Saturday, July 09, 2005

Saturday Dog Blogging

Henrietta (R) and Hank (L)

Here they are! I cheated them by pretending that I had cheese. That's why Henrietta went into the "Down" position and Hank sat. Hank isn't fat in reality; it's the angle of the picture that makes her look a bit compact. Now they're sulking because the cheese didn't materialize.

It's Saturday

And I blog on the American Street, too. There's a few posts there if you are hungry for more of my divine wisdom. Or, as I always say, you could go out and have some fun.

My garden is a mess right now. The rain has beaten everything into temporary submission, but if it gets sunny enough later I might try to take a picture of some of my favorite plants. They all seem to share bigness, which means that my backyard is like a jungle. Some days it takes me hours to find the gate that leads to the sideyard where my wheels are kept. I need to buy a machete.

The Sheep, Too?

First one sheep jumped to its death. Then stunned Turkish shepherds, who had left the herd to graze while they had breakfast, watched as nearly 1,500 others followed, each leaping off the same cliff, Turkish media reported.

In the end, 450 dead animals lay on top of one another in a billowy white pile, the Aksam newspaper said. Those who jumped later were saved as the pile got higher and the fall more cushioned, Aksam reported.

Doesn't this sound eerily familiar? Why do we imitate the sheep in our politics? Well, we do have a choice. We can let Dear Leader jump all alone. With perhaps Karl Rove holding his hand.

London Bombings

A second group has "taken credit" for the London bombings:

A group that claimed last year's Madrid train bombings in the name of al-Qaeda today said it was also behind blasts in London that killed at least 50 people and injured 700 two days ago, according to an Islamist Web site.

The statement attributed to the Abu Hafs al-Masri Brigades' Europe section is the second in which a group purporting to be part of al-Qaeda has said it carried out the bombings of three London Underground trains and a bus.

``A group of mujahedeen from a division of the Abu Hafs al- Masri Brigades piled blow after blow on the infidel capital, the British capital, leaving dead and injured,'' according to the latest statement. ``First there was Madrid, then Istanbul, and now London, and tomorrow the mujahedeen will have other words to say.'' The statement has not been verified by authorities.

The Saudis attribute the attack to an Al Qaeda sleeper cell.

Friday, July 08, 2005

Friday Embroidery Blogging

Joke on Ancestor Paintings

Here we move into the silly stuff. This was something I made (including the frames!) because I have no aristocratic ancestors, and I needed some for the dining-room walls (well, for the room where the dogs eat). So I made them up and as sky was the limit I decked them with flea-market jewelry and dressed them in clothes made out of a flea-market scarf.

Most of this is appliqued with extra ornaments added. Note the gigantic mitten hands of the man and the way his beard looks like an icicle! So not great technically but I had lots of fun making these.

Misogyny and Fundamentalism

SWR, a commenter on Eschaton, posed this question today:

1.) Islamic extremism. Is it an expression of the "have nots" against the haves? If it were, then wouldn't the elmination of Islamism merely mean that the "have nots" would turn to other extremist ideologies (eg Maoism).

2.) Or is Islamic extremism the movement of a minority within Islam, a kind of elite that represents some kind of male backlash, wounded masculine pride against the west.

3.) Or is it (as the "terror experts" and Franklin Grahams say) Islam itself. Is Islam itself an extremist religion?

Or is it
4.) Islamic extremism is one manifestation of a right-wing, male backlash, a militaristic ideology that also includes Christian Dominionism and Likudnic Jewish nationalism?

I believe that the correct answer is a combination of 1. and 4.. All the extreme conservative interpretations of religions are misogynistic and militaristic, or at least I can't think of a single one which isn't. Their relative popularity today shows that the appeal of a violent and woman-hating religious angle has grown, and one reason for it surely is that women are not quite as oppressed and silent as they have been in the past. Here I have to make a detour into amateur psychology of the worst kind, but I do believe that many with poor self-knowledge and not much self-esteem feel their value only in a relative sense: how am I better than all those other schmucks and schlemiels? And one way to get instant reassurance is to label the majority of the others as unalterably beneath you, in all and every possible permutation. Your servant, in fact. And look! the Holy Book says so, too. Whew! What a relief! Now you only have to worry about the remaining minority.

Poverty, lack of jobs and the colonial history of areas such as Middle East all contribute to these feelings. The West has stomped over those countries for decades in a quest for resources to exploit and that can't make the people in the area happy. That this comes out partly as general misogyny links to my psycho-babble theory. It seems that whenever the political and economic circumstances exhibit volatility and deterioration certain men turn to checking that the kitchen door was locked behind their wives. This happened in the Eastern Europe and Russia after the Berlin Wall fell and it's happening in a milder form in the United States where good blue-collar jobs are disappearing and dual-earner couples confuse simple gender schemas of the past. That the so-called dittoheads find Limbaugh's arguments against feminazis and affirmative action attractive is part and parcel of the same phenomenom.

None of this is to deny the real injustices of the war in Iraq or the difficult dilemma of the Palestinians, both causes that the terrorists tend to offer as reasons for their attacks, and Bush's policies in the Middle East in general are certainly not helping things. But the specific misogynistic ideology of the bin Laden types requires something more to be explained, especially as at least the wingnuts on the other side share a "kinder, gentler" form of the very same ideology. I'd say that it's the good old patriarchy rearing its ugly head, once again. Sadly, I have no idea how the situation could be made better, but it would require that we somehow manage to give everybody a certain type of healthy self-esteem; one which doesn't depend on putting others down.

Today's Snarky Thought

Would an alien from outer space die from laughing when it/she/he learned that the Catholic church decisions which ban women from the clergy and disapprove of any birth control for them are made by men in long dresses?

Rovian Politics

The game continues:

After Time turned over its documents late last week, Newsweek reported that e-mail records showed that Rove was one of Cooper's sources on Plame and Wilson. That article led Rove's attorney, Robert Luskin, to say in an interview last weekend that his client had spoken to Cooper around the time Novak's column appeared in July 2003. But he added that Rove had testified fully in the case and had been assured by Fitzgerald that he is not a target in the investigation.

More evidence points to Rove as the source Cooper was seeking to protect -- although what information was provided is not clear. Rove and Cooper spoke once before the Novak column was available, but the interview did not involve the Iraq controversy, according to a person close to the investigation who declined to be identified to be able to share more details about the case.

The article says that Rove wasn't the leak. He was just chatting to people to be friendly and stuff. Sure, he told that Valerie Plame was fair game but that was after the Novak column was published, so everyone already knew that she was a CIA agent and of course Rove can call her "fair game", to sic the attack poodles on her.

If all this is true, who told Novak? And why do we hear nothing from him?

We must keep reminding the U.S. public about Rovian politics, especially now that

The White House is preparing for a potential battle with the Democrats over a Supreme Court nominee, a conflict with great consequences and in which advocates on both sides appear ready to employ all means available to promote or discredit a nominee.

White House officials make no secret that they think Democrats went beyond the boundaries to discredit the reputations of some of their nominees to the appellate courts. Now into that maelstrom could come discomforting revelations about what top White House officials may have done to discredit Wilson by questioning his motives, his wife's role in the trip to Niger and his veracity.


This is a reaction to Bush's "no-litmus-test" for The Supreme Court
nominations that will soon be needed:

Washington, DC -- Nancy Keenan, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, issued the following response to President Bush's declaration that abortion would not factor into his decision on whom to nominate for the Supreme Court.

"We really would like to take President Bush at his word, but while I may have been born in the morning, it wasn't this morning. This President has no credibility -- to date, he has appointed more than 200 judges to the federal courts--not one of whom supported a woman's right to choose. The only hope of preserving personal freedom and the right to privacy is genuine bipartisan consultation to identify a consensus nominee," Keenan said.

Not that there will be any such bipartisan consultation. The wingnuts say that they've won and can do whatever they want with the country and especially the women in it. So be prepared for all anti-abortion nominees. Unless Rove decides that overturning Roe would kill the Republican party (which it probably will should the fundamentalists not get going on the delicious idea of banning contraception soon enough) and tries to keep teetering on the edge of almost banning abortions. But I don't think that he can succeed in that. Coathangers...

Thursday, July 07, 2005

My Reaction to the Events in London

All morning long I have tried to sort out my thoughts and to clarify my emotions about the most recent terrorist attack. I have not been very successful, partly because I seem to relive my feelings in the aftermath of 9/11 but also because a short pause from thinking about the reasons and consequences of this attack seems necessary. It's almost unbearable for me to read political arguments about Bush and the flypaper theory and so on, and I want the trolls to just go away from liberal blogs. It's as if we are all grabbing onto the same gameboy as the terrorists, seeing how this will play out in the longer run, and we do it even when we are shocked and saddened. I know that I do it and I'm shocked and saddened.

But the time is wrong. It's not yet time for all that. This is the time to remember those who died and think of those who are wounded and to wish them and those who love them peace. Both in London and in Iraq. And yes, it is slightly artificial to do this, given that I don't know anyone personally this time, but even artificial wishes are better than none.

For me being human requires this, or the terrorists have won as they say.

London 4

An update:

Four blasts tore through London's transport system during the morning rush hour in a choreographed series of terrorist attacks.

Police said at least 33 people were killed, 21 near King's Cross station, and the ambulance service said it had treated around 350 people, with more than 40 of those in a serious condition.

Three of the blasts were on tube trains and a fourth was on a bus. Explosives were said to have been found at two blast sites.


The New York Times reports today on the Plame investigation and the identity of the person who contacted Matthew Cooper, the Time reporter:

Mr. Cooper said his situation had changed earlier in the day.

"A short time ago, in somewhat dramatic fashion, I received an express, personal release from my source," Mr. Cooper said. "It's with a bit of surprise and no small amount of relief that I will comply with this subpoena."

Mr. Cooper's decision to drop his refusal to testify followed discussions on Wednesday morning among lawyers representing Mr. Cooper and Karl Rove, the senior White House political adviser, according to a person who has been officially briefed on the case. Mr. Fitzgerald was also involved in the discussions, the person said.

In his statement in court, Mr. Cooper did not name Mr. Rove as the source about whom he would now testify, but the person who was briefed on the case said that he was referring to Mr. Rove and that Mr. Cooper's decision came after behind-the-scenes maneuvering by his lawyers and others in the case.

Those discussions centered on whether a legal release signed by Mr. Rove last year was meant to apply specifically to Mr. Cooper, who by its terms would be released from any pledge of confidentiality he had made to Mr. Rove, the person said. Mr. Cooper said in court that he had agreed to testify only after he had received an explicit waiver from his source.

Richard A. Sauber, a lawyer for Mr. Cooper, said he would not discuss whether Mr. Cooper was referring to Mr. Rove, nor would he comment on discussions leading up to Mr. Cooper's decision.

Mr. Fitzgerald's policy is to refuse to respond to inquiries about the case.

Mr. Rove declined to comment on Wednesday.

It seems that Mr. Rove was behind this.

London 3

As many as 40 people may have been killed and many more have been injured in a series of at least seven explosions in the London underground subway system and on a double-decker bus. The BBC reports that British Prime Minister Tony Blair said it was "reasonably clear" there had been a series of terrorist attacks. London's police chief Sir Ian Blair said "traces of explosives had been found at one site."

An Islamist website posted an announcement, apparently coming from Al Qaeda, that took credit for the explosions. Sky News reports that a previously unknown group calling itself "Secret Organization: Al Qaeda in Europe" took credit for the blasts, saying they were in revenge for British "military massacres" in Iraq and Afghanistan. The group also warned Italy and Denmark to withdraw their troops from Iraq and Afghanistan.

London 2

Terrorists set off a series of bombs across London's subway system in the financial district and on a bus in the center of the capital, killing at least eight people and shutting down all public transportation.

``It's reasonably clear that there have been a series of terrorist attacks in London,'' U.K. Prime Minister Tony Blair said at the Group of Eight summit, which began today in Gleneagles, Scotland. ``Our determination to defend our values is greater than theirs to impose extremism. Whatever they do, it is our determination that they will never succeed.''

Seven explosions occurred, starting at 8:50 a.m. local time, at financial district Underground stations, including Liverpool Street, Moorgate and Aldgate East, police said. Casualties were on a bus that exploded near Russell Square, a firefighter said. Nobody claimed responsibility for the attacks, which come a day after London was awarded the 2012 Olympics.

Five explosive devices were found on the subway network, an unidentified firefighter said. Explosions were also reported at Kings Cross and Edgware Road stations in central London.


Below is a minute-by-minute timeline of the multiple explosions rocking London. All times are British Standard Time.

10:47 a.m.: Home Secretary Charles Clarke says London blasts cause "terrible injuries"

10:46 Police say serious casualties in London explosions, but no deaths confirmed

10:46 Witness to Britain's Sky News says second blast heard in Tavistock Square.

10:45 Police sources say a bomb is suspected in London bus explosion.

10:33 Police confirm at least three explosions on buses in central London.

10:25 Police confirm explosion on bus in central London in the area around Russell Square.

10:24 Scotland Yard says "multiple explosions" rock London.

10:14 News agencies report a bus has exploded in central London.

09:53 Metronet says the entire London subway network has been shut down.

Police says incidents are reported at the Aldgate station near the Liverpool Street railway terminal, Edgware Road and King's Cross in north London, Old Street in the financial district and Russell Square in central London, near the British Museum.

09:41 London Underground reports a second explosion at a subway station in northwest London.

09:33 Witnesses say London underground says services are suspended after "power surge."

09:27 Metronet, the subway maintenance company, says power surge has caused explosion in London tube station.

09:25 Police say "there are walking wounded" in London's financial district.

09:15 British transport police say a explosion is reported in London's financial district in the area near Liverpool railway station.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Judith Miller Goes to Prison

Because she refused to reveal her source in the Plame game. She said this today:

In her seven-minute statement to Hogan, Miller said she "is not above the law" but that journalists must be trusted to keep sources secret. "If journalists cannot be trusted to guarantee confidentiality, then there cannot be a free press."

"I do not take our freedom for granted. I never have and I never will," she said, recalling a four-month stint as an embedded reporter covering the early days of the war in Iraq in 2003. If the military can do their job in Iraq, she said, "surely I can face prison to defend a free press."

Ye-e-es. But didn't her source try to do something not quite legal by contacting her? Does the freedom of the press extend to illegal acts? And when was "a free press" useful as a way for the administration to disseminate false information (as happened earlier in Miller's articles about Iraq) or as a way to punish someone who criticized the administration (Joseph Wilson). It seems to me that the idea of a free press is important because it allows the free criticism of the powers-that-be. In this case something almost the opposite seems to have happened, and Ms. Miller seems to go to prison to protect the government. But I admit that the issue is complicated.

It's A Jungle Out There!

Horrible things happen when you leave the United States, especially if you are George Bush:

President Bush collided with a local police officer and fell during a bike ride on the grounds of the Gleneagles golf resort while attending a meeting of world leaders Wednesday.

Bush suffered scrapes on his hands and arms that required bandages by the White House physician, said White House spokesman Scott McClellan.

The police officer was taken to a local hospital as a precaution, McClellan said. Police said the officer suffered a "very minor" ankle injury.

It was raining lightly at the time.

Pretzels that bite back, bicycles that suddenly rear on their hind legs! I don't believe any of this, sorry. We are kept in the dark about something that makes the most powerful man in the world fall over all the time. But the story certainly gives the Scots something else to laugh at about us.

Bush in Denmark: Anything Smell Rotten?

Our Dear Leader had his birthday in Denmark! This is what CNN writes about Bush's reception there:

Outside Fredensborg Palace, where Bush had lunch with Queen Margrethe II and her husband, a group of people held small U.S. and Danish flags -- and a large banner proclaiming, "Happy Birthday George." A smaller group held several protest banners urging U.S. and Danish withdrawal from Iraq and "Peace."

Sounds like the Danes are happy with our policies, on the whole. Except that some other sources, not in the U.S., tell a slightly different story:

Thousands of Danish demonstrators gathered outside the US Embassy in Copenhagen on Wednesday to protest a visit by President George W. Bush amid one of the biggest security operations Denmark has ever seen.

This contrast is probably accidental. But it's always a great idea to read more than one source in any one event. Just like perjury requires at least two witnesses!

And Then There Was One

A reference to an Agatha Christie detective novel where the characters are killed off one by one. Here it applies to the fact that only Judith Miller is left to go to prison to protect her sources. Matthew Cooper has agreed to testify:

In an about-face, Cooper told Hogan that he would now cooperate with a federal prosecutor's investigation into the leak of the identity of CIA operative Valerie Plame because his source gave him specific authority to discuss their conversation. "I am prepared to testify. I will comply" with the court's order, Cooper said.

Cooper took the podium in the court and told the judge, "Last night I hugged my son goodbye and told him it might be a long time before I see him again."

"I went to bed ready to accept the sanctions" for not testifying, Cooper said. But he told the judge that not long before his early afternoon appearance, he had received "in somewhat dramatic fashion" a direct personal communication from his source freeing him from his commitment to keep the source's identity secret.

Touching. Except that there are many other children who will never see their fathers and mothers again because they died in Iraq, and that, too, has something to do with the games this adminstration plays.

Let's Not Forget Rove

Whether he gets into trouble or not I'm going to keep the flame burning! Robert Kuttner has a good and angry opinion piece on the Rove scandal in the Boston Globe:

But what about Novak? He obviously knows who leaked the name to him. Why is Miller, who never even wrote an article, facing jail? If anyone should be threatened with contempt of court, it is Novak.

There are only two possibilities. Either Novak did tell the prosecutor the names of the officials who leaked the name and the prosecutor is going easy on them, or Novak refused and the prosecutor is going easy on Novak. Either explanation reeks of favoritism, selective prosecution, and cover-up.

One leading suspect of having leaked Plame's identity is the president's chief political adviser, Karl Rove. Given how utterly Machiavellian Rove is, readers who take press reports of Fitzgerald's pristine independence at face value are touchingly naïve.

Given the stakes, do you really think this administration would let a Justice Department official just pick some highly independent prosecutor to launch a wide ranging probe -- one that could net Novak, a reliable administration toady, and the chummy high officials Novak talks to, say, Rove or Vice President Dick Cheney?

Good stuff. Reeks of conspiracy and tinfoilhattery and truth, probably. And reminds us all how screwed we are. Sorry for the nondivine language.

Mommy Lit

Over my feminist years I have read pretty much every single feminist and anti-feminist book on the politics of mothering and the work-home balance. Some of them were dreadful, some thought-provoking and some excellent, but one characteristic they all seemed to share was a certain...muddiness. Like walking around in a bog after dark, groping for some sort of a landmark and finding it changing all the time. Every step you take leaves your boots more caked with mud and the mosquitoes keep on biting. To finish a book like this brings great relief and a desire never to venture into mommy lit again.

But venture there I must because my inner muse insists on it. He's tiresome as he will never be a mother of anything more interesting than my thoughts. But at least he demand that I only write about one review of such books, by Ruth Franklin in the New Republic, not the books themselves. Sadly, this review is ultimately equally beset with the muddiness and the mosquitoes and the shifting landmarks. Or in clearer terms, beset with anecdotal evidence, an attempt to be all things to all people and a tendency to ignore at least half of the total picture.

Some of this follows directly from the difficulty of the topic. We are, after all, discussing many different mothers, many different life situations. But mommy lit makes the situation worse than this in a way which to me seems purposeful. It's as if the books must end with no solution, because that guarantees that no specific type of reader will be insulted. Even Franklin's review ends like that:

It is time to recognize that there is no inherently perfect balance of work and family, and that no amount of intensive parenting can take away the sadness of not being with one's children as much as one would like. Children's needs and desires, and parents' needs and desires, are constantly in flux. If we are fortunate, we will be able to adjust our lives in accordance with them; and like any contortion, it will require some stretching, some groaning, and some pain. The tension that we feel is not the problem afflicting mothers in America today. It is the solution.

There you have it. The mummy guilt is just something you live with, a sign of things having been solved most excellently. Yet, to get to this admirably short ending, Franklin had to cruise through several non-fiction and fiction books on mothering, slamming each one of them as mistaken in one sense or another. Never did she correct statements like this, though:

Still, Warner's wildly popular screed has obviously struck a nerve for many women. And, in a broader sense, the issues that agonize her privileged neighbors are indeed universal. From "the mommy wars" to "the opt-out revolution," the new debate about American motherhood is really the old debate about American feminism. More than forty years after Betty Friedan and Gloria Steinem encouraged women to step out of the kitchen and into the workplace, the implications of this shift, and the resulting tensions between life at home and life at work, are still incompletely understood. Is it possible to "have it all"--in the words of Wendy Sachs, the author of a new book about working mothers, "to have a fantastic career and still be a great mommy"? Or, as Warner claims, has feminism betrayed today's women, who were brought up to believe they could have any job they chose, only to be forced onto the "mommy track" once they had children? Can a mother who stays home with her children defend the decision as a feminist choice? And is the "intensive parenting" that Warner deplores a guilt-induced by-product of the demands of the workplace or an inevitable consequence of society's love affair with consumerism? Mommy's evening cocktail may not actually be poisoned, but it induces a haze of confusion.

"Has feminism betrayed today's women?" When did feminism promise that women can have it all? I thought that feminism was about gender equality, that women could have the same slice of pie as men routinely receive, the same choices, and the same esteem. But of course "to have it all" doesn't mean what it sounds like: a desire to gorge on all life's good things. It just means having what men get. Still, to blame feminism for the society's refusal to become feminist is preposterous, and Franklin does it at least twice in the same review. It's as if she and quite a few other writers in this genre are unaware that feminists haven't been running this country for the last thirty years. As if feminism is something like brand loyalty to Coke or Pepsi, with promises to make you popular or happy.

Franklin's review has many pertinent points, though, just as do the books she reviews. For example, she points out that most of the mommy lit books are about upper and middle class women and their choices and constraints, not about the real lifes of women with low and average incomes and limited education, and this is indeed true. The reason isn't hard to find, either: it's the upper and middle class women who will buy and read these books. Though I don't actually find such books as frivolous as many feminists. Of course we need to have better research on the poor and average women, but it's also important to learn about the lives of women who are close to reaching the positions of power in this society, and these women are mostly from the upper middle class. Besides, it's the "rich" women that anti-feminists try to talk into going back home. I have yet to find a book in which an anti-feminist sets out a plan for poor women to be able to stay at home.

What may be a bigger problem in the books Franklin reviews, ultimately, is the fact that they are not based on proper statistical sampling. This is true of the whole mommy lit field, with few exceptions, and even some of those that appear to be based on proper statistics turn out not to be so (coughSylviaHewlettcough). The normal practice is to get together a bunch of women in some totally nonrandom way, and then ask them various kinds of questions, which are then used to glean answers to flesh out the writer's thesis. (I'm sorry, but this is how most of the books seem to me, like the writer decided what to write and then found opinions to support the thesis.) The problem with the nonrandom sampling is that the data can't be shown to bear any particular relationship to women in general or even upper middle class women in general. It's pretty much useless for any other purpose save for saying what these particular women believe. Yet the practice seems to thrive from decade to decade.

Franklin does point out these problems, though in a few words, and she also passingly notes that the role of fathers gets short shrift in the mommy lit. So does the role of the society and the rules of the labor market. And the traditional expectations we have had inculcated into us by the time we become mothers. And many other things.

But what struck me most about Franklin's review, though, was how similar it is to the books she criticizes. Its approach is firmly in the moneyed classes, it accepts the way the questions are set at almost face value and it brings in all sorts of anecdotal comments as proof or disproof of general patterns. Like most of mommy lit, Franklin flutters over the various explanations for the work-family dilemma like a butterfly, yet alighting on none, until she has traveled a full circle back to the psychological feelings of the mother. Thus, we read a few quick lines on the learned helplessness of fathers or the way firms won't hire or promote mothers or about part-time work as the mommy track where the train never arrives, but we emphasize this:

What is different about the present day is its public celebration of self-absorption. The deluge of "mommy madness" books is just part of it. According to a recent article in The New York Times, there are now nearly ten thousand parenting-themed blogs, most of them by stay-at-home mothers and fathers who in a previous age might simply have kept a journal but now are able to publish their thoughts for all to read. In one extreme example, the stay-at-home dad Ben MacNeil chronicled his daughter's every bottle and diaper change until she was a year old (the diaper total reached well over three thousand). "Parents have been parenting for hundreds of thousands of years, but this is the first time I've ever done it," he explained to the Times. But there is an irony here. What looks like an intense focus on one's baby is actually an intense focus on oneself.

Indeed. But I very much doubt that an intense focus on oneself is anything new at all. Yet another common aspect of the mommy lit: reinventing the wheel, arguing for some sort of a complete change from past circumstances, when the evidence doesn't support this at all.

I'm probably just tired and hot today. Perhaps Franklin's review is useful and enlightening for those who haven't spent the equivalent of one lifetime in the world of mommy literature. But I'd truly love to read one book in this field which sets up the questions sharply, analyzes real data and does it carefully and which doesn't assume that the invisible elephants of society and fathers' roles in childrearing aren't sitting smack in the middle of the living-room couch. And please, could you define feminism and then use it correctly for the duration of the article or book? Thank you.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Santorum Thoughts for the Day

Courtesy of Capitol Buzz, via Eschaton, we learn snippets from the new book by Rick Santorum, someone who I think I met in the Hall of the Doomed-To-Repeat-Idiocies many centuries ago. Santorum is revolting, I'm sorry to say.

Anyway, here you can read his ideas:

"In far too many families with young children, both parents are working, when, if they really took an honest look at the budget, they might confess that both of them really don't need to, or at least may not need to work as much as they do… And for some parents, the purported need to provide things for their children simply provides a convenient rationalization for pursuing a gratifying career outside the home." (It Takes a Family, 94)

Hmmm. And what are you doing, Mr. Santorum? You have a large litter of children at home, don't you? You don't really need to earn all that money. You could take a less rewarding job and spend more time at home where you belong. At least before you tell the really poor what to do and how their lives actually look.

"Many women have told me, and surveys have shown, that they find it easier, more "professionally" gratifying, and certainly more socially affirming, to work outside the home than to give up their careers to take care of their children. Think about that for a moment…Here, we can thank the influence of radical feminism, one of the core philosophies of the village elders." (It Takes a Family, 95)

Funny, I thought that the greater social esteem of working outside the home comes from the way the society is structured. You know, all that stuff about the breadwinner being the head of the household, all those housewife jokes some decades ago, all that "just a housewife" stuff, all those divorce settlements in the past where the earner took the largest chunk of the total wealth. Santorum also doesn't remember all those books which wrote about how women are capable of doing nothing of creative worth which can be shown by the fact that so few of them are out there doing it and so on. But no, there is no "woman problem" for Santorum, except for the one of getting them under good control.

"But unlike abortion today, in most states even the slaveholder did not have the unlimited right to kill his slave." ((It Takes a Family, 241)

Did you know that Santorum is a devout Catholic who has never read the Bible? Even I have read it, many times over, and I'm not even Christian. But he's the one people respect as a true believer. All he seems to do is to preach to others to give up everything he wouldn't give up for himself: freedom, a public voice, a career. But of course that is perfectly acceptable as these others are women.

A Pain in the Butt

A new study on gender differences in the experience and tolerance of pain argues that women both experience more pain and have a lower tolerance for it. The study appears to have used a test where the subjects first immersed their arm in warm water and then in ice-cold water, and the tolerance of pain was measured by the amount of time the subjects kept their arm in the icy water. On average, men kept their arm in longer.

There have been several studies that analyse pain experiences by gender and many of them have had similar results. What the studies can't tell us is why these differences exist (if they do). (Possible explanations include gonadal hormonal differences, endogenous pain modulatory pathways (both inhibitory and excitatory), and psychosocial factors.) What the studies also don't tell us is whether the "experience" of pain can be meaningfully measured when the only measuring device we have are people's own answers. How do I know that my toothache is worse than yours, especially if I use a different language to describe it?

The tolerance threshold is more objectively measured, but even there the social and psychological factors that affect men and women differently could play a role. For example, a man will lose face if he pulls out his arm too soon whereas in most countries a woman will not. It would be interesting to see these studies done in Scandinavian countries, say, where societal gender roles are less differentiated.

The study of pain is in its infancy and I'm willing to bet quite a lot that we are going to see a much more complicated picture in, say, ten years time. But you would not think so from the headline preceding this story in the Scottish newspaper The Scotsman:

Truth Hurts: Women Feel More Pain Than Men

This headline has the following accompanying picture:

"Truth", indeed? When journalists label certain studies as "the truth" and associate the story with a picture about a female athlete failing I get this really strong pain in my butt. Or at least I smell a nice whiff of anti-feminism in the writer. See how all sorts of tendrils are gently tangled around the study?

Especially when the end of the same article contains this quote:

However, Prof Gavin Kenny, head of Glasgow University's department of anaesthesia at Glasgow Royal Infirmary, was surprised at the study's results.

"We did a study on a similar area of pain research approximately 20 years ago, which focused on patients who were having abdominal surgery, which is extremely painful.

"A hundred patients were given buttons that they could press to give themselves addition morphine for more pain relief. We discovered through this study that male patients used 25 per cent more morphine. But this new study's results could be interesting as they raise issues about the psychological aspects that overlay it, and the psychological stresses the sexes experience."

So this study is not "the truth" but one finding the opposite is? Ok.

Similar pains in the butt cropped up in a few other articles on this study. A common one is this:

Women feel pain more than men despite the popular notion that the opposite is true, according to research.
"Until fairly recently it was controversial to suggest that there were any differences between males and females in the perception and experience of pain, but that is no longer the case," said Dr Ed Keogh a psychologist from the Pain Management Unit at the University of Bath.

So which is it? Either we thought that women feel less pain than men or we were not allowed to say that there are any differences at all? And isn't it interesting that the assumption that women felt less pain which we supposedly had never seemed to earn very many column inches dedicated to showing male athletes hurting?

I'm disappointed but not surprised by this coverage.

Armstrong Williams on the Fourth of July

Via Atrios, I read the recent column of this journalist who used to get money from the Bush administration to tout their stuff. He writes this:

The government cannot raise our kids. As Abraham Lincoln observed 130 years ago: "You cannot bring about prosperity by discouraging thrift. You cannot strengthen the weak by weakening the strong. You cannot help the wage earner by pulling down the wage payer. You cannot further the brotherhood of man by encouraging class hatred. You cannot help the poor by destroying the rich. You cannot keep out of trouble by spending more than you earn. You cannot build character and courage by taking away a man's initiative and independence. You cannot help men permanently by doing for them what they could and should do for themselves."

Impressive, isn't it? Seems that Lincoln and Armstrong Williams think exactly the same way! But there is a little snag. As Roger Ailes points out, Lincoln didn't say this or at least there is no proof of that, and if he did say it 130 years ago he talked from the world of the dead.

Later in the same column Williams quotes de Tocqueville:

Early on, these ideas were deeply inscribed in America's self-concept. As French writer and politician, Alexis de Tocqueville noted over a century ago: "I sought for the greatness and genius of America in her commodious harbors and her ample rivers, and it was not there; in the fertile fields and boundless prairies, and it was not there; in her rich mines and her vast world commerce, and it was not there. Not until I went into the churches of America and heard her pulpits aflame with righteousness did I understand the secret of her genius and power. America is great because America is good -- and if America ever ceases to be good - America will cease to be great."

A century later and America is glutted with prosperity, but increasingly empty in spirit. For no accumulation of objects can truly lessen the burden of human anxiety. How do we keep this spiritual numbness from inhibiting and destroying us? The answer is straightforward: we must revel in the greatness of fundamental pleasures: family, civility, and the striving for moral excellence. Therein lies the means by which everyday Americans may ensure the survival of this country.

The de Tocqueville quote is from 1835 which would make "a century later" around the time of the Great Depression. Ironic.

Interesting people the Bush administration employs. Recycling old speeches seems likely here.

Monday, July 04, 2005

A Real Interview With George Bush

Read this British interview with George Bush. It might remind you how the media used to interview presidents even in the U.S.. You know, tough questions and a follow-up if the interviewee tries to wriggle out from answering the question.

And what are we learning from this interview? That Bush is dropping Blair like a hot potato:

SIR TREVOR MCDONALD FOR TONIGHT: Mr President, the G8 summit will be chaired by Tony Blair. He wants to get new international agreements on aid, on trade and on climate change. Now, he gave you unstinting support over the war in Iraq - can he expect the same support from you over the G8?

PRESIDENT BUSH: You know, Tony Blair made decisions on what he thought was best for the people of Great Britain, and I made decisions on what I thought was best for Americans. And I really don't view our relationship as one of quid pro quo. I view our relationship as one of strong allies and friends working together for the common good.

TONIGHT: On the question of Tony Blair, his support for you on Iraq probably damaged him politically at home. Supporting his proposals in Edinburgh might be one way of paying him back and making sure that he can probably repair some of that damage.

PRESIDENT BUSH: Well, again, I really don't view our relationship as one of, you know, we both make decisions and try to earn credit with each other on a personal basis. Tony Blair made decisions on what he thought was best for keeping the peace and winning the war on terror, as did I.

So I go to the G8 not really trying to make him look bad or good; but I go to the G8 with an agenda that I think is best for our country.

Such a caring and earnest president we have.

Happy Fourth of July!

I hope you all have a great time. The following picture is photoshopped but one can always dream!

Sunday, July 03, 2005

Becoming A Person

I am slowly becoming one, not just a goddess. I opened a Post Office Box under my name, also a bank account (for the filthy lucre that is trying to find me). I now have a credit card under the name Echidne of the Snakes!

The next step is to get one of those "Donate, Please" buttons and wait for the money to flow in. Why? Because I need to be kept in chocolate ice cream and also because one day I will be too transparent to goddess adequately and then I need money to find a good nursing home for us divines. Also because everybody does it and I should be no better than the rest of the pack.

But do not fear. I will never demand payment for the pleasure of your company. Anybody can come and read without paying one cent. The button is just in case someone incredibly wealthy comes in here and would love to buy me a new computer or some ice cream. Also for all the publishers and editors who want to hire me, though they could just e-mail me instead, ahem.

Nothing much will come from all this, I know that already. I'm a goddess of the shadow side and things never go smoothly there. Even all this market crap tends to backfire. Like now I probably get accusing comments about my horrible mercenary nature and how I'm really not the idealistic goddess I pretended to be. And all this would be true and quite deserved. Or I will lose all the pure-hearted readers.

Sigh. But I'm going to go on becoming commercialized and a person. I even bought some earrings with snakes on and they cost twenty-four dollars.


Nothing seems to be happening. How do I know this? I just saw it! I'm glad that there is nothing to worry about, or am I? If nothing is worse than what happened before are things worse now when the dreaded "nothing" has come to pass?

I'm dredging the bottom of my sewing basket here. There's nothing there. EEEK!

Rove, Rove, Rove Your Boat

I love bad headings for posts. And then a picture that shows the two reporters possibly going to jail for knowing if it was Rove who told them about Valerie Plame:

And then the new developments. Check the post below for earlier ones if you missed them. Rove's defense lawyer has come out of his vacation to defend. That's what defense lawyers do. He says:

Luskin said prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald "has confirmed repeatedly, most recently last week, that he (Rove) is not a target of the investigation."

Added Luskin, "Karl did nothing wrong. Karl didn't disclose Valerie Plame's identity to Mr. Cooper or anybody else ... Who outed this woman? ... It wasn't Karl."

Luskin said Rove "certainly did not disclose to Matt Cooper or anybody else any confidential information."

Rove has testified at least twice as part of the inquiry, but sources involved previously told CNN that while Rove acknowledged talking to reporters about the issue, he said he never knowingly disclosed classified information.

Luskin stressed that his client has cooperated fully with the government.

"I've been assured by the prosecutor they have no reason to doubt the honesty of anything he's said," he said.

Then O'Donnell who started the whole round four by saying that it was Rove answered this (via Eschaton):

Luskin claimed that the prosecutor "asked us not to talk about what Karl has had to say." This is highly unlikely. Prosecutors have absolutely no control over what witnesses say when they leave the grand jury room. Rove can tell us word-for-word what he said to the grand jury and would if he thought it would help him. And notice that Luskin just did reveal part of Rove's grand jury testimony, the fact that he had a conversation with Cooper. Rove would not let me get one day of traction on this story if he could stop me. If what I have reported is not true, if Karl Rove is not Matt Cooper's source, Rove could prove that instantly by telling us what he told the grand jury. Nothing prevents him from doing that, except a good lawyer who is trying to keep him out of jail.

Is it an accident that all this is coming out on one of only two weekends that most Americans are not following the news?