RIP Farrah Fawcett and Michael Jackson

by matttbastard

The last two childhood icons who died in close proximity to each other were Johnny Cash and John Ritter, nearly 6 years past (yes, it really has been that long since the Man in Black went to meet his beloved wife and his beloved maker–assuming one believes in romantic metaphysics, to say nothing of an afterlife period).

Now, Farrah Fawcett and Michael Jackson, the 70s pin-up queen and the King of Pop, are gone, too.

Farrah Fawcett

(Photo by Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images)

At the forefront of Fawcett’s artistic legacy (so much more than two-dimensional ubiquity and so-called ‘jiggle TV’) is The Burning Bed, the acclaimed 1984 TV movie starring Fawcett (and directed by Robert Greenwald, now of Brave New Films) that, as Hil rightly notes, “had an enormous effect of bringing the discussion of domestic violence into the mainstream.” Fawcett’s last days were spent living with cancer in a manner that was dignified and quietly understated, even if there were some who violated her privacy with requisite post-Gawker Stalker voyeurism. It is a testament to her character that Fawcett had more than enough strength left to defiantly reject (and, later, reappropriate on her own terms) the public’s asserted right to claim collective ownership of her life (and death), regardless of ‘celebrity’ status.

Michael Jackson

As for Jackson, he spent the past two decades as the punchline to an overutilized joke that really, really isn’t at all funny (and will likely spend the next few days as posthumous fodder for gossip-mongers using his still-warm body as fertilizer to sprout page views and newsstand sales). So I hope you will all excuse me if I instead choose to look back at Michael Jackson as he was before the tabloids claimed him as their patron saint, before the ugly truth eventually became stranger than even the most gonzo fiction.

Because if you’re my age and this:

doesn’t make you remember what it felt like to wear one glove to school for the first time; to lobby your parents in vocal futility for one of those red leather jackets that were just so fucking cool; to keep trying to perfect the Moonwalk in the vain hope of one day nailing it the way MJ did at Motown 25, well, you fall into that all-too-overpopulated category of hollow fucks with no goddamn soul worth saving.

And if this:

doesn’t make you get the fuck up right now and shake your ass, you’d better check your fucking pulse.

More on MJ from Nat, Sarah, Renee and Trend.

Recommend this post at Progressive Bloggers

Iran: Dreams Underfoot

by matttbastard

(Image: sterno74, used under a Creative Commons licence)

Following the 2003 invasion and occupation of Iraq, Tom Regan’s Terrorism and Security Briefing for the Christian Science Monitor became a must-read for anyone who wanted a daily general analysis of counterterrorism/counterinsurgency developments around the world. Unfortunately, Regan no longer compiles the briefing. But, late last week, he quietly emerged from an undisclosed location to pen this must-read take on the ongoing post-election turmoil in Iran.

Regan notes that the West may be projecting its own collective desire for transformative political reform in the region onto a murky, still-fluid situation that is not quite the widespread democratic uprising that the mainstream media and Western political establishment would have us believe:

…I strongly believe that what are seeing in Iran is something like a reality based TV show. It’s based on a real incident, but it’s still being shaped by the show’s writers and director (ie, the western media) to be the most interesting to a Western audience. We’re only seeing the bits of tape that conform to what the western media ([which] represent us) want the story to be. It’s real but it’s not reality.

First, this is most definitely NOT a national revolution. This is a protest largely based, as I said, in northern Tehran, the more affluent and prosperous area of the city where most of the universities are located as are (surprised) the hotels where most western journalists stay. As Time’s Joe Klein (who just got back from Tehran) noted in an interview on CNN yesterday, there is no protest at all in southern Tehran, the largest part of the city where the poor and less-educated live. This is Ahmadinejad ’s base. And there is almost no protest at all in rural areas. The regime is firmly in command in most of the country, and the more repressive elements like the Revolutionary Guard have yet to really make their presence felt.

You know, this beginning to sound like Beijing 20 years ago.

Now, there is always the chance that a revolt driven by a relatively small number of the country’s population will succeed in overthrowing the country’s regime. Especially in Iran, where one revolution has already done that. But that was a revolt approved by the large majority of the people against a hated despot. This is not the same situation. If there is hatred of Ahmedinejad it comes no where near close to the hatred felt for the Shah. It’s just not going to happen.

As they say, read the whole damn thing.

h/t Karoli via Twitter

Related: Patrick Martin provides a history lesson on Mir-Houssein Mousavi, a most unlikely champion for Western-style liberal democracy, while John Palfrey, Bruce Etling and Robert Faris of Harvard University’s Berkman Center for Internet & Society share an informative survey of the overall Iranian web presence (which–surprise–may not conform with what we’ve been voyeuristically observing via Twitter). Elsewhere, Dana Goldstein gives us these two must-read posts on the role Iranian feminists have played in the uprising (h/t Ann Friedman). Also see the one and only Antonia Zerbisias (taking a welcome respite from blogging about her thighs and pention [sic]) for more on how–and why–the women of Iran have taken the lead in demonstrations.

Recommend this post at Progressive Bloggers

PSA: Kansas NOW to Host Counter Demonstration against Reverend Patrick Mahoney’s Christian Defence Coalition

by matttbastard

KS NOW press release:

The Kansas National Organization for Women will counter-protest the “prayer vigil” organized by the Christian Defense Coalition and Operation Rescue on Saturday, June 20th outside of Women’s Health Care Services located at 5107 E. Kellogg in Wichita.

Kansas NOW is disturbed that anti-choice activist Patrick Mahoney would plan such an event after stating in regards to Dr. Tiller’s murder, “No one should use this tragedy for political gain”.

State Coordinator Marla Patrick stated, “I am astounded at the sheer hypocrisy of the anti-choice groups. They are using Dr. Tiller’s murder as an opportunity to grandstand their extremist beliefs.  While they claim they will be praying for the end to abortion, I would recommend they pray for forgiveness. Their inflammatory rhetoric played a part in Dr. Tiller’s murder.” She also stated, “They routinely speak of blood on people’s hands. By the rules that they have set and claim to follow, it is very evident that they are the ones with blood on their hands.”

Marla Patrick

KS NOW State Coordinator

785-227-3854

785-212-0162

coordinator@ksnow.org

The hypocrisy of anti-choice groups is profound, and on Saturday we plan to hold signs demonstrating that.  We know there are many pro-choice activists and who would like to join us on Saturday, but can’t.  In spirit we are asking for you to submit your favorite hypocritical anti-choice quote by anti-choice leaders and sponsor a protest sign for a $5 donation to KS NOW.

http://www.ksnow.org/KS_NOW/Counter_Demonstration.html

Please feel free to post and pass around.

Recommend this post at Progressive Bloggers

Read This Now: Liberal Follies

by matttbastard

Thomas Walkom asks a question that’s been on the lips of many Canadians as Iggy and Steve thumb-wrestle over the reins of Parliament: “Who are these ludicrous Liberals? And what exactly is it that they want?”

They say they’d handle the recession differently. But they rarely say how. And when points of difference do emerge – such as the handling of employment insurance – they invariably backtrack.

For the Liberals, the time is never right. They come up with endless excuses for never forcing an election on the minority Harper government: They don’t have enough money; they don’t have enough candidates; their leader is too new; the polls are inauspicious; the weather is too warm; the weather is too cold

In the spring, they say wait until fall. In the fall, they say wait until spring.

When Stéphane Dion was their leader, they blamed him for everything. But at least Dion, with his plan to replace income with carbon taxes, gave some hint as to what he might do if elected.

By contrast, current Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff is terminally vague. On the big economic questions, he attacks the government without saying what he’d do differently.

Ignatieff presents this as an asset, arguing that the point of being in opposition is to oppose. But in the context of the worst recession since the 1930s, his failure to articulate a clear alternative simply leaves the rest of us confused.

As they say, read the whole damn thing.

Recomment this post at Progressive Bloggers

The Last Word on Sonia Sotomayor’s ‘Character Problem’

by matttbastard

NPR:

The subject of the Supreme Court nominee’s judicial temperament has so far been raised by just one senator, Lindsay Graham (R-SC).

“There’s a character problem; there’s a temperament problem,” says Graham.

Referring to the comments in the Almanac, Graham went on:

“I just don’t like bully judges,” Graham says. “There are some judges that have an edge, that do not wear the robe well. I don’t like that. From what I can tell of her temperament and demeanor, she seems to be a very nice person. [Supreme Court Justice Antonin] Scalia is no shrinking violet. He’s tough, but there’s a difference between being tough and a bully.”

Indeed. A big difference (ok, not necessarily big, but…):

Judge Guido Calabresi, former Yale Law School dean and Sotomayor’s mentor, now says that when Sotomayor first joined the Court of Appeals, he began hearing rumors that she was overly aggressive, and he started keeping track, comparing the substance and tone of her questions with those of his male colleagues and his own questions.

“And I must say I found no difference at all. So I concluded that all that was going on was that there were some male lawyers who couldn’t stand being questioned toughly by a woman,” Calabresi says. “It was sexism in its most obvious form.”

‘Nuff said.

h/t Ann Friedman via Twitter.

Recommend this post at Progressive Bloggers

Green is the Colour of Freedom.

by matttbastard

Now this:

Mousavi supporters rally in Tehran

is a magnificent sight to start the day off with.

Freewheeling coverage of the ongoing Iranian election fall out @ Twitter.

Recommend this post at Progressive Bloggers

On the DRC and Rape as a Weapon of War

by matttbastard

François Grignon of the International Crisis Group on the ongoing rape epidemic in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where “[t]ens of thousands of women and children were raped in the region last year alone”:

Panzi Hospital in the town of Bukavu in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo specialises in the care of rape victims. Although Panzi has 350 beds, it must send many women home before they have fully recovered because of the never-ending stream of new patients arriving for treatment.

Panzi is emblematic of the catastrophic toll sexual violence has inflicted on the people of eastern Congo over the past decade. The non-governmental organization Medecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders) has reported that 75 percent of all the rape cases it dealt with worldwide were in the eastern Congo. A census by UNICEF and related medical centres reported treatment of 18,505 persons for sexual violence in the first 10 months of 2008, 30 percent of whom were children. This year, the situation deteriorated further still, with the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs reporting a huge surge in sexual violence and rape in eastern Congo.

Reported cases represent only a fraction of the total — a vast number of cases go unreported. Women fear that they will lose all prospects for marriage or that their husbands will abandon them if they acknowledge they have been raped. In other cases, the threat of retribution — coupled with the near certainty that the perpetrators will never be held accountable — discourages women from stepping forward.

Most of the warring parties of the conflict in eastern Congo, including the Congolese Army, Rwandan Hutu rebels, and Congolese Tutsi rebels, have used rape as a weapon of war. Moreover, rape has become ingrained in Congolese civilian society and is widely used to determine power relations. Men and teenagers rape not only women and girls of all ages, but also other males. An estimated 90 percent of minors in prison in eastern Congo have been convicted of rape, according to the non-governmental North Kivu Provincial Subcommission on Sexual Violence.

[...]

The UN’s launch on April 1, 2009 of an overall strategy for combating sexual violence in the Congo was a welcome step. But this strategy and other recommendations for justice reform and for preventing sexual violence will be empty words in the absence of robust engagement at all levels of the Congolese civilian and military hierarchy.

As they say, read the whole damn thing.

Related: See the ICG report ‘Congo: Five Priorities for a Peacebuilding Strategy

Update 06.13: Jesurgislac, bumped from comments:

Just as a followup: Abortion is completely illegal in the DRC (though Doctors Without Borders provide abortion to women who have been raped) and it is this combination, of war rape with denial of legal abortion and often denial of treatment following an illegal abortion, that led to Amnesty International adopting the position that access to abortion and follow-up health care is a human rights issue, even if they only support access after rape.

This aspect of rape in the Congo is generally ignored by most articles on the topic. Therefore I mention it.

Recommend this post at Progressive Bloggers