Saturday, February 14, 2004

Valentine's Day

Happy Valentine's Day to all!

"...and Eros, the fairest of the deathless gods;
he unstrings the limbs and subdues both mind
and sensible thought in the breasts of all gods and all men
(Hesiod, Theogony, 120-2)

And in the breasts of all goddesses and all women. So beware!

Friday, February 13, 2004

Some Interesting Posts

On Alas, A Blog, Ampersand has an excellent post on the rape culture, and there is a long discussion about it in the comments section. (I, especially, shine luminously there.) Check it out.

And Trish Wilson talks about the case of a father's right activist, Lowell Jaks, who kidnapped his son Alec. The case is very worrying, for reasons that Trish spells out carefully.

The March of the Morons

That's us, by the way. Well, us, if you are an angry liberal as I am. According to Emmett Tyrrell we are morons. He defines us as follows:

"This year as we watched Dr. Howard Dean gain the role of frontrunner, the veins in his neck bursting, his face an angry gnarl of sneers and grimaces, it became obvious that the dynamic new force in the Democratic primary was the moron vote. That is to say the angry, stupid, political neurotic who has proceeded into middle age convinced that the world is against him-her.

These indignant morons saw Dr. Howard Dean tear off his suit coat, roll up his sleeves and approach the microphone as though he were about to chew on it, and they beheld Deliverance -- Deliverance from all the woe and perfidy that has held them back, given them lower-back pain, caused the seat of their pants to split the night they attended the professional wrestling match and brought George W. Bush to the throne."

I might be angry and neurotic, but I'm not stupid (thank goddess for that), and the world is indeed against me. How about you? The seat of my pants has never split (I don't wear pants, snakes don't), and professional wrestling matches are where Republicans congregate. Maybe Emmett was borrowing ideas from his personal history? But I do like his idea that we are morons.

It shows that Emmett as a proper right-winger hasn't stopped trying to reach his hand across the ideological chasm, hasn't stopped trying to debate politics in an adult and mature fashion, hasn't started raging and ranting like us angry liberals do. It's still "You moron, me Tarzan. WHACK, POPPLE AND CRACK!"

Ann Coulter is another polite right-winger. Here's what she says about us liberals: we are jock-sniffers:

"Cleland is making the rounds on talk TV, basking in the affection of liberals who have suddenly become jock-sniffers for war veterans..."

Dear Ann, always ready for a nice, civilized discussion on politics. But she thinks that we are morons, too

"That Bush skipped out on his National Guard service is one of liberals' many nondisprovable beliefs, like global warming"

She was talking about how we liberals don't understand that evidence has conclusively proved that George W. Bush's service with the Guard was honorable, and how we don't understand that former Senator Max Cleland isn't really a war hero, despite his having lost three limbs in Vietnam, because he lost them by picking up a hand grenade which could have equally easily happened to him in the Texas Guard. Well, I doubt that, unless the Guard had a habit of scattering hand grenades about the place, and even then only some members of the Guard might have been easy-going enough to pick them up out of pure curiosity.

It was George W. Bush's Guard service that got Tyrrell waxing poetical about morons, too:

"Now Sen. John Pierre Kerry is the frontrunner, and he has developed a fine ploy for corralling the moron vote. He and McAuliffe have stirred up this controversy about how frequently the president attended National Guard meetings three decades ago. And they have transformed their entire party into the most heroic congeries of patriots and GI Joes ever seen on earth. The morons are entranced."

Don't you think that being 'entranced' is the only way to be in this instance? The whole thing is a fascinating mystery: Where in the world was George W. Bush?

There is a smell of desperation in these paltry attempts to make us angry liberals into jock-sniffers and morons, just because we have finally run out of patience. I like such smells just fine, though, (those of desperation, not of jock straps) and I think that we should own the term 'morons'.

Onwards and upwards, you teeming masses of morons! More morons and more moral leaders!
I got the link to Tyrrell's column from a post in Make Me A Commentator . Thanks, Bryant, for introducing me to this fascinating thinker.

Wednesday, February 11, 2004

On Buttocks

I've had a deeply philosophical day, and I'm going to share with you my conclusions and the process I used in coming to them. It started with the lovely springlike sunshine in the morning, which drew me out to sunbathe on a mountain cliff. Now, mountain cliffs are made of hard materials called rock. Yet I was perfectly comfortable there, hundreds of miles away from Green Mamba and his revolutionary movement GROEN (Get Rid Of Echidne Now!). And the reason was the two divine cushions on which I sat; all my own. Buttocks.

What a wonderful invention they are, the buttocks. Where would we be without them? What would we talk about in their stead? And how would we sit? Clearly, we couldn't.

Sheep don't sit around very much, but even among the sheep buttocks can take on exceptional beauty. This is called callipygia. Geneticists have found that a specific gene mutation causes some sheep to develop pronounced buttocks full of muscle rather than fat. I predict a future species of sheep that sit around blogging on the internet.

Human buttocks are every bit as wonderful. They are even scientifically defined:

the two rounded prominences on the human torso that are posterior to the hips and formed by the gluteal muscles and underlying structures.

or more simply:
n : the fleshy part of the human body that you sit on

But human buttocks are not just for something to sit on. They are a myriad of other things: a source of sexual attraction (though some like them big, others small), a way of telling someone to work harder ("get off your butt"), a way of showing contempt (you reveal them) and a handy shorthand for describing lots of other people (a pain in the butt). They even have meaning in dreams:

Dreaming of your buttocks, represents your instincts and urges. It may also indicate feelings of insecurity and reveals your struggles with some situation. Dreaming that your buttocks are misshaped, suggests undeveloped or wounded aspects of your psyche

No wonder that humans worry about the shapeliness of those twin mounds: if they are not shapely, neither is their psyche. Your buttocks can even foretell your future, believe me or not:

Ulf Buck, 39, is a German clairvoyant who claims a person's backside has lines that allow him to predict anything from financial fortune and family life to health and happiness.
Buck said the lines on a person's buttocks are similar to those found on the palm of the hand. He said that he has trained his fingers to acquire the skill of reading buttocks.

Hmm. Maybe something to consider if you want to make a career change? I can almost see it: A revolutionary method for predicting worker performance before hiring. If you do run with this idea, remember to give Ulf and me some credit.

Human buttocks are clearly quite wonderful. But how exactly did they evolve? I have spent the rest of the day in solving this crucial question, and I didn't get anywhere until I put two separate concepts together: what I have learned about the callipygous sheep and the excellent scientific method of evolutionary psychologists. The sheep taught me this:

Geneticists, on the other hand, study the sheep in the hope of understanding the strange way in which large bottoms are passed down through the generations.
Sheep are only callipygous if their father is; mutant mothers do not pass the trait on. And two big-bottomed sheep will have snake-hipped offspring. How the two mutants cancel each other out is still a mystery.

Maybe humans inherit big buttocks from their fathers, too? But why did this gene (if it exists in humans) survive? Here's where the scientific evolutionary psychology comes to my aid. The rules are something like this: Figure out how something that appears today might have once been useful, then explain its prevalence by the fact that it was once useful. It's a neat method, as lots of time is being saved by not having to go out to gather evidence or set up laboratory experiments, and it has the additional advantage (to me, at least) that nobody can prove my theory wrong. So here's my theory entitled "How Buttocks Came to Be".

A long time ago and far away lived a tribe of humans. Some of them were slender as a reed, and where we have buttocks they only had a small tight knot. Others had very large buttocks dragging behind them on the ground as they walked. Yet others were just right, not too slim and not too fat. Like we are.

Once a year the tribe would gather together for a mating ceremony in which all the men would fight each other for the right to inseminate all the females. (The females, as is common in evolutionary psychology in general, are going to be ignored from now on.) The mating ceremony took three days: On the first day all men would sit in a circle until they couldn't take it anymore. All those no longer sitting at sunset were discontinued. On the second day all remaining men would run around in a circle, nonstop, until the sun set. The fastest runner at this time would be declared the winner of the insemination ceremonies. The third day was spent on insemination.

Well, dear reader, you can guess what happened. None of the stick-figurelike knot guys could sit on the ground all day. They developed terrible sitting sores and despite firm determination and great stamina eventually had to admit defeat and get up just to get the blood moving again.

The really big-butted guys had a wonderful time with the first day's tournament. They could have easily sat for another week. But the next day they had to run and run, and as they ran their buttocks dragged behind, hit rocks and sticks and just hurt. Then they started bleeding. Besides, it's hard to run fast with something like that. However, valiant they were, these men, too, were disqualified. Only the fastest of the just-right guys got to pass his genes on.

And that's how buttocks came to be.

What do you think? It needs a bit of work before publication, of course, a few footnotes here and there, but the gist of the story is there.

I also have in mind a second article about the possibility that, as the sheep taught me, snake-hips might be the next stage in human development. Remember:

And two big-bottomed sheep will have snake-hipped offspring. How the two mutants cancel each other out is still a mystery.

This seems perfectly logical to me as a goddess of snakes. The problem is how to keep Green Mamba from reading it and getting even worse ideas about his own importance in the evolutionary tree.

Ashcroft on Warpath

Remember the decision to ban the so-called partial birth abortion? Remember that several physicians and organizations challenged the constitutionality of the ban? The government has now tried to subpoena the medical records of one of these physicians, Dr. Channing Hammond.

The ruling is the first in a series of subpoenas by the U.S. Justice Department seeking the medical records of patients from seven physicians and at least five hospitals, Crain's sister publication Modern Healthcare has learned. Besides Northwestern, Mr. Ashcroft is seeking patient records from University of Michigan Hospitals and Health Centers in Ann Arbor; Hahnemann University Hospital in Philadelphia, owned by Tenet Healthcare Corp.; Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center and Weill Cornell Medical Center of New York Presbyterian Hospital both of which are part of the New York-Presbyterian Healthcare System; and an unidentified San Francisco-area hospital.

The court didn't like this interference with the patients' privacy:

In a 16-page decision, U.S. Chief District Judge Charles Kocoras denied the government's request to obtain patient medical records from Northwestern, citing the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) and Illinois' medical privacy law.

but did speculate about the reasons for the government's subpoenas:

In his decision, Judge Kocoras said the records "appear to have been sought for the purpose of testing the assertions in Dr. Hammond's declarations. At best, the government is seeking possible impeachment material."

This was discussed on TAPPED, but the topic deserves repetition. It seems to me that Dr. Hammond's patients have nothing to do with his challenge, and their medical records should not be interfered with. But then I'm not a lawyer, just a very minor goddess.

Tuesday, February 10, 2004

O'Reilly Skeptical!

Bill O'Reilly is the scourge of liberals in the U.S., or at least he'd like to think of himself as one. His talk show is of the Limbaugh-type, except that O'Reilly usually doesn't just yell at the cameras but also at some poor sod sitting next to him as the token liberal. He's very popular though. It's easy to see when one learns that

O'Reilly poses nightly as an outraged common man speaking out against the corruption of the liberal elites who run the country from Hollywood and Washington. "We're the only show from a working-class point of view," he once told the Washington Post (12/13/00). "I understand working-class Americans. I'm as lower-middle-class as they come."
Despite assailing Hollywood liberals and Hillary Clinton night after night -- he reportedly has an image of Hillary Clinton's face on his office doormat (Washington Post, 12/13/00) -- O'Reilly is forced to maintain simultaneously that his views aren't conservative at all. He frequently proclaims his independence from all partisan agendas, as he wrote in his book: "See, I don't want to fit any of those labels, because I believe that the truth doesn't have labels." On his show, he often angrily denies accusations of a conservative bent.

But he does indeed have a conservative bent as politics is concerned. He has always rooted for G.W. Bush, and that's why it's so surprising what just happened: O'Reilly declared himself skeptical about whether Saddam Hussein actually had had weapons of mass destruction!

Conservative television news anchor Bill O'Reilly said on Tuesday he was now skeptical about the Bush administration and apologized to viewers for supporting prewar claims that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction.
The anchor of his own show on Fox News said he was sorry he gave the U.S. government the benefit of the doubt that former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein's weapons program poised an imminent threat, the main reason cited for going to war.
"I was wrong. I am not pleased about it at all and I think all Americans should be concerned about this," O'Reilly said in an interview with ABC's "Good Morning America."

Well, wonders never cease would be one possible reaction. Another one might be something about recovering the lost spine at the nick of the time. Yet another one might be something along the lines of rats skittering off when the ship is sinking. Take your pick.

"What do you want me to do, go over and kiss the camera?" asked O'Reilly, who had promised rival ABC last year he would publicly apologize if weapons were not found.

How about kissing my divine tail?

Which Greek Goddess or God Are You?

Take this test. Then write them a complaining e-mail letter. I am supposedly Nemesis! No-one could confuse the two of us: I'm a nice, sunny goddess with many interests, whereas she is....well, obsessive.

Monday, February 09, 2004

Bush On Television

Did you watch him? Peggy Noonan did. She used to write speeches for Ronald Reagan, and she thinks that George gives great speeches. But interviews? This is what Peggy said (link via Atrios):

You can find the transcript of the Bush-Russert interview all over the Web. It reads better than it played. But six million people saw it, and many millions more will see pieces of it, and they will not be the pieces in which Mr. Bush looks good.
The president seemed tired, unsure and often bumbling. His answers were repetitive, and when he tried to clarify them he tended to make them worse. He did not seem prepared. He seemed in some way disconnected from the event. When he was thrown the semisoftball question on his National Guard experience--he's been thrown this question for 10 years now--he spoke in a way that seemed detached. "It's politics." Well yes, we know that. Tell us more.

And Peggy likes him! So what did those commentators see who might not like Bush as much to begin with? Here's an editorial from the New York Times, the grandmother of the nasty liberal media:

Yesterday, in an interview with NBC's Tim Russert, after a week in which it became obvious to most Americans that the justifications for the war were based on flawed intelligence, Mr. Bush offered his reflections, and they were far from reassuring. The only clarity in the president's vision appears to be his own perfect sense of self-justification.
The president was doing far more yesterday than rolling out the administration's spin for the next campaign. He was demonstrating how he is likely to think if confronted with a similar crisis in the future. The fuzziness and inconsistency of his comments suggest he is still relying on his own moral absolutism, that in a dangerous world the critical thing is to act decisively, and worry about connecting the dots later. Mr. Bush said repeatedly that he went to the United Nations seeking a diplomatic alternative to war. In fact, the United States rejected all diplomatic alternatives at the time, severely damaging relations with some of its most important and loyal allies. "I believe it is essential that when we see a threat, we deal with those threats before they become imminent," he said. "It's too late if they become imminent."

Ouch. I'm eagerly awaiting the debates in the presidential race. Peggy, on the other hand, wants Bush to focus on giving pre-prepared speeches only, because he's more of a philosopher than a nasty politician...

Sunday, February 08, 2004

On the Ethics of Rabbits and Foxes

"Go for the jugular" my granny used to tell me. I wish. What she and my other relatives really told me was to be nice and fair. What they didn't tell me was that I'd meet many people who are neither nice nor fair, and that in these meetings I'd end up an eternal loser. This is something to consider in the current debates over the role of ethics in the society. In fact, an ethical upbringing may handicap a child just about as much as it would a rabbit who is going to live with the foxes.

The human foxes are naturally all for niceness education. I suspect that they hide among the ones who complain about the manners of today's youth in the opinion columns of newspapers, design Sunday school curricula and write ethical guides for little children. This activity would be commendable if it made everybody nice. But it doesn't. There is a special technical term for those of us who were taken in by it: 'a wuss', for the world is run by the foxes and what they have for dinner is rabbit stew.

So what is a nice rabbit to do? Funnily enough, most nice people don't want to stop being nice altogether. In any case, they don't have to. It is OK to be nice to little children, helpless animals and other wusses. It is NOT OK to be nice to the human foxes. They need their butts kicked. That's why rabbits have strong hind legs.

We rabbits need a new kind of ethical education which makes us less nice without making us any less ethical. Those who want to introduce ever stricter ethics should seek out the foxes and work on them. That way they might actually do some good.

Grown-up rabbits will find it very hard to reach a state of only partial niceness. It takes years of hard therapy and several courses in martial arts, tough talk and the like. But it's worth it. Though I am still a recovering wuss I have already noticed how much more fun slightly nasty people have. Besides, wusses need heroes and heroines, supernatural protectors against the human foxes, and the only route to this is through self-improvement (or, perhaps in this case, its opposite). How does a career as a Superrabbit sound to you?