Mercury Rising 鳯女

Politics, life, and other things that matter

Archive for February, 2013

Thank you, Keith!

Posted by Charles II on February 28, 2013

The Second Coming must be at hand. Someone has told the truth on FOX.


Posted in Fox Noise, Keith Ellison | 5 Comments »

“The most sordid 42 years of Catholic history since the Borgias”

Posted by Charles II on February 28, 2013

Former Dominican friar and current Episcopal priest Matthew Fox on the dysfunction in the Catholic hierarchy:

MATTHEW FOX: …Yeah, I think I’ll take the pope at his word here when he says he’s tired. I would be tired, too, if I left as much devastation in my wake as he has, first as inquisitor general under the previous pope. He brought the Inquisition back.

It’s become a viper’s nest there, obviously—the Vatican is…. It’s really sick, what’s going on, obviously—the cover-up of the pedophile priests.

So, history and cheerleading of popes, what I call papolatry, will not cover up the facts. This has been the most sordid 42 years of Catholic history since the Borgias. And as I say, I think it’s really about ending that church as we know it. I think Protestantism, too, needs a reboot. I think all of Christianity can get back more to the teachings of Jesus, a revolutionary around love and justice. That’s what it’s about. And that’s why there’s been such fierce resistance all along from the right wing. The CIA has been involved in, especially with Pope John Paul II, the decimation of liberation theology all over South America, the replacing of these heroic leaders, including bishops and cardinals, with Opus Dei cardinals and bishops, who are—well, frankly, it’s a fascist organization, Opus Dei is. It’s all about obedience. It’s not about ideas or theology. They haven’t produced one theologian in 40 years. They produce canon lawyers and people who infiltrate where the power is, whether it’s the media, the Supreme Court or the FBI, the CIA, and finance, especially in Europe.

Pope John XXIII called the [Second Vatican] council in the early ’60s,…it definitely was a reform movement, and it gave inspiration to the poor, especially in South America. And after the council, the movement of liberation theology, which had a principle of preferential option for the poor, this really took off.

And this non-hierarchical, this far more horizontal and circular approach to Christianity and to worship was a big threat, of course, to certain people in Rome, but it was even a bigger threat to the CIA. When Reagan was elected, two months later there was a meeting of his National Security Council in Santa Fe, New Mexico, to discuss one thing: How can we destroy liberation theology in Latin America? And they concluded: We can’t destroy it, but we can divide the church. And so they went after the pope. They gave him lots and lots of cash for solidarity in Poland. And in exchange, they got the permission, if you will, the commitment on the part of the papacy, to destroy liberation theology.

And this is very much documented. It’s actually documented by Carl Bernstein, of all people, in a cover story in Time magazine…

I loved his description of nailing an updated 95 theses, ala Martin Luther, to Cardinal Bernard Law’s door in Italy (Fox did the same to Cardinal Ratzinger, but there’s a special place in my heart for Bernard Law).

Fox’s basic point, with which I agree, is that the politicization of the church is what is causing its dysfunction. Having read some of Fox’s work elsewhere, I find some of his theology kind of bizarre but, as he indicated, freedom of conscience is essential to any true belief. At any rate, it does well to remember that Catholics outside of the hierarchy have led–often heroically–many of the movements for reform, civil rights, and social justice of the 20th century, but the hierarchy has almost always served the forces of reaction, and sometimes of totalitarianism.

Posted in politics masquerading as religion, The Vatican | 5 Comments »

Corrupt head of Mexican teachers union accused of corruption

Posted by Charles II on February 27, 2013

Jo Tuckman, The Guardian:

[Elba Esther] Gordillo [aka The Teacher], leader of the 1.5 million-strong national teachers’ union in Mexico, was arrested on Tuesday evening after the private jet in which she had travelled from California landed at an airport near the capital. She spent the night in a Mexico City jail before appearing in court where she was formally read the charges of “operations with resources of illicit origin” and “organised crime”.

With the aid of complicated diagrams, the attorney general, Jesús Murillo, laid out a triangulation scheme in which nearly 2,000m pesos (close to £100m) was funnelled out of union bank accounts in Mexico into other accounts at home and abroad of three associates and a business, and then used to finance Gordillo’s legendarily expensive tastes, from luxury homes to plastic surgery.

In an editorial, La Jornada explained just how corrupt (my hasty translation):

Especially serious are those in regard to her responsibility in the murder of the magistral leader Misael Núñez Acosta, which occurred 1/30/81 in Ecatepec, allegations of kidnappings and illegal detentions instigated by Gordillo and her predecessor Carlos Jonguitud, of dissident professor from 1980 to the present; repeated accusations of opacity and corruption in the management of labor union dues; subpoenas for illegal enrichment by The Teacher; as well as indications such as that drawn up in 7/11 by Miguel Ángel Yunes– ex-Gordillo ally who was yoked director of the Mexican Social Security last presidency–in the sense that the Chiapan Leader [Gordillo] demanded of him 20 million pesos monthly from the funds of Social Security to finance the New Alliance Party.

A real sweetheart– and one of those who installed former president FeCal in office.

Thirty years too late, justice may at last have noticed her. I would place no bets that she ends up in jail.

Rich Grabner’s reaction: “This is friggin’ huge.” For your entertainment, he also has the many faces of Elba Esther Gordillo.

Posted in corruption, impunity, Mexico | Comments Off on Corrupt head of Mexican teachers union accused of corruption

The Onion, 01/17/01: More Truthful Than It Knew On George W. Bush

Posted by Phoenix Woman on February 26, 2013

Somebody dusted off the scarily and sadly prescient article on George W. Bush from the January 17, 2001 issue of The Onion and added links in the appropriate spots so we could all see just how accurate it was.

Here’s a taste:

Bush swore to do “everything in [his] power” to undo the damage wrought by Clinton’s two terms in office, including selling off the national parks to developers, going into massive debt to develop expensive and impractical weapons technologies, and passing sweeping budget cuts that drive the mentally ill out of hospitals and onto the street.

During the 40-minute speech, Bush also promised to bring an end to the severe war drought that plagued the nation under Clinton, assuring citizens that the U.S. will engage in at least one Gulf War-level armed conflict in the next four years.

“You better believe we’re going to mix it up with somebody at some point during my administration,” said Bush, who plans a 250 percent boost in military spending. “Unlike my predecessor, I am fully committed to putting soldiers in battle situations. Otherwise, what is the point of even having a military?”

On the economic side, Bush vowed to bring back economic stagnation by implementing substantial tax cuts, which would lead to a recession, which would necessitate a tax hike, which would lead to a drop in consumer spending, which would lead to layoffs,
which would deepen the recession even further.

The thing speaks for itself.

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on The Onion, 01/17/01: More Truthful Than It Knew On George W. Bush

Another interesting Book-TV presentation: Ben Barber and Frances Fox Piven

Posted by Charles II on February 26, 2013

Ben Barber on what things would be like if mayors ran nations here. Frances Fox Piven comes on at 50 minutes. Her talk is the best part of the presentation.

Apparently it is radical to believe that political leaders should make sure they are doing things that benefit their constituents, like seeing to filling potholes.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: | Comments Off on Another interesting Book-TV presentation: Ben Barber and Frances Fox Piven

Rotten hierarchy, great art

Posted by Charles II on February 25, 2013

Despite the seamy authoritarian side of the Catholic Church that was exposed by the sex abuse scandal, there is a lot to love about the Church. Its art represents extraordinary human spiritual exploration.

Our friend Brother John has been doing a pilgrimage to the holy sites of Italy. He has produced a terrific set of photos and posted them online:


The Vatican

The Vatican Museum

There are more photos and commentary on his site.

Posted in religion, The Vatican, The Vaticant | 2 Comments »

A book to understand the financial crisis

Posted by Charles II on February 24, 2013

Alan Blinder on C-Span describes his book After the Music Stopped.

Posted in financial crisis | 2 Comments »

Frank Vennes Pleads Guilty, Vows To Cooperate With Authorities

Posted by Phoenix Woman on February 24, 2013

While I was distracted, Frank Vennes decided to cut short the fun planned for his trial set to start on February 5 by pleading guilty four days before the start date. Here’s part of the Minnesota DoJ’s press release, courtesy of Ken Avidor:

MINNEAPOLIS—Late this afternoon in federal court in St. Paul, a business associate of Thomas J. Petters, the Minnesota businessman convicted in 2009 of orchestrating a $3.65 billion Ponzi scheme, pleaded guilty to fraudulently raising money from individuals and through hedge funds for investment in Petters Company, Inc. (“PCI”). Frank Elroy Vennes, Jr., age 55, of Stuart, Florida, was charged on July 11, 2011, in a Second Superseding Indictment. Appearing today before United States District Court Judge Richard H. Kyle, he specifically pleaded guilty to one count of securities fraud and one count of money laundering.


From 1995 through September of 2008, Vennes and his company, Metro Gem, obtained money from others for investment in PCI notes. He also assisted in the formation of hedge funds, known as the Arrowhead Funds, to help raise additional investment funds for that same purpose. Beginning in 2001 and proceeding through September 24, 2008, he knew that individuals associated with the Arrowhead Funds were making misrepresentations and omissions to investors regarding investments in PCI, and he aided and abetted in those misrepresentations.

Vennes likely was flipped in order to nail James Nathan Fry, his co-defendant, whose own trial started on February 5. And guess what? Fry’s attorney, well-known Twin Cities trial lawyer Joe Friedberg, would very much like to get Vennes on the witness stand

Friedberg rejected the Government’s contention that their witnesses could supply the necesary testimony regarding the specific charges against Fry saying such testimony was hearsay and that only Vennes had “a monopoly of knowledge”.

In  particular, Friedberg pointed to the Government’s evidence regarding how Fry and Vennes allegedly used  Vennes’s quest for a presidential pardon to lull potential investors concerns. Friedberg said:

“Vennes told my client Michele Bachmann supported his pardon to the White House” 

Friedberg’s referring to the 2007 push to get George W. Bush to pardon Vennes.

Things will soon get interesting again for Vennes, Fry and Bachmann — and the best place to watch the action is at Vennes Info.

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment »

Department of “I Told You So”

Posted by Charles II on February 23, 2013

David Taintor, TPM:

President Obama said in a letter to House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) Friday that 100 U.S. troops have been deployed to Niger to assist the French operation in Mali.

“The total number of U.S. military personnel deployed to Niger is approximately 100. The recently deployed forces have deployed with weapons for the purpose of providing their own force protection and security,” Obama said in the letter.

Obama added that the troops were deployed “in furtherance of U.S. national security interests.”

I took a lot of crap at DK for saying that the US would get involved in the region:

Whether this turns into another American war is yet to be seen… but the stakes are significant enough that it would be surprising if we don’t get involved.

For now it’s just French soldiers resisting their advance. But the stakes are serious enough that it’s inconceivable to me that the US will not be involved within days if not weeks.

The Yellowcake War may be just in its opening innings. See here and here. Or just read Tom Englehardt:

Here, in fact, is a rule of thumb for you: keep your eye on the latest drone bases the CIA and the US military are setting up abroad – in Niger, near its border with Mali, for example – and you have a reasonable set of markers for tracing the further destabilisation of the planet. Each eerily familiar tactical course change (always treated as a brilliant strategic coup) each next application of force, and more things “metastasise”.

All the Islamists have to do is make nice with the Tuaregs and get a rebellion going in Niger to make this a very serious situation. True, the US, France, and Africa could get this right, but I see no signs they are doing so.

Posted in Africa, terrorism | 1 Comment »

Rick Wolff: How The American Left Was Neutered After 1945

Posted by Phoenix Woman on February 23, 2013

In the course of discussing something else, Prof. Richard Wolff discusses why, in contrast to the flourishing leftist movements in Europe and elsewhere, the United States’ left is so sadly, pathetically gormless (emphases mine):

… In Europe after 1945, business and conservative efforts to destroy the labor unions and anti-capitalist parties and movements were far less successful than their counterparts in the US. Thus, as the current crisis led to austerity, Europeans opposed to austerity and to capitalism were far less disorganized and far less isolated from one another — and likewise less ideologically disarmed. They could and did mobilize millions for classic, visible street actions to advance their criticisms and demands. They could and did plausibly threaten effective electoral action as well.

In contrast, US history after 1945 displays a relentlessly effective destruction of those organizations whose alliance had forced the New Deal on the Roosevelt government. The Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO) and the socialist and communist parties had then articulated a powerful opposition to austerity intertwined with serious anti-capitalism. Their opposition to austerity was successful. Very high taxes were imposed on corporations and the rich to pay for a major expansion of social welfare for the masses (social security, unemployment compensation, and a huge federal jobs program). The contrast between FDR’s expansive response to a collapse of the capitalist economy then and those of Bush and Obama now could not be starker. What the labor-left alliance of the 1930s failed to achieve, however, was any change at the micro-level of the capitalist system. Major shareholders and their boards of directors remained in full command and control of capitalist enterprises.

Once the Second World War ended, business and the rich used every possible weapon to roll back the New Deal. From the secured preserves of their corporate positions and wealth, they targeted the social forces (labor, socialists, and communists) that had succeeded in raising their taxes and expanding the powers of a mass-based government. One key strategy was to eradicate the socialist and communist parties as effective social movements; this was achieved in the name of intense Cold War anti-communism. The other key strategy pursued in tandem by business, government, the rich, and the political right entailed attacks on labor unions. Since the Taft-Hartley Act in 1947, countless laws, regulations, and private campaigns contributed to a nearly continuous half-century decline in unions’ membership and social influence. If anything, the current crisis through 2012 has intensified that decline.

Thus, US opposition to austerity and capitalism since 2009 differed from European oppositions. The US left had been systematically disorganized, demonized as traitorous, and fragmented. To survive, those who did not abandon their previous political commitments altogether splintered into single-issue social movements (against racism, sexism, homophobia, environmental degradation, etc.). Many sought refuges in more or less safe social enclaves such as the academy, religious institutions, and the arts. When large demonstrations occurred they focused on single issues, minimized or excluded direct criticisms of capitalism, and marginalized or excluded advocacy of alternative economic systems.

For half a century, the capitalist system in the US enjoyed a free pass from the kinds of debates and criticisms that other systems in the US experienced. The educational, medical insurance, transportation, energy, and other systems comprising US society had hardly been damaged by those debates and criticisms. Indeed such debates and criticisms are widely believed to be signs of social health, indispensable to the improvement of those systems. In contrast, criticism and debate over capitalism as a system were considered taboo and replaced by celebration and cheerleading. Protection from criticism and debate enabled capitalism to indulge its darkest tendencies (deepening inequality, speculation, cronyism, corruption, etc.). Any component system within any society rots when kept immune from criticism and debate.

The economic crisis of capitalism since 2007 exposed that rot: the immense weaknesses and flaws that had accumulated over the previous half-century. Financial and other mega-corporations rushed to mobilize massive government assistance to save them from collapse. Clear to all, that rush mocked the previous era’s glib contrast of the private sector as efficient and the public sector as useless or worse. No political gridlock prevented the government from swiftly and nearly unanimously providing those mega-corporations with trillions in loans, guarantees, investments, and other forms of stimulus spending. Yet that same government could not end high and persistent unemployment (for example, by a federal jobs program), nor save millions from foreclosure (for example, by managing a transition from ownership to rental for those who needed that), nor stop real wages, job benefits, and job security from continuous decline (for example, by regulations preventing any declines from 2007 levels for the duration of the crisis). These and many other possible solutions, interventions in free-enterprise capitalism, were not considered, let alone examined and debated. The culture of capitalist dominance and the taboo on criticism of capitalism worked to ignore such solutions, not to mention the question of economic system change.

The same culture produced a left that is chronically disorganized (a condition often repackaged as anti-authoritarianism to disguise its impotence). It also produced a long left hibernation in a few safe social enclaves mentioned above. These afflictions rendered the left ill-equipped to recognize, let alone mobilize or lead, the US population’s increasing alienation from its economic and political leaders and institutions.

The thing speaks for itself.

Posted in capitalism as cancer | Tagged: , | Comments Off on Rick Wolff: How The American Left Was Neutered After 1945

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