Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Archive for April 18th, 2010

Incredible latte art

with 2 comments

Take a look.

I suggest you print that out, apply stick-on numbers to each photo, and take it to your local barista so that people can order by number.

Written by LeisureGuy

18 April 2010 at 5:08 pm

Posted in Art, Daily life

This makes me feel good

with one comment

Read this post (and his "about" page is good, too). It looks as though Goldman Sachs is in a heap of trouble.

Written by LeisureGuy

18 April 2010 at 5:04 pm

Posted in Business, Government, Law

Enjoyable comic caper movie

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I greatly enjoyed Who is Cletis Tout?, a 1995 caper movie with a great cast and a good script.

Written by LeisureGuy

18 April 2010 at 2:29 pm

Posted in Daily life, Movies

Chicken wings tonight

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Or tomorrow, maybe. I’m cutting them up now to put them into a batch of Shari’s chicken marinade.

Written by LeisureGuy

18 April 2010 at 11:40 am

Posted in Daily life, Food, Recipes

Church in worst credibility crisis since Reformation, theologian tells bishops

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Via Andrew Sullivan. Hans Kung in the Irish Times:

VENERABLE BISHOPS,

Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, and I were the youngest theologians at the Second Vatican Council from 1962 to 1965. Now we are the oldest and the only ones still fully active. I have always understood my theological work as a service to the Roman Catholic Church. For this reason, on the occasion of the fifth anniversary of the election of Pope Benedict XVI, I am making this appeal to you in an open letter. In doing so, I am motivated by my profound concern for our church, which now finds itself in the worst credibility crisis since the Reformation. Please excuse the form of an open letter; unfortunately, I have no other way of reaching you.

I deeply appreciated that the pope invited me, his outspoken critic, to meet for a friendly, four-hour-long conversation shortly after he took office. This awakened in me the hope that my former colleague at Tubingen University might find his way to promote an ongoing renewal of the church and an ecumenical rapprochement in the spirit of the Second Vatican Council.

Unfortunately, my hopes and those of so many engaged Catholic men and women have not been fulfilled. And in my subsequent correspondence with the pope, I have pointed this out to him many times. Without a doubt, he conscientiously performs his everyday duties as pope, and he has given us three helpful encyclicals on faith, hope and charity. But when it comes to facing the major challenges of our times, his pontificate has increasingly passed up more opportunities than it has taken:

Missed is the opportunity for rapprochement with the Protestant churches: Instead, they have been denied the status of churches in the proper sense of the term and, for that reason, their ministries are not recognized and intercommunion is not possible.

Missed is the opportunity for the long-term reconciliation with the Jews: Instead the pope has reintroduced into the liturgy a preconciliar prayer for the enlightenment of the Jews, he has taken notoriously anti-Semitic and schismatic bishops back into communion with the church, and he is actively promoting the beatification of Pope Pius XII, who has been accused of not offering sufficient protections to Jews in Nazi Germany.

The fact is, Benedict sees in Judaism only the historic root of Christianity; he does not take it seriously as an ongoing religious community offering its own path to salvation. The recent comparison of the current criticism faced by the pope with anti-Semitic hate campaigns – made by Rev Raniero Cantalamessa during an official Good Friday service at the Vatican – has stirred up a storm of indignation among Jews around the world.

Missed is the opportunity for a dialogue with Muslims in an atmosphere of mutual trust: Instead, in his ill-advised but symptomatic 2006 Regensburg lecture, Benedict caricatured Islam as a religion of violence and inhumanity and thus evoked enduring Muslim mistrust.

Missed is the opportunity for reconciliation with the colonised indigenous peoples of Latin America: Instead, the pope asserted in all seriousness that they had been “longing” for the religion of their European conquerors.

Missed is the opportunity to help the people of Africa by allowing the use of birth control to fight overpopulation and condoms to fight the spread of HIV.

Missed is the opportunity to make peace with modern science by clearly affirming the theory of evolution and accepting stem-cell research.

Missed is the opportunity to make the spirit of the Second Vatican Council the compass for the whole Catholic Church, including the Vatican itself, and thus to promote the needed reforms in the church.

This last point, respected bishops, is the most serious of all. Time and again, this pope has added qualifications to the conciliar texts and interpreted them against the spirit of the council fathers. Time and again, he has taken an express stand against the Ecumenical Council, which according to canon law represents the highest authority in the Catholic Church:

He has taken the bishops of the traditionalist Pius X Society back into the church without any preconditions – bishops who were illegally consecrated outside the Catholic Church and who reject central points of the Second Vatican Council (including liturgical reform, freedom of religion and the rapprochement with Judaism).

He promotes the medieval Tridentine Mass by all possible means and occasionally celebrates the Eucharist in Latin with his back to the congregation.

He refuses to put into effect the rapprochement with the Anglican Church, which was laid out in official ecumenical documents by the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission, and has attempted instead to lure married Anglican clergy into the Roman Catholic Church by freeing them from the very rule of celibacy that has forced tens of thousands of Roman Catholic priests out of office.

He has actively reinforced the anti-conciliar forces in the church by appointing reactionary officials to key offices in the Curia (including the secretariat of state, and positions in the liturgical commission) while appointing reactionary bishops around the world.

Pope Benedict XVI seems to be increasingly cut off from the vast majority of church members who pay less and less heed to Rome and, at best, identify themselves only with their local parish and bishop.

I know that many of you are pained by this situation. In his anti-conciliar policy, the pope receives the full support of the Roman Curia. The Curia does its best to stifle criticism in the episcopate and in the church as a whole and to discredit critics with all the means at its disposal. With a return to pomp and spectacle catching the attention of the media, the reactionary forces in Rome have attempted to present us with a strong church fronted by an absolutistic “Vicar of Christ” who combines the church’s legislative, executive and judicial powers in his hands alone. But Benedict’s policy of restoration has failed. All of his spectacular appearances, demonstrative journeys and public statements have failed to influence the opinions of most Catholics on controversial issues. This is especially true regarding matters of sexual morality. Even the papal youth meetings, attended above all by conservative-charismatic groups, have failed to hold back the steady drain of those leaving the church or to attract more vocations to the priesthood.

You in particular, as bishops, have reason for deep sorrow: Tens of thousands of priests have resigned their office since the Second Vatican Council, for the most part because of the celibacy rule. Vocations to the priesthood, but also to religious orders, sisterhoods and lay brotherhoods are down – not just quantitatively but qualitatively. Resignation and frustration are spreading rapidly among both the clergy and the active laity. Many feel that they have been left in the lurch with their personal needs, and many are in deep distress over the state of the church. In many of your dioceses, it is the same story: increasingly empty churches, empty seminaries and empty rectories. In many countries, due to the lack of priests, more and more parishes are being merged, often against the will of their members, into ever larger “pastoral units,” in which the few surviving pastors are completely overtaxed. This is church reform in pretense rather than fact!

And now, on top of these many crises comes a scandal crying out to heaven – the revelation of the clerical abuse of thousands of children and adolescents, first in the United States, then in Ireland and now in Germany and other countries. And to make matters worse, the handling of these cases has given rise to an unprecedented leadership crisis and a collapse of trust in church leadership.

There is no denying the fact that the worldwide system of covering up cases of sexual crimes committed by clerics was engineered by the Roman Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith under Cardinal Ratzinger (1981-2005). During the reign of Pope John Paul II, that congregation had already taken charge of all such cases under oath of strictest silence. Ratzinger himself, on May 18th, 2001, sent a solemn document to all the bishops dealing with severe crimes ( “epistula de delictis gravioribus” ), in which cases of abuse were sealed under the “secretum pontificium” , the violation of which could entail grave ecclesiastical penalties. With good reason, therefore, many people have expected a personal mea culpa on the part of the former prefect and current pope. Instead, the pope passed up the opportunity afforded by Holy Week: On Easter Sunday, he had his innocence proclaimed “urbi et orbi” by the dean of the College of Cardinals.

The consequences of all these scandals for the reputation of the Catholic Church are disastrous. Important church leaders have already admitted this. Numerous innocent and committed pastors and educators are suffering under the stigma of suspicion now blanketing the church. You, reverend bishops, must face up to the question: What will happen to our church and to your diocese in the future? It is not my intention to sketch out a new program of church reform. That I have done often enough both before and after the council. Instead, I want only to lay before you six proposals that I am convinced are supported by millions of Catholics who have no voice in the current situation: …

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

18 April 2010 at 10:05 am

Posted in Daily life, Religion

Peggy Noonan on how to save the Catholic church

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Peggy Noonan in the Wall Street Journal:

The great second wave of church scandals appears this week to be settling down. In the Vatican they’re likely thinking "the worst is over" and "we’ve weathered the storm." Is that good? Not to this Catholic. The more relaxed the institution, the less likely it will reform.

Let’s look at the first wave. Eight years ago, on April 19, 2002, I wrote in these pages of the American church scandal, calling it calamitous, a threat to the standing and reputation of the entire church. Sexual abuse by priests "was the heart of the scandal, but at the same time only the start of the scandal": the rest was what might be called the racketeering dimension. Lawsuits had been brought charging that the church as an institution acted to cover up criminal behavior by misleading, lying and withholding facts. The most celebrated cases in 2002 were in Boston, where a judge had forced the release of 11,000 pages of church documents showing the abusive actions of priests and detailing then-Archbishop Bernard F. Law’s attempts to hide the crimes. The Boston scandal generated hundreds of lawsuits, cost hundreds of millions of dollars in settlements and judgments, and included famous and blood-chilling cases—the repeat sexual abuser Father John Geoghan, who molested scores of boys and girls and was repeatedly transferred, was assigned to a parish in Waltham where he became too familiar with children in a public pool; Cardinal Law claimed he was probably "proselytizing."

In the piece I criticized Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, then archbishop of Washington, who had suggested to the Washington Post that the scandal was media-driven, that journalists are having "a heyday." Then came the it-wasn’t-so-bad defense: The bishop of Joliet, Ill., Joseph Imesch, said that while priests who sexually abuse children should lose their jobs, priests who sexually abuse adolescents and teenagers have a "quirk" and can be treated and continue as priests.

Really, he called it a quirk.

Does any of this, the finger-pointing and blame-gaming, sound familiar? Isn’t it what we’ve been hearing the past few weeks?

At the end of the piece I called on the pope, John Paul II, to begin to show the seriousness of the church’s efforts to admit, heal and repair by taking the miter from Cardinal Law’s head and the ring from his finger and retiring him: "Send a message to those in the church who need to hear it, that covering up, going along, and paying off victims is over. That careerism is over, and Christianity is back."

The piece didn’t go over well in the American church, or the Vatican. One interesting response came from Cardinal Law himself, whom I ran into a year later in Rome. "We don’t need friends of the church turning on the church at such a difficult time," he said. "We need loyalty when the church is going through a tough time."

I’d suggested in the piece that the rarefied lives cardinals led had contributed to an inability to understand the struggles of others and the pain of those abused, and soon Cardinal Law and I were talking about his mansion outside Boston. He asked me how it would look if he’d refused to live there. I told him it would look good, but more to the point, the church was going to lose the cardinal’s mansion to trial lawyers, and it should sell it first and put the money in schools.

Soon enough the mansion was gone, sold to pay the plaintiffs. Cardinal Law’s successor, Archbishop Sean O’Malley, lives in an apartment in Boston’s South End.

John Allen of the National Catholic Reporter once called Cardinal Law "the poster boy" of the American scandal. He has also became the poster boy for the church’s problems in handling the scandal. And that has to do with its old-boy network, with the continued dominance of those who grew up in the old way.

In December 2002, Cardinal Law left Boston just hours before state troopers arrived with subpoenas seeking his grand jury testimony in what the state’s attorney general, Thomas Reilly, called a massive coverup of child abuse. The cardinal made his way to Rome, where he resigned, and where he stayed with Archbishop James Harvey, a close friend and, as head of the pontifical household, the most powerful American in the Vatican. Within a year Archbishop Harvey, too, was implicated in the scandal: The Dallas Morning News reported the Vatican had promoted a priest through its diplomatic corps even though it had received persistent, high-level warnings that he had sexually abused a young girl. The warnings had gone to Archbishop Harvey.

Cardinal Law received one of the best sinecures in Rome, as head of the Basilica of Saint Maria Maggiore and a member of the Vatican office tasked with appointing new bishops and correcting misconduct.

These stories are common in the church. Cardinal Angelo Sodano, a former Vatican secretary of state and now dean of the College of Cardinals, was a primary protector of the now disgraced Father Marcial Maciel, founder of the Legion of Christ, described by a heroic uncoverer of the scandals, Jason Berry, in the National Catholic Reporter, as "a morphine addict who sexually abused at least twenty . . . seminarians."

I know this from having seen it: Many—not all, but many—of the men who staff the highest levels of the Vatican have been part of the very scandal they are now charged with repairing. They are defensive and they are angry, and they will not turn the church around on their own.

In a way, the Vatican lives outside time and space. The verities it speaks of and stands for are timeless and transcendent. For those who work there, bishops and cardinals, it can become its own reality. And when those inside fight for what they think is the life of the institution, they feel fully justified in fighting any way they please. They can do this because, as they rationalize it, they are not fighting only for themselves—it’s not selfish, their fight—but to protect the greatest institution in the history of the world.

But in the past few decades, they not only fought persons—"If you were loyal you’d be silent"—they fought information.

What they don’t fully understand right now—what they can’t fully wrap their heads around—is that the information won.

The information came in through the cracks, it came in waves, in newspaper front pages, in books, in news beamed to every satellite dish in Europe and America. The information could not be controlled or stopped. The information was that something very sick was going on in the heart of the church.

Once, leaders of the Vatican felt that silence would protect the church. But now anyone who cares about it must come to understand that only speaking, revealing, admitting and changing will save the church.

The old Vatican needs new blood…

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

18 April 2010 at 9:27 am

Posted in Daily life, Religion

Geithner on the Tea Parties

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Steve Benen:

On "Meet the Press," host David Gregory asked Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner to reflect a bit on the Tea Partiers, particularly in light of April 15 events this week. I found Geithner’s response kind of interesting.

"We’ve just been through eight years where people said — many people said, ‘Deficits don’t matter. We can pass huge tax cuts, pass huge new programs without paying for them.’ That debate has changed fundamentally.

"Now you don’t hear people say anymore, ‘Deficits don’t matter.’ You don’t hear people saying that we can pass enormous expansion of government without paying for it. That’s an important change. I think all Americans understand that our deficits are unsustainable. And I think that’ll be helpful as we move to try to make the hard choices to bring them down again."

I didn’t see the video of this, only the transcript, so it’s hard to say whether Geithner was actually being coy with his comments. But what I liked about his response was its subtle underpinnings.

The Treasury secretary’s remarks, which apparently came at the very end of the interview, effectively told the Tea Party crowd, "Oh, now you’re worried about fiscal responsibility. While Bush and the Republicans were taking fiscal irresponsibility to new depths with tax cuts and government expansion without paying for it, you kept on supporting them, but now you care."

The subtext is politically relevant — for folks who are literally taking to the streets to complain about budget shortfalls, the real rage should be directed at the Republican gang that turned surpluses into deficits, and added $5 trillion to the debt.

Written by LeisureGuy

18 April 2010 at 9:21 am

Can PepsiCo help alleviate world hunger?

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Marion Nestle in Food Politics:

In the latest issue of the American Journal of Public Health, Derek Yach and his colleagues at PepsiCo in Purchase, NY, say yes, it can, in answer to the question they pose in their article, “Can the food industry help tackle the growing global burden of undernutrition?”

If we are to successfully combat global undernutrition, efforts must be sustained by multiple stakeholders from various sectors. We believe that trust is built through industry’s demonstration of practical actions that improve health, and recognition of these actions by governments and nongovernmental organizations. Only through new and innovative public–private sector partnerships can we truly make a difference.

Three international public health leaders counter with no, it can’t, in an article entitled “The snack attack.“  They point to irreconcilable differences between the the goals of private industry and public health:

The problem lies with food, drink, and associated companies whose profits depend on products that damage public health and that also have damaging social, economic, and environmental impacts. These most of all include transnational companies, of which PepsiCo is one. To succeed, big business must sustain and increase annual turnover, profit, and share price…We suggest that public health professionals see papers such as those of Yach et al. as part of the marketing strategies of transnational food and drink companies…The privatization of public health does not work.

This argument reminds me of the editorial that David Ludwig and I wrote for JAMA late in 2008: “Can the food industry play a constructive role in the obesity epidemic?”  We concluded:

With respect to obesity, the food industry has acted at times constructively, at times outrageously. But inferences from any one action miss a fundamental point: in a market-driven economy, industry tends to act opportunistically in the interests of maximizing profit. Problems arise when society fails to perceive this situation accurately.

While visionary CEOs and enlightened food company cultures may exist, society cannot depend on them to address obesity voluntarily, any more than it can base national strategies to reduce highway fatalities and global warming solely on the goodwill of the automobile industry. Rather, appropriate checks and balances are needed to align the financial interests of the food industry with the goals of public health.

PepsiCo owns Pepsi Cola, of course, but also Gatorade, Frito-Lay snacks, and Aquafina water, among many other brands.  According to Advertising Age (June 22, 2009), PepsiCo earned $43 billion in worldwide sales in 2008. Its product-specific advertising expenditures in 2008, just for “measured media” (meaning run through advertising agencies) were, for example:

  • $162 million for Gatorade
  • $145 million for Pepsi Cola
  • $27 million for Tostitos
  • $14 million for Doritos
  • $11 million for Fritos.

These figures, staggering as they may be, do not include the amounts Pepsi spends on lobbying, supporting the American Beverage Association’s efforts to fight soda taxes, funding medical research at Yale, or marketing to children and adults in India and other developing countries, as previously discussed on this site.

Is corporate “social responsibility” really responsible?  Or is it just marketing?  And what should be the checks and balances?  You decide.

Added April 17: This comes from a former employee of PepsiCo who asks that I post this anonymously:

I think you probably know that the “marketing dollars,” the share (ads/direct marketing), of companies like Pepsico are only a fraction of what are their actual marketing/promotions budgets.  Many years ago, PepsiCo made a conscious effort to redefine/shift budgets to what is called promotional spending from traditional marketing spending.  In doing so though, they keep the control and allocation of the funds in the hands of the marketing teams.

For Pepsi I know that the $145 million you mention is probably only 25% of what Pepsi “internally” considers consumer marketing spending.  For example, direct to retails “incentive” bonus funds are given for moving volume — those funds are almost entirely funneled into the retails increasing consumer marketing to their direct customers.  There are even examples where they can hide 10’s of millions of dollars at a time by linking event sponsorships (stadiums, etc.) to retailer agreements, thus moving those dollars to long-term “capital expenditures.”  I would guess that for Pepsi alone that that $145 million could be as much as a billion a year for direct and indirect consumer marketing spending.

It is not just obscene how much gets spent to increase volume… since, for companies like PepsiCo, Coke, etc., volume is the only way they generate higher profit to their shareholders.  As you say, to expect a corporation to do things for the good of the consumer just shows a misunderstanding of their primary function when they are a for-profit entity.

Repeat after me: "Businesses have just one goal: increase profits."

Written by LeisureGuy

18 April 2010 at 9:19 am

Interesting factoid regarding child abuse by clergy

with 3 comments

Recently the Catholic church has tried a counterattack (they tend to counterattack rather than trying to address the problem) by saying that many more children in the US are abused by public school teachers than by Catholic clergy. Well, of course: there are many more public school teachers than there are Catholic clergy. But take a look at this post by mistermix at Balloon Juice. From the post:

[In the video], he’s saying that priests molest an average of 220 kids/year, but teachers molest around 29,000, so it’s unfair that the media has singled out the church.

I take his point that we never read about teachers abusing students. So, it’s probably discriminatory of me to mention that the rate of abuse, based on recent census and church statistics, is 5 rapes per thousand priests, versus 4 rapes per thousand teachers.

If you want to read something more sane about the Catholic Church, Peggy Noonan has a good column on the subject, believe it or not.

The fact that the guy in the video makes such a biased claim (ignoring the RATE of abuse in favor of raw number) is prima facie evidence of bad faith. And, one must say, we see a great deal of that from the church with regard to this scandal: the overwhelming response has been denial, defensiveness, and a determination that all criticism is inspired by (you choose): Satan, the Jews, atheists, people who hate the church, and so on.

Written by LeisureGuy

18 April 2010 at 9:12 am

Posted in Daily life, Religion

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