Saturday, May 28, 2005

On Fear

I had one of those nights when all my troubles seemed to suddenly rear up and loom enormous in the horizon. There are so many of them that I can't squeeze through into the rest of my life. This happens when I have overdozed on news of a certain kind, in this case the stories about the coming avian flu pandemic.

Several blogs had reader comments on the bird flu and the chance that it might hit home (wherever home might be), and what was most noticeable about some of the comments was the fear people feel and the need to know what to do. What to do? Should we stock medications, food, water? Should we avoid all other breathing creatures? Should we die now so that we won't have to go through this fear again?

Terrorism threats have the same effect on us. The effect is to make us panic and to act in unwise ways, such as cornering the market on duct tape. All this is understandable and human; we need to feel some amount of control over our destinies and perfect passivity doesn't feel like control. Yet the things that we could do are either ineffective or unethical, on the whole. Some of those things make us look greedy and uncaring and even vicious; hoarding antibiotics when others need them now would be one of those. But I can still understand all this, this human mess of fear and the desire to overcome it.

Most of these types of fear are illogical in the probability sense. You, my dear reader, are more likely to die because you didn't use a seat belt or because you smoked or drank or ate the wrong things than in the hands of a terrorist or in the grips of the avian flu. But these other kinds of killers get us one by one, almost invisibly, and besides, we are used to being killed by them. Avian flu or SARS or terrorists are new threats, unknown threats and it is this that frightens us as much as their suddenness. But mainly, I believe, we fear them because they make us feel so passive, so "out-of-control". Hence the out-of-control reactions.

Fear of flying has similar roots. Who cares if cars are less safe than planes; at least in a car you feel in control, even if you're doing backseat driving. Now combine the fear of flying with the fear of terrorism and a smidgen of avian flu fear and what do you get? I don't really even want to think about that one.

None of this aims to belittle the importance of preparing for a possible bird flu pandemic. It would be criminal not to prepare for it, but the job belongs to the health care systems of the affected countries, not to individuals who have been given no official advice. Still, we will never beat all the diseases that nature throws into our face and we will not get out of here alive. In one sense we are indeed totally at the mercy of external events, totally passive, flotsam and jetsam being tossed here and there by the sinister forces of nature. But nature gives us all the good things, too, and if we are careful and clever (and lucky) we can surf her waves without getting caught in the first big one. At a minimum, we can focus on worrying about those things which we can affect rather than tearing our minds apart with all those what-ifs.

So that's what I did last night, worried about the things I can affect, and stayed wide awake until dawn. I have to work a little bit more on the ending to this story.

In Memoriam

The story is here.
Via dailyKos diaries.

Friday, May 27, 2005

Friday Embroidery Blogging


This picture has a mess of techniques: applique, reverse applique, cross stitch, stem stitch and so on. The meaning is equally ambiguous. Some days I think that I'm the winged creature flying, other days I'm the big devouring head. Some days the winged creature is making an escape, other days it's sucked in. And so on. Like life.

Billmon's Take On Laura Bush's Visit

It's a good one. He builds up a story by using nothing but snippets from various newspaper stories and one quote from his own archives, this one:

The point of Shrub's "revolution" seems to be this: Get yourself a token parliament, hold a few rigged elections, make a few noises about rights for women, and you, too, can be in good graces with Uncle Sam and Big Oil. Playing host to a few American military bases doesn't hurt, either.

That's it, the plan in a wingnutshell, and the reason why I don't get very excited when Laura Bush gives speeches on women's rights in the Middle East. She's probably quite sincere, but she has no power to make any of these things real. And at home women's rights count only as a device for getting the wingnut masses really outraged. To fight against those rights.

What's worse, linking women's rights with the rest of the empire's agenda is bad news for women in the Middle East. Even suggesting that equality might be a good thing will make you look like a pro-Bush colonizer. Feminism is now just another arm of the American Empire, and the date when women in those countries will have equal rights has thereby been postponed by a few millennia. Or so I think.

Ahnuld and the Pothole

California governor Arnold Schwartzenegger has been filling potholes as part of his campaign to improve transportation in his state. Too bad that the pothole he filled had been dug up beforehand so that there would be one to fill:

"For paving the streets, it's a lot of lighting,'' said resident Nick Porrovecchio, 48, motioning to a team of workmen setting up Hollywood-style floodlights on the street to bathe the gubernatorial podium in a soft glow.

Porrovecchio and his business partner, Joe Greco, said that at about 7 a.m. they became fascinated watching "10 city workers standing around for a few hours putting on new vests,'' all in preparation for the big moment with Schwarzenegger.

But their street, he noted, didn't even have a hole to pave over until Thursday morning.

"They just dug it out,'' Porrovecchio said, shrugging. "There was a crack. But they dug out the whole road this morning.''

Well, that's how it's done in the movies, so it's not Arnold's fault, really. Though there is the question whether taxpayers have to pay for the digging of the pothole as well as its filling. The governor's communication director argues that this event is not paid from the state funds, but

David Vossbrink, director of communications for San Jose Mayor Ron Gonzales, who was in Washington, D.C., Thursday lobbying for more federal funding for BART, said the city paid the road crew and the extra security costs associated with the governor's visit -- as it would for any visiting dignitary.

Schwarzenegger's office "contacted us several days ago for a suitable area'' to depict his distribution of transportation funding, Vossbrink said. The neighborhood was chosen because "city workers were already in the area" doing repaving and resurfacing, which he said often requires peeling off old pavement and digging up roads to lay down new asphalt.

In this case, Vossbrink said, the governor's event involved "not exactly filling a pothole, but it represented the pothole aspect'' of the transportation funding measure.

That last sentence is so good it deserves to be repeated:

In this case, Vossbrink said, the governor's event involved "not exactly filling a pothole, but it represented the pothole aspect'' of the transportation funding measure.


Oh Why, Oh Why, O....

Did I ever leave Ohio? Not that I've ever lived in Ohio, but it sounds like a fun place. First all the trouble with organizing and monitoring an election and now this coin collection fiasco. It seems that Ohio's Bureau of Workers' Compensation has invested in rare coins as a way to hedge its investments in stocks and bonds. Sadly, though not perhaps inexplicably, some of the coins have gone a-missing, about ten million dollars worth. And the culprit appears to be:

...Tom Noe, a private coin dealer and Republican donor who led the coin investment. Democrats have alleged that Noe was awarded the state's business in return for campaign contributions to Republicans, who control most of state government.

Officials do not know what assets are missing or where those items are supposed to be, bureau spokesman Jeremy Jackson said. Investigators had gone into Noe's coin shop under a court order issued Thursday morning, but weren't able to remove coins from their cases to inspect them and verify authenticity, Jackson said.

The bureau had made $15.3 million from the investments while Noe has collected about $3.8 million in commission. His shop outside Toledo had one of the two largest coin caches in the collection.

I know that this is all old news and has been widely discussed in the lefty blogosphere. But the sum of ten million dollars is new and makes even a goddess perk up her ears. I have an excellent collection of U.S. quarters, the new ones. Could I interest some other state government in it, what do you think? If not that, then what about genuine goddess toenail clippings?

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Women in the Military - Take Three and Wrap

For the time being, anyway. Those who don't want women anywhere near the frontlines lost this one, mostly because we don't have enought cannon fodder to begin with:

The plan to scale back women's service was shot down by opposition ranging from the Secretary of the Army to the American Civil Liberties Union, as well as Democrats and some members of Hunter's own party. "At a time when our armed forces are overstretched, we shouldn't be turning away people who want to serve their country," Rep. Ellen O. Tauscher, a Democrat from California, told the Los Angles Times. "Invoking the names of two female soldiers captured by Iraqi insurgents and later freed, she added, 'This step is a slap in the face to the Jessica Lynches and Shoshana Johnsons of our military, who served our nation ably and nobly.'"

Of course, there's a pragmatic reason as well as a patriotic one for letting women continue to serve on the dangerous streets of Baghdad and beyond. Considering the extreme lengths that military recruiters have been going to get soldiers signed up, it's no wonder that the Pentagon doesn't want to diss women willing to give their all.

But, as the article I quote notes, we still have the "don't ask, don't tell" inanity operating.


Can you help me with this: Are the politics really boring right now, slow and sloppy like cold oat meal porridge? Or is it me who needs to take a break from all the ranting and raving?

I keep cruising the net and looking in all the usual places and get no rise whatsoever in my body temperature. That rise is necessary fuel for writing about the issues.

It could be just the weather. Being rained on nonstop for a week does something to the very bones which is not pleasant. And to the bricks in my front porch. I had someone come soliciting yesterday and when I opened the door Hank snuck through between my legs, in order to slobber the solicitor with dog kisses. But the solicitor, being deathly scared of dogs, leapt backwards and landed on the bottom steps of my front stairs. Which promptly gave way. Now I have a big pile of rain-sodden bricks where there used to be some neat steps.

I should go out and put some big warning signs up but I'm too lethargic for even that. A possible lawsuit when the next solicitor trips and falls would at least spice up my life a bit.

The last and most frightening explanation for my political lethargy is that I have just gotten so used to the deaths in Iraq and the outrages in the U.S. Congress that I need a stronger and stronger fix to get going. Please tell me it ain't so.


This is weird:

An Indianapolis father is appealing a Marion County judge's unusual order that prohibits him and his ex-wife from exposing their child to "non-mainstream religious beliefs and rituals."

The parents practice Wicca, a contemporary pagan religion that emphasizes a balance in nature and reverence for the earth.

Cale J. Bradford, chief judge of the Marion Superior Court, kept the unusual provision in the couple's divorce decree last year over their fierce objections, court records show. The order does not define a mainstream religion.

Bradford refused to remove the provision after the 9-year-old boy's outraged parents, Thomas E. Jones Jr. and his ex-wife, Tammie U. Bristol, protested last fall.

Through a court spokeswoman, Bradford said Wednesday he could not discuss the pending legal dispute.

The parents' Wiccan beliefs came to Bradford's attention in a confidential report prepared by the Domestic Relations Counseling Bureau, which provides recommendations to the court on child custody and visitation rights. Jones' son attends a local Catholic school.

"There is a discrepancy between Ms. Jones and Mr. Jones' lifestyle and the belief system adhered to by the parochial school. . . . Ms. Jones and Mr. Jones display little insight into the confusion these divergent belief systems will have upon (the boy) as he ages," the bureau said in its report.

And by weird I mean the behavior of Judge Bradford. Just imagine this: replace "Wiccan" with "fundamentalist Christian" and see how the whole thing would read.

Sounds like another activist judge to me.

It's That Time Again!

The time to notice, with great astonishment, how few women there are as opinion columnists in major newspapers, including the New York Times. When the astonishment has abated a little, it's time to ponder the possible reasons for this drought of female voices and to conclude that the reasons they are unfathomable. And then it's time to gently point out that maybe there just aren't enough good female writers (though there's no glass ceiling against them any longer, no, and though evo-psychos argue that women are better at writing than men). Then, finally, it's time to set the topic aside until it's needed again because of low readership figures at some near future date.

That sounds bitter, doesn't it? Well, I've only been a blogger for eighteen months or so, and during this time I've gone through four waves of this crap. Hence the bitterness. Also because Mr. Tierney was hired by the Times and he's no great writer. Neither is Bobo Brooks. But there are some truly great female political writers out there: Katha Pollitt, Molly Ivins, Barbara Ehrenreich, yet none of them are deemed good enough for the Times.

My explanation for the lack of women's voices in the media is that those who have the power to decide on these things regard being a woman similar to being a bespectacled libertarian from SE Maine. In other words, "women" are seen as a specific subgroup of possible voices, on par with minor political groupings. One of those "women" is then plenty for the New York Times, or any other self-respecting major media outlet. But in reality women are the majority, of course, and doing what these guys are doing is just plain silly. It's tokenism.

It's equally silly to hire women as interpreters of the great womandom, and that's the other way this game is being played: A woman is hired to write, but only on what women think, or to interpret this weird feminine species for the rest of us normal beings. In both variations of the game, women lose; in the first because how many bespectacled libertarians from SE Maine do you really want to read, and in the second because a few interpreters of the tribe is plenty.

So I'm bitter. In a just system it would be me pontificating on the opinion pages of the Times. Or at least it wouldn't be Bobo and Tierney.

Today's Action Alert

Someone at Atrios suggested that we let the editor at the Washington Post know what we think of today's editorial:

'American Gulag'

Thursday, May 26, 2005; Page A26

IT'S ALWAYS SAD when a solid, trustworthy institution loses its bearings and joins in the partisan fracas that nowadays passes for political discourse. It's particularly sad when the institution is Amnesty International, which for more than 40 years has been a tough, single-minded defender of political prisoners around the world and a scourge of left- and right-wing dictators alike. True, Amnesty continues to keep track of the world's political prisoners, as it has always done, and its reports remain a vital source of human rights information. But lately the organization has tended to save its most vitriolic condemnations not for the world's dictators but for the United States.

That vitriol reached a new level this week when, at a news conference held to mark the publication of Amnesty's annual report, the organization's secretary general, Irene Khan, called the U.S. detention facilities at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, the "gulag of our times." In her written introduction to the report, Ms. Khan also mentioned only two countries at length: Sudan and the United States, the "unrivalled political, military and economic hyper-power," which "thumbs its nose at the rule of law and human rights."

Like Amnesty, we, too, have written extensively about U.S. prisoner abuse at Guantanamo Bay, in Afghanistan and in Iraq. We have done so not only because the phenomenon is disturbing in its own right but also because it gives undemocratic regimes around the world an excuse to justify their own use of torture and indefinite detention and because it damages the U.S. government's ability to promote human rights.

But we draw the line at the use of the word "gulag" or at the implication that the United States has somehow become the modern equivalent of Stalin's Soviet Union. Guantanamo Bay is an ad hoc creation, designed to contain captured enemy combatants in wartime. Abuses there -- including new evidence of desecrating the Koran -- have been investigated and discussed by the FBI, the press and, to a still limited extent, the military. The Soviet gulag, by contrast, was a massive forced labor complex consisting of thousands of concentration camps and hundreds of exile villages through which more than 20 million people passed during Stalin's lifetime and whose existence was not acknowledged until after his death. Its modern equivalent is not Guantanamo Bay, but the prisons of Cuba, where Amnesty itself says a new generation of prisoners of conscience reside; or the labor camps of North Korea, which were set up on Stalinist lines; or China's laogai , the true size of which isn't even known; or, until recently, the prisons of Saddam Hussein's Iraq.

Worrying about the use of a word may seem like mere semantics, but it is not. Turning a report on prisoner detention into another excuse for Bush-bashing or America-bashing undermines Amnesty's legitimate criticisms of U.S. policies and weakens the force of its investigations of prison systems in closed societies. It also gives the administration another excuse to dismiss valid objections to its policies as "hysterical."


Write and tell the Post that they're 100% wrong.

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Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Priscilla Owen

The Owen confirmation is part of the whole filibuster deal. Too bad, as Owen surely is an extraordinarily wingnutty judge:

Owen has voted against a woman's right to choose in every abortion-related opinion. Owen is often referred to as an Enron or Halliburton appointee who, as a justice on the Texas Supreme Court, consistently ruled for business and against consumers and women's rights, and tried to weaken discrimination protections in employment.

"Will saving women's lives, women's rights, and civil rights ever be considered such an extraordinary circumstance [that would allow Democratic filibustering]?," asked Eleanor Smeal, president of the Feminist Majority. "If the record of Priscilla Owen and two other anti-women's rights, anti-civil rights nominees who will not be filibustered under the deal are to be the standard, then these rights are in grave peril."

Owen is going to sit on the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans, which is already a most wingnutty court. So in some ways Owen can't wreak as much havoc as she'd like to. She's simply adding her conservative stamp to many others there.

But she's being placed with a view towards a future Supreme Court nomination, I fear. And so are the two other wingnut judges that are being given an up-and-down vote.

I've been looking very hard for examples of a nominee which would be extraordinary enough to allow filibustering if these three are just garden variety wingnuts. Attila the Hun? Nah.

More on Embryo Adoptions

I recently wrote on this blog that the U.S. government gives out grant money to organizations who are willing to do community awareness on embryo adoption, i.e., the implantation of extra embryos from fertility clinics.

The pro-life movement has a problem with the whole fertility clinic phenomenom. On the one hand, here are these firms doing exactly what the pro-lifers want: creating babies. On the other hand, the process of creating these babies leaves many leftover embryos. Because the pro-life movement defines life as beginning when the sperm and the ovum meet (or, as one male writer on the topic describes it, when the sperm "pierces" the ovum) the leftover embryos constitute pre-born children to the pro-lifers, though pre-born children which happen to be frozen.

One organization offering embryo adoptions, Nightlight Christian Adoptions, actually calls them snowflakes. The organization's website has this advertisement:



The website is an odd mixture pro-life statements and others which come across as describing the embryos as building material for future babies. I'm disturbed by this. Are all these embryos pre-born babies as this part says:

Finally, an option that makes sense! When your embryos were created, you knew that life had begun. When your embryos were implanted in you and you became pregnant, you prayed that your long wait for a child was nearly over. Like all pregnant women, you were probably filled with excitement - and apprehension - but, knowing that the baby's fate was in God's hands, you were ready.

Now that you have finished building your family, or have decided that embryo implantation is no longer in your plans, you are confronted with even more difficult decisions.

What will you do with the embryos that remain frozen? Destroy the embryos?... Donate them for research?...Donate the embryos for implantation?

There seems to be something missing in these choices. These embryos are your pre-born children and you want them to have a chance to be born. But, you also want some control over their destiny.

Or are they really seen as just embryos as this parts suggests:

The number of embryos a genetic family has will determine the number of embryos a family receives. Some genetic families may have twenty embryos; other families may only have two embryos. The adopting family adopts all of the embryos that the genetic family has. In any event, every adoptive family adopts a minimum of six embryos with which to begin their transfer process. Because our goal is for the adoptive family to have enough embryos for a chance at a pregnancy, they may be matched with two genetic families to achieve this goal.
Will Snowflakes work with a genetic family that has only one or two frozen embryos? And if so, will you support a process where the adopting family would receive embryos from multiple genetic parents?

Yes. Snowflakes provides at least 6 embryos to each adoptive family and will match an adopting family with 2 genetic families to achieve that number. The adopting family would have to agree to work with small numbers and possibly mix embryos in utero.

How did the agency decide on the number six?

The number six is based on the statistical success of embryo transfer from frozen embryos. The statistical reports from various clinics suggest a 50% success rate in thawing and 30% success rate in implantation. Therefore, if half of the six embryos survive thawing (resulting in three embryos transferred) the subsequent implantation rate of 30% would suggest that potentially one child would be born from the transfer of those three embryos. The statistics give us a starting point. There is no guarantee that a child will be born from every six embryos nor can there be a promise that multiples are not born. Based on these statistics, we have set six to be the number of embryos a family adopts.

This sounds like moral relativism and is not in accordance with proper pro-life sentiments. Embryos should be shipped in units of one, to guarantee maximum chance of life for each embryo. Anything short of this is disrespectful towards the pre-born babies.

The costs of these embryo adoptions are borne by the adopting families and come to about seven thousand dollars and up.

A 2001 article in the National Review Online about the Snowflakes Program I describe here has a fetching headline:

Frozen embryo adoption offers hope to microscopic Americans

The statistics given in the article suggest, though, that less than one in ten of these frozen little Americans were successfully converted into the kinds of Americans the pro-lifers don't care about: post-born ones. The hope offered is only partial, it seems.

Blackwell's Madrasa

The writer Jeff Horwitz went to school to learn how to make campuses havens for wingnuts and then wrote an article about it for the Salon. What's interesting about the school he chose is that it's the same one Jeff Gannon went to in order to learn how to get a White House press pass without having any journalistic training or experience.

The school, called the Leadership Institute, is run by Morton Blackwell, better known as the wingnut who made those Purple Heart Band-Aids that conservatives then used to mock John Kerry. Blackwell is not a kind and gentle soul, and his latest project is to make sure young Americans leave college more conservative than they enter it.

And what does Blackwell's school teach the young activists? Here is an example:

It's nothing illegal -- no ballot stuffing necessary, even at the most liberal colleges. First you find a nonpartisan campus group to sponsor the election, so you can't be accused of cheating. Next, volunteer to organize the thing. College students are lazy, and they'll probably let you. Always keep in mind that a rigged mock election is all about location, location, location.

"Can anyone tell me," asks Gourley, a veteran mock electioneer, "why you don't want the polling place in the cafeteria?"

Stephen, a shy antiabortion activist sitting toward the rear of the class, raises his hand: "Because you want to suppress the vote?"

"Stephen has the right answer!" Gourley exclaims, tossing Stephen his prize, a copy of Robert Bork's "Slouching Toward Gomorrah."

The students, strait-laced kids from good colleges, seem unconvinced. The lesson -- that with sufficient organization, the act of voting becomes less a basic right than a tactical maneuver -- doesn't sit easy with some students at first. Gourley, a charismatic senior from South Dakota and the treasurer of the College Republican National Committee, assures them: "This is not anti-democracy. This is not shady. Just put [the polling place] somewhere where you might have to put a little bit of effort into voting." The rest, Gourley explains, is just a matter of turnout.

When the state or national candidate you're backing wins by a suitably large margin, as he or she surely will, have the nonpartisan group that sponsored the election sign off on your prewritten celebratory press release and send it statewide. Reporters will almost certainly ignore it, but after a dozen similar victories, they'll start dashing off articles about the youth phenomenon behind your candidate's campaign -- or better yet, just start plagiarizing your press releases.

Blackwell also gives the students some deeper advice:

"Everyone knows that for certain breeds of dogs it is customary to cut their tails short when they are a few weeks old," begins Blackwell's lecture to us on the importance of releasing negative information on your opponent incrementally. "Every time you clip the puppy's tail it hurts. It hurts. You might traumatize the puppy for life."

"The moral is that if it's your tail that's being clipped, you want it clipped once," concludes Blackwell. "But if you get a chance to clip your opponent's tail, clip that puppy as often as you can."

Thus, the campus is taken back into wingnuttia, book by book, computer by computer, building by building, right?

Well, what really matters in all this is money. The conservative organizations are top-down and shower the students they find with enormous resources. The liberal/progressive organizations are bottom-up and give the students very little help. If this will not change campuses may indeed be added to the realm of wingnuttia. Are you reading, Democratic party?

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

More on the Filibuster Compromise

Dwight Meredith on the Wampum picks out the crucial question in determining whether the deal is any good for the Democrats:

Who is the least extreme nominee for whom a filibuster has been determined to be justified?

And we don't know the answer to this, which means that we don't really know what the deal means until we see what happens with the next three nominees.

Today's Action Alert

Today's Action comes from NRDC.


The House version of the Defense Authorization bill could include language exempting the Defense Department from key environmental statutes. Urge your representative to vote against these dangerous and unnecessary exemptions. Here's a sample letter:

Dear Representative:

I urge you to vote to reject the Department of Defense's request for exemptions from public health and environmental laws. Specifically, please do not exempt the Pentagon from the Clean Air Act, the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) or the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) during consideration of the Defense Authorization bill.

The president already has the authority to waive these laws for national security reasons. But the Defense Department has yet to request any waiver, and has made no case to Congress for blanket waivers that could endanger public health. In the end, our military families who live in and around bases would suffer the most. Local communities also would be adversely affected as they are left to foot the bill for cleanup or deal with permanent blight.

Again, I urge you to protect America's military families and other communities and uphold our environmental laws. Please vote "No" on language that would exempt the Pentagon from these important public health statues.



Thanks for taking today's action.

Echidne's Advice Column

I took a vacation yesterday from blogging by going down into the dark cave I call my basement and spending some time there with my inner washerwoman and a mountain of laundry. Then I shoveled all last winter's doghair and snake scales into one big pile and threw it over my neighbor's fence. There! Life is now so much sweeter as well as containing more clothes.

Vacations from politics are also a must. Else one starts growling at the other shoppers in the supermarket or begins to hoard weaponry in the back of the station wagon. Most people in the three-dimensional space we call reality are pretty nice, and not at all interested in politics. It's easy to forget these truths when one spends as much time in wingnuttia as I do.

For these reasons, my unsolicited advice today is to make sure that you visit apolitical life once in a while. Doing laundry isn't a bad idea, either.

Monday, May 23, 2005

The Filibuster Deal

A deal was produced tonight and we were deprived of the fun of watching an all-out attack by the wingnuts. You can read about the deal at Kos. He also has some interesting responses to the deal, including one from Dr. Dobson, the "you-have-a-friend-in-wingnuts" guy.

The burning question is whether this deal is a good thing for the Democrats, and the answer is whatever you believe. The wingnuts are not happy with it but this doesn't necessarily mean that our side somehow won. The wingnuts have not been happy with anything since the Inquisition was disbanded. But their anger is a sign that things could have gone even worse for the Democrats. On the other hand, one could argue that the Democrats caved in, once again, and that this is not what the country needs.

On balance, I believe that it could have been worse, but I'm no more optimistic about the future than I was this morning.

More Polling News

Bush is still doing very poorly, in fact, he might win the lowest ratings of any president ever if he goes on the same way. Only 33% of those questioned in a CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll like his Social Security proposal, and only 40% think that he's doing a good job domestically. Slightly over one half of all the respondents approve Bush's war on terrorism, probably because there has been no recent attack on the U.S. ground.

It's fair to say that this presidency is not liked. Neither is this Congress, not the Republicans or the Democrats in it, but this is fairly encouraging:

The poll also indicated Americans might want a change in Congress, with 47 percent of all respondents saying the country would be better off if Democrats were in control, compared with 36 percent who favored Republicans. Nine percent picked "neither."

The more I hear on these issues the less I understand the 2004 election results. Unless voters decided that self-flagellation is what this country needs next. Alternative explanations are wrapped in heavy tinfoil in my basement.

My Farewell Letter to the Wingnut Right

Well, it isn't mine, and it isn't to the wingnut right. It's by a Men's Rights Activist called Keith Thompson, and he's saying goodbye to us simpering liberals. In a newspaper, just to make sure that we see what we are losing.

Keith's lament is very touching. It brought my muse Erecto out and he (drunk as usual) wanted to write a farewell letter, too. So here the two are: side by side. Or some snippets of them; to print all of the moaning and crying would be too boring for you, my dear readers.


Nightfall, Jan. 30. Eight-million Iraqi voters have finished risking their lives to endorse freedom and defy fascism. Three things happen in rapid succession. The right cheers. The left demurs. I walk away from a long-term intimate relationship. I'm separating not from a person but a cause: the political philosophy that for more than three decades has shaped my character and consciousness, my sense of self and community, even my sense of cosmos.

I'm leaving the left -- more precisely, the American cultural left and what it has become during our time together.

I choose this day for my departure because I can no longer abide the simpering voices of self-styled progressives -- people who once championed solidarity with oppressed populations everywhere -- reciting all the ways Iraq's democratic experiment might yet implode.


Nightfall, Sep. 11, 2001. Thousands of innocents have just been slaughtered in a terrorist attack. Three things happen in rapid succession: the left rises to support a president they doubt because the crisis demands unity, the right decides to use the atrocity to further its own claims and Jerry Falwell states that the slaughter of innocents was God's punishment for the ACLU, pagans and feminists. I walk away from a long-term intimate relationship. I'm separating not from a person but a cause: the American conservatism.

I'm leaving the right -- more precisely, the American wingnut right and what it has become during our time together.

I choose this day for my departure because I can no longer abide the slathering maws of self-styled Christianists -- people who once championed Christ's love towards oppressed populations everywhere -- reciting all the ways America has deserved this horrible catastrophe


Like many others who came of age politically in the 1960s, I became adept at not taking the measure of the left's mounting incoherence. To face it directly posed the danger that I would have to describe it accurately, first to myself and then to others. That could only give aid and comfort to Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter and all the other Usual Suspects the left so regularly employs to keep from seeing its own reflection in the mirror.


Like many others who came of age politically in the 1960s. I became adept at seeing the mounting left as incoherent. To face the left's message directly posed the danger that I would have to see the right's message accurately, and to describe it so, first to myself and then to others. That could only give aid and comfort to Ward Churchill, Noam Chomsky, Molly Ivins and all the Usual Suspects the right so regularly employs to keep from seeing its own reflection in the mirror.


I smile when friends tell me I've "moved right." I laugh out loud at what now passes for progressive on the main lines of the cultural left.

In the name of "diversity," the University of Arizona has forbidden discrimination based on "individual style." The University of Connecticut has banned "inappropriately directed laughter." Brown University, sensing unacceptable gray areas, warns that harassment "may be intentional or unintentional and still constitute harassment." (Yes, we're talking "subconscious harassment" here. We're watching your thoughts ...).

Wait, it gets better. When actor Bill Cosby called on black parents to explain to their kids why they are not likely to get into medical school speaking English like "Why you ain't" and "Where you is," Jesse Jackson countered that the time was not yet right to "level the playing field." Why not? Because "drunk people can't do that ... illiterate people can't do that."

When self-styled pragmatic feminist Camille Paglia mocked young coeds who believe "I should be able to get drunk at a fraternity party and go upstairs to a guy's room without anything happening," Susan Estrich spoke up for gender- focused feminists who "would argue that so long as women are powerless relative to men, viewing 'yes' as a sign of true consent is misguided."


I smile when friends tell me I've "moved left". I laugh out loud at what now passes for conservative on the main lines of the wingnut right.

In the name of "religion", U.S. Senators threaten to discipline judges who are not Christian activists, U.S. Representatives propose bills that would make it unconstitutional for the Supreme Court to rule on any law that is explicitly based on the word of God, and our elected representatives wish to provide pharmacists the rights to decide which patients can receive their medications quickly and conveniently and which cannot.

Wait, it gets better. The state of Kansas is proposing to redefine science so that all mythology and religion can be included under that label, just for the purpose of teaching creationism in high school science classes.

When Wendy McElroy, a self-styled ifeminists, finds the most serious problem in feminism to be the unfair treatment of men, her sisters in The Concerned Women of America agree and appoint a man to be their representative. And Ann Coulter finds her own sex naturally less intelligent.

You get the idea? Maybe Keith's lament is more polished, but then Erecto was drunk and it took me only about thirty minutes to type mine in. I bet Keith had months of agony before he finished penning his.

Now I'm going to lean back and wait for the book offers to flood my e-mail addy.

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Some Graduate

This item is a few days old but it's still worth noticing:

A pregnant student who was banned from graduation at her Roman Catholic high school announced her own name and walked across the stage anyway at the close of the program.

Alysha Cosby's decision prompted cheers and applause Tuesday from many of her fellow seniors at St. Jude Educational Institute.

But her mother and aunt were escorted out of the church by police after Cosby headed back to her seat.

The father of Cosby's child, also a senior at the school, was allowed to participate in graduation.

(Bolds mine.)

If it doesn't show it's ok. Another traditional value?
Via frogthefirst of Between the Lakes.

A Fun Science Site

This one is a nice place to spend some time looking at stuff. If you, too, happen to sit at home while it's raining outside.
Via Sanna Emilin