Before the year closes out—with or without a deal preventing the “fiscal cliff”—I’m looking through my heap of scraps to find stories that require comment before I have to move on for 2013. I have time for the following:
As one may or may not know, there had been some hope that the residents of Maricopa County in Arizona had had enough of Sheriff Joe, and would finally send him packing in his favorite pink underwear. Unfortunately, he was reelected by a small margin. His arch-foe, the Phoenix New Times, berated the Justice Department for failing to charge Arpaio with criminal civil rights violations which he and his deputies were clearly guilty of for many years. Arpaio also managed to make news when he announced that in the aftermath of the Newtown school massacre, he was establishing a 3,000-man armed “posse” of “volunteers.” Arpaio mentioned that his latest creation of rogue, racist thugs would target schools that happened to have mostly minority students; it is clear that this has less to do with the protecting school kids, but an excuse to intimidate and maybe even perform a little immigration “reform” on the side. Perhaps if one of these gunslingers shoot an unarmed child, even the right-wing Yahoos will finally open their eyes; but I doubt it.
Arpaio also happened to make news when he raided a home of a man who had previously been arrested on a misdemeanor charge of watching a cockfight. Arpaio apparently had his eye on the Latino man because he couldn’t bust him for anything else. A detective supposedly heard an “animal” on the premises, and since the man was allegedly not allowed to have any animals on the property (even wild ones), Arpaio rustled-up a “posse” to invade the man’s home. Now things get really interesting: One member of the posse was washed-up action figure Steven Seagal. Former washed-up “action heroes” of a right-wing political bent were not adverse to being associated with Arpaio. Lou Ferrigno—ex-bodybuilder and Bill Bixby’s alter ego in the “Incredible Hulk”—was recently sworn into Arpaio’s “posse” as a volunteer immigration hoodlum flexing his flabby muscles in front of frightened women and children; of course, back in the day some people thought that Ferrigno’s “acting” reflected actual mental retardation.
Anyways, the so-called “A&E” cable channel (which actually started out more about “art” than “entertainment”—and what it is now suggests how low “culture” has fallen) needed a new sheriff for Seagal to hang out with for his “reality” show Steven Seagal: Lawman, after he “resigned” as a “volunteer” deputy in the Jefferson Parish, Louisiana Sheriff’s Department, where he had the opportunity to harass Barack Obama lookalikes. Seagal didn’t actually “resign”—he hightailed out of the state to avoid charges of sexual harassment and assault. Seagal apparently hired two Russian women and an Asian woman as “assistants.” The Russian women were apparently not adverse to the job description of arousing Seagal’s rather perverse sexual needs, but the Asian woman filed charges. The victim described one of the sexual encounters thusly:
Mr. Seagal held her right foot down with his leg, and pushed her left knee up with his right hand. Mr. Seagal then forced his hand into Ms. Nguyen’s vagina. As Ms. Nguyen began sobbing, Mr. Seagal became sexually aroused and had a unique physiological reaction to sexual arousal.
A&E—or Arpaio for that matter—did not believe that these charges warranted any adverse disruption of Seagal’s current career trajectory. Seagal neglected to mention the charges against him to Arizona authorities, explaining his departure from Louisiana by claiming that he was “on loan” to them from Jefferson Parish; it is unlikely that he would have survived this tidbit even by Sheriff Joe’s low standards.
Meanwhile, the aforementioned raid was conducted and netted a disgruntled man and a lawsuit filed against Arpaio and Seagal. The New Times described the raid thus:
An armored truck loaded with MCSO deputies, Seagal's producers, and cameramen smashed through the gated driveway in the front of the house, while a tank occupied by Seagal and sheriff's deputies rolled over a gate in the back.
The lawsuit says "diversionary bombs" were deployed as deputies exited the tank, and a door and a window were smashed so the MCSO could make its entrance.
Remember, we're talking about a guy who's on probation for a low-level misdemeanor, which Campos equates to "as serious as a traffic ticket."
"At least thirty" MCSO Tactical Operations Unit personnel rushed into Llovera's home in full riot gear, and arrested him without incident, the lawsuit says.
Then it was time for Llovera to sign the release to be on Seagal's television show, Lawman.
Llovera refused to sign the release, which pretty much ruined what the lawsuit calls Arpaio's urge "to subject Mr. Llovera to a very public and humiliating arrest in front of Seagal's cameras, even though he knew that Mr. Llovera had not violated any criminal statutes."
The fact that Arpaio has been repeatedly reelected suggests that the bigots who vote for him despite incidents like this really do tread a fine line between moronity and idiocy.
Selling paranoia and propaganda
Ever notice those TV, radio and Internet ads that warn you that the evil Obama is sending the country into a death spiral, but the advertiser has a secret, foolproof plan you can deploy to save yourself from Socialism-induced Armageddon? One seller of this snake oil calls himself “Frank Bates,” and he has this “weird trick” that will help you “beat” the greedy electricity-producing corporations and the evil government which aids and abets them. For us “liberals” such statements are only true when Republicans are in charge of the government. Anyways, on Bates’ website is a video, which is mostly a simplistic narration of stick figures being scrawled by a disembodied hand. It is actually rather dull and repetitive right-wing propaganda, on and on. Eventually it gets to the “point”: Solar Energy! Wind Energy! Sounds like the kind of stuff that lefty-liberals have been pushing for years, if you ask me.
Naturally, this information isn’t “free.” In fact, Bates doesn’t tell you anything useful until you send him money for CDs, DVDs and manuals that show you how to build your own homemade solar cells and turbine engines from parts you can buy at your local Home Depot. That’s not to say that the completed projects actually work, but then again paranoia, propaganda and conspiracy theories has always been a top seller in this country.
Social dysfunction in India
For the past two weeks the story of the brutal gang rape and subsequent death a medical student in Delhi has had the attention of the world press. The media and activists have taken the opportunity to highlight what they say is misogyny and base treatment of women in India. There is no doubt an element of truth in this, although to say that this is a common trait among all men is probably stretching reality; that women in upper castes in India are treated more “equally” than the vast majority of men, who live in poverty, in India is also true to a certain extent. As heinous as the crime is, it shouldn’t be used to ignore the depth of social dysfunction caused by India’s massive level of inequality and impoverishment that covers the whole spectrum of Indian society.
According to a story this year in the Hindustan Times, the level of poverty—always a touchy subject in a country that fosters an international image of high-tech modernity (at least to Americans)—is not precisely known, because the goal line for what constitutes poverty is always moving for arbitrary reasons, and the government has not taken on a systematic inventory or census for those who qualify for the appellation. Public begging was outlawed in Delhi, no doubt so as not to disturb the “sensitivities” of the upper castes and expose the extent of the problem of poverty. But in Delhi, private organizations estimate that 64 percent of the population lives in poverty, and in vast slums without even the most basic services, sanitary facilities or dependable water supply. As many as a quarter of the young children living in these slums are severely malnourished. One-third of children are developmentally stunted, and two-thirds suffer from nutritional anemia. Illiteracy is not surprisingly a major issue in the slums. Health care facilities are few, and local medical quacks have a steady trade. In a city of 17 million, one can well imagine the level of social dysfunction this can create.
With social dysfunction comes crime, and a great deal of it; independent studies have shown a direct correlation between illiteracy, poverty and crime in Delhi and in other large cities in India. Crimes against women are high in Delhi, but it is only one of a category of many. While Stone Age attitudes concerning women may have played a part of the motivation of the six men arrested for the above-noted crime, inequality in India goes far beyond issues of gender, and using this crime as an excuse to ignore that, as always, only promises no solutions.
Progressive radio no more in “progressive” Seattle
Norman Goldman’s last live radio show on Seattle’s AM 1090 Progressive Talk was last Friday. It wasn’t because he was quitting—it was because CBS Radio, starting January 2, is converting the station to a sports station, as if the two that Seattle already has isn’t enough (too much, actually). CBS apparently wants its own sports footprint in town, and who better to nudge out of the way but the allegedly low-rated “liberal” talk station. Frankly, I don’t know how radio listenership is measured; well, I do: Arbitron locally is using a “portable people meter” which is supposed to pick-up electronically what the wearer is listening to.
However, the information the device provides is not necessarily accurate, since it can record as being listened to stations that happen to be close enough to butt-in on the signal someone is actually listening to. Another thing that I know is that nobody ever asked me what my radio listening habits are. If someone did ask me, I would say that AM 1090 receives about half of my listening attention, followed in much smaller proportion by the two sports stations and two FM stations focusing on “oldies” music. Why do I listen to “progressive” talk radio? Not just because I agree with much of what I hear, but because people actually discuss relevant issues that the mainstream corporate media tends to ignore.
But this isn’t all “bad,” at least according to Norman. You see, “terrestrial” media is dying, and the Internet is taking over the information transmission universe. It is the same argument that states that smart phones and tablets are going to kill personal computers, and E-readers are going to kill paper bound books. I happen to think that this is all wishful thinking. According to Bookstats, 2.77 billion books and e-books were sold in 2011. Most of these are paper-bound books; although the sale of e-books doubled, they are not seen as a potential “replacement” by publishers, since the pricing structure of e-books is a huge money-loser for them. As for smart phones and tablets replacing personal computers, the former are merely good for the exchange of media, but for serious production they are next to worthless compared to your standard laptop or desktop computer. As for listening to Norman, I’m afraid to say that the radio is still the far more convenient medium in which to do so; I wouldn’t listen to him otherwise.
After January 1, there will still be talk radio in Seattle—only that it is two dedicated right-wing stations that make me nauseous even when I have to listen for one millisecond to Limbaugh, Beck or Savage while I’m dial surfing.