Monday, November 07, 2005

The Next War?

According to Raw Story, the U.S. is in the process of cutting diplomatic connections to Syria:

The United States has cut off nearly all contact with the Syrian government as the Bush administration steps up a campaign to weaken and isolate President Bashar al-Assad's regime, according to US and Syrian officials, the Boston Globe will report in Tuesday editions, RAW STORY has learned.

If true, this would be a bully strategy. Will it work? Or will we end up embroiled in another pointless war when we don't have the troops we need even now? And if we are to police all of the Middle East, why do we do nothing about Saudi Arabia? It's oil, of course, but the hypocricy smells to high heavens.

On Health Insurance

Paul Krugman's recent column in the New York Times is on the American system of providing health insurance through largely two sources: employment-tied private policies and various government programs. Both of these base their premia on large groups which offers savings compared to what you'd have to pay for a private policy outside the labor market. Which means that if your employer doesn't offer health insurance and if you don't qualify for one of the government programs (say, you are not old enough for Medicare, haven't been in the military for the VA program and aren't poor enough with enough children for Medicaid) your insurance policy will be very expensive. Hence the many uninsured working people in this country.

What we have is a patchwork quilt of coverage. If you happen to snooze under one of the cushy and thick patches you are ok. If you turn around in your sleep you may find yourself outside the quilt altogether or trying to cope under a frayed and thin patch, and what happens to you is almost completely outside your hands.

This is why we have around forty million uninsured Americans. Not all of them are poor. Some of them are too chronically ill to find affordable coverage and some are young and unable to find cheap enough coverage to reflect their beliefs that they won't fall ill any time soon. But whatever the reason for the uninsured state of these people, when they do become ill they will either suffer alone, wait too long for treatment (and then require more expensive treatments) or try to get it at hospital emergency rooms which mostly don't turn people away. All these outcomes are undesirable and the use of hospital emergency rooms as primary care is extremely wasteful and doesn't offer the continuity of care that is deemed optimal.

Note also that someone ultimately pays for the care of those who can't or won't pay for it, and that someone is largely those of us who are insured. The unpaid care is rolled into the next year's health insurance premia. So the important question isn't about paying for this care; it will get paid in any case, the question is making the health insurance system more rational so that we don't give the uninsured incentives to become even sicker or to cost us even more.

As Krugman points out, most industrialized countries do better in this respect than we do. Not that this makes any difference to the decision-makers here; I have been told more times than I can remember that the United States of America has nothing to learn from the rest of the world. Because we are, like, better. Mention that to the young woman with lupus I know whose choices today are either to go on welfare so as to qualify for a state health insurance program for the indigent or to let her parents spend all their old-age savings on her.

Two Years Old Today!

This will be the last post on my birthday celebrations (which are extensive here at the Snakepit Inc.), but you can still donate money for broadband if you wish. I blog via telephone! The button is in the right column, and everybody who gives gets good snake magic as a reward. It can be used to slither away from any awkward situation without bad consequences.

My very first blogpost was this one:

I am echidne of the snakes, a minor Greek goddess. You don't have to believe in me. Most days I don't believe in me, and most days I don't believe in any 'you' out there either.

It is the time for darkness. Today's blog will reflect that.

On politics, or the manner in which we decide on our common concerns: We don't seem to have common concerns. What you hate, I need to survive and vice versa. I hear that some states are becoming ever more Republican, other ever more Democrat. I hear that this means we are getting more polarized: on one side the damned liberals, on the other the funnymentalists. No middle ground can be yielded. I feel very lonely sometimes.

Then, at other times, I feel as if the two main parties here are nothing but Tweedledum and Tweedledee. Where's the actual difference? Like in chocolate brownies with and without nuts? Or in donations by the oil industry and the trial lawyers?

This paradox is real, of course, and yet it isn't. Each party is captive to its basic constituency: for the Republicans the business wallets and the fundamentalist reading of the Old Testament; for the Democrats the business wallets and the political correctness (whatever that might mean; nobody else seems to care what it means, so I won't define it either).
When election time approaches, the parties start oozing, imperceptibly at first, towards the center. This oozing speeds up, the topics suddenly stop being extremist nightmare proposals, and, lo and behold, by the date of election the remaining candidates look so similar that I'd swear they have been cloned. After the election, of course, back come the extremists and another round of the merry-go-round resumes.

Which shows a) that I am a melancholic and b) a politically moderate goddess. It also shows that I blogged politics from day one even though I didn't think I was doing so.

Hank, my chocolate Labrador retriever who has cancer, is doing fairly well. Her palliative radiation has helped. Yesterday we were wrestling and she got a really mean headbump into my jaw which is now all sorts of lovely colors. Henrietta, my black-and-white pointer, is writing a long thesis provisionally entitled The Liberation Of Dogs And Butt Biting Refined. She is as revolutionary as she always was and age has done nothing to relieve it. So I am hopeful for my own future.

This blog will have another year, I have decided. By then I should be a household word in this country and most of the rest of the world, too.

Sunday, November 06, 2005


The Vatican wants large families:

An Italian mother who raised 11 children moved ahead on the road to possible sainthood Sunday amid a Vatican campaign in favor of large families.

Eurosia Fabris, known as "Mamma Rosa," raised two children whose mother died while they were little, then married their father and had nine children with him.

The virtues of Fabris, who died in 1932, were honored Sunday in a beatification ceremony in Vicenza, near her native farming village in northern Italy. Beatification is the last formal step before possible sainthood.

On Wednesday, Pope Benedict XVI praised large families and called for countries to approve legislation and other incentives to help them. The pontiff has said there is no future without children.

Isn't it funny that celibate men believe they can affect these things? What has Pope Benedict XVI done to help with the baby dearth? The least these guys could do would be to offer free daycare. A more reasonable offer would be to support the children during their very expensive upbringing.

I also find it funny that Mr. Mamma Rosa isn't even mentioned, that being a father to eleven children doesn't get you beatification. But that's because it's us women who are expected to manipulate our fertility to whatever direction the powers that be would like: Breed more in Europe! Breed less in Africa! Naughty women! You never get it right.

My Blog Birthday

If you don't know what to do with all that extra money that is floating around, you could donate some to me (there is a handy donate button in the right column, though it's stuck at ten dollars, but you could donate lots of times...). For the purpose of getting broadband and as a birthday present for the blog. But if you don't have much money don't donate anything. Also don't if you have already done so. Or if you hate my guts and so on. I'm not very good at begging.

I have spent the donations so far on buying subscriptions to the Salon and to the New York Times Select. The rest I'm saving towards broadband.

On the French Riots

The best short reading of these riots is that they are like the 1960's race riots in the U.S., as Atrios suggested. The main cause for the riots is in unemployment, poverty and marginalization of the French immigrants and their descendants. The religious angle complicates things, naturally, and makes the chasms in the French society (as well as in the societies of quite a few other European countries) more dangerous to navigate. And as usual, the actual violence also has other elements, from accusations that the police are egging it on to hints that some of the arson is manufactured by drug overlords.

For these reasons I wouldn't read the events as a clash of religions or civilizations as so many right-wing bloggers do. I think that they are plugging into their own fears and add to that a lot of ignorance about the French political system. For example, it's the conservatives who are in power in France right now, not some socialists as I have read on the wingnut net.

But the civilizations of many of the recent immigrants to Europe do differ from the average European customs, and this is so especially when it comes to the treatment of women and to the cultural definition of prostitution and what is considered as sexually permitted in women. It is not unsurprising that people migrating to a new country would take with them all their cultural baggage, of course. But it does create problems, especially when immigration happens in large numbers and the incoming groups are not properly absorbed by the receiving country.

France clearly has a lot of work ahead.

Vintage Krauthammer

Krauthammer has a very excellent thirteenth century mind and I collect a lot of his columns for historical reasons. He once did a film review which praised a film for not having sex because it didn't have any women. Women in a movie = sex, see?

Now he has deigned to explain to us why Alito's argument about spousal notification in abortion cases doesn't smack at all of condescending towards women as property of men or as minor children:

Pop quiz: Which of the following abortion regulations is more restrictive, more burdensome, more likely to lead more women to forgo abortion?

(a) Requiring a minor to get the informed consent of her parents, or to get a judge to approve the abortion.

(b) Requiring a married woman to sign a form saying that she notified her husband.

Can any reasonable person have any doubt? A minor is intrinsically far more subject to the whims, anger, punishment, economic control and retribution of a parent. And the minor is required to get both parents involved in the process and to get them to agree to the abortion.

The married woman just has to inform her husband. Even less than that. She just has to sign a form saying that she informed him. No one checks. Moreover, under the Pennsylvania law I draw my example from, she could even forgo notification if she claimed that (1) he was not the father, (2) he could not be found, (3) he raped her or (4) she had reason to believe he might physically harm her. What prosecutor would subsequently dare try to prove to a jury that, say, she actually had no such fear of harm?

Remember: The question is not whether (a) or (b) is the wiser restriction. The only relevant question is which is more likely to discourage the woman from getting an abortion.

The answer is obvious.

Why is this the relevant question? Because when, in 1991, Judge Samuel Alito was asked to rule in Planned Parenthood v. Cas ey on the constitutionality of Pennsylvania's spousal notification requirement, Supreme Court precedents on abortion had held that "two-parent consent requirements" for a juvenile with "a judicial bypass option" do not constitute an "undue burden" and thus were constitutional. By any logic, therefore, spousal notification, which is far less burdensome, must also be constitutional -- based not on Alito's own preferences but on the Supreme Court's own precedents.

The situation of a married woman = the situation of a minor child, see?

"To krauthammer" should from hereon be a verb denoting the equaling of two totally unlike options to prove the angelic quality of any wingnut in trouble. And yes, Krauthammer is a sexist.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

From My Mailbag

NARAL Pro-Choice America reminds us that the Plan B emergency contraception is still unavailable over-the-counter:

Nancy Keenan, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, called on Congress to pass new legislation introduced today by Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) that would require the Food and Drug Administration to end two years of delay and make a decision on whether women may have over-the-counter access to emergency contraception.

The legislation, the "Plan B for Plan B Act," would give FDA 30 days to approve or deny the application for the Plan B emergency contraceptive, often referred to as the "morning-after pill." If the agency continues to drag its feet, the application is assumed to be approved - and women will finally have easier access to this important means of preventing unintended pregnancy.

If you live near Queens, New York, you can go and attend a show about Afghan women photographers and their photographs.

The National Women's Law Center tells you how you can legally fight sex segregation in education (a pdf file).

And Rorschach, who has an excellent taste in blogspot templates, has a story about breasts and bombs. Which is more frightening?

The Terrible Twos

My blog will be two years old on Monday. Will it start acting up and throwing temper tantrums? I'm not sure. Reading some of my early posts shows that I had no idea what I was going to do with this here blog, and some days it feels that the blog is a house, like an old beer-smelling pub, full of loud voices and even laughter. It has nothing to do with me, then. I don't explain this very well, but it is clear to me that the blog has decided to have its own life, to do its own thing, pretty much.

I started the blog for two reasons. One was the desire to force myself to write a little, the other the feeling of suffocating silence I experienced when I couldn't read enough voices like my own (booming, goddessy, correct). Both these goals have now been met, quite amply, and the internet today is rich in much better feminist writers than I can ever be. But I have developed a third reason for the blog, and that is the fun of having one, the great joy I have in the discussions that go on in the comments threads, getting to know so many intelligent and charming people. Also the adulation, of course...

The title of this post does have a point: Where should the blog go next? Will it develop a clearer personality, a deeper expertise? I love being a renaissance goddess, flittering here and there, depending on whatever gives me that inner beep that tells I want to write about it. But this is not a good marketing angle. I should specialize and give more in-depth analyses of economics (the field I know most about, but then it's boring) or I should make this into a group blog so that there is something fresh and interesting every day. Or the blog should become a real political blog, talking tactics and strategy. Or I could just ignore the marketing angles altogether, which is pretty much what I have done so far.

This is a selfish post. It is selfish to have a blog and to dare to assume that one has something worthy to blog about. The other half of me finds this post deplorable, but then that is the half that stays home when I go carousing, too, and the half that does the cleaning and vacuuming. Good old dull Echidne. Too bad that she has to be dragged through all this.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Friday Night For Bush

It's hard work being a prezdent. Hard work to get the approval ratings in the U.S. down to 35%. Hard work:

Nearly six in 10 Americans, 58%, said they had doubts about the president's honesty, a 13% rise in 18 months. Only 32% believed Mr Bush was handling ethical issues well, a significantly worse score than Bill Clinton achieved in his last scandal-besmirched year in office. His overall popularity has plunged to 39%, a new low for the Washington Post/ABC survey.

Mr Bush is no more popular in Argentina, where a protest by several thousand demonstrators turned ugly. In the coastal city of Mar del Plata, where he is attending a regional summit, protesters set fire to a bank, looted stores and battled riot police.

Earlier, the tone was struck by the former football star Diego Maradona, who wore a "Stop Bush" T-shirt to an anti-Bush "counter-summit" that drew some 4,000 protesters from around the world and easily eclipsed the official summit in the public's attention. "I'm proud as an Argentine to repudiate the presence of this human trash, George Bush," said Maradona.


The Friday Dump

Courtesy of Washington Post and Dan Froomkin:

Another shocking accusation by former administration insider Lawrence Wilkerson appears to be going under the media radar today.

On NPR yesterday, the former chief of staff to the secretary of state said that he had uncovered a "visible audit trail" tracing the practice of prisoner abuse by U.S. soldiers directly back to Vice President Cheney's office.

Here's the audio of Wilkerson's interview with Steve Inskeep. The transcript is not publicly available, but here are the relevant excerpts:

"INSKEEP: While in the government, he says he was assigned to gather documents. He traced just how Americans came to be accused of abusing prisoners. In 2002, a presidential memo had ordered that detainees be treated in a manner consistent with the Geneva Conventions that forbid torture. Wilkerson says the vice president's office pushed for a more expansive policy.

"Mr. WILKERSON: What happened was that the secretary of Defense, under the cover of the vice president's office, began to create an environment -- and this started from the very beginning when David Addington, the vice president's lawyer, was a staunch advocate of allowing the president in his capacity as commander in chief to deviate from the Geneva Conventions. Regardless of the president having put out this memo, they began to authorize procedures within the armed forces that led to, in my view, what we've seen.

"INSKEEP: We have to get more detail about that because the military will say, the Pentagon will say they've investigated this repeatedly and that all the investigations have found that the abuses were committed by a relatively small number of people at relatively low levels. What hard evidence takes those abuses up the chain of command and lands them in the vice president's office, which is where you're placing it?

"Mr. WILKERSON: I'm privy to the paperwork, both classified and unclassified, that the secretary of State asked me to assemble on how this all got started, what the audit trail was, and when I began to assemble this paperwork, which I no longer have access to, it was clear to me that there was a visible audit trail from the vice president's office through the secretary of Defense down to the commanders in the field that in carefully couched terms -- I'll give you that -- that to a soldier in the field meant two things: We're not getting enough good intelligence and you need to get that evidence, and, oh, by the way, here's some ways you probably can get it. And even some of the ways that they detailed were not in accordance with the spirit of the Geneva Conventions and the law of war.

"You just -- if you're a military man, you know that you just don't do these sorts of things because once you give just the slightest bit of leeway, there are those in the armed forces who will take advantage of that. There are those in the leadership who will feel so pressured that they have to produce intelligence that it doesn't matter whether it's actionable or not as long as they can get the volume in. They have to do what they have to do to get it, and so you've just given in essence, though you may not know it, carte blanche for a lot of problems to occur."

Get it? A visible audit trail, like the slime snails leave when they crawl across your hosta leaves in the last darkness of the night.

Added at dusk: Cheney has now officially asked for a torture exemption. He's too weak to do effective torturing. I guess he will just watch, though his 19% approval rating must feel like torture, right now.

T-Shirts For Tits

Abercrombie&Fitch used to be this weird store with stuffed rhinoceroses and toys for very rich middle-aged men, all served on antique mahogany counters. Now they sell to the teenagers. What they have recently tried to sell is t-shirts which make fun of Asians, but that didn't work out so brilliantly, so they decided instead to focus on making fun of women, mostly. This should do well as women are the ones buying most stuff.

An example of these t-shirts, which I have stolen from Amanda's post on Pandagon (where you can go to see the whole spread of available jokes) is this:

A deep statement. It could be taken at face value (in which case the breasts should be a lot bigger and preferably false) or it could be seen as a satirical joke on the society and its way of assessing women. Then there is the totally different question: How will it be taken by others who see the t-shirt around a real live wearer? That's the really important question, and I bet that most of those others will take it at face value. Or tit value.

Some of the other offerings in this line are worse, a lot worse, and some are better. But all of them are peddled by a firm for money. Abercrombie&Fitch doesn't care about women's rights as long as those include some pocket money for teenage girls.
A Post-Script: A&F have pulled the shirts off the market because of the protests linked to above.

DeLay and Abramoff

The odd e-mails between the two of them are now public:

Representative Tom DeLay asked the lobbyist Jack Abramoff to raise money for him through a private charity controlled by Mr. Abramoff, an unusual request that led the lobbyist to try to gather at least $150,000 from his Indian tribe clients and their gambling operations, according to newly disclosed e-mail from the lobbyist's files.

The electronic messages from 2002, which refer to "Tom" and "Tom's requests," appear to be the clearest evidence to date of an effort by Mr. DeLay, a Texas Republican, to pressure Mr. Abramoff and his lobbying partners to raise money for him. The e-mail messages do not specify why Mr. DeLay wanted the money, how it was to be used or why he would want money raised through the auspices of a private charity.

"Did you get the message from the guys that Tom wants us to raise some bucks from Capital Athletic Foundation?" Mr. Abramoff asked a colleague in a message on June 6, 2002, referring to the charity. "I have six clients in for $25K. I recommend we hit everyone who cares about Tom's requests. I have another few to hit still."

The e-mail was addressed to Tony Rudy, who had been Mr. DeLay's chief of staff in the House before joining Mr. Abramoff's lobbying firm. Mr. Abramoff said it would be good "if we can do $200K" for Mr. DeLay.

It was the Indian tribes who were supposed to hand out this money. For what purposes is not clear, but not for anything that would have benefited the tribes.

I have no idea if any of this is illegal but it sure looks unethical to me.

Bye, Bye Tomlinson

Bert and Ernie waving together, looking out of a Sesame Street window? Waving goodbye to Kenneth Y. Tomlinson, who has resigned his post on the board of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. The resignation, though very welcome to us rabid lefties, is largely symbolic as Tomlinson's term was to run out next January anyway.

Tomlinson was in charge of the planned wingnut takeover of the Public Broadcasting System, and as part of this venture he commissioned a study which was hilarious in its incompetency. He also carried on in other odd ways:

Despite Tomlinson's high-profile campaign, it was his behind-the-scenes moves that apparently contributed to his departure.

The CPB's inspector general has been investigating Tomlinson's practice of using agency money to hire consultants and lobbyists without notifying the agency's board. Tomlinson last year hired a little-known Indiana consultant to study the political leanings of guests on such programs as "Now With Bill Moyers" and "The Diane Rehm Show" on National Public Radio. He also hired lobbyists to defeat legislation that would have changed how CPB's board is structured.

The inspector, Kenneth Konz, also had been looking into whether Tomlinson violated agency procedures in his recruiting of former Republican National Committee co-chairman Patricia de Stacy Harrison to be CPB's chief executive, and into possible White House influence in the hiring of two in-house ombudsmen to critique news programs on NPR and PBS.

Konz delivered his preliminary findings to CPB's board Tuesday night, but the report will not be made public until midmonth.

In announcing Tomlinson's departure yesterday, the CPB added a curious addendum: "The board does not believe that Mr. Tomlinson acted maliciously or with any intent to harm CPB or public broadcasting, and the board recognizes that Mr. Tomlinson strongly disputes the findings in the soon-to-be-released Inspector General's report. The board expresses its disappointment in the performance of former key staff whose responsibility it was to advise the board and its members."

Mysterious, isn't it?

It may be too late to save the PBS. At least my local station has been taken over fairly completely. I recently listened to an evening of solid wingnuttery. I can get this from any commercial network without the pretense of erudition. And the CPB is still firmly in the claws of wingnuts: the new chairwoman, Cheryl F. Halpern, is a long-time contributor to the Republicans.

Thursday, November 03, 2005


Think Progress has put together some of Alito's colleagues criticisms of him. For example:

"[Judge Alito's] position would immunize an employer from the reach of Title VII if the employer's belief that it had selected the 'best' candidate, was the result of conscious racial bias. . . . Title VII would be eviscerated if our analysis were to halt where [Judge Alito's] dissent suggests." (Bray v. Marriott Hotels, 1997) (Judge Theodore McKee)

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act is all we have on the federal level to stop employers from being bigots in hiring and firing if they so wish. Title VII applies both to race and gender. That the soft-spoken and gentle Alito doesn't think much of it should send shivers down your spine.

Biographies of Women

Last time I visited a brick bookstore I bought two biographies to read, one on Lucrezia Borgia (Sarah Bradford: Lucrezia Borgia) and one on Florence Nightingale (Gillian Gill: Nightingales). They have now both been read as can be seen from the wrinkled shape of the books (I read in the bath).

Biographies are not my favorite reading because the endings are always so sad, but there is something to learn from studying individual famous lives and especially so when the individual in question is a woman. This is because only by reading lots of biographies of famous vomen does it become clear why there are so few of them. Talk about being a sheet going through the mangle!

The juxtaposition of Lucrezia and Florence is interesting in its own right. Here we have two famous women from the opposite edges of the customary moral dimension: a murderess/sexual devourer/hapless victim of male power (Lucrezia) and the lady with the lamp/angel/asexual prude (Florence). These are myths, of course, and myths very much conditioned on the femaleness of the subjects. What the truth was will probably never be known for sure, but I'd be willing to bet that Florence and Lucrezia were both much more complicated human beings than that.

These biographies reveal some of those complications. Take Lucrezia, for example. It is true that she was a member of the infamous Borgia family and that Cesare Borgia, her brother, really was quite a monster who, among other things, traded her sister off for various political reasons. But Lucrezia was not a bad politician herself. Macchiavelli in The Prince praised Cesare Borgia's political skills to heavens. What he didn't point out much was the fact that Cesare ended up being totally demolished, imprisoned and dead fairly young. Lucrezia outlived him and died in power (though still young while giving birth). She was at least as able at playing the diplomatic games as her brother. And not a single murder can be attributed to her.

Florence was a mathematician, a statistician and a formidable intelligence. She knew how hard it was for a woman with these skills to succeed during the Victorian era, and she did what was necessary to do it. Hence the nursing career, the focus on helping others and the asexual lifestyle, though her desire to help others was certainly real enough, given her religious views.

What struck me after finishing the books was how similar the two stories really were. The major theme in both of them is the strength of the societal straightjacket that was fitted on these women and their cleverness in re-tailoring it here and there to get more freedom. When we remember that these are the stories of the rare women who were born into wealthy families and received an education, well, it becomes stunningly obvious why the Lucrezias and Florences of the history are so rare.

Biographies are not the stories of the person portrayed, though. They tell us at least as much about the biographer and the available sources, and whether we get a new biography of some famous person depends on the fashions of the time. But even with these warnings in mind it's not a bad way to spend a bathing hour with Lucrezia or Florence.

No Filibuster for Scalito?

Ben Nelson thinks Alito is just a dandy guy. Nelson is one of those so-called moderate Democrats (wingnuts-on-a-diet). He is part of the 'Gang of Fourteen', the people in the middle who decide if a filibuster would work or not. Of course, Nelson will never need to worry about whether he will need an abortion or whether he will be regarded as property of his wife.

So will Scalito be filibustered? It all depends on what the politicians think the consequences are. Politicians are one of the most frightened species on earth, especially the Democratic type, and they will not do anything that might make the mythical undecided voter angry. This is in sharp contrast to the wingnut variant of the species: they are also very afraid but this time of their base. Who would blame them, really. We, the Democratic base, are kind and intelligent people who would never torture someone. They, the Republican base, are...wingnuts.

But I do think that the Democratic base has been ignored for far too long, and if we don't get some attention soon we might just not turn up to vote in 2006.

Cousin Anger Came To Tea

A long time ago I wrote an excellent bad poem about anger. It goes something like this:

Cousin Anger came to tea
She is petrified
She speaks of violence
in my silence
She makes me terrified

She makes me cry
(Papa knows why)
I cannot force her
to use a saucer
She is so undignified

I wish she'd end her visit
And let me close the room
Her lineage is illicit
Her manners spell my doom
She must be made to go
without my telling so.

Well, it seems that cousin Anger might have had the goods, after all. A new study (to be viewed with the same scepticism as all such studies) suggests that anger is a healthier reaction to stress than fear:

People who respond to stressful situations with short-term anger or indignation have a sense of control and optimism that lacks in those who respond with fear.

"These are the most exciting data I've ever collected," Carnegie Mellon psychologist Jennifer Lerner told a gathering of science writers here last month.

Lerner harassed 92 UCLA students by having experimenters ask subjects to count backward on camera by 13s starting with an odd number like 6,233, telling them it was an intelligence test and then telling them they weren't counting fast enough and to speed it up as they went along.

Wrong answers meant subjects had to start all over again.

Another test involved counting backwards by sevens from 9,095.

So angry …

The video cameras caught subjects' facial expressions during the tests, ranging from deer-in-the-headlights to seriously upset. The researchers identified fear, anger and disgust using a psychologist's coding system that considers the flexing of particular sets of small muscles in the face.

The researchers also recorded people's blood pressure, pulse and secretion of a high-stress hormone called cortisol, which can be measured in the saliva and collected with a cotton swab.

The people whose faces showed more fear during the had higher blood pressure and higher levels of the hormone. The findings were the same for men and women.

Lerner previously studied Americans' emotional response to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks two months afterward and found that anger triggers feelings of certainty and control. People who reacted with anger were more optimistic about risk and more likely to favor an aggressive response to terrorism.

The snag is, of course, that we are not really easily able to decide if we should feel anger over fear or not. But I have decided that these news give me the permission to be angry at weird wingnuts.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Trophy Husbands

Trophy wives are common as dirt and not interesting to write about. I am going to start a new trend: that of collecting trophy husbands. Not even eBay knows about it yet. Personally, I like to keep mine lined up on the mantelpiece, especially right around the Christmas time when they can serve double-duty as Christmas stocking holder.

But I really should write about this new trend in the way of the great columnists of the New York Times. That is the way to become famous. Let's see it it works:

Jolanda Matriarcha, a 26-year old corporate stylist clad in Prada and a vintage bikini, shrugs her golden shoulders when I ask her if keeping trophy husbands ruins the Western Civilization: "Duh. Everybody knows that women have multiple orgasms and need multiple penises. It's in our genes." She gets into her SUV, full of young, handsome men and drives off.

I turn around and think about the research of O. Gasp, a famous evolutionary psychologist who has spent a lifetime on the theory of Multiple Orgasms as the reason why women can't keep their fingers off all those male bodies. Dr. Gasp, well known in the cocktail circuit, tells me this: "Women are gatherers. They gather in multiples: turnips, diamonds, men. Sad, of course, but we must be brave and accept these scientific findings."

Stud Pippins, a 30-year old stockbroker, is working out at Hulks Are Us, a popular mid-Manhattan health club for Trophy Men. His Rolex is steamed over with the testosterone-laden air of the place and Stud's hundredth smooth push-up leaves his torso gleaming. He wipes it dry with a Ralph Lauren teatowel as he muses on his life as the Fourth Trophy of Gloria X: "Gloria is really good to me. I have my own room and I can go out with the guys whenever I want to. And we Trophies have all that male bonding in the house and more time to watch football and drink beer. It's a good life."

What would Stud's father say about his son's life? Would he wonder if he shouldn't have given Stud the book "Every Seventh Night of Your Wife" to his thirteen-year old son? Did he think that the Men's Rights movement of the 1990's would make Stud's life different? Would let him be the Only Husband? Or did he know better than all that?

I shrug my Chanel-covered shoulders as I walk past all the three-million dollar McManors in which male trophy orgies are right now taking place. The rain falls down gently as I ask myself: "What was the point?"

Scalito and the Polls

Americans polled about Alito don't know very much about him yet (wait until we bloggers get going), but they do know one thing:

If it becomes clear Alito would vote to reverse Roe v. Wade, Americans would not want the Senate to confirm him, by 53% to 37%.

Rose Alito, Samuel's mother, has told us all we need to know then:

Rose Alito, the mother of Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito, told the Associated Press that "of course" her son is "against abortion."

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Closed Session

The Democrats have forced the Senate into a closed session to question the Iraq intelligence that was used before Bush initiated the war:

"They have repeatedly chosen to protect the Republican administration rather than get to the bottom of what happened and why," Democratic leader Harry Reid said.

Taken by surprise, Republicans derided the move as a political stunt.

"The United States Senate has been hijacked by the Democratic leadership," said Majority Leader Bill Frist. "They have no convictions, they have no principles, they have no ideas," the Republican leader said.

In a speech on the Senate floor, Reid demanded the Senate go into closed session. The public was ordered out of the chamber, the lights were dimmed, and the doors were closed. No vote is required in such circumstances.

Reid's move shone a spotlight on the continuing controversy over intelligence that President Bush cited in the run-up to the war in Iraq. Despite prewar claims, no weapons of mass destruction have been found in Iraq, and some Democrats have accused the administration of manipulating the information that was in their possession.

Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, was indicted last Friday in an investigation that touched on the war, the leak of the identity of a CIA official married to a critic of the administration's Iraq policy.

"The Libby indictment provides a window into what this is really all about, how this administration manufactured and manipulated intelligence in order to sell the war in Iraq and attempted to destroy those who dared to challenge its actions," Reid said before invoking Senate rules that led to the closed session.

This is the sort of thing one does in a one-party system in order to get any kind of scrutiny going. It was about time for the Democrats to do something, and this has the additional advantage of being enjoyable to watch. Did you see Frist's temper tantrum?

What An Odd Coincidence

Gilead, the wingnut world of Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale, is also the name of a company which owns the rights to Tamiflu. Tamiflu may be one of the only treatments for any avian flu pandemic; may be, because the virus could mutate into a form that is not amenable to Tamiflu. But right now many people are hoarding the medication, in the hope that they are safe from dying when/if the pandemic strikes. This hoarding causes shortages for those people who get the run-of-the-mill flu this winter.

But it has also raised the value of Gilead stock. Donald Rumsfeld owns lots of this stock:

Rumsfeld served as Gilead (Research)'s chairman from 1997 until he joined the Bush administration in 2001, and he still holds a Gilead stake valued at between $5 million and $25 million, according to federal financial disclosures filed by Rumsfeld.

The forms don't reveal the exact number of shares Rumsfeld owns, but in the past six months fears of a pandemic and the ensuing scramble for Tamiflu have sent Gilead's stock from $35 to $47. That's made the Pentagon chief, already one of the wealthiest members of the Bush cabinet, at least $1 million richer.

Rumsfeld isn't the only political heavyweight benefiting from demand for Tamiflu, which is manufactured and marketed by Swiss pharma giant Roche. (Gilead receives a royalty from Roche equaling about 10% of sales.) Former Secretary of State George Shultz, who is on Gilead's board, has sold more than $7 million worth of Gilead since the beginning of 2005.

Another board member is the wife of former California Gov. Pete Wilson.

Interesting, and it puts Rumsfeld into a tricky (though affluent) situation:

What's more, the federal government is emerging as one of the world's biggest customers for Tamiflu. In July, the Pentagon ordered $58 million worth of the treatment for U.S. troops around the world, and Congress is considering a multi-billion dollar purchase. Roche expects 2005 sales for Tamiflu to be about $1 billion, compared with $258 million in 2004.

Just coincidences, and Rumsfeld has done nothing wrong here. But it's odd to see the other side of a possible global health crisis. Someone will benefit from it.
Link from smalfish

Bush's Gift to Women

The longer my thoughts linger over the appointment of Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court the more aghast I become at what this tells about our president and his views on women:

Remember that the vacant seat belonged to the first woman to sit on the Supreme Court. Now that symbolic seat is offered to a man whose judicial past indicates that he would not only be willing to strike down women's rights for reproductive choice but also reduce the government's ability to keep sex discrimination in employment illegal:

You'll hear a lot about some of Alito's other decisions in the coming days, including his vote to limit Congress' power to ban even machine-gun possession, and his ruling that broadened police search powers to include the right to strip-search a drug dealer's wife and 10-year-old daughter—although they were not mentioned in the search warrant. He upheld a Christmas display against an Establishment Clause challenge. His prior rulings show that he would raise the barriers for victims of sex discrimination to seek redress in the courts. He would change the standard for analyzing race discrimination claims to such an extent that his colleagues on the court of appeals fretted that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, which prohibits employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin, would be "eviscerated" under his view of the law. He sought to narrow the Family and Medical Leave Act such that states would be immune from suit—a position the Supreme Court later rejected. In an antitrust case involving the Scotch tape giant 3M, he took a position described by a colleague as likely to weaken a provision of the Sherman Antitrust Act to "the point of impotence."

And he has indicated that his view of women and children is at least partly as property of men:

In Doe v. Groody, Alito agued that police officers had not violated constitutional rights when they strip searched a mother and her ten-year-old daughter while carrying out a search warrant that authorized only the search of a man and his home. [Doe v. Groody, 2004]

This is outrageous. This is an insult against all American women, even the ones who are pro-life. Women have just been treated like dirt by the president of this country. While he kowtows to the radical cleric wing of his base (what wing? they are his base) he is making this country a worse place for all women, not only his own wife and daughters.
Read this Kos diary to see what Alito might mean for young women in this country. Or this diary. Then remember that similar diaries could be written about the women who might be denied employment or promotions on discriminatory grounds, yet have little access to judicial remedies.