SOUTH CAROLINA SCHOOL district spokesman Ken Buck announced that the district had begun to investigate an assembly/concert that Christian rapper B-SHOC gave in the gym of a public middle school in the middle of a school day, performing songs from his catalogue such as, “Christ-Like Crusin,” “Crazy Bout God,” and “Praisenator.”
“A lot of people think you can’t have fun praising God,” B-SHOC says in the promotional video on his website, “but we’re here to show them different.”
It seemed to some that the school had failed to sufficiently separate church and state. “It is particularly important that elementary and secondary public schools protect their students’ freedom of conscience and leave religious education to the parents,” said the ACLU’s legal director, Susan Dunn, but this was not a problem to B-SHOC, who reported on his website that “324 got saved” that day. At one point in the concert, B-SHOC wondered aloud if all the fog in their show would set off a fire alarm, and if it did, would firemen show up? And if they did, would the firemen be “churchgoers, Jesus-lovers”?
Meanwhile, a story from earlier in the summer was circulating in which Anthony Peters, a judge in the state of Georgia, was fired and barred from ever holding another judicial office. It took all of the following offenses for the state of Georgia to fire Peters, a man in whom the state had placed its trust in deciding the fate of its accused: (1) One time in court, Peters took out a gun and pointed it at himself. “I’m not scared,” he said to everyone. “Are you all scared?” (2) Another time, things got so heated in an argument with his boss, the chief magistrate, that Peters was escorted from the courtroom in handcuffs. (3) He later went on a TV show, insulted the magistrate, and outed a police informant on the air. (4) Peters showed up at a guy’s house in the night and kicked in two doors, (5) was addicted to painkillers and smoked a lot of pot, and (6) once called into a radio show that was interviewing the sheriff and insulted the sheriff while disguising himself with a series of bewildering accents. But the show had caller ID and they knew it was Peters, so he dropped the voices and as himself called the sheriff a “spineless jelly spine,” though the sheriff’s spine was made of vertebrae and discs of cartilage like the rest of us.
Today, another false rumor circulated saying that Todd Palin had filed for divorce from his wife, former Alaskan governor Sarah Palin, and a letter from Sarah Palin’s SarahPAC was copied to the web, hinting (but not stating) that if Palin’s supporters sent enough money, she would run for president in 2012. “Someone must save our nation from this road to European Socialism,” the letter said. “Do you think it should be Gov. Palin?” This rumor turned out to be false, too: Palin raised millions from supporters, didn’t run for president, and didn’t return the money.
This week, two new books promised to titillate readers with an inside scoop on the Palin family’s weird home life. Levi Johnston’s Deer in the Headlights: My Life in Sarah Palin’s Crosshairs was a tell-all about having impregnated Sarah Palin’s daughter, Bristol, just before Sarah became John McCain’s running mate in the 2008 presidential election.
Then there was Joe McGinness’s The Rogue: Searching for the Real Sarah Palin, a work of stalker-journalism that chronicled the author’s experience of renting a house next to the Palins’ home on Lake Lucille in Wasilla, WA, and the media frenzy that followed when word got out he was there.
And in today’s Doonesbury strip, a father and his adult son are in a diner. The son pays the check, and tells his father he’s good for it because he sold a copy of The Rogue to Roland Hedley last week. “Wait,” the father says. “You gave an advance copy of The Rogue to Roland Hedley? Instead of your journalist father?”
“Dad, you blog,” the son says. “You don’t have that kind of money.”
Despite the Doonsbury plug, The Rogue was panned in the Times (“dated,” “petty,” “inconsistent”) and sold poorly—as did Deer in the Headlights.
Meanwhile, Bristol Palin spent this evening at the Saddle Ranch on the Sunset Strip, where a reality TV crew filmed Bristol as she, wearing a black hoodie with a large cross and the word “Empowered” emblazoned across it, rode the mechanical bull. For a minute and a half she laughed as the bull rocked, bucked, and spun before falling onto the air-inflated padding below.
As she stood, still laughing, a man yelled at her from the bar, “Did you ride Levi like that?” and then, “Your mother’s a whore.” Bristol pointed briefly at the man before letting herself out of the bull-riding arena, ignoring a Saddle Ranch employee who, not having heard the remark, held out his hand for a high-five.
“Your mother’s the fucking devil, dude,” the man said when Bristol confronted him.
“Oh, is she?”
“Yes, she’s the devil.” We later learned his name was Stephen Hanks, that he was 47, and that while he knew some might say that he had gone too far with his comments, others might say he had not gone far enough.
“What’d she do wrong?” Bristol said.
“She lives, she breathes.” He waved his hands for emphasis. “You know what? If there is a hell—and I don’t think there is one—she will be there.”
Bristol said, “Is it because you’re a homosexual and that’s why you hate her?”
“Pretty much,” he said. “And why’d you say I’m a homosexual?”
“Because I can tell you are,” Bristol said. “That’s a [inaudible] boyfriend you’ve got—”
“That’s not my boyfriend.”
“—and that’s why you don’t like my mom.”
After some more righteous posturing on her part and more low-blow name-calling on Hanks’ part, Bristol left the club with her TV crew and entourage. Weirdly, the longer the confrontation continued, the less it had to do with Hanks’ defense of gay rights or Palin’s crusading Christianity. Instead, the two of them were simply being nasty to one another the way people will allow themselves to be nasty when the cameras are rolling, and in that way their goals were aligned. They were reality TV personalities, together chasing the dramatic moment.
Bristol and I were a part of the Millennial generation—and despite Bristol’s own political ties, we were the first generation to favor gay marriage (59% of us) as well as the first generation to favor the legalization of marijuana (55%). We were most in favor of interracial marriage. We were the least likely to say we were very patriotic, the least likely to care who would be president in 2012, and the least likely to cite religious faith as crucial to America’s success.
We were the generation most likely to believe alternative energy sources should be a higher priority than digging deeper for oil and coal, most likely to believe that climate change was real, and tied with Generation X for most likely to believe stricter environmental laws were worth the costs.
Our optimism intact, we Millennials were also the least likely to say that the government is inefficient and wasteful. We along with Gen X were most likely to say that America’s best days are ahead of us. We were most sure that the internet was a good thing, most satisfied with Obama, most likely to believe that the US would achieve its goals in the war in Afghanistan, and most optimistic that Afghanistan would remain stable after US troops left.
We were most likely to say the US should “take allies’ interests into account even if it means making compromises,” that peace is ensured through good diplomacy instead of military strength, that “relying too much on military force creates hatred that leads to more terrorism,” that it would not be necessary for Americans to give up civil liberties to fight terrorism, that Muslims were singled out for surveillance and monitoring by US policies (and most likely to be bothered by it), and that “it is OK to refuse to fight in a war you believe is morally wrong.”
Today it was reported that crooner Tony Bennett posted an apology to his Facebook page to those who’d been offended when asked said on the Howard Stern Show, “Who are the terrorists? Are they the terrorists or are we the terrorists? Two wrongs don’t make a right.” Stern said the terrorists “started it” with the 9/11 attacks and Bennett said, “I don’t know about that.” And in the apology, Bennett wrote, “My life experiences—ranging from the Battle of the Bulge to marching with Martin Luther King—made me a lifelong humanist and pacifist, and reinforced my belief that violence begets violence and that war is the lowest form of human behavior.”
A new network thriller called “Person of Interest” debuted today in which Jim Caviezel, most famous for his role as Jesus Christ in a film that highlighted Christ’s ability to withstand torture, is contacted by a mysterious billionaire poindexter who wants Caviezel to bust heads and save lives. When Caviezel refuses (Step 2 of the hero’s journey: Refusal of the Call), Poindexter takes him through a series of tests to show Caviezel he’s serious. He also shows he’s serious by saying things like, “You can help me stop what’s about to happen. The question is: Will you?”
The show, created by “The Dark Knight” co-writer Jonathan Nolan, was spun from one of the stickier ethical concepts from his blockbuster Batman movie—If a good guy has access through technology to unlimited information, how much can he trust himself to know? In “The Dark Knight,” which made over $1 billion and was the 10th highest-grossing movie of all time, Batman chooses to use his super-technology only for as long as it takes to put the Joker to justice before dramatically destroying the device. In “Person of Interest,” the eccentric billionaire allows himself access only to one piece of information—the social security number of someone involved (though whether it’s a victim or a perp, they/we don’t know)—even though the machine is capable of much more. This was the same kind of willpower Google asked us to believe they had heroically imposed on themselves despite an almost unlimited power to know. The parallel between “Person” and “Knight” is accentuated by the fact that Caviezel, once clean-shaven, looks a lot like Christian Bale, and his acting (also like Bale’s) ranges from charmingly guarded to intensely guarded.
Unlike “Dark Knight,” “Person” takes place in a post-9/11 New York and we learn in the pilot something about how the Twin Towers’ falling affected each of the main characters, moving the Patriot Act from a thematic parallel in “Dark Knight” right up to the foreground
Authors@Google today released the latest video in its YouTube series, in which journalist Dana Priest lectured from her book, Top Secret America, about how a top secret intelligence industry formed after Congress wrote a blank check to keep anything like 9/11 from happening again. Private contractors and subcontractors were hired and kept on after the terrorist threat was found to be smaller than was thought, even after Osama Bin Laden was killed. Priest noted that while these policies were created under George W. Bush, they continued under Obama. “He came in talking about transparency… by and large he hasn’t done any of that. And he’s taken the Bush blueprint for counterterrorism overseas and run with it. He’s increased the lethal drone strikes and he has increased the number of organizations that work in top secret America.”
Secrecy’s biggest enemy was probably Wikileaks, a nonprofit dedicated to publishing the secret information of governments and businesses, and today the “unauthorized autobiography” of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange was released by the U.K. publisher Canongate, based on 50+ hours he’d spent talking to a ghostwriter. Assange was angry Canongate put it out, saying it was an early draft that he’d abandoned, though he had signed a contract and then burned through his large cash advance.
Assange spends much of the book bitching about journalists who failed to recognize his greatness (“Vanity in a newspaper man is like perfume on a whore. They use it to fend off the dark whiff of themselves.”) and singling out the New York Times executive editor Bill Keller as “a moral pygmy with a self-justifying streak the size of the San Andreas fault.” In his own account of their work together, Keller called Assange “elusive, manipulative and volatile,” a man whom the Times regarded “as a source, not as a partner or collaborator,” but discovered “he was a man who clearly had his own agenda.”
U.S. Army soldier Bradley Manning remained in a prison in Fort Leavenworth, KS, for having in 2010 sent U.S. diplomatic cables and military airstrike footage to Wikileaks, who released the footage online. And while Assange became much better known from the leak than Manning, it was Manning’s name on the list of 241 candidates being considered for the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize, a prize for which Obama was nominated only 12 days into his presidency and won some months later.
Meanwhile, the Wall Street Journal reported that the Supreme Court would on soon hear arguments for and against the police use of stingrays, portable devices that allowed users to locate a suspect’s phone even when the suspect is not using it, and the New York Times reported that Senators Mark Udall (D-Colorado) and Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) had called out the Justice Department for misleading the public about the Patriot Act’s rules for how the government may and may not spy on its citizens.
This is not to say that our government did not take advantage of great spying opportunities before the Patriot Act was instated—the FBI’s nine month spying campaign on Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., for instance, culminated in an anonymous letter that concluded, “There is but one way out for you. You better take it before your filthy, abnormal fraudulent self is bared to the nation,” in our government’s futile hope that King would assassinate himself—but the Patriot Act sure cleared away a lot of the red tape that sometimes protected us from our protectors.
Specifically, Udall and Wyden said that the section allowing the FBI to obtain “any tangible things” when conducting a national security investigation had been used as justification for the FBI to get private information about innocent citizens. The Justice Department said that no, they had not been misleading—anyone who wanted to could read the Patriot Act. It was simply their interpretation of the Patriot Act that was classified.