What would Pope Francis do?

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I am a product of the Catholic schooling system although have not been a part of the Catholic Church since I was 16 and have not considered myself a Catholic since then. I am proud of my association with my old schools (St Peters College Years 7 to 9 and Sacred Heart College, Years 9 – 13) and have nothing but good memories from them especially whilst boarding at SHC.

I have never wanted to associate myself with the Catholic Church once leaving school, not for any particular reason other than I found it boring,  not very relevant to my life and lacking in inspiration. However recently I have found myself drawn to the new Pope and am excited about the direction he seems to be taking the Catholic Church in and whilst I am not fully ‘on board’ with everything he says, it’s obvious to me that the direction he intends to take the Church in is less regressive than previous Popes.

One of my greatest joys in recent times was hearing Pope Francis talk about the dangers of capitalism, the need for the wealthy to look after the poor and the concern for what he calls the “idolatry of money.”

It is with the knowledge that the Pope has significant and public concern about how the poor are treated, and the obvious links he is making to money and how it should be distributed, that I was extremely disappointed at receiving an email from SHC this week asking, among other things, for donations towards a $70,000 Grand Piano for their new music department.piano

Now looking around $70,000 might be a very good price for a top end Grand Piano, I spoke to someone today who sold them as was told that they can range between $150,000 and $350,000 so I am not saying this is not a “good deal” I am challenging SHC on whether it is important at all.

I found a Grand Piano online for under $12,000 and I am sure the best upright piano, that many music departments would drool over would be far less than $70,000. What would Pope Francis do?

I don’t want this to turn into a ‘smash the Catholic Church’ conversation, it’s not my intention to give them a black eye, but as someone with 17 years ‘behind the pew’ I think I can gently tap you on the shoulder and say, “have you really thought this one through?”

SHC is in the suburb of Glen Innes which is one of the poorer suburbs in Auckland. If you look at the make up of the community you will see that the only demographic it is ahead in compared to the Auckland and National averages is “people earning under $20,000” and that nearly 60% of the homes there are not owned by those dwelling in them. This is a struggling suburb.

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On top of all that with there being a lot in the news at the moment about people sleeping in cars I have to wonder how a school, who claims as a part of their Special Character that their culture “is centred on the person of Jesus Christ” can bring themselves to be comfortable with spending $70,000 on a single musical instrument.

Many will also ask about the wealth that the school is literally sitting on. SHC is situation at 250 West Tamaki Road, Glen Innes. The records show that this property has a Ratings Valuation of $65,500,000 of which the land alone is worth over $40,000,000. Again I understand the idea of being ‘asset rich’, but your property is likely worth over $100,000,000 on an open market. At what point do you stop and at the very least ask a question about liquidizing some of your assets to better your amenities?

I also do not want to suggest that being charitable, and giving to whatever cause you deem important, is not a good thing and I understand how much not-for-profit groups, schools, charities etc…rely on donations. All I am asking is that if Pope Francis had that $70,000…what would he do?

Here is an idea SHC, and I’m not being a curmudgeon here and saying “Don’t do it” to your Grand Piano. How about you raise the $70,000, purchase the one I found for $12,000 and then cure over 130 people from leprosy?

At the moment you can donate $432 to the Leprosy Mission which cures one person from leprosy. The cure includes locating them, caring for them, curing them and then supporting them into positions where they can support themselves. What would Pope Francis do?

If you don’t like the Leprosy Mission, how about World Vision, what about Rainbow Youth, do you like Tearfund? There are a myriad of opportunities out there that, in my opinion, would be grateful for the help to help others, all whilst the students of SHC can still sit at a $12,000 piano that 99% of New Zealanders would never be able to afford and 99.99% of New Zealanders wouldn’t hear a difference between.

And if the question “What would Pope Francis do?” is a bit existential, then what about “What would Jesus do?” maybe that’s a little easier to figure out.

Reasons why Clinton, and every other Democratic supporter, must insist Sanders stay in the race

Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton

So before I start this post I need to remind you of a couple of things. The first is that I publicly stated 10 months ago that Hillary Clinton would be the next President and the GOP knows it (although I did also state back then that the only person who could trip her up was Donald Trump). Also I want to reiterate that I think the best person to be President is Bernie Sanders, even more than his political ideology I think it would be a fascinating 4 years letting someone run the country who is not only outside the establishment, but also has a consistent track record of doing what is best for the people of America.

As I sit here today, over 15,000 km from the capital of the state of Vermont, I still think that Hillary Clinton will be President. I think that Trump will give her a much closer run than many did, and are yet to, give him credit for which they do at their own peril, and I have to say from my daily grind whomever wins will not change my life one iota. In saying all of that there are some very important reasons for every supporter of either Democratic candidate to insist that Bernie Sanders stay in this race right up until the convention.

The first, and most important, is that he could still win. I’ve already posted that it was improbable when he needed 57% of the remaining vote and now that he needs 66% it’s even more unlikely but it’s still not, as some are saying, mathematically over. He still has a shot to win so why should he pull out. When the Highlanders (that’s rugby for you Northern Hemisphere folk) are 20 behind with 10 minutes to go I don’t want them to walk off the field, I want them to fight for as long as the have a chance.

The second is that Hillary Clinton is currently under Federal investigation. Please don’t buy into the lie that the Clinton Campaign is feeding the media that it’s not an “investigation” but a “security inquiry.” There are currently a minimum of 12 FBI agents working full time on this case, there are important participants being given immunity to any potential charges. The FBI Director James Comey put this whole suggestion of “inquiry” to bed when asked by a reporter of this was actually an investigation. He responded by saying he was “not familiar” with the term “security inquiry” and put the nail in the coffin when pointing out that all the FBI did was investigations by saying, “it’s in our name.” So if Clinton get’s charged with anything and Sanders is not there, hello “President Trump!” Now most are saying that it will be hard to prove “intent” in this case, which means the FBI needs to prove that Clinton intended to show classified files to people who didn’t have clearance, but nonetheless the investigation is ongoing.

The third who all Democratic supporters should want Sanders to stay in the race is that if he was to bow out, then Clinton’s oxygen from the 24 hour news cycle. The main reason she is getting so much coverage at the moment is that this race continues and the GOP race is over. Once there are two candidates and the “news” media are looking for a lead who do you think they will go to? The establishment candidate who is trying to not rock the boat too much or the rodeo clown talking about chem trails? If you are a Clinton supporter, and Sanders was to bow out, your candidate will get zero coverage compared to Trump. News these days (unfortunately) is info-tainment in which Clinton might be the “info”, Trump definitely is the “tainment” and it’s the tainment that rates. Clinton gets far more oxygen whilst Sanders is still there.

The fourth reason reflects a little bit reason number two. It’s not that I think anything will be in the report, but it has just been announced that the House Report on Benghazi will be out before the conventions. Is there anything in there to hurt Clinton? Probably not but then I probably won’t be in a car crash when I next drive my car, but I still put on my seat belt. Sanders is the Democratic seat belt at the moment.

As an aside, there is potentially another “seat belt” out there at the moment who maybe the establishment is lining up should one if these scandals hit Clinton hard and that’s Joe Biden. Why else would he be coming out at this point in the political cycle telling the people of America that he would be the best President of the whole class of 2016…watch this space.

Finally to those people who are calling for Sanders to step aside because he is “doing Trump’s work” then let me ask you two questions.

  1. What do you think that Sanders has said about Clinton that Trump already doesn’t have in his barrel? What secret angle or piece of information does Sanders have that a man that would bring up Bill Clinton’s sexual past, and blame Hillary for it, doesn’t know, have or is willing to invent?
  2. Why would you support a candidate that some off the cuff remark, or opinion spoke about them, or truth be said about their record might be enough to lose this election to a maniac? That candidate doesn’t sound like a particularly strong candidate to me.

If you want to see a President that comes from the Democratic side of the isle, it’s pretty clear to me (and hopefully you now) that it is imperative that Bernie Sanders stay in the race.

 

Donald Trump finds his equal(s)

It seems Powershop has found the equal(s) of Donald Trump from within, what appears to be, the NZ Pre-School community

 

Ironically it’s not that far from the truth as the study, ‘A Readability Analysis of Campaign Speeches from the 2016 US Presidential Campaign’, researchers from Carnegie Mellon University’s Language Technologies Institute (LTI), who analysed a number of transcripts for each candidate, including campaign trail speeches, victory speeches and defeat speeches, found that Donald Trump has the vocabulary of an 11 year old.

He could be the leader of the free world, and he comes off as grumpy and difficult, but I can only assume that it’s because he hasn’t had his afternoon nap yet

It’s been confirmed, the lunatics are running the asylum

Gender_Neutral_AP_c0-66-700-474_s885x516I’ve had many people I’m connected with ask me if I am going to make any comment on laws like HB2 in North Carolina that, among other discriminatory actions, bans transgender individuals from using the bathroom they identify with.

When I was working as a talkback host, one of the most important questions I would ask my callers who had strong opinions was “then what?” The classic example I remember is about a house in Porirua that was frequented by gang members, that was occupied by a solo mum and several kids. There were calls a plenty to get them out of the state house etc…so I would ask “ok, then what?” Often people would be a bit stumped by that question so I would go on, “let’s say we get that solo mum, her kids and other associates out of that house…then what? Then where does the solo mum and her kids go now that they are on the street, or are they in another state house that might be next to you, or are they in a caravan that gets parked at the end of your driveway…then what?”

What the question did was cut through all the bullshit and rhetoric and make people look at the issue from a real world perspective. As you will probably understand some talkback callers didn’t like to be challenged to go a but deeper in their overly-simplistic ideologies.

So as soon as I saw the goings on in America, under the guise of ‘religious freedom’ laws like North Carolina’s HB2, my first reaction is “okay, then what?” What happens if a transgender woman, who was born male, uses bathroom facilities that now by law they are not allowed to use, then what? Is someone going to be standing at the door looking for evidence? Are the police going to be called if someone needs to wee? If the police are called and it’s confirmed that this woman was born male and she is sitting in the cubicle next to my wife peeing..then what?

Well one of the ‘then whats’ is that people start calling the police when they think a transgender woman is in their bathroom, the police turn up and remove that person from the bathroom even though they are female and were born female as shown in the video below.

 

She is a lesbian and dresses in what could be described as a ‘butch’ way, but she is legally entitled to be in that bathroom but as someone didn’t think she looked ‘female enough’ she was kicked out of the bathroom by the police. Madness! As an aside if she was born male the “show me some ID” cop needs to learn that you can re-apply for your driver’s license and even birth certificate and change you name and gender marker from ‘m’ to ‘f’ (as revealed in a recent ‘I am Cait’ episode) so it wouldn’t have been evidence one way or the other anyway.

A lot of this xenophobia is coming from the religious right who are using phrases like “Men should not be using the bathroom with little girls” as a way to increase the level of fear among the ignorant which then leads to situations like the video above, when a woman doesn’t look ‘womanly’ enough to someone, gets accused of being a man at birth. So it appears the law is to protect women from having to use the bathroom with men…or even people who are suspected of once being men…ok, so then what?

What about when this guy walks into the women’s bathroom

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Surely if the woman in the video above cause so much panic that the police turned up, what happens when he uses the women’s bathroom?

Well this is Michael Hughes and he is transgender, yes that means he was born a she and now laws like HB2 are forcing Michael to use women’s bathrooms…because that’s what religious freedom is all about, kicking our lesbians from the bathroom they have to use, and forcing men like Michael to use one they obviously should never be in.

Madness!

 

In a similar vein let me introduce you to Ella Giselle, she is 19 and was born male, she now, by law use the mens’ bathroom. I think that if one side of this conversation is allowed to use the “men with little girls’ scare tactic then I think it’s perfectly valid for me to ask “why you are forcing young, vulnerable women to use that bathroom with dirty, redneck truckers…are we not concerned for their safety?”

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The other more sinister side to this conversation is that what laws like HB2 allow is for a vulnerable sector of society, a sector of society that research shows over 40% attempt suicide compared to under 5% from society as a whole, to be put in a situation where they could be at their most vulnerable.

When using public restrooms the transgender individual is statistically the only one at risk of being attacked as research shows zero…that’s zero…reports of cis-gender people being harassed by transgender people using bathrooms for which they identify and, on top of that, “roughly 70% of trans people have reported being denied entrance, assaulted or harassed while trying to use a restroom,” according to a 2013 Williams Institute report.

So who is at risk with these so called bathroom laws? It’s not the ‘little girls’…it’s the transgender community.

I have a lot more to say about those who would like to bring in what I call “Yahria Law” (Christian Sharia Law) to the West, as you can imagine, when they look for ways to discriminate against minority groups within their society, but for today I wanted to highlight for you the ridiculous nature of laws like HB2 and how, to me at least, it’s now evidence that the lunatics are now running the asylum.

Bernie Sanders should get out of the race! Really???

So since Hilary Clinton won the NY Primary convincingly there has been chorus after chorus after chorus of Clinton campaigners, surrogates and supporters  calling for Bernie to drop out as it’s “mathematically impossible to win” which is both incorrect and hypocritical.

As you know from August of last year I have said that I thought Hilary Clinton would be the next President of the United States. but the rhetoric coming from the Clinton campaign is ridiculous.

So two charges aimed at Clinton supporters.

The first is that it’s mathematically impossible to win. No one is saying it’s now not improbable or unlikely for Sanders to win but impossible is a measurable statement that is pretty easy to dispute. If you don’t count super delegates, and you shouldn’t as none of them have voted yet, Bernie Sanders is currently 246 delegates behind Clinton and there are still 1668 delegates to be allocated to either Sanders of Clinton. For Sander to draw level on delegates before the convention he would need to win 957 of them to Clinton’s 711. That’s just over 57% of the remaining delegates. Improbable…but not impossible. That would then leave both candidates just over 200 delegates short of the majority needed which would then go to the super delegates. Unlikely, yes, but not impossible.

The second charge is the hypocrisy coming out of the Clinton camp. In 2008 when Hilary Clinton was running against Barack Obama, with Obama in the lead she refuse to suspend her campaign until June 7th and only when Obama had gathered enough delegates (including super delegates) to pass that majority number. Even with the delegates who have indicated they would go with Clinton (yet I say again haven’t officially cast their vote yet) she is still about 400 short of the mark. Sanders is also performing much stronger that Clinton was at the same time in 2008 when she refused to drop out.

So, whilst it seems the chips are certainly stacked against Bernie Sanders, he is very much still in the race and calling for him to get out is undemocratic, unconstitutional and hypocritical for anyone involved with the Clinton campaign.

 

Family First Distorts Facts Surrounding Venue Allowing Same-Sex Marriages

I read with interest an article on stuff.co.nz last week about Living Springs, a Christian venue in Christchurch, that has changed its position on allowing LGBTI couples to get married there. From the tenor of the article it seemed that the venue had come to this policy change in a sensible, rationale and logical way. The director, Denis Aldridge, was quoted saying, “we’ve been on a journey with this one, and we’ve got there… It took a while.”

Part of the journey involves a recent Human Rights Commission complaint against Living Springs after a lesbian couple were refused their request to hire the venue for their wedding. According to the article, Living Springs did not feel coerced by the Human Rights Commission to change their policy. In fact Elizabeth Wiltshire, one half of the couple who made the Human Rights Commission complaint, rang to speak to Aldridge after the change in policy. Wiltshire indicated that Aldridge seemed to be perfectly happy with the outcome.

“It was good, actually. I felt it was genuine. It wasn’t ‘Oh, we’ve had this unlawful policy and now you’re making us change it,’ [he was] very thankful,” she said, “It gave them a mandate to push for change.”

Fast forward one week and lobby group Family First distributes a press release headed “Function Centre Pressured to Allow Same-Sex Weddings.” The Press Release uses Living Springs as a reason to push the narrative that “Faith-based function centres” are being held hostage and forced into holding LGBTI marriages when they don’t feel they should have to. Family First also continues to make allegations that some in government said this would never happen which is factually incorrect as the opposite was clearly signalled at the time.

“If a church currently hires out their hall for money, they can’t discriminate against any group who chooses to hire out that hall.” Louisa Wall, Q&A.March 2013

I saw Family First’s Press Release on Facebook and it didn’t ring accurate to me after having read the stuff article. The change in Living Springs’ policy seemed more pragmatic than pressured. The conversation on the Facebook post ebbed and flowed between Living Springs and general negative comments about marriage equality. However anytime a contributor suggested the headline of the Press Release may be incorrect Family First director Bob McCoskrie pushed back with the idea that Living Springs “were certainly placed under pressure.”

This really didn’t add up to me, so I phoned Living Springs Director Denis Aldridge myself and requested a formal interview to use for elephantTV. It turns out Aldridge’s story is fascinating.

As a Pastor he was at the forefront of protests in Balclutha in 1986 opposing the Homosexual Law Reform Act. Since then he has been on what he describes as a “journey of thirty years”, where various people came into his life at different stages and challenged his perspective on what it means to be gay. Today Aldridge is an supporter for marriage equality. To have shifted from being someone who led the march against homosexual law reform to someone who is now ‘pro’ marriage equality is simply remarkable.

I wanted to clear up the most important claim by Family First that Living Springs was ‘pressured’ into changing their policy. Aldridge’s response was simple.

“It’s totally wrong and that didn’t come from us, that was the narrative that the guy that rung me wanted and I refuted it” he said. “The reality was [Living Springs] didn’t feel strongly that way, we’d actually come as an organisation [to the place where] we were seeing it, we believe, on a higher level and the higher level was ‘what would Jesus do?’”

Aldridge also made it clear that if they were to take what many Christians believe to be a “biblical interpretation” on marriage and reject marriage equality, then “we have to take a biblical line on re-marriage and divorced people” as well, given that the bible specifically denounces those forms of marriage.

Family First contacted Aldridge looking for comment on their change in policy prior to writing the press release and Aldridge wanted to make clear that he told Bob McCoskrie that they did not “feel coerced [into making the decision to change policy].”

“It’s actually that we have decided it’s the right thing to do” Aldridge said.

Aldridge feels as if Family First has purposely ignored their position.

”They obviously have an agenda, there’s a certain narrative that they wanted to hear and they’ve printed that narrative,” he stated.

Aldridge said they “weren’t pressured into [holding Same Sex marriages]” and they “don’t see it as capitulation.” The issue of Same Sex couples using the venue was already being spoken about at Living Springs, “we’d already had this conversation and that was the words I felt Bob [McCoskrie] was trying to put into my mouth that we were bullied into it, we answered that [we were not] but he’s gone ahead with that story anyways.”

Aldridge finished the interview with a challenge to us all, “I felt really proud of [Living Springs] in the end that we had, I suppose, the humility to say ‘well we haven’t always been right in this thing.’”

To clear up one issue with this whole thing. The law is clear, and it hasn’t changed since Same-Sex marriages were legalised. There is no ambiguity. If you hire a venue to the general public then you must abide by the Human Rights Act of 1993. This doesn’t allow discrimination in twelve main areas, one of which is ‘sexual orientation’. If you hire your venue to the general public for marriages, now that LGBTI couples can marry, then you cannot withhold the venue from them because of their sexual orientation. Prior to marriage equality, if your venue made itself available to the general public and that same LGBTI couple wanted to use it for a birthday party, or a baby dedication, or any kind of celebration that you’d hire it to any heterosexual person for, you also couldn’t refuse them because of their sexual orientation. There is no difference in the law.

I gave Family First the opportunity to retract or correct their statement about Living Springs informing them of the interview I had conducted and the information that came from that interview. They have refused to do so. It is now unequivocally clear that Living Springs were not ‘pressured’ or ‘bullied’ or ‘forced’ into making this policy change. They chose to, and were happy to change.

The full unedited interview with Denis Aldridge is below.

 

Update: 15/04/2016, 3.30pm

I’ve just been contacted by one of the people who I asked to speak to Bob McCoskrie from Family First claiming there is an inaccuracy in the post which I obviously want to correct. Bob maintains that the phrase “he declined to meet with them.” is inaccurate. Bob’s supposition is that the emails between them may be seen as a meeting and, as it was obvious that my representatives were going to support my position of challenging Family First, he felt there was no need to speak about the issue any further.

So, just to be perfectly clear, Bob did exchange emails with the people I asked to meet with him, in which he defended his position and said that there was no reason to meet.

There was no challenge to the accuracy of any of the other information I have provided in the post by either Bob McCoskrie or Family First.

What Bernie Sanders needs to do to win

Bernie Sanders has the momentum. He has won 6 primaries in a row and 7 of the last 8. Yesterday he received 80% of the millennial vote in the  Wisconsin Primary and there is a ground swell coming the likes of which American politics has never seen. With all this, it is still an uphill battle that most commemorators don’t think he will be able to climb to get that nomination for the Democratic Party to take on the Republicans in November.

He needs more

That ‘more’ comes in the Democratic Senator from Massachusetts, Elizabeth Warren who many believe will eventually come out to support Sanders but is currently keeping her powder very, very dry.

Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren need to come together and announce that she would be his running mate should he be elected as the nominee. She answers many of the questions that are being asked about with Bernie Sanders including the most recent “is he a Democrat anyways?” by Hilary Clinton. Any women still sticking with Hillary Clinton because she is a woman would then also have the opportunity to take the gender difference out of the equation as both sides would be breaking the glass ceiling for women on some level.

The usual process of nominating a running mate happens in either July or August so this would be an unconventional step for the Sanders campaign to take but one needs to ask what about this Sanders campaign has been conventional to date. It could also be a risky step for Warren to take as if Sanders does not get the nomination she may well be in the wilderness in a Clinton presidency.

Sanders has the momentum, Clinton currently has the numbers but watch this space.

 

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