Saturday, February 25, 2006


I liked this poem I composed some time ago so much that I'm going to post it again. The South Dakota fathers-of-us-all should have used this gentler approach instead of what they did:

Condoms fail you;
Diaphragms slip.
Jellies stain you;
And coils can nip.

Withdrawal's willful;
Flesh is weak.
The pill is sinful;
You might as well breed.

I hope Dorothy Parker didn't turn over in her grave.
Added later: I linked to this in the Eschaton comments, and Rage Time did some more poetry for extra verses. Here is an example:

Sponges are sloppy,
The patch is a bore,
Ligation's forever,
The ring's for a w***e.

Norplant is painful-
A shot in the cheek.
There's abstinence
but it's not for the weak.

We are all human,
we all have the need.
If they all get their way,
We might as well breed.

We should have a poetry slam and then we could send the results to South Dakota. What do you think? Use the comments to make more immortal propaganda.

Bloggers on the South Dakota Abortion Bill

One of the big disadvantages of being an "insider" is that one stops knowing what would strike an "outsider" in a news item. By an "insider" I mean someone who is following a field or learning about a science. After a while certain aspects of it look obvious. For example, anyone following U.S. politics expects a lot lying and corruption right now, but someone who has not been paying much attention might be struck by the latest snippet in the news and might throw a fit or two. The "insider" is missing the fits but also missing realizing that there will be fits.

All this long prelude is to explain why I didn't write passionate posts about the South Dakota decision to privilege embryos over women in health issues. I did write a post about the SD Abortion Task Force earlier on and how the evidence it debated was totally biased and how it excluded pro-choice participants because they wouldn't have "an open mind" about this evidence, and I also wrote about the general policy of getting very restrictive laws passed in several states so that there would be good test cases for the new Supreme Court with its new more wingnutty judges.

But the actual meaning of these laws to women who do not follow politics much got somehow obscured for me, and the political game aspect took over. Not that it wasn't all extremely insulting and angering: to treat women in distress as so many pawns in a power struggle does that to you, but the feelings get stale after a while. And I knew that South Dakota's law wouldn't actually do anything because Roe would override it.

So I missed the opportunity to really address the issues. Luckily, other bloggers did not. They are able to both be "insiders" and to see the angle of the "outsiders". One day I will learn this, too, but until then it's good that others are doing it so well:

Firedoglake tells us how to get active on the issue, and so does BitchPhD, though in perhaps some more cynical ways, and Digby and Lawyers, Guns and Money give more background and context. Culture Kitchen offers one upsetting image, and Pandagon addresses the pros and cons of boycotting South Dakota.

The disadvantage the pro-choice faction is laboring under is that very few people now remember the pre-Roe era personally. Very few people have personal experiences of someone bleeding to death in a hotel room, of women being kicked out of their homes for becoming pregnant, of the double-standards that let a pregnant woman be lectured at in a church while the man who got her pregnant sits smugly in the choir. All stories that I have been told by older relatives. Young women today have not heard such stories, on the whole, and they have Roe v. Wade to thank for it. But it is hard to be grateful for something you take for granted, hard to see how the world would change if Roe was no longer there to be taken for granted. Hard, but we still have to find a way to tell these stories, to make it clear what is at stake at least for the poorest women if states like South Dakota become the rule.

Friday, February 24, 2006

The Portsgate and Racism

In an interesting up-is-down development it is now us liberals who are being blamed for racism. Even the arch-racist Rush Limbaugh says this. So it must be true. Anyone who disagrees with George's contract with his UAE royalty pals is a racist.

The whole question of racism is complicated, you see, and George must explain it to all of us. It is racist to profile The United Arab Emirates, because all countries should be treated the same, in a race-or-religion-blind manner. But are we now assigning civil rights to countries rather than the individuals inside them? Remember that the Dubai company we are talking about is a state-controlled one.

And we are told that we didn't oppose this agreement when it was a British firm running the ports. Isn't that a clear example of racism, hmh? Except for the fact that I at least had no idea it was a British port who owned these contracts, and I suspect that this ignorance was pretty common.

Then there is the whole odd detail that Rush and other wingnut commentators don't find it racist that we attack countries like Iraq but do find it racist if we object to the power of foreign states to take over the ports. This is some complicated definition of racism, my friends, and one that I have a lot of trouble deciphering.

But yes, of course a lot of the opposition to the contract has origins based on fear and loathing. We have been encouraged in this fear and loathing for the last five years by commentators like Ann "The Ragheads" Coulter, and now we are supposed to take a step back, to breathe deeply, and to accept that nothing whatsoever is wrong in the apparent 180 degree turn that the administration has suddenly embraced.

It seems that there are good Arabs: the Saudis and the Emirates, and then there are bad people: the Iraqis, mostly. The problem with this right-wing classification scheme is that it was the Saudis and the Emirate guys who had more of a connection with 911 than the Iraqis, and even if one is opposed to religious or racial profiling it is very odd that we appear to reward those governments which clearly have failed to control their fundamentalism very well.
Later: Krugman agrees with me in his newest column:

The administration also tells us not to worry about having Arabs control port operations. "I want those who are questioning it," Mr. Bush said, "to step up and explain why all of a sudden a Middle Eastern company is held to a different standard than a Great British company."

He was being evasive, of course. This isn't just a Middle Eastern company; it's a company controlled by the monarchy in Dubai, which is part of the authoritarian United Arab Emirates, one of only three countries that recognized the Taliban as the legitimate ruler of Afghanistan.

But more to the point, after years of systematically suggesting that Arabs who didn't attack us are the same as Arabs who did, the administration can't suddenly turn around and say, "But these are good Arabs."

A Picture Of Me

Or Friday echidna blogging. It's not really me, but a picture taken of echidna by a blogger called Luke. He also has an absolutely wonderful picture of a baby quail adopted by a chicken. (Scroll down past that first quail-like picture).

A Deep Thought for the Day

It's on the portsgate, what else. The second in command at the Pentagon says that criticism of the ports deal can jeopardize our national security:

Dubai Ports World has agreed to postpone its plans to take over management of six U.S. ports after the proposal ignited harsh bipartisan criticism on Capitol Hill.


According to the statement, DP World will delay taking over management of the U.S. ports "while it engages in further consultations with the Bush administration and, as appropriate, congressional leadership and relevant port authorities to address concerns over future security arrangements."

The announcement came on the heels of comments from the second in command at the Pentagon, who said Thursday that people who publicly oppose allowing a Middle Eastern company to take over management of some U.S. ports could be threatening national security.

My head is spinning, spinning, spinning. Please, dear government, tell me what to believe and then stick to the story. I don't even care anymore if it's all a lie. Just give me one coherent myth.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Truth is Stranger Than Fiction

For Fox News. Remember the Simpsons episode which parodied Fox News? If not, maybe this will help:

Rupert Murdoch's Fox News Channel threatened to sue the makers of "The Simpsons" over a parody of the channel's right-wing political stance, the creator of the hit US television show has claimed.

In an interview this week with National Public Radio, Matt Groening recalled how the news channel had considered legal action, despite the fact that "The Simpsons" is broadcast on sister network, Fox Entertainment.

According to Groening, Fox took exception took a Simpsons' version of the Fox News rolling news ticker which parodied the channel's anti-Democrat stance, with headlines like "Do Democrats Cause Cancer?"

Well, here is an actual headline from recent Fox News:

As introduction to a panel discussion on the February 18 broadcast of Fox News' Cavuto on Business, the network aired clips of Democratic National Committee chairman Howard Dean, Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY) accompanied by onscreen text reading, "Attacking capitalism: Have Dems declared war on America?"


South Dakota Wingnuts

They are the nice folk responsible for this:

A contentious abortion bill passed the South Dakota Senate late this afternoon. The vote was 23 to 12.

Lawmakers spent much of this afternoon debating the bill, which has thrust South Dakota into the national spotlight.

House Bill 1215 would ban most abortions in South Dakota.

It now goes back to the House, which passed an earlier version and must now decide whether to accept changes made by the Senate.

The bill would then go to Gov. Mike Rounds.

Republican Sen. Bill Napoli of Rapid City said, "This bill is as straight
forward [sic] and as honest as it can be. It just says no more abortions unless the life of the mother is threatened."

Is this what is meant by the term "America's heartland"?

But the point of the bill is something rather different than privileging an embryo over a woman who might end up paralyzed or in permanent trauma, though that, too, could happen. The bill is created to make a test case for the new Supreme Court, a case that the wingnuts hope will reverse Roe v. Wade. The South Dakota lawmakers will now sit back and wait for someone to challenge the legality of this bill.

More on the Port Contract

What do you find when you lift up a rotten log in the woods? Rapid scuttling by zillions of tiny beetles and worms and things with many legs. This has nothing to do with my present post, of course, which is about trying to understand why Bush is so adamantly behind the UAE contract on several American ports.

First, Digby tells us what is really behind this whole deal, or at least one part of it:

From what I just heard from Senator Warner on CNN, it's about maintaining access to the ports, as I guessed earlier. (Airfields too.) Ed Henry just said the UAE hosts more of the US Navy in the gulf than any other country. If we diss them and refuse to scratch their backs, they'll get upset and pull back permission to dock our ships in their country. It's nothing personal. It's strictly business.

Strictly business...

And then there is this America blog story (via Atrios):

The Bush administration secretly required a company in the United Arab Emirates to cooperate with future U.S. investigations before approving its takeover of operations at six American ports, according to documents obtained by The Associated Press. It chose not to impose other, routine restrictions.

These routine restrictions include keeping copies of business records on U.S. soil...

It's all bidness, isn't it?

I have more to say about the current debate on the possibly racist nature of opposing the UAE takeover of several American ports but that must wait until later.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

And Then The Civil War Starts....

I hate posting on Iraq, because everything is happening exactly as we knew it would; "we" being anyone who bothered to read a little bit on the geopolitical history of the area, "we" being all of us who actually demonstrated against this silly war launched on Walt Disneyesque theories of freedom and oil forevermore by people who had not bothered to read about the geopolitical history of the area. The "we" are totally worn out by all this, especially by the idea that each new step in the inevitable march towards anarchy is something worth commenting about, as if nobody had seen it coming. Like the levees breaking in New Orleans, I guess.

So, with a sigh of extreme weariness, I present you this:

An attack Wednesday that destroyed the soaring gold dome of one of ShiiteIslam's holiest shrines is being interpreted by most Shiites here as a direct attack on their faith - and has sharply raised sectarian tensions.

It's unclear if any people were killed in the massive explosion in Samarra, about 60 miles north of Baghdad. But the destruction of the shrine may be the most emotionally charged of attacks on Shiite targets thus far in the war, and could set back already hamstrung efforts to form a government of Shiite and Sunni unity.

As citizens deserted the streets of Baghdad in the wake of the attack, many said they feared this could be a seminal moment in Iraq's low-intensity civil war.

"The war could really be on now,'' says Abu Hassan, a Shiite street peddler who declined to give his full name. "This is something greater and more symbolic than attacks on people. This is a strike at who we are."

The End of Francis Fukuyama?

Not likely to happen, of course, as the wingnuts don't have very many "philosophers". They need Fukuyama and his simplistic and sweeping statements. Remember how in the early 1990s he predicted the end of history? The idea was that:

"What we may be witnessing is not just the end of the Cold War, or the passing of a particular period of post-war history, but the end of history as such: that is, the end point of mankind's ideological evolution and the universalization of Western liberal democracy as the final form of human government."

But Fukuyama didn't see this as a happy, skippy kind of thing. Instead, he decided that liberal democracies are the only stable way of taking care of the slave and master relationship between human beings.

To achieve this anticipated end of all history, Fukuyama became a neo-conservative prophet, strongly backing the Iraq war and the whole idea of forcing democracy down people's throats with bayonets.

Hubris, thy name is Fukuyama. Now Francis has decided that it was all a big mistake:

NEOCONSERVATISM has failed the United States and needs to be replaced by a more realistic foreign policy agenda, according to one of its prime architects.

Francis Fukuyama, who wrote the best-selling book The End of History and was a member of the neoconservative project, now says that, both as a political symbol and a body of thought, it has "evolved into something I can no longer support". He says it should be discarded on to history's pile of discredited ideologies.

In an extract from his forthcoming book, America at the Crossroads, Mr Fukuyama declares that the doctrine "is now in shambles" and that its failure has demonstrated "the danger of good intentions carried to extremes".

In its narrowest form, neoconservatism advocates the use of military force, unilaterally if necessary, to replace autocratic regimes with democratic ones.

Mr Fukuyama once supported regime change in Iraq and was a signatory to a 1998 letter sent by the Project for a New American Century to the then president, Bill Clinton, urging the US to step up its efforts to remove Saddam Hussein from power. It was also signed by neoconservative intellectuals, such as Bill Kristol and Robert Kagan, and political figures Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Perle and the current defence secretary, Donald Rumsfeld.

However, Mr Fukuyama now thinks the war in Iraq is the wrong sort of war, in the wrong place, at the wrong time.

"The most basic misjudgment was an overestimation of the threat facing the United States from radical Islamism," he argues.

"Although the new and ominous possibility of undeterrable terrorists armed with weapons of mass destruction did indeed present itself, advocates of the war wrongly conflated this with the threat presented by Iraq and with the rogue state/proliferation problem more generally."

Now the neo-cons have lost one of their most eloquent spokesmen.

But we still have Fukuyama, of course. He is just repositioning himself to take advantage of the horrible mess he partly helped to create.

Pope Names Fifteen New Cardinals

I'm disappointed to note that I was not named. Nor any other woman. Well, these new Princes of the Church include:

Two Americans also were named — Benedict's successor at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Archbishop William Levada, and Boston Archbishop Sean O'Malley. Both men have been involved in the response to the clergy sex abuse scandal in the United States.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Bush's First Veto

Might be on any attempt by the Congress to deny The United Arab Emirates the port contracts in the United States. Bush has said so:

Suzanne Malveaux, CNN White House reporter, said this about the President's public statements:

He would veto any legislation to hold up this deal and warned that the United States was sending mixed signals by going after a company from the middle east when they said nothing when a British company was in charge. He goes on to say that it is the lawmakers - members of Congress - that have to step up and explain why a middle eastern company is held to a different standard. He also took issue with a reporter's question aboard the plane saying what is the - kind of the politics of all of this - and he says that this is not a political issue.

It could be argued that having a foreign country (The UAE company is state run) in charge is different from having a foreign firm in charge (as in the British case). Given that Bush believes the country is at war it would seem appropriate not to outsource the security of U.S. ports.

How very odd this whole story turned out to be! The wingnuts are furious at Bush.
Added after some thought: Could this be Rove's plot to distance the Republicans in the Congress from an unpopular president? So that they'd retain control in 2006? I find that an appealing idea but I just can't see Bush going along with that. Though who knows.

Volkswagen - The Sexist Car

My proposal for a new ad campaign that VW could use profitably. After all, they appear to have a history of misogynistic ads. In 2001 in Croatia they created a couple of real beauties:

Volkswagen Golf in cooperation with Volksbank in Croatia placed two blatantly sexist advertisements in Croatian national magazines and newspapers. The ad sells credits loans for Golf automobiles. One ad shows two older women in the background, overlapping their image are two young women, the caption reads; "Trade old for new." Nowhere is there a picture of an automobile. The second advertisements shows a young half naked woman lying in bed, holding and apple, the caption reads; "Father, for who is this?" "For the privileged, son, for the privileged."

Well, that's in Croatia, you might say, and to be fair to Volkswagen, the ads were quickly withdrawn after some protest.

But something similar though more muted has started in the new Volkswagen ads which are shown on television during the Olympic Winter Games. One ad shows a man in a VW going out to run errands. His wife or girlfriend wants a ride but he won't let her into the car because of the "extra weight". She is left standing while he zooms off into the distance, happy. The Bad Feminist, a new kid on the feminist block, says this about the VW campaign:

I think that the worst thing about this campaign is its reliance on women as a stable of morons. Take its latest, where a man at the wheel of his studmobile tunes out while his word-vomiting girlfriend drones on and on. Finally, after taking commands from some possessed Furbie-lookalike (yes, another unexplainable failure of the campaign), our studmobile driver draws upon his inner manliness to shut the nitwit up. Get it . . . driving a manly Volkswagon gives you the balls to put your woman in her place. Why is it that companies are so sure that the right way to appeal to men is to humiliate women? And why am I so sure that they're right?

I hope that they are proved to be wrong.

The reason for these ads is the fact that VWs are seen as girly cars in the U.S., and the company wants to have more men as customers:

The target audience for the GTI is undeniably male: Volkswagen chose to unveil the new campaign on Thursday by holding a news conference at the office of Playboy magazine in New York. Print ads for the GTI are scheduled to run in magazines like Maxim, Spin, ESPN, Wired and Autoweek.

Beyond the leggy German-accented Helga in a skintight dress, the other women in the ads are typically portrayed as nagging girlfriends who interfere with the male drivers and their "fasts."

In one television commercial that is running during the Olympics, a female passenger asks the male driver, presumably her boyfriend, to roll up the windows because her hair is getting tangled by the wind.

He responds by saying, "Sweetie, it's really hard for me to enjoy the sound of the engine with all that yakking."

Another commercial depicts a man refusing to let his girlfriend enter his car because he does not want to "carry the extra weight."

It is a point that is not lost on Alex Bogusky, the chief creative officer for Crispin, who said he considered the car and its driving experience masculine.

"There are obviously women who will buy the GTI," he said Thursday, but the main emphasis of the ads was the car's performance.

Do they really think that they can run ads dissing women without losing their women customers? Well, I hope that they are proved wrong here, too.

If the campaign is successful among some subsection of men there is still something positive about it: You can tell the sexist ones by simply the car they drive!

Bob Herbert On The Barbarian Government

If kidnapping and torturing an innocent man is O.K., what's not O.K? This is how Bob Herbert ends his column on the case of Maher Arar, a Canadian innocent whom the United States rendered to Syria for torture. The Syrians put Mr. Aher into a cell:

The underground cell was tiny, about the size of a grave. According to court papers, "The cell was damp and cold, contained very little light and was infested with rats, which would enter the cell through a small aperture in the ceiling. Cats would urinate on Arar through the aperture, and sanitary facilities were nonexistent."

Mr. Arar's captors beat him savagely with an electrical cable. He was allowed to bathe in cold water once a week. He lost 40 pounds while in captivity.

Remember that he was innocent and sent there by the United States government.

The Center for Constitutional Rights in New York filed a suit against the government on Mr. Ahar's behalf. Now the judge has said that the case cannot be handled because doing so would reveal state secrets:

In a ruling that basically gave the green light to government barbarism, U.S. District Judge David Trager dismissed Mr. Arar's lawsuit last Thursday. Judge Trager wrote in his opinion that "Arar's claim that he faced a likelihood of torture in Syria is supported by U.S. State Department reports on Syria's human rights practices."

But in dismissing the suit, he said that the foreign policy and national security issues raised by the government were "compelling" and that such matters were the purview of the executive branch and Congress, not the courts.

He also said that "the need for secrecy can hardly be doubted."

Under that reasoning, of course, the government could literally get away with murder. With its bad actions cloaked in court-sanctioned secrecy, no one would be the wiser.

Er, ok?

Monday, February 20, 2006

Wifely Obligations

I read this Smoking Gun piece several days ago, but have not posted on it earlier. I'm still confused on whether discussing it has any point at all from a feminist point of view. The man in the story is unable to see women as anything but toys that really should stay in their original packaging while not being in use. What the woman in the story is incapable of doing is perhaps where the feminist analysis would be most useful, but the original post doesn't tell us anything much on that, except for the fact that she didn't sign the contract of wifely obligations. But she married the arsehole.

We get into the whole gray area of the difference between sexual game playing and real world oppression here, and I'm not ready to talk about my views on that, except for the fact that toys don't have a real world experience at all, and that game playing should mean just that: "playing". This story is not about something playful. It is about something disgusting.

After some pointless dithering I've decided to post this short explanation and to let you talk it out in the comments should you wish to do so. Maybe I will learn something.

Faith Healing and Snake Charming

We all know that George Bush is a religious man. He believes that God speaks to him and tells him what to do next, and this is why he will not listen to us other earthworms. For what can we possibly know that would improve on the word of the divine? Too sad that Osama bin Laden also talks to God and feels the same way. Or so I see these two men who are intent on getting us all killed in a faith-based way.

End of rant. It has a point which is the share of the U.S. federal spending that goes into faith-based services. Like healing drug addicts with the power of prayer? I'm not sure, but religious organizations are encouraged to apply for federal funds and they can do this and still discriminate against women or gays or people who believe in other religions. We, on the other hand, don't have the right to refuse paying taxes on the basis of our sex or sexual orientation. This seems a little shitty to me. Pardon the language.

It is also not at all unclear if the faith-based charities are performing well. Given the recent government arguments that ineffective programs are ruthlessly cut down, why has the faith-based share of the grants pie remained constant when we have no idea if the programs are working? And why are we still paying for information on how to adopt the snowflake embryos?

And how many grants, exactly, have been awarded to non-Christian faith-based organizations. A 2004 piece argues that the number then was zero. If this is still true, shouldn't we change the term "faith-based" to "Christian"?

I'm going to start an Echidneite faith-based ice-cream organization. We will take ice-cream to people who are housebound and we will stay and chat for half an hour with the person and we will spread rays of love and understanding and the basic philosophy of snake charmers. I expect the government to fund it.

Meet Loredana Vuoto

She is the speech writer for Wade Horn, Assistant Secretary at the Administration for Children and Families at the Department of Health and Human Services. Wade Horn thinks that without a father there is no family at all. Or perhaps Vuoto thinks so, given that she writes speeches for him.

I came across her name when I read a review she wrote about Warren Farrell's new book Why Men Earn More: The Startling Truth Behind the Pay Gap — And What Women Can Do About It. Warren Farrell is an extreme anti-feminist nutcase. If you want to find out the truth about the wage gap between the genders, click on the website I have at the top of this blog and read all three posts on it. Farrell's book just uses the wingnut legend I criticize thoroughly in my piece, the one about women's lower earnings being wholly caused by their own choices. If you read my gender gap series you know that this is simply just not true. It is a lie, actually.

But Vuoto loves Farrell's book and gives it a glowing review. She concludes:

But he also lays bare the unpleasant truth about working women. For decades, feminists and Hollywood have perpetuated the myth that a woman can have it all — a successful, high-powered career, with time for a loving husband and children, all the while looking glamorous, sexy, and carefree. The reality, however, is that working women today are more stressed, overworked, and underappreciated than they were prior to the women's liberation movement. Pursuing a career carries trade-offs and costs, which usually come at the expense of family and children. A similar dynamic holds true for women wishing to spend more time at home: The result will be less time and less productivity at the office. This book poignantly illustrates why feminism's war on human nature is destined to fail: Instead of chasing the chimera of perfect wage parity between the sexes, women will continue to harbor the natural desire to be devoted mothers and wives.

This is what caught my attention: that "the natural desire to be devoted mothers and wives" should be taken as a permission to mistreat women in the labor markets. For remember that the latest government study on the wage gap left about half of it unexplained after taking into account the sorts of variables that measure a woman's household duties. But Vuoto doesn't care about this. She is a good foot soldier in the wingnut army, and facts might get in the way.

So I got really interested in what else she might have to tell us, and I found this bit about the dangers of politically aware and voting women:

Although women are a force to be reckoned with their emancipation has not come without a price—something Lake and Conway fail to discuss. Women have rejected the quintessential essence of their being: Their ability to love and be loved. This has undermined the beauty of marriage and the happiness that comes with raising a child. Women may be more successful and influential than ever, but are they truly happier?

Here it is again. The idea that love and equality are not mutually compatible. What must Vuoto's background be to believe this? And why is she still writing speeches and articles? Is she that alone and unloved? If only she could pack it all in and regain the essential feminine of her heart all would be fine.

Maybe the reason she hasn't done this is that what might be good for all those "other" women doesn't really satisfy her. She has far too much fun bashing liberals and feminists to go home and put on the heart-shaped apron with the bow on the back:

Limbaugh cuts right to the chase and offers countless examples of how the Christian voice is being muted in our educational, judicial, and social systems. Examples range from the current ban of a Ten Commandments monument in the court of Alabama to the elimination of religion in school curriculum, as well as prayer in the classroom to the attempt to strike the words "under God" from the Pledge of Allegiance. Limbaugh also does an excellent job at citing more obscure cases where the religious voice is being stifled, such as the discrimination of churches in certain local zoning areas and the prohibition on Christian speakers in certain schools and other forums.

Limbaugh argues that liberal zealots are not being sincere about their true intentions to push religion out of society. The liberal claim that this should be done so as not to offend nonbelievers is hypocritical, since Christians are the ones being discriminated against by having their First Amendment rights infringed upon. Moreover, liberals claim to champion intellectual and social "diversity" but are quick to obliterate any religious or conservative perspective at odds with their agenda. This lack of genuine tolerance is incongruent with the spirit of democracy and freedom that America was founded on.

The idea of Christians as oppressed if they cannot force everyone else to live like they do.

I really should diversify into some wingnut writing. They need someone like me, badly. Otherwise they will have to keep on using people like Vuoto who find every wingnut book just mahvelously insightful and shockingly new.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

A Small Horror Story for Tonight

Crooks&Liars has the video of Mary Matalin's performance on Meet The Press this morning. It is really quite frightening, except for* the part where Maureen Dowd summarizes my thoughts of the importance of the Dick Cheney quailgate fairly nicely.
*That was meant to be snarky. I got carried away after seeing how Matalin does it.

The Blogging Business

Two pieces on blogging as a business appeared in the last week. It was funny to read them. I am a blogger but felt that the articles were describing a different universe than the one we ordinary bloggers inhabit, and one which I don't even want to visit as a tourist, never mind living there. An example from an article in the New York Magazine:

To see just precisely how rich blogging can make you, it's worth visiting Peter Rojas, the cheerful, skate-punk-like editor of Engadget—and the best-compensated blogger in history. When I meet him one December evening in his bachelor pad on the Lower East Side, he's sitting at an Ikea desk bedecked with three flat-panel screens and looking relatively fresh, considering he's just come off another eleven-hour blogging jag. Like most A-list bloggers, he hit his keyboard before dawn and posted straight through until dinner. "Anyone can start a blog, and anyone can make it grow," he says, sipping a glass of water. "But to keep it there? It's fucking hard work, man. I've never worked so hard in my life. Eighty-hour weeks since I started."

For Rojas, the toil paid off handsomely. Last fall, AOL bought Jason Calacanis's company Weblogs, Inc., which includes Engadget, for $25 million. Rojas himself didn't disclose the precise amount he got from the deal, but he had a good deal of equity in the company and says that, technically, he doesn't need to work anymore. Nonetheless, he's still slogging away at Engadget because he's still obsessed with cool new technology. His idea of a good time is hunting down samizdat pictures of the latest Palm Treo. "I didn't intend to become a millionaire," he says, "but I wound up there anyway."

I of course intended to become a millionaire and decided that an obscure blog by a minor Greek goddess would be just the thing...

More seriously, though I dislike the idea of "blogging business", the development of a corporate framework for the largest blogs is most likely unavoidable. Nobody can do this all alone and grow big. Adding an office to the endeavor will cost a lot in lost spontaneity, however, and looking for advertizing income as the road to millionairehood is going to cramp your style and affect what you write. And you need to develop a business plan and to decide whether you are a boutique blog or whatever all that crap is called. I don't want to do that. Which makes me glad that I'm not one of the A-list bloggers.

Not that political blogs make quite the sort of money Rojas is raking in. Only the very largest are financially profitable and even then if one interprets financial profitability as meaning that a blogger can make a fair living from all that work. So far I have managed to almost cover the costs of blogging (including broadband!) from ad revenue and donations and I'm pleased with that. The snakes and dogs are not suffering needlessly and I'm having fun.

But the New York Magazine article also argues that the blogging phenomenom is already too old for new millionaires to be minted, and a Slate article concurs:

The Gullible Latecomers: In the end stages of any investment mania, the clueless and the greedy flood in. You know things are really poised for a fall when people who have no management experience and feeble business plans somehow manage to raise cash for ventures. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you: Pajamas Media. Last November, the collection of right-wing blogs (with a few lefties thrown in for laughs) grandly announced the closing of a $3.5 million round of venture capital financing. Roger Simon, the screenwriter-turned-blogger who is the CEO of the enterprise, promised "to change the way people report and access news and commentary." I don't know. It looks to me like a bunch of blogs with their own logo.

The first movers have all the advantage, and if you were an Echidne-come-lately you can forget about all that fame and money. This sounds so sad and defeatist, but only because the standards used are silly. We don't all want to be the Donald Trumps of blogging, thank-you-very-much. The day I find myself drawing a business plan for this here blog is the day when I move back to Olympus for good. Even cocktail parties with monsters are more interesting than business plans.
Added after some more thought: I want to clarify what I'm saying above by making it very clear that I wouldn't mind fame and money and working hard (the latter I do already) and that I'm not writing about sour grapes, really. It's more that what I want from blogging is not a business or a good financial investment. It's just a little learning, a few laughs, a little influence and a few worshippers in my temple. All this I get already. Plus the most interesting comments threads in all blogosphere.

Flemming Rose on The Cartoons

Rose is the Danish editor responsible for publishing the cartoons depicting Muhammed.
He explains what he intended to achieve and why in this Washington Post piece. We all know what actually followed.