Saturday, December 25, 2004


I have been too nice these last few days. Here's something a little less bland:

Look below for a nicer Christmas greeting.

Something Religious for Christmas

This is a two thousand years old Coptic prayer. It was found in a cave in Egypt in 1945:

The Thunder, Perfect Mind

I was sent forth from the power,
and I have come to those who reflect upon me,
and I have been found among those who seek
after me.
Look upon me, you who reflect upon me,
and you hearers, hear me.
You who are waiting for me, take me to yourselves.
And do not banish me from your sight.
And do not make your voice hate me, not your
Do not be ignorant of me anywhere or any time.
Be on your guard!
Do not be ignorant of me.

For I am the first and the last.
I am the honored one and the scorned one.
I am the whore and the holy one.

I am the wife and the virgin.
I am the mother and the daughter.
I am the members of my mother.
I am the barren one
and many are her sons.
I am she whose wedding is great,
and I have not taken a husband.
I am the midwife and she who does not bear.
I am the solace of my labor pains.
I am the bride and the bridegroom,
and it is my husband who begot me.,
I am the mother of my father
and the sister of my husband,
and he is my offspring.
I am the slave of him who prepared me.

I am the ruler of my offspring.
But he is the one who begot me before the time
on a birthday.
And he is my offspring in due time,
and my power is from him.
I am the staff of his power in his youth,
and he is the rod of my old age.
And whatever he wills happens to me.
I am the silence that is incomprehensible
and the idea whose remembrance is frequent.
I am the voice whose sound is manifold
and the word whose appearance is multiple.
I am the utterance of my name.

I am the knowledge of my inquiry,
and the finding of those who seek after me,
and the command of those who ask of me,
and the power of the powers in my knowledge
of the angels, who have been sent at my word,
and of gods in their seasons by my counsel,
and of spirits of every man who exists with me,
and of women who dwell within me.
I am the one who is honored, and who is praised,
and who is despised scornfully.
I am peace,
and war has come because of me.
And I am an alien and a citizen.
I am the substance and the one who has no substance.

Friday, December 24, 2004

Merry Christmas Again, This Time from Me!

I wish you all (who celebrate it) a very happy Christmas! May you not have tummy aches from overeating, may your not-so-nice relatives all stay away, and may you have exactly what you wanted from Santa Claus/Father Christmas!

For those of you who are not celebrating Christmas, may you see the most interesting movie ever, and may your Chinese meal be really delicious!

For any wingnuts, may you also have a wonderful Christmas, and may you wake up tomorrow all liberal and lefty! Just kidding.

I'm going to post about books and my gingerbread castle in the near future, but also about politics if required. My diet today consists solely of chocolate, so do forgive me if this makes no sense.

And a very warm and fuzzy hug from me and also a big sloppy kiss!
Take care, all of you.

And Merry Christmas Trees...

Bush is stealing Christmas from trees, sneakily and slyly as usual. Maybe he never met a nice tree? Everything he decides to do as president seems to be based on his own experiences. In any case, here's what the administration is doing about trees:

The new rules give economic activity equal priority with preserving the ecological health of the forests in making management decisions and in potentially liberalizing caps on how much timber can be taken from a forest. Forest Service officials estimated the changes will cut its planning costs by 30 percent and will allow managers to finish what amount to zoning requirements for forest users in two to three years, instead of the nine or 10 years they sometimes take now.
The government will no longer require that its managers prepare an environmental impact analysis with each forest's management plan, or use numerical counts to ensure there are "viable populations" of fish and wildlife. The changes will reduce the number of required scientific reports and ask federal officials to focus on a forest's overall health, rather than the fate of individual species, when evaluating how best to protect local plants and animals.

(Bolds mine.)

I am very angry. The trees are not going to take this lying down, either. Why is being moral equal to this?

And as a sidenote, this article also shows another bit of wingnut framing:

"We're really in a new world," Collins said in an interview. "You've got to have different plans for different places, and you've got to have more dynamic plans."

This new world business. Everything changed after 9/11. And so on. They keep saying that, and the intention is for you to think that maybe it is now necessary to turn fascist and to turn all trees into corporate desks and all animals into leather jackets, and that the only reason this makes you feel vomity is because you're still living in the pre-9/11 world. Don't you believe a word of it! Baby Jesus liked animals and trees, and He liked both of them alive.

Sorry about ranting on Christmas eve.

Merry Christmas from Molly Ivins

She's so funny:

Here's to all the Americans on both sides of this year's unusually peppy fights over the allowability of religious symbols on public property. This annual battle, in which the American Civil Liberties Union strives once more to make itself as popular as the Grinch, is over the part of the First Amendment that says the government cannot sponsor religion. I always liked what former Gov. Ann Richards said when informed there were demands that the large star on top of the state capitol come down. "Oh, I'd hate to see that happen," she drawled. "This could be the only chance we'll ever have to get three wise men in that building."
Feliz Navidad to all our immigrants, legal and otherwise – may La Migra be far away and tamales close at hand. By the way, there are some new legal rights groups that will go after the scum who hire you and then refuse to pay you. Joyeux Noel to all our friends in Canada, and please overlook the pifflebrains who keep insulting you.
Merry Christmas to Tonya Harding and to Nancy Kerrigan, to the Red Sox and to the Cards, and possibly even to George Steinbrenner. Here's to the Texas Legislature, about to convene once more, depriving many a village of its idiot. Here's to John Ashcroft, how we'll miss him – he was so sexy. A Cool Yule to all the jazzmen and their fans. And wishing a warm holiday to all the citizens with rings in their noses who find going out in subzero weather such a trial. And to those with tattoos, whatthehell.

And Merry Christmas to you, too, Molly!

Thursday, December 23, 2004

This is what I got Henrietta and Hank for Christmas

They are my dogs, in case you are one of those few who doesn't regularly read their dogblogging. I got Hank a George Bush chew toy! It's lovely, but I couldn't find it on the net. Here's another one which is not as nice as the one I got.

Henrietta gets Ahnuld the Governator chew toy, though she won't want it. Then I can wrap it up and give it to some other dog later on!

And they both get paw stockings of peanut butter cookies. Now I'm all done! Whew!

Rethinking Abortion

That is what the Democratic Party is doing, to appeal to a "broader group of voters". According to the Los Angeles Times:

The fight is a central theme of the contest to head the Democratic National Committee, particularly between two leading candidates: former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean, who supports abortion rights, and former Indiana Rep. Tim Roemer, an abortion foe who argues that the party cannot rebound from its losses in the November election unless it shows more tolerance on one of society's most emotional conflicts.
Roemer is running with the encouragement of the party's two highest-ranking members of Congress, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of San Francisco and incoming Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid of Nevada. Dean, a former presidential candidate, is popular with the party's liberal wing.
If Roemer were to succeed Terry McAuliffe as Democratic chairman in the Feb. 10 vote, the party long viewed as the guardian of abortion rights would suddenly have two antiabortion advocates at its helm. Reid, too, opposes abortion and once voted for a nonbinding resolution opposing Roe vs. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court ruling that legalized abortion.
Party leaders say their support for preserving the landmark ruling will not change. But they are looking at ways to soften the hard line, such as promoting adoption and embracing parental notification requirements for minors and bans on late-term abortions. Their thinking reflects a sense among strategists that Democratic presidential nominee John F. Kerry and the party's congressional candidates lost votes because the GOP conveyed a more compelling message on social issues.

So. The Democratic Party, or at least some of its leaders, have calculated that becoming more pro-life would gain them more voters than it would lose them. This is called pragmatism, and it means that the Democratic Party, as it now stands, apparently doesn't have values, after all. It will choose whatever will give it power, just like the Republicans. Not that I didn't know this before.

I just thought that people like Pelosi are better at electoral mathematics than they seem to be. What they are going to lose from their base by this move would be tremendous both in numbers and in financial support, whereas what they might gain is unsure and most likely not very significant. Unless they go the whole hog to the religious wingnut territory, but then they'll lose all rational voters.

I dislike parties who have no principles. I also dislike parties who crap on their most faithful supporters just after an election in which these supporters handed over most of their money to the Democratic politicians. It might be quite enjoyable to lend a hand in the destruction of the Democratic Party. Please don't force me to go that way, Nancy!

Funniest Quote of the Day

This is by Incognito on the Eschaton threads:

They stole the election and said it was about murals.


Nudity is the way to go if you want lots of visits to your blog, so here's my attempt do the marketing thing:

Thanks to TheaLogie for this story:

South African farmers who revealed all for a calendar to raise money for their farmers' association and local charities have proved popular pin-ups.
Within a day of publication all 1,000 copies were sold out, mainly to women.
"We're surprised by the demand. We've had to order another 6,000 copies," the photographer Daniel Blignaut said.
The Viljoeskorron farmers were initially camera shy, but in the end had great fun modelling their "backsides and body flab", he said.

I don't want to do a feminist analysis of this right before Christmas.

Kerry Joins the Ohio Suit

William Pitt:

2004 Democratic Presidential candidate John Kerry will file today, in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Ohio, papers in support of the Green Party/Libertarian Party recount effort. Specifically, Kerry will be filing a request for expedited discovery regarding Triad Systems voting machines, as well as a motion for a preservation order to protect any and all discovery and preserve any evidence on this matter.

Triad Systems has come under scrutiny recently after Sherole Eaton, deputy director of elections for Hocking County, swore out an affidavit in which she described her witnessing the tampering of electronic voting equipment by a Triad representative. Rep. John Conyers, the ranking minority member of the House Judiciary Committee, has requested an investigation into this matter by the FBI and the Hocking County prosecutor.

Truthout will have more on this specific Triad allegation later in the day.

Interesting, and possibly even meaningful. Doing this just before Christmas allows the message to sink in (should it be reported by any in the SCLM) without the wingnuts having time to reframe it as treason, fraud and sore-loserness.

Bush's Tax Plans

Now here's a topic that is probably as unpleasant as anything I could write, except perhaps something on root canals without anesthesia. Yet taxes are something that we will not get rid of; "we" meaning people in the lower and middle income classes. The rich, according to our all-knowing leader, are too wily to be caught paying taxes. Though previous leaders somehow managed to make them pay. Never mind.

President Bush is planning to make our tax system "simpler, fairer and more pro-growth", and this very term is used in the linked article as if these adjectives are generally accepted neutral descriptors of his plans. Nothing could be further from truth. I wrote to AP to complain about such biased reporting, but even that gesture is probably pointless.

What Bush may be planning (though no-one knows for sure) is the abolition of the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT) and the introduction of extra tax-relief for the wealthy:

While retaining the current income tax system, this option would eliminate the Alternative Minimum Tax, which was designed to make sure the rich paid their fair share of taxes but is now ensnaring more middle-income taxpayers. The proposal also would significantly expand opportunities for people to set up savings accounts where their investment earnings would be tax-free, something the administration has been pushing for two years.
Eliminating the AMT, which covered 3 million mostly wealthy taxpayers in 2004 but will raise the taxes of 23 million taxpayers by 2008, would cost the government an estimated $600 billion over 10 years.

What this means is that the new tax code would allow the wealthy to pay less and less. So what else is new? Well, the fact that Bush wants a revenue-neutral tax change. In other words, if we cut the taxes of the rich, we need to raise something else to take care of the lost 600 billion dollars. And what might this "something else" be? Guess:

To pay for that and the more generous savings accounts, the "least radical" proposal would eliminate the itemized deduction for state and local income taxes, while imposing a tax on Social Security benefits and employer-provided health care benefits.

How is this not raising taxes? Of course it would raise taxes, and it would raise them not only on the rich but also on the middle class. And it would especially increase the payments in the so-called Blue states (which voted for Kerry), because the itemized deduction for state and local income taxes is more important in those states. The net effect would be that the middle classes would pay more and the rich would pay less (because they get all the benefits yet carry only some of the increased taxes).

And not only that, the taxing of employer-provided health benefits has the same effect as an increase in the cost of health insurance on the accessibility of health care. At a time when access to health care is a major concern of most voters, the administration is planning to make this even harder! And why? So that the wealthy may have more money.

I wouldn't call that exactly moral, but then I'm in the wrong party for defining morals.

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

What I Want for Christmas

I have all the front teeth I need. Instead, I'd love a miniature Bill O'Reilly in a Santa outfit! I'd keep him in glass jar on the kitchen windowsill, and I'd listen to his fly-like buzzing when I do the dishes. When I'm bored I could take him out and have him run all over a big falafel sandwich or he could hide in my loofah.
And my boobs would indeed look big to him.

If you don't know what I'm raving about you should check the Google for O'Reilly-falafel-loofah. It's about a sexual harassment suit against Bill O'Reilly. According to the suit, he suggested interesting things he could do with a falafel to excite a woman. Except that he meant a loofah. How O'Reilly could excite anyone in his normal size beats me. But a tiny, tiny O'Reilly in a glass jar would be really fun.
So how about it, Santa?

O'Reilly has decided that he is a multitasker. Not only does he chat about big boobs and falafels and loofahs, but he also protects Baby Jesus (FOX News host Bill O'Reilly declared that "[s]omewhere Jesus is weeping" over criticism of O'Reilly in the print media.)! Yes! He's single-handedly keeping Baby Jesus from being eaten up by liberal East Coast eliters and Hollywood heathens. A busy guy, this O'Reilly. Too bad that he will be at least somewhat responsible for any future fascism this contry may have to face; anyone who spends as much time lying to the Americans on television will have to bear some responsibility. But I'd keep my miniature O'Reilly safe anyway.

Some Clean Christmas Fun!

Amongst all this baking and cleaning and shopping it is needed. This is innocent and childlike and has no indecency in it:

(By Reuters)

It is a giant billboard picture of George Bush, consisting solely of monkeys! The original artwork was banished from a New York art show. But art lovers managed to overcome this misfortune and now all and sundry can watch the image of our great leader on a billboard!

The story in greater detail:

"Bush Monkeys," a small acrylic on canvas by Chris Savido, created the stir last week at the Chelsea Market public space, leading the market's managers to close down the 60-piece show.
Animal Magazine, a quarterly arts publication that had organized the month-long show, said anonymous donors had paid for the picture to be posted on a giant digital billboard over the entrance to the Holland Tunnel, used by thousands of commuters traveling between Manhattan and New Jersey.
The original picture will be auctioned on eBay, with part of the proceeds donated to parents of U.S. soldiers wishing to supply their sons and daughters with body armor in Iraq.

So it's even a noble cause! What could be better at this time of the year?

Help Needed

What should I buy the dogs for Christmas? They are Christian dogs and they expect presents for Christmas. The snakes don't.

I have trouble thinking about anything that they might like. Henrietta the Hound insists on presents, though I'm not sure if Hank knows what Christmas is (or what anything is, come to that). I usually buy them new dog beds, but the house is full of dog beds.

Food is always appreciated, and they will get their traditional Italian meatballs, but Henrietta is on a maintenance diet, so I can't give them lots of fattening food.

Ok. Henrietta just said she wants a squirrel. I'm going to bed.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

A Writer I Love, Part I

Ursula LeGuin writes science fiction. Maybe that is why she is not counted in the canon of high literature. For what she writes is high literature, literature written for the brain, the body, the emotions and the spirit. She once said that the task of an author is to express in words that which cannot be expressed in words, and that sums her genius for me.

LeGuin writes like the Shaker maxim: Do all your work as if this was the last task of your life and also as if you had an eon to complete it. Her writing has the same grace and beauty as a Shaker table: everything frivolous and unnecessary has been removed, everything necessary and important has been refined until it is pure beauty. Reading her is as easy as drinking a glass of clear cool water on a hot day, and its effect is equally vital.

Reading her is easy, but understanding her may not be. The simple sentences that so quickly take you into the story hide multitudes of deeper messages and which of these you grasp will depend on where you are in your own life at the time of the reading. Even when you have discovered a new layer of meaning, you can never be sure that there aren't even further layers, not yet visible to you. That she is both transparent and opaque is what makes LeGuin's books some of my favorites.

LeGuin writes science fiction: books about planets in some distant future or fairy tales for adults and children alike. But she also writes about our reality:

Science fiction properly conceived, like all serious fiction, however funny, is a way of trying to describe what is in fact going on, what people actually do and feel, how people relate to everything else in this vast sack, this belly of the universe, this womb of things to be and tomb of things that were, this unending story.

Dancing at the Edge of the World (1989).

Doing this in a science fiction story makes sense. We are much more open to a fictional world than to our real one, much more able to see, as an outsider, all that is going on. We can't do that with our daily reality; we are too much part of that story, not its readers.

LeGuin uses her genre to explore deep philosophical questions, among them the impact that gender has on human societies (The Left Hand of Darkness), how power is awarded to some and kept from others (the Earthseaseries) and what it means to have good and evil (all her writings). This last question is the one she seems to be most interested in. She repeatedly returns to it and though she has refined her answer over time, it always has its basis in the idea of balance.

In that LeGuin is a Taoist. She states

To oppose something is to maintain it.

The Left Hand of Darkness(1969)


To light a candle is to cast a shadow.

A Wizard of Earthsea(1968)

and even

What is love of ones country; is it hate of ones uncountry? Then it's not a good thing.

The Left Hand of Darkness (1969)

To see both sides, to look for balance is wisdom in LeGuin's worlds. Her heros are never totally victorious, the evil is never totally eradicated. This sets her apart from the vast majority of fantasy writers in the Tolkien mode, who see the relationship between good and evil as a battle to death. For LeGuin, the victory of good over evil is not the happy ending but just a stage from which more evil will grow.

E-Mails and ACLU

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) got hold of some e-mails and memoranda which suggest that torture has been the name of the game for a long time in Guantanamo:

Detainees at the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, were shackled to the floor in fetal positions for more than 24 hours at a time, left without food and water, and allowed to defecate on themselves, an FBI agent who said he witnessed such abuse reported in a memo to supervisors, according to documents released yesterday.
In memos over a two-year period that ended in August, FBI agents and officials also said that they witnessed the use of growling dogs at Guantanamo Bay to intimidate detainees -- contrary to previous statements by senior Defense Department officials -- and that one detainee was wrapped in an Israeli flag and bombarded with loud music in an apparent attempt to soften his resistance to interrogation.
In addition, several agents contended that military interrogators impersonated FBI agents, suggesting that the ruse was aimed in part at avoiding blame for any subsequent public allegations of abuse, according to memos between FBI officials.

The lesson? This might depend on who you are. The administration might find the moral of the story to be that one should never write e-mails or memoranda on torture. Much better to wink and nudge in person. Some others might be upset about this, but most Americans will not even know that this happened. That's how well the societal indoctrination into the "Know-Nothing" party has worked!

The message would be heard if it was rewritten to be positive, I've been told. If it started with how the United States is the greatest country on earth a couple of people might perk their ears for the rest of it. This should be an explanation as to how none of this is any worse than the ordinary frat house capers (you know, gang-rapes and stuff) or if it is, well, war is war and so on. But I'm the goddess of gloom-and-doom, so you won't get the golden lining here. Just clouds.

If these pieces of evidence are real, who is to be blamed? Not the president, of course, that goes without saying. But Donald Rumsfeld could be a good scapegoat:

Instead, FBI and Pentagon officials said, the order in question was signed by Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld in December 2002 and then revised four months later after complaints from military lawyers that he had authorized methods that violated international and domestic law.
In a Jan. 21, 2004, e-mail, an FBI agent wrote that "this technique [of impersonating an FBI agent], and all of those used in these scenarios, was approved by the DepSecDef," referring to Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul D. Wolfowitz.

Deck the walls with Paul and Rummie...

The Devil You Know?

How else to explain the re-selection of Bush, the president with the most awful ratings at the beginning of a new term? Well, there is another way of explaining that one, but it takes me to the aluminum foil land.

Anyway, Bush is rated very low by respondents in a Washington Post-ABC News poll taken last week. More people disapprove of Bush overall than approve of his performance, and the disapproval percentace has risen three percent from late October. The majority dislikes Bush's attempt to destroy the healthy* and successful* Social Security program, the majority dislikes his performance on the economy, and the majority dislikes his health care policy.

Almost sixty percent of the respondents disapprove of the situation in Iraq. The only aspect of Georgie's performance that finds the majority approving is the war against terrorism.

All this leaves me scratching my divine tresses. How on earth did this guy get in again? What does it say about the country?

Well, they didn't ask about Bush's performance on the protection-of-Christmas issue, though that wasn't a campaign item on either side, and Bush just said "Happy Holidays!". So that can't be the answer.

I'm left with only two possibilities: either Kerry was so bad that the worst president ever seemed preferable to those who fear the sudden terrorist attack, or the election indeed was on theocracy in this country. Or, of course, the unmentionable might be whispered in a tin-foil lined room.
*These adjectives are part of the new progressive framing of the issue. From now on, always slip in "healthy" and "successful" when you talk about the Social Security issue.

Some Bad News

At least twenty human beings have died in Mosul in a mortar attack on an American base. One mortar caught the mess hall where lunch was being served right then.

May those who died find peace. May their families find peace.

Monday, December 20, 2004

A Comment to My Post

This is from the American Street where I blog on Saturdays. It's a comment to a post about how us liberals are wrecking Christmas:

Your bitterness and anger is not only consuming you but damaging many. Time to forgive all those people (your parents and authorities) you hate so much.

It could be a joke. Or it could be meant for one of the earlier comments on the same post. But I suspect that it's intended for me and not as a joke. I'm so proud!

Imagine me, the goddess who adores authority figures, writing so well that a reader gets completely taken for a ride! Yeah! That's me. I'm bubbling over with Christmas joy, and I want to have an intimate tete-a-tete with Santa Claus, another authority figure I love.

Though this could be just a very dense commenter... No, that's not possible. Only yesterday someone else thought that I belonged to the media and yelled at me to do SOMETHING CONSTRUCTIVE! So I'm getting to be really slick and smooth or otherwise deceptive; nobody notices that I'm a goddess so I can't possibly have parents or be a journalist.

But yes, I'm going to be very constructive: I'm working on a gigantic gingerbread castle for Christmas. I have the cardboard model all cut out.

A Christmas Update on the Elections

I will try to insert "Christmas" into everything I write for a while. It's a difficult word to type for some reason, at least for me. I wonder why?

In any case, the New York Times has a very good editorial about the rotten state of the American election machinery. Some snippets:

In San Diego, the No. 2 choice of the voters for the mayor's job may be headed to City Hall. Donna Frye, a write-in candidate, came within 2,108 votes of defeating Mayor Dick Murphy. But Ms. Frye's vote total does not include more than 5,500 ballots on which voters wrote her name, but failed to darken a bubble next to it. There can be no doubt that those voters, who would easily give Ms. Frye a majority, tried to vote for her, but were tripped up by poor ballot design. The voters' intent should be recognized.

In Ohio, where a recount of the presidential election is under way, it is becoming clear that as important as recounts are, they are not enough to ensure the integrity of our elections. Representative John Conyers Jr., a Democrat from Michigan, has charged that an employee of a company that makes vote-counting software used across the state may have tampered with one county's vote tabulator after the election to make the recount come out right. If people other than election officials have free access to the tabulation software, it can make a recount an empty gesture.

Thus, what we have is the wrong person for San Diego's mayor and an Ohio recount which is a total farce. This needs much more attention and discussion than it has received so far. In fact, this issue is the very lifeline of all democracy. Just ask yourself this question: Suppose that ATMs were created so that you could cheat on how much money you're taking out of your account. Would you really expect that not a single person will take advantage of the design flaw that allows stealing?

Yet this is the current situation in the United States election practices. Anyone with good computing skills and a couple of good connections could turn the elections. Maybe this anyone already has? Why are most politicians treating this issue with total nonchalance?

The best thing that might happen is for a real hacker to hack the 2006 elections so that Donald Duck wins every single one by a vast majority. Maybe then we'd get some change.

Should I Laugh or Cry?

More on the Time's "Person of the Year" issue:

Time Magazine named President Bush as the 2004 "Person of the Year," for the second time. Time also named 17 people, one group of women, and a horse as “People Who Mattered.” In addition to the cast of “Desperate Housewives,” only two women were named as “People Who Mattered” – Nancy Reagan and Martha Stewart.

Luckily, the Ms Magazine has its own "Women of the Year" issue every year. But I'm wondering if a horse wins the Time's "Person of the Year" before one individual woman does. It might be a close race...

Save A Life

In Iran, the fundamentalist interpretation of the Sharia law has caused two women to be given death sentences for "crimes against morality".

Hajieh Esmailvand has been sentenced to a five-year prison sentence, followed by an execution by stoning. She may be stoned to death any time this week:

The Iranian Penal Code is very specific about the manner of execution and types of stones which should be used. Article 102 states that men will be buried up to their waists and women up to their breasts for the purpose of execution by stoning. Article 104 states, with reference to the penalty for adultery, that the stones used should "not be large enough to kill the person by one or two strikes, nor should they be so small that they could not be defined as stones".

Her unnamed codefendant is scheduled to be hanged.

Also in Iran:

The news follows reports of a 19-year old girl, "Leyla M", who has a mental age of eight, reportedly facing imminent execution for "morality-related" offences in Iran after being forced into prostitution by her mother as a child. According to a Tehran newspaper report of 28 November, she was sentenced to death by a court in the central Iranian city of Arak and the sentence has now been passed to the Supreme Court for confirmation.
Leyla M was reportedly sentenced to death on charges of "acts contrary to chastity" by controlling a brothel, having intercourse with blood relatives and giving birth to an illegitimate child. She is to be flogged before she is executed. She had apparently "confessed" to the charges.
Leyla was forced into prostitution by her mother when she was eight years old, according to the 28 November report, and was raped repeatedly thereafter. She gave birth to her first child when she was nine, and was sentenced to 100 lashes for prostitution at around the same time. At the age of 12, her family sold her to an Afghan man to become his "temporary wife".
His mother became her new pimp, "selling her body without her consent". At the age of 14 she became pregnant again, and received a further 100 lashes, after which she was moved to a maternity ward to give birth to twins. After this "temporary marriage", her family sold her again, to a 55-year-old man, married with two children, who had Leyla's customers come to his house.

These are grave injustices. Amnesty International is working desperately to influence the Iranian authorities. It is important to put pressure on them and all other religious fundamentalists who refuse to see the compassion and fairness that is in their religions.

And no, this post doesn't mean that I advocate attacking Iran. That would be a stupid thing to do, given that bombs differentiate between the innocent and guilty even less than the Iranian mullahs.

Merry Christmas!

There. I said it. And I'm a non-Christian East Coast Elite Goddess! Saying "Merry Christmas" will label me as a wingnut, or that's what wingnuts hope. Because Christmas is under attack from people like me. Bill O'Reilly and other wingnut pundits tell us so.

Of course Christmas is not under attack. What the wingnuts are complaining about are restrictions on religious Christmas displays in public spaces. Interpreting these as warfare against Christmas is just the newest ploy to make the voters forget about the war and the unemployment and the loss of medical benefits and the general crapping down of America under Bush. To make them forget that the Republicans now control everything, everything, and that therefore everything that goes wrong is the Republicans' fault. This is a tricky situation: the wingnut media personalities must work very hard to remain the embattled, oppressed majority when they have all the power. But it can be done: find something that can be blamed on the liberals, and there you go. Nary a comment about how Social Security will be stolen or about how many dead corpses are quietly sent back from Iraq. Worry about Christmas instead.

Because Christmas is about Christ, and anyone who doesn't say "Merry Christmas!" in a loud, bright voice is against Christ. Not just against Christmas, mind you, but against a God. That's how something trivial can be translated into another religious divide.

I look around and see Christmas everywhere. True, most of it isn't about Christ, but that's not my fault. Most of it is about consumerism: buying as much as possible, eating as much as possible and then having as many fights with relatives you can't stand as you can possibly squeeze between Christmas and the New Year. Then there are the nauseating songs that you can here in every shopping mall.

For the more traditionally minded, there is the Christmas tree: a pagan symbol if there ever was one. There is ivy and holly and even mistletoe: all pagan symbols of renewal in the midst of winter. There is Santa Claus or Father Christmas. He is not mentioned in the Bible, either. The Yule log, a cake which might hark back to the original pagan Yule festival.

Christmas is not very Christian in this "Christian country". There are people who celebrate a religious Christmas, of course, but I'd bet that they are a very small minority. Most Americans celebrate Christmas very much like they celebrate Thanksgiving. In a sense, Christmas is a secular holiday, and the liberals have done nothing to make it such. It was the wingnuts' best friends, the corporate business interests, that managed this conversion. If Bill O'Reilly wants to know who stole Christmas, he could ask his CEO pals.

Strictly speaking, it was the Christians who stole a holiday. Nobody knows when Jesus was born, but there was this pesky pagan holiday, celebrated in late December, and newly-minted Christians in Europe just wouldn't stop partying and drinking that time of the year. So the church fathers decided that they were toasting Christ's birthday. That's how Christmas was born.

I don't mind public displays of Christianity, actually. I'm fine with having the manger-and-the-donkeys display right next to my snake shrine in front of the White House. But I bet Bill O'Reilly wouldn't let me erect a shrine there, and if I asked he'd tell me to go back to Snakeland.

Baby Found Safe!

This is a different baby, not the one from the horrible human incident who was also found safe. This one is a mountain gorilla baby:

Police have arrested four suspected poachers and recovered a baby mountain gorilla that was stolen from its family in the forests of neighboring Congo, a spokesman said Monday.
Police detained the men Saturday following a tip that they had smuggled the 3-year- old primate into the border district of Mutura, in Rwanda's northwestern Gisenyi province, said Dismas Rutaganira, who led the police operation.
The animal was hidden in a sack and was being taken to unknown buyers in Kenya, Rutaganira said.
The suspects said that the baby was stolen from gorillas accustomed to visits by humans in Congo, said Fidele Ruzigandekwe, head of the Rwanda Wildlife Agency.

There are only 380 mountain gorillas left in the whole world! Dian Fossey lost her life for their sake, but most humans seem to think that rarity increases market value. The poachers had fed the adult gorillas bananas which were laced with something. Otherwise the adults would have killed the poachers which would have served them right.

I wonder how many wonderful animal species will be completely extinct before humans learn? If the light bulb ever lights up.

Today's Action Alert

Today's Action comes straight from Atrios. Write to or call Democrat Allen Boyd and tell him that Democrats who won't stand up for Social Security don't deserve to call themselves Democrats. Point out that Social Security is not in trouble and that, even if it were, a boondoggle that transfers wealth to Wall Street traders would not be the way to fix it.

Allen Boyd (D-Fl) DC: (202) 225-5235, Tallahassee (850) 561-3979, Panama City: (850) 785-0812.

Sunday, December 19, 2004

A Question About the Blog

What are you all doing these next two weeks? Are you going to read my blog? And if you are, but not all the time, when are you going to read it? I want to know if I should close up shop for the week between Christmas Eve and January 1st. If I spill out my greatest creative efforts, I don't want to have nobody here to applaud them.

In any case, I probably won't stop posting as it seems to be almost impossible for me to do that. But I might post on some other topics, such as kicking butt and embroidery, or why my early childhood perverted me for evermore. Or post more bad poetry. Or why a cat might suddenly start peeing just outside the litter box. (Though I don't know why that might be, suggestions are welcome.)

Thank you for your answers in advance!

My Head Hurts

After winning re-election and "reshaping the rules of politics to fit his 10-gallon-hat leadership style," President George Bush for the second time was chosen as Time magazine's Person of the Year.
The magazine's editors tapped Bush "for sharpening the debate until the choices bled, for reframing reality to match his design, for gambling his fortunes -- and ours -- on his faith in the power of leadership."
Time's 2004 Person of the Year package, on newsstands Monday, includes an Oval Office interview with Bush, an interview with his father, former President George H. W. Bush, and a profile of Bush's chief political adviser, Karl Rove.

No comment.

The Bowtie Parade

Atrios has an article about Tucker Carlson, yet another wingnut television personality, possibly getting his very own show on MSNBC.

Carlson is one of those opinion guys: facts are irrelevant but wingnut opinions valuable to air. He's also on the PBS, the scummiest of the scummy in the SCLM (so-called liberal media). Carlson is like George Will in sporting a bowtie. A bowtie may be the new secret handshake for wingnut boys; it tells that the wearer has read the hundred greatest works of Western civilization and still hates the poor and the oppressed. A signal, if you like. Wingnut girls have a really short skirt as a similar signal.

So. Now we have a liberal media which is so liberal that it hands over all the choicest spots to wingnut bowties and mini-skirts. Note that there isn't a single far-left talking head anywhere on the mainstream television, not a single one. There is only one program left where the host is openly on the left, and that is Bill Moyer's old show, Now, which is going to be cut into one half of its length. And then there is Keith Olberman on MSNBC who may sometimes discuss lefty issues. That's it. Two shows or bits of two shows, and the media is liberal? What about Novak? What about the Fox News? What about Chris Matthews? Joe Scarborough? Pat Buchanan, for Chrissake!

It's not that the left lacks talent. Actually, the wingnuts lack talent. Many of these radical right shows are terrible, and the only requirement for the talking heads seems to be that they are to the right of the old Attila. Now this is what I'd call affirmative action of the foulest sort. Why doesn't Molly Ivins have her own show? Why doesn't Katha Pollitt have her show? Why isn't Al Franken on television? Then there's Ann Richards and Jim Hightower from Texas and so many, many more.

The answer is, of course, so very simple. The media is not liberal. It is owned by right-wingers, and the bits that are not are scared of our present government's maffia-like tactics. Those who speak against the government are punished: reputations are lost overnight, new jobs don't materialize and vilification will go on 24/7. You can get away with a little criticism if you are like Bill Moyers, well-known, respected and retiring anyway. For anyone else it's a really suicidal mission.