Saturday, January 06, 2007

There Is No War Monger So Repugnant That The American Establishment Won’t Clutch Them To It’s Bosom.

Given Enough Money And Power, That Is.

Posted by olvlzl.

There is no one in blogging who says more with fewer words than The Good Roger Ailes. There is no one like him for epigrammatic subtlety, at least as far as my blog reading has taken me*.

The two scroungy-bearded faces of Michael Ledeen.

I guess Simone changed her mind about that job of fucking up Tehran.

Mikey better get busy forging more documents if he really wants a new war.

posted by Roger | Comments (2) | 10:41 PM

One post like this can open up a half hour of trying to recall and looking up things half-remembered.

In doing some of this instant research into one of the foremost proponents of war with Iran, Ledeen, isn’t it interesting that for someone who has a lifetime of promoting blood shed, that it was a minor charge of near plagiarism that lost him a job at a university. Though not even that, the only mortal sin in American academia, bothers them at the American Enterprise Institute, the guess pool that is trying to push the escalation* in Iraq against the wishes of 89% of the population. Neither does his saying things like this, from the bio at Wikipedia:

* "the level of casualties (in Iraq) is secondary"
* "we are a warlike people (Americans)...we love war"
* "Change—above all violent change—is the essence of human history"
* "the only way to achieve peace is through total war"
* "The purpose of total war is to permanently force your will onto another people"
* "Every ten years or so, the United States needs to pick up some small crappy little country and throw it against the wall, just to show the world we mean business"

Some start out Lamaze, then go La Leche, but it sounds like Ledeen’s folks were advocates of d’Annunzio in utero

And there is also this:

From the other side of politics, The American Conservative has claimed that Ledeen has strong sympathies for Italian fascism and that "Ledeen’s careful distinction between fascist 'regime' and 'movement' makes him a clear apologist for the latter."

Now where would they ever get an idea like that?

* He’s also great for covering Republican criminality, so unlike the other one.

** We should stop using the war mongers’ words. Those are planned and tested as effective means of lying to the public. It’s a good indication that the Bush War II has been rejected by the American Public that this slogan isn’t working with the great majority of us.

O Yes

Posted by olvlzl

illie Olsen died this week. Her small body of works will be read when the large trilogies and series meditating the angst of the middle-aged, middle-class, white American male are footnotes. Her story “O Yes”, perhaps the most overlooked in the collection “Tell Me A Riddle” is one of the most profound and heart wrenching accounts of the kind of people who have been too little noticed. When the work is this good the amount of it doesn’t matter.

Tillie Olsen was once wished a blessing by an admirer during one of the lifetimes of demonstrations for social justice and political progress she participated in. Her response was a request not to bless her but to blast the system.

I dedicate this week's blasting of the system to Tillie Olsen’s memory.

Title Page

The rich and the lucky can just shut up
nobody wants to know anything about them.
But the needy have to show themselves,
to say: I am blind,
or: I am going to be soon
or: things are not going well for me on Earth
or: I have a sick baby,
or: I am held together with patches....

And maybe that is nowhere near enough.

And since everyone overlooks them,
as they go on their way, they have to sing.

And one hears some good songs too.

Really, people are odd; they’d rather
hear castrati in boy-choirs.

But God himself comes and pays heed
when these deformed ones upset him.

Rainer Maria Rilke: The Voices, nine pages with a title page
From Book of Pictures II translated by olvlzl

The Corporate Media Are Dangerous To The Entire Biosphere

Posted by olvlzl

don't know if it was their own network but our local NBC affiliate had a piece on its alleged news last night about the horrible hot winter we are having. It was very up beat. It included a clip of some moron on the street saying, "Global warming rocks,". It doesn't matter which of the broadcast or cabloids originated the piece, they're all the same.

Some of the comments here are worth repeating,

It'll be interesting to see how they act when it's July and it's still 25 degrees above normal.
dan | 12.16.06 - 9:00 am

As for idiots who say this warm weather is nice, I just answer, "You won't say that when the crops fail."
C. Corax | 12.16.06 - 2:44 pm

The American media are shills for Exxon and big oil and coal. Not to mention ag. The earth is just another comodity there for plundering and they'll spread any lie, so long as they get paid for it.

Corporate media, it's not like real news media in anything but name and in the let's pretend world of the law.

And yes, after the week's news, I'm kind of down on both.

Charles Fried Is Having A Very Selective Hissy Fit

And he’s not the only one.
Posted by olvlzl

My junior senator, the self-term limited Susan Collins*, is upset that George W. Bush has included a signing statement in a bill she authored that not only directly contradicts the bill, itself, but gives him powers associated with the executives of police states. To my senator all I can say is, he’s the president of your party, not mine. You have supported his irregular selection and his entirely incompetent and clearly corrupt rule. Your protestations this late in time, as you prepare to break your promise to the moderate voters of Maine, that you will retire, are hollow.

Signing statements are a clear and obvious danger to representative democracy, giving the president the ability to not only make new law but to negate the law even as he is signing it. Antonin Scalia has included a signing statement in one of his opinions and has opened the door to them being as dangerous as they sound. Along with Cheney's attempts to construct an imperial presidency that would have made Nixon blush, a powerful branch of the Republican legal establishment clearly wants to make Republican presidents absolute rulers.

The same day I read about Bush using a minor postal reform bill as a naked power grab, I also read Charles Fried, professor of Harvard Law School, solicitor general in the Reagan administration and patron of Samuel Alito, tut-tutting the just inaugurated Governor Deval Patrick for violating the spirit of the Massachusetts constitution. The Fried ire was aroused by Patrick’s opposition to putting gay marriage to the voters. Fried, as I’ve mentioned before, is the god-father of Bush’s theory of signing statements. He and Alito did a significant part of the legal hack work that has been the excuse used by the Bush regime to bypass the minor inconveniences of the United States Constitution and the Separation of Powers.

Apparently the great will of the voters, sufficient to deprive Americans of their most basic civil rights, wasn’t enough to arouse Fried and his fellow Republican legal eagles in the small matter of the election of a president and the overturning by their will by putsch in Florida and, four years later, Ohio. I have heard not a single one of them contradict William Rehnquist’s assertion in Bush v. Gore that there is no right for an American citizen to vote. The high and mighty don’t yet realize that Bush v. Gore was a watershed, it is the ruling that separates the oligarches from the democrats. No one who is not an enemey of government by, of and for the People will ever get over it.

Fried does assure us that if the civil rights of lesbians and gay men are put to a vote that he will cast his sacred ballot against overturning gay marriage. I’d seem quite the ingrate if I didn’t admit, that’s mighty white of him, isn’t it?

To have this particular establishment bilge pump slamming this particular newly elected governor for thinking that the civil rights of citizens should not be subject to the popular whim is laughable. It’s insulting. That the Boston Globe op-ed page, now owned by the New York Times corp, thinks that Fried is someone worth listening to in this matter** doesn’t do anything to raise it’s credibility. Since it is the Globe’s own Charlie Savage, a real reporter, who has done the most important journalism about the abomination of the Bush signing statements, giving it’s op-ed over to a genteel con man like Fried for clearly partisan purposes, cutting the legs out from under a Democratic governor on his first day, is a disgrace to journalism.

* She promised that if she was elected as senator that she would serve no more than two terms. I don’t like term limits but she promised that to the voters as a condition of them choosing her and she should be held to that promise. Yes, I know there is another politician who made the same rash promise, but he lives in another state. His promise was made to his constituents and they are the best ones to address it.

** He seems to be joining fellow right-wing hacks Jeff Jacoby and Cathy Young as yet another in-house, op-ed, conservative. He’s redundant in that position.
You can guess what I think of Harvard University as a fame plucker.

Update: Yes, I caught it. Rule number one, a man who is his own editor has a blogger for a client. And it doesn't help when he was wearing his old glasses.

Leavening The Lump

or, But that was my only line.

Posted by olvlzl

The great lesson of the internet for me has been that there are few things I’ve thought up that someone else hasn’t thought first.

But there are two joke I know I said first:

From a comment I made on George F. Will's fawning interview on the occasion of William F.’s birthday:

You can’t say that William F. Buckley is a fascist. William F. Buckley won a lawsuit against someone who called him a fascist and Liberace won one against someone who said he was gay.

In response to the question of how Chris Matthews got the nickname “Tweety”,

“I thought I’d slob a plutocrat, so I did, I did slob a plutocrat,”.

Now, excuse me while I go back to kneading.

This Is What A Corrupt Empire Looks Like

The nice polite ones are the flowers of corruption.

Posted by olvlzl

he story about the release of those FBI files on William Rehnquist was disturbing, the drug addiction and the psychosis were bad enough but they were far from the worst. The revelations that the Nixon and Reagan administrations actively used the FBI in an attempt to keep information about Rehnquist from the Senate Judiciary Committee, the Senate and the public in order to place him on the court and install him as Chief Justice are even worse. These files and very likely the hundreds of pages which were withheld from the disclosure, - and lets do mention the entire section which “could not be found” - would have been read by members of those administrations. Such sensitive files would not have been left to any but the highest and most powerful members of the administrations. They actively used the FBI to discredit people who likely would have testified that Rehnquist was deeply involved with efforts to prevent members of minorities from voting and concealed information that Rehnquist, in keeping with his life as a racist thug, lived in a house covered by an illegal and racist covenant. Rehnquist lied under oath about these and members of both administrations certainly knew that the man who they were placing on the highest court was guilty of perjury and worse. John Bolton appears to be a logical person to have had intimate knowledge of them. Strom Thurmond, who the Republicans put in charge of the Senate Committee, was apparently an active participant in the intimidation.

The most disturbing part of it isn't that Rehnquist was given this much power while drugged and deluded, it was that even though the press knew about the racial thuggery and there were persistent rumors of serious psychological problems, they covered it up year after year. The people who pretend to be the last and best hope of democracy covered up for a seriously incapacitated Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court. The same people who studiously reported every single lie that the Republican establishment cooked up* about even the most minor players in the Carter and Clinton administrations and the Democratic side of the congress couldn’t be bothered to follow up on why and Associate Justice who was made the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court was plainly mentally ill.

And it wasn’t just them, it must have been a considerable part of the Washington and legal establishment who thought their class loyalty was more important than the integrity of the United States Supreme Court. With all the members of administrations who must have known, all the members of the bar, all the court clerks, all the Senators and their staffers, all of those privy to reliable gossip by these and, in the end, the other members of the Supreme Court itself, none of them had the devotion to public service to blow the whistle on a man who had the ability to distort the constitution and laws of the United States. The only part of the record that has been entirely clear during this time is that William Rehnquist was bent on doing as much damage to the freedoms and civil rights of Americans and to their ability to govern themselves as he could manage in his debilitated state.

That the scores if not hundreds of officially respectable members of the establishment didn’t reveal these horrible and entirely relevant facts over those three decades should stand as a hands down case that they are the putrid, artificial flowers of a corrupt system. Their devotion to the rotten establishment and to their own, personal, interest disqualifies them from respect or positions of power. I’ll bet you that of any eight people you found in the local homeless shelter presented with similar facts one of them would have done the responsible thing.

* One of the more bizarre things I heard on the radio this week was Marvin Kalb, being honored by the National Press Club with its 2006 Fourth Estate Award, in a speech decrying the death of serious news in the United States, tipping his hat to Matt Drudge. Marvin Kalb thinks enough of Republican gossip monger, Matt Drudge to read his blatantly Republican propaganda and to mention him on an occasion like this.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Friday Cat Blogging

Despite the atypical weather this winter, there are still places with Snow and cats in those places. Here's Hidey, Barry's cat, in Alaska:

Oops! Too much snow!

Ah! This is better.

Crying Over The Onion

This is a most unsuitable title for a post which is going to be about Saddam Hussein's execution, but then the whole farce has been unsavory and disgusting, and the way I think about it all is as if it was an onion, with layers and layers of tricky tasks, all of which went wrong. And so we should cry. Not over Saddam Hussein's death, but over the deaths of lots of other people who will die because of this botched execution and over the death of ideals and innocence and optimism and other yucky concepts.

So take this imaginary onion and look at it. The outer layer is the whole idea of executing someone as a punishment for evil deeds. That Saddam Hussein committed evil deeds is now well known and that he deserved death for them is probably true, too. But many who deserve death don't get it and others who don't deserve death do get it. And in many countries of this world a death sentence is viewed as barbaric. Among Iraqi Sunnis putting Saddam Hussein to death gave them the seeds of future martyr for the cause.

Then the next layer of the onion: about the timing of the execution. Did it have to be at the beginning of the Sunni calendar of Eid, the holiday that is all about how God didn't require the sacrifice of a son any longer, the holiday that is often combined with pardons to prisoners? Was it intentional to disrespect the Sunnis in this manner?

One more layer into the onion: Who decided that a neutral and calm and just execution would include taunts to Saddam Hussein? Once governments get into the business of murder-for-murder, it would seem extremely important to keep the proceedings as different from vengeance or unsanctioned murders as possible. Taunting is not statemanslike.

Even deeper into the onion: The videos of the hanging that cropped up all over the place. We appear to have landed straight back into the old customs of going out to see executions while knitting or having family picnics. Except now we can watch the snuff films at the privacy of our own homes. I find this truly disgusting. It strips the person executed of any dignity at the point of death, and I have been unable to find anywhere in Saddam Hussein's sentence the order to have his death filmed and handed out to all to ogle.

And then the parts where even the most hardened onion dissecter might cry: Children are imitating the hanging and killing themselves. There is a message here about the dangers of mixing information, entertainment and what should not be broadcast.

Spocko's Story

Spocko is in my blogroll (though his blog, Spocko's Brain, is currently dead, for reasons that will become clear.) Spocko recently had an adventure:

The Walt Disney Company has sent a cease-and-desist letter to the blogger and media critic "Spocko," effectively closing down his Web site, Spocko's Brain, after the online muckraker instigated a letter-writing campaign that caused national advertisers including Visa and MasterCard to flee the Bay Area ABC-affiliate radio station KSFO.

KSFO features hard right-wing talk show hosts who endorse torture and mock the tortured, called for the public hangings of New York Times editor Bill Keller and other journalists, and demand that callers mock Islam. They also mock their own advertisers, calling Chevrolet "sh!tty" and recommending that Sears' Diehard battery be attached to an African-American's testicles.

Spocko (a pseudonym for the blogger, who does not want to be identified), recorded the station's programming and posted audio files on his site, calling attention to the hate speech. He also began sending letters to advertisers on KSFO, including AT&T, Bank of America, Visa, MasterCard and others, pointing out the station's content and directing them to his blog to hear proof, via his audio files.

Since Spocko began contacting advertisers, they have departed KSFO in droves.

Netflix, MasterCard, Bank of America, and most recently, Visa have pulled their advertising from the station. According to Spocko, Federal Express, AT&T and Kaiser Permanente are weighing their departure as well.

Now, Disney is fighting back.

The Friday before Christmas, Dec. 22, ABC Radio sent a cease-and-desist order to Spocko and his Internet Service Provider, 1&1 Internet, claiming unauthorized use of copyrighted material.

Neil Simpkins, spokesperson for ISP provider 1&1 Internet, says his company received the same letter from ABC Radio that was sent to Spocko's Brain, citing unauthorized use of copyrighted material. He says 1&1 gave Spocko one week to pull the material, and when he did not, the ISP pulled his site Jan. 2.

In legal terms the battle is about what "fair use" means. But I don't think Disney's reputation is enhanced by this at all. You can find more on the whole topic in this Kos diary.

A Bipartisan Road Ahead?

For cleaner elections. What gives me hope is this post at the conservative blog Instapundit:

SINCE THE DEMOCRATS WON, NOBODY CARES ABOUT ELECTRONIC VOTING FRAUD ANY MORE, but the problem hasn't gone away. Had just a few thousand votes in some key districts gone the other way, we'd be hearing about Diebold conspiracies ad nauseam. But regardless, the subject remains important.

Perhaps Instapundit and other conservative bloggers can now join us in promoting the cause for more transparent elections. This should be an easy bipartisan goal for all but sitting politicians.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

I Forgot

To advertise. I'm guest blogging on Eschaton this week and the posts there are different from those I've posted here. Also, you can enjoy the great bloggers Avedon, Attaturk and Thers while over there. And of course Atrios himself except that he's gone missing right now.

On The Scales of Rudeness

It seems that advocating killing members of the Congress is not rude, whereas saying fuck in liberal blogs is. At least the latter has been the source of much tut-tutting and choked cucumber sandwiches among the Washington insiders, and we have been allowed to share in their horror by seeing the liberal blogosphere whipped in the mainstream media. For rudeness and for being rabid lambs with venom.

I wonder how one should describe a talk show host who posts this on his website:

In a statement on his website, Hal Turner noted that a newspaper has reported that a bill granting amnesty to illegal aliens is expected to be enacted in January, when the Democratic Party takes control of the U.S. Senate and House.


He didn't say fuck, though, so he will get a pass by the powers-that-still-be.

I hope I will be proved wrong, of course. I hope to hear a lot of condemnation of Hal Turner soon. But I'm not counting on that. The extreme wingnuts are left alone, because they are too scarey. It's much easier to attack the dirty peace-loving hippies of the left.

Remember Rwanda, if you think this sort of whipping-up of anger doesn't matter.

Madame Speaker

Nancy Pelosi has become the Speaker of the House. A historical moment for women, obviously, and Pelosi does compare it to breaking not the glass ceiling but the marble ceiling (ouch!). She is the closest a woman has ever been in the succession line to the presidency of the United States, and, sadly, probably the closest I will see a woman to that position.

You can read more about Pelosi's biography here, for example. Most articles I found on her today are positive or at least neutral, the only exception being the usual fly in the punchbowl, David Brooks, who thinks Nancy Pelosi is a caterer (from mcjoan on Kos):

She paid her dues selecting party favors, arranging seating charts (after that, legislation is easy), and laying thick dollops of obsequiousness on cranky old moguls and their helmet hair spa-spouses. She has done what all political fund-raisers do: tell rich people things they already believe, demonize the other side, motivate the giving with Manichaean tales of good versus evil

All that came out sounding very grumpy. That is the occupational disease of bloggers. But I'm really quite pleased and wish Pelosi luck now that she works under the magnifying glass of the whole world. Jeesh. You know what I mean.

My Dear Little Cucumber

James Wolcott has a story about the way the wingnuts write on uppity women. This time it is Jane Hamsher of the Firedoglake blog who gets the treatment. A little background is necessary. Right Wing News, a wingnut site, had a list of the twenty most annoying liberals in the United States. Jane Hamsher got an honorable mention but didn't get included in the list, and wrote a funny post lamenting her failure to be counted as one of the twenty Annoyingest.

Wolcott found a response to that funny post in the American Digest, another wingnut site, and it is that response which he wrote about and which I want to write about here, too.

Here is a sample to get you going. Jane's initial funny questions are in italics and the American Digest answers are not:

Was I not shrill and caustic enough?
No, I am certain this was not the case. For those afflicted by blazing hormones, there is no such thing as beyond infinity shrill and caustic. You have the tiara, Jane, wear it with pride.

Did I not do enough to mock Michelle Malkin and her histrionic halucinations?
No woman in love with an impossible goddess could have done more to mock her love object than you have done, Jane. Just lay back, select a cucumber, and think of England.


Am I not being taken seriously because I am a woman?
Jane, I assure you that if you were indeed a woman you would be taken seriously as one, but you have to remember that in this day and age a brace of poodles and a thinning fright wig is no guarantee of gender. "Fool us once, etc...."

"Blazing hormones", "fright wig", "shrill and caustic". Not just misogyny but fear and loathing of an uppity woman or a woman who is not eighteen and very submissive. Note that these slurs are not about the person of Jane Hamsher at all. They are about her sex.

Is this light-hearted bantering? Or just the way the blogosphere discusses things these days? I doubt that, and I think I could have been funnier than that without resorting to generalized anti-woman references.

Though of course cucumbers start looking very good indeed if wingnut guys are the alternative.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Education And Health

An interesting New York Times article discusses some of the research that has gone into disentangling the relationships between higher levels of education and longevity. It's been known for some time that education and health in general are positively correlated ( when one goes up, so does the other, on average), but understanding why this correlation exists is harder.

For example, it could be that ill health in childhood causes people to have less education. Or that higher education levels are just a proxy for higher income levels and that it is more income which makes people healthier. Or it could be that education in itself somehow protects health, perhaps because schools teach either health information directly or skills which can also be used to get better health information. Or it could be that the jobs educated people have cause less wear-and-tear than the jobs that are available to those without education. Or education might change the way people are able to make choices which involve short-term discomfort or sacrifices but long-term health benefits.

This last-mentioned hypothesis is one which Adriana Lleras-Muney, one of the researchers cited in the NYT piece, seems to support:

Dr. Lleras-Muney and others point to one plausible explanation — as a group, less educated people are less able to plan for the future and to delay gratification. If true, that may, for example, explain the differences in smoking rates between more educated people and less educated ones.

Smokers are at least twice as likely to die at any age as people who never smoked, says Samuel Preston, a demographer at the University of Pennsylvania. And not only are poorly educated people more likely to smoke but, he says, "everybody knows that smoking can be deadly," and that includes the poorly educated.

But education, Dr. Smith at RAND finds, may somehow teach people to delay gratification. For example, he reported that in one large federal study of middle-aged people, those with less education were less able to think ahead.

"Most of adherence is unpleasant," Dr. Smith says. "You have to be willing to do something that is not pleasant now and you have to stay with it and think about the future."

He deplores the dictums to live in the moment or to live for today. That advice, Dr. Smith says, is "the worst thing for your health."

Hmm. Could be. On the other hand, the research itself can't single out this explanation as the most likely one. Economists call the above phenomenon "time preference", the preference for present consumption over future consumption. We all have some time preference. Just think of whether you'd rather have a thousand dollars today or in ten years' time. The preference is caused by the future being uncertain, the possibility that you will not be around in ten years' time and the fact that waiting for ten years requires abstinence. What the explanations in the NYT article add to this is the idea that the less educated might have a higher rate of time preference.

Is this true? And if it is true, how does education affect time preference? I can see the point of lower incomes causing a higher rate of preference for the present, because survival is more important than whatever might happen in some far future date. In a way, if the present is a miserable place to be, anything that can assuage the misery rises in value.

I'm wondering if the connection between education and health via this avenue isn't still contaminated by the lower wealth levels of those who are less educated. Even if we manage to control for income and current wealth in studies of health, we may not be controlling for the person's lifetime wealth. Education could then be the proxy for that as well as any other effects it might have on health.

Today's Minor Annoyances

Just because I have a blog in which I can list them:

1. The bridge in my glasses snapped in two as I was pulling a turtleneck sweater over my head. Now how likely is that? I've been hexed.

2. Spam in the comments threads. Don't like to scrub it out. Don't like housework.

3. Automated telephone answering systems. I'm growing old while waiting and there is no number to dial for rejuvenation.

4. The new Blogger invitations: "You can do so much more by switching!" Right. I can lose all my add-ons for one thing. You have to drag my ass out of the old Blogger

In A Funk

Liz Funk has written a piece on the dangers for underage women at bars:

"No cover for girls before midnight!"

"18+ for ladies, 21+ for guys."

These were the general admission policies for many clubs in New York as the city was getting into the holiday spirit. These policies were advertised on club promotion Web sites or barked at patrons waiting in line to be admitted to the bars and clubs.

But the warmer welcome that young and underage women--those under 21--get at bars is not special to the holidays or New York. Throughout towns and cities across the country bars and clubs often offer discounts to young women.

At Club Paris, for instance--heiress Paris Hilton's nightclub in Orlando, Fla.--young women over 18 pay no cover charge before midnight and are admitted free if they have a college ID. Young men, by contrast, are required to pay a cover charge of $10 before midnight and $5 with a college ID.

While guys their age often get stopped at the nightclub or bar door for lack of convincing proof of age, many young women say they are admitted without a glance or question. Once inside, they are often offered complimentary drinks.

"Bars give away free drinks, then guys offer to buy girls even more drinks and then girls dance erotically with them," says Kate Morris, a 19-year-old from Massachusetts, who says she often goes to bars and clubs with her friends in New York City.


While there are no statistics or national studies about the incidence of bars breaking laws and doing what they can to attract young and underage women, Gary Miller, a senior at New York University, said it's an open secret.

The secret burst into the new York City headlines, however, in July 2006. In a second homicide that summer in the city involving a young woman who had been drinking to excess, 18-year-old Jennifer Moore left one of the city's most exclusive lounges intoxicated. Walking alone in the early morning hours along the city's West Side Highway, she was abducted and raped. Two days later she was found disemboweled in a dumpster in Weehawken, N.J.

"Bar and club owners definitely exploit women," said Miller, who wrote an article in November headlined "Girls exchange dignity for attention in trendy clubs" in the Washington Square News, New York University's student newspaper. "Women become a commodity of the establishment that owners use to draw male patrons in. I think the reason most men go to bars and clubs is to find women. This is why they'll pay a cover charge while women get in free; they're paying for the women inside. Bar and club owners know this. They know the success and appeal of their establishment depends on the quantity and attractiveness of the girls inside."

Gulp. A lot of stuff there, and most of it has been already addressed by Amanda, Pinko Feminist Hellcat, Jill, Violet and Shakes. But if you read the split quote I gave you quickly you get the idea that men are discriminated against in the admissions procedures of these clubs but that this is in fact upside down, because it is the women who are really treated disgustingly. They are the tethered goat that is used to get the tigers or the men with the money. They are part of the amenities of the place, and that may be the point Funk is trying to make. But adding that reference to a horrible murder makes her point something quite different, something to do with punishing the underage women for their irresponsible behavior.

Notice the reference to "dignity" in the quote by Gary Miller? It seems to be a wingnut codeword for women who know their place, or at least that is the way the Pope and the Muslim imams use the term "women's dignity". Women lose their dignity if they act in an uppity manner or if they try to excel in something we all know women can't excel in. And it seems that women lose their dignity in clubs, too.

That tethered goat thing. That is what I have the most trouble with, because the tone of the article assumes that the women going to these bars are all hapless victims, looking for who knows what. Marriage? Enlightenment? And the men who frequent these bars are all tigers looking for a quickie. And rape happens, even murder happens, but somehow the perpetrators are never described. You might get raped by the night air, it seems, especially if you are underage.
Ann at has more and also more links to other posts on the topic.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Virgil Be Goode

You have probably read about the fear and horror of the forthcoming Muslim invasion Mr. Goode, a Representative from Virginia, has expressed in the context of the possibility that Keith Ellison, a newly elected Representative, might use the Koran at an informal event connected to his swearing-in ceremonies. Mr. Goode is horrified by this idea, because to him all Muslims are like the terrorists and bent on world domination.

Today Mr. Goode clarified his arguments for our benefit in an OpEd column. This I found especially enjoyable:

Let us remember that we were not attacked by a nation on 9/11; we were attacked by extremists who acted in the name of the Islamic religion. I believe that if we do not stop illegal immigration totally, reduce legal immigration and end diversity visas, we are leaving ourselves vulnerable to infiltration by those who want to mold the United States into the image of their religion, rather than working within the Judeo-Christian principles that have made us a beacon for freedom-loving persons around the world.

I suspect Virgil doesn't see the great joke in that statement.

On Pornography

It is a feminist topic, but one on which I have had no conclusive opinions. This is mostly because I have never really looked at pornography. This is now changing. I have acquired a list of various websites and started studying them. Supposedly this list is of fairly vanilla sites (i.e. sites which don't explicitly deal in woman-hating porn), and I haven't ventured very far into them yet.

But already I have noticed something that makes me cringe, and that is the way the women on these sites are described: whores and sluts, mostly. There is something in this desire that joins with loathing of that which is desired.

The internet has made pornography available in an unprecedented way. Nobody really needs to know that you watch it. There is no need for visits to the local store, visits which someone might witness. No need to subscribe to magazines which the neighbor might see in your post box. This invisibility has changed the way porn consumption is viewed. It is now a mainstream activity for many men and perhaps for some women, too, though I have so far found little that would be intended for women's consumption. Mostly, the women are what is being consumed on these sites. Naked women are available everywhere on the net.

And this is the question I always arrive at when I think of pornography of the supposedly fairly innocent type where nobody gets forced into the acting roles and where everybody is an adult and where there is no violence: Who owns those bodies?

Or rather: Who owns my body? A body which is not unlike those bodies that have various things done to them on the websites, things, which are always supposed to be enjoyable even if they don't always look like it. Can I make the distinction that the women's bodies in pornography are not the same as my body? Are young men able to make the same distinction?

It is hard to be lucid and clear on these questions, because what I'm trying to explain is not a concept which has a name yet. Or so I think, anyway. The concept has to do with the fact that the body which we view on these porn sites is not the body of Ms. X, specifically. It is a generic female body. And the discussions about pornography often focus on the effects of porn on Ms. X, the actress, not on all the rest of us owners of generic female bodies. And what might the generic effects of porn be? I'm not sure, but I can imagine that there might now be young men who believe that women in reality act like the women on porn sites do, and that they, themselves, could act like the men on those sites do. In real life sex and relationships. Or I might imagine that the standards of bodily beauty for women might become those of porn actresses, even if they have been selected for whatever makes them extreme on the sexual arousal scales. And I might imagine even worse effects if I expand the list of porn sites to those which are sadistic.

Economists have a name for something rather similar: an externality. An externality is the effect a trade, say, between two parties can have on the wellbeing of a third and unrelated party. For instance, a factory may make products which people buy, while also polluting the river nearby. Here the two parties making the deal are the factory and its customers and the third party consists of all the neighbors who get their water polluted, without necessarily getting any compensation for that or having any power to stop the pollution.

If we use this concept of an externality in analyzing pornography it is possible that the trade the porn sites and their consumers engage in has a negative effect on a third group: women in general, and that at the present time this third group is not getting in any sense compensated for the damage they might experience or have any power in influencing the trades.

Or perhaps not. I don't know of any research on this topic, and it's possible that consumers of pornography can make the distinction between real life and porn. But something I've spotted in net discussions makes me suspect that this might not always be the case.

The Information Wars Continue

Information wars about access to information, access, which is all the time limited more and more by our government:

Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) in a report released this week [PDF], Grand Canyon National Park is not permitted to give an official estimate of the geologic age of its principal feature, due to pressure from Bush administration appointees.

Furthermore, a book approved by the Service claiming the Grand Canyon was created by Noah's flood ,rather than by geologic forces, is on sale in the park for more than three years, even though a review was promised to Congress and the press. A Freedom of Information request [PDF] reveals that no review has ever been requested, nor taken place.

"In order to avoid offending religious fundamentalists, our National Park Service is under orders to suspend its belief in geology," stated PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch.

Amanda has more on the topic of why creationists find coping with the geological evidence so difficult.

The information wars are part of remaking the world in an image which pleases the fundamentalists, and this remaking is the price for their votes. It isn't enough to install wingnuts in all the parts of the government or to enact fundamentalist policies; the very information itself must be changed and tamed. The world must be represented in a way that corresponds to the fundamentalists' Bible.

Elsewhere similar trends can be discerned. Just check out the news summaries on Google, say. Then think about how such summaries would have looked ten years ago had Google existed then.

Monday, January 01, 2007

On The New Year

Someone in the Eschaton comments threads noticed that we have only two important political problems and that we seem unable to solve either one of them. These problems are 1) how to live in harmony with the earth and 2) how to live in harmony with each other.

I liked the simple way of making the point, because it states what we need to achieve and has nothing about global dominance or the need to kill lots of people in it. Can we ever solve these problems? I hope so, but for us to be successful requires keeping the two problems in mind, and that can be hard when the public conversation is more about the limits of destruction we can accept, in either polluted nature or dead people. Then there is the very real question about how to make others in this world accept these two problems as the primary ones, too, though I think that Mother Nature is making her protest pretty clear for all.

My New Year's resolution is to keep those two problems in mind.

Healthy New Year. Part II: Ezra Klein

Ezra has a post on single-payer health care with this interesting table (click on it to make it clearer):

A quick scan of the numbers tells you that the United States spends a whole lot more on health care than the other countries that are listed and has worse health outcomes in terms of such rough measures as life expectancy and infant mortality rates. It also has the smallest public sector share in health care finance.

One likely conclusion to draw from these numbers is that the U.S. health care system is not performing very well and that one possible reason for this is the market-based system so overwhelmingly preferred here. But a few cautions are in order.

First, the measures of life expectancy and infant mortality rates are not specific measures of how well the health care system is performing. They are measures of general health in the crudest possible form of its absence: the timing of death, and the reasons for death are not only in the availability of medical care.

Life expectancy, for example, is very sensitive to anything that causes people to die at fairly young ages. The greater rates of traffic accidents and violence in the U.S. may explain most of the life expectancy differences, and there isn't terribly much the health care system can do about preventing those.

Infant mortality rates are a better measure of the performance of the health care system in general, because they have been shown to be highly sensitive to early medical intervention. But the U.S. rates are not so high generally. The high rates are caused by high black infant mortality rates, and the figure may tell us more about racial inequality than about the overall health care system. It could be that reallocating the current spending so as to favor certain fields of medicine and poorer areas would do more to reduce these rates than changing the whole system. Or perhaps not, but it's important to understand that we are dealing with very crude measures of performance here.

Second, what the health care system produces is not just improvements in life expectancy or delayed dates of death. Much of the product has to do with caring for individuals and with attempts to improve their general quality of life. These kinds of measures are absent in the above table of comparisons.

Third, the United States is one of the major producers of medical innovations and new interventions. This is an expensive endeavor and one which benefits the other countries in the longer run. Its costs are partly reflected in the higher health care expenditures.

Now, none of these points are made to argue that the initial conclusion would be false. The U.S. health care system performs poorly in several areas and the number of uninsured Americans is a disgrace. We could probably improve the life expectancy and infant mortality figures through a more rational health care system, but I suspect that that alone would not completely neutralize the kinds of comparisons the table presents.
Via Eschaton

A Healthy New Year. Part I, from Paul Krugman

Paul Krugman (sadly, behind the paywall) has written an interesting column arguing for the need of a single-payer health care system in the United States. Why? Because several payers (insurance companies, insurance plans, various levels of governments, consumers themselves) don't create a system of price competition in health care markets; what they create is a system of bloated administrative costs and reduced incentives to cover preventive care.

The latter is because the benefits of prevention may not accrue until some point in the future and might not help the current payer, and the former is because competition in medical care is largely based on quality (or the contents of the package sold), not on price. The administrative costs are high as each payer tries to exert its own controls on what is to be covered in great detail and as the different payers struggle not to become the ones who are burdened with the largest costs. The providers of health care then fight back with their own administrative systems which try to extract the maximum payment possible. The ultimate reason for all this is the uncertainty and lack of information we have about what is truly necessary in medical care. I've written earlier about the difficult characteristics of the medical care as a market, and many of these characteristics mean that the price system doesn't cause as much "good" competition as we would like to see.

The usual counterargument for a single-payer system is that such a system reduces choice. But as Krugman points out, choice of physicians and other health care providers could be written into a single-payer system. What he doesn't point out is something equally important: Choice in the multipayer system may often not be much more meaningful as most payers limit consumers' rights to seek alternative sources of care and in any case consumers are often unable to judge the quality of care very well.

This does not mean that a single-buyer system wouldn't have its own problems. All systems have them. But a single-buyer system would certainly give us a better chance to provide health care insurance which would cover all Americans. The current system allows over forty million Americans to be without health care coverage. These people are the working poor, the medically indigent and the young, and the reasons why they have no coverage vary by group.

The working poor are not covered because health insurance is seldom provided as a perk in low-paying jobs and to buy insurance separately is extremely expensive. The medically indigent are individuals who already have health problems. Private firms are reluctant to cover such individuals as they are more likely to cost money than those who are currently healthy. The young judge their own likelihood of needing health care to be too low to justify the large deductibles often required, assuming that they have access to insurance in the first place. Yet the whole idea behind insurance is to pool risks in order to average them out across people and time periods, and the removal of the low-risk young individuals from the pool raises the average costs to the rest. It also leaves the young uncovered and some of them do get ill.

Note that "choice" is not working very well here, except perhaps for the last group mentioned, and even there only in a very short-run sense. But it is possible that other aspects of choice in a multipayer system are more important for the average American. Still, I agree with Krugman that a serious discussion of alternatives is overdue.

Sunday, December 31, 2006

A Virtual New Years Eve Party

Posted by olvlzl.

The best Christmas present I got this year wasn’t given to me, it was the Collections Canada site, The Virtual Gramophone, that came up in the search for information about “La Bolduc”* about whom I posted last Sunday. I’ve been thoroughly enjoying listening to her and many others preserved on old 78 recordings, a continual Christmas party. It is a wonderful thing that Canada has given its citizens and to people around the world. If any of you know about other collections like this available online I’d love to try them.

Here is a sample of the riches.

My niece got a lot of pleasure out of these ancient recordings of “I Love You Truly” and "O Promise Me".
Ok, so maybe it was the old man lip syncing it that made her laugh so hard.

The most amazing bones playing I’ve ever heard along with some interesting button accordion playing, The Frog’s Reel. This place is like button accordion heaven, by the way.

But it isn’t only Canadian folk music. Hear Mary Garden, Debussy’s first choice to sing the role of Mélisande, sing his song Beau Soir.

There are a lot of vintage recordings of classical pieces. It’s interesting to see how ideas about performing it have changed over the years. And the advantages of long playing records were.

There are some windows on life of about eighty years ago. This one reminds me of the Fitzgerald story “Bernice Bobs Her Hair”.

And to end, here is a of New Year’s song from the incomparable Mary Travers Bolduc. I wish you a happy new year.

* Her recordings, and I believe they have every one that was ever issued, are under Bolduc. That would be short for Mde.Edouard Bolduc, which was how she billed herself back in the 1920s and 30s.

Looking Forward

Posted by olvlzl.

Still a left entrance into the national political arena should not start with a presidential candidate. Left presidential campaigns are inherently episodic. Starting at that level greatly increases the danger of a pattern that has already plagued the left – one of indifference to national politics between presidential elections and then frantic, mindless efforts to do something when it’s too late for anything beyond token gestures. And even if the effort creates a constituency it is ephemeral and quickly defuses if not followed up with activities and campaigns for Congress.

James Weinstein: The Long Detour, 2003

I’m really looking forward to the new congress. When’s the last time you could honestly say that? Even before Newt Gingrich hoodwinked the American electorate the dismal eras of Tom Foley and Tip O’Neill were relieved only by the very short period of an opposition congress under Jim Wright . He’s hardly a liberal but, as I’ve said here before, the only real leadership opposition Republicans have faced in decades.

The 100 Hour Agenda, the oversight hearings, the reforms of House rules..... There are all kinds of interesting and useful things planned*. The focus of the media will be on the Senate and the presidential race. But I agree with the late James Weinstein, the House of Representatives is the logical place for us to concentrate on. Holding it and increasing the Democratic majority will pay off for the left. It is one place where we can really have an effect on laws passed and policies made. Success in the House will be easy, it would be hard to do worse than the Republicans have in the past twelve years. We have to support Nancy Pelosi and other leaders, even if we don’t agree with everything they do. They are already under the full attack of the Republican lie machine, big media, in two words. We shouldn’t go into this believing that we are going to get all or even most of what we want from this congress. That is simply not going to happen. We should go into it insisting on getting something, an expectation that we have had no rational reason to have for more than a decade.

There are several reasons for concentrating on congressional elections. First, presidential politics is dormant for three out of every four years. Engaging in campaigns like Nader’s entails a start-and-stop politics that leads only to wasted effort and disappointment. Then, too, this style of politicus interruptus requires starting at the top, which in turn requires a national recognized leader – someone like Jackson or Nader. But candidates as good as these are rarely available, and in any case a well-known candidate not of the left’s own making may well tend to have a private agenda at odds with it. [Weinstein 2003]

Weinstein wrote this before 2003. He died last year and I don’t know what his further thoughts on Ralph Nader’s candidacy might have been. Needless to say, neither Nader nor Jackson had any chance of winning a presidential election. Dennis Kucinich, who I respect and who would be a great president, has no chance of gaining the nomination or winning the election in 2008. After several decades of watching symbolic candidacies, isn’t it clear that they are worse than a waste of the left’s limited resources? A representative’s time would be better spent on addressing issues in the Congress, not in collecting money and volunteer time that would be better spent on what can actually be accomplished. Symbolism in leftist politics carries only one guarantee, it will be distorted by the corporate media and the Republican party and used against us and our agenda.

The House of Representatives and, to a lesser extent, the Senate are the grounds for leftists to make any progress in the coming year. We shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that they are as much a part of the federal government as the presidency. We shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that the House has a Progressive Caucus larger than the last congress. That is even with two of its members, Sherrod Brown and Bernie Sanders now in the Senate. A socialist in the Senate, something I never, in my life, expected to see.

* Just an example, there are Barney Frank’s planned hearings on requiring credit reporting agencies to actually correct their misinformation. A member of my family was the victum of inaccurate credit reports based on having the same name as someone else. It was a nightmare. The burden belongs on the corporations who spread false information, not on the hapless target.

Pre-New Year’s Confessional

Posted by olvlzl.

No. I can’t do it now. You’ll think less of me for saying it. It’s so ....... vulgar. But it is the last day of the year, how can I make a new beginning if I don’t own up? How can the new year get off to a clean start unless I’m purged of my shame? All right, here goes. I’m ashamed to say it but I’m really, really enjoying the war between *(Rosie O’Donnell and Donald Trump)*. Gosh, that was hard. And I don’t really feel any better about it.

I feel so cheap.

Torture Isn't Entertainment

except for fascists.

Posted by olvlzl.

he recent strife over Jimmy Carter’s latest book exposed what is apparently a new law of American intellectual life these days. If you want to say something critical of Israeli policy you have to pass trial by Alan Dershowitz. The condition made by Brandeis University that Jimmy Carter, likely the American who has done more to promote the security of Israel than any other, that if he was to speak he would have to appear with Dershowitz wasn’t an attempt to promote intellectual honesty, it was a dare. It was a condition that there was every reason to suspect that Jimmy Carter might not choose to accept, participation in one of The Dersh’s spectacles of what passes, these days, as ‘debate’.

I wrote a short piece at the time saying that a good reason for not “debating” Alan Dershowitz is because he advocates torture as a tool of governmental intelligence. I will say again that, for me, this places him in exactly the same place that David Irving’s Holocaust denial places him in for Deborah Lipstadt. I fully agree with her about Irving for exactly the same reasons and I place proponents of torture in the same category. There are some positions that put people beyond consideration as a responsible participant in a respectable debate.

In this morning’s Boston Globe there is a short article by Martha Bayles about torture which mentions something much more dangerous than the proposed, C-Span ready event dealt with above, it mentions the increasing use of torture by heros in pop entertainment. It doesn’t surprise me to learn that it is Fox TV, “24", which is presenting torture as an heroic endeavor engaged in by sexy men. It also doesn’t surpise me that another cable network seems to be adopting the same entertainment values. The cabloids, both “news” and eye-candy, are the voice of the corportate right. Entertainment has the potential to do the same things that right-wing cabloid ‘news’ does, much faster and more dangerously. It does matter what entertainment shows do because their purpose is to manipulate emotions, that is their entire purpose. If this trend continues you can depend on torture becoming much more widely used and it’s punishment become not only very rare as it is today, but impossible. Torture, like the death penalty, is an essential tool of fascism. It is highly desired by many who would like to be able to use it without the inconvenience of being called to account for its use. Its promotion is the promotion of fascism.

The brain-game played by the proponents of torture, that it is essential to be able to extract information from terrorists that could prevent the imminent deaths of innocent people is the temptation dangled in front of an edgy population. Your decency or your life. But it’s not a bargain that has to be taken.

If, and that is one enormous IF, on some extremely rare occasion, someone is proven, in court, to be guilty of torturing someone and extracts information that does, actually, in real life, prevent the deaths of people in some act of terror, I doubt a conviction would be either obtained or that it would stand. If it did, the pressure for a pardon would be too great for any governor or president to withstand. If I am wrong about that what do we risk? That someday an individual who tortured someone to save lives will linger in jail. If the pro-torture side is wrong, then what do we risk? The answer is found around the world and is fully documented. Torture as a part of the spectrum of allowable consideration seems to always proceed to the worst case scenario.