Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Young White Women Missing

This has been the major news item during the spring. Not the war, not the Downing Street Memo, not the economy, but young white women who have been murdered or who have disappeared, voluntarily or not. These stories are awful, of course, especially when they are about crimes but the way the media uses them to plaster over other important news items can't be explained by their national or global importance. Yes, they are important to report, but, no, they are not the only thing that should be reported, and that is pretty much what takes place.

The reasons for picking a particular story is in what people turn to in their media consumption choices. Because that is where the money for the media companies may be found. Thus, to understand the prevalence of the young-white-woman-missing stories requires a dive into the deep layers of the American consumer's mind.

The first thing we notice along this dive is that the victims portrayed are never black, are never older, and are almost always attractive. They correspond to the mythological ideas of a Desirable Woman in this society: pure, young and beautiful. Like the princesses that were captured by dragons in fairy tales, helplessly waiting for the valiant prince to come and set them free (or, rather, to marry them). Attractive young white women are not supposed to go missing, also, which makes these news stories interesting as rarities of a sort. In reality, many women go missing every day and many are murdered in terrible ways. But too many of these victims were black or older or otherwise not of interest in the myth-making sense.

As we dive deeper into the imaginary American consciousness we come across variations, and even these explain why the damsel-in-distress stories are so valuable for the media: They can be interpreted to reinforce almost any prejudice a person might hold. For example, for a conservative these stories are moral tales about what happens when women are given too much freedom, or proofs that the society is descending into a moral chaos, what with all those perverts being allowed to walk about, hunting for dainty young maidens. Never mind that the stories are rare; after the media has finished with them they appear to be commonplace occurrences.

For a progressive or a liberal these stories are a disgusting case of the media going haywire, chasing after cheap stunts and avoiding all serious debate. But even the liberal must read the story to find out how bad things truly are.

Then there are those who see these victims as getting their comeuppance, after years of being the Class Princess or whatever. And those who enjoy the thrill of fear and sympathy, as long as it's all vicarious. And of course those who really worry about the victims, who are drawn into deep empathy through the personification of fear and suffering that the media does so well. And those who wish for another runaway-bride story as further evidence of the treacherousness of all women. And so on.

But the truth still remains: That these sorts of events are rare and that when they occur they are more likely to have victims who are not white. When the media doesn't report this they are doing all of us a disservice, especially if they omit other news items which are crucial for us to learn.

What We Are Missing in the New York Times Opinion Columns

Lots of good writing, for one thing. Women's voices, for another. To substitute for them we get John Tierney who tells us why women can't be in the New York Times opinion columns: they are not competitive enough.

So here are the also-rans, the girls, the ones whose writing is not up to scratch? Note that I did no searching for especially juicy bits. I just googled the most recent articles by Molly Ivins and Katha Pollitt. Here's Molly on Texas politics:

So, the Texas Legislature decided it's OK for gay couples to be foster parents, but only if they're not married. I would explain what message that sends, if only I understood it.

Look at it this way: At least we can hunt inside city limits now. My personal fave was the day they voted themselves a huge retirement pension and the next day cut retirement benefits for the teachers. Classy move, boys. Retiring solons will now get $36,000 a year after 12 years in the Lege. The job pays $7,200 a year and requires 140 days of work once every other year. Welcome to a Republican-dominated state.

As all hands know by now, the Lege got nowhere on the Big One -- the interrelated issues of property tax relief and school financing. The whole state is screaming for property tax relief because of the rise in real estate values.

In order to lower property taxes, you have to raise them on something else. So of course the House decided to tax ordinary people, instead of taxing big corporations. Not for nothing is the House gallery, where the business lobbyists sit, known as "the Owner's Box."

And here is Katha in all her glory:

Penises were all over the news as I sat down to write this column. On May 22 faces blushed scarlet in New York State when it came to light that over the past five years Medicaid has handed out free Viagra to 198 sex criminals. Apparently the state thought federal rules required no less. The next day, researchers released a study showing excellent results for Johnson & Johnson's dapoxetine, a drug that prevents premature ejaculation and intensifies the male orgasm. True, rapists' access to taxpayer-funded stiffies vanished within hours, and they will probably have to buy their own dapoxetine too. But you have to admit, men are moving right along, sexually. They have drugs to help them get up and stay in and get out in a shower of sparks, and an array of private and public health plans to pay for these fleshly maneuvers: Last year Medicaid laid out approximately $38 million for impotence drugs; Medicare will start providing them for seniors next year at an estimated cost of nearly $2 billion over the following decade. Even the Defense Department covers them. Need I add that men don't have to worry that their pharmacist will ask to see a marriage license or plug their name into the sex offender registry before handing over those little blue pills?

Just the opening paragraphs of these pen-wielding masters. And they write equally well on any topic you care to mention.

The Downing Street Memo

Have you read it? If not, go here and do so. You can make up your own mind whether it's important or whether it matters not at all. I think that it is very important though I knew all that crap already.

Here is an example of what the Memo shows:

The Downing Street Memo reported that in a July 23, 2002 meeting between Prime Minister Blair and his war cabinet, attendees of the meeting discussed the fact that President Bush had already made up his mind to attack Iraq. According to the minutes of the meeting:

"There was a perceptible shift in attitude. Military action was now seen as inevitable. Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action."

Yet, as the record below proves, President Bush claimed over and over after July 23rd until the war began that he had not made up his mind.

Bush: "Of course, I haven't made up my mind we're going to war with Iraq." [10/1/02]

Bush:"Hopefully, we can do this peacefully – don't get me wrong. And if the world were to collectively come together to do so, and to put pressure on Saddam Hussein and convince him to disarm, there's a chance he may decide to do that. And war is not my first choice, don't – it's my last choice." [11/7/02]

Politicians always dissemble, you might murmur. Indeed, but they have not always decided to attack a country and then pretended that they didn't really want to do so.

I feel silly even writing about this. In a normal sane world I wouldn't have to, because the stuff would be in every news program and in every political talkshow and we'd get to the bottom of it, one way or another. But not here and not now. Sometimes I fear that the KoolAid is in the water systems.

Monday, June 06, 2005


How I wish someone would keep house for me. Anyway, I have started cleaning up my links and adding some. Let me know about any problems you spot. One I have noticed is that many blogs have official names which are not used as much as the name of the blogger. I have listed them under the official names but I wonder if a better system exists?

Another problem is that listing the links in alphabetical order doesn't tell very much about their contents. Some of the blogs I link to I do so because of the good writing, some because of good analysis, some because of the frequent news there etc.. Some are openly feminist blogs and others are not. But I really don't want to do the work needed to reclassify everything nicely, because a) it's extremely boring work and b) the minute I finish blogs jump out of their boxes and then I'm blamed for being inaccurate.

Then there is the problem of deciding when a blog is dead or at least resting. When should the last post be for me to keep a blog on the list?

I haven't added links to wingnut blogs. Should I do that? I have a secret list of blogs there I visit. Let me know if you wish to venture out on your own.

The Medical Marijuana Decision

The Supreme Court has decided that

Two California women have no right to use locally grown marijuana for medical purposes when federal drug statutes outlaw its use under any circumstances.

In an important decision announced Monday dealing with the balance of governmental powers, the US Supreme Court ruled that the federal government has the authority under the US Constitution to override a state law permitting the medical use of marijuana.

The 6-to-3 decision is a defeat for California and nine other states with similar medical marijuana laws. It is also a major setback for those medical patients who have come to rely on marijuana as part of their treatment.

In addition, it marks a retreat by the high court from its so-called federalism revival. "There was a counterrevolution in progress, how far will they go. The answer appears to be not very far," says Douglas Laycock, a constitutional law professor at the University of Texas Law School.

Digby has a good take on what this means, in terms of each judge's political stance and so on. To me it looks like a few of the wingnut judges are pure political opportunists: rule for the states' rights when that brings the country a step closer to wingnuttery, rule against the state's rights when doing so has the same effect. But I'm not a legal mind.

I hope that I will never need medical marijuana for pain relief, or that nobody I care about will need it. But then there is always someone who will need it, and this decision makes them into potential criminals. Too sad.

Those Hips, Those Hips...

This study, done by the Institute of Preventative Medicine in Copenhagen, is not to my liking. I don't have good breeding hips:

The Danish researchers examined almost 3,000 men and women aged between 35 and 65 from 1987 to 1988

They measured height, weight and body mass index - calculated by dividing weight in kilograms by the square of your height in metres.

They then looked at Danish health registers up until the end of 1998 to look at how many of the men and women had cardiovascular problems, and up to 2001 to see how many had died.

Compared to the group of women with the smallest hip circumferences, women with the biggest were found to have an 87% reduction in deaths.

They also had an 86% reduced risk of having coronary heart disease and a 46% reduction in the risk of developing cardiovascular disease, according to the researchers.

Previous studies have found both men and women with small hips are at an increased risk of developing diabetes, high blood pressure and gall bladder disease.

However the study, which has been published in Obesity Research, found a wider hip circumference was not linked with better heart health in men.

The general warning about studies of this kind applies here, too: It's very difficult to standardize for all the other causes while examining people outside laboratory circumstances, and correlations shouldn't be assumed to imply causality unless there are other good reasons for interpreting them that way. For example, if the people with narrower hip circumferences were already unwell they might have been slimmer for that reason and more likely to then come up in the death statistics later on. In this case, though, there is a hypothesis why wider hips could be good for heart health:

The researchers say hip fat contains a beneficial natural anti-inflammatory.
They said this anti-inflammatory, called adiponectin, prevents arteries swelling up and becoming blocked.

The hips need to be at least forty inches wide for the protection to apply, the researchers argue. This means size fourteen hips, m'dears. I have no hope in hell of getting there.

In any case, it's not clear if growing more fat would help or if it's the bone structure in the hips that matters. I'd probably just grow apple-shaped rather than pear-shaped, and that's even worse for your heart.

Oh well, if this study is true it's good news for all the women with wide hips. That's the best I can do right now.

Feminism on DailyKos

A recent ad on DailyKos caused some complaints to Kos and he answered those like this:

So over the weekend, certain segments of the community have erupted in anger over the TBS ad for their reality show, the Real Gilligan's Island. Apparently, having two women throw pies at each other, wrestle each other in a sexy, lesbianic manner, then having water splashed on their ample, fake bosoms is degrading to women. Or something like that.

Whatever. Feel free to be offended. I find such humorless, knee-jerk reactions, to be tedious at best, sanctimonious and arrogant at worst. I don't care for such sanctimony from Joe Lieberman, I don't care for it from anyone else. Some people find such content offensive. Some people find it arousing. Some people find it funny. To each his or her own.

But I am not Lieberman. I won't sit there and judge pop culture and act as gatekeeper to what I think is "appropriate", and what isn't.

And I certainly won't let the sanctimonious women's studies set play that role on this site. Feel free to be offended. Feel free to claim that I'm somehow abandoning "progressive principles" by running the ad. It's a free country. Feel free to storm off in a huff. Other deserving bloggers could use the patronage.

Me, I'll focus on the important shit.

There are over seven hundred comments about this post as well as an update in which Kos slightly apologizes on his condemnation of women's studies, though he then adds:

But I honestly didn't mean to smear anyone who has ever taken a women's studies course, or majored or minored or gotten an advance degree in it. Just what is, to me, a small, extremist set looking for signs of female subjugation under every rock.

It's hard to know what Kos means by "the important shit" in this context. Does he simply intend to say that this particular ad is not worth fighting over? Or does he imply that women's issues are not important? I don't know. But I have noticed in the past some hints that the latter might be the case. When Kos promoted certain writers to his weekend crew he explained that his choices were based on merit, even the small number of women in that crew (one?). "Merit" is the argument wingnuts use, too, though merit is often whatever the political biases of the assessor deem meritorious, and it would naturally be the counterargument of anyone accused of discrimination.

As I said, I don't know what Kos was trying to say in his post on these issues but he doesn't come across as a feminist himself. There is a subgroup of progressive or lefty writers who view women's issues as cultural ones, not as political ones, and hence less important or even irritating diversions of no value. Then there is the other subgroup that views feminism as an evolutionary impossibility, because men's sexual desires and the male dominance are given dominance and seen as impossible to change. These same writers regard racism as plain wrong, which I find interesting given that the hatred of the other can be explained every bit as dandily in the evolutionary psychology myth-making machinery.

There are some extremist women's studies programs, probably, just as there are extremist groups in all other political camps. But to refer to only the extremist wing of the feminist movement, as Kos did, is also the way one attacks an opponent. Just observe my writing for a while. So I'm beginning to lean towards thinking that Kos is not much into women's rights within the total Democratic package. It would be nice to be proved wrong on that count, of course.

Much of the anti-woman stuff in the society is fairly invisible unless you happen to be a woman, and a woman who has awakened to these issues, to boot. Some time ago I started to write a diary of my public radio listening. I noted down any programs that discussed gender issues or women, the topic and the conclusions, and I set the diary aside unread for a while. When I actually analyzed my notes I was shocked, and I'm a feminist. This was public radio, remember, so I expected fairly neutral coverage. What I found was something different: the programs about women or gender differences were always about the problems that women cause or that women have, always slightly negative in tone, and the solutions always privileged the idea that women should somehow change. The only programs taking the same tone about men were on men's medical issues, whereas the negative issues on women were not only on health but also on women working, women mothering, women not speaking in public, women not getting raises, women reacting worse to terrorism threats, women not being suitable for the military and on and on.

In short, and in an effort to be polite, I suggest that Kos doesn't see the sexism around him. That's the only kind explanation I can give for his response, whether the particular ad is harmless or not (I didn't look).

Sunday, June 05, 2005

Iraq and the Democrats

Atrios has two posts today on Iraq. He talks extensively on the possible stances that Democrats can and should take on Iraq. He also makes a distinction between the actual policies and the propaganda that goes with it. The wingnuts always have the two neatly separate, and reading the propaganda doesn't tell us much about the policies. For that you need to follow the actual deeds. Anyway, Atrios's point is that the Democrats have neither a good exit policy or good propaganda on Iraq. This is true.

Iraq is a mess for the United States. It was a country kept together by a ruthless dictator who nevertheless was not for theocracy. His removal took away the weak cohesion of the country and opened it for civil war. Or for theocracy. Only a theocracy seems strong enough an alternative to Saddam.

These are the tendencies in Iraq, and my prediction is that there will first be a civil war, then a fundamentalist theocracy. Not exactly "spreading freedom and democracy". If the United States wants something different it will have to stay for a very long time and guard the oil pipelines. This will cost many many lives and when the U.S. finally leaves there will be a civil war and then probably theocracy.

I base this prediction on what I have observed in the ex-communist European countries: none of the internal pressures disappeared during the communist era and all those countries are taking off where they ended before communism. So if we put a lid on Iraq we will just delay the unavoidable.

Attacking Iraq was not a good strategy, whatever the long-term reasons the wingnuts had for this cunning plan. It made this country hated by the rest of the world. People elsewhere knew that the Iraqis were not behind 9/11 and they questioned the timing of the attack, given that bin Laden had not yet been captured and that Afghanistan was also still a mess (which continues, too). To attack Italy when France pisses you off seems odd and illogical to foreigners. But to Democrats here going with Bush's silly plans was imperative: to do otherwise would be seen as unpatriotic and as being against the troops. Politicians fear the public opinion and the public opinion was firmly behind Bush.

But this has left the Democrats in a deep bind. They must either eat their earlier words about the wisdom of the Iraq war or keep sounding idiotic by stressing all the things that are going wrong there but still maintaining that doing all these things that are going wrong was the right thing to do. It's hard to make a good policy about the future on such unstable grounds, too.

Atrios points out that the wingnuts talk about grand, sweeping things like the sound of boots marching down the road of democracy and freedom, whereas the Democrats are limited to talking about statistics which show the enormous waste and the needless deaths. However more reality-based the latter are they don't appeal to the emotions of the American voters and mostly come across as minor whining about the details of the war. What the Democrats need to offer is a major ideological alternative to the freedom-in-military-boots argument. The truthful alternative narrative would point out that Bush went to war on false grounds and that the whole war was an immense mistake.

The problem I see with this approach is that it doesn't make the Americans look like heroes, it doesn't promise us a beautiful day tomorrow with money and power for every one and it doesn't reassure us that we have always been the chosen people of God. These are the things that Reagan offered and they still sell elections.

Saturday, June 04, 2005

Odd Stuff I've Noticed About Blogs

Because I've been redecorating the house. I moved Hank's collection of slimy dog toys from one corner to another, removed an artistic spider web from my bedpost and swopped two snake paintings with each other. Now the house looks all brand new and ready for one of those fancy-schmancy interior design magazines!

No, it doesn't, and not only because my furniture is almost all from Salvation Army. I also lack that divine touch which makes everything suddenly look perfectly right. But it's fun to try, and while I kept moving the torture rack two inches to the left and the poison shelves a smidgen to the right I compiled a list of questions which nobody has answered about blogs. I'm going to write them down here for your inspection. They are totally uninteresting but this is a good writing exercize for me if nothing else:

1. Why does almost all commenting take place in the forenoon hours of Eastern Time? This is on my blog and on other blogs where the number of comments doesn't reach to hundreds.

2. In what energy field is the commenting community real? It is real, and there is even something like a collective emotion which forces the blogger to post on certain topics whether she or he wants to, initially. I'm not sure if this is very clear because it's a new concept for me, but I'm absolutely convinced that there is some type of a public sentiment that affects what happens on the blogs, and this sentiment comes from the readers. So label me lunatic if you wish. I love the moon.

3. Why are all the trolls like the same troll over and over again? Do they really get their talking points from some central office and do they all memorize them in one long sentence covering everything that ever happened in this world so that it's impossible to discuss the points without taking the rest of your human life to do so.

4. Who are the people who find my blog googling for some truly disgusting stuff? Will I avoid ever meeting them in this life?

5. Why can't I clean up my links and add new links? Why am I writing this inane post when I should be doing just that?

Back to house decorating. See you later.

The Nipple Wars?

Women's breasts are not supposed to have nipples. Did you know that? Nipples are like erect penises, not suitable to be shown on television. Instead, breasts should be portrayed as large round mountain-like objects or like bowling balls (or tennis balls):

The good news is those weapons of mass destruction have finally been found.

The bad news is your mother, sister, aunt, and grandma are all guilty of having them.

Sixteen months after the Super Bowl's tempest in a C-cup, war has been declared on women's breasts. From Desperate House-wives' deployment of digital nipple-erasers to Victoria's Secret's nipple-negating bras, a campaign is under way to conceal one of the natural features of the female breast.

The producers of TV's Desperate Housewives have reportedly spent thousands of dollars digitally removing the nipples from on-screen images of actresses Teri Hatcher and Nicolette Sheridan.

In discussing the show's "nipple problem," series creator Marc Cherry tells the Philadelphia Daily News: "Certain actresses really don't like to wear bras. And we try to accommodate them as much as humanly possible. ... So we've done a lot of blurring."

Jeff Jarvis, founder of buzzmachine.com and creator of Entertainment Weekly, jokingly calls it "the nipple clause." As in, "I have the right to have them, you have the right to airbrush them."

What is going on here? One academic suggests nasty motives:

Gary Grizzle, an associate professor of sociology at Florida's Barry University, says the trend represents a shift from a way of thinking in which a woman's ambition, not her sexuality, was considered the greater menace.

"For most of the '80s and '90s, the real threat, as far as women go, had to do with their career aspirations," he recalls. "Normally, we assume that when the focus is on women, they'll be very sexual and very submissive. It's the ones in the three-piece suits that scare the hell out of us."

Mr. Grizzle says current anti-nipple sentiments are steeped in the same notions that cause some religions to keep women covered up and out of holy places because a woman's "sexuality disrupts everything that men try to accomplish."

Hmmm. Right now I'm more likely to believe that this nipple fear is related to the fear of right-wing Christians and their power in determining what is acceptable in the media. But the other motives are not dead, so who knows?

Am I allowed one small feminist rant here? Why is it that if something affects some men sexually in women (walking a certain way, showing an earlobe or a nipple, digging your nose) then it is always the women who must cover up or change or be erased? Couldn't the men who are affected try to learn to take responsibility for their own reactions? Couldn't they look elsewhere? The Koran, for example, tells both sexes to dress modestly and not to stare, but how is this interpreted in practice?

There are ways of dressing, for both men and women, which are intended to be sexual, and it's probably advisable to avoid these in the everyday world unless one wishes to be treated as a sexual provocator. But so much of this fuss is about non-sexual aspects of dress and behavior. Nipples are part of our bodies and something a woman can't just leave in the closet when she goes out. Nipples get hard from sexual excitement, true, but they also get hard from cold and even from anger or other feelings. They exist, and some people should just get over it.

Or they could always look away. This may sound like a sacrifice, but it's a lot easier than buying special nipple-containers and then wearing them on hot sweaty summer days.

Friday, June 03, 2005


So this is the Friday evening seven p.m."bad news" dump:

American jailers at the Guantanamo prison for foreign terrorism suspects splashed a Koran with urine, kicked and stepped on the Islamic holy book and soaked it with water, the U.S. military said on Friday.

U.S. Southern Command, responsible for the prison at the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, described for the first time five cases of "mishandling" of a Koran by U.S. personnel confirmed by a newly completed military inquiry, officials said in a statement.

In the incident involving urine, which took place this past March, Southern Command said a guard left his post and urinated near an air vent and "the wind blew his urine through the vent" and into a cell block.

It said a detainee told guards the urine "splashed on him and his Koran." The statement said the detainee was given a new prison uniform and Koran, and that the guard was reprimanded and given duty in which he had no contact with prisoners.

It may have been an accident but someone, somewhere, will die for this urine.

All these indications hinting at the onset of a religious war make me nervous. I've said this before but it's worth repeating: Most of us are inbetween two religious armies, almost equally fanatic, and the armies are coming at each other. Too bad that we are in the way of either. Too bad that we are not allowed to stay out of this idiotic medieval enterprise. Too bad that most of the victims of any religious violence will consist of the uninvolved.

Can you spot that I slept poorly last night? Perhaps you should take some salt with this post.

Friday Australian Dog Blogging


This is Helga's pooch, Kelly, again, sitting in a lookout tower somewhere Down Under. My dogs refused to blog today. Hank is covered with mud and snoring after a good day of mud jumping and splashing, and Henrietta is tired from barking so much at the mason who is fixing the front steps to Snakepit Inc. It's getting to a point where I'm willing to pay the guy extra just to get him out and some peace and quiet back.

The Revisionists

There was a time, not that long ago, when "historical revisionism" was one of the codes the wingnuts used to attack any study that looked at the history of the oppressed. How quickly things change; now the wingnuts eagerly rewrite history. Some truly atrocious examples cropped up in the recent revelation of Deep Throat's identity:

Others have waxed far more serious about the revelation of Deep Throat's identity. Even "deadly serious," as in the case of Pat Buchanan. On Tuesday, the one-time Nixon advisor took the opportunity to clarify why the U.S. really lost the Vietnam War, and who the most odious political operatives of the day were: "There's something deadly serious here," Buchanan said on MSNBC's "Harball" with Chris Matthews. "People that brought down Nixon also resulted in the fall of South Vietnam, the death of hundreds of thousands of people. ... Nixon was brought down by people who were a hell of a lot worse than he was."

Buchanan got some solid backup from fellow history wiz Rush Limbaugh, who added that Woodward, Bernstein, Felt and company were also responsible for the genocide in Cambodia that left approximately 1.7 million dead. "Had they not brought down Nixon, we wouldn't have lost Vietnam," Limbaugh affirmed during his Wednesday broadcast. "Had [they] not brought down Nixon, the Khmer Rouge would not have come to power and murdered two million people in a full-fledged genocide."

Dazzling, these new theories about the recent past. I'm beginning to understand why everything bad that happens can be attributed to Bill Clinton and the blue dress in some circles: Take the big toe I broke in 2002. I broke it kicking a wall. I wouldn't have kicked the wall if I hadn't been angry at the chaos George Bush has caused. George Bush wouldn't have been the president if Bill Clinton hadn't ejaculated when he did, because Al Gore would have won had he not been smeared with the same stain. Therefore, my broken toe was Bill Clinton's fault.

Fewer Perverts, Please

This is what Ted Turner asks of the U.S. news reporters:

Mr Turner told staff at a celebration of CNN's 25th anniversary that he had tried to create a channel that would eschew the "trivial news" liked by local stations in favour of international coverage.

"I would like to see us return to a little more international coverage on the domestic feed and a little more environmental coverage and, maybe, a little less of the pervert of the day," he told staff in Atlanta.

Ted Turner no longer owns CNN so what he says has only symbolic meaning. I doubt that we can get rid of talking about perverts, even if all the newscasts focus only on U.S. politics...

Angry Goddess Stuff

I was watching C-Span2 on Thursday night. They were showing a blogger panel discussion with Atrios from Eschaton on it, among other famous bloggers. I expected the debate to be about blogger ethics or lack of same, but it wasn't. Instead, the talk went all around the place and then came, unsurprisingly, to the question why there are so few women bloggers. Perhaps the question was caused by the fact that all the bloggers on the panel were men. ( Wonkette had been preadvertized as being on the panel but she didn't appear.)

You, my dear readers, are not interested in this topic, most likely, but I am, and this is my blog so there. This is my blog, it's mostly political, and I'm mostly a woman, what with some snake bits added on. So when people ask about the lack of women in political blogging it affects me the same way as sitting on a nail. Just think about it: Usually the answer has something about women not being interested in the bloody battle that political blogging is. Well, if that's true, what kind of a woman am I, given that I'm interested in this crap? Not a lady, that's for sure.

The second answer to the where-are-all-the-women question is to point out that we do exist but that we aren't that famous. Imagine how that feels to me, a goddess with all the appetites of a proper goddess. I want to be adulated and worshipped everywhere, and all I hear is that I'm fairly good for a second-rater. Grrr.

To be fair*, Atrios said good things about women political bloggers on the whole but he failed to mention me. Which isn't completely satisfactory but I'll let it pass, this time.

I can do a proper analysis of this question, with all the different reasons carefully discussed, and I have done it in the past. But I don't feel like doing so now. Because I'm pissed off. This shit does wear me down.
*To clarify, this part is satire.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Christopher Cox

He is the new head of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. As expected, he's about the least suitable choice to this position if you use the standards of the average thinking person. But he's on par for the Bush administration. He was a primary sponsor of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995 which helped to prepare the ground for the Enron case and other fraudulent accounting practices. Cox is known as a curber of investor lawsuits, ya know. Expect a lot more Enrons and WorldCom scandals in the future.

Billmon has more on Representative Cox.

The Saudis and Women With Wheels

A Saudi Conservative Council member got into trouble for suggesting a study about reversing the ban on women driving:

He just wanted his colleagues in the government's legislative arm to discuss the possibility of conducting a study into the feasibility of reversing the ban on women drivers -- the only prohibition of its kind in the world.

But Consultative Council member Mohammad al-Zulfa's proposal has unleashed a storm in this conservative country where the subject of women drivers remains taboo.

Al-Zulfa's cell phone now constantly rings with furious Saudis accusing him of encouraging women to commit the double sins of discarding their veils and mixing with men. He gets phone text messages calling on Allah to freeze his blood. Chat rooms bristle with insulting accusations that al-Zulfa is "driven by carnal instincts with 454 horsepower."

There even have been calls to kick al-Zulfa from the council and strip him of his Saudi nationality.

I see all of this as being about control of women. Control of women is necessary in the Saudi society. If women are not controlled, things will change and quite rapidly. The feeling the opponents of Al-Zulfa's proposal have is something I can imagine, after working on empathy for a long time: like standing on quicksand, not knowing what will happen next and fearing total chaos.

But oppressing women is still wrong. And for each person imprisoned by society's suffocating rules a warden is needed. Thus, the system imprisons more than those intended. In Saudi Arabia, for example, drivers are needed for all those wealthy women who can't drive themselves, and in less wealthy families the men must be ready to chauffeur women every day (or else let them languish at home). All this takes resources that would be better spent elsewhere, if there wasn't that fear-inducing chaos waiting around the corner.

Somewhere in Massachusetts I came upon a cemetery which had a tombstone for the first woman who got a driver's licence in the United States. I know this because the fact was so important that it was engraved on her tombstone. I took a picture of the stone and if I can find it I will post it here.

Publishing May's Recruitment Data

This will be delayed. Specifically, until June 10, 2005, which is, can you guess it? A Friday. The day when the administration releases all bad news hoping that we don't read anything on Fridays and that we will have forgotten all about the bad news by Monday morning.

So I'm doing them a favor and giving the summary of past findings now when you are all still around. May is probably even worse:

Military recruiters have said potential recruits and their parents were expressing wariness about enlisting during the Iraq war. They said improving civilian job opportunities also were affecting recruiting.

The regular Army missed its recruiting goals for three straight months entering May, falling short by a whopping 42 percent in April. The Army was 16 percent behind its year-to-date target entering May, with a goal of signing up 80,000 recruits in fiscal 2005, which ends Sept. 30.

The Marine Corps missed its goal for signing up new recruits for four straight months entering May and was 2 percent behind its year-to-date goal. It hopes to sign up 38,195 recruits in fiscal 2005.

Check the May numbers on Friday or on Monday morning.

Today's Action Alert

Today's Action is simple. Go to http://web.amnesty.org/pages/donate_now and make a donation. If your penny jar is empty, write a letter to the editor of your local paper and explain why Amnesty International's charges of torture are not "absurd" and should be taken seriously.

Thanks for taking today's action.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

What Wingnuts Read on the Beach This Summer

When they wish to have those pleasant frizzons of fear crawl up their spine, they grab one of the Ten Most Harmful Books of the Twentieth Century, according to a wingnut survey of fifteen conservative scholars. Including exactly one woman scholar, Phyllis Schlafly.

The winner is The Communist Manifesto, and most of the other books are as one might expect. Many of the books are harmful because they advocate fairness and justice or an open attitude towards sexuality. Though to be fair, Hitler's Mein Kampf comes up second in the list. But even poor Lord Maynard Keynes, with his really very moderate theories, is included, and John Stuart Mills get an honorary mention. So does Darwin. And Rachel Carsons's Silent Spring is among the runners-up, too!

It would have been fascinating to learn which books these wingnuts would recommend as healthful lessons for young growing wingnuts, other than the Bible (and the Koran?). Not that there are that many wingnut classics, for reasons that I'm too polite to discuss here.

Feminism is well represented among the most harmful books. Betty Friedan's The Feminine Mystique comes seventh and Simone de Beauvoir's The Second Sex gets an honorable mention. I'm happy with this performance, given that the wingnuts think women are naturally uninterested in competition and general havoc-making. At least we give some of them nightmares, us feminists anyway.
Via Bibliosquirrel.

A Wedding Announcement - Of A Sort

I'm going to marry Rush Limbaugh. Bear with me. I know that this is sudden and unlike my usual divine sanity. But I have my reasons.

Reason #1. The best way to fight an enemy, if you are smaller in size, is to get right next to him, so close that he can't use his hands on you.

Reason #2. Ed Schultz (the liberal radio talkshow host) used to be a wingnut. Then he married his dear Wendy and she brought him to light. Or he pretends so. Either way, that's one wingnut less and one at least pretend-progressive more. You do the sums.

Reason #3. Someone must protect the innocent wingnut chicks from the catastrophe that goes under the name of Rush Limbaugh.

So I'm going to marry Rush. And no, he doesn't know it yet. Neither does his current bride or wife. I will let them know at the latest possible moment, like right in front of a Justice of Peace. I don't want his money or anything. I'm going to bring him to light or die in the process of trying. Or someone is going to die in the process.

This should earn me at least one monument in the Blue States.

The Brig

The following essay is by "Doc" Bruce. It describes some of the effects of isolation on the prisoner, and of being a guard in almost complete control of the prisoners. The events in this essay took place during another time period and during a different war (the Vietnam one) and no parallel to current events is intended, except for the obvious psychological ones, those that exist because of isolation and the psychology of being a prison guard. As was shown by the Stanford prison experiment, most of us can be made into cruel tyrants if the circumstances are right. Most of us can also identify with the feelings the prisoners in isolation have. So read and learn what we may be doing in places like Guantanamo Bay.

I was thrown in the brig during the process of applying for a Conscientious Objector status while already serving in the military. The first sense is one of isolation, a removal from the world into a place with no doors. This brig was located above the boiler room and the compartments comprising the brig were always very warm, ninety degrees plus with no ventilation. Okay, hot. Our working gear was t-shirts, dungarees, and boots. The prisoners' primary duty was to keep the brig spotless. On board ship, everything is made of steel, most of which is painted. The brig, however, is not painted but polished until it shone. Most of my time was spent on hands and knees, shining the deck with pads of double-ought wool. I would watch while a drop of sweat fell from my face onto the deck and, as if by magic, evaporate to become a miniature island group of rust.

I shared the brig with one other sailor, a Kansas flatlander (or so I imagined) who had fallen in love with a whore in Olongapo City, Philippines and missed the ship's movement. (All the information I had on him was through the guards; we were not allowed to speak to each other.) I'll call him Jimbo. Whenever there was another officer, sailor or marine around, we were to stand at attention with our noses pressed against the bulkhead, eyes straight ahead. We were allowed outside contact only with the assistant chaplain, who would ask if we had any problems or if we needed anything. These were, as you might imagine, pro-forma questions only. This seventeen or eighteen year old hadn't understood the program and actually complained about being beaten to the assistant chaplain one day. I heard him complain but had no way of stopping him. Thirty minutes after the chaplain's assistant left, the guard shouted "Officer on deck!" and we sprang to attention, noses to the bulkhead. The Lieutenant in charge of the Marine detachment on board walked past me, spun and slammed his forearm into the back of Jimbo's head, breaking his nose, spraying blood on me and down Jimbo's front. Before he could collapse, the Lt. spun him around, gut punched him and hit him in the chin with a right cross, knocking him to the deck. "Am I beating on you, puke?" Jimbo knew he wasn't supposed to lie and responded "Sir, yes sir!" I stayed still, nose to the bulkhead, hoping Jimbo would catch on soon. The Lt. grabbed him off the deck, spun a half circle, bounced him off the bulkhead, hit him with two short jabs to the floating ribs, held him up with a forearm over his windpipe: "Am I beating on you, motherfucker?" Jimbo chokes "Sir, yes sir!" So now the Lt.'s mad and he knees Jimbo in the groin who wheezes down the bulkhead in stages. "Am I beating on you, fuckwad?" Dimly, a light flickers for Jimbo and he finally gasps "Sir, no sir!" Lt. spins towards me, but I know the drill: his hammer fist hits the back of my head as I turn slightly at the last moment so my head bounces off the bulkhead with a rich hollow sound, bending my glasses but not breaking my nose; he kidney punches me and asks "Am I beating on you, asshole?" "Sir, no sir!" I shout. "Damn right, I better not fucking hear anyone is getting beaten on in my brig, do you understand?" Jimbo and I are together: "Sir, yes sir!" The Lt. is gratified at the clarity of his message and leaves.

We used paper towels to wipe up most of the blood, and some scrapers to get it out of the metal seams of the bulkhead and deck; blood clogs up steel wool, and makes a mess.

This is what I mean by isolation.

The brig is the worst duty for a Marine on board ship; it is just as hot for them as us. No one visits, there's no one to bullshit with, not much to do except read and make the prisoners jump. Jimbo and I were the only prisoners, so we normally just had one guard. They worked shifts but, essentially, Marines who were being punished or who were slackers, those were the guys who ended up guarding us. My least favorite was a guy I'll call Scooter.

Scooter was from Texas or Alabama (I forget), one of the Deep South states, young and lean, the kind of guy that you often see shirtless on television with a beer going "Woooo!" in that silly high pitched voice guys use when showing off. Regular good ol' boy, likes to shoot stuff to see it die, especially useless critters like coons and possum, small shit. Tough guy, cigarettes in one hand and billy stick in the other, always puffing himself up, talking about how he's gonna kill him some gooks, etc. etc. (Now, of course, it is a different vindictive invective…)

Scooter had "a real fun time" with me because we were so different from one another. That, and, of course, cause I was a traitor trying to sneak out of the military as a CO. He told me a lot about himself, not that I wanted to know anything at all about him; he was just bored. He regaled me with his understanding of The War and Religion and Our Place, crap like that. He was also an inventive sadist.

The doors to our cells were sheets of painted steel, drilled through with half inch holes "for ventilation", I guess. The cells were the hottest place in the brig which made it difficult to sleep. The heat and the banging on the cell doors every couple hours by the guard who pulled the night watch. Scooter would prop the doors open and have us do standing pushups with our index fingers stuck in the holes. The part that Scooter liked to show off to any other Marine that happened by at shift change or whenever was, if you take some spray boot polish and spray it through the flame of a lighter, you could get a flame that shot out two feet or more. He would play this back and forth across our fingers in the cell doors until we fell against the door trying to stop the pain. What a hoot.

But here is the interesting thing about Scooter. After I got out of the brig and before I was transferred off ship, I had opportunity to pull liberty in Hong Kong. I was sitting on the ferry, waiting for the quick trip across the Bay when who comes up and plops down beside me but my old buddy Scooter! "Hey, where ya goin'? No hard feelings, right?" If I hadn't been gritting my teeth, my mouth would have fallen open. The guy was truly guileless; he really thought "no hard feelings" would cover it.

At that time in Hong Kong, I had heard it said that you could have someone killed for fifty dollars. I had a couple hundred in my pocket: I told him to fuck off, instead. He got up, shaking his head somewhat sadly at me and sat down a couple rows away.

There are no seats left in the ferry.