Category Archives: Politics

Identity Crises of Women in Refrigetators, Part Two (#SFWApro)

identitycrisis2Following Part One—cover by Michael Turner, rights with current holder.

I think the mindwipe plotline is what turned me off to Identity Crisis the first time I read it. Partly because it doesn’t quite fit. We have a straightforward murder mystery (who killed Sue?) and of revenge and justice, and then we have the mindwipe plot, which is not, in fact essential: if the Leaguers didn’t tamper with Dr. Light’s mind, he could still have gone after Sue, following his vow to keep punishing the JLA by hitting their loved ones.

This may have been something DC cooked up with Meltzer (it had ramifications in a lot of books) or it may have been his idea. When he wrote the JLA book a while later, he mentioned that he looked forward to taking Silver Age naivete and raising ethical questions about the heroes’ actions. And that rarely works for me. Sure, the Silver Age was naive. Heroes are good, villains are bad, you can trust the system and trust the good guys. The victories are clear, without having to employ morally questionable methods to get them.

But however impractical that may be in real life, I like the ideal. It may be unattainable in real life, but that’s the nature of ideals. And the flip side—cutting questionable deals, doing dirty work in the shadows, tampering with your friends’ minds as well as your enemies—can be just as naive. Sure it sounds very tough to talk about how we have to lower ourselves to the other side’s level, it’s a dirty job but someone has to do it, blah-blah, but that can easily turn into a short-cut: we’ll do the dirty work in the shadows without really questioning whether it’s ethical, or necessary, or if there’s another alternative. Or if working in the shadows even works (the book Legacy of Ashes shows how little use the CIA’s been over the decades). As someone put it online recently, Jack Nicholson’s character in A Few Good Men, snarling that “You need me on that wall!” is a delusional thug—but to some writers, he’s a role model.

It’s one thing if Meltzer wanted to argue the morality of erasing memories when someone learns your secret identity. It’s another to suggest they’ll reprogram Dr. Light and even Batman and try to justify it. That I don’t buy. I also think Meltzer cops out a little by asserting that Batman and Superman know what went down at some level but choose not to know … why the hell would they do that? Particularly Batman?

Rereading though, another problem leapt out at me: the mystery simply doesn’t work. Meltzer’s set it up in classic fashion: Everything points in one direction, then it turns out the solution is completely different (e.g., “We thought it was one of the people he sued—but the killer is the one person he didn’t sue!”). Instead of Dr. Light, it’s Jean.

Trouble is, this only works if a)the first direction looks logical and b)the revelation of the real killer makes perfect sense. This series fails on both counts.

Meltzer emphasizes, repeatedly, how awesome Batman is. Yet somehow the world’s greatest detective misses that Sue hasn’t been flash-fried by a laser, she’s been burned by some sort of flame-thrower. No way do I believe the two effects are the same. No way do I believe Bats would miss that—or Ralph Dibney, but he’s obviously preoccupied by Sue’s death. So the whole plotline of hunting Dr. Light makes no sense at all.

And neither does the unmasking. There’s nothing, absolutely nothing, to indicate that Jean has gone insane (she has had mental problems before, but she was cured and Meltzer doesn’t suggest otherwise). Insanity in a set-up like this is a cheat as it saves Jean having to have a rational motive or doing anything logical like asking Ray out.

Beyond that, there’s the women-in-refrigerators angle, which I’ll get to tomorrow.

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Identity crises of women in refrigerators (#SFWApro)

identitycrisis1I was never that impressed with the miniseries Identity Crisis when it came out back in 2004-5, but I wasn’t entirely sure why. Having reread it recently, I think I have it figured out (cover art by Michael Turner, all rights with current holder). And if anyone cares, full spoilers follow.

The short answer: “A love letter to the silver age” shouldn’t involve the rape and murder of a likeable Silver Age character or showing how all that Silver Age idealism is just a load of baloney.

The longer answer? Read on …

As the first issue opens, we have Elongated Man (Ralph Dibney) telling his fellow hero Firehawk about how much he loves his wife Sue. We also see Ray (The Atom) Palmer thrilled that his wife seems to be warming up to him again (she had an affair some years ago, then they divorced).  We see about two pages of Sue preparing a party for him, then she’s killed and burned to death.

The Justice League rallies round, offering support, investigating the case and trying to figure how the world-class security they have for their families could have been breached. Ralph, no slouch of a detective himself, realizes the killer was Dr. Light and recruits a team to get that long-time JLA-foe. Wally West (this was back when he was still Flash) asks for an explanation. He learns that several years earlier, Light stumbled across Sue and, frustrated by his repeated defeats at the League’s hands, raped her.

But there’s much, much more! After the League takes him down, Light gloats that it’ll be easy to find Sue again, as she and Ralph don’t have secret identities. And he’ll find all their families and do the same! A worried Ralph convinces League sorceress-in-residence Zatanna to zap Light’s mind so he can’t do this again, which has the minor effect of turning Light from a formidable foe to a moron. Green Arrow tells Wally that the League has been wiping minds for years, every time a villain discovered their identity (which is, I note, Silver Age canon, they did it quite routinely when the villain didn’t lose their memory by accident), but this was a step further …and one too far for Batman, who objected, and had to get mindwiped about his memory of it.

A terrified Light hires Deathstroke to defend him and Deathstroke improbably takes out the entire League, only to lose when they counter-attack. But then Dr. Midnight, the surgeon turned super-hero performing the autopsy, reveals that based on his examination Sue was dead before her body burned.

More attacks on the Leaguers’ loved ones take place. Someone tries to strangle Jean, which leads to Ray rushing to protect her, and then to them falling back into bed together. Tim Drake’s (Robin at the time) father is killed by Captain Boomerang’s son. Everyone draws closer to the people they care about … and then Midnight discovers tiny footprints in Sue’s brain. Like the ones Ray Palmer would make if he’d used his atom-powers to shrink down, climb into her head and stomp around some.

But it turns out it’s not Ray, it’s Jean. Desperate to win Ray back, she figured that if she stole his tech and injured Sue (the death was an accident), he’d come rushing to protect her. Of course, it’s established at the start of the series that he still loves her madly (she left him, remember?) so a dinner invitation would have worked, but no problem—she’s crazy! She’s cuckoo! Stark raving bonkers! And winds up committed to Arkham Asylum (and would later become the new Eclipso, but that’s another story).

So there’s the plot. Next up, the holes.

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Rape, maternity care, prayer breakfasts and other political links

The arc of the universe sometimes does tend toward justice, as in this story of a black woman in the 1950s who sued a racist pastor (he informed her he didn’t want blacks on “his” sidewalk) and won.

•A writer at Glen Beck’s website argues that the pill is bad for women because it violates their fundamental nature and allows men to have free sex (an old Undead Sexist Cliche). More surprisingly, Rick Santorum says if government provided birth control free, then no business wold be forced to over it by insurance. Easy to say when you’re not in a position of authority, of course, but still noteworthy.

•Some conservatives also hate the fact that insurance has to provide maternity coverage under the Affordable Care Act. As Echidne points out, one of the reasons is that non-employer based insurance (i.e., individual policies) are much less likely to offer maternity coverage. One of the arguments against mandatory coverage is that “having children is a choice” which is an odd argument since the same wing of the Republicans seems determined to give women as little choice as possible in the matter, other than saying virgin (or, as someone once joked, going down on your partner, the original oral contraceptive). Still more here.

•Obama exposes his Muslim, Christian-hating heart by mentioning the inquisition and the Crusades at the National Prayer Breakfast. Me, I say good for Obama (and once again, I suspect he’s thinking he has nothing to lose for the next two years). Hullabaloo adds some discussion. Alternet notes that burning people alive is hardly something ISIS came up with. Digby adds more, including some links.

•It shows the arbitrariness of our government’s supposed determination to fight tyranny everywhere that while Washington worries about ISIS, it’s not moving to help Zimbabwe or investigate Saudis.

•An interview with a men’s rights activist.

•Digby points out that even extremists are voters with the right to support the candidate of their choice against an incumbent. Which is something elected officials really resent. One politician fighting for a gerrymandered district said that he’d been promised he would never have to face a serious challenge from the other party ever again; Sen. Joe Lieberman’s attorney once described an attempt to unseat the senator in the primaries as akin to terrorism. Speaking of which, an Oklahoma politician wants to ban district attorneys from prosecuting elected officials.

•A look at what happens as the 1 percent become visitors at Burning Man.

•Some Republicans still think that rape is a beautiful way for God to give women a baby.

•A politician proposed adding a Latin motto to Vermont’s English motto. OMG, some people are outraged … because they thought Latin meant Latino. Why don’t they learn to speak English? Don’t Latinos realize that when in Rome, you do as the Romans do (yes, this was an actual comment).

•Red Bull argues that a drink called Old Ox is infringing on its trademark because oxen and bulls are too much alike.

•The bad news about digitally wired cars? No protection against hackers.

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Complementarianism and other links

Conservative Christian sexists (not that the religious right or Christianity has a lock on this) that they’re not about sexism, they’re about complementarianism: Women have rights and roles and men have to respect them and vice-versa. Only as Echidne points out, that doesn’t mean any sort of equality: secular and religious conservatives alike have insisted that women’s special role is the home and not the workplace, politics or the military (or even the voting booth). Which is bad for women (or men) who don’t fit the box they’re “supposed” to belong in. Worse somewhere like Saudi Arabia where even driving is considered outside women’s sphere. I have a past post on the topic here.

And of course, women don’t get much say in what their chosen sphere should be. It’s something decided by a small coterie of men. So it’s no surprise that men end up getting the choicest cuts of the steak.

•In response to the current flap over vaccinations, Rand Paul says that since parents “own” their kids, government can’t mandate vaccinations. Of course as Digby points out at the link, that ownership is reversed when abortion is the topic and suddenly the child owns the mother and has 100 percent of the rights. Unfortunately he’s not the only politician willing to curry favor with anti-vaccination activists. As Digby says at the second link, most of the parents are probably sincerely trying to do what’s best for their kids, but there’s no excuse for the pols.

•A new theme for the anti-gay movement: Gay parents have to adopt, which rips a child away from its parents, which is wrong! And requires declaring that some women are unfit mothers, whose babies should be taken away and given to some smug gay couple. While I don’t dispute there are issues with surrogate motherhood and adoption, those are hardly because gay couples will steal straight women’s babies—they apply just as much in straight cases. So either the author (it’s not a direct link) is pulling a fast one and hoping we don’t notice or she’s generally anti-adoption (the idea Only Biological Parents Are Worthy has cropped up now and again on the right, particularly anywhere gays have legal rights to adopt).

•How to fix the transportation budget? Don’t raise gas taxes, cut funds for pedestrians and bikes so we have more for the almighty car! I’m not entirely surprised—any transportation solution that deviates from cars, cars, cars tends to freak people out. Even private walkable developments sometimes trigger outrage as if the developers had suggested the government swoop in and confiscate everyone’s vehicles. And our local paper back in Fla. used to complain whenever government suggested spending money on anything but more roads for more cars because, tourism! Development! (While nominally libertarian, the Daily News’ was always enthusiastic with government money going to development).

•After an argument, a TSA agent allegedly lies about a passenger making bomb threats, then has him arrested.

•Bud Roth, a Franklin County, Va. wedding officiant—an official county position—first informs a couple that he won’t marry them at the courthouse, only at his church. Then he refuses to marry them at all because they’re an agnostic and an atheist.

First point: You work for the state, you don’t get to deliver services based on what you think God wants. Second: Insisting they use his church (and pay for it, apparently) seems like a little small-town scam.

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Krauthammering Iran and other political links

One of the staples of warhawk commentary is that everything they insisted was hard, realistic fact in the Cold War, they now take back because it’s inconvenient to the war on terror. In the Cold War, the only way to restrain Russia and China was by having so many more nukes we could annihilate them. When it’s Iraq or Iran at issue, our nuclear superiority is irrelevant. The rulers are crazy! Suicidal! They might nuke us even knowing it’s their own death (undoubtedly laughing wildly like the Joker).

Case in point, Charles Krauthammer (the WaPo columnist who once claimed that a reunited Germany would be Europe’s worst nightmare), declares that being religious, the Iranians have much less regard for human life than those atheist Commies did. As noted at the link, the Cold War cliche was that being atheist meant “the Reds” would have no respect for human life, as they were incapable of having moral values. The rationale changes, the conclusion (war!) never does.

•An interesting analysis of American Sniper. Another view from Roy Edroso.

•A revenge-porn site operator who also charged victims for getting their photos off the site has been busted by the feds.

•The FCC makes 25 MBps the new definition of broadband. Which adds another argument against the Comcast/TWC merger as Comcast will have a harder time claiming there’s lots of high-speed broadband competition.

•In this CNN piece about unvaccinated kids, a doctor explains that his kids are “pure” and he refuses to contaminate them with vaccines. And the parents the article is focused on should realize their daughter’s cancer was caused by vaccines, so there, that proves it (he’s very big on natural healing, according to his website). Which is the kind of thinking that explains why measles and whooping cough are resurgent.

•The Senate’s Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights Subcommittee is now just the Subcommittee on the Constitution. And the big Constitutional issue? Obama!

•No, being a cop is not the most high-risk occupation.

•A right-wing pastor denounces birth control as turning women into whores and getting them out from under their husband’s dominion.

•As a matter of fact, Muslims have condemned the Muslim terrorist attack in Paris. JK Rowling, meanwhile, apologizes for the Crusades and the Spanish Inquisition.

•I’m not really surprised that identifying and tracking us by our supposedly “anonymous” credit-card transactions is easy.

•I’m aware some members of the religious right are down on masturbation. But this Defeating the Dragons post covers some arguments I’d never heard before. Like marriages symbolize the union of Church and Christ, so doing without a partner is like saying you can do without Jesus.

•The Nation is less than impressed with the “sharing economy” promoted by Uber, Airnb and similar companies.

•A blogger reminds us that a century ago, Turkey tried genocide on the Armenians.

A worker recently won an employment dispute guaranteeing his right not to clock in and out with a bar scanner, as it would have been the mark of the beast. As Slacktivist points out at the link, Big Government, the supposed tool of Antichrist, actually defended his right not to take the mark.

•The FCC chair says the FCC should prevent states from preventing cities from launching their own municipal broadband.

•Marissa Alexander is facing stiff sentencing for firing a warning shot at her abused husband. Despite Florida having a stand-your-ground law, the trial judge ruled that she should have run instead of using the gun.

I’m not the least surprised. Florida is a very conservative state in many areas. I’m quite sure lots of people think an abused woman shooting at her husband, even without trying to hit him, is way worse than what George Zimmerman did to Trayvon Martin.

•Echidne of the Snakes breaks down some arguments over rape statistics.

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Links for a cold winter’s night. Unless you live in Miami or Belize or somewhere like that, I guess

I’ve written before that I think political correctness is a concept that’s worn out whatever use it has. But of course, if you want to complain “the left is silencing free speech in favor of group think!” it’s the first tool to reach for. Case in point, Jonathan Chait, who’s recent column combines genuinely bad behavior (a woman assaults an abortion protester for having an offensive sign) with (what else) liberals who get criticized (and harshly!) by other liberals (my god, some people actually mocked Hanna Rosen for her writing!), obsessions with identity politics and graduating classes who protest against commencement speakers with the “wrong” views (because not having someone accept a large fee for a speech is the same as censorship). And judging by the column, PC is a thing unique to liberals (Julian Sanchez discusses the psychology of self-censorship here).

Gawker guts Chait’s argument, and points out how he strains to make the case. LGM dissects Chait’s view that identity politics is something minorities do (because white people are, of course, above such things).

•A great history of the birth and growth of corporate rights.

•Jacobin suggests a guaranteed income for everyone is also good for the environment.

•An old review of D’Nesh D’Souza’s The End of Racism, a book that explains (among other things) how perfectly rational racial stereotypes are.

•Women in Theology says “inheritance” can cover the ground as “privilege” more effectively.

•The risks of giving money to Kickstarter projects.

•As more people shift to self-employment, will it have a ripple effect?

•Elizabeth Stoker Bruenig writes about ordinances banning feeding the homeless, and how they show the objections to government aid can crop up even if it did all convert to private charity.

•The grim reason Argentine forensic anthropologists are the world’s best.

•Strippers in Washington state argue their right to privacy should trump the fact their licensing data (strippers have to be licensed there) is theoretically public knowledge.

•Slacktivist discusses how GK Chesterons anti-semitism resembles modern bigotry: Chesterton argues that it’s up to the Jews to prove they’re not greasy money-lending parasites, just the way Muslims have to prove they’re not terrorists and people’s fear of black people is “proof” that black people are a problem.

•Obama stopping deportation of illegal immigrants is a Hitlerian tactic!!!!!!! It’s also socialism and ethnic cleansing!!!! He’s also Charles I of England!!! Scott Lemieux says that while it’s not the ideal approach, it’s the best we can get with the current Republican congress (and no, neither tyranny nor illegal)

•A lawyer in San Francisco warns her client he doesn’t have to speak to the cops. So the cops arrest her.

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The last lone survivor stalks his links in the night

Astonishingly, some Republicans decided a proposed bill banning abortions after 20 weeks was a mistake. The bill has been dropped without coming to a vote, though Repubs are forging ahead on a bill to ban federal funding for abortions (apparently the current ban has to be reapproved annually). According to the Washington Post article linked to in the blog post, some Repubs are concerned about their ability to stay competitive in blue-red states (I don’t know if the fact the Repubs quoted in the article are women signifies something about who opposed it, or that the Post thought those were the better voices to way in with).

•LGM celebrates the anniversary of Roe v. Wade. I’m with them on that one. The post also points out the lies being flung around over the Congressional decision—that Roe vs. Wade allows abortion throughout pregnancy with no restrictions, that the bill that got shot down was banning “Infanticide” (as LGM points out, why does it then not punish mothers?) … Another lie popularly tossed around is that Roe was bad because abortion policy is a state-level decision. Somehow nobody saying that objects to Congress over-ruling states’ right to legalize abortion after 20 weeks.

•Southern Baptist leader and theocrat Al Mohler has coined the phrase “erotic liberty” as a short-hand for gay rights. He would like people to think that it’s all about gay sex and not about the right to marry, to collect on pensions or the right to simply be gay without being harassed or arrested.

•A lawsuit charges one McDonald’s franchisee with trying to fire enough black employees that the racial ratio would be 50 percent.

•Israel’s leader, this article says, is working with the Republicans to undermine Obama’s Iran policy.

•A look at how white criminals are portrayed in the media. Where Michael Brown was a pot-smoking rap-loving thug, an 18-year-old fleeing a burglary rap with a 13-year-old girlfriend (which is young enough to be statutory rape) they’re just “sweethearts” or “Missing teens.”

•A USAF general says any airman who talks to Congress about the A-10 Warthog (which the Air Force wants to scrap) to endorse the plane is committing treason (short answer: No, he or she wouldn’t be). LGM explains this a little.

•Echidne discusses one school’s decision not to perform The Vagina Monologues because some trans-women (for example) don’t have one.

•Some conservatives continue to insist that as they’re the ones who want a colorblind society and black people keep playing the victim card, ergo the Tea Party is Martin Luther King’s true heir. This is not a new idea. Of course, it’s undermined by the number of times white Christian conservatives keep bringing up how oppressed they are (when I brought up one case of racial discrimination last year, a friend of mine immediately demanded to know why I wasn’t focusing on discrimination against white people).

•And then there are the states that celebrate Robert E. Lee Day alongside MLK Day.

•To balance that out, Hullabaloo links to some great thoughts by MLK and Chris Rock

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