Saturday, June 16, 2007

Passage From An Unwritten Film Noir Script (Apparently)

Committed and posted by olvlzl.
(S)he was so cool, icy, so logical. But that was only like the hard geometrically cut surface over a blazing gem stone. It made the fire inside brighter. The only way (s)he’d ever be wrapped around anyone’s finger was if it was the best way to catch the light for her(him)self.

Stuck in a 1974 notebook.

Did you ever come across something in your own notebook, in your handwriting many years later and wonder what the hell you could have been thinking? Please, share.

Truth Has Consequences, Wing-nuttery Has Advancement Possibilities.

Posted by olvlzl.
Steve Colbert mentioned the great heroine of sexual realism, responsibility and so of morality, Dr. Joycelyn Elders on his show the other night, I’m told. He contrasted her hisory with the Holsinger nutcase Bush has nominated for the post of Surgeon General. Even if you didn’t see his quite funny piece you know, of course, that the subject was “self-abuse”. It was the famous answer she courageously gave to a direct [set-up?] question with the camera rolling and the administration she was a part of under full media attack.

[masturbation ] "is a part of human sexuality, and it's a part of something that perhaps should be taught."

She didn’t lie, she didn’t dodge the bullet she must have known the question was, she didn’t put her job or even her boss first, she took it on behalf of public health. She did the job she had been asked to do. It was the kind of raw of political courage that has become almost unknown in this country. A woman of her brilliance couldn’t have failed to know the entire consequences, the firestorm on hate talk radio and the cabloids, the pursed lips and disapproving squint of the “legitimate media”. She probably knew that it would cost her the position of Surgeon General, she’s no one’s fool. That doesn’t excuse Bill Clinton in her case. Not backing her up over what he must know was true was one of the most dishonorable things Bill Clinton did in office.

I think what Dr. Elders meant was that children should be taught that it was normal and nothing to be ashamed of and that it was a safe and uncomplicated means of dealing with sexual tension. She certainly knew that just about every one has, does or will do “it” anyway. It really wouldn’t have an impact on “incidence”. Actually, unless the person doing it is unusually careless I don’t think you could exactly call masturbating an “incident”.

Since Dr. Elders has had a long career of public service with many accomplishments I always felt kind of embarrassed that it was that one answer that would define her public life. But then there is this other quote from her:

"Our country talked about masturbation more in December of 1994 than they ever have in the history of the country - and you know, people would think you'd be embarrassed about that. I'm not embarrassed about that."

Only a true heroine could hold her head up and be unashamed to tell a politically inconvenient truth and promote the public’s welfare in performance of her duties and at her personal cost.

Who knows how much misery has been avoided over the centuries because of the near universality of masturbation? Unwanted pregnancies, venereal disease, fruitless yearning and the rash behavior that could be dissipated without anyone getting hurt? Hardly anyone really believes that it’s immoral, it harms no one so how could it be? Those benefits should be promoted and not suppressed. What other sexual practices are taboo anymore?* It’s really more of a housekeeping problem, when it comes down to it. The issue should be taken out of the hands of hypocritical conservative moralists** and handed over to people with an advanced knowledge of stain removal. The shame around it is just about the only health issue involved. Pretending anything else is simply a lie.

So, as a tribute to Dr. Elders, it is a duty to talk about masturbation and to make it accepted as valid a sexual practice as intercourse. The reason it’s always been such a school yard joke and a shame is because everyone was doing it, they didn’t know everyone else was and they didn’t want anyone to rank them among the “dubbers”. If they felt more comfortable with continuing to masturbate instead of engaging in sexual intercourse before they are wise enough to protect themselves or experienced enough to know a con when they see one many personal disasters could be averted. That’s what we should be working towards.

For another appreciation for Dr. Elders you can read this recent post by Kate Harding at Feministing.

Note: In a discussion on a thread on Eschaton about the Holsinger crack pot, it was speculated that given the disparity in numbers and the fact that a large percentage of gay men don’t practice anal sex, there might actually be more heterosexual anal sex than gay. I have been wondering how you would figure that out. Since he’s obviously quite interested in the subject perhaps Dr. H. might like to spend a little bit of his obviously too abundant time to expand his hobby research. His 1991 “paper” went into quite baroque detail about the possible tissue damage that can result from gay anal sex. To deny that some damage is possible is sometimes is, of course, dishonest. But maybe he isn’t as concerned with what happens to heterosexual women’s lower digestive tract as long as it’s a straight man doing it. Given the reports of the increase in unprotected heterosexual, anal sex among “chastity” teens, it could turn out to be quite acceptable to the chastity industry. Or it might be profitable to pretend it’s not happening.

*There are the controversies about “frottage” among some gay men. Some react with surprising vehemence to the suggestion that mutual masturbation is a more sensible alternative than anal sex. Some even claim that those who promote “frottage” as an alternative to anal sex are homophobes. That is an absurd idea. About a quarter of gay men surveyed in the mid-70s said that they didn’t engage in anal sex. Since that was before AIDS emerged you might imagine that an even large percentage doesn’t engage in anal sex now. I don't have any idea if the figures then were accurate, well, you've heard what I think about polling. But, don’t adults get to decide what they do among themselves, in private?

All of these decisions about sex have to be taken out of the hands, not only of the phony “chastity” industry but they also have to be taken out of the hands of those who are the reaction to the traditional moralists’ disapproval. These are personal decisions. Personal decisions will be different but they should be based on mutual respect and consent and with full knowledge of what will promote continued health, not on “doing it the real, right way” or on coercion. Luckily, the law isn't involved, for the time being.

** Who, exactly like the school yard bullies, all either did, does or will masturbate and they should know we know about it. If they deny it we should question them about their abnormality.

My Thanks,

To Echidne a great blogger, her hard work has produced one of the best blogs I know. It was a complete surprise to me last August when she invited me to be one of the guests covering her during her vacation, a great honor. And it was an even greater one when she took me on here weekends. It has to be noted that I've got some different ideas about things and there were bound to be some fireworks. Life doesn't follow the prescribed definitions and roles given to us by the media, social institutions or pop-culture. And then there's the length issue. I never felt less than entirely free to explore even the most off-the-wall seeming ideas and to call into question any commonly accepted idea. For that I thank the owner of this blog.

And I thank the members of her community who have read and commented on my ideas. Some have pointed out flaws in my arguments, some have shown me that I expressed myself badly. It's better to be corrected than to continue in error, even if it doesn't always feel that way.

And I thank those who have wished me well in my illness. It’s really more obnoxious and annoying than dangerous so don’t worry too much.

I didn’t, however, share with Echidne an even more painful and arduous trial which is about to overtake me, it is certain and it is guaranteed to happen on schedule. Within the week I am going to be under assault by a child who will harangue me to read her “the seventh book”. A word of warning. Think twice before agreeing to read a pre-literate child the first in a projected series of seven books. It won’t make any difference that she turns out to be in the top percentile of readers of her age group before the end of the series is published. Except she can catch your mistakes.

Friday, June 15, 2007

History in Pictures

Al-Askari shrine loses its minarets. Shiaites are upset and enraged.

Then a Sunni mosque is bombed. Sunnis are upset and enraged.

And so it goes.

Thank You, Ovlzl!

This weekend is the last one when olvlzl will blog regularly here. He has a recurring (but not life-threatening) health problem which must be seen to, and while he recovers he will not be able to write regularly.

I owe olvlzl a lot, especially given that I have paid him exactly zero dollars for his work. I have enjoyed his posts and the debates and discussions they provoke and the different ideas and thoughts that have entered this blog with him. His sense of humor is almost as nutty as mine and his knowledge in the fields of music, politics and other topics has enriched what goes on here.

He is always welcome to write here on weekends and I hope that he will do that when he is able to write again.

Thank you, from the bottom of my heart.

Friday Critter Blogging

First, there is a turtle. FeralLiberal snapped a picture of it before it had a chance to snap back.

Next, there is William, a very zen cat. William belongs to Doug Watts. Or perhaps Doug Watts belongs to William.

Henrietta the Hound is happy, on the whole, though she would like to see more meal times and better quality snacks. She no longer runs, but we have very enjoyable leisurely strolls down the local woods. She's hard of hearing. Oddly, this only affects her when I give commands. If I whisper something about "walkies" in the other room, she has no trouble hearing. Curious.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Dan Rather and Katie Couric

You may have been following the debate about what Dan Rather said concerning Katie Couric's low ratings as the head anchor (in the position that used to be his):

From the June 11 edition of MSNBC's Morning Joe:

SCARBOROUGH: You know, Dan, the thing that Chris Licht [executive producer of MSNBC's Scarborough Country] was talking about -- maybe you read in the Times, or I don't know where you read it -- but there was, seemed to me, this terrible miscalculation by Rome Hartman and a couple of CBS News execs that they were going to soften up the news, and that way they could expand their viewership. Yeah, I would think that if I'm sitting down at 6:30 to get the news, to see what's happened in the day, I don't want fluff stories. Do you think that's one of the problems that Katie Couric's had coming in -- that maybe they tried to re-brand the Evening News in a way that Americans just didn't want to accept?

RATHER: Well, I totally agree with you, Joe. That -- I want to make very clear that I have nothing against Katie Couric at all. She's a very nice person, and I have a lot of friends at CBS News. However, it was clear at the time -- and I think it's become even clearer -- that the mistake was to try to bring the Today show ethos to the Evening News and to dumb it down, tart it up in hopes of attracting a younger audience. And I just don't think people at 6:30 or 7 o'clock at night, or even 5:30 in the Central Time Zone or 6 o'clock when it's seen, that that's what they want. This is the continuation of a trend that we've talked about before, Joe and Mika [Brzezinski] and John [Ridley], and that is the combination of what I call the corporatizing of the news, has led to the trivializing the news.

I bolded the crucial sentence in that quote. Now, what happened next is that the well-known feminist and supporter of women everywhere, Russ Limbaugh, chipped in:

LIMBAUGH: Yeah, this is a clever technique, folks. I myself have used this technique. I love Katie Couric! Oh, I love CBS -- I've got friends at CBS News. A lot of respect for what goes on over there. And then you slam them. Tarting up the news. Dumbing it down and tarting up the news. The Today show ethos.

Now, when I saw this last night -- I was talking about this -- I said this is -- that's sexism. Dan Blather [sic], this is pure sexism -- dumb it down and tart it up. So we went back today. Here's a montage of Dan Rather on the air on election night November 2000. This is a montage of Dan Rather's coverage. And let's listen to dumbing it down and tarting it up.

And the public debate has been framed! Dan Rather is sexist! But Rush Limbaugh is not. I want to crawl into my bed and pull the pillows over my head. Wake me up when a saner world has been born.

Luckily, Jennifer Pozner has presented a more nuanced view of all this, and her arguments are available on video.

Here is my recap on the issues: There are two separate questions floating about in this discussion. One is about what the tone and contents of the news should be. The other is about whether women are up to presenting evening news and whether the audience wants to watch a woman in that role in general. It is quite feasible to keep the two questions separate for analytical purposes, and I intend to do that. But in terms of the actual decisions of the CBS they are rather deeply intertwined, and I intend to address that, too.

First, the selection of Katie Couric for that post was partly because the CBS wanted the news to become something different, something more like what Couric's morning program achieved. Perhaps the idea was that this would appeal to women, say. Or perhaps the idea was to just do something new, in the hope that people would be interested. Let's keep in mind that Couric wasn't the only woman CBS could have picked. There were several other possibilities, many of them very qualified indeed. That she was picked means that a certain tone and approach was preferred.

Now, this tone and approach is something I don't like in the evening news, and neither do many other people, I've noted. But this does not mean that it is Couric's gender that I would disapprove of. I disapprove of the way the program does the news.

Second, it is probably true that some viewers disapprove of Couric's gender, in that place of authority. Perhaps even many viewers do. Does Dan Rather? There is no way I could tell, but I haven't noticed him talking in the same way as Rush Limbaugh does about the dangers of "chickification" of the American culture. So perhaps Rather's statement should be interpreted with a certain amount forgiveness here. He may just have been carried away with his disappointment over the recent developments.

But here's where the two arguments must be brought back together: CBS must have known that picking a new approach to news and then picking the first female anchor for the evening news will cause the two decisions to be united in many minds. If the approach fails, then Couric can be blamed for that, or rather the sexism of the audience can be blamed for the failure, not the bad plan to begin with. And Rather's use of "dumbing down and tarting up" certainly contributed to the identification of what is wrong with the CBS evening news with the gender of Katie Couric. It also slapped lots of women right in their faces, whether he intended that or not.

Pope Benedict and His Boys

In the Catholic church don't think that women who get pregnant from rape should get abortions:

A senior Vatican cardinal said yesterday that Catholics should stop donating to human rights group Amnesty International because of its new policy advocating abortion rights for women if they had been raped, were a victim of incest or faced health risks.

Cardinal Renato Martino, president of the Vatican's Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, accused Amnesty of turning its back on its mission to defend human rights.

"The inevitable consequence of this decision, according to the cardinal, will be the suspension of any financing to Amnesty on the part of Catholic organisations and also individual Catholics," said a statement from Cardinal Martino's office yesterday.

"AI has betrayed its mission," Cardinal Martino told the US National Catholic Register in an interview.

Cardinal Renato Martino may sincerely believe in the message he conveyed. But then he also will never get pregnant after having been raped or possibly even gang-raped.

If you read the whole article I linked to (via No Capital), you have already realized that Cardinal Martino is playing straight into the rapists' hands:

Amnesty changed its neutral stance on abortion in April, but its Italy chairman Paolo Pobbiati insisted its new position had been misinterpreted by the cardinal.

"This has nothing to do with legitimising abortion as part of a campaign for human rights, it is to do with combating violence against women," he said.

"It was partly inspired by our experience in Africa where soldiers rape women in communities they attack to force them to have their children. We also believe women who have had abortions should benefit from medical care regardless of the reason for the abortion. Moreover we aim to promote education and contraception to reduce abortion rates."

So if the good cardinal has his way, the rape of women in African wars will be more likely to pay off in producing forced childbirth and children. Not so nice. On the other hand, his rule would also mean that no woman can ever be sure that she won't be forced to bear children. All that requires is one rapist at the right time. So there is that.

I am slightly bitter today, because the majority of African women have very hard lives and few rights and Cardinal Romano doesn't want them to have the right to refuse a rapist's child. He prefers to leave them permeable by the first successful sperm, even if it comes from the testicles of someone filled with hate.

I don't share Romano's views of conception as the onset of a separate human life. (You might remember that my theory is an older one which posits that it is the sperm cells which contain the life and that women are just fields for the men's seeds. This means, not-so-accidentally, that it is men who commit abortion every time they masturbate or have nighttime ejaculations.) But even if I did I would find an all-male hierarchy a horrible way of deciding when a woman should give birth or even possibly die giving birth.

In other religion news, Southern Baptists today approved a resolution which admits that global warming is real but questions the idea that humans are responsible for it. So.

Today's Action Alert

From an e-mail I received today:

Today is one of those days when our work has especial significance. I just
learned that Martha Solay, the woman who so bravely told her story to
support the liberalization of abortion in Colombia , passed away. She died
because she was poor, because she was a woman, because her sterilization did not prevent a new pregnancy, and because having cancer she was not allowed to interrupt her pregnancy in order to begin chemotherapy and save her own life. She left orphaned four girls of 17, 6, 5, and 2 years old. They do not have a place to live, help us build a house for them. You can [read] her full story following this link (pdf).

You can send your donations (with a note to Martha's house) and/or buy the
t-shirts used during the process in Colombia , now part of the National Museum, to:

United States: Women's Link Worldwide, P.O. Box 415 Northfield , Vermont
05663 USA , or

Colombia : +57 (1) 345 1489, or

Send an email to asking for more information.

The e-mail has been translated from Spanish. I think that you should add a note to your donation with the message that it is for Martha's house.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Teacher's Pet

That would not be Jonah Goldberg, whose recent article recommending the end of public schools made Ezra Klein point out earlier that many of Goldberg's preferred alternatives don't do even as well as the public schools in Washington, D.C.. And those public schools are indeed not doing well as Goldberg states:

HERE'S A GOOD question for you: Why have public schools at all?

OK, cue the marching music. We need public schools because blah blah blah and yada yada yada. We could say blah is common culture and yada is the government's interest in promoting the general welfare. Or that children are the future. And a mind is a terrible thing to waste. Because we can't leave any child behind.

The problem with all these bromides is that they leave out the simple fact that one of the surest ways to leave a kid "behind" is to hand him over to the government. Americans want universal education, just as they want universally safe food. But nobody believes that the government should run 90% of the restaurants, farms and supermarkets. Why should it run 90% of the schools — particularly when it gets terrible results?

Consider Washington, home of the nation's most devoted government-lovers and, ironically, the city with arguably the worst public schools in the country. Out of the 100 largest school districts, according to the Washington Post, D.C. ranks third in spending for each pupil — $12,979 — but last in spending on instruction. Fifty-six cents out of every dollar goes to administrators who, it's no secret, do a miserable job administrating, even though D.C. schools have been in a state of "reform" for nearly 40 years.

In a blistering series, the Post has documented how badly the bureaucrats have run public education. More than half of the District of Columbia's kids spend their days in "persistently dangerous" schools, with an average of nine violent incidents a day in a system with 135 schools. "Principals reporting dangerous conditions or urgently needed repairs in their buildings wait, on average, 379 days … for the problems to be fixed," according to the Post. But hey, at least the kids are getting a lousy education. A mere 19 schools managed to get "proficient" scores or better for a majority of students on the district's Comprehensive Assessment Test.

It's possible that bad bureaucrats are causing some of these problems. But Goldberg fails to point out another reason, and that is the poverty level of Washington, D.C.. Poor families are unlikely to send their children to private schools. Poor children come to school saddled with more problems than children from more affluent families. To gather a large number of poor children into one public classroom is not going to create an easy educational experience for the students or the teachers. Comparing the achievement levels of these children to those of children going to private schools fails to standardize for the income differences. It also ignores the fact that private schools can refuse students they don't want to have but public schools have no such luxury. This means that school comparisons of the sort Goldberg wants to use suffer from selection bias. (To give an example of this bias from the field of higher education, Harvard is good at least partly because its incoming students are good. )

Goldberg's piece is an opinion column. Perhaps it's acceptable in that context to pick the worst possible example as a snapshot of how public schools in general are doing. But it's still a little bit odd to summarize the theories explaining why public schools exist as "bla, bla, bla" and "yada, yada, yada" , though of course it makes writing the piece much easier. Likewise, to state that "the simple fact that one of the surest ways to leave a kid "behind" is to hand him over to the government" is quicker to type than any evidence for this argument. It also has the additional bonus of hinting that parents who have a child in a public school are "handing the child over", as if they'd never see the poor mite again. The horror!

And what about the general argument Goldberg makes that schools shouldn't be run by the public sector? He states that the government can't provide services and should provide money instead. A comparison between the Veterans' Administration system of health care (government operated and funded) and the Medicare system (only government funded) might suggest the opposite. But in reality the government provides certain services well and the private markets provide other services well. Which system to use depends not on some ideological statements but on the empirical facts in each particular case, though it's also worthwhile to point out that the countries with the best educational results rely mostly on a publicly funded and operated system, though it might not look like the American public school system.

Time to address Goldberg's "bla, bla, bla" abbreviation for the theories which try to explain why education is so often carried out by the public sector or at least by the not-for-profit sector, rather than by profit-making firms. There are at least four reasons for this.

The first one has to do with the fact that an educated nation provides better living conditions for everybody, not just pride and pleasure to the child and his or her parents. For a thought experiment, imagine a United States in which the majority of the people could not afford an education for their children. What would this do in a generation or so? The country would become a Banana Republic, with the wealthier few living in gated communities and the poor masses trying to get in. Labor would be cheap, true, but without many skills or abilities to acquire them.

In short, the benefits of education fall on a wider group than the students and their parents. But markets can't really enforce payments from that wider community of beneficiaries. Governments can, because they have the power to tax.

This explanation is sometimes used as a justification for publicly funded education. But public funding of education can also be justified by the desire to provide all children with equal opportunities for education. Its absence would mean that the children of the poor start the race several hundred yards behind other children, and might never be able to catch up, however hard they raced.

Now, Goldberg isn't arguing against the public funding of education, only its public provision. One might argue that public provision gives the taxpayers more control over the quality of the education they subsidize. If there is a public interest in the basic education of all children it is pretty unlikely that the government would ever limit its role to just writing blank checks. Some level of control and supervision would be required and the step from that to public provision of the services is a short one.

What makes it even shorter are the characteristics of the "output" of the school system. This output is difficult to measure. It depends not only on the teachers and the teaching tools but also on the child's talents, efforts and family participation, and in most cases years go by before the final effects of schooling are visible.

Whenever the product of some industry (education, health care) has this problem of verifiability (a particular type of informational asymmetry), we find that the industry tends to consist of a large number of not-for-profit firms. Perhaps the reason is that for-profit firms can't attract enough customers when selling products that are hard to verify. Perhaps not-for-profits and the public sector are better suited when the trust consumers have in the product is crucial. Whatever the reason, it is unlikely that a for-profit industry of educational firms would ever take over the schools in this country, never mind that such industries exist in the restaurant, bar and supermarket industries. If Goldberg wanted to offer an alternative to the current public schools a better example might be the U.S. health care industry.

Sigh. I now know why it's more fun to write "yada, yada, yada."
Cross-posted on the TAPPED blog.

More Bad News from Iraq

From the BBC:

The two minarets of the al-Askari shrine in Iraq, one of the holiest sites in Shia Islam, have been damaged by two explosions, officials say.

According to witnesses the minarets collapsed completely after being hit by bomb blasts around 0900 (0500 GMT).

The shrine houses one of two tombs in Samarra for revered Shia imams.

The bombing of the dome at the mosque in 2006 is widely believed to have set off a continuing spiral of sectarian violence in which many thousands died.

The BBC's Jim Muir in Baghdad says there are obvious fears now that this might give it yet further impetus.

Embroidery Blogging

I haven't had one of these for ages, mostly because I no longer have time to embroider, except with words. Or perhaps I've been having one of those creative pauses. Who knows? But I have a new idea in mind for a large wall hanging:

An Angry Chicken

It's going to have really frightening teeth and glowing eyes, while marching from right to left across the field. Very muscular and long-legged, with electric feathers and the talons should be frightening. It will leave an egg behind as it marches.

What do you think? A different kind of femininity? Or female power? Chicks and so on.

The more mundane reason is all those buttons I have, from always buying up old sewing baskets with their contents at yard sales and flea markets. I have ended up with a lot of buttons, and a pointillistic chicken might be a good way to use them in some creative way. I even have some rhinestone buttons which might work for the glowing eye. Or eyes. But I think a profile view is better.

Sigh. I haven't even finished the happy devil family yet.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

And Another Thing

Katha Pollitt has started a blog at the Nation magazine. It's called "And Another Thing". Her first blogpost is up today. Let me just say that the trolls there are unusually trollish. I'm quite envious.

Just kidding. But you might check out the blog. Also Pollitt's most recent column.

Anchorwoman Wanted

No experience in news required but must have DD cups in bras.

Now you think that I have finally fallen off the tightrope between so-so sanity and honest insanity. But you are wrong. I'm no more insane than I ever am. This is how a Texas television station has decided to address the job specifications of a female newsreader:

Some might say KYTX president and general manager Phil Hurley has decided to pull his station's news ratings out of the toilet by stepping into the gutter.

The Tyler, Texas, CBS affiliate will premier its latest news anchor next week – Lauren Jones, an actress, bikini model and former World Wrestling Entertainment wrestler with no journalism training or experience.

While Hurley admits his decision to hire Jones will attract criticism, he sees it as a smart business move.

"We think this will accelerate our growth and that people will see this as entrepreneurial," he told the Longview, Texas, News-Journal.

Jennifer Pozner addresses the feminist points about this experiment. It really is like spitting in the eyes of women who actually work in the field. It denigrates their work and their experience. It makes the assumption that women are on television in order to be eyecandy for guys. In an odd way this is not that different from the radical Islamists' argument that women shouldn't be on television because they are eyecandy.

Why not have naked men read the news? I bet quite a few women would check that one out.

On Genarlow Wilson

This case passed me by when it happened. Even goddesses don't spot every single thing. But I remember reading about it on various feminist blogs and the consensus everywhere was that Wilson had been treated very poorly indeed. The short explanation of the Wilson case is this:

A Georgia Superior Court judge today ordered the release of Genarlow Wilson, who has served two years of 10-year prison sentence for having consensual oral sex with another teenager at a party when he was 17. Prosecutors said they would appeal the order.


The case began three years ago when Mr. Wilson was arrested for having consensual oral sex with a 15-year-old girl at a New Year's Eve party in 2003. Under Georgia law, that offense qualified as aggravated child molestation, a felony charge largely intended for use against adult sexual predators, not teenagers like Mr. Wilson, who was 17 at the time of the incident. He had no prior criminal record and was an honors student and star athlete.

Critics pointed out that if Mr. Wilson had engaged in full sexual intercourse with the girl instead of oral sex, under Georgia law he could have been charged only with a misdemeanor, because of an exemption written into the molestation law specifically to cover contact between minors. But because that exemption did not mention oral sex, when Mr. Wilson was convicted, he received a mandatory sentence of ten years in prison without possibility of parole.

Mr. Wilson was also charged with rape for being one of several people at the party to have sex with a 17-year-old girl, but he was acquitted of those charges.

The 10-year sentence was widely criticized — including by former President Jimmy Carter — as disproportionate, and Ms. Bernstein likened it to "cruel and unusual punishment."

Which it is, of course. Now that Georgia law has been amended, and just because of this case. But the amended law didn't help Genarlow Wilson. Hence the order for his release.

Added later: Scott Lemieux says that Wilson has not been released, after all. And yes, Wilson is most likely not an angel at all. But ten years is too much for what he was found guilty of.

President Bush in Albania

They like him real good over there, as you can see from this video. Diane pointed out that Bush seems to lose his watch during the greeting ceremonies. Someone really wanted to have a piece that had touched his skin.

I'm becoming a vituperous blogger, I am. The watch most likely just fell off.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Seeing Pink

The way to market tools and technology to women is by painting it pink. Honest. Here is one example:

Not so long ago, pink was a colour reserved for little girls. It was the colour of Barbie and bubblegum, of plastic tat that parents were pestered into buying, of pre-teen bedrooms and pocket-money accessories.

Then, suddenly, it was everywhere - and being targeted at grown women. Next month, for instance, sees the launch of Fly Pink, a "boutique airline designed especially for women" which plans to operate from Liverpool's John Lennon airport. The airline will offer flights to Paris for "shopping breaks" in customised pink planes, and, to complete the experience, will also provide pink champagne and complementary manicures before take-off.

Which just underlines the fact that it is now possible for women to experience their entire day in pink. You can work out with a pink yoga mat and weights; adorn your windscreen wipers with pink wiper wings; cook dinner on a pink George Foreman grill and style your hair with hot-pink hair straighteners. You can even see off would-be attackers with a powder-pink Taser gun.

I don't want a pink computer keyboard, say. I don't even like the color pink especially, and in any case I think of it as "light red". I'd like a keyboard that I could clean without spending twenty years in isolation with Q-tips and saliva as my only weapons. And no, you can't have a look at my keyboard. It's mostly not visible under the various fossils.

The article I link to above makes a very good point. When marketers focus on some group, such as businessmen, they try to improve the product based on what the members of that group say. But when marketers focus on women, all they can come up is PINK! Girls like pink! Yes, that's the ticket.

Immigration Judges Wanted: Democrats Need Not Apply

An interesting article in the Washington Post explains how one can become an immigration judge under the Bush administration:

The Bush administration increasingly emphasized partisan political ties over expertise in recent years in selecting the judges who decide the fate of hundreds of thousands of immigrants, despite laws that preclude such considerations, according to an analysis by The Washington Post.

At least one-third of the immigration judges appointed by the Justice Department since 2004 have had Republican connections or have been administration insiders, and half lacked experience in immigration law, Justice Department, immigration court and other records show.

Two newly appointed immigration judges were failed candidates for the U.S. Tax Court nominated by President Bush; one fudged his taxes and the other was deemed unqualified to be a tax judge by the nation's largest association of lawyers. Both were Republican loyalists.

Justice officials also gave immigration judgeships to a New Jersey election law specialist who represented GOP candidates, a former treasurer of the Louisiana Republican Party, a White House domestic policy adviser and a conservative crusader against pornography.

These appointments, all made by the attorney general, have begun to reshape a system of courts in which judges, ruling alone, exercise broad powers -- deporting each year nearly a quarter-million immigrants, who have limited rights to appeal and no right to an attorney. The judges do not serve fixed terms.

Neat. Even after this administration is but history, those judges will decide on immigration issues.

You really should read the whole article. It has sex or race discrimination as well. But this quote should get your juices going:

A few months earlier, another failed tax court nominee, Francis L. Cramer, a former campaign treasurer for Sen. Judd Gregg (R-N.H.), was appointed as an immigration judge. Cramer's bid for a seat on the tax court foundered after the American Bar Association's taxation section wrote a rare letter to the Senate Finance Committee, saying: "We are unable to conclude that he is qualified to serve."

Cramer was then hired by the Justice Department's tax division and was briefly lent to the department's Office of Immigration Litigation. Ashcroft approved him as an immigration judge in March 2004. The Government Accountability Office, a legislative watchdog, criticized the appointment, saying, "Converting a Schedule C [political] appointee with less than 6 months of immigration law experience to an immigration judge position raises questions about the fairness of the conversion."

Never give up.

The Forced Birth Movement

Reading about Sam Brownback's speech at the National Catholic Men's Conference made selecting a title for this post difficult, but finally I chose the same headline as Cliff Schechter. Among the many I considered (A Taste of Wahhabism, A Preview of Margaret Atwood's Handmaid's Tale, Catholic Boys' Treehouses, Every Sperm Is Sacred) my favorite was "Rapists' Fatherhood Rights" -- but that's just too shrill. Well, it isn't, not really, when you consider the setting: A man giving a speech to a roomful of men. No women allowed at these conferences. And the speech includes this:

"Rape is terrible. Rape is awful. Is it made any better by killing an innocent child? Does it solve the problem for the woman that's been raped?" the Kansas Republican asked at the St. Joseph's Covenant Keepers gathering.

"We need to protect innocent life. Period," Brownback said, bringing the crowd of about 500 to its feet.

Remember that nobody in that audience has to worry about getting pregnant after rape or the possibility that he might die giving birth to the rapist's child. There is something extremely distasteful about the combination of the all-male audience and this particular topic, a topic about forcing women to give birth whether they wish to do so or not.
Cross-posted on the TAPPED blog. See Scott's response for some interesting arguments.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Chinaman, Laundryman

"Chinaman!" "Laundryman!"
Don't call me "man"! I am worse than a slave.
Wash! Wash! Why can I wash away the dirt of
others' clothes, but not the hatred of my heart?
My skin is yellow, does my yellow skin color the clothes?
Why do you pay me less for the same work?
Clever boss! You know how to scatter the seeds
of hatred among your ignorant slaves.
Iron! Iron! Why can I smooth away the wrinkle of
others' dresses, but not the miseries of my heart?
Why should I come to America to wash clothes?
Do you think Chinamen in China wear no dresses?
I came to America three days after my marriage:
When can I see her again?
Only the Almighty Dollar knows!
Dry! Dry! Why do clothes dry, but not my tears?
I work twelve hours a day.
He pays fifteen dollars a week.
My boss says: "Chinaman, Go back to China, if you
don’t' feel satisfied! There, unlimited hours of
toil: Two silver dollars a week.
If you can find a job."
Thank you, Boss, for you remind me I know bosses
are robbers everywhere?
Chinese boss says, "You Chinaman, me Chinaman,
come to work for me.
Work for your fellow countryman!
By the way, You 'Wong', me 'Wong', Do we not
belong to the same family! Ha! Ha! We are cousins!
O yes! You 'Hai Shan', me 'Hai Shan'
do we not come from same district?
O come work for me, I will treat you better:
Get away from here! What is the difference
when you come to exploit me:
"Chinaman!" "Laundryman!" Don't call me Chinaman
Yes, I am a "Laundryman"! the Workingman!
Don't call me "Chinaman," I am the Worldman.
"Chinaman!" "Laundryman!" All of you workingmen!
Here is the brush made of study,
Here is the soap made of action.
Let us all wash with the brush!
Let us all press with the iron!
Wash! Brush! Dry! Iron!
Then we shall have a clean world.

H.T. Tsiang from the Daily Worker, Aug. 15th, 1928

You can consider this my comment on the G8 Meeting, The World Bank and the continuing disasters that flow from them. And you can throw in the present day government of China as well as the United States and Lou Dobbs.

Hear Also: Ruth Crawford Seeger Two Ricercari performed by members of Contiuum on
Naxos: 8.559197

Drive your cart and your plough over the bones of the dead.*

Posted by olvlzl.
We still have hemlock trees here, though it’s probably just a matter of time before the woolly adelgids kill them off. I can't imagine New England without hemlock trees, I don't know if I want to experience it.

The destruction of native species by invasive organisms isn’t much talked about, it’s just let to happen, treated like a minor matter in the religions of free trade and market economics. But even in the most pious activities of those faiths, the analysis of costs and figuring of monetary value, the losses are a major factor. The losses to the world in other terms hardly figure at all in the considerations of our corporate state which seems hell bent on reducing everything to a depressing half-life based on commerce and mind-killing entertainment.

You get the feeling that the reason they don’t talk about these kinds of things more is because people presented with enough information might come to the conclusion that giving up a huge amount of the biosphere for the enrichment of a tiny minority of the mega-rich isn’t worth it? Isn’t that fight, to save the living diversity we have now, worth more than the one over the analysis of dead fossils? Isn’t at least as important as the hundreds of thousands of words wasted over deploring the museum of superstition in Kentucky? The best way to fight that would be to turn it into a joke, and the people in charge of it seem to be doing their best to make that job easier.

Some of my friends in the life sciences resent the attention and resources that cosmologists and some of physics can command. More than one of them has talked derisively about “The Lords of Creation” in relation to the glamor attached to the search for the earliest particle of time in the universe while their research into living beings struggles for money. Maybe more emphasis should be placed on the living than on the dead and the inert. Without life the rest of it doesn’t matter.

* William Blake, Proverbs of Hell.