Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Today in Things that make me feel sick

It must be said, and I will be the one to say it: rape is not a case of morals. Rape is a crime of violence and domination, and it is illegal--punishable by imprisonment for varying lengths of time (and even, potentially and technically, prior to the Supreme Court's decision last year in Louisiana vs. Kennedy, by death*)--in every one of our United States.

Yet the language of the unforgivable rape-apologia screed, aka the now-famous Leave Roman Polanski Alooooone! Petition--signed, you'll note, by score after score of utterly idiotic Hollywood types--reads thus:
We have learned the astonishing news of Roman Polanski's arrest by the Swiss police on September 26th, upon arrival in Zurich (Switzerland) while on his way to a film festival where he was due to receive an award for his career in filmmaking.

His arrest follows an American arrest warrant dating from 1978 against the filmmaker, in a case of morals.
A case of morals. Not a case in which a wealthy, powerful forty-something director forced himself onto and into the body of a thirteen-year-old girl, both vaginally and anally, and refused to cease his raping of her despite her cries of No and Stop. Which action, by the way, is textbook and prima facie rape right there and then--forcible penetration without consent--and that's before you consider that Polanski first plied the girl with illegal drugs (Quaaludes) and alcohol, and ah yes, before you factor in the detail of the girl's minor status: she was thirteen years old.

And not a criminal case which wound up with Polanski's attorneys pleading it down to statutory rape--itself a felony--and then, with Polanski fleeing the country before fully serving even that slap-on-the-wrist punishment. (Remember: he forcibly raped and sodomized a child after giving her illegal drugs and alcohol.)

No, no. According to some actors, filmmakers, and others in The Business, this was merely a case of morals.

As friends, family, and long-time readers will recall, I am a serious Martin Amis fan--have been for many, many years. Amis interviewed Polanski back in 1979, shortly after Polanski fled the States and just as he was to embark on a life of luxury living and prolific art-making while in exile. Lo and behold, a friend reminded me of said interview, originally published in Amis' interview anthology Visiting Mrs. Nabokov and now revisited by the Telegraph yesterday; this Polanski quote leaps horrifically and unrepentantly from the page:
“If I had killed somebody, it wouldn’t have had so much appeal to the press, you see? But… fucking, you see, and the young girls. Judges want to fuck young girls. Juries want to fuck young girls. Everyone wants to fuck young girls!”
A case of morals. In response to the aforementioned petition by the artistes, then, I'd like to use my small (but earnest and well-intentioned) virtual soapbox to make the following statement of my own:
To all actors, directors, and filmmaking sorts who felt compelled to sign on to the pathetic rape apologia in re: the Roman Polanski case, and who, in so doing, have given liberals like me a bad name: You have done immeasurable harm to the shared causes of women, children, liberalism, actual artists, and truly moral human beings. You stupid, vacuous, morally bereft morons.
Also at Cogitamus.

*Edited to reflect the 2008 Supreme Court decision ruling as unconstitutional the use of the death penalty in non-homicide aggravated rape cases.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Yes, it's racist

Our national discussion these days would seem to focus, to a large (and, I'd argue, important) degree, on racism and the scope to which it is undermining the debate over President Obama's policy proposals. Most salient among these--of late--is the president's ambitious and Herculean effort to reform America's healthcare system.

At both the national and local levels, and among left-leaning bloggers, even, we're seeing an awful lot of denial. In the Tampa area, for example, we have Creative Loafing blogger Catherine positing that that Not everyone who disagrees with President Obama is “racist”.

Now, on its face, this statement is true. In fact, you could expand that to an even broader observation: Not everyone who disagrees with Person X (where X="whichever sex, color, faith, or sexual orientation is pertinent to the discussion") is prejudiced against X. For example, I disagree with my own husband on a number of issues, but the last thing of which anyone could or would accuse me is being anti-Italian (and regular readers know this to be true, ahem).

But Catherine's next point--in the form of a question--indicates that she, like so many on the left (including President Clinton), is leaving the all-important issue of historical context out of the equation. Catherine writes:
What if white, country-boy Kanye West had interrupted African-American, R&B singer Taylor Swift? Would this switcheroo have changed public sentiment after their now-infamous interaction at the VMAs?
Switching the race of the interruptor and interruptee--without also noting the very different histories of the behavior of each race toward the other--renders this point kind of, well, pointless. For the sake of argument, let's simplify the comparison thus: as it actually transpired, a member of a historically oppressed class interrupted, and thus upstaged, a member of the oppressor class. If the scenario had instead involved a member of the oppressor class interrupting, and thus upstaging, a member of the oppressed class, could it have been interpreted as a racially-motivated act?

And the answer to that question is, yes. And it would be a justifiable yes. Not because of any knee-jerk reaction by people who, as Catherine puts it, "...cry racism, anti-Semitism, or some other form of hate-ism, take our ball, and go home", but rather, because it is impossible to disentangle hundreds of years of oppression from the equation, simply because we're all so damned open-minded and egalitarian these days, we white folks.

Listen, I disagree--vigorously--with President Obama about several policy matters, including his ongoing stance on upholding telecom immunity, for one thing. About not going after the war criminals responsible for, firstly, lying the nation into a war of choice and secondly, engaging in violation after violation of international law, particularly those conventions governing the treatment of prisoners of war. But I am not a racist by dint of my disagreeing with him, even if, given the chance, I would politely express my sentiments to the President himself (although I'd never, ever--not in a million years!--shout them out while he was speaking, much less while he was addressing a joint session of Congress in front of the world's cameras, for Heaven's sake, which restraint and good manners are all part of growing up and being British, and, as I've witnessed, generally considered part of being a good American citizen, too.)

But so much of the vitriol aimed at President Obama is laced through and through with the toxic sap of racism. And saying we "have come a long way" is little more than patting ourselves on the back. Because we haven't. Not really.

Not when a Congressman shouts You lie...! (with the unspoken suffix "...boy" implied; otherwise, he'd have simply said "You're lying" or "That's a lie"), and that Congressman happens to be a member of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, a group which, in the last decade, has been led by radical neo-Confederate secessionists who defend slavery as "a benign institution"; and further, when that Congressman happens to have been one of only seven Republicans to go against his own party and vote to keep the Dixie Rebel flag flying over the South Carolina capitol.

Not when a conservative activist--someone who of course disagrees with President Obama, but is also a Florida neurosurgeon serving as a member of the American Medical Association's House of Delegates; an energetic opponent of health-care reform; and the founder of the anti-reform group Doctors For Patient Freedom--sends out an e-mail, to an entire mailing list, which contains a photoshopped picture of the President as a tribal witch doctor (complete with horns through the nostrils), along with the comment "Funny stuff".

And no, we haven't actually come very far at all in this whole getting-beyond-racism effort when a Republican mayor in California created, this spring, a similarly widely-disseminated e-mail in which there is a picture of the White House lawn covered with watermelons and vines and bearing the legend "No Easter egg hunt this year."

History--ancient and recent alike. Context. They matter.

But as is so often the case, the darling Stephen Colbert says it best:

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
The Word - Blackwashing
Colbert Report Full EpisodesPolitical HumorHealth Care Protests

Also at Cogitamus.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Florida Congressman's action may defund fraud-besieged defense contractors; now how about child-molesting faith-based groups? Also.

I daresay you'll be as happy as I am to learn that when it comes to Congress defunding organizations who've broken laws, the ACORN won't have fallen far from the artillery (emphasis mine):
Going after ACORN may be like shooting fish in a barrel lately -- but jumpy lawmakers used a bazooka to do it last week and may have blown up some of their longtime allies in the process.

The congressional legislation intended to defund ACORN, passed with broad bipartisan support, is written so broadly that it applies to "any organization" that has been charged with breaking federal or state election laws, lobbying disclosure laws, campaign finance laws or filing fraudulent paperwork with any federal or state agency. It also applies to any of the employees, contractors or other folks affiliated with a group charged with any of those things.

In other words, the bill could plausibly defund the entire military-industrial complex. Whoops.

Rep. Alan Grayson (D-Fla.) picked up on the legislative overreach and asked the Project on Government Oversight (POGO) to sift through its database to find which contractors might be caught in the ACORN net.

Lockheed Martin and Northrop Gumman both popped up quickly, with 20 fraud cases between them, and the longer list is a Who's Who of weapons manufacturers and defense contractors.

But wait--there is more, so much more. Who else has received tax dollars and broken laws? Well, as The Rude Pundit pointed out recently:
Some things are easy to put in perspective: We have a case in Albany, NY, where Catholic Charities funds were used as part of a settlement on a case of molestation by clergy. In Cleveland in 2002, at a Catholic Charities-supported child care center, five workers were arrested on charges of sexual abuse of children. The number of cases of molestation by workers, of the cloth or not, at Catholic Charities-run or -owned facilities could go on and on and on, as the abuse did for years.

In August of this year, Catholic Charities received a federal government contract for $100 million over five years to work with victims of natural disasters.

And the outrage is...where exactly?

Think about the poor, reviled insurance executives, people!

Fantastic. Please feel free to circulate.

(And yes, that's Mad Men's Jon Hamm--*swoon*--along with Olivia Wilde, Will Ferrell, and friends, all making the important point that if healthcare reform includes a public option, the poor insurance corporations will have to actually compete, which will, in turn, affect all those executives who currently enjoy such perks as owning five luxury homes apiece, having private zoos in their back gardens, going on lavish vacations, raking in enormous bonuses, getting doughnuts and prostitutes on demand, etcetera, etcetera.)

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Friday Saturday Frank: Guitar Solo from Hotplate Heaven at the Green Hotel; Vienna, Austria; 1988

Dedicated to Roberto, who regularly redeems himself by bringing me armloads of orchids and lilies and whose marinara sauce gives new meaning to the phrase hotplate heaven.

Bon Weekend, everyone.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Lifestyles of the White & Suggestible

By the brilliant Max Blumenthal, whose book Republican Gomorrah just debuted at number #15 on the New York Times Bestsellers list.

As for this video of the 9/12 Teabaggers' Extravaganza, aka The 2-Million Loon March The Unintentionally Hilarious But Nonetheless Scary Tantrum of the Seventy-thousand Seriously Deranged, well, there's a phrase in Spanish that sums it up neatly: sin palabras. No words.

Well, there are a few words on display here, but as you'll see, most of them are risibly misspelled.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

I'mma let you finish

I'm going to file this site under Sweet Jeebus, I love the Intertubes. You can click on the archive to see them all, or choose the random generator. Either way, you simply must hear the audio (on the Home page) wherein our president refers to stage-crashing Kanye as a "jackass".

(Yes, I am fourteen years old. Sometimes.)

More like this pls., President O--now how about letting loose on the far-more-significant-and-worrisome Blue Jackasses who are buggering up healthcare reform?

Saturday, September 12, 2009

What's inside the mind of Mark Foley?

Why, only sugar and spice and all things nice--I'm sure of it.

Chew on this: disgraced ex-congressman Mark Foley (R-FL) is getting his own radio talk show. Yes, that Mark Foley. A radio talk show, on Palm Beach-area AM station WSVU, which also features programming from CBS radio, "adult standards" tunes, and the thoughtful musings of Don Imus, among others.

According to ABC News, WSVU spokesman Joseph Raineri is looking forward to having Foley on board having Foley join his team hearing what's on Foley's mind. In fact, the show is actually entitled Inside the mind of Mark Foley. Said Ranieri:
"With everything that's going on with healthcare and everybody questioning what's happening in Washington, DC, we thought who better to explain what's going on than Mark Foley."
Well, speaking as a Florida resident, I'll happily admit that when I find myself feeling, you know, confused about what's happening in Washington DC and wishing with all my questioning little heart that there was someone I could turn to for explanations about healthcare reform and the like, the first person who comes to mind is almost always a hypocritical wingnut predator whose primary claim to fame is having propositioned teenage boys the same age as my son before being quietly disappeared to a rehab clinic somewhere.

WSVU's spokesman:
"You're going to be amazed!"
We already are, Mr. Ranieri. We already are.

(H/T Michael at Pushing Rope)

Town hall meetings in the time of King Arthur

Ah, plus ça change...

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Higher Life Forms for Rob Miller (aka the Dem. opponent of the guy who yelled You Lie during President Obama's address)

Readers, I've created an ActBlue account for those who, like me, wish to support Rob Miller, the gentleman who'll run against Joe Wilson (R-SC), that rude, miserable, badly-raised creature who's now famous for shouting out You Lie! during President Obama's address last night.

The fundraising page is called Higher Life Forms for Rob Miller.

Click here if you're interested in throwing a few bucks his way--your donation will go into the larger overall fund for Mr. Miller, which, as of this writing, has grown has grown to over $100,000 $260,000 since last night!

Thanks, everyone.

UPDATE: a late-night e-mail from Rob Miller's office confirms the ActBlue 1-day effort has raised more than $600,000. This means the ex-Marine Democratic contender is well on his way to running a fantastic campaign and taking over yet another House seat next November.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

What Dr. Krugman said

With all due respect to the estimable Blogfather of our Cogitamus gang, I have to agree with Paul Krugman on this (emphasis mine):

But what is one to make of the practical, political argument from the likes of Ezra Klein, who argue that any public plan actually included in legislation probably wouldn’t make that much difference, and that reform is worth having even without such a plan?

There are three reasons to be suspicious of that argument.

The first is that I suspect that Ezra and others understate the extent to which even a public plan with limited bargaining power will help hold down overall costs. Private insurers do pay providers more than Medicare does — but that’s only part of the reason Medicare has lower costs. There’s also the huge overhead of the private insurers, much of which involves marketing and attempts to cherry-pick clients — and even with community rating, some of that will still go on. A public plan would probably be able to attract clients with much less of that.

Second, a public plan would probably provide the only real competition in many markets.

Third — and this is where I am getting a very bad feeling about the idea of throwing in the towel on the public option — is the politics. Remember, to make reform work we have to have an individual mandate. And everything I see says that there will be a major backlash against the idea of forcing people to buy insurance from the existing companies. That backlash was part of what got Obama the nomination! Having the public option offers a defense against that backlash.

What worries me is not so much that the backlash would stop reform from passing, as that it would store up trouble for the not-too-distant future. Imagine that reform passes, but that premiums shoot up (or even keep rising at the rates of the past decade.) Then you could all too easily have many people blaming Obama et al for forcing them into this increasingly unaffordable system. A trigger might fix this — but the funny thing about such triggers is that they almost never get pulled.


Simon Owens of Bloggasm writes to alert us to a group effort--on the part of numerous progressive blogs and Firedoglake--to raise money for their campaign to demand a strong public option. Go here for more information and to donate, if you possibly can; they're aiming for $50,000 and have already passed the $21,000 mark.

Monday, September 07, 2009

If housepets were libertarians


Click to (slightly) embiggen.

Published with permission from Lefty Cartoons (thanks, Barry!)

And if Alas, a blog isn't already one of your regular stops, what are you waiting for? There's comedy gold in them thar posts.

Saturday, September 05, 2009

Love Rescue Me: by U2 and performed by the Omagh Community Youth Choir

Beautiful song; beautiful children; beautiful message.

And a beautiful dream for our heartbreakingly divided people.

(H/T jacqueline)