Saturday, March 24, 2007

Yes, yes, yes. Impeach Gonzales

Posted by olvlzl.
Robert Kuttner has it so right that it almost hurts. Impeachment of Alberto Gonzales would be a very valuable thing, more useful than his forced retirement.

But can the House impeach the attorney general? The Constitution is clear that Congress may impeach "all civil officers of the United States." In our history, the House has impeached two presidents, and just one member of the Cabinet, William Belknap, secretary of war under president Ulysses S. Grant.

Belknap had profited from kickbacks by military contractors. The House began impeachment proceedings, documented the charges, and just before the articles were formally voted, on March 2, 1876, Belknap resigned. But the House voted impeachment anyway. The reason, as House Judiciary Chairman J. Proctor Knott explained to the Senate, "was that his infamy might be rendered conspicuous, historic, eternal, in order to prevent the occurrence of like offenses in the future."

Impeachment has to become real or we don't have a republic but a monarchy. If we had a parlimentary system we would have an effective vote of no confidence, as it it we have only the quasi-mythic tool of impeachment. If the Bush regime crimes aren't punished by impeachment it is truly a myth.

Uncle olvlzl Learns a Lesson

Posted by olvlzl.
Baseball season would appear to be on us again. I would have been able to ignore it as usual if it hadn’t been for my 12-year-old niece begging me to let her watch a movie last night. Uncle olvlzl was baby-sitting. As I was reading the paper and it was a Friday night I asked her what movie she had in mind. “Bad News Bears”, she said. Not being much of a movie watcher I had a vague memory of something featuring Walter Matthau in a sort of seedy O Henry role. Ok, I said. Lesson one, don't let the name fool you.

Before a minute had passed the Hollywood school of rock music informed me that this wasn’t that movie. After another ten minutes I was disgusted to find that there had been a remake with Billy Bob Thornton leading a bunch of foul-mouthed, sexist piglets in a thoroughly awful movie. Now, there are generally three plots that comprise the entire oeuvre of the sports movie, young athlete gets cut down in his prime, immature jock can’t cut it in life, and, worst of all, team of misfits gets their asses in gear and win. This was the last one and it was the most revolting example of that genre I’ve ever had the misfortune of experiencing. The Thornton character, Morris Buttermaker starts off a boring, vulgar, stupid, sexist drunk and goes downhill from there. The rather would-be cloying wisdom that gets introduced (according to formula) only makes things worse.

I don’t know what kind of children Thornton or the director, Richard Linklater, know but these movies that present obnoxious guttersnipes as examples of cute kids aren’t only disgusting, there have been enough of them to be intensely boring. The scene of the little leaguers victory celebration at a Hooters leads me to wonder what the producers got by way of product placement.

The irresponsible in loco parentis plot device probably reached its highest point with Jason Robards in “A Thousand Clowns”. He had the last word in 1965. It should be retired.

Another lesson, 12-year-olds aren't old enough to pick out the movie unattended.

Elizabeth Edwards’ Choice

Posted by olvlzl
The decision of Elizabeth and John Edwards to continue with the campaign for president in the face of what is euphemistically called a life threatening illness is bravery of a kind that is so rare among the well off that it seems incredible to a lot of people. Having watched both of them but especially Elizabeth Edwards they seem to be something rare in the United States these days, people who believe that public service is the highest calling.

I agree with John Nichols that the decision was Elizabeth Edwards to make, John Edwards would certainly have stopped if she had wanted him to. There doesn’t seem to be anything about their marriage that is staged for the cameras. I also agree with him that Elizabeth Edwards seems to have taken the place in John Edwards’ political career that was so unfortunately held by an incompetent and back-biting idiot like Bob Shrum .

Shrum takes what he assumes is credit for being one of the professional losers who talked a reluctant Edwards into voting for the authorization of the war:

Shrum writes that Edwards, then a North Carolina senator, called his foreign policy and political advisers together in his Washington living room in the fall of 2002 to get their advice. Edwards was "skeptical, even exercised" about the idea of voting yes and his wife Elizabeth was forcefully against it, according to Shrum.

But Shrum said the consensus among the advisers was that Edwards, just four years in office, did not have the credibility to vote against the resolution and had to support it to be taken seriously on national security. Shrum said Edwards' facial expressions showed he did not like where he was being pushed to go.

Even before her husband abandoned such bad council and apologized for his vote Elizabeth Edwards came out in support of Cindy Sheehan:

"Whether you agree or disagree with every part, or any part, of what Cindy wants to say, you know it is better that the president hear different opinions, particularly from those with such a deep and personal interest in the decisions of our government. Today, another voice would be helpful. Cindy Sheehan can be that voice. She has earned the right to be that voice."

Ms. Edwards must have considered the cost so involuntarily paid by Cindy Sheehan for the added burden of having public service thrust on her. Both have had a child die young, she must have known more than most of us what that means. Being intelligent and brave, Elizabeth Edwards must have looked into what both her original diagnosis with cancer and this recurrence means in terms of the possibilities and the percentages. There is no way that she can know at this stage which of those possibilities she will be forced to face but none of them will be easy or good. She must believe that John Edwards would be a very good president, she is willing to sacrifice her private life for the public good.

John Edwards isn’t “my” candidate since I don’t have one yet. As I've repeatedly said, I will support whichever Democrat seems to have the best chance to defeat the Republican nominee, the world cannot stand another Republican presidency. I respect the decision that Elizabeth and her husband have made. If some people are too cynical to think that it was made out of a deep commitment to public service then maybe that only shows how badly needed such people are in our politics these days. Facing the loss of everything, in the most literal meaning of that phrase, Elizabeth Edwards has given us an example of what service to the public can entail so as to shame the typical politician who makes the same claim.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Chinese Scenery

These nature pictures are astonishingly beautiful. I was shocked to see that what I always believed were conventions in Chinese ink-drawings and paintings are realistic depictions instead. Enjoy.

These are from Thrilling Wonder, via Ptarmigan's Nest.

House Passes Iraq Withdrawal Timetable Bill

That sounds like a professional headline! I'm so proud. I'm also pretty chuffed about this:

A sharply divided House voted Friday to order President Bush to bring combat troops home from Iraq next year, a victory for Democrats in an epic war-powers struggle and Congress' boldest challenge yet to the administration's policy.

Ignoring a White House veto threat, lawmakers voted 218-212, mostly along party lines, for a binding war spending bill requiring that combat operations cease before September 2008, or earlier if the Iraqi government does not meet certain requirements. Democrats said it was time to heed the mandate of their election sweep last November, which gave them control of Congress.

The House may be sharply divided, but the majority of Americans want a timetable for the withdrawal of troops from Iraq, and this is one of the main reasons why the Democrats won the elections last November.

Rat Poison Found In Pet Food

If you have pets you have been following the story about cat and dog deaths from kidney failure, attributed to contaminated pet food. Now it seems that the cause is rat poison.

How did rat poison get into pet food?

When I was reading about this story earlier I found it odd that Menu Foods, the manufacturer whose products were contaminated, suggested that the cause was in the wheat gluten used as a binding agent in the foods, and that this wheat gluten had been provided by a new subcontractor. But the name of the subcontractor was never given. Not only was it not given but it seemed almost protected knowledge.

This may be the way it should be, given that the actual cause of the contamination had not been determined. But why even hint at this subcontractor in that case? It smells off to me, somehow.

Economies to scale are a term economists use to explain why very large factories may offer certain products at a much lower price, and this is a good thing, on the whole. But concentrating food provision or energy provision to just a few central units is also risky, because if the system fails the repercussions will be felt everywhere. This is an example of those risks and the not-so-beneficial aspects of centralized production.
An update:

The toxin was identified as aminopterin, which is used to kill rats in some countries, state Agriculture Commissioner Patrick Hooker said. Aminopterin is not registered for killing rodents in the United States, though it is used as a cancer drug, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

The rumor (which I have not been able to verify) is that the country of origin is China.

Friday Funnies

Over at the Swampland, Time's political blog, one post starts like this:

David Brooks has an excellent column today, and not for the usual reasons that liberals praise Brooks (and he drives conservatives crazy): because he comes halfway toward us.

This is indeed the same "halfway" David Brooks that I praise here, here, here, here, here, here, here and here, for example.

Death Becomes You, Young Lady!

This is what one of the judges in America's Next Top Model said during Week Four of the competition when the topic was....

Crime Scene Victims

Each of the model-wannabes is posed as the victim of some gruesome type of murder, and the judges are very focused on how well the women do dead. Or really dead violent crime victims. Jennifer Pozner has written an excellent post on the misogyny this necrophilia conveys:

I'm so disgusted by the photos that I refuse to give them extra visual traction on this blog - but do click over to Zap2it's photo gallery if you'd like to see for yourself how ANTM gives new definition to the phrase "suicide girls." The lithe lot of 'em are arrayed in awkward, broken poses, splayed out in cold concrete corridors, lifeless limbs positioned bloodily, just so, at the bottom of staircases, bathtubs and back alleys, mimicking their demise via stabbing, shooting, electrocution, drowning, poisoning, strangulation, decapitation and organ theft (!), to judges' comments of "Gorgeous!" "Fantastic!" "Amazing!" "Absolutely beautiful!" and, of my favorite, "Death becomes you, young lady!"

But this isn't the first week of America's Next Misogynism Victim. Last week, Week Three, had as its theme Sundaes, which meant that each competitor was photographed naked while pretending to be an ice-cream sundae. None of the judges praised them "for looking good as food", though I did catch this comment from Tyra Banks (about Week Two photo shots):

Tyra: I saw your film and you did do some more sexy stuff. You just seemed so unsure: "I think I'm a ho?" Most modeling is acting like a ho but making it fashion. (later) So much potential, but so bottled up. It's almost like she needs pre-"America's Next Top Model" school.

My bolds.

Let's see if I get this: Most modeling is acting like a ho but making it fashion. Except when the model plays the victim of a violent crime or a food item. Got it.

Now for the letdown: None of this comes as a surprise for anyone who has leafed through the pages of high-end fashion magazines. The models are routinely portrayed as broken dolls, with vacant eyes and permanently gaping mouths, like toys flung about after the giant child who played with them has left. If this is mainstream art in fashion photography, what is the finely honed artistic edge, then? Perhaps dead women will do? Dead women gruesomely murdered? See? I know why they had to go there. I'm not just a humorless feminist prig, though I play one on the blogs.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Soft Spring Rain, Caresses Of The Spring Wind , Crocuses And Hope

These are my wishes to all who are ailing or sad or stumbling in the dark places of the soul. It is the season of rejuvenation and the rebirth of earth.

It Takes Two To Tango

But it only takes one to be sentenced to death by stoning for adultery in Sudan. Of course that one will be the woman:

Two Sudanese women have been sentenced to death by stoning for adultery after a trial in which they had no lawyer and which used Arabic, not their first language, the rights group Amnesty International said.

Sadia Idriss Fadul was sentenced on February 13 and Amouna Abdallah Daldoum on March 6 and their sentences could be carried out at any time, the London-based group said in a statement released late on Monday.

North Sudan implements Islamic sharia law.


The male accused in Fadul's case was let off because there was not enough evidence against him. Witnesses are usually required to gain a conviction and forensic tests are not normally used in such cases.

I'm trying to get my brain around this idea that witnesses might have seen the adulterous intercourse well enough to name the woman but not the man. Or what is it that they mean by witnesses? Is it the four male witnesses that some versions of sharia law require? How does one get four male witnesses to adultery without any one of them interfering to stop it?

This looks to me like patriarchy at its starkest.

To protest the planned stonings, go here.
via feministe

Sending Cyberhugs Or Community Building Through Blogs

The feeling of a community is something I never would have predicted the Internet would provide. But it does, and this is a tremendous benefit for those of us who are geographically isolated, homebound or who live in an area where others think differently. The progressive/liberal blogs are our megachurches, though I hope with more ethical pastors and ministers, and the community of caring and sharing is very important.

The mainstream media hasn't quite understood the community side of blogs. In fact, it is something that can be made fun of or ridiculed. An otherwise interesting article on political blogs in the Los Angeles Times had this paragraph, for example:

Duncan Black, an economist who writes as Atrios on his website, Eschaton, receives hundreds of comments for almost anything he posts. Thursday morning, he posted a short note saying he would not be writing much that day as he was going to be traveling. Within the hour, 492 people posted comments on that. A political reporter at a metropolitan daily might not get that much reader response in a year.

If you don't read political blogs at all you might be concerned about this. Are the readers of Eschaton such odd creatures that they parse a short blog about a travel day to the tune of nearly five hundred comments? Is what Atrios says something like the divine drops of wisdom in a cult? Heh.

Perhaps, but the real explanation for the five hundred comments on that thread is that Eschaton is a community where people exchange views on politics and on other things, where support and friendly criticism and funny and sad news are swopped. It's a cybermegachurch for us dirty lefty hippies, and it is not the only one. Feminist communities also abound, at places such as Pandagon or or feministe or Bitch Ph.D. (all these blogs and other communities such as Kos can be found in my Blogroll in the right column).

Communities are that gooey stuff that political bloggers, stern and hard, are not expected to value. Well, I do, but then I'm a girl goddess blogger. Communities are very important because humans are pack animals and we need each other for communication, for affection, for validation and for squabbling, too.

A Spring Sale in Texas Babies

Imagine this: You are a pregnant woman and go to have an abortion. The health care provider at the clinic tells you that if you continue with the pregnancy, give birth and then give the baby up for adoption, you will be given five hundred dollars! Five hundred dollars for just nine months of labor! What a bargain! Astonishingly, if you continue with the pregnancy and decide to keep the baby you get nothing.

Why should you imagine any of this? Because Texas State Senator Dan Patrick has proposed a bill to do exactly this in Texas: to require abortion providers to tell the pregnant women about this wonderful opportunity to make some real money, though only after checking that the woman is an American citizen. There will be no illegal baby market!

The contempt for women so many on the religious anti-choice right exhibit always leaves me gagging. How does Dan Patrick think of women to arrive at a bill like this one? He must assume that women are greedy and stupid, greedy to accept money for making babies and stupid to accept such a puny sum. Is he thinking: Heh, heh, this will fool you into making babies for adoption, bitch?

Who am I fooling here? People like State Sen. Patrick don't think of those women as human beings at all. They think of their votes and campaign contributions.

Oops! Gonzales-Gate Heating Up

From the Washington Post:

The leader of the Justice Department team that prosecuted a landmark lawsuit against tobacco companies said yesterday that Bush administration political appointees repeatedly ordered her to take steps that weakened the government's racketeering case.

Sharon Y. Eubanks said Bush loyalists in Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales's office began micromanaging the team's strategy in the final weeks of the 2005 trial, to the detriment of the government's claim that the industry had conspired to lie to U.S. smokers.

She said a supervisor demanded that she and her trial team drop recommendations that tobacco executives be removed from their corporate positions as a possible penalty. He and two others instructed her to tell key witnesses to change their testimony. And they ordered Eubanks to read verbatim a closing argument they had rewritten for her, she said.

"The political people were pushing the buttons and ordering us to say what we said," Eubanks said. "And because of that, we failed to zealously represent the interests of the American public."

This looks very serious. But I'm still going to stock up on popcorn.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

A Happy Ending Story

Read a wonderful study about two women who prevented a third woman from being raped. Thanks to spocko who gave us the link.

Curing Cancer

Ezra Klein has a post on the NIH (National Institutes of Health) budget. After several years of rapid rise in budget allocations, the NIH is now faced with the lean years. The puny promised increases in research funds amount to a drop in the budget in real terms. This creates problems for young researchers who can't get funding for new research and for the universities and other research institutions which would like to keep the young researchers employed with something better than the writing of multiple grant applications in the vain hope of finding enough money somewhere.

As some of Ezra's commenters pointed out, it is not feasible to expect the NIH budget to just surge year after year, and perhaps this is the time to put a halt to the considerable increases of the past. But the whole process looks a little like a car coming from 100 miles per hour to a full stop in ten seconds, not a soft landing for the researchers.

The NIH is an important funding source for medical research which doesn't offer money-making opportunities through patents, the kind which is often viewed as basic medical research. The kind which we hope will find a cure for cancer one day. Most economists, even conservative ones, acknowledge that funding basic medical research is something the government should be involved in, because the markets will underprovide it.

Something to keep in mind when looking at how much money the NIH will get next year.

Don't Forget Poland!

That has to do with the Axis of Good in the Bush wars against terror. But we shouldn't forget Poland in other ways, either. For example, as Rorschach points out, Poland has very restrictive laws on abortion. Abortion is only allowed for pregnancies which result from rape or when the woman's life or health is endangered. But what are the medical grounds that qualify a woman for abortion? Not many, it seems:

The European court of human rights ruled yesterday that Poland was failing to guarantee access to lawful abortions in a test case hailed as a victory for women across Europe and a blow to the deeply conservative government in Warsaw.

The Strasbourg-based court awarded damages to Alicia Tysiac, 35, a single mother of three from Warsaw who is nearly blind. She sued the Polish government after being denied an abortion in 2000 despite medical testimony that her pregnancy would seriously impair her failing eyesight.

In a ruling that obliges all 46 member states of the Council of Europe to ensure abortions are available where they are legal, the court found that Ms Tysiac's privacy rights had been violated and her treatment had caused her "severe distress and anguish". She was awarded costs and €25,000 (£17,000) in damages. After giving birth, Ms Tysiac suffered a retinal haemorrhage, making her eyesight so poor she needed daily medical treatment. She can see no further than 1.5 metres and fears she will go completely blind.

The gist of the court's argument has to do with limiting access to legal abortions. Now wouldn't that be interesting if similar cases could somehow be brought up here in the United States? Limiting access to legal abortions is one of the main tools of the anti-choice legislators everywhere. This is done by hounding abortion clinics, by requiring them to comply with impossible and every-expanding lists of zoning regulations and by attempts to control the ability of minors to cross state borders in order to get an abortion.


From the New York Times:

A House Judiciary subcommittee today authorized subpoenas for Karl Rove, President Bush's political adviser, and other senior White House officials in the investigation into the firing of eight United States attorneys.

Democrats said the subpoenas, approved on a voice vote of the panel, would not be issued immediately but could provide leverage for Congress in trying to win the testimony of the aides being sought.

"We have worked toward voluntary cooperation on this investigation, but we must prepare for the possibility that the Justice Department and White House will continue to hide the truth," said Representative Linda Sanchez of California, chairwoman of the subcommittee on commercial and administrative law.

Republicans on the subcommittee said they did not dispute the power of Congress to call the officials, but said the action was premature and smacked of politics.

"The only purpose of the subpoenas is to the fan the flames and photo ops of partisan controversy," said Representative Chris Cannon of Utah, the senior Republican on the subcommittee.

President Bush and Congress appear to be headed toward a constitutional showdown over the demands for testimony and for internal White House documents.

We are headed toward a constitutional showdown, indeed. I'd call it a constitutional crisis, all having to do with signing statements which take away the power of the Congress to make laws, with secret eavesdropping programs which take away the power of the judiciary to make sure that laws are upheld and with attempts to use the press for the political purposes of one single party through the government.

The current problem is just another example of the disrespect of the constitution this administration practices.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Just Finished Cleaning the Bedroom

See? I can quit blogging whenever I feel like it. I'm not addicted, not me. For instance, I just spent two hours dusting, vacuuming and floor washing. All tasks which can't be done while on the net. I'm balanced. A perfectly stable goddess. That the last time I cleaned the bedroom was in ancient history is immaterial.

Isn't it?

Lakshmi Chaudhry on Soft-Core Sexism

Black Snake Moan is a movie with an "interesting" plot: Childhood abuse has made a woman into "a nymphomaniac", always seeking sex with strangers. The cure is to chain her to a radiator wearing nothing but her panties. There she can moan and wriggle harmlessly.

Then add a layer of race onto this story of fairly obvious misogyny. Make the woman chained to the radiator white and the man who does the (well-intentioned!) chaining black and set the whole story in the American South. What do you get? A masterpiece which is something quite different than the sexual violence it sells, because it has reversed racism?

Lakshmi Chaudhry summarizes what is wrong with movies like this one:

The movie's misogyny is hardly surprising from a director known for promoting the dubious proposition, in Hustle & Flow, that "it's hard out here for a pimp." But what passed for mere indifference to women in that movie is revealed to be an unmistakable lack of compassion in Black Snake Moan. Rae is a victim of childhood abuse who channels her pain through a raging appetite for sex with strangers, which finally gets her beaten, raped and left for dead on the side of the road. In Brewer's world, however, it is Rae who needs to be "cured" and not the men who heedlessly use her for sex, with or without her consent. So along comes Lazarus to help her "collar that dawg," which is her libido.

But that would spoil the whole purpose of the movie which is to ogle at the almost-nekked woman chained to the radiator while pretending that it isn't sadism.

A Stern Editor Or How Government And Science Interact

The joke about us all now living in a faith-based world may be growing stale, but it's a very apt description of happenings like this one:

Democratic lawmakers released documents today that showed hundreds of instances in which a White House official who was previously an oil industry lobbyist edited government climate reports to play up uncertainty or to play down evidence of a human role in global warming.

In a hearing of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, the official, Philip A. Cooney, who left government in 2005, defended the changes he made in government reports over several years, saying the editing was part of the normal White House review process and reflected findings in a climate report written for President Bush by the National Academy of Sciences in 2001.


"The documents show that Mr. Cooney and other Council on Environmental Quality officials made at least 181 edits to the Administration's Strategic Plan of the Climate Change Science Program to exaggerate or emphasize scientific uncertainties," the memo said. "They also made at least 113 edits to the plan to deemphasize or diminish the importance of the human role in global warming."

It tastes like those old stories about the Soviet stranglehold on its scientists. There may be something about all empires which makes them grow to look alike whatever the initial ideological base.

See how the faith-based ideology works? What doesn't match is altered, edited out and denied by accusing the opposition of blind partisanship. So much noise is made (of the he-said-she-said kind) that at the end of the day we all want to put a pillow over our heads and never hear a politician speak again. And that is what the system relies on.

The real problem is that we have an administration which equates the needs of the country with the needs of one political party.

Picturing Military and Militant Women

Majikthise points out that an article about military women suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) has some odd pictures accompanying it. Like this one:

The reclining position? Would they have shown a man suffering from PTSD that way? Perhaps.

This site, via joltblog, has a large number of pictures relating to women's suffrage. Here is one example (heh):

For touching artistic renditions of the faces of military women who have died in Iraq, visit Cpl Ramona Valdez, killed by a carbomb in Fallujah at age 20:

Monday, March 19, 2007

Choices, Choices

The conservatives suffer from what used to be called a multiple personality disorder (remember The Three Faces of Eve?) when defending the traditional division of labor between men and women. They can't figure out if women staying at home is something our genes force us to do or if it is something the god of the fundamentalists forces us to do or if it is just a thing women choose to do (la donna รจ mobile).

The Independent Women's Forum (a gals' subsidiary to the extreme right) mostly argues that women choose to focus on their children and therefore choose to have lower earnings and less retirement income one day. Here "choice" is used very much in the way I would use it in deciding whether to have chocolate or vanilla ice cream on my cone on a nice spring day. These women have no societal norms, no disapproving in-laws, no uncooperative bosses, and certainly no regrets. The wider society doesn't matter in these choices at all. Not even the children's father matters, as you can see from the usual graphics accompanying stories about family-work balance: A woman holding a baby and perhaps a telephone.

That's one of Eve's many faces in the conservatives' multiple personality disorder. Then there is the fundamentalist wing which argues that God has intended women to stay at home to be helpmeets to the men who are the real family leaders and priests. No choice here, at all, just the unavoidable divine judgment, although the Bible never says that women should stay at home. But consistency must be a hobgoblin of only small fundamentalist minds.

The third face of Eve on the right is the Evolutionary Psychology one. The capital letters are to distinguish this popularized version of various prejudices from real evolutionary psychology. The capital letter version believes that women were once primitive cavewives, cooking the mammoth the valiant hubby caught with his bare teeth, and so it will be, forevermore. In this view of the past women never did any hunting or gathering or small-game hunting or anything much outside the cave.

The problem with all these multiple personalities the conservatives offer as an explanation for traditional sex roles is that if one is shot down another one takes its place. But the most common of them is still the choice-based argument, and what is interesting about it is how well the conservatives have managed to sell it as the general explanation to the mainstream media. E.J. Graff has written an excellent article on the so-called opt-out phenomenon among professional women and on its treatment as "choice" along the vanilla-chocolate dimension of ice-cream flavors. She points out the ahistorical aspect of all this writing and its reappearance decade after decade, with the same framing focusing on nothing but the one woman in isolation from the wider society or even her own partner.

A postscript: This tendency of viewing women in isolation from everything else is not a solely American phenomenon. Broadsheet reports on the German movement to lure women back into hausfrauery. One of its proponents argues that "the survival of the country is at stake -- Germans will 'die out' if women don't change their behavior."

Note how it is women alone who are to change their behavior, even though the incentives for them to do so will not be altered? This in a country where school is over very early in the day and where children are expected to go home for lunch, both factors which obviously affect the costs of having many children. And note, once again, how men are not asked to change anything on the surface, though of course they would have to work much harder to support larger families as the sole breadwinners, ultimately.

E.J. Graff On The Opt-Out Phenomenon

E.J. Graff has written a very good piece on the astroturf-trend of women in high positions opting out of the labor force. An excellent piece, in fact, and you should read it all, right now, because I can't do it justice by slicing it up and offering you just a few snippets to savor.

Spaghetti Straps and Lasagna

An op-ed in the Friday New York Times by Judith Warner is all about the sexualization of young girls and its negative effects:

Bling-Bling Barbies and pouty-lipped Bratz. Thongs for tweens, and makeover parties for 5-year-olds. The past couple of shopping seasons have brought a constant stream of media stories — and books and school lectures and anguished mom conversations — all decrying the increasingly tarted-up world of young girls and preteens. Now the American Psychological Association has weighed in as well, with a 67-page report on the dangers of the "sexualization" of girls.

The report takes aim at the music lyrics, Internet content, video games and clothing that are now being marketed to younger and younger kids, and correlates their smutty content with a number of risks to girls' well-being. It finds that sexualization — turning someone into "eye candy" — is linked to eating disorders, low self-esteem and depression in girls and women. Adopting an early identity as a "Hot Tot" also has, the researchers wrote, "negative consequences on girls' ability to develop healthy sexuality."

This isn't surprising, or even new. But what did surprise me, reading through the A.P.A.'s many pages of recommendations for fighting back (like beefed-up athletics, extracurriculars, religion, spirituality, "media literacy" and meditation), was the degree to which the experts — who in an earlier section of the report acknowledge the toxicity of mother-daughter "fat talk" — let moms themselves off the hook as agents of destruction requiring change.

Then Ms. Warner goes on to put the blame squarely on the mothers' shoulders, because those shoulders are wearing spaghetti straps in the vain attempt to look more like hotties than mommies. Mommies should be more lasagna-like: layers of secrets, all looking admirably put-together and sturdy. That way daddy could just tuck in without having to worry about the strings.

Where did that last sentence come from? Probably from the total absence, once again, of anything having to do with dads in these opinion pieces. It's regarded as risque and novel and fascinating to point out that women try to look younger and sexier than they deserve to be and that their tiny daughters might be trying to emulate this. It's not at all interesting to look at the rest of the family or the society or the corporations to see what they think of all this sexiness chase.

The sexualization of very young girls is commercial. It is driven by the popular culture, the television and the corporations which sell stuff. It even has links to the suddenly much more acceptable view of women as the service stations for blowjobs and the presence of porn (focusing on women's bodies only) everywhere. And it has links to the idea that plastic breasts are necessary if yours don't stick out like sore thumbs or balloons. Young people grow up thinking that this is where the value of girls will be and the sooner they learn to be good at it the better.

Making mothers dress differently is not going to do anything to stop this wave of changed thinking. Go to the stores and look at the clothes that are being offered for sale in the pre-teen girls market. Check out some of those websites for the new sex dolls sold as Barbie replacements. Spend some time on the threads of blogs to find out what the general views are on women's bodies and how they should be employed in sex. Listen to some popular music the kids listen to. Then you will begin to get an inkling of the enormity of the task any parent resisting this trend is facing.

And no, this is not the fault of feminists, although you will hear that claim soon enough from some wingnut writer. Feminists want women to be full human beings, not sex dolls.

Monday Morning Fun

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Koan For Lent

Posted by olvlzl.
What does it mean that the new, blue peeps look unnatural?

That is, as opposed to the old, yellow ones.

More From Andy Schlafly’s Braintrust

Posted by olvlzl.

1. Secular Earth Information

2. Young Earth Information
Some Young Earth Creationists, because they are biblical literalists also dispute the shape of the earth, and the idea that the Earth Rotates around the Sun.

2.1 Shape of the Earth
"Once again, the devil took him to a very high mountain, and showed him all the kingdoms of the world [cosmos] in their glory." (Matthew 4:8)
Such mountains, such a tree or such a view of Jesus could only be possible on a flat earth could only be possible on a flat earth.

2.2 Position of the Earth
In the view of the Bible the Earth is fixed, and the sun revolves around it. This can be found in several passages:

3. Christianity and the Earth...

Given the lack of citations in Conservapedia let me ask you, have you ever heard of “Fixed Earth”?

More On Toensing

Here’s more on the Toensing act of last Friday. From Phoenix Woman at Mercury Rising Blog

It was fun watching Toensing blanch when Waxman told her that her testimony would be fact-checked. Waxman made it perfectly clear that he had no time for her nonsense, then gave her a final, elegant stab to let her evade being brought up on perjury charges – if she was willing to “correct” her lies. Now she’s caught between two fires: Admit she lied, or face perjury charges.

It’s fascinating that something that was nearly as big news as the hearing itself would be all but ignored by the mainstream press. Yet the accounts I’ve seen barely mention Toensing’s presence, much less her lying under oath.
The first night of Spring

Oh, no. Not Another One

BOOM ....
Look at! BOOM.... Me!

An Obscure Maine Poet On A Day Of Melting Snow

The Stone-Wall

Obliterated faces
Look up from the stones
When noon inks in the shadows.
Life is in these drones.
Nothing else created
Has such secret eyes;
Dim mouths set as these are
Make no cries.

Dwellers underground
Dragged up to the air
Lie out and plot together
Against alien glare,
Back to darkness sinking
At a pace too slow
For man's eyes to mark, less
Swift than shells grow.
Inhabitants of darkness,
Dragged up to the light,
Bend their graven faces
Back to night.

Nothing from without
Can break their calm.
--The warm snout of a rock
Nuzzles my palm.

Abbie Huston Evans

Not On My Life

Posted by olvlzl.
One of their cliche bound segment producers might say that it’s like a can of mixed nuts bought at the Wal-Mart, a few cashews and pecans but mostly low grade peanuts. That’s how one of the show’s segments might describe “This American Life”. I’m not a regular listener, finding it is mostly an irritating mix of superficial cliche’s, superficial nihilism and juvenile whining. But some of it has been superb, and on at least one occasion great journalism. The piece about the first real survey to try to estimate how many people died in the invasion and of Iraq and the aftermath was one of the best things I’ve heard on the radio in the past ten years. The piece that began with an obscure children’s photo-story book of the 50s and which unfolded into the horrific, puppet- person life of the photographer and author (she was also a fashion model) was great.

That said, too many of the segments are superficial and facilely ironic, too many of them are a presentation of an attitude that is just lazily and cooly cynical as edgy and smart. Too often the segments are about nothing much presented as if that was cool. Too often, also, the show’s producers exploit private people who are still alive, some of whom are really stupid to expose their unattractive lives to a national audience. It’s Jerry Springer for the middle-brow set.

Like Joanna Weiss in her critique in today’s Boston Globe I don’t dislike Ira Glass. I rather like his voice, which is a nice change from better radio voices. I don’t generally like people who imitate his low key delivery, many of whom find their way into segments. They are usually flat, lacking the frequent note of amusement that Glass has. But Ira Glass did do one thing for which I won’t forgive him, he promoted David Sedaris. I can’t stand his cutely cynical, superficial bitchiness and am offended when he’s assumed to be a typical gay man. Like the idiots who mistook Clare Booth's “The Women” for a feminist document, I don’t find anything attractive in the Sedaris presentation of being gay. I've found that Sedaris is much more popular among straight people than he is among gay people. Though he does have some gay fans.

You might want to read the other side in the Globe given by Matthew Gilbert.