As reported by MSNBC, Julian Assange has lost his appeal to London’s High Court, and is once again facing extradition to Sweden. His lawyers have indicated that they plan an appeal to Britain’s Supreme Court. Assange has steered supporters to a website titled Sweden vs. Assange for details and updates.
I had never before seen the injuries suffered by the woman who sued McDonald’s for its hot coffee. Now I have.
The September 15, 2011 edition of Rolling Stone shines a light on the inner-workings of the leadership of the Catholic Church, centering on an ongoing criminal case in Philadelphia involving five allegedly sexual predators (for priests and a Catholic school teacher). This is a well researched and well-written article by Sabrina Rubin Erdely.
The article is filled with disturbing anecdotes and statistics. For instance,
- The US conference of Catholic Bishops funded a study that lowered the number of clergy classified as pedophiles by redefining puberty as beginning at age 10
- “Seminary is a form of military-style indoctrination, molding meant his think institutionally, not individually it’s like a brainwashing, almost [states a former seminarian]”
- According to a 1990 psychological study, “only half of all priests adhere to their vows of celibacy.”
- Another study (“The Catholic Priest in the United States: Psychological Investigations”) found “that three fourths of all American priests were psychologically and emotionally underdeveloped, or even mal-developed.” The attitudes of these grown men toward sex, the study concluded “were on par with those of teenagers or even preteens.”
Why has the cover-up of sexual predators continued on to the present? “The answer, in large part, lies in the mindset of the church is rigid hierarchy, which promotes officials who are willing to do virtually anything they’re told, so long as it’s in God’s name.”
The focus of the article is the conduct of high-ranking Catholic clergy who engaged in the now-well-known conduct of denying the criminal conduct of pedophile priests, and moving them from parish to parish, or school to school, rather than calling in the police, or at least defrocking the miscreant priests. Stir in additional misconduct such as hiding incriminating records and you understand the criminal minds of much of the leadership of the modern Catholic Church, an organization that claims moral authority while exhibiting none when it comes to the horrific conduct of many of its high-ranking leaders.
Back in 1978, Justice William Renquist wrote a dissent that is extraordinary reading today. This nugget of jurisprudence was dug up by Linda Greenhouse, who write an excellent NYT Op-Ed titled “Over the Cliff.”
This dissenting justice did not take issue with a corporation’s status as a “person” in the eyes of the law (as Mitt Romney recently reminded a heckler at the Iowa State Fair). But corporate personhood was “artificial,” not “natural,” the justice observed. A corporation’s rights were not boundless but, rather, limited, and the place of “the right of political expression” on the list of corporate rights was highly questionable. “A state grants to a business corporation the blessings of potentially perpetual life and limited liability to enhance its efficiency as an economic entity,” the dissenting opinion continued. “It might reasonably be concluded that those properties, so beneficial in the economic sphere, pose special dangers in the political sphere … Indeed, the states might reasonably fear that the corporation would use its economic power to obtain further benefits beyond those already bestowed.”
Noting that most states, along with the federal government, had placed limits on the ability of corporations to participate in politics, the dissenting justice concluded: “The judgment of such a broad consensus of governmental bodies expressed over a period of many decades is entitled to considerable deference from this Court.
The CIA destroyed 92 videotapes depicting torture of two prisoners, Abu Zubaydah and Abd Al-Rahim Al-Nashiri during the course of litigation brought by the ACLU. Here’s how the ACLU reports the CIA conduct:
We argued that the CIA showed complete disdain for the court and the rule of law itself when it flouted several court orders to produce the videotapes and instead destroyed them. To provide some background, in September 2004, the court first ordered the CIA to produce or identify all records pertaining to the treatment of detainees in its custody, which would have included at least 92 videotapes documenting the harsh interrogation of the two prisoners. Despite the orders, the CIA never produced the tapes or even acknowledged their existence. Unbeknownst to the public, the tapes were destroyed in November 2005, a year after the court’s first order, although the destruction was not publicly revealed until 2007.
Are you ready to hear about the severe ruling by the judge. There was no contempt of court. The ruling was an invitation for the CIA to do whatever the hell it wants next time. Inconvenient evidence? No problem! Check out this part of the ruling: “The bottom line is we are in a dangerous world. We need our spies, we need surveillance, but we also need accountability.”
The U.S. Supreme Court has continued its project of creating coin-operated elections in America, with its decision in the Arizona case of McComish v. Bennett. The Supreme Court struck down a provision of the Arizona law that would increase state candidate financing when an opponent of a clean money candidate financially increased his or her stake in dirty money. Here’s how the stricken provision was described in the Court’s syllabus:
They are also granted additional matching funds if a privately financed candi- date’s expenditures, combined with the expenditures of independent groups made in support of the privately financed candidate or in op- position to a publicly financed candidate, exceed the publicly financed candidate’s initial state allotment. Once matching funds are trig- gered, a publicly financed candidate receives roughly one dollar for every dollar raised or spent by the privately financed candidate— including any money of his own that a privately financed candidate spends on his campaign—and for every dollar spent by independent groups that support the privately financed candidate.
Dan Froomkin of Huffpo offers this analysis:
Arizona’s law was passed in 1998 after a wave of corruption scandals. The idea was to encourage candidates to forgo the scramble for money, with all its inherent invitations to corruption — to spend more time speaking to the electorate, and less time speaking to potential funders. In that sense, its goal was very much to increase genuine political speech. But to the Roberts court, money as speech takes precedence over speech as speech.
Justice Kagan’s Dissent hammers the Majority’s pro-corruption position in the form of a story:
Imagine two States, each plagued by a corrupt political system. In both States, candidates for public office accept large campaign contributions in exchange for the promise that, after assuming office, they will rank the donors’ interests ahead of all others. As a result of these bargains, politicians ignore the public interest, sound public policy languishes, and the citizens lose confidence in their government.
Recognizing the cancerous effect of this corruption, voters of the first State, acting through referendum, enact several campaign finance measures previously approved by this Court. They cap campaign contributions; require disclosure of substantial donations; and create an optional public financing program that gives candidates a fixed public subsidy if they refrain from private fundraising. But these measures do not work. Individuals who “bundle” campaign contributions become indispensable to candidates in need of money. Simple disclosure fails to prevent shady dealing. And candidates choose not to participate in the public financing system because the sums provided do not make them competitive with their privately financed opponents. So the State remains afflicted with corruption.
Voters of the second State, having witnessed this failure, take an ever-so-slightly different tack to cleaning up their political system. They too enact contribution limits and disclosure requirements. But they believe that the greatest hope of eliminating corruption lies in creating an effective public financing program, which will break candidates’ dependence on large donors and bundlers.