Saturday, August 25, 2007

On Bulldog Snouts As Chick Magnets

Here's another absolutely hair-raisingly interesting popularization of yet another study, courtesy of Fox News:

Guys with bulldog-like faces have been chick magnets throughout human evolutionary history.

A recent study of the skulls of human ancestors and modern humans finds that women, and thereby evolution, selected for males with relatively short upper faces.

The region between the brow and the upper-lip is scrunched proportionately to the overall size of their heads.

Among the men who fit the bill: Will Smith and Brad Pitt.

Well, no. They did not FIND that women selected for males with relatively short upper faces. They just speculated that it might be so. If men indeed have relatively short upper faces now it may have a completely different explanation. Something to do with health, say.

Nobody now living was around to watch how those prehistoric chicks "selected for" men, assuming that they were allowed to make those choices themselves.

I'm really sick of this crap. Really sick. The most vomit-inducing sentence:

This facial development was also accompanied by a shrinking of guys' canine teeth, so men appeared less threatening to competitors, yet attractive to mates.

I'm trying to imagine all those prehistoric men with gigantic canines and loooong faces who never got any, while all those bulldog-faced teeny-teethed men had a long waiting line on their dance cards.

I'm Ba-a-ack!

Don't ask me how my vacation was, unless you'd like to order one just like that for your worst enemy.

Thank you, olvlzl, for serving the drinks and for sweeping the floors while I was doing whatever I was doing instead of having fun.

Plans for this weekend: See the post right below this one. More in a similar red vein will be forthcoming. A good knot of anger would be a terrible thing to waste.

Why Women See Red

Well, why this one does, after reading all the silly popularizations of a study which looked at the color preferences of men and women. This headline is fairly typical of the popularizations:

Girls prefer pink, or at least a redder shade of blue

I saw not a single headline based on another of the study's findings: that both sexes preferred blue over other colors, on average. Note that the "girls prefer pink" argument is usually brought to us in tandem with the "boys prefer blue" argument. But evidently that bit is not needed, just as long as we can say that women indeed prefer pink.

Now, who cares what colors people prefer? I don't actually, but I do care about the explanations for the findings:

"Although we expected to find sex differences, we were surprised at how robust they were, given the simplicity of our test," said Anya Hurlbert of Newcastle University, UK. In the test, young adult men and women were asked to select, as rapidly as possible, their preferred color from each of a series of paired, colored rectangles.

The universal favorite color for all people appears to be blue, they found. "On top of that, females have a preference for the red end of the red-green axis, and this shifts their color preference slightly away from blue towards red, which tends to make pinks and lilacs the most preferred colors in comparison with others," she said.

Overall, the differences between men and women were clear enough that the seasoned researchers can now usually predict the sex of a participant based on their favorite-color profile.

To begin to address whether sex differences in color preference depend more on biology or culture, the researchers tested a small group of Chinese people amongst the other 171 British Caucasian study participants. The results among the Chinese were similar, Hurlbert said, strengthening the idea that the sex differences might be biological. The explanation might go back to humans' hunter-gatherer days, when women—the primary gatherers--would have benefited from an ability to key in on ripe, red fruits.

"Evolution may have driven females to prefer reddish colors--reddish fruits, healthy, reddish faces," Hurlbert said. "Culture may exploit and compound this natural female preference."

So we introduce a small group of Chinese volunteers (37 of them, all of whom are immigrants to Britain, by the way) into the study. If these Chinese volunteers also show a similar gender difference then it must be due to biology, right? Well, as long as we won't bother checking what the cultural color biases in China might be, naturally. Then we get a graph like this one (from the actual study):

Notice the high points of the mountain shapes? That's where the average differences by gender are measured. Notice also how far away from each other the British men and women are and how close together the Chinese are. But then the Chinese have lived in Britain only between six months and three years.

And here comes the bit which made me not only see red but caused my jaw to freeze in the "cut-their-throats-position". It is this part: "Evolution may have driven females to prefer reddish colors--reddish fruits, healthy, reddish faces," Hurlbert said. "Culture may exploit and compound this natural female preference."

Now, this is pure speculation. We don't actually know if prehistoric women specialized in gathering fruit and vegetables, we just speculate so. Neither do we necessarily know what colors the edibles were that these hypothetical gatherers looked for.

Then there is the idea that only women would be attracted to reddish faces. What happened to all those theories about men looking for some young, healthy breeder-women with natural blush on their cheeks? Now they suddenly appear not to care about that but prefer sorta greenish shades in general.

Or reverse the explanation. If we use evolutionary stuff to explain women's color preferences, why not also use it to explain why men aren't that fond of reddish hues? What possible advantage would men gain from that? I'm sure that something could be invented here. For instance, men would not mind blood so much and wouldn't linger, after killing, to admire it, but would move faster to their next kill. Or ask yourselves why men might prefer greenish shades. Perhaps the ones who hid in the jungle because they liked it didn't get killed by those saber tooth tigers and so their sperm was passed on.

And finally there is the explanation offered for the universal preference for blue:

About the universal preference for blue, "I can only speculate," said Hurlbert. "I would favor evolutionary arguments again here. Going back to our 'savannah' days, we would have a natural preference for a clear blue sky, because it signaled good weather. Clear blue also signals a good water source."

Glad to see the word "speculate" used finally. But even this is quite silly. Why not use present-day explanations for the preference? People living today like clear blue because it's a way of knowing that the day will have good weather ahead.

What makes me angry about study popularizations like these is the extremely low standards the theories are held to. Some guesswork about some prehistoric times is quite adequate, thankyouverymuch. There's nothing in the popularizations about whether cultural explanations have in fact been eliminated in the results and nothing about alternative theories of why color preferences might have a biological basis (if they do). And the authors actually use Simon Baron-Cohen's term "the female brain", which is based on Simon Baron-Cohen's biased quiz or test, a test which uses leading questions to elicit the desired answers.

By the way, I have an evolutionary theory about why women clench their jaws more (never mind if they do): It's because asshat research has been poured down their gullets for so long that clenching is the only alternative not to go bonkers before one has had time to breed.
Thanks to Judith for the original link and to jinny for the pdf file.

Friday, August 24, 2007

How Our Media Really Honors "The Troops", They Ignore Them Unless They Toe The LIEne Posted by olvlzl.

Here is a good look at how the corporate media really supports the troops. This piece by Steve Benson contrasts the media reception of the recent NYT op-ed by seven actual troops with the plaudits and exposure given to the two pro-war from the get go, Brookings shills from several weeks earlier.

Surely, given the vast coverage of the O’Hanlon/Pollack piece, the powerful perspective of these heroes would be immediately picked up everywhere, right? Wrong. Greg Sargent explained yesterday, that the op-ed “has been met with near-total silence.”

TPM intern Benjy Sarlin and I did an exhaustive hunt for coverage of this by the big news orgs. We only found one mention: CBS’ Bob Scheiffer brought it up in passing in an interview with John McCain yesterday. The only other news-org mentions came in Editor and Publisher, on MSNBC’s First Read blog, and on Time’s Swampland blog.

That’s all we could find. Nothing on CNN or any of the networks, no AP story, nothing on Reuters, nothing in any of the major papers. (If we missed anything, let us know at This is really staggering, particularly when you consider that this story has intense drama, too — one of the authors, the piece says, was “shot in the head” during preparation of the article and is being flown to a military hospital in the U.S. How the heck is this not newsworthy?

Notice this part too.

O’Hanlon and Pollack become media darlings, including benefiting from false assertions that they’re war “critics,” but seven members of the 82nd Airborne Division are derided — when they’re not ignored altogether

O'Hanlon and Pollack haven't been critics of the Iraq war, they've been supporters of it. For more on that read this post by Glenn Greenwald . With the corporate press, the lies chase the lies and the original lies are what are used to confirm themselves.

To read the experience of seven actual troops who saw what was happening in Iraq, here is the NYT op-ed.

Democracy Dies On a Diet of Lies Posted by olvlzl.

And So Do A Lot of Iraqis And American Soldiers

The TV stations in Maine are saturated with the pro-war propaganda commercials just now. Its in an effort to sway the votes of the “moderate” Republicans Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe as well as John Sununu who is not “moderate” but who has to run in the changed New Hampshire which is. The most shameful of these ads selling a lemon of a war is the one that uses the double amputee who says unless a lot more people get killed to prop up the mythological Iraqi “government” then his sacrifice will have been in vain. How bad is this piece of propaganda? It directly sells the old Bush lie about Iraq being tied to the September eleventh attacks. It doesn’t take much of an imagination to make a real connection between this all out, Republican propaganda effort with the scheduled Petraeus fraud in a few weeks. It’s all the same old kind of packaging, to extend the disastrous Bush war with temporary lies and Madison Avenue’s patented heart string tugs.

Will it be answered? Not effectively. The effect of court rulings granting corporations “speech rights”, making money equal to speech and the Reagan era destruction of the principle of fairness in broadcasting makes it certain that the corporate interests who support the Republicans in anything they do. No matter how much it damages the interests of the American People and hundreds of millions around the world can sell any lie to accomplish its purposes. Real speech in the world as it is means broadcast speech, something that is effectively non-existent for the anti-war side. Until the legal fiction of corporate personhood is destroyed, until the media is forced to serve the interest of the truth instead of its own profits, until the American People stop buying slick, cheap emotional appeals instead of the truth, there is no use in pretending that we are a free people living in a democracy. For those who are still chanting the "more speech" mantra, you are idiots and dupes pretending that we live in the print era.

Will it work? There is every reason to believe that it will give those Republicans in the house and Senate who could make the difference between sustaining Bush’s vetoes and beginning to end the most idiotic, mendacious, and criminal foreign adventure in the history of corrupt, inept administrations of the United States, the excuse and cover they need to keep his war going.

A Request

Anyone here have free access to a pdf of this article? I want to review it but don't want to pay thirty dollars for doing so.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Late August Revelation Posted by olvlzl.

Is there something about the end of August that motivates the decision to try new experiences? The implication of mortality or at least the end of youth? Or something as mundane as the old habit of optimism ingrained by the beginning of the school year? This August brings partial fulfillment of many years of intending to look into Paul Dukas’ Sonata for Piano. This month I’ve spent some time listening* while reading through the score. The Sonata, the only one of Dukas’ which survives, is well known as one of the monuments of the piano literature, often mentioned, seldom performed or recorded. I’ve also reread Debussy’s "Monsieur Croche" essay** about it, full of sharp, clarifying insight of the kind only a great composer can bring to the analysis of a great piece by another composer. I’m not going to compete with that example of critical genius. In hopes of motivating you to listen to this challenging music I’m posting his short critique of it complete, below.

As Debussy said, this is music that doesn’t give up its mysteries and profound insights on first hearing. Or the twentieth, I’ll add. It’s hard to see it ever being a crowd pleaser, though the third movement as a separate piece might be exciting. But it’s impossible for me to not recommend it as a great piece of music. I’ve been listening to the Naxos recording with Chantal Stigliani which quite affordable. She is excellent, though I would suggest you not try listening to the entire disc at one time. The very long sonata, it’s been called the French "Hammerklavier", is challenge enough for one sitting. The other long piece, the Variations, though less of a challenge than the Sonata are also worth listening to alone. There are only two short pieces in addition, including Dukas’ "Lament, from afar, of the Faun", which I seem to recall was written in memory of Debussy.

I also recommend the disc performed by Marc Andre Hamelin. Hamelin, the great intellectual virtuoso, is unable to give a bad performance. No matter how difficult the piece, how subtle the points of genius or obscure the unknown composer, he finds them and presents them in a fully convincing performance.

Dukas is famous for writing the Sorcerer’s Apprentice* and somewhat less famous for having destroyed most of his music fairly late in his life. He, like a small number of other composers who knowing they will not having a major career as a composer was unwilling to leave anything that was less than the best. It’s a brave decision, if one that carries regrets for future generations. I’m glad this music stood up to Dukas’ test.

* Dukas Complete Piano Music played by Chantal Stigliani Naxos: 8.557053
Also: Marc Andre Hamelin piano Hyperion: 67513

The score is available online, in the public domain. It’s a very long score so you might want to consider before printing it out.

** Reprinted in Three Classics In The Aesthetic of Music, Dover ISBN 0-486-20320-4

*** The subtle, even undemonstrative piano music is very different from that showpiece.

The Paul Dukas Sonata

By Claude Debussy, Posted by olvlzl.

Music, nowadays, tends to become more and more an accompaniment for sentimental or tragic incidents, and plays the ambiguous part of the showman at the door of a booth behind which is displayed the sinister form of “Mr. Nobody.”

True lovers of music seldom frequent fairs; though they merely have a piano and feverishly play a few pages over and over again; as sure a means of intoxication as “just, subtle and mighty opium,” and the least enervating way of spending happy hours. Paul Dukas seems to have such people in mind when writing his sonata. It breathes a kind of mystic emotion and presents a rigidly connected sequence of ideas which seem to compel a close and careful study. This compelling quality gives a peculiar stamp to nearly all the work of Paul Dukas, even when it is merely episodic. It is the result of the patient intensity with which he adjusts the several parts of his harmonic scheme. It is to be feared that such a work may prove difficult to follow on a concert platform. No reflection is thereby cast on either the beauty or the vision of the sonata. Although the mind conceiving this work unites a constructive purpose with an imaginative idea, there is no need to assume a desire for complexity; nothing could be more deliberately absurd.

Paul Dukas knows the potentialities of music; it is not merely a matter of brilliant tone playing upon the listener to the point of enervation, an easy thing to understand where several kinds of music which seem to be antagonistic are united without difficulty. For him music is an inexhaustible store of forms, of pregnant memories which allow him to mold his ideas to the limits of his imaginative world. He is the master of his emotion and knows how to keep it from noisy futility. That is why he never indulges in those parasitic developments which so often disfigure the most beautiful effects. When we consider the third movement of his sonata, we discover under the picturesque surface an energy that guides the rhythmic fantasy with the silent precision of steel mechanism. The same energy prevails in the last part, where the art of distributing emotion appears in its highest form; one might even call this emotion constructive, since it displays a beauty akin to perfect lines in architecture, lines that dissolve into and are keyed to the spatial color of air and sky, the whole being wedded in a complete and final harmony.

Claude Debussy, trans. B. N. Laughton Davies, 1928

We Stand To Lose More Than The Right To Choose Posted by olvlzl.

It is as close to a 100% certain prediction that a year from November the person elected President will be either a Democrat or a Republican and that the same will be true for control of the Senate and House. That choice, no matter what anyone thinks of it, is the choice we get in the political reality of the United States. Despite the often repeated mantra that it’s no choice at all that’s clearly not true. It’s true that our foreign policy establishment, and in few areas of life is the word “establishment” more fitting, will homogenize the administration that takes office. Though the last seven years have shown us again that the Republican Party is quite able to turn the government into a fleet of pirate ships, shamefully plundering for the country and the world for the profits of private corporations. If history is ever written truthfully, that will be noted as having been Rumsfeld’s and Cheney’s intention from the beginning of their various “reforms”. The foreign policy and military specialists being what they are, mostly hacks and shills, the chances are that those "reforms" won't be overturned soon by either party, though it's an even safer bet the Republicans won't ever reform the "reforms".

But it’s in personal life that the differences between the two parties are most clear. This year it’s pretty apparent. Mitt Romney, who will say anything and tell any lie to win an election, is appealing to those who would like to bring contraception back to the time when it was illegal.

But for those trained to hear the subtleties, Mr. Romney was acknowledging something more. He implied an opposition to the birth control pill and a willingness to join in their efforts to scale back access to contraception. There are code phrases to listen for - and for those keeping score, Mr. Romney nailed each one.

One code phrase is: "I fought to define life as beginning at conception rather than at the time of implantation." The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists defines pregnancy as starting at implantation, the first moment a pregnancy can be known. Anti-abortion advocates want pregnancy to start at the unknown moment sperm and egg meet: fertilization. They'd also like you to believe, despite evidence to the contrary, that the birth control pill prevents that fertilized egg from implanting in the womb.

A man who has gone from lying about his mother’s position on abortion in an attempt to win a senate seat in Massachusetts as pro-choice, to pandering to the anti-contraception wing of the Republican Party will not be appointing any Souters to the Supreme Court. There is literally no lie too shameful that Mitt Romney won't tell it.

And it’s not just Romney, Fred Thompson, the none-of-the-above candidate is also back peddling on his past on the issue.

It would be difficult to remember a Democratic candidate for president who was a clear danger to the right to avoid pregnancy. The Republicans, who have played politics with the most regressive and reactionary bigots and body snatchers in the country now find they need them to have a hope of winning the nomination. They have shown that they will pay those supporters off at the cost of our personal freedoms, the Roberts and Alito appointments were all about that.

And if you think this is a minor danger, look at this story from Colorado where the right to prevent pregnancy is under direct attack with the collusion of the national press.

So, as we are frustrated that the Democrats in the Congress can’t get a veto proof majority to end the war, as Trent Lott crows about their tactic of obstruction in both houses while their kept media slams Democrats for not being able to break the Republican lockstep, overlooking that there is Republican obstruction, remind yourself what the real choice is next year.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

A Reposting: An Environmental Lament. Or: A New Cappuccino Bar

Cafe latte. Hold the caffeine. Wait in line. Sit at a postmodern table, take out your high-tech substitute of a newspaper and bury your nose in it. Time flies. Time is money. Money flies. The cups clink, the machines hiss, money changes hands. Nothing here has a simple name. Tall means small, grande a little bigger. The fire in the fireplace is a simulation. The clientele is also a simulation, all young, all affluent, all postmodern, with sharp edges and fuzzy middles. The bathrooms are clean and contain no reminders about the need to wash afterwards.

This place used to be an abandoned lot. Not a beautiful meadow, but a rough patch of ground where weeds battled for survival. In late summer it looked like a dead field. Every day an old man would come with an even older dog and slowly, majestically, the pair would part the reedy stems of the brown grasses to enter the field. Then she, the dowager queen of all dogs, would lower herself, arthritically, majestically, to rain over the parched soil; a goddess of grass being worshipped in an ancient ritual in her honor. Every day.

Now the rituals are different. The lot is sealed with asphalt, the space decorated with yellow lines, arrows and mystical signs worshipping a different god, a god of computers, sunglasses, cash registers and ears pierced seven times. The awkward weeds are gone. In their place stand rows of boxwoods, all perfect spheres.

It is possible to come here without seeing a single weed, a single poor face, a single wrinkled face. The whole world is available here if the world is sanitized, straightened out, converted into electronic impulses. It is possible, here, to pretend that death never comes, that food is born pristine, that life is clear and good. The whole lot is paved with asphalt, anything and everything can be removed from the cappuccino grande and it still remains cappuccino grande. The god of this place is the god of logic and cool goodness, god of clean bathrooms and everlasting life.

The old man is probably dead by now. The old dog certainly is. She has gone away to where old dogs go. The weeds are dead under the asphalt. The new rituals are winning: The lot is full of shining cars, their metal wings momentarily at rest. The tables under the plastic umbrellas are crowded with people who have good skin, expensive watches, silver-colored toenails. No-one uses the door marked "Exit" to enter. The new god is strong.

But at night doubts arise. The moon casts a different light. The parking lot is empty, the outside tables deserted. In the shadows the yellow lines seem to waver, the paving seems to crack, as if pushed from below. And, sometimes, fleetingly, one can see a furry paw, a phosphorescent eye, a glimpse of a slow, majestic movement of something sinking, lowering. Does the new god turn his head when he hears the night rain fall?

A Reposting: The Armpit Wars

A wingnut cartoon adventure story (read: incitement towards civil war) has the picture on the left about the horrible enemies of all right-thinking wingnuts: animal rights activists and I guess the animals they protect. They're coming to get you and your Bible!

But look at the stubble on the woman's legs. That is a signifier that she is a feminist, a feminazi, a woman who will probably eat her children. She's having leg hairs! Eek. She probably has hairy armpits, too. Pardon me while I vomit.

The history of the armpit wars is an interesting one. To understand why feminists focused on the womanly body hair requires first understanding how absolutely necessary it was deemed for a woman not to have hair except on her head and in her genital region. All other body hair was deemed as masculine and unnatural. Which is really weird, because women in fact grow hair on their legs and arms and in their armpits.

Now that I re-read the above paragraph I realize that the armpit wars are not at all over. Indeed, they have intensified, because now the only place where women can legitimately have hair is on their heads. The genital area is supposed to be waxed to look like that of a little girl or a porno star.

It is all very weird, because women do naturally grow hair on their legs and arms and in their armpits. The body does this, even in a good wingnut woman, and usually it is the wingnuts who argue that women are ___________ (insert some negative female characteristic here) naturally, biologically and unavoidably, and that the Bible decrees it so, too. But when it comes to the perfectly natural and possibly god-given body hair on women, these wingnuts and many other Americans go bonkers. Shave, you slut!, they screech. Because those who don't shave are Evil.

From a thinking angle the armpit wars are part of the war on accentuating sex differences. Women must somehow look more like women should look if women had been designed properly in the first place: bigger breasts and more torpedo-like breasts, more bare, smooth and hairless skin. And men are supposed to go to the other extreme with body-building work. There are even studies which show that women tend to use a higher voice in societies where femininity is prescribed, and of course we all know how a real man will not wear pink (in this culture and time period) or lace (in this culture and time period) or skirts (in this culture and time period).

Hence what is "feminine" has been socially decreed to include hairless legs and arms and empty armpits, even if Mother Nature disagrees. These things happen. But it is very fascinating that the societal decree is so often interpreted as the real truth, that somehow women indeed are hairless like little Easter eggs and that it is only the evil feminazis who manage to sprout hair everywhere.

Is this enough background to explain why the armpit hair became an issue in Serious Feminist Circles? Because women do naturally grow hair in the armpits and the society states that this should not happen, even though it does happen, and quite innocently, too? And that this is the reason why all woman are expected to spend money and creams and razors on themselves on a regular basis. To refuse to do any of that shaving was a statement that women are just fine as they come, that women don't need to be shaped into totally alien life forms to be acceptable, that even after all that reshaping and plastic surgery and shaving, shaving, shaving, women were still not acceptable in most places.

Besides, making the nonshaving statement cost something to the maker. Unpleasant attention, at a minimum. And this was a way of trying to change the society and to make a sacrifice. Then of course many women just liked the idea of cutting back on all that shaving.

I seem to be telling this story both in the past sense and in the present sense, and perhaps that is the correct way to tell the story. Here comes the twist to the story: The reactions to the armpit hair revolution were swift and of the expected type. The hairy armpit wearers were condemned as ugly (why not talk to Mother Nature about that?), as manly (ditto) and as unable to attract men and therefore giving up on the fight. But the hairy armpit wearers were also labeled as focused on a trivial matter, on something that has to do with body grooming, on something that was so silly as to endanger the whole feminist movement. You may have read the sort of thing I'm thinking about here: Someone writes about the horrible plight of women in some other country and then points out that all American feminists do is to stare into their armpits, and besides, armpit hairs are yucky.

And so this became one of my pet peeves: Because the gesture did not make the point it was supposed to make. Because women are still expected to reshape their bodies to be closer to some fictional (and extreme) ideal of womanliness. And because very few people point out how the whole concept of women's bodies as so faulty is the really ridiculous one and the one that we should discard. After that discarding has taken place, who cares if some women would still shave or not?

I would love to stop discussing the "to shave or not" topic in feminist circles and to start focusing more on what the ridiculing opposition is really saying. Just think about it for a few seconds. Their message is that it is not nature that defines what a woman is, but they, the namers and deciders. And they have decided that a woman in this culture should be without body hair but with very large and perky breasts and basically no hips. It is not some historical or theological concept of womanliness but a purely cultural one, and it is based on the accentuation of gender differences, with a few cultural quirks thrown in.

I see an analogical case in the discussion about cognitive differences between men and women. The anti-feminist point is always to try to make women and men into two quite different species, two "opposite sexes" as the saying goes, whereas the evidence I've studied and my life experiences all suggest that men and women are like two overlapping Venn diagrams in almost everything. Partly different and partly the same. This messiness, like armpit hairs on women, is unacceptable to the patriarchal mind.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Sadism As Commerce Posted By olvlzl.

By chance a few minutes ago, I was reading the story of the football player who pleaded guilty to being involved in dog fighting just as the BBC’s World Update was talking about Spanish National TV’s decision to drop the live broadcast of bull fighting. It being that particular BBC program, geared to what they imagine an American audience will accept, the only person I heard interviewed was the wife of a former star of the “sport” who had written seven books on the subject. Want to guess what her opinion was? Oddly, what is done to the bulls in the prolonged and particularly sadistic slaughter of them is barely mentioned in the general media. I haven’t checked anti-cruelty sources to see what they say. While I agree that the damage done to young children and adults, one might add, by watching premeditated, organized and commercial sadism the horrible suffering of the animals is certainly the central point.

I’ve heard fox hunting, dog fighting, cock fighting and a myriad of other forms of recreational cruelty explained as important “cultural practices” as is bull fighting in Spain. It is one of the worst features of human cultures that the infliction and viewing of suffering on sentient creatures is common. But no anthropological romanticism, which is a particularly pernicious form of condescension, should be allowed to mask what is really commercialized evil. In its worst form, as in fox hunting and bull fighting, the organized cruelty is sufficiently popular to be used as a political tool.

Traditionalists disagreed. "It is obvious that watching bullfights on the television does not traumatise children," protested Juan Manuel Albendea, of the conservative People's party.

The National Association of Bullfight Organisers has accused Luís Rodriguez Zapatero's government of using state television to perpetrate "a shameless, unjust attack on culture".

I'm sure that some people will agree with the matador's wife interviewed on the BBC that the solution for those who opposed carnage as entertainment is "to change the channel". Of course that doesn't mean your children won't have to deal with potential monsters who imbibed a lust for cruelty in their homes. I fully believe that people who are brought up enjoying the suffering of animals are more likely to enjoy the suffering of people and more likely to inflict such suffering. And while it might allow people to ignore what is being done, it does nothing to actually stop the suffering of animals by people who make money by inflicting it.

I've considered The Badger to be one of the most disturbing poems in the English language for quite a while.

The Badger

When midnight comes a host of dogs and men
Go out and track the badger to his den,
And put a sack within the hole and lie
Till the old grunting badger passes by.
He comes and hears - they let the strongest loose.
The old fox hears the noise and drops the goose.
The poacher shoots and hurries from the cry,
And the old hare half wounded buzzes by.
They get a forkéd stick to bear him down
And clap the dogs and take him to the town,
And bait him all the day with many dogs,
And laugh and shout and fright the scampering hogs.
He runs along and bites at all he meets:
They shout and hollo down the noisy streets.

He turns about to face the loud uproar
And drives the rebels to their very door.
The frequent stone is hurled where'er they go;
When badgers fight, then everyone's a foe.
The dogs are clapped and urged to join the fray;
The badger turns and drives them all away.
Though scarcely half as big, demure and small,
He fights with dogs for hours and beats them all.
The heavy mastiff, savage in the fray,
Lies down and licks his feet and turns away.
The bulldog knows his match and waxes cold
The badger grins and never leaves his hold.
He drives the crowd and follows at their heels
And bites them through - the drunkard swears and reels.

The frighted women take the boys away,
The blackguard laughs and hurries on the fray.
He tries to reach the woods, an awkward race,
But sticks and cudgels quickly stop the chase.
He turns again and drives the noisy crowd
And beats the many dogs in noises loud.
He drives away and beats them every one,
And then they loose them all and set them on.
He falls as dead and kicked by boys and men,
Then starts and grins and drives the crowd again;
Till kicked and torn and beaten out he lies
And leaves his hold and cackles, groans and dies.

John Clare 1798 to 1864

Monday, August 20, 2007

The Rope To Hang Ourselves With Posted by olvlzl.

Note: This was posted at my blog last summer but I just found out that there is platform talk in the air already. Maybe there’s still time to head them off before they do too much damage this time.

Two of our local delegates to this weekend's Maine Democratic Convention gave independent confirmation of their frustration over the same issue. The platform presentation was over long, divisive and futile. Granted they've both heard me lather on about party platforms but it was interesting that was the first nonsense they reported back to us about.

The only use I've ever seen a platform put to was for our opponents to smash us over the head with planks they'd pulled out of it. If a candidate tries to stand on a platform they fall off. Most of ours aren't that stupid anymore but they always have to deal in some way with the useless thing. I challenge anyone to come up with instances where platform planks have made a bit of difference in legislation adopted or lives improved. A direct link from the adopted plank to the signing by the executive to its being made real by implementation. In best platform form, include a footnote giving the length of the fight, the bad blood spilled over the struggle for every last splinter and the problems it created for the candidate. No group has ever lost a thing in real life if they weren't mentioned in the entirely unreadable resulting document.

Platform committees too often become the tiny, little piece of turf of people who have little to say, who say it at great length and who do little else. They fight like mad over that turf using the weapon of competitive scruples, a weapon whose only use is to commit political hari keri. Anyone showing these tendencies should be diverted into something else. They should be put in charge of refreshments or some other innocuous detail that could benefit from their fussy gifts. Not entertainment or continuity, however. They've already shown a talent for wasting time, they don't need any more chances to practice on the innocent.

I suppose we must have a platform since if it is entirely absent the Republicans will make that into a campaign issue. It should be as short as possible. It should be something our candidates can run with and not run into. And to avoid future time wasted on platforms that could be better used in actually winning the election, it should be something that will be the real focus of all our efforts until it is really implemented. How about this.

Democrats believe that all People have rights just because they are people. They have their rights no matter what race, gender, ethnic group, etc. People have a right to nutrition, shelter, clothing, healthcare and education. They have a right to an environment that will sustain life. They have a right to just pay for their work and an opportunity to have a good job. We believe that government's only legitimate purpose is to help People enjoy their rights. The Democratic Party is dedicated to finding ways to provide this opportunity to everyone, to making those ways into law and to the full implementation of those laws to make peoples' lives better. We believe so completely in democracy that we will peacefully promote its expansion to the entire human race so everyone can enjoy the blessings of freedom. When we have fulfilled these planks we can discuss secondary issues.

If anyone can find anything that the Republicans can use to defeat our candidates in that, please remove it immediately.

Oh, Another “Debate”. Posted by olvlzl.

Any Democrats who are organizing one of these spectacles called "debates" should really ask themselves some hard questions. I’ll leave the purpose they’ll be put to aside, other than to point out that until now they have served as a means for the corporate media to chip away at the strongest candidates in preparation for their coronation of whatever Republican is nominated.

But, George Stephanopoulos “moderating”? A man who was mentored and made a someone by Democratic politicians only to go into the corporate media and use his position to drive a shiv into the same people? Another like Russert and Matthews, two others ill chosen as “moderators” by clueless Democrats of the past

There is no one, not a single person, in the commercial media who should be trusted to “moderate” a Democratic event of any kind. And that includes Lehrer. How many betrayals does it take for the kinds of Democrats who organize these things to learn that they are Republican shills? Anyone who has organized them into such a good position to damage our candidates should also be shunted aside for people who have a clue as to what our media is really all about. The star struck and their insider pals should have nothing to do with that part of a presidential campaign.

I haven’t chosen a candidate to support but if one of them refused to participate in one of these dog shows, answering questions from a known traitor to the Democratic Party, they’d have my full attention.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Poem of Opportunity

Posted by olvlzl

Billy Collins
never made




would it

be Simic


radio now?

The Lessons of Katrina Drowned Out By Corporate Media Propaganda Posted by olvlzl.

The Boston Globe has been doing some great work on environmental issues lately, which is certainly not “balanced” by it’s also publishing the predictable, pro-pollution, propaganda of its in-house conservative Jeff Jacoby. Unfortunately, as print on paper and without the backing of corporate mega-money, it won’t have much of an impact.

Yesterday’s op-ed by Derrick Z. Jackson about the impact of continued corporate propaganda should be read. Coming in the middle of Jacoby’s distortion of the reports in Newsweek about the conspiracy to keep America stupid on global warming, it’s a good place to start.

The most important measure of the onslaught is American ambivalence. Even though 600 scientists from 40 countries concluded this year that global warming is "unequivocal," Newsweek pollsters found that still less than half of Americans -- 46 percent -- say climate change is being felt today. Less than half of Americans support requiring much more fuel and energy efficient vehicles and appliances. In the best dreams of the pooh-pooh lobby, 42 percent of Americans say "there is a lot of disagreement that human activities are a major cause of global warming."

In today’s paper is a piece by Beth Daley about how those old, dirty, sources of green house gasses aren’t being scrapped but are being given a second chance to destroy the biosphere in the third world.

From 4-ton trucks to 40-ton boilers, US vehicles and equipment are finding a second life in developing countries -- postponing meaningful reductions in greenhouse gas emissions by inefficiently using energy or directly emitting carbon dioxide.

A 1950s-era paper-making machine from the Curtis Paper mill in Adams is operating in Egypt. A 1992 school bus from Vermont's tiny North Hero Island is chugging along the roads of Costa Rica. A rock-crushing machine used to make talcum powder in West Windsor, Vt., has been dismantled and reassembled in Colombia.

"This clearly isn't what we want to happen," said Armond Cohen, executive director of the Boston-based Clean Air Task Force, a national advocacy group. "It's troubling that we'd be handing down the remnants of our industrial-era technology rather than helping these places with cleaner options."

This is recycling of the worst kind. It kind of also makes you wonder where the lead painted toys being recalled are ending up.

And also today in the Ideas section is a disturbing investigation by Drake Bennett into what the petroleum industry and - the governments it buys - have in mind when “alternative energy” comes from their lips. The answer is even dirtier forms of fossil fuels, extracted and used at even higher environmental cost, with government subsidies.

Environmentalists see this as a growing disaster. The oil in oil sands is not easily separated out, and the immense amounts of heat required are usually generated with natural gas, giving the oil-sands industry a greenhouse gas footprint much larger than the traditional oil business -- estimates range from 40 percent more to five times the emissions. The process also uses enormous amounts of water: a study by the Pembina Insitute, a Canadian environmental watchdog organization, found that, depending on the method of extraction, every barrel of oil produced requires 2.5 to 4 barrels of water, all of which is then rendered too polluted to return to the water supply. And most oil-sands operations are mines, not steam wells like the MacKay project, making them very disruptive to surrounding ecosystems.

The problem, though, starts with the ignorance of people here and around the world. Ignorant people can’t govern themselves, there is no getting around that most basic truth of life. Ignorant people are at the mercy of any self-interested lie that is put in front of them in an attractive format.

Freedom of the press, as has said here before, is a right given for a purpose higher than the ability of the press to make money. Information is the life blood of democracy and democracy is the only certain means of people to not become the serfs of those with more power. The electronic media, the media that really matters now, is in collusion with corporate interests to sell lies. In many cases, the corporate interests are the media. The electronic, and much print media profits by selling lies on behalf of corporations. Despite the absurd, soporific “more speech” slogans, the willful blindness of the legal system which puts the “rights” of corporations over the right of the people to govern themselves, the inertia of old and disproved habits of thought, the real lesson of the American media is that the clearest truth can’t compete with a well financed lie.

Derrick Jackson points out:

On global warming, which is predicted to pound our coasts with a higher percentage of Katrina-like storms, ExxonMobil pumped $19 million into conservative causes dedicated to pooh-poohing the science. Those causes paid tens of thousands of dollars to those who doubt climate change. In 2003, Republican Party consultant Frank Luntz wrote a memo saying, "You need to continue to make the lack of scientific certainty a primary issue."

If Katrina can’t teach the lesson and really wake up Americans, nothing will except to stop the lies and that really means, to keep the media from lying for profit. The alternative is to watch democracy die and the entire biosphere as well.