Saturday, December 02, 2006

Retrospective View of a Narrowly Averted Sandbagging

Posted by olvlzl.

When she appointed Silvestre Reyes to head the House Intelligence Committee Nancy Pelosi didn’t please everyone, some on blog threads complained about him being too conservative, I, frankly, don’t know. What was clear is that she had masterfully solved the Harman-Hastings controversy that had been cooked up by a media obviously set on destroying her effectiveness in governing the House. And it is more than slightly plausible that Harman had played a hand in promoting the “scandal” as a means of getting herself appointed by setting up a weak alternative in Hastings.

This piece from Thursday has some information that I’d managed to miss in all the junk about it, including this eye opener:

UPDATE: Not that any more are required, but one should add to the pile of myths and falsehoods fueling this story the notion that Pelosi was "denying" Harman her natural and rightful place as Chair, or "demoting" her or pushing her aside. In fact, the House Intelligence Committee -- in addition to having unique non-seniority rules -- also has unique term-limit rules, limiting members to no more than four terms in a six term period.

Harman had met the term limits, and thus, rather than having some entitlement to become Chair, Harman was hoping that Pelosi would, in essence, break or waive the rules in order to appoint her. Pelosi did not go out of her way to "deny" Harman what would have been her rightful place, the central assumption of most of the anti-Pelosi commentary. The opposite is true: Pelosi would have had to invoke unusual steps in order to appoint Harman as Chair.

In the two attempts at turning Nancy Pelosi into damaged good, this and the Majority Leader contest there is the same MO that the media used with Clinton, turn nothing into scandals, declare observance of the rules to be illegitimate, report rumor as if it was fact...

While I am certain that Nancy Pelosi is smarter than her enemies in the press, they outnumber her and they’ve got the mic. Without our support for her efforts the corporate media can destroy her and, most importantly, stop the efforts to defeat George Bush and the massively corrupt Republican Party. It’s going to be hard enough just to keep the Jane Harman’s in the party from blindsiding her. But maybe Nancy Pelosi is showing them that she won't cave in to that kind of intimidation.

Imagining Arizona Dranes c. 1905-?

Posted by olvlzl.

Arizona Dranes was a blind, African-Mexican American, Pentecostalist* singer and piano player from Dallas. She was featured on about 16 sides in the 1920s and accompanied groups on a few others the last of which dates from 1928. That is the extent of her recording career. She is known to have performed in Pentecostalist circles until 1947 when she abruptly disappears from documentation. Some believe she died in the 60s. The scant handful of miscellaneous facts about her live, her education at the Texas Institute for Deaf, Dumb and Blind Colored Youth in Austin and her playing piano for the Church of God in Christ don’t add much to our knowledge of her life. Whatever else that was, it wasn’t a climb to the top of the music business.

But listening to her recordings **, all made when she was in her twenties, it is clear that she was an unusually talented musician with a powerful and fluent piano style. Jerry Lee Lewis could have learned a thing or two from her. Her singing was vigorous and entirely unafraid. The diction is what you would expect from someone trained in the elocution of the period, clear and refined. I might not believe the message but this is the real thing, music of total conviction.

We can assume that Arizona Dranes must have thought about the musical world outside of Pentacostalism. She clearly knew the positively irreligious “barrel house style” which supplies a lot of the rhythms and techniques she sanctified in her gospel music. It is likely that she could have had more success and a real recording career if she had been willing to play secular music or to play in venues beside churches and revivals. Sr. Rosetta Tharp, who some say was influenced by Arizona Dranes, took that path and had a long and successful career that extended to New York and Europe.

The temptation is to regret that Arizona Dranes didn’t do the same thing, to believe that her beliefs, as much as the bigotry she faced, robbed her of success. Though possible that might not be true. Her life was undoubtedly limited by bigotry towards her ethnicity, her gender and her blindness but maybe it wasn’t limited by a choice to remain “in the church.” Maybe like Emily Dickinson, Arizona Dranes chose from the options available to her the one which seemed to offer what she wanted. Dickinson almost certainly wouldn’t have produced her work without her unmarried isolation. Maybe Arizona Dranes found something that doesn’t show up in the documents, some source of light or purity that those of us who aren’t Pentecostalist don’t see, maybe it was the best available career choice.

Her life might look like it was sacrificed to a rigid and limited sect but it is condescending to think that a woman of her obvious intelligence and will wouldn’t have been capable of making her own decisions. There isn’t any evidence that she compromised her dignity.

* I believe this is the Pentecostalism of the Azusa Street Revival of William Joseph Seymour which, though quite conservative, held to a level of racial and gender equality which were revolutionary for the time. It was one of the few religious sects in that period which had women preachers. Maybe given the facts of the world she lived in, Arizona Dranes was as free as she could hope to be within it’s confines. We can’t know, we can only hear what is there to be heard.

**Complete recordings by her and other early gospel singers are on:
Spreading The Word, Early Gospel Recordings JPS7733

You can hear some sound clips here and here. Note: I’m on dial up so I haven’t actually tried these.

Roberts, Alito, Thomas, Scalia,

See, hear, speak and think no evil of industry.
or, Don't bother me with the facts.

Posted by olvlz.

It would be hard to imagine a more serious problem than global warming, the subject of this fact based column by Derrick Z. Jackson.

Just moments after James Milkey, Massachusetts assistant attorney general, opened his statement on how the state "will be hit particularly hard" by rising oceans, Scalia pounced on him with: "I thought that the standing requires imminent harm. If you haven't been harmed already, you have to show the harm is imminent. Is this harm imminent?"

Milkey responded, "It is, your honor. We have shown that the sea levels are already occurring from the current amounts of greenhouse gases in the air, and that means it is only going to get worse as the . . ."

Scalia interrupted again with, "When? I mean, when is the predicted cataclysm?"

Jackson then goes on to point out that the duck-killing "justice" should learn more about his hobby. Will he? It is unlikely. The case will be decided by whatever Anthony Kennedy decides to do. It is entirely possible that the future of the biosphere depends on what he has for breakfast the day the "justices" vote.

In the Globe's Quotes of Note sidebar there is this quote from Al Gore:

"In the arguments, Justice Scalia said, 'I'm not a scientist, I don't want to deal with global warming." I just wish he felt that way about presidential elections."

Also read Jackson's recent columns in an ongoing series about the real Martin Luther King. The great one who really lived, not the innocuous myth.

Crime And Blandishment

Posted by olvlzl.

Yesterday in a discussion on Hullabaloo of the too late and too partial enlightenment of the pro-war liberals about Iraq, the proposal was made that there should be real consequences, professional and social, to having called for what was so plainly an illegal, unprovoked, unwise and just plain stupid war. Ok, I said it. Usually it’s the punishment of policy makers but here it’s a member of the clerical class, the press. In response, I was accused by one of Josh Marshall’s defenders of calling for those of insufficient doctrinal purity to be lined up against the wall, as is charged against the communists in the Spanish Civil War. Don’t you wish that the Orwell fad would pass? Who ever thought reading that dyspeptic contrarian, good for all excuses, would unhinge so much of the center-left? What I had advised was that if they wanted to redeem themselvs they should quit the centers of corruption in DC and go do some fact-based reporting away from the temptations of the insider world. Temptations they apparently can’t resist.

While it is true that Marshall is far, far from the worst of the media I just can’t get over that big and growing pile of corpses, the wards full of the maimed, those maimed who don’t have access to hospitals because they are chuck in the middle of a horrible civil war, their suffering families. In order to explain my eagerness to see that there be real consequences for what people of influence write let me pose this thought experiment.

Say that instead of supporting the invasion of Iraq these pro-war liberals had been caught red-handed, plagiarizing a column about baseball. What are the consequences for this crime against words? The career and social penalties for someone guilty of stealing words run from temporary banishment to total and lifetime damnation. Race, gender, past-profitability and political persuasion being the usual mitigating factors.

Shouldn’t the promotion of the disastrous invasion of Iraq, helping to bring about the entirely unnecessary and futile carnage and the fully predicted spreading regional disaster, carry a heavier penalty than paying an author the compliment of stealing their words? I can tell you from experience that sloppy punctuation on a blog thread carries more of an onus than promoting this war has for most of it’s supporters.

You pro-invasion liberals, don’t you think you should take some time off and ponder your folly? At the very least, shouldn’t you go back and study what the side that turned out to be right had to say about it during the run up? Don’t bother with sappy, self-interested contrition, that’s useless and it’s gotten old. You want respect, you’re going to have to earn it. Forget your ambitions, that’s what led you to where you are now. Try the facts, they’re not heavily rewarded but they are what will turn out to be real in the end.

Don't Bother Milton, The World Hath No Need of Thee

Posted by olvlzl.

The short burst of adulation at the death of Milton Friedman was overly polite, hardly mentioning his association with Chilean fascism. He’d been smart enough to send some of his boys to do the dirty work, though it was under Pinochet that some of his more stridently held views got a try out. The favorite of those among conservatives is the pension system. That it has not turned out to not provide the boon that it’s admirers here continue to pretend it does hasn’t gone unnoticed in, now democratic, Chile. You can read this piece in The Guardian, which shows that Friedman’s only lasting achievement in the real world was one he was deeply ashamed of, witholding taxes.

Failure in the real world isn’t, of course, any bar to the establishment’s hagiography industry. Here in the United States an academic who has told the rich and powerful what they wanted to hear, didn’t get into trouble with his more powerful colleagues and, especially, who was successfully sold in the pop media is assured a place in the grand pyramid of hype. Friedman will, officially, be a genius for quite a while to come.

A more interesting view of his Chicago School style is held in this piece by Christopher Hayes, describing his experience while taking an Intro to Econ. class in the Vatican of neo-classical economics. His description of what he learned there should force a change in name, this program of dogma and theology isn’t neoclassic, it’s neo-scholastic. Most interesting to me is the section in which he describes the appeal of the system.

As taught by Sanderson, economics is a satisfyingly neat machine: complicated enough to warrant curiosity and discovery, but not so complicated as to bewilder. Like a bicycle, input matches output (wind the crank and the wheel moves), and once you've got the basics of the model down, everything seems to make sense.

He goes on to say that so much of the money babble in the media became comprehensible to him because he had learned the patter of the system, the lingo of this branch of the trivium. Marketplace and the Wall Street Journal became understandable. You can imagine that the beginning student in Thomist Philosophy or even quasi-religious, official system experiencing a similar thrill as the scales fell away and they beheld the majesty of their ticket to the easy life as a cog in the machine. Not the key to the universe exactly, to the university. Or at least tenure. This next paragraph in Hayes’ article holds not just for economics but for most of the social sciences:

The simple models have an explanatory power that is thrilling. Once you've grasped the aggregate supply/aggregate demand model, you understand why stimulating demand may lead, in the short run, to growth, but will also produce inflation. But the content of that understanding turns out to be a bit thin. Inflation happens because, well, that's where the lines intersect. "A little economics can be a dangerous thing," a friend working on her Ph.D in public policy at the U. of C. told me. "An intro econ course is necessarily going to be superficial. You deal with highly stylized models that are robbed of context, that take place in a world unmediated by norms and institutions. Much of the most interesting work in economics right now calls into question the Econ 101 assumptions of rationality, individualism, maximizing behavior, etc. But, of course, if you don't go any further than Econ 101, you won't know that the textbook models are not the way the world really works, and that there are tons of empirical studies out there that demonstrate this."

The damned empirical world, always marring the beautiful and simple thing. But for most people Econ. 101 is farther than they'll ever go. For them a small collection of slogans. As in the most famous model, they can still believe the earth is the center of the solar system, the real world isn't allowed to filter into the more popular areas of the media or political speeches. If anyone has seen any evidence of the real world in the Bush II regime or the cabloid media, it’s just a mirage.

The problem isn’t that reality isn’t known, it’s that like any late stage empire, the system and it’s rotting foundations are what are really important to those who hope to plunder the ship as it beaches. The scribes and praise singers don’t really believe what they’re writing, they just want their efforts to pay the most. That’s why they do what they do. How long do you think “Market Place” would stay on public radio if they focused on the worsening position of most people under the system we have now? How many working class people do you know who are better off after deregulation and open markets? I don't know a single one, not one. No money, no influence.

And it isn't just the working class and the destitute that lose from the agreed to lie of conservative economics. As we watch the disaster of global warming, pollution and overpopulation becoming real around us, remember that Friedman was a total opponent to environmental regulation. Looks like he got out just in time, doesn’t it.

Friday, December 01, 2006

The AIDS Quilt

I saw parts of it yesterday. The real shock is when you start reading and studying the individual quilt squares, the longing and the grief and the celebration of lives which were cut too short. And the enormous amount of creative energy that just floods out of the quilts. I cried.

Today is the World AIDS Day. We have grown used to AIDS, we are no longer frightened to death by it, just because people with AIDS can now live longer if they get the right medications. But in many parts of the world the medications are not available, and AIDS is still the greatest human catastrophy happening right now.

This is what we have to juggle with, the enormity of the problem on the one hand and the acute personal grief of each death caused by AIDS on the other, a patchwork quilt in some odd dimension. It is difficult to keep both in view at the same time, and losing sight of one distorts the way the problem should be treated. Yes, AIDS is a giant which eats people like popcorn. Yes, AIDS is the death of a young woman (left herself a widow by it) in Africa, leaving her children parentless and possibly infected themselves, leaving the grandparents or older siblings responsible for more and more children, causing many children to end up careless altogether, on the streets. But also: Yes, we can starve this giant if we really want to. I hope we want to.

Aphrodite Blogging

Just some pictures of the beach where she was born:

Thanks to PJ

From The Mouths Of Little Girls With Leopard-Spotted Gloves

This video has been making the rounds. It's the handiwork of Bastard Fairies, and I originally saw it on Brilliant at Breakfast, but I stole it from Watertiger.

Rush Limbaugh

Here is the loverboy of the wingnuts going on about the majority of the human race:

From the November 30 broadcast of Premiere Radio Networks' The Rush Limbaugh Show:

LIMBAUGH: My cat -- here's how you can get fooled. My cat comes to me when she wants to be fed. I have learned this. I accept it for what it is. Many people in my position would think my cat's coming to me because she loves me. Well, she likes me, and she is attached, but she comes to me when she wants to be fed. And after I feed her -- guess what -- she's off to wherever she wants to be in the house, until the next time she gets hungry. She's smart enough to know she can't feed herself. She's actually a very smart cat. She gets loved. She gets adoration. She gets petted. She gets fed. And she doesn't have to do anything for it, which is why I say this cat's taught me more about women, than anything my whole life. But we put voices in their mouths.

Bolds mine.

My rule about insulting people is that I try not to do that, except in self-defence, and then all stops are pulled. So here it goes:

Rush Limbaugh is something that accidentally crawled out of the primal slime. Accidentally, because his bits and pieces never fit quite right and he never lost the fat and swollen shape of a slimeball. Accidentally, because whatever might have created the slime in the first place forgot to insert a few human codifiers into this particular gunk of stinky snot, things such as conscience, empathy and manners. Or the ability to ever get it up except by looking at torture pictures or snaps of Big Macs.

Rush Limbaugh is an ugly, self-centered, addicted piece of crap. I bet he eats his own dingleberries during those long and lonely nights when none of his ex-wives will talk to him when he calls to whine.

The Arid Land Of Politically Correct Debate

Or translated into a juicier language: Gimme sterility or gimme cunt. All this is in reference to some thoughts I've had today on the question whether the price of trying to avoid sexist and racist slurs is the death of all full-blooded and flavorful writing. Jane Hamsher, quoted in Shakespeare's Sister's blog post (with Sis's views on the topic which you should read), thinks that this might be the case:

Jane doesn't want FDL to become "a slave to the PC language police who want to mau-mau it into sterility by throwing around loaded and innacurate [sic] race- and gender-baiting accusations," which I understand, because I use both the word whore and the word cunt—and have defended their use on multiple occasions. But there are ways to use words and there are ways to use words—and knowing the difference, rooting out the subversive context from that which simply perpetuates oppression, is not enslaving oneself to language police; it's doing the basic work required of someone who wants to be edgy, rather than a retrofuck jackhole.

FDL is Firedoglake, Jane's blog, and what Jane is talking about in that quote is something that many people say: If we start policing language to avoid insulting particular groups, what sort of a language do we have left? An amputated one, with no lips and half a heart? Or something that sounds like one of those summaries you get on the medical studies they've done on your prescription pills (studies lasting for two months, by the way, while you take the stuff for fifteen years and recently find red horns growing on your forehead, but sure, the stuff is safe as it has been tested).

The fear some people (and almost all wingnuts) have is that language loses its evocative power and its rich history if we limit ourselves to only non-insulting terms. And that might be a real risk if language never evolved, if new smears (such as "asshat") were not invented all the time and if they never replaced older ones. But the evocative power of words such as "cunt" is something that I don't enjoy: to be reminded of how much some people detest my gender and my sexual organs. Likewise, the "rich" history of words such as "nigger" is a history of oppression and treating blacks as inferiors. Funny, by the way, how most people have stopped using "nigger" as a slur, at least in public arenas, but losing the use of "cunt" somehow causes a lot more debate about historical losses. This is probably further evidence of the greater unacceptability of open racism when compared to open sexism.

Shakespeare's Sister makes an interesting point in her post about this topic, and that is this one:

Sometimes in the past I have used cunt as an insult. (When CNN invited Ann Coulter to comment on the 2004 presidential debates, I sniffed, "I didn't realize they had officially transformed into the Cunt News Network.") I'm not defending it; I can't. If someone had called me on it, they'd have been right, because, let's face it, I love using the word that way. I love its power to demean so neatly, so economically, and so completely. It has so much gorgeous power that it's almost irresistible. And any argument I tried to use to defend my right to call someone a cunt—not ironically, not as a compliment—would be total and complete bullshit. I wouldn't possibly try to claim that using it that way isn't nasty, when the reason I love it is because it is.

So I know damn well if I call someone a cunt to demean them, I'm going to get taken the woodshed, and rightfully so, and if I try to rationalize it, I'm full of shit. There it is.

In other words, if you insist on calling someone a cunt, you better realize how it reads to many and you better accept the reactions your use of the word will cause. It's not sufficient to deny those reactions or to accuse the other person of political correctness or lack of humor or picking on trivial stuff. Because words like "cunt" are heavy artillery and they are misogynistic. If that is what you want to use, go ahead. But don't hide behind something much flimsier when the counterbarrage starts.

Still, I can see gradations in the use of sexist slurs. To say that "person x is a cunt because of acts a, b and c" is slightly different from saying that "x is a cunt because all women are". The misogyny in the last comment is more obvious, though I'm uncertain whether it's less pernicious. Something so openly woman-hating is easier to defend against, inside the mind, as if it were, than something more indirect.

I believe that debate doesn't have to become arid if we try to avoid words that have a history of demeaning women or minorities or other groups which have traditionally been demeaned. It just takes a little bit more creativity to coin new terms for insults if that's what you wish to do, and it's always possible just to describe the evil acts of x and to leave the judging of x to the reader or listener. In any case, politically correct debate is something quite different from what I described in the previous two sentences, if we regard "politically correct" as that which flatters the groups in political power. That's how I view the term, and it would be a pity if my evocative and rich interpretation of it was denied.

Being A Fly On The Wall At The Supreme Court

It is not fun, at all, because the fly finds out how emotional these guys can be when deciding on matters that affect all our lives. Here is Scalia on the case about Bush administration's refusal to regulate emissions of greenhouse gases in new vehicles:

Milkey faced skeptical questioning from Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr., the court's newest members, but the most sustained -- and entertaining -- interrogation came from Scalia.

At one point, he acknowledged the role of carbon dioxide as a pollutant in the air but wondered about it being a pollutant in the "stratosphere."

"Respectfully, Your Honor, it is not the stratosphere. It's the troposphere," Milkey said.

"Troposphere, whatever. I told you before I'm not a scientist," Scalia said to laughter. "That's why I don't want to have to deal with global warming, to tell you the truth."

For a second there I imagined how this quote would be taken if Scalia's first name was Antonia. Can you hear the screaming about women being genetically unable to understand science? How they shouldn't be judges, if they can't take the heat in the kitchen? Oh well, Scalia is not a woman so his expression doesn't matter.

Except that it shows an odd initial prejudice by a Supreme Court Justice.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

How To Wreck A Government In Three Easy Steps

This is going to be my best-selling book some day, though it could also be titled All I Need To Know I Learned From The Bush Administration, because it was this administration which taught me how to get a government into a state ready to be drowned in a bathtub as Grover Norquist so famously expressed the innermost desires of many wingnuts. Either way, the three steps you need to take are these:

1. Start a few wars so that you will be a wartime administration. It is unpatriotic and treasonous to criticize a wartime administration. This gives you time for the wrecking operation. If the time is insufficient, point out that it is unpatriotic and treasonous not to re-elect a wartime administration.

2. For each Department, find people who absolutely loathe the stated tasks of the department, and then appoint them to run it. This "fox in the chicken coop" principle works beautifully, as can be seen in what has been done to the Environmental Protection Agency and to the Department of Health and Human Services. Or with any appointment having to do with women's rights. Now, this is quite likely to be enough to make a mess of most things the government is supposed to perform but if it isn't, there's always the third step:

3. Get rid of the civil service. Dan Zegart has written a how-to article about this in the Nation (available only to subscribers). The steps consist of exploiting the 9/11 tragedy to get rid of much of the protection unionization awards and then to get rid of career workers to the greatest extent possible. This has two big pluses: First, it removes experience and skills and makes the government less efficient, and, second, it gives more openings to stark-crazy wingnuts in important positions. And the beauty of this all is that the new appointees will be around even if a Democratic administration is elected at some future point! So very clever.

What do you think of this plan? There is a fourth step, in reality, which is to harvest all the money you possibly can out of the government, but books with an even number of steps don't sell unless you get to at least ten steps...

Bid Often, Bid High

The Center for New Words (where women's words matter) is holding an online auction to finance their work. You can bid on truly wonderful things, including the chance of having Katha Pollitt edit your manuscript! Check out the list here, and bid. It's for a very good cause.

Damn. I offered an embroidery for the auction last year but they never took me up on it. Perhaps the losing bid could get my embroidery and that way people would bid very high.

The S-P War Plan

Bill O'Reilly, the gleamy-eyed conservative pundit, has declared war on what he calls the S-P's, or the secular-progressives. He knows what these frightening people want for America, and one thing they (or we?) want is lots of children born out of wedlock:

From the November 27 edition of Westwood One's The Radio Factor with Bill O'Reilly:

O'REILLY: A couple of wins in the culture war, but there's also a couple of losses too. A couple of things happened that are very disturbing, including out-of-wedlock birth in the USA at record highs, which the S-Ps want. You gotta understand the thinking here. We're gonna get into that as well.

Someone forgot to send me the details on exactly why we secular-progressives would want all children to be born outside marriage. But then I'm not very high up in the hierarchy of this frightening fifth column.

All joking aside, I detest it when O'Reilly defines my movement goals for me. He is not even in the movement. And his argument is very similar to someone complaining about the anti-slavery movement of the nineteenth century by saying that their goal is to destroy the agricultural industry of the South, NOT in any sense of comparing marriage to slavery (though some extreme forms of marriage are not that different from slavery in some parts of this world) but in the sense of turning the goals of a movement upside down and picking one possible side-effect of it as the pretended goal.

I'm not that convinced that the number of children born outside marriage has much to do with any liberal or progressive policies in the first place, but if it does it is to do with the movements which tried to make marriages more equal and bad marriages easier to leave. - The reason why I remain unconvinced of this is that the rise in unmarried births is largely among the women in their twenties, and many of these women are not actually single but living together with the father of the child. It is perhaps the definition of marriage itself that is changing. In particular, living together is becoming something very much like marriage, and it is treated like that by others, too, though perhaps not by Bill O'Reilly.

O'Reilly's war is for the patriarchal type of marriage, one in which the husband is the head of the household. This is why all other types of partnership, including same-sex marriages, are seen as an assault on marriage, and this is why living together without a formal marriage ceremony is not acceptable. It's good to be clear on this, don't you think? If O'Reilly can define the goals of the S-P movement I can define his goals.

What is fascinating about the wingnut reverence of marriage is that it takes something which is an organization and puts its welfare (which is impossible to define in reality) ahead of the welfare of the individuals belonging to it. So we talk about the "family" as suffering, never asking whether each member of that family is suffering, and we talk about the "family" as thriving, usually ignoring whether the mother thrives at all. But then the conservatives regard firms as individuals with rights, too.

George Will And Journamalism

A little incident between President Bush and the newly electred Democratic Senator Jim Webb took place a few days ago:

At a recent White House reception for freshman members of Congress, Virginia's newest senator tried to avoid President Bush. Democrat James Webb declined to stand in a presidential receiving line or to have his picture taken with the man he had often criticized on the stump this fall. But it wasn't long before Bush found him.

"How's your boy?" Bush asked, referring to Webb's son, a Marine serving in Iraq.

"I'd like to get them out of Iraq, Mr. President," Webb responded, echoing a campaign theme.

"That's not what I asked you," Bush said. "How's your boy?"

"That's between me and my boy, Mr. President," Webb said coldly, ending the conversation on the State Floor of the East Wing of the White House.

George Will, a conservative columnist wrote about it like this:

Will writes:

Wednesday's Post reported that at a White House reception for newly elected members of Congress, Webb "tried to avoid President Bush," refusing to pass through the reception line or have his picture taken with the president. When Bush asked Webb, whose son is a Marine in Iraq, "How's your boy?" Webb replied, "I'd like to get them [sic] out of Iraq." When the president again asked "How's your boy?" Webb replied, "That's between me and my boy."

Will says the episode demonstrates Webb's "calculated rudeness toward another human being" -- i.e., the President -- who "asked a civil and caring question, as one parent to another."

This is what can be called journamalism. Will omitted the crucial sentence in the actual conversation, the one that made Webb's answer into something else than calculated rudeness, the sentence that would probably have made almost anyone in Webb's shoes to be at least a little pissed off.

Now here is the real problem in reading just people from one side of the political spectrum. The message can become distorted in the process of being attacked from a partisan angle, and the changes are not always quite as deliberate-seeming as here.

George Will is one of the people who got me interested in American politics, by the way. I was waiting for a plane or a train and started reading a newspaper someone had left behind. It had a column by Will and that column bashed people just like me in a way which was mean-spirited and uncalled-for, especially as the group had done nothing wrong or nothing illegal. So Will gave me my virgin flight in identity politics, and I have never forgotten that. Heh.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

The Moustache Of Understanding

Aka Thomas Friedman. He may just have the deftest ability in the whole wide world of mixing metaphors. The most recent example of this comes in a column where he gives the United States either ten months or ten years in Iraq, depending on whether the goal is just to get out without losing face or whether the goal is to create a functioning state (never mind a democracy).

Anyway, Friedman repeats his old Pottery Barn metaphor. He is quite proud of it, I think, so here it is, again:

On Feb. 12, 2003, before the war, I wrote a column offering what I called my "pottery store" rule for Iraq: "You break it, you own it." It was not an argument against the war, but rather a cautionary note about the need to do it with allies, because transforming Iraq would be such a huge undertaking. (Colin Powell later picked up on this and used the phrase to try to get President Bush to act with more caution, but Mr. Bush did not heed Mr. Powell's advice.)

But my Pottery Barn rule was wrong, because Iraq was already pretty broken before we got there — broken, it seems, by 1,000 years of Arab-Muslim authoritarianism, three brutal decades of Sunni Baathist rule, and a crippling decade of U.N. sanctions. It was held together only by Saddam's iron fist. Had we properly occupied the country, and begun political therapy, it is possible an American iron fist could have held Iraq together long enough to put it on a new course. But instead we created a vacuum by not deploying enough troops.

Did you think it clever, too? Then you will appreciate the ending of his latest column:

This has left us with two impossible choices. If we're not ready to do what is necessary to crush the dark forces in Iraq and properly rebuild it, then we need to leave — because to just keep stumbling along as we have been makes no sense. It will only mean throwing more good lives after good lives into a deeper and deeper hole filled with more and more broken pieces.


I need to get more sleep. I'm getting grumpy.


It may just be the last illness one is allowed to make jokes about in the blogosphere. At least I read a lot of anorexia jokes in the comments threads, and the point is always how not eating is really stupid. Or how unattractive an anorexic body really is. Or how funny it is that anorexics think themselves still too fat.

It's an odd attitude, reminiscent of the way mental hospitals used to be seen as entertainment in long past times. Anorexia is an illness and those who suffer from it can't just snap out of it or suddenly start thinking weight gaining is a good thing. And anorexia can kill:

Beautiful Ana Carolina Reston from Brazil died from complications of anorexia on November 14. She was only 21 and the second model to die from this insidious disease in the last two weeks.

I will post more on this topic later.

On Women And Babies

I read two quite different articles last night and they interbred in my mind to create quite a horrible baby. Or so I think.

The first article was a rehash of the need for all fecund women to get preconception care the whole length of their fertile lives. Not, mind you, for the sake of the hypothetical babies that might be planned for some other decade of the woman's life, but for her own sake. For her own sake, yes, but not really. The care has to be linked to her role as a potential mother.

Not so for men, though they are reminded to stay away from sexually transmitted diseases and toxins known to cause birth defects. But they don't get preconception care. And their obesity is their own business. They appear to have no role as a potential father. For instance, the article quotes smoking cessation as something women should do long before they plan to get pregnant, but fails to mention what men should do about smoking before fatherhood strikes.

Ah, you say, but surely it is the biological differences between the sexes that causes this freedom or neglect of men by the medical establishment. Perhaps. But I doubt the number of researchers studying the impact of fathers' behavior on their future children's health is very large. Have we thoroughly studied all the different ways that fathers might affect their future children's health?

We have always regarded babies as mostly women's business, but the women responsible for babies were the mothers. Feminists used to write about the need to get fathers more involved and for more societal support for mothers. And what do we get? Something very weird: the concept of healthy babies is now the responsibility of all women from the first period to menopause. For that is the length of time women are told to need preconception care.

I don't think that the biological difference in the reproductive roles of men and women is sufficient to explain the tilt in the story, however subtle it is (after lots of angry writing on feminist websites, it has gotten subtler). I think the different emphasis has more to do with the way we define public space in reproduction. Some bodies are seen as town halls, to be kept pristine and safe, some as private dives where you can do what you please.

And this brings me to the second article, I read, via Pandagon (where Amanda admirably dissects it): a piece by Mark Steyn titled "Quartet of ladies shows where we are headed". A snippet from it:

Have you seen a movie called ''Four Jills In A Jeep''? Don't worry, it's not at the multiplex. It came out in 1944. A wartime movie, about the contribution of the gals to the big existential struggle. Great title, and downhill after that. This column is, metaphorically speaking, four Jills in a jeep: It's about a quartet of ladies who provide useful glimpses of where we're heading.

The first is Fatma An-Najar, a 64-year-old grandmother who had a livelier Thanksgiving than most grandmas. She marked the occasion by self-detonating in the town of Jebaliya, and, although all she had to show for splattering body parts over the neighborhood were three "lightly wounded" Israeli soldiers, she will have an honored place in the pantheon of Palestinian heroes. She was, according to the official statistician from the Hamas Book Of Records, the oldest Palestinian suicide bomber ever. And, naturally, her family's pleased as punch.


An-Najar gave birth to her first child at the age of 12. She had eight others. She had 41 grandchildren. Keep that family tree in mind. By contrast, in Spain, a 64-year old woman will have maybe one grandchild. That's four grandparents, one grandchild: a family tree with no branches.

Which brings me to our second Jill: the new Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, Katharine Jefferts Schori, the first woman to run a national division of the Anglican Communion. Bishop Kate gave an interview to the New York Times revealing what passes for orthodoxy in this most flexible of faiths. She was asked a simple enough question: "How many members of the Episcopal Church are there?"

"About 2.2 million," replied the presiding bishop. "It used to be larger percentage-wise, but Episcopalians tend to be better educated and tend to reproduce at lower rates than other denominations."

This was a bit of a jaw-dropper even for a New York Times hackette, so, with vague memories of God saying something about going forth and multiplying floating around the back of her head, a bewildered Deborah Solomon said: "Episcopalians aren't interested in replenishing their ranks by having children?"

"No," agreed Bishop Kate. "It's probably the opposite. We encourage people to pay attention to the stewardship of the earth and not use more than their portion."

You get the idea. These women are named Jill and there are two more Jills in the story. Women are interchangeable and women are responsible for making babies for their tribe. Men have nothing to do with babies, except that they demand either more or less of them, it seems. The people responsible for babies and for civilizations are Jills. And Jills, or "a quartet of ladies" are showing where we are heading, which is a race suicide by the whites, because of feminism and women who refuse to mate with Mark Steyn, I presume, and an excess of...Muslims? Muslims are not a race, of course. But then the Muslim women have a lot of babies and that makes Steyn full of envy.

I told you it wasn't pretty. I'm muddling through this topic, I know. It is at the same time so very obvious and also very slippery, and that is one reason why I mixed up the two pieces, one very neutral and fairly acceptable and the other pretty clearly biased. Because they are both about how to make women behave.

Deep Thought For The Day

By the Environmental Protection Agency, EPA:

EPA officials concluded that a pesticide, when it's deliberately applied, isn't a "pollutant" under the terms of the 1972 Clean Water Act. Consequently, after considering nearly 700 public comments, officials ruled that federal "discharge" permits aren't necessary when using pesticides to control waterborne pests.

Ok. So if I accidentally-like spill some weedkiller on the ground I pollute, but if I calmly and deliberately spray it on someone's face I'm not polluting? Just kidding, I know what the statement means.

But what it also means is that we have an agency with a name having something to do with protecting the environment but which does mostly the exact opposite, and that is quite hilarious in a sinister and mean way.

I don't write enough on the environment. This is partly because there are other blogs doing it much better than I can, but also partly, because I get so very angry when I try to write on it. I garden, and I keep a garden diary which clearly shows the effect of global warming on my little plot of Eden, the global warming which wingnuts say doesn't exist. That is not what makes me angry, though. What makes me angry is the whole idea that there is this thing called the "environment", something totally separate from us, and that we may, if we so choose, protect it. Or not, depending on whose livelihood is threatened or whose religion argues that protection is unnecessary. And all the time this so-called "environment" is all we have to live in. If we kill it we, too, will be gone like fleas on a dead dog.

My stance is partly spiritual, but I don't think one needs to approach the question from that point of view. It's much simpler than that: What are you going to drink when there is no more clean water? What are you going to breathe when there are insufficient trees to make oxygen for us?

But a spiritual take is not a bad one as a counterweight for all those centuries of philosophical arguments which have tried to distance human beings from nature by elevating the former and by debasing the latter, because it is these arguments which make it so very easy for some to think that protecting the environment is optional and hippy.

The Bliss Day Against War

Hecate writes about the Global Orgasm Day, December 22, on her blog. The idea is to have an orgasm for peace:

Oak explains that: It could be argued that all magic IS sex magic, as all magic involves the life force, which is inherently sexual. Given that, magic that literally uses sex packs a powerful punch, and tends to be effective. A call to action to have people around the globe orgasm on the same day while invoking peace is a call I have to answer. This really could work. . . .

On the other hand, orgasms have been called "little death".

The people behind the Global Orgasm Day are the same people who did those anti-war protests naked. I stole Hecate's picture to show you one (fairly pink) example:

Why all this sex stuff? Because otherwise the media pays no attention to peace protests. There has to be sex or violence in everything, and violence in peace protests is not a good thing. So sex it will be.

The problem with that approach is that it can also take attention from the goal of the protest and it can label the people nutters. But that's what peace demonstrators are always labeled "by some" as the Fox News would say. I know that from my own experience, though I didn't even protest naked.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Stay The Course

President Bush is going to do that in Iraq, come hell or high water, because

"There's one thing I'm not going to do, I'm not going to pull our troops off the battlefield before the mission is complete," he said in a speech setting the stage for high-stakes meetings with the Iraqi prime minister later this week. "We can accept nothing less than victory for our children and our grandchildren."

For no good reason at all, I was reminded of this:

Every Year It Starts Earlier....

The war against Christmas, that is. It's absolutely imperative, I know, because Bill O'Reilly has said so, but I wish we could wait another two weeks before attacking Santa Claus and all things nice. But, alas, no.

A new twist this year is the counterattack from the wingnuts. Yes, imagine that! Wingnuts attacking Christmas. But the Christmas ideas they attack are different from the stolidly fundamentalist-patriarchal ones:

A homeowners association in southwestern Colorado has threatened to fine a resident $25 a day until she removes a Christmas wreath with a peace sign that some say is an anti-Iraq war protest or a symbol of Satan.

And did you notice that you get Satan by rearranging Santa? Hmmm.

I better go out to break some Christmas lights.

The Fastest Growing Blog In The Universe

Is probably one which was started only a few hours ago. It will get several readers in the first day (at least the blogger will visit to admire her or his handiwork and some friends might, too). When the visitor meter goes from one to two visits, the percentage increase is 100%!

Why am I writing about something so silly? Because a very common misreading of the idea of "fastest growing" (religion, firm, idea) tends to ignore the simple fact that percentage increases are always enormous at first if we start from somewhere close to zero and if what we count is measured in discrete units, such as in my example of blog readership. To add 100 visitors per day to a blog which gets 500 initially means a 20% increase. To add 1,000 visitors to a blog which gets 100,000 visitors a day is an increase of 1%. But the latter is more people...

I've seen the "fastest growing" idea used to explain why certain rare diseases will soon swamp our whole health care system - because they are growing so rapidly - when that is just not true. I've also seen the same argument being used for all sorts of fairly rare religions in the U.S., with the implication that soon these religions (such as Wicca) will take over Christianity as the dominant denomination.

It's irritating. And it's based on a misunderstanding of how percentages behave. Always look at the base, my little grasshopper, as my grandmother used to say, before you get all excited about some growth rate. Or as my grandmother would have said had she thought about it.
For those having deja vu all over again, yes I wrote on this topic a couple of years ago. But nobody listened...

Monday, November 27, 2006

The Macho Quotient in Bush's Iraq Policy

It's always interesting to look at political talk from a different angle, especially the emotional or psycho-babble one, and George Bush is a wonderful study subject for that enterprise. From the very beginning he was acting the godly macho man, one from pristine and unpolluted Texas, one not bothered with the sophisms of intellectual thought and all that crap. A man we all would like to have a beer with. A man who speaks plainly and acts decisively. A macho man straight from on old Western. A good man in the very odd sense which divides the definition of goodness from anything but superficial consumption patterns and body language.

So it is no wonder that the Bush administration played the various wars by using the black-hats-white-hats symbolism of the old Westerns, or that I always felt the administration saw the A-rabs as involved in a penis measuring competition, and that the only way to win that competition would be to kill more efficiently. And who can tell, perhaps that is an accurate appraisal of how the macho men in other governments think, too.

But right now the American administration looks powerless in Iraq and also in Afghanistan. Not just not-macho, but powerless. Like a catalyst which has exhausted itself by completing the task of getting some chemical process going, the American military cannot now stop the civil war in Iraq or the resurgence of the Taliban in Afghanistan. How to save face?

That is not the right question. But it is the question a macho-approach to international politics offers us, and the answers are either to nuke all "enemies" to Stone Age (and thus win the most-frightening-man award) or to distance oneself, to pretend that either the chaos was all intended or something to do with the way "they" over there are. Wild beasts, you know. Or that it was the effeminate liberal media that lost the war on us, because they didn't let us do enough nuking in the first place. Note that these answers are of no help to the Iraqis or Afghanis on the ground.

What we really need is a clean-up crew. But the rest of the world isn't exactly eager to step in and offer their people killed at that job.

Caitlin Flanagan and the New Yorker

They are parting, after a heated and noisy love affair. The reasons are those nebulous ones having to do with journalistic ethics:

In this coming Monday's issue of the New York Observer, Michael Calderone reports that Flanagan is no longer on staff at the New Yorker; both she and the magazine say she's too busy writing her next book to write for the magazine regularly. The Observer's description of the split seems a little overly credulous -- Flanagan expressed extreme fealty to the magazine just last year, saying, "You'd never, never, never leave The New Yorker," but we can think of a few reasons why the New Yorker might want to leave Caitlin Flanagan. It's not just her philosophical inconsistency or the cheap shots she sometimes takes at working mothers. Calderone notes that Flanagan wrote a piece about Mary Poppins for the New Yorker last year, and a Poppins expert complained to the magazine that "Ms. Flanagan had drawn over-heavily on her work, without adequate credit." According to Calderone, Flanagan's byline hasn't appeared in the New Yorker since.

To the New Yorker editors who MUST be reading this blog, must: I am very ethical and I can learn to write more better, too.

If you have read my blog earlier you know that I'm not a fan of La Flanagan, but the reasons are more to do with those who hire her than with herself. She is a provocateur and most everybody in power thinks it's very funny that she disses the majority of women without any good evidence for doing that. It's a good game, hahaha.

And that is what provokes my divine anger: the utter contempt the editors and publishers and so on must feel towards women who have paid jobs for them to like the game so.

Oops. I just lost all chances of ever writing for the New Yorker.

Double-Plus Excellent

George Orwell would have lurved the way the recent election results are being remade into something quite different. No, the elections were NOT a major expression of disapproval of Bush's policies, especially of the pointless yet bloody war in Iraq. No, the voters were not fed up with the corrupt and ham-handed rule of the wingnuts. Nononono.

Let the pundits clarify things for you, poor dear reader. What we see is a stampede towards the middle! In 1994 we saw a stampede to the right, you see. Now that the stampede went in the other direction, it's a stampede towards the middle. Get it?

And no, you are NOT allowed to point out that people weren't exactly stampeding away from previously elected scary liberals. You are NOT allowed to point out that not a single Democratic incumbent lost. Because, you see, the pundits know these things. Better.

On Civil Wars

So ironic that the most barbarous and heinous of all wars are called "civil". If you like to sleep well, don't read any detailed articles about what is going on in Iraq. It is all horrible and it is certainly what we normally call a civil war. Baghdad is becoming a collection of battle fields, every house a potential target, every civilian a potential object for torture and murder. Families barricade themselves in, stay days and nights without sleeping, barter for more bullets, while waiting for the knock at the door. Waiting for death to come visiting.

Only the wealthy have a chance to get away, and even for them it might be too late. Then remember that all food must be brought into the city, and it's not possible to feel overapprehensive about the future.

As if this wasn't enough, Lebanon is at a brink of a civil war, too. Soon the whole Middle East might be in flames. There are deep historical, demographic and religious reasons for the hatred that wells up, but the United States involvement in the area has not exactly helped the cause of peace and democracy. You don't go poking into hornets' nests unless you want to get stung, and if you insist you should at least plan your retreat carefully beforehand.

But the Bush administration had nothing planned, except for the flowers the locals were supposed to hand the American troops. The current debates about whether there should be a timetable for leaving or any kind of plan at all and so on ad infinitum is just so much political face-saving. Nobody knows if any particular timetable would make a difference. Once the slaughtering starts it is almost impossible to halt. That much I have gathered from the history of civil wars.

And no, I have no smart opinions on what the American government should do about Iraq. All my smart opinions were used up before this war started, in a desperate attempt to stop it from getting started in the first place.

I really hope I am wrong about this post. I hope that peace will suddenly break out and that George Bush will be remembered as the great liberator of Iraq in all future history books. I really hope that. I do.


Steve Gilliard wrote a post recently on the racist comments of Michael Richards (who played Kramer in Seinfeld). His post has much food for thought and I strongly urge you to read all of it, but this is the bit I found most interesting for the purposes of my blog:

His tone was deeply racial and mean. I've been called nigger before, but never has anyone said I should be lynched. That kind of hate comes from a feeling of racial superiority, that other people are lower than you (e.g Borat and the Gypsys) and that is the natural order of things. When the two neatly dressed men walked in the group, he said as they did "here comes the blacks and mexicans" They weren't in hoodies, they looked like young professionals. Yet they were racially abused.

But it's not that Richards is or is not a racist which is the issue. It's misanthropy. The hatred of everything, of every one.

Someone who says Afro-American in 2006 is stuck in the past. I would bet this is hardly his first disgusting outburst when challenged. If he had called someone a fat cunt, he might have slid, because that's just bad taste. But his repeated slurs and his imperious comments means more than just disliking black people.

You must have already guessed that I'm going to address this:

If he had called someone a fat cunt, he might have slid, because that's just bad taste.

There are two ways of interpreting this, and the one I think Steve had in mind is the way men all over the place use "cunt" as an insult to each other. Add "fat" to it and you've got a double insult: "Man, you're a fat cunt today. Stop messing my game up." The reason why it doesn't seem that bad to some is that a man doesn't have a cunt and the particular object of this comment might not be fat, either. So the insult is sort of unspecified, not race-related, for example, and doesn't directly attack the man.

This is taken to an extreme when the argument is that as anyone can be "a fat cunt" there isn't even anything sexist about the slur. I'm a fat cunt and you are a fat cunt and so nobody is really a fat cunt at all. See?

No, I don't see that, actually. To me being called "a fat cunt" is a sign of sexism at best and hatred of women at worst, even if it doesn't register as such inside the brain of the person using the slur. It's certainly less of an insult than suggesting that certain blacks should be lynched, for example, and less than many other insults I read routinely on the net or the things Michael Richards said about blacks. But it's not just something in bad taste.

Sexism is considerably more mainstream than racism, these days, by the way*. For example, several broadcasters have been fired for racist comments but sexist comments are perfectly fine, even funny, as MSNBC anchor Contessa Brewer's recent allusions to "catfights" and "cattiness" when talking about Nancy Pelosi demonstrate. On the whole they don't affect the person who makes them that much. I doubt many here remember Jerry Lewis's outburst about women. And sexist jokes are seen as perhaps jokes in bad taste, or jokes that shouldn't be told in mixed company. But not as sexist jokes.
*This doesn't necessarily mean that there is less racism than sexism; just that we have a lower tolerance for openly racist comments in the media.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

You're Right, Too Gloomy


A world drawn in brown chalk,
The sun a low dull smudge.
Afternoon, the end of November.
Walking on the route, no cars
Snow tonight.

But later in the dark kitchen,
You watched me light the stove
You made a joke about it.
Your face was the moon,
Orange as August.


Just Because It Feels Like That Kind of a Day

A Lyke-Wake Dirge

THIS ae nighte, this ae nighte,
—Every nighte and alle,
Fire and fleet and candle-lighte,
And Christe receive thy saule.

When thou from hence away art past,
—Every nighte and alle,
To Whinny-muir thou com'st at last;
And Christe receive thy saule.

If ever thou gavest hosen and shoon,
—Every nighte and alle,
Sit thee down and put them on;
And Christe receive thy saule.

If hosen and shoon thou ne'er gav'st nane
—Every nighte and alle,
The whinnes sall prick thee to the bare bane;
And Christe receive thy saule.

From Whinny-muir when thou may'st pass,
—Every nighte and alle,
To Brig o' Dread thou com'st at last;
And Christe receive thy saule.

From Brig o' Dread when thou may'st pass,
—Every nighte and alle,
To Purgatory fire thou com'st at last;
And Christe receive thy saule.

If ever thou gavest meat or drink,
—Every nighte and alle,
The fire sall never make thee shrink;
And Christe receive thy saule.

If meat or drink thou ne'er gav'st nane,
—Every nighte and alle,
The fire will burn thee to the bare bane;
And Christe receive thy saule.

This ae nighte, this ae nighte,
—Every nighte and alle,
Fire and fleet and candle-lighte,
And Christe receive thy saule.

GLOSS: fleet] house-room.

Actually, I like it. Buffy Sainte-Marie sang a very dramatic version of it on one of her early albums. I think Peter Schickele did the arrangement. I don't remember but I think the melody she used might be by Benjamin Britten. It's the one he uses in his Serenade for Tenor Horns and Strings.

Sam Allis, Go Put Your Own Rights To A Vote

Then we can talk about process.

Posted by olvlzl

It’s one of the things that you say and you know there is going to be a fight, liberals, leftists, etc. do not owe anything to “the process”, they do owe something to people.

Having noticed several years ago that conservatives and their media mouthpieces spent an awful lot of time keeping track of whether liberals were hewing fast to the set of scruples that they have determined we are supposed to hew to, it opened the entire question of “the process” to me. Why in the world would anyone care about “the process” except to use as a political tool? “The Process” isn’t a person, it isn’t even particularly well defined. Its definition depends on the courts, the media, the various bureaucrats who have jurisdiction over it. In other words, “the process” is in the hands of people and don’t for a second believe that those people with control of “the process” don’t have their own viewpoints and interests enter into their decisions about it.

You also know that the guardians of The Code of Liberal Ethics, essentially whatever self-defeating stands liberals and leftists can be talked into making on “principle”, are probably not those most interested in equality and justice for all. At least I know it. Why we should ever let them define what we are supposed to do is mystifying. Do they hold themselves to the same standards? No. Never. They are as inconsistent, as unfair as their desires require. The call for liberals to uphold standards of behavior in politics that no other part of the political spectrum have enforced on them is a call for our unconditional surrender.

When the issue is equal rights for a widely hated and discriminated against minority, you bet your marriage certificate we should bypass a popular vote on it. I will guarantee you that if any of the major civil rights laws were put to a referendum we would probably be living under apartheid in large parts of the country today. What kind of liberal puts rules over peoples' basic civil rights? Make that OTHER peoples' basic civil rights.

Cheney Is Still In Office, Republicans Still Support Him

This article by Charlie Savage in today's Boston Globe gives more evidence that it is necessary for the left to increase our support of the only opposition that the Cheney administration has. Putting it in simplest terms, Dick Cheney is an enemy of democracy. He believes in an uncontrolled president who can rule by fiat. As the self-made Vice President who has given himself control over even much of the allegedly Presidential offices he might be the biggest danger to democracy in our history. And Republicans who are still in office have followed him just about every step of the way while he was dismantling any check on the executive. His fellow royalists now occupy four seats on the Supreme Court with at least leanings that way by Kennedy. He is a continuing danger.

Contrast Cheney's activities with those of Hugo Chavez, as given by one of his opponents. Why doesn't Ana Julia Jatar go into the little matter of the coup attempt supported, some believe instigated by the Bush II regieme? Seems to me that could go a ways to explaining why Chavez doesn't think his opponents are to be trusted. And in her catalog of, admittedly, disturbing activities change a few of the words and you could be talking about what is going on in the United States now. There is no significant part of the electronic media here who have not been in the Bush-Cheney pocket to at least the extent that is charged here.