Oh, my two favorite ex-beauty queens are back in the news.


Carrie Prejean is still working the conservative martyr angle, which is pretty neat to watch. I mean, when you've confessed to distributing child pornography but think that the world still wants to hear your inspiring story of the traditional values that were instilled in you, it's a transcendent moment of hubris that comes along so rarely even in our modern lifestyles. Sit down before you read this or you might fall down.

"There is an extreme double standard that conservative women are under attack for whatever it is," Prejean told Vieira. "If Sean Hannity went out there and said some of the things that Keith Olbermann has said about me, if he says anything about [Sonia] Sotomayor, Michelle Obama, he would be off the air. Why is there this double standard? That's the reason why I wrote this book."

Take a moment, there's a lot there to soak in. The only reason that Sonia Sotomayor and Michelle Obama's underage sex tapes aren't released to the public is because Hannity is too scared to release them. Everybody does it, but she's the only one paying the price for it. There is no recognition that Sotomayor and Obama are strong women who really could be your models of how you take responsibility for the regrettable things that they have said and the mistakes they have made in their lives (and they both obviously have said regrettable things).

And and and you won't believe!!! Sarah Palin is coming to my small town to shill her own book next week. She's trying to stay away from the big cities with their nationally televised shows that ask the mean questions, and being shepherded by fools like she is, she must have been informed that Rochester is a part of Real America. Tee hee, I can't wait to see the look on her face when she finds out that we're mostly a suburb of Toronto. (Actually, my theory is that she's here to hit up Tom Golisano for a few megabucks.) I'd like to go, but it's sure going to be a madhouse.
I've been unsettled at this whole David Letterman story. On the simple side of the ledger, Letterman is a crap boss who plays sexual politics at work and is now getting a bump in the ratings (and increased advertising revenue, presumably) because rubberneckers want to stare and point at him apologizing and joking about it. I don't know what it will take to make America stop caring about his ego, but I wish we'd hurry up and find it.

The unsettled part is that the guy who blew the whistle is looking at fifteen years in prison because he attempted to negotiate an out-of-court settlement for potential civil damages that had been done against him. Admittedly, that's a very charitable assessment, but he could have planned to sue for the civil damages because his girlfriend was directly affected by Letterman's adultery and workplace sexual harassment, and it makes sense that it surely would have been worth more to Letterman to settle those charges before a public lawsuit was announced. Except I got around to looking it up this morning, and that's actually the definition of extortion.

It is against the law to threaten to sue someone if they don't take some mitigating action (evidently not just money and property, but also providing services).

Did you know that? I sure as hell didn't. All those times that some Usenet troll would harangue about how their lawyer was drafting motions yadda yadda yadda, it was waving a smoking gun around the place. It's a shame none of us were David Letterman, or we could have called our local District Attorney and had taxpayer money spent to fight our battles. This is a golden illustration of why a strongly progressive tax system is rational; rich people get more public services than the rest of us and therefore they should pay a premium for the premium treatment.
A few points on Roman Polanski.

- "There's the notion of art for art's sake, a certain leeway that's always allowed to the creative artist. In the 19th century it was elevated into an ideology. It's true we have a rather different vision of artistic licence [sic] – and, come to that, of licence in love." If this is an attitude in which the United States wishes to differ from France, then it is a facet in which I am proud to be an American, and I encourage my French bretheren to step back from their foolishness in the same spirit that I receive their alarm when we are blind. We have not arrived at this point in a particularly graceful manner, but I am glad that football MVPs and hit singers and actors and priests have started to pay the penalty for their crimes just as ordinary citizens do. We should be further along, but I would rather be here than where we were thirty or even five years ago.

- I don't want to hear the crap about how this is a case of repressed American sexual puritanism. A thirteen year-old girl was drugged and anally violated despite her emphatic and repeated demands that the perpetrator stop. This, Ms. Goldberg, is rape-rape*. It's a crime in Europe too. Indeed, in Roman Polanski's home nation, evidently the penalty for his crime is about to include chemical castration.

- The notion that the judge reneged on the plea deal is similarly absurd. Let's review the case (as informed by the wiki article). Polanski is initially charged with rape by use of drugs, perversion, sodomy, lewd and lascivious act upon a child under 14, and furnishing a controlled substance (methaqualone) to a minor. He cuts a deal with the DA where all of those charges are dropped and he agrees to plead guilty to a single count of statutory rape. Then he is sentenced to report to prison for ninety days of (pay close attention to the next two words) psychiatric evaluation. He is released after serving about half of this time. Then there is a second judicial hearing for the final adjudication of the sentence. It was initially suspected that Polanski was going to get probation, but then he found out that the judge was likely to sentence him to return to jail, so he fled the country. This isn't a judge going back on his word, this is a judge who is granted the authority to actually read the evaluation that he ordered and make his final determination based on that. Polanski got the second-sweetest deal I've ever heard of for a child molester and it still wasn't enough for him.

- I also have no sympathy for the fact that he was arrested at a film festival where he was attending in public. Polanski had thirty years to settle this matter in a manner that was more dignified by returning to the United States and submitting himself to face the charges that he plead guilty to or attempt to retract his guilty plea and have a trial for the original slate of charges. He did not take this opportunity, so he gets an embarrassing arrest.

- I have sympathy for the woman that Polanski raped, and am grateful that she gave such clear and chilling testimony to the grand jury, but she is not entitled to exonerate him. This is larger than her. This is ensuring the dignity of the thirteen year-old girl who is today on the casting couch of the lecherous forty year-old director. This is about telling every powerful and talented person in America that you can't skip bail just because you can afford to. Ms. Geimer isn't alone in wanting closure for this incident, but that closure should come from Polanski receiving a sentence and serving it, not from our judicial system deciding that some people are beyond our law.

- I am simply horrified at the degree to which the Hollywood rank and file are on the wrong side of this issue. I honestly am having trouble processing the knowledge that Terry Gilliam and Harrison Ford and Guillermo del Toro are cool with drugging and raping a child, and I honestly don't know if this will impact the way that I perceive their work going forward. It will undoubtedly affect the way that I perceive Hollywood the next time they choose to lecture me on some issue that they feel deserves my attention, because it won't get it. On the other side, I am pleased for the celebrities that have dared the veil of silence to criticize Polanski. Neil Gaiman. Kevin Smith. Kirstie Alley. Undoubtedly more that I haven't seen. These range from people I admire to people that I revile and some people that I don't know, but today they are right.

*) ETA EXTRA BONUS SIXTH THOUGHT: Whoopi Goldberg has apparently attempted to clarify her comments, saying that she was referring only to the fact that the only charge against Polanski is unlawful sex with a minor. So now we get to add in the "innocent until proven guilty" canard that would suggest that Polanski couldn't have drugged and raped a thirteen year-old girl because if he had then the district attorney would have prosecuted him on those charges. It's one thing to get drunk and run over a kid, it's another thing to use your influence to haggle the charges down to running a red light, but it's a whole new thing when you evade responsibility for even that and thirty years later your apologists are saying "Hey, he ran a red light thirty years ago, get over it already!"
So, if you've taken the weekend off from the Internet, you may have missed out on EA's marketing campaign at Comic Con. Evidently, their marketing framing for Dante's Inferno is to tempt their fans into artistically committing a different sin every month in exchange for prizes. This month, the sin is Lust, the bounty is costumed representatives [1] at Comic Con (and not just EA's reps, who could have grudgingly given consent for the certain indignities that were to follow, but any rep at the con), and the prizes eye-rollingly involve the words "hot girls", "chest", and "booty". I won't even bother linking to the firestorm, because it is all predictable. People are angry, EA is shocked that they could be so misunderstood, apologists think that the protesters have no sense of humor or perspective -- there is nothing fresh. I'd join in the anger, except that I hate doing it because I suspect that it just makes EA seem even more rebellious to the sort of person who was actually going to buy the game in the first place. I won't buy The Sims 3, for what it's worth.

But I'd like to add something deeper. This isn't the first time in recent memory that someone has thought of a catalog of sins (here evidently as the Nine Circles of Hell, more often as the Seven Deadly Sins) as an anti-Christian scavenger hunt for the purpose of liberalizing ourselves from the esoteric superstitions of our ancestors. There is some sort of charm in the cultured dastard who feels that it is wasteful to not objectify women enough so long as you don't objectify her too much, along with being just prideful enough to assert your rights or wrathful enough to seek social justice. It is a dangerous game; when you consider it a virtue to stray from the path, you will quickly lose sight of it and soon not even realize how far you have strayed from it. To give an object lesson, EA's perspective on lust is so deranged that they thought that exposing their convention reps (and those of other companies) to statutory lewdness was "in the spirit of good-natured fun" (quoting from their "apology"). Do you or I look as ugly to those around us when we attempt to wave off our gluttony or intemperance as a mildly irreverent but cherished part of our culture? I am a proponent of the more traditional view that sin is what keeps us out of right relation with our neighbor, our Creator, and ultimately with ourselves, and that you worship impropriety and injustice when you celebrate anything other than the ideal even if it is an unattainable selflessness. I don't believe that the nature of sin has changed in 500 or even 2500 years to the degree that we should see ancient warnings as no more than historical curiosities, much less avenues for exploration. (Naturally, I am not talking about the warnings that clearly are ill-conceived. There can be a natural discussion about the inherent sinfulness of homosexuality, but none about envy; I believe you can see the difference.)

[1] This sentence is the only one in which I will write the phrase "booth babe", a phrase I dislike with a passion. I believe that the term itself is no small part of the marginalization of costumed representatives and the desensitization towards the degrading abuses that they are forced to suffer. They are a critical part of the enthusiasm that a convention team wishes to generate for their projects, and among the respect that they deserve is a job title that respects that prominence.
Something happened to me twice over the weekend that has been puzzling me, and with any luck it will happen again so I want to be better prepared and you know what they say about all knowledge.

My parents had their annual "start of summer" party that coincidentally celebrates their birthdays on Saturday, and a friend of theirs from out of town who was not able to attend that party came to our family dinner on Sunday. I had made two pies for the party and we had the leftovers at the second event. The pies came out fine, meeting my hopes that I would finally after all of these years be able to create some form of "potluck" food on demand.

Anyway, at each of these events, a woman (let's say aged 55-68 for the sake of argument) came up to me and asked "How did you make this?" And I, being shy and unprepared, gave a rambling 20-30 second overview of the recipe, and it was clear that she was disengaged. In one case, it became a briefly teachable moment about how I really don't need to freeze the butter to make the crust.

But I'm still faced with the impression that this was a Deborah Tannen moment and these women were trying to establish a supportive network and wound up mystified that I would presume to lecture a mature woman about how to make a banana cream pie. So, if this is a conversation that you (or the person next to you) has been in, what sorts of responses would have been more in line with the original intent of the question?
Exhibit A: This morning, a Muslim man in Arkansas, evidently upset about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, in a moment of opportunity shoots two army recruiters in uniform, killing one. He has been charged with one count of capital murder and fifteen counts of "terrorist acts", one for each person who was hit or endangered by his bullets.

Exhibit B: Yesterday morning, a pro-life extremist in Kansas, evidently upset about late-term abortions, culminated the stalking of an abortion provider by shooting him in front of his Christian church on one of their high holy days. No charges yet. Any guesses? Speeding away from the scene of the justice? Littering?

ETA: One count of first-degree murder and two counts of aggravated assault. Same behavior as the Muslim shooter in Exhibit A; using a gun to intimidate people in the commission of a crime, but not hitting the T-word threshold for some reason despite the fact that Scott Roeder belonged to an ACTUAL violent anti-American organization instead of, you know, Islam.

Sanctuary

May. 31st, 2009 01:41 pm
George Tiller, a doctor who performs abortions in Kansas, is shot dead.

While in his church. On Pentecost Sunday.

The Operation Rescue website (which still has links referencing him as "America's Doctor of Death") is shocked (SHOCKED!) to find that someone would commit such "a cowardly act" and hopes that his family "will find comfort and healing that can only be found in Jesus Christ." Perhaps that advice rings hollow when their familiar consecrated ground has been defiled by one of OR's followers. I pray that Troy Newman recognizes the damage that he has done to the body of Christ through his campaign of stalking and harassment and his own role in rousing the rabble who then go on to accomplish Newman's mission of fear and intimidation without dirtying his own hands. And I hope, once again, that his allies recognize the toxicity of OR and the wrongness of the campaigns that spring from them.

ETA: And, once again, I use the word "hope" to indicate an opportunity that I expect to be missed, and lo it is missed. Operation Rescue and its affiliated Christian groups spent more time in their recent press conference chiding liberals for being outraged than advising that their own followers step back from acts of anti-Christian terrorism, despite the fact that their followers will listen to them and liberals will not. Here we go again: I hope that Mr. Newman and his crowd privately recognize the harm that they have done and make nigh-invisible incremental steps to lessen the role of violence taken up by their own extremists.
I am not a feminist. I haven't tried to pass myself off as one for a number of years now. Reasonable people may debate whether any man can be a feminist, but it really isn't for me. Throughout my life, I've had the privilege of knowing a world full of women who are perfectly capable of stating their own desires and working to achieve them. My understand is far too distant, my actions are far too clumsy, and my motivations for doing so are far too suspect. If you can speak for yourself, then my duty is to listen and consider what you have to say. If you can't speak for yourself, well, it's harder then. But you don't meet women like that too often.

Dreamwidth, meet my niece C. (While you are there, also meet my nephew Z, my brother S, my sister-in-law K, and my parents.) When I met her, she wasn't able to speak for herself. It will still be a number of years before she fully finds her voice. Until that day, I am for her.

Uncle Matthew has some thoughts about raising a young woman that nobody wants to hear, but there is one rule that you do need to know. Never order C to give Uncle Matthew a kiss. A child's love is more precious than jewels, but if it isn't freely given then it very quickly becomes tawdry. C is a complex individual, and if she is not feeling well or if I have somehow upset her, I think those feelings deserve more respect than any emotional hunger I might feel. I'm not laying down rules for the world, and I don't look askance at those who want to train children in the ways of the basic social rituals. But someday C is going to be on a date with a total loser, and it is important to me that she has the seed in her mind that she is under no obligation to be affectionate to a man just because that is what she perceives that he needs.

Now that you know all that, know that this evening as she was getting ready for bed, she hopped into my lap and smiled and rubbed my face. I kissed her on the forehead, to which she crossly told her that I was doing it wrong, and then kissed me on the cheek, turned my head, kissed me on the lips, and rubbed noses with me while giggling. I am emotionally a puddle of goo over here. I can't wait to see what happens next.

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Matthew Daly

December 2012

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