Sunday, March 31, 2024

Easter Reflections in Troubled Times

Now let the heavens be joyful,
Let the earth her song begin;
Let the round world keep triumph,
And all that is therein;
Invisible and visible,
Their notes let all things blend,
For Christ the Lord is risen
Our joy that hath no end.

- Saint John of Damascenus, in The Congregational Hymn Book: Psalms and Hymns for Divine Worship (1881)

It is Easter 2024 and humanity is at a crossroads.  The world seems full of atrocities and human suffering, and democracy is under assault.  With Vladimir Putin's invasion of Ukraine, war in the Middle East, the threat of climate change, and the possible election of Donald Trump as president of the United States, the world seems engulfed in madness.  More than ever, people of all faiths need to find solace and hope.  

It is disconcerting that so many Evangelical Christians in the United States have lost their way.  Some actually believe that Donald Trump was sent by God to save America.  From what?  To me, this is blasphemy and sacrilege.  Trump is a con man and he is shamelessly hawking "God Bless the USA" Bibles for $60.  The former president faces expensive legal battles, and he is taking advantage of people's faith to raise money.  Not only that, but he is doing so during Holy Week, the most solemn period in the Christian calendar.  Evangelicals who support Trump should be reminded of the Biblical story of how Jesus drove the moneylenders from the temple.  

“It is a bankrupt Christianity that sees a demagogue co-opting our faith and even our holy scriptures for the sake of his own pursuit of power and praise him for it rather than insist that we refuse to allow our sacred faith and scriptures to become a mouthpiece for an empire,” 

- Rev. Benjamin Cremer, American pastor, writer, B.A. in Religion, M.A. om Spiritual Formation, M.A. in Theological Studies.

God is just and merciful, not Donald Trump.  Christians believe that Jesus is the Messiah, not Donald Trump.  Shame on Evangelicals and other so-called Christians who follow Trump as a false god.  There is a need to get back to to basic tenets of Christianity, which are clearly set out by Jesus in two commandments: Love God and love your neighbour as yourself.  I am ecumenical and I believe that ecumenicalism should be extended beyond the unity of Christian churches.   People of all faiths are required to live by the Golden Rule . . .Do unto others . . .  Christians, Jews and Muslims are all children of Abraham.  They all worship the God of Abraham.

People of faith should greatly respect adherents of non-monotheistic religions, such as Hindus, Buddhists and Jains.  They should also respect agnostics and atheists, many who behave in a more Christian fashion than those purporting to be Christians.  The spiritual beliefs of Indigenous peoples should also be greatly respected.  

Here is a Muslim view of respect for other faiths:

As Muslims, we ought to respect all religions in their pristine form as revealed by Allah.  The Quran reiterates the fact that God has blessed every nation by sending prophets and messengers proclaiming the perennial message of Divine Oneness: Worship one and only God and renounce false gods."

- Sheikh Ahmad Kutty, a senior lecturer and an Islamic Scholar at the Islamic Institute of Toronto, Ontario.

I am a Christian, but I am not a fundamentalist.  The Bible is not a history book, and it should not be treated as such.   Neither am a "Christian nationalist."   I don't believe that God favours one nation above all others, or that God favours a particular sports team.  Yes, I think that family is very important.  It is one of the backbones of society.  No, I don't think "anything goes."  I believe in God, but  I don't believe that God is an old man with a white beard and a baritone voice, who happens to speak English.  God is a mystery, and a Supreme Being does not have a gender.  

Yes, there is evil.  How else would one describe Nazi Germany?  The devil, dressed in red and wearing goat horns, is merely a figurative representation of that evil.  I  do not believe in a literal hell of fire and brimstone. I believe that hell is separation from God.  I do not believe in a literal heaven of pearly gates and harps.  I believe that heaven is a spiritual experience that is beyond human comprehension.  Finally, I also believe that no one has all the answers.  Be wary of those who refer to themselves as "true believers."

Happy Easter to all who celebrate.  Peace and joy to believers and non-believers alike, and to the Jewish brethren who will begin celebrating Passover on April 22nd, as well as the Muslim brethren during their holy month of Ramadan.

- Joanne

Monday, March 25, 2024

Why Justice is Blindfolded

Jimmy Kimmel

On Oscar night, Jimmy Kimmel read out a scathing review of his performance as host of the ceremonies.  He then informed the audience that the review came from none other than Donald Trump.  In response, Kimmel quipped< "Isn't it past your jail time?"  Jimmy was exactly right.  In addition to running for president, for which he should never have been allowed to do, Trump faces countless legal challenges and felony charges.  Why would he even have time to attack Jimmy Kimmel?  The answer is that he is so deranged that he has to attack anyone who criticizes him or does not support him.  In his world, you are either a Trumper or a Never Trumper.  Never Trumpers must be attacked and destroyed.  

It's more than past time for Trump to finally face accountability for his words and actions.  If found guilty by a jury, he should go directly to prison.  There should be no Jail Free Card for a sitting president or a former president.  Michael Cohen, Trump's former personal lawyer and "fixer."  He pleaded guilty to eight counts, including campaign-finance violations, tax fraud, and bank fraud.  Cohen claimed he broke campaign-finance laws, at Trump's direction, for the purpose of influencing the 2016 presidential election.  In December of 2018, Cohen was sentenced to three years in prison and a $50,000 fine,  He was also disbarred from practicing law in the state of New York.  In May of 2019, he reported to a federal prison.  In November of  2021, he completed his sentence.

Paul Manafort, a long-time Republican campaign consultant, chaired Donald Trump's presidential campaign from June to August 2016.  In March 2019, Manafort was sentenced to 47 months (almost four months) in prison for defrauding banks and the government, as well as failing to pay taxes on the  millions he earned as a consultant for Ukrainian politicians.  In May of 2020, due to the danger of COVID-19, Manfort was released to home confinement.  On December 23, 2020, he was pardoned by Donald Trump, his good buddy.  

Cohen aul Manafort are convicted felons.  They were sent to prison for crimes they committed in support of  Trump or to enrich themselves.  Yet Trump has managed to delay his day of reckoning.  That has been his grand strategy.  If he delays long enough, he hopes to evade justice through presidential immunity.  What gives hm the right to think he should be treated differently from anyone else?  No one, not a king, president, vice president or prime minister is above the law.  The United States Declaration of Independences states clearly, "All men are created equal."  It does not say that some are more equal than others.  Lady Justice is blindfolded for a good reason.


Traditionally, justice has been depicted as a blindfolded woman holding scales and a sword. The scales represent a fair balance of arguments in a legal case.  The doble-edged sword signifies that judgements can go either way, depending on the evidence and circumstances brought forth by both parties in a dispute.  The blindfold is intended to show that justice is impartial and should be delivered without regard to wealth, power or social status.  In an ideal justice system, impartiality and objectivity are paramount,  Therefore, the American justice system should treat Donald Trump no differently from anyone else. 

In April of 2023, Trump became the first sitting or former president to appear in court to face criminal charges.  He was criminally indicted in a New York investigation into a hush money payment made to adult film star Stormy Daniels.  The payment, engineered by Michael Cohen, was made to protect Trump's presidential campaign from further scandal after his disastrous Access Hollywood  interview, in which he bragged about his ability to sexually abuse women.

Donald Trump claims that he has absolute immunity from being charged or jailed, even though he led a violent insurrection against the government of the United States on January 6, 2021.  He continually paints himself as the innocent victim of numerous witch hunts.  He contends that he has done nothing wrong, despite his criminal activities.  The fact is a large number of world leaders have been charged  or imprisoned, gong way back in history, including King Charles I  of England, who went on trial for treason against the state or "levying war against Parliament and the People."  Charles was found guilty and executed in 1649, so let's discuss some world leaders who have been imprisoned for crimes in more recent times.


Ivo Sanader

* In 2020, Ivo Sanader, the former prime minister of Croatia was found guilty of corruption.  He was sentenced to eight years in prison and is currently serving out his sentence.


* On August 1, 2013, Silvio Berlusconi, former prime minister of Italy was convicted of tax fraud.  He received a four-year prison sentence and was prohibited from holding public office for two years.  Due to his age (he was 76), Berlusconi was exempted from direct imprisonment.  He served his sentence by doing unpaid community service.  Berlusconi died on June 12, 2023.

Jacques Chirac

Nicolas Sarkozy

* Two former French presidents were convicted of corruption.  In 2011, Jacques Chirac was convicted of corruption and given a two-year suspended prison sentence.  Chirac died in 2019.  In 2021, another former French president, Nicolas Sarkozy, was convicted of corruption and influence peddling in two separate cases.  He received a sentence of three years in prison, two of them suspended and one in prison.  In May of  2023, Sarkozy lost his appeal against the conviction.  His three-year prison sentence was upheld, with two years suspended and the final year under home confinement with an electronic bracelet rather than in prison.

Moshe Katsav

Ehud Olmert


* In 2011, Moshe Katsav, the former president of Israel, received a seven-year jail sentence for rape and other sexual offences.  Katsav served just over five years of his sentence.  In 2015, former Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert was convicted of fraud, breach of trust and tax evasion. The following year, Olmert was sentenced to 27 months in prison.  He served two-thirds of his sentence.  The current Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, is on trial for fraud, breach of trust and corruption.  He was indicted in 2019 in cases in which is charged with receiving gifts from wealthy friends and granting regulatory favours for media magnates in return for favourable coverage.

Jacob Zuma
* Former South African president, Jacob Zuma, was the the defendant in an ongoing corruption trial.  Zuma, who was president form 2009 until 2018, when he resigned under pressure  In December 2007, Zuma was chosen African National Congress (ANC)  president.  Later that month, he was recharged with money laundering, racketeering and tax evasion.  Despite many allegations of wrongdoing, which his supporters regarded as politically motivated, Zuma remained popular within his party.  In September of 2008, those charges were dismissed due to a legal technicality.  However, prosecutors vowed  to appeal the ruling, upsetting the ANC.  Weeks before the 2009 South African general election, the corruption charges against Zuma, as well as allegations of political interference, were spotlighted.  Nevertheless, the ANC won the election handily and Zuma became the country's president.

In June of 2021, Zuma was found to be in contempt of the Constitutional Court for refusing to take part in commission hearings.  He was arrested and sentenced to 15 months in jail.  He began serving his sentence in July, but in August underwent surgery for an undisclosed medical issue.  The following  month, he was granted medical parole and was permitted to serve the rest of his sentence from home.

Lee Myung-bak 

Park Geun-hye

* In 2020, former South Korean president Lee Myung-bak was sentenced to 17 years in prison for bribery and embezzlement. In 2022, he was pardoned.  Another former president, Park Geun-hye, the first female to hold the position, was convicted in 2018 of charges related to bribery and coercion.  She received a 15-year prison term, but was pardoned in 2021.  

The conviction and imprisonment of a current or former president is not a novel event outside the United States.  The notion that any president or former president is absolutely immune to criminal prosecution is contrary to the impartiality which Lady Justice must upheld.  No, Donald Trump, you cannot shoot and kill someone on Fifth Avenue with impunity, even if your supporters won't hold it against you.

- Joanne

Monday, March 11, 2024

Warning Signs of a Cult

All the warning signs in this list apply to dictators such as North Korea's "Dear Leader," Kim Jong Un.  However, they also apply to Donald Trump and his political party, the former Republican Party.  It might as well be renamed the Trump Party.  It is a cult and Trump has complete control of it.

Trump ally, Michael Whatley, and his daughter-in-law, Lara Trump, have taken control of the so-called Republican National Committee (RNC),  Lara is the wife of Trump's son Eric.  She is now co-char of the Trump National Committee, while Michael Wheatly is the chair.  Donald Trump, of course, endorsed both of them.  Do you think they will dare question him or refuse to do his bidding?  If you do, you must be ready to buy some swampland in Florida.  

The fact is that Donald Trump has complete control and a total grip on the former Republican Party.  This, my friends, is a sad state of affairs for American democracy.  The hope is that someday a new conservative party, one that is democratic and respects the rule of law, will rise out of the ashes of this cult.

- Joanne

Wednesday, March 6, 2024

The truth about Mitch McConnell

 "There is no question, none, that President Trump is practically and morally responsible for provoking the events of the day (January 6, 2021.) . . . A mob was assaulting the Capitol in his name.  These criminals were carrying his banners, hanging his flags and screaming their loyalty to him."

Guess who said those words.  Nancy Pelosi?  Barack Obama?  Joe Biden?  Kamala Harris?  No!  It was not a Democrat who uttered those words about Donald Trump.  It was stalwart Republican Mitch McConnell, the current Senate Majority Leader.  Senator McConnell reprimanded Donald Trump in  February of 2021, in a speech on the Senate floor after the former president's second impeachment trial.  He made a blistering attack on Trump,, but then argued that it was unconstitutional to convict a president who was no long in office.  

In other words, McConnell believes that Trump was above the law, even when he no longer held the office of the presidency.  It is because of spineless Republican politicians such as Mitch McConnell and former Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy that Donald Trump has become the Trump Party's prospective nominee for president.

McConnell was unequivical about Trump's responsibility for the uprising on January 6th.  Nevertheless, he has announced that he will be supporting Trump in the 2024 presidential election.  How can McConnell in good conscience endorse a man whom he described as responsible for an attack on American democracy?  

The answer is that McConnell has two major goals - to help Republicans hold on to power and to further increase his own wealth, and the wealth of other fat cats.  If you recall, when Barack Obama first took office as president, McConnell stated that "my number one priority is making sure Obama's a one term president."  It is not surprising, therefore that McConnell has chosen to endorse Trump.

Mitch McConnell did not say that his number one priority was to serve his country and o make life better for Americans.  Oh no!  Not McConnell.  He'd do anything to make Democrats look bad, even if it hurt his fellow Americans.  

Mitch McConnell

There are no words to express how sad and disgusted I am about the political situation in the United States.  The hypocrisy of Trump's Republican colleagues knows no bounds, especially now that Senator McConnell has decided to endorse Donald Trump for president, a man he once blamed for the  "disgraceful" January 6, 2021 attack.

How low can the so-called Republican Party go?  It is no longer a legitimate political party.  It is a cult movement, completely under control of a would-be dictator.  Those so-called Republicans are so completely beholden to Trump and power-hungry that they are willing to allow him to destroy American democracy.  They are willing to throw Ukraine under a bus because their Dear Leader, Trump, is a great admirer of Vladimir Putin.  If, God help humanity, Trump become president again, he will allow Putin to crush Ukraine.  An emboldened Putin will attack other countries.

With Trump's record, how many countries would allow such a corrupt and cruel man to run for president?  What is wrong with America?.  A great deal, I'm afraid.  Americans have parents and grandparents who made great sacrifices to stop Hitler and fascism.  Yet, many Americans are supporting a man who wants to bring fascism to America.  Trump has made no bones about it.  He has made it abundantly clear what he attends to do if he get his hands on power again.  The question American voters will be deciding in the nest election will be: Do you want American democracy to survive?

- Joanne

Saturday, March 2, 2024

Champion of Working Men and Women?

Trump’s track record with unions isn’t as simple as he’d like to paint it. Though he spent much of the 2016 campaign railing against free trade deals and neoliberal economic policies that contributed to the decline of the American manufacturing sector and the outsourcing of blue-collar jobs, that’s just about the limit of his union-friendly perspective. As president, he sided with capital and managerial interests over labor at nearly every turn, appointing corporate-friendly lawyers to the National Labor Relations Board, supporting right-to-work laws that limited union organizing and dues collections in Republican states, and promising to veto the PRO Act, a bill that would override those state laws and boost labor organizing rights. Even at his rally, he talked up the tax cuts he passed in 2017, without mentioning that they disproportionately benefited corporations and corporate leaders.

- Christian Paz, Vox, September 28, 2023

Donald Trump likes to portray himself as a champion of the working class, and an astute businessman.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  However, Trump's supporters don't care about the facts.  They support him out of raw emotion, fueled by fear.  The facts do not resonate with those who have been fed a steady diet of lies from Fox News, although moderate Republicans and independents may be persuaded not to vote for Trump.

A 15,000-word New York Times report contradicted Trump's portrayal of himself as self-made billionaire who built up his fortune from a $1 million loan from his father, Fred Trump.  According to the 2018 Times report,  Trump and his father evaded gift and inheritance taxes by establishing a sham corporation and undervaluing assets.  In other words, they committed outright fraud.

According to The New York Times, ex-President Donald Trump procured at least $413 million from his father through the years, much of it from tax dodges.  The Times' information on the Trump finances was obtained  from over 100,000 pages of financial documents, including private tax returns.

If you think Trump is a clever businessman, think again!  Trump has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection six times for his companies.  This has been fact-checked buy The Washington Post.  During the 1980s, Trump was considered to be a dashing real estate investor.  When the state of New Jersey legalized gambling, Trump made a huge bet that Atlantic City would enjoy prosperity.  Accordingly, he obtained possession of three casinos, The Taj Mahal, the Trump Plaza and the Trump Castle, which by 1991 couldn't pay their debts.  By 1992, they had all declared bankruptcy.  

Chapter 11 bankruptcy allows companies to restructure or wipe out much their debt to other companies, creditors and shareholders while remaining in business under the management of a bankruptcy court.
Trump's debt was restructured, not liquidated.  

In November of 1992, A fourth property, the Plaza Hotel in New York, also declared bankruptcy after accumulating millions in debt.  A 49 per cent stake in the luxury hotel was given to Citibank and five other lenders.  Trump remained chief executive, but without being paid.  His role in the everyday operations of the hotel was taken away.  

Trump married his second wife, Marla Maples, at the swank property, overlooking Manhattan's Central Park.  According to Newsweek, Trump officially relinquished ownership of the Plaza Hotel in 1995.  He sold it for $325 million, losing around $83 million in the change of ownership;

Trump's three casino bankruptcies occurred during the recession of the early 1990s and the Gulf War, which further exacerbated the difficulties in Atlantic City's gambling industry.  After 1992, Trump placed his casino holdings into a new company called Trump Hotels and Casino Resorts.  It went bankrupt in 2004, after amassing $1.8 billion in debt.  Trump Entertainment Resorts, the company that emerged from that restructuring declared bankruptcy in 2009 after being hit by the 2008 recession.  

Trump has never filed personal bankruptcy, only corporate bankruptcy associated with his business dealings.  He claims that he has never gone bankrupt, which is probably a half-truth.  However, the way his current legal woes are mounting, he may be forced to declare personal bankruptcy as he struggles to pay the $454 million he owes from his New York fraud trial.

It is a total fallacy that Donald Trump is a champion of working men and women.  Would a champion of the working man support tax breaks for billionaires?  During the recent autoworkers strike, it was President Joe Biden who stood alongside the picketers.  Biden became the first sitting president of the United States to join a picket line.  

- Joanne