Saturday, June 11, 2005

Tourism in Wingnuttia

We really should start a travel agency for those intrepid souls who wish to follow my pathbreaking footsteps and visit Wingnuttia in the real dimensions. For example, we need to put together all the immunization requirements, a list of suitable clothing (nobody told me about the need for high heels with jeans) and a list of unsuitable clothing (my "Got Democracy?" t-shirt didn't provoke cries of admiration). Also of reading materials that are vital for survival purposes. And a primer on suitable answers for all those questions one gets here, most of them impossible to answer honestly (Don't you just hate that Howard Dean?).

I don't know if the cuisine in Wingnuttia differs from that elsewhere except in the KoolAid department, but the particular town I'm visiting has the oddest cuisine in some ways. Everything has mayonnaise in it, even the breakfast cereal, and I'm coming out in divine spots. Sometimes called zits among humans. This may explain the need for such strong measures as very thick orange foundation on so many of the female faces here? Or am I just going really vicious here? Probably the latter. I miss Snakepit Inc. and it's solitude!

But think of the new material I will have at the end of this trip!

A Misdemeanor???

This is truly awful and inexplicable:

The man whose wife's death in April 2004 was termed "violent, unusual and unnatural" in a report by the state Office of the Chief Medical Examiner is now facing only a misdemeanor charge of domestic abuse - assault and battery.

John Wrabel, 65, had been charged with felony domestic assault and battery following the death of his wife Myrna on April 10, 2004, at Comanche County Memorial Hospital in Lawton, where she was flown by Air-Vac after being beaten April 7, 2004, at the family residence, 15836 S. County Road 206.

At a preliminary hearing conference in the case held April 22, Wrabel appeared with his attorney, Brad Leverett, and the District Attorney's Office reduced the charge to a misdemeanor, punishable by imprisonment of up to one year or a fine of $3,000, or both.

The "Amended Information" filed by District Attorney John Wampler states that Wrabel committed the abuse "by willfully and unlawfully striking Myrna Wrabel, the spouse, on the head, causing left frontoparietal and temporal acute subdural hematoma in the face, and on her legs and left buttock, causing bruises, with his hands, feet and/or unknown object, with force and violence and with unlawful intent to do Myrna Wrabel corporal hurt and bodily injury."

An autopsy report completed July 28 of last year by the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner states that the probable cause of death of Mrs. Wrabel, also 65, was blunt force head trauma.

I'm stuck in Wingnuttia and can't go around seeking for an explanation for a rule which would call bludgeoning someone to death a misdemeanor. Maybe the legal eagles can help us here. But this is clearly so wrong.

Friday, June 10, 2005

From Behind Enemy Lines

I'm typing this in an attic somewhere in Wingnuttia, after a day spent with people who think that George Bush is "cute" and that the Deep Throat was a scoundrel. I have watched Bill O'Reilly with people who don't laugh when he opens his mouth. I have stared at Fox News until I have prayed to go blind. This is the Other America.

So far my cover has not been broken, though some have the beginnings of a suspicion, probably because I couldn't help laughing at Dick Cheney's nutcracker jaws. The culturally sanctioned tradition here is awed silence and careful attention. I'm stretched to the limits of my divine ability to dissemble, but if I didn't have these few minutes of sanity in the attic I'd probably run down the local mainstream shooting anything that moves.

I'm not sure how often I can be in touch. I'm wearing a t-shirt with "God Bless America" stickers haphazardly scattered all over it, but will this be enough? If you hear no more from me do not worry: I am not an all-American blond girl which must mean that I will remain safe from all evildoers. Fox News tells me so. Until next time....

Thursday, June 09, 2005

More on the Downing Street Memo

The Salon has a good article on the idiotic situation we find ourselves in right now with respect to this "famous" memorandum:

Halfway through Sunday's "Meet the Press," host Tim Russert, interviewing Republican National Committee chairman Ken Mehlman, asked about a secret, top-level British government memorandum. Consisting of minutes from a July 23, 2002, meeting attended by Prime Minister Tony Blair and his closest advisors, the memo revealed their impression that the Bush administration, eight months before the start of the Iraq war in 2003, had already decided to invade and that Washington seemed more concerned with justifying a war than preventing one.

The memo was leaked this year to the Times of London, which printed it on May 1. The story, coming on the eve of Blair's reelection, generated extensive press coverage in Britain. In setting up his question to Mehlman on Sunday, Russert said, "Let me turn to the now famous Downing Street memo" (emphasis added).

Famous? It would be famous in America if the D.C. press corps functioned the way it's supposed to. Russert's June 5 reference, five weeks after the story broke, represented the first time NBC News had even mentioned the document or the controversy surrounding it. In fact, Russert's query was the first time any of the network news divisions addressed the issue seriously. In an age of instant communications, the American mainstream media has taken an exceedingly long time -- as if news of the memo had traveled by vessel across the Atlantic Ocean -- to report on the leaked document. Nor has it considered its grave implications -- namely, that President Bush lied to the American people and Congress during the run-up to the war with Iraq when he insisted over and over again that war was his administration's last option.

Hilarious, isn't it? Or it would be hilarious if we were reading about it as a story happening in some other, preferably imaginary, place. The media is scared of this administration, and quite honestly, I don't really blame them on a purely personal level. But the old saying about the kitchen and heat applies here, nevertheless.

I'm naturally not the only one who has noticed all this. There is criticism of the mainstream media's cowardice, in all sorts of lefty places:

The fact that it took five weeks for more than a handful of Washington reporters to focus on the memo highlights a striking disconnect between some news consumers and mainstream news producers. The memo story epitomizes a mainstream press corps that is genuinely afraid to ask tough questions and write tough stories about the Bush administration. Worse, in the case of the Downing Street memo, it simply refuses to report on the existence of a plainly newsworthy document.

"This is where all the work conservatives and the administration have done in terms of bullying the press, making it less willing to write confrontational pieces -- this is where it's paid off," says David Brock, CEO of Media Matters for America, a liberal media advocacy group. "It's a glaring example of omission."

"I think it exacerbates the sense among some [of our] listeners that NPR is not taking on the Bush administration," notes Jeffrey Dvorkin, ombudsman for National Public Radio, who continues to receive listener complaints about the missing memo story. As of Tuesday, NPR had aired just two references to the Downing Street memo, and both occurred in passing conversation, without giving listeners the full context or the details of the memo. Asked about the network's slim coverage, Dvorkin says, "I was surprised. It's a bigger story than we've given it. It deserves more attention."

Instead, attention in the media seems to be going towards stopping the use of anonymous sources. To avoid another Newsweek episode. This will also pretty much put a stop to all real revelations about any future government mistakes, I fear.

Future Plans for George Bush

If he ever decides not to be the president what will George do? According to the LA Times:

And in comments to the Los Angeles Times, Bush said that his return to private life probably would include work with Texas faith-based organizations that performed social services. He did not elaborate.

Bush will be 62 when his second term ends. The youngest former president was Theodore Roosevelt, who was 50 when he left the White House.

"He's going to be a very young man," said Evans, adding that he had not heard Bush talk about an intent to work with faith-based groups. "He will continue to serve his fellow man in some capacity. He's driven by serving others."

I'll be watching, with great interest! What are you willing to bet that the form in which George will serve others won't look anything like this? Unless you define "fellow man" as narrowly as it can be and assume that the article is talking about men who work in the oil industry? Just kidding...I think.

That Rude Dean

Yesterday's Jerry Springer show on Air America Radio asked this question: Is Howard Dean too wacky to chair the Democratic National Committee? This is because Dean called the Republican party a party for white Christians. He was using euphemisms, of course. What he really meant, I suspect, was that the people who currently benefit from the policies of the Republican party are wealthy and/or fundamentalist wingnuts. The majority of these two groups are white.

I'd like to ask a few questions related to the one Springer posed:
Is George Bush wacky enough to be the president of this country? Is Patrick Buchanan a mainstream personality? Does Dr. Dobson represent mainstream family values? Is Ann Coulter your average neutral journalist? Is what these individuals say about the Democratic party always reasoned, polite and mature? Ever?

And finally: Are the number of spined Democrats countable with the toes of one foot? Many Democrats have wasted no time distancing themselves from Dean and his uncouth comment. Why, Dean comes across almost as rude as...a Republican!

Welcome to the Upside-Down World.


Just for the fun of it: When women bloggers go jello wrestling. This has to do with a post by Lance. Also with the idea of finding the miracle switch...

Wednesday, June 08, 2005


I'm going to be on the road from tomorrow morning until Monday night. I have a cunning plan for internet access but it may be sporadic. We'll see. The plan is to post as usual but the roadside gods are not always kind.

Color Me Terminally Confused

Some new poll results on Bush are out and the slide down continues:

The full results of the latest Washington Post/ABC news poll are in, with more bad news for President Bush. In addition to finding that Bush's approval rating remains at a career low and that a majority of Americans think he's not paying attention to issues that are important to them, the results show that 52 percent of Americans believe the war in Iraq has not made the U.S. safer. The Post points out that this finding marks "the first time a majority of Americans disagreed with the central notion Bush has offered to build support for war: that the fight there will make Americans safer from terrorists at home."

Ok. And Bush won. He has a mandate (not just a man-date). He's keeping us safe. The economy is roaring. Social Security will be eradicated. The war against terror (a feeling) is successful. But...Americans don't like Bush.

Neither do they like the Republicans right now. Even though the Republicans are ramming the most extreme judges through. Even though these judges don't respect the precedent. Even though some of them at least hate the government that they are supposed to serve. And all this is supposed to be the will of the people or at least the will of the wingnuts. But read this:

Poll results also showed that this month is the first time since 9/11 that more respondents said they trust Democrats than Republicans to do a better job in coping with the main problems the nation will face in the next few years -- with 46 percent putting their faith in Dems, versus 41 percent who favored the GOP.

Well, it's not an election. Elections are different, in all sorts of mysterious ways. For example, the Republicans are likely to win the next one, too. Don't ask me how I know this. I just do. That's something George Bush and I share: a straight line to a divinity. Mine is just a little shorter.

Janice Rodgers Brown - Business As Usual

Here we are, then:

The Senate on Wednesday confirmed California judge Janice Rogers Brown for the federal appeals court, ending a two-year battle filled with accusations of racism and sexism and shadowed by a dispute over Democratic blocking tactics.

The 56-43 vote to confirm Brown to the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia was the result of an agreement reached last month that averted, for the time being, a showdown between Republicans and Democrats over the filibustering of President Bush's judicial nominees.

What are we to make of this? It seems that Judge Brown is not extreme enough to allow Democrats to filibuster. She's really a mainstream voice, isn't she? These are some of her mainstream opinions:

* A 1999 dissent drafted by Brown suggested that the First Amendment allows employees to use racial epithets in the workplace;

* A Brown decision would have barred administrative agencies from awarding compensatory damages in race discrimination cases;

* A Brown opinion would have struck down a law requiring paint companies to help fund treatment of children exposed to lead paint;

* Rated "unqualified" by three-fourths of the state bar's examiners when nominated to the California Supreme Court;

* Brown told a meeting of the Federalist Society that "where government moves in, community retreats [and] civil society disintegrates";

* Brown has said that government leads to "families under siege, war in the streets…"

* Brown said that "when government advances, freedom is imperiled [and] civilization itself jeopardized."

* Brown told an audience that people of faith were embroiled in a "war" against secular humanists who threatened to divorce America from its religious roots.

Or as a nice summary of what we have growing for eventual transplanting into the Supreme Court flowerbed:

A review of California Supreme Court Justice Janice Rogers Brown's record to date raises serious questions and grave concerns about her persistent and disturbing hostility to affirmative action, civil rights, the rights of people with disabilities, workers' rights, and criminal rights. In addition, Brown has often been the lone justice to dissent on the California Supreme Court, illustrating that her judicial philosophy is outside the mainstream. Not only does she show an inability to dispassionately review cases, her opinions are based on extremist ideology that ignores judicial precedent, including that set by the U.S. Supreme Court.

I look forward with great interest to the nominee that is actually regarded as extreme enough to allow filibustering.

When Is A Job Offer Not A Job Offer?

When the applicant changes sex in the middle of the process? This is what happened to David Schroer, according to this week-old story:

The job candidate interviewing to be a terrorism research analyst at the Library of Congress seemed to have exceptional qualifications: a 25-year Army veteran and former Special Forces commander who spent a career hunting terrorists and often personally briefed the vice president, defense secretary or Joint Chiefs of Staff on sensitive operations.

The interviews and salary talks went well for David Schroer. A job offer followed, and he accepted. Then the new employee brought up one last item: Once work began, the name would be Diane, not David.

The job offer, Schroer said, was rescinded the next day.

This case is unlikely to be about sex discrimination in the traditional sense though who knows for sure. But I suspect that it's about discrimination against transgendered individuals. I can't think of any nondiscriminatory reasons for rescinding the offer unless the medical operations Schroer is going to have done to transition would mean that she would lose lots of time from work. Otherwise, whether it's Diane or David shouldn't matter. It's the same skills and knowledge that are being employed.

Lactivism And Its Foes

Lactivism is the name of a new movement intending to make breast-feeding acceptable essentially wherever the woman can legally be. To bring it into the wider society. To point out that this is the way babies get their nutrition and that it's a little silly to force mothers to hide in public toilets in order to feed their babies.

Those who are opposed to public breast-feeding are opposed to the idea of bared breasts, mostly. Breasts are a sexual part of the body and should not be exposed publicly. Why not? Because they will affect some observers sexually? Or because they will upset children? Yet breasts are the organ which makes milk for infants, and we are told by various health experts that breast-feeding is beneficial.

Much of the embarrassment with public breast-feeding is caused by cultural traditions. The culture in the U.S. focuses on the sexual nature of breasts and demands them to be hidden except when they are used sexually. Like in ads and on tv and in porn. In fact, breasts are on show an awful lot, just not in the process of producing milk. My guess is that when public breast-feeding becomes more and more common we will forget all about the embarrassment.

This is an interesting dilemma for certain types of wingnuts who very much wish to see women focus on children but who also very much wish to ban anything sexual. Which way would they go on the desirability of public breast-feeding? They'd probably advocate that lactating women stay at home "where they belong". In fact, there are faint echoes in all this of the reasons for sexual segregation in some muslim countries: so much simpler and easier not to have to face evidence of difference anywhere.

Just so that you don't forget what we are ultimately talking about here: power, I'm ending this post with a quote from a troll poster on Eschaton on this topic:

I have a different position.
I think righteous women's studies types flaunt their boobiness when breastfeeding.
So I just stare...and stare...and drool...
We'll see how has the power as I imagine my spooge mingling with the dripping milk.
Go ahead...breast feed, little momma. Breast feed.

I stole the idea for this post from Atrios.

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.