Sep 28, 2012

William Henry on Capitol Symbolism

I love William Henry's take on the Capitol Building in DC and have posted on it several times. I just found this older Coast to Coast interview on the topic. It's excellent. In it, he diplomatically dispenses with the more paranoid readings of all the occult and Masonic symbolism and draws parallels to ancient Egypt. The more research on this I do, the more convinced I am that the philosophical underpinnings of the American revolution are about freedom in a much more esoteric sense than we've been taught in history class. It's about freeing our consciousness. It's evident in the richly layered symbolism of our America's iconic structures.

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Sep 23, 2012

Colbert on Dough-Faced Homunculus

Stephen Colbert names Cecilia Giménez, the self-appointed art restorer discussed here, "Alpha Dog of the Week." Hilarious... and tragic.

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Sep 21, 2012

Volunteer Art Destroyer Seeks Payment

The road to hell is paved with good intentions.

Surely the eighty year old Cecilia Giménez meant well when she took it upon herself to restore a church fresco that had fallen into disrepair. But after being lambasted by local officials and family members of the late artist, and threatened with legal action, I guess she's feeling a little unappreciated. So now she'd like to be paid for her trouble. She'll settle for a cut of the church's proceeds now that her masterpiece has put the little town of Borja on the map.

The before and after pictures went viral across the globe and tourists began arriving in droves -- but very few were leaving donations according to Ars Technica. The sanctuary's owners, the Santi Spiritus Hospital Foundation, reportedly made $2,600 in four days from visitors wanting to see "Ecce Mono," or "Behold the Monkey" as it's now called, Ars Technica reported.

Both sides have retained counsel, with the Santuario de Misericordia church scrambling to protect its assets. They will need whatever they've been able to take in to pay a real art restorer. That is, if they can find one capable of undoing the damage from Giménez's act of artistic largesse. The jury is still out as to whether or not it can be restored to its original state.

That said, 18,000 people have signed a petition to leave the Giménez version as it is. Said one woman, "The previous painting was also very pretty, but I really like this one."

Perhaps they see something in Giménez's work that others don't. posits that the octogenarian's work is a rich commentary on the inner conflicts of faith in a modern world.

By creating the work as what some might call an act of vandalism, Gimenez combines the subversive spirit of graffiti street-culture with the reverence of religious tradition, reminding us of the revolutionary nature of Christianity, a faith that was outlawed in its early days.

The unconventional nature of the restored painting tells a story. The fringes of the painting are very faithful to the original, particularly in the cloth.  However, the painting becomes looser, more expressionistic as we move to the center.  This is reflective of how modern people have grown comfortable with the superficial window dressings of Christianity, yet tensions secretly boil at the core.  The original painting depicts Christ’s moment of doubt on the cross, as described in PSalm 22, where he wonders “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

. . .

By depicting Christ with simian features, the piece smolders with the passion and agony of contemporary man, struggling to reconcile religion and science. Are we the divine children of god or the discordant descendants of apes? The lingering power of this question has lead contemporary worshipers to redub the fresco “Ecce Mono” or “Behold The Monkey.”

The painting daringly trails off at the mouth of Christ, left unfinished, imploring us to come to our own conclusion. Though the words of the bible are to be venerated as the word of God, the final sermon has yet to be delivered. Though icons are beautiful expressions of faith, the real substance of Christianity is found in a personal communion with God, a cornerstone of Catholicism.

They've also posted some pretty pictures of her future restorations.

Other critics have not been as kind.

Giménez's efforts have been variously been dubbed "the worst restoration in history", "a botched job", and "a crayon sketch of a very hairy monkey in an ill-fitting tunic".

What no critic seems to have noticed is the elements of self portraiture.

Ecce Homo
Elías García Martínez

Ecce Mono
Cecilia Giménez

Ecce Giméno

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Sep 20, 2012

Amish Hair-Cutters Found Guilty

I can't say I'm terribly surprised to see Sam Mullet and his band of hair-cutters go down. As stated, I thought federal prosecutors put on a strong case. I'll be the first to admit, I thought they might have been reaching by making this a test case of a newly expanded federal hate crimes statute, but they laid it out well. From the New York Times:

Samuel Mullet Sr., the domineering leader of a renegade Amish sect, and 15 followers were convicted of federal conspiracy and hate crimes Thursday for orchestrating a series of bizarre beard- and hair-cutting attacks last fall that spread fear through the Amish of eastern Ohio.

The convictions of Mr. Mullet and his followers and family members who carried out the assaults could bring lengthy prison terms. The jury’s verdict vindicated federal prosecutors, who made a risky decision to apply a 2009 federal hate-crimes law to the sect’s violent efforts to humiliate Amish rivals.

The Times story paints a vivid picture of the bizarreness of this case -- one which actually caused several Amish communities to break with tradition and bring their concerns to the authorities. Many of them came to court allowing themselves to be snapped at fairly close range by news photographers. It speaks to the extremity of the circumstances that such private people allowed this intrusion. Sam Mullet was a bigger threat to their way of life than the modernity of the English world.

During the testimony, the 16 defendants, in traditional attire, and their lawyers had sat around four tables that filled half the courtroom. In the gallery sat dozens of Amish supporters of the victims, including several of Mr. Mullet’s elderly siblings, who shook their heads as witnesses described Mr. Mullet’s unorthodox methods. Also in the gallery was Mr. Mullet’s wife, who had sat impassively as a woman who used to live in Bergholz spoke of how Mr. Mullet pressured her to come to his bed repeatedly.

I, for one, am just glad to see the criminal justice system found a way to stop this guy before more people got hurt -- and that includes his own followers. As I've said previously, Sam Mullet is one sick twist, and I don't think concerns that this could have escalated into a Jim Jones scenario are unfounded. As one prosecution witness put it in an interview last November:

Sociologist Donald Kraybill told Barbara that Mullet acted much like a cult leader. "He's not accountable to anyone. He's not in fellowship with other Amish groups. He thinks he is invincible," Kraybill said. "So under the guise of religion he is trying to protect himself, so he can do whatever he wants to do."

But Sam Mullet was also a victim of his own arrogance. He seemed to believe that he would not be accountable to other Amish communities, or the law, for really outrageous behavior. Slapped down by hundreds of Amish bishops for improper excommunications, Mullet has now been slapped down by a federal court for retaliating against those bishops.

Mullet and his followers face sentences of ten years or more. I hope the senior Mullet, at least, goes away for a good, long time.

Addendum: Federal officials have made statements regarding the verdict. From the Los Angeles Times:

At a televised news conference after the verdict was returned, officials said the case was an important application of anti-hate laws and rejected claims that Mullet and his followers had been singled out for their religious beliefs.

“From day one, this case has been about the rule of law and defending the right of people to worship in peace,” said Steven Dettelbach, U.S. attorney for the northern district of Ohio. “Our nation was founded on the bedrock principle that everyone is free to worship how they see fit. Violent attempts to attack this most basic freedom have no place in our country.”

Officials took a similar tack in a statement released by the Department of Justice in Washington.

“The violent and offensive actions of these defendants, which were aimed at beliefs and symbols held sacred by this country's Amish citizens, are an affront to religious freedom and tolerance, which are core values protected by our Constitution and our civil rights laws,” said Thomas E. Perez, assistant attorney general for the Civil Rights Division. “Those laws prohibit the use of violence to settle religious differences and the Department of Justice and the Civil Rights Division will vigorously enforce those laws.”

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Sep 19, 2012

Verdict Watch: Amish Hair-Cutting Trial

Sam Mullet

In its fourth day of deliberations, the jury in the Amish hair-cutting trial has now twice sought clarity on the fine points. It isn't surprising that they would need both time and clarification with this case. Bear in mind that they have to determine the guilt or innocence of sixteen defendants, dressed in matching styles, and variously named Mullet and Miller. They are facing different sets of charges and have multiple defense attorneys with differing arguments.

Today the jury attempted to parse the fine points of their individual culpability in a conspiracy that may not involve all the parties.

The U.S. District Court jury in the trial of 16 Amish reconvened and promptly asked the judge if a conspiracy could involve just some of the defendants.

Judge Dan Aaron Polster told the jury that a conspiracy wouldn't necessarily need to involve all nine victims in the five attacks or all 16 defendants. Defense attorneys argued that the indictment specified a plot against nine victims, but Polster overruled them.

The indictment charges the defendants with conspiring to cause bodily harm to the victims. The judge said that if all 12 jurors agree that the government proved a conspiracy, the jury then must separately decide who plotted.

Last week, only three hours into deliberations, jurors called for more explanation of the hate crimes statute.

They asked for the definitions of "disfigurement" and "mental faculty."

Once all the attorneys and defendants assembled in the courtroom by 11:45 a.m., Polster said his reply would be "As for disfigurement, Congress did not define disfigurement so I am not use your own common sense and your everyday experiences....look at how bodily injury is defined in the instructions as any injury to the body..."

" for mental faculty, (prosecutors) have not argued that any victim suffered an injury of a mental capacity...."

Prosecutors did not object to his language and only two defense attorneys asked for a minor modification but Polster denied the modifications.

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Mrs. Jesus?

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A tiny fragment of papyrus may upend centuries of Christian dogma. Dr. Karen L. King, a professor at Harvard's Divinity School has in her possession the first documentary proof that Jesus may have had a wife -- or at least, that an early Christian sect believed he did. Thus far, the scrap has withstood multiple authentication tests and appears to be genuine.

The discovery reopens ancient debates about marriage and sexuality in a Christian context. It also calls into question much about the role and rights of women in the church.

Dr. King is a fairly impressive woman, herself. She's the first woman to hold the oldest endowed chair in the United States. She is an expert on early Coptic texts and Gnosticism and has written a number of books on newly discovered Gnostic texts such as The Gospel of Mary Magdala and Reading Judas.

A historian of early Christianity at Harvard Divinity School has identified a scrap of papyrus that she says was written in Coptic in the fourth century and contains a phrase never seen in any piece of Scripture: “Jesus said to them, ‘My wife …'”

The faded papyrus fragment is smaller than a business card, with eight lines on one side, in black ink legible under a magnifying glass. Just below the line about Jesus having a wife, the papyrus includes a second provocative clause that purportedly says, “she will be able to be my disciple.”

. . .

But the discovery is exciting, Dr. King said, because it is the first known statement from antiquity that refers to Jesus speaking of a wife. It provides further evidence that there was an active discussion among early Christians about whether Jesus was celibate or married, and which path his followers should choose.

“This fragment suggests that some early Christians had a tradition that Jesus was married,” Dr. King said. “There was, we already know, a controversy in the second century over whether Jesus was married, caught up with a debate about whether Christians should marry and have sex.”

Dr. King argues that none of this should be taken as evidence that the historical Jesus was married pointing to the total absence of any discussion of the topic in first century texts. There is no known documentary proof of either his being married or unmarried from his own era. Rather, discussion and speculation about his marital status began to emerge during the second century as early Christians struggled to reconcile their spiritual calling and their sexuality. So the only valid discussion is over whether or not there was a religious tradition in which he was seen as married and this scrap, if authentic, is the first piece of empirical evidence of such a tradition.

Dr. King speculates that the text from which the fragment was taken was likely translated from a  Greek original, like many Coptic texts. She also sees a strong basis of comparison with The Gospels of Mary, Thomas, and the Egyptians and posits that the original from which this was copied also dates to the latter second century. This, historically, was when there was a great deal of speculation about Jesus's marital status.

In her paper, which can be downloaded here, Dr. King places the remnant in context with other writings of early Christianity. She categorizes this fragment as a piece of a gospel because it shows a dialogue between Jesus and his disciples. It is also reminiscent of a number of gospels, both Biblical and Gnostic, in its discussion of discipleship. She assigns it the working title of The Gospel of Jesus's Wife.

While Dr. King disavows any connection to the theories put forth in The Da Vinci Code, saying, “At least, don’t say this proves Dan Brown was right,” she also comes to the conclusion that the wife referred to is most likely Mary Magdalene. To do so, she attempts to discern whether the Mary named in the fragmentary text is his mother or the mysterious wife. She also dispenses, once again, with the canard that Magdalene was a prostitute.

The second issue is to identify Mary: Is she Jesus’s mother (→1) or his wife (→3)? Scholars have long noted “the confusion of Marys” in early Christianity, due not least to the ubiquity of this name (Maria, Mariam, Mariamme59) for Jewish women in the period.60    One of the most influential confusions has been the identification of Mary of Magdala with three other figures: Mary of Bethany (John 11:1-2; 12:1-3), the woman caught in adultery (John 8:3-11), and the sinner woman (Luke 7:37-38), resulting in the erroneous portrait of Mary Magdalene as a repentant prostitute.61    Another is the confusion of Jesus’s mother with Mary of Magdala, and even the substitution of the mother for her, for example as the first witness to the resurrected Jesus in John 20:11- 17.62    These confusions make one cautious in identifying to whom “Mary” refers here.

. . .

The tradition of Mary of Magdala as an honored disciple of Jesus is well attested from the first century gospels, and is emphasized even more strongly in a variety of literature from the second and third centuries, notably The Gospel of Mary, The Dialogue of the Savior, The Gospel of Philip, and Pistis Sophia.64    It was not until relatively late that Mary of Magdala was misidentified as a (repentant) prostitute, most clearly by Pope Gregory in the late sixth century.65    Prior to the fourth century, she appears as a follower of Jesus during his ministry, was present at his crucifixion and burial, and, in the Gospel of John, is the first witness to the resurrection.66    Yet in a number of these texts Mary’s status as a leader or disciple is directly challenged, notably by Peter.67    GosThom 114, for example,states:...  (“Simon Peter said to them, ‘Let Mary leave us for women are not worthy of life’.”)68    Here Peter’s rejection of Mary provides the opportunity for Jesus to refute the radical exclusion of all women from salvation (a position otherwise completely unattested in Christian literature).

. . .

These two cases from the Gospel of Thomas and the Gospel of Mary identify Mary as the disciple whose status was being challenged, and in both cases her worthiness is defended by appeal to Jesus, the Savior. So, too, in GosJesWife →5, Jesus declares that “she is able to be/come my disciple”. This statement immediately follows Jesus’s reference to “my wife” in →4, indicating his affirmation that the ability to become his disciple concerns his wife, not his mother. This line of interpretation, then, suggests that it is the worthiness of Jesus’s wife, not his mother, which is being discussed. If so, then Jesus’s wife is named “Mary” here and can presumably be identified with Mary Magdalene. It is she who he declares is able to be his disciple.

Almost more interesting than the tantalizing notion that Jesus was married, or thought to be married, is Dr. King's discussion of marriage as an expression of a mystery tradition. Here she turns to The Gospel of Philip.

“The Lord did everything in a mysterious mode: a baptism and a chrism and a eucharist and a redemption and a bridal chamber” 67:27-30

She considers it likely that this was all part of a single ritual of unification.

According to the Gospel of Philip, death came into existence because Eve separated from Adam (GosPhil 68:22-26; 70:9-17101). The ritual of the bridal chamber effects the spiritual transformation of the initiand [sic] by uniting male and female (GosPhil 70:17-20), represented as the (present attainment of the) eschatological union of the redeemed person’s true light-self with his or her heavenly twin (σύζυγος) or angel (GosPhil 58:10- 14; 67:26-27). The ritual of the bridal chamber is thus necessary for salvation (GosPhil 86:4-8).102

So Philip's gospel would seem to equate separation from God with the division into polarity and implies that this was the fall that cast us out of the Garden of Eden. What remains somewhat unclear is whether this marriage ritual is entirely metaphorical or if it depicts marriage in the earthly realm as a symbolic expression of reunification with God.

What comes to mind is The Chymical Wedding of Christian Rosenkreutz, as discussed here. This is especially interesting if we consider Hancock and Bauval's proposition that the ideas in Western Alchemy can be traced to early Gnostic teachings.

Dr. King concludes, though, that what is suggested by this piece of text is a literal marriage between  Jesus and, most likely, Mary Magdalene. This marriage may or may not have been actual and historical, and there is no evidence either way. But it was a very real part of a larger Gnostic narrative that has been hinted at in other extant writings of the time. It also speaks to Jesus's revolutionary teachings about women as, at least, near equals in the early church. It is unlikely that the Vatican will take this any more seriously than it has other Gnostic texts which stand so completely at odds with its rigidly patriarchal doctrines. Michael D'Antonio in the Huffington Post explains:

The implications of professor King's discovery are profound. If Jesus was married, the main spiritual argument for male-only clergy and the celibacy of Roman Catholic priests falls into question. (Priests wouldn't need to abandon sex in order to imitate him.) But more importantly, if Jesus was a family man, then the claim to special status made by Catholic clergy, who regard themselves as supernaturally closer to God, loses much of its power.

Beyond internal Catholic Church politics, a married Jesus invites a reconsideration of orthodox teachings about gender and sex. If Jesus had a wife, then there is nothing extra Christian about male privilege, nothing spiritually dangerous about the sexuality of women, and no reason for anyone to deny himself or herself a sexual identity. In fact, one could argue that in their obsessive self denial -- of sexual pleasure, intimate relationships, and family - celibates reject the fullness of Jesus' example.

What this discovery could prove is that there was, in antiquity, a Christian tradition that didn't vilify women or their sexuality, or consider it a mark of piety to eschew them as ungodly temptresses. It might even make us get honest about the thinly veiled preoccupation with Jesus as a sex symbol. Because, you know, he was hot.

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Sep 17, 2012

The Alchemy of Puss in Boots

I only just got around to seeing Puss in Boots with the family. It's a cute little film that could fairly be described as Shrek meets Zorro meets Desperado. And I have little doubt the boardroom discussion went about like that.

I was not, however, prepared for all the esoteric subtext in the movie. I do remember William Henry pointing out the stargate imagery in the Friskies commercial tie-in. Not that there's anything terribly new about fantastical imagery in children's stories -- including portals into magical lands. But it is kind of interesting that it's through a circular Stargate like opening. Having now seen the movie, I think it's at least arguable that the commercial is a thematic extension of the movie.

It had never occurred to me before that Jack and the Beanstalk is a kundalini metaphor. Now it all seems kind of obvious -- a magical vine that connects earth to heaven and leads to a winged creature that manufactures gold. No duh, huh?

But Puss in Boots ups the ante on that metaphor. Not only is the gold they discover in the shape of an egg, which connects it to core creation mythos. Puss's partner in crime is an egg, specifically Humpty Dumpty.

Humpty's lifelong ambition is to find and plant the magic beans of legend. So an egg is seeking golden eggs. And ultimately the base, mortal, and terribly fragile Humpty is transformed into the gold he is seeking.

Sep 13, 2012

Amish Hair-Cutting Case Goes to the Jury

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The jury will begin deliberations today as to the guilt or innocence of Sam Mullet and fifteen of his followers.

Jurors will begin deliberating on Thursday whether Samuel Mullet Sr. and 15 of his followers are guilty of federal hate crimes for the attacks on nine Amish men and women last fall.

All 16 were charged with conspiracy to commit a hate crime, and some face charges of lying to police or withholding evidence. They face up to life in prison if convicted.

It's hard to get a sense of how a trial is going from press reports alone. But from those accounts, I can't help thinking this trial was a slam dunk for the federal prosecutors. They built a strong case and the defense closed quickly providing no witnesses. Sam Mullet's attorney Edward Bryan is certainly right that the burden of proof is on the prosecution and the defense has no requirement to mount a defense at all. But in this case it looks like they didn't present a case because they just didn't have a reasonable defense to present.

From the press accounts, their various defense strategies look to have been all over the map and internally contradictory. They disputed none of the factual elements of the case, neither the attacks themselves, nor the shocking disciplinary and sexual demands of the Bergholz bishop. They simultaneously claimed that these were not religiously motivated attacks, but based entirely on family and financial disputes, and that the attackers acted out of concern for the souls of their victims, which would seem to imply a religious motivation.

"These were acts of love," said attorney Dean Carro, who represents Lester Miller, who is accused of cutting his father's hair.

Miller and his siblings didn't intend to hurt their father or mother, Carro said. "The reasons they did these things is because they thought they deviated from the Amish path," he said.

Defense arguments wandered into the completely implausible and ridiculous.

"Use common sense," defense attorney Neal Atway told jurors. "What happened was offensive, but what crime was committed?"

Um... assault and battery? Is it a hate crime? That's debatable and something the jury will have to determine, but there's little question that these people were violated. I just don't think that trivializing the suffering of very sympathetic witnesses, who wept openly about their terror and shame as a result of these attacks, will go over too well. And some of these attorneys sound like schoolyard bullies telling victims to just get over it.

Attorney Brian M. Pierce scoffed at the idea that the haircutting amounted to bodily injury. Some of the victims said the shears used to take their hair bloodied their scalps. One bishop whose beard was cut refused to preach until it grew back.

"Emotional harm is not bodily injury," Pierce said. "The beards grew back."

As for Sam Mullet, who did not participate in the attacks themselves, prosecutors had to prove his direct involvement. They have definitely demonstrated that he had a dictatorial control over his followers, convincing them to spend up to twelve days in a chicken coop and to cut their own hair and beards, when they stepped out of line. He also used his authority to coerce sex from his own very reluctant daughter-in-law among others.

More damning still are some details that came out in the write-ups on the prosecution's closing argument.

The defendants openly discussed the attacks before and after they happened, and Mullet's followers brought him hair they cut as trophies and took pictures so he could see what the victims looked like after the attacks, Parker said.

Lest we forget, some of these trophies were recovered from Sam Mullet's property. And the prosecutor's reasoning is pretty solid.

"He is different from everyone else. He didn't get any blood or hair on himself, but none of the terror would have happened without him," Parker said.

All of the victims, she said, were people who had a dispute with Mullet over his religious practices and his authoritarian rule over the settlement he founded.

Mullet and his followers "believed they knew best how to practice the Amish faith and held the keys to heaven," Parker said. "If these assaults were merely personal, why did the defendants zero in on the beards and head hair?"

But the strongest indication that the prosecution put on a very strong case comes from Sam Mullet's attorney.

Mullet's attorney, Ed Bryan, said prosecutors presented a "pretty little package" that read like a movie script.

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Sep 12, 2012

Amish Trial Closes With Damning Testimony

Federal prosecutors wrapped up their case against the Amish hair-cutting ring this week with strong testimony from several witnesses, including Sam Mullet's daughter.

Barbara Yoder was reluctant to testify against her father but, all the same, gave a very damning account.

Mullet's daughter, Barbara Yoder, testified that she never heard her father order any of the four hair- and beard-cutting attacks, but confirmed her father had endorsed the humiliating hair-shearings as disciplinary measures, and laughed when the men reported back to him in the aftermath of the attacks.

. . .

"He said it would help stop people from being Amish hypocrites," Yoder testified.

This is not the first evidence jurors have heard that Sam Mullet found the brutal, humiliating attacks hilarious.

As they listened to calls between Samuel Mullet Sr. and his nephew Lester Miller, the jury read an English translation because the pair had spoken in Pennsylvania Dutch, the primary language of the Amish. The jury was told the calls had originated from the Holmes County jail in Ohio.

On the recording, Mullet was heard laughing about members of the community carrying out more attacks and told his nephew to stay strong and to keep his mouth closed after Miller was arrested last October. "They are trying to tear this whole thing apart," Mullet said, referring to his community.

Yoder also testified to her father's bizarre disciplinary and sexual practices.

Barbara Yoder also described other means of self-discipline and penance advocated by her father, including spending up to 12 days at a time living in a chicken coop, submitting themselves to voluntary hair- and beard-cutting, and engaging in sexual relations with the wives of his followers.

Mullet's sexual exploits may well overshadow everything else in this trial. The extremely un-Amish-like behavior underscores the cultish nature of the Bergholz clan, whether prosecutors can use that word themselves or not. One salacious detail after another has come out in court, all thoroughly in context with the prosecution's theory that Mullet had absolute control over his flock.

FBI Agent Michael Sirohnen testified that when he arrested Sam Mullet, the bishop was in his bedroom with Lovina Miller, a married woman and one of about 18 families who are members of Mullet's Old Order Amish settlement in Bergholz, located about 100 miles southeast of Cleveland.

Lovina Miller is the daughter-in-law of Barbara Miller, who testified against her brother earlier in the trial. This makes her Mullet's niece-in-law. We already know that he coerced his own daughter-in-law into a sexual relationship. Lovina, though, he may have impregnated.

Barbara Miller, Sam Mullet's sister, said that her son's wife Lovina was also ordered to live with Mullet and became pregnant.

'I had a reason to dispute that (the baby) was Eli's,' Mrs Miller said. 'Once I found out she was pregnant it arose: Who is the Daddy?'

For all his claims of moving to Bergholz to live a more traditional Amish life, nothing about Sam Mullet seems terribly orthodox. Conservative to him seems to mean authoritarian. As his sister told the court, he was less about the New Testament compassion and forgiveness, that the Amish are so well-known for, and all about Old Testament "'eye for an eye' syndrome."

Tuesday the jury heard from cultural anthropologist and Amish expert Dennis Kraybill who testified that Mullet's Bergholz community is a "lone ranger group," with all the hallmarks of a cult. He was shocked and dismayed by the chicken coop, spankings, and "sexual counseling," explaining that none of it was consistent with Amish culture and religion. Their religious practice also seems to gone by the wayside.

"There was ample evidence that since 2009 they no longer held church services, and showed a complete disregard for traditional Amish doctrine," testified Kraybill, a cultural anthropologist and professor from Elizabethtown College in Pennsylvania.

Kraybill also put into some context the relevant background on the rupture between Sam Mullet and the Amish community writ large.

Kraybill cited a historic 2006 bishop's meeting in Ulysses, Pa., at which more than 300 bishops learned about Mullet's shunnings and how some members of his clan were fearful of Mullet and were abandoning the Bergholz settlement in the middle of the night.

The bishops voted to overturn a half-dozen of Mullet's excommunications of Bergholz Amish members who had challenged his rulings or offended him by moving away. The conclave decided Mullet's excommunications were not made for biblical or religious reasons, and that he failed to consult his congregation, as required by Amish law.

"This was like an earthquake in the Amish world," Kraybill said.

One of the hair-cutting victims was a key figure in that decision was the prosecution's final witness. Bishop Raymond Hershberger helped to put into context how that decision was made and what a departure the whole thing was from Amish norms.

Hershberger was one of five Amish bishops who investigated the excommunication of eight families from Mullet's Bergholtz group in 2006 and voted to overturn those excommunications, which allowed other communities to accept the families.

Without that exception, a member or family shunned by one community would be shunned by all.

Despite the revolutionary nature of Mullet's excommunication policies and three hundred bishops' unprecedented rebuke of them, Bishop Hershberger was stunned to learn that Mullet and his followers were angry enough to take such brutal revenge. "I never realized Sam felt this way about me until this came up," he said.

Prosecutors rested their case in the Amish hair-cutting trial on Tuesday. So did the various defense attorneys representing a total of sixteen defendants, without calling a single witness. They did move to have the charges thrown out for lack of evidence, but Judge Polster disagreed and denied the motion, saying that a reasonable jury could conclude that there was a religious motivation.

Mullet's attorney Edward Bryan argued that there is no proof that he had coordinated the attacks but Judge Polster pointed to Mullet's having said, "We know what we did and why we did it," as evidence that could be reasonably construed as indicating Mullet's involvement.

Despite the fact that Sam Mullet did not choose to testify in his own defense, the jury heard plenty from the bishop in his own words. In addition to the jailhouse recording referenced above, an interview he did with WKYC-TV was entered as evidence. In it he actually takes responsibility for the attacks.

Mullet Sr. did admit that he knew about the raids, in which Amish men have their beards cut off, and Amish women and men have had their hair cut, but had nothing to do with the incidents.

"They say I did but they don't believe anything I say," Mullet said then, perched atop a bulldozer near the entrance of the road which houses his family enclave.

"Because I'm the oldest here and I'm the bishop, I'm responsible."

He also states explicitly, in that interview, that the attacks were religiously motivated, which will doubtlessly be unhelpful the defense's family disputes argument.

Closing arguments are being heard today and this case could go to the jury as early as this afternoon.

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Sep 11, 2012

The Trip from Bountiful

As discussed, Warren Jeffs appears to be totally losing it. Deranged proclamations, paranoia, mass excommunications, and propaganda blaming members for his continuing incarceration, have raised the concern of social agencies and law enforcement near his Yearning For Zion Ranch and other strongholds around the US. Now comes news that Canadian officials are also dealing with the fallout of an FLDS spinning out of control as the compound in Bountiful, British Columbia shows similar signs of distress.

Jeffs's earlier edict prohibiting sex and marriage for all but fifteen of his most faithful stewards and their selected females has resulted in hundreds of husbands and fathers being excommunicated and their families shattered. Numerous teens have also been excommunicated for innocuous offenses like wearing short sleeved shirts or improper hairstyles. Most tellingly, socializing with their friends is now a banishing offense. Wives have been reallocated like the chattel they are.

Six men from Bountiful, B.C., went to Provincial Court in Creston this week pleading for access to their 40 children after having been excommunicated by Warren Jeffs, the jailed leader of North America’s largest polygamous sect.

Earlier this year, the fathers were deemed to be “unworthy” by Jeffs, the prophet of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Some of these men are actually risking their own legal standing because they're practicing polygamy -- and not necessarily willingly.

One told [attorney Georgialee] Lang he loves his first wife and had never wanted a second wife.

He told her how he’d been taken from his home one night and driven by church leaders on a circuitous route that ended in Nevada, where he married a woman he’d never met before.

One of things that is coming clearer as the curtain is peeled back on this insular sect, is that the men in FLDS are as much victims of Jeffs's tyranny as the women are -- except for those at the top of the food chain. As of now that would seem to be the fifteen men who have their pick of all the women, married or not.

Children are also being shuffled around and one of the petitioners believes four of his kids are living in the care of a woman other than his wife, who has since been reallocated.

In addition to banning all sex except for his chosen fifteen, Jeffs has also prohibited all intimacy and affection, except for handshakes. It's just so very 1984.

Mothers and fathers have been ordered not to touch or hug their children and toys, recreation, and games are no longer permissible.

The Bountiful elementary and secondary schools have, for the first time, refused government funding, opting to run the programs they desire. Reports have surfaced that school hours are now filled with YouTube videos of Jeffs’ preaching.

Yes, the children even have to watch telescreens of Big Brother Jeffs.

All of this is a test of faith. Followers must adhere to these guidelines until Jeffs is released from prison because, as discussed, he is blaming his incarceration on his followers.

While it's sordid and deranged, none of this is hard to figure out. It's simple divide and conquer. People who are able to form strong bonds with each other -- family, friendship, romantic love -- have split allegiances and won't be totally subservient. And the more powerless Jeffs feels, locked away in his prison cell, the more he intensifies his grip on his remaining followers. And anyone who he perceives as a threat to that authority has to go.

As discussed, I think this reallocation of wives to his fifteen chosen enforcers is a reward -- he's buying their loyalty with women's bodies. But there is something else it does which is in some ways more pernicious. It keeps those men from establishing strong emotional bonds. How can they with all those women and children and such totally imbalanced power dynamics. They don't have wives. They have sex objects and breeding stock.

These bizarre edicts are also a window into Jeffs's twisted psyche. He's in jail, unable to have sex with any of his many, many wives, so he's restricting sex. He's lonely so he's breaking down intimate relationships and friendships. I don't think this is just about his incarceration either. Jeffs's life story is one of isolation. He was a sickly child who did not play well with others. He was also a Peeping Tom, lusting after girls from a safe distance. He's odd, even by FLDS standards and was never so much part of a community as he was a power figure by inheritance. 

Perhaps the most telling of his bizarre new rules is his restriction on affection with children. Men are not allowed to touch any children at all. He has redefined touching children -- affectionately or even innocuously -- as adultery and its an excommunication offense. Note that it's adultery, not pedophilia. And then consider that Jeffs is a child molester. Not only was he convicted of marrying and impregnating underage girls, the court heard testimony that he had molested prepubescent children, including his then 5 year old nephew.

Many of the rulings Jeffs is dispensing from his jail cell are not exactly breaking new ground. He's been reassigning wives and families since he assumed leadership in 2005. What has changed is the scope and intensity as he struggles to keep his grip on power.

So far the displaced men of Bountiful are not having much luck through the courts. Interim orders have granted some visitation and have prohibited the wives from taking the children out of the district, but no other custodial rights have been granted to the frustrated fathers as yet. Meanwhile, they wait and pin hopes on signs like wives who are also considering leaving. Of course, it's much harder for women to get out than men.

There are signs that Jeffs's increasingly draconian leadership is backfiring and accelerating the fragmentation of his church. But shattered lives, damaged children, and at least one suicide, are a horrible price to pay. And it will most likely get a whole lot worse.

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Sep 10, 2012

Disaster Planning: Remote Controlled Roaches

Scientists at North Carolina State have come up with a practical use for cockroaches -- search and rescue. Where miniature robots have proved impractical and power intensive, remote controlled roaches may be just the ticket.

“Insects have a power process on them, a natural one,” Alper Bozkurt, an electrical engineer at North Carolina State University, explained to me Friday. “We just needed to supply power for communication, which is not much.”

The research builds on studies that have attached radio tags and sensors to insects to learn how their muscles work. Bozkurt and colleagues took this a step further and stimulated their muscles.

Their remote control system consists of two parts: antennae stimulators and another on their rear end.

. . .

Spurring the cockroaches to scurry forward comes via a sensor on their rear end called cerci “which senses if there is a predator trying to reach from behind. When they feel something, they just go in the forward direction to run away from the predator,” Bozkurt explained.

“So, we use that to make the insect go forward and antenna electrodes to make it go left and right.”

He is smart. He can make them go.

But there are some basic facts about cockroaches that give me pause.
  • Cockroaches have been around since the time of the dinosaurs.
  • If you cut the head off a cockroach, it can live for weeks.
  • Cockroaches become immune to poisons within a few generations, in part because they cannibalize their dead.
  • Cockroaches thrive in any climate and have been found on every continent -- even at the poles.
  • Cockroaches can survive for 45 minutes without oxygen.
  • Cockroaches can withstand up to 105,000 rems of radiation.
Cockroaches are the most resilient creatures known to man. So we're giving them tech?!

Well, sure. What could go wrong?

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Sep 9, 2012

Has Judge Hatch Read The Secret?

Robb Gary Evans ~ Former Cop

Stop me if you've heard this one. A drunk cop walks into a bar. There's a cover charge but he flashes his badge instead. He sees some women in the bar. The first one he pinches on the ass. The second is a friend of a friend. He walks up behind her, sticks his hand up her skirt and fondles her private parts. The woman doesn't care for it so she complains. When the bouncers throw him out of the bar he tells them he's a cop and they'll be arrested. Later, a jury of his peers finds him guilty of sexual abuse. It's a class 5 felony, so he's facing up to 2 1/2 years in prison. But the judge thinks he's a pretty swell guy and lets him off with probation. He doesn't have to register as a sex offender, says the judge. Then the judge turns to the victim of the assault and gives her, wait for it... a very stern lecture about how young ladies shouldn't be hanging out in bars. The punchline? That judge is a woman.

Said Judge Jacqueline Hatch:

"If you wouldn't have been there that night, none of this would have happened to you," Hatch said.

. . .

"I hope you look at what you've been through and try to take something positive out of it," Hatch said to the victim in court. "You learned a lesson about friendship and you learned a lesson about vulnerability."

Hatch said that the victim was not to blame in the case, but that all women must be vigilant against becoming victims.

"When you blame others, you give up your power to change," Hatch said that her mother used to say.

Oy vey.

There is certainly nothing new about blaming women and girls for getting themselves molested. It would be nice to think that Judge Hatch's shaming of a woman for going to a bar would make her a rare relic of a bygone era. I only wish it were that simple. Subjecting sexual assault victims to judgment and scrutiny no other crime victim ever has to endure never seems to go out of style.

But there are a couple of elements that elevate Judge Hatch's sentencing and remarks above your typical, misogynistic, "she had it coming" miscarriage of justice. One is that there is a level of expectation that a woman would be a tad less mind-meltingly sexist. The other is that her comments smack of that special brand of blame the victim idiocy one expects to hear from devotees of The Secret. I don't think those two things are unrelated.

It is commonly assumed that a woman would be more sympathetic to female victims of sexual assault than a man in a similar position. But people in the business of prosecuting rapists know otherwise. In fact, they will generally attempt to stack juries with men because female jurors are more likely to blame the victim. It seems counter-intuitive.

However, female jurors frequently do not side with the female complainant. Indeed, according to a Newsday article, “The most sympathetic juror a rape victim can hope for… is not a well-dressed, educated working woman, but a stocky, conservative, middle-aged Italian man. The Italian man, the researchers reason, regards women as fragile and in need of defense and will usually side with the accuser” (Tyre, 1991, p. 10). The article also quotes Barbara Eganhauser, a lead sex crimes prosecutor in Westchester County, who believes “women, even young women with contemporary lifestyles and values, often reject another woman’s accusation or rape and sex abuse out of their own fear” (Tyre, 1991, p. 10).

Several other authors also note that female jurors often do not accept as true the testimony of complainants. Attorney Julie Wright (1995) argues that these jurors distrust the complainants because they do not want to believe that something horrible could happen to “good people”. Such women subscribe to the “just world hypothesis,” that bad things do not happen at random, but rather everything in the world occurs for a reason. According to this theory, misfortune strikes only those worthy of hardship (Wright, 1995). Wright cites Elaine Walster’s research study, in which undergraduates were told of increasingly horrible things that happened to another person. The worse the event, the more likely the subject assigned blame to the other person, as it was “reassuring if the person [could] somehow blame the victim, taking the loss out of the realm of the uncontrollable” (Wright, 1995, p. 20). Using this logic, female jurors do not wish to imagine that rape could happen to them, and therefore the more they identify with the complainant, and the more hideous the crime, the more they need to deny the complainant’s claim. Wright notes that “Linda Fairstein, Chief of the Manhattan District Attorney’s Sex Crimes Unit, has observed that ‘for many women, the need to shield themselves from their own vulnerability to sexual assault is paramount. If they can insist that the victim engaged in behavior that they would never engage in, such as visiting a bar or going to a man’s apartment, they can convince themselves they are not at risk’” (Wright, 1995, p. 22). Thus, it is so frightening for the female juror to identify with the complainant that she needs to deny the complainant’s testimony, in order for the juror to feel safe in the world.

Furthermore, Gloria Cowan (2000) contends that women often disbelieve other women’s tales of sexual violence out of their own internalized oppression. She writes that many women are hostile to their own sex, and internalize negative female stereotypes. These women are more likely to “blame the victim” in the case of rape or sexual harassment. Cowan’s research study, using questionnaire responses from 155 college women, found a correlation between women’s hostility towards other women and women’s toleration of men mistreating women. While Cowan’s article does not specifically apply to jurors in rape cases, it does provide a persuasive argument as to why females may be disinclined to believe the victim of sexual abuse.

Yes. Women are more likely to blame other women for getting raped, not in spite of the fact that they identify with them, but because they do. It's all part of that reflexive need to create emotional distance from misfortune and convince yourself that you can make yourself immune. It's the same type of "over there" thinking that permeates the new thought movement, as discussed here and here. If you believe that other people are solely responsible for their own misfortune, you can convince yourself that it won't happen to you. This is a) demonstrably false, and b) cruel to victims of adversity.

This "just world" thinking was also evident in the James Ray fiasco. The dead, the injured, and those who were immobilized by physical incapacity and Ray's psychological tyranny were repeatedly blamed by Ray apologists. How could Ray possibly be at fault just for subjecting people to inconceivably high temperatures and berating them if they tried to crawl to the exit? Surely it was their own fault for not leaving. And that molestation victim in Judge Hatch's court? What was she doing leaving her house like that? Women go outside, they just bring rape on themselves. Bad things just don't happen to good people!

One of my favorite examples during the sweat lodge trial was the Ray defender whose words of wisdom were to be found in the strange pile of letters pleading with the court for leniency. I wrote it up here:

The support letters run the gamut. I haven't read them all but what I've read raises considerable concern. One, for instance, contains the following paragraph:

I've had a personal saying that I've shared with both of my children throughout their lifetime and it is exactly as follows:
"If you come home dead, I don't care who's fault it was!"
and what I use as an example to each of them is this: If you are walking down the street and you stop at a intersection, when the light turns green do you walk? NO! You wait, You look around, When it's clear you then walk! Then I remind them how many people see a green light and they start walking (with absolutely no regard for cars or buses). When I am out driving my own car with my children and we are sitting at a light, I'll often point out a stranger and we will make a game of it as we each take a guess ahead of time if a given person will look or walk. Can you guess what happens in most cases? They walk! (without looking). To me personally, it seems like such a common sense thing to do (to look around to make sure it is safe to walk.) I can hardly believe myself that people don't feel the need to do this.

Get it? If some driver runs a red light and hits you, it's your fault, kiddo, because you trusted that they'd be law abiding and pay attention to traffic signals. "Walk on the green, not in between," just isn't gonna cut it. Driving and walking defensively is certainly good advice, in and of itself, but Charlene D of Toronto, Ontario takes it about ten steps further. If her children fail to take responsibility, not only for their own behavior, but for irresponsible, drunk, or otherwise errant drivers, it's their own damn fault if they get hit. And she won't be bothering to seek justice for the vehicular homicide of her own children. So don't expect it.

That a sitting judge said virtually the same thing to a molestation survivor is, well... terrifying.

Does Judge Hatch's new-agey belief in the personal responsibility of crime victims only pertain to women who are sexually assaulted? Or is it more general? Taken at face value, Judge Hatch's statement about how blaming others is giving up personal power -- if we give her the benefit of the doubt that she's not just a sexist dirtbag -- makes her thoroughly unqualified to be a judge. By that logic no one is guilty of any crime, ever. Why bother with a criminal justice system? All crimes are just, in their own way.

Responding to outrage and a petition for her removal, Judge Hatch issued an apology which the crime victim has graciously accepted. Judge Hatch claimed her comments were "poorly communicated." They weren't. She made her opinions quite clear. Women shouldn't be in bars and if they put themselves in harm's way like that, they shouldn't blame their assailants. It was the ideas that sucked, not the wording.

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Sep 8, 2012

Anglican Archbishop: We Were Wrong on Gays

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"We've not exactly been on the forefront of pressing for civic equality for homosexual people, and we were wrong about that," said Rowan Williams, the outgoing Archbishop of Canterbury. He apologized for not doing more to hold together the fracturing Anglican Communion as the Episcopal Church here in the States advanced and other Anglican bodies... did not.

"I don't think I've got it right over the last 10 years. It might have helped a lot if I'd gone sooner to the United States when things began to get difficult about the ordination of gay bishops, and engaged more directly," he told Britain's Daily Telegraph newspaper in an interview published Saturday. "I know that I've, at various points, disappointed both conservatives and liberals."

The archbishop reiterated the church's opposition to gay marriage but said it had been "wrong" in its past treatment of homosexuals.

So, wrong on gay rights but still right on blocking marriage equality. I guess Church politics are still something of a balancing act -- even at retirement. Ah well. Baby steps. Baby steps.

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Sep 7, 2012

Amish Bishop Uses the C Word

Prosecutors in the Amish hair-cutting trial were proscribed from using words like "cult" to describe the Bergholz clan, in a pretrial decision by Judge Polster. But nothing prohibits witnesses from such characterizations and one of the brutally butchered bishops, Myron Miller, did so.

Pressed by the prosecutor to specify his concerns, Miller mentioned without details "cultic" activities and reported "brain-washing" of community members required to submit to Mullet's authority.

. . .

Ed Bryan, defense attorney for Mullet, asked Miller whether the dispute involved personal issues instead of religious differences as the government has argued in calling the attacks religion-based hate crimes.

"I have nothing against Sam Mullet," Miller responded. "What's going on in that community, or was going on, we were very concerned about interaction with any of our members."

Miller's excommunication of one of Mullet's sons was one of the key triggers to the series of attacks and he was the second victim to be targeted.

Days later, on the night of Oct. 4, Miller said, Amish men from nearby Bergholz rousted him from bed, grabbed him by the beard and pulled him outside. "I saw the flash of scissors, I knew what they were going to do, and I was powerless to stop them," he testified.

. . .

Miller was the second Amish bishop to have his beard chopped off. Witnesses described another attack, earlier that same night, on Raymond Hershberger, a 79-year-old Amish bishop from Holmes County.

Police described the aftermath of the first attack.

The officers recalled that clumps of gray hair lay on a rocking chair and on the floor of the living room, and a crowd of people were crying and yelling in Pennsylvania Dutch, their first language.

Hershberger’s son, Levi, told the officers that “Some guys broke in and gave Grandpa a bad haircut,” a Sheriff’s Department detective said.

. . .

Detective Joe Mullet, who is not related to any of the defendants, and his boss, Sheriff Timothy Zimmerly, described Raymond Hershberger as tearful and disconsolate, his hair and beard chopped off in chunks, and cuts bleeding on his scalp.

Hershberger’s son identified the “Bergholz Boys” as the attackers.

The "Berholz Boys" struck again against David Wengerd.

Another beard-cutting victim, David Wengerd of Knox County, south of Mansfield, said two of the Bergholz defendants, Levi Miller and Emanuel Shrock, lured him into a field to look at crops, then sheared him.

Wengerd said the men told him the attack was payback for Wengerd allegedly having spread rumors about Bergholz and for calling the sheriff to report them. Afterward, they snapped his photograph with a disposable camera.

The picture that is evolving in the prosecution's case is one of tensions built over time as Bishop Sam Mullet's Bergholz community was increasingly marginalized by other Amish communities who considered his bizarre leadership to be a growing danger. Their fears were only confirmed when Mullet's followers began to terrorize them with raids targeting their Amish identity -- so much so that they took the unusual step of involving the authorities.

The defense seems to be arguing several things at once and, to me, some of it seems mutually contradictory. On the one hand, they counter that these were simply personal and family disputes. Ed Bryan, for instance, raised the issue of dispute over a horse-and-buggy during his cross examination of Myron Miller.

On the other hand, they argue that Mullet was "disciplining" members of other sects, which I can't help but think only reinforces the prosecution's argument that these were religiously motivated attacks. According to some reports the defense has even argued that the defendants were acting out of compassion and concern for their victim's souls -- so this was more love crime than hate crime. Again, I think this argument actually works for the prosecution. It only reinforces the idea they targeted their victims for their religious practices.

The compassion argument seems like a long shot given the naked hostility exhibited in these raids. Levi Miller, for instance, claims to regret the attacks but mostly, by his own admission, he regrets getting caught. He also regrets that he didn't cut off more beard hair if he was going to get caught anyway. There's a real sense that the gang was gleefully taking these trophies, Sam Mullet's son reportedly telling his father, "We got two of them." And the motivation for their hostility seems clear from the statement of Mullet's grandson Melvin Schrock, Jr. "Because they weren't living right."

When they're not arguing that it was loving concern for the victims' souls, the defense argues that such harsh judgments were typical family spats, not religious differences.

Hair-cutting attacks against people in Amish communities outside the city were tinged with squabbles over money, child-rearing and even the way some women in the conservative settlements dressed, more like a family feud than a series of hate crimes, say attorneys for members of a breakaway group accused of carrying them out.

The defense attorneys, while not denying that the hair-cuttings took place, want to convince jurors that religious differences between the Amish were not the motivating factor and that the attacks didn’t amount to amount hate crimes — the most serious charges against the 16 defendants.

But the way women dress -- like their uncut hair -- is at the very heart of Amish religious practice and identity. And changes in women's apparel authorized by Sam Mullet, such as smaller caps that expose the ears, are seen as emblematic of his radicalism and debauchery.

Jury members and spectators alike received a crash course in Amish culture from testimony during the first week of the trial. They had heard a prior witness snap at an unwary lawyer who referred imprecisely to a hair covering, telling him, “It’s a cap, not a bonnet."

To many outside his clique, Mullet’s decision to have the women switch from caps to what others disparaged as “skimpy scarves" was one more sign that he was isolating his flock and leading them into sin.

Of course the fact that Mullet has been demanding sexual favors from a number of his women followers would actually seem to confirm those fears.

Sam Mullet himself has said from the beginning that this is a religious dispute and this case has been repeatedly characterized as a church-state issue by defense attorneys and journalists. I've been saying from the beginning that it's hard to argue that Mullet and his followers had a First Amendment protected right to abuse people but it only gets harder when you're also arguing that religion wasn't even the reason for those attacks.

Some of the confusion and inconsistency may be a result of having too many cooks as I believe some of the sixteen defendants have different attorneys. Maybe they're not all on the same page strategy-wise. It's kind of hard to make sense of all that from news reports. But so far, it seems like kind of a muddle. Of course, muddying the waters and confusing the jury is also a tried and true defense tactic. Perhaps it will be clearer when the defense attorneys present their various cases.

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Sep 3, 2012

Cardinal Slams the Church in Posthumous Interview

Cardinal Carlo Martini Maria, who passed on Friday, was once considered a likely successor to Pope John Paul II. From beyond the grave he has delivered a blistering critique of the Church, calling it "200 years out of date."

"Our culture has aged, our churches are big and empty and the church bureaucracy rises up, our rituals and our cassocks are pompous," the cardinal said.

"The church must admit its mistakes and begin a radical change, starting from the Pope and the bishops. The paedophilia scandals oblige us to take a journey of transformation."

While unusually harsh, the Cardinal's words are not out of character. He was known for being socially liberal and had long advocated for a kinder, gentler Catholic Church. That was not, by all reports, why was not made pope. It was his diagnosis of Parkinson's disease which also led to his retirement in 2002. He was, however, a quietly divisive figure.

For progressives, he was the "eternal pope in waiting," as the Irish Times called him, the wise and understanding pastor who symbolised the fading dream of reviving the open reformist spirit of 1962-1965 Second Vatican Council.

. . .

"Many would like to see Martini as the 'enfant terrible' of the Catholic Church, a man who wandered on the outskirts of doctrine, and possibly even beyond doctrine, touching on heresy," wrote the Polish Catholic weekly Tygodnik Powszechny.

"There were even those who searched for this in his words and thoughts," it said. But he "rather tried to formulate within the Church the questions that he was asked outside of it."

This led him to say condoms could help fight AIDS, women should be ordained deacons and civil unions for homosexual couples could be accepted. He also said the growing number of divorced and remarried Catholics should not longer be excluded from receiving the Eucharist.

The Cardinal's last interview appeared posthumously in Corriere della Sera. There is some speculation that pressure was applied by the Vatican to suppress it, as it did not initially appear on the paper's website. It was posted online only after inquiries were made. The Vatican denies that it interfered in any way, although the editor of the bishops daily paper has accused the media of distorting the late Cardinal's words. It remains unclear exactly how.

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