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Religion

Orlando Jesusland Layoffs Mean No More Daily Scourgings, Crucifixions

Not even Jeb! Bush's tax exemption helped :(

The Holy Land Experience, a Jesus-oriented theme park that won a place on weird tourist attraction listicles for its daily reenactments of the torture and crucifixion of Jesus the Christ, announced this week it's laying off most of its employees. That means no more Passion Plays, no more spectacles depicting Peter bringing the Gospel to Rome, and no more educational Roman Soldier Training Camp for the kids. Romanes Eunt Domus, indeed! We aren't sure whether the big diorama of Jerusalem in Jesus Times will stay open, but maybe? The park's management says it plans to return to its original mission as a church and museum, and a diorama doesn't have a lot of moving parts.

The Tampa Bay Times reports the park is laying off darn near everyone.

On Friday, the theme park filed a layoff notice with city and state officials that it plans to eliminate 118 jobs, representing most of its employees, as of April 18. Those losing their jobs include 43 actors and musicians, plus dancers, media specialists, prop handlers, food service workers and support staff.

The layoffs didn't come as too big a surprise, since the park, owned by the Trinity Broadcasting Network, announced in January it would be ending all its theatrical productions and later said it was definitely staying open but also maybe looking for a buyer.

We bet that somewhere in heaven, TBN founders Paul and Jan Crouch are looking down from their $100,000 motorhome for dogs or their $50 million jet (it's there with them — you've heard of the spiritual plane, haven't you?) and crying at what's become of their beautiful ministry. Guess the audiences that made The Passion of the Christ a hit weren't willing to travel to see some bloody Jesus-whipping.

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Culture Wars

Oh No, Campus 'Terrorists' Did Terror To Kent State Gun Girl, By Chanting About Diapers

Tin foil hats and Kaitlin's coming / One Dumb in O-hi-o.

Kaitlin Bennett, that nice young lady who wishes we had a monarchy made of guns, is getting some of the attention she craves this week, after one of her signature efforts to show up on a college campus and make a damn fool of herself asking slanted questions went awry Monday at Ohio University. Students gave her the warm reception that we old-timers used to give Brother Jed Smock when he'd show up and start yammering about forrrr-ni-CA-tion. But a pretty big crowd gathered and started yelling mean things at her, and she eventually fled to the safety of what appears to be either a giant F-350 Crew Cab pickup or perhaps a borrowed AT-AT. Bennett and supporters in the wingnuttosphere have taken to calling it a "riot," and are touting it as the latest example of "the Left's" war on free speech. In various videos taken by Bennett and others, people can be seen jeering loudly, chanting rudely, and a few even threw drinks at the truck.

The Washington Post notes that

Campus police have said the clash was not violent, did not result in arrests and "did not rise to the level of a riot," emphasizing that both Bennett and the crowd were exercising their First Amendment rights. They acknowledged "strong language and allegations that some unknown person(s) in the crowd splashed water."

Bennett, for her part, has been calling on Donald Trump to please support the First Amendment by eliminating all federal funding for colleges that "harbor terrorists" — the ones who rely not on pressure cooker bombs, but on flipping the bird and tossing soda, which could get in someone's eye.

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Culture

America's Greatest Artist, Jon McNaughton, Discovers Greatest Metaphor For The Media Ever

He even wrote a bad poem so you'll understand the subtle point he's making here.

Perennial Wonkette star Jon McNaughton, the great Utah-based arteest whose work combines the technical brilliance of the late Thomas Kinkade with the sly political wit of cartoonist Ben Garrison, proudly announced a brand-new work of Fine Art today. And unlike some of his recent lazy efforts, this one's a throwback to his early masterpieces, which were crowded with all sorts of symbolism.

We'll confess that art can be open to interpretation, which is what makes it art, but we're fairly sure we see what The Master is getting at here. It might best be summarized as, Looks like those clowns in the media did it again! What a bunch of clowns!

We just want to know one thing: How does he keep up with the news like that?

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sex crimes

Boy Scouts Hoping To Earn 'Paying Restitution To Sex Abuse Victims' Merit Badge

It's still not enough.

Calling someone a "boy scout" has long been synonymous with calling them a goody-goody, but the Boy Scouts of America organization itself? Not so great! It took them God knows how long to allow Scouts to come out of the closet and remain a part of their organization, and two years longer than that to allow troop leaders to be gay. And while they're now admitting trans Scouts and even girls, they're still not allowing atheists. Apparently not believing in God somehow affects one's ability to tie fancy knots.

Also, they've had a bit of a problem with sexual abuse over the years. In fact, they are now mortgaging several properties and filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in order to pay restitution to the victims.

The BSA states that it is just the national umbrella organization that is filing for bankruptcy, and that individual troops will be unaffected.

According to a spokesman for the BSA, the bankruptcy has "two key objectives: equitably compensate victims who were harmed during their time in Scouting and continue carrying out its mission for years to come. The BSA intends to use the Chapter 11 process to create a Victims Compensation Trust that would provide equitable compensation to victims."

Though really, how can you even quantify something like that?

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Culture Wars

Kevin McCarthy: Donald Trump Always Hangs Out With Everyday Working Folk He Refuses To Pay

He's not corrupt! He's YOU!

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy was on Fox News last night, explaining to Laura Ingraham that Donald Trump is an everyday man of the people, because unlike Democrats, who are all out-of-touch elitists, Donald Trump actually just barely puts up with the rich people with whom he surrounds himself and for whom he operates tacky, overpriced trash palaces. We haven't actually seen the whole segment, but do we really need to?

McCarthy was part of an Ingraham Very Special Episode on liberal elites last night, the same show where Candace Owens explained LBJ hated black people so much he signed civil rights laws to trap them in Democratic bondage. McCarthy's segment followed a rant called "A Party of Snobs," in which Ingraham explained that all liberals are exactly like Michael Bloomberg, who said a dumb — and deceptively edited — thing about how for 3,000 years, farming has been super easy because all you do is dig a hole, drop in a seed, add water, and you're a farmer, but those people can never learn tech jobs. (Apparently no liberals mocked Bloomberg at all, so you didn't see it.) So that would explain that "THE ELITIST LEFT" chyron.

McCarthy explained that, by contrast, the guy with the gold-covered penthouse apartment is just an ordinary Joe like the people who elected him:

If you ever go on a project with him where he's building a building, he is more in contact with those who are building it than those who are buying it. That's the uniqueness of him. He'd rather hang out with everyone who builds the building than whoever buys the room from him.

We haven't actually ever seen a photo of Donald Trump "hanging out" with the people who built his buildings, possibly because so many of them would be asking him to finally pay them for the work they did. (The complaints continued even after Trump took office.) But McCarthy said it on Fox, so you'd best believe it will now be seen as true by Trump voters. Maybe Trump will incorporate it into his attacks on the elitists who scorn him, even though he's actually richer and better educated and more elite than them! He went to Wharton!

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Immigrants

We Used To Give Migrant Kids Therapy To *Help Them*, Not Nail Them, Isn't That So Funny?

We're going to need a Truth Commission when this is all over.

In an attempt to prevent immigrant kids from getting asylum, the government is going through notes taken in counseling sessions and picking out items that can be used against the kids, even though the counselors assured the kids the sessions would be confidential. What's worse, the practice may be technically legal, although obviously it's unethical as fuck. The government insists it's absolutely necessary to protect America, because when some kids discuss the traumas that led them to seek asylum in the US, they also say things that can be used to suggest they're dangerous thugs who might kill us all.

In the Washington Post, Hannah Dreier focuses on the ordeal of one young Honduran asylum-seeker, Kevin Euceda, who lived through hell and escaped an MS-13 group that wanted him to kill someone to prove his loyalty to the gang. In 2017, he crossed the Rio Grande with his older sister; she was 18, so was quickly deported. But Kevin, then 17, was placed in a youth shelter that contracted with the Office of Refugee Resettlement, which is responsible for housing minor immigrants until they're placed with sponsors (or, increasingly, until they're old enough to deport). By law, all detained kids are required to see a counselor within 72 hours of coming into the ORR system, under the 1997 settlement meant to protect detained kids. Haha, joke's on you, Kevin: Under Trump, those sessions were no longer confidential, although the counselor — a recent graduate doing work toward her professional license — didn't know her notes would be turned over to ICE, either.

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Immigrants

Stephen Miller's Latest F*cked-Up Bullsh*t Is SOOOOOOME F*CKED-UP BULLSH*T

First, the bureaucratic roadblocks. Next, the transformation into giant insects.

As we have noted several times, there's a certain horrifying brilliance to the endless schemes Stephen Miller has contrived to limit immigration — not just by those terrible murderers and rapists Donald Trump scares Fox viewers with, but anyone trying to use the legal means of immigration the Right is always screaming about. It's very much like the infinitely creative ways the white power structure in the Jim Crow South came up with to humiliate black people and make their lives miserable. Someone should do a study on the psychology of all that, how it's tied to authoritarian thinking. Miller and his minions have managed to weaponize virtually every part of federal law to keep people out.

That zero tolerance of immigration extends even — or especially — to those the law is supposed to help. Like for instance victims of crimes. Washington Post columnist Catherine Rampell explores the administration's latest twist of the bureaucratic knife, in which an undocumented woman she calls "Yolanda" went to the police to report she'd been violently raped, then left trapped in a basement for hours. Congress passed a law allowing crime victims who cooperate with police to apply for what's called a "U Visa," because fighting violent crime is a good thing. But not as important to this administration as blocking all immigrants.

Yolanda's application was denied because the administration decided last fall it will now reject visa applications that include any blank spaces, even when there's no earthly reason to fill in the blank. Yolanda's son has no middle name, so she wrote nothing for that item. Sorry, your application has been rejected because it's incomplete.

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Cops Behaving Badly

Portland, OR Man ‘Wins’ $1 Million On ‘Who Wants To Get Screwed By Racist Cops?’

This is horrifying.

Michael Fesser of Portland, Oregon, just received $600,000 in the cash settlement sweepstakes, but this isn't another upbeat lottery story. The city of West Linn, Oregon, negotiated the settlement because Fesser, who's black, was the target of an "unwarranted racially motivated surveillance and arrest." Former (thank God) West Linn Police Chief Terry Timeus used his own officers to put the smackdown on Fesser as a "favor" for a fishing buddy.

The fishing buddy was Eric Benson, owner of A&B Towing, which is located in Southeast Portland sometime in the 1950s. Fesser, who'd worked for A&B since 2004, claimed in February of 2017 that coworkers had called him racial slurs, and one had asked him what he thought of a Confederate flag that decorated a pickup truck in the parking lot. Fesser escalated his concerns to Benson, who took an unconventional approach to addressing complaints of a hostile work environment: running to his buddy Police Chief Timeus and persuading him to "investigate" bogus charges that Fesser was stealing from the company. Timeus had his officers conduct audio surveillance of Fesser at work — without a court order or a warrant.

Benson kept in close contact with West Linn Detective Tony Reeves during all this, and the two exchanged homophobic and sexually explicit text messages. They also made more racist comments about Fesser. It was gracious of Benson to include Reeves in the hostile work environment.

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Journalism

John Kelly Says Fox News Makes You A Idiot. And By 'You,' He Means ...

He is just saying.

John Kelly, Donald Trump's former chief of staff, got a lot of attention for his speech the other day in which he said Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman had simply been doing his duty by testifying to Congress about Donald Trump's shakedown call to the president of Ukraine. Yesterday, the Washington Post's Philip Bump focused on another part of Kelly's speech at Drew University, in which Kelly also said, in essence, that a steady diet of Fox News is bad for your brain.

Sure, that's pretty obvious, but it's always a little remarkable when a Republican admits it.

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Environment

Hippie Enviros And Big Timber Reached A Deal, And Oregon GOP Is Losing Its Miiiiiiind

Wait, corporations care more about doing business than endless partisan war? Why?

As Oregon — or at least its most populous parts — has become an increasingly blue state, Republicans just don't know what to do with themselves, at least when they're not auctioning off semiautomatic rifles to honor Martin Luther King. There are still plenty of red counties once you get east of the Cascade Mountains, but the people they elect to the state legislature have been in the minority for some time, and have largely been reduced to just blocking as much legislation as they can manage — even if it means they have to bug out of the state to block climate legislation. The worst thing about their new status as the party of permanent obstruction? In the case of their walkout to prevent a vote on the cap-and-trade bill last June, it worked.

But now, the GOP delegation in the state lege faces a dire new threat: Some of the corporations Republicans assumed would always be on their side seem far more interested in making money than in sticking it to the Democratic majority. On Monday, a bunch of Oregon's timber industry groups announced they'd reached an agreement with a bunch of Oregon environmental groups — over two dozen industry and eco groups all together — to work with a mediator on future legislation. The two biggest goals are passing updates to the state's outdated forest-management laws, and creating a "statewide Habitat Conservation Plan" that would govern protections for endangered and threatened species on private timber acreage.

The memorandum of understanding between the industry and environmental groups should finally break a logjam (not a literal one) on legislation this session to regulate aerial pesticide spraying. The groups agreed to work together on the bill, and if it passes, neither side will launch lawsuits or ballot initiatives to block it. When she announced the agreement Monday, Gov. Kate Brown said it's "a genuine show of good faith from everyone involved" and that it would make sure "all key voices will be heard" in future legislation. Industry and environmental-group spokespeople made similar statements about playing nicely together and getting things done.

And that's why Republicans in the state Senate feel outraged and betrayed.

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Cops Behaving Badly

How Many Liberals Can We Blame For The Shooting Of NYPD Officers?

It's a sick game with no winners.

Robert Williams shot two New York City police officers Saturday night. Sunday morning, he continued his rampage at a police precinct in the Bronx, where he opened fire and shot a police lieutenant. He also injured another officer who was trying to subdue him before being taken into custody.

This was a terrible act of violence, but now it seems the looming question is who else is responsible other than the actual gunman. The police union pinned blame on Democratic state legislators who are apparently soft on crime. Police Commissioner Dermot Shea believed police protestors were accomplices in the "premeditated assassination attempt."

SHEA: Just remember these things are not unrelated. We have people marching in New York City last week and I condemned it and I condemn it right here again today -- using profanities against the Police Department.

They are in fact completely unrelated. However, Mayor Bill De Blasio agreed with Shea's top-notch police work.

DE BLASIO: Anyone who spews hatred at our officers is aiding and abetting this kind of atmosphere. It's not acceptable. You can protest whatever for whatever you believe in, but you cannot vilely attack those who are here to protect us. It creates this kind of dynamic.

This a crazy irresponsible statement. Roughly 500 people gathered last month in Grand Central Terminal to protest the increased police presence in subways. Demonstrators held up signs stating "Poverty is not a crime" and "The real fare beaters are on Wall Street." Some even led a call-and-response chant: "How do you spell racist? N-Y-P-D." People might consider that rude, but it's also free speech. What it definitely isn't is criminal facilitation. Saying mean things about the police didn't provide Williams with either the means or the opportunity to shoot cops.

The mayor shouldn't use the term "aiding and abetting" metaphorically. It has a specific definition. If de Blasio has evidence that the protestors had previous knowledge of Williams's intentions and actively helped him in any way, he should contact the police. However, disagreeing with police tactics or even just straight-up disliking the police aren't the same on a moral or practical level as actually trying to murder police officers.

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Post-Racial America

Fertilizer CEO Slips, Falls Into His Own Racist Bullshit In Exchange With Uber Driver

Now former CEO will spend free time catching up on the 20th Century.

It's been a while since we last covered a racist who got fired for public racist-ing. Buckle up! Hans Berglund (no, not the guy from Die Hard) was until recently the CEO of Tempe, Arizona, fertilizer company Agroplasma. Berglund was forced out of the company after he was caught on video hurling racist bullshit (ha!) at an Uber driver.

Arizona State University student Randy Clarke, an Uber driver for the past four years, picked up Berglund outside his Scottsdale home on January 31. Berglund wanted to sit in the front, but Clarke asked him to sit in the back. This wasn't a Rosa Parks situation. Clarke said he prefers not to have riders sit up front after a drunken rider sexually assaulted him in 2018. That's a more than reasonable request and arguably safer for all parties. Berglund disagreed and quickly grew belligerent. He angrily told Clarke to cancel the ride and when Clarke agreed, Berglund said, "Are you fucking serious with me?" and got in the backseat anyway. He informed Clarke that he was going to call the manager file a complaint with Uber, and Clark at this point just wanted the guy to get out of his car. There's limited gain in giving a ride to someone who's just cursed you out and vowed professional retribution. You're looking at several minutes of tense conversation and probably no tip.

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Right Wing Extremism

Banning Mitt Romney From CPAC Might've Saved His Life, Says Hero Matt Schlapp

Schlapp just couldn't "guarantee" Romney's safety at the conservative conference.

We all enjoyed a good laugh when Mitt Romney was disinvited from the grand douchebag ball that is the Conservative Political Action Conference. This occurred with much pomp and circumstance after Romney voted, along with Susan Collins, to allow witnesses in Donald Trump's sham impeachment trial. The vote failed, but Romney was still denied the golden ticket to CPAC.

Romney is even less popular among the Trump faithful now that he's the lone Republican who voted to remove the president from office. The conservatives who write for the Washington Post or the New York Times, along with the entirety of "Morning Joe," all adore him. They think he's a righteous dude, but the conservative rank and file might just rip him to shreds like he's the unseen gay character in Suddenly, Last Summer.

That's Matt Schlapp's theory at least. During an appearance on Greta Van Susteren's "Full Court Press," the CPAC chairman suggested that yanking Romney's invitation was an act of kindness. He couldn't guarantee the sitting US senator's safety.

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2020 presidential election

There Are Known Unknowns And Elizabeth Warren Knows Them

And that's how you answer a question.

CNN has been doing candidate town halls in New Hampshire this week, not that too many people noticed with all the other madness going on. And thanks a heck of a lot, CNN, for not actually posting the full video anywhere, as far as we can tell -- just short clips on the CNN site and YouTube. At least CNN has full audio for each candidate here. Hell of a way to inform the public.

During her hour onstage (someone posted a pirate copy here, until it's DMCA'd away), Elizabeth Warren got laughs and applause for her reply to a young woman studying politics at St. Anselm College, who asked whether "the men in this race have a better chance of beating Trump solely based on their gender." Warren was ready for that one: "I believe they think so, but they'd be wrong." She went on to note that women have been at the head of much of the opposition to Trump, and the Democratic takeover of the House in 2018, so knock it off with the sexist assumptions, boys.

But the question and answer that really got our attention was this exchange posted to Twitter not by CNN, but by Matthew Cortland, an attorney and health care activist who helped write Warren's disability equality plan, because holy crap, a substantial discussion of disability rights made it to national TV.

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News

Release The Bees And Let Us Warm Ourselves On This Wicker Man David Brooks

If only everyone had been nicer to Donald Trump. What a missed opportunity. So sad.

Now that Republicans in the Senate have formally endorsed Donald Trump's Ukraine fuckery and made it clear he can do anything he wants, America's Greatest Moderate, David Brooks, has thoughts. No doubt he'll flesh them out in a full column for the New York Times tomorrow, but it will pretty much be this tweet, again and again and again:

We are left wondering yet again what version of Earth David Brooks resides on. Particularly as we've been trying to write this while the very reasonable Donald Trump ranted very presidentially on live TV about the need to exact vengeance on all his enemies.

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Immigrants

Stephen Miller Gonna End 'Sanctuary Cities' By Pissing Off Airline Passengers

A most cunning plan.

Tuesday night, Donald Trump gave his torchlit State of the Union address in which he warned that scary sanctuary cities are stockpiling criminal illegals to come rape and kill you all. Wednesday, the Department of Homeland Security sent a nastygram to New York state officials, informing them that effective immediately, no New York residents would be able to use most of DHS's popular programs that let travelers get through airports more easily. Because national security, you see, and also good old revenge against any state that doesn't buy into Trump's Deport Everyone agenda. The letter, first reported by Fox News, insists that since the state won't let DHS paw through driver's-license databases in search of undocumented immigrants, then it's just not safe to let anyone from New York use the expedited-travel programs. You know how it is, with those MS-13 guys putting their machetes in their checked baggage and then flying executive class to do crimes.

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