Just once, I'd like to see someone on the Right "take a courageous stand" against someone who has more money and more power than they do. (Yelling at a president who won't or can't hit you back is not the same.)

Andrew Shirvell, former Assistant Attorney General for the State of Michigan, was ordered to pay 4.5 million dollars to Chris Armstrong for "defamation" after repeatedly libeling and indeed, stalking Armstrong on campus.

Shirvell (a name worthy of Dickens) calls the decision "a clear violation of my first amendment rights", although the harassment occurred while Shirvell was an Assistant Attorney General and the person he persecuted was a student council president. It seems to my untutored eye that Armstrong was the one whose rights of speech and assembly were being breached by this self-appointed Javert.

On the other side of the world, the power of the Russian state is sending Pussy Riot up the Volga for two years-- hard time for women with small kids. "Hooliganism motivated by religious hatred" was the charge, although the BBC says it was a protest against Putin and the Russian government. Religious hatred was indeed the motive for Shirvell's crimes here: homophobia inspired abuse of government power, bearing false witness, and stalking twinks without a license.

I don't know why the performance artists staged their protest in a church. I'm guessing that Russians have a... complicated relationship with the Orthodox Church; sometimes the church shelters the people, sometimes the church licks the ass of the powerful. Their reasons are above my pay grade.

I doubt that orders came down from the top to punish these upstarts. More likely, somebody decided that Vladimir the First would be displeased, naysayers must be punished and loyalists will be rewarded. Maybe Putin will issue the girls a pardon in a couple of months: a wink from a crocodile, his whispered "I could hurt you but I won't."

The two cases are funhouse mirrors. The Russians are still acting out the psychodrama of a culture that jumped from the Middle Ages to the Industrial Revolution with no Enlightenment in between. Here, a bigot on the government payroll was told to sit his silly ass down, and he refused to listen.

The recent flood of complaint about a gay / liberal / feminist / immigrant / socialist / elitist/ (who's left?) agenda is nothing more than the complaint of an entrenched bully squalling because someone slapped back. The right is going to whinge that the Shirvell decision makes us worse than Russia, but here, it was the person in power that was told to back off.

Jack Benny, the X-Men, and Continuity in Comics

Re-reading Grant Morrison's run on New X-Men led me again to its sequel, Joss Whedon's Astonishing--
and I now proclaim to the anxious masses that Torn (Astonishing X-Men Volume III) is best read in tandem with Morrison's Imperial (New X-Men Volume II). Jack Benny is supposed to have gotten the biggest laugh in radio history when an armed robber snarls, "Your money or your life!" Benny doesn't say anything. The audience explodes. He waits (the power of the pause) and lets them subside before he answers, "I'm thinking about it." The joke works because the audience knew Benny's comedic persona, and knew that he would need time before such a "difficult" choice. Just so with Whedon's "Torn", in which Cassandra Nova tries to escape by planting herself in Emma Frost's subconscious, then using Frost's manipulative ability to paralyze her captors. Scott is frozen by his deepest anxiety. Henry "devolves" into a feral carnivore. Logan reverts to his Little Lord Fauntleroy childhood.
Logan's "turn into Percy Dovetonsils" works because of the character's backstory; it wouldn't be so funny if the audience wasn't in on the joke.
The first time I read this story, the attack by Emma's psychic avatars was confusing (as it's meant to be) but I shrugged it off and went along for the ride. Read immediately after the Morrison stories and I realized how poignant they were, manifestations of Emma's own guilt and fear. Cassandra Nova personifies Emma's pain at surviving the Genosha genocide; Sebastian Shaw represents Emma's self-loathing in her longest-lasting relationship. I didn't recognize Negasonic Teenage Warhead ("Boy, we really have run out names," Kitty says) until this second or third reading:
She's one of Emma's murdered students, seen for only a few panels in Morrison. The last manifestation, "Perfection" is an early version of Emma herself as the White Queen, dominatrix from Hell. Kitty's reaction matches the readers, as we all thought she'd already left Emma trapped in a cave.
Ordinarily, I dislike comics fans' worship of continuity. It's the inside baseball that drives readers away from serial story telling because some Asberger's/fashion victim just broke into your adult conversation with the news that Squirrel Green Lantern only wore the Star Sapphire costume for three issues in 1967, and he, the fanboy, really likes the second version of Empire Strikes Back but the third one makes no sense. Yes, great artists build up layers upon layers of meaning, allusion and reference in their work, but continuity is not the same as depth. So what did we (I) learn here today? When writers use continuity in the way that Jack Benny did, the reader's prior knowledge adds layers of pleasure. Used as barbed wire to keep the gentiles away, continuity is a disease. One more reason to promise me you'll never pay money for a comic with Cable on the cover or the word "Crisis" in its title.