Saturday, February 19, 2005

The London Bridge Is Falling Down

No, it isn't, but the Snakepit Inc. is. I bought the house ten years ago as a fixer-upper, the only way I could afford it. And then I worked on it most evenings and weekends for ten years. Which was hard the way only other fixer-uppers can appreciate: like joint compound in sandwiches for weeks on end and no hot meals when the kitchen is a big hole to the basement.

But working on your own house is fun, too, and every thing you fix is fixed by you, designed by you and now brand new. The problem is that the house doesn't stay fixed even after all that effort, no, it wants to go on dying. More specifically, I'm going to need a new roof and new front steps this year and a new side door, too, and I don't know how to pay for them. I'm not going to go on the roof on my own anymore, it's not exciting enough to justify the higher insurance premia so that means that I have to hire someone and these people usually want money for their work. Sniff.

The next step in the fretting over this is to see myself out on the street with all the snakes in cardboard boxes and the dogs all skinny and with matted fur. I'm not sure why this is the next step in my mind, but it is. The more realistic next step is to put some pails under the leaking spots for another year and spend the money later. But I'm a morbid goddess as you probably already know.

One of my plans was to exchange sex for work on the house. Sex would be a lot faster and less messy and most construction workers would probably be willing to work quite hard for an hour with a goddess. But then this whole Gannongate came out and I realized that I can't do that if I want to be the most famous divine blogger one day. Sniff.

That leaves my own paws as the affordable tool. The side door I can manage, I think. It needs to be reframed rather than replaced and most of the bits can be bought. The snakes are good for measuring things and the dogs can prop the door up when I work. See how much cooperation does? Maybe Bush should try that in international politics, for example.

Go and Read Riverbend

Here is the link. She is right to be worried. And so should we all be worried if we care about the equality of women and men.

(And if you want more of my posts, I'm on American Street today, too.)


This is when you know that you have been too immersed in politics. You see an ad showing lots of new-born babies and you wonder which of them might be the next Adolph Hitler.

Friday, February 18, 2005

Friday Embroidery Blogging

Decorations? Posted by Hello

This is the gloomiest embroidery I have made. It's about all the sad things, I think, but it also has a stitch I invented in the flowers. I think that you can see a close-up view by clicking on the picture. Sorry about the glass reflections. Next week I will remove the glass (yes, there are about forty of these!)

Charlotte Allen: The Public Intellectual

Christine on ms. musings linked to an article by Ms. Allen in the Los Angeles Times. The article begins thus:

Feminist Fatale
Where are the great women thinkers? Thinking so much about women has shrunk their minds.

The gist of the article is that there once used to be great women thinkers but now there aren't, except for Camilla Paglia, and the reason is feminism. Feminism shrinks women's minds so that they are only interested in topics that have to do with women and especially with women's bodies, and feminism is so rigid that it doesn't allow interesting alternative thinking to flourish. And everybody knows that women as a topic is narrow and special-interest and not something that deserves a great mind to ponder over it. Even if the majority of the world's people happen to be female.

Ms. Allen is an active member of the Independent Women's Forum, a rightwing organization largely funded by Richard Mellon Schaife. I bet you a zillion dollars that the IWF would not fund me, because my thinking doesn't follow their rigid rules. Neither would they publish any of my rants even if I gave them over for nothing.

Ms. Allen's use of evidence is interesting. She labels Susan Sontag as a great thinker because she refused "to embrace ideological feminism". It seems that Ms. Allen has not read very many of the great writings of Sontag to argue this, or perhaps she has a very odd definition of ideological feminism. But not to worry, the men that Ms. Allen label as great public intellectuals leave me less than impressed:

Still, there is no shortage of well-known male intellectuals. Besides Wolfe and Wills, we have Richard Posner, Louis Menand, Francis Fukuyama, Ian Buruma and Henry Louis Gates Jr., to name some, along with scientists who write provocatively for a general readership: Stephen Hawking, Steven Pinker, Richard Dawkins and Jared Diamond. In books and magazines, these intellectuals, who represent a wide variety of ideological perspectives, debate a broad spectrum of topics: science and politics, high and low art, literature, evolution, the Iraq war, campus sexual mores, the origins of the universe.

A few names on that list explain why Charlotte thinks that Camilla Paglia is a great thinker. Francis Fukuyama! And Steven Pinker has his odd quirks, I'd think. The list of women who have failed to become great thinkers in Charlotte's book includes most famous American feminists of the last thirty years, but excludes many columnists who indeed write on various topics. Molly Ivins is not mentioned, Katha Pollitt is not mentioned and so on. Barbara Ehrenreich is mentioned but her work on other than feminist topics is belittled, and other feminist writers who also write on other topics (Robin Morgan, for example) are omitted altogether.

What to say about all this? I think the idea of the public intellectual is a teeny weeny bit silly, considering the quality of thinking most public intellectuals offer us. But if we need such creatures there are plenty of good women writing for the general audience, and women's issues should be of general interest if men's issues are. Ms. Allen is trying a magician's trick here: Look! No great woman thinkers. Look here! Feminism is to blame! Which may be funny but isn't a real argument.

In any case, if Francis Fukuyama had been born a girl he would write somewhat differently if at all. Charlotte wants women to rise above their lives whereas she doesn't hold the men to the same standards. Fukuyama writes about the things which interest him: how to keep the world conservative and people like Francis Fukuyama the winners, but Charlotte doesn't see this as limited and of only special interest.

I also suspect that Charlotte applies a conservative male lens to the whole question. What sort of a thinking woman would a wingnut guy find impressive? Certainly not a feminist thinker, but that doesn't mean that feminist thinking isn't important. I happen to think that it has been one of the most interesting aspects of the twentieth century intellectual history.

Gannon and Daschle

It seems that Jeff Gannon had a part to play in getting rid of Daschle:

Gannon took up the Republicans' dirty work with great gusto, beginning more than a year before the election, in the summer of 2003. Working with two local South Dakota bloggers, both of whom later turned out to be secretly paid operatives of the Thune campaign, he targeted Daschle and discredited mainstream journalists. Among Gannon's direct hits was an embarrassing story that revealed that the three-term senator and his lobbyist wife, Linda, had applied for a "homestead exemption" on their costly Washington, D.C., residence, claiming it as their primary residence.

Gannon went much further, however, in accusing reporters at the state's most important newspaper, the Sioux Falls Argus-Leader, of shilling for Daschle and, worse still, of colluding with the senator in the intimidation of his political adversaries. Such wild attacks were then played back on the Thune-financed Web logs, which attracted substantial attention in the Senate race and influenced coverage in the South Dakota media. As the National Journal explained in a post-election analysis, the blog assault "opened a new and potentially powerful front in the war over public opinion." The National Journal and local journalists agreed that the blog campaign against Daschle was "crucial." A top Argus Leader editor conceded, "I don't think there's any way to say [the blogs] didn't" affect the paper's coverage.

This isn't necessarily unjournalistic behavior, especially these days. I'd like to know where Daschle's paycheck came from, ultimately.

Women in Iraq and Afghanistan

Things don't look good for many Iraqi women, especially the educated and the secular ones. Most signs point towards at least some modified form of theocracy, and women tend to be losers under such systems. Just look at Iran next door. Here is a comment by an Iraqi woman in exile:

I am an Iraqi woman, and I am boycotting the elections. Women who do vote will be voting for an enslaved future. Surely, say those who support these elections, after decades of tyranny, here at last is a form of democracy, imperfect, but democracy nevertheless?

In reality, these elections are, for Iraq's women, little more than a cruel joke. Amid the suicide attacks, kidnappings and U.S.-led military assaults since Saddam Hussein's fall, the little-reported phenomenon is the sharp increase in the persecution of Iraqi women. Women are the new victims of Islamic groups intent on restoring a medieval barbarity and of a political establishment that cares little for women's empowerment.

Indeed. Rather, the opposite is true: that the role of women as the repository of family and tribal honor will be most important for the men who have just seen their own honor tarnished by foreign invaders, and such repositories must be carefully guarded and restricted.

It is ironic, isn't it, that George Bush tells the world how he is bringing freedom to Iraq, all the time ignoring that the majority of Iraqis will not be any freer than in the past (women are the majority of Iraqi citizens)? Or perhaps I am wrong about my dire predictions concerning the future of Iraqi women. I sincerely hope so, especially as I marched against the war largely for the very reason that I didn't want to see another misogynistic country created.

In Afghanistan, women's lives are perhaps somewhat better, though formal measures of equality may not be very precise in this context. Keeping this in mind, it is interesting to read that:

Afghan President Hamid Karzai will appoint a female provincial governor for the first time in Afghanistan's history. Karzai will be choosing the governor of the central Bamiyan province from a short list of all-female candidates that includes the former Minister of Women's Affairs, Habiba Sorabi, reports the Associated Press.

Many see the appointment of a female governor as a positive step towards promoting women's rights in Afghanistan. Earlier this year, Karzai appointed three women to his newly formed Cabinet that consists of 30 people.

In fact, the Afghanistan parliament has more women than the U.S. Congress, though this is due to the quotas that were set for women's participation in the former country. The latter country cannot possibly have quotas: that would smack of communism. Unless we mean the common informal quota of regarding one or two women as an adequate number for female representation on all kinds of boards.
The first link via dailyKos diaries.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

On the Psychology of the Chatrooms

I'm not a great user of the chatrooms because I'm a shy goddess. But they are interesting to visit once in a while and visiting them teaches all sorts of things about human psychology. For example, we seem to have an immense need to build gangs or groups of same-thinking individuals and then these gangs tend to oppose other gangs. This happens even in the chatrooms for the elderly! Another interesting thing is the way a chatroom responds to someone who is just plainly nasty: some oppose the person vigorously but many flatter him or her, perhaps in the hope to stay hidden from the nasty's little mean eyes.

Then there are good psychological things, too. Like the real community support that can crop up in chat rooms and the real friendships. But I tend to be more interested in the deviant and unpleasant behavior (must go and meditate on this), and one of those is the periodic explosion that happens in many chatrooms. Something is said, often something quite minor and unimportant, and suddenly open warfare erupts, things are thrown helter-skelter and at the end of the episode metaphorical dead bodies are heaped everywhere and half of the participants have stormed off in a huff. What is this all about?

I'm not sure, but I think it has something to do with our inability to avoid those we detest on the internet. In real life we tend not to invite these people to our fireside and if we meet them in the office or the street we tend to ignore them. But in a chatroom we may not be able to do this (though some systems allow you to ignore others' comments). Hence the people who grate on us keep on grating until one day it's all too much and boom!

The nice thing about blogs is that all this is less likely to happen. It's easy to avoid a blogger you hate, and it's easy to ban a commenter a blogger doesn't like.

Many other things about internet communication are psychologically fascinating, too. The absence of voices and faces, for example. Would we actually listen to the people we now do if we could hear and see them? Do we put imaginary faces on the writing styles? And if we do, how off are we in our guesses? And does it matter?

The Ostrich Ambassador

Negroponte used to be called that. Why? Here's why:

Negroponte has a long resume in Republican administrations. Before Iraq, Negroponte was Bush's U.S. ambassador to the United Nations and, long before that, a player in the Reagan administration's Iran-Contra days. He served on Ronald Reagan's national security team in the late 1980s. And from 1981 to 1985, Negroponte served as U.S. ambassador to Honduras, where he helped the Contras fight Nicaragua's Sandinista government and, according to a series of stories in the Baltimore Sun, turned a blind eye to human rights abuses.

So we are in good hands.

Today's Action Alert

Today's Actions comes from NRDC -- and it's easy. NRDC is starting a blog that will focus on efforts to prevent the Bush administration from destroying the environment. Check out their new blog today and bookmark it so you can visit frequently.


Dear NRDC Action Fund Supporter,

Right now, the Bush Administration and its allies in Congress are working to

pass sweeping, pro-industry legislation that would sacrifice our heritage and

health for decades to come.

For all of us at the NRDC Action Fund, that can mean only one thing: it's time

to fight back. Now more than ever, we need to protect our precious wildlands

from drilling, defend our clean air and water from pollution and take urgently

needed action to stop and reverse global warming.

But we can't do it without building a bigger and stronger community of people

like you.

Last week, we launched a Blog -- an interactive, online diary -- to serve as a

gathering place for everyone who wants to stop the Bush Administration's

outrageous assaults on our environment:

Hosted by the NRDC Action Fund's own Frances Beinecke, the Blog will give you

the chance to exchange comments, participate in online chats and -- most

importantly -- get organized to take action. With personal reflections and a

fresh look at the issues, Frances will call attention to the dangers posed by

the Bush Administration's policies and tell you about what you can do to help

stop them.

Beginning tomorrow, Laurie David -- NRDC Action Fund trustee, co-founder of the

Detroit Project and wife of comedy writer Larry David -- will be our first

featured guest blogger. And stay tuned, because some of the most eloquent and

active voices in the environmental movement will soon follow in her footsteps

as guest bloggers.

Please visit the NRDC Action Fund Blog daily at

and get involved.

Thanks to people like you, I am optimistic that we will succeed in defending

America's natural heritage for ourselves and all future generations.


John H. Adams


NRDC Action Fund

New York Times Catching Up...

You could do worse than read Maureen Dowd's and Frank Rich's columns on the Jeff Gannon affair in the New York Times, assuming that you haven't followed the story for a few weeks on the lefty blogs. Even I blogged on Jeff Gannon on American Street sometime in January. It's a funny thing about the internets: they make one feel dejavu all over again when one listens to the radio or watches the television. Though it's true that much of the material on the net turns out to be wrong.

Still, in this particular case the so-called liberal media has taken its precious time before getting on the topic. Is it because the Gannongate hits too close to the heart of this administration? Is it because the problem belongs to the wingnuts and the wingnuts are in power so the media has to tiptoe carefully? I can't think of any other reasons: the story has everything that is supposed to make for juicy reading, after all, though most importantly it has some bad ethics in high places. Who was it who let Gannon in so easily? And when will I get my White House pass?

Never mind. I would pick all the wrong stories. For example, I still think that we should be outraged over all the warnings that the administration ignored before 9/11. Which appears to be the wrong answer. The correct answer is to feel outraged about the food-for-oil program.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Be Afraid! Be Very Afraid!

This is to be recommended. Our administration has found it profitable, in any case.
Here's Porter Goss:

Islamic militants waging a deadly insurgency against U.S.-led forces in Iraq pose an emerging international terrorism threat, CIA Director Porter Goss said on Wednesday.

In his first public appearance as U.S. spymaster, Goss described Iraqi insurgents, including al Qaeda ally Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, as part of a Sunni militant movement inspired by Osama bin Laden and intent on attacking Americans.

"The Iraq conflict, while not a cause of extremism, has become a cause for extremists," Goss told the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.

"Those jihadists who survive will leave Iraq experienced in and focused on acts of urban terrorism. They represent a potential pool of contacts to build transnational terrorist cells, groups and networks in Saudi Arabia, Jordan and other countries," he said.

Hence, it was very smart to attack Iraq. Now we have something more to be afraid about, something even more real. And Russians miss enough nuclear material for a nice bomb that can be dropped on a major U.S. city, or carried into it in a suitcase.

And what, exactly, are we going to do about it? Hmh? Or are we just supposed to crawl under our beds (with all the dustdogs) and let Daddy Bush take care of us?

On Making Things

I'm working on a post about fertility and the current pro-natalistic wingnut ideas, but I hate the topic so much that I'm procrastinating. Instead of talking about making babies I want to talk about how to make things in general.

We tend not to make what we wear in the West, anymore, largely because it is cheaper to buy what we need than to make it from scratch. Take shoes, for example. If I wanted to make my own shoes it would take months of study just to get started. So I don't make them, though I once made flipflops:

Find a large piece of corrugated cardboard. Stand on it without socks or shoes and outline the shapes of your feet on the cardboard. Cut these shapes out. They are your soles. Then cut two strips from the cardboard, long enough to go across the top of your foot. Staple then to the soles at a suitable point. Now you have flipflops! Warning, I made these when I was six years old, and I can't guarantee that they work for very long. But you can draw pictures of cowboys and horses on them and they look good.

One of the consequences of us not knowing how to make things anymore is that it is harder to value and respect the skill that goes into the work. That is one of the reasons why I try to learn a new skill every year. The other reason is my eternal curiosity which will one day kill me.

But not yet. Among my recent experiments in making things are building a kitchen cabinet and making a suit from scratch. They both turned out ok and they both taught me to respect people who can sew or do woodwork. And they both left a few scars on me. A reminder: take your fingers away before you press the pedal on your sewing machine or before you hammer down on the nail.

Learning how things are made is very salutary. It makes me feel connected to whoever has made the object I buy, and it makes me very angry when the work is not properly rewarded. This is especially the case with many of the handmade pieces of clothing and home linens that are sold these days at a few dollars. Anyone who has embroidered or quilted knows that somewhere the creator of these products must be starving to death. Many of these creators are women and the wages they are paid may be customary in the producing country but the fact still remains that we are exploiting this work. The same is probably true of much of the work men in the developing countries do for us.

I tend to view the recent feminist interest in knitting and crocheting from this angle: that we are learning the skills which are no longer valued, and that many of these skills are regarded as female ones. Another side of me bickers about the fact that these skills are kind of parodied in the most recent fashions, because none of us needs to knit or crochet nowadays, and my grandmothers' skills were considerably higher than anything I see in the new knitting books and magazines. But that is the side that needs a good kick on its backside, of course. In any case, that is what I am doing with my forays into sewing and woodworking: just scratching the surface of something that requires years of study and experience.

David Horowitz

He is a wingnut who is fighting to fumigate the lefty lairs in academia. The idea is to get rid of all the brainwashing that we progressives/liberals/lefties do to poor wingnut children who attend college. Horowitz is behind the proposed Ohio law that would infringe the academic freedom of professors. Now Atrios is linking to Horowitz's database on the complaints directly. If the connection works (it didn't for me) you can find for yourself all the horrible things that happen to poor baby wingnuts in colleges.

For a sample of the complaints, Thinkprogress gives us these:

"This complaint applies to the discriminating nature of grading of my English teacher…On the last one, I wrote about how family values in the books weve read aren't good. I know the paper was pretty much great because I spell checked it and proofred it twice. I got an D- just because the professor hates families and thinks its okay to be gay." [sic] - Ohio State, English, 2/9/05

"We were then required to watch an immoral Seinfeld episode dealing with masturbation, an exercise with little sociological value. She then gave a lecture on 'moral relativity,' which she defined very closely with 'cultural relativism.'" - St. Louis University, Sociology, 2/13/05

"Talked about flags as symbols of states and argued that new Iraqi flag was not a result of a transparent and fair process…Claimed AS FACT that other Arab societies had red, green and black in their flags…" - St. Michael's College, Human Geography, 4/30/04

Maybe there are many really valid complaints in Horowitz's database. I don't know. But I'm pretty sure that they will not contain the kinds of complaints I could have made as a student. For example, one professor told me to stop studying economics and go home and have babies instead. Another one argued that giving the good jobs to men makes perfect sense in economic theory. A third one suggested a little hanky-panky on his office floor. But then many more than these three said good and encouraging things to me and it never occurred to me to take anything anybody took as a message from the gods. It was all grist for my thinking and good in that sense, though sexual harassment didn't really contribute to anything good.

I have always thought that one of the most valuable things I got from university education was the ability to see, in great detail, how someone else's mind works. Horowitz doesn't like that, it seems. Neither does he like higher education in general, because the whole point of higher education is to stretch the students' thinking, to challenge it and then to change it if it deserves to be changed by facts.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Today's Silly Thought

"Every morning, I wake up and thank God for my unique ability to accessorize!"

Barbie the doll

And Even More on the Gannongate

Some of us still believe it matters:

Rep. Louise M. Slaughter (NY-28), Ranking Member of the House Committee on Rules, and Rep. John Conyers (MI-14), Ranking Member of the House Judiciary Committee, filed a Freedom of Information Act request today with the Department of Homeland Security asking for the release of all information related to Jeff Gannon, his credentialing/security clearance to cover the White House, the White House's involvement in credentialing/clearing reporters, and Gannon's involvement in the leaking of a classified Central Intelligence Agency memo containing the identity of undercover agent Valerie Plame.

"How much longer must we wait for answers? By his own implication 'Mr. Gannon' has had access to classified documents that contained the identity of an undercover agent for the CIA. The American people deserve to know how this man was able to get access not only to the White House briefing room but also these very sensitive documents," said Slaughter.

You said it, Louise.

International Diplomacy by the Bush Administration

It is called posturing, I believe, though I have no idea whether it is justified in this case or not:

The United States recalled its ambassador to Syria today in a gesture meant to reflect Washington's "profound outrage" over the assassination of Lebanon's former prime minister, the State Department announced.

Before departing the Syrian capital of Damascus, the United States ambassador, Margaret Scobey, delivered a stern note to the Syrian government, according to the chief State Department spokesman, Richard Boucher.

The series of diplomatic moves came a day after the former prime minister, Rafik Hariri, was killed in Beirut by a car bomb that took the lives of at least 11 other people and wounded scores more.

Although the Syrian government immediately condemned the attack, the Bush administration made it clear that it held Syria responsible, at least indirectly, because of its long domination of Lebanon. Mr. Hariri had spoken against Syrian influence in his country.

And Secretary of State Rice has called Syria one of the "outposts of tyranny" in the world. Tyranny is the new enemy of the war against terrorism in case you didn't know. But I'm truly annoyed that I cannot judge the validity of this move; the U.S. media is so uninformative that I am unenlightened on issues that I don't actively follow in the foreign press.

A Sham?

According to Salon, this is what Bush's faith-based initiative is. Or rather according to David Kuo who used to be the deputy director of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives. He has now written an essay for in which

...he says Bush's commitment to faith-based initiatives -- especially those aimed at helping the poor -- was essentially a sham.

Kuo says the Bush promises about being a "compassionate conservative" are today "unfulfilled in spirit and in fact." Kuo spreads around the blame. He says Republicans in Congress were ambivalent about the faith-based programs because they were indifferent about helping the poor, while Democrats took a "knee-jerk" position that opposed any linkage between government and religion.

Then there is the tiny problem that prayer might not work in a lot of the fields where the faith-based initiatives were promoted. But Kuo is probably right in arguing that Bush doesn't really care about the poor. Though he does care about the radical Christian right, so it's not really true that money has been unavailable. It has just been used where it gives a bigger bang for the buck: in abstinence education, for example. That abstinence education doesn't work is not something that would bother Bush a lot. After all, the point of the whole initiative is to serve as a kickback program for his voter base.

Today's Action Alert

Today's Action comes from Amnesty International:

No one has been brought to justice for the crimes against humanity being committed in Sudan. We need to focus the attention of world leaders on this problem.

Here's a sample letter you can send:


Dear Minister,

I'm writing to you to express my concern about the continuing failure to bring to justice those responsible for war crimes and crimes against humanity in Sudan. Impunity has fuelled insecurity in Sudan for more than 21 years.

I therefore urge your government, as a member of the UN Security Council, to:

- Ensure the Sudanese government implements all human rights it has committed to respect under the Comprehensive Peace Agreement;

- Ensure a comprehensive reform of Sudanese criminal law and the justice system in conformity with international human rights and humanitarian law. Legal provisions that give immunity to the security forces must be abolished;

- In view of Sudan's lack of compliance with previous Security Council's resolutions and the failure of the Sudanese legal system to bring to justice those responsible for serious crimes under international law, the Security Council should refer the situation in Sudan, including Darfur, to the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, according to Article 13 (b) of the Rome Statute;

- Give full consideration to the findings and recommendations of the UN Commission of Inquiry on Darfur, created under Security Council Resolution 1564 and mandated to investigate reports of crimes committed by all parties and to identify the perpetrators of such crimes, with a view to ensuring that those responsible are held individually criminally responsible.

Yours sincerely,


Send your letter to:

Secretary of State
US Department of State
2201 C Street, NW
Washington, DC 20520

Fax: 202.647.1811
You can also contact the Department of State using this web form

Or send your letter to:

Rt Hon Jack Straw MP
Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs
Foreign and Commonwealth Office
King Charles Street
United Kingdom

Fax: +44 20 7008 2144

Thanks for taking today's action!

From Riverbend

She is an Iraqi blogger with a very good blog. This is what she talks about in her latest post:

Last week my cousin needed to visit the current Ministry of Higher Education. After the ministry building was burned and looted, the employees had to be transferred to a much, much smaller building in another part of the city. My cousin's wife wanted to have her college degree legalized by the ministry and my cousin wasn't sure about how to go about doing it. So I volunteered to go along with him because I had some questions of my own.

We headed for the building containing the ministry employees (but hardly ever containing the minister). It was small and cramped. Every 8 employees were stuck in the same room. The air was tense and heavy. We were greeted in the reception area by a bearded man who scanned us disapprovingly. "Da'awachi," my cousin whispered under his breath, indicating the man was from the Da'awa Party. What could he do for us? Who did we want? We wanted to have some documents legalized by the ministry, I said loudly, trying to cover up my nervousness. He looked at me momentarily and then turned to the cousin pointedly. My cousin repeated why we were there and asked for directions. We were told to go to one of the rooms on the same floor and begin there.

"Please dress appropriately next time you come here." The man said to me. I looked down at what I was wearing- black pants, a beige high-necked sweater and a knee-length black coat. Huh? I blushed furiously. He meant my head should be covered and I should be wearing a skirt. I don't like being told what to wear and what not to wear by strange men. "I don't work here- I don't have to follow a dress code." I answered coldly. The cousin didn't like where the conversation was going, he angrily interceded, "We're only here for an hour and it really isn't your business."

"It is my business." Came the answer, "She should have some respect for the people who work here." And the conversation ended. I looked around for the people I should be respecting. There were three or four women who were apparently ministry employees. Two of them were wearing long skirts, loose sweaters and headscarves and the third had gone all out and was wearing a complete "jubba" or robe-like garb topped with a black head scarf. My cousin and I turned to enter the room the receptionist had indicated and my eyes were stinging. No one could talk that way before the war and if they did, you didn't have to listen. You could answer back. Now, you only answer back and make it an issue if you have some sort of death wish or just really, really like trouble.

Young females have the option of either just giving in to the pressure and dressing and acting 'safely'- which means making everything longer and looser and preferably covering some of their head or constantly being defiant to what is becoming endemic in Iraq today. The problem with defiance is that it doesn't just involve you personally, it involves anyone with you at that moment- usually a male relative. It means that there might be an exchange of ugly words or a fight and probably, after that, a detention in Abu Ghraib.

If it's like this in Baghdad, I shudder to think what the other cities and provinces must be like. The Allawis and Pachichis of Iraq don't sense it- their families are safely tucked away in Dubai and Amman, and the Hakeems and Jaffaris of Iraq promote it.

Freedom, anybody?

Down in the Dumps

That's what happens when one sits staring at the keyboard all night long. Everything seems so pointless. I read the opinions on the websites and I despair of ever seeing a better world. If human beings are hard-wired for anything at all it seems to be for the belief of their own superiority and for the contempt towards others who are at all different. We eagerly snatch up anything that will reinforce these views and reject everything else. Or some of us do.

This may seem naive but I used to believe in the idea that we learn from our history, that we can correct past mistakes, that the world will slowly and inexorably though not necessarily linearly turn towards a fairer and juster state. Such an underlying belief let me endure any suffering in my own life. Somehow my personal disasters didn't matter because as a species we humans were improving, becoming wiser and kinder. Why I thought that this was the case I don't know. Everything I learned about the twentieth century history should have proven how wrong I was. Perhaps it was the innate optimism of a teenager or a young adult that kept me wearing the pink spectacles. Or perhaps it was the fact that I rarely followed the news.

Now I know better, and though I try to battle back on most days I have begun to fear that the battle is pointless, that we are predestined to sink into something not very different from fascism or else something like a Christian Talibanism. The two pillars of faith: religion and science, are both used to uphold this trend and though dissenting voices exist they are mainly alone in the wilderness or certainly not in the mainstream media.

Consider the Social Security debate or the debate about Lawrence Summer's comments. Or the debate about revamping Medicare. Or the budget debate. What all these share is a sense of selfishness, a sense of withdrawing into each individual shell, a shell containing only those of your blood and flesh. What all these share is a lack of caring about others, a lack of willingness to change society, an intellectual laziness that refuses to look at new alternatives. Even the personal responsibility stress of the radical right is part and parcel of this same trend: if you are made to be responsible for those of your blood and flesh I can concentrate on amassing wealth without worrying about the homeless and the jobless who probably were just lazy and shiftless to begin with.

Writing this blog is my extremely minor attempt to argue back against this trend but it's like a mosquito challenging a herd of elephants to a duel: laughable, ridiculous, totally mad. Granted, there are many mosquitoes in the blogosphere but the elephants walk past very noisily and our whining will not be heard.

So this is how I am when the night spirits come and keep me company.

Monday, February 14, 2005

Interviewing Us

Morgaine from this site asked me to answer a few questions about blogging. I thought that you might find them interesting. No, I don't think that, actually, I just feel like a convalescent from the flu and totally without imagination, so I'm going to post my interview answers instead of any other writing. Here they are:

1. How did you start blogging? Why do you keep at it?

Goddess Answer: I started blogging out of boredom with being adulated by snakes alone. I needed a bigger audience. I keep at it because it works.
Human Answer: I started blogging to keep writing something every day. Having an imaginary reader made that more likely. I keep at it because the readers are real.

2. What are your most important issues?

Goddess Answer: Changing the world into a better place. We divines assume it is possible. Also showing that I can do better than Athena.
Human Answer: Feminism and fighting the radical right.

3. What's the nicest recognition you've ever received from the media and/or the blogosphere?

Goddess Answer: All those humans who come and worship at my altar by writing sweet comments on my blog. I grow a little bigger and more real every time something nice is said about me. Soon I will be a real force to be reckoned with!
Human Answer: My readers' comments, actually. But also to be read by Katha Pollitt (my great idol) and to be nominated as a semifinalist in many Koufax award categories. And being named the most polite political blogger!

4. Who is your audience? What is unique about your blog?

Goddess Answer: I write to everybody: divines, humans and snakes. Everybody. My blog is unique because it is written by me. How many snake goddesses blog on politics?
Human Answer: I'm not sure what my audience is, except for the fact that it probably consists of people who are feminist or profeminist in their views. My blog might be unique in its dualistic character: having a resident goddess can be hard at times, especially when I get possessed over longer periods of time. She's truly quite arrogant, whereas I'm very modest and shy.

5. Most frustrating aspect of blogging?

Goddess Answer: Not enough adulators! I need more, more, more!
Human Answer: The ephemeral nature of what happens. Though in some ways this is the best aspect of blogging, too, in its freshness and immediacy; the fact is that whatever I did yesterday is totally irrelevant today and that can be hard to accept.

6. What's the one point you'd like a reader to take away from your blog- the one thing for them to really "get".

Goddess Answer: Never say no to ice-cream or human kindness.
Human Answer: A difficult question to answer, because what I want to achieve is something not purely informational. It is a certain tone of writing more than just what the writing says and has to do with the respect of humanity while also acknowledging its negative side.

Quote: (Wrap up with a quotation – one of yours, a famous one you like, a personal Motto – be creative.)

See my Goddess Answer to question number 6.

Today's Deep Thought

Life should NOT be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in an attractive and well preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, chocolate in one hand, wine in the other, body thoroughly used up, totally worn out and screaming "WOO HOO what a ride!" Have a wonderful day!
From H.

Roses Are Red,...

Just sweet nothings today. For example, George Bush is not loved by most Americans, at least according to a recent poll:

What's even more shocking is that just days earlier, riding the crest of supposedly good news surrounding the election in Iraq, Bush -- as measured by the very same CNN/USA Today/Gallup polling unit -- posted his best approval ratings in 13 months. For the survey conducted Feb. 4-6, his approval rating shot up to 57 percent; heights Bush hadn't reached since January 2004, and hadn't consistently hit, month-after-month, since the spring of 2003.

Yet the most recent results show Bush's approval ratings cratering eight points to 49 percent and his disapproval ratings spiking 8 points to 48 percent. That's a 16-point swing in less than one week. What happened? It's possible the realization about the vote in Iraq began to set in among voters who grasped that with the overwhelming Shiite coalition victory there's now a distinct possibility of an Iran-friendly Islamic state being established in Baghdad. Hardly the reason why U.S. troops were deployed. Domestically, the hot issue behind Bush's decline was likely Social Security reform, which the president sold hard during his Feb. 2 State of the Union address. Despite that primetime push, and a subsequent White House road show designed to build support, a plurality of Americans, by a margin of 48 to 42 percent, still disapprove of Bush's handling on the issue. That, according to CNN/USA Today/Gallup.

Talk about ambivalent lovers! First the Americans elected him over a perfectly sane human being, then they still find fault with him. Co-dependency, anyone?

Then there is apparently Jeff Gannon, the male hooker. Which is nowhere as upsetting as the political hookery he engaged in. Even here the rightwing frames are going to win and we will end up talking about how the bloggers destroyed him by talking about his private life. Unless you raise your clear voice at every opportunity and pipe out that Echidne said to focus on his unethical behavior as a "journalist" and the administration hitman, and to forget about the pruriently fascinating sexual stuff.

Then there is me. I once got a cactus as a Valentine's Day present from an admirer who didn't find me very approachable (his socks smelled). I watered the poor cactus until it broke into two pieces, all rotten. Which is to explain why I don't write lots of very nice stuff about love today; I'm not very skilled in the field. Goddesses aren't.

On Love

A suitable topic for today, though the origins of Valentine's Day are more in sex than in love itself. But I will keep this post on love proper, and instead of blabbing on as usual I'm going to let other goddesses do the talking.

First, Lady Murasaki, the first female novelist and probably the first novelist overall. She wrote the Tale of Genji (c. 1008), and this quote is from that book:

Though nought of me remains save smoke drawn out across the windless sky, yet shall I drift to thee unerringly amid the trackless fields of space.

Next, Lorraine Hansberry, the playwright of A Raisin in the Sun (1959):

There is always something left to love. And if you ain't learned that, you ain't learned nothing.

Then, Emily Dickinson:

Love - is anterior to Life -
Posterior - to Death.

These are all so beautiful and deep that I feel my usual itch to add something silly. So here it goes:

To love somebody
Who doesn't love you
Is like going to a temple
And worshiping the behind
Of a wooden statue
Of a hungry devil.

By Lady Kasa, an eighth century poet.
The source for all these, and many other wonderful thoughts on love and other things, is the New Beacon Book of Quotations by Women.

Sunday, February 13, 2005

Predict Your Future!

I stole this one from NY Mary on the Eschaton threads. It's a test which will tell you where in Dante's hell you might belong.

I'm on the fifth level should you want to visit:

The river Styx runs through this level of Hell, and in it are punished the wrathful and the gloomy. The former are forever lashing out at each other in anger, furious and naked, tearing each other piecemeal with their teeth. The latter are gurgling in the black mud, slothful and sullen, withdrawn from the world. Their lamentations bubble to the surface as they try to repeat a doleful hymn, though with unbroken words they cannot say it. Because you lived a cruel, vindictive and hateful life, you meet your fate in the Styx.

Everybody loves baby manatees

Yeah, right. The Republicans don't, not as much as money and free enterprise:

Four leading GOP House members and senators announced a joint effort Thursday to rewrite the Endangered Species Act to toughen up habitat and scientific provisions. Environmentalists immediately criticized the plan as the latest attempt to gut the law.

The lawmakers said it was the first time members of the House and Senate had banded together at the beginning of a congressional session to amend the 1973 act. Previous attempts to change the law have failed, but they said this time they hoped to produce a single Endangered Species Act reauthorization bill that could be introduced in both chambers.

"We've been working on this issue for a long time," said House Resources Committee Chairman Richard Pombo, R-Calif. "And to have the opportunity now to sit down and work across the Capitol and try to come up with legislation that does move the ball forward and begins to modernize and update the Endangered Species Act is extremely important."

Joining Pombo were Rep. Greg Walden, R-Ore.; Sen. Mike Crapo, R-Idaho; and Sen. Lincoln Chafee, R-R.I. Chafee, among the Senate's most moderate Republicans, is a newcomer to the issue who chairs the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee's subcommittee on fisheries, wildlife and water.

The lawmakers said they had no specific legislative language yet, but listed goals including increased involvement by states, more incentives for private landowners, and strengthening scientific reviews before species are listed or critical habitat is designated.

They contended the law now creates unreasonable regulatory hurdles for property owners while failing to help many species.

"Overall we believe that the Endangered Species Act can be less contentious and more effective," Crapo said.

Crapo. For once, someone has the name they deserve. I'm sure that the Endangered Species Act could be more effective in getting rid of those pesky endangered species and leaving more land available for real estate development and stuff. The endangered species don't vote, either, so why bother about them much?

Sunday Chat

I am trying to blog less on Sundays or not at all, because writing something every day drains me out and leaves me too little time to replenish the reserves with new stuff. Instead, I have been reading books and thinking about thoughts. This should make for better writing later on.

But today is a beautiful day and I feel like writing a little anyway. My human incarnation has had a touch of the flu and yesterday it made her feel like a flat tire. No emotions at all, just a slow clinkety-clink movement of the logical mind, and even that was mainly asking which food or drink would somehow change the situation. But life seems better now.

I have been reading George Lakoff and his ideas about framing. When I finish wrestling with him inside my head I will tell you what I think and then you can put me to rights on the issues. It's such a good and cheap way of learning for me!

But the administration doesn't want to learn very many things, if any. Neither do most of the media. We have the scandal of the century on our hands (no, it is not Jeff Gannon though that is bad enough), and it is not much discussed. The administration had plenty of warnings about bin Laden and chose to ignore them. My dead friend is still dead, and I am still blue-steel angry. Am I the only one? Where is Justice, that fickle goddess? It seems that justice will be up to us, so get cracking, my dear readers. Write to your newspapers, call your radio and television shows and your representatives in Congress.

You could also get cracking about Social Security. Bush is indeed engaged in class warfare, and we shouldn't let him get away with it. The wingnuts don't want Social Security; they want cheap and obedient workers scared of not having enough to eat. And that is what is behind all the other apparently reasonable arguments about Social Security problems and crises. Note how Bush is attacking "frivolous" law suits, only if they are mostly brought up by consumers and workers against firms? That is part of the same long-term plan by the corporations, and we should keep this in mind.

If all this sounds extremist to you, it is. But it's not my extremism that's bothersome here, it's the extremism of those in power. Not only do we get their messages rammed down our throats but we get them rammed down by people who have been paid to do so, yet appear as impartial media commentators. This is where Jeff Gannon and the other hired help apply to the picture.

And then we have Iraq where fundamentalism seems to be nicely on the rise. They get a theocratic state if they can avoid a civil war and we get oil. Nice, isn't it? Unless you are a secular person in Iraq, a Christian or a woman, of course. But these people don't control oil. At least they get freedom the way Bush defines it.

Boy, do I sound bitter! I'm not, actually. I'm quite chipper this afternoon. The righteous (my side) are finally awake and are even turning over in their beds. The next step will be getting up and fixing all this crap. I'm looking forward to witnessing that!

The dogs say hello. Henrietta is on a new arthritis treatment which Hank desires for reasons to do with equal treatment of dogs or something. She tries to steal the pill from Henrietta's lips and when that doesn't work she tries to barter dog biscuits for it. She also thinks we are being very unfair in thinking that a dog biscuit to her would be of the same worth as that mysterious pill disappearing into Henrietta's shell-pink gullet. I'm almost ready to bake some placebo pills for Hank so that we don't get all the whining and posturing every day.

The snakes don't say hello. Mostly they are asleep. Though Artful Asp is planning to go into business. She has designed some t-shirts with snakes twining the body and their heads peeking out from the armpits. She wants me to sell them on the blog. I have promised to look into it, but only after she hires someone to actually make the damn things. Which won't happen as she is a teenager: all grandious plans and no grit.