Tag: Ethics

Grayson NAILS IT! No Dems Allowed = No Blacks Allowed

     There is a fine art to making a powerful point without making that point. Usually, the way to do this is by saying something and then immediately follow by saying “That is not why I’m saying”.

   With that in mind, I give you Congressmen Alan Grayson (Kick Ass-FL), who, in an interview with Anderson Cooper last night, made the point ( without making it ) that to turn away Obama voters from your doctors office is pretty much the same thing as hanging a sign that says “No Blacks Allowed”

GRAYSON:     Well, in fact, where he lives, in Mount Dora, which is in my district, many, many of the Democrats who live in Mount Dora happen to be African-Americans.

    So, by saying that he will not treat somebody who supported Obama, he’s saying that he’s not going to treat a large number of African-Americans in the community

crooksandliars.com

Bold text added by the diarist

    A short transcript and more below the fold

Building the Movement, One Brick at a Time

Michael Walzer’s piece entitled “Missing the Movement” is so relevant and smartly written that I felt inclined to read it through four times before beginning to thinking about formulating an adequate response that would do it justice.  I am overjoyed to find someone who has managed to put forth a strong, sound hypothesis as to why recent reform efforts tied to a resurgent liberalism have been so limited while setting out cogently what we ourselves ought to do to fix the problem.  Having identified what went wrong, let us now proceed to take on the hard work and soul searching necessary to get past it.  For as it is written, “Prepare your work outside; get everything ready for yourself in the field, and after that build your house.”

Walzer writes,

Liberalism is the American version of social democracy, but it lacks a strong working-class base, party discipline, and ideological self-consciousness. None of these are in the offing, but we need to be aware of what we are missing, and we need to begin at least the intellectual work of making up for it. European social democrats are on the defensive right now, but they have a lot to defend. Liberals here are in catch-up mode, and not doing all that well. We know more or less what we have to do, but we haven’t managed to give the American people a brightly colored picture of the country we would like to create. There is a lot of wonkishness on the liberal left, among American social democrats, but not much inspiration. We haven’t found the words and images that set people marching. As an old leftist, I can talk (endlessly) about citizenship, equality, solidarity, and our responsibility to future generations, but someone much younger than I am has to put all this in a language that resonates with young Americans-and describe a “city upon a hill” that may or may not be the same hill that I have been climbing all these years.

It is this section in particular which resonates most strongly with me.  I notice this kind of stultifying dullness among those who have, for reasons unknown, exchanged wonkery for truly impassioned discourse and inspirational rhetoric.  The result produced is robotic and bloodless, for one.  For another, it’s downright Pharisaical.  In this circumstance, Dictionary.com defines Pharisaical as “practicing or advocating strict observance of external forms and ceremonies of religion or conduct without regard to the spirit.”  I have noted, sometimes with anger, sometimes with frustration, never with satisfaction, that this is true not just in gatherings of religious liberals, but also quite evident in multiple settings and causes comprised of vocally secular liberals.  Going through the motions without understanding the passion will never serve anyone’s cause well and indeed, it is partially why we find ourselves in the mess in which we are now.  Layering laws upon laws, formalities upon formalities, and procedures upon procedures might seem to be helpful upon first glance, but they end up separating ourselves from each other, not pulling us together.    

At the Beginning of a New Decade, Lessons from the Start of Another

On this day where we seek to remember the legacy of the nine years that came before the one very shortly to conclude, I recall the beginning of another decade ninety years in the past.  The Presidential election of 1920 returned Republicans to control of the Executive Branch, and epitomized the weariness the American people had with foreign wars and towering idealism.  When, a year or so before, Woodrow Wilson proposed the League of Nations to a skeptical American public, itself an altruistic enterprise promising world peace, the proposal was transformed by smears and lies to imply that somehow the United States would sacrifice its autonomy and be governed by foreign powers.  By the time a new decade rolled around, isolationism was the word of the hour and with it came a reliance on business and a pursuit of big money.  So it was that the Republican nomination for President of the United States was sold to the highest bidder, and with it came the office itself.

Lanton McCarthy’s fascinating recent book, The Teapot Dome Scandal:  How Big Oil Bought the Harding White House and Tried to Steal the Country deflates the notion that the past promised some degree of ethical conduct in its elected representatives and stewards of the people’s trust.  It would be difficult to imagine a festering cesspool of corruption, dirty deals, and hushed up scandals in more copious quantity than in the form of the gang of thieves who effectively ran the country for three years.  Those who believe that the past promises some kind of respite from the sordid, the unethical, and the immoral would do well to think again.  One wonders as well if the passage of time will slaughter other sacred cows and lay bear the reality of the situation in question.    

A few years back, during the waning years of George W. Bush’s second term, many made a comparison of the gross incompetence present in that Administration to the Harding years, which though it had some parallels, was not a wholly satisfying one.  For starters, had there been no Woodrow Wilson and World War I, there would have been no established precedent to reverse, and with it no Warren G. Harding.  George W. Bush won in part by tapping into a public desire to return some degree of morality to the Oval Office after the embarrassment of the Clinton Impeachment.  Harding won by promising a return to good times and unregulated business wheeling and dealing.  Indeed, his very election owed itself to a multitude of deep pockets who provided their support with some serious strings attached, namely high ranking cabinet positions and control of then untapped oil reserves in the Southwest and West in return for high dollar contributions and the votes of the very convention delegates by which Harding was chosen as leader of the GOP.  Those who screamed “Drill, Baby, Drill!” in 2008 were merely echoing their predecessors of nearly a century before.    

In the spirit of full disclosure, I was prompted to study the Teapot Dome Scandal and the Harding White House due to the fact that I am related to one of the active participants.  My late Grandmother, as is true with so many, desperately wanted to prove a direct connection to someone either rich or powerful on a grand scale.  This is why she took an active interest in genealogy, and in so doing unearthed the name of a close relative.  The relative in question was named Jess Smith, who took the role of yes man, bribe collector, unofficial attorney general, and kick back accountant for Harding’s Ohio Gang.  The structure of the Harding Administration resembled an organized crime syndicate more than a government entity, and had Grandmother known this, I doubt she would have taken pride at having de facto mob ties.

Nor would she have found much to crow about had she discovered this,


According to some accounts, Smith’s primary role was to quiet women, including Carrie Fulton Phillips, who claimed that Harding had affairs with them.  Smith and Daugherty were members of the Ohio Gang, and they actually were both from Ohio. While Daugherty served as attorney general, Smith held no formal position in the federal government. He simply served as an unofficial assistant to Daugherty. Smith lived with Daugherty at the Wardman Park Hotel in Washington, DC, and it was rumored, at the time, that the two men were engaged in a homosexual relationship. Smith was single, while Daugherty was married.

As rumors spread about corrupt officials in Harding’s administration, eventually Attorney General Daugherty launched various investigations. Critics, especially in the United States Congress, claimed that Daugherty did not vigorously pursue the investigations. Eventually, it was suggested that Daugherty was also working with bootleggers. Bootlegging was a direct violation of the Eighteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. This amendment established Prohibition in the United States. Smith also was supposedly involved in Daugherty’s illegal activities. Rather than face legal charges and a possible prison sentence, Smith committed suicide.

Smith’s actions, along with those of several other of Harding’s cabinet officials, caused a great deal of distrust of government officials among the American people and also solidified Harding’s reputation as a poor president.    

Source:  Ohio Historical Society, “Jess Smith”.

Harding’s incautious and highly impulsive womanizing make both Bill Clinton and John F. Kennedy seem tame by comparison.  What complicated matters further is that Harding was a bit of a bizarre romantic, who was not inclined merely to keep to one night stands.  Instead he heavily courted each of the numerous women with whom he had affairs and in so doing wrote scores of love letters to each of his paramours, providing undeniable documented proof and paper trails a mile long.  The RNC, by way of slight-of-hand and creative accounting managed to find untraceable ways to pay off most of these women in exchange for their silence, though two or three did come forward, sometimes goaded on by jealous husbands or boyfriends, threatening to tell all if they were not handsomely compensated for it.  This proved to be an additional headache for Harding’s handlers, as they had their hands full putting out fires all over the place.  The vast scope of Harding’s adulterous dalliances make Tiger Woods look like a mere novice by comparison and the David Letterman matter a relatively modest affair.

This was, of course, purely the tip of the iceberg.  Harding’s own failings were bad enough.  It would be difficult to imagine a more disturbing group of unapologetic slimeballs setting up shop in Washington, DC.  Their own marital infidelity often rivaled Harding’s, and they quite eagerly engaged in money laundering, bootlegging, obstruction of justice, solicitation of prostitution, covering up the death of at least one accidental homicide, and other crimes.  Smith ran a love nest for Harding and his inner circle on H Street that was mere blocks from the White House and could be accessed by way of an underground tunnel. He made sure it was well-stocked with alcohol recently confiscated from rum runners and bootleggers, scantily clad chorus girls shipped down from New York City, and any number of Harding cronies who were always in the mood to play a few hands of a never-ending poker game.  It was a $50,000 a year enterprise and came complete with a full time cook and full time butler.  Harding’s wife was well-aware of her husband’s behavior, but refused to besmirch the reputation of the office by allowing such conduct in the White House, necessitating the procurement of the secret residence.  This didn’t, however, prevent Harding from sneaking his favorite mistress into the official home of the President and having sex on the floor of the Oval Office, to boot, confirming at two the number of Chief Executives who have engaged in sexual conduct in that room.  I would not be surprised if the exact count was much higher than that.  

Much of this, of course, never became public knowledge until decades after the fact.  Harding died unexpectedly, towards the end of what would be his only term in office, at which point the entire organization began to unravel.  Criminal investigations followed, at which point the rats began to scurry from the ship, and a shocked public recognized just how indebted its federal government had been to the whims of big business, particularly the oil industry.  The American oil powers had recognized just how lucrative exporting crude could be and how it could be profitably marketed and sold to a Europe that was still rebuilding from World War I.  It is for that reason that they wanted complete control over land that was under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Government, in particular designated to the Department of the Navy.  Granted, this land had been wrested from Native Americans a few decades before, but these men were not particularly sympathetic to the plight of indigenous peoples or to the conservation movement, which is the immediate precursor to the  environmentalism of today.  That has not changed much in nearly a century.

A wealthy Oklahoma oilman named Jake Hamon contributed over a million dollars to Harding’s campaign immediately prior to the convention, buying off enough delegates in the process to win him the right to name the position he wanted within the presumptive Cabinet.  Hamon coveted the Secretary of the Interior slot, since it promised full control of government-owned oilfields, of which Teapot Dome was one.  Once formerly installed, Hamon reckoned he’d rake in enough revenue to make him the richest man in the country, if not the world, by directing the oil profits into his own pocket, rather than that of the government coffers where it rightly belonged.  He would have been richer than Rockefeller and openly bragged about it to anyone who would listen.

His plans were rather abruptly short-circuited, however, when his much younger and long-term mistress shot him, whereupon he died from his wounds five days later. It seems that Mrs. Harding would not stand for Hamon to bring his mistress to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue–only his neglected wife and their children.  Hamon was then forced to inform the other woman, Clara Hamon (no relation, despite the same last name) that she could not come with him.  The mistress, however, had other ideas.  After mortally wounding Jake, she found a letter in his papers addressed to him from Harding, specifically spelling out the precise quid pro quo of the cabinet position.  The letter was signed in the President-Elect’s own hand, and Clara knew that as long as the letter was in her possession, she held a powerful trump card that would prevent her from being convicted for murder and put to death.

This kind of brazen, Wild West kind of attitude is what eventually led to the complete dissolution of the Ohio Gang.  The Bush Administration, by contrast, kept a code of silence and with it a very secretive attitude that deliberately locked out all but those with the President’s primary ear.  It was no less incompetent and no less arrogant, but it was ultimately undone not by a kind of unrestrained permissiveness but rather by its dogged determination to stifle dissent and label those who disagreed with its narrow interpretation of pressing concerns and ideological stances as anti-American and borderline traitorous.  The lessons, then, to be learned from Harding and the beginning of another decade are not so much in our rear-view mirror, but in the future that lies before us.

Another erudite, well-polished, academic Democratic President has promised major reforms based on idealistic notions of unity and cooperation.  This same President won the Nobel Peace Prize based not so much on actual achievement as by the expansive goals he has set forth, goals that may or may not find enactment on a broad scale.  Now, as then, he is far more popular in the rest of the world than he is at home. Now, as then, he was elected on the premise to, if not keep us out of war altogether, certainly minimize our commitment to it.  Later both men reversed course and Obama has since taken full ownership of a foreign entanglement.  Assuming he wins a second full term, the question on the glossy cover of soberly contemplative print magazines (assuming they exist then) will be, “Life after Obama?”

Indeed, it might not be such a bad thing for us to contemplate what the Democratic party, the American people, and the demands facing us will be when this soon-to-arrive decade is well over half-finished.  All we need do is look back ninety years to see what happens when a supposed return to normalcy produces little more than an Restoration of the Good Old Boy network.  One would hope that our role as bloggers and citizen journalist would continue to be that of the gatekeepers, since investigative journalism seems to have been utterly abandoned by the mainstream outlets.  Removing coats of whitewash and pursuing subjects too sensitive to find voice otherwise is how I envision my role.  Though some criticize the blogs for being too reactive, too amateurish, and too beholden to echo chamber, there are many worthy and substantial voices out there and these we must continue to lift up and to dig to discover.  Everyone must take a role if we are to ensure that someone is watching the store, because history provides a multitude of tragic examples which reveal what happens when it is not being closely monitored.  Though my own brush with the past is not an especially inspiring one, I can redeem the sins and the mistakes of prior generations by vowing to never forget and in so doing never neglect a greater purpose beyond myself and my own blood.

The Often Disturbing Reality of Social Media

Julia Angwin’s column entitled How Facebook is Making Friending Obsolete provides a revealing look into the ways that supposedly free services like Facebook and Twitter are mining the data of unsuspecting users for profit.  The tactic is unethical at best, but it highlights just how desperate some companies are to turn a profit.  The idea of monthly or yearly subscriptions, which were the bread and butter of old media cannot be relied on in this medium because online users refuse to pay them and then gravitate to the latest platform that can be used for free™.  As for my own personal leanings, any technology that subverts the established system and forces it out of its comfort zone is worthy of praise in my book, but I suppose this degree of perfidy and with it monetary gain ought to be expected under the circumstances.  The basic idea of capitalism is built on the idea of change and the next big thing, but this, of course, threatens the establishment that doesn’t like having to think outside of its cozy comfort zone.  

Angwin sets up her column by saying,

Friending wasn’t used as a verb until about five years ago, when social networks such as Friendster, MySpace and Facebook burst onto the scene.

Suddenly, our friends were something even better – an audience. If blogging felt like shouting into the void, posting updates on a social network felt more like an intimate conversation among friends at a pub.

That degree of false intimacy, however, proved to have consequences.  It lulled many into an imagined sense of security that could be broached by ten mouse clicks or less.  Potentially embarrassing personal details could be accessed easily by complete strangers, and when these users complained and very publicly cried foul, the media picked up on it by running stories and op-eds that adopted the tone of a finger-waggling parent.  Apparently it deemed that the best way to keep from oversharing personal details online was a good hearty dose of stern lecturing and abject moralizing.  To be sure, irresponsible behavior led to the establishment of a thousand or so online-based drama queens and flame wars.  That which had been an interesting concept in drawing people together began to show some serious flaws.      

Or, as Benjamin Franklin put it,

Three can keep a secret, if two of them are dead.

I never recognized how repressive a culture of which we are all a part until I incorporated the internet into my daily routine.  The guise of anonymity that cyberspace provides gives people the opportunity for people to come clean with a million different, but highly related fears, phobias, neuroses, and insecurities as though we were all members of a giant support group.  Unlike some, I don’t get much pleasure out of observing the scars of other people, no matter how selfishly rendered they may be.  I pity those who feel that the only way they can truly be honest with themselves and in so doing brave vulnerability and sincerity is when among those who they cannot see, hear, or speak to face to face.  And yet, each of us is like that to some degree.  

Regarding keeping ourselves in check a bit, I don’t mean it in a kind of Puritanical repressive sense, but rather that the immediate gratification and instant attention the internet provides us caters to a sense of narcissism and me-centered discourse.  If intimacy with friends is what we were seeking, the Wild West freedom provided by the technology makes a true circle of trust and discretion nearly impossible.  One can only work within the limitations of the medium itself.  Whatever ends up being broadcast online usually can be discovered with enough searching.  

When I was younger, I volunteered information in cyberspace that hindsight allows me to recognize that I probably should have been a bit more discerning.  But again, I was a teenager then, and every adolescent is half child, half adult, and all insecure.  I am fortunate I had the internet at that formative time in my life because I met other people my own age going through the same things I was and I had a shared sense of solace there.  Had I been born even five years earlier, I would not have had that outlet and would have suffered mightily in its absence.  

Returning to the larger point, the true lesson here is that major sectors of our capitalist wilderness are desperately trying to find ways to make money and are doing so by methods that openly violate our trust and our sense of security.  I suppose I could jump up and down, screaming about constitutional statutes and right to privacy being broached, shortly after contacting the ACLU, but I doubt it would do much in the way of good.  The recession merely exacerbated trends that had been slowly, steadily progressing of their own accord.  That certain companies would have the testicular fortitude to so sneakily use our own information and thoughts for their gain is damning enough, but provided we remain complicit and enabling in it, more companies will attempt similar tactics.  

Any system based on profit will be adaptive and find a way to use our humanity against us.  In an age where we are lonely, desirous of companionship, isolated by distance, and hoping to find a means to be a part of something larger than ourselves, Facebook arrived to fill the void.  It captured the Zeitgeist, for better or for worse, and now it is merely the latest manipulator for profit.  I am decidedly not a purist in this regard and though I will certainly take care to make sure I don’t resort to blarf on the page, neither will I take stock that someday social networking will replace what face-to-face personal contact ought to provide.

It is a testament to the fact that judge not, lest ye be judged is probably the moral teaching we disregard the most in this day.  That we judge ourselves more harshly than any troll or disapproving person ever could gets down to the root cause of the matter.  These are “guilty before proven innocent” times.  These are Nancy Grace days.  If we wish to change them, learning to forgive ourselves for being imperfect might be a good place to begin.  Embracing this unfair, didactic standard forces us to feel as though jumping through hoops and adhering to an obstacle course of needlessly complex, self-appointed guidelines is the key to living a satisfying life.  Micromanaging every aspect of who we are is the quickest road to misery I’ve ever seen.  We have unfortunately adopted a belief in the letter of the law, not the spirit of the law.

Intentionally following the letter of the law but not the spirit may be accomplished through exploiting technicalities, loopholes, and ambiguous language. Following the letter of the law but not the spirit is also a tactic used by oppressive governments.  

       

This is something, quite predictably, with which we have been struggling for a very long time.

While Jesus was having dinner at Levi’s house, many tax collectors and “sinners” were eating with him and his disciples, for there were many who followed him.  But when the teachers of religious law who were Pharisees saw him eating with tax collectors and other sinners, they asked his disciples, “Why does he eat with such scum?”  When Jesus heard that, he said to them, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor; those who are sick do. I’ve come to call sinners, not people who think they have God’s approval.”  

But neither do we need to appear self-righteous in talking about self-righteous, egocentric behavior.  That is deepest irony and part of this same judge-addicted culture.

Twitter’s updates were also easily searchable on the Web, forcing users to be somewhat thoughtful about their posts. The intimate conversation became a talent show, a challenge to prove your intellectual prowess in 140 characters or less.

People are competitive in nature.  I take it Angwin finds this sort of conduct distasteful.  I myself have used my Twitter posts to underscore the larger points I was mulling over at the time, often while in the process of constructing my posts, but the point was never to be adored or to win a fan base.  Often I felt a compulsion to put down something substantive to counterbalance the vast amount of trite banter that makes its way onto status updates.  Along these same lines, I notice that many people seem to make it a challenge to see how many friends they can achieve on Facebook, no matter whether they actually have ever met in person or not.  Life may be a talent show, but no one forces one to sign up for a space, either.      

Angwin concludes her column, vowing,

…I will also remove the vestiges of my private life from Facebook and make sure I never post anything that I wouldn’t want my parents, employer, next-door neighbor or future employer to see. You’d be smart to do the same.

We’ll need to treat this increasingly public version of Facebook with the same hard-headedness that we treat Twitter: as a place to broadcast, but not a place for vulnerability. A place to carefully calibrate, sanitize and bowdlerize our words for every possible audience, now and forever. Not a place for intimacy with friends.

While I agree with the author’s conclusion, I also add that being careful about that what we post in a public forum might not be a bad habit to get into, after all.  Her frustration with Facebook is quite palpable, but I’m not sure cutting off our nose to spite our face is a good solution.  Nor am I completely certain that there was ever some golden age where vulnerability on any online platform could be safely protected and manipulation of intimacy did not exist.  Secrets have a way of spilling out, even among friends, and even in real life.  

Nothing can be covered up forever and the paradoxical reality about success and increased exposure is that the larger a profile a person has, the more public is his or her life.  When I was growing up, my mother frequently invoked the old saying that just because you have dirty laundry doesn’t mean you ought to put it out on the front porch for all to see.  I’ve always disagreed with the statement and what it implies, because I think being vulnerable need not be purely irresponsible.  It’s a matter of degree and it’s a matter of balance.      

The internet has catered to a fickle side of who we are.  MySpace was once the end-all, be-all of social networking sites, and now it has given way to Facebook.  Twitter, not to be forgotten, has muscled its way into the public consciousness.  Anyone designing a social media network should keep in mind that success is ephemeral in the internet age and that one needs only look back roughly a decade to see all of the companies, platforms, programs and their ilk that have fallen out of public favor.  We are no longer beholden to brand loyalty, which is probably what separates Baby Boomers from their children regarding the strongest sense of disconnect.  

Today Facebook, tomorrow something else.  Whatever comes afterward will probably have to be monitored, too, but my belief in our economic system was that so long as we cling to Adam Smith’s invention, we will have to be our own regulators, but neither does this mean that all of our efforts should be devoted to plugging the dam.  I have no doubt that if we adopted socialism wholesale we’d need to be mindful of its shortcomings as well, but neither should we be utterly consumed with finding fault.  Life is too short.      

Daring to Dance to No One’s Funeral

Taking the time to contemplate the vast amount of right-wing smears that have been either facilitated, advanced, or concocted by conservatives over the past several months is an overwhelming task.  Within each of these petty, partisan, often nonsensical parries and thrusts I am reminded again of the excesses of the Pharisees.  Wishing to have everything on their own terms and in accordance with every selfish demand, modern day Pharisees are found not merely in the opposition party, but regrettably sometimes among our own ranks, particularly in the form of people who fail to neither understand nor respect the vast amount of indignation felt when crucial reform legislation is watered down or vaguely outlined due to nothing more than political expediency and self-preservation.  If this sort of thing was limited to politicians, it might be more easily challenged, but one sees it everywhere.  Most recently, those well-connected business types who long ago lost their souls in selling the whole world are also guilty as charged.

       

The Parable of Speaking Truth to Power

The Parables of Jesus were spoken in symbolic language which lends them to a variety of different, though often interrelated interpretations.  Indeed, the very structure of the words which form them make any one sole meaning impossible.  It is this fact in particular that has made me skeptical of any church or any faith which stakes a claim to the “real” way.  Biblical scholarship has revealed nuance and even irony in the original text itself, both of which must be taken into account before forming any one-sided reading.  Jesus often spoke indirectly to avoid persecution by both Roman and Jewish authorities, but beyond the obvious, I have always seen the Parables much as I would an excellent work of poetry, one which provides a new, helpful, before unseen resonance with every subsequent reading.  The intrinsic thread remains constant, but new permutations arise as I age and depending on what frame of mind I am in at that particular juncture in my life, I always glean something brand new.

When we talk about our own complicity in a system where those at the top dictate the course of action for those subservient to them, I return to the Parable of the Talents.  In this day and age where we often believe that our own power, income, and sphere of influence owes its existence to making compromises with unethical major players, this Parable address our messy moral dilemmas.  Here, the version in the Gospel of Matthew, which is cited most frequently.    

DeMint violates Logan Act, BETRAYS American interests to a Foreign Power. Will he pay for it?

Crossposted at Daily Kos

    With all the uproar over Republican gloating over American failures, this bit of news has been almost totally overlooked, but it trumps any posturing over the Olympics by a long shot.

    Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC) has announced that he will be visiting Honduras today to meet with the de facto regime of acting Honduran President Roberto Micheletti in sheer defiance of the position taken by the US government and (the) international community . . .

 Bold added by diarist

thinkprogress.org

      Senator DeMint (R-SC) has been revealed as a member of the C-Street Family, a fundamentalist Christian group that admires Hitler and believes in the Supremacy of a Free Market supporting Jesus, and has just violated the Logan Act, a law that states that ONLY unauthorized citizens are forbidden from negotiating with foreign Governments. As of now, DeMint is acting against American interests.

      And that makes him a traitor.

      More below the fold

The Polanski Case: Morality Play Aside, What are the Real Motives?

Roger Simon in The Politico writes today about the extradition drama surrounding the arrest of director Roman Polanski.  Simon’s greater point is, of course, that those who are blessed with great talent are not always those who are blessed with the greatest moral fiber.  When a person who has achieved great fame for high artistic achievement gets in trouble, he or she suddenly finds himself or herself with a multitude of apologists and sycophantic admirers.  And yet, I would be remiss if I neglected to add that until fame is achieved, however, society and the creative class views any unknown artist as merely another odd bird either unable or unwilling to conform and certainly worthy of no one’s pity.  

Beyond a simple argument regarding the nature of cult of celebrity or the brutality of childhood sexual abuse, Polanski’s case concerns our own yearnings for attention and desire and how quickly we sell into the lies and cheap attention of celebrity.  Not only that, this contentious issue promises great appeal to those wishing to use it to pad their own resumes, insert another feather into the cap, or use the topic as a bargaining chip to strengthen a hand at the diplomatic table.  We have been contemplating one side of the issue, but I’d like to know more than the superficial.  These instances where art and law intersect are much more interesting.

To begin, a friend of mine, then enrolled in art school, expressed constant frustration to me and to anyone who would listen that the professors encouraged a high degree of eccentricity in each student, feeling that being weird for weird’s sake was a conditioned and necessary virtue.  The famous Irish wit Oscar Wilde, himself of no small ego and put on trial for his part in a sex scandal, noted that “no great artist ever sees things as they really are. If he did he would cease to be an artist.” Most of these students needed no encouragement in this area but I suppose the implication was that in a world where “starving artist” was a label frequently pinned to even the most talented at the craft, one needed to do something to stand out.  Those who adhere to this philosophy never require much in the way of introduction.  We know some of them by their first name alone.  

Simon’s column makes light of several less than stellar human beings who were championed by Hollywood, writers, actors, and other well-connected individuals for their talents but were dismal failures regarding ethical and legal conduct.  One could, I suppose, also add Charles Manson to the list, as several members of The Beach Boys believed him to have genuine musical skills and even were willing to pay for demo sessions to record his ramblings onto magnetic tape.  If one surveys poets, playwrights, recording artists, composers, sculptures, painters, and the like one can easily find example after example of misanthropic, borderline criminal behavior.  The Beat Poets, for example, were a rowdy bunch of social defectives and proud hell-raisers.  I believe there to be at least two reasons for this:  the prevalence of mental illness is high among the creative and those who perceive of the world around them so acutely and with such unyielding, high sensitivity have a tendency to be unable to know how to guard themselves properly against an unceasing stream of emotion.  Some manage to find healthy ways to control and channel this simultaneous blessing and curse and some do not.      

My point in all this is neither to defend nor to accuse Polanski for his actions.  While I agree that his directorial work has frequently been genius, I don’t feel much of a compulsion to let that fact whitewash the serious crime which he himself has admitted to taking a starring role.  The morality of the matter has already been talked to death by voices better connected and more eloquent than mine.  I am, however, much more interested in the reasons WHY this matter has come to trial now, after the passage of thirty years.  What are the motives this time behind bringing the French/Polish director back to the United States to serve out his sentence?  Who truly seeks to gain from this?  Whose reputation will be padded by having brought Polanski to justice?  Who are the major players, what are their names, and what is their compulsion to prosecute now?

The coverage thus far has been predicated on a very small focus of what could be an enormous matter.  That we have not yet been provided with the names of those driving extradition proceedings is telling and likely deliberate.  Aside from the diplomatic wrangling between France and United States, the politics and the ulterior motives of this drama have been obscured and unrevealed.  That the media seems content to let us talk to death one sole facet amongst ourselves and amongst itself is quite interesting.  This either means they have nothing further to go on themselves or are being instructed to not give light to a detailed, complex analysis of the case.  When matters of International Law are concerned, complications frequently arise and specific issues remain resolutely thorny.  It could also be that precise details of this case will be rolled out one by one over the coming weeks, at which point the media will hash them out to exhaustion, only to be presented latest batch of compelling information.      

I myself have grown tired of debating morality as regards Roman Polanski.  Polanski’s offense has highlighted how eager we are to forgive significant offenses in our heroes, especially those who have found their way into that small, elite club we call celebrity.  I honestly understand those in that tight circle who defends him, because their motives are a result of both self-preservation and sympathy.  They’re aware of the obscene pressure of living in a fishbowl and having any shred of privacy destroyed by the effects of a society desperate to poke into their personal business.  They understand how easy it is to break down, resort to drug addiction, or come completely unglued under the pressure of the omnipresent white hot spotlight.  Moreover, they know how easily reputations can be destroyed by spurious rumors and allegations of misdeed.  Even so, they also know that the “Get Out of Jail Free” card often extended to those who have the financial means loses its potency whenever any celebrity is sent to prison, no matter how open and shut the case may be.  Viewpoints such as these require us to rethink the idea of fame and acknowledge its impact upon our society and we ourselves.

UN Officer to APA: All Psychologists Must Leave Gitmo! (b/c of torture!)

The 2009 convention of the American Psychological Association (APA) opened in Toronto on August 7, and runs through today. Behind all the busy poster events, interest group parties, speeches and academic get-togethers, the fine wheels of bureaucratic resistance are grinding slowly and inexorably.

Anyone who has ever seen their dream killed by administrative indifference and authoritarian obstructionism will sympathize with the betrayal felt by the leaders of a referendum drive inside the APA to condemn psychologist participation in prison sites that are in violation of international law, say, by torturing their prisoners, or holding them in indefinite detention.

The referendum passed last summer by nearly 60% of voting members. Subsequently, APA revved up their bureaucratic resolution-killing machinery. A description of their bad faith maneuvers follows, along with coverage of breaking news, wherein the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture calls on APA to honor the referendum and tell the U.S. government it must pull all psychologists out of Guantanamo and other sites in violation of human rights.

It came from a blogger …

Yesterday, President Barack Obama had a daytime press conference that is being viewed with outrage by many in the media world.  That ‘outrage’ is manufactured and displaying ignorance.

Obama presaged the questioning with a statement that included much discussion of the Waxman-Markey American Clean Energy and Security (ACES) Act which is going to be up for a vote this Friday in the House.  This is a massive bill, with significant implications.  Was the media outrage because no journalist got around to asking a question to this significant piece of legislation?  No.  Energy and Environment evidently aren’t on the table either for the White House press corps or other journalists around the country.

No, instead, the “outrage” derives from what might be seen as some mishandling of President Obama’s turning to the second questioner, Nico Pitney of The Huffington Post.  Obama turned to Nico with the following:

Obama said to Pitney, “Nico, I know that you, and all across the Internet, we’ve been seeing a lot of reports coming directly out of Iran. I know that there may actually be questions from people in Iran who are communicating through the Internet. … Do you have a question?”

From Faux News to the pages of The Washington Post the outrage skyrockets from people who, pointedly, ignored the fact that the Bush Administration planted a Republican gay prostitute operative posing a journalist in press conference after press conference.  They are misrepresenting, repeatedly, something that just a little honest searching of the ‘google tubes’ would provide value.

Dana Milbank attacks the Obama team and Pitney as posturing some form of daytime soap opera in Stay Tuned for More of “The Obama Show”.

A Riotous Time?

** Now as a consideration for my dear friend OPOL as well..whose excellent essay “They Better Hope We Don’t Wake Up” also burns as truth in my soul.

Cross-posted from the Wild Wild Left

(…this started as a response to Gottlieb’s reply to Proximity1 in Ed’s PROMIS essay but grew beyond what I had to say to him into a general essay on the subject…)

I was going to ask first, somewhat glibly, “Would you then come back & help?

Then as thoughts of Pandora’s Box came into my mind, it grew into ponderings too large to be ignored, not a subject for glibness or levity.



This may be the biggest decision America has had to face in light of our current conditions and the available technology in which they will be dealt.

So, this isn’t just a reply to his comment anymore, but a thought to those who would say “riot” lightly.

It is also a question for those who are ready, and say “riot” not lightly, but with full intent.

Read on for my thinking. Consider well before you leap my friends, for when we leap there really is no going back. And most of us would not live to see the fruits of our actions.

Alaska environmentalist on Palin record: It’s not pretty

What’s Sarah Palin’s environmental record as governor of Alaska?

I asked an old friend, a college classmate of my wife, who’s been an environmentalist working in Alaska for three decades, most of her post-college life.  In a nutshell:

Her record is one of support for wolf control by illegal means, opposition to the listing of endangered species, and unethical intervention into public initiative processes.

But read her report yourself:  

Load more