RIP, Koko Taylor, 1929 – 2009.

My miniscule contribution to Koko Taylor graphic ephemera, an 18" by 24" poster for a mid-eighties blues concert in Burlington. Pre-computer; type all set on a typositor and posterization of photo done in a stat camera. Once again, looking at this elicits weird olfactory flashback of darkroom chemicals for me. And aural echos, down the decades, of a rockin' great concert. Best seats, $10.75. Sigh.



bygone american automobiles IV

This 1953 Studebaker Commander is one spiffy-looking car, way ahead of the competition in styling—the norm for Studebaker, which employed the services of two giants of American industrial design, Virgil Exnor and Raymond Loewy. This looks like Loewy’s style, but I don't know the relative contribution of the two of them in its creation and I'm too lazy to research it. It is kind of a shame that the ad guys thought it necessary to compare it to European cars, instead of promoting it for what it was, a real American original.



a nation of the fearful

So a creep named Roeder has been apprehended and charged with the murder of Dr. George Tiller. Roeder's alleged act was clearly intended to intimidate physicians who provide abortions to women. It was intended to influence the course of events through fear of violence. This is, by any reasonable standard, the definition of terrorism. Assuming he is guilty of the crime, Roeder is by any reasonable standard a terrorist, but he has not been charged with terrorism-related crimes.

Roeder will not be locked up indefinitely without charge or access to the courts; in fact he’s already been charged with the murder, and in order to convict him the prosecution will have to prove that he did it. He will not be waterboarded or otherwise tortured to extract a confession or information about his confederates, even though they may very well be planning similar violent terrorist acts while he waits in jail. He will be provided with a lawyer if he can't afford to pay for one himself. He is protected by that quaint set of customs we call “due process” under “the rule of law.” He will, it seems likely, receive a trial that is scrupulously fair to him, perhaps biased somewhat in his favor since he will be tried in a place where jurors and even judges may well find his victim less than sympathetic.

Another creep, this one named Muhammad, has been arrested for the drive-by shooting of a couple of soldiers at a recruiting station in Little Rock, Arkansas. Muhammad has been charged with one count of capital murder and 15 counts of terroristic acts, one for each of the people who happened to be present.

Muhammad will presumably receive the same due process protections that Roeder will, although it is not unreasonable to feel somewhat less certain of that simply because he is a black man who professes Islam and because his soldier targets are more universally popular than OBGYN doctors in Kansas who dare to provide perfectly legal abortions.

But assuming that he does get a fair trial, we might ponder what distinguishes Muhammad (or Roeder) from other alleged terrorists who have been tortured, and who have been imprisoned for many years without charge or trial or any realistic hope of release, many of them on the basis of no evidence at all, simply, it seems, because we are afraid of them. Fear trumps our commitment to due process.*

Is it their American citizenship that separates them from those outside the protection of due process? That proposition seems shaky at best. In the so-called war on terror, American citizens have had their phones tapped, their assets seized, their lives disrupted without due process. It took five years of imprisonment and a Supreme Court decision the threat of a Supreme Court review to get a proper trial for Jose Padilla (a man for whom I have little sympathy, but nonetheless a human being and an American citizen). So no, it's not citizenship. It seems that our level of fear needs only to exceed some vaguely defined threshold for all constitutional protections to suddenly become null and void. We’re so afraid of the prisoners at Guantanamo that we think our federal supermax prisons, from which there has never been an escape, can't possibly hold them.

It’s rational to be afraid of murderers and rapists and thugs of all sorts, and it’s arguably more rational to be afraid of random creeps with guns than it is of “terrorists.” After all, the creeps with guns, the garden-variety murderers, have taken a couple of orders of magnitude more lives in this country over the last decade than have “terrorists,” including the 9/11 hijackers. You and I are far more likely to die at the hands of some armed acquaintance or family member in the throes of a temper episode than of any "terrorist" of any nationality. But except in the case of “terrorists” I don't see even “conservatives”** proposing that we just chuck the justice system altogether and let the cops lock up whom they like for as long as they like. But I suppose that’s next.

*Fear, whether of the "terrorists" themselves or of the political consequences of setting them free, clearly trumps due process for the President, who despite campaigning on a return to the rule of law, is now proposing to chuck it altogether for those he decides aren’t worthy.

**Another word that needs scare quotes, because of their distance from any truly conservative ideals. “Authoritarians” would be a better word, even for many of the so-called “Libertarians.” (cf. Glenn Reynolds—link arbitrarily chosen by way of a 30-second Google search. So many examples to choose from, and it's bedtime.)


bygone american automobiles III

The GM bankruptcy filing yesterday promps another defunct car post. Frazer was the upscale badge of the Kaiser-Frazer Corporation, and cars under that name were built from 1946 to 1951. Wikipedia, of course, can tell you all about them.


terrorism in the united states of america

Yesterday a man was gunned down. This is not an uncommon occurrence in the United States of America. The man, a compassionate and skilled physician, provided necessary medical care, saving the lives of many women and averting lifetimes of suffering and disability for many others. He did so in the face of constant harassment and many occasions of violence directed at him and his associates.

Of course women, to many fervent Americans, are mere receptacles for the semen of their male owners, and vessels for the gestation of any resulting fetuses, and certainly unworthy of the autonomy or respect we afford fellow human beings. These people believe, for instance, that a grotesquely malformed and entirely un-viable set of conjoined twins must be allowed to express its full humanity by killing or maiming the vessel of its gestation before expiring in a burst of Christian glory.

So the physician had to die. Since the government wouldn't arrange a proper trial and execution for him, an upstanding Christian citizen took on the job himself. Little doubt the jury of his peers will be sympathetic, and he'll go on to a brief career of prison ministry before his early parole.

Look, I can't say anything about this that many others haven't said better, but it is impossible to remain silent about it. It was an act of terrorism, pure and simple—a violent act intended to intimidate, to influence others through fear. It looks like it will be a successful. It was already very difficult for women to access the kind of care Dr. George Tiller provided; he was one of perhaps only a half-dozen physicians in the U.S. with the courage to provide late-term abortions when they are medically indicated. And, most depressingly, it was an act of terrorism incited and implicitly condoned by prominent media voices and civic leaders.


bad faith laid bare

All the blather about Judge Sotomayor’s ethnicity and gender and their supposed relevance to her jurisprudence stands in stark contrast to the silence about her actual judicial record. After all, she’s been a federal judge since 1992 and an appellate judge since 1998. Her decisions are public record. Anyone can read them, even reporters for national news organizations. If any of them have, I haven't come across their reporting about it. But Tom Goldstein at Scotusblog actually dug in and read through the 96 race-related decisions Judge Sotomayor has participated in. Please click the links and read his posts, but here’s a taste of what he found:

Of the 96 cases, Judge Sotomayor and the panel rejected the claim of discrimination roughly 78 times and agreed with the claim of discrimination 10 times; the remaining 8 involved other kinds of claims or dispositions. Of the 10 cases favoring claims of discrimination, 9 were unanimous. (Many, by the way, were procedural victories rather than judgments that discrimination had occurred.) Of those 9, in 7, the unanimous panel included at least one Republican-appointed judge.

It's pretty clear that she's completely in the judicial mainstream. In fact, some of the decisions Goldstein cites seem uncomfortably narrow and conservative to this liberal non-lawyer.

The inescapable conclusion, as if it weren't obvious anyway, is that the opposition is not operating in good faith. If they actually read her work instead of cherry-picking phrases from old speeches that connect with racist dog-whistle political discourse, they'd find a judge who is meticulous about the law and rather conservative in her jurisprudence.

It's true that saner Republicans are backing away from the Limbaugh/Gingrich rhetoric against Sotomayor, but they still can't bring themselves to admit that Sotomayor is a mainstream choice. That would require good faith. Cornyn, for instance, is making a different and more realistic political calculation than Gingrich, but he’s still angling to score whatever political points he can, and he comes from a state with a huge Hispanic population.



republican party suicide watch

Prominent Republicans like Limbaugh and Gingrich and Tancredo and others are spewing anti-Sotomayor rhetoric either so scurrilous (she’s a bigot, she’s un-American, she’s stupid) or so ridiculous (she eats weird food, she menstruates, she has a furrin' name) that only outright cranks, who make up maybe 20% of the electorate, are buying it. I think, or at least hope, that most Americans find this distasteful, whatever their political leanings.

Some Republicans who actually want to win elections, among them quite hard-line conservatives like John Cornyn, are made very nervous indeed by the tone of these attacks, and are criticizing Limbaugh and Gingrich. Until just about right now, any negative comment about Limbaugh from a Republican has been a surefire prelude to a) a counterattack from Rushbo, and b) an abject apology from his critic. But I don't see Cornyn and the rest kowtowing to Limbaugh on this. If they do, the GOP’s standing will drop even lower than it already is, and they know it.

This could signal the beginning of Limbaugh's fall from the dominating position he’s held in our mass-media political discourse*. So many others, like Liddy and Malkin and Coulter, basically ride the wave he creates, playing minor variations on his theme. If he falls, they fall too. Such fun.

*and oh yes, I hope his kidneys fail.


bygone american automobiles II

American luxury car, built from 1898 to 1958. The front grille on this 1951 model has to be one of the most hideous ever produced.


concentrated essence of crazy

Many lefty bloggers fill a lot of pixels by reading the often bizarre screeds of right-wing bloggers and reacting to them, either by way of parody or by deconstructing their illogic and misperception, paragraph by paragraph. TBogg and the boys at Sadly No are true heroes of the genre, and I'm doubly glad they do it, because I really can’t imagine spending my time poring through Town Hall or Red State or the National Review Online. For me it would be too depressing, no matter how perversely rewarding it might be to discover the occasional nuggets of pure, distilled, 190-proof essence of crazy scattered through those thick veins of boring and predictable wrongness. Not to mention that I have no talent for snark. 

Today both TBogg and the Brad at Sadly No found a piece of anti-gay marriage rhetoric at The Weekly Standard that may win the prizes for the most batshit insane, and the most unselfconsciously mysogynistic*, blog post in the history of the internet.  I won't even try to compete with those guys, so just click the links and check it out.

*yeah, I know, those two categories do overlap a lot.


department of changing corporate images

In April of 1967 I was in college, the Viet Nam war was raging and protest was beginning to heat up. Martin Luther King made his “Beyond Vietnam” speech on April 4, the same week this ad appeared in LifeLife referred to King’s speech as “demagogic slander that sounded like a script for Radio Hanoi.” All of this has nothing to do with the Harley Davidson ad, except as another example of how perceptions and images change over time. Can you imagine Harley advertising, now, a model that appears to be one one notch up from a moped, and targeting happy-go-lucky young women in cute pink cowboy hats? Or does the bike belong to the guy in the ad, a fellow who sets my gaydar a-buzzing across all these decades?