Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Nixon Time for Pope Nazinger

The smoking gun from Munich has now been published in The New York Times and not even the Catholic League, which has bought a space ad to defend the pope in a different case, dares challenge the finding against "the holy father."

What did Joseph Razinger (aka formerly a Hitler Youth, archbishop of Munich and chief inquisitor at the Vatican and currently pope) know and when did he know it?
  • Written evidence shows that Ratzinger led the Jan. 15, 1980, diocesan weekly council meeting that decided to transfer Rev. Peter Hullemann, a priest sent from Essen to Munich for therapy to overcome pedophilia, to pastoral duties, meaning regular parish work. Hullemann was later sent to prison for what he did after that transfer in duties.
  • Munich archdiocesan personnel chief Rev. Friedrich Fahr, reputedly "very close" to the then-archbishop Ratzinger, had received oral and written warning concerning the "danger" posed by Hullemann between Dec. 20, 1979, and Jan 3., 1980.
  • Ratzinger received written notification that the transfer of Hullemann had taken place on Jan. 20, 1980, showing that he was kept informed.
As an ecclesiastical executive, Ratzinger has been neither a milquetoast nor a hands-off leader. Indeed, in 1981, Ratzinger punished a priest for celebrating Mass at a peace demonstration; the pressure drove the man to leave the priesthood.

So here are the values Ratzinger enforced: child rape, yes; peace, no.

How long before a John Dean rats him out on his other misdeeds? Stay tuned. Tempted as I am to picket the Vatican and chant "Ratzinger resign," it would be far better for him to hang on and take the whole circus down with him.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

"Why should I pay for you when you get sick?"

The heading of this post* is the summation of all objections to any public social insurance program, be it unemployment compensation, social security, day care supports, family leave and even education. Now that the congressional debate over health insurance reform has ended, perhaps we ought to ask, why indeed should I pay for you?

The first answer, of course, is that if a law says I must pay for you, surely it also means you must pay for me. That's what social insurance means, joining forces as a society to share the essential risks and challenges in human life, such as illness, unemployment, bearing and rearing children, acquiring necessary knowledge and old age.

They've been doing that for 60 years or more in the part of Europe that was never Communist.

Secondly, and seldom acknowledged, because someone has already paid for you. When you were 3 years old, say, even if you were born wealthy on paper, were you handling your investments, let alone buying and preparing all the food you ate, the clothing you wore, the housing you had? Weren't you a net recipient of everything until, at a minimum, your adolescence?

If you started your own business, did you build the transportation infrastructure that allows you to ship goods to customers? If you are now retired, do you think for a moment that you contributed every last penny that is being spent on you while you produce nothing at all?

There are no utterly self-sufficient individuals. Not even you. That's why you should pay for me when I get sick, in fairness, to make up for my paying for you when you get sick.

* A phrase stolen from Kel, the blogger of the Osterley Times.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Tonto TV on Mundovision

My recent encounter with an NPR reporter's misuse of the image of a telenovela made me think of the shudders U.S. Spanish TV in general induces in me, given its obsessive pandering to the lowest common denominator among the least educated rural immigrants in this country. Bad enough that they have that crap in "Latin" America!

Telemundo and Univision, two Spanish-language television networks in the United States, broadcast South American telenovelas to distract their mostly female, low-skilled, low-wage daytime audience from the notion of being accorded respect with better pay and a healthier balancing of work and family demands -- and immigration reform.

Their other shows feature Chaliapin-bass announcers that scream out "SAAAAAAAAAbado!" like late-night Anglo TV fire sales and fake blondes in bikinis coochy cooing their buttocks and breasts at the audience. Ay, mamita! 

Mama eu queiro, mama eu queiro, mama eu queiro mamar ...

And when it's not year-round carnival, there's always sports: GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOL!!!!!

The world of Spanish-language mass media entertainment rarely departs from swimsuits, "fútbol," and absurdly maudlin dramas with romance and a pastiche of superstitions and magical thinking. It's the equivalent of the minstrel show, only put on by Hispanics with no shame.

Every once in a while I stop while channel surfing, try to give it the umpteenth chance, but my brain explodes inside my head within three minutes.

Forget religion. Tonto* TV is the modern opium of the masses.

*Tonto: Spanish for "stupid" or "dumb," hence the insult that The Lone Ranger represented to American Indians. (Yes, they prefer "Indians" these days.)

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Pedophilia Spatters the Pope

They couldn't get Karol Wojtyla (aka John Paul II), but reporters of the Süddeutsche Zeitung have finally nailed Joseph Ratzinger (aka the sitting pope) with conspiring to hide sadistic child rape when he was in the Archdiocese of Munich.

Everybody is guilty of something, Joseph Stalin was wont to say when the arrest of someone without evidence of a misdeed troubled the top dogs at the NKVD -- a rare event, to be sure.

But how many people knowingly accept the transfer of a now-imprisoned priest from another diocese (Essen), where he had raped an 11-year-old boy? The priest in question was no misdirected man: he engaged in rank acts of sadism to compel the boy to perform sexual acts. This is proven as a matter of law.

Then there is the question of the stormclouds gathering over the pope's brother, also a priest. The role of Msgr. Georg Ratzinger in allegations of abuse when he was master of the boys' choir at Regenburg, which ran from 1964 to 1994, is currently under investigation in Germany.

But the Vatican already claims to know that nothing happened there under the sibling Ratzinger. How does the Vatican know for sure before the investigation has been completed?

Perhaps this is a case similar to that of Wojtyla who, when similar allegations arose about his tenure as Archbishop of Krakow, dispatched a Rasputin-like figure who controlled all of Wojtyla's papers, to gather up whatever had been left behind in Krakow. A Polish reporter who had begun to ask questions on this matter was then roughed up, according to a Washington Post report in the late 1990s, and nothing more was ever heard on the subject.

Saturday, March 06, 2010

Take the Responsibility and the Blame

I was very tempted to go to hear Diane Ravitch speak at an event here in Washington, so I could ask her what we, as a society, get now that she has seen the light. Public figures love to "take full responsibility" for misdeeds (when they get caught doing them), but accept none of the blame. Punishment? Fuhgeddaboudit.

Ravitch, a former assistant secretary of education in the Bush (pére) Administration, was by her own admission a "conservative advocate of charters, merit pay and accountability." Now she claims to be a "skeptical independent," having hit upon the novel notion of checking the data.

A bit too late, she has discovered that the policies she shoved down everyone's throat haven't suceeded at anything good. In the interim, from the 1980s to today, millions of children were subjected to aggressive teach-to-the-test instruction and a corresponding number of teachers were forced to become automatons in the service of some wonk's slash and burn approach.

I myself discarded the briefly held idea of becoming a teacher once I was confronted with one public school system's "competency-based curriculum." This was essentially one of those unreadable educratic policy tomes in which everything is a three-word something (pencil = paper-oriented wordprocessor) and single syllable, Anglo-Saxon words are never used if a longer, Latinate one can be had.

So, yes, Ms. Ravitch, you and your fellow edufascists-in-arms chased me away, even though I could have made learning something so enjoyable students might pursue it on their own, outside school.

Worse, still, the kids didn't get any smarter under the No Child Left Behind regime your propaganda inspired. Even you admit it now. What was the ditty? Ah, yes: those who can't do, teach; those who can't teach, teach education.

In Ravitch's case, she's out to make money confessing her error in a new book. Borrow it from a library, if you must; just don't give her a dime she doesn't deserve.

How is it that all sorts of people can not only start wars, dumb-down schools, steal from the poor and give to the rich, steal from the rich and keep it, and -- only if caught! -- appear in public with crocodile tears about how terrible and wrong they were. They can even non-apologize "if" someone suffered as a result.

Then they get to rake in the real publicity and dough.

What ever happened to scarlet letters, stocks, public humiliation and taunting, drawing and quartering? Weren't these the preferred social catharses the uberconservatives loved? Or were those only for Galileo, English Jesuits and the victims of the unruly teenage girls of Salem?

I'd like to see some real, unremunerated effort to compensate society. Barring that, a good whipping would do.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

GOP BS about Reconciliation

Let's retire the notion being pushed like crack that using "reconciliation" to get what's been watered down to health care consumer protection passed through the U.S. Senate is something terribly, terribly unusual and sinister. The pushers, Republicans such as Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), should be ashamed of themselves for this naked effort to throw pixie dust at the public to protect their insurance industry patrons.

The facts of the matter are that reconciliation, a procedure created to bypass an arcane Senate practice to make sure, among other things, that the federal government has funds on which to legally operate, was first used in 1981 by the ... wait for it ... Republicans!
  • 17 of the 23 reconciliation bills signed into law, were enacted by Republican presidents;
  • If you have ever continued under your employer's health plan after you were laid off under "COBRA" benefits, that's due to the 1974 Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act;
  • Welfare reforms were passed in 1996 thanks to one Newton Leroy Gingrich (then R-Ga), in the the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act.
As to what reconciliation bypasses, it's called a filibuster, a maneuver not found nor based in the Constitution, to stop the Senate from even debating whether a law should be passed or voting on the law. The filibuster stops a 59% majority from approving a law.

Let's consider what 59% means.

Remember  Ronald Reagan's 1980 "landslide" electoral victory that made him president? He only got 50.7% of the votes cast. In contrast, Lyndon B. Johnson won 61% of the votes cast 1964 -- that was a real landslide.

Under the Senate's 60% supermajority rule needed to defeat a filibuster, neither Abraham Lincoln nor John F. Kennedy would have been elected. Nor would any president since Lyndon Johnson, including Barack Obama and both Bushes.

The famously portrayed filibuster by actor Jimmy Stewart in the 1939 film  "Mr. Smith Comes to Washington" isn't even how filibusters occur today at all. There's no continuous talkathon, no drama at all and really no effort.

Last week, by one vote upholding a filibuster, that of Sen. Jim Bunning (R-Ky), the unemployment benefits of millions of people came to a crashing halt this past Sunday, just when the duration of joblessness is at an all-time-record.