Saturday, June 02, 2007

Saturday Emily Dickinson Blogging As The Thunder Approaches

The Wind begun to knead the Grass—
As Women do a Dough—
He flung a Hand full at the Plain—
A Hand full at the Sky—
The Leaves unhooked themselves from Trees—
And started all abroad—
The Dust did scoop itself like Hands—
And throw away the Road—
The Wagons—quickened on the Street—
The Thunders gossiped low—
The Lightning showed a Yellow Head—
And then a livid Toe—
The Birds put up the Bars to Nests—
The Cattle flung to Barns—
Then came one drop of Giant Rain—
And then, as if the Hands
That held the Dams—had parted hold—
The Waters Wrecked the Sky—
But overlooked my Father's House—
Just Quartering a Tree—

Bob Kerrey, What a Shame.

Posted by olvlzl.
Did you hear Bob Kerrey on Moyer’s last night? It wasn’t a surprise to find out that the man from Nebraska who had started out as a fairly reasonable if moderate guy had transformed into a conservative. That was on display in his erratic performance on the 9-11 Commission. I’m beginning to think that the contrarian shtick should stand as evidence of a mind in decline. Last night I listened to his non-coherent mix of factoids and what I can only think of now as logicoids unable to figure out what the guy is getting at. His “ending the occupation without withdrawal” blather is about the most bizarre thing I’ve heard a Democrat of his stature say, ever. It was on the same level as Bush II or Reagan in free fall. And this is the guy who heads The New School these days? If he was the best of the presidential search I’d make sure my name was permanently kept off the list of also rans.

But nothing he said last night would have disqualified him from a position on the Wall Street Journal op-ed page. Coherence will keep someone off of that sheet but not the sad spectacle of what was on Moyers. Bob, check out Zell Miller, that’s where this kind of thing untreated ends up. When Limbaugh starts praising a Democrat, that’s time to check in for some rational emotive therapy or to ask your nearest and dearest if you’ve lost it.

For more, read about what Kissinger is up to these days. He’s the pioneer who discovered that spouting the most obviously self-serving lies and nonsense is no bar to a career as a sage in a declining empire. It’s a job requirement.

I'd Love You To Turn Yourself On And To Choose The Stations

Posted by olvlzl.
I didn’t own a copy of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart’s Club Band, my brother did but like most other people my age I can sing every song on it. Allowing for getting the order of verses mixed up a bit. As I reminded myself here last week, I’m not quite 64 yet but it’s getting closer all the time.

The Beatles weren’t my favorites. I’m one of the minority of geezers who has never owned one of their albums, at least not yet. They were better than the Rolling Stones who I have always loathed. The Beatles did try new things and didn’t just rip off the blues and revel in racist stereotypes and male supremacy.

It was nice to find out the other day that some of the things I’d always believed they’d done with very sophisticated manipulation of tape were actually done live with session musicians in the Abby Road Studio. And they’d provided beer. Everyone knew that the Beatles had hired some of the best classical musicians in the world for their albums, Ray Premru, the very great trombonist, being just one. But I’d always figured that “A Day In The Life” was more the product of tape splicing and effects, in the end. Someone in The Beatles were listening to the avant guard of the time. Penderecki's Threnody, the tape music of Ussachevsky and a number of others must have figured into the listening of at least John and Paul and most likely all of them. George, of course was studying Indian classical music as well.

Hearing the album played on the 40th anniversary of its release brought back an atmosphere of freer thought. People seemed a lot less dogmatic about things back then. At least the ones I knew were. You could believe anything you wanted to as long as you didn’t hurt anyone in the process. Diversity, even eccentricity is as desirable in the intellectual life of the world as it is in the biosphere. It’s the free exercise in diversity that seems to be what was really lost over the years. Maybe it’s the constant pressures to conform to one of the several recognized ideologies that makes people so much more ill tempered than they were back then too. Maybe it’s what happens from the Stones still being around. I’m feeling nostalgic for a time when you could count on not being jumped on by thought police when you suggested alternative ideas.

It’s all right if young people never listen to their grandparents’ music, times change. But it would be nice if they could know what it feels like to be comfortable with thinking for themselves in an atmosphere of less hostility and violence. I’d rather see them getting by with a little help from their friends than from the culture of commerce and propaganda, the only flavors of thought allowed in today’s media.

* Rubber Soul and Revolver still seem more innovative to me, something I was stunned to hear Dan Damon of the BBC and I agree on. We don’t agree on much else. Day Tripper or Baby You Can Drive My Car are more likely to go through my head than anything from Sgt. Pepper. Something of a mixed blessing.

I also enjoyed the parody elements of Frank Zappa’s “We’re Only In It For The Money” too, though Zappa’s facile cynicism doesn’t wear as well for me as the more complex Beatles album. I’d rather end up making a fool of myself for the right reasons than to start out being one for the wrong reason.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Where the He-Men Meet

You might like a post I wrote on Tweety and the boys on the TAPPED blog.

Friday Cat Blogging

This lovely cat is FeralLiberal's Emma, enjoying the bounty of nature. The way cats do.

And this lovely cat is FeralLiberal's PippinEmma again, enjoying nature in a way cats normally don't.

Photography thanks to FeralLiberal.


That is surgery on the labia, the lips of the vulva. There are two sets of lips there, surprisingly, called labia majora and labia minora. Get it? Heh.

Anyways, given that women always need fixing it is now fashionable to have cosmetic surgery done on those lower lips. I wonder if they could insert some dentures in the vagina itself, to satisfy those who like the idea of a vagina dentata? Or to scare those who fear it?

Before I go and inquire about those dentures I listened to this audio. Did you know that labiaplasty can mess with the nerves leading to the clitoris? Nasty stuff.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Freewayblogger's Take

On how he would resign from the Peace Movement, not that he is planning to do so.

Meanwhile, in Montana

A forty-nine year old woman who is unable to conceive but who uses the birth control pill as a medical treatment for some complaint goes to a pharmacy, Snyder Drugs, to get her prescription refilled. Instead of the pills she receives a note saying that the pharmacy will no longer dispense birth control pills.

The pharmacy has new owners, see, and these new owners believe that birth control pills are abortion. Even when taken by women who can't conceive, it seems. The new owners also signed onto an ad running in the Great Falls Tribune on Mother's Day:

"The sanctity of human life has always been one of our most cherished heritages. The family unit is the foundation of our society. The devotion and sacrifice of mothers over the years and the continual care and concern for their unborn has been the cornerstone of the family. On this Mother's Day 2007, we wish to express our gratitude to all mothers for their unselfishness in our behalf. As health-care professionals, we call upon the American people to once again reaffirm the right to life for future generations of the unborn and join with us in our efforts to restore respect, dignity and value to each human life—born or unborn."

What a fascinating piece of ideology that ad is. Note how it places family as the foundation of the society and then places the "unselfish" mother caring for the babies as the cornerstone of this family concept. If the mother stops being "unselfish" (the quotes are because having children might be quite selfish, too, based on enjoying the children) the family unit will fall down the tree of civilization and all will be lost. Hence, women can't have the pill, because then they might not carry out the needed selfless toil. What a sad view of life this is in some ways.

But what is even sadder is the fact that when I wrote about the radical right's tendency to equate birth control pills with abortion the first time the response was one of shock and outrage. Now we are used to this way of thinking, the faith-based one where medical evidence doesn't matter and where the needs of the patients count very little.
The source is a Planned Parenthood e-mail. See also this Montana blog.

Mad Cows And Free Markets

Now this is hilarious:

The Bush administration said Tuesday it will fight to keep meatpackers from testing all their animals for mad cow disease.

The Agriculture Department tests fewer than 1 percent of slaughtered cows for the disease, which can be fatal to humans who eat tainted beef. A beef producer in the western state of Kansas, Creekstone Farms Premium Beef, wants to test all of its cows.

Larger meat companies feared that move because, if Creekstone should test its meat and advertised it as safe, they might have to perform the expensive tests on their larger herds as well.

The Agriculture Department regulates the test and argued that widespread testing could lead to a false positive that would harm the meat industry.

Did you get it? This administration which worships at the altar of free markets doesn't want to let a firm offer better guarantees than other firms offer! It is like telling a firm which wants to raise the quality of its products or their longevity that it can't do that because the other firms will cry.

The last paragraph is especially interesting. A "false positive" means that the test identifies a sample as tainted when it is not. The way this would harm the meat industry would be by making consumers of beef scared for no good reason. They might even stop eating cows. Now consider what happens under the system of minimal testing. There will be hardly any false positives and also hardly any true positives (cases where the tainted meat was actually tested), because hardly any meat will be tested. Should the mad cow disease then appear, well, consumers will soon enough show that this happened, by going mad and by dying.

The whole thing is backwards. There is no law which would require other firms to follow Creekstone's voluntary testing initiative. It is offering consumers something they might want. Usually this is what the conservatives laud the marketplace for. But suddenly more competition is a bad thing and must be stopped. By the government, even.

On the FDA

The Food and Drug Administration is weak, toothless. It's a tired old institution and it's scared of the conservative administration. It cares about the firms, these days, more than it cares about the American citizens.

The origins of the modern food safety laws in the United States are in a 1938 law. This law, in turn, was pushed through by the horrible events the year before: Over one hundred people died, many of them children, after taking a form of sulfa (then the newest wonder drug) which contained a lethal ingredient: diethylene glycol. Nobody had tested its suitability, and that is why we got a law requiring testing of new medications.

In 2006 over one hundred people died in Panama, for the very same reason: diethylene glycol. It was used as a substitute for glycerine, a more expensive but safe ingredient, by a Chinese manufacturer. The story recounting the sad chain of deceit leading in those deaths also mentioned that a wholesaler in the United States caught one shipment of diethylene glycol just in time as recently as 1995!

Given this background, you might be interested in learning that the FDA doesn't REQUIRE American firms to test the glycerine they buy from abroad; it just recommends such testing.

We need to buy the FDA new dentures, with lots of sharp canines.
For the links go to my article in the American Prospect.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Women in the Public Eye

Are irritants. Rinsing doesn't really work, but a good bashing just might flush them out.

Take Cindy Sheehan. She is quitting as the National Monument of the anti-war movement. It was an impossible job and one that the media initially assigned her, although she ran with it later. I call it an impossible job, because National Monuments of this sort are walking myths and they attract not only adulators and flowers but also dogs lifting their legs nearby, and once the myth is embodied in one person it's pretty easy to pull it down. All Sheehan had to do was to step outside the myth of the bereaved mourning mother and she was toast.

Sheehan's case is almost a total opposite of the case of Hillary Clinton. Where critic saw Sheehan as too emotional and too prone to stunts Clinton is seen as not emotional enough, too iceberg-like and too calculating. Too tame. She almost seems to try to live so as to provoke no negative comment, but negative comments she gets in any case. Indeed, three critical books have just come out on her life, politics and future. Bay Buchanan (yes, the sister of THAT Buchanan) even diagnoses her (from a distance and without any qualifications) as suffering from the narcissistic personality disorder!

The avalanche of anti-Hillary books should be a surprise, given that the other presidential candidates haven't gotten anywhere near the attention. But then Hillary Clinton is much more interesting to bash, and not only because she is married to Bill Clinton. She is also an uppity woman, an embodiment of all the hidden fears that suggest castration to many conservative men.

To learn that about the worst the three books could find on Hillary is that she is ambitious makes for a bit of an anti-climax. Do people really think that all those men running for the job of the president of the United States of America are NOT ambitious? Who the hell would apply for that job without lots of ambition? It's just that women aren't supposed to be ambitious for themselves.

It isn't the fact that both Sheehan and Clinton get so much criticism that bothers me. It is the way they are made into something bigger, something more frightening, something more mythical than any human being can be, and the way the criticism is framed and tinted with all sorts of little misogynistic seasonings. The critics are mostly not just trying to take Sheehan or Clinton down. They are trying to take down a myth, to kill it. Before it gets them.

Off With His Head

I recently wrote about the problem with the overburdened Food and Drug Administration and in particular about the worrisome tainted produce coming from China. In that article I pointed out the relative lethargy of the Chinese government.

Well, now they have acted. They are going to execute the country's top food inspector:

The former head of China's food and drug administration was sentenced to death Tuesday for taking bribes to approve substandard medicines - including an antibiotic blamed for at least 10 deaths.

Seeking to address broadening concerns over food, the government also announced plans for its first recall system for unsafe products.

The developments are among the most dramatic steps Beijing has publicly taken to address domestic and international alarm over shoddy and unsafe Chinese goods - from pet food ingredients and toothpaste mixed with industrial chemicals to tainted antibiotics.


According to the official magazine Outlook Weekly, a survey by the quality inspection administration found that a third of China's 450,000 food producers had no licenses, and 60 percent did not conduct safety tests or have the capability to do so.

Did you know that 80% of the ascorbic acid (a common preservative) comes from China?

The Squeaking In The Wall

That's the wingnut mice you are hearing, gnawing away at the last hundred years of progressive legislation, trying to get through the joists. Much of this work is done in silence, outside the limelight of the media (where's that white woman eaten by the sharks?). Little mice they may be, but there are many of them. Some even wear judicial gowns:

Court Protects Gender Discrimintion
As Ruth Bader Ginsburg notes, the evidence of gender discrimination in the case of Ledbetter v. Goodyear, decided today by the Supreme Court, is unambiguous:

Lilly Ledbetter was a supervisor at Goodyear Tire and Rubber's plant in Gadsden, Alabama, from 1979 until her retirement in 1998. For most of those years, she worked as an area manager, a position largely occupied by men. Initially, Ledbetter's salary was in line with the salaries of men performing substantially similar work. Over time, however, her pay slipped in comparison to the pay of male area managers with equal or less seniority. By the end of 1997, Ledbetter was the only woman working as an area manager and the pay discrepancy between Ledbetter and her 15 male counterparts was stark: Ledbetter was paid $3,727 per month; the lowest paid male area manager received $4,286 per month, the highest paid, $5,236.

Despite this, and contrary to the judgment of the EEOC, the Court by a bare 5-4 majority threw out the discrimination claim she brought under the Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. The Court--in an opinion, natch, written by its arch-reactionary newest member--argued that Ledbetter failed to challenge the initial discriminatory pay decision within the required 180 days, and the ongoing pay discrimination did not constitute an "unlawful employment practice."

So you, a possible victim of discrimination, have 180 days to act. That is half a year. I hope you know all the facts within that time. I hope you realize that you might have been discriminated against. On the other hand, if you happen to have discriminated against some folks in the past you can now relax.

Of course this decision was expected in the general sense, of course. The clearing out of all non-wingnuts in the Supreme Court was not something unimportant in the blueprints of the conservatives, and it was not just about abortion. It's also important to make sure that women and minorities don't cause a fuss in the labor markets or in the universities. For the proper functioning of the status quo, that is. From the point of view of those who run things. And their mice.

Thank You, Guest Bloggers

I've come to the conclusion that my vacation was very good for the blog. Lots of interesting posts. My heartfelt thanks to blue lily, hybrid, olvlzl and skylanda (in alphabetical order).

Still, I'm back. I think.

On the AIDS Anniversary

Well, ok, a little belated, but nevertheless. I'm referring to olvlzl's post, because it gives me an opportunity to show you a few pictures the French have used in a campaign to prevent HIV infections (via Phila). Like these:

I get the point they are trying to make. I do. But I think they are also making some points that aren't quite so good. Such as thinking of sex as something to do with yucky creatures. You know, like your sexual partners. But perhaps the net effect is beneficial, as in reminding people to be careful. What do you think? (See how I'm engaging the readers here!)

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Guest post by Blue Lily --Race as disability

Back in March the story of the Andrews family of Long Island came to public attention. The NY Daily News announced "What a mess, baby: Parents say fertility clinic botched in-vitro & girl's got the wrong dad":

A Long Island woman and her husband are suing a Park Ave. fertility clinic for allegedly inseminating her with the wrong man's sperm.

After struggling to conceive their second child, Nancy Andrews and her husband, Thomas, turned to New York Medical Services for Reproductive Medicine for in-vitro fertilization treatments, according to a lawsuit.

Andrews soon became pregnant and the couple was overjoyed. They only discovered the clinic's "colossal blunder" after Andrews gave birth to her daughter Jessica, court papers charge.

"While we love Baby Jessica as our own, we are reminded of this terrible mistake each and every time we look at her," the Commack couple said in documents filed in Manhattan Supreme Court. "It is simply impossible to ignore."

Thomas Andrews is white and his wife is Dominican. But Jessica, who was born Oct. 19, 2004, has darker skin than either of them as well as "characteristics more typical of African or African-American descent," the lawsuit states.

The couple tested their daughter's DNA using a home kit and later with two more sophisticated methods. All three of the tests confirmed their suspicions - the tot has a different father.

The story came to public notice in March because a judge ruled the couple can precede with their medical malpractice lawsuit but disallowed the claims of mental suffering -- the parents' suffering and baby Jessica's suffering for being a different race than her parents. There's a lot to unpack here and The Nation's Patricia Williams took a stab at it:
What's distinctive about the Andrews case is that the parents... tried to cite... Jessica's pain and suffering for having to endure life as a black person. The Andrewses expressed concern that Jessica "may be subjected to physical and emotional illness as a result of not being the same race as her parents and siblings." They are "distressed" that she is "not even the same race, nationality, they are." They describe Jessica's conception as a "mishap" so "unimaginable" that they have not told many of their relatives. (Telling the tabloids all about it must have come easier.) "We fear that our daughter will be the object of scorn and ridicule by other children," the couple said, because Jessica has "characteristics more typical of African or African-American descent." So "while we love Baby Jessica as our own, we are reminded of this terrible mistake each and every time we look at her...each and every time we appear in public."
Since the claim of mental distress of their child hinges on appearance and public perceptions of skin color, Williams comments on the family's photo:
The picture underscores the embedded cultural oddities of this case, the invisibly shifting boundaries of how we see race, extend intimacy, name "difference." According to the Post, Mrs. Andrews is "Hispanic" and apparently, by the paper's calculations, one Hispanic woman plus one white man equals "a white pair." The mother is "a light-skinned native of the Dominican Republic," seeming to indicate that while she may not be "white," she's also not "black." Each narrative implies that if the correct sperm had been used, the Andrewses would have been guaranteed a lighter-skinned child. But as most Dominicans trace their heritage to some mixture of African slaves, indigenous islanders and European settlers, and as dark skin color is a dominant trait, it could be that the true sperm donor is as "white" as Mr. Andrews. But that possibility is exiled from the word boxes that contain this child. Not only is Jessica viewed as being of a race apart from either of her parents; she is even designated a different nationality--this latter most startling for its blood-line configuration of citizenship itself.
Paul Butler at BlackProf discusses the race issue as well.

If I understand the legal situation correctly, the parents' claim of mental suffering is essentially a "wrongful conception" or "wrongful birth" claim and their suit on behalf of Baby Jessica's mental suffering is a "wrongful life" claim. New York state, where the case resides, has precedence in these situations, which Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Sheila Abdus-Salaam cited in her ruling. Regarding the "wrongful birth" claim:
By logical extension of the principles enunciated by the courts in New York that the birth of an unwanted but otherwise healthy and normal child does not constitute an injury to the child's parents, and that even parents of a child with a serious disease cannot recover for emotional injury for the birth of that child, plaintiffs in this case cannot recover for mental distress arising from having a child who is not Mr. Andrews' biological offspring.... Plaintiffs cannot recover damages based upon their claim that they were deprived of the opportunity to have a child of their own genetic makeup. The Court of Appeals has rejected as too speculative a claim that is " . . . based essentially on "wrongful nonbirth", the deprivation of an opportunity by a woman to have a child by her husband.
While these types of lawsuits were originally an additional claim for malpractice issues like failed vasectomies or lack of medical information provided by doctors, much of the case law centers around the distinction of whether or not a child with disabilities is involved. And, of course, that determination hinges on the ability to diagnose that there's "something wrong" with a child at the time a suit is filed. In the Andrewses case, if Jessica had not been perceived as looking physically different from her parents, her genetic differences (in this case, the fact that her father was not a biological parent) may have gone forever unnoticed.

And because the wrongful life suit (rejected by the judge) on Jessica's behalf claims she will suffer physical and emotional stress from having darker skin than her family, race is made here to be a kind of disability. Disability, after all, is not only about actual impairments, but also perceived impairments -- the ADA recognizes this fact of the social stigma of disability.

While the specific circumstances (of botched reproductive technology leading to wrongful birth and life claims due to skin color) may be new, positing race or gender or ethnicity as a disability is not historically new. Disability is and has frequently been used as a method of demonizing or oppressing other minority populations. That goes back at least as far as Aristotle claiming that women are mutilated (read impaired) males. The medical definition of "hysteria" linked femaleness with mental instability. Irrespective of diagnosed intellectual impairments, black male schoolchildren in U.S. public schools are much more likely than other kids to be placed in special ed classes or considered behavioral problems. There are innumerable examples of oppressed minority identities having their identifying biological difference labelled as a disabling condition.

But culturally, we find it challenging to look at the dynamic from the other direction. Sandel's book (discussed briefly in an earlier, May 26, 2007, post) on the ethics of striving for genetic perfection asks:
Is it wrong to make a child deaf by design? If so, what makes it wrong -- the deafness or the design? Suppose, for the sake of argument, that deafness is not a disability but a distinctive identity. Is there still something wrong with the idea of parents picking and choosing the kind of child they will have? Or do parents do that all the time, in their choice of mate and, these days, in their use of new reproductive technologies?
What if, with an understanding of how elusive and intersecting categories of ability and identity are, that paragraph were rewritten to more closely discuss the Andrewses court case?
Is it wrong to make a child dark-skinned by design? If so, what makes it wrong -- the dark skin or the design? Suppose, for the sake of argument, that dark skin is not a disability but a distinctive identity. Is there still something wrong with the idea of parents picking and choosing the kind of child they will have? Or do parents do that all the time, in their choice of mate and, these days, in their use of new reproductive technologies?
Intersections between identities are never perfect, and matching women's oppression to racial oppression to disability oppression is never a perfect fit of history and experience, but the Andrewses case does beg the above questions about race. The references to "dark skin" could easily be changed to "light skin" to reflect the family's presumption of genetic whiteness, but the "problem" of skin color difference remains.

I confess that I don't know exactly how this court case illuminates the debates over prenatal screening and genetic engineering to avoid children with disabilities. But they are fundamentally related.

Cross-posted at The Gimp Parade

“The 26th Wedding Anniversary does not have any traditional materials or Symbols associated with it.”

First posted on olvlzl, June 06, 2006 as SILVER ANNIVERSARY
You have heard the announcements, it was 25 years ago that they figured out that a new health disaster was beginning. With time they would name it AIDS and learn that it was caused by HIV but in the beginning they just knew that a uniformly fatal disease had emerged. Twenty-five years is long enough for the anniversary to seem dowright nostalgic with old names and faces appearing on TV. Researchers and doctors who haven't been seen since Donahue was on daytimes. Progress is reported on many fronts though at best some of the worst symptoms can be kept down for a while. I won't go into the details of the side effects and expense of the drugs required. Even "Secrets of the Dead" had an interesting piece about genetic immunity to the virus. I won't watch cable anymore so am not sure if the maudlin parade of name victims has been a staple of the coverage.

Twenty-five years into a pandemic with effective uniform mortality and there are still 40,000 people contracting HIV infections in the United States every year. For the love of God, there are still babies being born here with HIV infection. Teenagers are often mentioned as a group at major risk of new infection.

Twenty-five years and there isn't real condom education on TV. The medium that uses a third of every hour to sell everything else in the world with sex with programs to reinforce the ads for the other two thirds. You can sell anything with sex in the United States except responsibility and life.

In the same years that health scientists were begging the United States to begin comprehensive promotion of effective condom use, there has been an effective veto on condom advertisements and education by the clergy, their allies in the conservative movement and the Republican Party. They have kept condom education out of TV in the United States. And while they were doing that they made Rupert Murdoch a citizen of the United States. The "dirty digger" of the infamous "Sun" tabloid, the Aussie T&A peddler was put on fast track for citizenship in the Reagan years so he could start buying media companies and plying his trade in low grade smut and right wing politics. I've got to eat breakfast or I'd go into his being installed as a Papal Knight of St. Gregory during the same period. So it's not the sex they won't let on TV. Mr. Page Three, yes. Condom education? You willing to bet your life on seeing it here?

It is twenty-five years past the time when the United States should have ditched the faith based tire biters and put real education about condoms in the mass media. And mass media is the only effective means of mass education we have. How many people can tell you who this fifteen minutes' American Idol is as compared to the number who can tell you where Athens has been for the past 2,500 years? Every week that clergymen or Concerned Bottle Blonds of America delay the airing of real, effective, science based AIDS education thousands will die. They are the angels of preventable death. Completely informed and totally unconcerned, they are worse than the ignorant Moslem clergy who are responsible for polio outbreaks in Nigeria. There is no question that their veto of condom education and the full index of lies and distortions they replace it with are responsible for many times more dead Americans than the attacks of Sept. 11th. And that's just here. The bodies they've left lie around the world.

Condoms are the most effective way to prevent new HIV infections. They are safe, inexpensive, simple to use and when used consistently, people live. But they will not be used without a massive education and public relations campaign. They have to be made acceptable, even fashionable. Their use has to be made as every day and habitual as brushing your teeth and using deodorant before you go out on a date. Our media could do that. They can sell anything. If they can get Americans to try sushi they can get them to save their lives. Think of the possibilities, think of what those geniuses behind the Geico ads could do on the subject.

Will it ever be done? Will it be done in time for your children or grand children to learn how to save their lives? Twenty-five years and they're still talking in generalities and nice words that Michael Powell would have approved. The TV discussion I've heard is worse than it was during the Reagan years. Clearly, the conservative establishment and their corporate media are going for gold.

Note: It’s close to a year since this was first posted. I’m not certain that there are 40,000 more new infections, though I expect there have been. I’m sure we are no closer to having a rational and so moral AIDS policy in this country than we were then.

Another Good Use Of Time

Posted by olvlzl.
Read about the new perfume brand, Aroma of Sanctity put out by the house of Gingrich. As Seen On TV and endorsed by H.H. James Dobson.

Randi Rhodes Interview at

Posted by olvlzl.
I was tempted to complain about something NPR had on this morning but reading this interview is definitely a more productive use of your time.

It’s Fine With The “Patriots” When It’s a Republican Ripping Up The Constitution

Posted by olvlzl.
When Bill Clinton was president the airwaves and cabloids were awash with drooling, clearly marginal personalities of the right to far right warning of black helicopters and directives to destroy constitutional government. And I’m not just talking about FOX. Nutcases on the payroll of some second generation Bircher billionaire were more common than dysfunctional E channel celebs.

Now, we have the spectacle of a failed regime issuing a “National Security and Homeland Security Presidential Directive” to almost no attention. We’ve seen that with the Bush family before, they seem to have a quite special relationship with the American media.

This is a developing story. I’ve looked at what we’ve been allowed to see of the “Directive” and it looks to me that this is a good short version.

When the President determines a catastrophic emergency has occurred, the President can take over all government functions and direct all private sector activities to ensure we will emerge from the emergency with an "enduring constitutional government."

Translated into layman's terms, when the President determines a national emergency has occurred, the President can declare to the office of the presidency powers usually assumed by dictators to direct any and all government and business activities until the emergency is declared over.

Ironically, the directive sees no contradiction in the assumption of dictatorial powers by the President with the goal of maintaining constitutional continuity through an emergency.

We’d better deal with this now before, um, events catch up with us and we suddenly find ourselves with a Constitution in name only. The Rexal rangers and “patriot” militias will be taken off of black helicopter watch, deputized and rounding us up. Last month you that might have thought that was a slightly more fantastic scenario than you might after reading what the Bush regime has released. Who knows what might have been classifed behind the national security smoke screen.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Connecticut's War Dead

Via Crooks&Liars

Recreating Lives From Fragmentary Evidence

Posted by olvlzl.

The larger stone, behind the American Legion Flag:
George S. Butler Son of George and Sara
1843 - 1862 Buried in Maryland.
Another stone beside it:
George S. Butler Son of George and Sara.
1865 - 1924
No other stones beside it.

See also:

I'm off with my family for the rest of the day. I hope you have a good Memorial Day.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Our Father Hardly Ever Talked

Posted by olvlzl.
Our father hardly ever talked about being in battle as a marine during the Second World War. Hardly anyone I’ve known who was in combat talked about it. The ones who did were usually drunk. He did tell me once that he knew he had killed three men. Though he knew they would have killed him and that they were part of one of the most murderous invading armies in history, he regretted having to kill them. When he was 23 our father was hit by a fragment of a mortar shell and almost died. His wounds left him entirely blind, somewhat deaf and with loss of some function in his arm. That made him the target of job discrimination.

In tandem with the discrimination, his disability also marked him in our area as a “war hero”. We grew up with our father being a war hero as part of our background music. I remember someone being scandalized when, as a teenager, I whined about how unreasonable he could be. “But he’s a blind man!,” was the stunned reaction. A war hero is just your father when that’s what he is and you’re still a teenager. His presence at Memorial Day parades was expected and prominent. Going against stereotype, he and my mother were and remained very liberal. Roosevelt Democrats, and more Eleanor than Franklin at that. He despised Oliver North for hiding behind his uniform and accepting immunity. As a marine, he hated MacArthur. He never encouraged any of us to enlist.

When he was in his sixties my father started having problems with his liver. The doctors couldn’t find anything specific but the markers in his blood weren’t good. The symptoms made it necessary for him to spend most of his last year in the hospital. Finally they diagnosed cancer of the liver and they sent him home after arranging an appointment with an oncologist. About the same time they tested him for hepatitis C, the test was positive. Going over his medical history they figured out that he must have gotten it when he was given a blood transfusion at the field hospital after he got hit 45 years earlier. They didn’t know about hepatitis C back then, no other explanation was ever found. He died the next week. The dying goes on a long time after the treaty is signed.

P.S. Something else. I never heard him say "semper fi", not even to other marines.

On a Venerable Beau

till hovering round the fair at sixty-four
Unfit for love, unable to give o’re.
A flesh fly, that just flutters on the wing,
Awake to buzz, but not alive to sting;
Brisk where he cannot, backward where he can,
The teasing ghost of the departed man.

David Mallet 18th cen.


Some have requested an explanation of some of my recent posts. Here is a partial response.

Rachel Carson, at 100

Posted by olvlzl.
Rachel Carson did not go gentle into that good night, her words in Silent Spring "forked lightening" and resonate today. They are important enough that even as she has become a widely accepted icon of present day thinking, she is still drawing fire from those whose psychotic attachment to wealth and ingrained custom is stronger than their ability to see that the Earth will not be able to sustain the life that both require.

The centennial of Carson's birth is being commemorated with observances around the country today. Her place in the American imagination is enduring: "Silent Spring," published in 1962, led to the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency and to banning the pesticide dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane, or DDT. State and federal office buildings, bridges, greenways, natural refuges, all sorts of awards, and at least four public schools are named after her, from Virginia to California.

But revisionists are busy besmirching Carson's legacy. In Washington, Senator Tom Coburn, an Oklahoma Republican, has placed a stop on an innocuous resolution praising Carson on the centennial occasion. The resolution notes her "legacy of scientific rigor coupled with poetic sensibility."

Coburn and other opponents of environmental regulation claim more people die from malaria and other insect-borne diseases, especially in the developing world, than were ever saved by eliminating DDT from the environment. The scientist who introduced DDT in 1943 -- just as a typhus epidemic was threatening Allied troops in Italy in World War II -- received the Nobel Prize, after all. But any fair cost-benefit analysis must take all costs into account, and it is hard to measure the value of the illnesses, species decimation, and toxic pollution that did not happen because DDT was banned.

“ Your money or your life”. When Jack Benny hesitated it was funny. Some idiots in what passes as popular culture are cracking jokes about the dying biosphere, even today. It’s not funny. It never was but reality is about to deliver a deadline that will drown out the punch line.

Sometimes, as in the Daughters of the American Revolution's refusal to allow Marion Anderson to perform in their hall, it is the controversy that proves to be the greater honor. The likes of Tom Coburn dishonoring Rachel Carson only confirm that she is due that greatest of all honors, being taken seriously long after her death. Her words still enlighten the world today.