Smart people saying smart things

Smart people saying smart things April 10, 2012

Anthea Butler: “Days of Reckoning for the Philadelphia Archdiocese

In order to receive justice, the victims must face their accusers, and are vilified by the very institution that has allowed sexual abusers to remain in its ranks. Local Catholic dioceses Kansas City and St. Louis have upped the ante by going after the organization that exists to help the abused, SNAP, subpoenaing their records of over 100,000 people who have been interviewed about sexual abuse over the years.

Juxtaposing the past Holy Week against the lurid details of the abuse has been agonizing. When priests pass boys around for sex at church summer camp, there is no doubt that Archdiocese of Philadelphia has been anything but a holy place. The evils that were allowed to occur and were hidden under the tenure of Cardinals Bevilaqua and Rigali in Philadelphia reads like a catalog of sexual abuse.

… I am fervently hoping for a conviction in this trial. While the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (UCCSB) continues to rail about “religious freedom,” it cannot face the hypocrisy in its management of sexual abuse cases. Once a fetus reaches term and is born and baptized into the Catholic Church, that child has no guarantee that the Church will protect his or her body or sexuality. Sadly, it would not surprise me if the UCCSB attempted to extend the religious freedom argument to the manner in which they protected and covered up for priests accused of molestation.

It is increasingly difficult for sober-minded, intelligent people of faith to continue to participate in the complicity of a church that in the American context has bishops, including Archbishop Chaput of Philadelphia, ranting about religious freedom and birth control, while they don’t give a damn about the children who have been repeatedly raped and abused in their care.

George Orwell, The Road to Wigan Pier (via)

Watching coal-miners at work, you realize momentarily what different universes people inhabit. Down there where coal is dug is a sort of world apart which one can quite easily go through life without ever hearing about. Probably majority of people would even prefer not to hear about it. Yet it is the absolutely necessary counterpart of our world above. Practically everything we do, from eating an ice to crossing the Atlantic, and from baking a loaf to writing a novel, involves the use of coal, directly or indirectly. For all the arts of peace coal is needed; if war breaks out it is needed all the more. In time of revolution the miner must go on working or the revolution must stop, for revolution as much as reaction needs coal. Whatever may be happening on the surface, the hacking and shovelling have got to continue without a pause, or at any rate without pausing for more than a few weeks at the most. In order that Hitler may march the goose-step, that the Pope may denounce Bolshevism, that the cricket crowds may assemble at Lords, that the poets may scratch one another’s backs, coal has got to be forthcoming. But on the whole we are not aware of it; we all know that we ‘must have coal’, but we seldom or never remember what coal-getting involves. Here am I sitting writing in front of my comfortable coal fire. It is April but I still need a fire. Once a fortnight the coal cart drives up to the door and men in leather jerkins carry the coal indoors in stout sacks smelling of tar and shoot it clanking into the coal-hole under the stairs. It is only very rarely, when I make a definite mental-effort, that I connect this coal with that far-off labour in the mines. It is just ‘coal’–something that I have got to have; black stuff that arrives mysteriously from nowhere in particular, like manna except that you have to pay for it. You could quite easily drive a car right across the north of England and never once remember that hundreds of feet below the road you are on the miners are hacking at the coal. Yet in a sense it is the miners who are driving your car forward. Their lamp-lit world down there is as necessary to the daylight world above as the root is to the flower.

It is not long since conditions in the mines were worse than they are now. There are still living a few very old women who in their youth have worked underground, with the harness round their waists, and a chain that passed between their legs, crawling on all fours and dragging tubs of coal. They used to go on doing this even when they were pregnant. And even now, if coal could not be produced without pregnant women dragging it to and fro, I fancy we should let them do it rather than deprive ourselves of coal. But most of the time, of course, we should prefer to forget that they were doing it. It is so with all types of manual work; it keeps us alive, and we are oblivious of its existence. More than anyone else, perhaps, the miner can stand as the type of the manual worker, not only because his work is so exaggeratedly awful, but also because it is so vitally necessary and yet so remote from our experience, so invisible, as it were, that we are capable of forgetting it as we forget the blood in our veins. In a way it is even humiliating to watch coal-miners working. It raises in you a momentary doubt about your own status as an ‘intellectual’ and a superior person generally. For it is brought home to you, at least while you are watching, that it is only because miners sweat their guts out that superior persons can remain superior. You and I and the editor of the Times Lit. Supp., and the poets and the Archbishop of Canterbury and Comrade X, author of Marxism for Infants–all of us really owe the comparative decency of our lives to poor drudges underground, blackened to the eyes, with their throats full of coal dust, driving their shovels forward with arms and belly muscles of steel.

Harold Pollack: “A safety-net, not a hammock

I doubt Rep. Ryan was talking about my brother-in-law Vincent, who requires Medicaid and food stamps because he is permanently disabled. I suspect that most conservatives would be embarrassed to learn the true impact on the intellectually disabled of conservative state policies.

Ryan is speaking about many of the direct care workers who assist disabled persons such as Vincent. We trust these women and men to care for our loved ones. They clean soiled linens. They calm agitated people suffering from autism spectrum disorders. Their professional peers  do similarly worthy work as nurse’s aides, and child care workers. They earn very low wages, nationally averaging just above $11/hr. Many provide health care while they, themselves, go uninsured.

Like their counterparts who scrub floors, change diapers, or operate cash registers at McDonald’s, these are the lucky duckies whose kids rely upon Medicaid or CHIP, the Earned Income Tax Credit, and other elements of our safety-net. Below them on the economic ladder are low-income single moms trying to raise their kids on Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF), traditional cash welfare. Many of these women can’t find a job in the midst of an economic crisis. Still others are quite poor, yet for one reason or another are ineligible for TANF aid.

Few people are resting on “a hammock that lulls able-bodied people to lives of dependency and complacency.” Welfare rolls are at record lows. In some states, maximum TANF cash benefit for a family of three are below $200. That’s well below the $350 that Rep. Ryan apparently paid for a single bottle of wine at a swank business dinner.

Peter Van Buren: “What We Lost in Iraq and Washington, 2009-2012

Beyond the temporary showmanship, the Iraq we created via our war is a mean place, unsafe and unstable. Of course, life goes on there (with the usual lack of electricity and potable water), but as the news shows, to an angry symphony of suicide bombers and targeted killings. While the American public may have changed the channel to more exciting shows in Libya, now Syria, or maybe just to American Idol, the Iraqi people are trapped in amber, replaying the scenes I saw in 2009-2010, living reminders of all the good we failed to do.

Ties between Iraq and Iran continue to strengthen, however, with Baghdad serving as a money-laundering stopover for a Tehran facing tightening U.S. and European sanctions, even as it sells electricity to Iraq. (That failed reconstruction program again!) Indeed, with Iran now able to meddle in Iraq in ways it couldn’t have when Saddam Hussein was in power, that country will be more capable of contesting U.S. hegemony in the region.

Given what we left behind in Iraq, it remains beyond anyone, even the nasty men who started the war in 2003, to claim victory or accomplishment or achievement there, and except for the odd pundit seeking to rile his audience, none do.

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