Saturday, October 22, 2005

Saturday Fun

This is one of those tests which allows you to psychoanalyze yourself, but this also lets you be artistic. Draw a pig!

Friday, October 21, 2005

Friday Power Tool Blogging

Don't buy the cheapest powertool, even if you think that you are an amateur who isn't going to need a lot of power. The cheapest tools are so crappily made that you might as well use your teeth and finger nails for the job. For example, the screws in a cheap miter box I own are made out of plastic. This means that you can't tighten them more than a couple of times. Not good for lots of mitering.

I own a router which died on me the first time I made some shelves. I keep it as a reminder never again to fall for the low price and pretty small size. Especially if you are a girl goddess. You need vrrroooommmm power to get the job done. And in case of routers you also need to buy the expensive bits that don't go dull the minute your beady eyes sees them. Sad but true.

The only exception to this rule I can think is my ancient sewing machine. It never cost much but it's so simple that I can fix and maintain it on my very own. It does sound as if it's in the last stages of tuberculosis, but it still runs a mean seam.

In all other cases, I'd recommend buying or renting the best you can afford.

A Cunning Wingnut Plot?

Have you noticed how the soundbites are somehow distributed through Wingnuttia? Suddenly all wingnuts talk about the same thing, be it Social Security or something Bill Clinton did in 1958. Often I can see why the topic is up for renewed chewing but equally often I can't see where they get a particular topic from. So I am semi-convinced that all wingnuts have little wires to their brains, and every Monday morning a message is sent about what to write and talk about that week.

This week it seems to be all about modesty and how well it protects women in the American society. I recently blogged on a speech given by a Harvard professor on this topic, and now a website is republishing Leon Kass's old musings about how lovely it all was when a man had to really work to get his penis home, so to speak. It was really good for women, too, because women were in power in this game. Sort of like baseball where you try to hit the umpire in the groin?

I have read Kass on the female modesty before, but if you haven't had the pleasure here is a taste:

But most young women strike me as sad, lonely, and confused; hoping for something more, they are not enjoying their hard-won sexual liberation as much as liberation theory says they should.2 Never mind wooing, today's collegians do not even make dates or other forward-looking commitments to see one another; in this, as in so many other ways, they reveal their blindness to the meaning of the passing of time. Those very few who couple off seriously and get married upon graduation as we, their parents, once did are looked upon as freaks.

After college, the scene is even more remarkable and bizarre: singles bars, personal "partner wanted" ads (almost never mentioning marriage as a goal), men practicing serial monogamy (or what someone has aptly renamed "rotating polygamy"), women chronically disappointed in the failure of men "to commit." For the first time in human history, mature women by the tens of thousands live the entire decade of their twenties — their most fertile years — neither in the homes of their fathers nor in the homes of their husbands; unprotected, lonely, and out of sync with their inborn nature. Some women positively welcome this state of affairs, but most do not; resenting the personal price they pay for their worldly independence, they nevertheless try to put a good face on things and take refuge in work or feminist ideology. As age 30 comes and goes, they begin to allow themselves to hear their biological clock ticking, and, if husbands continue to be lacking, single motherhood by the hand of science is now an option. Meanwhile, the bachelor herd continues its youthful prowl, with real life in suspended animation, living out what Kay Hymowitz, a contributing editor of City Journal, has called a "postmodern postadolescence."
The change most immediately devastating for wooing is probably the sexual revolution. For why would a man court a woman for marriage when she may be sexually enjoyed, and regularly, without it? Contrary to what the youth of the sixties believed, they were not the first to feel the power of sexual desire. Many, perhaps even most, men in earlier times avidly sought sexual pleasure prior to and outside of marriage. But they usually distinguished, as did the culture generally, between women one fooled around with and women one married, between a woman of easy virtue and a woman of virtue simply. Only respectable women were respected; one no more wanted a loose woman for one's partner than for one's mother.

The supreme virtue of the virtuous woman was modesty, a form of sexual self-control, manifested not only in chastity but in decorous dress and manner, speech and deed, and in reticence in the display of her well- banked affections. A virtue, as it were, made for courtship, it served simultaneously as a source of attraction and a spur to manly ardor, a guard against a woman's own desires, as well as a defense against unworthy suitors. A fine woman understood that giving her body (in earlier times, even her kiss) meant giving her heart, which was too precious to be bestowed on anyone who would not prove himself worthy, at the very least by pledging himself in marriage to be her defender and lover forever.

Once female modesty became a first casualty of the sexual revolution, even women eager for marriage lost their greatest power to hold and to discipline their prospective mates. For it is a woman's refusal of sexual importunings, coupled with hints or promises of later gratification, that is generally a necessary condition of transforming a man's lust into love. Women also lost the capacity to discover their own genuine longings and best interests. For only by holding herself in reserve does a woman gain the distance and self-command needed to discern what and whom she truly wants and to insist that the ardent suitor measure up. While there has always been sex without love, easy and early sexual satisfaction makes love and real intimacy less, not more, likely — for both men and women. Everyone's prospects for marriage were — are — sacrificed on the altar of pleasure now.

Yes, it is silly stuff. But Kass is quite serious beneath all the silliness. So it might be useful to note what mistakes his little sermon makes.

First, there is the tacit assumption that women and men in the past were happy, that it was a good thing to be ashamed of being born outside wedlock, that the courting system Kass assumes existed led to good and strong marriages. Note that in Kass's view of the history families didn't contain incest or rape or married couples who hated each others' guts and tore everybody else apart with their continual warfare.
We are not actually given any statistical evidence of this golden past.

Second, there is another tacit assumption Kass makes, and that is his belief that he knows what makes women happy or unhappy:

Women also lost the capacity to discover their own genuine longings and best interests. For only by holding herself in reserve does a woman gain the distance and self-command needed to discern what and whom she truly wants and to insist that the ardent suitor measure up.

How does he know that women lost this capacity? I am a female goddess and I have that capacity just fine. And maybe the reason he finds most women sad and lonely-looking is that they feel like that when they see Kass? I wouldn't be surprised.

Third, the whole article is extremely insulting to men, extremely so. Men are portrayed as wild beasts which must be steered towards the abbattoir of marriage, by their penises it seems. And the people to do this steering are the ones these wild beasts supposedly hunt for! Now that is curious.

Fourth, the whole article is based on anecdotal evidence and personal opinions. Which is fine in, say, a blog of a minor goddess, but not so fine in the writings of a professor and a bioethicist.

And so on. But Kass has a serious point, naturally, and that has to do with the "otherness" of women. His solution to this "otherness" is the old contract between gentlemen, the one that excludes the ladies when they get up after dinner in a Victorian dining-room to leave the men to their drinks, cigars and real power.
I got the topic from Crooked Timber. The discussion there is good.


Here is a proposal from Freewayblogger that could let you make a difference without much more than some paint and cardboard:

Here's the plan: The day after the 2,000th U.S. soldier is declared dead in Iraq, everybody paints protest signs and puts them on the freeway. So far I've got 700 fresh recruits and another 1500 fellow-travelers alerted.

Almost two thousand dead soldiers. I weep. Not to mention all the dead Iraqis. I think that they deserve to be commemorated.

Ellen R. Sauerbrey

Sauerbrey is Bush's nominee for Assistant Secretary of State, Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration. The job of the assistant secretary is to oversee the U.S. refugee assistance and admission programs. Sauerbrey is an interesting choice for this position as she is largely known as an avid anti-abortion voice in the United Nations where she is the current U.S. Ambassador to the Commission on the Status of Women. Her experience with the problems of managing refugees appears to be roughly zero. Instead, she is famous for the following:

* She has not only repeatedly stated her opposition to the right to choose abortion but has also declared that abortion is not a legitimate element of reproductive health assistance.

* She approves of President Bush's withholding of funding to UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund, charging that the money is "being used for coercive abortions in China," despite numerous findings to the contrary.

* Sauerbrey has also denied that adolescents have any right to exercise autonomous control over their reproductive health and has called abstinence-only-until-marriage sex education the healthiest and most responsible method of HIV prevention suitable for adolescents.

Along with opposing reproductive health and rights, Sauerbrey has taken extremist positions on other women's rights issues in the context of the United Nations.

In her role at the U.N. she has opposed ratification of the Convention for the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), a United Nations treaty agreed to by more than 180 countries (excluding the United States), and has also objected to language in U.N. documents that requires countries to "condemn violence against women and refrain from invoking any custom, tradition or religious consideration to avoid their obligations with respect to its elimination as set out in the Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women."

Nothing really new in any of this. The Bush administration has been waging a war against the poor women of this world from day one, and it has always been clear that the religious wingnuts will be thrown some crumbs in the form of those women's lives who can't vote in the United States. Also, nominating incompetent people is fairly routine.

I just wanted to point out that this stuff is going on all the time, under the radar of most of us, that the wingnuts love it and that us nasty feminazis don't love it. If you want to protest Sauerbrey's nomination, check out

Thursday, October 20, 2005

A Funny Quote

By the arch-wingnut, Robert Bork:

With a single stroke--the nomination of Harriet Miers--the president has damaged the prospects for reform of a left-leaning and imperialistic Supreme Court, taken the heart out of a rising generation of constitutional scholars, and widened the fissures within the conservative movement. That's not a bad day's work--for liberals.

I, for one, am glad that he didn't get to sit on the bench.

A New Kind of Feminism

A Harvard professor has given a speech urging us to develop a new kind of feminism because the old kinds don't work. They tend to make women uppity and sexually wild and destroy the patriarchal family to the very stump. They also don't take into account how evolutionary psychologists have carefully proved (without any actual genetic evidence) that women are not promiscuous and that men are, which to this professor means that women are harmed by feminism.

The professor, one Harvey C. Mansfield, has also written a book called Manliness. You get the drift of his arguments by now, I'm sure, but just for the sake of completeness here are a few quotes:

We need a new feminism," said Mansfield, the Kenan professor of government, "because we have a new way of life."

According to Mansfield, this change in traditional society has grown out of women's desire to achieve success in the workplace and at home. In his lecture, entitled, "Feminism and The Autonomy of Women", the professor identified this problem as one arising from "radical feminism" which sought to "lower women to the level of men" in terms of sexual behavior.

Regarding that behavior, Mansfield wondered if "hook ups," which he initially referred to as "polymorphous promiscuity" are good for women.

"Hook ups," the perennially-dapper professor said, "will get you in a bad habit that is very hard to get rid of."

"By the age of 30, you see men," he cautioned, "who are used to getting free samples" and will not enter into loyal, reliable relationships. Citing evolutionary biology research, Mansfield said that "men are interested in quantity, and women are interested in quality."

"Women play the men's game, which they are bound to lose. Without modesty, there is no romance—it isn't so attractive or so erotic," said the professor.

Tracing the roots of "radical feminism" to the writings of the 20th-century French writer Simon De Beauvoir, Mansfield argued that the questions and confusion facing feminists arise from their attempt at achieving "autonomy" and asserting that "men and women have no distinct nature."

I wonder who decided to change the sex of Simone de Beauvoir? Professor Mansfield doesn't know feminist thought very well, and the whole thing is a little bit hilarious. But there is a deeper reason why I am writing about it, and it has to do with the idea of the new kind of feminism that professor Mansfield and so many other wingnuts advocate.

What would this new kind of feminism look like? I guess it would start from the premises given here, about the differences in the basic characteristics of the sexes and would go on from there. It would probable make having multiple sex partners illegal, maybe even punishable by death. It would fight against all human autonomy. Men would be genetically tested for "quality", and only the best would be allowed to mate. And so on.

Now, all that was a joke and not a very good one. I have a lot of trouble seeing any type of feminism, in the sense of equality of the sexes, in any of the "new feminism" arguments of the right that I have read. All they are really saying is that women should go back to being Victorian.

For Your Enjoyment

From John Gillnitz on Eschaton threads, Tom DeLay's arrest warrant:

Here is a link to his booking.

The Rats and The Ship

Now that Cheney is in trouble we are going to see much more criticism of the way he ran the country. The most recent piece is by Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson who was Colin Powell's Chief of Staff until last January. You can read his whole speech here. This quote from the attached article gives the main message quite well:

In a scathing attack on the record of President George W. Bush, Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson, chief of staff to Mr Powell until last January, said: "What I saw was a cabal between the vice-president of the United States, Richard Cheney, and the secretary of defense, Donald Rumsfeld, on critical issues that made decisions that the bureaucracy did not know were being made.

"Now it is paying the consequences of making those decisions in secret, but far more telling to me is America is paying the consequences."

Mr Wilkerson said such secret decision-making was responsible for mistakes such as the long refusal to engage with North Korea or to back European efforts on Iran.

It also resulted in bitter battles in the administration among those excluded from the decisions.

"If you're not prepared to stop the feuding elements in the bureaucracy as they carry out your decisions, you are courting disaster. And I would say that we have courted disaster in Iraq, in North Korea, in Iran."

We have been given hints of this all along. The Bush administration has always been run like a feudal hierarchy, and so has this country for the last five years. Interesting.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Meanwhile, in the sinful Massachusetts...

A piece of news that the so-called liberal media will not overplay: Massachusetts school children score the highest in the country in reading and mathematics. The reasons are actually more complex than what I as a political pundit would like to admit, but nevertheless there the results are.

And did I mention recently that Bush's approval rate is the lowest in the very same Massachusetts? Which also has low divorce rates and fairly low crime rates and so on. But it's all Sodom and Gomorrh, of course.

Goodbye, Sweet Friends

In recent weeks two great bloggers have moved on to other things. First, Christine of Ms.Musings has written her last post for the Ms. Magazine, though she can still be read on PopPolitics. Then Jesse Taylor of Pandagon went and got himself a real activist job. Pandagon still lives, of course, and Amanda there is required reading.

I will miss both Christine and Jesse. Christine allowed me the luxury of not following all the cultural commentary on women, because she condensed and presented it in one easily accessible place. I learned so much from her. There is a hole now in the blogosphere. Sniff.

And Jesse's kindness and sarcasm (such a potent combination) will also leave a hole behind.

I don't want bloggers to ever stop blogging. There should be a law that makes it impossible. But we all know, in our adult moments, that nothing stays forever. So carpe diem and all that. Thank you, Christine and Jesse.

Godfather IV?

I overslept. So I wake up to a world which reminds me of the Godfather movies, or perhaps that bit in Shakespeare where the king wonders aloud about who might rid him of that pesky priest. Or insert your own parable here for what one newspaper article argues that George Bush did when he heard that Rove had engineered things a bit in the Plame affair:

An angry President Bush rebuked chief political guru Karl Rove two years ago for his role in the Valerie Plame affair, sources told the Daily News.

"He made his displeasure known to Karl," a presidential counselor told The News. "He made his life miserable about this."

Bush has nevertheless remained doggedly loyal to Rove, who friends and even political adversaries acknowledge is the architect of the President's rise from baseball owner to leader of the free world.

As special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald nears a decision, perhaps as early as today, on whether to issue indictments in his two-year probe, Bush has already circled the wagons around Rove, whose departure would be a grievous blow to an already shell-shocked White House staff and a President in deep political trouble.

Asked if he believed indictments were forthcoming, a key Bush official said he did not know, then added: "I'm very concerned it could go very, very badly."

"Karl is fighting for his life," the official added, "but anything he did was done to help George W. Bush. The President knows that and appreciates that."

Yesss. Anything Karl did was for George, and that is so sssweet. Just like in the Godfather! This article might not be telling the truth, of course, but it's interesting to imagine what might happen if it does tell the truth. For example, could George himself get into trouble with the possible admission that he knew all along what was going on? Or at least knew about it early enough to go and give testimony in Fitzgerald's investigation? But I've heard that Bush has not testified under oath so he is probably safe.

Rove might not be safe, though all he is doing right now is canceling appearances:

Rove canceled plans to attend two Republican fund-raisers, the national party confirmed Tuesday. And he did not give his scheduled speech to the conservative Hudson Institute think tank on Oct. 11.

Republican National Committee spokesman Brian Jones said scheduling conflicts kept Rove from an RNC fund-raiser Monday night in Greenwich, Conn., and a Virginia Republican Party fund-raiser Saturday.

Jones would not specify what the conflicts were or whether they had anything to do with the federal grand jury that Rove has testified before four times. "He was unable to attend," Jones said.

I'm on tenterhooks, whatever they might be.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

More Disapproval For George

This recent poll (via Kos) about Bush disapproval rates has data by state. Only six states have approval rates over 50% (Utah, Idaho, Wyoming, Alaska, Nebraska and Oklahoma). The lowest ratings come from Massachusetts where 28% of the respondents like his performance. That even in the liberal and elitest Massachusetts almost one in three answers this way is cause for some serious stomach ache, never mind that 61% of the respondents in Utah like Bush. He isn't even a Mormon!

More seriously, Bush's approval rates should average to a round zero. He has made a mess of everything he has tried to achieve, and I don't think it was God who spoke to him. Certainly not any one of the Mormon gods.

Barbara Bradley Hagerty

She is the NPR's religion correspondent, which is sad, because Hagerty has a very narrow and Republican view of what constitutes religion. I happened to listen to her reporting today on the reactions of evangelical Christians to the idea of Harriet Miers on the SCOTUS. Hagerty only interviewed right-wing Christians, many with very extreme views. It was as if there are no lefty evangelicals in this whole wide country!

Well, it is very clear that Hagerty is not one of those lefty evangelicals. Maybe she belongs to the Concerned Women of America? I wouldn't be surprised. What does surprise me is that she is allowed to have this religion desk all on her own, given how biased she is. But this sort of bias flies under the radar of the hawk-eyed politicians who accuse the NPR of being the breeding ground of communists and liberals and snake goddesses, too.

Miers on Abortion

This whole thing is so stupid. If we find that Miers is a radical cleric wingnut on abortion rights the liberals won't have her. If we find that she is not a radical cleric wingnut the radical cleric wingnuts won't have her. It really is idiotic and shows how far removed American politics is from politics as it used to be and how very close it is to a kind of civil war using only mental violence. It also shows how all the crap about the balancing effect of the judiciary branch of the government is just that: crap. It's all dirty politics and a terrible waste of energy, money and time.

Yet I see no alternative, and what is at stake here is important: our lives.

In any case, here is what Miers has told us about her views on abortion:

Supreme Court nominee Harriet Miers pledged support in 1989 for a constitutional amendment banning abortions except when necessary to save the life of the mother, according to material given to the Senate on Tuesday.

"If Congress passes a Human Life Amendment to the Constitution that would prohibit abortion except when it was necessary to prevent the death of the mother, would you actively support its ratification by the Texas Legislature," asked an April 1989 questionnaire sent out by the Texans United for Life group.

Miers checked "yes" to that question, and all of the group's questions, including whether she would oppose the use of public moneys for abortions and whether she would use her influence to keep "pro-abortion" people off city health boards and commissions.

The survey was part of the material sent to the Senate with Miers' Supreme Court questionnaire, according to two people, one a Senate official and the other a conservative Republican consultant working with the White House on her nomination. Both spoke on condition of anonymity, noting the papers are part of the vetting process.

All the usual reservations apply to interpreting this text. But as it was part of her hiring package I think that we should take it seriously.

What Is A Moderate?

Paul Waldman has written an excellent article on the American political moderate. He hits on all the important points, starting with poll results which appear to show that the conservative base is fairly large while the liberal/progressive one is smaller, which leaves moderates the people for the Democrats to court if they want to win. He then shows that the moderates are in fact a lot more like the liberals than the conservatives and that the Democratic strategy of courting the "center" is an error.

To explain this apparent paradox Waldman points out something that many of us liberals have been saying a long time: the very word "liberal" has been so successfully smeared by the wingnuts that most people are afraid to call themselves liberals:

if most "moderates" are Democrats who hold liberal policy positions, why don't they call themselves liberals? One answer is that these words have meanings outside the political realm that affect what kind of labels we are willing to place on ourselves. Many people are attracted to the ideas of "moderation" and "independence" even if their beliefs actually align fairly closely with one of the two parties. If you ask survey respondents whether they're Democrats, Republicans, or independents, between 30 and 40 percent will call themselves independents. But if you then ask the independents whether they lean toward one party or the other, most will say yes, to the point where the number of "true" independents falls to around 10 percent of the population.

But even if lots of people like thinking of themselves as "moderate," why should it follow that more people choose to call themselves "conservative" than "liberal?" The answer lies in a decades-long campaign to make the word an epithet -- from Ronald Reagan taunting Michael Dukakis as "liberal, liberal, liberal" to a host of Senate candidates who faced television ads calling them "embarrassingly liberal" or "shockingly liberal." Through endless repetition, conservatives succeeded in associating "liberal" with a series of traits that stand apart from specific issues: weakness, vacillation, moral uncertainty, and lack of patriotism, to name a few.

That is a familiar tale, but it is only half the story. Like so much else in our recent political history, conservative success in the area of political nomenclature was made possible only by liberal bumbling.

There was a time when a "liberal" was something most people -- even some conservatives -- wanted to be. On the stump in 1952, Dwight Eisenhower said "we need in Washington liberal and experienced members of Congress." Eight years later, Richard Nixon quoted FDR's definition of a liberal as "a man who wants to build bridges over the chasms that separate humanity from a better life," and said, "It is a wonderful definition, and I agree with him."

But when Republicans began to go after liberalism, Democrats cowered in fear, not only trying to distance themselves from the term but embracing the idea that a "conservative" is a great thing to be. Few Republicans would claim to be "social liberals" -- even if they are -- but Democrats are always claiming to be "fiscal conservatives," saying they have "conservative values" or chiding Republicans for not holding to the principles of conservatism on issues like the deficit. The message this sends to Americans who don't know much about politics is that, regardless of the details of policy, it's good to be conservative and bad to be liberal.
Waldman's article goes on to explain why it is important for the left to create a solid and unified attack against conservatism as an ideology, just as the conservatives have done the same to liberalism. It's a good read.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Cheney and the Plame Investigation

Now this is interesting:

As the investigation into the leak of a CIA agent's name hurtles to an apparent conclusion, special prosecutor Patrick J. Fitzgerald has zeroed in on the role of Vice President Cheney's office, according to lawyers familiar with the case and government officials. The prosecutor has assembled evidence that shows Cheney's long-running feud with the CIA contributed to the unmasking of operative Valerie Plame.

In grand jury sessions, including with New York Times reporter Judith Miller, Fitzgerald has pressed witnesses on what Cheney may have known about the effort to push back against ex-diplomat and Iraq war critic Joseph C. Wilson IV, including the leak of his wife's position at the CIA, Miller and others said. But Fitzgerald has focused more on the role of Cheney's top aides, including Chief of Staff I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, lawyers involved in the case said.

One former CIA official told prosecutors early in the probe about efforts by Cheney's office and his allies at the National Security Council to obtain information about Wilson's trip as long as two months before Plame was unmasked in July 2003, according to a person familiar with the account.

It is not clear whether Fitzgerald plans to charge anyone inside the Bush administration with a crime. But with the case reaching a climax -- administration officials are braced for possible indictments as early as this week-- it is increasingly clear that Cheney and his aides have been deeply enmeshed in events surrounding the Plame affair from the outset.

It was a request by Cheney for more CIA information that, unknown to him, started a chain of events that led to Wilson's mission three years ago. His staff pressed the CIA for information about it one year later. And it was Libby who talked about Wilson's wife working at the CIA with at least two reporters before her identity became public, according to evidence Fitzgerald has amassed and which parties close to the case have acknowledged.

Lawyers in the case said Fitzgerald has focused extensively on whether behind-the-scenes efforts by the vice president's aides and other senior Bush aides were part of a criminal campaign to punish Wilson in part by unmasking his wife.

Once again we are reminded that all this is really about the Iraq invasion and the grounds on which it was sold to the American people. And it may just be the case that Dick Cheney was the snakeoil guy. Not that he will be indicted, of course. He is too high in the hierarchy for that.

More news about all this in this article.

Rumor Mill Grinding on

It's late and hard to think of good titles for posts, but this one is about a Raw Story story:

The New York Daily News is set to report in Tuesday editions that a well-placed source interviewed by the newspaper believes a senior White House official has flipped and may be helping the prosecutor in the case, RAW STORY has learned.

The Daily News will reveal that a top source believes that based on the questioning of Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald and his other contacts with the investigation, someone in the White House has turned.

Will I have to stay up all night now to find out what the New York Daily News is going to say? They might not have a real scoop, after all, but a diary on Kos thinks that the flipper might be Ari Fleischer. Fleischer does seem a little more humanlike than some of the other candidates.

Miller's Security Clearance

In her New York Times "memoirs" Judith Miller mentioned in an off-hand way that she had government security clearance:

In my grand jury testimony, Mr. Fitzgerald repeatedly turned to the subject of how Mr. Libby handled classified information with me. He asked, for example, whether I had discussed my security status with Mr. Libby. During the Iraq war, the Pentagon had given me clearance to see secret information as part of my assignment "embedded" with a special military unit hunting for unconventional weapons.
Mr. Fitzgerald asked if I had discussed classified information with Mr. Libby. I said I believed so, but could not be sure. He asked how Mr. Libby treated classified information. I said, Very carefully.

This has caused some consternation in the blogosphere, because most of us can't quite imagine why journalists would have security clearance and what such a clearance would mean. It's possible, of course, that it is just a formality caused by the "embedding" of journalists in Iraq, but perhaps not. An e-mail I received from John Conyers' office shows that at least some politicians are concerned about this, too:

The Honorable Donald H. Rumsfeld


Department of Defense

1000 Defense Pentagon

Washington, DC 20301-1000

Dear Mr. Secretary:

We write about reports that journalists who were embedded with U.S. forces in Iraq were given security clearances. In her recounting of discussions with Scooter Libby, the Vice President's Chief of Staff, New York Times reporter Judith Miller, disclosed her belief that she had a security clearance. She specifically wrote, "[d]uring the Iraq war, the Pentagon had given me clearance to see secret information as part of my assignment 'embedded' with a special military unit hunting for unconventional weapons."1 She also noted she was not certain whether her clearance was in existence at the time she met with Mr. Libby.2

In order to better understand the scope of the program under which journalists received security clearances, we would appreciate your prompt response to the following questions:

1. Since March 20, 2003, the date of the U.S. invasion of Iraq, have any journalists been provided with a security clearance or with access to classified information? If so, please explain. At what level were these clearances granted? Were background investigations conducted on these journalists and, if so, in what manner? Of journalists receiving security clearances or access to classified information, how many were embedded with U.S. forces in Iraq?

II. Who approved the policy of providing journalists with security clearances or with access to classified information? What was the operational reason for granting security clearances to journalists? How does this policy comport with the requirement that classified information be disseminated on a "need to know" basis?

III. Did each journalist sign documentation delineating their obligation to protect classified information as is required by employees of the federal government? Were journalists required to sign any additional non-disclosure agreements by the Department of the Defense or the military department to which they were assigned? If so, please provide a copy of such an agreement.

IV. Did journalists maintain their clearances after completing participation in the embed program? Are journalists with a security clearance or other access notified upon the revocation or termination of such clearance or access? When does such revocation or termination occur? Have any journalists who are or have been embedded with forces in Iraq had their security clearances revoked or otherwise terminated?

V. Since March 20, 2003, what journalists were provided with security clearances or other access to classified information? How long did each clearance or access period last?

Please reply through the Judiciary Committee Minority Office, 2142 Rayburn House Office Building, Washington, DC 20515 (tel: 202-225-6504) and the Armed Services Committee Minority Office, 2340 Rayburn House Office Building, Washington, DC 20515 (tel: 202-226-9007).

1Judith Miller, My Four Hours Testifying in the Federal Grand Jury Room, N.Y. Times, Oct. 16, 2005, at A31.


The letter is signed by John Conyers and Ike Skelton.

DeLay's Booking

It looks like Tom Delay will have his fingerprints and mugshot taken soon. He was indicted on charges of money laundering and related stuff, as you may remember, though it's hard to keep all the different legal scandals of the Republican party clear in ones head.

The Wingnuts and Harriet Miers

The wingnuts don't like Harriet at all. This we already know. But the plan to get rid of her is only now becoming clear, at least to me. It has to do with that little comment James Dobson of (Patriarchal) Focus on Family made, the one where he hinted that he knows how Miers would vote on abortion. Now the Wall Street Journal boys have used this to set up the next round of the Get-Miers game:

Two days after President Bush announced Harriet Miers's Supreme Court nomination, James Dobson of Focus on the Family raised some eyebrows by declaring on his radio program: "When you know some of the things that I know--that I probably shouldn't know--you will understand why I have said, with fear and trepidation, that I believe Harriet Miers will be a good justice."

Mr. Dobson quelled the controversy by saying that Karl Rove, the White House's deputy chief of staff, had not given him assurances about how a Justice Miers would vote. "I would have loved to have known how Harriet Miers views Roe v. Wade," Mr. Dobson said last week. "But even if Karl had known the answer to that--and I'm certain that he didn't because the president himself said he didn't know--Karl would not have told me that. That's the most incendiary information that's out there, and it was never part of our discussion."

It might, however, have been part of another discussion. On Oct. 3, the day the Miers nomination was announced, Mr. Dobson and other religious conservatives held a conference call to discuss the nomination. One of the people on the call took extensive notes, which I have obtained. According to the notes, two of Ms. Miers's close friends--both sitting judges--said during the call that she would vote to overturn Roe.

The call was moderated by the Rev. Donald Wildmon of the American Family Association. Participating were 13 members of the executive committee of the Arlington Group, an umbrella alliance of 60 religious conservative groups, including Gary Bauer of American Values, Richard Land of the Southern Baptist Convention, Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council, Paul Weyrich of the Free Congress Foundation and the Rev. Bill Owens, a black minister. Also on the call were Justice Nathan Hecht of the Texas Supreme Court and Judge Ed Kinkeade, a Dallas-based federal trial judge.
What followed, according to the notes, was a free-wheeling discussion about many topics, including same-sex marriage. Justice Hecht said he had never discussed that issue with Ms. Miers. Then an unidentified voice asked the two men, "Based on your personal knowledge of her, if she had the opportunity, do you believe she would vote to overturn Roe v. Wade?"

"Absolutely," said Judge Kinkeade.

"I agree with that," said Justice Hecht. "I concur."

Shortly thereafter, according to the notes, Mr. Dobson apologized and said he had to leave the discussion: "That's all I need to know and I will get off and make some calls." (When asked about his comments in the notes I have, Mr. Dobson confirmed some of them and said it was "very possible" he made the others. He said he did not specifically recall the comments of the two judges on Roe v. Wade.)

This is all bad, we are informed. (Yes, it is. But what looks really bad about it to me is that sitting judges are part of such religious cabals.) It's all bad because we are not supposed to ask how Miers would rule on Roe vs. Wade, we are just supposed to make sure that she would rule the wingnut way. Without actually asking anyone. Get it?

In any case, this incident will be used to argue that the Miers nomination is in deep trouble, that she really should withdraw her name or all hell will break loose. The article I quote points out that stealth nominations such as Miers are the Democrats' fault because of the vicious way Robert Bork was investigated. So we liberals get what we deserve and therefore should filibuster Miers? Nah. The wingnuts will have to filibuster Harriet Miers. It could be fun to watch.

Is the Miers nomination a red herring? Something that will pave the way for a much more stringent wingnut nomination? I doubt that Bush plans things out this way, but the radical clerics of the Republican party would certainly love such a development.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Summarizing Judy

This article by the U.K. Times is as good as any I've read as a summary of the whole Judy Miller question. Reading it saves you time and trouble, if you are not interested in the ins and outs of the legal case.

Bruce Lee

I used to be a great fan of Bruce Lee, the martial artist, though not so much a fan of Bruce Lee, a person, at least based on what I learned about the latter. But Bruce Lee, the martial artist, seemed almost tailor-made for me: roughly the same size (small for a man), also someone between cultures (though not between the divine and the human in his case). And he managed with all this baggage to be remembered as one of the greatest of all times! Though I don't think Lee would have been flattered by my admiration, and my one-inch punch will not send you quite as much backwards as his did.

I have seen all the movies Bruce Lee made. He was no actor but a great kicker, and nothing is as funny as the ululations he emitted when he was ready to attack. In general I love the silly martial arts movies; they are great psychological drugs for all sorts of maladies though they may not amount to what is normally called art.

The books Lee wrote are a bit of a letdown. Nothing in them seems any different from the other kung fu books that I have read, which may mean that Lee didn't tell us everything he knew (not uncommon among the Chinese martial artists, I've learned) or that he just wasn't a very good writer or both. Or perhaps whatever made him so memorable can't be taught via books or at all?

He is also memorable because of the way he died: young and under mysterious circumstances. One rumor was that he overdosed on drugs while in the apartment of his mistress, another argues that he was allergic to an ingredient in a basic painkiller and died while resting in the apartment of a colleague. Make of all this what you want, but clearly an early death is a necessary part of the process that results in a larger-life-than-figure. You can count me out here, so I'm glad that the similarities between me and Bruce Lee aren't too deep. And I'm a girl goddess, to boot.

Still, I have a lot to thank Bruce for. If I hadn't learned about him I might never have learned about the real stuff. You know, the stuff that makes you very powerful whatever your size and physical ability. The stuff that I'm not going to reveal to you here...

Brooks on Innate Differences between the Sexes

David Brooks is babbling merrily again. In his most recent column he starts with an astounding statement:

Once upon a time, it was a man's world. Men possessed most of the tools one needed for power and success: muscles, connections, control of the crucial social institutions.

But then along came the information age to change all that. In the information age, education is the gateway to success. And that means this is turning into a woman's world, because women are better students than men.

This is astonishing stuff. Brooks thinks that Africa and Asia, for example, are not a man's world? He points out the long list of female presidents in America and Europe? He notes that everywhere women earn more than men? No. He does none of this, of course. What he does is scare people with the ominous picture of a feminized future. The terror of petticoats in power.

As you probably spotted from the last sentence of the quote Brooks's article is on the inferior performance of boys at school. He presents the usual threat that will come if women indeed outperform men ultimately, which is the possibility that women can't marry someone at least as educated as they are! I am old enough to remember what was written when men were the majority in colleges (as they still are in graduate degree programs), and never do I remember much worry about the men having to marry so much beneath them in education. Come to that, I don't remember much hand-wringing about the fact that women were a minority in higher education. It was just the way things are.

The neat thing about the group that believes in deep and important innate differences between the sexes is that everything, but everything, can be explained by appealing to such differences. Let me show how this is done: When the furor was about Harvard president Lawrence Summer's comments concerning the scarcity of women in mathematical and technical fields (where he speculated on the possibility that women are innately less likely to do sciences and mathematics), the innate school argued that the imbalance might be unavoidable.

Now that the furor is about girls outperforming boys in general, the innate school, in the form of David Brooks, argues that the environment must be changed:

In other words, if we want to help boys keep up with girls, we have to have an honest discussion about innate differences between the sexes. We have to figure out why poor girls who move to middle-class schools do better, but poor boys who make the same move often do worse. We have to absorb the obvious lesson of every airport bookstore, which is that men and women like to read totally different sorts of books, and see if we can apply this fact when designing curriculums. If boys like to read about war and combat, why can't there be books about combat on the curriculum?

Would elementary school boys do better if they spent more time outside the classroom and less time chained to a desk? Or would they thrive more in a rigorous, competitive environment?

For 30 years, attention has focused on feminine equality. During that time honest discussion of innate differences has been stifled (ask Larry Summers). It's time to look at the other half.

So let me see if I got it right: When men benefit from supposed innate differences we should let the situation be as it is, but when women benefit from supposed innate differences we should adjust the environment to make things so that women won't benefit?

The question why boys are not thriving at school is an important one. But why does it have to be made into a question about girls performing too well? Why is there this continuous need to make the situation into a zero-sum war between the sexes?

At least Brooks points out something I have argued for a long time: It is not feminism that has caused schools to become horrible places for boys (never mind what Tangoman will say in the comments later), because the same trend is seen all over the world, including in countries such as Iran where feminists are not exactly ruling the roost:

But Thomas G. Mortensen of the Pell Institute observes that these same trends - thriving women, faltering men - are observable across the world. In most countries, and in nearly all developed countries, women are graduating from high school and college at much higher rates than men. Mortensen writes, "We conclude that the issue is far less driven by a nation's culture than it is by basic differences between males and females in the modern world."

But this global appearance of the problem also points out that many of the suggestions Brooks makes, about giving boys more time to run around or about adding books about combat and war and so on, are unlikely to work because they address characteristics of only some school systems in this world.

I am not an expert in the field of education, but I have a few suggestions to explain why girls might, on average, work harder at school than boys, and they have to do with the fact that in the U.S., for example, the average earnings of a man with just a high school education roughly equal the average earnings of a woman with a college degree. A woman who wants to earn more than the minimum wage will pretty much have to get a college education, whereas a man need not go that far if he doesn't feel like it. Couldn't this simple economic fact go pretty far in explaining why women study harder? Think of a country like Iran here. Education is probably the only way a woman there can ever acquire any independence from her family. Indeed, I would be surprised not to find the Iranian college students at least sixty percent female.

In a sense I see the root of the problem in the very gender inequality that has so long prevailed, the one that Brooks flippantly casts as something that used to exist in the past. School just isn't as important for boys, because boys will grow to be men and men have a certain edge in the labor market partly due to custom and tradition. Blue-collar jobs often pay quite well and blue-collar jobs are among some of the more sexist ones. Just ask the women who have tried to enter, say, the occupations of electricians or plumbers.

In the same sense, some of the roots of the problem lie in the cultural values that make whatever women do well as somehow not worthy for men to do at all. We see this in everything from beer commercials to occupations: If women like it or excel in it men tend to disappear like mist in the morning. So why not so in education? Not worth trying it, it seems, if mere girls can ace it. But I'm just being bitter here, probably.