Wondering about Kobe Bryant

Mamba and Mambacita Foundation

Kobe BryantGreg, one of the first bloggers I met online, nearly 15 years ago, and the father of two daughters (relevant here, I think) wondered:

I don’t know if I’ve asked you, but how do you reconcile Kobe Bryant’s rather skeevy sex life – and possible raping – with admiring his work with his daughters and girls’ sports in general? So many people seemed to give him a pass on the former when he died while lauding the latter, and I just can’t.

It really annoys me that he quite probably got away with rape because he’s rich, and it simply vanished from his biography except for some minor mentions. His wonderful work with girls’ sports always seemed like an attempt to buy redemption to me. It’s great and I’m glad he did it, but it seemed to work, too.

A reasonable question. First of all, I had to look at the Los Angeles Times article about the case. The piece came out shortly after he died, about a year ago.

“Yet one major off-the-court hit to Bryant’s reputation took place June 30, 2003, in a hotel room at the Lodge & Spa at Cordillera in the Rocky Mountains town of Edwards, Colo. A 19-year-old woman working as the front-desk clerk accompanied Bryant on a tour of the property. She later went to Bryant’s hotel room, where she said he raped her.

Kobe Bryant, 24 at the time, was charged with one count of felony assault. It took 14 months for the criminal case to be resolved. The accuser decided she would not testify, and prosecutors dropped the case Sept. 1, 2004. A civil suit brought by the accuser in August 2004 was settled out of court on March 2, 2005, marking the end of an often-graphic legal saga that drew worldwide attention but never resulted in a trial.”

There’s a whole bunch of details about the accuser’s loss of resolve, and mistakes by the court system, including her name being released to the media.

“Bryant never spoke publicly about the case after the July 2003 news conference, although he did issue the following statement on the day the criminal case was dismissed.”


“’First, I want to apologize directly to the young woman involved in this incident. I want to apologize to her for my behavior that night and for the consequences she has suffered in the past year. Although this year has been incredibly difficult for me personally, I can only imagine the pain she has had to endure.

“’I also want to apologize to her parents and family members, and to my family and friends and supporters, and to the citizens of Eagle, Colorado. I also want to make it clear that I do not question the motives of this young woman…

“Although I truly believe this encounter between us was consensual, I recognize now that she did not and does not view this incident the same way I did. After months of reviewing discovery, listening to her attorney, and even her testimony in person, I now understand how she feels that she did not consent to this encounter.”

So I felt that Kobe Bryant took at least some responsibility for his actions. More to your point, I think that the court case, and especially being the father of four daughters, changed him. One sees the inequality and difference of opportunity for girls compared with boys, though it is shrinking.

I’m not sure he wanted to “buy” redemption. In addition to his family foundation, he worked with Make-A-Wish Foundation, and also supported after-school programs, cancer research, efforts to help the homeless, and more . His participation was usually hands-on, not just writing a check.

Just Mercy

I’m also taken by something that lawyer Byran Stevenson wrote in his book  Just Mercy. He notes that “he often had conversations with clients who were struggling and despairing over their situations and the things they had done, or were done to them. These clients would question the value of their lives, and he would remind them that <em>they were more than the worst thing they had ever done.</em>  You can also hire a drug crime lawyers in Festus to fight your case.

“‘If you tell a lie, that does not mean you are just a liar. If you take something that is not yours, that does not mean you are just a thief. Even if you kill someone, you are not just a killer.

“‘Understanding this is helpful not just for those who may be questioning the value of their lives, it is also helpful for all of us. We have all judged someone as a result of something that person has done, but we should not define someone just based on that act.’

“Stevenson notes that we are all broken in one way or another, and understanding our brokenness creates not only a need and desire for mercy but also a corresponding need to show mercy.

“The power of just mercy is that it belongs to the undeserving; it’s when mercy is least expected that it is most potent.” Check out the movie.

I think we all deserve a shot at redemption.

Brock Turner’s crime

“Do not talk about the sad way your life was upturned because alcohol made you do bad things. Figure out how to take responsibility for your own conduct.”

stanford-rape-case-brock-turner--400x300When something sucky happens, it’s natural to want to find some semblance of a silver lining. Back in January 2015, Brock Turner, a Stanford University student and All-American swimmer, sexually assaulted a young, unconscious woman behind a trash dumpster. And HE portrays HIMSELF as the victim.

“I’ve been shattered by the party culture and risk taking behavior that I briefly experienced in my four months at school,” writes the former college undergrad. “I’ve lost my chance to swim in the Olympics.”

“Turner blames the sexual assault he committed on a campus culture of excessive alcohol consumption, peer pressure, and ‘sexual promiscuity.'”

Ah, yes, Brock Turner was not schooled in knowing that his newly-found “sexual promiscuity” does not, in any way, equate to sexual assault. Yet he got a judge to feel bad for his sorry self, who gave him a mere six months in the county jail, which is functionally three months, rather than the six years in prison the prosecutors requested, or the 14-year maximum for the three charges for which he was convicted.

People are outraged, naturally, because Brock’s father, Dan sighed: “That punishment was a steep price to pay for 20 minutes of action.” He’s referring to his precious son, of course, NOT THE VICTIM OF THE CRIME. “He will never be his happy-go-lucky self.” Boo frickin’ hoo.

Was the judge’s extremely lenient sentence a function of gross sexism, racism, and/or classism? Any or all, though that classic affluenza defense, which got a light sentence for that drunk kid in Texas who killed four people, must be considered.

In Turner’s case, “further scrutiny on the judge’s remarks at sentencing appear to suggest he concluded the defendant had ‘less moral culpability’ because he was drunk, and that a light sentence would be an ‘antidote’ to the anxiety he had suffered from intense media attention on the case.” Brock Turner’s anxiety.

But I’m convinced there’s an additional factor. The judge, Aaron Persky, was captain of the lacrosse team. At Stanford. I think it’s the alumni jock thing, protecting the tribe, that came into play. His decision has led to a drive to recall the judge, which they can do in California, and I’d support that.

Now, obviously, there IS a rape culture in this society, in the military, on college campuses, and elsewhere. And I think this travesty of a sentence does nothing to stop it.

The parody site The Onion ran a piece College Basketball Star Heroically Overcomes Tragic Rape He Committed back in February 2011. It’d be funny if it weren’t so true.

Still, I might have let this story go, or at least not write about it. But there was a blogger in the Times Union, my local newspaper, who wrote a post which I, and several others, believe was classic blaming the victim. It was so incendiary that it got lots of hits for the TU website, and will be featured in today’s dead tree version. Fortunately, another blogger responded with more patience than I could have mustered.

So what IS the upside of this whole ordeal? The survivor’s statement, where she was able to control the public narrative without giving up her privacy, able to say the things that others in her situation could not.

She writes, in part: “I have done enough explaining. You do not get to shrug your shoulders and be confused anymore. You do not get to pretend that there were no red flags. You do not get to not know why you ran. You have been convicted of violating me with malicious intent, and all you can admit to is consuming alcohol. Do not talk about the sad way your life was upturned because alcohol made you do bad things. Figure out how to take responsibility for your own conduct.”

Vice-President Joe Biden wrote of the survivor of Brock Turner’s attack: “I do not know your name—but I see your unconquerable spirit.” Both she and the Veep have noted the decency of the two young men who came to her aid.

I also appreciated To Brock Turner’s Father, From Another Father. And other women, outraged by this decision, were likewise emboldened, such as this one.

Remember, consent is like tea. OK, it’s an overly simplistic concept, but it makes a useful point.

March Rambling: a quintillion or a trillion?

Fred Hembeck talks about a compilation of his Marvel work, House of Hem.

Delayed exoneration of a death row inmate, after 30 years.

9 Things Many Americans Just Don’t Grasp (Compared to the Rest of the World).

“The phone rang. It was my college rapist.”

What Happens When Mein Kampf’s Copyright Expires?

Building Equity: Race, Ethnicity, Class and Protected Bike Lanes.

Giving Homes to the Homeless is Cheaper Than Leaving them on the Street.

Man vs. Machine. A guy walks into a bar. He finds a video poker machine – run by the Oregon state lottery – which dealt him a strange hand.

Re: NCAA men’s basketball March Madness, the odds of a perfect bracket? It’s not 1 in 9.2 quintillion. Not incidentally, 10^18, or one followed by 18 zeroes is in the English system, one trillion. In any case, 9.2 quintillion is NOT 9.20000000000000000000, as NBC Nightly News showed earlier this month; THAT number is equal to a number smaller than 10.

Dustbury explained +/- (plus/minus) in basketball to me: “It’s based on the changing score during a player’s actual time: if, during a six-minute period in which he plays, if his team scores three points more than the opposition, he is +3. This of course varies greatly with substitutions, but electronic box scores update every minute or so.”

John Oliver won’t be your therapist: How he torpedoed the reassuring tropes of fake news.

Selma: the tragic anniversary of the death of Viola Liuzzo and Underground Railroad Project remembers the March.

Joseph Skulan on Wisconsin Mining Bill AB486 (2.17.12).

Major League Baseball’s Dirty Little Secret and Through the No-Looking Glass and Professional Ice Cream Taster.

25 maps that explain the English language.

Jaquandor: Writing Outside the Lines: on outlines. Plus the beer-drinking, 1970s sitcom DVD-watching Hank Speaks: How I Edit.

Dustbury hears voices; I’ve experienced this, too.

Gordon’s eight years in Chicago.

For all you lovers of the dance: here is an explanation of the influence of Africa on modern dance – if you have three hours to spare.

The Beatles or the Stones: Which Side Are You On? “If the Stones resented the Beatles’ cultural primacy, the Beatles resented the Stones’ unassailable coolness and sexual heat.” The Beatles themselves were like other men, but the music and lyrics channeled through them contained magic and messages from beyond the mind.

“Back when L.A.’s recording scene was a hit-minting machine that ruled the airwaves,” the Wrecking Crew worked up to four three-hour sessions a day. Here’s a review of a film about them.

Not only Diana Ross but also Mary Wilson turned 71 this month. 10 underrated Supremes songs.

SamuraiFrog ranks the Weird Al Yankovic songs: 165-151 and 150-136 and 135-126 and 125-116.

Art Spiegelman and jazz composer Phillip Johnston: “Wordless!”

Swamp Thing music.

The cover art on your favorite band’s album is awesome. It’s even better with cats. Must show the Daughter.

My friend Fred Hembeck is interviewed, and talks about a compilation of his Marvel work, House of Hem.

Irwin Hasen, R.I.P., the artist of the comic strip Dondi. Here’s the New York Times obit.

Trailers for 2015: The Best Animated Short nominees.

Muppets: Jim Henson Company and the ‘Into the Woods’ Movie that Could’ve Been and the message of “Rainbow Connection’ and Cookie Monster, Life Coach and Cookie Monster is making unboxing videos and Animal’s Whiplash.

How To Make The IDEAL Chocolate Chip Cookie: Add A Pinch of Science.

Getting more mayonnaise and toothpaste out of the container.

Dominoes and Etch-A-Sketch.

Srinivasa Ramanujan’s Magic Square.

Welcome to the Inauthentic Paper Detector. “Paste any text in the textbox. The chance that your submission is a human-written authentic scientific document will be output. Text over 50% chance will be classified as authentic.” Here’s the paper about it. Everything I write is inauthentic.


Chuck Miller: Welcome to the club, Roger Green!! Apparently, I have posted 1000 times on my Times Union blog. I had no idea. Also, Another win for the TU Community Bloggers.

My blog post re: the Barber Adagio was linked to EvilGeniusVic’s Capital Region.

Sharp Little Pencil: Outhouses and Holes We Dig, for Wisconsin governor Scott Walker.

Jaquandor’s Sentential Links (the Leonard Nimoy edition).

The Bill Cosby disintegration

The Cosby Show helped to redefine, for a while, what black people on TV were like.

Kennedy Center Honors winner Bill Cosby (1998)
Kennedy Center Honors winner Bill Cosby (1998)

Mark Evanier was right when he wrote: “You can kind of tell Bill Cosby is in serious trouble because the photos of him have all gone from looking like” the Cosby of thirty or forty years ago “to looking like” the 77-year-old man that he is. “Much the same change has occurred in a lot of minds.”

Bill Cosby was someone I looked to, not just because I found him funny. Though I did find his stories hilarious, especially on his comedy albums of the mid-1960s.

He was, at least as a public figure, a decent person, supportive of education in particular, for which he received a Ph.D. It’d be difficult to overstate the importance of his role on the TV show I Spy. I suggest that he was as significant an entertainer, and specifically a black performer, as Harry Belafonte or Sidney Poitier.

I enjoyed the Bill Cosby Show, where he played a teacher. His role as a doctor, husband, and father with an upwardly mobile family on the Cosby Show helped to redefine, for a while, what black people on TV were like.

While I barely care what the Duggar family, or that Duck Dynasty guy, or someone from Honey Boo Boo, or Kirk Cameron say or do, Bill Cosby engendered a lot of goodwill. Heck, he could sell us Jello pudding.

So these accusations of rape are increasingly credible, with story after story of similar detail.

One can ask why there were hints and allegations going back years, yet no charges were filed, and the statute of limitations has passed. It’s reasonable to assume it was from the horrible embarrassment the women would likely have gone through. As proof, note the verbal abuse the accusers are currently experiencing.

As The Atlantic put it: “Lacking physical evidence, adjudicating rape accusations is a murky business for journalists. But believing Bill Cosby does not require you to take one person’s word over another—it requires you take one person’s word over 15 others.”

Or as Cynthia Tucker put it: “Cliff Huxtable And Bill Cosby Are No Longer The Same Man.” And quite possibly, never were.
Dirty little open secrets: How the Jian Ghomeshi scandal helped turn the tide against Bill Cosby.

Equality, rape culture, and the war on women

So, is there a “war on women” when women at war are being raped?

I’ve been thinking about the rights of women a LOT lately. There are so many examples of what’s wrong – and to be sure a couple that are right – that it’s overwhelmed me. (And it’s taken at least a couple of weeks to write this piece.)

In New York State, “The Women’s Equality Agenda will safeguard women’s health, extend protections against sexual harassment in the workplace, help to achieve pay equity, and increase protections against discrimination in employment, housing, credit, and lending.” Sounds wonderful, of course. The big hangup for some is over abortion rights, a huge issue.

But I think the conversation about whether there is a “war on women” had been framed too much on abortion and birth control – sometimes reframed by the talking heads, to be sure.

Though there does seem to be a sexual component in all of this. In his review about Fiona Apple’s song Criminal, MDS writes: “Let’s just admit something upfront right now: as a society, we are all pretty much terrified of girls and young women having sex. Terrified. Been that way since the beginning of time, I guess. Which is why for a while there we bottled up virginity in exchange for land before the wedding ceremony. Chastity belts and dowries are mostly archaic things that no society really trades in anymore, but that doesn’t mean we haven’t figured out new ways of badly dealing with girls and young women and their sex-having. We slut-shame. A lot.”

You’ll find gender issues in comics and other entertainment, including the suggestion that the woman of a married couple in the comic business got where she was because of him when she in fact had several credits before they even dated. Someone complains about the lack of female protagonists in video games is savaged on Twitter.

So, is there a “war on women” when women at war are being raped? Recently, and I’m quoting Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) here: “The Senate Armed Services Committee held its first full hearing on sexual assault in the military in a decade. Of the twenty witnesses, only two were there as victim advocates. The other 18 were representing the top ranks of the military and uniformly opposed our efforts to reform the military justice system.”

Meanwhile, Senator Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) suggested that the “hormone level created by nature” was to blame for rapes in the military and that all pregnant servicewomen should be investigated to make sure their condition was the result of consensual sex.

Former baseball star Jose Canseco’s defense of a rape allegation against him is that he doesn’t HAVE to rape to get women to bed, showing his sheer ignorance. Then he makes his situation worse by going on Twitter and attacks his accuser by name.

What caught my attention more recently was comedian Patton Oswalt’s reversal about rape as a source of humor. “I was secure in thinking my point of view was right. That ‘rape culture’ was an illusion, that the examples of comedians telling ‘rape jokes’ in which the victim was the punchline were exceptions that proved the rule. I’ve never wanted to rape anyone. No one I know has ever expressed a desire to rape anyone. My viewpoint must be right. Right?” It’s long (addresses two other topics) and rambling, but makes an interesting point.

A report on working moms came out. It showed that 40% of the households have moms that are either sole breadwinners or making more than their husbands; BTW, that latter category would include MY household. The men at FOX News were so histrionic: “Society dissolv[ing] around us,” said Lou Dobbs. A sign of “something going terribly wrong in American society,” said Juan Williams. Erick Erickson chimed in and said having moms as breadwinners were against “biology” and said people who defend moms are “anti-science.”

Happily, they got slammed by their female colleagues on FOX, including Megan Kelly. This particular article also disses some of the MSNBC women for not calling to task the men on their network, notably Chris Matthews, over the stupid, hateful things THEY have said. Don’t know if it’s Rachel Maddow’s job to do so, but I agree that Matthews, for one, has made vile, sexist comments, especially about Hillary Clinton.

I haven’t even scratched the surface: e.g., Texas governor Rick Perry recently vetoed an equal pay bill. Instead, I’ll hang on my great hope from the words of Jean Luc Picard himself, Patrick Stewart, which you should just watch. He speaks, among other things, about the role men must play in curbing violence against women.

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