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Archive for July, 2017

Miss Belize Turns 4!!!


Miss Belize of the shiny, black onyx eyes, back in 2016.

Miss Belize Paulita McKay turned 4 Saturday. Guess what she wanted for birthday dinner?

My Belizean-blood daughter Ludy Paulita McKay–a Latina child with the name that sounds oddly Scottish or Irish or something most un-Latin– turned 4 Saturday.

Miss Belize makes fast friends with everybody, like this girl at Yoli’s Pizza. Click on the pic to enlarge it.

Proving once again that time flies when you’re having fun.

A little more than four years ago an American expat friend introduced me to a good friend of his named Lourdes Vasquez. My friend called her “Ludy” for the simple reason that he thought she “looks like a little Ludy to me.”

“Well of course — that makes total sense to me,” I lied.

Miss Belize and Momma Ludy.

Well, she is little, as many Belizeans with a lot of Mayan blood flowing through their veins tend to be. (The great Mayan kings who ruled thousands of years ago were, even when decked out in all their warrior garb, little Davids rather than big Goliaths.)

Ludy, a single mom and spousal abuse victim, was struggling to support herself and her children Stephanie and Felix when I met her. She lived with her mother who was ravaged by diabetes. (Her mom died more than a year ago at age 55 from the dreadful disease.)

Did I mention that, on top of all this, Ludy had been going to night school faithfully for more than six years to obtain a high-school diploma?

So here was this young woman going to night classes, raising two kids and taking care of a mom who required an ever-increasing amount of attention and care.

She also had a baby girl on the way because of a spouse who had come around after being absent for five years or so.

My American friend and I (he has since moved back to the States) admired Ludy for her tenacity and toughness. My admiration was full-blown the night she received her high school diploma in June 2013.

I liked her and her well-behaved kids Steph and Felix so much that I offered to support her third child.

Talk about an act of faith — I was so nervous after making the offer that I thought to myself, “What the hell have you just gotten yourself into now, Paul McKay?”

So, on July 29, I watched Paulita come into the world. She was delivered by a Muslim midwife from Nigeria who worked at the time at San Ignacio Community Hospital.

“You want to hold your baby, dad?” she asked me.

It was one of the more surreal moments of my 67 years, Belize me.

She turned out to be healthy and full of life and personality and I thank God every day that she’s in my life for all the joy she brings me and everyone she encounters.

I call her “Miss Belize,” the nickname that she’s come to be known by around the twin-river cities San Ignacio/Santa Elena where I’ve lived since July 15, 2012 — a full five years.

A younger Miss BZ: Praise the Lord! I got my bah-bah!

I moved to Belize on faith, believing with all my heart that God for some strange reason was leading me here.

Miss Belize is the main reason and of that I’m certain. It can be god-awful difficult sometimes raising an energetic 4 year old in a foreign, third-world culture that on many days will always be difficult for me to adapt to.

But the good days far and away outnumber the challenging days. In fact, every day is a joyous and wonderful day when Miss Belize runs up to me with her arms wide open and says, “Daddy!”

Which in fact is an every day occurrence.

Thank you, Lord, thank you.

Miss Belize first major public appearance in the Belize Independence Day parade, September 2014.

Me and my gal.

A star is born. July 12, 2013

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The Gleaners (Des glaneuses) (1857)
Jean-François Millet. The French painter’s master work showing three stooped “Ruths” picking up leftovers from a wealthy farmer’s field will be the catalyst for some blog posts about providing for the needy in our own time.

I think it was Moses–or was it Benjamin Franklin–who said:

    “Waste not, want not.”

Probably Moses.

Here’s a startling fact that would no doubt appall him:

More than 40 percent of the food grown in the United States of America every year is left to rot in fields, or thrown in landfills.

This at a time when millions of men, women and children go to bed hungry every night in what is still far and away the wealthiest, greatest nation in the world.

It’s an especially startling fact in light of the divine but neglected principle of “gleaning” we find in the Torah, the first five books of the Old Testament.

From my book The View From Down in Poordom: Reflections on Scriptures Addressing Poverty, available at the online bookstores at Amazon, Barnes & Noble and WestBow Press.

I’m quite busy these days with a couple of writing assignments. But I’ll be posting occasional “Noon Wine” posts in the days or weeks ahead on the topic of gleaning, the biblical principle on which the entire, wonderful book of Ruth turns.

With intense debates and discord going on about how to provide care for those laid low by everything from illness and injury to hunger and homelessness, I aim to unpack what the the Bible, especially the Torah, has to say about providing for the vulnerable folks including aliens and refugees.

The Torah shows that providing food for foreigners and other strangers among us–as well as those we know and live with, work with and worship with–is an expectation for Jews and Christians alike.

The Torah exhorts us in Leviticus 19:9-10:

    “When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap all the way to the edges of your field, or gather the gleanings of your harvest… you shall leave them for the poor and the stranger.

    “You shall not strip your vineyard bare, or gather all the fallen grapes of your vineyard; you shall leave them for the poor and the alien.

The poor and the alien. That is, your neighbor and the stranger who might be an undocumented immigrant or war refugee.

The Torah emphasizes that because I’m blessed with more than enough food, I have a social responsibility to share with anyone who has little or none.

I have that spiritual obligation whether it’s to the neighbor in my town whose spouse died and I greet with food so he or she won’t have to cook, or it’s the refugee from some ravaged country.

That very well may be a country that my own country is largely responsible for ravaging with its endless military adventures and ever-ballooning military-industrial complex.

(Never forget: it was an under-rated conservative Republican president and World War II hero who had the foresight to see and to warn us about the militarist nation we’ve become.)

* * *

The way I see it, you and I have a biblical and social responsibility to those who, as an example, might be a fearful family of undocumented workers taking sanctuary in a church basement out of fear that the family will be split up when aggressive ICE agents come around armed to the teeth.

Mind you, those undocumented aliens among us, who may have made a good and honest living toiling in American crop fields and contributed to our American economy by making our food so cheap, are likely to be from some country in the Southern Hemisphere where American and multi-national corporations displaced them from their own private land that they had happily and productively farmed for hundreds of years.

This still happens every day down here south of the U.S. border, where corporate behemoths seize huge amounts of land for mines or dams, making them the “gleaners” who risk life and limb to flee to the U.S.

They have little choice but to leave behind the violent drug cartels and corrupt, violent, U.S.-backed governments that fill the voids.

Political rhetoric that dehumanizes, demonizes and scapegoats the poor, the refugee and the immigrant is easy enough to spew out. It seems to give a lot of people a puffed-up sense of moral superiority to talk the poor, the homeless, the immigrants and the refugees.

Recently, shamefully, it’s come to this in the healthcare debate: We now have officeholders in D.C. and statehouses who scapegoat even the sick and disabled, wanting to deny them medical care because they haven’t lived the healthy lifestyles of monks who work the fields to consume small portions of the foods they toil to produce in solidarity with the poor gleaners of the world.

As if those political officeholders never indulge in unhealthy gluttony at $50,000 fund-raising events where they hobnob with the perennial “fat cats” who literally write U.S. legislation concerning health care and crop subsidies for U.S. farmers.

* * *

Drilling down to the root causes of crises involving the poor, the hungry and the aliens among us requires mature thought, civilized discussion and debate, a lot of foresight, hard work, compassion, and intelligent leadership in D.C. and the state capitols–as well as in churches and other houses of faith.

(Sadly, intelligent faith leadership that is not exactly a hallmark of perennial shysters like Jerry Falwell Jr. or Pat Robertson, who–amazingly–have places at the head of the table in the White House now.)

* * *

Nobody ever said that being a compassionate, merciful, faith-based or morally based nation that treats all the vulnerable people within its borders with equal protection and mercy is easy.

Then again, it’s not that complicated if we let the wisdom of Bible, starting with the Torah, be our guide.

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Not since St. Francis hopped off his horse and kissed a leper on the lips has the world seen a man this weird.

Is this handsome, sensitive man some kind of weirdo? You be the judge.

Tom Herman, the new head coach at the Texas University football factory, has a long history as a coach of hugging and kissing his players on the cheeks before games.

Herman has said this a thousand times in a thousand interviews:

“I think it’s weird that people think it’s weird that I kiss my players.”

(Gad! Could he be GAY, ya think???!!!!”)

I happened to catch him saying it yet again in an interview on ESPN’s Sports Center just this morning.

Herman, whose father was a bad drinker and homeless at times, has also been caught a few times in his career crying with players about their troubled personal lives and hardships growing up.

I mean, what kind of macho, swaggering, big-time football coach is this?

Actually he’s my kind of coach: a man so secure in his manhood, so comfortable in his own manly skin, that he’s plenty willing to come across as more sensitive than swaggering.

Also, I’m pretty much a fan of any sensitive jock who’s also so smart as to be a member of Mensa, the high-IQ society. Herman’s a member.

If he wants to run for president next time I’m willing to vote for him in spite of any lack of business, government or political experience if you know what I mean and I think you do.

* * *

The Dallas Morning News‘s online SportsDay.com had a fine and mighty fine profile of Tom Herman back in February, which they published again on Father’s Day this year. (Link to the story is below.)

Herman explained in the interview once again why he thinks it’s weird that people think his affection for players is weird.

    “I take these young men and I tell their moms and dads and them themselves, ‘Hey, I’m going to treat you like my sons.’ Well, guess what? Newsflash: I kiss my sons.

    “And if a player is about to go put a pair of shoulder pads and helmet on and go run into a bunch of people — get into 80 car accidents, basically — for three hours for me and the team, I’m going to kiss ’em and tell ’em I love ’em and tell ’em I’m proud of them and ‘Thank you.'”

Herman estimated in his ESPN interview this morning that about 50 percent of his players have told him that his kiss was the first one they’d ever been given by another man in their lives.

He explained that in today’s world a lot of athletes come from tough backgrounds where there were no fathers, or certainly no affectionate fathers, to show them what love from a loving and supportive father looks like.

Herman himself was an only child, raised by his mother. He’s often noted that even though his father was an alcoholic who was in and out of his life, he grew up kissing his uncles and other male family members.

Tom Herman is a most interesting man and a class act, as so many football coaches are.

And speaking as a failed sports writer who mostly embarrassed himself covering college athletics for a little more than a year, I can tell you that I know a lot of coaches genuinely love their players, and some even show some amount of affection for them.

Yet Herman, who obviously got where he is with toughness and grit and being nobody’s floor mat, strikes me as a little different. I find his security about his manhood interesting in a time when America can’t seem to get enough of the macho swag, “don’t-take-no-shit-off-nobody” notion of what a “real man” is.

It remains to be seen if he can survive the pressure cooker at the University of Texas, where many a fine and decent man–like Herman’s own predecessor, in fact–has been celebrated for his decency and discipline, only to be disposed of by the dumbhood of insecure alums with money to burn on what is, when it comes right down to it, a child’s game.

If this Texas gig doesn’t work out for Coach Herman, maybe he could run for president and if he does damn his lack of experience in politics, government of business.

He’ll do.

Go here to read the aforementioned profile of Coach Herman.

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Terapia de la música para mí, para ti.

Levántese y conseguirán las piernas de Jitterbug, y’all!!!

Music Therapy for me, for you.

Get up and get your Jitterbug legs moving, y’all!

(Con Los Lobos y Richie Valens)

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Stephanie Garcia at St. Ignatius High School. On Monday she starts the second of two weeks of orientation and “academic review classes” at the school, where she is excited to be enrolled.

In case you missed it, or if you’re one of the many new subscribers to Jitterbugging For Jesus, I recently posted about my fund-raiser to help a Belizean girl who is special to me to advance to high school.

High school is not mandatory in Belize and there is no free public education here.

High School is expensive for a young lady like Stephanie who does not come from a well-to-do family.Go here to see that post I wrote at GoFundMe about her relationship to me and about her being accepted to St. Ignatius High School, along with an update.

Stephanie with Mr. Mo, who will be her math teacher in her first year of high school beginning August 28.

I’m trying to raise at least US$800 ($1600 Belize dollars) for Stephanie’s first year of school.

High school here is like high school in the USA in only one regard: it takes four years to get a diploma. So understand that the US$800 ($1,600 BZ) I’m trying to raise now is the amount I estimate will be needed for her FIRST year of school only.

That includes first-year tuition which is US$481.50. (I’ll use US dollars from here on in this post.)

The local mayor paid US$150 from a fund for needy families on registration day, and I made a payment from the GoFundMe money for the other $137.50 that was due at that time for a deposit.

The balance of $194 can be made in monthly payments of any amount, interest-free, until October, when the full amount for the year is due.

In addition to the $137 for a tuition payment, I’ve also spent almost $50 of the GoFund money to buy material for the five school uniforms she’ll need at the Catholic St. Ignatius High School. Her mom, who is getting to be quite a good seamstress after a couple of years of lessons, will make the uniforms.

When the time comes, I’ll be paying the fees and misc. costs that add up to what I am estimating is the $800 for the first full school year.

Those fees and costs include books and a number of workbooks, supplies, a new backpack, extra costs for field trips and a school shirt or two for field trips and school participation in parades and so forth.

It’s like sending a kid to college in the US: With an extra fee here and an extra cost there, pretty soon you’re talking real money for stuff other than tuition and books.

Any funds raised over the $800, or any of the $800 I don’t spend this year, will go to a credit union savings account her mom has opened to make interest on your donations.

I used US$135 of some of the GoFundMe money you folks donated to make a deposit that was due on registration day. This is the receipt for that BZ$275 amount.

This is the receipt for almost US$50 they gave me for material for the uniforms I bought for Steph’s uniforms. (Some of the businesses in BZ are, shall we say, informal about receipts. I noted on here that it’s for uniform fabric.)

Some of the terms of the St. Ignatius High School “contract” students sign with the Catholic school.

Note the person responsible for all payments. With or without donations, I’m determined to get Steph educated as much as possible, as well as her brother Felix and my daughter Paulita McKay.

Miss Belize, Paulita McKay, who moved in fast on a boy at her sister’s graduation from Standard VI, the equivalent of 8th grade. Paulita is as excited about going to preschool as Stephanie is about high school!

Again, any amounts over the $800 goal are welcomed and will be put in savings for future years.

Your donations for Stephanie are much appreciated by me and more so by her: I guarantee you she is going to take advantage of this opportunity for at least a high school diploma.

Go to this GoFundMe link to donate:
GoFundMe

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On “Special Report” tonight, Charles Krauthammer said President Trump’s accusation that the Obama administration wrongly allowed Russian [government] lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya to enter the U.S. is a “red herring the size of a whale.”…

He added that the email chain released earlier this week by Trump Jr. also confirms that the Kremlin was supporting the Trump campaign.

“This was Keystone Cops Collusion.”

— Fox News pundit and former Trump Team defender Charles Krauthammer

Charles Krauthammer–one of the biggest of Fox News Channel’s big-time pundits–has forever and a day ragged on “the liberal mainstream news media” and Democrats for trying to sell America a “big, fat Nothing Burger” in regard to the Trump family’s collusion with the Russian government. The day came this past week when Krauthammer had to do a 180 turn and finally condemn the Trump family’s “Keystone Cops” collusion with Putin and the boys. That’s the kind of story that makes you go “Wow!”

Just last Saturday I wrote this in a post here at the blog:

    Every week in America seems to get more bizarre than the previous week.

    Which is to say that every week has more of the stories that make you go “Wow!”–and not in a good way.

This being a late afternoon on a Saturday it’s time again to review some of the felony stupidity and stories that made us go “Wow!” this week at such a pace as to make our heads spin.

Any “man” who thinks it’s cool to cut off an elephant’s tail in this day and age is not a guy you can trust. (Although, considering how shiny the blade is here, it’s doubtful that Donald Trump Jr. cut off the tail of the elephant he gunned down to show off his manly manliness in pictures.)

The series of stories about Donald Trump Jr. and the boys meeting with a Russian lawyer made even conservative columnist and Fox News pundit Charles Krauthammer go “Wow!” with utter disbelief.

Mind you, Krauthammer contended forever and a day that the possibility of Trump’s collusion with the Russian government to bring down Hillary Clinton was a big ol’ “Nothing Burger.”

He’s now looking like a man who’s gagging on the taste of a big fat ol’ Crow Burger.

This is from the online Fox News Channel’s “Insider”:

    Charles Krauthammer said the scandal surrounding Donald Trump Jr.’s meeting with a Russian lawyer who promised dirt on Hillary Clinton was “the first empirical evidence” of the campaign’s collusion with Russia.

    “The damage done by this story is enormous,” Krauthammer said, adding that he thinks more similar stories exist.

    During campaign season a year ago, publicist Rob Goldstone told Donald Jr. that the Russian government may have damaging information on his father’s opponent.

    The president’s son responded, “If it’s what you say I love it.”

    “‘I love it’ are deadly words,” Krauthammer said. “Attempted collusion is still collusion.”

    “Now you see the evidence loud and clear,” Krauthammer stated.

Down below I’ll link you to a video of Krauthhammer explaining why the Trump boys’ defense of the meeting doesn’t compare to meetings for “opposition research” with countries like Ukraine.

Being the blind Clinton hater he is, Krauthammer compares the Trump family’s “approximation to the truth” to Clinton’s.

But what is so intriguing about the whole lying Trump Quasi-Mafia is that they repeatedly do the very things–and terribly far worse things–than the very things they accused and still accuse “Lyin’ Hillary” of doing.

Recall that cheerful chanting back in the Happy Days: “Lock her up! Lock her up! Lock her up!”

By the way, leave it to Fox’s Laura Ingraham, who runs to the political right of former Democrat Donald Trump himself, to try to defend the meeting with Putin’s spies.

Check out the aforementioned video at this link: http://insider.foxnews.com/2017/07/10/donald-trump-jr-russia-lawyer-meeting-krauthammer-says-bill-clinton the meeting with a Russian hoping to get “opposition research” ain’t the same.

Then check this out: one more of the four (count ’em four) hammers that Krauthammer dropped on the Trumps and their reckless clown car in as many days this week…

http://insider.foxnews.com/2017/07/13/krauthammer-donald-trump-jr-russian-lawyer-meeting-obama-admin-letting-her-us

That’s the kind of reaction from a die-hard conservative and Trump family defender that makes you go “Wow!”

It remains to be seen if Donald Trump Jr. did anything criminal in meeting with an enemy of the United States, and–at this point–the consensus by legal types is that there is no evidence of a crime.

But if changing your story multiple times with multiple lies were a crime, Don Jr. would be locked up.

An old district attorney friend of mine once said of a clueless, seriously unethical politician:

“He’s not guilty under the letter of the law, but he’s plenty guilty of felony stupidity.

He, his father and Jared Kushner–the son-in-law who no doubt is in deep criminal caca at this point for his severe amnesia when it comes to signing off on sworn government documents–are all plenty guilty of felony stupidity.

I mean, Wow.

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Yep, he said it.

I saw an interesting post yesterday on the Christian community Facebook page called “Spiritus Abbey—A Monastery Without Walls.”*

I was struck by how wonderful this story from a priest was:

    “Of the twenty empty tables at this Las Vegas McDonald’s, two prostitutes chose the table directly in front of mine.

    The woman facing me smiled warmly and then took the hands of the woman whose back was toward me–a back covered in very amateur tattoos (the kind you get in jail), and, God as my witness, they proceeded to pray, aloud, for about 2-3 minutes.

    “The prayer was about 50% a blessing of others and the other 50% expressions of gratitude, ending with thanking God for their McChicken sandwiches!

    “Jesus was so right when he said this group would get to heaven before the Pharisees…”

    (Thanks to Father Chris Schuller)

Then, it so happened this morning that a friend of mine (Hat Tip to you, David Parker) posted on Facebook this quote from Dietrich Bonhoeffer:

    “It’s much easier for me to imagine a praying murderer, a praying prostitute, than a vain person praying. Nothing is so at odds with prayer as vanity.”

Amen.

This is why I break out in the Jim-jams every year when vain politicians (political prostitutes?) in D.C. and state capitals gather for national prayer days where they knock each other down getting in front of cameras for their newsletters and campaign ads.

Inevitably, Christian conservatives or liberals end up on these national, supposedly holy days bashing each other over something some Republican or Democrat said that goes viral in another political tit-for-tat that makes the 24-hour news cycle.

In my ministry over the years–especially in my time as a hospital or hospice caregiver but even today in Belize–I’ve known and spent deep and meaningful spiritual time with prostitutes, “exotic dancers,” drug addicts, alcoholics, con artists and self-starting sinners of all kinds who, as it so often turns out, are prayerful people.

It turns out such people actually love God and hope against hope that God loves them and cares about them in spite of ways they can’t seem to shake.

I have often assured them, and assure them still, that the Bible tells us that God’s mercies are new and tender every day.

I point out to them a significant number of scriptures that underscore just how merciful and forgiving God is.

I may even quote or point to scriptures, or write down scriptures for them to look up if a Bible isn’t available, like beautiful Psalm 130:1-6. It says (with my italics for emphasis):

    1 Out of the depths I cry to you, Lord;

    2 Lord, hear my voice.
    Let your ears be attentive
    to my cry for mercy.

    3 If you, Lord, kept a record of sins,
    Lord, who could stand?

    4 But with you there is forgiveness,
    so that we can, with reverence, serve you.

    5 I wait for the Lord, my whole being waits,
    and in his word I put my hope.

    6 I wait for the Lord
    more than watchmen wait for the morning,
    more than watchmen wait for the morning.

Now, that’s not to say that I don’t underscore my hopes and prayers for them to somehow, some way, some day find a way out of prostitution or alcohol and drug abuse or whatever. There’s only so much I can do to help them.

But I try to leave them in a state of grace, not with a preachy, off-putting list of what I say they must and should do with their lives lest they burn in a lake of Hell fire that in reality doesn’t exist anyway.

I’ve always loved the wisdom in this proverb:

    “Religion is for people who believe in Hell…

    “Spirituality is for people who’ve been there.”

Hell is living in sin.

And who doesn’t live in sin to some extent, for the Bible tell us that if we condemn others for their sins while believing we have no sin, well…

“If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” (1 John 1:8)
————-

    *The Spiritus Abbey Facebook site says this about itself:
    “The respective charisms of Benedictine and Celtic spirituality create for us both roots and wings for a balanced spiritual life.

    “We also drink at the well of other Christian ways of being and interact with respect and love with the religions of the world.”

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Then he showed me a river of the water of life, clear as crystal, coming from the throne of God and of the Lamb, in the middle of its street On either side of the river was the tree of life, bearing twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit every month; and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.

— Revelation 22:1-2

(TOOK THIS PHOTO of the Oldest Living Resident of Progresso, a quiet village on a lagoon in far north Belize, in December. Don’t remember his name, but he was 95 or so at the time. He worked in Syracuse, NY, during World War II. He was a very sweet man.)

As I went down in the river to pray
Studying about that good old way
And who shall wear the starry crown
Good Lord, show me the way!

O sisters, let’s go down,
Let’s go down, come on down
O sisters, let’s go down
Down in the river to pray

As I went down in the river to pray
Studying about that good old way
And who shall wear the robe and crown
Good Lord, show me the way!

O brothers, let’s go down
Let’s go down, come on down
Come on, brothers, let’s go down
Down in the river to pray

As I went down in the river to pray
Studying about that good old way
And who shall wear the starry crown
Good Lord, show me the way!

O fathers, let’s go down
Let’s go down, come on down
O fathers, let’s go down
Down in the river to pray

As I went down in the river to pray
Studying about that good old way
And who shall wear the robe and crown
Good Lord, show me the way!

O mothers, let’s go down
Let’s go down; don’t you want to go down?
Come on, mothers, let’s go down
Down in the river to pray

As I went down in the river to pray
Studying about that good old way
And who shall wear the starry crown
Good Lord, show me the way!

O sinners, let’s go down
Let’s go down, come on down
O sinners, let’s go down
Down in the river to pray

As I went down in the river to pray
Studying about that good old way
And who shall wear the robe and crown
Good Lord, show me the way!

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NPR TRASHED PRESIDENT TRUMP THIS WEEK WITH PROPGANDA IN ROLLING TWITTER POSTS!!!!!
Oh wait.
Nevermind.

Every week in America seems to get more bizarre than the previous week.

Which is to say that every week has more of the stories that make you go “Wow!”–and not in a good way.

This week was really out there, starting with the Fourth of July.

Public Radio (NPR) observed the day on Tuesday morning by tweeting out the Declaration of Independence, line by line, in 113 consecutive posts.

And for a good long while during the tweeting, a lot of Trump supporters totally lost their minds about it.

Well it does sort of fit him, but–LO!–this wasn’t about Darling Leader.

You’ll recall if you’ve read the Declaration of Independence since your school daze that it includes lines like this:

    He has obstructed the administration of justice, by refusing his assent to laws for establishing judiciary powers.

    A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Trump supporters who’ve been conditioned to hate all things NPR by Darling Leader jumped to the bizarre conclusion that the tweet, among many others, was NPR trashing Trump!

Others took to social media to report that PBS must have been hacked, since it was posting terrible things about Darling Leader.

You can’t make this stuff up. See more on the story here.

That’s the kind of knee-jerk, reactionary weirdness that makes you go, “Wow!”

The tweeting, by the way, was in keeping with NPR’s “Morning Edition’s” broadcast of a reading of the Declaration of Independence on July 4 each and every year–something the public radio station has done for almost 30 years.

But thousands of conservatives who think of themselves as patriots obviously aren’t very informed patriots when it comes to our nation’s greatest documents.

That said, they would know the Second Amendment in a tweet in a New York Trump Tower minute–the one part of the United States Constitution they know by heart.

But there was another story this week on the Christian front involving the popular retail giant Hobby Lobby, which got into trouble buying and smuggling a huge number ancient artifacts from Iraq.

Steve Green, president of the family-owned Hobby Lobby, is brazenly lying about his defense of him and his family and the company smuggling ancient artifacts out of Iraq by a lot of intentional, crooked means. He would never dream, of course, of robbing Israel of its ancient Christian artifacts because Israel isn’t Iraq.
(Photo by Brianna Bailey /The Oklahoman via AP, File)

Hobby Lobby, which doesn’t open on Sundays in observance of the Sabbath, is of course famously owned by fundamentalist Christian Steve Green and family.

If there were any justice, Green and family members would be in a federal pen with other blatant smugglers–drug smugglers, for example.

Green and company produce films with Evangelical biblical themes and operate a chain of Christian bookstores selling some theologically bizarre Christian books and movies.

The pious family is also spearheading the giant Bible Museum in Washington D.C. Its attractions will include–I am not making this up–a 1,045-pound Bible.(Learn more about it at this Business Insider story.)

This week’s story about Steve Green concerned his getting in hot water with the (Trump) Justice Department for smuggling more than 5,500 ancient artifacts from an unnamed dealer for $1.6 million.

A clay cuneiform tablet, one of the artifacts the owners of Hobby Lobby illegally imported into the United States from Iraq. Hasn’t Iraq suffered enough without rich American Christians stealing its stuff?

Federal prosecutors on Wednesday settled with Hobby Lobby in a sweetheart deal that requires the company to return all of the pieces, and to forfeit to the government an additional $3 million.

That, of course, is pocket change to the Greens and their $3 billion Hobby Lobby company.

This punitive (slap on the wrist) action was taken by the Trump-appointed Attorney General and his prosecutors in New York because the ancient artifacts from Iraq belong to the sovereign nation of Iraq, which has suffered enough at the hands of Americans without an American Evangelical Christian family stealing from it, hasn’t it?

I mean, we just can’t seem to crap on Iraq enough.

* * *

Lest you think this widely reported story about deplorable Holly Hobby and Mr. Green the popular Evangelical Christian is “fake news”–and even Trump can’t dismiss this as so much “fake news”– read the Trump Justice Department’s complaint about HH’s serious illegal smuggling on the Department of Justice page here.

But Mr. Green has his side of the story, of course.

He said that the Hobby chain’s collection of historical Bibles and artifacts was “consistent with the company’s mission and passion for the Bible.” (A passion for the Bible that apparently includes robbing another country of its ancient Christian belongings.)

Of course, Mr. Green and company would never dream of smuggling ancient Christian out artifacts out of Israel, but plundering god-forsaken Iraq is OK.

Anyway, the Hobby Lobby company mission includes a lot of underhanded acts, like using a lot of incredibly blatant deception to get around U.S. Customs to get Green’s bootie into Oklahoma, where God resides when not in D.C at the Bible Museum or of course in the White House.

Green said the company had planned to display the items it bought in various museums and public institutions.

He pleaded ignorance of the law, saying that his family’s company is “new to the world of acquiring these items, and did not fully appreciate the complexities of the acquisitions process.”

He added that “regrettable mistakes” were made and that he should have “exercised more oversight.”

All kinds of crooks make “regrettable mistakes” when they get caught but anyway…….

Green’s defense is so much brazen lying, which the Bible somewhat clearly condemns as, you know… a sin.

Prosecutors noted that in 2010, as a deal for the tablets was being struck, an expert on cultural property law who had been hired by Hobby Lobby warned company executives that the artifacts might have been looted from historical sites in Iraq, and that failing to determine their heritage could break the law. (My italics for emphasis.)

Despite this warning, prosecutors said, Hobby Lobby bought the 5,500-plus artifacts–ancient tablets and clay talismans and so-called cylinder seals–from an unnamed dealer for $1.6 million in December 2010.

And, again, the smuggling required a lot of serious deception to get by US Customs that Green the family had a hand in.

This the kind of story that gives Christianity such a god-awful name.

It’s the kind of story that millions of people who’ve left the church and others who’ve become atheist activists to condemn all people of faith and say, “See! Those Christians are all hypocrites!”

It’s the kind of story that makes you go “Wow! What is it about the 1,045-pound Museum Bible, and supposedly being a follower of the Lord Jesus, is it that Holly Hobby and its company president just don’t get?”

The week has had plenty more stories that make you go “Wow!” in a bad way.

But you can bet next week will top it, so tune in here next Saturday for another edition of stories that will blow your mind.

This book, which won’t be on display in the Hobby Lobby Museum of the Bible in D.C.–which will feature a 1,054-pound Bible–will definitely NO be on display there. The book is available for you to buy online, however, at Amazon Books and at Barnes & Noble.

Chapters in The View From Down in Poordom, which Christian Bookstores owned by the Hobby Lobby Empire won’t sell and the author is glad.

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Since 2009, renowned marine biologist John Bruno and his teams have been surveying 16 reefs across the Belizean Barrier Reef, half of which are inside a protected reserve.
Bruno’s findings make his summers in Belize “depressing.”
(This photo of Belize’s famously beautiful “Great Blue Hole” is in today’s New York Times was taken by Michele Westmorland/Corbis via Getty Images. See the link to the Times John Bruno’s Op-Ed piece about Belize’s threatened coral reefs in the post for more photos.)

Genesis tells us that God created everything including this living planet Earth, and was so satisfied with His-Her handiwork that He-She declared, “It is good.”

Then humankind came along and trashed it so thoroughly that once-living mountains, forest, streams and oceans have become ecological graveyards.

Vast parts of the Caribbean, for example.

John Bruno, the renowned marine ecologist from the esteemed University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, is well known among conversationists–and expats in Belize like me who take global warming seriously–for his research here.

John Bruno: the acclaimed marine ecologist knows a thing or two about the ill effects of global warming here in Belize, in Australia and–in his own home state of Florida.

Go here to learn more about him.

(Belize and Belizeans take global warming very seriously, unlike the USA and so many Americans under the science-denying leadership of you-know-who.)

It so happens that Bruno has an opinion piece in The New York Times today about his “depressing summers in Belize.”

Belize me when I tell you, not many people come to Belize every summer and year-round and go away depressed. But Bruno has seen up-close and personal the adverse killer effects on the reefs in Belize and the Caribbean and in Australia, too.

Here’s Bruno’s take on the ill effects of warming on the reefs here and, increasingly, in his own home state of Florida:

Or you can link to the commentary as it appears in the Times here–this ain’t no “fake news.”

    When summer arrives, my friends and family inevitably roll their eyes when I tell them I’m packing for my fieldwork in the Caribbean. They picture a book and a white-sand beach. I do get a tan. But it’s no vacation.

    I study ocean ecosystems. The work is chronically underfunded, so food and housing is basic or worse. When we’re in Belize monitoring the health of coral reefs, about half the nights we sleep under the stars on a dock. When I can afford a roach- and gecko-infested room, it’s often so rustic that it’s preferable to sleep outside.

    There are also the tropical diseases we acquire (dengue, for instance), the insects that lay eggs under our skin (bot flies), stinging jellyfish, scorpions hiding in our shoes and, of course, feisty sea turtles (on one trip an enormous loggerhead turtle bit one of my graduate students on the rear). It’s also physical work, made harder by the intense heat and humidity. One former undergrad in my lab was in the National Guard. After she was deployed to Kuwait, she emailed us to say that the assignment was easier than fieldwork with us.

    Down in Belize’s Great Blue Hole.

    Still, I love all of it. One of the big rewards is the wonders you stumble into by just spending so much time in nature, the kind of things you see in BBC documentaries narrated by David Attenborough. Last summer I woke up in the middle of the night, looked over the dock and saw a dozen spotted eagle rays slowly circling beneath me. It looked like a mobile you’d hang over a baby’s crib. We’ve also come across mating leatherback turtles (awesome, but not so sexy), orcas and manta rays in the Galápagos Islands, a huge tiger shark in Moorea and fields of tiny eels peeking out of their holes on the sandy seafloor in Palau.

    Like many of my peers, I’ve walked away from the type of purely basic academic science I was trained to do to focus on trying to understand and slow the rapid changes underway in ocean ecosystems. My team has been working on determining whether protection from fishing and pollution in well-policed marine reserves can moderate or reverse the loss of Caribbean corals, the small invertebrate animals that build up reefs over thousands of years.

    The once living and vibrant reefs in Australia are being “bleached out,” making it a coral graveyard. Here in the Caribbean, a disease linked to ocean warming wiped out about 99 percent of elkhorn coral colonies across the entire Caribbean. Literally hundreds of millions of corals disappeared in a matter of months. John Bruno reports that this species and closely related staghorn corals had dominated Caribbean coral reefs for at least 5,000 years.

    Since 2009 we’ve been annually surveying 16 reefs across the Belizean Barrier Reef, half of which are inside a protected reserve. We typically survey two reefs a day, filming the seafloor with video cameras and counting and identifying every fish in 100-foot-long bands.

    Unfortunately, we’ve found local conservation is ineffective in stopping coral loss. Dozens of other studies around the world have reported the same finding. The most striking example is probably mass bleaching and coral mortality on Australia’s Great Barrier Reef in 2016 and again this year. This well-protected reef, relatively isolated from human activities, is nevertheless susceptible to global warming. I was a co-author of a paper last year that found (to my surprise) that the world’s most isolated reefs were no healthier than those adjacent to coastal cities. Even the most remote marine ecosystems in the Central Pacific and the North Atlantic and around Antarctica are being radically altered as oceans warm and become more acidic.

    The Caribbean has warmed by about two degrees Fahrenheit during my lifetime. Carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases act as a sort of blanket around the earth, trapping heat that would otherwise be lost to space. Incredibly, 94 percent of this extra heat is going into the oceans, and it’s not just coral reefs that are being affected. Thousands of species are rapidly migrating away from the Equator, trying to stay cool. This is creating new mixtures of plants and animals that are interacting in new and unpredictable ways.

    Every weekday, get thought-provoking commentary from Op-Ed columnists, the Times editorial board and contributing writers from around the world.

    Our goal as scientists isn’t to save only endangered invertebrates like coral but to preserve the reefs that hundreds of millions of people depend on. Food, jobs, tourism revenue, recreation and buffers from coastal storms are just some of the value coastal communities get from healthy reefs.

    I grew up in South Florida in the 1970s, when the reefs of the Florida Keys were still relatively healthy. Snorkeling just a foot or two above acres of golden elkhorn corals was like flying over golden fields of wheat. That is what inspired me to spend my life learning and teaching about the oceans. I was about 10 years old then.

    By the time I graduated from high school, most of that coral splendor was gone. A disease linked to ocean warming wiped out about 99 percent of elkhorn coral colonies across the entire Caribbean — literally hundreds of millions of corals disappeared in a matter of months. This species and closely related staghorn corals had dominated Caribbean coral reefs for at least 5,000 years.

    Things aren’t getting any better. A few days ago, a colleague, Bill Precht, a coral reef scientist with an environmental consulting firm, sent me a note describing what he saw on a recent dive at Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. It’s typical of my summer correspondence from fellow scientists. Depressing.

    “This reef is a coral graveyard,” he wrote. “Lots of recently dead colonies now covered with a thin veil or sediment and turf algae.”

    So what can be done to protect corals and other marine animals from ocean warming? The obvious solution is to switch to solar and wind energy, now a cheaper source of electricity than coal. Although our economy is already making this shift, it’s happening too slowly to avoid catastrophic warming. A revenue-neutral carbon tax is one effective mechanism to promote renewable energy sources. This solution has been championed by a bipartisan patchwork that includes the former NASA scientist James Hansen; the Republican elders James A. Baker, George P. Shultz and Henry Paulson; and my dad.

    Despite all the loss and the looming threats, there is still so much left to conserve. Like the amazingly healthy Orbicella coral reefs I saw in the crystal-clear waters of the Bay of Pigs, Cuba, a few years ago, and the staghorn coral reefs within swimming distance of the beachfront hotels of Fort Lauderdale that are now threatened by an Army Corps of Engineers dredging project. There are also a few reefs at higher latitudes or in other lucky locations that are warming much more slowly and could hold out for decades or centuries.

    I really don’t know how this will all turn out. Corals and other creatures could adapt to their changing environments. People could radically reduce their carbon emissions. Yet both outcomes are unlikely, and reality is draining my ocean optimism. It isn’t too late, but we need to act very soon.

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