Saturday, April 01, 2006

Deja vu

The top brasses of Britain are preparing for a meeting to decide what to do should George Bush be determined to attack some country with a name beginning with the letters I, R and A:

The Government is to hold secret talks with defence chiefs tomorrow to discuss possible military strikes against Iran.

A high-level meeting will take place in the Ministry of Defence at which senior defence chiefs and government officials will consider the consequences of an attack on Iran.

It is believed that an American-led attack, designed to destroy Iran's ability to develop a nuclear bomb, is "inevitable" if Teheran's leaders fail to comply with United Nations demands to freeze their uranium enrichment programme.

Inevitable? Now that will raise George Bush's poll numbers.

You Are Feeling Sleepy, Sleepy...

The New York Times joins in the conversation about netroots in politics: the meaning and value of the political blogs:

For all the attention being paid to Internet technology, there remain definite limitations to its reach. Internet use declines markedly among Americans over 65, who tend to be the nation's most reliable voters. Until recently, it tended to be more heavily used by middle- and upper-income people.

And while the Internet is efficient at reaching supporters, who tend to visit and linger at political sites, it has proved to be much less effective at swaying voters who are not interested in politics. "The holy grail that everybody is looking for right now is how can you use the Internet for persuasion," Mr. Armstrong, the Warner campaign Internet adviser, said.

I have the answer, naturally. It's called hypnosis and I practise it all the time. You read this blog and suddenly you are converted to echidneism, suddenly you yearn for chocolate ice-cream and want to speak Greek, suddenly you love little snakes and hate little wingnuts. But it takes a lot of experience and skill, and Mr. Armstrong isn't there yet. Are you feeling just a little sleepy, by the way?

The same article does the required cold-water-dumping on the liberal blogosphere:

Bloggers, for all the benefits they might bring to both parties, have proved to be a complicating political influence for Democrats. They have tugged the party consistently to the left, particularly on issues like the war, and have been openly critical of such moderate Democrats as Senator Joseph I. Lieberman of Connecticut.

When you have stopped laughing about the joke of Lieberman being a moderate Democrat you might ask yourself how exactly we tug the reluctant party to the left. The answer is mass-hypnosis and mesmerism, but don't tell the wingnuts.

The Conservative Avenger

Something horrible, horrible!, has happened to our old friend the Liberal Avenger today. Check it out.

On Feminist Blogs

I will never get my blogroll up to date. According to an article in the U.K. Guardian, there are at least 240,000 feminist blogs. No way can I add all of them to my blogroll.

The article giving us this interesting fact is all about feminist blogs. It starts by interviewing one of the founders of

Young women are apathetic. They're not feminists. They don't call themselves feminists. They don't know what feminism is all about.

"That," says Jessica Valenti, "was all we ever seemed to hear - from colleagues, from the media. And we just thought, who are they talking about? I know young women all over the place who do feminist work. We wanted to show that young feminists aren't crazy or mean, but cool. A lot of feminism has this academic basis that can be very off-putting. And so we thought, let's put something out there that's not dry and academic, but lively and fun."

So Valenti became one of the founders of, a highly popular blog website that attracts 100,000 visitors a month. Each day it features between five and 10 women's stories, ranging from the sublime to the ridiculous. An article on incoming Chilean president Michelle Bachelet, for example, is followed by a wisecrack on a dubious skin-tightening product called Virgin Cream.

And it's not alone. In the two years since feministing started, there has been an explosion of feminist blogs, including many that have a highly professional edge, and a large, loyal readership. The feminist movement has always produced plenty of meaty writing and lively debate: witness Sylvia Pankhurst's newspaper, the Woman's Dreadnought, in the 1910s, through the pamphleteering of the 1970s second-wave, and the vibrant 'zine culture of the 1990s' "riot grrrl" movement. Prior to the blogosphere though, distribution remained local for all but a few major publications, such as Spare Rib, Ms, or, latterly, Bust and Bitch magazines.

The article then goes on to name several feminist blogs but for some odd inexplicable reason fails to mention this one. The author most likely got all flustered when faced by such divinity as mine and scribbled the name down wrong. I shall forgive her.

But I'm not equally forgiving about the way the storyline is made into something negative. The question the article asks is whether feminist blogs might be just playthings for the rich and the educated. Then it goes on trying to strike some sparks between the second wave feminists (those whose work was supposed to have been done in the seventies) and the third wave feminists (those whose work is supposed to be done right now but might be all about sex-positivity and girliness).

My lack of forgiveness isn't because of the assertion that blogs are playthings for the wealthy and educated (and for those who blog in their parents' basements). They are, at least in the global arena. So is most anything else not having to do with what is required for basic survival, and feminist blogs are no different in this sense from any other types of blogs or from the general access to computers. But blogs, including feminist ones, do have a democratizing effect on the public discourse. Starting a blog can cost nothing, and the computer skills needed are also fairly minimal. All we need to change is the availability of the internet in poor areas. That, my friends, is not a specifically feminist problem.

Social change movements are often criticized for what they have not achieved and this can be useful and energizing. But blogging is still a young communication tool. It is too early to tell what it will mean in terms of activism and too early to decide if it is going to ignite another feminist wave or not. It is also too early to tell how the blogosphere will ultimately look. Will we find more and more large group blogs (of the Huffington Post type)? Will corporate ownership of blogs increase? Does a large number of feminist blogs mean that all of them have readers? How will blogs communicate with each other? Will blogs arrange themselves into larger groups and if so, will these structures turn out to be hierarchical, even for feminist blogs?

I don't know the answers to these questions. But I do know that the current status of feminist blogging is a healthy one, both in activism and in community building. There is still plenty of space for new feminist voices in the blogosphere, and I welcome them. Well, with the exception of goddess-voices. I have cornered that market.

Friday, March 31, 2006

Skipping Towards Talabama

Via, I learned that two legislators in Alabama want to join in with all the fun the South Dakotan legislators are having:

Two Alabama legislators have introduced bills that would ban almost all abortions in the state, except those performed to save women's lives.

The bills are similar to legislation banning abortion that passed in South Dakota last month and was signed on March 6 by Republican Gov. Mike Rounds.

"I thought if South Dakota can do it, Alabama ought to do it because we are a family-friendly state," said state Sen. Hank Erwin, R-Montevallo, who has introduced a bill in the Senate that would even ban abortions in cases where a woman became pregnant because of rape or incest.

"I don't think you need to penalize the unborn child when something like that happens," Erwin said.

No, we shouldn't penalize embryos. Let's just add further torture of the woman who was raped. This is yet another example of the Rapist's Fatherhood Initiative.

Friday Afternoon Cake-Cutting

Because every proper blog must have something boring on Fridays I give you a discussion on the way we divide the economic cake in this country:

U.S. corporate profits have increased 21.3% in the past year and now account for the largest share of national income in 40 years, the Commerce Department said Thursday.
Strong productivity gains and subdued wage growth boosted before-tax profits to 11.6% of national income in the fourth quarter of 2005, the biggest share since the summer of 1966.

For all of 2005, before-tax profits totaled $1.35 trillion, up from $1.16 trillion in 2004 and just $767 billion in 2001.

Meanwhile, the share of national income going to wage and salary workers has fallen to 56.9%. Except for a brief period in 1997, that's the lowest share for labor income since 1966.

"It's a big puzzle," said Josh Bivens, an economist for the Economic Policy Institute. "If this is a knowledge economy, how come the brains aren't being compensated? Instead, the owners of physical capital are getting the rewards."

A puzzle? I don't think so (hint: who is in power?). If productivity growth is outpacing wages and salaries it means that there will be extra profit, a bigger slice of the strawberries-and-cream gateau for the owners of the firms or at least the firms themselves (as they may not pay it out in dividends). Some workers also own bits of firms, of course, which makes the cake-cutting exercize slightly different from a Marxist analysis. But mostly those who own the physical capital are not the same people who are workers, and what this all means, really, is that the rich are getting richer and the poor are working harder for no more money.

On The Death of A Dog (Safe To Skip, Not Political)

Hank's death dumped me into the world of grief. I didn't expect the strength of this dumping because there was so much grief in coping with her illness and in anticipating her leaving. I hoped that all those earlier bouts of sorrow would work as down payments and that I'd get off gently this time.

But grief doesn't work like that. You wake up in the morning and for a fraction of a second you are your usual self. Then you remember, and it's like being stripped of all skin, like having all your nerve endings sharpened to a point where air itself hurts.

It is this defenselessness of grief that seems to be its main message: You are stripped bare and everything is a message about the one you loved, a message of absence. There is no comfort in everyday routines; it is those routines themselves that now hurt like hell. You walk through your ordinary existence and you stumble on every little thing: that corner where she used to hide her tennis balls, that time of the day when the wet nose was gently pressed against your thigh to remind you of the park that needed a dog or two, the half-chewed rawhide bone under the armchair.

So you walk through your everyday existence and you turn clumsy, fragile, slow. There should be a big sign hanging around your neck: "Handle carefully!" You stumble and you trip and all the time everything touches you without the usual defenses.

This is probably why we have funerals and wakes and shivas. To keep the grief contained within traditions and routines, to give those who are grieving the crutches to get through the early days, the days when all the frayed ends must be reconnected, all the holes must be filled.

We don't have these routines for the deaths of animals. In fact, not all humans think that one might grieve for a pet, or at least that one might grieve for a pet in the same way one grieves for a person, or a way at least similar in the way grief itself works. My grieving seems to work about the same for all the creatures, whether human or not, that I have loved and lost.

Time does help with grief, because it lets new routines be built and then reinforced. I have noticed that Henrietta, my other dog, had the first good day yesterday, or at least a not-so-bad day. She is taking over some of the things that Hank used to do. Perhaps this is the way we mend the nets of our lives when someone has slipped through them. With time, love and the new rituals we build.

And by making the one who died live inside ourselves.

The Price of Oil?

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has admitted to tactical mistakes in Iraq:

"Yes, I know we have made tactical errors, thousands of them," she said in answer to a question over whether lessons had been learned since the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003.

"I believe strongly that it was the right strategic decision, that Saddam had been a threat to the international community long enough," she added.

What is the connection between strategy and tactics? Aren't all the little tactical moves the threads from which the strategy rope is made? And if thousands of them were twisted or frail or broken, isn't the rope itself no good?

I can see counterarguments to this view. It's possible that the means and the end can be treated in a Jesuit-like manner. But the timing of the decision to take Saddam down really was the most idiotic blunder of them all. Like deciding to have those unsightly varicose veins removed the day after your doctor tells you abot a positive cancer test.

This seems to be the day for parables...

Wingnut Wisdom

A two-day summit on "Protecting the Biblical Institution of Marriage and Family Values" gives us this pearl of wisdom:

"Apostle" Jamie Pleasant presides over the congregations, which cites more than a thousand members, according to its web site. He has a doctorate degree from Georgia Tech in Business Management and started the church in 1995.

Addressing the "down-low," a term that describes married black men having sex with other men in secret, Pleasant told hundreds of worshipers March 25 that God intended man and woman to procreate.

"The marital duty is not being fulfilled," Pleasant said. "Why are we with you women? Just think about it…we have a strong sex drive. You need to do your part and keep the marriage bed pure. Whenever your husband wants sex it is your duty to say yes."

Get it? It is women's fault if men are gay. Because women have a duty to say yes.
Via Evacuee on Eschaton comments threads.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

The Power of Prayer

A new medical study did not find long-distance praying helpful to the patients:

A study of more than 1,800 patients who underwent heart bypass surgery has failed to show that prayers specially organized for their recovery had any impact, researchers said on Thursday.

In fact, the study found some of the patients who knew they were being prayed for did worse than others who were only told they might be prayed for -- though those who did the study said they could not explain why.

The patients in the study at six U.S. hospitals included 604 who were actually prayed for after being told they might or might not be; another 597 patients who were not prayed for after being told they might or might not be; and a group of 601 who were prayed for and told they would be the subject of such prayer.


Among the first group -- who were prayed for but only told they might be -- 52 percent had post-surgical complications compared to 51 percent in the second group, the ones who were not prayed for though told they might be. In the third group, who knew they were being prayed for, 59 percent had complications.

After 30 days, however, the death rates and incidence of major complications was about the same across all three groups, said the study published in the American Heart Journal.

Read the whole article for some interesting contortions required in this faith-based reality.

I wrote about another study on the power of prayer some time ago:

Another cunning campaign may have been carried out on the unsuspecting American medical establishment. In 2001, The Journal of Reproductive Medicine published a study which seemed to prove, quite decisively, that long-distance prayer works to improve medical outcomes. The authors, Daniel Wirth, Kwang Cha and Rogerio Lobo reported on an experiment where prayer groups in the U.S., Canada and Australia were given photographs of some women who were trying to conceive through IVF in Seoul, Korea, and asked to pray for their successful pregnancies. Other women at the same IVF clinics served as a control group as nobody was presumably praying for them. The experiment was a double-blind one, so that neither the research staff nor the women themselves knew who was being prayed for. The results were shocking: the women in the prayed-for group doubled their chances of conceiving. According to one expert in the area of fertility research, this sort of an increase would be a revolutionary one.

As the Guardian points out, many Americans took this study as a sign from God: prayer works, and even quite scientific organizations and groups were impressed. Questions were asked about how to incorporate this into general medical practise and so on. I must admit I was very sceptical of the whole study from the very beginning, not because I wouldn't believe in the power of prayer (just ask me something!), but because I very much doubt that any divine being would let humans play with prayer this way: some women were arbitarily excluded while others were allowed to benefit. This makes the experimenters the gods.

Anyway, now it turns out that one of the three authors, Daniel Wirth, is a well-known conman with special interests in parapsychological research. He is currently under house arrest in California awaiting sentencing for multi-million dollar fraud charges against Adelphia Communications. It's not clear what his role in the research was, but his prominent position among the authors of the study is at least a minor embarrassment for the Journal of Reproductive Medicine, and in the worst case the whole study may be a gigantic fraud. I vote for the latter alternative.

Let me also say that if I were a goddess who was influenced by the amount of prayer for someone's recovery, I'd probably mess up a study like this one, on purpose. There is a reason why religion and science should be kept separate.

The Difficult Balancing Act Of Diplomacy

Click here to appreciate it.

Onwards, Christian Soldiers!

An interesting Salon article tells us about the conference entitled "War On Christians". The speeches were suitably warlike, and the enemy was painted large, frightening and inhuman. The enemy is us, by the way. If you didn't know this, what would you think this snippet from a speech describes?

"My friends," White said in a stentorian voice like burnished oak, "America is no longer good. Unrighteousness, evil, corruption, perversion and death are now standard operating procedure in the United States of America. If we do not put an end to it now, in this moment of divine destiny, then God will and God should judge America."

Rod Parsley is a newly-minted Ohio general of this Christian army. His speech did not discuss the blessedness of peacemakers:

"A spiritual invasion is taking place," Parsley roared to the packed banquet hall on Tuesday morning, drawing out the "a" in invasion. "The secular media never likes it when I say this, so let me say it twice. Man your battle stations! Ready your weapons!" He paused to take a preemptive jab at his critics, his voice going soft and scolding: "They say, 'his rhetoric is so inciting.'" Then he nearly screamed, "I came to incite a riot! Man your battle stations! Ready your weapons! Lock and load!"

But the atmosphere of the conference was described as "sluggish". Now, why would that be the case? Could it have something to do with the fact that the Christian radical clerics have gotten most everything they want and are just feeling that odd depression that comes after a project is completed? Though we are still alive so I guess the weapons must be locked and loaded.

Were there any Christians at this conference who think differently? I wish I knew more about that.

Jill Carroll Is Free

Wonderful news!
Added later: Check out Think Progress on what the wingnuts say about it all. Warning: Not pleasant.

Giving Birth

Two stories on giving birth caught my snake-eye recently. One is the story about "The Monument for Pro-Life", a sculpture pretending to depict Britney Spears giving birth to her son, pretending, because the baby was actually delivered through an elective C-section, and pretending, because nobody gives birth in that position or with such a calm face.

The other story is about the pregnant Katie Holmes whose boyfriend is a Scientologist:

It appears that the rumors are true. No, not the rumors that Katie Holmes was impregnated by L. Ron Hubbard's frozen sperm, though we're still checking the Smoking Gun for that one every day. The rumors that according to the practice of Scientology -- of which her boyfriend, Dawson's Creep, is a devout follower -- Katie Holmes intends to give birth not only without drugs (as many mothers choose to do) but also in silence (to which many mothers who've given birth without drugs say, "HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAH!!!!!"). That is, if you believe the Sun, which reports -- with photos! -- that Scientology "elders" have brought six-foot signs into the couple's Hollywood mansion bearing admonitions such as, "Be silent and make all physical movements slow and understandable."

These rumors might not be true, but then neither is the Britney Spears sculpture a realistic one.

Something bothered me about the near-simultaneous publication of two very odd views on giving birth and on the public interest the stories provoked. I'm pretty sure that the unease I feel is about the public appropriation of the process of delivery and about the passivity implied as proper for the two delivering mothers. They have become secondary by being mythologized in impossible ways.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Writing in Wingnuttia

Jane Hamsher must be a reincarnation of Dorothy Parker. I will never get on her wrong side however divine my powers might be, because Jane knows how to shoot those little darts with curare or some of its literary equivalent so precisely that the target thinks the pain was self-inflicted:

That tears it, Ramesh. Those philistines at Regnery have made you change the title of your book (edited by BEN DOMENECH) and forced you to say, like Peter did of Jesus, "I deny thee":

*Franke-Ruta mentions my forthcoming book The Party of Death, which she describes as a "book on Democrats." The book does have quite a bit to say about the Democrats, and it's tough on them. But the book is about more than that, and the title isn't meant as a pejorative term for the Democrats. I explain, mostly in the introduction, what I mean and don't mean by the phrase. I'm not saying this to complain about Franke-Ruta. It was nice of her to mention the book, and her assumption was an easy one to make, partly because the Amazon page on the book is a bit misleading. (I've tried to get Amazon to change it a few times.)*

Do they not understand that YOU ARE AN ARTIST, RAMESH? How could they force you to utter such pure gibberish? The cynical Digby has expressed the belief that you changed the title from "The Party of Death: The Democrats, the Media, the Courts, and the Disregard for Human Life" to "The Party of Death: The Assault on The Sanctity of Life" because you "had second thoughts about spending every day for months defending that slanderous, scurrilous title." But I'm not buying it.

I smell the hand of Pat Sajak.

Even as we speak I am busy combating that big headed, pick-a-letter-motherfucker Sajak and his scurrilous attempts to appease the liberal media by making you change your title. Fear not, Ramesh! I see that after The American Prospect linked to Regnery this morning and your photo with the original title they have now pulled it. But you should always rest easy and know that I am in your corner, my brother, because I made sure to make screen grabs of EVERYTHING last night (including the Amazon cover) so that when we show up to support you at your book signings we can have flyers that will give testimony to your pure, original undying genius.

My vigilance against defamatory shit like this knows no bounds, Ramesh, no bounds:

Ramesh, just for the record: when I publish my upcoming book, The Party of Right-Wing War-Mongering Evangelical Bush-Worshipping Cocksuckers, please be aware that it is not about the Republican party.

My book does have quite a lot to say about Republicans, and I'm kind of tough on them, but the title does NOT refer to them.

Jane is one of Artemis's own. I raise my helmet to her.

Wingnuttia writing has been a hot blogging topic for some time now, what with Ben Domenech (the lying-and-stealing-one) getting a juicy job at the Washington Post for no good reason or at least for not his writing skills. He is also the editor of the book Jane defends in the above quote, the one about us being the party of death. Books like this are the bread-and-butter of wingnuttia. Just think of the names of Ann Coulter's tomes and of the latest O'Beirne which was something about the feminazis who ate Cincinnati and the rest of the universe.

These titles are an odd mixture of the long Victorian way of making up names for books (The Quaint Adventures of the Intrepid Sojourner; Being Also an Epistle of the Manners and Cannibalism of The Heathens) and of very crude name-calling. Why this combination would appeal to wingnut readers is hard to answer. I would have thought that the ones who want Victorian titles wouldn't want the smearwords and the other way round, but perhaps it's necessary to be extremely explicit and long-winded to get the Wingnuttia readers to open their pocket-books or wallets.

There are fewer good writers in Wingnuttia than on our side. I'm willing to defend this point ad infinitum, by the way. George Will, Ann Coulter and Charles Krauthammer can write (the last-mentioned only a little) but that's pretty much the totality of the wingnut talent. We, on the other hand, are drowning in a sea of unrewarded talent. Which may explain why Ben Domenech was offered a job with Major Political Influence and why it smells off. But think of the poor wingnut enforcers in the traditional media: they must hire more and more wingnuts and that means scraping the bottom of the barrel. I really feel sorry for them, having to do all this and then having to argue that it's not that their arms are being twisted to bring "balance", but only a reflection of earnest journalism and the search for impartial coverage of Truth.

The Wingnuttia blogs don't suffer from such ethical jitters. They don't want the media to be impartial; they want to take over the media. Like the cockroach that ate Cincinnati.

Microeconomics 101 by Our Dear Leader

Via Holden Caulfield of the blog First Draft, I learned of this fascinating summary of the free markets by George Bush:

The other big opportunity for democracy, of course, is China. President Hu Jintao is coming to our country, as you know. I will continue to remind him ours is a complex relationship and that we would hope that he would not fear a free society, just like it doesn't appear that he's fearing a free market. I happen to believe free markets eventually yield free societies. One of the most -- one of the most pure forms of democracy is the marketplace, where demand causes something to happen. Excess demand causes prices to -- the supply causes prices to go up, and vice versa. That stands in contrast to governments that felt like they could set price and control demand.

Where to begin? I'd need to do those dreaded supply-and-demand graphs to explain the mistakes thoroughly, but it is well known that nothing empties a blog as fast as seeing those scissor blades of the markets appear. Perhaps it's sufficient to point out that there is nothing inherently democratic about the marketplace of, say, crude oil, and that demand is not the only thing in the markets that causes something to happen. The sentence about excess demand started promisingly, but then at the double dashes something happened and supply astonishingly got mixed up with it. Whether this mess stands in contrast to governments who feel like they can set prices and control demand is an interesting and deep question. But the fact of the matter (as a troll always states it) is that prices are set in many markets by the supply side, albeit within the constraints of the demand conditions. Not that different from what governments do when they control prices.

What did they teach in that Harvard MBA degree George has got?

A Very Funny Con Letter

It made me giggle and that is an achievement this week, so I thought I'd share it with you, though I deleted the address and e-mail information, because this loot is MINE!


Dear Friend.

I am Rev. Fr. Fredrick Nelson, a senior staff with the World Bank fact finding &special duties office. I am writing you this letter based on the fact that cool penny is better than millions of dollars means it's better for one to live and die poor honest man than a rich dishonest one.

I and the Chief security officer (CSO) of this organisation and have arranged
with an officer in the computer section in person of Engineer Peter Cliff to bring out part of your total pending payment with reference number (LM-05-371) amounting to US$10 million. Why we did this is because according to information gathered from the bank’s/security computer, you have been waiting for a long time to receive this payment without success. As I found out that you have almost met all the statutory requirements in respect of your pending payment.

The problem we feel you are having is that of interest groups. A lot of people are interested in your payment and those people are merely doing paper works with you and that explains why you receive different knds of untrue fax and phone messages from different people everyday. Also we found out that some of the officials
of the parastatals have been extorting a lot of money from you with the pretext
of helping you receive your money. I can assure you this will keep happening if you do not do away with those officers. For security reasons you do not have to tell anybody that your have your payment on the way until the payment gets to you.

The said payment is been arranged in a security-proof box weighing 75kg. In
order to get this box shipped to you I and the (CSO) Yesterday went to this four courier companies Dl, Ems, FedEx and Ups to make arrangements on how to get the box shipped to you by courier, but to no avail the above courier companies all made us to understand that they will have to open the box for inspection by the customs before shipment.

This is something we want to avoid because this box is been padded with synthetic nylon and to open it you will have to cut the pad before you will meet
th button that you will press to open the dial code-lock. There is no way you
can open the box and be able to close it again because it was padded with machine. We told the courier services that the box contained film materials and when open will spoil the materials. we did not delare money because courier does not carry money.

Today a friend of mine who is diplomat disclosed to me that there is a security
courier service company that is specialised in sending diplomatic materials and information from one country to another, which also has diplomatic immunity and consignment such as this cannot be checked by any customs anywhere in the world. I have therefore met the official of the security courier service and concluded shipping arrangement with them, which they will commence as soon as I have your go
ahead order.

The diplomat who will be bring in this consignment to you is an expact and has been
in this line of work for many years now so we have Notting to worry about. After
all arrangements w have concluded that you must donate Five Hundred Thousand United States dollars (US$500,000.00) to any charity organisation I designate as soon as you receive your money. To this effect, you will send to us a promissory note for the donation along with your address where you will like the box to be delivered to by courier. Please maintain topmost secrecy as it may cause a lot of problems if found out that we are using this way to help you. You are advised not inform anyone about this until you received your money. Am helping you on this because something
in me is tells me that you are an honest person. When you conclude this and you
send our promise, we will help to ship the final part of your money to you.

May God be with you as i wait for your response either through Email:
Feel free to call me if you will like us to discuses
more on this TEL:

Yours Faithfully
Revd. Fr. Fredrick Nelson
Director, Special Duties. UNO/WBF

Irony Is Still Dead

Could someone try to resuscitate her, please? Otherwise we will keep on reading stuff like this from Tom deLay:

Earlier, the former House majority leader told activists he agreed with their premise that there is a "war on Christianity.

"Our faith has always been in direct conflict with the values of the world," DeLay said. "We are, after all, a society that provides abortion on demand, has killed millions of innocent children, degrades the institution of marriage, and all but treats Christianity like some second-rate superstition."

DeLay was forced to abandon his job as majority leader while facing indictment on charges that he improperly funneled corporate donations to Republican candidates for the House and amid questions about his ties to disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

Must admit that deLay has chutzpah.

The bit about Christianity being treated like "some second-rate superstition" is probably what he means by a "war" on Christianity. Why do wingnuts see wars waged against ideas? The war on terror and now a "war" on Christianity. And how, exactly, is this religious war waged in a country where Christianity is the dominant religion?

I'm fed up with the wingnuts' redefinition of Christianity as something Uncle Scrooge would love before his conversion experience, and even more fed up with the redefinition of disagreement as war. But that's most likely because my religion, echidneism, is nothing more than a second-rate superstition.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

The Mississippi Abortion Bill

Has run into some difficulties:

A bill to ban most abortions in Mississippi died tonight after House and Senate negotiators failed to reach a compromise before a deadline.

The lawmakers were trying to reach common ground on a House-passed bill that would ban abortions in the state except when a woman's life is at risk or she is the victim of rape or incest.

The Mississippi lawmakers will have to wait a while longer before they can decide on the woman's behalf. Not like State Senator Bill Napoli in South Dakota, who already has these powers.

Doesn't he look like the man to decide on these things? So sage and calm and friendly. We are so lucky not to have to bother our pretty little heads with stuff like that in South Dakota.

Spring Redecorating

When you really need a new kitchen but can't afford one it helps to buy new curtains for the windows and new dishtowels. If you are really short of money just hanging the old dishtowels in the windows and using the old curtains as towels makes a nice change.

This must be the thinking of George Bush who is doing some spring redecorating in the White House:

White House chief of staff Andy Card has resigned and will be replaced by budget director Josh Bolten, an administration official said Tuesday.

President Bush was expected to announce the shake up during a meeting with reporters later Tuesday morning in the Oval Office of the White House.

The move comes amid a sharp decline in Bush's approval ratings and calls from Republicans for the president to bring in new aides with fresh ideas and new energy.

This is not a major rehab of the administration. Whether it will satisfy those in the conservative base who want change remains to be seen, but Josh Bolten is another insider, like a set of dishtowels that has been hanging on a hook for years. Perhaps they will look fresh and diffferent in the windows.

Does Card have another appointment in mind? Or was he just worn out by all these "external" effects that have inexplicably haunted this administration: the Iraq invasion, the Katrina aftermath and the failed attempts to revamp Social Security and Medicare? Or might his resignation be the first of many cosmetic touches to come, touches, which will still leave the fundamental problems of the administration unchanged?

Thank You

Thank you for all the beautiful expressions of sympathy. Hank gave me a lot of joy. There are cats and dogs in shelters that have the same joy to give to others. Check them out.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Hank The Lab, 4/23/99 - 3/27/06, RIP

All I want is that you throw this yellow tennis ball for me to fetch. I'm not asking to be silken again, not shiny, not clear-eyed, not asking for all those years you thought I'd have. I'm not asking these cancerous lumps to go away. Just throw the ball, damnit.

Remember the fun? The sun! So yellow and hot and the running. The running! And all the smell codes written in all the trees and the grass! Remember the food! Steak, shrimp, sausages, even a whole birthday cake once when I was a puppy, when I looked like a tiny velvet toy, if tiny velvet toys steal whole birthday cakes and gobble them up. Remember? Remember the other dogs! Catch-me-if-you-can I played with them and hahaha they could not! Could not catch me, me the nimble, me the quick, me with the biggest loving heart in all the dog world. And the biggest tongue, too, large enough to lick Canada in one go. And love bigger than Canada and so trusting, so kind. That was what I was, once. I was in your pack, and in the pack of my best dog, and I did good, didn't I? I loved as I was supposed to.

Then came the needles and the tubes and the pain and the suffering. Why? I asked but nobody answered and so I did what I had to: I fought it, fought to be in the pack, fought to run, fought to love. And I still wanted to fetch the yellow tennis ball, once, twice, ten times, a thousand times, to fetch it until it was not yellow but brown, not round but lumpy, chewed to shreds, wanted to leave your life torn with dog-shaped holes of sorrow every time you see a yellow tennis ball. Because I was worth it, damnit.

Just throw the ball for me one more time. But not too far. Just one more time.

A Truncated Book Review

Someone gave me The End of Faith, by Sam Harris. The blurb on the back cover goes like this:

In The End of Faith, Sam Harris delivers a startling analysis of the clash between reason and religion in the modern world. He offers a vivid, historical tour of our willingness to suspend reason in favor of religious beliefs - even when these beliefs inspire the worst of human atrocities. While warning against the encroachment of organized religion into world politics, Harris draws on insights from neuroscience, philosophy, and Eastern mysticism to deliver a call for a truly modern foundation for ethics and spirituality that is both secular and humanistic.

Sounds interesting. Anything that bashes fundamentalism sounds interesting right now. But not interesting enough to get me past the fifth page of the first chapter which begins:

I hope to show that the very ideal of religious tolerance - born of the notion that every human being should be free to believe whatever he wants about God - is one of the principal forces driving us towards the abyss.

We have been slow to recognize the degree to which religious faith perpetuates man's inhumanity to man.

Ok. This is Stud Lit, the male equivalent of Chick Lit. Harris is writing for men and only five pages into the book I know that women are not going to be subjects in this book but might appear as objects for the acts of others. A quick check of the index and the list of contents confirmed my first impression.

So I set the book aside. Not because of the stylistic choices Harris made, but because of the meaning of making these stylistic choices today, and what that meaning tells about the whole book.

Today's Deep Thought

Comes from the President of the United States. He is trying to calm the heated emotions about the proposed immigration bill:

Senators writing an immigration bill broke from the House's get-tough approach by refusing Monday to make criminals of humanitarian groups or individuals who help illegal immigrants with more than emergency assistance.

Catholic clergy, immigrants and other groups rallied over the weekend in Los Angeles and other cities and again Monday at the Capitol against a bill the House passed in December that would make such assistance a felony.

Meanwhile, President Bush used a naturalization ceremony swearing in 30 new citizens from 20 countries to warn critics of his proposal to let some illegal immigrants remain in the United State against stoking anti-immigrant feelings.

"The immigration debate should be conducted in a civil and dignified way," the president said as the Senate prepared to tackle the hot-button election issue of what to do with the nation's estimated 11 million illegal immigrants this week.

The Senate Judiciary Committee rejected a proposal Monday from Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, to require humanitarian groups providing food, medical aid and advice to illegal immigrants to register with the Department of Homeland Security.

This is not the deep thought, not yet.

This is:

"No one should play on people's fears or try to pit neighbors against each other," Bush said.

An excellent piece of advice, though Bush only intended it to apply to the immigration controversy. Too bad that this is the very basis of most Republican policies in the last five years: playing on people's fears. Could it be that the fear-based administration is beginning to regret going down that road? This isn't the first consequence they might not have anticipated, this wave of demonstrations and protests across the country. We saw the first unintended result in the Portsgate where the fear of terror couldn't be switched off just on the president's say-so. Running a party political agenda on the basis of fear and loathing can be tricky.

Well, if you sleep with the dogs you are likely to wake up with fleas. Or so they say.

The New Downing Street Memo

Or is it an old memo? I get confused, because I also follow the British press. In any case, the American press is now reporting on another Downing Street memo:

US President George W. Bush made clear to British Prime Minister Tony Blair in January 2003 that he was determined to invade Iraq without a UN resolution and even if UN arms inspectors failed to find weapons of mass destruction in the country, The New York Times reported.

Citing a confidential British memorandum, the newspaper said the president was certain that war was inevitable and made his view known during a private two-hour meeting with Blair in the Oval Office on January 31, 2003.


The document indicates the two leaders envisioned a quick victory and a transition to a new Iraqi government that would be complicated, but manageable, the paper said.

Bush predicted that it was "unlikely there would be internecine warfare between the different religious and ethnic groups." Blair agreed with that assessment.

The memo also shows that the president and the prime minister acknowledged that no unconventional weapons had been found inside Iraq, The Times noted.

Faced with the possibility of not finding any before the planned invasion, Bush talked about several ways to provoke a confrontation, including a proposal to paint a US surveillance plane in the colors of the United Nations in hopes of drawing fire, or assassinating Iraqi president Saddam Hussein.

The bolds are mine. If only there was a way of shouting out lines of text on the blogs I'd do it here, for the first time.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

The Seminal Feminist Manifesto?

Check this one out.

The Afghan Christian Case

The court case against the Afghan man who had converted to Christianity sixteen years ago seems to be heading towards his release:

The Afghan government appeared ready to cave in to intense international pressure last night over the Christian convert who faces a likely death sentence for apostasy in the Afghan courts.

Afghan officials confirmed late in the day that Adbul Rahman, a 41-year-old who converted 16 years ago, would be released after the case against him was dismissed on what were described as "technical grounds".

The judge, Ansarullah Mawlavizada, told reporters that the case contained "legal flaws and shortcomings" and would be referred back to Afghanistan's attorney general. In the meantime, judicial officials said, he would be released.

Government officials cited a "lack of evidence" in the case, despite Rahman's frank admission in a court appearance that he was a Christian convert and had "no regrets" about his decision.

He probably faces a risk of lynching now, and I mean this quite seriously.

How odd that the Bush administration appeared surprised about the death sentence that this man was threatened with. I'm not in the administration and I knew about the punishment of converting away from Islam. Another detail to add to the large heap of details nobody here seems to have bothered to learn about the countries that we invaded, presumably to bring them the freedom to do whatever they want to.

Last Chance to Vote For Me

In the Koufax Awards category of Most Deserving of Wider Recognition. Which I am, of course. Go here and vote in the comments.

The Republican Agenda in 2006

Will be built on whatever lowest denominator they can find for populism. Immigration is a good one for that, because immigrants can't vote and because it taps into that deep vein of hatred towards outsiders.

This is why immigration is made into the big bugbear right now, so that all are properly sensitized to it by election time. Sadly, the wingnut PR campaign is not going too well. There are right-wingers who want illegal immigration because that is the way to get the cheapest possible workers, and then there are right-wingers who see illegal immigration as a drain on their tax payments and as competition for scarce jobs, not to mention the whole sensitive issue to do with the fact that the Republicans want to court the Latino voting bloc while attacking people who are almost all Latinos, too.

Well, it sure looks like the Latinos have been woken up:

About half a million activists have rallied in Los Angeles in the US state of California to protest against plans to criminalise undocumented workers.

Organiser Javier Rodriguez said demonstrators wanted an immigration system that was humane and not racist.

The House of Representatives has passed a bill that would make it a felony for immigrants to be in the US illegally.


The new bill would also impose new penalties on employers who hire illegal immigrants and allow for the erecting of fences along a third of the US-Mexican border.

The proposals have angered many Hispanic-Americans, a key voting bloc in November's mid-term elections.

Mr Rodriguez, of the March 25 Coalition, said he wanted to stop "the approval of anti-immigrant reforms" and demand "migration reform that is humane and fair, and not racist".

Affirmative Action for Men

This is what takes place in quite a few colleges these days, and the wingnuts have not been slow to explain that it's the fault of feminists, because it was feminists who got us affirmative action in the first place, and look who is benefiting from it now! The more interesting question these wingnuts have not asked or answered is naturally if affirmative action for white men isn't exactly what has been taking place for a few centuries already, and if that wasn't the original reason why affirmative action for the other groups was introduced. But I digress.

The topic of the day is not preferential treatment during the last few centuries, but preferential treatment today, and in only certain types of colleges: those which are not ranked at the top of the college hierarchies. It is these colleges that have trouble attracting enough male applicants to end up with something fairly gender-balanced. The top-ranked colleges don't have the same problem, and this should suggest that the gender imbalance is not about gender per se but about something that is linked to class and perhaps to ethnicity and race.

Ampersand posted about this some time ago, and the study that he linked to is still relevant:

It shows that the dearth of men does not apply to white well-heeled applicants. It is the poorer men which don't apply to go to college, and especially the poorer black and Hispanic men. Or put the other way round: it is the poorer women in minority groups who are especially determined to go to college. This way of posing the problem gives us different answers, answers having to do with the cultural values of the men who don't try to go to college, and answers having to do with questions about what kind of jobs are available for poor black women who don't have college degrees. Did you know that the average earnings of men with nothing but a high school degree equal the average earnings of women with college degrees? This alone offers a fairly good explanation for girls' determination to get a college degree.

But these are not the answers that the wingnuts want to hear. They want answers which will let them segregate the sexes in education, answers that have to do with setting up jungle gyms for boys and nothing much for girls. John Tierney proposes these solutions, because schools, as we all know, were designed for girls and not for boys. I'm not sure why this argument is presented over and over again, given that girls were not even allowed to go to school at first, so the way schools were designed certainly had nothing to do with what girls wanted.

Is affirmative action for men a good thing in college admissions? Majikthese addresses this question in some detail. What I'd like to know is if it is the poor and minority men that benefit from this affirmative action, because it is these groups who are underrepresented in colleges. I'd also like to know if the argument that men are necessary for a properly diverse college experience was ever used in the mirror form when women were scarcer than hens' teeth in colleges.

Madeleine Albright: Advice That Will Be Ignored by The Bush Administration

Nevertheless, it's good advice:

Although this is not an administration known for taking advice, I offer three suggestions. The first is to understand that although we all want to "end tyranny in this world," that is a fantasy unless we begin to solve hard problems. Iraq is increasingly a gang war that can be solved in one of two ways: by one side imposing its will or by all the legitimate players having a piece of the power. The U.S. is no longer able to control events in Iraq, but it can be useful as a referee.

Second, the Bush administration should disavow any plan for regime change in Iran — not because the regime should not be changed but because U.S. endorsement of that goal only makes it less likely. In today's warped political environment, nothing strengthens a radical government more than Washington's overt antagonism. It also is common sense to presume that Iran will be less willing to cooperate in Iraq and to compromise on nuclear issues if it is being threatened with destruction. As for Iran's choleric and anti-Semitic new president, he will be swallowed up by internal rivals if he is not unwittingly propped up by external foes.

Third, the administration must stop playing solitaire while Middle East and Persian Gulf leaders play poker. Bush's "march of freedom" is not the big story in the Muslim world, where Shiite Muslims suddenly have more power than they have had in 1,000 years; it is not the big story in Lebanon, where Iran is filling the vacuum left by Syria; it is not the story among Palestinians, who voted — in Western eyes — freely, and wrongly; it is not even the big story in Iraq, where the top three factions in the recent elections were all supported by decidedly undemocratic militias.

The Iraq Civil War

According to the British Observer, it has already begun:

The battle between Sunni and Shia Muslims for control of Baghdad has already started, say Iraqi political leaders who predict fierce street fighting will break out as each community takes over districts in which it is strongest.

"The fighting will only stop when a new balance of power has emerged," Fuad Hussein, the chief of staff of Massoud Barzani, the Kurdish leader, said. "Sunni and Shia will each take control of their own area." He said sectarian cleansing had already begun.

Many Iraqi leaders now believe that civil war is inevitable but it will be confined, at least at first, to the capital and surrounding provinces where the population is mixed. "The real battle will be the battle for Baghdad where the Shia have increasing control," said one senior official who did not want his name published. "The army will disintegrate in the first moments of the war because the soldiers are loyal to the Shia, Sunni or Kurdish communities and not to the government." He expected the Americans to stay largely on the sidelines.


Iraqi officials and ministers are increasingly in despair at the failure to put together an effective administration in Baghdad. A senior Arab minister, who asked not to be named, said: "The government could end up being only a few buildings in the Green Zone."

The mood among Iraqi leaders, both Arabs and Kurds, is far gloomier in private than the public declarations of the US and British governments. The US President George W Bush called this week for a national unity government in Iraq but Iraqi observers do not expect this to be any more effective than the present government of Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari. One said this week: "The real problem is that the Shia and Sunni hate each other and not that we haven't been able to form a government."

The Shia and Sunni hate each other over there and the wingnuts and moonbats hate each other over here. So it goes. And I'm not repeating what I always say: that anyone with any knowledge of the history of Iraq could have predicted this outcome. But such people don't get government jobs in the U.S..