Archive for December 26th, 2008

December 26, 2008

Perversity and popular culture

Kate Winslett defends her new movie, The Reader — in which her character has an affair with a teenage boy — against the accusation that the action depicted is statutory rape. Winslett’s defense prompts questions from lawyerly Ann Althouse, which elicits additonal legal clarification from Eugene Volokh.

The controversy over all this is rounded up by Instapundit, with a link to Robert Franklin discussing a Texas case in which a 26-year-old woman gets a mere 90 days in jail for having sex with her 13-year-old foster son.

Wait a minute — Texas? Did you say Texas? Remember that Texas child-welfare officials instigated a SWAT raid at the El Dorado FLDS cult compound and seized 436 children because of the suspicion that underage girls were being sexually exploited. This week, Texas released a report finding that just 12 girls at the compound has been “spiritually married” before age 16:

Two girls were 12 when married; three were 13; two were 14; and five girls were 15 when married. Seven of these girls have had one or more children after marriage.

As I have repeatedly said, if Texas is going to launch a paramilitary raid every time a teenager has sex or gets pregnant, they’ll need to hire a lot more SWAT officers, because Texas leads the nation in teen pregnancy. This is not to minimize or excuse the bizarre polygamous practices of the FLDS cult, but rather to put into perspective the overkill instincts of child-welfare officials in the El Dorado case — and also to point out how cultural forces shape popular perception about sexual deviance.

In the immediate aftermath of the El Dorado raid, lurid headlines about the “underage sex cult” fed the atmosphere of moral panic reminiscent of the notorious McMartin preschool case. Why? According to the Guttmacher Institute, there were 1,750 pregnancies among girls under age 15 in Texas in 2000 (and another 28,000 pregnancies for girls 15-17). Yet we hear nothing about prosecution of those men who routinely impregnate Texas teens, while the existence of a dozen underage brides within this renegade cult creates a worldwide firestorm of publicity.

Which brings us back around to Kate Winslett and her defense of the cinematic depiction of a 30-something woman’s affair with a 15-year-old boy:

That boy knows exactly what he’s doing. For a start, Hanna Schmitz [Winslett’s character in the movie] thinks that he’s seventeen, not fifteen, you know? She’s not doing anything wrong. . . . They enter that relationship on absolutely equal footing. Statutory rape — really please, don’t use that phrase. I do genuinely find it offensive actually. This is a beautiful and very genuine love story and that is always how I saw it. . . . She wasn’t cruel to him. She didn’t force him into anything at all.

Althouse replies:

Don’t all statutory rapists say this sort of thing? . . . Do you think 36-year-old women should be free to seduce 15-year-old boys?

This is really the issue. Either the act is a crime or it is not, and the law can’t excuse crime because the criminal considers it “a beautiful and very genuine love story.” Such acts are either legal or they are not. You cannot on the one hand excuse the Hanna Schmitzes (or Mary Kay Letourneaus) of the world and then, on the other hand, send SWAT teams to round up every child at the El Dorado compound.

To such an extent as The Reader glamourizes and justifies the actions of Hanna Schmitz, it undermines the law by establishing in the mind of the audience the self-exculpatory perspective of the criminal. Perhaps you’ll understand the allegory when I spoil The Reader by telling you that Hanna Schmitz was a Nazi concentration camp guard whom her erstwhile boyfriend must eventually prosecute for war crimes.

December 26, 2008

Only in Texas

A Lone Star Christmas:

A naked man who was banging on doors and windows at a northside [Houston] apartment complex died Wednesday after being shocked by Tasers at least three times during a confrontation with Harris County sheriff’s deputies, authorities said.
About 4 a.m., deputies received calls from residents at the apartments in the 200 block of Dominion Park near Kuykendahl.
Investigators said the 46-year-old man was randomly knocking on doors and windows and yelling while walking around the complex. At one point, he kicked open a front door and briefly went inside an occupied apartment, officials said.
The resident “did not know who he was,” said Lt. John Legg of the Sheriff’s Office.

When you get so high you don’t know who you are, you must be in Texas — where the sheriff’s department is authorized to Taser you out of existence.

December 26, 2008

This gives new meaning . . .

. . . to the phrase “drug wars”:

The Afghan chieftain looked older than his 60-odd years, and his bearded face bore the creases of a man burdened with duties as tribal patriarch and husband to four younger women. His visitor, a CIA officer, saw an opportunity, and reached into his bag for a small gift.
Four blue pills. Viagra.
“Take one of these. You’ll love it,” the officer said. Compliments of Uncle Sam.
The enticement worked. The officer, who described the encounter, returned four days later to an enthusiastic reception. The grinning chief offered up a bonanza of information about Taliban movements and supply routes — followed by a request for more pills.
For U.S. intelligence officials, this is how some crucial battles in Afghanistan are fought and won.

Winning their hearts and minds — one erection at a time.

December 26, 2008

Against motherhood?

John Mallon recalls that what was once a figure of speech for an extremely unpopular position — “That’s like being against motherhood and apple pie!” — is much more commonplace nowadays. That is to say, hostility to motherhood has become quite fashionable in some quarters.

December 26, 2008


Shirtless Obama sends a thrill up the leg of ABC News, causing Ace to comment:

Bush was never slobbered over by the media for having an extraordinarily low resting heartbeat, nor for being in what appears to be near-peak physical condition for his age. On the other hand, the smoker Obama is hailed as a deity for having moobs.
Note also the differing reactions to physical attractiveness — Sarah Palin was derided as a beauty-queen chillbilly Caribou Barbie for being kinda awfully hot. But the media indulges its id when it comes to Obama.

Trust me, Obama won’t get this kind of coverage forever. Nobody does. If nothing else, other reporters who are less enamored with The One will become embarassed by the sycophancy and go negative on him just to maintain their own self-respect as journalists.

In fact, with so many in the press corps providing hagiographic coverage, there might be an extra premium on hard-hitting investigative reporting of the new administration. A scoop is a scoop is a scoop, and with so many reporters trying to cover Obama the way Tiger Beat covered the Bay City Rollers in 1976, the big opportunity for scoops will be in terms of negative coverage.

UPDATE: Noting that Obama can’t be bothered to attend church at Christmas, Jammie Wearing Fool says:

In fact, ever since he dispatched Jeremiah Wright back in May, it doesn’t seem as if anyone in his sycophantic press corps has bothered to ask The Messiah how that search for a new church is going. Apparently there’s a shortage of psychotic spiritual mentors out there.

See? If this absence of serious reporting is evident to bloggers, don’t think reporters will ignore it forever. Sooner or later some clever reporter will start asking those kinds of questions. Jake Tapper, at least, doesn’t seem intimidated.

UPDATE II: Welcome, Instapundit readers. And, indeed, the professor did invoke the tartan-clad boy band in July.

Maybe you have to be a certain age to remember the pre-MTV era when Tiger Beat was the main vehicle for marketing teen idols to middle-school girls. A couple of examples of Tiger Beat covers featuring the Bay City Rollers:

BONUS: BAY CITY ROLLERS PINUP! (Totally gay, or what?)

December 26, 2008

The deciders decide

Purple Avenger at AOSHQ took notice of a snarky column by Hugh Bailey in the Connecticut Post, apparently indicating that the newspaper would no longer publish letters calling attention to the role of Democrats like Barney Frank and Chris Dodd in the mortgage meltdown. What caught my eye was a later paragraph in the column:

The notion that the tens of billions of dollars we spend killing people in Iraq could be better spent on schools and hospitals in this country is not radical. Huge majorities in this country support a robust social safety net, so that people who experience a run of misfortune don’t lose everything. All other industrialized nations on the planet have some form of universal health care. None of this is controversial.

Now, first of all, P.J. O’Rourke once pointed out the fallacy of thinking that there is some kind of exchange center where we can go trade in fighter jets for social services. Whatever one’s feelings about the Iraq war, it is not self-evident that deploying troops abroad automatically drains money from “schools and hospitals.” Maybe it drains money from the federal departments of Education and HHS, but that’s another proposition.

Yet since we’re on the subject, how many of those “other industrialized nations” with universal health care can deploy so much as a single carrier task force or an infantry division? The Canadians and Swedes and Japanese have no effective military. We still have U.S. troops in Bosnia. Why? Because none of those European social democracies has enough firepower (or enough balls) to police their own backyard. If you expect the Belgians and Italians and Dutch to contribute meaningful military manpower to deterring dictators and preventing genocide, you’re going to be bitterly disappointed.

As to the “huge majorities” who support the social safety net, one wonders if Mr. Bailey was whistling that majoritarian tune in 2002, when Republicans were riding high. And he closes with this:

Finally, about the penchant for using the word “liberal” as an epithet — despite what your radio tells you, it’s not an insult.

Mr. Bailey thus depicts his critics as mindless followers of talk-radio whereas he, Mr. Bailey, is entirely an independent thinker. Who is insulting who here?

December 26, 2008

The Santa Killer

A semi-automatic Christmas:

A distraught man dressed as Santa Claus opened fire at a Christmas Eve party and then set the house ablaze, killing at least eight people, authorities said.
Several hours later, the shooter killed himself.
Bruce Jeffrey Pardo, 45, who had recently been divorced and is believed to have lost his job, knocked on the front door of a home owned by the parents of his ex-wife in Covina around 11:30 Wednesday night, said Police Chief Kim Raney.
An 8-year-old girl ran to the door to answer Pardo’s knock, police said. He shot her in the face, stepped into the house and began to fire indiscriminately with a semiautomatic handgun. . . .
Pardo is thought to have worked in the aerospace industry as an engineer, police and acquaintances said.

I am reminded of another laid-off, divorced aerospace engineer, Michael Douglas’s character in the 1993 movie, Falling Down.

UPDATE: Associated Press adds details:

Pardo, 45, had no criminal record and no history of violence, according to police, but he was angry following last week’s settlement of his divorce after a marriage that lasted barely a year.
“It was not an amicable divorce,” police Lt. Pat Buchanan said. . . .
Pardo’s next-door neighbor . . . said he moved in more than a year ago with a woman and a child. She said they kept mostly to themselves and the woman later moved out with the child. . . .
He also served regularly as an usher at evening Mass at Holy Redeemer Catholic Church in Montrose, the Los Angeles Times reported.
Jan Detanna, the head usher at the church, was stunned when told about the violence.
“I’m just — this is shocking,” Detanna told the Times. “He was the nicest guy you could imagine. Always a pleasure to talk to, always a big smile.”

Nice guy. Big smile. Eight dead.

December 26, 2008

Eartha Kitt, R.I.P.

Dead at 81 — amazing that the singer of “Santa Baby” should have died on Christmas Day: