Saturday, June 05, 2010

Old Photo Posting

Left-click on the pics to make them bigger.

Summer type things. Later I will post the swimming pictures if I find them. Because of the costumes!

Buffy Sainte-Marie

God is Alive Magic is Afoot

Buffy Sainte-Marie Music
Leonard Cohen Words

Buffy Sainte-Marie was an innovator in the use of electronics in her music, one of the most creative and original. I seem to remember the lyrics are from Cohen's novel Beautiful Losers.

Friday, June 04, 2010

Sex & power in Guyville (by Suzie)

Last week, Anthony mentioned the recent rerelease of "Exile on Main St.," and I got thinking of my love for the Rolling Stones. In junior high, I remember sitting at the little table in our trailer, playing "Angie" over and over so that I could copy down the lyrics. I wrote (really bad) poetry then, and I was on a mission to prove that rock 'n roll lyrics could be poetry, too.

I've written before about my trip from Little Rock to New Orleans to hear the Stones. What I didn't mention was my crush on an older copy editor who finally agreed to have sex with me if I stopped acting so obsequious. Cat hair covered his place, and I'm allergic to cats. The first time, I was delirious with lust and allergens. I told him I'd do anything to have him again. (All he wanted was for me to calm down.)

I was in my early 20s, and sex was intoxicating. Later, I felt the power that I could have over (some) men with my sexuality. I knew that power was evanescent, but at times, I still thought of myself as bad Little Suzie, the Queen of the Underground (from the Stones song above, covered by the Cowboy Junkies. I love Margo Timmins' voice.), except that Little Suzie doesn't come off so well in the song; I didn't do drugs; and I always associated it with Queen of the Underworld, even though I know the meanings for underground. Oh, well, it's better than guys singing "Susie Q" or "Wake up, Little Susie" to me.

On my 31st birthday, in Athens, the man I lived with had my present in his pocket. I thought it might be a ring, but no, it was tickets to the Stones. That decade I decided that, as a feminist, I could not love some Stones songs while ignoring ones like "Under My Thumb" or "Some Girls."

In 1993, Liz Phair came out with "Exile in Guyville," her response to the Stones' "Exile on Main St." as well as the male-dominated indie crowd in Chicago. She wrote the songs when she was 21-23, according to IMDB. I was older. I wasn't in that place anymore. But I loved her attitude. The album became a classic for me in a way that the Stones could never be. A sample from her "Help me, Mary":
I lock my door at night
I keep my mouth shut tight
I practice all my moves
I memorize their stupid rules

I make myself their friend
I'll show them just how far I can bend
As they egg me on and keep me mad
They play me like a pit bull in a basement, and for that...

I'm asking you, Mary, please
Temper my hatred with peace
Weave my disgust into fame
And watch how fast they run to the flame
ATO reissued "Guyville" in 2008, along with a video that interviews men from the Chicago music scene -- Guyville in the flesh. It reminds me of Phair's "Never Said," whose silly video I've included below.

Phair has done stuff that I dislike, but I agree with S.M. Berg, who wrote a great piece on her in 2005. It concludes:
I believe that Phair, like many women, cut the best deal with patriarchy a talented, attractive woman can make, and she shouldn't be cast off as a sexed-up sellout any more than other women forced to navigate the choppy, pornified currents of our time.
In an interview in Women's Health, Phair talked of being a feminist.
I'm known for being annoyingly gender-focused. It's always been my platform. I can't quite get over it. In my teens and even younger I felt like a sexual object. That was upsetting. In my 20s I said, "I'm going to take control of this. I'm going to define my own sexuality and push it on everyone else." That lasted until I became more mature and stopped needing to do that. I've done plenty of stuff that people wouldn't call feminist. I've used my sexuality to get what I wanted. But there's no reason to incriminate or attack. Women's bodies are used to sell anything and everything because it works, it grabs people's attention, and advertisers aren't going to stop using something that works. I just try to think about it, to realize when it's happening around me and when I'm involved in it myself.

The rescue of Mi Hija (by Suzie)

The first photo is from August 2008, when Bonnie Blossom rescued the puppy. By December, Mi Hija had grown into quite the lap dog. On her blog, Bonnie tells how she lost her dog Punkie but gained another: She was driving across the state when she stopped at a convenience store. She saw a dead dog in the road and a group of men standing around a pickup.

"The clerk explained that the guys were selling fighting dogs, and the one in the road was the mother that had jumped out of the truck the day before and gotten hit. On the way back to my car, I looked in the truck." She saw Mi Hija. "Shivering, covered in chicken shit and God knows what else, the little one obviously wasn't one of the fighters--she was a bait dog. You know, the ones they 'use' to teach the fighters how to tear something up."

Bonnie told the men that she wouldn't call the police if they gave her the puppy, and they did. (And she called Animal Services after she had driven away.)

"I picked her up--chicken shit and all--and the first thing she did was snuggle into my chest and start sucking on the pendant with Punkie's ashes in it. I looked up at the sky, whispered, "you win," and packed her off. How could I leave her there?"

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Thursday Echidne News

I must remember to write about beauty and the glass-clear pure joy life sometimes pours on us, even if it is as temporary as summer rain. My tai chi class yesterday morning was like that. It was held out in the open, in a park full of ancient beech trees reaching to heavens, standing there like sentinels from some mysterious realm, in a wide ring, as if inviting us to dance with them. To dance with them the dance of energy which we share with all living creatures.

The sun filtered through their branches, the city noises lost themselves in their canopies and the wind passing through their leaves felt like a gentle touch on my skin.

So we danced, the trees and the humans, and for one hour the world was perfect.

Even The Queen. And Other Stories.

Moonbootica linked to this informative and fun video about female writers of science fiction and fantasy:

It doesn't cover all the famous women of those genres but it's a start for those of you who want to escape without doing Sex And The City II (or the latest Kill All The Bad Guys And Rule The World movie).

The video mentions Connie Willis and her short story "Even The Queen" which has been seen as an anti-feminist riff or a feminist riff or both. The story takes place in a world where women don't menstruate because of scientific advances, except those women who want to make a radical statement about the society which forces male patterns of existence on them.

I have read the story a few times. It would be interesting to learn what others think about it. My very first reaction was a silly one: I thought the story was not science fiction in the sense that women don't have to menstruate today if they don't want to. And neither did they have to in the 1980s.

My second reaction was dislike. Not because Willis makes fun of various groups of feminists (a lot of that is very funny) but because she makes no shots at the reasons why feminism exist in the first place. It's like a story about the labor movement without any capitalists where one laughs at the silly extremes the workers go to. If only they had had robots for work like we do!

I'm not sure what the interpretations of "Even The Queens" are though I know they exist. Perhaps some reviewers find the very idea of a short story on menstruation inappropriate, something that should not exist in the lofty annals of science fiction which is supposed to be all about spaceships and AI? Or the fact that the characters in the story are almost all uppity professional women?

By they way, some good news on the latest of those great books or great authors lists: The New York Times list of younger authors to watch is fairly evenly split by gender.

Two Useful Questions

Always ask yourself when you read some new research results or social commentary is this:

How do they know?

I've found it's a short-cut straight through most of the crap that is out there.

The second useful question for all feminists is this:

What happens if I switch the genders in this story?

It's astonishing how often that simple exercise shows you what caused that odd nagging feeling when reading or hearing or seeing something. Because bias can be quite subtle.

The third useful question might be:

Why am I giving away all my useful knowledge?

A Baby In The Box

While rehanging the windows this weekend (they've got new ropes now!) I thought about chores around the house and how much easier it would have been to make a phone call and have new windows delivered! When you people start paying me my proper worth (nope, it's not zero bucks) I will!

A natural step from that was to think about the way human beings acquire children. Set aside for a while all the good emotional stuff about children, all the urges and desires and such. Think of babies as durable consumption goods!

Like refrigerators or washing machines. Something you purchase in one largish lump but which offers you services for a long time. Children offer the enjoyment of their company, the promise of immortality through one's offspring and in some cultures old age security.

But the way children are acquired is very different for men and women in the traditional thinking: It's as if men can buy a baby in a box but women need to make it from scratch. This might be very expensive for men, depending on the culture and other circumstances (such as social class). Those expenses can be paid with money, however. Women, instead, are expected to knit the children out of their bodies and blood, not only in the obvious sense but in the sense of a twenty year commitment of permanent supervision, responsibility and caring. And note that the purchase price of the baby in the box is not set openly. It can be as little as he gets away with or as much as she manages to squeeze out of him.

No wonder if a person having these traditional views regards uppity career women with great anger and contempt. Who's knitting the children,hmh? And no wonder that many experts, though no longer willing to say aloud that women should be making the children by hand, still argue that having two parents working is like both of them trying to buy the baby in the box. Who's making it? Some inferior stranger, probably.

Guys can buy a baby in a box, however, though that is usually not said aloud. If the baby turns out not so great, it's not his fault. Even if he reneged on the price.

The story isn't this simple, of course. People like making babies from scratch ( the pun intended). But it might be one way to make the traditional societal assumptions clearer, to show how the Catch-22 works for women: If you don't knit all of your child yourself you are going to produce a lower-quality child. But if you do knit your child full time, you will be economically trapped if anything goes wrong.

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Today's Teh Funny

From the Guardian (prepare for this):

Seemingly aware of its rock-bottom public image, BP this week hired Anne Womack-Kolton, once press secretary to the former vice-president Dick Cheney, to bolster its public relations effort in the US. A CBS poll found that 70% of Americans disapprove of the way BP has handled the oil spill.

So utterly hilarious. Tragic, too, naturally, but to hire the PR person of the politician whose likability ratings always hovered just below those of rabid alligator is funny. Really.

It's also disappointing that the industry still believes in the effect of babble-speak over facts. Just put some makeup on the corpse sort of thing.

Today's Not-So-Deep Thoughts

Newspaper articles about teenagers are always full of worry, full of the "what's the world coming to" feeling. I remember reading about the awful next generation from the old Roman era and I once read a piece from the early 1950s which described teens as unhappy and wild because their stay-at-home moms went to too many charity meetings.

So you have to take the gloom-and-doom pieces with a big pinch of salt without of course discounting the possibility that problems are real.

Now, the oil, that IS a real problem. But instead of writing about it I stick my head under the covers. There's nothing I can do at this very moment to stop the oil from gushing (it's Poseidon's job but you can understand why he is too pissed off, having to clean his beard from oil all the time).

All I can do is to keep on mumbling in this little corner of the blogosphere.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010


It's one of those topics that I have scribbled in the list on my fridge door. You know, the red-flag-in-front-of-a-bull topics of feminism and the topics which lead to arguments going around in a never-ending circle. Topics which I don't exactly avoid but which I only tackle after a good night's sleep, some extra fruit and veggies and lots of rehearsing in front of the mirror.

Heterosexual marriage belongs on that list because it provokes that whole wide range of extremely firmly held views: "Marriage is patriarchy's name for prisons for women." "Marriage is life-long prostitution." "Egalitarian marriage is possible." "Marriage can't be rehabilitated." "My marriage is feminist!" And so on and on and on.

There are good reasons for the debate. Most of them hide behind the traditional facts and traditional myths associated with that bridal veil:

The utter imbalance of the conventional marriage bargain (he's an employer, she an employee) , the Victorian idea of marriage as the way in which otherwise useless women civilize men and stop them from becoming marauding Visigoths, the fact that marriage for a long time was the easiest way for a woman to eat enough and have a roof over her head, whatever it otherwise implied, and of course the old laws of coverture which made a married woman nonexistent in law except when the law wanted to hang her or put her in prison.

The above paragraph isn't even safely inside the covers of history books. Women in many countries still have to rely on marriage for mere survival and laws sometimes fail to give wives and husbands the same rights. For example, when only men have the right to take several spouses, women's rights are limited to one husband or some fraction of one husband.

None of this implies that marriage was a strawberry patch for all men, either. But ultimately the question for young men of the past was whether they could afford a wife and the children that might mean, whereas young women had to decide whether they could afford NOT to get married.

No wonder that feminists debate the whole societal institution of marriage. You have all this to contend with and then the white veil ads run! The bridal showers must be arranged! The tiara must be purchased, bridesmaids must be lined up and dressed (in awful colors) to be the ladies of the court for the Princess Of The Day!

Then the big day arrives and costs the bridal couple more than a house (or costs the bride's father a house if you go the whole patriarchal hog) and it's lovelovelove and the wedding day is the one day in your life when nobody calls you selfish for wanting all the limelight and you will live happily forever after and a day. While bearing his ring and his last name, natch.

But it is love, indeed. It is. That's the hard combination.

If our various and contradictory societal concepts of marriage were all inside the head of only one person we'd all agree on that person's severe mental imbalance and would promptly have him or her treated. But because the mess is general, almost universal, we regard it as normal. An alien from outer space would certainly have difficulty understanding the princess outfit on adult women, the gigantic wedding party and then the far-too-frequent divorce not that much later.

But that alien might also notice that perhaps we live in the twilight of the traditional marriage, in a time when the old conventions have only recently started looking somewhat odd, given that the truly patriarchal marriage arrangement is fading away. It was, after all, that unbalanced arrangement which made the wedding day what it still resembles today: The last hooray of the woman who on that day stopped existing as a separate individual.

What will the future marriage look like if it exists? I suspect that it will exist, in some form, because human beings want to make longer term bonds with each other. But perhaps it won't be as discriminatory towards gays and lesbians or as oppressive to women (and yes, even to men) as the traditional marriage could be. Perhaps we will differentiate parenting contracts from partnering contracts one day and perhaps the latter will be regarded as renegotiable and not necessarily related to sexuality at all.

And then perhaps pigs will learn to fly, too.

When Gossip Is Not Called Gossip

Digby writes about the media reaction (yes, there actually IS a reaction) to the news that Al and Tipper Gore are separating:

Matthews: Lois [Romano, Washington Post] did this surprise you? Was this something out of nowhere?

Romano: It totally surprised me because they bought a nine million dollar house just last month for a winter vacation home. It shocked even their closest friends ...

Matthews: Where did they buy the house?

Romano: California Montecito. It's a five bedroom ocean front house. So ...

Matthews: wow. Well they're loaded right now, they're doing very well.

Romano: And they celebrated their 40th anniversary two weeks ago so no one knows where this came from.

This is gossiping, of course. But it's not called that when powerful people on television do it.

Added later: Hecate (who blogs here) just noticed something really priceless in that gossip:

Romano: You know one thing Chris to think about is that there have been two distinct phases in Al Gore's life. The first 30 years with Tipper they had a common goal, it might not have been her goal, but it was a common goal nonetheless and it was fight for the presidency.

Wonderfully funny! And really the definition of a marriage in a polite patriarchy.

'Consummating unions' (by Suzie)

The NYT had a good and necessary story yesterday about child brides in Afghanistan. The story says two girls complained that their elderly husbands "beat them when they tried to resist consummating the unions." Why didn't the writers (or their editors) use the word "rape"? Even "sex" would be better than the ponderous "consummating the unions."

The story talks a lot about beatings and child marriage, but readers are left to assume that men also raped these teens.

In the U.S., journalists hesitate to say someone raped someone, unless a court has convicted the rapist of rape. Journalists are trying to be fair to the accused, but mainly, their bosses don't want to get sued if the guy is found not guilty. It's unlikely, however, that Afghan villagers are going to sue the Times.

Did the reporters not use "rape" because the girls didn't use that term? Did they not use "rape" because the husbands and other villagers would not consider it rape? I don't know, but here's my theory: Lots of people are still uncomfortable using the term "rape" to describe forced sex within marriage and other relationships or when the coercion is implicit but does not fit their idea of what rape looks like.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Honoring The War Dead

Atrios linked to this column by E.J. Dionne:

Why is it that every Memorial Day, we note that a holiday set aside for honoring our war dead has become instead an occasion for beach-going, barbecues and baseball?

The problem arises because war-fighting has become less a common endeavor than a specialty engaged in by a relatively small subset of our population. True, some people slipped out of their obligations in the past, and military service was largely, though never exclusively, the preserve of men. The steady growth of opportunities for women in the armed forces is a positive development. I say this proudly as someone whose sister is a veteran of the Navy Judge Advocate General's Corps, as is her husband.

Can we ever return to a time when we pay proper homage to the service of our warriors, living and dead?

Was there ever such a time? A time when proper homage was paid to the service of our warriors, living and dead? And what was that homage? What should it consist of? The danger is that it will glorify war instead of glorifying the warriors.

The Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall (depicted above) is a beautiful way of remembering those who died in that war. So is the Tomb of The Unknown Soldier. But most public statues paying homage to warriors depict the leaders, the powers of the war, or give us that stereotyped image of the valiant soldier defending the woman cowering behind him with several children hanging on to her hems and a few in her arms. If we use the latter frame for honoring the war dead we are also demanding a certain interpretation of wars: They are there to protect women and children.

Which isn't the case, in terms of the motivations of most wars (which are about access to resources and power) or in terms of whom to blame for wars.

Yet of course warriors have traditionally protected their own women and children, though not the ones belonging to the enemy. They have also protected other men, including older men. But the story is always crystallized as the protection of women and children.

Perhaps wars like the war in Congo remind us that the role of women in wars is often horrible: To serve as the tools of war and its collateral victims. We don't have a public holiday for the victims of wars, I notice.

All that is a long way to explain why honoring the war dead is not as simple as E.J. Dionne insists. Certainly the sacrifices of those who died in wars should be remembered and respected, and their names said out aloud. Certainly the veterans should be treated better in this country. But there is a difference between honoring warriors and honoring war and also a difference between honoring all who died in wars and only those named as its warriors.

And not all the war dead died in the war. This is an essay I wrote some time ago, based on a family story:

He loved horses. When the enemy approached and the village had to be evacuated it made sense that he would go with the horses. Someone had to, and most of the adult men were already fighting the war. He was fifteen, old enough to go alone. And the horses needed someone with them in the train carriages, someone they knew, someone they trusted, someone who could stroke them gently when the bombs went off, someone who could stop them from shivering. Later that time meant for him the frightened eyes of the young colt, the foam around its mouth, the long dark carriage without food for animals or for people. The sound of the engine and the song of the weapons.

He loved horses. The following year he was old enough to go to war, a man now, all of sixteen. He was good with horses, so they made him a messenger boy between the artillery units. He would ride the horses with another boy, someone he made friends with. It was almost a summer camp for them, a lark. They were heroes! They were men now! Until the day when a hand grenade exploded under what only a moment earlier had been his friend on a horse. Red. So much redness. More redness in the world than he could imagine.

After that day he grew used to the redness and the war. He did what he was told to do and he survived the war. Peace broke out, and his life was suddenly there, all open, for him to step into. Life. Light and silence or only ordinary noises. He could learn to like it. The war was over. He got a job, a wife, children. The war was over.

Then came the nightmares. They would gallop across his sleeping mind, hooves red with blood, gallop and gallop in a war that never ended. Sometimes he would drink until the galloping stopped. Sometimes he would look into the mirror and see a young man, intact, and then he would think the nightmares were just dreams. Sometimes he would look into the mirror and see himself filled with blood, all blood, ready to explode.

Nightmares cannot be stroked, cannot be made to stop shivering. But he grew used to them. He learned how to live around them, how to forget the war when he was awake. How to be on guard. He never knew what might explode, who might turn into an enemy. He had to be on guard, had to have rage, had to ride it like a horse, towards some invisible goal of safety. Had to ride roughshod sometimes, over people, not around them. Had to. Had to teach the children so that they wouldn't be shocked by the redness or the blood or the trains coming and going. Better they know when they are little. That way nothing can hurt them later, nothing. And had to teach them not to care about the horses or other living things. Too much blood. Too much to care about, too much to leave behind.

He used to love horses.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

It's My Party [Anthony McCarthy]

And I want to continue the Carla Bley series

Escalator Over The Hill is usually called an opera but it's not your typical opera. Some say it was Carla Bley's response to Sgt. Pepper's, she thought a theme album could do more and she did it.

I'd never known of Erika Stucky who sang the role of Ginger in this 2009 production, what a performer. I've been watching more of her on YouTube. Carla Bley conducts a fine ensemble.

I would love to have a DVD of this production. Maybe next year?

T H I S N E W S J U S T I N [Anthony McCarthy]

Catering to their customer base.

My brother just showed me something he noticed last week. Without any question, and by a very, very wide margin, FOX news has the s-l-o-w-e-s-t bottom of the screen headline crawl of any of the stations he showed me. Even much, much slower than the sports stations.

Shanasia Bennett, You Are My Heroine Of The Day [Anthony McCarthy]

I had, thankfully, not known about “daggering” before I read about it in the paper this morning. For anyone who has been similarly fortunate, daggering is a popular dance craze originating in Jamaica, which very graphically simulates very, very violent heterosexual sex, sometimes violently enough to cause serious injury, I would imagine usually injury to women. The “dagger” in question is, to put it plainly, the penis, which is “used like a dagger”* in the “dance”.

Daggering involves exaggerated grinding movements done by a man to a woman, usually front to back, often to a song providing lyrical instructions. Acrobatic forms of daggering add an element of physical danger, such as diving from a foot ladder onto a woman who is splayed on the ground. Daggering isn't suggestive. It's rough, artless, simulated sex on a dance floor.

"Daggering is almost a movement now,'' explained Shanasia Bennett, a senior at the Edward M. Kennedy Academy for Health Careers in the Fenway. "If you're not doing it, you're lame.'' Bennett, wisely, would rather appear lame than allow herself to be debased.

In an increasingly disgusted reading in preparation of this post, I’ve come across a pile of crap defending this promotion of violence against women on grounds of “free expression” and in a twisted, inverted and oddly inconsistent defense of the poor against “middle class morality”, generally, though not exclusively, said by men. Of course, a lot of the crap comes from middle class culture vultures who are in the business of trying to be up to date on pop culture.

"Jamaican society is extremely stratified, and people at the bottom are the core participants of dancehall culture," says Annie Paul, a Kingston-Jamaica based pop culture critic and blogger. "It is one of the few spaces and phenomenon they have control over." It's this lower class that's more likely to die from random violence or police brutality, she says, and the brutal day-to-day conditions of lower class life might make such a physical, carnal form of self-expression appealing, and the risk of injury on a Saturday night at the clubs pales in comparison to the rest of the week.

Is crackdown on daggering music and dancehall culture-like other pop culture panics of the past-nothing more than middle-class moralizing? Paul notes that Carnival, an almost two-month long bacchanal festival, largely for and by the middle- and upper- class of Jamaicans, includes a dance called "wining" full of suggestive gyrations. "There's a hypocritical side," says Paul. "Poor people don't see the difference between that and daggering."

Heartwarming, isn’t it, to see Newsweek suddenly taking on the role of defenders of the rights of the underclass. You wonder why they don’t seem to do that when it’s a question of economics instead of simulated sexual violence. That the defended underclass in question consists, about half, of women who would be the victims of the violence, thus promoted, apparently counts for nothing. As poor women have always accounted for nothing to the elites that begin with underclass men who lord it over them.

As an uncle of young nieces and a disgusted witness to the war on women, I am entirely in favor of the forceful suppression of this kind of thing. If some civil liberties type tells me that making war against popular culture that has declared war on young women is a violation of the sacred rights of free speech, I might decide to let them try their luck with a little simulated violence in which they get to play the “female” role. If you think I am joking, I’m not.

If it takes women retaliating against those who come up with this kind of misogynist propaganda, yes, really retaliating against them with promotion of violent retribution against womens’ would be victimizers, I would encourage the effort.

When the Rolling Stones album “Black and Blue” came out about 34 years ago, with ads that promoted bondage and violence against women, a friend of mine wrote a song contemplating violence against Mick Jagger. I don’t know if she would still have the song, we’ve lost contact, but as Exile on Main Street is rerelased as if it was some important cultural milestone instead of just pop music, it’s clear that daggering is one stop on that road. It's Men's Street, any woman who happens to be there will be far more than just exiled.

If men were suddenly the focus of retaliatory “culture” of that kind and in the same volume as pop culture’s war against women, I am entirely confident that the reaction in the organs of popular and even higher culture would be far, far less indulgent. I'll bet the reaction in the newsweeklies would be swift and decidedly not in its defense.

* Will someone remind me why all right thinking folks are supposed to think that Catharine MacKinnon and the late Andrea Dworkin were being hysterical fanatics when they described how males are taught to view women in the media and in “art”? The evidence that they were on to something couldn’t be clearer, the penis as dagger, sexual intercourse as stabbing. It’s freely expressed by misogynists, in their own words.

What If We Dodge the Bullet? [Anthony McCarthy]

Note: It's my birthday and yesterday was kind of a rough one so I am getting a late start, or maybe a non-start. We'll see. The Obama administration is turning out to be inadequate to the challenges it was elected to face, not least of which because Barack Obama is proving himself to be a conventional product of Harvard Law School, without the ability to imagine going past the inadequate doctrines and ideas that are taught in places like that.

Well, Mr. Obama, every single major issue is proving that your education isn't up to the challenges you face. You would think that the fact that the conventional thinking is what got us here to begin with would have more than adequately proven that. The sad fact is, that your kind of folks, the product of our most elite educational system, were there paving the road to disaster every step of the way. The best and the brightest have only been good at learning the rote lines and regurgitating them for the approval of each other.

Here is something from June 14, 2006 that isn't an elite view of things. I present it as an open letter to the president.

hat if they lose? What if the congress investigates the crimes of the Bush regime and those are stopped? What if things go back to normal? After what we've seen the past forty years, if things can go back to normal it won't be a blessed relief, it will be a disaster. Our recent history proves that we have fatal problems in the foundation of the American government.

Our elections have to be fixed, not just returned to c. 1965. We have to secure the vote, from before it is cast to counting to reporting the results to their fulfillment. No elections official, secretary of state, or judge can ever be allowed to prevent another legal ballot being cast or counted or made to count. The sleazy behavior we've seen from every level from elections clerk to Supreme Court and the Executive wouldn't be tolerated in a real democracy. A democracy needs it to be an impeachable crime for a Supreme Court Justice to say that a Citizen of the United States does not have a right to vote. That is a fundamental contradiction of the role of the court in a democracy. Anyone who believes that has no place on our court or in our government.

The media, and today that means the electronic media, have to have their self-interested biases exposed and it's pollution scrubbed out of our politics. They have to be forced to perform the public service they promised, including standards of fairness. Broadcast stations must provide real news, including local news, which has to be unbiased and fair. And as a comment here yesterday said, without diverse ownership of the media, they won't serve the entire public.

The cable "news" channels have betrayed the public's trust even more flagrantly than broadcast, spreading lies effective enough to start the most idiotic and dangerous war of our history. We will pay the cost of their lies for decades, in blood as well as money.

They also aided the Bush putsch of 2000 and the earlier scheme to remove a genuinely elected President on trumped up charges and lies. Pretending that a rogue cable industry isn't a danger to freedom has to stop. Anyone who defends them on their crimes against democracy is a dupe or a profiteer. Put them under the same public service requirements as broadcast media. Media passes itself off as the voice of the people, then let them show it by putting the public before their investors and owners.

Recent history proves that self-government can't depend on leaving it to chance. Laissez faire democracy dies and the death is never a natural one. It lets the powerful and wealthy swamp the Peoples's voice almost all of the time. In the same comments mentioned above, it was pointed out that the Supreme Court rulings making corporations artificial people made that all the more true.

Our government is always presented as having three branches, those are where almost all of the pitiful efforts at reform are concentrated. And that hasn't worked, we have the most dishonest government of our lifetimes. Putting patches on the process to make it a level field is unrealistic to the level of willful blindness. Powerful interests have power. They will always win when they have equal access to the process and own the media. The handful of examples where individuals or small groups win over the big guy make for sentimental TV movies, using them as proof that the system works is calculated dishonesty.

If the People are neglected then it all goes wrong. They won't even show up to vote. That step isn't a naive social studies lesson that you stop thinking about after the test in fourth grade. You don't go on to the higher study of civics and leave it behind. There is nothing higher in a democracy that the People, there is no act of government more important than their Vote. Abraham Lincoln, one of the real founders of the country we live in today, gave the formula for it. You know it by heart. He didn't mention the congress, the executive or the high church of the judiciary. He said that the enormous sacrifice of the American People in the Civil War was so that government of the People, by the People, and for the People shall not perish from the earth.

Any aftermath of the Bush II disaster that doesn't include changes to these laws will be just the beginning of the next time. Not securing the Vote, the will of the People; and forcing their own chosen responsibilities on the media, the only guarantee of an informed and realistic Vote, is a welcome mat for the next would-be dictator. Any liberal, leftist, Democrat, independent, even "moderate" Republican who lets two years go by without enacting real electoral and media reform had better beware. It's just a matter of waiting before the same coalition of corporate interests, bigots, oligarches and haters tries again. They might be as slow and stealthy as they were this time, buying up media, using it to spread lies that "more speech" can't drown out, but they'll make a come back.

P.S. After having seen your Justice Department in action, or maybe I should say inaction, I have no faith in the Attorney General to change things. I have every fear that department will be just a part of the legal enabling of the oligarchs.