FRIDAY CAT BLOGGING
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Friday, July 31, 2009
Thursday, July 30, 2009
SHREDDING DEMOCRAT ARGUMENTS AGAINST PROSECUTING TORTURE
From Salon, courtesy of Eschaton:
CT: We have elections, we also had an election where this was an issue. A new president, who came in there, and has said, we're not going to torture, we're going to do this, and we're going to do this--
GG: What do you think should happen when presidents--
CT: Is that not enough? Isn't that enough?
GG: When, generally, if I go out and rob a bank tomorrow, what happens to me is not that I lose an election. What happens is to me is that I go to prison. So, what do you think should happen when presidents get caught committing crimes in office? What do you think ought to happen?
CT: You see, this is where, this is not - you cannot sit here and say this is as legally black and white as a bank robbery because this was an ideological, legal --
GG: A hundred people died in detention. A hundred people. The United States Government admits that there are homicides that took place during interrogations. Waterboarding and these other techniques are things that the United States has always prosecuted as torture.
Until John Yoo wrote that memo, where was the lack of clarity about whether or not these things were illegal? Where did that lack of clarity or debate exist? They found some right-wing ideologues in the Justice Department to say that this was okay, that's what you're endorsing. As long the president can do that, he's above the law. And I don't see how you can say that you're doing anything other than endorsing a system of lawlessness where the president is free to break the law?
Click here to read or listen to the rest.
This is from a discussion between Constitutional lawyer Glenn Greenwald and NBC News political director Chuck Todd. Todd takes the Democratic establishment line on prosecuting Bush administration figures who justified and ordered the shameful and deeply immoral torture regime that began shortly after 9/11: all that happened in the past; we have a new administration now; going after these people would be politically impossible and would tear the nation apart, to boot. Greenwald essentially takes my point of view: if we don't prosecute the torturers, law and morality are both meaningless in the United States.
As far as I can tell, there is no real response, anywhere, to Greenwald's argument. I mean, the Democrat line is, in essence, that lots of bad things will happen if we prosecute, but they don't say a word about the actual legal issues, other than acknowledging that such issues exist, and there is simply no attempt to wrestle with the very real moral consequences of allowing America to torture people. In other words, all the Democrats have is evasion. Greenwald wins simply because his opponent refuses to actually argue with him.
To be fair, the Republicans have yet another point of view, but theirs would be laughable if the stakes here weren't so high. Conservatives argue that torture is actually legal, or that what the Bush administration did wasn't actually torture, or that torture is okay when it produces results.
Personally, I don't think I need to dignify those "arguments" by responding to them. But what the hell. Torture is not legal. What the Bush administration did was torture. The ends don't justify the means, especially when it involves the deliberate infliction of pain and suffering on helpless human beings.
Anyway, go check out the debate. It's got the kind of clarity we rarely see in the mainstream media.
Posted by Ron at 10:12 PM
Wednesday, July 29, 2009
THE SQUIRE OF GOTHOS
"I object to you. I object to intellect without discipline. I object to power without constructive purpose." - Spock to Trelane
"The Squire of Gothos" is an episode of Star Trek. It was first broadcast by NBC on January 12, 1967 and repeated on June 22, 1967. It is episode #17, production #18, and was written by Paul Schneider, and directed by Don McDougall.
Overview: A powerful being torments the crew of the Enterprise.
This is easily the gayest episode in all of Star Trek. It's also what makes it great. No, I'm not kidding. B-movie actor William Campbell who plays the villain Trelane was, according to his Wikipedia page, consciously attempting to parody flamboyant pianist Liberace--despite the fact that Liberace continuously denied being gay, even while he was dying of AIDS in the mid 80s, his well known stage persona made him out to be the Biggest Queen Ever. So just imagine Kirk and crew matching wits with an evil, laughing, flaming, nineteenth century European general dressed in military drag. Because that's what you get in "The Squire of Gothos." Trelane is one of the greatest science fiction bad guys of all time.
The episode's also full of great quotable Star Trek quotes, like Spock's above. Here's another, this time from Trelane: "Where are your weapons? Don't you display your weapons?" God, I fucking love this one.
Check it out:
Posted by Ron at 10:42 PM
Tuesday, July 28, 2009
Harry Potter and the Pint of Liquid Courage
From a New York Times health blog, courtesy of Eschaton:
In one scene, Harry, Ron and Hermione order butterbeers at the pub, and Hermione ends up with a frothy mustache. While it’s never been entirely clear whether butterbeer is alcoholic, it seems to have an effect on the normally uptight Hermione, who acts tipsy walking home as she throws her arms around the boys.
As the mother of a 10-year-old Harry Potter fan, I was taken aback by the reaction of the young people in the theater. They snickered at Hermione’s goofy grin and, later, guffawed when an inebriated Hagrid passed out. While I don’t think my daughter fully understood what was going on, I wondered how other parents, educators and addiction experts would react.
Liz Perle, a mother of two teenage boys and the editor in chief of Common Sense Media, which reviews books, movies and Web content aimed at children, said she was bothered by so many scenes showing alcohol as a coping mechanism.
“Hermione is such a tightly wound young lady, but she’s liberated by some butterbeer,” she said. “The message is that it gives you liquid courage to put your arms around the guy you really like but are afraid to.”
Click here for the rest.
Oh, for crying out loud!
I fully understand that addiction and alcoholism are important issues, especially in relation to young people, just as I understand that both children and adults are influenced by what they see in movies and on television. But this is fucking Harry Potter, for chrissakes, and teenagers, after all, really do get drunk in the real world. And...
I'm so sick of these concern trolls. I think the best response to this crap is just a simple "go fuck yourselves." It's not like we're talking about Easy Rider or anything along those lines. I mean, it's Harry Potter...
Must everything be a part of the grand debate about what children should and should not be exposed to? Must we sanitize the whole fucking world because certain parents are paranoid assholes? Frankly, as Atrios over at Eschaton asserts, portraying Harry Potter doing things that boys his age tend to do is good. More life like, more believable. Makes for a better story.
Fuck man, even Bart Simpson got drunk once: "What are you looking at?"
Posted by Ron at 10:32 PM
Monday, July 27, 2009
12 and in Prison
From the New York Times editorial board:
According to the study, every state allows juveniles to be tried as adults, and more than 20 states permit preadolescent children as young as 7 to be tried in adult courts.
This is terrible public policy. Children who are convicted and sentenced as adults are much more likely to become violent offenders — and to return to an adult jail later on — than children tried in the juvenile justice system.
Despite these well-known risks, policy makers across the country do not have reliable data on just how many children are being shunted into the adult system by state statutes or prosecutors, who have the discretion to file cases in the adult courts.
But there is reasonably reliable data showing juvenile court judges send about 80 children ages 13 and under into the adult courts each year. These statistics explode the myth that those children have committed especially heinous acts.
The data suggest, for example, that children 13 and under who commit crimes like burglary and theft are just as likely to be sent to adult courts as children who commit serious acts of violence against people. As has been shown in previous studies, minority defendants are more likely to get adult treatment than their white counterparts who commit comparable offenses.
Of course, I thoroughly agree with the point the Times is making here. We send too many children into the adult prison population, in flawed and sometimes racist judicial processes that vary wildly from state to state. If you've been reading Real Art for a while, you already know that I believe US prisons are such heinous torture chambers that I've effectively disqualified myself from ever serving on a jury for a criminal trial, so of course I'm opposed to sending children there, just as I'm opposed to sending adults there.
I mean okay, I understand that we need to keep murderers and child molesters off the streets; I just don't think we should expose convicts to rape, or HIV, or substandard medical care, or racist violence urged on by guards and wardens. I think we should treat prisoners decently. I think we should do our damnedest to rehabilitate criminals, even if we might not ever completely succeed with most of them. The prison system we have now doesn't even pretend to do any of that. It's bad enough that we send adults into the system we have, but a thousand times worse sending children there.
So why does the Times dance around the real issue here? That is, why do we sometimes try children as adults? For that matter, why do we have separate judicial systems for adults and children?
As far as I can tell, we have a juvenile judicial system because society collectively believes that children, intellectually and emotionally underdeveloped as they necessarily are, cannot possibly understand concepts like responsibility or consequences in the way that adults do; society also believes that children are essentially unfinished books, that, unlike adults, children can be saved from a life of crime if we intervene quickly and intensely. So far so good, I can't say that I disagree with much of that rationale. Why, then, do we throw all that out the window from time to time and throw kids into the adult judicial system? To be honest, I don't really know.
It seems that when children commit crimes that shock the conscience, society stops thinking clearly and screams for blood. That is, we throw ten year old murderers in with hardened criminals because we lust for vengeance. On the other hand, the study quoted by the Times strongly suggests that underage thieves get hard time, too, so it can't simply be about irrational urges for revenge.
Either way, it's fucked up. Children really are emotionally and intellectually underdeveloped relative to adults. Children cannot possibly be held to the same level of accountability to which we hold adults. (And, just to fan the flames a bit, the age of eighteen is a rather arbitrary cutoff point when considering these issues: the human brain is not fully developed until an individual is in his mid twenties or so; that is, people are not cognitively, emotionally, and biologically mature until their late twenties.) At any rate, I praise the Times for taking a stand on this, but they didn't go far enough.
We should never try children as adults. Ever. There's just no civilized point in doing so.
Posted by Ron at 11:46 PM
Sunday, July 26, 2009
Fla. town employee fired over porn actress wife
From the AP via the Houston Chronicle:
The mayor of a small southwest Florida town on Thursday defended the town council's decision to fire its city manager after officials learned his wife is an adult film actress.
Fort Myers Beach Mayor Larry Kiker insisted that Scott Janke's termination had nothing to do with his spouse's job, that the town was merely trying to maintain order.
"What we were addressing was a situation where we weren't going to be able to govern the town with all the disruption and interruption," Kiker said.
The plan appears to have backfired.
"I've done over 30 interviews (with media) ... I've gotten hundreds of e-mails, we're getting threatened," Kiker said. "Nobody is getting any work done around here."
Councilman Tom Babcock said at a council meeting Wednesday that Janke was fired because his wife's profession brought an inaccurate image to Fort Myers Beach, the News-Press of Fort Myers reported.
"When you become a public figure you are held to a different level of scrutiny and ethics," Babcock said at the meeting.
So you've got the mayor insisting it has nothing to do with Janke's wife and a city council member saying that it does. Obviously, the city council guy is willing to tell the truth, and I wonder why Kiker feels like he's got to spin this--I mean c'mon, what's the difference between fired because your wife is a porn star and fired because being married to a porn star will cause controversy? I guess the former is about Puritanical morals and the latter is about pragmatism. Whatever. They amount to the same thing, no matter how thinly you slice it.
This is part of a disturbing trend, on which I've written here at Real Art several times over the last three years or so. Or maybe it's not a trend; maybe this kind of story is getting better press coverage, and maybe it's actually getting rarer. Who knows? Either way, this is lame, and reeks of nineteenth century Victorianism. What good was the twentieth century if we can't hang loose a bit during off hours? It's not like Janke's breaking the law or anything, not like my Senator, David Vitter, who slept with prostitutes privately while pushing "family values" publicly. Why does Vitter get to keep his job and Janke doesn't?
This is all such bullshit.
Even though Janke apparently had a fire-at-will clause in his contract, according to the Free Speech Coalition and the ACLU, says the above linked article, the poor guy's got some options as far as litigation goes. Okay, I say "poor guy" even though he's married to a hot porn star, but losing your job because the local government doesn't want to be associated, however loosely, with porn, is not a desirable situation. Heh. I said "loosely." Anyway, best of luck to Janke. He's been railroaded.
Posted by Ron at 10:13 PM
Saturday, July 25, 2009
Obama moves to dampen uproar over comment on race
From the AP via the Houston Chronicle:
"This has been ratcheting up, and I obviously helped to contribute ratcheting it up," Obama said of the racial controversy. "I want to make clear that in my choice of words, I think I unfortunately gave an impression that I was maligning the Cambridge Police Department and Sgt. Crowley specifically. And I could've calibrated those words differently."
The president did not back down from his contention that police had overreacted by arresting the Harvard professor for disorderly conduct after coming to his home to investigate a possible break-in. He added, though, that he thought Gates, too, had overreacted to the police who questioned him. The charge has been dropped.
Obama stirred up a hornet's nest when he said at a prime-time news conference this week that Cambridge police had "acted stupidly" by arresting Gates, a friend of the president's. Still, Obama said Friday he didn't regret stepping into the controversy and hoped the matter would end up being a "teachable moment" for the nation.
"The fact that this has garnered so much attention, I think, is testimony to the fact that these are issues that are still very sensitive here in America," Obama said.
Obama, who has come under intense criticism from police organizations, said he had called Crowley to clear the air, and said the conversation confirmed his belief that the sergeant is an "outstanding police officer and a good man."
White House press secretary Robert Gibbs refused to say whether Obama had apologized to Crowley.
Cambridge police moved to drop the disorderly conduct charge on Tuesday — without apology, but calling the case "regrettable."
A couple of observations.
First, racial profiling, disproportionate arrests and convictions of African-Americans, and straight-up police brutality toward blacks continue to be commonplace, despite this post-racial era in which we now supposedly live. In this context, the arrest of a black man for "disorderly conduct," inside his own home, after it had been proven beyond any doubt that the supposed crime for which the police were called had not taken place, has all the appearance of being racially motivated in some way, if not actually an instance of racial profiling. That is, at first glance, this bust doesn't pass the stink test, and the burden of proof falls on the cops, who declined to pursue prosecution, to show how race was not a factor.
The President has nothing for which to apologize.
Indeed, I'm glad he showed his solidarity with African-Americans on this issue. While I fully expect policemen throughout the nation to react in lockstep against Obama's heartfelt remarks, if we're lucky, they'll take this "teachable moment" seriously. Cops should think long and hard about how race may or may not affect the decisions they make out in the field.
Second, even if race played no role in this incident whatsoever, a notion I find dubious but unprovable one way or the other, there's still a big problem here: apparently, it is against the law to bitch at the police while you are inside your own home. Everybody knows the old "yes sir, no sir" routine you're supposed to fall into when the guy with the badge and gun starts fucking with you. But asshole-cop power extends into your own fucking living room? As Digby wrote over at Hullabaloo:
Indeed, it is very little different than exercising your right of free speech to tell a gang of armed thugs to go fuck themselves. It's legal, but it's not very smart. But that's the problem isn't it? We shouldn't have to make the same calculations about how to behave with police as we would with armed criminals. The police are supposed to be the good guys who follow the rules and the law and don't expect innocent citizens to bow to their brute power the same way that a street gang would do. The police are not supposed wield what is essentially brute force on the entire population.That is, the entire concept of having to kiss cops' asses is extraordinarily fucked up, all the more so when no crime has been committed and you are standing in your own fucking living room. Even though it is technically legal to say anything you want to a cop, in practice you can't get away with it. Well okay. I've been putting up with that my whole life. But shouldn't this brand of anti-American humiliation end at your front door? I mean, what good are the first and fourth amendments if we can't say whatever we want inside our own homes?
This is really an issue that conservatives and liberals ought to be united on. The government can't just come into your home and bust you for being rude. In your home. It's not about law and order or respecting authority. It's about where the state ends and your home begins.
This is some fucked up shit.
Posted by Ron at 10:02 PM
Friday, July 24, 2009
Thursday, July 23, 2009
Steele Says He'll Attract Diversity to GOP With "Fried Chicken and Potato Salad"
From Talking Points Memo:
Last weekend, in a sit-down with bloggers during the Young Republicans convention in Indiana, RNC Chairman Michael Steele revealed his strategy for attracting diverse Republicans.
Cameron Cowan of The Mile Hive, a Denver blog, asked Steele what his plan is for including "diverse populations" into the Republican party.
"My plan is to say, 'Ya'll come!" Steele said, adding, "I got the fried chicken and potato salad!"
Click here to see the video.
Steele, always good for a laugh or two, goes on to describe an open minded, ethnically diverse Republican Party that, to the best of my knowledge, doesn't even exist in the subconscious of its members. I mean, this is the party of the Southern Strategy, the political plan that successfully turned the South red by using coded racist language to capitalize on white resentment of desegregation and the Civil Rights Movement--that strategy, despite Steele's position as party chairman, is still in use today; indeed, from time to time, such code-speak spills over into obvious racism, as with Pat Buchanan's recent racist tirades against Supreme Court nominee Sonya Sotomayor.
To say that Steele has his work cut out for him, as far as reaching out to non-white voters goes, doesn't quite get the gist of the situation. It's more like he's been assigned to chop down every tree in the forest with a herring. That is, he's been given an impossible task. Republicans can't attract non-white voters until they stop this nudge-nudge wink-wink racist bullshit.
So just what the hell does Steele think he's doing? And why does he think that descending into tired and cliched black stereotypes will help? I mean really. All the African-Americans are going to start voting Republican because the party's token black man offered them "fried chicken and potato salad." My buddy Reuben, who sent me the TPM link, is infuriated, and rightfully so. I'm just confused.
Indeed, you can't write fiction as bizarre as this. Spike Lee's film Bamboozled portrays an Ivy League educated African-American television producer who tries to get himself fired by creating a straight-up minstrel show. To his surprise, the show becomes a massive hit. The paradoxical situation, a black man who becomes the perpetrator of a gargantuan act of anti-black racism, slowly drives the producer insane, and, as the plot progresses, the movie gets fucking weird. But Bamboozled's got nothing on the Michael Steele show.
Clearly, this is yet another manifestation of the GOP's slow self-destruction. But I just can't seem to get my arms around it all. Coming from a conservative family, as I do, and having once been a Republican myself, I almost always understand what they're trying to do, even though I usually disagree. But I just don't get this.
I'm really starting to think that the Republicans are going nuts.
Posted by Ron at 10:37 PM
Wednesday, July 22, 2009
"Shore Leave" is a first-season episode of Star Trek: The Original Series. It was first broadcast on December 29, 1966, and repeated on June 8, 1967. It is episode #15, production #17, and was written by science fiction author Theodore Sturgeon, and directed by Robert Sparr.
Overview: The crew of the Enterprise visits a bizarre planet of dangerous illusions.
I've always liked this episode. I mean, since I was a kid, a little kid, like maybe five or six or so. I watch it these days and I feel like I shouldn't like it. After all, it seems like simply an excuse to save on production costs by shooting on location, and using stock sets, costumes, and props. And it's so freaking off the wall, with a menacing tiger, a samurai warrior, a WWII Japanese fighter plane, the rabbit from Alice in Wonderland, not to mention Alice herself, a black knight--I mean, this one's just weird, and not in a particularly interesting way.
But it works.
Maybe they pulled it off because the cast had figured out by this point what Star Trek is all about: the central conflict, then, becomes a struggle for the Enterprise's crew to maintain its own sense of dignity and decorum as they are pounded senseless with absurdity. In this respect, "Shore Leave" might also be Star Trek's very first comedy episode--indeed, an early scene where Spock tricks Kirk into assigning himself unwanted shore leave is quite mirthful in tone, with Spock on the verge of cracking a smile; by the time Kirk gleefully engages in multiple fistfights with his Academy tormentor Finnegan, you know it's okay to laugh.
I can't help but like this one.
Maybe it's because hard sci-fi writer Theodore Sturgeon wrote the script: Sturgeon is from the same generation of writers that produced the likes of Heinlein, Asimov, and Clarke; those types didn't fuck around. At any rate, despite my usual resistance to watching "Shore Leave," I'm always happy that I did.
Check it out:
Posted by Ron at 10:08 PM
Tuesday, July 21, 2009
U.S. Withheld Data on Risks of Distracted Driving
From the New York Times:
The highway safety researchers estimated that cellphone use by drivers caused around 955 fatalities and 240,000 accidents over all in 2002.
The researchers also shelved a draft letter they had prepared for Transportation Secretary Norman Y. Mineta to send, warning states that hands-free laws might not solve the problem.
That letter said that hands-free headsets did not eliminate the serious accident risk. The reason: a cellphone conversation itself, not just holding the phone, takes drivers’ focus off the road, studies showed.
The former head of the highway safety agency said he was urged to withhold the research to avoid antagonizing members of Congress who had warned the agency to stick to its mission of gathering safety data but not to lobby states.
Critics say that rationale and the failure of the Transportation Department, which oversees the highway agency, to more vigorously pursue distracted driving has cost lives and allowed to blossom a culture of behind-the-wheel multitasking.
“We’re looking at a problem that could be as bad as drunk driving, and the government has covered it up,” said Clarence Ditlow, director of the Center for Auto Safety.
This fits into an overall pattern of behavior by the Bush administration of suppressing scientific data for political and ideological reasons, about which I have commented numerous times on this blog, and further condemnation is not necessary. Except, maybe, to say "Fucking assholes!"
At least the information is finally getting out.
Full disclosure: I once rear-ended someone while I was talking on my cell phone. I got a ticket after a brief "investigation" by the cop on the scene, but my insurance company let me off the hook, and sued the guy two cars up who didn't have brake lights, which is what caused the car I hit to come to an instant stop when it rear-ended this guy. Anyway, even though there were mitigating circumstances making me financially not responsible, I'm convinced that I could have avoided the accident if I hadn't been talking on the phone.
And this suppressed federal information adds credence to my belief: talking on the phone causes car collisions. And it's not because your hand is on the phone instead of the wheel; it's because talking on the phone takes your focus off driving, and it happens in a way that doesn't happen when your conversation partner is in the car with you. That is, the kind of conversation you have over the phone is different from the kind of conversation you have with a passenger.
This seems obvious to me, but then I've lived through the experience. We need to ban cell phone use while driving right now. Too bad if it impinges on your "freedom." Seat belts do that, too. Drunk driving laws do the same thing--like the excerpt above says, driving while on the phone could be as dangerous as drunk driving. Slam dunk. Just fucking ban the practice. Right now.
Posted by Ron at 10:12 PM
Deficits saved the world
From Nobel Prize winning economist Paul Krugman's blog Conscience of a Liberal:
What we’ve had is a sharp increase in the desired private surplus at any given level of GDP, due to a combination of higher personal saving and reduced investment demand. This is shown as an upward shift in the private-surplus curve.
In the 1930s the public sector was very small. As a result, GDP basically had to shrink enough to keep the private-sector surplus equal to zero; hence the fall in GDP labeled “Great Depression”.
This time around, the fall in GDP didn’t have to be as large, because falling GDP led to rising deficits, which absorbed some of the rise in the private surplus. Hence the smaller fall in GDP labeled “Great Recession.”
What Hatzius is saying is that the initial shock — the surge in desired private surplus — was if anything larger this time than it was in the 1930s. This says that absent the absorbing role of budget deficits, we would have had a full Great Depression experience. What we’re actually having is awful, but not that awful — and it’s all because of the rise in deficits. Deficits, in other words, saved the world.
More here, complete with an economics curve chart!
In short, private spending plus public spending equals the gross domestic product, or if you prefer, the US economy. When private spending tanks, as it has recently, the economy goes down with it, unless public spending picks up the slack, which is what's happening right now with President Obama's stimulus spending. And what Krugman is asserting is that private spending has tanked so much that if we hadn't increased government spending the way we have, things would be MUCH worse than they are right now.
Of course, there's that nasty deficit spending we've all been worried about for the last three decades or so.
Look, I worry about deficits, too. When you have the government taking the lion's share of the money supply out of the economy, which is what happens with massive deficit spending, it necessarily means that there is less money available for private investment, which slows the economy, eventually taking it into recession. That's bad.
But we must keep things in perspective. The kind of recession resulting from massive deficits happens slowly and gradually. The kind of recession we're actually enduring at the moment happened very quickly, with the potential, absent Obama's stimulus, to be far far worse than deficit spawned recession. Screaming "Deficit! Deficit!" right now is like bitching at the fire department for getting the furniture wet while your house burns down around it.
Deficits are a problem. But one we'll have to deal with later, when the economy is in better shape, and able to produce more tax revenue. Until then, whining about deficit spending in the abstract is something of an academic argument doing nothing but distracting us from the work at hand.
It really is as though most of the prominent voices in the public discourse on these issues know virtually nothing of economics or history.
Posted by Ron at 12:49 AM
Sunday, July 19, 2009
Government Survey Says U.S. Teens Need Better Sex Ed
From Carnal Nation:
The results of data compiled by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) should not really come as a surprise to anyone: American teens need more and better sex education. The surveillance summary Sexual and Reproductive Health of Persons Aged 10--24 Years published in this week's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report paints a grim picture of the sexuality of American youth.
Dr. Lorrie Gavin and colleagues write, "The data presented in this report indicate that many young persons in the United States engage in sexual risk behavior and experience negative reproductive health outcomes." Using data from a variety of studies and surveys involving several hundred thousand children, teens, and young adults from 2001 through 2007, the CDC researchers found dire news with regard to the incidence of sexually transmitted diseases and teen pregancy. The number of AIDS diagnoses among men aged 15-19 years has nearly doubled, increasing from 1.3 cases per 100,000 in 1997 to 2.5 per 100,000 in 2006. The rate of syphilis infection among women has gone up by nearly 50% with 1.5 cases per 100,000 in 2004 to 2.2 cases per 100,000 population in 2006. After years of decline, the teen birth rate also showed an increase with 40.5 births per 1,000 females in 2005 to 42.5 in 2007.
Like the article says, this is no surprise. Indeed, I've been railing away against the wishful-thinking folly of "abstinence based" sex education since almost the beginning of this blog back in '02. It's always been fairer to call "abstinence based" programs indoctrination, rather than education, but the federal government and state legislatures have been eating this shit up for over a decade, and now days it's the standard. It has long been obvious that the kids who go through these programs would pay a price for it, and, at last, we have some hard data supporting that notion.
I mean, teen AIDS cases have fucking doubled in the last decade, and teen pregnancies have shot up as well.
It's time to end this bullshit. Time to teach kids the facts about sex, without any state sanctioned Christian moralizing, which, in any case, is forbidden by the first amendment. There is no scientific data supporting the efficacy of "abstinence based" sex ed, but now there is plenty of data showing how dangerous it is. Let's just get rid of it.
It really is a public health issue.
Posted by Ron at 10:14 PM
Saturday, July 18, 2009
Cronkite to be buried in Missouri after NYC funeral
From the AP via the Houston Chronicle:
Walter Cronkite's final resting place will be next to his late wife in Missouri, where the two first met, his chief of staff said Saturday.
The 92-year-old former CBS anchorman died Friday at his Manhattan home of cerebrovascular disease, said Marlene Adler, his longtime chief of staff.
Of course, I've always liked Walter Cronkite. I mean, I wasn't paying much attention to the news when he finally retired--I was only thirteen, and hadn't yet joined the debate team, which makes news awareness mandatory. But his reputation preceded him. He was Mr. News throughout my entire childhood, and for many years before I was born. Indeed, the 1971 Norman Lear film Cold Turkey briefly parodies Cronkite, which I remember better than his actual broadcasts, if only because I was so young. He was definitely a big fucking deal.
But it wasn't until I was well into adult life that I started to understand his true significance. He finished up his two decade stint as CBS's anchor in 1981, most likely due to the network's mandatory retirement policy, but he got out just in time. That is, Cronkite, an old UPI print correspondent, was the last unsullied broadcast newsman. It was around this time that the corporations who owned the big three networks started to treat their news divisions like the rest of their endeavors, that is, as entertainment. Since the rise of the television medium in the 1950s, CBS, ABC, and NBC operated their news departments at a loss, believing that, because the airwaves are publicly owned, broadcast companies had a responsibility to produce important informational programs as a public service. Public service, of course, doesn't usually make much money, and by the time Reagan had taken office, and signaled to the entire nation that buttloads of regulations that had been around since FDR would no longer be enforced, the big three opted to make news profitable at the expense of quality.
Since then hundreds, maybe thousands, of American broadcast journalists have sacrificed their integrity in order to keep their jobs. Or they simply quit and found something else to do--Dan Rather, for instance, balanced his ethics against his career for a couple of decades before he was finally forced to resign during the fallout from the Bush/National Guard 60 Minutes story.
But Cronkite avoided all this. I mean, don't get me wrong; he was still an establishment journalist, after all. Even though he is given a great deal of credit for helping turn US public opinion against the Vietnam War, he did support it for years, in spite of a great deal of evidence that it was an imperial war, and a losing proposition, at that. On the other hand, he came out against it in the end, and that alone secures his place in history as a great journalist. And we shouldn't forget his ability to make sense of Watergate.
But that's the point. Even though he had a massive tendency to support the establishment, and its narrative on all events, as a journalist, a real journalist, facts could persuade him. There are very few of his ilk in the field today, and none in such a prominent position as the one he once occupied--to be fair to journalists, this has more to do with ownership than it does with reporters.
At any rate, while the corporate media lionizes Cronkite as a Zelig-like guy who was present for all these historic events, I choose to lionize him as an example of what corporate journalism once was and could be once again, that is, much more objective and informative than the infotainment we endure today.
Farewell, Walter Cronkite.
Posted by Ron at 11:27 PM
Friday, July 17, 2009
Thursday, July 16, 2009
Cats 'exploit' humans by purring
From the BBC courtesy of the Huffington Post news wire:
Researchers at the University of Sussex have discovered that cats use a "soliciting purr" to overpower their owners and garner attention and food.
Unlike regular purring, this sound incorporates a "cry", with a similar frequency to a human baby's.
The team said cats have "tapped into" a human bias - producing a sound that humans find very difficult to ignore.
As the article asserts, most cat owners are already aware of this, but it's nice to have my vague suspicions reinforced by science. It is important to note that things like science, literature, and opposable thumbs make human beings superior to cats. I'm certain of that. Certain.
Anyway, click through the link and watch the short video; it made me understand exactly what the article is talking about, you know, that motor boat chopper purring sound, not the quiet mellow purring sound--my cat Sammy does this all the fucking time, and it's frustratingly effective. But let's not forget the veritable arsenal of exploitative devices at the feline's command. There's jumping on the stomach. There's not burying the shit. There's howling and wailing for extended periods. There's purposely hiding while you search for hours. Little fuckers. I really am exploited. And they fucking know it.
But as a human being, at least I know I'm superior. I'm certain of that. Certain.
Posted by Ron at 10:48 PM
Wednesday, July 15, 2009
Tuesday, July 14, 2009
Taking Shorter Showers Doesn't Cut It: Why
Personal Change Does Not Equal Political Change
Would any sane person think dumpster diving would have stopped Hitler, or that composting would have ended slavery or brought about the eight-hour workday, or that chopping wood and carrying water would have gotten people out of Tsarist prisons, or that dancing naked around a fire would have helped put in place the Voting Rights Act of 1957 or the Civil Rights Act of 1964? Then why now, with all the world at stake, do so many people retreat into these entirely personal “solutions”?
Part of the problem is that we’ve been victims of a campaign of systematic misdirection. Consumer culture and the capitalist mindset have taught us to substitute acts of personal consumption (or enlightenment) for organized political resistance. An Inconvenient Truth helped raise consciousness about global warming. But did you notice that all of the solutions presented had to do with personal consumption—changing light bulbs, inflating tires, driving half as much—and had nothing to do with shifting power away from corporations, or stopping the growth economy that is destroying the planet? Even if every person in the United States did everything the movie suggested, U.S. carbon emissions would fall by only 22 percent. Scientific consensus is that emissions must be reduced by at least 75 percent worldwide.
I want to be clear. I’m not saying we shouldn’t live simply. I live reasonably simply myself, but I don’t pretend that not buying much (or not driving much, or not having kids) is a powerful political act, or that it’s deeply revolutionary. It’s not. Personal change doesn’t equal social change.
This is the argument I've had with liberal friends who give me shit about shopping at Wal-Mart. I mean okay, Wal-Mart sucks, for many different reasons, and I would love to see the mega-retailer's mammoth influence on labor and the economy radically shifted toward a more fair and just model of doing business, but hey, I'm fucking poor and I can afford the shit they sell. Apart from hurting me financially, what, exactly, will a personal boycott of Wal-Mart do? Answer: absolutely nothing. Wal-Mart will continue to do business in its own ruthless and evil style no matter what I, as an individual, do or don't do. Now, if some of these liberal smart-mouths were to channel their energy into organizing a national boycott of Wal-Mart, I'm fucking there. That might reasonably stand a chance of changing things. But no. Liberal smart-mouths prefer to lecture their would-be allies, accomplishing nothing but bad vibes.
While I am not an ideological ally of the creators of television's South Park, I have to admit that they often get it right, specifically with their episode "Smug Alert," which portrays hybrid driving, wealthy, San Francisco liberals as being so enamored of their righteous selves that they literally bend over to inhale their own farts. That is, a great deal of this earth-friendly anti-corporate pop leftist lifestyle is about making people feel like they're better than everybody else. In other words, it's meaningless left-wing elitism, snobbery designed to do nothing but make you feel better about yourself, at others' expense.
Meanwhile corporations continue to ravage the environment, warp our culture, and kill millions through war or tainted food or labor exploitation. At least liberal farts smell good.
The point is, as the essay asserts, that the only way to change the power establishment is through organization and agitation. Not easy, but it is historically effective. Buying different shit will never change anything. I mean, all that happens is that big business makes it all about marketing: Whole Foods, "green" energy companies, hemp stores, all this shit, they're just different products; the business models stay essentially the same. Stupid liberals just don't get it.
Sometimes I have an acute understanding of why liberals drive some conservatives bat shit crazy. That is, asshole snobs suck big donkey cock, even if I agree with them on most issues.
Posted by Ron at 10:09 PM
Monday, July 13, 2009
Michael Jackson Was Little More Than an Icon of Mediocrity
As a musician (I hold a bachelor's degree in performance from Berklee College of Music) and as a music critic and historian, I can tell you with a clear conscience that Michael Jackson's musical abilities, placed upon the spectrum of human accomplishments in this field, are mediocre at best.
Yet everyone from the London Telegraph to People magazine have gone to great lengths to tell us Jackson was a literal "genius".
Jackson, whose vocal range was limited and who sang often insipid pop songs that rarely ventured outside of a basic pentatonic scale, was no musical genius.
Cannonball Adderley was a musical genius. John Coltrane was a musical genius. Charles Ives was a musical genius. J.S. Bach was a musical genius. Hector Berlioz was a musical genius. These were human beings gifted with uncommon genius in musical understanding, interpretation and expression.
That the American press have been so quick to jump on the Jackson-as-genius bandwagon speaks to the dismal state of excellence in our culture. As more and more artistic and journalistic decisions have been left to MBAs and accountants, quality has fallen by the wayside. True musical variety has died with the radio monopolies of Clear Channel and others, as we are force-fed the same Lady Ga-Ga tune until we Lady Ga-GAG. Our standards, in other words, have sunk to new lows, and not just in music.
Okay, this is obviously a flawed essay, most notably because its writer is clearly an elitist snob. Indeed, it's pretty easy to knock such a biased ivory tower argument on its ass: if Michael Jackson was no genius, then neither were Elvis nor the Beatles. Game, set, and match. Elvis and the Beatles were geniuses, and there are plenty of good arguments out there that deftly establish the King of Pop as their equal, which makes him a genius. I mean, Jackson was brilliant if only because he moved the hearts of so many millions throughout the world, within vastly different cultures. That's not genius? Oh please! Essays like this do nothing but make liberal arts degrees look even more like wallpaper than they already do.
On the other hand, this flawed essay raises some good points. Not so much about Michael Jackson as about our culture.
That is, we really are, generally speaking, very willing to describe something that is merely pretty cool, or even kind of cool, as being fucking great. Hell, we'll even take something that's fucking shitty and call it fucking great. Television, film, and music are obvious examples, and a lot of that does indeed have to do with the homogenizing effect spawned by the corporatization of the entertainment industry. But I think there's more going on here. The media, the political establishment, as well as many many ordinary Americans, hailed President Bush as being fucking great for years, despite buttloads of evidence to the contrary; it wasn't until our noses had been rubbed in dog shit for so long and so intensely that "fucking great" devolved into a more proper "fucking awful." For as many as three decades, colleges and universities have struggled unsuccessfully against what they call "grade inflation;" that is, undergraduates strongly expect that a minimal effort deserves an A, and professors usually cave into any pressure at all on this front. High school is a sick joke as far as this is concerned: if you can't make mostly A's in high school, you're either developmentally disabled or a lazy good for nothing piece of shit. People think corporate chain restaurants are fucking great. I mean, it just goes on and on.
I really don't know where all this is coming from. Maybe conservatives who have vilified the culture of self-esteem are onto something. Maybe this is how it's always been, but it's only just now becoming apparent because of the digital age in which we live. But it's pretty clear that we, as Americans, have some problems understanding the concept of excellence.
Posted by Ron at 10:30 PM
Sunday, July 12, 2009
QUIS CUSTODIET IPSOS CUSTODES
Means "Who Polices the Police?"
From Talking Points Memo:
Dem Congressional Candidate's Event Raided By San Diego Sheriffs
The San Diego Union-Tribune reports that a fundraiser for Francine Busby, who previously ran for the deeply-Republican Fiftieth District and came close to winning in the 2006 special election and subsequent regular election, was raided by sheriffs after an unnamed neighbor made a noise complaint. Busby now calls it a "phony" noise complaint, and the article says that multiple neighbors said there was no great noise at all.
Here's the twist: The fundraiser was hosted by a lesbian couple, and shortly before the sheriffs came a particular neighbor had shouted anti-gay slurs at the assembled crowd. "It was a quiet home reception, disrupted by a vulgar person shouting obscenities from behind the bushes," Busby says.
As one neighbor told the paper: "We didn't hear anything until the sheriff came, with eight patrol cars and a helicopter."
Eight patrol cars and a helicopter to break up a backyard barbeque. Attended by middle aged women. And, as the article observes, the cops decided that they needed to use pepper spray on the diners. I think these women have some prima facie for a good lawsuit.
I usually use these Quis Custodiet posts to talk about how cop culture tends to make police brutality and corruption near inevitable, which is true, but this story illustrates a related, but entirely different point. Even though police ostensibly exist in order "to protect and serve" the public, their true mission is to protect and serve the political and economic establishment. I mean okay, oftentimes these two missions overlap, which is to say that public order and safety are good for politics and business, but if these two missions ever contradict each other, the latter trumps. The rich and powerful always get better police protection, even when what they need protection from isn't against the law.
Case in point, Republican dominated San Diego County. Apparently, the Sheriff there believed these lesbian political fundraisers to be a threat to the local Republican establishment, and sent in the goons just like it was Chicago in 1968. As if corruption and brutality wasn't enough, this kind of thing is fairly typical: for many years local power establishment figures throughout the nation have successfully used law enforcement to serve as their own personal squad of Brownshirts to intimidate political opposition. Indeed, the last three presidential elections have produced countless tales of local law enforcement busting up opposition demonstrators, usually arbitrarily, usually producing no convictions.
This is rampant and out of control. And, needless to say, anti-American and profoundly disturbing in terms of prospects for our aging republic. Sadly, this trend, using cops to disrupt and harass lawful political behavior, is going up, not down.
Where is all this leading?
Posted by Ron at 10:53 PM
Saturday, July 11, 2009
REAL ART AND POLITICS AND CULTURE
From AlterNet, my favorite Master of Divinity Chris Hedges on real art, politics, and culture:
The Corporate Media State Has Deformed American Culture
American culture -- or cultures, for we once had distinct regional cultures -- was systematically destroyed in the 20th century by corporations. These corporations used mass communication, as well as an understanding of the human subconscious, to turn consumption into an inner compulsion. Old values of thrift, regional identity that had its own iconography, aesthetic expression and history, diverse immigrant traditions, self-sufficiency, a press that was decentralized to provide citizens with a voice in their communities were all destroyed to create mass, corporate culture. New desires and habits were implanted by corporate advertisers to replace the old. Individual frustrations and discontents could be solved, corporate culture assured us, through the wonders of consumerism and cultural homogenization. American culture, or cultures, was replaced with junk culture and junk politics. And now, standing on the ash heap, we survey the ruins. The very slogans of advertising and mass culture have become the idiom of common expression, robbing us of the language to make sense of the destruction. We confuse the manufactured commodity culture with American culture.
How do we recover what was lost? How do we reclaim the culture that was destroyed by corporations? How do we fight back now that the consumer culture has fallen into a state of decay? What can we do to reverse the cannibalization of government and the national economy by the corporations?
The modern world, as Kafka predicted, has become a world where the irrational has become rational, where lies become true. And facts alone will be powerless to thwart the mendacity spun out through billions of dollars in corporate advertising, lobbying and control of traditional sources of information. We will have to descend into the world of the forgotten, to write, photograph, paint, sing, act, blog, video and film with anger and honesty that have been blunted by the parameters of traditional journalism. The lines between artists, social activists and journalists have to be erased. These lines diminish the power of reform, justice and an understanding of the truth. And it is for this purpose that these lines are there.
Well, that's what I've been saying. Again and again, for years now. Corporate constructed culture has literally replaced our homegrown varieties, for the most part, and, in addition to the primary function of creating profits for shareholders, it also exists to push American hopes, dreams, desires, and conceptualizations in a direction that will serve corporate interests.
For instance, we've all watched hundreds of movies where protagonists solve complicated problems using simple violence: consequently, whenever we're faced with complicated global issues, the first solutions we envision usually involve sending in the troops, or James Bond styled covert operatives, whatever. Same thing with crime. Instead of considering gun control or social intervention or drug legalization and treatment, we want to send in badass cops to bust heads. Most of the movies and television shows we watch portray characters with enough money to live a high consumption bourgeois lifestyle, and we tend to measure our own success against that. We watch non-stop coverage of celebrity death and scandal instead of the health care debate, which, by and large, is relegated to CSPAN, which nobody watches. We listen to popular music that diverts us with trivial issues like fairy tale love, or bitches and hoe's. It just goes on and on. We're literally drowning in this shit; it's all encompassing.
The effects here cannot be underestimated. You realize, of course, that most Americans aren't registered to vote, and, usually, most registered voters don't manage to make it out to the polls at election time. Bread and circuses for the masses, propaganda disguised as "news" and "entertainment" for the rest. False narratives, sick mythology, symbolism and meaning as plastic product. Meanwhile, America as we understand it disintegrates.
As a student of both the theater and the mass media, this became disgustingly evident to me in the mid 90s. Yeah, it's been going on for a long time, since well before I was born. Like Hedges, I've also been at a loss for effective solutions. Like Hedges, all I've been able to come up with is a desire to foment some kind of cultural insurgency from the ground up. But how do individuals take on the rising ocean known as the mass media? This has really been an existential issue for me. I'm an actor by training, and the theater seems to be utterly irrelevant in terms of these problems, and film and television generally tend to contribute to these problems. Taking the traditional career paths for actors is at best problematic for me--perhaps that's why I've been so halting and hesitant about getting my actor life going here in New Orleans; in many ways, I'm like "what the hell am I trying to do here?"
On the other hand, there's some good news. I've long had the sense from people around me that we're all vaguely aware that there's something wrong here, that the meaning of life, as constructed by the artificial culture enveloping us, is unsatisfying or downright malevolent. People are hungry for an alternative understanding of reality, one that gives their lives validity and meaning. People are ready to listen to different points of view, want to hear strong criticisms of corporate-created culture, criticisms of conventional wisdom, criticisms of power establishments. And I find that when I'm able to talk about all this shit, people really do listen.
But I feel like David versus Goliath isn't even an appropriate metaphor: maybe Bambi versus Godzilla is better, or Amoeba versus H-Bomb. Can performing in front of ten people at a coffee house my song about how much it sucks to work at the mall have any chance in the long run of altering mass attitudes about consumerism and labor? Does my blog make anybody but me think about all this shit? I like to think I'm working separately but in tandem with thousands of other like-minded individuals, but I don't really know that. On the other hand, what else can one do?
Still more good news. Technology has served to radically decentralize the mass media; there are now so many choices for media consumption out there, now literally competing with small-scale in-home myspace and youtube projects, that the loud corporate media voices are relatively quieter, and the soft individual voices are relatively louder. That is, the playing field appears to be leveling out.
I guess we'll see where all this leads.
Posted by Ron at 7:04 PM
Friday, July 10, 2009
Thursday, July 09, 2009
O'Reilly Debates Michael Jackson & Race
From the Huffington Post:
O'Reilly returned to the issue of Jackson and race tonight during a vigorous debate with Columbia University professor Dr. Marc Lamont Hill. O'Reilly criticized Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson Jr. and others for turning this into a "racial deal," saying there is no racial component and that it's foolish for black Americans to exult Jackson as a black icon when he "bleached his face" and had white children: "You don't become an African-American icon when you do something like that."
A bit more here, plus vomit-inducing video.
It appears that the massive media barrage over Michael Jackson's death has only spawned political "controversy" at FOX News, which is unsurprising, I guess. I heard Sean Hannity on the radio late last week calling Jamie Foxx's recent assertion that Jackson was a black man nothing short of bigoted. I didn't listen long enough to get a handle on why Hannity thinks this is the case, but I get the feeling that I could have listened all day and still wouldn't have gotten it.
I mean, Michael Jackson was, indeed, a black man, after all. How can it be wrong to make such an observation, and to give some credit to black culture for producing him?
I could probably go point by point here, explaining why O'Reilly's weird assertions are such bullshit, but his foolishness seems extraordinarily self evident. It's probably enough to say that being black, or white for that matter, is much more about culture, about what an individual experiences, than it is about skin color. Rapper Eminem, for instance, has lived and worked among African-Americans for many years, mastering a black art form even, but he's still a white man because he has been treated by society and the people around him as white for his entire life, and he fully understands this. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas has risen to the apex of the white power structure, has a white wife, and has issued rulings from the bench that many believe are not in the best interests of most African-Americans, but he's still a black man because he has lived his entire life as a black man--he understands what it means to be black in ways that I never will.
So, too, with Michael Jackson, regardless of what color his skin ended up being, regardless of the skin color of his children or his former wives. It's worth noting here that Jackson had no control over his skin color because he suffered from vitiglio, a condition that depletes skin pigment, but really, that doesn't matter: Jackson, an artist, was free to do whatever he wanted. Changing his color in no way affected his ethnicity.
This is all obvious. The real question here is why celebrating Jackson's blackness is so disturbing to these conservatives. I mean, WTF? Black is beautiful, right? Even when it's white.
Posted by Ron at 10:21 PM
Wednesday, July 08, 2009
THE MENAGERIE PART ONE
"The Menagerie" is the only two-part episode of Star Trek: The Original Series. It is episodes #11 and 12, production #16. Part one of the episode was broadcast on November 17, 1966 with the second part broadcast a week later on November 24, 1966. NBC repeated the two shows on May 18 and 25, 1967. The episode's screenplay was written by Gene Roddenberry. Since the true 1965 pilot episode, "The Cage", was not shown on television until 1988, and The Original Series began with a second pilot, "Where No Man Has Gone Before", Desilu, the show's production company, made a decision on what should be done with the wasted footage from the unused pilot movie.
Gene Roddenberry decided that in order to utilize "The Cage" footage, he would write an entirely new bookend story, so that "The Cage" would serve as a back story for the Starship Enterprise's early history. New footage would be combined with the old and placed into the continuity of the overall Star Trek storyline.
"The Menagerie" won a Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation. The other episode with such an honor is "The City on the Edge of Forever".
Overview: Spock kidnaps his former commander Christopher Pike, locks the Enterprise on a course to the forbidden planet Talos IV, and turns himself in for court-martial.
This one's brilliant. Just fucking brilliant. I actually prefer it to watching "The Cage" as a solo episode. Indeed, all the awkwardness I've mentioned for some of the earlier episodes works very nicely in flashback, making it feel very much like an earlier era in the Trek universe when juxtaposed against the familiar Star Trek feel the show finally fell into.
Spock, as close to desperation as ever seen, is at his best here, risking all to help out his old captain. The framing sequences, mostly court martial scenes, but also some Spock plot stuff, are arguably more dramatic and compelling than the footage from the original pilot. Fucking great aliens with enormous brains and psychic powers. And the most beautiful actress in all of Star Trek, Susan Oliver, as Captain Pike's love interest, and as the first and best Orion slave girl. Lots of freaking out and shit.
Really, I can't do this one justice. Go watch part one right now:
Posted by Ron at 10:27 PM
Tuesday, July 07, 2009
Why the Left Looks Like a Big Hypocrite in the Sanford Affair
They got quite a lot wrong. In South Carolina politics, Sanford has never been known as a "Bible thumper," and he recently irritated those who are by not signing a bill that would have welded I Believe to the state license plate. He wasn't elected governor in 2002 pushing family values; he ran as a vague libertarian and was elected because a lot of Democrats, blacks especially, abandoned the odious incumbent, Jim Hodges, who got into office powered by black votes and then engineered an immense transfer of wealth from the poor and black to the better-off and white via his education lottery. Sanford didn't "lead the charge" against Bill Clinton in the Monica Lewinsky affair; he said Clinton had lied (he had) and, like a dutiful low-level Representative in a party of discipline, voted for impeachment (along with five Democrats). He is no more of a right-wing, hate-filled moralist than most anyone in the party of Barack and Bill, the party of "don't ask, don't tell"; the Defense of Marriage Act; and Personal Responsibility in the form of lectures to teenagers, lectures to poor single mothers, lectures to black men on Father's Day and laws that make life harder for them all. He could not "embarrass" the State of South Carolina, itself an embarrassment since slave times, enabled quite effectively in that condition over the years by politicians regardless of party.
None of this says much for Sanford, but it says a lot worse for his liberal scolds. They profess to be cosmopolitan, above the mumbo jumbo of religion, vanguardists for self-determination -- to know better, in other words, all the while arguing the case for compulsory monogamy and just punishment for sexual sin more vigorously than the religionists they laugh at.
Yeah, it's been tempting to pile on with this latest GOP sexual sinner. I mean, Republicans long ago threw their hat into the anti-sex camp, politically speaking, when they pulled the fundamentalists into their party. When one of them gets caught being a human being, that is, having sex outside of marriage, or having gay sex, lambasting him for it is almost irresistible.
But what, exactly, should we castigate them for? Hypocrisy, of course. Liberals are presumably cool with sex that falls outside the "family values" umbrella, or, at least, liberals, even if they disapprove, supposedly understand that adultery or cruising for gay sex are personal matters, to be dealt with privately rather than publicly. It's the conservative who makes his career reenacting The Scarlet Letter caught in flagrante delicto that deserves our contempt: he's an asshole for being anti-sex, but he's a super asshole for not practicing what he preaches. So we should fuck him up good.
Herd mentality on the left is making this all problematic. I mean, okay, it's been looking like a fucking deluge for some years now in terms of Republican sexual hypocrites, with Sanford's scandal coming so quickly on the heels of a true scumbag's revelation, Senator John Ensign of Nevada, who apparently paid a great deal of hush money to his mistress' husband, so I can see how the left would want to shoot first and ask questions later. This is great fun, after all. But fucking A, I don't really think Sanford is the hypocrite he's being made out to be, for reasons asserted in the excerpt above.
I actually feel sorry for the guy. He's the perfect example of why all this adultery shit should be private: he's in a troubled marriage, confused, and in love with another woman. I mean, sure, he should try to work out his marriage problems, but he's a human being like everybody else, not Super Jesus. And he's never, apparently, tried to fault anybody else for not being Super Jesus. Sanford has done nothing for which he should be judged. He's just trying to live his life. Cut him some fucking slack.
Also, I'm beginning to seriously wonder if the left has its own Puritans. That is, I don't know that this is all about herd mentality. There was a large number of Democrats back in the late 90s who were extremely critical of President Clinton's affair with Monica Lewinsky. I'll never forget listening to a call-in show on the far left Pacifica radio network the night after old Bill finally admitted to a little sucky-sucky with his intern pal: some callers were outraged; one of the hosts was talking about it as though it was Nixon all over. One caller even asserted that the President might have a sex addiction problem--to Pacifica's credit, the other host simply asked in reply, "how many times must one have sex before he's a sex addict?"
I don't get these people. To me, being liberal means supporting personal freedom, which necessarily means supporting sexual freedom. Maybe this is a misguided strain of "thought" coming out of the ivory tower backwaters of scholarly feminism. Or maybe there are a lot of liberals who continue to be uncomfortable with sexuality, in spite of their agnosticism, or atheism, or communism, whatever. But it's hard not to think that some people who self-identify as "liberal" are decidedly at odds with how I define the term. Either way, conservative or liberal, these Puritans are on the wrong side of history.
Posted by Ron at 10:16 PM
THE STAR TREK CALENDAR PICTURE OF THE MONTH IS...
So I was bitching last month about how June's calendar shot from "I, Mudd" included pretty much everybody but this month's calendar boy. Charlie in comments pointed out how Sulu actor George Takei was busy shooting The Green Berets with John Wayne and couldn't be there--my personal Star Trek guru Shane seconds this assertion.
Okay, that's cool, but what's cooler is that it's almost as though the calendar makers understood Star Trek fans' sense of Sulu deprivation and gave him his own shot this month!
Everybody loves Sulu.
Posted by Ron at 12:04 AM