Trump wants to “totally destroy” the Johnson Amendment barring religious groups from politics

  • At the National Prayer Breakfast on Thursday,  Trump vowed to “destroy” the Johnson Amendment – a tax provision designed to help maintain the separation of church and state.
  • The Johnson Amendment prohibits organizations like churches and charities from participating in campaigns for or against specific political candidates under threat of losing their tax-exempt status.
  • Trump has not said how he plans to scrap the Johnson Amendment, but doing so would allow religious leaders to endorse candidates from the pulpit and churches to pour money into campaigns. Read more

ACLU will sue over Trump’s “religious freedom” executive order

  • The American Civil Liberties Union announced Thursday that it plans to sue Trump over a recently signed executive order allowing religious organizations to endorse political candidates.
  • In the statement, ACLU executive director Anthony D. Romero said the executive action served as a “broadside to our country’s longstanding commitment to the separation of church and state.”
  • “Whether by executive order or through backroom deals, it’s clear that the Trump administration and congressional leadership are using religion as a wedge to further divide the country and permit discrimination,” he said. "We intend to file suit today.“
  • In addition to giving religious leaders more political freedom, the executive order, called "Promoting Free Speech and Religious Liberty,” also provides “regulatory relief” for religious organizations that object to an Affordable Care Act mandate that forces employers to provide health coverage, including contraception, according to CNN. Read more (5/4/17)

Satanists are putting up the first public Satanic monument in the US

  • Satanists in the United States are finally getting their very first public monument — in the small city of Belle Plaine, Minnesota.
  • The Satanic Temple won the right to erect a monument in Belle Plaine’s Veterans Memorial Park after the city put up a memorial statue featuring a cross, the Star Tribune reported in April. 
  • Some residents complained about having a religious symbol on public property, so city officials decided to remove the cross from the statue.
  • That removal, though, launched a slew of other complaints — so, as a compromise, officials reinstated the cross but also decided to open up a “free speech zone” in the park which will accommodate up to ten “temporary memorials” provided they honor veterans.
  • That’s when the Satanic Temple, headquartered in Salem, Massachusetts, decided to get in on the action and erect their own veterans memorial. Read more (5/5/17)
On The Cost Of Housing

I saw on social media today Yet Another Handwringing Op-Ed on how housing is very expensive and how this is screwing over the millennials.

These posts always frustrate me. They always follow the same format:

  • Housing costs are really high relative to historical prices
  • Millennials are now fucked
  • Why is this happening?
  • Grasping at straws attempt to explain this using authors favourite pet policy issue; OR
  • Tortured attempt to lay all blame on singular object level event
  • High-visibility-low-impact solution that does not address root cause

Guys, what would you say if I told you that the reason why housing is so expensive now is trivial and obvious? Would you believe me? Here, let’s try:

The reason housing is so expensive is because we’ve spent the last 50 years aggressively and intentionally pursuing policies designed to make housing more expensive.

It’s that simple. Like, politicians openly brag about doing this. It is the single biggest political issue in most city governments.

I’m not trying to be clever. I’m not spinning something in a way that supports my story. I’m not saying “we did this” in the same way, say, church people say “The state brags about murder” because of abortion or whatever.

The single biggest issue I can think of in city politics, generally, is when existing residents demand policy to “maintain or increase property values”. THIS LITERALLY MEANS MAKING HOUSING MORE EXPENSIVE. That is all that means. If a piece of property costs $100,000, and you propose policies that increase its property value to $200,000, you have literally and by definition doubled the cost of housing.

In US & Canada, policies to “increase property values” have been aggressively pushed. Hell, people love this so much that it’s used to dubiously justify all sorts of things with only tangential relationship to property values at all. We’ve been doing this ever since we started viewing homeownership as an investment.

We stimulate investment demand in homes, through subsidized loans and tax incentives. Demand goes up, price goes up. Then we have people sinking a large majority of their life savings into that property. Nobody wants to risk their life savings, so a social expectation that this number always goes up, never goes down sets in. Then, given that homeowners comprise a majority of the electorate, they have the political clout to push for policies that continue this trend.

We’ve spent the last 50 years aggressively pushing for property values to rise, promoting political policies that support this while torpedoing ones with the opposite effect. And now we’re confused that property prices are too high? Come on. What did you think would happen?

Marawi Siege update (from what I’ve heard in the news):

  • 42 teachers that were held hostage have been rescued by government troops.
  • No news yet about the status of the priest and other civilian parishioners (2 of which were students) who were taken from St. Mary Church.
  • A teacher from Mindanao State University has also been held hostage.
  • The spreading news about the 3 beheaded teachers also remained unconfirmed.
  • Marawi residents are now being evacuated from the area.
  • Whole Mindanao is under Martial Law for 60 days.
  • 2 soldiers and 1 police officer were killed and 12 more are wounded from Marawi clash (please pray for them and their families). 
  • Davao is no longer on lockdown but is under “hold-and-secure-situation”. 
  • Metro Manila is now on full alert as well. 
  • Marawi City Jail, St. Mary’s Church, Ninoy Aquino School and Dansalan College were all burned down by the militants
  • 107 inmates were freed from the City Jail.

 Additional note: Marawi was NOT attacked by ISIS but by local terrorist groups Maute and Abu Sayyaf. Maute group is known supporter of ISIS but no confirmed direct link with the ISIS. 

Lastly, to everyone in Marawi City and the whole Mindanao. You are in my thoughts and prayers. Be strong. Be safe.

Before writing Dune I was a speech writer for a United States Senator with two offices in Washington DC. I’ve been right on the inside of the apple so I know what’s going on back there. I am a political animal and I never really left journalism, I’m writing about current events and the metaphors are there. I’m writing about the political ecology, the religious ecology, social ecology and the physical ecology of our world. And I think you do not separate any one part of this from the other. You don’t separate mind and body and understand the human being and therefore you don’t separate any of these elements and understand what’s going on in our world. We fondly say in the United States that we separate church and state, that’s an asinine statement. There’s nothing more emotional than religion. There’s nothing more emotionally demanding than religion because it is the promise of survival, you can’t take that out of politics. You get heated emotions, aroused. I am a political animal and that’s what I’m writing about, I’m writing about the economic ecology, the politics of all these things that influence our lives.
—  Frank Herbert interview on Dune, ecology & politics