Friday, February 27, 2009

Mrs. Polly On the Air: KPFT's the Inner Side

Scooter, Host of the Innerside on KPFT, the Houston Pacifica station, said, "I've been thinking of having a Ladies' Night for the women of Rumproast. What do y'all think?" The women of Rumproast (America's Meatiest Blog) looked at each other, gulped, and said, "Yer on, Scooter!"

"This ain't no BS Blogtalk radio either, this is a 100,000 watt antenna, we go out all over Texas and the Gulf Coast," Scooter reminded us. "It'll be fun, we'll crunch some bones."

Rumproast first met Scooter through the mewls and hisses of diehard Hillary Clintoniacs known as PUMAs. One of them had bid on an hour of airtime at KPFT. The PUMAs used their hour to alternately scream at and dump startled KPFT callers who disagreed with them. Since they had "proudly voted a straight Republican ticket", and KPFT is a Pacifica station, that meant everybody.

To Scooter, host of his own weekly satirical program scheduled immediately after, this was a gorgeous, gift-wrapped box of crazy, delivered right to his doorstep.

He immediately put together a montage of PUMA screeches which he called "Five Minutes of Hate from the Daughters of the Democratic Confederacy." That, plus a surreal pitched battle between forces of PUMA and Rumproast on the KPFT program director's blog, led to Scooter's and the Meaty Blog's alliance.

Scooter invited two Rumproast personages to guest on his show: proprietor Kevin K, and RR's foremost practitioner of both gravity and waggery, billed intriguingly as "in the dark robes, the mysterious Dr. Strange." The show went well, and no KPFT callers were harmed during the broadcast.

Rumproast has, besides Kevin, three active posters, all women, including me, Mrs. Polly. It has an audience of mixed genders and sexual orientations. The PUMAs, incredulous that anyone with female body parts would not follow in their wandering pawprints, tastefully branded the women of Rumproast as "little female house slaves."

So I found it immensely satisfying to be invited on the radio instead of, as Scooter called her," Icepick Voice," PUMA's "Five Minutes of Hate" headliner (who artlessly expected to be asked back for more of her squeaky wisdom).

What was not so satisfying was the powerful case of nerves I developed. "It's a conversation, not an interview," Scooter said, but I worked myself up to a fever pitch nevertheless. It was the sort of neurotic mania that I could cure when I was ten by lying on the cool patch of rug under the piano. Now lying under the piano wouldn't have the same effect unless I added a bottle of Scotch. So I scoured the papers, made notes, and ate chocolate instead.

I also studied Kevin's and Strange's program. Jesus. They talked knowledeably about cabinet nominations. They had a world-view. They quipped. (Strange, on Obama's speechwriter, who had been photographed groping a cut-out of Hillary: "Kevin, you shouldn't publicize that--there are people who have cardboard family members.")

The show was how long? I listened again, and was slightly cheered on the second hearing. That was a bunch of time spent on Jennifer Aniston posing in nothing but a necktie! And Tina Fey. Yes, yes, brains, beauty, total package, what man wouldn't admire her, yes. I smiled, reserved to myself the right to think of George Clooney, and felt like a much calmer little female house slave. I stopped cramming for the test, and relaxed a bit. Aren't men wonderful, though.

On Thursday, 11:30 P.M. East coast time, our phone rang, I picked it up, and said, "Hello Scooter!" Instantly, my thoughts flipped over like beetles on their backs, their little legs wiggling helplessly. Scooter tried leading the witness, asking me about subjects I'd said I could discourse on. I shamelessly let my fellow guest, Denise Williams, take the first few questions.

About ten minutes into the show, my brain stopped flat-lining and began to function in a halting kind of way. I'm not entirely sure what I said, but I seem to remember "Arabic naughty lingerie parties." And telling a story about snarfing communion wafers as if they were potato chips.

If KPFT thought it had gotten angry calls from the PUMA invasion, I'm pretty sure they paled in comparison to the inadvertant combo crusade and fatwa that have probably been declared on that station. A crufatwasade.

Always happy to bring people together.

Here it is, the half-hour Innerside production of what we're calling Prime Rib Radio.

Next Thursday will be the second half of the Prime Rib Radio series, 10:30 PM Houston Time, 11:30 PM Eastern Time, with Scooter, marindenver and Betty Cracker, the other little female house slaves of Rumproast.

Scooter's Website is, where he has all his shows archived, and pictures of his family, his atheist friends, and his ferrets.

After the show was over, I hung up, and entered a state of absolute liquifaction. I sank into bed like syrup into a waffle, and allowed Mr. Polly to overindulge me terribly. In other words, life returned to normal.Mrs. Polly recuperates

Sunday, February 22, 2009


Looking for a new culturally enriching experience, or just want to take your sweetie someplace a little different for date night? You really haven't been anywhere until you've experienced Heidi Li's latest project, The Museum of Misogynistic Memorabilia.

The MoMM is not yet in a bricks-and-mortar condition, but Heidi Li (JD, PhD) is working on it. She has her mission statement:

"The point of displaying misogynistic memorabilia, ranging from the horrifying to the offensive to the sophomoric is to showcase the ways in which women or their rights and interests have been hatefully characterized both historically and in our own time."

And, from Heidi Li's rather grandly named Founder's Blog: "Memorializing and witnessing the propaganda and tools used to oppress has played a vital role in raising awareness of how oppression occurs."

Well and good. Dr. Heidi Li is not covering the entire, depressing, vast history of misogyny itself, but merely hateful characterizations of women through "propaganda and tools". She still has a rich field of exploration. From attic vases depicting vengeful cuckolded goddess Hera, to catchpenny prints of women as witches and hags, to controversial portrayals of women in hip-hop, Dr. Heidi Li is certainly not lacking for material from which to draw. So let's take a look at the offerings.

The MoMM's online stores consist of, so far, ten exhibits, divided into two parts:
"General Collection" and "Bloopers". "Bloopers" has the notation: "People say the darndest things!"

The "General Collection" currently consists of seven items: four picture files and three articles. The articles' focus is as follows:

1. the misogynistic labeling of 2008 presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton;

2. the misogyny racial bigotry connection during the 2008 Democratic Primary season, and
"NOBODY LOVES A FAT WOMAN: Portraits of Female Obesity in Early American Cinema."

3. Portraits of Female Obesity in Early American Cinema."

This last immediately caught my interest for reasons we need not go into, need we?

It turned out to be a Georgetown student paper for a 2006 Media Historiography class, spring semester (Dr. Heidi Li is a law professor at Georgetown). Wretched co-opted self-hating fifth-columnist that I am, I was immediately enchanted by the title of a 1905 film, "Airy Fairy Lillian Tries On Her New Corsets". I tried to see if any of it was available on YouTube (Sorry to say, no). But the author of the paper, Joseph Kerr, in his description of the action, unkindly notes:
"Airy Fairy Lillian, wearing a sheer slip and underwear, attempts to put on her corset, an item of clothing, which ironically is supposed to help a woman look slim, but with a body the size of this, a corset is like putting a band-aid on an ax wound."
That is certainly a description any feminist will find it hard to forget, so thanks Dr. Heidi Li!
Let's just move on to the pictorial exhibits, none of which are original content:

4. Obama's chief speechwriter gropes a representation of Hillary Rodham Clinton.

5. Hillary Clinton nutcrackers. ( Dr. Heidi Li doesn't mention Corkscrew Bill, who is just what you imagine. He's available from, BTW. Along with the Obama Yes We Can Opener)

6. Selected items for sale related to the theme "Bro's Before Ho's" (two items, one a T-shirt with a picture of Obama and You-know-who, for sale on Amazon. Amazon. Yes.)

7. Lucy Burns serving time for fighting for women's suffrage

It seems that 75% of the misogyny in the world is directed at Hillary Clinton, and happened during 2008. It looks very much as if an exhibit in each category has been hurriedly thrown in as a token offering to all the rest of womanity. The Lucy Burns picture, while historically important, doesn't fit the stated parameters of the MoMM. It isn't an example of misogynistic characterization, it's flat-out woman's history. And, as a Juris Doctor might say, it opens the door to a more complete, vibrant, depiction of the triumph of women as more than simply victims.

Dr. Heidi Li does not go through that door. Instead, she gives us a gallery of "misogyny bloopers":

8. Howard Kurtz, Katie Couric, and Cognitive Dissonance.

9. Ms. Magazine January 2009 Inauguration Special Issue Cover -"Despite then President-elect's lack of any track record in establishing measures to protect or promote women and their rights, Ms. Magazine decides to pose him in "Super Man"-like fashion and declare him a "feminist.
10. Carville on Favreau - (the Ragin Cajun thinks that since Hillary accepted Favreau's apology, the incident should be over.)

Once again, there's a ringer thrown in to disguise Dr. Heidi Li's reduction of all womanhood to a single pantsuited politician. And her definition of "Bloopers" is somewhat eccentric: generally, the perpetrator of a blooper is trying to say something else, recognizes the mistake, and looks forward to picking up residuals from being included in the next episode of Bloopers, Blunders, and Misogynistic Logical Fallacies.
Dr. HL may think that whomever disagrees with her is perpetrating a blooper, but she is not the ultimate arbitor of blooperhood. If it were as subjective as that, I might classify her entire site as a blooper, and she seems very much to have meant it to be the way it is---aside from spelling it "Misyogyny Museum" on her title page.

So the exhibits of the MoMM are: Hillary, Hillary, Fat Women, Hillary, Hillary, Hillary, Lucy Burns, Katie Couric, Hillary, Hillary.

Dr. Heidi Li has an ambitious agenda. She has solicited for both funds and material for the MoMM, so that it may grow into a properly curated traveling exhibition. The exhibits so far can all be obtained with the click of a mouse button in under ten minutes and in the months since the MoMM's inception, few have been added. But the need to press on with the fundraising is fierce, so fierce that Dr. Heidi Li is willing to press even when the circumstances might call her taste into question.
When Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was operated on for pancreatic cancer, Dr. Heidi Li sprang into action:

Heidi Li, on February 5th, 2009 at 9:44 pm Said:
I know Ruth Bader Ginsburg slightly, and her husband, Marty Ginsburg, who is my colleague on the Georgetown faculty rather better. They are wonderful people, and of course my heart and thoughts are with them. A humble suggestion: If you care to send 51 Percent any amount (including .51 cents, with a message of support for Justice Ginsburg, not only will that be noted on the website, but I will make sure that all results and messages reach Justice Ginsburg).

I used to have a piece that would have been perfect for the MoMM. My father was obliged to go to Las Vegas on business, and I asked him to bring me back the tackiest thing he could find. He returned with something that more than fit the bill: a ceramic ashtray depicting a naked woman in a bathtub, on the side of which was lettered: "I HAD A TUB OF FUN IN LAS VEGAS". I loved that ashtray, and was heartbroken when it was lost in a move. Actually, I don't think the MoMM would be interested--not Hillary-centered enough. And I was just not politically conscious enough to be offended when my father gave it to me.

Note: There is a National Women's History Museum in Washington, D.C. They have their eye on a building to house their collections, and are seeking funding. They have a wonderful website, and the difference in attitude between the NWHM and the MoMM are exemplified by this statement:

If we - and future generations - are to learn all the lessons of the past upon which to build the future, we must be aware of the true experiences and contributions of women. Clearly, men cannot get there alone. Together, all things are possible.
----Karen Stasen, Founder, National Women's History Museum

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Succumbing to the Cries of the Masses

This image was my Valentine to Rumproast, Brooklyn's Meatiest Blog. Since then, positively fours of people have implored me to turn it into a T-shirt. Their little upturned faces were so hopeful, I could not but accede. You can either push the lurid green Cafe Press button on the left, or click here.

I hope this puts an end to Snarkopolitan's descent into tawdry commerce, just after I note that the airborne Rumproast is also available as a barbecue apron, mug, hooded sweatshirt, and doggie T-shirt, in case your canine isn't enough embarrassed to be seen wearing clothes.

The Deed Is Done

And instantly, speculation started about the next stimulation bill. Or, to phrase it more felicitously, the next JOBS bill. Here in NYC, the aptly named Bruce Ratner is lobbying for funds to complete clogging the heart of Brooklyn with his Atlantic Yards project, a giant sports/residential/shopping complex that ran out of gas even before the market tanked.
And cheerfully, indefatigably corrupt Al D’amato is lobbying for Ratner. D’amato’s last triumphant project? Kirsten Gillibrand. So though AY is mired in lawsuits (lots of eminent domain problems), I wouldn’t be shocked to see some of its 16 towers rising across the river.
The showpiece, Frank Gehry’s “Miss Brooklyn”, a dainty, undulating building who looked like she was lifting her skirts, has been replaced by a pile of shoeboxes, as if she’d just grabbed her Manolos and cleared out.

Obama announced that this bill did more for healthcare than had been done in a decade. Sayyyyy, doesn’t “decade” include the last years of the Clinton administration?

Was that a swipe?
Cross-posted at Rumproast, Brooklyn's Meatiest Blog.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Mr. President, Could We Get A Clean Blindfold Here, Please?

American justice was never unstained, but until the Bush administration, she still had some semblance of virtue. Then came eight years of increasing surrealism, degradation, and downright atrocities. Some of us had thought that the new president would pull American Justice out of the muck and help her clean some of the mud off her chiton. Well, she's still not standing upright, and may never be.

Binyam Mohammed's case is by turns infuriating, heartbreaking, and peculiar. The Ethiopian-born British resident was first arrested in Pakistan on a visa violation in 2002. He was sent to be tortured in Pakistan, Morocco, and Guantanamo, where he has been held since 2004. His nightmarish journey took him through such "black sites" as the "Dark Prison", where he was kept chained to a wall in total darkness, while tapes of rap music and screaming were played at ear-splitting volume 24 hours a day, and other prisoners could be heard going mad.

From what battlefield was Mohammed taken? What desparate acts of violence had he committed, to necessitate his Extraordinary Rendition?

According to his military-appointed counsel, Lieutenant Colonel Yvonne Bradley, he was taken from the Karachi airport, where he was waiting to board a plane to the U.K. And the act that got him arrested? Visiting a satiric website and viewing an article by Barbara Ehrenriech, Peter Biskind, and scientist Michio Kaku, that gave obviously joking instructions on how to build an H-Bomb. These included putting liquid uranium in a bucket, swinging it overhead for 45 minutes, skimming the results like cream, and keeping buckets of uranium in separate corners of the room, lest they reach critical mass.

Mohammed confessed to reading this article after a week of hanging by his wrists. It was the centerpiece of the government case that he was trying to build a dirty bomb. He was also connected to Jose Padilla and three other defendants, by Abu Zubaydah, who later said he lied under torture. Zubaydah is one of the Guantanamo prisoners the CIA has admitted waterboarding.

Charges against Mohammed were nullified when the Supreme Court struck down the first Military Commissions act. Additionally, his prosecutor, Lt. Colonel Darrel Vandeveld, resigned for reasons of conscience, stating that "the U.S. government was not providing defense lawyers with the evidence it had against their clients, including exculpatory information – material considered helpful to the defense." He was the fourth prosecutor to resign. Though there was a chance that the government might retry Mohammed under the new Military Commissions Act, the problem remains that the use of torture has tainted the statements made by and against him, as it has tainted many other cases.

Binyam Mohammed is still at Guantanamo, even though charges against him have been dropped. He is therefore on hunger-strike in protest, and being force-fed twice a day, an abusive act in itself. His military counsel, Colonel Bradley, met with UK Foreign Secretary David Milliband about Mohammed's imminent release.

Separate from the sub-rosa miseries inflicted on him by the American legal system, Mohammed has a new reason to disbelieve in American justice: the State Secrets Act. Is Mohammed suing the United States for kidnapping and mutilating him? No. He is suing the airline company that transported him to be tortured, a subsidiary of Boeing called Jeppesen Dataplan. The United States Justice Department, under George W. Bush, stepped in to get the lawsuit thrown out, on the grounds that state secrets would be revealed in the course of the case, jeopardizing national security. Rather than redacting names and locations, rather than allowing the judge to view and rule on the sensitive material, the Bush Department of Justice sought to have the entire suit never see the light of day.

It doesn't take much imagination to realize that the invoking the State Secrets act allows any program to remain unexamined under the rubric of national security.
As Glenn Greenwald notes in Salon:
"the alternative to Bush's lawsuit-killing use of the privilege is not to waive the privilege entirely. Everyone -- including the ACLU -- acknowledges that the Government should have the right to assert the State Secrets privilege on a document-by-document basis. The controversy was and is only about one thing: the use of the privilege to compel the dismissal of entire lawsuits in advance -- in other words, to convert the State Secrets privilege from what it always was (a focused evidentiary privilege) to what it was never intended to be (full-scale immunity for government lawbreakers from all judicial accountability)."

So Monday, all parties--Boing, DOJ lawyers, and lawyers for Binyam Mohammed, met once again in court. The judge overseeing the case asked lawyers from the brand-new Obama Department of Justice, expectantly, almost winking, whether "anything had changed?" since the last time they had been at court. When they replied in the negative, she was incredulous. Did they want to continue the Bush policy of invoking State Secrets to get Mohammed's lawsuit dismissed?

Yes they did. Nothing had changed. Nothing at all. Not for Binyam Mohammed.

There is no doubt there are indeed changes in policy from the brutally stupid Bush administration to the Obama administration. President Obama has ordered holds and reviews on all cases being prosecuted against the prisoners at Guantanamo, and the new Attorney General has stated unequivocally that waterboarding is torture, and that torture will no longer be tolerated. The administration is also very new, and negotiating the twists, turns, divided loyalties and delicate politics that any new leadership must confront. Perhaps, as some defenders, or optimists, or apologists, suggest, Obama can't decree massive change all at once, and will incrementally right the many wrongs, even prosecute the wrongdoers.

But to deny kidnapped, tortured, Binyam Mohammed his lawsuit is one injustice, one towering injustice, that will be committed in Obama's name, right now. Is it worth it to him to have this indelible stain on his name, to protect the names of Bush administration officials, in the interest of "looking forward?"

Cross-posted at Rumproast.

Monday, February 9, 2009

On The Heels of Greatness

Since Barack Obama failed to save the country, let's go back to a sunnier time, when Bill and Hillary rang in their new administration with a word their followers don't usually associate with them: Hope. Yes, the Bells of Hope.The Clintons' TV producer pals came up with the idea of ringing in, ahem, Change, with every bell, gong and gamelan they could assemble, from the Liberty Bell to bells in space (the astronauts of the Endeavor, who would be asleep during the inaugural festivities, had to prerecord their bell solos) and the People would ring all their bells too. It would be magnificent, overblown, and deeply hopey, except that Clinton did not win with a majority. So that put something of a damper on the chimes.

Another damper was the trouble Clinton had run into even before the inaugural: his own campaign promises. The most immediately serious was his promise not to repatriate Haitian boat people without a hearing; while Cubans who set foot on U.S. soil could stay, Haitians were forcibly repatriated to the brutal regime that had ousted Jean-Bertrande Aristide.Desperate Haitians put together improbable collections of tires, boards, netting, piled onto them and pushed off into the open sea, only to drown or be picked up by the Coast Guard, who brought them to detention in, among other places, Guantanamo. They were not, however, put in stress positions, besides the basic one of being held while waiting to be forcibly repatriated.

After he was told that over 150,000 Haitians were ripping down every tree in sight to make rafts for their 600 mile journey, Clinton went back on his campaign promise, saying that forced repatriation would continue. The following paragraph from the NY Times is so upsetting I will let it pass without comment:
Indeed, in the last two weeks, members of Mr. Clinton's foreign-policy team have expressed concern that celebrations surrounding Mr. Clinton's inauguration, which will be widely televised, will be marred by news footage of Haitian boat people drowning in stormy waters while trying to make the 600-mile journey to the Florida coast. Mr. Clinton cited a report in recent days, still unconfirmed by the Coast Guard, that nearly 400 Haitian boat people drowned when their boat sank in the Bahamas.
The fledgling presidency was darkened by plenty of ironic foreshadowing: Bush I left a deficit that scuttled Clinton's middle-class tax cut. On the very day that Bush sent missiles into Iraq, Clinton remarked that as he was a Baptist, he believed in death-bed conversions, and so he was open to restablishing normal relations with Iraq. On the very day that Bush sent missiles into Iraq, Clinton remarked that as he was a Baptist, he believed in death-bed conversions, and so he was open to restablishing normal relations with Iraq, causing. He then snappishly denied being asked about normalization of relations, a question that appeared twice on the transcript. He also tried to finesse the Haitian problem:

He tried the same on Haiti. There was no joy in reversing a policy that was proving untenable, nor was there dishonor in a forthright acknowledgment of change. Yet Clinton insisted that he was not reversing anything. His earlier statements offering asylum, he maintained, had hinged on a distinction between political refugees, who were entitled to stay in the United States, and economic refugees, who were not. "Sometimes people hear only half the message," he complained. (from "the Survivor", by John F. Harris)

The hedging and nice sidestepping aggrieved reporters, and gave them warning to examine every Clintonian statement with a jeweler's loupe.

Meanwhile, Bill had named Hillary head of the President's Task Force on Health Care Reform, and she embarked on a series of secret meetings, much to the dismay of friends and enemies alike. The Clintons' sunnily optimistic plan called for both a budget bill and a health care bill to be pushed through the Senate, but Senatorial etiquettician Robert Byrd blocked it:

(he was)convinced the strategy amounts to a "prostitution of the process" by
pushing through "a very complex, very expensive, very little understood piece of

The process retained its virtue, and the very expensive, little understood piece of legislation died, only to be mocked in memorium.

President Clinton's other travails included his nominees being torpedoed by nannies and tax troubles, and his ultimate AG selection, Janet Reno, running afoul of the Branch Davidians at Waco. Each of these created a furor. But Clinton's compromise over his promise to lift the ban on gays in the military, the Don't Ask Don't Tell policy, has resulted in well over 11,000 service members being expelled from the Armed Forces.

The Clinton Administration's first hundred days are a hard act to follow.

Cross-posted at, Brooklyn's Meatiest Blog.

~~~Thank you, Blossom Dearie~~~
A crisp little sugar cookie voice with a bite:

Tuesday, February 3, 2009


While Rick Warren, the divine inspiration-inflated Prop 8 pastor, mounted the national podium to spread his particular brand of limited goodwill over the land, his Ugandan colleague, Reverend Martin Ssempa, continued to spread his version of the will of God over Uganda. Though Reverend Ssempa's God embraces caring for the sick, He also apparently favors persecuting homosexuals and preventing Ugandans from obtaining condoms, thereby increasing the rate of HIV infection.

That at least seems to be the net effect of the erstwhile Bush administration's emphasis on abstinence-only HIV programs, and Ssempa's campaign to publish the names, pictures, and addresses of homosexual activists in the paper and on a now defunct Ugandan website. (the domaine is available for purchase for those who like combining sexual McCarthyism with fumbling around in a scrum of men in tight pants).

Ssempa, you may recall, is the evangelical preacher who marched into Makarere University and did battle with an AIDS prevention display which manifested itself as a scrap-metal dummy with a condom-covered drainpipe penis. Reverend Ssempa grabbed for and pulled the condom off that drainpipe penis, set the box of condoms next to it aflame, and burned them in the name of Jesus. Then he handed out bibles to the rubberneckers.

His antics may seem clownish, but Reverend Ssempa's cred as a Ugandan anti-HIV crusader is undeniable: he lost a brother, a sister and a niece to HIV. Another brother is ill now. It's a sad commonality he shares with many Ugandans, and gives him some emotional authority to speak about the effects of HIV on families. The history he tells of himself also makes it easy to identify with him: before becoming an evangelical Christian, he led a hedonistic, nightclubbing, existence (he was also a prize-winning breakdancer, he likes to note) that he now invokes when castigating sexual relations outside of marriage. Then he found the Lord, and settled into the kind of domesticity that he believes the Lord intended for everybody: heterosexual, and (to the best of anyone's knowledge) monogamous.

For Ugandans who do not fit into that model by dint of their sexual preference, Ssempa leads marches calling for their punishment; homosexuality is illegal in Uganda. Leaders of LGBT groups have been harassed and arrested; he also has demanded that homosexuals not be included in anti-AIDS programs. As someone who works closely with born-again Ugandan First Lady Janet Museveni, Ssempa, as the special representative of the First Lady's task force, went to Washington in April of 2005 to testify on HIV in Uganda.

In his testimony, he put forth the theory that a billion dollar AIDS/condom industry was foisting itself on an unwilling Ugandan culture:


Representative Barbara McCollum of Minnesota questioned Ssempa, and the great condom conflagration of Makarere University made a reappearance:

"..... it is true. I burned condoms. But what critical piece of element is left out is the fact that those condoms had been banned by the government a few days earlier, that they would pose a significant risk to the population at large. So I was simply fulfilling what the government had ordered, a recall, a destruction of those condoms.

Ms. MCCOLLUM. The government requested you to go to that campus—I believe it was a campus—and the government personally asked you to burn the condoms?

Mr. SSEMPA. It issued a call to recall and destroy all condoms from public. And what happened, I work with college students. It was a season of freshmen. In fact, in that particular article, Helen Epstein says it is a fresh pack of condoms. It was not a fresh pack. It was a deteriorated, recalled pack of condoms that posed a significant, hazardous, life-threatening experience to anyone who would have used it, so that is what happened.

Ms. MCCOLLUM. I am glad you had time to look at the lot number and verify that, and that was not your property that you destroyed. And in your opinion, you thought you were doing something that was good."

The rubber firebug pastor did not mention to Ms. McCollum, and Congress, that the Ugandan government recall didn't happen until a month AFTER he cremated the condoms. *

Ssempa wasn't the only anti-condom, pro-abstinence-only witness to testify that day. Then-Global AIDS Coordinator Randall Tobias testified as well. Of his testimony, and trajectory, this probably says it all :

"I think it is somewhat ironic and hypocritical that he would patronize an escort service while he was denying funding to organizations who want to help prostitutes, and supporting a policy that obviously forbids fraternizing with prostitutes" -Jodi Jacobson, executive director for the Center for Health and Gender Equity, Washington, D.C

After the massage-loving (there was no sex! he insisted as he left DC to explain himself to his wife) former AIDS czar departed, President Bush appointed as his replacement Mark Dybul, M.D., a respected physician who happened to be both gay and uncloseted.

Although Dr. Dybul's orientation displeased some members of the faith-based organizations receiving PEPFAR funds, he accepted invitations to address them, speaking at Rick Warren's Saddleback Church and meeting privately with the Executive Director of Christian Connections for International Health

At a private meeting between Dr. Mark Dybul, Deputy Coordinator and Medical Director of the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) in the State Department Office of the Global AIDS Coordinator, and CCIH Executive Director Ray Martin, Dybul expressed appreciation for CCIH’s efforts to educate the public about the evidence-based rationale for an ABC approach to HIV prevention.

Though funding increased, the same problems with faith-based organizations receiving funds for promoting abstinence-only and discouraging condom use continued. Undoubtedly Dr. Dybul would have had problems walking this tightrope between ideology and science, but he appears to have thrown himself into polishing Pepfar's, and the President's, image. Here he is at a press conference in Geneva in 2007, and note the return of a certain massage-loving bad penny:

"So people should not be under the impression that all this President has done, and this administration has done, is on HIV/AIDS. There is a person responsible for all of these activities. My former boss, the first Global AIDS Coordinator, Ambassador Tobias, is now the Director of Foreign Assistance - the first such position - to ensure that we have integrated and full programs that deal across the areas of development. He is also the Administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development at the same time."

With the faithful unfaithful Tobias in charge of USAID and directing a new office for distributing foreign aid, the dangerous ideologically driven policies (this is not even getting into the anti-needle exchange and anti-prostitution pledge controversies that kept organizations from using their funds to help addicts and prostitutes, many of whom are children) continued.


In July of 2008, Congress reauthorized PEPFAR, but HIV experts continued to be unhappy with how the money was spent. David Wendt of the Center for Global Development, asked,

"For every one million people put on treatment, 2.5 million are getting infected. So why has Congress ensured that the $48 billion PEPFAR reauthorization legislation, passed by the Senate of July 16, privileges treatment and care over prevention?"

When Barack Obama assumed the presidency, the outcry over his selection of Rick Warren to deliver the invocation was swift, and when it was leaked that Obama was planning on asking Dr. Dybul to stay on as AIDS czar, at least temporarily, HIV and reproductive rights activists protested.

Dr. Dybul was given first the order to rescind his pro-forma resignation--he wrote a cheerful note to his staff telling them he'd see them after the weekend--and then, one day after Hillary Clinton was confirmed to be Secretary of State, told to un-rescind his resignation, which he did, amidst a swirl of rumors, cheers, recriminations, and rejoicings.

There is nobody heading the Global Aids Coordinator office now, and no word on who is being vetted to replace Dr. Dybul. Obama has spoken of the importance of faith-based organizations, but as a community organizer he worked with them on non-ideological, non-controversial issues such as job banks. If his administration was willing to ask for Dr. Dybul's resignation, does it mean that a new emphasis will be placed on non-ideological programs for fighting HIV?

Homosexuals continue to suffer under harsher and harsher restrictions in many African countries: Nigeria, Zimbabwe, Uganda. They can be arrested and imprisoned for life. Religious leaders like Martin Ssempa continue to lead rallies calling for their prosecution
Keeping PEPFAR funds out of their hands will not be an easy task, if the Obama administration chooses to take on that task at all. But if they are committed to human rights, they have to.

"I once attended Sunday services at the church of Martin Ssempa, one of Warren's protégés in Uganda and a major force in that country's devastating move away from safe-sex campaigns. It is a heartbreaking thing to watch a tongue-speaking faith-healer promise a room full of sobbing people – many of them poor, many infected with HIV – that Jesus can cure them, if only they believe in him unconditionally (belief demonstrated, of course, in part by tithing generously)." --Michelle Goldberg, writing for the Guardian
Reverend Ssempa is "A PASSIONATE VOICE IN THE GLOBAL FIGHT AGAINST AIDS/HIV". So says the blurb on the front page of his website . The Reverend gazes at you over his thoughtfully folded hands, his brow furrowed. This is just one of the many passionate moods of Reverend Ssempa: as you click through his site, you meet others, one glowy soft-focus expression per subject, each calibrated for the relative seriousness: open, smiling Ssempa holds his hands out for his biography, modest Ssempa laughs, his head back, his eyes closed, embarrassed by the plaudits on his "reviews" page; his fingertips interlaced, gazing thoughtfully into the future of a world without rubbers as he envisions a global response to AIDS/HIV ; one eyebrow arched as he strokes his chin and considers awakening the warriors in the faith-based community.

It's all just a little bit--forgive me, but just a wee little bit--


*Human Rights Watch letter to US Global Aids Coordinator 10/11/07