that he would take a few gratuitous digs at her.

I’ll never understand what some people saw in him. Never, never, never.

*********************************************************************

Lance Mannion has a post about why Bernie people and Hillary people see history differently and how this has led some Democrats to put the blame for everything on Hillary’s shoulders. Worth a read. Here’s a sample:

At any rate, it is in Bernie’s interest that Hillary be “remembered” as not just having been wrong but bad. Bad as in a bad person. Evil, in fact.

For many of the Bernie supporters of my online acquaintance, it’s not enough for Clinton to be evil herself. She has to be Evil incarnate, the root of all evil and cause of all that’s wrong with the country and all that electing Bernie would fix. The way they go at it in their tweets and posts it’s as if she was at least co-president through Bill’s two terms, that George W. Bush was president for just long enough to lie us into the war in Iraq, at Hillary’s urging, after which she took over, guiding and prolonging the war from her seat in the Senate, where she did nothing else—Lilly Ledbetter? Never heard of her.—until Barack Obama became president, when once again she assumed the role of co-president, making all his foreign and military policy decisions until she left the State Department to prepare for her coronation as Queen-President in her own right.

But even among the more sensible, reasonable, and less doctrinaire, Bernie’s purity is generally proven by Hillary’s corruption and for that work history must be “remembered” accordingly.  And the ones taking the lead in the misremembering are middle-aged men—almost all the Bernie people I know online are Bernie guys and middle-aged Bernie guys at that—old enough to have been politically aware adults during the years of Bill’s presidency and Hillary’s time in the Senate but who apparently didn’t take notes and haven’t bothered to do the homework needed to make up for it.

Middle aged male Democrats, what’s up with them?? Srsly, I don’t get it.

I agree with him but I think there is another component to this. That is, Hillary takes the place of the sacrificial scapegoat. For some reason, some of it social pressure, these Democrats can not blame the party, Obama, themselves or Republicans for what has happened in the country in the last 20 years. It’s easy to make Hillary the convenient target because the media has beaten up on her continuously since she joined the spotlight and also because she actually has a record to criticize, a point that Lance touched on as well.

But something seems very primal here. There’s an element of ritual about hanging everything bad on this one woman. The Scapegoat Mechanism really is a thing, according to philosophers such as Rene Girard, who describes it like this:

In Girard’s view, it is humankind, not God, who has need for various forms of atoning violence. Humans are driven by desire for that which another has or wants (mimetic desire). This causes a triangulation of desire and results in conflict between the desiring parties. This mimetic contagion increases to a point where society is at risk; it is at this point that the scapegoat mechanism[9] is triggered. This is the point where one person is singled out as the cause of the trouble and is expelled or killed by the group. This person is the scapegoat. Social order is restored as people are contented that they have solved the cause of their problems by removing the scapegoated individual, and the cycle begins again. The keyword here is “content”. Scapegoating serves as a psychological relief for a group of people.

I can think of a lot of things that are desired here. For example, I think a lot of men can not wrap their heads around the idea that we might have a female president when they can think of a lot of “more deserving” men who could do the job. Do “desire” and “deserving” have a common cognate?

The idea that we can’t even contemplate one single woman before we have exhausted all of the other male possibilities who might be a smidgeon better is both funny and horrifying. After all, we have had over 40 presidents so far and all of them have been men. That means that half of them have been below average. (Average, not mean) Isn’t there any curiosity about where a woman would fit on the gaussian distribution graph?

I’m beginning to think that nothing short of a Nobel Prize would be enough to make Hillary comparable to a man who is running. Therefore, there must be something seriously wrong with her. She wants something that others want more and can’t get. She did her homework, got the experience, made all the right friends. Why is she so damned persistent? And how much bad stuff can we hang on her before we send her away again? Again! We thought we got rid of her in 2008 but she’s back. Well, we can’t have that…

(One final note: In this respect, Katiebird and I disagree. I don’t blame Hillary for getting a private email server. I remember in the early days of the Patriot Act when a system administrator working for the Republicans in the Senate broke into the Democrats’ server and made copies of strategic and other documents for his owners. He wasn’t punished or anything and if I recall correctly, the Democrats were blamed for not tightening up security of their server. It’s sort of the same argument that rapists make about their victims. If she hadn’t been wearing a short skirt, none of this would have happened. Nevermind that Nixon had to resign over doing something similar but lower tech before the days of personal computers and the internet.

So, if you are a Secretary of State and you just went through a grueling primary campaign and have 20 years of media and Republican nut cases trying to track down every “LOL!” you’ve ever texted to contort and parade before a gullible public, wouldn’t you want to make sure that nothing you wrote would be hacked into?

If the Republicans can have their own servers that are off limits to the public but through which they conduct public business (and then just conveniently erase when the heat is on), it’s unreasonable for someone who has had a history of bad relations with the other party, her own party and the media to be required more than any other person in government to leave everything open. Better to lock it all down as securely as possible. The State Department servers might not have been (and turns out the unclassified email servers weren’t) secure enough.

It’s up to the accusers to prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that something nefarious was going on with her personal email server, which didn’t contain any classified emails at the time she sent them, and that some hard and fast rule was violated that Colin Powell, Condi Rice, Dick Cheney and Barack Obama haven’t also violated. When you can absolutely prove that, then you can make your case and seek indictments. Otherwise, it seems like a lot of cherry picking. Of only Hillary. The Scapegoat.

I guess you could say that it was dumb for her to do it because, as the designated Scapegoat, she should have known she was going to have to bear the blame of everyone else who did it. (“We didn’t say you were at fault, we said we were going to blame you”) It was ok when everyone else did it but it’s IMMORAL and ILLEGAL when Hillary does it. So, yes, that was probably dumb. But then, it would have been dumb to use a less secure system as well knowing that as the designated Scapegoat, everyone and their brother would use the flimsiest of excuses to go through each and every email on the State Department servers. On balance, is it better to ask for forgiveness or permission? Given that this was a no win situation, the more secure server may have been the most responsible, better choice.)

 

 

 

Wolf Hall, Arkansas and New Zealand #WeAreApostates

Mark Gattis as political priest Stephen Gardiner in Henry VIII’s court.

There’s a tryptych that doesn’t seem to go together, eh?

On this side of the Atlantic, there wasn’t that much of a big deal about Wolf Hall, the BBC adaptation of Hilary Mantel’s two novels, Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies. If you haven’t had a chance to see the series, check out PBS before it’s too late and you won’t be able to find the episodes on it’s unnecessarily complicated website.

One complaint I have about the television version is that it was too short. It could have easily been three times longer. It left out several characters that I liked, like Thomas Wyatt, and skimmed over the enigma of Jane Seymour.  And then there was the impact of the Renaissance and international banking on the medieval, feudal world. It’s the three estates all over again. What was lost was the reality of who ran the government, what little there was, back then. Primarily, it was the nobility who were appointed to their offices through birth. “Oh, yes”, you say, “I learned that back in 8th grade. There’s nothing new about that.” I thought that too until I really understood what that meant. It meant that all you needed to become the treasurer or whatever was to be born into the right family. You didn’t need any other qualification. You could be perfectly shitty at your job. Didn’t matter. Your inherited wealth and status gave you automatic access to the Privy Council. A self-made, educated man who rose on his merits, had no real right to be there.

Same with the clergy. They ran a good chunk of England. During the Peasant’s Revolt of the late 14th century, the abbeys and monasteries did not side with the peasants. No, no, no. They were as much a part of the feudal aristocracy as the nobility and had even less of an incentive to cooperate with any national government. Their liege lord was in Rome. In order to bring England into the 16th century, Cromwell had to strip them of their power locally. You can bet they had their daggers poised for him after that.

Mantel has been praised for her research on Cromwell and what he tried to accomplish. He thought wars were a waste of money and thought that infrastructure projects would be a better way of keeping the population calm and under control. He was opposed in this by the nobility and the clergy who thought that poverty was God’s divine will. Why mess with it by taxing the rich? Somewhere recently in a podcast I’d heard that the stronger the social safety net in a country, the less religious it is. That’s because the common person doesn’t have to continually turn to God and charity to have his or basic needs met.

Well, the religious will have none of that. No wonder they joined up with conservative and politically connected rich people in the 30s to undermine the New Deal. You can read all about it in nauseating detail in the book One Nation Under God: How Corporate America invented Christian America.

So, you know, nothing new under the sun. And we’re still fighting the same wars between the aristocracy, the clergy and the commoner.

***************************************************************************************

I’ve never been a Duggar fan, as many of you well know. Still, I find it really sad that this family has been brought down by their actions 12 years ago when their eldest son Josh was found to have been forcibly fondling his sisters while they were sleeping. First it’s sad because if he were just a regular kid instead of a TV celebrity, he might have been forced to register as a sex offender. This is what the Duggar fan base would have demanded of any other person. Secondly, but no less importantly, it’s sad for his sisters who were brought up to consider their bodies as a no touch zone for any other reason than procreation. I can only imagine what they were thinking. Were they now impure? Would any man want them after that? Instead of getting family counseling, they probably were cautioned to not tempt their older brother.

And let’s just be honest here, although he was 14-16 when this all happened, it’s probably not all that uncommon. It’s serious because it went on for a long period of time and the parents did almost nothing when they became aware of it. But I still don’t think that makes Josh the kind of pedophile that some Christians would like to make him out to be. I think it made him a troubled young person in the middle of adolescence with a ton of younger siblings and parents who admit that they parentify their older kids. That’s negligence on their part. What’s awful is that the Duggar parents have isolated these young people in an artificially created world where they imagine the only hormones their daughters will come in contact with will be from the outside world through the discerning curating eye of their father. It’s insane. Something like this was bound to happen.

I wouldn’t be surprised if there was a lot more going on between the siblings than we think, even without Josh present. It could happen. They’re not allowed to date, they’re not in proximity with future mates for long enough to make their own choices. Should we be surprised that some of them turn to each other? They’re human beings, not model Christian soldiers. And with 19 kids in the family, some of them are going to be gay. Whether the parents approve or not, whether that poor kid(s) has to stay in the closet for a very long time, gay is going to be there. That kid or kids knows that the minute they are exposed, they’re going to be permanently ostracized or retrained. That’s sad.

But what really annoys me is that all of the focus is on making Josh Duggar to be some kind of pedophilic monster at the age of 14 when he really needed a good psychologist, and almost no attention on the radical, reactionary, mean spirited messages that his work with the Family Research Council promoted. Specifically, he and his family has gone on a tear hooking up with right wing politicians to portray LGBT individuals as disgusting, sex-crazed pedophiles who do not deserve equal protection under the law.

So, let this be a teachable moment for Josh. A lot of the godly types will find it in their hearts to forgive him for his adolescent indiscretions. But there will be quite a few who will now insist that he’s a sick, twisted sex addict who shouldn’t be allowed to be around children, whether or not his hormones have achieved their proper balance and outlet or not. Ah, yes, the backlash has started already. So much for Christian redemption. Once a 14 year old violator, always a 14 year old violator. Let’s see how he likes being treated like a paraiah by the fear conditioned Fox News junkies who used to worship his family.

They thought the Duggars had self-control. Apparently not. That smells like betrayal. Will it make them sit and think about why it is so important that right wing religious leaders feel it’s important to make the poor, women and the LGBT community out to be lazy, subservient and disgusting and how that might be tied to a 80 year initiative by the wealthy and religious to take back their feudal rights and getting rid of programs they hate like Social Security?

Probably not. That requires changing the channel.

*********************************************************************************************************

I recommend to you another podcast from John Dehlin’s amazing podcast, Mormon Stories. (I wish I could donate, John, but no permanent full time job yet. Sorry.)

I can’t stress how good Dehlin is in terms of interviewing people. But it’s more than that. Mormon Stories is about the evolution of religion through the experiences of one man as he journeys out of the faith of his ancestors to, well, we don’t know what yet but it’s very exciting.

His latest podcast is with Gina Colvin, a half Maori Mormon from New Zealand. The first part of the podcast is about Gina’s background. It’s very colorful and entertaining. But the second part is the one that got my attention. In it, Gina describes her interaction with “Utah” Mormons, which are very different from Kiwi Mormons. She expresses her surprise and anger with the way that American Mormons are using their power to export an extremely conservative religious and political brand on the rest of the world. In one instance, she recounts how the Utah Mormon church has been trying to rouse its Christchurch Mormons to oppose gay equality in New Zealand. That, Gina says, was a lost cause. Gay equality and marriage in New Zealand was already part of the constitution. There was no going back, no way for the local Mormon church to oppose it and, more importantly, nobody cares.

She also says that a Utah Mormon official told her that Mormons are politically conservative. They are not allowed to be lefties. You just need to hear it to get a sense of how determined the unholy alliance of religion and right wing politics is to spreading its messages of fear, exclusion and cruelty around the world.

True story.

I liked this podcast because it was so cheerful and optimistic at the end, in spite of the crazy excommunications.

Worth a listen. Check it out here.

I get the feeling that the tide is turning against the religious right. It might be finally happening that it’s iron grip on the world is starting to slip. The world is evolving without them and getting impatient.

I especially like this brief post about Puritanism over at Lance Mannion’s blog:

Is this what we want, a grim, self-accusing, self-scolding, self-denying, self-abnegating, perversely and masochistically stoic, fearfully church-going citizenry, jealous, suspicious, defensively accepting of their lot in the certain, complacent, and stubborn knowledge that things could be worse without considering that they could also be better and asking why they’re not and how they could be made that way?

I’ve asked myself the same question for four decades. The answer is no, but how we reduce the influence of the Puritans without reprogramming is going to be very hard as long as we as a country reward the religious, no matter how fundamentalist they are.