I can see us sittin’ round the table

I can see us sittin’ round the table January 19, 2021

• Religion News Service looks at the religious demographics of President Joe Biden’s cabinet, which is “the most racially and ethnically diverse ever.”

In terms of their religious backgrounds, the Cabinet nominees are also diverse. Like the president-elect, the majority — at least eight — are Catholic.  But five Jews have also been nominated, two Black Baptists and, if the surgeon general is included (often not), two Hindus. (A handful of Cabinet picks do not appear to identify with any religion.)

One group not represented? White evangelicals, the group most loyal to President Donald Trump.

Another group not represented is Muslims, although that fact isn’t mentioned until the very bottom of the RNS piece while the lack of white evangelicals is elevated to the subhed.

RNS reporter Yonat Shimron quotes John Fea on that lack of evangelicals. Fea notes that, for white evangelicals, “an evangelical Democrat is not an evangelical, anyway.”

True. It’s impossible for Biden’s cabinet to include anyone they’d regard as a “real, true” evangelical, because by definition their membership in that cabinet would mean they were therefore illegitimate, fake evangelicals. Heck, in the eyes of many white evangelicals, Biden’s cabinet doesn’t include anyone who really counts as Christian at all.

But the problem isn’t merely that most white evangelicals, as Fea says, “lean Republican.” The larger problem is that Biden was seeking competent, qualified, responsible, thoughtful leaders for his cabinet and, well, most white evangelicals don’t fit that profile.

• In the final days of his presidency, Donald Trump has commuted the sentence of Fred Clark. This is, A) not about me; and B) an apparent case of professional courtesy from one grifter to another.

Trump commutes 40-year sentence of Clearwater Ponzi scheme operator,” Tracey McManus reports for the Tampa Bay Times:

President Donald Trump issued a single commutation last week to the mastermind of a $300 million vacation rental fraud that operated in Clearwater and 16 other sites.

A federal judge in 2016 sentenced Fred Davis Clark Jr. to 40 years in prison for his role as CEO in Cay Clubs Resorts and Marina, which promised to turn dilapidated properties in Florida, Las Vegas and the Caribbean into luxury resorts. Beginning in 2004, Clark raised more than $300 million from 1,400 investors who were promised steady rental income and an upfront leaseback payment of 20 percent of the sales price of the units.

The operation was really a Ponzi scheme that used sales proceeds from new investors to pay overdue obligations to earlier participants, the U.S. Department of Justice found.

Investors lost retirements and life savings. But prosecutors proved Clark, 62, used funds from his scheme to pay for a lavish lifestyle, including extracting $22 million, and buying a gold mine and a rum distillery for his personal benefit.

Weird how the moral-hazard arguments used to defend locking up shoplifting teenagers never get invoked when talking about white-collar criminals who steal hundreds of millions from their victims.

McManus interviews one of Fred Clark’s victims, “Kimball Pugmire, 71, who lost his life savings in the fraud”:

“I thought well he will probably die in prison and he deserved it,” Pugmire said on Monday. “I was thinking that’s justice because now he can sit there the rest of his life contemplating what he’s done to other people.”

He said it’s hard to put a dollar figure on the devastation. …

When he received an email last week from the Department of Justice notifying him of Clark’s release, Pugmire said he was shocked. Pugmire had voted for Trump in 2016 and 2020 and supported his agenda. But he doesn’t understand how the president could wipe away the prison sentence “of a lifetime crook.”

“I had been trying to forget all this, but it makes you wonder, even being a Trump supporter, about his honesty,” Pugmire said.

It does make you wonder.

• I knew that one-piece long johns were sometimes called “Union suits.” I’d never heard the term “emancipation suits” nor realized that this cartoon-famous garment had such a political history. It’s good to learn new things.

• Tomorrow, Joe Biden will be sworn in as president while placing his hand on his family Bible. I am not a fan of solemnizing oaths by placing one’s hand on a book that categorically forbids the swearing of oaths, but I get that it’s a long tradition here in America. And if you’re gonna follow that tradition, using a family Bible passed down by generations of Bidens is a pretty cool way to do it.

Here’s Willie and Johnny singing “Family Bible.”

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