Microsoft is paying off Ralph Reed to the tune of $240k a year for ‘consulting’.

Microsoft is paying off Ralph Reed to the tune of $240k a year for ‘consulting’. What Mr. Reed, who is not a technologist, has to offer Microsoft is really uncertain. Mr. Reed is known as the leading bigoted and homophobic political organizer in the USA, and his being on Microsoft’s payroll is rumored to be a means for Microsoft to gain direct access to the White House (Mr. Reed was an organizer for George W. Bush’s campaign in 2004). It’s also rumored to be a big payoff to the religious right, who seem to also have made Microsoft “change its mind” about a Washington state bill to give additional protection to gays and lesbians. This is a revolting development. Remember now that when you buy Microsoft products you fund the extreme right wing movement in the USA today.

2005-04-27 02:22:20

I’ve just switched the database engine on the backend to MySQL 5… what can I say, I’m just a “bleeding edge” kind of guy. The good news is that it seems to work pretty well so far, what with it being a beta and all. The best part of the operation was to find that with a little configuration work the conversion can be done in a pretty seamless manner.

2005-04-19 18:25:19

People in the US might have noticed that the latest issue of Time Magazine features Ann Coulter on its cover. One will also notice that today is the 11th anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombing which claimed 168 lives. What did Ann Coulter have to say about it? Here’s the quote: “My only regret with Timothy McVeigh is he did not go to the New York Times Building. ” (Ann Coulter, in a New York Observer interview, 8/20/2002). My disgust and revulsion with Time’s insensitivity has been communicated.

Rome’s self-inflicted wound

It’s now official — the Catholic Church has a new Pope. He is Germany’s Joseph Ratzinger, erstwhile head theologian for the Vatican (“prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith”). As Pope he will be known as Benedict XVI. And if he is indeed unwavering in his principles, as his homily before the Conclave would lead us to believe, his appointment signals the beginning of the end of the Catholic Church as a major player in the world.

Ratzinger brings nothing to the Vatican. He was already head theologian since 1981; this spans almost the totality of John Paul II’s term as Pontiff; in other words there is to be no change in doctrine with this Pope compared to the previous one, who was already quite conservative — one could even say somewhat “reactionary” — in that area. Benedict XVI is from Germany, hardly a country where Catholicism is on the rise; in fact it was the first country in the world to embrace the doctrines of Protestantism and meaningfully reject Catholicism (as opposed to England, which abandoned Rome but largely kept its doctrines). His experience as an Archbishop — one could say, his one management role — was limited to a short stint in Munich (1977-1982).

However, what Ratzinger does not bring to the Holy See is nowhere near as significant as what he does bring.

The first thing to be pointed out is his former association with the Hitler Youth. I don’t think this is significant, although it certainly doesn’t look good. Let’s face it, it would be difficult to find a man his age in Germany today who was NOT part of HY at some point or other; membership in that organization was made mandatory for German youth in 1941. Ratzinger was never a member of the Nazi Party, which is more to the point. Still, there is a definite risk of this setting back Catholic-Jewish relations, which had enjoyed somewhat of a Renaissance under John Paul II — a man who had risked much to fight Nazis in his native Poland.

The problem with Ratzinger comes mostly from what he has said. His pronouncements on Islam have been all over the place and often contradictory. Similarly, the many positions he appears to have taken on secularism lead one to be confused as to where the new Pope stands on the issue — if he criticizes Islam for mixing religion and politics, why does he then turn around and demand that Christianity be declared the cornerstone of European civilization? In the “Dominus Jesus” of 2000 he asserts that Christianity (and of course Catholicism) is the one true faith, but shortly thereafter he denies it. One may well wonder where the new Pope will lead the Church’s dialogue with Islam, and even whether that dialogue will continue at all.

However, it is Ratzinger’s less ambivalent opinions that make him bad news for the Church. He has already condemned homosexuality as “an intrinsic moral evil”, and has backed up that opinion with action that speaks of callousness and mean-spiritedness, going as far as to prohibit an American priest and nun from ministering to gays and lesbians. He is also on the record as honestly claiming that homosexuality is a threat to Christian peoples, seeing homosexuality as a “disease” that needs an ecumenical cure (!), and that getting “converted” away from “gayness” is just like any other “conversion from evil”. Not exactly a progressive mind at work there. Ratzinger quotes Leviticus liberally in support of those opinions. One may be left to wonder whether the new Pope will also quote liberally from Leviticus as he upholds the traditions of sacrificing oxen for the Lord, selling one’s daughter into slavery, purchasing slaves, not eating shellfish, murdering those who opt to work on the Sabbath, etc. because all these subjects are also covered in Leviticus. Most interesting is the prohibited behaviour of cutting one’s hair around the temples, and shaving. Most photos of Mr. Ratzinger seem to indicate that he fails to follow the teachings of Leviticus in at least that one aspect.

Also of interest is his insistence that those who deviate from the Church’s doctrine should be denied communion. This was done in a secret letter to US cardinals in 2004, and would seem to have been engineered expressly in order to provide a secret boot to Republican party candiates in the election that took place at that time. It seems that while Islam should be condemned for mixing politics with religion, there is no problem when this is done by a Catholic Cardinal. At least we now know that Benedict XVI is no less of a hypocrite than his predecessors.

Nor is this the only instance of hypocrisy in Ratzinger’s career. I speak of course of the interesting case of Bernard Cardinal Law, former Archbishop for the Boston Archdiocese. For those of you not in the know about this, Law came under heavy criticism for his handling of the sex scandal that rocked the Catholic Church in North America. What Law did was simply and purely criminal — when allegations would surface that a priest had raped a child in an area under his control, Law would simply reassign the priest to another diocese or parish, where that priest was ready to strike again. The most notorious example of this was Father Paul Shanley, who was later found to be an advocate for NAMBLA (the North-American Man-Boy Love Association), and who repeatedly raped young boys, one of them only young as six years old, while under the Diocese’s employ.

Law eventually resigned from the Boston Archdiocese, but only to be called to Rome where he’s been sheltered from prosecution for his crimes since 2002. While one may be tempted to wholly blame the previous Pope for this shameless abuse of the Vatican’s status as an independent country, the newly-elected Benedict XVI deliberately decided to honor Law by assigning him to celebrate one of the nine Vatican masses which took place during the period of mourning following the passing of John Paul II. I can’t imagine what trespass of reason was responsible for this undeserved honor being accorded to such an egregious criminal in robes, and that is why Joseph Ratzinger simply should not be Pope. What he did is absolutely unconscionable and nothing short of a crime to all the children who have suffered rape and abuse at the hands of priests everywhere. If the idea of a woman priest is enough for excommunication under his doctrines, what feeble excuse can Ratzinger possibly offer for his sheltering a man who aided and abetted priests who raped little children? I can’t imagine, and neither can he. It is sheer hypocrisy, no less; and it is a stain on the Catholic Church that no amount of false righteousness can wash away.

There are numerous other examples that show him to be unfit for the Papacy — his denounciation of birth control as “a crime”, when the AIDS rates in countries of Catholic expansion is in the double-digits, is nothing less than a crime against humanity. His over-the-top stance against women priests, while he stands shoulder-to-shoulder with one who has dealt Catholicism so much deserved harm, is just pathetic and laughable.

The reasons for Ratzinger’s election are a mystery, and will remain one for some time. As I have said previously he brings nothing to the Church, and instead has chosen to reiterate everything that was wrong with it from the previous administration, while at the same time denying a much-needed voice to those communities in which Catholicism is most fervent — Africa and South America. The Church has advanced neither in terms of doctrine, or of political reach — John Paul’s contribution to the world of politics is well-known and due in no small part to his being from an Iron Curtain country. It would have been one thing for the Church to choose a follower to John Paul who did not have so much baggage with him, but clearly the Cardinals have let down the world by lazily choosing the path of least resistance, and electing someone who would change nothing and likely die soon (at 78 Benedict XVI was barely even eligible to cast a vote).

In retrospect, this is a dark day for the Catholic Church. It may well be that the old superstition is right, and that Ratzinger is in fact the second-to-last Pope, but in the end that might have nothing to do with the end of the world, and rather have everything to do with the Church having dealt itself a mortal wound for all the wrong reasons.

How much is the new Hitchiker’s Guide to the Galaxy movie going to suck?

How much is the new Hitchiker’s Guide to the Galaxy movie going to suck? According to that reviewer, quite a lot. There is some debate as to whether this is really representative, but frankly my money is on Disney having taken HHGG and turning it into unintelligent, trite crap suitable only for viewing by ‘the home market’.