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We are going to be stuck with Donald Dump for the foreseeable future. Republicans will not impeach him. Nothing he can do will force them to abandon him. Even as the country tries to absorb Dump Jr’s e-mails confirming he met with a Russian lawyer with government connections to get dirt on Hillary Clinton – GOP collectively yawns. Mitch McConnell says he has no comment. Paul Ryan is MIA. John McCain is concerned and Lady Graham is disturbed. That’s as bad as the recriminations got. (Bernie Sanders, by the way, says we shouldn’t jump to conclusions. The strongest response came from Moe Scarborough who announced he’s leaving GOP to become an independent. Which is nice, but who cares?) The right-wing media has closed ranks around Dump and his abominations. Collusion with the Russians isn’t so bad, Breitbart and Fox have declared. Besides, shouldn’t Hillary Clinton be prosecuted, Sean Hannity asks?

The best response so far came from a surprising source: Trey Gowdy-Doody.

Someone needs to get everyone in a room and say, from the time you saw ‘Dr. Zhivago’ until the moment you drank vodka with a guy named Boris, you list every single contact with Russia,” Gowdy said, referring to the 1965 movie.

But Gowdy-Doody says he will investigate nothing via his House committee; he’s leaving it all to Bob Mueller.

Vice President Pence’s courageous response via his spokesperson was:

The Vice President is working every day to advance the president’s agenda, which is what the American people sent us here to do. […] The Vice President was not aware of the meeting. He is not focused on stories about the campaign, particularly stories about the time before he joined the ticket.

“Before he joined the ticket.” That’s Pence trying to have it both ways. Standing by Trump’s agenda and “Hey, don’t look at me, I just work here!” in case the story has legs. But considering each new story feels like the one that breaks the camel’s back and then it doesn’t… we shouldn’t expect this new story to be any different. Dump is here to stay. If he is to go, it can only be accomplished if Democrats take both House and Senate in 2018 (unlikely), and then the 2020 elections. Until then… we must fasten our seat-belts and get comfortable. The ride will continue to be bumpy.

Which brings me back to Mike Pence’s statement. “The Vice President is working every day to advance the president’s agenda.” What is this agenda? What is the future that Republicans want? It’s all bad. All bad. Mitch McConnell has postponed Senate’s August recess by two weeks, hoping to cobble a coalition that passes their healthcare abomination. Hopefully The Resistance continues the push-back and enough Rethugs are afraid enough of their constituents to vote Nay.

There is another story that came out last week from El Salvador that should chill all our spines because this is essentially the future Republicans want in the US too.

This week a court in El Salvador sentenced 19-year-old Evelyn Beatriz Hernandez Cruz following her conviction for aggravated homicide.

Hernandez says she became pregnant after being raped in the small community where she lived, according to her trial statements. She says she did not report the attack out of fear and did not realize she was pregnant.

In April 2016, Hernandez said, she felt strong abdominal pains and lost consciousness in the bathroom. She was taken to a hospital and treated for vaginal bleeding from an out-of-hospital delivery, but there was no newborn.

Authorities opened an investigation and later found the fetus. She was initially charged with having caused in abortion, which is illegal in all situations in El Salvador. The charge was later changed to aggravated homicide.

Hernandez said she did not know she had miscarried. She has been in prison since the incident.

GOP’s assault on women’s right to control their own bodies is decades old. They started fighting abortion rights the minute SCOTUS ruled on Roe v. Wade. They have never la-fg-c1-el-salvador-women-20150415wavered, they turned the issue into perhaps the single biggest cultural wedge issue in the country. And over decades they have chipped away at abortion rights bit by bit by bit. They have been great at branding (GOP always is), controlling the debate, redefining terms (“partial birth abortion,” for example) and seeing abortion rights erode. With Trump and Pence in the White House, and Neil Gorsuch on the Supreme Court, abortion rights are as much at risk as anything else right now. We should look at El Salvador, where abortions under all circumstances – no exceptions – is illegal, as the future we might have in the US. In El Salvador judges rule abortions and miscarriages as homicide and sentence women to decades in prison. World Health Organization estimates that 68,000 women die each year as a result of unsafe/illegal abortions. This is an issue we must remain vigilant about because we know Pence has it in his sight.

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Over the weekend I edited a short fundraising video for organizations that help victims of human trafficking. These are all religious institutions and the women interviewed were all nuns. One from NYC, one from London, and one from Mombasa, Kenya.

Human trafficking is the 2nd largest crime industry in the world, only behind drug trafficking. It generates hundreds of billions of dollars in profit – at the expense of human lives. And it is also the fastest growing “industry” in the world today. In 2012 it was estimated that as many as 20.9 million people around the world were victims of human trafficking. Imagine what those numbers are in 2017. Human trafficking includes sexual exploitation (including sexual slavery), forced labor, organ harvesting. The International Labour Organization (a United Nations agency) last compiled their statistics in 2012. Some excerpts:

90% are forced to labor for private economies or corporations

22% are in forced sexual exploitation

55% are women and girls & 45% are men and boys

26% are under the age of 18

Sister Jane Kimathi, from Mombasa, speaks of victims as young as 4 years old, forced into prostitution. Many, she says, come to their safe houses unable to speak because of the trauma. Some stay with the Sisters for as long as two years, as they try to rehabilitate them and find new homes. While their order is Catholic, they welcome all victims and their prayer room is nondenominational. She mentioned that Mombasa is a popular tourist destination. But the “tourist destination” designation is people who come there specifically searching for young children to abuse. Because of the many conflicts in Africa, the number of refugees spikes the numbers of slaves. They are people looking for ways to support their families. Nobody is looking for glamour or prestige in the sex trade, Sister Kimathi says. “It’s poverty and desperation.” Some of the children were sold by their parents into slavery. Some are orphans and some are runaways who were promised happiness by relatives, who then exploited them.

It’s a story the Sister from New York, Joan Dawber, picks up on. Sister Joan runs safe houses in Queens. She described one woman’s story: She came to New York to be a student, sponsored byp1562069350-3 an extended family. When she arrived, the family forced her to become their slave. She never attended school. She was forced to take care of the family, including raising their young children. She was forced to eat off the floor. Not just having her plate on the floor, she didn’t have a plate. Whatever food she was allowed to eat was put on the floor. If she was hungry and snuck any food out of the fridge, she was punished. She was her family’s slave in Queens, NY for five years. Her salvation came in the form of a neighbor who suspected something odd based on the young woman’s behavior in public. She tried to speak to her repeatedly, ask her how she is, only to have the young woman run away. Eventually the neighbor gave the woman a cell phone with pre-programmed numbers for the police and safe shelters. The young woman finally found courage to escape, using the cell phone to call for help. She has since finished school and lives in New York.

Sister Dawber points out that human trafficking exists in every state of the USA. It is not an issue that only happens out there somewhere. It exists all around us. It could be the waitress in a restaurant, or a manicurist at the nail salon. They could be of any age and any race. It can be almost impossible to know that this person ringing up our groceries is indentured to someone.

Sister Lynda Dearlove runs a safe house in London. Their organization primarily helps prostitutes. The interesting thing is that their mission isn’t strictly to “rescue” the women from prostitution. It is to offer them a safe home and counseling when in need. Many only come to sister-lynda-dearlovespend the night, take a shower and eat. Some then return to the streets. The Sisters there never force anyone to stay. Many women have been coming to them for years for a night or two of peace. The Sisters hope that by offering women a shelter and offering them counseling they can help them enable themselves. Sister Dearlove passionately says that the can not force anyone to do anything. The best they can do is show the women that there is hope and they need to find it for themselves. Maybe not today, but possibly tomorrow. “They are valued and they are loved, and if anything happens to them we want them to know that we will miss them.” She says that people blame women for becoming prostitutes and that it is one of the biggest challenges we as a society face: The need to understand that if any of these women choose prostitution it is only because they are fleeing abuse, or drugs, or so many other possible traumas. Many are trying to support families and stay alive. They must never be judged or condemned, she says. They must be offered hope.

Note: Sister Dearlove was appointed a member of the Order of the British Empire in 2010.

This is an open thread. What’s on your mind fellow Widdershins?

Good Monday, Widdershins.   Glad tidings from the Vatican today for all who claim humanity, but especially so for all of our Rainbow Widdershins.

After much soul-searching, an enclave of bishops has published a document outlining the need to find a place within the Church for gays and same-sex couples.  This is a tall order for an institution which asserts that sex is solely for procreation, but on the bright side, neither birth control nor abortion will be an issue.

The Huffington Post notes that the document did not relax the basic RC attitudes, the author called its language “less judgemental” and “more compassionate”.

The document will be the basis for discussion for the second and final week of the assembly, known as a synod, which was called by Pope Francis and focuses on the theme of the family.

It will also serve for further reflection among Catholics around the world ahead of another, definitive synod next year.

“Homosexuals have gifts and qualities to offer the Christian community: are we capable of welcoming these people, guaranteeing to them a further space in our communities? Often they wish to encounter a Church that offers them a welcoming home,” said the document, known by its Latin name “relatio”.

“Are our communities capable of proving that, accepting and valuing their sexual orientation, without compromising Catholic doctrine on the family and matrimony?” it asked.

And this:

It said that the 1.2 billion-member Church should see the development of its position on homosexuals as “an important educational challenge” for the global institution.

While the Church continued to affirm that gay unions “cannot be considered on the same footing as matrimony between man and woman”, it should recognize that there could be positive aspects to relationships in same-sex couples.

“Without denying the moral problems connected to homosexual unions it has to be noted that there are cases in which mutual aid to the point of sacrifice constitutes a precious support in the life of the partners,” the document said.

Pope Francis has said the Church must be more compassionate with homosexuals, saying last year: “If a person is gay and seeks God and has good will, who am I to judge.”

The Church teaches that while homosexual tendencies are not sinful, homosexual acts are.

The document also showed considerable opening to heterosexual couples who were married only in civil services or who were living together, mentioning “positive aspects” of such unions, especially if the couple saw them as a prelude to marriage in the Church.

No doubt, this represents a sea change in the Holy See.  Whether it is an actual invitation to the gay community or just part of  the time-honored “hate the sin, love the sinner” principle remains to be seen.

This is an open thread.

 

Good Thursday, Widdershins.  I hope that your week has gone well thus far.  We have heard a great deal regarding the vast impositions being placed on both religious institutions and People of Faith by the nefarious actions of the federal government.  I could have sworn that I have heard/read everything possible, but I was wrong.  In fact, stone cold wrong.

Today, I read an article posted on Real Clear Politics in their religion section.  The post was written by one Robert Sirico, and I had not heard of him before.  Clearly, Mr. Sirico is a devout Catholic, and the article entitled “Hobby Lobby’s Liberty and Ours” reflects his most sincere beliefs,  The article also awakened me to some facts that had heretofore passed me right by, such as the fact that federal money is going into the coffers of religious institutions. I cannot seem to find any clear-cut figures that would quantify the amount of funding and the various recipients, so if anyone knows that answer, please feel free to share.  Mr. Sirico actually wrote the article to decry the amount of time, effort, and dollars that religious institutions were spending on legal fees to “defend” their long-held positions against “secular” interference from government agencies, various.  He also comments that the current administration is the most secular in the nation’s history.  (Funny.  Doesn’t seem that long ago that the Prez was decried as a Moslem/Liberation theocratic.  Now he is suddenly hyper-secular.  Who knew?)

The brouhaha du jour involves the Catholic Church’s semi-apoplectic reaction to the latest round of stipulations regarding the payment of employees of federal contractor.  Again, who knew that the Catholic Church is considered a federal contractor?  Certainly not me.  Seems that The RC church gets federal dollars for  social services, so they fall under the mantel of a contractor.  From the article:

On July 21, President Obama issued an executive order that prohibits federal government contractors from “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” discrimination and forbids “gender identity” discrimination in the employment of federal employees. In a scathing response, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops decried the executive order as “unprecedented and extreme and should be opposed.” The bishops’ response, authored by Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore and Bishop Richard Malone of Buffalo, asserted that “in the name of forbidding discrimination, this order implements discrimination.” The bishops predicted that “faithful Catholics and many other people of faith will not assent” to the deeply flawed understanding of human sexuality undergirding the order. “As a result, the order will exclude federal contractors precisely on the basis of their religious beliefs.”

While being a practicing Catholic is long ago and far away for me, I have family members and friends who would qualify nicely for this category.  I assure you that none of them will be remotely upset if women are paid as well as men, and if the minimum wage ticks upward.  They just won’t, your Eminences.  Cross my heart and hope to die. But, there’s more

:This means that Washington will now police the hiring and staffing policies of any church or charitable organization that holds federal contracts. The irony here is that the Catholic Church unequivocally opposes discrimination based on gender or sexual orientation, without compromising its teachings on marriage or family. Who holds the moral high ground on this question, the federal government or the Church?

I’m going to go out on a limb here and suggest that the Roman Catholic Church has been anything but a bastion of equity., at least with regard to gender issues.  (The Church was stellar on civil rights racial issues.)  Even Pope Francis, who so generously welcomed gays back into the church and is a veritable model for social justice has admitted that he cannot elevate the status of women to equity without rattling the age-old Church doctrine of the patriarchy.  Ergo, the Church may oppose discrimination, but lives it on a daily basis.  Sad to say, but the Church would have to look up to view the high moral ground in this particular instance. So here is the dilemma, as I see it:  the Church is the pinnacle of efficiency when it comes to social services.  They run Catholic Charities beautifully, and not a dime goes to “administrative costs”.  They fund raise well, and can stretch a dollar until the eagle begs for mercy.  They put their money where their mouth is.  BUT – and a big but is indicated – if they are taking federal dollars collected from people of all faiths, can they insist on using that money only by their own patriarchical standards? This is not church money, so the grounds by which they can claim an exception are shaky at best.  They are contractors, plain and simple, and the rules should apply to all equally. Mr. Sirico eventually says something with which I can agree wholeheartedly:

 This was, in a way, inevitable. I’ve been sounding the alarm for more than two decades about the risks of church-based groups — Catholic Charities comes immediately to mind — becoming overly dependent on government contracts. What we should do is to “reprivatize” private charities. That’s the only way these religious groups will be truly accountable and truly private.

Cue the applause.   Way to go, Mr. Sirico.  If it’s their money, they will simply fall under the laws of their individual states, as we do not allow slavery, human sacrifice, or marriage to multiple women who happen to be in the seventh grade, and churches are not immune to state and federal laws.  Just ask Jim Baker and Warren Jeffers.  However, he did not ask the one question that I think is paramount:  Doesn’t the act of giving federal funds to various churches violate the separation of church and state?  Think about it.

This is an open thread.  (If you look carefully, my significant other is the last snare drummer on the right, many moons ago.  Yes, we have very strange hobbies.)

Lucretia Mott

Lucretia Mott

[ACTIVIST WEDNESDAY NOTE: Bad news, Widdershins – two good candidates have first entered, then exited, the race against rabid woman-hater Bob Marshall in Virginia. I am really upset that no one has the ovaries or cojones to take this Turd Blossom WannaBe on. I have no idea what ActBlue will do with my $50, but I sure hope it’s not too late for someone to step up!!]

Good Wednesday, Widdershins. It’s time for another installment of Activist/Historical Wednesday! Today, our topic is religion – in particular, Quakerism.

Before beginning my recent studies, I had no idea how important American Quakers were to the civil rights movements in our country. Although Quakers are not prominent or numerous today, in the early-to-mid-19th century, the religion was a hotbed of liberal activism, due to its emphasis on equal rights for all. Unfortunately, women belong to other Christian religions were not so fortunate.

Religion was a major factor in American life that also served to reinforce women’s inferior status. It played a dominant role in early new England, where religious dissenters like the Puritans wielded enormous influence in colonial communities…Religion was at the core of life in America, whether organized or not, for a strong belief in God and the afterlife helped to offset the uncertainties of colonial life and the ever-present fear of death. It provided a sense of order and community…Communities held ministers in high esteem and considered them arbiters of moral authority…Women were especially pious, and they soon began to outnumber men as churchgoers, making up as much as three-fourths of all congregants in some churches by the mid-eighteenth century. The messages articulated by clergymen in their sermons and religious tracts articulated the ideal: that women were to be virtuous, pious, obedient, and submisive but, at the same time, strong and hard-working — “good wives,” as the historian Laura Ulrich has described New England women.

–from Seneca Falls and the Origins of the Women’s Rights Movement,
Chapter 1

Quaker women, however, had many advantages over women from other religions, which prepared them first for the anti-slavery movement, and then for the blossoming of the women’s movement. Quaker women could be ministers; were not required to use the word “obey” in their marriage vows; and suffered no prohibitions against speaking in public. One of the most powerful and influential women’s activists of the First Wave was, in fact, the Quaker minister Lucretia Coffin Mott. Renowned for her powers of persuasion, Lucretia was an abolitionist before she became passionate about women’s rights.  Being a female reformer was not an easy path, even though she enjoyed the support of family and friends, unlike many of her sisters.

Mott attended all three national Anti-Slavery Conventions of American Women (1837, 1838, 1839). During the 1838 convention in Philadelphia, a mob destroyed Pennsylvania Hall, a newly opened meeting place built by abolitionists. Mott and the white and black women delegates linked arms to exit the building safely through the crowd. Afterward, the mob targeted her home and Black institutions and neighborhoods in Philadelphia. As a friend redirected the mob, Mott waited in her parlor, willing to face her violent opponents.[3]

It was through her anti-slavery activities that Lucretia met Elizabeth Cady Stanton. The two attended the World Anti-Slavery Convention in England (Elizabeth was on her honeymoon) and were roused into anger by their unfair treatment by many of the male participants, who voted to segregate the scandalous wimminz into their own curtained-off section of the hall. After this inspiring yet infuriating episode, Elizabeth and Lucretia began germinating the idea for the Seneca Falls Convention.

Read the rest of this entry »

Hash (the edible kind)

Hash (the edible kind)

NOTE:  Pat has had the real world require her attentions so I’ll be taking the Saturday post for awhile

And that’s what the post will be today:  a hash of some of the current news that’s caught my eye.

WE’RE FROM THE GOVERNMENT AND WE’RE HERE TO HELP

Guam, it seems, has a problem with the brown tree snake. Quite a problem it seems.  The things got to Guam from their usual South Pacific locations to Guam most probably on cargo ships going back to WW II.  Due the snakes having very few, if any, natural predators on the island they have, shall we say, proliferated there.  The snake has been a disaster for the island’s wildlife and they have just about wiped out the island’s native birds.  They have climbed up on power lines brown tree snakeand short-circuited them causing power outages and have gotten into homes.  Although they have venom and bite, the bite is not fatal to adults but can be a problem to kids.  The problem this is most feared however, is that the damned critters might make it to Hawaii.  Think Snakes on a Plane.  That would be a financial disaster to Hawaii’s tourism so the government has come up with a great idea to get rid of, or at least cut down on the brown tree snake population on Guam:  they are going to feed them toxic, dead mice.  As the comedian says “I shit you not”.

The solution to this headache, fittingly enough, is acetaminophen, the active ingredient in painkillers including Tylenol.

The strategy takes advantage of the snake’s two big weaknesses. Unlike most snakes, brown tree snakes are happy to eat prey they didn’t kill themselves, and they are highly vulnerable to acetaminophen, which is harmless to humans.

The mousies are going to be dropped on Guam from helicopters, one by one and will even have little parachute-type things so that they land in and stay in the trees where they snakes stay.  Apparently government scientists have been working on this for over a decade so let’s hope they’ve got the plan down pat.  When I first read this I thought of the CIA’s plan for the poisoned cigar for Fidel.  Let’s hope this one works better.

DRONES: COMING TO A NEIGHBORHOOD NEAR YOU SOONER THAN YOU THINK

Most of the drones that have begun to appear in the skies above the U.S. homeland don’t resemble the Predators or Reapers flown by the U.S. military and CIA above Afghanistan and Pakistan. Instead, these smaller versions of flying, unmanned vehicles almost rival the animal kingdom in their diversity.

That’s right, the drones that will or already have been deployed over the U.S. will not look like the ones we’ve seen on the teevee from Afghanistan or Pakistan.  Nope, they are going to look more like something you might buy at Radio Shack or on Amazon.  The F.A.A. says it is not going to allow drones armed with weapons over the U.S.,  (yeah rite)  However are we going to know what every sheriff, police chief or whomever will do with their own little flying drone once they get their hands on them plus the o.k. to fly them?  The idea touted frequently is to use them for highway or traffic control.

They won’t all be cute little things that play the James Bond theme.

THE VATICAN “GAY” LOBBY?

From gthe Irish Times comes the story, courtesy of the Italian daily La Repubblica, that Benedict’s decision to resign from the Papacy was partly due to a report he commissioned on leaks from the Vatican,  the so-called Vatileaks scandal.  There was a report prepared by three senior cardinals “alleging that various lobbies, including a gay lobby, exercise an “inappropriate influence” in internal Holy See affairs.”

The newspaper suggests that such was Benedict’s dismay when presented with the details of the report on December 17th that it hardened his long-meditated decision to resign. The internal report prepared by Cardinals Julian Herranz, Josef Tomko and Salvatore De Giorgi had been commissioned by Benedict himself.

He had ordered it in response to the so-called Vatileaks scandal which culminated with the arrest and subsequent conviction last autumn of the Pope’s butler, Paolo Gabriele, found guilty of having stolen confidential documents from the papal apartment.

In the article, it is claimed that the cardinals reported that various lobbies within the Holy See were consistently breaking the sixth and seventh commandments, namely “thou shalt not steal” and “thou shalt not commit adultery”.

The “stealing” was in particular related to the Vatican Bank, IOR, whilst the sexual offences were related to the influence of an active gay lobby within the Vatican.

There’s more:

La Repubblica claims the cardinals’ 300 page report speaks of “Impropriam Influentiam” on the part of various lobbies, some of them of a “worldly nature”, reflecting an “outside influence”. The Rome daily recalls the figure of papal gentleman, Angelo Balducci, accused three years ago of being a member of a gay ring active within the Vatican and involving choristers and seminarians.

I can truly believe the widow Ratzinger was indeed so disgusted that he just had to resign the Papacy instead of trying to clean the mess up.  uh-huh yeah.  He must have really been given a case of the vapors by all of that “Influentiam” of a worldly nature.  😯

Now, we’ve all been told that a former convent (or one they maybe kicked the nuns out of?) is being readied for Benedict when he steps down and he will live in Vatican City.  That’s so sweet and nice because he’ll still be close by and will be able to maintain a religious life in the beautiful surroundings of the Vatican city-state.  But then, there’s also this reason:

After he resigns, Benedict will no longer be the sovereign monarch of the State of Vatican City, which is surrounded by Rome, but will retain Vatican citizenship and residency.

The reason that is important is because of the Lateran Pacts or Treaty of 1929 between Italy and the Vatican.

That would continue to provide him immunity under the provisions of the Lateran Pacts while he is in the Vatican and even if he makes jaunts into Italy as a Vatican citizen.

The 1929 Lateran Pacts between Italy and the Holy See, which established Vatican City as a sovereign state, said Vatican City would be “invariably and in every event considered as neutral and inviolable territory”.

As the church lady would say:

This is an open thread and what’s going on in your world today?


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