Sunday, January 26, 2020

I guess we’ve all heard the sad news about Kobe Bryant and his daughter. The Lakers star who part of the Michael Jordan-driven dominance of the ’90s died in a helicopter crash this morning, which killed eight other people including his daughter Gianna “Gigi”. All over the sports world, they honored Bryant with chants of “Kobe! Kobe!” and letting the 24-second shot clock run out in his honor as his Lakers jersey was No. 24.

I’m not a pro basketball fan but Kobe’s one of those names you just know. He leaves behind a complicated legacy, to say the least, which I’m not going to get into here. That last time he crossed my radar was his support of his daughter’s goal to play college and pro basketball, and his resulting championing of of both endeavors. “It’s important for girls” to watch women playing basketball professionally or at the college level, and this is true. We live in a world with a growing respect for women’s professional athletics, and someone like Bryant gave a lot when he put his stamp of approval on it. Beyond everything, he was a proud daddy, like proud daddies everywhere. Thoughts go to his widow Vanessa, the Bryant family and all their friends.

In other unsettling news of note, the Coronavirus that got its start in Central China has officially moved to the United States. The death toll in China is up to 56 and we’ve seen our fourth official case of it. The virus started its spread in Wu Han, China, a central province heavily involved in food processing. It can spread without symptoms showing and many carriers’ symptoms won’t show before it spreads. Furthermore, it’s not necessarily a killer but when it does flare up – usually in folks over 40 with underlying conditions and weakened immune systems – people can develop viral pneumonia.

It’s so new – in that it just not started affecting human beings – virologists and the medical profession in general is still trying to get their heads around it. Most of the fear it brings is in that unknown. Viruses in general are difficult to deal with, and ones like SARS and Ebola have had devastating effects. China is trying to deal with it but it’s still far too early to accomplish all that much. Here’s an short informative video from The Guardian that nails all the basic points.

What’s really concerning is the dingbat we have in the White House, who was such a Chicken Little and complete bastard during the Ebola scare in 2014. Furthermore, he was pretty nasty, at one point calling for a U.S. nurse who was helping against the virus to just “suffer the consequences” and die where he was. Now this ill-equipped, heartless germaphobe is more than just some random heel on Twitter, he’s President of the United States of America who’s been quite happy to slash health care and environmental protections in the name of more profit.

Worse than that, the sonofabitch is in the process of being tried on two charges of impeachment, and he’s already shown the dignity and calmness of a five year old who’s eaten nothing but Pixie Stix for the past week. Like with the business in Iran, this is happening in an era where he and his goons try to distract the American public with portents of doom, calls for cruelty, and just flat-out incompetence that gets people killed.

In local news, another Mississippi Penitentiary prisoner was found dead in his cell. This brings the number up to 12 just in the past month. Another suicide, 26-year-old Joshua Norman was found hanging in his cell at Parchman this morning. The incident is still under investigation and authorities are saying it’s not connected to the earlier deaths. Regardless, this further highlights the problems Mississippi’s prisons have been trying and failing to deal with as of late. And because it’s as good a place as any, here’s another link to the petition for Gov. Tate Reeves to call for another look Willie Nash’s unfair and racist conviction and 12-year sentence for possession of a cell phone in jail.

A little house cleaning and note taking before we call it a night. Y’all all have heard of Paula White-Cain, the President’s “Spiritual Adviser” and personal pastor, and we all saw on Twitter the video the weird preachin’ she was laying down. “Satanic pregnancies” and “marine kingdom” and all sorts of far-out gobbledegook. She’s been floating around the fringes of the Trump Goon Squad bringing attention to herself by claiming that wherever she was “holy ground” and that “statistics proved” the U.S. was safer since 9/11 due to “Christian Prayer”.

So far, so wacky, but nothing unusual for far-right American Christianity, particularly of the Evangelical and Pentecostal flavors. Well sir, what caused the stir with this latest batch of extreme confusion was her calling for all “Satanic pregnancies” to “miscarry“, which caused folks far and wide to give her deserved shit about her “pro-life” stance being a bunch of bull. She’s come back to claim she was riffing on Ephesians 6:12, which says:

 “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of the world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.”

For the record, that comes from the King James Version, for no other reason than it’s the one I have at hand, and “powers” and “principalities” refer to types of angels. So, anyhow, her claims of “just a metaphor” runs up against the simple fact that given her grift and connection to Trump, her reasonable doubt tank is plumb empty. In any event, to the extent she’s referring to “spiritual warfare” and not actual abortion, she’s right. To the extent that “spiritual warfare” is still pretty goddamn nutty, it doesn’t make her look any less a screwball.

However, coming across a couple interesting Twitter threads on the matter, it got me to thinking and wondering. I’ve long had a fascination with religious huckstery, from the relatively recent rise of pre-millennial Tribulation to Jimmy Lee Swaggart and the holy-for-cash con men of the ’80s, as well as theurgy, which is basically magic from God. You found such thought in the Neoplatonists of the Early Christians as well as in Dr. John Dee’s ongoing efforts to record and decode the Enochian language. And while my Freewill Baptist forbears frown on any sort of witchcraft, you go a little further back and get a little nuttier, you’ll find them quite comfortable with being “slain in the spirit,” laying on of hands, faith healing, talking tongues and right on up to snake handling.

Well, thanks to a touch curiosity and a bit of digging, turns out White-Cain is part of the non-denominational megachurch bunch that’s popped up in recent years with ties not only to the hinky “prosperity gospel” of slickers like Creflo Dollar and Joel Osteen, as well as “Word of Faith” Christianity, which is heavy into the whole “God makes magic” deal. It’s considered not quite cricket by most mainstream theologians, though it makes perfect sense it’d appeal to Trump.

Furthermore, looking for a rich guy to peddle their wares makes sense for “Prosperity Gospel” adherents who’re of the opinion that a rich man can indeed get into Heaven easier than that camel-needle business because he’s rich. Or, as a high school classmate told me, “If you go to church, God blesses you with money”. Okay, then.

White-Cain tells her followers that the path maybe narrow but it goes right through her and costs between $35,000 and $100,000. She’s been one of Trump’s lackies since 2002 and even spent a couple million for a suite in Trump Towers. Her initial big church Faith Without Walks went bankrupt in 2014, and White-Cain had been under investigations for fraud and all sorts of very ’80s televangelist shenanigans. So far, she’s managed to skate on all of them and her congregation are unconcerned with her spendthrift ways with church money.

What’s most interesting to me, however, is that’s she from Tupelo. I wonder how much if any connection she has with Donald Wildmon’s American Family Association. I also wonder just what in the hell is going on in Tupelo. Finally, she’s married to one of the guys in Journey and I wonder if that’s not the worst thing about it.

Look at that Now This link again. She’s either full-gone looney or a flat-out grifter in the old Jim Baker style. Or maybe she’s both. Either way, it really doesn’t matter because of the harm she’s doing to both those that believe in her and just plain, ordinary Christians, as well as the poor bastards like me who’re paying her salary. In any event, she fits right in with Trump’s collection of thieves, punks, grifters, fools, and charlatans that he calls a government.

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