Saturday, April 16, 2005

Answer Him

Maybe Osama bin Laden could help him figure this one out?
From Patrick Oneill on Eschaton threads today.

More on Mr. Zoellick

His is the picture below, and, yes, we do have a winner: mikey. Anyway, Mr. Zoellick traveled to Falluja himself to see all the progress that has been made:

Robert B. Zoellick, the deputy secretary of state, wanted to see Falluja for himself instead of relying on dry reports from the "interagency process," as he put it.

So midway through a trip otherwise focusing on Sudan, he stopped here Wednesday morning and sped downtown in an Army Humvee, squinting at the city through thick bullet-proof glass, then got out at an American base to speak to the new city council. He got an earful.

On the flight here, which was kept secret for security reasons, a State Department official shared a relatively rosy view of Falluja five months after the American military operation that largely rid the city of insurgents but also leveled a good part of it.

Ninety-five percent of Falluja's residents now have water in their homes, the official said, reading from a report. Eighty-five percent of people in northern areas that were not the focus of the American offensive have electricity. Three out of five medical clinics are now open.

But sitting with five members of Falluja's temporary city council, Mr. Zoellick asked the chairman, Sheik Khalid al-Jamily, "Do most people in Falluja have safe drinking water?"

The short answer was no.

"Two sewage pipes dump raw sewage into the river," he said. The Euphrates is an important source of drinking water. "The whole sewer system is in very bad shape."

Mr. Zoellick asked whether electricity and schools were functioning. "We brought in some tents and desks for schools," Mr. Jamily replied.

I wonder what Mr. Zoellick thought about all this.

Name This Mug

Not the face that sunk a thousand ships, not at least yet. But can you pin a name on it?

From Degenerate Renegade.

Friday, April 15, 2005

Friday Embroidery Blogging


I'm not quite sure what these snakes are doing.

The technique is a combination of applique and reverse applique (it was hard as you can see from the wrinkles) and some other usual stuff.

Butt Kicking in California

Arnold Schwarzenegger promised to kick the California nurses' butts:

The first indication that things were veering off track for "Team Arnold" came with his promise at the end of last year to "kick the butts" of nurses protesting against his proposals to reduce nurse-patient ratios.

"Pay no attention to those voices over there," Schwarzenegger told a conference as it was disrupted by a group of nurses protesting against him. "They are the special interests. Special interests don't like me in Sacramento [California's capital] because I kick their butt."

It didn't go quite as well as it would have in a movie. In fact, the nurses kicked back. And so did the teachers and fire-fighters and police officers. Ahnuld took them on all at the same time; the kind of thing a terminator would do. But politics is not like the movies:

He said he would take on special interests by introducing merit pay for teachers, reforming the pensions of state employees, and redrawing constituencies. But a clause in the pension reform plan would have removed death and disability benefits from the system, leaving the grieving relatives of, for example, firefighters, stranded.

The protests started almost immediately. The California Nurses Association organised demonstrations at his normally discreet fundraising dinners at homes in the Hollywood hills and hotels in San Francisco. A light plane was a frequent uninvited guest at Schwarzenegger events, towing a banner through the skies reading "California is not for sale". Protesters even blocked the red carpet for a film premiere, forcing Schwarzenegger to go into the cinema through a side entrance.

Then another previously unseen phenomenon began to appear, this time on California's television screens: the anti-Arnold commercial. Teachers joined firefighters and nurses joined police officers to denounce Arnold's wicked ways.

And Schwarzenegger's popularity rating fell below the fifty-percent mark. Now he's back-pedaling on all the butt kicking and his wife indicates that she wants him at home. Oh well, a majority of Californians wanted to have the terminator, didn't they? Maybe they actually will have one now.

Onward, Wingnut Soldiers!

The next battle has been planned out for you. It consists of a nationwide rousing up of all sleeping fundamentalists to believe that the judiciary is in cahoots with the Devil and the Democrats are Anti-Christs:

As the Senate heads toward a showdown over the rules governing judicial confirmations, Senator Bill Frist, the majority leader, has agreed to join a handful of prominent Christian conservatives in a telecast portraying Democrats as "against people of faith" for blocking President Bush's nominees.

Fliers for the telecast, organized by the Family Research Council and scheduled to originate at a Kentucky megachurch the evening of April 24, call the day "Justice Sunday" and depict a young man holding a Bible in one hand and a gavel in the other. The flier does not name participants, but under the heading "the filibuster against people of faith," it reads: "The filibuster was once abused to protect racial bias, and it is now being used against people of faith."

Organizers say they hope to reach more than a million people by distributing the telecast to churches around the country, over the Internet and over Christian television and radio networks and stations.

And yes, this is the Frist of the cat-killing fame in case you wondered. He will be joining hands with all sorts of luminaries of the extreme radical cleric type, including:

Dr. James C. Dobson, founder of Focus on the Family; Chuck Colson, the born-again Watergate figure and founder of Prison Fellowship Ministries; and Dr. Al Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

I am sorry to say that I have read the writings of these gentlemen.

So what is this all about? Probably something like a civil war:

The telecast also signals an escalation of the campaign for the rule change by Christian conservatives who see the current court battle as the climax of a 30-year culture war, a chance to reverse decades of legal decisions about abortion, religion in public life, gay rights and marriage.

"As the liberal, anti-Christian dogma of the left has been repudiated in almost every recent election, the courts have become the last great bastion for liberalism," Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council and organizer of the telecast, wrote in a message on the group's Web site. "For years activist courts, aided by liberal interest groups like the A.C.L.U., have been quietly working under the veil of the judiciary, like thieves in the night, to rob us of our Christian heritage and our religious freedoms."

It could all backfire, of course, and it would in a sane world. We'll see.

A Girly Post

I haven't done one of these yet, have I? High time, then. Today was a girly day, like in pink and frilly and good-smelling. I put on my girly hat (it has a big rose over the left ear and it's from the 1920s) and I went Shopping. Which I hate, but one must sacrifice something for girliness.

I shop in second-hand stores and the Salvation Army. SA has been my salvation so many times, though I'm still a very pure pagan. This is my harvest:
-two mini-dresses for summer, one dollar each
-four pairs of ear-rings, two dollars a pair
-a large artificial diamond ring, cocktail-size, fifty cents
-dog toothpaste, twelve dollars

The dog toothpaste wasn't in a second-hand store, of course. But the other stuff was, even though the dresses are brand-new! One of them has a large rip in the bodice which I didn't notice until I got home. I will either have to put a patch on it or use it for my art products. The other dress is good for any wingnut funerals I might be invited to: it's black and low-cut and has a frill around my bottom. Sort of combined happy and sad.

The earrings are two pairs of 1950's type large buttons, one with rhinestones and the other with snake skin!!!, and two pairs of fancy danglers which just might be rubies or sapphires or something but are probably plastic. The snake skin is not real, by the way, in case you were concerned about my mental health. Now I'm all set up for the summer parties and television interviews and fame. When they introduce me on Hannity andColmes I will stretch out my hand with the diamond-looking stone prominently displayed and it will daze and dazzle all wingnut viewers into thinking that I'm one of them.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Notice the Framing

A recent e-mail from had this section about the bankruptcy bill's passing:

"And why did 'New Democrats' Ellen Tauscher, Ron Kind, Artur Davis, and Joe
Crowley push this bill on their colleagues? What party do they imagine they
belong to? Who do they think elected them to Congress?" Fertik asked.

" is just getting started. In three short weeks, we built a
broad and determined coalition of progressives who will fight for economic
justice and will fight against Republican class warfare from above. We have
served notice to 'New Democrats' in the House and Senate that we will hold them
accountable for selling their votes to Big Business and selling out America's
working families," Fertik said.

"We will move on to new bread-and-butter battles, including the Paris
Hilton Estate Tax Cut battle in the Senate, the Loan Shark Predatory Lending Act
in the House, and the Gasoline Price Gouging Energy Bill. We will unite the
Democratic base and reach out to grassroots Independents and Republicans who
want to end Republican class warfare from above. We will give hardworking
Americans a voice - and a choice," Fertik concluded.

"We will remember who voted against the Democratic base," said Tim
Carpenter, Executive Director of Progressive Democrats of America. "Those
73 House Democrats and 18 House Senators have a year in which to try to make up
for this. It's hard to see how they'll be able to do it, but we'll be watching
and remembering, and we'll be ready to promote challengers in 2006."

"The Paris Hilton Estate Tax", "The Loan Shark Predatory Lending Act", "The Gasoline Price Gouging Energy Bill". Will these stick? Or are they a little too extreme?

I like it, though, especially that little twice-inserted "class warfare from above" bit.

Loudly, With A Big Stick!

Brooks babbles on. His recent column argues for a policy not invented by Teddy Roosevelt: Bolton should go at the United Nations loudly and hammer it all in with a stick. Why? Because a) the UN is in the hands of conspirators who wish to subject all of us to a world government (remember the helicopters hovering over New York City?) and b) the UN is really...slimy. Brooks "hammers" the latter argument in by using these adjectives to refer to the UN: squishier, creeping, mushy, vapid.

Brooks' vision is of a different kind of UN: hard, manly, loud and very, very pro-American. This UN would use its big stick to hit the shins of dictators everywhere that the US doesn't want to see dictators. Otherwise it would shut up and do Bush's bidding. Because that's what all right-thinking people want to happen, except for the Europeans who are in any case full of shit and not loud and sticky enough.

Here's a picture of Brooks. Print it out and put it on your wall. As a warning, perhaps.

Props to Helga Fremlin for sending me the link.

Ding, Ding! We have a Winner!

Now I know how to have a thousand visitor an hour. Just write about sex! Even if I really didn't write about sex in the heaving, sweating, grinding sense. Well, it's understandable that people would want to read about orgasms. Orgasms and chocolate ice cream are what makes life worth living for some of us. And snakes and dogs. It's all a lot better than living for the power to squash others under a leather boot.

I'm not going to turn into a lite porn writer, though I might do that under my pseudonym Olive the Omnivorous Ovary. She's into multiple orgasms and sex toys and toy boys, I think. She is not quite fully formed yet.

Isn't it odd how fanatically focused on sex the wingnuts are, though? Rush Limbaugh (the one of multiple wives) fears that a liberal network would only tell people about blow jobs, the fundamentalists want all sex banned unless it produces new fundamentalists, but they can't stop talking about it all the time. And based on what I read it is far too often a fundamentalist preacher who gets caught having sex with a minor or using child porn or something similar. - A sad state of affairs. When sex gets warped it is no longer a good thing.

The sinful liberal Massachusetts ranks high in marital fidelity and low in out-of-marriage births and violent crime. Many of the godly states have terrible records here. When this is pointed out the counterargument is that the godly states have bad records because they are poorer and because they have earlier marriages which end up in divorce more often. Which is all true, but also totally refutes the wingnut argument that it is the liberal values which cause divorces and crime. In fact these arguments support the liberal assertion that it is the poverty-causing policies of the Bush administration which are the real problem.

Did you ever hear the story about the two monks, Buddhists or Taoists, who were traveling in the wilderness and came across a river that had to be waded across? Their religion banned them from touching women but there was a young woman waiting to cross the river and she was too short to wade it safely. So the older monk picked her up and carried her across, set her down, and the two monks continued on their way.

Some hours later the younger monk who had been mulling all this in his brain asked the older one how he could violate the rules of his religion in such a way. The older monk answered: "I set her down hours ago. Are you still carrying her?"

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

How Wingnuts Vote

This is from Representative Louise Slaughter's office:

Washington, DC - Republican Members of the House Rules Committee voted today in Committee to kill several amendments to S-256, the "Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act of 2005." These amendments were designed to protect veterans who have recently returned from Iraq or Afghanistan, families who have experienced a catastrophic medical event, and people who are the victims of identity theft.

On a straight party-line vote, Republicans rejected an open rule, which would have given the Democratic Members who brought more than 30 thoughtful amendments to the Rules Committee the chance to have their ideas debated on the House floor.

The Republican Members also voted against exempting the men and women fighting for our country in Iraq and Afghanistan from the bankruptcy bill's so-called "means test." They opposed an amendment by Rep. Marty Meehan of Massachusetts (amendment # 23) that would protect disabled veterans who have developed financial problems due to their combat service and they voted against another amendment (amendment # 12) requiring credit counseling agencies to provide free services to men and women who have recently left the military after serving in combat zones.

"Our veterans deserve so much more. This legislation will have a horrible impact on our brave boys and girls returning home from military service. We should be making their transition back into private life as easy as possible. This legislation throws up roadblocks and makes that transition all the more difficult," said Rep. Louise M. Slaughter, Ranking Member of the House Committee on Rules.

The Republican Members also voted against assisting people who are forced into bankruptcy as a result of identity theft. They opposed an amendment offered by Rep. Adam Schiff of California (amendment # 11) that would protect consumers who find themselves with large debts because criminals have stolen their Social Security numbers and other personal identification information.

"We all see the headlines: Identity theft poses an enormous financial risk to the average American. No one deserves a bill for someone else's crime, but the Republican majority seems to think so. Their legislation would punish victims of identity theft, and their refusal to adopt the simple fix proposed today raises real questions about who they are fighting for," said Rep. Doris Matsui, a Democratic Member of the Rules Committee.

The Republican Members even voted against several amendments intended to protect people who file bankruptcy because they or a family member are experiencing a serious, costly illness. For example, they opposed an amendment offered by Rep. Zoe Lofgren of California (amendment # 12) that would protect people whose medical costs total more than 50% of their annual income.

"With medical costs soaring and so many working families being cut off from health insurance it is unconscionable that Rules Committee Republicans would allow this legislation through without protecting families forced into bankruptcy because of medical expenses," stated Rep. Slaughter. She added, "Where are their values? Where is their morality?"

The "Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act of 2005," (S-256) is expected to go to the House Floor tomorrow morning for a vote.
(Bolds mine)

Suck Jobs?

Does this term exist? It would be the opposite of blow jobs, I assume, and more refinedly it is called cunnilingus. The big thing in the popular culture is blow jobs which are oral sex performed on the penis. I don't think the same term covers oral sex performed on the clitoris. At least blowing probably wouldn't do very much to the recipient unless something like a hand-held hairdryer was used. Though of course blow jobs are really suck jobs, too. See how confusing sex can be!

The seeds for this post are in something Atrios has on Rush Limbaugh. Supposedly Rush has been foaming at the mouth about Al Gore's proposed entry into the media. Rush fears (or hopes?) that the planned liberal media would be all about blow jobs.

Which of course is as silly as most of Rush's ramblings. But what caught my feminist interest about this whole thing was the question whether blow jobs are an egalitarian form of sex. Does the giver enjoy the gift as much as the receiver? More? Less? Is the charm of blow jobs at least partially in their one-sidedness? And if so, what does this tell us about the underlying mores?

I'm not saying that women don't enjoy blow jobs or that there is anything wrong with them. Quite the reverse. But I've read too many trolls on feminist sites telling women to shut up and get on their knees to wonder if at least for some men the issues are not in simple loving giving-and-receiving.

And why is Rush not yelling about Al Gore planning to show the world nothing but suck jobs? Questions, questions, and none of them will make me loved and approved. Oh well, it's all in a day's work of goddessing.

What a Cromulent Day!

Today's silly word: cromulent

Dictionary definition:
Main Entry: cromulent
Part of Speech: adjective
Definition: fine, acceptable
Usage: slang

Now use it in a sentence!


I used to own weapons when I was a child. I made a dart blower out of the hollow stem of some plant and then used dried peas as darts. I also made one of those elastic band weapons which could be used to shoot chewed up paper balls at the teacher's back when he was writing on the board. But neither of these did much physical damage.

Real guns are different. They work on the principle of trying to kill what they hit, and they are only limited by the user's skills and the technical characteristics of the weapon. We even have a rifle that can be used to shoot at aircraft:

The .50 Caliber Sniper Rifle puts us all at risk whenever we fly an airplane.

These powerful sniper rifles which were designed for the battlefield to puncture armor and destroy targets from long range are easier to get than a handgun.

Why should we be spending billions of dollars on homeland security when a terrorist can buy a sniper rifle that can shoot armor piercing bullets up to 2000 yards with great accuracy?

Why do we permit the sale of a weapon that is powerful enough to threaten civilian airplanes taxiing on the runway or during landing and takeoff?

Why? The answer to these questions is an easy one: politics, medears. The National Rifle Association and all the Americans who want to sleep with a pistol under their pillows because a deer might come ambling in and they love hunting.

The Democrats are considering going along with the NRA, too. The idea is that the Democratic party must give up something that differentiates it from the wingnuts and they think that giving up gun control is more popular amongst its hippy-haired base than giving up reproductive choice or the general reliance on reality as opposed to rapturizing:

A Minnesota teenager shoots and kills nine people with a gun stolen from his grandfather. A Wisconsin man kills seven members of his church with 22 rounds from 9mm handgun. In another era, the violence might have given rise to a new round of ripped-from-the-headlines legislation on gun control. But not now, and not just because the Republicans control Congress.

In an effort to begin to win back the middle, Democrats are beginning to step away from gun control as a central party issue. The theory: Something's got to give, and it's politically more palatable to go soft on guns than to retreat on other hot-button issues like abortion or gay rights. While a group of House Democrats requested new hearings on gun control in the wake of last month's shootings on the Red Lake Indian Reservation, the Democratic response has generally been more muted -- when there has been a response at all. In a brief interview the other day with an Arkansas writer, Howard Dean predicted that guns won't be much of a factor as Democrats plot their national strategy. "Guns aren't an issue," Dean said. "If Philadelphia wants gun control, fine. If Alabama doesn't, also fine."

The problem with Dean's answer is that guns are mobile and there are no customs checks at state borders. The Alabama guns can easily enter Philadelphia in a very short amount of time. The deeper problem is that once there is no real control of gun ownership the best answer will be for all of us to be armed to the teeth. Imagine Echidne sweeping down the street with a few sniper rifles sticking out of her hairdo!

The "Ownership Society"

This must be a Luntz meme, though of course George Bush is selling it. Luntz is the Republican Rasputin who decides how wingnut philosophy is sold. To interpret the contents of Luntz memes correctly you must always ask what the exact opposite meaning from the obvious one might be. Or something very close to that.

Take the idea of the "ownership society". It sounds like a society where everybody owns something, where everybody is prosperous and self-sufficient. It sounds like a very good thing.

In reality, an "ownership society" for the wingnuts means something quite different: the very rich will get to keep everything they have, whereas most other people will get to keep very little.

How do I know this? By simply looking at what the wingnuts do rather than what they say. Recently, they are working very hard to get two things done: 1. To strip many of the protections bankruptcy law still gives to those who used to be middle class before life dealt them a bad card, and 2. To guarantee that the children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren of the superrich never need to toil or weave by making the repeal of the estate tax permanent. Paris Hilton gives you an idea of the beneficiary group for this effort. In the background a third effort is ongoing, and that is the war against any kind of government funded social safety net. The destruction of Social Security is just one part of this longer crusade. And of course the wingnuts always try to make taxes more regressive so that the wealthy would pay less.

The "ownership society" seems to equal "the risk society" for most of us. We are asked to bear all risks inherent in life and in economic activities, without the entrepreneurial benefits that usually accompany risk-bearing. We are asked to dispense with the insurance aspects of the social safety net, to struggle alone against the hard kicks of life and the callous market forces. And should we fail, well, there won't be a second chance for most of us after the new bankruptcy law proposal passes. On the other hand, a new compromise proposal on the federal estate tax would mean no taxes on the first seven million dollars a married couple leaves to their heirs. Isn't that good to know?

What the "ownership society" does not mean is pretty much anything that would expand the choices and rights of the poor and the middle classes. Would workers own the right to their jobs? (Don't be silly!) Would Americans on the whole own the right to enjoy clean air and water and untouched areas of wilderness? (What are you, a commie?) Well, can we at least own our private information and records? (No. This is a sacrifice we all must make to fight terrorism.) And so on.

The meme of "ownership" will probably succeed. Most of Luntz's memes succeed. All he needed to do was to call estate taxes "death taxes" and right away most Americans felt really bad for the rich, because taxing the rich is unfair. Nobody asked how some of the rich got that way in the first place and whether it was in a fair way, or whether the poor were that way because of some perfectly fair societal judgment scheme, or whether it is just that some of us never need to work whereas others work nonstop and still fail to keep their heads above water. Even mentioning this is heresy. It smacks of communism in the wingnut frame, though all it really is is rational dialogue with a smidgen of charity thrown in.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Us Meek Little Mice Don't Need to Be Heard

I got this in an e-mail from FAIR:

Over the years, media owners and editors have come up with different
explanations for the lack of left or progressive voices across the media
landscape. We're told those ideas are unpopular with the public, for
example, or that leftists aren't as engaging or likeable as, say, Sean

The new CNN President Jonathan Klein offered another theory during an
appearance on PBS's Charlie Rose Show on March 25: Progressives aren't
angry enough. When Rose asked if there could ever be a successful
progressive version of Fox News Channel, Klein thought not. He explained
that while Fox was tapping into a brand of "mostly angry white men"
conservatism, "a quote/unquote, 'progressive' or liberal network probably
couldn't reach the same sort of an audience, because liberals tend to like
to sample a lot of opinions. They pride themselves on that. And you know,
they don't get too worked up about anything. And they're pretty morally
relativistic. And so, you know, they allow for a lot of that stuff."

Does Klein really think progressives don't get too worked up about
anything? If he does, that might be because he's watching too much CNN,
where centrists are often booked to stand in for bona fide progressives.

Indeedy. Heh. And all the things that famous bloggers would put in there.

If you have the energy, this is what you can do:

Tell CNN President Jonathan Klein that the notion that progressives don't
get "worked up" is wrong-- and that if he'd allow genuine progressives
his network more often, he'd know that.

CNN President
Jonathan Klein
Phone: (404) 827-1500

As always, please remember that your comments have more impact if you
maintain a polite tone.

Bolton and the UN

Do you want John Bolton to represent the US interests in the UN? This is what the politicians say:

Sen. Joseph Biden of Delaware, the ranking Democrat on the panel said that he had "grave concern" about Bolton's nomination.

Biden said that he respected Bolton's abilities and intellectual capacity, but he questioned his judgment and temperament.

"We need a strong voice in New York who knows the U.N. and who can advance our reform agenda. But we don't need a voice which people may not be inclined to listen to," Biden said. "And I fear that, knowing your reputation -- and your reputation known well at the U.N. -- people will be inclined to tune you out."

Committee chairman Sen. Richard Lugar, said that Bolton's tough talk might just be what the U.N. needs.

"The next U.S. ambassador to the U.N. must pursue reform without diminishing the effectiveness of his core diplomatic mission: namely, securing greater international support for the national security and foreign policy objectives of the United States," the Indiana Republican said.

And what does Bolton say? Well, once he said this:

Bolton has drawn criticism for his sometimes blunt comments about the U.N., including a 1994 statement that "there is no such thing as the United Nations."

"If the U.N. secretary building in New York lost 10 stories, it wouldn't make a bit of difference," he said during a Federalist Society forum.

And now he says this:

In his opening statement, Bolton said that if confirmed as U.S. ambassador to the U.N., he would pursue four priorities: Strengthening institutions that strengthen democracy and freedom, stemming the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, supporting the war against terrorism and fighting humanitarian crises such as the spread of HIV/AIDS.

Bolton said that the president and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice were committed to the U.N., but he stressed that it must be reformed so that its authority is not undermined by scandal.

"Now more than ever, the U.N. must play a critical role as it strives to fulfill the dreams and hopes and aspirations of its original promise to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war, reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights and to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom," Bolton said.

Talk about flip-flopping! Hey, I forgot. It's OK if the Republicans do it.

And what does CodePink think of Bolton's nomination to the UN?

Here's the answer:

Andrea Dworkin, RIP

Andrea Dworkin has died at the age of fifty-eight. May she find peace.

She was a feminist writer whose voice was rough and eloquent and whose arguments were powerful and very controversial. She made me think, even when, and especially when I strongly disagreed with her arguments.

Nyarlathoteps Miscellany has a beautiful obituary:

There are people in the world who walk wounded and have the courage not to shut up about it, not to let our greater comfort with stoicism muzzle them; there are people who open their lives up to criticism so they can point out what we'd be happier not to consider, because considering it calls into question aspects of our lives we want -- need -- not to question. I think such people are canaries in the mine: you can judge the civilization of a society by what happens to them, how they're treated.

Chelsea Beat Brittany!!!

What is it with all these place names as first names of women? This great competition was for the title of Miss USA, and Chelsey Cooley won over Brittany Hogan.

Beauty contests are not nice, I have read. The training sometimes starts when the girls are but little toddlers and includes everything from cosmetic surgery to being careful that one leaves no red rings on the thighs from sitting on the toilet bowl. The surface gloss of talking about world peace and how each contestant wants to go to college and knows how to play the bagpipe or dance the jitterbug is just that: surface gloss. Beauty contests are like cattle auctions and all about faces, boobs and legs.

"Hah!" you say, you being the proverbial nobody-in-particular. Echidne is just another ugly old-maidenish goddess who would begrudge all of us some fun. What is more fun than sitting in your living-room munching popcorn and guzzling beer while all the time pinpointing the slightest flaw in the bodies on screen? If the lights are turned low enough you don't have to even notice that you are like fifteen times heavier and have pimples and beer bellies and wouldn't catch a date even if the world was denuded by a nuclear war. - Which, of course, was my point. A cattle auction, as I said.

Still, beauty contests are not what they once were. There was a time when becoming Miss USA was one of the few avenues of advancement for American women; beauty was what was needed for success, and little girls were brought up to strive for it. Similar contests for men never had the same power to warp boys' lives. But today's beauty contests are much less powerful and the numbers of those watching the shows keep going down.

Ironically, this makes me less critical of beauty contests in general in the developed countries. Young girls now have more alternative role models, more ways of feeling good about themselves, and this makes them less vulnerable to the mad striving for some concept of perfect beauty, always assuming that their parents don't force them on that track. Someone who is a full person with many assets and skills (as well as handicaps) might be able to participate in one of these contests just for the awards and the laughs. This is very different from the case of someone who defines herself through her physical desirability alone or is so defined by the society. It is the latter case which is repulsive and damaging. I'm hoping that beauty contests no longer have this power, at least in the industrialized countries, that they are more like the silly hunk contests we have had in the blogosphere.

Of course, I may be wrong about this, and the situation could well be much more worrisome in other parts of the world.

Monday, April 11, 2005

"W" is for Women! Always.

This item is a month old but it's still worth reading, to remind us all about what this administration really thinks about women. It's about the special UN session to assess the status of women worldwide now that ten years have passed since the Beijing meeting where many nations pledged to work for greater gender equality. The United States sent a delegation, too, because as we all know the "W" in George W. Bush stands for women. Here is a description of the women who spoke for all of us Americans:

Who are these members of the U.S. delegation? Sauerbrey, who describes herself as "a conservative, not a feminist," was the Maryland for Bush campaign chair. Brister served as the head of the Louisiana Republican Party. Hirschmann is Texas Rep. Tom DeLay's former chief of staff. Parshall, a former Wisconsinite, hosts a conservative Christian radio talk show.

So it shouldn't have come as a surprise that they trotted off to New York with righteous fire to try to wrench the focus of the "Beijing + 10" gathering from women's equality to abortion.

The other participants would have none of it. They wanted to talk about trivial issues such as how to

halt gender-based violence, end workplace discrimination, ensure educational and economic equality with men, and provide adequate family planning resources.

But what about abortion? Well, the U.S. delegation wanted to insert an amendment stating that women's human rights don't include the right to abortions, but the amendment didn't pass, despite Sauerbrey's argument that this amendment is "consistent with the U.S. government views". And those of countries such as Iran and Saudi Arabia, of course.
Original link by Mystic Bovine

An Echidna Cactus and A Lovely Snake


This beautiful picture was sent to me by dancinfool. Thank you so much! It's a clear picture of the innermost me.

The Culture of War

The wingnuts argue that theirs is a culture of life, and perhaps they have a point when it comes to people not yet born or to those who are brain-dead. For everyone else there is very little of life in their culture, if life is seen as a positive, nurturing and invigorating force.

I think a better term for the wingnut culture would be a culture of war. Wingnuts love war, love war abroad in Iraq and love war at home against liberals, progressives, gays and lesbians, feminists, atheists and moderates. Even their language is war-like:

Confronting "judicial tyranny" is now "the great battle of our time," Gary Bauer, the former presidential candidate, wrote in his daily e-mail newsletter a few days after Schiavo died.


Republican John Cornyn of Texas, in a speech on the Senate floor last week, suggested that outrage over so-called judicial activism might lead "to the point where some people engage in violence" against judges. (He later backpedaled.)

The culture wars were named by wingnuts. It is they who view debates and disagreements as wars. Wars mean that people die, and at least in a metaphoric sense this is what the wingnuts wish to achieve. They want us dead as in non-existing. Compromise is impossible because there is no compromise in a war, only winners and losers (who are dead).

Wingnuts do love violence. Think of the great popularity of Mel Gibson's film about Jesus's suffering and how poorly the sanitized version sold in box offices. Also think about the favorite reading material of wingnuts: The Left Behind -series. It's full of violence as Frank Rich argues in his column about wingnuts:

This agenda is synergistic with the entertainment culture of Mr. Bush's base: No one does the culture of death with more of a vengeance - literally so - than the doomsday right. The "Left Behind" novels by Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins all but pant for the bloody demise of nonbelievers at Armageddon. And now, as Eric J. Greenberg has reported in The Forward, there's even a children's auxiliary: a 40-title series, "Left Behind: The Kids," that warns Jewish children of the hell that awaits them if they don't convert before it's too late. Eleven million copies have been sold on top of the original series' 60 million.

Rich calls the wingnut culture one of death but I believe that war is a more descriptive term. Wingnuts don't really like death that much, surprisingly, perhaps, given that they expect to be Raptured any moment. What they do like is a good fight and lots of whipping, and the idea that they will end up as the victor in a battle. They like hierarchies based on violence. The Jesus of the Left Behind books is a violent warrior.

Wars always start with "othering": the opposition must be made to look less than human, or killing them will be too difficult. The right is fairly far down the path in this kind of othering, both with respect to Muslims and the opposition here at home. (And no, my use of the term "wingnuts" is not othering but an endearment!)

Add to this the necessary component in wars: the belief that ones side is the right one, the correct one, and it's easy to see why the religious wingnuts would wish to believe that it is Jesus who they are fighting for. Then almost anything becomes acceptable, including killing a lot of people.

If this sounds familiar it may be because the very same arguments apply to religious fanatics of all kinds, including bin Laden's troops. They have decided that we are subhuman and that their god needs to drink our blood. Our local wingnuts are not there yet, and I hope that we can keep them from getting to the logical endpoint of the current developments. Before it is too late.

What Our Ruling Minority Wants

This is easy. It wants a theocracy, a one-party rule without any checks and balances, and it wants to get rid of the last two obstacles in its way: the damn judges who refuse to toe the wingnut line and the filibuster in the Senate, because that gives the Democrats a teeny amount of veto-power.

Is this what Americans want? It depends on which Americans one means:

The day after Terri Schiavo died, Gallup pollsters began calling Americans to ask them how various national figures had acquitted themselves in the operatic debate over whether to remove the terminally ill woman's feeding tube. The results seem to provide a simple outline of American opinion on the matter. In short, Americans think the Schiavo case was none of their business. The poll, like all other polls on the case, shows that Americans, by an overwhelming majority, don't think it was the president's or Congress' business, either. Asked what issues matter to them, Americans said pretty much the same thing they've been saying for months -- terrorism, healthcare costs, gas prices and the state of the economy. "Changes to how the federal courts handle moral issues" is an issue deemed "extremely important" by only 20 percent of the nation.

Here's the troubling thing: That 20 percent is running the country, and they're now pressing for such changes in the way the courts decide cases. While most Americans are apparently indifferent to the long-term implications of the Schiavo case, many religious conservatives see it as having lasting political utility. Its most important outcome, they say, is in highlighting an unsettling flaw in American governance. They call this flaw "judicial tyranny," though most of the rest of us know it by a friendlier name, "checks and balances."

The "nuclear option", as getting rid of the filibuster used to be called, and the hatred of all things judicial are connected. If the wingnuts kill the filibuster they can pretty much stuff the whole federal courts system with Attila the Hun replicas. Or replicas of Savonarola, also known as Scalia. Can you imagine America under such a judiciary? Are we going to look any different from Saudi Arabia in some crucial respects?

I don't know, but I wouldn't leave the answer to this in the hands of James Dobson:

Dobson, the influential evangelical leader and founder of the ministry group Focus on the Family, unleashed a 5,000-word attack on the judiciary in the April issue of his Action Newsletter. Dobson writes that "although many fine men and women serve on the bench," their decisions on moral issues illustrate "the heady abuse of power that is all too common among independent fiefdoms known as judges. They rule like royal monarchs. And sitting on the top of the pyramid is the U.S. Supreme Court, which threatens the liberty that was purchased with the blood of countless men and women who died to secure it."

Dobson is a man whose worldview is not much different from that of Osama bin Laden, to be honest. He wants a feudal theocratic society where women know their place and where every government decision must be vetted by a literal comparison to the bible. He definitely wants a one-party conservative America to begin with.

But Americans actually don't, not as a rule:

A recent Wall Street Journal opinion poll asked respondents whether they thought the Democrats' proper role in Congress should be to "work in a bipartisan way to pass Bush's legislative priorities" or, instead, to "provide a balance so Bush and Republicans don't go too far." By a 2-1 margin, respondents wanted Democrats to make sure that Bush doesn't go too far. As for the filibuster, 50 percent want to keep it, while 40 percent want to see it defeated.

But Bush will indeed go too far. That is very clear. And the lint-Democrats will not even try to stop him. The only hope we have is in the eighty percent of voters in the last election who did not vote on moral issues (a codeword for being a wingnut). They must learn to vote differently in the future. Or get used to living in Gilead.

Sunday, April 10, 2005

The Dreaded Book Meme

I got hit by this pyramid scheme! I have to send ten dollars to the person who named me (archy!) and then I get to nominate three others to send me money and so on. Well, not exactly. There's no money involved, more's the pity. But the idea is to pester everyone about their opinions on books and thereby sneakily show how extremely well-read we all are. Which we are, of course. I even read the backs of cereal packages compulsively and the toaster manuals in three languages and the terrible English translation in the manual of my sewing machine. I have read widely and indiscriminately all my lives, and haven't really learned anything, except perhaps that a book is a wonderful excuse not to have a life.

But I don't really have very many favorites. The most recent reads tend to be the favorites for a while, and then something else takes their place. When I was very small I thought the Orient Express by Agatha Christie was the most wonderful book on earth. They all did it! But I was only about eight years old and most of my other reading consisted of children's books. Another book I found fascinating was a bodice-ripper that my mother had hidden in the locked medicine cupboard in the kitchen (you had to make a stairwell out of the drawers to climb there), mostly, because I couldn't understand why she bothered to hide it. It had nothing of interest, except perhaps the man who for some reason wanted to tickle women under their blouses.

Which just goes to show that reading is an interactive experience and that what we get from a book depends on where we happen to be on our own trip through life. My teenage years were spent deep in the melancholic classics, for example, combined with all the light fluff I could find. Then there was a stage of detective novels and poetry, a stage of history reading and mythology, a stage of reading nothing but how a circular saw operates and on and on. Right now I read a lot of science-fiction, to escape wingnuttia, probably, and the more esoteric types of classics. And cereal packages, always.

Here are the questions of the book meme and my paltry answers to them:

You're stuck inside Fahrenheit 451, which book do you want to be?

The shortest one, of course. Fahrenheit 451 is a book about a time of book-burning, but some individuals decide to save books by memorizing whole ones. I'm a lazy, lazy goddess so a short book would be me. But the book should have some merit to be worth memorizing at all. Something like Tao Te Ching by Lao Tzu.

My mind is that of a fool - how blank!
Vulgar people are clear.
I alone am drowsy.
Vulgar people are alert.
I alone am muddled.

It would be fun to walk around muttering this left, right and center.

Have you ever had a crush on a fictional character?

Your definition is inadequate! I myself am a fictional character, after all. But no, I have never had crushes on fictional characters. Though I used to pretend that I'm Robin Hood. And Jesus. And the evil queen in Snow White.

The last book you bought is?

I bought a bunch of books recently: Don't Think of an Elephant by George Lakoff, The Book of Qualities by J. Ruth Gendler, "Love of Shopping" is Not A Gene by Anne Innis Dagg and Negotiating with the Dead by Margaret Atwood. I'm pretty sure that this was the last harvest, but I may be wrong. Most books I read now come from the library due to limited shelving space, and these are on the floor still, so they are probably recent.

I have read them all and liked the last two quite a lot.

What are you currently reading?

I'm always reading Proust, in extremely small snippets. He lives on the bottom shelf of the table next to my bed. I always read The Tibetan Book of Dying, too (or a title close to that, too lazy to get up and check). It's great for falling asleep.

I just finished a new Sharon Shinn science-fiction or fantasy novel and will read no more of her. She is going downhill fast. I also read a detective novel by some British writer whose name escapes me, but it was one of those "have-a-nice-cup-of-tea-and-drop-dead" ones. And I'm reading the Federalist Papers to find out what the role of snakes was amoung the Founding Fathers and to count the number of times religion is mentioned etcetera.

Five books you would take to a deserted island:

Am I allowed to try to get off the island? In that case I'd take books on boat-building and survival and how to make a radio out of bananas and stuff.

If I'm supposed to stay on the island for ever, I'd take slightly different books. Still something on survival skills and how to medicate yourself, but also something about good sex on your own, for example. Then I'd take the biggest dictionary I could find. There would be plenty of time to think about words and their meaning and the dictionary could also be used to start fires and for toilet paper and so on. I might be able to dig a hole into it and sleep there when it's cold.

That's about three, right? For entertainment purposes I'd pick the I Ching. It can be used in so many ways that the long silent tropical nights would pass in the blink of an eye.

The fifth book would be an empty one with a pen attached. I'd use it to write my story about living on a deserted island with nothing but a dictionary to live in.

These answers are totally inadequate. I was supposed to pick weighty classical tomes and show how well-read I am. But most of the classics I like (Dostoyevsky and Austen, say) are about the relationships between people and on a deserted island they would be painful reading. If I could find a good book about being an eremite I might swop the I Ching for that.

Who are you going to pass this stick to (3 persons) and why?

These have to be bloggers, right? And bloggers who haven't already answered the questions. I'm too lazy to check all who might have already answered. I'd offer the stick to Philalethes of Bouphonia, Lauren of Feministe and Elayne Riggs of Pen-Elayne. My apologies to all the victims I have selected!