Thursday, January 30, 2014

Justice Dis-served.

Yeah, I know, that's not a word.  But it oughta be, doggone it.

Today, for the second time, Amanda Knox got convicted of murder.  The first was the result of the original highly celebrated trial, which was overturned on appeal.

In the US, that would have been the end of it.  American prosecutors have one bite at the apple, if the accused is acquitted, they lose, and that's it, they have no appeal.  But, in Italy, that apparently is NOT the end of it, and prosecutors can appeal an acquittal they disagree with.

Which they did, and the Italian Supreme Court directed another Appeals Court to retry the poor girl.

That court today returned a guilty verdict.

Due to the Constitutional protections against Double Jeopardy, it is unlikely that Amanda Knox will ever be extradited back to Italy to serve that time.  But, she is thereby restricted to the United States for the rest of her natural life - if she sets foot in another country Italy has an extradition treaty with, it's back to the hoosegow.  For over 28 years.   That means the entire European Union, you know.  And who knows how many others.

Given the absolute carnival her first trial apparently was, and the cavalier manner in which the Italians apparently investigated the crime in the first place, this entire ordeal has the obvious trappings of a corrupt and disabled justice system.  This second trial has the appearance of being just a sop to the prosecutors, as the justices themselves have to know that she'll never serve a day of her sentence, due to that double jeopardy thing.  Which is a complete travesty of justice all by itself.

Oh, I know, the American system of justice doesn't have anything to crow about, given the number of innocents we imprison every year.  Or out and out kill, like that poor fellow in Mississippi - or was it Alabama?  Everybody knew that man was innocent, yet they killed the poor bastard anyway.  Just cause he was black, and they could.

Which brings me to why I am writing this tonight.

The thread that connects these thoughts is that any human justice system is imperfect.  We do end up jailing innocent folks, sometimes for decades.  Fortunately, there are numerous groups in the US who work tirelessly to get new trials for people they investigate cases for and determine that an injustice has been done.  Sometimes, they even succeed.

But then what?  Oh, yeah, sometimes these guys get some kind of renumeration.  As if any money amount can reimburse you for decades of your life wasted behind bars.  But at least, they sometimes get that.

But what about the victim?  Our entire justice system is supposedly predicated on the ideal that the government speaks for the dead.  That in cases of murder, where the dead cannot speak and tell their tale, the government steps in to see that justice is done on their behalf.

Unless of course, they get the wrong perpetrator.  In that case, the real murderer walks, free and clear.  Even if some years later, the guy in prison is shown to be wrongly accused and convicted, the American justice system is not at all interested in going back to that cold case and finding out who really did it.  True, if the wrongly convicted man is freed based on the confession of the real murderer who is now in prison for life, they might go ahead and try the real perpetrator just to get the conviction on record - especially if that will prevent any kind of future parole issues.

But at no time is any case ever reinvestigated based on the desire to see real justice done.  No prosecutor's office wants to stand up in front of a judge and explain why they are prosecuting THIS guy after having wrongly convicted THAT guy 30 years ago.  Or 20, or 10.  Kinda hard to prove to the judge that, "Yeah, trust me, we might have gotten that one wrong, but we're really convinced THIS time we've got the right guy!"

So, all day, every day, murderers go free.  Walking among us.  They could be your coworker, your neighbor, your friend.  Your boss, your mailman, your car mechanic.  Or the guy that comes into your home to fix the leaky faucet or your computer.

You may be comfortable with that.

I'm not.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Where the hell is the FBI?

Did somebody, while we weren't looking, repeal the U.S. Code › Title 18 › Part I › Chapter 115 › § 2384, which is the part of the US Code which forbids sedition and criminalizes it?

I wonder, because I keep seeing articles like the one I saw today on the web site "Raw Story", entitled, "Fox News analyst tells Tea Party group he can lead a military coup against Obama".  This is at least the second or third such story I've seen in the last six months, and it makes me wonder, if the NSA has such an ability to screen US telephone and electronic communications, why hasn't this asshole (and the others I read about) been fucking arrested yet?

Or is all that stuff about surveillance just so much rubbish?

I'm sorry about the language, but this kind of thing just pisses me off.  Ok, no I'm not sorry.  This shit makes my very blood boil.

These people are the very first to spout off about patriotism and love of country, but they are also the very first to abandon all support of the Constitution as soon as their precious conservative sensibilities have been bruised by the election (TWICE) of a man the color of whose skin doesn't fit their worldview of who should reside at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, and whose very existence threatens their sense of power so badly it shrivels their tiny dicks.

Arrest the bastards, lock the assholes into the lowest, dankest, darkest prison we've got and weld the frigging door shut.  Then lose the key to the front door AND the paperwork recording where they got lost.

I don't care if they are former military and claim some kinship with that good old boy network.  By even talking about the possibility of taking any kind of military action against the civilian government, they lose any claim to special privilege.  They show themselves to be fair weather patriots.

Good and solid supporters of the Constitution, until it begins to protect someone they dislike or detest.  Then all bets are off and the testosterone takes over.  Like Ole Judge Roy Bean used to say, give the bastards a fair trial then bury them under the fucking jail.  Or something like that.


Saturday, January 25, 2014

Saints preserve me, I think I'm beginning to agree with the Pope!

In a recent blog post, "Popes come, Popes go", I cautioned against believing too much in the newly minted Pope's statements about how the church should pay more attention to how it cares for the poor, noting that I believe he is trying very hard to bring the flock back into the fold, so to speak.

I still stand by that post.  No matter how much sense this new guy makes in his public statements, he is still the head of the oldest and most conservative bureaucracy in the world.  He is still the monarch of one of the oldest surviving monarchies, and most definitely the only one with anywhere near absolute authority.  At least in theory.

But dang it, his statements sound so good!

The cyberwife and I were talking today about some of the recent posts we've seen on Facebook about right wing political statements we've seen, discriminatory laws we've seen getting either passed or proposed, the terrible time many people are having just staying above water on the bills, and juxtaposing all that with our own circumstances and my eventual retirement in a few years.

We are very lucky.  Lucky to be born white.  Lucky to be born in First World countries where we were able to get good educations, and have been able to help our children get well on their way to being productive adults as lucky as us.  Fortunate to have an income better than most Americans (though not wealthy, and burdened with more debt than we should).

And as a Fed, destined to have a decent retirement after over 40 years in service.  (So, don't think I didn't EARN it!)

But darn it, so damn many people who have worked just as hard as I, or harder, don't have either a decent income or are unable to look forward to any retirement, much less a good one.  Or even a half-assed one, for that matter.

We live in a house that we bought a couple of decades ago when we had three teenagers, and really needed the space.  Now, with them gone, we rattle around this house like two quarters in a can.  The technology we use to heat and cool this space ensures that we must heat/cool the entire space, regardless of how much we use.

That's not all.

In looking at our entire livelihood and lifestyle, it is plain that living in this capitalist country, in order to protect ourselves, provide for our own welfare and look out for our future, we must live in a way that is, essentially, selfish.

We live in a house that is too big.
We use too much energy to heat/cool it.
We tend to buy/consume too much food.
We use a transportation system that costs too much and uses too much fuel.

In order to protect our lifestyle, we cannot bring in strangers in frigid weather who need a warm place to sleep, because that would place our lives in danger.  The amount of money we can afford to donate to causes that help such people is, really, not nearly enough.

Why?  Because as the Pope says, we live in a country under a capitalistic system that cares only for the almighty dollar.  People do not count.  Wasted resources do not count.  There is no effective way to force this system to change in time to keep more people from dying in poverty.

We are, in short, trapped.  Like most Americans.  Trapped in a system that doesn't care about us, doesn't care about the poor or the unfortunate, or the sick or the mentally ill.  A system where only money talks.

It forces me to live in guilt, feeling that I am using too much energy and other resources (which I am), but also knowing that if I don't, I run the chance of losing all that and ending up in poverty.

And I hate that.  I want to live in a society that cares for the less fortunate.  One that provides good, solid and low cost health care for all its citizens.  One that provides a good roof overhead and three squares a day for everybody.   Someplace that will pick me up if I stumble, and gives me a way to pick up my neighbor if he/she stumbles instead without jeopardizing my livelihood or my safety.

One that doesn't tell people who need help that they don't deserve it.  A society which allows people their personal freedom to determine their own future, without coercion, without shaming, without making them feel like second class citizens.

Is that too much to ask?  Is it?

Friday, January 24, 2014

Looking ahead at 2016.

I generally hate the tendency of the press to obsess about Presidential elections, especially as early as before the mid-term election even gets going good.  It just seems so... overeager?  Too anticipatory?  Crass?

Generally, it bothers me.

But today, Alternet had an article by Thom Hartmann, entitled, "A Rand Paul Presidential Campaign Would Teach Americans Just How Vicious and Anti-Social the Libertarian Agenda Is", and it perfectly illustrates my thoughts on how much in a pickle the Republican Party truly is.

I won't rehash the Hartmann article, because I linked to it and you should go read it.  You should, because he's right.

Oh, yeah, the GOP survived the debacle with Goldwater.  But, in the process, it had to remake itself.  In remaking itself, it bought into a partnership that has seemed to give it new life, but has brought this country to its knees in the process.   I speak, of course, of the partnership the GOP has with the Religious Right.

Oh, one can't really blame them for it.  From their perspective, they needed to restructure the party and bring it back from the extremism Goldwater had represented to many Americans.  The Religious Right (RR from now on) had what they needed, respectability and a high number of voters, especially in the South, where they badly needed to make inroads.  It was, to their point of view, a marriage made in heaven!  Literally!

And for decades, it has worked beautifully, bringing them back to power repeatedly and helping them to convert a lot of Southern Democrats to the GOP when the conservative points of view of the RR began to make itself felt at a time when the Democrats were moving decidedly to the left with such initiatives as the Voting Rights Act and so forth.  Today, the South is a stronghold of the GOP, allied with the RR, all the way from the Federal level to the locals.  A Conservative heaven, hostile to abortion, hippies, gays, libruls, and furriners.

A huge problem of the GOP and the RR is the immense echo chamber they've erected for themselves.  With the help of Fox News as a propaganda arm, modern Conservatives can sit back and revel in the wonderfulness that is their worldview of total domination of the American Dream where a majority of Americans are both Conservative and Religious!  Rarely does the outside world impinge itself into that well armored chamber to send uncomfortable vibrations tickling the foundations.

An uncomfortable truth that they have labored to ignore for decades is the fact that a Presidential nominee with impeccable Conservative creds cannot win a national election to gain the White House.  The only acknowledgement they've made to this is to work hard to ensure that a Presidential  nominee from the left has the same handicap.  So neither major party can gain enough votes to win  without enticing the inhabitants of the political center.  This has mollified the GOP and kept them from seeing what is becoming more and more obvious to the rest of us:

Their restructuring that was intended to eject the extremists has allowed a new generation of extremists to come to the fore.

A generation whose danger to the US is even greater than Goldwater ever dreamed of being.  Heck, and Goldwater really was a patriot.  He may have seemed extreme at the time, but he was a piker compared to the Dominionists.  These new guys are NOT patriots, they dream of overturning our Democracy.

And the GOP is, at least publicly, blissfully unaware of the danger, safely ensconced in that beautifully appointed echo chamber, armored from the leftist sounding vibrations of reality.

Repeatedly, in the last election, I posted predictions that if the GOP ignores the extremist positions of the RR, that they will suffer ignominious defeat, and should they continue to persist even after that defeat, the next one will be virtually permanent.

The sad truth for Conservatives is that this country is slowly becoming more liberal.  Witness the rapid acceptance of marriage equality and the slower acceptance of the legalization of pot.  I would add in here the evidence of more and more polls showing a rapid rise of the number of Americans who are either unchurched, identify as "none" regarding religion, or simply call themselves atheists or agnostic.  There is evidence that organized Christianity is becoming less and less popular and is, in fact, liable to disappear altogether before the end of this century, at least as an organized force.

A tremendous part of the restructuring of the American political environment is a rapid growth of traditional immigrant ethnic groups.  Asians and Hispanics especially are on the rise as a percentage of the American population, and have already surpassed White Americans as the majority of live births here.  By mid century, whites will simply fade into history as just another ethnic group among many, instead of being a majority.

This will blow the GOP out of the water unless they come to their senses and completely dump the old Conservative ideals of misogyny and racism - and soon!  Already, those groups, especially the Hispanics, threaten to turn Texas back into a reliably Blue State, which is why the GOP has enacted draconian laws restricting the ability of women and minorities' access to the polls there.

The growing popularity of Wendy Davis is further throwing the GOP in that State into a panicked frenzy.

But, still, one hears members of the GOP making such absurd statements as the one recently made by Mike Huckaby regarding what he claims is the inability of women to control their libido!  I won't bother to link to it, surely you've already read about it.  Or, perhaps the recent statement by another GOPer that if he were over 50, he wouldn't need the services of an obstetrician!

Continuing to insult one half of the voting public has never been a winning strategy, and I'll bet it won't begin to be in 2014.

In short, without an immediate and complete structuring of the ideals and principles of the GOP, it will soon begin the slide into obscurity, if hasn't already.

Rand Paul, as a Presidential Nominee, will not arrest that slide, he will grease the skids!

Monday, January 20, 2014

Revisiting the Holocaust.

On Facebook a while back, someone posted a link to this web page that advertises a broadcast of a documentary made after the liberation of Europe in 1945.

The Documentary, "Memory of the Camps", was produced with the help of (among others) Alfred Hitchcock, but was put on hold by the British before it was broadcast for political reasons.  It was recently re-discovered and restored, and is set for broadcast on British television in 2015 to mark the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Europe.

The page includes a full length version of the film, and in spite of the horrific images it shows, is a must see for any thinking adult who gives a shit about the political health of his/her country.

Why?  Two reasons.

First is the lesson the film makers intended to teach - this can happen if evil isn't fought and thwarted.

Second is another one I'd like to talk about.  It is strongly related to the first, but is a bit more extensive in scope.

It is:

This can happen to YOUR COUNTRY.  It can and will happen if you and every citizen in your country do not pay attention and fight extremism at every chance and in every manner possible.

Nah, you say.  That can't happen HERE, can it?  My people aren't like that!  We'd never kill kids, never starve folks to death.  We'd never kill that many people in such a systematic way.

Huh.  Don't you just wish.  What about the USA?  The country that stands for individual freedom, for liberty and justice!

Estimates of native populations prior to 1500 CE range from as low as 7 million to as much as 54 million.  It is also estimated that as many os 50-80% of that population may have been killed upon contact with Europeans and subsequent infection by diseases they had no immunological protections against.

Native Americans were decimated by the subsequent warfare and pressure of relocation by the rapid and overpowering influx of white Europeans into the North American continent.  (This DOES include Canada!)  No reliable numbers of the affect of that on population numbers have been suggested.

But it must have been devastating.  Was that a genocide?  Or simply a conquest?  Does it matter?

The extremism manifested itself in the "Manifest Destiny" mantra that rationalized the conquest and massacre of natives on the basis of a supposed natural  inevitability of our taking the continent from those who had lived here for over ten thousand years.  That somehow, it was our "destiny" to engulf the continent and populate it.

Even if it did already have a population residing in it.

Could it happen here like it did in Europe?  Sure.  Extremism happens anywhere, and when we see headlines where American politicians justify forcibly keeping people in poverty by denying them an education or the ability to control their own procreation, it is obvious it IS happening here.

Republican Party politicians advocate policies that are hateful, discriminatory, and racist.  They advocate policies that are homophobic and misogynistic, hurting people on the basis of made up differences and ideological imperatives.

They advocate that States secede from the US in order to pursue that agenda, or at the very least, pass State laws nullifying Federal laws that set that agenda back.

Now, am I saying that Republicans WANT to take the same career track Hitler did?  That they intend to snuff out the lives of all who they see as different?  Of course not.  Certainly not the average Republican at the State or local level.  As a country, we see that as evil and bad.

But then, if you'd showed photos of the Holocaust to the average Nazi Party member in 1932, they would have thought of those photos of being the result of Communist activity.  They saw themselves as the savior party of their homeland.  Saving it from economic ruin and political suicide.  Saviors of the German way of life.  The belt buckle of every German soldier was inscribed with the inscription "Gott Mitt Uns", which means "God is with us".

Sound familiar yet?  Wrapped in the flag and carrying the cross.  Exactly the same as the Republicans are today.

Saviors of America.  Defending the American Way of Life.  Saving us from economic ruin and political suicide.  Pointing at Socialists and Communists as the evil doers who threaten us.

Hitler, too, excoriated Darwin.  Hitler, too, outlawed abortion, to help continue the Master Race.  Hitler, too, was racist.  Hitler promised economic recovery and international power and respect for Germany.  Hitler, too glorified war and made military service seem desirable.  Hitler, too acted hand in hand with the economic powers of his country to put Germany on the course to war.

In the end, he brought ruin and disgrace and ended his life in an underground bunker at his own hand, too cowardly to face his crimes.

Is there an American Hitler?  Will there be?

Maybe not.  But, maybe so.

Is the slide into anarchy inevitable?  Are we doomed to repeat history?  Will we allow ourselves to be hoodwinked into voting for another National Socialist Party?

It doesn't have to be.

IF Americans who care go vote.  IF Americans who care educate themselves.  IF Americans - LIKE YOU - get involved.

VOTE this November.  VOTE to throw out the extremists, the political outliers who have contaminated American politics into something even traditional Republicans hate.

Throw the bastards out.  Throw them out so far they'll need to pipe in sunlight.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Vatican in trouble over child abuse again.

Here's an interesting update on the state of the child abuse scandal that has engulfed the Roman Catholic Church in recent years.  Representatives of The Holy See on Thursday will appear before a U.N. committee in Geneva on its implementation of the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child in order to answer questions about the Vatican's involvement in the scandal.

The linked story at the Washington Post gives the details, so I won't go into the nuts and bolts of the issue here.   If you are interested, follow the link and read the WP's story.

What I want to talk about is this:
The Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, said Wednesday that the Holy See ratified the treaty because of its longstanding commitment to caring for children, in the fields of education, health care, refugee services and other outreach to families in need. He said that while abuses had occurred at the hands of churchmen, it was important to distinguish between where the Holy See bore responsibility and where local authorities must intervene. 
“The Holy See is not an organization in which all the priests or Catholics of the world are employees. It’s a big religious community,” he told The Associated Press. “Every member of this community has responsibilities as citizens of the country where he or she lives and with the authorities of that country.”
Emphasis mine.

And yet, to date, the Holy See has refused to encourage its bishops to report abusers to local authorities, hiding behind the lack of laws in many localities requiring such reporting.  In fact, in past cases in the US, even in States where the reporting of suspected abuse is required, such reporting has failed to take place, and the Church has often moved the abusers to new locations where they often have engaged in new cases of abuse.

This stance is outrageous!  It is widely known and accepted that the church hierarchy is in full administrative control of every priest consecrated in its name worldwide.  In fact, just recently, the Pope excommunicated a priest for his consecration of a female priest.  That is definitely a case where local "control" was jumped over and the central authority of the Pope was invoked.

The church may use legal and financial means in different countries to hide and or obfuscate the reality of its worldwide control, but the fact is, a Catholic priest anywhere in the world has to submit to the authority and control of the Pope.

The Roman Catholic Church has been and is still now refusing to respond to this worldwide crisis of the abuse of children in any meaningful way.  It has, in fact, seemingly circled the wagons and hunkered down for a long siege, apparently hoping that it can survive this by stonewalling until public attention goes away.

This very clearly signals that the new Pope, no matter how newly nice or concerned he seems to be, is still either unable to control his kingdom, or is not as concerned in reality as he would have you think from his public persona so recently scrubbed clean.  I have warned that he is still mainly concentrating on cleaning up the public face of his church for the purpose of stemming the tide of Catholics who have been running out the door, taking their money with them, and this current position of the church has not changed my mind.

In fact, I believe that one of the reasons so many Catholics are still running for the door is because of the Church's stance and reactions to this crisis.  How can one continue to support an organization which preaches the love and devotion of Christ for his people when it not only refuses to stop the abuse of its most vulnerable and youngest members, but protects the monsters who conduct that abuse - nay, even propagate that abuse by allowing them to move to new locations to seek new victims?  One that even refuses to defrock and remove abusers from its ranks!

I am convinced that the Church, at its highest levels, not only refuses to respond to the crisis in ways the public demands, but does so because it is still of the opinion that the Church is above secular law and can weather this crisis like it has weathered so many in the past.  They believe it can stonewall outsiders and just outlive the crisis.

They do have a point - this is a bureaucracy that can trace its roots back to the Roman Empire through an unbroken line of church authorities going back to the 4th century - around 1700 years!

That IS a long time, and it HAS withstood a lot of such critical problems in the past, and its international worldwide organizational reach is one reason why.  Because of the fragmentary nature of the organization of the world's political States into many separate sovereign entities, they HAVE been above secular law for much of that existence.  They think that this crisis is no different, and are depending on their international stature to continue to provide them with relative immunity based on that power and reputation.

But this crisis is different from past crises.  In the past, information was hard to disseminate.  People didn't tend to get an international sense of things, even with the new advent of TV, because that took the news media getting that sense and providing the story.

Today, we've got the Internet.

Today, information takes mere minutes to cross oceans where in the past it took hours, days, or weeks.  You've heard the old saying that bad news is all over town before good news has a chance to put its shoes on?  Today, good news doesn't even have time to turn off the alarm clock before the bad news is across the globe.

The Internet, as a global communications network, enables people to organize along lines of interest globally.  This time, the RCC is not faced with a few isolated local authorities it can ignore with impunity.  It is faced with global attention.  People all across the world are watching and evaluating the Holy See's actions and words, and if many many people don't see a marked improvement in the Vatican's position, more and more people will keep running for that door.

No matter how nice the Pope is, nor what color his shoes may be.

Tuesday, January 07, 2014

Witchcraft in Oklahoma. Really?

I like to think I'm generally a tolerant guy.  I strongly believe in the Constitutional right of all residents of the US to believe whatever bilgewater they want to believe, and within whatever legal boundaries society has decreed, to practice that belief.

So, to hear that there are idiot fundies in Oklahoma who believe in the existence of witchcraft doesn't twist my knickers.  That doesn't mean I won't shake my head and even publicly call them idiots, though.  (as you can see.)

What DOES get my knickers in a twist is the assistant principle (AP) in an Oklahoma school who suspended a student for 15 days for casting a spell that supposedly made a teacher sick!  THAT crosses the line between his private beliefs and his very public, governmental duties which require him to administer education to Oklahoma's children in an impartial manner regarding the religious beliefs of said students and their parents.

Now, had that young lady conducted a public ceremony witnessed by other students which was intended to be such a spell (based on some weird teenaged belief in magic - which is NOT Wiccan, by the way!) I could understand his concern for her public display of ill will towards a teacher which could be considered to be a distraction to the educational atmosphere of the school.  That would be defensible, even under the well understood scientific knowledge of today that completely invalidates any idea of magic as a real, tangible force in this universe.

Again, this idiot does have the right to believe in said magic.  After all, if you are a Christian fundie, you already believe in magic, since only magic could raise a dead person back to life, and such is the central tenet of that faith.  Oh, they don't use the specific term "magic", because it is widely known in this country that magic doesn't exist, right?  But hey, it's all semantics.  To paraphrase Heinlein, "One man's magic is another man's belly laugh"!  (ok, so Heinlein used the term "religion" instead of "magic", but you get the idea.)

Upshot here is that this AP needs to be fired.  Summarily and with prejudice, along with a bad job reference as to his inability to exercise good judgement regarding the separation of his private life and his professional life.  Not for believing in magic, but for letting that belief spill over into the life of one of his students.  Because holding a belief that such magic really is effective and using that belief as an excuse to punish the alleged magic wielder is akin to burning witches at the stake, and shows that the AP has no judgement or ability to discern fact from fiction.

I do have some questions, though.

Did the parents go through any kind of appeals process to protest the suspension?   If so, what was the response of the school district?  Knee jerk support of the AP?  Was there any attempt by the District to even look at the reason for that suspension? I assume, because the parents have resorted to a lawsuit, that any response was unsatisfactory, but the answers to those questions would surely add details to the story.

I'm going to add this to the category of Harm from Religion, because if suspending a student through the belief she had really and truly cast a spell that harmed a teacher isn't hurting someone and damaging the reputation of the school, the School District, and the State of Oklahoma, I don't know what else would.

Words cannot possibly describe my disgust, my dismay, or my utter contempt for people who either do these things or allow them to happen.

For shame!

Saturday, January 04, 2014

I'm Back! (and, what about that Pope, huh?)

Well, It has been a wonderful two weeks, hobnobbing with family, helping my oldest cyberdaughter care for her new twins, and generally being lazy and playing the new grandfather!  If you don't have grandkids, I recommend it!  (That requires that you first have kids.  If you haven't done that yet, I suggest you get started - fast!  Grandkids are too wonderful to miss...)

I was under the impression that coming up with a subject to expound upon might be hard to do, but fortunately, one of the usual suspects has given me plenty to talk about.

What about that Pope, huh?   Ain't he just hunky dory?  Or maybe just real cool?  These days, I hear a lot of atheists and others singing his praises and saying that it's about time someone from that ancient bureaucracy finally stood up and got people started back down the road Christ laid out for them way back when.

On that very short note, I agree - totally.  it IS about time the head of that organization got people thinking about the message of their alleged founder instead of this new fangled plutocratic message the Republicans have been spreading around.

On the other hand, I also feel like a Mac user, chanting outside Micro$oft headquarters, "As long as it takes!" referring to keeping M$ CEO Steve Ballmer on the job as long as it takes for him to finish running that company into the ground.  (Oh, yeah, I AM a Mac user, although I haven't done that particular chant in front of M$ HQ yet...)  But you get the point - as long as the Church keeps running with the GOP's plutocratic platform, the more folks will continue to leave the RCC like rats from a sinking ship, and this guy is trying very hard to turn that around.

I am glad he is saying these things in part because I think it is important that people who believe in the simple, uplifting message of love the more liberal Christian groups believe in, the better off this country will be in the short run.  The hateful message of the modern Conservative movement is bad for business, bad for government and terrible for the average American, and it badly needs to be countered by reasonable people.

But, in the long run, the more people leave Christianity, I believe the better off we will be because the more people will be using reason and science to decide public policy matters, and not an ancient late bronze age religious tract.  I mean, come on, people can be stupid enough when they ARE using reason and science - that isn't a panacea for stupidity - but once you throw in superstition and ignorance, all bets are off!

So I move forward with mixed feelings about this Pope.  On one hand, he IS a very reasonable sounding guy.

On the other, he DID excommunicate a supporter of female ordination just a bit ago.  Not exactly designed to reassure the uncertain masses sitting on the fence, trying to decide which way to lean.

My own advice:

Be happy he is making the Republicans sound like the money grubbing, soup line hating, capitalistic high rollers using $100 bills for lighting big Cuban cigars that they are!  But be aware that at the same time, that marketing largesse for the poor is tempered by the cold hard fact that it is intended to slow or stop the massive bleed-out of membership the RCC has been experiencing in recent years.

It comes with a price - toe the company line or else.  Pope Francis is not going to turn the Catholic bureaucracy around in the next 180 days, or even the next few years.  It isn't his intention!  Oh, yes, he'll get what he can for the poor he does seem to care about, but you'll notice that while he is living in a much more frugal looking set of digs than his predecessor, they haven't put any of those fabled treasures in the old digs out on Craig's List to raise money for the poor.  I'd bet dollars to donut holes that all that cash Mother Teresa sent the Vatican is still sitting in the fat bank accounts it landed in, and probably won't even raise interest money for helping the poor folks it was donated for.

If it ever does, and you start seeing entries on Craig's List for Vatican gold and art works, then you'll see me alongside you in the cheering gallery.

Until then, color me skeptical - or maybe cynical is a better word.