Penn State’s punishment

The NCAA did not kill off completely Penn State’s football program, as was widely expected, but the sanctions for the child sexual abuse scandal and its coverup were pretty harsh:

NCAA President Mark Emmert made the announcement Monday morning that the program would be hit with a four-year postseason ban and a $60 million fine. He called the case “unprecedented.”

In addition, the school will be forced to cut 10 scholarships for this season and 20 scholarships for the following four years.

The move essentially bumps Penn State down to the scholarship levels of schools at the lower Football Championship Subdivision.

The school will be forced to vacate all wins from 1998-2011, a total of 112 victories, and serve five years of probation.

The loss of victories means Joe Paterno is no longer college football’s winningest coach. He was fired in November during the scandal after 409 wins at the school.

Because of the length of the punishment, all current Penn State players and incoming freshman will be free to transfer to another school without penalty.

Is this an example of completely justified outrage taking the place of justice?  Normally, guilty individuals are punished, and surely those who knew about Coach Jerry Sandusky’s sex with little boys and did nothing about it need to be called to account.  But the Penn State players, students, and alumni didn’t know what was going on.  Why are they being punished?  Or is there corporate guilt, in which every member of an institution has a share in its transgressions?

If part of the problem in the cover up was the cultural climate of football uber alles, the corporate guilt would extend far beyond Penn State, to big time football universities as a whole and to the NCAA itself.

Also, is the NCAA acting beyond its jurisdiction?  Penn State did not violate any of the rules that the NCAA is supposed to enforce (such as recruiting violations, paying players, and the like).   Isn’t child abuse a matter for the criminal justice system and civil courts to take care of, rather than a sports organization?

And what kind of punishment is it to forfeit 13 years worth of games that have already been played?  It isn’t as if an ineligible player contributed to illicit victories that might otherwise be losses if it were not for the infraction.  How does that punishment have to do with the crime?

Don’t get me wrong:  I am repulsed by what happened at Penn State and want it addressed in the strongest possible way.  I just don’t understand the  NCAA action.  What would be better?

The “dancing boys” of Afghanistan

A custom of Afghanistan that our intervention has helped bring back into vogue, despite the moralism of Islam:

The 9-year-old boy with pale skin and big, piercing eyes captivated Mirzahan at first sight.

“He is more handsome than anyone in the village,” the 22-year-old farmer said, explaining why he is grooming the boy as a sexual partner and companion. There was another important factor that made Waheed easy to take on as a bacha bazi, or a boy for pleasure: “He doesn’t have a father, so there is no one to stop this.”

A growing number of Afghan children are being coerced into a life of sexual abuse. The practice of wealthy or prominent Afghans exploiting underage boys as sexual partners who are often dressed up as women to dance at gatherings is on the rise in post-Taliban Afghanistan, according to Afghan human rights researchers, Western officials and men who participate in the abuse.

“Like it or not, there was better rule of law under the Taliban,” said Dee Brillenburg Wurth, a child-protection expert at the U.N. mission in Afghanistan, who has sought to persuade the government to address the problem. “They saw it as a sin, and they stopped a lot of it.”

Over the past decade, the phenomenon has flourished in Pashtun areas in the south, in several northern provinces and even in the capital, according to Afghans who engage in the practice or have studied it. Although issues such as women’s rights and moral crimes have attracted a flood of donor aid and activism in recent years, bacha bazi remains poorly understood.

The State Department has mentioned the practice — which is illegal here, as it would be in most countries — in its annual human rights reports. The 2010 report said members of Afghanistan’s security forces, who receive training and weapons from the U.S.-led coalition, sexually abused boys “in an environment of criminal impunity.”

But by and large, foreign powers in Afghanistan have refrained from drawing attention to the issue. . . .

Boys who become bachas are seen as property, said Jawad, the human rights researcher. Those who are perceived as being particularly beautiful can be sold for tens of thousands of dollars. The men who control them sometimes rent them out as dancers at male-only parties, and some are prostituted.

“This is abuse,” Jawad said. “Most of these children are not willing to do this. They do this for money. Their families are very poor.”

Although the practice is thought to be more widespread in conservative rural areas, it has become common in Kabul. Mohammed Fahim, a videographer who films the lavish weddings in the capital, estimated that one in every five weddings he attends in Kabul features dancing boys.

Authorities are well aware of the phenomenon, he said, as he played a video of a recent party that featured an underage boy with heavy makeup shaking his shoulders seductively as men sitting on the floor clapped and smiled.

“Police come because they like it a lot,” Fahim said, referring to parties with dancing boys.

When the boys age beyond their prime and get tossed aside, many become pimps or prostitutes, said Afghan photojournalist Barat Ali Batoor, who spent months chronicling the plight of dancing boys. Some turn to drugs or alcohol, he said.

“In Afghan society, if you are raped or you are abused, you will not have space in society to live proudly,” he said.

When Batoor completed his project on dancing boys, he assumed that nongovernmental organizations would be eager to exhibit his work and raise awareness of the issue. To his surprise, none were.

“They said: ‘We don’t want to make enemies in Afghanistan,’ ” he said, summarizing the general response.

via Afghanistan’s ‘dancing boys’ are invisible victims – The Washington Post.

Child abuse, firings, and riots at Penn State

In the aftermath of the child sexual abuse perpetrated by football coach Jerry Sandusky, Penn State fired both legendary head coach Joe Paterno AND the college president Graham Spanier.  Whereupon students went on a riot:

Happy Valley was in bedlam early today as angry, chanting students ran amok in a bizarre climax to an unforgettable day that ended with the unthinkable: the firing of football legend Joe Paterno.

Chanting “Joe Pa-ter-no!” and “One More Game!” students raced to the stately Old Main administration building to express their anger that the winningest coach in major-college football history was out – fallout from the child-sex scandal involving his former top assistant, Jerry Sandusky.

More than 1,000 students rioted and rallied at Old Main and on frat-house-lined Beaver Avenue. Riot cops, fire trucks and ambulances were on hand after midnight, amid reports that tear gas was being used to disperse the crowd.

Demonstrators overturned a TV news van, toppled street lights, shook stop signs and threw toilet paper. From rooftops and in the streets, they yelled “F— Sandusky!” and “We Want JoePa!”

The campus chaos began shortly after 10 p.m. with the announcement by the board of trustees that Paterno, 84, who had said earlier in the day that he would retire at the end of the season, was instead fired over the phone and denied a chance to end his career on the playing field.

The trustees also accepted a letter of resignation from longtime president Graham Spanier, who was making $800,000 a year at the end of a 16-year run in which he’d raised the academic profile of the state’s largest academic institution.

As for reports of campus unrest at Paterno’s ouster, John Surma, vice chairman of the board of trustees, said he hoped everyone would realize that the board’s action was for the best: “Because of the difficulties that engulfed our university – and they are grave – it was necessary to make a change in leadership.”

It was the shock-and-awe conclusion to a day of bombshells that made Penn State’s hometown feel less like a bucolic mountainside oasis of pigskin-flavored academia and more like a foreign capital in the throes of revolution.

via Bedlam erupts on Penn State campus | Philadelphia Daily News | 11/10/2011.

From this news report, it appears that some of the students were rioting in support of Paterno, while others may have been rioting over the sexual abuse.  So people with opposite causes were rioting together.  How monstrous this all is.

Catholicism’s secret sins

I’m not a Sinead O’Connor fan, but the Irish singer–notorious for tearing up a picture of Pope John Paul on “Saturday Night Live” some years ago–has written a scathing op-ed piece on the priest child-molestation scandal coming out  in Ireland.  She herself says that she was misused in her childhood in a Catholic reform schools, though apparently not sexually.  She does not accept the current pope’s apology:

Benedict’s apology gives the impression that he heard about abuse only recently, and it presents him as a fellow victim: “I can only share in the dismay and the sense of betrayal that so many of you have experienced on learning of these sinful and criminal acts and the way Church authorities in Ireland dealt with them.” But Benedict’s infamous 2001 letter to bishops around the world ordered them to keep sexual abuse allegations secret under threat of excommunication — updating a noxious church policy, expressed in a 1962 document, that both priests accused of sex crimes and their victims “observe the strictest secret” and be “restrained by a perpetual silence.”

via To Sinead O’Connor, the pope’s apology for sex abuse in Ireland seems hollow – washingtonpost.com.

I remember coming across a quotation from a bishop who said that we just didn’t realize back then how traumatic this kind of sexual contact from a priest would be for children! Critics are pointing out that the church authorities treated a priest molesting children as a moral matter, rather than as a criminal matter. They should have called the police. Instead, they imposed silence.

Is there any way to mitigate these charges?


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