The alleged gunman from Elizabeth that left three people dead in a Pennsylvania shooting spree told investigators a voice told him not to be so "picky" with his victims, a detective testified Tuesday. "The voice was telling (Todd West), 'Just eat, eat, stop being so picky,'" Allentown, Pa., police Detective John Brixius III testified. When West…
Just days out from the closely watched August 3 Democratic primary contest in Ohio's 11th congressional district, Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont headlined a get-out-the-vote rally in Cleveland on Saturday for progressive candidate Nina Turner, whose grassroots campaign is facing an establishment opponent backed by high-profile party leaders and corporate cash.
In his keynote speech at the event, Sanders spotlighted Turner's ambitious policy platform and argued that—if she prevails in the special election against Cuyahoga County Democratic Party Chair Shontel Brown—the Ohio progressive would play a significant role ushering much-needed legislation through the narrowly divided Congress.
"Nina will stand with me in saying that today, we've got to expand Medicare to cover dental, hearing aids, and eyeglasses," said the Vermont senator. "But Nina knows... that we have got to go further than that, and join every other industrial country—guarantee healthcare to all through a Medicare for All, single-payer program."
Sanders went on to note "the incredible amount of money that the powerful special interests of this country are spending trying to defeat Nina." As The Intercept reported earlier this week, well-heeled donors "with long histories of support for Republican candidates" are bankrolling Brown's campaign either directly or through Democratic Majority for Israel (DMFI), a political action committee that has resorted to falsely portraying Turner as an opponent of a higher minimum wage, universal healthcare, and immigration reform.
"Why is it that the drug companies, the insurance companies, the fossil fuel industry, and Wall Street, and people who supported Donald Trump are pouring millions of dollars into this campaign to defeat Nina Turner?" Sanders asked Saturday. "And the answer is pretty simple: They know that when she is elected, she is going to stand up and take them on in the fight for justice."
GET OUT THE VOTE OHIO: NINA TURNER FOR CONGRESS (LIVE AT 11:30AM ET) www.youtube.com
The rally also featured speeches by Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison and Cornel West, one of the nation's foremost public intellectuals.
"Who's willing to serve everyday people? Nina Turner," West said in his characteristically fiery remarks, grabbing and pointing to an audience member's campaign sign.
"She represents the best of love, of freedom, of wounded-healing, of joy-spreading, and that is a moral and a spiritual achievement that's not just about politics," West continued. "And that's why we can say to some of our brothers and sisters who are part of the corporate wing of the Democratic Party with their milquetoast neoliberalism: We want vision, integrity, we want a focus on the least of these, the poor, the working class, everyday people."
The special election to fill the seat left vacant by former Rep. Marcia Fudge—who is now serving as head of the Department of Housing and Urban Development—has become a proxy battle between national progressive forces and the Democratic establishment, which has thrown its support behind Brown in the waning days of the campaign.
Rep. James Clyburn of South Carolina, the third-ranking Democrat in the House of Representatives, endorsed Brown late last month, just two weeks after erstwhile Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton announced her support for the Cuyahoga County Democratic Party chair. Clyburn is reportedly flying into Ohio this weekend to stump for Brown.
Turner, meanwhile, has won the backing of prominent progressive lawmakers and advocacy groups, including Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), the youth-led Sunrise Movement, Justice Democrats, and Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), chair of the nearly 100-member Congressional Progressive Caucus.
According to OpenSecrets, the special election is shaping up to be the most expensive House race of the year. Turner "has held a consistent fundraising lead, raising $3.8 million total," the outlet noted last week in an analysis of campaign finance data. Turner's campaign has touted its strong support from small-dollar donors.
"Turner's top supporters included the Service Employees International Union PAC, the Amalgamated Transit Union PAC, and the Congressional Progressive Caucus PAC, contributing $5,000 each," OpenSecrets found. "She also received support from the Medicare for All PAC, a leadership PAC associated with Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), and the Rooted in Community Leadership PAC."
As the Cleveland Plain Dealer reported last weekend, "much of Brown's support this election has been aided by the Israel lobby."
"Aside from DMFI PAC, more than $536,000 of Brown's total fundraising has come through Pro-Israel America PAC," the newspaper observed. "Another pro-Israel PAC, NORPAC, has collected around $49,000 for Brown."
In her speech at Saturday's rally, Turner declared that her "people-centered agenda has some people very afraid," pointing to the super PACs attacking her campaign.
"Why are they spending all that money on little ol' me? I just want to know. Inquiring minds want to know," Turner said. "And I'm so glad you asked. They like the way things are now. They like it that so few people have so much and so many people have so little. They like a healthcare system that lets them pick our pockets or our pocketbooks and people can't get healthcare. They profit from a system of tax cuts for the rich. They do not want an America as good as its promise, and they are investing millions to ensure that our voices are silenced."
"Well let me tell you something 11th congressional district," Turner continued. "We're going to make sure that they understand that big money can't defeat big ideas and conscious-minded people."
Following the rally, Turner, Sanders, West, and Ellison led a march to the polls, which are currently open for early voting.
Perhaps it's been years or even decades since you left biblical Christianity behind. You may have noticed long ago that there are human handprints all over the Good Book. It may have dawned on you that popular Christian versions of heaven would actually be hellish. You may have figured out that prayer works, if at all, at the margins of statistical significance—that Believers don't avoid illness or live longer than people who pray to other gods or none at all. You may have clued in that Christian morality isn't so hot and that other people have moral values too. (Shocking!) You may have decided that the God of the Bible is a jerk—or worse.
But some habits of thought are hard to break. It is a lot easier to shed the contents of Christian fundamentalism than its psychological structure.
Here are ten mental patterns that trip up many ex-Christians even when we think we've done the work of moving on. None of these are unique to former Christians, but they are reinforced by Bible-belief and Christian culture, which can make them particularly challenging for recovering believers.
- All or nothing thinking. In traditional Christian teachings, no sin is too small to send you to hell forever. You're either saved or damned, headed for unthinkable bliss or unthinkable torment, with nothing in between. Jesus saves only because he was perfect. Moderate Christians are "lukewarm."This kind of dichotomous black-and-white thinking seeps into us directly from Bible-believing Christianity and indirectly from cultures that are steeped in Protestantism. Sports? Enjoying the activity isn't enough; you need to be all in. No pain no gain. Work? You're a real worker only if you get back on the computer after dinner. Bragging rights start at 60 hours per week. Political? The more absolutist your proclamations, the more you'll gain a following.
- Good guys and bad guys. One consequence of black-white thinking is that we put people into two mental boxes—good guys and bad guys. You are either with us or against us, a patriot or a socialist, an anti-racist or a racist, one of us or one of them. Disagreement becomes synonymous with schism and heresy.When we discover the personal failings of a public figure like Bill Gates, we may move them from one box to the other, good guy to bad guy. Christianity offers no mental model in which people are complicated and imperfect but basically decent—we are just fallen ("utterly depraved" in the words of Calvin) and either washed in the blood or tools of Satan.
- Never feeling good enough. Since we are acutely aware of our own failings, it can be hard internally to stay out of the bad-guy box. Some of us toggle between "I'm awesome" and "I suck." Others have a nagging internal critic that tells us nothing we do is ever quite good enough. After all, it isn't perfect, and that's the biblical standard.
- Hyperactive guilt detection. Biblical Christianity gives tremendous moral weight to all of this, and the practice of "confessing our sins one to another" turns believers into guilt-muscle body builders. We live in a world of shoulds and should-nots, and in the Protestant ethic, those daily failings are moral failings. A nagging sense of guilt can become baseline normal, with little bursts of extra guilt as we notice one thing or another that we have left undone or goals where we have fallen short.
- Sexual hangups. For many former Christians, particularly for women or queer people but also straight guys who like sex, it's impossible to talk about guilt without talking about sex, because sexual sins are the worst of the worst. When it comes to the Bible, getting and giving sexual pleasure are more matters of temptation than of intimacy and delight. Idolatry and murder share the top 10 list with coveting your neighbor's wife. Then there's virgin-madonna-whore trifecta. And don't forget God hates fags.
- Living for the future. Sexual intimacy isn't the only kind of pleasure that biblical Christianity devalues; the consecrated life focuses broadly on the future rather than the moment. The small every-day wonders that comprise the center of joy in mindful living are mere distractions for a person who has their eye on the prize of heaven. As former believers grow convinced that each person gets one precious life, those individual moments can become treasures. But the habit of focusing on the future can make it really hard to center in the moment, breathe in, and bask in the ordinary beauties and delights around us.
- Bracing for an apocalypse. Even worse than being drawn by the lure of heaven is being braced constantly for some impending apocalypse. We may no longer expect a Rapture or the Mark of the Beast or Jesus riding in on a horse. But the idea of a cataclysmic disruption in history looms large nonetheless. A sense of nuclear doom or pandemic doom or overpopulation doom or underpopulation doom may nudge us to action or be paralyzing. Either way, the experience is very different from being driven by a sense of curiosity and discovery as we face the unknown.
- Idealizing leaders. Living in a cloud of anxiety makes us more susceptible to demagogues and authoritarians, people who exude confidence we lack, who convey that they know what's right and true and how to solve problems. They prey on our fears and on our desire to do good and be good. They prey on our sense of ourselves as sinners and tell us how to atone. (Sound familiar?) They prey on dichotomous thinking, reinforcing our sense that people who don't share our worldview must be evil and so must be silenced or defeated.
- Desperately seeking simplicity. Biblical Christianity tells a story about us as individuals and about human history that is clear and simple. Multi-dimensional causality? Moral ambiguity? Conflicts with no good side and bad side—just sides? Problems with no right answer? Blurry boundaries between human beings and other sentient species? No thanks!Fiction from Western cultures often mirrors and reinforces older Christian templates and tropes and specific types of oversimplification. And it's all to easy to project these in turn onto the hard-to-parse and hard-to-solve challenges of the real world. We know deep down that things aren't so simple, but it's easy to act as if we live in a world of saints and sinners, elves and orcs.
- Intrusive what-ifs. And so we struggle, with new and old interpretations of reality and thought habits competing in our brains. We tell ourselves it's ok; that we're ok. But often nagging doubts persist. What if I'm wrong? Many years ago I told a therapist that I didn't believe in the Christian god anymore, but I didn't talk to anyone about it because I didn't want to take them to hell with me. He laughed and I laughed at myself, but it also felt very real.The journey out is . . . a journey. Along the way people second guess themselves, especially if Bible-belief got inside when they were young. Years after quitting a former smoker may crave a cigarette. That doesn't mean they were wrong to quit. It just means those synaptic connections got hardwired, soldered in place, and some of them are still there.
In the real world, growth is gnarly. It happens in fits and starts, with forward leaps and sideways turns and backward skids and times of stasis. Change is rarely linear. Flip-flopping often serves truth-seeking. Certitude is rarely a virtue. We seldom know where we are headed. Nonetheless, sometimes we can look back and say with confidence, Not that. I may not know exactly what is true and right and real, but there are some things I can rule out.
I often find myself quoting one former Bible believer who made a comment but left no name: I would rather live with unanswered questions than unquestioned answers. Embracing uncertainty about the future and the big questions frees us to live more in the small delights of the near and present—a nest of blue jays, a hug, the smell of butter on toast. That may be as good as it gets.
Valerie Tarico is a psychologist and writer in Seattle, Washington. She is the author of Trusting Doubt: A Former Evangelical Looks at Old Beliefs in a New Light and Deas and Other Imaginings. Her articles about religion, reproductive health, and the role of women in society have been featured at sites including The Huffington Post, Salon, The Independent, Quillette, Free Inquiry, The Humanist, AlterNet, Raw Story, Grist, Jezebel, and the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies. Subscribe at ValerieTarico.com.
Over the past few weeks, as the coronavirus outbreak got inexorably worse, the Telegraph ran a series of characteristically shrill columns by Jones attacking mask-wearing, lockdowns and NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian.
Yet Jones also promotes these opinions on News Corp's Sky News, where his Sky-at-Night slot is undisturbed. Indeed, Jones makes a virtue of this, telling The Sydney Morning Herald:
Have a look at Sky News YouTube, Sky News Facebook and Alan Jones Facebook and you can see. The same column that I write for the Tele goes up on my Facebook page.
On July 29, the Telegraph also took the opportunity provided by an outburst against Jones by the NSW health minister, Brad Hazzard, to distance itself from its former columnist, referring to him as a “Sky News host".
At The Australian on July 30, Jones's opinions were confined to rugby union.
Trying to read the entrails of what goes on in News Corp is akin to Kremlinology, but this is the second piece of evidence in the past couple of weeks that the Telegraph is executing a delicate pivot.
A decision to switch to an overt anti-Coalition position would be well above the editor's pay grade. However, a couple of weeks ago, the Telegraph's editor-at-large, Matthew Benns, wrote a curious critique of Scott Morrison's handling of vaccination and quarantine, written as if by the Morrison family dog. It contained quite a lot of nipping at Morrison's heels.
It has continued to report the growing COVID crisis straight, publishing pictures of a strained-looking Berejiklian but refraining from attacking her in commentary.
Putting all this together, the Telegraph seems to be positioning itself as champion of an heroic people, contingently tolerant of Berejiklian, intolerant of attacks on her policies, restless with Morrison, yet anxious not to damage the Liberal Party politically.
The degree of difficulty involved in staying upright while executing this manoeuvre is considerable.
Meanwhile at Sky, Jones goes on as before, and Peta Credlin resorts to some very dodgy logic in an attempt to show that the performance of the Labor government in Victoria is still clearly inferior to the performance of the Coalition government in New South Wales.
Her proposition is that the 172 cases of the Delta strain reported on July 28 was nothing like as bad as the 700 cases a day at the height of the Victorian crisis last year, even though, she said, Delta was three times more infectious than last year's strain.
This, she said, should cause people in NSW to “take heart".
So a snapshot one-point reading of a curve that is still rising steeply – the case numbers on July 29 were 239 – is compared with the peak of a separate outbreak of a strain that Credlin says was three times less infectious.
If the people of New South Wales take heart from that, they are really grasping at straws.
Credlin does not attack Berejiklian, masks or lockdowns as Jones does, and she carries a torch for the Coalition while also trying to boost morale in Sydney.
Andrew Bolt threads his way through this maze by attacking politicians who he says have “smeared" the people who took part in the anti-lockdown marches on July 25. At the same time he remains uncharacteristically agnostic on whether lockdowns are right.
Last year Bolt was calling lockdowns an over-reaction. It evidently makes a difference when it is your side of politics doing the locking down.
As Australia enters a pre-election phase, it matters what the Murdoch media do. Its newspapers represent about two-thirds of the nation's metropolitan daily circulation, with monopolies in Brisbane, Adelaide and Hobart. In August, Sky News will re-enter free-to-air television via several Southern Cross Austereo regional channels, which it claims will give it an audience of seven million.
What the Telegraph does is particularly important because it is Murdoch's main populist political attack dog in Australia. It circulates widely in western Sydney, where there are several marginal seats.
Reading the entrails is an inexact science, to put it mildly, but there is a public-interest reason for trying.
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