Monthly Archives: September, 2009


I don’t see what all the fuss is about…

A political brawl rocked the California Republican Party state convention in Indian Springs this weekend. On the griddle was Meg Whitman, former former eBay exec and current candidate for governor. The issue was Whitman’s failure to vote, or even register, for the first 28 years she was eligible. Making matters worse, she often did not bother to vote after she finally registered.

If she plays this right it could be an advantage. Whitman is unsoiled by contact with the American political system. California can secede from the Union and when the big quake hits Whitman can be the queen of a new island nation. Democracy is so much work, who has the time?

Fangirl and Fanboy

In today’s Huffington Post there’s two excellent examples of the Roman Polanski celebrity fan club. They think he’s being persecuted. He’s rich, he’s charming, he made a lot of movies. The survivor of the assault he committed thirty years ago wants a normal life, and has kept her privacy.

Polanski, on the other hand, invited a documentary filmmaker to show his side of the story, and these two Huffpo writers watched it. What more do they need to know?

This from Joan Z. Shore, Women Overseas for Equality…

But there is more to this story. The 13-year old model “seduced” by Polanski had been thrust onto him by her mother, who wanted her in the movies. The girl was just a few weeks short of her 14th birthday, which was the age of consent in California. (It’s probably 13 by now!) Polanski was demonized by the press, convicted, and managed to flee, fearing a heavy sentence.

This astounding piece of victim-blaming leaves me wondering whatever ‘Women Overseas for Equality’ stands for.

It’s pretty much the line that the press swallowed in the 1970’s when the poor, troubled film director succumbed to the conniving nymphet who seduced him. And in Shore’s version it’s not rape, or even seduction. She ‘seduced’ him. Jeeze, maybe they should put her in jail instead.

One of the nasty aspects of this crime is that Polanski used his famous charm to deceive the mother and daughter to get the child alone. I can’t imagine the guilt and shame, the damage to the relationship, that resulted. Parents who trusted their children with priests, camp counselors and other authority figures that betrayed them do know.

For an alternate view, the Huffpo has ‘John Farr– Leniency for Polanski’.

Watching Wanted and Desired, I did not get the impression that the now-adult lady Polanski seduced, who after all bears the most right to carry a grudge, would herself want to see the aging director slapped behind bars at this stage. (Perhaps others who saw the film had a different impression.)

Well, Farr watched the movie too. And the fact that Samantha Geimer has not devoted her life to seeking revenge is taken as evidence that she was not wronged. Her life wasn’t trashed enough to satisfy people who expect their victims to display bruises. If she is able to forgive that is very much to her credit. But Polanski has never acknowledged his real crime, or asked forgiveness.

If this were happening in Rhode Island, I wouldn’t want our tax money to pay for three squares and a cot for this loser. We have more offenders than our parole officers can keep track of and we don’t need to import them from France.

I guess he would end up in a court in California. He could appeal to a Governor who himself is from the movie business. Who himself has faced allegations of sexual bullying and sex with a minor. Who as governor pleases his constituency with a tough stance on offenders. That would be interesting to watch.

A majority of Californians decided to give Schwarzenegger a pass on his dubious history. Americans in general are more tolerant of consensual adult sex and less tolerant of exploitation of children than we were in the 1970’s. But we still revere power and hate to deal with the messy contradictions of human nature.

Florida puts its sex offenders under a bridge. We don’t know what to do with people who are fine with adults, but a danger to children or the vulnerable. The press, especially the film industry, doesn’t want to put the scarlet ‘P’ for perp on one of their own. But what do you do with a story like this? It’s not a satisfying narrative where justice wins out. It’s just messy reality. It’s discouraging to see the same distortions and evasions thirty years later, after all we should have learned.

Update– Samantha Geimer wants the case dismissed. Polanski’s thirty year game with the US legal system has ensured that the whole story will keep on coming back to haunt her and her family. Her wishes should be respected, and understood. The enabling press will take a dismissal as exoneration, but she has a right to try to put an end to the notoriety. Polanski, on his part, should stop trying to justify himself and do his best to make amends by leaving her alone.

Another View– Salon has a strongly worded post on why the case should not be dismissed. Dodging justice is not just an offense against a victim, but an offense against the law.

And besides that– the Wikipedia entry for Nastassja Kinski says that Polanski ‘had a romantic relationship’ with her when she was 15.

An opposing view–Mary Elizabeth Williams argues that the legal process of reporting a sexual assault is so traumatic to the victim that justice would be served by letting Polanski go. Williams doesn’t condemn a legal system that is hostile to victims, she seems to take is as a given, like the weather. You could apply her logic to all personal crimes and conclude that none of them should ever be prosecuted.

Too Hot for Salon– just noticed at 6:50pm they have taken Kate Harding’s toughly worded post off the front page and left Mary Elizabeth Williams’ ‘If you want justice for Polanski, let him go’ up. What, is someone there afraid they won’t eat lunch in Hollywood anymore? What is aggravating is that Harding is very blunt in telling it like it is, where Williams says that really, it’s ‘all of us’ who harmed Polanski’s victim. That must be the theory of dispersed culpability that fogs up the painful truth.

More of What’s Not on Salon– okay, this is a year old. Bill Wyman’s analysis of the bias in the documentary, ‘Wanted and Desired’ and the distortions in the press. Tough reading, as it includes testimony from the victim. An ugly crime.

More Links– on Feministing links to opinions on the case. It’s just such a relief to see so many discussions that take it as a given that there was an actual crime.

Not Singing With the Choir–Anna Wainwright short post on Salon just so it’s not all about how the poor guy is being persecuted.

Turns the Tables– Nina Burleigh at Huffpo calls out Polanski’s defenders who think that the genius of the Great Man is worth the sacrifice of a few nobody girls.

Doubletalk–Salon’s Glenn Greenwald calls out the Washington Post for putting mushy untruths on its editorial page and then criticizing ‘the left’ for the same thing.

Priesthood of Fame–Eve Ensler, author of ‘The Vagina Monologues’ questions the defenders of Roman Polanski’s crime.

Bad Choices

I had a lot of arguments with the anti-reform people while I was holding a sign outside three of the Town Hall meetings last month. I sought common ground in the proposal that no one should suffer or die from lack of health care. The response was that people make ‘bad choices’ and stuff happens.

I had pointed out that young people out of school and not yet in a good paying job are especially likely to lack health insurance. Americans are dying unnecessarily. Working people are risking their health and lives because they can’t afford insurance and they can’t afford medical bills. How do you make ‘good choices’ when there are none? Kimberly Young gambled on her youth and health and lost, dying of the flu…

Her roommate’s mother said Young worked several jobs, none of which offered insurance. She eventually went to a public hospital’s emergency room after showing signs of kidney failure and dehydration. In critical condition, she was soon after transferred to another facility, where she died.

The people I argued with, who enjoyed their government benefits but rallied to prevent others from getting the same were showing us one path we might follow. Limited vision, harsh judgment on anyone who falls out of the system, and a deep fear that they might end up excluded too. In a new millennium we can look back on Charles Dickens’ world and see our own reflection.

Flashback: Roman Polanski Arrested

Roman Polanski has been arrested in Switzerland for the conviction he walked away from thirty years ago. Last year he was trying to get his record cleared in the US without actually having to come here and face a judge.

Polanski is not the only criminal who used wealth and power and friends to evade the law by hopping a plane. Maybe it’s a good thing that there are consequences.

At this late date, it’s hard to imagine he would do any prison time. But he’s had thirty years to publicize his version of events, and the child he preyed on is now a woman who must only wish he would stay away from her life and her family.

She’s already spoken to the press, they should leave her alone.

Not Planning Ahead

I don’t think we should underestimate the influence of significant numbers of Americans who believe in the Rapture, Armageddon, the Mayan Calendar and other myths. This belief works against taking the long view, in planning for big projects for the common good and sacrificing today for future generations. A paradigm of this mindset is a quote from former Secretary of the Interior, James Watt…

Watt periodically mentioned his Christian faith when discussing his approach to environmental management. Speaking before Congress, he once said, “I do not know how many future generations we can count on before the Lord returns, whatever it is we have to manage with a skill to leave the resources needed for future generations.”

This eased Secretary Watt’s conscience as he sold our public lands to private interests.

If the apocalyptic mindset works against looking forward, it would be a good idea to look back, and see how many times the world failed to end on schedule. has a post about it today. So brothers and sisters, don’t cash in your IRA just yet.

Good News

Rare good news in the fight against HIV virus, an early study of a new vaccine shows a protective effect. The effect is small and we are years away from a vaccine that can be used widely for real prevention, but this is the first time any vaccine has worked.

Preserving Marriage

You mean it’s not the gays that are breaking them up?

Divorce is as common in the Florida Keys as fresh grouper and cold beer. Census statistics released this week show that Monroe County — which includes the cluster of 1,700 islands floating off South Florida — has the second-highest proportion of divorced residents. A little more than 18 percent of the people living in Monroe County are divorced, second only to Indiana’s Wayne County, which had 19 percent. Nationwide, 10.7 percent of people over 15 are divorced.

Well, we associate the Keys with parties and Hemmingway and snowbirds running from their past and all, and there could be some gay guys painting their houses aqua, but is Indiana a haven of hedonism? What’s up there?

Divorce counselors say the economy could be partly to blame for adding more stress to marriages. Indiana has been hit hard by the collapse of the auto and manufacturing industries. Wayne County had an average annual unemployment rate of 6.8 percent in 2008 — when the census data was collected — a rate above the state average at the time but still below many other areas of the state and country.

Where in our great nation can couples respect their sacred vows? Omigod! It’s the blue state with all those Unitarians, and gays, and gay Unitarians!

Provisional 2008 data from the CDC’s National Vital Statistics Report show that after over four years of legal same-sex marriage, the divorce rate in Massachusetts has actually dropped, from 2.3 per thousand residents in 2007 to about 2.0 per thousand in 2008, the lowest rate in the nation—and one that hasn’t been seen since the 1940’s.


Well okay, actually it doesn’t prove anything regarding same-sex marriage. But the stats do not support the hypothesis that same-sex marriage has the power to explode all nearby opposite-sex marriages.

This does suggest a modest proposal. Our Governor is deeply concerned about the sacredness of marriage, and we have a dire problem with unemployment. How about he stops running around to conferences and puts in some overtime getting Rhode Islanders back to work? I know it’s boring, and difficult, and he doesn’t get to make victory signs to a cheering crowd like Richard Nixon, or go to one of those nice dinners in a function room but these are hard times, and as he says, we have to make tough choices.

Even Better Than Karate

Not to disparage the martial arts, and potentially offend some black belts, but this innovative approach to rape prevention offers ten simple behavior changes that can completely eliminate the risk of rape. Most people are already following this program, which seems completely natural once you get used to it. What to do about the others is the problem…

Sexual Assault Prevention Tips Guaranteed to Work!

1. Don’t put drugs in people’s drinks in order to control their behavior.

2. When you see someone walking by themselves, leave them alone!

3. If you pull over to help someone with car problems, remember not to assault them!

4. NEVER open an unlocked door or window uninvited.

5. If you are in an elevator and someone else gets in, DON’T ASSAULT THEM!

The other ten tips are here, courtesy of Salon’s Broadsheet.

Interestingly, the comments section on Broadsheet is flaming with angry men who mistake this satire for actual prevention tips or else feel it puts too much responsibility on men. The list isn’t gendered, which makes sense because women can be predators too.

When I first started studying self-defense, there were countless books that told you to ‘never do this’ and ‘always do that’. This was very blaming, and if I’d followed all the advice I would have become a recluse. There was also a lot of ‘should have done, shouldn’t have done’ even from victims themselves. One of my fellow karate students, a man, was beaten up by a gang in an act of random violence. ‘I shouldn’t have walked by them.’ he said.

If we were omniscient we would certainly avoid all dangers, but we are only human and have to live in this imperfect world. As the self-defense movement matured, and more books by women became available, there was recognition that every day we have to choose what risks to take.

I would no more say that it’s fine to live as if there was no such thing as sexual assault than I would say that you should leave your laptop on the table at Starbucks while you go out for a smoke. On the other hand, it’s the thief’s fault if they steal it.

It doesn’t make sense to talk about crime prevention if you take the criminal out of the equation. This reversal of the advice women have been hearing for years is a mind opener, and puts the responsibility where it belongs.

Marteka: Hangin’ with the Stoppleworth Gnomes

It was an amazing decision that my mother, Ann Stoppleworth, made to sell 55 acres of open space to the town of Tolland, Connecticut. To the degree that I supported my mother and helped her carry out the transaction, I am proud to be part of a legacy of creating a beautiful space for everyone to enjoy, including the magical gnomes. From the Hartford Courant:

A shaft of sunlight escapes to the forest floor and illuminates a thick clump of ferns like a spotlight highlighting a singer on a stage.

Gnarled roots from a huge tree uncoil over a rock ledge covered with moss and lichen.

Welcome to gnome country.

We all probably see the same images when we think of gnomes: bearded little forest folk with conical hats, hanging out under a mushroom or smoking a pipe or doing some gardening. (Or going to some exotic destination via Travelocity.)

Gnomes are on my mind as I hike through the Stoppleworth Conservation Area, a 55-acre nature preserve in Tolland. Maybe it’s the moss, the ferns, the boulders shaded by evergreens that have me looking around for the mythical creatures. Or maybe it’s the letterbox — part of a scavenger-hunt system of clues and hidden containers — declaring the preserve as the home of Napoleon Gnome. Whatever the reason, Stoppleworth draws you in as soon as you pass through the split-rail fence from the parking lot. [full text]

Ivan Marte Resigns

The resignation of Ivan Marte has put Rhode Island in the national news. Here’s from the source–…

CRANSTON, R.I — Ivan G. Marte, chairman of the Rhode Island Republican Hispanic Assembly, says he has quit the GOP out of embarrassment at South Carolina Rep. Joe Wilson’s outburst during President Obama’s address to Congress last week.

Marte became “disenchanted” with Governor Carcieri after the Republican governor sought his advice — and then ignored it, Marte said — concerning the 2008 executive order cracking down on illegal immigration. Carcieri’s order angered many in the Hispanic community.

Marte suggested Carcieri visit Hispanic families in their homes; meet with Hispanic community leaders, and answer questions on Hispanic talk radio. “I think once I left the office, they must have thrown it [his suggestions] in the garbage,” Marte said. “I haven’t heard back.”

Just over a year ago Southeast Asian youth invited the Governor to meet with them to discuss the firing of three experienced interpreters in a cost-cutting move that seemed sure to cost plenty and not just in dollars. Mrs. Carcieri compared the high school students to terrorists and said that meeting with them would be rewarding bad behavior.

This year a large crowd of Teabaggers got the Governor out on the State House lawn waving victory signs just like Richard Nixon. It’s clear who you have to be to get his attention.

Former Governor Lincoln Almond was a Republican, and didn’t have much of a base in South Providence. But I saw him at a celebration of Martin Luther King day, in a church on Cranston Street. Almond was still recovering from prostate surgery, he could easily have declined the invitation. He looked tired and uncomfortable, but he made the effort to be there. I’ve never forgotten that.

Respect, or non-respect, for constituents, speaks louder than words.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 993 other followers