Saturday, March 20, 2004

Rumsfeld in His Own Words

If you haven't seen and heard this yet, maybe you should. Click here.


Spring-cleaning is wasted on the organized and orderly, which is sad, because they're probably the only people who still do it. I never really cared for cleaning (so bad for the hands), but a recent experience has made me look at it quite differently: Don't think about dusting and scrubbing, lifting and rearranging. Think about 'Raiders of the Lost Ark', about archeology and ancient history, about pirates and their treasure-chests.

This experience was a necessary cleaning-out of several closets and cupboards; necessary, because opening the doors caused an avalanche. I expected to be bored to death. What I actually had was one of the most interesting afternoons of my life, and this is what I found:
Five Radios
Several Unopened Advertizing-Size Boxes of Cereal
A Pair of Bright Red Leather Shoes
Enough Cotton Balls/Wool to Keep the Ears of the U.S. Military Forces Clean
Six Blocks for the Quilt 'Dresden Plates'
One Mummified Boxing Shoe

You might not find this list very interesting, of course, and maybe it isn't. But what is interesting is the history it tells (well, some of it, anyway, I have no idea who owns the red shoes and how they got into the linen closet). The cereal boxes are a memento of a time when I had decided to see if it was possible to stay alive by only eating the free samples in stores. It isn't, by the way, but one meets an interesting class of individuals that way. The radios have to do with the striving to find the Perfect Radio and a natural laziness in returning duds. I'm going to give them to charity.

The cotton balls I inherited from someone who had an obsessive fear of running out of cotton to stick in the ears. I have enough for several lifetimes. The quilt blocks were the output of one of my homebody phases. They could make a quilt for a very short and a very wide person almost as they are. The boxing shoe was once one of a pair, and brings back many fond memories of broken noses (not all mine) and of the one fight I won because I pinched the guy. The referee was a coward and refused to accept my superiority. Sigh. I no longer box because I have seen the light (and my back hurts), but the smell of the shoe still makes me wax nostalgic.

It's like personal archeology in the making, isn't it? And this is possible for everyone of us who decides to tackle spring-cleaning. Tomorrow I will clean the shelves and put everything back from the floors. I swear.

Friday, March 19, 2004

An Update on the Urinals

I'm very happy to hear that Virgin Airways has decided not to go on with the installation of urinals shaped like women's mouths in their J.F.Kennedy airport Clubhouse:

Contact: 203 750 2570


(Norwalk, CT) March 19, 2004 - Virgin Atlantic recently opened its new Clubhouse at JFK's state-of-the-art Terminal 4. As one of the more quirky features of the lounge, the airline had planned to install two unique "Kisses" urinals in the Clubhouse restroom, designed by a Dutch-based company, Bathroom Mania. In response to the public's concerns about the design, the airline has decided not to move forward with the installation of these urinals in the bathroom.

John Riordan, Vice President of Customer Services, said:
"Everyone at Virgin Atlantic was very sorry to hear of people's concerns about the design of the "Kisses" urinals to be fitted into our clubhouse at JFK airport. We can assure everyone who complained to us that no offense was ever intended."

"The urinals were intended to be one of the more fun and quirky features of the new JFK Clubhouse, a project overseen by Virgin's in-house design team led by two female designers. The urinals themselves were the idea of a female designer and we were therefore surprised by the reaction."
"However, Virgin Atlantic always aims to listen to our passengers and the general public and as a result we will not install the urinals in the bathroom at our new JFK clubhouse."
(Bolds mine.)

But Mr. Riordan still doesn't get it. That the "urinals themselves were the idea of a femal designer and we were therefore surprised by the reaction" indicates that he thinks all women think the same. Yeah, just like Noam Chomsky and John Kerry and George W. Bush and Osama bin Laden must all think the same because they are all men...
Thanks to o.a.g. and hollymo at the ms. boards ; o.a.g. for the information, and hollymo for the point about all women not thinking the same.

News from Scopes County

The good people of Rhea County, Tennessee are still fighting:

The county that was the site of the Scopes "Monkey Trial" over the teaching of evolution is asking lawmakers to amend state law so the county can charge homosexuals with crimes against nature.
The Rhea County commissioners approved the request 8-0 Tuesday.
Commissioner J.C. Fugate, who introduced the measure, also asked the county attorney to find a way to enact an ordinance banning homosexuals from living in the county.
"We need to keep them out of here," Fugate said.

This was on Tuesday. But today the commissioners did a complete turnaround:

Rhea County commissioners took about three minutes to retreat from a request to amend state law so the county can charge homosexuals with crimes against nature. The Tuesday measure passed 8-0.
County attorney Gary Fritts said the initial vote triggered a "wildfire" of reaction. "I've never seen nothing like this," he said Thursday.
But Fritts said it was all a misunderstanding.
"They wanted to send a message to our (state) representative and senator that Rhea County supports the ban on same-sex marriage," he said. "Same-sex marriage is what it was all about. It was to stop people from coming here and getting married and living in Rhea County."
Not that the issue of banning homosexuals didn't arise.
"I'm not saying it wasn't discussed," Fritts said. "Sometimes you had five or six people talking."
Fritts said he advised the commissioners they cannot ban homosexuals or make them subject to criminal charges. The U.S. Supreme Court in 2003 struck down Texas' sodomy laws as a violation of adults' privacy.
Fritts said he doesn't believe the issue will come up again.
"I think they got all the publicity they need about it," he said.

So gays and lesbians won't be banned from Rhea County, after all. Before you expel that breath you've held in suspense, consider that Scopes County isn't really any one place at all but rather the mental homeland of a certain way of thinking, and there are other news from the same area:

Gay and lesbians in the entire federal workforce have had their job protections officially removed by the office of Special Counsel. The new Special Counsel, Scott Bloch, says his interpretation of a 1978 law intended to protect employees and job applicants from adverse personnel actions is that gay and lesbian workers are not covered.
Bloch said that the while a gay employee would have no recourse for being fired or demoted for being gay, that same worker could not be fired for attending a gay Pride event.
In his interpretation, Bloch is making a distinction between one's conduct as a gay or lesbian and one's status as a gay or lesbian.
"People confuse conduct and sexual orientation as the same thing, and I don't think they are," Bloch said in an interview with Federal Times, a publication for government employees.
Bloch said gays, lesbians and bisexuals cannot be covered as a protected class because they are not protected under the nation's civil rights laws.

My head aches. Let me see if I got this right: If I were a sexually abstinent lesbian or gay civil servant, I could be fired because of this without any protection from civil rights laws, but if I were a sexually active lesbian or gay the laws would protect me? No, this can't possibly be correct; the government being all hot for abstinence. What does it mean then? Quiet gays and lesbians can be fired at will, whereas noisy and belligerent ones will be protected? What about the "Don't Ask. Don't Tell" policies in that case? I give up. That's one of the things that tends to happen in Scopes County.

Thursday, March 18, 2004

Is This Blog Sometimes Boring?

Of course. Is it going to get better? You betcha!

I've figured how to speak Republicanese at the face of any undeniable criticisms! It's really easy: all you need to do is repeat the accusation and agree to it, then strongly assert that remedy is already on the way, and you betcha! Were there any WMD in Iraq? No, of course not. Are we going to find them? You betcha!

This used the be the way only Donald Rumsfeld spoke, but all the other administration members liked it so well that they have also adopted it. I even heard a career diplomat Walter Slocum use it last night on NPR. He is a senior advisor to Paul Bremer on national security and defense. And today Richard Armitage joined in the spreading of this new way of speaking:

"So we think we're right on track with it.

Is it going to be easy?

No, it's not going to be easy.

Is it worthy work?

You betcha."

This is very clever. You restate the regrettable failure of your policies, but then immediately add a lot of fist waving and saliva flying and strong promises of a better tomorrow. I'm now going to use this device extensively. Is it going to be repetitive? Of course. Is it going to work? You betcha!

Wednesday, March 17, 2004

In Anything We Do, There Has To Be A Smile!

The 'we' is Virgin Airways, and the smile in this case is in the new men's urinals in the Virgin Airways Clubhouse in John F. Kennedy airport.

Even though they allow for high-volume servicing and back-in-a-flash trips to the john, the point-and-shoot-a-stinky-deodorizer-cake oddity known as the men's restroom urinal has been, for women, a constant enigma. But nothing will prepare you for the men's room in the newly-designed Virgin Airways Clubhouse in New York's John F. Kennedy airport, terminal 4: Urinals shaped like a woman's mouth, dolled up with red lipstick, wide open and ready for business.(Bolds mine)

I would have preferred an enigma to now knowing that there are men peeing into the wide open and ready mouths of women. What next? Make-up seats in the women's lounge shaped as African slaves on all fours?

Maybe nothing better can be expected of a company with the name 'virgin'. Do you want a pilot and a co-pilot to be on their virgin trip when you are sitting in the back of the plane? Still, the name is just silly, but this design feature is much more than that. Not that the powers-that-be at Virgin Airways think of it that way:

In anything that we do there has to be a smile, and that's the smile in this Clubhouse," said John Riordan, Vice President of Customer Services for Virgin Airways.

Well, I shall smile all the way to the competitors' ticket windows, thank you very much. Mr. Riordan may find that funny, too, given that he thinks urinating into a woman's mouth is a blast of a joke. Something we can all relate to, guffawing and elbowing each other while we zip up in front of all those helpless and harmless female mouths, right?

Wait a second...Maybe the mouths aren't so harmless, after all. If you click on the above link, or even better, here, you'll see a picture of the urinals, and what do we spot there, right inside the red-painted lips? Could it be.....teeth?
Thanks for the link to cc.

Even Worse Poetry

I really have to share these!

Mother Goose,
were you married to Mr. Goose or not?
Did your webbed fingers
ever touch his
in a wedding trot?

Mother Goose,
were you charming in your feather dress?
When you swam around the pond
or nibbled watercress?

Mother Goose,
did it hurt to lay all those eggs?
Mother Goose,
did you ever wish for
drier legs?

Ms. Mosquito

Listen to the never-ending whine.
The darkness sleeps. You cannot.
You can hear her dance. It is hot.
When the dance is over she will dine.

You'll be her meal, laid out on bed.
Unless you rise and find her first,
and squash her, and her bloody thirst,
she will turn your pillows red.

And this one is by far the best of the lot! A Truly Good Bad Poem!

Hundred and two in the shade
my eyes stand like hard-boiled eggs
in my crab-coloured face.
This country, she was not made
for people with snowpealike legs.
This country, she's on my case.

Ok. I promise there will be no more bad poetry, except perhaps for the feminist ones I was looking for when I found these.
Share yours in the comments thread.

More International Attitudes

Remember the recent post here on the attitudes of other countries' citizens to the United States? The Pew Research Center for the People and the Press just published the most recent results in their GAP project which maps out international attitudes towards the U.S., and the news are not good.

The gap between American beliefs and attitudes and those held by people elsewhere are growing. On the Iraq war, for example:

Majorities in all but the United States and Britain (33 percent) said they believed the Bush administration's main interest is to ''control Mideast oil'', while majorities in five of the countries, including France, said they believe his goals included ''dominat(ing) the world''.
Near majorities or majorities in all of the predominantly Muslim countries said another goal was ''to protect Israel''.
Majorities in France, Germany and each of the predominantly Muslim countries said they did not believe that Washington's ''war on terrorism'' was motivated primarily by the fight against terrorism. In Russia, a 48 percent plurality expressed similar skepticism.

The notion that Washington acts on its own without taking into account the interests of other nations was most prevalent in France (84 percent), Turkey (79 percent) and Jordan (77 percent), but even 61 percent of British respondents agreed with the statement.
By contrast, 70 percent of U.S. respondents thought Washington took other nations' interests into account.

It's as if the Americans live in a parallel universe from the rest. Various explanations might be offered for the growing divergence in attitudes, but one that certainly has an important impact is the stance taken by the media in each country, not only in the angle the news broadcasts adopt but also in what they choose to cover as news. I often listen to news on the shortwave radio from other countries. Try it if you haven't done so already; it can be very educational.

One very worrisome aspect of the international attitudes mapped in the survey is the prevalent support for Osama bin Laden in three of the four muslim countries included in the survey (Turkey, Morocco, Jordania and Pakistan):

Despite a reduction in the intensity of anger directed against the United States in the predominantly Muslim countries last May, GAP found that support for both bin Laden and the idea of suicide bombings remained disturbingly high.
Bin Laden was viewed favorably by 65 percent of respondents in Pakistan, 55 percent in Jordan and 45 percent in Morocco. Two-thirds of Moroccan and Jordanian respondents said suicide bombings against westerners in Iraq were justified; for Pakistanis, the percentage was 46 percent.
Even higher percentages said suicide bombings by Palestinians against Israelis could be justified -- from 47 percent of Pakistanis to 86 percent of Jordanians

This is not good. Not good at all.
The survey was taken in February and early March of 2004. Nine countries were included.

Tuesday, March 16, 2004

Too Awful For Words?

"I cannot relate to being obsessed with all this hatred. I just don't get it. It is unspeakable to me. It is dirty. It is wounding. "

Who said this? Some wilting wallflower Liberal? Some testosterone-deficient bleeding heart? Some un-American lefty?

Wrong. These are words uttered by Rush Limbaugh, the braying trumpeter of the boys' own populist conservatism. Rush is aghast at how low the Democrats have fallen, how full of hatred they are. He's trembling, he's shivering, he's full of confusion and dread. Poor Rush.

And what was the cause of his nervous breakdown? Two widows of 9/11 victims, Kristen Breitweiser and Monica Gabrielle, who have been actively demanding better explanations from the government about the events preceding the mass-slaughter. Most recently, they protested the use of the 9/11 material in Bush's election advertisements.

Rush decided that they were plants by the Democratic party, carefully coached to say the right thing. This is what he couldn't stand: that someone would go as far as to exploit the grief of others for a political purpose...

"I'm saying to myself, 'This can't be. The Democrats have not given these poor widows talking points. This just can't be,'" Limbaugh said on March 5, the first time he played the audio of Breitweiser and Gabrielle's statements. "They're going to make me level this accusation? They're going to?" I mean, I'm an observer of life. I watch the news; I see this. If you saw it, too, I'm sure you had to come to the same conclusion. And I'm sitting, saying to myself, 'Can it possibly be that the Democrats are out there accusing George Bush of running an attack ad and capitalizing politically on the attack of 9/11, have actually gotten hold of some widows, some family members, and gave them talking points?'

Because when you listen to what they say, they're all saying the same thing about where Bush was when this happened, and I keep saying, 'There's nothing these people do that will surprise me anymore, nothing the Democrats, nothing the liberals will do. They can't go any lower than they are. They can't have any more hatred than they have. They can't be more bitter than they are,' and they continue to surprise me. They can become angrier. They do become more embittered. They do get slimier!. .

I do like Rush. He could keep a legion of bloggers in business with his incredible ability to spout inanities by the hour, and I appreciate the humor in the reversals that he uses here. This must have been an easy write-up; all Rush needed to do was to borrow any one of the many critiques of his own radio shows. But he's got his facts wrong as usual: anyone who knows snakes could have told him that Liberals don't even count on the sliminess scale.

What He Said

This is your koan for the day:

"God loves you, and I love you. And you can count on both of us as a powerful message that people who wonder about their future can hear."—Los Angeles, Calif., March 3, 2004

By the president of the United States, G.W. Bush. E-mail me when the enlightenment strikes you.

Link via Atrios

The Mariana Mallard and the Guam Broadbill

Have you ever seen these tropical birds? If you haven't, it's too late. They are as dead now as the dodo bird. Species extinction has always taken place, of course, but many believe that the rate of extinction has risen thousandfold from the early figures of one to two species out of a million each year. The most pessimistic forecasts imply that in fifty years time we may lose a quarter to a half of all now-existing species. Much of this increase is due to human activity.

This planet might become quite a lonely place for the humans. That has its good sides, too. More space for shopping malls and new housing developments, more relaxing camping holidays with no bears or wolves to worry about, more space for industrial agriculture, which will be needed to feed all the people who move into the new housing developments and shop in the new shopping malls. But it will be lonely, especially for the children who can no longer read about the tigers and the rhinoceri or the elephants.

It may also be bad for adults, even those who hate all wildlife as vermin. The species on this earth are interlinked and each extinction unravels a small whole into the overall fabric. Some of those holes will be at unimportant places in the weave, and will not matter much for the overall design. Others, however, might break the very foundation threads of our existence and directly threaten the survival of everything, including homo sapiens.

Consider the humble bee. It stings, true, but it also makes honey. If it went extinct we'd lose both of these. But we might also lose apples, at least in some areas, as the bee is the major pollinator of apple trees. The bees may be only a tiny thread in the overall tapestry, but their loss would leave a big hole behind.

I don't know what will unravel because of the extinction of the Mariana Mallard and the Guam Broadbill, but there's bound to be something. If nothing else, the loss of their beauty and wonder is a loss for ever.

Monday, March 15, 2004

Marketing Research

I really should run this blog in a more business-like manner. This is the first step towards that, a real marketing survey to find out what my readers desire. You can answer the questions in the comments thread attached to this survey, or just write whatever you feel like!

1. Are you
a) a human
b) a snake
c) a supernatural

2. Which stories do you prefer
a) political ones
b) feminist ones
c) funny stories
d) other (I could write about literature, martial arts, embroidery, antiques, nature, religion or the best way to bite your toe nails)

3. Would you like more bells and whistles
a) yes, please add pictures and music and stuff
b) no, I like the archaic formulation
c) other

Simple and quick! And nobody will call you afterwards! I'll let you know the results with the modal values and margins of errors if anyone answers which is unlikely. Now I'm going out to enjoy a day off from the snakes. You have a great day, too!

Sunday, March 14, 2004

The Odd Man Out

Some days I feel totally schitzophrenic. Like today: I was surfing the web toiling away in search of stories to amuse and irritate you, my dear readers, when I came across two articles which analyzed the ways in which the United States stands out of the crowd of other Western nations, and these ways are not pretty. Yet only a couple of hours earlier I had scintillated at a local block party with lots of very nice American humans, and not one evil power-broker or fundamentalist among them (I'm not counting me, of course). What is a goddess to think? Mainly that it's time for all good, normal Americans to get off their asses to vote so that I can hold my head up in international meetings of the supernatural. Should you think of no other reason to do so.

The first of these two stories is a tale on morality, the Right Way and the sin of sex. We've heard this one before, of course, but repetition doesn't make it any less weird. The events took place at a hemispheric health conference of the Americas which was held in Santiago, Chile. Forty countries participated in this conference, and all but one agreed on the importance of family planning programs. Guess which country disagreed? Right:

By acclamation, the more than 300 participants at the Santiago Health Conference added language over U.S. objections that reaffirmed and expanded the so-called "Cairo Consensus," the program of action endorsed by 179 countries, including the U.S., at the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD). The Consensus asserts that promoting women's reproductive and sexual rights and services is central to reducing poverty and promoting economic development.

The U.S. wanted all language to 'reproductive health services' to be removed as it naturally means abortion, and it also wanted to insert language asserting parental rights over all teenagers' sexual and health decisions. I smell a fundamentalist Christian here, somewhere in the room.

Given that the majority of South American countries are quite traditional in their values and strongly affected by the Roman Catholic church, the isolation of the United States stance is all the more remarkable. But an empire doesn't need to think like others, of course, not even like most of its citizens.

And it doesn't even have to worry about the equality of the majority of its citizens. During the last week the United States has also decided to renege on its commitment to the 1995 Beijing Platform of Action, "a program adopted by a UN conference to promote the advancement of women throughout the world". So American women don't need any more promotion, I guess. Twelve percent is an acceptable number of women in the Congress, and the Bible never said anything different. What's next, I wonder? A change to the female voting rights would seem like the logical next step. The next elections might be a good time to use them or to lose them.

The second story of the odd man out concerns the worldly goods, greed and the ever free markets. This is where my schitzophrenia again rears its ugly head, for the U.S. in this story is a totally different bunch of people than the ones who went to Santiago. No Old Testament values are touted here; rather, the tale is about the religion of markets and the god of globalization. My bard is Joseph Stiglitz, a respectable economist, and the events take place at an International Labor Organization committee about the negatives of globalization. Stiglitz says:

A new report, issued by the International Labor Organization's commission on the social dimensions of globalization, reminds us how far the Bush administration is out of line with the global consensus. The ILO is a tripartite Organization's with representatives of Labor, government and business. The commission, chaired by the presidents of Finland and Tanzania, has 24 members (of whom I was one) drawn from different nationalities, interest groups and intellectual persuasions, including members as diverse as the head of Toshiba and the leader of the American Federation of Labor Congress of Industrial Organizations. Yet this very heterogeneous group was able to crystallize the emerging consensus, that globalization - despite its positive potential - has not only failed to live up to that potential, but has actually contributed to social distress.

This consensus, and a rather moderate one at that, as what people agree about is that globalization is not all roses and wine, is not shared by the United States. Stiglitz gives two examples of the U.S. rigidity in dealing with globalization: the Americans insistence on the liberalization of capital markets at an early stage of economic development, despite the fact that this has been shown to result in crises, the disappearance of the middle class and increased poverty, and a similar insistence on strong intellectual property rights in areas such as pharmaceutical patents, which seriously hampers the poor countries' access to drugs that are needed to combat AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria. Only reluctantly did the U.S. agree to allow genetic (and cheaper) equivalents to be marketed in these countries, and only when an epidemic or other emergency was taking place.

What these two tales share is the impression of American heartlessness and rigid fanaticism. These are not the values of the Americans that I know and love, and it makes me very angry that a bunch of people in one itsy-bitsy town, Washington D.C., can so ruin the reputation of nice, hospitable folk with a lot of common sense.