Hip-Gnosis: May 2007: Archives

May 31, 2007

Priest Fires Church Organist For Selling Sexual Aids genre: Hip-Gnosis & Six Degrees of Speculation

Is It Live Or Is It Plastic?

Never let it be said that the Catholic Church isn't interested in what happens in the bedrooms...and the living rooms of its parishioners. A Wisconsin priest fired a woman who had sang in the choir and been the church organist for years...because she is a sales representative for a company that sells "spa products and sex toys" at in home sales parties. Read on, it gets better.

Linette Servais, 50, played the organ and sung with the choir for 35 years. Much of her work as choir director and organist was done without pay. When her parish priest asked to meet with her, she thought it was to say thank you.

Instead, she was told to quit her sales job with company known as Pure Romance or she would lose her position in the church.

Pure Romance in Loveland, Ohio, is a $60 million per year business that sells spa products and sex toys at homes parties attended by women. It has 15,000 consultants like Servais.

She said her decision was not hard: She began working with Pure Romance after a brain tumor and treatment left her sexually dysfunctional. The job allows her to help other women who have similar problems.

"After I got over the initial shock, I prayed over this a long time," she said. "I feel that Pure Romance is my ministry."

[Rev. Dean] Dombroski said he couldn't discuss the situation because it involves personnel. But in a letter to his rural congregation, he wrote: "Linette is a consultant for a firm which sells products of a sexual nature that are not consistent with Church teachings. Because parish leaders are expected to model the teaching of our faith ... she could stay on as the choir director/organist or she could continue to be a consultant but she could not do both."

Servais responded with her own three-page letter to church members, saying she felt compelled to help other women, especially those suffering from problems caused by cancer.

Many choir members quit in support, she said, and some have gathered at her home on occasional Thursdays to sing hymns.

"Father Dean made it sound so sinful," she said. "There is so much more to this business than toys."

Rumor has it that the only church authorized "sex toys" are altar boys and girls...perhaps experts within the church hierarchy have first hand evidence that artificial devices simply aren't as satisfying for their parish priests?

If hypocrisy were a sex toy, then the Catholic Church would be the equivalent of one big / bad "ginormous" dildo.

Image courtesy of dailyhaha.com

Daniel DiRito | May 31, 2007 | 5:26 PM | link | Comments (0)
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May 30, 2007

Fox News Discussion On The Creation Museum genre: Hip-Gnosis & Video-Philes

This week, Answers in Genesis (AiG) launched the opening of its Creation Museum in Petersburg, Kentucky. The museum is primarily intended to defend the belief that the Bible is the correct account of the origin of the universe and to cast doubt on the scientific evidence supporting evolution as well as the age of the earth...which the Creationists believe is approximately 6,000 years as compared to the scientific belief that its age approximates 4.5 billion years.

From Journal Chrétien:

“Just as Dayton, Tennessee, was ground zero for the defense of evolution in 1925, so Petersburg, Kentucky, will become ground zero for the defense of creation in 2007," said Ken Ham.

“The purpose of the museum is to use observational science to show that the Bible is true, its history is true and therefore the Gospel is true," Ham continued. “There are a lot of Ph.D. scientists who believe what the Bible teaches. Both creationists and evolutionists use the same science, and the same evidence – the difference is our pre-existing beliefs [about origins]."

“The buzz is out there globally about this place," Ham noted. “It is incredible that something that is Christian and built on the authority of God’s Word would get such international media attention. But, you haven’t seen anything yet – this museum will be a rallying point for Christians around the world."

“The Creation Museum is a walk through the Bible using science, geology, biology, astronomy and anthropology to confirm the accuracy of biblical history," said Ham.

“Christians are tired of being beaten down and marginalized in this country. Many are telling us it’s about time we had a place where Christians can stand up and say the Bible is true ; its history is true ; we can defend it ; we have the answers ; and we can proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ. That’s what this museum is all about."

______________________________________________________

What intrigues me most about Mr. Ham and others that promote a Biblical interpretation of the origin of the universe is that they foster the notion that science is in conflict with religion and that the goal of science is to promote disbelief or atheism. Clearly, science has never asserted that it has disproved the notion of god, nor has it argued that the evidence supporting the theory of evolution refutes the possibility of a supreme being.

Frankly, my impression is that men like Mr. Ham benefit from the inferred conflict between science and religion and they use it to promote their own organizations and to support efforts to gain followers and donors. They also seek to reinforce absolutist thinking which insures that believers will reject other objective considerations because to do otherwise would be to deny their faith. It’s a rather effective strategy and if one subscribes to the principle of follow the money, there can be no doubt that it has buoyed the financial status of numerous religious leaders.

The following is a video clip from Fox News which involves a discussion on the museum and the broader topic of Biblical interpretation and scientific method.

Daniel DiRito | May 30, 2007 | 7:44 PM | link | Comments (1)
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May 29, 2007

Some Thoughts On When Death Comes Calling genre: Do Not Resuscitate & Happy Remembrances & Hip-Gnosis

When Death Comes Calling

Its no wonder death is a controversial issue. While it’s something we all have to do, there are differing opinions on what it means and whether or not an individual ought to have the right to determine when to die.

The practice of physician assisted suicide is even more volatile. With the upcoming release from prison of Dr. Kevorkian, the doctor who assisted in over one hundred suicides, the topic is once again front and center and the subject of new polling. The full article can be found on MSNBC.

NEW YORK - More than two-thirds of Americans believe there are circumstances in which a patient should be allowed to die, but they are closely divided on whether it should be legal for a doctor to help terminally ill patients end their own lives by prescribing fatal drugs, a new AP-Ipsos poll finds.

Though demonized by his critics as a callous killer, Kevorkian — who is to be released Friday — maintains relatively strong public support. The AP-Ipsos poll found that 53 percent of those surveyed thought he should not have been jailed; 40 percent supported his imprisonment. The results were similar to an ABC News poll in 1999 that found 55 percent disagreeing with his conviction.

The new AP-Ipsos poll asked whether it should be legal for doctors to prescribe lethal drugs to help terminally ill patients end their own lives — a practice currently allowed in Oregon but in no other states. Forty-eight percent said it should be legal; 44 percent said it should be illegal.

More broadly, 68 percent said there are circumstances when a patient should be allowed to die, while 30 percent said doctors and nurses, in all circumstances, should do everything possible to save the life of a patient.

Few people have actually encountered an individual that sought to end his or her own life as the result of a terminal or debilitating diagnosis. In my own opinion, being around an individual dealing with these circumstances brings a new perspective to the topic as well as a better understanding of the prevailing dynamics.

In many instances, the first reaction to a newly diagnosed terminal illness is often a consideration of suicide. From what I’ve experienced, the reaction is a relatively natural response to the loss of control over one’s destiny…and I contend the consideration of suicide is an attempt to capture some degree of control.

Over time, the vast majority of these patients rule out suicide as the will to live…even if it comes with severe pain and other disabling limitations…exceeds the desire and the need for control. In fact, I see the consideration of suicide as part of a process…a process that forces an individual to actually review and reconcile their beliefs with regard to death.

Often, at the end of that process, there is an effort to compartmentalize one’s pending death…a means to block out that reality in order to savor the time that remains. In many ways, that ability is a fortunate defense mechanism.

Nonetheless, there are individuals that view the knowledge of death as the equivalent of death…whereby that thought is so disruptive and so overwhelming that it precludes the ability to partition the act of living from the reality of pending death. For others, the decision to die results from the fact that the illness has put an end to all that brings joy and life loses its meaning and its purpose…all of the positive incentives have evaporated and the will to live simply fades away.

Frequently, the decisions surrounding death are more difficult for friends and family of the dying individual. The refusal to accept the inevitable loss of a loved one can be a powerful force for denial. Factor in religious beliefs and it can actually become quite contentious.

Only 34 percent of those who attend religious services at least once a week think it should be legal for doctors to help terminally ill patients end their own lives. In contrast, 70 percent of those who never attend religious services thought the practice should be legal.

Just 23 percent of those who attend religious services at least weekly would consider ending their own lives if terminally ill, compared to 49 percent of those who never attend religious services.

Men are also more likely to consider suicide and they favor allowing doctors to assist by a wide margin…a fact that I would suggest supports the theory of controlling one’s destiny…a feature I would argue is more culturally ingrained into the male mindset.

Men were more likely to say they would consider ending their own lives if faced with a terminal illness — 43 percent of men would consider the option, compared to just 28 percent of women. And 53 percent of men think it should be legal for doctors to help end the lives of terminally ill patients, compared to 44 percent of women.

Death is perhaps the most personal of all human events…something that is almost always done alone. In my opinion there isn’t a right or wrong way to deal with one’s own death.

Anyone with an interest in the topic would be wise to see the Spanish language movie The Sea Insidebased upon the real life experiences of Ramon Sampedro to end his life after an accident left him a quadriplegic. It is a beautiful and poignant expose on the right to die which eloquently presents both sides of the argument. I highly recommend it to anyone with an interest in further exploring this topic.

Image courtesy of Globalclashes.com

Daniel DiRito | May 29, 2007 | 2:12 PM | link | Comments (0)
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May 28, 2007

BBC - Atheism: A Rough History Of Disbelief 1: 4 - 6 genre: Hip-Gnosis

This is the second in a six part Thought Theater series that replays the BBC three episode documentary, Atheism: A Rough History Of Disbelief. The first part can be found here along with my own thoughts on the subject and the objections that were voiced when PBS decided to air the documentary on American television.

Episode One - Part Four

Episode One - Part Five

Episode One - Part Six (Last Segment)

Daniel DiRito | May 28, 2007 | 9:38 PM | link | Comments (0)
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May 27, 2007

A Death By Any Other Name Would Not Be Accepted genre: Do Not Resuscitate & Happy Remembrances & Hip-Gnosis & Just Jihad

A Rose By Any Other Name?

Sometimes when writing a posting, one knows in advance that it may be controversial and has the potential to be met with anger…and sometimes that leads one to decide against ever publishing it. Other times, despite the probabilities, one pushes ahead and publishes such words because one believes they need to be spoken regardless. This is one of those postings.

On Memorial Day weekend…as well as any time one seeks to stop and remember those who are no longer here…we look for ways to understand death and to reconcile with the ominous nature of our mortality. Try as we might, one is never fully prepared for the death and loss of a loved one…and though time may lessen the time we spend in pain, it never lessens the depth of the pain that we do experience.

When we attempt to understand death, we often draw comparisons in order to help us accept our loss. For example, with the death of an aged grandparent, we might tell ourselves that despite the obvious loss, our loved one had the good fortune of living a long and meaningful life. Unfortunately, there are times when our loss is virtually inconsolable and we’re unable to find a single scintilla of justification. Clearly, we all hope to avoid the latter…but life doesn’t always afford us our hopes.

The death of a soldier is an event that rarely goes without notice…and that is as it should be. Nonetheless, it is also quite troubling…and though we may not take the time to fully understand our reaction…in some primal way, it is known without analysis or discussion that the loss of a soldier requires a debt of gratitude since the life of each soldier is given in the service of the country we embrace. This unspoken, though well understood, sense of debt exists regardless of how one views the conflict that facilitates the loss of a soldier.

When a war is unpopular, or thought to be unnecessary, it creates a heightened angst when one is forced to recognize and assimilate the loss of a soldier. That heightened angst, in my opinion, comes from our natural tendency to seek to justify the loss of life. If one opposes the war, one may well struggle to find the means to soothe the loss. Perhaps the void that internal conflict creates is something we should embrace since it may be the very mechanism by which we can bring an end to conflicts that seem unwarranted. Nonetheless, navigating this highly sensitive terrain is akin to walking a mine field…if one fails to step lightly, an explosion can ensue.

With that said, I embark on a perilous journey…a journey intent on not only exposing the angst mentioned above…but a journey intended to accelerate that angst. To be clear, I honor and value the lives of every soldier lost as well as every individual and though I infer no disrespect, I realize some may not agree…and so I apologize in advance should my words seem otherwise.

This coming Friday, Dr. Jack Kevorkian will be released from prison after serving eight years for his part in assisting in the suicides of over one hundred individuals…individuals that by and large suffered ailments that would eventually end their lives or that had taken from them the lives that they cherished such that they already felt dead…though by some trick of fate, remained here in this existence against their will.

Assisted suicide is legal in only one state under highly regulated conditions and it remains a very controversial issue. Perhaps that is because we prefer to engage death as a matter of chance rather than as a matter of choice. I understand that argument though I’m not sure it can withstand a reasoned review. Again, let me be clear…my argument is not meant to minimize the religious beliefs that stand in opposition to assisted suicide and I readily accept objections to assisted suicide on that basis alone.

Notwithstanding, I’m of the opinion one can make a reasoned argument that we frequently fail to apply our beliefs about death consistently. Three headlines, one from 1998, and two from this Memorial Day weekend help demonstrate my point.

From The New York Times in 1998:

Kevorkian Deaths Total 100

Dr. Jack Kevorkian has helped a 66-year-old man with lung cancer kill himself and has now assisted 100 suicides, his lawyer has reported.

Mr. Herman died one day after the Michigan House of Representatives adopted a bill addressing Dr. Kevorkian, who has been acquitted in three trials.

The bill would make assisted suicide a felony punishable by as many as five years in prison and $10,000 in fines, or both. It now goes back to the Senate, where minor changes are expected to be adopted before it goes to Gov. John Engler, who is expected to sign it.

From The United Press International - 05/27/2007:

More Than 100 Soldiers Killed In May

BAGHDAD, May 27 (UPI) -- At least 101 U.S. soldiers died in Iraq in May, the seventh time since the 2003 invasion that the monthly toll passed 100, military officials said.
In April, 104 soldiers were killed, the Web site icasualties.com -- maintained by the Iraq Coalition Casualty Count -- said. The U.S. Department of Defense has confirmed 3,439 U.S. military deaths in Iraq, and 13 more await confirmation.

From The Associated Press – 05/26/2007:

U.S. Deaths Near Grim Memorial Day Mark

BAGHDAD - Americans have opened nearly 1,000 new graves to bury U.S. troops killed in Iraq since Memorial Day a year ago. The figure is telling — and expected to rise in coming months.

In the period from Memorial Day 2006 through Saturday, 980 soldiers and Marines died in Iraq, compared to 807 deaths in the previous year. And with the Baghdad security operation now 3 1/2 months old, even President Bush has predicted a difficult summer for U.S. forces.

This past week Congress authorized a military spending bill that met with the president’s approval and that did not include any timetable for withdrawal from Iraq…despite the fact that one can argue that the 2006 election sent a strong message that our elected officials bring an end to the war in Iraq and prevent the deaths of more U.S. soldiers.

Every indication suggests that George Bush will leave office…after eight years…with a significant presence of U.S. military troops still in Iraq. Back in 1998, the state of Michigan passed a law that led to the eight year imprisonment of Dr. Kevorkian for his part in facilitating the deaths of individuals who wanted to end their lives. Now I’m not suggesting the president or this congress should be imprisoned for their part in facilitating the death of 100 soldiers during the month of May…or the nearly 1,000 since last Memorial Day…or the 3,439 total soldiers killed in Iraq since the war began back in 2003.

However, on this Memorial Day weekend, I am suggesting Americans consider this information and put themselves through the process described above…the one which we humans go through when we lose a loved one. If at the end of that process, one feels some additional angst due to the growing absence of justifications for these deaths, then may I suggest that perhaps its time we demand that our elected officials do the right thing? If 100 assisted suicides warranted a law to imprison Dr. Kevorkian for eight years, what would be a reasonable equivalent for accepting the further loss of life in Iraq?

Daniel DiRito | May 27, 2007 | 11:32 AM | link | Comments (0)
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May 26, 2007

Fred "Outta His Mind" Phelps On The Cheney's genre: Gaylingual & Hip-Gnosis

If anyone ever doubted the existence of a "flesh and blood" wing nut...fear no more. The following video clip is absolute proof. The video is of Fred Phelps, the notorious pastor from Topeka, Kansas, launching a scathing assault on the Cheney family in response to the birth of a son to Mary Cheney and her partner.

I'm certainly no fan of the Cheney's, but I view attacks of this nature to be nothing more than evidence that hatred born of the fanatical interpretation and application of religious doctrine has no place in society. Disagreeing with Dick Cheney's politics is one thing...but this type of personal assault is indefensible.

It should come as no surprise that Fred Phelps would stoop to this level. He and his band of followers have a long history of crass and disgusting demonstrations directed first and foremost at gays, and then at anyone they deem to have been associated with tolerance for the gay community.

Daniel DiRito | May 26, 2007 | 7:22 PM | link | Comments (0)
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Perfect Storm: Rising Tide But The Boats Won't Float genre: Econ-Recon & Hip-Gnosis & Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation

Perfect Storm

I’ve always been fascinated with society, psychology, and the human condition…especially from the perspective of what the future may hold. Don’t misinterpret that to mean that I think I can predict the future; rather I try to predict how the state of thought…what people believe, what they are saying, and how they are saying it today…will impact their experiences some time in the not so distant future.

Additionally, I love it when my musings can connect several disparate dots into a snapshot of what might unfold in that regard. Lastly, I adore words…how they are used, what they can and should mean, how they shape our hopes and beliefs, and how they can often be used to say one thing while intending or imparting another. Some say that we are what we eat…I say we are what we hear…which becomes what we say.

A couple of articles caught my attention this morning and allowed me to get lost in one of my moments of ADD induced speculation. First, let me offer the backdrop. Of late, I’ve spent a lot of time focused on the state of parenting and the messages today’s parents are giving their children which will influence how they will function in the world as adults. Add in the influence of religion and its tendency to support absolutist thinking, the preoccupation with being famous and being number one and you have a snapshot of the launching point for my contemplation.

The first article deals with the issue of climate change and the impact of global warming. According to a Washington Post article, the United States appears prepared to reject the proposal to be offered at the upcoming G8 Summit that would set limits on greenhouse gas emissions in order to cap the rise in global temperature.

Representatives from the world's leading industrial nations met the past two days in Heiligendamm, Germany, to negotiate over German Chancellor Angela Merkel's proposed statement, which calls for limiting the worldwide temperature rise this century to 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit and cutting global greenhouse gas emissions to 50 percent below 1990 levels by 2050.

Bush administration officials, who raised similar objections in April, rejected the idea of setting mandatory emissions targets as well as language calling for G-8 nations to raise overall energy efficiencies by 20 percent by 2020. With less than two weeks remaining, said sources familiar with the talks, the climate document is the only unresolved issue in the statements the world leaders are expected to sign at the June 6-8 summit.

"The U.S. still has serious, fundamental concerns about this draft statement," a paper dated May 14 states. "The treatment of climate change runs counter to our overall position and crosses multiple 'red lines' in terms of what we simply cannot agree to…We have tried to 'tread lightly' but there is only so far we can go given our fundamental opposition to the German position."

As I’ve followed the global warming debate, a couple things stand out to me. One, the projections suggest that if the trends were to in fact proceed unabated, rising ocean levels would threaten some of this country’s major population centers. Two, those rising waters are apparently being taxed to absorb the rising levels of carbon dioxide and should they reach saturation, the problems will only accelerate. At some point the entire system goes awry and all hell breaks loose…think high waters and boats…perhaps Noah’s arc meets Poseidon Adventure.

I read the second article at MSNBC. That article, in its broadest terms, is a discussion of the state of the American Dream…the promise of advancing prosperity from generation to generation. Toss in the oft heard GOP theory that the rising tide lifts all boats and you’ll begin to see some rhyme to my reason.

The American dream has always held that each generation will enjoy a higher standard of living than the previous one, and that is still true, as measured by household income.

But the generational gains are slowing, and the increased participation of women in the work force is the only thing keeping the dream alive, according to an analysis of Census data released Friday.

A generation ago, American men in their thirties had median annual incomes of about $40,000 compared with men of the same age who now make about $35,000 a year, adjusted for inflation. That’s a 12.5 percent drop between 1974 and 2004, according to the report from the Pew Charitable Trusts’ Economic Mobility Project.

To be sure, household incomes rose during the same period, but only because there are more full-time working women, the report said.

"Today’s data suggest that during a 30-year period of economic expansion, a rising tide did not lift all boats," Morton said in a release accompanying the report, "Economic Mobility: Is the American Dream Alive and Well?"

Of course, the men who run American companies don’t have too much to complain about. CEO pay increased to 262 times the average worker’s pay in 2005 from 35 times in 1978, according to the report’s analysis of Congressional Budget Office statistics.

Going back to 1820, per capita gross domestic product in the United States has grown an average of 52 percent for each 30-year generation, according to the report. But since 1973, median family income has grown only 0.6 percent per year, a rate that produces just a 17 percent increase over a generation.

"Thus, unless the rate of economic growth increases, the next generation will experience an improvement in its standard of living that is only one-third as large as the historical average for earlier generations," the report said.

Stay with me, I promise a big finish (wink, wink).

So when you take the words found in these two articles and factor in the issues from the backdrop, one can begin to see the images that will form a preliminary snapshot of our future human condition premised upon the existing and established social and psychological influences.

I’ll attempt to explain. Generally speaking, it seems to me that many of today’s parents are raising the expectations found in their children. Call it the American Idol mentality morphs with the Tiger Woods phenomenon…meaning mom and dad say to themselves, “My kid has star potential so I simply need to cultivate it from the outset". My bottom line assumption suggests that a growing number of parents believe every child can, should, and will be coached such that they are eventually discovered and catapulted to their rightful position in the spotlight. Call it the American Dream juiced up on steroids (h/t to David Letterman for the steroids slang).

At the same time, we see the data from the study referenced above suggesting that the economic prospects are moving in a diametrically opposite direction…and we have yet to consider the unknown though increasingly predictable ramifications of climate change that could render all prior historical equations virtually useless. Oh, and did I mention the case of the missing honey bees?

I’ve previously argued that humanity has continued to move towards a construct of diverging identities…in other words there is a greater divide between the outward lives we live and the more obscure, though ever lurking in the background, state of hyper reality…those moments when the facade of the outer world identity is stripped of its accoutrements to reveal the starkness of our real identity.

A couple examples might be helpful. It’s the eighteen year old young woman that dad has convinced is destined to be the next Serena Williams who finds herself entering college without a tennis scholarship and void of other measures of self worth…though still convinced her exaggerated “manifest destiny" is just around the corner.

It’s the thirty five year old son who was handed success in the form of family instituted social security when he joined his maternal grandfather’s business as a vice president the day he graduated from college…now left to realize the day after grandfather has entered a nursing home with Alzheimer’s that sales have evaporated in direct relation to grandpa’s advancing disconnect and that what little is left of a fortune will now be needed to pay for round the clock care.

The reality is that this aquarium we call America isn’t big enough to hold the advancing expectations we have sought to institutionalize and that we have exponentially instilled in the next generation. Worse yet, we haven’t yet equipped that generation with the boat to survive the rising tide…no, not the rising tide of success that will raise all boats…but the rising tide of a global economy that will subject the United States to ever increasing global economic realities. In truth, boats be damned…people are going to need to know how to swim…and no, there won’t be any gold medals awarded.

At the same time, we have a government that is intent on borrowing money in order to spend its way out of each new economic setback. Simultaneously, they ignore the warnings of an ever advancing science that suggests an entirely new and ominous cash eating calamity in the form of global climate change is just beyond the rising liquid horizon.

The bright future that has become the staple of our private and political rhetoric (the words we speak) may be nothing more than the glow of an approaching apocalypse…no, not the one associated with the rapture that runs rampant in religious imagery and that promises an idyllic after life…the one that was there in full view for all to see and fully of our own human making…the one we chose to ignore because our best human attributes and identities had atrophied such that we lacked the will to right the ship before it succumbed to the weight of an endless burden of belligerence and betrayal…particularly that betrayal which suggested that god would save us…because we chose to conclude that that would be easier than saving ourselves.

The curtain falls.

Daniel DiRito | May 26, 2007 | 12:11 PM | link | Comments (2)
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May 25, 2007

Dr. Laura: All For Privacy...But Only When It's Her Own genre: Gaylingual & Hip-Gnosis

Dr. Laura Schlessinger

It should be no surprise that I'm not fond of Dr. Laura Schlessinger. In fact, one of my favorite Thought Theater postings was a letter to Dr. Laura that I found on the internet...a letter in which the author quoted verses from the bible while asking Dr. Laura if the author's interpretations were correct...it’s quite funny and you can find it here. But I digress.

Dr. Laura's son has recently been the focus of some unflattering media coverage. Deryk Schlessinger, 21, is enlisted in the Army and is the subject of an investigation into a MySpace page that depicted torture, racist remarks, obscene images, sexual assault, and discussions of drug usage. The page listed Schlessinger as the author and there were messages from friends which would seem to indicate it was authentic...though the investigation will ultimately determine if the page actually belonged to Schlessinger.

Radio talk-show host Laura Schlessinger is appealing to news media outlets to respect her son's privacy amid an Army investigation into whether he is behind a lurid personal Web page that featured cartoon depictions of rape, murder, torture and child molestation.

In all honesty, I don't wish misfortune upon Dr. Schlessinger...however I do find it amusing that she is now requesting that the media respect the privacy of her son and her family. I can't help but notice the hypocrisy. Here's a woman that has made a living by attacking the private lives of gays. The following are just a few of the quotes attributed to Dr. Schlessinger:

"A huge portion of the male homosexual populace is predatory on young boys."

"Political activists have successfully repositioned sexual deviancy as a constitutionally protected 'lifestyle' equivalent in every way to heterosexuality....This is not about discrimination against homosexuals."

"You know what was largely responsible for that guy’s [Matthew Shepard's] death? Those two guys who killed him did not go out looking for a homosexual to kill that night. They were shooting pool. He went to the bar. He left with two guys he thought he was gonna have sex with. He got murdered. How many women has that happened to? How many women have left bars thinking they were gonna get some action with some guy who raped and murdered and tortured and murdered them? Far more women than homosexual men have ended up dead that way, I would guess."

Obviously she can say what she wants...and she apparently has no problem doing so. The same is true for her son...except for the fact that his actions, should they be proven, were conducted while he was employed in the military and may result in some unpleasant consequences. The following is a quotation from Deryk's alleged web page:

"Yes!!! I LOVE MY JOB, it takes everything reckless and deviant and heathenistic and just overall bad about me and hyper focuses these traits into my job of running around this horrid place doing nasty things to people that deserve it...and some that don't."

If these turn out to be Deryk's words, I guess it is as they say, the acorn doesn't fall far from the tree...and hence this is exactly the problem with people and parents who set out to define others as villains. Their words and their actions are frequently adopted by their children and the seeds of prejudice, judgment, and hatred are often passed on and amplified within the next generation.

I wonder how Dr. Laura feels about people quoting these alleged words of her son...including his describing himself as a deviant...the very word which she has attached to gays for years. If Deryk Schlessinger is found to have been the author of this site, it will be difficult to not see the situation as some form of karmic justice. I'm not a religious person...but I'm well aware of the religious concept of "judge not lest ye be judged". Perhaps in the future Dr. Laura will think twice before casting the first stone. The notion of "what goes around comes around" doesn't bode well for her glass house.

Daniel DiRito | May 25, 2007 | 6:20 PM | link | Comments (0)
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On Being Gay - Will It Make My Brown Eyes Blue? genre: Gaylingual & Hip-Gnosis

Open Mind

Can someone explain to me the concept of "gay indoctrination?" Unfortunately, with my "conversion" to homosexuality, I seem to have missed out on the recruitment program. As I imagine the process, I'm reminded of my college days and the infamous rush week...that period of time at the beginning of the school year that is typified by efforts to convince naïve newbie's to join fraternities and sororities. Along those lines, had I known that admission to the gay club came with free booze and chips, I might have signed up sooner.

All kidding aside, a new article at ReligionandSpirituality.com is titled California Senate Passes "Gay Indoctrination". The subject of the article is California SB 777, a bill actually titled The Student Civil Rights Act, which instructs attorneys at the California Department of Education to monitor and "protect all California students from harassment and bias in public schools based on their gender identity or sexual orientation".

Here's how the article from ReligionandSpirituality.com characterizes the bill:

The California State Senate on Thursday passed legislation mandating that schoolchildren as young as kindergarten learn about and support transsexuality, bisexuality and homosexuality. SB 777 requires textbooks, instructional materials, and school-sponsored activities to positively portray cross-dressing, sex-change operations, homosexual "marriages," and all aspects of homosexuality and bisexuality, including so-called "gay history."

"Parents are angry at the Democrats for passing this school sexual indoctrination bill and frustrated that Republicans did little to fight it," said Randy Thomasson, president of Campaign for Children and Families (CCF), a leading California-based pro-family organization. "We call on Arnold Schwarzenegger to pledge that he will respect parents, protect children, and veto this bad bill, just like he did last year."

"The notion of forcing children to support controversial sexual lifestyles is shocking and appalling to millions of fathers and mothers," Thomasson said. "SB 777 will shatter the academic purpose of education by turning every government school into a sexual indoctrination center."

Unfortunately, the article presents the details in a way that can only be described as a tail wags the dog format. In reality, the bill is intended to protect students from school sponsored bias and prejudice. Yes, the intent of this legislation suggests that the tools employed to educate be mindful of such bias and prejudice as well as refrain from using such teaching tools and methods in the classroom. Is that a tacit endorsement of homosexuality? I guess one could construe it as such...but in reality it is no different than prior civil rights legislation that forbade the inclusion of racial bias.

As we know, the prior passage of civil rights legislation didn't alter the hearts and minds of those filled with bias and prejudice...but it did seek to prevent them from unleashing that bias and prejudice upon individuals guilty of nothing more than possessing skin of a different color. Honestly, whether or not one thinks homosexuality is a sin or an abomination shouldn't translate into state sponsored validation of those beliefs. As I see it, the legislation is simply instructing the Department of Education to uphold that concept. If the beliefs of parents lead them to instruct their children that a gay lifestyle is sinful and forbidden (heaven help the child that thinks he or she is gay), so be it...but the school system, in my opinion, has no business institutionalizing those beliefs.

Here's how the other side describes the legislation:

The Student Civil Rights Act ensures that all students in publicly-funded schools, including those who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT), clearly understand the protections they are provided under state law. SB 777 creates uniform nondiscrimination standards within the state's education code and clarifies the responsibility of school officials to ensure a safe learning environment.

"Schools need clear direction - not mixed messages -from the state to adopt adequate policies to protect all youth," said EQCA Executive Director Geoff Kors. "Inconsistencies in state law create significant gaps that leave students vulnerable to harassment and bias and unaware of their rights. SB 777 helps fill those gaps so that all youth are protected."

"Right wing extremists have recently attacked this bill, grossly distorting the facts about what the legislation does," said Kors. "The Student Civil Rights Act protects all youth, not only those who identify as LGBT, from discrimination so they all have the opportunity to succeed in school and thrive in life."

Don't get me wrong, I'm clearly "biased" towards the latter depiction over the prior...but all too often it seems that what we lose in these polarized debates are the actual people who are affected when this type of legislation is either enacted or rejected. These are children who have mothers and fathers (who hopefully love them enough to not reject them) that don't want to see their children abused by other students or institutional bias.

Does one's faith require one to inflict harm upon those who fail to comply with one's established doctrine? Should parents condone their children or their schools abusing other students simply because of their sexuality? I understand that there are those who don't see such actions as abuse because of their religious beliefs...but if I understand Christian values, Jesus never condoned such judgment and scorn. I have no problem with those who believe that homosexuality is a sin and that think god will punish those who practice it. I simply believe they have no right to play god. In fact, I believe their existing teachings would concur.

Lastly, and most importantly, I can attest to the fact that everything in my background was structured to endorse heterosexuality...but everything within my identity was designed otherwise. I spent hours and hours praying that I would be heterosexual...I made bargains with god to make it so...but it wasn't who I was. In the end, despite all the aspersions that I heard and all the bias that I witnessed and endured, I couldn't deny my sexuality unless I was willing to end my existence. Thank god or whomever one chooses to thank that I chose life.

I only wish everyone would take the time to see inside the hearts of these young and vulnerable people before they succumb to their own fears and victimize those who are guilty or nothing more than accepting the reality of their identity. I realize that many parents might not want to confront the possibility that a child will be gay, but I can tell you from experience that if your child is so designed, you can either facilitate years of agony and doubt, or you can find it in your heart to love the child that you created. If there is a god, I can't imagine that he or she would ever fault a parent for loving one of his or her blessings.

My homosexuality is no more a product of indoctrination than my brown eyes and brown hair. Every homosexual is the product of the heterosexual reproductive process...and by and large we all grew up in heterosexual families. Prohibiting the fair treatment of gay children because we fear a child will be "indoctrinated" is every bit as absurd as banning heterosexuality because it creates homosexual children. Isn't it time we move beyond our fears and begin to face the many realities that are encompassed within the whole of our human identity?

Daniel DiRito | May 25, 2007 | 12:48 PM | link | Comments (0)
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May 24, 2007

BBC - Atheism: A Rough History Of Disbelief - 1: 1 - 3 genre: Hip-Gnosis

The planned airing by PBS of Jonathan Miller's BBC three part series called Atheism: A Rough History Of Disbelief created a stir among evangelical groups in the United States. A spokesperson for the conservative group Concerned Women for America called the series "demagogic and propagandistic". Peter Sprigg, a vice president at the Family Research Council suggested PBS is "revealing their bias against Christianity, against traditional faith."

I find it interesting that people of faith apparently feel threatened by a program that is, for the most part, a historical account of Atheism. Generally, the problem I find with people of strong beliefs...whether that is religious or non-religious...is a compelling need to silence the opposition.

I'm not sure why so many people resist spirited critique, reasoned debate, and robust dialogue. If I believe something, I want to know why I believe it and I want to make sure I have properly vetted those beliefs. The only way I know to achieve that goal is to have put my beliefs to the test, to have listened to the arguments made in opposition to those beliefs, and by keeping an open mind to the possibility that I may be wrong.

If I were to identify the primary objection I have to some people of faith, it is centered on the prevalence of absolutist thinking...which I see as an affront to the proven benefits of the scientific method. When science supports a hypothesis, it doesn't forbid the exploration of alternate hypotheses or the expansion or modification of those that have, for the most part, been substantiated. Some of those who hold faith based beliefs prefer that their beliefs are never contested, amended, or refuted...regardless of the data presented.

I find that troubling but it also strikes a sympathetic chord...in that I realize the attraction behind so many of humanity's faith based beliefs. I accept the sincerity of those who hold these beliefs, but I am troubled when the idyllic fulfillments that these beliefs provide are subsequently translated into a near obsessive need to negate anyone and anything that might raise doubt. I see that as the catalyst for an emerging pathology.

Anyway, over the next few days, I will post five additional entries that will contain the remaining clips of the entire series. I think they have merit. Feel free to offer your own thoughts and insights.

Episode One - Part One

Episode One - Part Two

Episode One - Part Three

Daniel DiRito | May 24, 2007 | 11:34 AM | link | Comments (5)
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May 22, 2007

A Meditation On What A God Might Intend For Us genre: Hip-Gnosis & Six Degrees of Speculation

Meditation On God

It seems to me that so many people suffer the need to be right...absolutely right...and they then proceed to seek, find, and identify the documentation or doctrine to support that rightness.

If I understand the notion of creation...god gave Adam and Eve free will...and then allowed them to execute that free will...seemingly knowing that by his own design they (human beings) would fall short (after all we were the creation of an all knowing entity so he would have to have known that we were limited in what we would be able and apt do with our free will). As such, the question to ask and answer is what was the intent of his actions?

Let's assume god made us and let's assume he knew the inherent limitations of his creation. In fact, as god, one would have to assume he intended those limitations. Let's assume that in doing so, his goal was to see if we could find the wherewithal to acknowledge our shortcomings and respect each others imperfections in the same way he accepted them when he knowingly still chose to create us.

Let's assume that god subsequently viewed the Bible to be an imperfect and incomplete interpretation of his beliefs (maybe not even remotely his own words...especially since, at the outset, he intentionally gave us free will and free choice…not a set of rules). If this original premise is true, then it wouldn’t make sense that he would subsequently tell us his expectations through selected earthly beings that he already knew to be imperfect and prone to judgment and blame.

So let's assume that may explain why he chose to send his son to be a living example of what god hoped we could become despite our imperfections…yet through the thoughtful application of our god given free will. That makes far more sense than assuming that he chose to impart his beliefs (in the form of the Bible) to imperfect beings that he would be sure to know would make mistakes, miscalculations, and misattributions.

So let's assume god sent his son to bear witness to him and to be a living example of the goals that god hoped we could achieve...goals that we would have to achieve by using our free will for good and the betterment of all of gods creations...all the while knowing the imperfections that he intentionally instilled within each of us.

So in Jesus…we see a man that routinely discredited the judgments and determinations that humanity had elected to use in defining the meaning of our human condition and determining who amongst us was worthy. He pointed to our propensity to blame and judge...determinations applied by imperfect beings upon other imperfect beings.

Therefore, in sending Jesus, god sought to tell us that the human goal of seeking to elevate one's worth ahead of others in the eyes of ones god was an inappropriate goal. In fact, his goal was to see if imperfect beings could choose to accept their imperfections and still preserve the heaven on earth that he made available to them.

To do so would require our acceptance of imperfection and our acknowledgment that only he could determine the worthiness of the individual...thereby establishing the basis for us to live side by side without blame and judgment (a heavenly existence)...defined as the act of being like god in relation to all that he created (loving and understanding of all that exists…since all that exists he found worthy to create)…which must mean the flaws we perceive and believe that he created cannot ultimately be flaws since god isn’t flawed. Thus he sent Jesus to demonstrate how we could achieve his goal of heaven on earth…despite all of the “obstacles" that he placed in front of us and instilled within us.

In this construct, since all that exists is encompassed in that which god created, then humanity by design was and is part of his heavenly domain. By that very design, the elevation of one of his created earthly beings over another wasn't intended to be and that leads one to conclude that it would therefore not even be possible.

What would be possible is for humanity to accept and acknowledge that very reality and learn to live and love as god did when he exercised his will…a will that chose to see beauty in all that is because all that is…is encompassed within the all knowing awareness that is god…and that is beyond our full perception and capacity.

An example might be helpful. We often see people accept tragedy by stating that it was gods will and we also accept that that will is often unknown to us. Nonetheless, that seems to suggest that we accept the fact that god intended the earth to have floods and hurricanes and earthquakes...and for children to die from fatal diseases, and for cancer and HIV to exist.

If so, shouldn’t it also mean that god intended for there to be white people, black people, straight people, gay people, and all of the other versions of people…complete with the countless traits that we know are possible here in this existence? Wouldn’t it also mean that it wasn’t god’s intention for us to weight the merits or detriments of these human variances? If we humans believe we can discern what is within the heart and soul of our fellow inhabitants, then what purpose does god serve and what did it mean when Jesus said such things were for god to measure?

If one believes that Jesus was the son of god and that god directed him to come here to be a living example of what god wants us to be, then much of what exists in the bible and established religious doctrine must be rejected.

Unfortunately, I began by stating that many people suffer the need to be right…and I end by reiterating that fact and I point to all that exists to suggest that our human efforts to quantify and qualify god's plan more likely serve to demonstrate the degree and the distance by which we stand removed from god’s intention.

Daniel DiRito | May 22, 2007 | 4:39 PM | link | Comments (0)
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Abortion: Is A Middle Ground Achievable? genre: Hip-Gnosis & Six Degrees of Speculation

No Middle Ground

Those opposed to abortion were heartened by the recent Supreme Court decision supporting limitations on partial birth abortions. In particular, pro-life groups were encouraged by Justice Kennedy’s reference to the work of an anti-abortion group, The Justice Foundation. The foundation’s work suggests that having an abortion may be detrimental to women and cites a number of testimonials by those who have had abortions. Their documentation argues that "abortion hurts women and endangers their physical, emotional and psychological health."

Personally, I think the choice to have an abortion ought to be a decision left to a woman and those she seeks to include in making that determination. Nonetheless, I have argued that imposing some time limitation on when that decision needs to be made is an acceptable compromise. In other words, some restrictions on late term abortions seem reasonable…so long as it preserves the commonly discussed exceptions. It gives a woman an opportunity to terminate a pregnancy but it compels her to do so in a reasonable amount of time...prior to the advancing viability of the fetus.

I came to my conclusion more as a matter of fleshing out the real positions of those on both sides of the abortion issue rather than as a result of my own particular beliefs. Abortion isn't a good thing...but it is an inevitable reality of our human frailty. Frankly, I think we ought to pay more attention to the well being of birthed children and the uninsured…but I accept the fact that the unborn entity has become the moral focal point.

I’ve concluded that both sides are locked in an all or nothing mentality…something that doesn’t fit well with the realities of the human condition and that simply leads to anger, intransigence, and the vilification of the opposition. I'm an advocate of finding some middle ground...but that isn't likely to be achieved in the current environment.

As such, the shifting strategies with regard to abortion are discussed in an article in today’s New York Times.

But last month’s Supreme Court decision upholding the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act marked a milestone for a different argument advanced by anti-abortion leaders, one they are increasingly making in state legislatures around the country. They say that abortion, as a rule, is not in the best interest of the woman; that women are often misled or ill-informed about its risks to their own physical or emotional health; and that the interests of the pregnant woman and the fetus are, in fact, the same.

“We think of ourselves as very pro-woman," said Wanda Franz, president of the National Right to Life Committee. "We believe that when you help the woman, you help the baby."

It is embodied in much of the imagery and advertising of the anti-abortion movement in recent years, especially the "Women Deserve Better Than Abortion" campaign by Feminists for Life, the group that counts Jane Sullivan Roberts, the wife of the chief justice, among its most prominent supporters.

It is also at the heart of an effort — expected to escalate in next year’s state legislative sessions — to enact new “informed consent" and mandatory counseling laws that critics assert often amount to a not-so-subtle pitch against abortion. Abortion-rights advocates, still reeling from last month’s decision, argue that this effort is motivated by ideology, not women’s health.

"Informed consent is really a misleading way to characterize it," said Roger Evans, senior director of public policy litigation and law for Planned Parenthood. "To me, what we’ll see is an increasing attempt to push a state’s ideology into a doctor-patient relationship, to force doctors to communicate more and more of the state’s viewpoint."

Nancy Keenan, president of Naral Pro-Choice America, said, "It’s motivated by politics, not by science, not by medical care, and not for the purposes of compassion."

In an attempt to cut to the chase, I accept the fact that true pro-life advocates actually oppose virtually any and all abortions. On the other side, true pro-choice advocates support something approximating abortion on demand. Both positions are blinded by absolutist rhetoric intent on winning the perceived war…often completely removed from the real life considerations confronting a pregnant woman. Such disconnects have, in my opinion, the same significance as the topic in question and have only served to limit reasoned debate.

Let’s take the argument that abortions are detrimental to the physical, emotional, and psychological well being of women. That possibility exists with virtually every choice we make. Drinking alcohol, smoking cigarettes, driving a car, and being overweight are choices that can have all of these detrimental effects…yet we still, for the most part, leave these decisions to the individual. These choices are made despite abundant information documenting the risks…risks that I would argue are far better delineated than those advanced as being associated with abortion.

Regardless, I don’t oppose providing women unbiased information about the risks associated with having an abortion…though the anecdotal regrets expressed by some proportion of women having had an abortion is not, in my opinion, scientific data and should not be the basis of government intervention and education. Let me be clear…for every choice we humans make, some of us will regret our choices…but that isn’t a compelling argument to ban certain choices or require government mandated counseling suggesting we should not make that choice. Adding pressure and guilt in the form of required "propaganda" to an already difficult decision to consider having an abortion seems unfair and unnecessary.

More importantly, if the goal is to prevent abortions then wouldn’t the government be compelled to take the same proactive approach with regard to reducing unwanted pregnancies? We have statistical data that verifies that contraception can prevent pregnancy…yet those opposed to abortion routinely seek to preclude the government from "promoting" such measures. The inconsistency illuminates the influence of ideology…and points out that many seek to selectively inject their own particular bias into the role of government.

Government shouldn’t promote ideology or the religious beliefs of any one group. They do have an obligation to distribute factual information that serves the well being of its citizenry…and each citizen can then filter that information through their own belief system. We need to reaffirm that premise and cease efforts by those on both extremes to impose their will upon their fellow citizens. Public service is by definition intended to serve all of the public with as much neutrality as possible…without allowing individual bias to intervene and overwhelm.

All sides agree that the debate reached a new level of significance when Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, writing the majority opinion in the Supreme Court case last month, approvingly cited a friend-of-the court brief filed by the Justice Foundation.

The foundation, a nonprofit public interest litigation firm that has handled an array of conservative causes, has increasingly focused on abortion through its project called Operation Outcry. Mr. Parker said the group began hearing from women in the late 1990s who considered themselves victims of legalized abortion — physically and emotionally — and wanted to tell their stories. Operation Outcry, which grew to include a Web site, a national hot line and chapters around the country, eventually collected statements from more than 2,000 women, officials said.

In its friend-of-the-court brief, the group submitted statements from 180 of those women who said that abortion had left them depressed, distraught, in emotional turmoil. "Thirty-three years of real life experiences," the foundation said, "attests that abortion hurts women and endangers their physical, emotional and psychological health."

"While we find no reliable data to measure the phenomenon, it seems unexceptionable to conclude some women come to regret their choice to abort the infant life they once created and sustained," Justice Kennedy wrote, alluding to the brief. "Severe depression and loss of esteem can follow."

Given those stakes, the justice argued, "The state has an interest in ensuring so grave a choice is well informed."

In her dissenting opinion, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg agreed. "The court invokes an anti-abortion shibboleth for which it concededly has no reliable evidence," she wrote.

Perhaps I’m completely naïve but it seems to me that the founding principle of our constitution and bill of rights was based upon the belief that government should neither punish nor promote the religious beliefs of the individual. What seems to me to have been the prudent application of tolerance is increasingly being attacked by those who are seemingly not content to allow each citizen to hold and practice their own particular beliefs.

Fueling this deterioration are politicians who seek to take advantage of the convictions of particular groups in order to attain political power. When winning office becomes a means to power as opposed to a belief in the merits of public service in order to preserve our system of government, we have begun the unraveling of all that was held dear by those who made great sacrifices to establish this nation.

Those in positions of leadership ought to be the voice of reason…not the reason the voice of the few is enabled and emboldened to dictate the choices that can be made by the many. Just as a referee administers the established rules of a game…our elected officials should champion and preserve those precepts that led to the formation of this great country. At the same time, voters have a responsibility to honor that construct and refrain from efforts to undermine its integrity. Isn’t it time for us to reaffirm that concept?

Image courtesy of iacmusic.com

Daniel DiRito | May 22, 2007 | 12:04 PM | link | Comments (0)
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May 21, 2007

BBC: Sex Crimes And The Vatican - Parts 3 and 4 genre: Hip-Gnosis

This posting contains parts three and four of a BBC documentary that discusses the Vatican's handling of numerous accusations of sexual misconduct by clergy members on minors. Please watch part one and two in the prior posting first in order to start at the beginning of the program.

UPDATE:

BBC has forced YouTube to remove the video from its site. The following link will take you to a site where you can still view the documentary (Be sure to paste the below code as a continuous sequence...I had to break it in order to fit the posting width):

http://link.brightcove.com/services/link/bcpid326855969/bclid715966067/
bctid909959911

Part Three

Part Four

Daniel DiRito | May 21, 2007 | 3:47 PM | link | Comments (0)
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BBC: Sex Crimes And The Vatican - Parts 1and 2 genre: Hip-Gnosis

I grew up attending Catholic schools...from first through twelfth grade. I attended a boy’s Catholic high school that had students living on campus from all over the world. I lived with my parents since the school was located in my home town.

During my time in high school, it was common knowledge when a member of the monastery had committed a sexual transgression with a student. The typical procedure would include sending that member of the clergy away for a period of time...often to another monastery. After a while, they would return and resume their duties at the school. With more than one clergy member, a second sexual transgression occurred.

For the most part, existing students soon learned to be careful about the situations and circumstances they placed themselves in with these particular members of the monastery. Unfortunately, that left freshmen and new students vulnerable and they were often the ones to be victimized.

Strange as it may seem, these events were viewed as one of those things that happened at our Catholic school (and I assume at many others). While it was known to be wrong and clearly frowned upon by the administration, it seemed to become more an element of folklore than the commission of a felony. In fact, to my recollection, these events were handled by the monastery and the school administration and not forwarded to the police for criminal review and prosecution.

I'm not sure what that says about the times or about the unspoken acceptance by Catholics that members of the clergy were prone to such behavior. Throughout her life, my grandmother...who emigrated from Italy as a young woman...often spoke about the indiscretions of priests in Italy. Her stories primarily involved heterosexual indiscretions but the prevailing theme was that she knew as a young girl to avoid one on one contact with the priests.

Perhaps the seemingly unconscionable ignoring of such events by the Church results from the willingness of followers to look the other way...or perhaps it demonstrates the degree to which men of the cloth have realized their ability to push the limits of decency while hiding behind their positions of authority.

Whatever the case, I've always viewed religious institutions and those who create and promote them to be interlopers in the relationship an individual may choose to have with a higher being. My grandfather, who also emigrated from Italy as a young man, didn't attend church and if asked why, he would simply state that he could talk to god without needing to go through a priest...who he viewed to be just like any other man...not god's anointed agent.

The following video clips are parts one and two from an hour-long BBC documentary on the Catholic Church and its efforts to hide or ignore the years of sexual exploitation on the part of its monastic members. Parts three and four will appear in the next posting.

UPDATE:

BBC has forced YouTube to remove the video from its site. The following link will take you to a site where you can still view the documentary (Be sure to paste the below code as a continuous sequence...I had to break it in order to fit the posting width):

http://link.brightcove.com/services/link/bcpid326855969/bclid715966067/
bctid909959911

Part One

Part Two

Daniel DiRito | May 21, 2007 | 1:39 PM | link | Comments (2)
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May 17, 2007

Victory Is Coming Sayeth The "Lords" To The Hordes genre: Hip-Gnosis & Polispeak

False Prophets

In the wake of the 2006 midterm elections little has happened to predict how Republican voters will ultimately respond to the strong Democratic showing. I suspect that it would be difficult to make definitive conclusion as to what led more voters to back Democratic candidates across all regions of the country. No doubt opposition to the war in Iraq was a factor but I'm anxious to see the degree to which voters may have been dissatisfied with the far right's level of influence within the GOP.

At the same time, it remains completely unclear if GOP voters can find enough common ground to rally around one presidential candidate and whether that consensus will be sufficient to overcome the voter shift witnessed in 2006.

If compromise is to be a part of the GOP equation, it doesn't appear that influential members of the far right will acquiesce on the positions that have catapulted them to the forefront of the party, allowed them to wield ever expanding influence, and rapidly grow their ranks and their coffers. Perhaps James Dobson of Focus on the Family is offering us a clear preview with his firm rebuke of Rudy Giuliani in an editorial published today on worldnetdaily.com.

The jig is up. Rudy Giuliani finally admitted in a speech at Houston Baptist College last week that he is an unapologetic supporter of abortion on demand. That revelation came as no great shock to those of us in the pro-life movement. His public pronouncements as mayor of New York, together with his more recent tap dances on the campaign trail, have told a very clear story.

How could Giuliani say with a straight face that he "hates" abortion," while also seeking public funding for it? How can he hate abortion and contribute to Planned Parenthood in 1993, 1994, 1998 and 1999? And how was he able for many years to defend the horrible procedure by which the brains are sucked from the heads of a viable, late-term, un-anesthetized babies? Those beliefs are philosophically and morally incompatible. What kind of man would even try to reconcile them?

Like Bill Clinton, who told us glibly that he wanted abortion to be "safe, legal and rare," Rudy wanted conservatives to believe he had undergone some kind of an election-eve conversion, more or less. Then the contradictions began catching up with him, which often happens to those who play games with words. No, this leopard has not changed his spots – as revealed again as recently as Tuesday night's GOP presidential debate. Giuliani now admits he is what he has been all along. Or as Popeye used to say, "I y'am what I y'am and that's all I y'am."

This self-styled defender of marriage says he is "proud" of having submitted, as New York's mayor, a bill creating "domestic partnerships" for homosexual couples. Admittedly, many liberal Americans will agree with the social positions espoused by Giuliani. However, I don't believe conservative voters whose support he seeks will be impressed. Presidential elections are won or lost by slim margins. Rudy has an uphill slog ahead of him, even though he is the darling of the media.

There are other moral concerns about Giuliani's candidacy that conservatives should find troubling. He has been married three times, and his second wife was forced to go to court to keep his mistress out of the mayoral mansion while the Giuliani family still lived there. Talk about tap dancing. Also during that time, the mayor used public funds to provide security services for his girlfriend. The second Mrs. Giuliani finally had enough of his philandering and, as the story goes, forced him to move out. He lived with friends for a while and then married his mistress. Unlike some other Republican presidential candidates, Giuliani appears not to have remorse for cheating on his wife.

It may be presumptive on my part, but that certainly sounds like the laying down of the gauntlet. Its hard to say if this threshold of accountability would hold true for Newt Gingrich or any other GOP candidate who may have the bones of the bogeyman not so neatly tucked away in a closet...but it does demonstrate that the far right intends to erect some formidable hurdles for candidates to navigate if they hope to be the anointed one.

Harry Truman asked, "How can I trust a man if his wife can't?" It is a very good question. Here's another one: Is Rudy Giuliani presidential timber? I think not. Can we really trust a chief executive who waffles and feigns support for policies that run contrary to his alleged beliefs? Of greater concern is how he would function in office. Will we learn after it is too late just what the former mayor really thinks? What we know about him already is troubling enough.

One more question: Shouldn't the American people be able to expect a certain decorum and dignity from the man who occupies the White House? On this measure, as well, Giuliani fails miserably. Much has been written in the blogosphere about his three public appearances in drag. In each instance, he tried to be funny by dressing like a woman. Can you imagine Ronald Reagan, who loved a good joke, doing something so ignoble in pursuit of a cheap guffaw? Not on your life.

My conclusion from this closer look at the current GOP front-runner comes down to this: Speaking as a private citizen and not on behalf of any organization or party, I cannot, and will not, vote for Rudy Giuliani in 2008. It is an irrevocable decision. If given a Hobson's – Dobson's? – choice between him and Sens. Hillary Clinton or Barrack Obama, I will either cast my ballot for an also-ran – or if worse comes to worst – not vote in a presidential election for the first time in my adult life. My conscience and my moral convictions will allow me to do nothing else.

It looks as if the far right has decided that it isn't going to wait as long to voice it's displeasure with candidates that fail to clearly champion their issues. While we saw some grumbling prior to the last two elections, I don't recall hearing any such unequivocal pronouncements from Dobson or his compatriots. I suspect this early and emphatic warning won't bring comfort to a party that is trying to recover from a midterm election that the president called "a thumping".

Yes, we did hear hints that evangelicals were considering sitting out the last election...and perhaps some did...but I'm inclined to think that this presidential campaign is going to sharpen the differences within the GOP rather than soothe any past or festering wounds.

No doubt the naysayer’s will suggest that sitting out an election serves no purpose and harms the efforts of the evangelical agenda...which would mean they should and will vote for the GOP candidate regardless. Always the contrarian, my impression of men like Dobson is that bravado may supersede practicality since I view their absolute inclinations to be the prevailing appeal they have with those they lead...and thus it is the means by which they hold the power they seek and the money and the influence that it provides. With that assumption, any action that can be viewed as weakness or an admission of defeat would be tantamount to suicide...and we know that is unacceptable and considered sinful.

As such, this dynamic creates a double edged sword for the purveyors of the far right's agenda. Part of their appeal is predicated upon success...success that is framed and therefore becomes synonymous with rightness...all of which originates from the approval and assistance they believe is provided by their designated higher power. The absolute nature of their dogma dictates the taking of absolute positions. In as much as the Bible is touted as the very absolute word of god, so too is the requirement to never waiver when administering and advocating the rightness of the higher power's words.

I think it’s helpful to look at an analogy. The notion of momentum is frequently associated with sports and that momentum serves as the basis to motivate the players to push forward in order to achieve victory...not a tie, not a well fought loss...but a victory that becomes the vanquishing of the enemy and the validation of the victor. Note how frequently the victor in a sporting event cites the assistance of god...as the source of the talent, the will to win, and the strength to prevail.

I've always mused that such a notion seems to suggest that god has a vested interest in competitive sports...enough so that he weighs the merits and prayers of the competitors and grants victory to the worthy while smiting the unworthy. At the same time, there is no objective means or reasoned justification to measure and confirm that premise...yet the words of the victor frequently imply as much.

I see the efforts of the far right in the same light...guided by the same rationale and therefore driven to achieve the same outcome...absolute victory. Further, those who lead this movement are keenly mindful of the power of momentum...which also means they understand the compounding nature of momentum lost. Defeat to the far right is therefore akin to conceding one's rightness and to suffer defeat serves to undermine that rightness (and the fact that it is granted by their affinity and kinship with the one true god) and the loss of momentum must be avoided at virtually all costs because it can begin to unwind the very blind mystique that fuels its existence.

Allowing an alternate awareness to succeed not only undermines the institution but it unravels the mechanism that attracts the individual...that being the assurance that one is living a right life which is repeatedly ratified by one's ongoing proximity to victory. Living that right life comes with the means to manage the terror of mortality and the far more acceptable promise of an idyllic after life. Being right...or achieving victory reinforces this premise.

Our human construct of faith is therefore fatally flawed...it is constantly seeking confirmation and it first requires an origin that cannot and must not be questioned or disputed. Once that absolute Holy Grail is in place, all actions are undertaken to prove the founding premise and victory becomes the fundamental means by which that can best be achieved and verified. Faith is thus maintained when success in human events affirms the rightness of the believers.

James Dobson and the handful of those who lead the far right may give many voters reason to dislike them...but one should never underestimate the degree to which they have discerned the essence of our human frailties. Notwithstanding, this knowledge comes with some inherent limitations. The choices they have at their disposal which allow them to maintain their hold over those who follow are necessarily restricted by the very human frailties they have identified.

I view Dobson's words to be an anticipatory shot across the bow at the politicians who could damage the standing of the far right...but more importantly I view his words as an acknowledgment that 2006 put his power over those he leads at risk. If my hypothesis is correct, those aligned with Dobson will counter intuitively draw a much clearer line in the sand with regard to the 2008 election. Losing the election is secondary to losing the hold they have on their followers.

Conceding doctrine in order to win an election is far worse than losing an election. As long as the adherence to doctrine is maintained, rightness can be affirmed. If rightness can be affirmed through leadership’s unwavering and willful demonstration of faith, (even in the presence of predictable defeat) then that faith can be extrapolated to and embraced by the flock. That negates the risks associated with the possible negative attributions that may result from the previously identified human frailties and that might befall the individual followers should they perceive that their cause is lost (and their beliefs invalidated).

Therefore it is essential that the enemy remains clearly identified as well as the need to persevere. In order to achieve the promised victory, the wrongness of the opposition must be magnified in order to allow momentum to intervene and sustain the faith of the followers. Victory will have been postponed but never conceded. That leaves the identified and established fundamental beliefs and their absolute premise intact and available to employ in the maintenance of unquestioned and unchallenged power.

In the end, leadership reassures the flock that victory remains the goal and that it remains attainable...but only through blind adherence to the doctrinal interpretations of the leadership because they are the individuals who have exhibited sufficient will and faith to sustain the flock. The end goal has been delayed but the ending remains unchanged. The movement lives on and the benefactors live well in the here and now. Everyone else is asked to be patient, to contribute to the cause, and to anxiously await the rewards of the afterlife.

Image courtesy of www.traditioninaction.org

Daniel DiRito | May 17, 2007 | 12:57 PM | link | Comments (0)
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May 16, 2007

Christopher Hitchens On Jerry Falwell genre: Hip-Gnosis & Six Degrees of Speculation

In this video clip, Christopher Hitchens, atheist and author of the new book God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything, offers a scathing indictment of Jerry Falwell. While many find Hitchens extremely acerbic, his intellect is formidable. Note...

Daniel DiRito | May 16, 2007 | 1:42 PM | link | Comments (0)
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May 15, 2007

Jerry Falwell: A Fitting Epitaph? genre: Happy Remembrances & Hip-Gnosis & Six Degrees of Speculation

JERRY FALWELL - 08/11/1933 - 05/15/2007...

Daniel DiRito | May 15, 2007 | 8:39 PM | link | Comments (0)
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Falwell Dies - We Await Word On Who Is To Blame genre: Happy Remembrances & Hip-Gnosis

Jerry Falwell, considered the founder of the Moral Majority and a leading evangelical leader, has died at the age of 73. I decided to let his own words speak to his legacy...and to also allow readers to draw their...

Daniel DiRito | May 15, 2007 | 4:46 PM | link | Comments (4)
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May 14, 2007

Fears, Peers, Smoke And Mirrors genre: Hip-Gnosis & Six Degrees of Speculation & Video-Philes

In our never ending quest to have the government or some other entity fix all that ails our society, we continue to look under every rock except the one that really counts…our own. On Thursday the Motion Picture Association...

Daniel DiRito | May 14, 2007 | 10:22 PM | link | Comments (1)
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Miss Jihad - 2007 genre: Hip-Gnosis & Just Jihad & Tongue-In-Cheek

Thought Theater continues its exclusive coverage of the Miss Jihad - 2007 competition from Baghdad. The four week reality television program format narrowed the field to five semi-finalists over the weekend. In order to reach the semi-finals, the contestants...

Daniel DiRito | May 14, 2007 | 4:06 PM | link | Comments (0)
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May 12, 2007

Switching Teams: It's Not What You Think It Is genre: Hip-Gnosis & Tongue-In-Cheek

The episode was called “The Beard"…and it aired during the sixth season of the popular television show Seinfeld. The following dialogue takes place between Jerry and Elaine and it is a testament to good writing and the ability to say...

Daniel DiRito | May 12, 2007 | 9:10 AM | link | Comments (0)
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May 8, 2007

The Dark Ages: What's Old Is New Again? genre: Hip-Gnosis & Little Red Ribbon-Hood & Six Degrees of Speculation

Less than ten years ago, the world awaited the promise of the millenium with hope and optimism. Less than ten years into the new millenium, one might argue that hope and optimism have been forced to yield to the...

Daniel DiRito | May 8, 2007 | 9:29 AM | link | Comments (0)
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May 3, 2007

Adoption & Foster Care: Evangelicals Walk The Talk? genre: Hip-Gnosis & Six Degrees of Speculation

I've been a vocal critic of the religious right and more specifically the evangelical movement. I've often criticized their stance on abortion, gay marriage and adoption, and a number of other issues. My focus has frequently been upon the...

Daniel DiRito | May 3, 2007 | 10:26 AM | link | Comments (3)
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