Monthly Archives: May 2016

STIs Aren’t a Consequence

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Youth Pastor Watch

One of the most amazing features on Slog, which I would read during my years in Seattle, was Youth Pastor Watch. As Dan Savage explains:

I started doing weekly YPW posts during the long-but-way-shorter-than-we-thought-it-would-be fight for marriage equality. Religious bigots were running all over the country claiming we had to protect the children from married same-sex couples because married gay couples would want to have kids and won’t someone please think of the children! These same religious bigots didn’t seem interested in protecting kids from the sexual predators in their own churches. They didn’t want to have a conversation about who was actually preying on vulnerable kids. They didn’t want anyone thinking about that. Et voilà, Youth Pastor Watch!

It went away for a while – the article I linked to explained why – but now it’s back, because, as Dan Savage explains:

Because trans men and women are already using restrooms all over the country and there isn’t a single case anti-trans bigots can cite to justify their anti-trans hate campaign—not a single case of trans women exploiting civil rights protections to prey on children in public restrooms—but the news is still full of stories about kids being raped in the churches they’re dragged to by their parents. Because children are actually safer in restrooms being used by trans men and women than they are in church basements, on church retreats, or during church youth groups. Because it’s something we need to bear in mind while pious shitstains like Ted Cruz—and the pious shitstains pushing an anti-trans ballot initiative here in Washington state—insist they’re just trying to protect the children.

A few final thoughts before we get to this week’s youth pastors: If kids got raped at Denny’s as often as they got raped at church, it would be illegal to take your kid to Denny’s. Trans urinators aren’t a danger to kids. Youth pastors are. And why focus just on youth pastors? Because when I included pastors, priests, Sunday school teachers, and church staff… these posts were way, way too long. I had to find a way to narrow the scope. So: youth pastors.

I just have to excerpt the two most recent entries, here and here. This is now (and was before) a once- or twice-weekly roundup on Slog.

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VIRGINIA: “The man who once led a church youth group has pleaded guilty to committing sex crimes against children he met through the organization. Jeffrey Clark, 46, entered a guilty plea on three counts of Aggravated Sexual Battery and two counts of Indecent Acts with Child by Custodian, Monday morning in a packed Colonial Heights courtroom. A judge sentenced Clark to 60 years in prison. Forty-seven years of that prison sentence was suspended. A 21-year-old college student, who said Clark abused him as a child, looked Clark in the eye when he told Clark the former youth group leader ruined his life…. Clark was arrested last summer when police said he inappropriately touched another boy at his Chester home.”

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ARIZONA: “The pastor of a church in Tolleson is condemning a youth leader who’s accused of having sex and doing drugs with a teen parishioner. Pastor Tony, as he’s known, has admitted to all of it and the girl’s father has the ‘sexts’ to back up the sickening stories. Robert Anthony Jerez is behind bars facing nine counts of sexual conduct with a minor and one count of sexual abuse…. The 35-year-old Jerez is accused in court documents of having sex with the girl 10 times from October of last year until this past January, using drugs and drinking with the girl at her house and sexting with her…. The documents show Jerez admits to having sex with an underage girl at least three times. Court documents reveal he knew the victim was underage.”

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TEXAS: “A Texas youth pastor who has been accused of sexually assaulting at least three kids was beaten up by good Samaritans as he molested a child last week. Willie Bell, 29, was caught in the act attacking a 6-year-old kindergarten student behind an apartment building in Dallas on March 31… Bell did not live at the apartment complex and did not know the child or the mother. ‘When I heard he is a student pastor, I’m like really?’ the mom told the station. ‘Who can you trust? Who can you believe?’ The youth pastor has also been accused of molesting two young boys in Cedar Hill in February while wearing ‘church shoes,’ according to the station.”

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ARKANSAS: “A Craighead County circuit judge has sentenced a former Jonesboro youth minister to two life sentences for rape, Prosecuting Attorney Scott Ellington of Jonesboro said. Anthony Waller, 39, of Marion was charged in November on two counts of rape after authorities found a ‘very large amount of child pornography’ on his computer, Ellington said. An arrest affidavit filed in Craighead County Circuit Court in November indicated that police found thousands of images…. Waller was the youth minister of Jonesboro First Assembly of God from 1999 to 2015. He was fired two days after the voyeurism charges were filed.”

And some more:

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MAINE: “A youth minister affiliated with a Canaan church has been charged with sexually abusing a young girl. Lucas Savage, 37, of Clinton was arrested Friday night and charged with unlawful sexual contact, said Stephen McCausland, spokesman for the Maine Department of Public Safety. Savage is director of ministries at Youth Haven Ministries in Canaan. That organization is affiliated with the Canaan Calvary Church, McCausland said. Savage was arrested in Mercer and taken to the Kennebec County Jail.”

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CALIFORNIA: “A 54-year-old Bay Area man who volunteered for a local church’s youth group was arraigned Wednesday on 30 charges of child molestation and possession of child pornography, officials said. All of the charges pertain to one victim, a man now in his late 20s, who recently came forward with allegations that he was sexually abused and shown child pornography between the ages of 5 and 12 by the defendant, Gregory Helfrich, of Los Altos Hills…. The suspect volunteered for the Abundant Life Christian Fellowship’s ‘SAFARI kids’ program in Mountain View.”

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OKLAHOMA: “A former Moore youth minister is behind bars Friday, accused of sending pornographic pictures and videos to several teens at his church. Casey Haynes is no longer employed as the youth minster at the Central Church of Christ…. Court documents say Haynes used the social media app Snapchat, to ‘[exchange] pictures and videos with at least four minors’ — teens who detectives say were part of Haynes’ youth group. One of the girls told the investigator, after a church youth event Haynes ‘put his hand under her shirt and grabbed her breast.’ ‘It’s unfortunate that we see a lot of this in the schools and now in churches. It’s someone you trust with your kids,’ said Sgt. Jeremy Lewis, Moore Police.”

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A Lasting Democratic Majority

Years ago, Karl Rove envisioned a “lasting Republican majority” – an enduring change in the political balance made, in part, though the initiatives of the Bush Presidency.

Now, after eight years of a Democratic Presidency and the likelihood of at least four more, we know that he failed.

But worse than that, the Republican party faces three severe demographic cliffs in the years ahead, which may doom the party to a role as a predominently Southern, regionalist electoral actor.

  1. The Age Cliff

People aged 69-86 are, according to the Pew Research Center, about four points more Republican than Democratic in their self-identification. This wouldn’t be a problem for Republicans if the rest of the population mirrored this advantage, because although this age group is dying off (as we all will, eventually), their mortality would have no net effect on voting behavior. Needless to say, this isn’t true. Millennial votes (ages 18-33) identify as Democrats by a whopping 16-point advantage.

  1. The Race and Gender Cliff

Trump will accelerate this particular cliff. One of Rove’s strategies for permanent Republican government was immigration reform, because Hispanics are the fastest-growing demographic group in the United States (as of 2010). In 2012, they voted for Barack Obama by a 71% – 27% margin, and that margin promises to grow in 2016. In absolute numbers, registration by Hispanics are also rapidly increasing – up an estimated 1.9 million since 2012.

Democrats also have massive advantages with African Americans, Asian voters, and this rapidly-increasing demographic group: unmarried women.

Single women are also becoming more and more powerful as a voting demographic. In 2012, unmarried women made up a remarkable 23 percent of the electorate. Almost a quarter of votes in the last presidential election were cast by women without spouses, up three points from just four years earlier. According to Page Gardner, founder of the Voter Participation Center, in the 2012 presidential election, unmarried women drove turnout in practically every demographic, making up “almost 40 percent of the African-American population, close to 30 percent of the Latino population, and about a third of all young voters.”

Perhaps more dramatically than any other voting block, un­married women — comprising as they do other liberal-voting groups including young women and women of color — lean left. Way left. Single women voted for Barack Obama by a wide margin in 2012 — 67 to 31 percent — while married women (who tend to be older and whiter) voted for Romney. And unmarried women’s political leanings are not, as has been surmised in some quarters, attributable solely to racial diversity. According to polling firm Lake Research Partners, while white women as a whole voted for ­Romney over Obama,unmarried white women chose Obama over Romney by a margin of 49.4 percent to 38.9 percent. In 2013, ­columnist Jonathan Last wrote about a study of how women ages 25 to 30 voted in the 2000 election. “It turned out,” Last wrote in The Weekly Standard, “that the marriage rate for these women was a greater influence on vote choice than any other variable.”

  1. The Hate Cliff

In many ways, Republicans are responding to these demographic challenges (and a complex array of other factors within their party) with unbridled hatred. Trump’s plan to build a wall between the US and Mexico to keep out Mexican “rapists” proved to be a winning message within the republican primary electorate – as did his call to end Muslim immigration to the US. State legislatures and local governments are passing a raft of measures designed to reduce access to women’s health care and reproductive services; North Carolina, Mississippi and Indiana have courted controversy by enabling discrimination against gays, lesbians, and transgendered individuals. Such overt, government-sanctioned discrimination, while apparently popular with some segments of the Republican base, is increasingly untenable to the population at large. Republicans increasingly risk indelibly tying their brand – the identity of their party – to hatred. This isn’t a winning strategy in the long-term with any demographic, but particularly not with younger voters.

  1. The Electoral College Cliff

Nineteen states (plus DC) have voted Democratic in every Presidential election since 1992; together, they now account for 242 electoral votes. Assuming the Democratic nominee continues to win them (which, at some point, will become a false assumption), that’s a massive advantage for Republicans to overcome.

A single US party hasn’t held power for more than 12 consecutive years since Democrats held the White House from 1932-1952. And Hillary’s record as President will play a determinative role in her 2020 re-election campaign, as will her health, the economy, and many other factors that are currently difficult to predict. But the factors I summarized above make it seem possible that Democrats may again hold the White House for an extended period of time.

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Millions Will Vote for This Man

And already have, for that matter. Here he is talking about the sexual aspects of his one-year-old-daughter:

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Toddlers With Guns

Per the Washington Post:

Last year, a Washington Post analysis found that toddlers were finding guns and shooting people at a rate of about one a week. This year, that pace has accelerated. There have been at least 23 toddler-involved shootings since Jan. 1, compared with 18 over the same period last year.

In the vast majority of cases, the children accidentally shoot themselves. That’s happened 18 times this year, and in nine of those cases the children died of their wounds.

Toddlers have shot other people five times this year. Two of those cases were fatal: this week’s incident in Milwaukee, and that of a 3-year-old Alabama boy who fatally shot his 9-year-old brother in February.

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On State-Owned Banks

North Dakota is unique in that it’s the only state in the nation with a state-run bank. And that bank isn’t just profitable – it’s helped prop up the entire economy in North Dakota, because in the wake of the 2008 financial collapse, it didn’t experience the credit freeze experienced by the rest of the country.

I vividly remember politicians at the time talking about the harrowing effect that credit freeze was having on the economy. Their solution? To incentivize lending by private banks, by infusing them with liquidity, buying securitized assets, and buying toxic assets. Even at the time, I remember feeling confused. If the economy depends on credit which isn’t being supplied by the free market, why couldn’t/shouldn’t the federal government do so itself? It could certainly do so at lower cost (no need to build in profit for private banks), possibly quicker, and (in hindsight) certainly more effectively (private banks remained gunshy for a long time; they weren’t compelled to extend private credit, and so they didn’t at the levels desired).

Essentially, the economy remained stagnant for much longer than necessary, and millions of people suffered, and the federal government wasted billions of dollars enriching the very people who caused the crisis, because the idea of a governmental bank was politically unpalatable.

Yet it makes so much sense. This article examines the difference that a state-owned bank would make for the state of California. An excerpt:

One option would be to fund critical infrastructure needs. Today California and other states deposit their revenues in Wall Street banks at minimal interest, then finance infrastructure construction and repair by borrowing from the Wall Street bond market at much higher interest. A general rule for government bonds is that they double the cost of projects, once interest is paid. California and other states could save these costs simply by being their own bankers and borrowing from themselves; and with their own chartered banks, they could do it while getting the same safeguards they are getting today with their Wall Street deposits and investments. The money might actually be safer in their own banks, which would not be subject to the bail-in provisions now imposed by the G-20’s Financial Stability Board on giant “systemically risky” banking institutions.

To envision the possibilities, let’s say California decided to fund its new bullet train through its state-owned bank. In 2008, Californians approved a bond issue of $10 billion as the initial outlay for this train, which was to run from Los Angeles to San Francisco. At then-existing interest rates, estimates were that by the time the bonds were paid off, California taxpayers would have paid an additional $9.5 billion in interest.

So let’s assume the $10 billion in available assets from the state-owned bank were used to repurchase these bonds. The state would have saved $9.5 billion, less the cost of funds.

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On Cynicism

I’ve only read a couple of her articles thus far, but I so enjoy the work of Rebecca Solnit. Here she deconstructs something that’s bothered me for a long time: cynicism, which is increasingly popular as a default posture in cinema, the media, and public discourse. My problem with it is similar to hers: it limits our ability to imagine and create the future that we want for ourselves.

Her article is well worth reading in its entirety, but here’s an excerpt:

Maybe it also says something about the tendency to oversimplify. If simplification means reducing things to their essentials, oversimplification tosses aside the essential as well. It is a relentless pursuit of certainty and clarity in a world that generally offers neither, a desire to shove nuances and complexities into clear-cut binaries. Naïve cynicism concerns me because it flattens out the past and the future, and because it reduces the motivation to participate in public life, public discourse, and even intelligent conversation that distinguishes shades of gray, ambiguities and ambivalences, uncertainties, unknowns, and opportunities. Instead, we conduct our conversations like wars, and the heavy artillery of grim confidence is the weapon many reach for.

Naïve cynics shoot down possibilities, including the possibility of exploring the full complexity of any situation. They take aim at the less cynical, so that cynicism becomes a defensive posture and an avoidance of dissent. They recruit through brutality. If you set purity and perfection as your goals, you have an almost foolproof system according to which everything will necessarily fall short. But expecting perfection is naïve; failing to perceive value by using an impossible standard of measure is even more so. Cynics are often disappointed idealists and upholders of unrealistic standards. They are uncomfortable with victories, because victories are almost always temporary, incomplete, and compromised — but also because the openness of hope is dangerous, and in war, self-defense comes first. Naïve cynicism is absolutist; its practitioners assume that anything you don’t deplore you wholeheartedly endorse. But denouncing anything less than perfection as morally compromising means pursuing aggrandizement of the self, not engagement with a place or system or community, as the highest priority.

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