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Archive for April 1st, 2010

Christians! What ya gonna do?

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Manya Brachear in the LA Times:

A prominent refugee resettlement organization has enacted a policy that requires new employees to be Christian, triggering staff complaints and departures by those who see it as discrimination.

World Relief, a global evangelical Christian charity that receives federal funds to resettle refugees, said the policy simply establishes a routine that has been in place for years.

"We felt we needed to put a formal policy in place that reflects a 65-year history of hiring according to our faith," said Stephan Bauman, senior vice president of programs for the Baltimore-based agency. "The policy is really just to galvanize our organization."

But staffers don’t necessarily see it that way.

"As a Christian, I feel it is my duty to advocate for the most vulnerable," said former legal aide Trisha Teofilo, who left because of the policy. "I believe Jesus would not promote a policy of discrimination."

Under the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the policy is legal. But opponents, including current and former employees, say it is hypocritical for an agency to discriminate when its mission is settling refugees — many of whom have fled religious intolerance in their home countries.

"It’s legal, but it’s ridiculously wrong and un-Christian," said Delia Seeburg, the director of immigrant legal services in World Relief’s Chicago office.
She plans to leave for a new job in April.

Although current employees don’t have to be Christian, they risk termination if they don’t affirm the organization’s Christian mission statement "to follow Jesus by living holy, humble, and honest lives."

Mohammed Zeitoun, a Muslim employment counselor, is searching for a new job because he refused to affirm the Christian mission.

"To ask us to change who we are, it’s not right, not in the country of the United States of America — the land of the free," said Zeitoun, who was born and raised in Jordan.

Written by LeisureGuy

1 April 2010 at 5:37 pm

Posted in Daily life, Law, Religion

Puzzle me this: DADT becomes Catch 22

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Julian Barnes in the LA Times:

Lt. Robin R. Chaurasiya wasn’t exactly asked, but she told anyway: She is a lesbian, and in a civil union with another woman.

Her commander at Scott Air Force Base in Illinois, Lt. Gen. Robert R. Allardice, could have discharged her under the Pentagon’s "don’t ask, don’t tell" policy. Instead, he determined in February that she should remain in the Air Force because she acknowledged her sexual orientation for the purpose of "avoiding and terminating military service."

Chaurasiya says that is not true. But the general’s reasoning has the flavor of a Catch-22: If you admit to being homosexual you can be discharged from the military, but if you admit it for the purposes of being discharged you won’t be.

Yet the action is being cited by some opponents of the controversial prohibition on open gay military service as a sign of willingness to reinterpret rules after President Obama called on Congress to overturn the controversial 1993 law.

At the very least, said Nathaniel Frank, an expert on "don’t ask, don’t tell," the Chaurasiya case appears to turn the rationale behind the gay ban on its head.

"If commanders are ignoring or rejecting credible evidence of homosexuality because of the alleged motive of the person who makes the statement, the bottom line is they are keeping gay people in the service," said Frank, a senior research fellow at UC Santa Barbara’s Palm Center. "That gives the lie that known gay people undercut the military."

Officially, "don’t ask, don’t tell" remains in place and service members are still being discharged for homosexual conduct. But how to handle such discharges clearly has become a delicate matter inside the Pentagon.

In a round-table interview Wednesday, Army Secretary John M. McHugh said that during a review of the policy, several soldiers had acknowledged to him that they were gay. McHugh initially said he wouldn’t seek to punish them for responding candidly to his questions, but on Thursday he sought to refine that answer…

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

1 April 2010 at 5:31 pm

Posted in Daily life, Military

What about abuse of girls in the Catholic church?

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Andrew Sullivan:

A reader writes:

I speak from some experience, having been involved in some of the sex abuse litigation in Massachusetts (representing one of several insurance companies being called upon to fund some of the settlements the various Dioceses and Archdioceses have reached with the victims – hundreds of them). There were (are?), in fact, many female victims.  But several things distinguish them from the boys, based on what I have seen. First, there are a lot fewer of them.  Maybe 1 victim in 20 was female; perhaps even more like 1 in 30 or 40.  The vast majority were boys.

Second, the abusers of females seem to have been less compelled to abuse multiple victims.  I can’t tell you how utterly sickening and heartbreaking it is to read case file after case file, describing the horrific details of a single priest’s repeated rape and abuse of boy after boy after boy – dozens of them, hundreds in the worst cases – over many years’ time.  But the abusers of girls?  Less so.  In some cases, no more than 1 or 2 victims.

Maybe that’s a reporting issue – what the statisticians would call self-selection among the cohort.  I don’t have any basis for really knowing.  But it does seem unusual to me that female victims of clergy rape would be less inclined to report the abuse than the boys would.  I just think it is more likely that priests who raped girls just tended to rape fewer of them.  Maybe it’s because the girls were generally not placed in positions where they were likely to come into frequent contact with priests in isolated settings, and vice-versa.

Third, the really, really creepy thing about many of the abusive priests was that so many of them were such popular, charismatic figures within their parishes.  They would "get" their victims by cozying up to the boys’ families, creating bonds of affection with the mothers and fathers, taking the boys under their wings, going on camping trips, etc.  Then they’d rape them, knowing that their very popularity would make it unlikely that anyone would believe some crazy kid’s accusation about good Father So-and-So.

With the girls, again, not so much.  The victimizers of girls appeared (to me) to be basically very lonely, socially misfit, heterosexual guys with absolutely no outlet for the sexual aspect of their personalities.  Some, of course, managed to create consensual relationships with adult female parishioners, or even with nuns.  But a lot of these guys were generally pretty shy and awkward around the opposite sex, and for some of them, an 11-year old girl was just an easier mark than an adult.

I don’t mean for a moment to belittle the act that transpired – rape is rape, lives were destroyed, and it is unforgivable.  But there seemed to me to be something quieter and lonelier – less "planned" somehow – about their abuse of one or two girls, whereas the abusers of the boys – multiple boys – sometimes seemed almost to make it a bit of a "sport."

The John Jay study found that 19% of rape victims were female.

Written by LeisureGuy

1 April 2010 at 4:25 pm

Posted in Daily life, Law, Religion

How long has it been going on?

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Andrew Sullivan, quoting an email from a reader:

A widely studied Spanish 16-century classic work of literature, Lazarillo de Tormes, was published anonymously in the 1550s and features as protagonist an errant boy who is taken in by various masters, priests and father figures. A short episode that  was later censored by the Inquisition in 1573 features Lazarillo with a Mercedarian priest/friar. The boy leaves him in a hurry, explaining mysteriously “…so for this and other reasons which I shall not mention, I left him (y por esto y por otras cosillas que no digo, salí dél)” In the academic article mentioned below the authors cite a popular saying from those years in Spain, the time of the Counter Reformation: “Cuando vieres a un fraile de la Merced, / arrima tu culo a la pared” — i.e., “Whenever you see a Mercedarian priest, press your ass against the wall.”

The story features other types of corrupt clergy in various chapters, including those who keep women on the side, etc. But this one with the Mercedarian priest has by now been accepted as an obvious between-the-lines reference to pedophilia.

Bussell Thompson, B. and J.K. Walsh. “The Mercederian’s Shoes (Perambulations on the Fourth tratado of Lazarillo de Tormes).” MLN 2 (1988): 440-48.

Written by LeisureGuy

1 April 2010 at 3:16 pm

Posted in Books, Daily life, Religion

Interesting analysis of the Catholic child-rape problem

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Andrew Sullivan:

I figured we had gotten past this canard but since Bill Donohue is on every television and radio show loudly proclaiming that the church’s abuses can be attributed to “homosexuals”, and therefore it is homosexuality and not the church that stands in the dock, it requires some unpacking.

Here’s Donohue’s valid point. In some of the reports on the sex abuse crisis, the impression is sometimes given that all the offenses are against children in the classic pedophile sense – pre-pubescent. The John Jay Report found that 22 percent of the cases of abuse in America were with children under the age of ten, 51% were between the ages of 11 and 14, and 15 percent were aged 16 or older. Eighty percent were same-sex abuse. So you can see how you can say that the majority of the cases were same-sex acts between men and male teens who were sexually past puberty. Hence, in Donohue’s blinkered eyes, the gays did it. And if we get rid of all the gays, we may be unfair to many of them, but at least we can get rid of the abuse.

But here’s why Donohue’s attempt to blame the crisis on homosexuals as such is so wrong. First, the critical issue is abuse, not orientation. The abuse of a young or teenage boy is no different in its nature than the abuse of a young or teenage girl. The sin is the abuse of power, and the use of religious authority to subject the defenseless to an adult’s sexual gratification. It’s about the power differential, and the still fragile nature of a developing psyche and sexuality. The sexual orientation of the perpetrator is, strictly speaking, irrelevant to the matter at hand: an institution that sought to cover up, and protect rapists and molesters of minors. If we were talking about adult sexual relationships here, we could have a discussion about sexual orientation. But we’re not. We’re talking about abuse.

Secondly, and obviously, homosexuality is not abuse. It is an orientation that for the overwhelming majority involves consensual sex with adults. Some obvious attraction for teenage boys is as prevalent among gays as the obvious attraction for teenage girls for straight men. But there is no reason to correlate homosexuality with abuse, pederasty or pedophilia.

The real question is: what kind of gay man molests children and young teens? Just as: what kind of straight man molests children and young teens? What leads to this kind of behavior which is far from the norm among homosexuals and heterosexuals? And why does the Catholic Church priesthood seem such a magnet for child rapists and molesters? Why has it seemed to attract so many gay men who are psychologically disturbed or sick when it comes to their sexual orientation?

I find the answer pretty straightforward.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by LeisureGuy

1 April 2010 at 2:09 pm

Posted in Daily life, Religion

Steve Kappes, CIA Deputy Director, Helped Cover Up Detainee Death

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If true, this would make him an accessory after the fact in a homicide. I suppose, though, that this was in the past, so he will walk. Marcus Baram in the Huffington Post:

CIA Deputy Director Steve Kappes helped cover up the death of a detainee at a secret interrogation facility in Afghanistan, according to a profile in the Washingtonian.

The Washington Independent‘s Spencer Ackerman uncovered this nugget buried in "Inside Man", the lengthy profile by longtime national security correspondent Jeff Stein:

According to an internal investigation, [Kappes] helped tailor the agency’s paper trail regarding the death of a detainee at a secret CIA interrogation facility in Afghanistan, known internally as the Salt Pit.

The detainee froze to death after being doused with water, stripped naked, and left alone overnight, according to reports in the Washington Post and Los Angeles Times. He was secretly buried and his death kept "off-the-books," the Post said.

According to two former officials who read a CIA inspector general’s report on the incident, Kappes coached the base chief–whose identity is being withheld at the request of the CIA–on how to respond to the agency’s investigators. They would report it as an accident.

CIA spokesman Paul Gimigliano vehemently denied the account, telling Stein that it was "shot through with errors and falsehoods." He added, "The agency’s past detention practices have been thoroughly and repeatedly reviewed, inside and outside the CIA. These greasy insinuations of a coverup are not only utterly off the mark; they’re totally below the belt."

Kappes, who quit the agency in 2004 after refusing to fire a deputy who got on the wrong side of Bush-appointed CIA director Porter Goss, was brought back to the CIA in the early months of the Obama administration at the request of Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) For standing up to Goss, Kappes won the praise of Congressional Democrats who called him indispensable to the work of the agency.

But, as Stein notes in his piece, Kappes was an odd choice for an administration committed to making a clean break with the past and the controversial interrogation practices of the Bush-era CIA. Kappes, as deputy director and director of the CIA’s Directorate of Operations, supervised some of the agency’s most secret programs — from extraordinary renditions to secret prisons to waterboarding. After Obama’s election, he advised Obama’s transition team to "retain the option of reestablishing secret prisons and using aggressive interrogation methods," according to the Washington Post.

Written by LeisureGuy

1 April 2010 at 12:19 pm

Those imaginary IRS agents

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Guess the GOP fooled a lot of people. Steve Benen:

Not quite two weeks ago, House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) appeared on Fox News with a new warning for those concerned about health care reform:

"Ten billion dollars and 16,000 new IRS agents to make sure that everyone buys the health insurance that the government decides you have to have."

Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) went a little further, saying there will be 16,500 new IRS agents, each of whom will be "armed."

Boehner and Paul were blatantly and shamelessly lying. FactCheck.org looked into this and concluded that it’s a "wildly inaccurate claim." The Affordable Care Act, the researchers concluded, "requires the IRS mostly to hand out tax credits, not collect penalties. The claim of 16,500 new agents stems from a partisan analysis based on guesswork and false assumptions, and compounded by outright misrepresentation."

The IRS’ main job under the new law isn’t to enforce penalties. Its first task is to inform many small-business owners of a new tax credit that the new law grants them — starting this year — which will pay up to 35 percent of the employer’s contribution toward their workers’ health insurance. And in 2014 the IRS will also be administering additional subsidies — in the form of refundable tax credits — to help millions of low- and middle-income individuals buy health insurance.

The law does make individuals subject to a tax, starting in 2014, if they fail to obtain health insurance coverage. But IRS Commissioner Douglas Shulman testified before a hearing of the House Ways and Means Committee March 25 that the IRS won’t be auditing individuals to certify that they have obtained health insurance. He said insurance companies will issue forms certifying that individuals have coverage that meets the federal mandate, similar to a form that lenders use to verify the amount of interest someone has paid on their home mortgage. "We expect to get a simple form, that we won’t look behind, that says this person has acceptable health coverage," Shulman said. "So there’s not going to be any discussions about health coverage with an IRS employee." In any case, the bill signed into law (on page 131) specifically prohibits the IRS from using the liens and levies commonly used to collect money owed by delinquent taxpayers, and rules out any criminal penalties for individuals who refuse to pay the tax or those who don’t obtain coverage. That doesn’t leave a lot for IRS enforcers to do.

How’d this nonsense get started? Apparently, some Republican staffers on the Hill concluded that it may "may" be necessary for the IRS to add "as many as 16,500" additional employees to enforce the law. The GOP staffers apparently made up the number, based on bizarre assumptions.

From there, Boehner, Paul, and other assorted Republican voices on the Hill and on Fox News’ payroll (that means you, Brian Kilmeade) began presenting this foolish claim — and adding ridiculous details — to Americans as if it were fact.

Is it any wonder the public is confused about the policy when professional liars have been spreading garbage like this?

Written by LeisureGuy

1 April 2010 at 11:16 am

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