Pope Francis

Mother Theresa: Saint or Satanic?

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Published on the The Greanville Post on March 18, 2016

Mother-Teresa-9

Beatified in 2003 as “Blessed Teresa of Calcutta,” she was unjustifiably called “saint of the gutters” for allegedly helping the poorest of the poor.

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Awarded a Nobel Peace Prize in 1979 for “humanitarian work” and “spiritual inspiration,” her legacy is notably unsaintly.

Instead of caring for the sick and needy, she hobnobbed with the world’s rich, famous and infamous, accepting large donations from dubious sources, including convicted savings & loan crook Charles Keating, Haitian dictator “Baby Doc” Duvalier, and other notorious tyrants.

 

 

After a promising beginning that aroused expectations in many quarters, Francis has shown himself to be a conventional Pope, with a lengthening roster of misfires. The fast-track canonization of a sham saint ratifies he is no enemy of the status quo. CC BY-NC-ND by Martin Schulz – EP President

 

 

Her so-called hospitals were human warehouses. Hunger and malnutrition were widespread. Sick and dying patients got little medical care from untrained nuns and other personnel – poor food and mistreatment instead under deplorable unsanitary conditions, conducive to serious illnesses and diseases.

Journalist/documentary filmmaker Donal Macintyre witnessed firsthand what went on. “Rescued” orphans were crammed into tight spaces with “hardly a breath of air between their bare metal bed frames,” he said.

Some children were strapped to beds or otherwise restrained. They had “their mouths gagged open to be given medicine, their hands flaying in distress, visible testimony to the pain they were in.”

“Tiny babies were bound with cloths at feeding time. Rough hands wrenched heads into position” to ingest deplorable food. Horrific mistreatment was commonplace, an affront to human dignity, Macintyre explained.

Cold water substituted for warm and hot. Soap and disinfectants were in short supply. “Workers washed down beds with dirty water and dirty cloths.” Macintyre “witnessed barbaric treatment of the most vulnerable.”

The nun was… a paramount example of the kind of acceptably conservative icon propagated by an elite-dominated culture, a ‘saint’ who uttered not a critical word against social injustice, and maintained cozy relations with the rich, corrupt, and powerful.”—Michael Parenti

Mother Teresa and her staff dispensed inhumane and degrading treatment. She was a sinner, not a saint, traveling the world in luxury, indulging in undeserved celebrity.

Claiming she fed thousands daily in Calcutta, it was scores at most. Alleging her school taught 5,000 children, its enrollment was less than 100.

Saying she had 102 family assistance centers in Calcutta, none existed. During area cholera epidemics and floods, she provided virtually no help for desperate people.

She spent most of her time abroad, jet-setting to Western capitals, enjoying luxuries, mindless of the suffering of sick and needy Calcutta residents she claimed to be helping.

Michael Parenti earlier called her “a paramount example of the kind of acceptably conservative icon propagated by an elite-dominated culture, a ‘saint’ who uttered not a critical word against social injustice, and maintained cozy relations with the rich, corrupt, and powerful.”

“She claimed to be above politics when in fact she was pronouncedly hostile toward any kind of progressive reform.”

Her public persona was one thing, reality entirely different, awarding her sainthood another black mark defining longstanding deplorable Vatican policy.



 

ABOUT STEPHEN LENDMAN
Screen Shot 2016-02-19 at 10.13.00 AMSTEPHEN LENDMAN lives in Chicago. He can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net. His new book as editor and contributor is titled “Flashpoint in Ukraine: US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III.”  ( http://www.claritypress.com/LendmanIII.html ) Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Gift of Clear Mind: Laudato Si’

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Published on Peak Surfer on June 28, 2015

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Discuss this article at the Environment Table inside the Diner

"Human beings and material objects no longer extend a friendly hand to one another; the relationship has become confrontational."
 

Does the Pope also Duckwalk?

If we are honest and admit climate change threatens the survival of our species, right now and not next decade or next century, and don't just turn away or accept the numbing banality that comes with avoidance of the subject, we would have to, to not be hypocritical, actually choose to do something about what we know we know.

But do what, exactly? Our institutions are not working. Any real change has to come from our personal footprint, changing our choices. Change is our only way of being truthful with ourselves, and not neurotic or schizophrenic.

What is needed, says Margaret Klein Salamon, founder of Climate Change Mobilization, are achievable goals, a set of actions that anyone can take and appreciate that they are actually changing the situation for the better. Merely changing light bulbs or buying a Prius won't cut it. It has to involve not green consumerism but de-consumerism. We have to give up those fabulous perks that came with the Age of Oil; to discard zombie fashion. We have to stop having so many babies, eating so much meat, and cutting down so many trees. We have to go back to understanding our relationship with the land and our sources of sustenance, and showing greater care for the whole of the natural world that underpins our existence.

Salaman says:

When people become agents for truth and vital change, they are elevated, enlarged, and lit up. The truth, and their role in advancing it, affects how they view themselves, what occupies their mind, and how they conduct their affairs. The power of truth allows them to transcend their limitations and what they once thought possible for themselves.

We cannot begin to say how refreshing it is to see Pope Francis face the urgency of the situation and awaken us to our need to be alive, and to swim upstream. To borrow a line from Jim Hightower, “Even a dead fish can swim downstream.” In his new encyclical, Laudato Si', Francis writes:
 

The violence present in our hearts, wounded by sin, is also reflected in the symptoms of sickness evident in the soil, in the water, in the air and in all forms of life. This is why the earth herself, burdened and laid waste, is among the most abandoned and maltreated of our poor; she “groans in travail” (Rom 8:22). We have forgotten that we ourselves are dust of the earth (cf. Gen 2:7); our very bodies are made up of her elements, we breathe her air and we receive life and refreshment from her waters.

***

[I]f we no longer speak the language of fraternity and beauty in our relationship with the world, our attitude will be that of masters, consumers, ruthless exploiters, unable to set limits on their immediate needs. By contrast, if we feel intimately united with all that exists, then sobriety and care will well up spontaneously.


The pope comes out against technological advances that will save us from our modern sins or magically improve productivity by replacing human work. He eschews market-based mechanisms to solve environmental problems, condemning, like the popes before him, the profit motive at its root.

The New York Times columnist David Brooks, defender of both profits and the fossil economy, responds:
 

Within marriage, lust can lead to childbearing. Within a regulated market, greed can lead to entrepreneurship and economic innovation. Within a constitution, the desire for fame can lead to political greatness…. [G]as and oil resources extracted through fracking have already added more than $430 billion to annual gross domestic product and supported more than 2.7 million jobs that pay, on average, twice the median U.S. salary.


We won't quibble with either Brooks or the pope because they are speaking past each other. Brooks is right that lust and greed are powerful motivators, and part of our serpent brain. Francis is right that to live at peace with each other and the planet we have to set aside those childish things, open our hearts and begin to see the world as adults. Brooks is clinging to the past while Francis is salvaging the future.

Jeb Bush, shortly after announcing his candidacy for US President, told a reporter about the pope's statement, "I don't get my economic advice from my priest." His pollsters are telling him he is on the wrong side of the climate issue but his strategists tell him he doesn't want to see the Koch brothers' billions go to a rival. Perhaps he thinks he will pivot later in the race, before he has to debate Bernie. 

 

What is new is that it is not even about pandering to voters anymore. Even half of Republicans now want this issue dealt with. Well, good luck, because the zombie lies aren't about the voters. They're for the donors, who make their living killing the planet. The question is not why today's politicians suck more than ever, it is who they are sucking more than ever.

 

—  Bill Maher


Paradigms change. Jason Hickel, Martin Kirk, and Joe Brewer, co-authors of a London School of Economics comparison between the encyclical and the UN's Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), wrote in The Guardian:
 

He calls out the transnational corporations that profit by polluting poor countries. He criticizes the foreign debt system that has become a tool by which rich countries control poor countries. And he warns that the financial sector, grown too powerful, has eroded the sovereignty of nation states and “tends to prevail over the political.”

This is an important move, because without naming the forces that cause human suffering and environmental destruction, it is impossible to address them.


As Professor Ian Gough put it, "This revolutionary encyclical challenges both current ethics and economics."


Francis continues:

The basic problem goes even deeper: it is the way that humanity has taken up technology and its development according to an undifferentiated and one-dimensional paradigm. This paradigm exalts the concept of a subject who, using logical and rational procedures, progressively approaches and gains control over an external object. This subject makes every effort to establish the scientific and experimental method, which in itself is already a technique of possession, mastery and transformation. It is as if the subject were to find itself in the presence of something formless, completely open to manipulation.

Men and women have constantly intervened in nature, but for a long time this meant being in tune with and respecting the possibilities offered by the things themselves. It was a matter of receiving what nature itself allowed, as if from its own hand. Now, by contrast, we are the ones to lay our hands on things, attempting to extract everything possible from them while frequently ignoring or forgetting the reality in front of us. Human beings and material objects no longer extend a friendly hand to one another; the relationship has become confrontational. This has made it easy to accept the idea of infinite or unlimited growth, which proves so attractive to economists, financiers and experts in technology. It is based on the lie that there is an infinite supply of the earth’s goods, and this leads to the planet being squeezed dry beyond every limit.

It is the false notion that “an infinite quantity of energy and resources are available, that it is possible to renew them quickly, and that the negative effects of the exploitation of the natural order can be easily absorbed” (quoting the Pontifical Council For Justice And Peace, Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, at page 462).


Here Francis begins to sound more like the Dalai Lama. The Tibetian Book of Secret Doctrines says, "Cherish no notion of separated individuality." Subject and Object are one. Man and Nature are one. Form and Formlessness are one. Mind and Buddha are one. The encyclical says:
 

It cannot be emphasized enough how everything is interconnected. Time and space are not independent of one another, and not even atoms or subatomic particles can be considered in isolation. Just as the different aspects of the planet – physical, chemical and biological – are interrelated, so too living species are part of a network which we will never fully explore and understand. A good part of our genetic code is shared by many living beings. It follows that the fragmentation of knowledge and the isolation of bits of information can actually become a form of ignorance, unless they are integrated into a broader vision of reality.


Speaking directly to his "cheerfully reckless" critics, Francis says:

It has become countercultural to choose a lifestyle whose goals are even partly independent of technology, of its costs and its power to globalize and make us all the same. Technology tends to absorb everything into its ironclad logic, and those who are surrounded with technology “know full well that it moves forward in the final analysis neither for profit nor for the well-being of the human race”, that “in the most radical sense of the term power is its motive – a lordship over all” (quoting Omano Guardini, Das Ende der Neuzeit, (The End of the Modern World, at 56).

***

Many things have to change course, but it is we human beings above all who need to change. We lack an awareness of our common origin, of our mutual belonging, and of a future to be shared with everyone. This basic awareness would enable the development of new convictions, attitudes and forms of life. A great cultural, spiritual and educational challenge stands before us, and it will demand that we set out on the long path of renewal.


The study by Hickel, Kirk and Brewer contrasted Francis’s vision with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals:
 

The SDGs are right to embrace a wide range of issues. Unlike their predecessors, the millennium development goals, they recognize that the problems we face are multidimensional. But they have confused thoroughness with holism, lists with patterns. It’s a mistake born of outdated thinking.

The pope, by contrast, has struck at the systemic nature of the issue. “It cannot be emphasized enough how everything is connected,” he says. “To seek only a technical remedy to each environmental problem which comes up is to separate what is in reality interconnected and to mask the true and deepest problems of the global system.”

This is what makes the encyclical far more than a document about climate change. It is a profound critique of the deep logic of our political economy. This is a vastly more sophisticated paradigm than the one that underpins the SDGs and a large part of why the encyclical feels cohesive, fresh and relevant, where the SDGs feel inconsistent, clunky and 20 years out of date.


Francis is not above legitimate criticism, less for what he puts into the encyclical than for what he leaves out. Physicist Lawrence Krauss, writing for the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, says:
 

First off, he dismisses the need to address reproductive rights for women, and also the concomitant problem of population growth in poor countries as part of any proposed solution to world environmental problems. If one is seriously worried about the environment on a global scale, then one needs to worry about population growth. A population of 10 billion by 2050 will likely be unsustainable at a level that provides all humans with adequate food and access to medicine, water, and security.  Moreover, the environmental problems induced by overpopulation are also disproportionately born by those in poor countries, where access to birth control and abortion is often limited. As I have argued elsewhere recently in this regard, ultimately empowering women to manage their own reproductive future gives them the surest road out of poverty.


Perhaps even more glaring is the double standard within which Francis, with Franciscan modesty, lives in a grand gilded palace, overseeing a legion of wealthy Cardinals, while calling for even the poorest among us to reduce consumption. To be sure, the encyclical was directed to believers within the church, including collegially off-key voices within the Vatican. Cardinal George Pell, its head of finance, currently immersed in a scandal involving paedophile priests in Australia, is a prominent climate change denier and plenty of other senior Catholics are dredging up lame, discredited arguments against His Holiness's views. To them, Francis says:
 

Christian spirituality proposes an alternative understanding of the quality of life, and encourages a prophetic and contemplative lifestyle, one capable of deep enjoyment free of the obsession with consumption. We need to take up an ancient lesson, found in different religious traditions and also in the Bible. It is the conviction that “less is more”. A constant flood of new consumer goods can baffle the heart and prevent us from cherishing each thing and each moment. To be serenely present to each reality, however small it may be, opens us to much greater horizons of understanding and personal fulfillment. Christian spirituality proposes a growth marked by moderation and the capacity to be happy with little. It is a return to that simplicity which allows us to stop and appreciate the small things, to be grateful for the opportunities which life affords us, to be spiritually detached from what we possess, and not to succumb to sadness for what we lack. This implies avoiding the dynamic of dominion and the mere accumulation of pleasures.


In 1978, Vaclev Havel, who led the non-violent Velvet Revolution and later became president of post-Soviet Czechoslovakia, wrote:
 

(The power of truth) does not reside in the strength of definable political or social groups, but chiefly in a potential, which is hidden throughout the whole of society, including the official power structures of that society. Therefore this power does not rely on soldiers of its own, but on soldiers of the enemy as it were—that is to say, on everyone who is living within the lie and who may be struck at any moment (in theory, at least) by the force of truth (or who, out of an instinctive desire to protect their position, may at least adapt to that force). It is a bacteriological weapon, so to speak, utilized when conditions are ripe by a single civilian to disarm an entire division…. This, too, is why the regime prosecutes, almost as a reflex action, preventatively, even modest attempts to live in truth.


Salaman wrote, "Climate truth has the potential to be more powerful than any country’s independence; more powerful that overthrowing authoritarian states; and more powerful than civil rights or any group’s struggle for safety, recognition and equality. Climate truth contains such superordinate power because all of those causes depend on a safe climate."

Will the Papal Encyclical make any real difference in the battle against climate change? One need only recall what happened in 1979, when John Paul II traveled to Poland and preached thirty-two sermons in nine days. Timothy Garton Ash put it this way, "Without the pope, no Solidarity. Without Solidarity, no Gorbachev. Without Gorbachev, no fall of communism." Bogdan Szajkowski said it was, "A psychological earthquake, an opportunity for mass political catharsis…"  The Poles who turned out by the millions looked around and saw they were not alone.  

This Week in Doom, June 21, 2015

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Originally published on the Doomstead Diner on June 21, 2015

drought

"A single death is a tragedy; a million deaths is a statistic."

-Joseph Stalin

The deathcount for non-human life forms on this planet continues to mount exponentially. Numbed as we are by technology and distracted by likes, tweets, clicks and noise, the parade of deaths marches on in the face of our collective indifference. Animals inhabit another country, they are not-us, we rationalize to ourselves, so they are as free to die as they are for us to eat, as we have for many lifetimes of living atop to Great Ponzi of Happy Motoring and the Lifestyle the Petrodollar built. Fish kills. Sea lions. Whales. Birds dropping dead from the sky in great flocks. Starfish. Frogs. Snails. Even crickets, at RE's back door just recently. Each death an implicit sacrifice so that we might know something, and by the knowing, do something. Anything. Yet we stare in mute horror, and wring our hands in helplessness, appalled and humbled at the same time, as we do at measurements of the ongoing drought and find out that as bad as it is, it's worse than we thought. Yet climate change deniers continue to "teach the controversy," or otherwise distract the proles, the better to post up the quarterly profit. Even Pope Francis, el supremo of one of the most conservative organizations on the planet, has been moved to issue an encyclical calling for changes in lifestyles and energy consumption to avert the “unprecedented destruction of the ecosystem.” One wonders what it will take for the calls be heeded?

Yet in the same week we celebrated the 800th birthday of the Magna Carta, that much ballyhooed first step towards universal freedom and liberty, we consider how we have created a market for prison slave labor, the better to honor our contracts with the operators, to whom we have subcontracted our moral responsibilities for rehabilitation. And yes Virginia, slavery is still happily legal for the incarcerated, a blessed state, the returns for which are much beloved by cost accountants, CFOs, and especially the stockholders.

So if you're scoring at home, this week we see a clear distinction between the moral and the immoral, the true vs. the profitable. Our disinterest, some might say, stems from the moral failing at the heart of market triumphalism and its corresponding greed, which leads to irresponsible risk-taking and a continued effort to get some unnamed other to bear the externalized costs. It is the reach of markets and market values into every single sphere of life, including those traditionally governed by moral objectives and principles. Like right and wrong. But that's a rant for another time.

I had done a really good job with this column this week, making notes for it, writing as I went along, instead of waiting for Sunday morning to spit out 2000 words.  And then, Charleston.  Dylann Roof, the self-styled "Last Rhodesian's" mass murder at the Emmanuel AME church is a tragedy, but not the stuff of doom, you might say.  And on the surface I might agree.  But the rapid politicization  of the responses to that tragedy (the NRA blames the victims,  Fox "News" and other right-wing media outlets, including most of the Republican field for President, say some variant of, "we can't possibly know what he was thinking" when Roof left behind a website that said exactly what he was thinking,  and Alex Jones, Michael Savage and other conspiracy theorists posit a "programmed government killer set loose so Obama can take our gunz") is in itself disgusting. And if the seeds of doom and total societal collapse are not to be found on the blood stained floors of that South Carolinian church, they are surely to be found in the shrunken, misshapen remains of hearts that continue to beat, inexplicably, inside too many American breasts. As opposed the the grace that has already emanated from some of the families of the victims, who have already forgiven the gunman.


Who is climate change killing this week?

 The roll call of the inexplicably dead turning up by the thousands continues this week.  But the dead aren't white male Americans, so it really doesn't matter. The dead are voiceless, helpless, and unable to respond except to die, and thus bear mute testimony  to our actions.  California sea lion pups and New England moose among others.

Let’s start with the moose. According to National Geographic, the moose population in New Hampshire went from about 7,500 in the late 90s to about 4,500 by 2013. In Maine, where about 60,000 moose make up the densest moose population in the lower 48, scientists also suspect a decline (although data is scarce).

The culprit? Our old enemy, climate change, which is giving a boost to another old enemy, bloodthirsty ticks, says National Geographic:

The reason is likely climate change, biologists say, which is ushering in shorter, warmer winters that are boosting the fortunes of winter ticks. The tiny creatures latch on to moose here in staggering numbers: One moose can house 75,000 ticks, which are helping to drive a troubling rise in moose deaths, especially among calves.

Warning: Things are about to get horrifying.

And if that's not enough, then there is this: the largest toxic algal bloom ever recorded on the west coast:

Scientists onboard a NOAA research vessel are beginning a survey of what could be the largest toxic algae bloom ever recorded off the West Coast… At the same time, two other types of toxins rarely seen in combination are turning up along the Washington coast.

And in the spirit of Ron Popeil, "but wait! There's more!" Researchers find that species we normally ignore, such as snails, are disappearing at a rapid pace—another indicator of mass extinction.

For years now, conservationists have warned that Earth is in the middle of the “sixth great extinction,” with dozens of species going extinct every day owing to habitat loss, pollution, climate change, and other factors.

But here’s even worse news: That may be just the tip of the iceberg. According to new research, previous estimates may seriously underestimate the number of species that we’re losing. A paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences suggests that we may have already lost 130,000 species, or a staggering 7 percent of the world’s total biodiversity.

How could we have lost so many species without noticing? It’s simple: The authors say most of these extinctions are not big, noticeable creatures such as rhinos and tigers. Instead they’re tiny insects and other invertebrates that don’t get much attention. These species tend to have very small ranges with specific habitat needs and aren’t often well studied. 

 For a more in-depth report on  how an unseen extinction is decimating our biota, see this article.


Shocking drought data from NASA

It's bad. Really bad. Really, really bad:

"We don't know exactly how much groundwater we have left, so we don't know when we're going to run out," said Stephanie Castle, a water resources specialist at the University of California, Irvine, and the study's lead author. "This is a lot of water to lose. We thought that the picture could be pretty bad, but this was shocking."

"Combined with declining snowpack and population growth, this will likely threaten the long-term ability of the basin to meet its water allocation commitments to the seven basin states and to Mexico," Famiglietti said.

What's more troubling, while westerners are conserving water in a historic drought, the Nestle Corporation is still draining western aquifers for profit. One might legitimately ask on what planet is is legal to take water from a drought zone, bottle it and sell it.

And then there are these assholes: Ultra-wealthy Californians refusing to conserve water may signal the beginning of a much bigger crisis. Meet Steve Yuhas, designated spokesman for the .1 per cent, stakng out a position in the coming class war: 

So how do you explain a place like Rancho Santa Fe, an enclave of San Diego County, where water use has gone up by 9 percent since April?

Money. Steve Yuhas, a conservative talk-show host and part-time resident of Rancho Santa Fe, explained in a Washington Post hate-read this weekend: “We pay significant property taxes based on where we live,” he said. “And, no, we’re not all equal when it comes to water.”

Yuhas’ quote is one of many nauseatingly backwards statements in the piece on why ultra-wealthy owners of multi-acre properties—which might boast orchards, stables, elaborate waterworks, and of course, bright sweeps of lawn—deserve more sympathy and fewer penalties.

Add entitlement syndrome, as predictable as sunrise:

Still, for the “1 percent”… a limitless sense of entitlement plus a limitless supply of funds is a powerful combination. With California’s groundwater regulations years away from taking effect, what’s to stop deep-pocketed homeowners from digging their own wells? Or trucking in water? Or striking deals with local politicians? One ultra-wealthy resident compares his sprawling lawns to his Chevy Suburban: He can afford to pay for copious amounts water and gas, so who’s to say it’s not his right to do so?

It’s a chilling analogy, because many predict that water shortages, exacerbated by climate change, are going to cause global warfare similar to the way oil has. Water and oil are both highly limited resources. Yet water, unlike oil, is a human right—for Californians and for the 750 million who live without access to clean water worldwide. The attitude that money can, and should, buy any quantity of water isn’t common yet in California, but as droughts become longer and more dire all over the planet, it will likely spread. And the gap between who can drink freely and who cannot will grow.


Laudato Si

 

This week, Pope Francisco released his much anticipated and relentlessly leaked enclyclical, Laudato Si, or Praised Be to You: On Care for Our Common Home,” which was developed over the past year with the input of dozens of scientists, scholars, theologians and over the objections of opponents such as The Heartland Institute. In the encyclical, Francis aligns himself firmly alongside the environmental movement and its objectives and with the Church's traditional reverence for life. While acknowledging some natural causes of global warming are possible, the Pope asserted that climate change is mostly a human-made problem, one of the “principal challenges facing humanity.”  Pope Francis calls on citizens, politicians, business leaders, organizations—in short, all of us—to act immediately and decisively to stop climate change, renew our relationship with Nature, and “enter a dialogue with all people about our common home.”

Some excerpts, which speak eloquently on their own:

“Humanity is called to take note of the need for changes in lifestyle and changes in methods of production and consumption to combat this warming, or at least the human causes that produce and accentuate it,” he wrote. “Numerous scientific studies indicate that the greater part of the global warming in recent decades is due to the great concentration of greenhouse gases … given off above all because of human activity.”

 

“A very solid scientific consensus indicates that we are presently witnessing a disturbing warming of the climatic system. … A number of scientific studies indicate that most global warming in recent decades is due to the great concentration of greenhouse gases (carbon dioxide, methane, nitrogen oxides and others) released mainly as a result of human activity.”

 

“The Earth, our home, is beginning to look more and more like an immense pile of filth. In many parts of the planet, the elderly lament that once beautiful landscapes are now covered with rubbish.”

“Never have we so hurt and mistreated our common home as we have in the last 200 years.”

 

“If present trends continue, this century may well witness extraordinary climate change and an unprecedented destruction of ecosystems, with serious consequences for all of us. A rise in the sea level, for example, can create extremely serious situations, if we consider that a quarter of the world’s population lives on the coast or nearby, and that the majority of our megacities are situated in coastal areas.”

 

“Each year sees the disappearance of thousands of plant and animal species which we will never know, which our children will never see, because they have been lost forever.”

We “must forcefully reject the notion that our being created in God’s image and given dominion over the earth justifies absolute domination over other creatures.”

 

“One particularly serious problem is the quality of water available to the poor…. Yet access to safe drinkable water is a basic and universal human right, since it is essential to human survival and, as such, is a condition for the exercise of other human rights. Our world has a grave social debt towards the poor who lack access to drinking water, because they are denied the right to a life consistent with their inalienable dignity.”

The usual butthurt bleatings have been heard from  fossil fuel apologists, climate change deniers, and the pols and campaign-donation-receivers-in-becoming who love them.  A representative sampling of tweets from paid shill Steven Milloy sets the tone for the critics:

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Praised Be to You, Pope Francisco. Steven Milloy and his ilk notwithstanding, the world is with you, for reaffirming climate change as a moral issue and as part of the Church's support for the sanctity of life.


The Modernized Slave Labor System: Also Known as the Prison Industrial Complex

When you create a market for prisoners, as many states have through subcontracting corrections to for-profit third parties, you get distortions. In basic humanity.  During a week where the environment gets attention front and center, business usual continues in some of the darkest corners of the human soul.

The United States prison system, not only a machine for mass incarceration, but a machine for modernized slave labor. The United States has 5% of the worlds population, yet we have 25% of the world's prison population. Land of the free right?
It would seem the statistics say otherwise, since the official drug war president Nixon announced in the 70’s, our prison population has grown over 700%! Recent estimates put our prison population to well over 2.4 million inmates. 50% of the federal prison inmates are for non violent drug offenses. All the while 20% of state prison inmates are drug related.

prison-stats

Is this making Americans safer, or is there an entire industry making money off of imprisoning human beings? It’s estimated that nearly 1 million convicts fill the ranks of Unicor. Unicor being the government owned corporation that handles the labor of inmates! It’s no doubt the federal government sees an opportunity in prison labor, as they have used Unicor to have $100 million worth of military uniforms made for as little as $2 an hour. The government has no problem with using prison labor, and Unicor is estimated at raking in over $900 million a year.

McDonald’s, Walmart, AT&T, Chevron, and IBM are just the names of a few companies that support the use of prison labor

And wha could be more profitable than legalized slavery?


The Magna Carta turns 800 

The Magna Carta turned 800 years old on Monday.  Known as the "Great Charter," it is widely considered the foundation of parliamentary democracy, human rights and the supremacy of the law over the crown. Signed in Runnymede in 1215, and originally drafted to forge an uneasy peace between an unpopular King John and a group of rebel barons tired of tribute and excessive taxation to fund Joh's endless wars to restore his lands in France. The document promised protection of church rights,  for the barons from illegal imprisonment, access to swift justice, and limitations on how much the Crown could exact. Then as now, neither side stood behind their commitments. Research has shown that the Magna Carta was much more about the relationship between the monarch and the barons, rather than the rights of ordinary people, but the document still resonates as a symbol of the primacy of the rule of law over the rule of men.

In an interview on Democracy Now, Peter Linebaugh weighed in , as did Paul Craig Roberts separately.

A number of legal scholars have made the irrelevant point that the Magna Carta protected rights of the Church, nobles, and free men who were not enserfed, a small percentage of the population in the early 13th century. We hear the same about the US Constitution — it was something the rich did for themselves. I have no sympathy for debunking human achievements that, in the end, gave ordinary people liberty.

At Runnymede in 1215, no one but the armed barons had the power and audacity to make King John submit to law. The rule of law, not the rule of the sovereign or of the executive branch in Washington acceded to by a cowardly and corrupt Congress and Supreme Court, is a human achievement that grew out of the Magna Carta over the centuries, with ups and downs of course.

I get that argument and am not unsympathetic. Speaking to Amy Goodman, Linebaugh said,

Both the big charter and the little charter depend and recognize the 90 percent of the people of England who were serfs and poor people and foresters and commoners. Amy, it took about 40 serfs to produce the food just for one horse of those barons and those knights. So while it was a document settling scores in the ruling class, that ruling class had to recognize the principle of the commons and had to recognize—well, in fact, it abolished capital punishment for killing of deer in the forests of England, a great step forward. It prohibited the disparagement of women. Its seventh chapter called for estovers of the widow in the common. Basically, it meant that she could have her fuel, she could have tools, she could have repairs for her house from the forest. And remember that the forest and woods, that was the petroleum of that epoch. That is, so many materials, so much wealth came exclusively from wood. So, for a woman or a widow, in particular, to have access to the commons meant survival.

We can criticize the Magna Carta as being by nobles for nobles in the same way we can criticize the Declarations's authors for the same reasons. And we do. Yet for all that, a document which gives rise to these words can only be so bad:

"No free man shall be seized or imprisoned, or stripped of his rights … or outlawed or exiled, or deprived of his standing in any other way, nor will we proceed with force against him, or send others to do so, except by the lawful judgement of his peers and the law of the land."

and…

“Wherefore we wish and firmly command that the English Church shall be free and that men in our kingdom have and hold all such aforesaid liberties, rights and grants, well and in peace, freely and quietly, fully and completely, for themselves and their heirs, in all things and in all places, in perpetuity.”

Yet no one to date has satisfactorily explained the remedy when one class of "free men" "seizes" or "deprives of standing" another smaller, poorer free man. Some call that the role of government, via regulation, that anathema to corporatists and free-marketeers everywhere. Yet those laws and regulations are what we use instead of resorting to lampposts and 40 feet of sturdy nylon rope. Good words to go out on this week.


banksy 07-flower-thrower-wallpaperSurly1 is an administrator and contributing author to Doomstead Diner. He is the author of numerous rants, articles and spittle-flecked invective on this site, and quit barking and got off the porch long enough to be active in the Occupy movement. He shares a home in Southeastern Virginia with his new bride Contrary in a triumph of hope over experience, and is grateful that he is not yet taking a dirt nap.

 

This Week In Doom October 6, 2013: Franciscus

From the keyboard of Surly1
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Originally published on the Doomstead Diner on October 6, 2013

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Discuss this article here in the Diner Forum.

Franciscus

“I believe in God, not in a Catholic God; there is no Catholic God. There is God and I believe in Jesus Christ, his incarnation. Jesus is my teacher and my pastor, but God, the Father, Abba, is the light and the Creator. This is my Being. Each of us has a vision of good and of evil. We have to encourage people to move towards what they think is Good. … Everyone has his own idea of good and evil and must choose to follow the good and fight evil as he conceives them. That would be enough to make the world a better place.”

“Despite all the slowness, the infidelities, the errors and sins [the Church] could have committed and can still commit… it has no other sense or end but that of living and witnessing Jesus: He who was sent by Abba ‘to preach good news to the poor, to proclaim release to captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord’ (Luke 4:18-19)”

“We cannot insist only on issues related to abortion, gay marriage and the use of contraceptive methods. This is not possible.The teaching of the church, for that matter, is clear and I am a son of the church, but it is not necessary to talk about these issues all the time.”

“I have never been a right-winger. It was my authoritarian way of making decisions that created problems.”

Jorge Mario Bergoglio

***

My record as a public scold on these pages has been one of pursuit of social justice. Whether writing about the cold structural injustice of the economy, the worship of Mammon in a nominally Christian nation, the Occupy movement from one man’s perspective, its foibles, or current events, my view has been consistent: That the economy is a Ponzi scheme kept afloat by the Fed, the net effect of which is to  transfer wealth from the middle class to the upper one quarter of one percent. That the government, once the refuge of common folk, is now the oppressor, its regulatory agencies captured by the corporations they were intended to regulate. That our technology has outstripped our moral capacity by at least several centuries, and that we are awash in both toys and weapons of mass distruction without ethics guiding their employment.  That the courtier media is as corrupt as it is obsequious. . .  and on and on.

This week’s effort will mark a departure from the usual diet of clucking at the weekly record of Indications The The World Is Going to Hell. Thus in a week where the moral midgets of the Midway bring government to a screeching halt, where those whose votes are directly responsible for putting over 800,000 people out of employment defend their actions and  their  paychecks under the guise of, “I need my paycheck” ,  where a man sets himself on fire on the National Mall, where we learn that the NSA continues to sort and sift every electronic communication we originate, and where a whistleblower reveals how the global elite rule the world (and aside from Michael Snyder (and the Diner), nobody notices), it is easy to elevate Blake to the level of Old Testament prophecy:

The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

(Blake, The Second Coming)

The Inauguration Mass For Pope Francis

Amidst the din and clamor, the utterances of one man caught my attention this week.  Pope Francis, born Jorge Mario Bergoglio,  has been making both statements and simple acts of faith that signify a sharp break with recent Vatican history.  The Pope’s visit to Assisi this week gathers many of these threads into one strand. Many assumed that like Benedict before him, he would be a caretaker pope, having been elevated at the age of 76.  In the brief months since his elevation, Francis has shown himself to be anything but.

After his election, Esquire’s Joe Keohane observed:

He won’t wear the shoes. He doesn’t bait the gays, or hound the nuns, or call Mohammed “evil and inhuman,” or fear the mean-girl Vatican cardinals whose solid gold multi-millennium party he’s so genially wrecking. Instead Pope Francis spends his days publicly worrying about social justice, calling attention to the problems of runaway capitalism, and entreating people to be decent to one another. He even washed the feet of a Muslim woman, which is about as double a whammy as a Pope can possible execute—especially after eight years of old Emperor Palpatine there.

 

What Francis says is important because as the head of the Roman Catholic Church,  his statements have a profound effect upon the lives of over one billion Catholics worldwide, especially in the global South where Catholicism is growing most quickly. But the behavior he models may be even more important.

For starters, he eschewes the opulent Vatican apartments for life in a small guest cottage.  He carries his own bags, and cooks his own dinner. He places his own calls to reporters. He prefers tooling around in a Ford Focus to the papal Mercedes-Benz. One of his earliest acts of piety was, per above, to wash and kiss the feet of a dozen young prisoners, two female, and at least one Muslim.  The ritual of footwashing is told to us in the book of John, historically seen as an act of humility. If in the last hours before his crucifixion Jesus could humble himself to clean the feet of  fishermen and camel herders, what was he telling them? And us?

It says here that Jesus’ message was one of selflessness and love. By his actions, Jesus says to take care of one another. Put the other first. Serve one another, and love one another. In a column last week, Leonard Pitts asks:

We should ask what it tells us that a pope models humility, inclusion, unpretentiousness, concern for the poor and nonjudgmental, small “c” catholic love — and people are surprised. Indeed, it generates headlines around the world.

What it should tell us is that people are not used to seeing those virtues from people of faith. Their praise, then, amounts to a stark indictment.

The political discussion advanced by the insurgent right, fueled by the Gospel according to Rand, the views the poor as so many “takers,” little better than pests seeking SNAP card handouts from the virtuous employed. Such is the drumbeat of right wing rhetoric, where people of “faith” make public statements to keep Muslims away, or pray for the president to die, or be replaced by a military coup. Against the backdrop of a decline of organized religion (with mainstream Protestantism suffering the most attrition) and a Church scandalized by  continued exposure of semi-institutionalized sodomy,  this Pope’s words elevating the rights and dignity of the poor, the humanity of those at the margins, and decrying materialism  resonate so clearly.

Francis recently criticized Catholics narrowly “obsessed” with abortion, contraception, homosexuality. He openly called for the church to be for the poor. He even, horror of horrors, said that God loves atheists too.  What Francis is done is to attempt to shift  the focus of the church from being Vatican-centric to being people-centric.

 This past week, Pope Francis visited Assisi, the birthplace of his namesake.

The pope used the occasion of the Feast Day of St. Francis to retrace the footsteps of a holy man widely respected even among people of other faiths. The pope visited the site — now a shrine — where the saint is said to have heard the voice of Jesus and been converted.

The carefully choreographed pilgrimage was sprinkled with impromptu moments, too, as the pope appealed to the church and to Christians worldwide to divest themselves of worldliness, which leads to “vanity, arrogance and pride,” because “it is bad for us,” he said.

What the Pope says is important because he sets the tone for  the church.  Carefully chosen words are one thing: actions are quite another. Since his election, Francis has initiated a series of measures for reform. These include investigating allegations of mismanagement and corruption, changes in the way the church litigates sexual abuse allegations against priests and other clergy, changes in the Vatican hierarchy, appointing a commission to investigate the Vatican bank, even choosing a Group of Eight Cardinals as his personal think tank. He has said he wants to place the Curia (the administrative arm of the Vatican) in service to the universal church, rather than the locus of centralized power.

 Perhaps it’s best to take this pontiff at face value in his own words. In a story that will be referred to, but rarely read in its original,  Francis gave an interview to the atheist editor of Italian daily La Repubblica.  The pope even called publisher Eugenio Scalfari himself  to schedule the interview. Some highlights:

“I’m not Francis of Assisi and I do not have his strength and his holiness. But I am the Bishop of Rome and Pope of the Catholic world. The first thing I decided was to appoint a group of eight cardinals to be my advisers. Not courtiers but wise people who share my own feelings. This is the beginning of a Church with an organization that is not just top-down but also horizontal.”

 “The real trouble is that those most affected by (narcissism) — which is actually a kind of mental disorder — are people who have a lot of power. Often bosses are narcissists. … Heads of the Church have often been narcissists, flattered and thrilled by their courtiers. The court is the leprosy of the papacy.”
 
“The most serious of the evils that afflict the world these days are youth unemployment and the loneliness of the old. The old need care and companionship; the young need work and hope but have neither one nor the other, and the problem is they don’t even look for them any more. They have been crushed by the present. You tell me: Can you live crushed under the weight of the present? Without a memory of the past and without the desire to look ahead to the future by building something, a future, a family? Can you go on like this? This, to me, is the most urgent problem that the Church is facing.”

“I believe … that our goal is not to proselytize but to listen to needs, desires and disappointments, despair, hope. We must restore hope to young people, help the old, be open to the future, spread love. Be poor among the poor. We need to include the excluded and preach peace. … I have the humility and ambition to want to do something.”

Thoughts on the essence of his belief:

“I believe in God, not in a Catholic God; there is no Catholic God. There is God and I believe in Jesus Christ, his incarnation. Jesus is my teacher and my pastor, but God, the Father, Abba, is the light and the Creator. This is my Being.”

“Each of us has a vision of good and of evil. We have to encourage people to move towards what they think is Good. … Everyone has his own idea of good and evil and must choose to follow the good and fight evil as he conceives them. That would be enough to make the world a better place.”

Not what we are used to from the arch conservatives who have attended to the throne of Peter for the last several decades. This pope’s utterances have been enough to upset doctrinal conservatives and others of a more fundamentalist Christian stripe who are eager to see in Francis’s ascension the “Petrus Romanus” allegedly prophesied by St. Malachy.

Among the contingent that lights their own farts, we have the “Petrus Romanus” cock-and-bull story. In sites like these, where banner ads announce , “Fear No Man- Learn to Fight” targeting their audience of mom’s-house-basement-dwellers, there is this sort of thing, appealing to those whose daily  sustenance requires a steady dose of fear and loathing-

Petrus Romanus rising: Pope Francis at the Vatican to revise the church’s constitution-

Conservatives and traditionalists, however, have reacted with dismay and downright alarm at the direction Francis has taken, particularly in the interview with the Jesuit-run La Civilta Cattolica, in which he bemoaned the church’s obsession with “small-minded rules.”

If these are the people that Francis is upsetting, this gives me all the more reason to approve of what he’s doing.

 

In an interview conducted by the Rev. Antonio Spadaro, editor in chief of La Civiltà Cattolica, an Italian Jesuit journal,  Francis doubled down:

“It is not necessary to talk about these issues all the time. The dogmatic and moral teachings of the church are not all equivalent. The church’s pastoral ministry cannot be obsessed with the transmission of a disjointed multitude of doctrines to be imposed insistently.

“We have to find a new balance, otherwise even the moral edifice of the church is likely to fall like a house of cards, losing the freshness and fragrance of the Gospel.”

 None of this goes to change church doctrine or church policy, but it marks a sharp departure in tone. For the first time in many decades, liberal Catholics, long an endangered species in the American Church, found  room for optimism.  Charlie Pierce asked if the runners-up in the Clan of the Red Beanie might not be asking the Holy Spirit for a recount:

Faith without works is dead, and I’m not seeing HMC actually budging on some of these issues very soon. But, still, if you think this isn’t shaking some of those guys all the way down to their red socks, you’re fooling yourself. This guy may turn out to be the biggest curveball since the Blessed John XXIII.


Some will talk about Bertoglio’s possible past collaboration  with the Argentine junta during its era of repression. We’ll leave that discussion for better scholars, and another time.  For this writer, it is enough that this ostensible “authoritarian,”  who has openly called for “a poor church for the poor,” is prepared to meet with Gustavo Gutierrez:

Francis… will meet in the next few days with the Rev. Gustavo Gutierrez, a Peruvian theologian and scholar who is considered the founder of liberation theology. The meeting was announced on Sunday (Sept. 8) by Archbishop Gerhard Ludwig Mueller, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Vatican’s doctrinal watchdog, during the launch of a book he co-authored with Gutierrez. It’s a remarkable about-face for a movement that swelled in popularity but was later stamped out by the conservative pontificates of John Paul II and his longtime doctrinal czar, Benedict XVI.

And on this matter, it is enough for me to give the last word  to Charlie Pierce:

Creeps.

One of the great disservices that JP The Deuce [John Paul II] did to HMC  [Holy Mother Church] was to squash the liberation theologians, some of whom were actually martyred, not that it mattered to the bureaucrats in the Holy Office. If this pope is willing to let them back into the general theological life of the church, that’s nothing but a good thing, if only because it will piss off all the right people.

Knarf plays the Doomer Blues

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