Category Archives: Satire [duh]

The real business of America. . .is religion

While the founders believed they were a creating a nation where Church and State were separate, including in the Constitution an Establishment Clause declaring that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion,” that First Amendment phrase has been subject to Supreme Court rulings allowing for churches to gain increasing power over the nation’s political institutions.

Among those rulings are decisions mandating the expenditure of tax revenues for religious schools, including direct funding through vouchers, payment for textbooks and computers, and even provision of funds for busing students to church schools and direct payments for educating students in charter schools and religious colleges. For a comprehensive review, begin here, here, here, here, and here.]

In addition, churches and their institutions receive massive tax breaks, with exemptions from income and property taxes, while salaries they pay may be exempt from Social Security and unemployment taxes.

Added to all those tax-exempt contributions from the faithful, the resulting picture is one of an institution with unparalleled economic and political clout.

No wonder that there are calls for an end of the religious tax exemptions. . .

And it’s a trillion-dollar business. . .

Just how much economic clout does organized religion wield.

In a word, huge.

From the Guardian:

Religion in the United States is worth $1.2tn a year, making it equivalent to the 15th largest national economy in the world, according to a study.

The faith economy has a higher value than the combined revenues of the top 10 technology companies in the US, including Apple, Amazon and Google, says the analysis from Georgetown University in Washington DC.

The Socioeconomic Contributions of Religion to American Society: An Empirical Analysis [open access] calculated the $1.2tn figure by estimating the value of religious institutions, including healthcare facilities, schools, daycare and charities; media; businesses with faith backgrounds; the kosher and halal food markets; social and philanthropic programmes; and staff and overheads for congregations.

Co-author Brian Grim said it was a conservative estimate. More than 344,000 congregations across the US collectively employ hundreds of thousands of staff and buy billions of dollars worth of goods and services.

More than 150 million Americans, almost half the population, are members of faith congregations, according to the report. Although numbers are declining, the sums spent by religious organisations on social programmes have tripled in the past 15 years, to $9bn.

Twenty of the top 50 charities in the US are faith-based, with a combined operating revenue of $45.3bn.

Businesses with a religious twist

In addition to churches, schools, and religion-based NGOs, the paper also identifies major corporations with a strong religious link, including programs devoting to furthering religious agendas — programs that are also, in most cases, tax-exempt.

The following table from the study lists some of those major business entities:

More from the study:

In 2014, a landmark decision by the United States Supreme Court determined that the closely held for-profit corporation Hobby Lobby is exempt from a law that its owners religiously object to, as long as there is a less restrictive means of furthering the law’s interest. That ruling was the first time the Supreme Court recognized a for-profit business’s claim of religious belief. While the ruling was limited to closely held corporations, it sets up the situation where the boundaries of faith and business are clearly not absolute. It is therefore reasonable in any valuation of the role of faith to the U.S. economy to recognize businesses that have religious roots. This expands our purview beyond companies that have a specific religious purpose, such as producing traditional halal or kosher foods, to companies that have religion as a part of their corporate culture or founding.

To identify such companies, this second estimate includes companies identified recently as having religious roots. For instance, Deseret News recently identified 20 companies with religious roots, and CNN produced a list of religious companies besides Chick-fil-A. Also, the recent book by Oxford University business professor Theodore Malloch produced a global list of such faith-inspired companies. Not all of these would identify specifically as being faith-based. But faith is part of the founding and operating ethos. Malloch notes that although the commercial success of Walmart is well known, “less well known are Walmart’s connections to the distinct religious world of northwest Arkansas and rural America … [and its] corporate culture and how specific executives incorporated religious culture into their managerial philosophy”. . . Likewise, although the Marriot Hotels are not religiously run, John Willard Marriott, a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, founded the chain and supplied many of the rooms with not only the Bible but The Book of Mormon.

Some other companies listed, however, have a more overt religious identity. Tyson Foods company, founded by John Tyson, provides 120 office chaplains for employees, ministering to the personal and spiritual needs regardless of the employee’s faith or non-faith, as the case may be. The Deseret News story notes that Tyson speaks openly about the company’s aspiration to honor God and be a faith-friendly company. Also, as a further indication of the company’s faith-orientation, Tyson recently financed the launch of the Tyson Center for Faith and Spirituality in the Workplace at the University of Arkansas.

And to close, here’s John Oliver. . .

In a repost of a segment he did a year ago on America’s ,egachurches and their egregious tax exemptions.

From Last Week Tonight:

Televangelists: Last Week Tonight with John Oliver

Program notes:

U.S. tax law allows television preachers to get away with almost anything. We know this from personal experience.

Our Lady of Perpetual Exemption will not be able to accept donations from Church supporters from the states of Mississippi, Nevada, Pennsylvania, or South Carolina. We apologize for any inconvenience.

And now for something completely different. . .

Would you believe a trio of entertaining videos, two with political themes and a third that’s just delightfully unexpected.

First up, from Mike Diva [the creative name of self-styled MAKER OF VIDEOS/MUSIC/MEMES/DREAMS Mike Dahlquist], a faux Japnese Doald Trump campaign commercial.

From his YouTube account:

Japanese Donald Trump Commercial

Program notes:


Directed by: Mike Diva

Shot by: Jan-Michael Losada

Starring: Chloe Doan

Next up, the best eight grade commencement speech we’ve ever heard, via Claudia HD:

8th Grader Impersonating Donald Trump , Cruz , Obama , Hillary & Sanders

The explanation from NBC Chicago:

Jack Aiello is a young teen with big dreams ahead of him — and potentially a slot on “Saturday Night Live” or in the White House.

The Arlington Heights middle schooler has quickly garnered Internet praise for his hilarious graduation speech, which included impersonations of the 2016 presidential candidates.

Aiello’s entire roughly 350-student graduating class was tasked with writing a graduation speech as part of an English assignment. The speeches were then evaluated by teachers and staff before three finalists were selected.

“He was hands down No. 1 because it was going to speak to the kids,” principal Brian Kaye said.

Finally, just an impromptu moment of beauty from the streets of Italy via Assad Baransi:

Palestinian tourist dancing in Italy

Program notes:

This is the stunning moment a proud father encourages his daughter to dance with a street entertainer – with a beautiful end result.

The video shows the Palestinian family watching the man playing the violin before a man’s voice begs the girl to join in.

And it doesn’t take much encouragement before the girl, dressed in a floaty grey dress, agrees to her father’s suggestion and begins dancing to the music.

Passers-by stopped to watch, enthralled by the spontaneous performance.

More from MON ÉVASION:

Rima Baransi, a Palestinian tourist wandering the streets of Italy till she stopped to the playing of Yann Tiersen’s “Comptine d’un autre été: L’aprés-midi” and with the encouragement of her father, she danced ballet to the melody like a butterfly.

And now for something completely different. . .

Would you believe the dark backstory of a popular children’s television, a tale of a Nazi background, a childhood tragedy, and genetic engineering?

Yep, Thomas the Tank Engine is the Singularity realized.

From Pauls Vids, with a H/T to Metafilter:

Thomas The Tank Engine: Shed 17 

Program notes:

They were the stories that have charmed an entire generation. From the books, to the television series, people around the world have grown up with the Railway Stories. But the truth behind Thomas and his friends is no children’s story. It is a story that begins in wartime Germany, and ends with a discovery that would change Thomas, and his friends, lives forever.

And now for something completely different. . .

Would you believe Germans vs The Donald.

The principal German in Question is Jan Böhmermann, a political satirist with a regular late night TV show [Neo Magazin Royale] who is currently facing charges of lèse-majesté [really] for allegedly besmirching the alleged honor of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in a truly beautiful sendup since pulled offline by his German network.

Böhmermann’s sin was to respond to a complaint from the Terrible Turk that a gently satirical song was defamatory with a poem that truly was defamatory [referring to penis size, sexual practices, and much more] as proof that his original vocal offering wasn’t defamatory.

The criminal charges sought by Ankara couldn’t be pressed without the permission of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who promptly knuckled under to Erdogan, all the while decrying the statute in question and promising to see it overturned. . .afterwards.

Ignacio Chapela, a friend and UC Berkeley prof the university once tried famously to oust because of research he conducted that Monsanto didn’t like, forwarded this link from Switzerland, where he’s currently conducting research.

From Neo Magazin Royale [and it’s in English]:

BE DEUTSCH! [Achtung! Germans on the rise!]

Program notes:

The world is going completely nuts! Europe feels threatened by 0.3% refugees, the USA are about to elect a man, of who no one really knows who is pulling the strings under the toupee and just as if that was not bad enough, Germany of all nations has to disabuse the world of how to behave morally right. I mean GERMANY! They did not even win one single world war in history!

‘But your honor, I was taking the Trump pledge’

From the London Telegraph:

Mass killer Anders Breivik makes Nazi salute in court

Program note:

Far-Right killer who massacred 77 Norwegians has launched human rights lawsuit over government’s decision to keep him in isolation cell.

No,, he wasn’t really endorsing Trump. . .or was he?

Hmmmm. . .

Mr. Fish: The cartoonist as King Lear’s Fool

As folks who come here with any frequency quickly learn, we think Mr. Fish [or Dwayne Booth, according to his driver’s license] is the best editorial cartoonist of the age — or at least that part of it crossing our gaze.

On the surface his images, are generally graphically simple — more like wall posters than the typical newspaper cartoon, the works of Mr. Fish sear themselves into the visual cortex and worm themselves deeper into the brain, koans of interlinked images and words. [For a comprehensive look at his works see his website, Clowncrack., where you can also buy his books and other icthyous paraphernalia]

When Chris Hedges sat down with Mr. Fish for an extended interview of Days of Revolt, we knew we were in for a treat, and we came away with an even deeper appreciation for the artistry and complexity that is Mr. Fish.

We were at first surprised to learn that before he took up the graphic arts, Dayne Booth saw himself as a provocative philosopher in the making, reading deeply in the field, a heritage that helps us understand the deeper complexity beneath the surface of his works.

So sit back, set the gear knob to a high definition resolution, click the image to full screen, and prepare for a provocative pleasure.

From teleSUR English via the Real News Network:

Days of Revolt: Mr. Fish

From the transcript:

HEDGES: Why do you, why do you run into such friction, do you think?

BOOTH: I think because it’s difficult to–when you have an image, right, when you have an image that is inflammatory in any way, it’s really difficult to, to recast that in such a way that it, to contain it. To contain it. Once an image is released, like I said, it resonates with people and it looks like reality. So it’s really difficult to verbally contain an image once it is, it is released. And so what images tend to do, since they are not verbal and they are not intellectualized, until after the fact, is they enter into a person’s, into a person’s mind. And it explodes your belief, and it turns your comprehension of what is being addressed in the drawing into shrapnel, and then you have to put it back together again.

And you have to put it back together in a way where you have to question your previous thoughts before you looked at the image. And that’s, people don’t want to do that. People like to base their political opinions on, on fashion, on allegiance to a, a, to your team.

HEDGES: Well, also, you’re imploding the very meticulously managed image that these figures in power have created for themselves at great cost, expense, and time.

BOOTH: Yeah. Yeah. And they’re also, it’s interesting, you just made me think. If you look at society, okay, where this is sort of a broad analogy. If you look at society as a chess match, right, we’ve got power represented by certain people, and we’ve got people who have less power. And they function in the rules of this game, right, that’s how society works. Art does not–it doesn’t have to rely on the rules of the game and all the expectations that people have, because it’s thinking outside, it’s questioning the folly of the game in a way that is unique, right.

So I try to do cartoons that look at that chess board, right, and make it a tragedy to understand that you cannot play chess with somebody where you’re not forced to sacrifice some of your own players, where you’re not going to–you have to, you have to attack the other opponent. Right, those are the rules of society, right.

So if you’re looking, and you’re living inside of a society that functions like that, it’s the job of the artist, or even just the radical thinker, to question the folly of this game. And with images when you show the brutality of how this game is played, that’s when people are going to see it as being much more believable than if you’re trying to convince them with an intellectual argument.

HEDGES: You’ve spent a lot of time illustrating the American military machine. That, you know, seeps into a lot of your work.

BOOTH: Yeah. Because it’s a difficult conversation for people to have. I did cartoons leading up to the invasion of Iraq that I never got any hate mail about. This is before the invasion. So I was questioning the obvious catastrophe that was about to happen. And I was also questioning the job of the, of the soldier. When the, when the invasion was, began, that’s when I started to get death threats, because I continued questioning what the, what, you know, how do we perceive the troops? You can’t just, okay, we have to support the troops.

And I did a cartoon that depicted individual troops. And I wrote, good guy, good guy, good guy, good guy, good guy, and I put a big bracket around it to group them all, and I said bad guys. Because the conversation is such that it’s not an easy conversation to have. And if you’re a responsible cartoonist and you know how to do that, you know not to, to–. As a cartoonist and a joke-teller, you have license to step outside of the box. It’s what humor does. And if you’re a good humorist, the stuff that you do is not funny. Because I think that great satire, and great art that is under the umbrella of satire, you have the responsibility to avoid making it just about finding the punchline. Because mirth cripples rage. And when you’re trying to inspire people to recognize what’s wrong with the government and do something about it, and get–put bodies in, to step out into the street and raise your first in the air, you can’t give people the phys–their physiological, the relief of the laugh.

HEDGES: That’s like the fool in King Lear.

BOOTH: Right.

HEDGES: Who speaks the most naked truth about Lear, throughout the play.

BOOTH: Yeah.

HEDGES: Which, you know, is coming from a point of satire, but also is, because it is a naked truth, twinned with a kind of painful recognition. Which I think is what your work does.

BOOTH: Yeah, and I think that people want to see that, because it does feel more honest. You know, I think people in their private moments, when they’re deliberating on these notions and on the reality of history and what’s happening in the world right now, they know that it’s screwed up. They know that there’s a problem and they know that there’s a lot of pain, right. Once you move into a public space where it’s impolite to complain as loudly as you want to complain, and when you want to speak truth to power, which is considered impolite, there’s a time and a place, you become much more conservative than you really are at heart.

So showing people art and getting them to look at an image, it happens internally. When you look at an image, your reaction to it is inside yourself.

Spoiler alert: Don’t look at the image below. . .

Unless you’ve watched the latest episode of Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, which is included in the previous post.

But then we also realize you can’t miss seeing the image below from the banner of Oliver’s latest website:

BLOG Drumpf