Monday, December 14, 2009

Confessional Seal versus Duty to Report Crimes

I just attended a play at the Seattle Rep called Equivocation. One aspect of the play is whether a priest who knew of a plot to blow up Parliament through confession should have been punished for not revealing the plot. It reminded me of a controversy several years ago, prior to the Internet. I am foggy on the details, but not the essence of the issue. A priest had taken the confession of a serial murderer but did not turn him in while the man continued murdering women. I believe the case was in Germany. When the man was eventually captured, the fact that the priest had known his identity for some time came to light and their was a great hue and cry against him. There was much discussion about whether laws that required disclosure to the police should or should not apply to priests because that would threaten the sanctity of the confessional.

While I am not decided on the basic issue of whether such disclosures laws should be applied to priests in confessionals, I would like to make one small point against the argument that such laws would threaten the rite of confession.

Clearly such laws would be a threat to the priests, who might be sent to jail. But it seems like an insult to the priests to say the laws would be a threat to the confessional itself. If a priest is willing to allow a continuing string of women to be murdered as the unavoidable price of protecting the confessional, would he be swayed by the fear that he himself might be prosecuted. Do the supporters of the priests believe that they value themselves so much above others? Consider nonviolent civil rights activists who routinely practiced civil disobedience with an expectation that they would suffer the legal consequences.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Afghanistan Withdrawal Date

I have heard several people complain about Obama setting a date for the start of an American draw down in Afghanistan. Typical is this comment by Washington Post columnist Colbert King: “I am hard pressed to understand why al-Qaeda … and … the Taliban would stick around for the next 18 months making themselves a vastly outnumbered, living sacrifice .. when all they have to do is hide out until we’re supposed to leave?”

I am not great military strategist, but it seems to me that it would be great if the Taliban gave us an open field for 18 months to operate in without serious opposition. If that really works, maybe after the 18 months, we could announce a delay of 2 more years, but promise that this time we really mean it - just to see if the Taliban would fall for it a second time.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Dreams of Forgivenss

Last night I had what was, for me, an unusual type of dream.

A teen-aged child's father was dieing, and had to accept a burden of support for her parent that a young child should not have to bear. I was advising her on the need to forgive herself because, not being perfect, she would fall short on occasion. Then I realized that I needed to tell her to forgive her father as well since she would have anger at him for putting this burden on her, though no parents wants to be a burden to their children. Then I was a doctor talking to the family telling them all they needed to forgive themselves and each other and realized I needed to ask for their forgiveness as well for my failings as a doctor.

When I woke and remembered the dream, it was clearly related to the fact that both my parents recently died and my wife diagnosed with multiple myeloma, a kind of blood cancer. I have been trying to deal with the guilt and anger of this for some time now.

The whole arch of the dream was an every widening circle of people that required mutual forgiveness.

While my waking thoughts lacked the emotional intensity of the dream, I was struck with the feeling that I could benefit from a lot of forgiving. I am consumed with the feeling that the world will be a worse place for my grandchildren and blame political opponents that seem to be bent on destroying our nation and the world and but blame politicians who supposedly support my views but fall so short of what needs to be done. And I am sure I would be the main beneficiary of any forgiveness I could offer them.

And perhaps their could be some forgiveness of self-indulgent and self-righteous bloggers.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Is Roman Polanski being punished to severely?

Two arguments in support of Roman Polanski, as I understand them are:

Firstly, it is primarily a cultural difference, since sex with a 13 year old is more accepted in Europe. According to this argument, Mr. Polanski's actions are, at worst, the result a cultural misunderstanding that should mitigate against any severe punishment. Most carry the line of argument further and claim that it shows that the charges reflect the immaturity and prudishness of the United States.

According to Wikipedia "The ages of consent for sexual activity vary by jurisdiction across Europe. Spain sets its age of consent at 13, and the rest of the countries have an age of consent between 14 and 17, except Turkey and Malta, which have the highest age limit, set at 18.".

Secondly, The victim in the assault case herself has asked that the case against Mr. Polanski be dropped. If she does not want him punished, why should we?

I have concerns about each of these rationales.

As to the first, even in Spain, 13 is the age of "consent." According to the charges, the victim in this case did not consent. She was, by the accounts I have read, drugged and raped.

As to the second rationale, I believe that the victim wants the charges dropped, not because she feels that it is inappropriate to punish Mr. Polanski further. Rather, she feels that the publicity that would accompany a trial would be a further burden on her. I recall a quote by her something to the effect that what Polanski did was hurtful and gross, but it was the news media that ruined her life. This does not argue that Polanski is being punished too severely by a prudish, barbaric American legal system. Rather, illustrates once again the lack of moral compass in our American media.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Google News: Where's the Science?

It is unfortunate that Google and others consider technology to be "stuff related to computers," such as video games, twitter, businesses that make computers, etc. While computers are one type of technology, video games are not more related to tech than movies. Movie projectors are also technology.

But given that that is how they use it, then they should not associate "tech" with "science." As it is now, articles about real science and technology are general crowded out of the "Science/Tech" portion of my Google news.

Google News today listed reviews of a video game called "Assassin's Creed 2" under Science and Technology. This should go under Entertainment. Another of the three articles I had allotted for Science/Tech was taken up by reports that "Unfriend" was the Oxford English dictionary's word of the year. Was this a science or technological breakthrough? This should go under a Lifestyle section. Similarly, articles about financial dealings of computer related companies should be listed under business. Why are the dealings of a computer firm considered a tech issue while those of an aerospace firm are not. The F22 has way more sophisticated technology that anything that Apple has ever put out

I do not expect that I can control how everyone uses language, and grudgingly accept that "pleaded" has replaced "pled" and "lighted" and replaced "lit" and that the traditional meaning of "technology" has been moved to a second tier definition for use by professionals. All I ask is the Google give me a way to request articles about science.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Stimulus Spending - Cars and Plasma TVs?

I was wondering what other people thought about such stimulus spending as stimulus checks to all taxpayers, "," and Rebates for first time home buyers.

I accept that we need stimulus, but given the fact that we are broke and borrowing the money, it seems to me that we can only afford to spend the stimulus money on things that really meet long-term needs.

Down the street from my home is a community building that was built in the 1930's by the WPA and is still serving as a significant community resource 80 years later. In 80 years from now, when our children are dealing with the consequences of our debt, how much good will they be getting from much of the spending we have been doing.