Saturday, September 29, 2007

Will Sully and Breitbart Pooh-pooh the Murder of Emmett Till Next? Posted by olvlzl.

Roger Ailes (the great blogger, not the FOX slag) has been calling out Andrew Sullivan and Andrew Breitbart for being water carriers of the "Matthew Shephard wasn't a victim of a hate crime" campaign. You should look at the links he gives in today's post. Roger's Thursday post is a good short summation of the anti-Shephard effort.

Art For Art’s Sake For Pete’s Sake Posted by olvlzl.

Note: I wrote this after thinking about the art incident at Logan Airport last week, little did I think that the right wing columnist Jeff Jacoby would write on the same subject. Reading his piece made me think twice about posting this, it could be said that we come to the same conclusion and I don't want to share anything with Jacoby. But that isn't the case at all. I would encourage anyone who is interested to look at his column and see where we come out. It's not remotely in the same neighborhood. I should point out that my title is taken from the Marc Blitzstein opera The Cradle Will Rock. As you can see we started out from different places too.

Just about anyone who tries to be a musician ends up doing lots of odd jobs. Back when I used to occasionally tune pianos to make a bit of extra cash, I tuned one for a woman who had been a friend of the artist Lee Krasner. It took me twice as long to tune her piano as it normally would have because she was a wonderful conversationalist. She really wanted conversation more than a tuned piano. Since I’d met her through attending political meetings, we mostly talked politics. After excoriating the political and social right, she liked to name-drop her acquaintances from back when she lived on Long Island.

I asked her if Krasner’s famous husband, Jackson Pollock was as much of a drunken, violent, misogynist, jerk as they said. She was happy to be in a position to tell me that, if anything, he was worse. She told me that Krasner was a much better artist than her mega-famous husband and a much nicer person. Not being very familiar with Krasner’s paintings but having never seen anything to Pollock, I was willing to take her word for it.

An important question someone once ask about the abstract expressionists is why would anyone care about the expression of the inner life of a bunch of self-absorbed, drunken, woman-hating jerks? Another interesting question about the abstract expressionists that comes to mind is why it is possible, perhaps likely, that someone looking unprepared at the work of Pollock or most of the abstract expressionists without gaining an insight into their “inner personality”, the basic conceit behind what they were doing. If that’s true, what does that say about the purpose and intellectual basis of their school*?

That was years before Frances Stonor Saunders’ book “Who Paid The Piper? The CIA and the Cultural Cold War” was published. The book showed that Jackson Pollock wasn’t the rebellious genius against the established order that the entirely out-of-date romantic fairy tale requires, he was providing THE ESTABLISHMENT exactly what it wanted, art without content that could be promoted through good-old capitalist style PR into a major “intellectual movement” to counter art whose subject matter opposed the established order. The purpose of the promotion of Jackson Pollock, through the Henry Luce empire of establishment propaganda among other venues, had nothing to do with art. It was an intellectual con job, taking advantage of the fact that fads and their commercial opportunities exist within even the allegedly pure realms of artistic creation for its own sake. Pollock’s work was promoted because it was meaningless. He was made famous because his work suited the purpose of the establishment through one of its most repressive arms, the CIA.

Saunders did a pretty good job of showing how art with no meaning was promoted because art became entirely too interested in real life to suit the powers of the CIA in the first half of the twentieth century.

After reading Saunder’s book I’ve come to suspect that the promotion of “art” that is free of real content, of any connection to reality and which didn’t even have the utility of craft has led to decorative, boring, useless, purposeless, parasitic “art”*** that the greater public finds irrelevant and ignores in large numbers. It’s the equivalent of bland wall paper. I’ve wondered if the joke that much of art has become wasn’t the result of the establishment undermining the greatest artistic potential of art, it’s subversive quality.

But I'm not telling you that you shouldn't like what you do. For anyone who likes Pollock now, my advice is to go on liking him.

* What does it mean when art that was inspired by a discredited intellectual theory outlives its stated theoretical basis? The art created by the basis of various discredited psychological systems, for example. Does what is now considered discredited matter in the response to the art? I don’t have an answer except that it probably depends on the overriding quality of the art and the kind of artistic meaning that goes beyond even what the artist could have known about.
The music of the past might provide some clues. You can listen to Bach’s cantatas and other works without believing in 18th century Lutheranism and get a lot out of it, probably much of it just what Bach intended to put there. But Bach was working intentionally through a long tradition of technique to achieve an effect. Schoenberg's expressionism might be an even better example to compare, his and the German expressionist painting was certainly not similar in content to the later "expressionists". The psychological theories that underpinned expressionism are certainly discredited as science, though there are still "therapists" seeing clients and charging them for putting them into practice.

* Willem de Kooning is an exception. It’s impossible to look at his not-exactly abstract paintings and not suspect they reflect how he regarded women.
The only two artists I know anything about related to abstract expressionism that I like are Robert Motherwell and Mark Rothko. From what I understand, Rothko had issues, himself. The pictures I’ve seen by Motherwell are meaningful to me exactly because of their associations with reality.

*** With the prices paid for a lot of their paintings it would be pointless to claim that they didn’t have value if of a largely non-artistic type. Their status as items of commerce will ensure that Pollock’s and other’s art will retain their esteem in the world of “art”. And there are people who enjoy looking at them. I don’t begrudge their fans whatever they get out of looking at them, though I suspect what they get out of them is no more than what the viewers, themselves, supply. I’m just pointing out that they weren’t painted with the intention of having intellectual content, they had the advantage of government support excactly for the reason that they didn’t have intellectual content and they were painted out of a dubious psychological, theoretical assumptions. I guess this is my way of declaring that I’m on the side of their non-establishment rivals of the time, Jack Levine and Antonio Frasconi for example.

As for the esteem of the art market and how it is bestowed, it would be fun to know just how much of it runs as deep as the fashion clothing market. And it’s not just a matter of the failed-would-be cutting edge. I’ve got a very strong suspicion that sooner or later someone will get a PhD for writing a dissertation about the artistic virtues of Thomas Kinkade.

The Stink Isn't Bad Enough Yet Posted by olvlzl.

Being one who regularly thumbs through Molly Ivins books for morale building (I. F. Stone is another) I was glad to be reminded of one of her more memorable pieces by Jon Ponder of Pensito Review. Molly said that the only way to break of dog of killing chickens was to:

take one of the chickens the dog has killed and wire the thing around the dog’s neck, good and strong. And leave it there until that dead chicken stinks so bad that no other dog or person will even go near that poor beast.

The idea was that the dog would be cured of the habit. My experience is that a stout fence makes a better solution to the problem, it’s been a long time since one of our dogs killed a chicken. Not that it’s for lack of desire. But the prediction that George W. Bush was going to stink like a month old chicken carcass and make the Republican party about as welcome as the miscreant dog at an afternoon tea may be coming true. Jon Ponder makes a good case which is nice to think about, though I wouldn’t count on that alone to win the next election.

But the Republican Party is only half of the problem. The American Corporate media imposed George W. Bush on the United States, first through their endorsement of him during the 2000 campaign, then in his and his crime families’ theft of the election, then again when through the most stunning example of incompetence in national security and the power grab that took the place of securing the country, then through his trumped up invasion of Iraq and his stunningly incompetent occupation.... Is the smell bad enough for you yet? Apparently it isn’t for the media since they’ve had that stinking thing on for eight years now. Without the corporate media, and I'd certainly include NPR in that, the worst presidency in the history of the country would still be a toss up between Bush I and Nixon.

Will Clarence Thomas Ask Rush About His Verbal Lynching

Of U.S. Servicemen who speak the inconvenient truth?

Why is he rehashing the lies that got him confirmed to the court now?

Limbaugh Could Eat The Head Off A Baby, Live On Camera

and he wouldn’t get the flack that Move On did. Posted by olvlzl.
Being on record as having said that, despite it's being entirely true, “General Betray Us” was dumb political linguistics, and that George Lakoff and Move on going on the slimy NPR was even stupider politics, I’ve got to ask, where will the phony outrage be for Limbaugh’s latest? He refered to soldiers who have seen what’s happening in Iraq and who say that it’s a disaster are “phony soldiers”. It’s only one in decades of the hypocritical, serial-polygamist, drug addicted, draft dodger’s string of outrageous lines. But you’ll wait forever if you expect to hear the DC media Heathers slam him.

In related matters, Scott Simon has declared that Larry Craig is a victim of a liberal lynch mob. Scotty, boy, where’s your outrage for the gay men and lesbians who are the victims of Larry Craig’s voting record and even worse record of political hypocrisy? Isn't it nice when the DC media takes a poor victim of leftist discrimination under its wing?

Plumbing Emergency

the house, not the geezer. I'll be busy with the plumber, if he ever gets here. I hope to post later today.

Oh, yeah, Posted by olvlzl.

P.S. Anyone know a good book about beginning plumbing that doesn't have the word Dummies or Idiots in the title?

Phila's Friday Hope Blogging

It is especially good this week. Read and enjoy.
Picture by FeraLiberal.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Visiting Sylvia's Restaurant

Bill O'Reilly did, and he was shocked (shocked!) to find that a restaurant operated by people of color was ... a restaurant. A funny take on this can be found on Crooks&Liars.

Onwards, Christian Soldiers

Beliefnet interviews Senator John McCain. You can watch him talking about how this nation is a Christian nation, for example. A transcript is available at the link, too.

McCain is not the only presidential candidate Beliefnet has interviewed. John Edwards and Sam Brownback have also given their views on faith. What struck me most about Brownback's answers was the very last one:

What's the one thing that you want people to know about Senator Sam Brownback's run for President that they don't know about either who you are or what you would do? Why they should support you?

Well, it's why I'm running is what I would want them know, and I'm running to rebuild the family and renew the culture.

I will take, and have taken, a position on a broad set of issues, which I think are all very important. But, at my core, why I'm doing this is to rebuild the family and renew the culture. And that's what I'd want them to know.

Note the repetition. Note the ominous term "rebuild the family". And note that this means something very specific for Brownback. It's the patriarchal family he wants to rebuild and that is what he is offering to do as the president.

The Kyl-Lieberman Iran Amendment

Is it just a symbolic slap as the Fox News website reports? Or can it be interpreted as the Senate authorizing the use of war against Iran as Senator Jim Webb suggests? Senator Joe Lieberman tells us not to worry:

Lieberman said Webb was off-base on his interpretation of his proposal.

"Our colleague (Webb) has given the darkest possible interpretation ... There is no intention of declaring war," Lieberman said.

Let me get this right. We have an amendment which is not clear enough to immediately tell us whether it authorizes war against Iran or not? And we should instead take the reassurances of Joe Lieberman on this issue?

Could it possibly be that all those Democrats who voted for the Kyl-Lieberman Iran Amendment were fully guaranteed its symbolic nature? Nothing about it smelling like the first step in the propaganda campaign to get the U.S. entangled in yet another war which can only be "won" with the use of nuclear weapons or something of equal horror?

Sure, it could be that the Democrats as the poor and embattled majority had no choice but to vote for this amendment which may or may not be symbolic. It could also be that someone mislaid all those Democratic spines.

More on Burma/Myanmar

It is an isolated country run by a military junta which does not care about the rest of the world, with the possible exception of China, because Burma falls within China's sphere of influence. It is a country with very little infrastructure, a very high rate of inflation, totally inept public management and great poverty, the latter despite the great natural resources the country also has. It is a very devout country and the leadership of the Buddhist monks in the most recent demonstrations is therefore important.

The people are, however, without weapons and without real power to influence the outcome of the situation unless they are willing to be slaughtered in large numbers. The military is in power and the military has all the weapons.

Whether the current unrest is just one of those times when the pressure kettle that is Burma is allowed to let off some steam before the pressure returns is unclear. It seems to me that the Burmese people cannot cause change without foreign assistance and that this assistance should be something different from a trade embargo which mostly hurts the poor.

But if I am wrong and the protests turn into a revolution, who is there in Burma with the expertise to manage a government? Aun Sang Suu Kyi has been under house arrest for over a decade, and in many ways her major role now is a symbolic one. This is not a trivial role at all, but being under house arrest is not the way to get the required training for running a country. Most of her closest allies are imprisoned if not dead.

I wish I could write something more positive about these events. Freedom is not on a march in Burma.

Friday Cat Blogging

This is FeraLiberal's Emma. She's wondering what Henriette (who belongs to plum p) is doing in the next picture:

She has a drinking problem!

You have a problem with that?

Wars As Video Games

To see how that works, check out this video on Fox News. It's all blustering and game plans and comparing whose is bigger.

Is this part of the publicity campaign for the next Bush Wars? And if so, is this the Empire Strikes Back?

Thursday, September 27, 2007

You Tarzan, Me Nuts

Yes, there used to be a Friday cat blogging post up here. And, no, it's not Friday today. I'm going nuts. Or more nuts than usually. What fun!

Added later: I read all the Tarzan books when I was an itty-bitty goddess, because my uncles had saved them. Even then I thought the guy who wrote them was fairly nuts. I didn't have the proper vocabulary for describing what bothered me in those books or the Mars series. But reading them or all the other stuff I read seems to have done no permanent damage to me. Or so I tell myself when looking into the "goddess-mirror" with the snake scales frame.

Ooh! A Chris Matthews Post!

Now your week will be complete. Chris Matthews decided to share with his audience the qualms he has about women, once again:


MATTHEWS: Do you find it difficult to debate a woman?

DODD: No, not at all. I haven't faced one in the eight elections I've been involved in, but I think here this is a question of looking for leadership. There's no more important election, Chris, in our lifetime than the one that's going to be conducted about 14 months from now. […]

RUSSERT: What I want to hear is the conversation tonight between president Clinton Hillary Clinton about president Clinton's comments last year on MEET THE PRESS that we ought to have an exception that if we know the number three guy in Al Qaeda knows a bomb is going off and where it's going off, it's okay to beat the hell out of him. Have a presidential (inaudible).

MATTHEWS: Let me tell you how short Hillary's leash is. She was asked by you, sir, about whether we're going to get full disclosure of contributors to presidential libraries. And she did not feel that she had the latitude in her husband's absence to give you an answer. She said, you'll have to ask my husband, as if you're a guy going door to door trying to sell someone and says you'll have to wait for my husband to get home. It was unbelievable that she wouldn't answer that. Never mind, let's drop this.

Now do a reversal. Think of a woman with such complicated views of men talking as a fairly mainstream political pundit, opining that men are sorta too aggressive to be leaders or something similar to that. What do you think would happen to her?

The point, which I'm hammering here very hard indeed, is that a female pundit with mirror-image problems to those Matthews appears to have would never, ever in a million years be regarded as "mainstream". She'd be so far in the distant planet of feminazis that nobody would mention her without some involuntary shivers.

On Burma/Myanmar

I have been listening and reading on the current protests, doing some learning, but I'm not yet ready to say anything very useful yet. In the meantime, check out the work brownfemipower has done in putting together lots of sources on the events, together with some pictures.

Verizon e mobile!

I was all prepared to write a long and interesting post on Verizon's decision to block text messages from Naral Pro-Choice America, but then Verizon changed its mind:

Saying it had the right to block "controversial or unsavory" text messages, Verizon Wireless last week rejected a request from Naral Pro-Choice America, the abortion rights group, to make Verizon's mobile network available for a text-message program.

But the company reversed course this morning, saying it had made a mistake.

"The decision to not allow text messaging on an important, though sensitive, public policy issue was incorrect, and we have fixed the process that led to this isolated incident," Jeffrey Nelson, a company spokesman, said in a statement.

"It was an incorrect interpretation of a dusty internal policy," Mr. Nelson said. "That policy, developed before text messaging protections such as spam filters adequately protected customers from unwanted messages, was designed to ward against communications such as anonymous hate messaging and adult materials sent to children."

Mr. Nelson noted that text messaging is "harnessed by organizations and individuals communicating their diverse opinions about issues and topics" and said Verizon has "great respect for this free flow of ideas."

The other leading wireless carriers had accepted the Naral program, which allows people to sign up for text messages from Naral by sending a message to a five-digit number known as a short code.

Text messaging is a growing political tool in the United States and a dominant one abroad, and such sign-up programs are used by many political candidates and advocacy groups to send updates to supporters.

But legal experts said private companies like Verizon probably have the legal right to decide which messages to carry. The laws that forbid common carriers from interfering with voice transmissions on ordinary phone lines do not apply to text messages.

I still think that the whole debacle gave as a foretaste about what might happen when carriers get the right to determine the content they carry.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

What To Write

My ideas file is empty right now, probably because this front page has lots of good stuff that used to slumber in the ideas file. Perhaps you could just read the front page again, and then send me some chocolate?

Can I hold a candle to myself? I looked up the "can't hold a candle to" phrase to find out its roots. It is all about apprentices once holding the candle while the master worked. Neat, and it means that I can't hold a candle to myself. Unless I hold it with the snake tail, naturally.

When Rights Clash

The polygamist Warren S. Jeff has been convicted for being an accomplice to the rape of a fourteen-year old girl. His motives for doing this were religious ones:

The girl who was at the center of the case, now 21 and identified as Jane Doe by the court, testified that in 2001 she had been pressed by Mr. Jeffs into a marriage with a 19-year-old cousin she didn't want. Prosecutors said Mr. Jeffs had known that the marriage would lead to nonconsensual sex but pushed the union anyway.

When the verdict was read, just after 2:15 p.m. here, Mr. Jeffs showed no emotion, and his followers, who had filled the back rows of the courtroom, remained silent.

In the deeply isolated rural polygamy communities of Hildale, Utah, and nearby Colorado City, Ariz., residents said the verdict would probably just harden the lines of resistance and resolve.

"That just makes him all the more the prophet," said Isaac Wyler, who was kicked out of the church by Mr. Jeffs in 2004 but has remained in Colorado City.

Benjamin Bistline, a former member of Mr. Jeffs' church, said he thought the verdict would probably shift the balance of the church away from its historic base here in southern Utah to more recently established compounds in Texas, South Dakota and elsewhere.

"They believe that polygamy is god's word, and they will still do underage marriages," said Mr. Bistline, 72, who has written about the F.L.D.S.

What do we do when the beliefs and practices of a religion violate the human or civil rights of others or the believers themselves? How do we allow for the freedom of religion or avoid discriminating against certain religious beliefs when those beliefs are based on discrimination of some other kind?

The case of Mr. Jeffs is an extreme example and perhaps not that difficult to judge because of existing laws. But the Bush administration has recently focused on the defense of the rights of religious people. These rights often conflict with the rights of someone else, and my prediction is that we will one day get a less obvious test case about how the government will rank these rights.
Cross-posted on TAPPED.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007


Do you find yourself getting sleepy when the seasons change? Or is it my goddess genes that make me so sensitive to those first rays of sun having a different tilt? Or that first invasion of autumn mold, more realistically? In any case, I felt like falling asleep on my feet today, and this seems to be a regular occurrence at every major seasonal shift. Not to mention the temperature shifts which my sinuses don't like very much.

Oh well. I tried for something poetical here but the truth is a lot more mundane. I have to find my bunnyfooted pjs and take a nice autumn nap.

Further Thoughts About the Next Post Below

Have you ever thought about how the evolutionary psychology explanations we get in the popularizations very seldom explain the type of usual family structure we see in most countries of the world? Where one woman and one man have children together? After all, this is numerically the most common arrangement and one might have thought that it would be of some interest for even the cultist Evolutionary Psychologists* to think about. Instead, we get loads of stuff about one man inseminating hundreds of women and so on, with nary any discussion about how all these inseminations turn out into adults that are then able to have children of their own.

It's a myth that we are being told, to some extent, a myth which is very much centered on one aspect of society and which ignores the rest of the society altogether.

Now, all this may be obvious to you. But I thought of it while musing over something related: The number of articles in the cultist Evolutionary Psychology part which attack feminism or any ideas about gender equality as biologically impossible. What did Kanazawa call this attack? Oh yes, political incorrectness.

I hate that term, because political incorrectness is in reality something quite different. It's arguing back to the powers that be. For example, it might be politically incorrect to point out that warfare, a largely male undertaking, has now become so dangerous that it might one day stop the human race altogether. I don't see very much about this in the Evolutionary Psychology literature, where men waging war is seen as the proper or at least unavoidable thing to do, but yet the same literature spends a lot of pages on attacking women who want equality. Because it somehow threatens the future of the species. Now this is really twisted, isn't it?
*I use the capital letters to refer to the subgroup of evolutionary psychologists who have a conservative and anti-feminist bias as the basis of their work.

Feminists Are Going to Go Extinct!

This is the conclusion I must draw from the press release about an evolutionary study by one Lonnie Aarssen:

Basic principles of biology rather than women's newfound economic independence can explain why fewer of them are getting married and having children, and why the trend may only be temporary, says a Queen's researcher.

"Only in recent times have women acquired significant control over their own fertility, and many are preferring not to be saddled with the burden of raising children," says Lonnie Aarssen, a Biology professor who specializes in reproductive ecology. "The question is whether this is just a result of economic factors and socio-cultural conditioning, as most analysts claim, or whether the choices that women are making about parenthood are influenced by genetic inheritance from maternal ancestors that were dominated by paternal ancestors."

In a paper published in the current issue of Oikos – an international journal of ecology – Dr. Aarssen suggests that because of inherited inclinations, many women when empowered by financial independence are driven to pursue leisure and other personal goals that distract from parenthood.

"The drive to leave a legacy through offspring can be side-tracked by an attraction to legacy through other things like career, fame, and fortune – distractions that, until recently, were only widely available to men".

Dr. Aarssen speculates that the now widespread incidence of childlessness in developed countries will subside, not because of cultural evolution but because of biological evolution.

The women who leave the most descendants will be those with an intrinsic drive for motherhood. The ones who would rather forego parenthood in order to have a career, lavish vacations and leisurely lifestyles will of course leave no descendants at all. Over time those genetic traits that influence women away from motherhood will necessarily be 'bred out.'

Take that, you selfish and horrible feminist. The future belongs to women who specialize in fertility and leave leisure and lavish vacations to their menfolks. I wonder what research Lonnie did to establish that it is the lavish vacations that makes women choose childlessness and not, say, the unavailability of affordable daycare?

Note that our Lonnie "suggests" and "speculates". No actual biology is involved in any of this, though he does go on for a while about the olden times when men were able to force women to have children through polygamy and marital rape and such strategies.

A very good criticism of Lonnie's paper can be found at this blog. A snippet:

My understanding of genetics is that when someone talks of "Genetic influences" (Especially in terms of sociobiology). I want to know which "genes" are involved, that is what region of DNA, what the structure of it is with regards things like coding regions, products of coding regions, base richness, promotor regions, mutational differences expressed in the sequence data. And how the product of that gene interacts with the rest of the genome, and also how the products of other genes interact with the gene itself. This level of detail may or may not shed light on complex human social trends, but simple Mendellian genetics with a Darwinian emphasis on natural selection do not cut it, it is that simple.

Dr. Aarssen says:

"Although many human behavioural domains are of course a product of sociocultural/economic context or 'the environment', many of them are also inevitably a product of genes/alleles inherited from ancestors
According to the central tenet of evolution theory, many of the traits that are common today within any species (human or otherwise) are the same traits that were also common in those predecessors that left the most descendants,
particularly with regard to traits that promote offspring production directly. The most obvious of these traits are associated in one way or another with attraction to sex, or 'sex drive', but equally important are traits associated in one way or another with
promoting the survival/well-being of the offspring that issue as a product of sex drive."

Well what would these genes/alleles be? I could make an educated guess, sex hormones are often steroids, so you need a gene to code for peptides that make up the enzymes to convert cholesterol to these steroids, then you need the genes to code for the peptides that make up the receptors of these steroids, you then need peptide hormones you need the genes to code for them directly, then you need the genes to produce the peptides that make up the proteins to regulate the expressions of these genes via various mechanisms. Before you know it there are so many genes involved and so many variants of these genes, you cannot rely on Darwinian natural selection alone to explain all this. Mendellian genetics gives you clues as to which genes are most likely to express. But putting it bluntly. If Dr Aarssen is saying these genetic influences are involved, I would like to know in more precise detail how they are involved.

The model presented in the Darwinian framework gets further undermined when you consider that genes could often have multiple functions. A gene does not work in some cases and you could get 20 proteins that have in them a peptide chain from that gene.

Having established that to some extent the discussion with regards the actual biology is lacking. That is it would need further investigation to serve as viable evidence to support the conclusions. What is being said?

Dr Aarssen states:

"The drive to leave a legacy has presented a unique challenge for males throughout most of human history: men could never be completely certain of their paternity
Women have always known exactly how many offspring they produced, but
men could never know for sure. Hence, a man could never truly escape from the agony of doubt about whether the children that he was investing all of his
resources in, and leaving an inheritance for, were really his"

This passage is actually very interesting because what it describes is past evolution. In fact it is a very good description of the social structure of a troop of apes for example, Take Dr. Aarssens' press statement

"In this way future generations of women will inherit a stronger genetic predisposition for mating and having children as a priority in their lives."

It seems evident that Dr. Aarssen is asserting that the mating rituals of apes, (Let's be truthful here) are going to re-assert themselves. Many of the press statements talk of the "mom gene" (Assertion a female behavior) but the paper talks more about male dominated social hierarchies. Of course the "politically correct" social commentator will point out that this is sexism, especially when reading the following.

"This was fairly obviously attainable through traits that promoted the subjugation of females, especially dominant control over their fertility and sexual activity, and through behaviours that promoted the acquisition of multiple sexual partners and the generation of dynasties, involving polygyny, concubines, mistresses, and rape including spousal rape The fitness benefit from these 'legacy drive' pursuits i.e. leaving many descendants would also, of course, have been promoted in males by a strong sex drive."

But this all seems to miss the point, Dr Aarssen is in effect saying that we have the social structures of evolutionary written into our genes. To some extent I would agree, but humans in general have evolved different strategies, You see what Dr Aarssen is presenting is an evolutionary paradox. You see the territorialism, the aggressive assertion of breeding rights and so on do manifest in human, the result would probably well be things like warfare. And this is not a vague statement either, warfare has been developed into a strategic art. There have been many books written about it. Go back to the animal kingdom and you will find that meerkats of all things are experts at it. And the whole thing is driven as Dr. Aarssen would agree, by mating and breeding rights, and the control of genetic legacy (There is a well publicized project that has studied this, which ended up with TV shows and spin offs). The point is I have yet to see a meerkat, or an ape or any mammal besides human beings gain the ability to sequence their own genome.

If you read that carefully you will notice that Lonnie doesn't actually have any genetic evidence at all for his arguments, and that the arguments are really not about a mommy gene but about male dominance in human societies.
Original link to Aarssen's press release from Bouphonia
. It also has more on the genetics story.

Studying Acupuncture

A new study has subjected the acupuncture treatment for back pain to a proper controlled randomized testing:

In the largest experiment on acupuncture for back pain to date, more than 1,100 patients were randomly assigned to receive either acupuncture, sham acupuncture or conventional therapy. For the sham acupuncture, needles were inserted, but not as deeply as for the real thing. The sham acupuncture also did not insert needles in traditional acupuncture points on the body and the needles were not manually moved and rotated.

After six months, patients answered questions about pain and functional ability and their scores determined how well each of the therapies worked.

In the real acupuncture group, 47 percent of patients improved. In the sham acupuncture group, 44 percent did. In the usual care group, 27 percent got relief.

The sham acupuncture was introduced to measure the placebo effect: the psychological effect that might be caused by the act of treatment itself, even if the treatment has no real medical benefits. Studies which evaluate the effectiveness of medications often assign the control group a sugar pill or something similar to measure the placebo effect. Thus, one way of interpreting the results is that the real acupuncture treatment was no better than the placebo treatment, and that the whole effectiveness of acupuncture must be a placebo effect.

But why are the two needling treatments better than the usual care? It makes no sense that the placebo effect would be so large for acupuncture and much smaller or nonexistent for the usual care treatment.

I'm not sure what's going here, but one aspect of Chinese medicine might have been ignored here, and that is the difficulty in giving "sham" acupuncture. Ted J. Kaptchuck talks about this in one of the Appendices to his book The Web That Has No Weaver:

Many researchers worry that needling at "non-acupuncture" points is not analogous to a dummy inert pill as a placebo control. The concern is that needling anywhere in the body (at both real acupuncture sites or non-acupuncture sites) may have physiological effects... These responses can modulate pain and might produce effects beyond what might be expected from an inert sham control.

Kaptchuck points out that this is a particularly difficult problem when acupuncture is used just for pain control as is the case in the new back pain study.

Monday, September 24, 2007

On Ahmadinejad

We should have a Reality Show all over the world about who has the most stupid leader for their country.

World War IV

It's hard to read certain conservative writers. They live in a different world from the rest of us. For instance, did you know that we are right now living in the Fourth World War, one waged against the Islamofascists? And did you know that there is no such thing as Europe any longer, but a continent called Eurabia where the muslims are going to be the ruling classes?

Norman Podhoretz, sometimes called the father of neoconservatism (there will be no mother in his world for anything but actual fetuses), is one of those writers. He believes that the current era should be called WWIV. If you think you skipped a war somewhere, don't fret. The Third World War was the Cold War. Conservatives don't seem to need wars to cause actual physical corpses to count as one, and so they live in WWIV while the rest of us are lagging behind in the aftermath of WWII. I think that the renaming of the Cold War shows how little physical suffering and death matters to Podhoretz. His wars are the wars of ideas. Noble stuff, and amenable to a computer game form of thinking.

Podhoretz wants the United States of Bushland to win WWIV, and the way to do that is to nuke Iran. So.

You might argue that we have always had extremist nutters writing stuff like that. Sure. But usually they don't get invited to the Oval Office to explain their dangerous theories.

An Oldie But Goodie

This is the famous Intelligent Design video about how the shape and size of bananas proves that they were created by God as a human fast food. A convenient tab to start the peeling process, a shape and size that fits the mouth. Hmmm.

Note that the wild banana (the one God supposedly designed) looks pretty different from the kind of banana most of us are familiar with as food. Note also that banana flies would make quite a different type of video when trying to prove the existence of their god (called Fritz, by the way) to other banana flies. They would talk about the cozy sites for eggs hatching and the spacious size of the food source.

I thought the video was a spoof, initially, but I've been told that it is not. It is to be taken Very Seriously. So remember that.

Here is another Intelligent Design video, all about peanut butter jars...

On Juanita Bynum

The New York Times wrote about the case of Juanita Bynum, a wealthy and popular black evangelist, last week:

The attack in a hotel parking lot here last month was remarkable not only because the victim, Juanita Bynum, is the most prominent black female television evangelist in the country, who is pals with Oprah, admired by Aretha, and who recently signed on to campaign for Obama.

It was shocking, especially to legions of women who had latched onto her message that only chastity and self-respect would bring true love, because the attacker who choked, stomped and kicked her, Ms. Bynum said, was her husband.

The episode has led to debate about domestic violence and how churches, particularly black churches, respond to it.

Bynum's message to women appears to have lots about the benefits of submission to the godly authority of their husbands:

The couple separated in June, a fact not made public until the assault case arose. Mr. Weeks was subsequently evicted from his house and threatened with eviction from the space rented by his church.

Mr. Weeks has not granted interviews but has made several statements, saying there is more to the story and apologizing that Christians have had to endure this ordeal.

But during the marriage, Ms. Bynum publicly focused on the duties of a Christian wife, counseling women to give their husbands plenty of sex and to ask them, "Do I please you?"

About this time, Ms. Bynum glamorized her own look, trading a bun for a hair weave, picture-perfect makeup and plastic surgery that she discussed on the BET network. Her wardrobe went from ankle-length skirts to casual chic and glittering jewelry.

In the seminars, she sermonized, "I don't care what kind of husband you got, that's your covenant vow, and you have a responsibility to make him feel like he's a wonder when you know he ain't."

The whole article is worth reading, but it isn't enough for proper understanding of the events. I suspect that one needs to know a lot more about the Pentecostal Church to understand the significance of some of the phrases. I have the impression that the Pentecostals disapprove of women working outside the home and certainly disapprove of women in leadership roles, but I may be wrong here. Still, the "prophetess" quip in the article must be interpreted within the Pentecostal tradition.

My reason for writing this post has to do with Amanda's post on the same topic and on what zuzu wrote about Bynum's decision to now take up the cause of domestic violence. The bit in Amanda's post which made me think furiously is her argument that it wasn't Bynum's patriarchal ideas which made her a victim of domestic violence (apparently with two husbands):

But even my comment veers unreasonably close to victim-blaming, because Bynum's patriarchal ideas did not bring this on her. I don't want to indulge the same mistake and suggest that being a feminist who rejects sexist teachings like "why buy the cow" will be any protection against domestic violence. It won't. The myth I struggle against is that women can do something definitive to protect themselves, that there's some sort of "good girl" ideal—feminist or patriarchal—that can prevent rape or domestic violence or other assaults upon your dignity. The abuse aimed at women comes because they are women and it is womanhood that's hated, not specific manifestations of it, whether they are the good girl manifestation or the good feminist one.

I struggled with this quite a lot. On the one hand, I get Amanda's point. On the other hand, something in me argues that it's not quite right. On the third hand, she hits the jackpot when she notes that there isn't "some sort of "good girl" ideal - feminist or patriarchal - that can prevent rape or domestic violence". But I still found myself feeling that Bynum's teachings were not unrelated to the domestic violence she experienced in some way not yet clarified.

Zuzu's post on the reactions of the conservative Christians to the announcement that Bynum now will focus on domestic violence in her public work gave me further clues on what it was that I was gnawing over:

Like I said, I don’t know whether there have been previous violence in the relationship. But, oh, is she getting a blowback for reporting the incident:

Outspoken conservative minister and radio talk show host, Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson is asking: how can Juanita Bynum be the poster child for domestic abuse before we know the truth about her role in this altercation?

“Domestic violence is wrong whether the victim is a woman or man,” said Rev. Peterson. “Juanita Bynum, however, is not called by God and she’s hardly the ‘new face of domestic abuse.’ It’s impossible for a God-fearing woman to exploit her marital problems for personal gain and publicity. There are two sides to every story and like too many domestic abuse cases the husband is being tried and convicted based on a one-sided account.”

Peterson, a useful tool of the GOP, has a wee problem with women. He blames mean black women for fatherless homes (and, as a bonus, for New Orleans’ current problems). Not real fond of gays, either.

Peterson seems to be objecting to Bynum’s failure to meekly and passively accept that her husband has a right to stomp on her and choke her in an airport parking lot; instead, she’s decided to speak out and focus on intimate-partner violence:

Bynum, 48, is a national televangelist whose loud and aggressive style has become increasingly popular among black female churchgoers. At her press conference this week, Bynum stated, “My focus is not the marriage. My focus is me repositioning myself mentally to accomplish a new purpose [domestic violence cause] that God has given me.” . . .

Bynum reportedly attended a fundraising event for Barack Obama this past Saturday where she planned to talk with Obama about national domestic violence concerns. Oprah Winfrey was hosting the event.

Loud and aggressive women make Peterson’s, um, Peter unhappy:

“Juanita Bynum’s comments and actions prove that she’s an angry, out-of-control woman. God wouldn’t have her discard her marriage in order to promote the domestic abuse issue or any other phony cause,” Rev. Peterson said.

Ah, yes. She’s “angry” and “out of control.” Domestic violence is a “phony issue.” Sweep it under the rug, gentlemen!

Thinking is hard work! Like groping in the dark for matching socks in the socks-and-weapons drawer. In any case, what zuzu shows us is that the conservatives object to Bynum being anything but a quiet and humble woman who has passed all her thinking power over to her husband or to her church. She is not supposed to be a public person. Domestic violence is a "phony issue".

All this matters, because Bynum's public message used to be that women have the power to have good marriages, pretty much by being submissive in a sneaky way, a way which ultimately makes them managers of their marriages where the guy is led by the nose but in a way he will adore. But the price is steep for the women, too: They will have to pretend that they are happy with whatever the man decrees.

And here, finally, is my tentative conclusion on what Amanda said about domestic violence and the interactions of it with Bynum's preaching messages: It is indeed true that a woman as an individual cannot act in a way which escapes all chances of domestic violence. To assume so is the ultimate form of victim blaming, where the victim is seen as powerful enough to arrange the world into a better shape.

And it is indeed true that all this discussion so far has focused on Bynum as the victim without nothing much having been said about the perpetrator of the violence, her husband, Thomas W. Weeks III. We have focused on Bynum and her downfall and whether she let her followers down or not.

At the same time, Bynum's message about women being in charge of how their marriage would turn out was really a triple let-down. First, she was supporting and promoting a system where domestic violence could thrive, where women were encouraged to stay with men even if those men were not at all what a good husband would look like. Second, she was selling the idea that women within this system had the power, and therefore the responsibility, to make it work. Third, she ignored the obvious evidence (given in Zuzu's quote) that this hidden management by women would never be accepted by the conservative Christians themselves.

What would all this mean for a follower of Juanita Bynum's sermons? She might be encouraged to marry a man who shows signs of being an abuser. She might then be encouraged to believe that she can control the abusive behavior by being an abject doormat wife. And she would then be held responsible for the abuse because she wasn't quite abject enough.

This would make battery within marriages more likely, and this is the reason why I do think there is a valid connection between the domestic violence Weeks inflicted on Bynum and her patriarchal values. She was not punished for those values, true. But those values certainly left her less able to choose relationships which offer the promise of mutual friendship and affection.

Sunday, September 23, 2007


The leaves are falling, falling as from far
withered gardens in the distant sky,
they fall with resigned gestures.

And in the night falls the heavy Earth
out of all the stars in the solitude.

We are all falling. This hand falls
And look at everything, it is in all.

And yet there is one who all of these falling
eternally, soft, holds in his hands.

Rainer Maria Rilke: Buch der Bilder trans. By C. A.

Was The Martyred Sheik Abu Risha A Fake? Posted by olvlzl

Was he one of the “characters like Disney cartoon heroes" that the Bush regime and it’s kept media creates to sell and sustain the occupation? I don’t know, which probably puts me in exactly the same position as just about every single person you’ve heard talk about this. But this by Greg Palast is certainly interesting to wonder about. And, from all the other lies we do know the Bush regime and the Amercian media has told us, you can’t discount it out of hand. Our institutions have sold their credibility so completely in the past two decades that nothing they say can be trusted.

Bush Regime Continues To Give The People Of Iraq The Finger. Posted by olvlzl.

The impunity that Blackwater and other hired thugs of the Bush regime to commit, literally, mass murder in Iraq is as telling as anything about the occupation of that country. The continued insistence of the Bush occupation that Blackwater stay even as it continues its mass killing and the impotence of the government in Iraq to stop them shows just how much of a PR smokescreen the “democracy” Bush envisions is. But, what can anyone really expect of the junta that came to power in the United States through an election rigged by Jeb Bush in Florida. No, I have no intention of forgetting any of this.

We need a full investigation of the use of organized crime as a tool of United States policy, at the dirty war within the dirty war.

Update: If anyone doubts how bad Blackwater is, read this account in the Independent.

Mary Mapes on Dan Rather Suing Their Former Employers. Posted by olvlzl.

I hope Dan Rather’s lawsuit against CBS is heard in full. I’m sure his former employers will try to drag it out and try to outlive him but if he manages to present the facts of his case it could be one of the most significant services he does in his career as a reporter, pulling back the Lyin’ Curtain to expose the “corporatized, trivialized and castrated” charade that fits in the place that used to be filled by journalism. The description is from this piece by Mary Mapes, who was the first person thrown overboard by CBS when it became clear they wouldn’t stand up for the reporting done on George W. Bush’s draft dodging with the help of his daddy’s friends in Texas. If you remember that as having been a rebutted charge, you can be forgiven. That’s the way that the American “news” media played it in full disregard for the known facts and in light of the almost certainly suppressed and destroyed records.

You should really read Mapes post. Her account of, Dick Thornburgh’s grilling her over her talking like a reporter is rather funny, if it wasn’t so revealingly chilling. If you don’t recall it was the total Republican tool, Thornburgh, who was the “impartial investegator” chosen to head the CBS to look at where the story went wrong. Though it’s clear that the only thing Rather and his team did wrong was report the evidence that the worst president in the history of the country who was engaged in the most incompetent military and domestic policy in our history was a man who dodged the draft through the advantages of the sons of the oligarchy.

I really do hope that Rather’s suit is heard and, frankly, I hope he wins everything he’s asking for. I’ll bet that if it does go to trial some soppy lines about it damaging journalism will be spoken. What journalism? We might have had something like journalism once, with the entirely incompetent corporate shill Katie Couric as the replacement for Rather, it’s clear there is no journalism allowed on corporate TV.

Aldous Huxley Was A Prophet. Posted by olvlzl.

"And I should like to take this opportunity, Mr. Marx," he went on, "of saying that I'm not at all pleased with the reports I receive of your behaviour outside working hours. You may say that this is not my business. But it is. I have the good name of the Centre to think of. My workers must be above suspicion, particularly those of the highest castes. Alphas are so conditioned that they do not have to be infantile in their emotional behaviour. But that is all the more reason for their making a special effort to conform. lt is their duty to be infantile, even against their inclination. And so, Mr. Marx, I give you fair warning." The Director's voice vibrated with an indignation that had now become wholly righteous and impersonal was the expression of the disapproval of Society itself. "If ever I hear again of any lapse from a proper standard of infantile decorum, I shall ask for your transference to a Sub-Center preferably to Iceland. Good morning."

Brave New World Chapter 6