Saturday, April 30, 2005

A Reminder

I blog on the American Street on Saturdays. Today's topics include G. Gordon Liddy and female orgasms, though pretty obviously not in the same post. Ugh.

On Flannel Knickers and Feminism

The Concerned Women of America is a group of anti-feminists, a little like the Independent Women's Forum except that the latter group would wear G-strings and the Concerned Women long flannel knickers. And the Concerned Women have a male as their spokesperson. Otherwise the two wingnut organizations are pretty much in agreement about what has caused all the problems of this country: feminism. Except when feminism has been totally ignored and ridiculed and proven faulty. But even in those cases all that is wrong in the world (abortions, latchkey children, women with beards, impotent men, messy houses, divorces, the decline of America's military power and so on and on) is the fault of feminism. Though it has also been totally defeated and was ridiculous to begin with.

This short summary may explain why I don't write about these groups' ideas very much. To criticize them I have to chase an idea around a circle, leap over cooked-up evidence and turn around a corner just to find that the idea has morphed into its opposite. And everything they propose is covered with this slippery slime of emotional references to mom and apple-pie and how much better times were when women didn't have the vote.

To be fair to these ladies, it's hard to write an article bashing women while at the same time trying to convince them of how good that bashing is for them. I wouldn't be very good at that sort of thing myself. It reminds me far too much of a black person writing a treatise advocating a return to slavery because weren't those plantations cool places after all? And wasn't it true that there was so much less crime then when the massa took care of us? And no need to work hard! Isn't it really true that the blacks are different from whites, that the black soul pines towards all the benefits of the glorious past?

See how insulting all this is? But we read the Concerned Women's writings without seeing that what they say is roughly the same thing though in a different context.

Now enter Dr. Janice Shaw Crouse, a Senior Fellow at the Concerned Women of America. Note how she is a woman with two last names. The horror of it! Note how she is a doctor! And she is employed! Never mind, maybe she is in the process of packing it all in, because this is what she is saying about working women:

Nobody mentioned in the mid-70s that "having it all" would not include marriage and children. Many young women, now that it is too late, are lamenting the cost of careerism and promiscuity as they discover that marriage and children are not likely in their future. So-called sexual freedom, loudly touted by libertines and radical feminists, has brought soaring rates of sexually transmitted diseases and plummeting rates of marriage. Abortion has eliminated 45 million pregnancies and left behind a host of problems: heartbreak, as well as physical and emotional distress.

Millions of women are finding, through bitter experience, that while the wonders of modern communication technology can distract much of the time, at the end of the day –– when the iPod and cellphone sit in their chargers, when the television's relentless barrage is finally silent –– there is no hand to hold and no baby to cuddle.

This is the old conservative monster in the closet: the idea that a woman can't get a man or a baby if she has a job that pays her money. It's something to do with the uterus migrating to the head and turning into lots of facial hair and nervous breakdowns. Of course, in reality women who have jobs or careers also get married and have babies. The wingnuts would prefer that this not be the case, so they massage their statistics to go with their preferences. In reality, there are also women who don't want to get married or at least not to a man, and there are even women who don't want to have babies. All this is now much more possible than it was during the plantation era.

And what is the dear doctor's evidence on the "heartbreak, as well as physical and emotional distress" that the forty-five million abortions she quotes have caused? There is no evidence cited, just her say-so. Abortions can indeed cause physical and emotional distress but so can unintended pregnancies brought to term. So can zillions of other things, such as domestic violence. DV was something quite accepted during the golden pre-feminist times, but Dr. Crouse isn't sorry for the pain and heartbreak of the women who were victims then. No, because feminists can't be blamed for that particular heartbreak it doesn't count.

Our dear Dr. Crouse is approaching the crescendo of her message next. Here it comes:

Today in America, we are beginning to reckon with the bitter harvest from the scourge of self-centered "me-ism." The moral relativism of post-modernism has resulted in a culture that scorns marriage, casually embraces cohabitation, and dismisses divorce; such values have decimated the family for the last 50 years.

Drinking from the springs of a false ideology can steal priceless, irreplaceable elements of life for years before its tragic consequences are evident and its true nature revealed for all to see. For instance, the millions of deaths from Hitler's Nazi horror or in Stalin's Gulags, or the bloody massacres of today's suicidal terrorists, reveal all too clearly the true character and the threat of counterfeit creeds. But for the victims, the exposé comes too late.

Who gave this woman a licence to write? See how somehow the modern woman's dilemma is compared to Nazism, Stalinism and suicide terrorism? Where is the chain of evidence leading us to these horror chambers? It doesn't exist, of course. Women are just supposed to leap from the idea of their own selfishness in wanting to be full persons to the idea of the whole world falling apart.

Dr. Crouse makes the leap with nary a flannel knicker-leg showing. She points out that women are beginning to learn that nature cannot be resisted! We are flocking back to where we belong, finally. Indeed, feminism was all wrong and ridiculous as well. Though it's also like Nazism, Stalinism and Osama bin Laden.

I feel so tired. Do you see now why I don't normally address these wingnut women's writings? But just to round off my vituperous tearing-apart of this rubbish, let me tell you what is wrong with the feminist concern about equal pay for women and men:

Meanwhile, as today's women remake the shape of this next century, crafting out their own life-course and blazing new trails, in the finest tradition of American exploration and creativity, today's feminist groups remain mired in the last century, spinning their wheels over old ground. The feminist's celebration of Equal Pay Day last week is a perfect example. Senator Hillary Clinton strode to the microphones to decry discrimination against women. And the National Organization of (Some) Women issued their same-old tired press release. "Eradicating the current wage gap," it read, "that exists between the sexes is part of NOW's longstanding commitment to women's equality."

The statistical mantra that the feminist groups cite – that women make 76 cents for every male dollar – compares the average full-time working male to the average full-time working woman. Ironically, the NOW materials refuse to recognize the validity of the career choices women make to spend more time with their young children, which differs from most men's choices.

See how something Dr. Crouse can't really argue is skipped over by calling it old-fashioned? It's so old-fashioned to always talk about how women should be treated as full human beings! Why can't those boring feminazis shut up already! The fashion has moved to being a wingnut and a Stepford wife. Who cares about equal pay anymore? Besides, 76 cents is really much cuter than a dollar.

Then to the final argument from Dr. Crouse: the gender gap doesn't matter because it compares full-time workers of both sex! How exactly is this a counterargument? What should we use in calculating the gender gap instead of full-time earners? The gender gap becomes an enormous gaping chasm if we include part-time workers in the calculations because most of them are women.

No, what this Concerned Woman is doing here is Orwellian DoubleThink. Almost the whole article aims at scaring women away from having good jobs in the labor market by explaining how good jobs leave you all alone with your iPod. But this uncomfortable piece of evidence actually points out that the jobs women have are not that good, on average, and the reason is both in discrimination by gender and in the fact that women take more time off for family reasons than men do. So if women actually followed the Crousean urgings of the article the average gender gap would look even worse for women. Hence the totally illogical and pointless ending of the article.

I hate having to analyze crappy writing. Grrr. Hope that some of you actually read my analysis.
I got the link from Welcome to Gilead. Read her take, too.

Friday, April 29, 2005

A Contest

Kelly the Aussie

This is an extra dogblogging treat for you, because there aren't enough of them in this Friday's blogosphere. Kelly belongs to Helga Fremlin from Down Under. The picture looks perfect for one of those "What is she thinking?" contests.

I think that Kelly is thinking what dumbsnuts we Americans are for agreeing to let George Bush pee on us.

Friday Embroidery Blogging


This is a tiny embroidery. I might start using it as an icon for this blog. I think of it as the tiny snake who could!

Bush's Popularity

The Salon has a long article about Bush's unpopularity. It even asks the question whether Bush will pull the Republican party down with him. It asserts that the average American doesn't like Bush's far-right ideas at all, and that even some Republicans are beginning to oppose him now that the polls seem to give them license to do so.

The article is an interesting read, although I'd argue that Bush has always been hugely unpopular with a sizeable number of Americans. You should supplement reading it with Billmon's brilliant book review on Shadia Drury's book Leo Strauss and the American Right, about the Straussian ideology that fuels the neoconservatives, to see why the administration cares nothing for poll outcomes or for the thoughts of some average American. I read that book some years ago and it truly opened my political eyes. Before this reading experience I was like a cute kitten gamboling around blind. Afterwards...Well, you know what happened.

The Republican party today governs with two ideas: One, there is a knowing elite which cynically manipulates the rest of us by feeding us "morals" and "old-time religion". Two, this knowing elite uses the populist value of social conservatism to capture enough rabid voting groups (such as the fundamentalists) to stay in power. I would add to these two my own suspicion that our current president migh as well be called president Diebold. In other words, votes are determined by the one who counts them, not by the ones who vote. But then of course I have been covered in tin foil for years, so pretend that you didn't read these last few lines. Even pretend that I haven't given you umpteen statistical studies which prove that the impossible took place in last November's elections. It's more comfortable that way, to pretend.

Billmon points out what Drury emphasizes in her treatise: that the Straussian philosophy has a strong Feudalist flavor. The whole world must be arranged into rigid hierarchies, with the top layers consisting of the haves who are really atheistic and cynical and manipulative, and the bottom layers of the have-nots who are fed the milk of piety and the soft porn at the same time. For someone with these values polls are naturally meaningless; with only the value that they tell what to manipulate next in the system. What the masses might actually think is unimportant.

Even Bush himself is unimportant. He is a front man, picked for his old-boy mannerisms, his wealth and his connections. The true power is in someone else's hands, and this someone else doesn't care if Bush falls. There will always be some other "old boy" puppet with Karen Hughes and Karl Rove behind the curtain directing the show. Thus, my answer to the question the Salon article posed is that the Republican party will not go down with Bush, not if everything goes along the Straussian plans.

But as I've pointed out many times on this here blog, riding tigers is an uncomfortable leisure occupation. It's hard to get off the saddle, for one thing. And the fundamentalist wingnuts do resemble tigers, they are large and fierce and hungry for some non-Christian blood, and recently they have started rearing on their hind legs and turning their giant slobbering mouths backwards towards the cynical elitist riders. If they don't get some raw meat soon the riders may be in trouble.

The Straussians know this, surely. But whether they are too cocky to prepare adequately is unclear. I'm ready for almost anything, right now, though I predict that first our invisible leaders will try to starve the tigers a little longer, at least until the next elections. Whether the tigers will go along with that is not at all guaranteed.

Towards Gilead, Chapter 2309.76

Jdt told me about this post on First Draft. It links to a Denver Post article with some mind-boggling things in it:

Imagine two rape victims taken to the same hospital emergency room. Imagine them put in adjoining examination rooms.

Let's say they have identical injuries.

Presume everything about them is the same except for where they are in their menstrual cycles.

Do they deserve access to the same medical treatment?

At most Catholic hospitals in Colorado, they can't get it.

The protocol of six Catholic hospitals run by Centura calls for rape victims to undergo an ovulation test.

If they have not ovulated, said Centura corporate spokeswoman Dana Berry, doctors tell the victims about emergency contraception and write prescriptions for it if the patient asks.

If, however, the urine test suggests that a rape victim has ovulated, Berry continued, doctors at Centura's Catholic hospitals are not to mention emergency contraception. That means the victim can end up pregnant by her rapist.

It's very much like testing for bacterial pneumonia in a patient and prescribing antibiotics only if the patient doesn't have the disease yet! Those that test positive can just go and suffer. It makes no medical sense.

On the other hand, pope Ratzo would probably argue that it makes excellent doctrinal sense. The potential life of a rapist's child takes precedence over some woman who has merely been mauled and impregnated against her will. You know, "every sperm is sacred".

But it really is stupid. And it is two-faced: the hospitals are pretending that they go along with the recommendation of telling patients about emergency contraception when all the time they hide this information from those rape victims who need it most.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Speaking Bush

"Bush" is my shorthand term for the language that our president uses. It takes some translating and decoding into plain English. We got another load of Bush tonight when the president gave what one news source called "one of his rare prime time news conferences". They are rare for a very good reason, and that is to save all of us the torture of listening to a full hour of Bush. My head swims.

A nice make-up job, isn't it?

Bush spent the time selling two of his projects: the energy bill and the idea that Social Security needs to be all changed around. On the energy bill he forgot to mention that most of it consists of big paybacks to his faithful donors in the energy industry. On the proposal to change Social Security he decided to appropriate a Democratic proposal which would let the retirement incomes of the poorest rise faster than those of the other earners:

Bush said a system in which benefits for low-income workers "grow faster than for people who are better off would solve much of the solvency problem" facing the government retirement program.

"I propose that future generations receive benefits equal to or greater than the benefits today's seniors get," he said. But a White House fact sheet suggested changes that include lower benefits than currently planned for all but lower-income future retirees.

Everything that was wrong with these projects is still wrong after Bush's news conference. For example, he exaggerated the problems in the Social Security system by giving statements like this one:

And to compound the problem, there are fewer people paying into the system. In 1950, there were 16 workers for every beneficiary; today there are 3.3 workers for every beneficiary. Soon there will be two workers for every beneficiary.

Indeed, but worker productivity has risen so much that the real burdens on workers don't correspond to the numbers given here.

He also refused to consider making payroll taxes payable on incomes above the current annual 90,000 dollar limit; the rich must be protected. But not the middle classes: the progressive indexation proposal would give them lower rates of return than the ones from the current system.

Then he went on to say this:

In a reformed Social System, voluntary personal retirement accounts would offer workers a number of investment options that are simple and easy to understand. I know some Americans have reservations about investing in the stock market, so I propose that one investment option consist entirely of treasury bonds, which are backed by the full faith and credit of the United States government.

Remember that only a few weeks ago he argued these bonds to be worthless pieces of paper, held in a filing cabinet somewhere in Virginia? Which is it?

Most of the other things the president said in Bush were either already known or waffle-waffle. Though it is interesting that he seemed to make faces at the religious right:

Bush disagreed with the contention of the conservative Family Research Council that his judicial appointments were being held up in the Senate because of their religious faith. "I think people are opposing my nominees because they don't like the judicial philosophy of the people I've nominated," he said.

This was either a lapse on his parts or an indication that he has no need to pander to them now that he won't need their votes.

Bobo's World

The title refers to a series of posts* on Eschaton about what the New York Times wingnut columnist David Brooks calls the mainstream America: the fundamentalists and people with "family values" in general. "Bobo" is Atrios's affectionate term for Brooks.

This series shows the nasty underside of the fundie America. Now a new blog with the same name, Bobo's World, has taken up the task of following the more unsavory aspects of Brooks' family values people. Which pissed me off as I have been gathering these snippets myself for later condension into a gigantic blogosphere expose! Alas, it will not be now. Hence, I might as well show you what I have collected so far, in a time span of only about a month.

First, there was the case of Douglas B. Smith:

Boy Scouts of America's National Director of Programs Douglas B. Smith will appear in a Dallas courtroom tomorrow to face charges of distributing child pornography, according to reports by NBC News.

Then this little bit:

An Allen Superior Court judge denied a sentence reduction request by a 34-year-old man convicted of having sex with a teenager whom he mentored through church and who had baby-sit his children.
A jury convicted him last year of having sex with a 14-year-old girl between June and August 2000 while he was a volunteer minister at a Fort Wayne church. He knew the girl's family and mentored her in church activities.

And then:

A former East Texas principal was convicted of sexually assaulting seven girls and sentenced to 15 years in prison.

A jury on Thursday sentenced Russell Thomas Hirner, 43, after deliberating for about four hours. He was convicted of aggravated sexual assault of a child earlier in the day.

"I accept responsibility," Hirner, the former principal of the Longview Baptist Christian Academy, testified. "I couldn't bring myself to tell and I vowed to God that after it came out I'd make a disclosure."

And finally, today:

A self-described Internet evangelist who has preached about everything from morality to spirituality on his family's Web site was arrested Wednesday and charged with raping a child younger than 12.

Charles Michael Balfe, 60, was picked up at his job site at 84 Lumber in DeLand, DeLand Police Cmdr. Randel Henderson said. He is being held at the Volusia County Branch Jail without bail.

Balfe, married and the father of three, is accused in three warrants of raping a child younger than 12, Henderson said. The remaining counts accuse him of sexual battery, lewd and lascivious molestation and domestic violence.

And I didn't even make any special efforts to dig these cases up! They are probably just the tip of the iceberg. It would be useful and interesting to do a proper study about any relationship between strongly expressed fundamentalist beliefs and various types of sexual abuse. Note that I'm not arguing that only wingnuts commit these acts or even that they would be unusually likely to commit them (though that could be the case, of course). But it seems very odd that the people who are most vociferous about family values and the horrible lewdness of the liberals and progressives crop up so frequently in these kinds of news. And I have not seen Bobo write anything about this trend, no explanation, no clarification, no ethical condemnation. Hmmm.
*As Raznor points out in the comments, it is also the name of a book by David Brooks.

Today's Action Alert

Today's Action Comes from Act for Change:

Whether you have taken action once, twice or many times before, it's crucial that you take action again TODAY to save the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge from oil drilling.

The special interests that desperately want to drill for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge have now included language in the Federal budget that would allow for drilling. Both versions of the budget are in conference committee to be reconciled, providing us with our last chance to get the drilling provision removed.

Steps 1 & 2
Call each of your senators via the congressional switchboard at 202/224-3121 and urge them to vote against any budget conference report that includes reconciliation instructions that could lead to Arctic Refuge oil drilling.

Step 3
Next, call your representative via the congressional switchboard at 202/225-3121 and urge them to vote against any budget conference report that includes reconciliation instructions that could lead to Arctic Refuge oil drilling.

Step 4
Finally, send an e-mail to your senators and representative asking them to oppose any and all efforts to open any part of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to exploration and drilling by oil and gas interests.

Thanks for taking today's action.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005


The wingnut war against privacy rights and the separation of state and church is hard to laugh at. We are slouching towards Gilead day by day. But sometimes laughing is the only alternative. That's why I'm putting here the immortal words of Monty Python:

Every Sperm Is Sacred Lyrics
Artist: Monty Python
Album: The Meaning Of Life

There are Jews in the world.
There are Buddhists.
There are Hindus and Mormons, and then
There are those that follow Mohammed, but
I've never been one of them.

I'm a Roman Catholic,
And have been since before I was born,
And the one thing they say about Catholics is:
They'll take you as soon as you're warm.

You don't have to be a six-footer.
You don't have to have a great brain.
You don't have to have any clothes on. You're
A Catholic the moment Dad came,


Every sperm is sacred.
Every sperm is great.
If a sperm is wasted,
God gets quite irate.

Every sperm is sacred.
Every sperm is great.
If a sperm is wasted,
God gets quite irate.

Let the heathen spill theirs
On the dusty ground.
God shall make them pay for
Each sperm that can't be found.

Every sperm is wanted.
Every sperm is good.
Every sperm is needed
In your neighbourhood.

Hindu, Taoist, Mormon,
Spill theirs just anywhere,
But God loves those who treat their
Semen with more care.

Every sperm is sacred.
Every sperm is great.
If a sperm is wasted,...
...God get quite irate.

Every sperm is sacred.
Every sperm is good.
Every sperm is needed...
...In your neighbourhood!

Every sperm is useful.
Every sperm is fine.
God needs everybody's.
And mine!
And mine!

Let the Pagan spill theirs
O'er mountain, hill, and plain.
God shall strike them down for
Each sperm that's spilt in vain.

Every sperm is sacred.
Every sperm is good.
Every sperm is needed
In your neighbourhood.

Every sperm is sacred.
Every sperm is great.
If a sperm is wasted,
God gets quite iraaaaaate!

Not that I'm aiming anything at the Catholics (though pope Ratzo is another thing altogether). The whole thing just seems to go so well with today's extreme clerical wingnuttery. Now I hope that you will keep humming this at all sorts of inappropriate moments...

Bill Gates and Visas

Bill Gates, who is just like us except a little bit richer, wants to get rid of the upper limits on H1-B visas, the visas for importing goddesses and other smarties to the United States (I must come clean on this one: I rode in on one of those little visas). His companies need to hire more engineers and the U.S. market can't fill the need. So Gates wants to let more well-trained workers into the U.S..

Wouldn't foreign workers compete with American ones for scarce jobs? Not according to Gates:

Gates and other leading technology executives have pressed Congress aggressively to let them hire more foreign employees by raising visa limits, but Gates hasn't previously campaigned to abolish the immigration law entirely. Technology executives have argued they are unable to find qualified American workers, a contention disputed by U.S. labor groups and unemployed computer engineers.

"Anybody who's got good computer science training, they are not out there unemployed," Gates said. "We're just not seeing an available labor pool."

Is he correct? Not completely, for two reasons. First, the unemployment rate for information technology (IT) workers is not especially low:

Government figures showed 5.7 percent of information technology employees were out of work last year versus 5.5 percent of all workers.

In fact, the IT unemployment rates are higher than those for managers and professionals in general, too.

Second, there is evidence that many trained for the field are drifting out of it because of difficulties of finding a good job match. The major reason for this is in outsourcing of IT jobs.

In some ways Gates is advocating more choices for American firms at the expense of American workers. Under his scenario firms could outsource jobs or import workers, whichever turns out to be more profitable, and the U.S. workers would have to compete both at home and abroad with foreign workers.

Traditional economic analysis supports Gates's ideas. But we don't live in the kind of world which the traditional models apply. The markets are not really competitive, retraining is difficult and expensive and rules and regulations about workers' rights, the environment and business ethics all vary widely between countries.

In any case, Gates is pushing for an idea that would cost him or his firm nothing. Alternative ways of increasing the supply exist (educational scholarships, for example) but they have the liberal handicap that they actually require some resource sacrifices from the people who stand to benefit.

Tony Bliar Blair

I never understood the political calculus that must have been taking place inside Blair's head when he chose to be Bush's poodle. I used to live in the U.K. but that was when Labour was still Labour and the conservatives were old-fashioned conservatives. Now that Blair is teetering on the rightmost edge of the political spectrum the Conservative Party has no identity. What could they say or do that would distinguish them from Blairism? Be pals with the American wingnuts? Go the extreme cleric route? I doubt that would go down well in Britain, and in any case Blair has marked Christianity for his own self, too.

Tony Blair took his country to a war that its citizens did not want, and it seems that he knew very well how shaky the grounds were:

ony Blair was told by the government's most senior law officer in a confidential minute less than two weeks before the war that British participation in the American-led invasion of Iraq could be declared illegal.

Lord Goldsmith, the attorney general, spelt out to Mr Blair the dangers of Britain going to war without a second resolution. It is understood that he then went on to warn that British soldiers could be hauled before the International Criminal Court.

He warned that while he could be able to argue a "reasonable case" in favour of military action, he was far from confident a court would agree. Indeed, he added, a court "might well conclude" that war would be found unlawful without a further UN resolution.

In a legal opinion which Mr Blair has repeatedly sought to conceal, the attorney warned the prime minister that Britain might be able argue it could go to war on the basis of past UN resolutions, but only if there were "strong factual grounds" that Iraq was still in breach of its disarmament obligations.

Does Blair stay up at night wondering if he got his money's worth? Well, we all will know the answer after the oncoming elections.

Embarrassing Confession Time

Because I have no other topic ready for blogging.

I find Kofi Annan's voice the sexiest one in the whole universe. This is a handicap in some ways. For example, I never hear a word of what he is saying because I go into an immediate bedroom swoon whenever he's on the television or radio (though it's the voice that has this effect, not Annan's looks).

His voice is like dark molasses, like a moist summer wind on a dark night after a hot day, like a glass of Guinness when one is parched, like feathers and velvet and cognac. No politician deserves a voice like that.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Bloggety Blogging

There is a season to everything and right now the season is to wonder what blogging is all about. The egotistical version of that one is of course what I might be doing with this blog if anything. I'm struggling against the siren calls of becoming an investigative blogger who finds out what JimJeff GannonGuckert was really doing in the White House during the overnight visits, and against the terrible ambitions of wanting to write so well that people drop their innards into my paypal collection basket (which I don't have, yet). Then some dark and windy nights I shed large tears over my inability to say anything at all and over my emptiness. Really, over my mediocrity. A mediocre goddess is a dreadful thing to be.

In other words, I'm completely normal! A leeetle bit schizoid but otherwise right at the median, mean and mode. Except for the qualifiers and the rigid little academic bits. Those I will get rid of, one day. But the question of blogging remains and it even has a wider importance.

The Google has started mixing blogs with newspapers on their news page. The problem is not with sites like Kos but with some other blogs that I have accessed through Google News. The writing is from an elementary school class and the information is wrong. How does the system determine which sources are deemed as worthy of inclusion? And if this sort of thing becomes more common what will it do to the already almost nonexistent respect people have towards blogs?

If the system uses readership figures to decide on inclusion it is bound to catch some sites which are really chatrooms or places where like-minded people meet, and some of those places can be pretty far off the mainstream. Nothing wrong with that, of course, but it smells odd to have New York Times and a blog of this type ranked equally.

These questions could reflect the infancy stage of blogging or the anarchy of the blogosphere. Perhaps everything will be formalized and codified in the future. I'm not sure if I like that, either, because it will be those in power who end up determining these things. Still, we need something like a gigantic telephone catalog for all the blogs out there. The yellow pages equivalent at least.

Which brings me to my last musing on this topic: the impossibility of reading all the good blogs out there or even the good lefty blogs or the good feminist blogs. I can't do it anymore, not unless I quit working and eating and writing my own blog. This is a real loss and I have found no good solution to it.

John Altman on Cock Fighting and Domestic Violence

I'm sure that you have heard or read about how South Carolina decided to make cock fighting into a felony crime while tabling a similar attempt in regard to domestic violence, which remains a misdemeanor.

John Altman, the Representative who decided to give his reasons for supporting the cockfighting punishment while opposing the domestic violence one, has this to say about attempts to compare the two:

"People who compare the two are not very smart and if you don't understand the difference, Ms. Gormley, between trying to ban the savage practice of watching chickens trying to kill each other and protecting people rights in CDV statutes, I'll never be able to explain it to you in a 100 years ma'am."

Ms. Gormley is a tv reporter interviewing the Representative. He then goes on to call her "not very bright" for suggesting that the decisions reflect a higher value on the lives of fighting cocks than of women (unfortunate pun there).

Well, maybe the two bills should not have been compared. But Altman reveals much more about himself in the same interview than just his lack of manners:

Rep. Altman spoke about domestic violence, "There ought not to be a second offense. The woman ought to not be around the man. I mean you women want it one way and not another. Women want to punish the men, and I do not understand why women continue to go back around men who abuse them. And I've asked women that and they all tell me the same answer, John Graham you don't understand. And I say you're right, I don't understand".

(Bolds mine.)


During the same interview, he responded to the reporter's question, "You seem to be drawn to this fixation that women have to go back. I don't think that speaks highly of women. I think women can think and be responsible for their own actions. Woman are not some toys out there, drawn back to the magnet of the man a lot of these men are bums and cretins and they have to be punished but I think women are independent enough to not go back to the men who beat them. And we have a lot of men who are abused by women, but they are too ashamed to admit it.

(Bolds mine.)

It's going to be fun to analyze Mr. Altman's real message. I suspect that he reads rather religiously but with very little scrutiny. Or else he has just decided that domestic violence is sort of the victims' fault, that having it treated as a real crime is insulting to women who are strong enough to kick back if need be. He would never go back if someone punched him in the nose even once! Of course he is not a person with possibly no income and several dependent children to worry about. He's probably not someone who grew up in a dysfunctional home, either. And he'd never be swayed by the idea that if he left his abuser the abuser might come after him and shoot him dead. It does happen, even if Mr. Altman can't quite imagine it.

Why doesn't he care about the men who are victims of domestic violence? His offhand comment about men being too ashamed to mention it implies that this somehow makes the misdemeanor status of domestic violence ok. Or am I misreading his ramblings here? Is he just really saying that if violence affects men, too, it doesn't have to be punished?

I should stop playing cat and mouse with Representative Altman. We all know what he is saying: that domestic violence is not really a special problem for women, that feminists exaggerate its importance and that stricter laws about domestic violence are unfair special interest pork. Everybody knows that it takes two to tango.

I actually agree with Mr. Altman on one point, and one point only. There are indeed men who are the victims of domestic violence. I even know one man in this situation, and he keeps on going back. He has also been completely isolated by his wife so that he no longer sees his birth family, his college friends or even his colleagues from work. When he goes out she sends him furious text messages. He gets his face clawed regularly, his paycheck appropriated, and he keeps going back.

Yes, domestic violence doesn't discriminate by gender. Where the differences arise are in the outcomes of domestic violence. The female sufferers tend to have worse physical damage from the attacks, and as more women are financially dependent on their spouses (due to our history of sexual division of labor), more women find it difficult to leave unassisted. There is also a difference in the prevalence of domestic violence by sex of the perpetrator and victim, and this reflects the social power structures and gender role expectations. But men can indeed become victims, too.

To understand why victims so often return just consider how you would feel if you had to leave everything in your life behind. It is a hard thing to do, and the harder the less resources you have. Then add to this all sorts of deeply ingrained beliefs about love conquering all, about giving people a second chance, about worrying what happens to the children without the other parent. And maybe you grew up in a family where beating was regarded as God's will (see my post below on some Christian child correction views). Finally, perhaps you are now convinced that the perpetrator will kill you if you try to leave. - It is easy for those of us who are outside to judge the victim, but then it's easy in general to make judgments from some high perch.

Representative Altman managed to identify with the horror of chickens that are killed just for the fun of it. He should be able to identify with a domestic violence victim, too. All it takes is a little empathy.

Today's Action Alert

Today's Action comes from NRDC:

Tell your senators not to prohibit filibusters of judicial nominees

Whenever a single political party controls both the White House and Congress --

as the Republicans do now -- the Senate "filibuster" (a nickname for

indefinitely extended debate) ensures that the dominant party cannot exert

undue control over the remaining branch of the federal government: the

judiciary. But Senate Majority Leader Frist (R-TN) is threatening to overturn

the longstanding Senate rule that enables 41 or more senators to use the

filibuster to prevent the confirmation of nominees to lifetime seats on the

federal courts.

The filibuster guarantees that a judicial nominee cannot win confirmation over

vehement minority opposition unless the nominee is supported by 60 or more

senators. This check on majority power is particularly important in the context

of judicial nominees, who receive lifetime tenure when confirmed.

Sen. Frist's attempt to eliminate the filibuster in the context of judicial

nominees is particularly unjustified, for two reasons. First, the Senate has

confirmed 205 of President Bush's 215 judicial nominees. Second, the seven

filibustered candidates subsequently renominated by President Bush have shown

that they would not decide cases impartially, but rather would use the federal

bench as a platform for advancing a political ideology that falls far outside

the mainstream.

NRDC opposes four of the renominated candidates on account of their extreme

anti-environment views and antipathy toward conservation and public health

groups. If the filibuster is eliminated, those nominees and others like them

would receive lifetime tenure on the courts that are responsible for enforcing

the laws that protect public health and the environment.

In addition, eliminating the filibuster for judicial nominations would create a

precedent that the current majority or a future one could use to eliminate the

filibuster for legislation as well. At that point, the Senate would cease to

play its unique, moderating role in our democracy.

== What to do ==

Tell your senators to vote "No" on any measure that would prohibit filibusters

of judicial nominees.

== Contact information ==

You can email or fax your representative directly from NRDC's Earth Action

Center at If you prefer to call your

representative, the Capitol switchboard number is 202-224-3121.

The Godly Habit of Child Correction

It has taken me a long time to decide that this article is not a hoax. I so wanted it to be a joke.

It is written by one Ronald E. Williams, an American Talibanist of an extreme kind, and it advocates corporeal punishment of children. No, it doesn't just advocate such punishment, it begs and pleads the parents (the father, obviously, but the mother can be delegated the duty to beat) to really revel in such beatings, to give them a chance to work by sticking at it, for hours if necessary. Why? Because the Bible tells him so. Also because children are inherently bad (why did God make them so?) and need to have their will broken, preferably before they turn twelve months old. No, I am not making this up.

Let me share some of what I have learned about Christian child correction:

The world and humanistically-trained minds are repelled in horror at the thought of a God who would deliberately order painful correction of a child and use words as strong as "beat" in ordering parents to carry out that correction. The Scriptures make it abundantly clear that such painful correction is the most loving, wise, and responsible procedure that a Godly parent can follow in developing obedience and character in his child. Therefore, when you hear someone object, "But that will hurt my child," you can answer, "Precisely, that is God's goal, that the child be hurt with the pain of the spanking during a session of correction."
Both my wife and I have often remarked that it is good that one of our children was not our firstborn. This particular child who came along later in our family was extremely willful and rebellious toward our authority and would often require sessions of correction lasting from one to two hours in length before the will would finally be broken! Had this child been our first, we may well have been tempted to despair of the grace of God.

Do not be discouraged, dear parent, when it appears that your Godly efforts to chastise your child with the rod of correction meet with total resistance towards your authority. This simply means that you have started on the right course and you must now pursue your objective of a broken will with great vigor until your mission is finally accomplished. This may require a great deal of self-discipline on your part but you can do it, since God requires you to do so.

My wife and I have a general goal of making sure that each of our children has his will broken by the time he reaches the age of one year. To do this, a child must receive correction when he is a small infant. Every parent recognizes that this self-will begins early as he has witnessed his child stiffen his back and boldly demonstrate his rebellion and self-will even though he has been fed, diapered, and cared for in every other physical way.

On what occasions should a child be corrected? Whenever a child directly disobeys authority or shows disrespect and rebellion toward authority, that child should receive correction. Lesser infractions of course would receive lesser forms of correction with the rod being reserved for the more serious infractions.

I have also learned that the proper tool for beating a child is a wooden rod big enough not to break in a heated hour or two of correcting, and that godly parents must limit the correcting to the privacy of their homes lest they get their children removed by the authorities who don't follow the Bible.

Fascinating stuff. Excuse while I go and vomit.

And who is the writer? At one point he tells us this about himself:

In my position as the director of a rehabilitation ministry for troubled teenage girls, I receive phone calls daily from desperate parents all across the United States. They have children for whom all hope seems to be gone because they did not start the use of the rod of correction while there was hope as the Scriptures mandated. I do not mean to discourage parents with older teenagers, who have suddenly been exposed to God's inspired instructions in this matter. As long as you have a child under your authority and your home where you can directly supervise and correct him, there still is hope that you may turn that child from his wicked ways and break his will. You may still teach him to submit to authority in his life.

A good illustration of this hope is found in the case of a mother who called me from a distant state about her troubled teenage daughter. This teenager had gotten into such continual mischief and wickedness that the desperate mother went to the local hardware store and purchased a lock and chain with which to lock the girl to her body. This unorthodox measure kept the girl in her home at night but fell far short of Scriptural methodology in changing the heart! I explained to the mother that we did not have room to receive the girl at the time because our beds were filled. However, I mentioned that I could give her a possible answer for her predicament. I also said, "But I doubt that you will follow through." The mother, hearing that there might be a solution to her crisis, desperately implored, "Yes, I will take your counsel. What is your solution?" I then proceeded to explain that the mother should get a stick that would not break and get after that daughter until the daughter asked for peace in their relationship. The mother hesitated in silence for a time on that long distance telephone call, and then seemingly made a firm commitment before me and the Lord that she would do so. She answered, "Alright, I will!" I then forgot about the mother and her call inasmuch as we receive several calls like this daily.

Three weeks later, I received a phone call from this same mother. I had forgotten who she was and was reminded of her identity only when she reminded me of the lock and chain she had purchased to secure her daughter. I remembered who she was at that point since that was a unique method of restraining the girl. I asked, "Well, what has happened since our last conversation?" The mother replied that she had taken my advice to secure a large stick that would not break, and to quote the mother, "I wore off her behind!" I chuckled at the mother's response and thoroughly enjoyed the rest of the story.

This man rehabilitates troubled teenaged girls! He thoroughly enjoys stories about beating. He is a man of God. I want off this planet. Now!

Monday, April 25, 2005

To Cheer You Up!


Interesting cultural (or pseudo-macho?) differences in body language. Other pictures are funnier that way but this reminds me best of those who are in power in this world and why they are there.


Do you ever check the Google news page? If you do, do you scroll down to the health news, for example? I do this regularly, first with the U.S. Google, then with the Canadian and the U.K. ones. There are some major differences in which news are picked up in each. In general the U.S. news are more wingnutty, with lots of emphasis on dangers of drug addiction or sloth or greed (such as obesity studies or sermons about people not exercizing enough). The Canadian and the U.K. health news are somewhat less focused on this "moral" dimension.

The U.K. Google news even report findings such as this one:

Putting your baby in daycare in its first year could mean it is less likely to develop childhood leukaemia, researchers said yesterday.

Exposure to other childhood infections among other infants might prime the immune system and sometimes prevent the second half of the "double whammy" that scientists believe is needed for the cancer to develop.

A 15-year study of childhood cancers in Britain, said to be the biggest in the world, suggests that infants who have been to formal daycare in their first 12 months are half as likely as those with no socialising to succumb to acute lymphoblastic leukaemia, the most common form of leukaemia in the young.

The idea is that it may be good for babies to be exposed to germs early. Some supporting evidence for this comes from a comparison of childhood leukemia rates between West and East Germany before unification:

The former East Germany, where infants went into childcare at three months, had a leukaemia incidence a third lower than that in the former West Germany. But since reunification and the end of such universal care, the level had become the same across the whole country.

I have no idea whether these results are valid but I suspect that the U.S. Google will not report on them for a while. Because they are not of the "right" kind.

The Latest Crusade?

According to some, it started yesterday when a church was used to televize political propaganda. I may be a little slow on the uptake here, but isn't the tax-free status of the churches based on them not adopting a political role of this kind? I'm probably wrong. It must be something that used to be true but no longer is.

We heard several speakers in the "Justice Sunday", including

R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, who said that putting more evangelicals on the court will mean rulings more in tune with the religious convictions of churchgoers.

"We are not asking for persons merely to be moral," Mohler said. "We want them to be believers in the Lord Jesus Christ."

And then there was Tony Perkins whose organization orchestrated the roadshow:

"Just because we believe the in the Bible as a guidepost for life does not disqualify us from participating in our government," said Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council. "As American citizens, we should not have to choose between believing what is in this book and serving the public."

And Charles W. Pickering (of the sour grapes fame as he was turned down for a nomination to the Circuit Court of Appeals because of racism):

"If Christians don't stand up and don't participate, I cringe about the future."

The final touches were put on by James C. Dobson, the founder of Focus on Family (a wingnut think tank) who has decided that threatening Republicans is the way to get to Gilead post-haste:

"Republicans are really good at trembling," Dobson told members of the audience. "Get a hold of them and tell them that you care and you will remember how you vote."

It's all very whiny and victimish. I thought that was our role in politics? The wingnuts are supposed to be the ones in power right now. So what are they complaining about? Nothing seems to be enough for them. The majority of Supreme Court Judges are Republicans but they are not wingnutty enough, it seems. Well, until Scalia can be cloned it's hard to do much better than the current bench. Sorry, Dobson.

Frist decided to step into this mess with only one foot. He sent a video of his statements which carefully avoided mentioning religion, yet equally carefully argued the same points as the extreme radical clerics mentioned above. This is the sort of problem you get when you habitually ride tigers and think that you can control them.

"Cowardly Lion" Feminism

A recent column by Katha Pollitt on the late Andrea Dworkin has this important paragraph:

These days, feminism is all sexy uplift, a cross between a workout and a makeover. Go for it, girls--breast implants, botox, face-lifts, corsets, knitting, boxing, prostitution. Whatever floats your self-esteem! Meanwhile, the public face of organizational feminism is perched atop a power suit and frozen in a deferential smile. Perhaps some childcare? Insurance coverage for contraception? Legal abortion, tragic though it surely is? Or maybe not so much legal abortion--when I ran into Naomi Wolf the other day, she had just finished an article calling for the banning of abortion after the first trimester. Cream and sugar with that abortion ban, sir?

Feminism like the Cowardly Lion in the Wizard of Oz would practise it. Or feminism in the old-fashioned way women's power has been wielded for so long: by subterfuge, compromise and the application of personal charm. These are the ways the weak use power, of course, and have nothing inherently female about them. But Pollitt sure is right about their re-emergence in recent years.

I'm dreadfully drawn by the Cowardly Lion role model. It fits my basic desire to be seen as a sane, intelligent and kind goddess who never makes hurtful or unconsidered comments. Oh, how I want to be adored as the goddess in the best power suit, with the most frozen grin on my botox-fixed face! I want to go and drink with the boys. I do so like to be liked, yes. If I needed it I'd get artificial tits, too, probably. But us goddesses are rather well-endowed in some ways. In fact, now I feel guilty for not being a donor of breast tissue.

And why did I blurt out this horrible confession? Because there is truth in it. The coming-to-terms with oneself can be a slow and hard road for some of us, and for women it has its own very particular hurdles, many of them created by popular culture, others by church and yet others by tradition and general societal consensus. To be a Good Woman (in some universal sense) is impossible, but this is a secret most of us have to learn on our own, even in these communication times.

Once we get this basic enlightenment life is just as it was before, but none of it looks the same and it can take a lot of thinking to decide which values to use instead of the mad dogmas which make us chase physical beauty or the reputation of the most self-sacrificing martyr that ever lived or the honorable title of a Pseudo-Man. This thinking is hard work, so George Bush is lucky not to have to face it.

Because it is such hard work I often don my lion outfit and go around begging for approval. On better days I face the monsters in my head straight on and even tame a few of them. Some are still rampaging around fairly untamed, and one of them is the question of abortion.

I am pro-choice. Viscerally so. But every time I try to write about abortion I go into so many twists and turns that I give up on the attempt. The Cowardly Lion rears its ugly head. It rationalizes not writing about abortion by pointing out how tedious the debate always turns to be, how I have already heard every single argument there is to present about the topic and how unpleasant it would be to have lots of trolls on the blog. Or the Lion mutters that others do this stuff so much better, like Amanda on Pandagon or BitchPhD, so nothing is missed if one tiny voice is silenced, voluntarily.

All true. But I lose something by taking the cowardly way out. Thus, here is a very condensed take on my position on abortion:

First, I don't believe in the personhood of embryos or early fetuses. The pro-life view argues that a person is created at the point when the sperm fertilizes an egg. Why at this particular point and not earlier or later? Both the egg and the sperm are living things, after all, and roughly one half of fertilized eggs never attach to the uterine lining. They are flushed out of the woman's body and she never knows of their existence. Should the pro-lifers cry over all these deaths? Probably, if they are to be faithful to their beliefs. But all they are are beliefs, not something based on scientific facts.

At what point then would Echidne regard a fetus as a person, you might ask. I don't know the exact point and nobody else does, either. Many people have decided on one point or another but the truth is that the process of change is gradual. Right now some use the test of viability outside the woman's body to determine such a point. Something more precise may become available in the future but I doubt it. There will always be disagreement on this question.

Second, even if the fetus were regarded as a person as the pro-lifers do, it is still true that it is a person in another person's body. This is different from any other case where concepts such as murder are bandied about. The extreme pro-life view would give the woman no rights to abort a pregnancy, even in the case of rape or when the woman's own life is threatened. She is therefore accorded a lower value than the fetus, even a fetus which exists because of forceful violence. I find this repugnant.

Third, it is the pregnant woman whose body is being used to house the fetus, to feed it and to ultimately give it birth with some pain, discomfort and risk to her health and life. No other person is asked to make such sacrifices in order to avoid "murdering" someone. Even the parents of (after-birth) children are not asked to donate an organ to a child that needs it to live. We may disapprove of parents who refuse to give such a gift but we are not trying to make it illegal for them to refuse. It is only in the case of pregnant women that we use much more stringent criteria.

For these reasons I want to privilege the pregnant woman over other members of the society. It is her body that is being used, her life which is going to be affected and her value as a person which to me appears ultimately under questioning here.

It's still a cowardly stance, isn't it? I'm not saying much about men's rights in this case or the question whether abortion should have more limits than it does today. Maybe I gather more courage to tackle all that in the future. I might even talk about the interesting asymmetries involved in the abortion debate: how the role of men is pretty much ignored when it comes to getting someone pregnant, how the problem is framed as one about women alone and how, on the other hand, so many of the debaters on the pro-life side seem to be men who will never have the opportunity of facing the basic dilemmas in their own bodies. I might even write about that old tired saw: how better contraception would be a great idea, in some parallel universe with fewer wingnuts. Or goddess help, maybe I'll even write about how to make this society more child-friendly so that more people can afford to carry desired pregnancies to term. Nah, let's not go that far.

Ok. Time to get into my pin-stripes and to paint a smile on. That is, if nobody minds?

Sunday, April 24, 2005

Guess the Answers

What do the following two things have in common:

1. Getting a job on the K Street, the place where Washington lobbyists work.


2. Being sent as a US delegate to the Inter-American Telecommunication Commission meeting (where telecommunication standards are discussed).

The answer: You have to be a Republican to qualify these positions. No, it's not enough to do your job well, and, no it doesn't matter that K Street jobs are private market jobs; you must also prove that you support Georgie Porgie.

3. What do you do if you work for the government and its own statistics show that you are doing poorly?

The answer: Order the statistics not to be published anymore. This is what Condoleezza Rice has just done. It's also what the old Soviet apparatus used to do quite routinely.

4. How many scandals can the Bush administration brag about so far?

The answer: At least thirty-four.

5. How many of these scandals have damaged the administration's credibility?

The answer: None

Justice Sunday

Welcome all brethren in Christ! This is a blog run on the literal interpretation of the Bible! Halleluyah! Now let us pray.

And now let us read this sentence from the Bible and let us harbor it in our minds and hearts:

Deuteronomy 22:11: Thou shalt not wear a garment of divers sorts, as of woolen and linen together.

And what do we see when we look at the Nine Wicked Judges in the Supreme Court? Woolen gowns over linen shirts! Woolen suspenders over linen trousers! And who knows how much more wickedness there might be in the hidden underlayers! Fye!

Now, my brethren, be not disheartened. We are right and we shall win. The evil Democrat filibustering will end and the words of the Holy Book will be the Law of this land. The true believers will be victorious! Stores will be built separately for linen and for wool and all the faithful will be clad in justice!