Monday, March 29, 2010


Fields of Tulips
Roozengaarde- Mt. Vernon, WA

Sunday, March 28, 2010

On Penny-wise and Pound-foolish

I'm sitting here in Seattle, reading my Sunday New York Times and wondering if my sore throat and aching head have damaged my capacity for logical thought. The article that got me going was Monica Davey's 'States Seek to Tax Services, from Head to Toe', which was accompanied by:

We live in an increasingly stratified economy and for the life of me, I'm wondering how taxing haircuts will improve it versus biting the bullet and deciding that taxes should be income based.

No one likes taxes. I certainly don't. But forgive my skepticism that taxing haircuts and pet-grooming and shoe repair (all mentioned in the article) is going to do anything other than penalize the service providers of such services. And they already were not making a lot of money to begin with!

Michigan is struggling with the issue of taxation of services and has been since 2007. Governor Jennifer Granholm wants to tax 100 service areas (on top of the 26 areas already taxed) at 5.5% and then lower sales tax to that value from 6%. But small business owners, like Pete Tomassoni, who is quoted in the article as saying that taxing his $3 bowling games is a "terrible idea" have seen downturns in their businesses because of the poor economy.

Let's put it in perspective. I know some really wealthy people. Like the kind of people who have a bowling alley in their home. Or the kind of people who have theaters in their home and don't mingle at AMC Cinemas. Or the kind of people who pay their hairdresser in NYC to fly down and cut their hair in their house on Miami Beach. (They pay cash and put the stylist up on South Beach. I don't think they're paying that service tax for the haircut, do you?) So the legislature in their state can make new tax laws until the cows come home but these people, the ones with scads of money, are not going to be affected for the most part. But my hairdresser and yours? Or Mr. Tomassoni in Iron Mountain, Michigan? When people start to bowl less or go another two or three weeks between haircuts or pay the one time sales tax to get the shears to cut their own or their child's hair, you tell me what that will do to tax revenues in the long term. You tell me.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Gays Attending Proms as a Civil Right

Constance McMillen you're a Goddess!!!
(source: Associated Press Staff Photographer)

I've been busy with a sick child but, of course, my mind still churns away. And what have I been thinking about? I've been thinking about my tax dollars and public schools...

Since public school is partly funded with my tax payer dollars, all I can say is:

Dance with whomever the F@#$ you please!!!!

Prom is one of those 'life, liberty and pursuit of happiness' deals. Especially on the tax payer dime.

I simply do not understand school districts and regions who would rather punish the majority than permit the minority to dance with whatever partner they're crushing on. (Additional article)

Oh wait a minute... by punishing the majority you can foster hate for the minority. Yeah, now I get it. Right... let's make everyone think they can't have Prom because of the gay girl. Yeah. For sure.

Message to the establishment:

Prom night is stupid and I skipped it and went out somewhere else with friends as a 'sticking it to the man' statement about the establishment. And newsflash! in high school, with one surprise exception, I already knew who was gay and who was straight in 1976. And I didn't give a damn about who they were dancing with, making out with, or any of that. But actually, knowing that the principal of my school broke up the marriage between teachers Mr. And Mrs. B. and got Mrs. B. pregnant was kind of a way worse example of morals than knowing Dave W. liked boys. Dave W. was so very sweet and talented. And he still is. 

Obviously, I will be joining Personal Failure in Hell. I'm so very proud. At least I know I'll be in good company, have stimulating conversation and read good books.

And Constance, if you ever read this, you're the BOMB for sticking up for what you believe in at an age when so many kids couldn't tell you what a civil right was if their life depended on it...

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Multipurpose Palate Cleanser (PC#8)

This is Audrey.
(photo credit: New York Botanical Garden)

If Audrey were really, really big she could be a solution to the problematic reassignment of priests. Plus, she's climate friendly. She'll digest them all and produce O2! If she could also digest a few of the people I've been talking to on the phone today, it would be great.

Chipped Enamel Iron, I mean Irish, Bishop Resigns

John Magee, Bishop of Cloyne has resigned, the Vatican announced today, according to the New York Times. It's been reported that the Vatican's own investigator found that Magee was involved in the cover-ups that protected Irish priests in his diocese and failed to notify the Garda (police). Evidently, an Irish government investigator says that Magee even obstructed their investigations of two pedophiles. The BBC has a lot more interesting information about this valuable and treasured member of the Irish Catholic church.

Bishop Magee, who is 73, was actually secretary to three popes. The National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church in Ireland (NBSC), an entity separate from the church and therefore, it seems, willing to point out its deficiencies on occasion. NBSC had some rather damning things to say about Bishop Magee's handling of two cases of sex-abusing priests according to the BBC.

Anyway, I've been checking out the website for the NBSC. They have an established guideline booklet called Standards and Guidance. I'm really hoping they send a copy to the Teflon Pope. 

Anyone not sick of the entire business should definitely take a stroll through the pages of The Irish Catholic wherein one columnist, Garry O'Sullivan congratulates Irish Bishops for having succeeded in doing what centuries of persecution have failed to do: drive people away from the Catholic church.

As an advocate for abused children, and someone who is half-Irish and whose grandparents stopped going to church for unrevealed reasons, I guess I'm just obsessed with the issue at this point. The systematic abuse, over many decades, and the cover-ups, of these pedophile priests is just beyond upsetting to me. In my mind, Hieronymous Bosch's Garden of Earthly Delights appears to be iconographic of the moment. The thought of most of the adults in the central and right panels, being replaced by children though is rather disturbing, is it not? 

The Catholic church has long held that life is so sacred and that the unborn fetus is to be protected at all costs.

If only they'd held the same philosophy once our children were actually here...

Well the font is all messed up on this post and I will have to fix it later. Just loving Blogger this morning. Apologies to anyone who can't distinguish links properly.

Sunday, March 21, 2010


Blue Mountain Lake, Adirondacks, 2008

From Skeptical Eye: Just a Book

Skeptical Eye: Just a Book

Teflon Pope Redux

Teflon Pope
(Agence France Presse/Getty Images)

After an interesting discussion with a friend by email, I've decided to clarify a few of my points, since it seems the bee in my bonnet has interfered with the elucidation of my thoughts.

First, I'm half-Irish, and no, I don't think that being Irish makes it likely that you're a pedophile. But, if BishopAccountability is accurate, I'm betting that if you're an Irish priest you might be. Abuse begets abuse. If you're a priest, you were exposed to priests growing up. Get it? Plus, there is the attractive church policy, guaranteed to fulfill your every need if you are a pedophile: you'll only get a slap on the wrist and reassigned if you sexually molest children. No one will even pick up the phone and call the police on you. Heck, I'm sure there would be plenty of pedophiles willing to convert just for the opportunity the Catholic church has offered them.

Second, what do I mean about the Teflon Pope not having a handle on things? Gee, let me think about it. After probably many centuries of the Catholic church having total control over their corner of the world, the media started paying attention to people screaming about child abuse at the hands of the church a little less than sixty years ago. The collective outcry is now practically deafening. So what does the Teflon Pope, who is more and more implicated in the coverup of these pedophile priests, do? Does he talk directly to his flock in Ireland to apologize? Oh no, they are beneath his direct contact concerns. Instead, he sends an 18 page letter and has his Cardinal do it for him. Because you know, we're only talking about decades of abuse that people have been brave enough to finally come forward and talk about. No biggie. Just decades of physical and sexual abuse of the faithful's children. No need to address people directly.

Third, the letter itself is a masterpiece of accomplishing nothing. It does not put the blame on the church hierarchy. It does not reflect on the Teflon Pope's role in the cover-up. It blames the Irish bishops but does not call for their resignation. It does not acknowledge that the problem is international. And most of all it does not call for the revealing of the names of these known pedophile priests and demand they not be permitted to remain in any role within the church that allows them access to children nor that their names be given to the police!!!!!!

So yeah, those are my thoughts. Hopefully, more clearly elucidated after a night's good sleep.

Saturday, March 20, 2010


Autumn, Portland's Japanese Gardens
(photo credit: Craig Mitchelldyer)

On being Irish this week... and Clergy Abuse

John Kelly, abuse survivor, victim's rights advocate, hero.
(photo credit CNN)

It's ironic that in the week of St. Patrick's Day that the big Irish talk is precisely related to Catholicism. None of it is about saints. 

Above you see a photo of John Kelly, a 59 year old man with great courage who has been quite outspoken about his abuse at the hands of the church while in a reformatory in Daingean, Ireland. From his CNN interview, which was quite searing:

"I was taken down these stairs. I only had a nightdress on. It was pulled over my head. I was left naked. This 6-foot, 4-inch [tall] religious brother stood on my hands... and another guy had a whip that we made ourselves, with coins in it. And he would run from a distance to flog me," Kelly remembers.
Kelly, now 59, spent much of his childhood living in institutions run by Catholic orders in Ireland. The abuse he remembers most vividly took place at a reformatory in Daingean, in central Ireland.
"It was a very significant night for me," he says. "I'd been raped and buggered previously by these religious brothers, and I'd been physically beaten and psychologically tortured for months -- I spent two years in the place."
But Kelly reached a breaking point as one Catholic brother held him down, another whipped him and two others looked on, he says.
"I begged God to take me away. I just wanted to die to get away from the pain. And God wasn't there for me," he says.

Mr. Kelly survived. He is, not surprisingly, a nonbeliever at this point. He escaped Daingean and ran away. He spent the next thirty years in London and then returned to Ireland to campaign against child abuse. He is a hero. His voice, along with others who have spoken out, has finally helped rip the veil away from the ugly business of sex abuse and the Catholic church.

I've read with interest the various developments about the clergy in Ireland and the massive abuse scandal that has rocked the country. Of course, it isn't the first that we've heard of egregious abuses by the clergy. There are cases that stem back to the 1950's, in fact. Even the National Catholic Reporter had an article on the crisis of faith due to a sex abuse scandal involving a priest in the Portland, Oregon Archdiocese in 1983. But these cases were largely swept under the carpet. The Vatican only began to really lose its tight grip on media coverage of these issues after the scandals that rocked the US Catholic church in 2002-2005, beginning with the Boston Globe's Pulitzer Prize winning exposé of the sexual abuse of minors in the Archdiocese of Boston. In a measure of the scope of the problem, the Globe maintains their website about the investigations and various resources for reporting and support to this day. Columbia University's DART Center, which both prepares and follows journalists who cover violence and abuse, gives high praise to the Boston Globe and uses the Globe Spotlight team as a model for investigative work on such cases

In reading this week about the history of investigations into the pedophilia problem in the Catholic church, a good place to start is the Wikipedia entry on Catholic Sex Abuse Cases. I guess that even with all the reading I've done, the horrors of the scope of the abuse at the hands of the Catholic clergy are still just astonishing to me. One case first discussed in 1998, which I have to say seems to have been fairly well buried in the media archives (I wonder how) was mentioned by The Guardian's columnist Alexander Chancellor, earlier this week. The case, which is just so horrifyingly graphic that I will leave it to the reader's choice as to whether to follow the link, was part of the British House of Commons investigation of allegations of sexual abuse at the end hands of the Christian Brothers at Tardun Agricultural School in Western Australia. It's seems that Tardun's claim to fame (notoriety?) is the horrible facts that came from this investigation, if the Tardun Wikipedia entry is an indicator.

Late last year an investigation at suggested that about a third of the thousands of priests in the US who have been accused of sexual abuse of minor aged parishioners are Irish. Some of the cases were delineated so clearly that BishopAccountability released more than 60 names of Irish or Irish-descent pedophile priests in their report, as reported by The Boston Globe. Of more than 3000 US priests accused of being pedophiles, about a 1000 are Irish according to their report.

On the basis of the foregoing, it's not a surprise then that the Vatican would have to do something, say something, about the situation in Ireland, where revelations of child sexual abuse started to make big media headlines starting back in the 1990's, a full decade before they started to get major media investigative time here in the US. A report initiated by the Irish government found that found the Archdiocese of Dublin and other Catholic Church authorities in Ireland had assiduously covered up child sexual abuse by priests from 1975 to 2004. With the the sex scandal now reaching Ratzinger's own Germany, it's a wonder that they weren't better prepared for the media furor over the Irish investigation. But Pope Benedict XVI seems not to quite have a handle on things. 

I waited before writing this post because I was really interested to see what, if anything, the Pope would say and offer by way of amends for his own role, under Pope John Paul II, in covering up these scandals and allowing the church to be complicit with its sexual abusers. What the Irish got is this 18 page letter, which starts out with the simply astonishing (at least to me) claim that the Pope is "deeply disturbed by the information which has come to light regarding the abuse of children and vulnerable young people by members of the church in Ireland, particularly by priests and religious." That followed by the statement "I can only share in the dismay and the sense of betrayal that so many of you have experienced on learning of these sinful and criminal acts and the way church authorities in Ireland have dealt with them." I guess I'm having a really hard time with these statements. I seem to remember some of Ratzinger's work for Pope John Paul II as the head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Specifically, there was a 2001 Vatican edict written largely by Ratzinger that told bishops to report all cases of child abuse to Vatican authorities under strict secrecy; it did not mention reporting crimes to police.

Pope Benedict XVI, who was archbishop of Munich from 1977 to 1982, has yet to speak about the hundreds of abuse cases emerging since January in Germany. Among these is the case of Peter Hullermann, a priest who was already suspected of abusing boys in the western city of Essen when Archbishop Ratzinger approved his transfer to Munich for treatment in 1980. While in Munich, Hullermann was allowed contact with children virtually right after his "therapy" began. He was once again (surprise!) accused of molesting boys and was convicted in 1986 of sexual abuse. How bad was Peter Hullermann? Werner Huth, the psychoanalyst working with Hullerman has gone on record in the German popular press saying that he specifically demanded the priest never be allowed to interact with children again. What did the Church do to root out this evil predator? Was he defrocked? Of course not! He was suspended this week for ignoring a 2008 church order not to work with youths. That's right, Peter Hullermann is still a priest.

So go ahead and listen to the Pope's (who I'm going to call the Teflon Pope) letter, because if the foregoing doesn't stick and make him step aside as his own mea culpa for his role in covering up some of the worst abuse you can visit on children, I don't know what will.


Is there any possible compensation for the abuse that children have endured at the hands of not just the perpetrators, but at their ultimate betrayers, the highest levels of the Catholic church that allowed this abuse to continue? I'd be hard-pressed to think of any. At the very least, maybe the wealthiest religious organization in the world could open its coffers and pay for some therapy for its victims? And maybe they could do it before class action lawsuits force them to? Or maybe that would just be too divine. I mean, what do you think, that the man is speaking with the voice of God or something?

Friday, March 19, 2010


Shepperd's Dell State Park, Columbia River Gorge, Oregon

What a world, what a world... Redux ***Strong Content Advisory***

This is a really hard topic to write about, but I'm sure it's just as hard to read. The quote at the end is why I wanted to write this post. She says it all and reminds us that we have to speak out.

So for the past day, I've been filled with thoughts about the kind of humans out there that do really, really vile and terrible things to women. In part because I'm looking at making a women's empowerment website with a friend, Steph, but also because of things current in the news, and closer to home.

Of course, by now everyone must have seen the story of Bibi Aisha, a victim of the brutal Taliban "justice" (truly oxymoronic) system. Aisha's nose and ears were cut off by her husband because she ran away from his family who were beating and abusing her, while he was away fighting in Pakistan. The Taliban court ordered him to do it, to make up for the offense to his family's honor that Aisha didn't wanted to go on being beaten and abused anymore. Aisha was left to die and miraculously survived. She survived and thrives in one of the only women's shelters in Afghanistan. Her family is, of course, noticeably absent. They gave her into this abuse, along with her sister, as part the despicable, and theoretically illegal, practice known as "Baad" (and it's every bit as bad as it sounds) in which girls are married off to sons of a family to settle bitter disputes. That's right, if you have a bitter argument with someone or have wronged them by sleeping with their wife or sister or stealing their goats, the way to get them to lay off you is to give them your daughter. And how do you think a man who hates you, or his family and sons who hate you, will treat your daughter? You have only to watch this video of Bibi Aisha to get some idea of how bad things might be. But, as reporter Atia Abawi points out, things can be even worse. After all, Aisha survived. Aisha got away.

Bibi Aisha is not alone in her suffering this treatment. The UN and Amnesty International report that almost 90% of all women in Afghanistan have some form of domestic abuse visited upon them in their all too short lives. And all you have to do is check out the archives of RAWA, the Revolutionary Association of Women of Afghanistan (some of the bravest people on the planet, these women... they're the ones that would sneak video cameras into the public stoning and whipping of women in soccer stadiums by hiding the cameras under their burqas in order to document what the Taliban was really doing to women in their country). For instance there is Nafisa who met the same fate as Aisha.

You can read more about baad and the not much better Nikāḥ al-Mut‘ah or or sigheh which can also be used, against a woman's wishes (be sure to read that implicit consent part) to settle debts in some areas, or as a form religiously-condoned prostitution. A friend has told me that sometimes fathers will use Nikah al-Mut‘ah when a girl has been caught with a boy who was not in her family (not even in any sexual sense, either) and her reputation has been blackened as a result. Or then there are the girls who have been raped by a family member. They're spoiled goods, too. Since he won't be able to marry her off, at the least the father should get some money off of her to make up for the damage to his good name. Yes, this is for real.

I'm not under the misapprehension that our own corner of the world is devoid of heinous behavior toward young women and girls. For instance, I've taken on a new Guardian case,  in which a mentally handicapped young women who had been sexually abused by her biological family was adopted and then sexually abused by her adoptive father. Who clearly, mind you, knew of her history. I have a very hard time envisioning the mind of such a person who could further abuse someone who was already a victim and so very defenseless.

We're so fortunate to live in a country that doesn't show the Taliban brand of 'justice'. But there is still so much abuse here. And there are still girls who are submitted by their mothers for female circumcision even here in the US

The abuse that humans can heap on one another just never ceases to astonish or horrify me. Looking at what has been done to some women and children is my ultimate 'desire for nepenthe' scenario. I want to forget that there are people out there who are so despicable as to have done such horrifying things to their fellow humans, so many of them children. 

But I cannot forget those who have suffered at their hands. I cannot forget Bibi Aisha's face and the fact that she has learned to smile again. She has survived, and is so very brave. She and all her many sisters in spirit just haunt you, don't they?  They certainly haunt me. 

To help contribute to Aisha's reconstructive surgery, you can donate at:

Their server seems to have been overloaded, so you might want to give it a day or two if you can't get a connection.

"There are times when silence becomes an accomplice to injustice." 
— Ayaan Hirsi Ali

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The Irish Thing

Yes, I'm going to go all Irish on you. The Kelly, O'Leary, Wilson and Lapping blood will out. But mostly, since I'm thinking about healthcare reform so much this week, I'm slapping this up and thinking about Kennedy and his lost Senate seat and lost Senate voice.  I guess Teddy Kennedy is living proof that a man can redeem himself from the seemingly unredeemable (think Chappaquiddick) but he really did much good. I can't imagine what he'd say looking at the mess of the present bill. Well, being Irish, I actually can. I'm just not going to put it in print. Anyway, had he lived, I really wonder if we would have not had a much better and stronger bill. Who knows- we might have even had some reform.

Wouldn't it be nice if St. Patrick could come and drive the snakes out of Congress?

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Just a thought...

What if they were really the same person?

Monday, March 15, 2010


So yesterday I went to my friend Carmen's wedding. It was lovely to see someone who both was in love and who believed in love. Enough to make big promises. Going to weddings always makes me reflect on my own lack of a wedding. I got married at the courthouse and went back to the lab to finish my high vacuum ESR experiment which involved reduction of a calixquinone on metallic potassium. Yeah, I was pretty busy that day. My parents got the requisite 48 hour notice and one had to fly in from Sacramento. I went to lunch and said enough celebration already, my ESR cell is under vacuum folks. My parents understood. And so did my husband, which is an awesome sign for compatibility, no? But he's a chemist too, so I guess he got it. My mom (an artist and former dancer) was worn down at that point by three decades of tomboyism. When I started rock climbing a few years later, she didn't even flinch. 

Anyway, the interesting thing is that when I met my husband, there was just some sort of click. It was like instant getting along, and that's considering that I'm really a pretty cynical person when it comes to things like that. But Carmen didn't feel that connection the first time she met John. She was in a different place mentally and didn't see him again for a year and then they happened, truly by chance and the intervention of two friends of mine who are sisters, to meet again at a philanthropic event. It was instant chemistry that time. The timing was just right.

Timing, or as Jung would have called it, synchronicity, is such an odd thing. There was Senator Obama's timing in being elected the junior senator from Illinois and giving that memorable speech at the 2004 DNC. He caught fire and ignited hopes in so many for a different America. A different future. A different ethos. Where did it all go? Where is that man today? The gulf between idealism and pragmatism has turned out to be so very, very wide.

I'm seriously considering peeling my Obama sticker off my car. Or I could alter it to read "Change I Wish I Could Believe In". Or "Change I No Longer Believe Will Happen".

A case in point: What happened to healthcare reform? The bill that is before us is a pale shadow of what we were promised. If passed, it will be a reason for conservatives to point out, for the next 15 or 20 years, that we already have a healthcare reform bill. I was looking earlier at the OED on my Mac. Here's the definition of Reform:

a plan to reform the systemimprovebettermake betteramelioraterefinealtermake alterations tochangeadjustmake adjustments toadaptamendrevisereshaperefashionredesignrestylerevamprebuildreconstructremodelreorganize.after his marriage he reformedmend one's wayschange for the betterturn over a new leafimprove.nounthe reform of the prison systemimprovementameliorationrefinementalterationchangeadaptationamendmentrevision,reshapingrefashioningredesigningrestylingrevamprevampingrenovationrebuildingreconstructionremodeling,reorganizingreorganization.
I guess it's sad to say that I'm really questioning so much of what our political system can accomplish. Of course, the judicial branch hasn't helped much, what with giving special interests the right to buy our elections. I still reread John Paul Stevens' dissent every once in a while.

Ken Heinen/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., left, and Justice John Paul Stevens at the Supreme Court in 2005.

From the bench, he was quoted as saying variously:

"The court's ruling threatens to undermine the integrity of elected institutions around the nation."

“The rule announced today — that Congress must treat corporations exactly like human speakers in the political realm — represents a radical change in the law. The court’s decision is at war with the views of generations of Americans.”

In his written dissent, he stated:

“Such an assumption would have accorded the propaganda broadcasts to our troops by ‘Tokyo Rose’ during World War II the same protection as speech by Allied commanders.”

and most memorably:

“While American democracy is imperfect, few outside the majority of this court would have thought its flaws included a dearth of corporate money in politics.”

How much has the healthcare insurance industry and big pharma paid into the US Congress to steer things their way? I shudder to imagine. They were probably using your premiums and mine to do it. And I am so very sure we will pay the price not just for not having a good reform bill, but for assuring that we don't have a good reform bill.

So I look at all the politics and I think to myself that timing really is everything, and sadly, the time for change appears to have passed us by.

I'm so happy for Carmen and John and that the timing was right for them. And I'm so sad for all the many people I know, and see around me, who needed not just change they could believe in, but healthcare.