Posted by Brad A. Greenberg
Thomas, who was considered the dean of the White House press corps, had come under fire since late last week when a YouTube video surfaced showing her saying that Israel should “get the hell out of Palestine,” and that the Jewish people should go home to “Poland, Germany … and America and everywhere else.”
In a posting on her website last Friday, Thomas apologized for her remarks. “They do not reflect my heart-felt belief that peace will come to the Middle East only when all parties recognize the need for mutual respect and tolerance. May that day come soon,” she wrote.
But the apology was not enough to silence critics who began a rising chorus of calls for Thomas either to be terminated or suspended by Hearst.
I’m sure plenty will find in this a Jewish conspiracy, though you can imagine the same consequences if Thomas had made an analogous comment about another minority group.
None of this should really matter much. I mean, when was the last time Helen Thomas was relevant? She’s like a caricature of old, crotchety liberal journalism. Joel Stein, whom I once competed against for a spot on “The Apprentice,” said it best:
Helen Thomas retires…. from what? Sitting through White House press conferences? Has anyone ever read a Helen Thomas story?
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June 7, 2010 | 10:18 am
Posted by Brad A. Greenberg
At least four Palestinian militants suspected by Israel of planning an attack by sea were killed near the Gaza coast early on Monday. The Israeli military said that an Israeli naval force spotted what it called a “squad of terrorists wearing diving suits” and fired on them, killing some of the suspects.
Palestinian medics said that four bodies had been retrieved, according to initial news reports from Gaza, and that one or two others may still be missing.
The Gaza branch of the Aksa Martyrs Brigades, a militant group nominally associated with the mainstream Fatah movement led by President Mahmoud Abbas, said the four were among its members. The group said they belonged to its marine unit and that they were training at the time they were hit.
The deaths came amid heightened tensions after Israel’s deadly naval commando raid on a Turkish ship bound for Gaza last week. Israel has enforced a strict naval blockade of Gaza, saying it is essential to stop weapons smuggling by Hamas, the Islamic militant group that controls the territory.
There are frequent clashes along the Israel-Gaza border, where militants from various groups try to lay bombs and fire rockets into southern Israel. Israel has also accused Hamas of building a series of tunnels close to the border, designed to facilitate infiltrations. But infiltration attempts by sea have been rarer.
The Israeli military said the militants in diving gear killed on Monday were “on their way to execute a terror attack,” but it did not offer details.
June 7, 2010 | 9:55 am
Posted by Brad A. Greenberg
I thought I had mentioned the story of little Ela Reyes, but I can’t seem to find it anywhere in this blog’s archives. In sum, her mother, Rebecca Shapiro, was Jewish and father, Joseph Reyes, had converted from Catholicism when they married. There was an ugly divorce that led to a restraining order, which led to the father being barred from taking his daughter to church.
Writing in the Washington Post yesterday, Naomi Schaefer Riley (whom I owe a column to tomorrow) picks up on this story as the lead in for an interesting column about the high failure rate of interfaith marriages. She writes:
The Reyes-Shapiro divorce is about as ugly as the end of a marriage can get. Some of the sparring is an example of the bad ways people act when a union unravels. But the fight over Ela’s religion illustrates the particular hardships and poor track record of interfaith marriages: They fail at higher rates than same-faith marriages. But couples don’t want to hear that, and no one really wants to tell them.
Figuring out how to raise the kids in a mixed-faith household is difficult. Religions, if taken seriously, are often mutually exclusive (not withstanding the argument of Reyes’s lawyer, who told me that taking Ela to church was not a violation of the court order because Jesus was a rabbi and “there is no sharp line between Judaism and Christianity”).
Most families work things out, peacefully deciding on one religion, both or neither. But the fact is that conflicts such as the one between Reyes and Shapiro will probably become more common.
According to the General Social Survey, 15 percent of U.S. households were mixed-faith in 1988. That number rose to 25 percent by 2006, and the increase shows no signs of slowing. The American Religious Identification Survey of 2001 reported that 27 percent of Jews, 23 percent of Catholics, 39 percent of Buddhists, 18 percent of Baptists, 21 percent of Muslims and 12 percent of Mormons were then married to a spouse with a different religious identification. If you want to see what the future holds, note this: Less than a quarter of the 18- to 23-year-old respondents in the National Study of Youth and Religion think it’s important to marry someone of the same faith. ...
But the effects on the marriages themselves can be tragic—it is an open secret among academics that tsk-tsking grandmothers may be right. According to calculations based on the American Religious Identification Survey of 2001, people who had been in mixed-religion marriages were three times more likely to be divorced or separated than those who were in same-religion marriages.
Knowing what we know about the wedges religion causes between people, whether internecine or interfaith, that failure rate shouldn’t be too surprisingly. You can read the rest of the column, “Interfaith marriages are rising fast, but they’re failing fast too,” here.
June 7, 2010 | 8:15 am
Posted by Brad A. Greenberg
The LA Times ran an interesting AP story last week about a plan to pack California’s trial courts with conservative Christians:
Vowing to be God’s ambassadors on the bench, the four San Diego Superior Court candidates are backed by pastors, gun enthusiasts, and opponents of abortion and same-sex marriages.
“We believe our country is under assault and needs Christian values,” said Craig Candelore, a family law attorney who is one of the group’s candidates. “Unfortunately, God has called upon us to do this only with the judiciary.”
The challenge is unheard of in California, one of 33 states to directly elect judges. Critics say the campaign is aimed at packing the courts with judges who adhere to the religious right’s moral agenda and threatens both the impartiality of the court system and the separation of church and state.
Opponents fear the June 8 race is a strategy that could transform courtroom benches just like some school boards, which have seen an increasing number of Christian conservatives win seats in cities across the country and push for such issues as prayer in classrooms.
“Any organization that wants judges to subscribe to a certain political party or certain value system or certain way of ruling to me threatens the independence of the judiciary,” San Diego County’s District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis said.
“Judges should be evaluated based on their qualifications and their duty to follow the law.”
As I explained at GetReligion, this story seems implausible for several reasons. To be sure, the effort by the Better Courts Now group is real and focused, but it’s unlikely to be effective. Why?
To start, these candidates, whose qualifications and politics are discussed later in the story, are running for spots on the superior court bench — the bottom of the judicial totem pole.
They rarely would hear gun rights, abortion or same-sex marriage cases. More importantly, their opinions would be bound by higher court rulings (California Court of Appeals and the state Supreme Court for state law; the Ninth Circuit and U.S. Supreme Court for issues of federal law). If they ignored common law, their decisions would be reversed on appeal.
That would be a headache, no doubt, but not a threat to American courts in general.
Read the rest here.
June 6, 2010 | 4:47 pm
Posted by Brad A. Greenberg
Talk about a sticky situation.
Family Research Council has spent years fighting the gay rights movement. And when Congress moved to pass a resolution condemning a Uganda law authorizing capital punishment for homosexual acts, the resolution included sweeping language about homosexuality being an internationally recognized human right. So what was FRC to do?
Lobby against the language of the resolution—though there was unquestionably a problem with the optics of such an action. This resulted in some strong condemnations from gay media organizations and bloggers like Joe My God:
It’s time for the Southern Poverty Law Center to reclassify the Family Research Council as an official hate group, not merely anti-gay as they are now listed. According to the FRC’s official lobbying report for the first quarter of 2010, they paid two of their henchmen $25,000 to lobby Congress against approving a resolution denouncing Uganda’s plan to execute homosexuals. The resolution passed in the Senate on April 13th, but remains languishing in the House almost four months after being referred to the Foreign Affairs Committee. Did the FRC’s lobbying kill it? As we learned last week with Malawi, international pressure CAN sway even the most virulently anti-gay government.
After seeing this post, I was a bit shocked too. So was the Washington Post’s David Weigel. But FRC’s explanation, whether or not you support their position, makes a lot of sense.
Spokesman J.P. Duffy released this statement:
Inaccurate internet reports have been circulating indicating that the Family Research Council lobbied “against” a congressional resolution condemning a bill proposed in Uganda. The Uganda bill would have provided for the death penalty for something called “aggravated homosexuality.” Unfortunately, those spreading these false rumors deliberately failed to obtain the facts first.
FRC did not lobby against or oppose passage of the congressional resolution. FRC’s efforts, at the request of Congressional offices, were limited to seeking changes in the language of proposed drafts of the resolution, in order to make it more factually accurate regarding the content of the Uganda bill, and to remove sweeping and inaccurate assertions that homosexual conduct is internationally recognized as a fundamental human right.
FRC does not support the Uganda bill, and does not support the death penalty for homosexuality—nor any other penalty which would have the effect of inhibiting compassionate pastoral, psychological and medical care and treatment for those who experience same-sex attractions or who engage in homosexual conduct.
June 6, 2010 | 2:44 pm
Posted by Brad A. Greenberg
If you love John Wooden—and why wouldn’t you?—then, like me, you have probably read more obits and watched more tributes in the past two days than you can remember. (You may have missed was the Los Angeles Times’ obit if you still subscribe to the print edition. Yikes.) Sports Illustrated’s Alex Wolff had a colossal column on Wooden’s amazing life that was among the must reads:
If death had granted him a moment’s reprieve to convey the sentiment, John Wooden would have declared his passing on June 4, 2010, at age 99, as a joyous transit. After the loss of his wife of 53 years, Nell, in March of 1985, the old UCLA coach came to regard life as essentially time to bide until he might be with her again. He had encamped with Nell at the Final Four, first as a conquering coach and then as a conventioneering one; but without her he couldn’t bring himself even to go. For his first years as a widower Wooden slept atop the covers of their bed so as not to have to slip beneath them alone.
Coaching colleagues and former players had pleaded with him to re-engage with the game, to no avail, until 1989, when a number of them prepared to stage what the 12-steppers call an intervention. Of course it seemed outrageous for anyone to dispense advice to John Wooden. That spring I nonetheless joined in, writing a survey of his life through age 79, marbling it with the homiletic precepts behind the 10 NCAA titles UCLA won between 1964 and 1975, using Wooden’s own philosophy as a kind of prod. One of those sayings seemed particularly apt. “Avoid the peaks and the valleys,” he had told his teams, urging them neither to exult in victory nor sulk in defeat. He made a point of calling timeouts late in all those championship games, to remind his players to keep their emotional keel. My piece ended with this impertinence: “Before this extraordinary life gets played out, before the buzzer sounds, won’t someone please call timeout to remind him? He has taught so many of us such wonderful lessons. He has one more lesson, his own, to study up on.”
I might as well have taken that issue of Sports Illustrated, rolled it up, brandished it sternly and said, “Goodness gracious sakes alive, man-get over it!”
When UCLA hired John Wooden as its basketball coach in 1948, the school’s all-time record stood at 291-291. Yet the Bruins had enjoyed only three winning seasons in the 21 years before his arrival, so their accomplishments that first season, beating Cal for the league title despite having lost three starters and being picked to finish last, delighted the campus. Over the next 14 seasons that satisfaction broadened: The Bruins won eight division or conference championships and racked up winning records every time out. Still, Wooden was 55, 16 years into his tenure at UCLA, before a team of his won an NCAA crown. The first three times his Bruins qualified for the NCAA tournament they didn’t get out of the first round. Today, the message boards and talk show hosts would have taken him down a decade before he could have bagged his first.
Wooden believes that “six or seven” of those early teams might have won national championships—“not should have,” he wrote in his autobiography, They Call Me Coach, “but could have.” All they lacked were luck and timing. In 1952, on the eve of the conference title game, Don Bragg, the team’s leading scorer, broke his toe on a box of foot powder as he left the shower. The only player in Wooden’s first 15 years in Westwood to stick as a pro, Willie Naulls, happened to play between 1953 and ‘56, precisely when Bill Russell reigned at the University of San Francisco. No sooner had Russell left than UCLA’s football team became enmeshed in a conference-wide pay-for-play scandal, with the three years’ probation applying to all sports. Then came Cal and its Hall of Fame coach, Pete Newell; though Wooden had defeated him seven times in a row, beginning in 1957 the Golden Bears turned the tables, eventually taking eight straight from the Bruins and a pair of NCAA titles along the way.
Yet just as Wooden the widower would eventually learn to embrace life again through his great-grandchildren, Wooden the coach steadily became more and more open to change. For all his apparent inflexibility—it’s called the Pyramid, not the Tarpaper Shack, of Success, after all—he came to question his methods. He sat in on a psychology class on campus. From studying Newell he learned the virtues of patience and simplicity. He concluded that he didn’t want yes-men as assistants, and sometimes even courted conflict with players because he believed a worthwhile lesson might emerge from the clash. He asked other coaches to scout his team and share their judgments. And he would spend each offseason poring over the meticulous records he kept of his practices, wondering what he might do differently.
In the spring of 1960, after a 14-12 season that would turn out to be his worst at UCLA, Wooden reassessed everything. He concluded that his teams tended to fade late in the season, and wondered if he worked them too hard. Moreover, when circumstances forced him to substitute, he sensed that the reserves didn’t mesh well with the starters. A single tweak to his practice plan—he began rotating reserves into the first five more often during scrimmages—solved both problems. Two years later the Bruins reached the national semifinals, where they suffered a two-point loss to the eventual champions, Cincinnati, after a last-minute charging call so controversial that more than 300 letters of sympathy poured into the Bruins’ basketball office.
Preposterous as it may now sound, winning per se was never the yardstick, even as the Bruins reached that doorstep. As Doug McIntosh, the backup center on the 1964 team, told Sports Illustrated: “The word ‘win’ never escaped his lips. Literally. He just asked us to play to our potential.”
Many of the remembrances forgot to discuss how central Christian was to Wooden’s success—it really was the foundation for his coaching philosophy.
This comes through in some of the quotes from former players and in Rick Reilly’s talk with Wooden, which, though I’ve posted it before, is worth watching again and is after the jump:
June 6, 2010 | 12:28 pm
Posted by Brad A. Greenberg
You might recall this post from last June about Egypt’s plan to strip citizenship from any Egyptian who married an Israeli. That effort is one step closer to fruition after an appellate court upheld the ruling to strip citizenship:
In upholding last year’s lower court ruling, the appeals court said Saturday that the Interior Ministry should present each marriage case to the Cabinet on an individual basis. The Cabinet will then rule on whether to strip the Egyptian of his citizenship.
The court also said officials should take into consideration whether a man married an Israeli Arab or a Jew when making its decision to revoke citizenship.
Saturday’s decision, which cannot be appealed, comes more than year after a lower court ruled that the Interior Ministry, which deals with citizenship documents, must implement the 1976 article of the citizenship law. That bill revokes citizenship of Egyptians who married Israelis who have served in the army or embrace Zionism as an ideology. The Interior Ministry appealed that ruling.
The lawyer who brought the original suit to court, Nabih el-Wahsh, celebrated Saturday’s ruling, saying it “is aimed at protecting Egyptian youth and Egypt’s national security.”
Suffice to say, that line of reasoning would not stand the test of scrutiny that an American court would apply. But, then again, Egypt is more a pseudo-democracy than a bastion of civil liberties.
It appears the decision applies equally to Israeli Arabs and Jews, so religion is not the deciding factor. Bad blood between two neighbors in a tense truce is.
June 6, 2010 | 9:38 am
Posted by Brad A. Greenberg
I’m working today on a Houses of Worship column for the Wall Street Journal, so it’s fitting that I thought this WSJ column from my GetReligion colleague Mollie Hemingway was worth mentioning.
To be sure, I have a soft-spot for Mollie’s line of logic. But her premise here—the headline: “More Emphasis on Confessing Might Have Helped”—should persuade most everyone willing to face the facts about the clergy sex abuse scandal:
Some reform-minded Catholics have suggested that required celibacy contributed to the problem, causing priests to exploit minors for sexual gratification. Some traditional Catholics say the Second Vatican Council’s window-opening reforms led to relaxed enforcement of old church rules that would have kept priests in line.
But church leaders on both sides have agreed on at least one of reasons that clergymen known to be offenders were able to continue their pattern of abuse: an over-reliance on psychologists who advised bishops that perpetrators could be treated and returned to parish ministry.
In its 2004 report on the U.S. clergy sexual-abuse crisis, the National Review Board for the Protection of Children and Young People said that psychological treatment facilities must shoulder some of the blame for frequently recommending that abusers be returned to a parish after treatment. “Indeed, a few treating physicians actually told bishops that returning a priest-perpetrator to ministry was a necessary part of that priest’s recovery,” the Board found.
The report also blames bishops for withholding damaging information about troubled priests from psychiatrists and seeking out lenient treatment centers. The idea that a problem priest didn’t need to be removed from ministry but could be cured of his attraction to adolescents with a bit of group therapy and in-patient treatment was welcome news to some bishops.
So how did the church go from flogging child abusers to shipping them off for a relaxing stay at a treatment facility? The work of Dr. Francis Braceland, a past president of the American Psychiatric Association who was named a knight by Pope Pius XII, did much to ease some of the early anxiety the church had with the emerging field of mental health.
Read the rest here.