Breaking news, politics, culture and—not least—humor.
More and more comedians are coming out of the woodwork to defend their colleague Daniel Tosh for his defense of rape jokes. For those of you who missed the controversy , a woman who saw Tosh at the Laugh Factory reported that the comedian made “some very generalizing, declarative statements about rape jokes always being funny, how can a rape joke not be funny, rape is hilarious, etc.” The woman yelled out, “Actually, rape jokes are never funny!” So, Tosh responded by saying, “Wouldn’t it be funny if that girl got raped by like, five guys right now? Like right now? What if a bunch of guys just raped her…?”
As the story circulated, Tosh issued a non-apology, which the media has pretended is an apology, and many comedians have tweeted shrilly in his defense. Jim Norton tweeted, “People should be vocally supporting @DanielTosh.” And he stumped Tosh critics with this thought-provoking question: “Why is ok for an actor to play a rapist, but not for a comic to joke about it?” My brain hurts just thinking about it. As you read this, I’m scratching my head. The always-philosophical Dane Cook waxed poetic on the matter, tweeting, “If you journey through this life easily offended by other people’s words I think it’s best for everyone if you just kill yourself.” Totally… and, FYI, life is a journey, not a destination. Patton Oswolt wrote, “Wow, Daniel Tosh had to apologize to a self-aggrandizing, idiotic blogger. Hope I never have to do that [again].” And Louis C.K. tweeted, “@danieltosh your show makes me laugh every time I watch it. And you have pretty eyes.” The Huffington Post has a slide show of comedians defending Tosh, if you want to read more.
But what about comedians who are critical of rape jokes and rape culture in general? The good news is that they are taking to Twitter too. And here are some of the things they have to say. You’ll notice that the humorous ones are funnier and the serious ones are smarter than the tweets in defense of Tosh.
From Lindy West From Lizz WinsteadFrom Nato GreenFrom Kamau BellFrom Hari KondaboluFrom Molly KnefelFrom Jamie KilsteinFrom Bonnie McFarlaneFrom Meghan O’KeefeFrom Katie Halper (full disclosure: the author of this is Katie Halper. At least she claims to be.)
Yesterday, I wrote about Joe Walsh’s latest lies and attacks against Tammy Duckworth, his Democratic challenger for the Congressional seat in lliinois's 8th district. See what happens when RAT (Rage Against the Truth) Joe Walsh tries to deflect from his dismal performance as the people’s representative, war enthusiast and political candidate, by shouting at Tammy Duckworth. The lieutenant colonel lost an arm and two legs in war, and as candidate now clearly articulates her battle plan against problems facing veterans and Americans—including her deadbeat dad opponent.
Tea Partier and deadbeat dad Joe Walsh, who fought against paying over $100,000 in child support to his family, loves to attack Tammy Duckworth, who fought and sacrificed an arm and two legs for her country. This time Walsh is going after Duckworth for not shutting up about her service. This is pretty ironic, given that Walsh suffers from one of the worst cases of verbal diarrhea recorded in history. (He yelled at his constituents in a coffee shop, told the president to stop lying, said the president was elected only because he was African-American, mocked Duckworth’s service on multiple occasions.) And as recently as yesterday, Walsh doubled down on his criticism on Duckworth, saying, “I do believe she talks about her service too much. And as a voter in this district, I would want to know where she stands on issues.”
Not having served himself, Joe wouldn’t know what it’s like to talk about service. So, Walsh contrasts Duckworth to John McCain, whose supposed stoicism, Walsh claims, is typical of true heroes. The implication is that Tammy “Blabber Mouth” Duckworth, on the other hand, is not a true hero. Walsh even suggests that McCain was so reluctant to talk about his military past, only physical abuse from his advisers got him to do so. Paul Waldman at The American Prospect disproves “the myth that won’t die” of McCain’s silence, pointing to several examples of McCain referring to his service.
Here, the point isn’t McCain’s focus on his military history; the point is that, as usual, Joe Walsh is making claims not supported by the facts in order to attack and distort his opponent’s heroism and sacrifice.
Above is a video I made that also contrasts Joe’s lies with the truth. This isn’t the first time Walsh’s reprehensible behavior inspired me to make a video. Who knows what he’ll come up with next. Look forward to more outrageous Walshisms from Joe, and videos from me.
This weekend the hashtag #RepublicanSongs was trending on Twitter. (For those of you unfamiliar with Twitter trending, it means that someone tweeted an idea—in this case the retitling of a popular song to reflect right-wing thinking, tagged with the hash tag #RepublicanSongs. So many people contributed their own ideas that the hashtag dominated Twitter for a day). Here are ten of the countless Republican Songs I spent my weekend—I mean, took a few minutes here and there out of my busy social calendar—coming up with. As I consider myself not only a Twitter artist but a Twitter curator, below my own titles I present a sampler of great Republican Songs tweeted by the greater Twitter community.
#RepublicanSongs from me:
My Country ’Tis of Me (My Country ’Tis of Thee)
The Times Should Not B-Changin’ (The Times They Are A-Changin’)
We Will, We Will Frack You (We Will, We Will Rock You)
I Feel So Close to You Right Now, I’m in Your Uterus (I Feel So Close to You Right Now, It’s Like a Force Field)
You Really Got a Probe in Me ( You Really Got a Hold on Me )
Yes I Really Want to Hurt You (Do You Really Want to Hurt Me)
#RepublicanSongs from other tweeps:
Saying someone is a hero and a lifesaver, lauding their invaluable and extraordinary contributions to the world, can often be hyperbole. But in the case of Dr. Stephen Levin (Oct. 16, 1941- February 8, 2012) who fought for his patients' lives as a physician and activist, and fought for change on both a cellular and a political level, it's simply a statement of fact.
I first met Steve Levin at the New York City office of Kinderland, a progressive summer camp focused on social justice. I grew up going to Kinderland, and was there for my interview to be a Counselor in Training (CIT). Steve was there, waiting for his own daughter—who had never been to Kinderland—to finish her own CIT interview. In a way, Steve's bringing his daughter Kate to that interview and that camp is a metaphor for what he did for so many people in his life; introducing them to interesting and important ideas, places and values. Steve brought his daughter to what turned out to be a healthy and happy place for her, just as he brought so many people, friends and patients to happier and healthier states. We started talking, and I liked him immediately; he was warm, engaged and engaging. He had a soothing, animated, deep voice and bright, sad brown eyes. He was excited and nervous about his daughter’s first time in camp and when she came out of the interview, his face lit up—Kate has this effect on him—and he enthusiastically introduced us, eager for his newbie daughter to meet an experienced Kinderlander. When they left I hoped and suspected that I'd see them again. And I did; Kate and I became CITs that summer and, more importantly, good friends. I was 15 when I met Steve. And that was 15 years ago. I've known Steve for half of my life.
Steve Levin was the Medical Director of the Mount Sinai Irving J. Selikoff Center for Occupational and Environmental Medicine, a Professor of Occupational Medicine at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine, and the Co-Director of the World Trade Center Worker and Volunteer Medical Screening Program. What is occupational medicine, you may be asking. In a speech he delivered accepting an award for for his contributions to the field, Steve described occupational medicine as,
"work that combines clinical medicine, research, and advocacy for people who need the assistance of health professionals to obtain some measure of justice and health care for illnesses they suffer as a result of companies pursuing the biggest profits they can make, no matter what the effect on workers or the communities they operate in."
But this was not the trajectory Steve always had in mind. Born and raised in Philadelphia to working class parents—his father a carpenter, his mother a hospital worker—and a graduate of Wesleyan University and the New York University School of Medicine, Steve planned to become a rich doctor, a heart surgeon to the stars.
When he received the Collegium Ramazzini's Irving J. Selikoff Memorial Award, Steve attributed his transformation to his friendship with a member of the Young Lords (YLO), a Puerto Rican civil rights group, who exposed Steve to "the conditions some people in East Harlem had to live in. Frozen cascades of water from leaking pipes running down the stairs; old folks huddled under blankets for warmth in freezing apartments. I had never seen anything like this." Steve started working with the Young Lords,"and it changed what
I wanted to do with my life. The more I learned about the causes of the social and economic inequalities in this country and the rest of the world, the more I felt I had to try to be part of changing the conditions people face, in my town, in my country, so that the majority of the people in the world, who work hard just to maintain a life of basics, or are poor and at the margins, could live in security and peace and do all the good things people are capable of together when they’re not made miserable."
Steve began to believe that "if people were active in large numbers, through a host of different expressions of their opinions and ideas, things could change. I felt that somehow I wanted to combine the real satisfaction of taking care of patients and being involved in helping people get organized in their own interests."
So, instead of chasing the easy life, Steve became a family doctor to the not-so-rich and not so famous in the factory town of Pottstown, Pennsylvania. He charged his patients what they could afford: $2 for workers, $7 for management. He also worked with community organizers fighting against racial discrimination in the educational system, worked as a doctor in the state prison and ran the town's Planned Parenthood clinic. Steve worked with members of the United Rubber Workers, who worked in a plant removing vinyl chloride. When management refused to provide the workers with respirators, a group of plant workers organized a protest, which Steve supported, that led to shut down of the plant. Three days later, respirators were provided. Steve considered this experience "eye opening." He realized that, "science and facts alone don’t always change what happens to people, but when people use these facts in combination with political means, big changes can result, in this case definitely changing health and safety conditions on the job."
Steve had started practicing occupational medicine, before he even knew the field existed. He returned to New York and got the last residency slot in occupational medicine at Mount Sinai, where he would practice medicine and teach for the rest of his life.
In the 1990s, Steve helped ensure that federal and New York State authorities required the provision of respirators and vacuum hoses to protect bridge workers from lead poisoning. In 2000 and 2004, Steve's research and testimony helped convict Joseph Thorn and father and son Alexander and Raul Salvagno, owners of asbestos abatement companies in New York. Both Thorn and the Salagnos sentenced workers to lung cancer, mesothelioma and asbestosis by forcing them to use illegal and unsafe asbestos removal techniques without proper protection. The Salvagnos secretly co-owned a lab that produced 75,000 fraudulent laboratory analysis results on asbestos levels. Steve would go to union hall meetings to convince workers who had asbestos exposures to get screened and get low dose CT scans every year or every other year so asbestos related disease could be detected sooner rather than later. He saved many lives by doing this, as mesothelioma can be treated now if caught early enough. Steve was one of the two primary investigators for a project on asbestos exposure among electrical power generation workers in Puerto Rico.
Steve was also the primary investigator for a project on Libby, Montana, a mining town where thousands of workers and residents had been exposed to asbestos-contaminated vermiculite ore: "Working with the docs and the other health professionals in Libby who for years have been fighting for resources to take care of those who are ill and to get the contaminated town cleaned up has been one of the most satisfying areas of work I’ve been able to do."
Steve's work as an advocate and physician for World Trade Center rescue and recovery workers is another part of his legacy. Steve and his colleagues started planning what would become the clinic for WTC workers just days after 9/11. Ninety percent of the 10,116 firefighters and other responders reported an acute cough within the first 48 hours, as a study the clinic put out three years later would document. In 2006, Steve recalled,
"When we heard Christie Todd Whitman get on TV and say that the air quality was safe we were horrified because we already knew that there were people being exposed to high burdens of irritants down there and that people were already suffering respiratory problems, so we knew that it couldn't possibly be safe. It had terrible consequences."
In 2003, Steve couldn't be sure about the future numbers or rates of disease: “I’m not saying we’ll see a huge wave of cancers in 20 years, but I know the rate won’t be zero." But Steve was certain that action had to be taken immediately: "The point is not to count statistics, but to plug the people who need it into care and to detect the diseases as early as possible, when we still might have a shot at curing them.” Levin was not afraid to highlight how the EPA lied and endangered the health and lives of the recue and recovery workers: "For too many of these men and women, the EPA's false reassurance that the air quality in lower Manhattan was safe led to their being exposed to much more than they otherwise would have been. Many people did not wear the respiratory protection that they really needed." The clinic, which received more than $12 million from the government, has already screened and treated more than 20,000 workers, and released over a dozen studies. One 2006 study showed that approximately 30% of the patients screened (at that point, 12,000) suffered from chronic asthma and bronchitis, and 17% suffered from PTSD and depression.
Upon learning of Steve's death, Representative Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) reflected on the large role he played in the passage of the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act. “Without Dr. Levin’s pioneering research, service, and dedication to 9/11 responders, volunteers, and survivors, we may never have passed the Zadroga Act."
The New York Committee for Occupational Safety and Health (NYCOSH) called Steve,
"an advocate for health of workers in the broadest sense. He devoted his life and extraordinary talents not only to ensuring that workers who contracted occupational diseases got the best possible treatment, but to preventing workers from being exposed to the conditions that caused the illnesses. He saw the fight for higher wages, better working conditions shorter hours, education, transportation and housing as part of the struggle for the health of the working class as a whole."
In their editorial "The Good Doctor" The Daily News called Steve, “a doctor who had superbly served his patients, his city and his country.”
The transit Workers Union stated,
"All New York City workers owe a debt of gratitude to Dr. Stephen Levin, a trained occupational medical physician at Mt. Sinai Hospital, whether they know it or not. But one very special group of workers – those including 3,000 transit workers who responded to Ground Zero – does know him well. He played a key role in exposing and understanding the deadly toxins that swirled around us on 9/11 and in the days following....Steve understood that a physician’s work does not stop at a diagnosis and a treatment plan. He fully supported our members in their sometimes life-and-death struggle for workers’ compensation, pension benefits, and for their World Trade Center benefit. Often alone, he stood with us."
From San Juan, Puerto Rico, Ricardo Santos Ramos of the Electric Industry Union Workers (UTIER) said "The workers of Puerto Rico and of the world have lost a great ally. For UTIER, Dr. Levin, an honorary member of our organization, was a great help in our struggle for workers' safety."
The responses to Steve's passing reveal not just his political side, but his personal side. Those of us who knew him and know him, know that the world lost not only an incredible activist, organizer, thinker, doctor and advocate, but an incredible person, friend, husband, father, brother, son, and mensch.
Santos Ramos also said "We have lost a great friend, a brother.... We will always remember Stephen, along with his colleague Doctor Irving Selikoff, also deceased, as doctors of the workers, of the humble and we will have to honor them by fighting for the living.
The Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization (ADAO) praised Steve, the doctor and the friend:
"Last night we lost an amazing scientist, caring doctor, hero to workers, and friend…. Dr. Levin’s tireless work can be seen, heard, read and felt everywhere. As Maya Angelou said, ‘I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.’ Dr. Levin will be missed, but never forgotten."
They had put together this video the same day he died.
The New York Committee for Occupational Safety and Health reflected,
"We were honored to have known Steve; to have been able to call him a friend. We will miss his impact in the fight for safer workplaces, but will also miss his counsel, his wonderful sense of humor, his ability to work with people from different backgrounds—hospital administrators, union officials, rank and file workers and community residents—to build. His passing is a painful loss. He will be greatly missed."
Laura Linker the Project Manager for Libby Epidemiology Research Program told me,
He was a champion of causes, always on the side of what was right. He fiercely fought to educate people about asbestos related diseases, and occupational and environmental medicine in general. He was one of those rare breed of individuals who was admired and respected by virtually everybody he met (but most especially by his patients). He just had such a presence about him. He was an extraordinary ordinary individual who "got" people, and spoke to each individual based on who they were as people. So that everyone's experience of him was different, but almost everyone could agree that he was about the nicest, calmest, most passionate person you would ever meet.
As an aside-It's true that after EVERY encounter with him (a phone call, or seeing him in his office) I said aloud, "what a lovely man"(there are witnesses). Because he just was an all around incredible person. He will be dearly missed.
Steve would have no time for these words, however. When the New York Times asked Steve's wife Robin Dintiman how he had responded to the passage of the Zadroga bill, she said, “He was too much of a nose-to-the-grindstone guy to be relishing that accomplishment. He just moved on to the next battle for working guys.
Even facing his own cancer and death, Steve was relentless in his fight for medical justice. Robin explained to me how only a few months ago, "he had nine union guys over to the house to talk about a tissue bank project and the next day he was in the hospital with a 104 temperature. He was just trying to square things off," ensuring that the project would continue on without him. Steve was acutely aware of fact that "this health care system is more and more about making money," Robin said, and, with only a handful of residency programs in occupational medicine, he was concerned about "how to get young people to understand and devote themselves to the needs and health of working people." He wanted his death to help bring attention and resources to occupational medicine as an important part of medicine.” The family and Mount Sinai hope to establish a scholarship in Steve’s name to generate interest in occupational medicine.
Steve's daughter Kate said, "My dad will live on not only through the work he did, but through the daily example he set for how to live. It was in his nature to love and respect other people, and he tried to do right by others in every interaction, from everyday conversations to larger struggles for justice." And Laura confirmed that Steve's work does live on,
Though those of us who knew Steve feel honored and lucky, he considered himself lucky to have had the opportunity to do the work he did. Wrapping up his speech accepting the Irving J. Selikoff Memorial Award, Steve said, “Let me finish by expressing my gratitude….for this award, but maybe even more for the opportunity to do work that has been and continues to be so satisfying, and for the opportunity to work with so many good, socially conscious friends and colleagues…… and get paid for it. Nothing, it seems to me, could be luckier than that.” Perhaps the only thing luckier than that was loving and being loved by his amazing family: his wife Robin, his sons Jonathan, Joey and David and his daughter Kate, his mother Sarah (who he called every day) and sister Ginny.
Once, when Steve was over, my uncle made a political point with which Steve heartily agreed. He pointed his finger at both my uncle and the accuracy of the remark and said “yeah.” Kate and I coined this move the SLFP (the Steve Levinian Finger Point). It was an act of testimony, affirmation, and support. It was a connection, an atheist’s “amen.” And we would SLFP at each other frequently. After Steve died, I was thrilled to come across a video featuring the SLFP. So, Steve, here’s a SLFP right back at you.
Image credit: © Allan Tannenbaum from 9/11: Still Killing
1. The biggest shock of the night is that it’s a Saturday night and MSNBC isn’t screening Lockdown.
2. #DontBother is trending on Twitter. I’m pretty sure that was Twitter talking to Mitt Romney.
3. The Romney rally does the wave, demonstrating just how in touch the Romney campaign is with the American people… circa 1997. The empty Mitt Romney podium visible as we wait for the Governor to arrive serves as the perfect Mittaphor: it’s there, and it says Mitt Romney, but there’s nothing actually behind it.
4. Ron Paul shows up in an outfit that suggests he’s trying to steal some of Rick Santorum’s sweater vest thunder and says: “[crazy, crazy, crazy, something smart on foreign policy, crazy, crazy, crazy, something smart on special interests, gold is good, end the fed, crazy, crazy, crazy].”
5. Rick Santorum comes out (sans sweater vest, which may be the reason he lost). He proclaims that he and his grandfather are among the people who hold on tightly to their guns and Bibles. But in the case of his grandfather, I’m pretty sure he means he holds on tightly to his hammer and sickle.
6. Chris Matthews delivers absolutely terrible news to Florida when he says that Gingrich “is gonna hit all the erogenous zones down there.”
7. Newt surprises world by not coming out on a litter carried by poor children.
8. Newt calls out the elites. Because nothing screams salt of the earth more than a man with a Tiffany’s habit.
9. Newt also demonstrates how in touch he is with the American—and specifically South Carolinian—people, by dropping an always-resonant Saul Alinsky reference.
10. Obama supporters worldwide pray that Florida is just as racist as South Carolina, that they find a moderator of color and that the moderator brings up Gingrich’s affairs.
Last night’s 179th GOP debate of the season taught us so much, again, about the GOP candidates: socialism for the military, no government at all for anyone else, protect zygotes, execute humans, “I swear I never once provided a single person with healthcare”/ “Yes you did!”/ “Did not!”/ “Did too!,” etc. But the biggest revelations of last night did not occur at the debates.
Thursday, I blogged about Marianne Gingrich, one of Newt’s several exes, and her tell-a-little interview (and how inconceivable sex with Newt Gingrich was to me). That was based on a mere preview of Marianne’s interview that ABC had released. But after the debate, ABC ran the entire at-least-a-couple-of-minutes-long interview. Here’s what stood out:
• Gingrich left his first wife after she got cancer and left Marianne after she got MS. The take-away is that at least Newt is consistent and that Callista better take her multi-vitamins, though she does have her age on her side.
• It was while he was cheating on his wife that Newt crucified Clinton for his infidelity and stated that there was “no administration with less moral authority than the Clinton-Gore administration.”
• Marianne Gingrich knows about only “some of” the skeletons Newt keeps in his closet since, presumably, he has more skeletons than could fit in one closet or one person’s mind. And, of course, Newt has continued collecting skeletons since leaving his wife, so she’s in the dark on those.
So, last night, we learned, or relearned, that Newt Gingrich is seriously one of the most disgusting, cheating, hurtful, wife-hopping people in the world. We also learned something about President Obama that puts him on the other end of the disgusting/adorable spectrum. And that is that he can sing! Which he did, at a fundraiser at the Apollo Theater in Harlem. Perhaps Newt’s unfaithfulness (and the fact that Al Green was at the fundraiser) was what made Obama sing a few (too few) bars from Green’s classic, “Let’s Stay Together” and, specifically, the words “I’m so in love with you.” I pity the wives of Gingrich, but I envy Michelle Obama. See the video and look out for the president’s Kermit the Frog moves. It should convince the “there’s no difference between a Republican and a Democrat” crowd that, when it comes to Gingrich and Obama, there’s a huge difference, at least on a personal level. And, of course, as we all know, the personal is political.
Rick Perry may have quit the race—at a Wendy’s, appropriately—but his words will always be with us. Here are some of the gems he said during the campaign. We’ll always have the memories! And the video! Perry has endorsed Gingrich, in his latest gaffe, and Newt has officially asked Perry to head a Tenth Amendment enforcement project for him. I would have gone with the Second:
Personally, I would hate to be married to Newt Gingrich. If I were, I imagine I’d consider seeking refuge from the smug, odious, racist, classist, Garbage Pail Kid/Michelin Man hybrid in the arms of another. I wouldn’t be nervous about Gingrich cheating on me not because of his character, but because I would find it inconceivable that any other woman would find him attractive. One is just a fluke. But, shockingly enough, it was Newt who wanted to have an open marriage. Well, that’s not fair, he wanted to have a mistress and cheat on his wife, but when he finally admitted to cheating on his wife, he asked for an open marriage to accommodate what was then a six-year-long affair.
On Monday, Republicans showed their esteem for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. by holding a debate on on the holiday honoring him in the last state to recognize it. To South Carolina’s credit, it only took it seventeen years to catch up with the times, adopt the holiday and remove that good old Confederate Flag from its state house. And, in perfect harmony, all the candidates standing on the South Carolina stage last night advocate and have tried to implement policies which Dr. King fought against, or would have fought against.
The only question is how overt and how extensive they are in their rejection of King’s ideas. Some candidates are more Carolinian, by which I mean more in touch with their racist sides, such as Ron Paul who, while praising Martin Luther King as his hero, voted against Martin Luther King, Jr. Day and would have voted against the Civil Rights Act. (If this is how Paul treats his heroes, I shudder at the thought of how he would treat his enemies.) On the other end of the spectrum stands Mitt Romney, who isn’t particularly racist, though his religions—free market capitalism, limited government and Mormonism—don’t have the best track record when it comes to people of color (especially black people, in the Mormon case).
But as anyone who has ever looked beyond the G-rated version of Martin Luther King Jr. knows, race, class and foreign policy were inextricably linked for King. And Romney’s embrace of unbridled capitalism and hawkish foreign policy land him at ideological odds with the civil rights leader. What’s remarkable, though, is imagining the language that Romney would use about King if he had lived to today and had his message not been sanitized and distorted. Given that Romney accuses Obama of launching class warfare, being a socialist with “European ideas” (read foreigner), what would he have said about King, who, unlike Obama, openly embraced socialist democracy, critiqued US foreign policy and called America the “greatest purveyor of violence in the world”? Thanks to video footage of Martin Luther King and Mitt Romney, we have an idea.