Saturday, December 17, 2005

The Czar of All America

Is it an accident that he is portrayed in front of a picture that looks like a lone cowboy? He seems to have taken the role of the lone cowboy, fighting evil all on his own, without the support or protection of laws. Too bad that he's the president of the country and can't do that sort of thing. Well, I think that he can't do it, but he thinks that he can do whatever the hell he wants to:

President Bush acknowledged on Saturday that he had ordered the National Security Agency to conduct an electronic eavesdropping program in the United States without first obtaining warrants, and said he would continue the highly classified program because it was "a vital tool in our war against the terrorists."

In an unusual step, Mr. Bush delivered a live weekly radio address from the White House in which he defended his action as "fully consistent with my constitutional responsibilities and authorities." He also lashed out at senators - both Democrats and Republicans - who voted on Friday to block the reauthorization of the USA Patriot Act, which expanded the president's power to conduct surveillance, with warrants, in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks.

The revelation that Mr. Bush had secretly instructed the security agency to intercept the communications of Americans and suspected terrorists inside the United States, without first obtaining warrants from a secret court that oversees intelligence matters, was cited by several senators as a reason for their vote.

"In the war on terror, we cannot afford to be without this law for a single moment," Mr. Bush said forcefully from behind a lectern in the Roosevelt Room, next to the Oval Office. The White House invited cameras in, guaranteeing television coverage.

We cannot afford to be without "this" law for a single moment, but the president can decide to dispense with other laws at his own convenience. Like in ordering people within the United States to be wiretapped/wiretrapped without a court order. The laws are for the little people, it seems.

Bush's strategy is the expected one: He will simply deny having done anything wrong. He will raise the specter of fear and terror and he will argue that 911 changed everything. This country is now a playground for George Bush and whatever he says must be. The Russian czars ruled like that. But even they didn't have the right to keep the country in a war indefinitely as an excuse for the suspension of various civil rights, and it seems, the suspension of reality.

For what Bush did was indeed wrong:

But, by ordering the wiretaps directly, Bush may have violated laws requiring the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to sign off on intelligence surveillance on American soil.

People within the borders of the U.S. are typically protected from this kind of government activity by the Fourth Amendment, which reads in part: "The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation ..."

The nation's largest civil liberties group flatly labeled the program illegal.

"Eavesdropping on conversations of U.S citizens and others in the United States without a court order and without complying with the procedures of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act is both illegal and unconstitutional," said Caroline Fredrickson, director of the American Civil Liberties Union's Washington Legislative Office, in a written release. "The administration is claiming extraordinary presidential powers at the expense of civil liberties and is putting the president above the law," she said.

Fredrickson called on Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez to appoint a special prosecutor to look into the program and said that "Congress must investigate this report thoroughly."

One top Senator and member of Bush's own party vowed to do just that.

The wiretaps are "wrong, clearly and categorically wrong,'' said Sen. Arlen Specter, a Pennsylvania Republican, quoted in various wire reports.

Specter, who chairs the Judiciary Committee, promised that a Senate probe of Bush's actions will begin "as soon as we can get to it in the new year -- a very, very high priority item.''

And note that Bush could have used the existing laws to wiretap those with clear Al Queada connections by simply using the secret court orders. He didn't want to bother with that, because he is the czar of all America. And that is what is really frightening of this whole situation; not the terror or the fear but the good likelihood that our whole democracy, such as it is, but with some balances and checks built in, will be allowed to go down the drain of fear, terror and czarism.

Saturday Doggy Blogging

And very happy dogs they are, because the white cool stuff came down from the skies. Sniffing is more interesting through it. So is leaping around like a crazed bunny rabbit or two. But then it's nice to go into the warm lair and chew on a frog or two if you are Hank. If you are Henrietta you will spend the time more productively by pondering some deep philosophical dilemmas.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Hair-Pulling Thought For The Day

Remember the New York Times article that told us about Bush eavesdropping on us, possibly illegally? Remember this part of it:

The White House asked The New York Times not to publish this article, arguing that it could jeopardize continuing investigations and alert would-be terrorists that they might be under scrutiny. After meeting with senior administration officials to hear their concerns, the newspaper delayed publication for a year to conduct additional reporting. Some information that administration officials argued could be useful to terrorists has been omitted.

Now comes the hair-pulling part: Did the New York Times know about this before the 2004 elections? If so, how did they justify keeping it secret from the voters?

Fashion News

The radical religious right is not opposed to women's fashions, as long as they are demure and properly dignified. In Bangladesh it means this:

A banned Islamist militant group blamed for a series of bombings in Bangladesh has threatened to kill women, including non-Muslims, if they do not wear the veil, a statement said.

The statement by the Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen came hours after Thursday's suicide bomb attack in a northen town that killed at least eight people, the latest of a series of blasts blamed on militant groups in their campaign for an Islamic state.

"Women will be killed if they are found to move around without wearing burqa (veil) from the first day of Jilhaj," the Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen said in the statement sent to a Dhaka newspaper office.

Jilhaj refers to the Arabic month beginning early January.

"Women, including non-Muslims, are hereby advised not to go out of home without burqa. Seclusion has been made compulsory for you," said the statement in Bangla language, a copy of which was obtained by Reuters on Friday.

In the United States matters are much more degenerate, natch. This is, after all, the corrupt West. So women can even go swimming, provided that they are demurely covered, like this.

I wonder about the god of all those fundamentalists. Why did he create women so awkwardly that they must always be covered? Or rather, why do the followers of this god believe that they know better than the supposed creator of all those sinfully attractive women? And what about the alternative, and simple, idea of having those men who are bothered by women's bodies avert their eyes as modesty requires?

But then the alternatives in women's fashions stink, too. Not into burqas or Victorian swimwear? Then how about wearing nothing but a corset, a G-string and high-heeled stilettos? If this doesn't look good we can build your breasts up artificially and cut off the toes that stick out of the shoes. Even here it's the female body that is somehow wrong.

Sometimes these seem the only choices:

It's a good thing I'm naturally covered with snake scales.

The Koufax Awards

These are the awards of the lefty blogosphere. You can nominate blogs in various categories, such as the best professional blog, the best group blog, the best overall blog and the best new blog. They don't have a category for divine bloggers which is too bad because I'd do well in that category: not much competition. As things are, well, you could nominate me for writing fairly legibly in a second language. Couldn't you?

I hate this stuff, I really do. But marketing is soooo important.

Pro-Life Objectivity

The posted about South Dakota's Abortion Task Force Report a few days ago:

South Dakota's abortion task force has completed its report. Its introduction states that "the unborn child from the moment of conception is a whole separate human being."

And it gets worse. Because, of 17 task force members, only two were pro-choice (State Sen. Stan Adelstein and Planned Parenthood's Kate Looby). Among the other members are a representative of the Catholic Diocese of Sioux Falls, seven anti-choice state legislators, and a chiropractor whose wife runs the largest "crisis pregnancy center" in the state. The pro-choicers were not allowed to submit a minority report.

So what does the task force recommend the state legislature do to reduce the number of abortions?

* Amend the State Constitution to provide the unborn child, from the moment of conception, with the same protection of the law that the child receives after birth and also provide protections for the mother-child relationship. (In other words, criminalize abortion.)

The other recommendations are similar or worse, and equally poorly thought out. To give an example of the problems, note that this recommendation could get a woman sued for child abuse if she gets treated for some serious illness while pregnant (giving a minor illegal drugs). She might also be legally banned from entering any space in which children are not allowed (bars, casinos and places of work where children are not allowed).

The whole report makes interesting reading. Here is what it says about rape and incest in the context of abortions:

Since abortion advocates so often explain the need for legalized abortion by pointing to the pregnancies that result from rape and incest, the Task Force finds that it is appropriate to address this issue briefly.

Dr. J.C. Willke, founder of the Right to Life organization and President of the International Right to Life, testified before the Task Force on September 21, 2005. Dr. Willke noted that only approximately 0.01% of rapes result in a pregnancy. In his book, he writes: "We must approach this with great compassion. The woman has been subjected to an ugly trauma, and she needs love, support and help. But she has been the victim of one violent act. Should we now ask her to be a party to a second
violent act - that of abortion? Reporting the rape to a law enforcement agency is needed." (Willke, Why Can't We Love Them Both, p. 263, 2003). (See Section III of this report for suggested legislation in regarding reporting illegal sexual activity.)

Dr. Donald Oliver is a pediatrician who has practiced in Rapid City, South Dakota, for 25 years and who is board certified with the National Board of Medical Examiners and American Board of Pediatrics. In telephone testimony to the Task Force, Dr. Oliver said, "I was asked to share some genetic information with you regarding the issue of incest. As many of you are aware, the union of two closely related people may result in an infant with genetic deformities or retardation. That is why in the United States we have laws against close relatives marrying. What you may not be aware of is that deformities and/or retardation occur in the smallest minorities of these instances. Ninety-seven percent of the time, these children are normal."
"Just two months ago, I personally took care of a baby boy born to a very young teenage mother who was allegedly raped by her brother. So here we have the two scenarios brought forth most often by those on the pro-abortion side, rape and incest. This brave young lady carried her child to term and delivered a healthy normal boy. Here is an interesting fact that you may not be aware of. Just as two bad genes might pair up and lead to an unfortunate outcome, two good genes can pair up, and the infant of this incestuous relationship, may become the brightest person in the family—sometimes in the genius range of intellect. They are normal children at least 97 to 98 percent of the time. This young teenage mother that I just spoke of, when she found out she was pregnant, felt that besides herself, the only other really innocent person in this sad situation was her baby, and he certainly didn't deserve capital punishment for her brother's sins. What great insight for someone so young! I wonder how many employees of Planned Parenthood would have encouraged and supported this young lady's courage to choose life for her newborn son."

Wow. I never realized that I could have created a genius by having sex with my brother. What you learn from an abortion report! I also didn't realize that getting raped is almost like automatic contraception!

All this wetted my curiosity. I had to find out more about this South Dakota Abortion Task Force and its members. Here is Dr. Allen Unruh, a chiropractor whose wife runs a crisis pregnancy center:

What I have found interesting is the people who are abortion advocates have tried to suppress testimony from women who have had abortions calling it anecdotal evidence. But that's where the rubber meets the road: how abortion affects real people. Hitler said, "One death is a tragedy, a million is merely a statistic." We're not just compiling statistics. The evidence is overwhelming on the devastating effects of abortion on this great country. Let us pray that the SD Legislature will weigh this evidence and do their duty according to principle in the best interest for the people of SD.

You will hear from those on the task force who are pro-abortion that they are a minority on this committee. I would remind you that the purpose of the legislature was to research and discover, based on new evidence what the consequences of abortion really are. It was not to weigh this committee with a majority who would purposely deny, and discredit the evidence every way they know how. Only the truth will gain freedom for the unborn and all those who have been victims of abortion.

This committee has taken its job very seriously and the report will represent a painstaking effort which is unprecedented on this issue. It has been an honor to be on this committee to hear this testimony. It is a huge responsibility to make sure this report reveals the truth about abortion and how abortion has affected this country.

For the sake of South Dakotans I hope that Dr. Unruh is a better physician than he is a writer or a thinker, though to be fair to Dr. Unruh, he never argues that the report was objective, only that it was "painstaking" in revealing the "truth" about abortion.

What about the two pro-choice members of the Task Force? One of them, Stan Adelstein, tells us a little more about what took place during the Task Force meetings. Here he is discussing the issue with Elizabeth Kraus, the only woman (!) who was involved in writing the Report, and an avid pro-lifer:

Adelstein supported two resolutions offered by Dr. Marty Allison, chairwoman of the panel, which were defeated.

One would have supported a ban on abortion except in cases where there was "undue and serious risk to the health or life" of the women; where the child "would have no medically accepted possibility of surviving birth or early infancy;" and in cases of rape and incest.

"I tried to do exactly the same thing," Adelstein said, referring to legislation he has proposed in the past. "I just wish I had used her words. She did it as a doctor, and I did it as an engineer."

Kraus said the question of health of the woman has become "too broad." She also said that instances of rape and incest "are extremely rare." And she said, "There are so many people waiting to adopt."

The other resolution called for a "comprehensive sex- education curriculum … with a strong emphasis on abstinence" with the goal of preventing pregnancies.

"This was a wonderful amendment," Adelstein said. "There is not a single reference to sex education and reductions of abortions. Abortions could be reduced through education," he said.

Kraus characterized the proposal as "not bad" but said that there is no definition of comprehensive.

"We all agree with abstinence as a message," she said. "I'm not against sex education that is within boundaries that parents can agree on. … Parents need to be involved in sex-education material in the schools."

Adelstein said that a walk-out last week by some task force members — including him — in protest of the defeat of several amendments might not have happened "if a minority report had been allowed."

"They basically weren't going to listen to anything," he said.

Kraus said the proposals were "out of the reasonable thinking of most people of South Dakota."

This, my dear readers, might be the new definition of objectivity in the faith-based society. A painstaking and careful attempt to present one-sided information and to stomp the opposition into silence. You might be interested in learning that the possible health risks of abortion are widely discussed but delivering a child is apparently without any risks whatsoever. Or that all the "victim statements" of abortion sufferers came through one person in Texas. Or that the Report argues for abstinence-only education in the Brave New World that would be created if its other recommendations are followed. Imagine that: you can give birth to a baby because your brother raped you but you can't learn about condoms.

Not all South Dakotans are crazy, of course. Those who are not have inquired about the obvious lack of objectivity in the Report. Here is how Brock Greenfield, another Task Force member, responds to such worries:

Sen. Brock Greenfield, R-Clark, another member of the task force, said the report accurately reflects the testimony and written evidence the panel received during its meetings in recent months.

"As I took in the testimony and made many, many notes, it was evident to me the act of abortion has significantly hurt women and families," said Greenfield, who is also director of South Dakota Right to Life.

"For people to suggest there was no objectivity, that it was a preconceived or predetermined outcome, is a little disingenuous to the process," Greenfield said.



Have you ever wondered what the origin of this term might be? I like this explanation the best:

Eavesdropping: To be caught eavesdropping implies that a person has been deliberately trying to overhear a conversation not intended for their ears. The word and its implication go back centuries to the time when most houses had no gutters; the rain dripped off the roofs but the roofs themselves projected well beyond the walls. This area inside where the water dripped was known originally as the Eavesdrip and later as the Eavesdrop. People sheltering here were somewhat protected from the rain,but could also overhear what was going on in the house.

Now guess who might be eavesdropping on you. That's right, our government:

Months after the Sept. 11 attacks, President Bush secretly authorized the National Security Agency to eavesdrop on Americans and others inside the United States to search for evidence of terrorist activity without the court-approved warrants ordinarily required for domestic spying, according to government officials.

Under a presidential order signed in 2002, the intelligence agency has monitored the international telephone calls and international e-mail messages of hundreds, perhaps thousands, of people inside the United States without warrants over the past three years in an effort to track possible "dirty numbers" linked to Al Qaeda, the officials said. The agency, they said, still seeks warrants to monitor entirely domestic communications.

The previously undisclosed decision to permit some eavesdropping inside the country without court approval represents a major shift in American intelligence-gathering practices, particularly for the National Security Agency, whose mission is to spy on communications abroad. As a result, some officials familiar with the continuing operation have questioned whether the surveillance has stretched, if not crossed, constitutional limits on legal searches.

I think the correct reaction to this in the new faith-based U.S. would be either "duh" or "whatever". Though this bit in the NYT article does raise my eyebrows:

The White House asked The New York Times not to publish this article, arguing that it could jeopardize continuing investigations and alert would-be terrorists that they might be under scrutiny. After meeting with senior administration officials to hear their concerns, the newspaper delayed publication for a year to conduct additional reporting. Some information that administration officials argued could be useful to terrorists has been omitted.

What else do you think they are holding back from us peons?

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Slippery Eels

There are some men just too difficult to catch. Like Osama bin Laden (remember him?). And also, it seems, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. Well, to be precise, he may have been caught but not for long:

Iraqi security forces caught the most wanted man in the country last year, but released him because they didn't know who he was, the Iraqi deputy minister of interior said Thursday.

Hussain Kamal confirmed that Abu Musab al-Zarqawi -- the al Qaeda in Iraq leader who has a $25 million bounty on his head -- was in custody at some point last year, but he wouldn't provide further details.

A U.S. official couldn't confirm the report, but said he wouldn't dismiss it.

"It is plausible," he said.

Thursday's news tops a list of reports of missed opportunities to capture the 39-year-old terrorist mastermind. An official said the military receives frequent reports of al-Zarqawi sightings, all of which are investigated. (View profile on al-Zarqawi)

In April, U.S. troops stormed a hospital in Ramadi based on credible intelligence that terrorists were hiding there, but no suspects were found, military officials said in early May.

A high-ranking Iraqi Army officer said there were rumors that al-Zarqawi was at the Ramadi medical center, and several groups affiliated with the al Qaeda operative issued statements saying the same.

Iraqi Lt. Gen. Nasser Abadi said Thursday that al-Zarqawi was taken to the hospital. He added that he didn't believe Kamal's report was correct.

"When we got the news, we rushed there, but he was out of there," the general said.

The Jordanian-born al-Zarqawi was almost captured in February, too, after troops received a tip that he was heading to a meeting in Ramadi, said Pentagon officials speaking on condition of anonymity.

What does this remind me of? This:

Macavity's a Mystery Cat: he's called the Hidden Paw--
For he's the master criminal who can defy the Law.
He's the bafflement of Scotland Yard, the Flying Squad's despair:
For when they reach the scene of crime--Macavity's not there!

Macavity, Macavity, there's no on like Macavity,
He's broken every human law, he breaks the law of gravity.
His powers of levitation would make a fakir stare,
And when you reach the scene of crime--Macavity's not there!
You may seek him in the basement, you may look up in the air--
But I tell you once and once again, Macavity's not there!

Except that Eliot wrote about something fun and al-Zarqawi is not. Still, the bumbling of the authorities here is very similar to the way it is described in the poem. Now how did I get from eels to cats? Hmm.

On The Iraq Elections

I hope that they will go extremely well and that the Iraqis choose widely, though I still think that they are going to have a civil war first and then an Islamic theocracy. This is bad news for women and all non-muslim Iraqis. But I really hope that I am overly pessimistic and that the elections are a great success for everyone. Whatever that means.

Meanwhile, in the other budding theocracy here at home, a wingnut has sought a U.S. House of Representatives passage to a resolution expressing support for the symbols and traditions of Christmas. Because, as you may remember, the wingnuts (who are in power) are oppressed by the rest of us who have nothing better to do with our time than attack Christmas. Sigh.

Just For Fun

I stole this one via Ruenil:


It's not good news for Rumsfeld that Bush thinks:

"He's done a heck of a job. He's conducted two wars, and at the same time is out to transfer my military from a military that was constructed for the post-Cold War to one that is going to be constructed to fight terrorism."

Remember who the last person was that got this accolade from Bush? Yep, it was Brownie of the FEMA disaster fame.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

This Week's Most Inane Quote

Comes from a review of the movie "Syriana":

Still, if it is going to say anything, then it ought to say something smart and timely. But, the cynicism of "Syriana" is out of time and place, a homage to John le Carre, who himself is dated. To read George Packer's "The Assassin's Gate" is to be reminded that the Iraq war is not the product of oil avarice, or CIA evil, but of a surfeit of altruism, a naive compulsion to do good. That entire collection of neo- and retro-conservatives -- George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld and particularly Paul Wolfowitz -- made war not for oil or for empire but to end the horror of Saddam Hussein and, yes, reorder the Middle East.

They were inept. They were duplicitous. They were awesomely incompetent, and, in the case of Bush, they were monumentally ignorant and incurious, but they did not give a damn for oil or empire. This is why so many liberals, myself included, originally supported the war. It engaged us emotionally. It seemed . . . well, right -- a just cause.

Now I can't get the image of these bumbling, duplicitous, incompetent do-gooders out of my head. Being cynical is so out-dated, don't you know. All people in the know are into starry-eyed naivete. Ho, ho.


Are you happy? The reason I'm asking is that my posts for some time now have been either angry, grumpy or sulky. Not happy at all. I can do whiny, if I try, but I don't think I can do happy. They begin to sound like the seven dwarves...

Which naturally leads me to fairy tales. Most of this world's wisdom is somewhere in a fairy tale and so are most of this world's follies and biases. The Emperor's New Clothes told us all we needed to know about George Bush and the American public long before the emperor himself admitted that he was bare-bottomed (which happened today), and the Princess and the Pea is a precise psychoanalysis of me as a feminist blogger. Every single misogynistic pea leaves a bruise on me unless I blog about it.

Maybe that is the reason why I don't have more happy posts? When I'm all happy I'm not going to sit down and type away for hours, am I? I'll be out carousing with my muse. He is happy, by the way, mostly because he is as thick as a board though a lot more handsome. As muses go I could have done worse.

That's about as happy as I can manage today. Because I just remembered the main thesis of fairy tales: the glorification of female passivity. Just think of the Sleeping Beauty or Rapunzel in her tower or the Snow-White in her coffin. All waiting for the prince to come and rescue them, and to what purpose? At least Cinderella went to the ball, but even she then had to wait for someone to come and offer her the glass slipper.

The fairy tales always end with everybody living happily ever after, but the story isn't telling us how that can be managed. Maybe because happiness is boring and not easy to write about?

Mea Culpa

Finally George Bush takes the blame for the "faulty" intelligence that supposedly made him attack Iraq:

President Bush accepted responsibility on Wednesday for going to war with faulty intelligence, but firmly defended a decision that has deeply divided the country. "We cannot and will not leave Iraq until victory is achieved," he said.

"It is true that much of the intelligence turned out to be wrong. As president I am responsible for the decision to go into Iraq," the president told a foreign policy forum on the eve of elections to establish Iraq's first permanent, democratically elected government. "And I'm also responsible for fixing what went wrong by reforming our intelligence capabilities. And we're doing just that."

What a mess. We have broken into the wrong house and totalled its contents. Some of the inhabitants lie dead or bleeding. And now we are just going to do what? Put the chairs back up and prop the corpses on them, close the door and leave? Say we are sorry?

The elections better be good.

The Token Woman

Amanda at Pandagon has an excellent post on the perks of being the token woman, the only one admitted to the boys' treehouse, the one, who like Pallas Athene, burst out of the Father's head without any of that feminine slime attached to her. The one who is "one of the guys".

Not all token women are honorary males, of course. Some are just put into the slot which tells the rest of the world how egalitarian some organization is. Look! We hire women here! Or at least one woman. If she happens to be a minority woman, so much better. More slots will remain free for the regular guys.

But once you are a token the dangers of becoming an honorary male are great. For the alternative is that you will be viewed as the total of all womankind. Whenever there are news that concern women you, the token, are supposed to express the woman's point of view. Whenever there is a dispute about bathrooms, you, the token, are expected to inform the rest about how much toilet paper women need. And you are the one whose presence might make the tit-and-ass brigade feel uncomfortable while they wish to end a business trip with a nice little trip to a bordello. Truly, the choices the token woman has are between being an honorary male or a generic female.

So in a sense I'm not blaming those tokens who decide that an artificial pair of balls is a better defense than trying to be all-women-all-the-time. It's an easier life. But Amanda is also right when she states this:

If you want to see a no-holds-barred portrayal of people relishing the opportunity to be tokens, you can't do much better than Susan Faludi's Backlash. She has a long section where she interviews a series of prominent anti-feminist women in order to get at how they resolve the hypocritic stance of going out into the public sphere to have exciting, interesting jobs telling other women that the public sphere and exciting, interesting jobs are just not for them. A lot of the "honorary man" thing is going on with these women, a feeling that they are somehow just better than other women and that's why they get to have the access they would deny to others.

"The feeling that they are somehow just better than other women." Yes, this is a neat solution to the problem all women face: how to live in a sexist world. It lets the token woman think that there is nothing wrong with misogyny and such. The other women, the inferior ones, deserve that. The good women get to be taken up to the boys' treehouse.

I wonder if such a token woman notices that it's usually her job in the treehouse to write about those inferior creatures and to keep them off the tree. So she is not really one of the boys, never will be. And should the boys turn against her and push her down the tree, what then?

All token women, whether honorary males or not, are ultimately judged as women. That is the real paradox of the tokenism. The solution, of course, is to hire more women.

And in case you are interested, yes, I have been a token woman, and no, it was not fun.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

The Whining Wingnuts

Wingnuts want victimhood. It's really hard to gain when one is in power but never mind. Someone, somewhere must be oppressing the wingnuts-who-are-in-power. If nothing like that is happening (and how could it, given that the wingnuts are in power) then something must be made up. It's important that the wingnuts (who are in power) are always the oppressed ones, the ones whom nobody understands, the ones whom the media ridicules (except here where the wingnuts are in power).

Hence the war on Christmas. Consider this seriously: a country where the majority of people are Christian, a country where Christmas advertizing starts right after Labor Day, a country where you cannot escape hearing "Dreaming of A White Christmas" has a war against Christmas, a war so powerful that this majority is on its knees, silenced, driven out of the public space. What utter crap. Who are these powerful enemies of Christmas, pray, tell me. Where can I tune in to hear about their heinous plans to assassinate Santa Claus or make Jesus speak Swahili (rather than the medieval English everybody knows he spoke)?

The war on Christmas tells us one thing and one thing only, and that is the power of the wingnuts to decide what the media talks about. The victimhood of the wingnuts (who are in power) is similar to a king moaning that he isn't allowed to have as much power over the masses as he used to have. It is not about oppression but about the right to dominate all others. That is what the crying and whining means.

Stanley Tookie Williams

I killed a man last night. His name was Stanley Tookie Williams. He may have committed four gruesome murders. He may not have been a good man. And I may not have had a choice about killing him, because the state did that in my name and in the name of all other citizens. Nevertheless, I committed a precalculated and cold-blooded murder last night.

This is why I don't want the death penalty to exist.

Froomkin and the Storm in the Teacup

Do you read Dan Froomkin's "White House Briefing"? I do. It seems that I should have felt confused about the real nature of Froomkin's column, that I should have thought he might have been Washington Post's real White House reporter. Because people who read the Washington Post get confused very easily, it seems, and the real reporters at the Post are worried about Froomkin's column being so very opiniated and liberal. So now the Post is thinking that they might change the name of the column and add a right-wing blog to "balance" Froomkin. Then Froomkin can write something called "What's Wrong With the Government" and the right-wing blog can be "Bush is Perfect". Balance in the 21st century American journalism...

Though I like this idea of making all pundits have Siamese twins of the opposite political persuasion. Who should we link with Ann Coulter? Or with George Will? Or with Laura Ingraham? Hey, I spot something very odd here. We are not looking to twin any wingnuts, after all, just those ornery truthtelling liberals. Because Americans don't understand the media and must have everything spelled out to them in great detail, though only when the media voice is a liberal one. It reminds me of George Bush telling us, over and over, the same thing, in a louder and louder voice, because he is convinced that we will accept his beliefs as the truth if only he keeps at it.

Poor Froomkin. He is one of the victims of the new political correctness which is really just the only political correctness that ever worked: those in political power call the shots.

The Saudi Donation to Harvard and Georgetown Universities

Is interesting in some ways:

Harvard University and Georgetown University each announced yesterday that they had received $20 million donations from Prince Alwaleed bin Talal bin Abdulaziz Alsaud, a Saudi businessman and member of the Saudi royal family, to finance Islamic studies.
In making the two gifts, the prince focused on the importance of uniting disparate cultures.

Harvard's news release quoted him as saying that he hoped Harvard's Islamic studies program "will enable generations of students and scholars to gain a thorough understanding of Islam and its role both in the past and in today's world."

"Bridging the understanding between East and West is important for peace and tolerance," he said.

The Georgetown release quoted him as saying, "We are determined to build a bridge between Islam and Christianity for tolerance that transcends cultural and geographical boundaries."

With all due respect to Prince Alsaud, what is he doing about tolerance and peace at home? What programs is he financing in Saudi universities and schools on understanding the non-Islamic world? On tolerating it?


Margaret Cho has had her midriff tattooed with two snakes. Excellent taste she has. She also says this about tattoos:

I love tattoos because they represent a brief glimpse of person's insides, their passions, their true heart. It is like a riddle, a complex haiku that you may or may not be able to decipher, that you are fortunate to even have the opportunity. Even after the thrill is gone, the tattoo remains, as a reminder of a personal history, a life lived, flawed yet genuine, faded yet viable, and if it is visible to us, in daily life, it modifies the public personae in a way that no other physical alteration does.

I love heavily tattooed women. I imagine their lives are filled with sensuality and excess, madness and generosity, impulsive natures and fights. They look like they have endured much pain and sadness, yet have the ability to transcend all of it by documenting it on the body. Women's bodies are fraught with controversy, because it is believed that our bodies belong to the state. We are not supposed to choose what we can do with them. We don't have complete control over reproduction. Though we can get abortions (right now) we must be in the right place at the right time, and even then we might need the consent of someone else (a man) in order to take care of OURSELVES!!!

A lovely defence of tattoos. I especially like the idea of women taking ownership of their bodies by decorating them as they wish. Too bad that I still don't want tattoos, largely because of this bit Margaret said:

I love tattoos because they represent a brief glimpse of person's insides, their passions, their true heart.

I don't want anyone to see my insides! And in any case my passions and my heart are in a continual flux. But if I did have tattoos I'd want my whole face to be covered with black-and-white zebra stripes.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Boy Brains and Girl Brains

Go and read this post by Ampersand (and the previous one he wrote on the same topic). It is one of the best discussions I have read on the question why boys are not doing well at school and why, because it is actually based on some real data and not just propaganda.

The Texas Redistricting

It's going to be reviewed by the Supremes:

The United States Supreme Court agreed today to review the constitutionality of the Texas redistricting plan that was engineered by Representative Tom DeLay, the House majority leader until recently, and helped Republicans add to their majority from the Lone Star State.

The justices will consider several lawsuits by Democrats and minority groups challenging the redrawn maps of voting districts pushed through in 2003. The redistricting has been credited with helping Republicans gain five more seats in the Texas delegation to the House of Representatives in 2004, increasing the Republican ranks to 21, compared with 11 Texas Democrats.

Today's announcement by the Supreme Court comes 10 days after the Justice Department acknowledged that some of its top officials had overruled a determination by the agency's civil rights division staff in 2003 that the redistricting plan would dilute the voting strength of minorities in violation of the Civil Rights Act of 1965.

This will be interesting to watch. That's all I have to say right now, except that the stakes are very high indeed.

The Anti-Feminist Drinking Game

The Countess has made this one up. The idea is to look for certain words in the posts of anti-feminist bloggers as incitement for drinking. Here is her list of cue words and how much to drink for each:

One shot each time an anti-feminist troll writes...








Two shots for the following:

"equity feminist"

"gender feminist"

The equity and gender feminist labels are always a red flag for me, telling me that I'm reading a right-winger, because these classifications are not based on actual feminist thinking.

I'd add "drink the whole bottle" for the following phrases:

"chivalry is dead"
"won't open doors anymore"
"the dignity of women"

Race Riots in Australia

The fruit of 9/11, the Bali bombings, multiculturalism gone bonkers? Or of Bush's war on terror and the religious wars that are going on? Or of too rapid immigration of groups with too different values and customs? Or of plain old racism? You decide. You might as well, because nobody knows the correct answers. But Australia is experiencing something very similar to what happened in France just a moment ago: young men getting together to riot, and in both cases the planning takes place through mobile phones. The difference is that in France it was the minorities who rioted, in Australia it was the white non-Arab majority. But I'm thinking that in some deeper sense that difference isn't very large at all, for in both cases it is mostly young men who feel that their values are threatened who are doing this.

In any case, this is the sort of thing that happened down under:

A day of confrontations began at the southern beach of Cronulla, where 5,000 white youths, many of them drunk, wrapped in Australian flags and chanting racist slurs, fought a series of skirmishes with police, attacked people of Arab appearance and assaulted a pair of ambulance officers.

The violence was a reaction to reports that youths of Lebanese ancestry were responsible for an attack last weekend on two of the beach's lifeguards.

One white teenager had the words "We grew here, you flew here" painted on his back. On the beach, someone had written "100 per cent Aussie pride" in the sand.

Two paramedics in an ambulance were injured as they tried to get youths of Middle Eastern appearance out of the Cronulla Surf Lifesaving Club, where they had fled to escape one mob.

The mob broke the vehicle's windows and kicked its doors as the paramedics tried to get the group out.

TV broadcasts showed a group of young women attacking another woman. Her ethnicity was not immediately clear.

Days ago, police increased the number of officers patrolling the beach after mobile phone text messages began circulating calling for retaliation for the attack on the lifeguards.

Television images of the alcohol and hate-fuelled brawls sparked a string of retaliations in nearby suburbs with cars full of young men of Arab descent smashing 40 cars with sticks and baseball bats, police said.

Another man of Arab appearance was being hunted after stabbing a white man in the back outside a golf club.

And nearby, rioters pelted police in full riot gear with rocks and bottles.

Bubble Boy

That is one description for the leader of the free world, the man who has his finger on the nuclear button, the president of the United States. Well, we (supposedly) elected this man and his problems, so I guess we can live (or die) with them. Here is a taste of what is going on in the White House:

Bush may be the most isolated president in modern history, at least since the late-stage Richard Nixon. It's not that he is a socially awkward loner or a paranoid. He can charm and joke like the frat president he was. Still, beneath a hail-fellow manner, Bush has a defensive edge, a don't-tread-on-me prickliness. It shows in Bush's humor. When Reagan told a joke, it almost never was about someone in the room. Reagan's jokes may have been scatological or politically incorrect, but they were inclusive, intended to make everyone join in the laughter. Often, Bush's joking is personal—it is aimed at you. The teasing can be flattering (the president gave me a nickname!), but it is intended, however so subtly, to put the listener on the defensive. It is a towel-snap that invites a retort. How many people dare to snap back at a president?

Not many, and not unless they have known the president a long, long time. (Even Karl Rove, or "Turd Blossom," as he is sometimes addressed by the president, knows when to hold his tongue.) In the Bush White House, disagreement is often equated with disloyalty.
Bush seemed to have no idea. "I got the sense that his staff was not telling him the bad news," says the lawmaker. "This was not a case of him thinking positive. He just didn't have any idea of the political realities there. It was like he wasn't briefed at all." (Bush was not clueless, says an aide, but pushing his historic mission.)

In subtle ways, Bush does not encourage truth-telling or at least a full exploration of all that could go wrong. A former senior member of the Coalition Provisional Authority in Baghdad occasionally observed Bush on videoconferences with his top advisers. "The president would ask the generals, 'Do you have what you need to complete the mission?' as opposed to saying, 'Tell me, General, what do you need to win?' which would have opened up a whole new set of conversations," says this official, who did not want to be identified discussing high-level meetings. The official says that the way Bush phrased his questions, as well as his obvious lack of interest in long, detailed discussions, had a chilling effect. "It just prevented the discussion from heading in a direction that would open up a possibility that we need more troops," says the official.
A foreign diplomat who declined to be identified was startled when Secretary of State Rice warned him not to lay bad news on the president. "Don't upset him," she said.

Do you feel comfortable knowing that the fate of this world lies in the hands of a man who cannot face any criticism at all? Who refuses to learn bad news? Who appears not to have earned the kind of maturity most of us have achieved by the age thirty? Oh well, I guess things could be worse, though I can't quite think of exactly how that could be arranged.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Time for Some More Bad Poetry!

I haven't done any for ages. Here is a good one:

Hotel Hilton

At the Hilton
businessmen end their dinner
with some choice Stilton
and the declaration of the winner
in their annual race
for the merchant with most money
and least grace.

For these men ethics
is a question of phonetics.
This is what the economy is built on.

A beauty, isn't it?

And this I really enjoyed making! It's a plot for a daytime soap and it's perfect as an example of bad poetry:

He came home in a fighting mood.
The day had been long, he was starving for
But his wife, the slut, had scorched his steak.
Something snapped in his brain, he wanted to break
her neck.

Don't touch me, she cried,
shaking with fear.
Oh, honey, I tried,
and the children are here.
Don't hit me in front of them
And she got down on her knees.

He felt suddenly shocked and sad.
Honey, I'm sorry, I must have been mad.
I'm so tired,
he said. Today I was fired.

She rose with a melting heart.
It is OK, she said, we'll make a new start.
Come here, poor thing, she said,
and I'll tuck you in our bed.

Don't touch me! he said,
shaking with fear.
Don't come near me,
he said, the children are here.
Don't paw me in front of them, whore.
And he walked out, slamming the door.

What do you think? Should I quit my day job? Heh.

The Trial

The Trial is one of Franz Kafka's great novels. It is the story of one Joseph K. who wakes up one morning accused of a crime he did not commit by a system he does not understand. The more he fights for his case the less understandable it becomes and by the end of the book he is executed for a crime that probably does not exist.

It's very depressing reading, as are all Kafka's books. But therein lies their fascination: they thoroughly capture the fears we all have about the world gone deranged, about a world we can't understand and in which anonymous others hold all power. At the end of the book we have the consolation that the real world isn't quite that bad, that it was all just a story.

Or was it? Consider this little piece of news from the United States of America in the year 2005 (via Washington Monthly):

A federal appeals court wrestled Thursday with what seems to be a straightforward question: Can Americans be required to show ID on a commercial airline flight?

John Gilmore, an early employee of Sun Microsystems and co-founder of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, says the answer should be "no." The libertarian millionaire sued the Bush administration, which claims that the ID requirement is necessary for security but has refused to identify any actual regulation requiring it.

A three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals seemed skeptical of the Bush administration's defense of secret laws and regulations but stopped short of suggesting that such a rule would be necessarily unconstitutional.

"How do we know there's an order?" Judge Thomas Nelson asked. "Because you said there was?"

Replied Joshua Waldman, a staff attorney for the Department of Justice: "We couldn't confirm or deny the existence of an order." Even though government regulations required his silence, Waldman said, the situation did seem a "bit peculiar."

"This is America," said James Harrison, a lawyer representing Gilmore. "We do not have secret laws. Period." Harrison stressed that Gilmore was happy to go through a metal detector.
(Bolds mine.)

Secret laws? How do we know when we break one if we don't know what the laws are?
Welcome to Kafka's world:

Somebody must have been telling lies about Joseph K., for without having done anything wrong he was arrested one fine morning.
(The Trial)