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Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Comments

Jamie

I have to continue to disagree as I did in the Malcontent thread. I was not "throwing the word around" as he put it. Foley is a pedophile, and any hedging around that fact is merely a distraction from what he did: solicited minors for cybersex. If they're under 18, they're a minor, and that's pedophilia in my book. And no amount of hemming and hawing around "ephebophilia" is going to make one bit of difference to anyone except those who thrive on the most esoteric of arguments. It's a distinction not worth making. Saying that it "it is our game to lose if the definition of the word becomes too malleable, considering the specious association that is already made between gays and pedophilia." strikes me as a straw man argument--would it be any better if we were compared to "ephebophiles?" Any comparison between "gays" and "insert preferred term for child-sex offender here" is a hollow one, and should be pointed out as a non-sequitur at best.

Michael S

Ew.

Aatom

I think Jack's point, Jamie, and I'm inclined to agree with him, is that if we start using the word to describe things that we find unsettling, rather than use it only in the strictest legal sense of the term, then we are essentially doing the same thing to people that is commonly done to us, using it as a provocative smear word that weakens the term and opens the door to using it even less discriminantly. Foley's actions don't become less repugnant just because you respect the definitional limits of this term. And other descriptive terms work just as well to paint a picture of the kind of man that uses the power of his age and office to seduce young men. words like scum, filth, cockroach, douchebag, etc etc.

North Dallas Thirty

The reason that HRC chose Foley to fund, Aatom, was that he had an HRC score of 88 on the 2004 scorecard -- which, compared to Florida's seven Dem representatives, was worse than one, equal to one, and better than five of them. Remember, the man actually voted AGAINST the FMA and FOR several pieces of pro-gay legislation -- which is better than could be claimed for several Democrats.

Meanwhile, I am amazed to be in this position, but what HRC is doing actually makes sense. If they get involved in the Foley hubbub beyond making it clear that they do NOT support Foley's actions, they lend credence to the idea that being gay is somehow related to his pedophilia -- the LAST thing we want people to think. Indeed, reminding people of their endorsement may backfire; wingers can seize on that and Foley's voting record to claim that gays knew about him and were supporting him because he was one of them.

And as for the whole pedophile thing, I would be less concerned with smearing other people unnecessarily than I would be with backing into a PR nightmare. It's all well and good to say that sex and dirty talk with anyone under the age of 18 is pedophilia, bad for them, and should be immediately exposed and punished; however, people are going to start asking questions about such "gay rights" issues as parental notification bans for abortions. They may even start wondering why, if sex with the underaged is bad because teenagers are easily manipulated, emotionally immature, and can be scarred for life by it, why two teenagers having sex is any better than a teenager having sex with someone who IS of age. Do two wrongs suddenly make a right?

Aatom

good questions, NDT, and Sullivan posted the official HRC response on his site today, and they struck the right note mainly. I was being a bit cheeky when I asked why they made donations to Foley. I know how the system works, you spread money all over the place looking for friends and supporters. Politics always makes for strange bedfellows, just not usually this strange. I, like many others, was not even familiar with Foley before this news broke, so I'm not well-versed in the intricacies of his policy stances, or why he garnered support from various organizations, and it certainly isn't the fault of his backers that he did these things.

All in all, it's a dark day for American politics (for a lot of reasons) and no one is likely to emerge from this sordid affair a winner.

Jamie

And my point, Aatom, is that Jack's point is a false one. I've searched 6 dictionaries today and found only one of them that refers to puberty in regards to pedophilia. I wasn't throwing "pedophile" around like "scum, douchebag," etc. I was using it as I believe it applies: an adult who wants to have sex with children. And to me, and most of the people I've talked to, 16 is a child. As for the "legal" sense of the term, Vermont law, and Federal law (insofar as I could find) do NOT refer to pedophiles per se, but to "sex offenders" and "sex trafficers." And there is no federal age of consent. So it is really more of a social term than a legal one in any case, and your average man on the street doesn't know what the hell an "ephebophile" is. Sometimes I think we who style ourselves as "intellectuals" lose sight of that.

No, I just can't buy what Jack, and now you, apparently, are selling on this one. The man is a pedophile and if people are offended by me calling him that then I think they have their priorities in the wrong place.

Aatom

I think Victor Davis Hanson did a good job of resolving this academic point, Jamie, and I couldn't agree more with his conclusion:

"Pedophilia (“love of children”) is different from pederasty (“desire for boys”); each term uses the Greek prefix pais/paidion differently, since the Greek word can refer both to the generic “children” and the gender-specific “boy.” In addition, “—philia” is the more abstract “love” and covers any and all type of contacts, while the “-erast- root came to mean sexual union largely in a male context.

Why the distinction? It seems that Congressman Foley in not a pedophile as accused, but rather a classical pederast—that is, he is an active male homosexual interested mostly in adolescent boys rather than men his own age.

Republicans need to wise up: this is a losing issue since the public doesn’t really care whether the Democrats are hypocritical, using scandal for partisan advantage, or hysterical in seeking headlines: the facts determine the case: a US Congressman wrote sexually suggestive messages designed to entice an underage subordinate employee. End of story. All this is left to doubt now, is how much the Republicans will hurt themselves if they persist in whining about partianship rather than condemning pederastic flirting."

North Dallas Thirty

But the problem is, Aatom, that they HAVE condemned pederastic flirting, and pedarasty, and Foley.

At the same time, though, they've pointed out what I think is perfectly plausible; all on which they had to go was Foley's emails, which they got from the page's family in question, who wanted something to be done but didn't want to make a huge public deal out of it. Those emails, while a bit odd, are not exactly what you could call conclusive -- a point which the FBI has already made.

However, what Pelosi and the partisan Democrats are doing is trying to confuse the emails and the instant messages. I have zero doubt that if the IMs had been made known to House leadership at the same time as the emails, Foley would have been out on his ass immediately. But the simple fact of the matter is that they weren't.

Furthermore, as I've just blogged, several Democratic operatives -- Mike Rogers and John Aravosis in particular -- are bragging publicly that they knew about this Foley information "several months ago" and were feeding it to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. In fact, as Mike Rogers cluelessly reveals, the DCCC is scrubbing his posts in which he did reveal that info from their blog.

In short, what the Republicans are doing is asking Pelosi why if, not publicly releasing the information endangered children, SHE didn't do it. Her argument vaporizes if she is forced to admit that she knew, but held off for political purposes -- and then can be restated as her being willing to endanger children if it would get her re-elected.

Given that Foley resigned and House leadership universally condemned him, Repubs come off looking a LOT better in that scenario.

Aatom

hmm...i almost want to agree with you, NDT, but I think Hanson is right when he says the general public will flat out simply not care about the partisan parsing on this one. And the Dems would be wise to take the same advice: condemn, and move on.

North Dallas Thirty

Actually, Aatom, I wouldn't call it "partisan parsing".

From experience, I can tell you that, if Foley were one of my employees and I was given emails like he wrote by the family of one of my summer interns, along with their request to keep it as private as possible, I would react in exactly the same fashion as did House leaders. Since it is unwanted and relates to a coworker, I would confront the individual, make it clear that this was unacceptable, and insist that it stop immediately. My boss would probably know about it based on my reports, but it certainly wouldn't be something with which she was intimately involved, and she would only intervene if she smelled a problem.

However, there are limits to what I can do as an employer based on what an employee does on their personal time and especially when they're not using my equipment or workplace to do it. I can't demand they turn over their stuff at home; I have to go on their word. Furthermore, if the person being harassed is no longer a coworker (as in, wasn't still a page), my powers are at best limited. I have the right and duty to protect my employees from each other, but I can't automatically fire a person based on their off-duty behavior - unless I can prove that it has a material effect on my business -- without opening myself up to a significant lawsuit that I may or may not win. I sure as heck can't go screaming to the press about so-and-so being a pedophile.

If I had evidence that my employee was sending instant messages of the sort that Foley was either to a coworker OR using my computers, I'd put him on immediate leave, investigate, and then fire him if it could be confirmed. But if all I have are emails he sent to a former employee on his own computer, I'm very limited. In fact, my response would probably be to tell the family that this is a police matter. In most cases, I can't fire a guy for being investigated, arrested, or indicted unless I can prove it affects my business negatively or his ability to perform his job.

Now if you, who aren't the person's employer, finds out, there are no restraints of that sort. Provided you are willing to risk libel laws, you can run straight to the newspaper and proclaim to the world that so-and-so is a sicko.

Aatom

If political jobs existed in a vacuum, I would agree with all of that, NDT, but the truth of the matter is that a political party that bases part of its platform on condemning the behavior of others better have their own house in order or there will be political hell to pay. Which is why Foley should have never been encouraged to run again, as he was by Hastert & Co. And yes, in a strictly legalistic sense they had very little evidence to work with, but my sense of it is that there were very few people on Capitol Hill that didn't know that Foley was a creep. At that point, what the Dems do is pretty much irrelevent compared to how the GOP dealt with an obvious snake in their midst. And the answer is: they didn't deal with it. At all. It just puts a huge stain on their claim to some sort of higher moral ground on social issues, which may be the silver lining to this dark cloud.

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