Monday, April 21, 2008

Food Rationing Confronts Breadbasket of the World

MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. — Many parts of America, long considered the breadbasket of the world, are now confronting a once unthinkable phenomenon: food rationing. Major retailers in New York, in areas of New England, and on the West Coast are limiting purchases of flour, rice, and cooking oil as demand outstrips supply. There are also anecdotal reports that some consumers are hoarding grain stocks.
 
 

'Bush himself is pushing his Canadian and Mexican counterparts to adopt US-style “Homeland Security” '

 
Psst! George Bush has a secret

While you Democrats are pounding each other to a pulp in Pennsylvania, the President has snuck back down to New Orleans for a meeting of the NAFTA Three: the Prime Minister of Canada and the President of Mexico.

You're not supposed to know that – for two reasons:

First, the summit planned for the N.O. two years back was meant to showcase the rebuilt Big Easy, a monument to can-do Bush-o-nomics. Well, it is a monument to Bush's leadership: The city still looks like Dresden 1946, with over half the original residents living in toxic trailers or wandering lost and broke in America.

The second reason Bush has kept this major summit a virtual secret is its real agenda - and the real agenda-makers. The names and faces of the guys who called the meeting must remain as far out of camera range as possible: The North American Competitiveness Council.

Never heard of The Council? Well, maybe you've heard of the counsellors: the chief executives of Wal-Mart, Chevron Oil, Lockheed-Martin and 27 other multinational masters of the corporate universe.

And why did the landlords of our continent order our presidents to a three-nation pajama party? Their agenda is "harmonization."

Harmonization has nothing to do with singing in fifths like Simon and Garfunkel.

Harmonization means making rules and regulations the same in all three countries. Or, more specifically, watering down rules – on health, safety, labor rights, oil drilling, polluting and so on - in other words, any regulations that get between The Council members and their profits.

Take for example, pesticides. Wal-Mart and agri-business don't want to reduce the legal amount of poison allowed in what you eat. Solution: "harmonize" US and Canadian pesticide standards to Mexico's...

'Analysts have been wooed in hundreds of private briefings with senior military leaders'

 
To the public, these men are members of a familiar fraternity, presented tens of thousands of times on television and radio as "military analysts" whose long service has equipped them to give authoritative and unfettered judgments about the most pressing issues of the post-Sept. 11 world.

Hidden behind that appearance of objectivity, though, is a Pentagon information apparatus that has used those analysts in a campaign to generate favorable news coverage of the administration's wartime performance, an examination by The New York Times has found.

The effort, which began with the buildup to the Iraq war and continues to this day, has sought to exploit ideological and military allegiances, and also a powerful financial dynamic: Most of the analysts have ties to military contractors vested in the very war policies they are asked to assess on air.

Those business relationships are hardly ever disclosed to the viewers, and sometimes not even to the networks themselves. But collectively, the men on the plane and several dozen other military analysts represent more than 150 military contractors either as lobbyists, senior executives, board members or consultants. The companies include defense heavyweights, but also scores of smaller companies, all part of a vast assemblage of contractors scrambling for hundreds of billions in military business generated by the administration's war on terror. It is a furious competition, one in which inside information and easy access to senior officials are highly prized.

Records and interviews show how the Bush administration has used its control over access and information in an effort to transform the analysts into a kind of media Trojan horse — an instrument intended to shape terrorism coverage from inside the major TV and radio networks.

Analysts have been wooed in hundreds of private briefings with senior military leaders, including officials with significant influence over contracting and budget matters, records show. They have been taken on tours of Iraq and given access to classified intelligence. They have been briefed by officials from the White House, State Department and Justice Department, including Mr. Cheney, Alberto R. Gonzales and Stephen J. Hadley.

In turn, members of this group have echoed administration talking points, sometimes even when they suspected the information was false or inflated. Some analysts acknowledge they suppressed doubts because they feared jeopardizing their access.

 

"For Hollywood, it is special effects. For covert operators in the U.S. military and intelligence agencies, it is a weapon of the future."

 
Pentagon planners started to discuss digital morphing after Iraq's invasion of Kuwait in 1990. Covert operators kicked around the idea of creating a computer-faked videotape of Saddam Hussein crying or showing other such manly weaknesses, or in some sexually compromising situation. The nascent plan was for the tapes to be flooded into Iraq and the Arab world.

The tape war never proceeded, killed, participants say, by bureaucratic fights over jurisdiction, skepticism over the technology, and concerns raised by Arab coalition partners.

But the "strategic" PSYOPS scheming didn't die. What if the U.S. projected a holographic image of Allah floating over Baghdad urging the Iraqi people and Army to rise up against Saddam, a senior Air Force officer asked in 1990?

According to a military physicist given the task of looking into the hologram idea, the feasibility had been established of projecting large, three-dimensional objects that appeared to float in the air.

But doing so over the skies of Iraq? To project such a hologram over Baghdad on the order of several hundred feet, they calculated, would take a mirror more than a mile square in space, as well as huge projectors and power sources.

And besides, investigators came back, what does Allah look like?

The Gulf War hologram story might be dismissed were it not the case that washingtonpost.com has learned that a super secret program was established in 1994 to pursue the very technology for PSYOPS application. The "Holographic Projector" is described in a classified Air Force document as a system to "project information power from space ... for special operations deception missions."

 

Why flowers have lost their scent

Pollution is dulling the scent of flowers and impeding some of the most basic processes of nature, disrupting insect life and imperilling food supplies, a new study suggests.

The potentially hugely significant research – funded by the blue-chip US National Science Foundation – has found that gases mainly formed from the emissions of car exhausts prevent flowers from attracting bees and other insects in order to pollinate them. And the scientists who have conducted the study fear that insects' ability to repel enemies and attract mates may also be impeded.

The researchers – at the University of Virginia – say that pollution is dramatically cutting the distance travelled by the scent of flowers. Professor Jose Fuentes, who led the study, said: "Scent molecules produced by flowers in a less polluted environment could travel for roughly 1,000 to 1,200 metres. But today they may travel only 200 to 300 metres. This makes it increasingly difficult for bees and other insects to locate the flowers."

~ more... ~

 

With this move, the stuffy old colonial Church of England went radical

 
The goings-on of the hitherto staid Anglican Church of Sri Lanka have caused some controversy. It started when the good old Church of England, euphemistically called the Church of Ceylon, passed a revolutionary resolution. Tabling a complexly-worded document, the head priest of the local Church of England, the Right Reverent Duleep de Chickera justified what he called a fundamental "paradigm shift" as a necessity for the  church "in the context of the present post-modern political, social, economic and cultural reality in Sri Lanka."

The resolution urged the members of his church to form themselves into a socialist-style "Jesus community with shared resources, shared decision making and shared activities," with Reverend Father S.D.P. Selvan proposing "a synthesis between the teachings of Jesus and Karl Marx."

Church clergy and lay leaders from around the country who gathered at the headquarters of the Church of Ceylon's Colombo diocese for its annual council sessions passed the resolution through a majority vote, with only one dissenting voice who objected to the phrase "paradigm shift," calling it to be changed to "a return to the teachings of Jesus." (That is a strange proposal; why would a church want to return to the teachings of Jesus? What were they practicing all this time? Capitalism? Colonialism?)

With this move, the stuffy old colonial Church of England went radical and turned itself into a Marxist Jesus Community, that is to say, they adopted Liberation Theology.

The members of the church are, by and large, the Anglicized elite of Sri Lanka. (The late Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgarmar, who was murdered by the Tamil Tigers, was a prominent member.) The resolution called church members to "work towards a life style of the poor, which some speakers criticized as "impractical." Indeed! It is hard to see these folks ever becoming what Bishop De Chickera is asking them to become, a traditionally privileged elite going down to the slums to work for the poor. More likely they would limit their activities to charity events well away from the stench and ferality of the slums...

The Ratzinger in sheep's clothing

From Hitler Youth to the Vatican
Bavarian who deserted Wehrmacht was a liberal but turned to conservatism in face of 1968 student rebellions

[ ... ]

In his autobiography, he wrote how he realised he was increasingly out of step with his fellow Germans as early as the 1960s.
"I found the mood in the church and among theologians to be agitated," he recalled. "More and more there was the impression that nothing stood fast in the church, that everything was up for revision."
He has written a number of books and within hours of his election as pope yesterday, several leapt up the Amazon bestseller list, including Salt of the Earth, The Ratzinger Report, Introduction to Christianity, and his memoirs, Milestones, which cover his life until 1977.
It was in 1977 he became archbishop of Munich and a cardinal. He was one of only two cardinals in the conclave that ended yesterday to have been elevated by John Paul's predecessor but one, Paul VI.
In 1981, Pope John Paul called him to Rome to take over the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. It is the department that was once known as the Holy Inquisition.
Ratzinger's defence of conservative orthodoxy has been part of his job. But it has not made him popular, especially in more progressive corners of the faith.
An opinion poll in the German newspaper Der Spiegel found opponents of his election as pope outnumbering supporters by 36% to 29%.
It was an open secret before the conclave that all but two of the German bishops were opposed to his candidacy.
In western Europe and North America, in particular, there is an acute perception that the church is losing ground and needs to reinvigorate its flock with a less uncompromising hostility to the outside world.
In Latin America, he disciplined the advocates of "liberation theology" and cracked down on Asian priests who saw non-Christian religions as part of God's plan for humanity.
Before the death of Pope John Paul, his theological watchdog spoke passionately of the need to clean up the "filth" in the church, an allusion to successive child abuse scandals involving clerics. His remark held out hope that he would tackle vigorously one of the church's most pressing problems.
However, he has himself been accused by campaigners of shielding a prominent alleged paedophile.
The softly spoken Bavarian, who is an accomplished pianist with a fondness for Mozart, turned 78 last Saturday, but is in apparently excellent health.
Three years ago, he became dean of the College of Cardinals, a position which made him the key figure in the interregnum between popes and enabled him to exert immense influence on his fellow cardinals as they prepared to choose the next pontiff.
At Pope John Paul's funeral, he impressed his listeners by deftly balancing solemnity and populism in his homily. He drew roars from the crowd when he pointed to the window from which the late pope had delivered his blessings, saying: "We can be sure our beloved Pope is now at the window of the house of his Father and he sees us and he blesses us."
Days later, he seized the initiative again at the mass immediately before the start of the conclave when he inveighed against the moral relativism of today's society. In what was seen by Vatican insiders as a blatant campaign speech, he warned the church to withstand the "tides of trends and latest novelties".
Clearly, his fellow cardinals were listening hard.
But when looking at his life so far, it is hard to know which is more memorable: the things that have been said about Ratzinger or what he has himself said.
Five years ago, a former colleague in the theological faculty of Tübingen University, Hans Küng, whom he banned from teaching on the church's behalf in 1979, described a document published by Cardinal Ratzinger's department in the Vatican as "a hotch-potch of medieval backwardness and folie de grandeur".
He was referring to the document Dominus Jesus issued by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in Rome, which, in highly unecumenical language, described other Christian faiths and world religions as "deficient or not quite real churches". When the Lutherans complained, the future Benedict XVI dismissed their objections as "absurd".
Another liberal Catholic and former priest, the late Peter Hebblethwaite, called him "the big, bad wolf of the new Inquisition ... For some, the thought [of his becoming pope] is just too terrible to contemplate. To have him as pope would be inconceivably divisive, runs the common wisdom."


The Vatican's enforcer
Like so much else about Ratzinger, how far to press that biblical parallel is contested. Some say his 18 years as prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the church's guardian of orthodoxy, have been the intellectual salvation of Roman Catholicism in a time of confusion and compromise.
Others believe Ratzinger will be remembered as the architect of John Paul's internal Kulturkampf, intimidating and punishing thinkers in order to restore a model of church -- clerical, dogmatic and rule-bound -- many hoped had been swept away by the Second Vatican Council, the 1962-65 assembly of bishops that sought to renew Catholicism and open it to the world. Ratzinger's campaign bears comparison to the anti-modernist drive in the early part of the century or Pius XII's crackdown in the 1950s, critics say, but is even more disheartening because it followed a moment of such optimism and new life.
At the most basic level, many Catholics cannot escape the sense that Ratzinger's exercise of ecclesial power is not what Jesus had in mind.
Beneath the competing analyses and divergent views, this much is certain: Ratzinger has drawn lines in the sand and wielded the tools of his office on many who cross those lines. Whether necessary prophylaxis or a naked power play, his efforts to curb dissent have left the church more bruised, more divided, than at any point since the close of Vatican II.
Those divisions have made Ratzinger a lightning rod. An anecdote from the mid-1980s underscores the point.
In May 1985, Ratzinger notified Franciscan Fr. Leonardo Boff that he was to be silenced. Boff, a Brazilian, was a leading figure in liberation theology, a Third World theological movement that seeks to place the church on the side of the poor. Boff accepted Ratzinger's verdict and withdrew to a Franciscan monastery in Petrópolis, outside Rio de Janeiro.
Some days later, a sympathetic Brazilian bishop visited Boff to make an unusual proposal: Boff should study all of Ratzinger's writings, including the just-published Ratzinger Report (a book-length interview with an Italian journalist in which Ratzinger voiced gloomy views of church and world), and then draw up an indictment accusing the cardinal of heresy. It would be a theological form of fighting fire with fire.
The conversation was reported by Harvard theologian Harvey Cox in his 1988 book on the Boff case. According to Cox, Boff said he wouldn't subject anyone else to the kind of inquiry he had faced.
Nevertheless, the fact that a Catholic bishop could seriously envision pressing charges of heresy against the church's top doctrinal officer -- even if it was more a political gambit than a sober theological judgment -- illustrates Ratzinger's remarkable power to polarize.
His record includes:
Theologians disciplined, such as Fr. Charles Curran, an American moral theologian who advocates a right to public dissent from official church teaching; Fr. Matthew Fox, an American known for his work on creation spirituality; Sr. Ivone Gebara, a Brazilian whose thinking blends liberation theology with environmental concerns; and Fr. Tissa Balasuriya, a Sri Lankan interested in how Christianity can be expressed through Eastern concepts;
Movements blocked, such as liberation theology and, more recently, religious pluralism (the drive to affirm other religions on their own terms);
Progressive bishops hobbled, including Archbishop Raymond Hunthausen of Seattle, reproached by Rome for his tolerance of ministry to homosexuals and his involvement in progressive political causes, and Bishop Dom Pedro Casaldáliga of Sao Félix, Brazil, criticized for his political engagement beyond the borders of his own diocese;
Episcopal conferences brought to heel on issues such as inclusive language and their own teaching authority;
The borders of infallibility expanded, to include such disparate points as the ban on women's ordination and the invalidity of ordinations in the Anglican church.
Indeed, it would be difficult to find a Catholic controversy in the past 20 years that did not somehow involve Joseph Ratzinger...

From "grand inquisitor" to pope: Benedict XVI to head crusade vs. secularism, democracy
The 78-year-old cardinal, who took the name Pope Benedict XVI, served for 23 years as Pope John Paul II's arbiter of doctrinal orthodoxy, disciplining clerics and theologians who questioned Catholic dogma on such issues a birth control, abortion, divorce, homosexuality and papal infallibility. As prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the successor institution to the Inquisition, Ratzinger persecuted and suppressed the so-called "liberation theology" in Latin America, and banned, censored or excommunicated liberal clerics in Europe and North America, earning himself such nicknames as "grand inquisitor" and, among his fellow Germans, "Der Panzerkardinal."
On the eve of his election as pope, Ratzinger delivered a sermon in which he implicitly reaffirmed his position that all religions outside of Roman Catholicism are "defective," denouncing what he called "the dictatorship of relativism."
Ratzinger's ascendancy to the pinnacle of the Catholic Church progressed initially through academic channels, and later within the Curia in Rome. With the exception of a short period as an assistant priest and curate in Munich immediately following his appointment as a priest in 1951, and his four years as the archbishop of Munich and Freising (1977 to 1981), he lacks any close connection to ordinary churchgoers.
With the selection of Ratzinger, the Curia has elevated to its highest post the consummate insider—a man whose allegiances lie above all with the apparatus and hierarchy of the Church. This point has been largely ignored in the media hoopla surrounding the death of his predecessor, John Paul II, and the selection process for the new pope.
Hours of media coverage were devoted to the minutiae of the medieval election ritual, with endless commentaries on the significance of white vs. black smoke from the papal chimney. Cameras focused lovingly on the flowing purple robes of the cardinals, but the thoroughly undemocratic and conspiratorial character of the selection process was passed over in silence.
In fact, nearly all of the 115 cardinals (average age of 71) who were eligible to vote had been appointed by Ratzinger's predecessor—often in the face of bitter opposition from their dioceses, and with the likely participation of Ratzinger himself. John Paul II's closest confidant, Ratzinger belonged to the small group of cardinals who had participated in the election of the two previous popes. According to media reports, based on his influence in the Curia, Ratzinger already had a solid block of 50 votes behind him when the cardinals entered the conclave on Monday. For the election, he needed 77 votes...

NOBODY Expects the Spanish Inquisition . . Hungover Papal Ramblings
...In many ways Ratzinger is the polar opposite of the martyred Archbiship Oscar Romero.  Romero spent most of his career as a quiet, bookish man, and was appointed head of the Church in El Salvador because everyone thought he would be a quiet caretaker -- but his encounters with the world, with poverty, and with violence, radicalized him, propelling him to become a voice for the poor.  After a brief period as a teenage Nazi, Ratzinger, on the other hand, began his career as a liberal theologian, a student of the legendary Karl Rahner -- but his encounters with student radicals scared him into becoming a neoconservative...
His opposition to liberation theology, however, went beyond his reflexive defense of church doctrine, and actually revealed deep-seated racism and classism.   According to Lernoux:
"Ratzinger thought poor Latin Americans stupid and easily misled. To him, what the church needed were competent academics to tell people what to do, not 'popularized' liberation theology in base communities incapable of 'discernment' or 'critical judgement.'  The Latin American poor were actually better off with their old religious fatalism.  'The defense of orthodoxy,' explained the cardinal, 'was really the defense of the poor, saving them the pain and illusions which contain no realistic prospect of even material liberation.'"
And so we have a church slouching even further to the right, headed by a man who also thought that Pope John Paul II was too tolerant of Muslims and too concerned about earthly concepts of peace and justice.  A pope whose ideology fits perfect with that of today's Empire...

The Cardinal Ratzinger Fan Club
I'm Lutheran, and as such, not very familiar with Cardinal Ratzinger. However, I was quite impressed with his letter to the decenting Anglicans at the "A Place To Stand" conference. He could do a lot of good in the Catholic church, and has helped to increase my respect for you. Kick the Liberation Theologians out on their ear and keep good men like Ratzinger in authority! It'll do wonders for the Catholic church. - Carlisle PA

How Ratzinger's Modern Inquisition Affected Brazil
 Written by Bob Avakian    Sunday, 24 April 2005

To carry out his vision, John Paul II felt he had to purge his church of dissent and opposition. He placed the arch- conservative Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger - now reborn as pope Benedict 16 - at the head of the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith to enforce discipline and conformity. And so the modern-day Inquisition was on.

Karol Wojtyla is dead. He had ruled over the Roman Catholic Church for 26 years as John Paul II. All through that long reign, he aggressively worked to make his church a powerful conservative force throughout the world.

He was a fierce opponent of social liberation, modern secular thinking, and equality for women. He opened his pontificate with an intense political intervention into the Soviet bloc, and particularly his home country of Poland.

In fact it was his aptitude for that mission that brought him to power. His public sponsorship of a rising Catholic nationalist opposition within Soviet-dominated eastern Europe was a crucial political weapon in the U.S. war arsenal during those days of the 1980s.

From the very beginning, John Paul toured the world, restlessly, in a way no other pope had done, preaching in 129 countries on 104 international trips.

It was a campaign to reclaim the initiative for a rigidly conservative vision of humanity, morality, and society - and he tried to do this by projecting himself, his church, and his traditionalist ideology on the world stage as a hope-filled alternative to the suffering and alienation of modern life.

He stomped on the social activism of some priests in Latin America especially in Brazil. And he purged opposition from the ranks of the church hierarchy.

He rejected any erosion of key Catholic doctrines regarding women and sexuality - opposing any forms of birth control, including especially abortion, and rejecting any change in the second class status of women within his own church.

And for all this he is being hailed, rather shamelessly, at his death - as a unique, saintly, and towering human being. It is an ominous sign of our times that this apostle of submission, intolerance, and inequality gets honored in such extravagant ways.

A Conservative Warrior

From the very beginning of his pontificate, John Paul II stood for an aggressive reinsertion of the Catholic Church into world events. John Paul was picked to be on the frontlines - and the decision to choose a Polish Cardinal was a chess move by the U.S. bloc in their rivalry with the Soviet imperialists and their allies.

It is said that John Paul fought the Nazis who occupied his home country during World War 2 - but all the evidence suggests that this is untrue.

Karol Wojtyla was a devout Catholic who sat out the Nazi occupation (as so many conservative Poles did), and studied quietly for the priesthood. After World War 2, he rose in the hierarchy as a bishop well-trained in political intrigue and maneuver.

Poland's Soviet-imposed government officially claimed the country was "socialist." But Polish society never went through any deep-rooted revolutionary transformations in culture, politics or economics.

The unpopular authorities were associated with a vague, modern, urban secularism - while crudely enforcing their control over a society defined by private capitalism in agriculture and state capitalism in industry.

Karol Wojtyla was a leader of a Catholic apparatus that jealously protected its power and prerogatives within this revisionist Poland and served as a center for highly conservative pro-Western forces that were biding their time.

By 1980, discontent in Poland had given rise to the Solidarity trade union movement that led millions of workers to defy the government with strikes and rallies.

Once Wojtyla became Pope John Paul II, his Vatican acted behind the scenes to finance and guide the most reactionary Catholic forces within this political upheaval - seeking to keep the masses of people under control as they undermined the Soviet bloc.

All of this is now portrayed as if John Paul heroically championed "freedom." But in fact, his maneuvers and influence helped prevent anything truly revolutionary or new from emerging from those times.

And in the years since the "fall of the wall," this resulting Catholic power within Poland has produced a relentless assault on the rights of women and on modern secular society generally.

Siding with Oligarchs and Death Squads

You can see the highly reactionary nature of the Pope's politics by looking at the operations he launched in Latin America. There chunks of his church had identified themselves with the "social concerns" of the poor and even aligned themselves with various movements against brutal pro-U.S. dictatorships.

Pope John Paul II was relentless in his war on these currents - including the reform-minded trends known as "Liberation Theology."

In 1980, on his first trip to Nicaragua, he publicly wagged his finger in the face of Ernesto Cardenal, a Catholic priest who held a post in the anti-U.S. Sandinista government.

This was a time of intense brutality and murder in Latin America. U.S.-backed governments and death squads were committing mass murder in El Salvador, Guatemala, and Nicaragua. And their victims included thousands of Catholic priests, nuns and lay people. And John Paul turned a deaf ear to all this.

He denounced the activism on the side of the oppressed and blessed the powerful. Grassroots "base communities" among the poor were attacked and often dissolved, and the priests who worked within them were often removed.

When Argentina's "Mothers of the Disappeared" asked to meet with John Paul to discuss the military torture and murder of government opponents, he refused.

In February 1985, John Paul made a special trip to Peru - where the fascist government was being challenged by the Maoist people's war led by the Communist Party of Peru. John Paul made a specific trip to Ayacucho, the heartland of the revolution, where the Peruvian military had been carrying out a bloodbath.

From a church pulpit in Ayacucho he preached against the revolution: "The men who put their faith in armed struggle have allowed themselves to be tricked by false ideologies. I ask you, then, in the name of God: Change your course!" It was a demand that the people's fighters capitulate.

As his plane approached Peru's capital, Lima, the lights of the city went out. In the darkness, this Pope got his reply from the revolution: across the side of a nearby hillside, a series of bonfires blazed in the shape of the hammer and sickle, symbol of revolutionary workers and peasants.

Throughout his career, John Paul systematically moved the most rightwing clerics imaginable into the highest church positions. Just one example: Angelo Sodano had the "papal nuncio" (Vatican ambassador) to the murderous Pinochet regime in Chile.

Sodano openly defended Pinochet's fascist rule by saying, "Masterpieces can also have small errors. I would advise you not to dwell on the errors of the painting, but concentrate on the marvelous general impression." Today, this Angelo Sodano is a Cardinal.

The elevation of bitter reactionaries, supporters of fascist murder, and opponents of popular movements was carried out in country after country. In 1998 an arrest warrant was issued for Augusto Pinochet while he was in London, and the Pope openly opposed the prosecution of this notorious fascist.

Conformity and Persecution

"Above all, believers distinguished by critical thinking and energetic reform are persecuted in inquisitorial fashion..The consequence: a Church of surveillance, in which denunciation, fear and lack of liberty are widespread. The bishops regard themselves as Roman governors instead of the servants of churchgoers, the theologians write in a conformist manner - or not at all."

Hans Küng, Catholic theologian silenced by John Paul II

John Paul was extremely active throughout his papacy, entrenching and refining conservative Church doctrine. He issued 14 encyclicals (official papal instructions) on a wide range of issues.

What emerged was a traditionalist Catholic doctrine that rejected and denounced socialism (as an essentially atheist doctrine) while upholding entrepreneurial capitalism.

He urged that a conservative Catholic morality and spirituality be unleashed to fill the voids of modern life - and specifically replace the empty preoccupation with material things that is common in capitalist culture.

He urged reconciliation of opposing forces - between workers and owners, Israelis and Palestinians, and even between Iraq and the United States - in ways that opposed war but specifically ruled out challenges to the capitalist status quo.

He opposed both of the wars the U.S. launched against Iraq, taking a position close to the stand of European governments like France and Germany.

It was a vision of a world where the arch-conservative morality of Catholic Christianity would play a prominent role as a spiritual "glue" for a capitalist world dominated by the U.S. superpower.

The man who would become pope Benedict XVI, arch- conservative Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger was put at the head of the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith by John Paul II. Ratzinger mission was to enforce discipline and conformity and this way install a modern-day Inquisition in the Catholic Church..

Dissident Catholic theologians were prevented from publishing or teaching at Catholic seminaries and universities. Franciscan Friar Leonardo Boff of Brazil, for example,  was silenced by Rome for a year and ultimately forced out of the priesthood.

Cardinals and bishops were investigated for loyalty - and those out of step with John Paul's Vatican were threatened, forced into line, and often replaced by extreme conservatives.

And as part of all that, John Paul promoted the sinister secret clerical-fascist order of Opus Dei. He rushed forward the beatification of Josemaria Escrivá, the Spanish fascist cleric who founded Opus Dei and was once notorious for his open praise of Hitler.

(Beatification is the first stage of becoming a saint.) Several Opus Dei members were appointed as bishops and cardinals and have exercised great power over the selection of cardinal Ratzinger as pope.

The Pope could suppress the voices of dissent and take power away from those who openly opposed him - but he could not and did not uproot different powerful currents within his church that continued to question and defy his edicts.

Science and Anti-Semitism

At the same time, in a number of areas, this Pope modified Church doctrine to better serve his purposes on the world stage. For example he publicly softened the traditional hostility of the church toward Judaism.

His church has been notorious for openly teaching that Jews were the killers of Christ. During World War 2, Pope Pius XII collaborated with Italy's fascist Mussolini regime and with the Nazis themselves - and was silent as Jews were rounded up and killed.

But after World War 2, the Zionist state of Israel emerged in the Middle East as an important strategic foothold for Western imperialism. And the Catholic Church has adjusted its doctrine - in part to be able to recognize and work with Israel.

John Paul established diplomatic relations with Israel and visited there. He was the first pope to attend a Jewish synagogue and express "sorrow" over the Holocaust.

However, here, too, his approach was marked with a stubborn and reactionary traditionalism. Theologically, he denounced the Jewish rejection of Jesus as Messiah.

His regrets over the Holocaust did not include criticizing the policies of Pius XII at that time, and in fact he even worked to elevate Pius XII (and the rabidly anti-Semitic Pius IX) to sainthood.

On his watch there were repeated Church provocations against Jewish people at the remains of the Auschwitz death camp. The Polish Church first built a convent there and then in 1999 raised a giant cross over the site.

When leading Jewish rabbis complained, they were met with open anti-Semitic abuse by the Polish Cardinal Glemp and indifference from Pope John Paul II.

John Paul carried out similar limited adjustments in the realm of science. In 1992 he conceded that his church had been wrong to threaten the 17th-century scientist Galileo with death and torture if he did not renounce his discovery that the earth revolves around the sun. And in 1996, John Paul conceded that evolution is "more than just a hypothesis."

However these concessions to modern sensibilities coexisted with John Paul's massive promotion of religious mysticism. After all, the very idea of a pope, the infallible voice of god on earth, is an affront to science and reality.

John Paul aggressively promoted all the fantasy culture that surrounds traditional Catholic mythology: he publicly promoted the hoaxes of Fatima and Lourdes (and even claimed that his own near-assassination was foretold by a special visitation of the Virgin Mary at Fatima).

He promoted 473 people for sainthood (more than in several previous centuries put together) - and each beatification unleashed a fantasy search for supernatural powers and documented "miracles."

Meanwhile, he placed his church squarely in the path of important scientific research, for example condemning the scientific use of embryonic stem cells.

This pope admitted it was wrong to threaten scientists with torture and death (350 years too late!), but he simultaneously promoted medieval belief in blind obedience, submission, divine miracles, and unfathomable "mysteries" - all in direct opposition to scientific and rational thought.

The Deeply Patriarchal Pontificate

For decades Pope John Paul II and his Roman Catholic Church have been in the forefront of an intense global campaign to deny women equality and reverse any gains they may have made.

Without compassion or compromise, John Paul argued that women must not be allowed to exercise control over their own reproduction. He opposed birth control and abortion - and has demanded over and over that his church apparatus be more aggressive in fighting for laws that enforce that opposition.

With his personal guidance and insistence, the Catholic Church has served as a backbone for the anti-abortion movement in the U.S. and the anti-divorce campaigns in Italy and Ireland.

It has been aggressive in fighting to keep birth control out of the hands of young people - and where possible, out of the reach of everyone. And he justified all this with an endless stream of flowery and misleading rhetoric about "life" and "human dignity."

It is hard to overestimate the raw human suffering caused by this campaign against women. Women denied abortion or other forms of birth control lose control over their very lives and futures. Women without the right to divorce are often trapped in the beatings and rape of abusive marriages.

When John Paul toured Africa as the horrific AIDS epidemic was building, he ordered his priests to oppose the use of condoms, even for disease prevention. In 1988 he said at a congress of theologians:

"Even for people infected with AIDS or for those who want to use condoms to prevent AIDS, the Church's moral doctrine allows no exceptions."

Priests and nuns on every continent were ordered to spread the lie that the AIDS virus could pass through a condom - raising protests from the World Health Organization. This stand against condom use condemned huge numbers of his own believers to horrible deaths from this epidemic.

And wherever his own church threatened to depart from such reactionary teachings on women and sexuality - for example in the U.S. - he reined it in, elevated conservatives to power, and sharply demanded obedience.

His declarations said that women would never be considered for the priesthood and that male priests would never be allowed to share their intimate lives with women.

His last encyclical, in 2003, sternly insisted that divorced Catholics who remarry should never have acceptance and would be prevented from receiving communion.

It was a declaration of permanent second-class status for women in his church - justified by a view of sexual roles that assumes women's inferiority and "sinfulness." Such stands have an impact far beyond the walls of his church and outside the immediate issues of priesthood and celibacy.

Repeatedly, the Pope insisted that same-gender sexuality was "intrinsically evil." In 2003 the Vatican launched an aggressive campaign against the legalization of same-sex marriage and an acceptance of adoption by gay couples - just in time to give papal blessing to the bigotry of Bush's reelection campaign.

The liberation of women from ancient and horrific oppression is sharply posed by this whole epoch of history. Tremendous changes in life and thinking have made real equality and emancipation possible for the first time.

And this pope spent his life opposing that, rallying sinister and hateful forces to his cause, casting a veil of confusion and justification over that whole operation. And then, in death, he was showered with praise from those who continue his anti-woman crusade.

Suffer the Little Children

Because this pope draped his reactionary politics with claims of lofty and divine morality, it is important to point out the gross hypocrisy of his stand on the global sexual abuse of children by Catholic priests.

One story tells it all: In Boston, after endless denials, it became obvious that Cardinal Bernard Law had protected child-molesting priests from punishment - and moved them from parish to parish as they brutalized more children.

Massachusetts authorities estimated that more than 1,000 children had been sexually abused by 250 priests and church workers in the Boston Archdiocese since 1940.

A 2004 Church report said that more than 4,000 Roman Catholic priests had faced sexual abuse allegations in the previous 50 years in the U.S., in cases involving more than 10,000 children.

The response of this pope was shocking: After all this had come out, he opposed a "zero tolerance" policy proposed by the American church hierarchy and insisted on continuing the traditional Church shielding of priestly child molesters.

In a major symbolic move, he elevated the disgraced Cardinal Law to the prestigious Vatican post as archpriest of St. Mary Major Basilica.

This heartless monster, Bernard Law, was then chosen to preside over one of the funeral masses for his protector John Paul. And he was  among the other powerful Cardinals who picked pope Benedict XVI.

This Pope made his stand clear: No tolerance for abortion, birth control, the loving relationships of gay people, or the right of women to divorce - but a belligerent defense of Church temporal power and the privilege of priests, even at the cost of thousands of children.

Imperialist Homage

It was a ominous sign of how far U.S. politics has moved: the heads of the U.S. government - including past and current presidents, leaders of Congress, the luminaries of both the Republican and Democratic parties - all filed reverently through Vatican City to honor Pope John Paul II after his death.

In the U.S. media, there has been a orgy of praise for this reactionary priest-king. And it has been yet another occasion to cement the growing theocratic alliance in the U.S. between extreme conservative Catholic forces and the fundamentalists of the born-again Right.

Prominent Protestant figures (who are traditionally anti-Catholic) gushed in praise of this pope and suggested that new laws banning abortion should be passed in his honor.

President Bush made a point of saying that when he met this pope, he experienced a personal awe and nervousness that he never felt with anyone else.

At the death of this pope, flags were flown at half-mast at government buildings in the U.S. by presidential proclamation - in complete violation of the separation of church and state.

It was just one more sign of the deliberate assertion that secular power should be subordinate to the symbols and morality of conservative religion.

Such official honors are now treated as so completely natural and normal by the media that many people may not have any idea just how extreme and reactionary this pope was and how inconceivable such governmental homage would have been in the U.S. just a few decades ago.

Here is the mummified body of a reactionary hatchetman - an absolute ruler of a non-hereditary monarchy, the lingering symbol of the medieval "divine right of kings," a rightwing priest-king who claimed infallibility when he spat out his prejudices and demands.

And millions are being told, by media coverage and commentary, to view him as an inspiration.

It is part of a deliberate and growing effort to take reactionary politics, ancient mysticism, and a morality literally hoisted up from the Middle Ages, and offer them all as solutions to the tremendous agonies and insecurities of modern capitalist life.

This article appeared originally in the Revolutionary Worker Online
-
www.rwor.org

 
 
The Vatican instructed Catholic bishops around the world to cover up cases of sexual abuse or risk being thrown out of the Church.
The Observer has obtained a 40-year-old confidential document from the secret Vatican archive which lawyers are calling a 'blueprint for deception and concealment'. One British lawyer acting for Church child abuse victims has described it as 'explosive'.
The 69-page Latin document bearing the seal of Pope John XXIII was sent to every bishop in the world. The instructions outline a policy of 'strictest' secrecy in dealing with allegations of sexual abuse and threatens those who speak out with excommunication.
They also call for the victim to take an oath of secrecy at the time of making a complaint to Church officials. It states hat the instructions are to 'be diligently stored in the secret archives of the Curia [Vatican] as strictly confidential. Nor is it to be published nor added to with any commentaries.'
The document, which has been confirmed as genuine by the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales, is called 'Crimine solicitationies', which translates as 'instruction on proceeding in cases of solicitation'...


Pope 'obstructed' sex abuse inquiry
Pope Benedict XVI faced claims last night he had 'obstructed justice' after it emerged he issued an order ensuring the church's investigations into child sex abuse claims be carried out in secret.
The order was made in a confidential letter, obtained by The Observer, which was sent to every Catholic bishop in May 2001.
It asserted the church's right to hold its inquiries behind closed doors and keep the evidence confidential for up to 10 years after the victims reached adulthood. The letter was signed by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who was elected as John Paul II's successor last week.
Lawyers acting for abuse victims claim it was designed to prevent the allegations from becoming public knowledge or being investigated by the police. They accuse Ratzinger of committing a 'clear obstruction of justice'.
The letter, 'concerning very grave sins', was sent from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Vatican office that once presided over the Inquisition and was overseen by Ratzinger.
It spells out to bishops the church's position on a number of matters ranging from celebrating the eucharist with a non-Catholic to sexual abuse by a cleric 'with a minor below the age of 18 years'. Ratzinger's letter states that the church can claim jurisdiction in cases where abuse has been 'perpetrated with a minor by a cleric'.
The letter states that the church's jurisdiction 'begins to run from the day when the minor has completed the 18th year of age' and lasts for 10 years.
It orders that 'preliminary investigations' into any claims of abuse should be sent to Ratzinger's office, which has the option of referring them back to private tribunals in which the 'functions of judge, promoter of justice, notary and legal representative can validly be performed for these cases only by priests'.
'Cases of this kind are subject to the pontifical secret,' Ratzinger's letter concludes. Breaching the pontifical secret at any time while the 10-year jurisdiction order is operating carries penalties, including the threat of excommunication...

"Science should not be driven by social attitudes ... public decisions require elite knowledge held by a few" - Richard C. Lewontin

This interview is part of the Institute's "Conversations with History" series, and uses Internet technology to share with the public Berkeley's distinction as a global forum for ideas.

Welcome to a Conversation with History. I'm Harry Kreisler of the Institute of International Studies. Our guest today is Richard C. Lewontin, who is the Alexander Agassiz Research Professor at Harvard University. An evolutionary geneticist and social critic, his publications include Human Diversity, and most recently, The Triple Helix: Gene Organism and Environment. He is visiting the Berkeley campus to deliver the Charles M. and Martha Hitchcock lectures on the campus.

  1. Being an Evolutionary Geneticist ... mentors ... relationships among scientists ... evolutionary genetics ... laying the foundation for the field ... the marriage of a technique to a problem ... creativity in science ... importance of social interaction ... building a community ... designing workspace for collaboration ... not taking credit for others' work
  2. Scientist as Activist ... being political ... impact on scientific work ... doing science gives legitimacy ... importance of commitment to rational, logical analysis ... social debate of scientific issues ... decision to resign from the National Academy of Sciences
  3. Government and Science ... need public money to finance science ... avoiding "socialist" terminology ... birth of National Science Foundation ... "warfare" terminology, real or metaphorical ... impact of war on terrorism ... true impact of Cold War McCarthyism or WW II profiling
  4. Public Consciousness of Science ... discourse on genetic determinism ... incentive of public support ... cashing in on pain and fear of disease ... genes as metaphors for control ... importance of environment ... case studies: measles and tuberculosis ... social environment shapes health conditions ... lack of tools for public to understand and criticize science ... social and political pressures work against science reporting ... unintelligibility and illogic of science writing
  5. Advice to Students and the Public ... be a scientist first ... science should not be driven by social attitudes ... public decisions require elite knowledge held by a few ... no glib answers ... the world will change ... guiding change through political awareness ... organize
 

'It isn’t a pretty sight, if you are a borrower'

From: Piling On: Borrowers Buried by Fees

Slowly but surely, a handful of public-minded bankruptcy court judges are drawing back the curtain on the mortgage servicing business, exposing, among other questionable practices, the sundry and onerous fees that big banks and financial companies levy on troubled borrowers.

It isn't a pretty sight, if you are a borrower. But shining a light on this dark corner certainly qualifies as progress.

The cases come out of bankruptcy courts in Delaware, Louisiana and New York, and each one shows how improper, undisclosed or questionable fees unfairly penalize borrowers already struggling with mortgage debt or bankruptcy.

Given the number of new borrowers falling daily into the foreclosure mire, dubious practices by servicers are beyond troubling. Foreclosure filings rose 57 percent in March over the same period in 2007, according to RealtyTrac, the real estate and foreclosure Web site. It also said that banks repossessed more than 50,000 homes last month, more than twice the amount of one year earlier.

If even one of those repossessions was owing to improper fees or practices, that would be one too many.

~ read on... ~

 

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