aTypical Joe: a gay New Yorker living in the rural South
Friday, July 20, 2007
Georgia High Court Wilson hearing ends
No word on when they’ll have a decision. 11Alive:
The courtroom was packed with supporters and cameras Friday as Georgia’s top justices heard an hour’s worth of arguments over whether a young man serving a 10-year prison term for consensual oral sex with a fellow teenager should be freed. [...]
Wilson’s lawyer, B.J. Bernstein, argued that the law’s changes in 2006 marked a “tectonic shift” in how Georgia views voluntary consensual teen sex. She also noted the rarity of legislation that softens punishment.
“The new reality is that teen sexual experimentation is commonplace in an era where the media bombards teens with sexual imagery,” she wrote.
Bernstein’s media savvy is profiled in today’s AJC. It looks to me like her critics are as effective, if not more so, in turning that savvy against her:
“There does appear to be more of an attempt for publicity and future book and movie deals and limousines and Web sites and publicists, that you begin to wonder whether or not Genarlow is the highest priority,” said state Senate President Pro Tem Eric Johnson (R-Savannah), who has been outspoken in his criticism of Wilson. “When you have a case, you try it in court. When you don’t have a case, you try it in the media.
“That is what is going on.”
I’d like the world outside of Georgia to look into why Senator Johnson - a pandering media hog who has filled the senate floor, the radio and the papers with misstatements - has been so obsessed with keeping Genarlow in jail.
From my perspective, this case desperately needs the whole wide world to look in here and see just exactly what’s going on.
LATER: The AJC report on the hearing.
Some gay Hairspray fans think so:
“Travolta, a prominent Scientologist, has no business reprising an iconic gay role, given his [religion’s] stance on gay issues,” notes Kevin Naff, managing editor of the gay-oriented Washington Blade. “It’s well known that Scientology rejects gays and lesbians as members and even operates reparative therapy clinics to ‘cure’ homosexuality.”
Defending Travolta, director Adam Shankman backed up by Hairspray creator John Waters. Says the 43-year-old filmaker:
I am stunned this has gotten that far. [Naff] has made the dumbest claims on the entire planet. Everybody involved in Hairspray - all the creators - are gay. So John has no problem with people being gay - me, the writers, composer, John Waters - all gay. John’s personal beliefs never walked onto my set. I never heard the word Scientology.
I don’t know bupkes about Scientology but I have loaded my iPod with Mark Oppenheimer’s Scientology Exclusive:
I sat down with John Carmichael, a thoughtful, middle-aged Cornell alumnus who heads the Church of Scientology’s branch in Times Square, and he did his best - what Scientology’s opponents would call his biased, self-serving best - to help me separate fact from fiction. I found the discussion illuminating, a focused look at a Scientologist who is not a celebrity and clearly not a cultist either.
The podcast is a companion piece for his The Actualizer piece in last week’s NYTimes Magazine.
Thursday, July 19, 2007
Sicko contest: trip to a universal health care country
Sicko, now one of the top five grossing documentaries of all time, opens in 500 small town theaters tomorrow. Not so small as my small town, but I’m expecting it will be in Macon. So I’m going to see it again. And planning a caravan of folks to go with me.
Maybe one of them will win the contest:
[T]o show my thanks to all of you who’ll go see “Sicko” this weekend, I’m going to send one of you and a guest on a free weekend to the universal health care country of your choice! That’s right. You’ll get to pick one of the three industrialized countries featured in the movie where, if you get sick, you get help for free, no matter who you are. All you have to do is send us your ticket stub (make sure it says “Sicko” on it and has the name of the theater and this weekend’s date on it—Friday, Saturday or Sunday - July 20th, 21st, 22nd). Attach the stub to a piece of paper with your name, address, phone number and email and send it to: ‘Sicko’ Night in America, 888c 8th Avenue, Suite 443, New York, NY 10019. (Yes, you have to use that old 18th century device called the U.S. Postal Service, and it has to be postmarked on or by Tuesday, July 24th). First prize is a weekend in the city of your choice: Paris, London or Toronto. This includes airfare, hotel, meals and, most exciting, a representative from their fine universal health care system who will give you a personal tour so you can see how they treat their fellow citizens. You’ll meet people who pay nothing for college and citizens who are in the fourth week of their six-week paid vacation. Oh, and you’ll have time to see the Eiffel Tower, Big Ben or whatever they have in Toronto that is old and tall. (If you don’t have a passport, we’ll pay for that, too!)
Lower taxes = increased speeding fines
The $65 million expected to be raised annually from higher speeding fines was intended as a partial substitute for a statewide tax increase. Typically they don’t come right out and admit that they’re substituting fines for taxes. Virginia was proud of it, but now is learning a lesson:
Virginia began imposing huge new fines - some as high as $2,500 - for residents caught driving 20 miles above the speed limit or engaging in other reckless driving.
The fines were to raise money for road projects, but they have also raised Cain, with more than 100,000 people having signed a petition calling for their repeal.
All 140 members of Virginia’s legislature are up for re-election in the fall, and some say they have been deluged with angry calls and e-mail from constituents threatening to vote them out of office if they do not ask Gov. Tim Kaine to call a special session of the legislature to reconsider the law.
“You have no idea how angry people are,” said Delegate Robert G. Marshall, Republican of Prince William County, who did not vote for the bill that included the new fines and is leading the call for a special session.
“Criminal and civil penalties shouldn’t be created for raising money,Ã¢â‚¬Â� Mr. Marshall said, adding that constituents had stopped him on the street and even in the post office and called his office to voice frustration with the new fines. “You don’t want to turn our police into gun-toting tax collectors. They’re supposed to be officers of the peace, nothing else.Ã¢â‚¬Â�
How about a solution that reduces the number of police and increases effective enforcement? Now that’s an idea I like.
Troy Davis still needs our help
The 90-day stay “for the purpose of evaluating and analyzing” the information submitted during the clemency hearing was great news, but the reality is that the Board can lift the stay at any time. We must continue to spread the word and take action.
Visit the Amnesty International Online Action Center to send a message to the State Board of Pardons & Paroles welcoming their decision to stay the execution and urging clemency in this case.
SEE ALSO: A college of Charleston Freshman turns her question for Obama about Troy into a video for the CNN YouTube Debates (I give it five stars). And Mike King makes an economic argument against the death penalty in his AJC column today:
Georgia came very close to killing someone who may be innocent. And it will cost us millions to defend someone whose deadly actions are self-evident.
Removing the death penalty from the equation in both of these cases would better serve the cause of justice. Now we just have to bring ourselves to admit it.
Wednesday, July 18, 2007
A Fishy Gore story
Digby turns up a fishy Jake Tapper assertion that Al Gore ate some Chilean Sea Bass - a program manager for the Humane Society International calls it “arguably one of the world’s most threatened fish species” - at the rehearsal dinner for his daughter’s wedding:
Is Gore to be chastised for every fish that shows up on his plate? It’s not as if he was eating a Bald Eagle. (Whoops—weren’t those just taken off the Endangered Species List!)
On the other hand, could this be seen as the environmentalist version of Sen. David Vitter’s public santimony/private enjoyment of love with a red-lit glow?
Says Digby, “Unless somebody at the wedding was schtupping the fish wearing a diaper, I’m not sure I see the analogy.”
Chilean sea bass have returned to our Seafood Departments after a seven year hiatus. In 1999, it became clear that this popular species (also called Patagonian toothfish) was being overfished at an alarming rate, threatening its extinction. In accordance with our strict sustainable seafood policy, Whole Foods Market stopped selling Chilean Sea Bass in August, 1999.
The Marine Stewardship Council (MSC), an independent non-profit body dedicated to sustainable fishing practices and ocean health, recently certified a fishery operating out of South Georgia Island for the sustainable harvesting of Chilean sea bass. This island is near the South Sandwich Islands located in the extreme southern Atlantic, where harsh prevailing weather conditions and active volcanism make it difficult for fishermen. While poaching remains a serious threat to Chilean sea bass in other areas, this remote fishery has proven itself to be a responsible one dedicated to sustainable practices as documented by the MSC.
Returning to Tapper’s question then, should Gore be chastised? Writes he, “you be the judge.”
Cook Political Report: GA-10 outcome a stunner!
A friend from home noticed I’d not posted on the apparent upset in the Georgia 10th District race. He sent analysis from the Cook Political Report:
Talk about a stunner. While most eyes inside the Beltway this week were glued to the latest rush of campaign finance reports, an insurgent yet under-funded candidate in Georgia who received next to no national help toppled a heavily favored establishment candidate whose runoff coronation became such conventional wisdom that he had begun to receive high-fives from national Republicans and “Welcome to Washington” PAC checks.
Very conservative GOP physician Paul Broun, who had earned his place in yesterday’s runoff by a hair (187 votes) in the June 19 th all-party special election, appears to have defeated conservative GOP state Sen. Jim Whitehead by two hairs (389 votes, or 0.8 percent) in the two-man second round. Barring a dramatic change of events in a recount, Broun will soon take the oath of office to succeed the late GOP Rep. Charlie Norwood and represent this heavily Republican Northeast Georgia district.
How’d he do it?
First, it’s impossible to ignore the fact that Broun was able to capitalize on a bitter regional divide in the race between the two largest regions in the district, Augusta and Athens. The Athens-based Broun, along with his hometown press, chastised Whitehead for skipping area debates and forums in the weeks leading up to the initial special election, and warned Whitehead might under-serve areas north of Augusta if elected. The attacks worked. Broun captured 89 percent of the vote in and around Athens, and peeled away a respectable 27 percent from Whitehead’s home base in and around Augusta to squeak by.
Second, Broun proved more culturally in step with the voters who participated in this “base-of-the-base” election. Throughout the summer, Broun attempted to distinguish himself from the heavily party-backed Whitehead by stating his intent to align his decisions in Congress with Bible teachings and not necessarily the GOP line. A last-minute flap over an email from Broun’s wife, in which recipients were asked to let other “real” Christians know of Whitehead’s hesitance to campaign in churches, generated an apology from Broun. But it most likely also created some skepticism towards Whitehead on the part of cultural conservatives who could not understand what was holding Whitehead back.
Third, though it is probably only possible to successfully run to Whitehead’s right in the Deep South, Broun managed to do so. Broun’s more strident rhetoric, especially on the issue of immigration, endeared him to the district’s conservatives, whose frustration with President Bush’s position on the issue is simply through the roof. In debates, Broun accused Whitehead of “posturing” on illegal immigration. As a political outsider, Broun was better able to run as an agent of pro-conservative change, and Whitehead’s status as an incumbent state legislator made him more susceptible to talk that he would go along with the status quo in Washington.
Take a look at the precinct results and it’s easy enough to figure out which county is home to Athens and which Augusta. Whitehead said that based on the “razor-thin margin” of victory he’d wait for the race to be certified before saying anything.
Democrats had hoped that their guy would have advance to the runoff, anticipating their shot at winning would be Whitehead’s self-destruction. Now that’s the kind of stunner I’d have liked to see.
Utah Supreme Court: consensual adolescent sex prosecution “absurd”
When she was thirteen years old, Z.C. engaged in consensual sex with a twelve-year-old boy and became pregnant. The state prosecutor chose to file delinquency petitions against both Z.C. and the boy for sexual abuse of a child under [State] Code section 76-5-404.1 [basically, in this context, any sexual touching of someone under 14 -EV], a crime that would constitute a second degree felony if committed by an adult....
Because we conclude that the legislature could not possibly have intended to punish both children under the child sex abuse statute for the same act of consensual heavy petting, we hold that applying the plain language of the statute in this case produces an absurd result.
Via The Liberty Papers:
In other words, no rational review of state laws against sex crimes against children should be held to apply to a case where both of the participants in the act are, in fact, children.
Approve of it, or disapprove of it, as you wish. But there’s no rational reason that something like this should be treated as a felony.
Barr, Genarlow, McDade & Nifong
The recently minted libertarian who earned national notoriety as one of the most forceful leaders of the effort to impeach President Bill Clinton for sex in the oval office, Bob Barr, today follows up his Fourth of July moral scold routine with the observation, in yet another AJC OpEd, that the U.S. attorney has no business in Georgia’s Genarlow Wilson case, apparently unconcerned about the irony of the man who played the Clinton scandal for every headline he could, calling here for “a more subdued setting.”
His beef is that the US Attorney in Atlanta issued a ruling that prosecutor David McDade’s distribution of the Genarlow Wilson sex tape was a violation of federal child pornography laws. Barr wants Genarlow disposed of quickly “following oral arguments scheduled for July 20, [so] we can all get back to other pursuits” and decries Genarlow’s supporters as involved in the “latest great civil rights crusade.” He then - without ever once addressing the merits - goes on to make the the states’ rights argument that will be familiar to anyone who recalls that other civil rights fight, the one against Jim Crow era segregation:
Insofar as both the U.S. and Georgia constitutions provide for trials in criminal cases to be open to the public, clearly it makes sense for the evidence in such cases to be similarly open to inspection by the public… The Georgia Open Records Act is even more explicit… While federal laws regarding public access to court records, including evidentiary records, are far less robust than Georgia’s, the general rule is the same - trial records and evidence developed therein, are to be available for public inspection.
Notwithstanding these laws and the fundamental public policy of openness they represent, the Department of Justice statement last week indicated that simply because certain categories of evidence (such as the Genarlow Wilson videotape) are subject to “federal law,” any state law provision that deals with such evidence differently, even if being followed by a duly elected state official carrying out the proper laws and procedures with which he or she is charged, must ignore the state laws to which their oath of office requires allegiance. The federal government’s statement concluded that federal law will “trump” state laws, presumably even if doing so would leave the state official liable for failing to abide by the state law.
There will be times when two competing sovereigns - the federal and state governments, for example - may view actions of a citizen differently; and more than one U.S. Supreme Court decision allows either or both to exercise prosecutorial discretion in deciding whether to move forward with a prosecution or to carry out some other aspect of the laws.
But to issue a blanket, “advisory” edict that federal law necessarily “trumps” the exercise of a state law being duly complied with by an elected official raises - to say the least - troubling questions of federalism and comity.
So just what’s this videotape fuss all about?
Back in February State Senate President Pro Tem Eric Johnson made an inflammatory speech on the Senate floor claiming that, contrary to a jury’s verdict, a rape had occurred in the Genarlow Wilson case. When CNN talked to jurors who disagreed, Johnson continued his attack on Neal Boortz’s radio show. And people started asking about the tape.
It is widely believed that District Attorney McDade was handing out copies to anyone he thought would be sympathetic. Griftdrift finds one problem with that in this Georgia Bar Association statement on the Special Responsibilities of a Prosecutor:
The prosecutor in a criminal case shall:
(g) except for statements that are necessary to inform the public of the nature and extent of the prosecutor’s action and that serve a legitimate law enforcement purpose, refrain from making extrajudicial comments that have a substantial likelihood of heightening public condemnation of the accused.
Remember, the video was being distributed illegally, and was distributed and shown to media and politicians in order to spur public condemnation of Wilson based on a charge for which he was acquitted. What's more, after viewing his copy of the tape, Sen. Johnson used it to argue in the state senate against making the Georgia law repealing the poorly written prior statute retroactive, so as to apply to Wilson.
That's certainly much more than a "statement," and it goes above and beyond merely informing the public of why the prosecutor brought charges against Wilson in the first place. The rape case is settled. That charge can't be brought again. Instead, McDade's selectively airing the videotape, to try Wilson again in the court of public opinion.
The punchline to all of this is that under the new federal law the Walsh Act, defense attorneys in child pornography cases are given extremely limited access to the evidence (read: the pictures) against their clients, to the point where the defense bar says it hampers their ability to mount an adequate defense (thanks to De Novo for the tip). All the evidence remains in the state's hands, making it difficult for defense experts to review it. Here are the congressional findings explaining the need for the access provisions in the Wash Act:“every instance of viewing images of child pornography represents a renewed violation of the privacy of the victims and a repetition of their abuse,” and therefore, “it is imperative to prohibit the reproduction of child pornography in criminal cases.”
This is not the only questionable behavior of the prosecutor in this case. Remember, too, the highly suspect visit to the mother of the victim with a tape recorder after she made sympathetic statements towards Genarlow to the AJC. More and more people are starting to wonder, is prosecutor David McDade another Mike Nifong? Did McDade act unethically or did he violate the law?
What is the rule of law? The rule of law finds its highest and best embodiment in the absolute and unshakable right each one of us has to walk into a courtroom, and demand the righting of a wrong. It doesn’t matter what color your kin is, what God you pray to, how large your bank account is, or what office you hold. If you are an American citizen, no one should stand between you and your access to justice. [...]
We are not locked in a strange parallel universe in which up is down, is becomes was, and being alone is a physical impossibility. We are not living in an alien world, we are living in America. We are living in an America in which we know that felons are prosecuted and are not allowed to remain in office. We live in an America in which rights prevail, wrongs must be righted, and indeed, we have to stand up today, tomorrow, and forever, for the rule of law, the Constitution, and accountability…
Let’s investigate David McDade, too, for the rule of law, the Constitution, and accountability.
Tuesday, July 17, 2007
Porn star to preacher
In the Style Section, of all places, the NYTimes looks at a semiretired hetero porn star who is bringing spiritual comfort to those marginalized by the sex industry:
From his work in the rented villas of the San Fernando Valley, where hard-core sex films are shot, he has moved just a short distance west, to the Church of the Epiphany, which is guiding his transformation from pornography star to preacher.
The psychic distance, however, has been vast. In January, the lumbering 6-foot-3 performer was greeting fans on the red carpet of the Adult Video News Awards in Las Vegas, along with the superstars of pornography like Jenna Jameson and Ron Jeremy.
In June, he was carrying the Holy Bible and a text titled “Gospel Light” to a live Internet show where he preached on the relative evils of pornography. “Is pornography a sin?” he asked on the show, which is aimed at people in the sex industry. “Probably. Definitely,” he answered, a response that reflected his own ambivalence as much as a desire not to alienate his audience. “So is eating carrot cake until you’re sick to your stomach,” he continued. “And so is punching somebody in the face. That’s a sin.”
He grew up a Southern Baptist in South Carolina (surprised?) and quit making hard-core movies because “I don’t enjoy it anymore” (though he had sex at an adult video convention in January).
A Viet Nam vet and former NYC cop, he renewed his private investigator’s license to make money as he pursues his religious avocation. About his years in the sex trade he says, “Not one time did Jesus refer to pornography, or homosexuality.”
Oh swell. I wish him luck - it’s a hard process - and he makes a valid point, but with friends like that we’ll never get the global Anglicans to accept gay clergy or gay marriage! I can only thank God he’s straight!
An opt-out payment plan for credit cards
Professor Michael Barr of the University of Michigan, guest blogging at Credit Slips, floats an idea:
What if credit card companies were required to use an “opt-out payment plan” for credit cards, under which consumers would be required automatically to make at least the minimum payment necessary to pay off their existing balance in its entirety over a relatively short period of time (say 6 months) unless the cutomer affirmatively opted-out of such a payment plan and chose a longer payment term.
Given what we know about default rules and framing, such a payment plan may be easier to follow, resulting in lower rates of delinquency and default. In any event, an optimal payment plan may encourage card holders to alter their borrowing behavior or their payoff plans. Moreover, credit card companies might find it difficult to argue publicly against reasonable opt-out payment plans and, in the face of such plans, to maintain a pricing model based on borrowers going into financial distress.
I should read more but my gut says too many of us would opt-out. Still, it’s a good idea and it would probably help a statistically impressive bunch of us.
How RED will Georgia be in the Presidential Primary?
Q. Are you more likely to vote in next year’s Republican or Democratic Presidential primary in Georgia?
Here’s what they said:
No Opinion/Don’t Know: 24%
The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percent.
The big story in this survey is with voters who describe themselves as independent.
Independent voters who already had made a choice said they preferred the Democratic primary by a 25 percent to 20 percent margin. More importantly, however, while most Republicans and Democrats stated that they would vote in their own party’s primary, over 53 percent of independents said they were undecided.
“This means that independent voters, who have for the past few election cycles trended towards the GOP, are less decided as to which party they prefer,” said InsiderAdvantage’s Matt Towery.
Via the AJC’s Political Insider, who reminds us “His firm put out polling data on Monday showing that Fred Thompson was the leading choice among Georgia Republicans, while Hillary Clinton maintained a slight edge over Barack Obama among Georgia Democrats.”
More on the gay Padres brouhaha
O’Reilly asserts that the Padres scheduled this event, as though the Padres decided they wanted to have a bunch of gay people at their ballpark so they found some and sold them tickets. If O’Reilly had read “The Outsports Revolution,” he’d know that this isn’t how it works. People in the community, whether they’re gay men, pregnant women, Muslims, Jews, union workers or members of a local softball league, decide they want to support their local team. Those people then pick a date, call the team’s group-ticket sales office, and request tickets. The gay group gets the same treatment and perks as any other group. No more, no less.
The Padres had scheduled the 14-and-under giveaway that night. O’Reilly wanted the Padres to tell the gay group that they couldn’t do it that night because they already had a promotion for kids scheduled. Mind you, he had no problem with the 100 other groups that had bought a total of 11,000 tickets that night; he just had a problem with the gay group.
In fact, 13 of the 81 home games for the Padres, or one out of every six, has a kids giveaway. Another 31 games have promotions or themes also targeting families, like “Teacher Appreciation Night” and “Family Fireworks.” So, according to O’Reilly, every other group in the known universe can pick any one of the 81 games they want to attend, but the gay people have to avoid over half of the games for fear of kids or families being offended.
This is all a surprising position by O’Reilly, who is a free-market guy. Except, apparently, when it comes to selling tickets to gay people.
Another part of the above statement that was absolutely ludicrous was this idea that “thousands of gay adults showed up.” It was only 1,000. In the history of “gay days” at ballparks, only once or twice has a group sold over 1,000 tickets. In this case, there were 42,000 people at the game. So, one in 42 people in the stadium was gay. That’s 2.4% of the people in the stadium. Even conservative estimates put the number of gay people in the general population over 2.4%. Petco Park that night was straighter than the San Diego community that surrounds it; those kids were safer from the gay agenda that night than if they had just been walking the streets of San Diego.
RELATED Me on PDA:
When a heterosexual couple goes too far at the beach or at the movies or in any public place, we are scornful and disapprove because, as is natural and fine by me, we don’t want to see them doing that.
The trouble is that with gay people the threshold is lowered so low as to include my calling my partner “dear” at the breakfast buffet in a family hotel.
Or kissing at a ballgame.
iHop and Applebee’s
Yesterday was four years to the day that I’ve been here. At a party this weekend someone asked, “what was the most difficult adjustment?” Without missing a beat I answered, “the restaurants!”
The most accurate way to describe the food at Applebee’s Neighborhood Bar & Grill is “well-slathered.” Nearly every dish comes drenched in sauce, usually either a deep-red ketchup derivative or a ranch dressing variant. Applebee’s trademark Riblets, for example, are bathed in enough tangy BBQ sauce to make a diner forget that he’s chowing on extraneous pig parts.
Applebee’s cuisine is considered so-so even by chain-restaurant standards. In the latest customer survey by the trade magazine Restaurants and Institutions, Applebee’s food scored below that of Chili’s, O’Charley’s, and the Cheesecake Factory, though it did top the deep-fried grub at T.G.I. Friday’s, Bennigan’s, and Hooters. But despite its middling food, Applebee’s is by far the largest casual-dining chain in the United States, with annual sales of around $3.6 billion-over $1 billion more than Chili’s, its closest competitor.
Started in Atlanta by 2 brothers in 1980, and spread by targeting “underserved areas-primarily exurban and rural strip malls” (yeah, that’s us) iHop is paying $1.9 billion in cash. No word on whether or not Aplebee’s met this 2005 goal:
America’s appetite for cheap, filling sit-down meals surprised even Applebee’s. Franchises have opened at a rate of more than 100 per year, and...the latest projection is for Applebee’s to top out at 3,000 restaurants, about 1,300 more than it has today.
Monday, July 16, 2007
Troy Anthony Davis: Hooray a stay!
The latest I’m seeing in the media is that Troy’s gone into “death watch,” but a friend sent an email that offers great hope:
The clemency hearing, which we expected to last one hour, went on for five, and on our way back...we heard that after less than one hour of deliberation, HE GOT A 90 DAY STAY!
Obviously, it’s not our number one choice, but it’s far better than having less than 24 hours left.
Thanks for all of your concern, Joe, and I’ll keep you updated!
No link yet. I’m looking…
Hairspray, the movie, no Little Shop
The movie version of the hit Broadway musical “Hairspray” is perfectly pleasant-I smiled to myself all the way through it-bu it’s not as exhilarating as the show. For subject like this-old dance crazes and po styles-what matters is not so much the actual past but how we feel about it, an onstage David Rockwell’s sets and William Ivey Long’s costumes distilled ou nostalgia for the candied years between Elvis’s early work and the arrival of th Beatles. Set in 1962, “Hairspray,” whose first incarnation was John Waters’ deadpan camp movie from 1988, celebrates a time when teen-agers, as a distinc consumer group with their own culture, were a fairly recent invention. The stag musical crystallized the euphoria of that period as naÃƒÂ¯vely eager commerce an irony-free fantasy; when the chubby young heroine, Tracy Turnblad, awoke i bed and sang “Good Morning, Baltimore,” she was surrounded by a pink sha carpet dotted with hair-spray cans and 45s, and the bouffant-and-beehive nuttines of her world was buoyed by affection. The movie is a lovefest, too, but, this time when Tracy (Nikki Blonsky) awakes, she jumps onto the streets of Baltimore an passes vermin, a drunk, and a creep. Later, she joins a civil-rights march that ha a confrontation with the police. Many people love movies because they mak sensuous contact with the surfaces of the world, but this material hardly cries ou for realism. “Hairspray” doesn’t need to be “opened up”; it needs to be freshly stylized for the screen.
The return of Xanadu to the Broadway stage - also reviewed in this week’s New Yorker, “so ridiculously brilliant, so lavish and sublime a confection that any set of adjectives you might come up with after a single viewing will more than likely be replaced by another set of ineffectual adjectives once you’ve seen the show a second or third time” (I wholeheartedly agree) - has a laugh line declaring 1980 the year that creativity and imagination fled the arts. In fact, the original Newton-John megabomb was so bad as to effectively kill off the movie musical for two decades.
Too bad, too, because 1986 saw the screen adaptation of Little Shop of Horrors. The last show to go from B-movie to stage-musical to movie-musical, Little Shop was a truly wonderful under appreciated gem. And a box office flop. That movie actually had some of what David Denby says he’d like to see in the new film release of Hairspray.
SEE ALSO: Ellen sings the same song on stage.
Criminy! The group marriage bogeyman again
Elizabeth Marquardt, a vice president of the Institute for American Values and author of the forthcoming “My Daddy’s Name Is Donor” (golly, what do you guess her political persuaion is?) raises the alarm on the OpEd page of the NYTimes today:
SOMETIMES when the earth shudders it doesn’t make a sound. That’s what happened in Harrisburg, Pa., recently.
On April 30, a state Superior Court panel ruled that a child can have three legal parents. The case, Jacob v. Shultz-Jacob, involved two lesbians who were the legal co-parents of two children conceived with sperm donated by a friend. The panel held that the sperm donor and both women were all liable for child support. Arthur S. Leonard, a professor at New York Law School, observed, “I’m unaware of any other state appellate court that has found that a child has, simultaneously, three adults who are financially obligated to the child’s support and are also entitled to visitation.” [...]
Astonishingly, few legal experts, politicians or social commentators have considered the enormous risks these rulings and proposals pose for children. Those who have noticed tend to say they are nothing new, because many children already grow up with several parent figures. But this fails to recognize that stepchildren and adopted children still have only two legal parents.
Her list of woes doesn’t send a silent shudder through me.
Obama Girl vs. Giuliani Girl
From Obama Girl.
Boring and bloody Scion game ad
Toyota’s got an ad campaign game for the Scion xD in which your mission is to use a carload of “Little Deviants” to pummel, slice, and dismember legions of roaming “Sheeple,” a dull, monochromatic race. The target market is 18-to-35-year-old males but this twenty-something reviewer is not sold:
In the first level, you slap the helpless, bleating creatures until they spew blood and pass out. In another, you rough them up in a sewer and watch their body parts fall off. In another, you rough them up in a sewer and watch their body parts fall off. (Your Deviant then “customizes” himself with the scattered pieces.) At the end of the game, the neon-green Sheeple blood that you’ve accumulated is used to fuel a factory that produces the Toyota Scion xD. (You can play the game, Book of Deviants, here.) [...]
The non-Scion-driving Sheeple are boring, dull, and repetitive. The Little Deviants are supposed to be mischievous, creative, and clever-the kind of cynical demons that wouldn’t drive a compact car just because an ad agency told them it was cool. Beyond that, there’s the Deviants’ attitude problem. The creatures are inexplicably nasty and bullying, and they maim without provocation. Even if I don’t identify as a googly-eyed Sheeple, I would also prefer not to associate with a bunch of thugs who commit genocide in the name of nonconformity. I guess I’ll get in line with the grandmas for a Nissan Versa.
It’s a shame the story line doesn’t work, because the game’s artistic design is fantastic. ATTIK’s in-house talent and hired hand Dave Correia have conjured an aesthetic that’s part Edward Gorey, part Insane Clown Posse-images that will look compelling on billboards and in magazine pop-up ads. They’ve also managed to brand the Little Deviants subtly, taking advantage of the emoticon-like shape of “xD” to form their eyes and mouths. The game play, on the other hand, is less spectacular. Anyone who’s played Whac-a-Mole or one of those online putting games will be familiar with the mouse-click-heavy functionality.
Troy Anthony Davis: everyone is losing here (updated)
Among the most upsetting aspects in the case of Troy Anthony Davis, scheduled to be put to death tomorrow night, is that his appeals have failed largely on procedural grounds. Have we learned nothing from all of the innocent people we have sent to death row?
His clemency hearing is set for 9 a.m. this morning.
A Georgia man is scheduled to be executed by lethal injection on Tuesday for killing a police officer in 1989, even though the case against him has withered in recent years as most of the key witnesses at his trial have recanted and in some cases said they lied under pressure from police.
Prosecutors discount the significance of the recantations and argue that it is too late to present such evidence. But supporters of Troy Davis, 38, and some legal scholars say the case illustrates the dangers wrought by decades of Supreme Court decisions and new laws that have rendered the courts less likely to overturn a death sentence.
Three of four witnesses who testified at trial that Davis shot the officer have signed statements contradicting their identification of the gunman. Two other witnesses—a fellow inmate and a neighborhood acquaintance who told police that Davis had confessed to the shooting—have said they made it up.
Among the most ardent supporters of Troy Davis, his sister Martina Correia. She’s fighting liver cancer and metastatic breast cancer, and for her brother’s life. Today in the AJC:
Correia doesn’t know if or when cancer might take her life, but she knows when life is supposed to end for her brother Troy Anthony Davis. He is scheduled to die by lethal injection Tuesday for the murder of a Savannah police officer 18 years ago.
Today, Correia will be one of several people who will try to persuade the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles that her brother’s sentence should be commuted; that he is, as he proclaims, an innocent man. [...]
“Georgia will be executing an innocent man. People don’t see that everyone is losing here.”
She makes that statement in reference to a 1996 federal law that she says short-changes her brother and all death row inmates who are wrongly convicted. In Troy Davis’ case, the law is pertinent because it aims to streamline death penalty cases and bars new evidence from being produced in court that could have been presented during the appeals process.
UPDATE: 2 p.m., they’ve heard the plea. No word yet.
Earl Ofari Hutchinson at Huffington Post says Davis’s Pending Execution Will Stain America; Democracy Now asks Is Georgia About to Execute an Innocent Man? The Carpetbagger Report’s Steve Benen and The Atlantic Online’s Matt Yglesias take note.
LATER: 6 p.m., The text of Georgia Rep. John Lewis’s Statement at Troy Anthony Davis Clemency Hearing.
LATER: 9 p.m., Hooray a stay!
Sunday, July 15, 2007
Two days to the runoff for the 10th District seat left open by the death of Rep. Charlie Norwood earlier this year and no matter who wins the seat is safely Republican next fall; President Bush carried the district with 72 percent of the vote in 2004.
While Paul Broun is out telling voters in Athens he won’t legislate his morality upon them or smite them with the wicked hand of government, his campaign is, according to our tip line, sending out an email to “real Christians” alleging that, unlike Broun, Jim Whitehead is not comfortable in church.
The email is signed by Broun’s wife Niki:
“Please read the following synopsis of our testimonies. If you feel so led, please forward it to the REAL Christians in your email address book. I believe that Christians can make a big difference in this race and networking is one way to spread the word. Thanks! [...]
It is not my place to judge Jim Whitehead’s spiritual condition but I’ll just tell you that a pastor in Hartwell invited Paul and Mr. Whitehead to speak at his church. Paul accepted gladly, as he has in many churches. Mr. Whitehead said he felt uncomfortable speaking in churches and didn’t think you should mix church and state. “Team Whitehead” (as they like to call themselves) also told the Atlanta Journal and Constitution on June 20, the day after the election that forced him into a run-off with Paul, in an apparent threat to us (we live in Athens) “We’re coming to Athens and hell is coming with us.”
Peach Pundit has the full text.
Surprise: We’re skeptical about terrorism warnings
To Americans who have grown skeptical of terrorism warnings, the professionals in the intelligence community say they understand. They also say this time, it could be for real.
That’s because the level of worldwide jihadist activity this year appears disturbingly familiar to those who hunted Al Qaeda even before the 9/11 attacks.
“What you’ve been seeing has had a feeling, to me, a lot like the summer of 2001, where you’ve got a lot of things happening,” a senior U.S. intelligence official said on Friday.
“It would not surprise me at all to see another terrorist event this summer in the United States,” the official told the Daily News.
Yet many Americans have grown deeply distrustful of such doomsday scenarios which rarely materialize.
Does anyone seriously wonder why?
Within the last week we have been told that Al Qaeda is weaker, Al Qaeda is stronger, Al Qaeda is coming, Al Qaeda is here, and that we are fighting them in Iraq so we don’t have to fight them here except, somehow, maybe, they’ve found there way to our shores. Add to this Homeland Security Chief Chertoff’s “gut feeling” that we will be attacked even though there is no credible evidence.
Says Steve Benen, “Yes, the Daily News report raises an important point; Americans shouldn’t take a lackadaisical attitude about a possible threat. But let’s not forget how and why the public has come to be so cynical.”
SEE ALSO: Joe Gandelman says Osama bin Laden Is Back And So Is Political Use Of Him.
Saturday, July 14, 2007
Obama references Genarlow (video)
Here’s stunning video of Barack Obama hearing live the news of the commutation Scooter Libby’s sentence for perjury. It strikes me as revealing that Obama immediately sees a parallel to the way a young black man is being railroaded by the justice system, with no recourse.
The video precedes Obama’s reference to Genarlow at the NAACP convnetion Thursday.
Help stop Georgia from killing the wrong man
The clemency hearing for Troy Anthony Davis before the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles is Monday. The NYTimes today:
Though prosecutors have considered the case solved for nearly two decades, a chorus of eyewitnesses say the police arrested the wrong man. Now, on the eve of execution, scheduled for Tuesday, they have joined his family and his lawyers in an effort to get the courts to hear new evidence they say proves he is innocent. [...]
Legal experts, including William S. Sessions, a retired federal judge, a former director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and a self-described supporter of the death penalty, have sounded the alarm over Mr. Davis’s case. They say it underscores the many ways the death penalty is unevenly and wrongly applied, particularly in the South, the region with the most death penalty cases.[...]
It is rare for the board to commute a death sentence but not unprecedented. Since 1973, the board has granted 50 clemency hearings and commuted 8 sentences.
The last was granted more than three years ago, however, and even Mr. Davis’s lawyers acknowledge that despite the outpouring of support for their client, undoing 15 years of what previous defenders have admitted was poor legal work on behalf of their client would be a long shot.
A friend of Troy’s emailed:
I read online tonight that he declined asking for a final meal. Of course he didn’t tell us anything about that. Joe, this is just terrible… We need a miracle.
She asks that we fax the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles on Troy’s behalf. The number is (404) 651-8502. Or via Amnesty International here. Please do.
WSJ: Happy Blogoversary
The WSJ invited twelve commentators—including Tom Wolfe, Newt Gingrich, the SEC’s Christopher Cox and actress-turned-blogger Mia Farrow—to write on what blogs mean to them. From the intro:
We are approaching a decade since the first blogger—regarded by many to be Jorn Barger—began his business of hunting and gathering links to items that tickled his fancy, to which he appended some of his own commentary. On Dec. 23, 1997, on his site, Robot Wisdom, Mr. Barger wrote: “I decided to start my own webpage logging the best stuff I find as I surf, on a daily basis,” and the Oxford English Dictionary regards this as the primordial root of the word “weblog.”
The dating of the 10th anniversary of blogs, and the ascription of primacy to the first blogger, are imperfect exercises. Others, such as David Winer, who blogged with Scripting News, and Cameron Barrett, who started CamWorld, were alongside the polemical Mr. Barger in the advance guard. And before them there were “proto-blogs,” embryonic indications of the online profusion that was to follow. But by widespread consensus, 1997 is a reasonable point at which to mark the emergence of the blog as a distinct life-form.
Some of what Newt had to say:
We’ve already seen the effects on the Democratic Party. Web sites such as Daily Kos and MoveOn.org—which I find fascinating as models of online activism—have made it quite clear that their aim goes beyond stopping President Bush; they’re also targeting leaders in their own party viewed as unresponsive to the grassroots. Sen. Joe Lieberman’s primary loss is the most visible example. If Republicans remain out of step with their base for too long, expect a similar insurgency on the right.
RELATED: In this interview of Daily Kos’s Markos Moulitsas ZÃƒÂºniga by Dave Weinberger, Kos explains why the web inherently favors Democrats. Just as talk radio is a Republican’s medium (liberals have consistently failed at it) liberals flower under the influence of the Internet. Republicans less so. Sorry Newt.