Charge the Pope

International Criminal Court has been asked by Catholic sex abuse victims to charge the Pope and top bishops with crimes against humanity.

The pope and other church leaders “tolerate and enable the systematic and widespread concealing of rape and child sex crimes throughout the world,” the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests and the Center for Constitutional Rights said in a joint statement.

And in other Catholic Church sex news:

A respected former Catholic bishop in Ireland is calling for an end to clerical celibacy in the wake of the sex abuse scandals that have rocked the church worldwide, and says he finds it “heartbreaking” that some prospective priests turn away from the calling because of the celibacy rule.

 

While I think that some may be unwilling to join because of the sex ban, I suspect that the reasons why there’s fewer and fewer people wishing to join the Church has more to do with the Catholic Church having no moral ground to stand on anymore – partly because of the systemic sexual abuse of children and the lack of actions taken to prevent and correct the situation –

But also because religion is seen more and more, if not a source for social problems, it’s certainly an exacerbation of the problems.

After all, the no condom stance only ensures the continued spread of AIDs and lack of ability to control reproduction – which is directly related to poverty, infant mortality rates, productivity and creation of wealth.

We need to stop looking to the past for solutions to the problems of today – the solutions for a region which were based in ignorance, fear and customs are not solutions for a global community. Solutions have to be based on a solid understanding of not only science, but history with a vision for a better future – and we won’t find that by looking backwards and clinging to bronze age ideas for solutions to the digital information age.

 

Freedom of Expression

In secular democratic countries, where the individual is the social unit of consequence – as opposed to theocratic nations where the family or tribe or some group designation is the social unit of consequence – the right to hold and express your views is an important right and entitlement in society.

Individuals do not matter in nations that hold the family or group as supreme, since individuals how fail to adhere to the social norms and expectations are often killed or sanctioned to restore collective honor to the family, to right the diminishment done to the collective by the individual.

One challenge is that the right to express yourself does not require you to do so responsibility or carry any consequences to how your words impact other people’s behaviours – although hate crime legislation tries to address this aspect.

The bigger challenge it would seem for people is that the right to express yourself does not obligate anyone to actually listen to you.

If what ideas you express are fairly mainstream, you are usually one voice in a chorus, and the more your ideas become fringe, your potential audience shrinks as well. Luckily, most people seek out information that confirms what they already believe – which is partly why people on opposite sides of an issue don’t communicate, they genuinely do not comprehend the opposing view because they don’t expose themselves to opposing views – often just enough to get the sound bytes to refute them, but not enough to actually understand what the opposing side is actually saying and meaning.

When you get far enough from the centre, the only people listening to what you say or post are people who are entirely like minded and depending on the fringe, possibility the police or other law enforcement.

So, I would imagine it’s anxious and lonely for people who are extreme fringe and too small in number to attract police notice, which they need to convince themselves of their rightness and of being a dangerous game changer ideologist.

I think that as there is no way to commit the perfect crime, since you’d go mad by never getting any credit for it – because to be perfect, you’d need to carry it off alone and leave no clues – we do many things to gain little more than bragging rights, so the perfect crime could only be carried out by an egoless person, for the sake of the crime itself, rather than achieving the perfect crime.

This thinking informs extremist thinkers – who know they stand apart from society, who must elevate themselves to a grand status – of being the only right or clear thinker, the only one capable to understand or even see What’s Really Going On That They Don’t Want You To Know.

To be heard, to gain followers but more, to be opposed, for being opposed is what gives conspiracy and extreme ideology meaning – it’s proof of being right! They Are Stopping You From Telling the Truth, the Real Truth, About Them. And no one but you, the ideologist/conspiracy theorist can handle the truth.

Except, that it’s not really the truth and it’s because the extremist can’t handle that the world is not that complex, convoluted, but not that complex, and that they are not the Lone Truth Handler who must enlighten others because the truth is out there and dangerous.

The extremist is a true believer – not skeptical but often cynical – the difference being that a skeptic doubts the claims while the cynic doubts the claimant. No lack of evidence nor evidence to the contrary will shake their belief – indeed, the lack of and contrary evidence is just more proof for the elaborate conspiracy, it’s all just part of the plan.

Conspiracy theories do not substantially differ from religion, except that religion tends to attract a wider audience, who then act as a social averaging, a leveling of behaviours and social norms to smooth out the lone extremists and keep people in the fold.

Except that many religions are not particular mainstream, they are doomsday cults, validating extremist small groups and often the group seeks to impose their religious norms on the population by force or block voting if they can attract enough people.

Charles Manson gained a following of a handful of people and sent them to murder wealthy people to start a civil ethnic war, which strategy repeated itself in Norway, only Anders Behring Breivik didn’t bother with followers, he just tapped into the right wing extremism generally in Europe and accessible on the internet – rather than connect with an actual social movement or begin one – that, after all, takes effort and draws police attention too soon.

Jim Jones took nearly a thousand with him and the Heaven’s Gate group had just over 20 members. Cults have mass murdered and suicide or selected targets to kill to achieve their poligious ends and attempt to gain power and status in society that has rejected them and their ideology as meaningful members – otherwise, they wouldn’t be fringe extremists.

But the solution is not that all views are equally valid, because they are not – most people do not hold extreme views because they are not valid, logical, rational, fair and balanced, extremist views are discriminatory, bigoted and distasteful more often than not.

The solution is education – to teach children to think critically, logically and equitably.

The solution is not shunting extremism to the fringe, but to focus attention upon it, why it’s wrong, but also to determine what attracts people to such views. Often it’s lack of economic opportunity – when people are able to participate in society, have autonomy and freedoms – and understand that everyone is entitled to the same access to opportunities, to the same rights and freedoms – people are more willing to include rather than exclude when they understand that there’s no limit to rights, they won’t run out before the line of people waiting for their share.

It seems what people most need to learn and understand is how big and small their sphere of influence is.

Gays being able to serve in the military does not deprived heterosexuals of being able to serve, anymore than black people getting to serve took anything away from white people serving.

That gays even want to serve in the military should speak volumes about how much we have in common with our fellow citizens – we want the rights and the responsibilities of citizenship.

Gays being able to marry does not diminish or prevent heterosexuals from marrying any more than interracial marriage diminished or made marriage unattractive to same ethnic couples.

It improves society to be inclusive of all members of the society.

It made little sense to me, growing up in Canada, where I could rely on rights and freedoms and have them all unavailable when I came out as a lesbian in 1992. I was legally fired from two jobs and almost not permitted to rent housing. Legally. I had lost my rights and didn’t get them all back until 2003 when gay marriage became law – for most of my adult life, living in Canada, I have not been able to enjoy the same rights and freedoms and legal protection from discrimination as other Canadians.

But gays and atheists – the two most reviled minority groups – have not turned to violence to claim our place in our secular societies. We use the courts, we educate and do outreach, hold conferences, we live as if and wait for the day that we too have all the rights and social standing as other people – for the day when being gay or being atheist is just another bit of information rather than the basis for determining how people treat you or react to you.

It is religion combined with extreme views that attempts to assert itself through violence or by justifying discrimination against those the religion doesn’t like – which is not only anyone outside of the given religion, but generally targets specific segments of society – like gays or atheists, ethnic groups or members of rival (aka closely related) religions. Religion is the basis and justification for excluding people as being equal to everyone else.

When religion says a particular group is immoral and beneath consideration, bigotry follows and if the religion gains sufficient social standing, systemic discrimination and even violence  in the form of hate crime often follows.

The most dangerous aspect of religion is the veneer of divinity – any person can claim a deity told them thus and so – and if they can make their story compelling enough, gather followers and form a new religion.

One person believing something without basis is delusional, but a large enough group, and it becomes religion, and large enough and over enough time, a mainstream and established religion with the expectation and history of being above reproach and unquestioned in authority and power and influence.

If we are to have a society – and society is global, no country stands alone, we are one planet, interconnected, what happens in one country can no longer be deemed an internal matter when we are connected by land, air and water – pollution and radiation travels, people migrate or flee and natural disasters know no such imaginary things as borders.

We need to be in a reality and evidence based world and not allow delusional or magical thinking to be pervasive or to continue to divide us and prevent everyone from sharing in the wealth of resources, equitable participation, rights and freedoms – because rights and freedoms are clearly not self evidence or inalienable when only a portion of the world enjoys them, when the rights and freedoms you have are dependent on where you live.

We need to stop allowing extremist views to be validated by moderate ones – we need to draw a line and say, this far is okay, but after that, you’re going to need to seriously talk with someone about your inability to work and play well with other people.

We will never be rid of extremists, but we can stop coddling the similar and mainstream related sensibilities and make a clear stand.

And, we must hold religions accountable for the harm they have and continue to cause – from direct harm such as the Vatican sex crimes against the children in all countries where they have their corporate offices and operations to the theocratic nations were women are held as barely second class, just above the children, but below the family dog in terms of value and participation.

People are entitled to hold extremist views, but there is no obligation for us to act as if they are valid views. All things are not equal and should not be considered as such.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Leveraging Pascal’s Wager

  1. “God is, or He is not”
  2. A Game is being played… where heads or tails will turn up.
  3. According to reason, you can defend neither of the propositions.
  4. You must wager. It is not optional.
  5. Let us weigh the gain and the loss in wagering that God is. Let us estimate these two chances. If you gain, you gain all; if you lose, you lose nothing.
  6. Wager, then, without hesitation that He is. (…) There is here an infinity of an infinitely happy life to gain, a chance of gain against a finite number of chances of loss, and what you stake is finite. And so our proposition is of infinite force, when there is the finite to stake in a game where there are equal risks of gain and of loss, and the infinite to gain.

Blaise Pascal

Pensées, part III, note 233

The point of Pascal’s wager is to hedge ones afterlife bet, and that means picking the safest option – to Pascal, that meant at least acting as if you believed in god. Which was sound advice in a time when not doing so was heresy and a death sentence.

The problem with people who pose the wager as if some kind of cosmic gotcha, is that they think their god is the safest bet, otherwise, they wouldn’t be worshiping it. Never mind what that means about their individual faith, but the wager is a false choice and crafted as if there are only the two options: yes god, no god.

Believers who feel compelled to believe because they believe that believing doesn’t cause harm and gives them an afterlife advantage haven’t considered that there’s far more options than their particular god. There’s been 10’s of thousands of gods spread over a large number of distinct religions and compounded by the number of sects that each religion invariable splits into as well as considering all religions that are no longer practiced or will be practiced.

So it’s something of a shock to modern believers to learn that atheists who don’t see a difference between future, current and historical religions, and who view all religions as equally invalid choices given that they all have the same no evidence whatsoever to recommend them above any other. Moreover, the wager is a false dilemma as the choice is not between god and no god, but no god and any number of gods.

On the balance, rather than risk betting on any particular god and very gravely risking finding yourself in an unanticipated negative afterlife or being reborn to try again because there is an actual god and it’s not one that was worshiped either during your lifetime or in the geographic region you were born and raised in – for if gods exist and have anything in common, it’s jealous insecurity about being ignored in favour of other gods – so then not believing in any god, but living to the best of your ability would be the safest manner to not give offense if there happens to be a god, because behaviour and not worship should matter more to any deity that’s worth worshiping.

Living well and without god-worship, if there is a god, at least keeps you in good stead for the life you lived, rather than living well and worshiping  a false idol, which is going to be something of a stumbling block to be explained and taken into account in any assessment of you.

By taking the god option in the wager, you also risk angering any god by false belief – worshiping merely to obtain afterlife reward and avoid afterlife punishment is hardly flattering to the god in question, and any god that existed, would surely be able to see through such self-serving conduct and could hardly reward such greed with the same reward given to people who believe because they actually believe and are motive by the threats of punishment and promise of reward for good behaviour.

Actually, maybe there’s not really a difference, so much as the degree of motivating fear and self-interest between the two.

This is actually something of a pet peeve for me when dealing with believers – that they are unable to understand that just because they are motivated by or find compelling threats of hell and promises of heaven (or whatever the given religion’s afterlife promises/threats are) they cannot comprehend that atheists are not compelled or motivated by threats or promises that are lacking in force.

If you do not believe there’s a god, then any threat or promise that stems from said god is not going to induce spine tingling terror or joy. Ultimatums that are issued without tangible proof are simply not compelling and generally, the natural inclination of response to any ultimatum, is to pick the option the issuer of said ultimatum sees as least desirable just to point out to them that they are rarely willing to make good on their ultimatum threat. And, if they are, then you are generally better off without them in your life. Ditto for deities.

Mind you, in all my school years of observing dozens of so called class clowns, the one and only time anyone ever took the “go to the principal” vs “settle down” option, was myself in high school when presented with the option of putting my umbrella on the sideline to play soccer in the rain or the dread go see the principal. My companion in crime immediately cast her umbrella aside, while I cheerfully headed off the field. The principal’s attempt to reason with me – ‘you can’t really safely play soccer with an umbrella’ was more than easily defeated with my reply that common sense dictates to not play outside in the rain at all. It was an interesting experience for this goody-two shoes policy wonk to spend the balance of the hour in the “bad boy” chairs outside the administrative office just to see the shocked look on teacher and other student’s faces.

I realized at an early age that the cost of standing up for oneself – or what was right – paid off in unexpected ways, and that common sense really isn’t that common. Worse, that more often than not, authority’s only concern is perpetuating itself, rather than being harnessed for any general or specific social good; so I have learned that authority can only be trusted and relied upon only as far as its own self-interest: consolidating wealth and power to an elite class of power wielders who demand respect, but never command it. Respect being earned and not bestowed – and serving self-interest, does not merit respect.

Respect is often confused with worship that is unearned and undeserved and worst of all, uncritical. This is why religionists demand special consideration of their beliefs and person, and they demand “respect” for their views, when they are really expecting worship – especially from non-believers. Really, if atheists were inclined or capable of uncritically viewing religion, then we’d be believers.

But, not being motivated by afterlife ultimatums or uncritically examining claims doesn’t leave a lot of common ground between believers and non-believers. But there’s a purpose for non-believers to engage with believers and that is to debunk their misconceptions.

The foremost one being that we’re not believers because we haven’t understood or been exposed to their religion – although what kind of a bubble they think we could exist in to have not been exposed is unclear. Most atheists were believers at some point, usually childhood and teens, sometimes into adulthood. The reality is that the average atheists knows more about the different religions and about any specific religion more than the average theists knows about their own – and theists tend to be unschooled about faiths that are not their own, except to demonize them as false while not being willing to apply the same degree of critical thinking to their own faith.

Besides the opportunity to explain basic science to theists – because too many simply don’t know or believe the creationist’s creative interpretation and their tarting up religion in sciencey language – the most important myth to debunk for believers is that the basis of morality is not divine.

There are many systems of morality and none of them require divinity, that human morals are human values – and everyone has morals, just not always the same ones or on the same basis. That morals are relative and not absolute, they are often circumstance dependent and require balancing many factors. The flimsiest basis for morals is the divine model, because determining actions on the basis of punishment or reward just means following the orders of the biggest bully who’s only the biggest bully until some bigger bully comes along.

Making good choices based on the information available is the best anyone can hope to do, and good choices are often complex and not based on a simple obtain reward/avoid punishment model. Since in the short term, lying, withholding, covering up, being dishonest are the actions that lead to immediate punishment avoidance if not obtaining an undeserved reward. And, if done well enough, there’s no long term downside if the deception remains undetected.

More than that, merely avoiding punishment and reward seeking behavior has no nobility or strength of character as motivating factors – and these are their own reward. It takes courage to stand alone, to inspire others to stand with you for a cause or purpose that’s bigger than immediate gratification.

Knowing you’re capable of doing the right thing, without material gain or reward, is its own reward: earned self-respect.

This doesn’t mean risking your life to save other people, although it might, it just means not bending to peer pressure or being a bystander, but by being authentic and a participating contributor in the world.

It’s Norma Rae holding up the hand letter “union” sign and the machinists, one by one, turning off the machines and conveying to management that fair wages and treatment should be the norm, not the exception.

It is being the change you want to see in the world, it is understanding the should of things and acting as if it is.

It means your actions are as your word and holding yourself to a higher standard, despite the costs, is what being a hero or martyr or authentic regular person is all about.

It is not living small, worshiping ultimatum issuing deities for whom there is no evidence or rational by which to accept there’s force or merit to said ultimatum or deity, and living small wishing for reward and avoiding punishment with the unfounded promise that you are part of a grand plan that you are not privy to.

Especially not when there’s a clear alternative that you can live as an active participant in an actual grander plan of your own design and ability to bring about in the world. If you are going to believe in anything uncritically, then believe in yourself.

The Pope and Hippies

The Catholic Church has recently blamed the 1960’s counterculture of American hippies for the child molesting sex scandals plaguing the church.

For once, I agree with them – but only to the limited extent – not their fantasy that the so called free love movement created a culture of permissiveness that encouraged celibate priests to molest children – that the 1960’s counterculture that stood up to authority to say that the individual mattered and deserved dignity of person and personal sovereignty that created the cultural climate that so many of the victims from decades before the 1960’s and in countries all over the world have been able to come forward and tell their stories of systemically sanctioned abuse and gross negligence in protecting the abusers by moving them from one community to another – often promoting the worst offenders so they could protect the next generation of molesters.

That the Catholic Church should try to blame American hippies for their priest’s molestation and their bishop’s protecting the priests and silencing the witnesses, victims and their families is beyond the credible.

American hippies do not explain why the sex scandals are breaking in every single country that the Catholic Church operates in, and in dates before and since the 1960’s. It doesn’t explain the church’s failure to defrock even repeat offenders spanning several communities.

This blaming the hippies and the counterculture only makes sense when you consider that the bully always blames the victim for reporting the crimes that the victim somehow forced the bully to perform.

And our tendency to blame the messenger compounds the problem – as if the acknowledgement of the problem is somehow worse than the problem and as if reporting is on par with perpetrating.

It is not the victim’s fault they were abused by people who they trusted to protect and guide them. The problem is not that the crimes are reported, but that they occurred at all.

This is a huge difficulty for an organization who’s purpose is to deal with immoral actions after the fact and to forgive for a fee; rather than be a system by which people can avoid undertaking immoral actions. If religion could do that, religion would literally be out of business.

If people could understand and make moral distinctions and then undertake morally correct or the lesser of evils actions – then what need would they have of the priest?

But, what need do we have of priests who clearly are not capable of moral action even when they have removed themselves from the ordinary lives that are fraught with temptation. Priests who are allegedly dedicated to poverty, charity and chastity?

The highest authority of the Catholic Church live in a castle, surrounded by material and historical wealth and don ornate costumes while the countries with the highest ratio of Catholics more often than not are existing in abject poverty. Where is this charity? Why do they not redistribute some of that wealth to help the poor followers?

What need does anyone have of priests who harm children or the bishops who protect said priests – and likely were these same pedo-priests in the past?

How can anything as abusive and corrupt, in blatant defiance of the values it claims to hold dear, continue to retain followers who turn over a sizable chunk of their hard earn money, and worse, their children, over to this beast that consumes with an entitlement that is difficult to comprehend?

On nothing more than the basis of allowing them to take the fruits of your labour and your loins and you will be rewarded after you die, because that’s god’s will and the Pope is representing on earth.

Because hey, the pope is always a trustworthy guy, no matter the scheming and maneuvering and double dealing it takes to get into the big chair and the bulletproof popemobile. The ultimate demonstration of lack of faith that ever was.

Greatest Story Ever Sold

That which can be asserted without evidence, can be dismissed without evidence.

Christopher Hitchens

I think Hitchens should be taken a step further to be that which is asserted without evidence, should be dismissed without consideration.

When claims are implausible on their face and there is no empirical evidence or reality evident, then the details that purport to support the claim are not worthy of undue consideration – especially when they are the stuff of obvious fiction – talking animals or plants, magical clothes or items, magic tricks and mixing actual historical figures and places with leading characters for whom there is no historical basis and these are likely entirely fictional or composites, with stories set in actual places being vague enough to be unclear which time period the story actually occurred in.

That the religions that arose from any given geographical region updated and reused the same story elements over and over, also points to a fictional rather than historical basis for the primary characters:

HORUS

  • Horus was born of the virgin Isis-Merion December 25 in a cave/manger with his birth being announced by a star in the East and attended by three wise men.
  • His earthly father was named “Seb” (“Joseph”).
  • He was of royal descent.
  • At at 12, he was a child teacher in the Temple, and at 30, he was baptized having disappeared for 18 years.
  • Horus was baptized in the river Eridanus or Iarutana (Jordan) by “Anup the Baptizer” (“John the Baptist”), who was decapitated.
  • He had 12 desciples, two of who were his “witnesses” and were named “Anup” and “Aan” (the two “Johns”).
  • He performed miracles, exorcised demons and raised El-Azarus (“El-Osiris” Lazarus in latin), from the dead.
  • Horus walked on water.
  • His personal epithet was “Iusa,” the “ever-becoming son” of “Ptah,” the “Father.” He was thus called “Holy Child.”
  • He delivered a “Sermon on the Mount” and his followers recounted the “Sayings of Iusa.”
  • Horus was transfigured on the Mount.
  • He was crucified between two thieves, buried for three days in a tomb, and resurrected.
  • He was also the “Way, the Truth, the Light,” “Messiah,” “God’s Anointed Son,” “the “Son of Man,” the “Good Shepherd,” the “Lamb of God,” the “Word made flesh,” the “Word of Truth,” etc.
  • He was “the Fisher” and was associated with the Fish (“Ichthys”), Lamb and Lion.
  • He came to fulfill the Law.
  • Horus was called “the KRST,” or “Anointed One.”

MITHRA

  • Mithra was born of a virgin on December 25 in a cave, and his birth was attended by shepherds bearing gifts.
  • He was considered a great traveling teacher and master.
  • He had 12 companions or disciples.
  • Mithra’s followers were promised immortality.
  • He performed miracles.
  • As the “great bull of the Sun,” Mithra sacrificed himself for world peace.
  • He was buried in a tomb and after three days rose again.
  • His resurrection was celebrated every year.
  • He was called “the Good Shepherd” and identified with both the Lamb and the Lion.
  • He was considered the “Way, the Truth and the Light,” and the “Logos,” [Word] “Redeemer,” “Savior” and “Messiah.”
  • His sacred day was Sunday, the “Lord’s Day,” hundreds of years before the appearance of Christ.
  • Mithra had his principal festival on what was later to become Easter.
  • His religion had a Eucharist or “Lord’s Supper,” at which Mithra said, “He who shall not eat of my body nor drink of my blood so that he may be one with me and I with him, shall not be saved.”
  • “His annual sacrifice is the Passover of the Magi, a symbolical atonement of pledge of moral and physical regeneration.”

Furthermore, the Vatican itself is built upon the papacy of Mithra, and the Christian hierarchy is nearly identical to the Mithraic version it replaced …

JESUS

  • born in April by the stories, but his birth is celebrated December 25
  • He was of royal descent.
  • He was considered a great traveling teacher and master.
  • At at 12, he was a child teacher in the Temple, and at 30, he was crucified having disappeared for 18 years.
  • had 12 disciples who were “witnesses” and a betrayer
  • He was crucified between two thieves, buried for three days in a tomb, and resurrected.
  • He was called “the Good Shepherd” and identified with both the Lamb and the Lion.
  • He was considered the “Way, the Truth and the Light,” and the “Logos,” [Word] “Redeemer,” “Savior” and “Messiah.”
  • His religion had a Eucharist or “Lord’s Supper,”
  • He was “the Fisher” and was associated with the Fish
  • and any other items from the above two that I missed

By comparison – and remember, to do this on par, no one can have written anything yet about this future religious figure, but:

Elvis Presley

  • Born in January 8, but adjusting for the shift in calendar, technically December 23
  • His father later told that there was a strange light on the night of his birth
  • Elvis performed on the Tupleo radio program of Mississippi Slim, the technology temple as a child, and placed 5th in the child contest at the state fair
  • rose to fame on SUN records
  • resided in Memphis Tennessee, where he lived like a pharaoh of Memphis Egypt.
  • had a number of immediate followers referred to as the Memphis mafia, most of whom have written books and who lead the opinions of sects within Elvis fandom
  • died young, crucified by the press and critics his entire career of spreading a gospel of equality and individual freedom of expression
  • is associated with the Tiger, as a karate style and song Tigerman
  • engaged in Pascal’s Wager by wearing the religious symbols of multiple faiths to “not miss heaven on a technicality”
  • bestowed blessings in the form of stage worn scarves
  • is believed to be still alive by many followers, and sightings are regularly reported
  • fried peanut butter and banana sandwich is a special food
  • Elvis lead the way in a cultural revolution to unite white and black musical traditions
  • although he never accepted it, was dubbed the King by fans and the media, a title that stuck

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Mithras and Horus extracts: “The greatest story ever sold” by Acharya S.(Adventures Unlimited 1999) pp 107-123.