Saturday, October 20, 2007

Oh, If Only Falwell Had Known He'd Be Rolling In His Grave Posted by olvlzl.

J. K. Rowling has said that Albus Dumbledore was gay and that he was in love with Gellert Grindelwald before seeing the light and defeating him and his fascist movement.

She made her revelation to a packed house in New York's Carnegie Hall on Friday, as part of her US book tour.

She took audience questions and was asked if Dumbledore found "true love".

"Dumbledore is gay," she said, adding he was smitten with rival Gellert Grindelwald, who he beat in a battle between good and bad wizards long ago.

The audience gasped, then applauded. "I would have told you earlier if I knew it would make you so happy," she said.

"Falling in love can blind us to an extent," she added, saying Dumbledore was "horribly, terribly let down" and his love for Grindelwald was his "great tragedy".

I'm not sure it would have added anything to the story if that had been revealed in the books, though it's kind of a surprise that in the wizarding world they apparently haven't got gay marriage yet. I'd wondered why the teachers at Hogwarts were all unmarried but figured it was just a carry through of English boarding school custom.

Will the revelation make her books less popular in the future? I tend to doubt it. Dumbledore's wardrobe choices were sort of a dead giveaway from the very beginning. Rowling, as perspicacious as ever, also said

"Oh, my god," Rowling, 42, concluded with a laugh, "the fan fiction".

About Comity (see fine post below)

Senate Hearings Haiku

Take some comity.
Add old football metaphors.
Aural ipecac

First Posted on olvlzl, Thursday, May 18, 2006

Pretending The Pregnancies Aren’t Happening Is Not an Option

The Portland Contraception Controversy. Posted by olvlzl.
You, like the rest of the sentient world, have heard about the decision of the school board in Portland Maine to extend the contraceptive services provided to students of the King Middle School. I say to extend because condoms have been provided there for a number of years now, to little notice from the wider world. I guess the pundits think it’s all right for boys that age to be gettin’ it on. You might wonder who the pundits think they’re partners are. Assuming they’ve thought it out that far. And no one should bet their pay check on pundits having thought through anything before they start their mouths flapping.

Where did you first hear about this controversial decision? It is tempting to single out the irresponsible report on TV where I heard it first, incomplete, somewhat inaccurate and geared to fan the controversy without any context given. Of course the canned outrage was interspersed with commercial messages and followed by programming which mostly consisted of the non-stop message, “have sex, have, sex, have sex ....”. You’d think that the members of the school board were going to class rooms and encouraging the 11-year-olds to get laid as soon as possible, while the TV and radio talking heads, as well as the media in general, are the ones giving them that message from the time they’re able to understand the images put in front of them.

But, since the media shills won’t do it, imagine that you are a school nurse in a middle school where the children you are responsible to care for begin showing up pregnant. Imagine you are a teacher, administrator or school board member who have pregnant children in your care. What would you do? Would you make believe that it isn’t happening, as apparently the coalition of outrage ostriches are advocating? Would you rely on abstinence sermons? Since the media are expressing their pretended outrage on the part of “parents” you have a right to ask why their abstinence sermons are either not being given or are proving less than effective.

While I don’t like children that young having sexual intercourse one little bit, no one has a right to pretend that it isn’t happening. No one has the right to pretend that it isn’t happening now, least of all the broadcast and cable media who are advocating irresponsible sex to their audience 24-7.

My biggest problem with this situation is having 11-year-olds in the same school with 13-year-olds. It’s a good idea to prevent pre-pubescent children associating too closely with those going through the temporary insanity of puberty to the greatest extent possible. But that isn’t the situation the people who have the responsibility for these children find themselves in. Their job is to do what they can to get the children they care for a large part of the year to adulthood alive and with as little damage as possible, with some education taking place. They have the entire commercial culture advocating irresponsible and dangerous behavior, too few of the parents of these children are taking enough responsibility to keep their children from engaging in those activities. I’m sure some of them are exposing their children to the full range of commercial media which is selling them the idea that there is something wrong with them if they’re not having sex.

And, I’m sure it won’t come as a shock, the reason TV sells everything with sex is because sex is one of the greatest and most irresistible pleasures nature provides us. Children possessing genitals find from a very early age that sex is pleasurable all on their own, even when kept in complete ignorance. Pretending that children don’t have sex lives is sheer hypocrisy. Practically every adult in the world knows it. The problem has never been dealt with on the basis of reality and honesty and children won’t relieve their sexual desires in ways that don’t carry dangers of the most real and deadly kind until that fact is faced. I won’t give my masturbation and frottage sermon again today, however.

So, how would you solve the problem if it was your responsibility? Take into account the real situation of having sexually active and pregnant middle school students in your care. Take into account that you won’t be able to control the hypocrites in the commercial media who are encouraging all their viewers, of all ages, to have sex, including those in the years you have to deal with. And we haven’t even talked about the market explicitly selling sex to even younger children to almost no condemnation by the media hypocrites. Making believe that it’s not happening is not an option. Public health officials unlike pundits, federally funded faith-based phonies and other organs of the outrage industry don’t have the option of playing let’s pretend.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Can We Have Some Comity Here?

You know, politeness, courtesy, bipartisanship. Cucumber sandwiches and tea. Large insincere smiles and references to "my esteemed friends from the other side of the aisle." That is how politics should be run now that the Democrats have the majority. It's also polite to forget all about Ann Coulter or Newt Gingrich's rage revolution or anything a Republican ever says that is mean-spirited.

Now that I got that off my chest, let's get to the bread-and-butter of this post: The horrible rudeness of Rep. Pete Stark (D-Ca):

A House Democrat accused Republicans Thursday of sending troops to Iraq to "get their heads blown off for the president's amusement."

The outburst from Rep. Pete Stark as the House debated a children's health bill drew immediate condemnation from Republicans who demanded he retract it.

Instead Stark, known for his liberal views and volatile temperament, issued a statement saying Republicans should apologize for voting against an expansion of children's health care.

Stark must apologize! Must. I'm sure you have heard that already, being the wise and well-informed readers that you are. But what you may not have heard is what else took place in the House:

Rep. Steve King (R-IA) put a sign on the floor of the House chamber today: "SCHIP: Socialized Clinton-style Hillarycare for Illegals and their Parents." [Non-citizens are not eligible for SCHIP.] (source)

Rep. Pete Stark (D-CA) said, from the floor, "You (Republicans) don't have money to fund the war or children. But you're going to spend it to blow up innocent people if we can get enough kids to grow old enough for you to send to Iraq to get their heads blown off for the president's amusement." [Since 2001, Congress has had to borrow money to fund its programs.]

Wonkette has a picture of the learning aid Rep. King had prepared:

Why is this polite and acceptable when Stark's comment is not? Inquiring minds want to know.

Friday Kitty-Cat And Snake Blogging

This is FeraLiberal's Emma snoozing after the reading of many, many books.

And this is my mom's Photoshop course assignment. Her cat (Mikko) snoozing on some waterlily leaves.

Here is another lovely snakelet. It could be the parent of the one I posted last week. I'm sorry I didn't make a note of the photographer, but if the person drops by and lets me know I will correct the oversight.

What Are Your Political Non-Negotiables?

This may be relationship psycho-babble, but sometimes babble is good. I was once asked that question about non-negotiables in the context of getting advice on a relationship, and it turned out to be excellent advice. What ARE the beliefs and ideals which are so important for me that compromising about them makes me feel as if I've died and only move around because of some residual reflex action? Or taken in reverse: what are the many fields of life in which I can compromise and yet remain me? Answers to questions like these make for healthier relationships.

Compromise is a necessary art in all human interaction, but throwing away your innermost self will not work. I was thinking about this when I read Mark Kleiman's recent post on why Michael Mukasey might not be the best possible choice for the job of the Attorney General of the United States:

I understand Mukasey is supposed to be a reasonably good guy, by comparison with the run of Bush appointees. But if Mukasey won't say that waterboarding is torture and claims that the President has some undefined power to violate statute law — even criminal laws, such as the ban on torture and other war crimes — under his "Article II powers," then why should the Senate Judiciary Committee even bring his nomination to a vote? If he says he hasn't read the latest torture memos or decided whether waterboarding is torture, Sen. Leahy ought to tell him to read the memos and observe a waterboarding session and come back when he's done his homework.

Andrew Sullivan linked to Kleiman and pretty much agreed:

Don't people see that this is what Cheney is doing? He is setting precedent after precedent for totalist, secret executive power. And with each precedent for unchecked, uncontrollable executive power - including the power to detain and torture within the United States - the America we have known is being surrendered. This is the other war - a constitutional war at home against American liberty and the Constitution - as dangerous in a different way as Islamism. One attacks our freedom from the outside; the other hollows out our freedom from within. The fight against both is the calling of the time.

Hmm. But the point both of these writers are making is that it is indeed time to take a quick peek at those innermost value, just to make sure that they still exist, and it's also time to look at Mukasey's private values. For example, does he value executive power over habeas corpus?

Pragmatism can be taken too far, to a point where one forgets what the pragmatism was supposed to achieve in the first place.

This is what I have trouble with when watching some politicians or when reading some pundits. The trapeze work of both types can look exciting, agile and nimble, but I see no underlying pattern, no planned series of breathtaking stunts, no planned safe landing in support of those basic values. (What a terrible metaphor. But it's Friday.) The only real value I see in their work is: "Hey, look at me!"

And this is why I think we need a little bit more idealism in our political debates and a little less pragmatism, especially on the Democratic side of the aisle. I want to know what the non-negotiables of the politicians are, and I want them to care about the Constitution and other similar concepts. Otherwise they look like zombies to me.

Half A Million Deaths

This is the number of women who die each year in a way we summarize as maternal mortality:

Giving birth can be fatal for women in many countries of the world.

Around half a million women die annually before, during or shortly after giving birth - and almost all of these deaths occur in developing countries.

Campaigners argue that these deaths are both preventable and have repercussions that echo far beyond the woman's immediate family and community.

"We know exactly what needs to be done to save women's lives," the chief of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) Thoraya Obaid told the BBC News website.

And yet, since 1990, the level of maternal mortality has decreased by less than 1% per year, far from enough to reach an internationally agreed goal of a 75% reduction by 2015.

The leading killers during pregnancy or childbirth include massive blood loss, high blood pressure, an unsafe abortion, an untreated infection and obstructed labour - where the woman's body is too small for the baby to pass through the birth canal.

But the reasons why these issues have not been tackled are political, rather than medical.

And what are these political reasons? The most important one is the unimportance of the women most at risk. They are poor and tend to live in societies where women have few rights. Even those who try to justify the use of greater resources to help these women must bring in arguments about the children or the family in general:

If a mother is ill or dies, the baby is less likely to survive and her other children less likely to be healthy and educated.

The second political reason has to do with the current United States policies in giving international aid. Anything containing the term "reproductive health" is seen as a codeword for abortion and shunned by the Bush administration. The money then tends to go into avenues which focus on abstinence, say, and women without many rights can't enforce their own abstinence.

Granted, these problems are mostly political and not medical. But the poorest countries do have limited health resources in general. I wonder if these resources are allocated in the best possible manner and if the low value of women (and of children, in countries with many children) is part of the explicit decision making in those allocations.
Thanks to TheaLogie for the link.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Say "Cheese"

Pictures of politicians are interesting. Remember how good Nancy Pelosi used to look in most pictures on progressive and liberal blogs? Now the pictures I see of her make her look as if she is suffering from indigestion. Pictures of Reid are likewise suddenly of a grumpy guy. All this is obvious, but I'm not sure that the fact the pictures are selected to further a thesis is as clear to our brains when we click on a webpage. Has anyone studied the impact of these visual "disapproval/approval" devices?

Then there is this picture of Hillary Clinton:

It is attached to an article about how well she is polling, an article which implies that the people who like her like her for all the wrong reasons. Or in short: Only white men vote logically. Everyone else votes on illogical gender and race grounds and should probably not be allowed to vote at all.

Ann Coulter started that meme, but it has recently been taken up by Cliff May on Tucker Carlson's show. It's fascinating how all that goes: The arguments seeping slowly from the extreme fringe of the conservatives towards the mainstream conversation.

SCHIP Override Fails in The House

This was expected:

Supporters of a bill to provide health insurance for 10 million children failed this afternoon, as expected, to muster enough support in the House to override President Bush's veto.

The vote to override the veto was 273 to 156, or 13 votes short of the necessary two-thirds majority of those present and voting; the bill was originally approved by a 265 to 159 vote on Sept. 25.

The main suspense before today's vote was over how many Republicans would side against President Bush. Forty-four House Republicans voted for the bill today, compared with 45 on Sept. 25.

The White House said President Bush was pleased with today's result. "As it is clear that this legislation lacks sufficient support to become law, now is the time for Congress to stop playing politics and to join the president in finding common ground to reauthorize this vital program," said Dana Perino, Mr. Bush's spokeswoman.

Democrats had anticipated defeat, and Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the Senate majority leader, and Representative Rahm Emanuel of Illinois, chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, immediately offered angry comments.

Certain aspects of the SCHIP debate have not received the attention they deserve. For example, the fight is not just over expanding SCHIP to cover more children, but also about keeping the coverage for the children who have SCHIP right now. The president's veto means that the overall expense on the program is capped at the old level, even though prices of health care have risen. What this means is that several states will have to cut the number of children they currently insure. In short: the debate is not between the existing program and a larger one but between a larger program and a much smaller one.

Another aspect worth emphasizing is that the majority of those polled on the question of SCHIP want to see it expanded. Even 70% of Republican respondents wanted to see that, and three quarters of all those who want an expansion said that they'd be willing to pay higher taxes for it. In short: Bush is rowing against the current here.

A third aspect I find pretty astonishing is the inability of so many conservative commentators to grasp the simple fact that private health care insurance really is unaffordable for many people who might otherwise look almost middle-class. You can forget about an affordable insurance policy if your employer doesn't offer group health insurance, and you can also forget about it if you suffer from a pre-existing condition. The individual policies offered to groups like these look affordable only if they cover very little, which means that they don't protect the buyer against the truly catastrophic effects of many illnesses. Even people who do have good private health insurance find themselves owing lots of money to hospitals after a stay in intensive care or a complicated surgery.

George Will recently wrote:

SCHIP is described as serving "poor children" or children of "the working poor." Everyone agrees that it is for "low-income" people. Under the bill that Democrats hope to pass over the president's veto tomorrow, states could extend eligibility to households earning $61,950. But America's median household income is $48,201. How can people above the median income be eligible for a program serving lower-income people?

Imagine yourself living in New York City, earning $61,950, with, say, four children. Imagine that your employer doesn't offer group health insurance (most small firms do not). How much would you have to pay for an individual policy covering the whole family? How much is your rent? The point Will ignores here is that standard of living doesn't depend only on the income one earns but also on how much everything costs. It also depends on the number of people one supports out of that income. It's quite simple to imagine a particular income meaning an affluent lifestyle in some place such as India, whereas the same income in, say, London, would make you and your family destitute.

But even ignoring that definitional problem in Will's article, I find that many conservative commentators suffer from an odd kind of blindness when talking about health insurance. It's not a product that you can buy in little snippets if you can't afford the big chunk you actually need, and that chunk can cost more than a middle-class person can afford. Add to that the ever-decreasing number of jobs which still offer health insurance, and the problem becomes something which not only the poor suffer from.


You can go and read my post at WIMN website on "The New Girl Order". It's a criticism of the fairly usual conservative attack against women. These people always worry about the educated and uppity gals, never about the majority of women. It's quite revealing.

Phill Kline And Abortion

Do you think Phill Kline might suffer from an unusual kind of obsessive-compulsive disorder? That would be a gentle explanation for his single-minded stalking of all abortion providers in Kansas.

He once was famous for trying to subpoena all medical records of the patients of a Planned Parenthood clinic. Now he is suing a clinic:

A Planned Parenthood clinic was charged Wednesday with providing unlawful abortions and other crimes by a county prosecutor who had engaged in a high-profile battle with the clinic when he was Kansas attorney general.

Johnson County District Attorney Phill Kline charged the Overland Park, Kan., clinic with 107 counts, 23 of them felonies. Besides 29 misdemeanor counts of providing unlawful late-term abortions, the clinic is charged with multiple counts of making a false writing, failure to maintain records and failure to determine viability.

Case documents have been sealed, according to a court order. The first hearing is set for Nov. 16.

Kline's office did not immediately comment on the charges.

Read the whole linked article to get an idea why I call Mr. Kline obsessive.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

The Chocolate Jesus Is Back

This is one of those art pieces which provoke strong reactions:

"My Sweet Lord," an anatomically correct milk chocolate sculpture of Jesus Christ that infuriated Catholics before its April unveiling was canceled, returns Oct. 27 to a Chelsea art gallery, its creator said Tuesday.

This time, artist Cosimo Cavallaro said he expects the public exhibit to proceed without a problem.

"There is nothing offensive about this," Cavallaro said of his controversial confectionary work. "If my intentions were to offend, if I did do something wrong, I wouldn't be doing this. But I didn't do anything wrong."

Cavallaro, who received death threats before the April show was canceled, said the vast majority of his mail was in support of his six-foot piece.

"I got a lot of positive mail from people in the Catholic Church, people studying theology, people in monasteries — all kinds of letters and e-mails of support," he said.

I have no idea what Cavallaro wanted to achieve with his sculpture, whether he was ridiculing religion or trying to delve deeper into that sacrifice myth which is a fundamental piece of Christianity, but I found this part of the article incredibly touching:

The sculpture is actually a new version of "My Sweet Lord," created with 200 pounds of chocolate over three days. The original was stored in a Brooklyn facility where mice nibbled away at its hands, ears, nose and feet, forcing Cavallaro to toss the original and recast the sculpture.

Mice taking Holy Communion.

Niki Tsongas from Massachusetts

Niki Tsongas, the widow of Paul Tsongas, is going to go to the U.S. Congress. What is odd that she is the first woman to represent Massachusetts in the U.S. Congress since 1983. That is 24 years of no female representatives at all. Very weird, especially considering the fairly liberal tone of this Sodom of America.

It's Not A Choice. It's A Child.

This is the message on an anti-abortion bumper sticker. I was reminded of it when reading what the National Review Online has to say about the family of Bethany Wilkerson, a two-year old who has received treatment under the SCHIP and whose story is used as an ad for expanding the program by TrueMajorityAction. Those who have followed the Graeme Frost debate probably know what the main conservative argument here is: What the Frosts and Wilkersons have experienced is mostly the fault of their own bad decisions, and those of us who don't make bad decisions shouldn't have to pay taxes that cover those who do.

The NRO article takes the bumper sticker message in my post's title and turns it upside down:

While USAction and a labyrinthine maze of leftist activist groups prepare to rally around images of Tampa Bay's Most Photogenic Baby holding up a crayon sign that says "Don't Veto Me," Dara and Brian Wilkerson are real poster children — for irresponsible decisions.

On the conference call, Dara admitted to me that she and Brian had been talking about having children since before they were married. She further admitted that after they were married she voluntarily left a job at a country club that had good health insurance, because the situation was "unmanageable." From there she took a job at a restaurant with no health insurance, and the couple went on to have a baby anyway, presuming that others would pay for it and certainly long before they knew their daughter would have a heart defect that probably cost the gross national product of Burkina Faso to fix. But not knowing about future health problems is the reason we have insurance in the first place.

Or in short: It's the choice that matters, not the child. And this child already exists.

The conservative arguments about fertility tend to be confusing. Contrast the above curmudgeony approach with the other common theme about the conservatives being the people who still want to have lots of children. David Brooks once famously wrote:

All across the industrialized world, birthrates are falling - in Western Europe, in Canada and in many regions of the United States. People are marrying later and having fewer kids. But spread around this country, and concentrated in certain areas, the natalists defy these trends.

They are having three, four or more kids. Their personal identity is defined by parenthood. They are more spiritually, emotionally and physically invested in their homes than in any other sphere of life, having concluded that parenthood is the most enriching and elevating thing they can do. Very often they have sacrificed pleasures like sophisticated movies, restaurant dining and foreign travel, let alone competitive careers and disposable income, for the sake of their parental calling

And who are these pro-child people? Do they all have private health insurance for their children?

Brooks doesn't tell us that, but he defines them as social conservatives and notes that white natalists tend to be concentrated in the red states. They might even have voted for George Bush. They are Good People!

Yet the Wilkersons, with similar desires and struggles, are not. Instead, they are an example of the consequences of poor decision-making skills. Funny, that.

Cross-posted at TAPPED.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

The Nobel Economics Prizes

They went to three guys (Leo Hurwicz, Eric Maskin Roger Myerson) who are credited with the theory of mechanism design. You get an idea about the possible meaning of this when I tell you that at least two of the three have doctorates not in economics but in mathematics. Yup, it's math stuff.

But it is also a way to address markets in a more realistic form than the one you may remember from an introductory economics course. Real world markets don't have that nice fairy godmother of perfect information. She is usually supposed to wave a wand so that all buyers and sellers know everything relevant about the product, its quality, possible substitutes and so on. Perfect information makes economic modeling easier but of course it is an unrealistic assumption in all but the most trivial marketplaces.

So what happens if, say, the sellers know a lot more about something relevant (such as the quality of the product they sell) than the buyers do? What kind of contracts would we expect to find in such markets and why? Would we anticipate some type of government regulation, to correct for the informational asymmetry? What institutions best achieve the goals of the participants in the exchange?

Mechanism design is one way of approaching questions like these.

Advice, Please

I want to write a book, but I have no idea what to put between the covers. Suggestions would be welcome.

Yes, this is the wrong way around. Things usually are, for me. I even have several titles ready (My Life As An Old Man, Squishing Trolls And Other Hunting Mishaps, The Wondering Womb), but I'm not sure what to stuff in the middle. It's not that I don't have ideas. I have too many of them.

Who Cannot Be Raped?

According to Teresa Carr Deni, a Municipal Judge in Philadelphia, prostitutes cannot be raped. The most that might happen to a prostitute who is gang-raped at gunpoint is that her services have been stolen. That's how I interpret Deni's decision that the recent gang-rape case of a prostitute was about "theft of service".

Zuzu writes about this case and so do Shakes and Violet Socks, and their coverage hits most of the important points.

This case reminds me of that earlier discussion about when date rape is not really rape but just bad sex, and the general concept that some rapes are more heinous in their impact than others or at least look that way to an outsider. But we already have concepts such as aggravated rape to use to capture any nuances that might be desirable.

The case also makes me wonder what all the sins are that we collectively assign prostitutes. There is an assumption that prostitutes have somehow consented to be abused and perhaps even murdered and that therefore the society is not responsible for awarding them the same protection other citizens deserve.

Monday, October 15, 2007

The Silver Tsunami

The headline screams: First US Baby Boomer Applies for Social Security. The story begins:

Retired school teacher Kathleen Casey-Kirschling on Monday became the first ripple in a "silver tsunami" of retiring baby boomers applying for pension benefits that threatens to overwhelm U.S. government finances.

Run for yer lives!

It is not the Iraq war that threatens to overwhelm the government finances. Nope. It is the darned baby boomers daring to get old. Perhaps the government should offer them some short-cut option to that terminal sleep?

Speaking of sleep, my local public radio station has a program about -- the horror! -- children not getting enough sleep. Why this provokes a whole program with experts and all I'm not sure. I don't think schools run 20 hours a day by law, say. Neither do I think that parents are in general unaware of how much sleep children need.

Well, I do know what the point of stories like these are: to press our worry and fear and guilt buttons so that we will attend to the stories and either the advertisements attached to them or the fund-raising needs of the public radio.

The way the baby boomer story is written also serves to make us more open to, say, the privatization of Social Security than we would be if the story didn't call the aging baby boomers "a silver tsunami". It is a tasteless phrase, given the death toll of the most recent tsunami.

And yes, I'm having one of those dark nights of the soul when it comes to political blogging. Thank you for noticing. Add a fanged smiley here.

Political Fairy Tales

Fairy tales are underused in political writing. I have experimented with that medium in the past, once in a rewrite of the "Little Red Riding-Hood" and once with "The Emperor's New Clothes", but the mythology is so deep and colorful that I could probably do a blog on nothing but fairy tales. Puss-In-The-Boots, anyone? Heh.

Fairy tales are a wonderful field to harvest for the images of what a good woman is and what a bad woman is as well as for those sage pieces of advice which girls were given about how to get on in life. Marry a prince. Wait quietly, tied up in the dragon's lair, and the hero will come and save you. Be good but don't blow your own horn.

Though fairy tales also told about young women who were proactive and had agency! (See how I throw in a few fancy words there.) Who were able to perform three impossible feats in order to save the life of their brothers or who were willing to love the beast to whom they had been promised by a rash father, thus turning the beast into the prince, after all. I'm not sure if the moral of "The Beauty and The Beast" is a healthy one, but at least Beauty had agency. More than today's Democratic Party, at least.

A Follow-Up on Project: Bring Miracle

Over $3,000 dollars were donated in just one day after the blogs wrote about the New Orleans family which lost their house twice, first in Katrina and then in a fire. Thank you so much!

If you have not yet donated you can do so now. It's not too late, and the children in that family need hope. More on the First Draft.

Monday Henrietta the Hound Blogging

I finally got a picture of her. She is not enjoying the car very much these days, and her eyes are running in this picture, but she has recovered from her idiopathic vestibular syndrome quite well and back to running the world.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

P.O.V. or Terrier Meditation Posted by olvlzl

You’re right, he’s a nice puppy”. I said. “He’s very affectionate and he’s got short hair so the allergies shouldn’t be a problem. And he’s so small, I’ve never had a small dog before, he’ll be easy to handle. No problem, ” I said. “Ok, I’ll take him off your hands if you can’t keep him”.

And the terrier puppy wasn’t so bad. House training wasn’t that difficult, mostly getting him used to my schedule. Very intelligent, he picked up on it within a week. Few problem messes after that. He loved the children, though not while they were toddlers. He growled and bared his teeth as they wobbled around, even when they weren’t anywhere near his food dish. My brother thought it was an attempt to establish dominance order. He had to spend time in his kennel when toddlers came to visit. Kennel, never used one of those before. Never had a small dog before. Never had a terrier before.

Oh, how much different could it be, I’ve handled all kinds of big dogs for fifty years, ” I said. But never one so territorial, so fanatical about keeping joggers, walkers, cyclists, wild turkeys, hens, blue jays, squirrels, moths, katydids, pictures on kibble boxes, dogs in newspapers, .... out of his territory. And he noticed everything, cyclists three minutes before they came into sight. Barking, helping in high pitched, frenzied yelps, tearing around the house from door to window to window to see. Launching himself from chairs and the couch, using whoever was sitting there as a foot hold. Leaving gouge marks. I said lots of things then. Never had a dog I couldn’t keep off the furniture before.

Now, thinking of it from his point of view, his people are all alive, no one’s had their throats torn out. No one’s been attacked by bicycles or squirrels. His pack is all alive and the food cache is safe. It must be working. He must be doing what he’s supposed to be doing. It’s as it should be. By his lights. Somehow, it makes it easier to live with. By his lights he’s doing what’s right, even if his pack is so ungrateful.

The Buddha said that patience was the highest asceticism. I’m keeping the terrier dog. It’s good for me. I say. At 2:00 on a Sunday afternoon. A terrier is a different kind of dog with their own ways. But he’s still no boarder collie.

Michael Medved Conservative Morality Maven Posted by olvlzl.

Since today seems to be developing into a catalog of conservative moral depravity, it would be wrong to leave out Michael Medved, recent BuzzFlash Media Putz of the Week honoree.

Read about his recent piece about the great benefits that African-americans have reaped due to the enslavement of their ancestors. Here is an example of his thinking.

"as with their horses and cows, slave owners took pride and care in breeding as many new slaves as possible. Rather than eliminating the slave population, profit-oriented masters wanted to produce as many new, young slaves as they could." (sick)

Least you think he paints an entirely rosy picture, he did admit there were some down sides to enslavement.

Oh, did I say his thinking? Medved, please, don’t tell us what you think of other genocides. But since you liked Gibson's Jesus snuff flick, maybe you have.

For those of you who want to read him at length, here is his Clown Hall post.

Stop What You're Doing For The Least Among You And Spread Em' ! Posted by olvlzl.

Before Ronald Reagan came to power and began to destroy traditional American morals homelessness and hunger used to be considered a national shame. During the 80s he, other conservatives, their media, think tanks, university based flacks and other venues of propaganda began to turn the destitute into a nuisance, something to cleanse from wherever people were affluent enough to be able to enforce their exclusion.

After a quarter of a century of conservative dominance, it's not just the destitute who are forbidden, those who feed them are being arrested and put on trial.

The stake-out was almost comical in its absurdity: On April 4, 2007, undercover police counted how many times Eric Montanez, a 22-year-old volunteer with Food Not Bombs, dipped a serving ladle into a pot and handed stew to hungry people.

Once Montanez had dished up 30 bowls, the police moved in, collecting a vial of the stew for evidence as they arrested him for violating an Orlando, Fla., city ordinance: feeding a large group. Two days into his trial yesterday, Montanez was acquitted by a jury of the misdemeanor charge, but was cautioned to obey the law.

As activists celebrate the verdict, the Orlando Police Department has said it will continue to ordinance, making the fight for the free flow of food in the city far from over.

This is going way past what conservatives have dared to do by way of moral depravity. It turns the poor into vermin

“It’s essentially saying that homeless people are not worthy of attention or respect and they’re nothing more than pigeons who should be fed some place else so they’re not a bother to mainstream society,” says FNB Co-founder Keith McHenry.

McHenry says feeding the homeless is part of a larger social justice agenda.

“There’s a broader principle in America that we’re trying to address, and that is, food is a human right, not to be relegated to being a commodity,” McHenry says. “People who are hungry in this country deserve good, nutritious food without having to go through a lot of bureaucratic hurdles to get that food, and without having to be demeaned.”

You could well imagine that most of these laws are passed by conservatives who make a big deal out of their "christianity" at campaign time. As with their devotion to the flag and that to which it stands, their support of these laws have the ironic effect of, in reality, outlawing the practice of Christianity, Judaisim and Islam, not to mention Buddhism and any other religion or secular ethical system which not only permits feeding the destitute, it requires it. Just as their devotion to the flag is part of their ripping up the Bill of Rights their ethical practices rip up what is supposed to be the very basis of their pretended ethics.

Obama’s Flag Pin Posted by olvlzl.

The conservative flag cult reminds us once again that for them the flag symbolizes a Disunited States, divisible (the better to conquer) without liberty and certainly without justice for anyone but themselves and those who can pay for the privilege. And the God it is under is Mammon, the only God that conservatives have ever worshiped. Coerced reverence for a symbol and its use to divide The People is against everything good that the United States is supposed to be.

From the conservatives sweatshop where they manufacture imitation, shirt sleeve ready, outrage comes the rage over Barack Obama deciding to stop wearing a flag lapel pin. I’m not sure if this product is selling or not but it is interesting. Obama’s reasoned and entirely respectful reasons for foregoing the conventionalized and entirely meaningless symbolism won’t matter except to those who are reasonable and reflective. We don’t know yet what the political effect will be, though I’ve got to say, it was gutsy and courageous for a presidential candidate to tell, almost certainly, too much of the truth on a non-issue like a lapel pin.

The American flag is most used by conservatives and they have put it to some of the worst use that a symbol has been put to in the post WWII period. Like all bullies everywhere, they think they own it. Considering their political program that is uniformly opposed to the good of the majority and pretty much anything that is decent and good, their effective use of the flag to cover their piracy is a lesson in the uses of very effective deception. Maybe they listened to George M. Cohan who once pointed out that the show biz use of the flag had saved “many a bum show”. Few shows are more bum than the corporate stinker the conservatives have given us today.

If you are curious about the amazingly baroque rules laying out the real, right way to use an American Flag you might want to look at the Betsy Ross Homepage Flag Rules and Regulations. I think they are largely the ones taught in my infancy, adopted by some congressional action or other. If you do I’d call your attention to two items in the Flag Code Violations in the News. One was about some entertainer using one as a poncho which was a violation. “Section 8d. reads, "The flag should never be used as wearing apparel." The other is right below reminding us that George W. Bush was violating the flag when he autographed it to tacit outrage from the conservative outrage industry*.

Was it wise for Obama to let this become an issue in his political career? I don’t know. What he said was certainly true and it should be said by someone. I’d never put it high on the list of important issues. Symbols are malleable and can mean different things. He might have continued wearing it and talked about what it meant when he used it to good political effect. But he has the right to make that decision for himself. Never having much liked symbolism to start with, he certainly climbed higher in my personal regard. But politics is the art of the possible and the practical. A large part of the practical is weighing the importance of issues, what those issues will cost for any gain and in politics always keeping in mind that someone out of office has no chance to make law and to change bad ones. We will see if it was worth it politically.

*UPDATE: How could I have missed this clear abuse of the flag? Didn't Bush or any of his lackies attend 4th grade? Maybe they didn't teach flag etiquette in the schools that rich boys and girls went to.

September 11, 2006, President Bush and first lady Laura Bush stand on a carpet of the American flag at Ground Zero in Manhattan, the site of the September 11, 2001 attack. Section 8b of the Flag Code reads, " The flag should never touch anything beneath it, such as the ground..." Photo credit: Reuters/Jason Reed