Saturday, October 15, 2005

Vacation Time

For Judy Miller. Raw Story tells that:

New York Times reporter Judith Miller, who spent 85 days in jail protecting her source in the recent CIA leak investigation, will take an indefinite leave of absence effective immediately.

"Judy is going to take some time off until we decide what she is doing next," Times' spokesperson Catherine Mathis told RAW STORY Saturday afternoon.

How long is indefinite? And what will happen after the indefinite has passed? A book deal, most likely. There is an ethics lesson in this somewhere, I'm sure...

Judy Miller's Role in the Plame Investigation - Take One

The New York Times has now published an article, perhaps only the first one of several, on Judith Miller's role in the Plame investigations. It is a long one and doesn't have any totally new and astonishing information, but it does tell us about what went on inside the NYT and about Miller's decision to go to jail.

I still think that her inability to remember who first gave her the name Valerie Flame (as it was written in her notebook) is not real.
Thanks to dancinfool in the comments who linked me to Judy's own memoirs of her testimony. This is good:

When I was last before the grand jury, Mr. Fitzgerald posed a series of questions about a letter I received in jail last month from Mr. Libby. The letter, two pages long, encouraged me to testify. "Your reporting, and you, are missed," it begins.
Mr. Fitzgerald asked me to read the final three paragraphs aloud to the grand jury. "The public report of every other reporter's testimony makes clear that they did not discuss Ms. Plame's name or identity with me," Mr. Libby wrote.
The prosecutor asked my reaction to those words. I replied that this portion of the letter had surprised me because it might be perceived as an effort by Mr. Libby to suggest that I, too, would say we had not discussed Ms. Plame's identity. Yet my notes suggested that we had discussed her job.
Mr. Fitzgerald also focused on the letter's closing lines. "Out West, where you vacation, the aspens will already be turning," Mr. Libby wrote. "They turn in clusters, because their roots connect them."
How did I interpret that? Mr. Fitzgerald asked.
In answer, I told the grand jury about my last encounter with Mr. Libby. It came in August 2003, shortly after I attended a conference on national security issues held in Aspen, Colo. After the conference, I traveled to Jackson Hole, Wyo. At a rodeo one afternoon, a man in jeans, a cowboy hat and sunglasses approached me. He asked me how the Aspen conference had gone. I had no idea who he was.
"Judy," he said. "It's Scooter Libby."

Battle Scars

Twistyfaster has given her blog the wonderfully mischievious name "I Blame Patriarchy". She also recently had a radical mastectomy for breast cancer, and I am linking to a picture of her scar here. You can choose not to look at it, of course, but I find a fierce beauty in it. This is a woman who has done battle, and she is standing up and showing us the scars, the scars of twenty-first century medicine. There is something heroic about it, and not only because Twisty took the picture so soon after major surgery.

Pictures of women's breasts are ubiquitous on the net, so ubiquitous that they have almost taken a life of their own, as something separate from women. As playthings. Twisty's picture reminds us that they are part of the woman, and that it is the woman who really matters.

Rove In Trouble

Via Washington Monthly I found out about this Washington Post article on Rove's testimony today in the Plame investigation:

Making his fourth appearance before the grand jury, Rove answered a broad range of questions for 4 1/2 hours, including why he did not initially tell federal agents about a July 2003 conversation about Plame with the witness, Time magazine's Matthew Cooper, the source said.

Rove's defense team asserts that President Bush's deputy chief of staff has not committed a crime but nevertheless anticipates that special prosecutor Patrick J. Fitzgerald could find a way to bring charges in the next two weeks, the source said.

The article continues to speculate about who might be indicted and on what type of charges, and it is all interesting if you like to follow such court cases. But what is more important in all of this is the fact that administration insiders are shown, finally, not to have the right to do whatever they want and to then call it politics as usual. It's not possible to overstress this.

Karl Rove has a reputation for very dirty fighting in politics (see, for example, the movie Bush's Brain). Whether this reputation is earned or not is less crucial than the fact that a man with such a reputation could virtually run a country and there was very little protest about this. Imagine the furor that would have arisen if Rove had been shown to bed another man, for example. There is something very wrong with our own ethics when most of us get upset over the latter but accept the former as just the way politics is most efficiently applied.

That the Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald is not interested in whom Rove beds but in what he says in his job is therefore a wonderful piece of news, never mind whether Rove actually gets indicted. It is a return to the rules of the political game that we have been taught, not the rules that have prevailed during the last five years or more in Washington, D.C.. And call me prudish if you wish, but I really want those old-fashioned ethical rules applied to all players of the games.

I've mentioned earlier that I feel all tingly and warm when I hear about Rove's misfortunes. But this is not really Schadenfreude over the misfortunes of a political opponent, even an extreme political opponent, but a feeling that finally decency is showing some teeth here. Maybe she will even bite a butt or two in the process.

Friday, October 14, 2005


This is a picture I've shown before. It was taken when Hank was a little puppy and Henrietta was a little worried about it all. Now they are inseparable, of course.

Hank has just been diagnosed with cancer. It will be another two weeks before the tests tell me if anything at all can be done. There is a small probability that her front leg could be amputated but a larger one that the cancer has spread. This reminds us of the importance of each day we spend with those we love and of the fact that we walk this path together only until our roads diverge.

Hank is six years old and fairly young to get cancer. I have found in the last few days that several youngish dogs in my area have or have had a similar type of cancer and all these dogs have gone to the same dogpark and have also been of the type that likes to run in the little stream there. All this may be pure coincidence and the incidence figures may be quite normal, but I also happen to know that the dogpark was built on an old city dump. To this day shards of glass and so on turn up every year.

I am going to look into this, if only to disprove the hypothesis of an environmental cause.

More on the Staging of Events

George Bush's little conference with the American soldiers in Iraq was shown to be carefully choreographed in advance. Yet Scott McClelland argued that this was not the case, at the same time as evidence of the very choreographing was shown all over the media. Media Matters for America notes this:

Discussing the event on the October 13 edition of MSNBC's Countdown with Keith Olbermann, Washington Post reporter Dana Milbank commented on White House press secretary Scott McClellan's handling of questions about the event:

MILBANK: Scott McClellan, who is a good and decent guy, has to get up there and say, This is not a rehearsed event, even when they've actually released the footage showing that it is a rehearsed event. So when he has to say up is down, and he has to go taking on challenging the motives of the press corps, he's obviously got a problem. I don't know how he could handle this any better, unfortunately.

Milbank calls McClellan a "good and decent guy" -- then, in the very same sentence, says that McClellan lied to Milbank's colleagues and the American people. Then he goes on to indicate that McClellan handled it as well as he could have. When did reporters start taking the position that lying to the American people constitutes handling things as well as possible? Wouldn't telling the truth be a better way to "handle this"? Why is Milbank defending McClellan's "challenging the motives of the press corps" -- Milbank's colleagues -- when he knows McClellan was lying?

Read the last paragraph of this quote again, it's that important. I'm beginning to see Mao's intent when he sent all the intelligentsia out to the farms for a while (though I don't agree with what he did, naturally). Some insiders in the media have lost their objectivity.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Bush Buoys The Troops

He used a videoconference for this buoying, because it's not safe yet for him to go to Iraq. This from USAToday is interesting:

While polls show declining support for the war, Bush told the soldiers: "You've got to know, the American people are standing strong with you," Bush said.

The exchange was carefully choreographed.

Before it began, a Pentagon official coached the troops, telling them the president planned to ask questions on three topics: The overall security in Iraq, how they were preparing for the vote on Saturday and how much progress had been made in the training of Iraqi troops.

Allison Barber, a Pentagon official, said Bush would ask them specifically, "In the last 10 months, what kind of progress have we seen?"

She asked who was prepared to answer the question. "Master Sgt. Lombardo," one said.

After Bush asked just that question, Master Sgt. Corine Lombardo responded: "Over the past 10 months, the capabilities of the Iraqi security forces are improving ... They continue to develop and grow into a sustainable force."

Are we supposed to know this? Good for the writer of this article.

Sex Dolls

A few days ago the Salon published an article on men who buy very expensive sex dolls (with three functioning orifices). I read it then but my thoughts on the topic were in such disarray that I didn't want to write down anything I might later regret. But I took down these quotes from the article for further thinking:

According to Davecat and many other Real Doll owners, sex with a Real Doll is quite good. "For the most part, it's just like sex with an organic woman ... who doesn't say anything and is brimful of Quaaludes," Davecat writes on Sidore's stylish Web site.
When asked how many times each week he has sex with his dolls, Kelly is quick to correct: He doesn't have sex with them, he masturbates with them. Twice a week. When I then ask Kelly how he prepares to masturbate with a doll, he says he pulls one from under his bed and applies makeup to her bare face. While he claims not to have a favorite among the triad, he notes that "Head 4 is very tight orally. It has a small mouth," adding that "if you've got a Head 4/Body 5, like Jazzi, you've pretty much got it covered. Tight as a drum." (Unlike Davecat and many other doll owners, Kelly refers to his dolls as "it" not "she.")
As with Davecat, I spoke and e-mailed many times with Everhard, who is 49 years old and lives in Britain. I learned that his doll Rebecca is old in doll years -- her nipple paint has long since worn off and her freckles need touch-ups -- but to Everhard, Rebecca is young, the 18-year-old daughter of his second doll, Caroline, who he imagines as about 34. In one photograph, the two sit together, both in hats, dressed as if for an English wedding and enjoying flutes of sparking water garnished with lemon. Some of Everhard's other photographic vignettes are downright peculiar: When was the last time you saw a naked 18-year-old girl straddling her naked mother in a pillow fight? Last winter, Louise, Caroline's sister, joined Caroline and Rebecca to round out what Everhard calls his harem. He thought of just ordering an extra face for Caroline's body -- it would have been much less expensive, just $500 -- but ultimately rejected the idea because without a third body, sisters Caroline and Louise would never meet except when disembodied.
Some of Fiero's [the doll-maker's] stories are the stuff of horror films. He once got an e-mail from two garbage collectors who found a Real Doll hacked to pieces in a dumpster. One owner sent Fiero a mutilated corpse of a doll. "The jaw in the doll was still in her skull, but behind her neck. Her hands were ripped off and fingers were missing. Her left breast was hanging on by a thread of skin, like your bra strap," he tells me, gesturing at my shoulder.

Another time, an Asian undergraduate student at a university in California dropped his 1-year-old doll off for repairs. Fiero says the young man told him that his parents bought him the doll so that he would stay at home and study rather than go out chasing women. Fiero's photographs of the damaged doll make me cringe: Her leg was torn off, revealing the steel hardware of her hip joints; an arm hung by an inch of silicone flesh; two fingers were severed; and the cleavage between her buttocks was torn into a ragged crevasse.

"Her vagina was so blown out," Fiero told me. "I was appalled. I couldn't believe someone could fuck something like that up so quickly. It blew me away. How could somebody be so callous?

"I was offended in so many ways," he continues. "He put her feet behind her head and reamed that doll with whatever cock he's got. He fucked her violently. She was achieving positions she shouldn't achieve or be forced to try. Her vagina and anus were a giant gaping hole."

These were picked to show the range of uses to which sex dolls are put. For example, Davecat appears to see the doll as a "better-behaved" girlfriend, while Kelly sees them as masturbation aids. Everhard has a more vivid imaginary world and does something which might be called playing with dolls. The unnamed undergraduate student may be acting out something violent about sex and women.

Amanda on Pandagon posted about the article right away and got hundreds of comments. The comment thread is well worth reading because it shows the enormous range of fairly strongly held opinions on whether sex dolls of this type are signs of misogyny and if so, whether the society is condoning such misogyny. Many other questions are explored, too, from sympathy towards the men whose lives are so painful that inanimate dolls are seen as a relationship to the correct definition of feminazism.

My own thoughts on this topic are fuzzy. I once attended a baseball game where during the seventh inning stretch some young men started throwing a female sex doll into the air and passing it from one row of seats to another. The doll was very white (and hence visible) and very naked, and as it was passed on its legs splayed out and its head was bent backwards at an awkward angle.

As the doll got nearer to my seat I scouted for the exits. On one level I knew exactly what the game consisted about: having a few beers and bringing out a sex doll as a great joke. On another level something very different and frightening was going through my mind: a symbol of a naked woman was being passed from one laughing man to another and the symbol looked like a dead rape victim. For dolls are symbols; they stand for something else, and in the case of female sex dolls they stand for women. And I am a woman, which means that the symbolic act applies to me, and its effect is to trigger all those hidden fears that a woman may carry about rape and sexual violence in general. But I never complained about the prank or even analyzed its effect on me at the time. The whole incident was trivial, after all, just a little fun, and whatever I felt was probably just the way I am.

Later I learned that the way I felt was most likely shared by at least some other women at that game. But I'm still not quite sure how many men can empathize with those feelings or how many are aware how frequent these sorts of incidents are.

Some of the differences by gender are very clear in the comments thread on Pandagon. It's like a conversation in a room where some people sit facing a door and some opposite them facing a window and where the debate is all about what the opposite wall looks like. Of course it looks different from the two sides of the room. The only way to resolve the debate is to let people move around, and something similar is needed for understanding the debate about misogyny and sex dolls. I'm not certain how it could be orchestrated, though.

Are sex dolls just masturbation aids, no different from the vibrators available for women? I don't think so, because the sex dolls reproduce the whole physical woman (with three orifices). The dolls even have wardrobes and wigs. Unless we view the whole physical woman as a masturbation aid something more is going on with these dolls than just masturbation. Games are going on, games with an imaginary woman or two. These games punch my feminist buttons because of comments like the very first one in this post, comments about the doll being just like an organic woman except for shutting up, really, and because of the dominance aspect that is fairly visible all through the article in the Salon. On the other hand dolls like these might well be therapeutic and even keep some men (like the undergraduate mentioned above) from committing actual violent acts against another human being. Or do they just prepare for such violent acts? Nobody seems to know.

The question I have arrived at in all this thinking is this: To what extent do men, some men at least, generalize from sex dolls or porn start or strip tease dancers to women in general? And if some do, what do they do as a consequence of this generalization. This is what I want to know, for this is the crucial feminist question.

Politics and Sex

E.J. Graff poses some interesting questions: Is the American media reporting properly on the sexual shenanigans of politicians? When should the voters be told about a politician's private sex life? When is talking about it irrelevant for the pursuit of better politics? She answers:

In theory, most of us agree: on the one hand, the media should never cover consensual and private adult behavior, even when it might seem unsavory. On the other, the media should always cover coercive or criminal behavior, especially when it abuses public power or reveals official hypocrisy. But in practice, for the last decade, the American media have been getting it backward.

This leaves out the hypocricy factor. Is it proper to out gay politicians, say, if they consistently pursue anti-gay policies? Or should we be told that a pro-life politician or the girlfriend or wife of one is having an abortion? I'm not sure, and would probably judge each case separately.

As an example of the media's failing to run with a story about sex that does seem relevant to talk about Graff mentions the Nation article by Ayelish McGarvey on Dr. David Hager who was then on Bush's Advisory Committee for Reproductive Health Drugs:

Consider the appalling fact that only The Nation has given real coverage to serious allegations against Dr. David Hager, President Bush's controversial appointee to the Food and Drug Administration's Advisory Committee for Reproductive Health Drugs. According to the reporter Ayelish McGarvey, in October 2004 Hager took the pulpit at Kentucky's Asbury College chapel and told churchgoers that he had been persecuted for standing up on "moral and ethical issues in this country," persecution that was part of "a war being waged against Christians, particularly evangelical Christians."

Here's what he meant: many people had opposed his appointment as the panel's chairman because he had worked with Concerned Women for America to block distribution of RU-486, the "morning after" birth control pill. While Hager did not become chairman, he was appointed to the committee, where, he boasted from the same pulpit, he had been influential in blocking over-the-counter distribution of RU-486. In May 2005, The Nation published McGarvey's article, in which Hager's ex-wife, Linda Carruth Davis, alleged that, during the years that he had been crusading to restrict women's medical choices, he had been raping her repeatedly, anally and painfully, often while she was drugged into sleep by prescriptions for a neurological problem. When McGarvey contacted him, Hager would not deny the allegations.

No other media outlet ran with this story. Yet anyone -- especially any public official -- who cannot respect another human being's bodily integrity can and must be called to account. Such acts matter still more when there's an intellectual link between the public figure's attitudes and behaviors and the public policies he promotes. That's precisely the case for Hager, who -- if the allegations are true -- publicly worked to deny women the right to make choices in their medical lives, while privately denying his wife choices about her physical life.

Were the allegations true? Ex-spouses say terrible things, and she wasn't under oath, both of which any editor must consider. But fact by fact, McGarvey constructs a careful story, not a casual he-said/she-said shocker. According to her lawyer and longtime friends, Davis's charges were consistent with what she'd told them at the time, as was her explanation that the reason she didn't go to court was that she had wanted to spare her sons the humiliation of a public airing. Very few women report marital rape, which, as McGarvey notes, is notoriously difficult to prosecute.

Yet this story, sensational enough, gained no further publicity (except on blogs). Partly this could be because Dr. Hager resigned right after the publication of the story, but such resignations have not kept the media quiet in the past. And clearly the story contained relevant information for judging Dr. Hager's suitability for the role he had in the administration. What made this story unappetizing for the usual media treatment of sexual peccadillos?

Could it be that it was criticizing an administration which has been very quick to take offense and revenge? Or is a story about a wife's private anguish not titillating enough to make money?

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

The Concrete Trampoline

Via Atrios, I learned about the most recent poll on the popularity of the Bush administration. It doesn't look good, and as one of the people interviewed in the story said, it's unlikely that the numbers will spring up anytime soon. Hence the concrete trampoline. Ouch.

Here is the gist of the results:

For the first time in the poll, Bush's approval rating has sunk below 40 percent, while the percentage believing the country is heading in the right direction has dipped below 30 percent. In addition, a sizable plurality prefers a Democratic-controlled Congress, and just 29 percent think Supreme Court nominee Harriet Miers is qualified to serve on the nation's highest court.

A sizeable plurality prefers a Democratic-controlled Congress? May I remind this plurality that the elections were last November. Or were they? Hmmmm.

The majority of those interviewed also believe that DeLay's and Frist's legal troubles are not politically motivated. I don't know if they asked about Rove's possible chances of getting indicted here. The who's who of the Republican party is beginning to look like a rogue's gallery, isn't it?

So it comes as a bit of a letdown that the Democrats have not taken advantage of the situation, nor appear to plan such a move in the foreseeable future:

But Hart argues that Democrats aren't necessarily responsible for this margin. "It is not that Democrats have done so well," he said. "It is that people are disgusted." McInturff puts it this way: "People are very turned off and unhappy with the state of play in American politics."

Yes, people are very turned off and unhappy. And what are they going to get for that?

Laura Ingraham on the Plame Affair

Laura Ingraham has the honor of having written the worst book I actually forced myself to read to the very end, the one on Hilary Clinton. It has a chapter about what Hilary would say about New Age religions if she was a New Ager! In the same vein, Ingraham has made some weighty comments on who it was who outed Valerie Plame. According to our Laura it was Valerie Plame herself! Yes, indeed:

INGRAHAM: I don't necessarily think they're changing the goal posts. But I can probably talk about why [special prosecutor] Patrick Fitzgerald might be calling him back. I mean, he might be calling Karl Rove back because Fitzgerald has learned more information that might either conflict with something that Rove said to him earlier or might add to something Rove said, and he wants to ask him about it.

That's how grand juries operate. And I don't think it's necessarily good news for Karl Rove that he's been called back for a fourth time. But I don't think you conclude anything from that, either.

I think for Kirsten to say he's outed Valerie Plame -- Valerie Plame, the last time I checked out with her, she was on the -- in Valerie -- in Vanity Fair with her scarf and her sunglasses on.


HANNITY: All right, Laura, by the way --

INGRAHAM: That was a great picture.
HANNITY: -- welcome back. We're glad you're feeling better.

As Media Matters for America notes the Novak article which outed Plame was published on July 14, 2003. The photograph of Valerie Plame in Vanity Fair was published in January, 2004.

But I am glad that Ingraham is feeling better. And probably she was just joking here, but once she feels better she is a fair target for my desperate search for something interesting to write.

Deep Thought for the Day

From Bill O'Reilly! This is what he has said about what might happen if Karl Rove got indicted in the Plame investigation:

And if Rove gets indicted, that could bring down the Bush administration, I think.

Be still, my heart. Be still!

Funny Maureen

Maureen Dowd, a New York Times columnist, and I have a sort of love-hate relationship with the added twist that she knows nothing about it. She writes really well but ever so often what she writes about makes me run screaming around the house, frightening the snakes and making the dogs think this is the Last Squirrel War Recreated. But then she suddenly writes something really good and funny again, like in her last column which is a spoof on Harriet Miers's girly adulation of George:

April 2004 "There is no other president who would have had the courage to allow torture, dude! (It's only too bad that Abu Ghraib rules out Alberto's chances of getting on the Supreme Court.) You are the best torturer ever!! xo, H."

June 2005 "Make sure you take a good, long vacation this summer! Last year, you only took two weeks. You are pushing yourself way too hard, Sir!!"

August 2005 "I've half a mind to come down there myself and chase that witch, Cindy Sheehan, off your property with an injunction!! Yours, with you in Christ, Harriet."

September 2005 "In all this fuss about that bad-girl buttinsky Katrina, no one else seems to have noticed - not even Karen - that you've achieved your bold vision of losing that seven pounds. That extra week of mountain biking was so much more important than people realize. You're the most chiseled commander in chief ever, and the most rad guitar player ever!!"

October 2005 "How can I thank you, Sir? I never, ever expected the Supreme Court. Phat! I hope Clarence doesn't make me watch 'Debbie Does Dallas' again. That movie is so anti-Texas! I miss you already!!

The Harriet Miers blog is funny, too, though probably not written by Dowd (or Miers, either). All these teach us how to be a yes-woman most excellently. Too bad that I know real people who speak like that at ages past the teenage years, because it is accepted behavior in some circles. For women, at least.

On the Plame Investigations

I collected lots of material on this but specialization really does matter sometimes and there are bloggers out there who follow these events in great detail and have managed to digest it all so as to spew it out clear and brilliant. So go read them on the topic of Judy Miller and the wingnuts. Firedoglake is excellent.

Our President At Work

He needs some advice on how to hold the hammer.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

The Enron Era Continues

You know, there is market space for a blog just on the legal problems of major Republicans. No one blogger can cover it on top of all the other interesting Wingnuttia news.

Today's example of these legal problems concerns Bill (the catkiller) Frist. Remember that he put his stocks into a blind trust so that his ownership of certain firms' shares wouldn't affect his policy-making? That's the theory about blind trusts, anyway. Then last June Frist sold his shares in HCA Inc., a hospital chain that Frist's brother controls, and soon after the value of these shares dropped significantly. These shares were supposed to have been in the blind trust and Bill Frist wasn't supposed to be able to order their sale. Otherwise it's hard to see what "blind" would mean here.

The June transaction started a federal investigation into Frist's financial holdings. Now it seems that not all Frist's HCA shares were held in a blind trust:

In that case, the HCA stock was accumulated by a family investment partnership started by the senator's late parents and later overseen by his brother, Thomas Frist. The brother served as president of the partnership's management company and as a top officer of HCA. Sen. Frist holds no position with the company.

The senator's share of the partnership was placed in a Tennessee blind trust between 1998 and 2002 that was separate from those governed by Senate ethics rules. Frist reported Bowling Avenue Partners, made up mostly of non-public HCA stock, earned him $265,495 in dividends and other income over the four years.

Edmond M. Ianni, a former Wilmington, Del., bank executive who established blind trusts for corporate executives, questioned why the senator's brother was able to manage assets "when the whole purpose of a blind trust is to ensure lack of not only conflict of interest but appearance of conflict of interest?"

Kathleen Clark, a government ethics expert at the Washington University in St. Louis School of Law, said she doesn't believe the Senate trusts or the Tennessee trust insulated Frist from a conflict because the senator or his brother were advised of transactions and could influence decisions.

"What I find most appalling is the Senate calls it a qualified blind trust when it's not blind," Clark said. "Since the Senate says it's OK, the Senate has made it a political question. It's up to the voter. But there's no doubt it's a conflict of interest."

Now I should ask myself if I am criminalizing politics. This is the new wingnut soundbite about all the legal problems of Republicans: that these problems exist means that someone is criminalizing politics. As if anything at all goes if it is called politics. The weakness of this soundbite is the best example I've seen yet of the real trouble Republicans are facing.


I should write more about sex. Sex sells. Sex with sea shells. Sex.

I actually am curious about women's sexuality, but not in a titillating sense, sadly. When I read anything that smacks of real research into this topic I always shake my head, because researching sexual desires is so very hard to do. The best we get are some simple laboratory tests of the effect of watching something sexual on the study subjects, and this is so very removed of what sex really is like and what turns us on or doesn't turn us on at all. And asking people questions about their sexuality is extremely unlikely to produce truthful results for people lie, to sound more like whatever they think is expected from them. Some studies have shown that if the infidelity figures people report are correct then there are some invisible women out there, because men give too many infidelity experiences compared to the ones women in the same society give. This is all about heterosexuals, of course.

There are generalizations out there, of course. We hear that men are more visual about sex and that women are more likely to want sex in a loving relationship than men do, and that men are about sex for the penis and women want it for the whole body and on and on. I'm skeptical about much of this because having sex is like eating in many ways, and the customs about food definitely affect what and how we eat. The same thing applies to sexual desires, too. If we have sexual desires that are not in accordance with what the society appears to expect, are we going to tell about them in these studies? Surely it depends on the society in which the studies are done, but also surely this is more of a problem for women than for men in societies where women don't have as much power in general.

Even arguments such as men's greater dependency on visual arousal are fraught with similar problems. How do we know that this is true in a society which has more visual arousal cues for men than for women? It could be that these cues exist because men are more visual in the first place, but it could also be that men get more of these cues because men have traditionally had more power to determine what is displayed.

Then move from desires to actual behavior and things get even more complicated. There is the pregnancy angle for women, for one thing. You can still get killed for becoming pregnant outside the marriage in some parts of this world and in many others you will be subjected to a lot of societal shunning and disapproval, and everywhere you will be stuck with the consequences of having the baby or aborting the pregnancy. As men don't get pregnant this alone might have a differentially dampening effect on the joys of one-night sexual encounters for the two sexes.

Add to this the fear of violence from going to have sex with someone you don't know. This fear is more realistic for women than for men, and if you don't believe me just read the rape and sexual violence statistics.

Given all this, I'd be very surprised if women acted just like men in actual sexual encounters, even if they had identical sexual desires, and therefore I don't believe that we can deduce women's sexual daydreams from their actual behavior when it comes to sex.


Raw Story has a curious headline on the front page:

Cheney's chief spokesman leaves country as leak investigation wraps up... Developing...

This has to do with the Plame investigation. It could be that the country leaving is just a vacation trip or something.
Added: Here is the Raw Story post about this gossip. I'm not sure what it all means but it's an odd time for Cheney's spokesman to be out of contact.

Laura Bush Talks

She was interviewed, together with George, by Matt Lauer on the NBC's Today Show. Among other topics she opined on the troubles of the Harriet Miers nomination:

Q Some are suggesting there's a little possible sexism in the criticism of Judge Miers. How do you feel about that?

MRS. BUSH: That's possible. I think that's possible. I think she is so accomplished, and I think people are not looking at her accomplishments and not realizing that she was the first elected woman to be the head of the Texas Bar Association, for instance, and all the other things. She was the first woman managing partner of a major law firm. She was the first woman hired by a major law firm, her law firm.

This is not going to sound well in Wingnuttia, not well at all. In fact, the Wingnuttia are all about making accusations of sexism totally impossible because they are politically correct and politically correct is BAD. And ungodly and in case equality of the sexes would be totally against the plans of the wingnut god. So I think Laura made a mistake.

But a different question is whether sexism indeed has some role to play in the Miers debacle. I have sort of answered that earlier when I wrote about how hard it is for your average incompetent woman to get to the places where your average incompetent man is frequently found, wielding power that he is not able to, and later on many rightwing blogs showed quite clearly that they are unhappy with Miers not because she has never been a judge or because she is not known as a writer of great legal treatises or because she is a crony of the president but because she doesn't have testicles. So yes, sexism is still around.

But not all the opposition to Miers is about her sex, or even most of it. Maybe we have advanced a little bit in this respect?

Bad Poetry - The Wingnut Kind

According to a post on Slate:

Roy Moore, the former Alabama Supreme Court chief justice who lost his job because he wouldn't remove a granite monument to the Ten Commandments from the rotunda of the Alabama Judicial Building, is running for governor of Alabama.

So far he isn't polling very well which may be because he has adventured into another career at the same time, that of creating bad poetry. I love bad poetry, even bad poetry written by wingnuts, and I want to share the enjoyment of Moore's poetry with you:

Babies piled in Dumpsters,
Abortion on demand,
Oh, sweet land of liberty;
your house is on the sand.

We've voted in a government
that's rotting at the core,
Appointing Godless Judges
who throw reason out the door.

Too soft to place a killer
in a well-deserved tomb,
But brave enough to kill a baby
before he leaves the womb.

You think that God's not angry,
that our land's a moral slum?
How much longer will He wait
before His judgment comes?

Unusually bad, I'd say. Nothing much rhymes and fetuses are boys exclusively. I also thought that the religious right looks forward to Rapture which would mean the last judgment, wouldn't it? But this might work as a jogging song.

Monday, October 10, 2005

What Does Not Work When E-Mailing Me

Giving your e-mail a heading that says "Greetings" or "Help Me With My Nigerian Inheritance". I don't read those because there aren't enough hours in my day.

What also doesn't work is sending me an urgent alert request which tells me to ask my wife or girlfriend to abstain from exercizing at Curves. Yes, I know that the owner of Curves is a wingnut and should be stopped from funding wingnuttery, but the request should not imply that people in the wife or girlfriend category (widely interpreted) don't read these alerts.

This is the kind of hidden sexism that goes on all the time. Like I'm the invisible elephant sitting on the living-room couch.

A New Orleans Video

Available on Crooks and Liars. It portrays the police beating a drunken man and apparently also attacking a journalist.

Frank Rich Talks

His latest column in the New York Times is all hard-hitting and sounds true to me. He puts together all the things in which the Bush administration is failing, not for ideological reasons but for pure incompetence, and then he points out one of the main reasons for this: Bush is out of touch. Or as Rich puts it:

Beware of leaders who drink their own Kool-Aid. The most distressing aspect of Mr. Bush's press conference last week was less his lies and half-truths than the abundant evidence that he is as out of touch as Custer was on the way to Little Bighorn. The president seemed genuinely shocked that anyone could doubt his claim that his friend is the best-qualified candidate for the highest court. Mr. Bush also seemed unaware that it was Republicans who were leading the attack on Ms. Miers. "The decision as to whether or not there will be a fight is up to the Democrats," he said, confusing his antagonists this time much as he has Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden.

Such naked presidential isolation from reality was a replay of his response to Hurricane Katrina. When your main "objective sources" for news are members of your own staff, you can actually believe that the most pressing tragedy of the storm is the rebuilding of Trent Lott's second home. You can even believe that Brownie will fix it. The truth only began to penetrate four days after the storm's arrival - and only then, according to Newsweek, because an adviser, Dan Bartlett, asked the president to turn away from his usual "objective sources" and instead watch a DVD compilation of actual evening news reports.

This is an old problem, the one about the ruler being surrounded by sycophants who tell him or her only nice things. It was the downfall of the last Russian czar, for example. But if one doesn't read very much one is unlikely to read history books. And then this "one" will not know about repeating old problems.

Happy Hour!

Let's have one. Do what makes you happy for sixty minutes. Whatever it takes, as long as it's not hurting anyone else. And none of that count-your-blessings crap now, just pure, unadulterated, raw, primitive happiness. Masturbate or have wild sex or eat a chocolate cake or smear your lips with raspberry jelly and then kiss your butt. Take a picture of the result for genealogical record. Tickle yourself. Make a horrible face at your dog or cat and then let them chase you. Tell your loved one that you want to take them or be taken by them in the cleaning cupboard and then do it. Paint your face bright green and pretend that you are the Heroic Pea. Then go and ring your neighbor's doorbell.

Or have a drink, of course, if that is what makes you happy.'

Sunday, October 09, 2005

More On Harriet Miers

It's becoming quite a farce, this latest Bush nomination to the Supreme Court. The religious wingnuts don't like her because they want blood and fear that Miers has too tiny teeth for that, and other conservatives don't like her, either, because she is fairly mediocre and that is not acceptable in women who are nominated for something. It could be that the wingnuts of all types just don't like George Bush anymore, especially as he might not be the second coming of Christ as was rumored, and he also spends money like the biblical prodigal son.

And the Democrats don't like Miers, either, because she is a Bush crony. Poor Harriet, most nobody wants her and the suspicion is that she is not really Harriet Miers at all but a Trojan horse who is hiding something awful: that she is a wingnut or that she isn't, depending on what you want.

It could be hilarious if the nomination wasn't for the Supreme Court of this country and if the outcome didn't matter. But what is hilarious is this sudden turnaround of many of the wingnuts. It was only a week or two ago that they told us how no nominee should answer questions about how they will decide, say, Roe vs. Wade -related cases. Now the very same wingnuts want guarantees that Miers would decide them the way the wingnuts want. It's the way little children argue.

But I do agree with this statement from tomorrow's Washington Post:

Specter and Vermont Sen. Patrick J. Leahy, the committee's ranking Democrat, said they intend to follow up on a comment by Focus on the Family founder and chairman James C. Dobson that, based on conversations with White House adviser Karl Rove, he believes she opposes abortion and would be a good justice.

"This is a lifetime appointment," Specter said. "If there are backroom assurances and there are backroom deals and if there is something which bears upon a precondition as to how a nominee is going to vote, I think that's a matter that ought to be known by the Judiciary Committee and the American people."

If we are going to keep up the pretense that this country still is a democracy, yes, we should be told what is told to the radical clerics of the wingnut party.

Media In The Age Of Wingnuts

Two interesting stories have surfaced today in the lefty blogosphere, one on Steve Gilliard's blog about the treatment of an Irish journalist by the Bush cabal and another one on Left Coaster about the CBS news initially planning to air a Sixty Minutes episode consisting solely of smears against Bill Clinton with no rebuttal. A weak rebuttal has supposedly been added, but the program still consists of largely wingnut anti-Clinton propaganda.

Carole Coleman, the Irish journalist who interviewed George Bush, has written about the experience in a book soon-to-be-published. She was shocked to find out that the Bush administration didn't at all approve of a real interview with the president. She should have been less assertive, she was told. In this excerpt she tells us of a phone call she had from Bush's administration, a person she calls MC:

She estimated that I had interrupted the president eight times and added that I had upset him. I was upset too, I told her. The line started to break up; I was in a basement with a bad phone signal. I took her number and agreed to call her back. I dialled the White House number and she was on the line again.

"I'm here with Colby," she indicated.


"You were given an opportunity to interview the leader of the free world and you blew it," she began.

I was beginning to feel as if I might be dreaming. I had naively believed the American president was referred to as the "leader of the free world" only in an unofficial tongue-in-cheek sort of way by outsiders, and not among his closest staff.

"You were more vicious than any of the White House press corps or even some of them up on Capitol Hill . . .The president leads the interview," she said.

"I don't agree," I replied, my initial worry now turning to frustration. "It's the journalist's job to lead the interview."

Indeed it is, in countries like Ireland and Great Britain. But not, it seems, in the United States. Or if you try you probably never get another opening to the inner circles. So you better stay nice.

Maybe this is the lesson Sixty Minutes has learned? For why else would they let Louis Freeh, a former FBI director, peddle a book that has many controversial arguments without adding a real critic of the work to the program? Let me guess: Because Freeh says things which are pleasing in the ears of this administration.

Let me hasten to add that many in the media are doing a good job and are not caving in at the demands of the Bush administration. We should and do support those voices, and all voices which refuse to run a Pravda-type government news service.

The Reporter in the Office With a Notebook

Did you ever play that game? Who did the murder, where and with what weapon? The whole Judith Miller story sounds like something that would make a good parlor game, if only we'd find where the notebook was that she has suddenly unearthed. Maybe the New York Times had it all the time:

If its recent track record is any guide, The New York Times, later today or tomorrow, will get around to confirming Michael Isikoff's Newsweek revelation late Saturday that the missing notes Judith Miller suddenly found and turned over to the federal prosecutor on Friday in the Plame case were located in a notebook in the newspaper's Washington, D.C. bureau. The prosecutor, Patrick J. Fitzgerald, has now scheduled another meeting with Miller on Tuesday.

Besides the ongoing mystery of why the Times is always a step or two behind its competition in reporting on its own reporter, this latest twist raises several tantalizing issues. If anyone at the Times objects to raising the following questions: It's your own fault for not disclosing more about this case yourself.

Before getting to The Case of the Missing Notebook: What's with the Times, which long supported Miller going to jail for 85 days, purportedly to stand up for a journalistic principle (protecting a source), now willingly turning over a reporter's notes to the prosecutor? And did Miller turn over the notes herself, or did the Times locate them and do the honors?

The notes in question, we now know, cover a Miller discussion with I. Lewis Libby on June 25, 2003, two weeks before Joseph Wilson's WMD op-ed that was thought to have set the Bush backlash in motion. These notes, the Times has disclosed, do mention Joseph Wilson. Isikoff observes that the notebook is "significant because Wilson's identity was not yet public."

Why are these notes so important? This article summarizes the reason:

One source involved in the investigation said Miller's notes could help Fitzgerald show a long-running and orchestrated campaign to discredit Wilson, which could help form the basis for a conspiracy charge.

Fitzgerald has yet to indicate whether or not he intends to bring indictments, but lawyers close to the investigation said there were signs he may be moving in that direction.

Bush's top political adviser, Karl Rove, plans to make a fourth appearance before the grand jury next week and prosecutors have told him they can make no guarantees he won't be indicted.

The outcome could shake up an administration reeling from criticism over its response to Hurricane Katrina and the indictment of House of Representatives Republican leader Tom DeLay of Texas on charges related to campaign financing.

The White House had long maintained Rove and Libby had nothing to do with the leak, but reporters have since named them as sources.

It can be a crime to knowingly reveal the identity of an undercover CIA operative.

I should stop pasting things in, but this whole investigation is getting so complicated that trying any other way of writing about it would take me hours and then nobody would read the results anyway. But a short summary might be useful:

The wingnut power centers are reeling. Even the Gray Lady is shivering. Pass the popcorn.