Catholic Bigotry and the Los Angeles Dodgers

The Los Angeles Dodgers recently decided to re-invite a virulently anti-Catholicgroup to the team’s Pride Night event.

This is the same group that had originally been scheduled to receive a community service award but was uninvited for a brief period of time.

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., Catholic Vote, the Catholic League, and other Christian groups had condemned the original decision, and the team had promptly rescinded the invite.

However, the Los Angeles LGBT Center, the ACLU, several Democrat politicians, and the media began accusing the baseball team of bigotry.

In the midst of the uproar, the Los Angeles Angels baseball team issued a public invite of its own to the aforementioned anti-Catholicgroup.

That’s when the Dodgers re-invited the group and proceeded to issue an apology for having previously uninvited it.

It is puzzling at a minimum that both LA teams have endorsed a group that has a long history of being dedicated to anti-Catholic activities.

The Archdiocese of Los Angeles has weighed in, issuing a statement condemning the Dodgers for “the decision to honor a group that clearly mocks the Catholic faith and makes light of the sincere and holy vocations of our women religious who are an integral part of our Church,” adding that the invitation to the group “has caused disappointment, concern, anger, and dismay from our Catholic community.”

The LA Archdiocese further stated that it “stands against any actions that would disparage and diminish our Christian faith and those who dedicate their lives to Christ.”

The decision by the Dodgers also drew the ire of the Twitter account of San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone.

“Our Catholic sisters devote themselves to serving others selflessly. Decent people would not mock & blaspheme them,” the archbishop tweeted. “So we now know what gods the Dodger admin worships. Open desecration & anti-Catholicism is not disqualifying. Disappointing but not surprising. Gird your loins.”

CatholicVote has vowed to launch a “barrage” of advertising against the team across Los Angeles and during game broadcasts.

“This is a slap in the face of every Catholic…and we will pummel this decision in advertising that the Dodgers can’t ignore,” CatholicVote President Brian Burch said in a statement.

“Every advertiser, every season ticket holder, every charity, every fan must speak out against the Dodgers’ decision to promote anti-Catholic hate,” Burch added.

He questioned why the Dodgers would honor a group that is, among other descriptives, clearly “anti-Catholic.”

This particular group has a fairly long history of mocking and insulting Catholic religious figures, tenets, and symbols. Antipathy toward Catholic Christians is routinely expressed both directly and indirectly.

The Catholic League has published a report citing numerous examples of bigotry against Catholicism in general and Catholic nuns in particular.

The list includes a sham exorcism, a sham Mass that blasphemes the Lord and Savior of Christianity, a sham Sacrament of Holy Communion, a sham vile version of the Stations of the Cross devotion, a sham mockery of the holy day of Good Friday, and a sham irreverent ridicule of Easter Sunday.

Although he is a professed Catholic, President Joe Biden has said nothing about the debacle.

Catholic League President Bill Donohue is seeking to convince Catholics in the Los Angeles area to skip the Pride Night event scheduled for June 16.

Unfortunately, like so many other things in life, America’s favorite pastime has been politicized.

In the 1992 movie “A League of Their Own,” Tom Hanks’s character Jimmy Dugan utters the famous line: “There’s no crying in baseball!”

Well, Jimmy, there’s crying in baseball today.

Paul Simon: The Psalmist and the Song

Paul Simon is one of the most celebrated contemporary artists in the history of American music. The acclaimed singer-songwriter has won sixteen Grammy Awards and is also a two-time inductee into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Simon’s decades-long musical journey had its beginnings in a pairing up with a schoolmate named Art Garfunkel. The two formed a duo, aptly named Simon & Garfunkel.

The combined efforts of the two generated a soundtrack that through melody and lyrics was able to capture and reflect back the thoughts and emotions of a nation in the midst of a cultural shift.

A musical pioneer, the group exquisitely melded the genres of folk and rock. Its success was remarkable as evidenced by massive record sales as well as accolades, including being ranked among Rolling Stone magazine’s “Greatest Duos of All Time.”

In his solo career, which launched in the 1970s, Simon would continue his eclectic musical and lyrical exploration, this time combining reggae, soul, and indigenous styles.

Simon’s dad Louis provided his son with an early musical head start. In addition to being a college professor, Louis was a bass player and bandleader, performing under the name Lee Sims. Mom Belle taught elementary school.

Simon’s latest work is a 33-minute suite, titled “7 Psalms.” The project came to the iconic poet-wordsmith in a compelling dream, which has evidently reshaped his life’s work.

Spiritual language and imagery has long been a trademark of his inimitable songwriting. Simon wrote the timeless inspirational hymn “Bridge over Troubled Water,” which he and Garfunkel performed to the adulation of audiences around the globe.

He is able to make his religious visions uniquely relatable, as he did in his 2012 album “So Beautiful or So What,” which was so filled with faith-based references it surprised even him. The song lyrics feature poetry about God, angels, creation, prayer, and the afterlife.

While discussing the spiritual nature of his art during an interview with the PBS program “Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly,” he noted that “for somebody who is not a religious person, God comes up a lot in my songs.”

“I think it’s a part of my thoughts on a fairly regular basis,” he said. “I think of it more as spiritual feeling. It’s something that I recognize in myself and that I enjoy, and I don’t quite understand it.”

Although his music is cherished by people of all faiths, he was actually raised in the Jewish tradition. Regarding his Jewish roots, he explains, “I was raised to a degree enough to be bar mitzvahed and have that much Jewish education…”

With fans of every spiritual persuasion, Christians appear to be especially appreciative for his Christmas song additions. In “So Beautiful or So What” he includes the Christmas tune “Getting Ready for Christmas Day.” In another song called “Love and Hard Times,” he includes the gentle line: “God and His only son paid a courtesy call on Earth one Sunday morning.”

In the song “The Afterlife,” he imagines waiting in a line similar to the Department of Motor Vehicles. But his poetic description of life after death is anything but ordinary. Rather, it is a word picture describing the awesomeness of God.

“Face-to-face in the vastness of space

Your words disappear

And you feel like you’re swimming in an ocean of love

And the current is strong.”

“By the time you get up to speak to God, and you actually get there, there’s no question that you could possibly have that could have any relevance,” he explained.

Simon has been artistically attempting to deal with the power of the visionary dream he experienced in 2019. It is from this dream that his latest album “7 Psalms” originated.

He revealed the project on a video trailer that he released.

“On Jan. 15, 2019, I had a dream that said, ‘You’re working on a piece called 7 Psalms,’” he revealed. “The dream was so strong that I got up and I wrote it down, but I had no idea what that meant.”

As Simon describes it, after the dream episode, segments of “7 Psalms” gradually came. “I would start to wake up two or three times a week between 3:30 and 5 in the morning and words would come. I’d write them down, then start to put it together.”

In his spiritual search for truth, he asked probing questions.

“This is a journey, for me, to complete,” he shared. “This whole piece is really an argument I am having with myself about belief, or not.”

His lyrics in one of the tunes ask:

“Is sorrow a beautiful song,

lives in the heart and sings for all?

Your forgiveness.”

He then candidly sings:

“And I, the last in the line,

hoping the gates won’t be closed before Your forgiveness.”

In a song recorded in a church with wife Edie Brickell, his words hearken back to the Old Testament.

“The sacred harp, that David played

to make his songs of praise,

we long to hear those strings,

that set His heart ablaze.”

According to the video, the album release is set to have a companion documentary, titled “In Restless Dreams,” which is directed by Alex Gibney.

In his PBS interview, he expressed his deeply thought out concept of the Creator.

“When you’re looking to be thankful at the highest level, you need a specific and that specific is God,” he said.

Like a lot of us, Simon derives profound inspiration and gratitude from the beauty of the universe and the gift of life.

“How was all of this created?” he asked.

“If the answer to that question is God created everything, there was a creator, than I say, Great! What a great job,” he said.

He and the psalmist David may have more in common than Simon could ever imagine.

A Faith and Family Hollywood Merger

With the out-of-touch product that Hollywood has been serving up for far too long now, it turns out that a sizable audience has been built up, one that is truly longing for solid faith and family-based entertainment fare.

Well some good news is on the horizon for folks like these and likeminded ones. Two highly successful media outlets, both of which have been providing consumers with faith and family focused content, are teaming up.

Great American Media, parent company of the popular cable channel Great American Family, is merging with PureFlix, a streaming service that offers a variety of faith-based movies, television shows, and documentaries.

The terms of the deal have not yet been disclosed, but Great American Media will hold the majority interest in the upcoming combined company.

Great American happens to be the current competitor and business rival of the Hallmark Channel. Interestingly, the person who launched Great American had been at the helm of Hallmark for over a decade.

Bill Abbott, then-CEO of Crown Media, which is the parent company of Hallmark, guided the channel to become the go-to network for made-for-TV Christmas movies.

Abbott left Hallmark in 2020 over an incident involving traditional versus non-traditional values. He went on to launch Great American Media and its two cable TV channels, Great American Family and Great American Living. He also launched a free ad-supported subscription streaming channel called Great American Adventures.

Great American Media’s programming features the aforementioned Christmas films, rom-coms, and classic series that focus on “faith, family and country” themes.

The executive was also able to bring over some of the top former Hallmark Channel stars to his budding network, including Danica McKellar, best known for playing Winnie Cooper in the original “Wonder Years” television show, Lori Loughlin of “Full House” fame, as well as fellow “Full House” star and queen of Hallmark’s Christmas fare Candace Cameron Bure.

PureFlix is a streaming service that is known for its extensive library of faith-oriented and family-friendly content, including the “God’s Not Dead” film franchise and “The Chosen” streaming series.

The streaming service presents a family alternative to Netflix. It currently has a price tag of $7.99 per month and boasts more than a million subscribers in over 190 countries.

In 2020 PureFlix became part of Affirm, Sony Pictures’ faith-based division, which had previously released faith-based films known for modest production budgets and sizable profit margins, including such successful titles as “War Room,” “Heaven Is for Real,” “Overcomer,” and “Miracles from Heaven.”

Abbott will remain as CEO of the newly formed entity created by the two-company merge, and he will report to the board of directors.

The merger highlights the importance of faith-based family-friendly entertainment to Hollywood as a whole.

“This merger will allow us to further our commitment to original, quality content and makes Great American Media and Pure Flix leaders in a large and under-served market,” Abbott stated in the announcement of the transaction.

It is this oft-neglected group of media consumers that stands to benefit the most from the merger. This being said, my prediction is that the joining of forces of the two media outlets is likely to produce an all-out faith-based juggernaut.

It is going to have a larger reach, a larger library of family-friendly material, and a larger comprehensive streaming and cable television experience. And Pure Flix and Great American Media will most likely enhance one another’s content.

Great American Media had previously launched its content on traditional cable networks as opposed to a streaming service. The company’s networks are not only available in 50 million pay TV homes, they are featured in internet TV bundles such as Frndly TV and Fubo, and also on its own free, ad-supported channel, making it one of the fastest-growing television outlets.

After the merger takes place, PureFlix will have given Great American’s networks a streaming home of their own.

At the same time, Great American’s cable channels will have provided a new platform for Pure Flix to showcase content for TV audiences and will also have made available a library of new content that can be shown on Great American Media’s networks.

This is the kind of win-win business deal that makes for a very happy Hollywood ending.

AI’s Potentially Fatal Flaw

Plenty of discussions have been taking place about the dangers surrounding Artificial Intelligence (AI) and its existing application, the positives and negatives, and possible misuses and/or abuses.

However, a problem has popped up that seems to be causing a real stir.

It turns out that AI can actually lie.

Tech experts refer to inaccuracies and falsehoods produced by AI as “hallucinations.”

This term is typically used to describe incidents whereby AI provides solutions to problems; however, the solutions contain fictitious material that was not part of the original training data used during the programming process.

Tech experts don’t actually understand AI’s hallucination phenomenon.

When AI first became available in the form of so-called large language models (LLMs), aka, chatbots, AI hallucinations just surfaced on their own.

Early users of LLMs noticed that hallucinations seemed to “sociopathically” embed plausible sounding fabrications in the generated content.

A number of experts have used the words “very impressive-sounding answer that’s just dead wrong” to describe an AI hallucination.

An early example of the phenom happened in August of 2022.

Facebook’s owner Meta warned that its newly released LLM, BlenderBot 3, was prone to hallucinations, which Meta described as “confident statements that are not true.”

In November of 2022, Meta unveiled a demo of another LLM, Galactica, which also came with the following warning: “Outputs may be unreliable! Language Models are prone to hallucinate text.”

Within days Meta withdrew Galactica.

December of 2022 saw the release to the public of OpenAI’s LLM, ChatGPT, in its beta-version. This is the AI that is most widely used and one with which the public has the greatest familiarity.

Wharton Professor Ethan Mollick seemed to humanize ChatGPT, when he compared the LLM to an “omniscient, eager-to-please intern who sometimes lies to you.”

Lies were exactly what were generated when the Fast Company website attempted to use ChatGPT to author a news piece on Tesla. In writing the article, ChatGPT just went ahead and made up fake financial data.

When CNBC asked ChatGPT for the lyrics to a song called “The Ballad of Dwight Fry,” instead of supplying the actual lyrics the AI bot provided its own hallucinated ones.

A top Google executive recently stated that reducing AI hallucinations is a central task for Bard, Google’s competitor to ChatGPT.

Senior Vice President of Google Prabhakar Raghavan described an AI hallucination as occurring when the technology “expresses itself in such a way that a machine provides a convincing but completely made-up answer.”

The executive stressed that one of the fundamental tasks of Google’s AI project is to keep the hallucination phenom to a minimum.

In fact, when Google’s parent company Alphabet Inc. first introduced Bard, the software shared inaccurate information in a promotional video. The gaffe cost the company $100 billion in market value.

In a recent “60 Minutes” interview, Google CEO Sundar Pichai acknowledged that AI hallucinations remain a mystery.

“No one in the field has yet solved the hallucination problems,” Pichai said.

Admitting that the phenomenon is very widespread in the AI world, he stated, “All models do have this as an issue.”

When the subject of the potential spread of disinformation was brought up, Pichai said, “AI will challenge that in a deeper way. The scale of this problem will be much bigger.”

He noted that there are even additional problems with combinations of false text, images, and even “deep fake” videos, warning that “on a societal scale, you know, it can cause a lot of harm.”

Twitter and Tesla owner Elon Musk recently alluded to the potential harm that AI poses to the political process.

In an appearance on Tucker Carlson’s prior Fox show, Elon said, “If a technology is inadvertently or intentionally misrepresenting certain viewpoints, that presents a potential opportunity to mislead users about actual facts about events, positions of individuals, or their reputations more broadly speaking,” Elon explained to the host.

Elon then gave his perspective, taking into account the intellectual prowess of AI.

He asked, “…If AI’s smart enough, are they using the tool or is the tool using them?”

The answer is yes.

The Devil Went Down to Boston

SatanCon, an event billed as “the largest satanic gathering in history,” recently took place in Boston, Massachusetts, courtesy of a Salem-based group called The Satanic Temple.

The mainstream media largely labeled it as satirical and harmless. NBC News even seemed to give it a sort of veiled plug with the headline “SatanCon, poking at religion and government, opens this weekend in Boston.”

The news outlet described the convention as “mostly lighthearted” and characterized The Satanic Temple as “a progressive church that doesn’t worship the devil but instead uses the word to get attention.”

Other media outlets were similarly generous in their descriptions of the event as well as its organizers.

The Satanic Temple has identified itself as a religious organization. In 2014, it promoted a Black Mass at Harvard University. And in 2019, the group persuaded the federal government to grant it recognition as a tax-exempt religion.

The recent convention actually conducted a number of worship rituals, the focus of which was on the Devil and related demonic entities.

During the event’s opening ritual, a lead figure tore pages out of the Bible.

In another ritual, individuals engaged in what was termed a satanic “unbaptism,” wherein participants made their way to a center altar, took on new names, and chanted a blasphemously revised “Hail Mary” prayer.

Notwithstanding mainstream media claims to the contrary, the SatanCon event was created as a promotion tool to disseminate information on one of the darkest of ideologies and to sing the praises of evil personified.

From time immemorial, philosophers and theologians have pondered the question of how to delineate good from evil and evil from good.

Good is universally understood.

Associated with an innate goodness are the attributes of honesty, loyalty, fairness, kindness, and the like. Such traits have been, and continue to be, admired and encouraged in human cultures across all time.

In his book “The Road Less Traveled,” psychiatrist M. Scott Peck wrote of values that lead people to live meaningful lives. Some of the virtues the author cited were truth, integrity, fair-mindedness, gratitude, kindness, and humility.

Dr. Peck discovered that in order to understand spiritual growth, one has to also understand its opposite. This notion inspired him to write another book, “People of the Lie,” in which he explored the concept of evil.

He found that evil people share some key behavioral traits.

– They lie.

– They are intellectually devious.

– They scapegoat.

– They turn their backs on facts.

– They self-deceive to escape their own consciences.

They are also narcissistic to an extent that enables them to “ignore the humanity of their victims” and incite hatred against their enemies.

Dr. Peck additionally dealt with the question of whether or not the Devil is real. Being a psychiatrist and perceiving himself to be a man of science, he initially believed that the Devil did not exist. But he changed his opinion after confronting the reality of spiritual evil.

His work prompted him to delve into several cases that involved demonic possession. His attendance at an exorcism ultimately compelled him to believe in the existence of Satan. The experience led him to be discipled by a Roman Catholic nun and to be baptized into Christianity.

He was open about his conversion.

“After many years of vague identification with Buddhist and Islamic mysticism, I ultimately made a firm Christian commitment….My commitment to Christianity is the most important thing in my life and is, I hope, pervasive and total,” he stated.

In a similar philosophical vein, Tucker Carlson approached the determination of what is good and evil by examining the byproducts of each.

According to the iconic cable news host, “Good is characterized by order, calmness, tranquility, peace…lack of conflict, cleanliness…”

Tucker noted that evil is defined by opposite byproducts, such as “violence, hate, disorder, division, disorganization, and filth.”

“If you are all in on the things that produce the latter basket of outcomes, what you’re really advocating for is evil,” Tucker said.

The late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia actually spoke about the Evil One in an interview with New York magazine.

When Justice Scalia unequivocally stated that he believed in the Devil, interviewer Jennifer Senior was taken aback.

“You do?” she asked.

“He’s a real person,” Justice Scalia answered, and added, “Most of mankind has believed in the Devil, for all of history. Many more intelligent people than you or me have believed in the Devil.”

French poet and essayist Charles Baudelaire once said, “The greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist.”

He does.

People of true faith know it. And they pray for all.

Lover of Basketball Phil Jackson Tunes Out

Phil Jackson is the personification of pro basketball. The widely recognized giant of the sport has walked, talked, and breathed the game for most of his life.

Over time he has found himself in the role of player, coach, and executive and has racked up wins with each endeavor.

As a power forward for 12 seasons with the New York Knicks, he won two NBA championships. As the head coach of the Chicago Bulls, he brought home six championships. And during his coaching stint with the Los Angeles Lakers, he secured another five league titles for his team.

Jackson actually holds the all-time highest win-loss percentage of any pro basketball coach. But shockingly, the legendary sports figure now finds professional basketball unwatchable.

This revelation appears to be one more sign that the strange times in which we live are getting stranger by the minute.

Jackson finding basketball unwatchable is like Mark Zuckerberg finding Facebook unusable. Or Taylor Swift finding music un-listenable. Or Meryl Streep finding award shows un-attendable.

In an interview on a podcast called “Tetragrammaton with Rick Rubin,” Jackson let it be known that for him tuning in was no longer fun.

“I am not enjoying the game,” he stated, adding, “There’s a whole generation that doesn’t like the game.”

He stopped viewing NBA games in 2020. That was the year of the lockdown, where playoff games had to be played with no fans in attendance, and viewers had to have their eyes assaulted with woke messages displayed on the backs of players’ jerseys.

Jackson noted that the politically charged phrases had taken the place of players’ surnames.

“They had things on their back like, ‘Justice.’ They made a funny thing like, ‘Justice just went to the basket and Equal Opportunity just knocked him down.’ My grandkids thought that was pretty funny to play up those names. …I couldn’t watch that,” he said.

Plenty of sports devotees reacted in a similar manner. Capturing the sentiments of countless others, Jackson called out the NBA for pandering and virtue signaling, and for having picked the wrong venue for political posturing.

“They even had slogans on the floor and the baseline,” Jackson said. “It was trying to cater to an audience or trying to bring a certain audience to the game, and they didn’t know it was turning other people off.”

To emphasize the point that sporting events should be free from political expression, Jackson said, “Politics stays out of the game. It doesn’t need to be there.”

A glimpse into the former coach’s upbringing gives some insight into how he gained the reputation of an individual who makes decisions within a philosophical context. His parents Charles and Elisabeth were both Assemblies of God ministers.

Along with his two brothers and half-sister, Jackson grew up in a remote area of Montana. Dancing and television were not allowed in their home.

He saw his first movie when he was a senior in high school and attended his first dance when he was in college. In those earlier days, it was assumed that he would eventually become a minister.

During his professional coaching days, he became known for using Tex Winter’s triangle offense, along with the implementation of a holistic approach to coaching, which was influenced by Eastern philosophy. Consequently, sports writers dubbed him the “Zen Master.”

He advises players to express their political beliefs outside of the league and off the court. He points to athletes, such as Bill Bradley, who have successfully pursued political careers. As a result of his outspokenness, he has predictably been attacked on social media.

The world of sports is going the way of Hollywood. Sports execs would be wise to heed the Zen Master’s warning, if they don’t want to suffer the same fate.

After all, the scoreboard doesn’t lie, and neither do the ratings.

The Real Dangers of Artificial Intelligence

Over the past year, the technological development surrounding Artificial Intelligence (AI) has advanced much more rapidly than ever anticipated.

A recent letter, signed by Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, OpenAI co-founder Elon Musk, and additional AI experts and entrepreneurs, cautioned that a six-month pause needs to be placed on all new AI models.

Time published an article by founder of AI alignment Eliezer Yudkowsky, encouraging the implementation of a permanent global ban and international sanctions on any country pursuing AI research.

The high-profile figures are warning that AI technology is accelerating so quickly, machine systems will soon be able to perform, or even exceed, human intellectual functioning.

A majority of the nation shares the same concerns as the experts. According to a recent Monmouth University poll, 55% of Americans are worried about the threat of AI to the future of humanity.

And according to a Morning Consult survey, nearly half of those who participated would support a pause on advanced AI development.

Because the public has been able to access generative AI platforms that are capable of creating text and participating in human-like conversations, the two-letter acronym itself has been absorbed into the national lexicon.

The term “AI” was coined by a computer scientist back in 1956. At its simplest, Artificial Intelligence combines computer science algorithms with data in order to solve problems.

An algorithm is a list of instructions for specific actions to be carried out by computer technology in a step-by-step fashion. AI utilizes “machine learning,” which enables learning and adaptation to occur without explicit instructions being given.

The type of AI that is presently in use is designed to specialize in a single task; for instance, conducting a web search, determining the fastest route to a destination, or alerting the driver of a car to the presence of a vehicle in the car’s blind spot.

Such functions have oftentimes served to make the lives of individuals better, easier, safer, and so on.

However, it is critical to understand that existing AI is starkly different from the type of AI that is in the pipeline – Artificial General Intelligence (AGI).

This type has a benign sounding title, but it is nothing of the sort.

AGI can, and no likely will, match and even exceed human capability.

The point at which AGI exceeds human intelligence is known as “the singularity.” There have been gobs of books and films that have featured AI themes, based on the assumption that advanced AI could somehow turn against humans.

“2001: A Space Odyssey,” “The Matrix,” “The Terminator,” and “Blade Runner” all contained AGI warnings about things to come.

The fact of the matter is human beings program machines. So it stands to reason that should a given programmer err during the programming process, the resultant technology that is created will be flawed.

When it comes to ethics, the possession, or lack thereof, on the part of the programmer can result in the type of programming that may have catastrophic consequences.

This is because AI possesses the capacity to learn from its mistakes and adjust on its own, It may be able to improve itself to the point where human beings will lose control of their own invention.

The nightmare begins when the stop mechanism no longer functions.

In one of the unimaginable situations, we could have a super intelligent AI advance in a way that runs counter to all human morals, ethics, and values.

This tips into the realm of the spiritual, which requires a great deal of critical thought and further discussion.

For now, a pause is not only advisable, it’s a must.