Saturday, October 28, 2006

Can you take it? Kenneth Gaburo turns all the ScREWs

Posted by olvlzl

..... among our far-outs, has the finest ear. Virgil Thomson

After mentioning him in a comment thread elsewhere last week someone kindly sent me a link to MP3s of Kenneth Gaburo’s legendary work, Lingua II, Maledetto. The piece of theater-music has a lot of material illuminating issues about misogyny discussed here earlier this week.

If you take the 45 minutes to listen to the two sections you will hear a lot of unsettling things about sex, anger, objectification and hate. It is called “Maledetto” for a good reason, a lot of this is about hostility and hate as well as about eroticism and humor.* I don’t know if he liked the term but this is avant-garde art of an extraordinarily original and disturbing kind. It uses cliches and an astonishing array of vulgarity (I’d never heard a lot of it before). But this isn’t used as Robert Mapplethorpe depicted similar material. It isn’t merely presented to shock and as a demonstration that he can do it if he wants to. The way they are used here opens windows into what they reveal about people and the communities that those people belong to. A lot of the things it contains are not easy to take, some are pretty disturbing. It’s purpose is to provoke thinking, not to please.

The delivery of the texts even those that are quite banal sometimes carries the meaning past the words themselves. When those are spoken in close succession or at the same time they become a contrapuntal experience. The canonic sections in which the same text is spoken by different voices beginning at different times are striking for the difference in tone and emphasis, from erotic and loving to contemptuous to angry that the same text can have.

As to the sound of the piece, Thomson was right, it contains great beauties, many of those in the form of wrenching emotional contrasts. The beginning with the group sustaining the sound “s” for a couple of minutes gives way to a reading of an entirely banal text about screws. A couple of minutes into that the other voices break in with challenges and commentary. The timing and skill of the ensemble is amazing. I’d like to see another group try to perform it without Gaburo’s direction to see what they came up with. It’s certainly not everyone’s idea of a good time but it isn’t likely to be like something you have experienced.

Gaburo was one of the most varied composers in the history of music. The pieces I’ve heard go from a very fine and original but clearly traditional string quartet to some of the most beautiful (as well as disturbing) electronic music to a series of these spoken pieces. One of the most difficult to listen to is “The Flow of (u)”, three voices signing the same pitch on the vowel “u” for 23 minutes. I don’t recommend that for the first time listener. The electronic pieces collected on “Tape Play”, Pogus CD P21020-2, would be a good place to start listening to Gaburo’s music. These include his revenge on a (literally) violent enemy of new music “Fat Millie’s Lament”, the pellucid “For Harry”. The collection “Five Works for Voices, Instruments and Electronics”, New World 80585-2 , including “The Flow of (u)” and the String Quartet, is more of a challenge though rewarding.

Other out of print CDs and LPs of his music can be bought second hand. One of these is the Music & Arts CD- 832 that contains ENOUGH! —(NOT ENOUGH)— for forty voices and percussion on a text by Benjamin Franklin. It speaks to our political condition.

* Gaburo once said that he liked forms that were exhaustive of ideas. His music didn’t leave much out. His Mouth-Piece: Sextet for Solo Trumpet on the New World CD is a good example of that. Kenneth Gaburo 1926-1993

Blogging While Tied To The Mast

Between the blogger problems this morning and the flickering electricity here I'm having trouble posting today. I will try later when the wind goes down, provided we still have electricity and a phone line. I am sorry for the problems.

The New McCarthyism In Review

WASHINGTON -- Bunnatine Greenhouse sits in a cubicle in a far corner of an office in the US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) headquarters in downtown Washington, DC, where, she says, "I am treated like a non-person." Months crawl by yet her immediate supervisor just can't seem to find the time to meet with her to discuss a work assignment. The taxpayers of the United States pay her salary but, oddly, no demands are made of her.

That's a sad plight for a dynamic woman executive who is the cover girl of the July/August issue of Fraud Magazine. She's not written up for being on the wrong side of the law, only on the wrong side of the Bush White House, now a law unto itself.

NBC is refusing to air an ad for the new Dixie Chicks documentary, “Shut Up & Sing.” Variety reports, “NBC’s commercial clearance department said in writing that it ‘cannot accept these spots as they are disparaging to President Bush.’”

Harvey Weinstein, who is distributing the movie, issued the following statement:

It’s a sad commentary about the level of fear in our society that a movie about a group of courageous entertainers who were blacklisted for exercising their right of free speech is now itself being blacklisted by corporate America. The idea that anyone should be penalized for criticizing the president is profoundly un-American.

ThinkProgress has obtained the ad NBC doesn’t want you to see. Watch it:

Ohio GOP Smears Al Franken In Press Release With Doctored Photo, Fabricated Quote

Yesterday, the Ohio Republican Party sent out a news release (full text here) attacking Rep. Sherrod Brown (D) for enlisting the support of comedian Al Franken:

It is not surprising that Sherrod Brown is enlisting the help of a Hollywood liberal, who like him, is so far out of the mainstream of Ohio values. What is troubling is that Brown would solicit support from someone [Franken] who compared conservatives to Nazis “who should drink poison and die.”

The quote used in the news release is taken from Bernard Goldberg book, 110 People Who Are Screwing Up America, in an alleged interview between Goldberg and Franken. But in his book, Goldberg makes it clear that the exchange is completely fictional. The Ohio Republican Party represented it as fact.

You know about Limbaugh already. And Coulter, Drudge, .....

Why We Can't Avoid Fixing The Voting System Now

There are reports of voting machines recording Democratic and other votes as votes for Republicans:

A friend of our family ours went last Friday to early vote in Maplewood at Sunnen Park. He voted for Claire McCaskill, but each time he, the election worker, and the election supervisor pressed the screen for Claire, the screen said he had voted for Jim Talent.

I sent this info along to a friend that works in Claire'’s campaign. I have the name and number of the guy this happened to if you are interested.

Bradblog suggests bringing video equipment when you go to vote to record incidents of this kind of thing. I'd look into whether or not that is permitted where you vote first but a witness or making a complaint about it at the polls is certainly a good idea. Make sure that it's a big enough complaint that other voters will hear and check.

What If We Dodge The Bullet?

Posted by olvlzl

What if they lose? What if the congress investigates the crimes of the Bush regime and those are stopped? What if things go back to normal?

After what we've seen in the past six years, if things can go back to normal it won't be a blessed relief, it will be a disaster. Our recent history proves that we have fatal problems in the foundation of the American government.

Our elections have to be fixed, not just returned to c. 1964. We have to secure the vote, from before it is cast, to counting it, to reporting the results and to their fulfillment. No elections official, secretary of state, or judge can ever be allowed to prevent another legal ballot being cast or counted or made to count. The sleazy behavior we've seen from every level from elections clerk to Supreme Court and the Executive wouldn't be tolerated in a real democracy. A democracy needs it to be an impeachable crime for a Supreme Court Justice to say that a Citizen of the United States does not have a right to vote. That is a fundamental contradiction of the role of the court in a democracy. Anyone who believes that has no place on our court or in our government.

The media, and today that means the electronic media, have to have their self-interested bias exposed and it's pollution scrubbed out of our politics. They have to be forced to perform the public service they promised, including standards of fairness. Broadcast stations must provide real news, including local news, which has to be unbiased and fair. And without diverse ownership of the media, they won't serve the entire public. Women and minority groups have to control parts of the electronic media.

The cable "news" channels have betrayed the public trust even more flagrantly than broadcast, spreading lies effective enough to start the most idiotic and dangerous war of our history. We will pay the cost of their lies for decades, in blood as well as in money.

They also aided the Bush putsch of 2000 and the earlier scheme to remove a genuinely elected President on trumped up charges and lies. Pretending that a rogue cable industry isn't a danger to freedom has to stop. Anyone who defends them on their crimes against democracy is a dupe or a profiteer. Put them under the same public service requirements as broadcast media. Media passes itself off as the voice of the people, then let them show it by putting the public before their investors and owners.

Recent history proves that self-government can't depend on leaving it to chance. Laissez faire democracy dies and the death is never a natural one. It lets the powerful and wealthy swamp the Peoples's voice almost all of the time. The Supreme Court rulings making corporations artificial people made that all the more true

Our government is always presented as being those who hold office , that is where almost all of the pitiful efforts at reform are concentrated. And that hasn't worked. We have the most dishonest government of our lifetimes. Putting patches on the process to make it a level field is unrealistic to the level of willful blindness. Powerful interests have power. They will always win when they have equal access to the process and own the media. The handful of examples where individuals or small groups win over the big guy make for sentimental TV movies, using them as proof that the system works is calculated dishonesty.

If the People are neglected then it all goes wrong. They won't even show up to vote. That step isn't a naive social studies lesson that you stop thinking about after the test in fourth grade. You don't go on to the higher study of civics and leave it behind. There is nothing higher in a democracy than the People, there is no act of government more important than their Vote. Abraham Lincoln, one of the real founders of the country we live in today, gave the formula for it. You know it by heart. He didn't mention the congress, the executive or the high church of the judiciary. He said that the enormous sacrifice of the American People in the Civil War was so that government of the People, by the People, and for the People shall not perish from the earth.

Any aftermath of the Bush II disaster that doesn't include changes to these laws will be just the beginning of the next time. Not securing the Vote, the will of the People; and forcing their own chosen responsibilities on the media, the only guarantee of an informed and realistic Vote, is a welcome mat for the next would-be dictator. Any liberal, leftist, Democrat, independent, even "moderate" Republican who lets two years go by without enacting real electoral and media reform had better beware. It's just a matter of waiting before the same coalition of corporate interests, bigots, oligarches and haters tries again. They might be as slow and stealthy as they were this time, buying up media, using it to spread lies that "more speech" can't drown out. And they'll make their come back having learned from the mistakes they made this time. Like the aristocratic conspirators in ancient Athens, they will be more dangerous than ever.

Along with these two absolute prerequisites to securing democracy there is the necessity for a full and public appraisal of the thefts and other crimes of the Bush II and previous presidencies. There has to be a full program of congressional hearings, done in public, of what has happened. They have to be congressional hearings because that is their responsibility. A commission or blue ribbon panel or other kind of establishment dodge won’t do it. Those are mechanisms for obscuring and stalling. This is a job for those appointed by The People. They asked for the responsibility, no one forced them to run.

There will be a chorus of media and politicians and the Republican talking points network telling us to “get over it”. They are the PR voice of the criminals. We have to be prepared to force these reforms over their constant lies and slogans.

Just going along as we have been is a guarantee that the disasters will continue. We will have to push the next Democratic congress to work simultaneously on all these issues while taking up new business. They are not extras they are the only way we are going to find out how to go forward, to make progress instead of making the same mistakes we have made before.

If the Republican who have created this disaster win a majority next week, the problems will not disappear they will certainly get worse. Giving up before those problems are fixed securely is not an option for us.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Another Bowl of Popcorn, Please

This is a very funny reality if you manage the sarcastic angle that is necessary for full savoring of the comings-and-goings of American elections. I was reading of the impossibility of fitting Jim Webb's whole name into an election machine when I came across this comment by someone called Niranjan Ramakrishnan:

There, but for the grace of God... was my first thought as I read the report. If the machine deemed "James H. 'Jim' Webb" too long, I could only thank my luck that I had firmly turned down all requests to run for the Senate from Virginia this year.

I scanned the Post quickly to see if a similar fate had attended George Allen, Webb's incumbent opponent in the race. A quick tally revealed that George Allen had more letters in his name than James Webb -- and even more, if you added recently-acquired middle names like 'Macaca' and 'Stock Option'.

Actually, Allen did pretty well in what might be termed Great Ballot Massacre of 2006. The report goes on to say George Allen is one of the few whose names appear in full, although his party affiliation has been cut off. Fortune finally appears to be shining on Allen. What a godsend, in a time when according to every poll, the presence of the letter 'R' after the candidate's name is tantamount to electoral cyanide!

Luscious. And it is all very funny, if you're a world-weary and cynical goddess. But it's also fairly outrageous. That few people find it outrageous just goes to show how very despondent people are about democracy. What does it matter what the name is on the ballots, after all, when we don't even know how the ballots are counted or if they are counted. Who cares if you have to vote for some guy called Jim, or if you have no idea what the party affiliation of Allen might be. Who cares about anything anymore? Except the absolute necessity of requiring all voters to have photo IDs based on valid birth certificates, so that they can go vote for some guy called just Jim or some guy with no party affiliation.

What matters is that nobody should have to fix this problem before the elections. Now, that is more important than having a farce for elections.

Friday Funnies

Freeway blogger has a new great idea, and animation is applied to political discourse on Iraq. Then George Bush asks "what's in a name".

Enjoy the weekend, too.

Friday Cat and Dog Blogging

All with borrowed cats and dogs. But great ones.

This is spinoza's cat lying on the floor snoozing away. I forgot to find the cat's name.

And these are Barry's dogs, Cruiser (in the first pic) and Arrow (in the second):

A great lineup, even if I say so myself.

Such Good News

For the ExxonMobil Corporation:

The ExxonMobil Corporation reported today that it earned $10.49 billion in the third quarter, the second largest quarterly profit ever posted by a publicly traded American company. The largest on record was also reported by ExxonMobil — $10.71 billion in the fourth quarter of 2005.

High oil and natural-gas prices and strong demand for energy made the quarter a robust one for the company and for much of the industry. But the search for new supplies is growing more costly as the international oil giants push into ever remoter or more politically unstable territory, leading Royal Dutch/Shell to report a sharp fall in net income today.

ExxonMobil's results in the quarter were 26 percent better than in the same period in 2005, and translated into earnings of $1.77 a share, well above the consensus Wall Street forecast of $1.59 a share.

"High oil and natural-gas prices...made the quarter a robust one for the company." The problem with this sentence is that the energy industry has some power over the prices. It's an oligopoly, meaning that the supply side consists of only a few large firms, and an oligopoly doesn't just react to prices but affects them directly.

Did you spot how the good story was wrapped with a few complaints, too? The way I always tell of my good news (such as a new story getting published) by complaining about my tempero-mandular joint disorder or whatever. That way my friends don't get overly envious. Here the equivalent complaint is about having to go to more and more marginal and dangerous areas in search for more oil resources.

But the high prices of oil make that profitable, you know, even a price that has fallen down from $80 to $60:

Oil companies -- at least private oil companies in the US and Europe -- do face a big future problem. It isn't oil at $60. It is that they aren't likely to be able to replace their existing oil fields -- oil fields that generally were developed with the expectation that oil's long-term price was well below $60 -- with comparably cheap fields.

Oil fields that were meant to turn a profit if oil averaged $20 will need to be replaced by oil fields that will only turn a profit is oil is well above $20. Hey, that's life. No country with oil should be selling their oil forward at that low a price right now.

There is going to be a crisis about energy fairly soon (assuming that you don't think the Iraq war is about oil, really). China and India want to drive SUVs, too, and there isn't enough oil for all those potential new suburbanites as well as the old suburbanites in the West, especially with the peak oil problem.

I don't see much being done about any of this. What I see is more short-term thinking of the "drink and be merry for tomorrow we shall die" type.

The U.S.-Mexico Border Fence

Remember my earlier post on Dana Goldstein's article about the scarcity of women commenting on politics in the media? In that I quoted Goldstein writing this bit after listing some women she thinks are good commenters:

But even these women seem to be tokens. Most of the time, they haven't covered horserace electoral politics, the Iraq War, weapons proliferation, the anti-immigration fence, or any of the other hardball national political topics that op-ed pages prioritize in this time of wars and midterms.

I wrote down all those hardbally things into a shopping list format, and I'm going to write on all of them, though to be fair to me I have already written about the immigration problems and the Iraq war.

Hence the anti-immigration fence topic for this post. So what do I think about it?

As a practical solution it's inane. It might work if human beings couldn't climb, or if we equipped it with military towers every mile or so, staffed by gun-carrying border guards told to shoot at first sight of an illegal immigrant. But then the fence would be utterly unethical.

The walls in history which have worked (The Great Wall of China, the Berlin Wall) were guarded day and night. Those walls also had advantages the U.S.-Mexico border fence does not: The Great Wall was meant to stop invading troops which would have had not just men but animals and gear, both of which would make wall-climbing harder, and the Berlin Wall was in an urban area and only needed to span a short distance. As far as I can tell from the pictures this new fence is going to be a chain-linked one (fairly easy to climb or to cut through) and will run in uninhabited areas. No illegal immigrant is going to be stopped by the fence if they aren't already stopped by the idea of walking across the hot and waterless areas, guided by criminal smugglers.

As a symbolic solution the fence is great. It looks like a great victory to every foreigner-hating or foreigner-fearing Murkan patriot and it's going to give lots of money to whatever Republican company gets the job of building it.

That's my feminine opinion of the anti-immigration fence. It's hard to think that writing about it is seen as paying proper attention to hardball politics of great importance. Because it is a very silly topic.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

More on Misogyny

If you scroll down on this page you will find a post about how thoughts ripen which links to several good posts on the topic of fascism and misogyny on other blogs. I got so many thoughts after reading those posts that my brain stayed up and had a rowdy party late into the night and most of the thoughts still have hangover.

So I looked up some of my older posts on misogyny, to see what I thought about the topic in my previous lives. This is one which still reads fairly well. It's a review of a book on misogyny. And this and this might be of interest, too.

Then I tried to understand why saying anything more about David Neiwert's post on fascism and misogyny was so hard for me, and part of the explanation is that his treatment of the topic is excellent and sufficient on its own. It's not always important for me to chime in.

Still, that hasn't stopped me in the past too often, so I dug deeper, and came up with this: The basic story about misogyny and fascism is based on the idea that deep in the subconsciousness of all/some men, or perhaps of all/some people, is this diffuse and bitter hatred of women. David puts it like this:

Recognize, first, where it originates: In the twisted, sad view of humanity as innately evil and sick. In the strange mentality that perceives nature -- God's creation itself -- as sinful. In the demented, pathological view of women as lesser humans. These are all ideas we often associate now with our barbaric past, but the truth is that they live on in innumerable ways, especially embedded as they are in popular culture. Why do you think, after all, that a two-hour display of sadism such as The Passion of the Christ could be such an immense crowd-pleaser? Why would a show like 24 draw such immense ratings? Why would slasher films constitute their own moneymaking genre?

The old Catholic misogyny has devolved in our times to the proto-fascist's murderous style of misogyny. Only in the 21st century, instead of being organized, it's just routinely celebrated, as it has been lately in so many American thrillers and horror films. Sure, the psychopaths in them are all scary. But they all have a psychosexual hatred of women. The concept of women as the cause of their psychopathism is embedded in all these entertainments. But when these entertainments are played as mainstream, then the fascist pathology they are about slips into the cultural bloodstream, where it joins, echoes, and nurtures the latent fascism already there, as well as that coming from other sources. Eventually, it announces itself in a thousand atrocities, large and small.


The irrationalism that misogyny embodies, buried deep in our systems, simply can't be dealt with gently. The kind of men -- and women -- who will fall for the new misogyny aren't going to be impressed with compromises and halfway measures. The only thing they understand is "my way or the highway." So those are the options they should be given.

See, this is where I get all despondent and start having the rowdy brain-party instead: "The irrationalism that misogyny embodies, buried deep in our systems..." Do I have this hatred of women deep inside my female system? And if so, why? Can some armchair evolutionary psychologist enlighten me how hating women has helped the human race to survive? And if misogyny is irrational, why have it in the first place?

Combine this with the argument I have often read that the hatred of women has its roots in the fear of death, fear of nature and fear of all the bodily liquids which somehow denote nature and death. In this view, women are closer to nature than men, having more bodily fluids and that fear-inducing permeability. It is this smelly and liquid and squishy type of femaleness that men are supposed to hate, because they come out of it, desire to re-enter it and see it as death. Which is all quite poetic and also totally incomprehensible at the same time, because women are not one whit closer to nature or more mortal, and this doesn't explain how a woman could be a misogynist in a genuinely primal way but only by imitation.

It's not that I necessarily disagree with this view. I just can't relate to it in anything having to do with personal experience. I'm better at grasping the related idea of the need to control women or at least women's fertility, and I can even see how an uncontrolled woman might look like chaos to the eyes of very authoritarian people, because women are in some ways very desirable property to have. But why the whore-virgin dualism? Why are "good women" the ones who don't want men physically at all? Why are the women who do want men physically labeled "bad women"? Why, why, I ask, and I mean the question in a very deep sense. None of the answers that are given suffice to explain to me what exactly it would be in the male psyche that would create this, assuming that this is what David means when he talks about misogyny in "our" systems.

Sometimes I think that the deep reason I'm looking for has to do with dependence. The theory that it is the need for the other, and the rage we may have felt as infants when we were hungry or wet and no giant emerged to care for our needs within the first second of our rage-red screaming, combined with the realization that we were totally helpless otherwise. Could misogyny have its seed in that experience, forgotten now, or buried under years of other memories? Could it be that misogyny is caused by our primary carers being almost totally women? I don't know.

But the tugging between independence and dependence may have something to do with all of this; the need to stand alone, to be strong, and the simultaneous need for the society, for other people, for sex and caring. The fascist solution makes the independence and strength primary and tries to codify the caring into a forced maintenance activity, available at the press of a button. But really only available for men. What do women do about this conflict between independence and dependence?

The common story is to argue that women don't have the same desire for independence, that women are less separate from the webs of the community. I'm not sure if this is the final story we are going to tell or if this is how women are socialized to be right now. It could also be that women seek independence in different forms and places, or that the need for independence comes out in different distorted forms in women more often than in men: higher rates of depression, anorexia, bulemia. Or maybe not. This is all the stuff that dances around in my brain and in my stomach.

And the whole connection between violence and sexuality. Are they alternatives? An old military story is this one:

Whatever background knowledge a recruit possessed about rifles was sure to lead to mistakes when learning the M-14. Unfamiliarity with rifles may have given some (like myself) an advantage in this regard. Nevertheless, any recruit from either kind of background was prone on occasion to incorrectly refer to his rifle as "a gun." Such verbal mistakes like this one were quite common and drew attention to the perpetrator. As punishment, a recruit would likely stand at attention outdoors (sometimes clad only in his undergarments or even naked) and repeat over and over "This is my rifle, this is my gun. This is for shooting, this is for fun."

Military stories I've been told often use sexuality to turn women into the other by both making them into the valuable property that is to be protected and by making the act of killing itself into something akin to fucking. Weapons are given female names and the act of intercourse transfers from the recruit to his mechanical tools. How close is this to misogyny? Under what conditions does it work to make misogyny into a tactic of war? Or am I going to deep here?

Here are some of my half-digested ideas on the topic of woman hatred. I carefully chose to be all intelligence in this discussion, because my emotional reactions to the whole topic are not happy ones. But to ignore the emotional reactions in the general debate is most likely a grave mistake.

False Balance, Again

Sometimes blogging is really easy. I just go to some other blog and harvest all the hard work there. Yesterday, for example, Atrios put together two posts about false balance in the media. "False balance" is when you decide that neutral writing means finding a nasty deed on both sides of the political aisle before you can write about the nasty deeds at all. An example would be if your next door neighbor was found guilty of murdering people and you wanted to tell this to your cousin in Nebraska but wanted to make it sound neutral so you'd add that the neighbor on the other side sometimes rakes her leaves into your yard instead of picking them up. So it sorta evens out.

Translated into the political arena, false balance means something like this:

In a report on how recent campaigns advertisements are "getting ugly," ABC News, unable to point to a single instance of "nasty" attacks from Democratic candidates or their supporters, suggested it is only a matter of time before "the left" begins to "unleash its garbage as well." ABC News offered no evidence to back up its allegation that Democrats might soon resort to distasteful, negative advertising.

Or something like this:

KLEIN: You know, I just can't get over Rush Limbaugh. Boy—you know, people who live in glass pillboxes shouldn't throw spitballs, right? I mean, this is the guy—the guy least in the country who should be criticizing an ad like this, given his own history of addiction.

And I got to say that, you know, for the vice president of the United States to legitimize a guy like Rush Limbaugh is every bit as bad as all those Democrats who went out to Las Vegas to kiss the ring of the Daily Kos and the left-wing bloggers. I mean, can't we—can't we just stop this crap?

Now, anyone who has read Kos for more than once knows that comparing him to Limbaugh is ridiculous. But even if it wasn't, surely what the vice president of the United States does matters more than what some Democratic politicians do.

False balance in the media is a funny thing, though. It tends to work in only one direction: to make a Republican lapse look less significant. If the story is about, say, Hillary Clinton and her marriage the writers never feel an urgent need to poke at the marriages of wingnut politicians for the sake of some similar balance.

So what is behind this odd phenomenon? The fear of wingnuts, pretty much. They are in power and they are always ready to blame the media for being too liberal. Sadly, the solution to this may necessitate that we become as vicious as the right. We, too, may have to start nipping at the heels of the journalists, to create a different kind of balance, the balance of harassment.

Uncovered Meat

This is what Australia's Mufti, Sheik Taj Aldin Alhilali, has called women who do not wear the hijab or stay at home if uncovered:

Sheik Alhilali's comments were delivered in a Ramadan sermon to 500 worshippers in Sydney last month, a newspaper report said.

He blamed women who "sway suggestively" and who wore makeup and no hijab (Islamic scarf) for sexual attacks.

"If you take out uncovered meat and place it outside on the street, or in the the garden or in the park, or in the backyard without a cover, and the cats come and eat it ... whose fault is it, the cats or the uncovered meat," he said.

"The uncovered meat is the problem.

"If she was in her room, in her home, in her hajib[sic?], no problem would have occurred."

Hmm. Not very appetizing, are we? I'm not quite certain if the comments are intended to apply to all Australian women or only to Australian Muslim women. It's relevant to know of the two recent gang rapes by Muslim men to understand why this statement has been met with great anger and outrage:

Sheik Alhilali's comments have drawn strong criticism from some federal politicians and the federal Sex Discrimination Commissioner Pru Goward, who said he should be sacked and deported.

"It is incitement to a crime. Young Muslim men who now rape women can cite this in court, can quote this man ... their leader in court," she told the Nine Network.
"It's time we stopped just saying he should apologise. It is time the Islamic community did more then say they were horrified. I think it is time he left."

I once got into a heated debate on another blog about my right to discuss the religious commandments of another religion. The point I had made was that religious people often bring their values out into the public arena and that there they can affect the lives of those who are not of the same religion. And in some instances these effects can take women's rights backwards.

This particular case is a good example of the worries that made me engage in that debate.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

On Hen's Teeth and Women Political Columnists

They are about equally common, it seems. Dana Goldstein has written an interesting piece on the rare sightings of that unusual breed: the argumentative political woman writer. She hooks the story with the recent changes in the New York Times:

Gail Collins stepped down earlier this month as editor of the New York Times opinion pages. If you're concerned about the lack of women in American political discourse, this seems like bad news: Women are losing their representative in what is, arguably, the most powerful post in opinion journalism. What's more, Collins' successor is the consummate male insider, current deputy editor Andrew Rosenthal, son of late Times executive editor A.M. Rosenthal. The generally sorry state of women in the realm of elite opining is evidenced by the fact that when Collins returns to her old columnist's post after a six-month book leave, it will be the first time since her 2001 promotion that the nation's pre-eminent op-ed page will have more than one regular female contributor.

Across the board, women continue to account for only one-quarter of syndicated columnists. Editors say up to 80 percent of submissions to newspaper op-ed pages are penned by men, and the gender disparity worsens when the topic is politics. At four major liberal political magazines (The American Prospect, The Nation, The New Republic, and the Washington Monthly), a cursory survey of mastheads shows that only about one in every five editorial staffers are women, and just a single top editor, The Nation's Katrina vanden Heuvel.

So although Collins' tenure has been eulogized in the pages of her own newspaper and elsewhere as a feminist watershed, when it comes to increasing the gender diversity in serious American political journalism, Collins' ascension up the masthead amounted to mere symbolism. The two empty columnist spots that opened up during her five year tenure were filled by men, David Brooks and John Tierney. To be sure, it's worth lauding Collins' fine work in arraying a stable of truly diverse and interesting Times Select contributors, from the graphic artist Maira Kalman to the contrarian scholar Stanley Fish -- in fact, it was through the guest columns and blogs behind the Times Select subscription wall that Collins truly did bring more women into the fold, including Slate legal expert Dalia Lithwick; the class-conscious Barabara Ehrenreich; Perfect Madness author Judith Warner; and Pulitzer Prize winning biographer Stacy Schiff. But even these women seem to be tokens. Most of the time, they haven't covered horserace electoral politics, the Iraq War, weapons proliferation, the anti-immigration fence, or any of the other hardball national political topics that op-ed pages prioritize in this time of wars and midterms. (Lithwick is an important exception. Someone offer that woman a higher profile job, pronto.)

Pardon me while I go and gag a little. I'm ever so slightly allergic to any mention of the brothers-under-the-skin Brooks and Tierney, you may know. Did Collins really shift through an enormous slush pile at the Times, in desperate search for good female voices, only to end up happily clutching a piece by one of these guys to her chest instead? Did she run around the office, shouting "Heureka! I've spotted the Great Columnists of this generation!" That would make a good opening scene for a movie.

To return to Goldstein's article, I'm fascinated by the statement that up to eighty percent of all submissions to op-ed pages are by men and that this is why there are so few women printed on those same pages. Rarer than hen's teeth, we are. Except that most major op-ed pages don't accept uninvited submissions. Or that's what they tell me right after the bit about my piece having obvious merit. And in general I would question that eighty percent figure, because I alone am responsible for roughly forty percent of all uninvited (and unwanted) submissions to op-ed pages. Not to mention all those letters-to-the-editor which were refused because I have no last name. What is Ofthesnakes, then, if not a last name?

But it's most likely true that women don't send in as many manuscripts. Many women are far too objective and self-critical, and a certain hubris is necessary to get published. It helps to think of yourself as a divine creature, for example. Or a man if being divine is a little too much self-promotion. Just joking, here. About the man part. Still, to learn to accept rejections is the first rule in the game of getting published.

The second one appears to be to write about Real Politics, not girl stuff:

Most of the time, they haven't covered horserace electoral politics, the Iraq War, weapons proliferation, the anti-immigration fence, or any of the other hardball national political topics that op-ed pages prioritize in this time of wars and midterms.

Hardballs... Fascinating how political topics become sexed. Some are important and hard and require sports terms and pictures about killing. Others are less important and soft and gooey and suitable for women to write about. None of this is an attack against Goldstein. She's writing as she sees it, and she sees it correctly. But there is nothing inherently more important about anti-immigration fences than education or health care. Now I really want to write a woman's eye article on one of these hard-testicled topics, a funny one...

But nobody would read that one. That's the impression I draw from this quote:

But then how can we account for Collins' failure to recruit more serious female political writers? Here was a female editor with all the necessary power and the inclination to do so. But as she explained to Sullivan, her hands were tied because she received so few op-ed submissions from women. "The pool is weighted toward men. … Within that, the number of people who are capable of writing 700 words twice a week and making it sound fresh and interesting … that's a very tiny pool."

A tiny, tiny pool and Brooks and Tierney take up most of it already. Besides, it's hard to sound fresh and interesting, twice a week, unless you make up stuff and go all wingnutty. And then there is the toothless hen problem. We should get hens implants.

How Do Thoughts Ripen?

Are they like tomatoes, slowly turning red and juicy? Like peaches, suddenly letting go of the branch and tumbling down? Mine are not. My raw thoughts are horrible spiders with sharp jaws and hairy toes, crawling around in my stomach. They will NOT come up to write until they are good and ready, and here I sit, all nauseous.

So I can't write about David Neiwert's misogyny-and-fascism post because my bloody spiders are busy having snacks and arguing each other. I HATE them.

After you read David, go read flea and Amanda, too.

The Greatest Country On Earth

Is ranked fifty-third in a global freedom of the press index:

Some poor countries, such as Mauritania and Haiti, improved their record in a global press freedom index this year, while France, the United States and Japan slipped further down the scale of 168 countries rated, the group Reporters Without Borders said yesterday.

The news media advocacy organization said the most repressive countries in terms of journalistic freedom -- such as North Korea, Cuba, Burma and China -- made no advances at all.

The organization's fifth annual Worldwide Press Freedom Index tracks actions against news media through the end of September. The group noted its concern over the declining rankings of some Western democracies as well as the persistence of other countries in imposing harsh punishments on media that criticize political leaders.


Although it ranked 17th on the first list, published in 2002, the United States now stands at 53, having fallen nine places since last year.

"Relations between the media and the Bush administration sharply deteriorated after the president used the pretext of 'national security' to regard as suspicious any journalist who questioned his 'war on terrorism,' " the group said.

"The zeal of federal courts which, unlike those in 33 U.S. states, refuse to recognize the media's right not to reveal its sources, even threatens journalists whose investigations have no connection at all with terrorism," the group said.

Lucie Morillon, the organization's Washington representative, said the index is based on responses to 50 questions about press freedom asked of journalists, free press organizations, researchers, human rights activists and others.

But of course we can ignore such reports. Because they must be tainted by leftiness.
Via Rorschach.

Gibson's Warning

If you fear what might happen if the Democrats got into power you will love this video by a host on Fox News. If you like studying political lying and paranoia and such you will like it, too. If you are on dial-up, my apologies. You missed nothing of importance.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

The Michael J. Fox Ads

Michael J. Fox, the actor, has Parkinson's disease. He has made political videos in support of candidates who support stem-cell research. These ads have caused a shitstorm among the wingnuts, because Fox looks so obviously not well in them. Rush Limbaugh, the High Imam of Wingnuttery, was one of the first to express concern:

"I stated when I saw the ad, I was commenting to you about it, that he was either off the medication or he was acting. He is an actor, after all."

Others soon followed suit. Jane Hamsher at Firelake collected some wingnut expressions of outrage into one post. Here is a snippet:

Michael J. Fox has a new ad out in support of Ben Cardin in Maryland. WaPo:

Opponents of embryonic stem cell research who heard about the ad said they found it sad.

"To me, this is a shame that they're exploiting someone like Michael J. Fox for something that the scientists say is not going to do anything," said Douglas Stiegler, executive director of Maryland's Family Protection Lobby.

Steele campaign spokesman Doug Heye agreed, saying he considered the ad "in extremely poor taste."

That would be the same Michael Steele who compared embryonic stem cell research to the holocaust when speaking before a Baltimore Jewish group. Yes he really should be lecturing us all on "poor taste."

The Michael J. Fox ad is designed to appeal to our emotions. It shows what a disease can do to a person. The anti-abortion arguments of the right are also designed to appeal to our emotions. They portray the embryo as a person and they argue that abortion is murder. As Jane points out in the above quote, if showing the symptoms caused by certain medications for Parkinson's disease is in "poor taste", so is the whole program of talking about embryos as babies and about abortion as cold-blooded murder.

Have you noticed how one-sided this use of emotions has been on the reproductive rights debate in the last decade? The anti-choice side has used a wide brush to paint pictures of micro-Americans being butchered by evil and callous sluts for nothing more than their own convenience. But we haven't heard very much from the pro-choice side that would appeal to our emotions and our values of justice and fairness.
You can see the Fox video here.

But is she a Hottie?

The question, it seems, we must ask about Hillary Clinton should she run for the job of the president in 2008 is this: Is she pretty enough to be a politician? Or so his opponent in the race to be the Senator from New York state thinks (from a story last week):

Hillary Clinton's Republican challenger is getting personal and it's not pretty: He says the senator used to be ugly - and speculates she got "millions of dollars" in plastic surgery.

"You ever see a picture of her back then? Whew," said John Spencer of Clinton's younger days.

"I don't know why Bill married her," he said of the Clintons, who celebrated their 31st anniversary this month.

Noting Hillary Clinton looks much different now, he chalked it up to "millions of dollars" of "work" - plastic surgery.

"She looks good now," he said.

Now let's do something very unfeminist. Let's see whether Hillary really is pretty enough for politics by creating a little gallery of pictures of politicians. Here we go:

Here is Bill Frist:

Well, he's slim.

Here is Dennis Hastert:

Well, he's blond. Er, sorta.

Here is the current president of the United States:

I don't know. Is Hillary pretty enough to be in politics?

More Popcorn, Please

While we watch this transparent and reliable elections movie:

Oct. 23, 2006 — As if there weren't enough concerns about the integrity of the vote, a non-partisan civic organization today claimed it had hacked into the voter database for the 1.35 million voters in the city of Chicago.

Bob Wilson, an official with the Illinois Ballot Integrity Project — which bills itself as a not-for-profit civic organization dedicated to the correction of election system deficiencies — tells ABC News that last week his organization hacked the database, which contains detailed information about hundreds of thousands of Chicago voters, including their Social Security numbers, and dates of birth.

"It was a serious identity theft problem, but also a problem that could potentially create problems with the election," Wilson said.

A nefarious hacker could have changed every voter's status from active to inactive, which would have prevented them from voting, he said.

"Or we could've changed the information on what precinct you were in or what polling place you were supposed to go to," he said. "So there were ways that we could potentially change the entire online data base and disenfranchise voters throughout the entire city of Chicago."

"If we'd wanted to, we could've wiped the entire database out," Wilson claimed.

A Fairy Tale: Mouse as the Cat's Tailor

I looked for this fairytale everywhere because it's extremely useful in understanding the core of the American policy about Iraq and especially the varying reasons given for the U.S. presence in that benighted country. I finally found it, and translated it (with a few liberties) for your enjoyment:

A cat walked along the road carrying a large bolt of cloth under its arm. A mouse going in the other direction asked the cat:"Where are you going, cat?" "To see my tailor," the cat answered. "I need a new coat."

"Let me sew it for you" said the mouse. The cat handed the bolt of cloth over to the mouse who went to work on a coat. (Now, what you need to know here is the fact that the mouse knows nothing about tailoring.)

A week later the cat came to pick up his new coat, but the mouse said:"Er, the coat didn't quite work out, but I could make you a nice pair of pants instead." The cat agreed, though reluctantly.

A week later the cat came to pick up his new pants, but the mouse said:" Er, the pants didn't quite work out, but I could make you a nice vest instead." The cat agreed, though reluctantly.

A week later the cat came to pick up his new vest, but the mouse said:"Er, the vest didn't quite work out, but I could make you a nice cap instead." The cat agreed, though reluctantly.

A week later the cat came to pick up his new cap, but the mouse said:"Er, the cap didn't quite work out, but I could make you a pair of mittens instead." The cat agreed, though reluctantly.(Yes, I know. The cat is stupid.)

A week later the cat came to pick up his new mittens, but the mouse said:"Er, the mittens didn't quite work out, but I could make you a handkerchief instead." The cat agreed, though very reluctantly.

A week later the cat came to pick up his new handkerchief, but the mouse didn't have it made and neither was there any cloth left at all. So the cat ate the mouse, and ever since that time cats have hated mice.

No Exceptions

When I was very young I read a book set in Ireland. The heroine's mother got pregnant, became ill and was allowed to die even though her life could have been saved by an abortion. The heroine was left an orphan. That substory stuck to my mind as an example of how horrible life once used to be. But change is not always an arc of justice nor is progress linear. Now women in Nicaragua can really live the story of the novel. Or rather die it:

A Nicaraguan parliamentary committee has approved draft legislation to ban all abortions, including in cases where the mother's life is at risk.

The legislation will now be debated at a national assembly hearing before a final vote next week.

If the law is passed, doctors carrying out abortions could face up to 30 years in prison.

At present, abortion is only permitted in Nicaragua in instances where the life of the mother is in danger.

The call for a complete ban has mainly come from the Roman Catholic and evangelical churches.

The bill - which is widely expected to be approved - has come amid campaigning for the country's presidential election in November.

A woman's life is worth less than an embryo or a fetus, and a rape is allowed to kill her if she gets ill while pregnant from the rape. And this is what churches want.

Imagine similar diligence in other fields of life. Fathers would be given thirty years in prison for smoking in the same room as their children, for example. Or a parent refusing to donate a kidney to a child who desperately needs it would be beheaded. Well, we can't imagine such diligence as adults in general are not viewed as dispensable as paper cups.

Monday, October 23, 2006

No Joy in Mudville

I have a book filled with nothing but different versions of this baseball poem, and it's used as the title here for the simple reason that it makes about as much sense as many other things that are written about American politics every single day. Who the Casey is who struck out (in the poem) is up to you to decide. But I want to use this feeble and long-winded device to make the point that in some ways America has already struck out, despite its evident military superiority, in Iraq, and that the Democrats struck out when Alito became a Supreme:

WASHINGTON - The Senate all but guaranteed Samuel Alito's confirmation as the nation's 110th Supreme Court justice Monday, shutting down a last-minute attempt by liberals to block the conservative judge's nomination with a filibuster.

Republican and Democratic senators on a 72-25 vote agreed to end their debate, setting up a Tuesday morning vote on his confirmation to replace retiring moderate Justice Sandra Day O'Connor.

With at least 57 votes committed to Alito — 53 Republicans and four Democrats — approval by majority vote in the 100-member Senate is now seemingly assured.

Add the fairly young and hale Roberts to the bullpen and what kind of a game are we going to get for the next generation or two in the legal baseball? A game in which women and blacks are going to be called out at every base, a game in which corporations will hit home runs and there is no further umpire to complain to that they didn't actually manage to make a hit at all, or a game in which the Christian fundamentalist god is going to work as the ultimate umpire.

"Activist" judges are going to get quite a new definition in this team of Supremes. It will refer to people who wish to take us back to the time before there even was a United States of America in terms of a lot of human rights and to the time of the robber barons in terms of the person rights of corporations.

I don't think that this is overly cynical. In some ways the progressives have already lost the most important battles of all, over the Supreme Court appointments. It's hard to get excited over them, as there is nary a breast in sight, and it's hard to see why it might matter who wears those black dressing-gowns. But that's who adjusts the blueprints of our lives, who decides if we can get compensated for a wrong done against us, who decides if we can sue a vast corporation and have any kind of fair chance of winning. If we can have habeas corpus over our own bodies or if it's perfectly legal for us to just disappear one lonely and windy night, never to be seen again.

So I think the Democrats struck out badly. And I have no joy right now, whatever might happen in the midterm elections.
Thanks to Woody Guthrie's Guitarron for the link. He blogs here. This post is an exercize in writing politics as sports. Let's see if it makes me look good...

Today's Minor Bad News

Minor, because worse news are bound to come from Iraq. Still, this is not something I wanted to read so early in the morning:

President George W. Bush said Republicans can hold their congressional majority by focusing on national security and the economy, and that he will return to overhauling Social Security as a top domestic priority for his last two years in office.

Bolds mine. This is bad news, because "overhauling" in Republicanese means the same thing as "getting rid of".

On Motherhood, French Style

I found this article via BitchPhD but for some reason I can't link directly to the post on her blog:

When the municipal day-care center ran out of space because of a local baby boom, the town government gave Maylis Staub and her husband $200 a month to defray the cost of a "maternal assistant" to care for their two children.

When Staub delivered twins last December -- her third and fourth children -- the nation not only increased their tax deductions and child allowances, the government-owned French train system offered 40 percent discounts off tickets for the parents and the children until they reach their 18th birthdays.

"The government favors families a lot," said Staub, 35, a project manager for a French cellphone company. "They understand that families are the future. It's great for us."


France heavily subsidizes children and families from pregnancy to young adulthood with liberal maternity leaves and part-time work laws for women. The government also covers some child-care costs of toddlers up to 3 years old and offers free child-care centers from age 3 to kindergarten, in addition to tax breaks and discounts on transportation, cultural events and shopping.

This summer, the government -- concerned that French women still were not producing enough children to guarantee a full replacement generation -- very publicly urged French women to have even more babies. A new law provides greater maternity leave benefits, tax credits and other incentives for families who have a third child. During a year-long leave after the birth of the third child, mothers will receive $960 a month from the government, twice the allowance for the second child.

The French government has been supporting childbearing in similar ways for quite a long time, long enough for the cultural ideas of motherhood to have changed:

"I don't know if the French system encourages women to have more children," said Barbeyrac, whose husband is a documentary filmmaker. "But people don't stop having children because of money concerns."

Maylis Staub agrees. Staub, who is married to a lawyer, returned to work in August. Instead of using the government-supported day-care centers, she hired a nanny -- subsidized by tax breaks on part of the nanny's salary -- to care for her 10-month-old twins, Quitterie and Hermine.

When both women's twins reach 3 years of age, they will qualify for the free government preschool programs that most French children attend until kindergarten.

"The child-care system in France is very well thought out," said Staub, sitting on a sofa on a recent Saturday afternoon with feverish 8-year-old Margaux on one side, fidgety 6-year-old Jules on the other, and one of the twins on her lap. "Everything is organized to make mothers' lives easier."

The French system also fosters different attitudes about working mothers. French working moms say they feel far less guilt than friends in the United States or Europe because French society recognizes children are well cared-for while mothers are at work.

I would add that the lower levels of maternal guilt apply to some other European countries, too, though not to Britain, and the rationale is very similar. Though I'm not sure if other countries could state that "everything is organized to make mothers' lives easier."

That certainly is not a priority in the United States.

On Men and Mice?

Sara Robinson on Orcinus has written about the recent school killings of girls and earlier similar shootings, including the Montreal massacre. After listing many of these crimes, she writes:

Something is not right with the boys. Something in the way Americans look at males and manhood has gone sour, curdling into to a rank, toxic, and nasty brew that is changing the entire flavor of our culture. Men everywhere seem to be furious. Some turn it outward against women, against society, against the institutions that no longer seem to nurture them. Some turn it inward against themselves, putting their energies into bizarre self-destructive fantasy lives centered around money, violence, and sex. Some, more disenchanted than angry, check out entirely, abdicating any interest in making commitments or contributions to a family, a profession, or a community to spend their lives as perpetual Lost Boys. Together, all this misdirected, destructive energy has become a social, cultural, and political liability that we can no longer afford to ignore.

Interesting, though I'm not sure what the evidence is of this widespread anger amongst men. But assuming it does exist, what should we do about it? Robinson's answer, after pointing out the feminist-induced changes in the Western society:

But maybe what we are seeing here is a loose end, a leftover bit of unfinished business that hasn't even begun to be addressed yet. Maybe, for the men, the process of re-creating their place in our culture has hardly even started -- and their confidence in the enterprise is far less certain. While the shift has generally worked out well for men who had the education and resources to process and adapt to it, there are apparently a great many men who are still deeply grieving the loss of our widely-shared traditional assumptions about what makes a man, and what men are supposed to contribute to the larger society.

Without those assumptions to give their lives structure and meaning, these guys are drifting -- not sure how they fit in, or what they're supposed to contribute, or what separates the men from the boys in this rearranged new world. And some of them, as we've seen here, are drifting off in very dangerous directions as they try to express a little manhood in a world where it doesn't seem to mean much any more.

The right wing has very aggressively stepped forward with all kinds of answers to salve their souls. The military. NASCAR. Promise Keepers. The Boy Scouts. And, more ominously, the KKK and the militias and the Minutemen. The conservative Cult of Maleness is full of tradition and ritual, conformity and hierarchy, the stuff of which male cultures have always been made. (Social psychologists now think the last two are actually a direct function of testosterone. In other words, men can't help acting that way: it's hormonal.) Say what you will about all this puffed-up patriarchal posturing, but the fact remains: these made-for-men bonding ops seem to be channeling some powerful energy, and fulfilling some yawning emotional needs.

The left, on the other hand, hasn't given them much at all. And we probably won't be able to until we finally come around to admitting that men and women are different -- perhaps not to the acute degree that the traditional sterotypes once enforced so strictly, but also not as superficially as the forced androgyny of liberal culture has tried to pretend. We come equipped with different physiology and different hormone sets; and we still get different messages from the culture about gender expectations. Denying that has led to some widespread assumptions and social choices that have been unfair to both men and women. It has also brought us to this impasse where so many men are disengaging from the common good altogether, because they don't believe there's any upside in it for them.

All sorts of odd thoughts are dancing in my head now. Here's one: Senseless murders of the other sex work, if the intention is to get the sex of the murderers more attention, resources and power. Why didn't feminists figure that out in the 1960s and 1970s? Damn.

And another one: "And some of them, as we've seen here, are drifting off in very dangerous directions as they try to express a little manhood in a world where it doesn't seem to mean much any more." Manhood not mean much? Not much, unless you count making more money and having more power and pretty much running every single country in this world. Not much, unless you count having your birth greeted with great relief that you were not a girl in lots of countries. Not much, unless you live in one of those countries where shariah gives you many more rights than you would have as a female. Not much, unless you count pretty much running every organization of any importance and being an expert in almost every single field, including the fields of child rearing and cooking! Not much, unless you want to be a priest in the Catholic church. And so on.

And here's yet another one: If I can't be on top in this society of ours I'm just going to sign off or buy a gun and start target-shooting in the nearest school. So you better let me be on top. A society that doesn't give me all I want is one in which I see no upside, and I might as well disengage altogether.

And one more thought: Hey, Echidne! Don't forget that this is a patriarchy. Only in a patriarchy can a story start with listing the many deaths of women and end up pretty much blaming it on men not being allowed to be Men, meaning the traditional position of men as obviously more valued and more entitled members of the society than those womb-men down there. (And yes, I know that Robinson didn't actually say that, but that's how my inner feminist reads the conclusions most people will draw from the post.)

So I got a little angry here. My bad. But I haven't gone out and shot anybody, so you can safely ignore my anger. No need to give me adulthood rites or a hierarchy or conformity or traditions or even a gun. Both Shakespeare's sister and Amanda did this much better, by giving good and polite thoughts on the topic. I guess that leaves me with the nasty blogger role. I don't assume it very often and I don't really want to assume it in opposition to Sara Robinson who is a very intelligent and interesting writer. But something in that post pressed my divine buttons as if she had played the accordion on me.

Let's do a little analysis if the red haze of anger doesn't stop me completely. Take these two sentences:

The left, on the other hand, hasn't given them much at all. And we probably won't be able to until we finally come around to admitting that men and women are different -- perhaps not to the acute degree that the traditional sterotypes once enforced so strictly, but also not as superficially as the forced androgyny of liberal culture has tried to pretend.

My reading of this is that the right is offering young, angry men a return to their golden thrones on patriarchy, while the left is offering them...what? Therapy sessions? Free Brazilian waxing? The opportunity to cry? Is that what androgyny means here? I doubt it, but that's the reason why androgyny is ridiculed: it's seen as femininity, to be forced upon unwilling struggling macho heroes. But a real androgyny would be some sort of a combination of masculinity and femininity, with characteristics of the both. In any case, where I see the need for androgyny is in the laws and rules of the society, as a compromise which allows different types of people to live roughly comfortable lives. Should the left not strive at this?

Robinson wants masculinity to be redefined in a way which would not bring back the old ideas of masculinity as dominance, and she bases this on the argument of inherent differences between men and women. But women and men are not as clearly different from each other as the innateness discussion suggests. I can't think of a single mental or emotional characteristic that a person of either sex couldn't possess. If we take such a characteristic, say, protectiveness, and label it as masculine, what happens to the women who protect others? Are they now seen as masculine? Should we train our daughters to be helpless so that our sons can feel masculine in this way? Where do we draw the line between a human characteristic and a masculine/feminine one?

The main difficulty I have with the whole discussion on the meaning of masculinity is this: It is defined by the absence of femininity. This makes masculinity-definition a zero-sum game, a pushme-pullyou animal: whatever is gathered under the cape of masculinity will not be available for women, and in an extreme case women are left with a very narrow slice of life as theirs, the slice having to do with bedrooms, cradles and kitchens. Courage, independence, honesty, all of these have been viewed as masculine. Or think about what these definitions bring to mind: "A good man". "A good woman." Or how about "Real men don't do dishes?"

See how it is done? This is why I fear the false dualism always introduced by these femininity-masculinity debates. The solution is an obvious one to me, but for some reason very hard to swallow more generally: If we could all first be humans and then secondarily whatever sex etcetera we happen to be, well, this world would be a nicer place, with a lot less tribal exclusions.

The tribal aspect is relevant for these musings even more widely. (See how I have calmed down a little?) I'm beginning to think that quite a few men view being a man as belonging to a tribe of all men, a tribe which leaves women as the outsiders, and that most women don't see being a woman in a corresponding way. That handicaps women, and causes some of us to be stomped down by people we regard as our dearest and nearest.

What is it that the generic "woman" means for these angry (possibly tribal) men of the original post? The source of all their troubles, because she is sexually desirable and yet isn't always willing to spread her legs? The source of all their troubles, because she wasn't a perfect self-sacrificing mother, a perfect self-sacrificing wife? The source of all their troubles, because she's disgusting and bleeds? What is it that makes it so very imperative to define rigidly how not to be one of these frightening creatures called "woman"?

Or is it indeed that the generic "woman" is too powerful, too frightening? She can give birth, so all other powers must be removed from her and labeled masculine? Geez. I'm veering into la-la-land here.

Do you know what I think? I think we shouldn't dive straight into a deep well in search for some rites that would fix the endangered masculinity, not at least without looking at a little more evidence. For example, mass killings of women are rare or nonexistent in Scandinavian countries where feminism is much more rooted than here. Men there don't walk around all angry and tight-jawed. But then those countries haven't lost quite as many blue-collar jobs to outsourcing, yet, and neither do they have a well-funded wingnut party which keeps spouting out stuff about those damned blacks and women getting all the good jobs. They also largely missed out on the Victorian myth-making about femininity and masculinity, whereas we are still struggling with those inherited myths on this continent. More generally, how people "do" masculinity and femininity is very dependent on place and time.

Then there is the media and the images it has created of masculinity as violent. These images are not due to feminism, not even a response to feminism. They are part of the older mythology of masculinity in many cultures. Before we start building jungle drums and boys-only empowerment campsites (however good these might be), maybe we could look into what the media actually teaches about how to be a man, hmh?

Now I'm getting tired, so time to stop. But before I go, notice that hierarchies are listed as an inherent male attribute. Women don't do hierarchies? News to me, though they work a little differently in shedom. Neither men nor women want to be at the bottom rung of a hierarchy, though, and that is the problem with the idea of just letting teenage boys do adulthood ceremonies and get into hierarchical arrangements. The boys at the bottom would then look for something else they could dominate. You can guess who that "something else" might be. Or they might get a gun, and then we'd be back a full circle.
I learned about the Orcinus post from Coturnix who has promised to put together all the posts responding to it.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Halloween Poem

In memory of A.L.

When dead leaves crackle
Across the ground,
And the moon is large,
And full and round,
You'd best watch out
For the Devil's cat,
He'll cook you up,
In a pot o' fat.
He's iron teeth,
And smokes a pipe
And he'll eat children
Rotten or ripe.

So you'd best watch out
When you're trick or treatin'
It's one wrong step
And you'll be eaten.


Lie Alert

Posted by olvlzl

Ah, yes. The Republican lie machine is spitting out a new one, that “Democrats protest at military funerals,”. I read it printed in the letter column of our local Republican owned newspaper, heard it on a radio call-in and have been told that the august Washington Journal allowed a caller to spread it to a national audience without challenge a few days ago. That last one didn’t surprise me one little bit since back last spring Brian Lamb allowed Larry Craig (R-Idaho) to spread a variation on that theme, only instead of Democrats it was anti-war protesters who he claimed were disrupting military funerals. Funny, I’d always figured Fred Phelps for a right winger who put Ann Coulter’s last screed along side the Bible in his pews. But you know how rumors spread.

This is the bread and butter of conservative politics in our country, lies. We have to put a stop to this one because once it has entered into the realm of Republican talking points it will be repeated endlessly on call-ins and told by hate-talk jocks around the country. It will join everything from “Lady Bird Johnson is the half-sister of Coretta Scott King” to “The JS under Roosevelt on the dime is short for Joseph Stalin,”. Nothing is too clearly untrue or too absurd to not be spread for the political benefit of conservatives.

Unnoticed in this festival of falsehoods, it was Judge Karen K. Caldwell, a Bush appointee, who said that a law barring the Phelps style media stunts from marring funerals was “going too far”. I’ll bet you anything that she been declared a dishonorary Democrat.

Larry Craig, well, no surprise that someone living as big a lie as he has his entire life as a right-wing pol would have any trouble telling one that big. Brian Lamb's willingness to allow it might lead some to wonder why.

For LaHood is an Honorable Man

Who bears false witness for revenge?

Posted by olvlzl

You remember when the Republican congress railroaded Bill Clinton that they wanted a Republican famous for being fair and decent to drive the train into the station? They came up with Ray LaHood who the cable clack repeatedly assured us was just such a Republican. Look at this little exchange.

Today on Fox News, LaHood said, “I’ll tell you why I did it. The reason I did it was because Jane Harman released the Duke Cunningham - who sat on our Intelligence committee - report.” [ That report, which detailed the misconduct of Cunningham, who is now serving a jail term, was not classified. (my brackets)]

A Fox anchor asked, “So, it’s payback?” LaHood responded, “There are some of us on the other side who can equally play politics, and I’m not afraid to do it.”

So, to get back at Jane Harman for doing something entirely legal LaHood might have denounced an entirely innocent staffer*? If he has the evidence why didn’t he mention it? For those who might choose not to remember, Cunningham was guilty as hell of selling government contracts for his profit at our enormous cost and he’s serving a long jail sentence for doing that.

Barney Frank is said to have once asked Jim Leach “What’s a nice guy like you doing in a party like this,”? Yeah, a party that has held up LaHood as representing the best of its sense of justice. Looks ever more like Joe McCarthy is the real spiritual father of today’s Republican Party.

* But, as the Washington Post notes, the New York Times was interviewing government officials about the NIE for weeks before the story was printed.

Hey Kid, You Want A Ride In My Bimmer

Posted by olvlzl

or anyone who doubts that teenagers are vulnerable to even the slightly more sophisticated calulations of a really sleazy adult, a detailed article about how Foley operated.

This was going on too long for it to not have been known. I can't believe that these star struck boys didn't tell other people about this. Some maybe, not all of them. And even if they didn't I can't believe that his behavior with the pages wouldn't have sounded alarms, he was acting like a predatory small town car dealer using his BMW as a boy magnet.

"I remember him riding by in his Bimmer and talking about all the cars he got and going down to Florida to take out his yacht," said Kristopher Hart, a page in 1999-2000 who went on to George Washington University and now runs a day spa near the campus. "He was like a little bit of a showman, but he was a great guy."

You ever seen one of these creeps in action? This was obvious.

And contrast that with this:

One female page remembers that she was chastised several years ago -- and a Republican House leadership aide was threatened with firing -- after she met with the aide after work one day in his office, with the door open, to talk about the Bible.

It struck her as unfair. She was one of many girls who watched enviously as Foley surrounded himself with male pages on the House floor.

This might serve as a cautionary message about the dangers of bringing up young girls in ignorance of some of the seamier aspects of life but that's no excuse for the adults who must have been witness to it. This was a clear cover up of a predator with lots of bling and power. As he was stalking and cultivating sixteen-year-olds to harvest later, the Republicans made him deputy whip, one suspects as a reward for his helping steal the election in 2000.

Apparently the rewards of that kind of service include this kind of perk in the Republican controled Congress. Foley wasn't some back bencher who the Republican leadership didn't know.

You might also want to read this account of a gay page.

Update: Molly Ivors has an important post this morning on the same subject. Thanks for pointing out the problem with the link too, Molly. Hope it works this time.

Too Busy Fearing And Hating To Be Friends

Posted by olvlzl

Here is a good question raised by Rory O'Connor, why does our media give free advertising to hate groups when they could be focusing on the much more impressive efforts of those who counter hate groups? Maybe in the case he cites from Billings, Montana it is because a display of 10,000 menorahs in the windows of people of many persuasions doesn’t fit in with their theme of what “THE Way-EST” is all about, white, Anglo-Saxon Protestant, ultra-cons, strutting around in postures of rugged individualism. The media, once it fixes on a stereotype doesn’t easily change. Too much work involved. That’s about the most innocuous idea that I’ve come up with to explain it. That westerners might be acting progressively might upset the cowboy myth and they might have to actually do some reporting work.

You would think that such a fine display of anti-hatred would fit in with the happy talk news style but that’s so 70s. These days it’s brainless conservative propaganda presented with fear inducement as a motivation to Worry, be Republican . And there is some disturbing evidence that along with this situation there is reason to expect a rise in violent hatred from the right.

Conservatives have no use for the best of our species. The lesson of conservatives’ activities over the past generation is that they flourish in a climate of irrational fear and resentment. They need people to look on other people as dangers and dross that only the Republican right will protect them from. The idea that there are enough good people in a community to come together and effectively counter the tiny handful of active haters in their midst is anathema to them. It smacks of collective action and who knows where that kind of effort at community betterment might lead. People might find out they actually like their neighbors and the people from across town. They might start thinking of what they can do to improve the lives of their neighbors instead of feathering their gated, locked nests of anxiety and envy.

I know I go on about the media a lot here but that’s because they really are the biggest part of the problem. Americans are media junkies, TV, radio, DVDs, etc. substitute for what used to be a community life. The Republicans over the past twenty years taken just about every opportunity to destroy any community service or fairness requirement that the electronic media had.

Could there be, somewhere in the bowels of media central, a study done that shows that if people got out and interacted with their neighbors it would cut down on TV viewing time and so on the network audience share? Would our media actively attempt to destroy community life in the United States in order to increase their profits? It wouldn’t be surprising if they’d see the country turned into Fahrenheit 415 with mandatory wall screens on in all places all the time if it means they can charge more to advertisers. For the media we’ve got, everything is for sale, your time and eyes more than anything else. They’re the ones who sold the country to the regime pillaging it today.