Monthly Archives: March 2012

Why knowing about ALEC is important

Paul Krugman has a must-read piece up on the influence of the shadowy corporate-sponsored group, American Legislative Exchange Council (“ALEC”), on state legislatures.

For one thing, the “shoot first, avoid arrest” bill that has allowed Trayvon Martin’s killer to avoid charges was drafted by ALEC.  ALEC has also provided multiple state legislatures with voter ID bills intended to suppress the votes of minorities, the poor, and the elderly.  It should be a surprise to no one that many members of ALEC are the corporations that are bring us the privatized prison-industrial complex, and who are also bringing us privatized, for-profit schools that are bringing profits to its members at the expense of actual education.

We are looking at a very, very bleak future for the vast majority of our citizens if ALEC continues to write our state’s laws unchecked.


Standing with my hands at my sides while he burns

Like every other media junkie, I’ve been following the stories about the death of Trayvon Martin.  I’ve read multiple articles, including the heart-wrenching and highly personal pieces by Charles Blow and Danielle Belton.  I have listened to the tapes of the multiple 911 calls, including the one where you can hear Trayvon Martin yelling for help in the background, and then the gunshot that ended his life.  That one left me shocked and in tears.  There are so many smart people writing excellent explorations about what this innocent boy’s death means in terms of race relations and gun violence.  Unfortunately I am not one of them.  I feel utterly incompetent to write or express anything but sorrow and a sense of injustice.

I first read about the death of Trayvon Martin on Ta-Nehisi Coates’ blog on the Atlantic.  Because, for me, Coates’ writing is tangled up in my mind with the poet Yusef Komunyakaa, I went back to Komunyakaa’s book of Vietnam war poetry, Dien Cai Dau, and found this:

You And I Are Disappearing – Bjorn Hakansson

The cry I bring down from the hills
belongs to a girl still burning
inside my head. At daybreak

she burns like a piece of paper.

She burns like foxfire
in a thigh-shaped valley.
A skirt of flames
dances around her
at dusk.

We stand with our hands

hanging at our sides,
while she burns

like a sack of dry ice.

She burns like oil on water.
She burns like a cattail torch
dipped in gasoline.
She glows like the fat tip
of a banker’s cigar,

silent as quicksilver.
A tiger under a rainbow
at nightfall.
She burns like a shot glass of vodka.
She burns like a field of poppies
at the edge of a rain forest.
She rises like dragonsmoke
to my nostrils.
She burns like a burning bush
driven by a godawful wind.
___________________________________________

It’s the lines about standing with hands hanging while a human being burns alive, and the final lines about her death being like a burning bush driven by a godawful wind that are the real kickers for me.  I know that my daughters will never be subject to the kind of experience that lead to the death of Trayvon Martin, and god help me, I am grateful.


Catholics rally to continue taking public tax money while imposing medieval religious values on non-Catholics

Today I am (relatively) hard at work at my desk.  The weather here in Chicago has taken a turn from the sunny, late spring-like days of the past week to rainy and chilly.  So I am surprised to hear chanting and screaming coming in through the thick glass of my 20th floor window.

Oh.  It’s the local “pro-lifers,” egged on by our home-grown Pro-Life Action League, rallying for the freedom to continue sucking at the public teat while denying access to contraception through their insurance coverage to their non-Catholic employees.  Hilariously and ironically, one of their loudest chants is the word “freedom.”  Today’s ridiculous, riddled-with-irony rally has provoked irritation, contempt, frustration, and a certain sense of “how can this be a real thing in the world” bemusement.

It is a fact that no actual churches will be required to provide contraception coverage through their insurance programs.  It is also a fact that there is no government mandate that Catholics actually avail themselves of contraception.

On the other hand, institutions such as hospitals, which are publicly funded to a substantial degree, and which provide services to the general public are and should be required to follow the same standards as every other large employer.

You know what?  If the Catholic church wants the right to impose its asinine religious values on all of its employees, it needs to wean itself off public money.  Until then, they can really go fuck themselves.  The Catholic hierarchy is a deeply morally troubled institution, and their continued insistence that they have any sort of moral authority is just fucking laughable.  The idea that any Catholic employer’s minimal contributions to its employees’ health insurance programs violates the institution’s conscience is so fucking ridiculous that I find it difficult to believe that anyone, anywhere is falling for it.  It’s insurance coverage.  It’s a benefit of employment.  If we accept this brain-damaged argument that the employer’s portion of health insurance premium contributions violates religious principles, then surely the paychecks that go to employees who might use contraception is an even more egregious violation.  After all, there isn’t even the middle man of the insurance company standing between the flow of money from the institution to the employee.

We live in a bizarre, bizarre universe.


Ladies heading into the election season, never forget that Republicans hate you!

The same Wisconsin Republican shitheel legislators, Glenn Grothman and Don Pridemore, famous previously for introducing Senate Bill 507, which specifically blames single mothers for child abuse, are now on the record as discouraging women from seeking divorce, even in instances of abuse.

Pridemore, in his infinite wisdom, helpfully explained that abused women should just send their thoughts back to what originally attracted them to their husbands to begin with.

Close your eyes and think of England, ladies.


More details emerge on Dutch Catholic Church child rape and castration scandal

Via the Daily Beast, journalist Robert Chesal describes how this story developed.  It’s hard to express how vomit-inducing this sordid tale is.  I find it difficult to believe than anyone on this planet can still look to the Catholic Church as a source of moral authority.

The article provides the following details of the sad story of Henk Heithuis, which were preserved in letters by Dutch sculptor, Cornelius Rogge, who met Heithuis after he had fallen ill as a result of his castration at the hands of doctors in a Roman Catholic institution, and at the instruction of Catholic authorities:

Rogge…had met Henk Heithuis when the young man arrived, extremely ill, at his mother Thea’s home in Amsterdam in 1957. He’d never forgotten the stories Henk told of sexual abuse he suffered in the care facilities where he grew up. Especially the story about abuse by a monk named Gregorius, the brother superior at Harreveld, the Roman Catholic boarding school where Henk lived from 1950 to 1953.

Henk said the monks there preyed on the boys,” Rogge told Dohmen. “When he was seventeen he became the brother superior’s plaything. Henk compared the place to a bordello. We could hardly believe our ears.”

In 1956, Henk, then 20-years-old and legally a minor, reported the clerical abuse to the police. Hearing about the abuse, the police treated him as if he were insane, bringing him to a Roman Catholic psychiatric hospital where he was involuntarily committed. People there told detectives Henk was “a homosexual, untrustworthy, a liar and mentally disturbed.”

One month later, at St. Josephs hospital in the southern Dutch town of Veghel, Henk was surgically castrated or “eugenized,” as the hospital records put it, using a term previously attributed to the Nazi program of systematically sterilizing the mentally and physically handicapped.

In one of his letters, Henk wrote about how he was “maimed.” The surgeon, he told Rogge, played records to calm the other boys who were in the hallway, waiting to undergo the same procedure.

“I didn’t believe him,” Rogge said. But when Henk took off his pants to show him, he was shocked to see the truth. “When he undressed I saw that, indeed, there was nothing left there where his testicles used be. It blew us away to see that this was not a joke. He was mutilated.”

And, as was typical for the Catholic Church in responding to allegations of child rape, they disappeared the perpetrator, likely foisting him off on another unsuspecting parish.

A few weeks after Henk reported brother superior Gregorius to the police, Gregorius was spirited out of Harreveld boarding school. Records in the Dutch state attorney’s office reveal that he was never prosecuted, for “lack of evidence.” His congregation quickly moved him to New Glasgow, in Nova Scotia, where he helped set up a home for the mentally handicapped and worked for many years, according to a Dutch newspaper.

Gregorious, whose given name was Gregory van Buuren, died in 1993 of natural causes, at the retirement home of his congregation in the Netherlands.

As for Henk himself?  He suffered immensely, due to hormonal imbalances caused by the castration.  He did not die quietly, cared for by the church that had brought so much unforgivable harm on him.  He died in a car accident in 1958, and by the time Rogge got to Henk’s apartment, the police had already cleared out all of his personal effects, including all his documentation of the castration.

What makes this story even worse, if such a thing is possible, is that all of this information was there and available to the commission that the Catholic Church had authorized to investigate allegations of sexual abuse in the Netherlands.  But, while the commission did report that there may be as many as ten times the 1000 complaints received, the commission reported not a word of the castrations that were carried out on innocent boys.

 


Dutch Catholic Church Accused of Castrating Up to 10 Young Men

It’s hard to know what to say or think about this article, other than if this is true, it’s horrifying.  On the one hand, the evidence described is limited.  On the other hand, the Catholic Church has been implicated in so many sex crimes that it is very easy to believe that this happened.

The gist of the article is that during the 1950’s, after being sexually abused in the Roman Catholic institution in which he was raised, the victim, Hank Heithuis, went to the police.  As a result, he was punished by being admitted to a Roman Catholic hospital, and was castrated.  The article states that there may have been as many as ten victims who were castrated.

Other details are that an actual Catholic Church commissioned inquiry into approximately 2000 complaints of sexual abuse by priests in the Netherlands revealed that there may be as many as ten times that number of victims.

Dutch Church Accused of Castrating Up to 10 Young Men – NYTimes.com.

 

 


Exposure to chemicals in the environment possible root cause of obesity epidemic

Washingtons blog has a somewhat terrifying article up about our exposure to chemical toxins, and how it may be a major contributing factor to the obesity epidemic.  Many of the chemical toxins contained in plastics and other common household products act as endocrine disruptors in the human body, and can have permanent effects on how our bodies regulate weight.

From the article:

Consumption of the widely used food additive monosodium glutamate (MSG) has been linked to obesity.

Pthalates – commonly used in many plastics – have been linked to obesity. See this and this.  So has achemical used to make Teflon, stain-resistant carpets and other products.

Most of the meat we eat these days contains estrogen, antibiotics and  powerful chemicals which change hormone levels. Modern corn-fed beef also contains much higher levels of saturated fat than grass-fed beef. So the meat we are eating is also making us fat.

Arsenic may also be linked with obesity, via it’s effect on the thyroid gland. Arsenic is often fed to chickens and pigs to fatten them up, and we end up ingesting it on our dinner plate. It’s ending up inother foods as well.

A lot of endocrine-disrupting pharmaceuticals and medications are also ending up in tap water.

Moreover, the National Research Council has found:

The effects of fluoride on various aspects of endocrine function should be examined further, particularly with respect to a possible role in the development of several diseases or mental states in the United States.

Some hypothesize that too much fluoride affects the thyroid gland, which may in turn lead to weight gain.

Antibiotics also used to be handed out like candy by doctors.  However, ingesting too many antibiotics has also been linked to obesity, as it kills helpful intestinal bacteria. See this and this.

 Now, considering that corporate industry is responsible for the majority of these environmental toxins, and has been profiting off the use of them, isn’t it reasonable to suggest that their tax rate should be increased to help alleviate the harms they are causing to the general public?  If the development of diabetes in an individual can be directly traced to his or her exposure to environmental toxins produced by corporate industry, why should that individual be subject to the crushing costs of health care?  Taxes on corporate profits should reflect the extent to which pollution and toxins are destroying our health and our environment.

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