Outrageous

Outrageous March 18, 2009

Outrage seems to be all the rage just now, so OK, I'll chime in. Here are a few things, ranked by their respective outrageousness, that I find upsetting.

No. 2: The AIG bonuses.

It's not so much that they're paying out huge bonuses after accepting billions in bailout funds from taxpayers. It's that they're paying out huge bonuses to the guys who, you know, nearly destroyed the world's economy. Screwing over millions of formerly hard-working people ought to be its own reward.

No. 3: Congressional grandstanding over the AIG bonuses.

Mitch McConnell is pretending to be upset that worthless financiers are taking home millions of dollars seemingly swindled from hardworking Americans. In every previous election, this has been McConnell's platform and campaign mantra. It's what he stands for.

It's no good to spend your whole political career as a loyal toady of the Sheriff of Nottingham and then try to pretend you're upset when the Sheriff steals from the poor to give to the rich.

No. 4: The reporting on the AIG bonuses.

NPR's reporter this morning told us that, since the government in effect owns a controlling interest in AIG, it couldn't tax the bonuses because that would amount to "the government just taxing itself."

All very annoying. Outrageous even. But all far behind the leader, the runaway No. 1 smash with a bullet.

No. 1: This guy.

Pope 

Pope Bareback XVI didn't really kick off his tour of Ground Zero of the global AIDS epidemic by denouncing the use condoms, did he?

Yes, he did.

To those brothers and sisters in Africa who had to hear such a thing, I can only say this, borrowing the King James Version's euphemistic translation of St. Paul: "I would they were even cut off which trouble you."

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  • Leum

    Two additions to my last post:
    1. (eg Japanese monks) NOT ie
    2. The Dali Lama has stated that all not penis-in-vagina sex is wrong for Buddhist laypeople, but acceptable for non-Buddhists. Caused quite a stir in the GLBT community.

  • Not Really Here

    When I saw Neil deGrasse Tyson speak, he pointed out that those who make this assertion should try running into a brick wall. At 25 mph, you already have more than enough momentum to get yourself hurt.
    You’ve seen Neil deGrasse Tyson speak? In person?
    Kewl.

  • Vast Intellect

    Dammit, Kit, you can write.
    I’ve told her before that she should write books or something, but no-one ever listens to me…

  • Lee Ratner

    Frobarr: Lots of religions besides Roman Catholicism and Jains admire celibacy and have celibate priesthoods. Most Buddhist monks are celibate or at least celibate during the duration of their monkhood, in some Buddhist cultures monkhood is temporary for some men. The only Buddhist sects that only for married monks were the Japanese Pure Land sects. Hindus also strongly admire celibacy but not for the priesthood, which is hereditary.

  • Leum

    Zen priests can marry, too. In Japan at least. The government either permitted or mandated marriage for the Sangha 200 years ago IIRC.

  • Karen
  • ohiolibrarian

    @Karen: Lucky 13?

  • calenturian

    (One of the Veggie Tales videos apparently peddles the notion that an action can “hurt God’s feelings.” In one of my strange acts of associational thinking, I adapt Enya lyrics to postulate that rain is the god’s tears.)
    If only it were true! I’ve been sinning for years and still we have the drought.

  • Karen

    Another view of the Pope’s comments. This guy and the few comments he allows seen to think that our criticism of B16 is the beginning of another Nero-type persecution of the church. Also, condoms don’t stop AIDS. I suppose if you repeat that often enough and don’t allow anyone to post comments disagreeing with you, you will start believing it. The fact that he blocks comments on the post where he asserts “condoms don’t help” irritates me more than his assertion does. At least let other people state the facts, dimwit.

  • Ms. Anon E. Mouse, Esq.

    (One of the Veggie Tales videos apparently peddles the notion that an action can “hurt God’s feelings.” In one of my strange acts of associational thinking, I adapt Enya lyrics to postulate that rain is the god’s tears.) That’s definitely the theology I was taught most of my life. I think it’s connected to the books of prophecy, where God sounds hurt and angry about the nation of Israel’s sins. This passage in Hosea’s a good example,

    “I will punish her for the festival days of the Baals, when she offered incense to them and decked herself with her ring and jewellery, and went after her lovers, and forgot me, says the Lord.”

    You really can feel a poignancy in the poetry, whether or not it creates good theology.

  • Ryan

    But I thought the AIDS virus was small enough to slip through the pores of the condom! Are you saying that diagram I saw on the Rush Limbaugh TV show was wrong?

  • Lori

    Everyone has already said everything I thought about the problems that arise from having rules about sex made by people who are celibate, but I will add one thing to the discussion about the AIG bonuses.
    Let’s say AIG would have lost $100 billion dollars, but thanks to a few brilliant calls by one of their executives, only lost $50 billion. Is a multi-million-dollar bonus still outrageous?
    IME the answer to this is that yes it would be completely outrageous for one simple reason that doesn’t require any detailed knowledge about AIG—the 1st requirement for receiving a bonus is that the company has to turn a profit. I managed to be in the bonus pool (in a very small way) at 2 different companies and if the company lost money the bonus pool was dry. Contracts like the ones at AIG are using a completely different meaning of the word “bonus” than I ever saw will working in the corporate world.
    I think that the existence of those contracts is far more of a scandal the the size of the bonuses. For years we’ve been told that we should applaud the enormous amounts of money made by these people because it was performance based and incentive to work hard. Contracts like this turn that notion on it’s head and undermine the supposed reasoning behind the system. It seems to me that we should be looking at that much harder.

  • anonymous

    Alas! What justice can there be in a world with a God that feels?

  • lonespark

    DS9 can contain suck and still rule. Yet I see no point in arguing with deluded unbelievers.

  • SweetCraspy

    zmayhem’s comment on the rejected Vatican II contraception study was something I read about a few years ago. The analysis given in the book (don’t remember the title) was that the Vatican hierarchy was unwilling to surrender the control that they had over people’s lives and that there was no redeeming factor to justify the decision. That was a major blow to my already reeling (from general college freedom) Catholicism.
    On the AIG bonuses, I’m having a hard time getting worked up. AIG got a terrible deal with the bonus recipients, but that money was promised to them something like a year ago, and it was never performance based. (This is all based on an NPR interview. If they suck now, I didn’t know about it.) Essentially, the bonus recipients accepted a relatively low salary (in terms of what they could have made without this kind of deal, not that the dollar value was small), and in return were promised a big payout at the end of the retention period. If I were making that kind of deal with a company, I would absolutely feel like I was entitled to the money and if I were planning to leave the company, the retention date would play a big factor in when I decided to leave. After all, I would have insisted on much more in salary
    In making the deal, AIG made horrible business decisions, thinking (I assume) that business would still be booming when the bonuses were due and there would be no problem. I want to hold AIG accountable for those negligent assumptions about the business environment and prevent them from making dangerous employment contracts in the future, but I don’t think there is any justification for telling them they can’t pay money they contractually owe to anyone, including the bonus recipients. The whole reason we’re bailing them out is that otherwise they couldn’t meet their insurance obligations. Are payroll obligations so different?
    In addition to all of this I’d like to see the whole industry get away from the idea that financial executives are worth the millions they are courted with, but I don’t know how to handle that.

  • Tonio

    Plato’s yearning for the “good old days” led him to idealize spiritual and cerebral matters while devaluing physical labor and, ultimately, physical universe. He therefore constructed a metaphysics in which idealized concepts were the “true” reality, and the material universe a pale shadow of them.
    Thanks for the background. That sounds similar to Sagan’s description of Plato and Aristotle in “Cosmos”: They taught the alienation of the body from the mind (a natural enough ideal in a slave society); they separated matter from thought; they divorced the Earth from the heavens – divisions that were to dominate Western thinking for more than twenty centuries.
    I’m not sure why the ideal would be natural enough with slavery, unless that’s a version of the this-world/next-world theological dichotomy that Fred has discussed regarding American slavery.

  • bulbul

    DS9 can contain suck and still rule.
    Repeat your heresy all you want, the true believers shall never falter.

  • Caravelle

    Tonio : “They taught the alienation of the body from the mind (a natural enough ideal in a slave society); they separated matter from thought; they divorced the Earth from the heavens – divisions that were to dominate Western thinking for more than twenty centuries.”
    I’m not sure why the ideal would be natural enough with slavery, unless that’s a version of the this-world/next-world theological dichotomy that Fred has discussed regarding American slavery.

    I doubt it; I don’t know what kind of religion or worldview ancient Greek slaves had that helped them deal with the day to day, but even if they did have something comparable to American slaves’ christianity I can’t imagine Plato or Socrates using it as a basis for their philosophy.
    Maybe Sagan meant that in a slave society you’ve got the slaves that do all the work (the “body”) and aren’t really considered people, while the citizens (the “mind”) do all the philosophizin’ and such*. As opposed to a more egalitarian society, where everybody shares in the work and everybody is considered capable of thinking and doing philosophy and politics.
    *Though I don’t think the distinction is that clear-cut : there were also non-slaves who put in an honest day’s work and that Plato and Socrates considered unfit to do philosophy or politics. It seems to me they were into extreme specialisation – if you make shoes you can’t also bake pies, or concern yourself with politics.

  • This comes just a few days after the Vatican claimed that the washing machine did more to liberate women than right to work, right to vote, or the pill.
    And, my initial impression that the new pope is simply a jerk continues to grow. I don’t actually own a washing machine, but they’ll pry my vote and my ortho novum out of my cold, dead fingers.
    Somewhere in the Summa, Aquinas claims that masturbation, sodomy, and the like (sex with condoms would also go in this category) are worse crimes than rape, since rape only violates the woman, while masturbation etc. violates the divine order of things.
    Modern social conservatives are cagier about how they phrase their arguments, but if you unpack them, a lot of times you get down to the same thing — the actual suffering of an actual human being, especially if that human is female, is less important than the Divine Order of Things.
    In addition to all the problems this line of thinking has in a secular and pluralistic society, it is not even the *CHRISTIAN* view of things.
    “For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen.”
    (And I think the NT makes it pretty clear that “brother” means brothers and sisters both.)
    But when you try to back up moral arguments with bogus facts — whether it’s “Condoms contribute to AIDS” or “The sun orbits a flat Earth” — well, them’s fighting words, Benny.
    Yes, indeed. And, if you have to lie to make your “moral” argument, I think it’s a good sign that maybe your argument isn’t so moral.

  • Lori

    @sweetCraspy: The AIG contracts were fair weirder than NPR apparently made them sound. Steven Davidoff is a contracts law professor who write a column on contracts for the NY Times and he wrote a little about them.
    http://dealbook.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/03/18/dissecting-the-aig-bonus-contract/
    The people in the Financial Products division got a deal that was both extremely nice and quite odd—strange enough to make Davidoff suspect fraud.

  • In addition to all of this I’d like to see the whole industry get away from the idea that financial executives are worth the millions they are courted with, but I don’t know how to handle that.
    Simply put: Wages aren’t determined by how valuable a job is to society. They’re determined by how valuable a job is to the employer. That’s why executives and entertainers get paid more than teachers, garbagemen, and cops: the latter are more valuable by far to society, but the former have more impact on their employers’ profits.
    Note, by the way, that how much of an impact executives have on profitability is largely a function of business size: the larger it is, the more impact the executive has relative to the average employee. The only way to reduce executive salaries, therefore, is to either directly restrict salaries themselves, or restrict how large corporations can get. Still won’t help you with entertainers, though…

  • Tonio

    Modern social conservatives are cagier about how they phrase their arguments, but if you unpack them, a lot of times you get down to the same thing — the actual suffering of an actual human being, especially if that human is female, is less important than the Divine Order of Things.
    I’ve been trying to do similar unpacking with the US Supreme Court’s concept of “prurient interest.” This seems to assert a compelling government interest in preventing people from being exposed to material that will arouse them. I don’t know if this is directed at self-satisfaction or interpersonal satisfaction, or both.
    In addition to all the problems this line of thinking has in a secular and pluralistic society, it is not even the *CHRISTIAN* view of things.
    I take your word about the latter since I’m not an expert in theology. My own issue with that thinking is that “divine order of things” amounts to whatever someone wants it to be.

  • By entertainers, by the by, I mean mostly professional sports players and actors. Also note that these are glamour fields; the average actor’s salary is significantly less than the national average salary, and most of them live in high cost-of-living cities like New York and LA.

  • Dorothy

    Belatedly, briefly and I haven’t had time to read through the comments:
    With both assertions , those people appear to be less concerned with the accuracy of their assertions, and more concerned with justifying their theology and their moral stance. – Tonio
    Well, that’s it exactly. This was very early in the epidemic; my friends couldn’t have had much evidence to back up their assertions, so I could only surmise that the assertions had more to do with, as you say, a preexisting theological and moral stance, already firmly in place within the NFP movement, and not cold hard facts. I had no issue with their practicing NFP as long as they considered it a form of self-discipline that they chose freely for themselves, and were ready to accept the consequences. (And they were. They’re good parents.) I could have taken issue with their assertions that I and everyone else on the planet are morally obligated to follow the same discipline because it’s God’s will. I could have, if they had allowed me to get a word in edgewise beyond “but, but…”.

  • Tonio: I hate hate hate hate HATE the Supreme Court’s lame-ass, copout pornography ruling. The First Amendment does not say “freedom of the speech, except when it’s sexy or pisses people off.” It says “freedom of speech”, period*. There is absolute NO compelling public interest whatsoever in preventing “obscenity” — a concept so vague they can’t even define it! — any more than there is in preventing scatology or blasphemy or anything else fifth graders giggle at.
    *Well, technically, it’s a comma, not a period, but that’s because they go on to list freedom of religion, assembly, press, and lobbying, not in that order. Had the framers of the Constitution been alive today, I suspect that some of the Amendments specifically aimed at British colonial practices would be combined, and the First Amendment would be expanded into the First Through Fifth Amendments. Possibly with a Sixth “And seriously, we mean it, you can say whatever you want about anything you want via any communication medium you want to whoever you want at any time, absolutely no exceptions whatsoever, though you may be liable after the fact for the consequences, so don’t be a douchehat” Amendment, as well.

  • Leum

    Froborr, I disagree. I suspect, with some regret, that those eminent gentlemen would have fully agreed that obscenity had no right to protection. But then, my basic feeling when people ask, “What about modern America would have most horrified the Founding Fathers?” is “probably the way women, poor people, and brown people have rights.”

  • Tonio

    I’m not proud of the fact that Benedict looks creepy to me, and I would have that reaction no matter what his theology. I had the impression that his specific stances aren’t all that much different from his predecessor’s. Is that the case? I’m not even Catholic and when Benedict took over, I felt like I was getting a stepparent. Based on personality alone, JP2 seemed like a kindly grandparent, while Benedict seems like a crotchety neighbor with a dark secret.

  • Tonio

    This man is harder on Benedict than Fred is…
    Impeach the Pope

  • Amaryllis

    Tonio: Benedict’s doctrinal positions are very much in line with John Paul II’s. Which is why he’s been such a disappointment, to those of us who were hoping another Pope might moderate some of JP’s more inflexible opinions. Instead, he’s just as much a hard-liner on many issues, and comes across as even more concerned with purity of doctrine over pastoral care. Additionally, he seems to be really tone-deaf to the contemporary world; he’s always being surprised by the way people, even Catholics, react to him and his bishops.
    And just to prove how broad-minded I am, I’m going to quote Ross Douthat on the subject:

    …while the institutional Church is not a democracy, neither is it a monolith: Save on rare occasions, it will always speak with a multiplicity of voices, some of them wise and loving and some of them ignorant, or tone-deaf, or legalistic, or cruel. But for the Church to carry out its mission, and turn outward to the world rather than inward on itself, the latter sort of voices can’t always be the ones that speak up first and loudest, and have their words carried halfway around the world before wisdom and charity have even gotten out of bed.

  • Ursula L

    I’ve found the best antidote to distress over Pope Benny and his hateful ways is to remember a Photoshop that was going around of him, when he was first elected. He was in his well-known poise of standing with both arms raised, but in the way of a Münchner Kindl, the intreped photoshopper had placed a beer stein in one hand and a turnip in the other.

  • Leum: Well, yes, but if they were alive today they would presumably have been raised today, and therefore have been as much more liberal than the man on the street as they were two hundred years ago.
    Ursula: I mostly just imagine him and Dick Cheney in a dark lair somewhere, dressed as supervillains and speaking in ridiculously overblown prose. Not that I necessarily equate the two of them, they just both strike me as having very comic-book-ey mannerisms.

  • Jeff

    Froborr, are you aware that the AIG execs getting the bonii (isn’t that the correct plural?) are the ones that came up with the CRDs that drove the company into bankruptcy? This is not employers rewarding performance, but criminals benefitting from their crime.

  • Jeff: Yes. I meant to post, as I learn more about the AIG thing, the more I realize that I should eliminate the “probably” from my statement — they really don’t deserve those bonuses at all. It would still be nice to see someone, somewhere explain the economics of why executives normally get paid so much, and why it specifically doesn’t apply in this case, though.
    As for them being contractual obligations rather than true bonuses: So what? AIG is unable to cover their contractual obligations and receiving government money with which to do so. There is not enough money to cover all their obligations, and therefore they have a responsibility to pick and choose according to the intent with which the money was given. That means using it to keep themselves solvent, not pay off the crooks that did this.
    As an aside, did anybody see the hilarious bit on “The New Face of Crime” on the Daily Show last night? First time I’d watched in ages, maybe years, and I was in stitches. Best bit:
    Guy Whose Name I Didn’t Catch: I mean, look at the way you’re dressed.
    Stewart: We’re dressed the same! [in suits]
    GWNIDC: Yes, but I’m black. I’m dressed like the President. You’re dressed like the bank manager that just stole my life savings!

  • Julie paradox

    Just want to add my voice to those adoring Kit ;-)
    (oh, and I really really really wanted to post first on The Immortals, but I couldn’t think of anything to say, so I didn’t. Do I get a booby prize or anything?)

  • Jessica

    Julie paradox Do I get a booby prize or anything?
    Absolutely!

  • Not Really Here

    Julie paradox-
    This is much better.

  • Amaryllis

    So can somebody explain to me why the boobies have those spectacular red and blue feet? Is there some use to the coloration, or are the birds just showing off?

  • Jeff

    First time I’d watched in ages, maybe years, and I was in stitches.
    You should, through the magic of Google, be able to find the take-down of CNBC, Jim Cramer in particular. It’s a hilarious vision of what ought to be charged as criminal fraud.

  • ako

    The thing that horrifies me about many of the teachings of the modern Catholic Church. What horrifies me is that the church claims to also hold some of the same values as I do (it’s wrong to cheat and more wrong to cheat and infect your spouse, raping children is immoral and should be opposed), but tend to treat them as trivial or irrelevant next to the things I don’t believe or understand. You don’t see the Pope running around making public declarations about how men who cheat on their wives are potentially killing them. You don’t hear about the man who raped and impregnated a nine-year-old, thereby putting her life in danger being excommunicated, or drawing a fraction of the clerical condemnation that the doctor who saved the little girl’s life got. And even when the church does raise objections to evils like child molestation, they use it as an excuse to condemn gay people (which ignores or minimizes the problem of priests molesting girls).
    I can deal with someone who’s against the use of condoms, doesn’t lie, and condemns willfully reckless unprotected sex as much as, or more than, condom use. I can deal with someone who’s against homosexuality, but even more against molesting children of any gender. I can deal with someone being pro-life and valuing the pregnant little girl as much as the fetus. I disagree with these stances, but I can find something to relate to. But current Catholic doctrine is this frighteningly alien morality, and doesn’t, in practical terms, seem to relate to my ideas of morality at all.

  • Amaryllis

    You don’t hear about the man who raped and impregnated a nine-year-old, thereby putting her life in danger being excommunicated
    A late response, and probably just as well that everyone’s busy abusing that idiot Buck Williams over on TF Friday…
    I’d forgotten, if I ever knew, which particular offenses carry a penalty of automatic excommunication. So I went and looked them up. They include heresy and schism, desecrating the materials of the Eucharist, a priest violating the secrecy of the confessional, or otherwise abusing the sacrament, participating in an invalid ordination, physically attacking the Pope, and participating in or being an accomplice to an abortion.
    As we used to say on Sesame Street, One Of These Things Is Not Like The Others.
    After all, remember what excommunication is— it’s a church penalty, denying the offender the reception of the sacraments and other full participation in the life of the church, in hopes that he or she will repent and seek reconciliation. So it makes sense that someone who is teaching contrary to fundamental doctrine (no, the ban on contraception is not fundamental doctrine, as far as most of us are concerned), or who abuses or perverts a sacrament, has put himself outside the community he’s scorned.
    Abortion is not that kind of offense. Even if you believe that it is an offense, it’s an offense against human life and dignity, like rape or incest or for that matter other kinds of murder. (Again, I’m not personally equating abortion to murder here, just considering the Church’s position on it.) Abortion is not essentially an offense against Church discipline, but the Church has made it into one. So why?
    I will charitably assume it’s because they’re trying to emphasize the gravity of the offense, when other kinds of attacks don’t need that emphasis, being already considered crimes. Murder, rape and incest are condemned by general moral consensus, but there is no consensus on abortion; in fact, the general trend has been a shifting away from the Church’s position. It’s a case of YOU’RE NOT LISTENING, SO WE’LL SHOUT LOUDER.
    Any parent knows how well that one works.
    It’s also worth noting that “automatic excommunication” is not always so automatic. There’s a long list of mitigating conditions for any excommunication, including age (a minor can’t be excommunicated); diminished mental capacity; being unaware of, or honestly unconvinced of, the gravity of the offense; acting in self-defense against a threat to one’s life; and acting under coercion. The excommunications in the Peruvian case met several of those conditions, and were almost immediately rescinded– but not, of course, before the damage had been done.
    So on the one hand, you have right-wing Catholics screaming for the public excommunication of politicians who support abortion rights, as accomplices and as heretics; on the other hand, you have Catholics for a Free Choice claiming that physical, mental, and economic considerations count as coercion, and that women who’ve had abortions are no more excommunicated than anybody else. Consensus? Not in my lifetime, apparently.
    So I wish we could at least settle for charity.

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