Monday, July 29, 2013

Carlos Danger: Private Dick

In the future, when you google the word "chutzpah," after the definitions of "unbelievable gall," and "crass, vulgar nerve," there will be a footnote that says, "See Anthony Weiner." This man defines public humiliation, and yet still he stands, mast to the wind. It's now public knowledge that JFK had a sexual addiction regularly satisfied with a variety of young sycophants and prostitutes, but it was kept private in a world of press discretion. If not for the internet, Weiner would be the guy walking around the schoolyard naked but for a raincoat. Kennedy might have been a conscienceless horndog, but Weiner is a pervert. Hey kids! Let me give you some advice. Nothing stays private on the web, so unless you're a twisted exhibitionist or a porn star, don't take pictures of your genitalia and post them on the internet. And stay away from the creepy man running for mayor of New York City.

When news of the former congressman's serial exhibitionism was revealed, sources claimed Weiner's lewd pics were posted on a website called "" So just for journalistic integrity, I logged-on, so to speak, and sure enough, there was Anthony Weiner, clutching his schvantz. That's not exactly what I look for in a mayor. I would have said "schmuck," which literally means "penis," but that particular Yiddishism has entered the general lexicon and has come to mean something more akin to a "jerk," or "idiot," which is inadequate to describe the superhuman stupidity of this man. I'll admit to enjoying Weiner's performances on the House floor, when he was the only Democratic representative, besides Alan Grayson, who would show genuine indignant wrath at the Republican Party's iron curtain legislative strategy, but I had no idea what he was doing back in the Cloakroom. The incredible thing is that this man has no shame. So what if he resigned in 2011 over sending innapropriate photos over social media and lying about it. He seems to believe that his talents are so invaluable to the city of New York, his "hobby" will be discounted by voters. The only constituency Weiner has in the bag, however, is the flasher vote and they rarely show up at the polls.

More tawdry than Weiner's online exploits was his dragging his wife into this ungodly mess. But Huma Abedin, Weiner's wife of three years, said she had agreed to a joint press conference of her own accord. Abedin, a career Hillary Clinton staffer since 1996, said she forgave Weiner his indiscretions and supported his mayoral candidacy. I wonder what Mrs. Clinton thought about Abedin's decision to "stand by her man," since Hillary was confronted with exactly the same circumstance in Bill Clinton's presidential campaign of 1992. Pundits as varied as Maureen Dowd and Rush Limbaugh have speculated that the two women's motives for staying with their lying husbands were similar: the desire for fame and power. Although Rush added racistly, "Huma is a Muslim. In that regard, Weiner ought to be able to get away with anything." Both women's forgiveness enabled their husbands to continue their aberrant behavior as if they would never get caught; Clinton in the White House and Weiner, after he resigned from Congress. And like Monica Lewinsky, a University of Indiana coed with the porn-appropriate name of Sydney Leathers has come forward with sexually explicit text messages and pictures that she exchanged with Weiner last summer. "I thought I loved him," Leathers said when it was revealed that Weiner offered to buy her a condo in Chicago and get her a job with Politico.

The text messages are as nasty and smarmy as anything you might imagine. Read them if you must, but after I did, I felt the need to take a shower. Going by the now-famous and much mocked moniker, Carlos Danger, Weiner admitted to sexting and sending pictures of Little Elvis to up to ten women. A respected news source immediately turned up three more women who were treated to Weiner's "selfies." Over the weekend, Weiner's campaign manager, Danny Kedem, resigned over the latest batch of tasteless texts, but Weiner pledged to remain in the race because, "it's about the middle class." It's actually about the no class. "We knew this would be a tough campaign," explained Senor Danger in one of the understatements of the year. Promising that his twisted tweets were "behind him" somehow oddly made it sound worse. Weiner explained that he returned to his pet perversions, "during a rough time in our marriage," seemingly placing the blame on his spouse for his nasty conduct. But now Huma is onboard as Weiner's dinghy drops like a stone in the polls.

This walking punch-line of a person may have a strategy. If no one in the mayoral primary gets forty percent of the vote, a runoff is mandated between the top two candidates. If Weiner continues to stonewall his critics, including every major New York City newspaper, he stands the chance of getting in the runoff, where he can attempt to distract attention from his penis by attacking his opponent. I don't believe he'll last that long. The same massive ego that allowed him to believe that strange women wanted to see pictures of his schlong, will carry him until the full weight of public revulsion wears him down. Also, the longer Huma Abedin supports this degenerate fool, the worse it looks for Hillary Clinton, and 2016 is just around the corner. Abedin is supposed to be one of Hillary's closest advisers. How much can her future advice be valued if she continues to campaign for a pervert for mayor? And can you imagine the Limbaughs of the world having sport with that issue during a Clinton presidential run? The stench of Weiner's preposterous campaign is beginning to infest those around him. Carlos Danger may say he's in the race to stay, but the one person who could make him drop out in a New York minute is Hillary Rodham Clinton. 

Monday, July 15, 2013

Stay Out Of My Uterus

Does anyone else see the irony in the Republican controlled North Carolina State Legislature adding severe abortion restrictions to a bill that forbids Sharia law in the Tarheel State? Legislation banning the use of Islamic law in family and custody cases was loaded down with abortion politics during the final hour and renamed the "Family, Faith, and Freedom Protection Act of 2013." Among other rules aimed at closing down the state's legal clinics is the requirement that a doctor be present for the application of any abortion-inducing medication. This means that if you wish to take the abortion pill, RU-486, in the privacy of your home, you're going to need a doctor friend to keep you company. The tone-deaf, Tea Party Republicans in North Carolina succeeded in banishing Sharia law, only to replace it with a different type of Sharia law with a distinct Christian conservative flavor. Governor Pat McCrory rebuked his fellow Republicans for attaching the abortion amendments to their silly-ass bill and threatened a veto if substantial changes were not made. So the GOP lawmakers changed a noun here and a verb there and re-introduced the abortion laws as amendments to a motorcycle safety bill.

This action followed Texas' passing of the nation's most restrictive abortion legislation. Despite the successful filibuster by Sen. Wendy Davis, presidential wannabe Rick Perry merely called a second special session for his anti-abortion agenda. Texas now requires that all abortions take place in a surgical center, and all doctors have hospital admitting privileges; exactly the same legislation that failed in Mississippi earlier this year. The bill's female sponsor, Rep. Jodi Laubenberg, claimed no exception was needed for rape because, "in the emergency room they have what they call rape kits, where a woman can get cleaned out." And here I thought that "a woman can shut that all down" if it's a "legitimate rape." According to Wendy Davis, the new laws will shutter all but five of the states' forty two clinics. This year alone, seventeen states have enacted forty-three new laws that further regulate a woman's access to abortion services, and 120 new laws have been passed in the previous two years. This state-rights attempt to once again criminalize abortion is no coincidence.

In Wisconsin, recall survivor Gov. Scott Walker signed a bill requiring ultrasounds of all women seeking abortions. In Ohio, Republicans crammed abortion restrictions into the state's budget, stating that "life begins at the moment of conception," and mandating ultrasounds before any procedure. The budget/abortion bill was signed into law by Gov. John Kasich, making Ohio the only state where a doctor faces criminal charges for failing to test for a fetal heartbeat and informing the woman of the results. Similar bills have passed or are pending in Arizona, Nebraska, Georgia, and Louisiana. So where is the outrage? Forty years ago, woman staged mass protests and marches for the right to control their reproductive lives. So why aren't women and their supporters marching in the streets now? Actually, they are. The nation is so focused on Kim and Kanye's baby, however, that it's not being adequately reported. Thousands have rallied in Raleigh, NC every Monday since April to protest the GOP legislative blitzkrieg, and over 700 North Carolinians have been arrested in the last two months. Hundreds of people massed in the capitol in Columbus OH, including twenty protesters forcibly removed from the Senate chamber for yelling, "Shame on you." In Austin, thousands have protested and twelve have been arrested. Eight people were arrested in Madison, WI for attempting to deliver coat hangers to Republican politicians. So, what's really at work here?

The targeted, state-by-state, anti-abortion strategy has several supporting organizations, including the Susan B. Anthony List and the well-funded National Right To Life Committee, but the major player is the Americans United for Life, or the AUL. A team of lawyers working for the AUL have provided Republican-led state legislatures with pre-written bills, lacking only a sponsor. The AUL has collected their proposed bills in a playbook called, "Defending Life," and delivered it to every state, including Tennessee, where legislators are already working on their behalf. One of the AUL's major goals is the banning of abortion after twenty weeks. Gov. Perry said that "after twenty weeks we are not going to allow abortion in our state." The twenty week provision is based on disputed research that claims a fetus can feel pain at that point in a pregnancy. There are reasons, usually desperate and life-threatening, for late-term abortions that are beyond the comprehension of the Texas State Legislature.

The prolific poet and great twentieth century psychedelic prophet Jimi Hendrix weighed in on the abortion dispute in 1971 with the release of his song "Belly-Button Window," in which Jimi portrays a fetus peering out into the world from his mother's naval. Among other observations, Hendrix proclaimed from the womb;
So if you don't want me now, make up your mind, where or when/.  If you don't want me now, give or take, you only got two hundred days.  
Two hundred days equals, let's see...six months. That comes out to twenty-six weeks, exactly what the state of Texas allows right now. If Hendrix could figure it out, pre-Roe, then why can't Rick Perry? Here's the point. Abortion is a moral and medical decision between a woman and her doctor and should have no place on anyone's legislative agenda. The politicization of the abortion dispute has distracted us for far too long from the important work of restoring our country, and it needs to stop. I can tolerate a certain amount of government intrusion in my life, but stay the hell out of my uterus.

Monday, July 01, 2013

The Bipolar Court

It was a rough week to be a gay black man in the South. Although I imagine every week is similarly rough, the two decisions last week by the Supreme Court were enough to give a civil libertarian whiplash. The same politicized court that gave us Bush v. Gore and Citizens United has  successfully extended rights to some while depriving rights to others. On one hand, the Court ruled the Clinton Era Defense of Marriage Act to be unconstitutional, paving the way for same-sex marriage equality under the law. On the other hand, the majority of justices kicked out the cornerstone of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, one of the crowning achievements of the civil rights movement, allowing states with a history of discriminatory voting practices to charge full speed ahead with the very same onerous legislative trickery that brought them under Justice Department scrutiny in the first place. After Chief Justice John Roberts voted with the majority on the legality of Obamacare, I thought perhaps the court might assume a more moderate tone ever since they ruled that corporations were people and money was speech, but I guess that was an aberration. Or was this an aberration? Every time the Supreme Court goes into session, I don't know whether to crawl under my desk or get out the flowers and balloons. The declaration by Justice Roberts that "our country has changed" is true enough, but it was followed by the plaintiff's attorney's astonishing remark that, "the problem to which the Voting Rights Act was addressed is solved," which made us laugh out loud at my house. We figured the lawyer didn't live around here, but the case was  brought against the Justice Department by Shelby County, Alabama. Roll Tide.

The Voting Rights Act was purchased in blood, but Justice Roberts and company seem hell-bent on destroying the last vestiges of Lyndon Johnson's "Great Society." People either have short memories or they choose not to remember. The Act was passed in the wake of "Bloody Sunday," in1965, when a group marching for voters' rights were attacked and beaten by police on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama. Representative John Lewis took a rock to the head that fractured his skull, while others were trampled or pummeled with nightsticks. Of the court's ruling, Congressman Lewis said, "The Supreme Court has struck a dagger into the heart of the Voting Rights Act." A provision of the 1965 law singled out fifteen states, mostly in the Old Confederacy, with the notable exception of Tennessee, and a slew of municipalities elsewhere that had a history of voter suppression, and stated any future changes in voting laws must first be approved by the Justice Department. Even Justice Roberts, citing the Freedom Summer of 1964, when three young activists were murdered near Philadelphia, Mississippi for attempting to register black people to vote, said, "There is no denying that, due to the Voting Rights Act, our nation has made great strides." Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, in rejoinder said, "The sad irony of today's decision lies in its utter failure to grasp why the VRA has proven effective." The great strides have been made because of the VRA. The decision frees nine states, mostly in the south, to change their election laws without advance Federal approval. Clarence Thomas, as usual, said nothing, but voted with the majority.

Although some have said the VRA is dead, the courts have thrown the decision whether or not to reinstate the act back to Congress, proclaiming they can re-impose federal oversights, but they must be based on contemporary data. That sounds reasonable enough until you consider that Texas officials quickly announced that a voter ID law that was previously blocked under the VRA would go into effect immediately. Florida is now free to set early voting hours and cut down on polling places in ethnic areas. Does anyone actually believe, in our little blue corner of a red state world, that Southern states liberated from federal oversight are about to reinstate the VRA? Congress can't even pass a Farm Bill. Gov. Rick Perry must be dancing a Texas Reel in the flickering light, that he need no longer give a second thought to the legality of the redistricting maps drawn to protect Republican seats, that is--in between his crass, gooberesque critiques of Texas state Senator Wendy Davis' personal life. Speaking for the majority, Antonin Scalia, son of Italian immigrant parents, said, "Whenever a society adopts racial entitlements, it is very difficult to get out of them." Since when is the right to vote an "entitlement," especially a "racial" one? In John Lewis' words, “The literacy test may be gone, but people are using other means, other tactics and techniques," to suppress the black  vote. Instead of Jim Crow era poll taxes, Republican controlled Southern state legislatures use pesky and costly photo ID regulations and restrictions on early voting to remain in power. They quake before the shifting demographic.

Judge Scalia had a rollercoaster week. The 77 year-old Justice has been warming that bench since Ronald Reagan sat in the Oval Office, so the Court's simultaneous overturning of the Defense of Marriage Act and discarding California's Proposition 8, nearly gave the conservative Scalia apoplexy. He said angrily from the bench, “Few public controversies will ever demonstrate so vividly the beauty of what our framers gave us, a gift the court pawns today to buy its stolen moment in the spotlight: a system of government that permits us to rule ourselves.” After the official pomposity was over, Scalia claimed his allegiance to DOMA was criticized, "because it is harder to maintain the illusion of the act’s supporters as unhinged members of a wild-eyed lynch mob when one first describes their views as they see them.” Lynch mob? I thought only Judge Thomas accused his detractors of such a thing. Scalia later surmised that gay-marriage was inevitable, "when the Court declared a Constitutional right to homosexual sodomy." I don't recall reading the Sodomy Clause in the Constitution, but if Scalia said it, it must be so.

While 35 state legislatures, including Mississippi and North and South Carolina, are poised to act on voter ID laws, and other states like Alaska and Arizona are considering changing early voting laws, California has been experiencing euphoric joy over the demise of Prop. 8, which made same-sex unions illegal. It was joyous to watch the parade of weddings on Cable News, particularly the one officiated by outgoing Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa between Jeff Zarrillo and Paul Katami, who successfully challenged Proposition 8 before the court. Isn't this what critics of the gay lifestyle always wanted? If gay people can enter into lasting unions, it eliminates the prejudicial perceptions of promiscuity and replaces it with those of loving relationships. But then there's Texas, whose governor said, "It is fairly clear about where this state stands on that issue." I'm sure all Texans don't agree with Rick Perry, but the state passed an amendment to ban same-sex marriage in 2005 with a 76 percent majority, exceeded only by similar vote totals in Louisiana and Alabama. But gay weddings are coming to Texas, even if it takes a minute, and even while the state legislature fast-forwards its' attempt to gerrymander Hispanics and African-Americans out of the political equation. The Supreme Court's decisions may have far-reaching societal consequences, but for a gay, black man in the south, it was just another week.