May 2009

Via Pharyngula, here are two reactions to the reports of systemic abuse within the Catholic reform schools in Ireland:

Dublin Archbishop Diarmud Martin:

The church has failed people. The church has failed children. There is no denying that. This can only be regretted and it must be regretted. Yet “sorry” can be an easy word to say. When it has to be said so often, then “sorry” is no longer enough.

And on the other side of the spectrum, we have the American president of the Catholic League, Bill Donohue, who decided that it really wasn’t all that bad, and it was a long time ago anyway:

The Irish report suffers from conflating minor instances of abuse with serious ones, thus demeaning the latter. When most people hear of the term abuse, they do not think about being slapped, being chilly, being ignored or, for that matter, having someone stare at you in the shower. They think about rape.

By cheapening rape, the report demeans the big victims. But, of course, there is a huge market for such distortions, especially when the accused is the Catholic Church.

Bill, being as he is blinkered by his affiliation with the church, is unable to see the implications of this latest Catholic scandal. Instead, his organization has been spending its time decrying Obama’s visit to Notre Dame.

Oh — and it’s interesting to note that Donohue is very concerned about possible rapes of children. Just not when the rapists are Catholic clergymen.


I can’t claim that I’ve been busy because I haven’t. The semester is over, I wound up with a surprisingly decent GPA, and now I am half-heartedly looking for a job. Burger-flipping may be in the offing.

A couple things I need to address at some point — the president’s and former vice president’s speeches on national security Thursday is a major one. I came away from Obama’s reassured in the principles he is operating under (the idea of coequal branches of government, that the executive is bound by the decisions of the judiciary — you know, novel ideas like those) and from Cheney’s… well, was anybody really surprised by Dick Cheney’s 9/11 scare-fest? The speech was, on its face, repellent, and certain writers (who I won’t link to yet) have pointed out the blatant lies and half-truths he used in justifying his torture program (as well as, um, everything else the Bush administration did).

Another issue I should probably get some thoughts down on is atheism. I’ve wound up in a couple discussions about this since my last post, and it’s probably time to approach the subject — particularly after watching Dinesh D’Souza “debate” Daniel Dennett. D’Souza, in addition to being a big fan of Jesus, is also a fan of red herrings, straw men, and filibustering.

But that’s all stuff for later. I’m off for a run.

Nine years ago, while studying abroad in Austria, my girlfriend at the time and I visited Ireland on a 10-day break. At that point in my life, I was a rather serious Catholic, and I figured Ireland would be a study in devotion — in addition to yet another locale on the European landmass devoted to beer.

While I wasn’t disappointed on the second count, I was surprised — after a many-hours-long hitchhiking trip along the south coast of the island to the city of Cork — to sit down in a large church Sunday evening and hear the mass said at breakneck speed. It was over in less than half an hour. I found it stunning that people in Ireland (clergy included, apparently) were so eager to get out of church as quickly as possible.

Little wonder, after today’s headline: Catholic Church shamed by Irish abuse report.

DUBLIN – After a nine-year investigation, a commission published a damning report Wednesday on decades of rapes, humiliation and beatings at CatholicChurch-run reform schools for Ireland’s castaway children.

The report details the institutionalized humiliation of thousands of Irish children sent to “reform schools” run by the “Christian Brothers” and other clerical orders. This was no case of Abu Ghraib-type “bad apples” (although we’re getting more of a picture of the institutionalization of that abuse, too, which puts the lie to the “bad apples” argument to begin with); this was a system-wide program of humiliation and torture — mental, physical, and, of course, sexual.


Well, it looks like the ever-reliable DNC has folded on the highly-touted Obama campaign promise to close Guantanamo Bay. I’m getting a little fed up with this “war on terror”-esque backsliding. The move apparently cuts $80 million from the new Defense spending bill, and it also conveniently avoids the issue of transferring detainees to U.S. soil, much to the delight of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid:

“We will never allow terrorists to be released in the United States.” Asked next, if he could see a day when Guantanamo detainees might be transferred to prisons on American soil, Reid refused to clarify his remarks. “We don’t want them around,” he said.

This reminds me a lot of a George Carlin routine I love:


In recent days, Obama has sent mixed signals himself as he sorts through the complexities of how to bring to trial the remaining prisoners. Republicans have used this confusion to play on the localized fears and emotions of voters about prisoners being transferred to prisons in their states.

UPDATE: Maureen Dowd and Mother Jones’ David Corn and Steve Aquino all decided to go with the NIMBY label on this story, too. You read it here first (although Dowd may have had her column out before I posted this).

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi apparently was made aware of “enhanced interrogation techniques” in September of 2002. Or maybe she wasn’t, exactly. If she was aware of the possible use of torture, even in the near future — and even in the much more pro-torture environment of 2002 — she acted cowardly in failing to speak out against it.

Pelosi may have been briefed on enhanced interrogation techniques in 2002, but so what?

Pelosi may have been briefed on "enhanced interrogation techniques" in 2002, but so what?

Isn’t that the end of the discussion with regard to the speaker’s role? Pelosi’s credibility on torture may be ruined, but that does not in any way exonerate Republicans and the previous administration for their culpability in instituting the program, which in addition to being ineffective, is also morally reprehensible.

For some reason, though, the debate has shifted to San Fran Nan, whose public statements have never been difficult to ridicule. And as Mother Jones points out, the story of the briefings she may have recieved on the torture issue is old news — as old as anti-war activist Cindy Sheehan’s unsuccessful run against her in her hometown.

This is a rather crude attempt at political slight-of-hand that Republicans are using to try to squirm out of the heat that’s been brought down upon them following the release of the so-called Torture Memos, which detail the methods used against terror suspects such as Khalid Sheik Mohammed, who was apparently waterboarded 183 times in the month following his arrival at Guantanamo Bay (here’s a report from Fox News explaining why that isn’t all that terrible, anyway).

The sick thing is, it’s working. We’re not talking about who authorized torture and why it was wrong, we’re talking about what Pelosi knew and when.

(By the way, -100 points to whoever wrote the headline on that MSNBC link: “Pelosi’s stands by torture statements.”)

Feministe » Apparently, Texas Does NOT Charge Victims for Rape Kits.

Well, it seems like it was all a big misunderstanding, and I got taken in, too. According to the Texas Association Against Sexual Assault, local law enforcement absorbs the initial cost, up to $700, and is then reimbursed by the state. Further costs are absorbed by the hospital or the law enforcement agency, but the victim’s insurance is not billed.

That’s a relief. But what about Wasilla, Alaska?

As the semester winds to a close, I’m a bit preoccupied with finals-related work. That means less posting here, but I’m trying to at least keep an eye on the news.

One piece I noticed this morning was the backlash against the self-appointed anti-health care reform spokesman, Rick Scott.

VideoCafe has a clip of Rachel Maddow’s take (via Crooks & Liars).

Rick Scott, as Maddow et al point out, is the currently out-of-work hospital CEO who was forced to resign after it came to light that his for-profit hospital chain had a habit of defrauding the government out of hundreds of millions of dollars. The company was fined $1.7 billion, and Scott left in shame with a $10 million golden parachute.

And he’s the guy leading the charge against health care reform. I suppose if I had made gajillions of dollars off a broken system, I’d be interested in making sure it stayed broken, too.

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