General: May 2002 Archives

The New Republic includes the first critical look at the Catholic Church mess in Milwaukee, and makes it clear that this one is not a story of child abuse, the sexual importuning of a teenager, and most probably not even sexual date rape.

Because while all those priests for whom child molestation became the hobby of choice are utterly contemptible, so is someone who poses as a victim in order to extort money from a church.

The only quibble I can find right now is that the author neglected to ask whether the payment of the $450,000 blackmail payment was the decision of the Archbishop alone, of a committee of some sort, or even one kept out of his hands entirely by the hierarchy (Rome?) Weakland after all, has so far maintained almost complete silence on the matter, citing a privacy agreement with his lover.

An editorial in today's NYTimes pauses to observe the completion of clearance work at the World Trade Center site, and the portion of the text which addresses the recent past manages to be surprisingly gentle.

Most of us have found our own ways to accommodate the meaning of Sept. 11. But for the crews that have been at work on that unimaginable site — and at the holding areas where the debris has been sifted and analyzed — the one way to deal with the tragedy has been to dismantle it, fragment by fragment, until there was nothing left. Those crews have served as our surrogates.


Removing that last steel column marks the moment when the physical ruins of the terrorist attacks and their aftermath have been effaced. Some of us have been eager to push them out of sight, and some of us have been reluctant. But from now on, those ruins exist only in us.

Seven minutes in Cathedral Square, half an hour in the Hermitage, and an especially-miniaturized "Nutcracker," all in a day's work for the emperor who already knows all he has to know.

President Bush's father, when he was in the White House, introduced the world to "speed golf," involving a breathless race through 18 holes. The younger Bush, on his European trip, practiced a variation: robo-tourism.
But don't suppose the subtleties of European culture escape him in his high-speed bubble:
Arriving for a caviar dinner at Russian President Vladimir Putin's country residence, Bush viewed the immaculate grounds and told his host: "Nice of you to mow the grass for us." At the French president's palace, he noted that Jacques Chirac is "always saying that the food here is fantastic."

Every graduating class needs a Tony Kushner a lot more than it needs some suit.

Invited to address this year's graduating class at Vassar, the activist and playwright told its members and their guests that the future did not look bright and that no one he knew was truly happy.

The best they could hope for, he said, was to be "happyish."

"This is a time of crisis," he said. "And in a time of crisis, you have to focus on being real."

In his 20-minute address, Mr. Kushner urged the graduates to think to themselves: "I am here to organize; I am here to be political."

"It's boring to organize, but do it," he said. "The world ends if you don't."

Is this what the F.B.I. had in mind when it warned us about light aircraft?

An attempt to honour a dead baseball fan's last wish went horribly wrong on Friday, forcing the evacuation of Safeco Field, the home of the Seattle Mariners baseball team, amid fears of a bio-terror attack.

The plane dropped a package which exploded on impact, spraying the area with a "mystery white powder." It later turned out that the package contained the ashes of a devout Mariners fan who had wanted his remains cast over the field.

Let's hear it for the co-op boards! Maureen Dowd finds one bright spot in the "war on terrorism," even as she slams those who tell us they're fighting it from Washington.

I have no faith in the ability of the U.S. government to keep out terrorists. But I have absolute faith in the ability of New York co-op boards to keep out terrorists.

The F.B.I. has warned apartment managers in New York that the evildoers might try to get a place, furnish it with explosives and blow up the building.

The enemy vermin can dupe the I.N.S. to get student visas, but wait until the East Side co-op president starts grilling them about where they went to school, what eating clubs they were in, which dancing class they attended, and whether they would bother the neighbors with any impolite crashes or unesthetic bangs. If Henry van der Luyden of the Ardsthorpe had interrogated Mohamed Atta, that creep would have been screaming for mercy.

She's somewhat less sanguine about the chances for success elsewhere, and won't bet that the Bushie administration can avoid a political setback.

Beyond the co-op boards, however, we're on our apocalyptic own.

Robert Mueller calls suicide attacks "inevitable." Dick Cheney says another terrorism episode is "not a matter of if, but when."

Donald Rumsfeld warns that the terrorists "inevitably will get their hands on" nuclear, chemical and biological weapons.

All this fatalism from our leaders and we're still only on a yellow alert?!?!

There is a red alert going on now, but it's only in Karl Rove's office. (There is a severe risk of political damage to the Bush administration.)

That's why the Bushies are trying to terrify us. They desperately want to change the subject from the stunning lapses of their ostensibly expert foreign policy team — and they cynically want to make it sound as if nothing they do or don't do really matters in the end.

I also took the Political Compass test, and I found I'm even more lefty and more libertarian than Mr. B:

Economic Left/Right: -6.38
Authoritarian/Libertarian: -9.51

About the same as Ghandi if he were more radical. Here is the Libertarian Left recommended reading list.

For a non-hysterical discussion of gay sexuality in the Catholic priesthood, read the interview the NYTimes published May 11.
The interviewee tries to distinguish pedophilia from an attraction to sexually-mature teenagers, but messes-up in his conclusion.

But as I understand it, pedophilia is a specific clinical description of a person who is attracted to prepubescent children, and in that there is no particular connection to homosexuality. Where the issue gets murky for everybody is where you're talking about 16- or 17-year-olds, who may regard themselves as sexually mature. How do we talk about priests who have relations with such people? Can someone who has homosexual desires be sexually attracted to 17-year-olds? Yes, some gay men are. Some straight men are attracted to 17-year-old girls. So do we regard that as a pathology, or do we regard it as an attraction that shouldn't be acted on for moral reasons? Either way, it's wrong, but not wrong in the same way.

The last two sentences would be defensible only if they actually read, "So do we regard that as a pathology, or do we regard it as an attraction that perhaps shouldn't be acted on because of socially-constructed prohibitions? If it is wrong, it is therefore wrong for very different reasons."

It's more than frustrating to fret about the errors, not to say duplicity, of American foreign policy when it appears there are no Americans who know or care what that policy is. To make it worse, while the facts clearly show, for anyone who bothers to look, that we do not act on principle, I am sure that if queried, virtually every American would say otherwise. Noam Chomsky describes the recent history of our Mideast policy in a few paragraphs, and in doing so manages to help us understand why it has gone so wrong (for the Palestinans as well as the Israelis).

The Palestinians have long suffered torture, terror, destruction of property, displacement and settlement, and takeover of basic resources, crucially water. These policies have relied on decisive US support and European acquiescence.

It is regularly claimed that all peace proposals have been undermined by Arab refusal to accept the existence of Israel (the facts are quite different), and by terrorists like Arafat who have forfeited "our trust". How that trust may be regained is explained by Edward Walker, a Clinton Middle East adviser: Arafat must announce that "we put our future and fate in the hands of the US" - which has led the campaign to undermine Palestinian rights for 30 years.

From SatireWire a modest, almost Swiftian proposal.

Trenton, N.J. ( — Under a new law designed to protect minors, local police departments will now be required to inform residents any time a known Roman Catholic church moves into their neighborhood.

The law also mandates that Catholic churches register with authorities, wear electronic monitoring devices, and be prohibited from moving to within a half-mile radius of a school.

(The five words above comprised a notice painted handsomely and permanently on the blackboard in my third-grade homeroom, above a changing list of pithy admonitions, all in different-colored chalks. Funny, only years later did I learn that the complete sentence includes, "is sufficient." Was I more sufficient after that or before?)

Anyway, don't miss regularly checking the "quick links" on the upper right of this page. Bloggy and Shoulderchip are awesome on the big items.

This page is an archive of entries in the General category from May 2002.

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