Saturday, May 14, 2005

A Rant

Here we go: A place to scream, to kick holes in the wall, to tear out any hair you might have left and to spit at pictures of the powers-at-be. In other words: Echidne's Rant Room.

These are some of my hatefullest things:

That this country is run by a man who was selected, then possibly elected; who doesn't read, who doesn't know history, who cannot speak English or any other language, come to that; who takes pride in his intellectual laziness and his lack of diplomacy, who pads his crotch as much as he pads his lies; who thinks pleadings of mercy from someone to be executed are funny, who seems to completely lack the empathy button in that square box on his back, who thinks the square box might be a hot line to god, who doesn't think much at all; who reads the Pet Goat with glazed-over eyes when the country is attacked and who then bravely goes to the site of the attack several days later, who is not even informed when the country might have been attacked again because he was biking in an area where biking is forbidden and who wants the Commander of the Armed Troups to be informed about any fucking thing?

That this man made up a reason to go to war, that thousands of people then died, that this man might even now be plotting to invade yet more countries, and all the time bin Laden is free as a bird.

That a minority, a small group of fundamentalist wingnuts, have grabbed the power in this country and are telling me to live according to their inane interpretation of morals and ethics, that they are allowed to get away with this by others who are supposed to be saner, that we all are supposed to respect the fact that these wingnuts are religious, respect it, even when they plot to lock me up in a kitchen all silent and submissive, respect it, even when they urge for the overthrow of the U.S. Constitution, just keep on respecting, yessir, to accept that this earth was created a few thousand years ago, to accept that Adam and Eve were chased out of paradise by dinosaurs, that they then had children who busily had enough incest to create all of us though of course women were created to be permanently guilty for the snake thing and gays should not exist and so on. But fucking respect!

And the Islamic fanatics, those stalwart thinkers of the ninth century, who want what their Christian fundamentalist brethren do, only in much more extreme and painful forms, including the killing of women who are no longer viewed as stainless flags of family honor. And the fact that I and so many others are stranded between these two armies: the Bush one and the one of the bin Laden types, and nobody has asked us if we like to be in the middle, because neither of these armies fucking cares.

That the corporate powers to be are funding the Bush administration in exchange for getting the best picks of all the lucrative projects that can be made up, picking the bones clean in places of suffering, that the corporate powers are in bed with the extreme clerics, that the corporate powers are using this government to guarantee that the American workers will be poorer, will work longer hours and will have less protection against illness and old age. That to even say this causes accusations of fucking communism.

That this is the end of an era, the era of enlightenment, that we are sliding into the new dark ages where reality is whatever the government tells us, where everything is relative (and this from the party who tells us that our values are relative!), where facts are no weightier than opinions and where wingnut opinions are facts even if they fucking aren't.

That this is an era where the press is meek as lambs and much of the clergy ravenous as hyenas, an era where the uneducated and ignorant decide what is education and knowledge, an era where the only choice we seem to have is between bread and circus on the one hand and bread and church on the other. And not much fucking bread either way.

Saturday Dog Blogging

Hank (when little) and Henrietta

For those of you, like Angie, who like something nice and peaceful! Though you might notice that Henrietta is still a little uptight in this picture, not quite sure what that small monster is doing in her realm. She fixed it fairly soon afterwards.

A Reminder, Again

I post Saturdays on the American Street, and today also on the Eschaton. So far the topics include the anti-American riots in Muslim countries, Fred Phelps (these two on the American Street) and Wal-Mart (on Eschaton).

What I really want to write is a totally rude, swearwords-filled obscene rant against this U.S. administration and the fundamentalists all over this poor ball of mud we call the earth. Maybe I will, too.

Friday, May 13, 2005


Most of us think of resolutions as something you make for the New Year and promptly forget about. Not so the Southern Baptists. They make resolutions in their summer gettogethers and they never forget them. Neither do we, because most of them are so hilarious or insulting that it's just not possible to forget.

In the past the Southern Baptists have resolved that women should gracefully submit to the manly godliness or godly manliness that is their husbands, and that women cannot be called for ministry. If they think so they should have their hearing checked, because the Southern Baptist god only talks to men that way.

This year's resolutions are still a secret, but one which has been proposed is an anti-gay resolution:

A Houston lawyer who called on Southern Baptists to remove their children from ``godless'' public schools last year is now asking churches to investigate whether schools are promoting acceptance of homosexuality.

Bruce Shortt's resolution was voted down last year, but he is proposing another to be considered at the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting in Nashville next month.

The resolution says schools promote acceptance of gays through officially sanctioned gay clubs, diversity training, anti-bullying courses, safe sex and safe schools programs.

It says that if churches find that public schools are teaching acceptance of homosexuality, parents should remove their children and either home-school them or enroll them in Christian schools.

The resolution was co-written by the Rev. Voddie Baucham Jr., a Christian speaker and writer from the Houston suburb of Spring.

If this proposal goes through does it mean that the Southern Baptists approve of bullying? To be quite honest, I wouldn't be surprised if they quite liked the idea of bullying, in secret, of course.

Friday Embroidery Blogging


This is an embroidery I have given away, and the picture is not by me. You can't see the details at all. The trees and the background are embroidered with various stitches, and the apples are stuffed to stick out from the ground.

A Nice Picture for Friday

From Grass Root Dems:

Air Force Academy News

The Air Force Academy sounds like a scary place. First we heard all about the sexual harassment the curriculum seems to contain, now we hear that not only are Jewish cadets treated badly but also all those who are not born-again Christians. Poor Echidne. She'd be eaten up there in no time at all, if she wasn't an all-powerful pagan goddess.

The most recent incident is the possible firing of a chaplain who was only born once:

An Air Force chaplain who complained that evangelical Christians were trying to "subvert the system" by winning converts among cadets at the Air Force Academy was removed from administrative duties last week, just as the Pentagon began an in-depth study of alleged religious intolerance among cadets and commanders at the school.

"They fired me," said Capt. MeLinda Morton, a Lutheran minister who was removed as executive officer of the chaplain unit on May 4. "They said I should be angry about these outside groups who reported on the strident evangelicalism at the academy. The problem is, I agreed with those reports."

The Academy denies her claims. But it is true that a recent Yale Divinity School survey of the campus found the atmosphere reeking of born-againness:

As part of its response to the sexual assault charges, the academy asked a team from Yale Divinity School to visit the campus during the summer training for incoming freshmen.

"We were asked to study the quality of cadet-centered pastoral care," said Yale Prof. Kristen Leslie. "What we found was this very strong evangelical Christian voice just dominating. We thought that just didn't make sense in light of their mission, which was to protect and train cadets, not to win religious converts."

But of course it makes sense if you are an evangelical yourself, and believe that the country, including its armed forces, should reflect your beliefs. Natch.

Do you think the born-agains are also born-again virgins?

How Will We Be Remembered?

I don't know, but one thing is certain: Future history books will contain this text:

A British official identified as "C" said that he had returned from a meeting in Washington and that "military action was now seen as inevitable" by U.S. officials.

"Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD. But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy.

"The NSC had no patience with the U.N. route, and no enthusiasm for publishing material on the Iraqi regime's record. There was little discussion in Washington of the aftermath after military action."

The memo further discussed the military options under consideration by the United States, along with Britain's possible role.

It quoted Hoon as saying the United States had not finalized a timeline, but that it would likely begin "30 days before the U.S. congressional elections," culminating with the actual attack in January 2003.

"It seemed clear that Bush had made up his mind to take military action, even if the timing was not yet decided," the memo said.

"But the case was thin. Saddam was not threatening his neighbors, and his WMD capability was less than that of Libya, North Korea or Iran."

The British officials determined to push for an ultimatum for Saddam to allow U.N. weapons inspectors back into Iraq to "help with the legal justification for the use of force ... despite U.S. resistance."

This is a description of a memo about a high-level meeting held on July 23, 2002, and it has caused Tony Blair some problems, because it shows that the supposed causes for the Iraq war were all manufactured. But to George Bush, the instigator of the war? Not so much. Americans are more interested in runaway brides and Michael Jackson. Or so the American media seems to think.

But now eighty-nine Democratic members of the U.S. Congress have sent president Bush a letter asking what his explanation for the contents of the memo might be. Will we get an answer? Add the sound of crickets here.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Faith-Based Facts

Feministing tells us that the wingnut policy of allowing pharmacists to refuse to dispense prescriptions that don't agree with their values has had a paradoxical effect:

A mother of six claims a pharmacist refused to fill her prescription for an emergency contraceptive and berated her as a baby-killer, leaving her so traumatized she didn't seek out another pharmacist and ended up having an abortion.

"The pharmacist crossed the line," said Tricia Knight, the attorney for the woman. "It's one thing to conscientiously object. But you cannot intend to inflict emotional harm on a woman when she is making a very important and often very emotional decision in her life."

The logic of this case, I guess.

Also by Feministing, a school which invited an inspirational wingnut speaker to speak to its graduating class got more than they bargained for. Tina Marie Holewinski warned the teens about the dangers of drinking, drugs and premarital sex, but according to Tom Wells, the father of one of these teens, she also told them

that condoms lead to cancer, that birth control pills are only 20 percent effective, that sexually transmitted diseases are spread by skin contact alone, that third-trimester fetuses can be aborted, that video games lead to homicide, that human papilloma virus can be transferred through condoms and that teens can achieve "second virginity" through abstinence.

When asked to clarify her position, Holewinski replied:

that she spoke mainly against against drugs, drinking and driving, and debunked "the media's" glamorization of sex, alcohol, drugs and violence.

She maintained it's true that there are cancer-causing agents in latex condoms; that 80 percent of teenage girls who seek abortions are already on birth-control pills; and that human papilloma virus is small enough to pass through condoms. She said she does promote the idea of second virginity.

Now you know. Holewinski's ideas about what constitutes information are fascinating. But I agree with her about the recycling of virginity. I've been reborn a virgin more times than I can recall.

Deep Thought for the Day

This is from a Guardian article about a new fashion for religious diet books.

Don Colbert, a Florida doctor and author of What Would Jesus Eat?, portrays his book as a way of putting some backbone into weak-willed believers.

"They're letting the flesh rule them and they're eating anything they want," he told the Guardian. "We're making them accountable. Many people will not eat the right kinds of food unless they're held accountable and before they put something in their mouths ask: 'Would Jesus eat this?'"

Sinful, we are sinful. Even eating is a sin.

Today's Action Alert

Today's Action comes from Barbara Boxer:

1. Call Lincoln Chafee's Senate office at (202) 224-2921 and log your opposition to John Bolton.

Thanks for taking today's action.

Doctor Hager and Women

W. David Hager is a physician. He's also on the advisory panel of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and an outspoken evangelical wingnut. Now he has decided to take the credit for the failure of Plan B, which would have allowed over-the-counter sales of the so-called morning-after contraceptive pill. The story is unusual, because the FDA has a habit of following the recommendations of its advisory panel, yet it decided to go against the panel's advice in this particular case. Hager explains this as follows:

Speaking at the Asbury College chapel in Wilmore, Ky., Hager said, "I was asked to write a minority opinion that was sent to the commissioner of the FDA. For only the second time in five decades, the FDA did not abide by its advisory committee opinion, and the measure was rejected."

Hager told the group that he had not written his report from an "evangelical Christian perspective," but from a scientific one -- arguing that the panel had too little information on how easier availability of Plan B would affect girls younger than 16. The FDA later cited that lack of information as the reason it rejected the application.

"I argued from a scientific perspective, and God took that information, and he used it through this minority report to influence the decision," Hager said. "Once again, what Satan meant for evil, God turned into good."

A cunning little plot, isn't it? Pretending to go all scientific on us while all the time meaning for the godly side to win.

The wingnuts like Dr. Hager don't like Plan B because it might encourage unsafe sexual behavior. Thus, it comes as a teeny surprise that Dr. Hager himself has been accused of unsafe sexual behavior. His ex-wife, Linda Carruth Davis, has this to say about Dr. Hager:

According to Davis, Hager's public moralizing on sexual matters clashed with his deplorable treatment of her during their marriage. Davis alleges that between 1995 and their divorce in 2002, Hager repeatedly sodomized her without her consent. Several sources on and off the record confirmed that she had told them it was the sexual and emotional abuse within their marriage that eventually forced her out. "I probably wouldn't have objected so much, or felt it was so abusive if he had just wanted normal [vaginal] sex all the time," she explained to me. "But it was the painful, invasive, totally nonconsensual nature of the [anal] sex that was so horrible."
"I don't think I was married even a full year before I realized that I had made a horrible mistake," Davis says. By her account, Hager was demanding and controlling, and the couple shared little emotional intimacy. "But," she says, "the people around me said, 'Well, you've made your bed, and now you have to lie in it.'" So Davis commenced with family making and bore three sons: Philip, in 1973; Neal, in 1977; and Jonathan, in 1979.

Sometime between the births of Neal and Jonathan, Hager embarked on an affair with a Bible-study classmate who was a friend of Davis's. A close friend of Davis's remembers her calling long distance when she found out: "She was angry and distraught, like any woman with two children would be. But she was committed to working it out."

Sex was always a source of conflict in the marriage. Though it wasn't emotionally satisfying for her, Davis says she soon learned that sex could "buy" peace with Hager after a long day of arguing, or insure his forgiveness after she spent too much money. "Sex was coinage; it was a commodity," she said. Sometimes Hager would blithely shift from vaginal to anal sex. Davis protested. "He would say, 'Oh, I didn't mean to have anal sex with you; I can't feel the difference,'" Davis recalls incredulously. "And I would say, 'Well then, you're in the wrong business.'"

By the 1980s, according to Davis, Hager was pressuring her to let him videotape and photograph them having sex. She consented, and eventually she even let Hager pay her for sex that she wouldn't have otherwise engaged in--for example, $2,000 for oral sex, "though that didn't happen very often because I hated doing it so much. So though it was more painful, I would let him sodomize me, and he would leave a check on the dresser," Davis admitted to me with some embarrassment. This exchange took place almost weekly for several years.

Can this possibly be true? One thing we goddesses know is that ex-spouses usually have a rather sour opinion of each other. Well, it's good to be sceptical, but in this case other witnesses seem to support Ms. Carruth Davis's claims:

Linda Davis chose not to bring allegations of marital rape into her divorce proceedings; her foremost desires at the time were a fair settlement and minimal disruption for her sons. Nonetheless, she informed her lawyer of the abuse. Natalie Wilson, a divorce attorney in Lexington, asked Linda to draw up a working chronology of her marriage to Hager. "[It] included references to what I would call the sexual abuse," Wilson explained. "I had no reason not to believe her.... It was an explanation for some of the things that went on in the marriage, and it explained her reluctance to share that information with her sons--which had resulted in her sons' being very angry about the fact that she was insisting on the divorce."

As it turned out, when the dust settled after their divorce, nearly everyone in the Hagers' Christian and medical circles in Lexington had sided with Hager, who told people that his wife was mentally unstable and had moved in with another man (she moved in with friends).

Davis had only told a handful of people about the abuse throughout her marriage, but several of her longtime confidantes confirmed for this article that she had told them of the abuse at the time it was occurring. Wilson, the attorney, spoke to me on the record, as did Brenda Bartella Peterson, Davis's close friend of twenty-five years. Several others close to Davis spoke to me off the record. Two refused to speak to me and denounced Davis for going public, but they did not contest her claims. Many attempts to interview nearly a dozen of Hager's friends and supporters in Lexington and around the country were unsuccessful.

Now I'm totally confused. Does Dr. Hager love women like Jesus did, as he argues? You know, like a good, all-knowing patriarch does. Or does he love women in a rather different sense of the word, one that might raise the hair of some of his ob-gyn patients?

Janice Shaw Crouse of the Concerned Women of America (of whom I have blogged before) has no such doubts. Dr. Hager is a wingnut and that's good enough for her:

"I would not be at all surprised to see Dr. Hager elevated to a higher position or to another very influential position when it comes to women's care," [...] "Because he has shown that he does care about women regardless of...the [religious] issues that people want to try to raise.... When people try to discredit him, he continues on. He hasn't caved in, and he hasn't waffled. He has been a gentleman. He is a person of character and integrity, and I think people admire that."

Be still, my beating heart, be still.

This Is Not A Blog Post

Welcome to "this is not a blog post", a truly amateurish and bumbling pouring-out of the heart. And whatever brains I have left.

I have been doing real blogging for a few days now, on Eschaton, and I have worked very hard. Not that it shows much in the results, because I condense them into a little pill, suitable for being shot out of an air rifle. But goddess the amount of research that goes into that! I have a totally different level of respect for all real journalists and bloggers now. Awe, in fact.

Now I also know pretty much everything that is going on in American politics, and believe me, it ain't pretty. There are mules involved and group sex and who knows what else! Someone should write a book on wingnut sex. It would be a best seller, even among the wingnuts, though they must know most of it already.

Part of my time has been spent in the outer reaches of the marshland that some call the right blogosphere. Where the wingnuts have their own little blogs and stuff. I don my hazmat suit and big wading boots and a butterfly net and go hunting there. But it's hard work, hard work for a kindly and sensitive goddess. Afterwards I need to shower several times and then weep into my nectar mug. - I have learned that the one thing all wingnuts share is their dislike of feminists, by the way. Some of them worship the Southern Baptist god, some worship the evolutionary psychologists, some worship nothing but their own private parts and many worship money. But they all hate and fear me and women like me.

Which should make me feel powerful. But I'm already powerful, being of the divine type, and there is something very sad about people who have decided that most of their problems would be solved if another type of people would just agree to go on their knees (and yes, interpret that as you may). Just like there is something very sad about all people who find simple certainties the solution to life's traumas, because simple certainties are like free lunches: they don't exist.

Ok. Where was I? Free lunches don't exist. And neither do free blogs, really. Someone must do the research and writing on every blog that gets regularly renewed, and my hat goes up to all of those who do this invisible toiling. Or my hat would go up if I wore one. Bloggers deserve some praise in these days when it's fashionable to discuss the deplorable lack of professional standards and ethics in the blogosphere. Regard this post as my salute to all the amateurish and unethical bloggers out there, even the wingnut ones.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

No Women in Army Support Units?

The wingnuts don't like women in the military, not even in support units. So it comes as no surprise that:

A House Armed Services subcommittee voted along party lines Wednesday to ban women from key positions in the Army.
he ban on women in combat service support units, supported by the panel's majority Republican members, would only go into effect if it is accepted by the House and Senate in their deliberations on the 2006 defense authorization bill.

The Army opposed the measure and offered to brief members of Congress about the role women play in the Army, according to Army spokeswoman Maj. Elizabeth Robbins.

"The Army remains in strict and full compliance with Department of Defense policies," Robbins said Wednesday. "Women Soldiers have performed magnificently in all formations in which they are permitted to serve."

A woman soldier is an impossibility in the wingnut worldview. Never mind that

Female soldiers are used often in Iraq on patrols to interact with Iraqi women, including searching them if they are suspected of insurgent activities.

The Marine Corps used 14 women from Combat Logistics Battalion 8 to assist in searching women and children during the November offensive in Fallujah.

Some Lead with That Cereal?

Do you like lead? One myth says that it was the lead in the aquiducts which dulled the ancient Romans so that their empire fell. Lead is a useful metal for many things, but it's not exactly healthful for human beings. Small children, in particular, tend to suffer serious health problems if they ingest lead. This can happen in buildings which contain old paint as lead was a routine additive in paint before 1978. When the paint deteriorates particles fall off and look like something interesting to taste for toddlers. Smaller particles enter the air and can be breathed in. All this is exacerbated when the building undergoes renovations.

The health harm from lead is a serious problem:

Lead exposure is especially dangerous to infants and toddlers, and has been linked to developmental disabilities and behavioral problems.

But removing lead paint is also very expensive. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is concerned about the high costs of treating lead paint. It's thinking that regulations might not be the best way to go about this. Maybe education and voluntary activity would be better!

The Environmental Protection Agency has quietly delayed work on completing required rules to protect children and construction workers from exposure to lead-based paint, exploring instead the possibility of using voluntary standards to govern building renovations and remodeling.

The EPA move, first disclosed in documents provided by an agency whistle-blower, has prompted angry questions from Democrats in Congress, the attorneys general of New York and Illinois, and public health advocates around the country.

That is about the vilest proposal I've heard from this administration for some time. Voluntary standards will lead to more children with developmental retardation, but someone, somewhere will save money. Gah.

And consider this: Children who most suffer from lead paint exposure are poor children whose families live in old buildings which are not well cared for. Don't these children matter to the pro-family administration?

Or consider this: The administration that so eagerly hounds women whose behavior may damage their fetuses during pregnancy thinks that voluntary agreements are enough when something threatens 1.4 million children per year. Because it's not the mothers who are at fault here?

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

On Christian Media

I'm sure that you have heard your fair share about the so-called liberal media in this country. If it weren't for the Fox News (and a few other networks better left unnamed), all the news would be delivered to us in pink-tinted commie packages, right?

What you might not know (given that you are reading this blog) is that this country also has a Christian media, one with religious-right values and a selective take on the news of the day. True, it is not yet a large proportion of the total media industry, but it is a rapidly growing one. The Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN), which produces Pat Robertson's 700 Club, is only one of many Christian television and radio networks:

Conservative evangelicals control at least six national television networks, each reaching tens of millions of homes, and virtually all of the nation's more than 2,000 religious radio stations. Thanks to Christian radio's rapid growth, religious stations now outnumber every other format except country music and news-talk. If they want to dwell solely in this alternative universe, believers can now choose to have only Christian programs piped into their homes. Sky Angel, one of the nation's three direct-broadcast satellite networks, carries thirty-six channels of Christian radio and television — and nothing else.

An intriguing thought, this: that Christians can choose to receive nothing but Christian news. We are slowly moving towards a system where Republicans will only accept Republican news and Democrats only Democratic news. So why not have religious news broadcasts to groups who are especially religious?

The logical conclusion to this trend is frightening: a nation where no values are shared, where nobody can communicate with the members of groups who think differently and where nobody agrees on what is actually happening. Trends like home schooling could exacerbate this outcome.

But of course these Christian news providers are not truly separate from the Republican news producers. The Christian media is right-wing and evangelical. What this means for the bias in the news it chooses to cover is obvious:

Many evangelical networks and program producers are also tax-exempt nonprofits. But while most were careful not to endorse candidates by name, they openly pushed the Republican ticket in the run-up to the 2004 election. During his last pre-election broadcast, the International Intelligence Briefing host Hal Lindsey told audiences that liberals were determined to "bring about our literal annihilation," and that "a vote for the conservative cause . . . is a vote to . . . reverse America's decline and restore her to the path of morality, conscience, and strength of character. It's a vote to continue America's return to her rightful place as the strongest beacon of hope in a terrified world." Other broadcasters went further, launching and promoting massive voter-registration drives with the apparent goal of helping Republicans clinch a victory. The host James Dobson held pro-Bush rallies that packed stadiums and told his 7 million U.S. listeners that it was a sin not to vote.

During the pre-election frenzy FamilyNet, the television arm of the Southern Baptist Convention's media empire, added a political talk show to its formerly entertainment-heavy lineup. It was also during this period that it established its news department. The network, which reaches 30 million homes, reported live from both parties' conventions, and ran evening coverage on election day — all of it salted with pro-Bush commentary. Several other Christian networks also ran continuous, live election coverage for the first time. Much of it carried a clear bias. USA Radio Network, for example, ran pieces produced to sound like news stories, but with a single conservative perspective. One segment, based solely on an interview with the former CIA analyst Wayne Simmons, reported that Osama bin Laden spent years laying plans to destroy America, only to have them thwarted by a tough-talking Texan. "He never planned on running into a president with the strength, character, and conviction of George W. Bush," Simmons said. "If George W. Bush wins the presidency, his fate — meaning Osama bin Laden's fate — is sealed. If John Kerry wins, he'll go back to business as usual because he knows he'll have another administration in there where he did nothing and let them plan attacks on us."

It's possible to conclude that the Christian media is a subsection of the conservative media, one which focuses more on religiosity but no less on the conservative talking-points. What makes this combination tricky is the holy flavor it imparts to purely secular political concepts. How will a Christian consumer of biased news interpret them? As just opinions, or as divine messages?

We shouldn't be surprised by any of this, given that president Bush himself views the world in the starkly simple terms of good and evil. Still, there is something exceedingly creepy about this description of a Christian lobbying trip:

The role that evangelicals are credited with playing in the recent election seems only to have improved broadcasters' access to power. During the opening session of the 2005 NRB convention, Wright described a recent lobbying excursion to Capitol Hill. "We got into rooms we've never been in before," he said. "We got down on the floor of the Senate and prayed over Hillary Clinton's desk."

Men's Rights Movement

Amanda at Pandagon has written a five-part series on the men's rights movement. (You can access it by going to the last part which gives the earlier links.) She deserves accolades for putting all this information together in one place. Her series should be required reading for all who are interested in feminism.

Amanda also links back to Ampersand's work on the same issues, especially his careful discussions of the incidence-of-rape studies. Another piece that should be added to the basic libraries of feminists.

Edited to add: I'm busy right now, but later on I want to write more about this topic. Some of the claims this movement makes are valid, others are, as Amanda points out, just a demand to have male dominance regarded as equality.

Poor Big Pharma!

The pharmaceutical industry has had such a hard time, what with the Vioxx scandal and such. So it comes as a relief to learn that the government is helping these suffering firms out by giving them a tiny tax cut. It goes like this:

A new tax break for corporations is allowing the biggest American drugmakers to return as much as $75 billion in profits from international havens to the United States while paying a fraction of the normal tax rate.

The break is part of the American Jobs Creation Act, signed into law by President Bush in October, which allows companies a one-year window to return foreign profits to the United States at a 5.25 percent tax rate, compared with the standard 35 percent rate.

Any company with profits in other countries can take advantage of the law, but the drugmakers have been the biggest beneficiaries because they can move profits overseas relatively easily, independent analysts say.

The money the companies are bringing home has come from many years of using legal loopholes in the tax law to aggressively shelter their profits from U.S. taxes, tax lawyers say. While the companies' tax returns are private, fragmentary information about their tax payments is buried inside their annual financial statements.

Those figures show that the drugmakers have told the Internal Revenue Service for years that their profits come mainly from international sales, even though prescription drug prices are far higher in the United States than elsewhere and almost 60 percent of their sales take place in America.

I'm very glad to learn this, because now we are obviously going to find the prices of drugs drop by a significant amount. Aren't we?

Monday, May 09, 2005

The Dangers of Cohabitation

Did you know that cohabitation between unmarried couples is still illegal in seven states? North Carolina is one of them and is having its law challenged by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU):

The law against cohabitation is rarely enforced. But now the American Civil Liberties Union is suing to overturn it altogether, on behalf of a former sheriff's dispatcher who says she had to quit her job because she wouldn't marry her live-in boyfriend.

Deborah Hobbs, 40, says her boss, Sheriff Carson Smith of Pender County, near Wilmington, told her to get married, move out or find another job after he found out she and her boyfriend had been living together for three years. The couple did not want to get married, so Hobbs quit.

Her lawsuit, filed in March in state court, seeks to have the cohabitation law declared unconstitutional.

What I found interesting about the case is this argument for keeping the law on the books:

"We think that it's good to have a law against cohabitation because the studies show that couples that cohabitate before they're married, that their marriages are more prone to break up, there's less stability in the marriage," said Bill Brooks, executive director of the conservative North Carolina Family Policy Council.

Bill Brooks confuses causality and correlation here. This is commonly done by the right-wingers, because they don't like "living in sin". Why would cohabitation raise the odds of later divorce? It makes no sense. If anything, living together before marriage should make divorce less likely, because fewer unsuitable marriages will be made in the first place. No, the correlation between cohabiting and divorce is much more likely to reflect the fact that the people who are opposed to cohabitation are also opposed to divorce, even when the marriage makes them miserable.

Meanwhile, in Boston

White supremacists from Arkansas decided to travel to Boston to see the sights. Also to do a little protesting outside Faneuil Hall while Holocaust survivors were inside commemorating the liberation of Nazi concentration camps.

Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney (of the Olympic fame) expressed his disgust at these visitors:

"Today of all days, to have white supremacists come here from Arkansas, is most disappointing," he said. "I wish they'd go back home where the came from and bury themselves under the rocks that they crawled out from."

And the people of Boston were unamused, too. In fact, they had a bit of tussle with the white supremacists.

Most of us would agree that the behavior of the supremacists was atrocious. But if the current trend in media "fairness and balance" continues, we will soon see them interviewed as "the other point of view" in any discussion of the Holocaust. This is the logical outcome of the view of the media's task as simply reporting what people say.

On Stoning

Docferg in my comments linked to a story about in Afghanistan. It is a familiar one, in many ways, though that doesn't mean it isn't a horrible one. The story is about a married woman being caught in a sexual relationship with an unmarried man and what happened next: she was killed, possibly by stoning, and he was whipped. These punishments are based on the shariah law.

What seemed different about this story to me was its point of view: it is written from the angle of those who did the killing. The reader is invited to identify with the murdered woman's father and mother and the other villagers, and it is indeed possible to see why they would have chosen to murder the adulteress in a rather amateurish, hesitant way, while all the time grieving over the necessity of doing so.

I may be unfair to the writer of the article who is also trying to show how mores are changing in Afghanistan, how some doubts about the process have entered, how officials were contacted before the village decided to mete justice in the traditional manner. But what struck me most was how the story made me not identify with the stoning victim. These stories usually have that effect.

What is the point of this post? Perhaps the importance of questioning the point of view of any piece of news, especially those articles which appear unusually balanced and neutral.

Guest Blogging

Atrios of Eschaton has decided to go gallivanting and Avedon Carol and Attaturk are taking care of his blog. I'm minding them. Well, not really. I'm the last guy in the bullpen (if such a masculine simile is allowed), the one that everybody hopes will not be needed in the game.

So this subbing should have no impact on my own blog, with the possible exception of some cross-posting.

It's quite an honor to be in the Eschaton bullpen (cowpen?), but the experience is also frightening. Imagine some stranger turning up at your bedroom door, insisting that for the next nine days he or she will be your partner. You look around and your lovey-dovey is nowhere to be found! That's probably how it feels for many of Eschaton readers. Luckily, both Avedon and Attaturk are really good.

And if we are really lucky they will blog the whole game.

Sunday, May 08, 2005

Pope Ratzo in Action

Pope Benedict XVI has been busy with some spring cleaning. Out with the old and in with the new! And in particular, out with the old moldy liberals.

An American Jesuit who is a frequent television commentator on Roman Catholic issues resigned yesterday under orders from the Vatican as editor of the Catholic magazine America because he had published articles critical of church positions, several Catholic officials in the United States said.

The order to dismiss the editor, the Rev. Thomas J. Reese, was issued by the Vatican's office of doctrinal enforcement - the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith - in mid-March when that office was still headed by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak on the matter, said. Soon after, Pope John Paul II died and Cardinal Ratzinger was elected pope, taking the name Benedict XVI.

Reese is what one might call a moderate liberal. He also seems to have committed the sin of covering both sides of an argument as well as some sensitive topics.

I was ready for something like this, anyway. More purges will no doubt follow.

Feeding Time

This filibuster debacle is going to be fun to watch (if you ignore what's at stake):

With the climax nearing, the tone of the debate is escalating. A radio address taped by three Christian conservative leaders for broadcast Monday called the judiciary "the last playground of the liberal left." In the address, James C. Dobson, the founder of Focus on the Family, described the fight as the tipping point of the Bush presidency. "Nothing good took place last November, only the potential for something good," Dr. Dobson said.

Yes, it is feeding time. Our dear Dobson wants to be reimbursed for the wingnuts' votes. His belly is growling. That's probably why he sounds so grumpy in that quote.

Dobson's dilemma is that he really has nowhere to go if the corporate wing of the Republican party refuses to do his bidding. But then the corporate wing depends on the fundamentalist base to stay in power, which might mean that Dobson will get his dinner soon. Though, on the other hand, if the wingnuts get the judiciary they want why would they bother to vote at all in 2006?

See why I think it might be fun to watch? Always assuming that it happened in some other reality where real people didn't suffer because of people like Dobson.

And Remember Mother Earth, Too

Happy Mothers' Day
Courtesy of Helga Fremlin