Just when you thought life couldn’t get any better, rich white people are here again to save the day! First they put Bill ‘Persistent Vegetation‘ Frist in charge of the One Vote ’08 campaign, and now this! A wonderful video where over-privileged people come together for a few minutes in front of a camera to let you know, dear pathetic peasant, just how very sorry they feel for you! You know, for being born and all.
Via C&L and FireDogLake, I learned of One Vote ’08. As described by famous Hollywood Actor Matt Damon, One Vote ’08 is a campaign to reach voters and make the fight against global disease and extreme poverty a key issue in the 2008 presidential election. While I praise the idea of making global issues at least on the agenda for future elections, I’m really baffled by the choice of One Vote to team up with Bill Frist (says their page: “We’re kicking off the campaign with a press conference on June 11th at 11:15am with Senators Tom Daschle and Bill Frist”).
Frist was a physician and is a former Republican Senator from Tennessee who was for a time the Senate Majority Leader. Apart from his years of public service, Frist is most known for his lack of knowledge regarding the transmission of HIV: In a December 5, 2004 interview on “This Week with George Stephenopolous”, when asked whether HIV could be transmitted via sweat or tears (a suggestion made in a sex education study funded by the White House), Frist refused to reject the possibility, even though the Centers for Disease Control state that, “contact with saliva, tears, or sweat has never been shown to result in transmission of HIV.”
Now, I’m no doctor, but I’m almost positive that HIV is a sexually transmitted disease, yet somehow, Frist, a medical doctor, wasn’t sure how HIV/AIDS was transferred. And here we are, Frist joining the One Campaign to raise awareness of global disease and poverty when AIDS is at the forefront for international concern, especially in Africa. Needless to say, AIDS has ravaged Africa both physically and economically, with resources being consumed by overwhelming health burdens created by the epidemic:
Inhabited by just over 12% of the world’s population, Africa is estimated to have more than 60% of the AIDS-infected population. The economic impact of AIDS is noticed in slower economic growth, a distortion in spending, increased inflows of international assistance, and changing demographic structure of the population. There are also fears that a major long-term drop in adult life-expectancy will change the rationale for economic decision-making, contributing to lower savings and investment rates.
Bill Frist, a politician who doesn’t know how HIV is transmitted, is on a campaign to make ‘global disease and poverty’ a national issue. Couldn’t One Vote have found someone more knowledgeable?
First I must apologize for my lack of quality posts lately; I’ve been nursing a botfly larva living in my back which I picked up during a recent trip to Costa Rica. Mine hasn’t emerged yet, but I’ve been researching what to do with this sucka. I’ve included a video below for everyone’s enjoyment. Is it just me or do we seem to have a strange obsession with tropical parasitic diseases here?
The real reason I’m checking in of course was because of the outrageous stuff contained in my damp copy of the Sunday Times that it seems was poorly covered in the “news-analysis”/blog community today. I’ll focus on the special in the Week in Review called The Guidebook for Taking a Life. This is of course highly relevant because in this day and age of “Islamo-terrorism”, many serious Islamic scholars contend that murder in the name of Islam is inconsistent with a number of ideals.
This article takes the other side and explores how those involved with suicide bombing, insurgent fighting, and the larger issue of Jihad actually justify their actions with respect to the Koran and the Islamic community. The piece is really interesting for a variety of reasons, it examines the following rules, which I’ll list below and allow you to review at your leisure:
- You can kill bystanders without feeling a lot of guilt.
- You can kill children, too, without needing to feel distress.
- Sometimes, you can single out civilians for killing; bankers are an example.
- You cannot kill in the country where you reside unless you were born there.
- You can lie or hide your religion if you do this for jihad.
- You may need to ask your parents for their consent.
By this point you must be wondering what Yakov Smirnoff has to do with this post, other than adorning it with his amazing jew-fro-ed mug up top. It turns out that a part of Rule No. 6 above is mentioning to your affiliation and intention to blow oneself up in the name of jihad to your wife after you’ve been married.
In Zarqa, Jordan, the 24-year-old Abu Ibrahim says he is waiting for another chance to be a jihadi after Syrian officials caught him in the fall heading to Iraq. He is taking the parental rule one step further, he said. His family is arranging for him to marry, and he feels obligated to disclose his jihad plans to any potential bride.
“I will inform my future wife of course about my plans, and I hope that, God willing, she might join me,” he said.
It turns out this isn’t so different from those hypothetical situations in America where you’re a member of a highly secretive government force like the CIA or other fictional force and you’ve got to wonder whether to disclose your affiliation to your spouse. Which makes it easy to reframe the whole mess in the form of a Yakov Smirnoff routine:
The Article: Siege of Paris by Christopher Hitchens.
The Text: There is a huge trapdoor waiting to open under anyone who is critical of so-called “popular culture” or (to redefine this subject) anyone who is uneasy about the systematic, massified cretinization of the major media. If you denounce the excess coverage, you are yourself adding to the excess. If you show even a slight knowledge of the topic, you betray an interest in something that you wish to denounce as unimportant or irrelevant. Some writers try to have this both ways, by making their columns both “relevant” and “contemporary” while still manifesting their self-evident superiority. Thus—I paraphrase only slightly—”Even as we all obsess about Paris Hilton, the people of Darfur continue to die.” A pundit like (say) Bob Herbert would be utterly lost if he could not pull off such an apparently pleasing and brilliant “irony.”
And now here I go, clearing my throat as above before deciding to do something I would have never believed I would do, and choosing to write about Paris Hilton. Choosing to write about her, furthermore, not just as if she were some metaphor or signifier, but as a subject in herself. At some point toward the middle of last Friday, it seemed to me, one was being made a spectator to a small but important injustice. Those gloating and jeering headlines, showing a tearful child being hauled back to jail, had the effect of making me feel sick. So, you finally got the kid to weep on camera? Are you happy now?
I don’t mind admitting that I, too, have watched Hilton undergoing the sexual act. I phrase it as crudely as that because it was one of the least erotic such sequences I have ever seen. She seemed to know what was expected of her and to manifest some hard-won expertise, but I could almost have believed that she was drugged. At no point did her facial expression match even the simulacrum of lovemaking. (Kingsley Amis, a genius in these matters and certainly no Puritan, once captured the combined experience of the sordid and the illicit by saying that, even as he wanted a certain spectacle to go on, he also wanted it to stop.)
So now, a young woman knows that, everywhere she goes, this is what people are visualizing, and giggling about. She hasn’t a rag of privacy to her name. But this turns out to be only a prelude. Purportedly unaware that her license was still suspended, a result of being found with a whiff of alcohol on her breath, she also discovers that the majesty of the law will not give her a break. Evidently as bewildered and aimless as she ever was, she is arbitrarily condemned to prison, released on an equally slight pretext and—here comes the beautiful bit—subjected to a cat-and-mouse routine that sends her back again. At this point, she cries aloud for her mother and exclaims that it “isn’t right.” And then the real pelting begins. In Toronto, where I happened to be on the relevant day, the Sun* filled its whole front page with a photograph of her tear-swollen face, under the stern headline “CRYBABY.” I didn’t at all want to see this, but what choice did I have? It was typical of a universal, inescapable coverage. Not content with seeing her undressed and variously penetrated, it seems to be assumed that we need to watch her being punished and humiliated as well. The supposedly “broad-minded” culture turns out to be as prurient and salacious as the elders in The Scarlet Letter. Hilton is legally an adult but the treatment she is receiving stinks—indeed it reeks—of whatever horrible, buried, vicarious impulse underlies kiddie porn and child abuse.
I cannot imagine what it might be like, while awaiting a prison sentence for a tiny infraction, to see dumb-ass TV-addicted crowds howling with easy, complicit laughter as Sarah Silverman (a culpably unfunny person) describes your cell bars being painted to look like penises and jokes heavily about your teeth being at risk because you might gnaw on them. And this on prime time, and unrebuked. Lynching parties used to be fiestas, as we have no right to forget, and the ugly coincidence of sexual nastiness—obscenity is the right name for it—and vengefulness is what seems to lend the savor to the Saturnalia. There must be more than one “gossip” writer who has already rehearsed for the day that Paris Hilton takes a despairing overdose. And what a glorious day of wall-to-wall coverage that will be!
Stuck in my own trap of writing about a nonsubject, I think I can defend my own self-respect, and also the integrity of a lost girl, by saying two things. First, the trivial doings of Paris Hilton are of no importance to me, or anyone else, and I should not be forced to contemplate them. Second, she should be left alone to lead such a life as has been left to her. If this seems paradoxical, then very well.
Perhaps to compensate for its ridiculous decision to put her on Page One on Friday, the New York Times report shifted from the sobbing, helpless child to the more portentous question of another “high-profile defendant.” It cited an even more acid piece of creepy populism, in the form of an order from Judge “Reggie” Walton, who poured his witless sarcasm on those who had filed a brief in support of Lewis “Scooter” Libby. Would such “luminaries,” sneered Walton, be equally available for other litigants? It’s not his job to arbitrate such a question, and he seems not to understand the law, but if his words mean anything, and from a federal judge at that, they appear to mean that to be a public figure is to risk double jeopardy in the courts. No doubt Judge Walton will relish the coming days in which he can order Libby to report to prison. One hopes that his moral superiority, and his keen attention to public opinion, remain as untroubled and secure as those of Sarah Silverman. It seems that this is now the standard. How splendidly we progress.
The Analysis: Christopher Hitchens feels sorry for Paris Hilton. Seriously.