Posted tagged ‘New York Times’

Can’t read the paper (not a problem of eyes.)

December 7, 2010

Lately I just can’t make myself read the newspaper.  Everything turns my stomach.   The New York Times especially.

I’ve even begun  to wonder whether the paper is following its ordinary lay-out; nothing holds the eye.

 This is not because the news is sad–some of it, such as the death of Elizabeth Edwards, certainly is.   Oddly, I can stand to read that story even though I  feel terribly sorry for Mrs. Edwards and certainly her children; there are elements of courage, strength, tragic loss.

Is it just me?  My over-stimulated ADD?

Or are stories laced with greed, posturing, and self-righteousness more sickening than stories about cancer? 

All the tax business, all the Wikileaks business, all the posturing, self-righteous business, all the posturing in the name of ‘small business’ business, all the greed.

I don’t think I would mind it so much if people flat-out admitted their weaknesses—if the New York Times, for example, in connection with its publication of all the Wikileaks stuff, said, “look, we want readers.”   

If the Republican leadership flat-out said, “look, we serve the rich.”   

 If Obama just said, “look, they’ve got me in a stranglehold.” 

Actually, I guess Obama is kind of saying that.  My eyes, heart, stomach, simply find it very hard to take.

 

“Know-Nothings”, “Know-Not-Enoughs”, Breastfeeding, Obesity, Food

August 4, 2010

The “Know-Nothings” has always been my favorite name for an American political movement.  It just seems so forthright. (In fact, the 1850s movement got its name not because of the self-awareness of its members but because, if questioned about their affiliation, they were supposed to answer, “I know nothing.”)

Realistically, no one today is likely to adopt a name as truthful as that, even sarcastically.    I’d settle for a movement called the “Know-Not-Enoughs.”

This comes up for me today not in the context of politics, but health.   It’s raised by two unrelated articles in the Times – one about new discoveries of further merits of breastfeeding (“Breast Milk Sugars Give Infants A Protective Coat” by Nicholas Wade); and one about the unsolved problem of the rising rates of obesity in the U.S. (“Obesity Rates Keep Rising, Troubling Health Officials” by Denise Grady.)

The breastfeeding article talks about how undigested complex sugars in breastmilk have now been found to play an important role in providing beneficial intestinal bacteria for infants.  The findings have made the researchers more sharply aware of the evolutionary miracle that is breastmilk:  “It’s all there for a purpose, though we’re still figuring out what that purpose is,” Dr. [David] Mills said. “So for God’s sake, please breast-feed.”

I have always been a major proponent of breastfeeding but the doctor’s strong urging still surprised me.  For many years, health professionals seem to have routinely mentioned the benefits of breastfeeding, but then everyone seemed to quickly change the subject to personal preferences.  No one wanted to make a new mother feel guilty or pressured; no one wanted to step on cultural toes, even if they were not traditional cultural toes. especially if the preferences seemed to correlate to any ethnic group or educational level.  There has been a feeling, as in much of dialogue about just about everything, that everyone was entitled to their opinion or preference, and that all of these opinions and preferences were wonderfully equal on some vast universal scale.

I don’t let scientists off the hook.  When I grew up, scientists creating and even pushing infant formulas  were the opposite of “Know-Not-Enoughs.”

Now, among other things, we have a society that’s obese.   Putting aside any specific causal connection between the reduction in breastfeeding and obesity, there are certainly parallels between the substitution of formula for breastmilk, and the replacement of fresh, traditional foods, with fake “know-everything” food.  For the last few decades, people have eaten as if food could be manufactured, and as if such manufactured foods could satisfy all nutritional needs (which were also considered to be more or less known.)

No wonder people eat and eat;  no wonder flesh clings to what it ingests.  Bodies seem to know something is missing, but not where or how to get it.

Surface Soot in Kashmir – “Glacial” Doesn’t Mean Slow When It Comes To Warming

July 18, 2010
Kashmir (Sooty Glacier With Goat)

Kashmir - Sooty Glacier (With Goat)

Nicholas Kristoff writes in today’s New York Times about the decline of glaciers in the Himalayas, and the resulting damage to agriculture and waterways on the Indian plains.  One factor in the deterioration (aside from a general rise in temperatures) is apparently the soot on the surface of the glaciers, caused by the exhaust systems of trucks and buses traveling the roadways there.   Because the soot reduces the reflective quality of the snow and ice, it causes them to absorb more heat and melt more quickly.

Archival and new photographs illustrating Himalayan deterioration are currently on display at the Asia Society in New York, but I couldn’t resist adding my own photographic evidence.  The photo above (taken June 2009) shows a slice of soot-covered Himalayan glacier; a goat travels on top of the blackened-ice, whitish buses haunt the background.

The roads–the road in that area, which travels from Srinagar, through Kargil, to Ladakh, is only open from mid-May to October.  In these months, it is extremely crowded with both commercial (beautifully decorated) trucks transporting the year’s worth of supplies, and extensive army convoys.  (They move about the thousands of soldiers stationed in Kashmir.)

Drass, Kashmir, India

The glaciers are beautiful, but sadly grey.  As we began ascending the mountains (by car – no crampons), I thought the grey was a sign of the age of the ice (as in humans!) but closer viewing showed it to be the coating of ash and soot that Kristoff writes of.   (It actually reminded me of snow in New York City — say, near the Holland Tunnel.)

You don’t need to do extensive “backwater” explorations to see an effect on lowland rivers – below is a picture taken in India’s primary tourist city, Agra, the home of the Taj Mahal, showing the riverbed of the Yamuna (part of Indus river system fed by Himalayas.)    It’s my understanding that the “islands” used to be submerged.

Yamuna River, Agra

So many people rely on these waterways.  This is not just a problem of dry pipes or reduced pressure – people (often children or women) actively take livestock, laundry, and their individual selves to the riverbanks.

The reduced flow seems not only to mean lesser water but, increased muck – less dilution of the zillion and one pollutants that burden these poor waterways.

Where else can the people go?  They walk out further onto the caked silt of the old riverbed to get to the mirk of water that’s still there.

Kristoff hopes in the article that the BP spill will make Americans, and others, aware of the increasing degradation of the environment worldwide.   I, for one, think it’s doubtful, since Americans have difficulty recognizing the degradation of their home environment.   But many poorer countries – certainly not just India – which have hopped onto  a developmental train of manufacturing and consumption, have no environmental safeguards, enforcement, or even disposal systems, and  tragedy looms.  As nature is reduced, as true rivers and glaciers “melt down”,  mountains of undisintegrated plastic and pools of shinily suspicious liquids move in to fill (or deepen) the void.  (I couldn’t quite make myself take pictures of those.)

Yamuna River, Agra, India

iPad Sunnyside Up–Let Me Just Check My Mail

June 7, 2010



iPad Sunnyside Up

The  New York Times has a couple of articles this morning on how technology is re-wiring our brains; you can find them if you check online—excuse me a sec, I’ve got a new gmail coming in.

The articles talk about the mental and emotional price of a life hooked into, and hooked on—oops—there’s my cell….gizmos.

(Sorry, sweetie, I’m writing my blog.  Can I call you back in two minutes?)

Some people think multi-tasking makes them more productive, but studies show it makes people actually accomplish less, and encourages a kind of shallowness.

Did you know, btw, that Robert Pattinson won MTV awards for best actor, global star, and perpetrator of best 2010 screen kiss last night?   (Does ManicDDaily have her finger on the popular pulse, or what?)

One article depicts a software executive (hey, what do you expect?  The guy’s a software executive, head of a start-up, in Silicon Valley), who “works” in front of three or four large video screens.

In the photos of the guy’s family , they all have iPads.  Even the kids.  The guy even reads Winnie the Pooh on an iPad to his littlest kid.  In bed. (I know it’s kind of awful, but the graphics are also amazing!)

I can’t help wondering if the article will be good for Apple stock.

(I’m just going to check that, okay, it’s bookmarked, so won’t take a mo.)

The guy’s wife say it’s hard for him to be fully in the moment, that when the emotional going gets tough, he escapes into computer games.  But then one of the articles cites a kid who texts a lot in school and that kid says that the “the moment”–that is all the time she spent in school before she had texting–was incredibly lonely and isolating.

I feel sympathy for the kid, but isn’t loneliness and isolation part of what school is all about?  Childhood?  Has she not read Jane Eyre?  Virtually any Dickens?   (I’m sure they are on Kindle.  Maybe even for free.  Or Google Books?  Let me check a sec.)

Oops, there’s my other email, office, you know, my crackberry, the red light is blinking—do you mind?

Kristoff’s Moonshine, Hirsi Ali’s Feminism, “Honor Killing”

May 23, 2010

A couple of articles in the New York Times today are enough to make a woman a feminist for the sake of bettering the world as a whole, and not simply the lot of women, (although since I am already a feminist, I may not be a good judge of that. )

One from Nicholas Kristof describes the situation among the poor in Africa where spending choices by fathers favor alcohol and cigarettes over anti-malarial mosquito netting and children’s tuition fees.  To combat this problem, micro-bankers are trying to put more money in women’s hands, as women tend to be more likely to spend money on the welfare of their children than on their personal habits or pleasures.

Another article by Deborah Solomon, portrays Ayaan Hirsi Ali, an ex-Muslim woman, the author of Nomad:  From Islam to America, and discusses the Islamic view of women as family property, only with the twist that women are property that is capable of devaluing itself (like silver that self-tarnishes, an oven that self-chars.)

To some degree, the articles discuss unpopular topics; some in the West are so anxious to compensate for cultural biases and depradations of the past (and present)  that they are reluctant to criticize, or even acknowledge, practices that are unjust and oppressive.  This, to my mind, is political correctness at its worst: when there is a pretense that all points of view are equally valid and that cultural norms (even those that are unjust to women and children) are somehow fine simply because they are foreign and/or tradiional.)

Here is a poem on the subject on honor killing.   It was inspired by an incident in the Middle East where a brother killed a sister suspected of dishonoring her family:

Honor killing

The knife slides in,
with force.
She is thinner than he has remembered,
her collarbone sharp as
a hook he thrashes upon.
Mind snags heart, but
cannot aim for breast,
only the knife can look past nipple.
Smaller than he’s remembered,
with too-soft skin that folds within
whites of eyes big as
blade.
He tries to think
of flame, the filmy body
of smoke, the dryness of
ash, but blood,
fountains,
in honor of
the righteous,
fountains.
Why has she made him,
righteous,
do this,
with force.

News/Olds – New York City Cab Drivers – Texas School Board

March 13, 2010

Extra!  Extra!  In The New York Times yesterday:  (i) not all New York City cab drivers are honest, and (ii) Texas will be Texas.

In the first “amazing” news item:  New York City cab drivers have cheated millions of riders in the last two years.  This has been accomplished by illegally charging an alternative (doubled) meter rate applicable to Westchester and Nassau County within New York City limits.

Some drivers have excused these overcharges on the grounds that the buttons activating the meter rates are small and that it is easy for pre-occupied fingers to accidentally activate the wrong rate.   (The excuse, which doesn’t take into account the higher bucks received,  smells like those sometimes sent to car insurance companies:  “a pedestrian hit me and went under my car.”   “The guy was all over the road. I had to swerve a number of times before I hit him.”)

If New York cab drivers being New York cab drivers is disheartening, Texas being Texas is even more so.  As reported by James McKinley Jr.: “the Texas Board of Education on Friday approved a social studies curriculum that will put a conservative stamp on history and economics textbooks, stressing the superiority of American capitalism, questioning the Founding Fathers’ commitment to a purely secular government and presenting Republican political philosophies in a more positive light.”

Example:  the new rules will replace the term “capitalism” as a description of, you know, capitalism, with the term “free enterprise system,” (to avoid the negative connotations of phrases like “capitalist pig”.)

Example:  Thomas Jefferson (not liked because he coined the term “separation between church and state”) will be cut from a list of figures whose writings inspired revolutions in the 17th and 18th centuries.  (I guess the Declaration of Independence doesn’t count.)  (Is it worth noting that there are no historians on the Texas School Board?)

The proposed changes in Texas make me almost as upset with the left as the right;  I can’t help but feel that,  in the last decades, the left has also actively pushed for a politicization of history texts, and now is being hoist by their own petard.   (I’m sorry to those readers who disagree with me.)

Yes, the old 50’s and 60’s texts were incredibly jingoistic and one-sided; many of the changes of the last decades created a much  more historically accurate, as well as broader, picture of the past.   (Some terrific history texts resulted, such as Joy Hakim’s wonderful The Story of US.)

However, attempts to right old sins, and to emphasize the accomplishments of groups and genders who had historically been overlooked (as well as oppressed), also sometimes went overboard.  My children went to a grade school, for example, where every child knew of Rosa Parks, but extremely few had knowledge of FDR (except, perhaps, for his disability) ,  World War II (other than perhaps Japanese internment camps), or even, though it was a secular school, Thomas Jefferson (except perhaps for his relationship with Sally Hemmings.)    (An attempt to be inclusive, in other words, sometimes seemed exclusive, and to almost perversely avoid a broader historical context.)

Of course, an even bigger problem (to amplify on a quote by the great education president and Texan, George W. Bush):  “Is our children learning” anything at all?

In The Truth, a Discworld satirical fantasy by Terry Pratchett, the tyrannical Lord Vetinari warns a budding newspaper publisher that what people crave is not “news” but “olds”.   “They like to be told what they already know,” Vetinari explains—not man bites dog, but dog bites man.

I’m not sure I completely agree with Vetinari here;  while both these stories are certainly “olds”, they only offer a kind of painful satisfaction, the kind available from from scratching a bite, picking a sore.

For more on this subject, and one of my best paintings ever (of George Washington), check out my post on George Washington, Sarah Palin and Christian With a Capital C.

Further To….

February 20, 2010

One of the good and bad features of a daily blog (especially for a blogger with a daily job) is that it requires the blogger to get posts out quickly, sometimes before an issue is very well understood.  (Sorry!)  In such cases. the post is really a reaction (perhaps premature) to an issue, rather than any kind of cogent analysis.  Sometimes the post doesn’t even reflect the blogger’s longer-term, or considered, reaction to an issue,  but, at best, is simply a snapshot of the moments in which it was written.

Here is further information about the topics of two recent posting:   the first relates to The Line Between Satire and Sneer (illustrated by the teapot surrounded by UFOs), which expressed my wish that the TV show Family Guy hadn’t joked about  the mother of a character with Down’s Syndrome being the former governor of Alaska.    Palin and her daughter Bristol interpreted the program as a cruel jab at Palin’s son Trig (with Down’s Syndrome).  An article in today’s New York Times describes the reaction to Palin’s outrage of the actress,  Andrea Fay Friedman, who did the voice-over for the Down’s Syndrome character and who herself has Down’s Syndrome.  Ms. Friedman accuses Sarah Palin of not having a sense of humor, and of misunderstanding the episode, which presents the Down’s Syndrome character as an obnoxious but strong figure:   “I’m like ‘I’m not Trig. This is my life, ” Ms. Friedman said in a telephone interview with the Times, “I was making fun of Sarah Palin, but not her son.”

I still don’t like Family Guy.  (It’s the crassness.)  And I still wish that the show had not given Palin further “mileage”.  But the article, which gives more information about both the episode and Ms. Friedman,  certainly clarifies another perspective.

The second story which is subject to increasing illumination as the days go by is about Joe Stack, the man who ran a plane into the Austin, Texas IRS building (and whose disgruntlement with the IRS apparently began when the IRS refused to give him a tax exemption as a church.)   Gail Collins has a great article today, The Wages of Rages, about Stack, but also various lame-brained attempts of Republican politicians to expropriate Tea Party rage for political capital.   Yes, she manages to include a reference to Mitt Romney tying his dog to the roof of his car.

Celebrity News

November 29, 2009

Addiction has long plagued man (and woman).  (Even, as was shown at the Central Park Zoo a few years ago, polar bear.)   There are the standard traps—alcohol, drugs, gambling, sex, and, if you are a polar bear, your 9 by 12 artificial arctic pool.   But addiction is not only a by-product of human nature, it’s also a creature of its time.  As a result, there are always new and interesting practices that people can get taken over by—crystal meth, online shopping, computer gaming, non-stop twittering or facebook checking (non-stop “stat” checking if you are a blogger), texting while driving, the 24 hour news cycle.  Even worse than an addiction to the 24-hour news is an addiction to the 24-hour celebrity news cycle;  worse than that, is the intense craving for celebrity status itself–the obsession with achieving fame.

Some addictions are obviously more damaging than others.  I, for example, view an addiction to either (a) Robert Pattinson, or (b) the Twilight books, as relatively benign.  They may be damaging to one’s reputation as a serious and/or thoughtful person, but they  are a relatively cheap indulgence, don’t truly harm others (except, perhaps, a thoroughly bemused spouse), and can even be satisfied in chocolate.  (See e.g. new Twilight assortments with foil wrapped and embedded portraits! )

Both Twilight and Pattinson also have the absolutely most healthy quality an addiction can have, which is that they get pretty boring pretty quickly.  (No offense, Rob; it’s not you so much as the dialogue.)

The addiction to the pursuit of celebrity status is a little more troubling.   Recent examples include Michaele and Tareq Salahi, the couple who crashed last week’s White House State Dinner, and Richard Heene, the father of the “Balloon Boy,”–all people apparently addicted to the pursuit of their fifteen minutes.

What’s more worrisome to me, however, is the Salahish, I mean salacious, pursuit of celebrity by people who once played serious and dignified roles in our culture.   I particularly mean people in the news business, who seem, increasingly, to want also to be people “in the news.”

In the early years of televised news, there was a dignity to the newscaster–Walter Cronkite, Frank McGee, David Brinkly, were TV personalities, but soberly somber.   We all know how this has changed in more recent years.   The reasons are obvious and not new—advertisers want ratings, outrageous and/or boorish commentators, perky blonde reporters, and “news” which is really entertainment (i.e. reality shows, sports, sensational crime shows) apparently achieve them.   Recently, however, the “celebritization” of newspeople on TV has not only become more intense, it has also spread to other sections of the press, which, due to commercial pressures and online versions, have  become increasingly TV-like.  For example, the New York Times now posts photos and videos, and advertises blogs and tweets, of its op-ed writers.  To some degree, this is useful;  you can better understand the overall stance of a commentator, and, if you like, you can read a lot more of them, but sometimes, well, you end up wanting to read a whole lot less.

Politicians increasingly crave “celebrity-style” status as well.  (Yes, Sarah Palin.)  As Colbert has demonstrated through his “Colbert bumps,” it’s better, election-wise, to be known, even if slightly ridiculed.  (Ideally, if apearing on Colbert,  it’s better to be known, and if ridiculed, also good humored.)

I guess people want circuses, even when bread is in short supply.

Food Rules – Not Quite Michael Pollan’s

October 11, 2009

I have long been a careful eater.  Some might call me picky.  This isn’t really fair, because my refusal to eat certain foods has never arisen from finicky taste buds, but from strong ideas about health, morality and the environment.    I won’t burden you with these here, partly because it would take too long, and partly because, unlike the classic picky eater, I try to stay fairly quiet about my no-no foods, and to graze among the acceptable possibilities.

This pickiness, combined with the wish not to be a pain (especially when a guest), has sometimes exposed me to hunger.  And ridicule.   For years, for example, I was the subject of jokes among office mates due to my bringing carrot sticks and plain yogurt to a Yankees’ baseball outing.  (I have recently learned that the new Yankees’ stadium actually serves hummous and carrot sticks as one of its standard offerings.  Which just goes to show that my eating habits were not ridiculous but simply ahead of the curve.)

Last week, The New York Times published twenty rules for healthy eating chosen by Michael Pollan, author of In Defense of Food.  These were rules that Pollan had gleaned from readers, promoting among other things, the eating of apples when hungry, and the un-multi-tasked meal.

I’m not sure I’m capable of eating the un-multi-tasked meal on a regular basis, though I do love apples.  Still, after reading these, I came up with ten eating rules of my own:

1.  Avoid foods that are fire engine red, flame orange, any kind of blue, or electric green, unless they are unadulterated products of the vegetable kingdom.  In other words, yes fruit, nix Loops.

2.  Learn to say no to anything deep fried.  (This is relatively easy for me since I was raised by a mother who made all around her peel the skin off fried chicken, even her own 88-year old mother who used to groan “but that’s the good part.”)   If you have to have something deep fried, get your dining partner to order it, then sneak the occasional bite off of his or her plate.

3.  Ditto with dessert.  Get your partner to order it, and then sneak spoonfuls.  If you have dessert at home, refuse it at the meal, and then have small careful wedges standing at a counter or in front of the open fridge.   (Such wedges, eaten at midnight and intended to “even out” the dessert’s edges, have the advantage of being absolutely calorie-free.)

4.  Don’t buy things you can’t resist.  You will not be able to resist them.

5.  Don’t buy baked goods that come in packages that are easily stacked.  Actually, it’s probably advisable to generally avoid stackable food, especially if raw.  I make an exception here for crates of clementines (even though they are probably horribly sprayed) and those plastic cartons of organic salad (which are environmentally awful, but awfully convenient.)  (I would avoid non-organic salad mixes if stackable.)    This rule does not apply to cooked or dried foods – i.e. cans of beans, cases of plain yogurt (yes, yogurt has been heated), and any kind of whole grain.

6.  As a cook and mother, you basically have two choices:  either give in to the urge to taste constantly while you are cooking, serving, and cleaning up, and don’t eat anything during the actual meal; or steel yourself to taste absolutely nothing (not even that bit that will go to waste otherwise), and sit down and eat from your plate with the rest of your family.

7.    Here’s a couple of travel rules, learned, thankfully, not from my own experience, but from watching a husband: when traveling,  pay attention to the cues of waiter or waitress:  i.e. (i) do not order the “meat sandwich” in India, if the waiter tells you at first that they are out of it, and (ii) do not order a dish, even a “regional specialty,” if the waitress, shaking her head, keeps trying to dissuade you.

8.  Learn to like vegetables in all forms and varieties.  (I make an exception here for okra.)

9.   There are two fairly unadulterated, high antioxidant, foods that are (either one or the other) generally available in almost any establishment:  (i) tea; (ii) red wine.  (White, if not red, though lower in reservatrol).   In situations where the food is either doubtful or deep-fried, stick to one of these.  Unless–

10.  Unless, you are really really starving, already jittery and/or tipsy, and not in hummous-filled Yankee Stadium.   In that case, go for the scrambled eggs.

Roman Polanski and Beef Inspection

October 4, 2009

My short attention span was caught by two very different articles in the New York Times today.  One, by Michael Moss, was “E Coli Path Shows Flaws in Beef Inspection.”  The other is really a group of articles about Roman Polanski, “The Polanski Case – A Gallic Shrug” by Michael Kimmelman, and “Room for Debate:  The Polanski Uproar” which features a group of views by writers, professors, lawyers (Geraldine Ferraro).

What struck me about the beef article is the degree to which safety standards in the industry are “self-regulated.”  According to the article, the U.S. Department of Agriculture allows grinders to devise their own safety plans, including self-testing, which the grinders then scrupulously ignore.

What also is impressive (i.e. scary) is the factory-like nature of beef processing; the fact that burgers are produced like cars, with parts shipped from multiple venues, both within and without the U.S., then hurriedly assembled (or in the case of beef) smushed together.

Frankly, many of the “beef products” going into hamburger can only be called “beef” in that they, like e coli and the manure that feeds it, were produced, at some point, by a cow.   Contamination seems almost a by-product of the system.  Everything is done too fast, with an emphasis on saving cents on the pound.  No one wants testing because no one wants an expensive recall.   Many producers will not even supply to grinders who test;  instead many want their products to be mixed up (and confused) with other products, then quickly sold to consumers who, it is to be hoped, will cook the life out of them.

There seems to be a kind of magical thinking going on here;  producers don’t want a system of testing because they don’t want (a) a timely finding that there is something wrong with their particular beef product, and (b) to have to do something about it.

Sadly, the only enforcement mechanism that seems to be effective is a heft law suit generally brought because of the death or paralysis of an e coli consumer.  A law suit happens, or threatens to happen, which, perhaps unfairly, clobbers a couple of players whose products are traceable and  suddenly, those players (and hopefully others)  literally clean up their acts.

Which somehow brings me to Roman Polanski.  I feel great sympathy for Roman Polanski.  He has suffered truly horrific events in his lifetime.  I cannot even begin to imagine the pain of these events.   I am guessing (like the rest of the world) that his pursuit of terribly young girls in the Seventies was probably a by-product of some of this pain.

I also believe that the Los Angeles County system of justice, and the greater federal justice system, probably have more urgent tasks on their current agenda than chasing him down in Switzerland.

But none of that is an excuse for drugging and raping a thirteen year old.

I hate to say it but all the reasons Hollywood and France brings up to exonerate Polanski just don’t make sense:

Yes, it’s true that many many people have done awful things and gotten away with them.

Yes, the girl’s mother bears blame.

Even the fact that the girl, now woman, has forgiven Polanski doesn’t excuse him from law-breaking.

Yes, Polanski has made some great films.  Yes, thirty years have gone by and Polanski appears to have a settled life.  These factors bear on issues of clemency, the likelihood of repeating the crime, whether he’s a danger to society (I don’t think he is) etc. etc.  But they don’t excuse him.

Even the fact that Polanski’s suffered a great deal in his life doesn’t exactly excuse him, at least not in the way the Hollywood people use the phrase—”he’s suffered enough.”  (He has suffered a great deal, but most of this suffering doesn’t seem to have come as a result of the rape incident.)

We have a criminal justice system. It is supposed to at least try to treat people equally, without regard to whether the perpetrator of a crime can pay off the victim, or can please other people with their movie-making.  It is also a system which people are supposed to face up to.  It can’t reward people for flight from its strictures;  it can’t simply ignore this kind of flight because someone is famous.

What to do with a case like Polanski’s?  I have to say that if I were a law enforcement official, I would not have ordered a concerted search for Polanski at this point.  At the same time, if I’d been Polanski himself, I would have been careful to lay low in France.

I guess this is part of what connects him to the beef producers in my mind:  first, the magical thinking, and second, the ad hoc quality of his pursuit (which reminds me both of the testing process, and the law suit process.)  But the fact is that if you are not going to self-regulate, then it’s possible you may eventually be walloped by the law.   Certain things (including both e coli and warrants for arrest and extradition) don’t  just go away on their own.

I should note here that I’m a vegetarian.  And was raised as a Lutheran.