It’s All Just Beginning ~ The Point Magazine

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Though mild, I have what I am fairly sure are the symptoms of coronavirus. Three weeks ago I was in extended and close contact with someone who has since tested positive. When I learned this, I spent some time trying to figure out how to get tested myself, but now the last thing I want to do is to go stand in a line in front of a Brooklyn hospital along with others who also have symptoms. My wife and I have not been outside our apartment since March 10th. We have opened the door just three times since then, to receive groceries that had been left for us by an unseen deliveryman, as per our instructions, on the other side. We read of others going on walks, but that seems like a selfish extravagance when you have a dry cough and a sore throat. This is the smallest apartment I’ve ever lived in. I am noticing features of it, and of the trees, the sky and the light outside our windows, that escaped my attention—shamefully, it now seems—over the first several months since we arrived here in August. I know when we finally get out I will be like the protagonist of Halldór Laxness’s stunning novel, World Light, who, after years of bedridden illness, weeps when he bids farewell to all the knots and grooves in the wood beams of his attic ceiling.

I am not at all certain that my university in Paris will be open for business when it comes time to reinstitute my salary in June, which I had voluntarily suspended in order to take a year-long fellowship in New York. I am not at all sure that a few months from now the world is going to be the sort of place where a citizen of one country can expect to resume his public function in another country’s education system. I am not at all sure universities are going to be the sort of place where one can, again, get together with others in a room and deign to speak with them of what is beautiful and true. Meanwhile, my mother is in cancer treatment in California, and I fear I may never see her again. Until a few days ago my sister, a glacial marine geoscientist, was stuck in unexpectedly thick ice, on an icebreaker too small to break it, in the ocean somewhere off the coast of Antarctica; now her international crew is floating again, uncertain how they will get back to the Northern Hemisphere in a world of quarantines, closed borders and canceled flights, but still just happy to be back on the open sea. My wife is here with me on a tourist visa that will soon expire. We do not know what things will be like in New York when that happens, or whether there might be an exemption for foreigners who overstay their visas only because they are unable to leave what might by then be a fully locked-down city. She has an elderly grandmother in Europe. Should she leave now to be with her, while she still can and while her papers are still valid? What would become of me, if she were to go?

These are some of the questions we find ourselves asking right now. They are not exceptional, among the billions of small tragedies this pandemic has churned up. But they are mine. I have often wondered what life would be like for the survivors of a nuclear war, and in these fleeting recollections of the old world—there used to be Starbucks and barber shops, there used to be a subway I’d get on to go to the library, there used to be embrassades—I feel like I am gaining a small glimpse of that.

I find that I am generally at peace, and that the balance between happiness and sadness on any given day is little different from what it always has been for me. I find that there is liberation in this suspension of more or less everything. In spite of it all, we are free now. Any fashion, sensibility, ideology, set of priorities, worldview or hobby that you acquired prior to March 2020, and that may have by then started to seem to you cumbersome, dull, inauthentic, a drag: you are no longer beholden to it. You can cast it off entirely and no one will care; likely, no one will notice. Were you doing something out of mere habit, conceiving your life in a way that seemed false to you? You can stop doing that now. We have little idea what the world is going to look like when we get through to the other side of this, but it is already perfectly clear that the “discourses” of our society, such as they had developed up to about March 8 or 9, 2020, in all their frivolity and distractiousness, have been decisively curtailed, like the CO2 emissions from the closed factories and the vacated highways.

~~~  CONTINUE  ~~~


A Silent Spring Is Saying Something

The eerie inhumanity of Donald Trump.


Opinion Columnist

Credit…Damon Winter/The New York Times

This is the silent spring. The planet has gone quiet, so quiet you can almost hear it whirling around the sun, feel its smallness, picture for once the loneliness and fleetingness of being alive.

This is the spring of fears. A scratchy throat, a sniffle, and the mind races. I see a single rat ambling around at dusk on Front Street in Brooklyn, a garbage bag ripped open by a dog, and experience an apocalyptic vision of vermin and filth.

Scattered masked pedestrians on empty streets look like the survivors of a neutron bomb. A pathogen about one-thousandth the width of a human hair, the spiky-crowned new coronavirus, has upended civilization and unleashed the imagination.

From my window, gazing across the East River, I see a car pass now and then on F.D.R. Drive. The volume of traffic reminds me of standing on the Malecón, the seafront promenade in Havana, a dozen years ago and watching a couple of cars a minute pass. But that was Cuba and those were finned ’50s beauties!

It is time of total reset. In France, there’s a website to indicate to people the one-kilometer radius from their homes in which they are permitted to exercise. That’s one measure of everyone’s shrunken worlds.

Yet, to write, to read, to cook, to reflect in silence, to walk the dog (until it braces its legs against moving because it’s walked too much), to adapt to a single space, to forsake the frenetic, to contemplate a stilled world, may be to open a space for individual growth. Something has shifted. The earth has struck back. Exacting breathlessness, it has asserted its demand to breathe.

From animal to human the virus jumps, as if to demonstrate the indivisibility of life and death on a small planet. The technology perfected for the rich to globalize their advantages has also created the perfect mechanism for globalizing the panic that sends portfolios into a free fall.

Do things differently at the other end of this scourge, some mystic voice murmurs, do them more equitably, more ecologically, with greater respect for the environment, or you will be smitten again. Next time the internet will collapse. The passage from real world to virtual world to no world will then be complete.

It is not easy to resist such thoughts, and perhaps they should not be resisted, for that would be to learn nothing.

Speaking of rats, Camus’s “The Plague” is out of stock on Amazon, as the world awakens to the novel’s eternal reminder “that the plague bacillus never dies or vanishes entirely, that it can remain dormant for dozens of years in furniture or clothing, that it waits patiently in bedrooms, cellars, trunks, handkerchiefs and old papers, and that perhaps the day will come when, for the instruction or misfortune of mankind, the plague will rouse its rats and send them to die in some well-contented city.”

The book was published in 1947, two years after the political plague of Fascism had been vanquished with the loss of tens of millions of lives. Camus’s warning was political. The virus returns as inevitably as the psychotic leader with mesmeric mythmaking talents.

In an election year, it has been impossible to witness the mixture of total incompetence, devouring egotism and eerie inhumanity with which President Trump has responded to the Covid-19 pandemic and not fear some form of corona-coup. Panic and disorientation are precisely the elements on which the would-be dictator feasts. The danger of an American autocratic lurch in 2020 is as great as the virus itself.

This is Trump’s world now: scattered, incoherent, unscientific, nationalist. Not a word of compassion does he have for America’s stricken Italian ally (instead the United States quietly asks Italy for nasal swabs flown into Memphis by the U.S. Air Force). Not a word from a United Nations Security Council bereft of American leadership. Not a word of plain simple decency, the quality Camus most prized. In their place, neediness, pettiness and boastfulness. The only index Trump comprehends is the Dow.

I have experienced physical shock in recent weeks watching leaders like Angela Merkel in Germany, Justin Trudeau in Canada and Emmanuel Macron in France speak about the pandemic. We Americans do not grasp how insidiously Trump has accustomed us to malignancy. A germophobe, he has spread the germ of untruth.

That self-satisfied, nasal and plaintive presidential voice has become a norm. And so merely to hear a sane, caring, scientific response to the virus from other leaders is riveting and reorienting.

The mother of all crises has met the ne plus ultra of presidential ineptitude. “We have it totally under control,” the president says in January. “One day — it’s like a miracle it will disappear,” is the refrain in February. “I don’t take responsibility at all,” Trump declares in March. He has a good “feeling” about malaria drugs whose efficacy against the virus is untested. He is all over the place on China. And now, against widespread medical advice, and the protests of desperate governors, he wants the United States “opened up and just raring to go by Easter,” in a couple of weeks.

I don’t blame Trump entirely for America’s unpreparedness. The American health care system has long been a colossal study in waste. But I do blame Trump for wasting a couple of months in denialism that reminded me of Thabo Mbeki and his criminal dismissal of AIDS in South Africa. I blame him for then leaving state and local governments to fend for themselves, mobilizing federal resources belatedly, weakly and inconsistently. And I blame him for the small-minded America First obsession that made it impossible for him to learn from other countries.

I blame Trump for the fact that my son-in-law, a physician on the front line at Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta, was for weeks unable to test his patients or himself for infection and still faces shortages. I blame him for the disappearance from view of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, America’s foremost agency for fighting infectious disease, now forced to kowtow to Trump’s ego. In this president’s view, the limelight exists for him alone.

The lessons are in plain view. The countries that have fared best are those that have been fastest to test, track and isolate areas of infection, giving them a good idea of the size of the outbreak and the best means to flatten the curve of its spread. Look at South Korea or Germany.

Trump’s United States lost a couple of months. It then tried in the absence of any detailed data to quarantine everyone. That works in Wuhan and a surveillance state but not in a nation of individualists wedded to the idea of self-sufficiency. The test-isolate-track moment was lost. The results have been predictably poor. The economy went into a nose-dive that, a $2-trillion stimulus package notwithstanding, could lead to a depression. And many more could die destitute.

Polls say Trump’s popularity has edged up a little since the virus struck. The best way to think of that is he’s still a singularly unpopular wartime president. He is beatable. So is the virus, if America puts its shoulder to the wheel with seriousness of purpose.

In “The Plague,” the doctor at the center of the novel, Bernard Rieux, reacts to the pestilence with active fatalism. He treats everyone, even the dying, with equal attention. He is asked by a journalist to define decency and responds that he cannot in a general sense but knows that for him “it consists of doing my job.”

I have been on leave working on a novel. In these times, one may be tempted to ask, why be a journalist if one merely hurls countless words into a gale of stupidity that sweeps them away? The answer, I think, is that the words are not pointless, even if they may be ineffective in the moment.

They are not pointless any more than Rieux’s efforts are, or the acts of defiance against murderous totalitarianism that lead straight to summary execution for their authors.

“The only way to fight the plague is with decency,” Camus writes. Because decency in the face of pestilence redeems not just the individual acting in this way, but all of humanity. The virus, and it is both pathogenic and political today, requires everyone to defeat it. Without relenting, however hopeless the effort may seem. As Camus writes elsewhere, “One must imagine Sisyphus happy.”

In this silent spring, the forsythia has bloomed and the magnolia buds are bursting. Nature, as Rachel Carson chronicled in her “Silent Spring,” published 58 years ago, is telling us something.

The Road to Coronavirus Hell Was Paved by Evangelicals

Trump’s response to the pandemic has been haunted by the science denialism of his ultraconservative religious allies.


Ms. Stewart is the author of “The Power Worshippers: Inside the Dangerous Rise of Religious Nationalism.”

Credit…Tom Brenner/Reuters

Donald Trump rose to power with the determined assistance of a movement that denies science, bashes government and prioritized loyalty over professional expertise. In the current crisis, we are all reaping what that movement has sown.

At least since the 19th century, when the proslavery theologian Robert Lewis Dabney attacked the physical sciences as “theories of unbelief,” hostility to science has characterized the more extreme forms of religious nationalism in the United States. Today, the hard core of climate deniers is concentrated among people who identify as religiously conservative Republicans. And some leaders of the Christian nationalist movement, like those allied with the Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation, which has denounced environmental science as a “Cult of the Green Dragon,” cast environmentalism as an alternative — and false — theology.

This denial of science and critical thinking among religious ultraconservatives now haunts the American response to the coronavirus crisis. On March 15, Guillermo Maldonado, who calls himself an “apostle” and hosted Mr. Trump earlier this year at a campaign event at his Miami megachurch, urged his congregants to show up for worship services in person. “Do you believe God would bring his people to his house to be contagious with the virus? Of course not,” he said.

Rodney Howard-Browne of The River at Tampa Bay Church in Florida mocked people concerned about the disease as “pansies” and insisted he would only shutter the doors to his packed church “when the rapture is taking place.” In a sermon that was live-streamed on Facebook, Tony Spell, a pastor in Louisiana, said, “We’re also going to pass out anointed handkerchiefs to people who may have a fear, who may have a sickness and we believe that when those anointed handkerchiefs go, that healing virtue is going to go on them as well.”

By all accounts, President Trump’s tendency to trust his gut over the experts on issues like vaccines and climate change does not come from any deep-seated religious conviction. But he is perfectly in tune with the religious nationalists who form the core of his base. In his daily briefings from the White House, Mr. Trump actively disdains and contradicts the messages coming from his own experts and touts as yet unproven cures.

Not every pastor is behaving recklessly, of course, and not every churchgoer in these uncertain times is showing up for services out of disregard for the scientific evidence. Far from it. Yet none of the benign uses of religion in this time of crisis have anything to do with Mr. Trump’s expressed hope that the country would be “opened up and just raring to go by Easter.” He could, of course, have said, “by mid-April.” But Mr. Trump did not invoke Easter by accident, and many of his evangelical allies were pleased by his vision of “packed churches all over our country.”

“I think it would be a beautiful time,” the president said.

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Religious nationalism has brought to American politics the conviction that our political differences are a battle between absolute evil and absolute good. When you’re engaged in a struggle between the “party of life” and the “party of death,” as some religious nationalists now frame our political divisions, you don’t need to worry about crafting careful policy based on expert opinion and analysis. Only a heroic leader, free from the scruples of political correctness, can save the righteous from the damned. Fealty to the cause is everything; fidelity to the facts means nothing. Perhaps this is why many Christian nationalist leaders greeted the news of the coronavirus as an insult to their chosen leader.

In an interview on March 13 on “Fox & Friends,” Jerry Falwell Jr., the president of Liberty University, called the response to Coronavirus “hype” and “overreacting.” “You know, impeachment didn’t work, and the Mueller report didn’t work, and Article 25 didn’t work, and so maybe now this is their next, ah, their next attempt to get Trump,” he said.

When Rev. Spell in Louisiana defied an order from Gov. John Bel Edwards and hosted in-person services for over 1,000 congregants, he asserted the ban was “politically motivated.” Figures like the anti-L.G.B.T. activist Steve Hotze added to the chorus, denouncingthe concern as — you guessed it — “fake news.”

One of the first casualties of fact-free hyper-partisanship is competence in government. The incompetence of the Trump administration in grappling with this crisis is by now well known, at least among those who receive actual news. February 2020 will go down in history as the month in which the United States, in painful contrast with countries like South Korea and Germany, failed to develop the mass testing capability that might have saved many lives. Less well known is the contribution of the Christian nationalist movement in ensuring that our government is in the hands of people who appear to be incapable of running it well.

Consider the case of Alex Azar, who as secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services has had a prominent role in mismanaging the crisis. It seems likely at this point that Mr. Azar’s signature achievement will have been to rebrand his department as the “Department of Life.” Or maybe he will be remembered for establishing a division of Conscience and Religious Freedom, designed to permit health care providers to deny legal and often medically indicated health care services to certain patients as a matter of religious conscience.

Mr. Azar, a “cabinet sponsor” of Capitol Ministries, the Bible study group attended by multiple members of Mr. Trump’s cabinet, brought with him to Health and Human Services an immovable conviction in the righteousness of the pharmaceutical industry (presumably formed during his five-year stint as an executive and lobbyist in the business), a willingness to speak in the most servile way about “the courage” and “openness to change” of Mr. Trump, and a commitment to anti-abortion politics, abstinence educationand other causes of the religious right. What he did not bring, evidently, was any notable ability to manage a pandemic. Who would have guessed that a man skilled at praising Mr. Trump would not be the top choice for organizing the development of a virus testing program, the delivery of urgently needed protective gear to health care workers or a plan for augmenting hospital capabilities?

Or consider Ben Carson, the secretary of Housing and Urban Development, a member of the White House Coronavirus Task Force and another “cabinet sponsor” of Capitol Ministries. As a former pediatric neurosurgeon, Mr. Carson brought more knowledge about medicine to his post than knowledge about housing issues. But that medical knowledge didn’t stop him from asserting on March 8 that for the “healthy individual” thinking of attending one of Mr. Trump’s then-ongoing large-scale campaign rallies, “there’s no reason that you shouldn’t go.”

It is fair to point out that the failings of the Trump administration in the current pandemic are at least as attributable to its economic ideology as they are to its religious inclinations. When the so-called private sector is supposed to have the answer to every problem, it’s hard to deal effectively with the very public problem of a pandemic and its economic consequences. But if you examine the political roots of the life-threatening belief in the privatization of everything, you’ll see that Christian nationalism played a major role in creating and promoting the economic foundations of America’s incompetent response to the pandemic.

For decades, Christian nationalist leaders have lined up with the anti-government, anti-tax agenda not just as a matter of politics but also as a matter of theology. Ken Blackwell of the Family Research Council, one of the Christian right’s major activist groups, has gone so far as to cast food stamps and other forms of government assistance for essential services as contrary to the “biblical model.” Limited government, according to this line of thinking, is “godly government.”

When a strong centralized response is needed from the federal government, it doesn’t help to have an administration that has never believed in a federal government serving the public good. Ordinarily, the consequences of this kind of behavior don’t show up for some time. In the case of a pandemic, the consequences are too obvious to ignore.

‘My Friends Can’t Get Their Nails Done,’ Fox News Host Laments ~ “the hardships of the rich/entitled and unaware” rŌbert

“All my friends are saying — this is not a priority, people are dying, and I realize that — but they can’t get their nails done,” Fox and Friends host Ainsley Earhardt said

Fox News Host Says Friends Can’t Get Their Nails Done During Coronavirus

Fox News

On the day the federal government reported that a record-breaking 3.3 million Americans had filed for unemployment and as the number of confirmed coronaviruscases grew to the tens of thousands, Fox & Friends host Ainsley Earhardt bravely gave voice to the real victims of this crisis: consumers who can no longer access salon services.

On Thursday, Earhardt began by saying that America is moving in the right direction in dealing with the spread of COVID-19, but quickly qualified the unsubstantiated statement by adding “hopefully.”

“Every day, we’re talking about different topics, because we’re moving in, hopefully, the direction of getting where China is now, or South Korea is now, and just getting some improvement,” Earhardt said.

The host spoke about some of the inconveniences she’s faced while deciding not to return to her home in New York City, which has become the epicenter of the U.S. coronavirus outbreak, like retrieving mail and “bills stacking up at my apartment, we gotta think about those things.” Earhardt continued, “If you bought clothing before all this happened if you want to return it, are stores gonna waive that 30-day period where you can get your money back?”

“This is not a priority, but women have to get their hair done. I saw someone tweet out, ‘You’re going to see what color our real hair is, because our roots are going to grow in.’ All my friends are saying — this is not a priority, people are dying, and I realize that — but they can’t get their nails done,” she said.

Earhardt decided to champion a cause that is real. But instead of focusing on those who are being hit with job losses and businesses having to close in the salon industry, she voiced her concerns about the services “all of her friends” are missing out o

The activities Earhardt discussed — along with others luxuries like going to a gym — have obvious mental and physical benefits during this difficult time. But the frame through which Earhardt and her co-hosts view the shutdown is telling about whom the Fox & Friends hosts count as their friends. At a time when U.S. unemployment claims are shattering the all-time record, the hosts focused on people for whom the health of the economy is a question of access to convenience and luxury, not of paying rent or keeping food on the table. That may help explain why the program’s hosts and guests are so consistently oblivious to the reality of living in poverty in the United States.

Discussing convenience and luxury is all the more absurd when you broaden your view past economics to the health consequences of the coronavirus pandemic.

Hours before Earhardt shared her hair-and-nail thoughts, the New York Times released a harrowing video of a doctor inside an emergency room in Elmhurst, Queens, in New York City. Dr. Colleen Smith told the Times that she hears “from leaders of various offices from the president [Trump] to the head of [NYC’s] Health and Hospitals saying things like, ‘We’re going to be fine. Everything is fine.’” Smith continued, “And from our perspective, everything is not fine. I don’t have the support that I need. And even just the materials, that I need physically to take care of my patients.”

“And it’s America. And we’re supposed to be a first-world country,” Smith added.

If Fox News weren’t constantly cheerleading for President Trump, a quote like Smith’s might lead every program on the flag-waving network. But instead, viewers get to hear about the small inconveniences caused by a pandemic that is affecting the hosts and their friends.


Screen Shot 2020-03-26 at 6.08.14 PM.pngI just found this website and know nothing about it.. Read at your own risk and make up your mind..  rŌbert

RALPH DROLLINGER, a minister who leads a weekly Bible study group for President Donald Trump’s cabinet, released a new interpretation of the coronavirus pandemic this week, arguing that the crisis represents an act of God’s judgment.

The coronavirus, Drollinger argues in two blog posts and a rambling Bible study guide published in the past few days, is a form of God’s wrath upon nations, but not one as severe as the floods described in the Old Testament or the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah.

“Relative to the coronavirus pandemic crisis, this is not God’s abandonment wrath nor His cataclysmic wrath, rather it is sowing and reaping wrath,” wrote Drollinger. “A biblically astute evaluation of the situation strongly suggests that America and other countries of the world are reaping what China has sown due to their leaders’ recklessness and lack of candor and transparency.”

Neither does he miss a chance to condemn those who worship the “religion of environmentalism” and express a “proclivity toward lesbianism and homosexuality.” These individuals, Drollinger argues in “Is God Judging America Today?”, one of the minister’s posts about coronavirus pandemic, have infiltrated “high positions in our government, our educational system, our media and our entertainment industry” and “are largely responsible for God’s consequential wrath on our nation.”

In the Bible study, Drollinger meanders through scripture, explaining the ways in which God may have caused the coronavirus. In a footnote, he hedges on his previous argument that the virus represents a mild form of God’s wrath, noting that, “We’ll soon see a human cure for the coronavirus.”

Drollinger’s evangelical lessons are carefully catered to conservative ideology, with a focus on interpreting current events through a partisan lens.

Drollinger, reached by phone, referred questions to his foundation’s press line. Capitol Ministries, the nonprofit founded by Drollinger that hosts his Bible study, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The Drollinger-led Bible study meets every Wednesday morning with members of Trump’s cabinet, including Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, and Health Secretary Alex Azar. Carson and Azar, notably, are members of the coronavirus task force guiding the federal government response to the pandemic.

Vice President Mike Pence, a member of the task force and a listed host of Capitol Ministries, is also tied to the Bible study. Emails obtained by Gizmodo show administration officials coordinating with Drollinger’s group to schedule a session of the Bible study, including the possibility of hosting the weekly event in Pence’s West Wing office.

At least 52 GOP lawmakers also participate in a Capitol Hill version of Drollinger’s Bible study, which meets on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Sponsors of the event include House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., and Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., the second-ranking GOP lawmaker in the Senate.

The evangelical lessons are carefully catered to conservative ideology, with a focus on interpreting current events through a partisan lens. Drollinger’s study guides have provided biblical justification for the Trump administration’s undocumented immigrant child separation policies and arguments in favor of lower taxes on the wealthy.

Bible study guides from Capitol Ministries distributed to politicians also claim that “Islam and its Koran are nothing more than a plagiarism of OT truths,” a reference to the Old Testament and, in all caps, declare: “NOT EVERY MUSLIM IS A TERRORIST BUT EVERY INTERNATIONAL TERRORIST IN RECENT HISTORY HAS BEEN A MUSLIM.”

A former college basketball player, Drollinger has spent much of the last 24 years involved in fusing politics with religion. Danielle Drollinger, the minister’s spouse, once ran a political action committee designed to elect conservative Christians to office in California. Drollinger eventually formed a Christian ministry focused on cultivating political leaders in Sacramento.

For many years, Drollinger operated on the fringes. In 2004, the San Diego Union-Tribune reported that many California Republicans resented the presence of Drollinger’s group, which preached that the Bible opposed women working outside the home. “It’s the world’s largest false religion,” said Drollinger, describing his view of Catholicism, in an interview with the paper.

In recent years, Capitol Ministries has since experienced dramatic growth, having been largely embraced by mainstream members of the Republican Party. In 2010, Drollinger launched his Washington, D.C., chapter, which quickly gained a following among right-wing lawmakers such as then-Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn. The organization, focused on conservative Christian outreach to political leadership, has expanded to 20 state legislatures and now capitals in Mexico, Honduras, Brazil, and Ecuador, among other international affiliations.

In his book “Rebuilding America: The Biblical Blueprint,” Drollinger laid out his vision to “reach all the capitals of the world for Christ.” “We have a goal of 200 ministries in 200 federal capitals around the world,” Brian Hanson, an official at Capitol Ministries, told the New York Times.

The organization’s latest annual report touts endorsement quotes from a series of prominent GOP lawmakers.

“I do absolutely believe in the advancement of this ministry worldwide,” wrote Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla.

Republican Sen. Joni Ernst offered even more effusive praise.

“Getting together with my Senate colleagues for Bible study is a highlight of my week,” wrote the Iowa senator. “It’s a time where we can shut out all the partisan noise and focus on what matters most, our faith. Without the work of Capitol Ministries®, this wouldn’t be possible.”


Soldiers around the world get a new mission: Enforcing coronavirus lockdowns ~ The Washington Post

Pakistani soldiers in masks stand guard Monday on a deserted street in Sindh province, where authorities ordered the closing of markets and public spaces and banned large gatherings.
Pakistani soldiers in masks stand guard Monday on a deserted street in Sindh province, where authorities ordered the closing of markets and public spaces and banned large gatherings. (Rizwan Tabassum/Afp Via Getty Images)

A troublemaker with a gavel ~ The Washington Post

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MARCH 25, 2020

A few dozen people gathered one early March evening at the National Museum of American History to celebrate the opening of a new exhibition marking the centennial of women’s suffrage.

Collected in the glass cases are the artifacts of a long, arduous road to political empowerment:

A red silk shawl worn by Susan B. Anthony as she plied the hallways of the Capitol arguing for the right to vote.

A palm-sized campaign card from the 1916 campaign of Montana’s Jeannette Rankin, who became the first woman elected to Congress.

The brown felt hat that Bella Abzug wore at the 1977 National Women’s Conference in Houston, where some 2,000 delegates declared: “We demand as a human right a full voice and role for women in determining the destiny of our world, our national, our families and our individual lives.”

Another item on display: the gavel used to call the U.S. House to order on Jan. 4, 2007.

The speaker who wielded that gavel on that day was, for the first time, a woman. Though Nancy Pelosi does not lack for self-confidence, she rarely indulges in public self-reflection. On that night at the Smithsonian, however, she gave a nod to those who had paved the way for her.

“The women who did all of this — oh my gosh — we revere them. We hold them up as icons. But what we hear people say is, ‘Yes, they were icons. You are troublemakers.’ They were considered troublemakers in their time, so maybe there is a future for all of us,” Pelosi said with a laugh. “But I can just tell you, a troublemaker with a gavel — that’s the real difference.”

A few days after Trump’s inauguration, his combative chief strategist Stephen K. Bannon took the measure of the then-House minority leader at a meeting in the White House dining room. Trump had begun the session by repeating his fantastical claim that he would have won the popular vote in 2016 had it not been for millions of fraudulent ballots cast on Hillary Clinton’s behalf.

“There’s no evidence to support what you just said,” Pelosi said sharply.“And if we’re going to work together, we have to stipulate to a certain set of facts.”

“She’s going to get us,” Bannon whispered to colleagues. “Total assassin. She’s a total assassin.”

A woman about to enter her ninth decade has become a warrior-heroine to the social-media generation. It seems that her every gesture toward Trump conveys a message of contempt. When he gave his 2019 State of the Union address, she offered stiff-armed, mocking applause. Right after he delivered it this year, she gracelessly ripped up her copy of what she called “a manifesto of mistruths.”

At times, even Pelosi seems taken aback by the frenzy she can trigger. After she got the better of the president during a meeting in late 2018, the Internet was ignited by an image of her striding triumphantly from the White House in a fire-colored coat. It created such a sensation that fashion house Max Mara scrambled to put the design from its 2012 collection back on the market again for $2,990. “You know, it’s a funny thing because none of it was planned or intentional. I only wore that orange coat because it was clean,” Pelosi recalled. “Now, I can barely wear it because it’s a meme.”

Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) and then-House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) leave the West Wing of the White House in December 2018. (Andrew Harnik/AP)



She understands the significance that such moments convey, especially for many women. “When I was speaker before, I rarely paid attention to the accoutrements of power. I was just busy being a legislator. This time, people seem to know more about what the speaker is — well, for whatever reason — and maybe social media has made that clear to people,” she said. “But as I say to the women, nobody ever gives away power. If you want to achieve that, you go for it. But when you get it, you must use it.”

In nearly every major negotiation between the executive and the legislative branches, Pelosi remains the lone female at the table where the biggest decisions are made. Still, the gains that she has seen women make over the course of her political career have been enormous. When Pelosi arrived in the House in 1987, a freshman at the age of 47, there were barely two dozen women among its 435 members. Now, in part thanks to her efforts, there are more than 100.

But even as these victories are celebrated, they remind us that no woman has yet to climb to the top. “My disappointment is that every time I’m introduced as the most powerful woman in American history, it breaks my heart because I think we should have a president,” she said. “We could have had a female president, and we should and we will.”

It is therefore instructive to recall that Pelosi’s own rise was not one that anyone — starting with the speaker herself — would have foreseen. Life has a way of making a joke of the plans that we devise for ourselves. Only in the rear-view mirror can we see how choices and chances pave a road we could never have imagined.


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