Tuesday, November 07, 2006

2006 Election Watch: Women in The House and The Senate

This is a good website for following the statistics on women in the United States Congress. It updates every few minutes.

In governor races Janet Napolitano, a Democrat in Arizona, appears to have been re-elected and so has Jodi M. Rell, a Republican in Connecticut.
Another site updating every few minutes is Emily's List.
So far (via Eschaton) the South Dakota almost-total abortion ban is losing:

With 194 of 818 precincts reporting results, 60 percent of voters cast "no" votes, according to results from the Secretary of State's Office.

At 11:38 p.m. EST, Think Progress reports that the South Dakota abortion ban was defeated. YES! It's not a final victory, but at least I can now visit South Dakota again.

And Nancy Pelosi looks to be the first female Speaker of the House. Nice.
12:22 am EST:
Carol Shea-Porter just picked up New Hampshire's first congressional district. This was a surprise addition to the number of women in the House.
12:43 am EST:
Chris Matthews (Tweety) complains about Nancy Pelosi's speech: "She's giving a barn-burner speech, which is hard for a woman. Lot of men don't like that. Nails on a blackboard."

Well, at least she doesn't have a large, yellow head. A lot of women don't like that.
1:02 am EST:
Tweety is really showing his fear of women in power. Now he's bashing Hillary Clinton. Imagine what would happen to a political pundit who said similar things about a black politician? Yet I bet Tweety won't have to resign for any of this. Because it's sorta ok to bash women.
1:22 am EST:
It looks somewhat better in terms of women's representation in the Congress:

This is shaping up as the Year of the Woman.

Nancy Pelosi is poised to become the first female Speaker of the House and a record number of women will be in the U.S. Senate.

Every female senator up for re-election has been projected as a winner.

With incumbent senators Hillary Clinton, Debbie Stabenow, Kay Bailey Hutchison, Maria Cantwell, Dianne Feinstein, and Olympia Snowe projected winners and new senator-elect Amy Klobuchar projected as the winner in Minnesota, there will be a history-making number of female senators on Capitol Hill. At least 15 in the new Congress.

Except that it's really quite disgusting to call these types of creepy-crawly low numbers by the name of "the year of the woman".
1:53 am EST:
This is very, very good news for women:

Democrat Nancy Boyda defeated five-term Republican Rep. Jim Ryun in the 2nd Congressional District on Tuesday, a stunning reversal of their race two years ago.

With 74 percent of the precincts reporting, Boyda had 51 percent of the vote to Ryun's 47 percent. Reform Party candidate Roger Tucker pulled the remaining 2 percent.

Not only in the sense of a woman getting elected but also in the sense of us getting rid of a man who doesn't think women deserve many rights at all.
2:36 am EST:
Claire McCaskill is predicted as the winner in Missouri's Senate race against Jim Talent.

Election Watch 2006

I hope you have your nectar and popcorn near at hand. I have M&Ms and I pick a different color for each race that is declared. So far it looks like Blackwell lost which is only justice. Santorum seems to have lost, too, which is just mercy for all the rest of us. Harris lost,too, in Florida. Also justice, given her role in the 2000 Florida elections.

The governor races are fun to watch. Massachusetts has its first black governor.

I found this post by Kos very interesting as I was called a tinfoil-helmeted goddess for my insistence on writing about it earlier. Not by Kos, but more generally:

Today is the end of the electronic voting machine

Republicans are complaining about voting irregularities as loudly as we are today. A Republican governor, two Republican congressmen turned away from the polls. Votes supposedly switching in electronic voting machines in New Jersey. Complaints coming from New Mexico and elsewhere.

Here's the bottom line -- no one trusts those machines anymore. And not only do they damage the integrity of our democracy, but they give losing campaigns an excuse to grandstand and further erode faith in our system. Paper ballots (or optical scan) is a solution, but it doesn't solve the problem of voter turnout, voter intimidation, the problems with inclement weather, and lack of voter education when entering the booth.

Some recent results from Think Progress:

– 8:27 PM ET: CBS News has called New Jersey's Senate race for Sen. Bob Menendez (D) over Tom Kean Jr. (R).

– 8:24 PM ET: CBS News has called Ohio's Senate race for Rep. Sherrod Brown (D) over Sen. Mike DeWine (R).

– 8:21 PM ET: ABC News has called Pennsylvania's Senate race for Bob Casey Jr. (D) over Rick Santorum (R).

– 8:17 PM ET: AP: "It could be a sign of a long night for the GOP if Democrats knock off Reps. John Hostettler, Chris Chocola and Mike Sodrel in Indiana and Ron Lewis, Anne Northup and Geoff Davis in Kentucky."

– 8:11 PM ET: Race to watch — FL-16 Negron (R) currently leading Mahoney (D) 49.2% v. 48.2% in Mark Foley's former district. Results here.

– 8:07 PM ET: Katherine Harris (R) has lost her intrepid bid for Florida's Senate seat. Sen. Nelson (D) retains.

– 8:05 PM ET: Kennedy (D-Mass.), Lott (R-Miss.), Snow (R-Maine) re-elected to Senate, Fox News reports.

At 9:28 EST:

– 9:19 PM ET: Race to watch — MD-Sen CNN has called Maryland’s Senate race for Cardin (D) over Steele (R).

– 9:12 PM ET: CBS News and CNN have called Connecticut’s Senate race for Joe Lieberman (I).

At 10:06 EST:

– 9:39 PM ET: Race to watch — RI-Sen CNN projects Democratic win in Rhode Island, beating incumbent Lincoln Chafee, giving the Democrats three of the six pickups they need to take control of the Senate.
9:57 PM ET: NBC News projects that Republican (and President Bush-dodger) Charlie Crist will be elected Florida governor, taking the place of fellow Republican Jeb Bush.

At 10:18 EST:

– 10:08 PM ET: Race to watch — CT-5 Chris Murphy (D) has defeated Rep. Nancy Johnson (R).

– 10:05 PM ET: Race to watch — NH-2 “UnionLeader.com has learned that Republican U.S. Rep. Charles Bass is preparing to call Paul Hodes and congratulate the Democrat on his victory.”

At 10:51 EST:

– 10:30 PM ET: Fox News has called that Zack Space (D) has won in OH 18, the district formally occupied by ex-Rep. Bob Ney (R). Also, Reps. Don Sherwood (R-PA) and Curt Weldon (R-PA) have lost re-election.

- 10:42 PM ET: Minnesota voters elected Keith Ellison, a black Democrat, as the first Muslim in Congress on Tuesday.

At 11:06 EST:

– 11:01 PM ET: “CNN and MSNBC call NC 11 for Heath Shuler (D) over Rep. Charles Taylor (R).”

– 10:55 PM ET: Tim Mahoney (D-FL) has won Mark Foley’s former district.

At 12:42 EST:

– 11:34 PM ET: Race to watch — NY-20 Rep. John Sweeney (R) has lost re-election.

– 11:31 PM ET: "MSNBC changes House prediction to 234 Dems and 201 GOPers (adding yet another seat for the Dems)."

Monday, November 06, 2006

Dove Ad

An interesting glimpse into how our definitions of beauty are arrived at:


When I was a child I knew an old lady who got out her best clothes to go and vote. She was a very frugal woman and kept her clothes in mothballs for decades, so her best outfit included a little pill hat with a spotted veil, and she stuck that on her head with a long pin. I remember how mesmerizing all this was: the odd old-fashioned outfit, the smell of mothballs and her great excitement with all the preparations of the day.

She remembered a time when women could not vote at all and she took her right to vote very seriously. Perhaps she knew that people had given their lives for that right.

I could write a long post about the game of voting, about how each of our votes is just one lonely drop seeking in vain for the ocean surf, about how it might make more sense not to bother, about how the system is rigged against certain votes, about the pointlessness of it all, and it would be interesting in an intellectual masturbatory way and perhaps even useful in some longer-term sense.

But what is really important is the fundamental values of democracy. If you believe in those you vote. You put on your pill-hat with the veil and you grab your walking cane and go out to vote. Or you get in your sneakers and put on your baseball cap and go out to vote. If you can't vote, go out and help someone else to get to the polls by giving them a ride or by doing their chores for them as one of my commenters suggested. Democracy. It's not just a word.

And neither is the Supreme Court of the United States just a bunch of people in black bathrobes...

On Ted Haggard and Control

Haggard called the "forces of evil" in the society Control. Control tried to have him killed in the form of a witch with a knife, he said, and it was Control his flock fought when pouring oil at sinful intersections in the city of Colorado Springs. He fought Control by having vigils outside gay bars and the houses of witches. And he believed himself successful in chasing out Control.

But it is really control he himself desired, yearned for, control over his own sexuality and more generally control over all sexuality. Hence this statement about his own sexuality in a letter that was read to his congregation after the revelations that Haggard had visited a male prostitute:

I am a sinner. I have fallen," Haggard wrote. "The fact is, I'm guilty of sexual immorality." Mike Jones' allegations, the pastor insisted, are not all true, but "enough of them are true."

"Part of my life is so repugnant and dark," Haggard said in the letter Stockstill read. "I've been warring against it all my life." He told of how he had sought counseling to address his sexuality, which he said cured him for spells. But then, he wrote, "the dirt I thought was gone would resurface ... the darkness increased and dominated." Haggard asked his congregation for forgiveness for him, and also for his accuser, who he suggested was inspired by God to reveal his "deception and sensuality."

Dirt and darkness. Sin. That is how sexual desire looked to Haggard.

Here is what I think: It isn't only homosexual desire that Haggard and others like him fear, but all desire. Because desire makes you weak at the knees, makes you lose control.

And that is why the fundamentalists control their women so tightly, why women must make a vow to be always available to the men who own them, really. Why women must not say no, ever, but must also never demand anything from the men. That way the men can always stay in control.

After Haggard's letter was read to the congregation, a letter from his wife was also read:

Haggard's letter was followed by one from his wife, Gayle, addressed to her husband's female former congregants. "What I want you ladies to know is I love my husband Ted Haggard with all my heart. I am committed to him with all my heart." Her words, which echo the guide to marriage the Haggards published earlier this year (still on sale here in the bookstore outside the sanctuary), inspired a standing ovation.

The term "committed" has a special meaning in the fundamentalist dictionary. It means to relinquish control. Ted Haggard doesn't have to worry about losing control over his wife, because she has committed herself to him.

The fear of losing control applies even more strongly to the comments of another pastor, the one from the Mars Hill patriarchal church, who in a long list of advice to pastors on how not to lose control (never travel alone, have a heterosexual male secretary with you) suggested that pastors' wives must not let themselves ever go ugly or be sexually unavailable:

"Most pastors I know do not have satisfying, free, sexual conversations and liberties with their wives. At the risk of being even more widely despised than I currently am, I will lean over the plate and take one for the team on this. It is not uncommon to meet pastors' wives who really let themselves go; they sometimes feel that because their husband is a pastor, he is therefore trapped into fidelity, which gives them cause for laziness. A wife who lets herself go and is not sexually available to her husband in the ways that the Song of Songs is so frank about is not responsible for her husband's sin, but she may not be helping him either."

Men are to have control and women are to make it easy for the men to be in control.

Too bad that this doesn't solve the control over gay sex. Is this the real secret reason for homophobia? And the way it all links with the subjugation of women?

Robo Calls

I'm trying to think how I could use this brilliant idea by the Republican party in my private life: First you make a recorded call to a voter, pretending that you are calling from the Democratic party. If the voter hangs up, you keep calling back like seven times in a row! If the voter listens to the whole recording the call turns out to be against the Democratic candidate. So either way the Democrats get smeared. That is so splendid! So values-filled! So civil and polite!

The Republicans are doing this all over the country in over fifty races! Bob Menendez has been attacked this way, Lois Murphy has been attacked this way, Paul Hodes has been attacked this way. So have Diane Farrel, Tammy Duckworth and Heath Shuler.

To Remind Ourselves Why

It is so important to vote, watch this summary video of the Bush era at the Reaction blog.

And then there is this spoof of Bush made in November 2000!

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Two More Days To Find Out If We Live In A Republic or a Republican-Despotism

Posted by olvlzl

This election is the reason I started blogging in the first place. It is a pivotal election, it could be the end of real democracy in the United States or it could be the beginning, the start of its rebirth.

If Democrats do not win back either house then the struggle will be harder, a lot harder but we will have to continue. There is no chance that the Republicans will not try to prevent democracy happening, it’s what they do. And they’ve never been closer to turning this into an oligarchic despotism than they are now. Fully prepare for a total disaster, the Republicans are going to deliver if they get the chance. I’m not convinced that it won’t be partly in the form of an entirely idiotic attack on Iran. The only bright spot is that they will almost certainly have a narrower majority than before.

If Democrats take both the house and Senate then we have to put pressure on the Senate to refuse to confirm any more judges who are not acceptable. The practice of pretending that no one knows exactly what the Federalist Society stooges will do if they are confirmed has to stop. Stop the game of let’s pretend, get the stupid hearings off of TV where the Republicans can stage their costume dramas to manipulate what should be a serious deliberation. We will have to push the Senate out of its usual nap time stupor and get them to see that we are in danger of exactly what those old time conservatives warned us of, judicial tyranny. Only they never told us that it was they who would be the tyrants. They will steal the country for their patrons, they have proven that in Bush v. Gore. The Senate is our Achilles heel, we will have to give it special attention under any circumstances.

Without both houses it will be impossible to move the progressive agenda very much so we shouldn’t get our hopes up unrealistically high. But just stopping the head-long rush into despotism will be a great improvement.

If Democrats take the house but not the Senate it will be harder but the House under Nancy Pelosi will probably be eager to start exposing the corruption that has built up under Republicans. We will have to give those efforts our strongest support in the face of a full gale of media lies and distortions. They will do everything in their power to prevent even a tenth the investigation of the Bush II crimes that they fully supported on the trumped up charges against Clinton. Again, it’s what Republicans and their media shills do.

One thing that is absolutely essential to start working on right now. The broadcast and cable media are the tools that the Republicans have used to convince the American People that lies are the truth and that the truth is a lie. No democracy can stand in face of that. Pretending that radio and TV are the same as print and that they should be treated the same way is sheer, willful blindness. They sold us the Bush putsch and the most disastrous foreign war in our history, something that generations of Americans not born yet will be paying for. We have to force these lie machines to stop undermining democracy, to stop being Republican brothels and force them to fulfill the function of the press in a democratic society. Community service and fairness are requirements that they have to have forced on them BECAUSE IT IS NECESSARY TO RETAIN A DEMOCRACY. We have to do it because without it we won’t have a democracy any more.

The right of the people to govern themselves and to be free are more important than any corporate right. All rights held by media corporations are granted by a free people to news media that serves them, not a right that is inherent in the corporate press.

One small thing would be for any public broadcasting to be placed under community service and fairness requirements as a condition of receiving government funds. That is something that a Democratic Congress could force if they wanted to. Just refusing to appropriate the funds unless NPR, PBS, PRI and any other public broadcaster signed binding pledges would likely be enough. I don’t know if it would be possible to force other broadcast and cable to sign onto binding pledges but that should be investigated.

Bush is going to try every dirty trick in the book, or maybe I should say Cheney will. Cheney is the real executive, why pretend that Bush is anything but the figurehead he is anymore? We don’t have time to take a very long rest, no matter what happens we’ve got a lot of work to do.

Lady In The Dark II

Posted by olvlzl

Sandra Day O'Connor is just full of regrets about the low standing of the courts today. She just doesn't understand what went wrong. While she is hardly alone in the level of cluelessness among those who wear black robes she is one of the most persistently immune to learning from experience. Now as she faces the prospect of her own Republican conservatives stripping courts of their independence she begins to get a glimmer that something she participated in could have something to do with it.

Some court-watchers believe the assault on independent judges has been fueled by a 2002 Supreme Court decision, Republican Party v. White, which found that the First Amendment allows judges running for office to say in advance how they would rule on legal matters. Sandra Day O'Connor, who joined the 5-4 majority, said after she retired that she regretted her vote because it has grossly politicized the judiciary in the 47 states that elect at least some judges. Indeed, multimillion-dollar campaigns, negative ads, and pandering to special interests have all infected judicial races following the decision. The ballot questions are just more of that baleful trend.

You wonder if she ever thinks back to another 5-4 decision she was the swing vote on, the one that held that Voters don't have a right to cast a vote, have it counted and the results mean anything. I suspect we won't ever hear her regret that one.

Don't Let The Name Fool You

Roger Ailes Blog is always worth a look:

Success Has A Thousand Fathers, Failure Just Has These Bastards

Having grown bored of dead Iraqis and American soldiers, various neocon guttersnipers have now morphed into a circular firing squad.

Ahmed Chalabi, Richard Perle, David Frum, Micheal Ledeen... All My Neo-cons.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

They're Targeting Nancy Pelosi Big Surprise

Posted by olvlzl

Even before the election that is expected to make her the first woman to become the Speaker of the House the Republicans and their media mouthpieces are trying to turn Nancy Pelosi into damaged goods. Media Matters has tracked it back to undeniable Republican sources, John Boehner, and from there it went straight into the Drudge and Murdoch.

This is the same thing they do with any Democrat who comes to prominence, they stigmatize them with repeated lies and phony charges. Before long the Democrat gets a coating of vague suspicions and a coat of tarnish that doesn't come off. The same people who can't see the corruption of the Bush regime as it rots around them are inventing phony issues to smear Nancy Pelosi. There hasn't been a major Democrat they haven't done this to.

Time to fight back.

Repaying The Debts to Susan B. Anthony and Thousands of Others

Posted by olvlzl

I'm expecting to post again tonight but will be working on getting out our Vote this weekend so it's not certain that I will.

Please, do everything you can to get people to the polls and remind them to make certain that their vote is cast the way they intend it to be. There are numerous examples of voting machines registering Votes for Democrats as being cast for Republicans. Remind everyone to make certain to check it and to not be afraid to get it fixed. Make a loud noise if it looks like something fishy is going on. Make a really loud noise.

People died in the thousands so we could vote, let's pay back a small part of our debt to them. This could be the pivotal election. If the Republicans steal it they will cement themselves into place and it will be impossible to get them out. Democracy is at stake.

27 Choruses For Women

Posted by olvlzl

Even if you don’t think you like a cappella vocal music, you might enjoy the recording of Bela Bartok’s 27Choruses for Womens or Childrens Chorus on the Hungaroton label*. The women of the Schola Hungarica conducted by Laszlo Dobszay sing these pieces just about perfectly. The tempo, time signature and key changes are handled very well. Their ensemble singing of these small masterpieces is as good as you are likely to hear.

The pieces are based on folk poems collected in the late 19th century. It’s hard to believe some of the melodies aren’t the originals but the music is all Bartok’s. His thorough knowledge of folk music is to thank for some of it but his genius as a composer takes over from there. Not reading the Hungarian language much past “szep” and being dependent for the meaning on the English translation included in the accompanying booklet, my impression is that the chorus handles the text with total assurance. The range of emotion and subject matter covered in 45 minutes, is impressive. It goes from humor of several high and medium-low sorts, both lost and fulfilled love, youthful rebellion, deep grief and awed appreciation of nature. Most of all there is the love of wildness and nature. The tone painting of woods, fields and animals, always present in Bartok’s work, is particularly good here. Following the translation you won’t have any trouble figuring out what the original language means in these passages.

Though some of these pieces were intended for children’s voices as well as adults, it’s hard to believe that most of them could be sung by any children’s group on a level much lower than the famous Tapiola Chorus**. Some of them could be sung by amateurs and if they were learned in order of difficulty they would improve any group’s performance. Some of them are for two voices the rest are for three***. Though a choral performance was intended, a chamber group of two sopranos and an alto could sing all of them. Wish we could hear what Anonymous 4 would have done with them.

* Bartok: Twenty-Seven Choruses ; Hungaroton Classic, HCD 31080.
If you like this I would also recommend the other Hungaroton disc of Bartok’s choral music, HDC 31047.

** This is the best children’s chorus I’ve ever heard anywhere. Before them I didn’t think a children’s chorus could sing at the same level as adults.

*** For the printed music, the edition edited by Sabo Miklos , Editio Musica Budapest, Z 1103, ISMN M080011034

Steve Biko

"The most potent weapon in the hands of the oppressor is the mind of the oppressed."

Tuesday is D Day And Then Wednesday

Which is D Day Too

Posted by olvlzl

If Democrats take the House of Representatives next week there are already some good plans in place. Nancy Pelosi and some other Democrats in Congress have some ready to go that don’t need the approval of the Senate or the executive. They could be put into effect by the House alone. Some of these are outlined in a press release from May of 2005, largely ignored by the media. There are some good ideas in it for cleaning up the accretions of corruption that have been building up for twelve years under conservative Republicans. Among other things it calls for these six principles:

* Ban Members from accepting any gifts from lobbyists.

* Ban Members from secretly working with corporate lobbyists to write legislation.

* Ban lobbying by Members of Congress and high level staff for two years after leaving Congress.

* Enforce the ban on Members and staff soliciting privately-funded travel.

* Ban lobbyists from arranging and financing travel.

* End the 'K Street Project' - ban Members and staff from threatening lobbyists with official actions.

In an article in the Washington Post last week other likely changes were mentioned. There is one in particular that is dear to my heart:

Pelosi would deprive lawmakers-turned-lobbyists of a few of their congressional perks. She would eliminate the House rule that gives access to the House gym, the House floor and its cloak rooms to former members of Congress who are registered to lobby -- access that was temporarily taken away earlier this year.

If Nancy Pelosi and the other Democrats get the chance to put these and other rules changes into effect it could have an huge impact on more than the just the tone in Washington but not without a lot of work from the rest of us.

When the media can’t ignore House Democrats anymore we have to be ready to support all of their efforts at rescuing democracy over the feigned skepticism and cynicism of the Republicans and their media sound box. We have to be ready to tout all of these proposals and other reforms, to pressure our representatives and Senators to adopt them and to keep it up. If the Republicans still control the Senate we will have to try to shame them into adopting similar reforms. Our best bet would be to exert maximum pressure on the alleged "moderate" Republicans and conservative Democrats in the Senate. Getting over the institutional inertia of the Senate patricians will take a concerted effort.

Even if Democrats take both houses of Congress it will be the beginning of our work. Overturning the corruption that the Republicans and their media have put into place is going to take years, maybe decades, but there isn’t any alternative but to keep trying. We have to take full advantage of every opportunity no matter how small it looks or how hopeless it seems. Our discouragement, on full display on leftist blog comment threads, is one of the most potent weapons of the Republican establishment.

Getting the elections done honestly is the first priority. It seems that we have a real chance to win those and if we do we have to hit the ground immediately. And we are going to have to keep the pressure up, on the Republicans more than anyone, on the Senate Democrats and any recalcitrant Democrats in the House. But I’m expecting that under Pelosi they will be the first to want to act.

What if Republicans win? The struggle continues. Giving up is not an option.

The Caine Mutiny

What a great performance Humphrey Bogart gave in that one. Now we can compare it to a fairly good real-life facsimile:

Just days after President Bush publicly affirmed Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's job security through the end of his term, a family of publications catering to the military will publish an editorial calling for the defense secretary's removal.

The editorial, released to NBC News on Friday ahead of its Monday publication date, stated, "It is one thing for the majority of Americans to think Rumsfeld has failed. But when the nation's current military leaders start to break publicly with their defense secretary, then it is clear that he is losing control of the institution he ostensibly leads."

The editorial will appear just one day before the midterm election, in which GOP candidates have been losing ground, according to recent polls.

"This is not about the midterm elections," continued the editorial, which will appear in the Army Times, Air Force Times, Navy Times, and Marine Corps Times on Monday. "Regardless of which party wins Nov. 7, the time has come, Mr. President, to face the hard bruising truth: Donald Rumsfeld must go."

The newspapers are published by the Military Times Media Group.

Will George Bush recant on his vow not to ever, ever, ever get rid of his very best friend Donald Rumsfeld? Probably not, because changing ones mind is a sign of weakness in this administration, an effeminate nasty character flaw. So instead we march straight off the cliff.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Friday Blog News

First, Henrietta the Hound is jumping and skipping all around the house. She didn't have arthritis, after all, but sciatica, and the medications are working. It's a two-edged sword as now I get pestered mercilessly for more chasing games and walks and she insists that it's always snack-time, too. Fourteen going on two, she is. Lovely.

She's sleeping right now on the guest bedroom bed where she has arranged all the pillows into a nest shape with Herself comfortably curled up in the middle. I never catch her doing the arranging, only the results of it. Animal research is difficult when the animal is smarter than the researcher.

Second, this blog is going to be three years old on November 8, Wednesday. Yes, the day after elections, so I will have fireworks and cake and nectar whatever Tuesday's outcome will be. But I hope that we can combine partying for the blog and for a saner world.

Third and finally, vote. And help with the voting effort in your area if you have the time. It matters.

Friday Insect Blogging

Courtesy of JohnJS. He thinks that these are moths. Whatever they are the patterns are fascinating.

The Church of Ted Haggard

The Harper's magazine 2005 article on Ted Haggard's church by Jeff Sharlet is quite an eye-opener. A megachurch of 14,000 worshippers, run as a bizarre combination of Disneyland, War Academy and Abrahamic fundamentalism with rock music and thought control thrown in. Lots of feel-good talk at the surface, truly frightening war-trumpets behind it.

Haggard boasts about his concept of the church as a response to the market forces. No need to engage in worthwhile projects (such as helping those smelly and listless poor people). Just a lot of fun in small cells run tightly by an incredibly militaristic organization working from the top-down. It isn't only capitalism that Haggard has harnessed for religious purposes but also Maoism or some other hierarchical type of communism. Is this the face of Christianistic religion?

Who knows? One article by one author is unlikely to offer total clarity or balance on such a wide topic, but it gives us some very frightening glimpses of Haggard's church, such as this description of his son's wedding:

The morning service on the second Sunday of 2005 was devoted to the marriage of Pastor Ted's eldest son, Pastor Marcus. It began with worship, just like an ordinary service, but the light show was a royal purple-and-gold, the hymns more formal, the dancing more ecstatic. I sat with Linda Burton in the front row; she curtsied and bowed, over and over, her right hand sweeping the carpeted floor.

Pastor Ted wore a black suit and a red tie. Earlier in the week, at a staff meeting, he had announced that he would use the wedding as an illustration, and to that end he delivered a lengthy prenuptial presentation with slides, in which he laid out a fractal-like repeating pattern of relations, shrinking and expanding: that of God to man, reflected in that of man to wife, which is in turn a model for a godly society. Just as we conform ourselves to God's will, so, said Ted, must "the Woman." The Woman must take on her man's calling, her man's desire.

"Mmm-hmmm," murmured Linda, eyes closed.

In return, Pastor Ted continued, the Woman gets the Man's love; authority just wants to serve. "Total surrender!" he called. "True or false?"

"TRUE!" answered the 8,000 assembled.

The Man is the Christ; the Woman is the Body. He is coming; she is the church; she must open her doors. United, they are the Kingdom, ready for battle. "The Christian home," preached Pastor Ted, "is to be in a constant state of war." This made many so happy they put their hands in the air, antennae for spirit transmissions. "Massive warfare!" Ted cried out.

Sex (consensual?) and war and submission, all covered by the white veil of virginity. I feel a little sick right now.

There is a tremendous hunger for community in this country, a hunger that is not satisfied by what connections our fragmented and mobile lifestyles offer. The Christianist megachurches have stepped in and offered to feed all those who starve for connection, all those who drift. But the price for the meal is very steep. As Ted Haggard himself is finding out.

Egg On Their Faces?

As Atrios pointed out, this would be funny if it wasn't so horrible. The New York Times reports about a U.S. government website which seems to have contained instructions (in Arabic) on how to make a nuclear bomb:

Last March, the federal government set up a Web site to make public a vast archive of Iraqi documents captured during the war. The Bush administration did so under pressure from Congressional Republicans who had said they hoped to "leverage the Internet" to find new evidence of the prewar dangers posed by Saddam Hussein.

But in recent weeks, the site has posted some documents that weapons experts say are a danger themselves: detailed accounts of Iraq's secret nuclear research before the 1991 Persian Gulf war. The documents, the experts say, constitute a basic guide to building an atom bomb.

Last night, the government shut down the Web site after The New York Times asked about complaints from weapons experts and arms-control officials. A spokesman for the director of national intelligence said access to the site had been suspended "pending a review to ensure its content is appropriate for public viewing."


The government had received earlier warnings about the contents of the Web site. Last spring, after the site began posting old Iraqi documents about chemical weapons, United Nations arms-control officials in New York won the withdrawal of a report that gave information on how to make tabun and sarin, nerve agents that kill by causing respiratory failure.

The campaign for the online archive was mounted by conservative publications and politicians, who said that the nation's spy agencies had failed adequately to analyze the 48,000 boxes of documents seized since the March 2003 invasion. With the public increasingly skeptical about the rationale and conduct of the war, the chairmen of the House and Senate intelligence committees argued that wide analysis and translation of the documents — most of them in Arabic — would reinvigorate the search for clues that Mr. Hussein had resumed his unconventional arms programs in the years before the invasion. American search teams never found such evidence.

So let me see if I got it: It was the wingnuts who wanted this information to be out there? To make us all feel safer?

But the conservatives don't see the Times article in this light. Jim Geraghty:

I'm sorry, did the New York Times just put on the front page that IRAQ HAD A NUCLEAR WEAPONS PROGRAM AND WAS PLOTTING TO BUILD AN ATOMIC BOMB?

What? Wait a minute. The entire mantra of the war critics has been "no WMDs, no WMDs, no threat, no threat", for the past three years solid. Now we're being told that the Bush administration erred by making public information that could help any nation build an atomic bomb.


And Red State chimes in, too:

The web site with these has been taken down since the NY Slimes story ran to make sure the documents on it are safe to release, but the ENTIRE NY Slimes articles has the unintended purpose of PROVING that Saddam was trying to build a Nuclear Bomb!

Indeed. But this was before the first Iraq war, the one that Papa Bush ran:

In recent weeks, the paper reported, the site posted documents that weapons experts said contained detailed accounts of Iraq's secret nuclear research before the 1991 Persian Gulf War — what one diplomat called "a cookbook" for building a bomb.

And Geraghty seems to have noticed it, too, because he adds:

I'm still kinda blown away by this paragraph:

Among the dozens of documents in English were Iraqi reports written in the 1990's and in 2002 for United Nations inspectors in charge of making sure Iraq abandoned its unconventional arms programs after the Persian Gulf war. Experts say that at the time, Mr. Hussein's scientists were on the verge of building an atom bomb, as little as a year away.

Is this sentence referring to 1990, before the Persian Gulf War? Or 2002, months before the invasion of Iraq? Because "Iraq is a year away from building a nuclear bomb" was supposed to be a myth, a lie that Bush used to trick us into war.

And yet here is the New York Times, saying that Iraq had a "how to manual" on how to build a nuclear bomb, and could have had a nuke in a year.

I repeat, the information still applies to the pre-1991 period:

The Office of the Director of National Intelligence said yesterday that it shut down a public Web site after complaints from U.N. weapons inspectors that the site included sensitive details about constructing nuclear and chemical weapons. The documents were collected in Iraq after the March 2003 invasion but predate the 1991 Persian Gulf War.

Intelligence officials said the documents do not indicate that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction when President Bush ordered U.S. troops to take over the country and depose Saddam Hussein.

Well, it isn't really funny and my title is in poor taste. It's scary, really.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

The Haggard Story

This summary is not available. Please click here to view the post.

What Is Hidden In Plain Sight

Is a subtle type of sexism. It is a barely audible background hum in our everyday lives, so slight and so camouflaged that we swallow it never noticing.

I look for it in my pseudo-professional feminist goddess role and still I often miss it. A recent example has to do with the furor caused by an ad that ran against Congressman Harold Ford Jr., who is black:

By now, many people have seen the Tennessee ad, a 30-second spot featuring actors playing Tennessee residents on the street explaining why they'll vote for Democratic Rep. Harold Ford Jr. for the seat held by Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, who's stepping down to consider a run for president. The ad, paid for by the Republican National Committee, is a spoof.

"Ford's right," says one man, bedecked in camouflage. "I do have too many guns." Adds another man in overalls and a handlebar mustache, "Canada can take care of North Korea. They're not busy."

It's a blond-haired, blue-eyed woman with bare shoulders, however, who has generated most of the controversy. The actress says she met Harold "at a Playboy party." The spot closes with her looking into the camera and putting her hand to her ear as though she were holding a telephone: "Harold," she coos. "Call me!"

Some observers have seized on the ad for playing to discomfort over interracial dating. (Ford is from one of Memphis's prominent black political families.) The Playboy-sponsored Super Bowl party he went to in Jacksonville, Fla., last year was attended by 3,000 people. Ford, who is single, has since defended himself, telling the press, "I like football; I like girls; and...no apologies for that."

The spot is "playing to a lot of fears," John Geer, a professor at Vanderbilt University and a specialist in political advertising, said last week. Geer said the spot "frankly makes the Willie Horton ad"–a 1988 presidential ad featuring a black man who committed a rape and a murder while on a weekend furlough from a Massachusetts prison, a furlough linked to the state's then governor, Michael Dukakis–"look like child's play."

The ad has since been withdrawn and Ford's Republican opponent, Bob Corker, has condemned it and its racist undertones.

But look at these quotes from various newspaper stories and opinion columns about the broohaha. Really look at them:

Ford's Republican opponent, former Chattanooga Mayor Bob Corker, called for the bimbo ad to be pulled from the air and claimed he hadn't had anything to do with its content.


Democrats are complaining about a Republican ad that ran in Tennessee making fun of Senate candidate Harold Ford Jr. It features mock voters giving dumb reasons to vote for him, such as "Terrorists need their privacy," "Harold Ford looks nice--isn't that enough?" and "So he took money from porn movie producers--I mean, who hasn't?" It ends with a blonde bimbo, who says she met the congressman at a Playboy party, winking and cooing, "Harold, call me."

If that anti-Harold Ford ad--the one with the white bimbette saying "Harold, call me"--was "playing to racial fears" about interracial dating, was it intended to stir up whites who might fear miscegenation--or black women who might resent it if they thought Ford habitually went out with white women? ... [Both?-ed Sure--a twofer. But the MSM only brings up the "appeal to racist white voters."] ... P.S.: Does anybody still buy the idea that the reaction against this ad is going to save Ford?

-Mickey Kaus, Slate.com

GOP Bimbo
Trashy blonde is new face of Tennessee Republican party

I searched for definitions of the term "bimbo" or "bimbette" and found this one:

Bimbo is a term that emerged in popular English language usage in the late 20th Century to describe a stupid, pliable woman.

Then I searched for a definition of "trashy". Here is one:

1. Resembling or containing trash; cheap or worthless: trashy merchandise.
2. In very poor taste or of very poor quality: "There was a special pathos … within … her trashy tales" (James Wolcott).

This is all minor stuff, but so is a mosquito whining somewhere in the room when you try to fall asleep. I'm fascinated by it not because it would be of great importance, but for the very fact that it's not seen as important at all. Or rather, not seen at all.
You can see the original ad here.

Meanwhile, in Afghanistan and Popetown

Afghan women don't have it easy:

Womankind Worldwide found violence against women is still endemic - and the number of women setting fire to themselves because they cannot bear their lives is rising dramatically.

The iconic images of women throwing off their burqas after the overthrow of the Taliban in 2001 were always a fiction. Except among a small elite in Kabul, the overwhelming majority of women in Afghanistan are still forced to cover their entire bodies and faces.

The report's researchers found that very little has changed. Between 60 and 80 per cent of all marriages in Afghanistan are forced. As many as 57 per cent of girls are married off below the age of 16, some as young as six. Because of the custom of paying a bride price, marriage is essentially a financial transaction, and girls a commodity.

The custom of baad, when girls and women are exchanged to settle debts and disputes, is still widely practised. The women are not treated as proper wives, but in effect are slave workers for their husbands.

Honour killing is also still widespread. Women are killed for dishonouring their families through "crimes" such as even being seen associating with a man. A family member kills the woman.

Even women who have been raped cannot report the crime because they risk being prosecuted for having sex outside marriage.

The Taliban were vilified for denying girls education, but even now only 19 per cent of Afghan schools are for girls and only 5 per cent of girls of secondary school age are enrolled.

The societal norms in Afghanistan give women very little value and no amount of feel-fair legislation forced from the outside is going to change the lives of women until the valuation of women as human beings rises. Whether it is as bad as this report states all over or not, feminist change is obviously very much needed.

And so it is with the Pope's media:

An unholy row has broken out at the Pope's television station, with accusations flying that it paid derisory salaries, imposed demeaning conditions, victimised women employees - and even tried to hold a staff meeting to find out if some were virgins.

The director of Telepace (Peace TV), Monsignor Guido Todeschini, is to appear before the council of the Italian journalists' professional body in the next few days to answer claims by employees and the journalists' union. Union representatives will be seeking to find out if he has fulfilled earlier undertakings, given in February, not to monitor employees' telephone calls and to end the practice of requiring journalists to stamp a card at the start and end of work.

The newspaper La Stampa reported yesterday that managers had once called a meeting to discuss the sex lives of its women journalists and establish whether they were virgins. A former employee, speaking on condition of anonymity, told the Guardian the initiative dated back "six or seven years" and was abandoned following an outcry by staff.

The source said women journalists working full-time were kept on part-time contracts with take-home pay of less than £11,000 a year. No one at Telepace was available for comment.

I want to write something smart about religion and women's roles here, because religion is one of the main pillars used to justify status quo. But nothing very smart comes to my mind.

Bush on Civility

Think Progress has a post on the forked tongue of our president:

BUSH: Let me start with the least. I don't like the tone in Washington, D.C. I feel like that the politics has gotten ugly, and that tends to discourage people around the country. And that's just too bad.

I would hope in my last two years I can — and, by the way, I've never really resorted to name-calling. And I'm not trying to say, well, you know, I'm innocent and everybody else is guilty. That's not what I'm trying to say. But I understand that it's one thing to disagree with a person, but it's another thing to have to resort to kind of shameless name- calling. And I really don't think it's fitting for the president to drag the presidency into that kind of a mudslinging.


BUSH: However they put it, the Democrat approach in Iraq comes down to this: The terrorists win and America loses.

These are from two different clips and the post has videos of both. Now do what I did by pure accident: Watch both clips simultaneously. The effect is surreal and truly wonderful.

It's The Iraq War

From the New York Times:

A substantial majority of Americans expect Democrats to reduce or end American military involvement in Iraq if they win control of Congress next Tuesday, and say Republicans would maintain or increase troop levels to try to win the war if they hold on to power on Capitol Hill, according to the final New York Times/CBS News poll before the midterm election.

The poll found that just 29 percent of Americans approve of the way President Bush is managing the war in Iraq, matching the lowest mark of his presidency. Nearly 70 percent of Americans said Mr. Bush did not have a plan to end the war, and an overwhelming 80 percent said Mr. Bush's latest effort to rally public support for the conflict amounted to a change in language but not policy.

And then watch this video

Ssssh! The World Is Listening!

So Laura Bush tells us:

--First lady Laura Bush cautioned Wednesday that Americans discussing the war in Iraq -- especially politicians -- should be careful what they say because other countries are paying attention.

"The right to have these conversations is part of what makes our country great and our democracy strong. We must be mindful that people around the world are listening to these discussions," Laura Bush said at a suburban Columbus recreation center during a campaign appearance with Rep. Deborah Pryce.

"Responsible candidates understand that the men and women of our military are risking their lives for us, and that we must conduct our debate here at home in a way that does not jeopardize our troops in harm's way," she said, calling for "conversations conducted with civility and respect."

"Conducted with civility and respect." This idea seems to crop up everywhere suddenly. It's almost as if a soundbite had been sent down from the powers-that-be...

"We must be mindful that people around the world are listening to these discussions." Yes, indeed. As they listened to George Bush when he mentioned the new "crusade" and when he coined the term "the axis of evil." They may have heard him loud and clear.

I'm glad Laura is going to make him shut up about all that stuff.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

On Elections and Why I am Not a Political Blogger

I don't do real political commentary. This I have learned from the wise pundits and erudite scholars of the field. Real political commentary is all about whether John Kerry meant to piss on the military or to make a joke about George Bush in his recent speech, and when one writes on this weighty matter one is supposed to think that a politican of many years' experience would really be stupid enough to dis the military in a public speech right before election, not that this particular politician is a bit Ent-like and shouldn't try rapid-fire jokes in public.

Real political commentary is also about whether the fiction Jim Webb wrote means that he thinks it's a great idea for people to actually engage in pornographic acts. This is to be debated with great heat. And as a counterpoint one can then try to find out if Allen did spit on his first wife or not and if manhandling a person asking that question is a fair response to the outrageousness of the question. All this will help the voters greatly in selecting the best possible representative.

It sounds like a soap opera to me, and that's why it's probably an interesting topic to discuss. But I don't think most of this helps much in deciding on the best people to run this country, someone to clean out the mess that used to be the country of Iraq, someone to get rid of these damned pharisees who preach values and imitate the most fervent Islamists yet have no empathy or no real values as far as I can fathom. Someone who would run the government with care and accountability.

I'm not asking much, really. Ordinary faulty politicians would do just fine, assuming that we get back transparent elections and some accountability in the government and some of those old-fashioned values of integrity and responsibility.

Do vote. It may not be enough but it is necessary. This is where I agree with the real political bloggers.

Rape in Maryland

Has an odd interpretation. Happy Feminist sums a recent case very well:

The case is Baby v. Maryland, __ A.2d ___ (Md.App. 2006). According to the young woman's testimony, the defendant asked to have sex with her and she consented on the condition that he would stop when she told him to. She testified that the penetration hurt "so I said stop and that's when he kept pushing it in and I was pushing his knees to get off me." After she told him to stop, he continued to "keep pushing it in" for about "five or so seconds."


The jury convicted the defendant and the defendant appealed. The Court of Special Appeals of Maryland held that the trial court erred by failing to answer the jury's question. The court further held that there is no rape under Maryland law if the woman consents to sex prior to penetration and then withdraws the consent after penetration. I should note that this interpretation of the law would apply regardless of whether the man kept thrusting for five seconds or ten minutes after the woman said to stop. (Sorry to be graphic, but it's necessary.)


The court elucidates further the reasons for the law in effect TODAY in Maryland in footnote 6 of the opinion:

The cultural mores undergirding the notion that the crime of rape was complete upon penetration may be traced to Biblical and Middle, Assyrian Laws: Under MAL, the rape of a virgin was presumed to be an illegal trespass upon the father's property with the rapist required to "give the (extra) third in silver to her father as the value of a virgin (and) her ravisher shall marry her (and) not cast her off." The woman was required to marry her rapist without hope of divorce. If the rapist was married, the virgin still had to marry her rapist; however, the rapist's property, his wife, was also factored into the compensation. The rapist's wife was to be given to the father "to be ravished . . .not to return her to her husband (but) to take her."

It is the Maryland law which is the problem here. Or so most commenters argue. But Happy Feminist noted that cases like this serve to remind us that feminism of a fairly basic type is still needed. Things like rewriting bad laws.

Jessica at Feministing.com summed it all more succinctly:

Holy shit. Holy shit. Holy shit.

So ladies, once it's in, it's in. Ain't nothing you can do about it. Changed your mind? Suck it up. He's hurting you? Oh, sorry--should have thought of that before. After all, it's not like your body is yours or anything. Jeez.

I immediately thought of a reversal. Suppose that you, a man, agree to let me give you a blowjob. You are not aware of the viper fangs I have, but their presence becomes all too obvious once I start. So you scream and you scream. But you agreed, right? Heh.

Something Embarrassing

Have you followed the discussion about whether Mark Halperin is a liberal or not? Glenn Greenwald wrote about it:

Apparently, the most traumatizing and horrifying thing that could ever happen to Mark Halperin is for Bush followers like Hugh Hewitt to think he's a liberal. It is self-evidently very important to Halperin -- on an emotional and deeply personal level -- to demonstrate that he is one of them, or at least not one of those liberals. To achieve this, he made an extraordinary vow to Sean Hannity when trying to win Hannity's approval, in which he pledged that the media would spend the next two weeks compensating for all of their anti-conservative sins over the past decades, and now he is engaged in a truly debased and highly emotional crusade to obtain Hugh Hewitt's affection.

Halperin is a warrior in the media forces against the Dreaded Liberal Bias. He's not liberal. Repeat, he is not liberal. He is willing to lie on the floor and bang his head against it if you don't believe him.

Well, no. He is not doing temper tantrums. It's something else, and it's equally embarrassing. Here is an e-mail Greenwald states is from Halperin to Hewitt:

Dear Hugh,

I really enjoyed our radio talk and I appreciated the opportunity to appear with someone I respect so much.

I have gotten a lot of positive feedback, mostly from conservatives, including this reaction on Powerlineblog.com.

But, as I have said to you privately, I am beginning to think you are intellectually dishonest on a few points. It seems strange that someone who seems to be trying to bring truth to people would do such a thing, but I can't really explain your behavior any other way. As I said on the show, you and I agree on almost everything we discussed. On most of the points of disagreement, I respect your position and accept our disagreement. . . .

As for your repeated insistence that you could reach no other conclusion but one that says that I am "very liberal," I'm sure if you think it over, you will reconsider. You went to a liberal school and you appear to not be liberal. And I am sure you have heard of people having different political views than their parents.

Again, I respect much about you, but I am mystified by your determination to lump me in with others. Acknowledging the liberal bias that exists in the Old Media -- as John Harris and I do in The Way to Win: Taking the White House in 2008 doesn't necessarily prove that I am not liberal, but I would think you would be open to giving me the benefit of the doubt, when you have no actual evidence to the contrary.

Oh so embarrassing. Why do I feel all red-hot shame here? It's not me writing that e-mail of abject crawling and pleas for love and approval.

But it strikes a bell. I've done things not so removed from that in the past, to try to make some misogynist think better of me. Yes, indeed I have. And shame is what sticks to one from such acts. Of course I was very young and very naive then.

Ezra Klein notes why Halperin's begging and pleading is not only unseemly but unprofessional:

I really question whether someone who has obviously made it such a high priority to obtain a very personal form of right-wing absolution can possibly exercise appropriate news judgment. If Halperin is willing to expend this much time and energy and shower Hewitt with such gushing praise -- and if he's willing to make such a public spectacle of himself when doing so -- all in order to convince Hewitt that he isn't liberal, won't that goal rather obviously affect Halperin's news coverage? Isn't there something extremely unseemly about the political director of ABC News engaging in such an intense campaign to win the approval of one of the most blindly partisan, extremist Bush followers in the country?

Mark, they are not going to love you, those wingnuts. Just saying.