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I wasn't paying a whole lot of attention to Mike Huckabee, Republican hopeful for president, until I saw that he was a guest on the Jim Bakker Show.

As a Catholic girl who was dragged sideways through the Charismatics and then Assemblies of God, I was fascinated by the 1980's unfolding scandal that was Jim & Tammy Bakker. They broke into televangelism early, and found success in begging Social Security dollars from widows so that Tammy could binge-shop and indulge her pets with a luxury air-conditioned doghouse while Jim paid church secretary Jessica Hahn to stay quiet about her claim that he and another preacher, John Wesley Fletcher, drugged and raped her in 1980.

Whatever happened to Jessica, it was bad enough that Jim Bakker wanted to keep it quiet...

Hahn was paid the $10,000 in 1984, and later accepted $265,000 from the ministry in exchange for keeping quiet about her motel tryst with PTL founder Jim Bakker in 1980. Evangelist John Wesley Fletcher also was charged with perjury for his accounting under oath of how he introduced Bakker and Hahn.
Like most of you reading this, I would rather eat broken glass than beg strangers for money. But I've done it for a good cause. Have you pledged to NPR lately? Just asking. Anyway, it's not the money, it's the ruthless disregard for the people they deceived.
The Bakkers had been selling lifetime memberships to the park. For $1,000 donation, you’d get a three-night stay in a luxury hotel at Heritage for the rest of your life. Tens of thousands of people bought in, but the Bakkers only started building one 500-room tower. And construction was slow.
Turns out, Jim Bakker was using some the money to pay off a church secretary who says he raped her.  He also gave himself more than $3 million in bonuses. The Charlotte Observer exposed the Bakker’s conduct, and more media and legal scrutiny followed. Park attendance dropped, Bakker went to prison for fraud, and Heritage USA filed for bankruptcy.
I'm just imagining Harry and Louise sitting in the cramped living room of their trailer, counting what's left of their Social Security check after they tithe. They've never had a vacation, but here's their chance. Heritage USA! Good Christian people they can trust! Three nights in a queen-sized bed and days at the water park with real Americans! Louise is going to save the cute little soaps and shampoo bottles for souvenirs!  

Jim Bakker got some of what was coming to him. His brother in the Lord, Jerry Falwell couldn't wait to get his hands on the Bakkers' PTL media empire and Heritage USA, which was a happening place, not the ghostly ruin it is today.

Jessica Hahn had a brief career posing for Playboy and being notorious, she got pecked at by Barbara Walters in a 'where are they now?' TV interview in 2011. Maybe she invested the hush money that Bakker paid her.

Jim's wife, Tammy Faye, got busy with Jim's friend, Roe Messner.  Roe divorced his wife and Tammy ditched Jim and married Roe while Jim was in prison. Roe later did some time himself for fraud. Tammy liked the bad boys.

Tammy really should have gone to prison too. There's no way she didn't know that they were living large off poor people's money. But she was the better performer of the two, and that is how she's remembered. She was a female drag queen, troweling on the makeup and vamping in reality shows. Sadly, she got cancer and died. I wouldn't wish that on anyone.

Their daughter,Tammy Sue, appeared on Jim Bakker's new show, their  son, Jay Bakker, went into the family business and started a church. I guess it's what they know, but I'd like them better if any of them got a real job.

Jim Bakker still chases money and power, and Mike Huckabee is his kind of politician.

If there is a God the whole gang will spend eternity somewhere warmer than Tammy's doghouse.

Discuss

I'm bracing myself for the wave of publicity due to soak us all this Valentine's Day- Fifty Shades of Grey. A couple of years ago the book was all the talk around my office. Why, I wonder, do smart, competent women go for this type of junk?

But then, my grandmother, who worked as a secretary from youth to old age, a cop's widow and mother of four, consumed romance novels like she smoked her cigarettes- one after the other. She was nothing like the swooning and weeping women on the covers, even the plucky heroines were wimps compared to her. She faced enough adversity for 3 lifetimes with Irish-American toughness. So why did she love these stories where the right combination of submissiveness and trembling self-assertion won the heart of some arrogant inbred British lord? Like there was no cute stable boys around?

Good thing Christian Grey doesn't look like Donald Trump. Even so, this oligarch worship is creepy. Bad enough we have to listen to politicians drivel on about 'job creators' as if any mortal ever created anything. As if we need to flatter and appease our betters so maybe they'll create us some jobs.

And the Fifty Shades plot that a young woman out of college has no better prospects than to sell sex to some rich guy? This is not romance- it's outrageous. And untenable. Simple math says that the 99% can't all count on making a living as a sex toy to the 1%.

I miss the old days. Back then when we said 'eat the rich' we didn't mean it that way. We wanted to stick it to the man, not kneel down for him. Where did the anger go?

Like everything else in American culture it was co-opted, commodified and neutralized. The draft ended, campuses settled down. The women's movement made substantial legal gains and discrimination became a dirty word. Plenty of it, but you don't see 'whites only' or 'ladies entrance' any more. Social progress left much of America behind and gave cover to the dismantling of the working middle class.

From 'Dallas' to 'Pretty Woman' to 'Maid in Manhattan' and now '50 Shades of Grey' it's the same wealth worship. It doesn't work for me. I thought Scarlett O'Hara was a slave owning parasite who should get a job. I thought Princess Diana could have done better. I think rich guys are more likely to look like Rupert Murdoch than Richard Gere.

I know that escapist fantasies are just that- escape from our real lives. Agency brings responsibility, and that's a burden sometimes. Everyone on some level would like to be rescued. It's just that this junk culture, like junk food, will make you fat and hungry at the same time. Believing in fairy tales can mess up your life- think of poor Diana, she dreamed of Prince Charming and got Prince Charles instead.

Who am I to judge? I think the hottest screen couple ever was the snails in Microcosmos. I read The Enquirer in the grocery line. I own the complete set of Firefly. I call M&M's and potato chips a balanced lunch. But there's something not right in making gods of the rich, even if they are a Christian.

If The Baffler 'Fifty Shades of Late Capitalism' is correct, this film may be an orgy of product placement. Tell me if I got that right, I'll be doing other stuff with my time off.

Discuss

Nurses are required to get continuing education. This month’s class was Ethics. I sat around a table with co-workers debating moral challenges - little white lies, getting extra change at the supermarket, etc. I kept my head down, suppressing an urge to giggle nervously, like the mortal and venial sins blotting my soul might show through my blouse- but then it got interesting. Ever take Psychology 101? You've probably met Heinz.

The Heinz Dilemma is a famous ethical problem posed by psychologist Lawrence Kohlberg in the 1950’s. Clearly, Heinz had reason to want to stick it to the man. See the dilemma below the orange tangle...

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I love my city of Providence, and the walkable neighborhood of the East Side. You never know who you'll run into. Yesterday I was leaving a restaurant and I saw my City Councilman, Kevin Jackson, talking on his cell phone.

I was not polite, I was intrusive. But I had to ask him. I stood in front of him until he saw me standing there and put his call on hold.

"I'm one of your constituents. I saw you on Facebook standing in front of a big poster of Vincent Cianci. Do you support him for mayor?"

(It gets worse below the orange graffiti.)

 

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Today's news, 9/11/14 proves that there is nothing more dangerous than a good man with a gun, money and a sense of entitlement. Don't make them mad, or make any sudden moves.  I wrote the following post in 2013, just knowing that South Africa will never convict a white man with a gun for shooting a woman who was no one special.

An appeal to fear in a country more gun-loving and divided than our own may be a winning defense. Cathal Kelly in the Toronto Star explains why Oscar Pistorius might become South Africa's O.J.

On my first night in Johannesburg, I accidentally shut the rape door behind me, trapping myself in the bedroom.

Most middle-class homes in South Africa feature “rape doors” — sliding jail doors that compartmentalize a house so that no intruder can get at you if — and this is the phrase commonly used — “your perimeter is breached.”

It was funny for a minute. Then I realized that since all the windows in the bedroom were barred, I had no way to get out in case of a fire.

We phoned the couple we’d rented our pleasant bungalow from and explained the situation. The owner laughed a long time, and then said he’d be by in the morning to release me.

South Africans are afraid of many things. Fire ranks very low on the list.

Read the rest here.

Cathal Kelly makes a convincing case that politics may prevent justice for Reeva Steenkamp.

South Africa's culture of fear feeds a 'fear industry' that markets guns, security systems and gated 'communities'...

Gated communities, often called "golf estates," are enclosed spaces protected by a number of security measures such as electrified fences, razor wire, patrols and enhanced biometric and technological measures that continue to be developed by a "fear industry" that flourishes in South Africa. This fear industry emboldens a fear culture that is obsessed with crime and its avoidance. While we may see this as an irrational fear, as the majority of crime occurs in concentrated spaces among the black population (not unlike in the United States), one has to respect the nature of crime in South Africa. Despite a murder rate that has begun to decline in recent years, South Africa still has crime levels that are astronomical, with a homicide rate approximately four times that of most industrialized nations. Still, it is unlikely that this type of crime would have touched people like Oscar Pistorius or Reeva Steenkamp, especially within a gated community.

The assertion that Mr. Pistorius believed there was an intruder in his home may seem unlikely in a secured home in the middle of a gated community, but it is a perception that many in South Africa will relate to. A segment of the South African psyche will understand the fear and the reaction allegedly spurred by it, despite any evidence to the contrary.

In the US we have a gun industry that is so aggressive in marketing guns that no toll of accidents and murders will budge them from their message-- guns make you safe, more guns are better, you're never safe enough.

Peace is not won by finally building high enough walls or buying big enough guns. South Africa can decide that Reeva Steenkamp is an acceptable loss for preserving their way of life, or to examine its culture of violence that her death not be in vain. There are 20 children gone in our own country who should not be forgotten.

UPDATE: Carl Pistorius, Oscar's brother, is facing homicide chargesfor a motor vehicle accident that killed a woman in 2008.

Now, in 2014, America can spare a few children, South Africa can spare an unlucky blonde. The gun needs defending, no matter how many need to die.

Discuss

Being a white Northern liberal married to a Black Southerner gives rise to some interesting in-law discussions.

I saw on family Facebook that Taleeb Starkes, author of 'The Un-Civil War: Blacks vs N-----', which Amazon describes as a 'race realist endeavor' is a featured speaker at St.Stephen's Church in Louisville, KY next weekend.

'Race realist', is a label that is adopted by some white supremacists, and claimed by Taleeb Starkes on his website, blksvsnggrs.com. His book cover features raging flames. The bottom of his home page is a photo gallery of violent crimes by Black perpetrators against white victims. It is very frightening and the immediate emotional response is to avoid those people at any cost. Unfortunately, for the white reader the simplest interpretation is that 'those people' are Black people.

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Sun Aug 31, 2014 at 02:52 PM PDT

'Race Realism' in a Dirty Book

by Nancy Green

A Facebook connection led me to  Taleeb Starkes, a Black writer whose Amazon page praises as being a 'race realist'. Remember that scene in Star Wars where Han Solo says, "I have a bad feeling about this?" right before the trash compactor mashes down on them? 'Race realist' had the feel of something bad and rancid.

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Sun Jul 06, 2014 at 06:28 PM PDT

Religious Freeloaders

by Nancy Green

The Catholic Church has a rich tradition of martyrdom as a statement of faith. In school we learned of heroic virgins and missionaries and the tortures they endured. Our parents didn't aspire to raise saints, but they did agree with the nuns that the One True Church was worth sacrificing for. In fact, the nuns themselves were a living testament.

This was the sixties, and the Vietnam War was devouring lives both American and Vietnamese. Young men studying for the priesthood were counseling draft-age men who sought conscientious objector status. Though the persecution might not have been as severe as that inflicted on those who took this stand in WWII, prison was likely. If not prison, then alternative service for years doing jobs no one else wanted, or exile to Canada. In Vietnam, some monks made a despairing statement by setting themselves on fire.

(more below the orange flame)

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July 4th is the right time for a Declaration of Independence from the employee benefits shackle.

The fact that most Americans have had to look to employers for access to insurance is not a law of nature, it's an accident of history...

Prior to World War II, few Americans had health insurance, and most policies covered only hospital room, board, and ancillary services. During World War II, the number of persons with employment-based health insurance coverage started to increase for several reasons. When wages were frozen by the National War Labor Board and a shortage of workers occurred, employers sought ways to get around the wage controls in order to attract scarce workers, and offering health insurance was one option. Health insurance was an attractive means to recruit and retain workers during a labor shortage for two reasons: Unions supported employment-based health insurance, and workers' health benefits were not subject to income tax or Social Security payroll taxes, as were cash wages.

Note that we all have paid all along for tax-free health insurance that is subject to employer's whims and is not available to all.

God works in mysterious ways. This Hobby Lobby mess will be a blessing in disguise if it wakes up the public and our representatives in Congress to help President Obama keep his promise of a 'robust public option'. It can be done most expeditiously by allowing a Medicare buy-in for people under age 65, the infrastructure is already there. It just needs courage.

Discuss

Inspired by the Supreme Court's decision that economic entities are not only persons, but persons with religion and deserving of all the protections of conscience we don't defend in little people like workers-- because they should just be darn grateful they have a job--your writer has invented a new word, Corporationstein.

Like Frankenstein's monster, Corporationstein is sewn together from various parts. Owners, stockholders, bought politicians and the humble folk who enjoy the gift of the jobs created.

Your writer is not against corporations on principle, in fact she works for one. Legal structures have their uses. But this Supreme Court, in decision after decision, has changed a business fiction into a person who has Constitutional rights, can vote with its dollar, and now can require all in its domain to conform to its religious restrictions. Will Corporationstein go to Heaven some day? Is there a special place in Heaven, like the Corporate Lounge in the airport, where Corporationstein doesn't have to mingle with the carnal?

Only if it's good? Not like Corporation for Public Broadcasting and its raging liberalism (is that an oxymoron)?

I woke up thinking of a Junot Diaz story called Monstro where the folly and arrogance of the wealthy unleash a ravenous hybrid monster that consumes people. Oh, wait-- it's us that are the consumers. Corporationstein is a person, who has faith and creates jobs. Unlike ordinary humans whose place it is to gratefully accept jobs and consume more.

I have heard the religious claims of the Green family, owners of Hobby Lobby, compared to the stance of conscientious objectors to the Vietnam War.

I was a teenager then. The CO's faced prison where they were labeled unpatriotic cowards, they were able to get alternative service if lucky-- and assigned to the work no one else wanted, or they went into exile in Canada. This is what happens to human beings who take a stand for their beliefs.

Corporationstein does the reverse. It tells the Court what it wants, and then forces all in its power to take the consequences of its practice of religion.

Selective practice is fine. Hobby Lobby enjoys a profitable relationship with China, a country that shares its practice of interfering with women's reproductive rights but with forced abortion rather than denial of contraception. It also invests in some pharmaceutical companies that make the contraceptives it claims are morally wrong. Religion is a mystery, and even more so when practiced by a 'person' whose very existence is an act of faith.

Discuss

"They served well," I said to my friend, and she teared up. It was 1995, I was quoting President Clinton's words about the Federal workers who, with the citizens they served, were annihilated in the Oklahoma City bombing.

My friend is a National Parks Service ranger, she wears a uniform. She is a civil servant, like the workers at the Alfred P.Murrah Building. She is a historian, a guide, a manager, and a visible face of the National Parks-- preserved for the good and enjoyment of all.

Although we might become numb to the constant assault on our sense of sanity with mass shootings, and the daily body count from the most afflicted parts of our cities, this one is different.

She was Amanda Miller's best friend. Amanda and her husband, Jerad Miller, had moved from Indiana to Las Vegas and for two weeks had been living with Fielder.
Jerad was always going off, she recalled, spewing anti-government rants. He filled his Facebook page with political cartoons that mocked police and other authorities. A recent post read: 'We must ... prepare for war."
Then something really disturbing.
Around 5:45 Sunday morning, Fielder told CNN, the couple were awake. They had a cart full of ammunition.
What were they doing? she asked.
They told her they were "going underground," Fielder said.
"The revolution has begun," Jerad Miller told Fielder.
"I should have called the cops," she said Monday. "I'm so, so, so sorry -- to everybody. I'm sorry."
I wonder in what neighborhood 2 young people could push a loaded cart full of weapons without anyone calling the cops...
A neighbor told NBC News the couple left their apartment with a shopping cart full of weapons. Jerad Miller reportedly told the woman, "We gotta do what we gotta do," while his wife hugged the neighbor, saying "I am so sorry."
Another neighbor said he had heard anti-government statements from the Millers before, that they wanted to overthrow the government and President Barack Obama and kill police officers.
Assistant Sheriff Kevin McMahill said Monday the suspects had ideology that was along the lines of "militia and white supremacists." He said they put a "Don't Tread On Me" flag and a swastika on one of the officers they shot at the restaurant.
Crime happens, but this unprovoked murder of 3 men had no possible motivation outside of belief in a cause. The shooters weren't out to rob and they had no escape plan. Or perhaps they thought reinforcements would arrive, like the gun-waving militia that assembled at the Bundy Ranch.

They had faith, like Timothy McVeigh. Their Heaven is Hell for most of us, but they have shown their readiness to shed blood. There's nothing random about this violence.

Words have consequences. The flood of hate speech that most of us tune out finds a home in the minds of troubled individuals and a resentful minority that wants to 'take our country back'. Add the easy availability of weapons of war and it's no surprise that self-appointed revolutionaries take aim at unsuspecting officers of the peace.

Expect the extreme right to publicly disown this act, but privately these two will be awarded the martyrdom and glory they sought.

Discuss

Sun Apr 06, 2014 at 09:10 AM PDT

Sign of the End Times

by Nancy Green

I'm relaxing on Sunday morning with the NYT, being all churched-out for the week. But no escaping religion. Back page of the Review section asks the theological question, 'Is That Jesus in Your Toast?'

Such apparitions can be as lucrative as they are seemingly miraculous. In 2004, a Florida woman named Diane Duyser sold a decade-old grilled cheese sandwich that bore a striking resemblance to the Virgin Mary. She got $28,000 for it on eBay.

The authors totally overlook the most alarming aspect of this story. It's not superstition-- that's as old as humanity. It's not the fact that some people have way more money than sense- ditto. It's the fact that a ten-year-old grilled cheese sandwich is still intact. I'm wondering is some nice American cheese between 2 slices of white bread incorruptible? Like the fallen trees around Chernobyl? Or a McDonald's burger? Or snacks that fall under the couch and petrify?  Is that sandwich still, ten years later, scaring away mold with its chemicals and preservatives?

I don't know whether the Virgin Mary would recognize any of these things as food, or trust them to be Kosher. Perhaps she appeared on the grilled cheese sandwich to warn us-- don't eat this stuff.

Discuss
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