Saturday, April 14, 2007

Urgent Query

Posted by olvlzl.
I heard during the week that a relative of mine has a rare form of breast cancer, Paget’s Disease of the Nipple. She lives in Arizona, has inadequate insurance and is pregnant. Could anyone give me information that I could pass on to her about either the disease or how she could get help in Arizona?

Saving Energy, Saving Money, Safer Cooking, Cooler Kitchen, ... Fireless Cooking

Posted by olvlzl.
Energy conservation isn’t something you will hear George Bush mention very often, never mind Dick Cheney. Saving money as you save the environment holds no percentage for the oil industry, so conservation is generally unmentionable or it is presented as pie-in-the-sky. But with a little information and a small amount of effort you can get some benefit from the practical research that has already been done about energy conservation.

Fireless cooking is a way to save up to 70% of energy used in cooking. It also requires less attention and for many foods it yields better results. The Aprovech center’s research has shown that no matter what kind of stove is being used to cook, the greatest energy savings are achieved through using this kind of cooking based on holding in the heat for the cooking time.

Having tried it for a couple of years, it is simple and makes life a lot easier. In the coming warm weather, it also cuts down standing over a hot stove and having hot pots heat up the kitchen. Depending on what kind of insulation you use, adopting the method can be just about cost free*.
What the technique involves is cooking food over heat for a short time, covering the pot and putting it in an insulated container or blanket sufficient to keep the heat in to cook the food. I use it for rice and all kinds of beans all the time now.

To cook rice this way:
About an hour before you would normally begin cooking rice you put it in a pot with about 1/3rd less water than you would usually use. You boil the rice for three minutes, turn off the stove and let it boil another minute or two. Then cover it, enclose the covered pot in some kind of clean, well fitting insulation and let it continue to cook for an hour to an hour and a half. If you have done it right the rice will be cooked, won't have stuck to the pot and won't have burned. Larger amounts of food cooked this way work better than smaller amounts but if well insulated you can cook even a cup of rice this way.

Beans need from two minute (lentils) to five minutes (kidney or garbanzos) boil times and from a couple to four hours enclosed in insulation. I wouldn’t make polenta if I couldn’t make it this way, one minute cooking and stirring while splattered with boiling mush instead of 45. With polenta it is especially important to use a third less water than your normal recipe or you get gruel. It takes an hour to an hour and a half for it to cook polenta with this method.

The insulation that is easiest to use is a clean, double or triple layer of synthetic blanket, completely enclosing the pot. I usually put a piece of cardboard under the pot as added insulation. A woolen or cotton blanket or towel of sufficient thickness will work too as long as it's dry. Putting the blanket in a box adds to its insulating efficiency.

Aprovecho Research has a tri-fold brochure giving full instructions for cooking many foods and for using different types of insulation. I can say without doubt the dollar I spent on it was the best dollar I’ve spent in decades. You can check out their other interesting and practical energy savings booklets too.

* Since I first posted a version of this last year I’ve been experimenting with cardboard boxes reinforced with aluminum foil covered cardboard and old towels to make “hay boxes”. Using old boxes and used aluminum foil, I still haven’t spent a cent since buying Aprovecho’s dollar folder on the subject. It saved the cost of replacing a pressure cooker.

Children Are Listening

Posted by olvlzl.
If anything about them could be said to be interesting, the whining fans of Don Imus have opened a window into their shrunken souls as they begin withdrawal from their favorite brand of hate fix. It’s a dependency relationship, without a doubt. For some of us, the cry going up from those boys in the shock jock locker room might sound like nothing so much as the artistry of Claudine Clark’s perfect rendition of a bratty teen with a fully developed sense of entitlement in “Party Lights”. The hardest cases seem enraged that they are being deprived of something they know in their hearts they have a right to. The way they’re going on you would think that Imus was the last puddle of polluted water in the world and they were dying of thirst.

What is it that they crave about the degrading Don Imus act? What is it about the hate-filled, sexist, racist, bigoted and pointlessly vulgar junk spewing with so little variety from the American radio and TV? Certainly with the “hey guys listen while I castrate, torture and kill a pig on air,” * late stage, upstaging of shock jockery the genre should have passed the seen it all before stage by now. There are only so many ways you can call women and minority groups insulting names, after all. Shouldn’t the entire line have gotten old by now?

There is something about this kind of artificially embittered hate that is more than attractive to its audience. Hearing the angry resentment when just the Imus label is removed from the shelf, it sounds like they worry that their supply will be cut off. If only.

What is it that they like about hearing a past it loud mouth going after people they don’t know in the crudest of stereotypes? And for his TV audience who could see Imus and and nose-picking side kick looking pretty hideous as they comment on other peoples’ looks, the irony should have only been enhanced.

Is that kind of hate an addictive pleasure? Does it make it’s addicts feel better about themselves? You might be able to understand it if there was something edifying about any of it but the goal of sock jocks seems to be to spread generalized cynicism and just plain meanness. The cowardly targeting of people seen as weaker is a part of the attraction. How much of this kind of stuff targets wealthy, white, men? What is the attraction to thinking that the world is just one big toilet and everything is crap? Does getting to group-hate women, black people, gay people, etc. give them something that makes it worth holding that view of life? What?

* From what I can gather what was said to have been done to the pig might have been worse than what was actually done to it, though that seems far from clear. My point is to ask what the audience thought was happening and what that says about his audience. Notice the tone of the reaction 0f Bubba and his advocates in the story. Just imagine what they would have been like if he'd been found gulity.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Friday Pet Blogging -- In Memory of Paavo

This is hj's Paavo as a little puppy. The white spots in his muzzle are faults in the picture.

And here are Barry's pets. The lion and the lamb lying down together, though it's hard to know which is which.

And this is Helmi, a Korat cat of unusual charm:

The Fruits of Abstinence Policies

Accrue to those running these policies in terms of money. The Bush administration abstinence policies have allocated $1.5 billion to such programs, and what have they achieved?

A recent study done by Mathematica Policy Research, Inc. suggests that they have achieved nothing in terms of behavior. Zilch. Zero.

The study compared the behavior and knowledge of students who had had abstinence education to the behavior and knowledge of students who had not had such education but who were otherwise comparable in the statistical sense. The results tell us that abstinence education didn't in these samples lead the young people to engage in more dangerous sex. This is good news, because an earlier study suggested that it might. The abstinence program participants also had a slightly better understanding of the dangers of sexually transmitted diseases.

But the rest of the study findings are awful for the Bush administration. Look at what all that money gets us (click on the graph to make it bigger):

Of course what might matter more in the party-political sense is that this money went to people with certain opinions.

More On Imus

Read that aloud. Heh. I hope that this is my last post on Imus, because the way the public debate seems to work on these issues is by confusing what was initially a quite clear understanding into ladlefuls of the "he-said-she-said" soup. This is not how the debate should work, of course, but too often this is exactly how it works.

Here is an example of the types of additions which cast no further light on the issue: I've heard that we shouldn't punish Imus for one bad quip, that doing so is politically correct and nazilike. But then I've heard that we shouldn't punish Imus NOW because he has been passing the same turds for decades without being punished. See how the conclusion is the same even though the initial setups were opposite?

Then there is the "Bobby did it, too!" appeal of all children, and in this case it states that if some black rappers do it we shouldn't punish Imus and Imus wasn't really racist because the same things are said within the black community. For this argument to work at all, the sexism in Imus's comments must be ignored, which means that we must assume that black men can call black women hos if they so wish. - Though I must admit that the "Bobby did it, too!" argument is also being used by those who defend the misogynistic language of rap music. I don't really care who invented the word "ho". I just want it not used in a misogynistic sense now. And pleasepleaseplease, can we have more black women opining on all this in the media?

Add to all this the attempts to turn the debate into one about misogyny in rap and hip-hop. Now, talking about misogyny in those musical genres and in popular music in general is important and deserves the kind of attention this Imus debacle has had. But not as a substitute for talking about what Imus did. And it isn't the case that people have been giving rappers a free pass on their misogyny. The topic just hasn't excited the star pundits enough to be noticed. This makes me think that those who push the rap discussion right now are doing it to exonerate Imus.

I don't want to do that. Imus has been at this for a very long time, as this article about a mid-1990s post by the late Lars-Erik Nelson shows, and he has still been feted by the inside circle:

Sen. Joseph Lieberman (D-Conn.) came to the Senate floor with
a look of sad concern on his face. He was deeply troubled, he said, at the vulgar, morally repugnant content of the new TV season. "We are lowering the standards of what is acceptable in our society and we are sending a message to our children," he said. He denounced an "acceptance of rude language, foul imagery and gross behavior in the entertainment mainstream."

Then, warning parents who might be watching on C-SPAN to move their little children away from the TV sets, Lieberman cited a few of the outrages: On ABC's "Wilde Again," a character asks to be called "Daddy's little whore." Another ABC program showed an upraised middle finger. CBS' "Bless This House" used the phrase "little hooters" in reference to a girl's breasts. "Profoundly disturbing," Lieberman intoned. "Sophomoric."

Funny thing: The previous morning, Lieberman had been a guest, as is his regular custom, on the Don Imus radio show on WFAN, a program that seems to get the bulk of its yuks from penis references.

If you have never heard the Imus show, listen in. It is a cross between an endless infomercial and a bunch of 8-year-olds telling doo-doo jokes into a tape recorder. It is rescued only by increasingly rare moments of inspired, hilarious brilliance.

Tune in any morning and you'll hear Imus or one of his sidekicks joking about having "lipstick on the dipstick" and much worse. This is nationwide morning radio.

He's been dancing (or tottering) on the edge, and his supporters have been applauding his brilliance. Only this time he chose go a little too close to the edge and fell over. It's not kosher, even in today's fundamentalist America, to call young women playing college basketball nappy-haired hos, when these young women did nothing to hurt Imus, had no political power and were in general acting out the accepted version of the American dream. This is pretty much the consensus, and we should not forget it.

Now step back a little, and ask what it is that we are not really debating in this great Imus-debacle. We are not debating the context (watch the video on the site) in which Imus's comment came. It started with him making fun of the idea that women could play basketball at all, and it continued with essentially rating the fuckability of the two teams in the championship match. It then turned into the "nappy-haired hos" statement.

This context seems to me to consist of first ridiculing women's athletic abilities, then their right to be seen as anything but sexual objects for men like Imus, and then putting the black women into their even lower place as nothing but frightening whores.

Now, this is not how Imus spoke, of course. He spoke in code. But the reason he expected his audience to appreciate the code is that he believed them to agree with him on all those matters. It is this that should be the talking point in the debates, much more than whether certain things can be said or not and by whom.
Added later: Did Keith Olbermann ever give Imus the Worst Person award, by the way?

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Stock Up On Popcorn

Because the show of the missing e-mails is getting even more riveting:

According to Mr. Kelner, the RNC had a policy, which the RNC called a "document retention" policy, that purged all e-mails from RNC e-mail accounts and the RNC server that were more than 30 days old. Mr. Kelner said that as a result of unspecified legal inquiries, a "hold" was placed on this e-mail destruction policy for the accounts of White House officials in August 2004. Mr. Kelner was uncertain whether the hold was consistently maintained from August 2004 to the present, but he asserted that for this period, the RNC does have alarge volume of White House e-mails. According to Mr. Kelner, the hold would not have prevented individual White House officials from deleting their e-mail from the RNC server after August 2004.

Mr. Kelner's briefing raised particular concems about Karl Rove, who according to press reports used his RNC accountfor 95%o of his communications. According to Mr. Kelner, although the hold started in August 2004, the RNC does not have any e-mails prior to 2005 for Mr. Rove. Mr. Kelner did not give any explanation for the e-mails missing from Mr. Rove's account, but he did acknowledge that one possible explanation is that Mr. Rove personally deleted his e-mails from the RNC server.

Mr. Kelner also explained that starting in 2005, the RNC began to treat Mr. Rove's emails in a special fashion. At some point in 2005, the RNC commenced an automatic archive policy for Mr. Rove, but not for any other White House officials. According to Mr. Kelner, this archive policy removed Mr. Rove's ability to personally delete his e-mails from the RNC server. Mr. Kelner did not provide many details about why this special policy was adopted for Mr. Rove. But he did indicate that one factor was the presence of investigative or discovery requests or other legal concerns. It was unclear from Mr. Kelner's briefing whether the special archiving policy for Mr. Rove was consistently in effect after 2005.

Wow. Karl has been a naughty boy, it seems.

Markos On The Blogger Code of Conduct

A shorter version of Markos's post on the Daily Kos about Web incivility and the Kathy Sierra case: If you can't take the heat, stay out of the kitchen:

Look, if you blog, and blog about controversial shit, you'll get idiotic emails. Most of the time, said "death threats" don't even exist -- evidenced by the fact that the crying bloggers and journalists always fail to produce said "death threats". I suspect many are like this gem I recently received


Email makes it easy for stupid people to send stupid emails to public figures. If they can't handle a little heat in their email inbox, then really, they should try another line of work. Because no "blogger code of conduct" will scare away psycho losers with access to email.

He may well be right about the blogger code of conduct not being effective, but otherwise he is very wrong in many ways. Let me count the ways:

Look, if you blog,[...], you'll get idiotic emails.

Ah! But women get those idiotic emails even if they don't blog. Even if they just comment on blogs. Even if they are silent, as in the recent study of Web harassment which showed that just having a female user name increased the number of malicious messages by a multiplier between six and twenty-five.

Look, if you blog, and blog about controversial shit, you'll get idiotic emails.

And what is controversial shit? To many misogynists a woman saying anything at all is controversial shit. Women, like Kathy Sierra, who blog on tech topics are not actually saying that much that should be controversial.

Most of the time, said "death threats" don't even exist...

Perhaps not. But there is a whole slew of crime statistics on misogynistic harassment, rape and worse in the real world. There is very little that can be compared with that in terms of real-world attacks against controversial male bloggers. Women may be justified in taking threats of harm more seriously than men, just because of this.

If they can't handle a little heat in their email inbox, then really, they should try another line of work.

What if it is a lot of heat, like the kitchen on fire, but this heat only burns the female bloggers and commenters, because they have to work against the kind of harassment Markos mentions AND the kind of harassment their gender creates?

The Dog Ate My Homework

And the e-mails got inadvertently deleted. It is hilarious, this prosecutor scandal, if you pretend that you are watching it all from another planet:

The White House acknowledged yesterday that e-mails dealing with official government business may have been lost because they were improperly sent through private accounts intended to be used for political activities. Democrats have been seeking such missives as part of an investigation into the firing of eight U.S. attorneys.

Administration officials said they could offer no estimate of how many e-mails were lost but indicated that some may involve messages from White House senior adviser Karl Rove, whose role in the firings has been under scrutiny by congressional Democrats.

Dan Froomkin has a detailed story about the excuses that are being provided for this excuse! It's quite lovely.

I have heard that it is very, very difficult to lose e-mails in the sense of their complete disappearance. It would be interesting to see what a forensic study might find.


I have written a longer piece for the American Prospect's website on women's health policy under the Bush era.

Kurt Vonnegut, RIP

So it goes.

This is what he gave me:

To Mr. Vonnegut, the only possible redemption for the madness and apparent meaninglessness of existence was human kindness. The title character in his 1965 novel, "God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater," summed up his philosophy:

"Hello, babies. Welcome to Earth. It's hot in the summer and cold in the winter. It's round and wet and crowded. At the outside, babies, you've got about a hundred years here. There's only one rule that I know of, babies — 'God damn it, you've got to be kind.' "

Kindness, in the deep sense, in the sense of truly seeing another human being or an animal as a sentient suffering and rejoicing entity, that is the kind of kindness Vonnegut wrote about. His kindness was not the politeness that we call manners or a prescription not to criticize or not to fight against injustice. It was something more or something different: a spiritual attitude. How odd that it is from a humanist we got this prescription.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Breaking News, As They Say

MSNBC will no longer simulcast 'Imus in the Morning'. So the MSNBC website says.

'Til the Cows Come Home

The new Iraq tours will be almost that long:

All active-duty Army troops now in Iraq or Afghanistan or headed to either country will serve 15-month tours of duty, up from the usual 12-month tours, effective immediately, the Pentagon announced today.

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates called the change "a difficult and necessary interim step" and said it would at least give soldiers and their families more predictability than they have now.

The change will not affect National Guard or Army Reserve troops, who will continue to serve 12-month tours. Nor will it affect the Marine Corps, whose members are deployed overseas for seven months and come home for six months, Gen. Peter Pace, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said.

"I realize this decision will ask a lot of American troops and their families," Mr. Gates said at a Pentagon news briefing, where he and General Pace expressed appreciation yet again for the valor and sacrifice of American fighting men and women.

It does indeed ask a lot of American troops and their families. Getting prepared for more bodybags, perhaps.

I hate this stupid war without any proper strategy behind it, or at least any strategy that would make sense. I hate that the sacrifices "we" are asked to make consist of putting stupid bumper stickers on our SUVs, while the soldiers are being stretched and stretched closer and closer to the breaking point.

And towards what end? To destroy Islamic terrorists? Last I read they've been bombing in Morocco and Algeria.

Nothing Comes To My Mind Right Now

News come in waves and when the wave peaks it's hard to surf along. Then other days nothing seems to excite my inner muse. Today is one of those days, probably because it's so lovely outside. So you are going to get some old bad poetry I found while cleaning the garage. Cleaning the garage! Miracles happen.

Here is one on mosquitoes:

Ms. Mosquito

Listen to the never-ending whine.
The darkness sleeps. You cannot.
You can hear her dance. It is hot.
When the dance is over she will dine.

You'll be her meal, laid out on bed.
Unless you rise and find her first
And squash her and her bloody thirst
She will turn your pillows red.

And here is one with a feminist theme:

The Reason?

A newborn clings to mother's hair
would never let her go
would always have her warm and near
would never want to know

That there is no eternity
with a warm sunny lap
No. There is no eternity
She'll be suffering for that

No newborn wants to grow up
and grow up into toil
and grow old and tired
and turn into soil

For that he will rage
and make his mother hurt
and hate her, for she cannot stop
his turning into dirt

There is no eternity
with a warm female lap
No. There is no eternity -
she'll be penalized for that

Treat the comments as an open thread.

What About The Rappers?

From Atrios, today:

This morning on CNN Howard Kurtz pulled the "what about the rappers! that's where the word ho comes from!" stunt. What this has to do with Don Imus calling the Rutgers Women's Basketball team whores for no apparent reason other than the crime of being mostly black I do not know. In any case, we're seeing a pretty quick creep of this collective responsibility thing. Because many of the women are black, and rap is a black thing, and some rappers use the word "ho," it's absurd to focus on Don Imus calling these women a bunch of whores without pointing out that other people have used the word ho in other contexts. Or something. I really can't follow the logic.

Atrios says he can't follow the logic probably in sarcasm, but I will spell it out anyway:

Kurtz's point is that if some black men call black women hos then it must be ok for white men to do so. Because black men "own" black women the same way white men "own" white women. So saying "ho" isn't racist, because black guys do it, too. See?

This was yet another simple answer to simple questions as Atrios used to say...

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Talking About Sex

Natalie Angiers has an interesting article in the New York Times. A snippet:

Heather Rupp, a graduate student in Dr. Wallen's lab, tried to determine whether the divergent brain responses were a result of divergent appraisals, of men and women focusing on different parts of the same photographs. "We hypothesized, based on common lore, that women would look at faces, and men at genitals," Dr. Wallen said.

But on tracking the eye movements of study participants as they sized up erotic photographs, Ms. Rupp dashed those prior assumptions. "The big surprise was that men looked at the faces much more than women did," Dr. Wallen said, "and both looked at the genitals comparably."

The researchers had also predicted that men would be more drawn than women to close-up views of genitalia, but it turned out that everybody flipped past them as quickly as possible. Women lingered longer and with greater stated enjoyment than did their male counterparts on photographs of men performing oral sex on women; and they noticed more fashion details. "We got spontaneous reports from the women that we never got from the males, comments like 'I would have liked the photos better if the people didn't have those ridiculous '70s hairstyles,' " Dr. Wallen said.

He proposes that one reason men would scrutinize faces in pornographic imagery is that a man often looks to a woman's face for cues to her level of sexual arousal, since her body, unlike a man's, does not give her away.

Nothing about multiple orgasms in the article, though, which I found quite disappointing, although the idea that we have both a gas pedal and a break pedal for sex is interesting and might explain some mysteries I have been musing over.

The article has this to say about women's arousal and desire:

"We started putting together focus groups, asking women to tell us the various things that might turn them on and turn them off sexually, and how they know when they're sexually aroused," said Stephanie A. Sanders of the Kinsey Institute and Indiana University. "They mentioned a heightened sense of awareness, genital tingling, butterflies in the stomach, increased heart rate and skin sensitivity, muscle tightness. Then we asked them if they thought the female parallel to an erection is genital lubrication, and they said no, no, you can get wet when you're not aroused, it changes with the menstrual cycle, it's not a meaningful measure."

Through the focus groups, Dr. Sanders and her colleagues compiled a new, female-friendly but admittedly cumbersome draft questionnaire that they whittled down into a useful research tool. They asked 655 women, ages 18 to 81, to complete the draft survey and scrutinized the results in search of areas of concurrence and variability.

The researchers have identified a number of dimensions on which their beta testers agreed. For example, 93 to 96 percent of the 655 respondents strongly endorsed statements that linked sexual arousal to "feeling connected to" or "loved by" a partner, and to the belief that the partner is "really interested in me as a person"; they also concurred that they have trouble getting excited when they are "feeling unattractive."

The idea that women are more likely to want sex in a loving relationship than men is an old one and often explained by using evolutionary psychology theories about women preferring a mate who will stay around to care for the child that might appear. But it seems to me that the potential for violence in one-night stands could also explain why women don't get as excited about sex without strings. It's difficult to make a study design that would differentiate between the two causes or the impact societal disapproval of "round-heeled" women might have on women's choices. Maybe asking about sexual daydreams is a way around some of these problems, though I still think people are not necessarily going to ignore the societal expectations when they describe such daydreams to a researcher.

Which reminds me: Waterfalls and fire in the fireplace do nothing for me. Nothing at all. Neither do flowers or candles or bubble-baths. Now, a nice butt in faded jeans...

Imprison All Feminazis

The sort of message certain kinds of trolls send on the Web, one of the milder ones. These are misogynistic trolls. They abound on the Internet as anyone reading feminist blogs knows, as do other kinds of trolls.

The image of the usual trolling I have in my mind goes something like this: There is a group of friends, sitting around the fireplace, sipping their favorite drinks while arguing politics or life or telling jokes. Then a person walks in, sits and defecates on the floor and walks out again. Or starts vomiting into the fireplace. Or jumps up and down while demanding attention to the big green bogey he or she just produced from the flared nostrils. It's an odd image, especially because the usual advice is to ignore trolls. They want attention, and by refusing attention you will make them go away. Which leaves us all sitting next to a pile of steaming turds and watching the vomit crackle in the fireplace. It doesn't really work, that ignoring, even in the case of ordinary trolls.

But a misogynistic troll is not your usual run-of-the-mill troll. He (or she, but that is rare in my experience) will not just poop on the floor or puke in the fireplace; he will try to kick you or throttle you or at least urinate on you. Now that is much harder to ignore while calmly sipping the hot chocolate with cinnamon.

And what happens when the fragile borders between the cyberspace and the meatspace are violated? When these scenarios I imagine might become real? The Kathy Sierra case tells us one possible scenario, and I have learned of many others during my few years in the blogosphere. The laws concerning Internet harassment are in their infancy. We need such laws, desperately, and we need to take any threats seriously. This is not Second Life. This is the only one we have.

Sara Robinson on Orcinus has an excellent post on the secondary effects cases like Sierra's might have on female bloggers. She quotes Joan Walsh of Salon:

And on and on it goes: Is Sierra another woman silenced by vicious online sexism, or just a wuss? Were the threats of violence real? Or is she the real bully, organizing a "lynch mob" to win her blogosphere battle?

I avoided writing about the mess for a day or two because I had mixed feelings about it. Ever since Salon automated its letters, it's been hard to ignore that the criticisms of women writers are much more brutal and vicious than those about men -- sometimes nakedly sexist, sometimes less obviously so; sometimes sexually and/or personally degrading. But I've never admitted the toll our letters can sometimes take on women writers at Salon, myself included, because admitting it would be giving misogynist losers -- and these are the posters I'm talking about -- power. Still, I've come to think that denying it gives them another kind of power, and I'm trying to sort that out by thinking about the Kathy Sierra mess in all its complexity.


The Broadsheet thread about Kathy Sierra was in many ways worse. Not about writer Lynn Harris, thankfully, but about Sierra, as well as women posters who came to her defense. This is how it got started:


Anyone on the internet is subject to all sorts of threats. It has nothing to do with being a woman.

The lady is a loser

Ms. Sierra also fabricated some of threats. This has been proven and established.

That poster pointed to Chris Locke's "Rageboy" blog as evidence Sierra was lying, but in fact Locke didn't claim she fabricated the threats; he merely insisted he's not to blame. And on it went. A charming Broadsheet regular told a woman who disagreed, "Trying [sic] verifying rather than just opening you fat piehole and spewing bile," and later, "Now I know you are a fattie and single." It was a petri dish of online misogyny. We left it unmoderated as a science experiment. And I feel a little sick now that I've read the whole thing. Yes, sick.

So what is the answer?

I'm left with a lot of my initial reaction: Attitudes toward women have improved dramatically just in my lifetime, but still the world has too many misogynists, and the Web has given them a microphone that lets them turn up the volume on their quavering selves, their self-righteous fury, their self-loathing expressed as hatred of women. And yet, mostly, women on the Web just have to ignore it. If you show it bothers you, you've given them pleasure. Life is too short to think about Broadsheet trolls.

But it coarsens you to look away, and to tell others to do the same. I've grown a thicker skin. I didn't want skin this thick. And what does it mean that women writers have to drag around this anchor every time they start to write -- that we reflexively compose our own hate mail, and sometimes type and retype to try to avoid it? I can honestly say it's probably made me more precise and less glib. That's good. But it's also, for now, made me too cautious. I write less than I would if I wasn't thinking these thoughts. I think that's bad. I think Web misogyny puts women writers at a disadvantage, and as someone who's worked for women's advancement in the workplace, and the world, that saddens me.

I added the emphasis to the last paragraph, because it speaks about the longer-term effects of unrestricted misogyny on women writers in the cyberspace. It is the reason why I started this post several times and always ended up scrapping it; why I took out the initial threat I had chosen as the title and replaced it with something milder. It is the reason why even now I don't really know if I should push the Publish-button. It is what makes the stakes of honesty quite different for some of us. And it is also something almost invisible for those who are not women writers or feminist writers.

Joan Walsh mentions elsewhere in her piece that she believes misogynistic trolls to be quite rare on the Internet, and I agree that they are probably not that common. But they do seem suddenly more common for all of us bloggers who don't habitually interact with them in our real lives. It is a very different thing to know, in the abstract, that there are men who reallyreallyreally hate women (or at least feminist women) than it is to receive a personalized missive from one of them.

The question that dances in my mind right now is what it is that has emboldened (hah! I waited long to find a use for that fashionable verb) the misogynists on the Internet, for emboldened they seem to me. Sara Robinson suggests that cyberspace is not viewed as the public street where such acts of violence as some misogynists carry out would not be allowed. She thinks that the cyberspace has become a war zone:

But if you read her blog, it's obvious that Sierra's attackers weren't adhering to anything like the town square behavior code. (To make the point: if a gang of men had surrounded her and threatened her with rape and murder on a city street, she could have called the cops and had them put away for a long, long time.) Instead, everything about these attacks suggests that those responsible assumed they had a war zone exemption, which suspends accountability for even the most extreme forms of violence against women. Which tells me that, somewhere in their minds, these guys no longer recognize the Web as a community, or the women they meet there as legitimate and equal members of that community. Instead, they see it as a battlefield, where violence is the expected norm. In this imaginary war zone, any woman who's out in public without male escort has already forfeited any claim to dignity or life.

Where did they get this idea? Sierra's blog was a downhome tech blog, not a political free-for-all. Her readership was largely male, and she'd served them well for over four years. The vast majority of men would never allow themselves to be seen treating a woman (or anyone, for that matter) this way in public; but these guys figured they could brutalize her, in broad daylight in front of hundreds of other people, with impunity. Why?

Most likely, it was because the men who put up the most heinous comments were right-wing authoritarian followers (RWAs), whose high-social-dominance (high-SDO) leaders given them permission to unleash their violent impulses, and encouraged them to direct it toward high-profile female targets. They did it because someone they regarded as an authority figure told them that the community rules don't apply any more. America is a war zone. The President has told them so. Their leaders have given them the formal go-ahead to behave accordingly. And that has very specific implications for how they're allowed to treat women they see as standing outside their own in-group.

Perhaps, though I feel pretty uncomfortable with Robinson's initial buildup to this idea where she appears to regard domestic violence against women as somehow still more acceptable. My own suggestion for an explanation would be the existence of new hate sites on the Internet, sites, where a man hating women gets validation and approval and the license to hate more publicly. These sites make lone individuals into groups and the conversations within those groups never self-correct in the direction of less anger. Rather the opposite. Many of the misogynistic trolls give such sites as their home addresses; the places where they feel accepted. Joan Walsh's advice about ignoring these trolls and their commentary may in fact embolden them more under this scenario. They go home to their misogynistic-brethren-in-arms, get all riled up and then attack feminist blogs and sites and what happens? Nobody argues against their views. Victory!

I call these trolls misogynistic rather than anti-feminist though of course they are always the latter, too. But most of their anger is aimed at women in general, women, who just won't stay in their proper places and quiet, women who aren't always available, women who won't give them sex or clean clothes or eternal devotion. A recent study (pdf) suggests that just having a female-sounding username is enough to multiply the number of malicious messages one gets on the Web by a factor between six and twenty-five.

It is odd that while I am writing this post a discussion goes on about the recent New York Times article which advocates for more civility on the blogs. The general consensus on the liberal and progressive blogs is that the article simply tries to stifle debate by focusing on the use of "fuck" rather on the substantive criticisms and righteous anger of those who use that word and other similar ones, and that the traditional media better clean up their own stables of the Coulters and Becks and Limbaughs and Imuses first. Because it was those people who started the incivility and who changed the climate.

Now, I can see the point of those criticizing the article and I can agree with the content of that criticism completely when it comes to reining in political speech. But I am also a feminist blogger, one of those walking in the twilight, and I think of that piece of research and then I wonder if some of the guys writing about their right to free speech would say the same if they had my experiences or those (much more frightening) of other feminist bloggers I know of. They very well might, I have no way of knowing. But what I do know is that women participating in Internet discussions have an extra hurdle to face and in that sense our freedom of speech might already be curtailed. Unless we all hide behind the handle "John" and avoid any topics which irk misogynists.

The Prison School

Prisons in Iraq serve as recruiting stations and schools for learning how to be a suicide bomber, it seems:

America's high-security prisons in Iraq have become "terrorist academies" for the most dangerous militant groups, according to former inmates and Iraqi government officials.

Inmates are left largely to run their blocks, which are segregated on sectarian lines. The policy has created a closed world run by Iraq's worst terrorists and militias, into which detainees with no links to insurgent groups are often thrown.

Inmates from Camp Cropper, the US prison at Baghdad airport, described to The Times seeing al-Qaeda terrorists club to death a man suspected of being an informer. Others dished out retribution with razor wire stolen from the fences.

Incompetence (as in not segregating the other prisoners from the obvious ringleaders) can look exactly like competence, only competence in the service of the enemy. I sometimes imagine how the current geopolitical situation might look had the U.S. administration decided to follow the policy of treating the terrorists as criminals in the first place instead of promoting them to the status of some worldwide secret and uber-powerful enemy worthy of war.

Monday, April 09, 2007

More on the Imus Foot-In-The-Mouth Disease

I just heard the most astonishing take on the whole debacle at my local public radio station. It was described as "news", not an opinion, so the tilt given to the whole program was most instructive.

If I wanted to mount a defense of Imus's acts this is how I would do it. The report began by pointing out that Imus has always been a racist and a sexist and that he is an equal-opportunity offender, because he has attacked pretty much all groups except the one he himself belongs to (white hetero-sexual Christian men). The report then continued by describing, very carefully, how little support the "Fire Imus" demonstrations had. Forty people in one demonstration, three protesters at a press conference.

Yawn. What's the fuss all about, then? Well, the report tells us that making fun of black female college basketball players is not really kosher. But then it went on asking why Imus would be attacked NOW, given his general nastiness over the years. No answer to the question was given, but perhaps no answer was wanted, either. Just the hint that this is nothing worth looking at.

Then there were the discussions of racism. "Nappy-haired" was addressed, but "hos" was not. I have found the same distinction in some other places on the Web, too. It is as if the sexism is less serious than the racism in those comments, because the sexism uses a term borrowed from the black rap culture.

Apropos of Nothing

Eva Cassidy. So sad that she is not around to give us more of her magical music.

I had a dream last night. All I remember from it was the sentence " I Am The Turtle With The Mostest". Incredibly funny, to me, but then I have a slightly disabled sense of humor.

Aunt Thomasina

Or Kathleen Parker, a conservative columnist, whose columns remind me of those Aunts in Margaret Atwood's dystopic novel the Handmaid's Tale. In the novel the Aunts are employees of the patriarchy whose role is to brainwash and inculcate the young captured women to their proper roles as servants in some future fundamentalist and misogynistic Gilead (picture a Christian version of Taliban). One Aunt tells the protagonist of the novel how the new theocracy differs from the old society (one like ours) in its treatment of women:

There is more than one kind of freedom, said Aunt Lydia. Freedom to and freedom from. In the days of anarchy, it was freedom to. Now you are being given freedom from. Don't underrate it.

Somehow I think that Parker would appreciate this advice, as she seems bent to offer women (or perhaps just other women) "freedom from". She has recently written on the topic of sexual harassment and rape in the U.S. military in Iraq. Her recipe for its removal is to remove women from the military or at least to sex-segregate them from the men.

Freedom from, achieved with a few swift strokes. That this sounds a lot like the fundamentalist Islamic scenarios for women's proper roles may be funny to only someone with my particular sense of humor, but I couldn't help laughing when I read this quote by Ms. Parker:

This is not to say that men at war are expected to behave badly, but there are possible explanations for some of these questionable liaisons that bear closer scrutiny.

Clearly, some of what is considered sexual harassment falls into the category of harmless sport -- the usual towel-snapping that is, in fact, a way to neutralize sex.

But more overt sexual aggression may be the product of something few will acknowledge, at least on the record: resentment.

Off the record, in dozens of interviews over a period of years, male soldiers and officers have confided that many men resent women because they've been forced to pretend that women are equals, and men know they're not.

The lie breeds contempt, which leads to a simmering rage that sometimes finds expression in aggression toward those deemed responsible.

Mmm. I'm sure Parker and bin Laden would get along just fine.

Last Saturday Parker was given the megaphone at the Washington Post where she pontificated on the general dangers of women in the military in the form of Acting Leading Seaman Faye Turney, the sole woman among the British sailors and marines detained by Iran in the recent debacle. Once again, Parker finds common ground with Islamic fundamentalist thinking:

On any given day, one isn't likely to find common cause with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. He's a dangerous, lying, Holocaust- denying, Jew-hating cutthroat thug -- not to put too fine a point on it.

But he was dead-on when he wondered why a once-great power such as Britain sends mothers of toddlers to fight its battles.


Not only does the Iranian president get to look magnanimous in releasing the hostages, but he gets to look wise. And we in the West get to look humiliated, foolish and weak.

Just because we may not "feel" humiliated doesn't mean we're not. In the eyes of Iran and other Muslim nations, we're wimps. While the West puts mothers in boats with rough men, Muslim men "rescue" women and drape them in floral hijabs.

Can you really be humiliated if you don't feel it? Never mind. But notice how Parker keeps offering women "freedom from", not "freedom to". After all, Faye Turney volunteered for the British military. Nobody forced her to enlist, but Ms. Parker believes that she should be forced not to enlist, both for her own good and for the good of her children. Mothers are too valuable to be sacrificed for the war-machine in her world, although fathers in the military apparently have lives not worth enough for her to worry about.

Sigh. The conservative lineup for the Friends of bin Laden's Values just keeps on growing.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Embraced Beyond Words

Experiencing Mary Lou Williams' Music
Posted by olvlzl.
About four years ago, while babysitting my nieces, wanting to delay the unhappy hour when they would ask to watch TV, I put on a disc from one of those Smithsonian anthologies, a history of jazz piano. Suspecting that my nieces would be more receptive to the music if they knew it was by a woman, I chose a disc that began with Mary Lou William’s “Nicole” though I didn’t know it myself. The effects of the next three minutes are still with me, it was life changing. Mary Lou Williams was someone I knew about and had heard but there was something about that slow, extraordinarily subtle blues that opened my mind up. I was hooked. Buying many other recordings, listening to her astoundingly original and varied production - even boogie woogie worth listening to, Boogie Misterioso, Waltz Boogie, ..... Mary Lou Williams was not only the foremost “female jazz artist” of her time, she wasn’t only a jazz musician who could stand with Duke Ellington and Charles Mingus as composer and performer, like them, she was one of the great creative geniuses of music of any kind.

It’s one of the down sides of words that the essence of music is impossible to represent through them. Mary Lou Williams, in her notes accompanying the recording “Embraced” expressed her suspicion of written descriptions, theories and textbooks*. She was just about entirely self-taught and didn’t learn to write and read printed music until well on in her life as a working musician. Many people might be surprised to hear it said but that might have been one of the things that made her such an excellent and curious musician. She learned music directly, as sound and feeling, learning to produce sound as sound not as symbols on a page or names of chords. Maybe even the tactile excitement that any musician feels when performing at that level of virtuosity was secondary. The sounds and their meaning as music were her purpose. The results were noted by some of the best musicians working since after she learned to write out music, she was one of the most sought after arrangers and composers of her time. She influenced some of the greatest of them, Jack Teagarden and Bud Powell (both proposed marriage to her), Monk, Garner, etc. How she too often becomes a footnote instead of a chapter heading has to be due to her gender.

What did I hear in “Nichole” and later in other recordings? I wish I could link to free MP3s to show you. If you’re curious, willing to spend a few dollars and have the right kind of system you might see what I mean by listening to her compostions “Mary’s Waltz”, “My First Date With You” and the rest of her recordings here**.

What do I hear? It’s tempting to mention the time, barely remembered, when this was still relatively new music. Impressions of moody pencil drawings just beginning to open up the world into African-american culture to a white kid living in the middle of nowhere, vaguely remembered music heard on “educational radio and TV”, the modern designs of the 50s, the genius of putting enormous meaning into small details.... but that wouldn’t really mean anything, would it? It’s just that I’d like you to have an experience that means so much to me and to encourage people to remember a very great and beautiful composer and pianist.

*This is the astounding recording of her joint performance with Cecil Taylor. Right up to the end of her long life as a musician she was listening and performing on the frontiers. While some criticized her for her “history of the music” programming approach that she took in the last decade it wasn’t nostalgia or even retrospective, it was continued development.

** Barbara Carroll was also a fine pianist who Williams admired.

I would recommend any of her recordings as worth hearing, her brilliant playing and constant searching never diminished, so the last ones are as daring as the early ones. Her Live at the Cookery album has a late version of Waltz Boogie, My Mama Pinned A Rose On Me is also one of my favorites. “Embraced” is quite a departure. Some have said that it was more like open warfare than an embrace, though it’s more like the encounter of two enormously original and daring musicians of different generations. Cecil Taylor remains on the frontiers of the avant garde.

The best biography is Morning Glory by Linda Dahl, University of California Press

Addendum To Yesteday's Long Post on Affirmative Action

Posted by olvlzl.
Clarence Thomas whined about being looked at as one of those AA guys who got in "only because he was black". He whined that he was assumed to be unqualified because of affirmative action.

Thomas began to feel the effects of Yale’s affirmative action program and he perceived an implied inferiority. White students at Yale Law School told Thomas that he was admitted based on racial quotas; he was interrogated and challenged about his accomplishments. Thomas did not like the “stigma” that seemed to accompany Yale’s affirmative action program. Further, Thomas always rejected the notion that “but for affirmative action he would not have been admitted to Yale Law School.”

Well, real life results, his work product over his entire working life, his utterly pedestrian career as a federal offical and judge, the results of his thinking on the job demonstrate better than any testing could that if someone thought he was getting promoted past his level of competence, it likely wasn't because of affirmative action.

The only reason George H. W. Bush appointed Clarence Thomas to the Supreme Court was because he was a black man who was willing to destroy opportunity for other targets of bigotry and discrimination. He was chosen for his utter banality for the most banal of purposes, the protection of privilege by the privileged.

Protecting Zygotes And Making Women Chattels

What we have the right to conclude about their real motives as seen in their actions.
Posted by olvlzl.
You would think that the anti-choice side of the abortion debate would be willing to assume a few of the burdens resulting from their stand but that is clearly not true*. While insisting that they have the right to impose unwanted pregnancies on unwilling women, to deny them methods of contraception that are safe and effective, they won’t even face the logical results of their positions when it’s just a matter of them exercising their vestigial reasoning abilities.
Once while making some of the arguments posted here about the position of the Bush regime on stem cell research an enraged anti-choice fanatic accused me of “nitpicking the tiniest details”. Unfortunately the irony of the charge didn’t occur to me until later. Or considering the size of the guy, maybe it saved me a wired jaw.

While a bit less like picking at nits, this article exploring some of the inescapable results for the stand that zygotes are fully human and thus absolutely required to be treated as such by society and the law makes some excellent points. This is ammunition in the continuing war on women and the right to their bodies. Since the anti-choice side insists that zygotes have rights that superceed the most basic ownership rights women have to their own bodies, we have the right to repeatedly, fully and as strenuously as we can to force them to answer any and all logical consequences of their stands. Since their organized effort results in their control and so effective ownership of womens bodies- exactly the same practical results of slavery- we have a moral responsiblity to force them to face all of the results of their position. The article points out that George Bush is a hypocrite on this issue even as he makes gestures around the margins by vetoing efforts to promote stem cell research. It’s time to call them on these issues and force them to answer for their positions.

* This isn’t even mentioning that conservatives are constantly slashing at even basic nutrition and healthcare services for pregnant women and their children. The logical conclusion you can draw from that fact along with their position on choice in abortion and contraception is that protection of fetuses and infants isn’t their real goal. That leaves controlling women’s bodies, aside from the obvious pleasure they get from making people miserable.