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The Morning Grumpy – 6/13/12

All the news, views, and filtered excellence fit to consume during your morning grumpy.

Good morning, Bad Luck Brian! Got a good one for us today?

1. Vatican to American nuns, knock it off with the social justice shit already.

The sisters and church officials met to discuss a doctrinal assessment finding the influential group of American nuns had strayed too far from the church’s teachings.

The report also alleged sins of omission, saying the nuns were focused too heavily on social justice and not enough on opposing abortion, euthanasia and same-sex marriage.

It’s not news that the Catholic Church is in serious trouble in America. Membership has declined, the church is leaving thousands of urban houses of worship behind to rot, and the Church is still settling million dollar legal cases related to decades of sexual abuse of children by thousands of priests. To come down on these women, who are leaders in faith for millions, is absolutely bizarre. As Richard Dawkins pointed out recently, Catholicism is more of a cultural relationship today than a spiritual one.

People who describe themselves as Catholic but do not accept the church’s key teachings should be “honest” and admit they no longer belong to the faith, atheist author and scientist Prof Richard Dawkins has told a Dublin audience.

He said he was intrigued by this week’s Irish Times/Ipsos MRBI poll showing almost two thirds (62 per cent) of Catholics believed the bread and wine which was blessed during Mass “only represents the body and blood” of Christ.

Just 26 per cent said they believed the bread and wine transformed into Christ’s body and blood in accordance with the doctrine of transubstantiation.

“If they don’t believe in transubstantiation then they are not Roman Catholics,” Prof Dawkins said. “If they are honest they should say they are no longer Roman Catholics.”

While the poll Dawkins references is of Irish Catholics, similar results are found in American polls. If the relationship people have with the Catholic faith is more cultural than spiritually literal, the Church needs to support the social justice mission of the the American Church or risk losing their audience at a far greater rate than they are today.

2. This article illustrates why “Canalside” is a bad idea, whether it’s planned by Larry Quinn, Jordan Levy, state agencies, city planners, or Mark Goldman’s ambiguously employed and bearded jugband.

“A district inherently becomes a single-use idea,” says Kennedy. “Everything has to be ‘art.’ You end up with a bunch of performing arts spaces and when they’re not in use it becomes a vacuum.” This vacuum has made the district itself a museum of sorts, something impressive to observe but strangely inert.

…themed venues catering to neatly delineated tastes, Epcot-style.

The model suggests that city life is nothing more than a selection of personal consumption experiences. But at times, the district feels more like a very enthusiastic ghost town

Pave/cobble the streets, plant grass, run the utilities, zone the land, put it up for sale, and let “Canalside” develop organically. If Mark Goldman wants a solar powered ferris wheel or a historically themed tchotchke/bauble emporium with culturally sensitive puppet shows, it can happen on its own. If Cabelas or Trader Joe’s (or whatever retail destination we desire) opens, it will be because it’s an attractive opportunity. It will also then look like Buffalo, not some pre-planned consensus driven compromise of a waterfront.

3. Bruce Bartlett (senior economic adviser in the Reagan and Bush 41 administrations) tallies up President George W. Bush’s financial legacy, and it’s pretty ugly.

Putting all the numbers in the C.B.O. report together, we see that continuation of tax and budget policies and economic conditions in place at the end of the Clinton administration would have led to a cumulative budget surplus of $5.6 trillion through 2011 – enough to pay off the $5.6 trillion national debt at the end of 2000.

Tax cuts and slower-than-expected growth reduced revenues by $6.1 trillion and spending was $5.6 trillion higher, a turnaround of $11.7 trillion. Of this total, the C.B.O. attributes 72 percent to legislated tax cuts and spending increases, 27 percent to economic and technical factors. Of the latter, 56 percent occurred from 2009 to 2011.

As Andrew Sullivan noted in his column on the subject,

I’m tired of being told we cannot blame Bush for our current predicament. We can and should blame him for most of it – and remind people that Romney’s policies: more tax cuts, more defense spending are identical.

President Obama needs to get off the defensive and make this election about Romney’s desire to return to the economic policies of Bush administration. Remind America how bad it was and how bad it can be again.

4. The capital it takes to get to the Capitol. Who can afford to go to Congress? And how independent can they be once they’ve arrived?

Click here for a full size version of the graphic.

As Rootstrikers writes in their story about this infographic,

The first infographic is dedicated to our least favorite government institution: Congress. Who can afford the high price tag of our government? Unfortunately, only the privileged few. Until it makes sense for politicians to opt into a system where they are not dependent upon the 0.26% of Americans wealthy enough to pay for their time, we will not have a government by the people, for the people.

We’re asking all those who agree that the corruption has to stop add their name to The Anti-Corruption Pledge. Our goal: find and connect one million citizens who are willing to strike at the root of corruption in this country.

I’ve signed and I support Rootstrikers with my money and time. I think you should consider doing so as well.

5. Rolling Stone debunks the idea that voter fraud is actually a problem, suggesting that Republican efforts to prevent it are simply a means to restrict ballot access for Democratic constituencies.

Not only is voter fraud not rampant – it’s virtually nonexistent. The iron-clad word on the subject comes from the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law, whose 2007 report, ‘The Truth About Voter Fraud,’ sorts through thousands of allegations going back to the 1990s in the most in-depth voter fraud study ever undertaken. The bottom line, confirmed by all subsequent research: “Usually, only a tiny portion of the claimed illegality is substantiated — and most of the remainder is either nothing more than speculation or has been conclusively debunked.” In fact, “one is more likely to be struck by lightning than to commit voter fraud.”

If you can’t win on ideas, might as well change the rules of the game to benefit your team. GOP2012!

Fact Of The Day: Following the 2010 BP Oil Spill in the Gulf of Mexico, 50 percent of shrimp were found lacking eyes and eye sockets in Barataria Bay, LA, one of the most heavily oiled areas.

Quote Of The Day: “Collective fear stimulates herd instinct, and tends to produce ferocity toward those who are not regarded as members of the herd.” – AKA The Republican 2012 Strategy – Bertrand Russell

Video Of The Day: How It’s Made, Hot Dogs

Song Of The Day: “Prisecolinensinenciousol” – Adriano Celentano

Follow me on Twitter for the “incremental grumpy” @ChrisSmithAV

Email me links, tips, story ideas: chris@artvoice.com


  • If the transubstantiation is real, then what blood type is the converted wine? I’m sure hospitals around the world could benefit from that miracle…

  • Jesse Griffis

    That hot dog video is so nasty at the beginning but oh so f***ing tasty by the end!

  • 1. I had been hoping you’d get to this subject eventually. I think the atheist commentators, who don’t spend a lot of time in pews, are a bit late to the party – Catholicism has been primarily cultural in large parts of the world (western europe, white America) for a couple decades at least, especially in Buffalo, where its about white dresses for girls on their first communion and fish fries on friday and the Broadway Market. Its become much more like American Judaism, a cultural identity first (without the racial and national component, of course). 

    The comparisson I was hoping you were going to draw was between the modern GOP and the Catholic Church. Because in the non-Hispanic parts of this country, the average age of the folks in the pews is rising exponentially. Note the Buffalo News story recently about how the Catholic Church has lost 32% of its followers in the last decade alone. I wonder how much of this phenomenon has similar roots? As the groups shrink, are they becoming more conservative in a reactionary way? Are the progressives leaving, and all that’s left are the hard core individuals who place top priority on cultural backwardness? I think there is a social phenomenon that would be interesting to study and understand (not label and throw mud at and call names, though I no longer consider myself really a member of either group – maybe I took Dawkins’ advice).

    • Interesting, I wish I had make the comparison between the Catholic Church and the GOP as it fits neatly.  As the church population ages and membership generally declines, I think the parallels are there, it probably also informs the recent trend of Catholics more closely identifying with the Republican Party.

      I think there is something fascinating about the split in the American Catholic Church from tradition with a greater focus on social justice and service. The leaders are the nuns and sisters who have taken a leadership role on church outreach. Think of Sister Karen or the Sisters of Mercy and their expanded role in ministry and leadership. Very different from the patriarchal attitudes we grew up with in the Church.

      As for Dawkins, I remember having a moment in high school religion class where we discussed transubstantiation and thinking it sounded like bizarre wizardry. If I didn’t believe in that core tenet of the faith, why did I believe at all? Thus began my march towards humanism.

      • Well, the top two issues for the remaining Catholic Church and remaining GOP appear to be the same: abortion and birth control. That’s emblamatic of the issue if nothing else.

        The Catholic Church has been split between patriarchal soul saving and social justice for the poor for hundreds of years. This split has often been between Rome and the various orders of priests: think the Franciscans or my favorite intellectual agnostics, the Jesuits. They have been fueding with the Vatican since their founding, as they spent more time digging wells in foreign lands than teaching Jesus (and often blatantly adapting the faith for local customs and traditions). I think the difference now is women’s lib is finally publically showing itself with orders of nuns. Having grown up with several nuns in the family, I saw how it was quietly a bastion of free-thinking independent women for a long time. But now the clashes are more public, and it has denigrated into a official male dominated Church hierarchy versus female orders thing. The official male church doesn’t treat orders of priests the same way because they are men? Many would say so.

  • Mike_Chmiel

    People like Mark Goldman will never get out of the way and simply allow the waterfront to grow organically for one simple reason – he is certain that he knows better than everyone else.  The lack of business acumen amongst these people is staggering.  They are the same people that truly believe that architectural “tourism” will not only attract thousands of people to the area, but that it will lead to an economic resurgence.