Wednesday, September 29, 2010

"Get the hell out!"

I'm out of town, so I've found some of my favorite old postings to recycle.

I've been following the stories of Tea Partiers (unknown in 2007 when this blog was written), and of firebrands complaining loudly about placement of mosques, the president, the Democrats, blah blah blah...

I've heard all of it before, of course. It just takes different forms. Remember a few years ago when some yo-yos wanted to rename French fries "Freedom fries" because we were mad at France? Things haven't much changed.

From March 22, 2007:

Wandering around the Internet I found this ridiculous statement appended to the American flag. This is the descendant of the decals and bumper stickers we used to see during the time of the Vietnam War, "America Love It Or Leave It."

I always wonder about people who create these sorts of images, wondering exactly what is in their minds. Is patriotism standing up in front of a flag and issuing a challenge, "If you don't love FREEDOM then you GET THE HELL OUT." Is it patriotic to kick people out of the country if they don't agree with you? And who doesn't love freedom? But exactly what "freedom" are the people who created this image talking about?

Are they talking about their right to make ridiculous pronouncements and by positioning them next to an American flag give them some sort of credibility? Or is it just a handy symbol to hang onto a threat? Are they talking about the freedom of speech, which means that I can disagree with them? I can tell them when they say things like this I think they're stupid?

I wonder what people in other countries think when they see this sort of provincialism on the part of Americans, or are they used to our arrogance and our "we're the only people that matter" attitude toward the rest of the world's population? Have you ever seen a bumper strip that says anything like this originating in Great Britain or even Botswana? I'm sure their citizens feel every bit as patriotic about their countries but they don't go about making total asses of themselves like some folks in our country do.

"If you don't love freedom, then get the hell out of the U.S.A.!" isn't patriotic. It's idiotic. It isn't thinking, it's just a jerk and his knee, and it's jingoism in its rawest form.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Creating political demons

After I wrote in my last blog about incivility in politics I went to my files to find more examples from a national perspective.

It's never a secret that for the sake of winning one side wants to create an image of their opponents as agents of Satan, but the demonizing of a person for the purpose of politics just shows a certain mentality. It's not flattering to those doing the demonizing. It can backfire.

I've yet to figure out these pictures that come from Lyndon LaRouche's LaRouchePAC showing President Obama as the demon, Hitler.

Hitler started wars, Obama is trying to end them. In the second place, and in case the Obama-as-Hitler gang doesn't realize this, if Barack Obama had lived in Germany in the 1930s he would have probably been one of the first in line for the death camps. Anyone who wasn't Aryan was less than human. So the Obama/Hitler posters are a real cheap shot, and people who wave them around probably don't know anything about Hitler.

I got this trifold mailer from the Democratic party a few weeks ago, using Sarah Palin in the role of demon.

From my observation over two years, Palin is whoever you want her to be. You want her to be a sweet, flag-waving American soccer mom, you can see that. If you want to see her as an aggressive, disagreeable, take no prisoners liar, then she's those things too. I see Palin as being a political opportunist. I've read the stories of her home life (see Vanity Fair #602, October 2010), how it doesn't jibe at all with her fans' image of her. I've seen the adoring mobs showing up at book signings, as if she actually had something important to say. The smiling, gregarious Palin of those signings doesn't match up with the volcanic, paranoid person as she's portrayed by people who have known and worked with her.

But even with all that Palin doesn't rise to the level of demon. I see her more as a fly buzzing around the head of the body politic. She's annoying enough you can't ignore her. I wouldn't bet on her getting very far in a run for president in 2012, if that's her goal. But some of the Tea Party types she tends to attract can be very dangerous, and even a failed run for the presidency could bring more lunatics out from beyond the fringe.

...and it's those people that are troubling to Republicans. Palin bothers Republicans because she has her base of noisy followers who are threatening their status quo. But the Republicans can't mount an all-out assault on Palin and the Tea Partiers. All they can do is further demonize Obama, make him and the Democrats even more Satanic to the conservatives:

"Ooooooo, they want to appease gays and repeal Don't Ask Don't Tell...oh, horrors, they want to take away big tax breaks for the rich and give breaks to the poor and middle class. that's Socialism, isn't it? They want to make sure health care is available to everyone. Oh my Lord, how un-American is that? We all know only people who can afford health care should get it. It's nature's way of thinning the herd. "

OK, let's get the mouths that roar, the hired gums, the Becks, Limbaughs and O'Reillys, to get on the air and characterize Democrats as minions of Lucifer and see if it plays to some dumbass Americans. And by golly it does! I can practically feel the heat from the fires of hell burning the soles of my feet right now.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

The freak show continues

I've written about Curtis Allgier before. He's an inmate in the Utah State Prison who killed his 60-year-old guard while at a hospital, then escaped. He was later recaptured at a local fast food restaurant. The 6' tough guy, Allgier, was tackled by a retired man, age 59, all of 5'6" tall and 140 pounds, who took his weapon and held him for police.

The latest controversy for Allgier's upcoming trial is whether the judge will allow the defense to have Allgier's tattoos covered by makeup so the sight of them won't inflame the jury. Well. In this day and age many prospective jurors might already be sporting tattoos. I see young women with sleeves of tattoos, and can only wonder what is hidden by their clothing.

Years ago, before the current tattoo rage, but well into the punk rock era, I saw a young man on Telegraph Avenue in Berkeley with HATE in large gothic lettering, tattooed on the front of his neck. My immediate reaction was, "Here's a guy who has rendered himself permanently unemployable."

For all of the tattoos I see nowadays, even the hostile tattoos like the young Berkeley punk had, I have never, but never, seen anyone or anything like Allgier outside of a book with illustrations of tribal tattoo customs around the world.

My guess is the judge won't allow him to wear makeup. That Allgier has chosen to make himself instantly repellent with hate messages on his face shouldn't be hidden from anyone. He chose to have the tats, now he can share them with the larger world.

In another story today, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in California ruled against the city of Hermosa Beach, which has an anti-tattoo parlor ordinance. According to the courts, tattoos are a protected form of expression. Even with concerns about dirty tattoo needles, the judges said the city can't issue a blanket ban on tattoo businesses. After all, whether it's on paper or skin, the First Amendment applies to all freedom of speech. So in his own way the California judge has held up a precedent for the Utah judge. Curtis Allgier's face is a form of his disdain of the larger society. By wearing messages like "skin head" and pictures of swastikas on his face he's let us know he's an intolerant, violent person. It doesn't help him that he's already proved that by killing a guard. So I say, have Curtis Allgier sit in front of a jury with all of his messages available to them for observation. And then throw him someplace dark so the rest of us don't have to look at this freak any more.

Here's a thought of what the courts could do with Allgier based on a picture I found in my files. I have forgotten where I got it, but it was from a medical site. It's not the invisible man, but is of a man who is allergic to sunshine dressed up to leave the house.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

"Chained nudes in Hitler's laboratories of agony"

Men's adventure magazines--or "men's sweat" magazines, as they're sometimes called--were popular from the 1950s into the '70s. The racks were full of them.

I especially remember this style of men's sweat magazines from my Army days of 1966-68. They were lying around in the barracks and guard shacks. I don't remember any of the articles or stories. I thought they weren't worth reading. The provocative headlines pretty much say it all, and in their own way the headline writers were geniuses. I remember the garish covers with half-naked girls either menacing GI's or being rescued from the Nazis.

These three covers that I found for sale on eBay fit the latter description. For many years no one could escape seeing covers of magazines, paperback books, and even movie posters with pictures of women being tortured, threatened, or dead. It was like an all-out assault on women. At the time this sort of image was called "damsel in distress", now it's called violence against women. There are men who hate women and don't have any problem at all in abusing them. I guess for those guys these covers would seem perfect, mixing in a little Marquis de Sade with Nazis, known for cruelty. I admit to having mixed feelings about these covers. I grew up seeing them everywhere, but I don't hate women, and would never hurt any woman.

My mixed feelings come from the funkiness of the artwork. I love the art of illustration. Many fine illustrators worked on these magazines, the same artists who did advertising or paperback book covers, pin-up calendars, etc. The artist probably didn't even think about the subject matter; it was just a job and a paycheck. An editor would tell him, "We need a girl in a bra hanging from her wrists while a Nazi whips her, and there's a GI with a machine gun bursting in the door in the background." The artist got his favorite model, who might even be his wife or daughter if he was saving money, posed her, then took pictures of himself or his buddies for the guys. I believe these three covers, all from the same title, all published in 1963-64, are by the same artist. The Nazi has a monocle on two of the covers, and in the cover with the girl being zapped in that see-through chamber, the Nazi looks a lot like Phil Silvers as Sgt. Bilko. (You do remember that old television sitcom, don't you?)

The women's expressions seem somewhat benign considering what they are going through. It mitigates the horror of the situations. Maybe it's because the models are posed, just part of a big joke.

Haute couture with swastika.

For years BDSM--bondage, discipline, sadism and masochism for those who might not know--was a forbidden subject, and any pictures or magazines featuring torture or bondage, whips and chains, were sold under the counter.

Vintage kink from under the counter.

Nowadays we can see it on TV, or find it in a fashion magazine. It's blatant now, but in the past sometimes it was sneaked into pop culture without the public really being aware of what they were seeing. Consider this comic strip, The Phantom, from 1937, where the woman whips the girl into unconsciousness and the Phantom stands with a half-smile on his face, doing nothing to stop the act. Someone slipped something by every one of hundreds of newspaper editors who carried The Phantom comic strip.

The one that got by the censors.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

"If that does not work, we beat him."

Iran's been in the news again lately. As I write this their promised release of an ill American prisoner is apparently on hold, as is their sentence of stoning for a woman found guilty of adultery. International pressures do work, but Iran is like the willful child who will take punishment rather than admit he's wrong, and then when he does make concessions they are small, but seen as "progress".

Britain's The Economist has an interesting article on Iran's president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and his close advisor and relative by marriage, Esfandiar Rahim Mashai. Mashai, like the proverbial willful child I mentioned, was taken to the woodshed by Ayatollah Khameni, the religious leader of Iran, and chewed out after he "renounced hostility for the people of Israel." That has to make Israel feel like they have some sort of credibility in Iran, for all of the hate-talk and saber-rattling that normally goes on. Mashai is seen as being in line for the presidency after Ahmadinejad's term is over.

Yesterday I watched President Obama at a press conference tell everyone to accept Islam as a religion, and to respect it. I'm pretty sure he's talking about a more Americanized Islam, which doesn't look on its Christian neighbors as "infidels". (As to how American Muslims look on their Jewish neighbors I don't know...probably the same way their Jewish neighbors look at them.) As we've seen in over thirty years of rule by hardliners in Iran, and with the Taliban in Afghanistan, the ancient clashes with the new. Iran has a dress code for women, runs their state by a religious code from centuries past, and yet has nuclear capability. Talk about a schizoid situation! No wonder everyone is worried about Iran; the combination of nuclear weapons and religious zealotry is alarming to anyone who thinks about it.

In the Economist article there's a quote that immediately jumped out at me:

“If someone turns away from Islam,” warned Ayatollah Muhammad Taqi Mesbah Yazdi, a longtime leading government supporter, “we warn him, and then, if that does not work, we beat him.”

It's hard to reconcile that kind of thinking with the American way. In our country taking someone out and beating them because they aren't behaving by a religious code is just plain battery. And I've yet to meet anyone who believes in a religion after being beaten, or even beaten verbally (isn't that sometimes called a "come to Jesus" meeting?) I'll bet in Iran, besides the opposition Green Party, there are a lot of people who have taken their beatings and hide their lumps, no longer so ardent about the Iranian version of Islam. Maybe one of these days they'll take their country back, put the imams back in their mosques and out of government.

Today is the anniversary of the attack of 9/11, and I don't hold it against even the most religious Muslims, just the terrorist Muslims, who, unlike the call from our president, don't believe in religious freedom or religious tolerance. They believe in their freedom to kill us. I think our government is careful at sorting out terrorists from traditional Islam, even though the public isn't. That's the kind of thinking that leads to some pipsqueak pastor from a tiny church in Florida holding us all hostage with his threat to burn someone's holy books. In his own way he's as bad as those who call us infidels.

One thing I've heard nothing about in all this talk lately is our relationship with Saudi Arabia, which is a strict Islamic state, and which provided most of the 9/11 terrorists. Bin Laden is a Saudi. We have a symbiotic relationship with that country, which supplies a lot of oil, and apparently religion is put on the back burner when money and oil are involved.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

The re-offender

The sickening report was told in this morning's local newspaper: less than six blocks from my house a four-year-old girl was led by a man into the men's room of a thrift store and raped. Her mother, who had left the child in the toy aisle of the store, tracked her down and banged on the door. The child responded to the mother's knocking on the door by yelling, "Mom! Mom!" The mother told the child to open the door but the girl said, "I can't." She later told police the man was "on top of her."

The mother continued knocking on the door until the rapist opened it. The mother tried to grab him but he struggled and escaped. He ran until three male employees of the store tackled him in front of a restaurant which is across a busy four-lane road.

The man who allegedly committed the crimes is Richard Randall, age 41, who has a history as a sex offender, arrested in 1999 for attempted sexual abuse of a 9-year-old, a second degree felony, reduced to a third degree felony. He willingly entered treatment, and was considered a model recovering offender. In 2003 after completing his treatment, a jail term and probation, his sentence was reduced to a misdemeanor. For this latest offense he was booked into jail on Tuesday for "suspicion of rape of a child, aggravated sexual abuse of a child, and aggravated kidnaping." Why he snapped after doing well in treatment is anyone's guess right now. Since he committed his crime in a public place he must've either been overwhelmed by the urge to the point where he lost all common sense or impulse control, or maybe he wanted to be caught. I can't see how he thought he could commit a rape in a bathroom in the back of the store--a store that was formerly a supermarket--and make it out of the building and to his car without being caught.

It doesn't give you much hope for rehabilitation when it comes to sex offenders of children, does it? Actually, there is a myth that no offender is ever cured, but the recidivism rate of sex offenders, depending on the type of offense, is not as high as other criminal offenders. I believe the people who worked with Randall on his original conviction were optimistic that he had put away his offending ways.

This depressing story is personal to me for a couple of reasons: One, I shop that thrift store, know the layout, and exactly where he and the child would have been when he took her, even the restroom where he raped her. We also have a four-year-old granddaughter, and the thought of what happened to this little girl happening to our little girl is more than I can stand. I have to chase those thoughts out of my head. I believe the mother of the little girl was too trusting, letting her child out of her sight for even a minute. Even if she had seen Randall, whose picture is above, she might not have thought anything about it. Sex offenders don't wear a sign or a special hat saying "sex offender", do they?I looked for some online statistics on sexual offenders re-offending and found some statistics. In many cases treatment does work, but not always, and apparently, if we can believe the story about Richard Randall, not for him.
A collection of official studies spanning the years 1983 to 2010 across all 50 states and the federal government has been assembled. . .the average recidivism of sex offenders committing new sex crimes since 1983 is approximately 9%, compared to the 42% average recidivism rate for all felony offenders committing any new felony offense.

According to the Office of Justice Programs of the United States Department of Justice, in New York State the recidivism rates for sex offenders have been shown to be lower than any other crime except murder. Another report from the OJP that studied recidivism of prisoners released in 1994 in 15 states accounting for two-thirds of all prisoners released in the United States that year, reached the same conclusion. (Source:
In the meantime, when in a public place make sure you look and observe who is around you, and need I remind parents to never leave a child alone in a store for even an instant?

Friday, September 03, 2010

Let scandal be your handle

Johnnie Ray was a popular singer in the early 1950s. His biggest songs, the two-sided hit, "Cry" and "The Little White Cloud That Cried" were delivered with bucketloads of emotion. Ray, according to the web biographies, is considered a "bridge between Frank Sinatra and Elvis Presley."

Before he was a star Johnnie Ray was arrested in 1951 for soliciting an undercover male police officer for sex. He copped to a guilty plea and paid a fine. During the height of his popularity the scandal magazines of the time published his mug shot and story of his arrest. Nowadays with tabloids staring at us in the supermarket lines it's hard to remember a time when scandal was considered sleazy. My mother would buy Confidential magazine and put it on a shelf in her closet under some clothes. I'd find it and read it. If my parents hid something it had to be hot!

This page, from a 1955 rag called Lowdown, is public response to their news of Ray's arrest. Letter writers, in no uncertain terms, tell the magazine what they think of them for outing their hero, Johnnie.

For a celebrity to stay in the public eye nowadays sleaze and scandal are almost welcomed. How many records did Britney Spears sell when she was going through her years in the tabloids? In the last week news of party-girl Paris Hilton being arrested for cocaine has taken over the story of Lindsay Lohan, her jail sentence and time in rehab. It's almost as if Hilton figured it'd been a while since she'd seen her face in the tabloids or on TV, so might as well get busted for drugs. Always a good headline, and with her money she can afford a good lawyer.

At least Lohan can act. Paris Hilton's claim to fame is that she's an heiress. No one, including herself, has ever claimed she is an actress. Unless you consider her facial expressions in a video circulating around the web, giving oral sex to her boyfriend. (She does deliver the line, "I know you like it" with some conviction.)

Back to Johnnie Ray. In those days news that a star was gay was a career killer. Liberace sued publications that claimed he was gay. He was gay, but he sued them anyway. Stars like Ray and Rock Hudson and others got married to women to give the impression they were hetero. It doesn't seem like a big deal now, does it? Someone in show business is gay? Wow, what a big surprise. I'm really surprised that Ray's career not only survived, but flourished during the 1950s, a very uptight and unforgiving era for scandal. Being arrested didn't kill off Johnnie Ray's career. Like a lot of pop stars of his era, rock 'n' roll administered the coup de grace. Ray was arrested again in '59 for soliciting an undercover officer, but by then his real success was behind him. Ray drank heavily, and maybe being gay in such a climate had something to do with it. He died at age 63 in 1990, his liver gone.

We look back this sort of exposure now as being almost quaint, but at the time it could stop a show business career in its tracks. Ray was lucky his best years were after his original arrest, but before the story broke.

Here's Johnnie Ray, singing "Cry":