Freddie Gray, Dr. Seuss, and Aretha Franklin

Mary Sanchez of the KC Star gets to the heart of the matter of what’s going on in Baltimore and around the country right now:

The national conversation on police/community relations that began in earnest with Michael Brown’s death and wound through Eric Garner’s and so many others, may have found a more convincing victim in Gray for those who have failed to grasp this as the crux of the issue.

It’s respect. Strong police-community relations have always swiveled around respect. It’s a two-way exchange of officers approaching citizens with it and gaining the same in return. When that breaks down, as it has in so many African-American and Latino communities, the outrage that fueled the protests this week is sure to erupt.

As Maryland U.S. Representative Elijah Cummings so aptly put it Friday morning during televised interviews, “Did they see him as a human being?”

When those with power cannot see those without power as human beings, the result is inevitable.

Child sexual abuse at the hands of priests, and coverups by bishops. Prisoners abused at Abu Ghraib, and officially sanctioned torture at Gitmo and elsewhere. Financial bailouts for those who caused the near-collapse of the banking system, who advised their clients in invest one way while they bet against their clients with their own money, who engaged in systematic forclosure fraud with perjury and forged documents to hide their behavior. The Edmund Pettus Bridge.

When those without power decide they’ve had enough of being doormats, they act to reclaim their own power by demanding to be seen as human beings. Sometimes they act politely, other times less so, but always with an intent to provoke the powerful to revise their thinking. As Martin Luther King said to the white clergy of Birmingham in his letter from Birmingham’s jail, “Nonviolent direct action seeks to create such a crisis and foster such a tension that a community which has constantly refused to negotiate is forced to confront the issue. It seeks to so dramatize the issue that it can no longer be ignored.”

Birmingham. Stonewall. Kent State. Occupy. Ferguson. Baltimore.

I could cite political theorists, historians, and other distinguished scholars to belabor this point, but putting King’s words next to those of Sanchez above, I can’t help but think of two people who were much more dramatic in making their case.

Consider the story that took place on the far-away island of Sala-ma-sond, where a little direct non-violent action — a burp from the lowliest of the low — dramatized the issue of the indiscriminate use of authoritarian power to abuse the powerless such that it could not be ignored.

Consider the words of a woman standing up to her man, demanding what is rightfully hers. “All I’m askin’ is for a little respect.”

Preach it, sister Mary and brother Martin. Preach it, sister Aretha, and brother Seuss.

It’s Respect.

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h/t to Nosha for the photo, and used under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.

KC Bishop Resigns Under Fire, and SF Archbishop is Nervous

St. Mary’s Cathedral in San Francisco (with its very nice basement)

Friends from San Francisco eagerly sent me links last week to stories like this about an ad taken out by a group of influential Roman Catholic laypeople, calling for Pope Francis to remove SF Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone. The reasons are many, but center on his efforts to insert a strongly conservative morality clause into the faculty handbooks of RC high schools and his general attitude of highhandedness and authoritarianism. Installing and using sprinklers to force the homeless away from the Cathedral at night probably didn’t help either.

I laughed when I got these links, and told my friends that while they, I, and others might like Cordileone gone, Francis is not likely to remove him any time soon. Looking at the broad context of Francis and his papacy, Francis is trying to be strategic in picking his battles, and forcing Cordileone out would come at a large cost as Francis tries to reform the Curia – the governing structures of the Vatican – as it would give Francis’ conservative critics a cause around which to gather. Looking more narrowly, I told my friends, there are at least two other bishops with major problems, including Bishop Robert Finn here in KC who was convicted of failing to report a priest for suspicions of child abuse in 2012. Despite this conviction, Finn has remained in office as bishop here, though a formal Vatican investigation was under way. As long as a convicted criminal is allowed to remain the bishop of the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, I said, an unconvicted and unpopular bishop like Cordileone has nothing to worry about.

Then on Tuesday, the Vatican announced Bishop Finn’s resignation.

And on Wednesday, Archbishop Cordileone made a stunning announcement of his own via twitter: “After much consideration, I won’t attend March for Marriage this year.   Will be there in spirit, but priority is dialogue w teachers in SF.”

On the surface, this looks like a bishop concerned about a pressing local issue, declining to take part in a larger national event out of pastoral concern for what is happening at home. But underneath, it’s clear that its about much more than that.

When it comes to the Catholic Church’s battle against marriage equality, Cordileone isn’t just any bishop. He worked hard to get Prop 8 passed in California, snubbed the anti-Prop 8 Episcopal bishop at Cordileone’s installation service, and is the current head of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops’ committee on the promotion and defense of marriage. Last year, he spoke at the March for Marriage, despite the opposition to his participation. For him to stay home from a march tied to the pending is a sign about how concerned he is about matters closer to home — and I’m not talking about the teachers’ contracts.

Here’s what I mean . . . (more…)

Missouri Republican State Senators Sure Don’t Like Sunshine

Back in January, the Missouri House Committee on Telecommunications held a hearing. Four republican legislators were present for the hearing, although they didn’t have any bills before them awaiting action, but they held a hearing nonetheless, with five telecommunications lobbyists there to offer their thoughts on the issues that the committee might be interested in.

The hearing was held not at the capitol, but over dinner at the Jefferson City Country Club, and the lobbyists picked up the tab.

[Yes, the Missouri Legislature has some of the weakest ethics and lobbying rules in the nation. Why do you ask?]

The hearing became an embarrassment to the House republican leadership, and by 10:35 the next morning the Speaker of the House issued an order declaring that all future hearings must be held at the capitol, effective immediately.

These kind of hearings/lobbying efforts have been part of the Jefferson City legislative culture for years. Several weeks earlier, Progress Missouri noted that the very first hearing on the legislative calendar was a similar off-site excuse for a nice meal paid for by lobbyists, and called for an end to the practice.

“The purpose of legislative hearings is to gather input from the citizens of Missouri and develop legislation that benefits them,” Pamela Merritt, Communications Director for Progress Missouri. “Holding sham ‘hearings’ away from the Capitol for the sole purpose of consuming free food and drink from lobbyists is a despicable practice that doesn’t pass the smell test.

“Moreover, the Sunshine Law requires that committee hearings be held in a place to accommodate the public,” continued Merritt. “Last year, we saw with our own eyes sham ‘hearings’ in expensive Jefferson City restaurants that had no place for the public to observe and contribute to the proceedings—probably because the whole ‘hearing’ was a sham set up by lobbyists to shovel more freebies to receptive politicians.”

The statewide media from time to time has tried to make this an issue about how the state government runs, to no avail — until that Telecommunications hearing in late January. Reporters from the state’s two largest papers were at the hearing, and their papers editorialized about this sham the next morning, but they’ve done that before. What was different in this case is that Progress Missouri, a progressive advocacy organization, livestreamed video of the hearing.

This did not go over well in Jefferson City, especially among the republicans in charge of the legislature and all of its committees.

Several state senators seem to understand the power of video quite well, and have been quick to shut down Progress Missouri’s efforts to video their hearings over the last year, citing Senate rules that are aimed at minimizing disruptions. Progress Missouri, after trying to work with the Senate leadership to get better access, stepped up their game this past Wednesday:

Today, Progress Missouri filed suit against the Missouri Senate for its continued refusal to adhere to Missouri’s Sunshine Law. Missouri state senators have repeatedly denied access to public hearings of Senate committees, in violation of state law, and we are escalating our fight for open government.

Our democracy works best when there is transparency and accountability, and the Sunshine Law is a necessary tool to maintain both. Some state senators, including Mike Parson, Mike Kehoe, and David Sater think that the Sunshine Law doesn’t apply to them. They’re wrong.

Public radio station KBIA noted that this has been an ongoing battle with these three committee chairmen, while others have had no problem with Progress Missouri’s video work.

Let’s take a look at the three committees at the center of all this.

Small Business, Insurance and Industry — Chair Mike Parson. On the agenda of this committee are bills to repeal the “prevailing wage law,” weaken the state tort law by making defendants severally liable instead of jointly liable (the current law), shortening the length of time a person can receive unemployment compensation from 20 weeks to as few as 13, and allowing a judge to modify a jury’s award of damages in civil trials involving health care providers.

Seniors, Families and Children — Chair David Sater. On this committee’s agenda are bills to shorten the lifetime cap on receiving TANF benefits, declare that “the liberty of a parent to direct the upbringing, education, and care of his or her child is a fundamental right”, and to prioritize the spending of state family planning money with state-run facilities at the top of the list and non-public, non-rural primary health care facilities at the bottom of the list.

Commerce, Consumer Protection, Energy and the Environment — Chair Mike Kehoe. This committee is considering bills to weaken the state Clean Water Law by saying the state is to keep its waters clean “while maintaining maximum employment and full industrial development of the state” and shall accomplish its work by “all practical and economically feasible” means (Can you say “loopholes big enough to drive a fleet of toxic waste trucks through”? Sure you can), to replace a floor on the per-barrel fee charged for inspections of gasoline and other fuels and oils with a ceiling on those fees, and weakening the schedule of financial audits of solid waste disposal districts.

I can’t imagine why these committee chairs would like to avoid having their committee’s fine work displayed on YouTube for everyone to see.

Charlie Pierce has a regular feature whereby he looks at what’s happening in the state legislatures that he calls “This Week in the Laboratories of Democracy.” The title makes me think that if Jefferson City is a laboratory, it is in desperate need of sanitizing measures, and only the sunshine that Progress Missouri and other groups are trying to shine on the state Senate can clean up the lab.

Progressives in other states, please take note.

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h/t to Robert Stinnett for the photo above of the south entrance to the Missouri State Capitol, and used under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license. Not evident from the image is whether the sculpture of Thomas Jefferson depicts him as crying or not.

150 Years After Appomattox, the GOP Revises Their Views

The more things change, the more things change.

Consider, for example, the remarks of a rather well known Republican leader, speaking in 1865 on the eve of the surrender of the Army of Northern Virginia at Appomattox:

Both [sides] read the same Bible and pray to the same God, and each invokes His aid against the other . . .

With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.

Fast forward 150 years, and imagine how Republican leaders of 2015 would react to these words. It’s hard to believe that they’d be comfortable with delivering them as written, you know, so a re-write is obviously needed . . .

Both [sides] read the same Bible and pray to the same God, but only our side reads the Bible right. . . .

With malice toward some1, with charity for none2, with firmness in the right since God gave it to us to see the right3, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to ignore the nation’s wounds4, to turn our backs on him who battled against us and his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting victory over those who dare to stand against us, here at home and around the world.5

Welcome to the 2016 presidential campaign, in which I fully expect someone from the GOP to propose a return to Plessy v Ferguson to defend religious liberty, and a restoration of the states’ rights attitude that caused Mr. Dred Scott a bit of inconvenience, and a repeal of the 19th amendment to the US constitution, because in the eyes of the GOP of 2015, it’s a man’s job to take care of the women. (Sorry, Carli.)

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1 LGBTs, for instance: see here and here (Santorum warning).

2 especially the lazy and shiftless poors, and most especially those who are blah

3 See Brownback, Sam; Graham, Franklin; and all the presidential hopefuls, with a special shout-out to Bobbie Jindal

4 See the GOP and the Affordable Care Act, Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, Head Start, . . .

5 From Unconditional Surrender to American Jihad, Ted Cruz edition. But remember: it’s Never About Race (h/t Mr. Pierce)

 

h/t to Joey Gannon for the photo above, and used under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.

Planning the Holiest, Godliest, Bestest Wedding Ever

“It’s not fair, Daddy.” said Chelsea through her tears, hugging her daddy as she wiped her eyes on his shirt. “Here you are, trying to lead a Godly Life, run a Godly business, and stand up to Those People, and now your friend Governor Pence is backing down.”

“Well, sort of,” said Daddy. “Godly business owners like me can still keep Those People out of our businesses, as long as we don’t do business in any of those godless places that have local non-discrimination ordinances. And I don’t.”

“But Daddy, what about My Wedding?” wailed Chelsea, the capital letters apparent even through her tears. “How am I going to have a Truly Godly Wedding, free from contamination by association with Those People?”

Daddy winced. Running a business for 20 years may have been tough at times, but it was a walk in the park compared with his Precious and her wedding planning. “Consumers have lots of options, Precious,” he told her. “You can discriminate against shopkeepers who support Those People — just shop somewhere else.”

Chelsea’s eyes lit up, then dimmed again. “But Daddy, how will I know who is Godly and who is not? I mean, think about all the weddings of all my friends that I’ve been to over the last three years.” Daddy thought about those weddings — especially the bills that those Daddies had to pay — but Chelsea was on a roll. “The wedding planners, the florists, the folks who made the gown, the caterers, the church organists, even the pastors seemed to be Those People. They’re EVERYWHERE!” wailed Chelsea, tears beginning to flow again.

“Now, now,” said Daddy. “Be firm in your faith, and God will guide you.”

“You’re right, Daddy. And my wedding will be Holier, Godlier, and Way Better than any of the weddings that Those People put on for my friends.”

Daddy winced again, wondering how much all this Holiness and Godliness was going to cost him. But he wasn’t about to say that out loud in front of his Precious Chelsea.

Over the next three months, Chelsea researched and planned. She sent emails hither and yon, spent hours online looking at this business and that, and talked the ears off of all kinds of folks, and everything began to come together. “It was tough,” Chelsea said to her Daddy, “but I did it. I’m going to have the Holiest, Godliest, and Bestest Wedding the state of Indiana has ever seen! Getting a good priest was difficult, but then I heard about Cardinal Burke.”

“Cardinal Raymond Burke? A Cardinal? And isn’t he in Rome?” said Daddy, wondering if he was going to have to pay for a transatlantic first class round trip ticket for a presider.

“He gave an interview with that great pro-life site you like that made me sure he was the right person to turn to.” Chelsea fiddled with her phone, then held it out to Daddy. “Here’s what he said about Those People:” (more…)

Kansas Wants to Fund Discrimination, Missouri Ready to Follow

For years, California has had the reputation of being the incubator of policies that eventually become national, from environmental concerns to social concerns to economic concerns. But in the flyover land of Kansas, Sam Brownback is the leader of an ultra-conservative Republican party, purged of its merely-conservative elements. They control the legislature in Topeka, and are bent on taking that mantle of national trendsetter from California. Across the border in Missouri, the GOP-dominated legislature is turning the state motto on its head, by looking west and saying “show me which far-right policies to enact next,” rather than saying “show me the proof that they work.”

Tax cuts have always been high on the list of priorities for the Kansas GOP, followed closely by social issues as defined by conservative religious voices such as abortion, creationism, and anti-LGBT efforts. Perhaps because that whole tax cut thing has caused such a huge problem with the state budget, or perhaps because they believe that in just a few more months or years the budget will turn around by magic, the Kansas GOP is pivoting to the social issues again, this time pushing hard against anything that smacks of facilitating Teh Gay Agenda.

Yesterday, the Kansas state Senate passed a bill that would gut public university policies that prohibit recognized student organizations from discriminating against other students, all in the name of religious freedom. Across the border in Missouri, the GOP in Jefferson City is rushing to catch up to their colleagues in Topeka. Never mind that this was ruled unconstitutional in 2010. As John Paul Stevens wrote in his concurring opinion (the KC Star missed that Notorious RBG wrote for the majority) about a petition by a religious student group at Hastings College of the Law asking that they be allowed to discriminate, what they really are asking for is something else (with emphasis added):

In this case, petitioner excludes students who will not sign its Statement [***870] of Faith or who engage in “unrepentant homosexual conduct,” App. 226. The expressive association argument it presses, however, is hardly limited to these facts. [*703] Other groups may exclude or mistreat Jews, blacks, and women — or those who do not share their contempt for Jews, blacks, and women. A free society must tolerate such groups. It need not subsidize them, give them its official imprimatur, or grant them equal access to law school facilities.

Shorter SCOTUS: “You can believe what you want, but don’t expect the state to pay for it.” But SCOTUS opinions like this matter little to the Kansas GOP, which wants to bring back the good old days when state-sponsored and state-funded discrimination was all the rage.

No, I’m not exaggerating. Go read the quotes from the GOP lawmakers at the links.

The Missouri GOP is still reeling from the unfolding mess surrounding the suicide of state auditor and (moderate) GOP candidate for governor Tom Schweich who claimed the newly elected chair of the state party was spreading anti-Semitic lies about him to his donors. John Hancock, the party chair, hotly denies the allegations, though his denials are carefully crafted to distract from the specific allegations. Perhaps to get away from that conversation, the GOP members of the state legislature are charging ahead on the anti-LGBT front, with eight different anti-LGBT bills under consideration including things like this (HB 1107):

This bill prohibits the enforcement of marriages other than those between a man and a women and prevents taxpayer funds or salaries of state employees from being dispersed for an activity that includes the licensing or support of marriage other than a marriage between a man and a woman. The bill states that an employee of the state, political subdivision, or instrumentality of the state who willfully and knowingly violating the provision is subject to termination. Any active employee who is a member of any state, political subdivision, or instrumentality retirement system who is not vested at the time the bill becomes effective who willfully and knowingly violates the provision of this bill is subject to the loss of benefits of the respective plan, minus the individual employee’s contributions.

Nothing like threatening a public employee with termination and loss of their pension for complying with federal law. Maybe this is a new slogan for the Missouri GOP: “We’re not anti-Semitic — we’re anti-gay!”

Folks outside Missouri and Kansas can laugh, but the disease of state-sponsored discrimination is contagious. Listen to the GOP presidential candidates talk about LGBT issues, with “states’ rights” and “religious freedom” as their dog whistles. Once Scott Walker is done dismantling the University of Wisconsin, I fully expect him to turn his attention this way as well.

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h/t to the creative protesters that gave David Shankbone something marvelous to capture in the photograph above, which is used here under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license. Sadly, I think that a more substantive apology is needed.

Smarter Policing Trumps More Policing, From Ferguson to Kansas City and Beyond

Interstate 70 is the main east-west highway across the state of Missouri, with St. Louis on one end and Kansas City on the other. While the events in Ferguson during this past week have garnered the attention – the continuing protests stemming from the release of the DOJ report; the departures of Ferguson’s city manager, police chief, two police officers, the city’s municipal judge, and the clerk of the municipal court; and the shooting of two police officers – a radio interview in Kansas City shines a very powerful spotlight on what’s underneath the unrest in Ferguson.

Charles Epp, Donald Haider-Markel, and Steven Maynard-Moody are faculty members at the University of Kansas. Epp and Maynard-Moody teach in the School of Public Affairs and Administration, while Haider-Markel is the chair of the Political Science department. Together, the three conducted a major study of policing practices in metropolitan Kansas City, focusing specifically on traffic stops. The result was Pulled Over: How Police Stops Define Race and Citizenship, summarized by the publisher like this:

In sheer numbers, no form of government control comes close to the police stop. Each year, twelve percent of drivers in the United States are stopped by the police, and the figure is almost double among racial minorities. Police stops are among the most recognizable and frequently criticized incidences of racial profiling, but, while numerous studies have shown that minorities are pulled over at higher rates, none have examined how police stops have come to be both encouraged and institutionalized.

Pulled Over deftly traces the strange history of the investigatory police stop, from its discredited beginning as “aggressive patrolling” to its current status as accepted institutional practice. Drawing on the richest study of police stops to date, the authors show that who is stopped and how they are treated convey powerful messages about citizenship and racial disparity in the United States. . . .

The researchers surveyed over 2300 people about their driving habits, including their interactions with police. They then looked at those who had been stopped, and tried to sort out what the data was telling them. They quickly noticed racial disparities, but wanted to parse out exactly what was going on. They then separated the stops into two groups: traffic safety stops and investigatory stops. The former were for things like speeding, running a red light, and other violations that might result in harm to either the driver or others. The latter were for things like a broken tail light.

In the survey responses that fell into the traffic safety stops category, the researchers found little disparity due to race. If you blew through the stop sight and the cop was sitting right there, you were going to get pulled over. Similarly, there was no significant difference based on race as to whether the stop would result in a warning or a ticket, and no particular difference in the way the police interacted with the drivers based on the driver’s race.

The investigatory stops, on the other hand, revealed huge differences. Epp recently sat down with KCUR’s Up To Date call-in show, and here is how they summarized his comments: (more…)

The DOJ Report on Ferguson, US Catholic Bishops, and the Failure of Very Sternly Worded Letters

I’ve pored over the report from the DOJ about Ferguson, and read and re-read Eric Holder’s remarks upon releasing it. They are powerful documents, filled with page after page of discriminatory and racist behavior, with story after story of specific episodes of documented unnecessary use of force. They paint an ugly picture, and a sadly familiar one to those who have lived in Ferguson, North St. Louis, and North St. Louis County, especially people of color or people who are poor.

It was also familiar to me because it reminded me of the way in which prosecutors handled allegations of child sexual abuse by Catholic priests. And not in a good way.

The DOJ wrote the city of Ferguson a Very Sternly Worded Letter, and will likely enter into agreements promising change. But if that’s where things end, I fear that nothing will change. Because that’s what’s happened before. Just look at the Catholic church.

In September 2003, a Philadelphia grand jury issued a scathing report, detailing abuse by Catholic priests and an official cover-up of those actions. They could not file charges, however, as the statute of limitations had expired. The Archdiocese promised reforms, the state legislature made changes to strengthen the laws, and people looked forward, not back. Until, that is, it became obvious that nothing substantive had changed.

In 2012, Monsignor William Lynn — the Secretary for the Clergy responsible for placing clergy in parishes — was found guilty of child endangerment, because he consented to move a known pedophile from one parish to another, where that priest molested yet another child. The grand jury declined to indict Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua because of his poor health (the wisdom of which was borne out by the death of the Cardinal as the proceedings unfolded). They were clear in their report, however, that they believed the cardinal was as guilty as his subordinate.

Closer to home, in 2008 the Catholic Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph Missouri entered into a $10 million settlement with 47 people who were abused (or family members of those abused) by Catholic priests. The settlement included promises of reforms by the diocese, but those promises were proven false in 2011 when KC Bishop Robert Finn was indicted for failing to report to the police a priest they knew to be in possession of child pornography that he had created. Finn knew about it, because the diocese was in possession of the priest’s computer that contained his photographs, and the priest admitted to them that he had a problem. In February 2012, Finn was convicted, earning the distinction of being the first US bishop to have been held accountable in court.

The plaintiffs in the 2008 settlement were understandably livid, as Finn’s conviction proved that the promises made to them were not being lived up to. Additional lawsuits brought to light additional facts proving this, and the 2008 plaintiffs went back to the legal system for justice. Last July, an arbitrator overseeing the 2008 settlement agreed, as described by the KC Star:

In his highly critical order, Hanover found that the diocese had breached five of the terms of the 2008 agreement. He noted that the plaintiffs could have sought to declare the contract void and collect what likely would have been “a far larger award.” “They have instead opted to seek damages for these noted breaches and to maintain the contract in force for the protection of children in the future,” Hanover wrote. “I here honor their preference and join in their hope that I am dead wrong in my opinion that this Diocese as presently constituted will not mend its ways.”

When the diocese challenged the award, the judge was having none of it:

Calling the award a “scathing indictment of the defendant,” Jackson County Circuit Judge Bryan Round said in his ruling that “there can be no doubt that the diocese, through its leadership and higher-level personnel, failed in numerous respects to abide by the terms” of the 2008 agreement. Those terms included immediately reporting any abuse or suspicion of abuse to law enforcement authorities — something the diocese failed to do in the child pornography case of the Rev. Shawn Ratigan in 2010.

Sternly Worded Letters are necessary, but not sufficient. Not even close.

Father Thomas Doyle, a canon lawyer who has been fighting the hierarchy since the 1980s to address the child abuse issue head on, understands the dynamics of power within unaccountable systems very, very well. What Doyle said about the hierarchy of the Catholic church can very easily be applied to the police departments of far too many cities, by changing just a few words . . .

There will continue to be abuse by the clergy police as long as the ecclesiastical law enforcement environment that allowed it to flourish continues as a closed, hierarchical system enshrouded in secrecy and sustained by the power of fear.  As sexual abuse unnecessary use of force cases surface in country after country city after city the patterns of cover-up, collusion and denial are the same.  This is not proof of an international a country-wide conspiracy or a secret order sent to all bishops police chiefs as some would have it, but of something more radical.  The world nation-wide outrage, the seemingly countless lawsuits and the close examination by various academics are directed at the status quo in three areas: the essential role of the clerical law enforcement sub-culture, hierarchical governance and the efficacy of the theological authoritarian dogmas that support them.  The most realistic response is also the most fearful to the hierarchy and to many clergy and laity police officers and civilians as well: a thorough, fearless examination of the heretofore untouchable system of power and control and the closed, secretive and often privileged world at the heart of the institutional church law enforcement community.  There is really only one vital question:  why is this system and the men people who sustain it more important than the emotional, physical and spiritual welfare of a single, innocent child citizen?

Sternly Worded Letters won’t cut it, especially when the Sternly Worded Letters go out of their way to avoid naming individuals who committed illegal acts. When the DOJ wrote them to the banks in the wake of the financial crisis, leveling fines against them for their actions but declining to prosecute any individuals, Jamie Dimon was given an 8 figure bonus by his board of directors for his fine work. When prosecutors wrote them to Catholic bishops in the wake of the child abuse coverups, the abuse continued.

Unless and until police officers are held accountable — not only those on the streets but even more so those who supervise them — all the Very Sternly Worded Letters in the world will make no difference.

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 h/t to DOJ for the official portrait of Eric Holder, Sternly Worded Letter Writer.

The UnReal World of House Republicans, and Jon Stewart’s Departure from The Daily Show

Speaker Boehner dealing with House GOP (Image: DonkeyHotey)

Alexander Bolton over at The Hill has a nice piece about the implosions going off in the GOP on Capitol Hillover funding DHS, but it’s far too restrained in its observations. I, on the other hand, feel a bit freer to read between the lines . . . I’m shocked — shocked, I tell you:

Senate Republicans are fuming over the House GOP’s decision to extend the standoff over the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), a move that they say uses up political oxygen and burns precious time on the legislative calendar.

You don’t say.

GOP senators say it’s time to move on to other issues, such as the budget, trade legislation, and regulatory and tax reform. They must defend 24 seats in the 2016 election and worry that voters could soon start to question their ability to govern unless they can move forward with a more substantive agenda.

Yeah, I’d say that questions about the GOP’s ability to govern are certainly in order.

“I just think we ought to move on to other things. I’m not sure how it helps for the American people to have the perception that Republicans in the Senate and Republicans in the House are at odds with each other,” said Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.).

I wonder what gave the American people that perception?

“We have a lot of initiatives I think we could show the American people we can work together on,” he added.

Presumes facts not in evidence, Senator.

House conservatives say they want to pressure Senate Democrats to agree to a bicameral conference, in which the two chambers would hash out a compromise that would both fund homeland security and repeal some of Obama’s orders.

House conservatives also want the Senate to eliminate Obamacare and do all manner of other things that aren’t going to happen. Someone in the senate has their head on straight, however, though he covered his face so no one could accuse him of having a good grasp of reality: (more…)

Giuliani’s Old Elementary Teacher is Not Happy With Him

If only I could get regular mail. Instead, I get anonymous phone calls.

This time, the tipster called me and pointed me to an old schoolhouse near Kansas City. “Go behind the south wing, and you’ll see where there used to be a garden. Walk past it, and when you find an old compost pile, look for an envelope. I think you’ll be very interested in what’s inside.”

Curious, I pushed back a bit. “Lots of things might interest me. What’s in that envelope that’s so special that I should go looking for a pile of compost?

The voice on the phone paused, then said “It’s a letter from one of my grandparents to Rudy Giuliani.”

“Why can’t your grandparent simply put it in the mail?” I asked.

“Two reasons. First, you need a mailing address, and we don’t have one. Second, though, and more important, is privacy. You see, my grandparent was Rudy Giuliani’s elementary school teacher. Go find that letter, please.”

Click. The phone went dead.

So I went to the old abandoned schoolhouse, found overgrown garden, and sticking out from under the compost  — ewwww! — was an envelope. As with the earlier correspondence I received in a similar manner, I am unable to authenticate the contents, but it sure sounds like an old elementary teacher . . .

* * *

Dear Rudolph,

I saw your recent remarks about American presidents, and just had to sit down and write you a quick note. As your old elementary school teacher, I taught you some of your first lessons about presidents, but apparently you weren’t listening very well. You were pretty firm in your opinions back then, and it appears you haven’t changed a bit. If anything, your view of yourself has only gotten more inflated.

Here’s what you said that got me to put fingers to keyboard:

The reality is, from all that I can see of this president, all that I’ve heard of him, he apologizes for America, he criticizes America. … This is an American president I’ve never seen before.

Really, Rudolph? Never? Not once?

Oh, but then — as usually happened with you in my class — you couldn’t leave well enough alone once you screwed up. You had to add this:

“What I don’t find with Obama — this will get me in more trouble again — is a really deep knowledge of history. I think it’s a dilettante’s knowledge of history.”

I’d say you must have slept through my class all year, but I know from the persistent sound of your voice that that wasn’t the case. Let me give you a little refresher, since you obviously couldn’t hear me over your own talking.

You want to see a president who criticizes America? Let me show you a few.

Here’s one that you might even remember, if you stop talking for just a minute and think for a minute: (more…)