Friday, December 31, 2004

Happy New Year!

This time is ruled by the two-faced god Janus, the god of portals. We are standing on the cusp; in the "now-and-here", and just by turning our heads we can look backwards and see history, or we can look forwards and see...what exactly? None of us can tell. All we can do is try our very best to make 2005 the year when the liberal and progressive ethics grew to blossom, when the mad race towards the European Middle Ages was stopped and when the environment was saved from the incessant needs of short-term greedy thinking. We can work for these goals and I for one will. That's my New Year's resolution. That and never bedding another Republican...

I wish you a happy new year. I wish you many wonderful moments in your life, good friends and satisfactory work, health and peace of mind. I wish you dancing in the streets and toasts with loved ones. I wish you wisdom and understanding and the realization of your heart's deepest desires. And of course I wish that you remain enslaved by this blog for at least another year!

Every Sperm is Sacred...

The title I got from David Ehrenstein on Eschaton. It's originally from Monty Python, and it is relevant for the topic of this post, which is this:

The U.S. Department of Justice has issued its first-ever medical guidelines for treating sexual-assault victims - without any mention of emergency contraception, the standard precaution against pregnancy after rape.
The omission of the so-called morning-after pill has frustrated and angered victims' advocates and medical professionals who have long worked to improve victims' care.
Gail Burns-Smith, one of several dozen experts who vetted the protocol during its three-year development by Justice's Office on Violence Against Women, said emergency contraception was included in an early draft, and she does not know of anyone who opposed it.

The likely reason for not mentioning emergency contraception, which consists of a larger-than-usual dose of the contraceptive pill, is the wingnut belief that the contraceptive pill can prevent the attachment of a fertilized egg to the lining of the uterus. As I mentioned in an earlier post on the contraceptive pill, there is no scientific evidence to support this belief, but the wingnuts don't care. Or rather, what they really are after is the banning of all contraception and this is the first step in that campaign.

I'm a Goddess in Her Wrath about this. Have you ever held a woman who has just been raped? Who has had someone urinate on her face afterwards? Who is covered with cuts and bruises? Who is so scared that she mewls when a male medic walks by?
Who will never again be the same woman she was just a few hours earlier? And now perhaps, just perhaps, she might not be told about a pill that can stop her hell from continuing, a pill that doesn't cause abortions. That's empathy for you, I guess. Or pro-life. Whatever.

Not that rape victims have always been informed about emergency contraception anyway:

One of the most inconsistent aspects of care is the morning-after pill. A 2002 analysis of national emergency-room data by the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey found that only 21 percent of sexual-assault victims received it. In a 1998 survey of urban Catholic hospitals, a University of Pennsylvania study found that 12 of 27 centers had rules against informing rape victims about the method.
The risk of pregnancy after rape is small — less than 5 percent — but the vulnerable group is large. Of 333,000 sexual assaults and rapes reported in 1998, about 25,000 resulted in pregnancies — of which 22,000 could have been prevented, a Princeton University population researcher estimated.

What we need is wider access to emergency contraception for rape victims, not guidelines which forget to mention it because of the wingnut pressure on this administration. Without the emergency contraception more abortions will be performed. Is this what the pro-life culture demands?
Original link via Atrios.

Today's Action Alert

Today's Action is courtesy of Phoenix Woman at Eschaton:

United Arab Emirates: Two women sentenced to flogging for becoming pregnant outside marriage .
Rad Zemah Sinyai Mohammed and Wasini bint Sarjan have been sentenced to flogging for becoming pregnant outside marriage by a Shari’a (Islamic law) court in the Emirate of Ras al-Khaimah. Amnesty International considers the punishment of flogging to constitute cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment amounting to torture.Click here to take action ( for taking today's action.


At the end of one year and the beginning of another is a good time to ask whether we will get raptured in 2005. According to at least one rapture-website, this is quite likely! I'm looking forward to the day of Rapture, because it will let me refurbish my wardrobe and my vehicle fleet without committing any crimes whatsoever.
For surely I will be left behind on earth, even if everybody else will be vacuumed up by the heavenly housecleaning.

But more seriously, the whole Rapture-phenomenom is scary. Why did something that was first discussed in the nineteenth century become a part of the established belief system of so many fundamentalist Christians? And when exactly did fundamentalist Christianity shrink into a subgroup of wingnuttery as a part of the Republican base? Republicans are not highly known as the ones who care for the poor and the oppressed, rather the reverse, and neither are they known for peace-loving policies. Jesus, on the other hand, spoke incessantly about the poor and the oppressed and about the need to build peace. He didn't say a single word about gays or abortions; yet that's what the fundamentalist Christians appear to think being a Christian entails: one must hate gays and babykillers. I don't understand it, but of course I've always had trouble with understanding some parts of humankind.

But suppose that Rapture in fact was going to happen in 2005. Would those who have been preparing for it for years be the ones who'd be snapped up? I doubt it. Humans are not supposed to manipulate God's commands in such a way. Those who have their bags already packed will be left behind, for sure, as will those who make up indices for measuring the likelihood of Rapture. Only the totally unprepared will be among the chosen, especially if they are right then working hard to help people suffering more than they are.

Even in this version of the Rapture I'll be left behind. I'm quite happy with that as I prefer this planet to the other alternatives, and goddesses don't go to Heaven anyway. At least not in the patriarchal religions.

A Generous People, A Stingy Administration

That's how it looks to me right now. The American people are doing the right thing in giving money to the relief of the disasters caused by the tsunamis. The U.S. Red Cross alone received 25 million dollars in pledges during the first three days, and other organizations are also receiving many donations. But the U.S. administration does look stingy:

Powell, reacting to the critique by some Democratic lawmakers and humanitarian officials, insisted the $35 million pledged by the United States in emergency aid was "just a beginning" and that more would be offered once the full scope of the damage was assessed.
President Bush's offers to help coordinate relief efforts and to dispatch U.S. warships to the region have not satisfied critics, who believe the administration missed a chance to improve America's image abroad with a quick and robust response to the crisis.
Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., led the criticism of the White House by noting that the $35 million in emergency aid was equivalent to what the United States spends in seven hours on military operations in Iraq.
"I thought we gave the wrong impression to the rest of the world when it came out for the first couple days that we were willing to spend $35 million to help the people who had been devastated by the tsunami," Leahy told CNN Thursday. "That is about half what the country of Spain is spending."

It doesn't help things to tell that the $35 million doesn't cover everything, such as planes or warships coming to help with the relief efforts. The same would be true of other countries' contributions. No, the U.S. government does look stingy, though the American people do not.

Just compare the American official figures to what other countries are pledging:

Foreign critics have pointed out that the U.S. aid pledge is less than those of several European nations. Britain has pledged $95 million in aid, Sweden has committed $75.5 million, Spain is offering $68 million, and France plans to spend $57 million.
Other nations pledging aid include Japan ($40 million), the Netherlands ($36 million), Canada ($32.8 million), Germany ($27 million), Australia ($27 million), Portugal ($11 million), Saudi Arabia ($10 million) and Qatar ($10 million).
French newspaper Le Figaro commented in an editorial that the United States' initial pledge of $15 million in aid was "completely ridiculous given the magnitude of the catastrophe," adding that the sum was equivalent to half the price of a new F-16 fighter jet or "half the daily sales of dog and cat food in the United States."

We shouldn't even be talking about this. We should be talking about how to give much more than anyone else is giving, simply because we have much more.

Fred Phelps on the Tsunami Victims

Via Eschaton and Raw Story:

And here are the pages after pages of photographs of the Swedish missing in the tsunamis. Note the large number of small children and babies, of whole families missing and of extended families missing. Pray that they will be found safe. If not that, perhaps we should pray that they all went together? Or should we ask Mr. Phelps what to pray for?

Happy New Year's Eve!

My apologies for no posts yesterday. I did an experiment: can goddesses sleep twenty-four hours in one go? The answer seems to be affirmative. So now I've lost one day completely and have no idea what is happening in the world. A very nice feeling.

Hibernation has many good attributes, and getting into the habit might be excellent. According to Tove Jahnson's Moomintroll books for children, all you need for a good hibernation is a tummy full of spruce needles! That's a business idea for all you lefties out there: start selling Hibernation Needles for all the Democrats who want to sleep through the next four years! Or even better: smuggle them into the foods served on that famous ranch in Texas.

Thursday, December 30, 2004


According to the Washington Post:

An international agency that monitors nuclear explosions around the world almost certainly picked up immediate signs of the underwater earthquake and tsunami in South East Asia on instruments it operates around the Indian Ocean, but it had no chance to alert governments in the region because its offices were closed for the holidays, according to a spokeswoman.
The information from the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization's network may yield insights into the catastrophe but would not have been critical in saving lives, because there is no functioning system capable of channeling early warnings to regions struck by the tsunami, said earthquake and tsunami experts. Still, the agency's failure to react during one of the most catastrophic seismic events in decades has proved embarrassing, officials said.
Daniela Rozgonova, spokeswoman for the Vienna-based agency, said raw data from its seismic and hydroacoustic monitoring stations in the region will be reviewed by analysts when they return from vacation on Tuesday.
She insisted that a team of about 100 analysts at the agency's International Data Center in Vienna would not have been able to get a warning to tsunami victims even if they had been at work. "The whole system has not been set up to warn for natural disasters," she said. "It's not set up for it."

The system is set up to monitor illegal nuclear tests. I guess these are guaranteed not to take place around Christmas time. This is not the only monitoring system that probably spotted the earthquake in time for at least some warnings, but none of these monitoring systems appear to have the practical purpose of providing warnings of impending earthquakes, at least internationally.

Which is heartbreaking, as well as really stupid of us humans. Surely there are easier ways to learn about international cooperation and efficient warning systems than what the earth has just given us? Or perhaps not, as we didn't listen before. Well, I hope we listen now.

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

A New Threat for Murika: Education

Theresa Whitehurst has written a fascinating article on the views that wingnuts hold on higher education. She begins with this:

I've been giving a lot of thought lately to a conversation I overheard at a Starbucks in Nashville last winter. It was a cold and rainy night as I worked away at my laptop, but the comforting aroma of cappuccino kept me going. My comfort was interrupted, however, by two young men who sat down in upholstered chairs near my table. One was talking, the other listening, in what appeared to be an informal college orientation.
"The only trouble with David Lipscomb (a conservative Christian college nearby) is that old man Lipscomb apparently didn't like football. So we don't have a football team, but we have a great faculty."
"But you do have to be careful about one thing," he said more quietly, coming closer and speaking in hushed tones, "My professor-I have this great professor-told me that you have to be careful not to get too much education, because you could lose your foundation, your core values."
The neophyte nodded solemnly, his eyebrows raised with worry.
"If you get a bachelors," the seasoned student reassured, "you'll probably be okay. But my professor said that when you get a master's, and definitely if you go beyond that, you can lose your values. He said that college students have to be watchful because if you get too much education, you could turn LIBERAL. He's seen it happen to a lot of good Christians."
As the young man in Starbucks said just before he and the incoming freshman got up to leave,
"Even at Lipscomb, you have to be careful what you pay attention to. My professor said that a few faculty members might lead you astray without meaning to, by bringing in ideas that aren't biblical. He said that if you're ever taught anything that sounds questionable, you should talk about it with your minister to see if it's right."

Then Whitehurst goes on to discuss why being afraid of the liberal label would be very bad for the American higher education:

This movement pretends to be about "balancing" liberal with conservative views, but the reality is a lot uglier than that. As the conversation I overheard suggests, this movement isn't about balance, it's about censorship-or even better, self-censorship that's easily achieved by frightening students with social rejection, hellfire or both. Either way, scholarship is degraded in the process. According to the article, "many educators, while agreeing that students should never feel bullied, worry that they just want to avoid exposure to ideas that challenge their core beliefs - an essential part of education. Some also fear that teachers will shy away from sensitive topics or fend off criticism by "balancing" their syllabuses with opposing viewpoints, even if they represent inferior scholarship."

Does this ring a bell for you? It reminds me of what I see happening in much of the so-called liberal media: "Opinions on whether the earth is flat vary." "Some believe that the Holocaust never happened." It also reminds me of the wingnuts' demands to have more wingnut voices in the media, and the consequence is that we now have very little that isn't a wingnut voice. So this is what might happen in the academia, too. Or perhaps has already happened?

The initial arguments are the same in both cases: that there is bias against the conservative views, even in cases where the "bias" is in the facts and that there is a need for pro-wingnut affirmative action to provide "balance". The results might be the same, too: a deterioration of the contents of both education and the media.

I believe that education on the highest levels is bound to make students feel uncomfortable, whatever their political views might be. That's what happens when your mind is stretched as much as it can be, and it's a very good thing to happen.
It would be dangerous to attribute this discomfort to the professor's political views; it's part of the necessary learning process. If wingnuts don't want their minds stretched or fear for the frailty of their faith, they shouldn't go to university. This is a much better solution than their plan to make all universities into some sort of madrassas.

By the way, I also don't believe the conservative soundbite that universities are teeming with biased lefty professors. There are quite a few biased righty professors there, too, and the vast majority of all professors teach opposing views of their subject matter. Then they take these views and evaluate them by using both logic and external evidence. This is the part the wingnuts wish to eradicate, methinks, because knowledge is a powerful weapon.

Today's Action Alert

Today's action is simple. Call or write your senators and tell them not to confirm Gonzales for Attorney General. America doesn't need an Attorney General who looks for ways to justify torture and who believes that the president is above the law.

Thanks for taking today's action.

On the Disaster

This Guardian article presents a good overview of what is known today.

I have nothing to say about the disaster that can be said. Some things are just too big to fit into the mouth or on the page. The only way they can be fitted at all is through compassion and assistance:

Action Against Hunger 247 West 37th Street, Suite 1201 New York, NY 10018 212-967-7800

American Jewish World Service 45 West 36th Street, 10th Floor New York, NY 10018 800-889-7146

ADRA International 9-11 Fund 12501 Old Columbus Pike Silver Spring, MD 20904 800-424-2372

American Friends Service Committee (AFSC Crisis Fund) 1501 Cherry Street Philadelphia, PA 215-241-7000

Catholic Relief Services PO Box 17090 Baltimore, MD 21203-7090 800-736-3467

Direct Relief International 27 South La Patera Lane Santa Barbara, CA 93117 805-964-4767

Doctors Without Borders/Medecins Sans Frontieres PO Box 2247 New York, NY 10116-2247 888-392-0392

International Medical Corps 1919 Santa Monica Boulevard Suite 300 Santa Monica CA 90404 800-481-4462

International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies PO Box 372 CH-1211 Geneva 19 Switzerland 41-22-730-4222

International Orthodox Christian Charities Middle East Crisis Response PO Box 630225 Baltimore, MD 21263-0225 877-803-4622

Lutheran World Relief PO Box 17061 Baltimore MD 21298-9832 800-597-5972

MAP International 2200 Glynco Parkway PO Box 215000 Brunswick, GA 3121-5000 800-225-8550

Mercy Corps PO Box 2669 Portland, OR 97208 800-852-2100

Northwest Medical Teams PO Box 10 Portland, OR 97207-0010 503-624-1000

Operation USA 8320 Melrose Avenue, Ste. 200 Los Angles, CA 90069 800-678-7255

Oxfam America

Relief International 11965 Venice Blvd.¥405 Los Angeles, CA 90066 800-572-3332

Save the Children Asia Earthquake/Tidal Wave Relief Fund 54 Wilton Road Westport, CT 06880 800-728-3843

US Fund for UNICEF 333 East 38th Street New York, NY 10016 800-FOR-KIDS http://www.unicefusa.or

World Concern 19303 Fremont Ave. N Seattle, WA 98133 800-755-5022

World Relief 7 E. Baltimore St. Baltimore, MD 21202 443-451-1900

World Vision PO Box 70288 Tacoma, Washington 98481-0288 888-56-CHILD
Links via Democratic Underground

Well, Finally!

This morning, three days after the earthquake, president George Bush has made a public statement:

- President Bush said Wednesday the United States, India, Australia and Japan have formed an international coalition to coordinate worldwide relief and reconstruction efforts for the Asian region ravaged by a deadly earthquake and tsunamis.
"We will stand with them as they start to rebuild their communities," Bush said from his Texas ranch in his first comments on the disaster Sunday that so far has killed more than 67,000.
Bush pledged a multifaceted response from the United States that goes far beyond the $35 million initially pledged, including U.S. military manpower and damage surveillance teams in the short term and long-term rebuilding assistance. He also called on Americans to donate cash to relief organizations to augment the response.
"This has been a terrible disaster. It is beyond our comprehension," the president said.

Except that he shouldn't have stayed at the ranch. Where are his minders?

A Busy Bee...

Our president, that is. He's busy monitoring the earthquake damage from his Texas ranch:

Besides monitoring the devastating earthquake in Southeast Asia, President Bush is biking and strolling around his ranch here and pondering tax reform and other goals in his second term.
"He's clearing some brush this morning," deputy White House press secretary Trent Duffy said Tuesday, adding that the president and first lady also planned to host friends at the ranch.
"He's doing some biking and exercising as he normally does, taking walks with the first lady, and thinking about what he wants to accomplish in the second term."

There is something wrong with George Bush's social intelligence. Doesn't he realize that we are right now living through the effects of the most destructive tsunamis ever recorded? Those that still are living, of course. Even if he couldn't care less, it would be seemly for him to turn up and give a speech in the name of compassionate conservatism. Or are we being given a practical lesson on compassionate conservatism right now?

They Just Don't Get It #2

This was supposed to be a weekly series, but I forgot. The idea is to pick comments from my wonderings* around the net which show those very subtle (stroke, stroke, stroke, like a gnat in your face) ways that being a woman can still be equivalent to being excluded or stereotyped or belittled. I'm looking for all the subtle points here, not for the obviously unfair treatments or comments. And in the future I'll tell you about some of my own comments, too, so that it doesn't look like I'm blaming other people only.

Here's this week's harvest:

Ask yourself: What kind of time would you like to live in?

Would you like to live in a time with no great question, no great struggle, no great contest? I do not believe in Utopia, in a world of peace, because men are men and testosterone is addictive, and because power must always be held by someone and will therefore corrupt absolutely. But there have been times when people have only had to worry about their immediate surroundings, about their lawn or their crop or whether the King will conscript them to go fight the enemy across the sea. There is a peace in this, a peace in being absolutely powerless. Would you like to live in that time?

(Bolds mine.)

Written by an admirable writer in an admirable context, so it might seem petty to single this out. But the point of this series is to be petty, because it is the petty things, when repeated often enough, that mold us. Also, I'm not quite sure what he means by the bolded sentence, but whatever it is, it either leaves women out altogether or assumes that power will always be held by men alone. Or perhaps it assumes that only men are capable of evil?
*I decided to keep this typo in. It was a better choice than "wanderings".

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Susan Sontag, RIP

She died today of leukemia at the age of seventy-one. A whirlwind of a woman.
Justbetweenstrangers has a good homily, and here's one official obituary .

I found Sontag's writings challenging, both in the way they were intended to challenge, but also in some other way, having to do with different personalities, perhaps. I still have America only half-read, though I liked the Volcano Lover. Her biography fascinated me, but many of her famous short essays left me cold. Maybe it's because she was made into one of those icons which by definition must be very few and very different, and then people like Camille Paglia tried to trudge in her footsteps. I dislike the icon-building, especially with women, as the world is already a tough place for an uppity woman, and it doesn't help to be told, both implicitly and explicitly, that you must be unique to make it; only be unique just like Sontag, for example.

But none of this was Sontag's fault, of course, and it's small-minded of me to even mention that here. Sontag was not small-minded, and the world will be an emptier place without her.

Lap Pillows

The Japanese have introduced a new pillow, intended for bachelors. This is how it looks:

And this is how it is described:

One popular item for holiday shoppers is the "lap pillow," with skin-coloured polyurethene calves folded under soft thighs -- a comfy cushion for napping, reading or watching television.
The 9,429 yen ($90) pillow, which comes with one red and one black skirt, went on sale in late November and maker Trane Co Ltd says shipments have reached 3,000 in just a few weeks.
"We created this item to help tired people relax," said Makoto Igarashi, Trane's managing director.
Care was taken with details such as the softness of the thighs, panty lines on the pillow's "backside" and wrinkles in the lap of the skirt so as to make the pillow look and feel as real as possible.

The female lap pillow was preceded by a similar pillow, intended for women. It consists of a man's shoulders and one arm, the intention being that the sleeper leans on the shoulder and then wraps the arm around her own shoulder.

These pillows are supposed to work as substitutes for a real woman or man. They are explicitly intended for singles who have no-one living to use as a pillow.

I'm not sure what to think about this all. On the one hand such pillows are just jokes, and they are pretty well made, too. On the other hand, they remind me of the various sexual tools available and somehow extending this tool idea to the alleviation of loneliness seems to cross a barrier for me. Loneliness will not be less if you lie on a pillow that resembles cut off bits of humans, and to suggest that it does is quite criminal. Then there is the feminist angle: the male pillow appears to offer protection and comfort, the female one submission and comfort. But this is probably a purely subjective reading. An even more subjective reaction is my disgust at even thinking about mutilated parts of women as a source of comfort for men. Or the other way around, of course, but the evidence on crimes being what it is, especially the first way around.

Still, the Japanese are not alone in this desire to make toys out of all sorts of human body parts. A new fad in the United States is the hanging of artificial testicles on your truck. I have been told that this is a guy thing! Rush Limbaugh might have predicted that it's the feminazis who hang testicles at the back of their sticker-covered cars, but no, it's the he-men of the truck-driving kind who do this. Maybe the testicles are supposed to belong to the man who lost the last fight with the driver?

In any case, this is how it would look should you wish to follow the same fad.

Thanks to Wyzardess for the lap pillow link, to the Original Amazon for the Bumpernuts link and to Jason for the shoulder pillow link.

Diego Garcia

Diego Garcia is an American military base on an island, right in the path of the tsunamis. It's located near the Maldives which suffered major damage. Luckily, Diego Garcia escaped the destruction totally:

A Navy support facility located near the center of the Indian Ocean was spared any damage from Sunday's devastating ocean surges.
Officials said the Diego Garcia Navy Support Facility, which houses about 1,700 military personnel and 1,500 civilian contractors, suffered no damage related to Sunday's earthquake and ensuing tsunamis.
Personnel at the facility's billeting office contacted by Stars and Stripes on Monday reported no unusual activity or problems over the weekend.
Diego Garcia, the southernmost island in the Chagos Archipelago, sits about 1,000 miles south of India and roughly 2,000 miles from the earthquake's epicenter.
But officials in Somalia, whose coast is nearly 3,000 from the earthquake's center, reported more than 100 deaths in coastal areas as a result of tidal waves.

As the highest point of Diego Garcia is only 22 ft above sealevel, the island was indeed incredibly lucky not to even notice the tsunamis.
Thanks to Deana Holmes for the link.

The Blackwellian World

Isn't that clever of me? It's a take on the Orwellian world in which we also live right now. Kenneth Blackwell is the Ohio Secretary of State and also an eager supporter of George Bush for president. This created something that to others might look a little like a conflict of interest, given that Blackwell was in charge of the elections in Ohio. Never mind. Mr. Blackwell is above the law, too:

Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell has requested a protective order to prevent him from being interviewed as part of an unusual court challenge of the presidential vote.
Blackwell, in a court filing, says he's not required to be interviewed by lawyers as a high-ranking public official, and accused the voters challenging the results of ``frivolous conduct'' and abusive and unnecessary requests of elections officials around the state.
Citing fraud, 37 people who voted for president Nov. 2 have challenged the election results with the Ohio Supreme Court. The voters refer to irregularities including long lines, a shortage of voting machines in minority precincts and problems with computer equipment.

Or so he hopes. Time will tell if we have gone that far into the Blackwellian world (a little repetition never hurt in creating a new frame!).

Also in Ohio, the Kerry/Edwards campaign has filed "two motions to preserve and augment evidence of alleged election fraud in Ohio". Is this important? It seems that some believe Kerry is close to unconceding the elections, whereas others argue that this means nothing at all. So take your pick. I'm sceptical about anything coming out of this, because it doesn't go with the Blackwellian world view (am I getting on your nerves yet?). Who cares if the elections were fair? What's on television?
Links via Kos.

The Gay Marriage Ban Will Take Time...

So tells us the Republican Senator John Cornyn:

Opponents of gay marriage concede victory will not be swift in their attempt to amend the U.S. Constitution, even after prevailing in all 11 states where the issue was on the ballot last month.
While the Nov. 2 election also increased the ranks of amendment supporters in both houses of Congress, the gains were relatively small.
"We're going to have to see additional court cases come down" supporting gay marriage before congressional sentiment shifts dramatically, predicted Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, who supports the amendment that failed in both houses of Congress this year.

But of course it will take time! So will the abortion ban. The Republicans have no intention of actually getting these bans passed swiftly and decisively, noooh.
Because then they'd have to invent something even crazier to keep their base happy, and they are not quite ready to go there yet ("there" being the banning of all contraception, probably). Without this, the successful banning of same-sex marriage and all abortions would kill the wingnut movement in the Republican Party, and the Republicans would lose seats all over the country.

In some ways the right liberal approach to all the mad wingnuts would be to let them have what they want. That way the crash would come sooner and we could start cleaning up sooner. But it would cost real lives and that is unacceptable. So we dance this awkward jig over and over again.

Monday, December 27, 2004

Animal Thoughts of the Day

I just read somewhere on the net this comment: "What cats think about when they look at you is this:'If I only was a little bit bigger I could eat that human'."

Now I know why I have no cats. But I also realized what Henrietta is thinking when she looks at me with those claret colored almond eyes:"If I only was a little bit taller I could hump her into submission."

I'm going to buy shoes with stiletto heels.

More on the tsunamis

Death and suffering. You can help by sending donations to the International Red Cross. And by urging for an international tsunami warning system. The Indian Ocean wasn't covered by one.

Most recent efforts to help:

Aid agencies and governments around the world began pouring relief supplies into the region Monday. Japan, China, Russia and Israel were among the countries sending teams of experts.
Jasmine Whitbread, international director of the aid group Oxfam, warned that without swift action, more people could die.
"The flood waters will have contaminated drinking water and food will be scarce," she said.
Yvette Stevens, an emergency relief coordinator for the United Nations, said the widespread nature of the damage made it challenging for relief agencies to respond.
"This is unprecedented," she said. "We have not had this before."
The United Nations said it was concentrating its aid on the countries least likely to be able to help themselves, such as Sri Lanka and Maldives.
In Thailand, Gen. Chaisit Shinawatra, the army chief, said the United States has offered to send troops stationed on Japan's Okinawa island. Thailand was considering the offer.

Meanwhile, in Bulgaria

Domestic abuse appears to be a problem that still has no name:

--When doctors began compiling paperwork to release Maia from a Sofia hospital after a week's stay this past May, the battered woman panicked over the knowledge that she had no money, nowhere to go and no idea how she would get her four children back from her abusive husband.
A concerned nurse told Maia of a women's shelter run by local aid organization Animus Association that, in Bulgaria's largely patriarchal society, might be her best shot at securing a better future.
"He was killing me," said the 37-year old, who refused to give her last name out of fear for possible retribution from her husband or his family. "Always searching for harder and harder things to hit me with. I had to try and get away. But honestly, I simply didn't know how."
For almost 50 years, as Bulgaria lived under the omnipresent shadow of the Soviet Union, divorce and battery of spouses were statistically absolute non-entities with reported cases of both well below 5 percent consistently. Now, with the fall of the Soviet Union and Bulgaria's independence in 1991, Bulgaria has begun to acknowledge and address the issue of domestic violence.

The Bulgarians I have met have indicated that the problems of misogyny run deep in their culture. Things are now changing, but the country has a long way to go:

While some police officers are sympathetic to women's plights, activists lament the lack of legal redress. Even the most determined law enforcement official can do no more than to hold an accused abuser for 24 hours and make the accused promise to change the abusive behavior. Should a woman wish to bring charges against her husband, there are simply no legal provisions for her to base a case on.

It's supposed to be handled quietly, within the family. No airing of dirty laundry in public. The same pattern as in other countries, isn't it? Luckily, the next stage usually is the very airing of the dirty linen, and then change comes into the laws as well. I wish the Bulgarians goddess speed with this.

Today's Action Alert

(These alerts are a shared venture organized by several blogs. The idea is to create a counterweight to the wingnut campaigns in the media. When you see something that you can do, act! Thanks.)

Today's action: Write a letter to the editor of your local paper. Explain that, especially during a time of war, it is shockingly inappropriate for Bush to spend $44 million on inaugural festivities. That money would be much better spent on armor for our troops and/or relief for the victims of the earthquake/tsunami. Instead of elaborate parties, Bush should simply take the oath of office and go to work on fixing our country's problems. Pictures of wealthy donors climbing out of limos in tuxedos and cowboy boots are inappropriate when our troops are dying and suffering terrible injuries from lack of armor and when the U.S. is unable to give necessary aid to victims of the earthquake/tsunami due to Bush's deficit.
Bush will go ahead with his inaugural plans no matter what, but turning them into a negative for him rather than a plus shouldn't be too difficult if the blogsphere works together.
Thanks for taking today's action.

Sunday, December 26, 2004

How I Wish This is a Joke

But it isn't. Though it could be; the whole website it's on sounds like something from the far side of sanity to me. Anyway, this is what Ann Coulter's blog says:

To The People Of Islam:
Just think: If we'd invaded your countries, killed your leaders and converted you to Christianity YOU'D ALL BE OPENING CHRISTMAS PRESENTS RIGHT ABOUT NOW!
Merry Christmas

I need to become much crazier than I am. Or pretend craziness better. Then I will be famous and celebrated.

On the Slippery Slope

And here we go again:

A man who was arrested for assaulting his pregnant girlfriend was being held on a murder charge Sunday following the death of the fetus the woman was carrying, police said.
The 25-year-old woman was 18 weeks pregnant when the male fetus was delivered dead Saturday, said San Jose Police Sgt. Steve Dixon. She was hospitalized early Saturday after she told police that her boyfriend, Clifford Beane Watkins, allegedly choked her and kicked her in the stomach at a local motel, he said.

The next stop on this slope is pretty obvious to everybody. I have many thoughts about the philosophy behind this backdoor attempt to define human beings as beginning at conception, but I'm not ready to write about them yet. Except that the conception is a totally artificial point in the process we call life, and the only reason it's picked is so that everything that will be fought over happens in a woman's body. (The birth is also an artificial point, but it has the benefit of defining life by independence from other bodies.) Women's bodies are not in general accorded much value by the pro-life movement; well, perhaps some as a basket for carrying the human life that matters. Or so it seems to me.


According to Salon, this is what Planned Parenthood does to get more donations:

Several Planned Parenthood locations across the country have hit upon a clever way to profit from the throngs of protesters who picket abortion clinics -- a fundraising drive in which the clinic receives a donation for each picketer who shows up. Under the Pledge-a-Picket program, as described in in the Planned Parenthood newsletter, supporters pledge small amounts -- a quarter to a dollar -- per anti-choice protester. "It's like sponsoring a runner in a charity marathon," the newsletter says. Despite the small pledges, the money adds up for the clinics because "the picketers never go away."

The Waco, Texas clinic of Planned Parenthood has collected $18,000 this way. The money has been used to help low-income women.

This is similar to what I do on an almost daily basis. Whenever I read or hear or see something that makes me angry, the opposite camp gets a ten dollar donation from me. Then I feel all calm and happy again. Or if I don't, I come here and rave about the cause some more. That usually does the trick.

And Even More Bad Poetry

Warning! This is quite angry and biased and don't read it if you are a nice man who never does horrible things. And my apologies, but when I wrote this someone had just shitted on my divine tresses.

A token woman is erected to be demolished.
She must be like an apple, smooth and polished,
but with an inner blemish, a lack
of masculinity that will hold her back.

She must be chosen so that she seems favored
over other women, to be savored
in all-male company as something rather neat;
like a dog that dances on its hind feet.

She must be made to understand that she
is not a member of the brotherhood.
She might be suffered but not made free
to belong. She must be always good

And quiet. And keep to her appointed place.
This makes it clear to all the rest
that the men showed willingness and grace
to admit her. But alas,
they found her second-best.

Some Bad Poetry for Today

There's always a need for bad poetry. Here's some for today. It should make you happy, because you can do better!

These days are sweet,
sugar govers the ground
between Christmas and New Year.

I have found
my childhood again. I'd like you to meet
her. She is brown
like toffee.

Her dress is red
and her shoes are black leather.
She looks ill-fed.
Her hair tastes like heather and peat.

She still sucks the corners of the sheet
at night
and counts the times the lights
of passing cars meet
the bedroom wall.

Her fingers are small
her nails are bitten.
She finds living hard
but has not yet written
of her anguish to God.

I must be good to her, and giving
this holiday season.
I have a reason
for forgiving

Terrible, heh! But the intention was good.


Link: Reuters

Over ten thousand dead after a tsunami caused by an earthquake.
I will post any ways of helping when I find them.
Here's one way to help: Either at the IFRC or at The Red Cross. Oxfam also takes donations.
As a total aside, about three weeks ago I got an e-mail warning me about the largest tsunami ever to hit my coastal region. As there are no tsunamis where I'm located, I erased it, assuming that it was part of the spam everybody gets. But now I wonder. Did anyone else receive such an e-mail?

On Boxing Day

If you're lucky, it's Boxing Day or St. Stephen's Day. If you're not lucky it's just an ordinary Sunday, though this year you could sleep in anyway. All holidays should be several days long, because those who cooked and cleaned and wrapped like mad also need a rest.

So what did you get as a present? Anything good? I got another Swiss knife, I have a large collection of them in case I ever get stuck on a deserted island with nothing but lots of canned goods for company. I also got chocolate but that is just a memory by now.

This is a rehearsal post, to get me into the groove again. I have reread all my Moomintroll books so the first real posts will probably be on the great truths that are found in children's books. Then some wingnut bashing, and for dessert something about feminism. Sounds like a menu, doesn't it? But I might stretch it over a few days unless something in the news gets my dander up. That happens a lot these days.

It's snowing outside. So beautiful, and I need to go and make some snow Echidnes first!

Saturday, December 25, 2004


I have been too nice these last few days. Here's something a little less bland:

Look below for a nicer Christmas greeting.

Something Religious for Christmas

This is a two thousand years old Coptic prayer. It was found in a cave in Egypt in 1945:

The Thunder, Perfect Mind

I was sent forth from the power,
and I have come to those who reflect upon me,
and I have been found among those who seek
after me.
Look upon me, you who reflect upon me,
and you hearers, hear me.
You who are waiting for me, take me to yourselves.
And do not banish me from your sight.
And do not make your voice hate me, not your
Do not be ignorant of me anywhere or any time.
Be on your guard!
Do not be ignorant of me.

For I am the first and the last.
I am the honored one and the scorned one.
I am the whore and the holy one.

I am the wife and the virgin.
I am the mother and the daughter.
I am the members of my mother.
I am the barren one
and many are her sons.
I am she whose wedding is great,
and I have not taken a husband.
I am the midwife and she who does not bear.
I am the solace of my labor pains.
I am the bride and the bridegroom,
and it is my husband who begot me.,
I am the mother of my father
and the sister of my husband,
and he is my offspring.
I am the slave of him who prepared me.

I am the ruler of my offspring.
But he is the one who begot me before the time
on a birthday.
And he is my offspring in due time,
and my power is from him.
I am the staff of his power in his youth,
and he is the rod of my old age.
And whatever he wills happens to me.
I am the silence that is incomprehensible
and the idea whose remembrance is frequent.
I am the voice whose sound is manifold
and the word whose appearance is multiple.
I am the utterance of my name.

I am the knowledge of my inquiry,
and the finding of those who seek after me,
and the command of those who ask of me,
and the power of the powers in my knowledge
of the angels, who have been sent at my word,
and of gods in their seasons by my counsel,
and of spirits of every man who exists with me,
and of women who dwell within me.
I am the one who is honored, and who is praised,
and who is despised scornfully.
I am peace,
and war has come because of me.
And I am an alien and a citizen.
I am the substance and the one who has no substance.

Friday, December 24, 2004

Merry Christmas Again, This Time from Me!

I wish you all (who celebrate it) a very happy Christmas! May you not have tummy aches from overeating, may your not-so-nice relatives all stay away, and may you have exactly what you wanted from Santa Claus/Father Christmas!

For those of you who are not celebrating Christmas, may you see the most interesting movie ever, and may your Chinese meal be really delicious!

For any wingnuts, may you also have a wonderful Christmas, and may you wake up tomorrow all liberal and lefty! Just kidding.

I'm going to post about books and my gingerbread castle in the near future, but also about politics if required. My diet today consists solely of chocolate, so do forgive me if this makes no sense.

And a very warm and fuzzy hug from me and also a big sloppy kiss!
Take care, all of you.

And Merry Christmas Trees...

Bush is stealing Christmas from trees, sneakily and slyly as usual. Maybe he never met a nice tree? Everything he decides to do as president seems to be based on his own experiences. In any case, here's what the administration is doing about trees:

The new rules give economic activity equal priority with preserving the ecological health of the forests in making management decisions and in potentially liberalizing caps on how much timber can be taken from a forest. Forest Service officials estimated the changes will cut its planning costs by 30 percent and will allow managers to finish what amount to zoning requirements for forest users in two to three years, instead of the nine or 10 years they sometimes take now.
The government will no longer require that its managers prepare an environmental impact analysis with each forest's management plan, or use numerical counts to ensure there are "viable populations" of fish and wildlife. The changes will reduce the number of required scientific reports and ask federal officials to focus on a forest's overall health, rather than the fate of individual species, when evaluating how best to protect local plants and animals.

(Bolds mine.)

I am very angry. The trees are not going to take this lying down, either. Why is being moral equal to this?

And as a sidenote, this article also shows another bit of wingnut framing:

"We're really in a new world," Collins said in an interview. "You've got to have different plans for different places, and you've got to have more dynamic plans."

This new world business. Everything changed after 9/11. And so on. They keep saying that, and the intention is for you to think that maybe it is now necessary to turn fascist and to turn all trees into corporate desks and all animals into leather jackets, and that the only reason this makes you feel vomity is because you're still living in the pre-9/11 world. Don't you believe a word of it! Baby Jesus liked animals and trees, and He liked both of them alive.

Sorry about ranting on Christmas eve.

Merry Christmas from Molly Ivins

She's so funny:

Here's to all the Americans on both sides of this year's unusually peppy fights over the allowability of religious symbols on public property. This annual battle, in which the American Civil Liberties Union strives once more to make itself as popular as the Grinch, is over the part of the First Amendment that says the government cannot sponsor religion. I always liked what former Gov. Ann Richards said when informed there were demands that the large star on top of the state capitol come down. "Oh, I'd hate to see that happen," she drawled. "This could be the only chance we'll ever have to get three wise men in that building."
Feliz Navidad to all our immigrants, legal and otherwise – may La Migra be far away and tamales close at hand. By the way, there are some new legal rights groups that will go after the scum who hire you and then refuse to pay you. Joyeux Noel to all our friends in Canada, and please overlook the pifflebrains who keep insulting you.
Merry Christmas to Tonya Harding and to Nancy Kerrigan, to the Red Sox and to the Cards, and possibly even to George Steinbrenner. Here's to the Texas Legislature, about to convene once more, depriving many a village of its idiot. Here's to John Ashcroft, how we'll miss him – he was so sexy. A Cool Yule to all the jazzmen and their fans. And wishing a warm holiday to all the citizens with rings in their noses who find going out in subzero weather such a trial. And to those with tattoos, whatthehell.

And Merry Christmas to you, too, Molly!

Thursday, December 23, 2004

This is what I got Henrietta and Hank for Christmas

They are my dogs, in case you are one of those few who doesn't regularly read their dogblogging. I got Hank a George Bush chew toy! It's lovely, but I couldn't find it on the net. Here's another one which is not as nice as the one I got.

Henrietta gets Ahnuld the Governator chew toy, though she won't want it. Then I can wrap it up and give it to some other dog later on!

And they both get paw stockings of peanut butter cookies. Now I'm all done! Whew!

Rethinking Abortion

That is what the Democratic Party is doing, to appeal to a "broader group of voters". According to the Los Angeles Times:

The fight is a central theme of the contest to head the Democratic National Committee, particularly between two leading candidates: former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean, who supports abortion rights, and former Indiana Rep. Tim Roemer, an abortion foe who argues that the party cannot rebound from its losses in the November election unless it shows more tolerance on one of society's most emotional conflicts.
Roemer is running with the encouragement of the party's two highest-ranking members of Congress, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of San Francisco and incoming Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid of Nevada. Dean, a former presidential candidate, is popular with the party's liberal wing.
If Roemer were to succeed Terry McAuliffe as Democratic chairman in the Feb. 10 vote, the party long viewed as the guardian of abortion rights would suddenly have two antiabortion advocates at its helm. Reid, too, opposes abortion and once voted for a nonbinding resolution opposing Roe vs. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court ruling that legalized abortion.
Party leaders say their support for preserving the landmark ruling will not change. But they are looking at ways to soften the hard line, such as promoting adoption and embracing parental notification requirements for minors and bans on late-term abortions. Their thinking reflects a sense among strategists that Democratic presidential nominee John F. Kerry and the party's congressional candidates lost votes because the GOP conveyed a more compelling message on social issues.

So. The Democratic Party, or at least some of its leaders, have calculated that becoming more pro-life would gain them more voters than it would lose them. This is called pragmatism, and it means that the Democratic Party, as it now stands, apparently doesn't have values, after all. It will choose whatever will give it power, just like the Republicans. Not that I didn't know this before.

I just thought that people like Pelosi are better at electoral mathematics than they seem to be. What they are going to lose from their base by this move would be tremendous both in numbers and in financial support, whereas what they might gain is unsure and most likely not very significant. Unless they go the whole hog to the religious wingnut territory, but then they'll lose all rational voters.

I dislike parties who have no principles. I also dislike parties who crap on their most faithful supporters just after an election in which these supporters handed over most of their money to the Democratic politicians. It might be quite enjoyable to lend a hand in the destruction of the Democratic Party. Please don't force me to go that way, Nancy!

Funniest Quote of the Day

This is by Incognito on the Eschaton threads:

They stole the election and said it was about murals.


Nudity is the way to go if you want lots of visits to your blog, so here's my attempt do the marketing thing:

Thanks to TheaLogie for this story:

South African farmers who revealed all for a calendar to raise money for their farmers' association and local charities have proved popular pin-ups.
Within a day of publication all 1,000 copies were sold out, mainly to women.
"We're surprised by the demand. We've had to order another 6,000 copies," the photographer Daniel Blignaut said.
The Viljoeskorron farmers were initially camera shy, but in the end had great fun modelling their "backsides and body flab", he said.

I don't want to do a feminist analysis of this right before Christmas.

Kerry Joins the Ohio Suit

William Pitt:

2004 Democratic Presidential candidate John Kerry will file today, in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Ohio, papers in support of the Green Party/Libertarian Party recount effort. Specifically, Kerry will be filing a request for expedited discovery regarding Triad Systems voting machines, as well as a motion for a preservation order to protect any and all discovery and preserve any evidence on this matter.

Triad Systems has come under scrutiny recently after Sherole Eaton, deputy director of elections for Hocking County, swore out an affidavit in which she described her witnessing the tampering of electronic voting equipment by a Triad representative. Rep. John Conyers, the ranking minority member of the House Judiciary Committee, has requested an investigation into this matter by the FBI and the Hocking County prosecutor.

Truthout will have more on this specific Triad allegation later in the day.

Interesting, and possibly even meaningful. Doing this just before Christmas allows the message to sink in (should it be reported by any in the SCLM) without the wingnuts having time to reframe it as treason, fraud and sore-loserness.

Bush's Tax Plans

Now here's a topic that is probably as unpleasant as anything I could write, except perhaps something on root canals without anesthesia. Yet taxes are something that we will not get rid of; "we" meaning people in the lower and middle income classes. The rich, according to our all-knowing leader, are too wily to be caught paying taxes. Though previous leaders somehow managed to make them pay. Never mind.

President Bush is planning to make our tax system "simpler, fairer and more pro-growth", and this very term is used in the linked article as if these adjectives are generally accepted neutral descriptors of his plans. Nothing could be further from truth. I wrote to AP to complain about such biased reporting, but even that gesture is probably pointless.

What Bush may be planning (though no-one knows for sure) is the abolition of the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT) and the introduction of extra tax-relief for the wealthy:

While retaining the current income tax system, this option would eliminate the Alternative Minimum Tax, which was designed to make sure the rich paid their fair share of taxes but is now ensnaring more middle-income taxpayers. The proposal also would significantly expand opportunities for people to set up savings accounts where their investment earnings would be tax-free, something the administration has been pushing for two years.
Eliminating the AMT, which covered 3 million mostly wealthy taxpayers in 2004 but will raise the taxes of 23 million taxpayers by 2008, would cost the government an estimated $600 billion over 10 years.

What this means is that the new tax code would allow the wealthy to pay less and less. So what else is new? Well, the fact that Bush wants a revenue-neutral tax change. In other words, if we cut the taxes of the rich, we need to raise something else to take care of the lost 600 billion dollars. And what might this "something else" be? Guess:

To pay for that and the more generous savings accounts, the "least radical" proposal would eliminate the itemized deduction for state and local income taxes, while imposing a tax on Social Security benefits and employer-provided health care benefits.

How is this not raising taxes? Of course it would raise taxes, and it would raise them not only on the rich but also on the middle class. And it would especially increase the payments in the so-called Blue states (which voted for Kerry), because the itemized deduction for state and local income taxes is more important in those states. The net effect would be that the middle classes would pay more and the rich would pay less (because they get all the benefits yet carry only some of the increased taxes).

And not only that, the taxing of employer-provided health benefits has the same effect as an increase in the cost of health insurance on the accessibility of health care. At a time when access to health care is a major concern of most voters, the administration is planning to make this even harder! And why? So that the wealthy may have more money.

I wouldn't call that exactly moral, but then I'm in the wrong party for defining morals.

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

What I Want for Christmas

I have all the front teeth I need. Instead, I'd love a miniature Bill O'Reilly in a Santa outfit! I'd keep him in glass jar on the kitchen windowsill, and I'd listen to his fly-like buzzing when I do the dishes. When I'm bored I could take him out and have him run all over a big falafel sandwich or he could hide in my loofah.
And my boobs would indeed look big to him.

If you don't know what I'm raving about you should check the Google for O'Reilly-falafel-loofah. It's about a sexual harassment suit against Bill O'Reilly. According to the suit, he suggested interesting things he could do with a falafel to excite a woman. Except that he meant a loofah. How O'Reilly could excite anyone in his normal size beats me. But a tiny, tiny O'Reilly in a glass jar would be really fun.
So how about it, Santa?

O'Reilly has decided that he is a multitasker. Not only does he chat about big boobs and falafels and loofahs, but he also protects Baby Jesus (FOX News host Bill O'Reilly declared that "[s]omewhere Jesus is weeping" over criticism of O'Reilly in the print media.)! Yes! He's single-handedly keeping Baby Jesus from being eaten up by liberal East Coast eliters and Hollywood heathens. A busy guy, this O'Reilly. Too bad that he will be at least somewhat responsible for any future fascism this contry may have to face; anyone who spends as much time lying to the Americans on television will have to bear some responsibility. But I'd keep my miniature O'Reilly safe anyway.

Some Clean Christmas Fun!

Amongst all this baking and cleaning and shopping it is needed. This is innocent and childlike and has no indecency in it:

(By Reuters)

It is a giant billboard picture of George Bush, consisting solely of monkeys! The original artwork was banished from a New York art show. But art lovers managed to overcome this misfortune and now all and sundry can watch the image of our great leader on a billboard!

The story in greater detail:

"Bush Monkeys," a small acrylic on canvas by Chris Savido, created the stir last week at the Chelsea Market public space, leading the market's managers to close down the 60-piece show.
Animal Magazine, a quarterly arts publication that had organized the month-long show, said anonymous donors had paid for the picture to be posted on a giant digital billboard over the entrance to the Holland Tunnel, used by thousands of commuters traveling between Manhattan and New Jersey.
The original picture will be auctioned on eBay, with part of the proceeds donated to parents of U.S. soldiers wishing to supply their sons and daughters with body armor in Iraq.

So it's even a noble cause! What could be better at this time of the year?

Help Needed

What should I buy the dogs for Christmas? They are Christian dogs and they expect presents for Christmas. The snakes don't.

I have trouble thinking about anything that they might like. Henrietta the Hound insists on presents, though I'm not sure if Hank knows what Christmas is (or what anything is, come to that). I usually buy them new dog beds, but the house is full of dog beds.

Food is always appreciated, and they will get their traditional Italian meatballs, but Henrietta is on a maintenance diet, so I can't give them lots of fattening food.

Ok. Henrietta just said she wants a squirrel. I'm going to bed.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

A Writer I Love, Part I

Ursula LeGuin writes science fiction. Maybe that is why she is not counted in the canon of high literature. For what she writes is high literature, literature written for the brain, the body, the emotions and the spirit. She once said that the task of an author is to express in words that which cannot be expressed in words, and that sums her genius for me.

LeGuin writes like the Shaker maxim: Do all your work as if this was the last task of your life and also as if you had an eon to complete it. Her writing has the same grace and beauty as a Shaker table: everything frivolous and unnecessary has been removed, everything necessary and important has been refined until it is pure beauty. Reading her is as easy as drinking a glass of clear cool water on a hot day, and its effect is equally vital.

Reading her is easy, but understanding her may not be. The simple sentences that so quickly take you into the story hide multitudes of deeper messages and which of these you grasp will depend on where you are in your own life at the time of the reading. Even when you have discovered a new layer of meaning, you can never be sure that there aren't even further layers, not yet visible to you. That she is both transparent and opaque is what makes LeGuin's books some of my favorites.

LeGuin writes science fiction: books about planets in some distant future or fairy tales for adults and children alike. But she also writes about our reality:

Science fiction properly conceived, like all serious fiction, however funny, is a way of trying to describe what is in fact going on, what people actually do and feel, how people relate to everything else in this vast sack, this belly of the universe, this womb of things to be and tomb of things that were, this unending story.

Dancing at the Edge of the World (1989).

Doing this in a science fiction story makes sense. We are much more open to a fictional world than to our real one, much more able to see, as an outsider, all that is going on. We can't do that with our daily reality; we are too much part of that story, not its readers.

LeGuin uses her genre to explore deep philosophical questions, among them the impact that gender has on human societies (The Left Hand of Darkness), how power is awarded to some and kept from others (the Earthseaseries) and what it means to have good and evil (all her writings). This last question is the one she seems to be most interested in. She repeatedly returns to it and though she has refined her answer over time, it always has its basis in the idea of balance.

In that LeGuin is a Taoist. She states

To oppose something is to maintain it.

The Left Hand of Darkness(1969)


To light a candle is to cast a shadow.

A Wizard of Earthsea(1968)

and even

What is love of ones country; is it hate of ones uncountry? Then it's not a good thing.

The Left Hand of Darkness (1969)

To see both sides, to look for balance is wisdom in LeGuin's worlds. Her heros are never totally victorious, the evil is never totally eradicated. This sets her apart from the vast majority of fantasy writers in the Tolkien mode, who see the relationship between good and evil as a battle to death. For LeGuin, the victory of good over evil is not the happy ending but just a stage from which more evil will grow.

E-Mails and ACLU

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) got hold of some e-mails and memoranda which suggest that torture has been the name of the game for a long time in Guantanamo:

Detainees at the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, were shackled to the floor in fetal positions for more than 24 hours at a time, left without food and water, and allowed to defecate on themselves, an FBI agent who said he witnessed such abuse reported in a memo to supervisors, according to documents released yesterday.
In memos over a two-year period that ended in August, FBI agents and officials also said that they witnessed the use of growling dogs at Guantanamo Bay to intimidate detainees -- contrary to previous statements by senior Defense Department officials -- and that one detainee was wrapped in an Israeli flag and bombarded with loud music in an apparent attempt to soften his resistance to interrogation.
In addition, several agents contended that military interrogators impersonated FBI agents, suggesting that the ruse was aimed in part at avoiding blame for any subsequent public allegations of abuse, according to memos between FBI officials.

The lesson? This might depend on who you are. The administration might find the moral of the story to be that one should never write e-mails or memoranda on torture. Much better to wink and nudge in person. Some others might be upset about this, but most Americans will not even know that this happened. That's how well the societal indoctrination into the "Know-Nothing" party has worked!

The message would be heard if it was rewritten to be positive, I've been told. If it started with how the United States is the greatest country on earth a couple of people might perk their ears for the rest of it. This should be an explanation as to how none of this is any worse than the ordinary frat house capers (you know, gang-rapes and stuff) or if it is, well, war is war and so on. But I'm the goddess of gloom-and-doom, so you won't get the golden lining here. Just clouds.

If these pieces of evidence are real, who is to be blamed? Not the president, of course, that goes without saying. But Donald Rumsfeld could be a good scapegoat:

Instead, FBI and Pentagon officials said, the order in question was signed by Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld in December 2002 and then revised four months later after complaints from military lawyers that he had authorized methods that violated international and domestic law.
In a Jan. 21, 2004, e-mail, an FBI agent wrote that "this technique [of impersonating an FBI agent], and all of those used in these scenarios, was approved by the DepSecDef," referring to Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul D. Wolfowitz.

Deck the walls with Paul and Rummie...

The Devil You Know?

How else to explain the re-selection of Bush, the president with the most awful ratings at the beginning of a new term? Well, there is another way of explaining that one, but it takes me to the aluminum foil land.

Anyway, Bush is rated very low by respondents in a Washington Post-ABC News poll taken last week. More people disapprove of Bush overall than approve of his performance, and the disapproval percentace has risen three percent from late October. The majority dislikes Bush's attempt to destroy the healthy* and successful* Social Security program, the majority dislikes his performance on the economy, and the majority dislikes his health care policy.

Almost sixty percent of the respondents disapprove of the situation in Iraq. The only aspect of Georgie's performance that finds the majority approving is the war against terrorism.

All this leaves me scratching my divine tresses. How on earth did this guy get in again? What does it say about the country?

Well, they didn't ask about Bush's performance on the protection-of-Christmas issue, though that wasn't a campaign item on either side, and Bush just said "Happy Holidays!". So that can't be the answer.

I'm left with only two possibilities: either Kerry was so bad that the worst president ever seemed preferable to those who fear the sudden terrorist attack, or the election indeed was on theocracy in this country. Or, of course, the unmentionable might be whispered in a tin-foil lined room.
*These adjectives are part of the new progressive framing of the issue. From now on, always slip in "healthy" and "successful" when you talk about the Social Security issue.

Some Bad News

At least twenty human beings have died in Mosul in a mortar attack on an American base. One mortar caught the mess hall where lunch was being served right then.

May those who died find peace. May their families find peace.

Monday, December 20, 2004

A Comment to My Post

This is from the American Street where I blog on Saturdays. It's a comment to a post about how us liberals are wrecking Christmas:

Your bitterness and anger is not only consuming you but damaging many. Time to forgive all those people (your parents and authorities) you hate so much.

It could be a joke. Or it could be meant for one of the earlier comments on the same post. But I suspect that it's intended for me and not as a joke. I'm so proud!

Imagine me, the goddess who adores authority figures, writing so well that a reader gets completely taken for a ride! Yeah! That's me. I'm bubbling over with Christmas joy, and I want to have an intimate tete-a-tete with Santa Claus, another authority figure I love.

Though this could be just a very dense commenter... No, that's not possible. Only yesterday someone else thought that I belonged to the media and yelled at me to do SOMETHING CONSTRUCTIVE! So I'm getting to be really slick and smooth or otherwise deceptive; nobody notices that I'm a goddess so I can't possibly have parents or be a journalist.

But yes, I'm going to be very constructive: I'm working on a gigantic gingerbread castle for Christmas. I have the cardboard model all cut out.

A Christmas Update on the Elections

I will try to insert "Christmas" into everything I write for a while. It's a difficult word to type for some reason, at least for me. I wonder why?

In any case, the New York Times has a very good editorial about the rotten state of the American election machinery. Some snippets:

In San Diego, the No. 2 choice of the voters for the mayor's job may be headed to City Hall. Donna Frye, a write-in candidate, came within 2,108 votes of defeating Mayor Dick Murphy. But Ms. Frye's vote total does not include more than 5,500 ballots on which voters wrote her name, but failed to darken a bubble next to it. There can be no doubt that those voters, who would easily give Ms. Frye a majority, tried to vote for her, but were tripped up by poor ballot design. The voters' intent should be recognized.

In Ohio, where a recount of the presidential election is under way, it is becoming clear that as important as recounts are, they are not enough to ensure the integrity of our elections. Representative John Conyers Jr., a Democrat from Michigan, has charged that an employee of a company that makes vote-counting software used across the state may have tampered with one county's vote tabulator after the election to make the recount come out right. If people other than election officials have free access to the tabulation software, it can make a recount an empty gesture.

Thus, what we have is the wrong person for San Diego's mayor and an Ohio recount which is a total farce. This needs much more attention and discussion than it has received so far. In fact, this issue is the very lifeline of all democracy. Just ask yourself this question: Suppose that ATMs were created so that you could cheat on how much money you're taking out of your account. Would you really expect that not a single person will take advantage of the design flaw that allows stealing?

Yet this is the current situation in the United States election practices. Anyone with good computing skills and a couple of good connections could turn the elections. Maybe this anyone already has? Why are most politicians treating this issue with total nonchalance?

The best thing that might happen is for a real hacker to hack the 2006 elections so that Donald Duck wins every single one by a vast majority. Maybe then we'd get some change.

Should I Laugh or Cry?

More on the Time's "Person of the Year" issue:

Time Magazine named President Bush as the 2004 "Person of the Year," for the second time. Time also named 17 people, one group of women, and a horse as “People Who Mattered.” In addition to the cast of “Desperate Housewives,” only two women were named as “People Who Mattered” – Nancy Reagan and Martha Stewart.

Luckily, the Ms Magazine has its own "Women of the Year" issue every year. But I'm wondering if a horse wins the Time's "Person of the Year" before one individual woman does. It might be a close race...

Save A Life

In Iran, the fundamentalist interpretation of the Sharia law has caused two women to be given death sentences for "crimes against morality".

Hajieh Esmailvand has been sentenced to a five-year prison sentence, followed by an execution by stoning. She may be stoned to death any time this week:

The Iranian Penal Code is very specific about the manner of execution and types of stones which should be used. Article 102 states that men will be buried up to their waists and women up to their breasts for the purpose of execution by stoning. Article 104 states, with reference to the penalty for adultery, that the stones used should "not be large enough to kill the person by one or two strikes, nor should they be so small that they could not be defined as stones".

Her unnamed codefendant is scheduled to be hanged.

Also in Iran:

The news follows reports of a 19-year old girl, "Leyla M", who has a mental age of eight, reportedly facing imminent execution for "morality-related" offences in Iran after being forced into prostitution by her mother as a child. According to a Tehran newspaper report of 28 November, she was sentenced to death by a court in the central Iranian city of Arak and the sentence has now been passed to the Supreme Court for confirmation.
Leyla M was reportedly sentenced to death on charges of "acts contrary to chastity" by controlling a brothel, having intercourse with blood relatives and giving birth to an illegitimate child. She is to be flogged before she is executed. She had apparently "confessed" to the charges.
Leyla was forced into prostitution by her mother when she was eight years old, according to the 28 November report, and was raped repeatedly thereafter. She gave birth to her first child when she was nine, and was sentenced to 100 lashes for prostitution at around the same time. At the age of 12, her family sold her to an Afghan man to become his "temporary wife".
His mother became her new pimp, "selling her body without her consent". At the age of 14 she became pregnant again, and received a further 100 lashes, after which she was moved to a maternity ward to give birth to twins. After this "temporary marriage", her family sold her again, to a 55-year-old man, married with two children, who had Leyla's customers come to his house.

These are grave injustices. Amnesty International is working desperately to influence the Iranian authorities. It is important to put pressure on them and all other religious fundamentalists who refuse to see the compassion and fairness that is in their religions.

And no, this post doesn't mean that I advocate attacking Iran. That would be a stupid thing to do, given that bombs differentiate between the innocent and guilty even less than the Iranian mullahs.

Merry Christmas!

There. I said it. And I'm a non-Christian East Coast Elite Goddess! Saying "Merry Christmas" will label me as a wingnut, or that's what wingnuts hope. Because Christmas is under attack from people like me. Bill O'Reilly and other wingnut pundits tell us so.

Of course Christmas is not under attack. What the wingnuts are complaining about are restrictions on religious Christmas displays in public spaces. Interpreting these as warfare against Christmas is just the newest ploy to make the voters forget about the war and the unemployment and the loss of medical benefits and the general crapping down of America under Bush. To make them forget that the Republicans now control everything, everything, and that therefore everything that goes wrong is the Republicans' fault. This is a tricky situation: the wingnut media personalities must work very hard to remain the embattled, oppressed majority when they have all the power. But it can be done: find something that can be blamed on the liberals, and there you go. Nary a comment about how Social Security will be stolen or about how many dead corpses are quietly sent back from Iraq. Worry about Christmas instead.

Because Christmas is about Christ, and anyone who doesn't say "Merry Christmas!" in a loud, bright voice is against Christ. Not just against Christmas, mind you, but against a God. That's how something trivial can be translated into another religious divide.

I look around and see Christmas everywhere. True, most of it isn't about Christ, but that's not my fault. Most of it is about consumerism: buying as much as possible, eating as much as possible and then having as many fights with relatives you can't stand as you can possibly squeeze between Christmas and the New Year. Then there are the nauseating songs that you can here in every shopping mall.

For the more traditionally minded, there is the Christmas tree: a pagan symbol if there ever was one. There is ivy and holly and even mistletoe: all pagan symbols of renewal in the midst of winter. There is Santa Claus or Father Christmas. He is not mentioned in the Bible, either. The Yule log, a cake which might hark back to the original pagan Yule festival.

Christmas is not very Christian in this "Christian country". There are people who celebrate a religious Christmas, of course, but I'd bet that they are a very small minority. Most Americans celebrate Christmas very much like they celebrate Thanksgiving. In a sense, Christmas is a secular holiday, and the liberals have done nothing to make it such. It was the wingnuts' best friends, the corporate business interests, that managed this conversion. If Bill O'Reilly wants to know who stole Christmas, he could ask his CEO pals.

Strictly speaking, it was the Christians who stole a holiday. Nobody knows when Jesus was born, but there was this pesky pagan holiday, celebrated in late December, and newly-minted Christians in Europe just wouldn't stop partying and drinking that time of the year. So the church fathers decided that they were toasting Christ's birthday. That's how Christmas was born.

I don't mind public displays of Christianity, actually. I'm fine with having the manger-and-the-donkeys display right next to my snake shrine in front of the White House. But I bet Bill O'Reilly wouldn't let me erect a shrine there, and if I asked he'd tell me to go back to Snakeland.

Baby Found Safe!

This is a different baby, not the one from the horrible human incident who was also found safe. This one is a mountain gorilla baby:

Police have arrested four suspected poachers and recovered a baby mountain gorilla that was stolen from its family in the forests of neighboring Congo, a spokesman said Monday.
Police detained the men Saturday following a tip that they had smuggled the 3-year- old primate into the border district of Mutura, in Rwanda's northwestern Gisenyi province, said Dismas Rutaganira, who led the police operation.
The animal was hidden in a sack and was being taken to unknown buyers in Kenya, Rutaganira said.
The suspects said that the baby was stolen from gorillas accustomed to visits by humans in Congo, said Fidele Ruzigandekwe, head of the Rwanda Wildlife Agency.

There are only 380 mountain gorillas left in the whole world! Dian Fossey lost her life for their sake, but most humans seem to think that rarity increases market value. The poachers had fed the adult gorillas bananas which were laced with something. Otherwise the adults would have killed the poachers which would have served them right.

I wonder how many wonderful animal species will be completely extinct before humans learn? If the light bulb ever lights up.

Today's Action Alert

Today's Action comes straight from Atrios. Write to or call Democrat Allen Boyd and tell him that Democrats who won't stand up for Social Security don't deserve to call themselves Democrats. Point out that Social Security is not in trouble and that, even if it were, a boondoggle that transfers wealth to Wall Street traders would not be the way to fix it.

Allen Boyd (D-Fl) DC: (202) 225-5235, Tallahassee (850) 561-3979, Panama City: (850) 785-0812.

Sunday, December 19, 2004

A Question About the Blog

What are you all doing these next two weeks? Are you going to read my blog? And if you are, but not all the time, when are you going to read it? I want to know if I should close up shop for the week between Christmas Eve and January 1st. If I spill out my greatest creative efforts, I don't want to have nobody here to applaud them.

In any case, I probably won't stop posting as it seems to be almost impossible for me to do that. But I might post on some other topics, such as kicking butt and embroidery, or why my early childhood perverted me for evermore. Or post more bad poetry. Or why a cat might suddenly start peeing just outside the litter box. (Though I don't know why that might be, suggestions are welcome.)

Thank you for your answers in advance!

My Head Hurts

After winning re-election and "reshaping the rules of politics to fit his 10-gallon-hat leadership style," President George Bush for the second time was chosen as Time magazine's Person of the Year.
The magazine's editors tapped Bush "for sharpening the debate until the choices bled, for reframing reality to match his design, for gambling his fortunes -- and ours -- on his faith in the power of leadership."
Time's 2004 Person of the Year package, on newsstands Monday, includes an Oval Office interview with Bush, an interview with his father, former President George H. W. Bush, and a profile of Bush's chief political adviser, Karl Rove.

No comment.

The Bowtie Parade

Atrios has an article about Tucker Carlson, yet another wingnut television personality, possibly getting his very own show on MSNBC.

Carlson is one of those opinion guys: facts are irrelevant but wingnut opinions valuable to air. He's also on the PBS, the scummiest of the scummy in the SCLM (so-called liberal media). Carlson is like George Will in sporting a bowtie. A bowtie may be the new secret handshake for wingnut boys; it tells that the wearer has read the hundred greatest works of Western civilization and still hates the poor and the oppressed. A signal, if you like. Wingnut girls have a really short skirt as a similar signal.

So. Now we have a liberal media which is so liberal that it hands over all the choicest spots to wingnut bowties and mini-skirts. Note that there isn't a single far-left talking head anywhere on the mainstream television, not a single one. There is only one program left where the host is openly on the left, and that is Bill Moyer's old show, Now, which is going to be cut into one half of its length. And then there is Keith Olberman on MSNBC who may sometimes discuss lefty issues. That's it. Two shows or bits of two shows, and the media is liberal? What about Novak? What about the Fox News? What about Chris Matthews? Joe Scarborough? Pat Buchanan, for Chrissake!

It's not that the left lacks talent. Actually, the wingnuts lack talent. Many of these radical right shows are terrible, and the only requirement for the talking heads seems to be that they are to the right of the old Attila. Now this is what I'd call affirmative action of the foulest sort. Why doesn't Molly Ivins have her own show? Why doesn't Katha Pollitt have her show? Why isn't Al Franken on television? Then there's Ann Richards and Jim Hightower from Texas and so many, many more.

The answer is, of course, so very simple. The media is not liberal. It is owned by right-wingers, and the bits that are not are scared of our present government's maffia-like tactics. Those who speak against the government are punished: reputations are lost overnight, new jobs don't materialize and vilification will go on 24/7. You can get away with a little criticism if you are like Bill Moyers, well-known, respected and retiring anyway. For anyone else it's a really suicidal mission.