18 September 2018

The fall of an empire

The world-wide scandal over cover-ups of sexual abuse in the Catholic Church is nothing new.  Revelations about the clergy in this or that country have been coming in a steady stream for over two decades, and the overall picture has long been clear -- predator priests in substantial numbers sexually molesting boys and other victims, while the hierarchy covers up for them by moving them from place to place to avoid exposure, discouraging victims from speaking out, and trying to deal with the problem internally rather than by turning suspected abusers over to the police.  It's that practice of covering up the crimes, which is so widespread and so consistent across time and around the world that it must have long been a systematic policy, that marks the Catholic Church as an evil institution, rather than just an institution that happens to have a lot of evil people working in it.

Over the last month or so a dam seems to have burst, in terms both of public perception of the problem and of the authorities' willingness to take serious action about it.  In the US the trigger was the Pennsylvania grand jury report, which revealed about 300 predator priests and 1,000 victims within just that one state -- with the understanding that even so, many further cases doubtless remain unknown.  In several other states, Attorneys General are considering investigations of their own.  There have been rumors of a possible federal RICO investigation.

Wake-up calls are sounding across the world.  Chile recently launched a new series of raids on Catholic dioceses, following up a wave of such raids earlier this year.  A study in Germany revealed 3,677 abuse cases and 1,670 predator priests between 1946 and 2014, with the proviso that this is likely only the tip of the iceberg since only cases where the victims came forward are known, and there is evidence that the Church edited or destroyed records in many cases.  In the Netherlands, too, a massive cover-up by the Church hierarchy of over a thousand cases of sexual predation by priests has been revealed.  When New Jersey set up a hotline for victims of priestly sex abuse, it was so swamped with calls that extra staff had to be brought in to answer the phones.

The Church's response to all this has itself been shocking.  In Germany, a bishop denounced the public revelation of the study there (it was leaked by the media) as "irresponsible" and "regrettable".  A US cardinal insisted that the Pope has more important things to worry about than mass child molestation and cover-ups, saying "We're not going to go down a rabbit hole on this".  Pope Francis himself declared that uncovering the hierarchy's crimes is the work of Satan.  He has returned to this theme, most recently linking those who accuse bishops with Satan, the "Great Accuser", and issuing the usual call to be "merciful" which clerical criminals so often invoke when they get caught red-handed doing something revolting.  This is hardly surprising, since there's evidence that he was actively involved in covering up abuse and silencing victims back in Argentina, before he became Pope.  My patience with those naïve liberals who think that Francis is some sort of "good guy" because he's made a few somewhat-tolerant remarks about gay people is totally at an end.

But sweeping the facts under the rug isn't going to work any more.  Twenty years of scandal have shattered the Church's prestige and gravitas across the world.  Governments and police in countries where deference to the Church was once deep-rooted are now openly denouncing its crimes and aggressively investigating them.  The flood of new revelations we've seen beginning in Pennsylvania, Germany, and the Netherlands will continue.

As I discussed in my previous post on this subject, some conservative Catholics have seized upon this crisis to promote an agenda of their own.  Because some of the sexual abuse revealed in Pennsylvania targeted seminarians (young adult men) who were under the authority of high-ranking predator clerics, they are trying to de-emphasize the issue of pedophilia and frame the problem as one of evil homosexuals infiltrating the Church -- their goal being to reassert and legitimize the taboo on homosexuality itself and to demonize gays in general.  They also hope the crisis will bring down Pope Francis and others whom they see as too modernist and tolerant of "sin", leaving the Church a purified bastion of the bigotry of the True Faith.

That won't work either.  For one thing, the abuse is mainly pedophilic in nature -- the German report, for example, noted that more than half the victims were under 13.  Yes, in some cases adult males have been victims too, but in Subsaharan Africa, many victims of sexual abuse by Catholic priests have been adult women, including nuns.  This is not a "gay problem".  For whatever reason, a culture of sexual predation and coddling molesters has evolved within the Church, going back at least as far as the mid-twentieth century and likely much earlier, and the general pattern of abuse and cover-ups has been consistent regardless of the age and gender of the victims.  And if Francis is no less guilty of fostering this predator culture than earlier Popes, it remains true that they were no less guilty than he.  The whole institution is rotten with criminality, from top to bottom and in the depths of its twisted psyche.

In a sane world, that institution would be treated like the global mafia it is, its leaders put on trial for their crimes, its assets including the Vatican itself seized to pay compensation to the victims, its operations banned, so that it would entirely cease to function or exist as an entity at all.  In the real world, that will not happen.  But there will be an endless stream of investigations, prosecutions, lawsuits, and scandals, all over the world, destroying whatever thin rags of sanctity and deference still adhere to the Church, brushing aside the efforts by factions within it to weaponize the crisis against each other.  If the Catholic Church as an institution cannot die, it can still, perhaps appropriately, be sentenced to eternal torment.

And the Church's other victims -- the billion or so Catholic lay people, the rank-and-file believers around the world -- they will see, over and over, year after year, the utter corruption and hypocrisy of the institution in which they placed their faith, how cynically it has betrayed that faith, the complicity of the holy men in hiding vile crimes.  Not for all, but for many, the mental contortions necessary to maintain that faith in the face of all this will become untenable.  The collapse of deference which has shown itself in Ireland and is under way elsewhere will accelerate the trend toward turning away from religion entirely.

In brief, an institution built on lies is being devastated by the simple revelation of the truth about itself.  The Church thrived through the centuries of darkness when it could control what was known and said.  It cannot thrive in the light of an age of free inquiry.

16 September 2018

Link round-up for 16 September 2018

Various interesting stuff I ran across on the net over the last week.

o o o o o

I bet this wall art scares the shit out of a lot of people (found via Calvin).  Then there's the BBC.

King of the road!

An otherworldly being walks among us.

Rubber ducks play a role in software debugging.

I'm OK, you're OK (found via Mike).

Keep it local.

This place offers pretty much everything.

Use of stupid technology may hinder your job-search efforts.

TV makes Evangelicals do weird things.

Trumpanzees' cultural options are increasingly limited.

Creepy, yet morbidly intriguing.

Here's an impressive optical illusion.  And here's some delving into how some such illusions work.

It's nice to know there are still other avid readers out there.

This is an apple as you've never seen it (found via Jerry Coyne).

What do angels actually look like?

It's pointless to study the non-existent.

There is already an epic-scale live-action Mulan movie.

This statue suggests the sophistication of Greek art in the fourth century BC.

Here's a message for Trump at 90,000 feet.

A flaming-nutball preacher sounds off on hurricane Florence.

Nan's Notebook takes a look at tiresome things.

What a load of.....goop, take 2.

Religionists freak out at the slightest sign of beliefs different from their own.

This probably won't work -- but why not?

Ray Comfort offers a display of stupidity to rival his immortal banana self-pwnage.

Here's what the end of Roe v. Wade would mean, state-by-state.

For each flag, ten Hosts.

NRO explains why the Kaepernick ads are a winner for Nike.  The NFL and political leaders are standing up to Trump on the issue.

This is the cold reality of "God".

Sometimes assholes get fired.

The wingnut "mother of all rallies" looked more like an abortion.

Kavanaugh's background has disturbing implications (found via a comment by Nonnie9999).  Wingnuts are displaying their slimy character in response to the sex accusation. It's all discouraging for victims in such cases.

Would the disciples of Jesus have died for a lie?

War is worse than Hell.

This is naked greed under capitalism (found via Scottie).

If you allow violent thugs to take over your institution, people will avoid it.

Decentralization offers hope of freeing the internet from corporate and government power (I'm not tech-savvy enough to evaluate this -- just putting it out there).

Our closest ape relatives have much to teach us about sexuality and violence (there's more here than you've probably seen in other postings on this subject).

Time to say goodbye to NASA's Dawn spacecraft, the only probe ever to orbit two different asteroids.

The Church of England has lost more than half its membership since 2002, as the land of my ancestors shakes off the centuries-old lies of religion.

This kid has guts.  The world needs more like her.

Japan pushes for a return to mass butchery of self-aware creatures of which we still understand very little.

A British singer gets a chance to see the reality of life under a gangster regime.

Black Africa's schools want to put more emphasis on native languages; I hope they don't reduce access to the precious window on the world that French and English provide.

Bill Maher thinks Trump's base is getting bored with him.  After a year and a half, this 85%-Trump-voting county is no better off.

If Gillum wins Florida's Governorship, he'll become a force to be reckoned with in the Democratic party.

Republican trashes environment, blames Democrats -- will it work?

Russian trolls are at work in Texas.

Calvin has another round-up of Trump images; more here.  Shower Cap has the week in review.

The primaries are over -- what have we learned?

Julia Salazar is one of the few Democratic candidates whose progressivism extends to sex workers.

Booman takes a sober look at impeachment.

[Image at top:  The world of classic TV, too alluring for Evangelicals?]

14 September 2018

Quote for the day -- the standard of success


12 September 2018

Pig shit

With the coming of hurricane Florence, the Carolina coastline is about to get a nasty taste of the consequences of human misbehavior -- and I'm not talking only about the greenhouse-gas emissions that drive climate change and consequent extreme weather events.  There is also pig shit involved.

The Daily Kos explains.  Hog farms in the region generate huge amounts of pig shit, which creates serious problems even under normal, hurricane-less conditions.  The post quotes Steve Wing, a professor of epidemiology:  "It’s easy for a big hog operation to have as much waste as a medium-sized city."  Dense concentrations of humans -- that is to say, cities -- can be kept sanitary only by means of sewer systems.  Without these, the giant cities of Roman times or the even larger ones of today would have been uninhabitable; the filthy cities of medieval Europe were cesspits of disease, despite their smaller populations.  Such hygienic standards are impossible to maintain with other animals such as pigs when they are crowded together on farms in far higher densities than would ever occur in nature.

As a result, hog farms accumulate lagoons of pig urine and excrement, the stench of which makes the air around them unendurable.  As even these fill up, the stuff is sprayed on fields in the form of a mist, as fertilizer.  The mist, of course cannot be confined to the fields but drifts with the wind, causing health problems for the residents of nearby communities.  In North Carolina, the problem is so bad that it has led to a class-action suit.

This is an inevitable result of the practice of farming self-aware animals so that humans can kill them and eat their flesh.  Not only is it a grossly inefficient use of farmland, but unnaturally dense concentrations of animals produce unnaturally dense concentrations of shit.  There is no way around this.  We are literally beshitting the air people breathe, for the sake of perpetuating the cruel production of unhealthy food.

Now, enter the hurricane:

During big storms, uncovered lagoons -- especially those that haven't been drawn down -- can fill up with rain and overflow..... Here's the really bad scenario: Water starts overflowing and erodes the lagoon wall, causing a wall to collapse, spreading animal waste across the landscape and into rivers. Rising rivers could also inundate some low-lying lagoons and hog houses..... Those lagoons are full of nothing but feces and urine.....

Humans abuse and kill pigs for the sake of pork and bacon which aren't even healthy for us.  A post-hurricane landscape stinking of pig shit is a natural price to pay for that.  If the pigs could understand, they might even call it karma.

11 September 2018

For 9/11

09 September 2018

Link round-up for 9 September 2018

Various interesting stuff I ran across on the net over the last week.

o o o o o

Watch where you're going, you stupid cat.

Rate the ants.

How the hell does someone think up this stuff?

Have a reservation or be devoured.

She Who Seeks has a round-up on the legal profession.

Another anonymous op-ed by two Trump insiders has been published.

A mom takes her kids on an outing to the local pool (found via Jerry Coyne).

It's destiny.

Trumpanzee tries to troll Frozen, gets pwned.

Kangaroos are scary.  But we have a weapon that can defeat them.

This is one heck of a mirage.

Here's a computer operating system for fundies.

For once, the list of big upcoming fall movies (found via Miss Cellania) isn't completely dominated by sequels, "reboots", and "franchises".  Mortal Engines at least looks visually interesting.

4Chan wingnuts have made a curious fetish character out of.....David Hogg.

Culture is important no matter where you are (found via Jerry Coyne).

Some popular beliefs about animals are true; some are not.

Down with the smug elites!

"If your beliefs can't stand up to scrutiny....."  More here and more here.

Funerals have never been used for political purposes.

The US is missing out on the future.

Their work is vital.

Actually, the stuff we left behind up there weighed more.

Somebody needs to "take a stand against" this generational-essentialist nonsense.

Sometimes it runs in the family.

Racism is racism.

Not-very-happy Labor Day.  Fight to keep our gains.

Two patriots honor each other.

These slime-buckets always start spouting crap about "healing" and "forgiveness" when they get caught doing something disgusting.

Nike's online sales jumped 31% after the launch of the Kaepernick campaign, and they seem ready to accept potential losses (both found via Progressive Eruptions).  Opponents of Kaepernick are attacking Nike by burning stuff that they already paid for.

Right-wingers demand respect for the flag.

This deserves to be the defining image for Kavanaugh (found via Yellowdog Granny).  Some of the enemy aren't happy with him, though; there was a fire-breathing wingnut option available.

Hundreds of voucher schools "teach" mythology in place of science.  Here's a better term for "creationists".

A government jobs guarantee polls better if the jobs involved are in green energy, even among Trump supporters.

Who will speak at Trump's funeralHere are some possibilities (found via Yellowdog Granny).

Bill Donohue responds to the Catholic Church's latest molestation scandal with a lot of shouting.  The chief asshole compares accusers to "wild dogs".  Yet another diocese has been hit with new accusations.

Miscellanea Agnostica's "Great Christians" series looks at Cyril of Alexandria and Tertullian.

These strange artifacts from Roman times still baffle us today (found via Mendip).

Yet another confused book claims that a new discovery undermines evolution as we know it when it does nothing of the sort.

Parasites parasitize parasites (found via Miss Cellania).

Saturn has ultraviolet auroras.

A 3D-printed coral reef has just been installed in the Maldives in an effort to encourage marine ecosystems (found via Jerry Coyne).

An Australian company is using solar power and seawater to grow food in the desert (found via Miss Cellania).  More work like this, please, for the sake of heavily-populated arid areas like the Middle East.

Other democracies support the UK in accusing Putin's regime of the Salisbury attack.

This is the place where Hitler died, as it is today.

India's supreme court has struck down the country's law against homosexuality, a relic of the British colonial period, and the enemy is not happy.  Islam-dominated Malaysia lags further behind.

A single project in Borneo supports both reforestation and medical care for poor people.

This is what happens when a gangster regime doesn't have to respect freedom of the press.

Electoral-Vote is going live with its day-by-day poll analysis for this year's election.  Their current Senate map projects one Republican pick-up and three Democratic ones, enough for a bare 51-49 take-over, and one exact tie (Florida).

Shower Cap once again reviews the week in Trumpland.

Here's an analysis of the NY Times op-ed.  For the Trumplings, identifying the author will pose certain problems.

House Republican leaders want to stamp out dissent within their ranks.

Obama's speech wasn't just to rebuke Trump -- he's urging us to keep the big picture in mind.

Most of our endangered Senate Democrats are doing pretty well right now.

Americans overwhelmingly favor keeping Obamacare's protections for pre-existing conditions.

Steve M argues that Republicans will soon be ready to ditch Trump once he's given them control of the Supreme Court.  But I agree with Andrew Johnston's comment that Pence could have done everything for them that Trump has, and at less cost.  I still think they're just afraid to challenge Trump because they fear the Trumpanzee voters.

Gun owners are more likely to vote, and the gap is growing.

A post-Trump Republican party will still be evil.

[Image at top found via Scottie]

06 September 2018

Rant for the day -- road warriors

About a month ago I started a new job.  The people are pretty laid-back, which is good.  The work isn't bad, aside from some issues related to the sheer complexity of the organization (though those are getting maddening).  The commuting is godawful.

I'd been trying to get something closer to where I live, but frankly I wasn't in a position to be choosy.  So I was prepared for a fair bit of wasted time.  I wasn't prepared for the sheer stupidity of some drivers.

There are apparently people to whom driving is a grimly-urgent game whose object is to be ahead of, rather than behind, as many other cars as possible.  People jump from lane to lane through dangerously-small gaps trying to get in front of each other, tailgate, honk furiously in frustration when a move in the game fails, speed up to cut off people properly signaling a lane change or trying to merge onto the freeway, and vroom off with an aggressively flatulent-sounding burst of acceleration when a gap in one lane offers a chance to get a few spots ahead.

And usually that's all that's at stake -- a chance to get one or two car-positions further ahead than they would otherwise be.  You're driving up your blood pressure and stress hormones, and everyone else's, for the sake of an advantage of a few seconds.  What on Earth is the point?  It's as if people feel that getting in front of another car rather than behind it is a test of their manhood.  I can't help thinking of those primate intimidation displays to assert dominance which find echoes in so much of human behavior.

I've already changed my route to avoid the freeway and use regular streets only, even though it takes longer, but I've seen similar behavior there as well during rush hour -- despite the presence of plenty of pedestrians and bicyclists (many of them apparently eager to gamble their lives on drivers' reflexes) and a tangle of construction constricting one major road for most of its length.  The advantage is that a crash there would happen at lower speed than on the freeway and thus be less likely to be deadly.

Don't get me wrong -- it's only a small fraction of drivers who behave this way, maybe one to five percent.  But that's quite enough.  I've seen the aftermath of some spectacular car wrecks in Portland during the time I've lived here, including one that must have been as bad as the picture at the top, and I'm no longer surprised.  Not that I mind the idea of such idiots killing themselves off -- that's just natural selection in action.  But they almost inevitably take other people with them.

I can't swear to it, but, I think it's getting worse.  I've lived here 23 years now and I don't remember it being this bad earlier on.

The daily drive also takes me deep into the northwestern quadrant of downtown, an area I've never been to before.  NW 23rd Avenue has, or had, a reputation for being a classy shopping street, and maybe it is.  My commute doesn't actually take me there, but I have to go through most of the area of the northwestern downtown between NW 23rd and the river.  And it looks like absolute crap, or at least the part I drive through does.  The buildings are OK -- the usual blocky fortresses five to twenty stories high -- but they're separated by huge expanses of parking lots and fenced-off vacant lots choked with undergrowth.  Small encampments of homeless people are scattered everywhere, though many have new-looking camping-style tents -- I wonder if someone donated a bunch of those recently?  An elevated freeway and bridge approach looms over everything like some colossal alien megastructure.  Surely something could be done with all those vacant lots literally within walking distance of the city center.  Put in affordable housing (the Devil knows we need more of that).  Something.  As it is, the area doesn't look dangerous, at least in the daytime.  But it looks depressing as hell.

Ah, well.  This job is a five-month gig.  One month down, four to go.

03 September 2018

Video of the day -- the secretary

Maybe there are places where things are better.

List of obituary posts

A few individuals whose deaths I found noteworthy.  This list will be updated as appropriate.

Osama bin Laden (2011)

Jack Chick (2016)

Stephen Hawking (2018)

Christopher Hitchens (2011)

Hypatia of Alexandria (415)

Ted Kennedy (2009)

Fred Phelps (2014)

02 September 2018

Link round-up for 2 September 2018

Various interesting stuff I ran across on the net over the last week.

o o o o o

Evolution works in mysterious ways.

Hail the conqueror!

I'd take this sign seriously.

Bad dog!

A lucky idiot is still an idiot.

This would explain a lot.

Dare you ride the wild Wagenkäfer?

Check out this otherworldly flower.

What a load of.....goop.

Here's a handy chart to sort out two especially-confusing verbs.  And please stop doing this.

Explore the history of biscuits.

I'd say the groom here dodged a bullet.

This show would be as popular as Buffy.

The Devil made them do it.

Scottie posts a collection of religion images.

Lab-grown meat avoids the cruelty of the meat industry -- and that industry doesn't like it.

America's young white supremacists are paying a price for their bigotry (found via Mike the Mad Biologist).  Well, racism is a very ugly thing.

Is Trump using a fake MelaniaProbably not.

Survivors recall the horrors of a Catholic orphanage (found via Scottie).

A stalker encounters natural selection.

The "economic boom" isn't helping the real economy.

Remember the victims of religion.  Here's another victim of a vile taboo inflicted on our culture by Christianity.

The Trumplings play King Canute with marijuana legalization (found via Electoral-Vote).

A monster snivels feebly about "errors in judgment".

John McCain was an old-school politician whose death has brought back an old lie.

They've been wrong every time and it's not going to change.

This is the enemy.

Hayabusa-2 will deploy its first landing craft to Ryugu this month.

You never quite leave your first language behind.

The discovery of the Americas changed the world.  It's a haunting thought that even if the arrival of Europeans in the Americas had been completely benign and non-violent, most of the native populations would have died anyway because of diseases to which they had little natural resistance.

The Catholic Church in Australia hid its wealth to cheat sexual-abuse victims of compensation.

Europe will stop putting its clocks backwards and forwards an hour every few months -- when will we drop this nonsense?

President Macron of France is adapting to a world in which Trump's United States is no longer a reliable ally.

Amazing -- women are drawn to political parties that oppose misogynistic religion.

Republicans have long threatened US intelligence-gathering out of spite; Trump does it out of cowardice.

Here's an analysis of Tuesday's primaries.  Polls failed to predict Andrew Gillum's win.  What other surprises await?  Maybe Beto O'Rourke really has a shot in November.  But Bill Nelson needs to get his act together.

Calvin has a collection of Trump images.

Republicans want to pass a law to make sure that I will never again be able to get meaningful health insurance.

Shower Cap pwns DeSantis and the Trumplings.

Trump and his gang are besieged by a monstrous regiment of investigationsAs his support falls, Mueller's rises.  Removing him will become possible.

For more link round-ups, see Perfect Number, Love Joy Feminism, and Fair and Unbalanced.

[Image at top:  Hayabusa-2 at Ryugu]