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Cardinal Law

I believe this headline from the Kansas City Star says it perfectly: “Disgraced Law celebrates Mass for pope”.

Over the past week, I have often found myself coming to the defense of Pope John Paul II on liberal blogs. While I am no big fan of the Roman Catholic Church (I’m too Baptist to like church hierarchy very much), I always had a certain amount of respect for the pope because of his feelings on many social issues. Although his views on gender issues and contraceptives were terrible, he worked hard to fight poverty and to oppose war. I thought that those stances were enough to redeem him.

Until I saw how exactly he reacted to the sexual abuse cases, especially those in the Boston archdiocese.

I did not follow the cases very closely when they first were brought to light. I’ve always had an aversion to stories about scandal, especially when they are blown up to the proportions that they tend to be when sex is involved. I did remember hearing about how the archbishop in Boston had covered up for some priests, and even moved them around from parish to parish, but I did not know what had become of the archbishop until this weekend, when I heard that he would be leading today’s funeral Mass.

The decisions to first make Bernard Law a Cardinal, then to allow him to lead a Mass for the late pope were incredibly insensitive to the feelings of the victims of the scandal. It shows a total lack of compassion — indeed, almost contempt — for those who were affected by the abusive priests and by Law’s actions. For someone who has long admired John Paul, it is totally unexplainable for me. I cannot understand how someone who seemed to have so much compassion for those in need could act with such callousness towards these victims.

Robert, aka randomliberal



Zubulake (pronounced, I believe, Zoo-boo-LAH-kie). As the NY Times tells us, this is Laura Zubulake. She won.

Now, for you, this happened today. But I’m a litigator, and though I’m not involved in the case, this has been happening for two years. Why? Because UBS, her employer, screwed around with e-mails to hide the smoking guns. And got caught by U.S. District Judge Shira Scheindlin, one of the most influential women on a trial-level bench anywhere today. Scheindlin, much to UBS’s dismay, is the maven on electronic discovery, and she loves to write. So she literally wrote the book on electronic discovery– six or so published opinions that define the defendants’ obligations, and finally, impose sanctions on UBS.

So this is a win three times. Laura Zubulake walks away with back pay and statutory damages. All of us get a solid set of electronic discovery rules, ones that limit the burden on defendants but also put them on notice that tanking stuff will get them in trouble. And Judge Shira Scheindlin adds to her growing legend as a smart, gutsy judge who takes on thorny problems head-on.

But most of you don’t care about that. Here’s what struck me. Talking with colleagues (men) who were in financial services or have contacts there, the rumor is that Zubulake was an awful person to work with. My gut tells me this is UBS disinformation to try to win the case — the same was said about Allison Schieffelin (there’s a thru-link about Schieffelin in the story), though we’ll never know.

More importantly, so what? Let’s say she’s competent, and unbearable. In many businesses, including parts of Wall Street, some law firms, and places like Enron, asshole personality disorder is considered an acceptable trait — at least among the men. In fact, this was the UBS defense: essentially, that her boss was such an asshole to everyone that there’s no reason to believe it was motivated by gender animus.

Even in Sweden

So, I’m accustomed to thinking that, while no country is perfect, the Scandanavians have gotten a bunch of stuff right. I’m accustomed to thinking this is especially true on gender issues, where woman have a more prominent public role than really anywhere else that readily comes to mind. Then, this morning, the New York Times publishes This distressing piece about the Swedes.

It says, in relevant part:

We’ve had to change our picture of ourselves in Sweden,” said Maria Carlshamre, a former television journalist who acknowledged last summer to viewers, against the station’s wishes, that her husband had abused her for a decade. “We are not the gender equality champions of the world.”

The turmoil began a year ago with the Amnesty International report, which took Sweden to task for failing to adequately curb violence against women and help victims cope with their situations. The organization also cited spotty prosecutions, vague statistics, old-fashioned judges and unresponsive local governments.

The report praised Sweden’s laws as “unambiguous,” but warned that “strongly worded legislation is not in itself a sufficient instrument to ensure women’s right to a life without violence.”

The group concluded that acts of violence against women had spiraled upward in Sweden in the last 15 years, a jump that could not be explained away as merely a greater willingness by women to report the incidents. The number of police reports filed for assault against women increased 40 percent in the 1990’s, according to the Swedish National Council for Crime Prevention.

In the category of outrageous messenger-shooting, this is what happened to the woman brave enough to shake the country awake:

Ms. Carlshamre said she was fired because her bosses, fearing slander charges, had warned that the topic was off limits. She then ran for a seat in the European Parliament on an anti-violence platform, and won. “Now you can’t talk about battered women like ‘them’ anymore,” she said. “It’s no longer about poor women on the fringe of society.”

(Emphasis mine.)

So what is going on here? Is the whole edifice of relative gender equality in Scandanavia, or at least Sweden, a facade? I’m guessing not. More likely, I think, the lesson to take is that the barrier between the public and private is stubborn, and that it is possible to make great gains in where women stand in relation to men in public, without corresponding gains in private.

It seems strange to me that men could become accustomed to seeing women as equals, professional peers, bosses, legislators and judges, etc. out in the world, and then could close the bedroom door and beat their wives and girlfriends. Can it really be the same guys that treat female colleagues with respect, then hit those they profess to love? Or is this a secret backlash; a large population of incorrigibles who may have to give the appearance of accepting women in public, but vent their rage at the changing world on the one woman they can get behind closed doors?

I’m afraid it’s the former, or some of both. I make assumptions about how my male peers treat women generally from how I see them treat their female colleagues. Maybe the two are more independent than I have let myself believe.

Rape On Tape – Still Not Guilty

Roni writes on a high-profile Chicago rape trial:

There has been a slighty high-profile rape case going on here in the Land of Lincoln. It involves a party, lots of booze, one teen-aged girl, and 4 teen-aged boys. And a videotape.

The accusation went like this: A 16-year-old girl went to a party, got really drunk, passed out, work up the next day half-naked with words written on her in black marker (I assume cu*nt, bitch, whore, etc), two days later is talking to a girlfriend and discovers that there is a sex tape of her with the boys. She recalls nothing. She goes to her parents, they take her to the hospital and the police. Charges are filed. One boy pleads guilty to child porn. Two others have fled the country. The last one?

He was found not-guilty yesterday.

…Here are some key tidbits that I found in the way the media has been telling the story:

At the beginning of the video, the young woman is heard either groaning or moaning: Being passed out, I would assume that either way, it’s not a good way to tell if the woman is consenting to sex. Perhaps this is where the reasonable doubt plays in. The jury isn’t talking – yet – so we have to guess.

“It is convenient that she doesn’t remember anything,” [Defense Attorney] Kuzas told the jury. “She initiated drinking games, was chugging vodka from a bottle, and went to a party at 2 a.m.”

“Criminal sexual assault is when it occurs against your will,” he said. I also saw on a TV news segment that this attorney asked the young woman if she “consented to going to the party and if she consented to getting drunk.” Where the fuck does the fury start? What the hell does it matter if she consented to attending a party? Did the front door have a sign on it like at an amusement park: All who enter cannot sue for personal injury. What the fuck?

I know a few people in the rape survivors support network. I think I need to drop them a line and see if they can help me understand this. But to me it looks like another ‘he said, she said’ case and she lost. And people wonder why women don’t report rape more often.

Free Rodi Alvarado and all political prisoners!

Obligatory disclaimer: I am not Ms. Lauren, nor was meant to be; I am Charles Johnson, guest blogging on Ms. Lauren’s behalf while she takes a much-deserved break. You can normally find me at Rad Geek People’s Daily.

If you’re not too busy getting hammered with Roxanne and following the latest jots and tittles from the State of the Union, you might want to take some time to keep track of the decade-old case of Rodi Alvarado (thanks, Amnesty International), who has been held in legal limbo for a decade by the Justice Department’s and the Department of Homeland Security’s immigration bureaucracy.

The terrible facts of Rodi Alvarado’s case are undisputed. She fled Guatemala and applied for asylum in the United States in 1995, after suffering ten years of relentless domestic abuse. Her husband Francisco Osorio, a former soldier, attempted to abort their second child by kicking her in the spine, dislocated her jaw, tried to cut her hands off with a machete, kicked her in the genitals, and used her head to break windows and mirrors. Ms. Alvarado sought assistance from the Guatemalan police and the courts — in vain.

As feminists have urged over and over again, the fact that gender violence is acted out in “private” does not mean that it’s not political. Ms. Alvarado fled to the United States seeking asylum from terror that was nominally illegal but nevertheless systematic, motivated by the desire for control, culturally excused, legally ignored, and impossible to escape within the legal and social framework of her home country. To deport her back to Guatemala would be to send her to her death–just as surely as if she were targeted by death squads or a religious dissident with a fatwa on her head. But in spite of some hopeful developments, the immigration bureaucracy–directed by John Ashcroft’s Justice Department–is dithering over whether to stand by Rodi Alvarado’s human rights or to collaborate with her would-be murderer.

A U.S. Immigration Judge granted Ms. Alvarado asylum in 1996, finding that the abuse that she suffered, together with her government’s unwillingness or inability to protect her, constituted persecution. But a series of subsequent decisions have left her in legal limbo for years. The Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) appealed her grant of asylum, and in 1999, the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) reversed the grant of asylum. In 2001, Attorney General Janet Reno vacated the decision, proposed regulations to recognize gender-related persecution claims, and directed the BIA to decide the case again after the proposed regulations became final. Those regulations never became final, however, since Reno left office soon afterward. Attorney General Ashcroft announced in March 2003 that he would make a final decision in Rodi Alvarado’s asylum case.

Although he had taken over the case nearly two years ago, Attorney General John Ashcroft has now declined to decide whether to grant asylum to Rodi Alvarado, a Guatemalan battered wife. It is still uncertain whether Ms. Alvarado will be allowed to remain in the United States or be deported to Guatemala. Attorney General Ashcroft was expected to issue a ruling that would have had wide ramifications in other cases where women seek asylum for gender-related persecution, like threats of honor killing. The Department of Homeland Security had issued a legal brief formally advising the Attorney General to uphold asylum for Ms. Alvarado.

Rodi Alvarado’s case prompted the U.S. government to issue proposed regulations that will instruct immigration judges on how to deal with such cases. Those regulations have not yet been issued in final form. Attorney General Ashcroft sent Ms. Alvarado’s case back to the same court from which he took it nearly two years ago, the Board of Immigration Appeals. He ordered the BIA to reconsider the case in light of the new regulations, after they are finally issued.

Rodi Alvarado remains in limbo, still unable to petition for her children to join her, although she has spent a decade in the United States without seeing them.

There is no excuse for the Justice Department’s foot-dragging in Rodi Alvarado’s case. The personal really is political; when women face systematic violence and terror, that they cannot escape within their home countries, they must be able to find safe haven across borders. While the United States government proudly talks up freedom and an end to terror to the rest of the world, it must begin by standing for women’s freedom, and an end to gender terror. The over 50,000 letters and messages sent by Amnesty International members and other concerned citizens have helped keep Rodi Alvarado’s case alive and kept her from being deported. While she is held captive by the immigration-control machine in the United States, what could she be called other than a political prisoner? John Ashcroft and the Board of Immigration Appeals is doing nothing less than holding her captive while they deliberate over whether or not to recognize the assaults against her and the threats against her life are politically real. What reason is there for still quibbling about it 10 years later, other than the fact that Rodi Alvarado is a woman, and she was terrorized and assaulted by her politically protected husband.

Rodi Alvarado is a political refugee and today she is a political prisoner while the immigration inquisitors try to determine whether her certain death should matter to them or not. Goodbye to all that.

Free Rodi Alvarado!

Free all political prisoners!

An Outrageous and Ordinary Story

[I’m one of many guest writers posting for Lauren while she’s away. My name is Charles Johnson; I normally write at Rad Geek People’s Daily.]

We’ve heard a lot about the vicious torture of men in Abu Ghraib and other detention centers around Iraq—almost exclusively by men, but yes, by some women too. The Right is so desperate for any explanation other than the sheer, evil brutality of war—the war that they clamored for, the war that was supposed to "liberate" the Iraqi people—that one leading theory seems to be that evil pro-choice lesbian mind rays made them do it (link via The Austro-Athenian Empire). Lost in much of the sensationalized coverage and handwringing, however, is the fact that we have merely been given photographic documentation of outrages that are part and parcel of the horrors of war. This is nothing new; and while it is outrageous it should not at all be surprising.W arfare is little more than the logic of patriarchal command and control writ large, and the brutality of that logic as acted out in Abu Ghraib is awfully similar, in motivation and in tactics, to the acts carried out every day by men who rape women and other men, and men who beat their wives or girlfriends, all across the country.

Nowhere is this more evident in the ordinary, and horrifying, story—buried all too often under the numerous stories about the attacks on Iraqi men—that the rape of Iraqi women has apparently been part of the unwritten Standard Operating Procedure at Abu Ghraib:

In December 2003, a woman prisoner inside the jail west of Baghdad managed to smuggle out a note. Its contents were so shocking that, at first, Amal Kadham Swadi and the other Iraqi women lawyers who had been trying to gain access to the US jail found them hard to believe.

The note claimed that US guards had been raping women detainees, who were, and are, in a small minority at Abu Ghraib. Several of the women were now pregnant, it added. The women had been forced to strip naked in front of men, it said. The note urged the Iraqi resistance to bomb the jail to spare the women further shame.

. . .

Astonishingly, the secret inquiry launched by the US military in January, headed by Major General Antonio Taguba, has confirmed that the letter smuggled out of Abu Ghraib by a woman known only as “Noor” was entirely and devastatingly accurate. While most of the focus since the scandal broke three weeks ago has been on the abuse of men, and on their sexual humilation in front of US women soldiers, there is now incontrovertible proof that women detainees – who form a small but unknown proportion of the 40,000 people in US custody since last year’s invasion – have also been abused. Nobody appears to know how many. But among the 1,800 digital photographs taken by US guards inside Abu Ghraib there are, according to Taguba’s report, images of a US military policeman “having sex” with an Iraqi woman.

Taguba discovered that guards have also videotaped and photographed naked female detainees. The Bush administration has refused to release other photographs of Iraqi women forced at gunpoint to bare their breasts (although it has shown them to Congress) – ostensibly to prevent attacks on US soldiers in Iraq, but in reality, one suspects, to prevent further domestic embarrassment.

. . .

In Iraq, the existence of photographs of women detainees being abused has provoked revulsion and outrage, but little surprise. Some of the women involved may since have disappeared, according to human rights activists. Professor Huda Shaker al-Nuaimi, a political scientist at Baghdad University who is researching the subject for Amnesty International, says she thinks "Noor" is now dead. "We believe she was raped and that she was pregnant by a US guard. After her release from Abu Ghraib, I went to her house. The neighbours said her family had moved away. I believe she has been killed."

Oh, and, by the way? It turns out that the Army already knew what was going on in Abu Ghraib. In November. They decided to start doing something about it in January when they learned that the photos existed, and the word might start getting out to the Western press. You, of course, didn’t hear a damn thing about it from our fearless leaders until April became May, after a good six months of Army concealment and CYA operations, once the truth finally came out in the pages of the New Yorker.

Firing Rumsfeld might have seemed like an appropriate demand a while ago. But with what we know now? That’s way too little to ask. Rumsfeld knew. Bush should have known. How could we face "Noor" and tell her that the most we thought we should do was to quit paying one of the men who is responsible for her torture and who is all too likely to have been an unwitting collaborator in her murder? Bush should be impeached and Rumsfeld should be indicted.

What excuse could we have for urging anything less?