1. This is big. President Obama has made 15 recess appointments to overcome GOP obstructionism in the Senate, with nods to GLBT Americans with a gay Georgetown University professor appointed to the EEOC, and especially to Labor with two appointments to a stymied National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). In what the NYTimes is calling "A muscular show," Mr. Obama is perhaps signalling that he knows that it's futile to attempt to reason with a minority party hell bent on thwarting his every move, and perhaps he should use the executive power that he has, and the Congressional majorities he has, while he has them. It is simply unbelievable that 15 months into his presidency with large Dem margins in both chambers that he has not done more in this vein. Perhaps the health care "debate" showed Mr. Obama that the lying and screaming elements on the right cannot be reasoned with, that the reasonable Republicans - Ray La Hood, Mr. Simpson and the women from Maine - are all he's got in the way of bipartisan working relationships, and that stuff needs to get done. Here's hoping.
2. Iceland has outlawed its sex industry, for feminist reasons. As reported in the Guardian, under the headline "Iceland: the world's most feminist country," a grass roots effort by women's groups and the support of the out lesbian prime minister, Johanna Sigurdardottir (which has to be the coolest name ever, especially considering she is the first out head of state in the world) to reduce sexual violence against women and sex trafficking has made it illegal "...for any business to profit from the nudity of its employees."Given that gender has a power dimension, and that male objectification of women leads to violence and victimization, I understand the need for the law. Balancing that against the core value of liberty, however, is difficult. As a feminist ally I absolutely support those measures that reduce victimization of women; however, as a gay male I am deeply suspicious of state efforts to regulate sexual behavior. Discuss.
3. Oh, the Catholic Church. In a piece in the L.A. Times, Tim Rutten, one of my favorite Times writers, describes how the Church's response to the latest wave of sexual abuse scandals has shown they haven't learned a whole lot over the past scandal-filled decade. For those not keeping up at home, when the current Pope was still just Archbishop Ratzinger of Munich (and acutely focused on hunting down doctrinal errors - and, yes, predictably, gay folk), he was evidently too busy to handle "personnel matters." That is what his defenders are euphemistically calling the response to sexually predatory priests who, in Germany as in the United States, got bounced from parish to parish under Ratzinger's rule. "Personnel matters." That's nice. Ratzinger DID have time, in 1981, to notice and punish a priest for saying Mass at a peace rally, but DIDN'T have time, in 1980, to notice or punish a priest who was transferred to a parish in his diocese despite a record of child abuse. From the NYT:
"Vatican experts say there is little evidence that Benedict spent much time investigating more than 200 cases of 'problem priests' in the diocese, with issues including alcohol abuse, adultery and, now under the microscope, pedophilia."So now that this has come to light, what has been the Church's response? Pastoral care? Reaching out to the victims? Heh. Yeah, right. It's two fold - one, blame the media, and two, as Rutten puts it, it's a "everybody-is-responsible-so-nobody-is-to-blame defense." And it's disgusting.
I had excellent teachers - both religious and lay - throughout my 16 years of formal Catholic education. They were inherently decent, humane, intelligent people who taught me to think critically and for myself, to question authority, and to work for justice. I never came close to experiencing any form of abuse from any priest or nun in my life. I'm very lucky in that regard, I know, and I'm grateful for it. I do remember one conversation with my religion teacher in high school, Fr. O'Keeffe, a mentor who came to be a friend, when he said (and I'm paraphrasing here, 25 years later) that many priests buy into the "cult of the priesthood" and begin to feel entitled. Some men by personality choose the profession for exactly these reasons, to be exalted in a way their natural talents couldn't achieve for them. Some choose the profession as a way to hide from their demons of personal guilt, and shame over their drinking, sexual proclivities, and/or their inability to be successful, or their fear of not being successful, with personal relationships. Not all, of course, or even most, but some. Some. And you'd have to be a deaf and dumb pig not to have seen that. And those in control of the institution not only looked the other way, in many cases, but nurtured that cult of the priesthood for their own self-aggrandizement and as a recruiting tool. To now pretend that they have no culpability for it is beyond comprehension. I repeat - it's disgusting.
4. From the science news, twenty five komodo dragons were born in captivity in Indonesia, as reported in the Singapore Straits Times. The endangered species (pictured below) is down to 2500 living animals in the world, so 25 in one go is pretty significant. The babies were 2.8 to 4.2 ounces, and significantly cuter, like most species, in their current form than they will be when they grow up (right). New research has shown that their bites are fatal because they have an anti-coagulant agent in their saliva that causes their victims to bleed out. Nasty way to go. (Their natural habitat is limited to a few islands in Indonesia, so you should be okay.)