Saturday, November 12, 2005


I have some political blogposts on American Street (link in the column on the right) this Saturday as on most. But for those of you who would like to talk about something nonpolitical, at least for humans, I'd like to propose spiders.

I have never been able to build a buddy relationship with spiders and I have tried. They don't seem to be very social creatures, though a couple overwinter in my kitchen most years. This year I have a very large and fat spider there, and it has spun the most wonderful web outside the window over my sink (like the one in my embroidery on the left). An excellent excuse not to wash the window yet. When the sun hits the silver strands in the web it looks like the most wonderful embroidery ever. A fatal one, but so beautiful.

Spiders need names. Otherwise it's far too easy to swat them dead while dusting or vacuuming. I call the big fat one Moriarty. Moriarty's sex is not immediately evident to me, though what it eats is far too so. It is not one of those nervous spiders that run in circles carrying an egg sack with them. They seem like a wingnut's dream of a family-friendly spider, always on the job of guarding the eggs. Moriarty looks more like a metrosexual spider to me, but so far I haven't seen it being friendly to anything.

Are spiders cuddly to touch? We would need to much smaller to know that, because our fingers are too large to stroke a spider's fur. But I believe that they are cuddly.

Saturday Fun

Sweden is a wonderful place, egalitarian, wealthy and with lots of good skiing. But then they have drunken moose near the residences for the elderly:

The moose -- a cow and her calf -- had become drunk over the weekend by eating fermented apples they found outside the home in Sibbhult, said employee Anna Karlsson.

Police managed to scare them off once, but the tipsy mammals returned to get more of the tempting fruits. This time the moose were drunk and aggressive, forcing police to send for a hunter with a dog to make them leave.

Police did not pursue the culprits, but made sure all apples were picked up from the area, police chief Bengt Hallberg said. No one was hurt.

So like human drunks. Except we would send the mother moose to prison for letting a minor get drunk.

I once saw a moose run. It looked psychedelic; each of the four legs was doing its own thing and it seemed a miracle the moose didn't collapse in a big heap. Maybe it had been at the crab apples.

Friday, November 11, 2005

The Voice Of Sanity

Katha Pollitt's new column on Maureen Dowd's new book (Are Men Necessary?) is a wonderful breeze of sanity. We all need it. Sometimes I get so tangled up in the pro- and anti-feminist struggles that I start looking for employment as an eremite. Reading Katha's column is much cheaper and more enjoyable as a way of disentangling all that stuff. And then you can keep on dating. And doing feminism.

Katha begins by stating the main problem I also had with Dowd's work: her lack of real sources:

Maureen Dowd doesn't read my column. I know this because in her new book, Are Men Necessary?, she uncritically cites virtually every fear-mongering, backlash-promoting study, survey, article and book I've debunked in this space. She falls for that 1986 Harvard-Yale study comparing women's chances of marrying after 40 to the likelihood of being killed by a terrorist, and for the half-baked theories of Sylvia Ann Hewlett (ambitious women stay single or childless), Lisa Belkin (mothers give up their careers), Louise Story (even undergraduates understand this now) and other purveyors of the view that achievement and romance/family are incompatible for women. To be fair, Dowd apparently doesn't read Susan Faludi or Susan Douglas either, or The American Prospect, Slate, Salon or even The New Republic, home of her friend Leon Wieseltier, much thanked for editorial help in her introduction--all of which have published persuasive critiques of these and other contributions to backlash lit. Still, it hurts. I read her, after all. We all do.

Yes. We all read Dowd. We all read thirstily the few female political columnists we have, and we listen to what they have to say about women. That is why what Dowd has to say about women troubled me. Not the "trends" she created or the anecdotes she told. These things do happen, I am sure. But I am fairly definite that they are not a trend in the statistical sense. Not yet at least. And here is where Katha's next message is important:

"You're always so glass-half-full in public," my editor says at this point. "But in private you're as down as Dowd." Well, not quite that down. But yes, I thought we'd be further along by now. I feel for young women today--somehow, between the irony and the knowingness and the 24/7 bath in pop celebrity culture and its repulsive values, it can be harder for them than it was for us to call a sexist spade a spade. They've been bombarded from birth with consumerism and Republicanism and hyperindividualism, and told in every possible way that feminism is deeply uncool and unhot. Dowd is such a credulous audience for backlash propaganda it doesn't occur to her that she is promoting, not reporting, the problem she describes. I'm amazed, actually, that feminism is still around, given the press it gets.

That is it, in a nutshell. Maureen promotes what she pretends to deplore. She is in the trend-making business.

This business has been around a long time. Feminism has been declared dead every two or three years since the late 1970s. It is one of those beasts that just will not die, but never mind, if the announcement is made often enough people will finally believe in it and pack away their Birkenstocks and turtlenecks (to borrow from Dowd's idea of what would be in a feminist toolkit) and run out to buy some feminine razors.

Then the next writer coming up with a feminism-is-dead article will make a killing. Or that is how I gather the trend-making logic would go. And yes, it's amazing that feminism is still around, given the press it gets.

Friday Dog Blogging

This is Helga's dog Kelly in the Australian spring. My dogs, Hank and Henrietta, are both doing pretty well. Though Henrietta has decided to adopt an all-absorbing interest in food begging which is getting old fast. She also ran after some squirrels in the woods and nearly brought one back. Hank found something disgusting to roll in and was happy for the half-hour it took to get her home and in the bathtub.

Hank's cancer treatment is going quite well. Her quality of life is good and she is currently enjoying some pastrami. Henrietta, too, naturally.

Bush Speaks...

Today is the Veterans' Day. President Bush gave a speech to honor the veterans and to also guard his own back. What he said is this:

President Bush lashed out today at critics of his Iraq policy, accusing them of trying to rewrite history about the decision to go to war and saying their criticism is undercutting American forces in battle.

"While it's perfectly legitimate to criticize my decisions or the conduct of the war, it is deeply irresponsible to rewrite the history of how that war began," the president said in a Veterans Day speech in Pennsylvania.

Deeply irresponsible to rewrite the history of how that war began? Ok, I won't rewrite anything. The way I remember the beginning of that war was that we had a real problem in Afghanistan, and suddenly a fall advertizing campaign said that we must now attack Iraq instead of focusing on international terrorism. Because Saddam Hussein has weapons of mass destruction, which he was told to have had for a very long time. But suddenly it was imperative to go after Saddam Hussein, because of the weapons of mass destruction, which might or might not exist. At least the UN inspectors couldn't find any.

I remember thinking that the whole thing was like someone practising heart surgery and deciding to leave it unfinished because an interesting wart was calling hard from the next operation room. So I marched against this idiotic war. Me! A goddess, marching! Had no effect.

So Bush went to war because of nonexistent weapons of mass destruction. Or possibly because the neoconservatives had decided to attack Iraq long before Bush even got elected and the whole terrorist scare was an unfortunate delay to their real plans?

This history is somehow a rewrite? I am asking who it is who is rewriting the history here. I think it is George Bush.

His second message to all us Doubting Thomasinas and Toms is this:

The president spoke at the Tobyhanna Army Depot near Wilkes-Barre. He talked not only about why Americans are at war - "the terrorists are as brutal an enemy as we've ever faced, unconstrained by any notion of our common humanity or by the rules of warfare" - something he has mentioned in almost every speech, but turned on his critics more directly than he usually does.

"The stakes in the global war on terror are too high, and the national interest is too important for politicians to throw out false charges," he said. "These baseless attacks send the wrong signal to our troops and to an enemy that is questioning America's will."

Before going to war, Mr. Bush said, Democrats and Republicans alike were privy to the same intelligence that indicated former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction.

The wrong signal thing again. America's will seems to be the will of George Bush.

Eternal Sayings From Recent Times

First, our dear friend, the conservative Christian televangelist and arch-wingnut Pat Robertson prophesies the future of the Dover school district in Pennsylvania where the most recent school board started a war for creationism and where the voters promptly got rid of them:

"I'd like to say to the good citizens of Dover: if there is a disaster in your area, don't turn to God, you just rejected Him from your city," Robertson said on his daily television show broadcast from Virginia, "The 700 Club."

"And don't wonder why He hasn't helped you when problems begin, if they begin. I'm not saying they will, but if they do, just remember, you just voted God out of your city. And if that's the case, don't ask for His help because he might not be there," he said.

See! God's feelings are very easily hurt and Mr. Robertson is that go-between in all this.

And then Arnold Schwartzenegger had a serious bout of introspection after having all his propositions soundly rejected by California voters:

In a reference to his famous movie role, he said at a news conference: "If I were to do another Terminator movie, I would have the Terminator travel back in time to tell Arnold not to have a special election."

Too sad reality doesn't have retakes, and too sad that voters must learn not to elect people who have no experience with real politics by first electing them.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Humpty Dumpty

Humpty dumpty sat on a wall

Humpty dumpty had a great fall

(Two important developments today point to the Bush administration's collapse of support on Capitol Hill. The first involves the House dropping ANWR from their spending reconciliation bill because 22 moderate Republicans refused to support the measure on the floor if included (no telling yet whether it will pass even w/ ANWR dropped bc of food stamp and child support collection cuts)

All the King's horses

And all the King's men

(The next involves the postponement of the tax reconciliation mark up in the Senate Finance Committee, where Olympia Snowe (generally prone to caving after getting the call from Andy Card) refused to buckle and support extension of the capital gains and dividend tax cuts – a signature WH priority)

Couldn't put Humpty together again.

(House Republican leaders scuttled a vote Thursday on a $51 billion budget-cut package in the face of a revolt by lawmakers over scaling back Medicaid, food stamp and student loan programs.

The development was a major setback for the GOP on Capitol Hill and for President Bush, who has made cuts to benefit programs a central pillar in his budget plan.

The decision by GOP leaders came despite a big concession to moderates Wednesday, when the leaders dropped provisions to open the Arctic National Refuge to oil and gas exploration, as well as a plan allowing states to lift a moratorium on oil drilling off the Atlantic and Pacific coasts.

"We weren't quite ready to go to the floor," Majority Leader Roy Blunt, R-Mo., said five hours after recessing the House for closed-door meetings aimed a picking up votes from wavering Republicans.)

I Thought They Took Ethics Classes

Maybe they haven't had time to work quite yet. That's the only explanation I can think of for why the leaking of the secret detention centers shouldn't necessarily be investigated:

The chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Pat Roberts, Republican of Kansas, said he was willing to undertake the inquiry but acknowledged that leak investigations were notoriously difficult.

Another Republican member of the Intelligence Committee, Senator Trent Lott of Mississippi, indicated skepticism at such an inquiry. Mr. Lott noted that accounts of a private discussion on detainee policy between Mr. Cheney and Senate Republicans last week had also leaked to the press.

"When you get into investigations around here, where does it end?" he said. "Who is going to investigate who?"

Democrats, meanwhile, said that if Republicans wanted to pursue an inquiry, it should go beyond any leak related to secret detention facilities and cover a range of other issues that Democrats say are ripe for investigation.

"That includes the possible manipulation of prewar intelligence on Iraq, and the disclosure for political purposes of classified information involving the identity of the C.I.A. officer," said the House minority leader, Representative Nancy Pelosi of California.

But the Senate voted, 55 to 43, to reject an outside commission to examine detainee abuse. The measure, introduced by Senator Carl Levin of Michigan as an amendment to a broader military policy bill, was opposed by 54 Republicans and 1 Democrat, Senator Ben Nelson of Nebraska.

Detainee abuse can't be investigated. Leaking the possibility of detainee abuse can't be investigated. We can't get uninterested people to look into anything anymore? Is that how transparent government works?

The Chick Vote

Via Atrios I learned that it was the women in New Jersey who assured Corzine's victory in the governatorial elections:

But in the end, the real women's issue in the Governor's race was that Senator Corzine won because women favored him over Forrester by 20 points. He lost narrowly among men.

So, another lesson for Democrats to take to heart today: women are key voters who can help us win elections, not a special interest group.

Atrios had this to say about the results:

The Chick Vote

It's important. People tend to focus on the marginal chick vote on the issue of the week ("security moms!") but it makes a lot more sense to focus on bringing this rather large segment of the population into the party full time.

This is probably irony. Because women are the majority. It's odd that neither political party thinks of that very much in the way they promote their policies except when they try to fine-tune some mostly imaginary marginal group as Atrios points out. Women are pretty much taken for granted, and so are black voters by the Democratic party.

The comments on Atrios's post had a lot of discussion on whether calling women chicks is now acceptable and not sexist. My solution is simple: from now on it will be the chick vote and the dick vote. Fair and balanced.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Judith Miller Retires from the Times

We will probably never know whether she wanted to retire or whether the Times wanted to retire her or both. But whatever the case, there is now one empty office at the Times and I'm all packed and willing to move. The snakes look forward to the city, too.

Sadly, the diversity requirements of the Times rule me out. I'm a liberal-cum-progressive goddess and I can write. What we will probably get instead is another wingnut columnist in the mold of Brooks and Tierney.

The Coattails Effect

Republicans seem to have suffered from the coattails effect this year. Bush is going down rapidly and anybody holding on to his coattails goes down with him. In Virginia the Republican candidate for the governor had Bush come in to urge the voters go to the polls. He succeeded, but with the anti-Bush crowd, it seems:

Mr. Bush's 11th-hour appearance was clearly intended to energize the loyal campaign workers who ran the Republicans' 72-hour operation, so called because it swung into motion on the final weekend of the race, to urge casual as well as dedicated Republicans to vote for Mr. Kilgore.

In a speech to thousands of Republicans at the Richmond airport on Monday night, Mr. Bush praised Mr. Kilgore as a son of rural Virginia, a man who "doesn't have a lot of fancy airs" and who is a guardian of conservative values.

"I hope you'll work hard tomorrow to call up your friends and neighbors," Mr. Bush said. "Tell them if they want good government - good, solid, sound conservative government - to put this good man in the governor's chair in Richmond."

Mark Rozell, a professor of public policy at George Mason University, said it was a "high risk" move for Mr. Bush and Mr. Kilgore to have the president campaign in Virginia with his approval ratings low and Mr. Kilgore's ability to win in doubt. Mr. Bush's appearance, Professor Rozell said, could have caused a "countersurge" of Democrats and "angry at Bush" independent voters.

It's a Typhoid Mary thing for poor George. Or leprosy thing, if you like that one better.

But Bush's low approval ratings are not the only explanation for the poor showings of Republicans in many elections (though not all, Texas, for one, seems wedded to wingnuttery come hell or high water). The Republicans are running everything right now and they are also making a mess of that everything. It's hard not to notice and voters have finally noticed. I just hope that they stay alert for another year.

Boob Wars, Part II

The Part I would be the Jackson breast episode. In Part II, we move onto other areas of breast baring: demonstrations:

Police arrested two members of an organization called Breasts Not Bombs after they removed their tops during a protest on the steps of the state Capitol on Monday afternoon.

The women, who were protesting Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's ballot measures for today's special election, took off their shirts despite warnings from the California Highway Patrol last week that doing so would lead to their arrests — and possibly their inclusion on the state's list of sex offenders. A federal judge Friday refused to grant a request from Breasts Not Bombs to block the police from arresting topless protesters.

Officials at the Sacramento County district attorney's office said they have not decided whether to prosecute the protesters, and if they do, whether to seek to have them listed as sex offenders.

The poll attached to the article took the following form:

Do you believe female members of the group Breasts Not Bombs should be allowed to go topless in public protests?
Yes. It's free expression.
No. It's offensive.

Notice the language in the poll: "No. It's offensive." When the group that is discussed here calls itself "Breasts Not Bombs", calling their bare breasts offensive is hilarious.

The boob wars are about the meaning of the female breasts. Are female breasts largely for sex, and therefore something like penises and vulvas, something that should be covered in public? Or are female breasts not largely for sex, and therefore exposable (is there such a word?) whenever deemed necessary, such as for breastfeeding? And what about the argument that men can show their breasts because they are punier but women can't? Don't women go wild at the mere glimpse of a male nipple?

All this is made trickier by the sexual marketing of breasts: the more we tell people that breasts are sexy the more people will find nonsexy barings of breasts offensive. This causes problems for breastfeeding women and also additional bans on women's bodies about nudity, bans that don't apply to male bodies. Maybe we do have something in common with the bin Laden brigades, after all? Hmmm.

The eroticization of female body parts is heavily dependent on social norms. Thighs were the big thing in Elizabethan England, buttocks in some parts of the Caribbean even today and the nape of the neck in Japan. And the Victorians eroticized and covered up most everything as do the bin Ladenites. Though breasts are probably always going to have an erotic effect on most of us the American obsession with the boobs is unusual in its intensity. I should know, having goddessed all over the world.

So it should be possible to give the breasts a break, to leave them alone a little, to let them hang out without always being stared at or poked at. Which is a very long way of saying that bare breasts are not offensive.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Governors' Races And Other Stuff

The Democrats appear to have won both in New Jersey and in Virginia. I am pleased. And Texans voted against same-sex marriage... I am not pleased.

But in Dover, the home of one of those Intelligent Design fights, the schoolboard was totally cleaned out of the believers in creationism. Too bad that it is not in Kansas where the creationists still have the upper hand.

The Fox Sex Discrimination Case

Fox has one of those. Couldn't happen to a better company. Fox's defence is that

The lewd language of Fox News Channel vice president Joe Chillemi -- however tasteless -- doesn't constitute sexual harassment or discrimination, says a lawyer for the network. A discrimination suit against the network filed Monday by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission accuses Chillemi of routinely using gross obscenities and vulgarities when describing women or their body parts.

This is from the actual discrimination suit:

. Defendant Fox, including through its Vice President Joe Chillemi ("Chillemi"),
sexually harassed and subjected Weiler and a class of similarly situated female
employees to a hostile work environment because of their sex. Chillemi routinely
used gross obscenities and vulgarities when describing women or their body parts
(referring, for example, to women's breasts as "tits" and declaring that something
was "as useless as tits on a bull"). He routinely used obscenities and vulgarities
with women employees that he did not use with male employees (such as telling
women that they had put his "cock" or "dick" "on the chopping block"). Chillemi
routinely cursed at and otherwise denigrated women employees and treated them
in a demeaning way (including telling women not to be a "pussy" but to "be a
man", and referring to women as being a "bitch"). He made a number of
derogatory comments about pregnant women (such as regularly stating that a
pregnant woman had "tits" that were "fucking huge" and like "cannons" or
"melons" and the on-air talent's breasts needed to be "covered" or not shown
when the pregnant woman was being filmed). In addition, at a department
discussion about a segment on sexism in the workplace, Chillemi said that in
choosing who to hire "if it came down between a man or a woman, of course I'd
pick the man. The woman would most likely get pregnant and leave." Women in
the Fox Advertising and Promotions departments supervised by Chillemi were
also referred to in a derogatory way by a supervisor as his "Promo Girls."

What part of "of course I'd pick the man" "doesn't constitute sexual harassment or discrimination"? The rest of the guy's language isn't as much lewd as it is sexist.

Thy Own Worst Enemy!

Frightening, and right after Halloween. Digby reports on today's Trent Lott comment:

Wow. CNN is reporting that Trent Lott just said that the Washington Post leak was probably perpetrated by a Republican Senator! Apparently, the gulag was discussed at the Republican-Senator-only meeting last week in which Cheney begged them to back-off the anti-torture policy.

Lott said, "we have met the enemy and he is us." Man a majority leader scorned is fearsome creature, ain't he?

So does this diary on Kos. I do love me some Digby. And I find it a great honor to be allowed to witness the confusion in the wingnut talking points. Lott didn't check his little earwire this morning.

It's so hard to goosestep at the exact same rate, even when you can clearly hear the guy yelling "AnTI AmurriCAN!" Then imagine what happens when there is a mishap like this. Pass the popcorn, please.

Willy Pete

This is the soldier slang term for white phosphorus. It is used to illuminate a fighting field but it also has extremely unpleasant destructive effects on the human body. Now an Italian documentary has argued that the American troops used white phosphorus in Fallujah in the second sense:

Italian state TV, Rai, has broadcast a documentary accusing the US military of using white phosphorus bombs against civilians in the Iraqi city of Falluja.

Rai says this amounts to the illegal use of chemical arms, though the bombs are considered incendiary devices.

Eyewitnesses and ex-US soldiers say the weapon was used in built-up areas in the insurgent-held city.

The US military denies this, but admits using white phosphorus bombs in Iraq to illuminate battlefields.

Washington is not a signatory of an international treaty restricting the use of white phosphorus devices.

I don't know if this accusation is true or not, of course, but a thorough examination is certainly called for. Because of this:

Jeff Englehart, described as a former US soldier who served in Falluja, tells of how he heard orders for white phosphorus to be deployed over military radio - and saw the results.

"Burned bodies, burned women, burned children; white phosphorus kills indiscriminately... When it makes contact with skin, then it's absolutely irreversible damage, burning flesh to the bone," he says.

On Snot

This is the hazard of having a blog with no editorial powers. Stuff like this seeps through!

An Ode To Snot

Snot is wonderful stuff. It leaks out of every human nose without any discrimination or preferential treatment for the rich, it sometimes has lovely colors ranging from apple green to dark burgundy and it is absolutely free! When it dries naturally it makes intriguing little balls that nestle in the nose hairs and can be gently detached and played with during boring conferences or while waiting for a dental appointment. They can also be squashed between the pages of a library book (as I have found, to my horror) or attached to the bottoms of people you like.

Yet we hardly ever talk about snot. If it could be saved and processed, we might be able to build our own brick-and-snot houses! Artists could create snot murals by saving all that flu snot for the brightly colored patches. Talk about a deep symbolism! And some people could save their snot in beautiful rooms and exhibit it in the old age to curious schoolchildren.

Instead, we pretend that we don't produce snot. We are taught never to just blow it out, never to use our sleeve (so handily provided) for snot-wiping, never to taste it. Snot is supposed to be Disgusting. Yet it is part of our immunity system, an automatic nose-cleaning system which works, an essential part of being alive. Corpses don't produce snot.

Monday, November 07, 2005

The Next War?

According to Raw Story, the U.S. is in the process of cutting diplomatic connections to Syria:

The United States has cut off nearly all contact with the Syrian government as the Bush administration steps up a campaign to weaken and isolate President Bashar al-Assad's regime, according to US and Syrian officials, the Boston Globe will report in Tuesday editions, RAW STORY has learned.

If true, this would be a bully strategy. Will it work? Or will we end up embroiled in another pointless war when we don't have the troops we need even now? And if we are to police all of the Middle East, why do we do nothing about Saudi Arabia? It's oil, of course, but the hypocricy smells to high heavens.

On Health Insurance

Paul Krugman's recent column in the New York Times is on the American system of providing health insurance through largely two sources: employment-tied private policies and various government programs. Both of these base their premia on large groups which offers savings compared to what you'd have to pay for a private policy outside the labor market. Which means that if your employer doesn't offer health insurance and if you don't qualify for one of the government programs (say, you are not old enough for Medicare, haven't been in the military for the VA program and aren't poor enough with enough children for Medicaid) your insurance policy will be very expensive. Hence the many uninsured working people in this country.

What we have is a patchwork quilt of coverage. If you happen to snooze under one of the cushy and thick patches you are ok. If you turn around in your sleep you may find yourself outside the quilt altogether or trying to cope under a frayed and thin patch, and what happens to you is almost completely outside your hands.

This is why we have around forty million uninsured Americans. Not all of them are poor. Some of them are too chronically ill to find affordable coverage and some are young and unable to find cheap enough coverage to reflect their beliefs that they won't fall ill any time soon. But whatever the reason for the uninsured state of these people, when they do become ill they will either suffer alone, wait too long for treatment (and then require more expensive treatments) or try to get it at hospital emergency rooms which mostly don't turn people away. All these outcomes are undesirable and the use of hospital emergency rooms as primary care is extremely wasteful and doesn't offer the continuity of care that is deemed optimal.

Note also that someone ultimately pays for the care of those who can't or won't pay for it, and that someone is largely those of us who are insured. The unpaid care is rolled into the next year's health insurance premia. So the important question isn't about paying for this care; it will get paid in any case, the question is making the health insurance system more rational so that we don't give the uninsured incentives to become even sicker or to cost us even more.

As Krugman points out, most industrialized countries do better in this respect than we do. Not that this makes any difference to the decision-makers here; I have been told more times than I can remember that the United States of America has nothing to learn from the rest of the world. Because we are, like, better. Mention that to the young woman with lupus I know whose choices today are either to go on welfare so as to qualify for a state health insurance program for the indigent or to let her parents spend all their old-age savings on her.

Two Years Old Today!

This will be the last post on my birthday celebrations (which are extensive here at the Snakepit Inc.), but you can still donate money for broadband if you wish. I blog via telephone! The button is in the right column, and everybody who gives gets good snake magic as a reward. It can be used to slither away from any awkward situation without bad consequences.

My very first blogpost was this one:

I am echidne of the snakes, a minor Greek goddess. You don't have to believe in me. Most days I don't believe in me, and most days I don't believe in any 'you' out there either.

It is the time for darkness. Today's blog will reflect that.

On politics, or the manner in which we decide on our common concerns: We don't seem to have common concerns. What you hate, I need to survive and vice versa. I hear that some states are becoming ever more Republican, other ever more Democrat. I hear that this means we are getting more polarized: on one side the damned liberals, on the other the funnymentalists. No middle ground can be yielded. I feel very lonely sometimes.

Then, at other times, I feel as if the two main parties here are nothing but Tweedledum and Tweedledee. Where's the actual difference? Like in chocolate brownies with and without nuts? Or in donations by the oil industry and the trial lawyers?

This paradox is real, of course, and yet it isn't. Each party is captive to its basic constituency: for the Republicans the business wallets and the fundamentalist reading of the Old Testament; for the Democrats the business wallets and the political correctness (whatever that might mean; nobody else seems to care what it means, so I won't define it either).
When election time approaches, the parties start oozing, imperceptibly at first, towards the center. This oozing speeds up, the topics suddenly stop being extremist nightmare proposals, and, lo and behold, by the date of election the remaining candidates look so similar that I'd swear they have been cloned. After the election, of course, back come the extremists and another round of the merry-go-round resumes.

Which shows a) that I am a melancholic and b) a politically moderate goddess. It also shows that I blogged politics from day one even though I didn't think I was doing so.

Hank, my chocolate Labrador retriever who has cancer, is doing fairly well. Her palliative radiation has helped. Yesterday we were wrestling and she got a really mean headbump into my jaw which is now all sorts of lovely colors. Henrietta, my black-and-white pointer, is writing a long thesis provisionally entitled The Liberation Of Dogs And Butt Biting Refined. She is as revolutionary as she always was and age has done nothing to relieve it. So I am hopeful for my own future.

This blog will have another year, I have decided. By then I should be a household word in this country and most of the rest of the world, too.

Sunday, November 06, 2005


The Vatican wants large families:

An Italian mother who raised 11 children moved ahead on the road to possible sainthood Sunday amid a Vatican campaign in favor of large families.

Eurosia Fabris, known as "Mamma Rosa," raised two children whose mother died while they were little, then married their father and had nine children with him.

The virtues of Fabris, who died in 1932, were honored Sunday in a beatification ceremony in Vicenza, near her native farming village in northern Italy. Beatification is the last formal step before possible sainthood.

On Wednesday, Pope Benedict XVI praised large families and called for countries to approve legislation and other incentives to help them. The pontiff has said there is no future without children.

Isn't it funny that celibate men believe they can affect these things? What has Pope Benedict XVI done to help with the baby dearth? The least these guys could do would be to offer free daycare. A more reasonable offer would be to support the children during their very expensive upbringing.

I also find it funny that Mr. Mamma Rosa isn't even mentioned, that being a father to eleven children doesn't get you beatification. But that's because it's us women who are expected to manipulate our fertility to whatever direction the powers that be would like: Breed more in Europe! Breed less in Africa! Naughty women! You never get it right.

My Blog Birthday

If you don't know what to do with all that extra money that is floating around, you could donate some to me (there is a handy donate button in the right column, though it's stuck at ten dollars, but you could donate lots of times...). For the purpose of getting broadband and as a birthday present for the blog. But if you don't have much money don't donate anything. Also don't if you have already done so. Or if you hate my guts and so on. I'm not very good at begging.

I have spent the donations so far on buying subscriptions to the Salon and to the New York Times Select. The rest I'm saving towards broadband.

On the French Riots

The best short reading of these riots is that they are like the 1960's race riots in the U.S., as Atrios suggested. The main cause for the riots is in unemployment, poverty and marginalization of the French immigrants and their descendants. The religious angle complicates things, naturally, and makes the chasms in the French society (as well as in the societies of quite a few other European countries) more dangerous to navigate. And as usual, the actual violence also has other elements, from accusations that the police are egging it on to hints that some of the arson is manufactured by drug overlords.

For these reasons I wouldn't read the events as a clash of religions or civilizations as so many right-wing bloggers do. I think that they are plugging into their own fears and add to that a lot of ignorance about the French political system. For example, it's the conservatives who are in power in France right now, not some socialists as I have read on the wingnut net.

But the civilizations of many of the recent immigrants to Europe do differ from the average European customs, and this is so especially when it comes to the treatment of women and to the cultural definition of prostitution and what is considered as sexually permitted in women. It is not unsurprising that people migrating to a new country would take with them all their cultural baggage, of course. But it does create problems, especially when immigration happens in large numbers and the incoming groups are not properly absorbed by the receiving country.

France clearly has a lot of work ahead.

Vintage Krauthammer

Krauthammer has a very excellent thirteenth century mind and I collect a lot of his columns for historical reasons. He once did a film review which praised a film for not having sex because it didn't have any women. Women in a movie = sex, see?

Now he has deigned to explain to us why Alito's argument about spousal notification in abortion cases doesn't smack at all of condescending towards women as property of men or as minor children:

Pop quiz: Which of the following abortion regulations is more restrictive, more burdensome, more likely to lead more women to forgo abortion?

(a) Requiring a minor to get the informed consent of her parents, or to get a judge to approve the abortion.

(b) Requiring a married woman to sign a form saying that she notified her husband.

Can any reasonable person have any doubt? A minor is intrinsically far more subject to the whims, anger, punishment, economic control and retribution of a parent. And the minor is required to get both parents involved in the process and to get them to agree to the abortion.

The married woman just has to inform her husband. Even less than that. She just has to sign a form saying that she informed him. No one checks. Moreover, under the Pennsylvania law I draw my example from, she could even forgo notification if she claimed that (1) he was not the father, (2) he could not be found, (3) he raped her or (4) she had reason to believe he might physically harm her. What prosecutor would subsequently dare try to prove to a jury that, say, she actually had no such fear of harm?

Remember: The question is not whether (a) or (b) is the wiser restriction. The only relevant question is which is more likely to discourage the woman from getting an abortion.

The answer is obvious.

Why is this the relevant question? Because when, in 1991, Judge Samuel Alito was asked to rule in Planned Parenthood v. Cas ey on the constitutionality of Pennsylvania's spousal notification requirement, Supreme Court precedents on abortion had held that "two-parent consent requirements" for a juvenile with "a judicial bypass option" do not constitute an "undue burden" and thus were constitutional. By any logic, therefore, spousal notification, which is far less burdensome, must also be constitutional -- based not on Alito's own preferences but on the Supreme Court's own precedents.

The situation of a married woman = the situation of a minor child, see?

"To krauthammer" should from hereon be a verb denoting the equaling of two totally unlike options to prove the angelic quality of any wingnut in trouble. And yes, Krauthammer is a sexist.