Manifest Religiousity

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about about missionaries. What spurred this thread was something little Isis sent me. It is a link to Tamerlane’s blog who I usually read at Liberal Rapture. Frankly, I’d been thinking of the entire topic a lot recently. Probably the primary reason is that over break I started playing a Civilization game called Colonization which is historically interesting but not the most politically correct strategy game that I play. You basically choose the French, Spanish, English or Dutch and go colonize an area where there are natives. I normally try to play the French and co-exist with the natives, but the algorithm includes some more historically accurate happenstances. Even if you try to co-exist with the natives peacefully trading and living with them, your cities eventually crowd them out of their resources and they either attack you or disappear. That’s if you take the peaceful coexistence route. If you take the more direct route, you just send in a Jesuit priest to convert them which basically drains them of people and resources very quickly.

It’s probably also why I heard this news today on the radio during my commute with a certain degree of skepticism. Although, this Saint got her self excommunicated on a few occasions by irritating the powers that be, she was still mostly recognized for her work in orphanages across Australia and bringing people into the fold. You just never know how much of it is just marketing vs. the work of a really dedicated humanitarian when religion is involved.

VATICAN CITY – Pope Benedict XVI approved sainthood for Mother Mary MacKillop on Friday, making the woman known for her work among the needy Australia’s first saint.

The pope made the announcement during a ceremony at the Vatican and set the formal canonization for Oct. 17 in Rome. Five others — from Italy, Spain, Poland and Canada — will be canonized at the same time.

MacKillop founded the Congregation of the Sisters of St. Joseph, an order that built dozens of schools for impoverished children across the Australian Outback in the 1800s, as well as orphanages and clinics for the needy.

With vows of abstinence from owning personal belongings and dedication to helping the poor, MacKillop is credited with spreading Roman Catholicism in Australia and New Zealand.

In 2008, the Pope made a Saint of an Indian (that would be India Indian) women who basically was some one who came from that sort’ve history. Saint Alphonsa got converted in an orphanage and then continued the practice of converting others, draining her native land of its culture, religion and their most precious treasure; their children. Of course, it’s never quite portrayed that way. Saint Alphonsa rescued children from abject poverty and sent them on the ‘Lord’s path’ is the religiousity-correct term. She of course suffered mightily while doing so which makes her even more the saint.

Tamerlane’s story is based on that headline grabbing story of those baptists from Utah that headed down to ‘rescue’ Haitii orphans from their lives of abject poverty too. You know the story. It’s bumped a lot of really newsworthy items right off the front page and it’s been made to look like just another example of the prosecution of god-faring christian people out there rescuing the helpless from helpless situations. Tamerlane’s story adds the twist that I find most interesting. What exactly, when you bring a child back to an extreme religionist to raise like a pet project, do you do to them? This is the the story to which he links.

OROVILLE — A fundamentalist religious philosophy that espouses corporal punishment to “train” children to be more obedient to their parents and God is now being investigated in connection with the death of a young Paradise girl and serious injuries to her sister.

Butte County District Attorney Mike Ramsey confirmed Thursday that other children in the home who have been interviewed told investigators “this philosophy was espoused by their parents.”

Ramsey said he is also exploring a possible connection to a Web site that endorses “biblical discipline” using the same rubber or plastic tube alleged to have been used to whip the two young ridge girls by their adoptive parents.

In court Thursday, a judge granted a two-week postponement before the children’s parents, Kevin Schatz, 46, and Elizabeth Schatz, 42, enter a plea to murder and torture charges that could carry two life terms in prison.

What exactly do you rescue these children from and what do you bring them to? That’s the bigger question to me.

We have several Native American posters here that probably can do a better job explaining what their lives have been like since their ancestors were uprooted from their native traditions. I was born in Oklahoma around the Cherokee Nation and raised in Nebraska around both the Pottawatomie and Ogalala Sioux of the Lakota Nation. I was at university at Lincoln, Nebraska when there was a huge encampment of Sioux there from Pine Ridge doing protests along with Russell Means and got to spend some time hearing lots of stories that would raise the hairs on the back of your neck. Now, I work with the Sherpa peoples in Nepal and I think I’ve shared some of the horrid stories of religiousism and the treatment of native peoples there by missionaries of several stripes.

I think we need to remain vigilant about these people who move in and abduct children in the name of bringing them to a better life through ‘religion’. The Buddhist people of the Himalayan region never had words for things like self esteem problems and the little Buddhist country of Bhutan didn’t even have suicides until they got cable tv and now they feel they have an epidemic of it. That being said, I’m not glorifying native cultures and saying we should keep every one back in the stone age tribes and free of medicine. I’d just like to warn against the arrogance of Manifest Destiny when it comes to culture, politics and religion.

Jose' de Anchieta

Maybe I’m just playing into the meme here as smug atheist, but I can’t believe that taking children away from their families, countries, cultures, and lives for some hyperactive version of the Religionist American dream is in the real interest of children. I say this as I watch the Tupi fall to my strategies in Civ IV: Colonialization much like they fell to José de Anchieta and the Portuguese around 300 years ago. Why do we glorify something which historically has been responsible for death, disease, and the wholesale destruction of entire civilizations? Why beautify and make into a saint the products of radical and sadistic religious chauvinism like poor Saint Alphonsa?

It worries me to watch the heroes’ welcomes for those 8 missionaries released from the jail in Haiti who were suspected of possible child trafficking. Maybe it wasn’t their intent to sell the children into the sex trades or the domestic trade but just simply place them into a home with some hyperactive Dobson/Focus on the Family family with a vision of beating God into children. Is that really a better life?

Many of the rescued children still had one live parent. Haiti is full of poverty, but who among us would want to live with an evangelical in Idaho? Perhaps RD or myiq2xu can speak to that sort’ve upbringing better than me since I come from a long line of avowed church avoiders and seem to have raised two more of them. I’d rather take my chances with poverty in Haiti, frankly.

So, let me ask this question: What’s to say we’re not repeating the sins of our colonial past? Who are the real saints and who are the sinners?


Tales of the Vampire Squid

Great illustration of the classic movie The Sting by Francesco Francavilla

Matt Taibbi of the Rolling Stone spells out why Goldman Sachs is making all that money in a piece called “Wall Street’s Bailout Hustle”. The contents shouldn’t be new for any reader here because it basically spells out what we’ve been talking about for some time. Also, any avid reader of Yves over at Naked Capitalism or Karl Denninger at the Market Ticker will have also followed the heist of taxpayer monies. The good news is that the Rolling Stone has a much bigger audience. The bad news is that I don’t know at this point if what any of us say will really matter. The fix is in and has been in for some time.

We’ve talked about how by allowing the investment banks to become commercial banks,the FED opened the discount window to institutions that normally cannot borrow money there or for that matter borrow any where that cheaply. Having your marginal cost of capital suddenly go to close to zero lets you invest in a lot of projects whose net present value would not be positive otherwise. Unfortunately, these ‘projects’ weren’t things like inventory loans or loans for new equipment which are items that generally are funded by commercial banks. The proceeds of the Fed loans were used to buy up deep discounted (by the Treasury) financial assets from the remnants of a failing AIG.

So the scam–as we’ve talked about in several posts–was pretty easy. First, you borrow from the FED at close to zero per cent interest. Then you get inside information on what’s going to be stripped out of AIG by then NY Fed chairman Timothy Geithner (who sees to it that the price is discounted to Filene’s Basement-levels) and you buy. Then, the NY Fed pre announces a program to buy whatever bad investments you may have on your book (including those deeply discounted AIG assets that you just bought at giveaway prices) so that you and your competitors can shift the assets around several times from place to place and run the price up. Just when the price goes up to an unreasonable level, you sell it to the FED. Then you stand in line for your huge bonus check in a few months for being a Master of the Universe when just about any freshman who took an investments course at the local community college could’ve figured out the same thing. La voilà! Fait accompli!

It would’ve been much cheaper for all of us if they’d have just bought the AIG assets directly but for some reason a bunch of folks in Washington D.C. insisted that the ‘market’ set the price. So, instead of having a phony price set by the FED directly, we had a scammed price set by investment banks. Was all this so Obama could say he’s a good capitalist and not a socialist or was it just away to dance with them that brought you? As we’ve also talked about before, Goldman Sachs and the FIRE lobby invested heavily in the Obama campaign.

So, if you want it spelled out a little bit more completely–with some much better prose than I can come up with–you can visit the Taibbi article and weep for your hard earned tax dollars. Here’s a great example of that.

Fast becoming America’s pre-eminent Marvel Comics supervillain, the CEO used the call to deploy his secret weapon: a pair of giant, nuclear-powered testicles.

No really. It’s a quote from the first paragraph. I swear I didn’t make it up. Nor did I make this up.

The only reason such apathy exists, however, is because there’s still a widespread misunderstanding of how exactly Wall Street “earns” its money, with emphasis on the quotation marks around “earns.” The question everyone should be asking, as one bailout recipient after another posts massive profits — Goldman reported $13.4 billion in profits last year, after paying out that $16.2 billion in bonuses and compensation — is this: In an economy as horrible as ours, with every factory town between New York and Los Angeles looking like those hollowed-out ghost ships we see on History Channel documentaries like Shipwrecks of the Great Lakes, where in the hell did Wall Street’s eye-popping profits come from, exactly? Did Goldman go from bailout city to $13.4 billion in the black because, as Blankfein suggests, its “performance” was just that awesome? A year and a half after they were minutes away from bankruptcy, how are these assholes not only back on their feet again, but hauling in bonuses at the same rate they were during the bubble?

The answer to that question is basically twofold: They raped the taxpayer, and they raped their clients.

So, it explains pretty clearly how Wall Street made that money in a sort’ve pulp fictionish way which hopefully will bring some attention back to culprits like Timothy Geithner who basically was the “loan arranger” of the sting on taxpayers. If that’s what it takes to wake folks up to the scam behind the masters of the universe, then so be it. WAKE THE FUCK UP FOLKS!


Conservative Hypocrisy

The recently hyped Mount Vernon statement continues the farcical attempt by movement conservatism to embrace ‘small government’ and ‘individual liberty’. Jim DeMint (R-SC) wants every Republican to sign on to it. I suggest that what’s needed is a clean sweep out of Washington for any one that does.

Here’s a the most seemingly innocuous but intensely hypocritical portion of the manifesto. As with everything that comes out of the Heritage Foundation or any of its cronies, it’s always about the inference between the lines and not the words themselves. That’s where the true meaning of the manifesto lie.

A constitutional conservatism based on first principles provides the framework for a consistent and meaningful policy agenda.

  • It applies the principle of limited government based on the rule of law to every proposal.
  • It honors the central place of individual liberty in American politics and life.
  • It encourages free enterprise, the individual entrepreneur, and economic reforms grounded in market solutions.
  • It supports America’s national interest in advancing freedom and opposing tyranny in the world and prudently considers what we can and should do to that end.
  • It informs conservatism’s firm defense of family, neighborhood, community, and faith.”

First, small government in the view of movement conservatism never includes shrinking the budget for military adventurism. This is neatly tucked away between the lines of point four which includes “advancing freedom” and “opposing tyranny”. For example, they would never defund or remove support from our occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan or abandon all those unnecessary bases in places like Germany and South Korea left over from previous occupations. They’ve never met a weapons system in which they didn’t want full government investment. They do not recognize their responsibility for that huge part of the federal deficit that was their making during the Reagan defense build-up or the inception of the Dubya Bush wars in the Middle East. They love their military industrial complex and while the word ‘prudently’ is carefully inserted into the ‘we love a good war’ statement, these folks have never found a skirmish from which they cannot profiteer. They’d create an enemy of heaven and command unearthly legends against a god if there wer a buck to make and a flag to wave.

The statement about “the central place of individual liberty” is the most disturbingly hypocritical. You’ll know this is especially true when you look at the list of signers. These are folks who never consider removing those intrusive laws that place the government’s nose between a woman’s legs, inside the minds of those who reject blind faith over reason, or into the lives of those whose genetics didn’t place them firmly into the realm of the conservative’s acceptable definitions of “family, neighborhood, community, or faith” despite the fact that nothing any alternative actually does threatens the lifestyles of the narrowly defined. They just need a ‘them’ so they can further their power agenda and line their pockets. They want a monopoly on the definition of everything and laws to prevent anything else. They decry expanded government only when it threatens to shake their narrow world view and their hold on the rest of us and our own adult behaviors.

As an economist, I know that their notion of “free enterprise, the individual entrepreneur, and economic reforms grounded in market solutions” simply means, again, they can pick and choose which part of capitalism that best profits them and deftly ignore the rest. They would never remove preferential tax treatment from any business even though that’s anathema to a free market system. Indeed, they don’t even seem to realize that any third party payer–be it Medicare or United Health Care–is basically an offshoot of the failure of the market to provide adequate information and service to a buyer. If they really want free enterprise, let’s start getting rid of drug laws, laws against prostitution, all the blue laws on alcohol sales, and see what they say then. For that matter, why have any control on the market for enriched uranium? Certainly, entrepreneurship is a great thing for all markets.

Again, look at the signers. These are the very folks that want monopolies over all the decisions of our lives. Not one of them wants to the free market of ideas, science, economics, or rational thought.

According to the Web site, some of the establishment conservatives who have signed the document are Wendy Wright, the president of Concerned Women for America; Edwin Feulner Jr., president of the Heritage Foundation; Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council; Brent Bozell, president of the Media Research Center; and Alfred Regnery, publisher of The American Spectator.

These people have never been and will never be the true defenders of liberty and justice for all. They only like the rule of law when it benefits them. Their manifesto is the basis for which they tell the rest of us to go to hell. I have but one word for their type of conservatism: intrusive.


Rapping Economists?


A History of Violence

Something is very wrong with Amy Bishop, and there has been something wrong with her for a very long time. But just what is her problem, and how did she manage to keep it at least somewhat under control for so long? As a psychologist, I have found this story so fascinating that I have barely been able to focus on anything else for the past few days.

Amy Bishop is a professor at the University of Alabama at Huntsville who shot six of her colleagues at a Biology Department meeting on Friday, February 12. She had taken a 9-millimeter pistol with her to the meeting, loaded with 16 bullets. She did not have a permit for the weapon. She has been charged with one count of capital murder and three counts of attempted murder so far. From The New York Times:

Those killed were Gopi Podila, 52, the chairman of the biology department; Maria Ragland Davis, 50, a professor who studied plant pathogens; and Adriel Johnson, 52, a cell biologist who also taught Boy Scouts about science.

Two of the wounded were Joseph Leahy, 50, a microbiologist, and Stephanie Monticciolo, 62, a staff assistant, both of whom were in critical condition. The third was Luis Cruz-Vera, 40, a molecular biologist, who was released from the hospital on Saturday.

A neuroscientist with a PhD from Harvard University, Bishop was working on a start-up company to market a portable cell incubator that she had invented with her husband. The couple had won the $25,000 seed money in an Alabama business competition. Bishop and Anderson have four children, the oldest of whom is 18.

Bishop had been denied tenure twice by her department, and her appeal had been denied in April of 2009. At the end of the Spring semester she would have had to leave UAH. She felt she had been unfairly treated because of personality issues, and had apparently retained a lawyer to help her fight the decision. However, with her qualifications, Bishop should have been able to find another teaching job easily. On the other hand, why did she end up at UAH in the first place when she had such outstanding qualifications?

According to the Boston Herald, quoting “a family source,” Bishop

was a far-left political extremist who was “obsessed” with President Obama to the point of being off-putting.

In addition, many right-wing blogs are trying to turn this tragic story into a political issue, claiming that Amy Bishop is a radical socialist, and supposedly that should explain her losing control and going on a shooting rampage.

At least one blog is suggesting the shootings were based on race, because most of the people Bishop shot were people of color. I also saw this suggestion made on Twitter several time yesterday.

…Bishop shot almost every non-white faculty member in the department. (She also shot and wounded two white victims, a professor and a staff member.) She killed both African-American professors in the department (one of whom was too junior to have had anything to do with Bishop’s tenure decision). She killed the department chair, who was ethnically South Asian. A Latino faculty member was wounded. There may only be two non-white faculty left in the department. Whether she intended it or not, Amy Bishop effected a racial purge of the Alabama Huntsville biology department.

The following is a summary of what I have learned about Amy Bishop so far. Read the rest of this entry »