Saturday, June 18, 2005

Let's Hope It's Not So

Jim Lampley at the Huffington Post says this:

A Bush-watcher website identified as is reporting under the byline of "domestic intelligence reporter" Brian Harring that the Department of Defense is using a cynical tactic to mislead the public regarding the true death toll for American military personnel in Iraq. Harring claims he has an internal pdf. file from the D.O.D. which establishes that nearly 9000 Americans have died in Operation Iraqi Freedom, but that the official number has been held to 1713 by designating as Iraq deaths only those who perish on Iraqi soil. The remainder, he says, are military personnel who have died en route to Germany or in German hospitals-- casualties of the war, but not listed in the official death toll.

If this is true it would explain the apparent statistical discrepancy between dead and wounded. A combat action which produces nearly eight times as many officially wounded-- 13000 plus-- as officially dead...well, it's not the norm. It goes without saying it would also further jolt a public majority already disturbed by the war's "progress" and eager to see the troops come home.

Curtains - Saturday Miscellanea

I'm making curtains for my dining-room. It's really the room in which the dogs and the snakes are fed but it looks like a dining-room. These curtains or drapes are proper ones. I start with measuring everything and figuring out how much overlap I want to have and how much fullness. Then I buy the material for the curtains and the lining, join widths together with the sewing machine, and then I sew the lining to the curtains by hand, including invisible stitches in the middle so that the linings don't billow out independently. The final step is to sew rings to the top so that the curtains can be hung properly from the metal rods with snake's head finials. (I don't do special headings because I like the simple look.)

Not many people do curtains this way, so there is some advantage for being a weirdo. I estimate that I'm saving at least a thousand dollars by doing the work myself, and the only real cost is developing these very thick leather pads on the fingers of my right hand, from the needle coming and going so many times. Of course, the people who get these types of curtains ready-made are in a rather different income bracket from yours truly. But still. All the stuff at Snakepit Inc. is made with the same care. That's why there isn't very much stuff here.

My computer room has Austrian blinds, made out of some 1950s material I found at a flea market. They are lined and the edges are piped. Normally I don't like frills but these are good to look at when I read something especially blood-curdling on my forays into the Wingnuttia. The other rooms have lined curtains as well, though the guest room has Roman blinds which I made out of muslin and some sheet material cut into stripes. I'm a proper little housewife goddess! Did you know, by the way, that overnight guests and fish both smell after three days? A gentle reminder.

Sheets are excellent material for curtains because they come in large widths. A hint for those of you who don't live near fabric stores or good flea markets. But don't try to make loose covers/slipcovers out of sheets; they don't wear well enough for all the work you need to put into making the covers.

This post has no politics in it. You could go to the American Street for a few of my more political writings, or you could imagine various ways of combining "curtains" and "George Bush" to make a political message.

Blogging While Anonymous*

Atrios has an interesting post on the topic, and I want to pipe in, too, given that some mean-spirited people might view "Echidne of the snakes" as a made-up handle, too.

Pseudonyms have been used in writing for a very long time, much before blogging was invented. Think of the Federalist Papers, think of Currer Bell and George Eliot. The reasons for writing anonymously are many and some are better than others. The Bronte sisters chose to write under male names because the literary markets of the era discriminated against women. The anonymous writers of the Federalist Papers didn't want their identities contaminate the message, perhaps. More recently, Carolyn Heilbrun chose Amanda Cross as the name to use when she wrote detective fiction, because she was an academic and the academic circles looked down on the detective novel genre.

The reasons for choosing anonymity vary, clearly, from protection of ones career or reputation to defenses against unfair markets to concerns with the purity of the message. In countries with authoritarian regimes anonymity may be the shield which stops a writer from being killed or his or her family from being hunted down.

But anonymity could be selected for more nefarious reasons. A writer might wish to cause harm and havoc and not be caught doing it, or someone might present a message in total conflict with that person's own lifestyle. There could be outright fraud involved or at least dishonesty. This is the case those present who dislike anonymous writing. How can someone attack Echidne of the snakes if nobody knows who she really is?

This argument is less powerful in blogging than it might be in the case of something like anonymous leaflets being spread all over a town, slandering a person's reputation, say. Bloggers tend to stay put on their little blogs and the same made-up handle stays put, too. If one becomes well-known enough, like Atrios, for example, then the pseudonym takes an equal validity to a real name. Atrios responds to his critics as Atrios. And so do other pseudonymous bloggers. Even I talk back to my commenters as Echidne.

The ability to Google people provides a very good reason for writing anonymously. I don't want my little mother harassed for what I say on my blog, and this might well happen if the harassers knew other names for me. (And, yes, I do get hate-mail. Nowhere near as much as love-mail, but I do get it.)

But none of these are the reason why I chose to start a pseudonymous blog. My impetus was the desire to write without the baggage that goes with who I otherwise am, the desire to recreate a personal voice. It is fun. And it was initially a purely literary exercize, with a little bit of magic thrown in. Now Echidne is someone who sort of exists, and if I started another blog under, say, "Olive the Omnivorous Ovary", I'd feel a fraud. Weird, isn't it?

Anyway, what do you think about anonymity in the blogosphere?
*Strictly speaking, pseudonymous. I'm freely mixing the two here because most of the critics do so.

Friday, June 17, 2005

Conyers vs. Milbank

If you wish to see how the so-called liberal media covers the Downing Street memo and those who wish to have a debate on the issues it suggests check out this piece by the Washington Post Dana Milbanks. I find it fairly disgusting. Hard to stoop as low as this, I'd think, but maybe Milbanks's brains are unusually low in his body.

And if you'd like to know how John Conyers responded to Milbanks, go here. A snippet:

The fact that I and my fellow Democrats had to stuff a hearing into a room the size of a large closet to hold a hearing on an important issue shouldn't make us the object of ridicule. In my opinion, the ridicule should be placed in two places: first, at the feet of Republicans who are so afraid to discuss ideas and facts that they try to sabotage our efforts to do so; and second, on Dana Milbank and the Washington Post, who do not feel the need to give serious coverage on a serious hearing about a serious matter-whether more than 1700 Americans have died because of a deliberate lie. Milbank may disagree, but the Post certainly owed its readers some coverage of that viewpoint.

Friday Dog Blogging


This lovely dog is the dog of wookiemonster who gives good comments on this blog. Hank is shedding, by the way. I combed her out yesterday and made a pretend-wig out of all that hair. It was big enough to look quite realistic on me.

Mukhtaran Bibi Still Not Allowed to Travel

She is the Pakistani woman who was gang-raped in punishment for her brother's behavior, as a form of tribal justice. She then went on to fight the case in courts, to win and to give the money away for starting schools. She wanted to travel abroad to talk about her experiences and the Pakistan government stopped her by house arrest and by putting her on the list of people not allowed to leave the country. The government then released her and assured that she was no longer on the banned list but her passport was not returned. Right now she is back in her village, without a passport.

Amnesty International says this about her case:

Ms. Mukhtaran, who late last week was in effect put under house arrest and then disappeared, only to show up a day later at a press conference and state her intent to forego her invitation to the United States, was victimized first by her attackers and again by her recent treatment at the hands of her own government. This same government refused to intervene in her case at the time of her rape until it was shamed into action by international pressure.

Tom Watson is keeping an eagle's eye on all this.

U.S. Foreign Aid

In 2003, the United States government allocated one percent of its budget to foreign aid. As a country we give about 0.1 % of the gross national product in foreign aid. This is fairly embarrassing, even if the U.S. donations are the largest in dollar amounts (because we are the richest guys on the block). Embarrassing, because countries such as Norway, Sweden and Luxembourg donate a much larger GNP percentage. The Netherlands gives almost one third of the American portion and there are not very many Dutch people in this world.

Against this background, consider the following news item:

Rebuffing President Bush's wishes, a Republican-led House panel slashed the administration's request for a program that aids global development.

Under the Millennium Challenge Account, countries are eligible for extra aid only if they control corruption, invest in health and education and encourage trade and private investment.

In 2002, Bush called for "a new compact for global development, defined by new accountability for both rich and poor nations alike. Greater contributions from developed nations must be linked to greater responsibility from developing nations."

He requested $3 billion in the fiscal 2006 budget, but the House Foreign Operations Subcommittee on Thursday recommended $1.75 billion, which is $262 million more than last year.

The U.S. military budget is about 350 billion dollars, excluding emergency funds for the continuing wars.

Might it not be cheaper to control terrorism by giving more foreign aid?

For Whom The Poll Tolls

A truly awful heading. Good.

Bush continues slippety-slipping downhill in the polls. For example:

Despite months of presidential effort, the nationwide poll found the public is not rallying toward Mr. Bush's vision of a new Social Security that would allow younger workers to put part of their payroll taxes into private investment accounts. Two-thirds said they were uneasy about Mr. Bush's ability to make sound decisions on Social Security. Only 25 percent said they approved of the way Mr. Bush was handling Social Security, down slightly from what the poll found in March.

It can be lonely at the top...

Or consider this one:

Moreover, only 37 percent said they approved of Mr. Bush's handling of the situation in Iraq, down from 45 percent in February. A strong majority of Americans now say the effort by the United States to bring stability and order to Iraq is going badly - 60 percent, up from 47 percent in February.

What is there to say about this that I haven't already said? Maybe it's worth pointing out that this guy supposedly won an election only six months ago.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

On Being "Easy"

This post grew from the one below about a sexual etiquette for women and some of the comments on it, especially those that discussed the reputation of American women abroad as being easy lays, easy targets for sexual predators.

A feminist analysis of all this seems necessary to me at this point and I will offer my feeble attempt of one. Consider the selection of terms to describe these women: "easy", as opposed to difficult or challenging, and "target", like something that stays immobile and will be shot at. Both of these make the man into an active participant, a hunter or a predator, and the woman into an object or at most an animal that is hunted.

Both of them also assume that the woman doesn't want to be sexual, isn't in fact searching for the very intercourse that she is supposed to be an easy target for. Perhaps she is like a fisherman, sitting on the pier, patiently waiting for the big fish to bite the hook? See how the discourse is nonegalitarian? How the woman's sexuality is completely ignored?

Though of course the woman might not want to be sexual at all. In that case what we are describing is a raping game. But then the underlying assumption is that such a raping game is somehow acceptable, at least in the sense of it being unavoidable, in the sense of "this is how the world just is". Men want sex more than women and don't care how they get it, and it's up to the women and their chaperones to stop this from happening.

If I was a man I'd find this assumption incredibly insulting. The assumption that I am nothing but my testicles, and that I'm so weak I can't but follow their urgings, even if it makes me do violence. Yet though I see this reaction in some of the discussions on this topic it is a lot less frequent than I'd expect. Why is that the case?

Probably partly because we all tend to view the world in which we live as somehow unchangeable even if it changes all the time. But there is also a deeper reason, one that Amanda of Pandagon alluded to in one of her comments on Alas, a Blog, and that is the fact that there is a certain amount of sexual entitlement which goes to most men in our society. If the price of this entitlement is to pretend that men's sexual needs are so powerful that they can't be controlled, well, maybe this is an acceptable price for some men to pay.

Several commenters point out that men indeed appear to be more sexual than women. Just think of all the pornography that is available. Isn't it the case that men have a stronger biological urge to be sexual than women do? Isn't this why we can't really change the rules of sex, to stop calling women "easy", for example? Because it would spoil the hunt?

I have no idea how to compare the sexual imperatives of men and women in a biological sense. For that I'd need to strip away all the cultural imperatives that have been inserted into us for decades, and I'd need to somehow ignore the effect that potential pregnancy has on women's sexual behavior or the effect that the knowledge of the greater average power of men might have on a woman who considers a one-night stand with a stranger. I have tried to think these questions out for myself and find it incredibly difficult to see how we could even test women's sexual desires as compared to their culturally affected sexual behavior. I mean, "a good woman" is still one who has very little sex. Why would this rule be necessary if women indeed care less about sex in general? Why would so many societies put such enormous pressure on women to stay chaste or virginal if women are actually fairly lukewarm about sex? What about my own, er, rather passionate nature?

It's odd to find this whole business of being "easy" coming back at this late stage. It sounds Victorian to me. The corresponding term for a man would be a Don Juan or something similar. The associations are almost totally opposite to each other. A man who wants to have a lot of sex is a stud, a winner. A woman who wants a lot of sex is easy, a whore.

Then there is the darker side of the issues, the side where we talk about an "easy target" in the context of the terrible events in Aruba. Where death enters the discussion and somehow we still prattle about sex and whether the woman or her parents were to blame for her lack of knowledge on how to avoid a psychopath. As if death is a likely outcome of casual sex, something that every woman should be trained to avoid. Now contrast this with what I mentioned above: the idea of men as the more sexual beings. Do you see the societal influences here? Do you see how women are expected to bend and adjust and protect themselves even against psychopaths?

The Aruba case is about murder and, as Pseudo-Adrienne so eloquently stated, the guilty party is the murderer. Let's not forget that and let's not confuse this horrible reality with sex and with the many ways that women are expected to behave in this world.

An On-Line Chat With Michael Smith

Michael Smith is a reporter for the London Sunday Times and has written a lot on the Downing Street memos. You can read an interview with him here. Some interesting snippets:

Austin, Tex.: Has there ever been a historical equivalent to the Downing Street Memo that may help put it in better context with the American public? Also, do you think that it's possible since few Americans know what 'Downing Street' is or means, the significance of the document is just not appreciated on this side of the Atlantic?

Michael Smith: I think in journalistic terms we need to go back to the Pentagon papers, in terms of a US context you have to look at the answer I gave earlier comparing that meeting to an NSC meeting. That is its significance, that is its equivalent. It is highly damning and some of the self-serving nonsense from people who should know better in some, and it is now only some, of the US media is frankly depressing.

Edinburgh, U.K.: What do you think of the argument reported in Howard Kurtz's article that Sir Richard Dearlove may have came to his conclusion by reading the newspapers?

Michael Smith: This is the head of British intelligence, a man who has just had conversations with America's most senior intelligence and national security figures. He is reporting back at the highest level, to what is effectively a war cabinet and as I know to my own cost has no great regard for newspapers. He has made his own judgement, no-one better qualified to tell that meeting what was happening. No shadow of a doubt.

Anonymous: George W. Bush once slipped during a speech and stated he was upset that Saddam Hussein had tried to kill his father. Is this a possible explantion for his fixation over Saddam Hussein? Indeed, perhaps if he had been more honest about it, it might have been understood more.

Michael Smith: Maybe. That was clearly the view of Peter Ricketts when he said in one of the memos that it looked like a grudge match


Etiquette for Women

Via Pseudo-Adrienne on Alas, a Blog, I learned about Steve Gilliard's ideas about gender roles, especially when it comes to white girls going missing in Aruba:

I don't think it's not so much that "she got what she deserve", but a media refusal to look at their conduct and say these girls were placed in a less than optimal situation. I would also bet no one had an honest discussion with them about acting like adults and making adult choices. Of course not. It was a "Christian" school. So they could get drunk, fuck any cute boy and no one would say things like:

"Be careful. Don't just go off with any cute boy. He may not act that cute when you're alone."

"Carry condoms and lube"

"When you get drunk, you tend to make shitty decisions. So stick together and don't let someone go off alone."

Now, I've always been confused as to why a girl would go off with three guys. Was she going to pull a train? Or did she have two spare sex organs for them to use? Because otherwise, that sounds like a really bad decision. One which she should have been warned against. Boys in groups tend to do things they wouldn't do alone. And the expectation of sex must have been high.

Hmmm. Gilliard's etiquette reads interesting, and I have a terrible impulse to rewrite his instructions to apply for race rather than for sex. Because Steve is understandably very clear on the wrongness of racism, such a rewrite might make him see why what he says here is not that different. Though he probably would just blow his stack at me.

But let's look at the last paragraph above a little. Gilliard is confused why a girl would go off with three guys. As if the only reason a woman ever goes anywhere with a man or men is for sex. As if it's the natural thing to assume, even if there are three men and only one woman. It's not possible to have friendship between men and women, you know, and it's not even possible that a woman might go out with three men just to drink and chat and listen to music. Nope. She must be prepared to provide whatever number of vaginas are needed for the satisfaction of all the men present.

Even if she is a schoolgirl.

This is how things "just are" in Gilliard's world. Nothing can be done about it. It's all in our genes. Men are reptile-brained predators, totally driven by their cocks. But whites who dislike and discriminate against blacks are not doing it because the fear and hatred of the "other" is built into our genes, of course not. Racism can be fixed. Sexism, well, it's just how things are. So you gals better be ready for sex. Carry your condoms and your lube and your spare vaginas everywhere you go. Don't have a working lunch with more than the number of men you can satisfy. And if anything happens, well, you did ask for it.

And never forget that you are a target. Not a person. Well, that, too, but the way things just are is that you are a target. Especially if you are an American woman:

What also needs to be discussed with women going overseas, even to a vacation resort, is the perception of American women, courtesy of Hollywood. Which is this: they're easy. European men see American women on vacation. In a place like Aruba, it's even worse. So they expect American women are easy targets.

Osama bin Laden would agree. In fact, this whole line of thought isn't that different from what certain types of wingnuts spout. The "blaming-the-victim", the "men-just-need-sex-and-can't-help-it", and the focus on women as "targets"; all these are part of the basic belief system of one group of wingnuts.

Steve is a good writer and he's often very perceptive. But not when it comes to a discussion of gender roles and how they affect our lives. Too bad.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Some Days...

Some days I think I'm going crazy. Some days I know that I'm crazy. But most days I'm fairly convinced that I'm a wholly sane goddess and it's the rest of this little overpopulated tennis ball that is out of its fucking mind. Though even admitting all this makes it look like it might be me who is the crazy one, after all.

One of the hardest things to do is to lead a good life, and a good life to me doesn't mean only enjoying life, but also trying to do something with it, trying to not at least hurt others more than one helps them, trying to leave the planet no worse off than it was when one began. All this and trying to eat as much chocolate and have as many orgasms as possible. This is my life plan, and the reason for it is that this is what feels right to me to do. No promises of paradise. No fear of hell. Just some internal judge or divine making me feel like a slimy piece of shit if I don't follow certain elementary ethical codes.

When I die I will go back to this earth, back to her arms. I will become something else. Perhaps the wings of a butterfly or the snout of a worm or a leaf in a maple tree. Or all of these. But whatever I become, I will still be here, still be in the wind and the soil and the water and the heat of the sun. And whatever I let happen to this planet today will affect my future incarnations. I might be born as the seventh leg of a very sick frog, for example. Or who knows, I might come back as the next queen of the universe. Either way, what I do today matters.

I have always thought that some universal justice would be beautifully served if people came back as whatever they have most hurt during their lives. Don't you just love it? All those who tortured little kittens will be reborn as kittens. Ayatollah Khomeini has just been born (the seventh time) as an unwanted little girl in some fundamentalist part of the world. And so on. - The only problem with this theory is that I might be reborn as a wingnut man as I do try to stop their dreams from becoming reality and in some heavenly book of punishments that might be judged as hurting them. Probably better not to know what happens to us after our deaths, if anything much.

What is the point of this post? Just that I have read too much that is totally absurd today. Some limit has been reached and the absurd has seeped into the rest of my life from the computer screen. I have learned that Theresa Schiavo was blind and extremely handicapped, that the whole hullabaloo about her chances of recovery was utterly, utterly idiotic. I have learned that almost any kind of governmental scandal can be swept under the rug in this country. I have learned that George Bush is like a train without an engineer, careening out of control, towards some destination that only he can see, and our reactions are pretty much to look away. Mind your own business, the rule seems to be.

But what is your own business? If you want to lead a good life, how oblivious can you afford to be? And if you are not oblivious, what is enough? What is enough for all of us who care? And how can we make a difference?

Welcome to Wal-Mart!

The store for the new Amerika. It's customer-friendly! It's willing to go to almost any lengths to please the customers, including requiring workers to be available even when they can't arrange childcare for that time slot, and including offering them the kick in the butt if they can't make new arrangements within seven days:

Wal-Mart officials in Cross Lanes told employees on Tuesday they have to start working practically any shift, any day they're asked, even if they've built up years of seniority and can't arrange child care.

Store management said the policy change is needed to keep enough staff at the busiest hours, but some employees said it appears to be an attempt to force out longer-term, higher-paid workers.

"We have many people with set schedules who aren't here when we need them for our customers," said John Knuckles, a manager at the store, which is located in the Nitro Marketplace shopping center and employs more than 400.

"It is to take care of the customers, that's the only reason," he said.

Workers who have had regular shifts at the store for years now have to commit to being available for any shift from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m., seven days a week. If they can't make the commitment by the end of this week, they'll be fired.

"It shouldn't cause any problem, if they [store employees] are concerned about their customers," Knuckles said.

Several single mothers working at the store have no choice now but to quit, said one employee, who would not give her name for fear of retribution.

"My day care closes at 6 and my baby sitter can't work past 5," said the employee, a mother of two who has been a cashier for more than three years. Neither of the services is available over the weekends, she added. "I have to be terminated; I don't know what I'll do."

But it's so good for the customers.
Via this kosdiary.

An Escape in a Golf Cart!

This is the guvernator of California. Poor Arnold, he's not very popular these days, even at his alma mater, which he attended for a few years:

Schwarzenegger's face appeared to redden during his 15-minute commencement address Tuesday to 600 graduates at Santa Monica College, but he ignored the shouting as he recalled his days as a student and, later, his work as a bodybuilder and actor.

"Always go all out and overcome your fears," he told the graduates. "Work, work, work. Study, study, study."

Inside the stadium, the drone from hundreds of rowdy protesters threatened to drown out the governor's voice at times. Many in the crowd erupted in boos when a police officer pulled down a banner criticizing the estimated $45 million cost of the November 8 special election that Schwarzenegger proposed Monday.
Schwarzenegger left the stage almost immediately after his speech, speeding across the infield in a golf cart surrounded by sprinting security guards. Across the field, he pulled up toward a waiting SUV and a large steel gate was closed behind him.

Too bad that this sort of stuff is only happening in California. Other politicians need it even more.

Meanwhile, in Pakistan

Remember the very upsetting story about a Pakistani woman, Mukhtaran Bibi, who was gang-raped as a punishment for her brother's behavior? This was one of those village council decisions, and it created quite a furor, especially outside Pakistan. Ms. Bibi didn't commit suicide as the local custom expected. Instead, she became a public figure, took the rapists to court and gave the money she won to the establishment of schools for girls and for boys.

The Pakistan government didn't like it, though, when Ms. Bibi planned to go abroad. She was placed under house arrest and her passport was confiscated. Even the Pakistanis don't want to wash their dirty linen in public. Though that's what I'm doing here, anyway, and arresting Ms. Bibi just makes it all much worse. The wonders of technology.

Supposedly Ms. Bibi is now out of house arrest and free to travel. But they forgot to return her passport...

A Note From the Paranoid Left

Hi there! Here I am, waving at you through the little porthole that sometimes opens between you in the Saneland and me and other raving lunatics of the paranoid left. I have learned this and much else from the so-called liberal media. Here is Michael Kinsley on us and our tinfoil-wrapped conspiracy theories about the Downing Street memo business:

Although it is flattering to be thought personally responsible for allowing a proven war criminal to remain in office, in the end I don't buy the fuss. Nevertheless, I am enjoying it, as an encouraging sign of the revival of the left. Developing a paranoid theory and promoting it to the very edge of national respectability takes a certain amount of ideological self-confidence. It takes a critical mass of citizens with extreme views and the time and energy to obsess about them. It takes a promotional infrastructure and the widely shared self-discipline to settle on a story line, disseminate it and stick to it.

It takes, in short, what Hillary Clinton once called a vast conspiracy. The right has enjoyed one for years. Even moderate and reasonable right-wingers have enjoyed the presence of a mass of angry people even further right. This overhang of extremists makes the moderates appear more reasonable. It pulls the center of politics, where the media try to be and where compromises on particular issues end up, in a rightward direction. Listening to extreme views on your own side is soothing even if you would never express them and may not even believe them yourself.

I had to stop for a moment here and make horrible faces into the mirror. I wanted to see a real dangerous lefty weirdo. Looked good. In any case, I'm fairly middle-of-the-road, as divinities go (did I ever ask you to sacrifice anybody?). And Kinsley is full of shit as Billmon points out:

As I mentioned earlier, the latter argument is one the rest of the media poodles have been barking for weeks: "It was old news." "Everybody knew about it at the time." "We were having trouble with our flea collars."

Or, if you're the Associated Press: "We just never got around to it."

However, according to Kinsley, what everybody knew three years ago is a paranoid theory now, albeit one promoted to "the very edge of national respectability."

You have to admit: He's got us coming and going. By insisting that the media cover the story of Bush's illegal rush to aggressive war, we've demonstrated we're just a bunch of unreasonable extremists peddling a paranoid conspiracy theory -- one that "everybody" already knows is true.

How can you argue with logic like that?

You don't argue with logic like that. You enjoy its ludicrous nature. That's the way to stay sane, even if you are hanging onto the extreme radical lefty edge with your very toenails.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

My Thoughts on the Downing Street Memo

Let me take you back to that horrible autumn of 2001. America was on its knees, grieving over an unspeakable butchering of the innocents. We were all stunned dumb with grief, trying to cope, trying to help each others to cope. The smoke and the smell of burning and death hung over New York City. I know. I lost a relative that day. He never came home to his waiting bride. His mother died recently. She gave up on life on 9/11/2001. She wanted answers, an explanation, something, and she got nothing, not even one speck of his remains. Then she grew tired and neglected her checkups and told nobody about the pain and then she died. Another victim, and there are probably many of them.

When we were finally ready for the questions to come we asked them. Who did this? Who is responsible? How can the culprits be brought into justice? And we learned about Osama bin Laden and the other Saudis, we learned about the Taliban and the support it gave Al Qaeda. The war in Afghanistan followed. Now put yourself back into the time in late autumn of 2001. Osama bin Laden had not been found. The Taliban were scattered but Afghanistan was not in any sense under control. Every day new information appeared on Al Qaeda, its presence in many countries and its plans.

America was grieving and burying its dead but it was finally ready for justice, for the hunt of the killers to be made real. And what did George Bush give us?

He gave us a long-hatched vendetta against Iraq, a country ruled by an evil dictator, true, but a country that had been ruled by the same evil dictator for a long time and once the Americans liked him well enough. But suddenly, in the middle of this major crisis, when bin Laden was using the world media to bare his butt to George Bush, suddenly, when there wasn't enough money to inspect the ships coming into the U.S. ports for nuclear weapons, suddenly, this was the right time to go and take Saddam out. Not to go after the real terrorists that threatened the U.S., but to take out someone who had nothing to do with 9/11.

When you are told that you suffer from a frightening form of cancer, do you go out and spend all your savings on getting those varicose veins removed? Well, that is pretty much what George Bush decided to do. Except that it's not just money we are spending on the varicose veins of Iraq but also lives. And all for what? Oil? Weapons of mass destruction? Some old Bush family quarrel having to do with prick sizes? Now, remember that in 2001 we were told nothing about the big boots of freedom marching all over the Iraqis. That's a later recreation of the events. In 2001 we were told that getting the varicose veins removed was more important than fighting the cancer that was spreading rapidly. So.

This is the place where the Downing Street memos fit. The proof that all I have said here is true. The proof of not only lying by our government but of incompetency, of voluntary sacrifice of all those lives that have been lost in Iraq. And what about Afghanistan? How are things going there? Where the hell is Osama bin Laden? Where are all those materials that disappeared in Iraq, materials which can be used to make biological weapons, for example? On some freight boat making its way across the ocean right now? Making its way towards whom? Think about this.

This is Funny!

Just when I posted on the Downing Street memo multiplying itself like those Biblical patriarchs I got this e-mail from FAIR:

A June 7 White House press conference with George W. Bush and Tony Blair offered the first public response from Bush to the memo, and with that came an upswing in U.S. media attention. But some in the media took it as a chance to lash out at the activists who have been bringing attention to the story all along. On June 8, Washington Post reporter Dana Milbank referred to Downing Street Memo activists--some of whom were offering a cash reward for the first journalist to ask Bush about the memo--as "wing nuts." He also offered an illogical explanation for the memo's low media profile:

"In part, the memo never gained traction here because, unlike in Britain, it wasn't election season, and the war is not as unpopular here. In part, it's also because the notion that Bush was intent on military action in Iraq had been widely reported here before, in accounts from Paul O'Neill and Bob Woodward, among others. The memo was also more newsworthy across the Atlantic because it reinforced the notion there that Blair has been acting as Bush's 'poodle.'"

Milbank had reported the same day (6/8/05) that his paper's latest poll showed that only 41 percent of Americans approved of the Iraq war--which makes one wonder when exactly the war would cross Milbank's threshold and become unpopular enough to make the memo newsworthy. Secondly, Milbank argued the memo isn't news because other similar stories were once reported--a peculiar explanation, to be sure. Finally, Milbank's third rationale--that the memo was news in the U.K. because it confirmed existing suspicions--would seem to directly contradict the

It is such a beauty of...yes!, wingnut logic, that I'm going to just sit here quietly reading it over and over again.

Today's Action Alert for Canadians!

Yes, I do have several hundred Canadian readers. Or maybe even more if they share the computers as thrifty Canadians might. In any case, Dave from Canada suggested this action alert for all of you so that you don't have to feel slighted on this here blog:

Spring Convocation Honours Feminists, Leaders in Healthcare and Education
As a Humanist leader Dr. Henry Morgentaler has promoted the idea that
people have a right to control their own sexuality and reproduction,
without interference by the state. He founded the first abortion
clinic in Montreal in 1968 and in the years that followed he
challenged the criminal code by providing safe abortions for women in
his clinic in Montreal. His belief in a "Woman's Right to Choose"
eventually led to a change in the law. He has continued to campaign
province by province seeking to provide abortion services under
Medicare to women deprived of access - a struggle which continues to
this day. Today, Dr. Morgentaler operates six clinics in Canada
providing excellent care for women in need of abortion and
contraceptive services.

A group called "Catholics For Life" has raised a petition against
granting Henry Morgentaler his honorary doctorate and at last count
have gathered 12000 signatures. Their arguments are typical wingnut
fare, mostly name-calling and insistence that Mr. Morgentaler has
"personally killed thousands of unborn children" and whatnot. They
even have a website that apes the design of the UWO site to give the
impression they are somehow affiliated with the university.

An online petition to uphold the decision to grant the honorary degree
is up at , and
concerned Canadians (or Canada sympathizers) can write to Dr. Paul
Davenport, president of UWO, by email at, or by postal
mail at:
University of Western Ontario,
1151 Richmond Street, Suite 2,
London, ON N6A 5B8

A sample letter follows.

Thank you,
Dave from Montreal
Doctor Davenport,

I understand that you are currently under pressure from religious
groups to deny Henry Morgentaler the honorary doctorate UWO plans to
bestow on him this Thursday. I am writing to ask you to please stick
to your conviction that Mr. Morgentaler is a hero, not a murderer. I
am writing to remind you, in case the insistence of catholic
anti-abortion groups has worn at your resolve, that the Canadian
supreme court has repeatedly upheld a woman's right to dominion over
her own body and that no group may by force of numbers overturn that.
I am writing you, Doctor Davenport, because I know you have said that
you support Mr. Morgentaler's honouring by the university because of
his persistent efforts to first enact, then uphold a woman's right to
choose. While you are right to say that religious groups' opinions are
not to be dismissed or disrespected, neither may they be relied on to
create policy in any secular institution.

You have acknowledged the numerous and fiery responses from both sides
of this debate, and so I would like to make one point: my opinion on
abortion does not matter, and should be disregarded.

In matters of civil liberties public opinion should have no sway. I'm
sure I don't need to point out to you that were this not the case we
would have far more inequality than we do, and that "Tyranny of the
Majority" would rule. So please, heed the wisdom of the supreme court
and grant Mr Morgentaler, and whoever might come after him, the
respect and honour they are due as champions of the struggle for civil
rights and against oppression.

Thank you,
J Smith

The Downing Street Memo Has Had Babies!

That would be a wingnutty and sweet way of telling you that there are now many such memos, all written in 2002 and all showing that George Bush lied. Now I can finally call lying lying. This weekend the Washington Post wrote:

A briefing paper prepared for British Prime Minister Tony Blair and his top advisers eight months before the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq concluded that the U.S. military was not preparing adequately for what the British memo predicted would be a "protracted and costly" postwar occupation of that country.

The eight-page memo, written in advance of a July 23, 2002, Downing Street meeting on Iraq, provides new insights into how senior British officials saw a Bush administration decision to go to war as inevitable, and realized more clearly than their American counterparts the potential for the post-invasion instability that continues to plague Iraq.

In its introduction, the memo "Iraq: Conditions for Military Action" notes that U.S. "military planning for action against Iraq is proceeding apace," but adds that "little thought" has been given to, among other things, "the aftermath and how to shape it."
The "intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy," said the memo -- an assertion attributed to the then-chief of British intelligence, and denied by U.S. officials and by Blair at a news conference with Bush last week in Washington. Democrats in Congress led by Rep. John Conyers Jr. (Mich.), however, have scheduled an unofficial hearing on the matter for Thursday.

Now, disclosure of the memo written in advance of that meeting -- and other British documents recently made public -- show that Blair's aides were not just concerned about Washington's justifications for invasion but also believed the Bush team lacked understanding of what could happen in the aftermath.

In a section titled "Benefits/Risks," the July 21 memo states, "Even with a legal base and a viable military plan, we would still need to ensure that the benefits of action outweigh the risks."

Saying that "we need to be sure that the outcome of the military action would match our objective," the memo's authors point out, "A post-war occupation of Iraq could lead to a protracted and costly nation-building exercise." The authors add, "As already made clear, the U.S. military plans are virtually silent on this point. Washington could look to us to share a disproportionate share of the burden."

You can see a timeline of the events that led to the war and the associated memos here.

Some have said (this is how it is done on Fox News: "some have said") that none of this matters at all because people were talking about these kinds of possibilities all along. Including one Echidne of the snakes. But of course this matters. The talk was idle, based on hypotheses and guesses. Now we have evidence:

That memo and other internal British government documents were originally obtained by Michael Smith, who writes for the London Sunday Times. Excerpts were made available to The Washington Post, and the material was confirmed as authentic by British sources who sought anonymity because they are not authorized to discuss the matter.

We have evidence to show that the Bush administration lied and that it was inept and never bothered to prepare for the aftermath of the war (which they probably saw as a computer game type event). Here are some of the things that we now have proof of:

British Knew Iraqi WMD Were Not a Threat: "There is no greater threat now that [Saddam] will use WMD than there has been in recent years, so continuing containment is an option." [Iraq: Options Paper]

Evidence Did Not Show Much Advance In Iraq's Weapons Programs: "Even the best survey of Iraq's WMD programmes will not show much advance in recent years on [the] nuclear, missile or CW/BW fronts: the programmes are extremely worrying but have not, as far as we know, been stepped up." [Ricketts Paper, 3/22/02]

Evidence Was Thin on Iraq/Al Qaeda Ties: "US is scrambling to establish a link between Iraq and Al [Qaida] is so far frankly unconvincing." [Ricketts Paper, 3/22/02]

"No Credible Evidence" On Iraq/Al Qaeda Link: "There has been no credible evidence to link Iraq with UBL and Al Qaida." [Straw Paper, 3/25/02]

Wolfowitz Knew Supposed Iraq/Al Qaeda Link Was Weak: Wolfowitz said that "there might be doubt about the alleged meeting in Prague between Mohammed Atta, the lead hijacker on 9/11, and Iraqi intelligence (did we, he asked, know anything more about this meeting?)." [Meyer Paper, 3/18/02]

Representative John Conyers will hold a hearing and a rally on these memos this coming Thursday. Information is available on

Monday, June 13, 2005

Back Home in the People's Republic of Snakeland

I am one happy goddess right now! Skipping and dancing around the Snakepit Inc., kissing the ground and otherwise making a racket. I am back safe and sound and even my hounds Hank and Henrietta are happy! We have all returned from our spying mission behind the enemy lines and we caught no deadly bugs, not even fleas! I do have several nearly uncracked 1970's dinner plates, from yard sales, and some broken costume jewelry that could be very good if someone quite skilled worked on it for a few days. Then I could give it away as presents. - These purchases were a necessary part of my cover in Wingnuttia: I had to go to yard sales on Saturday and various churches on Sunday. Those were the only places where Fox News wasn't on all the time. I swear that this is the reason why half of America has gone bonkers. The most expert decoders should start searching for the brainwashing messages in the Fox broadcasts.

Bill O'Reilly has a frightening face, especially when it is plastered on a wall-sized Wingnuttia television screen while you are trying to eat hot dogs (without eating the dead animal bits) and mayonnaise and lettuce with mayonnaise and Miracle Whip pizzas. The pores in O'Reilly's skin started looking like long escape tunnels to me, and I had to claw the plastic that covered the dining room chairs not to try to jump into his nostrils. At the same time someone's "very religious" Cousin Walt was trying to sink his nose into my breasts. There is so much very open and very vulgar sex going on in Wingnuttia and most of it is about tits.

So you can see why I couldn't blog very well. All this plus the difficulties my stomach had with the mayonnaise and the fact that I hate iced tea and it hates me and keeps me awake all night if the mosquito bites do not. I am knackered as the people in the north of England say. I'm also very snotty and uppity about all this, and before someone else points that out I wish to say it first: Yes, I am a very arrogant goddess and think that I'm better than the Wingnuttians. And no, they are not all bad or bad at all, and I will write serious and eloquent epistles about my experiences later on, so eloquent that your ears will tear up with the beauty of it all. But right now I need to be bitchy, because I'm covered with mosquito bites and tired and I have just driven nine hours with two large dogs breathing on my neck the whole time. And the reason for my trip was to be a kind and caring angel to an ailing quasi-relative which I did. I also cleaned a house and washed ten loads of laundry and organized a nursing rotation and de-flead someone else's pets. Just so you know that I have earned my bitching rights.

On the way back I passed a large advertisement for "adult entertainment". You know, tits and tits. Then, only a mile later, another large board advertized "adult housing". You know, nursing homes for the elderly who are not yet bed-ridden. This combination made me laugh for the last fifty miles. We humans are really a weird species. I'm glad I'm a goddess.

Real political blogging tomorrow.