Under The Influence

A few weeks ago, I shared a piece by Jeff about religion from a personal perspective. Today, I would like to share a piece he wrote around that time for an online publication that I think you will find quite interesting! Thank you, Jeff, for this post and your permission to share!

On The Fence Voters

I’d like to share with you an excerpt of a piece I wrote for the online and print publication, The Culture Crush. I’m an occasional contributor to the magazine and the subject matter is something that’s been on my mind a lot lately.

A few weeks back, I wrote a piece called, Religion–A Personal Perspective. In it, I asked you to share some of your own personal experiences as it pertained to religion. I was struck by the wide variety of opinions and life-altering effects of early indoctrination. It was clear to me that religion is, and remains, an important, yet divisive subject in our society.

Around the time I was writing my post for this space, I was also working on a piece for The Culture Crush. But instead of religion in general, this particular piece deals with the history of snake oil salesmen and how we’re…

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Pro-Life??? I Think Not.

Let’s make a few things clear from the start.  Those who call themselves “Pro-Life” are actually not in favour of protecting all life.  They are only anti-abortion.  Those who call themselves ‘pro-life’ support the death penalty … a barbaric procedure with the potential for taking an innocent life.  Those who call themselves ‘pro-life’ most often are also ‘pro-gun’ … guns have one purpose and one purpose only:  to take lives, to kill.  Among those who call themselves ‘pro-life’ are many who are climate change deniers, who eschew regulations to protect and repair our environment such that it may continue to support life into the next century.  Those who call themselves ‘pro-life’ are the most likely to argue against government aiding single mothers struggling to feed their children, or to pay their bills in order to keep their children alive.  So no, the pro-life movement is naught but an anti-abortion movement.  Let’s call a spade a spade.

Now, I have a couple of issues with these anti-abortionists.  First of all, nobody is forcing them to have an abortion!  If I choose to have one, that is my business and nobody else’s, for this is my body … not yours.  By the same token, I certainly would not attempt to force a woman to have an abortion, even if she already had 15 children and no way to support them.  It’s her choice, plain and simple.

My second objection is that 99% of the people who oppose a woman’s right to choose, do so based on their own religious convictions.  Since I don’t share those religious convictions, their beliefs do not apply to me.  Since we have a secular government that demands a wall of separation between church and state, it is grossly unconstitutional for the government to trample my right to choose.

My third objection, of course, is that I see the anti-abortion movement, largely funded and founded by men, as a further attempt by men to dominate what they still, after all these years of the women’s movement, see as “the weaker sex”.  “Pro-life” … just one more form of bigotry, as if we needed more.  What if women were allowed to decide when a man should have a vasectomy?  Can you imagine the hue and cry?

So, these ‘pro-life’ folks held a rally over the weekend in Washington, D.C.  And guess who spoke at that rally?  Yep, none other than Donald Trump, the impeached president, the first president to speak at the annual event.  A number of his sycophants in Congress also attended, including: Steve Scalise, Chris Smith, Ralph Abraham, Warren Davidson, Bob Latta, John Joyce, Lloyd Smucker, Mike Lee, James Lankford, Brian Fitzpatrick, and Brad Wenstrup.  And let us not forget to note the presence of Kellyanne Conway, and Secretary of Health and Human Services, Alex Azar.

A few of the more ludicrous snippets from Trump’s speech*:

  • “Together we must protect, cherish, and defend the dignity and the sanctity of every human life.” (This from a ‘man’ who recently ordered the assassination of an Iranian general, that ultimately led to the deaths of 176 innocent civilians)

  • “Sadly, the far left is actively working to erase our God-given rights. Shut down faith-based charities, ban religious believers from the public square, and silence Americans who believe in the sanctity of life. They are coming after me because I am fighting for you and we are fighting for those who have no voice and we will win because we know how to win. We all know how to win. We all know how to win. You’ve been winning for a long time. You’ve been winning for a long time.” (Huh??? Is there an echo?)

  • “Nearly every top Democrat in Congress now supports taxpayer-funded abortion all the way up until the moment of birth. Last year, lawmakers in New York cheered with delight upon the passage of legislation that would allow a baby to be ripped from the mother’s womb right up until delivery.” (Um … Donnie?  That’s called ‘birth’, not abortion)

  • “But what is going on in Virginia? What is going on? The Governor stated that he would execute a baby after birth.” (No, Donnie, that is not what Governor Northam said.)

  • “Unborn children have never had a stronger defender in the White House. And as the Bible tells us, each person is wonderfully made. We’ve taken decisive action to protect the religious liberty. So important. Religious liberty has been under attack all over the world and frankly very strongly attacked in our nation.”  (Is “religious liberty” then, only for those who believe in a certain way, and to hell with the rest of us?)

Now, make no mistake – Donald Trump was not there for any reason other than to shore up his base, the right-wing evangelicals who form the largest portion of the anti-abortion movement.  This was, for Trump, nothing more or less than a campaign rally, sans maga hats.  Donald Trump is a misogynist by any definition of the word … he has a long history of abusing women, including his three wives.  He was having an affair under the very nose of his present wife as she gave birth to his youngest son.  It would not surprise me in the least to find that Donald Trump has paid for a few abortions for his many mistresses.

The “religious freedom” that Trump is speaking of is only for those evangelicals who form a large portion of his base.  It actually deprives the rest of us of our religious freedom … and in more ways than just abortion.  If his staunchest supporters had their way, LGBT people would be discriminated against, as would Jews, Muslims, atheists … just about anybody who didn’t share their views.

Separation of church and state is a concept with a purpose … the purpose being equal rights for all, not only one religious group.  When Trump speaks at an event such as the one last week, when he promises to go against the Constitution in order to appease one group to the detriment of all others, he is breaking his oath of office and he is failing in his duty to represent ALL the people of this nation.


*  Full transcript of Trump’s speech at 2020 March for Life rally

separation of church and state

Separation of church and state … a simple concept, right? The government will not support one religion over any other. And yet, as Larry tells us, down in Florida (and other places as well) they are attempting to do just that, by trying to pass legislation that would make the study of the Christian bible mandatory in schools. What about Jews? Muslims? Atheists? Hindus? This nation is only about 70% Christian, so … why should they dominate? Please take a few minutes to read Larry’s excellent post. Thank you, Larry, for permission to share your work!

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Living as a Democrat in rural, Republican Florida challenges one’s sense of inclusiveness and social propriety.  A recent controversy in local politics regarding funding our library’s request to make the New York Times available online to library cardholders is a case in point. My friend at BY HOOK OR BY BOOK has shared a great post regarding this issue.  It is indicative of a population which refuses to leave the 1950s.

On Florida’s horizon is a bill filed by a State Senator which would require courses be made available in our public schools at taxpayers’ expense providing studies of the Bible.  The following is the letter which I have submitted to our local newspaper.

State Senator Dennis Baxley, a Republican representing the Ocala region, has filed SB 746 to be considered during the 2020 legislative session. The bill would require courses providing studies of the Bible’s Old and New Testaments…

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A Day Made For … Snarky Snippets!

Wow, folks … just when you think it can’t get any more chaotic … it does!  My phone has been abuzz today with breaking news updates from several media outlets, every time I pull up either The Washington Post, Politico or the New York Times, there is something else that demands to be read, and my email box has been overflowing every time I’ve checked it.  I almost wish for a nationwide power failure so I could catch my breath!  I said ‘almost’, for we are expecting ❄️ snow ❄️ today, so I really don’t want to be without heat.


Karma is a …

Back in November 2017, two years ago, I did a post called More Bits ‘N Pieces From Filosofa’s Mind … rather a precursor to my Snarky Snippets feature.  In that post, one of the ‘bits ‘n pieces’ was about a woman named Juli Briskman who bravely dared to flip the finger at Donald Trump’s motorcade as it passed by her while she was riding her bicycle.  This picture went viral …girl on bikeMs. Briskman lost her job over that picture, but yesterday, she got a new job!  She won a seat on the Loudoun County (Virginia) Board of Supervisors — ousting a Republican in the process!  Says Ms. Briskman …

“It’s feeling fantastic, it’s feeling surreal. The last two years have been quite a ride. Now we’re helping to flip Loudoun blue.”

And, to put the icing on the cake, the district to which she was elected happens to include a golf course owned by none other than a certain Donald Trump!  You know what they say about karma …


Score one for justice … for now, anyway

Two thumbs up to U.S. District Judge Paul Engelmayer in Manhattan.  Yesterday he struck down Trump’s so-called ‘conscience rule’, that would have given health care providers the right to refuse birth control, sterilization, abortions, and other treatments to patients if said health care providers claimed that those treatments were ‘against their personal/religious beliefs’.  It would have also allowed health care providers to refuse treatment to members of the LGBT community if they believed homosexuality to be fundamentally wrong.  In other words, there was really no line … doctors, nurses and others could have refused treatment on nearly any grounds or no grounds, simply by claiming that to offer treatment would go against their religion.

The rule would have required clinics and research institutions that receive federal funding from programs including Medicare and Medicaid to “submit written assurances and certifications of compliance” with federal religious-freedom and conscience-protection laws to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), in order to receive federal funding.

This, in Trump’s view, is expanding the rights of religious freedom.  Judge Engelmayer saw it a bit differently, however …

“The Court has found that HHS’s stated justification for undertaking rulemaking in the first place—a purported ‘significant increase’ in civilian complaints relating to the conscience provisions—was factually untrue.”

He went on to say that the rule was “shot through with glaring legal defects.”  It is the opinion of this writer that if a person’s religious convictions are such that there are certain procedures they are unwilling to perform, or certain groups of people they are unwilling to treat, then that person does not belong in the health care field.  Period.  It is rather like … if you don’t like children, don’t become a teacher.  This rule was religious freedom run amok … it was set to cost lives, to take away the rights of others.

The Department of Health and Human Services, along with the Justice Department, say they are ‘reviewing’ the judge’s 147-page decision.  My best guess is that they will file an appeal.  Sigh.  You all do realize who’s footing the bill for all these lawsuits and appeals, right?


Only in Alabama …

Who could forget Jeffrey Beauregard Sessions, commonly known simply as Jeff Sessions, racist extraordinaire, right?  He was a U.S. Senator from Alabama for twenty years, starting in 1997, and ending in 2017 when he stepped down to accept the position of U.S. District Attorney.  In his early years in Alabama … 1986, to be exact … then-President Ronald Reagan considered appointing Mr. Sessions to a federal court judgeship, but Sessions’ nomination was not confirmed in light of prior, documented racist remarks.

Sessions didn’t last too long as Attorney General … about a year, until 2018 when he resigned at Trump’s request.  Trump had wanted to fire him ever since Sessions, in a rare moment of integrity, recused himself from the Mueller investigation.  Trump had hoped that he could coerce Sessions into firing Robert Mueller and ending the investigation.  Anyway …

It is expected that any day now, Sessions will officially announce that he is running for his old Senate seat against incumbent Doug Jones, who beat out another racist jackass, Roy Moore, in 2017.  And, to add to the drama, Roy Moore is also planning to run for that seat again next year!  If Alabamans vote for either Sessions or Moore, then I think we should get our chain saws out and cut the whole state of Alabama out of the U.S. … let it drift over to the other side of the big pond!  Oh, my head.  🤯


Jaw-dropping news!

Is it possible, just possible, that Attorney General William Barr found his cojones?  Barr has slavishly done Trump’s bidding since the day he took his seat in the Department of Justice, not seeming to mind that he looked like a fool, a wuss, a pansy.  Perhaps he has finally gotten tired of it all?

Turns out that in late September, Trump requested that Barr hold a news conference declaring that Trump had broken no laws during that now famous July phone call in which he pressed his Ukrainian counterpart to investigate political rival Joe Biden and his son Hunter.  Nothing surprising there, but now for the jaw-dropping part … Barr refused!

According to The Washington Post

“In recent weeks, the Justice Department has sought some distance from the White House, particularly on matters relating to the burgeoning controversy over Trump’s dealings on Ukraine and the impeachment inquiry they sparked.”

Perhaps Mr. Barr is beginning to envision his entire career going up in flames if he continues to pander to the madman in the Oval Office?  Time will tell.


As always, I could go on … I had a few more snippets … but, the clock is telling me that it’s time to wrap this up and move on, so until next time …Trump-king

Trump Administration takes the first steps towards implementing theocracy in America

You all know I tip-toe around when it comes to religion, for it is never my goal to offend anyone, and that’s hard as heck to do when religion is the topic. Our friend Robert Vella wrote the post I was contemplating, and did so much better than I could have anyway.
‘Religious freedom’ used to mean that we each had the freedom to follow any faith or no faith without interference from the government or from others. But in recent months, it has taken on a new connotation … one that I and others find deeply disturbing. The new meaning takes away the freedoms of any who do not comply with the evangelical Christians, almost as though Christianity were the “official religion” of the U.S.
Please take a few minutes to read Robert’s excellent post about the latest push for religious bigotry. Thank you, Robert, for this post and implied permission to re-blog!

The Secular Jurist

By Robert A. Vella

The very first amendment to the U.S. Constitution, as part of the Bill of Rights ratified in 1791, states that:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

This separation of church and state was intended and repeatedly affirmed to ensure two things for the new nation:  1) that the United States government would be formally secular, and 2) that United States citizens could legally practice their various religions freely and without interference from other religions.  In a letter to the Danbury Baptist Association in 1802, President Thomas Jefferson wrote:

Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between Man & his God, that he owes…

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A Woman’s Right …

It is likely that the fight over the next Supreme Court nominee will boil down to a single issue:  abortion.  Some claim that the entire 2016 election was largely about the issue of abortion and a lead-up to this moment. Now mind you, the abortion issue as per the historic 1973 Roe v Wade decision, is far from being the only human rights issue that is endangered by the threat of yet another ultra-conservative ideologist on the Court.  Same-sex marriage, LGBT rights, freedom from religious mandates, immigration, and many other issues stand to be endangered.  I will deal with each of those in the coming week or two, but the initial fight will likely center around Roe and abortion.  As usual, I have a few thoughts on the matter …

The issue of abortion is … or at least ought to be … a personal one.  Roe v Wade was not about abortion as much as about the right of a woman to have a say about what happens to her body and in a broader sense, her life.  Now here’s the thing … if you are a religious person and believe that life begins at the exact moment of conception, believe that a fetus is a sacred being, that is certainly your right.  Nobody is trying to challenge your beliefs, nobody is trying to take away your rights, and nobody is ever going to force you to have an abortion!  Your right to give birth to as many children as you wish is safe.  BUT … the rest of us have rights also, and while we are carefully not trampling on yours, we ask that you not trample on ours.  Live and let live.  Women do not choose abortion lightly … it is an agonizing decision for each woman, and one that she will live with for her entire life.  Don’t make it harder for her with your holier-than-thou protests and denigrating remarks.  Just sit down and shut up.

Why do women choose to have an abortion?  In most cases it is because they are not able to take care of a child at this point in their lives.  The reasons may be immaturity, i.e. the high school girl who was careless and found herself pregnant while still a child herself.  Financial reasons are a major factor … consider the single-mother who already has 2-3 children and is struggling to keep a roof overhead and food on the table.  In some cases the mother’s health may be in danger.  The bottom line is that none of us are in that one woman’s shoes or can know what factors are driving her decision, and it is not our place to take the decision out of her hands, forcing her to possibly endure a lifetime of hardship.

One of the things that puzzles and annoys me most about this argument is that the anti-abortionists claim to feel a responsibility to the ‘life’ of a fetus, to give it an ‘opportunity’ to live, but then once a child is born, they wash their hands of it.  It is for this reason that you will not see me calling them “pro-lifers” as they call themselves, for they only advocate for a life for nine months, after which … “oh well”. Almost every person who is against abortion is also against their tax dollars going to help support that child, to ensuring it has medical care, a home, and food to eat.  They sniff loudly, turn their noses toward the sky and claim that the mother is simply too lazy and deserves no help.  It is rather akin to adopting a puppy to keep it from being killed, and then allowing it to die from neglect and malnutrition in your garage!  I have known people who did exactly that!

Those who would take away a woman’s right to choose are fond of saying that there is the choice to put the baby up for adoption.  Obviously none of these people have gone through the adoption process at any stage in their lives.  It is a long, arduous and often painful process, not to mention expensive.  Because of the cost, it generally turns out that children are not adopted by those who most want a child, who would be the best parents, but rather by those who have the single qualification of wealth.  I do note that there are exceptions.  Children placed for adoption often end up in the foster care system that, while the intent is noble, the actual implementation is a nightmare rather than a success story. Look up the statistics of children in the foster care system who are abused or neglected.

Then there is the consideration that the world is already over-populated and it is simply unconscionable to bring into it another child that has an uncertain future.  The world’s population is growing by 1.1% per year, or approximately an additional 83 million people annually. From 2017 to 2050, it is expected that half of the world’s population growth will be concentrated in just nine countries: India, Nigeria, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Pakistan, Ethiopia, the United Republic of Tanzania, the United States of America, Uganda and Indonesia (ordered by their expected contribution to total growth).

“Because of the abundance of our nation’s resources, we have long been careless about our level of consumption, but it is the precipitous rise in the U.S. population over the last four decades that has resulted in our outstripping of our national resources. We are living beyond our means and are doing so increasingly as our population expands. This is a serious problem with major implications for future generations.”Fairus

Still feel good about protecting that potential, as yet un-formed, unborn fetus?

At one point during Trump’s 2016 campaign, he claimed that women should be ‘punished’ for having an abortion.  Let me tell you something … women ARE punished for having abortions … they punish themselves every day for the rest of their lives!  We do not need the courts and law enforcement to add insult to injury, and we do not need the religious right to shame them.

If your religion teaches you that it is wrong to have an abortion, then fine, don’t have one.  But understand that not everybody ascribes to your religion. Understand that ours is a secular government and that our laws are not driven by the Bible, the Quran, the Vedas, the Torah or any other religious text.  Jews and Muslims do not eat pork, but they do not try to keep the rest of the nation from eating pork, nor do they lobby the government for laws to make pork illegal!  Realize, anti-abortionists, that your beliefs are not the only legitimate beliefs.

Groups on either side of the abortion debate are poised to spend big bucks … tens of millions of dollars … in advertising their position in the upcoming debate over the confirmation of a nominee to fill the Supreme Court vacancy.   It is, without a doubt, the most watched issue of the day.  It is a sad state of affairs, if you ask me, that the law of the land will be determined for the next several decades based on a single religious group’s stance on a woman’s right to control her own body.  It shouldn’t even BE an issue!  It is not your right to choose for another.  It is not the right of the U.S. Supreme Court to tell me what I must do with my body.  We all need to understand that we do not live in a perfect world and that sometimes people make mistakes, but that they should not be forced by a group of nine men and women to have their lives ruined because of a single mistake.

I call on the U.S. Senate to block any Trump nominee for the vacant seat on the Supreme Court.  Every woman in this country stands to lose if they do not.  Every member of the LGBT community stands to lose.  Every Jew, Muslim, Hindi, atheist or agnostic stands to lose.  We the People stand to lose.

And On Holocaust Remembrance Day …

“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

Those are the words inscribed on the base of the Statue of Liberty that stands on Liberty Island in New York Harbour.  The Statue of Liberty is a symbol for universal freedom to all United States citizens and the people who visit the country.  The statue has become a representation of global friendship, freedom from oppression and democracy. There are seven spikes on the crown of Lady Liberty, representing the seven seas and the seven continents.

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Yesterday, 27 January, was Holocaust Remembrance Day, a day set aside each year to remember and honour the victims of the Holocaust: an estimated 6 million Jewish people, 200,000 Romani people, 250,000 mentally and physically disabled people, and 9,000 homosexual men by the Nazi regime and its collaborators. On that solemn day of remembrance, the president of the United States took a proverbial axe to the Statue of Liberty and at the same time spit in the face of all who fell victim to Adolph Hitler and the Nazis in the last century.

Yesterday, Donald Trump signed another executive order, this one effectively banning all immigrants from the countries of Iraq, Syria, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen, all predominantly Muslim nations. One of the tenets of our democracy is that our nation is committed to the principle that each person who wishes to practice their religion be free to do so. This goes for people who practice any religion, and no religion. We do not discriminate against people of ANY religion.  That is a core principle of the 1st Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.  Yet, Trump claims that while banning all immigrants, special priority will be given for Christians wishing to enter the U.S., while all Muslims will be denied entry. This, a mere eight days after he took an oath whereby he swore to uphold the Constitution. That oath was shredded into millions of pieces yesterday.

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Anne Frank Today Is A Syrian Girl

Two Iraqi refugees, one of whom had worked as a US Army interpreter, were in transit to the U.S. when the executive order was signed on Friday and as of this morning were being detained at JFK airport in New York. The former interpreter is fleeing persecution because he aided the U.S.! At least three human rights groups, the National Immigration Law Centre (NILC), the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR), and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) have announced their intention to file lawsuits.

In addition to the fact that discrimination based on religion is clearly unconstitutional, the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 banned all discrimination against immigrants on the basis of national origin.  Trump claims his intent in signing this ‘executive order’ is to prevent terrorism, but frankly the threat of terrorism in the U.S. is very small compared to the threat of crime and murder by gun-toting U.S. citizens. The top 5 nations that are victims of terrorist activity are Iraq, Afghanistan, Nigeria, Pakistan, and Syria … the U.S. ranks only 34th in terrorist activity worldwide, according to the 2016 Global Terrorism Index Report published by National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START).

Holocaust Remembrance Day, designated by the United Nations General Assembly in 2005, is on January 27th, marking the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau, the largest Nazi concentration and death camp, in 1945. Each year, the U.S. president has issued a statement in observance of the day.  In years past, both presidents Bush and Obama issued statements referring to Auschwitz, anti-Semitism, and the murder of six million Jews.  This year, Trump issued a statement that mentioned none of these, but merely noted that ‘innocent’ people died at the hands of the Nazis.  Reaction from the public and the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) was immediate outrage. Those of us who are of Jewish heritage understand that the reason for this day is to never forget and always remember the atrocities that were committed against people of one specific religion, Judaism.  Not only did Trump completely ignore that, but used this day to legalize atrocities against another religion:  Islam.  I rest my case.

lady liberty cries