Angels in America

A new survey finds that nearly 70% of Americans believe in the existence of angels, more than believe in the devil or hell.

American’s belief in angels (69%) is about on par with belief in heaven and the power of prayer, but bested by belief in God or a higher power (79%). Fewer U.S. adults believe in the devil or Satan (56%), astrology (34%), reincarnation (34%), and that physical things can have spiritual energies, such as plants, rivers or crystals (42%).

The large number of U.S. adults who say they believe in angels includes 84% of those with a religious affiliation — 94% of evangelical Protestants, 81% of mainline Protestants and 82% of Catholics — and 33% of those without one. And of those angel-believing religiously unaffiliated, that includes 2% of atheists, 25% of agnostics and 50% of those identified as “nothing in particular.”

Why are angels so appealing?

“People are yearning for something greater than themselves — beyond their own understanding,” said Jack Grogger, a chaplain for the Los Angeles Angels and a longtime Southern California fire captain who has aided many people in their gravest moments.

“For a lot of people, angels are a lot safer to worship,” said Grogger, who also pastors a nondenominational church in Orange, California, and is a chaplain for the NHL’s Anaheim Ducks.

When people have some kind of lucky escape, the idea that their ‘guardian angel’ was looking out for them makes sense, especially if the angel had some relationship with them while alive.

Jennifer Goodwin of Oviedo, Florida, also is among the roughly seven in 10 U.S. adults who say they believe in angels. She isn’t sure if God exists and rejects the afterlife dichotomy of heaven and hell, but the recent deaths of her parents solidified her views on these celestial beings.

Goodwin believes her parents are still keeping an eye on the family — not in any physical way or as a supernatural apparition, but that they manifest in those moments when she feels a general sense of comfort.

“I think that they are around us, but it’s in a way that we can’t understand,” Goodwin said. “I don’t know what else to call it except an angel.”

I kind of get it. God and the devil are formidable figures, like the CEOs of major corporations whom one may find it hard to relate to. Angels, on the other hand, are more like a hotel concierge, someone whose job it is to help you and thus one can feel a personal relationship with them.

Trump did not learn the lessons of Watergate

As we await what seems to be the inevitable new indictment of serial sex abuser Donald Trump (SSAT), this time on concerning involvement in the January 6, 2021 riot, another major development is that Special Counsel Jack Smith has filed an update to the indictment filed earlier on SSAT’s treatment of confidential documents at Mar-a-Lago. One additional charge is that they now seem to have the Top Secret document that SSAT was waving around in front of people who did not have the security clearance to read it.

“Secret. This is secret information. Look, look at this,” Trump says at one point, according to the transcript. “This was done by the military and given to me.” …

“Well, with Milley – uh, let me see that, I’ll show you an example. He said that I wanted to attack Iran. Isn’t that amazing? I have a big pile of papers, this thing just came up. Look. This was him,” Trump says, according to the transcript. “They presented me this – this is off the record, but – they presented me this. This was him. This was the Defense Department and him. We looked at some. This was him. This wasn’t done by me, this was him.”

Trump continues: “All sorts of stuff – pages long, look. Wait a minute, let’s see here. I just found, isn’t that amazing? This totally wins my case, you know. Except it is like, highly confidential. Secret. This is secret information. Look, look at this.”

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Burning religious books

Over in Sweden, a storm has been brewing over the public burnings of the Koran and the Torah.

Sweden is once again caught in the political crosshairs over its decision to greenlight burnings of the Quran and Torah in Stockholm. Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson said this week that far-right figures have filed more requests for Quran-burning protests with the police, and he is “extremely worried” about what could happen as a result.

Sweden, as well as neighboring Denmark, have allowed the protests to take place in recent months, sparking criticism, counterprotests, and diplomatic blowback from several majority-Muslim nations. We’ve curated reporting and insights about the latest developments.

The reason the protests have been allowed to proceed: Sweden “has one of the world’s strongest legal protections for freedom of expression” and cannot ban protests unless they are a threat to public safety, Marten Schultz, law professor at Stockholm University, told the BBC. Experts determined that the burnings targeted a text instead of individuals. The freedom of speech right dates back to 1766 and is seen as a “fundamental value” in Swedish culture, Schultz said.

Swedish officials have condemned the Quran burnings, and said this week that the country is the target of a disinformation campaign led by “Russia-backed actors” trying to imply that Sweden is behind the protests. Sweden’s national security service said the incidents have changed the world’s view of Sweden, “from a tolerant country to a country hostile to Islam and Muslims.” — The Guardian
Sweden also recently approved a request for a 50-year-old woman to burn a copy of the Torah, the sacred Jewish text, outside the Israeli embassy in Stockholm. Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen said he warned his Swedish counterpart that the demonstration could worsen the two countries’ relationship. Jewish community leaders in Israel said the burning shouldn’t qualify for freedom of expression protections. — The Times of Israel

One wonders if there is going to be an escalation of this, with the sacred texts of many religions going up in smoke as each side retaliates..

I am not a fan of burning any book, religious or otherwise, but would not be up in arms over it. since such gestures are usually futile and have only a transient effect. But for some religious people, defense of their texts is seen as a duty that can only be satisfied with violence.

I always wonder why such people do not leave it up to their gods to take appropriate retaliatory action. If the gods are deeply offended by the burning of the books they supposedly gave to their followers, surely they would not just stand by hoping that some of their worshippers would rise up on their behalf. The fact that they never do anything seems to me that they do not care either.

Or maybe they do not exist.

The redemption of Jar Jar Binks

Since I had enjoyed the original three Star Wars films (Episodes 4, 5, 6) that came out in the 1977, 1980, and 1983, I went to see the first of the three prequels (Episode 1) when it was released in 1999. I found it to be a waste of time so that I did not watch Episodes 2 and 3 either.

One of the really off-putting features of Episode 1 was the exceedingly annoying character Jar Jar Binks. My dislike for the character was shared by many who mounted a hate campaign against him. Since I thought that he was a purely CGI animation, I did not pay much attention to this campaign. But it turns out that behind the mask was a real actor Ahmed Best, who had been a huge fan of the films and was overjoyed to be selected to be part of the franchise. But his life was made such hell by the vitriol and even death threats aimed at him that he seriously contemplated suicide. The idea that one would not just intensely dislike a fictional character but go after the hapless actor playing that role amazes me. Mind you, this was even before the current social media environment made such pile ons easier. Thankfully he did not carry out that plan to kill himself and has managed to make a comeback as a new character in The Mandalorian

This article tells his story.

Extra-terrestrials are obviously English speakers

Given all the depressing news in the world right now, it is refreshing to read about things that are really silly but taken seriously by people who should know better, like the members of Congress. I am referring of course to the hearings on so-called Unidentified Aerial Phenomena (UAP). On the surface is nothing remarkable about things in the sky that we have not as yet identified. But they have become identified in the minds of true believers with visitations by extra-terrestrials. Furthermore these people are convinced that the US government knows about these things but is hiding it from us.
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Weird Musk’s weird obsession with X

Twitter owner Elon Musk has abruptly renamed the company as simply X. He had earlier named his first company Jill Lepore writes that Musk has long had a fascination with this particular letter, that can be traced back to his father and grandfather who were leaders of a so-called Technocracy movement and called themselves Technocrats and “believed that only engineers and scientists could save the world from a looming catastrophe.”

Technocrats objected to politicians and economists, democracy, and socialism. They wanted an end to all banks. In the future that Technocrats including Musk’s grandfather were planning for,“There will be no place for Politics or Politicians, Finance or Financiers, Rackets or Racketeers. There would also be no place for personal names. One technocrat, for instance, renamed himself 1x1809x56. Musk named one of his sons X Æ A-12—X, for short.

Why name a baby X Æ A-12, something that is going to result in the child being tormented by their peers and likely require years of therapy as an adult? This whole business of parents trying to give their children weird names to make some ideological point seems to be sheer vanity, seeing the child as a vehicle for their own obsessions and ignoring their needs. I am really glad that my parents gave me an utterly common name. As least it is common in Sri Lanka though, because it is simple enough, it is only a little exotic now that I am in the US.

But Musk has big plans for the company that he now has renamed X, seeing it as the precursor to an ‘everything app’, whatever the hell that is.

X, Musk promises, will be the “everything app.” X is the Technocrats’ dream deferred, a way to engineer society, the economy, and politics. Extreme capitalism—Muskism—as the answer to existential risk. With any luck, it will be a disaster.

I hope so too.

I saw this coming way off

As soon as I saw the sad news story that Tafari Campbell, the personal chef of the Obamas, had drowned last Sunday while swimming near Martha’s Vineyard, I knew that conspiracy mongers would seize upon it, since any tragic event connected to the Obamas or Clintons is like catnip to them. And sure enough, they have.

The death of Tafari Campbell, a Barack Obama employee whose body was recovered near the former president’s home on Martha’s Vineyard on Monday, has sparked a wave of entirely unverified conspiracy theories online.

A number of prominent right-wing accounts, some with hundreds of thousands of followers, have questioned the official version of events. One described Campbell’s death on the Massachusetts island as “strange” and asked “what do you think really happened?”

Liz Crokin is a Trump supporter and advocate of the QAnon conspiracy theory that says America is secretly being run by a cabal of satanic child molesters. She asked, “what did he know?” referring to Campbell.

The Carrie loves America Twitter account, which has 102,000 followers and a picture of Trump as its headed image, wrote: “Tafari Campbell isn’t the only person who has died inexplicably in Obama’s orbit.

“Did you know that the woman who verified the authenticity of Obama’s birth certificate, Loretta Fuddy, was the only person to die in a plane crash in Hawaii in 2013. Everyone else survived,” the Carrie loves America account added.

Fuddy was responsible for approving the release of Obama’s long-form birth certificate in 2011. In December 2013, the 65-year-old was the only fatality when a light aircraft crashed off the coast of Hawaii, which an investigation attributed to “catastrophic engine failure.”

The Fuddy story illustrates the weird logic of these people The fact she was the only person who died in the crash is seen as the clue to it being suspicious. Somehow we are asked to think that the people who wanted to kill her and engineered the plane crash were able to arrange it so as to make just one person die. Surely it would have been easier to kill them all or, if they had some scruples about doing that, to just kill her on land in a car accident or something, rather than this far more complicated plan? But it is the convoluted nature of the plans that is appealing to conspiracists. Something that is straightforward is simply no fun for them.

Green flash

I have never seen the so-called ‘green flash’, the brief appearance of green light just as the sun sets over the horizon. It requires special conditions for it it occur and although those conditions are not that rare, your chance of being in the right place for those few seconds is low. Fortunately with cameras, you can now capture the green (and even more occasionally blue and red) flashes as can be seen in this video compilation by Dutch filmmaker, photographer and artist Michiel de Boer.

The need to balance fear with hope

When I need to learn how to do something around the house or with the computer, I will go to the internet and will frequently find a video on YouTube that gives instructions on what to do and those are usually helpful. But I only do this for things that are relatively minor. I can tell when I am getting out of my depth and need to call in a real expert.

But the easy availability of self-help videos can mislead us into thinking that that is sufficient even for major tasks and lead to tragic consequences, when people think that they can use that information for life-changing decisions. This is apparently what happened to three people who died in the wilderness of Colorado in their attempt to live off the grid.
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