CPAC chair: Mitt Romney ‘NOT invited’ to upcoming event after Senator votes for witnesses

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Republican Sen. Mitt Romney’s decision to side with Democrats and vote for witnesses in the impeachment trial earned him much criticism and now a dis-invitation.

The Utah lawmaker was “formally not invited” to attend this year’s Conservative Political Action Conference, referred to as CPAC, after his stunt in a Senate vote Friday when he voted in favor of hearing from witnesses in President Trump’s impeachment trial.

“The ‘extreme conservative’ and Junior Senator from the great state of Utah, @SenatorRomney is formally NOT invited to #CPAC2020,” American Conservative Union Chairman Matt Schlapp said in a mocking tweet on Friday.

The conservative conference scheduled for the end of the month will feature Trump as the keynote speaker.

BREAKING: The “extreme conservative” and Junior Senator from the great state of Utah, @SenatorRomney is formally NOT invited to #CPAC2020. pic.twitter.com/f35tYy73V1

— Matt Schlapp (@mschlapp) January 31, 2020

Romney and Sen. Susan Collins of Maine were the only Republicans who voted with Democrats on Friday in the failed attempt to allow additional witnesses to be heard in the trial. The final vote of 51-49 shot down a weeks-long Democratic effort to hear witnesses, such as former national security adviser John Bolton and others, and set the stage for a final vote to acquit the president next week.

Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska were ultimately the swing GOP votes, sticking with the party and voting against the effort while Democrats began to discredit the process as a “sham.” Romney, who is not up for reelection until 2024, was roundly condemned for bucking the party though some, like Utah’s Republican senior Senator Mike Lee did come to his defense.

Mitt Romney is a good friend and an excellent Senator. We have disagreed about a lot in this trial. But he has my respect for the thoughtfulness, integrity, and guts he has shown throughout this process. Utah and the Senate are lucky to have him.

— Mike Lee (@SenMikeLee) January 31, 2020

Lee is a frequent CPAC attendee as is Romney who has spoken at the annual conservative gathering in the past, including in 2013, following his 2012 failed presidential bid. It was not clear if the former Massachusetts governor was even planning to attend this year’s event which will include Diamond and Silk, Candace Owens and California Rep. Devin Nunes as speakers as well as conservative commentator Mark Levin, and Brexit leader Nigel Farage.

CPAC and Schlapp were slammed by some Twitter users for the rebuke of Romney and display of “cancel culture” politics.

— Chris Hayes (@chrislhayes) January 31, 2020

oh what a calamity how will Mitt ever be able to carry on https://t.co/7vsYOPzEuh

— George Conway (@gtconway3d) January 31, 2020

— Matthew Yglesias (@mattyglesias) January 31, 2020

CPAC has turned into an alt right clown show. I’m sure Mitt could care less.

— Marylou Culkar (@MarylouCulkar6) February 1, 2020

But many others on Twitter were happy to see the Utah senator get called out.

I am so disappointed in Romney. What a traitor and I don’t use that loosely. Trump supported him completely in his bid for the senate. Romney has done everything to betray Trump. I never would have believed it but there it is.

— Chuck Woolery (@chuckwoolery) January 26, 2020

— Sara A. Carter (@SaraCarterDC) February 1, 2020

Epic Burn. 🔥🤣

I am going to CPAC because my dreams became memes.

And I didn’t betray the president 40 times.

— Carpe Donktum🔹 (@CarpeDonktum) January 31, 2020

Good riddance… It’s about time Mitt Romney be held accountable for his actions.

Not sure why he’d want to be at #CPAC anyway, he’s no longer a conservative. https://t.co/KtXVM1tWZY

— Jason Lewis (@LewisForMN) February 1, 2020

Good! He’s NOT a Republican!

Senior Staff Writer

Originally from New York, Powers graduated from New York University and eventually made her way to sunny South Florida where she has been writing for the BizPacReview team since 2015.

Latest posts by Frieda Powers (see all)

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Death, Diarrhea and Late Night Sackings: The Inside Story of an Unfolding Staff Nightmare at UBA and Dangote

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Last November, thousands of Lagosians including hundreds of UBA Bank employees attended what was billed as the ‘party of the year’ at the Lekki Special Events Centre on Admiralty Way.

The UBA RedTV Rave had everyone from Wizkid to Olamide to Jidenna to Burna Boy thrilling the festive crowd as UBA chairman Tony Elumelu and CEO Kennedy Uzoka mingled with the artists and guests.

On the surface, this was the best of times, as a bank that was clearly in rude health celebrated a successful year with thousands of employees, friends and family. The bank had also recently concluded a recruitment exercise that would add nearly 4,000 new employees to its staff strength, so the year ahead looked to be a promising one for most employees present. 

Unknown to them, while senior executives danced with Wizkid in the VIP area, one of the most brutal staff layoffs in Nigerian banking history was just around the corner. They partied well into the night and then showed up for work the following week as usual. A week went by. Two weeks. Four weeks. Then right at the start of the new year – a shocker.

Closed at 5.30PM, Terminated at 10.30PM

Ifunanya (name has been changed) was asked to wait behind at work on Friday January 3. As a 12-year UBA veteran including a long stint in her role as a Branch Operations Manager at a branch in Ojodu, Lagos, this was not an unusual request to receive. She was even used to working weekends so that the ATMs could remain functional and she could troubleshoot other onsite customer-facing issues. This time however, was different. 

Along with other staff members at the branch, she was asked to wait for a board meeting. By 10.30PM, the assembled staff were informed that their services were no longer required. They were then told verbally to write out their resignation letters on the spot and leave voluntarily or be forced out. At this point, her security pass was taken, and along with the other affected staff, her profile was unceremoniously deactivated from the bank’s internal system. She was reminded to drop her work ID on the way out, and thus ended a 12-year association with the bank.

When a relative of hers reached out to tell the story, he was keen to make the point that she was not an agency employee, but a full UBA employee on a monthly salary of N153,000. He could not understand why the bank would treat her that way. I heard similar stories from two other sources who insisted that they were coerced into resigning after being told that their services were no longer required right at the start of the new year.

Shocking and callous as these stories may have sounded, one of the first things you are taught in any professional journalism program is to always balance the story. So I sought an alternate account of what transpired, with the goal of putting the picture together to tell a complete story. There were conflicting accounts of the events of January 3 flying around, with some accounts describing a recruitment and promotion exercise without mentioning any firings, while others reported a purported “restructuring” at UBA, which is a well-known euphemism for “mass sack.”

I managed to establish contact with a current senior employee at UBA who asked to remain anonymous because he is not authorised to speak about such matters. This was his account of what happened at UBA bank at the start of this year:

“Usually when anyone joins UBA with a Bachelor’s degree, they are put on a GT1 level (N80,000). After one year, they are promoted to GT2 (N100,000), then after another year ET1 (N140,000) which is where a lot of people get stuck on. If you are lucky, you get to ET2 (N165,000). So what UBA did was to meld those 4 levels into one (ET) so any one who was on GT1 and GT2 gets automatically promoted to ET2. Those that were on ET1 and ET2 got promoted to SET (Senior Executive Trainee). 

So it was a promotion of sorts, but honestly it was long overdue because compared to other banks, N80,000 for entry level staff is quite low. About the layoffs: I only know 4 people personally who got affected. The people affected were on manager grades and worked at the head office, they all reportedly got 6 months arrears.”

According to this source, he was not personally aware of the fate of any branch staff or what he termed ‘OND staff.’ He did however say that in his opinion, the bank handled the situation poorly and that Nigeria does need stronger labour laws to protect young graduates fresh out of school from exploitation for cheap labor at the hands of corporates like UBA. He also mentioned that he knows current UBA staff have not had a salary increase in ten years – a remarkable situation for workers in a country whose currency has declined 195 percent over the same period.

As it later emerged, more than 2,000 staff were affected by the shocking late-night cull at UBA. It also became increasingly clear that the firings had nothing to do with a harsh operating environment or decreased profitability. The bank which had brought together Nigeria’s most expensive music stars to perform at its end of year shindig was anything but struggling – it actually hired more people than if fired. What the sackings did though, was clear out a number of people in roles that the bank considered obsolete, particularly within branch operations.

It can definitely be argued that such restructuring is inevitable in the face of rapidly changing technology, which is hardly a terrible thing. What is also true however, is that the bank that paid huge sums of money to bring Burna Boy and Jidenna to an annual vanity event that adds nothing to its bottom line could also afford to retrain its redundant staff to fit into new roles –  instead of just sacking them and instantly bringing in thousands of readymade replacements.

Yet again, the actions of a Nigerian corporate made the point that Nigerian labour law, in addition to be being poorly enforced is also woefully inadequate and unfit for purpose. If after 12 years of useful service to a bank, Ifunanya could be dumped out onto the street without even a few hours of notice – and no regulatory action was forthcoming – then clearly, Nigerian employees working for Nigerian companies have a problem on their hands.

As much as the UBA situation made that point, nothing could have prepared me for what I was about to unearth about another Nigerian corporate behemoth.

Diarrhea in India, Death in Ibeju-Lekki: The Unbelievable Story of Dangote Refinery

While senior executives at UBA House were going over the finer points of their plan to log 2,000 employees out of their work systems and force them to resign on the spot, a different level of labour exploitation was entering its fourth year about 73KM east of the Marina. There, at the site of the Dangote Refinery at the Free Trade Zone in Ibeju-Lekki, Lagos, the refinery was taking delivery of the world’s largest crude oil refining tower.

While this was predictably being celebrated across local and foreign media as the start of a glorious new chapter in Nigeria’s industrial history, I was speaking to a whistleblower with close and detailed knowledge of the project. What he had to say about the refinery project, the Indian project managers, the company’s internal culture and its much-publicised trainee program left me absolutely floored. Naturally I reached out to Dangote Group for a comment, but at press time I have received no response or acknowledgment.

My source, whom I shall call “Mukhtar” worked in and around the refinery project between 2016 and 2018, and what I found most distressing amidst everything he said was the revelation that deaths due to onsite accidents are not just known to happen at the refinery site, but are effectively covered up by Dangote. This he said, is because the people who die are mostly site labourers who are hired through staffing agencies instead of directly. When they die, it becomes the staffing company’s problem and the Dangote brand distances itself from it – even though the site owner is legally responsible for all safety-related incidents onsite.

Something else that struck me was that he implied that – contrary to all its public posturing – the company actually has no intention of using Nigerian engineers to run the refinery anytime soon. The trainee program that sent dozens of Engineering graduates for a one-year training program in India? “Strictly PR,” he said.

Accidents
The first batch of Dangote Refinery trainees head off to India in March 2016

For full effect, I have decided to reproduce the full and unredacted transcript of our conversation instead of using quotes and reported speech. Here is the conversation below:

ME: When we started this conversation, you mentioned that Dangote Refinery is exempt from Nigerian labour laws. What were you referencing?

Mukhtar: Because the refinery is in the FTZ, it is not subject to certain laws like local content laws. As such, even mundane jobs are given to non-Nigerian companies. Even the refinery’s fence wall was handled by a Chinese company. This didn’t stop long stretches of the fence from collapsing sometime in 2017. The FTZ affects Labour laws too. The company is not really under any obligation to employ Nigerians. They do so mostly for PR. All key decision makers are Indians (say 98%).

ME: There have been several horror stories about Indian-run businesses in Nigeria. Was this one of them?

Mukhtar: Yes, the Indians are quite racist. Some even demand to be referred to as “master”. To be fair, when this is reported, the HR unit makes a show of cautioning them. But I dont think anyone has ever been dismissed for it or seriously punished. Most of workers who meet their death on site are labourers. So their names might be known to many staff. I’ll see what I can get. It happens. It’s kept under wraps but it happens.

ME: Now you mentioned onsite deaths earlier. I want to know all about this. Why haven’t we heard anything about this?

Mukhtar: The refinery site is not really the best place to work. Mortality rate on site is quite high. People falling from heights or getting crushed by heavy vehicles/machines is quite common. These numbers are not reported because most staff are contract staff (or outsourced) so the company gets to wash its hands off such cases. But safety on site is the ultimate responsibility of the owner of the project. The construction site has a board that is supposed to display the safety statistics but it is never displays the truth. According to that board, there has never been a fatality on site. But in reality, I think 2018 had about 5 fatalities between January and March. If I were to guess, I’d say there have been over 25 fatalities since construction started in 2016/17.

ME: Now you said earlier that the trainee program was a washout and a disappointment. Fill me in on that.

Mukhtar: I was one of the first batch of engineers sent to India for training in 2016. In my opinion, the whole scheme was either poorly thought out or the company was somehow compelled to do it, and did so for PR. Our salaries were being paid into our accounts in Nigeria, so we were using our debit cards to access our Nigerian accounts for expenses over there) Around July 2016 when the naira went from around 160 per dollar to nearly double that number, our spending power was effectively halved.

ME: I also remember that there was a forex shortage crisis in 2016 and Nigerian bank cards stopped working outside the country.

Mukhtar: So when the banks eventually stopped all cards from functioning abroad, we were stranded. The company resorted to selling us dollars or rupees at the black market rate.They deducted the money from our salaries. We had accommodation (two adults per room) and feeding (Indian food which many of us did not like). Some of had to buy intercontinental dishes regularly, because Indian food is really not nice if you’re not into many smelly spices. It was crazy. Meanwhile we were told categorically that we would have Nigerian food and Nigerian cooks. It was a blatant lie by the Indian HR director.

Also, no arrangement was made for our medical care. Those who fell ill had to treat themselves from their pockets. During the currency crisis, those who fell ill had to rely on the rest of us to put together our spare change to pay for their treatment. The company promised to refund medical expenses, but this shouldn’t have been the situation in the first place.

ME: Tell me about the training program. What was the course content and the experience like? Was it what you were expecting?

Mukhtar: The training itself was a mess too. We were supposed to be trained to operate the refinery (at the time, it was said that it will be completed by mid 2017), but we were sent to a design company. These (designing a refinery and operating it) are two very, very different things. The trainers did not want us there in the first place. It was not a part of their initial contract with Dangote. Plus, they didn’t know what to teach us because designers are not operators. They were confused, several times, they asked us what we wanted to learn. But we could not know what we wanted to learn cos we knew nothing about the entire business. In the end, they reluctantly settled for teaching us design (skills we were/are unlikely to use cos the refinery was already 90% designed). 

ME: If you say that the refinery was “already 90% designed,” and you were learning design in India, that sounds like your presence was superfluous. Was the company really serious about sending you to learn skills to run a refinery?

Mukhtar: Indians will run the refinery. It will take many many many years before that refinery will be populated by just Nigerians. It was strictly PR. Anyways, the training with that design company was suddenly terminated on December 31st. Apparently, Dangote had not paid them a dime for all the months were were being taught design. They didn’t want to send us back to Nigeria so they moved us to the Dangote office in India. The office housed the Indian engineers (around 150 – 200 in number) who were supervising the design work being done by the design company. Now, it is interesting that these guys were working and earning as expatriates within their own country.

But realising that the “training” was a blunder, the company sent back some engineers to train in an actual refinery. So what was supposed to be a 1 year training became 2 years.

ME: Since returning to Nigeria, is there anything else you have noticed about the project that worries or disturbs you?

Mukhtar: Yes. So we have only the refinery at the FTZ, but the company gets to import things meant for other branches of the company duty-free. As a matter of fact, with the Dangote jetty in place and a customs office right there, the company no longer needs to clear stuff at Apapa. Dangote empire effectively has its own customs and port, because we cannot assume that the custom officers stationed at Dangote’s jetty/FTZ are extremely meticulous in checking what comes in and goes out. Personally, I find this disturbing. No non-military entity should be able to import stuff that easily into any country. This is bigger than just skipping custom duty payment.

–Ends–

Between bank staff being fired at 10.30PM and refinery site labourers being killed by workplace accidents without accountability, the sheer grimness of the picture facing Nigerian workers comes into stark relief. It is afterall, an employer’s market, with several thousand qualified people jostling for every job opening, which creates the possibility and incentive to treat staff like battery animals.

Whether the Labour Ministry is willing or able to do anything about such blatant labour exploitation is anybody’s guess. Nigeria’s government is increasingly weak and unable to impose its will on the country even territorially. In the event that the government did take interest, there is a valid fear that it would go to the other extreme and adopt a lazy anti-business Hugo Chavez approach, as it so often does. The real solution if there is to be one, must come from Nigerian labour having a stronger bargaining position through an improved economy. Anything else as it stands, is little more than a sticking plaster.

As Mukhtar mentioned, even inside the ridiculous situation of being financially stranded in a foreign country at the behest of an irresponsible and insincere Nigerian corporate, the vast majority of the group chose to suffer in silence. They did so because spending a year abroad learning useless information, suffering deprivation and experiencing diarrhea after being forced to eat unfamiliar food was still preferable to whatever alternative was at home.

Ultimately, that is the biggest problem facing Nigerian labour. 

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Volcanoes: Fires of Creation – 3D Nature Film | AMNH

[Overheard view of a smoking crater among clouds, then a volcano, viewed from the side as the Sun sets behind it.]

[POPPING, EXPLOSIVE SOUNDS.] 

[Bursts of lava, then views of lava flows down slopes.]

NARRATOR: Volcanoes are astounding forces of nature.

[A group of three people, seen from the back, observe a fiery scene below them.]

NARRATOR: They possess the power both to destroy

[Gusts of smoke and water during an eruption somewhere in the ocean] 

NARRATOR: and to create.

[An aerial view of the ruins of an ancient city below a bright blue sky.]

NARRATOR: Throughout the ages, we’ve built our cities

[The peak of a volcano rises, smoking, with several towers of a church-like building in the foreground.]

NARRATOR: In their shadows.

[A fly-over shot above green fields dotted with palm trees, with a volcano in the background.]

NARRATOR: Drawn to their rich soils. 

[An aerial view of a big crater at the top of a volcano, with a city spread out below.]

[EXPLOSIVE SOUNDS.]

[A view of another crater, spewing clouds of gas, rock, and smoke.]

[SECOND MUSICAL SCORE BEGINS] 

[An underwater view of an eruption.]

NARRATOR: From the depths of the ocean

[Scenes of an elephant walking, lions playing in a field, and a group of gorillas, including a silverback, among greenery.]

NARRATOR: to grasslands and tropical forests, volcanoes help shape 

[A view of a smoking volcano top, a view of a coast line.]

NARRATOR: vibrant ecosystems.

[A view of an explorer walking with bags away from a campsite dotted with tents.]

NARRATOR: Join National Geographic photographer Carsten Peter

[Two people, tethered with ropes, stand on the edge of a tall cliff.]

NARRATOR: and his team

[A view of two people descending down towards a lake of lava.]

NARRATOR: as they go where few would dare.

[A close-up of the boiling lava.]

CARSTEN PETER:  The whole Earth is rumbling, the whole Earth is shaking

[A view of the two climbers, tethered, raising their arms with their backs to the lake of lava.]

CARSTEN PETER: It’s absolutely incredible.

[Bursts of lava.]

NARRATOR: Discover the exciting science

[Two orbs, one large and one smaller, collide in space with a burst.]

NARRATOR: behind Earth’s origins.

[A view of a fractured surface, with moving pieces and in parts erupting with lava.]

NARRATOR: Every rock tells a story.

[A view of a person in protective gear, holding on to the edge of a rocky slope, above a lake of fiery lava.]

NARRATOR: So imagine what this one will reveal.

[Sparks and flying bits of lava. Text reads: Volcanoes. The Fires of Creation. Vocalnoesfilm.com. #Volcanoesfilm. Logos display at the bottom.]

NARRATOR: Now playing on IMAX and giant screens.

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Omo Sexy remakes Nollywood, music industry into money machine | P.M. News

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Omotola Jalade Ekeinde

Omotola Jalade-Ekeinde is trying to reorganise Nollywood and Nigeria’s music industry to become a money making machine for all the stakeholders as she staged an entertainment fair TEFFEST. Will she succeed?

International Business Times zeroes in on her effort in this feature by AFP:

Fake eyelashes fluttered, bespoke suits were on display and slick music videos played at the inaugural edition of The Entertainment Fair and Festival in Nigeria’s economic hub Lagos in late November.

But behind the glitter, the reality of the film and music sectors in Africa’s most populous nation can often be far less glamorous: wages are low, there are no social protections and copyright law is rarely enforced.

That comes despite the country boasting the second most productive film industry in the world and some of Africa’s biggest pop stars.

Hits by singers like Burna Boy, Wizkid and Davido play non-stop on stations across the continent and Nollywood churns out some 2,500 movies each year.

Despite the successes, revenues from Nigeria’s entertainment and media sector in 2018 lagged well behind that of the continent’s other leading economic powerhouse South Africa at $4.5 billion compared to $9.1 billion, PwC said.

That difference is not down to output or demand as Nigeria produces more, exports more and has a domestic market of some 200 million people, four times bigger than South Africa.

Instead industry insiders insist it is a problem of organisation.

South Africa has better systems for ensuring royalty payments for artists, stronger legal protections and more modern facilities such as film studios, concert venues and cinemas.

In a bid to help remedy the issues facing the industry, veteran Nollywood star Omotola Jalade-Ekeinde came up with the first entertainment business fair, known as TEFFEST.

It is aimed at bringing together actors, singers, producers, insurers, lawyers and managers to better organise the sector.

“The entertainment industry has grown without structures, without a roof,” Jalade-Ekeinde, nicknamed “Omo Sexy”, told AFP.

“For decades, we were not taken seriously and the big corporation companies didn’t consider us.”

The situation has changed as the industry has grown and now companies like Netflix are looking to step up their involvement in Nollywood and international labels attempting to tap Afropop stars.

“We produced, we grew, we became something suddenly and now the corporate world is trying to understand how we work and how they can deal with us,” Jalade-Ekeinde, AKA “the Queen of Nollywood”, said.

But the problems riddling the industry means it is often difficult to invest.

“There is nothing to celebrate here,” said Efe Omoregbe, manager of singer 2Face and former board member of the Copyright Society of Nigeria (COSON), which was dissolved by the government due to an internal conflict.

“We should be fixing and addressing major structural issues (…) We live in a culture of abuse when it comes to copyrights.”

PwC estimates that 80 percent of the pirate CDs globally can be found in Nigeria and singer Brymo says that in almost 20 years performing he has never received any money from his songs playing on local radio stations.

“Internationally, we make money through digital distribution platforms that have taken over rapidly, but locally it’s mostly with gigs or endorsement deals,” he said.

Lawyer Simeon Okoduwa said he tries to insist on artists signing a contract with producers before working with them.

“Too many film shoots or recordings are still done based on promises and handshakes,” he said.

This is an issue that leading actor Michelle Dede knows only too well.

The star always demands a written contract before starting her next film — and says the largest production companies now do offer written contracts as standard.

“Before producers thought I was being pretentious,” she said.

Despite the improvements she still decries the lack of protections for performers or a minimum wage for actors and others involved in the industry such as make-up artists, cameramen and technicians.

Nollywood is a vast employer in Nigeria — with some estimates saying it offers jobs to one million people — but much of that is very precarious.

“We make more money on building a brand than acting,” said Dede.

“But I shouldn’t be focusing on how many likes I get on Instagram, I should be working on my roles.”

Despite the drawbacks, the entertainment industry is still a major draw in a country where almost half the population live in extreme poverty.

But Dede said she still has no regret of leaving her job in marketing in London to launch herself in Nollywood.

“Nothing makes me happier than acting,” she said.

“Even though the pay is not good, there is no way I would give up on that.”

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Sorry Will Ferrell, Elf is the most overrated Christmas film of all time

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Elf is one of the most overrated Christmas films of all time

Elf is one of the most overrated Christmas films of all time (Picture: New Line)

It’s Christmas, which means that normal TV is thankfully replaced by an abundance of festive fun. Home Alone 1 and 2, Miracle On 34th Street, Die Hard, Jingle All The Way, I’m ready to watch it all. But, before we all start commanding the remote control, we need to talk about how Elf is the most overrated Christmas film – and maybe just overall movie – of all time. And, instead of spewing me with gifs, telling me that I sit on a throne of lies etc, just take a breath and hear me out.

Buddy the Elf is probably one of the most annoying characters to appear on the big screen. He just is. And that’s no disrespect to Will Ferrell, but a grown man in an Elf costume who eats cotton balls, shouts all the time, breaks into song and bounces around like a high-as-a-kite Tigger is not fun, endearing or cute. Imagine when Christmas is over and he’s still… there.

Also his back story is the most ridiculous thing. I know it’s a film, and it’s Christmas so we should suspend belief just a touch more, but seriously guys… Newborn Buddy is left in an orphanage, then climbs into Santa’s sack undetected, with no one realising at any point that they’re missing a literal baby. And how does Santa not clock there is a child in his bag until he gets back to the North Pole? He presumably has to open said sack to give other people their presents, but he just failed to see a baby? Not buying it.

Editorial use only. No book cover usage. Mandatory Credit: Photo by Alan Markfield/New Line Prods/Kobal/REX (5884647n) Will Ferrell Elf - 2003 Director: Jon Favreau New Line Productions USA Scene Still Elfe

Buddy the Elf is the most annoying character ever (Picture: New Line)

Instead of the elves checking his address in their all-knowing records, they let Buddy build a life for himself in the North Pole, beavering away and making crap Christmas presents. But, in all that time, did no one also stop and suggest to build him some grown-up furniture so he didn’t have to constantly crouch? They’re all elves, building is what they do. The man doesn’t even have a toilet he can fit on.

When he’s eventually told about his parents – after what seems like 30 years as an elf – he just swans off to New York, floating away from his adopted dad on an ice ledge and armed with nothing but a snow globe of the Empire State Building. How did he get there? How does he know the way? How are his clothes not dirty from the journey? Why didn’t he just take Santa’s sleigh? So. Many. Questions.

Suddenly, Buddy is just handed a job at a swanky department store as part of their Christmas display. No CRB, no checks, just letting a grown man off the street – dressed as an elf – in a job where he interacts with children. Police would shut Gimbels down in a hot minute, but it’s a festive film so no one bats an eyelid. While there, he locks eyes on Zooey Deschanel’s character, who is also dressed as an elf (for work) and they have precisely five seconds of banter before she moves on, because Buddy is someone you would swipe past on Tinder, or ghost after precisely three messages. He then walks in on her in the shower, tells her that she makes his tongue swell up (absolutely a euphemism) and takes her on a date to a revolving door. And she still falls madly in love with him. This is how low the bar is for men.

Editorial use only. No book cover usage. Mandatory Credit: Photo by Moviestore/REX (1566358a) Elf, Zooey Deschanel Film and Television

Zooey Deschanel, you’re better than this. (Picture: New Line)

Also, you’re better than this, Zooey Deschanel, and don’t let an overgrown man child dressed like an elf tell you differently.

Buddy’s dad Walter (James Caan) is also a horrible human being. He’s rude, entitled, mean to nuns, has all his priorities in exactly the wrong order, and knowingly shipped a bunch of books out with missing pages like an absolute monster. Yes, this is probably his biggest crime of all. He quite clearly doesn’t want to spend any time with Buddy – or his other son, Michael – as we’ve spent most of the movie seeing.

But then, in a blink-and-you-miss-it character arc, he then becomes a nice guy who remembers he should love his family. All of a sudden, he’s ready to roll up his sleeves and save Christmas. Where the hell did that even come from? In the space of 30 seconds, Walter has gone from the meanest man on the planet to quitting his very good job for a son who puts syrup on their pasta.

Nope, sorry, I do not buy it. Count me out. I honestly love Christmas more than most other people, for me it is the happiest time of the year, but Buddy the Elf and his terrible taste in pasta does nothing for me.

Got a showbiz story?

If you’ve got a celebrity story, video or pictures get in touch with the Metro.co.uk entertainment team by emailing us celebtips@metro.co.uk, calling 020 3615 2145 or by visiting our Submit Stuff page – we’d love to hear from you.

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Ondo: PDP tackles Akeredolu over daughters wedding in Mauritius

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…EXCO members went at their personal expenses — Govt

Dayo Johnson, Akure

The opposition Peoples Democratic Party in Ondo state yesterday said the conduct of the wedding of the daughter of governor Rotimi Akeredolu in Mauritius was a vexatious display of insensitivity by the governor towards the difficult challenges currently being faced by citizens of the state.

It alleged that ” almost 100 people attended the wedding in Mauritius adding that ” such a visit is not only needless but irresponsible and shows clearly what the priorities of this government are”.

A statement issued by the state Director of Media and Publicity , Zadok Akintoye in Akure said “Within the last two years, the governor has celebrated weddings of his children across the world from Canada to the United States and now Mauritius at the expense of citizens of this state without any sense of respect to the people he leads.

“How else can one explain the present display of affluence and disdain for the people?

The governor, family members, members of the State Executive Council, wives of traditional rulers, Speaker Bamidele Oloyelogun, Deputy Speaker lroju Ogundeji and other principal officers of the State House of Assembly amongst others aides of the governor and his wife Betty travelled to Mauritius for the wedding.

Akeredolu’s daughter, Dr Teniola was joined in holy wedlock with Engineer Olatunde Mike Oyeyiola at the Long Beach Sun Resort, Mauritius on the 30th of November.

Akintoye said “The recent outcry of citizens of this state against the vexatious display of insensitivity by the Governor of Ondo state, Mr. Rotimi Akeredolu SAN, remains another testament of the lack of empathy by the APC-led government towards the difficult challenges currently being faced by citizens.

“Considering very carefully the deplorable condition of public infrastructure in the state, the high number of students in public universities who have been forced to either suspend or fully abandon their academic pursuits, the inability of this government to provide basic and affordable healthcare.

” One would have expected the governor to show some minimal level of empathy expected of a public servant superintending over a government that has increased taxes and levies paid by citizens and forced many to seek survival through pain.

” lt is on record that this APC-led government, remains the most anti-people government in the history of Ondo state and one that has glorified crony capitalism, nepotism, tribalism and wanton disregard for the welfare of the people.

“We therefore ask this government to face the serious issues of providing good governance rather than turning the administration of  public wealth and resources into an opportunity for grandiose parties and jamboree.

“The indefensible response from the Honorable Commissioner for Information, Mr. Donald Ojogo that only five cabinet members graced the occasion, can at best be seen as a  deliberate attempt misinform the citizens.

” Its on record that members of the Cabinet, the Speaker and Members of the state House of Assembly, Aides and Assistants of this Governor, numbering almost 100 attended the wedding in Mauritius.

“For a government that has not been able to mobilize its aides to deal with the deplorable state of public infrastructure in the state, such a visit is not only needless but irresponsible and shows clearly what the priorities of this government are.

ALSO READ: Breaking: Police declare Nnamdi Kanu’s lawyer ‘Ejiofor’ wanted

” We put this government on notice that its’ reckless abandonment of the good of the people will be remembered when this government is replaced by a more people friendly PDP government in 2020.

However, in a swift reaction, the information and Orientation commissioner Donald Ojogo has denied the ” needless insinuations surrounding the wedding ceremony of the daughter of the governor in Mauritius.

Ojogo said that “the baleful narratives deliberately churned out to the public were not in unexpected.

“This is more so that the quality of those who attended the event has the capacity to draw such carousal inspirations that state funds were spent on the travel and other expenditures of those who were at the ceremony.

” lt is perhaps, pertinent to state that the erroneous impression being created by those behind the unsavoury perspectives that the entire members of the State Executive Council attended the event is not just puerile but pernicious.

“For the records, not more than five of the 30-member Cabinet graced the event at their personal expense.

He added that “We therefore plead with sponsors of such unholy narratives to be kind enough to provide evidence of State Government’s funds spent on those who attended the wedding ceremony.

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California church nativity scene depicts Jesus, Mary and Joseph as refugees separated in cages

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A California church is displaying a nativity scene depicting Jesus, Mary and Joseph as refugees in cages to draw attention to the conditions faced by migrants seeking asylum in the United States. (Photo: Pastor Karen Clark Ristine/Claremont UMO/Facebook)

CLAREMONT, Calif. — A California church is displaying a nativity scene depicting Jesus, Mary and Joseph as refugees in cages to draw attention to the conditions faced by migrants seeking asylum in the United States.

The Claremont United Methodist Church, about 30 miles east of Los Angeles, posted the photo on its website showing the three held in separate cages topped with barbed wire. The baby Jesus is wrapped in a silver foil blanket.

“We thought about the most famous refugee family in the world, the family of Jesus,” lead pastor Karen Clark Ristine told KABC about the scene outside of the church.

In a Facebook post, Ristine said the display came from the idea of “What if this family sought refuge in our country today?”

The biblical story of Mary and Joseph fleeing from Israel to Egypt to escape King Herod’s decree that all baby boys be killed is symbolic of the plight of thousands of refugees seeking asylum in America, she said.

“In the Claremont United Methodist Church nativity scene this Christmas, the Holy Family takes the place of the thousands of nameless families separated at our borders,” Ristine said in the post.

“Imagine Joseph and Mary separated at the border and Jesus no older than two taken from his mother and placed behind the fences of a Border Patrol detention center as more than 5,500 children have been the past three years.”

“If this sparks conversation, that would be one good goal,” Ristine told KABC.

Commenters on the Facebook post were sharply divided.

“It is disrespectful in my view to put the King of Kings, Lord of Lords in a cage at any time. Your political views should not be mixed with the birth of our savior. Shame on you!” wrote one user.

Another thought the scene was a very powerful display.

“Does the world’s most famous and worshipped refugees separated in cages make you uncomfortable USA? … it does? … Good!”

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4 Tips For Running Effective Church Tech (even on a small budget)

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I’m going to date myself here but when I started leading worship and helping with media at my church, a typical Sunday looked like this:

  1. Show up an hour before rehearsal and pick out songs. (“Let’s see… This week we’ll do Jehova Jireh, Ancient of Days, I Give You My Heart and maybe we should introduce that new song, I Could Sing Of Your Love Forever!”)
  2. Run-off a bunch of photocopies of chord sheets with most of the correct chords penciled in.
  3. Insert about 50 slides into the Kodak 4400 Carousel Slide Projector (oops, I guess we’ll have to do without the lyrics for that new song!)
  4. Run through the songs with just enough time to go to the bathroom before the service starts.

I wish I could say I’m exaggerating, but I’m not.

Fast forward a few years. Our new youth pastor says “why
don’t we purchase a computer and projector and get with the times and use
PowerPoint?” Wow, we were high tech now! Then, sometime around 2003, that same
youth pastor says “you’ve got to check out this awesome presentation software.
It’s called EasyWorship. You can even use video behind the lyrics to enhance
the worship time.” Yep. We never looked back.

All
Scott Breault – New Life Church, Escanaba MI

Almost 20 years later, this is what a typical Sunday…err…week
looks like:

Monday: Pick out the worship set and plan the service.

Tuesday: Make some tweaks to the order of service, finalize the worship set and send out the Planning Center requests to the worship and tech team.

Wednesday: (This is where it gets fun) Head to the media booth, open EasyWorship 7 and drag the songs, graphics, videos and any content being displayed into the schedule. Go through the motion packs and drag and drop the motions that seem to fit the tempo and mood of the song.

Thursday: Mow the lawn (or shovel snow), Spend time with family.

Friday: Program lights, make sure the stage is ready for the team, and do a test run-through of lights, lyrics, presentations, and media while playing the worship set through Planning Center.

Saturday: Mow the lawn that I never got to on Thursday. Spend time with family.

SUNDAY: Drink coffee. 8 am run-through. Start the 5-minute countdown. Start the live stream. 9 am service. Drink coffee. 10:30 service. Eat lunch. Nap.

Okay, I know I said 4 tips for running effective church tech (even on a small budget), so here are those tips and a little look behind the scenes.

1. Keep it Intentional

alpha

Don’t do things just because you saw it at a conference or at another church. Do things out of vision and purpose. Ask yourself “what, why and how?” What do I want to accomplish? Why is it important? (Yes, it is important) How can I do this effectively? One of the things I’m very intentional about is our motion backgrounds and stage lighting. Those things can either cause distraction or be a powerful tool for removing distractions and helping people focus. Make sure what you are doing is achieving the latter. Don’t use fast, bright motions on slow, contemplative songs. If you’re using colored lights then make sure the colors match or complement the backgrounds you’re using. Think about how colors affect emotion. Cool. Warm. Energetic. Calming. Be intentional.

2. Keep it practical

app

It’s easy to look at what the “big churches” are doing and get discouraged. Don’t get discouraged. Keep looking at what the “big churches” are doing, be inspired and scale it down to what fits your resources. LED walls and moving heads are all the rage. I get it. They look awesome. We can’t afford those things right now. How can I get a similar look on a small budget? We looked at LED tape, and movement of light and textures across the stage. (We built this set for around $500 and it has been our backdrop for the last 1 ½ years)

Ask

Our monitor setup: We are running desktop, main display, foldback, and alpha. The main display goes into a splitter that sends the signal to the front projector, secondary monitor and video switcher. The video switcher goes out to our streaming device, and TVs throughout the church.

Awesome

Our live stream setup: We use the Blackmagic Studio HD as our video switcher. We have the PC running the main display and alpha and a couple of cameras. This allows us to show videos and media as well as our cameras on our live stream. The alpha allows us to do lyrics over the camera feeds during worship.

Our lighting setup: Luminair app $99 on an iPad, EZ Kling controller $99, DIY LED tape setup $300. (YouTube and Google are your friends.) Inexpensive LED lights that we’ve purchased over the years.

3. Keep it updated

birth

Seriously. Keep your computer updated. Keep your software updated. Make sure you’re using the recommended specs for what you’re doing. If you can’t afford the video card, ram, and processor required for HD video, then use still backgrounds. You want things to be reliable during the service. It can still look modern and professional. Use clean, sans serif fonts. (not comic sans) No more than 4 lines per slide. No outline. Soft shadow if you need the contrast. Remember, it’s our job to remove distractions not create them. Keep your equipment updated and keep your look updated.

4. Pass it on

Don’t just find people to push buttons. Train your volunteers. Teach them to troubleshoot. Teach them the “what”, “why” and “how”. Communicate your vision and most importantly, build healthy relationships with them.

Some of the things we’re looking to do in the near future are IMAG and syncing our lights and lyrics with our clicks. (All of which EasyWorship 7 has the ability to integrate with.)

I’ll leave you with this: Don’t make things complicated. You
could have all the tools and resources in the world but if you don’t know how
to use them then they do you no good. Learn how to effectively use the tools
and resources you have. Sometimes that forces you to tap into a level of
creativity that will give birth to all sorts of new ideas. Thanks for taking
the time to read this blog. If you have any specific questions about our setup,
feel free to message me on FB or send me an email. scott@newlife906.com

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“Make America Great Again”: Will the Seventh-day Adventist Church in America Survive the Storm?

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It’s a global village now.

The term “global village” was invented when the global reality was much less apparent. Today, I can read the The New York Times in real time in Oslo and Ottawa and Osaka just as easily as in the city of its publication. CNN brings the world to a global audience of viewers twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. I have digital subscriptions to The New York Times, The Washington Post, the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, The Atlantic, The New Yorker, and a Norwegian newspaper, and I sometimes read German or British newspapers online. This makes me an exception: newspapers and magazines compete for a shrinking audience. Visual news, by contrast, like CNN or Fox, is ubiquitous. We cannot avoid them even if we try.

And the subject — in print or on the television screen? There is more than one, but the main subject is President Donald J. Trump. He is the new chief in the global village; he attracts an audience; he keeps it up, tweet after tireless tweet. For the last four years, in outlets like CNN or Fox, there has not been one twenty-four-hour news cycle that failed to mention candidate Trump and later President Trump. Indeed, for the last four years, there has hardly been a twenty-four-hour news cycle when he was not the main subject.

I do not plan to engage this subject broadly. My focus will be narrow, announced in the headline. “Will the Seventh-day Adventist Church in America Survive the Storm?”

Why do I ask the question, why do I pose it as a matter of survival, and why do I ask it now? 

I have wondered about the impact of the political climate on the church on many occasions. A broad approach to my question would not be a waste of time, thinking particularly about the connection between the Sabbath and care for the world or the social conscience of the seventh day.[1] Here, my focus will be narrow; it will have one issue only. While some issues can be discussed dispassionately as matters belonging to gray zones, my concern cannot be discussed dispassionately, and it does not belong to a zone where there are varying shades of gray. Some things are black or white. This is one of those things.

On October 10, 2019, the President of the United States of America traveled to Minneapolis to give a speech. The stands were filled with people, twenty thousand in all. Many were dressed in the colors signifying support for the president’s aspiration to “Make America Great Again.” The president’s speech lasted one hour and thirty minutes. About one hour into the speech, the president turned to talk about the Somali-born Congresswoman Ilhan Omar and the immigration and refugee resettlement programs that brought many Somalis to Minnesota.[2]

Donald Trump: (54:16)
So in desperate attempt to attack our movement. Nancy and Chuck, two beauties, have given control of the Democrat party entirely over to the radical left, including Minnesota’s own representative Ilhan Omar. I know you people. I know you people. I know the people of Minnesota, and I want to tell you, and I also, at the same time, it’s both a question and a statement, how’d the hell did that ever happen? How did it happen? How did it happen? Congresswoman Omar is an America-hating socialist.

Donald Trump: (01:21:05)
Thank you very much. Thank you. Great people. Thank you. What a group. I think your very weak mayor made a mistake when he took them on. As you know, for many years, leaders in Washington brought large numbers of refugees to your state from Somalia without considering the impact on schools and communities and taxpayers. I promised you that as president, I would give local communities a greater say in refugee policy, and put in place enhanced vetting and responsible immigration controls.

Donald Trump: (01:22:13)
And I’ve done that. Since coming into office, I have reduced refugee resettlement by 85%, and as you know, maybe especially in Minnesota, I kept another promise. I issued an executive action, making clear that no refugees will be resettled in any city or any state without the express written consent of that city or that state. So speak to your mayor. You should be able to decide what is best for your own cities and for your own neighborhoods, and that’s what you have the right to do right now.

Donald Trump: (01:23:12)
If Democrats were ever to seize power, they would open the floodgates to unvetted, uncontrolled migration at levels you have never seen before. Do you think you have it bad now? You would never have seen anything like what they want to do. But in the Trump administration, we will always protect American families first, and that has not been done in Minnesota.

What is the problem? The president is speaking about foreign-born generally non-White people who are already in the country, many of them by now American citizens, including Ilhan Omar. The speech was given in her district, in the same area where some fifty thousand Somali refugees are settled. They came there, the refugees have said, because they were well received and felt safe. And now? The President of the United States of America tracks them down in their neighborhood. He vilified one of them by name, twisting things she has said in the most negative manner. He accused her for minimizing the September 11 tragedy, charged to her “a history of launching virulent anti-Semitic screeds” before delving into her marital history. At the mention of “Somalis,” the president’s mostly white crowd broke out in boos — “in effect jeering their neighbors,” as one person present put it.

In better days, Ilhan Omar would be proof that America is a great country, the greatest there is. How she, a Somali-born refugee found a home in the United States, how she got an education, how she overcame obstacles to make herself into a person who exemplifies the best there is of diversity and opportunity in the U.S. In the president’s world, however, Omar is repeatedly thrashed. She has become one of the members of Congress targeted by the Trump-inspired chant, “Send her back!”

Let us leave Omar out, if need be, for the conversation to proceed without allowing allegations about her to distract us. Let us not leave out the other more than fifty thousand refugees of Somali descent now living in Minnesota. The president had a special line for the mayor of Minneapolis, saying that he showed weakness when he took the refugees in. (33:57) “Minneapolis, Minneapolis, you’ve got a rotten man. You’ve got to change your mayor. You’ve got a bad mayor. You’ve got a bad mayor.” And now the Somali refugees, who fled one of the most broken countries in the world. They are there, in Minnesota, on October 10 the target of a viscerally hostile speech by the president of their new homeland.

Others are there, too. I am now referring to the people in the stands. Let the president do the vilification of the Somalis by himself. It is not necessary to become his accomplice in disparaging a vulnerable group. It is not necessary to attend the rally. It is not necessary to cheer.

This is where the question of survival comes in. Will the Seventh-day Adventist Church in America survive this storm? Eighty percent of evangelical Christians support this man and his policies. Fifty percent of Catholic white males are said to support him. How high is the percentage among Seventh-day Adventists? Were Adventists in the audience in Minneapolis? Did Adventists cheer the part of the speech that singled out the refugees? One journal, secular, of course, had a fitting headline afterwards. “Trump’s Minneapolis Rally Was a Demonstration of the Moral Suicide Pact He’s Made with His Supporters.”[3] The author, Jack Holmes, the political editor of Esquire magazine, does not want to be in on the moral suicide pact. 

This is a virulently racist tirade aimed at ginning up the worst instincts of the people in the crowd. It is not a coincidence Trump chose to come here, or to target a refugee community that is black and Muslim. This is how he thinks he can win reelection: by continuing to pull his base of support towards more vitriolic expressions of this vision of America as a country for and by white people; by scaring other constituencies away from speaking out; by using the Republican Party’s machinations to stop inconvenient voters from voting; by smearing his opponents as Just As Bad As Him, They Just Pretend to Be Prim and Proper; by soliciting foreign meddling that will benefit him in exchange for favors when he is reelected.

“I know you people. I know you people,” the president said as he began the part about the refugees. What does he know about them? Does he seek to unleash some hidden, inner hostility that resonates with his sentiment, knowing that it is there? What does he know? One of Adolf Hitler’s critics in the German Reichstag said before voices like his fell silent — before the Reichstag went into a twelve-year de facto hibernation — that Hitler had an uncanny ability to spot and stir to life a person’s “inner swine.” Surely, the talk about the Somali refugees in Minnesota, in public, before a cheering audience, some of whom are next-door neighbors to the Somalis, could be an example of inner swines cut loose from moral restraint.

Moral Suicide

In what sense does this qualify as moral suicide, a term that is well chosen? I will offer three reasons.

First is the biblical perspective. In the Old Testament, the refugee has special status as an object of God’s protection. Who will not be inspired and humbled by a walk-through of some of these texts? Their thrust is not only an obligation to treat refugees and immigrants with respect. It goes deeper than that. Believers are called to see themselves in the other person — to remember that we are in the same boat: what they are, we used to be. This should be easy to do for people in Minnesota. The ancestors of many in that state were not refugees but economic migrants from Scandinavia and Germany, but they came as aliens.

You shall not wrong or oppress a resident alien, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt (Exod. 22:21).

You shall not oppress a resident alien; you know the heart of an alien, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt (Exod. 23:9).

When an alien resides with you in your land, you shall not oppress the alien (Lev. 19:33).

Does it count as oppression when the president of your adopted country seeks you out in your back yard, there to call your mayor “a rotten person” for letting you in, there to make you be his foil for a vision of America that uses disdain for you to inspire them to be his supporters? Does it count as oppression when the speaker clearly intends to outsource to his audience to change the terms of the alien’s existence?

The alien who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you; you shall love the alien as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God (Lev. 19:34).

You and the alien who resides with you shall have the same law and the same ordinance (Num. 15:16).

What is most impressive in these texts is the insistent, unprecedented, vociferous call to remember. Historical amnesia is a dangerous and ever-present risk. To counter the risk, Deuteronomy inscribes the memory of past oppression as a constituent of the believer’s present identity.

Remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the LORD your God redeemed you; for this reason I lay this command upon you today (Deut. 15:15). 

Remember that you were a slave in Egypt, and diligently observe these statutes (Deut. 16:12).

You shall not abhor any of the Edomites, for they are your kin. You shall not abhor any of the Egyptians, because you were an alien residing in their land (Deut. 23:7).

Remember that you were a slave in Egypt and the LORD your God redeemed you from there; therefore I command you to do this (Deut. 24:18).

There they are, the Edomites and the Egyptians. They are there, in the text, but they are here, too, in the neighborhood. Just look on the map to see how little has changed even though the world has expanded. Lucky ones, are they not, to have a verbal footprint left for them in the Bible, the people who are now coming from where the Edomites used to live (Syria, Iraq, Palestine) or from Egypt (close enough to Somalia to count).

It was part of the liturgy of these believers to rehearse their story over and over in assembly, to say the following out loud:

You shall make this response before the LORD your God: “A wandering Aramean was my ancestor; he went down into Egypt and lived there as an alien, few in number, and there he became a great nation, mighty and populous” (Deut. 26:5).

The wandering Aramean, of course, is Abraham. In the New Testament, he is the role model for believers in Jesus (Rom. 4:16). In one New Testament iteration, Abraham never ceases to be an itinerant. For such a person and for such an itinerant faith-identity, understanding and empathy for those on the outside will only be stronger.

By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to set out for a place that he was to receive as an inheritance; and he set out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he stayed for a time in the land he had been promised, as in a foreign land, living in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. For he looked forward to the city that has foundations, whose architect and builder is God (Heb. 11:8-10).

For here we have no lasting city, but we are looking for the city that is to come (Heb. 13:14).

For anyone working with refugees and seeing their plight first-hand, it helps to ponder such a faith identity. To be a migrant or a resident alien, as a believer, is not a stage left behind, a distant chapter to remember. It is a stage — even a state — of present existence.

Second, we have a historical reason not to be part of the moral collapse playing out with respect to refugees and resident aliens. Now as then, at issue is not refugee status only. It is also minority status, ethnic, racial, or religious. Two immense historical realities obligate and inform us, the history of slavery and the Holocaust. Fifteen million Africans were brought to the New World against their will (not all of them to the US); six million Jews were gassed and cremated in the Nazi era. Might it be possible to see in the face of the Somalis seeking entrance the face of Africans who were forced to come against their will? Now they come willingly, in a state of need. Is this a time to shut the doors — or ever to shut them? Is there not still an unpaid debt from us to them, “us” the enslavers of European descent and “them” the enslaved?

And the Holocaust? It was “Not Long Ago, Not Far Away,” as an exhibit now on display in New York puts it. What happened had a toxic rhetorical antecedent. I am not suggesting that something on that scale is in the making today. But I am saying that there is a family resemblance at the level of rhetoric. I do not envision that today’s rhetoric will become tomorrow’s genocide. But yesterday’s genocide makes today’s rhetoric indecent, dangerous, and unconscionable even if it is only rhetoric. For a Somali minority in the US to be disparaged by the nation’s president with a crowd of mostly white Americans cheering him on is immoral because of what happened “Not Far Away, Not Long Ago.” We cannot go near it again; we cannot cheer except to put our souls in the gravest peril. Think of it this way, too: he speaks that way not to show us what he is like but because he thinks he knows what we are like.

I find sobering support for the unfinished work history teaches us to do in the recent book by the philosopher I admire the most. Susan Neiman says that “I began life as a white girl in the segregated South, and I am likely to end it as a Jewish woman in Berlin.”[4] Her remarkable geographic, intellectual, and professional journey is as compelling as her message: the need for Vergangenheitsaufarbeitung, as they say it in German: the need for “working-off-the-past.” The spectacle in Minneapolis and other spectacles like it result, in Neiman’s story, “from America’s failure to confront its own history.”[5]

Third, we have a special Seventh-day Adventist reason not to condone, participate in, or in any way engage in the conduct on display in Minneapolis on October 10, 2019. This has to do with our history and self-understanding. Early Adventists saw themselves called to proclaim a message of everlasting good news or, as I propose to translate it, “an eternally valid message” (Rev. 14:6). The target audience is broadly specified in Revelation. The message is to be proclaimed “to those who live on the earth — to every nation and tribe and language and people” (Rev. 14:6). There are no favorites here, no national or ethnic or tribal preference. The first angel in Revelation takes the stage with an equal opportunity proposition with respect to “those who live on the earth.”

When Adventist pioneers contemplated the scope of this commission, they took comfort in how they saw Providence at work in the American experience. Human beings from “every nation and tribe and language and people” had come to the United States! The mission could be accomplished here, in the New World, because God had raised up a nation of migrants and immigrants, of refugees and fortune seekers, in the New World. It would not be necessary to go to them. God had brought them to us; God brought them here.

This vision has since undergone a much-needed correction. They did not all come here; it was necessary to go there to be faithful to the commission. But the early perception should not be abandoned without a trace. Seventh-day Adventists have a special reason to be welcoming to people from other nations and tribes. Not so long ago it was a settled Adventist conviction that God had brought them here as an element in God’s eschatological vision for the nations. God — not simply destitution or need or hope or opportunity.

It is a global village now. We are all in on this. “Immigrants and refugees are welcome in Minneapolis,” said Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey after the president’s visit. I am glad he did. According to the transcript, verbatim, people chanted, “Four more years. Four more years. Four more years. Four more years. Four more years. Four more years. Four more years. Four more years. Four more years” even though the visitors had told them that they have “a rotten mayor.”

Moses wasn’t there, but he gave a different speech to his migrant congregation before they took possession of the Promised Land. Then, too, there was a big crowd. Then, too, there was a pact. It was not a moral suicide pact but a moral pact meant to bring security to the most vulnerable. “Cursed be anyone who deprives the alien, the orphan, and the widow of justice,” said Moses.

And the people, back then, what did they say?

“All the people shall say, ‘Amen!’” (Deut. 27:19)

Notes & References:

Sigve K. Tonstad is Research Professor of Biblical Interpretation at Loma Linda University.

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Planned Parenthood’s political arm to spend $45 million on electing candidates backing reproductive rights

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(CNN)Planned Parenthood‘s super PAC kicked off a $45 million electoral program targeted toward battleground states for the 2020 election, the reproductive rights giant announced on Wednesday.

The group’s self-identified largest program to date will go toward “large-scale grassroots organizing programs and targeted canvass, digital, television, radio and mail programs,” according to a press release. Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Michigan, Minnesota, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin will all be focuses of the initiative, per the release.
“Who we elect will determine our access to birth control, cancer screenings, sex education, abortion access and more,” said Kelley Robinson, executive director of Planned Parenthood Votes, in a statement.
“That’s why Planned Parenthood Votes will use every tool at our disposal to hit the pavement, flood the airwaves, and elect reproductive rights champions up and down the ballot,” she added. “We know this is a fight we can win.”
The super PAC pledged to back reproductive rights candidates “from the White House to the Senate to statehouses and ballot initiatives across the country,” indicating a state-level focus after a year that saw a slew of pre-viability abortion restrictions coming out of conservative state legislatures. Planned Parenthood is among the plaintiffs in lawsuits challenging such laws in Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Missouri and Ohio.
Anti-abortion leaders decried Planned Parenthood’s election efforts, accusing the group of looking to protect its own finances and lamenting its federal subsidies. Planned Parenthood received $563.8 million in government funding in 2018, according to its annual report.
Lila Rose, president of anti-abortion group Live Action, slammed the funding effort as a display of “ruthless prioritization of politics and their bottom line over women’s health care.”
March for Life President Jeanne Mancini said in a statement that the funding effort was unsurprising “because this Administration has implemented a pro-life agenda in many areas, including the Protecting Life in Global Health Policy and new Title X regulations, both of which impacted Planned Parenthood’s bottom line.”
“It is unfair to force Americans to subsidize through their tax dollars this partisan political organization bent on electing pro-abortion politicians,” she added.
This year, Planned Parenthood rejected some federal funding. The group decided to drop Title X funding in August after the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a Trump administration rule blocking recipient providers from discussing abortion services with patients. HHS told recipients in July that the rule would go into effect despite several pending challenges.

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