I recently spoke with Karla Porter and Mike Supey of the All Politics is Local podcast. We discussed Stoic Philosophy and its practical applications dealing with the topics of control, loss, politics, desire, happiness, and values. We also explored current political topics and reflected on the aftermath of the 2016 presidential election. Access the episode here or click below.
For more about Stoic Philosophy and some of my recent works on the topic, see my Stoicism YouTube playlist and a recent introduction to Stoicism recorded by Kenny Luck:
I appeared on a panel discussion alongside a Catholic representing the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, Evangelical Christian representing the Liberty Worship Center, a Muslim representing the Muslim Association of the Lehigh Valley, and a Jewish rabbi representing the Congregation of Brith Sholom.
I wasn’t able to offer lengthy thoughts because the panel was fast-paced, included many members, and tackled various topics, but I enjoyed the experience, was able to get my point across, and look forward to returning for a future episode. Thanks to the crew at WFMZ-TV and ‘Business Matters’ for the invitation. Thanks to Lehigh Valley Humanists for suggesting I appear on this program.
In December of 2009, I worked alongside the ACLU to remove unconstitutional religious displays on Luzerne County Courthouse grounds which would later be erected in a more inclusive holiday display. Unfortunately, many of the news articles and videos — to my knowledge — were taken offline, but a friend sent me a recording of one news clip which I uploaded to YouTube for informational purposes. Enjoy.
Today, following sharing of my blog post on the event’s Facebook page (which was later mysteriously removed), I received a private message from Mary Ann Benitez who asked me to remove my picture of her from my blog post because she feared for her safety and the safety of her children. She explained that she also contacted Steve Smith [whom she was pictured with] asking him to remove her picture from whiteadvocate.org.
I told her that I was confused because as the rally organizer she had taken photos with others and appeared in-person engaging with the public. If she didn’t want her photo online, why would she be so public and consent to being in photographs? Additionally, her picture was on whiteadvocate.org for months.
She informed me that she didn’t know the photos of her were public and that she isn’t a racist or member of a “skin head” group (her use of quotes) and that anyone is welcome to attend her rallies provided they are respectful. She explained that she doesn’t ask ralliers what they do and that they are not allowed to advertise what they do.
I suggested she release a statement disassociating herself with Keystone State Skinheads/Keystone United/some of the rally attendees and informed her that people will associate her with rally attendees should they continue to demonstrate together. I also agreed to remove the picture of her on my website.
Hours after removing the picture of Mary Ann Benitez from my website, I have since restored the picture due to her tremendous dishonesty and obvious knowledge about her affiliations with Steve Smith and Keystone State Skinheads/Keystone United. At first, as a precautionary measure and a gesture of good will, I removed the picture, but now I have again posted the picture and will explain why.
Mary Ann Benitez is being profoundly dishonest. A casual look of her Facebook activity on her semi-public profile reveals that she knew the photo of her with Smith was public, that she interacted with Smith on Facebook (after adding him as a friend in July of 2014), and that she was joyfully participating in a recorded video.
First, Benitez added Steve Smith — the man whose activities outside of the rally she claimed she did not know about — as a Facebook friend on July 19 of 2013. Soon after adding Steve Smith as a Facebook friend, she must have clearly seen the content Smith posted dealing with his work with the European American Action Coalition/whiteadvocate.org. Clearly adding someone as a friend on Facebook does not signify endorsement of their activity, but Benitez has interacted with Smith on a much deeper level than simply adding him as a friend as I will explain.
One day after Benitez added Smith as a Facebook friend, Smith posted a picture from Benitez’ rally in which Smith and others had posed with a banner for the European American Action Coalition/whiteadvocate.org – clearly running contrary to Benitez’ claim that people are not allowed to advertise at her rally.
While Benitez may have not seen this banner at the rally (extremely doubtful), Benitez has almost certainly seen this picture on Facebook and would then be aware of Smith’s affiliation…and if she would not know at this time, it surely would be soon as she would further interact with Smith.
On July 19, a rally attendee — Frank Scavo — uploaded a video of Benitez’ July rally in which Benitez not only appeared (see a still above), but also gave a like on Facebook (see image above) – clearly acknowledging that she aware of the video and just fine with being videotaped.
In addition to appearing in the video, Benitez had a photo taken with Smith (the photo she wanted me to remove which was also featured on whiteadvocate.com) that Smith posted on Facebook. Benitez, tagged in the photo, wrote “Thank you so much for coming today” [apparently also neglecting to notice Smith’s European American Action Coalition t-shirt and not wanting her photo to be public].
On July 20, Benitez interacted with Smith on Facebook following his uploading of a cover photo from the rally. Benitez, presumably after looking at content from Smith’s page (and surely seeing his advertisement of whiteadvocate.org at her rally) commented on the cover photo writing, “This pic is just Awesome.”
On August 16, at another overpass rally presumably again organized by Benitez, Smith tagged Benitez on his Facebook profile noting that he was with her at the rally. Benitez also commented on the photo’s thread tagging someone named ‘Tyr Rogers,’ asking where he was, and hoping that a woman named Lisa Burns Griffiths would attend a September 13 overpass rally (also presumably hosted by Benitez).
Apparently, up until I wrote about my experience at Benitez’ rally and featured her picture on my site, Benitez had no problem with her photo with Smith being public, being tagged in her own photo, appearing in a public video, and uploading her own picture on Facebook. …and now all of the sudden she claims that she and her children are in danger.
If she were concerned about her safety and did not want her photo online, why would she not have contacted Smith prior to my posting — asking for the Facebook photo to be removed — and untagging herself from the photo? Why would she not delete a Facebook photo of herself? Why would she not ask Frank Scavo to remove the video?
Although she claims to not know about Smith’s activities outside of attending her rally, she’s added Smith as a Facebook friend, interacted with him on Facebook on multiple occasions, is almost certainly aware that he advertised whiteadvocate.org at her rally (despite saying no advertisements were allowed), and has almost certainly seen his Facebook activity apart from rally-related events.
I don’t buy it. Benitez is being profoundly dishonest. As an elected official, she should be held accountable for her dishonesty and affiliations with former member of Keystone United/Keystone State Skinheads Steven Smith and whiteadvocate.com.
While she may not be a skinhead or a member of Smith’s organizations, she gleefully welcomes Smith and members of his organization at her events, has appeared in a photograph with Smith, and has issued no repudiation whatsoever about Smith’s activities. She says he is welcome at her rallies and that she has no problem with this provided he is respectful.
Please share this post to make people aware of Benitez’ affiliations and to inform voters and members of the Republican Party in Lackawanna County — the county in which she serves as Lackawanna County Chairwoman of the 112th district — about her activities. Consider also contacting the Lackawanna County Republican Party. Thank you.
Joe Biden, remarking on the terrorist group Islamic State, recently invoked Christian religious messaging which very likely empowers Islamists.
This week, United States’ Vice President Joe Biden, during a speech in New Hampshire, offered religiously-infused remarks vowing — according to The Washington Post — retaliation toward Islamic State (IS) following its execution of two journalists. Among other remarks, Biden said, “… they should know we will follow them to the gates of Hell until they are brought to justice because Hell is where they will reside.”
Biden, in his official capacity as Vice President of the United States, should be not offering [uniquely] religious remarks when talking about national security and/or foreign relations. Instead, when offering official proclamations/speeches, Biden should remain neutral on matters of religion and exclude uniquely religious references from his remarks.
Further problematic, when mentioning Hell and vowing to condemn IS members to hell, Biden likely fuels — with his own religious propaganda — religious propaganda from Muslim terrorists and others who hate the United States because, among other reasons, they believe the United States has declared a war on Islam/Muslims.
Please, Vice President Biden and other government officials, exclude religious messaging from your public remarks, especially when your remarks harm the efforts of United States’ military forces likely legitimizing sentiments from Islamists who believe that the United States military forces efforts are religiously-inspired.