Saturday, November 04, 2006

They're Targeting Nancy Pelosi Big Surprise

Posted by olvlzl

Even before the election that is expected to make her the first woman to become the Speaker of the House the Republicans and their media mouthpieces are trying to turn Nancy Pelosi into damaged goods. Media Matters has tracked it back to undeniable Republican sources, John Boehner, and from there it went straight into the Drudge and Murdoch.

This is the same thing they do with any Democrat who comes to prominence, they stigmatize them with repeated lies and phony charges. Before long the Democrat gets a coating of vague suspicions and a coat of tarnish that doesn't come off. The same people who can't see the corruption of the Bush regime as it rots around them are inventing phony issues to smear Nancy Pelosi. There hasn't been a major Democrat they haven't done this to.

Time to fight back.

Repaying The Debts to Susan B. Anthony and Thousands of Others

Posted by olvlzl

I'm expecting to post again tonight but will be working on getting out our Vote this weekend so it's not certain that I will.

Please, do everything you can to get people to the polls and remind them to make certain that their vote is cast the way they intend it to be. There are numerous examples of voting machines registering Votes for Democrats as being cast for Republicans. Remind everyone to make certain to check it and to not be afraid to get it fixed. Make a loud noise if it looks like something fishy is going on. Make a really loud noise.

People died in the thousands so we could vote, let's pay back a small part of our debt to them. This could be the pivotal election. If the Republicans steal it they will cement themselves into place and it will be impossible to get them out. Democracy is at stake.

27 Choruses For Women

Posted by olvlzl

Even if you don’t think you like a cappella vocal music, you might enjoy the recording of Bela Bartok’s 27Choruses for Womens or Childrens Chorus on the Hungaroton label*. The women of the Schola Hungarica conducted by Laszlo Dobszay sing these pieces just about perfectly. The tempo, time signature and key changes are handled very well. Their ensemble singing of these small masterpieces is as good as you are likely to hear.

The pieces are based on folk poems collected in the late 19th century. It’s hard to believe some of the melodies aren’t the originals but the music is all Bartok’s. His thorough knowledge of folk music is to thank for some of it but his genius as a composer takes over from there. Not reading the Hungarian language much past “szep” and being dependent for the meaning on the English translation included in the accompanying booklet, my impression is that the chorus handles the text with total assurance. The range of emotion and subject matter covered in 45 minutes, is impressive. It goes from humor of several high and medium-low sorts, both lost and fulfilled love, youthful rebellion, deep grief and awed appreciation of nature. Most of all there is the love of wildness and nature. The tone painting of woods, fields and animals, always present in Bartok’s work, is particularly good here. Following the translation you won’t have any trouble figuring out what the original language means in these passages.

Though some of these pieces were intended for children’s voices as well as adults, it’s hard to believe that most of them could be sung by any children’s group on a level much lower than the famous Tapiola Chorus**. Some of them could be sung by amateurs and if they were learned in order of difficulty they would improve any group’s performance. Some of them are for two voices the rest are for three***. Though a choral performance was intended, a chamber group of two sopranos and an alto could sing all of them. Wish we could hear what Anonymous 4 would have done with them.

* Bartok: Twenty-Seven Choruses ; Hungaroton Classic, HCD 31080.
If you like this I would also recommend the other Hungaroton disc of Bartok’s choral music, HDC 31047.

** This is the best children’s chorus I’ve ever heard anywhere. Before them I didn’t think a children’s chorus could sing at the same level as adults.

*** For the printed music, the edition edited by Sabo Miklos , Editio Musica Budapest, Z 1103, ISMN M080011034

Steve Biko

"The most potent weapon in the hands of the oppressor is the mind of the oppressed."

Tuesday is D Day And Then Wednesday

Which is D Day Too

Posted by olvlzl

If Democrats take the House of Representatives next week there are already some good plans in place. Nancy Pelosi and some other Democrats in Congress have some ready to go that don’t need the approval of the Senate or the executive. They could be put into effect by the House alone. Some of these are outlined in a press release from May of 2005, largely ignored by the media. There are some good ideas in it for cleaning up the accretions of corruption that have been building up for twelve years under conservative Republicans. Among other things it calls for these six principles:

* Ban Members from accepting any gifts from lobbyists.

* Ban Members from secretly working with corporate lobbyists to write legislation.

* Ban lobbying by Members of Congress and high level staff for two years after leaving Congress.

* Enforce the ban on Members and staff soliciting privately-funded travel.

* Ban lobbyists from arranging and financing travel.

* End the 'K Street Project' - ban Members and staff from threatening lobbyists with official actions.


In an article in the Washington Post last week other likely changes were mentioned. There is one in particular that is dear to my heart:

Pelosi would deprive lawmakers-turned-lobbyists of a few of their congressional perks. She would eliminate the House rule that gives access to the House gym, the House floor and its cloak rooms to former members of Congress who are registered to lobby -- access that was temporarily taken away earlier this year.

If Nancy Pelosi and the other Democrats get the chance to put these and other rules changes into effect it could have an huge impact on more than the just the tone in Washington but not without a lot of work from the rest of us.

When the media can’t ignore House Democrats anymore we have to be ready to support all of their efforts at rescuing democracy over the feigned skepticism and cynicism of the Republicans and their media sound box. We have to be ready to tout all of these proposals and other reforms, to pressure our representatives and Senators to adopt them and to keep it up. If the Republicans still control the Senate we will have to try to shame them into adopting similar reforms. Our best bet would be to exert maximum pressure on the alleged "moderate" Republicans and conservative Democrats in the Senate. Getting over the institutional inertia of the Senate patricians will take a concerted effort.

Even if Democrats take both houses of Congress it will be the beginning of our work. Overturning the corruption that the Republicans and their media have put into place is going to take years, maybe decades, but there isn’t any alternative but to keep trying. We have to take full advantage of every opportunity no matter how small it looks or how hopeless it seems. Our discouragement, on full display on leftist blog comment threads, is one of the most potent weapons of the Republican establishment.

Getting the elections done honestly is the first priority. It seems that we have a real chance to win those and if we do we have to hit the ground immediately. And we are going to have to keep the pressure up, on the Republicans more than anyone, on the Senate Democrats and any recalcitrant Democrats in the House. But I’m expecting that under Pelosi they will be the first to want to act.

What if Republicans win? The struggle continues. Giving up is not an option.

The Caine Mutiny



What a great performance Humphrey Bogart gave in that one. Now we can compare it to a fairly good real-life facsimile:

Just days after President Bush publicly affirmed Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's job security through the end of his term, a family of publications catering to the military will publish an editorial calling for the defense secretary's removal.

The editorial, released to NBC News on Friday ahead of its Monday publication date, stated, "It is one thing for the majority of Americans to think Rumsfeld has failed. But when the nation's current military leaders start to break publicly with their defense secretary, then it is clear that he is losing control of the institution he ostensibly leads."

The editorial will appear just one day before the midterm election, in which GOP candidates have been losing ground, according to recent polls.

"This is not about the midterm elections," continued the editorial, which will appear in the Army Times, Air Force Times, Navy Times, and Marine Corps Times on Monday. "Regardless of which party wins Nov. 7, the time has come, Mr. President, to face the hard bruising truth: Donald Rumsfeld must go."

The newspapers are published by the Military Times Media Group.

Will George Bush recant on his vow not to ever, ever, ever get rid of his very best friend Donald Rumsfeld? Probably not, because changing ones mind is a sign of weakness in this administration, an effeminate nasty character flaw. So instead we march straight off the cliff.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Friday Blog News



First, Henrietta the Hound is jumping and skipping all around the house. She didn't have arthritis, after all, but sciatica, and the medications are working. It's a two-edged sword as now I get pestered mercilessly for more chasing games and walks and she insists that it's always snack-time, too. Fourteen going on two, she is. Lovely.

She's sleeping right now on the guest bedroom bed where she has arranged all the pillows into a nest shape with Herself comfortably curled up in the middle. I never catch her doing the arranging, only the results of it. Animal research is difficult when the animal is smarter than the researcher.

Second, this blog is going to be three years old on November 8, Wednesday. Yes, the day after elections, so I will have fireworks and cake and nectar whatever Tuesday's outcome will be. But I hope that we can combine partying for the blog and for a saner world.

Third and finally, vote. And help with the voting effort in your area if you have the time. It matters.

Friday Insect Blogging






Courtesy of JohnJS. He thinks that these are moths. Whatever they are the patterns are fascinating.

The Church of Ted Haggard



The Harper's magazine 2005 article on Ted Haggard's church by Jeff Sharlet is quite an eye-opener. A megachurch of 14,000 worshippers, run as a bizarre combination of Disneyland, War Academy and Abrahamic fundamentalism with rock music and thought control thrown in. Lots of feel-good talk at the surface, truly frightening war-trumpets behind it.

Haggard boasts about his concept of the church as a response to the market forces. No need to engage in worthwhile projects (such as helping those smelly and listless poor people). Just a lot of fun in small cells run tightly by an incredibly militaristic organization working from the top-down. It isn't only capitalism that Haggard has harnessed for religious purposes but also Maoism or some other hierarchical type of communism. Is this the face of Christianistic religion?

Who knows? One article by one author is unlikely to offer total clarity or balance on such a wide topic, but it gives us some very frightening glimpses of Haggard's church, such as this description of his son's wedding:

The morning service on the second Sunday of 2005 was devoted to the marriage of Pastor Ted's eldest son, Pastor Marcus. It began with worship, just like an ordinary service, but the light show was a royal purple-and-gold, the hymns more formal, the dancing more ecstatic. I sat with Linda Burton in the front row; she curtsied and bowed, over and over, her right hand sweeping the carpeted floor.

Pastor Ted wore a black suit and a red tie. Earlier in the week, at a staff meeting, he had announced that he would use the wedding as an illustration, and to that end he delivered a lengthy prenuptial presentation with slides, in which he laid out a fractal-like repeating pattern of relations, shrinking and expanding: that of God to man, reflected in that of man to wife, which is in turn a model for a godly society. Just as we conform ourselves to God's will, so, said Ted, must "the Woman." The Woman must take on her man's calling, her man's desire.

"Mmm-hmmm," murmured Linda, eyes closed.

In return, Pastor Ted continued, the Woman gets the Man's love; authority just wants to serve. "Total surrender!" he called. "True or false?"

"TRUE!" answered the 8,000 assembled.

The Man is the Christ; the Woman is the Body. He is coming; she is the church; she must open her doors. United, they are the Kingdom, ready for battle. "The Christian home," preached Pastor Ted, "is to be in a constant state of war." This made many so happy they put their hands in the air, antennae for spirit transmissions. "Massive warfare!" Ted cried out.

Sex (consensual?) and war and submission, all covered by the white veil of virginity. I feel a little sick right now.

There is a tremendous hunger for community in this country, a hunger that is not satisfied by what connections our fragmented and mobile lifestyles offer. The Christianist megachurches have stepped in and offered to feed all those who starve for connection, all those who drift. But the price for the meal is very steep. As Ted Haggard himself is finding out.

Egg On Their Faces?



As Atrios pointed out, this would be funny if it wasn't so horrible. The New York Times reports about a U.S. government website which seems to have contained instructions (in Arabic) on how to make a nuclear bomb:

Last March, the federal government set up a Web site to make public a vast archive of Iraqi documents captured during the war. The Bush administration did so under pressure from Congressional Republicans who had said they hoped to "leverage the Internet" to find new evidence of the prewar dangers posed by Saddam Hussein.

But in recent weeks, the site has posted some documents that weapons experts say are a danger themselves: detailed accounts of Iraq's secret nuclear research before the 1991 Persian Gulf war. The documents, the experts say, constitute a basic guide to building an atom bomb.

Last night, the government shut down the Web site after The New York Times asked about complaints from weapons experts and arms-control officials. A spokesman for the director of national intelligence said access to the site had been suspended "pending a review to ensure its content is appropriate for public viewing."

...

The government had received earlier warnings about the contents of the Web site. Last spring, after the site began posting old Iraqi documents about chemical weapons, United Nations arms-control officials in New York won the withdrawal of a report that gave information on how to make tabun and sarin, nerve agents that kill by causing respiratory failure.

The campaign for the online archive was mounted by conservative publications and politicians, who said that the nation's spy agencies had failed adequately to analyze the 48,000 boxes of documents seized since the March 2003 invasion. With the public increasingly skeptical about the rationale and conduct of the war, the chairmen of the House and Senate intelligence committees argued that wide analysis and translation of the documents — most of them in Arabic — would reinvigorate the search for clues that Mr. Hussein had resumed his unconventional arms programs in the years before the invasion. American search teams never found such evidence.

So let me see if I got it: It was the wingnuts who wanted this information to be out there? To make us all feel safer?

But the conservatives don't see the Times article in this light. Jim Geraghty:

I'm sorry, did the New York Times just put on the front page that IRAQ HAD A NUCLEAR WEAPONS PROGRAM AND WAS PLOTTING TO BUILD AN ATOMIC BOMB?

What? Wait a minute. The entire mantra of the war critics has been "no WMDs, no WMDs, no threat, no threat", for the past three years solid. Now we're being told that the Bush administration erred by making public information that could help any nation build an atomic bomb.

Let's go back and clarify: IRAQ HAD NUCLEAR WEAPONS PLANS SO ADVANCED AND DETAILED THAT ANY COUNTRY COULD HAVE USED THEM.

And Red State chimes in, too:

The web site with these has been taken down since the NY Slimes story ran to make sure the documents on it are safe to release, but the ENTIRE NY Slimes articles has the unintended purpose of PROVING that Saddam was trying to build a Nuclear Bomb!

Indeed. But this was before the first Iraq war, the one that Papa Bush ran:

In recent weeks, the paper reported, the site posted documents that weapons experts said contained detailed accounts of Iraq's secret nuclear research before the 1991 Persian Gulf War — what one diplomat called "a cookbook" for building a bomb.

And Geraghty seems to have noticed it, too, because he adds:

I'm still kinda blown away by this paragraph:

Among the dozens of documents in English were Iraqi reports written in the 1990's and in 2002 for United Nations inspectors in charge of making sure Iraq abandoned its unconventional arms programs after the Persian Gulf war. Experts say that at the time, Mr. Hussein's scientists were on the verge of building an atom bomb, as little as a year away.

Is this sentence referring to 1990, before the Persian Gulf War? Or 2002, months before the invasion of Iraq? Because "Iraq is a year away from building a nuclear bomb" was supposed to be a myth, a lie that Bush used to trick us into war.

And yet here is the New York Times, saying that Iraq had a "how to manual" on how to build a nuclear bomb, and could have had a nuke in a year.

I repeat, the information still applies to the pre-1991 period:

The Office of the Director of National Intelligence said yesterday that it shut down a public Web site after complaints from U.N. weapons inspectors that the site included sensitive details about constructing nuclear and chemical weapons. The documents were collected in Iraq after the March 2003 invasion but predate the 1991 Persian Gulf War.

Intelligence officials said the documents do not indicate that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction when President Bush ordered U.S. troops to take over the country and depose Saddam Hussein.

Well, it isn't really funny and my title is in poor taste. It's scary, really.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

The Haggard Story



Ted Haggard is an important Christianist and an opponent of same-sex marriage. He runs a megachurch in Colorado with his wife with whom he has five children. Until today he was the president of the National Association of Evangelicals. And he wrote the Christian diet book!

Now he has been accused of frequenting a prostitute. A male prostitute:

The former prostitute, Mike Jones, 49, of Denver, went public with the accusations on Tuesday, saying he felt compelled to do so because he believes Haggard, a strong opponent of same-sex unions, has been hypocritical. Haggard is married with five children.

"I made myself cry and I made myself sick," Jones said about his decision to come forward. "I felt I owed this to the community. What he is saying is we are not worthy, but he is."

Jones says he was contacted three years ago by Haggard for sex - he thinks through a gay newspaper advertisement or an online ad he posted on rentboy.com.

Today, Jones showed the Denver Post an envelope addressed to him from "Art," a name Jones says Haggard used - sent from an address in Colorado Springs. Jones said the envelope came to him with two $100 bills inside.

Jones also played a recording of a voicemail left for Jones from "Art." Jones refused to reveal what the topic of the voicemail was about because there could be legal problems and he wants to consult with an attorney.

"They want to protect the sanctity of marriage and I am trying to figure out what that means because they are not doing a good job," Jones said of anti-gay marriage proponents. "To have someone in such a high profile position preaching against them and doing opposite behind other people's backs is hypocritical."

Haggard is supposed to have the ear of president George Bush, or so he has said. He is not your run-of-a-mill wingnut but a mega-giga-wingnut, and that is why this story is all over the news tonight. Note that the accusations against Haggard have not been proved and may be baseless. Still, this suggests something different:

Rev. Ted Haggard, Senior Pastor of New Life Church, stated today that he could "not continue to minister under the cloud created by the accusations made on Denver talk radio this morning." He, therefore, placed himself on administrative leave, pending investigation, spiritual counsel, and a decision by the church's board of overseers. Pastor Haggard said, "I am voluntarily stepping aside from leadership so that the overseer process can be allowed to proceed with integrity. I hope to be able to discuss this matter in more detail at a later date. In the interim, I will seek both spiritual advice and guidance."

...
Pastor Haggard also resigned today as President of the National Association of Evangelicals.

This topic is not something I enjoy writing about. My blogger ethics angel is grabbing my right shoulder yelling at me not to write about the private lives of people in the public eye. Why couldn't Haggard be gay or bisexual and still against gay marriage? It's not the business of a snake goddess to judge him. And the case is just accusations right now.

But the angel (or devil?) squatting on my other shoulder yells back about the dishonesty and insincerity of someone who preaches others how to live their lives yet hides his own struggles so carefully. Pretends that they don't exist.

And the idea of involuntary outing. It is wrong because of the harmful consequences to those outed. But these consequences are partly caused by people like Haggard, people who preach that homosexuality is a sin. People who make it acceptable to dislike and even hate gays or lesbians.

I'm still not sure if this is a useful post.
---
Added Friday morning: This Harper's article in Haggard's church is...alarming.

What Is Hidden In Plain Sight



Is a subtle type of sexism. It is a barely audible background hum in our everyday lives, so slight and so camouflaged that we swallow it never noticing.

I look for it in my pseudo-professional feminist goddess role and still I often miss it. A recent example has to do with the furor caused by an ad that ran against Congressman Harold Ford Jr., who is black:

By now, many people have seen the Tennessee ad, a 30-second spot featuring actors playing Tennessee residents on the street explaining why they'll vote for Democratic Rep. Harold Ford Jr. for the seat held by Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, who's stepping down to consider a run for president. The ad, paid for by the Republican National Committee, is a spoof.

"Ford's right," says one man, bedecked in camouflage. "I do have too many guns." Adds another man in overalls and a handlebar mustache, "Canada can take care of North Korea. They're not busy."

It's a blond-haired, blue-eyed woman with bare shoulders, however, who has generated most of the controversy. The actress says she met Harold "at a Playboy party." The spot closes with her looking into the camera and putting her hand to her ear as though she were holding a telephone: "Harold," she coos. "Call me!"

Some observers have seized on the ad for playing to discomfort over interracial dating. (Ford is from one of Memphis's prominent black political families.) The Playboy-sponsored Super Bowl party he went to in Jacksonville, Fla., last year was attended by 3,000 people. Ford, who is single, has since defended himself, telling the press, "I like football; I like girls; and...no apologies for that."

The spot is "playing to a lot of fears," John Geer, a professor at Vanderbilt University and a specialist in political advertising, said last week. Geer said the spot "frankly makes the Willie Horton ad"–a 1988 presidential ad featuring a black man who committed a rape and a murder while on a weekend furlough from a Massachusetts prison, a furlough linked to the state's then governor, Michael Dukakis–"look like child's play."

The ad has since been withdrawn and Ford's Republican opponent, Bob Corker, has condemned it and its racist undertones.

But look at these quotes from various newspaper stories and opinion columns about the broohaha. Really look at them:

Ford's Republican opponent, former Chattanooga Mayor Bob Corker, called for the bimbo ad to be pulled from the air and claimed he hadn't had anything to do with its content.

------------

Democrats are complaining about a Republican ad that ran in Tennessee making fun of Senate candidate Harold Ford Jr. It features mock voters giving dumb reasons to vote for him, such as "Terrorists need their privacy," "Harold Ford looks nice--isn't that enough?" and "So he took money from porn movie producers--I mean, who hasn't?" It ends with a blonde bimbo, who says she met the congressman at a Playboy party, winking and cooing, "Harold, call me."

-------------
If that anti-Harold Ford ad--the one with the white bimbette saying "Harold, call me"--was "playing to racial fears" about interracial dating, was it intended to stir up whites who might fear miscegenation--or black women who might resent it if they thought Ford habitually went out with white women? ... [Both?-ed Sure--a twofer. But the MSM only brings up the "appeal to racist white voters."] ... P.S.: Does anybody still buy the idea that the reaction against this ad is going to save Ford?

-Mickey Kaus, Slate.com
--------------

GOP Bimbo
Trashy blonde is new face of Tennessee Republican party

I searched for definitions of the term "bimbo" or "bimbette" and found this one:

Bimbo is a term that emerged in popular English language usage in the late 20th Century to describe a stupid, pliable woman.

Then I searched for a definition of "trashy". Here is one:

1. Resembling or containing trash; cheap or worthless: trashy merchandise.
2. In very poor taste or of very poor quality: "There was a special pathos … within … her trashy tales" (James Wolcott).

This is all minor stuff, but so is a mosquito whining somewhere in the room when you try to fall asleep. I'm fascinated by it not because it would be of great importance, but for the very fact that it's not seen as important at all. Or rather, not seen at all.
-----
You can see the original ad here.

Meanwhile, in Afghanistan and Popetown



Afghan women don't have it easy:

Womankind Worldwide found violence against women is still endemic - and the number of women setting fire to themselves because they cannot bear their lives is rising dramatically.

The iconic images of women throwing off their burqas after the overthrow of the Taliban in 2001 were always a fiction. Except among a small elite in Kabul, the overwhelming majority of women in Afghanistan are still forced to cover their entire bodies and faces.

The report's researchers found that very little has changed. Between 60 and 80 per cent of all marriages in Afghanistan are forced. As many as 57 per cent of girls are married off below the age of 16, some as young as six. Because of the custom of paying a bride price, marriage is essentially a financial transaction, and girls a commodity.

The custom of baad, when girls and women are exchanged to settle debts and disputes, is still widely practised. The women are not treated as proper wives, but in effect are slave workers for their husbands.

Honour killing is also still widespread. Women are killed for dishonouring their families through "crimes" such as even being seen associating with a man. A family member kills the woman.

Even women who have been raped cannot report the crime because they risk being prosecuted for having sex outside marriage.

The Taliban were vilified for denying girls education, but even now only 19 per cent of Afghan schools are for girls and only 5 per cent of girls of secondary school age are enrolled.

The societal norms in Afghanistan give women very little value and no amount of feel-fair legislation forced from the outside is going to change the lives of women until the valuation of women as human beings rises. Whether it is as bad as this report states all over or not, feminist change is obviously very much needed.

And so it is with the Pope's media:

An unholy row has broken out at the Pope's television station, with accusations flying that it paid derisory salaries, imposed demeaning conditions, victimised women employees - and even tried to hold a staff meeting to find out if some were virgins.

The director of Telepace (Peace TV), Monsignor Guido Todeschini, is to appear before the council of the Italian journalists' professional body in the next few days to answer claims by employees and the journalists' union. Union representatives will be seeking to find out if he has fulfilled earlier undertakings, given in February, not to monitor employees' telephone calls and to end the practice of requiring journalists to stamp a card at the start and end of work.

The newspaper La Stampa reported yesterday that managers had once called a meeting to discuss the sex lives of its women journalists and establish whether they were virgins. A former employee, speaking on condition of anonymity, told the Guardian the initiative dated back "six or seven years" and was abandoned following an outcry by staff.

The source said women journalists working full-time were kept on part-time contracts with take-home pay of less than £11,000 a year. No one at Telepace was available for comment.

I want to write something smart about religion and women's roles here, because religion is one of the main pillars used to justify status quo. But nothing very smart comes to my mind.

Bush on Civility



Think Progress has a post on the forked tongue of our president:

BUSH: Let me start with the least. I don't like the tone in Washington, D.C. I feel like that the politics has gotten ugly, and that tends to discourage people around the country. And that's just too bad.

I would hope in my last two years I can — and, by the way, I've never really resorted to name-calling. And I'm not trying to say, well, you know, I'm innocent and everybody else is guilty. That's not what I'm trying to say. But I understand that it's one thing to disagree with a person, but it's another thing to have to resort to kind of shameless name- calling. And I really don't think it's fitting for the president to drag the presidency into that kind of a mudslinging.

...

BUSH: However they put it, the Democrat approach in Iraq comes down to this: The terrorists win and America loses.

These are from two different clips and the post has videos of both. Now do what I did by pure accident: Watch both clips simultaneously. The effect is surreal and truly wonderful.

It's The Iraq War



From the New York Times:

A substantial majority of Americans expect Democrats to reduce or end American military involvement in Iraq if they win control of Congress next Tuesday, and say Republicans would maintain or increase troop levels to try to win the war if they hold on to power on Capitol Hill, according to the final New York Times/CBS News poll before the midterm election.

The poll found that just 29 percent of Americans approve of the way President Bush is managing the war in Iraq, matching the lowest mark of his presidency. Nearly 70 percent of Americans said Mr. Bush did not have a plan to end the war, and an overwhelming 80 percent said Mr. Bush's latest effort to rally public support for the conflict amounted to a change in language but not policy.

And then watch this video






Ssssh! The World Is Listening!






So Laura Bush tells us:

--First lady Laura Bush cautioned Wednesday that Americans discussing the war in Iraq -- especially politicians -- should be careful what they say because other countries are paying attention.

"The right to have these conversations is part of what makes our country great and our democracy strong. We must be mindful that people around the world are listening to these discussions," Laura Bush said at a suburban Columbus recreation center during a campaign appearance with Rep. Deborah Pryce.

"Responsible candidates understand that the men and women of our military are risking their lives for us, and that we must conduct our debate here at home in a way that does not jeopardize our troops in harm's way," she said, calling for "conversations conducted with civility and respect."

"Conducted with civility and respect." This idea seems to crop up everywhere suddenly. It's almost as if a soundbite had been sent down from the powers-that-be...

"We must be mindful that people around the world are listening to these discussions." Yes, indeed. As they listened to George Bush when he mentioned the new "crusade" and when he coined the term "the axis of evil." They may have heard him loud and clear.

I'm glad Laura is going to make him shut up about all that stuff.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

On Elections and Why I am Not a Political Blogger



I don't do real political commentary. This I have learned from the wise pundits and erudite scholars of the field. Real political commentary is all about whether John Kerry meant to piss on the military or to make a joke about George Bush in his recent speech, and when one writes on this weighty matter one is supposed to think that a politican of many years' experience would really be stupid enough to dis the military in a public speech right before election, not that this particular politician is a bit Ent-like and shouldn't try rapid-fire jokes in public.

Real political commentary is also about whether the fiction Jim Webb wrote means that he thinks it's a great idea for people to actually engage in pornographic acts. This is to be debated with great heat. And as a counterpoint one can then try to find out if Allen did spit on his first wife or not and if manhandling a person asking that question is a fair response to the outrageousness of the question. All this will help the voters greatly in selecting the best possible representative.

It sounds like a soap opera to me, and that's why it's probably an interesting topic to discuss. But I don't think most of this helps much in deciding on the best people to run this country, someone to clean out the mess that used to be the country of Iraq, someone to get rid of these damned pharisees who preach values and imitate the most fervent Islamists yet have no empathy or no real values as far as I can fathom. Someone who would run the government with care and accountability.

I'm not asking much, really. Ordinary faulty politicians would do just fine, assuming that we get back transparent elections and some accountability in the government and some of those old-fashioned values of integrity and responsibility.

Do vote. It may not be enough but it is necessary. This is where I agree with the real political bloggers.

Rape in Maryland



Has an odd interpretation. Happy Feminist sums a recent case very well:

The case is Baby v. Maryland, __ A.2d ___ (Md.App. 2006). According to the young woman's testimony, the defendant asked to have sex with her and she consented on the condition that he would stop when she told him to. She testified that the penetration hurt "so I said stop and that's when he kept pushing it in and I was pushing his knees to get off me." After she told him to stop, he continued to "keep pushing it in" for about "five or so seconds."

...

The jury convicted the defendant and the defendant appealed. The Court of Special Appeals of Maryland held that the trial court erred by failing to answer the jury's question. The court further held that there is no rape under Maryland law if the woman consents to sex prior to penetration and then withdraws the consent after penetration. I should note that this interpretation of the law would apply regardless of whether the man kept thrusting for five seconds or ten minutes after the woman said to stop. (Sorry to be graphic, but it's necessary.)

...

The court elucidates further the reasons for the law in effect TODAY in Maryland in footnote 6 of the opinion:

The cultural mores undergirding the notion that the crime of rape was complete upon penetration may be traced to Biblical and Middle, Assyrian Laws: Under MAL, the rape of a virgin was presumed to be an illegal trespass upon the father's property with the rapist required to "give the (extra) third in silver to her father as the value of a virgin (and) her ravisher shall marry her (and) not cast her off." The woman was required to marry her rapist without hope of divorce. If the rapist was married, the virgin still had to marry her rapist; however, the rapist's property, his wife, was also factored into the compensation. The rapist's wife was to be given to the father "to be ravished . . .not to return her to her husband (but) to take her."

It is the Maryland law which is the problem here. Or so most commenters argue. But Happy Feminist noted that cases like this serve to remind us that feminism of a fairly basic type is still needed. Things like rewriting bad laws.

Jessica at Feministing.com summed it all more succinctly:

Holy shit. Holy shit. Holy shit.

So ladies, once it's in, it's in. Ain't nothing you can do about it. Changed your mind? Suck it up. He's hurting you? Oh, sorry--should have thought of that before. After all, it's not like your body is yours or anything. Jeez.

I immediately thought of a reversal. Suppose that you, a man, agree to let me give you a blowjob. You are not aware of the viper fangs I have, but their presence becomes all too obvious once I start. So you scream and you scream. But you agreed, right? Heh.

Something Embarrassing



Have you followed the discussion about whether Mark Halperin is a liberal or not? Glenn Greenwald wrote about it:

Apparently, the most traumatizing and horrifying thing that could ever happen to Mark Halperin is for Bush followers like Hugh Hewitt to think he's a liberal. It is self-evidently very important to Halperin -- on an emotional and deeply personal level -- to demonstrate that he is one of them, or at least not one of those liberals. To achieve this, he made an extraordinary vow to Sean Hannity when trying to win Hannity's approval, in which he pledged that the media would spend the next two weeks compensating for all of their anti-conservative sins over the past decades, and now he is engaged in a truly debased and highly emotional crusade to obtain Hugh Hewitt's affection.

Halperin is a warrior in the media forces against the Dreaded Liberal Bias. He's not liberal. Repeat, he is not liberal. He is willing to lie on the floor and bang his head against it if you don't believe him.

Well, no. He is not doing temper tantrums. It's something else, and it's equally embarrassing. Here is an e-mail Greenwald states is from Halperin to Hewitt:

Dear Hugh,

I really enjoyed our radio talk and I appreciated the opportunity to appear with someone I respect so much.

I have gotten a lot of positive feedback, mostly from conservatives, including this reaction on Powerlineblog.com.

But, as I have said to you privately, I am beginning to think you are intellectually dishonest on a few points. It seems strange that someone who seems to be trying to bring truth to people would do such a thing, but I can't really explain your behavior any other way. As I said on the show, you and I agree on almost everything we discussed. On most of the points of disagreement, I respect your position and accept our disagreement. . . .

As for your repeated insistence that you could reach no other conclusion but one that says that I am "very liberal," I'm sure if you think it over, you will reconsider. You went to a liberal school and you appear to not be liberal. And I am sure you have heard of people having different political views than their parents.

Again, I respect much about you, but I am mystified by your determination to lump me in with others. Acknowledging the liberal bias that exists in the Old Media -- as John Harris and I do in The Way to Win: Taking the White House in 2008 doesn't necessarily prove that I am not liberal, but I would think you would be open to giving me the benefit of the doubt, when you have no actual evidence to the contrary.

Oh so embarrassing. Why do I feel all red-hot shame here? It's not me writing that e-mail of abject crawling and pleas for love and approval.

But it strikes a bell. I've done things not so removed from that in the past, to try to make some misogynist think better of me. Yes, indeed I have. And shame is what sticks to one from such acts. Of course I was very young and very naive then.

Ezra Klein notes why Halperin's begging and pleading is not only unseemly but unprofessional:

I really question whether someone who has obviously made it such a high priority to obtain a very personal form of right-wing absolution can possibly exercise appropriate news judgment. If Halperin is willing to expend this much time and energy and shower Hewitt with such gushing praise -- and if he's willing to make such a public spectacle of himself when doing so -- all in order to convince Hewitt that he isn't liberal, won't that goal rather obviously affect Halperin's news coverage? Isn't there something extremely unseemly about the political director of ABC News engaging in such an intense campaign to win the approval of one of the most blindly partisan, extremist Bush followers in the country?

Mark, they are not going to love you, those wingnuts. Just saying.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Oregon: NO on Measure 43





Boo!






Happy Halloween! I wanted to give you a Very Scary Picture, even if it's an older one. Here are all the happy wingnut gentlemen witnessing the signing of a ban on certain types of abortions.

If that doesn't frighten you how about a ride on the ghost train? For something warmer and gentler, watch a video about teaching English to the seniors. If that's too warm and human for you, would you like to know why Air America can't get any advertisers?

Chocolate is still the answer to most of the smaller problems in this life, so make sure that you are well supplied this Halloween. Have fun and be careful.

But whatever you do, don't try to dye your dog's white fur orange with food coloring for Halloween. It doesn't work, unless you had in mind a drowned-rat look.

Your Dream Is My Nightmare



A recent post on Eschaton mentions how "civility" is suddenly back in vogue, now that Democrats are so close to grabbing some power. Civility was out of fashion for at least a decade. Rush Limbaugh and his clones reigned the airwaves uninterrupted by any civility. Remember political correctness? P.C.? Remember how viciously the wingnuts attacked it? Well, political correctness did have a strong flavor of civility, the idea that people should be called what they want to be called rather than what ever smearword others have invented for some group. Limbaugh decided that feminists were feminazis. I don't remember many articles on the need for Limbaugh to learn civility.

But times change, of course. Now the liberals and progressives are called traitors and terrorist-lovers and so on. But civility, well, that is a problem on the left side of the political spectrum. Because the left is ANGRY. And what is the right? Never angry, it seems. Only moral and virtuous.

We are scared of the wingnuts, "we" as in the mainstream media and most political commentators. That's why suddenly there is this call for civility. Too bad that the wingnuts see civility as a female virtue, a virtue of the subjugated. Civility equals obedience for them. When the press suddenly tells us that we need to regain the old virtue of civility, be afraid. Be very, very afraid.

The reason I can write all this is that I actually am civil. It's my mother's doing, and I can't deprogram what she so excellently programmed a long time ago. Not that I haven't tried. But the civility she taught wasn't obedience. That would have been easier to get rid of as all children know. What she conveyed was the belief that all people have worth and value and that all people deserve some basic respect, even when they are mistaken or wrong in some ways. Now, I didn't get the whole lesson, but I got enough to find angry blogging quite hard on some days, and enough to make the current political games in this country tough to play.

But play them we must, and this is why: The wingnut dreams are our nightmares. Digby puts it well:

The Republicans and the Christian Right are leading America on a backward march into the Dark Ages --- and that is stepping on our dreams. As a culture, we have always been idealistic about progress and inspired by new discoveries to improve the lot of the human race. We're about invention and reinvention. It's one of our best qualities.

These people are telling us that those days are over. We have to depend upon brute force, superstition and ancient revelation. Science is dangerous. Art is frightening. Education must be strictly circumscribed so that children aren't exposed to ideas that might lead them astray.

It's a pinched, sour, ugly vision of America. For those who believe that their time on earth is all about waiting for The Bridegroom, perhaps that doesn't mean much. But for the rest of us, things like scientific breakthroughs or artistic achievement are inspirational, soaring emotional connections with our country and our fellow man. It makes us proud. The dark-ages conservatives want to take that away from us.

Anger and civility. Can they work together? We'll see, I guess.

The Newest Moral Contraceptive



Is an aspirin held firmly between your legs, gals. For the next stage of the abstinence-only era is upon us: The targeted market has been extended to all the twenty-somethings:

he federal government's "no sex without marriage" message isn't just for kids anymore.

Now the government is targeting unmarried adults up to age 29 as part of its abstinence-only programs, which include millions of dollars in federal money that will be available to the states under revised federal grant guidelines for 2007.

The government says the change is a clarification. But critics say it's a clear signal of a more directed policy targeting the sexual behavior of adults.

"They've stepped over the line of common sense," said James Wagoner, president of Advocates for Youth, a Washington, D.C.-based non-profit that supports sex education. "To be preaching abstinence when 90% of people are having sex is in essence to lose touch with reality. It's an ideological campaign. It has nothing to do with public health."

Abstinence education programs, which have focused on preteens and teens, teach that abstaining from sex is the only effective or acceptable method to prevent pregnancy or disease. They give no instruction on birth control or safe sex.

The National Center for Health Statistics says well over 90% of adults ages 20-29 have had sexual intercourse.

But Wade Horn, assistant secretary for children and families at the Department of Health and Human Services, said the revision is aimed at 19- to 29-year-olds because more unmarried women in that age group are having children.

Wade Horn. The man who said what makes a family is a father. He is one of the Christianists, I bet, who have invaded the federal apparatus we used to call the government but which is now called the Religious Police Against Vice.

All this was clear from the beginning, by the way. The abstinence attack and the traditional marriage attack were not intended for just the teenagers and the poor respectively, but for all of us ultimately. Wingnuts have for decades practised an incremental approach to changing our whole lives into a Talibanish nightmare, with the hope that we are like the frog stuck in a saucepan which is then slowly heated to a boiling point. Frogs presumably get used to the rising temperature and never notice that they get boiled.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Playing Graph Games in Gender Wars



What has caused a reduction in the gender wage gap in the last two years? Among U.S. full-time workers women's wages are now a higher percentage of men's wages than ever before. Not reaching equality, mind you, and there certainly is no gender gap the other way round, but the gap has shrunk. The blog debate on this started with a post by Greg Mankiw in which he used this graph from the New York Times to show the behavior of the gender gap:





Graphs are fun to play with. Note the steepness of the curve which is intended to tell us how rapidly women's earnings are catching up with men's earnings. But if you look at the vertical axis more carefully, you will find that it has been stre-e-e-tched. Note where the vertical axis starts and where it ends.

That will help in making a steeply rising curve. What also helps is to use smaller units on the horizontal (essentially arbitrary-width) time axis than on the vertical percentage axis. It's easy to imagine making the same graph look much less steep with different choices. And do you still remember that the vertical axis ends before we get to equal earnings for full-time earners?

Are these choices intentional, you may wonder? Sometimes they are and sometimes they are not. But the important point to get is that the visual evidence from a graph is not necessarily a reliable reflection of the actual events.

Moving on from this graph to a different one. What caused the gender gap in wages to shrink? Sadly, the main reason is not one anybody would rejoice over: Men's wages have been recently falling at a higher rate than women's wages. Yes, Virginia, you can have equality at the bottom, too:






Here is the falling wages picture (left-click on it to make it bigger). Note that it includes an extrapolated segment into the future. Such segments are always dangerous to take seriously, and I caution you against doing so. Why? Because if we just extend any trendline which is not horizontal it will ultimately go out of the graph in one direction or the other, and usually the interpretation of that is nonsensical.

The graph uses a different vertical axis for the top curve (the wage gap) than for the other two earnings curves. The relevant axis for the top curve is on the right side, whereas the relevant axis for the two earnings curves is on the left side. That can be pretty confusing, too, as it's hard not to see the top curve somehow in relation to the other two.

Why would men's wages have fallen more rapidly? I think outsourcing is one important culprit here: the loss of fairly well-paying blue-collar jobs to other countries. The demise of the automobile towns and the mining towns and the steel-producing towns. Women are much more likely to be employed in the service industry and the jobs are slightly less outsourcable. Think of waitresses or hairdressers or dental hygienists.

Note also that these are full-time earners we are comparing here. Many more women work part-time in paid employment and part-time earnings are less per hour of work, not just in total numbers. If we included those earnings in the comparisons the gender gap would be a lot bigger.

As an aside, I hate the term "gender wars". Hate it with a red-hot hatred, because wanting fairness and equality between the sexes is poorly framed as a war-call, and because the very term "war" brings in connotations which are inappropriate for the proper understanding of the gender inequality in, say, much of Africa or Saudi Arabia, and because women, on the whole, don't see men as their enemies or regard feminism as a war. But some men do, as my earlier troll post shows.

On The Insurrection Act



Did you know that it's now much easier for the president to declare martial law in this country? Here's why:

In a stealth maneuver, President Bush has signed into law a provision which, according to Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont), will actually encourage the President to declare federal martial law (1). It does so by revising the Insurrection Act, a set of laws that limits the President's ability to deploy troops within the United States. The Insurrection Act (10 U.S.C.331 -335) has historically, along with the Posse Comitatus Act (18 U.S.C.1385), helped to enforce strict prohibitions on military involvement in domestic law enforcement. With one cloaked swipe of his pen, Bush is seeking to undo those prohibitions.

Public Law 109-364, or the "John Warner Defense Authorization Act of 2007" (H.R.5122) (2), which was signed by the commander in chief on October 17th, 2006, in a private Oval Office ceremony, allows the President to declare a "public emergency" and station troops anywhere in America and take control of state-based National Guard units without the consent of the governor or local authorities, in order to "suppress public disorder."

The Unitard Executive is getting stronger and stronger.

I saw this story only referenced on the angry lefty blogs, so I went out to seek some opposing commentary as a good blogger must do, and I found a conservative blog which argued that this change is caused by the lefties blaming Bush for not acting effectively in the case of the Katrina disaster. Now he can be effective, it seems, or at least totally unopposed. Which is a very scary thought.

Isn't it fascinating how everything bad is the fault of the powerless liberals and progressives? Everything. Iraq war is lost because of us. Fascism makes mousesteps forwards because of us. Even all Bush's errors are because he tries to rule like one of us. The only solution is to put the liberals and progressives in power. Then we can blame the conservatives who are not in power.

Today's Troll Thought



From my comments:

This is totally wrong! We still have plenty of good jobs in this country. The problem is that women are taking too many of them. We just don't have enough decent jobs to go around and we probably never will. Gender relations are all about economics and most guys will always resent a highly successful women because she's obviously a women who he's not financially qualified to have a relationship with. This is why most female CEO's never marry and never have children. Better to give the job to a guy so he can support a wife and kids.

Either America voluntarily returns to Christianity and a 1950's lifestyle or else our society is sure to implode into either a wide-spread gangsta rap style anarchy or else it will be absorbed by a fundamentalist Muslim takeover.

Men will always dominate women. The $24K question is, which race of men would you ladies prefer to be dominated by?

One Hundred



The number of American military personnel killed in Iraq in October 2006, and the month is not yet over. The dying is not over, either, and not only for the Americans in Iraq but much more so for the Iraqis who get killed for just being either Sunnis or Shias. For being alive, really. So much death, the smell of death and religion.

No god can gloat over all this dying.

Onwards, Christian Soldiers



Garry Wills has written an article on the partly hidden Christianistization of the federal government. Sorry about the monster word, but it's necessary to distinguish these folk from the more common type of Christians. The Christianists are a fairly odd type of Christians as they seem to ignore most everything Jesus ever said. But they are the ones who find George Bush an almost-winged messenger from God, and they are the ones who have been given all the jobs where the federal government might affect the lives of women, for example. Yes, my dear sisters. We are the meat that is served to the wingnuts, because our rights are dispensable.

Here is an example from Wills's article:

One of George W. Bush's first acts as president—in fact, on his first day in office, signaling its importance to his evangelical supporters—was to restore a gag rule on aid to international organizations that counsel women on the subject of abortion.[29] Though abortion is legal in the US, the President was able by executive decree to proscribe its mere discussion in other countries if they are to receive money for their population problems. This was just the beginning of the imposition of moral limits on health measures abroad. Though the President was praised for devoting millions of dollars to preventing and treating AIDS in Africa, 30 percent of that money was earmarked for promoting sexual abstinence, and none of it was for condoms.[30] Religion trumped medical findings on what is effective.

Domestically, too, $170 million were lavished on promoting a policy of "abstinence-only" in the schools during the year 2005 alone. The Centers for Disease Control removed from its Web site the findings of a panel that abstinence-only programs do not work. A study of the abstinence programs being financed by the federal government showed how little medical knowledge mattered, as opposed to moral dictation. As Chris Mooney writes in The Republican War on Science:

In evaluating the curricula of these programs, the report found that the vast majority exaggerated the failure rates of condoms, spread false claims about abortion's health risks (including mental health problems) and perpetuated sexual stereotypes.... Perhaps most outrageously, one curriculum even claimed that sweat and tears could transfer the HIV virus. You might think that this would be a fringe claim even on the Right, but Senate majority leader Bill Frist, himself a physician, repeatedly refused to repudiate the notion of such transmission in an interview with ABC's George Stephanopoulos.[31]

The religious right had for years been spreading the unfounded claim that abortion causes breast cancer. The National Cancer Institute had correctly reported that no study has proved such a thing, but twenty-seven pro-life members of Congress pressured the NCI to remove that from its on-line fact sheet.

Another concern of the religious right was the morning-after abortion pill. Bush put one of the pill's known opponents, David Hager, on the board of the Food and Drug Administration that was to decide whether that pill could be sold without a prescription. Though Hager voted with the minority of three on the board against over-the-counter sales of the pill, as opposed to a majority of twenty-four, he raised such a clamor about the danger of teenaged girls using it, increasing the pressure from the religious right, that the FDA refused to implement the board's decision. Hager gave himself and God the credit for this, telling an audience at an evangelical college in Kentucky:

I argued it from a scientific perspective, and God took that information, and he used it through this minority report [sic] to influence the decision. You don't have to wave your Bible to have an effect as a Christian in the public arena. We serve the greatest Scientist. We serve the Creator of all life.[32]

Remember what happened to David Hager later on? That's the sort of man who was deemed suitable to decide over women's health and well-being by the Christianists. But then a veterinarian was deemed suitable for the job, too.

All this makes me breathe fire. But in certain ways an anti-woman program was to be expected once wingnuts were in power. What I didn't really expect was the religious takeover of the Iraq occupation and its horrible consequences:

God's war needs God's warriors, and the White House was ready to supply them. Kay Coles James had been the White House personnel scout for domestic offices. The equivalent director of personnel for the Iraq Coalition Provisional Authority (headed by Catholic convert Paul Bremer) was the White House liaison to the Pentagon, James O'Beirne, a conservative Catholic married to National Revieweditor Kate O'Beirne. Those recruited to serve in the CPA were asked if they had voted for Bush, and what their views were on Roe v. Wade and capital punishment.[39] O'Beirne trolled the conservative foundations, Republican congressional staffs, and evangelical schools for his loyalist appointees. Relatives of prominent Republicans were appointed, and staffers from offices like that of Senator Rick Santorum. Right moral attitude was more important than competence.[40]

That was proved when the first director of Iraqi health services, Dr. Frederick Burkle, was dismissed. Burkle, a distinguished physician, was a specialist in disaster relief, with experience in Kosovo, Somalia, and Kurdish Iraq. His replacement, James Haverman, had run a Christian adoption agency meant to discourage women from having abortions. Haverman placed an early emphasis on preventing Iraqis from smoking, while ruined hospitals went untended. This may suggest the policy on appointments that put Michael Brown in charge of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, but the parallel is insufficiently harsh. Chris Matthews brought it up on his television show while interviewing the Washington Post reporter who had covered the CPA in Iraq, Rajiv Chandrasekaran, who said, "There were a hundred Browns in Iraq."[41] But there were Bible study groups in the Green Zone.

Bible study groups in the Green Zone... Notice the odd echo here. Fundamentalist religion clashing against fundamentalist religion. God clashing against God.

What would Jesus say about that, I wonder?

Stop the South Dakota Extremists





Sunday, October 29, 2006

Old Trick or Treat Chant

Soul cakes, soul cakes,
Give to us our soul cakes,
An apple, a pear,
A plum or a cherry,
Anything to make us merry.
Soul cakes, soul, cakes.....

Soul cakes are put out on the evening of Samhein to feed the spirits who come to visit that night.

Another version:

A soul, a soul, a soul cake.
Please good ma'm a soul cake.
An apple, a pear, a plum or a cherry,
Any good thing to make us merry.
Up with your kettles and down with your pans
Give us an answer and we'll be gone
Little Jack, Jack sat on his gate
Crying for butter to butter his cake
One for St. Peter, two for St. Paul,
Three for the man who made us all.
-----
In local French Canadian folklore around here it used to be important to get home before midnight on October 31. If you're still out making merry you'll run the risk of le feu follie burning you. There used to be stories about revelers who stayed out too late and were chased home to punish them for violating Tou' Sain' day. Some said they could show you where it burned their sabots just as they reached their door step.

IDEALS v. PRACTICALITY

The fight we all lose

Posted by olvlzl

T
here is nothing idealistic about insisting on ideals that have no chance of becoming reality right now and refusing to compromise on those ideals. People are dying now for lack of practical relief that a Democratic Congress would provide, even a compromised Democratic Congress. There is no good in ignoring death, disease, hunger ignorance and pollution while holding out for something purer in some glorious, remote future. The theoretical ideal might never be achieved and even if it could be, the lives of those who could be saved are here now. They need saving today. To insist on your ideals or principles instead of a compromise that is better than the status quo is to wager on their lives. Their lives aren't ours to bet with.

If you want to put it in stark terms, how many days are you willing to go without food for your political ideals? Are you willing to die when the odds might indicate that your ideals stand little chance of being achieved? If you imagine that you are willing to die then how many of your children are you willing to sacrifice on the same long odds? For a person facing starvation it isn't just a matter of their own life. Children are even more vulnerable than adults in most cases. If the answer is that you aren't willing to see yours die but you are prepared to take a chance on other peoples' children then you have to believe that yours are more worthy of life than people who you are betting on now. For us it's a matter of imagination. They are looking at the skulls of their children showing through their skin.

The all or nothing fixation, the worst kind of this idealism, is a form of self-satisfied preening. It has been with us for as long as one leftist could attain personal status by being the most leftist in the room. It has helped lead us into the disaster we find ourselves in today. And it has produced nothing. Nothing. Rigid, uncompromising and insistent idealism is sterile and useless in the real world. It would be better to call it what it really is, vanity.

The period of most rapid progress in the sixties was full of compromises, some clean, a lot of it pretty grimy but progress was made. The progress seems to have moved some on the left into the kind of competitive arrogance that leads to folly. The folly in this case was pretending that our individual interest groups were in a stronger position than they were. Saying so didn't make it true. We started demanding the premature delivery of the presently unobtainable and our politicians couldn't deliver. We started attacking them for not being able to do the impossible. And doing that is just plain nuts. Working coalitions with the center and among competing parts of the left fell apart. In reality were we were only as strong as the coalition based on compromises of ideals.

We all know that the other path of folly was the Vietnam war. As Martin Luther King pointed out, with spending for the war Democrats stopped being able to deliver incremental progress both for the poor and for the middle class. It might not be an accident that was when the Party began to lose support in the general population. The result was Richard Nixon and the rise of the far right. He had to deal with the old coalition and since he was most interested in playing his demented version of the great game he let it have some of the last of the great reforms it has put into law. But he also began the Supreme Court appointments that would doom many of those.

Amidst it all the rigid idealists presented the Republicans with a very useful tool. Republicans and their media, fixing on the most extreme of the radical idealists, made the rest of us into a cartoon. And the show liberals were gratified and encouraged. Even Phil Donahue who was supposed to be a liberal turned the word into a synonym for "flake". Conservatives have used this cartoon to deflect attention while they were ending the middle class, stealing everything they could for their wealthy patrons. Tricked by the media, the general population has adopted the lie to their own disadvantage, as has been pointed out many times before.

I will confess that I was taken in by idealist fundamentalism for a lot of that time. We were standing for the soundest of principles. To compromise our ideals was to betray them. Eventually, somehow, even as we faced repeated defeat, it would make us stronger to remain intransigent. Some of those hucksters have a mighty good act. But in the end it's producing results that is really idealistic.

The impatient left has been waiting for that glorious, instantaneous millennium to dawn for way too many lifetimes. The bodies of those who could have been helped by moderate assistance during that period is a pile too big to tell. Don't bother waiting any longer, it's never going to get here that way. We've never been farther from it in our lifetimes. The futile insistence on having it all now is a block to reaching those ideals. If some progress is made, incrementally edging closer to the final goal, the ideal stands a chance. If people who aren't on the left start seeing modest success instead of our present complete failure they might just think we're on to something. Especially if some of that success improves their lives. We might start building a larger coalition instead of seeing it shrinking all the time. The perfect really is the enemy of the good and it's also its own worst enemy.

So You Think It Doesn’t Matter Who Wins The Election Next Month?

Posted by olvlzl

Even more ominously, Philip Giraldi, a former CIA official, reported in The American Conservative a year ago that Vice President Cheney's office had directed contingency planning for "a large-scale air assault on Iran employing both conventional and tactical nuclear weapons" and that "several senior Air Force officers" involved in the planning were "appalled at the implications of what they are doing -- that Iran is being set up for an unprovoked nuclear attack -- but no one is prepared to damage his career by posing any objection."

Read this article by Daniel Ellsberg and tell me exactly why it doesn’t matter anymore.

There isn’t anything I can add to what he says about the plans to start a third Bush II war in Iran. I know what your response will be. “The Dems didn’t stop Iraq."

You don’t think it’s worth betting that the minority of Democrats who supported the invasion of Iraq might have learned a lesson from it that the Republicans never will? If you don’t think that’s a bet worth making in 2006, I have nothing to say to you.

I Read "Sisters"--- I Think

Posted by olvlzl

Remember when someone posted what was said to be Lynne Cheney's lesbian novel "Sisters" on the internet? It was back when this self-suppressed novel- and seldom has the term been more charitably assigned - was coming to light. Risking the need to wash out my eyes with soap afterwards I read it. I'm a sworn enemy of Lynn Cheney and her Kaffee Klatch of Kulture warriors of long standing.

Now I wish I'd saved it because it's nowhere to be seen. It disappeared shortly after. Not running to the five-hundred or so dollars a copy sold for at e-bay during that period it was the only way to see what the ultra-right-wing doyenne of Republican efforts to save Western culture might have produced by way of a lesbian romance.

I wasn't wowed. By the time I read the chapter entitled "Miracle Whip" I was certain that what was posted was a spoof. As spoof it wasn't bad, as serious writing, pee-ewwww!. But there were people who claimed it was the real thing, absent a paper copy who knows?

Today it's not only the book that isn't to be read but apparently it's the tome that dare not speak its name. On with Blitzer the other night, Lynne was mighty eager to change the topic to one of her cut and paste jobs instead.

But according to this story, you might get a chance to see it on the boards.

Lynne Cheney's still-remembered 1981 lesbian romance novel, "Sisters," was feted Monday night in a special performance by the "Lynne Cheney Players" - to the delight of an audience of liberal East Village types.

Yeah, I know it's Lloyd Groves. But it is fun. Notice this:

Choice scenes adapted from "Sisters" included one in which two female characters write to each other: "Let us go away together, away from the anger and the imperatives of men. We shall find ourselves a secluded bower where they dare not venture. There will be only the two of us, and we shall linger through long afternoons of sweet retirement."

One of Cheney's characters swoons to a Sapphic love letter: "How well her words describe our love - or the way it would be if we could remove all impediments, leave this place, and join together ... Then our union would be complete. Our lives would flow together, twin streams merging into a single river."

Maybe the book was intended as a lesbian turn off. How else would you explain a right-wing, cultural tattle-tale writing something like this?