Saturday, January 17, 2004

Maureen Dowd: Marriage and Career Counseling for Politicians

Maureen Dowd is a New York Times columnist who inherited the 'one-woman-only-in-a-prominent-position' job from Anna Quindlen. In fact, it's said that Anna herself fished Maureen's writings from the slush pile and brought them to the paper's attention. I so wish she had let them stay in the slush pile.

Based on her picture, Dowd is a woman, and I dare conjecture that she's supposed to cater for the female market in political readership. And what does she think might interest women readers of the Times?

The answer: argyle sweaters on men, inability of being a 'good wife' in women. Both of these topics are applied to Democratic candidates for the job of the president of the United States. Apparently our nation's future is hanging by a thread of argyle wool which a careless wife could easily snap. So.

Her latest assault on wives concerns the role and career of one Dr. Judith Steinberg, the wife of Howard Dean. Dowd begins her article suggesting that the Deans are in urgent need of George W. Bush's new initiative for propping up the conventional marriage. Why? Because Judith is not sitting in the front row when Howard gives speeches; widening her eyes into admiring opaque circles at the wonder and wit of this man that she suddenly finds herself married to. Instead, she's back home in Vermont taking care of her patients and the Deans' school-aged child still at home.

This MUST mean that the Deans marriage is in deep trouble. On the other hand, of course, if she indeed had chosen to sit in all the front rows on her husband's campaign tour, what would Maureen and others like her have thought about that? Shall I guess? Perhaps Judith would have come across as a political groupie, a woman who wants the limelight more than she wants to help her poor suffering patients. A woman who chooses to wine and dine with celebrities while her poor child is all abandoned in the middle of the frigid snow fields of Vermont.

Wives just can't win. Guilt is a fine tool in even clumsy hands as Maureen shows us:

"What will she tell their grandkids?" wondered one political reporter here. "Yeah, Grandpa was once a front-runner for president with crowds all over America cheering him but I was too busy to go see it?"

Too busy. Or too selfish. Or too cold. Or too clingy. Or too independent. Or too lumpish. Yes, I've heard them all about political wives. Poor things, they can't do a thing right, and as a corollary neither can any other wives. Is this what Maureen thinks that women like to read about in the mornings, just before donning their hairshirts and taking up the daily self-flagellation?

Why couldn't she stick to argyle shirts? Oh, but I nearly forgot! She does discuss the fashion sense of Judith:

In worn jeans and old sneakers, the shy and retiring Dr. Judith Steinberg Dean looked like a crunchy Vermont hippie, blithely uncoiffed, unadorned, unstyled and unconcerned about not being at her husband's side — the anti-Laura. You could easily imagine the din of Rush Limbaugh and Co. demonizing her as a counterculture fem-lib role model for the blue states.

No! How terrible! She's actually dressed like most women in real life! This won't do. Put her back in corsets and high heels, give her a dolly face with makeup and puff up her hair. Then wind up the key and off she totters, to walk properly just three steps behind her husband: the perfect political Barbie. The guilt and blame programs come with the basic version, and all socially conservative potential Dean voters can breathe a long sigh and relax: we can still win this thing, Dean now looks like he's supposed to: a package deal where we get a butch leader and his Suitable Spouse to fight another butch dealer with a suitable spouse.

According to the ever-unreliable source of the Drudge Report, Maureen isn't even done with Deans yet. Supposedly Howard forgot to give her a promised telephone interview, and she's promised to write about it tomorrow. Ah, the suspension! There is a hint, though, if Drudge is to be trusted (I wouldn't, personally). Dowd told him (he says):

"A race rooted mainly in attacking the president may not take Dean far enough. Voters want someone who's been through the fire. They care about character. They want to know the evolution of the man, even if it's a myth."

Myth? If Dowd wants to be the mythmaker, Echidne save us all. And she can't.
Postscript: And what did she write?

But a race rooted mainly in attacking the president may not take Dr. Dean far enough. Voters want someone who's been through the fire. They care about character. They want to know the evolution of the man, even if it's a myth.

And I want to know why she reads her columns to Matt Drudge before they are published.

Friday, January 16, 2004

Fighting Fat - The Bush Administration Approach

The World Health Organization just issued a report on the world-wide obesity problem. It estimates that 300 million people are obese and 750 million overweight. Even 22 million children under the age five are regarded as overweight. The WHO wants people to start eating differently and their governments to support this change:

The WHO report recommends eating more fruits and vegetables and limiting fats and salt. It also suggests governments limit food advertising aimed at children and encourage their citizens to eat healthier foods. Taxes and subsidies could be used to reduce the price of healthy food and make them more attractive to consumers, the report said.

The U.S. administration response was swift. HHS official William Steiger argued that the WHO findings were based on faulty science. I guess he also didn't like any of the onus put on governments or the business interests:

"The (U.S. government) favors dietary guidance that focuses on the total diet, promotes the view that all foods can be part of a healthy and balanced diet, and supports personal responsibility to choose a diet conducive to individual energy balance, weight control and health," wrote Steiger, special assistant for international affairs at Health and Human Services.

Now, personal responsibility is all fine and dandy, and exercize is also an important part of a healthy life. But personal responsibility is something that's a lot easier to practise when the grocery stores offer many affordable alternatives of healthy foods, when the cheapest filling thing to eat isn't a Big Mac with fries from McDonald's, and when the television isn't constantly blaring messages about the desirability of fast foods and soft drinks to its watching audience. If these messages didn't work, advertizers wouldn't be willing to pay for most of the tv industry.

Wiener's response isn't surprising, of course, given that the Bush administration wants pregnant women to assert individual responsibility in avoiding mercury that might possibly lurk in quite a few saltwater fish species, while the fishing and power plant industries (which put the mercury there) are not held to the same standards of individual responsibility.

Would you like to have lunch with me here at the headquarters of Snakepit Inc.? The menu: tuna salad with dill and mercury, freedom fries with saturated fat and a soft drink beverage with phosphoric acid. After lunch, we'll don our bulletproof vests and go for a brisk walk through the nearby delapidated area, admiring en route the individual initiative demonstrated by the drug dealers peddling at every street corner. Even the poorest American can do this much!

Thursday, January 15, 2004

Frittering Away Your Life

Which is sometimes the only thing to do. Here are two interesting ways:

1. Play basketball. Warning: this ain't easy, so it's a great way to fritter away large chunks. Credit due to the Grand Reptilian.

2. Find out which world leader you most resemble. Idea stolen from Bronson's website. He won't mind as he's a lawyer! Note: you can do this test with four different numbers of questions, and the answers might change, so many minutes can be whiled away. (Though I always came out Gandhi-like, which casts grave doubt on the validity of the test.)


Wednesday, January 14, 2004

The Short Version of News on Women in Afghanistan and Iraq


Women can now sing on the television:

Deputy Culture and Information Minister Abdul Hamid Mubaiz:"There should be no discrimination between man and woman. Therefore, we wanted to have them appear on television to give them the same rights as men."

Or maybe not:

Afghanistan's Supreme Court has protested the video, stating that they "are opposed to women singing and dancing as a whole...this is totally against the decision of the Supreme Court and it has to be stopped,"

Women are now citizens with equal rights and duties to those of men:

Afghanistan's new constitution is a success for the country's women. It deserves commendation for guaranteeing women what appears to be an equal rights clause, something that still eludes women in the United States.

Or maybe not:

The final constitution could be used to implement Taliban-like Sharia law. Before the equal rights clause appears, Article III of the constitution states that in Afghanistan, "no law can be contrary to the beliefs and provisions of the sacred religion of Islam."


The Bush administration pledged its support for the inclusion of women in decision-making bodies. The result: three women on the Iraqi Governing Council, one woman on the Iraqi cabinet and no women appointed to the 24-member constitutional committee. The proportion of women in the Iraqi population is 65%.

The nice interpretation:

Hey, Rome wasn't built in a day. Iraq must start somewhere. Besides, we aren't going to interfere with another country's social traditions. We only interfere with political traditions!

The not-so-nice interpretation:

...the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) is treating a growing human rights crisis for women as an extracurricular issue at best, leaving women at the mercy of thugs on the streets and the religious parties that have rushed into the political vacuum.


Over dinner in the palace cafeteria one night, when I discussed the accelerating crisis for women with two high-ranking American officials in the Interior Ministry--which oversees police and security--I was told with shocking candor as my pen perched over my reporter's notebook: "We don't do women." It's hardly a dirty secret that our government abroad views women's rights as at most a secondary concern, yet it was thoroughly sobering to hear this lack of interest so casually discussed.

The Talibanization of Iraq: It's beginning:

The provisional government in Iraq has removed the Saddam-era family law from the legal books and replaced it with the use of sharia to be administered by local religious leaders.

The order, narrowly approved by the 25-member council in a closed-door session Dec. 29, was reportedly sponsored by conservative Shiite members.

Paul Bremer hasn't approved this change yet. Will he? And whether he will or not, what's going to happen after June? One guess:

"This new law will send Iraqi families back to the Middle Ages," Hakki said. "It will allow men to have four or five or six wives. It will take away children from their mothers. It will allow anyone who calls himself a cleric to open an Islamic court in his house and decide about who can marry and divorce and have rights."

Is this what we went to war for? Is this what freedom means for the female citizens of Iraq?
Gag me with a spoon.

And: No, Afghani women canNOT sing on television. Link courtesy of upyernoz.

Tuesday, January 13, 2004

The ACLU is Fascist. Now You Know...

From Bill O'Reilly's opening comments January 9:

Now the ACLU is free to come to your town and sue the heck out of it. And believe me, that organization will. The ACLU doesn't care about the law or the constitution or what the people want. It's a fascist organization that uses lawyers instead of Panzers. It'll find a way to inflict financial damage on any concern that opposes its secular agenda and its growing in power.

From Mediawhoresonline.

Travel Writing

Everybody does this: a tour of the blogs, with insightful comments thrown in between short takes on the main stories of various blogs. If everybody does it, how come I, a genuine trade-marked goddess, find it so hard?

It started very promisingly. On Alas, A Blog I liked almost everything, but especially the Masculine and Feminine in 1844. Interesting ideas about what's 'natural' to our genders. Sappho's Breathing has an excellent article on the reasons why it may not be a good idea for women to relinquish their own last name at marriage. Respectfulofotters has a good essay on needle exchange programs for drug addicts, and Trish Wilson discusses a new study which shows that the dearth of women in science is not due to a shortage of female doctorates. Barkbarkwoofwoof is lucid on the question what blogs are, while edwardpig is equally discerning on why it's not such a great thing to go to Mars, right now, and Rubber Hose has a great rip-apart analysis of William Saphire's political ineptitude. Elayne has an always relevant reminder that it's cheap and wrong to attribute the success of politicians we don't like to the voters' supposed stupidity.

Pretty professional, so far, isn't it? But note that I've already used up all sorts of civilizedly cheering adjectives: interesting, good, insightful, discerning, lucid, relevant. Besides, my travels had barely started at this point. Two blogs wouldn't let me in without blowing up my Explorer (The Fulcrum and And Then), so they'd have to be left for a later blog. This made me feel discouraged and all the funny writing I had read made me feel even more discouraged. (We goddesses are ambitious sorts and don't like competition, especially if it seems to beat us.)

And then I decided to include a picture that shows two dogs fighting from Clonecone's blog Craptastic, instead of all the relevant, insightful and discerning stuff that was also there, for no other reason except that I found it funny. Well, then it was just a short step to go through the rest of the blogs on my travel plan looking for equally funny stuff. Here is some of it:

Deep, Insightful, Political Comments by LC bloggers:

Farmer on Corrente in When Losers are Winners - and Vice Versa:

Except for all those Howard McGovern hippie type throwbacks from some decade or another. Boy are they losers. I'll bet they'll make the mistake in 2004 of voting for a loser again and the entire nation will once again be a winner when they select a silver spoon fed born winner and liar and crook and national disgrace to four more years. But who cares. That'll just make Dick Cheney a three-time winner and all real-Murican patriotic "pre-feminist" Christian sorts love a winner.

Gotham City 13 on election debates (Hypothetical Situations):

The way I see it, if anyone comes at Bush hard in the debates, he's just going to make a smug face and say some programmed response like: "Gee willikers, (Dem candidate).. I'm just a simple Southern boy, I don't like get angry.. I like to sit down and discussitude the issues."

Andante on Collective Sigh in More Ownership Society - Bush Style:

When I hit the meat counter at the local grocery, I've been known to drool and dream over T-bones or filet mignons before heading over to the ground beef. It's a matter of practical necessity.

The prospect of anyone drooling over job retraining, health care, and a secure retirement brings one phrase to mind - "third world country".

"Born on third base and thinks he hit a triple" comes to mind, also. Those who haven't even had a chance to get into the batter's box stand very little chance of socking away the savings, with or without tax credits.

Chris on Chrisbrown, while commenting on the administration's plans about the moon and Mars (Fly Me to the Moon):

We have a President saying "visionary" things like giving illegal aliens work visas, establishing moonbases, and flying to Mars. Any day now I expect him to say that he's a jelly donut, or Berliner. BushCo is now the evil doppleganger to JFK. He's the anti-JFK. What next? Bay of Pigs II: Electric Boogaloo?

The next two comments might not be quite purely political, but they are too funny to be omitted. Here's Invisiblelibrary (Supply Side Jesus and the Sermon on the Hill):

The reckless liberalism of Jesus Christ cannot be allowed to take hold of the Christian values this great country has fought so hard to preserve.

and BlogAmy (hope you're feeling better, Amy) in Guest Commentary Proves My Theory:

By the way, this person is not a normal journalist of the paper that printed his musings. Abusings. Accusings. Bruisings. Oozings. Mind losings...I could go on, but I won't. Boy, they'll put anybody into print these days. Maybe I'll be next?

And the last two comments are even less clearly about politics. The first one is by Stradiotto who is not in good health right now. While I really want him to feel better fast, there's nothing wrong with his blogging talents. This is how he gracefully says that he must blog a little bit less for a time:

My heart would be heavier about the latter were there not a sufficiency of drug addled commentary readily available for those whose surfing habits include rubbernecking intellectual meltdowns.

Dohiymir provides the perfect final quote:

...for a few hours. Talk amongst yourselves.

Monday, January 12, 2004

Monday's Dog Blogging - The Highbrow Version

Greetings, my fellow canines and our humble human servants!

My maid, the snakewoman, didn't wish me to blog as she thinks nobody cares about what dogs think. Typical specieism! Down with humans! Well, not down with them; rather, let them stay in the roles they have been naturally allotted!

Everybody knows that dogs and humans are different. Even the most rabid humanist must admit that now. We all can see that dogs are faster and more beautiful. Dogs have more legs and much better leadership abilities. This can be easily explained by evolutionary science: as humans huddled around their puny campfires, we dogs were out there, exploring and hunting; and only the dogs with most legs survived! The survivors then passed on their precious genes to the next generations, who refined them even further! If you don't believe this, you are a creationist and a disgrace as a scientific thinker.

Humans are meant to open cans. Why else would they have thumbs? Other than that, humans are pretty useless creatures and the world would be a better place without most of them. The same is true of gods and goddesses. The snakewoman might be an exception as she buys me fresh Parmesan cheese to grate on my kibbles. But I'm not sure about this. Come the revolution, she, too, might have to go.

I have nothing but scorn towards last week's dog blog. That blockhead, Hank! She's not a bad dog, really, but so limited in her reading. She keeps wondering why I beat her in wrestling every time, and never connects this to the fact that I am a subscriber to all the martial arts sites on the internet. She can't even spell properly!

Henrietta the Hound
PhD, CE (Chien Extraordinaire), CEO of Snakepit, Inc.

Fashion Tips For The Uninformed

Argyle sweaters are a no-no. This according to Maureen Dowd in the New York Times. She doesn't like Wesley Clark's apparent attempt to appeal to women by trying to soften his image.
Dowd notes:

Is his staff watching "What Not to Wear" or "Style Court"? It's discouraging to see presidential campaigns succumb to the makeover culture. Obviously, appearances count, but clothes don't make the man. Sometimes, they unmake him.

But much more often they unmake a woman. Some news from the city of Kuala Terengganu in Malaysia. The city government:

...has banned non-Muslim women from wearing mini-skirts, tight fitting dresses, and even moderately revealing clothes such as short-sleeved shirts and tight jeans to work. Muslim women are being called to wear a headscarf known as the tudong, which has to be tightly drawn about the face.

This is supposed to drive out 'indecency'.

Two very different stories about clothes. One is about voluntary choices which may or may not be silly, the other about forcing people to dress a certain way. Yet I suspect that the first story provokes more outrage in its readers who expected serious political commentary from Dowd, yet received something which makes Clark look like a female politician: someone to be judged by the clothes she wears.

The second story actually is about women being judged by the clothes they wear, so perhaps its readers feel less dissonance. But it's the horrible one out of the two.

Sunday, January 11, 2004

Today's Political Blog

This is really funny, if it works. Half the time it does, the other half it doesn't. Nevertheless,
it's worth a try!

A picture is worth a thousand words! If this didn't work, or even if it did, you can get more political pictures in here.
But the pictures are too tiny, and Athena is busy with orchestrating maximum strategic chaos in the Iraq occupation, so she won't help me yet. Credits due to