Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Raping the Rewards

Maybe the prosecutor in Milledgeville didn’t have the evidence necessary to prove Ben Roethlisberger guilty of sexual assault but after reviewing the records released to the media I, as an officer of the court of public opinion feel quite comfortable in offering up my verdict: Ben Roethlisberger is a rapist.

20 years ago I took a required course that was intended to introduce me to the college experience. I didn’t pay much attention but one thing that was driven home was the concept of rape. We’re not talking about the brutal first degree brand of rape that leaves women battered, bloody and in need of serious medical attention, but the subtle victimization of women that occurs when horny guys try to ply women with booze and drugs.

That’s clearly what Ben was up to when he ordered up round after round of flavorful shots commanding the women invited to hang with his posse, “Drink my shots, bitches.”

Ben’s Georgia victim didn’t even use the word rape to describe what he did even though her description includes Ben exposing himself and then following her to a bathroom and locking the door. She told him that she didn’t think it was a good idea but Ben persisted and had sex with her. Ultimately it was her friends who called the cops.

Based on the lessons learned in my college experience class I feel quite comfortable in assessing this as rape. The girl was drunk, Ben encouraged her to get drunk for the sole purpose of having sex with her. He isolated her from her friends, pressured her for intimate contact and ignored her reservations. That’s rape.

When I took this class I didn’t like the implications, but I was 18 and looking at it from the perspective of being a guy who might start making out with an equally inebriated girl of the same age and end up having sex. I didn’t like the notion that I had to judge her level of intoxication when I couldn’t see straight.

Now I realize that this type of rape isn’t about a couple of drunk college students fumbling through an ill-advised sexual encounter. It’s about guys like Ben Roethlisberger: guys who feed women alcohol until their judgment is severely impaired so they are more likely to get sex when they impose their will.

People have been yapping about Ben’s bad behavior for a while. He’s been called irresponsible, childish, disgusting, and comparisons have been drawn to unsavory animals. Everybody seems eager to condemn him but nobody is telling it like it is. Ben is a rapist. That’s says it all. He believes that women are his for the taking. Sadly, Ben, like so many other famous guys, has throngs of groupies who will eagerly do his sexual bidding without the need for coercion…why not pick one of them?

Because Ben’s a rapist. He doesn’t want sex as much as he wants to physically dominate a woman.

I don’t know what that means. Maybe his mom was a little overzealous with the rectal thermometer when he was a kid. Perhaps he had a domineering older sister who dressed him up like Strawberry Shortcake. Maybe Ben’s secretly gay and expresses his anger over being forced to hide it by abusing women. Who knows?

What we do know is that Ben Roethlisberger raped a girl in Georgia and then hired a legal team to harass the victim and any witnesses. Video evidence in the form of security footage from the club was ‘accidentally’ erased when police investigators requested it. The whole story is shady. Ultimately Ben’s accuser decided not to press charges and indicated that she did not want to testify in court for fear of being made to look bad. Ben’s legal team, which included undercover campus operatives hired by a private detective, made it clear that character assassination would be the order of the day.

So Ben got away with rape. He’ll face no criminal charges at this time and short of that it’s unlikely his hundred million dollar contract will be voided. He’ll play on and get paid handsomely for it.

If I were Ben, I’d be worried. Surely this isn’t the first time he forced himself on a woman (besides the tart in Reno who went straight for the civil suit). Eventually other women will come forward. Is there a cheerleader in high school Ben got a little rough with? Could there be some sorority sister from Miami that can recount a night where Ben wouldn’t take “no” for an answer? People who remember Ben from high school and college don’t do so fondly. Tales of Big Ben the bully and Big Ben the binge drinker out-number recollections of a humble kid living the dream.

Surely this girl in Georgia has a daddy and she might even have a brother or two. Maybe the cops didn’t have enough evidence to substantiate the accusation but dads and brothers don’t deal in reasonable doubt. Do you suppose that Ben might leave the Pittsburgh practice facility one day this summer only to have a discussion with an angry father and his tire iron?

The NFL has seen enough to take action and Ben will serve a suspension. The Steelers aren’t happy either but they don’t seem willing to part with their Super Bowl Champion quarterback just yet. There’s a lot of tough talk coming from the Rooney family but they seem content to ride out the bad press until the start of the season.

None of this is good enough but Ben manipulated the system and avoided criminal charges. Legally speaking, he’s a free man. Legally speaking, he’s done nothing wrong. Fair enough, but the court of public opinion doesn’t deal in legality. There are no technicalities. As far as this court is concerned, Ben Roethlisberger is a rapist but he’s also a victim.

I’m not suggesting we feel sorry for Ben. He’s 28 and he’s had plenty of time to put on the big boy pants and act like a man. He’s opted to behave like a spoiled teenager. He likes his fast motorcycle and doesn’t like to wear a helmet. Ben likes to get drunk and hang out with his homeboys, but he’s not a big fan of charity events. Ben believes women are his personal specimen cups and doesn’t understand the word “no”. This is all the product of our sport culture. Parents, coaches, friends and counselors treat athletic prodigies differently. Ben was a top notch athlete at a young age and he was afforded a lot of latitude. Grades were adjusted, discipline was muted and Ben was permitted to get away with acting like somebody half his age. So is it any wonder that the 28-year-old QB behaves like a 14-year-old whose parents are away on business?

Somethings got to change. It starts with not giving Ben the benefit of the doubt because he was able to use slick lawyering to undermine the criminal justice system but it ends by doing away with the double standard and treating jocks like everybody else.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Toyota Hoax

There’s something fishy about James Sikes’ story. The California motorist claims his Toyota Prius suffered a malfunction that wouldn’t allow him to slow down. With the car accelerating in excess of 80 miles per hour he reached down and tried to pull the accelerator up in order to get the car under control.

He called 911 where an operator implored him to shift the car into neutral. Sikes didn’t say anything, but later claimed that he was reticent to shift into neutral for fear of “flipping” the car.

This doesn’t add up. Sikes is 61 which means he’s been driving a long time. I’m sure at some point he had to push a car and if so he would have realized that neutral is, well, neutral. It’s not another gear, nor does it feature a drive train-locking mechanism like ‘park’. If Sikes simply forgot the neutral nature of the neutral shifter position then he’s an incompetent driver who should be fined as such.

All vehicles are subject to malfunction and it is the driver’s responsibility to be prepared to deal with his vehicle in the event of such a malfunction. Sike’s betrayed the public trust betowed upon him when he was issued his license by failing to deal with his malfunctioning Toyota Prius in a calm, cool and collected manor.

Allegedly Malfunctioning.

This story is a little too convenient. Sikes claims he went to Toyota to get his accelerator fixed but was told that his car isn’t on the recall list. Shortly thereafter Sikes is on national TV reenacting a scene from Speed in his hybrid. The networks jump all over the story and Sikes has been interviewed more times than Drew Brees after the Super Bowl. It’s too perfect.

Let me be among the first to call bullshit on the whole story. Look, I don’t own a Toyota and I have no interest in their stock doing well. They screwed up and no they’re paying the price. They’re getting what they deserved.

But Sikes has gone too far. I think this is a hoax. Sikes wants his cut and he either faked the malfunction or he rigged his accelerator to fail on the highway. When the 911 operator undermined his 15 minutes with the simple solution of putting the car in neutral, Sikes panicked and simply ignored the instruction. When the instruction was repeated, he continued to ignore. After the car was finally brought to a stop, Sikes came up with the lame excuse of flipping the car as a reason not to shift out of gear.

There’s a possibility that Sikes’ Toyota went haywire. Maybe Toyota was hoping to keep its popular hybrid out of the fray and another chicken came home to roost, but Sikes’ brush with disaster was too neatly packaged.

I’m going to put myself out there and say that in three or four months, Sikes might be facing criminal charges. He’ll be tagged as a hoaxer and because he let his scam play out on a public highway, Sikes will be charged with reckless endangerment in addition to the various fraud charges the courts will throw at him.

Granted, I’ve got nothing to lose if I’m wrong so it’s pretty easy to play devil’s advocate, but there’s a lot of stink coming off of Sikes. I think he’s a fraud.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Erin Andrews in the NUDE!

Just about everybody has weighed in on the plight of Erin Andrews. Fox Sport’s Jason Whitlock fired of an ill-advised racially charged column questioning why there’s a pity party for Andrews when ESPN’s Stuart Scott was caught up in a scandal involving his own privacy being violated when he sent a text message to a possible girlfriend, but mostly people are just beside themselves that some pervert pressed a camera up against the peephole in Erin’s door while she was in her room.

After a lot of searching I finally found the video and I watched it. It was disappointing. The quality of the video was just awful. It’s grainy, fuzzy and blurred. It’s like watching a Playboy video through a slice of ham. You can tell that there’s a tall, skinny blond and it looks like she’s naked but unless you’re 13 it’s not something that’s going to send you scrambling for a box of Kleenex.

The thing that I noticed in the video is that Andrews seemed to spend a lot of time naked. She was apparently getting ready to leave her room and was doing all the things that people do when they get ready. She ironed her clothes, brushed her hair and walked back and forth slowly. It seemed that she also spent a lot of time in front of this camera.

Now I’m not familiar with her room but I can only venture to guess that ESPN’s favorite tasty sideline treat doesn’t shack up at the Motel 6. My money’s on a four or five star place and I have to believe the girl had a pretty nice sized suite. So it stands to reason that most of her room would not be visible from the peephole. Somehow Erin did almost everything she needed to do right in front of the camera. She was in the middle of the frame almost the entire time!

Am I insinuating that she participated in this production? Well, consider that she supposedly thought she was alone and nobody was watching. Did she do any of the embarrassing things most of us would do in those same circumstances? No. She never picked her nose or popped a pimple. She didn’t go foraging in her butt crack or scratch her vagina. Not once did she strike an unflattering pose. Every move she made was graceful if not sensual. So what’s the real story here?

The New York Post invoked the wrath of ESPN by publishing still photos from the video. The New York Post was also quick to point out that the video had been available online for weeks but that nobody took interest until Erin Andrews and ESPN started crying foul. When Andrews took legal action she proved beyond a reasonable doubt that the video was the real thing and it sparked a frenzy. Now she’s an internet sensation.

So why would she do it? Publicity. Look, Erin Andrews is no stranger to the flesh trade. That’s why she’s working at ESPN. There are women who know more about sports, but none of them are going to make Maxim’s Hot 100. ESPN hired Erin Andrews because she looks good and Erin Andrews pursued a career covering sports for that very reason. She started off as a college cheerleader and took the next step. You don’t need to be smart to ask coaches and players how they feel about blowing a 17 point lead. You just have to be somewhat articulate and still look hot when that camera adds ten pounds.

Even though people who worship ESPN think Erin Andrews was already famous, she wasn’t universally recognized. I wouldn’t have been able to pick her out of a line up and most people would accuse me of being a sports fan. I just don’t watch that many games on ESPN. In fact, I cheat anymore. I usually skip watching sports in favor of picking up some highlights later in the evening. So sue me.

Erin Andrews probably doesn’t want the highlight of her career being a stint as eye candy on ESPN. She’s got bigger aspirations than that but perhaps not quite enough talent. At 31, she doesn’t have a lot of time to broker her good looks so she’s got to act quickly. Unfortunately she didn’t have Paris Hilton’s ovaries and she stopped short of the requisite sex tape.

So what will Erin get out of this? If she plays her cards right she can hit the harpy talk show circuit and whine about how women aren’t taken seriously because men, evil men with penises, are always objectifying them. Joy Behar will commiserate with her as if she understands.

Erin might be able to lean on ESPN and get a more prominent role. Perhaps hosting a show or at least getting a few meaty sport-oriented assignments. Maybe she’ll go right to the top and have Disney pull strings at ABC and get her a daytime talk show like Ellen, Rachel and Oprah. Unlike Paris, who went all the way to go from a prominent B-list hanger-on to top shelf celebrity tail, Erin’s got the credibility of innocence on her side. She’s not some hussy who got hamstrung by a sleazy ex-beau, Erin’s just a pretty girl who was brushing her hair.

Even if she had no knowledge of this video, I’m going to have to call BS on her being portrayed as a victim. You couldn’t tell who it was in the video. Nobody knew there was any smoke until Andrews yelled “fire”. As for her professional integrity, please. There are too many women who actually open doors with their brains to hold Andrews up as the poster girl for sexism. Andrews willfully participated in the sexism that exists in sports. When you live by the sword you’d better be ready to die by it.

Andrews knows this better than anybody and this is just her latest attempt to get more mileage out of her looks. Sorry, but real people, even good-looking people, don’t look good naked. We do ugly things and if Erin Andrews had really been the victim of a peeping tom she would have been caught doing something a lot more embarrassing than meticulously stroking her long golden locks. Give me a break.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Sarah's Solo Act

Are the Republicans really going to hitch their wagon to Sarah Palin in 2012? The same Sarah Palin who ran John McCain’s campaign aground with her neoconservative platform and her vitriolic personality? Democrats must be holding out hope that they are.

It’s more likely that the Republican Party will stay its current course, which is to drift aimlessly in the doldrums until they figure out which way the wind is blowing. Will the Americans people reject Barack Obama forcefully enough to swing back to the far right, or is the moderate stance the best way to go? It’s too early to tell and while Sarah Palin’s grabbing a lot of attention right now, it’s interesting to see that she is on her own. Nobody from the GOP is eager to back her, not yet.

If the economy heats up and the Democrats are able to maintain control of the House and Senate in 2010 the Republicans might have to embrace Palin and her tired old family values act. It’s all Palin has, but it was also all Bush had. It’s all a matter of selling it. The GOP just has to figure out if that’s how they want to be defined.

The problem with Palin is that she quit the only job she ever had that mattered. Being the mayor of Watchamacallit, Alaska doesn’t even look good on a resume if you’re applying for an assistant manager position at Applebee’s and the knock on Palin’s political experience during the 2008 campaign was valid because she hadn’t been governor long enough to demonstrate an ability to see an administration through its first term. Now she’s quitting before she can stick that feather in her cap.

It’s interesting because Sarah Palin really blew her own horn with regard to her political experience. She seemed genuinely convinced that her short stint at the helm of the least populous state in the US qualified her for the top job in the country. She proudly boasted that her experience was more significant than Barack Obama’s but since she bailed on that job in order to cash in on her popularity you have to wonder what her priorities are.

Sarah Palin will probably be much more formidable this time around but they don’t make a smart pill. If they did, the GOP would have been sneaking them into W’s applesauce for the last 10 years. Palin might actually have the coaching to avoid making a fool out of herself with Katie Couric but she’ll always be one unscripted question away from talking out of her ass. It’s also important to note that she’ll be facing a lot more scrutiny if she has the audacity to take a run at the presidency.

As a VP candidate pulled straight out of left, or perhaps more accurately, right field, Palin didn’t have to endure the slings and arrows of her own party. McCain had already earned the nomination and Palin was little more than window dressing. She just had to look good, exude a little vitality and quietly pander to the religious zealots on the far right.

The problem is that Sarah Palin didn’t want to take a back seat. She dressed in expensive suits, wore jackboots and became an unrepentant media whore. Sarah Palin resented John McCain and opposed his platform. McCain’s advisors publicly expressed outrage and disgust over the way Palin conducted herself. She was a shrill conservative harpy who frightened a lot of McCain’s longtime supporters.

There are a lot of people in the GOP who don’t want to see a return to the Rovian agenda and McCain’s failure on 2008 seemed to make it clear that the time was at hand to step away from religiosity and focus on important issues like taxes, spending and a reasonable approach to security; things McCain stood for back in 2000 when he lost his party’s nomination to George W. Bush. Had the McCain of 2000 campaigned in 2008 he might have won, but the older McCain compromised his personal values by embracing the Christian zealots he once vilified. He thought he had to pander in order to win.

The problem the GOP had in the past election is that the loyal Republican base lost faith. A lot of people felt like the Republican Party had lost its way and they voted for Obama. McCain, who had once been a fierce critic of George W. Bush, rebuilt himself in Bush’s image and Sarah Palin reinforced the message. Her only attribute, aside from her relative youth and camera friendly looks, was her appeal to the far right and with McCain resorting to the fear-mongering Bush, Cheney and Rove artfully employed to silence critics it was too much for reasonable people to bear.

Palin overreacted to David Letterman’s joke about her daughter’s unplanned and unexpected pregnancy. It was a poor joke, not by way of tastefulness but simply in execution. Sarah Palin turned a typical late note groaner into a crime against her family. She milked it for publicity and as the limelight started to fade she bellied up to the podium to announce that she was going to quit her job. Palin might even be convinced that it’s for Alaska’s benefit, and given her intellectual acumen she might have a point, but the fact remains that she was elected to serve a four year term. It was the only term to which she had been elected and couldn’t even follow through on that.

She spun it to sound as though her popularity has put Alaska in a tight spot, but she isn’t the first governor to return to her post after a failed VP bid. Senators and Congressman do it all the time. It’s an accepted part of the process. The problem with Palin is that she’s not content to ride off into the Alaskan sunset and bide her time. She doesn’t want to do her job. She’s too damned important.

If she does manage to become president it’s unlikely a more prestigious gig will reveal itself but vanity plays a big enough role in politics. This country doesn’t need somebody whose only motivation is vanity. The GOP doesn’t need to waste what little credibility it has by supporting her.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Oh the humanity!

The Palin family is raising holy hell over a crack David Letterman made about A-Rod knocking up their daughter. It was a quip Letterman made over a picture of the Palin clan at a Yankees game recently. The Palins made much ado over the fact that the daughter in attendance was 14 year-old Willow Palin and not her 18 year-old slutty sister Bristol.

The joke doesn’t seem exceptionally funny but with Letterman it’s often not the joke but his delivery. In fact, most jokes don’t seem funny when they’re in print. Letterman would be the first person to tell you that most of his jokes are duds. How he handles a dud is what makes him funny.

The Palins have gone on the offensive. Todd (Sarah Palin’s boy toy who doesn’t have a real job) is getting all macho about it and Sarah is hitting up all the usual suspects in the media to drum up sympathy. They’re accusing Letterman of promoting the raping of a 14 year-old girl.

Letterman made the mistake of trying to explain the joke and apologized but the Palins aren’t having any of it. Letterman even suggested that the Palins could come on his show but they won’t have that either. The Palins don’t want to help Letterman improve his ratings and, as a Palin spokesminion put it, they don’t think it’s a good idea to have Willow around Letterman.

That’s just ridiculous. I’m not saying that the Palins don’t have any reason to be upset. Even if the joke’s about Bristol, they don’t have to like it. Bristol is a valid subject when discussing Sarah Palin’s brand of morality and her stance on birth control and sexual education. She an abstinence-only advocate and Bristol drives home just how ignorant and futile that position is. If a controlling bitch like Sarah Palin can’t keep penises out of her daughter, who can?

Sarah Palin could have scored more points with me if she would have just responded to Letterman’s joke by suggesting that it was a shame that a guy who’s been in the comedy business so long can’t find a better subject. Then make fun of him for not having the sense to verify that the girl he clearly intended to make fun of wasn’t at the game. Let other people feign disgust over Willow’s age, but take the high road.

This is just another example of Sarah Palin insulating herself with her children. During the campaign she made a big deal about the media violating Bristol’s privacy when they started asking about her baby bump but it was Sarah Palin who eagerly presented herself as a devoted mother. Palin put her children on center stage because her political career lacked anything resembling substance. So when people asked her what adversity she faced she could always play the “working mom” card.

The best thing for David Letterman to do is let it slide. His fans aren’t going to buy the accusations being hurled at him by the Palins. They’ve already become so shrill that most of the right wing whack-jobs who support them are probably getting tired of the whining.

Some people are asking why Letterman isn’t making fun of Obama’s daughters, as if there’s some sort of conspiracy but the fact of the matter is Obama’s daughters aren’t being used as props. They’re far too young to be getting knocked up and while Obama has spoken of his family, he hasn’t used them as a qualification. Michelle Obama might be the smartest and most educated first lady we’ve ever had and she’s been surprisingly quiet. You’d almost think that she was a Republican first lady.

It’s also not fair to lump Letterman in with the media and fuel those “liberal media” conspiracies. Letterman is a comedian who hosts a late night talk show. He owns the production company that handles the writing and personnel for that show. CBS basically leases the show from Worldwide Pants. Letterman does not represent the CBS network and he is not a news reporter or even a pundit.

It’s really not for the Palins to say whether Letterman crossed the line. That decision is made by the public, which is an entity Palin removed herself from when she got into politics. She is now a public figure and by extension (and her conscientious decision) her family is as well. The means the entire Palin clan is fair game. They will be lampooned, critiqued and made mockeries of until the general public decides they’ve had enough.

Palin’s outrage over the Letterman joke will prove to be counterproductive. Reasonable people know that Letterman didn’t mean to insinuate anything untoward about Willow Palin and nobody believes the he endorses statutory rape, sexual abuse or pedophilia. By making a mountain out of a molehill Palin will only encourage more people to make fun of her family, not because it’s funny but because Palin’s reaction is.

What’s big deal; the age of consent in Alaska’s got to be 13 anyway.

Friday, June 05, 2009

Obama goes old school, confuses conservatives.

I do my best to avoid network news. It’s garbage. I don’t blame the networks, they’re only giving the public what it wants. That’s why the focus is on the personalities that read the news rather than the news itself. Wolf Blitzer, Chris Matthews, Rachel Maddow, Brian Williams, these people are not news reporters at all. They are quasi-celebrities who read teleprompters that feature hard work done by real reporters who get paid much less and rarely get due credit for their work. If you watch closely you might see some names flash by the screen at the end of these so-called news shows. The real reporters and the producers who put it all together are listed there.

MSNBC has positioned itself as a liberal counterpoint to Fox News. Unfortunately MSNBC comes off as a poorly executed clone of the Daily Show. Keith Olberman’s vendetta against Bill O’Reilly notwithstanding, I find MSNBC offensive. As a self-described liberal I can honestly say that I don’t want to be associated with the nonsense that goes on there. I don’t necessarily disagree with their views but I think they lack professionalism. Don’t pawn yourself off as a serious commentator and then act like a less refined version of Jon Stewart.

Fox News is just ridiculous. They don’t even pretend to be informed or intelligent. They cater to middleclass conservatives and people who don’t want their point of views challenged. Everything is a commentary and there is a clear bias to their commentary. Even though Fox and conservative pundits insist that the rest of the media harbor a liberal bias, it’s quite clear that Fox has positioned itself as a propaganda machine for the right wing.

Case in point? Obama’s recent speech in Cairo. Obama reached out to the Muslim world in hopes of establishing a dialogue that might allow the US to resolve differences without dropping bombs and casting aspersions. Fox News and the pundits they employ jumped on the speech and accused Obama of turning his back on Israel, weakening our nation and apologizing for our actions after 9-11. Obama talked about nuclear weapons and told his audience that his ambition was to eliminate all nuclear weapons. Fox scoffed at this notion, stating that nuclear weapons are here to stay.

They’re right, of course. That genie is out of the bottle. We’re also not going to get rid of chemical and biological weapons. But Obama, by virtue of being an intelligent man, knows this. The reason he’s telling the Muslim world that he wants to eliminate all nuclear weapons is so Muslim people don’t feel like they’re being picked on when they’re told their countries can’t develop nukes. It’s a platitude, not a promise. And while it might be insincere, the gesture is more effective at building cooperation. Bush’s policy was to tell other countries they couldn’t have nukes and then wave his around singing na-nee-na-nee-boo-boo.

Obama also expressed some regret at the way the previous administration handled the aftermath of 9-11. It wasn’t an outright apology but Obama did offer that both the United States and the Muslim world shared blame for the state of the world today. That’s called diplomacy. Rather than pointing his finger at all of Islam, as George W. Bush was prone to do, Obama extended his hand and offered Muslims the opportunity to meet him halfway. President Obama simply realizes that we can’t bomb people into our way of thinking. Compromises must be made. By taking the first step, Obama has put the US in a position of power. We can dictate the nature of those compromises.

One fact Fox pointed out was a poll that reveals a very low favorability rating in the Islamic world. “These people don’t like us; why is Obama trying to woo them,” one bleach-blond bimbo asked. Of course Jon Stewart quickly countered on The Daily Show that you’re supposed to woo people who don’t like you.

You’d think that Fox and the conservative pundits are in favor of waging all out war on Islam. While there are certainly whackos on the right who see this as a holy war, most of the people criticizing Obama are simply grasping at straws. They have to object to everything he does, even if it’s the right thing to do. Obama could turn the Middle East into a utopia where people of every culture and creed embrace one another as brothers and Fox would find something to take issue with. “God wanted the Middle East to be violent,” they’d complain.

It’s too early to tell if Obama’s right. I don’t know if he’s doing a good job or not. He’s clearly not perfect but it certainly seems like he’s on the right track. George W. Bush and Dick Cheney demolished our nation’s good will around the world and that was after the entire world was in our corner after the 9-11 attacks. In all of six months Bush and Cheney managed to alienate everybody except Tony Blair and his loyalty to Bush destroyed his reputation. Before we commemorated the first anniversary of the 9-11 attacks the rest of the world was pretty much thinking that we had it coming and when we turned our attention to Iraq, we were, in the eyes of the world, the evil empire.

It seems as though Obama has mended a few fences. By simply respecting the rest of the world he is earning the respect of people around the world. The US has a chance to be a great country again and that’s because Barack Obama isn’t running around pointing fingers at other countries and using terms like “evil”, “rogue,” and “terror.” He hasn’t claimed to be on a mission from God, like some inbred version of Elwood Blues. Most importantly, he speaks clearly, forms complete sentences and uses words that are actually in the dictionary.

Perhaps 8 years of George W. Bush has conditioned the people at Fox and the idiots who watch them to expect our president to act like a professional wrestler, but back before “the man of god” overtook the White House, this is how Presidents behaved. It's old school diplomacy. Communicating with class, respect and intelligence. It takes some getting used to but it works.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Poor Little Beauty Queen

For Carrie Prejean losing the Miss America Pageant could prove to be a brilliant career move. Most people can only name Vanessa Williams when they try to think of previous pageant winners and she was best know for having her title stripped when nude photos of the aspiring entertainer surfaced. While the ordeal must have been terribly humiliating at the time, Vanessa ended up getting more publicity than other winners and she parlayed that into a successful recording and acting career.

Vanessa Williams was OK as a singer cranking out a few pedestrian pop hits and she was a fairly decent actress once she stopped milking the cameo circuit and focused on the craft but her she’s best known for the Miss America debacle. Long after people have forgotten about most winners, Vanessa Williams was the center of attention.

Miss California, Carrie Prejean, didn’t win but she managed to grab all the attention by stirring up a controversy when guest celebrity judge and shameless media whore Perez Hilton asked her for an opinion on the legalization of gay marriage. Her response:

"I think it's great that Americans are able to choose one or the other. We live in a land that you can choose same-sex marriage or opposite marriage and, you know what, in my country and my family I think that I believe that a marriage should be between a man and a woman. No offense to anyone out there but that's how I was raised and that's how I think it should be between a man and a woman.”

Besides the fact that she sounded inherently bimbish, as most beauty contest participants do—come on, they’re making a living on their looks—the statement wasn’t exactly something to call the ACLU over. The problem is that the Miss America Pageant is all about politics. Neutral politics. Fluff is the key.

Prejean has been making the rounds on all the talk shows insisting that she lost the contest because she had the courage to speak from the heart. She’s also been thumping the bible angle pretty consistently which means she’ll soon have a talk show on FOX probably bridging the time slot between Glenn Beck and Sean Hannity.

People like Perez Hilton say she’s just a dumb bitch with a bad dye job as if that distinguishes her from the rest of the pageant circuit. Those leaping to her defense talk about liberal bias and freedom of speech.

For me it’s not about liberal bias. I’m a liberal and I couldn’t care less about marriage. I suppose if two people really want to get married they should be able to, but I don’t know why they want to ruin a perfectly good relationship by wrapping it up in red tape. I also think that people who are opposed to gay marriage are, without exception, idiots. If you think gay marriage is wrong you just aren't thinking enough. That includes Carrie, but I really don't have a problem with what she said because I've accepted the fact that I have to share this country with a lot of idiots. I tolerate it because it's illegal to run around punching people in the neck just because they're ignorant.

The problem I have with Carrie’s pity party is that she has nobody to blame but herself. She has a right to speak her mind. She has a right to form an opinion. But if you opt to put those two rights together and people don’t like the result you are subject to reprisals. Freedom of speech is not free of consequences. You and your opinion are not entitled to respect. That's something you earn by being informed and expressing yourself thoughtfully.

Prejudice is wrong. It’s not fair to look at somebody and judge them based on things that are beyond their control but the manner in which you express yourself, be it through word or deed, is something that you can control. When you speak, that provides the people around with an opportunity to judge you. That's the way it's supposed to be. Martin Luther King dreamed of a world where a person would be judged, not by the color of their skin, but the content of their character. When you open your mouth you reveal the content of your character.

The trick to beauty pageants is to remember that it’s all superficial. Miss America should really be labeled Miss Future Trophy Wife. We want her to look good, demonstrate a mildly interesting talent and possess just enough intelligence to not embarrass her powerful husband when she is forced to open her mouth in social situations. When you’re asked a question at the Miss America Pageant you’re supposed to form a coherent sentence that glosses over the issue, and then bat your eyes so people remember that your real purpose in life is to be pretty.

Truly intelligent women don’t enter these pageants. Could you imagine somebody with Tina Fey’s wit being asked a question about gay marriage? I’m opposed to gay marriage because I think it’s unfair that the man of my dreams—conscientious of his looks, impeccable style, neat, polite, able to help me pick out a dress or even do my hair in a pinch—is gay. Totally not fair. Why am I stuck choosing between the chronically flatulent frat boy and the guy who wears throwback jerseys?

We’d all laugh, but she wouldn’t win because deep down beauty pageants are chauvinistic. When women are beautiful, talented and smart it threatens us. Not just men, but also other women. Nobody should have it all. That's why even the talent portion is repleat with a number of usless superficial talents. Has a Miss America contestant ever rebuilt a transmission or belched the alphabet during the talent portion? Nope. It's always sub-collegiate gymnatics, baton twirling or some average musical skill. Nothing meaningful or funny.

The ironic thing is that Miss California didn’t pull off looking smart, she just didn’t have the sense to keep her politics neutral. She didn’t pander to the crowd that controlled her destiny as a Miss America contestant, but she still pandered. Her audience was just too busy watching NASCAR at the time.

Some people are really happy with what Miss California had to say. They agree with her and she will soon become an iconic figure in their circles. She will become a conservative media darling and easily have a better career than the Barbie doll wannabe who edged her out. So it’s probably not a good idea to feel sorry for her. If she planned this, I have to give her credit for recognizing an opportunity but I suspect she’s just another dingbat regurgitating the same neo-conservative bile her dad spews at the dinner table everyday. Either way, she’s set for life.