Sunday, March 28, 2010

What We've Been Missing

From the Associated Press:

The number of U.S. troops killed in Afghanistan has roughly doubled in the first three months of 2010 compared to the same period last year as Washington has added tens of thousands of additional soldiers to reverse the Taliban's momentum.

Those deaths have been accompanied by a dramatic spike in the number of wounded, with injuries more than tripling in the first two months of the year and trending in the same direction based on the latest available data for March.
So my question is, why are we just hearing about this now? Was there just no room in the past three months between bullshit stories on death panels, sex scandals, and celebrity divorces?

Thursday, March 25, 2010

"The Pope Knew About This."

Check out this extensive article at MSNBC about the case of Lawrence Murphy, a Catholic priest in Wisconsin who molested children. According to Arthur Budzinski, one of Murphy's victims, the Vatican was made aware of the priest's behavior and did nothing to stop him:
Budzinski, now 61, was one of about 200 deaf boys at the St. John's School for the Deaf just outside Milwaukee who say they were molested by the priest decades ago in a case now creating a scandal for the Vatican and threatening to ensnare Pope Benedict XVI.

Some of the allegations became public years ago. But they got renewed attention this week after documents obtained by The New York Times showed that Murphy was spared a defrocking in the mid-1990s because he was protected by the Vatican office led by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, now the pope.
The Vatican officials reveal the hubris that characterizes the Catholic Church. Notice that the church does not deny the allegations. But according to them, this is really just a smear campaign by anti-Catholics to strike at the pope. For them, it couldn't be about justice, about lives that were shattered, or trust that was violated. It couldn't be about rule of law or accountability. No, according to the Vatican it's just an attempt to make the pope look bad.

Try to imagine being a parent and your child is molested by a school teacher. Now imagine that you bring this to the attention of the school principal and he tells you that everything will be fine because they've relocated the teacher to a different school across town. So you go to the press and tell them what has happened. And when the allegations become public, the school district admits that the sexual assault occurred and that they just moved the teacher to a new school but then they attack you and your child for trying to embarrass them.

That is exactly what is happening and it's not being stopped because the Catholic Church does not care about its victims, past, present, or future. The institution only cares about its own survival and it will aid and abet rapists in order to do it.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Conservative Waterloo

Check this out: Conservative pundit David Frum, a former speech writer for George W. Bush, on the fallout of the passage of health care reform and the Republican party's unwillingness to cooperate with it:
We followed the most radical voices in the party and the movement, and they led us to abject and irreversible defeat.

There were leaders who knew better, who would have liked to deal. But they were trapped. Conservative talkers on Fox and talk radio had whipped the Republican voting base into such a frenzy that deal-making was rendered impossible. How do you negotiate with somebody who wants to murder your grandmother? Or – more exactly – with somebody whom your voters have been persuaded to believe wants to murder their grandmother?
If conservative politicians take Frum's advice--and who knows if they will--we might be back on the path to a rational debate. But I fear that the Limbaughs and the Becks will overpower any attempt at civility or rationality and continue to steer the discourse into further chaos.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Satan: The Best Friend the Church Ever Had

Grab your holy water and cue up "Tubular Bells:" the Vatican has let Gabriele Amorth, its chief exorcist (yes, they still have those), grant a series of high profile interviews in the lead up to the release of his memoir. And in the interviews he has blamed the church's recent spate of abuse and corruption charges on the work of Satan, going so far as to claim that high ranking members of the church are actually members of Satanic organizations.

I don't know if the church is thinking strategically, letting this quack off the leash to create a diversion and hoping that his accusations will create a new media circus for our attention-deficit-disorder press to obsess over, or if they didn't realize just how crazy he apparently is. Neither of these possibilities says much for the church. And I would hesitate to give them the credit the former scenario implies, given that they sold out Mother Teresa to make a buck off of her letters.

This is one of the clearest cases of the church using the devil as an excuse to dodge taking responsibility, but it is not the first. There has been a major increase in the visibility of the Catholic Church's exorcists (which I blogged about previously here), including the construction of a new exorcism center in Poland. That this revival of demonology comes at a time when mass attendance is waning, when the cultural influence of the church is crumbling, atheism is more popular than ever, and the next generation of priests and nuns is not to be found should not come as a surprise.

The devil is often dragged out of the closet at times when Christianity's authority is in question. In reaction to the changes in social, sexual, and religious attitudes of the 1960s, there was a return of traditional Catholicism and the rise in fundamentalist Christianity in the late 1970s and early 1980s, which cast Satan as a literal force of evil at work in the world. Darwin and his discoveries in evolution have long been cast as demonically inspired. During the Reformation, the Catholic Church portrayed Protestants as agents of the devil and the Protestants returned the favor. And going back to the late Middle Ages, the church facilitated an increase in the hysteria over witches, spearheaded by the publication of the Malleus Maleficarum (also known as The Witches Hammer) as the Renaissance approached and traditional ideas about god and the church were unsettled.

But there are two things that stand out in all these cases. First, the transfer of responsibility from the transgressor onto an unseen evil force. Second, the use of fear to quell dissent, either to slime the opposition with a label or by recasting the entire issue from a matter of human corruption to one of supernatural evil. After all, why should we be worried about a few naughty priests if the real threat is a supernatural demonic force attempting to subvert the world?

The devil does not exist so it was necessary for Christian leaders to invent him and from time to time reinvent him for their particular needs. And it would seem to me that the best way to get around this reliable defense mechanism, the way to render it moot, is to embrace the devil as one of our own. After all, Satanists never systematically molested children, flew airplanes into buildings, murdered doctors performing legal medical procedures, approved the abuse of women, told people that their best hope is to achieve nothingness, preached that a person's sinful nature is inherent either from transgressions by ancestors or actions in a previous life, or instructed others that the greatest achievement in life is to die in the service of faith. But if this what the righteous proclaim, may be it's good to be evil.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

James Carroll on Catholic Abuse

For the latest on the Catholic abuse cover up, check out this piece at The Daily Beast by James Carroll, author of Practicing Catholic and An American Requiem. An excerpt:
Yes, the depravities of the guilty priests are crimes—but they are also evidence of a broader dysfunction, a depth of systematic corruption that the old bigotries never imagined. The nearly universal response of church authorities to these crimes, rising to the level of the papacy itself, is so consistently to protect the abusers and re-victimize the victims as to qualify for the crime of co-conspiracy. Bishops and other leaders have not only obstructed justice, shielding perpetrators from civil law, but they have also become criminal abettors by enabling these perpetrators to continue their abusive behavior. And it has been happening everywhere.
And the parade continues.

Monday, March 01, 2010

Let's Go to the Tape

A few months ago, news organizations got up in arms over a video created by investigative journalist (and I use the term loosely) James O'Keefe, purporting to expose corruption in a Brooklyn ACORN office. More recently, O'Keefe was arrested for allegedly trespassing in a U.S. Senator's office, attempting to sabotage the phones. It looks like his luck isn't getting any better.

From Salon:
A four-month investigation by the Brooklyn district attorney found no evidence that the local ACORN office had engaged in any criminal conduct, despite the hype conservative media gave to tapes of a fake prostitute asking for help from the organization.

"They edited the tape to meet their agenda," a law enforcement source told the New York Daily News, which reported the investigation's results on Monday.


Although it's nice to see that the truth has made its way out, O'Keefe is really just a jackass with a video camera. The bigger players here are Andew Breitbart and Fox News. Breitbart funded O'Keefe and has set up new right wing pseudo-news sources and Fox News ran with the story, elevating it into a major story and attempting to make O'Keefe a populist hero. It is doubtful that either will take responsibility for their errors but maybe that doesn't matter since most of their viewers would happily accept an easy lie than a hard truth.