Saturday, April 15, 2006

The Angry Moonbats

Onwards, angry moonbats (liberals and lefties and other treasonous folk)! Our anger-dripping message has been heard by the wise and civil in the media. Indeed, our vitriol and hatred is running down the front page of today's Washington Post, in the form of a story about the angry left blogosphere. It's also an article by David Finkel about one blogger, Maryscott O'Connor, and not a bad one in some ways, except that it's told as a story which HAD to start "Once upon a time there was a country with very very angry lefty bloggers. Why were they so angry? Why did they swear so much? Could it be because of something very sad in their private lives? And what did the anger ever give them?"

Or in the words of the article itself:

In the angry life of Maryscott O'Connor, the rage begins as soon as she opens her eyes and realizes that her president is still George W. Bush. The sun has yet to rise and her family is asleep, but no matter; as soon as the realization kicks in, O'Connor, 37, is out of bed and heading toward her computer.

Out there, awaiting her building fury: the Angry Left, where O'Connor's reputation is as one of the angriest of all. "One long, sustained scream" is how she describes the writing she does for various Web logs, as she wonders what she should scream about this day.

She smokes a cigarette. Should it be about Bush, whom she considers "malevolent," a "sociopath" and "the Antichrist"? She smokes another cigarette. Should it be about Vice President Cheney, whom she thinks of as "Satan," or about Karl Rove, "the devil"? Should it be about the "evil" Republican Party, or the "weaselly, capitulating, self-aggrandizing, self-serving" Democrats, or the Catholic Church, for which she says "I have a special place in my heart . . . a burning, sizzling, putrescent place where the guilty suffer the tortures of the damned"?


What's notable about this isn't only the level of anger but the direction from which it is coming. Not that long ago, it was the right that was angry and the left that was, at least comparatively, polite. But after years of being the targets of inflammatory rhetoric, not only from fringe groups but from such mainstream conservative politicians as Newt Gingrich, the left has gone on the attack. And with Republicans in control of Washington, they have much more to be angry about.

"Powerlessness" is O'Connor's explanation. "This is born of powerlessness."

To what, effect, though? Do the hundreds of thousands of daily visitors to Daily Kos, who sign their comments with phrases such as "Anger is energy," accomplish anything other than talking among themselves? The founder of Daily Kos, Markos Moulitsas, may have a wide enough reputation at this point to consult regularly with Democrats on Capitol Hill, but what about the heart and soul of Daily Kos, the other visitors, whose presence extends no further than what they read and write on the site?

How about the 125,000 or so daily visitors to Eschaton? Or the thousands who visit Rude Pundit, the Smirking Chimp or My Left Wing, which is O'Connor's Web site?

Put another way, can one person sitting alone in a living room, typing her fingertips numb on a keyboard, make a difference?


All of which O'Connor finds remarkable, especially when she considers her route to this point -- the complications of which are reflected in the items she keeps close at hand.

The cigarettes are because of a personality that she describes as compulsive.

The nonalcoholic beer is because for several years she drank to excess.

The note that says "Why am I/you here?" is because she is in constant search of an answer.

And the photo album is because of a 25-year-old Marine who died fighting in Vietnam three months before she was born, which she thinks helps explain the note, the alcohol, the cigarettes and the very first piece of writing she ever published online, a rant against the war in Iraq that began, "Every single millisecond of my life was directly affected by the nightmare that was Vietnam."

If you write a story in your head and then go out to seek the materials for that very story, well, you know what the result is going to be. And Finkel did have this story already sketched out when he contacted O'Connor. From her diary on Kos:

A week later, he was here in my living room. He sat on my couch and explained that he didn't yet know what he was going to write, didn't have in mind any angle. He did have a phrase weaving in and out of his mind: "The Angry Left." Apparently I am the Angry Left personified.

So that explains why nobody wants to write about me. I'm not angry enough. Well, fuckety-fuck!

But this part of Finkel's story is a good one, though underdeveloped:

What's notable about this isn't only the level of anger but the direction from which it is coming. Not that long ago, it was the right that was angry and the left that was, at least comparatively, polite. But after years of being the targets of inflammatory rhetoric, not only from fringe groups but from such mainstream conservative politicians as Newt Gingrich, the left has gone on the attack. And with Republicans in control of Washington, they have much more to be angry about.

Underdeveloped, I said. Let's develop it a little more. Note the first sentence, about all this rantin' and ravin' being notable because of the direction it's coming from: the left. Isn't it just so cute that the anger of the right doesn't deserve a front page article in the Washington Post, the noted liberal latte-sipping newspaper? The anger and viciousness of the right is...what? Invisible to the media, ignored in political commentary, forgiven in debates? Attributed to only a few fringe voices? Each of whom happens to have, say, a million listeners?

Maybe David Finkel never visited those very few wingnut blogs which allow comments. I'd recommend the Little Green Footballs for a taste of the tea-sipping civility of the right-wing. He may also not have come across the many and gloried wingnut trolls which stumble through the left blogosphere, leaking feces and vomit en route. Notice how civil I sound when I use words like "feces" and "vomit"? Have another cucumber sandwich.

Michael Savage calls illegal immigrants vermin. Ann Coulter advocates baseball bats as the medium of conversation with the Democrats. Rush Limbaugh sells anger and bitterness every single day. And their fans are not loving this anger and vitriol? Perhaps they all sit around, sipping Earl Gray with a dash of lemon, with the pinky finger elegantly curled, while occasionally muttering "Jolly good, my chap, jolly good".

So there is a subtext to this article, and the subtext is the unreasonableness of the uncouth left. Why would the Democratic party take the liberal and lefty blogreaders seriously when they have been shown to be foaming-at-the-mouth deranged haters? It is dangerous to touch such a group, unless they carry the honorable wingnut label, and it is much more prudent to ignore them. How about a crumpet with that bile, my dear?

Friday, April 14, 2006

Friday Embroidery Blogging

I don't think I have shown this embroidery before because of its gloomy nature. It has a title: "A Window". Several stories were going around in my head when I made it.

The techniques are mainly surface stitchery. The flower buds I made with a stitch I invented but can no longer remember or reproduce. The idea was to use something like French knots but with an asymmetric effect.

Republican Smears 101

This is how it's done. First the facts: The immigration bill which caused all those huge demonstrations was crafted by the Republicans in power.

House Republicans put up a bill to make being an illegal alien a felony. An amendment was proposed that would have made it a misdemeanor. As the AP reports, "Democrats, including members of the Hispanic Congressional Caucus, voted against the amendment, arguing they did not support criminal penalties. Nevada Republicans Jon Porter and Jim Gibbons also voted against the amendment, which failed. The felony provision remained in the bill, H.R. 4437, and it passed the House on a largely party line vote."

The last sentence means that the bill passed because the Republicans voted for it. Ok.

Next the smears. The Republican National Committee is paying for a Spanish-language radio ad in Las Vegas, Tucson and Phoenix which says this:

The 60-second spot says in Spanish that Reid "blocked our leaders from working together" and blames Democrats for legislation that passed the Republican-controlled House that would make illegal immigrants subject to felony charges.

"Reid's Democrat allies voted to treat millions of hardworking immigrants as felons," the ad says, "while President Bush and Republican leaders work for legislation that will protect our borders and honor our immigrants."


A Spate of Generals

Like a pride of lions or a school of whales perhaps. A way to denote a large number of retired generals all moving together as a pack, this time in a vain hope to get Rumsfeld fired. Another has joined the spate:

The widening circle of retired generals who have stepped forward to call for Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld's resignation is shaping up as an unusual outcry that could pose a significant challenge to Mr. Rumsfeld's leadership, current and former generals said on Thursday.

Maj. Gen. Charles H. Swannack Jr., who led troops on the ground in Iraq as recently as 2004 as the commander of the Army's 82nd Airborne Division, on Thursday became the fifth retired senior general in recent days to call publicly for Mr. Rumsfeld's ouster. Also Thursday, another retired Army general, Maj. Gen. John Riggs, joined in the fray.

"We need to continue to fight the global war on terror and keep it off our shores," General Swannack said in a telephone interview. "But I do not believe Secretary Rumsfeld is the right person to fight that war based on his absolute failures in managing the war against Saddam in Iraq."

Another former Army commander in Iraq, Maj. Gen. John Batiste, who led the First Infantry Division, publicly broke ranks with Mr. Rumsfeld on Wednesday. Mr. Rumsfeld long ago became a magnet for political attacks. But the current uproar is significant because Mr. Rumsfeld's critics include generals who were involved in the invasion and occupation of Iraq under the defense secretary's leadership.

There were indications on Thursday that the concern about Mr. Rumsfeld, rooted in years of pent-up anger about his handling of the war, was sweeping aside the reticence of retired generals who took part in the Iraq war to criticize an enterprise in which they participated. Current and former officers said they were unaware of any organized campaign to seek Mr. Rumsfeld's ouster, but they described a blizzard of telephone calls and e-mail messages as retired generals critical of Mr. Rumsfeld weighed the pros and cons of joining in the condemnation.

Even as some of their retired colleagues spoke out publicly about Mr. Rumsfeld, other senior officers, retired and active alike, had to be promised anonymity before they would discuss their own views of why the criticism of him was mounting. Some were concerned about what would happen to them if they spoke openly, others about damage to the military that might result from amplifying the debate, and some about talking outside of channels, which in military circles is often viewed as inappropriate.

I believe Billmon is correct when he states that:

My advice would be: Fuggetaboutit. The chances that Dick Cheney will fire his old boss and ideological comrade in crime are only slightly higher than the chances that Rumsfeld's removal would lead to even a minor improvement in the situation in Iraq. It's almost like asking Cheney to fire himself.

To be honest, I think the pair of them would get rid of Junior before they would ever consider stepping down. This absolute determination to hold on to office at all costs may seem bizarre, considering how old and sick these guys are -- and how much shit is coming down on their heads every day -- but it's just the way these things work.

And Junior has stated in public that he's very happy with Rummy who is doing "a heckuva" job. Of course, so was Brownie in the aftermath of Katrina, right before he was made to resign.

But Rummy is one of the powers behind the throne. One doesn't fire those except at ones own peril, and Bush knows this.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

My Easter Plans

I'm going to dress up as a humongous snake egg, with frightening patterns painted all over the surface. Then I'm going to roll right past fundamental churches, all the time making little chirpy snake baby noises.

This, my friends, is the next stage in the war on Easter.

Wheeee! Another Record!

Government spending hit a new record in March 2006! Guess when the previous record was set? In February 2006. I like to see the party of the small government get records. Next we will have to order a gigantic bathtub for Grover Norquist, the wingnut who wants to drown the government in a bathtub.

But the economy is doing real good. Why don't we see more happy cheery faces then? Billmon explains it by using two succinct little graphs. I have stolen them here because they make my blog look livelier and more knowing, although I'm not 100% sure that the profit graph is in constant dollars, too:

For a graph that is about something different but still interesting, click here.

Who Hates America?

Joe Klein, the pseudo-liberal, thinks that the liberals do. Eric Alterman had a little chat with him about it:

It was a useful discussion with many useful tributaries and give and take with the audience and we all felt better for it.

That is right up until the very last moment when, after someone brought up the question of the whether the Democrats will be able to present an effective alternative to Bush in the next election, Joe Klein shouted out, "Well they won't if their message is that they hate America - which is what has been the message of the liberal wing of the party for the past twenty years."

So Klein agrees with the wingnuts. The wingnut DNA has this information in it: that every liberal is a stupid unemployed piglet living off the teats of the government sow while driving around in a limousine sipping latte and French wines when not working in the university ivory towers on heinous plans to destroy all this good stuff called America. Because liberals hate America.

I wrote an answer to this some time ago, and it's still worth reading, I humbly propose, while sipping on my liberal latte in the line at the unemployment office, natch. Here it is reproduced for all you liberals who might be too lazy to click on a link:

The radical right calls me an America-hater almost every day. The idea that anyone criticizing this administration hates America and plots treason is spread all over the net and the traditional media. The intention is to make us critics ashamed and fearful of saying anything. The intention is approving silence, the only love that is acceptable to the most extremists on the right.

But it is we, the noisy and complaining ones, who really love America, love her as she is, a gangly teenager with acne and furious dreams and occasional bad mistakes which she then corrects. Love her beautiful mountains and rivers and prairies and wetlands and deserts and cities and all the people that inhabit these, even the ones who think differently. It is we who love what America was, what she had grown to, her promises and her frailties, her ability to learn from errors, to become better, to promise to try, her genius, her optimism, her determination to follow the arc of justice, ultimately.

Yes, we would complain about her teenage fads, about her shallowness, about the serious problems which she didn't know how to correct: the role of race, the role of poverty and the role of violence in a society. But she tried, however unclearly sometimes, and all the voices, even the conservative ones, participated in this trying and made the country ultimately better, closer to maturity, without any loss in the optimism and sunniness that we all prized.

This is the America that was and still is, at least partly, and this is the America that the current administration and the radical right want to destroy. We love her too much to want to see this young country clad in a burkha, to want to see her bent over to carry the heavy moneybags of a few greedy capitalists. We love her too much to want to see her poisoned by mercury and arsenic in her beautiful oceans and lovely lakes. We want her to learn and to grow, not to be forced to sit in a solitary silence, reading over and over the same "thou-shalt-nots" of the conservative bibles.

We critics don't want our America to rampage across this globe, grabbing money and power and leaving behind destitution and death. It is not good for the world and it is terrible for the young country we still are. We are like the parents who love their children, yet see clearly where their frailties lie, and as good parents we tell how to fix those frailties and how to grow stronger while retaining the essential greatness of the child, the teenager, this glorious country of many songs.
How to be mature.

The radical right wants none of this. It wants a country with no kindness, no shelter, no common squares where people can meet. It wants a country in perpetual war, a country where mercenaries and corporations are cared for, where America is but their feeding ground, the silent congregation in some monsterous church for money.

We critics are needed, because we indeed love this country. Our tough love is needed, because it sees with clear eyes. Our patriotism is needed, because it is untainted with false beliefs and childish assertions of how much greater America is than the rest of this earth. We are needed for the very love that makes us named the haters of America.

Why Faith-Based Programs Are A Mistake

In a nutshell: they are a way of doling out some bounty to Bush's faithful base, they are not a way to replicate the services of trained professionals and they are going to lead to cases like this one:

As far as the Rev. John Maxfield could tell, everything was fine between his church and Anoka County until that Friday the 13th.

The county social services department was sending disabled seniors and other vulnerable adults needing care during the day to Trinity Lutheran Church in St. Francis. Trinity's members were bringing in hot dishes for lunch.

Then the county brought another client to the conservative Missouri Synod church: a woman who had begun life as a man.

The church refused to let her in. The county refused to send any more clients.

Maxfield, who says the church now loses significant money on the program, is left to wonder what the future holds for faith-based government-supported social services.

"It places the church in a difficult situation," he said. "We want to minister to everyone. But this person's outward behavior contradicts the church's teaching."

This example may be about a state-level program (I'm not sure) but there is no reason to expect that the federal program wouldn't face the same problem: religious people want to treat their clientele based on the teachings of their church, not based on the needs of that clientele, and religious people want to have the right to discriminate in this manner.

But the money they use is from taxes possibly paid by the very types that these faith-based programs would refuse to serve. Now this is plain wrong.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

One Picture Worth A Thousand Words?

The most recent Miss Iraq has gone into hiding:

Silva Shahakian, an Iraqi Christian, received the title of Miss Iraq when the initial winner stepped down after receiving death threats and two other runners-up also bowed out, a person familiar with the event said Wednesday.

Since receiving the crown, Shahakian has been lying low, fearing she will be targeted, he said. The pageant was held April 9 in a Baghdad social club and the initial winner, Tamar Goregian, gave back the crown four days later, he said.

The man spoke on condition of anonymity, refusing to be identified further, saying he also feared retribution from militants.

And now the picture. An embroidery I made to reflect some of the deep choices women have. It doesn't have anything about death threats, though. Must add those.

The Mazurka

Ballroom dances have steps. Here are the steps of Mazurka (in italics) and the steps of the political Mazurka (in bolds):

1) The first is called the "pas Glissè," or Mazurka step. It is executed by springing lightly on the right foot, and allowing the left to glissade to the fourth position in front, which employs two beats of the bar. Then the left leg is raised to the fourth position behind; this lifting up of the foot is performed on the third beat of the bar. Then you recommence with the other leg, and so on with the rest. This step is called the Mazurka step, because it is the most usual and is unceasingly repeated, either alone or in combination with other steps. The pupil should endeavor to be quite perfect in it before undertaking other and more complicated steps.

1) Iran aggressively pursues these weapons and exports terror, while an unelected few repress the Iranian people's hope for freedom.

Iraq continues to flaunt its hostility toward America and to support terror. The Iraqi regime has plotted to develop anthrax, and nerve gas, and nuclear weapons for over a decade. This is a regime that has already used poison gas to murder thousands of its own citizens -- leaving the bodies of mothers huddled over their dead children. This is a regime that agreed to international inspections -- then kicked out the inspectors. This is a regime that has something to hide from the civilized world.

States like these, and their terrorist allies, constitute an axis of evil, arming to threaten the peace of the world.

2) The second is called the "pas de Basque."We are here speaking of the Polish pas de Basque, which we must be careful not to confound with the French pas de Basque. The first of these is executed in three, in order to mark the measure. For the first step you jump, changing the leg as in the French step, but holding up the changed leg in the fourth position in advance. For the second beat, you bring this leg to the ground; glissading it slightly; and for the third, you make a coupè under the other foot, beating sharply with the heel, and flinging up the same leg to recommence another step. It is necessary to try and advance well at the second beat, setting the foot to the ground, and avoiding to make the steps by jerks. The pas de Basque of the mazurka should be made by stretching out without crossing.

2) Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the hard-line mayor of Tehran who has invoked Iran's 1979 revolution and expressed doubts about rapprochement with the United States, won a runoff election Friday and was elected president of the Islamic republic in a landslide, the Interior Ministry announced early Saturday.

Ahmadinejad defeated Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, the former two-term president who had won the first round of voting last week and was attempting to appeal to socially moderate and reform-minded voters.

3) The third step has been called the pas Boiteux (a hobble step) because the novices, who can only execute it imperfectly, have all the appearance of hobbling. The first beat is the same as for the pas de mazurka; but instead of lifting up the right leg behind at the third beat, you strike the Coup de Talon with the right foot on the left, and at the same moment quickly raise the left. The heel is placed close to the lower part of the right calf as in the polka; this step always attacks the same foot.

3) Iran showed a defiant face to the world Wednesday after a major breakthrough in its nuclear program, challenging the UN Security Council and shrugging off a broadside of international condemnation.

After President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad announced Tuesday that scientists had crossed a milestone by enriching uranium to make nuclear fuel, a top military commander declared his country's nuclear progress was unstoppable.

4) The fourth step, called the pas Polonaise, or Coup de Talon is executed by striking the right heel with the left for the first beat; for the second you place the left foot in the second position aside; for the third, you bring up the right foot with a glissade and without springing to the left, and give a fresh coup de talon to recommence. In the course of the promenades this step is executed solely with the left foot; in the rounds it is made with both feet. The position of the foot is the same for the mazurka as for the Waltz à Deux Temps; you must not seek either to bend it or to turn it out, but leave it in its natural position. The coups de talons, which are introduced into various steps of the mazurka, and which are even one of the indispensable accompaniments of the dance, ought to be given well in time, with a certain degree of energy, but without exaggeration. Too loud a coup de talon will always be considered in the ball-room as evincing bad taste.

4) The White House, which has charged that Iran is secretly trying to develop fuel for nuclear weapons, at first reacted mildly to the announcement, saying Iran was "moving in the wrong direction." But later in the day it sounded a more ominous tone, with the National Security Council announcing that the United States would work with the United Nations Security Council "to deal with the significant threat posed by the regime's efforts to acquire nuclear weapons."

Outside experts said that while the country appears to have passed a milestone — one it has approached before with smaller-scale enrichment of uranium — the announcement may have had less to do with an engineering feat than with carefully timed political theater intended to convince the West that the program is unstoppable.

The declaration comes at a time of intense speculation in Washington that preliminary plans are advancing to take military action against Iran's nuclear sites if diplomacy fails, an idea Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld dismissed Tuesday as "fantasy land."

And the easy version for those who have two right feet, by a (possible parody) troll on Eschaton comments:

We will soon be at war with Iran, one of the axis of evil. Live with it. Just sit back and let the US Army take care of this mopping up operation. No one is asking any of you to go fight so calm down.

On Botox Babes

I came across an article about cosmetic surgeries of various kinds. It has this to say about the advisability of going the whole hog with the lasers and the botox and so on:

Not everyone sees these developments as progress, however. Abigail Saguy, a professor of sociology at UCLA, thinks that our growing obsession with surgery is unhealthy. "It's shocking that woman [sic] are so desperate not to age naturally," she says. "Is it really worth going to these extraordinary lengths just to feel acceptable?"

"Is it really worth going to these extraordinary lengths just to fee acceptable?" I guess the answer depends on what it feels like to be unacceptable, doesn't it, Abigail? Think about it a little. She implies here that women who age without surgery are no longer acceptable in this society, and that they should feel comfortable with that.

"It's shocking that women are so desperate not to age naturally." No, it isn't shocking at all. It's a direct result of the value placed on a bouncy bottom and perk breasts in the society, a direct result of the value placed on a smooth face and lack of wrinkles. If the society punishes women for getting older (by, say, making it harder for them to get good jobs or by making them invisible in social settings) is it really that shocking that women might feel desperate about aging?

The television news crews are a good example of the reasons why some women might be willing to inject botox in their foreheads. The crews usually have one woman and two men, at least around here, and the woman is always pretty and almost always young. The men, not so much. What happens to the women when they get wrinkly? I don't know, because the wrinkly ones disappear from sight. The men, not so much, though this, too, may be changing.

I shouldn't have discussed the quote without starting by pointing out that the majority of women (and of men) don't have cosmetic surgery. It's not "women" who despair of aging naturally, but some women, the ones whose experience and life circumstances make them especially vulnerable to the social ranking system. That I didn't start this way was caused by the other misreading in the quote being so much worse, the one about women's inexplicable vanity that makes them refuse natural aging. What is really inexplicable is for anyone not to see what makes some women want cosmetic surgery when the media around us keeps showing pretty young women as if about fifty percent of the total population consisted of them, and when older women on television are so rare that they might as well be declared honorary tokens.

Something I have learned on the many and varied internets is this: Suggesting that a woman is menopausal still works as an insult in the minds of many blog commenters. No wonder that botox babes exist.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Deep Thought for The Day

From Billmon:

I've been trying to picture what the world might look like the day after a U.S. nuclear strike on Iran, but I'm essentially drawing a blank. There simply isn't a precedent for the world's dominant superpower turning into a rogue state – much less a rogue state willing to wage nuclear war against potential, even hypothetical, security threats. At that point, we'd truly be through the looking glass.

One can assume (or at least hope) that first use of nuclear weapons would turn America into an international pariah, at least in the eyes of global public opinion. It would certainly mark the definitive end of the system of collective security – and the laws and institutions supporting that system – established in the wake of World War II. The UN Security Council would be rendered as pointless as the old League of Nations. The Nuremberg Principles would be as moot as the Geneva Conventions. (To the neocons, of course, these are all pluses.)

Nuclear first use would also shatter (or at least, radically transform) the political alliances that defined America's leadership role in the old postwar order. To the extent any of these relationships survived, they'd be placed on roughly the same basis as the current U.S. protectorate over Saudi Arabia – or, even worse, brought down to the level of the old Warsaw Pact. They would be coalitions of the weak, the vulnerable and the easily intimidated.

In other words, the current hegemony of American influence and ideas (backed by overwhelming military force) would be replaced by an overt dictatorship based – more or less explicitly – on fear of nuclear annihilation. U.S. foreign policy would become nothing more than a variation on the ancient Roman warning: For every one of our dead; 100 of yours. Never again would American rulers (or their foreign counterparts) be able to hide behind the comfortable fiction that the United States is just primus inter pares – first among equals. A country that nukes other countries merely on the suspicion that they may pose a future security threat isn't the equal of anybody. America would stand completely alone: hated by many, feared by all, admired only by the world's other tyrants. To call that a watershed event seems a ridiculous understatement.

It's time to wake up, America.

A Modern Fairy Tale

Once upon a time there lived a man who believed that his king was the only one who could rule a vast and wealthy kingdom. Sadly for this man (whom we shall call Tobin) the country wasn't actually a kingdom but a republic. Even more sadly, Tobin's king had to fight an election against a rival candidate. Tobin was unhappy about this, but not so unhappy that he couldn't act.

He decided to interfere with the evil rival's election campaign by jamming the telephone lines of the rival's get-out-the-vote center. This worked very well, or so Tobin thought. His king was recrowned and all was well. Except for one thing. Some not-so-nice people investigated Tobin's jamming adventure and he was caught. Stupid laws of the country! They made Tobin's heroism a crime!

Poor, poor Tobin. At least the king's courtiers agreed to pay his legal costs. What a self-sacrificing man Tobin was! Our hearts are touched by such bravery.

What happened next? Well, some nosey interfering folk found out that Tobin had talked to the king's nearest and dearest a lot. In fact, he talked to them two dozen times while he was jamming the rival's phones. Sweet. But now those nasty snoopers want to know what all this talk discussed. How dare they! Can't a man talk to his king's courtiers as much as he wants to?

Poor, poor Tobin. And we don't even know the end to this fairy tale. That's the way modern tales work.

Another Hidden Cost of War

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD):

Josh Dobbelstein drives as close to the middle of the road as he can. Over on the side, in a plastic bag or stuffed in the carcass of a dead dog, that's where he knows the enemy intent on killing him hides bombs.

Just the other day he dove to the floor of a vehicle he was riding in when he mistook the sound of a trucker hitting his brakes for a machine gun.

They are the kinds of precautions that keep soldiers at war alive. But Dobbelstein left Iraq more than 16 months ago, and for him they are vestiges of a war he can't seem to shake.

PTSD became famous when certain symptoms were identifed over and over again in the veterans returning from Vietnam. Later PTSD was found in survivors of childhood abuse, in hostages after they were released and in individuals with similar horrid life experiences.

The sufferer of PTSD is permanently on the alert, cannot turn this state off, and cannot avoid reacting to certain clues: a backfiring car, a shadow passing the window, the smell of the aftershave the rapist used, and when these clues emerge the sufferer retreats to the conditions of the initial trauma.

This is pure hell, not only for the sufferer but also for those near him or her, and the consequences can be severe: lives ruined, marriages dissolved, jobs lost.

PTSD can be treated, and it's important for those who suffer from it to seek help. But it's also important to realize that this is yet another cost of the Iraq war, a cost that is hidden and even kept hidden by the sufferers because real warriors must not show weaknesses.

Talk Of The Town

Politicians have always been good at making something an important topic in opinion polls by simply advertizing it as an important topic. After a few months of this advertizing, taram-padam!, the topic is indeed ranked as an important one by voters, and one that they care hugely about. Then a few months later nobody cares about it at all, because the election has passed and there is no more advertising.

This happens around every election cycle. One cycle we worry about health care, another cycle we worry about crime, whatever our actual worries might be. But the current administration has taken this opinion manipulation to new heights. For one thing, it's a continuous process for them. Practically everything we talk about has been preselected by the wingnut think-tanks.

Remember last spring? How Social Security was the worry on everybody's mind? Odd how it's no longer a worry, even though nothing has changed. Now the worry we are to talk about is immigration. This, too, is something the wingnuts have designed, though events such as the recent demonstrations have made it into something bigger than the initial design called for.

And that we talk about whether the media is downplaying happy, skippy news from Iraq is also part of the wingnut mesmerizing campaign. I mean, we never write angry letters to the news media because they tell us only about the murder downtown and not about the guy who is snoozing peacefully only a few blocks away. But the snoozers are news in Iraq, because the wingnuts say so.

I'm annoyed by this. I don't like to play defense all the time, and that's how it feels. If I write about something not in the wingnut script I don't get much of a response, and I also feel as if I'm foregoing an opportunity to defend something that deserves it.

The problem is not that the Republicans are offering topics for discussion. That is their right, especially as they are in power. The problem is in the difficulty of getting real attention to any other topic. The administration can drown anything they don't like by simply dumping something else around the same time, and they do this a lot. And then there are the topics that very few people want to touch, for some reason. The question of fair and transparent elections is one. News items which suggest that elections have been neither (such as this one) don't get the attention they deserve which is to be discussed openly and often until the problems have been fixed.

All this is something to remember when you next turn on the television pundit shows.

Monday, April 10, 2006

The Problem With Blogging

Is its ephemeral nature. I wrote a really nice piece this morning, and already it has sunk down the page. Well, it may not be really nice, the piece, but I felt the door was open when I wrote it. The creativity gate by which I sit. Not a big gate, but all mine. So read the piece...

The Giant Woke Up

This picture is from the Dallas immigration protest. Do you think the wingnuts might regret waking up this particular wedge issue?

Berlusconi Is Italian For Bush

That's pretty much all you need to know to feel very worried that Berlusconi's challenger might not win in the Italian elections:

Exit polls indicated Monday that the Italian parliamentary election pitting center-left economist Romano Prodi against flamboyant billionaire Premier Silvio Berlusconi was too close to call. Projections showed Berlusconi's coalition leading in the Senate, but the two sides running neck-and-neck in the lower Chamber of Deputies.

Berlusconi has made democracy something quite different in Italy. Sound familiar? That he might not lose is disheartening and raises all sorts of questions about this era as the End of the Experiment in Democracy and so on. I still hope he might lose, though.

It Was A Joke, Dude

The last recourse of the scoundrel is no longer patriotism but the idea that the scoundrel was just joking. Can't you take a joke? You have no sense of humor, feminazi. I was just kidding when I proposed killing illegal immigrants randomly:

Right-wing radio host Brian James of KFYI in Arizona recently advocated murder as a way of dealing with undocumented immigrants. An excerpt:

What we'll do is randomly pick one night - every week - where we will kill whoever crosses the border. Step over there and you die. You get to decide whether it's your lucky night or not. I think that would be more fun…[I'd be] happy to sit there with my high-powered rifle and my night scope.


Brian James has not apologized and claims his comments were "satire." Later, for a story on the KFYI website, James said "KFYI does not advocate shooting illegals. It might be fun, but they don't advocate it."

You know, I have a viper tongue, forked and stinging. That's why the moniker and the whole framework of this blog. But I keep my tongue tied most of the time. Maybe the time has come to show what I could do with a little bit of "sarcasm".

Then again, it's only a joke if it's from Ann Coulter or Brian James. If I did something similar it would be treason. Now that's funny.

The Good Ole Boy Pines For The Good Ole Chivalry

This is David Brooks, of course. Of the New York Times stable of little patriarchs. He takes on the Duke rape case (where the white lacrosse players are accused of raping a black exotic dancer) with his characteristic aplomb:

All great scandals occur twice, first as Tom Wolfe novels, then as real-life events that nightmarishly mimic them. And so after "I Am Charlotte Simmons," it was perhaps inevitable that Duke University would have to endure a mini-social explosion involving athletic thugs, resentful townies, nervous administrators, male predators, aggrieved professors, binge drinking and lust gone wild.


The main theme shaping the coverage is that inequality leads to exploitation. The whites felt free to exploit the blacks. The men felt free to exploit women. The jocks felt free to exploit everybody else. As a Duke professor, Houston Baker, wrote, their environment gave the lacrosse players "license to rape, maraud, deploy hate speech and feel proud of themselves in the bargain."

It could be that this environmental, sociological explanation of events is entirely accurate. But it says something about our current intellectual climate that almost every reporter and commentator used these mental categories so unconsciously and automatically.

Are you holding your breath with excitement to know what our David thinks is wrong with this sociological analysis? No need to do it any longer: it's a lack of chivalry that caused the whole scandal:

You would then ask questions very different from the sociological ones: How have these young men slipped into depravity? Why have they not developed sufficient character to restrain their baser impulses?

The educators who used this vocabulary several decades ago understood that when you concentrate young men, they have a tropism toward barbarism. That's why these educators cared less about academics than about instilling a formula for character building. The formula, then called chivalry, consisted first of manners, habits and self-imposed restraints to prevent the downward slide.

Furthermore, it was believed that each of us had a godlike and a demonic side, and that decent people perpetually strengthened the muscles of their virtuous side in order to restrain the deathless sinner within. If you read commencement addresses from, say, the 1920's, you can actually see college presidents exhorting their students to battle the beast within — a sentiment that if uttered by a contemporary administrator would cause the audience to gape and the earth to fall off its axis.

Today that old code of obsolete chivalry is gone, as is a whole vocabulary on how young people should think about character.

So let me get this straight: We all have our little inner rapist bubbling to the surface all the time, especially if we gather together in large packs. But we can fight the little rapist and make him submerge again by learning the rules of chivalry, by opening doors to women and by lifting things for them and by not requiring them to kick butt themselves. Ok.

I'm a female goddess, though, and as far as I know women were never taught chivalry. What is David telling me, specifically? Nothing, as far as I can tell. The young people he exhorts with moral advice are male.

It isn't quite as silly as it looks on the surface, this moral sermonette. As Orcinus has often pointed out, the mainstream wingnuts have an important task, the task to convert unacceptably radical wingnut ideas into something that doesn't taste quite as strange and looks a lot like mum's apple pie. Brooks is doing that here by applying certain minor aspects of patriarchy, the domination of women by men, into a current event (and not necessarily a very common current event). His job is to make patriarchy look good, or at least preferable to what its alternatives might be. So he trots out the concept of chivalry for our examination, in isolation from the society which used it.

Chivalry. How much was it a fact of life, really? Brooks doesn't tell us that. Neither does he tell us that we have no way of knowing how common sexual assaults were in the era of chivalry, because women were taught not to tell. And we have no way of knowing whether the men who were taught chivalry were less likely to rape than those who were not. And think of the droit de seigneur, the right of manor-owners to deflower the virgins among the people they ruled over. Not part of chivalry but something rather similar, as both are about the rights and obligations of people in power. And there are arguments that neither really existed.

Upper class concepts. Brooks offers upper class concepts to upper class lacrosse players and doesn't see this as a sociological endeavor?

Now to the meat of the nut: Brooks is right to bring up the moral question, though he runs in the wrong direction with it. The problem is not that we don't have chivalry to tame the horrid beast within; the problem is that we are taunting the beast all the time (look! tits! cunts! here is woman flesh to chew, she don't matter as a person), that we are training it to be a beast (hey guys! got laid last night by a ho), and that we are not having chats with the beast to make it react with anger to the proper things.

Or so my horrid beast asked me to tell you.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Another Article About The Iran Nuclear Plans

It's not just Hersh that gets these leaks from someone. Now Washington Post has an article about our plans to nuke the Iranians.

Fetal Rights

Jack Hitt's article on the effects of the El Salvador abortion laws is now available. It shows us what life will be like in some future South Dakota, if the anti-abortion wingnuts have their way with us. El Salvador bans all abortions, even those, where the woman's life is at risk. This leads to such distortions as a refusal to treat ectopic pregnancy (one where the embryo is attached to the wall of the fallopian tube which is only pencil-thick and where the embryo will have no chance of survival) with the kind of promptness that is medically required. You see, the physicians must wait until the embryo can be declared dead before they can attend to the woman, it seems.

Two thoughts swam to the surface of my mind after reading the article. The first one was the whole atmosphere it provoked: one of secrecy, of women quietly living in the little gaps and ruptures of the society, of horrible events inexplicably happening to them. All this smelled familiar to me, and I realized that this is what many books and interviews of the pre-abortion era described. A kind of numb, unquestioning powerlessness of women, where real power is replaced by either legal rules or private rituals, where power is invisible and outside and something that just is, where the real culprits are not pointed out or held to scrutiny, where change is something that happens from the outside. It could be that it's the writer who provokes these feelings but I suspect it's the people he interviews. Traditional societies tend to do this to women. Whatever the faults of modernity might be, at least we have aired these dank and hidden corners of powerlessness and its subterfuges.

The second thought was about how to define a person in this story and how to assign value. My feminist eyes immediately spotted that men had only a small role to play in the story, despite the fact that those who made these punitive laws are probably almost solely male, and despite the fact that the church which supports these laws is totally dominated by men. It's a women's world of crime, this abortion business, and the men come across as rather astonished bystanders. Except for the fact that some men had to play a role before a woman could get pregnant.

Then there is the embryo who gets human status from the point of conception. Not before, mind you, because then the human status might get men into trouble, should we take after the medieval writers who believed that children are wholly formed by the sperm and that the uterus is just a food cupboard for the little homunculus. And not after birth, because then the women would get the power of deciding on fertility. No, it has to be on the very moment of conception that a person becomes a person, so that we then have two persons, one layered inside the other, and we also have the interesting legal question of when this layering of human beings privileges the woman and when it privileges the embryo. The South Dakotans argue that if someone forcefully inserts another person into a woman (rape) the inner person has more rights of autonomy than the outer person. The El Salvador fathers of state have decided that the outer person doesn't even have the right of self-defence if she is faced with the risk of death. She has truly become a container, a walking aquarium for the little embryo fish, and she can never have equal rights with those persons who can't become containers. Because her life must always be judged on the basis of what her rights mean for the rights of any potential inner person.

No wonder that laws of this kind would make women feel powerless, for they really make women powerless to decide on their own lives, at least on paper. In reality, as the article points out, wealthy women can hop on an airplane and get the abortion done nicely and safely. It is the not-so-wealthy women who will scutter in the secret corners of the society, looking for the small hidden gaps that the eagle-eyed patriarchy has not yet spotted.