Lessons Learned and Points Pondered in the Media Maelstrom Over Weiner’s Wiener (Part 1)

If by chance a team of sociologists from another planet visited earth during the past few weeks, they surely reached the conclusion that Terran civilization (such as it is) is doomed to extinction in the very near future. And as if they didn’t have any other proof available, they could have pointed to the public’s all-consuming obsession with the electronic communications and the genitalia (not necessarily in that order) of a certain elected government official from the state of New York.

I know, I know. You’ve heard more than enough about this non-story already, and you’ve heard your quota of wiener jokes, at least for a couple of months. And normally, this is the kind of non-story I wouldn’t touch with a ten-foot pole, or even a ten-INCH pole, if ya know what I mean. But any time there is such a brouhaha about something so small and insignificant (I don’t mean it that way, Congressman) – in fact, especially when there is a brouhaha about something so small and insignificant – it reveals a great deal about our alleged civilization, and it would behoove us to pause and take stock.

Lesson 1: Privacy is obsolete.

Or at least it’s an endangered species. In this age of Facebook, YouTube and Twitter, anything you do or say has the potential to make you immortal. Especially if you’re a public figure.

Lesson 2: Even very intelligent people can do very stupid things.

Few would dispute the capable intellects of Anthony Weiner, Bill Clinton, John Edwards or even Arnold Schwarzenegger. But sometimes the brain gets muddled by an overdose of testosterone. Anthony Weiner was one of the brightest members of Congress, with a rare knack for injecting reason into a discussion and exposing the idiocies of some of his colleagues. Now, he’ll be forever remembered as just another guy who, once too often, did his thinking with his crotch.

Lesson 3: Sometimes even a habitual liar tells the truth.

Because the reports of Weiner’s shenanigans came from serial liar Andrew Breitbart, many people dismissed them at first. But even in Europe, a broken clock is right once a day. While Brietbart was incapable of being truthful about ACORN or Planned Parenthood, he came through on the topic he really, passionately cared about: a young congressman’s hot bod.

Lesson 4: Americans are terrified of sex

Except for a handful of oppressive theocracies like Saudi Arabia and Iran, there is almost nowhere where people live in such abject terror of s-e-x as the good ol’ U.S. of A. Think about it. We have a government agency that monitors TV broadcasts for signs of “indecency” and hands out fines for the same – one of the heftiest of recent memory being for the all-too-brief accidental exposure of Janet Jackson’s right hooter.  This agency once decided that the word fuck is obscene only if it refers to sex, and not if merely used as an expletive. You think I’m making this up? Meanwhile, many Americans are horrified at any usage of the word at all (the mere word, mind you-heaven knows how they react to the act itself) and some may spell it as f**k so nobody will know what they’re really trying to say. When Americans talk about immorality, it’s a good bet they’re not referring to lying, cheating, stealing or even killing, but to f**king.

Lesson 5: Americans are obsessed with sex.

But despite -or perhaps in large part because of – the fear and paranoia, we just can’t get enough of it. While publicly condemning Janet Jackson’s impropriety, we privately replay the recording in slow-mo to get a better look at her starboard buoy. A Hollywood box office success without at least one sex scene is virtually unthinkable. Many people, if they eliminated the time they spend perusing pornography, could just about supply the electricity they’d need for their other Internet usage by making a battery from a potato. When people wring their hands over the latest celebrity sex scandal, there’s a part of them thinking, “damn, why couldn’t that have been me?”

Lesson 6: Americans are confused about sex.

But why bring Ms. Jackson’s mammary miracle into the picture at all? Why can’t we just appreciate it for the magnificent work of nature it is without dragging sex into the frame? Because this is Amurrca, bub, and there’s no such thing as nudity without sex, and there’s no such thing as sex without obscenity – unless of course it’s a strictly private matter between father and daughter.

Even breast-feeding – yes, breast-feeding – has been attacked by the self-appointed guardians of (other people’s) “morality”, inspiring one of my all-time favorite bumper stickers: “If breast-feeding offends you, put a blanket over your head.”

But wait. It gets even better.

Spirit Of Justice is an Art Deco statue placed in the Dept. Of Justice Building in Washington D.C. in the 1930’s.  Like much classical-styled sculpture, it personifies Justice as female, and it depicts the female form, for esthetic and symbolic reasons, with a bare breast. She survived the Great Depression, she survived World War II, she survived a presidential assassination, she survived Watergate, she survived Dan Quayle,  she survived Monicagate. But she didn’t survive John Ashcroft.

The second Bush in the Oval Office deemed himself on a mission from the Almighty to convert the heathen masses to his vision of Christian (sic) morality (sic), and accordingly appointed people like ultra-fundamentalist Ashcroft, who was uncomfortable being photographed in front of the less-than-fully-clothed sculpture.

Which just makes you wonder what kind of man would regard a block of metal as a potential copulatory partner. In any case, the administration spent 8000 bucks of your tax money to put a drape over the offending boob – the one on the statue, that is.

This really shouldn’t come as a surprise. When you combine fear with obsession with contrived ignorance, confusion is the inevitable product. Ours is, after all, the country that has experimented with abstinence-only sex “education”, as the result of which the term “spit baby” became popular among Texas teens who believed they’d been impregnated through oral activity.

Which brings us back to the representative with the unfortunate last name. Apparently, he didn’t commit adultery, though he may have had it on his mind. He didn’t even bare his w***er.  And even if he had, that wouldn’t have constituted s*x. But in the minds of many Amurrcans, it’s all the same.

Lesson 7: Politicians are addicted to (illicit) sex.

By some counts, at least 55% of married American men and at least 45% of married American women ADMIT to having had affairs.  I’d bet that the percentages of politicians are much higher – very close, in fact to 100%. There’s something about the power and prestige and money and ready availability of nookie that makes it pretty much inevitable.

Many will say that “they all do it” is not a valid defense, because the number of people doing a certain thing does not determine its moral acceptability. True enough, but on the other hand it creates a grotesquely uneven playing field if you penalize the polictician who just happens to be unlucky enough to get caught. If it didn’t, you wouldn’t have bottom-feeders like Breitbart so eagerly volunteering their PR services on behalf of Weiner’s goods.

(NEXT: Sorry, but there’s more to come.)

San Francisco, Circumcision, and the Endless Quest for “Liberal Intolerance”

To some people, it’s of the utmost importance to engage in a tireless quixotic quest to locate “liberal intolerance”. These people generally style themselves as “conservatives”, though in fact they’re generally right-wing radicals. And there’s nothing more important to a right-wing radical than attacking “liberals”, however that term is – or much more commonly, is not – defined. (One of these days, I promise, we’ll take a good look at those much-abused terms “liberal” and conservative”, which are almost never used properly anymore, and which I almost always bracket in quotation marks, and for very good reason.) Many of them literally live for it. Since “liberal”, in the true sense of the word, is more or less synonymous with tolerant, “liberal intolerance” is a self-canceling phrase, rather like “conservative movement”. Therefore, it has become a chimera of choice among such“conservatives”.

Recently the Mercatus Center, a very influential right-wing think tank (founded and funded by the billionaire Koch Bros., who have been quietly but steadily buying out democracy for several years) released a laughable “study” showing that “liberal” states (California, New York, New Jersey) enjoy less freedom than “conservative” states. Essentially, the rule of thumb they followed is the fewer laws, the more freedom. They don’t seem to consider the possibility that the Big Apple, with some 8,000,000 inhabitants crammed onto a compact sliver of soil, might actually need more laws than Lamont, Wyoming with its population of 3. Furthermore, if you take a glance at the graph of the factors they considered and how they were weighted (yes, they were actually so inept as to publicize this information), you’ll note that financial matters constitute TWENTY-FIVE PERCENT of what they regard as crucial. Guns, of course figure significantly into the mix, but nowhere is there a mention of reproductive regulation, which almost all right-wingers are very gung ho about. Just goes to show that you really can prove black is white, provided you have no scruples about cooking the books.

It’s only natural, then, that such “conservatives” should salivatingly turn their gaze toward the librul Gomorrah called San Francisco, which has always been a supreme melting pot of all kinds of lifestyles, and therefore has always had a reputation for tolerance. (I speak with some authority on this topic, having lived more than 15 years of my own life as a San Franciscan.) And oh yeah, San Francisco sometimes passes certain laws, you see; and according to right-wing logic, a law aimed at curbing intolerance is the ultimate act of intolerance.

Recently, rumor has it that the City By The Bay played into their hands by banning circumcision. How dare those effete elites decree that we can’t carve up the wee-wees of our own babies? It’s been called a blatant infringement of “freedom of expression”, as if infant genitalia were artistic materials to be molded into expressive shapes to our liking.

Actually, San Francisco has not banned circumcision, at least not yet. What happened was that after a requisite number of signatures were collected, the proposed law was placed on the ballot, so in November, the electorate will decide whether or not to approve it. It’s the democratic process (also known as “liberal intolerance”) the way it was meant to work.

Fox “News” couldn’t wait for November, but promptly declared the measure to be a hitleresque attack on Jews. Never mind that the ban applies to all circumcisions, the great majority of which are performed by goyim. Never mind that a quarter of the city’s residents are Jewish, including no doubt a good many who signed the petition. Yes, it’s true that many Jews have decried the measure, but many others support it; just don’t expect to hear much about them, because they don’t fit the media narrative of librul intolerance so neatly. Incidentally, Fox’s righteous indignation doesn’t appear to extend so much to concern for Muslims, who are also habitual pecker-choppers.

You expect this kind of crap from Fox, but they weren’t alone. This was a golden opportunity for the powerful right-wing propaganda engine to do what it does best: manufacture outrage out of misinformation. It’s probably safe to say that there has been far more outrage expressed in the last few weeks over this one little law (which isn’t even a law, and probably never will be) than there has ever been expressed over circumcision itself, even though it’s been around for ages, and many have always found it objectionable.

Even more interesting, there has been far more outrage over female circumcision, which is already illegal not only in librul San Francisco, but everywhere else in The United States, as well as many other countries. And I’ve never heard of anyone complain of those laws infringing on freedom of expression.

This discrepancy is surprising for two reasons: there are far fewer female circumcisions than male, and females are usually considered of lesser worth than male, particularly in societies heavily dominated by religion. But that’s the rub: religion. Although female circumcision is often inspired by religious beliefs, it is typically not a religious rite per se. Its purpose is to permanently impair the ability of women to experience sexual pleasure, and to help keep the female head securely under the male boot.

Similarly, male circumcision has been the rage in America since Puritan times, when it caught on not for religious reasons (Jews were really a small minority then) but because it was believed to discourage boys from choking the chicken. (The Puritans were on the right track, but you’d really have to cut off the whole thing.) Still, while religion didn’t provide the inspiration, it provided the defense: anything good enough for Jesus is good enough for our children, so shuddup and pass the nails .

Religion and tradition are the twin pillars that have supported all kinds of practices including slavery and human sacrifice. These activities have been largely eliminated after many bold strokes of librul intolerance, in defiance of “conservatives” who demanded “I don’t need no stinkin’ guvmint limiting my freedom to do whatever I want to other people.”

No, no, I am not suggesting that circumcision is in a class with those things. The point is that while “conservatives” often seem to invoke religion and tradition to justify anything and everything, the truth is that absolutely NOTHING can be logically justified on such grounds alone; there are always other factors that need to be considered. Circumcision, for example, has long been believed to be hygienically beneficial, though the evidence is by no means conclusive. The people of San Francisco, or at least some of them, have considered certain other factors.

There is, for one thing, the inescapable fact that circumcision is quite painful. This can be mitigated somewhat, and many try to convince themselves that babies don’t feel the pain at all. But that’s royal technicolor bullshit. At any age, it hurts like hell to have something amputated from your body – whether it be a finger, an ear, or part of Mr. Winkie.

For some slice-ees, the experience is also highly traumatic. There is even evidence that circumcised males may be more prone to low self-esteem and depression. It clearly doesn’t have that kind of effect on everyone, but there are support groups with plenty of members (no pun intended) for circumcised adults, some of whom even undergo procedures to restore the loss.

So the issue is not tolerance vs. intolerance. It’s extreme tolerance vs. extreme tolerance. On the one hand, you have the tolerance for religious tradition, to the point of allowing parents to make religious decisions for their children, even to the point of inflicting pain and possible lifelong trauma, and permanently deciding the appearance of Tiny Tim. On the other hand, you have the tolerance for individualism, to the point of sparing children the pain and trauma, and allowing them to decide for themselves whether their package will remain intact.

You may not approve of what decision the San Francisco voters ultimately make. You have the right not to approve. But to brand the initiative itself as intolerance is truly the pinnacle of reactionary spin.

A Brief Primer on the “Lamestream Media”


What Sarah Said
“And, you know, he who warned the British that they weren’t going to be taking away our arms, by ringing those bells and making sure that as he’s riding his horse through town to send those warning shots and bells that we were going to be secure and we were going to be free. And we were going to be armed…part of his ride was to warn the British that we were already there that hey, you are not going to succeed, you’re not going to take American arms.”

What Paul Said

“Revere later wrote of the need to keep his activities secret and his suspicion that a member of his tight circle of planners had become a British informant. According to the letter, believed to have been written around 1798, Revere did provide some details of the plan to the soldiers that night, but after he had notified other colonists and under questioning by the Redcoats (emphasis added).”  (Associated Press, referring to statements by Paul Revere)

What Your Propaganda Professor Says

Revere’s letter, to which the former half-term governor of Alaska appears to be attempting to allude, does NOT support her rambling, undiagrammable statements apparently cobbled together from verbal elements she overheard from a tour guide . It does not say that he himself fired shots and rang bells, nor even that he rang shots and fired bells. You may quote me on that. As for those arms he was supposedly warning them they couldn’t take, and which she wants to make the most revered item in the universe, they’d mostly been relocated already. If she believes that Revere set out to warn the Redcoats, perhaps she also believes the Beatles set out to bury John Lennon.

What the Media Said

“Experts Back Sarah Palin’s Historical Account.” (Boston Herald)

“You know how Sarah Palin said Paul Revere warned the British? Well, he did. Now, who looks stupid? (The L.A. Times – which even compared the public’s allegedly unfair criticism of her comments to the deliberately manufactured myth that Al Gore claimed to have invented the Internet)

“Palin Did Not Misspeak On Paul Revere.” (Gateway Pundit)

“Mrs. Palin’s version of history was correct… the left does not revere history” (Washington Times)

The latter newspaper, founded by  “Rev.” Sun Myung Moon, the cult leader who has repeatedly railed about what an evil country America is, really felt on a roll then, and launched into the following delusional and irrelevant tirade:

“Tea Partyers and others who look to America’s past for inspiration are appealing to the great national narrative that the left has rejected. In essence, we have become two peoples: one with a vision of America as an exceptional country with a heroic history, and another believing the country and its people are burdened by a multitude of original sins and populated by groups who are owed continuing and endless debts because of that corrupt past.” (You can deduce all of that from an inept politician’s bungling of history???)

What Sarah Probably Will Say Again (and Again, and Again)

“We should ignore the lamestream, leftist media’s criticism of what it is that we say in an interview if we believe what it is that we say. Don’t let them, in a 24-hour news cycle, make us change our positions.”

Remember that. Ignore criticism if you believe whatever you say.

POSTSCRIPT: Kudos to Forbes, a right-leaning publication, for being candid about this  embarrassing woman.

The God Bias, and Other Observations from Joplin

This past weekend, I’ve been fortunate to have the opportunity to visit Joplin, MO and volunteer with the recovery efforts in the aftermath of the recent tornado. It’s a daunting, sobering task that can’t help but make you pause to reflect on a number of things. Here are just a few thoughts that paraded through my mind while picking up debris in the June swelter.

Sometimes media gets it right.

It’s no secret that we live in an age of media exaggeration and sensationalism. (That’s one of the reasons for the existence of this blog.) As I came into Joplin, it appeared they’d done it again. Seeing initially the part of town that was little affected, I noted only a few trees down and some spotty structural damage to houses, and I figured the TV cameras had just zoomed in on a few buildings that got hit exceptionally hard. And then came the reality: miles and miles of total jaw-dropping, gut-wrenching, mind-numbing devastation. The media actually may have understated the case this time.

People want to help.

Despite what you hear about people being greedy, selfish and cutthroat, most of us jump at the opportunity to help out someone in need. Sometimes it takes a disaster to jolt people out of their ruts and make them realize that their help is needed. But we have an innate drive to be of service – ALL of us, regardless of age, race or creed.

The God Bias

Disaster relief is a conspicuous manifestation of the bias toward religion that permeates our society. Most of the people you see – no, strike that – most of the people that you NOTICE  reporting to volunteer are affiliated with a church group. They arrive in vans, wearing custom made T-shirts advertising their congregations from all over the country. Hey, it’s great to see them, from southern fundamentalists to Middle Eastern Muslims.  Joplin needs all the help it can get; even the Scientologists are a welcome sight.

What’s annoying is that it’s often difficult to find an outlet for volunteering without going through a religious group. The official spin is that churches have cornered the market when it comes to charity. And this perception has contributed to the belief that one must be religious in order to be moral, in order to be a good person. The truth is that secularists are just as caring and helpful as anyone else (see above); they are just not as massively organized nor as publicly visible as the religionists.

Religion is, for better and for worse, a highly conspicuous thread running through American society, especially in this part of the country – they don’t call it The Bible Belt for nothing. Just try having a ten-minute conversation with someone about their social life without having them mention their church. The work these folks do for charity is an extension of everything else they do; but contrary to what many believe, it is religious people doing the good deeds, not religion itself.

God does not play favorites.

One aspect of the God Bias is the strange but persistent belief that faith will protect you in the face of such calamity – while simultaneously blaming God for the very disasters he is expected to shield you from. (“Act of God” is even a legal term is this strange world.)

Sorry, but the reality is that such tragedies often strike (think Joplin and Katrina, for instance) in areas having a high concentration of believers. Just around the corner from the houses where I was picking up the sad traces of some family’s home and life were the sparse ruins of a church building, with only a couple of pews remaining, and its hymnals scattered to the winds.

It’s a trend.

In case you haven’t noticed, there has been an increase in storms of this type in recent years. And it’s likely to get worse. Because it’s quite probable that global warming is contributing to it. Of course, the Cult of Denialism will poo-poo this, and find some other explanation. (See above.) They believe that global  warming would be linear and consistent, and therefore having a cold day now and then totally discredits the exhaustive research of climate scientists. What they don’t realize is that global warming produces extremes of many kinds, including cold weather and winds. But don’t worry, the extreme heat is still there too: while I was cleaning up debris, the thermometer reportedly hit a new record for the date.

Finally, note that Joplin still needs a lot of help, and will continue to need a lot of help for a long time. You can contribute hours, money or goods – even if you’re not religious. Honestly.