What’s killing the church?

Here’s an observation: as Christianity fades in England and Wales, some evangelical religious groups are finding a niche, like the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God. I guess stodgy old Anglicanism is losing its flavor. However, these new churches are poisoning the well, doing a fabulous job of producing disaffected ex-followers. You might wonder how that works.

UCKG is an evangelical, Pentecostal church, first started in Brazil. It now has a presence across the globe, including more than 50 full- and part-time branches in the UK, the most recent of which opened in Nottingham this month. Many are located in some of the most economically deprived parts of the country.

The church’s Brazilian founder, Edir Macedo, has been included on Forbes’ billionaires list. Twice this year he has flown into the UK, and around Europe, on private jets owned by the church. In Brazil, congregants’ donations were used to build a temple in São Paulo as tall as an 18-storey building.

You ought to be immediately suspicious of any church in which the head priest is a billionaire. I’d be giving the side-eye to any pastor who is even a millionaire, for that matter — how can you get wealthy honestly by preaching to the poor and needy? You can’t. The only way is by fleecing the flock.

As an atheist, though, what do I know? Maybe Jesus was just raking in the loaves and fishes, making a fortune with a chain of bakeries and fish and chip shops. Just like how Macedo might be working hard at honest labor, rather than begging his adherents to give him all their money.

Crossing a demographic bridge

The United Kingdom has tripped over the precipice into godlessness. Or at least, into following a different god. They’re waaay ahead of the United States.

England and Wales are now minority Christian countries, according to the 2021 census, which also shows that Leicester and Birmingham have become the first UK cities to have “minority majorities”.

The census revealed a 5.5 million drop in the number of Christians and a 1.2 million rise in the number of people following Islam, bringing the Muslim population to 3.9 million. The changes equate to a 17% fall in Christians and 44% increase in the number of Muslims. It is the first time in a census of England and Wales that fewer than half of the population have described themselves as Christian.

Meanwhile, 37.2% of people – 22.2 million – declared they had “no religion”, the second most common response after Christian. It means that over the past 20 years the proportion of people reporting no religion has soared from 14.8%.

The question I have, though, is that if atheists are so much smarter than other people, and if the percentage of atheists have more than doubled, how do we explain Brexit and the party of Tory wankers running the country? Maybe something is wrong with my premises.

Please, Elon, I want to see the spectacle

In this corner, in the blue trunks, it’s ELON MUSK. In the other corner, in the rainbow colored trunks, it’s APPLE. Who will win?

Elon Musk claims that Apple has threatened to “withhold” Twitter from the iOS App Store for unknown reasons. The news follows a tweet where Musk said Apple had “mostly stopped advertising” on the platform and a poll asking whether Apple should “publish all censorship actions it has taken that affect its customers.” Apple did not immediately comment on Musk’s claim.

The news follows much more subtle signs of mounting tension between Apple and Musk-owned Twitter. Musk has criticized Apple’s App Store fee for in-app purchases, dubbing it a “hidden 30% tax” on the internet. And Apple App Store boss Phil Schiller deleted his Twitter account following Musk’s takeover, shortly after Donald Trump’s account was reinstated.

In a November 15th interview with CBS News, Apple CEO Tim Cook said that “they say that they are going to continue to moderate. I’m counting on them to continue to do that.” Musk, however, has pledged to loosen Twitter’s moderation guidelines and floated the idea of a mass unbanning of suspended accounts.

Twitter has long tested the boundaries of Apple’s App Store moderation — which has successfully pushed Discord, Tumblr, and other services to either hide potentially offensive content (typically adult content) or ban it altogether. Twitter remains one of the only large platforms to still allow adult content on its app, and a recent editorial by former Twitter executive Yoel Roth revealed that it’s sparred periodically with Apple over content like racial slurs and the hashtag #boobs.

Apple has every right to refuse to advertise on Twitter. This is a pathetic whine from a guy who doesn’t understand free speech.

I’m not keen on a big tech company using its clout to tell smaller companies what they’re allowed to do — but while I deplore choking off adult content, I approve of pressuring social media to block racial slurs. There’s a great big gray area right there.

But…Apple is a trillion dollar company, flush with cash, and at the height of their power. Twitter is a company that’s losing money hand over fist, and was recently bought out by an idiot who is busy gutting the place. I don’t have to prefer one over the other, because if Musk decides to go up against one of the biggest tech giants in the world with his flailing, fading company, I know what the outcome will be.

He’s also such an ass that I’ll enjoy watching the steam roller crush him.

The military-industrial complex rejoices!

The war in Ukraine is draining American stockpiles of things that blow up, so the defense industry has come up with a clever scheme: take a bomb we have in plentiful supply, strap a rocket motor to it (also plentiful) and send those off to a war to blow more stuff up.

The Pentagon is considering a Boeing proposal to supply Ukraine with cheap, small precision bombs fitted onto abundantly available rockets, allowing Kyiv to strike far behind Russian lines as the West struggles to meet demand for more arms.

U.S. and allied military inventories are shrinking, and Ukraine faces an increasing need for more sophisticated weapons as the war drags on. Boeing’s proposed system, dubbed Ground-Launched Small Diameter Bomb (GLSDB), is one of about a half-dozen plans for getting new munitions into production for Ukraine and America’s Eastern European allies, industry sources said.

Although the United States has rebuffed requests for the 185-mile (297km) range ATACMS missile, the GLSDB’s 94-mile (150km) range would allow Ukraine to hit valuable military targets that have been out of reach and help it continue pressing its counterattacks by disrupting Russian rear areas.

How am I supposed to feel about this? I am entirely sympathetic to the Ukrainian cause and opposed to the militaristic imperialism of Russia, but our solutions to the conflict all seem to involve more, bigger, longer-ranged bombs…which leaves defense contractors chortling in glee, and may be necessary to throw invaders out of a foreign land, but I am repulsed by the idea of more effective killing machines.

It doesn’t help that everyone is so blithe about the cost. It’s cheap, they say.

The M26 rocket motor is relatively abundant, and the GBU-39 costs about $40,000 each, making the completed GLSDB inexpensive and its main components readily available. Although arms manufacturers are struggling with demand, those factors make it possible to yield weapons by early 2023, albeit at a low rate of production.

They don’t say how much the M26 costs, but I’d guess that the total cost of a single GBU-38 + M26 is going to exceed the yearly salary of a college professor, so sure, I’ll just visualize it as every shot is a teacher’s or scientist’s career being lobbed at a couple of soldiers to explode into fragments, and the money instead finding its way into a lobbyist/contractor’s pockets.

It’s fine. Everything is fine.

Not a headline I like to see

Thanks, Washington Post. And first thing in the morning, too! What a thing for an old geezer to wake up to.

Great. My demographic. Although, while I am over 65, I’m not sick or poor, so I can take some solace in that…except that I don’t think being old, sick, or poor should mean you get neglected by society, and I don’t think any of us should be categorized as an acceptable loss.

More than 300 people are still dying each day on average from covid-19, most of them 65 or older, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. While that’s much lower than the 2,000 daily toll at the peak of the delta wave, it is still roughly two to three times the rate at which people die of the flu — renewing debate about what is an “acceptable loss.”

And while older Americans have consistently been the worst hit during the crisis, as evident in the scores of early nursing home deaths, that trend has become more pronounced. Today, nearly 9 in 10 covid deaths are in people 65 or older — the highest rate ever, according to a Washington Post analysis of CDC data.

If this disease does get me, I’m going to raise a bony finger to point at all the heedless younger people who don’t believe in masking, or any other basic preventative measures. And I’m especially planning to claw my way out of the grave to knock on the doors of all those people who think that saying “it’s just a flu” is an excuse for ongoing contempt for core concepts in epidemiology. Or anyone who claims the pandemic is over.

Now that Thanksgiving is out of the way…

It’s time to heat up the War On Christmas, with love.

The new Fox News strategy is to sow confusion. Laura Ingraham was complaining that the White House was too eager to celebrate Christmas!

This year, the battle lines are fluid — prepare for a mobile war, you must be ready to jink this way, and then jink the other way, and rely on operational flexibility.

ElonGOAT: Oh the cringe…the cringe.

The cringiest. Some group of Musk cultists created a cryptocurrency called ElonGOAT, and decided to promote it in the goofiest way they could think of: by building a monument to Elon Musk.

Elon GOAT Token has really stepped outside the box and did something no other Crypto project has dared to do. We built Elon Musk a $600,000 monument on the back of a semi trailer in honor of his many accomplishments and commitment to Cryptocurrency! Since completion, $EGT has toured several states in the US and has now decided to deliver this gift to Elon at Tesla’s Giga factory in Austin!

We believe that Elon’s potential acceptance of this biblical sized gift could catapult $EGT into the limelight and accelerate its various initiatives.

$EGT’s future is bright with our ambitious plans to launch EGT PRO’s merchant processing solutions in early 2023. We also believe with proper execution the subsequent run at multiple centralized exchange listings will take us to the top!

Right. So they’ve invented some fake money, and they think the way to get people to invest in it is to spend $600,000 on an ugly-ass statue to get Elon Musk’s blessing. They’re also selling 5,000 NFTs…oops, I just stole one.

They also invented an ‘event’, driving this statue to the Tesla factory to convince Musk to tweet about them, which would somehow vastly increase the value of their precious imaginary coin. They’re urging everyone to buy buy buy now, before the anticipated Elon Tweet sends the price skyrocketing to the moon. That’s it. That’s the entire foundation for its value, getting a nod of acknowledgement from the petty god they worship. They’re chattering away about it online. They’re begging Elon Musk to come out and appreciate their work on Twitter.


That was from 15 hours ago, and was the last comment from the people dragging this statue to Austin. Maybe we can take a peek at how well their scheme is working.

Oops. The line go down. They lost 60% of their value the day they delivered their monstrosity.

Part of the problem might be that, goddamn, this is the ugliest statue I’ve ever seen. Maybe they’ve finally found a way to embarrass Elon Musk.

I mean, look at that thing! It’s Elon Musk’s head grafted onto the body of a goat, riding a rocket. It’s hideous. What drugs were they taking when they came up with that thing? I need to know so I never ever take them myself.

It’s a pile of aluminum scrap. Musk is going to pretend it doesn’t exist because taking ownership would mean he’d have to get it melted down, another expense added to his long list of woes. Although, I do have to admit that an ugly wasteful lump of metal built to celebrate stupidity and delusions might be the most appropriate monument for Elon Musk.

How to celebrate Black Friday

We have a little tradition here at Chez Myers for Black Friday: we stay home, refuse to do any shopping, and god forbid we would be caught dead in a shopping mall. We have never seen the point of going into a frenzy of spending money just because it’s a day off, and because corporations have spent the past week dunning us with ads for “sales” that are really just them flogging the same old merchandise with greater intensity.

However, we’ve lacked a patron saint for this day. We haven’t had anything like a Santa Claus to represent the true spirit of Black Friday. We needed an icon of failed, lying, greedy capitalism run amuck, and what do you know, one has dropped into our lap.

Samuel Bankman-Fried.

Bankman-Fried had become a legend by pushing an image of monkish aloofness, vowing to forsake the allures of his extraordinary wealth — sleeping on beanbag chairs, driving a Toyota Corolla — and to give away his fortune for the greater good.

Yet in April, when Avedisian was hired as a master of ceremonies for a conference in the Bahamas sponsored by FTX, Bankman-Fried’s crypto exchange, she saw how the 30-year-old billionaire really lived: in a guarded island compound, every need closely catered to, the world’s elite at his beck and call.

That’s our boy. What better avatar of the spirit of the corporate world than a frumpy, disheveled, arrogant man-child who presents himself as a benevolent wise master, pretending to live a life of denial of the material world, while simultaneously indulging in the grossest excesses of greed and extravagant luxury?

Best of all, this month his lifestyle has undergone a magnificent pratfall, seeing billions of dollars evaporate, and reversing his image from wunderkind to poster child for incompetence.

“Never in my career have I seen such a complete failure of corporate controls and such a complete absence of trustworthy financial information,” said Ray, who once oversaw the liquidation of Enron, one of America’s most infamous corporate frauds.

Poof, all gone. His Bahamian penthouse is on the chopping block, his island refuge is exposed as a shallow scam, his philosophical pretensions revealed to be a lie.

The odd behavior did not stop Bankman-Fried from building a brand as the volatile industry’s voice of reason. He’d been celebrated for pushing for crypto regulation on Capitol Hill, donating generously to pandemic-prevention efforts and Democratic politicians, and preaching a dogma known as “effective altruism” that used math and logic to determine where their donations could accomplish the most global good.

We can only hope his downfall cripples that “effective altruism” bullshit, too.

It’s also the case that SBF exposes the incompetence of investment bankers and venture capitalist. What brought him down was stupidity and greed and a lack of skill in running a big company — he was a cocky child handed a whole bunch of money by luck and persuasion, and he lost it all with the usual tawdry criminal failings. And he still has people fooled!

Pack said his firm declined to invest in Alameda after learning that Bankman-Fried had hidden $10 million in losses and planned to use their money to fund FTX, not Alameda, without telling them. The episode, he said, had many of the same issues that ultimately led to FTX’s bankruptcy: Bankman-Fried’s secrecy and deception about how money was spent; his cryptic messages and shoddy record-keeping; his excuses for losing clients’ funds.

“They were very brilliant traders. They made a lot of money … but they also lost it almost as fast as it came in,” he said. They had a “cold, emotionless, calculated approach to playing with other people’s money.”

Not brilliant at all. Give me $10 billion dollars and an indifference to the suffering of others, and I could throw it all away just as quickly by buying over-priced real estate and being stupid.

Sam Bankman-Fried is the perfect symbol of Black Friday: a dumpy, dead-eyed schlub wandering about in a vast, sterile penthouse, staring at a cell phone, going nowhere. The anti-Black Friday is sitting down in a home with your grandchild drawing and playing games and not spending a penny for the happiness of your existence. Maybe we’ll go outside later so she can ride her scooter around the block.

Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg are also runners-up for this distinguished symbolism. We have an embarrassment of idiots!