Friday, October 02, 2009


Not IOC Kinda Town

Barack Obama needs to a Chicago politician! No Chi-town pol should ever let himself get out-bribed in a high stakes negotiation.

Not only didn't the president's home town not bring home the Olympics, it didn't even "medal" -- getting eliminated on the first ballot!!!

Congrats to Rio! Snark aside, Obama and Co. should have realized that the odds were against Chicago: The U.S. has had the Olympics in each of the last three decades ('84 & '96 Summer and '02 Winter Games). South America has never hosted the Games (Mexico doesn't count).

It was a big and unnecessary risk having the president put his and U.S. prestige on the line by going to lobby the International Olympic Committee in person.

Disappointing as it might be for the United States, the selection of Rio is, arguably, a "fair" choice and in keeping with the whole idea of the Olympic spirit.

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A Top 10 Day For Sarah Palin

Sarah Palin must live a blessed life -- and not just because her new book is already #1 on the bestseller list, before it's even been released.

Thursday evening, her erstwhile nemesis David Letterman confesses that he's been the Horndog King of Late Night all these years: "I have had sex with women who worked for me on this show."

Dave? Our Dave with the toothy boyish grin? The guy who always joked about never getting girls? The one who -- when announcing that he was going to be a father with his long-time girlfriend -- said that, "I know what you're thinking -- Dave's had sex?" To make things sound even creepier, he used almost the exact same joke on Thursday: "I know what you're saying. I'll be darned, Dave had sex."

Well, after Thursday's show, all of Dave's viewers know that, not only has he had sex -- the 60-something guy has had a lot of sex and with not just one woman who works for him. How many? We don't know yet, but anything more than one or two opens Letterman up to accusations that he was taking advantage of his job as the Big Boss to prey on his female employees.

Right now, Letterman has presented himself as the victim: He was allegedly being extorted by a CBS employee who threatened to publicize all these activities if Letterman didn't pay him $2 million. He may well be the victim. But if even one of these other women suggests that she felt pressured to enter a relationship with Letterman because he was her boss, well, it's all over. He will look like a serial harasser -- even if he only "harassed" one woman.

But, now let's bring it back to Sarah Palin. The two engaged in a heated war of words this summer when he made jokes about Eliot Spitzer "hitting" on a Palin daughter, during a visit to New York. He followed that up with another joke about Alex Rodriguez "knocking up" a Palin daughter. As it happened, Letterman ended up having to apologize twice because he first tried to pass it off as if Palin was just confused as to what the joke was about. Then, it became very clear that there was real ambiguity as to which daughter he was referring to. The one who got pregnant was Bristol; the one who had accompanied her on a New York trip was the 14-year old Willow.

In fact, after Letterman gave his initial apology, we addressed a troubling underlying issue:

It's understandable that they could think he was making a joke about the daughter who did make the trip to New York or that Willow would think Letterman was talking about her. And Sarah Palin could be excused for feeling Letterman had it in for her, after Monday's "Top Ten" segment on the "Highlights of Sarah Palin's trip to New York City" included this line: "Bought make-up at Bloomingdale's to update her slutty flight attendant look."
Out of context, Letterman's "slutty flight attendant" look was, at the very least, tacky. Added to the other jokes at the Palins' expense and it begins to look like Letterman -- or his writers -- have some issues when it comes to women in general.
After finally giving a full apology, Letterman was given the benefit of the doubt because there had been no history of "issues with women in general" with him. But now there, arguably, does seem to be a real history. Sarah Palin's comment on the "Today" show that she might want to keep her 14-year old daughter away from Letterman -- and that he "should apologize to young women across the country" -- doesn't seem like such a cheap shot anymore.

Regardless of what people think about Palin ideologically, Letterman's confession last night suddenly puts their summer exchange in a completely different light. Just as her memoir is about to come out -- and this issue is likely to be a topic of whatever interviews she has to promote the book.

Life is blessed.

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Wednesday, September 30, 2009


Roman's Rape Apologists

So, after 32 years, director Roman Polanski was finally arrested for raping a 13-year old girl and skipping out of the country before he was sentenced for the crime. Since 1977, he's been "in exile" in France and Switzerland, making movies -- including the Oscar-winning "The Pianist" for which he received the Academy Award for Best Director. .

What do his fellow members of the cinematic creative community do in reaction to this news? Give an outpouring of support for this poor, oppressed artist being bullied by agents of law-enforcement!! Some 138 directors, producers, actors and others signed a petition "demand[ing] the immediate release" of Polanski:

"It seems inadmissible to them that an international cultural event, paying homage to one of the greatest contemporary filmmakers, is used by the police to apprehend him," said the petition, backed by France's Societe des Auteurs et Compositeurs Dramatiques (Society of Dramatic Authors and Composers).

"The arrest of Roman Polanski in a neutral country, where he assumed he could travel without hindrance ... opens the way for actions of which no one can know the effects," said the signatories, who also included actresses Monica Bellucci and Tilda Swinton and directors David Lynch, Jonathan Demme, John Landis, Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu and Wim Wenders.

What are these people thinking? Why not get a note of approval from Woody "Marrying my ex-girlfriend's daughter was a great idea!" Allen while they're at it? Oops! Too late, Allen is one of the petition signatories!

And what a quaint phrase on the petition -- "opens the way for actions of which no one can know the effects." What does justice denied for more than 30 years open the way to? Polanski committed a horrible crime. He was a 43-year old man; the girl was 13. But it wasn't merely "statutory" rape. The full details are heinous, as Salon's Kate Harding forcefully articulates. And, considering a contemporaneous interview, he had very little regret.

Nonetheless, because Polanski is a great "artiste," the man has defenders who manage to find prestigious platforms from which they can squeeze out a defense:

I make no apology for feeling desperately sorry for him. The almost pornographic relish with which his critics are retelling the lurid details of the assault (strange behavior, one might think, for those who profess concern for the victim) make it hard to consider the case rationally. Of course what happened cannot be excused, either legally or ethically.

But [the victim] wants it dropped, to shield her family from distress, and Mr. Polanski’s own young children, to whom he is a doting father, want him home. He is no threat to the public. The original judicial procedure was undeniably murky. So cui bono, as the Romans used to say — who benefits?

Who benefits? How about justice?

The disgrace isn't that this talented filmmaker is being punished just as he's about to get some lifetime achievement award. The disgrace that it took the state of California this long to finally nab him. That delay doesn't make him the victim of justice denied. It's true that the wishes of the victim should be considered in the prosecution of a crime; but in the U.S. criminal justice system, the offended person is, legally, not the actual victim. The offended party is the state. That the now-woman who's life Polanski grievously abused wants the matter dropped -- out of concern for her and her children's privacy should be factored into how the prosecution proceeds. But it shouldn't determine whether there is a prosecution at all. Victims have their views; but the state has responsibilities to tell its citizens that no one is above the law.

As for the Hollywood petitioners, no wonder they make such perfect targets for conservative politicians and activists. They have sympathy for a 76-year old man. Faux sympathy for the 45-year old woman who says she wants the matter dropped -- but not an iota of empathy for the 13-year old girl whose innocence a 43-year-old man stole with drugs and violence. They live in a far different world than the one inhabited by the people whom they depend upon to see their movies.


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