29 June 2014

The Mob is Not in Communication with the Church

Anyone who has watched any kind of movie about the mafia has seen its members being portrayed as Catholic. There's the occasional Jewish guy, ala Meyer Lansky, and maybe a greedy WASP banker or two, but everyone else is Catholic. However, Pope Francis ain't having it:
"Those who in their lives follow this path of evil, as mafiosi do, are not in communion with God. They are excommunicated."
Now, before everybody goes as nuts as the various newspapers did, that's not a mass excommunication, it's just a recognition of a status situation. If you are actively involved on evil you are not engaged in behavior conducive to a relationship with a Church working to effect God's will on Earth. 

The Pope was visiting a family in a heavily mafia influenced area which had lost a child and grandfather in a shooting. His comments were off script, but consistent with his prior indications in this area. He's not the originator of this position . JPII set out the same position back in the 90's.

This is all consistent with the general theme that seems to be developing in Francis' papacy.   There is a deep and abiding concern for the poor and oppressed, a clear assignment of error and sin to those who exist, or would do so, in a manner parasitical upon those people, and an unwillingness to merely allow wrongs in this area to proceed because to do so would be easier. Hence the last weekend's refutation of both the legalization of drugs and the mafia.

Perhaps the most interesting speculation concerning the Pope's words has been that this was less a message to members of the mafia and more a message to local priests and bishops. The thought is that priests out in the community have at the very least turned a blind eye to the activities of mafia members. The theory is that the Pope is pushing them to take more proactive stands against the mafia in their communities.

That puts priests in a difficult position. It puts their role as Converter, welcoming people into the arms of Christ in the belief and hope that all can be saved, in conflict with their role as Steward, charged with leading believers in the proper direction toward God and setting limits beyond which one cannot travel and remain in the fold. The latter is the more difficult role and the one to which Francis is pushing them. 

23 June 2014

The Pope on Drugs

Last weekend started with the Pope stating that legalizing drugs doesn't solve the problem.
Let me state this in the clearest terms possible: the problem of drug use is not solved with drugs! Drug addiction is an evil, and with evil there can be no yielding or compromise. To think that harm can be reduced by permitting drug addicts to use narcotics in no way resolves the problem. Attempts, however limited, to legalize so-called “recreational drugs”, are not only highly questionable from a legislative standpoint, but they fail to produce the desired effects. Substitute drugs are not an adequate therapy but rather a veiled means of surrendering to the phenomenon. Here I would reaffirm what I have stated on another occasion: No to every type of drug use. It is as simple as that. No to any kind of drug use. But to say this “no”, one has to say “yes” to life, “yes” to love, “yes” to others, “yes” to education, “yes” to greater job opportunities. If we say “yes” to all these things, there will be no room for illicit drugs, for alcohol abuse, for other forms of addiction.
Not only is he rejecting legalization, he takes his condemnation a step further and rejects substituting drugs such as methadone and buprenorphine.  This is man who has made very clear his stance that we must help drug addicts and he does not see how either of these things do that. His belief that a total solution can be engineered through better conditions is a bit more than an imperfect world is likely to produce in the face of free will and temptation (whether legal or not). However, his job isn't to work out all the solutions, but to exhort us to make the world more Godly.  The fact that we may not get there does not forgive us the effort.

With the exception of the the statement that the provision and growth of the good can, by itself, squeeze out the evil of drug use in its entirety, I find this to be a distillation of my personal beliefs about drugs. Legalization is unlikely to do the user much good. It will just switch the dealer from some guy on a corner to some guy behind a 7-11 counter. And I doubt that any cocaine producing Columbian cartel could ever match the predatory nature and capabilities of Big Pharma. After all, the Medellin cartel can't run ads during the super bowl or deliver its product to every single grocery store, pharmacy, and convenience store in America - Proctor & Gamble (pepto bismo) and Bayer (aspirin) already do. Anyone who believes addiction will decline in such an atmosphere is either naive or choosing to turn a blind eye to reality.

10 June 2014

Police Baiting and Passive Resistance

YouTube has a feature that suggests videos you might want to watch. In between the disc golf videos and the movie trailers and comedy skits, it tends to show me a fair number of videos of police activity. In general, I find these break down into five categories: (1) Abuse, (2) Mistakes, (3) Misunderstood Activity, (4) Humorous, & (5) Baiters.  I'm usually interested in seeing videos in the first three categories and often enough the fourth.  Unfortunately, at least in my video feed, the fifth category seems to be supplanting the others.

Baiters are the people who go around purposefully engaging in activity meant to arouse police suspicion and then act shocked SHOCKED!!! that police accost them. These are the guys who create houses that mimic the energy and heat production of a grow house, or walk through the middle of town with a pistol strapped to their hip and a rifle across their back, or violate a minor law where they know it won't be ignored (often trespassing or a minor traffic infraction). Of course, baiters set it up so that the whole thing is captured on video with the purpose of putting the video online (sometimes they even use the police car video gotten through FOIA requests).

It's a modern day way of counting coup. The baiter usually acts obnoxious and often engages in some sort of passive resistance. The objective is to make the police officer overreact just enough to make him or her look ridiculous. One of the great hypocrisies of this kind of behavior is that it assumes the police are the bad guys, but at the same time relies on their restraint. They want the officer to yell or shove or throw them up against the car and cuff them.  They assume the officer will remain professional enough that she won't beat the crud out of them with her asp, smash the camera phone, and "accidentally" erase the video in her car.

"I'm Not Resisting!"

 One of the most annoying parts of these videos comes when the baiter manages to cause a situation where he can engage in passive resistance. Typically this occurs when the officer has gotten to the point that she is issuing commands to the baiter or actually putting hands on him.  The  baiter will make statements diametrically opposed to reality such as "I'm not refusing to comply" when an officer has ordered him several times to leave a property he's trespassing on (most often as part a protest). Meanwhile, the baiter just stands there, not moving an inch. Even more common is the yell of "I'm not resisting!" as he jams his leg up under the steering wheel so he can't be pulled from the car or tenses his arms to his side so he can't be handcuffed.  I used to look at these and just chuckle a bit. However, after the first fifty or so, it started to get old.  It especially got old as it became clear that the first few people doing this were spawning copycats.

Depending on the flavor of baiter, the genesis of the copycats varies. Open carry baiters are most likely encouraged to act by the various Second Amendment listserves or electronic bulletin boards. Various crusaders for all sorts of (generally leftish) protests find instruction and encouragement all over the internet. Both these groups are cause oriented and their engagement with the police is understandable - if not excusable per se.

The ones that truly bother me are the traffic baiters. They don't seem to have any purpose but to count coup. They are neither defending a right nor trying to further a cause. They're just messing with the cops. Even more disturbing is that there is now an effort in Virginia to recruit people to do this. I've seen it on various community electronic bulletin boards and know there is a web page dedicated to it (no, I won't provide a link).  This is about causing trouble for trouble's sake.