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Thanks, bro: a “racially themed” frat party at Johns Hopkins University

(Story thanks to a tip from Lisa Casanova.)

Campus life in America

photo: two white members of the women's softball team, in blackface, posing for the camera with gold teeth flashing and hands making gang signs

Stetson University, Halloween 2005

photo: frat brothers, one in blackface, pose a mock lynching.

Oklahoma State, September 2002

photo: white frat brothers, one in blackface, pose with the student in blackface kneeling on the floor and a student dressed as a cop pointing a prop gun at his head. Ole Miss, Halloween 2001.

Ole Miss, Halloween 2001.

photo: white Beta Theta Pi frat brothers flash gangsta poses in blackface. Auburn, Halloween 2001

Auburn, Halloween 2001.

photo: white frat brothers, one dressed in Klan robes and one in blackface, stage a mock lynching. Auburn, Halloween 2001.

Auburn, Halloween 2001.

It’s early November; that means it’s time for yet another isolated incident at a Halloween party on yet another college campus. This one comes to us thanks to the brothers of Sigma Chi at Johns Hopkins University:

BALTIMORE – Johns Hopkins University suspended a fraternity Monday afternoon following a racially themed Halloween party Saturday night at an off-campus house.

Members of the Black Student Union and supporters rallied on North Charles Street in front of the campus, speaking out against the local Sigma Chi chapter and perceived racial hostility on campus. Hopkins is investigating the party and said the national Sigma Chi fraternity has imposed a 45-day suspension of the chapter's activities and will conduct its own investigation.

The uproar began shortly after the Halloween in the 'Hood party was advertised on the Web site Facebook.com. The invitation encouraged racial-stereotyping costumes, included references to the late attorney Johnnie Cochran and O.J. Simpson, and prefaced descriptions of Baltimore as a ghetto, the hood and the HIV pit with a four-letter epithet.

The invitation was attributed to Justin H. Park, who is listed as a Sigma Chi Class of 2008 member on the fraternity's Web site.

Johns Hopkins said in a written statement that the Greek life coordinator had told the chapter president last week that he found the advertisement racist and offensive, and directed the fraternity to withdraw the advertising immediately, but it reappeared without the coordinator's knowledge, in an altered but still offensive form.

… A small group of black students went to the party and said white students were dressed as pimps, prostitutes — and slaves. Outside the front door of the house in the 200 block of East 33rd Street was a plastic skeleton dressed as a pirate, hanging from a rope noose.

And then as you walked up to the house, you heard fake gunshots — as if there is a gun fight in this neighborhood every night, said freshman Blake Edwards, 18. The noose is extremely offensive and makes a mockery of the minority students that go to school here. Several of the girls I went with left in tears.

The entire city of Baltimore should be offended by this.

— Ron Cassie, The Examiner (2006-10-31): Johns Hopkins fraternity suspended after racially themed Halloween party

Here is the text of one of the invitations posted to FaceBook by Justin Park. I don’t have access to FaceBook so my information is limited, but I gather that this is the revised version:

OMG RACIST officially invites you to this delightful gaiety in honor of the last day of October, held in the exquisite metropolis paradise that we affectionately refer to as the mother-f*cking ghetto, aka the hood or as I like to call it, the hiv pit.

Refreshments include Foie Gras, Belgian Caviar, and Cambodian Breast Milk.

Ornate antique bathtubs full of Evian and Perrier will be provided for your bathing pleasure.

Admission to this bonanza is contingent on appropriate accourtrement – regional clothing from our locale is recommended. These include, but are not limited to, fur coats, copious amounts of so-called bling bling ice ice grills, hoochie hoops, white Tee’s and Air Force Onez.

There will be special accolades to those attired in the most conniving and despicable outfits.

OMG RACIST would like you to know that he does not condone or advocate racism, fascism, communism, consumerism, capitalism, terrorism, organism(s), sexism, womanism, jism, or any other -ism’s.

For the record, we would like to thank our founding fathers for incorporating the first amendment into the venerable Bill of Rights, and Johnnie L. Cochran for being a true homie and getting Orenthal Simpson, commonly known as OJ, acquitted.

ps we STILL don’t discriminate against hoodrats, skig skags, or scallywops.

— Justin Park, quoted at GreekChat bulletin board

Just about every year, right around now. I get to hear the same thing again: a bunch of students, most of them white, threw a party involving blackface costumes and other forms of crude racist caricature. It happened at Auburn–at least twice. It happened at Ole Miss. It happened at Syracuse. It happened at Oklahoma State. It happened at Stetson. It doesn’t always happen at a fraternity party, but it often does. Sometimes the kids opt for broad pastiches of gangsta images that they’ve picked up from MTV. Sometimes they opt for explicit references to the history of slavery and militant white supremacy. Sometimes–as it seems happened in Baltimore–they opt for both. The pattern is established, and the reactions are reliable. While University administrators are busy rushing to make a public example of whoever was caught throwing the party, and anxiously insisting (to anybody who cares to listen) that this is an isolated incident, not representative of the campus culture, etc. etc. etc., it’s left to those who know something about what actually goes on on campus (usually Black students or faculty) to point out, yet again, that these things happen in a broader context, that this is nothing new, that things like this happen all the time on campus, and that the only thing special about this case is that the story went public. Then a few months later, everything settles back down, the administration eases or completely reverses its disciplinary actions against the fraternity, and we wait until late next October or early next November, when exactly the same damned thing happens at yet another Halloween party somewhere else.

Just this last weekend I was driving to work, just south of the University of Michigan campus, looking at the party-goers wandering to campus Halloween parties in their costumes. And I drove through the streets wondering whether I’d be seeing the Klan robes, the nooses, the blacked-up white boys dressed as slaves, or the thug poses and afro wigs and the insufferable grins. And wondering, if I didn’t see it, whether it was going on somewhere else, out of my sight, where it would hit the papers in a few days. I was worrying about all these things when I should have been enjoying the simple, silly joy of people dressing up for the night because every fucking year I can fully expect to hear another story about another racist party, just about now. Over and over again.

Thanks a lot, guys. You have officially ruined Halloween.

Over My Shoulder #25: Lee’s views on Reconstruction and civil rights, from Michael Fellman (2000), The Making of Robert E. Lee

Here’s the rules:

  1. Pick a quote of one or more paragraphs from something you’ve read, in print, over the course of the past week. (It should be something you’ve actually read, and not something that you’ve read a page of just in order to be able to post your favorite quote.)

  2. Avoid commentary above and beyond a couple sentences, more as context-setting or a sort of caption for the text than as a discussion.

  3. Quoting a passage doesn’t entail endorsement of what’s said in it. You may agree or you may not. Whether you do isn’t really the point of the exercise anyway.

Here’s the quote. This is from Chapter 13, Southern Nationalist, of Michael Fellman’s The Making of Robert E. Lee. The war has ended and Lee is now facing the rapidly changing landscape of the South under Reconstruction. Notice how in retrospect the old statist warrior Lee could turn even secession into a statist doctrine. Also keep in mind that this is the white marble man whose memory is officially celebrated together with that of Martin Luther King Jr. (and the civil rights movement by extension) on Lee-King Day, in the states of Arkansas, Mississippi, and my old home state of Alabama.

On February 17, 1866, Robert E. Lee was called before the Joint Committee on Reconstruction in Washington to discuss issues of race and politics. A reluctant witness, Lee nevertheless was quite forthright in his defense both of the 1861 secession of the South and of the current efforts of Southern white elites to wrest back control of their domain from the threats posed by empowerment of blacks.

On the surface, it continued to be important for Lee to claim that he was above partisanship and discord. He asserted at the onset of the testimony that he was not well acquainted with current political issues. I have been living very retired, and have had but little communication with politicians, he testified, rather disingenuously, since he had been in constant communication with such men. The maintenance of an Olympian persona for public consumption was a major component of Lee’s postwar Southern nationalism: he would be the true conservative statesman above the fray, a position that both increased his value to other Southern white leaders and heightened the esteem he had gained in the South during the war, which was of great importance to him. The naive prewar engineer who could not think politically without getting headaches had been politicized by the secession crisis and the war, and afterward Lee was quite aware that his suprapolitical status was especially helpful when synchronized with those of his comrades who sought to roll back Reconstruction.

By the time Lee testified to Congress, Andrew Johnson had begun to come into conflict with congressional Republicans over how far to push change in the defeated South. While the Republicans wanted to punish the leaders of the Confederacy and pass laws and constitutional amendments to guarantee civil rights for blacks, protect their rights as free workers, and offer them suffrage, Johnson opposed all such uses of federal authority, supporting Southern white men and Northern Democrats who were organizing to abort all such political and social changes tand to return the former Confederacy to the Union with whites firmly in control of blacks.

Lee was well positioned to take up Johnson’s proffered handshake. He testified to the congressional committee that the former secessionists are for cooperating with President Johnson in his policy…. Persons with whom I have conversed, Lee stated (almost immediately refuting his position that he had been living very retired), express great confidence in the wisdom of his policy of restoration, and they seem to look forward to it as a hope of restoration.

As nearly as possible, Lee argued, restoration should be a return to the status quo ante, the reinstitution of slavery [which had been abolished under the Thirteenth Amendment –RG] excepted. As part of his position, Lee stoutly defended the legality of secession. Citizens of Southern states such as Virginia had not committed treason in 1861; they considered the act of the State[s] as legitimate, under the Tenth Amendment, merely using the reserved right which they had a right to do…. The act of Virginia, in withdrawing herself from the United States, carried me along as a citizen of Virginia… her laws and her acts were binding upon me.

Besides, Lee said, secession had been brought about by a blundering generation of national politicians. The position of the two sections which they held to each other was brought about by the politicians of the country; that the great masses of the people, if they understood the real question, would have avoided. In that sense, demagogic politicians backed by gullible lower-class white voters had wheedled the nation, Lee stated. He was seeking to narrow the meanings of secession (and even the war) in the name of an essential constitutional continuity, the better to sharply limit new forms of federal intervention during Reconstruction. Along these lines, he was even in favor of Southern states repaying Confederate debts contracted during the war against the Union rather than repudiating them, as the Republicans were insisting–debts held by ex-Confederates such as himself.

Much of Lee’s testimony concerned his opinions toward blacks. On the most general level, Lee said that every one with whom I associate expresses kind feelings towards the freedmen. They wish to see them get on in the world, and particularly to take up some occupation for a living, and to turn their hands to some work. Lee also expressed his willingness that blacks should be educated, and… that it would be better for the blacks and for the whites. Although he did not believe that blacks had the same intellectual capacities as whites, he was acquainted with those who have learned the common rudiments of education.

Guarded and rather condescending by implication during the rest of his testimony, Lee never questioned his belief in the inferiority of blacks as a race, often pairing an attribute he found endearing with results he found irritating. Wherever I have been they have been quiet and orderly, he told the congressmen, not disposed to work, or rather not disposed to any continuous engagement to work, but just very short jobs, to provide them with the immediate means of subsistence. Asked whether the black race had as great a drive to accumulate money and property as whites, Lee answered, I do not think it has. The blacks with whom I am acquainted look more to the present time than the future…. They are an amiable, social race. They like their ease and comfort, and, I think, look more to their present than their future.

There he was in Lee’s mind’s eye: the stereotypical slave, now free but still lazy, irresponsible, and undisciplined, if charming and amusing. What white people such as Lee could not understand was that after their emancipation, many blacks strove mightily to remove themselves from white surveillance and to work on their own toward subsistence and as much economic security as they could garner from short-term employment. Such efforts to gain independence and increase their distance from their former masters appeared to men such as Lee to be a lack of effort that proved black racial inferiority.

Lee was certain that the well-bred Southern whites he knew were kind to these childlike folks. But responding to the possibility of the political elevation of blacks, of the sort that many radicals in Congress were then proposing, Lee’s feelings immediately were shown to be less benign. As for white Northerners who came south to aid the freedmen, Lee conceded that proper gentlemen would avoid them… not select them as associates… not admit them into their social circles. If Congress were to pass an amendment giving suffrage to blacks, men of his class would object. … I think it would excite unfriendly feelings between the two races. I cannot pretend to say to what extent it would go, but that would be the result. Lee threatened nothing in the way of violence, but he feared that general white opinion would turn that way. Indeed, even given the incentive of increased Southern representation in the House of Representatives should blacks be given the franchise, Lee concluded that white Virginia would accept the smaller representation. For the forseeable future, black suffrage would open the door to political and social catastrophe. My own opinion is that, at this time, they cannot vote intelligently, and that giving them the [vote] would lead to a great deal of damagogism, and lead to embarassments in various ways. Just as he had believed before the war that God would end slavery some distant day, Lee could admit the possibility of black suffrage only after some infinitely long process of labor and educational improvement (unlikely for blacks, under his definition of their instrinsically limited intellectual potential). What the future may prove, how intelligent they may become, with what eyes they may look upon the interests of the State in which they may reside, I cannot say more than you.

Bland and calm until then, at the end of his testimony, Lee was drawn out by a series of direct questions into expressing his underlying antipathy for the notion of renegotiating race relations in order to promote a biracial social and political modus vivendi. Asked Do you not think that Virginia would be better off if the colored population were to go to Alabama, Louisiana, and other Deep South states, Lee replied, I think it would be better for Virginia if she could get rid of them. … I think that everyone there would be willing to aid it. Yes, he thought Virginia was absolutely injured and its future would be impaired by the presence of blacks; yes, with its great natural resources, once rid of blacks, Virginia would attract white immigration. And Lee argued that is no new opinion with me. I have always thought so, and have always been in favor of emancipation–gradual emancipation. Lee harkened back to the colonizationist stance of his wife and mother-in-law, a position he had never actually adopted but that might serve him rather well before Congress. The best possible result for race relations in Virginia, he maintained, would be the gradual disappearance of blacks, a curious reworking of the meaning of gradual emancipation and colonization. Failing that, Lee could accept blacks only in the most marginal fashion.

Such were Lee’s opinions when he was at his most reserved, in the sort of public forum he usually sought to avoid. Writing privately, Lee was even more candid about his postwar racial views. In common with most Southerners of the master class, Lee had had relatively little to say about blacks during slavery days, when he had been a confident paternalist who believed that he could manage the servants. Indeed, near the end of the war, he had expressed less concern about black soldiers under direct white control than about guerrilla soldiers drawn from the poor white population. But when, with emancipation, the racial order in fact had been undermined, Lee could maintain paternalist equilibrium only when he saw blacks as clearly subordinate–any move toward political or social equality was deeply upsetting to him.

Rarely one to use hot language, Lee nevertheless expressed considerable distaste for blacks. Particularly was this true for blacks immediately around him, which meant those servants he and Mary Lee sought to employ after the war. As contracted labor, these free blacks presented a new phenomenon: blacks bargaining over wages and conditions of employment. After Lee began to set up housekeeping in Lexington in the fall of 1865, he addressed the servant problem in several letters to Mary, who was to follow him to the college. You had better bring up Miss Skipworth’s woman. I fear we shall not be able to procure white servants. … Servants of some kind (black) I have no doubt can be obtained. But Lee clearly expressed his belief that blacks ought to be the employees of last resort. Freed blacks proved hard to obtain, whatever Lee’s distaste, and they did not seem willing to settle down under the control of former masters. On October 29, Lee wrote Mary, as regards servants, I cannot speak positively till the time comes for employing them. They are leaving their homes here as elsewhere, but there seems to be enough & some have offered their services. If any good ones offer, I advise their engagement. Indifferent ones I think can be had here. We shall want but one man. Lee then ran through the names of their ex-slaves, finding one named Jimmy to be the least incompetent. The next day, he commented about hirnig a man whom one might think Lee would have put in the indifferent category: I have engaged a man for the balance of the year who professes to knoweverything. He can at least make up the fires & go on errands & attend to the yard & table. Uncharacteristic sarcasm revealed Lee’s reaction to a man who had been altogether too uppity for a black servant when Lee had interviewed him. Lee chafed at such new relationships between the races, where blacks did not instantaneously display the appropriate deference but asserted themselves above their station. Racial unrest characterized everyday exchanges as well as politics of a more public and dramatic sort.

As late as 1869, Lee wrote his son Rob about his ex-slave Jimmy, resident on Rob’s plantation, with whom Lee had shared bonds he considered proper before the war. Even with the prospect of hiring Jimmy, however, Lee was now tentative. I forgot to speak for Jimmy, Lee wrote Rob. If he wishes to come to me & is sufficiently acquainted with gardening to undertake the garden, & will attend to the stable & all outdoor matters–send him up. I will give him $10 per month, as long as he suits me & I suit him. The new order was certainly not the best of all possible worlds.

Immediately after the war, Lee began expressing a contempt for blacks that he had never uttered before, including that desire to get freedmen out of his sight by literally pushing them out of Virginia. Early in June 1865, he urged Colonel Thomas H. Carter to discharge his ex-slaves and replace them with whites. Carter replied that such a desire would be utopian in his neighborhood, as he could get only black labor to do the drudge work. I have always observed, Lee then insisted, that wherever you find the Negro, everything is going down around him, and wherever you find the white man, you see everything around him improving.

Lee understood Colonel Carter’s point–there were simply no whites willing to compete with blacks at the bottoms of the labor barrel–but still he wished that black removal could be effected. That October, Lee wrote to Fitzhugh about improving Fitzhugh’s land, I fear that you will be able to do but little with black labour, & until you can put up some buildings, you will not be able to attract white. And a year later, Lee wrote to Rob, his other plantation-owning son, The mill dam I know is a troublesome work, but I hope you will accomplish it, & I fear you will have to execute it with negro labour. I presume at present there is none other to be had. You might get aid from the Virginia Emmigration Co.; which now has an agent in Europe endeavoring to procure emigrants.

Lee had become an active supporter of the Virginia Immigration Society, as part of his notion of how the state ought to both modernize and whiten. In 1869, he wrote to Colonel Joseph H. Ellis, director of the society, that he believed that the agriculturist as much as the industrialist had need for regular & consistent work that can only be served by the introduction of a respectable class of labourers from Europe to replace blacks. Other sources of nonwhite labor would not work well, such as those that had been introduced in California, the Caribbean, and Latin America, for although temporary benefit might be derived from the importation of Chinese or Japanese, it would result I think in eventual injury to the country, & her institutions. We not only want reliable labourers but good citizens whose interests & feelings would be in unison with ours. Whole families of white Europeans, such as the folks flooding the North, were what was wanted. I have been & still am an advocate for European immigration. Lee’s view of a labor force appropriate for modernization resembled the one he saw developing in the North, but white immigrants voted with their feet not to compete with black labor in the war-scarred, impoverished South. In 1868, for example, of 213,000 overwhelmingly northern and western European immigrants, only 713 settledi n Virginia.

Lee’s interest in European immigration to replace black labor–a desire quite widespread in the upper South–contained considerable bitterness about the incapacity and perfidy of blacks. In 1868, Lee wroteRob that he had recently had a visit from a Dr. Oliver of Scotland, who was examining lands for immigrants from his country. From his account, I do not think the Scots and English would suit your part of the country, which would be too hot and hilly to please them. I think you will have to look to the Germans; perhaps the Hollanders, as a class, would be more useful. Lee was also active among those pushing for a railroad into the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia from the eastern seaboard, for then I think there will be no difficulty in getting whites among you. In the meantime, white Southerners would have to bend their backs to the plow, unaccustomed though they were to hard physical labor. People have got to work now. It is creditable to them to do work; their bodies and their minds are benefited by it, and those who can and will work will be advanced by it. Lee was fully aware that for white Southerners manual labor was degraded by its association with blacks. Nevertheless, he insisted that, however irreplaceable it was likely to be, black labor was now fundamentally antagonistic to white interests: You will never prosper with the blacks, and it is abhorrent to a reflecting mind to be supporting and cherishing those who are plotting and working for your injury, and all of whose sympathies and associations are antagonistic to yours. Catching his pen in an unaccustomedly overt expression of that racist anger resident in the dark side of paternalism, Lee quickly corrected himself. I wish them no evil in the world–on the contrary, will do them every good in my power, and know that they are misled by those to whom they have given their confidence. Yet right after paternalistically sympathizing with Virginia’s black innocents who had been misled by Northern carpetbagging politicians, Lee went back to the racial divide: Our material, social, and political interests are naturally with the whites.

In Lee’s mind, as in those of most of his countrymen, North and South, the racial hierarchy was clear. English and Scots were above Germans and Hollanders, who were much better than Chinese and Japanese, all of whom were superior to blacks. To the English journalist W. H. Nettleton, who was about to return home, Lee wrote in 1866, Your visit to America must have impressed upon you the fact that, though climate, government, and circumstances have produced changes in the character of the people, yet in all essential qualities they resemble the races from which they are sprung; and that to no race are we more indebted for the virtues which constitute a great people than to the Anglo-Saxon. You will carry back with you to England my best wishes. When, in 1870, Mrs. Emily Hay forwarded a pamphlet written by the Anglo-Canadian immigration propagandist Professor Goldwin Smith, Lee responded that he was gratified by Smith’s interest in Virginia & wish that the tide of emigration from England could be turned toward the State. Englishmen need not fear the exhibition of hostility against them in Virginia. They would be cordially welcomed… agriculturists especially. To his son Rob, Lee had expressed his doubts that significant numbers of Englishmen would settle in Virginia, but if they did, as fellow Anglo-Saxons, they would be the most welcome of the newcomers: in Lee’s essentialist racial categorization, they were bone of his bone, blood of his blood. Many attitudes were quite in line with the cutting edge of contemporary racialist thought.

Mary Custis Lee was more vituperative on the issue of race than her husband, although he did not really disagree with the underlying sentiments she expressed. To take but one of many examples, on May 20, 1866, she wrote from Lexington to her old friend Emily Mason, We are all here dreadfully plundered by the lazy idle negroes who are lounging about the streets doing nothing but looking what they may plunder during the night. We have been raided on twice already…. But all thro’ the country the people are robbed nearly as much as they were during the war. … When we get rid of the Freedman’s bureau & can take the law in our hands we may perhaps do better. If they would only take all their pets north it would be happy riddance to all.

It must be added that in other moods, when he was not feeling threatened and betrayed, Lee continued to express a kinder paternalism toward this less fortunate race. In this vein, he wrote to a Northern Presbyterian clergyman who was seeking to find suitable genteel Southern white men to distribute Northern educational funds earmarked for the freedmen, I entirely agree with you… that the education and advancement of the colored people at the South can be better attended to by those who are acquainted with their characters and wants than by those who are ignorant of both. Lee recommended Drs. Hoge and Brown in Richmond as useful contacts, while begging off from becoming the distribution agent for Lexington–I coul not attend to it on account of other duties … nor do I know any colored preacher competent–but he then assured this preacher, rather disingenuously, because privately he fumed against black behavior, that the colored people in this vicinity are doing very well, are progressing favorably, and, as far as I know, are not in want. There is an abundance of work for them, and the whites with whom they are associated retain for them the kindest feelings. This calmer part of Lee lived in considerable disjuncture with the Anglo-Saxonist who was so angry at the local blacks, which is not to suggest that both sides may not have coexisted.

–Michael Fellman (2000), The Making of Robert E. Lee (ISBN 0801874114), pp. 264–275

Abortion on demand and without apology (Dakota Remix)

Bill Napoli, member of the arbitrary Senate over the state of South Dakota, 3 March 2006:

You know, I we are really think we’re pushing the envelope on that issue. I’m not sure that the Supreme Court is ready for us yet, but what’s that old saying, There’s no time like the present?

— Bill Napoli, interviewed, Online NewsHour (2006-03-03): South Dakota Abortion Ban

The Guardian, 8 March 2006:

But, unusually for conservatives emboldened by the installation in the White House of a committed Christian, the prospect of a confrontation over abortion has caused some uneasiness in the anti-abortion movement. Is the US public ready for an absolute ban on abortion? Is the supreme court prepared to reverse 30 years of legal precedence? Governor Rounds apparently thinks so.

He and other abortion opponents argue the time is ripe for the supreme court to overturn Roe v Wade, the 1973 decision that granted a woman’s legal right to abortion. In the past five months, two justices have been sworn in to America’s highest court, chosen by Mr Bush for their conservative credentials. The reversal of a supreme court opinion is possible, Mr Rounds said.

The law he endorsed this week takes a maximalist approach, affirming that: Life begins at the time of conception, a conclusion confirmed by scientific advances since the 1973 decision, including the fact that each human being is totally unique immediately at fertilisation. It would make it a crime for doctors to perform an abortion even in cases of rape or incest, punishable by a $5,000 (£2,850) fine and a five-year jail term. It makes an exception where a woman’s life is endangered.

The law does not come into effect until July 1 – giving supporters of abortion rights time to challenge it in the courts.

Abortion opponents in other states also believe the balance at the supreme court has swung in their favour and have readied their own challenges to Roe v Wade. The state legislature in Mississippi voted for an abortion ban last Thursday – with exceptions for rape and incest – and legislation has been introduced in Missouri, Alabama, Oklahoma, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky and Tennessee since the second Bush term began.

— Suzanne Goldenberg, The Guardian (2006-03-08): State’s abortion ban fires first shot in a long war over women’s rights

Mike Rounds, arbitrary governor over the state of South Dakota, 6 March 2006:

HB 1215 passed South Dakota's legislature with bi-partisan sponsorship and strong bi-partisan support in both houses. Its purpose is to eliminate most abortions in South Dakota. It does allow doctors to perform abortions in order to save the life of the mother. It does not prohibit the taking of contraceptive drugs before a pregnancy is determined, such as in the case of rape or incest.

In the history of the world, the true test of a civilization is how well people treat the most vulnerable and most helpless in their society. The sponsors and supporters of this bill believe that abortion is wrong because unborn children are the most vulnerable and most helpless persons in our society. I agree with them.

Because this new law is a direct challenge to the Roe versus Wade interpretation of the Constitution, I expect this law will be taken to court and prevented from going into effect this July. That challenge will likely take years to be settled and it may ultimately be decided by the United States Supreme Court. Our existing laws regulating abortions will remain in effect.

— Statement by Gov. Mike Rounds on the Signing Of House Bill 1215 (2006-03-06)

The Guardian, 8 March 2006:

The South Dakota challenge marks a change in strategy for the anti-abortion movement, which had focused its energies on limiting the numbers of abortions in the US. Over the years, activists have restricted government funding, access to abortion past the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, and access for minors.

In South Dakota, there is only one abortion clinic, on the edge of a state that spans some 400 miles. Abortions are performed only eight days a month. The state’s Planned Parenthood clinic in Sioux Falls was already fielding calls yesterday from women anxious that the facility might close. There already were huge logistical mountains to climb for women in South Dakota. It is an intolerable situation today, and the South Dakota legislature and governor made it even worse if such a thing can be imagined, said Sarah Stoesz, president of Planned Parenthood for Minnesota, South Dakota, and North Dakota.

The situation is nearly as dire in Mississippi – which also has just one clinic prepared to perform abortions – and also difficult in other states.

— Suzanne Goldenberg, The Guardian (2006-03-08): State’s abortion ban fires first shot in a long war over women’s rights

Scott McClellan, official press flack for the arbitrary President over the United States, 7 March 2006:

Q Scott, as you probably know, the Governor of South Dakota has now signed this abortion measure that the state legislature passed. Do you anticipate the administration will weigh in on this as it makes its way through the courts?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, let me express to you the President’s views. The President believes very strongly that we should be working to build a culture of life in America, and that’s exactly what he has worked to do. We have acted in a number of ways, practical ways, to reduce the number of abortions in America. The President strongly supported the ban on partial-birth abortions. This is an abhorrent procedure, and we are vigorously defending that legislation. We have acted in a number of other ways, as well.

Now, I think this issue goes to the larger issue of the type of people that the President appoints to the Supreme Court. And the President has made it very clear he doesn’t have a litmus test when it comes to the Supreme Court, that he will nominate people to the bench that strictly interpret our Constitution and our laws. But this is law that was passed by the South Dakota legislature and signed into law by the Governor of that state. And the President’s view when it comes to pro-life issues has been very clearly stated, and his actions speak very loudly, too.

Q So, again — now it’s going to wend its way through the courts. Will the administration weigh in, in the appeals process that is going to inevitably —

MR. McCLELLAN: Again, this is a state — this is a state law.

Q No, but it’s going to become a federal matter —

MR. McCLELLAN: It’s a state matter. The President is going to continue working to build a culture of life. He believes very strongly that we ought to value every human life, and that we ought to take steps to protect the weak and vulnerable, and that’s exactly what we have done. Now, you’re getting into the question of a state law, and so that’s something that will — the state will pursue.

Q But, Scott, no, maybe you don’t understand — it’s going to become a federal issue because it’s going —

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, let me reiterate. Maybe I’m not being clear — because the President has stated what his view is when it comes to the sanctity of life. He’s committed to defending the sanctity of life. He is pro-life with three exceptions — rape, incest and the life of — when the life of the mother is in danger. That’s his position. This is a state law, Peter. And I’m not going to —

Q So he would embrace this law as passed by South Dakota?

MR. McCLELLAN: This state law, as you know, bans abortions in all instances, with the exception of the life of the mother.

Q And not rape and incest, and so therefore, he must disagree with it, doesn’t he? Doesn’t he, Scott?

MR. McCLELLAN: The President has a strong record of working to build a culture of life, and that’s what he will continue to do.

Q I know, but you’re not answering my question, you’re dodging.

MR. McCLELLAN: No, I’m telling you that it’s a state issue —

Q He is opposed to abortion laws that forbid it for rape and incest —

MR. McCLELLAN: Les, look at the President —

Q Isn’t that true, Scott? That’s what you said.

MR. McCLELLAN: Les, let me respond. Look at the President’s record when it comes to defending the sanctity of life. That is a very strong record. His views when it comes to pro-life issues are very clearly spelled out. We also have stated repeatedly that state legislatures, when they pass laws those are state matters.

Q He disagrees with South Dakota on this one, though, doesn’t he?

MR. McCLELLAN: Les, I’ve addressed the question.

Q He does, on rape and incest.

MR. McCLELLAN: I’ve addressed the question.

— Scott McClellan, White House Press Flack (2006-03-07): daily White House Press Briefing

The Guardian, 8 March 2006:

But there are a lot of conservatives who are afraid of the prospect of galvanising liberal and women’s groups into action by backing so uncompromising an assault on abortion as South Dakota’s. They fear that the supreme court is still delicately balanced on the issues of abortion and life, and it would be more prudent to wait, and hope that Mr Bush has the opportunity to make another conservative appointment.

This probably wouldn’t be the best law to do, and the best time to sign it, said Daniel McConchie, vice-president of Americans United for Life. If this was to show up on the supreme court desk tomorrow they would just reject it out of hand, and having this law waiting in the wings will certainly make it more difficult to get that fifth potential justice that might vote in favour of overturning Roe in this way. Now that Mr Rounds had signed the law, Mr McConchie said his organisation would support it. But we are advising the other states to pass laws that would do other things to help reduce abortion.

Supporters of abortions rights also face tough choices. They can file a lawsuit against South Dakota in a federal court and wait for the matter to reach the supreme court where they say they are confident it would be thrown out — the standard strategy. Or they can fight a direct challenge by gathering the signatures to put a referendum on the South Dakota ballot in the November elections, a course of action Ms Stoesz says is needed to rouse liberal organisations who have failed to organise effectively.

We have controlled a lot of bad public policy but we haven’t built a movement. I am not trying to be overly self-critical here, but it’s hard to organise around a lawsuit, Ms Stoesz said. And so we have given people a false sense of complacency: Don’t worry. Planned Parenthood will file a lawsuit and save the day — and that alleviates responsibility for them taking action.

— Suzanne Goldenberg, The Guardian (2006-03-08): State’s abortion ban fires first shot in a long war over women’s rights

Lucinda Cisler (1969):

… The most important thing feminists have done and have to keep doing is to insist that the basic reason for repealing the laws and making abortions available is justice: women’s right to abortion.

… Until just a couple of years ago the abortion movement was a tiny handful of good people who were still having to concentrate just on getting the taboo lifted from public discussions of the topic. They dared not even think about any proposals for legal change beyond reform (in which abortion is grudgingly parceled out by hospital committee fiat to the few women who can prove they’ve been raped, or who are crazy, or are in danger of bearing a defective baby). They spent a lot of time debating with priests about When Life Begins, and Which Abortions Are Justified. They were mostly doctors, lawyers, social workers, clergymen, professors, writers, and a few were just plain women—usually not particularly feminist.

Part of the reason the reform movement was very small was that it appealed mostly to altruism and very little to people’s self-interest: the circumstances covered by reform are tragic but they affect very few women’s lives, whereas repeal is compelling because most women know the fear of unwanted pregnancy and in fact get abortions for that reason.

… These people do deserve a lot of credit for their lonely and dogged insistence on raising the issue when everybody else wanted to pretend it didn’t exist. But because they invested so much energy earlier in working for reform (and got it in ten states), they have an important stake in believing that their position is the realistic one—that one must accept the small, so-called steps in the right direction that can be wrested from reluctant politicians, that it isn’t quite dignified to demonstrate or shout what you want, that raising the women’s rights issue will alienate politicians, and so on.

Because of course, it is the women’s movement whose demand for repeal—rather than reform—of the abortion laws has spurred the general acceleration in the abortion movement and its influence. Unfortunately, and ironically, the very rapidity of the change for which we are responsible is threatening to bring us to the point where we are offered something so close to what we want that our demands for radical change may never be achieved.

–Lucinda Cisler (1969), Abortion law repeal (sort of): a warning to women, ¶Â¶ 2–10

Hopelessly Midwestern on Gov. Round’s statement, 6 March 2006:

In the history of the world, the true test of a civilization is how well people treat the most vulnerable and most helpless in their society. We in South Dakota feel that the best way of getting around this difficult moral obligation is to pretend that human embryos and fetuses constitute a class.

Oops, I might be paraphrasing a little bit.

— L., Hopelessly Midwestern (2006-03-06): South Dakota HB 1215

Geekery Today, 8 March 2004:

Today I want to honor the occasion with a reflection, and a call to action. Abortion rights are the front line of the battle over women’s reproductive rights, and women’s reproductive rights are an absolutely central issue in the struggle for women’s liberation. A woman has the right to control her own body, and that includes her uterine walls; that means that no-one, neither a foetus nor the State, can rightfully compell her to carry a pregnancy to term if she wants to end it. Any State that says or acts otherwise is legalizing reproductive slavery; the forced pregnancies, the jailing of women who defy the prohibition, and the back-alley butcheries that will inevitably rise again if abortion is outlawed are nothing less than forms of State violence against women.

Those who are against abortion are saying nothing more and nothing less than that they have the right to force women not to end their pregnancies against their will; they are saying that if someone else depends on the use of a woman’s body (even if that someone else is, as it usually is, an undifferentiated cluster of cells or an embryo no larger than a grain of rice) she does not have the right to say No. They are, that is, saying that they have the right to control her body and her behavior just because she has a womb—that is, just because she is a woman. In this respect the George W. Bushes and Jerry Falwells of the world are no different from batterers and rapists writ large. (That there are anti-choice women does not impact the analysis, either: a woman who professes the right to force other women to carry their pregnancy to term because those other women are women and pregnancy is a woman’s natural duty is no better than a man who does this. Nevertheless, it’s worth pointing out that 77% of anti-abortion leaders are men…)

— Rad Geek, GT 2004-03-08: April March

Bill Napoli, member of the arbitrary Senate over the state of South Dakota, 3 March 2006:

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: Napoli says most abortions are performed for what he calls convenience. He insists that exceptions can be made for rape or incest under the provision that protects the mother’s life. I asked him for a scenario in which an exception may be invoked.

BILL NAPOLI: A real-life description to me would be a rape victim, brutally raped, savaged. The girl was a virgin. She was religious. She planned on saving her virginity until she was married. She was brutalized and raped, sodomized as bad as you can possibly make it, and is impregnated. I mean, that girl could be so messed up, physically and psychologically, that carrying that child could very well threaten her life.

— Bill Napoli, interviewed, Online NewsHour (2006-03-03): South Dakota Abortion Ban

Hopelessly Midwestern, 23 February 2006:

If pressed, they probably won’t deny that we’re human. But so what?

— L., Hopelessly Midwestern (2006-02-23): South Dakota

Geekery Today, 18 November 2004:

This is a culture of life we’re building here, folks. And that means doing everything we can with pro-life laws to stop young women from getting abortions from a safe, medical provider. And throwing them in a pro-life prison when they finally make a desparate attempt to end the pregnancy at home without the aid of a doctor.

Or taking a pro-life gun and shooting them in the neck with a pro-life bullet if they do make it to the clinic:

INDIO, Calif. A California teenager has been convicted of attempted murder for shooting his pregnant girlfriend inside a Riverside County abortion clinic.

The shooting left the 16 year-old victim a quadriplegic.

She testified during the trial that 17-year-old Jeffrey Fitzhenry told her before the shooting that she was depriving him of his unborn child.

The prosecutor told jurors he also threatened, If you take something of mine, I’ll take something of yours.

As Sheelzebub puts it at Pinko Feminist Hellcat:

Apparently, he didn’t like the idea of her getting an abortion. Or rather, he was an abusive sociopath. He reportedly told her: If you take something of mine, I’ll take something of yours.

Except the fetus was in her body not his, and she’d be the one to deal with the health risks and potential complications, not him.

Now, you might think that it’s unfair of me to sit here pinning the actions of one abusive boyfriend on the anti-abortion movement as a whole–but how are Jeffrey Fitzhenry’s actions different in any salient respect from the legal action that pro-life laws are pushing pro-life prosecutors to take in Macomb County? Enforcing laws that stop young women from obtaining medical abortions means stationing armed men who are ready to shoot you in the neck to keep you from getting an abortion. Enforcing laws that punish women for getting an unauthorized abortion means using violence against young women who try to get one through other means. The fact that the abusive sociopath wears a suit and works in Congress does not make it any different. The fact that the shooting is done by men with badges does not make it any different. The fact that any complaints against the men who shoot you will be dismissed by men in black robes does not make it any different. The only difference is that Jeffrey Fitzhenry is only one sociopath, with only one woman as his target. The pro-life state would be a sociopath with armies at its disposal, with all young women as its targets. …

Jeffrey Fitzhenry didn’t care about life; he shot his ex-girlfriend in the neck because he wanted control over her body, and he wanted to take revenge when she didn’t comply. He is not pro-life; he is an abusive sociopath. And nothing less is true of the legislators, presidents, or prosecutors who use deceptive bills to enforcing a culture of life at the barrel of a gun.

— Rad Geek, GT 2004-11-18: Culture of Life

What you need to realize is that we are facing off with people (and, let’s be clear, most of them are men) who have absolutely no compunction with commandeering real women’s lives, livelihoods, and bodies in the name of their theologico-political power trips, because their victims are women and women are (in the minds of the bellowing blowhard brigade) made for the Culture of Life’s use, even if that means involuntary servitude enforced at the point of a pro-life bayonet. Meanwhile the sanctimonious politicos (and, let’s be clear, most of them are men, too) supposedly on our side bite their lips and palaver about the tragedy of necessary gynaecological surgery and generally act as though their brothers’ claims of dominion over other women’s bodies deserved something less than contempt and resistance. We are the new abolitionists, and it is long past time for the Clintonian hand-wringers and the take-one-for-the-party doughfaces who claim to be part of this movement to shut the hell up and get to the back. If they refuse to, I suggest that it’s our duty to jeer them into silence until they do. Can we get some moral outrage here? Some feminism? Some creative extremism?

William Lloyd Garrison, abolitionist and feminist, 1 January 1831:

I am aware that many object to the severity of my language; but is there not cause for severity? I will be as harsh as truth, and as uncompromising as justice. On this subject, I do not wish to think, or to speak, or write, with moderation. No! no! Tell a man whose house is on fire to give a moderate alarm; tell him to moderately rescue his wife from the hands of the ravisher; tell the mother to gradually extricate her babe from the fire into which it has fallen; — but urge me not to use moderation in a cause like the present. I am in earnest — I will not equivocate — I will not excuse — I will not retreat a single inch — AND I WILL BE HEARD.

— William Lloyd Garrison, To the Public, in The Liberator (1831-01-01)

Happy International Women’s Day.

Further reading

Free Cory Maye

Roderick’s recent post (2006-01-06) reminded me: Cory Maye needs our help, and we need to keep eyes on his case. About a month ago, I mentioned the case of Cory Maye in the course of my commentary on the premeditated murder of Tookie Williams by the state of California. Maye was sentenced to die by poisoning on January 23, 2004. Now, as far as the death penalty is concerned, I just don’t care whether Maye is innocent or guilty. Innocent or guilty, the state of Mississippi has no right to kill him when he poses no threat; that’s premeditated murder, with or without the black hood and the Crown on the heads of those responsible. (See GT 2004-12-15: God damn it and GT 2005-12-13: Murder in the first for further discussion in the context of different cases.)

But there are good reasons to think that Maye is innocent, and that the crime of murdering him would be doubly foul. Radley Balko has been talking this up since discovering the case in early December. There are lots of legalistic worries about the conduct of the police and the progress of the trial. It’s important to keep track of those for the purposes of defending Maye’s life, but it’s also important to remember that the pretext on which the narco-cops were storming Maye’s house in the first place — the so-called War on Drugs — is itself a massive, systematic, and senseless paramilitary assault on innocent people, for committing the crime of taking drugs without a permission slip — an act which is at worst foolish, perhaps a vice, but which can at worst hurt only themselves. The cops, in other words, had no damn right to storm Maye’s house, and the state of Mississippi couldn’t give them one even if they had complied with all the official paperwork (which it seems that they didn’t). Whether or not a judge wrote them a warrant that covered Maye’s home, they had no right to be there. Whether or not they knocked and identified themselves, they had no right to break into Maye’s house by force. And when an armed gang that has no right to be there invades your home without your permission and comes after you, you have a right to defend yourself, by force, if necessary. Balko’s right to say:

Maye’s case is an outrage. Prentiss, Mississippi clearly violated Maye’s civil rights the moment its cops needlessly and recklessly stormed his home in the middle of the night. The state of Mississippi is about to add a perverse twist to that violation by executing Maye for daring to defend himself.

— Radley Balko, The Agitator (2005-12-17): Cory Maye

But it’s important to note that that’s true even if the police and D.A.’s version of the story were (as it almost certainly is not) true from beginning to end. The War on Drugs is indeed a war — but it’s a war on people, not substances, and those people have done nothing to deserve being attacked by the paramilitary forces of the State. The warriors are trying to make Cory Maye its latest casualty. They must be stopped.

WikiPedia’s article on Cory Maye summarizes the details of the case. There’s a new website, MayeIsInnocent.com, that provides a clearing-house for information and news about the fight for Maye’s life. If you want to help, here are three things you can do:

  1. Write a couple letters: Read over the information on Maye’s case at The Agitator, at WikiPedia, and at MayeIsInnocent.com. Write a polite, well-considered letter to Governor Haley Barbour (for an example, see Silent Running (2005-12-10): An Open Letter) mentioning the legalistic details that I’ve mostly set aside here, and ask him to grant clemency or a pardon. Be sure to mention what you’re going to do next: take that letter, pare it down to 300 words or fewer, make it a bit less polite, and send it to your local newspapers. Be sure to include URIs for Balko’s coverage and/or MayeIsInnocent.com. The more heat that Barbour gets, and the more that it makes its way into the Op-Ed pages of newspapers across the country, the more pressure there will be to act. And the more that it appears in those Op-Ed pages, the more people will learn about the case.

  2. Post news or commentary on your website about the case. If you haven’t done so already, get on it. If you have, mention anything that’s new since your last post. Why? Because this is important, but it’s in danger of receding into bloggers’ archive sections and out of public sight. Keep the debate alive online and it will have a better chance of reaching more ears both online or offline. If you’ve written letters, you can post copies online for other people to see. If it’s nothing more than a Cory Maye is still in jail and the state of Mississippi still threatens to murder an innocent man, there’s nothing wrong with that, either. Because he is still in jail and the state of Mississippi is still threatening to murder an innocent man; the sword over his head hasn’t moved away just because your attention has. (If you’re the sort to post buttons or banners at the top of your page, Roderick (2006-01-08) and Laura Denyes (2006-01-04) have some suggestions. Don’t forget to link the image to MayeIsInnocent.com or a similar clearing-house.)

  3. Help Cory defend himself in court. If you have the money, you can help by contributing to [Cory Maye’s legal defense fund]. Even small contributions ($10, $20) can be immensely helpful in a case like this. Maye’s case is on appeal, but his current lawyer is a public defendant and needs financial help to be able to continue his investigative and advocacy work on Maye’s case. Contributions can be sent by mail to:

    Cory Maye Justice Fund
    c/o R.E. Evans
    P.O. Box 636
    Monticello, MS 39654

    See Balko’s post (2005-01-06 for the details.

Battlepanda (2005-12-13) suggests some more ways you can try to raise a ruckus about this. Let’s get on with it: an innocent man’s life is on the line.


For the past week, there’s been a lot of hubbub over All Things Beautiful’s Ten Worst Americans challenge. For a lot of reasons, I don’t have a comprehensive list, and I’m not that keen on the whole project (there’s lots of evil and ugliness in the world without going out of your way to seek it out, compile it, and cross-index it; I have no idea what the criteria would be for choosing ten people as more evil than any others; and I think that most of us are already far too fascinated with and fixated on demonology as it is). So I don’t have a Worst Ten list to provide. But I do have a list of additions that I think ought to be there, if lists are to be made. Coming out for the left-liberal corner we have Ampersand at Alas, A Blog (2005-12-27) with a list of seven villains, Patrick at Tiberius and Gaius Speaking… with a list of ten, and Glenn Greenwald and Hypatia at Unclaimed Territory (2005-12-28) with another ten to throw on the barbie. With the exception of Glenn’s silly inclusion of Harry Blackmun, they are pretty much right, as far as it goes, but there are some notable names that I notice tend to get left out. I suggested some additions at Alas and some dishonorable mentions at Tiberius and Gaius, which have been followed up with some debate.

Here’s my contribution of evildoers. I make no attempt to be comprehensive — there are lots of truly rotten people who aren’t on the list, mainly because they are mentioned elsewhere. But these folks are truly rotten, and often overlooked — sometimes because they get shoved out of the way by contemporary contenders that contemporary writers tend to give disproportionate space to, sometimes because the villains are overlooked by pop history anyway, and sometimes simply because political blinders prevent their names from being given serious consideration. The interesting thing is that the blinders rarely constitute defenses of their deeds — although in at least two of the three cases I discuss with Patrick that is what’s happening. It’s just that, for whatever reason, some folks whose crimes are readily admitted, if mentioned, aren’t thought of when you sit down thinking Who should I put down as a terrible evil-doer? I have some ideas about the reasons behind that, but I’d be interested to hear what you think in comments, too.

In any case, here’s my unordered list of overlooked evildoers, cobbled together from my suggestions elsewhere:

  • Harry S. Truman. He ordered or approved the murders of 500,000 – 1,000,000 Japanese civilians over the course of half a year in 1945.

  • Curtis LeMay. He carried out the murder of 500,000 – 1,000,000 Japanese civilians over the course of half a year in 1945. He planned and carried out the low-altitude firebombing of Kobe, Tokyo, and 65 other Japanese cities. A nuclear maniac who explicitly denied that there were any innocent bystanders in war, went on to coin the phrase bomb them back into the Stone Age (in reference to the Vietnam War), and went on to become George Wallace’s running mate in 1968, on a platform of white supremacy and more militant anticommunism. During World War II, he repeatedly indicated his belief that the Japanese deserved wholesale slaughter of civilians, and his own public statements and the reminiscences of the soldiers who served under him reveal him as simply reveling in death and destruction.

  • Franklin Delano Roosevelt, a pseudo-leftist demagogue who created the military-industrial complex; imprisoned political opponents; seized sweeping censorship powers; pandered to the worst sorts of racism, first in his political alliances with arch-segregationist Dixiecrats and then in whipping up war fever for war against Japan; ordered internment of Japanese-Americans; happily allied with, propagandized for, and consigned 1/2 of Europe to the totalitarian terror of, Joseph Stalin; and became one of the three men who came the closest to becoming a dictator in the United States.

  • Woodrow Wilson, unreprentant liar and war-monger, KKK fan, arch-segregationist, ardent anti-feminist. His published academic work delighted in white supremacist myth-making; his warmongering drew the United States needlessly into one of the worst and most senseless wars in world history; he built a slave army with the second federal draft in American history, and shredded civil liberties with abandon, happily imprisoning political opponents both during and after the War and presiding over the devastating Palmer Raids. Wilson is one of the three men who came the closest to becoming a dictator in the United States.

  • George Fitzhugh, who fused the worst elements of statist utopian socialism with a nostalgic view of feudal hierarchy to provide the most militant theoretical defense of white supremacy and race slavery in the prewar South. He authored Slavery Justified, Sociology in the South, and Cannibals All!.

  • William Tecumseh Sherman, one of the inventors of modern scorched-earth warfare, ravager of the South and murderer of Southern civilians. Sherman followed up his most famous role by pursuing genocidal campaigns against the Plains Indians and Indians in the Southwest from 1869 until his retirement in 1884.

  • James Eastland, the militant white supremacist Senator from Mississippi, mad dog McCarthyist, and founding father of the White Citizens Councils.

  • In addition to another Alas commenter’s suggestion of Larry Flynt, I’d also like to add Chuck Traynor, the pimp / pornographer / rapist / batterer / slave-driver who forced Linda Boreman into Deep Throat (among other pornography) and played an instrumental role in founding the mass-market, above-ground film pornography industry in the U.S. through repeated filmed rapes.

  • Sergio Méndez reminded me that Ronald Reagan certainly needs a mention, yet he seems notoriously absent from many of the lists. I mention him here not because I think he’s often overlooked on lefty lists of rotten people, but rather because I think the primary reasons to include him — his complicity in the formation of the death squads of El Salvador and the plainly genocidal massacre of some 200,000 Indians in Guatemala — is often overlooked in favor of a frankly silly focus on his contributions to the rhetoric of the contemporary Right in America.

The exercise, whatever its demerits, does seem to be a good conversation-starter. What do you think?

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