Saturday, September 16, 2006

They Can Hold Their Breath Long As They Want That Won’t Turn The Country Blue

Single issue politics

Posted by olvlzl

When it comes to who wins and who loses in our winner-takes-all political system you have to look at the electoral price of issues. You just do. There are a few absolutely basic issues that we have to risk losing it all over. Those can’t be defined by a rule. But there aren’t anywhere near as many as single-issue voters insist. Issues beyond compromise generally involve life and liberty since without those any pursuit of happiness is impossible. And even with those a compromise is sometimes the best that can be gotten in the short run.

A secondary issue can be mildly liked or disliked or it can be the be-all and end-all for a voter, either way. It depends on the voter and it depends on the issue. Anyone who insists on their particular issue being the most important shouldn’t be surprised when other people look at them as if they’ve got rocks in their head. Just try telling another single-issue person that your issue is more important than theirs if you need an illustration.

What holding out for an unpopular issue costs a politician and their supporters.

This is an experiment, it needs tweaking . It’s just a matter of subtracting.

You start with the entire voting population, 100% of the people who will actually vote.

You subtract those who will never vote for you under any circumstances, R.

This will give you 100 - R = D, the percent of people who might vote for you. D is the first number you need to determine voters who you can keep but who you might lose over a given issue.

Taking D, subtract those who will not vote for you if you support an issue, D - O = S. O stands for definitively Opposed to the issue S stands for Stalwarts.

S allows you to go on to determine how many of your most reliable voters will Peel off over a more controversial issue. Even stalwarts have their limits.

S - P = B or Stalwarts minus P equals the voters whose support a politician has Bought with his support of their issue.

The Cost of B is the number of voters that support for the issue in question turns away. B are roughly single issue voters, those who you will definitely lose if you don’t buy them what they want. You might enjoy thinking of other meanings for “B”.

Or maybe we need to go one step further.

B is usually smaller than vocal one-issue proponents claim since other people identified by them as members of their group don’t agree with them. There will almost always be members of the group B claims as supporters of their issue but who are actually members of all of the groups above. Call this number W for the unknown number claimed by B but who really think they’re all Wet.

The real number you need is B -W = G. G is what you might Get for what you spent. It can be fairly large or minuscule depending on the size of the variables. On many single-issue issues it will not be very many.

This isn’t exactly science but it gives you an idea of what supporting a massively controversial single issue can cost a politician versus the tiny number of supporters that issue has. And, given experience, that tiny group of single-issue people can turn on a dime and stay home on election day. Single-issue folk sometimes aren’t notable for their maturity.

From the standpoint of supporters of an issue, they should fully expect politicians who have to win elections to make these estimates because they have to. There is no other way to win an election but to get the most votes. If a group of single-issue voters is small enough they should fully expect to be left out of real politics because they will be, due to their own insistence. This happens either because politicians who might agree with them can’t do what they want or because friendly politicians will lose to their enemies. They will lose to politicians who will never support the single-issue in question.

Single-issue people should also keep in mind that their insistence on losing elections over their issue will win them the hostility of other people who they might have won over to their cause if they didn’t insist on being spoilers. These are costs to the single-issue voters in these calculations. You can look at it that way too.

Of course, supporters of even the most guaranteed loser of an issue could choose more intelligent ways to pursue it than holding a rubber knife to the throat of a politician. Those ways don’t involve elections, they involve convincing the People, a far harder thing to do but often the only way to move those really tough agendas. That can cost lifetimes of work and not just talk, a price that only real supporters of issues are prepared to spend. They might start their job of convincing other people by sacrificing their single-issue status and entering into coalitions. But that comes with other costs.

What’s Worse It Isn’t Funny

In memory of S. H.

Posted yesterday down below by olvlzl by mistake

It was in the racist, sexist, homophobic, and deadly tedious Andrew Dice Clay that I first noticed that phenomenon of the Reagan era, comedy that isn’t funny. After noticing him I began to see a lot more of it about. Maybe it was bound to take those of us brought up on Imogen Coca, Sid Caesar, and Eve Arden longer to understand that this was supposed to be comedy.

That it was Clay, a man whose consciousness is firmly grounded in that moment that puberty struck him, who first called it to attention isn’t surprising, thinking about it. That is if thinking about something so devoid of content can be called thought. Children who are suffering the derangement of puberty are usually confused about the difference between something that is embarrassing and something that is actually funny. Puberty being what it is, the topic is bound to be sex, anything generally “down there”.

Once the ability to get attention by saying or doing things that are embarrassing is discovered and reinforced by “Stinky” and “Turd-head’s” wet-their-pants level of appreciation, the bathroom humor habit can become ingrained. Even achieving the traditional age of majority might not ensure that the habit of early adolescence gives way to an adult level of amusement.

Moving up in years and perhaps having finally experienced sex himself he needs new material. If the cultural milieu hadn’t already provided the budding stand-up man with these, the jerk moves on to racism, cultural and religious stereotypes, and other edifying topics that can shock without the exertion of thought. And thus we have the media careers of Rush Limbaugh and other up-and-comers now beginning to populate the news divisions of our networks. Can the “towel head” level of hee-haws be far behind on the Evening News?

The problem of whether it is to be regretted or rejoiced at that the bigoted creeps don’t have the intellectual maturity to sustain that most challenging of all creative activities, to come up with a good joke, I haven’t been able to crack. Having a president who thinks gas jokes are the height of humor does worry me quite a lot.

At exactly the same time that these unfunny people began flourishing, the war against ‘political correctness’ was starting. The effort to make it possible for the fellows at the club and office to tell racist and sexist jokes without fear of an unamused reaction was interesting only for one thing. It was joined in so quickly, so vehemently and in such numbers by what passes as our intellectual class that I’ve got to think there’s more there than just a matter or freedom of expression. People who had never, in decades long careers as public scribblers ever been anything but Watch and Ward* men were now flaming free expression men. Notice, that was free expression, something they had always vigorously distinguished from free speech as a matter of principle. Not that they’d ever spoken up for those of us who want to speak on the topic of a living wage before. Ah, but I’ll get off-topic if I go there just now except to speculate that the coincidence was no coincidence.

By chance Rusty Warren, who I hasten to mention wasn’t exactly my cup of tea, also came to mind this week. Most famous for her “Knockers Up” routine she shocked and titillated many a staid and buttoned down man of the 50s and 60s with her energetic sex comedy. Mae West on uppers. That’s what they were watching while we were watching Ernie Kovacs and That Was The Week That Was. It wasn’t my taste but she could be funny.

Suspecting she might not be with us anymore I was surprised and a bit nostalgic to find she has a web site which I haven’t had the nerve to look at**. The one comedy record from the early days of her career which I was exposed to didn’t exactly make me a fan. Though that one song entitled with a word that I will not use was very funny in context. It can’t really be called shock comedy in today’s sense of the phrase. Brash it was and in those days, a brash woman talking about sex was shocking to her audience. I hope that in an effort to up-date her act she hadn’t given in to Reagan-Bush era style shock jockery and I’ll bet she didn’t. Unlike Clay, she could be smart and funny and she wouldn’t be afraid of vaginas.

* Anti-smut campaigners of a bygone era.

** I looked at it last night in the interest of research and discovered that she does, indeed, have a sense of humor, if one not to everyone’s taste. Wikiing her I found out that one of her songs is used as the theme for the Randi Rhodes show. The Air America station here comes in about as well as an old ship to shore so I didn’t know.

I make no judgement over whether her material is feminist, not being the right gender to do that. Her bawdy humor, while rooted in an earlier sensibility, doesn’t strike me as self-hating. It was my old friend S. H., a lesbian, who in a “You won’t believe what my father listens to,” demonstration, first subjected me to one of Warren’s LPs. The one with “I’m Gonna Get Some” on it. We’d gotten drunk on his wine that afternoon

Two Pieces On The Court


First posted on olvlzl, Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Molly Ivins' most enduring statement might turn out to be her observation that everyone in Washington DC ends up saying the same things. One of the same things today is that the Senate Judiciary hearings for Supreme Court Justices have become a Kabuki dance. What do you think the chances are that even three of the parrots of the DC press corps knows anything about the high art of Kabuki? Given that within the past year we have been witness to two of these shows and what those were like I'd like to suggest we pass up the obvious "theater of the absurd" designation and go straight to "charades".

But charades isn't the right word either. In charades while the player says nothing they make gestures that are designed to get the audience to say what the player is thinking. In these hearings there were a flood of words and few gestures, give or take a staged bout of tears, and the exercise was to make the audience NOT say what everyone in the room and beyond knew was the subject of the play.

Roberts and Alito lied every single time they verbally mimed the pose of not having made up their minds before hearing a case. These kobe cattle were bred and hand raised to provide the most predictable results. They were nominated into entirely predictable and safe Republican hands to be put on the court to join Scalia and Thomas to gut the Bill of Rights and Civil Rights amendments and to continue the Republican handover of the country to the oligarches and their corporate properties.

Everyone in the room knew they were lying. Such press as had any knowledge of the Court and things judicial knew they were lying though I'm prepared to conceed that the cabloid clack might not have even known what the Court was. The large majority of us who listened to the entire farce knew they were lying. And now the lies will continue as they do exactly what everyone knew they would do. The very rare times that one of them has a bit of a woozy stomach and does something slightly unpredictable will be held onto like a life raft to prove the myth of judicial independence but that won't happen very often.

The lesson for the left is that Earl Warren is dead. He's been dead a good long while now. We can stop pretending that the Supreme Court is going to be anything but the hand maiden of the corporate oligarchy. If we are going to fight this its going to be through the ballot and if not there God save us.


First posted on olvlzl, Tuesday, June 20, 2006

"Men like to substitute words for reality and then argue about the words," Edwin Armstrong, inventor of FM transmission*

That is one of the wisest sentences ever spoken about the law. Referring obliquely to the lawsuits and court rulings handing his inventions to people who couldn't even understand the science behind them, Armstrong said precisely how our judges and legal scholars do those things that earn them the contempt of millions.

That's the how of it, the why is to uphold the profit of their patrons. Judges say the stupidest things in the most elegant language in service to corporate oligarches. The excuse is "originalism", "federalism" or whatever fashionable verbal distraction has been cooked up in the interest of privilege and wealth.

But it's not all sherry and aphorisms at the top. This week's ruling on wetlands was inconvenient for John Roberts, the Chief of the Republican majority. Anthony Kennedy went off program, issuing an opinion producing less than the full gutting of wetlands protection laws that his patrons wanted. Kennedy's opinion holds the balance on the issue until Bush and the Republicans appoint another hack. No doubt Roberts, being the very model of the Republican golden boy, wants to deliver as fast as he can and get the pat on the head he craves.

In the year after Hurricane Katrina, for their empty words to endanger the entirely real and vitally important wetlands is nothing short of a crime against the People of the United States. Even as they make national security an excuse to suspend the Bill of Rights they will allow developers and others to destroy the environment, leaving us all in peril. Remember the dead in New Orleans if you think that's overblown.

It would be interesting to know how the legal thinking of those taking what is clearly the ascendant position will leave what's left of the natural barrier protecting the Gulf Coast and other areas. I mean an accurate scientific assessment based on physical facts, not Bush science, not judicial bushwah. Now, wouldn't that be a really interesting legal analysis, for a change. The real world has such a way of making it all so real.

Through the PR environmentalism like what now could sadly become know as Blue Smoke Hawaii, look for more permits to plunder. The Reagan-Bush legacy will be more distruction of wetlands and as sea levels rise we will see more of what last summer brought. Say good-bye to many more people, species and maybe the entire biosphere. With their dying gasps, turning blue, these robed hacks will be consulting the Federalist Society over the best way to cover environmental plunder in the age of gigadeath.

* My thanks to Tom Lewis and Ken Burns for pointing out this revelatory quote in their "Empire of the Air The men who made radio,". When I first wrote this I though these words applied to the law, but after thinking about it, this is one of the most widespread problems of politics and life in general. Moving and rearranging words is so easy, dealing with reality not nearly as simple or well rewarded.

Why Won’t They Do What We Want Them To Do

Revised from a piece first posted on olvlzl Sunday, May 14, 2006

Note: When this was written last May I used “the left” as a term to indicate the stereotype of the left. I hope you will understand the point of using this as you read it. At that time the right of lesbians and gay men to marry seemed somewhat more secure in Massachusetts than it does today. In early July the same high court that forced the issue in Massachusetts approved a ballot measure to deny future same sex marriages. Other than those two points I’ll let it speak for itself.

Look at it from the position of a liberal to moderately liberal politician. They've done the hard work of winning an election. For liberals in most places just winning the office is proof of an enormous commitment to social change. I’d include leftists but, sadly, there aren’t too many of us elected and almost always only from the safest districts.

A politician has a lot of different constituents, supporters, the indifferent, and those who would like to turn them out of office. In a district without a truly safe majority the office holder has to consider all potential supporters and opponents, trying to figure out how to please supporters and not anger the others sufficiently for the office to be lost. No politician out of office can make good political change. Even a moderately wishy-washy politician can sometimes do good in office. Even if that good is only by preventing someone worse from holding the office. There are few Democratic politicians who do not believe that they are in it for the general good. It would be unwise for anyone who has fought a hard campaign to win office to act in ways they know will lose it to someone who is reliably worse. Few of ours are so stupid.

Given these facts, what can the left do to make itself a stronger factor, what can we do to change the situation? First, we can face the truth about the left's political weakness and its causes. Here are just two examples.

Nader took on the mantle of the left in the last three presidential elections, two times with the support of the Green Party, explicitly a party to the left of the Democratic Party. He openly played spoiler and helped put the worst president in our history into office in 2000.

In his typically modest fashion Nader claimed credit for electing Democrats lower down on the ballot while accepting no responsibility for the disaster he brought about. The exercise was an attempt to "move the agenda". Then he tried to do the same thing in 2004, well after any sane person could see how well that had "moved the agenda". Rational Greens had had enough of him by then but some Nader cultists formed a rump effort. Though less of a problem, they were certainly no help. In other races similar actions of "the left" have been less than helpful in the effort to prevent right wing hacks from taking office. I believe it was Ronnie Dugger who once commented on the folly of the race that had put John Tower into office*. Given this personification of "the left" as back-stabbing spoiler, is it any wonder that Democrats who hold office might be somewhat ambivalent about working with "the left"?

Politics contain an agreement between the candidates and the people who support them. They promise to promote issues in the agenda of the people who put them into office. A politician has to hold office to do that, out of office they are powerless to make real change. Any politician knows that the entire agenda of their supporters won't be put into effect. And their supporters have to accept that as a given. Sometimes there are conflicts in what supporters want. Choices have to be made on the basis of possibility and practicality.

Democrats in office have a good excuse to be skeptical of the support of "the left" even as they try to do what is impossible in the present situation of total Republican control, hold the gains of the past. The frankly bratty response of many “leftists” to just about anything Democrats do, even as they hopelessly support bills and amendments closer to what "the left" wants, must give our politicians pause. Given our recent history and the present situation "the left's" insisting, beyond any connection with reality, on having it all does nothing to help the situation. Anyone who doesn't start off realizing that we are not going to get more than a part of what we want should consider it now.

Any thinking leftist supports the right of gay people to marry**. It is a personal right and a matter of equality and basic decency. But there isn't a single right people have the exercise of which isn't conditioned by the situation they find themselves in. Many rights are impossible to exercise due to societal attitudes that take years or longer to change. That is a sad but plain truth. When the state court in Massachusetts forced the implementation of that right a lot of us knew it was a disaster for real progress on all issues, despite our agreeing with the decision.

By that time it was clear that John Kerry was going to be the nominee and that this issue would be used by religio-fascists to defeat him, making it impossible to remove the worst president in our history. The rights of lesbians and gay men, not only to marry but in all areas, would be hurt around the country by this decision. And Bush staying in office would also hurt the rights of countless others. Even the decision of the court seemed to be a temporary victory and could be overturned by the voters, something that for the president seems to be less of a danger than it did then. Our fears about every other issue involved have turned out to be entirely true.

Short of the most drastic emergency, no politician in their right mind will attempt to do the impossible and end their career in the process. A few leftists in safe seats, almost all who happen to be in the congress, are able to push items that would spell political death for more moderate politicians. They provide a service to the truth but their ability to do more that raise the issues is limited by the Peoples’ acceptance of them. Unlike the Supreme Court, or at least the long gone Warren court, the legislative branch can't go beyond the electorate's acceptance to do the right thing.

The supreme example, the Warren court's civil rights decisions, were obviously not that far ahead of the possible. Truman's integration of the army and the fact that it hadn't been destroyed by it must have given them the confidence to do what they knew was right. But even those decisions contained language that made the process much more gradual than it should have been.

Black children always had the right to attend any school but it was not possible for them to exercise that right before conditions in the entire country allowed them to do so with some safety. Lesbians and gay men have had the right to marry for just as long but the conditions which will allow the exercise of that right are not here. If you need evidence, look at the crowing of the far right in their great success in “protecting marriage” based on the Massachusetts ruling, one of the few times they aren’t lying. In some of those states rights gained in the past are in danger as people could lose benefits already won.

The short history and appalling political success of "marriage protection" laws around the country demonstrate that we are not going to be able to exercise that right any time soon. It is worse than a waste of time to insist on our politicians falling on their swords over the issue. It prevents them from winning elections, doing part of what we want and so really "moving the agenda". The self-defeating attempt to force them to do the impossible deflects us from the hard work of laying the essential groundwork in the general public.

* You’re thinking about Lieberman, aren’t you. Well, Lieberman stands a good chance of being replaced by a liberal Democrat, the possibility of the Republican winning in that race was so weak that the Republicans are supporting Lieberman. In replacing him a defacto Republican was kept from running under the guise of a Democrat. The situation doesn’t match the assertion, every race is different.

** I regret that recent experience has pointed out the need to identify myself as a gay supporter of the right of marriage before someone can ignore the point and misidentify me as something else. I am also the supporter of the full range of other gay rights, some of which can be gotten now but only if the Republicans are defeated. Insisting on pushing a right we have no chance of winning and which is being used as a horribly effective tool by our enemies endangers rights we might possibly secure now and could even push back gains we have made. Gay people and lesbians might disagree with me on that but I don’t think the point I’m making is invalid. Straight people should ask themselves if they would give up their rights to employment and access to housing to insist on a right which they aren’t going to have for years if not decades. I don’t oppose working towards gay rights, I oppose not doing so realistically.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Defining Feminism Ann-Althouse-Style

A most astonishing debate is going on at Ann Althouse's blog about what is proper for feminists to do in order to still be allowed to wear that proud label. It all started with a photograph of liberal and progressive bloggers meeting Bill Clinton at an informal lunch. Jessica from is in the front row of the picture, and Ann Althouse questioned her pose, the way she was dressed and the whole idea that a feminist would want to meet Bill Clinton:

Let's take a closer look at those breasts.
I wanted to elevate a discussion from the comments section of a post from Wednesday, you know the one with the photo of the Daou-wrangled bloggers posing in front of Bill Clinton? The first commenter, Goesh, picks up on my prompt -- "Let's just array these bloggers... randomly" -- and wisecracks: "Who is the Intern directly in front of him with the black hair?"

Eventually, Jessica from a blog called Feministing, shows up and says: "The, um, 'intern' is me. It's so nice to see women being judged by more than their looks. Oh, wait..."

Snarky but somewhat conciliatory, I say: "Well, Jessica, you do appear to be 'posing.' Maybe it's just an accident."

Jessica Feministing returns and says:

It's a picture; people pose. And I'm not sure I understand your logic anyway. If I "pose" for a picture (as opposed to sulking and hunching over?) then I deserve to be judged for my looks? I don't see anyone talking shit about the other bloggers smiling pretty for the camera.

Provoked, I decide to actually give her a small dose of the kind of judgment for brains she seems to demanding:

Jessica: I'm not judging you by your looks. (Don't flatter yourself.) I'm judging you by your apparent behavior. It's not about the smiling, but the three-quarter pose and related posturing, the sort of thing people razz Katherine Harris about. I really don't know why people who care about feminism don't have any edge against Clinton for the harm he did to the cause of taking sexual harrassment seriously, and posing in front of him like that irks me, as a feminist. So don't assume you're the one representing feminist values here. Whatever you call your blog....

Making this colloquy into this new blog post, I actually click over to Jessica's blog, and what the hell? The banner displays silhouettes of women with big breasts (the kind that Thelma and Louise get pissed off at when they're seen on truck mudflaps). She's got an ad in the sidebar for one of her own products, which is a tank top with the same breasty silhouette, stretched over the breasts of a model. And one of the top posts is a big closeup on breasts.

If you have the time and interest, the comments threads here and here give you much to fret about. It's sorta confusing, because anti-feminist and anti-woman comments are all put into a hat with various types of feminist or quasi-feminist comments and then the hat is shaken and the whole thing is dumped out and spread into comments. Or that's how I felt, reading through it all. I got indigestion, too.

For a different take on the same debate, read this post on and the attached comments. - I am very tempted to join in the fray and to start sending arrows here and there, but I will restrain myself, don a neutral pin-striped business suit and write about something very erudite and academic.

Which is tits and their role in feminism. And don't worry, I first bound my own breasts very tightly. If I stood slightly angled towards you I might come across as almost breastless. Or breast-free or something. Except that now I can't breathe at all. Argh. Proper erudite feminism is damn inconvenient.

Anyway, about breasts. My feminist view on them is a very simple one: they are the property of the person who has them on her chest, having breasts does not preclude having brains and having breasts is perfectly acceptable in the public sphere. And women are not responsible for controlling the reactions of some men to the presence of breasts, women don't have to don burqas for the sake of these men or to bind their breasts, either.

Add to this simple and sane idea the idea of situation-appropriate clothing, and I see nothing wrong in Jessica's outfit in the picture. Most of the other bloggers in the picture are dressed in business-casual, and so is Jessica.

Then there is Althouse's comment about the logo on

Making this colloquy into this new blog post, I actually click over to Jessica's blog, and what the hell? The banner displays silhouettes of women with big breasts (the kind that Thelma and Louise get pissed off at when they're seen on truck mudflaps).

Er... It's sarcasm, Ann. Check what the silhouettes are doing. It's a way of talking back to the truck drivers with the mudflaps.

Enough with the breasts. What about the idea that a proper feminist would not want to have lunch with Bill Clinton? As Althouse says:

I really don't know why people who care about feminism don't have any edge against Clinton for the harm he did to the cause of taking sexual harrassment seriously, and posing in front of him like that irks me, as a feminist.

I get her point, I really do. But the world of politics is not the same as the world of supermarkets where you don't buy a product you don't like and that way you won't have it in your life. Say that you decide not to vote because you don't like either of the candidates who are running. You're still going to end up with one of them ruling over you.

Sadly, the pragmatic approach often boils down to choosing the least unpleasant of the available options and the Democratic party is still the better choice for feminists, especially now that the Republicans have handed over all posts having to do with women's rights to their Taliban section.

The Burning of Books

Fahrenheit 451 might come to your mind when you read that title:

In Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury's classic, frightening vision of the future, firemen don't put out fires--they start them in order to burn books. Bradbury's vividly painted society holds up the appearance of happiness as the highest goal--a place where trivial information is good, and knowledge and ideas are bad. Fire Captain Beatty explains it this way, "Give the people contests they win by remembering the words to more popular songs.... Don't give them slippery stuff like philosophy or sociology to tie things up with. That way lies melancholy."

If you have read the book or seen the movie you may remember the solution the rebels against bookburning devised: each became a living book, spending hours every day on reciting it so that the words would not be forgotten.

We don't live in a country of widespread book burning, at least yet. But some things remind me of this possibility. One of them is the manipulation of information by the U.S. government. And if this item in the news is correct, we may be getting closer to the actual book burning stage:

The Federal Communications Commission ordered its staff to destroy all copies of a draft study that suggested greater concentration of media ownership would hurt local TV news coverage, a former lawyer at the agency says.

The report, written in 2004, came to light during the Senate confirmation hearing for FCC Chairman Kevin Martin.

Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif. received a copy of the report "indirectly from someone within the FCC who believed the information should be made public," according to Boxer spokeswoman Natalie Ravitz.

(Note: In June of 2006, the FCC announced the start of a new review of media ownership, including a "series of public hearings on media ownership issues at diverse locations across the nation". That review is still ongoing.)

'Every last piece' destroyed
Adam Candeub, now a law professor at Michigan State University, said senior managers at the agency ordered that "every last piece" of the report be destroyed. "The whole project was just stopped - end of discussion," he said. Candeub was a lawyer in the FCC's Media Bureau at the time the report was written and communicated frequently with its authors, he said.

In a letter sent to Martin Wednesday, Boxer said she was "dismayed that this report, which was done at taxpayer expense more than two years ago, and which concluded that localism is beneficial to the public, was shoved in a drawer."

The draft study results are not what some in the administration wanted:

The analysis showed local ownership of television stations adds almost five and one-half minutes of total news to broadcasts and more than three minutes of "on-location" news. The conclusion is at odds with FCC arguments made when it voted in 2003 to increase the number of television stations a company could own in a single market. It was part of a broader decision liberalizing ownership rules.

You can read the draft here (pdf).

If this is true it is not that different from the disappearance of whole data files from the government websites or from the discontinuation of government reports which actually would allow researchers to study race or sex discrimination. Or from the sudden appearance of inaccurate information about abstinence on sites ending with .gov. All this is worrisome and a clearly unethical way to do politics.

What are the rules in the wingnut game of politics? The reason why some have labeled me the goddess with the tinfoil helmet is that the more I dig the fewer ethical restrictions I seem to find in the conservative arsenal. If someone knows which acts are ruled as unthinkable by the wingnut masterminds, please tell me. I'd love the burning of the books to be one of those unthinkable acts.
Link via this Kos diary.

Friday Cat Blogging

This is Zoey, Barry's cat. She guards his safety diligently. I don't think I would like to cross swords with her.

Locked In the Heritic’s Confessional

Posted by olvlzl

Well, I guess there is no covering that hole with the piano. I set off a bomb here last weekend. And me, a houseguest. Always putting my foot in it. I was, only trying to blend in with the decor.

When answering the casting call for a weekend fill-in here I knew it would be a challenge. First there was the fact that it would be a man filling-in on a feminist blog. Being well past the age where anyone could keep a straight face with me playing Ophelia, I knew it would have to be a pants role.

But that was only the first hurdle. There was the high standard to get over. Everyone knows that Echidne’s is a place where the interesting and unexpected is always happening, no cookie cutter angst here. And I did make an effort to blend in. I know that it’s rude to stick out like a sore thumb. My mother raised me the right way. You mind your manners and don’t come out of the bathroom complaining about your host’s taste in ornaments. Echidne’s are divine, by the way. As I said I made an effort, a really serious one. I can prove it. Didn’t I learn another language? I had to. Everyone knows that Echidne writes in ESL, if you don’t know, that stands for English as a Sensible Language. It might not be something that everyone gets but it’s the house standard here.

Blogging has been a learning experience in many ways, editing, condensing, not running on past nine-hundred words or you stupify instead of enlighten. And the reader response, I mean, just full of surprises. In the past month alone I’ve been accused by a straight man of being a homophobe, I’ve had someone considerably to the right of me accuse me of being a moderate. A communist called me a fascist and the very next day an anarchist accused me of being a communist, how many of you can say that? I’ve had Republican trolls call me “batshit crazy”, stupid. You’d hardly know yourself.

But last week, to have a congregation of atheists first make that unfounded accusation that I was a Christian and then to raise fingers en masse and pointedly accuse me of heresy for visiting the temple of a minor Greek goddess, that really was the topper, I’ll tell you. It was like being publicly denounced for sorcery in 1506.

And it was so confusing, not only being called something I hadn’t called myself, a Christian, something which any number of Christians would happily tell you is impossible. But to be called not just a Christian but a Christian heretic, now that really shocked me. To have these people, these - no, THESE people file a charge of heresy! I’ve always been under the impression they approved that kind of thing.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

The Mars Hill Church

What an appropriate name for a church treasuring the submission of women. Though I doubt that its fundamentalist pastor would appreciate the pagan connotation. Or perhaps he would; he seems to find himself a really cool guy:

It's Father's Day and Mark Driscoll is blessing babies. A stocky, square-headed figure in a black shirt and jeans, with a leather cord around his thick neck, Driscoll stands against a backdrop of a giant brushed steel cross and a phalanx of electric guitars, praying over the "lovely wives and godly husbands" lined up on the stage of Mars Hill Church. Located in a former warehouse in Seattle's hip Ballard neighborhood, where drive-through espresso joints out-number churches ten to one, Driscoll's megachurch is a sprawling industrial space of corrugated steel, painted charcoal and muted taupe. Inside, the walls are hung with a member's graffiti art, lit by Starbucks-style colored glass fixtures blown by a congregant.

In a husky voice, the 35-year-old pastor prays for the continuous fertility of his congregation. "We are in a city with less children per capita than any city but San Francisco," he declares, "and we consider it our personal mission to turn that around."

The way Driscoll sees it, the more babies his conservative Christian congregation can produce in this child-poor city, the more they can redirect local politics, public education, and culture in one of the liberal capitals of the world. To complete his trifecta of indoctrinating, voting, and breeding, Driscoll has developed a community that dwarfs any living experiment of the '60s. To say that Mars Hill is just a church is to say that Woodstock was just a concert.

Mars Hill wrests future converts searching for identity and purpose from the dominion of available sex and drugs that still make post-grunge Seattle a countercultural destination. Driscoll promises his followers they don't have to reprogram their iTunes catalog along with their beliefs -- culture from outside the Christian fold isn't just tolerated here, it's cherished. Hipster culture is what sweetens the proverbial Kool-Aid, which parishioners here seem to gulp by the gallon. This is a land where housewives cradle babies in tattooed arms, where young men balance responsibilities as breadwinners in their families and lead guitarists in their local rock bands, and where biblical orthodoxy rules as strictly as in Hasidism or Opus Dei.

Sounds like a great deal, doesn't it? You can combine the fruits of modernism and the fundamentalism of your fathers, to make something that really is just the same old fundamentalism in drag. And only one group will not have much fun in doing these combinations: the women:

Following Driscoll's biblical reading of prescribed gender roles, women quit their jobs and try to have as many babies as possible. And these are no mere women who fear independence, who are looking to live by the simple tenets of fundamentalist credo, enforced by a commanding husband: many of the women of Mars Hill reluctantly abandon successful lives lived on their own terms to serve their husbands and their Lord. Accountability and community is ballasted by intricately organized cells -- gender-isolated support groups that form a social life as warm and tight as swaddling clothes, or weekly coed sermon studies and family dinner parties that provide further insulation against the secular world. Parents share child care, realtors share clients, teachers share lesson plans, animé buffs share DVDs, and bands share songs.


Like every woman I've gotten to know at Mars Hill, Sarah talks about her appointed role within the church not in terms of subjugation but in the language of difference feminism. She tells me a sisterhood forms between women who celebrate their domestic roles and talents as offered from God, delivered unto their children, marriages, and community as part of his "perfect plan."

At the end of the evening, when I go into the kitchen to help Sarah with the dishes, she confesses that she'd love to go back to school for her master's degree, but she just can't see finding the time. "I guess it's just not part of the plan," she says in a soft, distracted voice. It's hard to imagine that just a few years before, Sarah was a single girl tooling around the Seattle rock circuit in an old MG, spending her days studying Carol Gilligan. These days, Sarah's old copy of "In a Different Voice," a text you'll find on most women's studies syllabi, gathers dust on the secular bookshelf (Penguin classics and psych textbooks) that faces off against the Christian bookshelf (Bibles and theology textbooks) in the living room.


Abolafya's conversion was a total surprise to her. She was a nonbeliever who accompanied her husband, Ari, to a service at Mars Hill -- he was curious to check out the "tattooed punk-rock church" he had heard about. That Sunday, one of the church's worship bands was playing an electric version of "Amazing Grace" toward the end of the service, its loud and powerful sound filling the giant space. Suddenly Abolafya realized she was sobbing and couldn't stop. That night she gave her heart to Jesus. "It wasn't like I was looking for a solution, or that my life was a problem in any way," she explains. In fact, the problems were just beginning.

At a weekly Bible study class at a Mars Hill pastor's home, Abolafya first heard about the doctrine of wifely submission. The pastor's wife gave Abolafya a book to study called "The Fruit of Her Hands," which can essentially be summed up in Ephesians 5:22: "Wives, submit to your own husbands as to the Lord." When Abolafya stretched out on her couch one evening to read the first chapter of the book, she screamed and threw it across the room. But she prayed to God and was led back to the Bible, to understand Wilson's perspective. In the Bible, Abolafya found story after story about women being willfully deceived, following their own desires, wreaking travesty in their relationships and homes. In these stories she saw signs of her own past, her mother's behavior, her friends' actions. She began to submit to Ari about purchases and plans she wanted to make.

Mmmm. Judy Abolafya found this interpretation of her views wrong and wrote a statement about it (via commenter car on Pandagon):

Secondly, there is no reason for anyone to feel sorry for me. I am not a woman who has been put in a cage only to be let out for procreating and to fix dinner.

To suggest that I am at the effect of a misogynist husband and church is hilarious when you consider the real sexism that I experienced in the music industry as a single woman. I toured with a band once whose tour manager used to make jokes that I should play "bunk roulette" with the guys on the bus. I got kicked off a tour for the simple fact that I was a woman because the drummer's girlfriend thought he'd hit on me. And I couldn't go to a venue without local security guards assuming I was a groupie or that one of the guys in the band was my boyfriend.

This statement reminded me of other defenses of the voluntary submission of women I have read on my tours of Christian Lady blogs. The basic idea is that women must make a bargain with the sexist world: either you will be molested and treated poorly by most men out there or you can choose one husband to obey and he will protect you. But in either case you submit, really. That there might be a third alternative for women doesn't enter the discussion at all.

All this is quite saddening. The idea of the Bible as the inerrant word of God, together with interpreting this inerrant word in ways that I can't see in the Bible however I try to interpret this. For example, there is nothing in the Bible about women not being allowed to work for money, nothing about men having to be the sole breadwinners, nothing at all! Yet practically all the most extreme fundamentalist sects in the three largest monotheistic religions insist on women not contributing to the household financially.

Why do you think that is? It's something not in the Bible, yet it's an integral part of so many fundamentalist dogmas. Is it that the men will feel better about themselves under the gender-segregated and hierarchical system? Is it that women without jobs are less able to leave really bad situations? Or is it ultimately all about babies-as-a-weapon and women as the babymakers?

I find this saddening and frightening, too. Indeed, I find those who interpret the Bible literally despicable when they only pick those parts of the Bible that they like. If the Bible really is the inerrant word of God, then everything in the Bible is equally true, including the internal contradictions, and everything should be obeyed, not just those verses which favor patriarchy. - Not that I believe the literal interpretation of the Bible, but perhaps this is because I have actually read it several times.

Sigh. I'm getting sarcastic here. Still, there is a smell of a cult about this Mars Hill Church, and I hate cults. I also wonder how the members of the congregation manage to support their very large families with just one person working. And I wonder how much the leaders of the Church are earning out of all this.

The Mars Hill Church indeed. Talk about phallus symbols.

The Election Will Be Stolen

By the frightening left-wing tinfoilhat brigade. You don't believe me? Just read this summary of a study done at Princeton University (Princeton!):

The main findings of our study are:

1. Malicious software running on a single voting machine can steal votes with little if any risk of detection. The malicious software can modify all of the records, audit logs, and counters kept by the voting machine, so that even careful forensic examination of these records will find nothing amiss. We have constructed demonstration software that carries out this vote-stealing attack.

2. Anyone who has physical access to a voting machine, or to a memory card that will later be inserted into a machine, can install said malicious software using a simple method that takes as little as one minute. In practice, poll workers and others often have unsupervised access to the machines.

3. AccuVote-TS machines are susceptible to voting-machine viruses--computer viruses that can spread malicious software automatically and invisibly from machine to machine during normal pre- and postelection activity. We have constructed a demonstration virus that spreads in this way, installing our demonstration vote-stealing program on every machine it infects.

4. While some of these problems can be eliminated by improving Diebold's software, others cannot be remedied without replacing the machines' hardware. Changes to election procedures would also be required to ensure security.

Bolding by me. Why are the wingnuts letting this happen? Not the bolding, but the vote-theft. Can't they see the hordes of lefty activists writing down instructions at this very minute? Why have wingnut politicians had no interest in the transparency of the elections?

My sarcasm falls flat here, for a very obvious reason which I nevertheless will not mention. But you really should find out how very easy vote-tampering is. This link gives you a ten-minute video which shows how it's done. So we can all learn....

Perhaps the only way to create a movement for more transparent elections is for vote-tampering to become universal in all elections. How very sad that I'm writing this in only half-jest.

George Bush's Priorities

Think Progress:

Weekly Standard editor Fred Barnes appeared on Fox this morning to discuss his recent meeting with President Bush in the Oval Office. The key takeaway for Barnes was that “bin Laden doesn’t fit with the administration’s strategy for combating terrorism.” Barnes said that Bush told him capturing bin Laden is “not a top priority use of American resources.”

You can watch the Barnes video at Think Progress. It sounds to me as if the administration's priorities are to put band aids on bleeding wounds and to chase after low-level operatives and to make sure that "the mastermind" of 9/11 stays alive so that he can be employed as the bogieman to win elections with.

Most Americans would probably be stunned to hear that catching bin Laden is not a high priority item for this administration. There is this concept of justice, you know, the idea that we apprehend and punish those who commit terrible crimes. But that's in a different reality than the expediency and faith based one.

Some Good News for the Democratic Party

Though I don't think they deserve good news. They're always trying to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, and what with the fearfearfear agenda of the Republicans and the problems with electronic voting machines and the way the oil industry manipulates the price of gasoline to try to keep their faithful servants in power; well, who knows, maybe they will be successful in losing again.

But they have only themselves to blame if that happens:

Less than two months until Election Day, the latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll finds that more than half of registered voters disapprove of President Bush's job performance, even more disagree with his handling of Iraq and a strong plurality prefer a Congress controlled by the Democrats — all suggesting that Democrats are still poised to pick up seats in the upcoming midterms.


Also in the poll, Democrats hold a nine-point advantage over Republicans (48 percent to 39 percent) in voters' preference of which party they want to control Congress. That finding is essentially unchanged from July, when Democrats held a 10-point edge over Republicans (48 percent to 38 percent).

How about it, Democratic politicians? Take my bumper sticker, please. This one:

Got fear? Republicans do.

Picture not mine, though.

Reverse Graffiti

Paul Curtis in Britain does graffiti with a pail of water, some soap and a brush. Now the authorities are trying to decide if what he does is a crime or not. He is cleaning, but cleaning selectively.

This is an old trick, of course, as anyone reading the sides of dirty trucks knows. But it might have interesting applications as a form of political speech.

Ann Richards, RIP

Ann Richard, the former governor of Texas, died yesterday:

Former Gov. Ann Richards, the witty and flamboyant Democrat who went from homemaker to national political celebrity, died Wednesday night after a battle with cancer, a family spokeswoman said. She was 73.

She died at home surrounded by her family, the spokeswoman said. Richards was found to have esophageal cancer in March and underwent chemotherapy treatments.

The silver-haired, silver-tongued Richards said she entered politics to help others -- especially women and minorities who were often ignored by Texas' male-dominated establishment.

"I did not want my tombstone to read, 'She kept a really clean house.' I think I'd like them to remember me by saying, 'She opened government to everyone,' " Richards said shortly before leaving office in January 1995.


She appointed the first black University of Texas regent; the first crime victim to join the state Criminal Justice Board; the first disabled person to serve on the human services board; and the first teacher to lead the State Board of Education. Under Richards, the fabled Texas Rangers pinned stars on their first black and female officers.

I was shocked to read how recent these "firsts" were in Texas.

Richards was the Texas governor who lost to George Bush in 1994:

Throughout her years in office, her personal popularity remained high. One poll put it at more than 60 percent the year she lost to Bush.

"I may have lost the race," Richards said after the defeat. "But I don't think I lost the good feelings that people have about me in this state. That's tremendously reassuring to me."

She lost to fundamentalist Christian conservatism...

Ann Richards was famous for marvelously funny quips. The one about Bush having been born with a silver foot in his mouth is probably the best known, but I always liked these, too:

They blame the low income women for ruining the country because they are staying home with their children and not going out to work. They blame the middle income women for ruining the country because they go out to work and do not stay home to take care of their children.

I am delighted to be here with you this evening because after listening to George Bush all these years, I figured you needed to know what a real Texas accent sounds like. [1988 keynote address, Democratic National Convention]

The here and now is all we have, and if we play it right it's all we'll need.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Today's Scary Thought

From Buzzflash:

This is crystal clear: the President and his Administration have a war fever mentality that is unprecedented in American history.

It is true: they are using the fear argument of World War III to seek to win yet another election.

But this is more true, and more dangerous: the President and the Vice-President believe it, and will do it. Along with Karl Rove their ambition is so vast that is it nothing less than a Manifest Destiny for the Republican Party, and their vision of centralized statist power, concentrating total power in the hands of one faction, of one party, ruled by one person.

And how many of the wingnuts who run the war-hungry campaign would actually sign up to fight in this war? Very few, I suspect. I also doubt that George Bush would want to be remembered as the president who started World War III. And start it he would do, because I really can't see the United States and its allies vs. the Islamic terrorists as a world war. Just think of the population numbers on each side, and you realize how silly this characterization is, unless you decide that all Muslims are Islamic terrorists but then you might as well get hired writing Bush's war speeches, and you'd also be complicit in starting WW III. (Now that's a nice slithering sentence.)

To remind you of the bumper sticker I invented:

Got Fear? Republicans Do.

The Political Geek Stuff And Why It Matters

Writings about policies and the actual goings-on in the Congress are not fun to read for those without the necessary political geekiness. This is lamentable, because the devil or the god is in the details, and whether that nice man we all would like to get drunk with actually brings down a vast empire or not can often be predicted by looking at the boring accronyms and meetings and things like accounts.

So I lament, and try to fix this problem. Imagine a dark and dingy room, with one lonely little light bulb hanging over a bare table. Imagine shady figures whispering and muttering and finally rising up and shaking hands with each other. The door slams down silence. What happened?


By a 10-8 vote today that broke along party lines, the Senate Judiciary Committee approved a bill by Sen. Arlen Specter, written with "guidance" from the White House. The measure, in essence, gives Congressional approval to the NSA wiretapping program that President Bush authorized unilaterally. According to the deal cut by Specter, as long as the Bush administration finds "nothing objectionable" about the bill, Bush has promised to submit the program to the FISA court. Of note, the legislation itself would not require Bush to do so. (CQ Today, 9/13/06)Today on the Senate floor, Sen. Jay Rockefeller, the ranking member on the Senate Intelligence committee, made the following statement regarding Specter and his bill:

"The chairman of the [Judiciary] Committee, a distinguished senator, an outstanding senator, is not briefed into this program, but he has a bill on how this program should be revised. You can't work legislation that way." (Senate Floor Remarks, 9/13/06)

Deals were made? What was the handshake all about? Well, I put that in to give some color to the story, but essentially the Senate Judiciary Committee passed three bills on the wiretapping question to the whole Senate. These bills contradict each other, so the Committee has left the deciding between them to the Senate.

And what comes next? Here is Glenn Greenwald on the possibilities:

From what I can discern, the Senate Judiciary Committee essentially passed on responsibility to the full Senate to save the administration by enacting the Specter FISA bill, while simultaneously blocking Democratic efforts on the Committee to dilute the most offensive parts of the Specter bill. Democrats have been reluctant to pay much attention to the Specter bill, but the way in which it (a) abolishes all limits on the President's eavesdropping powers; (b) embraces the Bush administration's most radical executive power theories; and (c) virtually destroys the ability to obtain judicial review for the President's lawbreaking, renders it a bill that is at least as pernicious as anything else that is pending. It deserves full-scale attention and opposition.

UPDATE: This article from The New York Times doesn't add much information but it does confirm the explanation I provided above: "Indeed, the Judiciary Committee voted today to send other provisions to the Senate floor for debate, even though they are not wholly compatible with the Specter-White House agreement." The Times also says that "many Democrats are sure to try to derail or amend the measure when the Senate takes it up," but the only way to really put a stop to this travesty is with a filibuster (assuming, as is wise, that House Republicans cease being a real impediment).

What drama! A filibuster? Imagine the brave heroes in paper helmets and wielding large wooden knives! Imagine the clang of weapons hitting each other. Imagine the rising heat of battle. Ok, so I've gone too far.

The Democrats didn't filibuster Alito, and he was a lot less frightening in that chrysalis stage. Now that the moth has come out, all are astonished and surprised, of course. Not.

Yes, these things do matter. I am really pining for a very good and dry story about all the money American taxpayers have sent for the Iraq reconstruction project. I really, really want to know who has it in its pocketses, to quote Tolkien.

On Spacewalking

I was reading about spacewalking yesterday:

Two astronauts made spacewalking look easy today as they hooked up the newest part of the International Space Station: a 35,000-pound truss with a solar array that will provide additional power to the station.

The two astronauts — Joseph R. Tanner, a former Navy pilot and a veteran of three previous space flights and five spacewalks, and Heidemarie M. Stefanyshyn-Piper, a Navy commander on her first space flight — ventured out into space and scrambled over the orbiting construction project at 5:17 a.m. Eastern time. They returned to the space station's Quest airlock a little more than six and one-half hours later.

Imagine doing that. I get shivers down my spine, and think how very fortunate those people are. To be out in the space, not on a planet, to see the earth from outside, to experience something so unique. Yet I'm not quite sure why this excites me so. I don't want to go out there myself.

Or perhaps I do. We are like people forced to sit on one sofa in the living-room all our lives, and the only view we have is of the opposite wall. There are other trips we can make, of course, all along the length and width of the sofa, but we never really know what's in the next room, except a little in our imaginations.

A Tale of Anti-Feminism

Resa LaRu Kirkland has written an exceedingly odd anti-feminist article. Even its title is a little odd:" WE'VE GONE THE WRONG WAY, BABY: Feminism's Proud Destruction of Mankind". Here a confession seems called for: When I first read it a few days ago I was sure that the whole thing was a parody, from the title (proudly destroying "mankind", indeed) to the very end of the article. It reads quite well as a parody, but appears not to be intended as one. Still, this is how the article begins:

I'm ashamed to be a woman. I feel less for it... like I don't quite measure up. Now understand, men have never made me feel less. No, this inferiority complex began about 35 years ago with a little thing called Feminism. Feminism has made me ashamed of my sex-as a group and individually.

There was a time when women deserved respect-because we are mothers, because of our natural softness and tender feelings, because we have been the ones who raised up righteous leaders of good nations for centuries now. We dropped the ball on that most vital role, not men. Consequently, we don't deserve the respect that men-yes men!--have bestowed upon us any longer. It is the day care facility-institutions-that raises our children now, and the result has been the most horrific social experiment history has ever seen.

Gentle, soft and tender feelings we women have aplenty, I thought. Except that my eye slipped to the right column of the screen which boasted a short biography of Ms. Kirkland:

Resa LaRu Kirkland is an avid military historian, with her main focus being on the Korean War and its forgotten warriors. She was born in Arizona in 1966, and has lived in northern Idaho, El Paso Texas, Pocatello, IDand the Evergreen State, where she currently resides. She is married with two sons whom she is teaching the evils of political correctness. She was given the nickname AMERICA'S WAR CHICK by her beloved Korean War Vets, and uses it proudly to this day! Her other favorites from her "men" are The Pitbull, Hellraiser, Tiger, D-Day. Her favorite names given to her by those who oppose her views are Capitalist Pig, Brass-Bottomed Bitch, and H-Bomb. Her husband and boys just call her Turbo. Resa loves power-lifting, snowmobiling, swimming, boating, four-wheeling, and most activities of any nature. She has a degree in education and is anxious start work on her graduate degree in military history.

The bells of cognitive dissonance were ringing alarms in my head at this point. Here women are soft, gentle and tender, but not Resa. She likes war and power-lifting and snowsledding. But it was the other women, the gentle, soft-spoken and tender-hearted, who were in fact the criminals. Because Ms. Kirkland believes that daycare creates monsters and that the burden of childrearing belongs to mothers and mothers alone. So women should return home, and you bet that it's affordable:

Here's what you're gonna do. Women, go home. Get rid of the huge mortgage and move into a trailer. It's not the neighborhood-or village, idiot!-that raises a good child. Have two cars? Get rid of one and deal with the annoyance of having to drive more. It's not the car that makes the family. Fancy clothes and vacations? Trivial and silly... those won't be what your child remembers. Be the one who drops him off and picks him up from school. Those precious moments laughing and talking will always be remembered, I guarantee it. Be in the kitchen, filling a warm home with delicious smells, sounds, and memories, and bring the whole family in to make dinner again, cleaning up together afterwards and bonding over pot roast. It is simple, it is time tested, it is true. The hand that rocks the cradle did-at one time-rule the world. The cradle is silent because the hand is at work and the baby at an institution. Sisters, go home-too much is at stake. Your babies are dying and killing, and the only one who can stop this infanticide is you. The power is-and always has been-yours. Take it back now... it's almost too late.

Mmm. But Resa looks forward to starting graduate work in war studies and writes articles for publication.

I'm not going to waste time on the absence of any real evidence in the piece or its extremely exaggerated tone, except to note that it really does read like a parody. Women have worked outside the home for generations all over the world and children in many countries where the tradition is for women to have jobs do very well on all the significant measures of development and well-being. Think of Scandinavia, for example. And at least one study found that the children of stay-at-home fathers exceeded other children in achievement. That would suggest an opposite policy conclusion from Resa's urgings...

But at this point in my reading I had grown very uncomfortable with the apparent self-loathing the author expressed. Just read this bit to see what I mean:

My all time favorite saying about the power women possess was revealed by author Samuel Johnson in the 18th century: Nature has given women so much power that the law has very wisely given them little. Now before feminists start ripping tendons and ligaments with their typical knee-jerk reaction to this example, look again. This is a statement and recognition of the power and strength men recognize within women-power they envy, strength they admire, and tenderness they crave. This is a statement of respect and recognition for women, not belittlement

Heh. What was the other thing Samuel Johnson said about women? Oh yes, this:

I told him I had been that morning at a meeting of the people called Quakers, where I had heard a woman preach. Johnson: "Sir, a woman's preaching is like a dog's walking on his hind legs. It is not done well; but you are surprised to find it done at all."

Another show of respect and recognition for women? I suspect Resa would call it healthy scorn for women who try to do something outside their proper sphere. Like studying war? Perhaps.

I finally gathered up my courage and sent off a fairly angry e-mail to Ms. Kirkman, with many criticisms of her article and the contrast of its message to the one in her bio. I pointed out that she seemed to condemn other women to a life that she herself didn't desire. I'm not sure if I implied that others would see her as one of the herd of ordinary women, not the honorary man she seemed to think she was. But in any case I expressed sadness about all this.

She responded, and kindly gave me permission to publish part of our correspondence. So here is Resa LaRu Kirkman on the topic of women:

"No pain around follow logic and reason. I've rarely been
hurt by men. Women are another story. Now when women put aside their
natural emotional hysteria in favor of logic and reason, they can
accomplish miracles. But such women are the exception rather than the
rule, and we live in a society where our laws are meant for the larger
majority of the rule, not the smaller groups of the exception."

I still find this sad, because according to her own standards she'd be a member of that smaller exceptional group which doesn't deserve the protection of laws.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Political Fun

Some Interesting Reading

By Sidney Blumenthal on the Salon, an assessment of the Bush presidency. You need to watch an advertisement if you're not a member, but it's worth it.

I Don't Know What To Say About This

First, Atrios posted this letter from American Airlines:

FORT WORTH, Texas, Sept. 11 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ -- American Airlines today issued the following statement regarding the ABC-TV program The Path to 9/11:

"The Disney/ABC television program, The Path to 9/11, which began airing last night, is inaccurate and irresponsible in its portrayal of the airport check-in events that occurred on the morning of Sept. 11, 2001.

"A factual description of those events can be found in the official government edition of the 9/11 Commission Report and supporting documents.

"This misrepresentation of facts dishonors the memory of innocent American Airlines employees and all those who lost their lives as a result of the tragic events of 9/11."

In short, the docudrama took events that happened in Portland, Maine, with a different airline, and applied them to the American Airlines and Boston, Massachusetts.

Does this matter? We'll see whether it matters legally. But surely it is ethically despicable, given this interview with Mike Touhey who checked Atta in at the Portland airport:

Plagued by sleepless nights and visions of Atta, Tuohey felt another layer of guilt when he learned the ticket agent in Boston who checked in Atta and Alomari for the last leg of their flight committed suicide.

Tuohey: I'm saying, my God, if I had just done the job the way I was supposed to she never would have seen these people.

Oprah: But this is the thing … If you're going to beat yourself up and be guilty about it and say, "What I could have done," what could you have done?

Tuohey: Basically nothing.

Oprah: Well then…

Tuohey: Yeah, I know. I know that. … But try to convince your mind.

My question is: Is the woman portrayed in the docudrama as having just waved Atta on the same one who killed herself in reality? And had her memory smeared posthumously?
The Oprah link via this Kos diary.

Meanwhile, in Pakistan and Saudi Arabia

Women aren't doing too well. First the more serious news from Pakistan (via No Capital):

In a setback for women's rights in Pakistan, the ruling party in Islamabad has caved in to religious conservatives by dropping its plans to reform rape laws.

Statutes known as the Hudood ordinances, based on sharia law, currently operate in Pakistan. They require a female rape victim to produce four male witnesses to corroborate her account, or she risks facing a new charge of adultery.

The ruling party in Islamabad, made up of a coalition of groups allied to President Pervez Musharraf, had hoped the new Protection of Women Bill would place the crime of rape within the country's secular penal code, which works in tandem with sharia.

But the government said rape would remain a crime punished by Islamic law yesterday after conservatives in an opposition group, Muttahida Majlis-I-Amal (MMA), threatened to walk out of parliament in protest if the government pushed ahead with reforms.

"If there are four witnesses it will be tried under [Islamic law], if there are not, it will be tried under the penal code," said the law minister, Mohammad Wasi Zafar.

"In the case of both adultery and rape, the judge will decide how to try the case."

Now why would the fact that the judge can decide how to try the case? Because if the judge decides to try it under the Islamic law, the woman bringing the case to court will be in terrible trouble:

Under current laws, a victim risks courting punishment if she reports a rape allegation as the Hudood ordinances criminalise all extra-marital sex.

A woman who fails to prove that she was raped could then be charged with adultery under the same legislation.

No wonder that women in Pakistan are very unlikely to report rape.

In Saudi Arabia, a country where women have very few rights already, one more restriction on them is being considered:

Officials are considering an unprecedented proposal to ban women from performing the five Muslim prayers in the immediate vicinity of Islam's most sacred shrine in Mecca. Some say women are already being kept away.

The issue has raised a storm of protest across the kingdom, with some women saying they fear the move is meant to restrict women's roles in Saudi society even further. But the religious authorities behind the proposal insist its real purpose is to lessen the chronic problem of overcrowding, which has led to deadly riots during pilgrimages at Mecca in the past.

It was unclear why the step was being considered now, but officials say they have growing concerns about overcrowding, particularly at Mecca's Grand Mosque. The mosque contains the Kaaba, a large stone structure that Muslims around the world face during their daily prayers.

The chief of the King Fahd Institute for Hajj Research, which came up with the plan, told The Associated Press Thursday that the new restrictions are already in place. There have been word-of-mouth reports of women being asked to pray at new locations away from the white-marbled area surrounding the Kaaba in recent weeks.

Now this new restriction is something that even the most fundamentalist scholar can't base on precedence. It's a brand new invention, and the reason given is an odd one. If overcrowding is such a problem, why not ban men from that area?

Monday, September 11, 2006

Olbermann on 9/11/2006

You really should watch the video, available here.

But if your bandwidth doesn't allow it, here's the transcript:

And lastly tonight a Special Comment on why we are here. Half a lifetime ago, I worked in this now-empty space.
And for 40 days after the attacks, I worked here again, trying to make sense of what happened, and was yet to happen, as a reporter.
And all the time, I knew that the very air I breathed contained the remains of thousands of people, including four of my friends, two in the planes and — as I discovered from those "missing posters" seared still into my soul — two more in the Towers.
And I knew too, that this was the pyre for hundreds of New York policemen and firemen, of whom my family can claim half a dozen or more, as our ancestors.
I belabor this to emphasize that, for me… this was, and is, and always shall be, personal.
And anyone who claims that I and others like me are "soft", or have "forgotten" the lessons of what happened here — is at best a grasping, opportunistic, dilettante — and at worst, an idiot — whether he is a commentator, or a Vice President, or a President.
However. Of all the things those of us who were here five years ago could have forecast — of all the nightmares that unfolded before our eyes, and the others that unfolded only in our minds… none of us could have predicted… this.
Five years later this space… is still empty.
Five years later there is no Memorial to the dead.
Five years later there is no building rising to show with proud defiance that we would not have our America wrung from us, by cowards and criminals.
Five years later this country's wound is still open.
Five years… later this country's mass grave is still unmarked.
Five years later… this is still… just a background for a photo-op.
It is beyond shameful.

At the dedication of the Gettysburg Memorial — barely four months after the last soldier staggered from another Pennsylvania field, Mr. Lincoln said "we can not dedicate - we can not consecrate — we can not hallow — this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract."
Lincoln used those words to immortalize their sacrifice.
Today our leaders could use those same words to rationalize their reprehensible inaction. "We can nto dedicate — we can not consecrate — we can not hallow — this ground." So we won't.
Instead they bicker and buck-pass. They thwart private efforts, and jostle to claim credit for initiatives that go nowhere. They spend the money on irrelevant wars, and elaborate self-congratulations, and buying off columnists to write how good a job they're doing — instead of doing any job at all.
Five years later, Mr. Bush… we are still fighting the terrorists on these streets. And look carefully, sir — on these 16 empty acres, the terrorists… are clearly, still winning.
And, in a crime against every victim here and every patriotic sentiment you mouthed but did not enact, you have done nothing about it.

And there is something worse still than this vast gaping hole in this city, and in the fabric of our nation.
There is, its symbolism — of the promise unfulfilled, the urgent oath, reduced to lazy execution.
The only positive on 9/11 and the days and weeks that so slowly and painfully followed it… was the unanimous humanity, here, and throughout the country. The government, the President in particular, was given every possible measure of support.
Those who did not belong to his party — tabled that.
Those who doubted the mechanics of his election — ignored that.
Those who wondered of his qualifications — forgot that.
History teaches us that nearly unanimous support of a government cannot be taken away from that government, by its critics.
It can only be squandered by those who use it not to heal a nation's wounds, but to take political advantage.
Terrorists did not come and steal our newly-regained sense of being American first, and political, fiftieth. Nor did the Democrats. Nor did the media. Nor did the people.
The President — and those around him — did that.
They promised bi-partisanship, and then showed that to them, "bi-partisanship" meant that their party would rule and the rest would have to follow, or be branded, with ever-escalating hysteria, as morally or intellectually confused; as appeasers; as those who, in the Vice President's words yesterday, "validate the strategy of the terrorists."
They promised protection, and then showed that to them "protection" meant going to war against a despot whose hand they had once shaken… a despot who we now learn from our own Senate Intelligence Committee, hated Al-Qaeda as much as we did.
The polite phrase for how so many of us were duped into supporting a war, on the false premise that it had 'something to do' with 9/11, is "lying by implication."
The impolite phrase, is "impeachable offense."
Not once in now five years has this President ever offered to assume responsibility for the failures that led to this empty space… and to this, the current, curdled, version of our beloved country.
Still, there is a last snapping flame from a final candle of respect and fairness: even his most virulent critics have never suggested he alone bears the full brunt of the blame for 9/11.
Half the time, in fact, this President has been so gently treated, that he has seemed not even to be the man most responsible — for anything — in his own administration.
Yet what is happening this very night?
A mini-series, created, influenced — possibly financed by — the most radical and cold of domestic political Machiavellis, continues to be televised into our homes.
The documented truths of the last fifteen years are replaced by bald-faced lies; the talking points of the current regime parroted; the whole sorry story blurred, by spin, to make the party out of office seem vacillating and impotent, and the party in office, seem like the only option.
How dare you, Mr. President, after taking cynical advantage of the unanimity and love, and transmuting it into fraudulent war and needless death… after monstrously transforming it into fear and suspicion and turning that fear into the campaign slogan of three elections… how dare you or those around you… ever "spin" 9/11.

Just as the terrorists have succeeded — are still succeeding — as long as there is no memorial and no construction here at Ground Zero…
So too have they succeeded, and are still succeeding — as long as this government uses 9/11 as a wedge to pit Americans against Americans.
This is an odd point to cite a television program, especially one from March of 1960. But as Disney's continuing sell-out of the truth (and this country) suggests, even television programs can be powerful things.
And long ago, a series called "The Twilight Zone" broadcast a riveting episode entitled "The Monsters Are Due On Maple Street."
In brief: a meteor sparks rumors of an invasion by extra-terrestrials disguised as humans. The electricity goes out. A neighbor pleads for calm.
Suddenly his car — and only his car — starts. Someone suggests he must be the alien. Then another man's lights go on.
As charges and suspicion and panic overtake the street, guns are inevitably produced.
An "alien" is shot — but he turns out to be just another neighbor, returning from going for help.
The camera pulls back to a near-by hill, where two extra-terrestrials areseen, manipulating a small device that can jam electricity. The veteran tells his novice that there's no need to actually attack, that you just turn off a few of the human machines and then, "they pick the most dangerous enemy they can find, and it's themselves."
And then, in perhaps his finest piece of writing, Rod Serling sums it up with words of remarkable prescience, given where we find ourselves tonight.
"The tools of conquest do not necessarily come with bombs and explosions and fallout. There are weapons that are simply thoughts, attitudes, prejudices - to be found only in the minds of men.
"For the record, prejudices can kill and suspicion can destroy, and a thoughtless, frightened search for a scapegoat has a fallout all its own — for the children, and the children yet unborn."

When those who dissent are told time and time again — as we will be, if not tonight by the President, then tomorrow by his portable public chorus — that he is preserving our freedom, but that if we use any of it, we are somehow un-American…
When we are scolded, that if we merely question, we have "forgotten the lessons of 9/11"… look into this empty space behind me and the bi-partisanship upon which this administration also did not build, and tell me:
Who has left this hole in the ground?
We have not forgotten, Mr. President.
You have.
May this country forgive you.

A Deep Thought For The Day

A lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes

Attributed to Mark Twain.

Supposedly the "Path to 9/11" mentioned the nationalities of those hijackers who were not Saudis but not the nationalities of the vast majority of the suicide bombers. Who just happened to be Saudis. Why this omission? Because Bush is kissing cousins with the Saudi royalty? Because ignoring the place which actually funds the spread of fundamentalist Islam all over the world doesn't hurt our security? I think it does.

Sigh. The problem in correcting lies is exactly what the above quote says.

Got Fear? Republicans Do.

That is my bumper sticker proposal for the Democratic party. You can use it quite freely without paying me anything but praise and adulation, though a box or two of chocolates wouldn't be refused, either.

Other good bumper stickers are Just Say No to Theocracy and Had Enough? Vote Democrat in 2006. These have the advantage of already being available. But no doubt we can quickly get my sticker into manufacture, too.

Add your own suggestions in the comments thread. I'm really looking forward to Sharon's suggestions, given that Sharon is on the other side of the plantation fence. Heh.

The Republican Plan For This Fall

It's going to be about two things: First, the fear, and second, the guiding of perceptions about everything. How they plan to do the fear bit is already quite obvious. Remind people of the fear they felt on 9/11, to keep the fear smoldering, then try to look like you're the only thing standing between Americans and total annihilation. Don't remind them that the air freight is still not being screened, though putting a bomb in the freight compartment doesn't even require finding a fanatic willing to die in the attack. Don't remind them that Osama bin missing is still...missing. Don't remind them of all the other people who have been killed in this little Iraq escapade. And so on. See how I can't do this stuff well? I'm supposed to frighten people from the other side, but I go all logical instead. Sigh.

The second part of the plan, about perceptions, is an easy one to see if you know to look for it. For example, first the government report finds that there is no relationship between Saddam Hussein and the Al Qaeda. As if we didn't already know that this has been found many times before. But then, on the very next day, both Dick Cheney and Condie Rice go out to reassert the old lie. Because perception is everything and truth is nothing.

Because perception is everything. That's why we are being spoon-fed Republican talking points without end. Including the "Path to 9/11". Note what the Providence Journal promo of the program says. So innocent, so willing to swallow, with eyes closed, the "truthfulness" of a docudrama designed and possibly even paid for by a group of fundamentalist wingnuts:

While most Americans are aware of al-Qaida's various terrorist attacks, they may not know of the connections between them or our government's response to them. This program shows you, putting everything in perspective, including reconstructed White House meetings on terrorism. The last one we see is one that took place a week before the 9/11 attack, in which President Bush's then-National Security Adviser, Condoleezza Rice, reports that the president decided it was time to act against al-Qaida.

Want a lollypop, anyone?

Haloscan Problems

The comments load very slowly today, if at all. My apologies for it.
Added later: The problem has been solved, it seems.

Going Too Far

Do you think that Echidne's blog has gone too far in the direction of feminism? Answer yes or no, with no explanation.

Hmmm. The reason I pose this question is that the recent Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life survey* on religious beliefs of Americans has attracted some debate on the comments threads on this blog. The Los Angeles Times article on the survey says this:

Liberals go too far to exclude religion from public life while conservatives overreach in imposing their values, the survey finds.

Americans are critical of both the political left and the Christian right when it comes to their approaches to religion in the public square, according to a new national poll.

Liberals have gone "too far to keep religion out" of public life while conservatives have gone "too far in imposing their religious values," said the study by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life and the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press.


The Pew poll found that 69% of respondents said liberals have gone "too far to keep religion out of school and government" and 49% contended that conservatives have gone "too far in imposing their religious values."

Well, the respondents didn't actually say that. The survey asked them a question with the words "too far" in it. Now, I think that is a leading way to ask questions, because it already contains the idea that a lot of the activity it addresses already exists. After all, we'd never say that someone has gone too far in doing something quite rare. So the initial setup is biased, implying that certain groups already have greatly participated in the activities of either blocking religion or pushing it.

Then the question didn't ask WHY the respondents would answer they way they did. Where did they get the impression that liberals have gone too far or that fundamentalist right-wing Christians have gone too far? From their own experiences? Columns by right-wing pundits? Columns by left-wing goddesses? This matters, you know.
*You can find the whole report as a downloadable file here. At the very end of that report are the actual questions asked, and, yes indeed, they did use the term "gone too far".