Saturday, September 15, 2007

Saturday Garden Story

Six Reasons Why Everybody Should Garden

1. Gardeners glow with good health. This is a consequence of time spent outdoors evicting poison ivy and double-digging borders, as well as of a healthy diet of home-grown squash throughout most of the year. The average gardening day leaves one well-exercized, pleasantly sore and dirty, and far too tired to go out.

2. This is why gardeners make better lovers.

3. Gardeners grow erudite. Did you know that barrenwort (Epidemium) was named so in the (sadly mistaken) belief that it had contraceptive properties? Or that turning a bleeding heart flower upside down and pulling it open indeed reveals a tiny naked lady in a bathtub? This is the kind of information that many gardeners have at their fingertips, which makes them brilliant conversationalists and much in demand on the party circuit. Gardeners also know many more useful (and more boring) facts about botany and horticulture.

4. Gardeners become art connoisseurs. This is necessary because every garden is an artistic creation. Although every gardener may not be an artist, nature teaches all gardeners, sometimes in difficult lessons, why certain colors don't enhance each other, why some may be combined in endless pleasing variations and why a few additional combinations cause acute nausea. At the minimum gardeners learn about line, rhythm and repetition in the patient arranging and rearranging of plastic flamingoes, garden gnome statues or evergreen hedge plants.

5. Gardeners make wonderful friends and relatives. They spend most of their free time working on the garden or dreaming about it, and thus have no time or energy left for unpleasant arguments or nasty fisticuffs.

6. Nothing is easier than selecting a birthday present for a gardener. A state-of-the-art greenhouse, for example, is always well received.

Today's Anti-War Marches

Good weather, luck and safety to all the marchers. You can read a little bit about the protests already. I noticed the very careful way the stories mention the anti-anti-war protesters, too. It will be interesting to count the column inches on the two sides and the actual numbers of people involved.

Added: One blog live-blogging the events is here.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Friday Nature Blogging

I have lost the credits for these, sadly. I think the middle two are by Morgoth. But they are all perfect for today.

Meanwhile, in Russia

The government is offering a lottery for women to make more babies:

The governor of a central Russian province urged couples to skip work Wednesday and make love instead to help boost Russia's low birth-rate.

And if a woman gives birth in exactly nine months time -- on Russia's national day on June 12 -- she will qualify for a prize, perhaps even winning a new home.

"It's normally something for the home -- a fridge or a television set," Yelena Yakovleva at the Ulyanovsk regional administration press office, said.

"It doesn't matter if it's a girl or a boy."

Now read that little quote as a feminist. You will notice that last sentence, and its very presence suggests that it usually does matter if the baby is a boy or a girl. If you are like me you will also start feeling just a tiny bit nauseous, especially if you know the reason for this all.

The reason is that Russia is losing population at 700,000 people per year. The whys of that really have to do with the tumulteous changes the country has experienced in the last decades, but the mortality figures state high rates of suicide, alcoholism and AIDS. Hence the need to raise birth rates. And of course the way to do that is to promise women not even a toaster but a chance to win a toaster!

Demeaning, that's what it is. Let's look at some statistics on the lives of Russian women: Did you know that the gender gap in wages in Russia is enormous? Women earn on average somewhere around 50-60 % of what men earn. And did you know that the relative wages of women used to be quite a bit higher before the free market changes?

Did you know that the way women are treated in the labor market in Russia is pretty much the way women were treated in the labor markets here in the 1960s? An example:

Most employers think the burden of family duties reduces value of women as labor force and prefer to hire workers who are ready for harder and overtime work (i.e. males). Equal professional skills and qualification provided, 23% of the employers questioned would have preferred to dismiss a woman while only 12% - a man.

An analysis of job vacancy advertisements shows that up to 30% of these advertisements indicate a desired gender of applicants, even for professions for which distinguishing between the two sexes is not required at all.

In other words, gender discrimination is very common. This idea that the "burden of family duties reduces the value of women as labor" is something that cropped up elsewhere, too:

Average wages are rising in Russia but not everyone is benefiting to the same extent. Women in Russia are paid around 40% less for their work than men, according to the Federal Statistics service and the gap has only been growing.

Less than a decade ago, women were paid 30% less.

Asked if education is a factor, Dr Elena Zotova of the Center for Strategic Research, says Russia is a special case: "The general education level of women is higher than that of a man. We have the wage gap in education in favour of women. But unfortunately this education has no consequences when men and women come to the labour market."

Research suggests one of the main reasons for the imbalance is that women mainly work in low-paying sectors and hold low-paying positions in the corporate hierarchy.

It also arises from a mentality that believes women are better suited to jobs in the home.

Where did that mentality come from? Russia has had decades of communism and essentially all women had jobs outside the home? And how does all this relate to the rapidly disappearing preschool places for children:

For the last decade number of child preschool institutions declined from 87,900 in 1990 down to 50,000 in 2001. In 1990 66.4% of all the children attended preschool institutions, in 1995 — 55.5%, in 2001 — 57.2 %.

In early 90s 10% of all families with children at the preschool age could not afford to send them to preschool institutions. In 1999 only 42% of the households with children of the corresponding age could have recourse to child preschool institutions. In 1998 the average pay for these services constituted 16% of the minimum subsistence level. According to the 1997 Rybinsk survey data,
average monthly earnings of a woman under 30 were less than 300 Roubles while monthly pay for the kindergarten – 600 Roubles. Such a ratio of earnings to costs on preschool institutions made it unreasonable for the young mother to seek employment.

Let's combine some of these strands: Russia thinks it needs more babies. Women are not having those babies because they will lose their jobs if they do and in any case can't find affordable daycare. Then men are dying off at a much higher rate than women, so that any woman staying at home and relying on a husband's earnings may quite realistically find herself a single mother in a society with few safety nets.

The solution: Let's have a lottery!

See what angers me about this all? Because having babies is about sex and about women it's something silly in the minds of the powers that be. Something that can be solved with a lottery or by a few speeches yelling at people to get mating and so on. And the lottery doesn't have prizes such as "guaranteed lifetime employment for mother", "fully-paid daycare for ten years" or even "respect for women as full adult human beings."

Russia really needs feminism. Both men and women there need it.

A Guest Post

This story is by Nancy Green, originally posted here.

Jesus and the Devil down in New Orleans

There was nothing much left on the street but the bar. It was empty except for the Devil, who was able to make the place seem too small just by being there. He was wearing a cheap suit and drinking Caribbean rum — one of his favorites from the old days. He sprawled across his chair and orated across the room to the bartender.

“I got the best job.” he bragged, “I hardly have to do anything, I just go with the flow.”

“Some people say you’re pretty busy here,” the bartender said, pushing up her beehive hair.

“I’m never busy,” the Devil smirked, “I work smart, I have a system. Like this levee breach, once you have the system in place, the results are guaranteed. I just get people to look at the short-term gain.”

The bartender stared at him blankly.

“The short-term gain, Nola,” he laughed. “No new taxes!– that’s one of my favorites. We just move some funds from line item A to line item B on the state budget and everyone’s happy. No one’s thinking about the levees, they’re thinking about how their politicians are stealing their tax money — and you bet, the politicians are on the take, I’ve got that covered too. I was there when the Army Corps of Engineers were doing it fast and cheap. I’ve got my guys in the Federal bureaucracy, timid and career-minded. They don’t want to be Chicken Little. I got so much mileage out of greed and denial I hardly even had to play the race card till after Katrina. Then I spread those rumors about rampaging Negroes with guns and the reporters fell for it. The Red Cross wouldn’t even go in. What a laugh– they go into Lebanon and Bosnia, but they were scared away from New Orleans when American people needed them the most. The race card is still one of my best.”

Right then, the door opened by itself, and a moment later Jesus walked in.

“What up, bro?” called the Devil, trying to sound Black. It sounded weird coming from him, because he was wearing the aspect of Jerry Falwell.

Jesus sat down next to the Devil. “The usual, Nola,” he said in a voice like violins. The bartender brought him a bottle of Fiji water.

“I love that stuff,” said the Devil, “It’s seriously underpriced when you consider the carbon footprint. Plastic bottle, transport, waste disposal, and those poor Fijians who ain’t got no water now. What a bargain!”

“I appreciate quality,” said Jesus meekly. He passed his hand over his glass and the water turned red as blood.

“Folks giving you credit for all this,” the Devil said, waving his hand at the window where boarded storefronts and weedy lots baked in the sun. “They say you sent Katrina because you don’t like sin.”

“Hey, I took a loss like everyone else,” Jesus said. “I had a church on every block, almost as many churches as you have bars. Anyway, I’m not a weather god, and even if I was, the hurricane didn’t do all this damage. It was the levees.”

The Devil smiled modestly. “You have to know how to work with human nature. Keep them focused on the short-term gain. Invite them to cut corners, steal a little when no one’s looking. I got to give you some of the credit too, keeping their eyes on the hereafter. If they built something for themselves instead of sending their money to our televangelists they might have had some clout. They might have got those levees fixed before the storm. They might have had some buses to take the old people out. But I’m working on a new trick for the race card. Listen to this…”

The Devil sat up straight and deepened his voice, just like a talk-show host. He sounded righteously indignant. “We gave billions of our tax dollars to these people and what good did it do? Murders are up, trash in the streets, they’re chronic, you can’t help them.”

Jesus looked pained. “You know that most of those billions are going to your friends in Washington, or tied up in red tape.”

“Yeah, pretty slick, huh?” chuckled the Devil.

A shadow passed across the door and a small dusty man walked in. He stood waiting for the bartender to notice him. “Nola, cherie, can I have a glass of water?”

“You ever going to buy a drink here, Least?”

Least smiled, a little embarrassed. Nola turned her back on him, and then turned around with a big glass of water with ice and a straw. As Least reached for the glass Jesus and the Devil vanished in a puff of cigar smoke and a whiff of dead carnations. It was as if they had never been.

“How’s the house coming, Least?”

“Got the windows in, Nola, in time for the rain. We’re still in the trailer but it’s getting there. Little by little, shovel by shovel, cherie, step by step we’re coming home.”

--Nancy Green

Thursday, September 13, 2007

How To Interview Laura Ingraham

Chris Matthews shows us the way. You obviously must flatter the little lady, because women really do want to hear how hawt they are:

MATTHEWS: OK. Can I sing your praises? I get in trouble for this, but you're great looking, obviously. You're one of the gods' gifts to men in this country. But also, you are a hell of a writer. Your books always do well. Your radio show -- I just looked at the numbers -- you are up there, one of the top most-listened to radio shows.

But then you can go all illogical on the contents of the interview. For example, like this (I have bolded the leaps for you):

MATTHEWS: Well, the irony here -- and I want to be careful, without offending anybody -- but immigration is great for this country. You and I are all products of immigration, but --


MATTHEWS: -- it seems like people who are defending illegal immigration right now, a lot of liberals, don't like big families.

So, the irony is, we have this big labor shortage. We have a population shortage. People aren't -- we aren't growing in our own numbers, so we need to bring in people, even illegally, or guest workers, or all these gambits that are being talked about, because we don't have an adequate labor supply -- at the same time, let's not have kids.


MATTHEWS: It is an interesting sociometric overlay you've hit here.

INGRAHAM: Yeah, well, power to the people. That means you've got to have people to have power. And we're seeing, in Russia, Chris, they're actually paying people to have children. In Europe, the birth rate is so low that Europe is not going to reproduce itself, and so, Europe is ever dependent on immigrant labor and an immigrant workforce, and they're having trouble with assimilation in some quarters that, you know, I know you've talked about, so --

MATTHEWS: All right. You know what's interesting?

INGRAHAM: -- I just think it's something to celebrate children. I just --

MATTHEWS: People want to import labor and they love sex, but they don't like kids. Well, that doesn't surprise me, but --

INGRAHAM: Well, they're not convenient.

Notice how the story they are building is that the liberals are selfish and don't want children and that this is the reason why they want illegal immigrants? Laura Ingraham has zero children, as far as I know, but that doesn't stop her from telling that not having many children is because of convenience.

Perhaps that is her excuse, but for most Americans the reason for not having large families is the great expense, especially if all the children are expected to go to college. But of course Matthews and Ingraham are talking about extra children to do the fruit harvest and the office cleaning and all those chores the illegals are doing now. They are not thinking about paying for these imaginary children's college education. Neither are they thinking about the fact that a large family means pretty much limiting the wage-earner to one person. So the family finances get squeezed from both directions: more mouths to feed and to educate and fewer people to earn the money. But for Ingraham all that is just convenience.

I find it pretty astonishing that Matthews can say that "people want to import labor and they love sex but they don't like kids" without presenting any evidence for this combination of characteristics actually occurring.

Then there is the whole environmental reason for worrying about population growth, not mentioned in this interview, naturally. While it may well be true that the earth could carry a larger load of us, it is not true that she can do that when all the people want an American standard of living and a couple of SUVs in the garage. Cannot be done, and certainly cannot be done while leaving something for the rest of the animals.

Today's Funny Picture

It's not actually the world as seen by Americans, but certainly the way the world is seen by a small subgroup of Americans in Wingnuttia, I think.

Yance T. Gray and Omar Mora, RIP

Right around the time I left for vacation an important op-ed piece came out in the New York Times. It was written by seven soldiers serving in Iraq. The op-ed piece, called "The War As We Saw It", was critical of the war effort.

It didn't get the attention it should have received among the chattering classes, given that the talk then was all about what Iraq experts were saying about the surge. One would have thought that these soldiers had earned the right to be taken seriously as experts on the war. But the conservatives couldn't discuss the op-ed at all because the soldiers were not happy with the way the war was going. I'm not quite sure why the liberals didn't discuss it much, but one reason given was the limited viewpoint of soldiers actually on the ground. They could only see what was going on in their immediate environment. But then that is true of every single dignitary sent to Iraq to see how the war effort is going, and at least the soldiers stay there for a while.

Some stay there forever. Yance T. Gray and Omar Mora were two of the seven writers of that op-ed piece. Now they are dead. Read the op-ed in their honor.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Today's Emotion: Grumpiness

Blogging has its own dangers. Some mornings the first links I click on drive me to articles which then drive me headlong into despair. Or at least into feeling as if I'm being eaten alive by gnats with sharp silver forks. Then some other mornings I don't quite understand why I feel like a bear woken up in the middle of her hibernation and without anything to eat, and I must roll back the credits of those mental movies I've watched to figure out what it is that makes me feel so irate.

This morning was of the second type, though going to TownHall to read some wingnut daydreams (which would be my nightmares) didn't help. The underlying reason for all my grumpiness, though is twofold: First, the silly dances being danced by those Very Wise Political Commentators, while real people get killed and crushed in Iraq. Second, and on a much lower instantaneous level of anger, I realized how very little feminism has achieved in some areas, and I did this by simply reading some comments threads on the Britney Spears debacle in places where the commenters don't consist of the kinds of brainiacs I'm lucky to have.

Swimming in the purified waters that feminists and pro-feminists inhabit makes me lose touch with reality in some ways. It's pleasant, of course, even with the anti-feminist trolls. To venture out of this little lagoon into the wider oceans of public opinion shows, though, why feminist rants are still very much needed.

If only I could send a troop of willing fighters in my place. A short surge is all that would be needed, eh?

Keith Olbermann

An interesting take on the very good welfare system the conservatives have.

Crow Making Tools

This video is quite interesting. It's a good memorial for Alex the parrot who died at the age of 31.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Blasphemy Time

This turns out to be my popular culture week. Kathy Griffin won an Emmy last weekend, but her acknowledgement speech will be censored. These bits will have bleep-outs:

In her speech, Griffin said that 'a lot of people come up here and thank Jesus for this award. I want you to know that no one had less to do with this award than Jesus.'

She went on to hold up her Emmy, make an off-color remark about Christ and proclaim, 'This award is my god now!'

Bill Donohue of the Catholic League called this "'vulgar, in-your-face brand of hate speech" and the Catholic League also called Griffin's speech "blasphemous".

You know what? I think she was very funny. I'm sick to death of all those athletes and stars who thank God for winning an award or winning a game. Does their God really take sides on this level? Root for team A rather than team B, both consisting of His beloved children? And if God does not take sides this way, should the losers thank the Devil? Or rant at God's refusal to help them? It is all those uses of the "ThankYouGodForDoingMyBidding" that I see closer to blasphemy than Griffin's joke. And the joke was about that very aspect of taking the Lord's name in vain.

On Britney Spears As A Sociological Phenomenon

Spears tried to do a comeback of some sort, I understand, and failed miserably:

Some blame the outfit. Others point a finger at Sarah Silverman. Still others question MTV's judgment in the first place to open the show with Britney Spears.

But whatever the reason, the pop star's lackluster performance of her new single "Gimme More" is getting universally bashed the day after her supposed "comeback" in a sparkly black bikini and blonde weave on Sunday's Video Music Awards.

Then there is this blog post, with a picture which seems to show a broken heel in Spears' boot:

Britney's heel was broken. Pictured here, you can tell it's bent to the side. Her fat ass thunda thighs sexy legs were too much for it.

Let's move up a notch, to the august New York Times:

MTV has always tried to pump up its annual Video Music Awards with momentous live performances. But in an era when fans can watch concerts on their cellphones and spy on hours-old gigs by way of YouTube, it's harder than ever to arrange a performance that feels like a big deal.

That's where Britney Spears comes in. Thanks to her annus horribilis — or, more accurately, anni horribiles — she was one of the most anticipated V.M.A. performers in years. Voyeurs around the world were ready to see a fallen star back onstage.

She didn't disappoint: she was awful. Visibly nervous, she tottered around the stage, dancing tentatively and doing nothing that sounded or looked like real live singing. It's too bad, because the song itself, "Gimme More," is a pleasant surprise: brash and sleek and unapologetic. But Sunday's performance in Las Vegas didn't seem very likely to stem the tide of mean-spirited jokes about Ms. Spears.

Sure enough, when it was over, Sarah Silverman, the host, smiled cruelly and said, "She is amazing! I mean, she is 25 years old and she's already accomplished ... everything she's going to accomplish in life."

All over the cyberspace I kept reading about Britney. Her fatness, her poor parenting skills, her lack of talent, her puffiness and her stupidity. It was a free-for-all, and the justification for all that is that she puts herself out there and has loads of money. Because of that fame and that money we are entitled to use her as the object of all the scorn we can muster about money, wealth, fame and especially about women.

Paris Hilton provokes very similar commentary. Money, perceived lack of talent and a desperate search for self-destruction seems to be right recipe. That these objects of socially sanctioned ridicule are both young women may be a coincidence.

What am I trying to say here? That I'm holier-than-thou and would not join in the Britney-bashing? Not really. But I'm wondering what it is that drives the scorn and ridicule and even anger. What is it that we are directing in the direction of Spears or Hilton? Where should it really be directed? Neither of these young women has much real power over our lives.

I'm also surprised to find so much fat-bashing in this context. There is no medical index on which Spears would be found overweight, but many, many comments about her were about obesity. Is it the fear of being even a pound over some socially decreed limit here that pushes out those statements? Or is this one of those unintended side-effects of the new publicity drive to make overweight Americans lose weight? The recalibration of what is overweight for women, so that being more than a stick figure is a sign of a moral collapse?

This is the picture the New York Times article had on Spears:

Why is she wearing underwear on stage? That was the smarmy Church Lady question, of course, but it is an important one to ask. Because she is selling sex, and to sell sex now requires wearing underwear on stage, pretty much. But wearing underwear is something that makes people look vulnerable and a little bit silly, too. Especially if the performance bombs otherwise.

Anita Roddick, RIP

Anita Roddick died yesterday of brain haemorrhage. She was the founder of the Body Shop, a chain of personal care products which were based on ethical considerations. Her community involvement ranged from Amnesty International to HIV prevention.

Monday, September 10, 2007

What To Fear

I'm listening to "All Things Considered" while pecking away at the keyboard and I just got a summary about all the things which I should fear. Terrorists, essentially.

But there is nothing about fearing the melting ice of the Arctic.



Are you watching the Petraeus hearings? And if you are, how do you stop yourself from exploding in a cloud of red-hot anger? Why do we need to know how very good friends some of the questioners are with General Petraeus? Will this be relevant for judging his testimony?

And what happened to this year's Koufax awards? I so wanted to win the one who deserves more attention, again. It's the kind of award that really does wonders for the self-confidence of a blogging goddess. Mmm.

And what, exactly, is "the international war on terrorism"?

And am I coming unwound today?

For Your Feminist Analysis

MB sent me this link in an e-mail. The story is about the mortgage market but the interesting feminist bit is in this snippet:

There's no real estate slump for Cecily Tippery.


The worse times get in the housing market, the better they are for Tippery.

That's because she specializes in selling foreclosed homes that have been repossessed by lenders.

Tippery, 56, who projects the pleasant demeanor of a soccer mom but has a steel-trap memory for all the details about her numerous listings, has built a mini real estate empire in less than a year.

She went from a single-person operation to a staff of seven. She went from having four to six listings a year to sometimes getting a dozen a week. She's sold 29 properties this year and has 17 in escrow. She works 12 hours a day, almost every day.

"Luckily, I have a very understanding husband," she said with a chuckle. Her son is grown.

Try a reversal on that by changing Cecily to Cecil. Would Cecil be described as looking like a "Nascar dad"? Would we learn that his wife is very understanding and that his children are all grown so that it's ok for Cecil to work twelve-hour days?

The Emperor's New Fall Collection

This is the time to bring out new lines of fall fashions, but I admit to some disappointment in finding out what the Bush administration want us to wear for the next season. It is what they wanted us to wear last season, and the season before that, too: Wait Another Few Months Before Judging The Surge.

Now, this is not how fashions are created. Things are supposed to change, to be different and exciting. I fear nobody will buy those new fashions, because they are not new. And what's with the rumored venue of the most important fashion show of the season: It's going to be on Fox News only?

The advertising campaign for the shows hasn't been bad. But is this new line going to be called after Petraeus or after the White House? Inquiring minds want to know.

Cross-posted on TAPPED.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

That’s My Excuse And It’s Sticking To My Desk. Posted by olvlzl.

During the recent... , ok, first ever, cleaning of my desk, this was found scribbled on a slip of paper under my keyboard. Since it was beneath a receipt that is several years old, it’s probably not a recent quote.

She was willing to pay the price of not being universally popular because she cared more about connecting with readers than sparing everyone's tender sensibilities.
James Wolcott on Pauline Kael

Apparently I was anticipating the need for excuses before I even thought about blogging.

Update: just looked up the post by James Wolcott the quote came from.

Fall Tomato Review, Posted by olvlzl.

Friday night, holding my breath, full of revulsion, I did it for the first time in my life.

Ever since the heirloom tomato revival I’ve tried many different varieties, one or two new ones a year. Finding that tomatoes bred by people who selected for flavor and growth habit as well as an ability to stay intact no more than the few dozen feet between the garden and the kitchen made better choices than the adjunct of the trucking industry in charge of commercial tomatoes, I got hooked immediately. I tried lots of different sizes and shapes. And colors. At first I was skeptical about yellow, orange, pink and even brown and black tomatoes but I tried them and found some wonderful adventures. Black Krim, uneven in seed quality, prone to fussiness in culture and with controversial maturity advice, might have been the most extreme. It has flesh revoltingly reminiscent of chopped raw flesh to this long time vegetarian. But the flavor, when on, was unsurpassed.

I didn’t try a new tomato this year*, sticking with Amish Paste, Grand Ma Mary’s , the famous Brandywine tomatoes, both pink and yellow and one old package of seeds I can’t remember now. Those all have great flavor and specific uses in cooking and are old favorites.

But there must have been something missing because my sister-in-law talked me into breaking one of my longest standing taboos. Other than in piccalilli, a green tomato has not crossed my lips since a bad childhood experience with a broiled green tomato-brown sugar- mustard nightmare . Since that trauma there has been a green tomato color barrier past which I would not go. Friday night she brought home a bag of what she told me were fully ripe Aunt Ruby’s German Greens. She offered me one. At first I declined, citing my scruple against them but after bringing the smallest one home, I looked at the sickly greenish thing and decided to try it just to say I had. Cutting into it the flesh was a brilliant emerald not the dull olive color I’d suspected. Cutting a very small slice I tried it and I’ve got to say, it was sweet, without any trace of the kerosene notes I remember from my previous experience. I’ve since eaten half of it to no ill effect. While I’d rate it as decidedly less complex than a good red or black tomato it was something I might actually consider adding to the mix sometime.

Anyone have any others to recommend?

* I did try Red Cheese Peppers and Yellow Cheese (which has yet to produce). The Red Cheese, I think related to the fine heirloom, Klari’s Baby Cheese, is an excellent small pepper with superior flavor to any bell pepper I’ve had.

Wondering About The Unspeakable Posted by olvlzl.

You might wonder if you are overly suspicious pondering if Laura Bush’s operation for a pinched nerve coming just before War Is Peace week was a part of the elaborate media charade in pursuit of eternal war. Of course, voicing such suspicions would be out of bounds, in our media, about a conservative Republican First Lady. Openly accusing Hillary Clinton of the murder of Vincent Foster on even the most officially august organs of the media was not out of bounds but wondering if the scheduling of minor surgery could have a political dimension is unthinkable. And you might wonder yourself, but you can’t possibly say for sure if you are being paranoid. The Bush II regime is the phoniest, most dishonest and most successful media presidency in our history. They have shown over and over again that nothing is sacred, nothing is out of bounds in their pursuit of getting their own way through exploitation of the willing media who will deliver exactly what they want in terms designed to deceive the public.

In a very short and very effective article Susan J. Douglas asks how Laura Bush can live with herself. Far from being the twinkly-eyed china doll she is usually presented as being, Laura Bush has been a stock part of the media show, delivering some of the most hypocritical, advocacy for women’s rights on behalf of her husband’s presidency as it has done more to damage women’s rights, here and abroad, than any previous modern administration.

The short article gives so many examples that it is hard to figure out which ones to highlight. What the article points out about Afghanistan, where any hope of progress for women was jettisoned as soon as Laura’s empty words about it died from the airwaves, is a complete disaster for women. The fact that the present reality came after the Taliban under which women had no rights is the only and entirely deceptive mitigation to her subsequent lies that things were “very encouraging” *for women in Afghanistan. But it has to be in Iraq, where women went from a relatively liberated situation in the region, where women’s position has suffered the most under Bush II policies. George W. Bush, by his invasion of Iraq, has very likely reduced more human beings to the status of chattels than any other person alive today.

Literally every time the Bush regime has something to do with women, women come off the worse for it. And just about any time Laura Bush talks about women’s rights, it’s a lie to cover up that record. In criticizing a First Lady, Susan Douglas breaks the rule that a presidents wife is out of bounds. As anyone who remembers recent history knows, it’s a rule that has never been followed, certainly not for Rosalind Carter, Betty Ford and Hillary Clinton. But she makes an excellent case that no other modern First Lady has combined a complete lack of personal effort with a willingness to be put to such cynical use as has Laura Bush. Douglas asks how she can live with herself, but maybe she answers herself when she asks how she can live with him.

* Said from Jay Leno’s platform for Republican propaganda. Jay Leno is about as amusing as a lipid filled puddle of slime.

Note: You might also want to look at this book review by Erin Wiegand of Rethinking Global Sisterhood: Western Feminism and Iran By Nima Naghibi.