Saturday, July 02, 2005

More on Rove and the Plame Game

If you are interested in this (and who wouldn't be?), I have more on the topic on the American Street.

My Wonderful Readers

I was just reading the new comments on this blog and I was once again struck with admiration. What erudite and knowledgeable readers I have! It really is a delicious moment in the day for me to go through the comments, and I often learn a lot. You are also otherwise an interesting bunch of people (and other creatures). Quite a few eccentrics which I like, and lots of really good folk. With a heart and a brain, both in the right places.

So this fourth of July weekend I'd like to thank the United States for you.
The comments on this post can be used to praise other commenters, not me.

Saturday Dog Blogging


For the Independence Day weekend it will have to be Henrietta, as she's always plotting revolutions against humans. Besides, Hank's face looks silly as she just licked clean a large yoghurt pot and her snout didn't really fit. Labrador snouts are wide.

Try this sometimes. Lie down on the floor with your eyes closed (to meditate) and wait. Soon you will be surrounded by dogs (or dog). It looks a little like lying in a forest of dogleg trees. Then the careful sniffing of your mouth and hair begins, to see if you are dead or at least ready for demotion in the pack. When you open your eyes you can then get lots of slimy dog kisses, most likely on your ears and neck. Though Henrietta never kisses as she's the boss of me, she thinks.

Oops! The Plame Game: Round Four

It has turned exciting. For those of you visiting from some alien planet, this refers to the CIA agent Valerie Plame, married to former Ambassador Joseph Wilson. Wilson was sent to Niger to find out if Iraq had tried to purchase uranium there. He found no evidence of this, but Bush cited the allegation anyway in his 2003 State of the Union address. Wilson then criticized the Bush administration for going to war on false grounds...

At the next round, perhaps in revenge of Wilson's criticisms, someone in the Bush administration outed Valerie Plame who was at the time a covert agent by contacting possibly as many as six Washington journalists. Robert Novak took the bait and wrote about Valerie Plame. This outing probably cost lives somewhere in the network and certainly destroyed whatever she was working on at the time. Outing of a CIA covert agent is also illegal.

Now to the round three, the one that just ended. The investigation on the Plame affair has focused on two journalists, Judith Miller and Matthew Cooper. Miller has refused to name her source but Time magazine has agreed to cooperate with the investigation by opening up their files. What is interesting is that the Special Prosecutor in the case is said to already know the identity of the leaker(s) in the government. Why then the effort to get Miller and Cooper reveal their sources?

TalkLeft suggests that this is because of the evidence needed for perjury conviction. Two witnesses are required for a perjurious statement. So who is the intended target of all this?

And here is the beginning of round four, the current one. Lawrence O'Donnel, a SNBC analyst said this on last night's McLaughlin Group:

"And I know I'm going to get pulled into the grand jury for saying this but the source of...for Matt Cooper was Karl Rove, and that will be revealed in this document dump that Time magazine's going to do with the grand jury."...

Could this possibly be true? Note that Rove has told the FBI in the past that he was not the source of the leak

It is hard to believe that Rove would have been careless enough not to send an underling to do the leaking but perhaps he has grown accustomed to his untouchability. On the other hand, his untouchability might protect him even if O'Donnel's statement is true.

This will be most interesting to follow.

Friday, July 01, 2005

Friday Embroidery Blogging


This is an embroidery that failed. I tried to reverse the roles of the viewer and the object to be viewed but it didn't come out ok. Anyone want to buy it off me???

Edited to correct the above. It didn't fail, except in the sense of my inner obsessive-compulsive. The techniques are satin stitch, chain stitch, French knots and straight stitch. The orange ran (I bought the cottons at a yard sale so they were probably old threads) when I moistened the embroidery to block it, so I dyed the background the same color.

Deep Thoughts for the Day

This week's hypocrite is Karl Rove.

If a surgeon's primary tool is a scalpel, the primary tool of a demagogue is creating demons and scapegoats. The most fundamental hypocrisy of the demagogue is claiming divine virtue while using tactics that are base, vile and utterly dishonest.


A Feminist Defense of Abortion Rights

This is not a topic I do well, though I have read everything on it for a long time. The problem is that to make the case properly and well I'd have to write a book, and it would have to include the many stories of pre-Roe era women and be written well enough to convey the feelings of life in those days. Other people are better equipped to do that. But it's really my duty to try to give at least a short explanation for my support of the pro-choice platform.

Without birth control and the right to abortion there can be no real gender equality. It's as simple as that. If our fertility is controlled by the government we will ultimately bear children when that government wishes and we will not bear children when that government wishes. Having children changes our lives, more for women than for men, perhaps, but our lives are changed nevertheless, and sometimes these changes are damaging and physically and mentally costly. There can be no real freedom for women to walk down the road at dusk if such a walk could result in a rape which cannot be proven to the satisfaction of the government and if the rape then results in a pregnancy. Giving birth to a child can be dangerous. Bringing up a child in this world is demanding. To have someone else decide when and if you do these things is devastating.

The pro-life answer to these worries consists of abstinence. Women can always say no, we can always cross our legs. But this ultimately means saying no to walks at dusk, perhaps saying no to the new job, interesting but too demanding, or having someone else say no to that job for you because women will just have babies and thus cannot be trusted. And note how the idea of women saying no is one-sided, how the responsibility for abstinence is put on the shoulders of women alone. As if women today were scouring the streets in the search for reluctant men to have sex with. And it doesn't solve the rape dilemma: what if I am raped, get pregnant, and can't prove the rape? What if I'm not raped but had sex because, well, because human beings do want to have sex, and I get pregnant but already have six children and can't feed them? What if I have psychological problems and being pregnant makes me see razor blades for my wrists everywhere?

Abstinence doesn't work. Sex is like food, and people will have sex whatever the punishments we pile on such behavior. The pro-lifers want the punishment to be giving birth or dying from a botched up abortion. This is what sometimes goes for pro-life.

A world without reproductive choice is not a good one for women. Be careful, be more careful than ever, and yet your uterus might be used against your own wishes. Your life doesn't belong to you, never mind about your body. Your fertility belongs to the politicians who decide if you should breed (yes, if you are white, perhaps no, if you are not).

A world without reproductive choice is not a good one for men, either. However careful you are, you might become a father or at least someone who pays child maintenance for the next two decades. And you will have to worry about your daughters, your sisters, your wife, your girlfriend.

No, there can be no real equality without reproductive choice. It's as simple as that for me.

Fasten Your Seatbelts

Sandra O'Connor announced her retirement plans from the Supremes. Rocky road ahead. She is important because of her role in the middle, and in particular because of her pro-choice position. If Bush replaces her with a wingnut the court might still be five to four for retaining Roe v. Wade, but at least one other Supreme Court Judge will retire and then the balance switches. Let's pray that Judge Stevens has really good physicians.

The wingnuts must be dancing in the streets today if that isn't against their religion. But of course any victory they might have here is a Pyrrhic one, for once Roe v. Wade is gone so is the main reason why so many fundamentalists vote Republican. I'm not certain if Rove can continue walking on the thin edge of the blade much longer: he must deliver something to the wingnut base.

Roe v. Wade is based on Griswold vs. Connecticut, the decision that made birth control for married couples legal. The two decisions might go down together, or so I imagine, and then we'd find people in the streets but not dancing. The majority of people today have no memory of an era when condoms were illegal and when backstreet abortions killed and mutilated women. Maybe this era must come back for the necessary learning to happen, but I dread the suffering it will cause.

Bush is promising a fight about his nomination for the O'Connor seat. What else.
A Postscript: This is a likely scenario for the events to follow.

Thursday, June 30, 2005

A Craft Idea

For all of you craftspeople with itching fingers and nothing left to paint or decorate in the house or on your persons. Freewayblogger has a new project for you:

to speak out against the Lies and Propaganda and let 25,000 of your closest friends know just how you feel about this war and the lying sons of bitches who dragged us into it.

Starting July 5th, freewaybloggers across the nation will begin placing signs on the freeways voicing their opposition to the war. These signs will continue going up through July and August and on until impeachment hearings begin in September.

The Founders of this Nation gave us the right to free political speech for a reason, and at least part of that reason was to sound the alarm if we felt our country, or its democracy was in danger. If you feel that this is an illegal and immoral war, speaking out is not just your right, it's your duty as a citizen.

Go here for instructions and the list of materials needed. All you really require is what is in this picture:

Though the rabbits are there just to be admired and not necessary to have. In particular, no rabbit parts are used in the craftproject!

Divided We Fall

Perhaps. Or we fall over from laughing so hard. The most recent Zogby poll says that the American voters surveyed don't like the divisiveness of current American politics:

A follow-up question found that seven-in-ten (70%) voters believe the parties should be broad-based, and should pursue compromise—while less than one-in-four (23%) favored putting base issues first, even if it means nothing is accomplished.

These views are held by members of both major political parties, as well as independents, although Republicans, whose party controls both houses of Congress, are more likely to favor the parties focusing on the desires of their base than are Democrats and independents, with 31% of Republicans favoring this approach—more than the 20% of Democrats and 17% of independents who hold that view.

Note the greater number of radicals among the Republicans. The "followup" bit above refers to the major findings of the poll:

Just one week ago, President Bush's job approval stood at a previous low of 44%—but it has now slipped another point to 43%, despite a speech to the nation intended to build support for the Administration and the ongoing Iraq War effort. The Zogby America survey includes calls made both before and after the President's address, and the results show no discernible "bump" in his job approval, with voter approval of his job performance at 45% in the final day of polling.

Where voters live has some impact on their perceptions. The President's job rating remains relatively strong in the South, with 51% rating his performance favorably; in all other regions, those disapproving his performance are in the majority.

And two in five of those surveyed would like to see Bush impeached if it's proven that he lied about the reason for Iraq war. All these questions show that the South still loves Bush and whatever he does while the rest of the country is not so inclined.

In other words, we are indeed divided between the southern and the northern parts of the country. Like in the Civil War. Not much has changed in some ways, and maybe we'd all be better off if there were two countries now rather than one. Though one of them would have to be Jesusland and have place for all the wingnuts, whereas the other one would be called Moonbattia and would host the rest of us. Sadly, there is no easy geographical division along these lines as there are moonbats (a wingnut name for people like yours truly) even among the rabidest Republicans.

Weird News of the Day

They may not look weird to you but they struck me as odd. Hollow or like deja vu all over again.

First, the newly elected president of Iran, a wingnut in full ripeness, may have met Americans in his past:

The White House said Thursday it is taking seriously the allegations by former hostages that Iran's hardline president-elect, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, was one of their captors at the U.S. Embassy in Tehran a quarter century ago.

President Bush told foreign reporters he has "no information, but obviously his involvement raises many questions."

"As soon as I saw the face, it rang a lot of bells to me," Don Sharer, who served as the embassy's naval attache at the time, told CNN.

"...Take 20 years off of him. He was there. He was there in the background, more like an adviser."

Abbas Abdi, the man well-known to be the leader of the 1979 hostage-takers, told CNN that Ahmadinejad, the Tehran mayor, "absolutely was not" part of the event that involved the captivity of 52 people.

Abdi later became a supporter of reformist President Mohammed Khatami and was recently released from jail for advocating closer ties with the United States.

Iranian officials also deny Ahmadinejad was involved.

Whatever the truth of the case, everybody knows that Ahmadinejad is as eager for a theocratic world as some other leader better to remain unnamed here.

Second, Bush spoke and the Americans...slept:

President Bush's latest address to the nation, urging Americans to stand firm in Iraq, drew the smallest TV audience of his tenure, Nielsen Media Research reported Wednesday.

Live coverage of Bush's half-hour speech Tuesday night from the Ft. Bragg military base in North Carolina averaged 23 million viewers combined on four major U.S. broadcast networks and three leading cable news channels, Nielsen said.

Designed largely to bolster sagging public support for the persistently bloody conflict in Iraq, the speech fell 8.6 million viewers shy of Bush's previous low as president, his August 9, 2001 address on stem cell research, which was carried on six networks.

I wouldn't be surprised if those 23 million viewers were of various wingnut stripes, except for us valiant bloggers, sitting there wrapped in tinfoil and wearing wading boots.

Speaking of sleep, did you know that insects sleep? So there wouldn't be much point in coming back as a fly: you'd fritter away those priceless hours in Sandyman's arms just like you do now.

My Doctoral Robes - RIP

They started life in a dim shop in London, one where the royalties and the wealthy oil sheiks got their shirts manufactured. I was measured for them by an eighty-year old gentleman who had taken the measures of Princess Margaret. The whole experience was surreal.

They were lovely robes, flowing around me as I walked, fitting perfectly around my shoulders and then rippling down my body like rivers seeking the ocean. The pleating below my shoulders was exquisite and the tag at the back had my name embroidered in beautiful letters. The jaunty little velvet beret went perfectly with the robes. Even the silly bib that is worn on the back in the most senseless of ways looked good.

Of course they didn't get worn that much. It's hard to pop into the supermarket in your woolen robes, at least without attracting a lot of attention. They mostly came out for ceremonial occasions and once or twice as a bathrobe. But I treasured them, even when they were taking up space in my closet, space that I desperately needed for things such as clothes one actually wears.

I treasured them because they were pretty much all I ever got from four incredibly painful years of studying economics. The robes and those little letters after my name: Echidne of the snakes, PhD. Something to show to those who doubted that I could possibly know what I was talking about. Something I might possibly convert into a burqa if things got really bad here. Something to keep, just in case.

But, alas, no longer. The moths, those cruel and heartless creatures, have devoured my robes. I could still wear them in some risque venues but they will no longer work for a burqa. The lesson: Never hold out for the woolen version. Go with the polyester. You save money and your heart from breaking.

To Be An Internet Journalist

I should write about shark attacks (why do sharks attack? because they are poor on defense) or about various white people disappearing, it seems, from a cursory reading of the topics of the day in the mainstream media. I'm not a journalist, obviously. But if I write this blog as a private goddess I might be in trouble, too:

Some bloggers who built their Internet followings with antiestablishment prose are lobbying the establishment to protect their livelihoods from federal regulations, working with a political action committee, lawyers and public-relations consultants.

"There's a certain responsibility I have to help protect the medium. I have the platform, the voice to be able to do so," said Markos Moulitsas Zuniga of

He testified Tuesday at a hearing on a Federal Election Commission proposal that would extend some campaign finance rules to the Internet. He urged the FEC to take a hands-off approach.

At issue here is whether us bloggers should be exempt from campaign financing regulations in the manner of proper journalists, so I'm not personally threatened by the proposal. All I ever do is badmouth people. But this might also be the dipping-of-the-toes-in-water proposal, to see how far the Americans are willing to see their cyberspace regulated, and that does make me worried. Any future regulation would surely hit a pagan goddess hard. So I'm opposed to this regulation, too.

I also agree (!; maybe Hell has frozen over?) with the founder of, a wingnut blog, who said:

"What goal would be served by protecting Rush Limbaugh's multimillion-dollar talk radio program, but not a self-published blogger with a fraction of the audience?" Krempasky asked the commission.

The cynical part in me knows that regulation of the internet is just a question of time. What is happening is far too democratic to please any authoritarian government.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Today's Action Alert

This is from FAIR:

MSNBC's Pro-Bush "Town Meeting"

June 29, 2005

After George W. Bush's June 28 speech about Iraq, MSNBC's Hardball presented
viewers with a decidedly skewed "town meeting" featuring a panel
dominated by Iraq war boosters.

The two-hour coverage, hosted by Chris Matthews, was anchored by a panel
discussion that featured MSNBC reporter Norah O'Donnell, Islam scholar Reza
Aslan, and four conservative Bush supporters: Tony Perkins of the Family
Research Council, MSNBC host Tucker Carlson, Bobbie Patray of the Eagle Forum of
Tennessee and Jerry Sutton, pastor of the Two Rivers Baptist Church in
Nashville, Tennessee, where the event was held.

MSNBC's coverage also included interviews with Newsweek's Jon Meacham,
Democratic Sen. Joe Biden (who called for "more boots on the ground"),
and Republican senators John McCain and John Warner.

In other words, MSNBC's "town meeting" excluded forceful critics of
the Iraq war--a war that polls show most Americans no longer support, or believe
the White House is mismanaging.

MSNBC's O'Donnell was careful to note that while war critics were the majority,
"at the same time, a majority of Americans also believe that we should stay
and finish the job. Only 1 in 8 Americans believe that we should cut and run.
There are liberal groups like that say we should get out. That's the
minority in America. People think that we should stay and finish the job."
O'Donnell was apparently referring to a Washington Post poll question (6/28/05)
that asked about increasing or decreasing troops, in which 13 percent of
respondents wanted U.S. troops to "withdraw immediately."

Most polls, however, show that support for withdrawing U.S. troops is
substantially higher than 13 percent. In response to another question in the
same poll, 41 percent said that the U.S. troops should be withdrawn from Iraq.
In a recent Gallup poll (6/8-12/05), 46 percent said that the "U.S. should
bring its troops home as soon as possible," while a Harris poll (6/7-12/05)
found 63 percent in favor of "bringing most of our troops home in the next

Audience participation also tended to support Bush, causing host Matthews to
comment: "It's been a great group. As you can see, the people are
passionate. And they have strong patriotic beliefs and moral beliefs, and yet
it's been very nice here. No fights or anything." Of course, having an
unbalanced panel discussion makes it easy not to have any "fights."
Matthews also praised the audience for being supportive of Bush, asking one
guest: "Why do you think the people in this part of the country seem to be
more manifestly patriotic about this president, and this war, and this
situation? What do you think it is, the separation from the coasts?"

Does Matthews really believe that supporting the Iraq war makes citizens more
"patriotic"? And is supporting a president the same as being
"patriotic about" the president? Were citizens who opposed President
Clinton being "unpatriotic" about him?

One member of the audience who disagreed with the consensus provided by MSNBC
was actually booed by the town meeting audience, causing Matthews to remark:
"Don't boo, now, please, ladies and gentlemen. It's been a good night here.
Howard Dean is going to come on our program tomorrow, a different point of view.
We have diversity run amok." Has it really come to the point where having
the leader of the Democratic National Committee on TV qualifies as
"diversity run amok"?

Contact MSNBC and tell them that serious discussion of the Iraq war should
include critics of that war. Ask Chris Matthews if he really thinks war
supporters and Bush supporters are more "patriotic."


Phone: (202) 783-2615

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

Social Conservatism and Feminism

James Wolcott called himself a social conservative in a recent post*. Reading this made my stomach turn over as I am an admirer of his writings. In one tiny sentence he sentenced me to the dark side. That is how I interpret "social conservatism": that people like me do not matter very much in the important political battles, that my issues are fringe issues, that my rights are optional. Wolcott doesn't care for me.

Of course that is not what Wolcott really said but that is what I read on the screen. The reason is the fuzzy meaning of "social conservatism". It is one of those terms where the meaning is in the eye of the beholder. One never knows what a speaker means by "social conservatism" or by its brother term "cultural conservatism". But to many on the left these kinds of conservatisms are somehow less important or more trivial to fight than other weighty issues, such as political conservatism or economic conservatism. The social and cultural issues can be condensed to a few soundbites: abortion and same-sex marriage, and these are negotiable issues to many liberals and progressive. Especially to some heterosexual men, even to some heterosexual men who blog.

I don't necessarily blame them in taking this attitude. Abortion rights and the right of gays and lesbians to marry may not have much to do with their own lives, and if they are not good at empathy these may indeed seem like peripheral questions of little importance. But then a white person may find it difficult to imagine what it is like to wake up a minority every single morning and to receive those little mosquito bites of racism day after day after day. Racism might look like something that could be fixed after more important issues are settled. When we have time for it. Right before we tackle sexism.

This would be social conservatism, too. Many on the left are social conservatives in the sense of believing that existing social mores and traditions are nonpolitical matters, not worthy of spending time and resources on when there is so much of real importance in politics. It is not an accident that the existing social mores and traditions favor the individuals who think that way. What's not to like in such mores?

This long pre-amble is to explain why I went and Googled for definitions of social and cultural conservatism. I wanted to understand why many liberals and progressives can so lightly dismiss anything labeled as social or cultural as unimportant.

What I found is enlightening and confusing. The official definitions of social conservatism give us great detail but this detail is ultimately empty. Consider these definitions:

Social conservatism is a belief in traditional morality and social mores and the desire to preserve these in present day society, often through civil law or regulation. Social change is generally regarded as suspect, while social values based on tradition are generally regarded as tried, tested and true. It is a view commonly associated with conservative religious groups, militarism and nationalism.

Social conservatives emphasize traditional views of social units such as the family, church, or locale. Social conservatives are a product of their environment, and would typically define family in terms of local histories and tastes. To the Muslim or fundamentalist Mormon, social conservatism may entail support for polygamy. To the Protestant or Catholic, social conservatism may entail support for "traditional" marriage.

Social conservatism means a serious fidelity to those beliefs and traditions which keep us civilized and decent without resort to laws, regulations and bureaucrats.

Note the argument that social conservatives want to have laws which reinforce their beliefs and the argument that they don't have to resort to them. Note that social conservatism is whatever is regarded as traditional in a locality. Thus, bin Laden is a social conservative and so is Jerry Falwell. But this also makes the definition empty of practical meaning. What would be traditional in the United States is not traditional in Iran, and even within, say, the United States what is defined as "traditional" seems to vary by the speaker or writer. If the second wave of feminism took place thirty years ago, isn't the idea of gender equality traditional by now? And why does bin Laden have to dig back a thousand years to get at something he regards as traditional? More generally, a cursory study of history shows all sorts of egalitarian values to have existed at various places and at various times. Why are these not traditional? Why is the right to an abortion not part of social conservatism, given that it was only in the last two hundred years the church turned against the idea of early abortions being acceptable?

In short, social conservatism is not really conservative. It can be quite radical as the bin Laden example demonstrated. What it always seems to be is hierarchical. The view of the family social conservatives embrace has a father as its boss. The religious organizations are seen as determining how the masses live. The government is worshipped as an authoritarian power. And all these hierarchies use some sort of fixed identifiers: sex, race, age, for deciding who will be on top of the pile and who will support the whole pyramid.

Here is the link to feminism. Social conservative pyramids require that women have pre-ordained roles centered around fertility and the service of the home. Anything less is seen as causing chaos, and chaos is what social conservatives fear (unless it's caused by their own radical moves to return the world to some utopian era). Women can't have equal participation in politics and in the public sphere in general because who would then take care of the children? Someone else would have to pick up the slack and as these tasks are arranged at the bottom of the power pyramid this someone else would suffer a drop in power and social esteem.

I believe that social issues are central in politics. If you still doubt me, consider how you would have defined a social conservative in the year of 1850 in America. Surely, this definition would include the support of slavery at that time. And the support of a hierarchical view of the society in general.

The hierarchies of power are not based on gender and race alone, of course. There is also class, the word which must not be uttered in this country. A real social conservative accepts gender, race and class as the determinants of a person's life opportunities. Given this, no social conservative can be a feminist and I doubt that he or she can be a progressive, either. I hope that Wolcott reconsiders his self-definition. Either that or I will delink him**.
*As several commenters noticed, Wolcott was using satire in his post. It's possible that the satire extended to his calling himself a social conservative, but I didn't read it that way. If I'm wrong about that my sincere apologies to Mr. Wolcott.
**This part is my satire.

The Bush Speech on the Iraq War

I planned to blog on it in great detail but there was nothing new. It was all about 9/11 and freedom and hard work. The only interesting quote is this one:

Some Americans ask me, if completing the mission is so important, why don't you send more troops? If our commanders on the ground say we need more troops, I will send them. But our commanders tell me they have the number of troops they need to do their job. Sending more Americans would undermine our strategy of encouraging Iraqis to take the lead in this fight. And sending more Americans would suggest that we intend to stay forever – when we are in fact working for the day when Iraq can defend itself and we can leave. As we determine the right force level, our troops can know that I will continue to be guided by the advice that matters – the sober judgment of our military leaders.

Passing the blame to the military. Not mentioning that there are no more troops to send.

It was boring.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Rape as Punishment

The gang rape case in Pakistan is reopened:

Pakistan's Supreme Court agreed Tuesday to reopen an inquiry into the high-profile case of Mukthar Mai, an unlettered laborer's daughter from southern Punjab province who allegedly was gang-raped on the orders of a tribal council in 2002.

The court decision overturned a judgment by the Lahore High Court, issued in March, that threw out the convictions of five of the men accused of involvement in the rape and commuted the death sentence of a sixth.

The Supreme Court also ordered the re-arrest of 13 of the original suspects in the case. The high court's decision, following two days of hearings, was a victory for Mai, 32, whose case has prompted an outpouring of international sympathy and also become a focal point for concern about violence against women in Pakistan.
The court began hearing arguments Monday on Mai's appeal to reopen the case. In March, a lower court overturned the convictions of five of the six men charged in connection with the rape on the basis of insufficient evidence. The men had been sentenced to death. The sixth man charged had his death sentence converted to life in prison.
In an episode that has become a focal point for concerns about violence against women in Pakistan, Mai was attacked in Meerwala, her village in southern Punjab province. The council allegedly ordered the rape to settle a score with Mai's brother, 13, who had been accused of an improper relationship with the sister of one of those accused

I have written about this case many times before, most recently in the context of the Pakistan government trying to stop Ms. Mukhtar (or Ms. Mai or Ms. Bibi; her names appear to vary) from traveling abroad. But the article I link to here reminded me of something that is central in this case: the way rape is used as a form of violence here, as a form of societal punishment. In this particular case it is a quasi-official form of punishment, and one decreed for the crimes of someone else (her brother). But it's still punishment. The debates about whether rape is sex or violence or both seldom address the possibility that there might be a touch of punitiveness about rape, a desire to remind the victim of the limits that she or he has crossed by going out/dressing a certain way/being in a certain place.
A postscript: Heretik has good coverage of all this.

Dog Stuff

Henrietta goes to the veterinarian today for her six month checkup. She's an old rebel dog and her vet recommends twice-a-year checkups. Plus it keeps the vet in the manner that she's accustomed to, I guess. - In any case, Henrietta and I will have a struggle, as usual. She hates the vet's office almost as much as she hates humans. I'm prepared for some of her stratagems, such as slipping the collar to run away or trying to hide under the waiting room bench behind my legs, but I never get used to the way she starts crying. It's heart-breaking, especially in a bully dog who normally determines when and how I breathe.

Henrietta should be fine. She's in excellent shape for any dog age, and especially for her thirteen or so years. But there have been changes. She's no longer quite so interested in food as she used to be and she doesn't like standing around and watching what I might do next (will she brush her teeth in the same order? will she scratch both elbows?) as often as was the custom. Nowadays she likes to perch in an upstairs window (on a bed) and bark at everyone who goes by.

An old dog is wonderful, like a well-fitting piece of comfortable clothing, someone who knows you inside out and fits in seamlessly. But it is always there, that foreknowledge, that fear of the parting which is coming, like a slight aftertaste of bitter in some types of chocolates.

This makes every day precious, even the ones when we visit the dreaded veterinarian.

Monday, June 27, 2005

New York Times: The Wingnut Edition

The executive editor of the New York Times has written a memo about the future plans of the paper:

In a lengthy memo published the newspaper's Web site, Bill Keller, executive editor of The New York Times, announced several new policies in response to a recent report by the paper's Credibility Committee. Among them is a fresh attempt to diversify the Times' staff and viewpoints, and not in the usual racial or gender ways, but in political, religious and cultural areas as well.

The aim, he wrote, is "to stretch beyond our predominantly urban, culturally liberal orientation, to cover the full range of our national conversation."

The point, Keller wrote, "is not that we should begin recruiting reporters and editors for their political outlook; it is part of our professional code that we keep our political views out of the paper. The point is that we want a range of experience. We have a recruiting committee that tracks promising outside candidates, and that committee has already begun to consider ways to enrich the variety of backgrounds of our reporters and editors.

"First and foremost we hire the best reporters, editors, photographers and artists in the business. But we will make an extra effort to focus on diversity of religious
upbringing and military experience, of region and class."

In other words, the Gray Lady is on her knees (take that as you wish). The wingnuts have won. I used to hear the argument that true diversity is not racial and gender based but the acknowledgement of wingnut views (such as that minorities are lazy and women naturally unable to compete) on each and every issue. But I only heard this from wingnuts. Now the New York Times is repeating the same mantra.

Let's see. Why would the New York Times want to diversify its coverage of news by hiring more ex-military, more Evangelical Christians and more Republicans? For that's what the bland statement above boils down to. Isn't this just a way to pretend that one is increasing diversity while hiring more and more white men? Just consider the recent hirings among the opinion columnists: John Tierney and David Brooks. We don't need women columnists on the Times. One is plenty, even if she's on leave. After all, we have John Tierney telling us that women can't compete, and all the columnist boys telling us what their wives think.

Is it a question of profit maximization? But the majority of New York Times readers are New Yorkers and liberals, I bet. Is it a feasible strategy to try to garner the market which most hates New York Times and everything it stands for, the wingnuts? For every new wingnut the paper hires at least a hundred liberal subscriptions will be canceled. I made that up but I bet it's true. So why on earth is Keller going this way? Towards the chasm of no-return? If anything, the country appears to be turning around from increasing wingnuttization. Does the Times always want to be the last rat boarding the sinking ship with a large suitcase when everyone else is jumping off?

And what about the wingnut newspapers? Do their executives wring their hands and cry bitter tears because they are not diversified enough in their coverage and in their staff? Does Washington Times go out of its way to hire liberals born in urban areas? Does the National Review pine over the absence of progressive viewpoints among its columnists? Of course not. They are wingnuts and their rules are different: to win at any cost.

Keller is really stupid. I hope that he will long regret this idiotic plan. Note that I have nothing against covering all political views, religion or areas of the country, but that is not what the Times is doing. They are scouring the dregs of the journalistic community to find wingnutty mouthpieces with no writing or research talents. Now that is diversity for you in the year 2005.

Speculating About the Next Supreme

Whom could Bush possibly nominate? The candidate must be the worst you can imagine. He (it will be a he with Bush unless he's filling the token woman quota) will have to have a solid record of judicial activism of the neofascist kind and he must get terrible ratings from any board that assesses the competency of judges. He must have at least one sexist and one racist incident in his path, and he must talk to God daily.

Savonarola is dead. Too bad, he would have been most suitable. I think it might be Ashcroft, because he has proved his stupidity brilliantly and the Crisco stuff is most appealing. But it could be Bork, because it's always fun to install someone full of hatred and desires of blind revenge on the Court. Just look at what happened with Clarence Thomas: if there is a woman in a case Thomas will rule against her. To show all those feminazis who gave him a hard time. Though as someone said on Eschaton, the most enjoyable candidate would be Bill O'Reilly!

Going Nuclear

Iran's new ultra-conservative president on nuclear energy:

Hardline President-elect Mahmoud Ahmadinejad faced an uphill task on Monday to assuage concern in the West that he will adopt a tougher policy on Iran's nuclear program and roll back freedoms at home.

The ex-Tehran mayor, who defeated veteran politician Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani in a crushing election win on Friday, has adopted a conciliatory stance since the vote, vowing to continue nuclear talks with Europe and to lead a moderate government.

But his track record as a former member of the hardline Revolutionary Guards and outspoken commitment to the principles of the 1979 Islamic revolution have convinced some that what he says and how he will act may be very different.

"He's starting from a position of a confidence deficit," said one Iran analyst, who declined to be named.

"No matter what he says right now, people will assume the worst, even though what he's saying is not much different from what Rafsanjani would have said if he'd been elected or what the current government's position is."

Iran says it wants nuclear technology to generate electricity, not make bombs. It has agreed to freeze some nuclear work while it negotiates a long-term arrangement with the EU, talks on which are due to resume in August.

Meanwhile, in the U.S.:

The Bush administration is planning the government's first production of plutonium 238 since the cold war, stirring debate over the risks and benefits of the deadly material. The substance, valued as a power source, is so radioactive that a speck can cause cancer.

Federal officials say the program would produce a total of 330 pounds over 30 years at the Idaho National Laboratory, a sprawling site outside Idaho Falls some 100 miles to the west and upwind of Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming. Officials say the program could cost $1.5 billion and generate more than 50,000 drums of hazardous and radioactive waste.

Project managers say that most if not all of the new plutonium is intended for secret missions and they declined to divulge any details. But in the past, it has powered espionage devices.

"The real reason we're starting production is for national security," Timothy A. Frazier, head of radioisotope power systems at the Energy Department, said in a recent interview.

The two countries share some other things too. Like wingnuts.

So Much To Choose From

The horn of abundance floweth over this morning. Should I write about the mad cow disease, the coming pandemic of bird flu which will kill twenty million people in the optimistic scenarios, the likely resignation of Judge Rehnquist? So much to choose from! And all of it pretty awful.

I'm going to take it easy this early in the morning and focus on our dear Donald Rumsfeld. He has been sent out to do a tour of all the media with the message that things will get worse in Iraq and that this is a sign of things getting better one day!

The way he speaks about the whole mess he started is as if he is an innocent bystander, an expert watching detachedly as history passes by:

"The insurgency could go on for any number of years," Rumsfeld said in a U.S. television interview. "Insurgencies tend to go on five, six, eight, 10, 12 years"

Way to generalize, Rumsfeld. And to distance yourself from the question why there is an insurgency in the first place. Could this probably be the first steps in preparing the American people to accept failure in Iraq?

Will there be many more violent deaths in this war? You bet, as Rumsfeld would say. But this is only to be expected, and nothing to do with Donald Rumsfeld...

Sunday, June 26, 2005

The Underbelly of Wingnuttism

Bobo's World is a blog which follows news about religion and crimes. Here is a snippet from last week's summary:

# On Monday, a Lawrence, Kansas jury convicted Martin K. Miller, 46, a youth group leader and board member at Victory Bible Church, of first-degree murder in the death of his wife, Kansas University librarian Mary E. Miller. Says the Lawrence Journal World:

The case included testimony about Martin Miller's four-year extramarital affair, pornography addiction, and desire to pursue more sexual relationships — all of which stood in contrast to his leadership roles at his church and his children's Christian school... Prosecutor Jones said in his closing argument that divorce wasn't an option because Miller stood to lose his roles as a youth-group leader at church and a board member for Veritas Christian School. "Murder?... Of course he knew it was a sin," Jones said. "But that was supposed to be a private sin. No one was supposed to know about that one."

# On Tuesday, a Mesa, Arizona Dennis Montoya, a minister at Word of Grace Church, appeared in court on two child molestation charges. The victim was reportedly an eight-year-old girl. Police said Montoya confessed and they fear there are more victims.

# A Rumson, New Jersey grand jury indicted Rev. Joseph W. Hughes, the pastor of Holy Cross Roman Catholic Church, with charges related to the theft of $2 million from his parish. Hughes, who has a "fondness for expensive cars, upscale restaurants and Caribbean vacations," according to the Asbury Park Press, also bought a $47,000 BMW, jewelry and assorted household appliances for a church handyman named David Rogers who, it appears, is somehow related to Hughes. The moral bearings of the church community were perhaps revealed when a group of wealthy parishoners offered to repay the stolen $2,034,428 if prosecutors agreed not to send Hughes to jail. Officials rejected the deal, noting that "[t]his was money from fund-raisers and meant for charity. There are very few instances where we would even consider not seeking jail time for this kind of theft, and this is certainly not one of them."

I haven't done any statistical studies to determine if the clergy is any more or less likely to engage in crime than the rest of the population, but they have been given a position of trust in the minds of their congregations and to breach that trust is vile. When we hear endless arguments about the ethical superiority of those who go to church or run one over the rest of us, though, it's only fair and balanced to present both sides of the issue. This is why Bobo's World is important.