Tuesday Reads

Good Afternoon!!

robin-morgan-2020

Robin Morgan

Yesterday, thanks to a series of tweets by Delphyne, I read an excellent essay by Robin Morgan on religion and U.S. politics, specifically focused on the shadowy Catholic group Opus Dei. It’s long, but I highly recommend reading it, because members of the group dominate the Supreme Court and strongly influence the Republican Party. Although the post is about the Catholic Church, Morgan notes that protestant evangelicals are equally dangerous to our democracy. I’ll try to give you the gist with some excerpts:

Opus Dei is a powerful, secretive organization with members in political, economic, and church leadership throughout the world. Opus Dei reveals no details about its finances, maintains a high degree of control over its members, and censors their reading matter as “appropriate or inappropriate.” Women’s membership has been another source of criticism, due to rank misogyny in its teachings and practice: for example, women are supposedly treated as equals, but are separated from men in their personal spiritual training and in separate branches; in many male Opus Dei centers, women visit every evening to cook for the men, and then leave with no social interaction whatsoever. Sexual abuse cases in Spain, Mexico, Uruguay, Chile, and the United States have been investigated, with canonical sanctions (but not civil or criminal charges) applied to the perpetrators. These “controversies” include those above-mentioned, plus recruiting methods aimed at teenagers being separated from their families; illicit use of psychiatric drugs; misleading of the lay faithful about their status and rights under Canon Law; extreme fasting and mortification of the flesh practiced by celibate members; elitism; and support of authoritarian governments….

Founded in 1928, Opus Dei was formally approved by the Holy See in 1950 as a secular institute—a new form of religious association whose members “profess evangelical councils in secular life.” On November 28, 1982, Pope John Paul II, a staunch supporter of Opus Dei, designated it a “personal prelature,” the first and only independent and personal Prelature in the Church–under the sole jurisdiction of the pope and no other prelate, and with jurisdiction over persons rater than a geographic area. Later, John Paul II also allowed an unusually swift canonization of Escrivá–faster than any saint in history–because Opus Dei had bailed out the Vatican Bank with $250 million in 1985.

Fortunately, Pope Francis recently reduced the power of Opus Dei within the Church and ordered them to report to him more frequently.

How has Opus Dei influenced the U.S. government and the courts?

Scattered lists of prominent Opus Dei members are available, if they’ve “outed” themselves first. These include the president of Spain’s largest bank in assets and the president of Spain’s third biggest bank, the chief financial officer of Ireland’s largest bank, and Juan Antonio Samaranch, former president of the International Olympic Committee. The group also targeted for conversion political and business leaders such as former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich; former U.S. Senator Sam Brownback; Judge Robert Bork (Reagan’s failed Supreme Court nominee); Fox News host Laura Ingraham, and Larry Kudlow (Trump’s director of the National Economic Council, who wrote in 2016 that plutocracy is “just what America needs”).

300px-Leo

Leonard Leo

The infamous “troika” that served Donald Trump’s regime so effectively was constituted of the arch-conservative, powerful, Federalist Society, the CIC (Catholic Information Center, an ultra right-wing think tank), and Opus Dei. Pat Cipollone, who served as Trump’s White House Counsel from December 2018 to January 2021, was listed as a member of the CIC Board until CIC stopped publishing their board list in October 2018; today, his daughter-in-law is a law clerk for Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett. William Barr chaired the CIC board in 2014 and served there until 2017, when he joined Trump as Attorney General. Following his departure as AG in January 2021, Barr returned to the CIC as a senior fellow, and last October (2021) became the new “St. Thomas More Chair.”

Interlocking troika board members and officials are stunningly hidden in plain sight. Leonardo Leo, a self-declared Opus Dei operative, was also the executive vice president of The Federalist Society, and Chair of the Board of Directors of the CIC (which, by the way, is two blocks from the White House). Leo hits every base. All this is a matter of record….

The extremely powerful man who forwarded five names to the Senate for approval as supreme court justices was Leonardo Leo. It was Leo who pushed Mitch McConnell to nominate Justices Roberts, Alito, Gorsuch, Kavanaugh, and Barrett. The troika’s role in installing Trump’s justices is also a matter of record. According to Church and State, “Of the Supreme Court members, six (Brett Kavanaugh, Neil Gorsuch, Clarence Thomas, John Roberts, Samuel Alito, and Amy Coney Barrett) are current or former members.”

Others have also identified the late Justice Antonin Scalia as an Opus Dei member; his wife attended Catholic Information Center events and his son has spoken there. Church and State Magazine writes that “Leo has been a longtime friend and champion of Justice Clarence Thomas,” and that when John Roberts was nominated for the Court, Leonard Leo “assured conservative Catholics that Roberts will not follow the same path as Anthony Kennedy” (who apparently went “squishy” and liberal).

I’ve probably quoted too much, but I think this is vitally important information for understanding the right wing attack on on the separation of church and state and the need to fight to preserve American democracy generally.

I wasn’t able to watch the NASA video feed yesterday, but I know some Sky Dancers were very excited about it. Here’s a report from The Washington Post: NASA crashes spacecraft into asteroid, passing planetary defense test.

NASA managed Monday to crash a small spacecraft directly into an asteroid, a 14,000-mile-per-hour collision designed to test whether such a technology could someday be deployed to protect Earth from a potentially catastrophic impact.

The violent end of the Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) spacecraft thrilled scientists and engineers at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Md., which operated the mission under a NASA contract.

The asteroid, Dimorphos, is the size of a stadium — or the Great Pyramid of Giza, as one scientist put it Monday — and is about 7 million miles from Earth at the moment. It orbits a larger asteroid named Didymos. Neither poses a threat to our planet now or anytime in the foreseeable future.

This was just a test, NASA’s first demonstration of a potential planetary defense technique, called a kinetic impactor. The idea is to give a hypothetically dangerous asteroid just enough of a blow to alter its orbital trajectory.

Launched last November from California, the spacecraft was small, roughly the size of a vending machine or golf cart. Dimorphos is rather big — roughly 500 feet or so in diameter, although its precise shape and composition were unknown before the final approach. Scientists anticipated a plume of debris from the asteroid upon impact but no significant structural change. This is more akin to a bug splattering on a windshield.

“This isn’t just bowling-ball physics,” Applied Physics Laboratory planetary scientist Nancy Chabot told reporters. “The spacecraft’s gonna lose.”

But even small effects on an asteroid’s movement could prove a planet-saver. An early collision with an asteroid, if done early enough — say, 5 to 10 years in advance of its projected encounter with Earth — could be just enough to slow it down and make it miss.

Read more at the WaPo.

Denver Riggleman

Denver Riggleman

I’m torn about how to take the revelations in the new book by former Republican Congressman Denver Riggleman, released today. Is it really that important for the January 6 Committee to keep all their findings secret until they reveal them in their rare public hearings? Frankly, I would have liked to see many more hearings and more information released to the public. But maybe I’m wrong. I’m no expert, but I think Riggleman has some good points. If you’re interested, I suggest watching the 60 Minutes interview (in which Riggleman says he resigned because the Committee refused to subpoena Ginni Thomas) and reading this post from Riggleman’s co-author Hunter Walter: Walking You Through ‘The Breach’

The book was written by Denver Riggleman, an ex-congressman and former senior adviser to the House select committee investigating the attack on the Capitol. Helping Denver tell his story was the honor of a lifetime. As any regular reader of this site knows, I was at the Capitol on January 6 and, ever since, have dedicated myself to exposing what happened that day. Bringing Denver’s story to the world is the culmination of those efforts.

I believe this book contains some of the most dramatic revelations about the attack on the Capitol and the involvement of the Trump administration as well as Republican members of Congress in the violent attempt to overturn the 2020 election.

 — Denver advised the committee from August 2021 through April 2022. During that time, he led and assembled a team that was focused on telephone analysis. These investigators helped the committee obtain phone records from persons of interest including high-level associates of President Trump and individuals who have been charged with participating in the Capitol attack. The team used this data to compile maps that — quite literally — show the direct links between the political and militant components of the effort to overturn the election. The largest map was dubbed “The Monster” [see graphic above] by Denver and his team. He discussed it in more detail in an interview with “60 Minutes” that aired on Sunday. 

— Phone records obtained by Denver’s team showed there was a call to a rioter’s cell phone that was connected through the White House switchboard during the Capitol attack. Following Denver’s appearance on “60 Minutes,” CNN identified the rioter who received the call as Anton Lunyk, a Brooklyn, New York man who entered the Capitol building on January 6….

 — The committee’s link maps also show extensive coordination between militant groups that took part in the attack, namely the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers. Along with communicating with each other, these groups were in extensive contact with Trump associates and activists who planned rallies that occurred in Washington on January 6.

— Denver’s team also helped analyze and decipher thousands of text messages that were provided to the committee by Trump’s former chief of staff, Mark Meadows. He describes these messages as “irrefutable time-stamped proof of a comprehensive plot — at all levels of government — to overturn a free and fair election and leave Trump in power.”

There’s more at the link.

More interesting stories, links only:

Julia Ainsley at NBC News: Secret Service took the cellphones of 24 agents involved in Jan. 6 response and gave them to investigators.

CNN: Meadows texts reveal direct White House communications with pro-Trump operative behind plans to seize voting machines.

The Washington Post: Putin grants citizenship to Edward Snowden, who exposed U.S. surveillance.

Timothy Noah at The New Republic: Hell Is a World in Which Everybody Writes Like Axios.

CNN: Historic trial for Oath Keepers leader and his top lieutenants over January 6 set to begin.

Alan Feuer at The New York Times: Sedition Trial of Oath Keepers to Get Underway.

Tommy Christopher at Mediaite: Ex-Staffer Says DeSantis TORCHES Trump in Private: ‘Moron Who Has No Business Running For President’

Gabriel Sherman at Vanity Fair: Ron DeSantis: The Making and Remaking (an Remaking) of a MAGA Heir. 

Tom Nichols at The Atlantic: The Russian Clocks Are All Ticking. Putin is running out of time.

That’s it for me today. What are your thoughts? What stories are you following?