Further Thoughts On Weiner

Anthony Weiner Greets NYC Commuters Day After Announcing Mayoral Bid

I was reading TNC’s take late last night – and his superb comments section at the Atlantic – and realized that my first post was missing something important.

It may well be gay confirmation bias that misled me a bit. The thing about most gay hook-up sites is that they are almost entirely anonymous fantasy platforms which may, in a very small percentage of actual exchanges, lead to, you know, sex. The same can be said about straight sites like OKCupid et al. Everyone is there for roughly the same reasons – varying from voyeurism to romance to sex – and everyone, apart from the ruthless Darwinism of sexual attractiveness, is on an even footing. It’s a form of erotic play, really, almost all of the time. The pay-off is, in many ways, not even the point. It is to enter a world of sexual titillation and distraction.

This, I now better understand, is not what Weiner was doing. For some reason, I missed this essential piece in the NYT about the nature of the chats and sexts. Weiner wasn’t on those sites; he was using Twitter and Facebook and texts. He sent pics to women who had not already consented to sex-talk:

Ms. Cordova, who had traded messages with Mr. Weiner, a New York Democrat, about their shared concern over his conservative critics, said she had never sent him anything provocative. Asked if she was taken aback by his decision to send the photo, she responded, “Oh gosh, yes.”

The whole piece – and its granular detail – shifted my perspective on this. I think he went past the line of “consenting horned-up adults” into a form of sexual aggression, the kind of guy who won’t leave you alone at a bar. He did so with known and usually much younger admirers, not strangers in a fantasy scenario. He went from casual conversation to dick pics in an instant. I should have more closely examined the details of the exchanges before filtering them through my gay frontal cortex.

Second, that disproportion of power between him and his interlocutors, while not illegal, is still creepily Clintonian.

That’s an ethical and moral judgment about a man’s character – and I sure don’t think Weiner should drop out of the race rather than let the voters make their decision. And in public life, these character judgments are by no means the only factor in assessing a politician (who are almost all, by definition, psychologically damaged in some way. Clinton was a very good president on policy – but he remains a self-centered, sociopathic prick of the first order. You can trade one aspect for the other in politics the way you wouldn’t in your personal life. But the reason I endorsed Dole in 1996 was my view that Clinton had proven himself incapable of the kind of self-control we need in a president. I thought and wrote that he was a walking scandal waiting to explode. That would have costs for the entire country. And I was right.

TNC also makes an important point about cruelty. When you ask forgiveness of followers, donors, voters and relatives, and they give it, you do not let them down a second time after absolution. TNC:

I believe that how you treat people matters. It is folly to embarrass your pregnant wife before an entire nation. To do the same thing again is cruelty.

I’m not sure what the details of the Abedin-Weiner marriage are so wouldn’t go that far with such certainty. But, yes, Weiner’s inability to stop after his first episode cannot be viewed entirely through the prism of his own human weakness. He’s not a private person, and he could have chosen to remain one while he still struggled with being human. He chose ambition even though it would almost certainly mean cruelty and embarrassment to others. I don’t want him to drop out; I don’t think his behavior is in any way as bad as Eliot Spitzer’s criminal hypocrisy or Mayor Bob Filner’s sexual harassment, or Bill Clinton’s endless lies and sexual abuse of women. But I wouldn’t vote for him.

There’s a place for sexting – when it’s totally consensual and adult, when you’re not embarrassing a spouse, and when you’re not actually running for a major public office.

(Photo: Anthony Weiner listens to a question from the media after courting voters outside a Harlem subway station a day after announcing he will enter the New York mayoral race on May 23, 2013 in New York City. By Mario Tama/Getty Images)

How Not To Oppose Immigration Reform

Republican congressman Steve King recently said this about undocumented immigrants who came to the US as children:

For [every DREAMer] who’s a valedictorian, there’s another 100 out there that — they weigh 130 pounds and they’ve got calves the size of cantaloupes because they’re hauling 75 pounds of marijuana across the desert. Those people would be legalized with the same act.

Amy Davidson parses King’s words:

King speaks as though he thinks that if he could just convey the figures and shapes of these young people, their sheer physicality, others would recoil, just as he does, at the idea of letting them be American. What he asks is not that we listen to their stories, or add up their accomplishments, or read the history of this country, but just that we look at them, like he does. At their legs, arms—anywhere, it would seem, but in their eyes, where he’d have to acknowledge their individuality.

Chait notes that rebukes have only caused King to dig himself deeper:

John Boehner dutifully castigated King’s comments as “deeply offensive and wrong.” But if you take a shot at the King, you’d best not miss. And by “miss” I mean “fail to remove his larynx.”

 Because King came back on the House floor [yesterday] to defend himself in an epic, world-historical speech, beginning with the origins of human civilization and continuing on through the Greeks, the Romans, the Founding Fathers, and, finally, the present era of melon-calved Latino drug-smuggling youth

Alex Altman expects for Democrats to raise King’s profile:

Democrats will try to make King a GOP anchor, much like they used Todd Akin to paint the party as hostile to women. Already operatives are pointing to the comment of Ken Cuccinelli, the Republican candidate for Virginia governor, that King was one of his “very favorite Congressmen.” Republicans can call King’s comments “hateful” and “ignorant,” as Speaker John Boehner did Thursday. But they can’t shut him up, and they may not be able to erase the perception that he speaks for the rest of the party as well.

And Josh Marshall thinks that King’s views represent a sizable part of the GOP base:

King is speaking for the raw, undomesticated voice of that slice of the electorate for whom these social and population trends spell a basically non-stop state of white panic expressed through Obama conspiracy theories, fears of marauding Mexican hordes, hyper-opposition to primarily Latin American immigration and so much more.

Yes, King is more intemperate, voluable and perhaps more hateful than most. But he does speak for that relatively small slice of the electorate which makes up a pretty big slice of the GOP electorate and keeps the GOP anchored in opposition to immigration reform and to policies which put most of the non-white population off-limits to the party indefinitely. That’s why the whole plan to ‘double down’ on the ‘whites only’ strategy now increasingly favored by Republicans isn’t so much of a strategy as a recognition that it can’t break free or discipline that mammoth part of its voter base.

Notes On Jane Austen, And Vice Versa

Jane Austen banknote

The famed author just got some major face-time:

[Bank of England governor Mark] Carney’s announcement [that Jane Austen is going on the £10 note] was aimed at quelling a three-month storm of protest unleashed when [former Bank governor Sir Mervyn King] announced that the only woman to appear on an English banknote other than the Queenthe prison reformer Elizabeth Frywould be replaced by Winston Churchill, probably in 2016. She and Florence Nightingale are the only two women, other than the Queen, to have appeared on English banknotes since they started portraying historical figures in 1970. Campaigners threatened to take the Bank to court for discrimination under the 2010 Equality Act and launched a petition on the campaign site Change.org which secured more than 35,000 signatures.

Public reaction seems to be largely positive, but Belinda Webb isn’t impressed by the pick:

Jane Austen as a choice of woman to be on the £10 bank note would be fine, if we were in the 18th century. I can’t help but feel she is the safe, bland, acceptable, middle-class choice. Austen is the woman men don’t mind giving us as a representation because she is no threat to the prevailing order whatsoever.

But Austen scholar Bharat Tandon objects to the popular conception of “dear old Aunt Jane”:

[I]t may be that the top brass at the Bank of England have been cannier than they imagined, for Austen was, in her time, one of the most elegantly hard-headed chroniclers of the pressures of money on women. …

It cannot be a coincidence that both of her earliest published novels begin with women suffering under the inequities of the inheritance system. The Dashwood sisters in Sense and Sensibility are suddenly made reliant on their brother and his penny-pinching wife Fanny (“people always live for ever when there is any annuity to be paid them”), and the Bennet girls’ prospects in Pride and Prejudice are constrained by the entail of the family inheritance to their male cousin Mr Collins. It’s hard to read the subsequent romances without feeling the pressure of money, which becomes an invisible but powerful agency, almost a character in its own right, just as it does in later 19th-century novels by Dickens and Trollope.

Meanwhile, Katherine Connell notes that “amusingly, the quote from Pride and Prejudice selected for inclusion on the bill seems to have been chosen by someone who didn’t read the book”:

“I declare after all there is no enjoyment like reading!” were the insincere words spoken by the affected Miss Bingly to Mr. Darcy in a futile attempt to attract his attention:

Miss Bingley’s attention was quite as much engaged in watching Mr. Darcy’s progress through his book, as in reading her own; and she was perpetually either making some inquiry, or looking at his page. She could not win him, however, to any conversation; he merely answered her question, and read on. At length, quite exhausted by the attempt to be amused with her own book, which she had only chosen because it was the second volume of his, she gave a great yawn and said, “How pleasant it is to spend an evening in this way! I declare after all there is no enjoyment like reading! How much sooner one tires of any thing than of a book! — When I have a house of my own, I shall be miserable if I have not an excellent library.”

Austen would no doubt appreciate the irony.

Sometimes Pink Is Just A Color, Ctd

And sometimes blue is too. A female reader quotes Alice Dreger:

But the truth is, as Sarah was suggesting, that a lot of “gender nonconforming” kids don’t have a simple story of being “trapped in the wrong body.” They are expressing more subtle, more complex, and more varied messages of self. What they need isn’t therapy; what they need is to know that it’s OK to be gender non-conforming.

That’s me in a nutshell, and I would imagine there are more of “us” than there are of strictly transgender children/people. The lack of understanding of those kinds of kids was probably the most traumatic part of my little butch childhood and remains a source of some pain and loneliness to this day. I still find myself seeking distance from others when I see their confusion and/or fear about what I look like and how I carry myself.

At nearly 50, I can suss out how desperate people are to have clear guidelines for what defines male and female.

This strict binary understanding provides them with a lot of comfort, though I might add that nearly all of the ideas of male-typical or female-typical interests are cultural understandings and not biological ones. Pink is always just a color, folks. But as a very butchy-looking child, who was better at sports than all of the neighborhood boys save my own brother, who was always competitive, never wanted to wear dresses and wore my hair short since I was little, I was never confused by what I liked and wanted to do.

But everyone else was, and they were extremely angry about the confusion I raised in them – when I was four damn years old. To have strangers, teachers, school peers ask me, angrily, “What’s wrong with you? Do you wish you were a boy?”, “Are you a boy or girl? Answer me!” or “Why are you here at the ball park, this is for boys?” always raised the same thought in my head, “What in the hell are you talking about? Of course I don’t wish I was a boy. I’m just a good athlete and hate dresses.” With those thoughts also came a deep fear for my own safety and utter embarrassment that I was somehow disappointing everyone by simply being who I was naturally. Fortunately, I was big and strong and only got physically threatened a few times as a kid.

I’ve never felt what’s described as gender dysphoria. I still don’t want to be a man, even though some still think I look like one. I don’t consider myself transgender, no matter how hard people try to pull this butch woman into that camp. I know I’m not easily definable, that I reside on the outside, but I can’t be anything other than I am now anymore than I could when I was four. I also know that who I am still confuses and angers many people and that I need to be very aware of when that’s happening so that confusion doesn’t turn into violence against me. With all of the progress on LGBT rights and understanding over the years, that part most certainly hasn’t changed.

Thanks for listening. It’s funny how your blog pulls so many of us to tell really deep stories about our lives that we haven’t shared with very many people. Until I wrote this post, I think I’ve only ever told of my childhood experiences to one other person – my partner. So, truly. Thank you for the outlet. It feels strangely safe when so many other places both virtual and real don’t.

Cool Ad Watch


Copyranter claps over a series of national flags like the one above (of Somalia):

The campaign is for Grande Reportagem, a Portuguese news magazine. It is what all print ad campaigns should be: simple and brilliant. It stops me, I read it, I get it — all in less than five seconds. The ads make me want to watch the program. Sure, the statistical representations are exaggerated, but creative license is approved here because the points made are accurate. The ads aren’t new, but they’ve been circulating on several ad posting sites this week, and I hadn’t seen them before. Ad agency: FCB, Lisbon.

Update from a reader:

That ad campaign has some obvious errors. Nearly half the population in Angola has HIV? The CIA World Factbook and Wikipedia put the number at around 3%. And that graphic suggesting that about two-thirds of Brazilians live on less than 10 dollars a month? Poverty is still bad in Brazil, but nowhere near those levels. The federal minimum wage is around $340/month.

I know the Buzzfeed post acknowledges the stats are exaggerated, but then what’s the point? What are the odds the average viewer will know that? Or that the ad campaign itself has that disclaimer?

Can Buddhism Survive The Big-Box Treatment?

Thailand’s burgeoning consumer culture could pose a threat to traditional Buddhism – though it could also help popularize it. Lily Kuo explains:

Religious and secular observers have worried that as Thailand’s economy speeds along and enriches its population, the country’s most popular religion, Theravada Buddhism, is losing relevance and threatening the central role that Buddhist temples and their monks have played in Thai society. “Consumerism is now the Thai religion,” Phra Paisan Visalo, one of the country’s most revered monks said last year. “In the past, people went to temple on every holy day. Now, they go to shopping malls.” (As we’ve reported, about 19 percent of Thai households will earn more than $20,000 in income by 2017, up from 2.2 percent in 2002.)

On the bright side, consumer engagement could help Thailand’s Buddhist monks relate their religious traditions to the general population—while spurring the economy. The retail business of supplying products for monks is worth about 10 billion baht, or $320 million, according to a study published last year by a Thai bank’s Kasikorn Research Center. In a sign that monk consumerism is growing, a mega-supply store on the outskirts of Bangkok, Hang Sangkapan, or “Monk Supply,” is hoping to franchise and find investors. Modeled after big-box retailers like Carrefour, the store offers a bevy of religious clothes, candles, Buddha statuettes and altar tables for Thailand’s robed men.

You Think “Weiner” Is Bad? Ctd

A reader can top Bill Boner:

One can’t discuss unfortunate politician names without mentioning Ft. Wayne’s former mayor Harry Baals – and the shameful cowardice of not naming a building after him.

Seen above. See if you can avoid snickering. Another reader:

When I was in the infantry I had a platoon sergeant named Boner. Sergeant First Class Boner.

Army life involves plenty of roll calls, standing idly in formation waiting for your name to be called so you can sound off with “present” or “here” or “hooah” or something along those lines. And so people conducting a roll call would regularly try to throw our sergeant a bone, hesitating briefly before pronouncing his name as “Bonner” or “Boehner” or even “Boneer.” But this guy owned it, every single time, cheerily correcting them with “It’s pronounced Boner.” Sometimes he would mischievously add “Boner, as in” and then trail off.

Truly an NCO you could follow into hell.