Saturday, July 24, 2004

Good Deeds You Can Still Do in the Old Year

Usually we make resolutions at the beginning of a new year, which is wasteful. Right now there's plenty of this year left and lots of time for good resolutions. Here are a few I have thought of:

1. Remember to floss. It's good for your heart.
2. Don't bite your toenails. If you do, don't spit the gnawed pieces on the rug.
3. Vote for the johns.
4. First thing in the morning, look in the mirror and sing yourself a little song. Then screw your eyes, stick out your tongue. Then send yourself a big wet kiss. Now you are all emotionally balanced for the day.
5. If you're into yoga, don't go into one of the extreme postures when you're home alone.
6. Have a big funeral for all the divorced socks and grimy t-shirts. Dance around the pyre and pretend that you're witnessing the end of neoconservativism.
7. Tell your friends and relatives to vote for the johns.
8. Learn one new skill to surprise your lover with. The surprise should be a pleasant one.
9. Convert a Republican. Yes, I know that this is hard but you can first practise on something even less animate.
10.Read this blog religiously for further instructions on how to live a meaningful life or at least one that will amuse others.

News, News, News

I can't think of a good and gripping title for this post which is a pity as it's a very interesting one, I hope. It's all about what I've read today that hasn't been on the relationships in Iraq or the relationships in American politics, you know all that stuff that women don't like to read about.

Instead, I give you three pieces of varying relevance but all with the characteristic that they lit that little lamp in my head. This may happen to you, too, unless you're already dipping into your nectar reserves or totally overwhelmed by the Convention fever. Or otherwise unable to enjoy anything whatsoever. Or a Republican, of course.

The first news are about daughterly love and adoration. Something we all are going to find uplifting and lovely. It's a statement by Barbara Bush, the daughter of our current president, and this is what she has to say about her "Dad":

The campaign trail has been so much fun -- we have had a blast hanging out with our Dad and meeting tons of people across the US. The entire experience has been awe-inspiring; especially since this is the first time we have had a chance to contribute most of our time. I went to my first rally with my Dad two weeks ago in Michigan and was completely floored by the event. I had never witnessed so many people so excited to get my Dad reelected. As I sat on stage waiting for my Dad to deliver his remarks, I was so overcome by the unbelievable excitement in the room, watching so many people yell and chant for my father, I could not help but get tears in my eyes. It was amazing to meet so many people that respect and love my dad almost as much as I do!

It must have been amazing indeed, given the amount of care and planning that goes into picking just the right people for Bush's public appearances. The ones that love him the best. Now I feel all mean and small-minded for pointing this out. It feels good.

The second piece of news is nowhere near as fun; it's pretty much what I nowadays expect when decisions are made about women's freedoms in lots of countries. Egypt has decided to ban music videos which show the woman's navel in belly-dancing, an ancient indigenous art form:

Egyptian TV viewers are questioning the appropriateness of suggestive music videos in a traditional, Islamic culture, saying they fear for "their daughter's morals". Last year, the exuberantly nubile Lebanese singer Nancy Agram excited the wrath of the People's Assembly, who called for a ban and fines to channels airing her video, though their threats were widely ignored. Recently, however, an Egyptian girl named Rubi upset members of parliament and the TV authority enough to institute a ban (affecting state-owned TV) on music videos where women's navels appear. In a characteristic mix of probity, lust and national pride, a Music Syndicate official described Rubi as a 'sex-bomb' whereas Nancy is merely a 'sex-pot'.

Note the careful reference to the daughters' morals. Their daughters are presumably watching these videos with their tongues hanging down to their waistlines... And the references to 'sex-bomb' and 'sex-pot' are fascinating. What's the difference? Does one just dip into a sex-pot but have the whole kitchen to clean if the sex-bomb goes off? - That belly-dancing has a much deeper significance and importance than its possible use for sexual excitation purposes seems not to concern those keeping count of the daughters' morals and sex-pot status.

Finally, this is a piece of news that should have general appeal: it's about someone overcoming a potentially fatal illness, about animals which are cute and about a miraculous change:

A young monkey at an Israeli zoo has started walking on its hind legs only -- aping humans -- after almost dying from a stomach illness, the zoo's veterinarian said Wednesday.
Natasha, a 5-year-old black macaque at the Safari Park near Tel Aviv, began walking exclusively on her hind legs after a stomach ailment nearly killed her, zookeepers said.
Monkeys usually alternate between upright movement and walking on all fours. A picture in the Maariv daily on Wednesday showed Natasha standing ramrod straight like a human. The picture was labeled humorously, "The Missing Link?"
Two weeks ago, Natasha and three other monkeys were diagnosed with severe stomach flu. At the zoo clinic, she slipped into critical condition, said Igal Horowitz, the veterinarian.
"I was sure that she was going to die," he said. "She could hardly breathe and her heart was not functioning properly."
After intensive treatment, Natasha's condition stabilized. When she was released from the clinic, Natasha began walking upright.
"I've never seen or heard of this before," said Horowitz. One possible explanation is brain damage from the illness, he said.
Otherwise, Horowitz said, Natasha's behavior has returned to normal.

Cute, isn't it? Click on the link to see a picture of Natasha striding purposefully and in a very familiar posture. Maybe the snakes are right when they pity all humans as suffering from brain damage? In any case, I like Natasha. She's one uppity monkey.
Props to Wonkette for story number one, phmnst for story number two and blue lily for the third story.

Friday, July 23, 2004

Correction, Correction!

It's not just Democratic uppity women that get shunned and ostracized, it's also Democratic uppity cartoons. "Doonesbury", in particular:

A poll that resulted in a vote to drop "Doonesbury" was defended by the head of a Sunday-comics consortium.

"It was not a political statement of any kind," Continental Features President Van Wilkerson told E&P. "I personally don't have an opinion about 'Doonesbury' one way or another."

Wilkerson said he conducted the survey because Garry Trudeau's comic "created more controversy than other strips." In the poll e-mail he sent Continental's newspaper clients this spring, Wilkerson wrote: "(I)t is my feeling that a change in one of the features is required. I have fielded numerous complaints about 'Doonesbury' in the past and feel it is time to drop this feature and add another in its place. ... If the majority of the group favors a replacement, you will be expected to accept that change."

Of the 38 papers that run the Continental-produced Sunday comics section, 21 wanted to drop "Doonesbury," 15 wanted to keep it, and two had no opinion or preference. "I wouldn't call the vote [to drop 'Doonesbury'] overwhelming, but it was a majority opinion," Wilkerson said.

One of the 15 papers, The Anniston (Ala.) Star expressed public dismay with the vote yesterday saying the decision amounted to censorship. In an E&P interview after that article appeared, Star Executive Editor Troy Turner said: "Sure, 'Doonesbury' causes editors headaches from time to time, but there is a proven readership for it. Newspapers need to think of readers first, or they will continue to struggle."

Turner added that he doesn't recall Continental doing polls about any of the other 22 comics in its package; "Doonesbury" was singled out. Wilkerson acknowledged that the survey was out of the norm.

And why was "Doonesbury" 'singled out' in such a manner? Could it have something to do with the fact that it has recently included strong criticism of president Bush and his policies? Hmmmm. We don't have to fear government censure when the media is so eager to censure themselves. I would have loved to know how many votes all the other cartoons would have gotten. You know, fair competition and all that Republican stuff.

Sexual Slavery in Vermont?

Vermont is supposed to be clean and beautiful and trade largely in ice-cream and foliage tourism. Could it possibly also dabble in sexual slavery? This story isn't completely clear on this question:

The regulars at the Park Place Tavern weren't surprised when police raided what is being described as an Asian brothel in a small house across their shared driveway.
But they were surprised when news reports linked the now-closed Tokyo Spa and two other health clubs in the area to what police say is an international prostitution ring that smuggled Asian women into the United States and made them sex slaves.
"We joked about it here all the time," said Sandy Maloney, who lives in an apartment complex out back.
Maloney said she watched as older men driving expensive out-of-state sport utility vehicles visited the Tokyo Spa at all hours.

The important distinction between something that can be joked about 'all the time' and something that is cause for concern seems to be whether the women engaging in sexwork were doing it voluntarily or not. I think that the definition of 'voluntary' can be very tricky in this particular case, especially if one is allowed to look at the women's whole lives before deciding on the answer, and always remembering that an illegal occupation lacks all the usual worker protections.

But in any case there's doubt that these sexworkers had volunteered:

During the raids earlier this month, authorities arrested eight women - five Korean and three Chinese - on federal immigration charges. All except two have been released, said Essex police Lt. Gary L. Taylor. No state criminal charges have been filed.
Taylor refused to discuss the ongoing investigation but knew of no other organized prostitution in Vermont's history.
"It's the first time I am aware of," Taylor said.
In court documents, police say the women who worked at the spas never left. Even groceries were brought to the house.
One Korean woman told investigators she had been smuggled into the United States and had only recently arrived at the Tokyo Spa.
Court documents filed by police to get search warrants for the three businesses outline what authorities say could be a link to international organized crime and sexual slavery. Similar operations, according to the papers, are being investigated by federal authorities in New York City, New Jersey and Maine.
"The way these massage parlors or spas or health clubs work, they are really fronts for prostitution," said Linda M. Hughes of the University of Rhode Island.
Hughes, who has studied international sex trafficking for 15 years, said many of the women have been smuggled into the United States and are being held "by some sort of forced fraud or coercion."
Typically, sex rings offer to bring women into the United States for a fee. Once in the United States, the women are forced to repay the cost of their passage by working as prostitutes.
The women will give most of the money they make to the brothel owner. They are charged for rent and expenses. They can be fined for rule infractions, Hughes said.
"There are all sorts of things they do to prevent these women from getting out," Hughes said. "That may mean these women have been enslaved for 20 years."
The women are then rotated between the brothels as part of a network that has, in some cases, operated nationwide.

There appears to be a thriving market in sexual slavery, if the word 'market' could be used for an activity in which some actors are not allowed to decide if they participate or not. So though we shouldn't really be calling sexual slavery an industry, it does seem to function like one. And there are men (and women?) willing to drive their out-of-state SUVs to Vermont to have sex with women who are perhaps not allowed to leave the premises even to buy groceries. Who is the real criminal here, I wonder?

There are things that people do which are nothing but a travesty of love, a hideous imitation of intimacy, something that reeks of death and evil. Maybe even in Vermont.

Thursday, July 22, 2004

Spot the Common Patterns!

Here's a little competition for you: which one of these individuals is the odd one out and why?

1. Natalie Maines
2. Whoopi Goldberg
3. Dennis Miller
4. Linda Rondstadt
5. Margaret Cho

If you guessed number 3., you got the big prize (spare brainpower for the next Dark Ages so that you'll suffer even more). Dennis Miller is indeed the odd one out: a man, a Republican and the only one nobody has kicked out, boycotted or uninvited because of his political expressions. Because he differs in three main ways it's hard to tell why he gets treated like the princess sleeping on the pea while the real princesses get thrown into the pigstye.

So what do these five have in common? Here is the answer:

In March 2003, Dixie Chicks lead singer Natalie Maines told fans during a London concert the group is "ashamed" Bush is from its home state of Texas. That led several country music radio stations across the country to pull the plug on Dixie Chicks music.

Slim Fast reportedly dropped Goldberg after she allegedly made sexual and comical references about President George W Bush at a Democratic fundraiser for his presidential rival John Kerry.

"We are disappointed by the manner in which Ms. Goldberg chose to express herself and sincerely regret that her recent remarks offended some of our consumers," a spokesman of the company was quoted as saying.

...comments made by Dennis Miller -- producer and host of CNBC's Dennis Miller -- at a Wisconsin rally for President George W. Bush July 14 drew none of the same media fire, despite the fact that, as Washington Post "Reliable Source" columnist reported , Miller "impl[ied] a homosexual attraction between Kerry and Edwards."
In the July 15 edition of The Washington Post, Leiby quoted Miller: "Those two cannot keep their hands off each other, can they? ... I think I have a new idea for a new campaign slogan -- use the bumper sticker 'Hey, Get A Room.' "

Singer Linda Ronstadt not only got booed, she got the boot after lauding filmmaker Michael Moore and his new movie, Fahrenheit 9/11 during a performance at the Aladdin hotel-casino.
Before singing "Desperado" for an encore Saturday night, the 58-year-old rocker called Moore a "great American patriot" and "someone who is spreading the truth." She also encouraged everybody to see the documentary about President Bush.

Fearing something of a Whoopi effect, edgy comedian Margaret Cho has been uninvited from headlining a gay and lesbian unity event scheduled to coincide with the Democratic National Convention.

Now, I don't think that there is anything wrong with alluding that Kerry and Edwards are gays, but this is a sexual allusion, isn't it?
Sexual allusions are supposed to be a no-no as Whoopi has found out. And Dennis Miller has said much worse things about the Democrats in public, yet I doubt that he has lost any support for that. Also, Arnold Schwarzenegger doesn't even have to apologize for showing contempt towards the majority of Californians. But then he is a Republican and a man, too.

What is going on here, friends? Is it just that Democrats are a bunch of spineless wimps who crouch down and ask for more when they get beaten by the whip of the Godly Men, aka Republicans? Or is there something else going on here, too? Something about uppity women not allowed to be uppity, even among the lowly Democrats? Hmmm. Should we ask Martha Steward?

I don't know the answer. Republicans seem to have an urgent need to shut up all criticism, whereas Democrats think self-scrutiny and criticism is part of an open exchange of ideas. Maybe this makes us liberals better, more moral people? Or maybe this is all just a desperate cowering kind of politics to appease to the timid moderates that everybody is courting? Rubbish! It's just another excuse not to get off our collective butts and take back the country! Leave it to Natalie and LInda and Whoopi and Margaret! Then when the counterattack comes we can pretend we never liked them anyway, such mouthy broads the lot.

Wednesday, July 21, 2004

On the Homefront

You all want to know how the snakes are doing, right? And how my complicated relationships with the other remaining gods and goddesses are faring? Probably not, but I'm going to write about these intimate personal details anyway. The human interest touch, if you like.

Green Mamba has been very quiet for some time. This usually means the beginning of another revolution, with several attempts to choke me to death, to destroy my nectar cellars and to organize a peaceful sitin in Snakepit Inc., all at the same time. Green Mamba has about five co-conspirators, and they all wear red bandanas which keep sliding down their bodies, so it's not too difficult for me to spot them when they come to kill me. Then I have to gently remind them that I can't be killed, being a goddess, and it's all very sad when they realize that they have to go back and hatch a new plot. To be honest, I'd love them to be successful in the revolution. I have a thick stack of literature on time-shares in the Caribbean and I really like the idea of myself as a retired, modest goddess, but these guys just can't direct themselves, let alone billions of snakes.

The other snakes are doing pretty well, except for Artful Asp. She's coming into her teenage years (or that would be the human equivalent) and she's giving me one headache after another. First it was a desire to become a praying mantiss because she absolutely hated this boa constrictor who had refused her advances, and wanted to both have him and eat him in one go. When she realized that I couldn't make her into a praying mantiss (not in my training), she slithered off in terrible anger and maxed all my credit cards with purchases of artificial nails and rat poison.

Then she watched too much television (my fault, I had left it on), and wanted me to pay for breast enhancement surgery. We had a long discussion about the friction effects of several bumps on her bellyside, the fact that male snakes are not turned on by bumps and the questionable aesthetic effects of having twelve bras along the length of one dainty snake, and finally she gave up. But I see her casting those glances at me which means that something not-so-nice has been added to my nectar for tonight, and I can't have any human visitors for a while. She's vicious, is the little asp, but all of you who cope with teenagers know about that. You gotta love them.

On the divine front, things have been peaceful. I had a very small cocktail party for some of my nearest and dearest and Aphrodite behaved much better than I expected. Only two young men had to be returned to their rightful homes and neither one will be much the worse for wear. Aphrodite is slowing down, I think, but I wouldn't say anything to her face about it. There's only one interesting piece of gossip, which is that someone swore they had seen Ares. I thought he had expired due to lack of adulation, and so did most of the others. I was glad to hear that he might still be up to his old games (when he wasn't waging those silly hot-headed battles), but the gossiper also thought that Ares had gotten religion really bad, and was now leading a Buddhist monastery somewhere in the U.S.. Talk about karma!

I hope the rumor is not true. But these news made me decide to start a website for ex-gods and ex-goddesses. "Where are you now?" sort of thing. We could all exchange recipes for survival in this fundamentalist age and maybe plot a revolution or two.

Tuesday, July 20, 2004

Girlie Men

The Governor of the state of California, one Arnold Schwarzenegger, recently coined this term in a speech that claimed that Democrats were delaying his budget to cater for 'special interests':

``If they don't have the guts to come up here in front of you and say, 'I don't want to represent you, I want to represent those special interests, the unions, the trial lawyers ... if they don't have the guts, I call them girlie men,'' Schwarzenegger said to the cheering crowd at a mall food court in Ontario.
The governor lifted the term from a long-running ``Saturday Night Live'' skit in which two pompous, Schwarzenegger-worshipping weightlifters repeatedly use it to mock those who don't meet their standards of physical perfection.

The California Democrats didn't like Arnold's taste in insults:

Democrats said Schwarzenegger's remarks were insulting to women and gays and distracted from budget negotiations. State Sen. Sheila Kuehl said the governor had resorted to ``blatant homophobia.''
``It uses an image that is associated with gay men in an insulting way, and it was supposed to be an insult. That's very troubling that he would use such a homophobic way of trying to put down legislative leadership,'' said Kuehl, one of five members of the Legislature's five-member Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Caucus.

But Arnold will not, shall not apologize. Nope. He's holding onto his initial argument that people who obstruct his budget negotiations are nothing better than girlie men. The opposite of girlie men must then be someone who without permission bares the breasts of his female coworkers? What would such people be called?
Boy-e women? Or Arnolds?

Schwarzenegger's insult is not just aimed at women (which the insult identifies with weakness) or gays (which the insult identifies with an insult), it also insults girls. I looked up the definition of the term 'girlie', and my dictionary labels it as 'offensive as a term of address'. So in one sweepingly short statement the Governor of California managed to smear all women, all gays and all girls. What percentage of the citizens of his state did he leave unsmeared? A lot less than half.

That Schwarzenegger's political advisors deemed his best response to the events to be an obstinate refusal to apologize tells us miles about how the society still views women, gays and girls. All rolled into one they still count less as one hypermuscular-male- movie-star-turned-into-politician.

I personally wasn't insulted by Arnold's statement, because it has been obvious for some time that he is some sort of a reversal to possibly prehistoric 'me-need-meat-me-need-pussy" genes. Anyone who goes around groping women who have nothing to do with him has a problem in viewing women as independent human beings, and this problem will not disappear when the person becomes a governor of a state. So I knew that Arnold is not for women. Neither is anyone whose previous career depended on maximum muscle and minimum words likely to regard being effeminate as anything but a serious fault.
But why on earth did he have to go after girls, too?

What's truly interesting about this little non-incident (and I'm not referring just to what Arnold recently said) is how very much it is a non-incident. A governor who thinks of women as a dish between the first and the second course in an average dinner seems perfectly acceptable to the majority of Californian voters. A governor who thinks that 'girlie' is a really mean and manly insult is viewed in a favorable light. Yes, sure Arnold messes up, but he doesn't really mean anything by it. It's just how things are. Well, he's Arnold.

This is the interesting part: that we as a culture still give the arnolds the benefit of the doubt, not those they ravage or insult.
We haven't come a long way at all, baby.

Props to katilinne

From the Mouth of Even Republicans!

Today's mantra:

"You can't say that somebody's a terrorist when he isn't a terrorist."

U.S. Senator Charles Grassley, R-Iowa. Maybe the time of miracles isn't over yet? Via pie.

Monday, July 19, 2004


This documentary is now shown in selected theaters across the country. It's an exploration of the conservative bias in Fox News, not whether it exists or not, that's a given, but how it actually seeps into the way news are presented. Robert Greenwald, the documentary's creator, spent days videotaping the broadcasts of Fox News. This helped him to divide the current conservative bias into three major categories: "the questioning of the patriotism of liberals, the relentlessly upbeat reports on Iraq and the belligerent hosts who scream at noncompliant guests". Greenwald then had volunteers watch assigned time segments of Fox News and record any news that reflected one or more of these categories.

The documentary uses all this data as well as interviews with several Fox employees. But the most interesting source material comes from thirty or so memos sent by John Moody, Fox News' senior vice president for news and editorials. The memos are seen as setting the agenda for how events will be covered.

I read through all these memos (via Wonkette), and created my own classification system for conservative bias: news attacking anything that might hurt Bush, news about abortion and news about Kerry and other liberals. This overlaps with Greenwald's system and is only selected because I don't have the rest of the material he used for the documentary.

Here are some examples from each of these three groups, all gleaned from the Moody memos:

1. News Attacking Anything That Might Hurt Bush

Iraq and the war on terrorism

"Bush's G-8 trip is actually less important than his fledgling efforts to knock together the Israeli and Palestinian PMs' heads. Let's keep in mind that the G-8 contains the most obstreperous dissidents against the war on terror." 5-29-2003

"The president is doing something that few of his predecessors dared undertake: putting the US case for mideast peace to an Arab summit. It's a distinctly skeptical crowd that Bush faces. His political courage and tactical cunning are worth noting in our reporting through the day" 6/3/2003

"Terrorism is international, and the United States is the leader of the coalition to stamp it out. That's the tone we want to impart throughout the day." 3/12/2004

"Spain's neighbor, the ever-superior France, had its own spate of railway terrorist warnings last week, though it's not clear that those were in any way related to the Madrid bombings."3/12/2004

"Into Fallujah: It's called Operation Vigilant Resolve and it began Monday morning (NY time) with the US and Iraqi military surrounding Fallujah. We will cover this hour by hour today, explaining repeatedly why it is happening. It won't be long before some people start to decry the use of "excessive force." We won't be among that group.

The continuing carnage in Iraq -- mostly the deaths of seven US troops in Sadr City -- is leaving the American military little choice but to punish perpetrators. When this happens, we should be ready to put in context the events that led to it. More than 600 US military dead, attacks on the UN headquarters last year, assassination of Irai officials who work with the coalition, the deaths of Spanish troops last fall, the outrage in Fallujah: whatever happens, it is richly deserved"

"The events in Iraq Tuesday are going to be the top story, unless and until something else (or worse) happens. Err on the side of doing too much Iraq rather than not enough. Do not fall into the easy trap of mourning the loss of US lives and asking out loud why are we there? The US is in Iraq to help a country brutalized for 30 years protect the gains made by Operation Iraqi Freedom and set it on the path to democracy. Some people in Iraq don't want that to happen. That is why American GIs are dying. And what we should remind our viewers." 4/6/2004

"More serious and more important is the US military's end of waiting game for Fallujah. If, as promised, the coalition decides to take Fallujah back by force, it will not be for lack of opportunities for terrorists holed up there to negotiate. Let's not get lost in breast-beating about the sadness of the loss of life. They had a chance." 4/22/2004

On the 9/11 Commission:

"The so-called 9/11 commission has already been meeting. In fact, this is the eighth session. The fact that former Clinton and both frmer and current Bush administration officials are testifying gives it a certain tension, but this is not "what did he know and when did he know it" stuff. Do not turn this into Watergate. Remember the fleeting sense of national unity that emerged from this tragedy. Let's not desecrate that." 3/23/2004

2. News About Abortion

"Let's spend a good deal of time on the battle over judicial nominations, which the President will address this morning. Nominees who both sides admit are qualified are being held up because of their POSSIBLE, not demonstrated, views on one issue -- abortion. This should be a trademark issue for FNC today and in the days to come." 5/9/2003

"The LAci and Conner Act passed the Senate and the Prez will sign it. What does this mean for law enforcement and what does it say about the status of the unborn?" 3/26/2004

"The National Education Association -- the NEA -- is supposedly neutral on the topic of abortion. Why then is it a co sponsor of Saturday's pro choice march in DC. Herridge has lives." 4/22/2004

3. News about Kerry and Other Liberals

"John Kerry may wish he'd taken off his microphone before trashing the GOP. Though he insists he meant republican "attack squads," his coarse description of his opponents has cast a lurid glow over the campaign." 3/12/2004

"Kerry, starting to feel the heat for his flip-flop voting record, is in West Virginia" 3/16/2004

"For everyone's information, the hotel where our Baghdad bureau is housed was hit by some kind of explosive device overnight. ALL FOX PERSONNEL ARE OK. The incident is a reminder of the danger our colleagues in Baghdad face, day in and day out. Please offer a prayer of thanks for their safety to whatever God you revere (and let the ACLU stick it where the sun don't shine)." 3/24/2004

"Air America, featuring Al Franken and other liberals, got on the air last week, but at what cost? Well, in New York, it took the place of an ethnic show. In LA, it knocked off a Korean program. And in CHicago,a spanish language broadcast was replaced. None of these people are happy" 4/5/2004

There are no snippets with the opposite bias for me to post. I went through the posts several times to verify that. There are a few cases where Moody insists on equal time for the speeches that Bush and Kerry were giving on the same day, but not a single case of negative news about anything Republican and certainly not about Bush.

I haven't seen the documentary Outfoxed yet, but I'm going to if I get a chance. This is not so obvious, given the possibility that Fox News might take some kind of legal action to stop its showing or to curtail it in some ways. Greenwald mentions the legal difficulties in using material obtained in this way: it should fall under the "Fair Use" part of the legal rules of copyright law as Greenwald is clearly only quoting to criticize. But legal experts are uncertain how the case might actually be decided if Fox decided to sue.

It is also most fascinating that many others in media refused to let Greenwald use their material in the documentary:

Then there was the fact that several major news organizations were unexpectedly refusing to license their clips. (Such licensing is ordinarily pro forma.) CBS wouldn't sell Greenwald the clip of Richard Clarke's appearance on ''60 Minutes,'' explaining that it didn't want to be associated with a controversial documentary about Murdoch. WGBH, the Boston PBS station, wouldn't let Greenwald use excerpts from ''Frontline'' for fear of looking too ''political,'' it said.

Hilarious, isn't it? CBS is too scared of Murdoch and PBS too scared of looking 'political'! As if refusing to give Greenwald the permission he asked for isn't political. So whatever the merits of the documentary might be, I'm going to make a very serious effort to see it. Just to show that I'm not afraid of either Rupert or coming across as too political. Sheesh.

Eat Your Broccoli, Now!

A recent study suggests that the reason I'm so brainy and engaging has to do with my vegetarian habits. Eating vegetables can even keep humans bright and brainy much longer:

Here's another reason to eat your veggies: A new study suggests certain vegetables like broccoli and spinach may help older women keep their brains sharper.
Researchers found that women in their 60s who ate more cruciferous and green leafy vegetables than other women went on to show less overall decline over time on a bundle of tests measuring memory, verbal ability and attention.
Such foods include broccoli, cauliflower, romaine lettuce and spinach.
The federally funded study didn't include men, but the effect would probably appear in them too, said Jae Hee Kang, an instructor at Harvard's Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston.

I haven't looked at the actual study to see if it makes sense or not, though. A surprising number of medical studies are very poorly decided and executed, so it's always good to be suspicious. For example, to prove that the difference is truly due to green vegetable consumption, everything else about the subjects life and health should be exactly the same. As we can't do this with real people living their everyday lives, we try to control for these other effects by trying to pick people who are on average the same in all other respects and by using statistical methods to control for any other possible effect that might be operating. But how successful can we really be in doing this? Obviously the answer depends on how good the statisticians' work is and how well all the other possible causes can be anticipated and measured. Another tricky thing is that something like eating green vegetables might not be the cause in the correlation we observe. Instead, it could be something correlated with the real cause, say something to do with the lifestyle or affluence of people who eat a lot of vegetables.

As an aside, note the last sentence in the quote above: "The federally funded study didn't include men". I don't remember that little reminder in any of the many studies that didn't include women, like the one which is the only basis for advocating that people take aspirin for their heart. But it's good that journalists wake up to spotting possible sex discrimination late rather than never, I guess.

This study is based on a large number of nurses, almost all of whom are women. I suspect that it was started because of all those studies which were based on a large number of physicians, almost all of whom were men, and because there were so many complaints about studies omitting women as their subjects. If this is true, the neat little insertion reminds us that it's not really possible to win if you are a feminist. Though of course I'd prefer studies that are valid for both women and men, as would any normal person who has both types among the circle of loved ones.

Sunday, July 18, 2004

A Bad Poem for Sunday

This came to me in a flash of divine inspiration, and of course I wanted to share it with you immediately:


In the prison of your arms,
am I safe from outside harms?

What do you think? Good, huh?

On Trolls

I never met a real troll before the internet era, though I read about them in many fairy tales. They are large lumbering creatures, looking like boulders from a distance, and quite deficient in intelligence. They eat humans by the bucketful and one of the obvious hero-tests is to outwit a troll. Why this would make you a hero I never quite understood as the trolls are dumber than a plank of wood. Maybe the tests increase in severity as one goes on: beginning with successful looping of the shoelaces and ending with trying to actually live with the princess for a lifetime? If so, the troll-test must be placed somewhere early in the curriculum.

The nice thing about troll-fighting is that all you need to do to kill them is to trick them into staying outside when the sun shines in the morning. The first rays of sun turn them into large boulders. You can verify this theory by checking how many large boulders there are!

The internet trolls are a different breed altogether. They don't even derive from the same root as the mythical trolls; their root is in the verb 'to troll' or 'to trawl'. Quite boring, really, but the internet trolls are sometimes very amusing. True, they never eat humans, but they sure give it a good try. "Die, miserable smear of shit!" is what quite a few of them type on their keyboards. Strictly speaking, all one needs to do to be given the name of a troll is to try to interfere with conversations in chatrooms or on boards or on comments threads of blogs, attempts to hex people into dying are not necessary. But they seem too tempting for those who feel very frightening and powerful at their little keyboards.

The ubiquity of trolls on the internet has made me a little bit more sceptical about the human race. It shouldn't be that hard to hold on to the usual verbal civilities, should it? That this doesn't happen very much makes me wonder about the future of an unregulated communal space. I predict empty chatrooms with the odd troll patrolling for any future victims, or perhaps chatrooms for nothing but barroom brawls. Anyone not willing to nuke it out will be ignored.

My familiarity is largely with wingnut and misogynistic trolls, and many of these serve the admirable purpose of reminding people who sit on the fence about the evil nature of some ideologies (as well as the stupidity of some of their upholders). Still, trolls do interfere with conversations and debates, and even if they don't eat humans outright, they certainly suck away some of the space and energy that could be used for better things.

What do these trolls look like, I sometimes wonder? I imagine very neat haircuts or lacquered hairdos and eyes with a fanatic glaze, perhaps fanged teeth and some type of chronical constipation. I imagine someone who doesn't have very much power in reality, someone who has a petrified ball of hatred in the pit of his or her stomach, someone who would like to be someone altogether different. Then I start to feel sorry for the poor trolls and must smack myself to get back some clarity.