Posts Tagged “connecticut”

Salem witch2I blogged some time ago about Germany addressing its witch-hunting past. A similar effort has been underway here in my home state of Connecticut, which had a couple surges of witch-hunts several decades prior to the now-much-more-famous witch-hunts in Salem, MA (WebCite cached version). One would think that, in the 21st century and in a “blue state,” the powers-that-be would at least be willing to entertain the idea that the witches killed by the Connecticut colony in the 17th century just might have been the victimes of an injustice.

Efforts to rehabilitate Connecticut’s witches started back in ’05 or ’06. An early result was this research report by legislative staff (cached). Such efforts were generally resisted by the General Assembly and the state bureaucracy. Nevertheless, advocates for making things right continue to plug away, as Hartford FAVS reports (cached):

At 82, Bernice Mable Graham Telian doubts she’ll live long enough to see the name of her seventh grandmother and ten others hanged in Colonial Connecticut for witchcraft cleared. …

In 2008, Telian wrote to Connecticut lawmakers when a resolution was introduced in the General Assembly to acknowledge the witch trials. Lawmakers heard testimony from descendants of executed witches and historians, but the measure died. There was even an earlier effort to get the victims pardoned, but the state board of Pardons and Parole said it doesn’t grant posthumous pardons.

Now members of the Connecticut Wiccan & Pagan Network are pushing Gov. Dannel Malloy to sign a proclamation to clear the names of the victims. Supporters are asked to send Malloy a postcard that reads: I am a Pagan/Witch and I vote. Clear the names of Connecticut’s eleven accused and executed witches.

Connecticut lawmakers and bureaucrats have had many excuses for why they refused to act on this over the last 6 or 7 years. Chief among them is the belief that it will set a precedent that would somehow bring on hundreds of lawsuits by people trying to posthumously clear their ancestors. The request for a proclamation rather than a pardon, though, gets around that:

Anthony Griego, who is heading the effort, said the proclamation is non-binding and doesn’t open up the door for lawsuits.

I expect even this namby-pamby, nowhere-near-a-real-exoneration of Connecticut’s witches to meet continued resistance by state government. It’s not viewed as a priority, and it’s thought of as something from the deep dark past with no importance. The state’s Right wing is particularly resistant to doing anything, as seen — for example — in this 2008 editorial in the New Haven Register:

Connecticut does not grant posthumous pardons for those convicted of crimes. That includes those hanged as witches in the 17th century. Instead, the legislature’s Judiciary Committee is considering a resolution denouncing the state’s witch trials as shocking. Of course, they are shocking to a modern sensibility. Equally telling, however, is the 21st century urge to find current victims of ancient miscarriages of justice. …

The legislature’s venture into the state’s earliest history suggests some of the foolishness of our passing judgment on a far different time. In the 17th century, evil and the devil were considered real.

This editorial, then, pans the idea of pardoning Connecticut’s witches as a (presumably Lefist) effort to “find more victims” to help, and it excuses Connecticut’s witch trials as normal and acceptable for the time in which they occurred. Unfortunately, they were not “normal”; witch trials in the American colonies were actually not very common at all — this is why they’re so remarkable and seem so egregious (at the time they occurred, and even more since). Furthermore, it was immoral then and it remains immoral now, even though Christian witch-hunts continue to happen in other parts of the world. The Register editorial also smacks a little bit of the Tea Partiers in Tennessee who demand that schools there not teach that some of the Founding Fathers owned slaves because, quite simply, they don’t want to hear about it any more. Sheesh!

The real point, here, as far as I’m concerned, is: How can Americans dare tell people in other parts of the world to stop their witch-hunts, if they aren’t also willing to go on the record and state, clearly and unequivocally, that the witch-hunts in our own past were reprehensible and wrong? What’s more, an injustice is still an injustice, even if it happened in the past and everyone involved is long dead. Admitting past injustices is a way of preventing them in the future. And what, exactly, is the point of refusing to admit that injustices happened, when everyone fucking well knows they did? Mature adults can handle such an admission. So let’s just get it done already, fercryinoutloud!

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Crusaders at ConstantinopleNote: A minor update on the CT-5 primaries is below.

With primaries underway for both parties in Connecticut’s hotly contested 5th Congressional District, it almost goes without saying that the Republican candidates are falling all over themselves trying to present themselves as dutifully sanctimonious Rightists. They’ve been advertising themselves as “job creators” and as wanting to promote “freedom” (even though, if any of them are elected to Congress, they will never hire anyone, and will only reduce people’s freedom rather than enhance it). They’ve mostly steered clear of religion, but I knew it wouldn’t be long before their urge to express their piety and sanctity would overpower them. The Hartford Courant reports that the first of them to do this, is Mark Greenberg (WebCite cached article):

Republican congressional candidate Mark Greenberg questioned whether Islam was a peaceful religion Thursday and said he believed it was “a cult in many respects.”

His remarks were made in a radio interview on WNPR’s “Where We Live” program. …

When [host John] Dankosky asked Greenberg if people who don’t share those beliefs also change the country and help make it great, Greenberg said, “perhaps, to a certain extent” and went on to talk about aspects related to the religion that he found objectionable. For example, he said he doesn’t believe a mosque should be built near Ground Zero in New York City, and he questioned whether Islam was a religion of peace. …

“I think it’s more a blueprint for living one’s life — a cult in many respects,” he said of Islam. “It’s a religion, but it’s also a way of living.”

Although agreeing with Dankosky that Judaism and Christianity are also ways of living, Greenberg said there is a difference.

“Judaism and Christianity are very peaceful religions,” he said. “I think they are more peaceful than Islam.”

First, I need to begin by commenting that the word “cult” has more or less become useless. It’s a pejorative term, a label slapped on any other religion one happens to dislike. The word itself has long since lost any specific meaning. That Greenberg used it of Islam, just tells me he doesn’t like Islam — it doesn’t mean anything else.

Second, his claim that Islam is not a “religion of peace” but Judaism and Christianity are, is absurd on its face. All three religions have violent pasts and they have adherents willing to resort to violence in the names of their faiths. The scriptures revered by Judaism and Christianity are chock full of violence. Some of that violence was supposedly committed by God himself, and the rest was done by his human followers. Those revered texts tell of the many bloody wars Israel supposedly fought while it was a tribal confederation and then a kingdom, including massacres and genocides. Christians have marched to war in the name of their god Jesus and took part in atrocities of their own. As recently as the late 20th century, Catholics and Protestants in Ireland were killing each other to prove which church was more Christlike. Christians have even engaged in terror campaigns of their own. And modern Judaism isn’t free of the stain of violence either; they are one side of a decades-old conflict in the Middle East, and there are some violent extremists among Jews, too.

As far as I’m concerned, any religion that carries an entitlement to impose itself on other human beings and on reality, can lead to violence in some of its adherents. That’s as true of Islam as it is of Christianity, Judaism, and a whole host of others.

I’m dreading this primary season here in the Nutmeg State. I’m sure things are going to get even weirder, very soon (the primaries are less than a month away).

Update: Things have, indeed, ramped up a bit in the twin primaries for CT’s 5th District, as I predicted they would. Dankosky’s interview with Greenberg was part of a series of planned interviews with all of the CT-5 candidates from both parties. It turns out, as the Torrington Register-Citizen reports (cached), none of the rest of them did any better than Greenberg — and one declined the interview out of fear of being asked a question she’s successfully avoided answering. The 5th District is doomed, folks … not one of these slippery creatures deserves a place in Congress, however, one of them is guaranteed to end up there. Ouch.

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First Cathedral (Baptist), Bloomfield, CTIt took over two years, but the town of Enfield here in Connecticut finally resolved a lawsuit it brought on itself by holding its high school graduation in churches. The Hartford Courant reports on the settlement (WebCite cached article):

In a 6-3 vote, the school board decided Wednesday night to accept a settlement of a lawsuit filed by the ACLU over the school system’s practice of holding high school graduation ceremonies in a church.

The American Civil Liberties Union and another group, Americans United for Separation of Church and State, filed the suit two years ago after the school board decided to hold graduation ceremonies for both Enfield High School and Enrico Fermi High School at First Cathedral in Bloomfield.

I’d blogged about this conflict, back when it erupted in spring of 2010. At the time litigation over this began, various Christianist legal outfits had promised the town and its Board of Education that they’d pay the legal fees, thus encouraging them to defend the lawsuit despite having no chance of prevailing. But I note, in the end, these promises proved bogus, because none of those groups are paying a dime:

The school board’s insurance provider, the Connecticut Interlocal Risk Management Agency, will cover the cost of the settlement up to $470,000, Superintendent Jeffrey Schumann said. The exact dollar amount of the settlement was not revealed.

I wonder if their Jesus taught these guys not to keep their word?

The Courant article includes the expected childish whining and bellyaching on the part of Christianists, both on the Board and in the town, who don’t like the vote and call the ACLU and AU “bullies.” Well … boo fucking hoo, you crybabies! What you were doing was unconstitutional, and you know it. If you had any integrity in the first place, you’d realize that, and would now show the courage to admit having been wrong. But you won’t, because you have no courage; you’re just juvenile religionists who can’t help but stamp and fume when someone dares thwart you.

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High resolution scan of engraving by Gustave Doré illustrating Canto XXXIV of Divine Comedy, Inferno, by Dante Alighieri. Caption: Lucifer, King of HellLike so many other media outlets, the folks at WTIC-TV in Hartford seem to have run out of material to fill their nightly news, to the point that they ran a story on exorcisms in my home state of Connecticut. I’ll grant the Nutmeg State has some history in that regard. It’s home to the famous ghost-hunters, the Warrens (Lorraine and her late husband Ed). The famous “demon murder trial” took place here in the 1980s. It was the setting of the 2009 movie The Haunting in Connecticut. Famously haunted places in Connecticut include the abandoned hamlet of Dudleytown, the defunct Norwich State Hospital, Union Cemetery in Easton, and Pettibone’s Tavern (now Abigail’s Grill) … just to name a few.

In their effort to pursue the “hauntings as news” motif I’ve blogged about so many times already, the folks at WTIC-TV ran this story on a paranormal-investigation group and one of their recent cases (WebCite cached version). Unfortunately this is a video report only, and there doesn’t seem to be any way for me to embed it here … so you’ll have to click on the link in order to see it.

They report — uncritically — that a “spiritual battle” is underway, and that “in recent years, it has intensified.” The group they follow is called Connecticut Spirit Investigators, and the reporter cites its claimed 40-year history as a way to grant the group credibility. The group’s high-tech equipment is also on display. What is never explained, is precisely how the group “knows” that a stray magnetic field or a cold spot in a room can only be caused by a ghost, spook, spirit, demon or devil, and can’t possibly have any mundane explanation. They also seem to think weird noises coming from their so-called “ghost box” are proof that supernatural entities lurk at a place; I think it’s proof only that these folks have deluded themselves.

The reporter also claims the group’s “investigation” (if one could call what they do “investigating”) led to an exorcism being performed by a “Bishop McKenna” who’d also exorcised demons in the famous Amityille Horror case. The reporter may have considered this impressive, but I don’t. The famous Amityville, NY haunting turned out to have been a hoax (cached)! Also, the “bishop” in question would have to be Robert McKenna, whose consecration as bishop is suspect, and who in any event is a schismatic (he claims the popes after Pius XII have all been illegitimate); it’s extremely unlikely that McKenna has ever received official approval to perform any exorcisms.

The reporter also brings in another evangelist for ghost-hunting, Fr Bob Bailey from Rhode Island (who’s also appeared on the show Paranormal State). Fr Bailey pontificates on the eternal “cosmic struggle” mentioned at the beginning of the piece, as though he’s an authority on the subject, and not a paid hack who makes money making such claims.

The reporter ends the piece by stating that none of the region’s diocesan offices would discuss the matter, and referred the station directly to the Vatican. That also didn’t go anywhere, apparently. And that’s no surprise … the Catholic Church doesn’t really talk about exorcism — at least, not officially.

At no time during this piece was there even the slightest hint that the interviewees’ claims were anything less than 100% true. At no time does the reporter point out that there is not one iota of objective evidence of the existence of ghosts, demons, poltergeists, devils, souls, Satan, haunted houses, possessions, or the slightest veracity for any of the “paranormal investigators’” antics. At no time does the viewer hear that there’s no objective evidence that any “spiritual battle” is going on at all, much less any evidence offered that it has “intensified in recent years.” At no time did the reporter ask any probing questions, such as “How does any of your equipment prove there’s a ghost or demon here?” There’s nothing about this story that suggests it’s anything other than a puff-piece on CT Spirit Investigators.

I guess this is what passes for 21st century journalism. Unfortunately.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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If it's a mysterious white powder then it must be ANTHRAX ... because we all know there's no such thing as CoffeeMate (PsiCop original image)Although I mostly focus on religious issues in this blog, I try to think critically about lots of things, all the time. Human beings are incredibly irrational and overemotional over a lot of things, not just religion. One of the things that doesn’t take too much “critical thinking” to realize is a fucking joke, is the absurd “security theater” debacles that crop up all over the country, from time to time. I have blogged about the joke that is TSA, but the full-blown ten-alarm freak-outs that happen go beyond the Homeland Security Dept. or even the federal authorities more generally.

In the last few days, Connecticut has been host to a rash of ridiculous overreactions. A week ago a white powder was reported found at a Meriden courthouse (WebCite cached article). A few days later, a white powder was found at a school in Enfield, and a lockdown ensued (cached). And a white powder arrived at schools in Newington and Madison, today (cached).

I honestly question the official reactions to all of these events. Sure, these things all “might have” turned out to be serious. Those mysterious “white powders” certainly could have been pathogenic or toxic agents that “might” have sickened or killed people.

But in all of these cases — and in many others that I could have listed here, but didn’t bother to — they weren’t. Officials were right to test the powders to find out if they were dangerous … but it turns out, they were harmless. (Curiously, even after testing, we seem never to be told what these things actually turned out to have been. Hmm.)

I seriously question the wisdom of “locking down” a school where a “white powder” has been found. Is it really that great of an idea to lock children into the very same building in which a substance one initially assumes to be dangerous was found? Really!? Somehow I don’t think so. Call me crazy, but I would think you’d want them outside that building, and as far from it as you could get them — if, that is, you truly believed that the mysterious white powder had the potential to kill them.

Also I seriously question the wisdom of closing a courthouse for a day … after it was found that a mysterious white powder was determined not to have been dangerous. What is the point of that? There was never any danger, hence, there’s no reason to continue acting as though there had been one. Grown adults are capable of pulling on their “big boy pants” (or “big girl pants,” as the case may be) and getting back to fucking work, once they realized they’d been hoaxed.

And that, of course, is what this is about. Officials can’t — or won’t — admit they’ve been fooled by things like this. They want us to know they’re “protecting” us; the only way to do that is for them to act as though everything weird that happens is an apocalypse-in-the-making. When they end up with egg on their faces, they can’t just admit they were swindled; they have to behave as though the danger remained — even though they (and we!) damned well know there never had been one in the first place.

I know the old mantra of the “security theater” perpetrators is, “But when something like this happens, we don’t know it’s not serious, so we have to act as though it is!” To that I say, bull-fucking-shit. It takes minutes for someone to come in and test a mysterious white powder to see if it’s dangerous. If it’s inert, the problem is over; vacuum up the shit and let everyone get back to their lives. Why lock down an entire building, over a little bit of white powder inside one room? Why close a building for a full day, after you realize you’ve been swindled? Why the overreaction? Why the tantrum? Why the absurd dance of bullshit that goes on around these things?

I’ll tell you why: Because otherwise, people won’t be aware of our “security officials,” and they won’t have any way to exercise the power they possess. They do this sort of thing, in short, because they can, and because none of us can say boo to them about it while it’s going on. Really, it’s all very juvenile — but no one in authority will ever admit it.

Update: The rocket scientists in charge of these white powder freak-outs, are still freaking out — even after any danger has been ruled out. Some of the schools affected will remain closed for the rest of the weekeven though the powder has proven harmless (cached). Why? I have no idea. I can only assume it’s in order to maximize hysteria and inconvenience in those communities.

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Cardinal Edward Egan, archbishop of New YorkThe sorry outfit known as the Roman Catholic Church continues to reveal itself as a morally bankrupt monstrosity, but that’s no surprise to those of us who’ve watched it closely over the years. Just over a week ago, I posted a recap of all the evasive, sniveling, paranoiac excuses for the worldwide child-abuse scandal that’s rocked the Church for over a decade. Since then, the archdiocese of Hartford has defended its (non-existent) handling of child sexual abuse by its priests, by claiming — in open courtthat the victims “liked it,” so it was no big deal … and have persisted with this bone-chilling defense.

In that same time, too, another former Connecticut hierarch has weighed in on the scandal, demonstrating that he’s gone off the deep end. Retired Cardinal Edward Egan, who’d served as bishop of Bridgeport (CT), offered some demented and dishonest comments in a recent interview with Connecticut Magazine (WebCite cached article):

You know, I never had one of these sex abuse cases, either in Bridgeport or here (New York). Not one. …

I’m not the slightest bit surprised that, of course, the scandal was going to be fun in the news—not fun, but the easiest thing to write about. …

There really wasn’t much in the way of hidden. I don’t think even now you’re obligated to report them [the abuse cases] in CT. …

Well, the media everywhere made that the whole thing. I never had a case. And I believe that the cases I had were each handled just exactly as they should have been.

The retired Cardinal lied, in all of these remarks. It is not true that he “never had a case” involving sexual abuse of a child by a priest in his service. Connecticut Magazine itself had reported on some of them back in 1999 (cached). That he shuffled abusive priests around has been documented. I’ve even blogged about the case of Fr Raymond Pcolka, and about Egan’s dismissive, snarky attitude toward child-abuse reports.

Also, even more demonstrably, Egan is dead wrong about the diocese of Bridgeport having no legal duty to report child abuse. In Connecticut, all clergy are mandatory reporters of child abuse, and this has been the case since the early 1970s, prior to his tenure as bishop. Of course Egan knew this was the case. He absolutely knew it. But like any good “prince of the Church,” he chose not to accept that; in his mind, the Church is above Connecticut law.

But beyond Egan’s lies about his own record on the matter and the nature of Connecticut law, Egan proceeded to dig himself even deeper during the interview:

CT Magazine: In 2002, you wrote a letter to parishioners in which you said, “If in hindsight we discover that mistakes may have been made as regards prompt removal of priests and assistance to victims, I am deeply sorry.”

EGAN: First of all, I should never have said that. I did say if we did anything wrong, I’m sorry, but I don’t think we did anything wrong.

So, here we have a man who, 10 years ago, had issued a non-apology apology; but now, he’s taking back even that sorry, cowardly measure.

Way to go, Cardinal. Well done. I am so fucking goddamn impressed with you! Why, of course the worldwide Catholic clerical child-abuse scandal was woven out of whole cloth by reporters who gleefully fabricated all its details. Why, of course, it’s all a horrid fiction, cooked up by the media because it was so “easy” for them to do. Why, you’re absolutely right, Cardinal; and the media are, of course, completely wrong to have so maligned you over nothing.

And congratulations to all the Catholics out there who remain steadfastly loyal to this reprehensible, Mafia-like crew who are shepherding you through life. I admire the tenacity with which you actively defend these cretins and monsters. I’m sure it’s hard work trying to justify and rationalize their evil behavior and their lies about it. You must be so proud!

Photo credit: Archdiocese of New York Web site.

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Cathedral of Saint Joseph in Hartford 3, 2009-09-02The Roman Catholic archdiocese of Hartford has a number of problems on its hands. It has several misbehaving priests to deal with, in addition to its campaign to control the state of Connecticut. One would think that Archbishop Mansell would be working to address these and other issues — such as the continuing lawsuits and controversy over a deceased pedophile doctor at St Francis Hospital in Hartford (cached). But if one thinks that, one would be wrong. It turns out that the archdiocese has a much larger agenda, which includes an effort to promote abstinence among gays in Connecticut, as the Hartford Courant reports (WebCite cached article):

The Hartford Archdiocese wants gays and lesbians to practice abstinence in the new year.

On Tuesday, the archdiocese announced it was launching a local chapter of a national ministry called Courage “to support men and women who struggle with homosexual tendencies and to motivate them to live chaste and fruitful lives in accordance with Catholic Church teachings.”

This effort is ironic; on the one hand the archdiocese is putting forth a specific effort to reach out to gays; on the other hand, it’s telling them they’re disordered and need to curb themselves:

Linda Estabrook, executive director of the Hartford Gay & Lesbian Health Collective, took offense.

Thousands in the state receive services each year from the health organization, whose motto is “Be well. Be yourself.” The ministry implies that many of them “are not moral and are not leading fulfilling lives, and that is not true,” Estabrook said.

Those of us with brains can see how insulting and backhanded this ministry is, but I’ll concede that the folks who came up with it don’t see any problem with what they’re doing. The Catholic Church is run by a bunch of celibate men; they probably don’t consider it unreasonable to order gays to be celibate, too. They’re celibate themselves, so — in their eyes — there’s nothing wrong with it.

This idiocy serves as further evidence of how out-of-touch with reality the leadership of the Catholic Church is … as though we needed any more such evidence. I think the archdiocese of Hartford should work on putting its own house in order before it runs around telling other people how to live. And this shouldn’t be too much to ask of a Christian organization. After all, Jesus Christ himself is reported to have said:

Why do you observe the splinter in your brother’s eye and never notice the great log in your own? And how dare you say to your brother, “Let me take that splinter out of your eye,” when, look, there is a great log in your own? Hypocrite! Take the log out of your own eye first, and then you will see clearly enough to take the splinter out of your brother’s eye. (Mt 7:3-5)

How can you say to your brother, “Brother, let me take out that splinter in your eye,” when you cannot see the great log in your own? Hypocrite! Take the log out of your own eye first, and then you will see clearly enough to take out the splinter in your brother’s eyes. (Lk 6:42)

Time for the archdiocese to put Jesus’ own teachings into effect, and straighten out their own act before ordering other people around.

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