Saturday, November 25, 2006

Why Aren’t Conservatives Being Required to Condemn Buchanan?

Posted by olvlzl.

Now that Michael Richards, who I'd never heard of until last week, is in trouble for making racist comments, maybe it's time to ask this quesiton again. This is from September.

hen Louis Farrakhan made some anti-Semitic remarks years back it was required of just about everyone who was black that they answer for it in some way. Many, many people of African ancestry who were interviewed in the following months were required to condemn or defend him, no matter if they had never met him, spoken about him or even acknowledged his existence before. The same thing has happened when other black leaders said things that were able to be construed as bigoted. Even years after, those are the rules for black people.

Pat Buchanan is a racist of decades long standing who has continually said vicious things about many different races and nationalities. Bigotry is his mother tongue. For the entire time he has made racist and veiled anti-Semitic remarks he has been a fixture in the media, in Republican and right wing politics and, for Pete’s sake, a member of Republican administrations. Louis Farrakhan was never any of those things, he has never been a part of a party establishment, the corporate media or an actual, governing, adminstration, for Pete’s sake. His campaign manager, proxy representative and sister doesn’t get to gas on about national and international issues at CNN every afternoon.

Why isn’t Bay Buchanan required to distance herself from her brother, her one-time candidate for President of the United States when he continues to gush racism? Why isn't she forced to defend his racism? Why isn’t St. Martin’s Press- Thomas Dunne Books, his publisher, made to answer for publishing it and various media outlets for airing it? Why aren’t the members of the Republican establishment who have hired him and made common cause with him required to condemn him whenever they appear on PBS or NPR or any other alleged news venue? Why isn’t every Republican or conservative or, for that matter, white person required to deal with this fountain of fascism in their bosom? His position in the media and in politics makes him much more of an issue than the never more than fringe character, Louis Farrakhan.

The continual absence of condemnation for Pat Buchanan’s racism on at least the same level as that meted out to black people who have said evil or even just plain stupid things on only ONE occasion constitutes more than acceptance of Buchanan’s racism. We have every reason to see it as an endorsement of it. His racism isn't a one or even two time thing, it's been going on for decades.

Yes, I do mean those nice media people are panderers for racism. They are the genteel face of Buchananism.

Bartok Records Reborn, Performances Reissued After a Long Absence

Posted by olvlzl

After posting the review of a recording of Bartok’s 27 Choruses several weeks ago someone e-mailed me to ask if I knew that some of the recordings made by Peter Bartok, his son, in the 1950s had been released on CD. His recording of the Cantata Profana was the first of Bela Bartok’s orchestral pieces I ever heard on an old, scratchy LP in the college library. I got that and the recording of Bartok’s opera, Bluebeard’s Castle.

The Cantata Profana performance by Richard Lewis and Marko Rothmuller with the New Symphony Orchestra and Chorus conducted by Walter Susskind is sung in the English translation made by Robert Shaw. It’s interesting how much more available this makes the music to an English speaker. When there are words, meaning matters as much as sound. Not more than the sound, as much as the sound.

The performance is very good and the Mono recording is excellent. Peter Bartok was a recording engineer of genius, as you might have heard on his recordings issued by Folkway Records. Here, recording the music of his father, there is just a certain something that is missing from many of the more modern stereo recordings, both analog and digital. He clearly has a mastery of things too subtle and complicated to explain, too much a matter of having an excellent and experienced ear that notices the smallest things. And it should never be forgotten that his earliest training in music was under his father. His lessons are the origin of Bela Bartok’s famous Mikrokosmos.

The choral pieces included on the disc, also sung in English, are very good though the old fashioned articulation of the text (rolled r’s for example) takes a few seconds to get used to. Eight of the 27 Choruses are on the disc, the reason I got the e-mail. The example of the various animals in “Bread Baking” illustrates that Bartok’s use of tone painting helps where the language limits understanding.

The recording of the Viola Concerto with William Primrose, conducted by Tibor Serly , is proof of why Primrose was one of the greatest Viola players in history. It is a wonderful performance. Tibor Serly was the composer who Bartok left the job of completing the concerto which was left very much unfinished at his death. A newer version made by Peter Bartok has k been issued with the Serly completion on Naxos, but I haven’t heard that yet and can’t compare.

Bluebeard’s Castle is sung by Judith Hellwig and Endre Koreh as Judith and Bluebeard. Walter Susskind and the New Symphony again provide the orchestra. I wish they had recorded it in English as well, though there may not be a good English text available. Reading the CD booklet’s translation before listening is a good idea and here, for once, reading the explaination by Peter Bartok will add greatly to your appreciation of the otherwise puzzling opera. You do get the seldom included spoken introduction by the “bard” spoken by Erno Lorsy which gives some insight into the way the opera was intended to be performed. Peter Bartok’s explanation of it as an exploration of interior personality through a version of the old folk story makes it clear in a way that listening to a number of performances and reading several authors on it hadn’t to me.

The opera consists of Judith, the latest of the unfortunate brides of Bluebeard, opening a series of seven doors, the last one in which the previous brides are kept in a sort of living death. With great costumes. I won’t give too much away but several of the most glorious minutes in classical music happen when Judith opens the fifth door onto Bluebeard’s vast estate. The dank and gloom in our self-centered lives is fully, and here only temporarily, overcome by absorption in the wider world of nature. As in the Cantata Profana and throughout the rest of his music, Bela Bartok’s depiction of the natural world is as great and clear as any painter’s.

I know this music isn’t to every bodies taste and the vintage performance might not be what people are used to, but for people who find this music meaningful these recordings are worth the trouble of getting. They come closer to definitive recordings of these pieces than we are likely to have again. Their pedigree is undeniable.

Very helpfully, the Bartok Records website has a section about corrected errors in published editions of some of Bela Bartok's pieces. I've used it several times already.

The Media Is Flunking Pelosi Before Classes Start, We Have To Support Her

Posted by olvlzl.

Here is a good analysis by Matt Stoller of how the insider media, including the latest, aspiring, internet insiders, are doing their best to sandbag Nancy Pelosi before she even assumes leadership of the House. Stoller points out the most reasonable and clear explaination of why Nancy Pelosi might not want Jane Harman to head the Intelligence Committee, she clearly doesn’t think Harman is the best person to do it.

Left out of the whole nasty and myopic rant is any possibility that Nancy Pelosi might want someone who can chair the Intelligence Committee who can do a good job running the Intelligence Committee. Is it so unbelievable that Pelosi might think that Jane Harman is unfit to serve as a check on this President's misuse of intelligence? Harman did after all vaguely support prosecution of the New York Times for revealing the existence of the eavesdropping program. And that Pelosi is 'waiting' so long couldn't have anything to do with the fact that she has to organize the entire House of Representatives, could it? Pelosi has given every indication that she wants the House to function; she's calling the House into session and keeping it in session throughout January so members can get to work.

Having great faith in Nancy Pelosi’s intelligence, judgement and experience, I don’t think she would choose to have an important and public fight for nothing more than revenge. She clearly has her eyes on more important things than personal vendettas. I use that word to show where the corporate media is headed with this. They are going to turn every problem that naturally comes up for a new House Speaker into a badly made movie version of a stereotyped Italian woman grasping at power. They are laying the groundwork to make Nancy Pelosi into a nightmare version of a latter day Lucrezia Borgia . It’s just a matter of time before the TV preachers and the right-wing blogosphere start finding murders to pin on her. It’s going to be Hillary Clinton with ethnic heritage thrown in.

Experience has shown that the corporate media have that ability, to turn the best politician into a cartoon. They do it constantly. The left can’t let them get away with it again. We have to call them on it, it is up to us to support the politicians who represent our side. That is something that the left is really bad at, guarding the backs of politicians when they need it. We do a lot better at complaining that we aren’t getting everything we want and threatening to pull out of coalitions. But you don’t get anywhere doing that. The threats and self-defeating withdrawal of support have gotten us nothing but failure. The example of what works better is how Nancy Pelosi spent some of her political capital to reward John Murtha for his loyalty to her, even though she certainly knew that Steny Hoyer was bound to win the job of Majority Leader. When someone has given as much campaign support as Hoyer did, they get something for it. We have some money but, more importantly, we have our support. If the left gives that it will be noticed.

The media has it’s ability to blanket the country with lies and to insist on having its candidates installed. But that is a big mistake for us to assume that they don't have influence. Politicians have to get their support from somewhere and in a vaccuum of that they turn to the wrong place. . See Clinton’s disastrous choice of Louis Freeh for the FBI with the fullest support of the media and insider establishment if you have any doubts. Democrats should beware of when the insiders support a candidate. They are the enemies of real Democrats, certainly of the left. They will always promote those who will work against our best interest and who will stop any progress on our agendas.

While I’m not saying that Jane Harman is necessarily in the same category as Freeh, this gets my guard up. Jane Harman, the friend of the enemy isn’t trustworthy. Look at the DC press corps if you want examples.

1 - 10 of about 525,000

English and French and German and Spanish pages for sadr city slum.

Posted by olvlzl.

Have you noticed that almost every time you hear the phrase “Sadr City” on the news it is followed by the word “slum”? With what this war has done to other places in Baghdad, how can they tell what is and what isn’t a slum?

When this kind of phrase is universally used in the American media I have a hard time believing it’s a coincidence. The word “slum” doesn’t only designate a place as a center of highly concentrated poverty, it marks the people living there. Slum dwellers become non-persons, designated as unimportant, unworthy and expandable if a problem. It’s what they do to people who live in American slums. The American People are being told to forget about these people as individuals with lives and ideas of their own, they are only parts of a slum. If is the effect, intentional or unintentional, someone should point out that the residents of Sadr City probably aren’t impressed in the least by how Americans are taught to see them. No one here should be surprised when they refuse to see themselves that way.

John McCain and others in the United States have been calling for the death of al-Sadr, which must also do nothing to diminish his standing with his followers. Here’s a hint for the would-be president McCain, in a culture which values martyrdom you don’t exactly hurt the standing of a cleric by pinning a target to him. It might please the soft-handed wannabe warriors here but I doubt your calls are making it any easier for the real American troops on the ground in Iraq, of whom you are eager to make so many more. At some point the stream of irresponsible posturing mixed with your cowardly capitulation to Falwell et al on a host of issues, will start to leave you exposed.

The American establishment seems to believe that their ability to spin things through the American media means something to other people in the rest of the world. It doesn’t. At least not what they want it to mean. Americans should keep that in mind too, like us they have lives that interest them a lot more than other peoples ideas about them do. The blithe and irresponsible calling for the deaths of people by our politicians and media idiots doesn't play there.

Friday, November 24, 2006

How To Complain

Upyernoz sent me this video of the Helsinki Complaint Choir. It comes with subtitles so you can all complain along.

Where Can We Hide the Husbands?

This is a serious question for women in politics, because politicians are supposed to be powerful but wives are not supposed to be powerful. If they are, the husbands are going to be henpecked, and that is a Very Bad Thing, worse than family violence and such. But if the husbands are not being henpecked, then, the horror of all horrors!, they must be the real power behind the throne. Another impossible situation for us ladies to figure out, isn't it?

So what do we do with the husband? The conventional wisdom is to hide him from sight. Just like powerful women in business are adviced to put up snapshots of their children as office decoration but none of their husbands. I always wondered if this would suggest that these women are single parents, but not according to experts. The experts say that a picture of the husband would remind the traditionalists visiting the powerful woman's office of the unpleasant possibility that her strings are pulled by an even more powerful husband somewhere in the background. Or the suggestive power of the photograph might be even more terrifying: the husband has been emasculated! Eek! Run for your lives and the safety of your testicles.

A piece in the Huffington Post some time ago mused on all these awkward aspects of our common heritage in more detail, and it also pointed out the only solution that works:

Probably the first time a woman succeeds in being elected to high office it will be at least partly because her husband excels somewhere in his own right. He would of course profusely and publicly admire his wife for her great desire to solve the problems of the day, while he continued on his own equally important quest to save the world from AIDS, or some such thing.

Or the first female president of the United States could always marry God. Now that would work, too.

None of this is new, of course, and the problem will not go away until we manage to see marriages as equal enterprises rather than as mini IBMs where the man is the leader. But until that miracle happens the best women politicians can do is probably what Margaret Thatcher did: She acted as if she had somehow forgotten to put Dennis in her handbag that morning, as if she might be married but then maybe not, as if marriage is some fuzzy cloudlike thing that doesn't have much anything to do with women in power. That way Dennis kept his balls and Margaret kept them, too.

Isn't it odd how a maternal connotation can work for women in politics but a marital one does not? A woman who is not married smells off to the voters and a woman who is married smells off to the voters, too. All this shows how far we are from a feminist world, I guess.

Whom Would Jesus Elect?

The Christian Coalition of America just had their president-elect resign and the resignation was unanimously approved. Why? Because the president-elect, the Reverend Joel Hunter, wanted to do boring stuff such as caring for the poor, and the Christian Coalition wants to do fun stuff such as fighting abortion and same-sex marriage. I'm not making this up:

The Reverend elected to take over as president of the Christian Coalition of America said he will not assume the role because of differences in philosophy.

The Rev. Joel Hunter, of Longwood's Northland, A Church Distributed, said Wednesday that the national group would not let him expand the organization's agenda beyond opposing abortion and gay marriage.

This is the latest setback for the group founded in 1989 by religious broadcaster the Rev. Pat Robertson. Four states - Georgia, Alabama, Iowa and Ohio - have decided to split from the group over concerns its changing direction on issues like the minimum wage, the environment and Internet law instead of core issues like abortion and same-sex marriage.

Hunter, who was scheduled to take over the socially conservative political group Jan. 1, said he had hoped to focus on issues such as poverty and the environment.

"These are issues that Jesus would want us to care about," Hunter said.

He resigned Tuesday during an organization board meeting. Hunter said he was not asked to leave.

"They pretty much said, 'These issues are fine, but they're not our issues, that's not our base,'" Hunter said.

These are not their issue, that's not their base. Right. And that is the reason why the Christian Coalition should change its name to the Christianist Coalition. They are not interested in the same things Jesus was interested in. And they are a political organization, whatever they may call themselves.
Link via this Kos diary.

I Give Thanks For Molly Ivins

She is funny. Here she talks about the way the election results were mysteriously converted into a good thing for the Republicans:

It's time to give thanks, and I want to start off with a great, big thank you for the top American movement conservatives and all the fun we've had since Election Day. I know I promised not to gloat after this election was over, but I'm not talking unseemly gloating—I'm talking about moments so brilliantly hilarious the only option is to put your head down on the desk and howl.

First in line is the wit of The National Review's Kate O'Beirne, who clearly teamed up with Borat to explain the great conservative win. Her explanation is that this is a win for conservatism because a great many of the D's elected are so conservative themselves. She says half of them are conservatives.

She is indeed right. If only twice as many Democrats had been elected, it would have proved that there are twice as many conservatives in the country, and this is clear to any thinking person. We might challenge Ms. O'Beirne to explain how the next Republican win is a victory for liberalism.

The reason that O'Beirne and others are able to accept such an absurdity is because they've been listening to George W. Bush for six years and are thus able to believe six impossible things before breakfast.

Molly Herself gives thanks for Cokie Roberts, though I wouldn't join her there. Roberts is often on at my local NPR station in the morning, usually explaining why wingnut ideas really are quite good ones. If that is what goes for a liberal commentator these days we are truly in a make-believe world. Oh, waitasecond...

Let Me Adjust Your TinFoil Hat, Mr. Krugman

We have a new initiate in the tinfoil sect, and that is Paul Krugman. This quote shows his entry examination, and we gave him the secret whistle and three thumbs up:

Here's the background: Florida's 13th Congressional District is currently represented by Katherine Harris, who as Florida's secretary of state during the 2000 recount famously acted as a partisan Republican rather than a fair referee. This year Ms. Harris didn't run for re-election, making an unsuccessful bid for the Senate instead. But according to the official vote count, the Republicans held on to her seat, with Vern Buchanan, the G.O.P. candidate, narrowly defeating Christine Jennings, the Democrat.

The problem is that the official vote count isn't credible. In much of the 13th District, the voting pattern looks normal. But in Sarasota County, which used touch-screen voting machines made by Election Systems and Software, almost 18,000 voters — nearly 15 percent of those who cast ballots using the machines — supposedly failed to vote for either candidate in the hotly contested Congressional race. That compares with undervote rates ranging from 2.2 to 5.3 percent in neighboring counties.

Reporting by The Herald-Tribune of Sarasota, which interviewed hundreds of voters who called the paper to report problems at the polls, strongly suggests that the huge apparent undervote was caused by bugs in the ES&S software.

About a third of those interviewed by the paper reported that they couldn't even find the Congressional race on the screen. This could conceivably have been the result of bad ballot design, but many of them insisted that they looked hard for the race. Moreover, more than 60 percent of those interviewed by The Herald-Tribune reported that they did cast a vote in the Congressional race — but that this vote didn't show up on the ballot summary page they were shown at the end of the voting process.

He then goes on to remark that the mainstream media isn't all over this story, because it wouldn't change the Democratic victory. But machines nullifying the votes of thousands of people is bad for democracy, and it should be news.

Keroack Needs To Go

See how highly George Bush thinks of us wimmenfolk? He assigns the care and tending of our family planning needs to a man who doesn't believe in birth control and who is not even a board-certified obstetrician-gynecologist, a man who believes that women's hormones function exactly like those of a female prairie vole. Can you show any more contempt towards all the women of this country? Can you?

First a veterinarian, now this wingnut. Grrr. Why doesn't Bush just spit on us?

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Giving Thanks

Giving thanks can be very hard. It would be easier for me to write a sarcastic take on this day of overeating and having to be with relatives we don't really like, most of the time. Or a take on the real history of the day. Or on the massacre of the turkeys. Or many other topics that are dearer to my sinister mind.

So I try to be thankful for the hard lesson I'm learning slowly: How to swim out of the harbor of cold rationality and snug smugness and fences built against all kinds of messiness into the real oceans of life, where we make mistakes and whirl around in passion and find true treasures in something that looks like shit at first glance. I want to learn to swim and to truly love the other swimmers, not just think that I love them. Hard work, this trying to be less evil.

On a more practical level, I give thanks to the change in American politics. It may not be much of a change, but it's a crucial one. I'd rather have measles and mumps than terminal cancer, and that is what the Democrats represent to me, in comparison to the wingnut edge of the Republican party, still in power, by the way. At least we have a chance now to avoid WWIII a little longer. And I give thanks to the American voters, for renewing my faith in the basic sanity of the people.

And I give thanks to all those who read this blog and who comment here. The other day I was reading a really insightful and fascinating comment, and I felt suddenly so incredibly honored, almost awed, that I can be part of these discussions. That we have these discussions and this community, however fleeting it might be. It is truly something to be thankful for.

Happy Thanksgiving

To all those celebrating it today. This is a nice story for the day:

Just before Halloween, Urlina Nozlic sat in the basement of the Union Gospel Mission holding Pumpkin, an orange cat, on her lap.

Kiki and Brano sat quietly next to her in cat carriers.

"We have a special rapport," she said of the furry brood.

She has to. They all live in her car.

"It's a good thing I have a 1992 Buick LeSabre," she said.

It is Saturday afternoon, and Nozlic is waiting to see one of three veterinarians and an assistant who donate their time every other week to the furry friends of the homeless and the very poor.

In the basement of the Union Gospel Mission men's shelter in Pioneer Square in late October, a few people tell hard-luck stories -- and the comfort provided by the cats and dogs they clutch.

Near Nozlic and her cats sits a blind man holding the leash of a 13-year-old brown terrier.

Witton Rabon says Buster is the last of his litter. "He's a survivor," he says. And so it seems is Rabon.

The dog, like the other animals, is quiet, resting his aging head on the floor at Rabon's feet.

There are those who volunteer at food banks to nourish people in need. And there are those, such as Dr. Stanley Coe, a retired veterinarian, who nourish the souls of people by volunteering to keep their best friends -- and sometimes only companions -- healthy.

"It seemed like there was a need to provide the service," said Coe, who has run the Doney Memorial Pet Clinic for 20 years. The pets "probably give some people a reason to live."

You can click on the link to find out how to send a donation for this cause.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

In Iraq, Death

This is the song of the earth to all the children who have died in wars and acts of terrorism, or maybe a faint echo of it. I have posted it earlier, but the time is right to post it again:

These are my children, the dead ones, the beloved: the ones covered in mud and dirt, the bloodied ones, the limbless ones, the ones who were scattered by bombs like crumbs thrown for the birds. These are my children: the burned ones, the raped ones, the starved ones, the buried ones. See how beautiful they all are, my beloved children.

I seek for them everywhere, I call for them and at nightfall I find them. I gather them to me and give them sleep. The night I turn into a silken shawl, the sky into a blue blanket. I weave cradles and nests out of my hair, and I find a place for each one of my children, however hurt and frightened.

My lap is wide enough for all of them and their pain, and I give them dreams of pine forests, of fresh streams in sunlight, of young foxes gambolling in a clearing. I give them dreams of peace and quiet, of stars and sailboats, of flowers and meadows. I give them dreams of snow and sun and sweetness. I give them what was taken away from them and when I cannot do that I give them oblivion and rest. And the wind sings a lullaby, gently, in all my tongues.

It is my milk that feeds all, and my tears that sate all thirst, and these children, my beloved, will never lack food or drink or a place to slumber in my lap or a peace that cannot be broken.

Back to Tinfoil World

I never intended to desert it. That the Democrats won in the last election does NOT mean that we don't now need election reform. We do need it, every bit as much as if the result had been reversed, and the reason is here:

Randy Wooten, owner of Randy's Karaoke Bar out on Highway 14 and one of three mayoral candidates, received no votes. Not even his own.

''He voted for himself. I watched him,'' said Roxanne Wooten, the candidate's wife. ''I was standing right behind him. And then I voted for him,'' she told me Monday.

Neither vote registered on the ES&S machine. Poinsett County election official insisted that their touch-screen machines were working just fine, that Waldenburg's improbable undervote was due to ``operator error.''

Not hardly, said Roxanne Wooten. She said, ``I noticed that the machine was acting jumpy.''

But she made sure she voted for her husband. It was the one vote that mattered.

Randy's two opponents split 36 votes. He came up empty.

It's not the machine error that bothers me. It's the question what can be done now to verify or falsify the minimum of two votes Randy should have gotten, and, as far as I can learn, nothing can be done. This is no way to run transparent elections.

Then there is the whole exit polls comedy. In other countries exit polls are used to see how fair the elections might be. In this country some people try to suppress exit polls altogether, and very few in the media point out this paradox. I'm also still reeling after trying to understand why exit polls are so rapidly adjusted to match final voting percentages of various types, without us also still seeing the raw data. Very hasty, those adjustments are.

And this brings me to the tinfoil land. The following quote is by a representative of the Election Defense Alliance:

Simon, surprised that unadjusted polling data was publicly revealed, given the concerns after the 2004 election about the use of exit polls, downloaded as much of the data as he could in real time. Scheduled and planned revisions on the CNN site took place throughout the evening and by the following morning, the unadjusted exit poll data had been replaced with data that conformed with the reported, official vote totals. This was the planned procedure as indicated by the NEP's methodology.

Adjusting the exit poll data is, by itself, not a troublesome act. Simon explained, "Their advertised reason to do the exit polls is to enable analysis of the results by academic researchers--they study the election dynamics and demographics so they can understand which demographic groups voted what ways. As an analytic tool, the exit poll is considered more serviceable if it matches the vote count. Since the vote count is assumed to be gospel, congruence with that count is therefore assumed to give the most accurate picture of the behavior of the electorate and its subgroups.

"In 2004 they had to weight it very heavily, to the point that the party turnout was 37% Democrat and 37% Republican, which has never been the case--leading to the claim that Rove turned out the Republican vote. This was nowhere witnessed, no lines in Republican voting places were reported. As ridiculous as that was, the distortion of actual turnout was even greater in 2006. The adjusted poll's sample, to match the vote count, had to consist of 49% 2004 Bush voters and only 43% 2004 Kerry voters, more than twice the actual margin of 2.8%. This may not seem like that much, but it translates into more than a 3,000,000 vote shift nationwide, which, depending on targeting, was enough to have altered the outcome of dozens of federal races.

"It should be very clear that weighting by a variety of carefully selected demographic categories, which yields the pre-adjustment exit polls, presents a truly representative electorate by every available standard except the vote count in the present election. So you have a choice: you can believe in an electorate composed of the correct proportions of men and women, young and old, rural and urban, ethnic and income groups, Democrats, Republicans, and Independents--or you can believe the machines. Anyone who has ever wondered what is really in a hot dog should be aware that the machines are designed, programmed, deployed, and serviced by avowedly partisan vendors, and can easily be set up to generate entirely false counts with no one the wiser, least of all the voters."

Simon concluded, "These machines are completely and utterly black box. The idea that we have this enormous burden of proof that they are miscounting, and there's no burden of proof that they are counting accurately--that, first and foremost, has to change."

I bolded out the part that matters for tinfoilery. What Simon talks about there is the fact that the exit polls in 2006 had a question about the voter's 2004 presidential election choices (assuming that the voter had voted in 2004), and this question allows us to see something very odd about the whole charade:

The forcing process in this instance reveals a great deal. The Party affiliation of the respondents in the original 7:07 p.m. election night Exit Poll closely reflected the 2004 Bush-Kerry election margin. After the forcing process, 49-percent of respondents reported voting for Republican George W. Bush in 2004, while only 43-percent reported voting for Democrat John Kerry. This 6-percent gap is more than twice the size of the actual 2004 Bush margin of 2.8 percent, and a clear distortion of the 2006 electorate.

There is a significant over-sampling of Republican voters in the adjusted 2006 Exit Poll. It simply does not reflect the actual turnout on Election Day 2006.

Think about this a little. It could be that for some odd reason the exit polls have, once again, somehow failed to interview enough Republicans all over the place. Or it could be that Republicans lie in exit polls in an effort to look like Democrats. But why would either of these be true? Nobody has yet been able to explain this to my satisfaction. And nobody has explained how this odd problem could be fixed.

There is a psychological argument that people tend to misremember their previous election choices in a way which makes them look as if they voted for the winner in that election, and that might explain the adjusted results, assuming that the recorded votes are correct. But it doesn't explain why we wouldn't have gotten the same misremembering in the exit polls.

Then the possibility that the election results showed a much greater Republican turnout than expected. Well, this would have worked if the Republicans had won the elections, but it doesn't really explain what actually happened at all.

Now, there might be some obvious and simple explanation for all this, and I hope there is, even though it will make me look like an idiot. But better that than the alternatives.

Another Small Reason To Be Thankful

In our pride at having Democrats name the first woman as Speaker of the House we have forgotten two interesting and telling facts, Nancy Pelosi is the first person with a name ending in a vowel to be Speaker of the House

She has also risen higher in power than anyone else with a name ending in a vowel in the history of the country.

While we are looking at the facts of her gender and her party affiliation to explain her utter rejection by the Washington DC Establishment and the Republican media we shouldn’t forget this fact could count for a lot of the snooty snark. We shouldn't forget that for people with a heritage from the Mediterranean basin, and elsewhere, she also represents a great leap forward.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Housekeeping Post

Do you like washing windows by hanging outside those old up-and-down thingies on the third floor? If you do, could you come and do my windows? My house is eighty years old and the windows are original. This means that I open them with a rubber mallet, a paint palette and razor blades, and washing the outsides is only possible because of my similarity to snakes. But even so I get bloody scratches all along my arms. This is one job I hatehatehate and hence a job that is seldom completed.

Instead, I write about it to the whole world, which tells you that I'm a very lucky goddess, not having anything worse to write about. Except that you could pay me if you owe me for some articles...

You may have noticed that this post is not about politics and not about Thanksgiving, either. I'm a little overdosed on both topics right now, and I don't do holidays well at all. They always remind me of how there is no Echidne day and how I can't find an Echidne-card to send to anyone, either, snakes not being much of letter-writers as a group. Every holiday I remember what a solitary and sad goddess I really am and how much better off this world would be if only I were worshipped everywhere.

Oh well, things could be worse. Zeus could still be alive, for example, inseminating unwilling women all over the place. At least we got rid of that one, and a minor goddess is still going strong and making waves, slithery ones. Aphrodite and Athena are around, too, and so is Ares. We should have another get-together soon. I should e-mail Athena to ask how Nemesis is faring after her hard day of work earlier this month. She went around fixing all the voting machines so that they showed almost correct results. Good goddess, that one, when she is not high on something or other.

I drifted off the topic, sorry. The topic is housekeeping, and mentioning it brings to my mind the need to update my blogroll and I don't want to go there which might be the reason for all that went on above. But I could talk about my series of statistics posts (look for "Statistics Primer"). I'm going to link to them on my homesite (move your eyeballs up on this page to see the link) where I also link to my excellent series on the gender gap in wages. You could read those if you wake up suddenly in the middle of the night and see your demons sit around with their forks and knives ready and their napkins tucked under their chinflaps. My posts won't keep the demons from feeding, but you might not notice it quite as much.

While you are up there, on my other site, you can look at my embroideries. Or some of them. I haven't taken pictures of all the ones I have at home and the ones I have given away are lost for good, probably hidden away in some dank attic.

Then to future plans. I'm going to take over the world and also write the last post on my Visits-to-Wingnuttia series. Then I've promised to write on progressive taxation which I really look forward to, and that I do anticipate it with eager glee shows how very tired and bored I am.

On Becoming Fearless - A Book Review

I was sent Adrianna Huffington's new book, On Becoming Fearless, and I was right away filled with fear about reading it and perhaps finding that I didn't like it and how does one say that when the book was free? So clearly I need some help with this fearlessness bidness.

Let us begin then, by fearlessly expressing all the things that I dislike about the genre of books this one belongs to: the self-help books for educated and upper class and most likely also white women. I dislike this genre, because self-help gets you only so far and because there are loads of women out there who are neither educated nor upper class, and it would be nice to point out in the preface that the book will discuss the generic "woman" as someone who wants to run a company or a political party. Now, I know that the women most likely to read a book like this are going to be educated and at least with aspirations to climb up the societal ladders, and it's ok by me to have books on that topic. But it would be good to make the intended market more explicit in the book itself.

I also dislike the genre for its general use of anecdotal evidence culled from a group which is never specified and probably consists of friends and family members of the writer, and because the anecdotes always have successful endings. This last one is a wider problem, by the way. Most self-help books on depression don't mention a single case where the patient gets more and more depressed, despite following all the good advice.

Ok. Have I been fearless enough already? I could add that some parts of the book seemed hastily put together and light on research. And now I feel truly awful about slamming a free book like this.

Now I'm ready to admit that mostly Huffington's book is a good read, a good peptalk to all of us and a good summary of the many issues that cause women differential fear when compared to the type of fear men might experience.

She talks about the maternal guilt and about the impossible Catch-22 mothers experience when they are made to fear letting their children play outside and then made to fear the effects of cooping them up like that and on top of that made to fear the messages the media gives the same children when they are cooped up to protect them from the pedophiles and drug-pushers out there. She talks about the impossible Catch-22 of working women who are expected to be assertive but who are labeled as bitches when they do assert themselves, or not promoted or rewarded if they decide not to be bitches and just silently work away. And she talks about the fears of the body and the fears caused by the demands to be beautiful and young even when time ticks on without mercy. She even talks a lot about the way societal expectations make it pretty much impossible for any woman to be regarded as truly successful, because these expectations war against each other and no non-divine human being can ever hope to satisfy them all.

The obvious solution is to stop trying, to listen to yourself a little more and to decide on what is truly important for you to do. Then you go and do it, even while shaking in your boots. For fearlessness doesn't mean the absence of fear, to me at least, but the refusal to let fear master you. A brave person is not one who doesn't feel fear. What is brave about being oblivious? A brave person is one who acts despite the fears she or he may feel. I'm not sure if Huffington sees fear this way but her book suggests she does, even though she focuses more on the idea that practising frightening things enough causes them to be less frightening.

Some fears are more life-protecting than others, and nobody argues that we shouldn't fear, say, being in a house on fire. But women's lives do have a whole army of fears which are generated by the society and which are not necessarily good for anyone. Yet those fears demand a large space inside our brains and lots of energy to tend and to fight. Letting go of them, accepting that we are not going to be universally loved and honored, learning to live with disapproval and acrimony, those are truly valuable gifts for most women. And Huffington is correct in that the way to learn all these things is by doing things in the face of fear and by getting up after each fall. It's not a secret and it's doable.

In the chapter called Fearless At Work Huffington quotes from an expert she interviewed:

According to Fels, "The underlying problem has to do with cultural ideals of femininity. Women face the reality that to appear feminine, they must provide or relinquish scarce resources to others - and recognition is a scarce resource. Although women have more opportunities than ever before, they still come under social scrutiny that makes hard choices - such as when and whether to start a family or advance in the workplace - even harder."

I bolded the bit which tickled my brain in that excerpt, the idea that being feminine requires relinquishing scarce resources. These resources could be the best and most nutritious foods in some societies, but in ours they very well might be things like esteem, recognition and power. I think men are equally called for to provide scarce resources to, for instance, their children, but it is indeed true that women are particularly expected to give up their fair share to such resources. Indeed, motherhood is almost defined in those terms and the Islamic concept of women's modesty is related to the same basic idea. I'd go as far as to say that a woman who demands a fair share of resources is instantly labeled selfish, and that this is not true of a man demanding the same fair share.

If Fels is correct in this argument, being "feminine" might be impossible in an equal world. - I found this idea a useful one in understanding some of my inner demons of femininity, of getting a hold on the diffuse feelings of guilt which have arisen in situations where I have done more than seemed required, yet was left with a feeling of odd guilt. Stuff I used to call my Jesus complex. But it could be just the training I have received on relinquishing good things so that others may thrive.

I would have liked Huffington to give us more societal analysis about the way fears are used to keep women (and men) in line, especially given the current administration's agility in keeping us all listening to the terrorist alarms, and in view of most feminist theory which points out that an inner housecleaning only takes women so far on the road to equality. Maybe she will do that in her next book on the topic.

On Foxes and Chicken Coops - Again

Finally someone in the Congress points out the inanity of appointing a man who opposes birth control to run Title X, the Family Planning Program:

Several Democratic lawmakers asked the Bush administration on Monday to replace its new family-planning chief because he has worked for a health provider that opposes the use of birth control.

Dr. Eric Keroack's record as an opponent of birth control and abortion makes him a poor choice to oversee a $280 million reproductive-health program, seven House of Representatives Democrats said in a letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt.

``We are concerned that Dr. Keroack has promoted policies -- including the refusal to distribute contraception even to married women -- that directly conflict with the mission of the federal program,'' the letter said.

Keroack last week was named head of HHS's Office of Population Affairs, which funds birth control, pregnancy tests, breast-cancer screening and other health services for 5 million poor people annually. HHS estimates that the program helps to prevent 1.3 million unwanted pregnancies each year.

The office also oversees a $30 million program that encourages sexual abstinence among teens.

His appointment is fresh meat for the radical Christianists in the Republican party. Too bad that this sacrifice may also include messing up the lives of poor women who depend on this program for their family planning. But this administration has never cared about the poor or about women's lives.

And the guy looks like Borat.

The Sixth Year Curse?

You may have heard conservative pundits argue that the elections this month (gloating...) are nothing special, that it's quite common for the midterm elections of the second year of a two-term president's second term to result in losses for his party. You may have also heard that the actual numbers of seats changing party was on par for this historical trend.

Media Matters for America notes that the sixth year curse did not affect Bill Clinton and that Ronald Reagan got off lightly, too. True. But hasn't the avid gerrymandering by the Republicans in so many parts of the country caused the number of possible losses to have gone down in recent years? Think about this: If the number of seats which are truly up for grabs has shrunk, what is the actual percentage of such seats which the Democrats gained this month?

I'm trying to find a way to express the seats won as a percentage of seats actually in play, because I think that this last election was quite different in that respect. But I could be wrong and right now I'm too lazy to study this topic in detail.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Disaster - Thy Name Is A Woman

It's hard not to get scared when you read media comments on Nancy Pelosi. She isn't even in power yet, but she has already destroyed her chances of ever getting anything done. Somehow she has proven herself to be a failure before the races have begun, you see. And how, exactly, has she turned out to be such a disaster?

Here are some clippings telling us all the bad news:

On the November 19 edition of CNN's Late Edition, Blitzer said to Rep. James Clyburn (D-SC), the incoming majority whip:

BLITZER: But don't you think if she was going to -- if she was going to support Congressman Murtha and make a big fight out of this, instead of quietly asking him to step aside, she should have had a better count and know that she was going to win. Because by losing, and losing decisively, it sort of underscored her inability to get the job done, as one of her first major missions.


In a November 16 Slate column, Noah wrote of Pelosi: "I think her party should give serious thought to dumping her." Noah concluded:

Here's what I propose. Let Pelosi remain speaker for now. But let her know that, before the new Congress even begins, she has placed herself on probation. If she chooses Hastings to chair House intelligence, that's two strikes. One more strike -- even a minor misstep -- and House Democrats will demonstrate that they, unlike Speaker-elect Pelosi and President Bush, know how to correct their mistakes.


An article in the November 27 edition of Time, titled "Did Nancy Pelosi Get the Message?" reported that there are "a lot of new questions about Pelosi herself -- about her judgment, her political instincts and her real ideology." According to Time:

Was her endorsement of longtime ally John Murtha over Hoyer a testament to her loyalty or proof that she is incapable of letting go of old grudges? Was putting her muscle behind the hero of the party's antiwar wing a sign that she would steer her fractious and fragile coalition over the guardrails on the left? Did her support for a man who is notorious for slipping special-interest earmarks into spending bills prove that she didn't really mean all that talk about cleaning up Congress? In other words, was Nancy Pelosi really up to the job?

Mmm. Scary stuff. And this isn't all that Pelosi has to face as the Speaker-Elect. Some pundits see the total mess she has created before she has even begun a sign of a general problem to do with her being a person with a vagina:

From the noon ET hour of the November 18 edition of MSNBC News Live:

BREWER: The battle on Capitol Hill is just beginning, and Democrats, in the House, really aren't -- they're not off to the best start here. How a defeat in her very first test as incoming speaker could hurt Nancy Pelosi and her party when they officially take power in January.


BREWER: All right, well, so she was chosen speaker but, still, there are two months left before she takes over that position, officially. Do you think, Debbie, at this point, the Democrats might revisit the issue because, certainly, there is a difference between picking the leader of your minority party and picking the leader of your majority party.


BREWER: Being speaker of the House.

DINGELL: They are not going to revisit this issue. The election occurred in the caucus on Thursday. They know who the leader was that brought them to where -- the point they are. There is a very, very strong leadership team in Speaker-elect Nancy Pelosi and in Majority Leader-to be, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer. They know it's a winning team. They know it's a winning team that got them to where they are now, and it's a winning team that's going to be elected in January.

BREWER: All right, then, let me ask you both about this. I know that there's a rivalry between her and Steny Hoyer. They seem to have come out in this news conference that you're seeing now and made nice. There are some personality clashes between her and Representative Jane Harman [D-CA], who's on the Intelligence Committee. She's in line to become the chairperson there, and there's some talk that maybe Pelosi won't name Harman to that chair position. Are her personal feelings getting in the way of effective leadership, do you think, Debbie?

DINGELL: I think she's going to be a strong leader. I think she's got some strong feelings. I don't know what's going to happen in that particular race, but I think she got Democrats to where she's going to be. And I think she wants to retain that Democratic majority, and she's a smart, tough cookie and is going to make the decisions she needs to do to keep Democrats in the majority more than two years.

BREWER: And -- and, Brad, do you see that there is a difference between the men-run leadership posts? I mean, are they more capable of taking personality clashes, setting them aside, and saying, "In order for me to get to point A -- from point A to point B, I've got to set aside my personal feelings towards this guy"?

BLAKEMAN: There's no difference between the leadership that a man or a woman would take in this -- in this position. I think the key to Nancy Pelosi's success in the future is going to be the ability to lead her party, the ability to forget her personal views, and do what's in the best interest of her party and the Congress as a whole. And, if she's able to do that -- because, look, the Democrats had a great victory a week ago Tuesday, but the message is that there are a lot of conservative Democrats who were elected, and she's going to have to deal with that. It's a party that not necessarily believes in what Pelosi believes in, so she's going to have to forget her personal beliefs and do what's in the best interest of the -- of her party.

From the 2 p.m. ET hour of the November 18 edition of MSNBC Live:

BREWER: I want to ask another question about Nancy Pelosi, and I want you guys not to be politically correct for a minute. I want you to be honest about how you really feel. Nancy Pelosi won the leadership position when the Democrats were in the minority. Now, she -- in this role, it's a completely different -- number one, it's historic, because it puts a woman third in line now to the president after the vice president. I remember interviewing Gerald Ford a few years ago, and I asked him: "Did you ever dream of being a president?" He said, "No, it was purely by accident. When I got named to Spiro Agnew's position as vice president, even then I had no idea I was going to be the president." When you have a position that comes upon you accidentally, does it change the way people view you in that leadership position, especially because you're a woman in line for the presidency? Mark, what do you think?

Well, the whole treatment smells of sexism to me. Do you want to know why? I'm gonna tell you anyway: It's because the insinuations in all this are that Pelosi is not up to the task. That she is too weak and emotional to lead. And all the time we are talking about a career politician who has been leading for a very long time, not about some teenager we picked off the schoolyard. But that is the impression an alien from outer space would get from just reading these clippings.


Why Are We Not Invading Zimbabwe?

The short answer is naturally that Zimbabwe has no oil. But if our goal is to take down dictators and to stop the suffering of oppressed people everywhere, then Zimbabwe is certainly ripe for an invasion. Note that I'm not advocating for one. I'm writing the sort of sarcasm one writes when there is nothing funny at all about the topic.

The topic is Zimbabwe, and especially the women who live there:

The World Health Organisation has plotted this precipitous fall in women's mortality in the former British colony from 65, little more than a decade ago, to today's low. Speaking privately, WHO officials admitted to The Independent that the real number may be as low as 30, as the present figures are based on data collected two years ago.

The reasons for this plunge are several. Zimbabwe has found itself at the nexus of an Aids pandemic, a food crisis and an economic meltdown that is killing an estimated 3,500 people every week. That figure is more than those dying in Iraq, Darfur or Lebanon. In war-torn Afghanistan, where women's plight has received global attention, life expectancy is still above 40.

This cull is not an act of God. It is a catastrophe aggravated by the ruthless, kleptocratic reign of Robert Mugabe, in power since independence in 1980. The Mugabe regime has succeeded in turning a country once fĂȘted as the breadbasket of Africa into a famished and demoralised land deserted by its men of working age, with its women left to die a silent death.


Amen is 33 years old. Lying on a stained sheet in an Aids hospice outside the country's second city, Bulawayo, she is waiting to die. Her body is covered in the tell-tale sores of full-blown Aids. She has three children staying with her sister in Plum Tree. It is only an hour's drive away but she has not seen them once since checking in four months ago as no one has money for transport.

Anna, 25, gets to see her children. Proud is eight, and out at school, Agrippa, six, is at home along with his sister, 18-month-old Violet. Home is a one-room shack with no running water or electricity. Violet is sitting on the bed that takes up half of the living space. Like her mother and brothers, she is covered in sores, her scalp is ringed with white scabs. There's no money to get a doctor to tell Anna what she already knows - they all have Aids.

With proper health care and access to anti-retrovirals (ARVs) HIV sufferers can now live with the disease for decades.

But in Zimbabwe the health system is disintegrating. Pledges of free ARVs from the government contrast with the reality of corrupt, incompetent and threadbare health care for those with money - for those without it is completely out of reach.

Read the whole article. It is terribly sad, and particularly so because almost all the problems Zimbabweans suffer from have solutions, and this is not true of events in places such as Iraq. And yet we do nothing to take down the dictator who lets his people die of starvation and of AIDS, who has turned the breadbasket of Africa into the killing fields of Africa.

But the women of Zimbabwe still fight, and their fight should make all of us outside the country ashamed of our reluctance to lend them a helping hand:

In this climate of fear and despair, it is a women's group that has consistently defied the regime to go out on to the streets and protest. Women of Zimbabwe Arise (Woza) was set up three years ago and its founder, businesswoman Jenni Williams, has been arrested countless times and had her life threatened on several occasions.

Despite this there are now an estimated 30,000 members, who are demonstrating for basic rights including access to food, education and healthcare. And so far Woza's strict creed of non-violence has made it hard for authorities to crack down on it too viciously. "It's very hard for a policeman to intimidate us when his mum, his sister, or his girlfriend is there as one of us. It's embarrassing for them," Ms Williams says. "I'm very proud to be a Zimbabwean woman right now. Why should a woman carry all these burdens and be silent?"

Turning Nightmares Into Dreams

Added later: The whole project has now been cancelled:

News Corp. said on Monday it had canceled plans to publish a controversial new book by O.J. Simpson titled, "If I Did It," and an accompanying Fox network television interview with the former football star.

News Corp. Chairman and chief executive Rupert Murdoch said in a statement that he and senior management decided that "this was an ill-considered project."

"Ill-considered" puts it mildly, in my humble opinion.

Roxanne has a proposal for Judith Regan, the woman who is publishing O.J. Simpson's book on how he might have butchered two people had he actually done it. Regan wrote a long article on her reasons for publishing the story. It's a form of revenge for domestic violence for her. Roxanne has further ideas of how this revenge could turn out very sweet indeed, and that is if Regan donates the profits from the book to organizations which help victims of domestic violence. Click on her site to learn more.

What Is Bad About Atheism

I saved this article some time ago and it's now stale and moldy but I still want to talk about it so skip this post if you are not interested in finding out why atheism would make all of us into rapists and murderers and thieves.

The article is a Godly Man's list of reasons about what is wrong with atheism, and a major one of these reasons is this:

An atheist must also suppress all notions of morality. He is not able to declare any quality to be morally superior to another. Such admissions require an absolute standard of goodness and duty. Without this, there is no basis for an atheist to declare peace better than war or love better than hate. These are simply alternative choices without moral superiority. The atheist is stuck believing that morality has no claim on you or anyone else.

In fact, the atheist must conclude that evil is an illusion. For there to be evil, there must also be some real, objective standard of right and wrong. But if the physical universe is all there is, there can be no such standard (How could arrangements of matter and energy make judgments about good and evil true?). So, there are no real evils, just violations of human customs or conventions. How hard it would be to think of murderers as merely having bad manners.

An atheist is a "he" and he is a moral relativist of the extreme kind. It's hard not to suspect that the writer feels tempted by all those evil things he could embrace if only there was no fear of eternal fire in consequence. This is what I have a lot of trouble with, the view of some Christianists that we would all go out and engage in some serious crime-enjoyment if the fear of punishment was removed from us. Hell. It's what keeps people on the straight and narrow.

What a dismal view of the human beings these guys have and what an odd view it is when combined with the idea that some divinity created these miserable human beings evil on purpose, just to watch them writhe in agony trying to stay moral against all their instincts. Such a god looks to me like a sadist god, one who would invent hell just for the kicks.

A long time ago I took a course on philosophy when the topic was exactly the universality of morals and ethics. The professor mentioned three possibilities in these views, ranging from ethics and morals always being tribe-specific and not criticizable by outsiders to, at the other end, a concept of eternal and unchanging morals and ethics common to all humans. The intermediate position was one where the specific form rules and laws took might vary by tribe but where it was also possible to see a more basic shared rule in operation. There was nothing in this conversation about gods making up the eternal and unchanging morals and ethics, if one was to adopt that approach. The Buddhists have a fairly expansive list of moral rules, yet many Buddhists are atheists or at least not bothered by the question whether the world was created by a divine power or not. But the Buddhists do have a punishment system in operation, their view of hell, perhaps, and that is rebirth into this valley of tears.

This suggests to me that it is not the existence or nonexistence of a monitoring god that matters in this discussion but the question of punishment, and the writer of the initial piece I quoted appears to think that the punishment must be eternal to outweigh the delicious temptations of sin. An atheist does not believe in an eternal punishment. Does that make "him" free to roll in sin?

What if we regard our deeds in a more immediate context, by thinking about the hell that we create right here, on earth, by acts that hurt others? Couldn't that be sufficient to keep an atheist moral and ethical? Or the little insistent voice of conscience inside us? That can be a truly annoying guardian of ethics and morality, and it doesn't really matter if it was inserted in us by divine powers or by our evolutionary past or the spaghetti monster.

Our Mandate...

A website called right-was-right has written down a twenty-five-point manifesto of what is going to happen now the American people have given the treasonist lefty liberal commie secularist latte-drinking limousine-driving welfare cheats a mandate. These are the first ten points:

1. Mandatory homosexuality

2. Drug-filled condoms in schools

3. Introduce the new Destruction of Marriage Act

4. Border fence replaced with free shuttle buses

5. Osama Bin Laden to be Secretary of State

6. Withdraw from Iraq, apologize, reinstate Hussein

7. English language banned from all Federal buildings

8. Math classes replaced by encounter groups

9. All taxes to be tripled

10. All fortunes over $250,000 to be confiscated

The sad one is #6, because many more people would still be alive if the U.S. had never invaded Iraq and if Saddam Hussein had been left in power, and because the most likely outcome now is that after many more very bloody and horrible months a strongman very much like Hussein will take power in Iraq and run it along very similar manners except that there will be religious fanaticism to flavor the torture stew.

Read the other points in our mandate. What is funny about the whole joke is that the wingnuts pretty much wrote a reverse mandate like this only some years ago and then went on to carry it out, point by point. Never forget that. And should you feel tempted to forget it, just remember that the new guy in charge of women's reproductive health believes that women are prairie voles.
Hat tip to Tishie

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Autumn Day

Lord it is time. The summer was so wide.
Lay your shadow on the sundials
and set free the wind on the fields.

Tell the last fruits to grow full;
give them yet two more southern days,
press them to ripeness, and drive
the last sweetness into the full wine.

Whoever has no house will not build one now.
Whoever is alone now will stay alone a long time,
will waken, read, write long letters,
and wander the avenues, back and forth,
restlessly, while the leaves are blowing.

Rainer Maria Rilke trans. C. A.

McCain Wants to Nationalize Your Body, "Federalism" Is The Excuse

Here is something to notice.

MCCAIN: I don’t think a constitutional amendment is probably going to take place, but I do believe that it’s very likely or possible that the Supreme Court should — could overturn Roe v. Wade, which would then return these decisions to the states, which I support.

STEPHANOPOULOS: And you’d be for that?

MCCAIN: Yes, because I’m a federalist. Just as I believe that the issue of gay marriage should be decided by the states, so do I believe that we would be better off by having Roe v. Wade return to the states. And I don’t believe the Supreme Court should be legislating in the way that they did on Roe v. Wade.

You see, it's all right because the Founders said so. In other words, there's a South Carolina primary between McCain and the nomination.

A Remedy to Discouragement In The Coming Weeks

Posted by olvlzl.

This article is worth keeping a copy of to read whenever things are moving too slowly or in the wrong dirction. I'm going to keep reminding myself of this:

Don’t buy all the crap coming from GOP talking-point memos or the blather from mainstream pundits. The midterm elections do not signal a move to the center. Yes, a few conservative Democrats were elected, but the big gainers were progressives. In particular, the Congressional Progressive Caucus is on the rise.

No longer will Rep. F. James Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) be able to grab the gavel and run, as he did at a hearing last year when faced with pointed questions from Congressional Democrats about the PATRIOT Act, Guantanamo and the “war on terror.” During a hearing, Sensenbrenner, the chair of the House Judiciary Committee, used his standing to abruptly declare the committee’s public hearing on the PATRIOT Act over. He cut off the microphones of the Democratic half of the panel and smugly shuffled out of the room, thereby avoiding any more frivolous questions about “civil rights.”

Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich), the new chair of the Judiciary Committee, will welcome such questions.

Nick Burt and Joel Bleifuss

The image of Sensenbrenner's arrogant, infantile smirk wiped off will sustain me in the coming troubles.

Five Short Months Ago

Safe In Their Alabaster Chambers, They’re Making Our Chains

Posted by olvlzl.

he Declaration of Independence says that all men are created equal and are endowed by their creator with rights. All men are given equal rights. You shouldn't forget that the reason they put it that way was because they were declaring, once and for eternity, that kings and nobles didn't have the extra, God given, rights that they claimed.

Equality was an excellent grabber, the part of the document you remember even if you never go to the list of grievances. Thomas Jefferson's intentions were good, he really did believe it. Some of the others who signed the paper thought so to, though some, not so much. Practice was a different matter. The equal rights of slaves, women and the landless were breached immediately and continually until those groups insisted on their own equal rights. We've come a long way, thanks to them. Now, before we start going backwards, it's time to settle up on some more of these equal rights before some new claims of "rights" swamp us.

A president is a citizen with rights equal to those of the most destitute bum on the street. Equal rights. His office doesn't give him more rights. Equal rights are endowed by the creator, or for the secularists among us, by the fact of birth. Even a massive majority of the voters can't increase those. It can allow privileges and it does. It is foolish when those are more than necessary to do the job and that point was passed a long time ago. Since September 11th the country has gone temporarily all gushy and monarchic and has given Bush and Cheney massive perks and dangerous privileges, but those aren't rights. A president isn't drafted and they aren't crowned. They are given a job and our giving someone a job doesn't confer rights, it assigns freely requested responsibilities.

The recent news about the massive intellectual con job to impose one-Republican-man-rule on us uses the language of rights to describe the sleazy framework of power grabs which the likes of Samuel Alito have spent their careers erecting. But it's an effort that starts with a lie. Being president is a job, it's a responsiblity. It doesn't give George W. Bush the right to replace the enumerated responsibilities of the legislature with pieces of paper that members of the Federalist Society have handed him to sign. Anyone who says they believe that the legacy MBA, who never managed anything except into the ground, understands these signing statements is a liar. That goes for anyone who uses that pretense as an unstated premise in a discussion.

This effort, hatched in well appointed sitting rooms in law schools and other charming venues, is one of the dirtiest plots against democracy in our history. The plotters are all genteel and have clean fingernails so they sell well on TV. They are even well coached for mini-dramas with the help of senators of their own party to sway public opinion. They've got the stage craft down and with our winner-take-all, set term system temporary deception is good enough for their purposes. So we can't waste any more time, we have to call the plot what it really is right now. It is a power grab to to destroy the rights and freedoms of us all for the benefit of a privileged elite. We have to say it over and over again with enough variation to hold the attention of a distracted public.

You would think that this kind of power grab would alarm our press a lot more than it has. A very few of them like Charlie Savage of the Boston Globe do a service to American as great as any Thomas Paine ever did. But the electronic media, the most influential part of the media, while mentioning it seems to be unenthusiastic about saving democracy. What I've seen and heard goes from what passes as "balanced" to outright propaganda favoring the plot.

This is a defining issue for the media. By their acts you will know them. Our democracy hasn't been in this kind of danger since the Civil War. Not the movie, not even the documentary. The real thing, here, now, potential spilling of our very real and very red blood.

Those who support the power grab or who play the "balanced" game aren't going to defend rights that they have no interest in exercising. That's the only logical conclusion you can come to. They aren't a free press. They are an infotainment venture that can get along just fine under a dictator. They might even hope that a dictator will increase profits for their parent company and so the value of their stock options. Have I gone too far? Just look at how they sold us Alito, the architect of despotism.

You will be able to tell who the real free press is because this issue, if lost, will spell their deaths. Maybe literally in the fullness of time. Real members of the free press will fight this with all they've got. It is time for the owners and employees of papers, stations and in the new media to expose it. The President and the Republican party are destroying democracy. The evidence is so thick that only someone with a head even thicker will deny it. The only chance we have to defeat them is here, now.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Post script
. I didn’t intend to do another reprint from my achieve until I opened the paper this morning and saw a charming little article about "Genial, Courtly, Professor Charles Fried" “The Mellow Conservative”. I don’t much like or trust Fried or other “non-movement” conservatives. They have such a way of ending up supporting Supreme Court nominees and others who are rabid movement conservatives.

So it might be time to remember what happens when these well-tailored legal types approach the throne of power. What happens between their purported support of individual liberty and the Senate hearing room and Supreme Court bench might make a good novel, it makes for dangerous politics. You might want to think about what this passage says about this kind of double talk.

Since this is a book of philosophy, not policy, Fried would rather not talk about what form his ideal welfare programs would take. Rather he asks lovers of liberty to judge proposals by their “spirit”: “Where is the energy and rhetoric?” He asks during an e-mail exchange. “Is it born of compassion and concern for need or envy and the rhetoric of rancor?”

So, you got that? It’s all a matter of how it feels, the motives must be pure and noble, at least sounding. What happens in the end? Does that matter? Following a passage about Fried’s, perhaps somewhat reluctant, acceptance of some tax progressivity is that it seems to be entirely a matter of how the policy makers feel about it, not the recipients, not even the taxpayers. An intellectual consideration very safely encased in alabaster, indeed.

In the article it says that Fried “lumps together Pol Pot, Egyptian pharos and environmentalists who want to protect rare toads by restricting property use.” as examples of “enemies of liberty”. Yeah, Chuck, those damned tree huggers have their jack boots on our necks. They’re so upset-making when the stock market closes. Tea just doesn’t digest well. Makes you just want to kill a rare toad, doesn’t it. While I can’t say that’s my reaction, it’s an emotion I’ve got some knowledge of. Only for me, the temptation is to take a bunch of legal theorists, slap them out of their stupor and hold up them up to face the atrocities that result when their genteel considerations are made too, too vulnerable flesh.

"Pol Pot, Egyptian pharos - rare toads" .... if you heard a bum going on like that wouldn’t you think the mental health service should be called?

Heaven Help Us, Return of the Press Barons?

Posted by olvlzl.

This article in today's Boston Globe goes into more detail about press ownership and the consequences of different models. While not agreeing with all of it the article gives a lot to think about. The short version is, Even so, the newspaper industry's recent difficulties suggest that public ownership is no more a panacea than private ownership. "It's not ownership per se," says Jay Harris, "it's the values of the owners that matter."

Then why not get rid of the owners and investors? Particularly interesting is the mention of the St. Petersburg Times and the Manchester Union Leader which are now owned by journalism schools. The St. Petersurg Times is a great paper on some days and the Union Leader is less bad than when the late and unlamented Bill and Nacky Loeb* and owned it.

*Pat Buchanan called Nacky his "political godmother", for example.