Clergy abuse advocate urges Cardinal Pell to back up words with actions

Cardinal George Pell’s first public acknowledgement of suicides linked to clergy abuse has been welcomed by a victim’s advocate.

The Cardinal this week spoke about the lifelong impacts for victims abused by the clergy, after appearing before the royal commission from Rome.

Cardinal Pell publicly acknowledged the tragedy for families of associated suicide victims.

Newcastle’s Bob O’Toole is compiling a list of suicides and sudden deaths on behalf of the Royal Commission into clergy abuse.

Mr O’Toole said finally there was some recognition from within the Catholic Church hierarchy of the devastating impact on victims and families.

“The list is quite significant now and it’s encouraging that whilst I have some reservations about Cardinal Pell’s evidence, at least now somebody has made a comment about suicides,” he said.

“In the past I think that has been minimised by people in positions of power.”

Mr O’Toole said Cardinal Pell needed to do more than just talk about the issue.

“I am sure that the people affected by these things would appreciate the Cardinal’s thoughts and comments, but it needs to be backed up by action. Words come fairly easily,” he said.

“I suppose support for these people in the past has been sadly lacking, so we will wait and see whether he is able to do something.”

How Authoritarianism Took Over the GOP and Allowed for the Emergence of Emperor Trump

Trump’s doctrine is authoritarianism, which explains why he continues to exceed conventional expectations.

Donald Trump poster in Reno, Nevada, January 10, 2016
Photo Credit: Darron Birgenheier/Flickr CC

Editor’s Note: Using a recent national survey of American voters, Matthew C. MacWilliams finds that GOP fears that Donald Trump will win the Republican nomination, leading the party to an electoral disaster in November, are well-founded. Trump’s strongman rhetoric has activated and energized American authoritarians to his candidacy, providing him with a large and loyal base of supporters in the upcoming Republican contests. An inclination toward authoritarianism is a major predictor of the likelihood of voting for Donald Trump over other GOP candidates. Moreover, Trump voters are ready to suspend constitutionally guaranteed rights such as habeas corpus, reject the protection of minority rights and support the abridgment of religious freedom through the closure of mosques across the U.S.

In her State of the Union response to President Barack Obama, South Carolina’s Republican governor Nikki Haley warned her party and the nation to resist the temptation “to follow the siren call of the angriest voices.” The angry soloist to whom Haley was referring is Donald Trump. As my recent national survey of 1,800 American voters reveals, Haley’s caution is well founded.

Trump’s strongman siren call has electrified Americans disposed to authoritarianism, rallying them to his banner as they follow his lead. As Trump joked last weekend, “I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody. And I wouldn’t lose any voters, OK. It’s like, incredible.”

My survey, conducted under the auspices of the University of Massachusetts Amherst, uses a simple battery of four questions to identify authoritarians. These are the same questions that leading political scientists, including Marc Hetherington, Jonathon Weiler and Karen Stenner, have employed since 1992 to measure individual disposition to authoritarianism. The results of my poll show that authoritarianism is one of only two variables that is a statistically significant predictor of Trump support among likely Republican primary voters. The other variable is fear of terrorism. Other variables included in the model are sex, educational attainment, age, church attendance, evangelicalism, ideology, race, and income.

The authoritarian inclinations of Trump voters are abundantly clear when the predicted probability of supporting Trump is arrayed across the authoritarian scale (Figure 1).

Figure 1. Support for Trump by Authoritarianism

When it comes to authoritarianism, Trump supporters are also distinct in their attitudes from the followers of the other Republican candidates for president. Support models for Ted Cruz, Ben Carson, Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush that are run among likely Republican primary voters and include the same set of independent variables tested for when analyzing Trump find that authoritarianism has no effect on support for Trump’s opponents.

The difference between the predicted authoritarian support for Trump and all other Republican candidates is readily apparent when combined into one chart (Figure 2). When looking at this chart, it is important to remember that authoritarianism is only a statistically significant variable for Trump. Thus, while the difference between the predicted value of Trump’s support among authoritarians and non authoritarians is statistically meaningful, any variation in support across the authoritarian scale for the other candidates is not.

Figure 2. Support for Trump, Cruz, Carson Rubio and Bush by Authoritarianism

A common question raised by skeptics of the four-question authoritarian scale is that the child-rearing qualities it measures are not accurate estimators of an individual’s disposition to authoritarianism. One simple way to test this question and answer skeptics is to assess whether Trump voters express authoritarian attitudes on questions that theoretically should engage their authoritarianism. In other words, if Trump voters really are authoritarians, more often than not they should behave like authoritarians.

Several questions in my survey were designed to test for authoritarian behavior. These questions spring from a robust literature that begins with Fromm’s Escape From Freedom, spans seven decades and details both authoritarians’ fear of the Other and antipathy for Madisonian democracy and the protection of minority rights from majority tyranny. As such, the questions probe survey respondents’ attitudes toward bedrock Democratic values that are the foundation of constitutional government and civil society.

On most of these questions, Trump voters exhibit statistically significant and substantive authoritarian attitudes. For example, Trump voters are statistically more likely to agree that other groups should sometimes be kept in their place. They support preventing minority opposition once we decide what is right.

Trump supporters kick the fundamental tenets of Madisonian democracy to the curb, asserting that the rights of minorities need not be protected from the power of the majority. And they are statistically more likely than Trump opponents to agree the president should curtail the voice and vote of the opposition when it is necessary to protect the country —though a plurality still opposes this exercise of presidential power.

Trump voters are also ready to suspend the constitutionally guaranteed writ of habeas corpus by empowering the police and law enforcement to arrest and detain indefinitely anyone in the United States who is suspected of belonging to a terrorist organization. And, as you would suspect, Trump supporters agree that mosques across the United States should be closed down – a clear abridgement of the religious freedoms guaranteed in the First Amendment of the Bill of Rights (Figure 3).

Figure 3. Attitudes of Trump Voters on Bedrock Democratic Questions

By comparison, on each of these questions, the attitudes of the supporters of Cruz, Carson, Rubio, and Bush were statistically insignificant. Thus, supporters of Trump express authoritarian attitudes on a wide range of important questions, while supporters of his Republican opponents do not.

Last week the National Review, which some pundits consider the American conservative movement’s most influential publication, warned that Trump was “a free-floating populist with strongman overtones.” My data indicates that the 20 conservatives who argued Trump must not become the Republican nominee got their description of him half right. His rhetoric is that of a strongman’s. But his doctrine isn’t populism, it is authoritarianism. The difference is quite important and may explain why Trump’s Teflon candidacy continues to exceed conventional expectations.

After analyzing 14 years of national polling data from 1992 to 2006, Hetherington and Weiler concluded that authoritarianism was driving political polarization in America. While authoritarians can be found among self-identified Democrats and Independents, their slow but steady movement over time to the Republican Party may have created the conditions for a candidate with an authoritarian message like Trump’s to emerge.

Trump’s support is firmly rooted in an American version of authoritarianism that, once awakened and stoked, is a force to be reckoned with. And until quite recently, the institutions and leaders tasked with guarding against what Madison called “the infection of the violent passions” among the people have either been cowed by Trump’s bluster or derelict in performing their civic duty. Trump’s authoritarian support may be too solid and his momentum too strong to stop his march to the Republican nomination.

Matthew C. MacWilliams is a PhD candidate at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and president of MacWilliams Sanders, a political communications firm. 

Lawler: A dead body and a resignation

Peter Wicks discusses the resignation of Fair Work Commission vice president Michael Lawler, amidst the discovery of a dead body in his home, on the eve of the deadline to respond to parliament on his conduct. 

THE JACKSONVILLE SAGA has been a hotbed of sex, drugs, corruption, extravagant lifestyles, political espionage and even an attempted coup, about the only thing it lacked was a corpse.

This week, that changed.

At 11.30am on Wednesday morning police were called to the Wombara residence of Kathy Jackson and Michael Lawler to find the body of Shaun Fischer. The time or cause of death is unclear at the moment and the incident has been described in a police statement as a ‘medical episode’. Apparently a more vague description was unavailable at the time.

Until the Coroner releases more information there can be only speculation as to the cause of death, although the police have stated that they are not treating the death as suspicious. This is not unusual — other non-suspicious deaths due to medical episodes, such as that of River Phoenix, have seen us wait for Coroners’ findings after toxicology results and so on.

The unfortunate Mr Fischer is alleged to be one of the reportedly many guests at the local luxury “psychiatric facility” that Jackson and Lawler have come to know on a personal and intimate basis.

Neighbours claim to have heard a loud party at the residence the night prior to police being called. Maybe this is all part of the apparent therapy that Michael Lawler has been allegedly offering to people at the psychiatric facility?

Lawler has suddenly started following the ‘teachings of Jesus of Nazareth’ and is now doing what he can to help those in need. Yesterday, the public saw evidence of this when Lawler finally decided that it was the taxpayer that was needy and resigned from his $430K taxpayer-funded position to which he rarely bothered showing up.

However, I would question whether this decision is more about self-interest rather than an act of repentance after a quick chat with Jesus of Nazareth on the bat-phone.

Lawler’s resignation comes neatly sandwiched between two significant days. The day prior being the day a dead body was discovered at his house, and the day following being the day he was due to respond to parliament regarding the findings of an independent report into his conduct by former Federal Court Judge Peter Heeley. I tend to think it was more related to the latter.

Lawler had sought more time to respond to these findings. Who wouldn’t while the taxpayer was paying you approximately $1,190 a day to do nothing?

I wonder what was in that report for which Lawler apparently thought he had no excuse.

What is truly sad is that a man who most would say doesn’t deserve a golden handshake will, no doubt, also be receiving a hefty pay-out care of the taxpayer.

When current Employment Minister Michaela Cash made the announcement of Lawler’s resignation in the Senate yesterday, my first thought was “I wonder how much this will cost the taxpayer?”

Lawler has rarely shown up for work and when asked to respond he has the hide to ask for more time while continuing to collect full pay.

I wonder if the taxpayer will ever see the report into Lawler’s behaviour for which they paid, or if we will ever know the details of the negotiations surrounding his resignation with Michaela Cash’s office. Cash is, of course, a factional ally of her predecessor Eric Abetz — someone who was reportedly very close to Jackson.

Many have speculated that it is only through Lawler’s relationship with the far-right faction of the Liberal Party that he has been able to stay in his high-profile position as Vice President of the Fair Work Commission. Readers here have been calling for his resignation for years over his involvement in the Health Services Union saga.

The Australian have been calling for his resignation for his involvement in the financial affairs of David Rofe QC for the best part of a year. Tony Abbott, when he was PM, famously became embroiled in a slanging match when he tried to handball the responsibility for Lawler’s removal back to Fair Work. All of this, however, has not stopped Four Corners from taking the credit for the resignation after the program’s brilliant but belated exposé of the King and Queen of Jacksonville last year.

One thing that did sneak its way into the News Corp reports, yesterday, was that Jackson and Lawler have apparently tied the knot. It is unclear whether Barnaby Joyce and George Brandis were there to join in the festivities like they were for Jackson and Lawler’s former housemate and failed PR man Michael Smith.

However, news of the marriage makes me wonder if perhaps while the organised crime division of the joint Victorian and Federal Police look into Kathy Jackson’s behaviour, and while the Liberals lament their loss of an inside man at Fair Work Australia, there is an application for a Greek passport being processed.

Mykonos anyone?

Peter Wicks is an ALP member and former NSW State Labor candidate. You can follow Peter on Twitter @madwixxy.

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Romney aims to stop Trump at Republican convention: CNN

Republican 2012 presidential nominee Mitt Romney is aiming to block Donald Trump from winning the nomination for president at the party’s convention, CNN reported on Thursday, citing an unnamed source close to Romney.

The goal is to lock him out of the convention, CNN said.

(Reporting by Timothy Ahmann; Editing by Mohammad Zargham)

This article was funded in part by SAP. It was independently created by the Reuters editorial staff. SAP had no editorial involvement in its creation or production.

Commemorating 100yr anniversary of officer’s death in the Hunter

The New South Wales Police Commissioner Andrew Scipione will be in the Hunter Valley today to commemorate the 100-year anniversary of the death of a Dungog police officer.

Sergeant William Bowen died on March the 4, 1916, three months after he was attacked by a mentally ill man who had barricaded himself inside Dungog hospital.

Today the commissioner will attend the unveiling of a plaque in his honour.

The man had barricaded himself in the committee room, ordered that all patients be killed in the hospital, and then armed himself with surgical instruments.

Snr Constable Mitch Parker, Dungog Police

Dungog police officer, senior constable Mitch Parker, said sergeant Bowen suffered serious injuries as he bravely tried to protect the Dungog community in December 1915.

“There was a patient of the Dungog hospital who had smashed a number of windows and items within the nurses quarters and a wardsman attempted to restrain him and he got viscously assaulted,” he said.

“Police were sent for and the sergeant, who was living in the police lock-up which we still have today, went up the hill to the hospital.

“By this stage the man had barricaded himself in the committee room and he ordered that all patients be killed in the hospital, and then armed himself with surgical instruments of the day — mostly steel and glass.

“Sergeant Bowen, who was 55 years of age at the time, had been in the police for 30 years, forced his way into the room.

“He successfully arrested and apprehended the male, notwithstanding some injuries himself,” he said.

“They brought him back down to the police lock-up and his health just deteriorated from there.

“Several months later he was sent to St Vincent’s Hospital and was seen by a world-renowned surgeon. Unfortunately he passed away in St Vincent’s Hospital before they could ascertain what was wrong with him.”

Senior constable Parker said as part of today’s commemoration, restoration work had also been carried out on sergeant Bowen’s grave.

“With assistance from the Commissioner’s office, the NSW Police Force and Police Association of NSW, we’ve had the original stone-makers who created the gravesite back in the day have restored it.

“It’s quite a long story, but the sergeant’s been put to rest beside his 15-year-old daughter and 20-year-old son who died five years prior, in pretty horrific circumstances themselves.

“So his grave has been redone and we’ve got the plaque unveiling here at the station,” he said.

“There’ll be the police commissioner coming up, and other important people from different agencies, community groups, schools.

“There’ll also be a lot of retired police from the area, who’ve worked here, finished their service and remained in the area.”